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A Kind of Merry War

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

“But mooooooooom," she whines, “Emily and I need the Prince on Friday! We just got invited to -“

“Bor-ing,” Derek announces, shoveling pancakes haphazardly into his mouth.

“You know Derek has the car this Friday,” her mom replies without looking at either of them, digging around in the junk drawer by the phone for the permission slip Lizzie had yelled at all of them about this morning, although Casey still wasn’t sure why she’d been caught in the crossfire. Like she’d lose a permission slip.

“All mine,” Derek agrees gleefully through a mouthful of food, because he’s basically a two year old with a height problem.

Casey stares at him resentfully. “What do you need the car for, anyway?”

“Sam and I are roadtripping to Kincardine after school.”

“What? Why?”

Derek gazes nobly off into the distance. “Why did man go to the moon, Casey? Because it’s there.”

“Oh. My god.”

He shoves another gigantic forkful of pancake into his mouth and shrugs. “We don’t have a game this week. What else are we supposed to do?”

Casey turns to face Nora again. “Seriously, mom?”

Nora pushes her hair back out of her face and starts in on the stack of papers wedged behind the phone on the wall. “It’s not my car, Casey.”

“But…”

“Casey, if Derek wants to trade a day with you, that’s fine, but you know this is something you two need to sort out between yourselves.”

Casey crosses her arms over her chest and Derek grins widely at her, flashing a jack o’lantern mouth full of mashed-pancake-and-syrup teeth.

She hunts Derek down after third period.

“I’ll trade you for the Prince,” she says. “All next weekend for this Friday.”

Derek purses his lips together and acts like he’s considering her offer for .5 seconds before shaking his head with exaggerated regret. “No go, Case.”

“But -“

“Nope.”

“You -“

“You’ll have to do better than that,” he says, and walks away whistling.

“I’ll do your chores for the week,” she says after fifth period, gritting her teeth. That makes Derek pause. He makes this big, dumb production out of mulling over her question like he doesn’t already know exactly what he’s going to say before slamming his locker shut.

“Nah,” he says finally. “Not good enough.”

She grips her textbooks tighter and rolls her eyes as obviously as possible. “Just tell me what you want, Derek.”

“Walk with me, Casey,” he says grandly, and throws an arm over her shoulders.

“What are you -“

He steers the the two of them down the hallway, deftly avoiding various cliques and clusters of students. “It’s your lucky day. It just so happens you do have something I want.”

“Wow,” she says sarcastically.

“I know.”

“Spill.”

“It may have come to your attention that I have a book report due next Friday. In fact, I have a couple of book reports due over the rest of the semester and sadly, Caseface, none of them are available as movies.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I know. I mean, how good can a book be if nobody’s made it into a movie yet?”

“You want me to write a book report for you?”

“I want you to write all of my book reports for me,” he clarifies. She tries to shake his arm off, annoyed, but he tightens his grip and leans in closer to her.

“No way.”

“No Prince, no party, no,” his voice turns high and sickeningly sweet in her ear, “you know who.”

“Okay,” she says slowly, and turns to face him as much as she can. “Fine. I’ll do it. If I get the Prince for the entire month.”

He barks a short, sharp laugh. “Funny, Casey.”

“That’s my final offer.”

He looks down at her, his mouth tugging back and forth between a frown and a oddly level stare, before saying, “Can’t swing it, Case.”

She lifts an eyebrow and smiles up at him sweetly. “Well, isn’t that interesting.”

“I have a proposal.” Derek throws his hockey bag on the kitchen table, knocking over a teetering pile of depositions George had forgotten that morning and a half-finished science fair project. “We bet on it. You and me, Casey, we settle this mano-a-mano.”

Casey grabs a half-painted styrofoam Jupiter making a desperate bid for freedom at the edge of the table. “I think you mean mano-a-womano.”

