|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. ;)
It was still dark when Zeke's eyes opened; nothing registered for a few moments as he felt deaf, dumb and blind.
'Where the fuck am I… did I make it to California?' was his first, most irrational thought. As the realization dawned that he was, in fact, lying on the rug of his motel room, he nodded to himself. 'I'm in Morro Bay, California. It's okay.'
He almost didn't bother moving up from the spot, no matter how his chest and legs ached from sleeping on the hard surface. He was still so, so tired, so wasted and used up. Pondering on why he felt that way, he was almost unable to come up with any reason for it all… until his eyes snapped open again.
He was alive. He was fucking alive.
His head lifted and turned, his eyes scanning the close-up threads of the rug, the other end of the room illuminated by moonlight coming in from the window. He stared with a dead gaze, hearing waves pounding outside. He was in Morro Bay, California. He'd driven across the country to get here, and Casey was alive.
Blinking wildly, he managed to push himself up on shaky arms. Once on his knees, his hand trembled up to his mouth and rubbed it lightly. His eyes darted around the room, taking in his surroundings. 'Why… did I think this would be home?' he thought. It felt foreign now, as strange as Europe would've been if he'd gone with his mother. As alien as it was back in Ohio. Nowhere was safe, nothing was set in stone. Things he'd needed to accept as absolute truths were plain lies.
Feeling like he was going to be sick again, he swallowed and shook his head, not wanting the awful feeling to return. His mouth tasted bad enough. Managing to get to his feet, he stumbled into the bathroom and leaned over the sink. He turned the tap on and splashed water into his face and mouth. Once thoroughly soaked with even the collar of his t-shirt getting wet, he shut it off and leaned up.
He stared at the image before him; his own, looking right back. His eyes were dark, circles under them making him look gaunt and overtired. Strands of hair stuck to his forehead and ears, some curling haphazardly just under the lobes. He was ragged--a man that didn't look very sane at all. He wasn't. Not now.
There was no way to BE sane, was what he rationalized. It was an almost-comfort, knowing that there'd been no way to anticipate this night's events. Anyone would have fallen under the hazy spell he was in; it made his steps slow and shuffled as he made his way back into the main room.
All he wanted now was to sleep--to keep sleeping until the next night arrived. He made a mad chuckle as he climbed into bed. “Wanna look good for you,” he mumbled, almost growling out the words.
He was alive. They never told him. Fuckers, all of them. God damn them. God DAMN them.
Zeke stared down the aisle of the empty church as he opened the large glass doors leading inside. The cavernous hall was so silent that it seemed to echo somehow. He began passing the rows of pews, eyes set upon the opened coffin ahead, placed just as it'd been that day.
'Did you see me? Did you hear me screaming?' he said in a whisper, anxiety and anger swelling deep inside of him. He walked steadily towards the front, knowing what he'd find. He climbed the small set of steps and stood still a moment, staring…
It was empty. The white satin lining cradled nothing.
The voice from behind him made Zeke turn around; there, perched on the back of a pew was Casey, wearing a devious grin; he cocked his head to the side. 'Are you surprised?'
Zeke's eyes flashed with anger. How dare he. How dare he. He HAD watched him, crying and howling… all for the lost little boy that Zeke loved so goddamned much.
Before he knew it, Zeke was rushing over. Casey smiled, giggled then hopped to his feet. 'What?' he said innocently, batting his eyelashes Zeke's way. 'Are you angry?'
Zeke glanced to the coffin, then back to Casey. 'Get in.'
Zeke moved closer; he smiled as he took Casey's arm. 'You're dead.'
'But I'm not,' Casey replied coyly.
The grip on Casey went hard. Zeke pulled him in and scowled. 'Fuck you,'
Casey had barely enough time to stop smiling, before Zeke pulled him from the pew and down the aisle. He tugged his arm, trying to get away from Zeke's hold. 'Lemmee go,' he said, sounding panicked.
Zeke didn't listen. He stomped up the stairs, pulling Casey so hard the boy almost tripped and fell. Once in front of the casket, he turned, grabbed Casey by the waist and lifted him up.
The boy went into a fully-fledged panic now as he was dropped inside, pushed hard to make him lie down. 'Zeke, don't, don't!' he cried.
'No! You're fucking dead, BE dead!'
'Please… please let me go…' Casey whimpered.
Zeke wasn't listening; one hand managed to pin Casey while the other went to the lid. Casey began screaming then, turning onto his side and grabbing the edge of the coffin. 'Zeke… don't shut me out. Don't bury me. Don't leave me, please… don't…' he wailed.
