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Intersecting Lines

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Exhausted and sweaty, Derek stumbled into the house with his heavy hockey bag slung over his shoulder. He dropped it with a loud thud by the door. Coach pushed them extra hard at practice because of their upcoming game against their biggest rival, Northbridge. He was completely drained. All he wanted to do was shower, lock himself in his room, and listen to music. Now was not the time for anyone to bother him. 

   

He dragged himself up the stairs and into the bathroom where - conveniently - there was already a towel folded neatly on the counter, and an unlit candle next to a set of matches. 

 

How nice of Casey to leave this here for me. Derek thought mischievously as he closed the door with the full intent of inconveniencing her. He deserved to get the shower first anyway, he needed it more.  

 

He flung off his stale shirt and turned on the hot water. Before he was able to completely unzip his pants, the bathroom door slammed open.

 

As soon as she came back to find the bathroom door closed, Casey knew exactly who the culprit was. Who else would notice that she had set up everything for a nice warm bath and so inconsiderately take it over. She really didn’t need this right now. She’d had the worst day.

 

“Der-ek!” She yelled as the door smacked against the wall, finding her step-brother in a hazardous state of undress on the other side. He looked up ever so innocuously, with his fingers paused halfway down his fly. She gathered her jaw off the floor quickly, zeroing in on him as she got back to her objective: scold and consequently annoy Derek. “I was using the bathroom!”

 

Well, this was bound to happen. Luckily Derek knew how to handle Casey and her freak-outs. He mustered up all the energy he had left in his body and channeled it into becoming the most casual and cocky person on the planet, “Is that so?” He mocked, crossing his arms over his chest, his pants slinking down his hips. “Because I think I would have remembered walking in on that,” He cocked his head and gestured to her, red-faced and fuming, “Like you're doing right now.” Leaning against the counter, he looked down at his exposed chest, pointing out that she had caught him undressing “What if I had been... indecent.” 

 

“When are you ever decent?” Casey shot back at his shamelessly suggestive, yet typical comment. Now was not the time to be distracted by his quips and surprisingly muscular chest. Shaking herself, she moved menacingly into the room with the meanest glare she could muster. “I called dibs on the bathroom when I left my towel in here. Walk out now, and this won’t get ugly.”  

 

The room was quickly filling with steam, soothing the aches in Derek's body and reminding him just how much he needed this. There was no way he was walking out now. “You lost dibs the minute I needed a shower and you weren't here.” Derek asserted, furthering his point by unzipping his pants the rest of the way down. “The shower’s mine.” He hooked his fingers through his belt loops like a gunslinger, except instead of threatening gunfire, he threatened nudity. “In the next 30 seconds, I'm going to be in that shower and there's nothing you can do to stop me. So unless you’re prepared to call my bluff and get blessed with a new mental image of me for life, I suggest you give me some privacy.” He stared her down to drive home the fact he was not bluffing. His sore muscles were not going to wait through one of Casey's unreasonably long bubble baths.

 

Halfway between boiling mad and mortified, Casey set her jaw and quickly turned around, facing the shower, as Derek’s jeans hung threateningly low on his hips. Even though he was generally somewhat modest, she could tell that the jerk wasn’t kidding this time, and she wasn’t keen on seeing more of him than she already had. 

 

“You’re such an ass, Derek!” She said, with gritted teeth and her hands wound tightly into fists while she held back frustrated tears. It wasn’t so much losing the bathroom that affected her that way, but on top of everything that happened today, Derek’s selfishness was just the last straw. “It wasn’t enough to pull your stupid prank at lunch, now you’ll use up all the hot water like you always do so I won’t be ready for the party on time! That’s just so like you! It always has to be about you! You don’t have the slightest consideration for anyone else!”

 

Derek rolled his eyes. This wasn't even about her. He just needed a quick shower! She had plenty of time to get ready for the party. It would be faster for her to wait for him to shower, wait for hot water, and then shower. Her bath would take twice that long!

 

Not to mention, she was completely overreacting about the prank at lunch. It was totally minor. All he did was pull her chair out from under her as she sat down…

 

Like, he still caught her (and maybe threw in a "Klutzilla" comment). So no big deal! A mild dose of their usual antics, really. She was the one who caused a scene in the cafeteria about it - screaming at him like a banshee. So, really she had herself to blame for that one. 

 

“Ten seconds left, Case.” He teased unwaveringly, grabbing the hem of his pants and underwear and pulling down lightly so that his hip was exposed. “What's it going to be?”

 

“UGH!” Casey groaned, stomping her foot in aggravation. “Can’t you be a nice and thoughtful human being just ONCE in your life?!”

 

Derek pulled even lower, raising an eyebrow at her, “Five…” He warned, wondering if she was just going to stand there with her back turned forever, “Four…”

 

“FINE!” Casey growled, starting to feel her eyes fill with unshed tears. She didn’t want to be in front of him when they started to spill anyway. “Enjoy your stupid shower!” she continued, making for the shower and pushing the lever towards icy cold water, before stomping out of the room.

 

Derek felt a flash of guilt at Casey's watery voice, like she was about to cry, but it left as quickly as it came. She was just being dramatic, it was only a bath for fuck sakes. 