“Sure, whatever. I’m saying we make this interesting: a game of chance, winner takes all. I win, you write my book reports. You win, you get the Prince for a month.”

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

She narrows her eyes. “I don’t believe it. You’ll cheat, and you know it.”

“I would never…!” He slaps a palm over his heart and adopts a wounded expression. “Okay, yeah, totally. But I’d let you cheat too.” His voice turns wheedling, cloyingly charming.

“I’m not going to turn this into a competition about who can cheat better!”

“Only ‘cause you’re scared you’ll lose.”

Like she’d fall for an amateur line like that.

“C’mon, Casey. I’ll even let you pick the game. Anything you want, just name it.”

Now that is more interesting. She considers him carefully, holding Mercury in one hand and a painted Mars in the other. His hair is shaggy like a sheepdog, sticking every which way because he’s been avoiding Nora whenever she mentions getting it cut, and he’s watching her steadily, calmly. Casey licks her lips, then sticks out her hand.

“Fine. You’re on.”

Derek spits on his palm and grabs her hand before she realizes what’s happening and can yank it back. The palm of his hand is wet and viscous as it mashes into her own.

“Eew, Derek!” she yells, and tries to wrench her hand out of his, but he tightens his grip. The slimy warmth of his saliva is pressed between their palms, slippery and lukewarm like bathwater, and it is MAJORLY GROSS.

“Blood oath,” he says in this weirdly serious tone, holding tight to her hand. “You can’t back out now, Case.”

“Let go of my hand, Derek!”

“No.”

“One: that is not blood, that is your spit and it is probably the most disgusting thing that’s ever happened to me. Two,” she moves in a step closer to him, and stops trying to tear her hand free of his grasp, “you wish I’d back down. I’m going to chew you up and eat you for breakfast, Derek Venturi.”

“You wish.”

You wish!”

You wish!”

“It’s always so nice to see our two eldest getting along, isn’t it?” George says, unwrapping a scarf from around his neck as he comes in through the back door.

“Did you just say Derek and Casey were getting along again?” Her mom’s head pops up from behind George’s shoulder. “They’re really too well-behaved, don’t you think, George? We should encourage them to rebel a little more.”

“Oh, definitely.”

“Hi, Mom,” Casey says, and waves with her free hand.

Derek grins, wide and unabashed. “Hey, Dad. Kill ‘em at work today?”

“Always, kiddo.”

“Why are Casey and Smerek holding hands?” Marti asks. Casey looks down at their joined hands, and Derek tightens his grip.

“Your big brother’s starting an outreach program to help the less fortunate, Smarti,” Derek says. “You know: looks, smarts, social life. Everything I have that Casey doesn’t.”

“Derek’s afraid of the dark,” Casey says, louder, over top of him. “I keep telling him he can let go of my hand, but poor wittle Derek is just a big old scaredy cat.”

Marti pulls off her knit hat and throws in the red plastic bin for winter outerwear. “I’m not scared of the dark.”

“No you are not,” Nora says, and bops Marti playfully on the nose. Marti jumps back and hisses, flashing her fingernails as claws.

“Sweetheart, don’t you think you’re a little too old to still be a cat?” George asks.

Marti pouts. “You just said I had t’be a nice kitty.”

“That’s right.”

“Derek’s a cat too,” Marti points out. “We’re both cats. Derek’s a scaredy cat.”

“Oh, no no no,” Derek says.

Yes he is,” Casey says at the same time, and shoots Derek a triumphant glance. “You’re so smart for knowing that, Marti.”

Nora hangs up her coat and frowns at the two of them in the kitchen, still locked in mortal hand-to-yucky-squishy-hand combat. “You know, Marti has a good point: why are you two holding hands?” She lays the back of her hand on Casey’s forehead. “Are you feeling okay, Casey?”

Casey readjusts her grip around Derek’s wrist, and their palms slide wetly against each other. “I’m fine, mom.”

