|Title: Tahitian Moon (Act One)
Synopsis: Post-Marybeth world, wherein Casey is murdered by a psychotic alien cult. Zeke has to deal, trying to learn how to.
Warnings: Death of major character, LOTS of angst, heavy violence.
Disclaimer: I own nothing--all fantasy on my end.
Author's Notes: WIP. Big, huge thanks to my lovely, beautiful beta, lisabellex, for putting up with strangely placed commas and buldings chasing Zeke around town. ;)
San Luis Obispo, California
Zeke sat on the hood of his car, ignoring the heat searing through his jeans. He'd felt dazed and thoughtful, all at the same time, while driving through California.
He'd wondered how in all hell he'd come across Claire, the little sidewalk-chalk-girl. The dead little sidewalk-chalk-girl. Never one to believe in ghosts, he couldn't rationalize how he'd thought her up. Had he seen the picture in the motel office at check-in? When they'd met, she'd seemed familiar, but even if he'd even just fallen asleep in his chair for a small while and dreamed it--rather than actually meeting a ghost--it still didn't make much sense. Then to dream of her, later in the night…
Even with the shiver he felt, thinking about the possibility that he HAD, in fact, come across some sort of lingering spirit, there was some comfort to it all. Claire had seen it fit to approach him, somehow, as if knowing that he needed something. Whichever God had allowed her presence to be known to him, he'd been granted that. He'd been allowed to see past the muck of daily life and come across a kind--and literal--spirit. He thought back to the small handful of days he'd spent, reading the Bible and praying to anyone who'd listen. “Just a glimpse of him… angel, ghost, whatever. Just a glimpse,” he'd pleaded, so many times, getting nothing to ease his mind. He'd been hopeless, just as Claire had told him in that dream.
He sighed and reached to his neck, pulling the small pendant he'd picked up along the way. He'd searched and searched, finally coming across a small antique shop just outside of Bakersville. When he'd asked the clerk if they'd had any sort of 'Saint Jude' merchandise, she'd smiled, brought him to a booth and opened a jewelry case.
The pendant she'd brought out had been perfect. The tiny image of Saint Jude, encapsulated in the oval, silver disk had seemed to ease him just in looking at it. He'd bought it, instantly satisfied. It now hung upon his neck, creating an aura of protection for Zeke's sanity. He felt it--knew it.
He let it drop over his t-shirt, letting it sway a bit as he leaned forward. He was at a height that overlooked Hearst Castle, its long buildings sprawling around the hillside and into the small dips of valleys. He became entranced by the visions, things he'd never seen or even thought of before, sitting right in front of him. He wondered about the 'Rosebuds' the enigmatic, eccentric Hearst had hidden away in the depths of that palace--the secrets he'd held onto, which had prompted him to construct the blatant symbol of wealth and power.
Zeke had nothing but his car, a small bit of wealth and secrets that had slowly eked out of him in the form of a boy that he needed to let go of. “You would've loved to see this,” he mumbled, staring out onto the landscape.
Off of Main Street, Morro Bay, California
It was instantaneous. Without any doubts or questions, he knew the moment he'd stepped out of his motel room and looked out onto the beach… home.
The waves slapped along the sand as he took in the very first sight of the Pacific--any seashore, at all. His eyes scanned the horizon, seeing a good number of boats floating on the water. Kicking off his sandals, he stepped from the wooden walkway, and for the first time in his life, felt warm ocean-side sand curl into his toes.
It was the perfect stimulation for his travel-worn self. To the right sat the distant view of one park, while the left offered the same. He'd almost chosen to stay at one, and camp out instead of staying at yet another motel. He hadn't been sure that he'd be comfortable enough, however, being that the one small camping trip he'd taken as a young boy had driven him crazy. He wasn't all that fond of bugs and hard, forest flooring. He was a small-town boy--not Jeff or Jerry.
