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Startled, Casey froze with her arms around Derek’s waist, looking around frantically for the origin of the noise - which sounded very much like a sneeze. “Was that…” she started asking, before being interrupted by a bang from inside her closet.

 

“Shhhhh,” she heard. Lizzie. That was Lizzie in her closet. And probably Marti under her bed. Oh sh-

 

"Get out here. All of you," Derek spoke up with a long suffering sigh after the initial shock wore off. The little shits.

 

Right then, a pouting Marti came crawling from under the bed. Casey dropped her arms at her sides, in shock. What were their siblings doing - spying on them? Ugh, Casey gritted her teeth as her previously blushing face now burned with newfound anger. Behind her, the door of her closet opened to reveal the other two, who were looking equally terrified.

 

“What is this?” Casey asked directly, crossing her arms.

 

Lizzie’s eyes grew wider as she stuttered. “N-n-nothing! We didn’t hear anything.” Casey watched as Lizzie squirmed and looked down at the book she had in hand. Was that... her diary?!?! Thankfully, Casey knew she hadn’t written in it since the bodyswap, so they couldn’t have found anything incriminating. Apparently realizing that she was caught red handed, Lizzie chucked the diary away, letting it fall to the ground in a soft thump. “I didn’t read any of that!”

 

“Wha-” Casey was about to repeat, but stopped herself when she saw the look on Derek’s face, his eyes alarmingly wide.

 

In absolute horror, Derek stared at the fallen book. His stomach twisted. Lizzie knew… everything. He should have known better than to leave evidence lying around! What a rookie mistake.

 

For some reason, he didn't care if the kids knew they were together - he could deal with that. He could even deal with them knowing about the body swap. But he never intended for anyone to read what was in those revealing pages. Except for Megan. And maybe Casey one day if he left it lying around and she read it once she was back in her own body - maybe.

 

If Lizzie knew, it was only a matter of time before Edwin and Marti knew. And that was assuming they hadn’t already huddled in a circle and read his personal thoughts out loud. Either way, the conversation they had just eavesdropped on was incriminating, and Derek would have to be stupid to believe the nosey brats didn't hear every damn word. He and Casey were epically screwed.

 

Edwin stood there white as a ghost, his mouth flapping open and closed. Marti looked Derek up and down skeptically, taking in her step-sister’s appearance, like she knew it was really him hiding in there. And Lizzie’s eyes darted between them, looking guilty as fuck.

 

"Cut the crap, Liz," he said threateningly.

 

Lizzie’s shoulders visibly slumped in resignation. “Sorry, Der,” she said, her eyes finally settling on him - him, not his body.

 

Super. Epically. Screwed.

 

“Wait,” Casey frowned, realizing that even though she hadn’t written anything incriminating, apparently, Derek had. “What did you write in there?”

 

Derek choked on his tongue. "It's… er, uh... the specifics aren't important," he dismissed with a wave of his hand. Casey raised her eyebrow skeptically at him and he sighed. "Everything."

 

“WHAT?!” Casey wailed, her arms flailing above her head. “Der-ek! How could you?”

 

“Hey!” Edwin suddenly cut in loudly, drawing everyone's attention. "Can I just ask one question?" He paused dramatically in the silence. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!"

 

"I second that question!" Marti added impetuously with her hands on her hips.

 

Derek ignored the question entirely. "I didn't think your dear little sis would read your diary!" he defended. He directed his glare back at Lizzie who was shuffling even more guiltily. "Since you seem to know everything, why don't you fill in the rest of the class?”

 

“Me?” Lizzie squeaked, taken off guard as all eyes settled on her. “I- uh…”

 

Unable to keep herself upright, Casey walked over to the bed to sit and heaved a long sigh, letting her head fall into her hands. “Just do it, Liz.”

 

“Um, ok?” Lizzie said with uncertainty. “They - um.” She looked troubled, obviously unsure how to break the news.

 

Casey rolled her eyes in exasperation, saving her sister by manning up and addressing the issue herself. “We swapped bodies. I’m Casey. That’s Derek,” she said, pointing in Derek’s direction.

 

Lizzie nodded in confirmation.

 

"Like Freaky Friday style?" Marti wondered aloud.

 

"Hah. Funny," Edwin snorted in amusement, breaking his stunned silence. Derek stared unblinkingly back at him in response, letting Edwin know it was the only explanation he was going to get. Edwin’s face fell. "Wha… Heh. No. I'm not falling for that."

