6: Stay
by Wax Jism

Casey wakes up. It's dark still, and the clock by the bed blinks 4.30 at him. His face hurts. He's kicked off the blanket. The room looks wrong and his hand is asleep, numb as a log and caught somewhere, cuffed to the bed or something. He tugs at it and the cuff is Zeke's hand, wrapped tight and ungiving around his wrist.

He's not at home. He wonders if his parents have noticed he's gone. He could be on a Greyhound now, curled up against the window, watching dark highways roll by. Instead, he's caught in Zeke's bed and watches faint streetlight colour the curtains orange.

He pulls at the blanket, tries to cover himself again. He's naked. He never sleeps naked. Zeke moves and grips his wrist tighter. Casey can't get the blanket back - Zeke's wrapped in it. Of course he'd be a blanket hog.

And Casey's face hurts. It feels swollen and hot, too, and he can only imagine what it looks like. There's no way he could go to school without having to answer questions. Someone would call his parents. Someone would make him go to the nurse and she'd look at him and maybe, maybe figure something out.

Casey could have Zeke arrested. Maybe.

Zeke moves again, restlessly, as if he can read Casey's mind in his sleep. He finally lets go of Casey's wrist and Casey moves away, curls up around himself and tries to massage life back into his hand. He's getting cold. He doesn't think he can go back to sleep.

He tries to be quiet when he leaves the bed, but of course he walks into a chair, the door, stumbles on the threshold. Every sound, even the light padding of his bare feet on the carpet, seems to grow in the quiet house. His heart beats in his chest like a bass drum and he can almost hear it echoing off the walls. His breaths are rushes of air through narrow pipes, whistling and whooshing.

Zeke doesn't wake, and Casey tiptoes through the dark house, down to the basement, finding his way by touch, his hands trailing the walls until he's downstairs and finds a light switch.

His spare clothes are dry now, still hanging over furniture. He pulls on a pair of jeans. They're a little too big - all his clothes are just a little too big because his mother seems to think he'll grow faster if she buys them oversized, like his body will have no choice but to stretch and fill them. He finds his things stuffed haphazardly back in the bag. His camera. He can't find his passport, but he didn't think he would. He packs everything neatly in the bag and leaves it by the table.

He sits on the sofa. He's tired, in that way that pulls his head down towards his chest and makes his hands shake when he lifts them. Finally, he just lies down. Tired, but not sleepy.

So, he lost his virginity here. Not technically, but somehow, sex with Zeke doesn't really count. Sex with Zeke is something else, not-sex. Denial, denial, he thinks. Hell yeah. But some sort of cherry was lost when he was spread on his back, dizzy and confused and Delilah just crawled on top of him.

He can smell her perfume on the sofa. She lay here, pressed against him in nothing but her hitched-up skirt. And Zeke was there, and Casey can't think too long about any of it.

He turns around and presses his face into the worn, scratchy fabric. Smells dust and that faint, flowery scent that's never been there before, and sex. He can still smell that.

The skin on his back and shoulders crawls and shudders into goosebumps, and the memory is one of those tremblingly vivid ones - Delilah's mouth on his cheek, her tongue lapping in small strokes over the cut - that merge with the present - his hips even do a little proto-thrust, a twitch, into the back of the couch - and drench him in heat - Zeke's fingers, the taste of them, sticky, tangy, bitter - make him gasp.

He sits up quickly and his head spins. He leans forward and blood rushes back into his face, making the bruises throb dully, the cuts sting. He remembers that, too, fist-window-pain, falling on his face in the gravel and the panic pulling dark curtains over everything. Zeke's hard hands pushing him down.

He's still hot, though.

Sicko, he thinks, but it doesn't have the impact of revelation. He's known that for a while, then. Another thing to set him apart.

His bag sits next to the table. His money is still there, a hundred and forty-three dollars in small bills and change. The world is outside, silent and waiting. His eyes sting a little and he rubs them. It just makes it worse, because he forgot about the black eye, and now tears spring up just from surprise at the pain. He blinks them away. It's probably cold outside.

He doesn't bump into anything on his way back to Zeke's room. He stops in the door, because Zeke's turned over and his face is painted in faint light and smudged shadows. Casey waits for some sort of invitation, a feeling of welcome, belonging, safety. It doesn't come, of course. He never even felt it in his own room.

