|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. ;)
Zeke looked to the house where Vicky pointed and found Stan on the porch He had to smile as he pulled into the driveway. “That's Stan. Just a friend,” he replied.
“Oh good! It'll be nice to meet a friend of yours,” Vicky said as Zeke shut the car off. The two of them got out and walked over, catching Stan's attention.
“Oh hey!” Stan said, smiling wide. “Just thought I'd come by… see how you were doing.”
“Y'mean you were nosy,” Zeke told him with a cocked eyebrow. Stan went red, making Zeke chuckle. “No worries man. Mom, this is Stan. Stan, Vicky.”
Vicky approached and gave a playful slap to Zeke's arm. “Vicky…” she chided. Turning her attention to Stan, she smiled and extended her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Yea,” Stan said, sounding absent. Zeke sighed and got to the door.
“Well, c'mon in, I guess,” he said. Vicky went first, passing Zeke while starting to chat idly.
“We just got back from having a nice… well, lunch-breakfast sort of thing…” she rambled. As she kept talking, Stan leaned into Zeke before going inside.
“Your mom's hot,” he hissed. Zeke frowned and punched his arm; Stan simply chuckled and kept moving. “She is!”
“Shut the fuck up,” Zeke grumbled, feeling amused all the same.
“I'm going to heat up that lasagna dish we picked up, Zeke; is Stan staying?”
Zeke nodded to Vicky's question, not bothering to look towards where she poked her head through the back doorway. “Sure,” he mumbled.
“Yea, I'll stay,” Stan replied. She smiled and went back inside, into the kitchen.
“Probably burn the friggin' house down, just in turning on the oven…”
“She's still hot.”
Zeke shot Stan a look as he lit up. “Keep it up, assmunch. I might call Stokes later to let her know you like older women,” he warned. Stan waved his hand flippantly.
“She knows already,” Stan replied; he sighed and settled into the wicker chair he sat in. “Are things okay?” he asked in a quiet voice.
“I guess,” Zeke said with a shrug. “As okay as things could go.”
“She's already trying to get me to go back to school and stuff.”
A long pause followed this; Zeke knew what Stan was thinking, and hoped he didn't dare concur with Vicky's thoughts. “Well…” he started. Zeke braced for it… “All moms want that sort of thing. At least she just wants what's best for you.”
Zeke rolled his eyes. “Yea well, there's no convincing me when she brings up my dad,” he said. He leaned forward and stared at the wood below, tracing the grain of one board with his shoe. “It doesn't matter. I dunno if I'll even bother with a GED… maybe, I dunno.”
“Well, that's good…”
“Ah, that's done,” Vicky said, returning from her 'duties'. She looked winded and tired, making Zeke chuckle under his breath.
“Unwrapping TV dinners-- hard work.”
Stan chuckled; Vicky clucked her tongue. “It was heavy,” she said with a wink. Zeke sat back again and picked up his cigarettes.
“Here,” he said, tossing them over to her. “'Noticed you ran out.”
Vicky smiled and caught them. As she got one out, she turned to Stan. “So, are you on a school vacation?” she asked.
“Yea… I go back Monday,” he said. 'Fuck… small talk,' Zeke lamented in his mind…
“Be right back… gotta use the pot,” he said; he stood up and walked past them, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. They kept chatting, making his ears burn. He let himself into the bathroom and shut the door. Instead of lifting the lid to the toilet, he sat upon it and sighed shakily.
'This shouldn't be so damned hard,' he thought. This was his mother, after all; someone that should have been easy to talk to, to get along with. They were so alike in many aspects, right down to having their salad dressing on the side when they ate. Zeke even recalled his father grumbling about the two of them, and acting annoyed whenever Zeke and Vicky did something remarkably similar.
It was his father's fault, really; Zeke couldn't get close to anyone, learning at an early age that you'd have to fight for attention or validation. He'd been too young when he realized it wasn't worth it. It was better to shut up, close up and disappear. Zeke rubbed the back of his neck and sighed, thinking that maybe that was the reason why Vicky herself had taken off. There had been many times he could recall going up to his room, ignoring her questions of 'How was your day, sweetie?', or snapping at her for stupid reasons. It was normal for teenaged boys to act out or rebel, but…
The time she'd bailed him out of jail for his vandalism was only two weeks before she'd left. It'd been one of her last attempts at parenting; when it'd just made him angrier, yelling about how 'the cop had it in for me!', she'd made the last ditch effort of calling Mr. Gary Tyler. She'd put the conversation on speakerphone and made Zeke tell his father what he'd done.
“And you bailed his ass out?” his father had replied. “He'll learn not to pull shit if he rots a few times in jail, Vick,”
The both of them had fallen silent as the man had hung up without another word. That night, Zeke had punched four large holes in his bedroom wall, and Vicky had called her agent to take up the offer to promote her book in Europe.
Before he could get too in-depth with his thoughts and memories, Zeke figured that Stan and Vicky would wonder what the hell he was doing. He stood back up and walked out, feeling anxious. It only grew when he returned, seeing Stan leaning to Vicky as she peered at a photograph.
“That must've been so fun for you guys,” she was saying. Zeke frowned.
“What was?” he asked; before getting to his chair, he caught a glimpse of the photo—actually, three photos that Vicky held. He went cold instantly.
