Fandom: The Faculty
Character: Gabe // Casey & Zeke
Word Count: 2425
Disclaimer: of course, I don't own The Faculty nor the characters - just borrowing them for some fun
Author's note: originally written for fffc - challenge 15.06 = abstinence
Friday evening at the Connor's house. Others would be busy with preparing for the night, a party, clubbing or a date with a girl. Not so Casey, he had never been a social butterfly, had spend his weekends alone with an interesting photo-project or playing computer-games. Since some weeks though he was not alone anymore. Zeke Tyler did sneaked into his life and not only in his heart. Mrs. Connor loved to spoil the boy, in her opinion every young boy needed someone who took care for him from time to time.
Zeke was used to it to live on his own since years but he let it happen that she sometimes acted like a mother-hen. First: she was Casey's mom and Casey loved her. Second: she was a brilliant cook, he really enjoyed the Friday-evening-dinner at the Connor's home.
Often a friend of Mr. Connor joined them. John Harper, a social worker. He was a funny guy and sincere interested in the boy's future plans and Casey's photo-projects. It had never been a question if they could come out to him, he accepted their relationship without any prejudices. The boys always enjoyed his presence.
Today though he had kept abnormally quiet.
“Anything wrong, John,” Mrs. Connor asked when he even declined the coffee after dinner.
He sighed slightly.
“I'm afraid I'm not in a good mood today. There is this family I take care off. The Santoras.”
He looked over to the boys.
“Maybe you know the son. Gabriel. He goes to Herrington High too.”
Casey inwardly cringed and threw a warning glance at Zeke, hoping that he would hold back with his opinion. To say that he wasn't very close with Gabe was an understatement. Gabe was one of the jocks, the star of the Football-Team since he had joined it two years ago. And he knew how to take advantage out of it. He didn't care much about the school, was late often enough and skipped the lessons he was not interested in. Instead of this he enjoyed to hang around with some other jocks … and one or two girls from the cheerleader team.
One of them was already bad enough when you were not a sports geeks but loved photography and classic movies. As a group they were like hell. They had always given Casey hard times and Gabe had quickly turned into the worst of them. He bullied and dissed him, countless bruises, lacerations, even a broken arm had been the result. Casey had never dared to blame him openly for it. There wouldn't be serious consequences for him anyway, Coach Willis was always backing his team all the way, especially when it came to his favorite.
Zeke had been the one who changed all for him. First Casey was sure that it was just a joke when he invited him to a movie one day. But soon enough Zeke had convinced him otherwise. At school they were close friends, in secret it was much more than just that.
One day, the Team had lost an important game and Willis had given them a heavy tongue-lashing afterward, it got out of control. Gabe was fuming with frustration and anger when Casey crossed his way, the camera still in his hands. He grabbed for him with brute force … and in the next moment he was lying on the floor, Zeke cowering over him. Both got out of control and it would have probably ended with smashed faces and kicked in teeth if not one of the half curious, half shocked onlookers had kept a level head and called for help. Coach Willis was finally able to separate them. Zeke got suspended from school for two weeks, Gabe got away with a reprimand. But since then they left Casey alone, beside of some mean, offending looks.
Casey's parents didn't know anything about all this. And he wanted it to stay like that. So he shrugged casually.
“He's in the Team,” he said.
John Harper nodded.
“Yeah, that's him. It was actually my idea that he started to play Football. The boy needed something what kept him grounded. He was on the way to drift into a life of crime.”
Wow, that were some news! Gabe, a criminal? Though, what did they actually know about him? Before he had started to play Football he had been just one of the guys at school no one cared much about. He was not a good student and not very popular, more withdrawn, he rarely talked with the others. The sport had changed him … but to the better?
“It never was easy for him. Sad story, nothing new though. His father is an alcoholic, use of drugs too, since years. No job, of course, and the money they get he spends in pubs and for gambling. The mother is the one who tries to bring the family through … and to protect the children. Gabriel and two little girls.”
Mrs. Connor looked shocked.
“He got abusive against the children? I don't get it, why did she stay with him?”
“That's the question, isn't it? But a lot women in her situation are not able to do the next step. Often they are grown up in an abusive home, so they are used to it. They hope that one day everything will change to the better. They don't know where to go. Many reasons. We can only give them advice … and hope that nothing more serious will happen.”
John looked unusual grave. Casey blinked, suddenly feeling alarmed.
“What's up with Gabe?”
“Like for most children in this situation it was a difficult childhood for him. When I met him first he acted very dismissive but I could feel the seething anger inside. It was only a matter of time and he would look for hold in a street-gang. I always try to awake interest for something outside the daily life to disrupt this cycle. Not always successful but with Gabriel everything seemed to go well.
The Team was the best would could happen to him. Coach Willis turned into some kind of father figure, someone he could look up to. He made future plans about going to a sports college.”
John Harper lent back onto his chair and sighed slightly.
“It's a great pity, he was on a good way. But I'm afraid to leave Herrington will hit him hard.”
For the first time Zeke showed interest in his story.
“He's going to leave Herrington?”
“Yeah. I actually had the hope that everything would turn to a better for all of them. Mr. Santora had finally agreed to go to the Al Anon, he already was abstinent for a while. But then, last weekend, things got out of control again. He ended in a pub together with some old friends, got drunk, and when Mrs. Santora tried to shut him out because he acted aggressive, he battered down the door.
It was Gabriel who stopped him. Luckily the neighbors called 911, it could have ended badly.”
