Title: Tahitian Moon (Act One)
Author: honeyandvinegar
Pairing: Casey/Zeke
Rating: NC17
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. ;)


“Casey?” Zeke muttered sleepily, nudging Casey's bare shoulder. The boy turned away, grumbling in his slumber at Zeke's intrusion. Smiling, Zeke leaned closer and got to Casey's ear. “What time do you need to be in for work?”

A tiny jolt ran through Casey's body at the question, and his head lifted from the pillow. His hair stuck out everywhere. “Wha… w-work?” he said in an absent, bleary voice.

“What time? It's eight-forty-five.”

“Crap…” Casey murmured, throwing an arm over his face. “Ten.”

“We should get up,” Zeke said. He yawned, making Casey focus his eyes on him.

“You can stay here… 'parents should be go… gone,” he said, getting interrupted by his own heavy yawn. “Won't mind if you sleep in here.”

“No… I'll drive you,” Zeke replied.

“You don't have to.”

Casey's voice was completely sleep-sweet; it made Zeke smile and nuzzle closer to him. “I know.”

“Okay,” Casey said with a smile growing on his face. “I'm gonna need a shower.”

“Me too,” Zeke said. The cocky grin made Casey chuckle hard.

“You wanna share one?”

It was all so accepted, already, letting Zeke nod and kiss Casey's nose.


“God… I can't stand this indie-fucking-crap.”

“What? They're not indie… this is Perry Farrell, for fuck's sake.”

Zeke quirked an eyebrow. “Thought he was in 'Jane's Addiction',” he said, getting a look of shock from Casey.

“No… oh my God, catch up.” Casey uttered.

Zeke smiled and sat back, listening to the song that seemed to encapsulate his and Casey's whole 'alien experience'…

'Maybe Martians could do better than we've done-- we'll make great pets…'

“It's really cold out today,” Casey said while rubbing his hands together. Another yawn made his voice hollow a moment. “I was so excited about going back to work… now I just wanna crawl back into bed.”

“I hear ya,” Zeke said.

“You had the choice, though. Should've taken it,” Casey said with a coy wink.

“I'd rather not let my boyfriend walk in this bitter fuckin' cold,” he told him; the coo Casey made was near deafening. Zeke smiled wider and glanced to him. “What?”

“I'm 'boyfriend' status, already? That's something,” he replied.

“Eh, you've always been my boyfriend. You've seen the looks Stokely gave us yesterday… she knew this shit.”



Casey giggled incessantly. “She's such a psychic.”

“She just noticed the obvious,” Zeke answered. He stopped at the last red light before the street 'Soto Photo' sat at and sighed. That's when a hand fell on his thigh; he looked down, seeing Casey rub near his knee. “Don't get any ideas. You're almost late as it is.”

“Nothing wrong with giving my 'boyfriend' a squeeze.”

“You say it so sarcastically,” Zeke said, raising his eyebrows. Casey said nothing in reply but a few chuckles, kneading at Zeke's knee. The light turned green and Zeke went through, secretly wishing that the place was closed due to a power outage, or… something. He would have given anything to turn back around, go back to Casey's house and spend the day doing whatever they wanted. His prayers went unanswered in seeing the store front lit up with its garish neon sign, offering 'One Hour Photo-- $9.99 for 24 exposures'.

He pulled up to the curb and parked, leaving the engine running and looking to the now sullen-faced boy. “Hey,” he said, turning to face him. “Want me to come by with lunch at one?”

“I guess… sure,” Casey replied. He groaned and rubbed his eyes. “I'm so tired…”

“There's a reason for it… wanna be tired tomorrow, too?” Zeke asked, all innuendo and sly grins.

“Ooh…” Casey cooed, smiling now. He turned to Zeke as he slung his bag onto his shoulder. “I'd say goodbye the way I want… but…”

Zeke looked out onto the sidewalk, seeing Saturday-stragglers walking into just-opened shops. Too risky. “Yea, I know,” he said, ruffling Casey's hair a little.

Casey smiled and opened his door, still giving Zeke long looks. “See you at one then.”

“Bye, babe.”

“Babe, even…” he said with yet another light coo. He giggled his way out of the car with Zeke giving a small wave. The boy waved back and made what looked like a funeral march into the shop. Zeke watched him go until he was blurred by the snow's reflection on the windows.