“I was just telling your mom about our drive to Niagara Falls this past fall,” Stan replied. Zeke's jaw clenched as Vicky looked to him with a big smile. She held up one of the photos, showing Zeke, Stan… and Casey, standing by the fenced-off area of the falls, white water shining behind them.
“You're actually smiling… a little,” she teased.
Zeke wasn't in the mood for this. “You just carry those around, huh?” he asked Stan.
“Yea, in my wallet,” Stan replied, taking the photos back. He got them into his billfold and shrugged. “They're nice to look at sometimes.”
“Uh huh,” Zeke said, trying to push down the urge to throttle the young man. It was a ridiculous feeling, and in no way did Stan deserve such. Still, the air around them grew thick with tension; Vicky cleared her throat and put on the smile Zeke hated to see.
“Do you have any pictures, Zeke?” she asked.
“Of what?” Zeke said through gritted teeth.
“Well, you… your friends…”
“Just say 'Casey', Vicky,” Zeke snapped. It went quiet again; he didn't dare look towards the two of them, feeling the pit in his stomach growing.
“Um…” she murmured nervously; 'oh, she JUST realized she'd struck a nerve…?
“No, I don't. I did, but I don't anymore,” Zeke said. He noticed Stan's frown in the corner of his eye.
“I thought… didn't I give you copies of our trip—”
“Burned 'em. Got drunk one night and burned 'em,” Zeke replied coldly.
Now the room fell deadly silent. Zeke actually found himself enjoying it; anything to shut these two the fuck up. Maybe the empty gaze Stan held on him both angered and saddened him, maybe seeing Vicky gnaw at her lip nervously made him feel sick… but he didn't care. He stamped his cigarette out, got up, went inside and went up to his bedroom, locking the door behind him.
Zeke had tried to sleep, but found that he couldn't; for hours he lay on his bed, listening to the soft murmuring below. Stan had stayed longer than Zeke had thought he would, talking to Vicky. They'd even eaten together. Perhaps they'd had a big, deep discussion about Zeke's immense dysfunction—it made Zeke growl to think on it, but he refused to go down until he heard Stan leave.
He didn't realize that he'd fallen asleep until he'd woken up, feeling sick and light-headed. Night had come, making the room dark. Streetlights shone outside, blinking past the curtains. He listened for movement downstairs a few moments; hearing nothing, he figured it was safe. The clock on his bedside table read 10:35. His mother had probably gone to bed; jetlag was a true bitch.
Zeke got up out of bed and went to the door. He unlocked it and opened it quietly; taking a quick look around, he then got in the hall and took silent steps to the stairs and went down. He was very hungry now, and secretly hoped that there was some of that lasagna left.
In passing the living room archway, he froze at the sound of someone clearing their throat. “All done with your drama?” Vicky said from the couch, her body a dim silhouette against low lamplight. Zeke didn't bother turning towards her, but stayed still anyway.
“'Drama' would've been my sticking around and blowing up… if you think it would've been better to do THAT, well…”
“It was awfully rude of you, Ezekiel.”
Oh God… “No one calls me 'Ezekiel', for fuck's sake,” Zeke replied.
“Why did you get so damned messed up… 'Zeke'?” she asked, sarcasm dripping in her words. “I'd just wanted to get to know your friends, and YES, Casey as well,” she rushed out with at Zeke's hissed intake of breath. She got up and walked over to him; the look on her face made Zeke scowl.
“Don't look at me like that. I don't need your fucking sympathy,” he stated.
“You're asking for sympathy, in every little thing you do, Zeke. When are you going to learn that pushing people away does nothing but make them want to help you?”
“Why? WHY do people want to help me?” Zeke nearly yelled. “I don't want their help! I want to be left alone, that's all! At least about all that… bullshit--”
“You didn't burn those photos.”
Zeke froze at her interruption. “Huh?” he muttered.
“You didn't burn them,” she repeated, crossing her arms and huffing a little. “Remember right after dad left, and you said you'd burned our family albums?”
“Yea?” Zeke said, feeling nervous; the look in Vicky's eyes spoke volumes.
“I found them before I'd left… stuffed under your bed,” she said in a soft voice. Zeke's eyes flashed wide with anger.
“What… were you doing under my bed?” he asked tentatively.
“Oh, stop. I'm your damned mom—”
“What a fucking joke!” Zeke bellowed, making Vicky jump. “You think that cos' you were told 'PUSH!' that you have some goddamned claim to motherhood? Moms fucking stick around, Vicky. They don't haul off and TAKE off when life gets hard and their asshole husbands leave! Fuck's sake!”
“No, it's not! Nothing is EVER fucking enough with you!”
“Where are they, Zeke?”
“The albums? You know, they're right upstairs! Go ahead and get them!”
“Not the albums, Zeke! Where are the pictures Stan gave you?”
Zeke breathed hard a few times, feeling sicker than ever. Fine. He brushed past her, knocking his shoulder into hers to get over to the bookshelf. He slapped a few large books to the floor, letting them fall in a loud clatter. Reaching to the back, he snagged a thick envelope and threw it to the couch. “Happy?” he yelled. Vicky stared at him with yet more sympathy behind her eyes.