His steps, on heading to the water, gave a slight but welcome burn to his feet. Everything here was beautiful and calm, sending shockwaves of pleasure through his entire body and mind. While he'd booked the room for five days, he already felt the need to extend that time. He'd have to dip into the account his mother had set up sooner or later, as the cash he'd depended on was starting to dwindle.
His mother. She'd want to know.
He took his cell from his pocket and dialed up her number. He didn't know the time difference, but she needed to know that he'd made it. After a few rings, however, the voice-messaging system clicked on.
“You've reached Victoria Tyler. Please leave a message,” the simple message said. At the beep, Zeke smiled wide.
“Hey, Mom… just me. Made it to the coast; listen,” he said. He then held the phone up towards he water, just in time to catch the sound of one hard wave hitting the sand. He brought the phone back to his ear and sighed. “Call me back when you can. Love ya.”
He hung up and put the phone back in his jeans pocket. He was tempted to strip down to his boxers and run for it, to dive right into the cool saltwater. He held back that impulse and chose to walk down to the edge of the water, meeting cold, wet sand. At the first wave that crawled to meet his feet, he was glad that he did not take a swim. “Damn,” he muttered, taking a few steps back. “Fuckin' cold…”
Smiling, he walked back up to the small slope of sand and plopped down. All he needed right now was this--the sight of the ocean, gulls flying and squawking above him, boats carrying fishermen and vacationers floating around--all he needed.
He was lucky to have a fridge and kitchenette in his room; money or no, he couldn't afford takeout every night. Being that he was 'home', settling in was the best option.
The cart swayed a little as he made his way down the grocery store's produce aisle, ambling along without a care as he headed for the bananas. It was a simple menu he'd come up with, grabbing up some cereal, peanut butter, milk, bread, and packaged sliced ham thus far. His cravings were a bit odd at the moment, wanting nothing more than a peanut butter and banana sandwich. He only wished he had a toaster in his room to make the meal perfection, but he knew he'd enjoy it anyway.
Once through with his shopping, he walked back outside to greet the slightly cloudy weather. He hoped that it would pass, but even with the possibility of rain, he was happy enough. He tossed the bags in the backseat and set off once again, turning up his music.
While 'Tool' blared through the speakers, he made his way down the main road, gazing around. It was a gorgeous beach town, holding many different shops. From seafood restaurants to the typical tourist traps, he took it all in. He pictured his stuffed frog accompanying a bobble-hula girl, and the thought made him chuckle. He had to have one of those. Deciding that it was essential, he pulled over in front of a few shops and looked into the windows.
Oh yeah. That was a tourist trap of the most blatant kind. 'Bob's Beach House' looked perfect. He got out of the car, strode over and entered the shop.
He was immediately assaulted by seashell mobiles, made up as wind chimes, racks of sunglasses, sunblock, t-shirts and shelves upon shelves of knick-knacks. The man behind the nearby counter smiled at him as he passed by. “Anything I can help you with?” he asked.
“Yea. A hula girl… car decoration… thing,” Zeke answered.
“Ah, we got those. Right in the back, by the bandanas,” he said, pointing the way.
“Thanks,” Zeke said. He wandered through the aisles until he stood in front of the huge display of… well, whatever the store felt fit to sell. All random and set up in bright colors and disorder. He searched and searched, until he finally found the small set of hula girls, sitting next to a box of sand-filled creatures.
He grabbed up one with a green skirt, the words 'Morro Bay, CA' written on the sand she stood upon. Before turning to leave, the sudden urge to grab one of the sand-lobsters made him take one; he then headed back to the counter and paid.
On the way to the car, he frowned a bit. A sand lobster? Why the hell did he buy that? He questioned the purchase until he got in the car and set the two items along the dashboard. The frown turned into rolling eyes and a small groan.
“Yes! 'Rock Lobster'!”
No matter what Zeke had tried, Casey hadn't let him switch stations to get the hell away from the B-52's tune. Casey had added to his misery by singing it in the most annoying voice, drowning out the song almost entirely.
Why his impulses had directed him to pick up this thing, in a weird sort of memoriam… Zeke shook his head and started the car.