His face hurt-- seeing as how he hadn't smiled like this, as much as this, it stood to reason. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been with someone and kept the post-coital grin on for such a long time. HAD there been a 'last time'?

“Nope,” he said aloud; God, since when was he some doe-eyed freshman girl in love? HAD there been a time like that…?“Nope,” he said again, unable to keep from chuckling.

With all the events of the last twenty-four hours, he needed some sort of sustenance. He knew he could go home and have some of his favorite cereal, but in turning the next corner, the sign for 'Becker's Diner' called out to him. They had the best bacon and eggs in town; Zeke had practically lived there for years, unable to recreate their flair at making his favorite breakfast. The fact that they also had a rack of everything from nail clippers to caffeine pills, sold to truckers on their way to the main highway leading out of Herrington… well, Zeke had been by for other reasons.

He pulled into the small lot and parked, his stomach growling and aching. Some hot food would do him good. He got out of the car and rushed to the door, fighting the horrid chill.

The warm, aromatic air hit him once inside, making his bones thaw. Harry Becker himself was busy serving coffee to a customer at the counter. He looked up and smiled. “Hey there, Zeke,” he greeted him. “Your usual?”

“Yea,” Zeke said, pleased at his being 'regular' status. Harry made a quick jot of his order on the order pad and tossed it up to the cook's counter.

“How've you been, boy? It's been a couple since I've seen you around,” Harry asked while getting a mug for Zeke. As he poured, Zeke shrugged and sat down.

“Just been a bit fuckin' nuts,” he said while getting his jacket off. He looked down on his shirt and held back a shit-eating grin. He was tempted to bring a sleeve to his nose to see if it smelled like Casey's room… or Casey himself.

Yea, he was gone…

Harry put the mug of hot coffee and a bowl of creamers in front of Zeke and sighed. As if he were psychic, he sighed and asked, “How's your friend… Casey, how's he been? I heard about all the crap going on with him.”

Zeke kept his expression as even as he could. “He's been all right. He just went back to work, I gave him a ride there just now.”

“Good, good-- you can't stay cooped up in a place like that,” he replied.

A few customers arrived then, letting Harry's attention fall elsewhere. Zeke was secretly glad for it, feeling like he could be read like a book. He mixed his coffee, getting odd looks from the man sitting next to him with the amount of sugar and cream he used. He hummed pleasantly as he finished and brought the cup to his lips.

It was almost like a wave-- one effect ran into the other, confusing Zeke at first. He'd nearly spat out his first sip of coffee with the sudden blast of sound rumbling through the diner, followed instantly by slight tremors. In hearing the shocked gasps of the diner's patrons, along with a large shattering noise coming from the kitchen… Zeke didn't realize that he'd turned quick in the swiveling chair, his heart starting to race. He felt the same as when 'Ollie's car' had backfired, or when he'd run to the front of his school, feeling like his insides were caving in at the sight of...

Casey was the automatic thought. But Casey wasn't here-- or at school, or the sandwich shop. He was safe at work.

Silence had fallen over the restaurant, making the sound of car alarms blaring from outside come all the more clearer. The people in the booth area next to the windows all peered outside, confused whispers firing up. Zeke watched them, feeling stiff and cold. He didn't want to get up for whatever reason.

“Oh… look, what's that?”

“Shit, that's smoke.”

“Where's it coming from?”

Zeke felt like his body was filled with molasses; his eyes turned slowly to where the cook had come out from the kitchen, looking hassled and shocked. “The hell was THAT?” he called to Harry, who was rushing back from the people he'd been taking orders from.

“I don't know…” Harry replied. Everyone watched as Harry got to the door and stepped into the glass-walled foyer. “Something must've… shit, there's like a hundred people running around.”

Now everyone began talking louder, most getting up and following Harry. While they all looked out, Zeke shook his head; there wasn't any reason for worry. Casey was fine. Still, he stood on shaky legs and walked through the crowd, tall enough to see over most of the people.

There was smoke, lots of it; clouds were rising up over the buildings next to the diner leading to the corner. Zeke's eyes scanned the gone-gray sky, making calculations. He'd just come from that street, where he'd dropped Casey off for work-- something had happened in downtown Herrington, where Zeke had dropped Casey off for work.

Everyone started streaming out, too curious to worry about the cold or their breakfasts they'd left behind. Zeke followed as if drugged, trying to think…

'No. Shut up, he's fine. He's fuckin' fine. Go back to your coffee.'