“Why do you do this to yourself?” she asked in a soft voice. Zeke's insides shook at the words.
'I don't know, Mommy, I don't FUCKING know!' he wanted to yell—he wanted to cry, scream, anything to purge the pain he'd carried for months now. Instead he stalked off past her, went to the door and left.
It had been a long time since his last bout of drinking; too long, going by the way Zeke felt now. He knew how screwed he was at the moment, but didn't care. As he sat behind the wheel of his car, nursing at a bottle of whiskey, all Zeke could think about was…
'This could be it. Just turn on the car and head for that winding road, man…'
He knew how stupid it was. It served no other purpose than to make a scene; all his life, he'd warded off drama and unneeded emotional outbursts. Nowadays, that whole plane of reasoning had shifted entirely. So what if he finally took up the idea of self-pity? He'd seen so, so many others act out much worse than he ever had. Perhaps he hadn't been angry with all that; perhaps it was actually jealousy he'd harbored. He smiled a little… his turn, now. No one had anything on his OWN brand of pain and anguish. Not one soul.
“Mmm,” he hummed, capping the half-empty bottle and stuffing it under the seat. He looked around the parking lot of the plaza, his gaze settling on the gaming shop. His hands shuddered as he clasped the wheel, feeling the urge to turn on the car and plow through the building. He could. The ability to do so was there, right in the flick of his wrist and a foot on the pedal. He closed his eyes, feeling mindless.
They snapped open again, however, hearing the roar of an engine. He turned to see a gorgeous looking blue Ferrari pulling in, a few spots away from him. Other people came out from the deli; students again, enjoying their last Friday night's worth of vacation. Zeke put his head back, sighing; he loved his car, but man… that was one sweet ride.
“Holy shit, Chrissy!” a boy, going to the driver's side, yelled out. Zeke's ears popped in hearing the name and his head jerked up to get a better look. The boy continued fawning as Chrissy…
“Sweet motherfuck…” Zeke muttered to himself. Chrissy Fucking Jensen now exited the car, looking smug and proud of herself. As others came out with ogling eyes and wagging tongues, Zeke fumed. He felt his face grow hot, his fingers shaking… “You bitch. You goddamned bitch…”
He didn't know how much tabloids paid out for the juicy information Chrissy had most obviously sold, but it had gone international—the gossip Chrissy had acquired was worth a lot, he surmised. Worth a Ferrari, anyway…
Zeke reached behind the seat, all the while just staring at the scene Chrissy had created. Feeling the cold metal of the crowbar, Zeke then pulled it to the front and watched on. Chrissy had turned on her car stereo, showing off the heavy bass of its sound system. Zeke's lips curled up all on their own as the terrible rap music became louder as he opened his door.
No one noticed him walking over; too entranced by the fine piece of machinery, they laughed and talked loudly to Chrissy, who had the vilest happy expression. She liked to show off, all right; as did Zeke, who finally reached the other side of the car. One of the boys noticed and frowned his way, just as he lifted the heavy metal instrument.
The boy's notice of him went unnoticed, until Zeke threw the crowbar forward and it crashed through the passenger side window. The entire group jumped in unison at the sudden shattering noise, their jaws dropping as Zeke drew back and stared at them all. He looked to Chrissy, whose look of horror was just so fucking beautiful.
“Hey Chrissy,” he growled out; he moved to the windshield and pulled the crowbar over his shoulder. “Like the car I fucking bought you?”
She outright screamed as more glass shattered and spilled to the pavement, the entire windshield caving and filling the inside of the car with broken shards. “Oh my fucking GOD!” she howled, breaking herself out of her trance to run over. Zeke chuckled heartily, backing off a little.
“What, what?” he called out with feigned innocence. Chrissy practically threw herself at him, pushing into his chest violently.
“You fucking cocksucker!” she screamed, slapping wildly at him. He ducked away, laughing louder now.
“Fuck yea! Gotta appreciate it, it's what got you your sweet fuckin' ride!” he yelled back.
“Holy shit! Call the fucking cops!” someone called out. Zeke kept laughing, warding off Chrissy's attack. He didn't even have the urge to hit her… he felt so, so satisfied…
The day had gone well enough; even with Zeke's absent mood in the past week, his teachers had been taking him aside to let him know how well he'd been doing. It had come as a small shock to them, seeing the once juvenile delinquent Zeke make the turn around he had. Just a few hours before, Mr. Furlong had called him over as the bell rang. Zeke had always expected the worst when a teacher kept him after class, but it was all different now.
“Have you considered applying for a science scholarship?” Mr. Furlong had asked. Zeke had felt too dumbfounded to come up with anything more than shrugs as answers, but Furlong was all smiles and encouragement. “You're acing this class, Zeke. It's your niche.”
Even through his lack of recognition in what people would tell him nowadays, Zeke felt it; he knew how smart he was, how smart he'd always been. “Dunno… maybe,” was all Zeke had replied with. Furlong gave him a friendly clap to the shoulder and Zeke left, feeling light-headed.
The praises aside, he'd felt lightheaded for days now. How he'd gone from that odd Saturday with Casey to Thursday was beyond him. He was glad for it though; weeks usually seemed to last forever. He had one more day until the weekend, and he'd planned on vegging out for the most part. He wasn't sure if he'd bother even just calling Casey. He wasn't sure on much at all, really.