The clouds had thickened and turned black by the time he'd gotten back to the motel, the start of hard rain making him grab his things and rush inside. It'd been a narrow escape, the rain pouring down seconds after he'd shut the door.
He went to the small kitchenette with a groan. Great… he'd planned on having a nice late lunch on the sand, a makeshift picnic to further his pleasure in being here. He put his things away and proceeded to make his sandwich, feeling strangely domestic. He'd not been too into his 'home life' back in Ohio, usually munching on random food around the house or as takeout. It was simple at the moment, but in just standing over the chopped banana, bread and 'Jif', he had to chuckle.
He brought his meal to the chair by the window, wanting to watch the ocean even with the rain. He hadn't expected another form of beauty to smack into him, in the form of the clouds raging in a full, all-out electrical storm.
Complicated webs of lighting trailed through the clouds, seeming to cut them as they ran through. It was constant--not quick beams of electricity Zeke had grown used to. Storms in Ohio could rage, but were never quite like this. Never before had he seen lightning scan over a large expanse of water, making a gorgeous reflection in the darkened waves. It was clear, smooth, violent. Thunder began roaring, sounding close and threatening.
The sudden, blinding bolt that smacked up from the ocean, right in the middle of Zeke's sight made him jump back in shock. He stayed still, hearing the loud crack it left behind. It was a thrilling mix of fear and anticipation now. He put his half-eaten sandwich to one side and watched on, as if waiting to be struck himself. The storm went on like this, passing over in a slow advance, until the lightning and thunder began calming, rumbling overhead and making more spidery patterns.
Once the show finished off, Zeke smiled and picked up his meal again. He left the window seat and went to the couch, flopping down and turning the TV on. “No duh,” he said wryly at the local news report's 'prediction' of storm activity. He rolled his eyes then let them fall to his bag.
Taking the last bite of his sandwich, he reached over and dragged out the album. With sweet anticipation, he flipped to the page he'd last visited and sat back…
It'd been an early snowstorm, just before Thanksgiving. The picture showed off an almost finished snowman, Stan at one side of it and forming the eyes with rocks, Casey at the other side poking sticks into the side for arms. His cheeks were red from the cold, clouds of breath hanging in front of his face. Why the four of them--Stan, Stokely, Casey and Zeke--had gone out to Zeke's backyard to make a snowman was because of the odd insistence Casey made about it. Zeke had never built a snowman in his life, not even when he and the neighborhood kids would be out to play in new snow. Snow forts, yes; they provided much needed shelter and 'battle points' for snowball fights. But never a snowman.
Zeke smiled and stared a few moments, enjoying Casey's look of happiness and exuberance, enjoying himself without worry. It was rare for him, when that had been the start of the letters and news coverage. The simplicity of life had fled fast, soon after this picture had been taken. The smile disappeared from Zeke's face. He grew a bit anxious over the rest of this album, wondering if it'd be in 'order of events'. Besides the class picture, the book seemed to have chronological order.
'Get it over with. You're here to push through all the crap and move on,' he thought. He hadn't thought of the picture ritual as torture, but it truly had been. He couldn't linger on memories--not forever.
He flipped the next page, not bothering to hide the next picture to 'save for later'.
The two of them sipping hot cocoa on Zeke's couch with Delilah… a picture of just Zeke, fixing his car in the snow… Casey shoving a whole 'Twinkie' in his mouth ('oh fucking hell, I forgot about that…')…
He had to pause at the third to last picture. It showed a time long before any revelations had been made, and Zeke didn't even remember this picture being taken… probably because he was so obviously asleep, along with Casey.
Whoever had taken this had wanted to capture the image of Zeke, leaning on the arm of the couch with his arm curled to his head, while Casey slept along his side. Zeke's hand was placed on the boy's opposite shoulder, letting them be close and comforted. 'When was this… oh God, when WAS this…'
Just a moment passed before he found a clue; a bag, reading 'Darcy's Chocolates' sat on the table. It wasn't a local shop. It'd been a gift from Delilah, who had gone to Columbus with her parents to visit family. A gift for Casey's eighteenth birthday, December twentieth.