That was impossible at this point, and he knew it. Cars had stopped dead in traffic with people getting out, right in the middle of the road, to look and ask passersby what had happened. 'What had happened. What happened?' Zeke thought in a daze. Urgency rose up in him to walk now, heading down the sidewalk towards the corner. In seeing a large group of people running across the street and disappearing past the building on the corner, Zeke's steps went double-time… triple-time. Full out running.

'NO. Shut up, he's fine. He's fuckin' FINE. Go back…'

Zeke found himself finally rounding the corner, turning to where the crowds had amassed and stopped dead. He counted down the buildings three times; pharmacy, shoe shop, insurance agency, apartments.

Pharmacy, shoe shop, insurance agency, apartments.

Pharmacy, shoe shop, insurance agency, apartments.

Each time, he'd end at the fifth building down… billowing smoke coming from the inside, glass shattered from the smashed front windows straight into the street and all the way onto the other side of it. His eyes felt like they were shaking in their sockets at the sight of the 'One Hour Photo' neon sign, lying dead on the hood of a battered parked car right in front of the burning shop.

“Oh shit… yea, look!”

Breathing hard and fast, Zeke turned to his right, finding two guys standing there looking into a video camera. One of them wore a hat reading 'Roswell 2', Zeke recognizing it as the kind the new 'Herrington Tourist Shop' sold to cash in on the alien debacle. They stood still and silent, peering into the small screen together. “Yea shit, shit, there he is! Fuck, we caught this…!”

“Caught… what?” Zeke mumbled to himself. Sirens began blaring off in the distance, police, fire trucks and ambulances in a cacophony of chaotic sound, getting closer and closer. It drowned out what the one holding the camera was saying a moment.

“Crap, we gotta get this to the police…”

“TV stations, Jack-- they're gonna wanna see this.”

Zeke seemed to go deaf and dumb, finally taking the scene for what it was worth.

Casey's in there. He needs me.

The two guys noticed him run off suddenly; their cries of, “Hey! No, don't go NEAR there!” were also ignored as Zeke's panic swelled to a crescendo.

'No. No, no, NO, shut up, he's okay. Shut UP!'

Police were scattered everywhere, pushing against the heaps of people all too curious for their own good. “Step BACK, now!” one of them yelled, moving a group of young college-aged boys away with his arms out against them. Two small but noticeable bangs came from inside, making everyone jump.

“Get AWAY from the SCENE!” another cop called into a megaphone, just as two fire trucks pulled in. “This is a highly dangerous situation-- everyone get to the other side of the street, NOW!”

This only made Zeke pause in his steps, but he continued, walking slowly up. He tried desperately to see past the smoke and broken windows, searching for any sign…

'He's okay…'

“What the… what the hell, get back, kid!”

Zeke hadn't realized that he'd stepped onto the curb, just in front of the burning shop. Two cops approached him and pushed him back, looking angry. “Get to the other side of the road!” one yelled in his face.

“My… friend…” Zeke mumbled, still staring at the disaster.

“If you do not leave the premises, you WILL get tazed; get to the other side of the road, NOW.”

Whatever the cop was saying to Zeke, he didn't know; his view was obstructed even more now as pieces of the ceiling inside began falling. “Casey?” he murmured shakily.

“Final warning-- then I'm going to taze you, do you understand me??

Zeke registered the cop taking out a small, hand-held device, but still didn't move. He saw a button being clicked-- then felt a hand grip his shoulder hard and pull him back.

“I'll take it from here, boys,” a voice from behind him said. Zeke glanced around aimlessly, seeing the cops step back a bit with clenched jaws. The voice returned as Zeke was brought back further. “Mr. Tyler… what are you doing here?”

The voice was familiar, but Zeke still didn't look away… “I dropped Casey off for work…” he mumbled.

“Shit, it's Tyler…” one of the cops said, coming to a sort of recognition.

“We need to get him away from here-- now.”

Zeke finally turned to the source of the voice; his eyes went wide in finding Agent Dayton. He forced his cognition through enough to speak coherently, wanting answers. “Casey… is he all right?” he asked.

“Come with me. We need to get you out of here.”

Zeke shook his head, pulling against Dayton's hold. “Wait… no, what the fuck happened? What the FUCK happened?” he now yelled.