It is kind of a letdown, though. He wanted the night to give him a heads up. Good choice, bad choice, stop fucking around. An acknowledgement that he is choosing.

He sits down on the bed and it's the decision.

"Are you gonna lie down or just sit there all night?" Zeke says behind him and Casey's heart skips a beat - he can feel it stutter in his chest.

He doesn't turn around, but there's movement and Zeke's hand comes to rest on his hip, right on the waistband of his jeans. His fingers sneak over it, whisper over skin and Casey shivers. Goosebumps again, and that familiar surge; one touch and he's gone.

Zeke slides his hand around his waist, pulls him backward. Breath on his neck and the hair there stands straight up and his scalp prickles, tiny needle stings.

"Take off the jeans," Zeke whispers into his hair and there are more prickles and Casey's hands go to his jeans button before he even has time to understand the command.

He doesn't wait, though - once he's pushed down his jeans and left them in a pile on the floor, he lies down on the bed, face down. He doesn't want to see, he thinks. The light would make Zeke alien and beautiful, something Casey would want to photograph, maybe. He wants to do more with his camera, go deeper into details that grow significant when you focus intently on them, play with light and shadow. Zeke's a strangely patient model when he's in the mood; lets Casey arrange his limbs, poses with an easy comfort that Casey doesn't understand at all. He doesn't understand it, but he's grateful for it when he looks at it through the lens.

The first picture was more an accident than anything else: Zeke stood in the doorway and the light from the hall cut over his face and turned it into a half-mask with slanted cat-eyes and Casey lifted his camera from the table and took a picture. That was a Thursday, he remembers, but he can't say which Thursday it was. The weeks have bled together. A month ago, two. Zeke didn't beat the shit out of him. Zeke told him to take more pictures. He's taken so many now that he should have lost count, but he can picture every one of them if he concentrates.

Zeke doesn't move for a while, and Casey wonders if he misunderstood entirely. Maybe Zeke objects to jeans worn in bed. Zeke hardly ever does anything the same way twice.

Then Zeke's breath feathers over his back, Zeke's lips follow, and Casey presses his face into the pillow and doesn't care that his bruises ache.

"Delilah," Zeke says, and Casey opens his eyes. He didn't even realise he'd closed them. Zeke's hand strokes his hair. "Do you think about her?"

Casey has no idea what's expected now. "Sometimes," he suggests. Zeke's fingers are still gentle, but they can turn vicious in a second.

"I got her for you. Never fucked a girl before, never fucked her, have you?" Mouth again, tongue and hot breath cooling the dampness. "You looked a little out of it."

Thanks to you, yeah, Casey thinks, but he says, "I was."

"How did it feel?" Zeke's going lower now, his tongue on the small of Casey's back.

Casey shivers and says, his voice not completely steady, "Good."

"Everything you wanted?" Zeke asks, but he's dipped down to the crease of Casey's thigh now and Casey has no answer. "I like your skin," Zeke says. "Good skin. You bruise easily."

Zeke doesn't always talk during sex. Sometimes he's just quiet and his face is dark and he twists Casey's arms and forces him to his knees. Sometimes he mutters obscenities. Sometimes he talks about something else. Science, maybe. "I had this idea," he might say, "but I'll have to get some mice. Changing the formula of the dust. Make the rush faster. Stupid fucking kids. Have to steal some mice. You ever shoplift, Casey?"

Now he's saying, as he comes back up and covers Casey's shivering back with his body, "How about bondage? Handcuffs, ropes, chains..."

"I'm already tied up," Casey mumbles into the pillow, but he doesn't think Zeke hears him, but he grabs Casey's wrists and holds them while he fucks him.

Afterwards, Zeke turns him around and touches his face softly. His expression is thoughtful, and Casey almost expects him to say he's sorry. He doesn't. Silly me, Casey thinks. He won't be sorry until I'm dead.

It doesn't feel so bad to think that. Zeke pulls him close and falls asleep, his breath tickling Casey's neck.

On Saturday, Casey calls his parents. Zeke leans against the wall on the other side of the room while Casey talks and twists the cable around his fingers.

"Hi," Casey said, "it's me. No, Casey."

"I'm just--" he says. Zeke wants a cigarette at that point already, but he never smokes in the house, only down in the basement. The one thing he listened to his parents about. "Yeah. I'll be-- Yeah, we're working on--"

"Mom," Casey says. His face is pale, except the bruises and a hectic flush on his cheeks. "I-- Oh. Okay."

