PG-13 for violence. Third in a series, this is a continuing crossover of the Highlander "Not to Be" alternate universe with characters from The Faculty. It probably only makes sense if you are familiar with both and have read this and the sequel.
by Laura Mason
There's a world of feeling in Zeke's voice, but he isn't panicking. Well, maybe just a little. But he's still driving well, fast but steady, as the cars behind them -- all unmarked black sedans -- steadily creep closer in the rear view mirror.
Casey bites a fingernail grimly. They should have planned for this all along. But Zeke thought he could keep his promise, and he had -- they'd been safe, until the perimeter alert sounded at three in the morning. And just kept sounding, so they knew it was time to run, rather than stay and try to fight.
"Casey," Zeke begins, seeing more black cars ahead, coming toward them.
"I have a plan," Casey snaps. "Follow my lead and don't fight them."
Casey's been clear-headed all along, and he's certainly put on some weight and gained strength in the past six months. But he's still been drifting and letting Zeke control their life. Zeke is incredibly relieved that Casey picked this moment to pull it together and take over. So even though he's expecting a quick bullet to the head, Zeke's calm as the black cars surround them, forcing him to pull over, and disgorge a dozen men with guns.
He breathes deep and relaxes, remaining passive when the suits put their hands on him and drag him out of the driver's seat. They're doing the same to Casey, though his wide-eyed, vacant smile seems to surprise them. Zeke bites back a protest at how they're shoving Casey around, remaining cooperative and hoping that plan of Casey's is a doozey.
When Casey is shoved close enough, he grabs Zeke's hand with a big, happy, dopey grin, and hangs onto it for dear life even while the goons empty their pockets, lift their arms, and finally put cuffs on Zeke.
"He's just a kid -- an imbecile kid. Why did they send us?" one large man asks, and the other snaps "Shuddap." The surly one hooks cuffs on Casey, too, but when he pulls him away from Zeke and Casey starts to cry, he curses and attaches the other side to Zeke, rather than separating them.
So these guys don't know they're the bad guys, and no matter how shadowy the agency that pays them might be, they believe they're upholding the law. That means they don't know who Casey is or what was done to Herrington, they're just obeying orders. And if they're committing an atrocity in the process, are the prison guards of the Third Reich really to blame?
Sometimes Zeke wishes his brain would just shut up.
They're more carefully forced into the back of one of the hearses. Zeke realizes he wasn't the only one who thought he might be dispensable when Casey practically climbs in his lap, protecting him. They watch a couple of the cars pull away while the rest move into formation with theirs. Zeke's car is left on the roadside, doors open, the few precious possessions they'd managed to grab left behind.
Casey is curled atop him, seemingly asleep, as the man next to Zeke holds up a needle. He braces himself for the pain, and the darkness that follows it.
Casey's act is a good one, but if someone who knows him comes in this room, it'll all be over. Still, Zeke squeezes the hand chained to his and smiles at this parody of young Casey Connor. If they'd had their way, Casey would have been this damaged and useless. Zeke isn't sure he believes in God, but he's thankful to someone that it's not the truth.
Two people enter, a man in a dark suit and a woman with a white lab coat over her dark suit. If she's really a doctor, Zeke thinks, she's probably a shrink. But the coat could just be a costume, window-dressing. She's carrying a clipboard full of papers and wearing a pasted-on smile.
"Oh, that looks very uncomfortable," she says brightly with a little frown. "Can't we unlock those, and give these young men something to drink?" The man meets her eyes, then nods. Good suit, bad suit, and despite his smart-ass grin Zeke's cuffs are unlocked. The man leaves the cuff holding two of them together in place, which is fine by Zeke.
Someone knocks and two cans of soda, unopened, are passed in. Zeke says "Thanks" and opens both cans, but neither of them are stupid enough to actually take a drink.
"Well. Casey, we've been looking for you for a long time. Everyone was very worried."
Casey's response is a giggle at something over her shoulder, which makes the woman turn, then turn back. "Casey?"
"What do you want?" Zeke asks, and Casey squeezes his hand. Okay, he should try to stay invisible.