Marti tugs on George’s sleeve. “Dad, if I’m a kitty cat and Derek’s a scaredy cat, does that mean Edwin’s a cat too?”

“Yeah, a pussy cat,” Derek says, and sniggers.

“What about you, Daddy?”

George puffs out his chest and half-grins in that cocky way he has, the one that makes him and Derek look so much alike at the strangest times. “Me? I’m a tomcat.“

“Yes you are, honey,” Nora says, and pats George absently on the shoulder on her way to fulfill the venerated Venturi/McDonald family household ritual of staring into the empty, lonely depths of the fridge for a few precious seconds before giving up and ordering a pizza.

“Meow,” George snarls, pulling a silly face down at Marti and imitating her flexed-finger pose from earlier, and she grins happily up at him.

Derek tugs at Casey’s hand, pulling her into the dining room and away from their family. He drops her hand after they’re out of the kitchen, and air hits the rapidly cooling spit on her palm. She wipes it off on her jeans and fumes silently about spit and boys and all the gross, disgusting things that boys do.

“So what’re we doing?” he says, wiping his own hand down his chest, leaving a dark wet smear down the front of his shirt.

And then a brilliant, absolutely brilliant plan occurs to her.

“…Twister.”

A look of something that might be horror flickers across Derek’s face. “What?”

“Twist-er,” she enunciates, trying not to sound too smug.

“Uh, no,” Derek says.

“What?”

“I said no-ooh,” he repeats, mimicking her.

“Did you seriously just get spit all over my hand so you could wimp out on me? What happened to your whole stupid blood oath thing?”

Derek shrugs. “You’re a girl. Doesn’t count.”

“What. The hell.” She shoves Derek with the palms of her hands, and he stumbles a step backwards from her, hair falling into his eyes. He glances at the kitchen, but nobody’s watching them - Nora’s on the phone ordering pizza, and George is holding a shrieking and laughing Marti upside-down. Derek sticks his hands in his pockets instead.

“Twister isn’t a real game.”

“You’re just scared you’ll lose.”

His lips thin out. “Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not!”

Are…!”

“Ham or pepperoni?” Nora asks, sticking her head out of the kitchen with the phone cradled on her shoulder, and they both answer “Pepperoni” at the same time without breaking eye contact.

“Pepperoni,” Nora repeats into the phone as she wanders away again. “No, unanimous vote.”

Are too,” Casey finishes in a whisper, as soon as her mom’s out of earshot again.

Derek doesn’t say anything for a moment, but something canny starts to shift in his expression as he looks at her.

“There are rules,” she adds hastily. “Like… like you can’t do anything weird to make the other person fall down on purpose. No hitting. Or…or tickling, anything like that.”

He rolls his eyes. “Only you could take a game like Twister and make it un-fun.”

“Look, do you agree or not?”

He only hesitates for a moment.

“Okay. You’re on. One game, boring Casey rules, blah blah blah, whatever.”

She mentally fist-pumps.

“Hey, so the pizza should be here in an hour,” Nora says, walking past them to the stairs with Marti holding her hand, where she stops and swivels to face them again. “I’m taking Marti upstairs to help her pick out an outfit for her school recital tomorrow. But seriously, what’s up with you two? You’re both acting really strange.”

“School,” Casey laughs awkwardly, while at the same time Derek stutters, “E-economics?”

Nora blinks. “What?”

“Political… elections?” Derek tries again.

“Seriously, Derek?” Casey says, and stomps away into the kitchen.

“Well, I feel like that didn’t answer my question at all,” Nora says down to Marti, who shrugs back up at her.

“You’re in a good mood today,” Emily says, watching Casey curiously,

Casey digs her English textbook out of the stack of books in her locker, then turns to clasp it to her chest and lean dramatically against her locker, smiling beatifically up at the fluorescent lights dotting the ceiling of the hallway. “You know what, Em? I am.”

“Uh, okay. Any particular reason?”