The rage Zeke felt started to teem out of control. Instead of closing the boy in, he grabbed at the front of shirt and pulled him up to meet his angry, reddened face. 'You fucker! You son of a fucking bitch!' Zeke bellowed, making a deafening echo bounce off the ornate walls. Casey's eyes scrunched closed as Zeke let one hand rise up and make a fist.
Zeke's head snapped up from the pillow; his breathing fast and panicked, tight fists balled up into the sheet below him. He stared at the plain headboard of the bed a few moments, letting everything sink in.
'He didn't mean it. Don't be mad at him… he lied to me. He fucking lied,' he thought, his brain going wild with mixed emotions. Not feeling tired in the slightest, he sat up and looked to the clock. Twelve-forty, it read.
He began calming down a little, leaning forward with his elbows to his knees. One hand slapped onto the bedside table, grabbing his cigarettes. He lipped one out of the pack and… sat there.
He could make sense of this--he could.
The explosion. Funeral. Casey's alive. The Feds, constantly watching us. Casey's alive. I should have known. Mysterious lawyers, clearing charges that would have had me fined up the ass, if not jailed. Casey's alive. It all adds up, but it fucking doesn't. Who did this, when does… when does he come home?
He sat there, listless, for a long time before lighting the cigarette, the filter practically glued to his lips by the time he'd done so.
The minute after he'd been showered and dressed, Zeke had to keep himself from leaving for the beach. 'Casey's not there… not yet,' he thought, taking a quick look to the time.
Six-twenty. How he'd made it this far was beyond him. He'd been tempted three hours before, just after throwing his t-shirt on, to head out and search for the boy. Casey HAD to be in town, somewhere. The idea that Casey could've been less than a mile from where Zeke sat was mind-blowing.
Zeke grabbed a fresh pack of cigarettes and unwrapped them, his eyes set on the TV to offer him any kind of distraction he could get. Everything--the sounds, images--they all passed through his brain and out, not registering or meaning a damned thing. His eyes strayed to the window, looking out at the bright sky. The sun had lowered, replacing some of the blue with light orange. Perhaps it wasn't sundown just yet, but like hell if he could wait any longer.
Taking up his keys, cigarettes and flask of gin, Zeke left his room and went outside to the car. He turned the engine on--and sat still.
'I'm going to meet Casey at the beach,' he thought. For the first time he thought about what he would tell anyone from back home… they'd think him insane, no doubt. He couldn't tell anyone, not yet. With a hard swallow, Zeke backed out of the spot and drove out of the lot.
Zeke's hand shook up to his lips, bringing sweet smoke into his body. He feared for his lungs, seeing as half a pack had disappeared already. He let the cigarette hang in his mouth and let his hands clasp around his calves to hold himself still. He'd done nothing but sit in his trembling pose, anticipation filling him to the point of pain as the sun lowered, lowered--until it sank past the horizon completely.
He waited. Impatience set in, making him look around the area. He saw no one. Not one beachcomber or couple taking in a romantic beach stroll. Just Zeke, water and the moon starting to climb into the spot where the sun had been. The huge, glowing sphere entranced him, kept him wondering, when…
Light, faraway footsteps came from the right, making Zeke turn quickly. He felt confusion and disbelief all over again as he watched the small form coming towards him. Tiny and barefoot, almost unnoticeable…
Casey became clearer as he moved closer, his pale skin glowing slightly under the moonlight. Zeke froze, staring hard, until finally the boy was standing right by him, looking down at Zeke. His lips parted.
“Hi,” Casey shook out.
“He… hey,” Zeke murmured.
Casey blinked wildly before moving to his knees, staring Zeke down. The gaze was almost imposing, twisting Zeke's insides. 'He's known all along that he was alive… I haven't,'
“I've… I've missed you,” Casey said.
Zeke almost scoffed. His eyes narrowed as he turned away. “Yea. Yea, same here,” Zeke replied. “Same here.”
“Your hair got long,” Casey said, pointing at Zeke's mop-like hair.
“Yea… looks like you dyed yours, huh?” Zeke replied, feeling the stress of just looking at the differences Casey wore.
“What?“ Casey asked, blinking fast.
“Looks like you dyed yours--what are you, deaf?” Zeke said louder, sounding annoyed. Casey fingered his hair, looking self-conscious.
