9: Freeze
by Wax Jism

"I've talked to Principal Drake, Casey," his father says. He's leaning against the doorjamb. Casey's sitting on his bed. He's been doing that a lot; just sitting and thinking. His father confiscated his camera, his modem, his stereo, his phone and his porn. He hasn't had TV privileges either, but watching TV with his parents has never really appealed to him, anyway. He's stopped writing things in his journal. He doesn't want to leave anything behind. He's been deleting things from his hard drive. He doesn't need help with the memories. They're all archived and locked away in his head.

His father moves restlessly. He really doesn't want to talk to me, Casey thinks. Casey doesn't want to talk to his father, either.

"You're going back to school on Monday, but they'll be keeping an eye on you. You'll be seeing Miss Burke twice a week for talks."

"Miss Burke?"

"Apparently she's standing in for Mrs Clark this year."

Casey's seen Mrs Clark a few times. The "counselling" mostly consisted of Mrs Clark telling him he needed to engross himself in his studies more, which was ridiculous since he was already pulling straight As. He had to remind her who he was every time he showed up.

"Okay," he says. Miss Burke can't be worse than Mrs Clark, and as long as no one really listens, it'll be okay.

"We don't want anymore outbursts like that. I think we're damned lucky that boy's parents didn't sue."

Casey stares at his pictures of Delilah. One of the pictures is of Zeke and Delilah energetically ignoring each other in the cafeteria. He doesn't think his parents realise that the picture is less about Delilah than about Zeke's careless pose and the way the light hits his broad cheekbones and the angle of his jaw and his mouth.

"I'm just not going to ask you what you were thinking. I wouldn't have thought you'd be someone to completely throw away your chances."

"My chances at what?"

"Getting into fights with people you should be friends with." His father makes an abortive gesture, something to describe his sense of helpless confusion at his son's attitude problem, probably. "Principal Drake told me Zeke is repeating his senior year. Your mother and I have discussed this. Obviously, he's been putting thoughts in your head."

"You know, Dad, my head is pretty capable of producing its own thoughts--" And now he's thinking about Zeke - about Zeke's hands between his legs, Zeke's long fingers; thinking about Zeke fucking him while his dad is talking at him, it feels good. Thinking about Delilah - about Delilah's mouth, her tongue, her taste. "--I've been thinking for quite--"

"I don't think you need to spend any more time with Zeke."

"Gabe started that--"

"You're still grounded, of course."


"If the talks with Miss Burke don't help," his father says, in the same wearily annoyed voice he's been using all along - as if he's suddenly too tired to invest in anger anymore, "--we are prepared to look for outside help."


"What?" He's looking past Casey. Out the window; maybe seeing before him some sort of ideal son - maybe someone like Gabe. Captain of the team.

"Nothing," Casey says. It seems to be the end of the conversation. It's the end of every conversation he has with his father.

"Do your homework."

Casey doesn't even bother to tell him that he's done the homework, he's done next week's homework, he's basically memorised the next five chapters of the history textbook.


"Are you unhappy, Casey?" his mother says. She's standing in the door, not leaning, but nervously plucking at her cardigan.

"No," Casey says. He's not even sure he's lying. He knows 'unhappy'. That's when it's almost better to get beat up in school than to be entirely ignored.

"You know we worry about you, honey."

"Yes," Casey says. His mother hesitates before she hugs him; he can feel it - she's tense and her movements are jerky. Thanks, mom, he thinks.


The phone rings just after dinner, and he goes to answer it. It's Zeke, and Casey wonders why he hasn't noticed before that Zeke's voice soothes him like a hit of Valium. He listens and his body is warm and sleepy. All through dinner, he's been jittery and about to start throwing things.

"They gonna let you out any time soon?" Zeke says.

"Nope," Casey says. Zeke's voice is deep and sort of husky. Cigarettes and coffee and sex. Casey closes his eyes and pretends he can walk out the door whenever he wants.

"Fuckers. Okay, same bat time, same bat channel." There's a pause. "Pretend I didn't phrase it like that."

