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17 August 2009 @ 06:34 pm
the places you have come to fear the most - part 3/6  

Cappie blinks. He can almost hear the doubt in her voice, as if she’s figured out his rouse. Perhaps on some level she really knows why Rusty is there, knows that he couldn’t face Ashleigh, let alone her. Bringing Rusty means maintaining peace. After all, he's the common ground between the two of them. Greek chapter three

 

“How you doing?” Rusty asks quietly, pushing open the unlocked door. He wrinkles his nose at the smell that permeates the room around him, flicking on the light switch a bit hesitantly.

“Been better,” Max manages at last, crawling to the edge of his bed. Rusty watches awkwardly as Max forces himself to sit up, hair sticking to his damp face.

“Here,” Rusty remarks, handing him the supplies in his hand. “Hangover essentials. Coffee, water, and advil.”

Max flashes him a quick smile. “Thanks,” he replies, opening the coffee quickly. “I went out once to get some coffee, but...” his voice trails off, eyeing Rusty peculiarly.

Rusty shrugs, sitting down next to him. “It’s fine. I mean, yeah Casey’s my sister, but you can talk about it.”

Max nods, inwardly debating. Rusty waits.

“Casey was at the coffee cart,” he says after a moment. “I kind of panicked. Ran all the way through the liberal arts dorms to get back here.”

Rusty laughs nervously. “Kind of panicked?”

“Okay, I completely freaked out,” he admits, shaking his head. He reaches for the bottle of advil, popping two pills into his mouth.

“You’ll be okay,” Rusty says, not because he believes this, but because he’s not sure what else he’s to say. He wants to tell Max he knows this from prior experience, but Casey’s dated only two other guys that he knows of and both of them seem worse off without her. He convinces himself that Max is different. “I mean, you worked for NASA,” he adds quickly as if that proves his theory of Max surviving life post-Casey.

Max laughs, the first genuine laugh he’s heard from him in the past two days. “Maybe,” he replies a bit reluctantly. “I think I’m leaving Rust.”

Rusty blinks. “For break? Well, no one stays here over Thanksgiving break anyway. I figured it’d be the same way for the grad students. I mean, I know....”

“No, no,” Max remarks, shaking his head. “I think I’m leaving,” he emphasizes. “I’m putting grad school on the back burner for the moment. I’m going to California I think. Who knows, maybe I’ll get another offer from Cal-Tech? But, I need to get away. I can’t stay here.”

Rusty nods slowly, processing this information. “You’re not even going to finish the semester?”

Max shrugs. “Maybe I can transfer. Or finish online. Or maybe I’ll just start fresh in the spring, somewhere different.”

“Whoa, Max, you’re not thinking clearly. Give it a few days and I’m sure that by then you’ll see that....”

“No, Rusty, I am thinking clearly,” Max insists. “For the first time I realize what a terrible mistake I made. I mean, Cal-Tech was my dream school. I gave that up for something as fleeting as a potential relationship. I missed out on so much by making such a stupid decision. The sooner I leave here, the better.”

Rusty slides off the bed, dizzy from all of his newly acquired information. “But Casey was your dream girl, wasn’t she? I mean, it didn’t work out, but do you actually regret it?”

Max pauses, eyes rolling off of Rusty and onto the floor. “Rust, she’s your sister...”

“No, I know, but...I just need to know.”

Max nods once, eyes locking back onto Rusty’s. “You don’t lose your dream girl, Rust. If you’re meant to be with someone, you will be with them. You shouldn’t put your live on hold or have to skip classes or change just because you think it’ll make the relationship stronger. It won’t. You have to look out for yourself first, Rusty. Otherwise, you’ll find that at the end of the day, you’re left with nothing. The guys like Evan and Cappie, they always get the girl, Rust. Guys like us...well, we don’t get girls like Casey....”

“Or Jordan,” Rusty mumbles feebly, suddenly overcome with the urge to flee.

“What?” Max crinkles his forehead in confusion.

