Fic: "Never the Same" (Casey/Zeke, PG)
Rated for the f word. Gee, everything I write, Elijah or Elijah's character just can't help that mouth.
Six weeks to the day, Casey finally gives in to the allure of the familiar, the comfortable, and takes his lunch up into the back bleachers. Coach Willis isn’t around; he wouldn’t say anything to Casey even if he was, but Casey’s still glad to avoid the non-confrontation.
The field’s deserted; the empty bleachers stretch away on either side and the sky is a featureless bowl of blue overhead. Casey floats in the blurry brightness of sunlight glaring off the ashy-pale wood of the benches and the ashy-pale nothing of the air. Far off, made small by distance, Casey can hear scraps and shards of the lunchtime clamor, but the field is wrapped in silence. There’s no wind, not even a stirring breath of air to disturb Casey’s empty sandwich-wrapper.
The nice thing about being out here, hanging on the edge of the void, is that nothing can sneak up on you. The bad thing is that Casey spots the approaching figure while it’s still hundreds of yards away. Casey watches intently, trying to figure out who it is – or rather, trying to convince himself the dark-headed height and bulk and slouch can be anyone other than Zeke.
Zeke veers off the track lanes and comes straight across the grass toward Casey. Casey frowns irritably; the fragile illusion of ‘before’ is shattering. Zeke never came to Casey. Zeke never acknowledged Casey’s existence.
Zeke’s climbing straight up, taking the bleachers like outsized stair-steps. Casey idly considers running, but he’s six weeks out of practice while Zeke’s in the best shape of his life thanks to Coach Willis. Besides, much as Casey resents the current state of affairs, he’s not stupid enough to think he really wants to go back to the way things were.
“Hey,” Zeke says by way of greeting, halting two benches below the one Casey’s sitting on.
“Hi,” Casey says in return, and he can feel his mouth curling into a slight smile. This isn’t the ‘before’, it’s the ‘after’; Casey and Zeke are the only two outsiders in a school – a town – that’s populated entirely by insiders. That’s got to count for something, right?
“Mind if I sit?” Zeke asks, though he’s already stepping up level with Casey and turning and lowering himself onto the bench, so Casey doesn’t bother answering.
Casey watches while Zeke pats around in the deep pockets of his baggy pants and comes up with a lighter and a crumpled pack of smokes. He flips the pack lid, lifts it to his mouth, and uses his lips to draw out a single cigarette. He returns the pack to the bottom of his pocket and lights up, drags, and exhales a stream of smoke from the corner of his mouth.
“Delilah told me you guys split up at the weekend,” he says blandly.
Casey’s gaze flickers away from Zeke’s profile, but resettles there almost at once.
“Yeah. I heard you quit the team,” Casey says evenly.
Zeke shrugs, the side of his mouth twisting a little.
“I figured, if Delilah’s not dating the savior of the world anymore, she’ll have to settle for the starting quarterback. I’m not really into that.”
“You’re dating a teacher – that trumps dating the head cheerleader. Delilah gets that.”
“I’m not. I mean – we decided – it wasn’t such a good idea,” Zeke says, flicking his cigarette hard before pressing it tight between his lips.
Casey looks out over the field towards the hazy blue nothing where the horizon should be.
“It’s like we’re all waking up again,” he says. “Like everything’s going back to the way it was … before.”
“Stan an’ Stokely are making a go of it,” Zeke protests mildly.
“Stan’s trying out for your place on the team, and Stokely’s painting her nails purple.”
“Shit. You’re right – we are all waking up,” Zeke says, scowling. “At this rate, pretty soon it’ll be like nothing ever happened.”
“Yeah. It’s weird,” Casey says, his voice wavering between wry amusement and weary resignation. “Every time something happens and I think, things will never be the same again, in the end they go right back to the way they were. Except, maybe, more fucked up than they used to be.”
Zeke smiles, as he always does at the shape of a profanity on Casey’s soft mouth.