 

Marti seemed lost in deep thought, confused beyond belief. Then, with determination, she stepped over and smushed Casey’s stubbled cheeks between her small hands, getting uncomfortably close for her inspection. Casey simply stared back awkwardly.

 

"Hmm…" Marti considered, while Edwin crossed his arms with a scoff, like he couldn't believe they were even entertaining such a ridiculous idea. "...Derek?" she asked with uncertainty.

 

Casey shook her head with an apologetic smile.

 

Backing away, almost fearfully, Marti turned her attention to Derek. He tossed his long hair over his shoulder and looked down at her with his arms crossed, a smug smile finding his lips at the serious way she was studying him.

 

Marti mirrored him, stepping closer and quirking an eyebrow. Derek sighed, giving into her silent demand, lowering his face down in front of her. His smile stretched with her widening eyes.

 

"Smerek," she said in quiet wonder before throwing her arms around his neck.

 

Derek lifted her up, groaning slightly as she was a lot harder to lift without his muscles. "Hey Smarti," he chuckled softly before dropping her back to her feet.

 

"This. Is. Crazy," Edwin insisted. "Not to mention, physically impossible." He turned to Lizzie in an attempt to appeal to her better judgement. "You can't possibly be buying this."

 

Lizzie shrugged. “I mean… why would Casey write it in her diary if it wasn’t true?”

 

“Technically, I didn’t write that,” Casey interrupted.

 

"Because they're messing with us!" Edwin flailed. "They probably knew we were in here and said those things to sell the act!"

 

"Well, I'm convinced," Marti concluded excitedly. “It explains why Derek- I mean, Casey, has been acting so weird. Because he- she was Casey this whole time!”

 

Marti said it with such conviction, such absolute certainty, it sounded even more ridiculous to Casey. So much so, all she could do was laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Lizzie eyed her curiously, her lips twitching up into a half-smile.

 

Derek couldn’t help but find Casey’s laugh contagious, and he let out a snort of his own, sending Marti into a fit of giggles.

 

The humor was lost on Edwin who looked around the room helplessly, arms outstretched for anyone to listen to reason. When it was clear nobody else was on his side, Edwin’s pleading gaze landed on Casey. “Come on Derek. Two out of three siblings ain’t bad. You got us! Now, please release us from this nightmare.”

 

“Sorry, bro,” Derek said. “Can’t take credit for this one.”

 

“Blame the universe,” Casey suggested.

 

“Seriously,” Edwin deadpanned. “Show’s over. You may have the girls fooled but you can’t expect me to believe this mystical crap. I am a man of science.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Derek realized he simply didn’t care. He was trying this new-old thing where he just went with the flow, and he didn’t feel like wasting his energy trying to prove something that he had been desperately hiding all week. “Believe it. Don’t believe it. What difference does it make?”

 

"You're not even going to try to convince me?" Edwin asked incredulously, the color draining from his cheeks.

 

Derek simply shrugged, causing Edwin's eyebrows to knit together, like the lack of effort somehow convinced him this wasn't a prank after all.

 

"So…" Marti cut in. "Are you two like… boyfriend, girlfriend now?" She asked, hopefully.

 

“Oh,” Casey exhaled, surprised by the sudden change of subject, and the question she had hoped to avoid. “I don’t…” At a loss, she looked at Derek once again, trying very hard not to mirror Marti’s expression and betray her own hopefulness. It had seemed like it was heading that way before they were interrupted.

 

Derek looked around at the room of eyes glued to him, waiting for his response. Why was everyone looking at him? Technically, he was the one who just asked Casey out. Everyone heard him ask her out! Did everyone just assume he wasn’t being serious? He was still waiting for her answer, so it shouldn’t fall on him to confirm or deny this thing.

 

But, despite the fact he had openly flirted with Casey, and (again) literally asked her out, Casey’s wide nervous eyes showed she was still skeptical of whether he wanted to be with her at all, and he needed her to know that he meant it - that he wanted to make this crazy soulmate thing work.

 

"Yeah," he concluded, almost in defiance. Casey's mouth fell open slightly with surprise, causing his stomach to flip with that familiar thrill of getting a reaction out of her. As he watched the blush bloom in her cheeks, he felt the stubborn corner of his lip turn up, morphing into a grin. "We are," he announced proudly.

 

Marti squealed.

 

Casey stared, feeling her heart rate speeding up and a smile she couldn’t stop growing on her face. “We are,” she breathed.

