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A Kind of Merry War

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Derek knocks on her door two days later.

“Derek,” she says formally, and swivels her desk chair around to face him. They hadn’t made out at all yesterday, no matter how much she’d wanted to (and she’d wanted to, which Casey really doesn’t know how to deal with right now). But despite everything they hadn’t made out since Monday in the game closet, which Casey thinks is a moral victory deserving of the highest sort of praise. Go them!

They’re really getting the hang of this whole not-making-out thing. They are so good at this.

“Hey, Case.”

“I was actually hoping we could talk,” she says, inclining her head. They’re going to be so grown-up and practical about this. It’s going to be great! “Come in.” She gestures grandly at her room.

Derek sits down on the corner of her bed closest to her, his knees almost bumping hers.

“Talking is overrated,” he says, going off script right away. “What if we - and bear with me, I know it’s a crazy idea - what if we just not talk, instead.”

Casey frowns. Um. “What if we don’t talk?” What a dumb suggestion!

“Yeah.” Derek says the word like it’s the easiest thing in the world, like, duh. Why was she expecting anything else? This is Derek, after all.

“Well, it seems like that plan hasn’t been working very well for us so far.”

“I disagree. I think it’s working great.”

“You would,” she mutters.

“I do.”

“Don’t you think that instead of -“ Casey can feel heat seeping into her face, turning her cheeks the blotchy red she hates. “Uh… that maybe we should… stop?”


“Yeah. Stop.” She waves a hand around, encompassing everything around them: the house they live in, the siblings they share. Their parents, who she’s pretty sure didn’t marry so their teenage son and daughter could hook up whenever they felt like it. “Because.”

Derek flops backwards on her bed and seems to think it over, frowning at her ceiling.

“Nah,” he says finally. Like it’s that easy.

“What? Just… no? You think we should just keep on…” She trails off again, then settles for flapping her hands around again in Derek’s direction. Surely he’s not suggesting they keep sucking face, god.

Derek lifts himself up on his elbows. “Why not?”

“Where to start? One: our parents are definitely married. Like, married married.”

“So we’re doing a Clueless thing or whatever. We can do that.” She can hear a thin note of defiance in the words. like he’s looking to fight somebody about this.

Casey opens her mouth, then closes it again. “Well, we… we can’t tell anybody. That doesn’t bother you?”

“Why, does it bother you?”

She pretends nonchalance, an anti-Casey attitude that he’s got to know is at least somewhat fake. “A little,” she sniffs.

“Well, we don’t have to tell anybody right now, do we?”

“Right at this second?”

“Sure. Right now. We run downstairs, call an emergency meeting with the fam, and tell everybody what’s been happening, right now.”

“I mean - I guess not.”

“Well, there you go. We don’t have to tell anybody today, or even tomorrow. But… that doesn’t mean we’re never going to tell anybody, right?”

“Is this Derek-logic? I feel like this is Derek-logic.”

“Look, what I mean is - obviously you’re into me. And who could blame you?” Derek spends a moment looking super smug. Casey rolls her eyes. “And I’m - I mean, you’re - you’re not half-bad. Or whatever.”


“I know.”

“Way to woo a girl, Derek.”

Derek sits up again, looking at her closely, and leans in to where she’s sitting at her desk, almost touching his nose with hers. “So you’re saying you want me to woo you?” he whispers, and Casey feels suddenly hot. He’s too close.

Casey pushes Derek away, shoving his shoulders, and he collapses backwards on her bed again, laughing.

“So,” he says, after he’s stopped laughing. “All I’m saying is we don’t have to tell anybody until we want to. Just not this instant, eh?”

“I guess,” she agrees, doubtfully. “I mean, I guess, for a while - for a little bit - it would be okay to not tell anybody. But -“ This conversation isn’t turning out the way that Casey had role played in her head. “We really shouldn’t.”

“But I think we should.”


Derek hesitates for the first time, and it occurs to Casey that this whole conversation they’re having - Derek hasn’t stuttered once, despite his normal, dumb allergic reaction to all things that deal with actual human emotions. And sure, she guesses they’re not really talking about real, hardcore feelings or anything (since they’re mostly talking about whether or not they should continue to make out, which is definitely a subject in Derek’s wheelhouse), but Casey can hear for the first time how careful the things Derek is saying are.

How he’d probably thought about what he was going to say to her.

Casey’s heart starts to beat faster.

“Because I want to,” he says finally. He speaks slowly, like he’s trying out the words as he says them.