Dayton leaned in, holding Zeke's arm to the point of pain now. As Zeke winced slightly, Dayton spoke. “You are not under arrest… but if I have to cuff you to get you the hell away from here, I will.”


Zeke's eyes darted up at the sound of the door opening. It'd been a good thirty minutes that he'd been by himself now, and before the last officer had been by to ask him if he needed anything (“Cigarettes… I'm out…” he'd replied, having smoked the last seven in his pack in record time), it'd been an hour.

When he'd first arrived, he'd been asked a thousand questions about that morning in a recorded interview. He gave what he thought to be obvious, boring details… minus their 'sweet nothings' he and Casey had exchanged. He'd spent the night, they woke up, he drove him to work. They asked the same things over and over, which had begun to piss him off an hour into it. It was almost as if they were expecting something more, being nosy about things he wasn't about to tell them. After that, he'd been made to fill out a report, filled with MORE useless details, ones he'd given already. All the while…

No answers. With the way Zeke's brain burned with questions, he'd started feeling ill. The officer that had taken his 'Marlboro 100's' request stepped in and shut the door behind her.

“Here… sorry it took a while,” she told him, putting the pack on the table in front of him. He stared at it a moment before picking it up, unwrapping it slowly. “Are you hungry? I can go to the vending machine for you--”

“If I'm not under arrest…” Zeke started, speaking through gritted teeth. He slapped the pack against his palm hard. “I've been here long enough. I want fucking answers, now.”

“I've been instructed not to talk with you about anything that's happening. I'm sorry,” she replied.

Zeke felt his eyes flare, almost as much as the lighter his shaking fingers flicked on. He tried finding calm in the nicotine smoking up his lungs, but couldn't. He closed his eyes and sat back. Rubbing his fingers against his forehead, he let out a pained breath. “I've done nothing wrong… I need to find out-- just tell me, what's going on. Please.”

The officer sighed. “I'm sure someone will be in to see you soon, Mr. Tyler. Soon,” she said. Zeke watched as she went to the door and exited, leaving him alone once more.

He felt dead inside. The white, stone walls of this conference room, set smack dab in the middle of the Ohio State Police Barracks was enough to drive him stir crazy. If it hadn't been for the large table and the barely comfortable chairs, along with the small stand holding a coffee maker, it would have been the same cell he'd sat in years before. The fact that they didn't have the decency to have creamers for the coffee they provided made Zeke's fingers twitch even further.

Zeke would have given anything to be able to just put his head down and sleep. At least it would make the time pass, however long he was destined to be cooped up here. Every time he'd try to make a nest with his arms and relax, however, it wouldn't work-- images of the morning would flash through his mind.

'I dropped him off. He should be fine, he was just there. He should be fine; he looked happy… we were fine… we were happy,' he thought. Zeke rubbed his cheek, the cigarette in his fingers slightly singeing the hair near his ear.

He stared out of the room's lone window, which faced the back lot of the station. The large fence lining it blocked out any sign of life… he shuddered and rubbed his arms, feeling so lost and sick.

Some time passed, Zeke still left in absolute silence. He couldn't even hear people outside the door, though he knew a guard was stationed just past it to assure he'd stay put. Fifteen minutes into his being there, he'd tried going out into the hall, only to be directed back into this God-awful space. He'd been given old newspapers and a few magazines to read, but he hadn't picked up one. His friend was in trouble, and needed him. He needed to get out, go to wherever Casey was and make sure he was all right.

He almost smiled at the vision of himself, sitting by Casey's bed at home, holding the boy's hand and soothing his injuries, both to mind and body. It wouldn't be long before he'd get the hell out of this hellhole and go to the Connor home to do just that. He'd been there already, during all the most painful, scary times Casey had had to go through. It only made sense.

Only more time passed… more time… Zeke kept looking to the clock, wondering if it'd broke. He couldn't have been here for four hours-- it'd felt like days. Before he went through some mindless routine of wondering if there'd been a daylight savings time switch, the door opened.

It'd been random officers that made the infrequent visits, but it was now Agent Dayton that was walking in. Zeke stared at him as he shut the door behind him and turned to Zeke with a thin-lipped, barely-there smile. “Hello, Mr. Tyler,” he greeted stiffly.

Zeke said nothing; he moved the chair back and raised his eyebrows. “Can I go now?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Dayton replied, walking over. He moved to the chair next to Zeke and sat, groaning as he did. “We've got to talk first.”