“And I thought he would just skip school again,” Casey murmured, suddenly feeling lousy.
“No, he doesn't, not this time. He was in hospital for some days. His father is still arrested. And Mrs. Santora finally decided to leave him, she will move to Idaho with the children, a small town where some her family are living. I guess it's a good decision to make a new start, but for Gabriel … “
The evening almost ended with a fight … their first fight.
“I wonder if he knows the truth about Gabe,” Zeke said when they were alone in Casey's little room under the roof.
“Maybe someone should tell him, that he wastes his sympathy on an abusive asshole, worse than his father. He's not even drunk when he bullies others, he enjoys it.”
“How can you say that, Zeke? After all, John has told us?”
“How can you not? He's turned into the greatest bully at school since he's joint the Team.”
“But there is a reason for it. I can understand better now. Can you imagine how it is, growing up with a father like that? When no one cares for you.”
Anger raised up in Zeke.
“I grow up with parents who gave shit,” he hissed.
“My father left us when I was about three years old. My mother decided to merry again and to enjoy her life. I was just ballast for both of them. All the parental love I ever got is a monthly check.
And did all this turns me into a selfish prick? I'm not an angel, Casey, but never ever I would hurt someone on purpose like he does.”
For a moment Casey stood utterly silent, never before Zeke had acted that angry around him. Was it worth it to risk a fight, maybe … a break-up? On the other side: to give in was like repressing his own feelings.
“That's not the same, Zeke,” he finally said.
“I'm sure John hasn't told us all, who knows how often his father hit Mrs. Santora … or his little sisters, when he was drunk. And there was nothing Gabe could do against it. Because he was still a child! Because he was his dad!
The Team is the family he has never had. The respect from his teammates, from the Coach means all for him. I can't blame him that he doesn't want to feel helpless and alone anymore. He only did what the others did expect from him … he's turned into one of them.”
He felt tears pricking in his eyes.
“But that's not him. He finally did stand up against his own dad, Zeke, to keep his mother and sisters safe. Nothing an uncaring bully would do.”
Zeke eyed him thoughtfully, suddenly pulled him into his arms.
“Case, you are a Saint,” he murmured.
“But I can't forgive him what he's done to you. Never again I will let it happen that someone hurts you. You hear me? Never again!”
He bent his head and kissed him softly.
“I love you!”
It was about two weeks later, a Friday, when Casey was on the way to the dark-room, lost in thoughts. There were still some pics he needed to edit for the next issue from the school's magazine; for sure Del would kill him if they wouldn't be ready until five o'clock. The halls were empty, most of the students on their way into some weekend-fun. Only the jocks were still in the gym, waiting for Coach Willis who wanted to give them some last instructions for the next game.
Casey hurried up, not in the mood for a confrontation. He was only a few steps away from the dark-room when he noticed them. Gabe and another guy, one of the new player in the Team.
“So you will finally leave us, huh?” he could hear him taunting.
“It's about time, the Team is not a place for drunkards and druggies.”
Casey pulled the face, this sounded so familiar to him. Only that this time the former bully was the victim. Gabe ignored it, busied himself with clearing out his locker with a stoic face.
“Hey, I'm talking to you!”
The guy was a shit, Casey knew instantly that it would be better to stay out of his radar.
“So your father is a jailbird, huh, who did beat up your mom. I'm sure the slut did deserve it.”
Now Gabe winced visibly, then he jerked around, still some books in his trembling fingers. The jock grinned challenging and Casey was sure this could only end worse.
“Let it go! Why are you doing this shit?”
Both of them stared at him surprised. And Casey realized that he had said it out loud. Great! Zeke was right, he never knew when it was better to keep his mouth shut. Fortunately in this moment Coach Willis came down the hall. He stopped, frowned, finally turned to his new player.
“Steve? What's going on here?”
“Nothing, Coach, just wanted to wish him good luck.”
Willis pulled the face and put his hand onto his shoulder.
“So, come on now. We have better to do.”
Not a word to Casey, not that he did expect that, for Willis everyone was invisible who was not interested in Football. But not a word to Gabe too, the former star of the Team, his favorite. It was obvious that he was not a part of the game anymore. Hard to imagine what he had to go through in this moment.
“I'm sorry,” Casey murmured.
“Huh? What do you want, Connor?”
“That's not fair. I know how much the Team meant for you. You were one of the best, ready to give all.”
Gabe stared at him as if he didn't know what to think about this.
“You don't know anything about Football,” he finally said.
“I'm visiting every game … as a photographer. And you were always good for some interesting shots.”
“Oh, that! Well, you will have to find another favorite now. It's over! I don't play anymore.”
Gabe turned back to his locker, started to tear off the pics and cuttings from the door, memories of great wins and autographs of favorite players. His face looked stony though his eyes showed something different.
“But they will have a Team in Idaho too, don't they? To leave Herrington doesn't mean that you need to quit Football.”
Gabe pulled the face.
“Yeah, sure. The Green Lions of Oildale, ever heard about them? It's not a Team, it's more like a kindergarten. And I won't waste my time with that.”
“What's with the scholarship for a sports-school? I'm sure you could get one after graduation.”
Suddenly Casey smiled.
“Let's make a deal. At your first game for the Red Socks I will be in the stadium as a famous photo-reporter for the Reader's Digest. It's always worth to fight for your dreams, Gabe, even if some stupid people try to make it difficult for you.”
The boy kept quiet for a long while, just looked at Casey. Finally he smirked.
“For the school's geek, Casey, you are quite okay.”