It was a 'sugar crash' picture. Casey had shared his gift with Zeke… and Delilah. They'd been hyper all day because of the sweets, adding a few bowls of strawberry ice cream into the mix as well. The girl must have outlasted them and taken this, capturing the moment on film. Zeke's eyes lowered to the next picture. His lips parted.
Same pose on the couch, with Zeke still sleeping; Casey's eyes, however, were open. He was smiling the camera's way, soft and sweet as he stayed by Zeke's side. This time a hand was placed on Zeke's chest.
There was one picture left, but Zeke let the album fall closed into his lap. “Why didn't you wake me up, Casey? Tell Del to go home…” Zeke mumbled to himself, feeling tears in his eyes. He didn't care if Casey wasn't sure at the time on if Zeke felt the same way--he HAD, too scared to say anything… not being sure of anything when it came to speaking feelings. Especially ones that were so deep-rooted that it felt too scary to voice them.
He closed his eyes tight, tears flowing freely from them and making rivulets on his cheeks. 'Make this the last time. Look at the last goddamned picture and make this the last goddamn time that you cry,' he thought. Nodding to himself, he took up the album again and flipped to the very end.
Stokely, Stan, Delilah, Casey and himself, looking down into Casey's camera.
“Casey, you're such a dork…”
“Sorry Del, get in here--you NEED to,”
“All right… smile!”
The five of them, the smiles on their faces both wry and happy at the same time. None of them would have ever done that sort of thing, but Casey's geek-charm wouldn't be protested. No one could say no to him; not with his face that had gone from scared frowns from the school life he'd led for so long, to bright eyes and wide smiles. Not a one.
Zeke's eyes dried now, knowing that this chapter had closed. If he chose to pick this up to root through, to gaze upon his boy ever again, he could. But he didn't have to.
Morro Bay Boulevard
It'd been three days since checking in, and Zeke had been all over the place. He'd gone south first, stopping at Bayshore Bluffs Park for a time. Hiking through the area was lovely, as was looking out over the many boats resting on the sea. He'd been disappointed later in the night, having driven further south… only to head up, around and down a huge golf course. One would never, ever find Zeke Tyler with a golf club in his hand, or riding a stupid golf cart. That was one of the surest bets in all the world. By the time he'd found 'Morro Bay State Park', it'd gotten late and he'd just wanted to go home.
He'd STAYED home, choosing to enjoy the ocean views, a few shops near his motel… that was all he'd needed. Now however, it was the nightlife of this place that he craved.
Once the sun went down, he set off to the middle of town, enjoying the warm night air as it blew through his open window. His car even caught the attention of some girls, parked next to him at a light at one point. They gave him 'the eyes' and honked their horns. He enjoyed that--he enjoyed it a lot.
He walked past a small club circuit, happy to be out and about. Here, he felt absolutely anonymous. No one gave him second looks, making shocked faces at figuring out who he was. The streets went on and on, and as fun as it was, he longed to be at the seashore again. It was an odd impatience that led him back to his car, making him feel like he had Attention Deficit Disorder.
It wasn't long before he reached Embarcadero Road, going north. The activity of the place died down a little, but shops still lined the beaches. Just before reaching 'Coleman Park', he set his eyes on a small strip of restaurants.
'Tiki Bar and Beach Grill' one decorative neon sign advertised. Zeke's eyebrows rose. Hoping to be able to use his fake ID, he pulled over along the boardwalk, his stomach growling and his hand itching to hold a soothing tropical drink.
Once across the street and inside, he looked around and smiled. It was busy, but not too busy, the patrons of the place seeming relaxed and happy to be out. The décor was done up island style, with tikis and fake palm trees sticking out of the walls and corners. It was a bit garish, but he didn't care.
“Hi there!” a cheerful voice rang next to him. He tore his eyes away from the decorations and turned, finding a serving girl at the front podium.