"Mr. Tyler, isn't it? You might want to stay out of this. You're in enough trouble if the Connors press charges for kidnaping." So the man can talk. Zeke sits back, eyes down, trying to look submissive.
"Casey? I'm Doctor Beaudreau," the woman says. "How much do you remember?" Zeke tenses, remembering when he asked that question, months ago.
"Remember?" Casey repeats, looking so very simple-minded. Innocent. Zeke can remember when those eyes were full of pain and horror, the night Casey told him he remembered everything that was done to him.
Casey remembered his parents signing the commitment papers, and remembered that they never visited him once in more than five years. Casey remembered all their lies, and how old they looked when they were forced to come to the hospital and see him.
Zeke wishes there was someone else Casey could have told about the horror of waking up cold, on a metal table with his ankles, wrists, and chest bound. Or about the iv needles that burned his hand but never really put him out, so that every injection and test, every nurse who bathed him without speaking, every minute of lights blazing down on him is clear in his memory. Casey had no one else, though, so Zeke was the one who heard his whispered wish to be able to speak or move, just so he could beg someone for one night in darkness. But they didn't know that he was aware, feeling everything done to him and hearing everything they said.
But they must have known. Surely that's why Casey is back in custody now?
If they knew, they didn't care.
"Well, then," Beaudreau tries. "Tell us where you've been the last few months."
"Months," Casey repeats loudly, then looks to Zeke and points, stupidly smiling. "Zeke's my friend," he says brightly.
"A real friend would have left you being cared for at the hospital, Casey," Beaudreau corrects, taking a long moment to look down at the papers in her hand. "Your parents and Stokely have been very worried since you vanished."
"Joe?" Casey says, and Beaudraw looks to the man, who shrugs. She rifles through the papers a little longer, and finally finds the information.
"Yes, your roommate Joe was worried, too," she lies smoothly. Zeke's heard enough about Dawson to know that's bullshit, and enough to worry about Casey's plan. Well, even a shit-ass plan is better than anything he can think up right now.
Casey smiles over at him, a sunny look that he never saw on Casey before the aliens came, and says "Go see Joe!" Zeke is reminded of their giggly giddiness after Mary Beth was destroyed. Before the authorities came and separated them. Before Stokes' story changed. Before Zeke got a pass for being unconscious while Casey saved them all.
"No, I don't..." The man stops her and they whisper for a while, while Casey bounces in his seat saying "Joe!" excitedly.
"We can send you to see Joe, Casey, but Zeke has to leave," she begins, and that's enough for the act to go into full gear. Casey is crying and clinging to Zeke, hysterical. He seems about eight years old as he wipes snot on Zeke's shoulder, but those strong fingers dig sharply into his arm before Zeke picks up his cue.
"Can't I go with him for now? Until he settles down?" Zeke asks, soothingly rubbing Casey's back as he keeps snuffling.
The two confer again, finally leaving them alone in the room. Zeke wishes he could have a drink. Even the condensation on the soda can is tempting. But they just sit, Casey leaning on him, until a burly man comes to lead them through a maze of hallways and into a garage where a dark van's rear door is standing open. Zeke is practically carrying Casey, so when the door closes and they're alone in the darkness, he whispers "Love you" into Casey's ear. Casey squeezes him harder for a second but remains silent.
It's a long ride, and they're never alone. There are no seats in the rear, and Zeke feels sympathy for sardines and other canned goods. There's room to lie down on the hard, nubby carpeting, but that's not much better. The driver and his companion don't speak to them. When the guys in charge get hungry, a carryout bag is shoved at Zeke. He and Casey drink happily and chew lukewarm food while the van keeps lurching along. Gas stops are their only respite, a brief stretch as a burly man in a dark suit escorts them to the washroom, then back to the van.
Zeke talks to Casey, reassuring him, asking him to eat -- what he'd do if Casey really were a helpless, mindless kid. Casey giggles but only speaks nonsense, and sleeps curled against Zeke, holding on tightly.
By the time they've spent two days like this, Zeke is going a little crazy. He thinks they're going a lot further than Somerset, because it didn't take them this long to escape from that place and drive to Wichita. That drive flew by, even though Zeke had to be so careful, never going above the speed limit, making sure he did everything right and signaled and didn't cause any trouble that might get them stopped by a cop.