He lit a cigarette as he drove, letting the spicy smoke ease him. Zeke tried to simply think on mundane plans for the night; the episode for 'ER' looked interesting from the commercials he'd seen the night before, and he had a frozen pizza he'd picked up a few nights ago still sitting in the freezer. He'd actually picked out the pepperoni and sausage one, seeing as Casey didn't like veggies on pizza…
“Christ's sake,” he muttered in frustration. Not every thought had to come back to that boy, did it? No, it didn't… but as Zeke pulled into his driveway, any and every thought left him in seeing who sat on his porch.
He didn't know whether to be excited or scared in seeing Casey lounging on the beat up easy chair; Zeke shut the engine off and stared, perplexed. Casey looked over, smiled and stood up.
“Hey there,” he called out. Zeke opened the door and stepped out of the car, flustered.
“What… what are you doing here?” he asked. Casey sighed and shrugged.
“Just thought I'd drop in, see how you were. You've been a total stranger as of late.”
“How…?” Zeke muttered, walking over now. “Aren't you under house-fucking-arrest?”
Perhaps Zeke had been psychic with his 'meal choice', as he now served them slices of hot, steaming pizza. Casey looked to it and smiled. “Just how I like it… did you know I was coming by or something?”
Zeke smiled; lil' mind reader. “Guess I did,” he replied, plopping down on the couch next to the boy. “So c'mon, fill me in here.”
“Well…” Casey started, lifting up his slice and blowing at the bottom of it. “The cops and feds actually did their job.”
Casey nodded. “They found a group of people staying in a 'Motel 6' just over the border of Indiana. They were… part of some cult… something,” Casey mumbled. He looked deep in thought as he continued. “I guess they'd taken MaryBeth as some fucking 'patron saint' or something, sent here to further some peace purpose… something.”
“Like Hale-Bopp, huh?” Zeke replied.
“Pretty much,” Casey said with a small nod. His concentration wavered a moment, allowing him to take a bite of his meal. Chewing slowly, he groaned. “From what I've been told, they worshipped the constellation of Virgo, and what they called 'Elliptic Dream'. Basically, the galaxy M-87,” he explained. “The feds found all this information on 'em in their suitcases and stuff. They'd taken a lot of notes, comparing the description of the alien with their own philosophy and stuff.”
“Fucking nutcases,” Zeke groaned out while shaking his head. “Were they the ones who…?”
Casey nodded a little. “At least the shooting, they've figured out. Not sure if they were behind the whole 'mall incident' or not, but they figured… y'now, maybe I needed some time away from the house.”
Zeke smiled and put his half-eaten dinner aside. “Glad to hear they're making fucking progress, already,” he said. “Are they at least getting those van-driving motherfuckers to talk yet?”
“No, guess not. They've been held right in Washington the last few weeks. The guys that were caught in Indiana are proud of what they did, and admitted it outright. The other guys… they've been shutting up,” Casey explained. He smiled a little and looked Zeke's way. “But… good news is, I might be heading back to school by Monday… and I start work again Saturday.”
“Oh yea?” Zeke said, feeling brightened by the news. Casey nodded and waggled his eyebrows.
“Yup. You haven't gotten rid of me yet,” he said with a wink. He then groaned and patted his chest. “Is it all right if I take this shit off?”
Zeke felt confused a moment until he saw Casey's hands at his stomach, lifting his shirt to show the Kevlar vest. “Oh… yea, go ahead,” he said.
“Thank God, the thing's killing me,” Casey said, throwing off his shirt. Zeke swallowed hard and looked away.
'You've seen him before… what the hell are you worried about?' he thought. Yet just the sight of Casey tossing the vest off of himself, baring the pale skin of his chest and arms made Zeke's breath come faster.
Perhaps Zeke hadn't realized how tired he was; judging by the small, light snoring coming from his shoulder, Casey hadn't either. All Zeke knew at the moment was that he had a sleep-induced headache, 'ER' had gone unwatched, and Casey was still here.
'Shit…' Zeke thought. 'ER's credits were rolling, making the hour at least eleven o'clock. Casey had a curfew to abide to, and all hell would break loose if it went broken. Perhaps without death threats made, Mr. and Mrs. Connor would let things slide, but now… shit. “Casey?” Zeke whispered, turning his head. He found the boy resting there on his arm, nuzzled close.
Zeke blinked and stared a moment; 'I have to get him up and outta here, call his parents…' he thought, but at the moment, Zeke was still and wordless. Something about nudging the boy awake made him feel bad; Casey's peaceful expression sank into Zeke's brain, making him feel numb. Long eyelashes rested on pale skin, glowing from the flashes of the television; his lips were parted slightly, letting little hissing breaths go in and out. Zeke smiled; he felt like he knew Casey like no one else did. Maybe Delilah had…
Wherever the jealous feelings had popped out of, Zeke wasn't sure; but in just the thought of the girl, his brain spun. He suddenly found himself wondering what she and Casey had done, both romantically AND intimately. They had talked a few times about it, but never in depth. Judging by Casey's odd questioning the weekend before, it was safe to assume that pants had stayed on. Still.