 

“Okay,” Lizzie interrupted, “now that the mystery’s over, I’ll go to my room before I’m traumatized for the rest of my life.” Casey felt Lizzie brush past her quickly, but didn’t look away from Derek. She couldn’t take her eyes off him.

 

Before Lizzie could leave, Derek grabbed her by the elbow. Her eyes turned up to him in alarm. "You can't say anything. To anyone," he warned, keeping his voice as soft as possible. He couldn't threaten them now, he needed their help. "About any of this. You know that, right?"

 

She nodded emphatically. “Yeah, Case- Derek!”

 

"Especially… to you know who," Derek insisted.

 

"We'll help you!" Marti interjected. "We've got your backs! Right guys…?" She appealed to the group.

 

“Yup,” Lizzie said, nodding once more. Derek released her elbow.

 

"Well I for one still think this is insane," Edwin spoke up. "But we can all agree that our parents should never find out. Ever. About anything. Dad would have a heart attack and we don't want to send him to an early grave. So yeah…" He nodded resolutely. "We'll help keep this under wraps."

 

"We're a team!" Marti cheered.

 

"Yeah, yeah. We're a team,” Edwin rolled his eyes. "But I gotta ask. Assuming I do believe you guys switched bodies. Which, for the record, I don’t. How did it happen?"

 

“Well…” Casey pursed her lips, considering how much she really wanted them to know. It was a lot to take in. She was grateful that they reacted so well to everything so far. “Apparently it was like a push from the universe for us to stop arguing.”

 

"Right," Derek couldn't help but huff in laughter. "We're basically living in a romantic comedy. Tooootal chick flick. It's a long story. Luckily it's only temporary, and we'll switch back eventually."

 

"Is there anything we can do to help get things back to normal?" Marti asked sweetly. "Well normal-ish? Back in the right bodies, I mean."

 

"Nah," Derek said, cocking his head with an appreciative smile. "Thanks though Smarts." He reached out to ruffle her hair and then settled his arm over her shoulders. "Don't worry. We have the magic voodoo stuff covered. We've even got a ‘spirit guide’ and everything." He became serious again, eyeing her softly but sternly, like he did whenever he needed her to know something was really important. "But like you said, we’re a team, and we could use all your help to keep this a secret, okay?" She nodded up at him loyally, determined to never let him down. "And you gotta keep these two in line." He added.

 

"I'm on it! That's already my full time job." Marti grinned.

 

"Hey!" Edwin balked, mildly offended.

 

“We’re already in line,” Lizzie grumbled petulantly, crossing her arms over her chest. “Anyway, we all know Mom and George couldn’t handle something like this… and I’m not just talking about the whole Freaky Friday situation.”

 

Even though Lizzie’s tone didn’t hold any judgement, Casey started fidgeting, looking down at the floor as she imagined their parents’ reactions to their relationship. She knew it wouldn’t be met with enthusiasm, and part of her feared the worst. What if George and Nora decided to forbid it? Sure, once they were out of the house and at University, their parents wouldn’t have much of a say in it, but Casey couldn’t stand the thought of going against her mother - or worse, hiding her relationship from her mother.

 

This was going to be difficult for sure, but she reminded herself that it was supposed to have a happy ending, and she had faith in that.

 

“You’re right, Liz,” Casey said. “If we decide…” she looked over at Derek and grounded herself, lifting her chin up, “when we decide to tell them about us, we’ll at least be back in our own bodies. And we’ll have to convince them that we’re serious about this.” She held Derek’s gaze, hoping he understood that there was no going halfway. If they were doing this, they were doing it right.

 

Before Derek had a chance to respond, Edwin scoffed, "What?!" He shook his head in disbelief. "You're actually planning on telling them?! That you're… you know…?!?" He made it sound like the most ridiculous thing he ever heard, which was saying something considering the ridiculous news he just received. "Why the hell would you tell them, huh? Do you have a death wish? It's not like this is gonna last anyway!"

 

"Edwin!" Marti scolded in absolute outrage. "Stop being such a shithead!"

 

“Marti!” Casey gasped. “What is that language?!”

 

Derek was more offended by Edwin’s bullshit take on their relationship than he was by Marti’s language. In fact, he felt a surge of pride for Marti standing up for him. Of course, Casey was offended by the name-calling - if the kids didn’t believe them before, they had to now. Derek had never used that primly tone in his life, with the exception of mocking Casey.