“Do you want a booth, or the outdoor bar?” she asked.
Oh… sweet. “Bar sounds good,” he replied.
“All right, let me just check your ID and give you a hand stamp,” she said. “We're having a big college night, so we're taking ID's at the door tonight.”
Zeke swallowed and got his wallet out. He held onto his hopes that, once again, he'd get past the age limit. He handed the fake license to the girl and waited as she peered at it.
“Looks kosher to me,” she said, making Zeke breathe easier as she brought out the stamp.
This… was the life.
With a cool, rum-fruited drink in his hand, Zeke leaned against the edge of the bar's large porch area, looking out over the ocean. The atmosphere was beyond wonderful; people ambled about, talking and laughing casually, while a drumming circle played together on the beach. The clear sky above showed off a bright, huge moon, shining down strong. His took a sip from the large, plastic cup, ready to head down to the sand and go for a walk.
He stepped past a group of people and headed to the small stairwell leading down. Just as he was about to step out onto the beach, a girl suddenly swooped in from the left. She turned fast to get onto the staircase, but stopped abruptly when she saw Zeke directly in front of her. He gripped his drink hard, almost getting it bumped from his hand. “Oh!” she exclaimed, taking a quick step back. “I'm sorry!”
“It's okay,” Zeke said with a smile.
“I'm such a klutz…” she chuckled out and stepped aside.
“Eh, I'm not exactly a ballet dancer myself,” Zeke told her.
She chuckled more and shook her head as he stepped down. “Oh, I can beat you in the clumsy department. I really can,” she said. She took her own drink up and sipped, eyeing him a moment. “Are you new here? I come here every weekend… never seen you before?”
“Uh, yea… I'm on a vaca, of sorts,” he replied. He peered back at her, liking what he saw; her long, blond hair tied in a cute, messy ponytail, tanned skin glowing in the torchlights lining the beach. “Name's Zeke…”
Well fuck. 'Way to go,' he thought, figuring she'd start squealing or scowling. Instead, she put out her hand and smiled. “Zoë… another 'Z' name, rare,” she said. “Have you been here long?”
“A few days. I'm probably gonna stay a nice, long time. It's gorgeous here.”
“Oh, good,” she said. Zeke's eyebrows rose as she made an obvious blush.
“Oh yea?” he asked, eyes narrowing and lips grinning.
Zoë made a bashful smile and sighed. “Wanna go for a walk? Lots of interesting stuff around here,” she asked.
“Yea… sure,” Zeke said.
The walk turned out to be slow, just the way he liked it to be. They weren't that far from the bar, the lights from the porch and torches glowing bright still. Zoë didn't rush or chat incessantly, resorting instead to comfortable small talk about where he'd been--where he was going… where she herself had been.
“Are you in college? I go to the University of California. They just let out, so…” she said, raising her drink.
Zeke chuckled. “No, not yet,” he answered.
Her eyebrows rose. “Oh?” she started. “Like… still in high school?”
“Well, I dropped out actually, would've graduated this year, but…” he said, trailing off. That's when his eyes fell to the empty cup in his hand. He grunted out a small groan. “Caught.”
She giggled into her hand. “How old are you?”
“Almost twenty--I'm an impatient fucker,” he told her. He looked over and dared a cocky grin. “You gonna tell on me?”
She shook her head. “No, no… I'm only twenty-one, and like I'd said… been here every summer,” she said with a wink.
“Good, a deviant, just like me,” Zeke replied, winking back.
The awkwardness of the 'age thing' gone, they continued down the beach. Zoë went on about the boardwalk they could head to, just past a faraway rocky ridge. He kept looking from her to the sky, feeling light and happy, for once. He was scanning the horizon, well past the glittering waves. A sudden darkness interrupted in the form of stars being blocked in one large, black spot. He tried peering at it, confused.
“Hey… you there?” Zoë asked, chuckling.
“Huh? Oh, sorry…” he replied. “Got distracted--what's that?”
She looked to where he pointed and smiled. “That? Morro Rock; you haven't seen it yet?”
