Title: Love is just a word
Fandom: The Faculty / Casey & Zeke (no pairing)
Summery: After years the boys meet again
Disclaimer: The Faculty and the boys are not mine, of course ;)
Author's note: You can call this a sequel to my short ficlet 'Goodbye' but you can also read it as a stand alone story.
Author's note: You can call this a sequel to my short ficlet 'Goodbye' but you can also read it as a stand alone story.
"He is here again!"
Casey looked up. The young employee of the gallery pointed to the small room at the end of the great hall. The Herrington Shrine, like they called it half jokingly. First Casey hadn't been very crazy about it to show his old pictures in the exhibition … too much memories he wasn't willing to share with the public. But his agent had told him that these pictures were a part of him, his first steps into the world of photography.
“People are curious about you,” he had said.
“Give them a glimpse into your life and they will stop asking too many questions.”
"The guy I've told you about. He's somehow strange. Seems actually not interested in your work, but he comes almost every day. Goes into the Herrington Shrine, stays there for a while and finally leaves the museum again. Should I inform the security?”
Casey hesitated. It had been years that someone was stalking him. Back then, right after the incident with Mary-Beth, Herrington … and Casey … had been on the headline of almost every newspaper in the country. Aliens were trying to take over the world. The hero who had saved them all. Just good that people used to forget quickly. Beside of some very persistent stalker most of them had lost interest within some months. But it was possible that one of them still did remember him.
“Let me first have a look at him,” Casey finally said.
“We don't want to scare off a harmless visitor, right?”
The moment he looked into the small room everything stopped dead. He hadn't seen him for over six years now … but he thought about him almost every day. He had felt bad because he had turned his back on him though he knew it had been the right step. Zeke hadn't been ready for a steady relationship. He had lied at him, he had cheated at him, he had hurt him all too often. Yes, he had had a shitty childhood and no one had ever really cared about him but Casey had loved him and he had given a shit. The only way for Casey to survive had been to finally leave him behind ... even if it almost broke his heart.
“It's okay,” he murmured.
“He is … he was a good friend back in Herrington. Haven't met him for years.”
Suddenly Zeke seemed to sense his presence. He turned around and smiled slightly.
“Hey,” he said.
Casey felt some awkwardness rushing trough him. After all this years. And he could still make his heart beat faster. He finally got into gear, stepped closer, eyed him almost shy. The same brown hair, haphazardly cut, as if he was still doing it by himself. His smile, he did remember clearly how it had looked during his last weeks in Herrington: mostly a touch too sad, sarcastic, sometimes mean. Now it was warm and open, the smile he had fallen in love into when he had met him first. He looked more healthy, calm, almost happy. It was reassuring to see him this way. All too long Casey had been haunted by memories, how tired and worn out and angry he had looked like at the end. He had been on the best way to waste his life. But now he was here, in New York, in the gallery, in the Herrington Shrine …
Casey was still fighting for words. Zeke looked back at the pictures on the walls and started to talk first.
“A lot of memories around: Herrington High. The lovebirds. The Hornets. Even good old Furlong. Your parents, of course."
And Casey knew that he had noticed it.
“No pics of you though,” he said, his voice shaking a bit.
“I've burned all of them before I went to Frisco.”
It was a lie. He still had some of them in a small box in his apartment. Zeke and his beloved GTO. In the jersey of the Hornets. Together with Stan and Stokes in the little cottage at the lake they had rented for a weekend. Zeke on his bed, naked and gorgeous. He had challenged him to an erotic photo-shoot. It had ended with their first night together. These memories were not meant to be shared with others.
“It was the right decision.”
Zeke smiled briefly.
“You were not made to stay back in Herrington and ... Look around, this is your world. You deserve to be happy. You are, aren't you? You got what you always wanted."
“Yes! Though it sometimes still feels so unreal. Me, the stupid geek from Herrington High has turned into a famous photographer That's more I dared to dream about.”
“And … is there someone in your life to share all this?”
The question could have been accidentally but Casey knew him well enough to hear the tense undertone. He hesitated for a split of a second before answering.
“His name is Damien. He's a singer of an Irish group.”
Zeke kept quiet for a moment, then he nodded.
Casey looked surprised.
“You've heard about them?”
“So not my music.”
Zeke grinned. Oh god, how much he loved to see this grin again.
“I've seen the pics in the hall. Who is it? The handsome Blonde?”
“No, that's Keith! Damian is the youngest, the one with the curly brown hair.”
“Oh, the baby-boy. You sure that he's already legal?”
“Some of the pics are older. My last year at College, my first official photo-shoot. Damian and me did get along well together from the very first moment. We like the same books, the same movies, he's interested in art. It took some month though before there was more between us. I was just not ready for a steady relationship. But Damian was not willing to give up, so …”
Zeke's face darkened scarcely visible.