“A… little, yea,” Casey answered. “Just… speak up.”
Zeke clenched his jaw and looked away. It was silent now, letting Zeke think to himself--all muddled and made into a language he didn't understand, leaving him blank and numb. Casey was sitting right next to him.
“You've been dead to me for over three months,” Zeke blurted, interrupting whatever Casey had gone to say. He turned back to him, nearly glaring at the boy. “You've been dead.”
“I've… had to be,” Casey murmured in reply. He started shaking his head slowly, wearing a frown. “Zeke…”
Zeke turned away again, shaking his head as well. “I've had to accept it. Driving myself insane over it. And now… fuck, now, here you fucking are.” he said. “Here you fucking are.”
It went quiet all over again, almost as if they were still separated from each other, even if they were right next to each other. Sharing the same air and looking at the same skyline.
“I dreamed of you.”
The words Casey spoke brought Zeke back to reality. He looked to Casey in the corner of his eye, going numb. “Dreamed?” he muttered.
“All… all the time,” Casey answered softly.
Zeke's insides tightened, trying to get a grip on what was happening. “I dreamed of you too,” he said. “All the time.”
“Zeke--what brought you here?” Casey asked.
“You did,” Zeke replied.
“You did,” Zeke repeated. “Dreamed about this--ALL of this, the ocean, that fucking rock,” he said, waving a hand over to where Morro Rock lay in the distance. “You told me you were in 'Morocco', for fuck's sake. In my dreams--you told me everything.”
Casey's lips parted. “You'd gone south.”
“Huh?” Zeke murmured, looking back to Casey fully.
“I told you not to. And you got lost. You were driving, all the time.” Casey said.
It was all impossible. Impossible. There couldn't be any real way to explain this; Zeke didn't believe in fate, only coincidence. Running to this town and finding Casey like this, all coincidence. From what Casey was saying now… “What… are we, some fucking long lost twins?”
Casey let a smile shake onto his lips. “Maybe, huh?”
“Dunno,” Zeke replied. He looked down into his lap, letting his legs cross and fall open. With a hand running through his hair, Zeke groaned. “You've been dead to me.”
“I've had to pretend--that you were dead too,” Casey tearfully replied, his smile gone.
“Casey…” Zeke started, feeling so damned odd just saying the boy's name. “Case, what happened?”
Casey sat back a little, crossing his own legs. He picked at a sprig of grass and sighed. “I don't remember much, if at all. It's… hard to say,” Casey started. “I remember you dropping me off, getting inside--saying hi to Mr. Soto and settling down to work. Then the man ran in and… that's it. That's all I know, besides what I was told later.”
“What were you told?”
“I don't wanna talk about it,” Casey retorted quick. “I don't wanna talk about it.”
He looked the same--seemed the same, exactly as Zeke had left him that morning. He wanted nothing more than to press Casey into telling him; telling him everything that had happened. Before he was about to make demands, his brain stopped and his throat croaked out a small groan. “I thought you were dead… I wanted to die with you.”
Casey's eyes widened, his head jerking back to look at Zeke intently. Zeke swallowed and frowned hard, trying to hold back tears and screams. A hand rose up and took Casey's face, fingers stroking by the boy's ear. “Wanted to fucking die,” he irked out, just before pulling Casey to him.
'Oh God oh God oh God… fucking God…'
To feel Casey's lips moving upon his own--tasting familiar skin that he'd craved more than anything in the world, wanting one last chance…
One last chance, just one--it was here, as if angels sang in joy, letting it all come back to him in waves. They were more insistent, more violent then the ones pouring up over the sand. The hunger welling inside Zeke made him grab onto Casey's waist and pull him in, sliding him into Zeke's lap. Casey's hands immediately fell to Zeke's neck and held him close.
Zeke didn't know where to put his hands; they seemed to scramble hastily over the boy's back, gripping then releasing, sliding down to his hips again to pull him closer. Everything so desperate and warm. Casey squeezed into Zeke as if trying to become him, grasping onto Zeke for dear life. The dance of their mouths, tangle of tongues, sweeter than anything Zeke could ever want.
One hand traveled up to the side of Casey's head, Zeke's fingers clenching into his hair. He didn't and wouldn't let Casey go. There wasn't any other option than to sit here and keep him forever. Fuck the world--fuck the Feds, fuck the groups of psychos. Like hell he couldn't have his boy. No one would tell Zeke otherwise. His fingers relaxed and stroked slowly downwards, making Zeke realize that he was tracing something. Not Casey's jaw, ear or hair--a mark… a ridge.