 

"I call it as I see it!" Marti doubled down, glaring menacingly at Edwin.

 

Edwin crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes back at Marti, meeting her challenge. "So do I. I mean come on!" He threw his hands up in exasperation. "Do you really expect me to believe that Derek-" His narrowed eyes found Derek, gesturing at him up and down, still obviously skeptical, "If you really are Derek, that is. You, Derek Venturi are in a serious relationship… with Casey?! I can buy that you’re into each other. Fine. It freaks me out, sure, but even I can admit it makes a lot of sense. But telling the parents?! That is certifiably insane! It’s like signing a contract in blood or something. This isn’t like trying on a pair of shoes. If you do this, it is basically a life sentence. A life sentence Derek. No going back! Are you really telling me you’re down for that? You and Casey?”

 

Pressing his lips together tightly, Derek stood his ground as he glared at his little brother. He was honestly offended by how little faith Edwin had in him to be serious about someone. Things had been more or less serious with Sally! And he wasn't dumb enough to start some meaningless fling with his step-sister.

 

Whether they were soulmates or not, if they were going to go for it, they were going to have to really go for it. Otherwise, it wasn't worth the risk.

 

"When we tell dad and Nora." Derek reiterated in a threatening tone, catching Casey's light smile out of the corner of his eye. "They might not like it. But they're going to have to get used to it. 'Cuz this is not going anywhere."

 

“Really?” Lizzie asked, less exasperated than Edwin, more… in awe. Casey turned to look at her sister and found Lizzie staring at her curiously. She realized that she’d been staring at Derek with a big dumb smile on her face, because the way he stood up for them just now? It was more than she had hoped for. And Lizzie had probably picked up on that. “Casey? It’s really that serious?”

 

“Yeah, Liz,” Casey said. “It is.” She wouldn’t tell them that she was in love, not when Derek hadn’t acknowledged it first, but the way Lizzie looked at her, it was probably obvious.

 

"Okaaaay," Derek sighed heavily. "No more questions. That's enough for tonight." He rounded up Marti and Lizzie and started pushing them to the door. Marti pouted in vague protest and Lizzie rolled her eyes but didn't fight back. Wasting no time, Derek opened the door and dramatically invited them to leave.

 

With another roll of her eyes, Lizzie was gone. Marti gave up after Derek gave her a look that promised he would tell her more later. Then, he turned his eyes on Edwin, who was still standing stubbornly in the middle of the room.

 

Fine, Derek thought. Edwin wanted to do things the hard way. He stomped over to Edwin, grabbing him roughly by his arm to usher him out. Edwin seemed surprised by the level of aggression coming from Casey's petite frame and submitted instantly.

 

"Okay! Okay! I'm going!" Edwin complained, letting Derek guide him. As they neared the door, he suddenly halted in his tracks. "Wait! If you two really switched bodies, then…"

 

"Out," Derek demanded with a sigh, as Edwin fought him in the doorway. With one final shove, Edwin was finally out of the room.

 

"What about the Northbridge gam-" Edwin called as Derek slammed the door in his face.

 

Sighing with relief, Derek slowly turned to face Casey, looking her up and down as she fidgeted in front of him.

 

“So…” she shrugged as casually as she could, pushing her hands in her back pockets. “Are we really…”

 

“I meant what I said,” Derek shrugged with a shy smirk, feeling the electricity in the air between them. As always, he found Casey's awkwardness adorable.

 

“T-that’s nice,” Casey said, hitting herself mentally for how dumb she sounded, but she was absolutely starstruck. She couldn’t look away from him. And she really, really wanted to kiss him.

 

Chuckling lightly, Derek slowly closed the distance between them, watching her nerves grow with every step, a blush rising to her cheeks. He loved having such an effect on her. "You think so?"

 

“Yeah,” she breathed, feeling her face heating up, “I think I’d like to…” she drifted off, as he stepped into her space, her eyes going down to his mouth instinctively. “I’d like to hear it again. Just to make sure I didn’t imagine it.”

 

"Which part?" Derek teased, looking up at her coyly, stepping close enough that he was now playing with the fabric of her shirt, his knuckles grazing against her abs - had she been working out, or had he always been that shredded? It was weirdly hot. He thumbed at the muscles absentmindedly.

 

“Y-you know…”

 

"You mean…" He trailed off, knowingly torturing her as he let the palm of his hand climb up her broad chest, feeling her practically trembling under his touch. "The part where you're my girlfriend?" Her eyes widened, and her mouth fell open softly.