The pulse in Casey’s ears suddenly seems very loud.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” he continues, staring at her. “And I’m not saying we have to do anything crazy, or whatever. We don’t have to tell anybody, we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to. It’s just that, for right now, I’d just like to - I don’t know. I’d like to -”

“Keep sticking your tongue down my throat?” Casey asks without thinking. As soon as the words leave her mouth, she wants to die of embarrassment. God! Making out randomly with Derek is totally warping her brain. Maybe he’s infecting her with his malcontent teenage awfulness.

Derek sneaks a glance over at her. “It sounds hot when you say it like that.” Weirdly, it doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

Casey clears her throat, more disconcerted by that than anything else he’s said so far.

Derek pulls himself a little closer to her again.

“What are you doing?” she asks, more than a little unnerved.

Derek licks his lips, and Casey feels her gaze flicker down to Derek’s mouth before she can stop herself. “Would it be cool if I kissed you again?” he asks.

Her heart stops for a moment, then restarts in a wave of panic. She shifts backwards a bit, desperately trying to keep a hold of herself and the whole situation. “Oh, so now you’re asking?”

Derek grins at her, with more cheek than she’s strictly comfortable with. “You didn’t ask me when you jumped me in the gym on Monday.”

“You’re seriously going to bring that up!?”

“C’mon, Case, that was, like, the single hottest thing that’s ever happened to me at school.”

“Oh god.”

“By far.”

“I can’t believe I made out with you at school,” she moans.

“…By ever.”

“What would my teachers think? What would Paul think?”

“I don’t know what type of information you normally share with your teachers, but you could probably not tell them that part.”

“It was just so - not me, you know?”

Derek smirks. “It felt like you.”

“Eew, Derek, gross!” She swats at him, and Derek cracks up. Ugh, he’s such a boy.

“All I’m saying is,” he leans back in close to her, “you could do it again.”

“Could I?” she asks.

He hesitates, and some expression Casey can’t decipher flickers across his face. “I wouldn’t stop you.”

She feels herself drift closer to him, despite herself.

And there are so many reasons why this is a bad idea - Casey made a list yesterday in her notebook, handwritten, with several key points emphatically underlined, DO NOT MAKE OUT WITH DEREK AGAIN, FOR REAL THIS TIME - but she’s is surprised to discover that, deep inside of herself, she really just - doesn’t care.

She likes Derek. She likes Derek! Derek! And sure, sometimes she also can’t stand Derek either, but maybe those feelings are just two sides of the same coin.

She really does want to kiss him again.

“You should be so lucky,” she whispers, and Derek exhales softly.

She’s not sure who kisses who this time, both of them shifting together, toward the same place.

It’s chaste, just the faintest touch of his lips against hers. It’s - nice.

…It’s the middle of the afternoon.

The sun is shining.

Actual birds are actually chirping outside of her actual window.

And she is kissing her stepbrother, on purpose, in her own bedroom, sitting on her bright blue rolling chair.

She’s suddenly aware of how very weird, how very funny it is, this thing that they’re doing.

Derek pulls back a little to frown at her. “What’s with the laughing?”

Which just makes Casey laugh harder.

“You’re such a dork,” Derek says, and pokes a finger against her stomach.

You’re the dork!” Casey retaliates, flicking him on his thigh.

“Dork? Dork?” Derek yanks her off the chair and tackles her back into the mattress then, and Casey is laughing, almost hysterically, the whole thing they’re doing suddenly hilarious.

“You’re dead, D,” she says, and tickles him, right below his ribs.

Derek convulses on top of her, laughing, his weight heavier than she’d expected, pressing her down. It’s harder to breathe with him on top of her.

Strangely, it helps. It’s helps a lot. She knows how to wrestle with Derek, she knows how to do this, and it’s a lot less weird and overwhelming than everything else they’ve been doing.

“You are…“ Derek gasps, laughing, “…so dead. I’m gonna get… you. You are… ”

“Oh really? You’re gonna get me? Is that right?”

Derek slides a hand up her side and twitches his fingers just under her armpit, and Casey kicks a leg convulsively, giggling and trying to bat Derek off. He’s working the weight advantage, leaning down hard into her to keep her from squirming away.

“Stop it!”

Derek doubles down. “No mercy!”

They fight each other, laughing and shoving, until they end up sprawled next to each other on top of Casey’s bed, breathing hard and buzzing with physical exertion. Derek grins up her ceiling. They’re not touching, but Casey is intensely aware of her hand on the mattress, only a couple inches away from Derek’s.

“You’re such a freak,” Casey says, and starts to laugh again.

“It takes one to know one.”

“Ha ha.”

Casey sits up and shakes out her messed-up hair, combing her fingers through the tangles, then pulls her hair back into a low ponytail. She glances over at Derek. He’s watching her, that strange expression back on his face.