But no one knew Casey—Zeke was convinced of that—not like this. He didn't realize how much his hand wanted to know Casey as well, but it rose up and touched Casey's cheek anyway. Whatever Zeke was doing scared him to death, but it didn't matter. How the boy's skin could be so soft, Zeke couldn't explain; but it was. God, it fucking was. His thumb moved along Casey's cheek just under his eye, all the while, Zeke gazed away, feeling entranced. It would be so easy to just lean forward, nudge the boy away slightly and…
A heavy snort sounded off from Casey's throat, shocking Zeke back into reality. It seemed to snap Casey straight out of sleep even, his eyes opening in a start. “Wha… whoa, wha…” he muttered in confusion. Zeke panicked; 'fuck, he felt it…'
“Oh SHIT, what time is it?” Casey said, panicking immediately. He shot up from the couch and looked around, finally seeing the wall clock just ahead. “Aw man…”
“Sorry… I uh… just woke up, too,” Zeke tried; perhaps Casey hadn't felt anything. He sighed in relief as Casey turned to him, both groaning and chuckling as he rubbed his eyes.
“Phone?” he asked. Zeke smiled back and reached to the end table, grabbing it up. Casey groaned more under his breath as he prepared for the eventual…
“Sorry, I'm sorry!” he came out and blurted. Zeke had to hold back a chuckle. Casey began pacing and biting his lip. “I just fell asleep… it's only eleven… I KNOW… God, I'm sorry, okay? I'll be home in less than ten minutes. Okay… okay… love you too, bye.”
Zeke sighed as Casey hung up. “They pissed?”
“A little… it's okay,” Casey said with a sheepish grin. He threw his shirt off again and picked up his vest, looking morose for a moment. Once 'put together', he smiled again. “Just gonna hafta run is all.”
“I can give you a ride…?”
“Naw, I rode my bike.”
“Oh,” Zeke said, feeling an odd disappointment. “Okay.”
Casey went over to the door and grabbed his jacket. “I had fun, though. I'm gonna find out if I go back to regular school over the weekend,” he explained as he buttoned up. “Can't wait to get back to work, either; sounds stupid huh?”
“No,” Zeke said, walking over. Casey's eyes were bright and happy, something Zeke had missed for a while now. “I'll hafta drop in with some lunch or something.”
“That'd be awesome,” Casey said; he got to the door and sighed. “Thanks.”
“For what?” Zeke asked, cocking an eyebrow. The smile Casey gave him made him feel warm inside.
“It's been fucking hard on me lately… you've made things a lot better, is all,” Casey replied. “Thanks for that.”
Before Zeke could reply, Casey stepped forward and took him in a small hug. Feeling the warmth of Casey's body against his own made Zeke's chest quake. He hoped Casey didn't notice; he didn't seem to. Zeke tried his best to put his arms in a safe hold around Casey, feeling as if he could lose it at any moment. Whatever was going on inside…
'I know what's going on inside, goddamn it…”
Casey then gave one last squeeze and pulled away. “Thanks,” he said again in a soft voice before waving and walking out. Zeke stood stock still as he watched the boy get on his bike, pedal and disappear. Zeke didn't move until the cold night air began chilling him; only then did he shut the door and head upstairs. It wasn't long before he made an attempt at sleep… it turned out to be a futile effort.
Zeke opened his eyes; he'd heard the door to his cell crack open, but not what was said. “Wha?” he asked the vague form of the officer standing in the doorway.
“Bail's been posted,” she said dryly, shoving her keys back on her belt.
Zeke sat up with difficulty; the pains of the alcohol he'd drank had started shifting from a small, numbing pound to near-crazed, sharp pangs in his neck and head. He finally managed to stand, grabbing his head while heading out of the blinding-white room.
They made their way down the long hallway then out, going into a side room. Zeke swallowed and went to the desk to get his things. The man behind it put everything in order, having Zeke sign papers and claims. Once checked out, he was moved to another area, getting papers for his arraignment. “Tuesday morning; eight-thirty,” the officer told him, stamping the documents before handing them to Zeke. He didn't react in any way as he folded them into his jacket pocket. He was brought to the main office, where he found his mother sitting in the row of chairs by the wall.
Upon seeing him, she stood, her lips making a thin, pale line. Zeke looked away towards the doors, not wanting to face this…
“C'mon. Let's get you home,” she said in a sad, beaten tone.
“Go in the living room. Sit down,” Vicky said.
“I'm goin' to fuckin' bed—”
“Ezekiel David Tyler… living room. Now.” she demanded harshly. Zeke was tempted to make snide remarks about her 'not being his fucking mother', but heeded the hidden warning in her voice. She had just dropped $350 on his bail, so he figured it was his due.
He sat alone for a small while as she fiddled around in the kitchen, small clinking noises going off. 'Makin' tea, for fuck's sake…' he thought with a grumble, settling into the couch. When she returned, she carried two steaming mugs and presented one to him.
“Here. You're going to need it,” she told him. He grabbed it up and brought it to his lips; lemon-peppermint, a long ignored flavor from the cupboard.
“Uh huh,” he muttered, knowing that he could've at least said 'thank you'. It didn't matter, not right now.