He turned his head, ending the kiss for now. Turning Casey's face away slightly, he wanted to cry. A long mark--a scar, hidden by hair and the shadows of Casey's jaw lie there. Casey went absolutely still, letting Zeke take it in.
Zeke almost growled. This new imperfection… he didn't want to know what caused it, though he pretty much knew already. But he didn't want to know. He nuzzled closer, burying his nose just under Casey's jaw line. “I love you so much,” he whispered, feeling Casey shudder at his words. “And I'm not letting you fucking go.”
Casey bent back, eyeing Zeke with a careful gaze. “Zeke, I'm not… I'm not staying here.”
“Doesn't matter where we end up, Case,” Zeke said; he knew fully well what he was asking, how impossible it seemed, but he didn't care.
“Zeke, this is it. This is it, I'm not coming back here,” Casey told him. “I can't leave with you. Fuck, I can't be with you. Coming here was enough of a fucking risk, and if they find out I came here to meet YOU… Zeke, it's not gonna happen.”
“The fuck it isn't.”
“The fuck it isn't,” Zeke said again, stronger this time. “We fought MaryBeth, for God's sake. If you honestly think I'm letting some goddamned Feds take you away again, you're wrong.”
Casey looked pensive a moment. He then moved close again, putting his forehead to Zeke's. “There's nothing in the world--I fucking mean nothing more that I want than to get in your car and take off. Head home, or wherever. But--”
“Then do it,” Zeke interrupted. His lips touched Casey's in breath-like movements, making a shiver go up and down his spine. “Fuck the world, Casey. Fuck it.”
It went quiet between them again. Zeke watched the boy's eyes, gone brown--contacts, he wanted to take them out--moving in small darts over Zeke's face and shoulders. Before he could plead further, Casey shuddered out a breath. “I can't leave--and I can't stay,” he muttered. “But… not tonight.”
Zeke raised his eyebrows. “Not tonight?”
“No,” Casey replied. “Zeke, if I leave…”
“No one…” Zeke said, pausing a moment as he gripped Casey's hips harder. “Is gonna fuckin' touch you if you're with me.”
Casey blinked a few times before a tiny smile appeared. “Not even you…?”
Zeke cocked his head to the side. “I'll be touching you. All the fucking time.”
Casey's eyes lowered. “If we could… here, or somewhere else…” Casey started; Zeke felt as if lightning had struck him as Casey looked back up to him. “I've been wanting that night, all over again.”
“I want it, too,” Zeke replied.
“But we can't… Zeke…” Casey said, looking annoyed with their predicament. “If we can--if I can, I'll meet you here tomorrow night… same time. If I can. I can't promise a damned thing to you. It's 'if I can', or nothing.”
Zeke felt like the world was spinning out of control, in a good way. “I'll pack the car tonight.”
“I'll hope for the fucking best,” Zeke quickly replied.
Casey nodded slowly and looked towards where he'd come from. “I have to go back,” he whispered, as if someone was listening in. “You need to go back to where you've been staying. Wait for me to be gone, at least fifteen minutes. Don't say a fucking word. Don't call anyone and tell them that you've seen me.”
“I won't,” Zeke replied.
“You promise me.”
“I promise,” Zeke said, brushing his fingers to Casey's cheek.
Casey smiled and turned his face to Zeke's hand, kissing it lightly. He stood, leaving Zeke's lap. As he brushed his t-shirt straight, he smiled down at him. “If I don't see you--”
“You will,” Zeke said with confidence, sitting back on the slope of sand.
“If I don't, Zeke…” Casey replied, sounding stern. “I love you, too.”
Warmth filled Zeke to the core at this. “Love you, babe,” he said. Casey smiled, turned and trotted off, leaving Zeke to watch him go. He watched until the darkness enveloped him, wishing he could just follow him--run away, leave the world behind.
It was only when Zeke was utterly exhausted that he stopped packing, putting things in their proper order and looking over his atlas a thousand times and went to sleep. It was four in the morning by the time he dropped, planning on sleeping into the afternoon anyway. He felt that he'd be walking on eggshells after waking, and would rather have himself altogether before that and then deal with everything else later in the day, rather than earlier.
His sleep was dreamless, no visions of any sort bothering his already frantic mental state. When he woke the next day, just past one in the afternoon, he was thankful for it; the last dream involving Casey had made him feel ill. The emotions he felt were still mixed, going from anxious to forced-calm, to excitement and dread within seconds. Somewhere, deep inside his brain… he was angry.