“What?” Casey double-checks for any escaped bits of hair. “Is something wrong?”


Casey rolls her eyes. “Okay, weirdo. C’mon, I’m starving.”

Derek jumps up, back into motion, back to normal in the blink of an eye. “You’re speaking my language, Case.”

“What, food?” Casey thumps her chest. “Me Derek, me so hungry.”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“And that’s when I say to the guy,” George gestures with his fork, flourishing it like a sword, “see if I care if you file that deadline extension!”

“Oh my,” Nora says, amused.

“What’d you do?” Marti asks, eyes wide, like she’s actually following George’s thrilling tale of office politics and lawyer in-fighting.

George puffs up another inch. “Well, I went to the guy’s boss, right, and I said…”

Casey can hardly listen to the conversation. She can’t stop thinking about why her and Derek had just talked about upstairs. About what she’s pretty sure the two of them just agreed to do again.

Derek catches her eye across the dinner table and arches an eyebrow. It sends a crazy thrill down Casey’s spine.

She’s kissed Derek! Technically, she’s more-than-kissed Derek. They’ve, like, hardcore made out. Derek actually came in his pants after grinding on her leg for a while and sticking his tongue in her mouth. God, it seems so dirty, thinking about the two of them doing that, when she’s sitting here, at their pleasant and brightly lit family dinner table, with their parents and siblings happily chatting around them.

They could make out again tonight. The realization floors her. She could slip over to Derek’s room after everybody else is in bed, or he could come over to her bedroom, and they could… they could…

Casey looks back down at her plate, heart beating fast.

Which is when Derek slides a foot up her calf, pressing up against the back of her leg, and Casey promptly chokes on a piece of potato.

“You okay, Casey?” her mom asks, interrupting George, as Lizzie helpfully pound her back. Derek’s laughing on the other side of the table, smirking to himself, the jerk. She can’t believe she’d just been thinking about kissing him again.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” She waves Lizzie off and gulps down the rest of her glass of milk.

“You sure?”

Casey takes a deep breath in, eyes watering. “I’m sure.”

“Casey’s a klutz even when it comes to eating,” Derek explains cheerfully. But there’s a funny slant to the way he’s acting, catching her eye again, that makes her think that he wants her to play along with what he’s doing.

We don’t have to tell anybody right now.

“You should talk, Derek,” she says, careful to make sure to sound just like normal, like they way they interact all the time.

“Hey, now.” George holds both hands up. “Keep it civil, you two.”

“I will if she will,” Derek says, stabbing a finger in her direction.

Casey puts on her Going To War face and glares. She glares hard. “I will civil you into the ground, D.”

“Is… that a good thing?” Nora asks the table at large. George shrugs.

“I like ketchup!” Marti announces out of nowhere, and Derek leans over and fist bumps Marti behind Edwin’s chair.

“You go, Smarti.”

The conversation devolves from there into a spirited debate about whether or not ketchup counts as a vegetable. Casey waits a couple minutes before putting her plan into motion.

She stretches her foot out underneath the table, feeling blindly with her toes. She’s terrified that she’s going to run into the wrong person and end up playing footsie with Edwin or Lizzie or her mom, of all people. The whole thing would be ridiculously embarrassing. So Casey moves carefully, trying to judge everybody’s relative positions.

Her foot nudges another sock-clad foot, and, across the table, Derek stops chewing.

At the end of the table, George scoffs loudly. “Then why do tomatoes have seeds? Think about that!”

“Do you know how much sugar is in ketchup?” Nora asks. “You might as well call chocolate a vegetable because it was originally made from a bean.”

Casey rests her foot on top of Derek’s, purposefully, then wiggles her toes.

Edwin perks up. “Chocolate’s made from a bean?” He takes a small notebook out from his back pocket and flips it open, taking a pen out from behind his ear. “Interesting,” he murmurs, and scribbles something down.

Derek narrows his eyes at Casey.

She raises an eyebrow at him, daring him to make something of it. She can feel the heat of his foot against her own.

“The cocoa bean,” George says.

Nora scoffs. “Don’t make it a vegetable.”

“It also doesn’t make ketchup not a vegetable, because tomatoes definitely are.”

“One of my teachers said that tomatoes are actually a fruit,” Lizzie pipes up.

“They would,” George mutters.

Derek runs a toe along the instep of her foot, and Casey smothers a giggle. Derek grins at her from across the table.

“Well, somebody’s in a better mood,” Nora says mildly, and Casey drops her foot back to the ground again, trying not to blush.