 

He quickly followed and poked his head out of the bathroom. “Casey wait.” He called, with uncharacteristic sincerity. 

 

She stopped by the threshold of her room, but didn’t turn around or say anything, just waited to hear what he had to say. His tone of voice sounded genuine, but she couldn’t help the tension in her shoulders as she braced herself for another blow.

 

He grinned impishly, “Happy birthday!” He said before closing and locking the bathroom door. 

 

 


 

 

Despite her initial anxiety, Casey did get ready for the party on time. After Derek had left the bathroom, she’d found out that he’d left some hot water, and decided to shower quickly. Some of the stiffness from the day had been relieved, but there was still a knot at the pit of her stomach, keeping her from fully enjoying the moment. This year’s birthday was already worse than last year’s, and that was saying something considering she’d ended up at the hospital.

 

Sure, everyone who showed up was being nice and joyful, showering her with presents and birthday wishes (and beer - thank god George and Nora left for the movies with the kids), but not all of them showed up on time, particularly her boyfriend, who really had some nerve being late to her party after the scene he’d caused today. Part of her dreaded Truman’s arrival, because they hadn’t exactly made up after their argument at lunch, but surely he would show up, and he might even be remorseful for the ugly things he’d said.

 

Sensing Casey’s distraction, and having witnessed the dispute earlier in the day, Emily attempted to take her mind off of things by pulling her around the party to talk to everyone. “Megan’s here, she’s doing that cool palm reading thing!” She exclaimed, projecting her voice over the loud music. “You should totally try it, Case!”

 

Chuckling, Casey let her best friend drag her to the kitchen, where people were lining up at the island to get their fortunes told by Megan. It was a neat party trick. Emily pushed through the crowd of people, announcing the birthday girl. “Alright everyone, step aside, it’s Casey’s turn!”

 

Megan's piercing eyes found Casey, through her dramatic black eyeshadow. A mischievous smile tugged at the corner of her dark purple lips, “Well if it isn't the guest of honour.” Megan announced with a thick tone of mystery and theatricality, “Care to discover what the stars have in store for you?” She beckoned Casey forward with her slender arms, adorned with black mesh and clattering bracelets.

 

Impressed by Megan’s act, Casey stepped up jovially, sitting on the stool in front of the mystic. “I do,” she said courteously, as Emily clapped excitedly next to her.

 

“Oh my god, is she going to be famous?” Emily asked dreamily. “Is she going to marry a Prince and be like totally rich?”

 

“But where would that leave me?” Truman called suavely from behind them.

 

Turning around in surprise, Casey affected a happy smile to welcome her newly arrived boyfriend. “Truman!” she said through gritted teeth, “You’re finally here!”

 

“Not one minute too late,” Emily muttered, rolling her eyes.

 

“You know I always have to be fashionably late.” Truman shrugged, sauntering up to her, “Besides, I was a little busy getting you this.” He said, passing her a small neatly wrapped box.

 

Casey’s smile softened as she took the box from him, appreciating the thoughtful gesture. She wondered if he wrapped it himself, and marvelled at how he’d applied himself if he did. Maybe their argument was behind them after all. “Thanks,” she said gratefully. 

 

“Of course, happy birthday.” He smiled simply, “So you're getting a palm reading? That's fun. Do you believe in all that?” His slight judgemental tone was picked up by Megan, who subtly narrowed her eyes at him.

 

Holding back a frown, Casey turned to face Megan, putting down the box carefully next to her on the island. “I think I might,” she said amicably. “I’d like to know what’s in my future.”

 

“Hopefully a new boyfriend,” Emily said quietly so only Casey and Megan could hear.

 

Megan extended her hand covered in rings and henna to Casey. “Your palm holds the answers, my dear.”

 

Presenting her hand, Casey took a shaky breath as the ball in her stomach suddenly seemed agitated, and a faint tingly feeling spread through her limbs.

 

The moment Megan’s fingertips touched Casey’s palm, she seemed to take pause, as if noting something unusual. “Hmm…” She considered thoughtfully, “You are on the precipice of change, your future holds much possibility…” The level of focus Megan put into the moment had everyone on edge. 

 

“Uh oh, bad news Case?” Derek interrupted. He had been passing by and noticed the ridiculous performance going on. He was a skeptic, to say the least. Megan was cool and all, he even considered her a friend, but he didn't buy into the whole psychic schtick. More like a fashion statement than a superpower. And the fact that Casey did buy into it - based on how concerned she looked right now - was hilarious. “How many cats do you see in there, Megan? 10? 20?”

 

“Der-ek!” Casey cried, ignoring Truman’s groan and muted grumbling next to her.

 

“SHUSH CHILDREN!” Megan bellowed, raising a silencing hand. She returned it softly to trace the lines on Casey's palm, “Divining truth out of the noise is no easy task.” The small crowd watched intently as Megan continued, forehead creasing, lost in thought. “I sense you have a keen mind…”

 

Derek had to hold back from jumping on that easy target, sucking in his lips to prevent his outburst. He had to admit though, he was curious to see how this would play out, so he kept his mouth shut and watched the show. 

 

“And are prone to sickening feelings of anxiety, you feel things very deeply, the emotions stirring in your core...”

 

Listening on intently, like she was being sucked into Megan’s eerie presence, Casey let the words resonate through her whole being.