"Dork," Casey says and hangs up just as his father wakes from his post-dinner stupor and comes to forcibly end the call.

"You have no phone privileges, son."

"I know," Casey says and flees upstairs.


The bat time is one AM, and Zeke actually parks in the drive. At least he doesn't try to climb up to Casey's window.

Casey doesn't think he'd kill himself over Zeke, but he couldn't swear on that.

Zeke has the door open. He's changed the old Alice Cooper tape to something Casey doesn't recognise; jazz, soft and mournful. Zeke catches him by the arm, roughly, and pulls him in. Casey stumbles into the car, falls onto Zeke and Zeke mumbles "c'mere," and somehow they both fit in the passenger seat. Casey's left knee bangs against something hard and his right foot skids on the asphalt outside.

"We're still in the drive," Casey points out. It doesn't seem very important, though.

"Whatever," Zeke says and yanks his fly open. There's no space for anything but rubbing against each other, but Zeke puts his hands on Casey's throat, digs his fingers in, sucks on his collarbone, and Casey pants and almost dislocates his hip trying to get a better angle.

After, Zeke keeps a hand around his throat and looks at him thoughtfully. Casey swallows with some difficulty and tries to catch his breath. He's a little light-headed.

Zeke lets him go and he falls forward, buries his face in the crook of Zeke's neck. Whispers, "Missed you," under his breath, mostly just to feel the words in his mouth. Zeke strokes his back gently. "I'm back in school on Monday," Casey says out loud.

"Good," Zeke says. "Just watch out for Gabe and his merry men. They've been looking a little cranky lately. Can't imagine why."

"I'm not afraid of Gabe," Casey says.

"Not afraid of anything anymore, are you?"

He doesn't answer, just leans against Zeke and feels his body try to relax around him. His ribs are still sore, his throat feels raw and there's some sort of undefined pain deep in the pit of his stomach. Nerves, probably. Emotions happen in the stomach.

"Tomorrow," Zeke says before he leaves, and Casey stands in the yard for a while and lets the heat seep from his body into the night. He's freezing when he goes to bed.


Miss Burke wears a spectacularly ugly mustard cardigan and smiles nervously at Casey. "Hi, Casey," she says. Casey sits down and tries not to look at her clothes.

"You know why you're here, don't you?"

"Yeah," he mutters. She pushes up her glasses and smiles again.

"You haven't been in this kind of trouble before. Casey," she says. She adds his name, almost as an afterthought - Point 3: Use Patient's Given Name Often To Ensure A Feeling Of Personal Contact. "Would you like to tell me what brought it on?"

"It was a fight," he says.

"Gabe and...several other boys say you attacked him out of the blue."

"I'm sorry," Casey says. Apologising sometimes works. Accepting blame, sorry, sorry, mea culpa, won't happen again, sir, can I go now? What can they do if you bow your head and take it.

"Why are you sorry?" she says, and he looks at her. She seems earnest. She's taken courses. She wants to help. If he told her everything, she'd be on the phone to the guys in the white coats in five seconds flat, no doubt. When he got to school this morning - his father dropped him off, told him in no uncertain terms to get home immediately after class - he saw Delilah with Gabe's arm around her waist, and he didn't know if he wanted to slap her or Gabe, but he ended up thinking about the soft places on her body and the look on her face when she comes.

"I just am." He couldn't be less sorry if he tried.

"Why did you attack Gabe?"

"I don't know--" He changes his mind. "It was about a girl."

She blinks. He's surprised her, and he almost smiles.

"His girlfriend," he goes on. "Delilah."

Now she smiles again. Oh, everyone knows. Even Miss Burke. "She's very pretty," she says. "You like her a lot, huh?"

"She's very pretty."

"Were you angry with Gabe because...he goes out with her and not you?"

She probably doesn't realise what she just said. Casey tries to picture himself on a date with Gabe. He presses his hands against his mouth to keep the laughter in; it probably looks like he's overcome with emotion. Regrets, I've had a few... She's right, though. Right in that utterly wrong way.

"I just...got really pissed off. I don't like Gabe."

"That doesn't make it okay to break his nose, Casey. And you bit him. Three stitches."

