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Run With A Dangerous Crowd

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Story Title: Run With A Dangerous Crowd

Type of story: Short/Medium fic.

Main Characters: Dex & Casey

BTTB rating: T

Genre: Slash. Angst.

Does story include spoilers: No [Vague mention of events up to 5375]. AU of canon.

Any warnings: Slash, Language, Violence.

Summary: It’s at this moment that Dex looks up and their eyes meet, and even in the short space of time that Dex has been turning up at the Mangrove River School for Boys every Wednesday for his study session with Casey, Casey knows that this is a rare occurrence.

A/N: Title taken from ‘Only The Good Die Young’ (Billy Joel) because in my head Casey listens to that sort of music when he’s brooding. He tries to be a bad boy and fails miserably. Dex is just confused by the whole debacle.

A/N#2: This was originally going to be a short drabble based off events in recent episodes to get me out of my writer's block for my longer Dex/Casey fic. It turned out ... a bit longer than I intended. ~8000 words all up, and to be posted in 6 parts.


Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 1/6

The first time Casey saw Dex was not one of his finest moments. He was pissed off and angry, fists flying at Jake’s face because he’d been shooting his mouth off and he’d snapped. But in between wanting to get a clear shot at Jake’s eyeballs and being held back by two strong-armed guards Casey got a glimpse of the boy in the doorway. He was narrowly-framed, like he hadn’t properly filled out yet, with his crisp white shirt and tie hanging around his neck, but his face was an open book. Eyes wide and staring, face pale, mouth hanging open, lips parted in shock as he tried to take in the scene in front of him.

The next time Casey sees Dex he is in a much more controlled frame of mind. Dex is across from him, back ram-rod straight in the uncomfortable metal chairs that they are given to sit on, separated by a laminate table top. The classroom is simply furnished, with bare walls and floor, a single plate-glass window letting in the light.

Dex is still talking as Casey studies him. His mouth is moving at lightning speed, eyes flicking from the open text book in front of him to a spot somewhere to the right of Casey’s face. He’s not looking him in the eye. Occasionally his hands twitch from where he’s folded them neatly on the table, like he’s holding back from using them. Like he has to reign himself in when he’s in Casey’s presence, be a fraction of who he really is.

For some reason, this intrigues Casey.

“... Well?” Dex is asking, when Casey is finally paying attention. He sighs. “I don’t know why I’m bothering.”

“I don’t know why you are either,” Casey says with a shrug. He starts tapping out a beat on the tabletop with his fingers. “Haven’t you heard? I’m a lost cause.”

When he looks up again, Dex is watching him intently, eyes tracing over his face. It’s a bit unnerving really.

Dex huffs. “I don’t back down from a challenge.”

“Is that so?” Casey replies, quirking an eyebrow.

“Well, I have a ninety percentage average in all of my classes, so.”

Casey lets out a small laugh. “Brains don’t mean anything in here.”

“Clearly,” Dex retorts, an edge of pretension in his voice. “Otherwise you wouldn’t need me.”

They meet for a third time a week later when Dex returns, text books in his arms and a closed expression on his face.

“You’ve lasted longer than most,” Casey comments as Dex opens the book and flicks to the chapter on integrals they are studying.

“You don’t scare me,” Dex replies, but he’s looking at the graph in the middle of the page with probably more intensity than is necessary.

“I should. I’ve done things you wouldn’t dream of.”

Dex rolls his eyes and says, “As much as I would love to sit here and have you tell me how many bottle shops you’ve robbed or old ladies you’ve tripped, we have a lot of work to do if you even want to think about passing and graduating on time.”

“Okay then professor,” Casey sighs, shuffling forward in his chair he puts his elbows on the table in front of him, before placing his chin in his hands. “I’m all ears.”

It’s at this moment that Dex looks up and their eyes meet, and even in the short space of time that Dex has been turning up at the Mangrove River School for Boys every Wednesday for his study session with Casey, Casey knows that this is a rare occurrence.

Dex notices Casey’s eyes, how blue they are, and despite the fact that Casey wants to give off the appearance that he has everything under control and he’s absolutely bad to the bone, his eyes give him away. They have a childish glimmer, but they are also very tired, like they’ve seen too many things in a short space of time.

“Okay then.” Dex finally pulls his gaze away from Casey and focuses back on the books. “I’ve set up a study schedule for you if you want to have a snowball’s chance in hell at passing your HSC.” He pulls a brightly coloured page from his bag that he brought with him and slides it across the table. Casey stares down at it, at the sheer organisation. Casey has never seen anything like it before in his life; his life has always been in shambles. Not a colour-coded box in sight.

“I thought it was your job to tutor me,” Casey comments.

“It is,” Dex replies. “But you’re also going to have to put in some time yourself. I can’t do everything for you, because despite the fact that I’m giving up my afternoons to be here in your-” Dex searches for the word.