“I've talked. All right? I did the fucking equivalent of squealing like some mob rat in here, it is TIME for me to go,” Zeke snapped back.

Dayton's expression was surprisingly soft, something Zeke wasn't used to from the man. Being the agent he was, he'd always felt more robot than human. “I'm not going to ask questions. You're getting answers this time,” Dayton told him.

Zeke blinked slowly, staring at the man. 'Fina-fucking-ly…' “Yea?”

“Yea. But you're going to have to listen to every single detail-- there's a lot I'm going to need you to understand about all of this--”

“Where's Casey?” Zeke interrupted.

Dayton clenched his jaw a little before continuing. “We need to talk about what happened first. Not your story, I don't need it,” Dayton rushed out with Zeke's sharp intake of breath to what he'd said. “But you need to know exactly what had happened today.”

Zeke took a deep, deep breath. “All right,” he finally muttered.

“All right,” Dayton echoed. He sat up straighter, looking to Zeke with a calm but solid gaze. “This was domestic terrorism. From what we've learned, this was all connected to a certain cult--”

“Elliptic Dream,” Zeke interjected. Dayton blinked a few moments before continuing.

“He'd told you then,” he stated. He sat back and raised a leg, bracing his ankle to his knee. “Well enough; you should've known about it as well. You're all interconnected in this, which is why you had to come here. When you showed up, it was instantaneous-- getting you out of there and safe was our only objective. We didn't know if there would be anyone else hanging around, wanting to 'finish the job'.”

“So go on,” Zeke said firmly.

Dayton rubbed at his chin with a sigh. “We didn't realize how huge this cult was-- is. We knew they were extremists, but under calculated the risk. It turned out they were willing to die for their cause,” Dayton explained. “This wasn't a planted thing; this was a suicide bomb.”

Zeke felt his jaw lower slowly, taking the information in as well as he could. “Suicide…?”

“At approximately ten-fifteen, witnesses saw a black van pull up near the photo shop. A man got out, ran into the store, and less than a minute later the explosion occurred. We've identified the man as Jacob Nettle, one of the cult's members according to a list we retrieved in the Indiana bust. He walked in with explosives strapped to himself, and he detonated them once inside.”

The words washed over Zeke, absent and empty. All this didn't matter. “So where's Casey… when can I see him?” he asked.

Dayton stayed very still a moment, staring at Zeke as if trying to read him. “Zeke… the type of bomb that was used did extensive damage; to the building and its occupants.”


“He didn't make it, Zeke.”

The words made no sense. “What do you mean, 'he didn't make it'? Make what?” Zeke asked further, sputtering the words out.

“Casey was taken to the hospital, and was immediately admitted into surgery. He'd suffered extensive burns and fractures to his ribs, two of which had punctured his lungs. The doctors… they tried everything they could,” Dayton explained. “But he was gone not long into the emergency operation. There was nothing they could do; the internal bleeding was too extensive.”

Zeke put the dying cigarette to the ashtray slowly, staring at Dayton. His questions weren't answered, not nearly enough. He needed to see Casey-- now. “But he's okay,” he said with a quick shake of his head.

“Zeke,” Dayton said, leaning in closer. “You need to understand me, and take this in. Casey is gone.”

“Where?” Zeke asked. Dayton pursed his lips, looking frustrated; Zeke couldn't understand why. “No, you don't get it-- Casey, he's… he's my best friend, I've BEEN there, man. So I need to get where he is, like now.”

“Casey is dead, Zeke. You're not ever going to see him again,” Dayton said, seemingly giving up on the euphemism routine. “He died at the hospital, and that's it. And I'm sorry for that.”

Zeke scoffed and looked away. He blinked hard and fast while getting another cigarette out. “Shut the fuck up,” he grumbled out.

“We're going to bring you home soon; your car's been impounded for now, but one of the officers will be getting you to your house. Once you're there, you need to stay there. We're considering this a 'code red' situation. Do you understand me?”

“Whatever. When can I see Casey?”

“Zeke. I mean this, and I HATE meaning it, but Casey is dead. The only ones that know this at this point are his parents and you. We're preparing to make an official statement soon, but this is it. He's gone,” Dayton explained in a tense voice. “I need you to understand this. We're not going to the hospital or the Connors, anything. There's nothing at either place for you.”