What would've been the harm in knowing what had really happened? He wouldn't have told a soul, just being happy knowing that Casey was alive and well--kept safe from murderous, mad people. He would have missed him, of course… he had. But Casey didn't deserve the anger, just those who had kept him secret. Perhaps they hadn't had a choice in the 'operation', but it still hurt Zeke deeply.
Zeke stepped out of bed and made his way into the bathroom, his body quaking deep into his bones. He suddenly realized that California wasn't home, as he'd originally thought. If whatever link he shared with Casey really existed, it wasn't beaches or mountains that Zeke needed. They weren't the home he'd been led to; Casey was. It was his last paid night here anyway, so once cleaned and dressed, Zeke picked up the room key and went to the door.
The cell rang just as he shut the door behind him. Zeke blinked hard and took it out, almost thinking that maybe it was Casey. 'Doesn't have my number,' he thought, rolling his eyes then looking to the caller ID. He frowned at the name, 'Pirelli, Z'.
“Hey, Zeke? It's Zoë, how are you?”
Fuck. “Um, hi… yea…” he muttered.
“I tried calling you before, but no one picked up,” she said. “I was hoping you wouldn't be busy tonight. Tiki's runs a Sunday night special… you um, wanna meet me?”
Zeke took a deep, shaky breath. “I…” he started, pausing a moment to collect his thoughts. “I'm actually leaving tonight. Leaving Morro Bay.”
There was a long, sad sigh on the other end. “Oh,” Zoë murmured. “I guess--that's a 'no' then, huh?”
“Yea… sorry,” he said. “It was a nice time, on the beach, but--”
“No, don't worry about it,” she replied. “Good luck, wherever you're going.”
He went to thank her and say goodbye, but she didn't give him the chance. The line went dead; Zeke closed the cell and put it back in his pocket. He didn't give it a second thought… he had bigger fish to fry.
Not long now.
The sun was low in the sky when Zeke finished his shopping, getting a full tank of gas, three cartons of cigarettes and bags of random snack food at the gas station he'd pulled into. He'd spent the day stocking up on all sorts of things, and had gotten more and more excited as time had passed.
Stopping in at Wal-Mart, he'd thought of the various things that Casey would need. The boy wouldn't have time to pack anything without arousing suspicion, so he'd grabbed them both a few packs of shirts, some jeans and socks. It had thrilled him to do so, guessing Casey's size as he shopped… knowing what he was doing. 'He'd better leave with me,' he'd thought with a smile, once at the checkout counter, laying out all the purchases--'or he's paying me back for all this shit.'
With the car packed and ready to go, Zeke pulled out from the station's lot and onto the road, heading for the familiar beach area. His fingers were tight on the wheel, his nerves starting to fire off rapidly. He was ready to light two cigarettes to smoke, his body needing to relax. Yet nothing would help.
'I'm gonna hold him again… force him in the car if I have to, give him no choice. I won't have to, I know it. I know it.' he thought, over and over again.
It was soon that he reached the beach shops, going by Tiki's. He made sure to park a fair ways away, not wanting to run into Zoë or any other familiar faces. He ended up finding a spot near a small alley, leading to the beach. Perfect…
He got out of the car and sped across the street, ready and willing. Perhaps Casey would get there earlier than expected, letting them take off before anyone would realize that they were gone. The thought made his steps rushed--his legs straining with the tension and excitement he felt.
His feet met the sand and he went further, negotiating a fenced-in slope and heading down to the sea. It was a little closer to the rocky ridge where they'd meet and he could see far ahead with the dim sunlight still shining. Seeing no one there, he began to walk a little slower. Once at the spot, he let himself plop down onto the sand, his legs feeling too stiff to stand--and needing a rest in order to be better composed for their 'escape'.
Every noise made his head jerk and look around, hoping to find the boy walking up. He found it annoying that even a gull's cry could set him off. At one point, he did see someone, finding it to be a too-tall man, wearing a baseball cap and roaming the beach with a metal detector. Shit. He needed to be alone… no one could know about this, no matter how innocent they'd look to a passerby.
Zeke lit another cigarette nervously, staring ahead at the rushing waves. They were slow tonight; soothing, making him breathe in time with them in order to find calm. In the corner of his eye, he watched the beachcomber, hoping he'd give up on his 'treasure hunt' and leave.