 

“Your compassion and imagination are prominent and will take you far in this life, as will your strength and tenacity. Though be wary of your stubborn heart and flammable temper. Amidst the softness and kindness there is fire, and burning in the embers is a strong yet hidden sensuality. There is no doubt your life will be filled with romance and passion.”

 

Casey felt herself blush, the notion of sensuality generally evaded her, and part of her longed to discover that side of herself. But the mention of it in front of everyone left her feeling exposed and vulnerable, even as she felt Truman’s touch against her back and heard his snicker that came with it.

 

Stroking the line splitting Casey’s palm diagonally, Megan continued, “Your head line is broken into pieces, often symbolizing personal strife and lessons to be learned. Your life will not go according to plan and you will be forced to adapt, again and again. But I sense that you make it through with resounding success and make many personal breakthroughs.”

 

Megan moved to the crease by Casey's thumb “Your life line shows that you will experience a depth of emotion, and live a rich and full life.” 

 

“I knew she would be rich!” Emily cut through in a loud whisper.

 

“It is interesting that this line is split into two, perhaps indicating that there are two paths ahead of you, or equally, perhaps there is a person who will have a significant impact on your journey.” She stroked vertically over the heel of Casey's hand, “You will be heavily impacted by forces beyond your control, especially during this time of change. You must embrace it, it will not yield.” Shifting slightly she hummed pleasantly, “You will achieve moderate success, in any path you choose.”

 

Moderate?” Casey said, scrunching her face up into a pout. She was fairly sure she would achieve more than moderate success in her life.

 

Megan chuckled thoughtfully, “You needn't fear of failure or poverty, and monumental success is within your grasp, if you work for it.”

 

Casey nodded, satisfied with Megan’s precision. She could work hard, she was basically born for it.

 

“This line here…” Megan droned fondly, tracing her fingertips over the highest crease, “Is most intriguing…” Her eyes snapped up to meet Casey's “Your heart line.” Her pupils sparked enticingly, “Perhaps it's best not to know some things” She paused to amp up the drama, “Are you sure you want the answers?”

 

With her heart racing a mile a minute, Casey nodded frantically. “Yes,” she said, “I want to know!”

 

“It’s a prince! Is it a prince?” Emily pleaded on the side.

 

“It is the deepest I have ever seen. It practically vibrates with energy.” Megan said with intensity, clearly fascinated with the discovery, “Though tumultuous and unconventional as this line may be, it signifies a transformative bond, one that is overflowing with passion and longing and leads to long term contentment…”

 

Derek swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched the scene unfold. Megan's performance was captivating, even if it was made up. It made him feel weird, like there was some strange energy or electricity gluing him there. He studied Casey's face as she listened to Megan, her expression of awe peppered with tiny twitches whenever a thought crossed her mind. 

 

“With the way it intersects, it seems the bond in question will be very unexpected, perhaps even something you would never consider for yourself, but you will be powerless to it as it draws you in like a magnet.”

 

Inexplicably, Casey’s eyes drifted slowly towards Derek, catching his gaze. As he stared back with unreadable intensity, she felt her blush spread down her neck and broke eye contact quickly, hoping nobody noticed the way they had lingered. 

 

As Derek held her gaze, not so much as blinking, the noise of the party drifted away into a muffled roar. They became the only two people in the room. When her eyes finally left, the volume of the party returned and Derek had to shake his head to get out of the trance.

 

“You can try to fight it - you likely will, but it will eventually consume you. As hopeless as that may sound, it is the most significant factor in your future. It is your destiny. Thankfully, the stars wish to grant you fulfillment - a life of following your heart with no regrets.”

 

Megan's fingertips left Casey's palm and the spell was broken. Casey let out the breath she’d been holding and let her hand fall on the cold surface of the island. “Wow,” she said almost dazedly, the experience shaking her to her core.

 

“Yeah,” Emily agreed, mesmerized. “Wow.”

 

Even Truman agreed, “That's...yeah, wow.” 

 

“Pfffffffftt!” Derek couldn't help himself, “I mean, cool performance and all but that's a load of crap. There's no way that lines on your skin can tell the future.” He was able to hide the small waver in his voice, that odd sensation he had while watching still haunting him a little.

 

“Shut up, Derek!” Casey yelled, insulted beyond measure, and pushed herself up to glower at him. “Just because you don’t have the emotional maturity to understand it doesn’t mean it’s crap!” She poked her finger into his chest. “I bet your future is all musty and stale and dark - like your soul!”

 

“Hm, that’s interesting,” Emily said, stroking her chin as she thought. “Why don’t you get your fortune told, Derek? Then we’ll see if you still don’t believe it.”

 

Derek deadpanned, “You can’t be serious.”

 

Scoffing, Casey crossed her arms over her chest, pinning him with a challenging glare. “You’re probably too scared to even try!”

 

Glowering at her, Derek met her challenge. He let his hand fall on the island, palm up, “Can’t be scared of something that isn’t real.”

 

Megan levelled him with a sly look, “Perhaps that's your fear talking.” 

 

“Ok then, Mistress of Darkness,” Derek quipped, impressed (and a little intimidated) by her commitment to the bit, “Do your thing.” 