“No… haven't been up this way… yet,” Zeke said, his speech halting.
“It's pretty cool, especially in the daytime. You can get on boats and stuff to go out to it, get a better look. It's like this big mountain in the water.”
He went to nod and turn back to their conversation--but stopped, both in words and steps.
“There's a mountain in the sea…”
“Hey… are you okay?” Zoë asked, stopping with him and giving him a small frown.
Zeke's lips parted. “It's familiar,” he murmured.
“Morro Rock?” she asked.
'…I said I was in Morocco…'
'Like in 'Casablanca', I'm Rick, in Mo-RO-cco,'
“I…” he started, feeling all warmth leave him. “I've dreamed of this place.”
“Oh yea?” she said, cocking an eyebrow.
“Yea,” he muttered. He stared out at the blackened void, seeing it rise in a tall, wide shadow. “I've just had strange dreams, all the time.”
“About Morro Rock?”
“One of 'em was.”
Zoë nodded slowly. “Well… do you wanna walk out to see it better?” she asked.
He bit his lip; something about all of this wasn't right. “No,” he said. He took a step back and tried to smile. “I'm actually a bit hungry.”
“Ah… well, the beach grill should be up and running by now. They make a killer coconut shrimp,” she suggested.
“Yea… okay,” he said, wanting nothing more than to head back to the bar.
Even though the grill was fantastic, just as Zoë had promised, Zeke felt like he'd entered some hazy, confusing world. 'People dream up… déjà vu type… stuff, all the time. It's no big,' he tried thinking, over and over again. He was trying to munch on some of the shrimp he'd gotten, while trying to keep up with Zoë and a friend she'd run into, Marie. After polite introductions, he added nothing to the conversation. It was a wonder Zoë was still bothering with him, as he'd gone from pleasant and generally talkative, to zoned out entirely.
He was nudged again--third time, so far. He turned with raised eyebrows to Zoë, seeing her giving him an odd look. “Hey… Marie was just asking where in Ohio you lived,” she said.
“Oh… sorry, I'm just way tired,” he replied. “Um… Canton.”
Zoë nodded and sighed. “It IS late. Maybe you just need some sleep?” she asked.
“Yea, maybe; I think I'll go for a walk first, get the drinks outta my system,” he said. He stood with a grunt and smoothed his t-shirt. “Sorry. It's just been a long couple of weeks.”
“No problem. So, um…” Zoë started, smiling wide. “Wanna give me your cell number?”
“Oh… sure,” he replied. He rattled it off, the girl writing it down in a small notepad from her purse. “Yea, so--I dunno, gimmee a call. Maybe we can hang out again.”
“Sure thing,” she said.
“Nice meeting you… you too, Marie,”
“Have a good night,” Marie replied. He smiled and walked off, heading down the back steps. He would have preferred taking his sandals off, but didn't feel like carrying them around. He let sand get trapped in between his toes, grating on the soles of his feet. It still felt good. Instead of going in the other direction from where he and Zoë had walked before, he decided to retrace his steps. 'I need to see it again,' he thought, wondering where the impulse was coming from. He set his jaw and kept walking, slow and steady.
He moved close to the wet sand, walking just ahead of the lapping waves. The sand held a blanket of pebbles, some catching in the leather of his shoes. He made small kicks as he went, watching as the little black stones scattered around him. Trying to put himself at ease, he picked up a few and tossed them in the water as he walked. He couldn't see where they fell, the waves seeming to swallow them up before the rocks even hit them. After a small while of walking, he looked up with a small swallow.
It was there, again--not that he'd expected it to go anywhere. He stared, not paying much attention to the waves that were climbing further up and splashing his feet. He could tell that it was quite a distance away, but it still felt huge. Ominous, even. Coming across the ridge he and Zoë had planned on crossing, he figured his time was almost up. His legs were getting tired.