While Zeke's brain was still dead to this information, his body was starting to register it. He wondered why his hands shook as bad as they did, fingers stamping out his cigarette in a near-frenzy. His skin was cold and clammy, making him shake his head faster. “You don't get it…” Zeke muttered, not understanding himself.

Dayton sighed and put a hand to Zeke's shoulder. He squeezed it tight as he spoke. “I'm going to get everything arranged to take you home. Officers are going to patrol the block, and a few agents will be sticking by the house. Do you understand?”

Zeke understood. He understood that if they didn't take him to see Casey, he was going to explode-- but he knew they wouldn't be doing that. He would explode if they didn't… and they weren't going to… “Don't… fucking touch me,” was all Zeke could say, making Dayton draw his hand back. The agent then left the room, leaving Zeke in the room with a hissing coffeepot-- still no creamers. No thoughts; just a brain swimming in nothing but confusion and fear. “Fucking…” Zeke murmured.


“I don't want anyone in my house.”

The two cops escorting Zeke up to the Tyler home stopped and looked at each other. Zeke's hand gripped the door handle tight, not willing to go inside yet.

“All right,” one of the officers said. “But we need to stay here; we're gonna be on the porch, all right?”

“Whatever,” Zeke said, opening the door and getting inside. Even with the door shut behind him, the sounds of cops, agents, police radios and cars outside rang through the walls, making him growl. He tossed his keys to the side table, not caring when they fell onto the floor with a clatter. He didn't have his car here right now, anyway… he didn't know when they'd bother bringing it by.

They'd made one quick stop along the way, getting him more cigarettes and a can of coffee. That's all he'd wanted before getting home. It didn't matter that his stomach growled violently, or if his eyes felt like they were pounding straight out of his head. He wouldn't be eating, and he didn't care enough to take any headache medication. “I don't care,” Zeke said in an almost childish manner, shrugging as he made his way to the kitchen. He slammed the can of coffee on the counter and took up the coffeepot. Going to the sink, he almost chuckled. “I don't care,” he said again.

Quaking hands managed to get water and pour it into the machine, something that was too mechanical to be real at this point. He took the last cigarette from his used-up pack and lit it up, shrugging to himself more. “Yea,” he muttered past his first smoky inhalation. He nodded senselessly and waited for the coffee to brew, staring at the rising dark liquid.

Mug, sugar and cream-- lots of cream, hoping to make up for the cheap, terrible-tasting coffee he'd had back at the barracks. Once readied to his liking, Zeke picked it up and went to walk out. He stopped by the fridge, however; opened the door, grabbed a beer in his cigarette-hand and ambled into the living room. Coffee, beer and cigarettes. Lifeblood.

He knew what was going to happen the moment he sat upon the couch; the buzz from outside needed to be drowned out, and TV was a good answer… but he knew.

“…I can't really say, Bill. We tried to get a statement from some of the officers here at the hospital, but no one from the media is being allowed to enter even the emergency room's parking lot. It's madness, as you can see…”

Zeke felt an odd smile go across his lips. “Stupid fucks… he's dead. That's all ya gotta know,” he mumbled past the bottle at his lips. He flipped the channel, and he knew.

“--it was about ten a.m. when Mr. Connor arrived to work, and less than ten minutes later that the bomber entered the building…”

“Has the name been released yet?”

“Not as of yet, but Herrington police and officials will be making their statement in about an hour to--”

“Jacob Nettle. Jacob Nettle, and it was fifteen fucking minutes,” Zeke murmured. Click.

“--as you can see, the bomber enters the building here…”

Zeke went cold. The video playing on CNN showed the face of a young man-- the one he'd seen, along with another, looking into the video camera. The viewpoint changed, going over the man's shoulder to focus on the building. The sight was blurry, up until the sudden burst of flame, blowing through the glass storefront.

“We've just received word from one of our sources that the shop owner-- Mr. David Soto, was reported dead about a half hour ago…”

Zeke's eyes narrowed; he took a long swig of beer and cringed, a small stream going to his chin. “Just you fuckin' wait,” he said, voice cracking terribly.

There was nothing to do but flip compulsively channel to channel, stopping every so often to absorb clips and phrases within news reports. Hours and hours passed, until finally, his beer emptied and the remains of his coffee gone cold, Zeke simply closed his eyes and fell asleep in his sofa-slumped position-- his body entirely numb to the world.

The decision to die inside, for however long, would be the easiest one to make that he'd ever experienced.


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