 

Wasting no time, Megan snatched his hand into her grasp. Her skin was warm and tingly against his own and he was tempted to rip his hand away. 

 

The amused smirk on Megan's lips fell as she looked down at his palm. Her fingers jumped to run against one of the creases, startled by something.

 

Noticing Megan’s concern, Casey leaned forward. “What is it?” she asked curiously, prompting Emily to lean in closer as well.

 

As Megan traced over the line delicately, Derek tried not to squirm. It seriously tickled.

 

“It's just…” Megan struggled to find the words. She looked around the crowd, wide eyed before returning her focus to his skin.

 

“Is he going to die a horrible death?” Casey asked joyfully, looking back at Megan with a huge grin.

 

“Your heart line.” Megan said with poorly concealed disbelief, “It's…”

 

As much as he claimed to be above this, Derek was getting uneasy, “What?” he asked jokingly, “Are you going to tell me I don't have a heart? I already know that. Casey reminds me almost every day.”

 

“Just to keep you humble,” Casey said.

 

“Casey…” Megan said, a little nervously, “Bring your palm back over here, would you please?” 

 

“Huh?” Casey uttered, fisting her hand against her chest protectively. What did Megan want with her hand while reading Derek’s future?

 

Derek’s eyes darted around the group. Megan's skin against his was so hot it almost burned, and he was seriously considering pulling away. But he couldn't do that and play it cool at the same time so he took a breath and tried another joke, a little strained this time, “Don’t tell me. She murders me, doesn't she?”

 

Perking up, Casey let her palm fall flat beside his. “Do I?”

 

Megan retraced the line on Derek's skin that she had been fussing with, this time it felt like he had been zapped by a tiny bolt of lightning, “They're identical.” She murmured before tracing the same line on Casey.

 

Casey snatched her hand back like she’d been burned. “W-what?!” she squeaked, turning her wide eyes to Emily, who simply shook her head, obviously as shocked as everyone else.

 

“What's that supposed to mean?!” Derek demanded, finally taking his hand back and rubbing it to fix whatever Megan did to it.

 

Truman scoffed, deeply offended, “Casey and Derek. Really? You've got to be kidding me.”

 

Facing Truman again, Casey put her hand on his shoulder, attempting a strained laugh. “That’s not what she meant, Truman.” Her head snapped back to Megan almost menacingly. “Right?!”

 

Megan seemed a little taken aback as everyone stared her down. But she quickly regained her composure, slipping back into her calm, enigmatic persona, “The stars work in mysterious ways,” She provided simply, “Perhaps it's just a coincidence.” She shrugged, as if she didn't really believe that but wasn't willing to say either way.

 

“Definitely a coincidence!” Casey jumped on the excuse like a lifeline, smiling at Truman hopefully, to appease him.

 

“Load of crap. Like I said. I'm out.” Derek grumbled before storming off, needing to get away from this creepy bullshit immediately. The whole thing was insane. The implication alone that he and Casey

 

Well, he just couldn't go there. 

 

 


 

 

“You know it’s just a party trick, right!” Casey said as she followed Truman into her room, closing the door behind her. She didn’t know what Megan was playing at, but she didn’t need her coming up with ridiculous ideas like that when the subject of Derek was already a sore subject since that afternoon.

 

“I know that.” Truman groaned, rolling his head back with annoyance. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked at her squarely, “But it's more than just the palm reading thing. You know that. It's... it's constant.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Casey huffed, and put Truman’s present down on her side table before sitting on the side of her bed. This again? Like making a scene over Derek’s prank at lunch hadn’t been enough. “It’s not my fault Derek keeps interfering with everything. Even when I do my best to get rid of him, he keeps sticking, like gum under my shoe.”

 

“He’s everywhere.” Truman said, exasperated, “And I get that you can't control how much he involves himself, but you're not completely powerless against it either.” He cast her a look of accusation, “You provoke him. Or, you overreact and it just spurs him on. He's looking to get a reaction out of you Casey! And you let him win every single time even when I beg you not to!”

 

“I do not provoke him!” Casey said, her arms flailing in agitation. “He provokes me! He knows what annoys me and does his best to just push at all the buttons!” she continued yelling, getting carried away. “I can’t not react even if I try! He is so infuriating!”

 

“You provoke each other.” Truman clarified, “I know because my sister and I are the same way - but we don't complain about it all the time. You and Derek are obsessed with each other! It's not normal, Casey! How can you claim to be better than him if you can't even choose to rise above it?”

 

Crossing her arms petulantly, Casey grumbled. “I am better. He just makes it so hard.”

 

Truman sighed in defeat, “You know what? I don't want to talk about Derek anymore.” His eyes softened over her, “It's your birthday and… we shouldn't let him get between us right now.” He plopped down next to her on the bed, his hands placed sheepishly in his lap as his eyes pleaded with her for connection.

 

Casey smiled softly, bringing her hand up to cup the side of his face. “You’re right,” she said, closing her eyes as she leaned in to kiss his cheek.

 

His cheek stretched into a smile under her lips, “Do you want to open your present now?” He asked charmingly.

 

“Yes!” She brightened, remembering the present she’d just placed beside her bed. She picked it up and placed it in her lap, looking up fondly at Truman. “That is so nice of you.”