After hopping over the small walk of stones and rocks, a sudden, small movement came from the corner of his eye. Looking ahead, he saw a person standing by the water, leaning down and poking at the ground. No one else had come out this far, the bar's celebrations way behind him now. Drums still echoing into Zeke's ears, he hoped to go ignored by whoever was out here and move along.
That's when the figure stood, holding a handful of something wet. Zeke drew closer--then stopped.
His insides were twisting for a reason. This was more than what he'd dreamed… more than anything he'd imagined about this place. It was more real than anything he'd ever felt, familiarity climbing into his bones. It wasn't just the mountain in the sea; not just Rick and Casablanca. The realest thing about this place, at that very moment, was the person who now began tossing rocks into the ocean.
He walked, his feet feeling numb as he approached. His lower lip began shaking, his body realizing before his brain… like when they'd told him that he'd died. He got within a few feet before the person caught sight of him and turned to face Zeke.
No. No. He couldn't do this--he couldn't play tricks on himself. This was not Casey. NOT Casey. 'Stop. Don't…'
“Casey?” he mumbled in question anyway. All he had to hear was 'you've got the wrong person'. That was all he needed.
The boy blinked profusely--wide eyes, wide gorgeous eyes. The eyes he knew… 'but they're dark--they're brown, and his hair--too dark. Stop it…'
Zeke blinked fast as well. It wasn't registering, not one bit. “Casey?” he said again.
“No, you've got the wrong person.” he replied. It was his fucking voice… his fucking voice. Zeke peered closely, making him back off a bit. “What…?”
“No… you can't…” Zeke muttered.
“Okay, look,” the boy said, sounding annoyed. Zeke noticed his hands shaking, the black rocks in one of them starting to fall and clack onto the pebbles below. “I'm not… who you think I am, all right?”
“Who are you?” Zeke asked, starting to feel like he'd gone mad. It was his goddamned, FUCKING voice…
“Jude… Jude Lewis.”
Zeke's eyes felt like they were shaking in their sockets, his gaze growing so hard on… Jude. Casey. “You're not Jude,” he finally said. It was too much like a dream… 'I'm fucking dreaming. I am fucking dreaming…'
“Yes… I am,”
The voice had gone shaky now… but it was still his, still Casey's--no one else's. “You're…” Zeke whispered, feeling sick. “You're supposed to be dead.”
The boy's eyes flashed wide. Everything went still for a few moments, waves crashing next to them. Zeke stared, waiting for an answer.
One step back, then another. He got four steps away and paused, his lips shaking open. Zeke started breathing faster as the boy then turned, fast, and ran.
'Catch him. Fucking catch him,' he managed to think through the sound of pounding blood in his brain. As if a gun shot went off, he snapped into action and ran after the boy, feeling his chest tighten and body grow hot. 'Casey could always outrun me… he could always outrun me…'
The boy shot a look over his shoulder, his face panicked as he picked up speed. This made Zeke go faster, and faster still, fighting to catch up. Sand flew behind both of them as the boardwalk approached. He had to stop him, get him down on the ground…
The Gods must have heard his inner voice, pleading and begging, as the boy then slipped. His feet scrambled for purchase on the sandy floor, but were sent flying onto it. Feeling like he was going to fall as well, Zeke kept up his stamina enough before the boy could rise to his feet. Zeke threw himself at them and grabbed his ankles, holding him to the ground.
The flurry of movement this caused was almost blinding; Zeke closed his eyes, sand going into large waves over his chest and neck. He grabbed onto his legs, his hips, up to his chest. When he reached his arms, he pinned them to the ground, forcing the boy to stop his thrashing. Both their breathing went ragged and strained as Zeke stared, face-to-face…
Zeke's whole face tightened; not one emotion could adequately describe what was happening to him. “Case… Casey?” he shook out. With all the fight gone from him, the boy…
“You need to stop--Zeke, you have to fuckin' stop.”