It takes forever for dishes to get done, and then Nora suggests a movie night, and before Casey knows it they’re all bundled up on the couch, watching the opening of the latest Narnia movie. Derek’s in his normal chair and Casey’s on the far end of the sofa, sharing a blanket with Marti and sipping a mug of hot chocolate.

Casey spends most of the movie trying not to look too much in Derek’s direction. It’s harder than she thought it would be.

The normal bedtime rush bustles into action after the credits roll, and Casey lingers downstairs and does homework she can barely concentrate on until the house quiets down and she sees Derek start to head up the stairs. She puts her books away in her bag and catches his eye as she follows him up the stairs.

“Hey. In here,” Derek says, glancing down the hallway and back at the stairs before he pushes the door to his room open, pulling her through after him. It’s all very secret agent-y, and looks way weirder than if Derek had just pushed her into his room directly, arguing with her like normal.

He closes the door behind them, and turns toward her, then pauses.

And then it doesn’t feel easy anymore, like it had when they were playing footsie under the dinner table downstairs, or even when they were watching the movie together with the family. It feels awkward again, that smothering sense of weirdness thick in the air.

Casey shifts her weight to her other foot.

“Pop a squat, Case,” he says, and indicates his bed.

She makes herself respond. “Gross, Derek.”

“Oh, so sorry, princess.” Derek sketches an exaggerated bow in her direction, rolling his hands mockingly. “Forsooth take a seat.”

Casey rolls her eyes, but sits anyway.

She dimly notices that Derek’s bed is made. She’s pretty sure Derek’s bed wasn’t made earlier, when she’d walked past his open door after school. Which means - he’d made his bed, sometime before dinner.

For her.

For her to be in his room, now.

He’d made his bed for her.

She’s still processing this rather shocking piece of information when Derek drops the act and sits down next to her. He clears his throat.


“So I’ve been thinking,” he says, then coughs, like he’s nervous.

What on earth would make a guy like Derek nervous?

“…What?” she asks again, a little more cautiously.

“So we were talking earlier, right, and then I was thinking about it during the movie, and thought that we’re not - um.” He takes a deep breath in. “We’re not even.”

It’s not what Casey thought he was going to say.

“We’re not even? What does that mean?”

“Such suspicion,” he chides, which is total crap, and he knows it.

“What does even mean, Derek?”

“And here I thought you were the smart one out of the two of us.”

Casey tries to keep her voice quiet. Why is Derek always like this!? “We are so even! I don’t owe you anything, and you know it.”

“I’m not saying you owe me,” Derek says, sounding careful again. “I’m saying I owe you.”

She narrows her eyes.



“Alright,” she says, reluctantly. “I’ll bite. What do you owe me for?”

“You know when we were… you know. In the Prince.”

Casey feels herself turn red. She’s hyper-aware of Derek’s weight next to her, making the mattress dip in his direction. “Shut up, Derek.“

“And you know how I…” Derek continues, talking over her. “At the end.”

“Seriously, we don’t have to -”

“Kablooey,” Derek says helpfully, and then mimes something like a nuclear explosion.


“Kablooey?” she repeats faintly.

“Kablooey,” Derek agrees, and clears his throat. “The way I figure is that - is that I owe you one. And then we’ll be, um. Even again.”

“You owe me one?”

“I owe you one,” Derek repeats, stressing the word with a funny edge, like he’s waiting for her to get something.

He owes her…

Oh. Oh.

Casey stands up fast, hitting Derek with her arm on her the way up. “Uh,” she says.

“C’mon, Case,” Derek says, and tugs at her elbow. Casey plops inelegantly back down next to him, lying on her back, and looks up at the ceiling of his bedroom.

“Is this your idea of a joke?”


“So you seriously want to…” She can’t even make herself say it.

Derek swallows. “Yeah. I want to.” His voice goes strange, oddly thick, when he says the words. A nervous, giddy, unreal sort of hilarity starts to build up inside of her.

“Have you ever done… that… before?” she asks. She kind of guesses he has, with the way he talks and the girls he scores, but maybe that’s just talk.

Derek hesitates. “Sort of.”

“Sort of? What does sort of mean?”

“It means I’ve… you know, done the third base thing once but we… didn’t really do much.”

She wonders, distantly, through the buzzing in her head, who that happened with. Sally? Some other girl?

Derek reclines next to her, propped up on an elbow, facing her. Their legs are touching. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You know.” He sticks out his chin defiantly. He’s so close to her. Casey starts to breathe faster.

“Not really either, I guess.”

“What does that mean?”

She squirms. “It means not exactly, stupid.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means - I mean, I’ve done some…” She trails off. “I haven’t done that.”

Derek leans in, over her, so their noses are touching. “Do you want to?”