He bites his tongue, but still he can't stop. "It makes it okay for him to trip me in the cafeteria, it makes it okay for him to put my head in a toilet, it makes it okay for him to slam my head against a locker." She stares at him, but he doesn't see shock, just pity. "I'm sorry," he says. He can't trust her. She has his student record, a little pad she makes notes on, probably a row of little checkboxes to tick off - and he doesn't think he can explain so she'd understand.

"It's okay to be angry, Casey," she says. "But you can't...Is it that bad? You've never complained before."

He's always felt a little sorry for Miss Burke. Students jerk her around. Zeke, especially. Zeke can make her cry in three minutes flat if he puts his mind to it. He seems to like it. In hindsight, Casey's not at all surprised.

It's okay to be angry. He's not angry right now, though, just tired, and he wants to leave but he has another twenty minutes with her. He catches himself staring at her cardigan again. His eyes hurt.


"We just got into a fight, Miss Burke. I'm sorry I hit him so hard. I kinda lost it."

"Do you find you 'lose it' often?" His head's starting to ache, too. The room is oddly both too bright and too murky - sharp sunlight creeps in through the blinds, but doesn't light up the room.

"All the time," he says. "I'm the terror of the whole school."

She's gearing up to scold him for being uncooperative, he can see her shoulders tense. There's a knock on the door and she loses her steam.

"We're busy--" she starts, but the door opens anyway.

"Hi, Miss Burke," Zeke says, his voice lazy and deep. Casey keeps his back turned, makes his face hard so he won't crack into some big cheesy grin.

"Zeke, you can't-- You can't come in here--" She's suddenly flustered, after being carefully calm with Casey. Her eyelashes flutter and she's twisting her hands in her lap.

"I was just gonna ask if you were done with my buddy here. You done, Casey?"

"Zeke--" she says. "Zeke, you can't barge in like this. There are rules."

"Don't worry, I'll be out of here real fast. Wasn't even in here. Coming, Case?"

"Casey and I are having a conversation, Zeke."

"That's okay. I know what happened. Gabe didn't know Casey's grown balls lately. You should be talking to Gabe. Tell him not to fuck with nerds. They bite." Casey turns around and Zeke's leaning against the door, smiling blithely. It's a sweet smile - Zeke can produce those. Casey smiles back at him. He pushes away from the door and comes closer. Cocks his head thoughtfully. "Is that a new cardigan set you have there?"

She starts and looks down, blushes. "Why-- yes. But--"

"Very you, Miss Burke." He's directing all of his focus on her. He stands behind Casey's chair, ruffles Casey's hair with careless fingers. Miss Burke doesn't even notice. "Have you ever thought of wearing red? It would really bring out your skin tone."

"I think I have to go to class now, Miss Burke," Casey says quickly. Zeke's stroking the back of his head gently, and Casey has to concentrate to make sure he doesn't lean into the touch.

"Wh-- Yes. Yes, Casey. I'll see you again on--" She looks down and fumbles through her papers. Her cheeks are flushed. Zeke's fingers glide over Casey's pulse points, down to his collarbones. "Wednesday."

"Yes, Miss Burke."


Outside her door, Zeke pats Casey on the back and says, "Gotta scoot. Catch ya later," and he's gone. Casey goes to class and spends the day avoiding everyone.

It's not so bad.


On Tuesday, history class at the end of the day is cancelled. Casey has two hours to kill before he's expected home. He sits in the darkroom and cuts negatives. He has a roll of pictures of body parts. Zeke's fingers, Delilah's fingers, his own fingers. Zeke has long fingers, tidy fingers - he doesn't chew his nails. Delilah's are impeccably manicured. Casey's nails are worn ragged and his fingers are blunt and childish.

Eyes, mouths, ears. A breast in silhouette, the dark shadow of a head against a pale expanse of back. Casey thinks he'll have a pretty impressive portfolio by the time he gets out of this hellhole.

Delilah's voice outside: "Casey?"

"Yeah," he says and she comes in.

"I don't have long," she says. "I just needed to give you a heads-up. Gabe's on the warpath."