The sun going down ended his rhythmic breathing, as he waited and hoped that it wouldn't be long now. He stared into space, holding his legs tight to his chest as he zoned.
The sudden voice made Zeke jump. Looking to his right, he found the beachcomber standing a few feet away, wearing a smile. “Hey,” Zeke said in a dry voice, hoping the man would sense his indifference.
“I hate to ask, but--do you have an extra cigarette? I left my pack in the car,” the man asked.
“Yea… sure,” Zeke replied, digging the pack out of his pocket. Anything to get this jerk moving. Hoping the man wasn't in the mood for a 'hey stranger!' type of conversation, Zeke took one out and handed it to him.
“Thanks a lot,” the man said. He took it and dug out a lighter from his pocket, along with his wallet. Zeke turned away as the cigarette was lit, staring back out over the sea. “So, Mr. Tyler…”
Zeke's head snapped back to the man, seeing the cigarette in one hand, the other holding his wallet open towards him. His eyes widened and went dry in seeing the identification card, reading 'Joel Grant', along with an official FBI seal encased in the plastic.
“Yea?” was all Zeke could reply.
Joel replaced the wallet and sighed. “Your friend won't be meeting you tonight, I'm afraid. You're to go back to your motel room.”
The suddenness of this announcement made Zeke's head spin. “Wha…?”
“You heard me. Go back to your motel room.”
“Who the hell are you?” Zeke spat angrily, getting to his feet and standing straight. “How would you know anything…”
“I'm with the FBI, Mr. Tyler. I probably know more about you than you do,” he said.
“I don't fuckin' know that.”
“Get back to your motel room. I mean that.”
“I already checked out,” Zeke replied, his eyes narrowing. “And I'm leaving. With Casey.”
“No you didn't… and no you aren't,“ Joel told him. He reached into his pocket again, this time, taking a key and tossing it to Zeke. “Last time I'm telling you--back to the motel, or we'll take you there by force.”
Zeke's eyes darted around, expecting to see an ambush of Feds climbing out from the sand, rocks and ocean. No one was there, but the man's threat was real… he knew it. His hands clenched around the metal key he held, breathing fast.
“But…” he started. I'm supposed to meet Casey… I'm supposed to meet him… He didn't bother protesting, no matter how his stomach plummeted to his feet and through the ground. He backed away, staring at Joel with dead eyes. The man waited there, smoking Zeke's cigarette and watching him intently until Zeke turned and walked briskly off.
'I'm supposed…' he thought again, his brain whirring with dread.
Zeke walked up to the motel room door, feeling ready to collapse. He stared at it, wondering what he would find in here. Not his things, not a just-made bed after he'd been out all day. He knew that much.
His shaking hand brought the key to the lock, making the door clack open as he turned the knob; seeing the lights were on through the slat he looked through. He was scared… so fucking scared.
“Come in, Mr. Tyler,” a voice called from inside. A very familiar one, Zeke noted, the lump in his throat growing.
He opened the door fully and stepped inside. Sitting at the desk in front of a laptop computer sat an agent--one Zeke knew all too well. He shut the door behind him and set his jaw. “Hey there Dayton.”
“Good. You remember,” Dayton replied, turning away from the computer and facing Zeke. Bringing his cigarette to his lips, the man then raised his eyebrows and nodded up. “I'm glad you listened to Mr. Grant. There would have been a lot of trouble if you hadn't.”
“Fuck you,” Zeke retorted angrily.
Dayton clucked his tongue and stood, grunting a little as he did. “I can see you haven't changed much. I watched the interview you gave from Ohio; I'm sure you caught the FCC's attention with it,” he said.
Zeke crossed his arms tight and stared at Dayton, who had picked up some folders casually. “Where's Casey?” Zeke asked.
“I can't tell you that.”
“I already know he's alive. Don't give me this shit.”
“We know that you know, hence our getting him out of the area as quickly as we could,” Dayton replied, looking from the documents he held to Zeke. “He's been out of California for a good six hours now. He's safe, I assure you.”
The world seemed to crumble around Zeke now. His lips shook open, making him gape wordlessly. “You…” he tried to speak. “How… the fuck…”
“It's within everyone's best interests that you don't go looking for him again.”
“I hadn't looked for him, I'd just found him!”
“Really, Mr. Tyler,” Dayton breathed out with annoyance, slapping the folders on the bed. “You can swear up and down that Casey didn't contact you somehow, or that you'd gotten information from his parents. If you'd like to stick to 'it was just a coincidence', you may. But I know for a fact that you'd made a direct beeline to this area.”