“Yes,” she whispers, the word out of her mouth before she really thinks about what she’s agreeing to. Her brain catches up with the rest of her a second later, and a wave of horrifying embarrassment follows fast. Casey feels like she’s about to start giggling or probably die out of sheer nervousness, because she can’t believe she just agreed to… what, exactly? Let Derek try to get her off? How are they actually discussing this as a real thing? What does that even mean??

Derek breathes in sharply at her answer, and it occurs to Casey that he’d probably been expecting her to say no.

“I don’t -“ she starts to say.

“What do you -“ Derek says, at the same time.

They both pause, and then Derek cracks a funny sort of grin.

Casey turns to hide her face in his shoulder. “Oh my god, this is so embarrassing.”

“Tell me about it.”

Derek touches her bare arm, hesitates, then kisses her.

Casey tries to remember how great it’s been to make out with Derek, how nice it is but also how understandable it mostly is, in a surreal, she-really-shouldn’t-be-kissing-her-stepbrother sort of way. But all she can think about instead is how she just agreed to probably let Derek stick a hand down her pants, and god, she can’t stop thinking about it now!

But Casey can’t make herself take the words back. It would be dumb to turn him down at this point anyway, right? She can just imagine him teasing her about wimping out, and NO WAY is she ever going to let Derek get the upper hand on her for something like this. Right.

Because it’s like, sure, she’s masturbated. She’s not a dummy; she knows she’s going on. But she’s also not particularly good at it, a fact which she’s always found embarrassing and not a little bit annoying - it’s freaking masturbation. Isn’t everybody in the world supposed to be a natural at getting off? Casey’s a go-getter, after all. Casey’s the type of girl who comes home with straight As and Gets Stuff Done, the type of girl who excels at anything she puts her mind to. Masturbation ought to be a cinch.

But most of the time when she tries it she feels like she’s randomly wiggling her fingers around between her legs. She knows where her clitoris is, and she likes how it feels when she sticks her fingers inside of herself, but mostly she just manages to give herself a nice, warm, pulsing sort of feeling that she can’t seem to do much with.

The couple times she’d managed to come have almost felt like an accident, an orgasm-y by-product of something else she happened to have been doing while her fingers were hanging out near her vagina. The only thing Casey knows is that it’s better when she’s turned on beforehand, swollen and sticky, which is kind of gross but also kind of hot.

The first time she’d orgasmed had been a revelation; she remembers lying in her bed, panting and staring up into the darkness, and thinking, oh. So that’s why guys do it.

Derek shifts his weight, crawling partially on top of her, continuing to kiss her.

And she can feel Derek’s erection again, like that time they’d made out in the Prince, against her leg. He’s not pressing it up against her, though - it’s just sort of… there, heavy against her thigh. Derek’s kissing is turning dirtier, messier, and Casey’s nervousness begins to fade into a heady, breathless rush, sort of like she’d felt when the two of them were drunk (only, like, the 100% sober, making out-only version of that feeling).

She doesn’t understand why this is so good. Her reaction to Derek is crazy, it’s off the charts. She doesn’t understand it at ALL.

She shoves Derek’s shoulders and says, “Hey. Take off your shirt.”

Derek complies almost embarrassingly fast, peeling his t-shirt off over the top of his head, like he’d been waiting for her to ask him to strip this entire time.

Casey stops him from kissing her again, though.


“Let’s, um…” Casey tries to push Derek sideways, over next to her. God, why can’t he just read her mind or something and magically do what she wants him to do?

A dim light of understanding dawns in Derek’s eyes after a moment, and he flops down next to her then, onto his back. He pulls her waist along with him to roll her over, on top of him.

Casey ends up straddling his hips, looking down at him. She wiggles a bit on her knees, trying to get comfortable, and Derek’s eyes go funny when she does that. He grabs her hips - to stop her or help her, Casey’s not sure.

She’s the one to kiss Derek this time, leaning down to press her mouth against his. She puts her hands on either side of Derek’s head, bracing her body above his. His chest is pale in the dark room underneath her, thin and wiry but also pretty strong looking.

Derek puts his hands on her hips, and nudges her shirt up an inch or two. Derek’s hand moves up under her shirt a bit more, brushing her stomach. His hand hovers in the vicinity of her bellybutton, drifting against her skin. She’s intensely aware of her the waistband of her jeans, an inch or two below where his fingers are.

“You want to lose your shirt, too?” he asks, kind of flippantly, his tone at odds with the way he’s looking at her.

“Why, so we can match?”

“Um, sure. ‘Cause of that.”

She sits back on her heels to strip her shirt off over her head, because at least this part of what they’ll potentially be doing she understands. She’s done this part before; she knows she likes it.

