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Sour Grape #2, Wintergreen #12

Author: winebabe
Title: Put Up a Fight
Story: The Gemini Occurrence (Poverty Club ‘Verse)
Rating: R (offensive language, gratuitous swearing)
Flavor(s): Sour Grape #2: don’t just stand there; Wintergreen #12: off the cuff
Extra(s)/Topping(s): Malt Prompt: roisin_farrell: "Vic causes a brawl in the cafeteria."
Word Count: 2,536
Summary: October 2020. Vic quits high school but the first thing he does is go back.
Notes: Victor Eastman, Ruby Eastman, Mona Lively, Casey Calhoun. (I was so drunk when I came up with this idea and I started watching Shameless again, just for reference as to why this piece exists.)

The weekend drags without Vic’s usual distractions, namely Casey and alcohol, and Ruby spends all her time at home casting sympathetic glances in his direction, so Vic elects to sleep the time away. He does still drink, but nowhere near as much as he had a few days earlier.

Both Gina and Mona try to text him a couple of times each, but when it becomes apparent that he isn’t going to respond, the texts stop. There’s nothing from Casey, either, which comes as less of a surprise but still disappoints Vic all the same. He really doesn’t care, Vic figures, and decides his impulsive decision to quit school was good. There’s no point in going otherwise.

The Eastmans don’t graduate. Ruby did, but just barely, and never did end up going to college--even community college. Vic was lucky to make it out of middle school, and the only reason he ever did succeed in the slightest in high school was because he met Casey and Gina, and he had a reason to actually wake up in the morning and go to class. Now, there’s no Casey, there’s no graduation ceremony for him, and there’s no reason to try.

Might as well be a real Eastman and drop the dreams of a diploma, a one-way ticket out of the Ditch.


Come Monday morning, though, Vic is antsy, and he stays up the entire night staring at his phone, scrolling through old text messages between himself and Casey. He rereads their old fights, their plans, rare expressions of affection from Casey. His throat feels tight and his chest aches as he stares at the screen, how the last text was from the night before their trip to Planned Parenthood, how the last thing they’d been talking about was Casey’s college applications.

I feel so goddamn fake typing this shit up, Casey had said, with a screenshot of an open Word document, half a page long with a list of his AP courses and extracurriculars.

ur extra whatevers are drinking & rly good 2am sex, Vic responded, and Casey had texted back immediately, telling him to shut up and tacking ‘lmao’ to the end for good measure.

It’s stupid; they’re not particularly important messages, but Vic misses seeing Casey’s name on his phone’s screen, and he misses exchanging their insulting, vulgar texts. He just misses Casey, and he wants to see him. He wants to talk to him, hoping against all hope that maybe Casey’s realized he made a mistake, that he misses Vic too and never really wanted to break up.

So Vic hauls himself out of bed and into the kitchen, where Ruby is sitting at the table, alone, staring mournfully into her half-empty mug of coffee with her chin in her hand. She looks up in surprise when Vic walks in and sits up a little straighter.

“Hey, kiddo. Didn’t expect to see you up this early--or at all. Feeling any better?”

“No,” he replies and isn’t sure if it’s the truth or a lie. If he's honest, he doesn't feel good. He doesn't feel bad. The only thing he feels is a distinct emptiness in the space that Casey left.

“Well,” Ruby says, “it's good at least that you're getting up and going to school. I'm proud of you.”

Vic grabs the pot of coffee and pours himself a mug. “Yeah.” He doesn’t have the heart to tell her that it’s going to be his last day, that he’s never going back. All he plans to do is go find Casey, try to talk to him, and nothing more.

“Vic?” Ruby asks, and he turns around from the kitchen window to meet her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

He takes a long drink of his coffee to buy himself some time. Ruby isn’t stupid; she can see through his lies, most of the time. If he tells her no, though, then she’s going to be worried, and Vic doesn’t want to see where her concern takes them. “Yeah,” he replies, smiling. “I’m fine. Can’t kill an Eastman that easily.”

Ruby smiles back, both her hands wrapped around her coffee mug. “Damn right.”


Vic stashes a bottle of whiskey in the trunk of his car for difficult situations, and when he finally pulls into a parking space outside the school, he finds that he’s in a difficult situation. No matter how much he wants to, he can’t text Casey. He doesn’t know what to say, and he’s afraid of the response he’d get, so he keeps opening and closing their text message string. Texting Gina or Mona doesn’t seem like a good idea, either, so Vic grabs the whiskey from the trunk of his car and then climbs into the backseat.