They were just a couple of states away, for Christ's sake -- how could it take this long? So the suits must be taking them to Washington, or maybe Zeke's confused or drugged, and they're really driving west to some desert where they can dump their bodies and no one will ever find the bones. Casey, who's a smart guy, has probably figured it out, too. The way he's clinging to Zeke isn't an act.
But finally on a grey day when Zeke is sick with boredom from his endlessly circling thoughts, the van stops. The back opens to a familiar grey building, ugly inside and out even though the bars on the windows don't show from the front entrance.
Casey pretends happy excitement, but Zeke knows the act can't last. These doctors examined him. There might be tapes of his visits with Stokely and his parents in the files. They'll know Casey isn't mentally damaged and never was.
Their own burly suit guy, silent to the end, leads them inside still cuffed together. They bypass admissions and keep walking down the dingy corridor, past too many closed doors. Zeke is sweating now but Casey still chirps merrily, pointing and smiling.
They're shoved into chairs in a tiny room, and then left alone for a few minutes. Casey plays, pulling Zeke's cuffed arm around and giggling.
"Case, cut it out. That stopped being funny three days ago," Zeke says with an affectionate smile, his free hand rubbing Casey's goofy hair. He misses the real Casey very much. It's been agony to pretend like this for days on end, not able to touch Casey with love. It's like a nightmare to look at Casey and not see all of him looking back, the intelligence and love, and even the pain. But Zeke has also realized during this charade that even if he'd found only the shell of Casey, he would still have taken him away from this place. Zeke would still love him.
A balding, middle-aged doctor comes in carrying a file, his face confused. He has a key and clumsily releases them from the handcuffs.
"Mr. Tyler? And this is Casey Connor?" Zeke nods, Casey smiles, and the doctor doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with either response. "I'm Doctor Durens, Director of Somerset Manor. I understand that Casey is to be held here for a few days, until his parents arrive. They'll decide what further steps will be taken."
"Casey's parents?" Zeke asks, confused. They're not really sending them here again, are they?
"That's what the telegram I received says. I'm afraid most of Casey's file is missing, Mr. Tyler, so I don't understand your relationship with him. But they asked that you be allowed to stay here as well, though you can be in a different room..." The man fumbles through the papers. "It says here you want to be in a separate room," he adds.
"No, no. I don't mind staying with Casey and his old roommate. It'll keep him calm."
"Well. I suppose that's fine." Durens frowns at the papers in his hand a little longer, looking puzzled. "It seems no one who worked with Casey is still on the staff," he finally says. "I was in Europe that summer, myself," he adds, flipping through the few papers in the file. Then he continues, "But I didn't think our turnover rate was so high..." He stutters into silence again.
Casey has evidently heard enough for his peace of mind. He says "See Joe?" and lays his head on Zeke's shoulder, looking tired.
"Can we go to his room now?" Zeke asks, and feels the approving pat under his belt, just one finger hidden from view of any cameras or other watchers.
"Certainly. I'll send Patrick to escort you there."
Other than calmly and quietly pocketing the medication on Dawson's nightstand as they enter the room, Casey doesn't change once they're alone. He smiles at the grey-haired man in the bed and moves to the window, finally sitting to stare out. Zeke waits a few minutes, then climbs into the bed and sleeps, enjoying having a mattress, even a lousy one, instead of a metal sheet with road vibrations beneath him. The only thing missing is Casey in his arms.
Hours pass, and trays are brought for the three of them. Casey once again removes Joe's medication, pretending to give it to him with a drink of water. The man swears at him softly, something like "Damn I wanted you to make it," but doesn't protest the lack of his many pills. He eats very little, and Casey doesn't eat at all. Zeke gives him a questioning look, but Casey doesn't seem to care whether Zeke eats or not. He clears the tray, more hungry than he realized, and waits to see what will happen. Nothing does.
When it gets dark Zeke gratefully climbs into bed again, and this time Casey joins him. Dawson seems to be asleep already. Zeke stays awake for a while, wondering if Casey will want to talk, but when he realizes Casey is truly asleep, he joins him.