Derek’s hands drift up to her chest, and trace along the underwire in her bra, underneath her breasts. Casey shivers.


“A little,” she says.

Derek laughs under his breath, and Casey kisses him again, to shut him up. This is the best way she’s ever found to shut Derek up, bar none. She should have been doing this years ago! It would have saved both of them so much trouble.

Derek’s palms slide up over her breasts after a while, and Casey lets him feel his way around, squeezing and kneading enthusiastically. Casey doesn’t really get a ton out of it, but occasionally his fingers slide past her nipples in a way that makes her breath catch. Derek, at least, seems to be super into it.

“You have great boobs,” Derek says after a while, his voice very serious.

“Thanks,” she says, barely managing to turn the word from a question into a statement at the last moment.

Derek lunges then, wrapping his arms around her whole body like he’s tackling her, and the next thing Casey knows her back is hitting the mattress and Derek’s weight is on top of her again.

They make out for a while longer after that, but Derek doesn’t make any move to take her bra off or push a strap down, like Casey was half-guessing he might. After a bit, though, he rubs his thumbs over her nipples instead of just going to town on her whole breast; Casey gasps the feeling helplessly into Derek’s mouth, a hollow ache thrumming wetly between her legs.

It seems to turn Derek on even more, her response to him, his breathing going irregular and fast. He shifts his weight off her, lying down next to her instead of right on top of her, and reaches down to undo the button of her jeans.

Casey doesn’t even think about it, she just lifts her hips and helps him take her jeans the rest of the way off, yanking the zipper down, wiggling when the fabric sticks to her thighs. Her underwear is white, pale in the darkness, and she thinks it probably looks nice, mostly matching her blush pink bra.

She finishes kicking off her jeans right as it occurs to her that she is lying on Derek’s bed.

In her bra and underwear.

A shiver like fear or anticipation crawls down her skin, raising goosebumps on her bare legs. She rubs her thighs together and licks her lips. She feels on edge like this, exposed and turned on in equal measure.

She tenses, waiting for… something… when Derek starts kissing her again, like nothing’s changed despite the fact that she’s, like, 90% naked now, the palm of his hand grasping the jut of her hip.

After a minute, Derek slides his hand down the front of her underwear, and he pauses when he reaches her crotch, two fingers pressed there, hesitating awkwardly.

And oh god. It occurs to her for the first time that he can probably feel that she’s wet, which is a thought so embarrassing that Casey wants to sink into the bed and disappear on the spot. She’s, like, pulsing, and she can feel the slickness between her own legs, sort of like she’s peed herself a little bit, and it’s probably made her underwear all disgusting and sticky. It’s kind of horrifying that Derek knows this about her now.

“You gonna do it?” she goads, to hide her nerves. She can feel his fingers, motionless against the cotton of her underwear. What’s his deal anyway? She thought all teenage boys lived for this moment, getting a hand down some girl’s pants. The longer her waits the more on-edge it makes her, like she’s doing something wrong, like he’s about to pull back and start laughing, like maybe this was all just some big, awful joke this entire time.

And she knows that’s not really true, but the fear is there for one quick, stomach-clenching moment. She feels crazy vulnerable like this. It’s hard not to be nervous.

Derek takes a deep breath.

“You have to tell me what you like,” he says then, and Casey almost wants to scream with frustration. Why doesn’t he just KNOW, why is Derek making this so DIFFICULT. “You gotta promise to tell me, okay?”

“Fine,” she snaps. “Fine, whatever, but you can’t just…”

Derek moves his fingers against her, rubbing in an awkward little circle, and Casey snaps her mouth shut.

He’s not trying to get under her underwear, just… rubbing on top of the cotton, and occasionally bumping up against her clitoris, making the muscles of her stomach clench whenever he does. It feels nice, but also a little weird, because she never just rubs the fabric of her underwear against herself.

Derek slides a leg over one of her thighs then, so his knee is between her, pinning her legs apart, and he buries his face further into her neck, his fingers moving in semi-circles the whole time. His breath is hot against her neck, panting.

He does this a couple more times, and his fingers pause.

“You know, you can…” She can’t make herself finish the thought out loud. She reaches for Derek’s hand before thinking it through.

She tangles her fingers up in his and yanks his hand up and under, shoving his fingers underneath her underwear proper and against herself, instead of the weird over-the-panties thing he’d been doing.

They both freeze.

Her hand is still there, next to his, his fingers tangled up with hers like they’re holding hands or something, except both of their hands also pressed against her vagina, slipping against the wetness there, their palms resting against her pubic hair, and Casey can feel his fingers against hers, in more than one way, with shocking clarity.