“Nothing,” Rusty insists, shaking his head back and forth. “I just...I have to go. O. Chem. I really need to study if I want to get even a C.”

Max nods understandingly. “Take care of yourself, Rust,” he remarks, patting Rusty on the shoulder.

Rusty nods, grinning back slightly. “I’m really going to miss you,” he admits. “I mean, the only other science major I know is Dale and he’s a bit...”

“Intense?” Max offers.

“Yeah,” Rusty nods.

Max smiles back. “You’ll be fine, too Rust. Just keep your head in your classes. O. Chem’s critical to the rest of your academic success. Without it...”

“I know, I know,” Rusty nods. “Technician.” He shudders at the word. “I’ll figure something out.”

“Yeah,” Max agrees. “Don’t be stupid, Rust. Don’t let some girl come between you and your dream. You won’t know what you’re giving up until it’s too late.”

Rusty nods, backing slowly out of Max’s room, leaning awkwardly against the wall once outside.


“What about if we put them through a series of contests, like, like...”

“Like Survivor?” Fisher offers.

Ashleigh tilts her head. “Well, I was thinking more like America’s Next Top Model, but that works too.”

Fisher laughs at her as she purses her lips. “You’ll figure something out.”

“See, if they didn’t go and get themselves all IKI-fied in the first place, then we wouldn’t be in this mess,” she sighs. She slams down the letter in her hand, cocking her head towards Fisher. “Can you be my Casey and tell me what you think I should do?”

He laughs again, shaking his head at her.

She pouts shamelessly, her forehead crinkling when she realizes he won’t help her.

“You’re the president,” he insists, sliding his arm around her waist. “I’m no good at all of this Greek stuff. The girls elected you for a reason.”

“Total and utter failure,” she remarks, stuffing the letter back into the envelope. “I think they want me to fail. They want me to run ZBZ straight into the ground!”

“Uh huh,” Fisher remarks. He’s patronizing her. She knows this, but she feels the need to continue complaining anyway.

“Maybe that’s exactly what they want,” she remarks bitterly.

“Right,” Fisher replies, rolling his eyes. “That makes sense.”

Ashleigh shrugs, looking away in exasperation.

“You know what I love about you?” he continues, kissing her cheek lightly.

“My stunningly blank track record as president of anything?” she offers.

“Your confidence.”

She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’m being whiny.”

He nods, grinning. “I have to go. I can’t miss another biology lecture.” He kisses her quickly, pulling away reluctantly. “And Ash, maybe the fact that you don’t have any experience is what made them elect you. I mean, you’re new at this, but you’ve seen enough of this whole political scheme to know what’s right and what’s wrong. They trust you.”

“Yeah,” she nods, caving in. “You’re right. It’s just a lot of pressure sometimes. I wish Casey would...”

“Stop with the Casey,” he insists, pausing by the ZBZ front door. “You can’t rely on her for everything Ash. She’s your best friend, but she’s not your advisor. You don’t need her permission to do anything. She’s stepped back and let you run the house. You can’t keep running back to her.”

She nods again, feeling childish as Fisher disappears outside. She turns her attention back to the envelope in hand, rethinking the former ZBZ girls’ request to rejoin the sorority. She’s guessing she’ll have to have reached a decision in time for the Panhellenic meeting in an hour, but she’s not sure what to do. Frannie would laugh and never allow the girls back in. Casey would probably let them in, with stipulations, of course. But, she’s not sure what she should do, or what’s best for the sorority.

She sighs, eyeing the clock anxiously. There’s been no sign of Casey since earlier that morning. She’s hoping she’ll show up to the meeting, although now she’s wondering if maybe Fisher’s right. Maybe she does rely on Casey too much.

But hadn’t Casey relied on her? Isn’t that what friends did? It was beginning to grate her, the fact that everyone seemed convinced that she was still Casey’s little sidekick. Their friendship had never been like that, at least not the way she saw it.

Of course, she may not have been looking as closely as she ought to have been.


“I’m not following...”