“The biggest mistake in my life was to let you go. I hope he's a better boyfriend.”
Suddenly Casey felt uncomfortable.
“It's history, Zeke,” he reassured him.
“You had a lot of issues and I … I was a dreamer. I was sure to be able to change the world for you as long as I love you enough.
I guess it's never as easy as you think when you're still a teenager. But ...”
He smiled and eyed Zeke once again.
“It seems as if you have made it. Even without me. Are you still going to College?”
“Without graduation and with my rep?”
“No chance. I'm working in a garage. Only a small one, but the job is fun and the money is enough for a Heineken after work. I don't need much more. The wild times are over.”
For a moment Casey felt disappointed. Zeke should be a great scientist. Working for a well-known lab. He was a genius. Without him and his Scat they had never been able to defeat Mary-Beth. He had given up too early. There were evening-classes to graduate. Maybe it was not too late for College …
Then he realized it. The job is fun. I don't need much more. Zeke had finally found a place in this world. And he looked so much calmer nowadays. He had no right to tell him how to live. Like he had done it years before, back in Herrington. All he had wanted was the best for him. But the more he tried to convince him the more Zeke drifted away. Maybe not all what had happened back then had been Zeke's fault.
His assistant was standing in the door frame with an apologizing smile.
“Sorry for interrupting you, but the reporter are here. You've promised to talk to them.”
Casey rolled his eyes. One of the things he hated at his job. He was happy behind his camera and he liked the attention his work got. It was great to know that he could touch people with his pictures. But he would never learn to enjoy the interest they showed in him.
Especially not today. He glanced at Zeke. He didn't want him to go. For maybe another six years. Maybe forever. There was so much he wanted to tell him. So much he wanted to know.
“Well, I guess, it's time to go, busy guy,” Zeke said, though even he seemed to be slightly disappointed.
“But maybe … It's almost lunch time. Even you should eat now and then, don't you?”
Casey chuckled, suddenly feeling almost high.
“Sounds good. There is a little snack bar around the corner, they make delicious sandwiches. We can meet up there.”
Zeke hesitated, then he suddenly pulled him into his arms and hold him. Only for a moment, with a bit distance between them, more like a good friend, not a lover. But Casey's heart was up to his mouth when he smelled his aftershave and the brand of his cigarettes. Some things never changed. It was so familiar. He wanted to close his eyes and forget the world around him.
Then he did remember Damian. He was so far away, at the other end of the world. Australia. Go on a Cruise together with Celtic Thunder. The group always tried to find new ways to get closer to their fans. They had asked him to accompany them, to make photos from the tour. If he had agreed he wouldn't be here now, in Zeke's arms again … and he wouldn't feel what he knew he should better not. He had had a hard time to get over it and it was not smart to start dreaming like a teenager. One should never try to turn time back. He was together with a wonderful guy, for almost four years now. He had a job he loved. A lot of friends who cared about him. Zeke was history … and it was better to let it rest ...
“I've missed you!”
These words, almost whispered, brought him back on earth. Carefully he slipped out of Zeke's arms and tried to smile.
“You never should let a reporter wait for too long. See you then.”
The sandwiches had been delicious as ever, the soda blissfully refreshing, so needed after one hour of talking with the reporter. Casey leaned back onto his chair and looked at Zeke.
“So, will you tell me what you are doing here in New York? Jenny told me that you are coming into the museum every day … but that's not all, isn't it?”
Zeke eyed him for a while before answering.
“I'm living here since two month now.”
“In New York?”
Casey coughed surprised.
“Upper East Side. Still at a little motel but I'm looking for something own.”
Casey needed a moment to let this sink in. Zeke in New York. Only a few minutes away from him. Closer than he had been in Herrington. Not only for a visit … Suddenly an idea crossed his mind. He frowned.
“But … what's with your job? You've told me that you are working in a garage.”
“Even in New York people own cars and need help with it now and then.”
“I know, it's hard to believe but I finally start to settle down.”
“I did always believe in you, no matter what others thought.”
“Yeah. Until even you finally gave up. I don't blame you. I was acting like an idiot back then. When you left me it got even worse. I guess you were the one who kept me alive.”
Casey looked deeply distressed, but Zeke shook his head.
“No, you did the right thing … for both of us. Though I needed almost two years to realize it. One day I met your mom at the Mall. She recognized me, no, she didn't talk to me, but her eyes were so full of disdain when she turned away. Do you know that she has the same blue eyes like you? It was like a punch in my gut. That night I dreamed about you, meeting me at the Mall.”