"Surprise," he says drolly. He has a picture of her legs in his hands. She has great legs. Thank you, cheerleading.

"No, I mean really on the warpath. I think he might, you know. He might suspect something. He's found his brain somewhere. Probably under a pile of helmets in the supply room."

"I'm not afraid of Gabe," Casey says, and he's still not lying.

"Don't be an idiot. Just because you had a shot of good luck doesn't mean you're not still a fucking lightweight."

"Fuck you, Delilah," he says and she reaches out and tangles her hands in his hair and tugs.

"You're all mouth now, aren't you? You'll be a wet spot on the fucking locker room floor if you don't watch out."

"Why don't you save the threats for someone who's listening," he mutters, but she's already kissing him and it doesn't matter.

"I'm going nuts with Gabe," she mumbles. "Jesus Christ, I want to tell him to shove it. Could you imagine his face if I told him the truth?"

"Yeah," Casey says. "If you told him about this--" She's sliding her hands under his shirt, he's pushing up her skirt.

She laughs breathlessly. "But we can't-- I can't."

"Some things are still more important, huh?" he says. "Like your reputation. Yeah, I know."

"It's not that--" She stops for a second. "Okay, it is that. This is sweet and all, but I've got a life, as opposed to some other people in this room."

He's never been anyone's distraction before, he thinks - not this kind of distraction. Is this a torrid love affair? It sounds more interesting like that. Sleeping with the team captain's girlfriend. It is interesting. She meant her words to hurt, maybe - a typical Delilah jab at a sensitive spot - but he's not hurt.

"I'm not gonna--" he starts, breaks off to gasp when she slides her hand inside his jeans. "I'm done being a punching bag."

She shrugs, exasperated, but he pushes his hips against her hand and she leans in again, her breath hot on his face.


Zeke doesn't knock or call out before he comes in. He just opens the door and says, "Knock it off, kids, or it'll be the Principal's office for you."

"This is a darkroom," Casey says. "You're supposed to knock."

"I like to surprise people." He leans against the counter. "Hot trysts in the high school darkroom. News at six. Come on, let's go."

"I'm still grounded," Casey says. "My dad will kill me."

Delilah says, "I've got plans, I can't go anywhere."

Zeke pulls Casey away from her, steers him towards the door. "You wanna live forever, Case?"

"No, but I was thinking I'd make it out of high school." He lets Zeke manhandle him; Zeke's careless fingers dig into his arms, and it's different from other people's manhandling. Zeke will hurt him and kiss the wound.

"I don't know why I have to do all the dirty work," Delilah says behind them.

"You're the girl," Zeke says. "This is a man's world."

"You can shove your man's world up your ass, Zeke," she says, but they walk out together, all three of them. Casey thinks - a slow, warm thought - we've never walked around in school together before.

Then he sees Gabe see them and remembers why. He melts back against the wall, automatically. His shoulders come up and his head bows down. He lets his body do this, and wonders how long it's been a built-in response. Maybe forever.

Gabe still has a broad swath of medical tape across his nose. Casey stares at the floor and thinks about the world of pain he'll be in if he laughs. World. Of. Pain. He chews on the inside of his mouth.

When he looks back up, Gabe's pulled Delilah aside and Zeke's vanished in the throng. Casey straightens his back and lifts his head and walks outside.


Someone yells something after him. Someone elbows him in the side when he steps through the front doors. Someone tries to trip him when he comes down the stairs. It's a gloomy day; barely above freezing, heavy drops trickling from the roof, the branches of the trees outside the school. He steps in a puddle and soaks his shoe. He hardly notices.

Zeke's by his car, talking to a couple of sophomore potheads. They sneer at Casey when they pass him. Zeke grins at him and says, "I just sold them a couple of dried shiitake laced with scat for thirty bucks."

Delilah's car is behind them when they peel out of the lot.

"She can't stay away," Casey says.

"It's the car," Zeke says.

"It's me."

"It's me," Zeke says and flips on the stereo. Alice is back and school's out forever.


After Zeke pulls into the drive they sit in the car, waiting for Delilah to catch up. Zeke stares at Casey.