Casey catches sight of Derek across the hallway, the collar of his black leather jacket thumbed upward like a greaser, headphones slung across the back of his neck, mouth sullen. He sees her staring at him and his expression flattens. He doesn’t talk to her as he walks past, but she sees his shoulders stiffen, and then, slowly, purposefully, he smirks at her.

Casey smiles back and slams her locker shut. “Oh,” she says cheerily to Emily, eyes still following the back of Derek’s head down the hallway, “No reason at all.”

They meet in the living room (condition #1: neutral territory) at 11:45 PM on Wednesday after everybody else is in bed (condition #2: absolute and total secrecy). Casey glares at Derek while unpacking the battered cardboard box (tactic #1: INTIMIDATION THROUGH EYE CONTACT).

Derek takes off his socks and shoes and sets them aside. She wrinkles her nose.

"Disgusting much, Derek?"

"Always."

Casey does a couple stretches to loosen up (tactic #2: nothing to stand between her and VICTORY) while Derek smooths out the plastic mat on the floor, permanently creased from untold years of storage. Derek doesn't say anything, intent on the smoothing-out job, until he finally stands up with the spinner in his right hand.

"May the best man," Derek grins at her, showing teeth, “…win."

"The best woman will." She nods at the spinner he's holding. "Bring it on."

He flicks the cheap plastic spinner, and it whirls fast.

"Right foot red."

Casey holds eye contact with Derek as she steps out onto the mat. She has this. She can out-limber, out-balance, and out-contort Derek any day of the week. There's no way a guy who once spent a whole month complaining that his coach wanted him to be able to touch his toes is going to win. She has this one in the bag.

The Prince is so hers.

"Admit it. The Prince is so mine, Derek.”

He snorts. “You wish. Victory is going to be so sweet."

Left hand green. Casey shifts all her weight to her right hand, snakes the left one underneath Derek, and hooks her wrist behind his to take the far green circle.

"Dream on."

"I do have dreams.” He sighs theatrically. “Dreams of you writing my book reports… doing my laundry… shoveling the driveway…”

"I am not doing any chores for you, Derek! That was so not part of the deal."

"Not yet."

“Uh, not even a little bit.”

"Not yet," Derek repeats. Left foot red. He slides a knee out from underneath her and slips it over the back of her calf.

"Can't you just --"

“For the last time, I’m not helping you, Derek!”

“Fine. Fine. Just don't say I didn't warn you."

Derek threads an arm underneath her, his elbow jammed into one of her armpits, and mutters something Casey can't quite understand under his breath.

"Giving up?" Casey asks, sweetly. There's only one blue circle left on the board now, and even with his upper body pressed hard into her shoulder he doesn't have the reach to put his hand on it.

"Shut up. I’m working on it."

Derek lowers his body a little closer to the mat. He stretches for the blue dot and his fingers connect, and then he straightens both his arms back up with a grunt. He's… he is right underneath her.

Casey goes very still.

"Your spin," Derek says, but his voice is tight and low all of a sudden, and it's totally weird, because she can feel the vibrations of his voice before she hears them, rattling around in the bones and muscle of his torso. His upper body is hooked underneath hers; the inside of her right elbow is brushing the shell of his ear. Derek's no-hugging, no-acting-like-a-normal-human-being policy means they didn't really touch like this - ever - unless they're fighting over something, the remote or the last scoop of ice cream in the carton.

But. Here they are.

He's looking at the ground and she's staring at the back of his head. She doesn't have a way to tell how Derek feels about their sudden proximity, this whole up-in-each-other's-business business.

“…Case?”

She shakes herself. “Yeah, right. Sorry. My turn." She slides herself a couple inches down his back, her unbound hair falling into Derek's face, and he sputters and spits hair out of his mouth, like the total drama queen he is. Left foot green.

"Eew, gross-a-mundo. Keep your spiderweb hair to yourself, Space Case.”