“So… tell me why I had to bail my son's ass out of jail,” she asked bluntly, sitting across from him on the loveseat.
“You know already, fuck's sake…” he mumbled, staring into the pale-yellow liquid.
“All right, let me ask a better question; what drove you to smash up a girl's car?” she asked with more firmness in her voice. “You KNOW how much a car like that costs.”
“However much a tabloid story does,” he replied. Looking up to her blank face, he almost smiled. “Yea, Mom… she's the one.”
“Who called the mags and stuff… that one. She told everyone.”
Vicky sighed deeply, seeming to realize what Zeke had been getting at. It went quiet a moment; Zeke took a tentative sip of the bland, unsweetened tea. “Tastes like ass…”
“You could have just—Zeke, I would have preferred you starting a huge argument over this…”
“Yea? What do I say to a bitch like that?”
“Something a WHOLE lot better than smashing her car windows! Jesus, Zeke…” she blurted. She held her head a moment, looking pained. “I wish… I'd never gone. I wish I'd stayed here, with you. It's my fault.”
Zeke sobered a little, watching Vicky clench her eyes shut, looking like she was ready to cry. “Mom, I'm a fuck-up. I would've been a fuck-up with you here or not.”
“Why… do this, Zeke?” she lamented, looking up at him again. She shook her head and sighed shakily before speaking again. “Is this my punishment… are you punishing me?”
“Why is this… coming back to you?”
“Because I'm your mother, Zeke! It doesn't matter HOW old you get, when you do something like this, it IS going to come back to me!” she nearly bellowed. “You don't understand—when you're a parent, you blame yourself for everything. When you'd be caught skipping school, causing trouble… drinking, it made me feel like a total failure.”
“Is that why you left?” Zeke asked. She seemed to think on this the closed her eyes.
“I don't know, Zeke. I don't,” she said. “I felt like I wasn't doing you any good.”
“You did fuck all better than Dad ever did,” Zeke admitted. He put his tea aside and hung him head, trying to clear the cobwebs from it with hands rubbing at his eyes. “He would've let me rot… like last time you bailed me out. I'm fucking worthless.”
It went quiet, again. He didn't know she'd stood up and walked over to him until he felt her weight shift his on the couch. A hand fell on his back and began rubbing in small circles. “Don't say that… don't you ever say that,” she said.
“If I died tomorrow, it wouldn't matter…”
His chin was grabbed roughly, his face rising to meet Vicky's. “This talk… it ends now,” she stated in a harsh voice. “I don't care if I haven't been around—you can hate me forever for it, and I don't care. I won't sit here and listen to you go on and on about this. It is time for you to stop copping out with self-pity and DEAL with this.”
“Let me go…” he snarled out, pulling away from her. She merely grabbed his shoulders and tried forcing him back to face her; he began trying to fight her off, even with his head pounding and eyes feeling like they were going to pop out of their sockets. “Don't fucking TOUCH me!” he yelled.
It didn't matter; Vicky wasn't giving up. He soon found himself in her arms, his hands still trying to push her away. His energy sapped away from him quickly at the feel of Vicky's hand holding his head, fingernails scratching gently against his scalp. “Shh,” she hissed gently, easing him further into her. It was here that he finally choked out a sob and let his hands go around her.
“I'm sorry, Mom…” he irked out, eyes shut tight and he burrowed even closer. “I had to… I had to, I couldn't stop… she just…”
“She's a bitch, Zeke,” she said. “That's all she is. We'll pay her for the damages… if she wants to press MORE charges, let her. I'll get you a lawyer who'll make you look like fucking Jesus.”
Zeke almost chuckled… but all energy left him as he succumbed to sleep, arms still wrapped around his mother.
Before the sun had risen, Zeke had had his first bout of 'hangover woes', making him wonder just why he'd gotten drunk—ever. He'd stayed in the bathroom for a good twenty minutes, too weak to move. When the skies began lightening, he managed to shove a few pills down his throat, drink a glass of water then crawl back to his room, desperate for sleep. He didn't know how long he'd need to get over this, but one thought gave him comfort: Mom's home… she'll take care of me. It allowed him to ease back into his bed and cover himself up with the thick blankets.
He'd secretly hoped for dreams, like the one he'd had before going to the airport. He wanted to taste tropical drinks… perhaps dance in the sand with his boy, no care in the world. All was blank this night into morning, and when he woke, his eyes felt pierced by the harsh rays of sunlight streaming in. They made his head swoon, but luckily, the medicine he'd taken was helping—somewhat.
Soon after waking, a small knock came at the door. “C'm'in…” he grumbled incoherently. The door opened and he heard Vicky sighing.
“Hey hon,” she said.
“Mmm…” Zeke hummed back in reply.
“I made you some toast—and some apple juice would do you good. How about you try to get up? It's almost noon,” she told him, now sitting on the bed. Zeke caught a whiff of slightly burnt bread and looked up to see her holding a plate and glass of juice.
“Thanks,” he mumbled, going to sit up. Vicky smiled and handed him the plate once he was upright. He put it in his lap, took the juice and sipped. It did taste pretty good. “Sorry I've been just… out.”
“It's all right,” Vicky replied. She leaned back on the bedpost behind her and made a thin-lipped smile. “I've um… got some good news, too.”