 

He stared at her bottom lip intently, realizing that due to the height difference, he wasn't able to just swoop down and kiss her, putting him in a much more vulnerable position than he was used to. His palm traveled up, over the side of her neck until his fingers were buried in her messy hair and his thumb stroked over her jawline.

 

Casey had barely registered the word girlfriend when he pulled her down and caught her lips. She felt him stand on his tiptoes as he pressed himself against her to kiss her deeper. It wasn’t as heated or aggressive as their previous kisses, but she still felt the ground fall underneath her. She caught Derek’s hips so she didn’t lose grip on reality as their mouths slid against each other.

 

His girlfriend.

 

The thought made her heart beat faster and her blood boil over. His girlfriend. His.

 

He was kissing her so gently, like a whisper, and her body, as it heated all over, wanted more. She pulled away slowly and gathered her breath to calm her racing thoughts. She didn’t want to rush this. “I-” she stopped the words from tumbling down, and pressed her forehead to his. “Yeah, I meant that.”

 

Catching his own breath, Derek let out a short laugh, his head spinning a bit from the brief kiss. He lost sight of how much he loved playing with her - provoking a reaction. "Your turn," he dared.

 

She pulled back at his tone to find him smirking softly, the sight was like a breath of fresh air. “Is it?” she said, her own teasing smile coming into play as her hand came up to brush against his cheek. “So… what? You wanna be my girlfriend too?”

 

Wrapping his arms around her comfortably, he grinned up at her, pleased with her teasing banter. "Not a girl. Remember?"

 

“Ohhh,” she nodded in understanding, sliding her hand to the back of his head. “So you wanna be my boyfriend, then. Derek Venturi, Casey McDonald’s boyfriend? You sure you’re ready for that?”

 

"Bring it on." He said resolutely before crashing his lips into hers.

 

“Mhmm,” Casey hummed against his lips, indulging into the new frantic kiss for a minute, until a thought occurred to her. “Just,” she continued between kisses. “What exactly,” another kiss, “did you write in that journal?”

 

Pulling back with a groan, Derek winced at her. "You don't wanna know." If she read what he wrote, it would probably, most definitely, ruin the moment.

 

She pouted. “Come on. Tell me.”

 

"Just. You know…" he replied painfully, "a list of all the crazy stuff that's happened?" She wasn't actually going to insist on reading it… right? "So, you could imagine…"

 

“All the crazy stuff that’s happened from your perspective?” Casey said, tilting her head pensively, curious now that it occurred to her, about his experience in her body. She fought a shiver. “I absolutely cannot imagine.”

 

He groaned. He could tell she really wanted to read it. There were some parts he was cool with her reading - he was curious about how she would react to the whole spontaneous orgasm thing. But there were other things in there that were a bit too revealing, for now at least, and things that could even upset her.

 

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes at his reluctance to tell her. She shrugged as she stepped away from him. “I don’t need to know.”

 

Eyeing him as his shoulders relaxed, Casey suddenly took off in the direction of the discarded journal on the floor next to her closet and picked it up in a hurry before he had a chance to stop her.

 

Derek momentarily considered tackling her and wrestling it out of her hands but he sighed in defeat instead, waiting painfully as he let her peer into the inner workings of his mind. Every time he wrote a new list, it became less of a joke and more therapeutic, helping him to sort through his thoughts and feelings like some sappy teenage girl. There were some really vulnerable things in his last list - the list Casey’s eyes jumped to eagerly as she flipped open the book.

 

Crazy Shit Goin On: Part 4

 

Casey’s heart started racing as she looked over the page covered in doodles and Derek’s handwriting. Derek made a list? She hesitated to flip through, but from the title, there were even four of them! Four lists full of Derek’s perspective on recent events. Should she even be reading this?

 

  • Woke up to a crime scene in my pants. Just fucking fantastic.

 

So it was blood on her pants! Now she understood why he had been in such a foul mood last week - and why all the chocolate granola bars disappeared! (What about her midnight snacks?!). She couldn’t believe she actually forgot her period was due this week. It was honestly a relief, not having to think about that stuff.

 

  • Turns out I have zero control over my own thoughts and I can't even brush my teeth in peace bc I'm too obsessed with Casey.

 

Obsessed with her? He was obsessed with her? Did he have any idea how much he’d completely taken over her thoughts?