She grins. “What, you mean like this?” and shakes her loose hair violently in front of his nose.

She feels his body tense underneath her. "Stop it."

"Nope! All's fair in…" Think about what you're saying, "…war. All's fair in war."

Derek's silent for a second. "Do you think it would it be weird if I licked your hair right now?" He takes a slow, theatrical sniff of her hair. "Because I'm thinking that would really freak you out. I've got a good feeling about it. Like, a winning-the-game-and-also-having-you-do-my-chores-for-a-month kind of feeling."

She jerks her head back. “You wouldn't dare."

"Try me."

"Such an act would be a violation of our previously agreed-upon rules, and would, ipso facto, make me the winner of this contest."

He shifts his weight to his right hand to hit the spinner. Left hand yellow. "Pretentious keener says ipso-whatso?"

"Are you sure you're the one whose dad is a lawyer?"

"He's your dad too," Derek says, and slides smoothly out from underneath her.

Right foot red.

"…Cat got your tongue, Case?"

"I know George is my dad too," she snaps. It comes out meaner than she expects.

He spins up right foot yellow, sticks his knee behind hers to get to it, and starts to breathe creepily on her neck. He smells… kind of good? She thinks it's a mix of the body wash that stinks up the shower whenever Derek manages to wake up before her and the cologne he'd talked George into buying the last time they went to the mall.

Also, he is so doing it on purpose.

"Stop breathing on me like a creeper, Derek!"

"So you can dish it out but you can't take it, hairball?"

Left foot blue. She shoves a knee underneath Derek's leg.

Right foot yellow. He hip checks her hard enough to rock her, on-purpose, like he's playing hockey or when they wrestle.

"Der-rek!”

"Can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen," he says, super smug, like that isn't the absolute dumbest thing he could have said at this moment.

"You are…"

"You don't need to tell me how awesome I am." Left foot green. "Oh the other hand, go for it. I wanna hear this one."

"You wish," she says, and elbows him in the ribs. His breath whooshes out hot against her neck from the impact.

"Okay, so if you do my chores for the month, I'll stop breathing on your neck or whatever."

Casey grits her teeth and reminds herself, for the ten millionth time, that she can't go at him without losing the game. Eyes on the prize, McDonald! "You're forgetting something, Derek. I'm not going to lose." Left hand blue.

He blows in the shell of her ear, and the thin hairs on her arms stick up. Cold with little starburst pops of heat prickle under her skin.

"Case," Derek coos, gloatingly, close to her ear, "are you…"

She swings her hair up and over, smacking him in the face with it, and feels a vicious thrill of pleasure when he starts to sputter again.

He sulks for a while after that.

“Awww,” she says, and slips a hand beside his, “did somebody hurt li’l Derek’s feelings?”

“Shut up, Casey.”

“Oh, grow a pair,” she says, and regrets it as soon as the words leave her mouth. Why? Why on earth would she say that? To HIM?

Derek’s eyes widen and she feels his body start to shake, his annoyance forgotten, her shoulder pressed up against his ribs.

He’s laughing.

The… the jerk!

“Did you seriously just tell me to grow a pair?”

“No?” she tries. “I’m pretty sure you imagined that.”

“But grow a pair of what?” he continues, like he hadn’t heard her, his tone a mockery of bewildered puzzlement. “Of what, Casey? Casey. Hey, Casey. Say it again. C’mon, do it. I dare you.”

She flicks the spinner and thinks noble thoughts. “No way.” Left foot green. She spiders her way out to the far corner of the mat, her arms and legs stretched out long.

“I double-dog dare you.”

“No.”

“Okay, okay, I see where you’re going with that. Triple-dog. That’s THREE dogs, Casey. You can’t pass up a dare like that.”

“Cut it out, Derek.”

“Sorry, bzzzt, that’s not the action verb we were looking for! Thanks for playing, no consolation prize for losers.”