“Prison?” Casey helpfully supplies, a cheeky smile on his lips.

Dex eyes him warily. “Correctional facility.” He glances around at the white-washed walls and senses the guard patrolling up and down the corridor outside. “Despiteyour circumstances, you have to help yourself. It’s conditional on you getting out of here as soon as the year ends. Which I’m guessing is something you want?”

He leaves the question hanging and doesn’t even really expect Casey to answer. Like predicted, Casey deflects. “I’m sure you have better things to do with your time than hang out with a juvenile delinquent.”

Dex shrugs noncommittally. “I’m here now, and don’t plan on going anywhere until you get this math under control. I’ve seen your test scores, they’re appalling.”

“Not offence, but I’ve had bigger problems than making sure I do my sums every night.”

“Like trying to gouge some other kid’s eyes out?”

This is the first time either of them have brought up that first day, when Casey wasn’t really himself and Dex looked like he wanted to run out of there as fast as legs would carry him.

Casey shakes his head. “He said some stuff...”

“Must have been serious.”

Casey shrugs. He doesn’t talk about this, he doesn’t talk about any of this. Not to his brothers (who he doesn’t see anymore), to the stupid counsellor they make him see every Thursday, not to any of the boys who are in here with him, and especially not to the delicate, naive boy in front of him right now.


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Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 2/6

The fourth time Dex arrives, Casey is not surprised to see him. The previous times Casey was certain that Dex would be scared off, run away back to his privileged home with his two perfectly happy parents and siblings and fluffy dog. Not that Casey knows anything about Dex’s home life, but whatever. The point is that, by all accounts of what Dexter Walker is supposed to be like, he shouldn’t still be turning up promptly at 4pm every Wednesday to tutor Casey. But he does, and Casey now finds it sort of relaxing, this time they have together.

They do homework, which is boring, but they talk too, and gradually Casey is finding out more about this kid.

“Summer Bay?” Casey asks incredulously, “What is that? Some sort of Fantasy Island?”

Dex scoffs. “Hardly. It’s like, take any small town and put it beside the ocean.”

“The ocean,” Casey says, and Dex doesn’t miss the way his voice lowers, eyes blurring out of focus for a minute. “I would give anything to see that again.”

“You will,” Dex replies with more certainty that Casey would ever allow himself. “Don’t they ever let you out of here?”

Casey gives a one-shouldered shrug. “Sometimes. For good behaviour, or whatever.”

“Maybe you could aim for that, then?” And Dex looks so earnest with his suggestion that Casey doesn’t have the heart to scoff or roll his eyes and just shoot him down like he would anyone else for even suggesting that he try just ‘being good’ for a change. If Casey could simply do that, well then, he wouldn’t be in a place like a Reform School in the first place.

“You surf?” Casey asks, again keeping the conversation moving.

Dex lets out a short, loud burst of laughter, and it catches Casey by surprise. That sort of thing doesn’t really happen around there very often. “God no,” Dex replies quickly. “Do you know how many organisms live in the ocean?” Dex continues like he doesn’t expect Casey to answer, “Well, they all have to go to the toilet somewhere.” Casey can’t help but let out a chuckle at that.

Casey doesn’t know why but after Dex leaves for the day he takes his books back to his room and sits down to do his homework, something he hasn’t done since he first started high school.

No sooner than he readies himself at the small wooden desk in his bedroom, does his roommate start on him.

“What the hell, Case? You turned into some kind of nerd, now?”

At first Casey thinks he’s going to be the bigger person, just ignore him, like his counsellor is always telling him to do, rather than flying off the handle.

“Seriously, this is starting to weird me out, man,” Jules says from across the room where he’s lying on his bed. “Next thing I know you’ll be making daisy chains and going to church on Sundays. Has that little geek got to you? What the hell did he say?” Jules is sitting up on the side of the bed now, eyeing Casey suspiciously. But Casey keeps his head down. He is not going to jeopardise his one shot at freedom for some blonde asshat who still can’t tie his own shoelaces. “He turn you into some sort of fairy or something? I knew that kid was odd and all, but really-”

Screw it.

Casey swivels around in his chair so fast that Jules looks a little bit stunned. “Shut your freakin’ mouth, Jules. You don’t know squat. And even if you did no one would listen to you anyway.”

Jules raises his hands in surrender. “Cool your jets,” he replies and flops back onto his bed.

Dex smiles at Casey brightly across the table as his eyes dart over Casey’s homework. At first Dex had been sort of taken aback that Casey has actually done it, and not just written ‘Screw U’ in big block letters over the questions. What is even more surprising is the fact that most of it is right.

“I knew you could do it,” Dex says. “You’re not as dumb as you say you are.”

Casey shrugs. “Don’t go getting ahead of yourself, it’s just homework.”

“But it’s actually, like, good,” and Casey chuckles at Dex’s happiness.