“What?” Zeke asked as he took his first bite of toast; that felt pretty good too…
“Your lawyer came by. He's somehow gotten that Chrissy girl to not press charges against you.”
Zeke froze and his brow tightened. Staring at his plate, he blinked hard. “Wha…?”
“He came by this morning; pretty rare for a Saturday—”
“My lawyer?” he echoed. At Vicky's nod, Zeke scoffed. “I don't have a lawyer… there was just… that guy that Dad knew,”
“He said he was your lawyer. We talked for a long time; the only thing that was asked for was money to cover the car's damages. It was a hefty price tag, but…”
Whatever else Vicky said was drifting to a place where Zeke wasn't at; he was too lost in his confusion to absorb it. 'I don't HAVE a lawyer,' he thought over and over again. He finally lifted his head and narrowed his eyes. “Did he leave his card?”
Vicky nodded. “Yes—here,” she said, pulling a slip of paper from her jeans' pocket. She handed it to him and he read, feeling a lump in his throat.
“He said it was important to keep things quiet,” Vicky continued as it all sank in. “They weren't happy with the, um—'new attention' Chrissy had put on you. They don't want you to say a word about it to anyone, okay? Not anything. I guess they're still working on… the things that happened with Casey and what not.”
Zeke's jaw clenched; those guys weren't watching a grave. 'They're still in town,' Zeke thought. 'They're watching me…'
Stan sighed into the phone at hearing Zeke's voice. “Zeke… you okay?”
“Yea… I called to apologize for acting like an ass yesterday,” Zeke started; he truly was sorry, but it wasn't the only reason he'd called. He looked towards the kitchen doorway, seeing Vicky leaning over a cookbook in an attempt to make something for supper. He leaned back on the couch and hushed his voice. “Sorry for just… you have the right to carry pictures and shit.”
“It's okay, man,” Stan said with another sigh. “I talked with your mom a long time last night. The lasagna was good—you missed out.”
Zeke smiled a little and rubbed his eyes. “I know. Listen; there's um, another reason I called…” Zeke said, trailing off a bit before continuing. “Did you have anyone drop in today?”
It went quiet on the other end, the only sound being white noise until Stan exhaled slowly. “Why do you ask?”
“Fuck…” Zeke muttered. “You did, didn't you?”
“They said not to talk—but I guess I can talk to you. Yea, I did,” Stan said, hushing his own voice. “What happened?”
“I kinda lost it yesterday. I ran into Chrissy at the plaza; she had this new fucking car, and I knew why.”
“Yea, no shit.”
“I smashed in her windows with a crowbar…”
“What??” Stan hissed out. “You wha…??”
“Yea, I got drunk and just—Stan, listen,” Zeke said, feeling distracted. “What did—whoever dropped in, what did they tell you?”
“Well… this guy showed up, saying he was with some agency. Judging by the way he looked, it seemed pretty official,” Stan explained. “He said that there'd been some attention put on you, on the whole situation. I figured he was talking about the tabloid shit. It was kinda creepy; it reminded me of when all the feds showed up after MaryBeth. I told him I'd shut up about… whatever, and he seemed pleased enough. About ten minutes after he left, Stokes called.”
Zeke held the breath he'd taken a few moments before letting it out in a rush. “Same deal?”
“Same deal, man. But that's not it—while I was talking to her, we noticed this really odd fucking clicking noise. Real faint, but she mentioned it. Once she pointed it out, I heard it, clear as day.”
“Tapping. They're tapping the lines…”
Zeke looked out the living room window to the street; he half-expected to see shady men gathering around the telephone poles with earphones. “Stupid… I should've noticed this shit before.”
“It's so fucking 'Twilight Zone', y'now? Do you think… like, they came back, or have they been in town?”
“They've been in town; that's what I think,” Zeke said. He put his head back and groaned. “They never fucking left. They could be sitting across the street, listening in on what we're talking about right this fucking minute.”
“I know. Creepy,” Stan said. “But I guess… they haven't caught everyone having to do with Casey, have they?”
“No… they got those guys in Michigan right after it all, but…” Zeke started.. it fucking hurts… “But there's more; you know there's more. Too many goddamned crazies out there.”
“Things ain't ever gonna be normal again,” Stan lamented.
“They never really were.”
“Nope,” Stan said. “So um… you trashed Chrissy's car?”
Zeke smiled; Vicky came out from the kitchen then and sighed. “Well, I think I've got it… we should have a nice chicken dinner tonight,” she announced. Zeke nodded and turned back to the phone.
“All right… Stan, I'm gonna get going.”
“Okay—I'll call you if anything else happens, 'k?”
“Yea, do that. Sorry again,” Zeke said. Stan chuckled.
“No worries, man,” Stan returned. Even with the foreboding thoughts and fears, Zeke smiled wider and hung up.
Much to Zeke's surprise, dinner was a success. Vicky had acted like she'd cooked for the Waldorf-Astoria, grinning like an idiot at every, “Yea, it's good,” Zeke gave her. He let her show off a bit, actually enjoying her enthusiasm over making something nice for her son. It was… warm, comforting even.
It was unusually warm for the month of March, allowing both of them sit out on the front porch together in just their sweaters. Their smoke billowed around them as Vicky curled up on the easy chair, running her hand through her hair. “It's a gorgeous night,” she said, staring out at the darkening sky.