Casey swallowed hard, it was impossible that he started crying here, where a lot of people knew him. Zeke put his hand over Casey's and squeezed it reassuring for a short moment.
“It was like a wake up call. Some days later I left everything behind and moved to Columbus. I guess for the first time since month I was sober. It was a hard time first but I somehow managed it to find a job at a gas station. Nothing big, I did the car washing, cleaned the garage, and I could sleep in a small backroom without paying rent for it. It was a beginning.”
“And how did you come to New York,” Casey murmured.
“There was this article about your upcoming exhibition in the local paper some month ago. I thought it was a good idea to come here and talk to you. But then … Iwas standing in front of the museum and lost my heart.
I ended up at a bar where I met Chris. Nice guy, we started to talk about cars and auto race and when he told me that he was looking for someone helping him out in his garage it was sealed within an hour that I would move to New York as soon as possible. Now I'm here. Took me some time though to come into the exhibition. I was so afraid to meet you."
“I'm glad that you did. It's so good to see you again.”
“I never wanted to hurt you, you know,” Zeke continued thoughtful.
“It … just happened and I somehow hated myself for it. You are the best what is ever happened to me. All the others … fuckbuddys … mindless one night stands. I was together with a guy in Columbus but I guess, we both knew it wouldn't last for long. I wasn't looking for a serious relationship because ...
... a part of me did always hope that there is still chance for us.”
Casey blinked, feeling overwhelmed.
“Don't worry, it's okay. As long as you are happy with Damien I'm the last one who will get in your way. But at least we could meet now and then. It's great to hang around with you again. Maybe Damien can join us next time. I would really like to get to know him. He seems to be a nice guy.”
“He's in Sydney right now.”
He didn't even know why he told him.
“On tour with Celtic Thunder. They tour around the bigger towns of Australia first and will end with a five-day-cruise around the Great-Barrier-Reef. Every fan can book a cabin and join in. It's always a great fun for all of them.”
“So, and why do you stay back in the heat of New York instead of going with him? Down Under, a Cruise …. sounds like a great adventure.”
Suddenly Zeke frowned.
“Wait! He's not ashamed of it that he's together with you, isn't he?”
“What do you mean?”
Casey looked stunned for a moment, then he laughed.
“No, oh no! Well, we're not out in public, but our friends know, my parents, the other members of Celtic Thunder. They are all okay with it.
Sharon, she's the manager of the Band, you know, has even asked me if I want to join them on tour. As the official photographer. Bad timing. The exhibition. Next week I have a long planned photo-shoot in the Central Park. That's how it works with us. We both love what we are doing even if it means that we sometimes have to go separated ways. But when Damien comes back from the tour there will be a lot we can talk about. It never gets boring with us.”
Zeke eyed him intently and suddenly Casey started to feel uneasy.
“Sounds like the perfect relationship you were always looking for!”
Casey huffed slightly, not sure if he was annoyed about Zeke or about himself. There was no reason why these words did hit him so hard.
“I couldn't have found a better boyfriend,” he tried to defend himself.
“He is caring and funny … and so stupid romantic. Sends me a red rose every sunday morning … Even if he is at the other end of the world, I know I can count of him.”
“What's with you,” Zeke asked.
Casey looked at him questioning.
“With your feelings for him. You talk about it what a great guy he is … but … do you love him as much as he loves you?”
What the heck … Casey paled and gaped for air. He wanted to protest … what did he already know? He had never asked for Casey's feelings. How could he dare it ...
“I know, back in Herrington I was acting like a selfish prick who didn't seem to care much about others,” Zeke continued surprisingly calm.
“But I could always read you like an open book. And it scared me half to death how much you loved me.”
“It was a desperate love, Zeke. I wanted to save you at all cost. Damian is not like you. I don't need to fight for his love.”
But deep inside he knew that there was some truth in Zeke's words. He enjoyed to be together with Damian, everything was so easy, they could talk for hours, they had some good friends and in his arms he felt save and loved. With Zeke life had been like a wild roller-coaster ride, he could never know what would happen next. Zeke had cheated on him, lied at him, hurt him. So, why did he suddenly miss the butterflies in his gut when he thought about Damien? And why could Zeke still make his heart beat faster, with a smile, a word, a look …
Some weeks later.
Casey had kept quiet most of the evening, hadn't even laughed about the jokes of the stupid movie they had watched. Finally Zeke put his beer aside and eyed him curious.
“Hey, what's wrong? Shitty day?”
Casey looked up, not knowing where to start. A lot was running around in his mind since yesterday evening. He hadn't slept well last night, wondering if it had been a good decision. The right one, yes, the only one, but a good one? A lot of people would call him stupid, he knew that much.
“Damien will leave Celtic Thunder,” he finally said.