"Love to Dad," Casey says and hangs up. He has the cable twined tightly around his hand, and he untangles it slowly. "They were watching the game," he says. Zeke pushes away from the wall and walks up to him, pulls him away from the phone. Slid his hands under his shirt, strokes his stomach.

"Fuck 'em," he says and pulls the shirt over Casey's head.

Delilah comes by later, before Zeke has even decided whether to call her or not. Casey's snoozing in front of the TV and Zeke's trying out a new way of cutting the caffeine pills for smaller expense and greater income.

"You guys have never heard of the outdoors, have you?" she says when he lets her in.

"Nah," Casey says drowsily and turns over.

"I enjoy the comfort of my basement," Zeke says. Delilah sits on the couch next to Casey and bums Zeke's cigarettes. Tries to get Casey to smoke one, and when he does, and coughs, she laughs at him and kisses him.

Zeke puts on one of his mother's precious but abandoned Edith Piaf records. Casey knows all the words to Sous de ciel de Paris but doesn't understand them.

Born On The 4th of July is on at ten, and they watch it. "He should get a haircut," Delilah says. "He'd feel much better."

"He can't walk," Casey says. "I don't think hair's gonna change it."

"You'd say that. That thing on your head's growing into a mullet and you haven't even noticed."

Casey doesn't answer, because he's fallen asleep again. "He sleeps a lot," Delilah says. Zeke shrugs.

"Kept waking up all night. High strung."

Delilah lights another cigarette - buy cigs, Zeke tells himself, and make her pony up for them - and watches Casey for a while. Tom Cruise rants in the background.

She looks a little puzzled, staring at Casey. Like she can't quite figure out why he's there. Or why she's there. Sometimes Zeke has thoughts like that, but then it's just too obvious to think much about. Casey has curled up around himself like a cat, his knees pulled against his chest.

Delilah pulls a hand through her hair and tugs down Casey's shirt where it's ridden up over his side.

"He's kinda--" she says, looks up and meets Zeke's eyes.

"Yeah," he says and they both look away.


On Monday, Zeke gets Delilah to come by his place before school and fix up Casey's face. "Just so he doesn't look like--"

"You beat the crap outta him?" That's what Casey's been thinking too, Zeke's pretty sure, but Casey doesn't say shit like that out loud. Zeke sees him bite back retorts every day. He wonders when Casey will stop stopping himself.

"Just make it look natural."

Casey's grumpy but goes along. He'll always go along without trouble if he possibly can. Delilah squints into his face and smooths foundation over the green-purple bruises. "Don't let them stick your head in a toilet or anything, though," she says.

Casey twists his mouth and says, "No, I'll remember to ask them to not mess up my make-up," and Delilah laughs. There's sun in the kitchen, the smell of coffee and Casey's smiling. Zeke blinks a couple of times in the bright light.


Zeke drives Casey to school. They're fashionably late and it's making Casey jittery.

"What, never been late before?"

"No," Casey says and legs it to class without looking back. Zeke smokes a few before he follows.


"I have to go home," Casey says when Zeke finds him hanging around the bus stop after school. "It's a weekday and. It's a weekday."

"You still look like shit. You can't be powdering your nose on your own."

"I can say. I don't know." He tugs at his shoulder strap and looks past Zeke.

"Call them from my place," Zeke says and Casey follows him to his car.


He wakes up sometimes in the night, because he can't move. Casey's wrapped himself around him like a limpet, his hands almost locked behind Zeke's back. Zeke lies still and feels Casey's breath on his face for a while before he pulls away. Casey sighs but doesn't wake up.

In the morning, Zeke finds him in the basement, watching MTV.

"Couldn't sleep," he says.


On Tuesday, he sees Casey up on the bleachers during lunch, and watches him for a while. Casey chews on an apple and does homework. Casey stares blankly at the empty field. Casey leans his head in his hands. Zeke looks around for any unwanted audience and finds none.

"The jocks will kick your bony ass if they catch you here," he says when he's close enough. Casey jumps and drops his apple.

"Don't sneak up on me," he says, finds his apple again. It's dirty, and he throws it down on the field. He doesn't have a bad arm. "They never come here at lunch."

They sit there for a while. The sun feels pale and distant, and the air is chilly. Zeke hums under his breath, looks for a tune. Casey hums along, but he has absolutely no voice.