Cappie sighs, hanging his head as he loosened his grip around Rusty’s shoulders. “Okay,” he attempts again. “Only one girl can win, Spitter. But they’re all like mega-hot. And there’s always one super bitchy girl who thinks she’s mega-hot, but...”

“But really isn’t?”

“No!” Cappie remarks, covering his face in his hands. “Spitter, they’re all mega-hot!”

Rusty shakes his head as Cappie slides his arm off of his shoulders. “I still don’t get it Cap.”

Cappie shrugs. “With time comes wisdom my young padawon,” he remarks, giving up all hope of explaining the appeal of America’s Next Top Model to the confused sophomore. “So,” he begins again, changing the subject. “Care to accompany me to a stuffy, mind-numbing meeting of the leaders of our fine campus Greek system?” In other words, he’s begging Spitter to tag along to the meeting in a last minute effort to avoid any Casey drama. Ashleigh’s bound to be there and he highly doubts she’ll be pleased to see him.

“Uh, well, I have this O. Chem thing and...”

“Perfect!” Cappie remarks, exhaling a small sigh of relief. “The meeting will take no time at all.”

Rusty groans as Cappie drags him by the collar, pulling him along fiercely. He’s spent so much time helping his other brothers that sometimes he forgets how to ask for help himself. He can’t face Ashleigh alone, not right now. He also can’t flat out ask Rusty to help him out, because he’s Casey’s brother and why the hell did they have to be related anyway?

“You dragging me along wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain brunette ZBZ president who coincidentally happens to be Casey’s best...”

No,” Cappie cuts him off, but not quickly enough. He doesn’t want to hear the damn C word. “Look, these meetings are integral parts of Greek life and...”

“Yeah, sure Cap...”

And if you’d let me finish,” he remarks, glaring at Rusty. So Rusty’s right. He’s hiding. He can still continue to evade all he wants to. “I’ve never brought anyone to one of these meetings. Except for Beaver once after he saw The Notebook. He had separation anxiety. But, the point is, attending these meetings is a very, uh presidential affair.” He stops there. Where the hell was he going with all of this? He has himself lost.

Presidential?” Rusty stutters, and Cappie can tell by the size of his pupils that he’s excited about something.

“Uhhh,” is all Cappie manages, because it seems like Rusty’s aware of more than he is at this point. “Yeah?” he remarks questioningly.

“As in me?” Rusty asks grinning.

Cappie blinks. “Uhhh uh huh.” He turns away, confused. Spitter must be playing some sort of game.

Really?!

Cappie eyes him quickly. “Yes, really,” he replies, though he’s not sure what he’s just agreed to.

“Wow,” Rusty breathes, smiling from ear to ear. “President Rusty Cartwright. I could have my own...”

Cappie’s mind comes to a dead halt. “Whoa, whoa, Spitter, what I meant was...”

“Yeah, I know it’s not official,” Rusty nods. “I get it. You have to keep it secret.”

“Well, Spitter, it’s just that...” his voice fades as he considers the idea. The kid is insanely organized. All the pledges seem to like him. He’d suck as social chair, but president? It’s just a crazy enough idea to work. “Look,” he begins again. “I can’t promise anything, but let’s just say I’ll see what I can do.”

Rusty grins. “Thanks Cap. I never imagined that one day I’d be President of Kappa Tau. I mean...”

“You’re doing a fantastic job of not getting ahead of yourself,” Cappie mutters as they walk into the Panhellenic meeting. His eyes quickly sweep the room. There’s an empty chair next to Ashleigh and another one near Evan. He fights the eye roll that seems to come all too easily. He knows he has to sit next to Ashleigh, mostly to keep up appearances.

“That seat is...” Ashleigh begins as he slides into it.

“Reserved?” he interrupts. “Why thank you, you’re too kind.”

Her eyes narrow and he waits for her snide remark, but nothing comes. She merely turns away, tuning him out.

“What’s he doing here?” Evan remarks, eyeing Rusty strangely as the kid sits awkwardly next to him.

Cappie smirks. “What’s the matter, Chambers? Afraid he’ll come up with a better winter formal theme than you?”