 

  • In other news, Lizzie is a soccer god? And bisexual apparently? Right on lil sis. Ali seems good for her.

 

Wait, what was that about Lizzie? Filing that away for later.

 

  • Adding "watching a movie" to the list of things I can't do with Casey anymore. Sitting next to her is too distracting.

 

That was one thing she could relate to, except she kind of wanted to do it again now. She hoped that he didn’t feel this way anymore. This was obviously written before they went to Toronto. Somehow things had changed so much in just two days.

 

  • Catching myself secretly hoping Sally breaks up with me on Sunday so I don't have to feel guilty about getting close to Casey anymore... but then there would be nothing holding me back from getting sucked into the fucking vortex.

 

Oh. Wow. This was way more personal than she had anticipated reading from Derek. Her eyes drifted over to him. Though she had anticipated him to fight her over the book and look horrified, he didn’t. He just stood there, hanging back, watching her read with that curious look on his face. She took a deep breath to calm her racy heart before going back to the list.

 

  • Casey mapped out our entire future, which should have sent me into a tailspin but didn’t. Would be nice if we could fast forward through all the hard parts.

 

She fought back a smile, because she would like to skip through the hard parts too, but she didn’t want to let anything show before she finished the page.

 

  • I feel so self conscious and gross all the time. ME! Being a girl sucks.

 

Well at least now he was getting it. Maybe he had learned something from this after all.

 

  • Got attacked by a creep and had to be saved by some random dude. Feminism starts to make sense when you’re forced to be a girl.

 

Wait.

 

“You were attacked?!” Casey squeaked, looking back at him in horror. She felt a sudden protective urge overtake her, dropping the journal on the bed and swiftly walking over to him. “When did that happen? Are you okay?”

 

Rubbing his neck shyly, Derek shrugged. “The other day? Really… I’m fine,” he assured, slightly embarrassed by the level of concern she was pouring over him. He almost forgot it even happened, but now thinking about it again was making the hair on his arm stand on end. He would probably be reacting the same way if he found out it was Casey who was attacked. That thought was even scarier. If she had been in her own body… and that guy Aaron hadn’t been around…

 

When she looked at him, she saw how small he was compared to her, and even though she never thought of herself as helpless before, she wanted to wrap him up in bubble wrap so that nothing could hurt him.

 

“What…” Casey hesitated, noticing his discomfort. She gently brushed her fingers over his hand to reassure him. “Tell me what happened? Please?”

 

Derek swallowed. His skin was tingling under Casey’s touch as he looked down at their hands. Her soft pleading voice was like a lasso around his heart, squeezing and pulling him towards her. If the situation was reversed, he would need to know what happened too. He sighed and looked up at her worried expression. “I turned down some old gross dude when he tried to flirt with me," he explained, seriously. Then he scoffed with a defensive smirk, finding it easier to joke about it. “Turns out he didn’t like that very much and thought that getting in my face about it would change my mind. Like he’d ever have a chance with you in the first place.”

 

Casey felt her insides melting, because he somehow made it about her. But her jaw was still set tight and her teeth were grinding against each other painfully. She hesitantly grabbed his hand in hers, trying to be mindful of his space during a conversation like this, but unable to stop herself. She needed to hold him. “What did he do to you?”

 

“Nothing," he assured, pulling her closer and looking up at her seriously, imagining the dark places Casey’s mind was roaming to. “Just wouldn’t get out of my face. Had me backed into a corner or whatever so I had to shove him off. It was gross. But I’m fine.” She didn’t seem relieved by this in the slightest. “Look at me. I’m okay,” he coaxed, gripping her arm comfortingly to strengthen his point.

 

Her eyes softened over him, thankful that he was okay. Lifting her other hand to caress his cheek, she couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like to be in that situation. “You must have been so scared,” she said softly.

 

It was definitely scary and traumatic, but Derek didn’t want to dwell or give Casey any more reason to worry. “More like pissed," he corrected. “I think it turned me into an angry feminist.” He grinned up at her, opening up an avenue to be teased by her in an attempt to lighten the mood.

 

She laughed, smiling fondly at him. “I’d like to say I’m glad you finally see things my way, but…” she drifted off, shaking her head. “I’m sorry this happened.”

 

“It was just one more crazy thing to add to the list,” Derek shrugged.