“He says after almost six years with the band it's time for something new. He's gotten an offer from a musical show in LA.”
Zeke raised his eyebrows
“So he will leave New York?”
“He's already booked a flight. Next week he will go there to talk about the last details. Looking for an apartment. I guess he will move by the end of next month at the lastest."
“So soon, huh? What's with you? He is willing to give you up for a job?”
“It's not just a job, Zeke!”
Casey shook his head.
“It's a great chance for him. And no, he doesn't abandon me. He wants me to come with him, that we move in together.”
Zeke kept quiet for a moment.
“Yeah, I get it. LA will offer you a lot possibilities to work as a photographer. There is nothing what still keeps you here.”
“I won't go with him!”
Casey's voice was barely to understand.
“We did talk half the night … finally we reached the conclusion that it is best for us to go separated ways from now on.”
He took a deep breath and paused.
“Well … it was my decision and all I can hope for is that one day he will be able to understand. I'm afraid I did hurt him a lot.”
“I'm sure there's a good reason for it,” Zeke said thoughtful.
Casey looked up to him and smiled sadly.
“I really, really like him, you know. He was the first one … after you … I could trust again. He's so different than you. I guess this was the reason why I fall for him. There was nothing what did remind me on you. But it was not okay to use him like that.”
Zeke didn't try to hide his smirk.
“What did you actually do, huh? You were together with him for almost four years. Did you ever lie to him? Did you cheat on him … only once? I bet you don't. You were a better boyfriend than a lot others.”
Casey shrugged slightly.
“It was easy to love him and to repress the feeling that he actually was just the second choice. But I can't go on like that. I can't move in together with him. Not … with you around again. It's stupid, I know, but I suddenly miss the old times, the adventure in my life … it feels like cheating on him because ... I can't stop thinking about you."
Zeke looked thoughtful.
“So I did fuck up your life once again,” he asked.
“No, it's not your fault,” Casey said without hesitating.
“Probably one day I would have left him anyway because our relationship was much too perfect. I'm afraid I need a bit chaos in my life.”
“I'm good with chaos,” Zeke grinned.
“Don't get your hopes too high, okay? It was the right decision to let Damien go. But I can't say where it will go with us. I like to hang around with you, yes. But I don't want to make the same mistakes again. I miss you … but I don't know if I want to be together with you again. It should be more than just sex, you know? I couldn't bear it if you shut me out of your life again.“
Zeke looked at him intently and finally nodded slowly.
“Six years are a long time, Case. I've changed. You've changed too … and I like it. No one could fuck around with you any more. Least of all me.”
For the first time since days Casey started to relax. It had been a difficult time. He had tried to convince himself that Zeke was just a good friend nowadays, even if they shared a wild past. But when Damien had told him about LA and that he planned to look for an apartment for both of them he couldn't close his eyes any longer for the facts, even if he knew how much he would hurt him. Damien hadn't said much, simply put his arms around him and squeezed him one last time. “All the best with whatever you are going to do,” he had said. Then he had left him and Casey had felt terribly alone and wondered what the heck he had done. To send Damien away, a guy who loved him, who would do almost everything for him … for what?
He was still not sure about his feelings for Zeke … was it just a stupid, reminiscent mood or was there a real chance for a future together? Was Zeke ready for it to share his life with someone else? He would have to find out.
“What do you think about Rio,” he asked.
Zeke looked confused.
“Rio de Janeiro.”
Zeke smirked, thinking about it.
“Copacabana, Pao do Acucar, the Atlantic. Carnival. Sweet cocktails and hot sex on the beach.“
Casey rolled with his eyes but laughed anyway.
„Next month I'm gonna go there for two weeks. A photo-shoot for National Geographic. They pay good, first class flight plus an exclusive hotel. For me … and a small crew I can choose by myself. Would you … just thinking … would you like to come with us?“
„Walking down the beach?“
Some things did never change, Zeke would never stop to tease him a bit.
“At midnight? The moon sparkling on the water? How romantic.”
“As my private gofer. You can carry my camera stuff, bring me cold drinks and fresh fruits.”
“At the evening you will be much too tired to think about a romantic night.”
“Sounds like an offer I can't reject!”
The smile increased.
“Is this really okay for you, Zeke,” Casey asked.
“I wanna spent some time with you. Find out where it can go with us. No promises though, I can't, not in the moment.“
When he was disappointed he knew to hide it.
“We don't need to rush things. I can wait until you are ready for more.”
He carefully put his hand on Casey's cheek, his thump touching his lips, only once and soft. There was something serious in his eyes Casey had never seen before.
“I love you!”
'Love is just a word,' Zeke had always told him.
'Overused and without any meaning.'
But when Casey looked in his eyes now he knew that he meant it.