He likes these moments they have; when Casey doesn’t have to put up a front of keeping all his cards close to his chest. The trouble with building a wall around yourself, is that not only does it stop the problems getting out, but it also doesn’t let the good stuff in.

Eight weeks after Dex starts tutoring Casey, he gets his first weekend off. He’s never had the good behaviour privilege extended to him before, but he’s been doing his homework and passed his first maths test in years and hasn’t got into any more fights with the boys, so his dorm mother signs a form allowing Casey to spend all of Sunday out of the school grounds.

Dex is sitting on the hood of a rusty old ute when Casey exits the grounds. Casey had told Dex the good news at their last tutoring session and since Casey didn’t really have anywhere else to go on his day off Dex had offered to be his chauffeur. Ideally, these days of freedom were supposed to be spent with family (that was the intent of them), but Casey didn’t have any of that, so Dex was really his only option.

Dex smiles when he sees Casey, both of them, the first time out of uniform and not in the confines of the school room. There’s a big, blue expanse of sky overhead and Casey actually breathes it the fresh air, and he just wants to hit the road and drive and never turn back.

“You ready?” Dex asks as he jumps off the front of the vehicle.

“I think I’ve mentally prepared myself, yes,” Casey retorts with a roll of his eyes.

Dex gets in the driver’s seat while Casey takes the passenger’s side.

“Its dad’s,” Dex explains after Casey has shut his door and buckled his seatbelt, because apparently he’s still on his best behaviour. “He wasn’t using it out on the farm and there was no way Indi would lend me her car, so. This is it.”

“Listen Dex,” Casey begins, and then he doesn’t know what he’s trying to say.

“Forget it,” Dex says dismissively. “We’ve got the whole day, and I don’t know how reliable the engine is. We could break down at any moment.”

Casey doesn’t ask where they are going, he frankly doesn’t particularly care as long as it’s as far away from school as possible.

Casey hears the ocean before he sees it, and then Dex is pulling the truck into the car park of what appears to be the local Surf Club. “Wait here,” Dex instructs him before he gets out of the ute.

The air is salty, the breeze light and cool, and Casey has to try really hard to not just smile. He unbuckles his seatbelt and climbs out, taking in the view. The beach is all golden and easy rolling waves. There are people walking past him and they don’t even take any notice. They don’t care what he’s done or that he’s wearing his one good pair of jeans, they just walk on by. And this, Casey thinks, is as good as it’s going to get. That is, until Dex returns.

“I brought you something,” he says and Casey turns around to see the surfboard Dex is awkwardly holding under his arm.

“Seriously?” Casey can’t believe his eyes. He is reaching out his hands to take it from Dex as soon as he is within reach.

“Well, it’s a loan,” Dex explains. “From Romeo, who swears he is going to wring my neck if anything happens to it.”

“This is -- this is great, Dex. But there’s one problem, I’m not exactly dressed for a day in the surf.” Casey can’t hide the disappointment in his tone.

“Ah, I’ve got that covered,” Dex replies, and from somewhere behind his back produces a pair of board shorts. He nods towards the public toilets nearby. “You can go and change.” Casey is almost torn, not wanting to let go of the board that he can’t take his eyes off since it entered his grasp, and being unable to get into the water fast enough. So he runs off in the direction of the change rooms, already peeling off his t-shirt as he goes.

Dex watches from the sand, eyes fixated on the surfboard, and the waves rolling onto the shore, and Casey. Actually, it’s just mostly Casey. And the way he manoeuvres the board in the water, paddling out the back of the break, waiting patiently for a wave before he frantically kicks and stands up at just the right moment. He’s a bit rusty at first, falling off within the first few seconds, but as the day wears on he gets better and Dex can see that he’s really enjoying himself. Occasionally he gives Dex a thumbs up from the water, after he’s caught a particularly long ride. Dex waves back, liking the broad smile on Casey’s face, the water droplets trickling off his naked torso, and slightly too-small board shorts gripping to his hips.

The sun is beginning to set when Casey finally drags himself out of the surf. He’s panting and dripping wet and collapses into a pile next to Dex when he reaches the shore.

“Have fun?” Dex asks, amused.

“Oh man,” Casey replies, breathless, chest heaving up and down as he sucks in deep breaths of air. “That was amazing. It was so good -- I just, I can’t -- right now, it’s perfect, man.”

Dex smiles and glances across at Casey, who is also watching him. A moment passes where they are just staring at each other, and Dex can see the little grains of salt caught in Casey’s hair and pieces of sand sticking to his wet body, but can’t seem to tear his eyes away. Casey clears his throat and flicks his eyes back to the sea.

“I don’t want to go back,” he says.

“What did you do to get put in there?” Dex asks, and he’s never been this bold. But what surprises him even more is that Casey actually replies.