“How the fuck would you know that? What, you got agents in every town leading to California? Must cost the government a goddamned fortune,” Zeke coldly replied.
He was surprised to see a wry smile form on Dayton's lips. “You don't even know how famous you are… do you?” he asked.
“I've gotten a few hints along the way here.”
“Then you know that there are people out there, willing to do anything to show off the fact that they've met you,” Dayton mysteriously replied. More silence reigned until the man sighed and nodded to the computer. “Why don't you see how popular you really are, Mr. Tyler?”
Zeke looked to the computer then back to Dayton. Taking a hard, nervous swallow, Zeke walked over and looked to the screen. Pictures of him were splayed all over it. He was ready to shrug it off, figuring he had some fangirl out there--'so fucking what?'--when one picture caught his eye.
He was sitting in a chair, his hand raised as if waving. His other hand held a magazine with a red car on the cover. Looking to the caption, his eyes went wide.
'Emily here, from Mesquite, Nevada! This is a picture of none other than Zeke Tyler (omg, he's hotter than he looks in the newspapers!!!!!) taken from my dad's shop!!!! He didn't say where he was going **specifically**, but he DID say 'out west'. Keep an eye out, Cali!!'
His eyes flicked up to the address of the site. “What… find_zeke_tyler dot com?” he muttered.
“Word travels fast. These people knew you'd left Ohio before we did. We're ready to trace IP's and see if they're interested in working for us,” Dayton said.
“So… you figured out this 'big mystery', huh? Using some crappy website?” Zeke growled out.
Dayton reached over to the mouse and sighed. “We had to weed out a few 'red herrings', where some people got a little too excited over look-alikes. We started figuring out your route just as you got here… along with certain other people's.”
“What…?” Zeke said, completely confused.
“You didn't know you had a tail, did you?”
“A… tail? What, you had some agent following me around?” Zeke angrily asked.
“From around… Bakersville to here, you managed to carry some attention with you, in the form of a man named 'Stephen Waterson'. Know him?”
“No…?” Zeke said, incredulous.
“He knew you… he happens to be a strong-minded 'conspiracy theorist', and figured you were coming out here to meet up with the supposedly-dead Casey Connor,” Dayton explained. He gave Zeke a hard, serious look as he continued. “When he saw you stop off at a Mobil station, he dropped everything he was doing and followed you. He's been following you, and you didn't even know it. Does that bring all of this into better focus for you?”
Zeke blinked rapidly, confused and feeling sick all over again. “How… do you know all of this?” he asked, all anger and defiance leaving him.
“He stayed here, in this motel, watching you, Mr. Tyler. Last night, when you'd left to have your little 'meeting', he accompanied you.”
“No… no, WAIT…” Zeke almost shouted. “No one came with me! It was just… me and, just me and…”
“Casey was followed from the beach and into the small crowd of people by the boardwalk. Grant managed to notice from his 'lookout' that Casey was being tailed and we closed in, just in time,” Dayton explained further. “Waterson was taken to our station and searched. We found a notebook where he'd made notes of his search, film and a date book holding random magazines' office numbers. He was ready to blow Casey's cover… with your help.”
Zeke's jaw dropped. “I…” he said, trying his best to speak. He took a step backwards and realized that his legs had gone jelly-like. He plopped down on the bed next to Dayton's folders and held his head in his hands. “No one… not Casey, not his parents… no one told me he was alive, here…”
“Then how do you explain making this trip, Mr. Tyler?” Dayton said firmly.
“I can't, not in a way that you'd fucking believe me…” Zeke said through gritted teeth. He took a few deep breaths as Dayton sat back at the desk, lighting a cigarette off of the one he'd just finished. “Look… I'm sorry, but I know he's alive now. I know this, and you can't expect me to ignore that.”
“I expect exactly that, Mr. Tyler.”
“How CAN you?” Zeke said, his anger starting to return. “You… you fucking come in here… shit, you fuckin' lied to me! Right in that goddamned police station, telling me that Casey died, using some faked fucking sympathy routine, telling me--Jesus Christ…”
“It was for a very, very good reason.”
“What? What was your reason?” Zeke asked. His hands shook with fury, lips pursing so tight in his pause that they hurt. “I don't care about those psychos… they obviously fucked up in their plans, because Casey's just fine!”
“Open that folder, Mr. Tyler.”