Right hand red. He puts his hand down next to hers, spread wide, fingertips dimpling the plastic mat. “How do you know what an action verb is, anyway?”

“Mrs. Carter, my grade seven English teacher. She was,” Derek heaves this stupid, giant, melodramatic sigh, “so hot.”

Gross. Seriously, why does she ever think Derek is going to give her a normal, non-sexist, non-terrible, non-Derek answer to a simple question?

“Sooooooo hot,” he reiterates, just to prove her point. “We’re talking mega hotness here.”

“You are such a pig.”

“Oink oink,” he agrees without a trace of remorse, then throws an arm over her shoulders to get to his next move, his forearm a warm weight across the back of her neck. “Hey, did you catch how I called you a loser earlier? Pretty clever, eh?”

“That was not clever! Only you would think that’s clever.”

“You know, I’d say you’re cute when you’re angry, but the first part of that sentence would definitely be a lie.”

Left foot blue. She jams her hip up against his, harder than necessary.

Derek’s better at Twister than she gave him credit for. She sneaks a glance at the kitchen clock from underneath an armpit and is somewhat alarmed to realize that it’s after midnight already. Her arms are starting to ache from the strain of holding herself up so long.

“Derek?”

“Yeah?”

“How are you so… not-terrible at this?”

He moves a hand into her field of vision, his shoulder tucked up against her own. “Wasn’t expecting that, huh?”

“Well… yeah. I mean, you are, you know. Derek.”

"Some have called me God's gift to the ladies, and this right here, Casey: this is a game you play with the ladies.” He over-pronounces the word with relish. Ugh. She can just picture the cocky grin on his face.

“Fantastic,” she says flatly.

“Exactly,” he agrees.

There’s a thumping noise from upstairs after he speaks, and they both freeze. Casey holds her breath, ears cocked upward, trying to hear above the pounding of her heart. When did her heartbeat get so loud?

They stay frozen, half-tangled together and eyes wide, until Casey hears a loud snort, which transitions halfway through into a snore - Lizzie, zonked out after double-practice at soccer today, she’d barely managed to keep her eyes open during dinner. Casey’s shoulders slump with relief.

“Just Lizzie.”

“I know,” he says, only a bit quieter. “Your turn.”

She lands on right foot green. It’s going to be a tough move; she’ll need to shift her weight at least partially underneath Derek to make it.

“So heeeeeey,” she tries, going for a super casual, nope-no-stress-here kind of tone, “since you are so awesome at this, would you mind -“

“What goes around comes around,” Derek says pointedly, and doesn’t move an inch.

Right. Great.

Casey pushes herself off sideways, moves her right leg out to the side of Derek’s foot, and straightens her arms again, locking her elbows. The move slots the two of them together in a reverse of their earlier stacked-on-top-of-each-other position, only this time Casey’s the one underneath Derek, the front of his chest pressed up against her back.

Her heart starts to beat faster, thumping nervously against her ribs. Her left leg is folded up underneath her body, splayed outward a bit but holding her weight, but her right ankle is to the outside of Derek’s, her leg pressed up against his thigh.

Casey realizes, with a dawning mix of horror, that she’s ended up with her rear end pressed up against the front of Derek’s crotch.

Doggie style.

The words flash in neon across her mind like a blinking sign, D-O-G-G-I-E S-T-Y-L-E, like that dumb song that was everywhere on the radio for a while that Sam had thought was hilarious. She fervently hopes that Derek hasn’t developed telepathy in the last couple minutes. Because this would be the WORST TIME EVER for Derek to be able to read her mind.

She starts to pray that they both make it out of this situation without ever, ever talking about it again.

"Derek," she whispers.

She can feel his breath against the side of her neck again, and it makes her stomach knot up uncomfortably, her thoughts sliding nervously up against each other in her gut. She doesn’t think he’s doing it to annoy her this time.

Derek," she repeats, a little louder, trying not to sound desperate. "It's your turn."