“Got caught with a knife at school.” He sees Dex look over in alarm and quickly continues. “I wasn’t going to use it or anything, just things were a bit intense at home, with my brothers and I thought I could protect myself.” Casey pauses for a moment. Then, “Before that, I hit a kid so hard that he got knocked out. Deserved it too.”

“Is that it?” Dex asks, going for nonchalant but coming across more fearful.

Casey scoffs. “Done some other stuff. That was just the final straw. I’d been through two schools already and mum’d had enough, so she shoved me in there, end of story.”

“End of story,” Dex echoes.

Casey turns onto his side so he’s facing Dex. “The first day you saw me? That’s not me. I’ve done stupid things yeah, but I don’t hurt people unless they hurt me first.”

“Noted,” Dex says with a gulp.


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Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 3/6

It’s one of those days when nothing seems to go Casey’s way.

He got a letter from Brax, the only contact he’s had with him in almost six months. It’s brief, and hand-written and states in no uncertain terms that Heath is in jail and won’t be getting out for a very long time. It doesn’t mention his mother, or what Brax is actually doing. It’s impersonal, with the barest of information so Casey can join the dots to assume that everything is falling apart around him.

Later he also got lumped with clean up duty when it wasn’t his turn because Brock spat into Damian’s plate when he wasn’t looking and then Casey was blamed. He’s been trying to slip under the radar, because he wants another day out -- to surf, to hang out with Dex -- so he’s being doing everything in his power not to screw it up.

But now he’s irritable and still cleaning tomato paste out from behind his nails when Dex turns up.

He rolls his eyes when Dex asks his how he’s been and just doesn’t even bother when he queries his homework.

“Did something happen?” Dex asks, cautiously.

Casey purses his lips into a thin line.

“Look fine, whatever. You don’t have to tell me anything, I get it. But if you’re not going to talk and not going to listen to me, then I’m just going to go,” Dex says.

“Fine then, go.” Casey bites out. “Go back to your stupid farm house with your lame family of four and pathetically generic lifestyle. Run along then, I’ll just stay here. Wouldn’t want you to tarnish your perfectly privileged little image.”

“What is your problem?” Dex is getting mad now, and it’s actually sort of amusing. His cheeks are speckled pink and his eyes go wide as he stares at Casey, incredulous.

“My problem is you,” Casey retorts, and doesn’t at all miss the way Dex flinches. “You think you are just so much better than me. With your straight As and perfect life-”

“You think my life is perfect?” Dex cuts him off, and he’s practically standing out of his chair.

“Yeah, I do.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me, okay?”

“All you do is waltz in here once a week for an hour, and you think you understand how this feels? You have no idea what it’s like-”

“What it’s like to what?” Dex really is upset now. “What it’s like to have your whole life turned upside down because your dad goes around sleeping with anything that moves? To have to change schools and towns because your mother hooks up with your sister’s boyfriend? To have absolutely no friends at school because everyone thinks you’re a freak?” He’s breathing heavily, but his voice remains controlled; loud, but controlled. “You want to know why I come here?”

Casey pretends not to care. He shrugs, but Dex answers anyway. “I come here to help you because I am doing everything in my power to get out of here. To get out of Summer Bay and never come back. You might be trapped in a Reform School, but you’re not the only one who just wants to escape.”

And with that he picks up his bag and storms out, and Casey is too stunned to even call out after him.

When Dex turns up at home an hour earlier than usual, Sid knows something is wrong. His concerns are only made more concrete by the fact that when he arrives, Dex stomps down the hall and goes straight for his room, slamming his door shut so hard that the whole house practically rattles.

Dex throws his bag across the room, not even caring that its contents fall to the floor with a thud and his books and pens go flying across the carpet. He hears a knock at his door and Sid is cautiously asking, “Dex? Is everything okay?”

Yeah, Dad. Everything is peachy. “I’m fine,” Dex replies because he is not going to talk about this. His dad had been against the idea of Dex taking extra work by tutoring at the School for Boys in Mangrove River. He’d had boys turn up at the hospital with knife wounds and broken bones from there, so there was no way in hell he was letting his son go wandering through there just so he could put down another extra-curricular activity on his university applications.

“Dex?” Sid asks again. “Has something happened?”

Dex takes a deep breath, steadies his voice before replying. “I’m fine, Dad.”

Dex knows Sid is probably still hovering outside his door, possibly contemplating whether he can take the door off its hinges if Dex doesn’t come out for dinner, so Dex just flops, face-down onto his bed and lies there.

He’s still fuming hours later, the vision of Casey, pale and so so tired within the confines of the school walls haunting his thoughts as he drifts in and out of sleep. Dex thought he had done everything right. He wasn’t making any money out of this tutoring, in fact he was losing it when he had to pay for petrol to drive to the Reform School every week to meet Casey. He wasn’t bragging about his turn around in the delinquent Braxton to anyone who would listen, in fact no one besides his Dad and Indi even knew that he had anything to do with him. The only reason Dex was doing this in the first place was so he could leave the Bay and never come back.