Zeke let go of one arm and grabbed Casey's chin. He forced him to look at him. No doubts or questions. None. “Oh my God…” Zeke uttered, throat tight and eyes welling with tears. “Oh my God…”
“I can't be here with you… Zeke…”
“You're fucking… you're fucking…” Zeke said, hysteria starting to course through his veins. It made his stomach shudder violently--he had to turn away now, and fast. He choked deep inside as he let Casey go…
He vomited hard into the sand, just where the sea met land. This purge seemed to take forever, with all skin on his body feeling like it would tear with the pressure he felt. When it was over, he watched his sickness get washed away by saltwater. His mouth went rancid, causing him to bring handfuls of the water to it.
“I'm s-sorry… Zeke…”
His hand slapped back down as he spat. He couldn't just turn around, face the person that he thought was fucking dead… could he? “What…” he started, the word feeling like it sliced his throat on its way out. Coughing, he dared to turn his head.
His boy. It was his Casey. The one that he'd drugged himself over, gotten sick over, alienated the world for. “What… are you doing here?” he asked.
“I can't--tell you,” Casey said.
Zeke's eyes flashed wide open. “What?”
Zeke turned fully and stood, taking two long strides to where Casey sat. It made Casey back off in a crabwalk, looking terrified. “The fuck you can't… the fuck you can't!”
Zeke dropped to his knees and grabbed Casey's shoulders. He was shaking in Zeke's hands, face going instantly wet from tears. It only made Zeke's grip tighter, still not quite believing that he was holding Casey--he was dead. Casey was dead, but he wasn't…
“I…” Zeke started, anger dissolving into shock. He shook his head. “I…”
Casey gazed upon him, wincing slightly from Zeke's hold. “You're… hurting me. Please let go,” Casey whispered.
Zeke backed off, his fingers sliding away. Casey sat back a little, focusing trance-like on Zeke's face. “Zeke… how did you find me?”
Zeke's head shook slowly, seemingly of its own accord. “I wasn't looking. You're dead.”
Sudden anger seemed to flare in Casey's eyes. “How… did you find me?” he asked again.
“I…” Zeke stammered again. With a hard swallow, he took his head in his hands. “I didn't know you were here.”
He watched as Casey turned to look towards the boardwalk, a small ways away. “This--it's one of the only places they leave me by myself. I have to go back.”
Casey stood up on shaky legs. “I can't stay here, and you can't either--fucking trust me on this,” Casey replied with warning in his voice.
Before he could step away, Zeke scrambled to his feet, the movement sudden, even for himself. He grabbed Casey's arm and pulled him back--perhaps the name 'Jude' could erase part of the boy's identity, the darker hair and brown eyes concealing the true boy beneath--but not the smell of his hair and skin. Needing that assurance, as mad as it was, Zeke pulled Casey in and squeezed him to his chest.
“Zeke…” Casey squealed out, his voice full of tears.
Zeke wasn't listening. He took long, greedy inhalations by Casey's ear… 'Oh God, it's him. It's him--' “They took you away,” he shuddered out. “They took you.”
“We need to leave. Now…”
“Don't go. I found you, don't go…” Zeke pleaded. How could Casey say he 'had to go'? That wasn't fucking possible.
It grew silent between them now. When hands went around Zeke's waist and were placed on his back, he wanted to scream.
“Zeke…” he said. “Zeke, meet me here. Tomorrow, after sundown. Meet me here.”
No. He wasn't going to let the boy go. No.
“Zeke… please. Or you'll never see me again.”
The threat was real. Zeke managed to pry his own hands from Casey's shoulders and step back. He didn't speak; he just stared at Casey, the boy that Zeke had needed to believe he wasn't ever going to see again, in order to save his sanity. He felt that sanity begin to drift as he fought for words. “Am I dreaming?” he finally irked out.
“Tomorrow. After dark, here,” Casey mumbled. He then backed away, giving Zeke an imploring stare before turning and running away.
Zeke didn't know how long he'd stayed out there, ears deaf to the water, skin numb from sickness and shock. He didn't know how he'd gotten back to the car, or how he'd driven back to the motel.
But he barely got the door closed behind him, before he dropped and passed out on the floor.
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