“Open the folder next to you.” Dayton said, nodding to the bed.
Zeke looked down on the unmarked manila folder and swallowed. “What's… what is it?”
“Open it,” Dayton said, his voice stern and firm.
“Fine, whatever,” Zeke spat, grabbing it up and opening it. At the first sight of its contents, he almost dropped it, his eyes going wide with shock--outright terror…
“That's how 'fine' Casey was, Zeke. And if you think that hasn't caused him some difficulties in the present, then you're blind.”
Dayton's words barely registered. The picture right on top made tears well in Zeke's eyes. He breathed in shaky gasps, looking at Casey--his boy--lying on a hospital gurney.
So many tubes… all connected from machines and going into Casey's body. A sheet covered the boy's bottom half, but the area from his chest to his head was exposed. A long, red and deadly looking gash went from near the middle of his collarbone to just over his navel. One side of his face was beet red, the other as pale as cream. Looking close, Zeke saw the large cut under his ear--the scar he'd felt. Casey's arms were splotchy, cuts covering the skin.
“Telling you that he'd died was the only lie I told you, Mr. Tyler,” Dayton said in a soft, sad voice. “It was an utter miracle that the doctors saved him.”
“…extensive burns and fractures to his ribs, two of which had punctured his lungs…”
“…the internal bleeding…”
The explanation Zeke had been given by Dayton, right after the attack, rang through Zeke's mind and numbed him entirely. The way he'd asked the boy… what are you, deaf?… also stung, deep.
“We'd planned on using the pictures as proof of Casey's injuries, if we had to. We decided that it was better to say he'd died during surgery,” Dayton explained.
Zeke swallowed harder than before; putting the folder to the side, he rubbed his face with both hands and groaned. “But he's alive… and I can't just… leave that. I can't leave him. Do you… fucking understand this…?”
“You have five minutes to take anything from your car that you need. You're getting on a plane, tonight, and heading back to Ohio,” Dayton said, standing up. He started packing things away as Zeke looked back to him, aghast. “When you get home, you'll tell absolutely no one what happened--we'll be putting a gag order on you, ensuring this--”
“My… car, for fuck's sake!”
“That will be sent to your home in a few day's time.”
“I…” Zeke said. “No… no, let me see him…”
Dayton turned; he looked to Zeke with an incredulous expression, almost angry. “After what I've shown you--you still want to put that boy in danger?”
“I won't… just let me see him… tell me where he is, please,” Zeke said, his voice growing strained. “I don't beg… I've never begged anyone in my fucking life, for anything, but I am. Right fucking now, please… Dayton, please.”
“Absolutely…” Dayton said, putting emphasis on his pause as he continued packing. “Not. No way in hell, Ezekiel.”
It went quiet, Zeke staring at the man. He felt as if a hundred knives were stabbing into his gut as Dayton packed everything up and turned back around. “I'm not going to bullshit you, Ezekiel. Your insistence could get Casey killed. I know… that you two have something… HAD something, going on. But it's not worth the risk. As much as you shouldn't have ever known about all of this, be happy that you do, and move on.”
Zeke looked to the floor. “I can't.”
“You have to.”
“Is… there--” Zeke stammered, shaking his head and trying to find the words. “--any way, at all, that he could come off the program? Like, if everyone gets caught--”
“It's up to him and his parents, but it's not a safe bet. Now, if you don't get your things together, you're leaving here cuffed and empty-handed,” Dayton said with obvious impatience.
There was no use to protesting, no use for 'please' or anything of the sort. Getting up on shaky legs, going outside and finding two black, unmarked cars in the lot parked next to his car was enough to render him mute. An agent stepped out of one and approached him.
“We're going to need to keys to the car,” he said.
Zeke pulled his key chain from his pocket and handed it to the man. “I don't need anything out of it,” he muttered, choosing to stand in silence as Dayton came out of the room.
“All set?” he asked.
“Yup,” the agent palming Zeke's keys replied.
Dayton nodded and handed the agent his bags. He then turned to Zeke and sighed. “You'll drive with me,” he said, putting a hand to Zeke's shoulder.
If Zeke had possessed the energy, he would have pushed Dayton away and run for it. Instead, he allowed himself to be taken to the car and put in the passenger seat. He thought about Ohio… what people would say when they knew he was back, when Delilah and the rest of them were excitedly asking 'how did everything go?'
He wouldn't be home there, or anywhere else. He'd never be home again.
Tahitian Moon: Act Two (coming soon)
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