His only dream was to move out of home, to go a university far away from here, and just be himself. And find people who didn’t care that Dex was little odd or had strange hobbies, or had no interest in surfing or girls. He just didn’t care, and Dex was sick and tired of having to try all the time. It was exhausting, pretending to be somebody you’re not. But he keeps up the charade for his dad who practically pleaded with him to ‘just try and be normal’.

So Dex makes the effort and spends his time with Casey, and was actually beginning to get some degree of enjoyment out of it. Seeing Casey perk up when he got a problem correct, or the flush of pink to cheeks when he sprinted out of the ocean in a rare moment of unguarded joy, Dex liked those things and he stupidly thought that maybe ... Well, it doesn’t matter now. Casey has just thrown any scrap of friendship they might have had back in his face, and it hit him like textbook to the head. Dull and aching, Dex closes his eyes and tries to forget about it.

It shouldn’t matter to him what Casey thinks -- what Casey Braxton of all people -- does.

He’s woken with a start by the shrill sound of his mobile phone ringing. His room is dark and Dex is still in his clothes from when he came home that afternoon. He groggily reaches out and grabs the ringing device off the nightstand.

“Hello?” he asks, and doesn’t get to say anything else before a familiar voice is rushing out words in a hushed tone.

“Dex, oh God. I shouldn’t -- I shouldn’t have called. This is -- This has got nothing to do with you, and I shouldn’t have called, Dex-”

“Casey?” Dex can’t figure out what Casey could possibly be talking about, let alone how he got Dex’s mobile number in the first place.

“Uh, yeah,” Casey replies after an extended pause. His voice sounds strained and low, and when he’s not talking Dex can hear rustling, the line cutting in and out in the background.

“Why are you calling me?”

“I’m uh, I’m not in a great situation right now,” Casey says, and Dex sits up with a start. He doesn’t even think twice before asking, “Where are you?”

Dex is slipping on his shoes as Casey gives a vague description of a brick wall and bushes and maybe some sort of building in the distance. He can hear the ocean, is what Casey keeps telling him, and as Dex grabs his keys from the bowl near the front door, Dex realises how much trouble Casey is probably in.

Sid has woken up now too. He sees Dex frantically throwing a jumper over his head, his mobile phone perched between his ear and his shoulder. “Dex? What is going on?”

Dex doesn’t have time to explain. He is already practically out the door, calling, “Gottagobehomelaterbye!”


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Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 4/6

Dex does not stick to the speed limit and pulls up into the car park of the surf club. Dex knows that if Casey had to call him he wouldn’t have been able to use a mobile phone because those are confiscated off all boys as soon as they are enrolled at the school, so he would have needed a public phone. There’s one nearby to the surf club and Dex jogs around the other side of the building, wishing he had brought a torch so he could actually see.

He searches up and down the grass, walks around the corner of the surf club but the place is deserted. Dex’s heart is beginning to pound hard -- because what if something has happened? -- and Dex doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. The night breeze is picking up and Dex wraps his arms around himself to try and stop himself from shivering.

With another look around the general area outside the surf club Dex is certain that there is no one there. On a whim he jumps the fence and begins down the sand dunes towards the water. The waves are tall and loud as they crash on the sand and anytime Dex attempts to call out Casey’s name is swept up in the wind and made useless.

The sand is cold, the iciness seeping through his sneakers as Dex reaches the shore. He glances to his left, towards the jetty, but the beach is empty. In frustration Dex runs a hand through his hair and calls out, “Casey!

He turns around and sees the shadow of the headland in the distance, the long grasses bustling about in the breeze and his eyes catch a solid figure that wasn’t there before. He’s sitting in a dip between two sand dunes, body curled in on itself and Dex breaks into a full on run towards him.

Casey has his legs bent up towards his chest, head buried in his knees and Dex comes to an abrupt halt, dropping down in front of him in the sand.

“Oh God, Casey.” His heart is about to beat right out of his chest, and Dex can’t feel his nose with the cold, but Casey is in front of him, and is alive, so it doesn’t even matter.

Except Casey still hasn’t said anything, hasn’t even moved since Dex arrived, and now he’s beginning to panic all over again.

“Casey. Casey, are you alright?” Dex’s voice is urgent and without thinking he reaches out and grabs hold of both of Casey’s shoulders. At his touch Casey stirs, his head slowly coming up.

Under the silver moonlight his blue eyes reflect the ocean, and Dex heaves a sigh of relief because he is okay, but then he notices the rest of his face. He has a graze down his left cheek, split lip which is beginning to coagulate with blood and the shadow of a black eye.

“What happened?” Dex whispers, and Casey just blinks back very slowly.