Zeke puts his hand on Casey's thigh because he can. He thinks about sucking dick. He's not averse to the idea, but it's never really occurred to him before. Casey doesn't seem to mind it, and Casey never asks for anything in bed, ever.

Casey moves a little and Zeke thinks he wants to say "don't", but stops himself.

"You can say no, you know," Zeke says.

"Ha ha ha," Casey says and looks down at the field again. Zeke wonders if he takes comfort in having no choice. Far be it from Zeke to deprive him of comfort.


Wednesday night, 3 am, the phone rings. Zeke knows Casey often wakes up at night and skulks around the house in the dark, but of course he doesn't wake up now. Zeke fumbles for the phone and almost drops it on Casey's head.

"Someone better be dead," he says.

It's Delilah. "Is Casey there?"

"Where else would he be?"

"Put him on."

"He's asleep. I want to be asleep, too. You should lay off the speed."

"Did someone say something? Put him on, Zeke."

Zeke's almost got the phone back in the cradle when Casey wakes up and blinks at him. "Did the phone ring?" Zeke sighs and hands him the receiver. Casey's kicked off his blanket again and his skin is chilly. Zeke rests his hand on his shoulder and thinks about pulling a blanket over him, but decides against it.

"Yes?" Casey says into the receiver. Then he's silent for a long time. Zeke hears Delilah's voice murmur, but he can't make out any words. Casey's eyes are half-lidded with sleep, dark and glassy in the gloom.

"Oh," Casey says, but it's more a sigh than a word. His free hand moves restlessly on his chest. It's hard to tell for sure, but Zeke is pretty sure he's blushing.

Zeke all the way awake now. At three fucking am. Casey moves next to him, a little uncomfortable squirm and there's no doubt what Delilah's saying to him.

Casey's hand's even wandered down his body a little. He might have forgotten Zeke's there at all. He's touching his belly in twitchy little strokes.

It's fascinating. Zeke's almost prepared to wait and watch and see if Casey'll just jerk off right there in the bed. He congratulates Delilah on catching him when his defences are down.

Then Casey says "Oh" again, in a soft murmur, and Zeke crawls down the bed. It's easier like this, in the dark, with Casey's attention on Delilah. Casey chokes out something incoherent when he feels Zeke's mouth, and jerks forward. Zeke puts a hand on his hip and hears Delilah's laughter, faint and tinny.


Casey calls his parents again on Thursday. His bruises are green and yellow in mottled patterns over his face. "I am going to school," Casey says and he's twisting the phone line around his hand again. "I'm just feeling-- no, I just thought, it'd be better if I--"

Delilah's pressed herself against his back and is licking his neck. Casey looks miserable and tries not to squirm. Zeke sits at the kitchen table and watches.

"Yeah, at Zeke's. Yeah, okay--"

Delilah reaches over him and snatched the receiver from his hand. "Hi," she says brightly, "this is Delilah Profitt. I just wanted to tell you that we're taking excellent care of Casey... Yes, that's my grandmother! You know her! She's great, she's great. I haven't seen her in a while, but--"

Casey tears loose of her grip and leans against the wall, his eyes falling closed.

"Oh, you know how that is, Mrs Connor. Senior year. We have a lot to do. Oh yeah, he's eating." She laughs and adds, "And no laundry problems, either. Yes! It was lovely to talk to you, Mrs Connor."

Casey rubs his elbows and walks out.


Later, Zeke lifts him onto the kitchen table and sucks his dick while Delilah watches, bright-eyed like a cat. Casey grips the table edge tightly and moans, and Zeke has to sneak glimpses at his face every once in a while.

"You look like a retard when you come," Delilah tells Casey, but she kisses him and holds him down when Zeke fucks him.


Casey's parents aren't there when he does go home, on Sunday evening. He stands in the dark hall for a while and listens to Zeke peel out of the drive.

"Welcome home," he says to himself, and goes up to his room to unpack his stuff.

It's exactly like he left it, even though he feels like he's been away for a year. His mother has dusted between his things on the desk and shelves. There's a small pile of folded clothes on his bed, things that were in the hamper when he left.

He turns on his computer, he puts the picture of Delilah back on the wall, the pictures of Zeke back in the stash, his dirty clothes in the hamper. He sits on his bed and can't think of anything to do.

He was never really bored before. He sleeps on top of the covers for a few hours and knows he won't be able to sleep the whole night.