Derek’s fingers twitch, and Casey jumps.

“Oh,” she says, and almost doesn’t recognize her own voice.

“You’re so wet,” Derek whispers, and Casey blushes hot, feeling obscurely like he’s accusing her of something.

Should she untangle her fingers from his? Would removing her hand just draw more attention to the weird position they’d both ended up in, or should she…

Derek moves his fingers again in that same circular motion, and Casey gasps involuntarily, her fingers drawn along with his.

“Oh my god,” Derek says, low. He’s turned his head a bit to look down at both of their hands, stuck into her underwear like some sort of multi-legged hand-spider thing.

She shifts her fingers a little, trying to get out of this awkward holding-hands-next-to-her-vagina position they’ve found themselves in, and hits her own clit accidentally. She can’t swallow the sound that escapes her throat fast enough, and Derek shifts to look at her face.

“Fuck,” he says. “Fuck.”

What the hell. “I like this,” she says, before she loses her nerve, and grasps his hand to rub it against herself in the quick back-and-forth she knows she likes the most. She can feel herself touching her own clit, the folds of sensitive skin, Derek’s fingers gliding along next with hers, and she gasps with shock at the doubled-up feeling.

Derek picks up the motion quickly, following her lead. She closes her eyes, unable to stand the way he’s watching her, and slowly draws her hand back a little, so her palm is resting on her lower stomach. She can feel the hot slickness still coating her own fingers.

“Does that… is this okay?” Derek’s voice is hoarse, close to her ear. He sounds older to her like this, with her eyes closed.

“Yeah. Yes.”

Derek pauses, and he shifts his knee up a little higher between her legs, then, slowly, slips a single finger into her. He pants harshly into her neck, and Casey’s mind goes crazy, because this is actually happening, oh god!

And it feels different than when she puts her own fingers inside herself, when all she can think about is how squishy and weird and kind of bumpy her own vagina feels like, and without that immediate feedback the only thing that’s left is this odd but interesting sensation of something being inside of her.

Derek hoists himself up on one elbow then and kisses her hard.

He starts moving his one finger in and out of her as he kisses her, and Derek’s tongue in her mouth is overwhelming like this. She’s never realized how sexual it is to kiss somebody until this moment, when Derek has one finger hooked inside of her body and he’s kissing her like he’s going out of his mind at the same time.

She wonders if he’d ever thought about this before, when they made out in the Prince or that night he got a hard-on when they were playing Twister. The idea of him wanting this, of him thinking about her like this, maybe even before this whole bonkers thing between them started, makes something hot and dark turn over deep inside of her.

“Did you ever think about this?” she half-pants, unable to stop herself from asking, her voice weird and disjointed.

“Yes,” he gasps, and whoa, there is no way he meant to say that so fast. The word escapes from him like some sort of confession he’d kept inside, like he’s not even aware of how he sounds when he says it.

“Oh god,” she says, and buries her face in his neck. She can feel his pulse there, fast and erratic.

Derek’s thumb starts to worry her clit again, in a rough imitation of what she showed him to do, and Casey is drowning in how good this feels, even how clumsy his fingers are is doing it for her. Her whole body is alive with forces she barely comprehends.

And she’s trying so hard not to make a bunch of humiliating noises, biting her lip to keep it in. Moans keep catching in her throat. Her body is moving of its own volition now, hips tilting off the bed, her eyelids fluttering back and forth between open and closed.

Casey wishes, desperately, that she knew what to do with her hands. What do people do with their hands while this happens!? Her left arm is trapped underneath Derek’s body and the other is scrambling at her right side, plucking fitfully at the comforter. She finally yanks the arm wedged underneath Derek’s torso out and wraps it around Derek’s shoulders instead, winding the two of them closer together.

Derek straight-up groans at that. Casey can feel herself getting even wetter at the sound, can hear the faint squelching of Derek’s fingers as they move against her, and god, this is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to her, ever, and she doesn’t care AT ALL. Everything is overwhelming; shockingly intense and weird at the same time.

“C’mon, Casey, c’mon, please,” Derek says, in her ear, panting the words, almost begging, and somehow that’s the thing that does it. Casey tightens her fist in Derek’s hair and everything that was wound up inside of her breaks and spills open.

The next thing she knows Derek is fumbling at her waist, and then there’s a hand that smells strangely like herself clamped over her mouth. Casey shudders while Derek mutters something like “quiet, you have to be quiet,” his breath fast and wild against her neck.

Derek drops his hand from her mouth a second later, taking the sharp, bitter smell of his fingers with it, and Casey stares at the ceiling of Derek’s room, dazed.