Dex frantically glances up and down the beach, and again realises that they are completely alone. He reaches for his pocket and pulls out his phone, the screen lighting up as Dex begins to pound on the buttons.

“Wh-What are you doing?” Casey asks, his voice barely there, but Dex hears it.

“Calling an ambulance,” Dex replies, without looking up.

But then Casey is clamping a hand down on Dex’s, grappling with the phone. “No, no no no. No, I don’t need an ambulance. Please Dex,” and Casey is practically pleading with him now.

“You could have a concussion, Casey. This is serious, you need to go to hospital,” Dex urges, and he feels Casey’s hand grip on tighter to his own.

“No, no don’t, Dex. Please, come on. I’m alright. I promise, I just -- I overreacted, I’ll be okay. I don’t need a hospital, I swear.”

“You are not alright,” Dex is almost irate. “You are hurt. Someone did this to you, and I don’t care who it was, you need help.”

“No, Dex,” and Casey sounds so certain and final, that Dex doesn’t even know why he is now backing down.

“Alright fine,” Dex replies, trying to remain calm and rational. That is what he is supposed to be good at. “We’ll go to my house. My dad’s a doctor, he can look at you.” Casey still looks panicked, like he’s ready to object again. “If you let me take you to my house there will be no hospital, I promise. We just can’t stay here.”

Casey barely nods, but it’s all the agreement that Dex needs. Casey tries to stand but his knees practically give out from underneath him. So Dex has Casey leaning against his side, arm slung over his shoulder and back, and climbing back up those dunes is a lot more difficult the second time around.

But somehow Dex gets Casey to the car and then manages to drive back home, and it may not have been the safest he has ever driven, what with one eye on the road and the other trained carefully to Casey. Sid is sitting up when Dex arrives, immediately demanding why he just ran out of the house at eleven o’clock at night with no explanation, and then he sees Casey.

“Bring him into the lounge room,” Sid says.

Dex knows Sid doesn’t like Casey, knows that he must be thinking of just getting him patched up and out the door because he belongs in juvenile detention and not his living room. Sid is using his ‘doctor voice’, the one he uses when he has to tell a patient some bad news, so Dex recognises that he’s at least trying to remain professional about this.

He’s used whatever he keeps in his travelling case to clear up Casey’s face. Dex hovers behind his dad, eyes never leaving Casey’s as Sid dabs antiseptic on his lip and examines his cheeks for broken bones.

“You’re lucky,” Sid says finally. “Doesn’t look like a concussion, but it could have been worse.” He stands from his chair, the one he pulled over from the dining table to sit on while he tended to Casey, who sat on the lounge.

“Thanks, Dad,” Dex says, because Casey is just continuing to stare at him blankly.

Sid packs up his medical equipment, his eyes passing between the two boys. “It’s late,” he says gruffly. “Casey, you can sleep on the couch and go back to school in the morning. Dex, don’t be up too late.”


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Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 5/6

Dex moves to find a blanket and pillow for Casey, and he wonders what he’s supposed to say next.

“What happened?” Dex asks quietly. Casey looks up, eyes wide and blank, and Dex thinks he might not have heard him, that maybe his head injury is a bit more severe than his dad was indicating. After Dex places the blanket over the back of the lounge he sits in the chair previously occupied by his dad, so he’s sitting directly opposite Casey. He tries again. “You can tell me.”

Casey’s head falls, he instinctively rubs at the back of his neck, winces slightly and then drops his hand back into his lap. “Jules was being a --" He cuts himself off, automatically censoring what he wanted to say next. “Said some stuff,” Casey finishes weakly.

“So, some guy called Jules said ‘some stuff’. Was that before or after he pummelled your face in?” Dex asks.

Casey shrugs and pretends like he’s picking at a thread on the blanket Dex has laid out for him.

He’s acting like he doesn’t remember, like it’s not at the forefront of his mind, like it’s not the only thing he’s been thinking about.

After Dex had abruptly left Casey had dawdled back his room, Jules was there when he arrived.

“You’re back early,” Jules commented. “Play date get cancelled?”

“I’m not in the mood,” Casey replied, ignoring Jules’ shift in tone, or maybe he was only pretending that he wasn’t meaning to be menacing.

“Figures,” Jules scoffs.

Against his better judgement -- which has always been what gets him into trouble -- Casey bites. “What are you talking about now?”

“Your little visitor, he was becoming quite a fixture around here,” Jules says with a shrug. “You were spending some serious time together ... all alone ... Anything could happen ...” He lets the unsaid ending hang in the air and Casey feels like he’s been punched in the gut. He knows exactly what Jules is implying, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what Jules says about him, but he’s bringing up Dex and that’s what unsettles him.

“Just shut it, Anderson.”

“But we’re friends, Braxton. And friends tell each other everything, so I was hoping that if there was something going on between you and your little butt buddy Dexter that I would be the first to know about it.”