"What?" Casey says.

"I'm admiring your hidden depths." Casey blinks and Zeke grabs his hand around the wrist and holds it up. "And your hands - wrists. I was thinking handcuffs. That'd be fun. Delilah in a strap-on. That'd put the spark back into our sex lives."

"It's lacking spark now?" Casey says, but he doesn't pull his hand back. Zeke's long fingers are curled around his thin wrist. He wants to take a picture. He could ask Delilah. With the right light, it could be great.

Zeke twists his hand quickly and Casey gasps and follows the movement. He feels his bones grind against each other. He ends up pressed against the dashboard. "You're just not afraid anymore."

"I'm not afraid," Casey says, and Zeke lets go, reels him in by his shirt collar and kisses him.

"Feels good, doesn't it?" he says. He rests his forehead against Casey's, lowers his voice to a deep whisper: "Really. Fucking. Good."

Casey wonders if there's some kind of lesson in this or if Zeke's just letting his brain go where it wants. It doesn't matter.

There's a knock on the window. Delilah shouts, "Would you two stop necking in the fucking front yard? You're not fourteen years old."

"I wasn't necking in the front yard when I was fourteen," Zeke says and gets out of the car.


There are no handcuffs or strap-ons, but Zeke is fascinated with his wrists, pins them above his head, twists his arms; he gets a distant look in his eyes when he's experimenting, and Casey shivers and leans back against Delilah. He's caught between them, walled in by skin and flesh and bone, and it occurs to him that he's seventeen years old and having sex with two people at the same time. Wouldn't have thought that when he was sixteen. Won't believe it when he's eighteen.

He comes, pinned on Zeke's cock, with Delilah's hands on his hips, and thinks, it's not gonna end, but he can't see his eighteenth birthday, and he can't see outside this bubble.


Ten minutes later he passes by the kitchen on his way to the bathroom, and a woman with Zeke's eyes and Zeke's mouth looks up from a magazine and a cup of coffee to examine him with an expression of mild disgust.

He freezes where he is. Thankfully, he pulled on his jeans before he left Zeke's room, but he's shirtless and there's a lovebite on his collarbone that he can feel in his skin. He must look like just-got-fucked with a neon sign on top. She stares coolly at him and he can't move.

"Are you done?" she says, and her voice is a husky alto; a phone sex voice. She looks younger than Casey's mother by years. She's beautiful.

"I-I was just--" he stammers. "Bathroom."

She goes back to her magazine without another word.

When he comes back from the bathroom, she's still sitting there. "Would you tell Zeke I'd like to talk to him," she says without looking up as he passes by.

"Okay," he says.

Zeke's in the door to his room, buttoning his jeans. "Uh, your--" Casey starts.

"I know," Zeke says stiffly and pushes past him.


"Hello, Zeke," Zeke's mother says when Zeke comes into the kitchen. Casey stays just outside. Delilah's behind him.

"Mom," Zeke says.

"Maybe your friends can go home now. I'll take you out to dinner and we can catch up a little." She doesn't smile. Zeke doesn't smile, but he's staring at her with a face that's gone completely still. Casey takes a step backwards.

Zeke relaxes minutely and pulls a hand through his hair. "I'll drive Casey home."

"I'll give him cab fare."

Casey can see Zeke's shoulders tense again. His mother crosses her legs. She's wearing a suit. The skirt is short and her legs are truly spectacular. Casey stares at Zeke instead. There's a long silence.

"Um," Casey says. "I can-- I'm ok--"

"I'll drive him," Delilah says quickly. She's nudging Casey in the side with sharp fingers.

"That's wonderful, thank you," Zeke's mother says. She doesn't sound like she thinks it's wonderful. She looks at Delilah with something that Casey can't translate into anything but contempt.

Zeke says, softly, "How are you?"

"I realise this is some sort of rebellion," she says, and her gaze runs sharply over Casey and Delilah and back to Zeke, "but I sometimes wish you'd picked up an ounce of class along the way."

