There were fourteen girls in the class and sixteen guys. Or, he heard Gabe say one time, thirteen girls and fifteen guys, plus Stokely and Casey.
The second day of the genetics unit Furlong put them in pairs to fill out a stupid worksheet about Punnet squares and dominant and recessive genes, and it was supposed to be random, but Casey thought it was just too perfect to be chance, him ending up as the extra girl, him ending up paired with Zeke. So everybody else ended up in cute little heterosexual couples, and even if a few of them made faces and made cracks, nobody else had to be the mother of Zeke Tyler's babies.
Because that was what it was about. Observe your own and your partner's phenotype, guess at your genotype, fill in the blanks, figure the probability for the kids you would have, if the two of you were to have kids. Flip a coin to decide which allele gets passed on. An exercise.
Attached and detached earlobes were easy enough; so was checking the ability to curl up your tongue, though it was a little embarrassing when Zeke insisted on seeing him do it, "for the sake of science."
It got a little bit more complicated when they got to eye color, because there were two genes to deal with instead of just one. And it didn't help matters that, once they got there, Zeke felt the need to go up to Furlong's desk and lecture him about oversimplifying a complex set of factors, still not fully understood by geneticists, just to make a point.
"I'm an educator, Zeke," Casey overheard. "Making points is... it's kinda the point. I'm trying to get the concept across."
"So you're gonna teach all these morons that eye color is just a question of two genes, blue or brown and blue or green, dominant or recessive, yes or no? They'll believe it, you know. They won't even bother to ask about why Steve's eyes are grey or why Casey's are bluer than anyone else on this planet."
"It's not about what would actually happen if you and Casey had children, for God's sake. I think we're all pretty clear that that's not something that's gonna happen, as much as we're all accepting of alternative lifestyles at this school."
And he hadn't said it very loud, but Casey didn't dare look around to see if anybody else had heard. He blushed and stared at the worksheet, and tried hard to think about genes and probability, and not whether Zeke was starting at him, or whether the rest of the class was staring. He tried to tune out the argument, and that got easier once Furlong stopped trying to mouth off and they got into terminology Casey didn't understand. It went on for another five minutes or so. Casey knew it was really a question of going through the motions for Zeke. Once he'd proven his superior intelligence he was willing to come back to the table and talk Casey through the worksheet.
"How's it going, honey? Get it all worked out yet? If it's a girl I hope she takes after her mom, but if it's a boy I hope he looks like me, or God help him."
"We do that part later," said Casey, stalwart and determined. "Right now it's just about the probability and it's... Yeah. So I guess the genes for my eyes would be, um..."
"Homozygous, Casey?" Zeke suggested, looking smug.
"Yeah," Casey muttered, pretending not to notice how close Zeke was standing. "Blue eyes are a recessive trait, so I must have both the same. Blue-blue and not brown, blue-blue and not green."
"Say the word, man, it's nothing to be embarrassed about."
"Fine, you fuck," and Casey rolled his eyes, truly more annoyed at the time they were wasting than at Zeke's attempt to embarrass him. Not that that wasn't a concern too. "Whatever, you win. I'm homozygous, okay?"
And from across the room he heard Delilah laugh, clear as a bell, but it was probably at one of Gabe's jokes, nothing to do with him.
Zeke nodded, smiled, as if satisfied with how well Casey was doing with the genetics lesson. Yeah, he was definitely in league with Furlong. Wanted to personally supervise Casey's mastery of the subject. "With you," he said, "everything laid out in front of your eyes, so to speak. Can't tell with me, see? 'Cause the brown-eyed gene is dominant. Homo, hetero, doesn't really matter, either way, it wins out."
"So for the first one," said Casey, very resolutely not looking at Zeke's brown eyes, "you could have brown-brown, or you could have brown-blue, right? You can't tell?"
"Can't tell from looking at me, but my mom's got blue eyes."
"So she must have blue-blue, blue-blue, like me, so she must have passed on one blue, um, one blue allele for each of these."
"Now you're getting it."
"So you'd have brown-blue for the first one, and either green-blue or blue-blue for the second one, depending on what you got from your dad."
"What color are my dad's eyes?"
"How the fuck should I know? I've never seen him." And how often do you see him? Casey chose not to add. And now that he dared to look, he saw Zeke staring at him with soft, beautiful, and apparently patient brown eyes. They really did want him to think through this. "Oh, right," said Casey after a few seconds. "His would have to be brown so he could pass that down to you. But we can't tell about the second one, the green gene."
"The gay gene, as it's known."
"G - E - Y, for green eye color gene. I know, I know" -- he was holding up his hands -- "it should be geck, but I guess that wasn't catchy enough for the geneticists, so it's the GEY gene, and BEY for the other one, brown eye color."
"That's the stupidest thing I've heard all day."
"Worse than the idea of you giving birth to my beautiful brown-eyed babies?"
"Not necessarily," said Casey, distracted, still trying to figure out what to fill in for Zeke's side (the top) of the green eye gene square, "we haven't worked that part out yet."
"Worse than the idea of you giving birth to my beautiful brown- and green- and blue-eyed babies?"
"So what you're saying," said Casey triumphantly, "Is that your GEY gene is heterozygous."
And Zeke, God love him, actually stopped smirking and teasing for a second and looked genuinely pleased and more than a little impressed. "Right," he said. "My dad's mom had brown eyes, his dad and his brother have blue, and his sister has green."
"So your grandma must have had brown-blue and green-blue, like you. Only... how can you tell your dad got the green gene and not the blue one, for the, um, BEY gene? The brown would cover it up either way, right? More melanin or whatever."
"Can't tell for sure, not until we have the babies. Let's just say I've got one of each though, to have something to fill out on the sheet."