Evan’s eyes meet his quickly and they exchange the briefest of amused looks before sliding back into the roles they’ve played flawlessly for the past three years.

“Isn’t this a presidents only meeting?” Evan remarks, raising an eyebrow.

Cappie starts to respond but stops as Janette rushes into the room, quickly scurrying to the head of the table nearest to him.

Janette eyes Ashleigh. “Where’s....”

“Here!” a rushed voice calls out. Cappie’s eyes flicker to the door and he can feel his heart rate increase as Casey enters the room, a bit unsteadily. He knows she’s seen him, but she’s making every effort to avoid looking in his direction, a very difficult feat, considering he’s only inches away from Janette.

Casey shoots an awkward smile to Ashleigh as she hands Janette a note which he later learns is from Frannie. She falters slightly as she spots her brother, confusion etched into her forehead.

“Rusty, what are you...”

“Cappie brought me,” he grins widely. “Apparently I’m president material.”

Casey sucks in a laugh just as Cappie does, and he feels her eyes meet his instinctively. They've always had the same sense of humor, the same acknowledgment of when something was innately funny. And something about Rusty Cartwright leading the Kappa Tau frat house, well, it was just ridiculously funny.

Her eyes sweep away from him quickly and he can feel the tension between she and him rise to a new level. She let her defenses down, if only for a second. He can be certain she won’t make the same mistake again.

You,” she manages, “President?”

Cappie blinks. He can almost hear the doubt in her voice, as if she’s figured out his rouse. Perhaps on some level she really knows why Rusty is there, knows that he couldn’t face Ashleigh, let alone her. Bringing Rusty means maintaining peace. After all, he's the common ground between the two of them.

But she can't know this, know that he was terrified of facing her. He can't let her think he's nervous.

So he does what he has to in order to defend his reputation.

“Spitter here has more potential than you’re aware of,” he says, and the words are threatening, as he realizes too late. He’s just dragged Rusty into their war, by claiming to know the kid best. He wishes he could shove the words back in his mouth. He hasn’t meant to hurt her.

Ashleigh snorts, undoubtedly smelling his desperation and mocking him. She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. “Whatever,” she remarks, looking past him.

“Well,” Ashleigh begins anxiously as they approach the ZBZ house. “What did you think?”

Casey pulls herself out of her own thoughts, staring at Ashleigh vacantly. She flashes an apologetic grin. “About...?”

“The meeting!” Ashleigh remarks intensely, as if this should clue Casey into whatever tidbit she wants her opinion on.

Casey’s mind flashes back to the meeting. She has spent most of her time staring at the puke green carpet in an effort to avoid looking at Cappie. She left early, sneaking out to grab another cup of coffee. That coffee cart had become a sanctuary of sorts to her.

“Um...it was, uh...”

Casey,” Ashleigh remarks, obviously hurt and annoyed. “My idea?”

Casey pops back into reality. “Oh my god. I’m so sorry Ash!” she exclaims, wondering why she’s become so introspective as of late. “It was definitely uh, interesting.”

“That’s it?” Ashleigh pauses, looking disappointed. “Interesting? That’s all you have to say.”

“Well, I just...I don’t get it, I guess,” Casey replies slowly.

Ashleigh pauses, taking her hand off of the front door knob. “Case, I know Frannie may have blackmailed some of them, but these girls betrayed us. Just letting them back in and putting them on probation isn’t good enough. And not allowing them back in, well, that just seems rather mean and Franny-like.

“But having them rush all over again?” Casey questions.

Ashleigh shrugs. “It gives them almost a year to think about what they’ve done. There’s no room in the house for them right now. It’s up to next year’s president who gets in and who doesn’t. It’ll be a relatively clean slate for them.”

Casey considers her friend’s option. “That is true,” she nods. “I mean what they did is no better than what Jen K. did last year....”

“Exactly,” Ashleigh nods. She smiles.

Casey grins back. “Good job, Prez,” she remarks as they walk inside.