 

Her fingers went to the wrapping paper, tracing the cute motif with her fingertips. This was the first present Truman had ever given her, it felt so special and romantic. She let herself contemplate what it could be; the box was pretty small, so it was probably jewelry. She imagined a silver band ring mounted with a heart shaped gem, or a bracelet with her name in delicate letters.

 

Now too excited to wait another second, she tore greedily through the paper, and opened the simple black box inside. “Truman…” she said as she pulled the silver chain out of the box, it was subtle and elegant, with a small pendant hanging from it, a letter in cursive. She observed it and discovered it was a “T”. It was… it was nice... She liked it, really. “It’s really…” she drifted off.

 

“Its uh…” He explained awkwardly, “T, for Truman. That way…” His tone shifted suggestively, “Everyone will know that you're my girl. And you can - you know... carry a piece of me with you wherever you go.”

 

“Oh!” Casey looked at the pendant, tracing around the letter with the pad of her thumb. Truman’s girl… Why didn’t that sound right? She appreciated the thought, she did! It was… sweet, kind of. It just wasn’t… quite right. “I love it,” she said, smiling tightly as she went to put it on.

 

“Here.” Truman said, holding out his hand, smirking flirtatiously, “Let me help you with that.”

 

Biting her lip, she handed him the necklace gingerly and pushed her hair aside to let him fasten the chain around her neck. The moment should have been perfect, like that moment in the movies when the guy’s fingers brush over the girl’s skin and she shivers against the contact. Truman totally did it right, too, taking his time to slowly pull the chain around her neck and letting his hands linger. But she didn’t shiver.

 

It was more like a shudder, really, when she felt his lips ghost over her skin. She quickly pulled away, jumping from the bed hurriedly. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him kissing her; he was her boyfriend - she liked him! She was just… distracted! Yes! Because of the whole palm reading thing. “I should go back,” she said, “I don’t want to be rude to my guests!”

 

Truman sighed deeply, dragging his hands over his face and letting them fall to slap on top of his thighs with frustration. He pushed himself up from the bed, and crossed his arms, sucking in his lips like he really wanted to say something. His eyes widened at her as if to say: What are you waiting for? Let's go.

 

 


 

 

Making his way through the crowd, Derek continued to rub his hand. He was really thrown off guard by that whole voodoo thing Megan did to him. He didn't feel totally present as he grumbled under his breath, “Identical… pah! Heart whatever… ” 

 

“Derek!” came Sally’s voice from the living room. She waved him over to the couch where she was having a conversation with Sam and laughed at something he said.

 

Oh, right. Derek realized where he was and what was going on. It was a party, he should be hanging out with his girlfriend and having a good time, not thinking about whatever weird thing just -

 

He shoved it out of his mind, balling his tingly hand into a fist and then stretching his fingers out, plopping down on the couch next to Sally. He draped his arm around her as she talked excitedly to Sam.

 

“- was way better than their first album,” Sally was saying. She was way too into Coldspray for her own good. Sam chuckled lightly, nodding in agreement. “That’s why I’ve been trying to convince this guy here to go to their concert this summer,” Sally continued, giving Derek a playful look as she squeezed his thigh.

 

Derek startled slightly “Hmm?” He asked, having a hard time focusing. What were they talking about? Right, Coldspray. “Oh! Uh, yeah,” He cleared his throat, meeting Sally's sparkling eyes and giving her a soft smile, “I’m slowly coming around to the idea.” He said sweetly with a subtle defiance.

 

“Uh huh,” Sally said, her grin stretching into a knowing smirk, “I know exactly what it’ll take to persuade you.”

 

Sally's attention made Derek feel a little more grounded in reality as he smirked back at her, “Oh yeah?” He coaxed, “What's that?”

 

“I don’t think I can say it in front of your friends,” Sally said, shrugging coyly. “That might be breaking some of your PDA rules.”

 

Considering his need for a distraction, Derek figured he wouldn't mind breaking his PDA rules just this once. He wanted to know exactly what Sally had in mind. 

 

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, pushing himself off the couch. “You know what, guys. I think I’m gonna go get a drink.”

 

At Sam’s rushed exit, Sally laughed and turned to Derek with a soft pout. “Hey, where’s my drink? You took forever over there!”

 

Still a little foggy, it took Derek a second to realize that he had been on a mission to get Sally a drink before he got sucked into the madness, and he was now empty handed. “Ohhh…” He groaned awkwardly, looking back towards the kitchen. He sucked the air in through his teeth and cast her an apologetic look, “I uh...got distracted.”

 

Her eyes growing rounder, she deepened her pout theatrically. “Did you get your fortune told without me?!” Sally complained. “I was looking forward to getting a palm reading later. I hear Megan’s the real deal.”

 

There was no way he was going back over there. Especially not since Megan could tell Sally all about his and Casey’s matching heart lines - bet his girlfriend would get a real kick out of that!

 

So, he needed to steer Sally away from the topic of getting a palm reading together as subtly as possible, “She sure is, uh… committed.” He said shakily. 

 

It was annoying how much the whole thing was affecting him. It wasn’t like he believed in it, so why was it bothering him so much? There was something foreboding to Megan's words, like there was something real about it.