He wakes up at four and goes out to sit on the front steps and watch the street. He wishes he'd snatched some cigarettes from Zeke. It seems like a good night for smoking.


"Morning, son," his father says when he comes down to breakfast the next morning. "Project all done now?"

"Yeah," he says, and eats pancakes in silence. Kitchens will never seem quite the same to him now, he thinks. He notices that his parents don't talk. They've probably not talked in a while. He tries not to wonder whether they ever were young enough to fuck on the kitchen table.

His mother runs up and hugs him before he goes to school.

"You're all grown up," she whispers. Casey wishes Zeke would come and pick him up.


He's at home again when she comes back from work. Zeke wasn't in school at all and Casey went home and sat on his bed again. His mother walks in when he's changing his shirt. She stands in the doorway and watches him.

"Is everything all right?" she asks. He pulls the shirt down.

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"Try not to get into fights," she says. He blinks stupidly at her and she leaves.

She must have been worried, though, because his father comes in a little later and sits gingerly on his computer chair. "How's school?" he says at first, and Casey says, "Fine," as he usually does.

"Is there someone you don't get along with there?"

"No one in particular," Casey says.

"Your mother said you had some-- Is that a black eye?" and he leans forward and peers into Casey's face.

"I walked into a door," Casey says, without raising his voice at all. He'd almost prefer another black eye to this conversation.

"I understand that you're in a difficult age, son, but it's not a good idea to get into trouble now. You want to go to college, don't you?"

"Yeah," he says, but he's not sure anymore. He can't think forward. Every thought stops somewhere at Zeke's house.


Zeke's not in school on Tuesday, either. Delilah walks right past Casey in the hall without even looking at him. Gabe pushes him into a trashcan after history and the lid cuts his hand. He licks the cut, and his thoughts stop at Zeke's door again.

"I stumbled," he tells his dad, and can't stand their suspicious eyes. He thinks he might puke in his lamb stew. He sleeps on his bed again, in his clothes, and when he wakes up at eight PM, he has to lock himself in the bathroom to stop himself from calling Zeke. Or Delilah.

At nine thirty, he throws up, and his mother decides that he shouldn't go to school the next day.

"I'm okay," he tries, but she's a stubborn woman and his father concurs. He sits on the steps again for hours that night.


At ten am, he calls Zeke's house. He's pretty sure Zeke won't be there. That makes it easier to call.

Delilah picks up the phone and Casey's ice cold and sweaty and almost hangs up on her.

"Is that you, Case?" she says, though, and he has to answer.


"Sick of the 'rents already?"

He bites his fingers because he can't answer her. He hears Zeke in the background. Delilah's voice, muffled and distant. She's put her hand over the phone.

"Sit tight, we're gonna rescue you," she says just as he opens his mouth to say, "Help me."


He doesn't wait outside although he wants to. Instead, he sits in his room and leafs through his biology textbook and tries to tell himself he's interested in it. When the doorbell rings, he drops the book on the floor.

"That was a booty call, wasn't it?" Delilah says with a little grin. "You have to practice your lines a little, though." Casey stuffs his hands tightly in his pockets so he doesn't touch her and walks down the drive to Zeke's car.

He gets in the back, and Delilah follows him. Zeke says, "Hey, man."

Casey says, "Hey, man." His stomach flutters.

"You have bags the size of my matched luggage under your eyes," Delilah says, and he drops his head against her shoulder and closes his eyes. Delilah's hand slides along his side and under his shirt.

"He should just stay here," he hears Zeke say at some point, and Delilah laughs softly.

"Yeah, sure, and then we can sue them for custody." Casey's almost dozed off, his head in Delilah's lap, her hand still soft on his hip. He has no idea how long they've been driving. Zeke's house is twenty minutes away, but they might as well have been on the road for two hours.

"Fuck them," Zeke says sharply. There's music playing, Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare. Casey remembers a road trip when he was little, maybe eleven. He can't remember where they were going, but he remembers waking up with his head in his mother's lap, curled up on the backseat. His father played Waylon Jennings, not Alice Cooper, though, but the sound of the engine and the wheels on asphalt were the same, the feeling of being in a warm bubble in space.

He doesn't remember his mother smelling like aftershave and sex. He moves a little and slides his hand under Delilah's skirt. She's not wearing underwear. She laughs again, and Casey drifts.