 

Nodding, Casey looked at the journal abandoned on the bed, biting her lip in thought. He probably never would have told her about it if she hadn’t read the list. But then again, if he didn’t want her to know, she shouldn’t have forced herself in like that. “I’m sorry, about…” she gestured vaguely towards the book. “I didn’t think it was going to be… that. I shouldn’t have read it.”

 

Smiling up at her lightly, Derek felt his affection for her swell in his chest. She was so thoughtful sometimes, it actually floored him. She seemed to respect how hard it was for him to open up. For some reason, it felt really really good though - opening up to her. Especially when she wasn’t trying to pry. “It was your diary to begin with,” Derek reminded her sweetly, “So we’re even.”

 

“Okay,” Casey smiled, absolutely smitten by him. “We’re even.”

 

Derek was surprised to find that he wanted to open up to Casey even more. “You know, you can… uh…” he trailed off shyly, “read the rest. If… If you’re curious.”

 

Taken aback by his offer, Casey’s face fell, and she entertained the possibility that he wanted her to know. They were apparently doing the talking thing now. She liked it very much. She pulled away slightly and considered the journal. She wanted to know. She wanted to know everything. But these thoughts, in the book, they weren’t meant for her.

 

“You know I am,” she stated, closing the book before turning back to him, tucking her thumbs in her back pockets. “I want to know everything. When you’re ready to tell me.”

 

Derek felt a slight disappointment. He wanted her to read the rest, but he wasn’t sure why. Maybe he just wanted to feel closer to her. The thought of using his words though… out loud, was a lot more daunting. “I’m… not really the kind of guy who brings that stuff up a lot," he said awkwardly before picking the journal up from the bed. “You sure you wanna pass on such a rare invitation?” He wriggled his eyebrows as he held the journal out to her. She regarded it hesitantly and he rolled his eyes. “It’s fine. Really. Read it.”

 

“I know what kind of guy you are,” Casey assured, pushing the journal back. “Having me read this won’t get you out of a real conversation, Der. When you’re ready.”

 

He grimaced and groaned through his teeth. Why did she have to know him so well? He really did feel ready to open up to her. But he wouldn’t know where to start and he was feeling increasingly awkward. He flipped through the journal, to have something to do with his hands and his eyes glanced down at the page, hoping to find something he could bring up as a gesture of good faith.

 

  • How weird is it that the idea of Casey’s body being attracted to my random savior made me irrationally jealous? (and confused cuz I for real may have been attracted to him for a second - but only a second!)

 

Yeah, that one was out of the question. Far too embarrassing. He couldn’t start with “Hey, so I’ve started having confusing feelings about men.” Yeah, nope. Nope, nope, nope. He sincerely hoped she hadn't skimmed ahead.

 

  • Also. Casey finally explored the wonders of my anatomy? Which might be the hottest thing I’ve ever heard of? (Even more than Casey kissing Sally and that says something). Holy fuck, probably gonna think about that every time I jerk off now, for eternity.

 

He could start there, but that would be taking the easy way out, and Casey would probably call him out on that. It didn’t really show a depth of emotion so much as a depth of horniness. He was really bummed out she hadn’t reached this one on the list.

 

  • So turns out a shopping spree can be helpful? I feel so much better in this body now that I have new clothes that match my personality. Oh God listen to me I’m turning into a girly girl. FML.
  • Tomorrow is the dreaded day.
  • Casey thinks we're soulmates...
  • We might be.
  • But who knows? Not me, that’s for damn sure.
  • Either way it fucking scares me - how I feel about her… I don’t know if those intense feelings even belong to me. It’s scary if they don’t. Even scarier if they do. Never knew I was such a pussy (even if I do have one now)

 

Sighing deeply, Derek snapped the journal shut and threw it on the bed. He was being a pussy. Still. It shouldn’t be so hard to just open up to her.

 

“I guess… uh…” he started, risking a glance up at her. She watched him on pins and needles, knowing he was about to say something real. He was coming up blank. There was so much he could say but nothing felt right on his tongue. He kept going, just letting the words flow freely, coming as just as much of a shock to him as to her, “I want to be. Ready, I mean. To… open up to you. Lean in.” Ducking his head shyly, he paled at the wonder in her eyes. “I… Trust you. It’s just hard for me to…” he struggled. “Words are…” Even though he was basically making excuses for not opening up to her, it was probably the most honest thing he could have said, making him feel incredibly vulnerable.