Casey’s eyes lock with Jules’ and he bites out, “What. Did. You. Say.”

“You heard me,” Jules replies, casual as ever. “Rumour has it that you and Dexter Walker haven’t been doing just ‘studying’.” And the way he says it makes it sound so sinister. Despite the fact that Casey knows that it’s all a load of crap he feels his hands clench into fists, and he thinks back to counselling and counting to ten, but then Jules is muttering something under his breath that makes Casey’s blood boil and Casey is on top of him before he realises what he’s doing.

Casey has both fists pounding at Jules’ chest, aiming for his face, wanting to get a shot at his nose when Jules frees a hand and smacks straight into the side of Casey’s head. Everything goes blurry for a moment and Casey loses his balance. He stumbles to the side and it’s enough for Jules to get the upper hand. He lands a punch to Casey’s face and he goes sprawling across the floor, and then Jules is onto of him, hands thumping his skin and Casey tastes blood in his mouth.

He spits in Jules’ face and he curses right back and lands another punch to Casey’s eye before he’s being hauled off by a guard. Casey’s head is splitting and he can’t see past the lights that are swimming in front of his eyes. Someone must pull him to his feet, a steadying hand on his shoulder and Casey is vaguely aware of being escorted down the hallway.

He mumbles something about needing air, and he must look as bad as he feels because he ends up outside, out the back of the school building. The air is fresh and cool against Casey’s raw skin and that is the last thing he remembers. Except for just wanting to leave, to get out of there and never go back. To find Dex, because God, Dex knows how to fix things.

And Dex is currently sitting, gazing down at him intently, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.

“I’m just -- I'm so freaking sorry,” Casey stutters out, and he refuses to cry over this, because if there is one thing he is not going to do it’s that. “I don’t think, and I do things, and then I stuff everything up. It’s the way I’m programmed or something, and no matter how hard I try it’s never going to change.”

Dex looks so disappointed in him, and Casey recognises the sick feeling in the bottom of his stomach and wants to just roll over and die.

“I screw things up, Dex. I always have and always will. As soon as things look like they are going good I’m going to do something to smash it all to pieces. So you’d better run while you still can.”

Dex is quiet for a long time, but Casey sees him take a deep breath before he says, controlled and even, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Casey’s skull is still pounding, his lip is fat and Dex is just sitting there as calm as ever, and Casey has always been good at doing things on impulse, and not thinking them through, which is why Casey places both hands solidly on Dex’s cheeks and drags him forward and kisses him.

If Dex wanted to protest, he couldn’t. He can’t do much of anything, but remain frozen under Casey’s stern hold as he pushes their mouths together. It’s hot and rough and Dex can taste the copper of Casey’s split lip, but he doesn’t pull away, not until Casey releases him. He looks on in dazed confusion, vision clearly blurry and Dex can’t do much but swallow.

Casey sees Dex lick his lips, almost thoughtfully before he stands. And this is it, Casey thinks. He’s screwed things up again. It’s like for every miniscule good thing that comes his way, there is an exponentially worse one waiting to happen. Casey was thrown into Reform School to sort himself out, but then Dex came into his life, and things were actually looking up. He was passing math and finally allowing himself to think of a future that wasn’t surrounded by four grey walls, but then Jules had to open his lopsided mouth and Casey attempts to beat him to a pulp. When he goes back to school everything is going to be significantly worse, grounding and no supper are going to be the least of his worries. He’ll be lucky if he doesn’t end up with a criminal record, and yet Dex comes to his rescue. He saves him and patches him up, and maybe Casey thinks, things will work themselves out. Except Casey has to go and ruin it all by kissing Dex.

Dex still hasn’t said anything and Casey is envisioning smashed plates and broken vases and his heart being torn to pieces when Dex screams at him to stop being a massive homosexual creep. Might as well add sexual assault to the list of things Casey is in trouble for.

But then Dex is saying, “It’s been a long day. You should sleep,” and disappearing out of the room. Casey hears the faint click of Dex’s presumable bedroom door and Casey lets his body sag. Everything seems to ache and Casey curls up into a ball onto the couch, pulling the blanket up around his chin and trying to remember a time when he didn’t hate himself.

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Run With A Dangerous Crowd - 6/6

Dex drives him back to school once Sid had given Casey the once over before he left for work. He was still pretty angry about the previous night, not that Casey blames him. Sid doesn’t say goodbye, just instructs Dex to drop Casey back at Mangrove River and then go to school.

They drive in silence, neither knowing what to say. Casey wonders how he can possibly begin to say sorry for all the things he’s done, all the hurt and pain he’s caused Dex. He wonders if there is ever going to be a way to make up for it.

Dex can’t look Casey in the eye. His eyes are firmly fixed on the road in front of him and the turns he has made many times before with ease. But he’s never had Casey in his passenger seat before.