“Thanks. I thought it was brilliant!” Ashleigh embellishes, laughing slightly.

Casey pauses before the staircase, a crowd of girls to her left.

“Jordan?” Casey remarks, walking over to her little sister. “What’s wrong?” She’s surrounded by a group of pledges, all looking concerned and upset.

Jordan stands up, wiping her right eye with her sleeve. Casey stiffens.

“Do you have a second?” she asks.

Casey nods mutely, leading Jordan into the living room. She sits down next to her, worried. “What happened?”

Jordan wipes her other eye, taking a moment to concentrate on breathing. “Rusty, he...he...”

“No,” Casey remarks, utterly baffled. “He broke up with you?”

Jordan nods timidly. Casey puts her arm around the girl awkwardly. She’s never been good with comforting others. “But why?” Her brother had been head over heels for the girl. He’d even ruined a friendship for her.

Jordan shrugs. “He said it had to do with you and Max and...”

Casey blinks in surprise. “I...I don’t understand.”

Jordan sighs lethargically. “Me neither,” she mutters sadly. “One minute he’s fine and then he goes to talk to Max and he’s all dramatic about having to concentrate on school and I don’t get it, because I’ve never kept him from his classes or anything. He said he has to focus on doing well in class and I’m taking up too much of his time...like I’m disposable or something.”

Casey shakes her head. “Are you sure you heard him right? I mean Rusty’s...”

She stops as Jordan looks at her incredulously.

“He said something about the girl always leaving and that he didn’t want to risk getting hurt and end up giving up grad school. It doesn’t even make sense.”

Casey looks up slowly. She could kill him. She turns to Jordan as she rises to her feet. “Wait here,” she replies.

“Case,” Ashleigh begins as she head towards the door. Casey pauses, fuming. She could kill Max. The thought’s stuck on repeat in her brain. “What happened?”

Casey crosses her arms, head spinning with the new knowledge she’s acquired. She’s not sure what to do. She always knows what to do.

“Rusty,” she begins in mid-thought. “Rusty broke up with Jordan.”

What?” she remarks in surprise. “Rusty...broke up with Jordan?”

Casey nods, anger growing inside of her. “Because of something Max said.”

Ashleigh blinks back in shock. “Max?”

“Yeah, apparently he and Rusty had a nice little chat.”

“Ouch,” Ashleigh sympathizes.

“I mean, I get it, I hurt him,” Casey begins quickly, “but where does he get off telling Rusty to break up with Jordan before she leaves him?! I could kill him.”

“What are you going to do?” Ashleigh asks a bit hesitantly.

Casey shrugs, peering back into the living room where a heartbroken Jordan sits sulking. “I don’t know,” she admits. “I have to fix this. I just...I don’t know how.”

“Can I make a suggestion?”

Casey looks up in surprise. She’s the one always giving out advice, not Ashleigh. “Sure,” she replies a bit awkwardly.

“I saw Rusty heading towards Kappa Tau on our way over here.”

“So?”

“So, Case, go make him realize what a dumbass he’s being!” Ashleigh remarks. “If anyone can persuade him to see what a huge mistake he's made, it’s you.”

Casey nods, a slight grin on her face. “You’re right Ash,” she says, taking off through the front door. She pauses briefly on the steps, her conversation in the closet flashing back to her. She cringes. Maybe she used to be persuasive but—

She lets her anger replace any uneasiness she’s feeling. There isn’t time for her to slip back into self-deprivation. She has to help her little sis. It’s the very least she can do.

Even if it means barging into Kappa Tau.


 
 
Current Location: kitchen
Current Mood: hothot
 
 
 
beaked: ◘ i touched your boobbeaked on August 18th, 2009 11:17 am (UTC)
Again with the cliffhangers! Why oh why would you stop right before she goes to Kappa Tau? That's just mean! Hope to read more soon :)
Courtney: where even strangers make more sense [hahelen_halliwell on August 21st, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Haha, thanks! I don't mean to leave you with a cliffhanger, I swear...it just seems to happen that way. Thanks again for reading! =D