Derek flips himself onto his back next to her then, rolling away from her a bit, and his hands scramble at his zipper. Casey turns her head to look as he pulls his dick out faster than Casey thought was possible. She only has a brief glimpse of something sticking out from Derek’s body before Derek’s drags his fist up and down his dick once, twice, and comes hard across his stomach. His eyes roll back in his head, groaning something that Casey thinks, with dim shock, might be her own name.

Casey’s never actually seen a penis before. There’s a sort of white goo splattered in thin ropes up from Derek’s belly button to his ribs, and she can already see his dick softening in his grasp. She’s never seen anything like this at all before. It’s way disgusting, but it’s also… not, in this way makes Casey’s stomach twist up hotly.

“Sorry,” Derek pants a second later, letting go of his dick to grab the t-shirt he’d been wearing earlier from the side of the bed, and wipes the come off his stomach and dabs a last bit of it off the top of his penis. Casey watches, wide-eyed. “Sorry. Sorry. I just…” He doesn’t seem to know how to finish that sentence.

Derek shifts his pants and underwear, pulling his dick back inside the slit in his boxers, and glances back over at her. His face and ears are pink.

“Sorry,” he says again.

She swallows, and makes herself respond. “For what?”

“For, you know,” Derek gestures at himself, making a quick half-gesture like jerking himself off, with that odd look of embarrassment again.

Casey clears her throat, trying not to blush as well. “Seemed fair to me.”

Derek huffs a short laugh. “Right.”

Casey sits up and hunts around for her t-shirt, which she finds bunched up underneath a pillow near the top of the bed. She pulls it on, tugging it down to cover her bare stomach, and re-adjusts her underwear, trying to ignore her now-sticky thighs.

When she settles back down, Derek leans over and kisses her, once, gently.

“What was that for?” she asks as he pulls back.

“That was because this,” Derek gestures around both of them, encompassing the bed and the room in a big, circular motion, “was awesome.”

Casey laughs, unable to help herself.

“It was, wasn’t it?”

“The best,” Derek agrees, grinning now, looking more like himself.

“The best of the best.”

“We should challenge people to duels doing this,” Derek suggests, starting to sound sort of giddy.

Casey wrinkles up her nose. “Eew. Gross, no.”

“But we would win. We would kill the competition, Case. I know how you like being the best at things.”

“I do like winning,” Casey agrees. “But also, no way. Never in a million years, Derek.”

Derek grabs her waist and pulls him into his body, tucking her head underneath his chin. “I guess we’ll just have to hone our skills in private, then.”

Something flutters deep in Casey’s chest at that. “Yeah?” she says, and her voice is more quiet than she means it to be.

Derek looks down at her. “I think so,” he says, his voice gone strangely serious as well.

They lay there, quietly, together, Derek’s hand idly stroking her side, as the night falls around them.

It starts, as most things do, with being Derek being a total jerk.

“No way!” Casey says, stomping her food. “You know I have the Prince on Saturday, Derek.”

“Yeah, but I,” Derek drawls the word out lazily, “have a date.”

Casey throws up her hands. “Nobody cares about your dates! How many times do I have to say that!”

Derek shrugs.

“You should let Derek go on his date,” George says, from where he’s sitting with Nora at the kitchen table, both of them going over the budget for the month.

“Oh, so now you’re on Derek’s side?” Casey asks, putting her hands on her hips.

George holds up his hands. “I never said anything like that. I’m just saying, you guys have traded days before, right?”

“George has a point,” Nora says, using her I’m-your-mother-and-what-I’m-suggesting-is-completely-reasonable voice.

Casey narrows her eyes, then turns on Derek.

“Do you like this girl?” she asks.


“This girl you’re taking out on a date. Do you even like her?”

“What’s it to you?”

Casey crosses her arms and glares until Derek relents, shrugging.

“She’s…” Derek pauses, searching for words. “This girl is… something else.”

“Something else?” Marti repeats, tugging on Derek’s sleeve so he looks down at her.

“Something else, Smarti,” Derek agrees, that warm, open note entering his voice, like he gets when he’s talking to Marti or when it’s late at night and darkness wraps around Casey and Derek, like they’re the only two people still awake in the entire world, whispering to each other as the house settles around them.

“Fine,” Casey says, and sniffs loudly, just to make it very clear to everybody what her feelings on the matter are. “You can have the car if you drop me off at the mall first. And pick me up again afterward.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Case.”

“Deal or no deal?”

“Deal,” Derek says promptly, and holds out his hand.

Derek’s palm is warm against her own, and he squeezes her fingers as they shake on it.

He winks at her as they release hands.

“Deal,” Casey agrees, and smiles, vowing to make him pay for the popcorn on their date later.