Zeke wakes up when Casey climbs out of bed, and sees that it's still dark outside. Casey is waking Dawson, then motions Zeke to join him on the older man's bed.
"We're leaving, Joe, and we could use your help. We'll bring you along, if you're willing to help me find one of the ones you told me about who live forever and can't die."
"Oh, they can die, kid," Dawson says. "It's just not permanent until someone cuts off their head."
"Casey, this is crazy," Zeke begins, suddenly panicking and not just because Casey suddenly sounds as insane as Dawson. For all the times they talked about this place, Casey never mentioned people who didn't die. "You can't make promises to him -- we're stuck here, too," Zeke concludes lamely.
"We'll manage, don't worry. Joe?"
"Get me in the wheelchair, kid," he says, suddenly looking determined and competent in a way Zeke hadn't expected. "Whatever I got left is all yours."
"Good." And it's a genuine Casey smile, but now Zeke only sees the similarity with the crazy-Casey who's been his companion for days. "Zeke, in a minute I want you to start calling for the guards. Scream, make a lot of noise. When they get here, there'll be some confusion. Ignore what I'm doing to distract them. You and Joe must knock them out and get the keys."
"Case," he tries again, but Dawson says "Right" as casually as if jailbreaks are a part of his daily life.
"Zeke. I have a plan," Casey repeats, smiling confidently. Zeke loves that smile so much he stops arguing and nods agreement instead. "You should get rid of the cameras now, okay?"
Zeke climbs on the beds and busts up the cameras enough so they won't record, noting that they're no longer the type with self-contained tapes. Since their last breakout, this place has been modernized, which means their actions so far are on a central log somewhere in the building. Or maybe somewhere off site, considering how out of the loop Durens seemed.
When Zeke climbs down, mission accomplished, Casey is messing with his sneaker, prying something out that was wedged inside the rubber sole. Dawson is beside him, watching, and when Casey looks up from his task, the man nods grimly.
Casey flashes him another smile. "Okay. Now, Zeke."
Zeke starts banging on the door, rattling the window, and screaming bloody murder. Dawson joins in, wheeling himself behind the door so he won't be noticed immediately when the footsteps pounding in the hallway finally reach their room.
The door unlocks, two orderlies run inside, and Zeke is so relieved that they're orderlies and not wearing dark suits that he doesn't realize at first why they're swearing and ignoring him and the dinner tray in his hands. In fact, it isn't until he bashes the first man's head a few times that he sees the blood on Casey's throat and arms.
"No!" he screams, and joins the tech wrestling the razor blade out of Casey's hand. But it's too late, too late, and yet Dawson is hissing at him to "knock out the guard for God's sake he's got the keys." Zeke ignores him to keep trying to stop the blood and push it back inside the small pale body growing cold under his hands, so Dawson does it himself, taking out the orderly efficiently. Zeke's brain informs him that Dawson is ex-military and he listens to that, ignoring the way it's screaming that Casey is dead.
He's sobbing over Casey's body as Dawson binds and gags the second orderly, calm despite just murdering a man. He frees metal keys, stuffing them in his pajama shirt pocket, then slings both sets of key cards and employee id necklaces over his head. "I hope you know how to hot-wire a car, kid," he hisses at Zeke. "Their personal stuff's probably in lockers in the break room."
Zeke doesn't answer, just keeps staring at Casey, blue and still in the moonlight. A distraction? Casey thought his life was only useful as a distraction?
Dawson wheels to the door. "All clear. Grab him and let's go," he hisses.
It's enough to pull Zeke out of mourning, and though he wants to scream at the man's stupidity he only hisses "What?"
"Bring Casey and let's get the fuck out of here," Dawson repeats.
"Casey is dead," Zeke patiently explains, lifting one of his bloody arms and letting it drop heavily to the floor. "He's dead," he insists.
"Bring him anyway, Zeke. C'mon, just do what I say. We've only got a few minutes here."
Zeke won't, can't -- and then there's a loud gasp from Casey and blue eyes fly open as a newly-warm hand closes on Zeke's arm.
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