 

To distract his concerning thoughts, he reached out to play with a strand of Sally’s hair. He looked into her coy pout and forced a laugh, “Come on,” He said, needing someone to prove he wasn't crazy, “You don't believe in all that psychic stuff, do you?”

 

Sighing, Sally inclined her head thoughtfully. “Well, not really,” she said slowly, “but there’s nothing wrong with playing along.”

 

“Yeah! Right, of course,” Derek shrugged transparently,  brushing it off, “Cuz it's just an act.” 

 

That's all! Just an act.

 

“CASEY OH MY GOD!” Emily’s shrieking broke over the din, startling them both, as she dashed towards her best friend coming down the stairs.

 

Derek and Sally watched the commotion, saving him from the topic at hand.

 

“Hey, Em,” Casey said distractedly, watching Truman brush past them. She sighed, deciding that tonight was not the time to be addressing her boyfriend’s pissy attitude. “What’s up?”

 

Emily grabbed Casey’s hands eagerly. “You’ll never believe what Megan said! According to my heart line, I’ve been separated from the love of my life, but we will be reunited in the near future.” She jumped up and down excitedly. “Do you know what that means?!”

 

“Awww, Em!” Casey squealed, her heart warming for her best friend.

 

Sally aww’ed quietly as she looked on at the scene. “That’s so cute,” she said, taking hold of Derek’s hand and pulling him off the couch to drag him into the flock of cooing girls now gathered around the staircase. “Come on.”

 

Reluctantly, Derek let himself be dragged towards the stairs. He really didn't want to be around Casey right now, at least until the weirdness wore off. 

 

On the outside, Derek was laid back. But on the inside, was in full-on defense mode. 

 

If they were going to talk about freaking palm reading, he was going to have to find a way to force the conversation onto a new trajectory. Saying something insulting to Casey was bound to do the trick.

 

“What else did she say?” Casey asked intently. Even though there had been some weirdness towards the end, Casey’s experience had been something special, almost otherworldly, and it had felt real. She couldn’t help but want the same thing for Emily, if that meant she would find her true love again.

 

The description of Casey’s own future love life had been strange, but resonated with truth. It seemed fitting, in a way, that she would find something passionate, powerful, inevitable. Maybe it was just the intensity with which she wanted it. To love like that… it was like a fantasy right out of her wildest dreams.

 

Derek needed an out - and quick. Desperate to take control of the situation, he scanned the room and then looked Casey up and down, trying to find anything he could point out that would cause a distraction. He noticed something glittering against her chest, a necklace. It was new, even he could see that, maybe a birthday present. What was it? A “T"? What could that possibly stand f -

 

Bingo.

 

“Nice necklace, Case,” Derek quipped, “Does it zap you when you get too far away from Truman? He worried you're going to run away?” He smirked when three sets of shocked eyes zeroed in on him, “If lost, return to Truman.”

 

Casey could barely contain the rage that consumed her at Derek’s comment. Though she could hear Emily’s gasp, and Sally’s disappointed Der-ek, the rest of the room disappeared behind a cloud of red.

 

She shouldn’t be surprised, Derek was nothing if not consistent; consistently immature, rude, disrespectful and heartless. But this - this was way too far, even for him.

 

Feeling her eyes brimming with tears, Casey balled her fists at her sides, and gritted her teeth. “What. The. HELL,” She seethed, her voice rising with anger and body lunging into motion on its own to shove him hard in the chest. “IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”

 

Okay, maybe that worked a little too well. But Derek was committed so he played it off like a joke, or even a slight angle of being well-intentioned. “Hey, you gotta admit,” He held his hands up in mock surrender at her sudden attack, a stupid grin plastered on his face, “It is a little creepy. I mean, when I put my name on something it means paws off my property.”

 

That sent Casey reeling, hitting too close to home for comfort. She was a bit dubious about wearing the necklace, but she would never subdue herself like this, or put up with that kind of possessive, oppressive behaviour from her boyfriend. Derek was way out of line, and she couldn’t take his distasteful jabs and sickening jokes any longer. Enough was enough.

 

“You are such a jerk! I can’t believe you!” Casey yelled, pushing at him even as the tears falling from her eyes clogged her vision. “You are selfish, insensitive and cruel, Derek Venturi!” She continued, pulling away from Emily trying to hold her back from hitting Derek again. “You are the most despicable human being I have ever met, and you have no idea how much I wish that I didn’t!”

 

The disturbance was drawing the attention of the entire party. Truman had made his way closer to the fight and was leaning against the railing with a sour look on his face; he shifted uneasily and looked around the room in embarrassment.

 

Casey's words stung more than Derek would ever admit. He wasn't a monster! It was just the way things were between them, it was their normal. Did she really need to flip out every single time and cause a scene when she could easily just dismiss him with a roll of her eyes? She helped to create their dynamic, so she should be used to it by now. She played the part as much as he did. There was no point in trying to change anything if she had already made up her mind about him.

 

So yeah, he insulted her. Did she really want him to start being nice to her? Where would that get them? She wouldn't have him to blame for every little thing anymore. He would bet anything that tomorrow Casey would be screaming at him for ruining her party, even though she was the one to turn it into an embarrassing spectacle. Sometimes he wished he’d never met her either.