 

“I know,” Casey said, grateful to find out that he was really trying. That, in and of itself, meant a lot. She felt that she should return the favour. Positive reinforcement and all of that. “I’m not expecting you to be something that you’re not, you know.” Rocking back on her heels, she looked away. “I know I can be pushy sometimes, and I get really scared it’s gonna drive you away. I’d hate myself, if that happened. I just…” Daring a quick glance at him to find him frowning deeply. Her eyes went back to her feet. “I like you too much.”

 

Heart clenching, Derek closed the distance between them, his hands finding her arms which were crossed protectively around her torso. He let his touch glide up her arms, trying to soothe away her fears. It was his fault she felt so scared - he was so flakey and closed off all the time. And he knew her pushiness wasn’t the problem. She hardly ever pried anymore, if anything she seemed overly cautious when asking him anything. He didn't want her walking on eggshells around him because he was so emotionally stunted.

 

It all came down to his own stupid fears. He always struggled with opening up, voicing his thoughts, showing his genuine feelings for someone. But more than that, there was one fear above all the others that was controlling him - that prevented him from opening up to her and was responsible for driving him away, ultimately planting that doubt in her mind. He had been holding back from her for so long because he had to - initially for Sally. And all that time, things just kept building and building between him and Casey, held at bay by a flimsy wall. He could sense what was on the other side. The build-up was monumental. The tidal wave that would come when he finally tore down that last resistance would certainly knock him flat on his ass. He would have absolutely no control over the current, it would be too powerful, he would just have to surrender to it. It terrified him. But he wanted this badly enough, so he had to do his best to swallow that fear.

 

“That’s not going to happen,” he promised, giving her an imploring look. “You’re not too pushy, okay? You’re… perfect.”

 

Feeling her cheeks warming up, Casey snorted playfully. “Perfect?”

 

Derek blushed a little when he realized what he just said, and laughed through his nose. They had really come a long way. “Perfect," he repeated matter-of-factly. “And I’m sorry…”

 

“Sorry for what?” She pouted.

 

“For being so… I dunno. For taking so long, I guess," he said, just above a whisper, his fingers fidgeting against her skin. He was always fidgeting anxiously in Casey’s body.

 

If he was going to open up to anyone, why not Casey - the person he literally shared part of his soul with. “For pushing myself away. That’s not on you.”

 

“Derek…” Casey said, “I didn’t mean-“ she stopped herself, shaking her head. “So long? 24 hours after breaking up with Sally? After being stuck like this for just over a week? I can’t expect you to feel the way I do just like that. You’re not taking too long. You take the time you need.”

 

Had it really only been a week? Air puffed out from Derek’s lungs and he chuckled slightly. “Yeah, It’s been a lot at once.” He pursed his lips, trying to figure out how to express what he was really apologizing for. “It’s just… I know I haven’t been making it super clear. So that’s why I - I’m sorry I made it seem like… Like I don’t like you or something.” His breath came out a little shaky, recognizing the exposed position he was in. It was overwhelming and he had to stare at her chest to avoid the intensity of her gaze. “I guess I’ve just been…” He sighed deeply in frustration with himself at how hard it was to say how he felt. “Scared or something.”

 

The way he insisted so vehemently on getting the words out was entirely too adorable, and Casey couldn’t keep the corner of her mouth from quirking up. She grabbed at the hem of his shirt, looking at him through her lashes bashfully. “So does that mean… you like me now?”

 

Now?” Derek asked, the sudden flirtiness of the conversation bringing him back into his comfort zone. He could give her one more dose of seriousness though. “Maybe it’s only been a week but it’s also been years. And after years of just denying everything and keeping my distance… The difference is now I can admit that I like you.”

 

Grinning broadly, Casey continued to pull on his shirt, tugging him closer. He looked up, meeting her eyes curiously. “Years?”

 

“At least subconsciously," he replied breathily as his eyes fell to her lips. He could practically feel the tension buzzing between them. When he inhaled a shallow breath, he caught sight of his chest rising, breasts brushing against Casey. Exhaling, the contact broke, and when his eyes snapped up to meet hers he saw the softness in her eyes melt into something darker as her pupils bloomed. Suddenly, he was pulled in by his shirt and they were kissing, bodies slamming together in urgency.

 

As Derek’s hands came up to her chest, Casey wrapped her arms around his waist, keeping him close while they kissed. It felt like she had wanted this for years, pining without knowing, and she was finally getting a taste of it - a taste of honey on his lips.

 

“Are you wearing lipstick?”