First period comes and goes, and so does second, and soon it’s almost lunch. Vic is drunk in the backseat of his car, half-asleep, staring at his cell phone as if it’ll come to life and tell him his next move. It doesn’t though, and eventually he makes the decision for himself.

The whiskey bottle goes back in the trunk, and once Vic has locked his doors and checked for the pathetic security guards that roam the grounds, he heads inside and immediately goes to the cafeteria. The halls are almost empty, save for a few students standing by their lockers, and he doesn’t even notice that people are staring at him until he gets to the end of the hall. A boy and a girl--freshmen, probably--are huddled together, whispering, and they immediately stop when he looks at them.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” he asks, but neither of them speak. He stares for another minute, for good measure, and then continues on, more important things on his mind.

He’s almost forgotten about the fact that there’s a horrifying dark bruise spread across his face, but before he manages to get to the cafeteria, he turns the corner and runs into Mona, hurrying away with a bottle of green tea in her hand.

“Shit!” she squeaks, pressing a hand to her chest and laughing. “Vic! We didn’t think you were going to--oh my God, your face.”

Vic blinks at her. “Yeah, my face,” he echoes. “Where’s Casey?”

“Cafeteria,” she tells him. There’s a probing look on her face, and he wants to escape before she can ask him any questions, but he isn’t quick enough. “What’s going on with you two, anyway? After the day in the city, Casey hasn’t said a word to me or Gina. And then you were gone, and we--”

“Wow, it’s a good thing it’s none of your damn business,” he replies.

“Yeah, I know, it’s just that--”

“Great, glad you understand,” Vic says and pushes past her, heading for the cafeteria doors. He’s shaking as he pushes them open, standing just inside the room and scanning the tables, looking for Casey. It takes a few minutes, but finally he does spot Casey, sitting at a table near the windows, surrounded by people he only recognizes as being AP students.

Casey laughs at something the girl beside him says, and Vic feels sick to his stomach. It’s only been a few days and already he looks different; his face is more relaxed, his body language more open, and the perpetual scowl is gone from his expression.

It hurts. It hurts to see him looking so happy with other people, and Vic storms his way across the cafeteria, his hands balled into fists. The only time he’s ever seen Casey drop his mask is when it’s just the two of them, when they’re together in his bed at night, or smoking cigarettes on the back porch, or when they’re driving around in his car. He feels betrayed, and is so wrapped up in his own head that he walks straight into Casey, oblivious to the fact that he’d been spotted from across the room.

“Vic,” Casey says, and his voice sounds low and threatening.

“What?” They’re posturing now, standing chest to chest in the middle of the cafeteria, staring each other down. Vic’s vision is blurring, just a little, and he can’t be sure he’s not seeing things when Casey’s expression goes soft.

“You need to go. I can smell the liquor on you.”

Vic laughs and shakes his head. “Oh, yeah, that’s the only reason I need to go. Not because I’ll embarrass you in front of your new friends, right?” He raises a hand and waves at Casey’s table while they stare at the two of them. “Hey, guys! Having fun with your little pet project? Think you’re gonna turn him into a good student, a regular college man?”

“Oh, shut up, Vic,” Casey mutters and reaches out to push him back. “You’re so goddamn dramatic.”

“Me?” Vic’s laughter comes out loud and sharp, borderline hysterical, and he’s oblivious to all the students staring at them. He has no awareness of the scene he’s causing. “You are the one who kept going on and on about what would happen if your dad found u--”

Casey reaches out and covers Vic’s mouth with such force that he yelps. “Do not,” he hisses in Vic’s ear, “talk about that here.”

“Talk about what?” Vic whispers back. “The fact that you’re a faggot?” He desperately wants Casey to hit him again, do something, but Casey just drops his hand and wipes it on his own jeans.

“Yeah, and we could also talk about how you like taking it up the ass,” he says with a shrug. “Your choice.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” There’s so much more Vic wants to say, but he holds his tongue. Casey just keeps watching him with the same mild expression on his face, looking at him like a stranger, and it turns Vic’s stomach.

“I don’t know, man. I could ask you the same thing.”

Vic nods, slowly and deliberately, and just when Casey starts to turn away, Vic takes a swing at him. His fist connects with Casey’s jaw and he watches as Casey stumbles directly into a full cafeteria table, knocking food into the laps of the students sitting nearest to the edge.