“Yea,” Zeke said, putting his head back and exhaling a long line of smoke. “Orion should be taking off soon.”
“Mmm?” Vicky hummed in question. Zeke nodded.
“The constellation; it only shows up in winter.”
“Oh,” Vicky uttered, peering at the sky intently. “I don't know much about stars.”
“I picked up a bit of knowledge about 'em,” Zeke said in a low voice. “Aliens rocking your ass does something to you.”
“I guess so,” Vicky said, looking back to him. “I take it… that you don't talk much about it.”
Zeke shrugged, flicking ash onto the floor. “Not much to say, really. She came, we saw, we conquered… I guess.”
Vicky opened her mouth to say something, but stopped; both of them looked up, seeing a Jetta pull into the drive fast. Zeke frowned. “Del?” he muttered, making Vicky look over at him.
“Delilah… Profitt?” she asked. Zeke nodded dumbly as Delilah emerged from the car, shut the door and walked up the walk. Upon seeing them, she frowned a bit.
“Hey…?” she said, coming up the steps. Zeke swallowed and stood up.
“What's up, Del?” he asked.
“I um… who's this?” she asked.
“Oh… my mom. Vicky—this is Delilah, Del… Mom,” Zeke said, feeling flustered. Now Delilah smiled a little.
“Oh, hi,” she said.
“Hi,” Vicky returned, standing up; she smiled as she looked between them. “I'll go on inside, Zeke, clean up and stuff.”
“Sure,” he said. Vicky left them then; Zeke turned to Delilah and crossed his arms. “What's up?”
“We gotta talk,” Delilah said, sounding morose.
“I could care,” she said with a roll of her eyes. Zeke shrugged and moved back to his seat, letting Delilah sit where Vicky had been. “Pass me a cig,” she said. Zeke chuckled and tossed her his pack.
“So what's up?” he asked as she lit up.
“You know half of it already; I called Stan and Stokely this afternoon…”
“You got a visit too, huh?”
“Uh huh,” Delilah groaned out. “We're all supposed to shut up; and what the fuck… Stan said you bashed the shit out of Chrissy's car?”
“Yea… I did.”
Delilah rolled her eyes again. “The bitch deserved it.”
“So what'd they tell you?” Zeke asked. Delilah shifted in her seat, now staring at the ceiling and puffing away.
“What they told you, everyone—and more,” she mysteriously replied. “I'm supposed to basically go against the rumors about you and Casey, if I'm ever asked.”
Zeke stilled inside; what? “What?”
“I can't say a word about it, but if I'm asked… like if I get called by any rag-mags or something, I'm supposed to deny knowing anything. And I guess… I gotta say that me and Casey were dating up until he died.”
“Huh?” Zeke uttered, blinking furiously now.
“They said it was okay to tell you—I guess they want you to deny shit, too.”
“This…” Zeke started; he looked away, staring at the dark grass of his lawn. “What kind of cover-up is this? Why does shit like that matter to them?”
“I don't know. But we gotta lay low,” Delilah said. “I was… planning on doing some sort of tribute for Casey, in the school paper-- but they told me not to. It's fucking weird.”
“Yea,” Zeke murmured. “I don't see why it matters. He's fucking dead.”
Delilah stared off into space as well, flicking her cigarette into the ashtray blindly. “I wonder… if they'll ever catch everyone involved with all this shit. I want it over with; y'now? I want them to just catch these bastards so we don't have to worry about our own damned lives. Sometimes I wonder if what happened to Casey… could happen to us. That maybe these people aren't telling us shit we should know.”
It went quiet now; Zeke pondered on Delilah's words, letting them truly sink in. In all honesty, he'd been so wrapped up in the tragedy of Casey that he hadn't really thought of things having to do with himself—or Del, Stan, Stokely… 'fuck, the whole town…' he thought. It only made sense that the feds were going to stick around, long after the 'Incident'. “Del?”
“Do you… I have a few…” he stammered, not knowing how to put this. Deciding to be blunt, he took a deep breath. “Do you want a fucking gun?”
Delilah looked to him with a hard gaze; he expected her to yell at him, say some stupid 'credo' about violence not curing violence, whatever else. So he was surprised when she lifted her purse from the porch, opened it and let Zeke see the glinting metal of a handgun peering at him from inside. “And yea… I've been to a firing range,” she told him.
Zeke nodded slowly. “Good,” was all he said.
The truth was… Zeke didn't want to hide it…
It'd been a few hours since Delilah had left, asking Zeke to be careful; the foreboding events of the day had left everyone numb, it seemed, and now Zeke was having a hard time getting to sleep. Everything bothered him, from the fears of reprisal aimed at him or his friends—to having to hide.
His ever-present sense of defiance wanted to pick up the phone, call every tabloid and confirm Chrissy's reports. If anyone were to let information leak, it'd be him. He'd want to smash every car window Chrissy owned, forever on, but he would be the one talking. Not her, not anyone else. This felt almost as bad as when she'd opened her mouth; it was coming from federal officials now, and it still didn't make much sense to him on why.
“Let him just… die,” he muttered sleepily to no one before his eyes closed.
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