This is for my dear friend gabi_fics - just because ...
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Title: The Vineyard
Characters: Zeke / Casey
He didn’t get a wink of sleep the next days (and nights, too), he couldn’t eat and he felt sick.
Thomas and Sofie were more than concerned that he lost much weight, that he didn’t stop asking them about Casey, wanting to convince them that he had been here. That they were wrong. That he was alive. Of course they didn’t believe him (so it seemed), wanted to convince him themselves that it was simply impossible.
He had nightmares in which copper and iron, the sickening metallic taste filled his mouth, straining his teeth. Black and blue livid bruises were blooming along the skin of his neck and chest. Hardened bone and toned muscle became a dead weight in his slim body, exhaustion dulling the ability to maneuver properly in his own skin. When he woke after this dream it was hard for him to realize it wasn’t real. The dream repeated over and over again. He didn’t know what it meant, he was scared falling asleep night by night. Casey. He wanted to talk to Casey. But he stayed invisible. In proof of him being alive he wore the bracelet, he wouldn’t take it off until he knew what was going on.
Every day he walked along the corridor full of hope the staircase would appear only to learn that he couldn’t find it again. That he couldn’t find HIM.
Since this special evening he hadn’t seen – or should he say felt? – Casey again.
After a short while, after two weeks to be exactly, he started to keep his promise and asked Thomas if he would help him becoming a winegrower, awakening The Vineyard back to life again.
His elderly friend turned pale and whispered in awe “Your fate will be sealed…” This scared Zeke to death but all the questions he asked stayed unanswered. Thomas wouldn’t say more, not now.
The next day he found some hints, tips, papers, even a book about wine growing. He still wasn’t sure how Sofie and Thomas took it. Or other people. It was the first time he noticed that there were NO other people around. Of course, golden times of The Vineyard of former days were long gone, jobs weren’t available. He wanted to chance this so he went to the little village nearby, asked some experienced winegrowers and harvesters for help. People were surprised at first but they agreed with him to support him wherever and whenever they could.
He ploughed the vineyards, fertilized the soil, turning Mother Earth inside out. They won’t start wine growing this year because all was overgrown and needed special care. He put tons of weeds out of the way, some fields needed to be cleared for the vineyard with his excavator. They were looking for new sort of grapes for next year, hired 15 people constantly and 60 people for the harvest next year. He closed the website, he wanted to choose Sofie the new label for the wine bottles.
There was so much mustn’t forget and to be true, sometimes he wanted to run away though he knew he never would. He had to keep a promise. And he liked his new job or should he say task? It was more interesting as he thought it to be, much more harder, too. He worked hard physically and well thought out so there was barely time for thinking.
Once the week he went to Mills Block, the little village where his employees lived, sharing one or two (sometimes a little more) glasses of wine with them. Joshua Brown, one of the oldest wine growers here with lots of experiences and his adviser let him know how much people appreciated what he was doing, that he gave people hope for a better life. This touched him and he so wanted to tell them the reason why he did it. But he kept quiet. They wouldn’t believe him. This night he had too much red wine. They told him it was the rest of Casey’s wine. The name of the wine was ‘The Vineyard’s Heartblood’. It tasted sweet and deep red it trickled out of the corner of his mouth. Joshua had to carry him back home and this night for the first time he hadn’t nightmares.
When he looked over the hills the next morning with the biggest hangover he ever had, he was sure – as he never was before – this would be his home once and forever.
Zeke put all his savings in the vineyard and he bought it one week later secretly dirt cheap, only Tom and Sofie knew. They were his closest friends, they were like parents to him and the treated them with respect, friendship and love. His days were busy but the nights were sad and lonely. He had stopped talking about Casey many weeks ago because Tom and Sofie still grieved about the loss (it seemed).
Where was Casey? Zeke kept his promise but there was so much only Casey knew. He wanted to ask him but most of all he wanted to see him again.
This afternoon, it was October 7th, they got the new wooden oak barrels, hand-made, solid and they made him hold his breath. After they were settled in the cellars all people were gone, helpers, lurkers but most of them friends. He walked around the barrels touching the old wood, inhaling their scent. The taps felt smooth and soft, warm somehow. One of them he had to get, it was a barrel more than 70 years old and it had a silver plate with a special engraving: “Ezekiel & C’s Heartblood”. He touched it – it was shiny and it has been very expensive but it was worth every single Cent. Touching the smooth oak barrel he felt at home. This would be his favourite place because he felt – he didn’t know why – he felt closer to Casey than anywhere else.
When he sat down on an old chair he felt tired, looking at the bracelet it glittered more than usual in the moonlight. There was still his name on it, he touched it with his thumb, carefully as if it would be Casey’s face. Suddenly the bracelet turned cold, so cold that he winced. The lights started flickering, the wind was howling around the house. His hair stood on end when he looked at his jewelry.
Ezekiel changed to nothing, nothing changed to sparkles and sparkles changed to C…it stopped and then it turned to Casey… This time the name didn’t fade away.
A comfortable warmth was flooding through him, his heart suddenly felt lighter. Little tears ran down his cheeks, his shoulders shook. Why this tears, usually he didn’t cry. At least not easily … without any reason.
Then he kissed the bracelet, he kissed the name “I know you will be back, you won’t leave me, will you?” There were whispers, sounding like words. Words he didn’t understand first and then he could hear them clearly “I will never leave you…”
Spinning around, expecting nothingness - he was there. He came back.
Sinking down to the floor he passed out.