His fist aches no matter how much he shakes it out, but Vic grins maniacally, eyes fixed on Casey who’s struggling to get back to his feet. “That’s for last week, motherfucker!” he shouts.

“What the fuck?” Someone Vic doesn’t recognize, an unfortunate victim of Casey’s collision with the table, stands up to reveal a bright red pizza sauce stain down the front of his jeans. “You’re so fucking dead, Eastman.”

Vic can’t stop laughing. He’s giddy, full of alcohol with nothing left to lose, and welcomes it when the other guy cracks him right in the cheekbone. The pain that spreads across his already-injured face is pure ecstasy, and Vic goes down easy, giggling hysterically as he lies on the linoleum floor.

There are teachers coming; Vic can hear the frantic footsteps, loud voices yelling for everyone to calm down, to stay seated. Pizza-pants comes at him again, grabbing his shirt and hoisting him up like a rag doll, but Vic is only in the air for a few moments before he’s dropped again and he hears Casey, clear as day, say “Get the fuck off of him.”

His back hurts, his face hurts, and even though Vic wants to get up, maybe land a punch to Pizza-pants’s face, he stays down. “Victor Eastman,” a familiar voice says, and Vic glances up at the ceiling in time to catch the tomato-red face of his least-favorite person glowering down at him.

“Hey, AP Reuter.”


Ruby storms into the assistant principal’s office still in her pajamas, her hair in a messy bun on top of her head, looking more furious than Vic has seen her in years. She doesn’t even look at him as she sits down in the empty chair to his left, and they’re in there for a total of ten minutes before they’re back out in the hall, heading towards the exit, Ruby dragging Vic along by the wrist like a misbehaving child.

“Did you hear the part where Reuter said they could have called the cops?”

“Yeah, I heard,” Vic grumbles. His head aches, his hand aches, and he can’t get the image of Casey out of his mind. Standing there, staring at him like they were strangers in a bar fight and not lovers. Former lovers.

“I fucking hate you right now, Vic,” Ruby says. “I hate you. Expelled? Seriously? God, you had one more year! You could have graduated!”

“I wouldn’t have graduated and you know it,” Vic shoots back. “You knew I was always destined to drop out and go work in a gas station somewhere.”

She turns and narrows her eyes at him. “I guess so, Vic. If you believe that, then you never really had a choice, did you?”

“Shut up. I was gonna drop out anyway.”

They’re just outside the doors, standing in the cold October air, when Ruby finally raises her hand and smacks Vic in the back of the head with as much force as she can muster. “You’re just as bad as Clarence! Look what he amounted to, Vic! You wanna end up like him? You wanna end up just like dad?”

“It’s my destiny, isn’t it?” Vic replies, and Ruby smacks him again. “Ouch! Can’t you see I’m all black and blue already? Fuck, Ruby!”

“Better get used to it, Vic, because the world’s gonna keep fucking you up, right? That’s all you’re destined for, right?”

“Ruby,” he says, lowering his voice. She’s hysterical now, screaming, and he’s actually concerned. “Ruby, relax.”

“I’m not going to relax!” she shrieks. “Do you know how hard I’ve worked to keep this family going? Do you know what I’ve had to sacrifice to make sure you and Isaac have food, clothes, an education? A stable goddamn house? You two could have been shipped off to a fucking group home, Vic! Do you understand that?” Vic watches, horrified, as she starts crying right there on the curb outside of the school.

“Ruby…” He’s pissed and he wants to be selfish; there are plenty of things he would love to scream and cry about, but because Ruby beat him to the punch, he puts an arm around her shoulders and pulls her into a hug. “I’m sorry, okay? But I’m stupid, and we all know I’m stupid. I’ll get a job and help you with the money, alright? I don’t need an education.”

“That’s total crap and you know it,” Ruby says, but at least she’s calmed down some. “You’re not stupid, Vic. You just make stupid decisions.”

“I’m an Eastman,” he says, and that gets a laugh out of her.

“Right.” Ruby slips an arm around his waist and squeezes him back. “You know I love you, right? I’m super pissed at you but family sticks together.”

Vic nods his head. It’s a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless--he still has his family and no matter how much he fucks up, he can at least count on Ruby and Isaac to be there. “Love you too, sis.”

Comments

lost_spook
Apr. 12th, 2017 08:00 am (UTC)
Oh, dear, oh dear... I really love Ruby, though!
winebabe
Apr. 12th, 2017 12:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I think that's the general consensus, Ruby is the saving grace of the family and the whole Poverty Club verse, haha.

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