She hears him suck in a sharp breath. “I know.”

“So…?”

“Just… chill a minute, Case.”

Of all the…! The idea of staying like this, voluntarily, makes her feel like she’s going to hyperventilate, her stomach twisting in on itself in a mess of confusion, a squirming sense of heat seeping between her legs.

No,” she snaps, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. “Go now, or… or… or forfeit the game, Derek. I mean it!”

“I said,” he says, his voice rising and sounding suddenly young, on the edge of cracking like Edwin’s used to, “chill, okay.“

She rocks back on her heels to reach for the spinner, trying to get this Over With, so they can move on to the part of the plan where they never ever discuss this moment again, and Derek stiffens behind her - his fingers splayed out next to hers flex, the knuckles going white in her limited field of vision.

Which is when she backs up into an unmistakable bulge underneath Derek's pants.

Fuck.

Casey’s brain goes blank, the wires shorting out, because…. because. Derek. And… Derek.

Oh FUCK.

They’re both frozen, limbs locked together, and she can feel - it, she’s going to go with the IT, like a creature rising from the black lagoon to stalk women from the 1950s in old fashioned bathing suits - pressed against her backside, a hard, foreign bump wedged between their bodies. Except it’s actually part of Derek’s body, a living, physical, functional part of Derek’s body that sticks out like a third elbow when he gets horny, like he’s a normal dude and not the asexual of-course-he’s-my-brother stepbrother/tormenter she prefers to think of him as, and all of this is so very much what Casey does not want to be thinking about right now.

They’re not moving. Why aren’t they moving? Is it weird that they’re not moving???

Casey’s trying not to freak out.

She is trying so hard not to freak out.

She shifts her body weight, gingerly, away from the point of contact, and Derek visibly jolts and finally, finally starts to move.

Derek half-falls attempting to get away from her, scrambling backward off the Twister mat. Casey stands up slowly a couple seconds later, her back still warm and comfortable from the feeling of Derek’s weight pressed down against her. It occurs to her, dimly, that she just won the game.

Last woman standing. She wins.

She won.

Derek stands up a couple feet away from her, eyes wide. He's breathing hard, jaw slack and hair messed up like he’d spent all day running his fingers through it. His erection is tenting the thick fabric of his jeans (oh god), and she tries not to stare at it (oh god!), but come on, it’s right freaking there. Like, it would be weirder if she didn't stare, right?

Her throat feels dry. She licks her lips, tasting tackiness and the remnants of lip gloss, and Derek's gaze falls to her mouth. His eyes go dark in this weird way she's never seen before, intense and hooded for this split-second that she hardly registers before it's gone. He takes a step backwards, away from her. His mouth opens and closes like a fish.

Derek Venturi, ladies and gentlemen, speechless for the first time in his life.

Casey would rub it in (because Derek? speechless? probably definitely a sign of the Apocalypse) but she only manages to mirror Derek's dorky open-shut-mouth move back at him instead. It's basically a giant comedy of errors up in here. Super awesome!

(And it's not like she doesn't know that Derek's a guy, okay. It's not like he doesn't shove a rotating kaleidoscope of girlfriends in her face, like she doesn’t fight the occasional surreal and super weird flash of attraction to him, like he doesn’t walk around sometimes with nothing but a towel around his hips and a second towel whipped up ridiculously high on his head - but she's never really put serious thought into the situation from Derek's point of view: you know, the whole Derek Is A Guy Who Wants To Bone People thing.)

She realizes, with a strange, awful thrill, that she now falls into the category of People Derek Would Hypothetically Bone (if Given The Chance).

Derek's eyes shift away from her, and he pulls off an almost-suave adjusting-his-pants move that makes it a lot less obvious. She flushes hot and cold at how casually he does it. Like he'd done that move before.

Derek takes another step away from her. His heels hit the bottom of the staircase.

"I think… I… just…"

Which is when he makes a break for it and runs away.