 

“Likewise, Princess,” He bit out. He secretly hated when their fights got this bad. Most of the time he was just trying to get a reaction out of her, but this time he seemed to have struck a real nerve. 

 

Before Casey had the chance to respond, a compelling voice chimed from the crowd, “Such emotionality!” Megan made her way forward. Shocked into silence, Derek and Casey gawked at her for her audacity to interrupt something that was none of her business. 

 

“With such divided, lone mentality

You must explore your shared humanity

A novel way to end the war

Submitting to unyielding gravity.”

 

Megan's cryptic poem hung in the air before she suddenly dropped the facade, “Let’s bring the party back guys! Come on!” She announced like a typical high school girl. A cheer erupted from the room and the party resumed, leaving Derek and Casey locked in a stare-down.

 

Breaking away from Casey’s glare, Derek’s eyes found Sally’s, looking up at him with disappointment. He sighed and leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I need a break from all of this.” 

 

Sally nodded and the two of them made their way up to Derek's room, side-stepping Casey.

 

Still seething, but irrevocably subdued by Megan’s interruption, Casey let Derek go, smiling softly at Sally’s apologetic expression as they passed her. She would never understand what a great girl like Sally saw in a guy like Derek.

 

She sighed, looking around at the now dispersing crowd, grateful that the spectacle hadn’t lasted longer - she was so tired; these fights with Derek were exhausting. Her eyes met Truman’s, and he returned her gaze with a scowl, like he thought she should be ashamed for what happened. She was definitely embarrassed, because Derek had led her to cause a scene like usual, but it really wasn’t her who should be ashamed for the way things went down.

 

Casey brushed the tears away from her cheeks with the back of her hands, and turned back to Emily. “Let’s get back to the party.”

 

Emily leaned into her, knocking their shoulders together amicably. “I think Megan has vodka in her water bottle,” she offered encouragingly.

 

Casey chuckled and let her best friend lead her back into the party, doing her best to forget about Derek’s uncaring comments. That turned out involving a lot more vodka than intended, and in the end, she didn’t feel any better. Later, she saw everyone out before the rest of the family came back, noting that Truman had already left before she could say goodbye, and finally made her wobbly way to her room.

 

She went through the motions of changing into her pjs, taking off her makeup, brushing her hair, and when she lay in bed, ready to drift off to sleep, she thought: worst birthday ever.

 

 


 

 

Once he was in his room, Derek threw himself on his bed with exasperation. He lay on his back with his head in his hands, feeling dizzy even though he didn’t have much to drink. It was less about the fight with Casey and more about Megan's disturbing interruption. He sighed into his hands and felt Sally climb in next to him. He put his arm around her, welcoming her to lay her head on his chest. 

 

They stayed like that for a while, until Derek felt at ease, the noise of the party droning in the background as he stroked Sally's back affectionately.

 

“Der?” Sally said gently.

 

“Mmm?”

 

Shifting, Sally turned on her side, holding her head into her hand, while she looked down at him with kind but serious eyes. “Why’d you have to do it?”

 

Even though he knew what she was asking, Derek sighed and played dumb, hoping she would give him an out, “Do what?”

 

“You know what,” Sally insisted. “Why are you always so mean to Casey? I know for a fact that you can be the sweetest guy when you want to be.”

 

“I don't know,” Derek admitted honestly, “I can’t be like that with Casey. When I'm nice to her… she…” He groaned softly, realizing for the first time how hard it was to put it into words, “I just can't.”

 

“And you really couldn’t make an effort for her Birthday?”

 

Look, I know you're right. But…” He shut his eyes tightly, “It's like I can't help it. I know I shouldn't have said anything about her creepy necklace, but I couldn't not say something, you know? Like, it would go against nature.”

 

“You know,” Sally chuckled, shaking her head disbelievingly, “I think that in your own, dysfunctional way, you were just looking out for your sister.”

 

“Ugh.” Derek said, shuddering, “I might look out for her on occasion. But she's most definitely not my sister. Marti is my sister. Lizzie even. But Casey?” He shuddered again.

 

“Whatever it is, you care about her,” she said, sitting up on the bed and dangling her feet on the side. “It wouldn’t kill you to show it from time to time.”

 

She didn't get it. He wasn't sure if he really got it either but maybe he could try to explain…

 

“Sally… I can't do that.”

 

Sighing, she looked down at him, patting his thigh. “Well, you could at least try.”

 

Derek sat up and levelled with Sally, “Okay. For argument's sake…” He began carefully, “Let's say I did care. Deep, deep, deepdeep down. And let's say I follow your advice and try to show it. First of all, she would be suspicious, she wouldn't even believe it. And if she did believe it, she would make a huge deal out of it and I'd never live it down. Casey and I are bound to fight, it's what we're used to, so I can't have her expecting me to be nice. It's not like I could ever get close to her, that's not even an option. So instead, we fight, it's just what we do. I don't see anything changing that.”

 

“I know, I know. I had to at least give it a shot. For sisterhood,” Sally said, leaning down to pat him on the cheek. “Plus, it’s not like you were wrong anyway… about the necklace,” she admitted, scrunching her face up in vague distaste. “Remember last year when he was hitting on me? It was kinda… icky.”

 

“Believe me, I remember.” Derek grumbled, “I have no idea what Casey sees in the guy, honestly.”