"Then if the baby gets blue and blue from me, blue and green from you, she'll end up with green eyes. One in four chance."
"But if both the genes she gets from you are blue, then her eyes will be blue too."
"And gorgeous." There was a slight, awkward pause. "If it's a girl, anyway," Zeke recovered.
"One in eight for a blue-eyed girl. But odds are one in two he or she gets your brown allele for the BEY gene, and that's stronger than the blue or the green."
"You got it all worked out."
"Guess so," said Casey, and he filled in the last of the blanks on that part of the sheet.
"So what are the chances you let me fuck you?"
"What the fuck, Zeke?" Casey startled and had to work hard to keep his voice quiet; he was furious. Zeke was standing close and talking low, and Casey didn't think anyone else had heard that last bit. "God, are you thirteen or something? Do you have to turn everything I say into some lame joke?"
"Who's joking?" said Zeke, quiet, relaxed, "And who says it's just a question of what you say?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm the one who's trying to get the stupid assignment finished."
"No," Zeke continued tolerantly, "not biology class. Biology. Living things. Organs, for instance, that act like they have a mind of their own. Like that," and Zeke's hands didn't move but his eyes were unmistakably targeting the bulge in Casey's jeans. "It gets you hard thinking about you and me. Is it the fact that we're planning on having a family, or is it just the idea of my dick in your ass that does it for you?"
"That's not..." he'd been hoping Zeke wasn't paying attention. Fat chance of that. Zeke Tyler had sex on his mind every minute of the day. Not that Casey didn't, but at least Casey knew to shut up about it and save everyone the embarrassment of...
"It's biology, Case." Zeke's voice cut smoothly into his thoughts. "It's response to a stimulus. It's cool, okay? Nothing to be embarrassed about."
Casey nodded. "Sure," he said. "Who's embarrassed?"
"Right," Zeke continued easily, softly, his lips inches from Casey's ear, "and if I decided to bend you over this table right now and pull down your jeans and start fucking you and pumping your dick till you came all over my hands, that would just be response to a stimulus too. Could happen to anybody."
And Casey, once again more annoyed than embarrassed, decided to tell Zeke what he was really feeling. "Fucking tease," he ground out between clenched teeth.
Zeke tensed, surprised, but didn't move away. "You got something you wanna tell me, Casey?"
Casey, not trusting himself to speak in a room too crowded with teenagers, stared at Zeke in silence for what felt like a couple years, then without warning turned his back on him and stalked up to the front of the room. "Can I take the hall pass, Mr. Furlong?" he said, and Furlong nodded, indifferent, even though there were only five minutes left till the end of class and any other teacher would have told him to wait.
And Casey didn't really expect Zeke to follow him, because only one student was supposed to leave the classroom at a time, but then Zeke was never one to worry too much about school rules and neither, for that matter, was Furlong. Zeke followed him, then Casey followed Zeke into the chem supply room, and again Casey heard Delilah's soft laugh and Gabe's harsher snicker from inside the lab.
Casey must have looked nervous because Zeke said, "It's okay, I've used this room before. Say whatever you want. We can hear them but they won't hear our little lovers' spat."
"Shut up, Zeke."
"Oh, right, I'm sorry, it makes you uncomfortable," and that classic Zeke Tyler smirk, and another casual glance at Casey's boner, and Casey couldn't stand it anymore. If Zeke wasn't going to listen to him he'd just have to shut him up some other way. And Casey pushed Zeke back against the door, and reached a hand up and around the back of his head and carding through his hair, and before Zeke had time to get over the shock and get away, Casey pulled him closer and kissed him on the lips. Firm, but not hard. No tongue, and almost no movement. No exploration and no passion, just... a statement. Then Casey pulled away, and Zeke stared.
Casey was pleased to see that at least the smirk had disappeared, and Zeke was only staring at Casey's face now, though when Casey let his own eyes stray downward he could see he wasn't the only one who was aroused. He felt himself trembling a little bit, but he didn't feel scared in the least. "It's not about being embarrassed, he said simply. "It's about you doing something useful with that mouth. People tell me I'm a coward, tell me that every fucking day, but you know what? If you had any guts at all, you wouldn't just talk about fucking me. You'd do it."
Zeke's mouth opened, but no words came out. He squinted that weird, sexy squint he used when he was trying to figure something out, and Casey smiled.
"You won't shut up about how you've got condoms and lube in your car, whether anyone wants to hear about it or not. Well listen, I'm sick of hearing about them and sick of hearing about your supposed sexual prowess, and I want to see them, and I want to fucking feel it for once. Is that something you can give me, Zeke, or is it all just talk?"
Zeke was still speechless, motionless, and beautiful then as Casey had ever seen him. That insufferable smirk, the attitude that he was above it all and none of it mattered to him was gone, and Zeke looked as lost and wanting and exposed as Casey felt every day. Every single fucking day, Casey thought, and he stared back, and waited, and hoped.
Then Casey heard louder voices and the scraping of chairs from the classroom next door. The noise seemed to startle Zeke out of a spell, and he looked at the ground and then at the door.
"We didn't turn in the sheet," said Zeke, his voice rough, his mouth dry.
The fuck you care.
"I put our names on it," said Casey. "Furlong likes us both, it won't be a problem."
Zeke was licking his lips, stalling. "Yeah," he said. "So I'm... I'm sorry about... You're right, okay? All talk, no action, you found me out. So you don't have to put up with my shit anymore. I'll leave you alone."
And Casey smirked and tried to feel superior, wondering if Zeke felt this empty and stupid and frustrated whenever he wore this superior look on his face. And knowing he'd pushed too far too fast, knowing he'd lost, he heard Zeke's words, "You win, Casey," and watched Zeke duck out into the hall.