Zeke doesn't look at them when they leave. He's standing in the middle of the kitchen, still and straight-backed. His hands hang by his sides, but his fingers twitch restlessly. His mother sits, impassive. It looks like a staring contest. Casey doesn't think Zeke's going to win this one.

"She's a classy bitch," Delilah says in the car. There's a touch of awe in her voice.

"She hates him," Casey says. He hugs himself - it's a cold day and the post-sex slow heat has leached out of his body and he just feels tired and worn now.

"Well, duh."


Zeke's not in school the next day. Casey tries very hard not to mope around like a lovesick freshman chick, but it's not really working. Delilah ignores him and smiles at Gabe, chatters with her friends, except for one breathlessly quick grope in the middle of the throng of people in the hall, when someone pushes Casey up against her and her hand comes down and slides along the edge of his jeans, her sharp nails leaving a thin, hot line along his skin.

At home, he's still locked in his room. He jerks off three times a day without the benefit of porn. He's not talking to his parents, but he's not sure they've noticed.

"I hope you're feeling better," his mother says.

"I don't care how he feels, there will be no more trouble," his father says.

"George," his mother says.

"I'm not kidding, Eliza. You have to be firm with an only child."

"You were the one who didn't want another."

Casey goes back to his room without finishing his dinner.

He sits on the doorstep for a while around midnight, but neither Zeke nor Delilah shows up. It seems to be getting colder. Maybe there'll be snow for Thanksgiving.


It's not snowing the next morning, but it's frozen over, and the icy puddles crackle under his feet on the schoolyard. Still no Zeke.

Miss Burke smiles a wavery smile at him and asks him how he feels.

The heating in her little office is on the fritz, so he wraps his arms around himself and says, "Cold."

"No, no, Casey," she says and her face crumples as if she's honestly sad about it. "You'll have to-- we have to work together. To make things-- To make things right."

"I really am cold," he says.

She takes off her glasses halfway through their fifty minutes, and he looks at her face to have something to look at. She's pretty, really. He wonders what happened to her to make her walk stooped and hug her books to her chest like she's hiding from the world. He tries to picture Gabe pushing her head into a toilet bowl. It's surprisingly easy.

"Who are your friends?" she asks.

He opens his mouth to answer, but he manages to keep it inside. "I don't have any," he says.

"How about-- How about Zeke?" she says, carefully. She's afraid of Zeke; it's interesting. More afraid than Casey ever was, probably. "He came by to. Get you?"

"He's not my friend," Casey says stupidly. Stupidly, because of course she picks up on that.

"Why do you say that? What is he?"

"He's." He stares at a sullen patch of light on the desk and tries to think. "He's."

She looks worried now; she's frowning and him, putting her glasses back on. "Is there something?" she asks, almost a whisper. "Do you need to--? Please tell me if there's some sort of. Trouble."

"No!" He almost shouted, he realises, and could he possibly be acting more suspicious? He might as well pull off his shirt and show her the bruises. But he's stuck on the thought - he can't say what Zeke is. Lover, not really; boyfriend, not really; best friend, he doesn't dare think that. What then?

"We just hang out. Sometimes."

"Zeke's-- I'm not sure he's. I don't like to say this, but I'm not sure you can trust him." She's making a little face; she's probably arguing ethics with herself. Casey can't stop a scared little laugh from bubbling up.

"I know," he says and the bell rings and school's out. "Bye, Miss Burke."


Outside her office, he leans his back against the wall and shoves his trembling hands deep into his pockets and closes his eyes. His skin is crawling. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," he mutters.

Someone's slaps him over the head - could be mistaken for a playful jab, but it's hard enough to hurt.

He opens his eyes in time to see half the football team parade past, and up front is Gabe, turning around to point at him and mouth something that might have been "I'll get you later."

Casey flips him off and turns to walk the other way. He sort of expects Gabe to run after him and pound him into a wet spot on the floor; it's almost a disappointment when that doesn't happen. Maybe things really have changed.


Zeke's not in school on Friday, either. Casey chews on his nails and tells himself to stop being an asshole.

Delilah's not forthcoming. "Can't talk now," she says, almost nervously. "Not here."