Dex has always been able to figure things out; work out the most complex maths equation or science problem. He solves people like puzzles, but Casey stumps him. He does one thing, like bring a knife to school and acts like the toughest member of a gang. But then Dex watches him visibly break before his very eyes and admit his own insecurities and flaws, and though he never says it -- wouldn't dream of saying it out loud -- only wants someone to care.

He’s been thinking about the kiss too. About the feel of Casey’s lip on his, a sensation that didn’t fade immediately, and Dex didn’t quite know how to react to that.

Mangrove River School for Boys looms before them, the cinder-block of a building shadowing the car park, big wrought-iron gates keeping everyone locked away and supposedly, out of harm’s way. It’s much sooner than Dex would like, because he’s still thinking and had hoped to figure out in his head first, what he was going to say to Casey.

Turns out he doesn’t really get a chance because as soon as the car stops Casey is muttering something about “facing up to the music,” and he’s climbing out of the passenger’s seat and slamming the door closed.

But this can’t be how it ends. Dex refuses to let it end like this. He meant it when he said he didn’t back down from a challenge. The only problem is that it looks like Casey is the one who’s given up now.

Dex is clambering out of the ute, calling out to Casey as he approaches the front door of the school.

“That’s it?” Dex demands, and Casey turns back slowly, still visibly wincing in pain from the previous night’s exploits. His black eye is beginning to purple, his lip swollen with little strips of gauze running down his left cheek. But most of all he looks so small, like he’s a fraction of the size he was when Dex first met him; all cocky over-confidence and smirking expressions. Now, he’s just a teenage boy, and he’s been stripped and left with nothing, and Dex feels ill just imagining what is going to happen to him when he walks through those padlocked doors.

Dex knows he won’t be allowed back to tutor him anymore, won’t be allowed to even visit. There’s no chance of Casey being let out early, he’ll have to wait until he turns eighteen, and even then he might have to serve some jail time. Dex doesn’t even want to think about that yet. But he knows this is going to be the last time he sees Casey, and he doesn’t want it to be Casey thinking that nobody cares.

“That’s it?!” Dex repeats when Casey doesn’t reply. “You’re just going to walk back in there without saying anything?”

“What do you want me to say, Dex?” Casey replies, and he sounds so tired, voice strained like he’s on the verge of tears already.

“I want you to tell me what happened. The truth about last night.”

Casey sighs and takes a step towards Dex, away from the building.

“I told you,” Casey says. “Jules got me riled up. I snapped. It was stupid.”

“Stupid?” Dex questions. “It was clearly idiotic! But that’s not what I’m angry about.”

You’re angry?” Casey replies, and a slight incredulous tone creeps into his voice. “Why the hell are you the one that’s angry?”

“Because you won’t tell me what happened!”

“Because it doesn’t matter!

“Of course it matters. If you look like that, then I can picture what the other guy looks like. I’m guessing you didn’t take whatever he said lying down.” Casey shrugs half-heartedly, refusing to look Dex in the eye, but Dex continues anyway. “You told me that you only hurt those who hurt you. So tell me. What. Did. He. Say.

Casey flicks his gaze up to Dex, meeting his eyes, and Dex can see the lines around his face, the dried blood matted in his hair, the beginnings of stubble on his chin from where he hasn’t shaved. It seems to take an immense amount of energy for Casey to walk back to where Dex is standing in front of his car before he starts to speak.

“He made a comment about you. About us, and the fact that we were spending so much time together. He seemed to be under the impression that there was something going on, something more...” Casey trails off, and it takes Dex a moment to completely understand, but when he does it hits him square in the chest, between his ribs and it feels like his heart is actually expanding. He staring at Casey’s mangled face and putting the pieces together like a jigsaw, and Casey’s reaction last night, kissing him -- Casey actually kissed him -- and now practically turning in on himself, and it all makes sense.

So Dex is grabbing Casey by the shoulders and pulling him into a kiss. It takes no time for Casey to react, to start kissing him back, and Casey may be getting a criminal record, might get beaten even further for this if anyone finds out, but Casey doesn’t care.

Dex sucks on Casey’s swollen lip, Casey holds on to Dex at the nape of his neck, anchoring their bodies together, sliding his leg between Dex’s and it’s only when Dex pulls away that Casey lets go.

“What are you doing?” Casey asks, slightly breathless, voice gravelly and Dex should not find that as attractive as he does.

Dex shrugs in reply. “Might as well give them something to actually talk about.”

“Dex-” Casey begins, but doesn’t get to finish because the front door is crashing open and both boys know that their time is up.

Gingerly, Casey steps away from Dex, putting an acceptable distance between them.

He doesn’t say anything else, just holds up a hand in a wave before he is escorted through the doors. Dex swallows thickly and continues to stand in the empty car park well after Casey is inside.



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