"Jesus Christ, you're such a wuss. Call him or something." She leans closer and turns his face up with her hand around his jaw, like his mother would when he'd been bad as a child. "And for God's sake stop pissing Gabe off."

"I'm not--"

"Gotta run, Case," she says, but she lingers a second, gentling her hand on his face. Then she's gone, off to meet Gabe, her friends, have her precious life. Casey's fingers sting and he tastes blood. He's bitten the nails down to the quick.

There's a pay phone in the cafeteria. He hangs around in the corner for ten full minutes before he finally takes a deep breath, uncurls his fingers from the tight fists he's kept them in and picks up the phone.

He knows Zeke's number by heart, even though he's only called it a few times.

The voice that says "Yes?" is not Zeke's. It's cool and female and already familiar. Casey swallows and whispers, "Sorry, wrong number," and hangs up.


He gets his stereo back for good behaviour, and listens to Funker Vogt until his father tells him to turn it down or lose the music again. "What the heck is wrong with The Beatles?"

"I don't have any Beatles," Casey says and switches to the Starwars original score.

Half an hour later, there's a new knock on the door and he turns the stereo off entirely. "Okay, okay," he mutters, and the door opens and Delilah lets herself in.

"Okay what?" she says. "I have half an hour, so let's be quick."

He must have looked puzzled enough, because she adds, "You're still in solitary, but I bullshitted something about a history project."

"How many history projects do you think we can have this year?"

"Shut up," she says and pushes him down on the bed. "Fucking Zeke. He's fucking with your little head, isn't he?" She licks the side of his face and pushes up his shirt.

Casey lies back and watches her hair fall in a dark, glossy cascade over her face. "And you're not?"

"That's what you like about me," she says and pulls her t-shirt over her head. He doesn't think she really knows what he likes about her.

She bites his lip and pinches his nipple and pushes him into the bed with her body, and he's not really sure what it is he likes most.


"I think we need to stage an intervention," she says while she's putting her clothes back on. "Let's go over there and yank him out of his bullshit funk."

"He'll probably be doing stuff with his--"

"Not at midnight, he won't." She grins at him. "Kinda cloak and dagger. You should like it, geekboy."

She's leaving, tidied up and proper again, and he's flushed and damp and still trying to find his underwear. "Delilah--" he says. He's not sure what he wants to say. They never really talk. He never really knows - everything is just guesswork and hunches and tingles down his spine. He'd like to ask her things, if he could only think of a way to put anything into words. Are you really mine? for example. It just doesn't say what he wants to say.

He must have said it out loud, whispered it, because she smiles crookedly and says, "You're mine, stupid."


"Tell us if you need to have someone over for school," his mother says later. "It'll be easier that way."

"Yeah, Mom. I'll ask her to call and make an appointment next time."

"None of that, son," his father says, but he sounds a little tired; not up to his usual cranky force. "I am getting sick and tired of your attitude."

"You wanted me to buck up!" Casey blurts, exasperated. Sick and tired, really? "I bucked up and now I'm fucking grounded."


Then he's also locked in his room, of course, but at least he gets some peace and quiet. He thinks about Zeke's mother who can't stand her son. Zeke who stares at his mother and tries to hide something. Casey's never really given Zeke's parents much thought before. Zeke doesn't talk much about them, only mentions them in passing, and Zeke's never been much for sharing anyway. Casey is pretty sure his parents love him, in some distant, confused way. They're not trying very hard, though, he thinks. He also thinks he might hate them, in a much less distant way.

He thanks them for their absent-mindedness, though, when he wiggles the lock open and slips into the hallway. Absent-minded and trusting, he supposed. If they're so sure he's disturbed, it's surprising that they can sleep so soundly. He could burn down the house around them and they'd never know.


Delilah's waiting in her car, tapping her fingers on the wheel. She doesn't smoke inside her own car, only in Zeke's. Casey doesn't think she smokes at all when she's living her real life. Smoking is a part of this secret, like Casey and Zeke and fucking in moving cars.

She smiles quickly at Casey when he gets in the passenger seat. He smiles back.