 

No clue,” Sally agreed emphatically.

 

They continued to talk - about anything other than Casey or palm reading, for the rest of the party. Derek was having a much better time with Sally than he would at Casey's stupid party anyway, and he didn't want to so much as look at Megan until she dropped the whole mystic thing and returned back to being the cool goth chick from homeroom. 

 

When the party cleared out, he tried to get Sally to stick around and sneak out when the family went to bed, but she insisted on respecting the family rules, and left with the rest of the guests. 

 

Alone with his thoughts, Derek started imagining his hand tingling again and it was driving him crazy. To drown it out, he threw on his headphones and blasted some music until it lulled him to sleep.

 

 


 

 

Casey was startled into awareness by some atrocious, loud noise roaring in her ears. Sitting up straight, barely conscious and her eyes half shut, she pulled the unidentified torture device from her head, and sighed in relief when she was graced again with sweet silence.

 

Grumbling quietly, she plopped down into the pillows, marvelling at how incredibly comfortable her bed was this morning. It was possibly all that vodka she’d had last night warping her brain, but it smelled better too, like she’d woken up wrapped in a warm sweater laced with boy body spray.

 

As her brain slowly grew into alertness, her fingers clutched tightly onto the heavy object in her hand, and she recognized with curiosity that they were headphones. She frowned down at them. Derek’s headphones. “Ugh,” she uttered bitterly, the sound coming out deep and gruff, and threw them to the ground next to her bed. Waking up to one of his pranks was just what she needed to start her day wonderfully.

 

Casey coughed to clear her throat. Wow, she sounded like crap. This was her first and last time drinking.

 

Sitting up, she noticed something odd with her comforter. It wasn’t her comforter. It was… What was she doing in Derek’s bed? She was wide awake within seconds as she scoured the room, confirming that she had, indeed, woken up in Derek’s room. Her hands went to her hair as she tried to remember details from last night. She definitely remembered going to sleep in her own room, in her own bed . When her fingers combed quickly through short locks, she paused, repeating the movement frantically until it was dead clear that there wasn’t any more hair. He’d cut her hair.

 

The bastard had cut her hair! While she slept! Oh, he would pay for this - with his life.

 

She was all ready to jump off the bed and barge out of the room when she realized that it was damn cold in here, and she was barely dressed. It was when she looked down at her almost naked body that she knew - she had lost her mind. There was no other explanation, there couldn’t be, because she was staring at a guy’s chest, and lower down, covered by boxers, she could see the evidence of what could only be… morning wood.

 

“Oh my god!” She squealed, then clamped a hand over her mouth as the scratchy voice resounded to her ears. What, the…

 

No. No no no nonoononono no.

 

She made a mad dash for Derek’s mirror at the back of his door, and stared right back at the dreaded reflection of her step-brother, wide eyed, breathing harshly like he’d just ran a marathon, and… wearing only boxers! She had to suppress a scream as she turned her head away, closing her eyes tightly and willed herself to wake up from this nightmare.

 

Wake up! She ordered her brain, then chanced a quick look in the mirror.

 

What the hell.

 

She looked closer, glaring at the stupid face gawking back at her. They were definitely his eyes; those sharp, deep brown eyes. And those were his teeth, biting anxiously down on his lip, and the light freckles peppered over his nose, and his shaggy, messy mop of hair.

 

This wasn’t real. She was going to wake up any minute now. Because she did not wake up in Derek’s body - that would be absurd.

 

Then she heard her alarm clock ringing in the room next door, and resolved to find out exactly what was going on - after getting dressed.




 

 

Groggily, Derek reached out to silence his annoying alarm, blindly pressing a button to get rid of the blaring sound. He could barely lift his head from the pillow, it was so heavy. What did he do to deserve this hangover? He hardly had anything to drink.

 

He rolled over to go back to sleep but when his eyes opened briefly, he noticed something was wrong. 

 

Sitting up abruptly, he looked around. Why the hell was he in Casey's room? 

 

Something was in his face, and in his mouth. He sputtered, pushing it out of the way. Hair.

 

Hair?! 

 

He brushed his fingers through it, long and silky, and attached to his head. He ripped the blanket off to see an attractive pair of smooth slender legs, also attached to him, apparently. He swung those legs off the bed and stood up, mind grasping at straws. 

 

This had to be a dream, Derek thought as he looked down, alarmed to find his own womanly figure. Some part of his subconscious must have had a fantasy about this. Instinctively, he cupped his chest and smirked. His smirk fell though as he realized that most dreams weren't nearly this tactile. He looked up and caught his reflection, or Casey's reflection as she stared at him, wide eyed, clutching her own boobs. 

 

Derek raised his hands in the air like he had just been caught committing a crime and saw Casey do the same. 

 

His stomach dropped as he stepped hesitantly towards the mirror. He waved his hand to double check. Yep, that confirmed it, he was having some kind of pervy dream about waking up in the body of his step-sister. He was going to have to have a stern talk with his subconscious over this, and probably some therapy. 

 

He figured if this was a dream, he might as well enjoy it, and squeezed her breasts again, looking in the mirror thoughtfully. He wondered why his dream would ruin things by putting some kind of sports bra underneath her shirt. It was already full perv-city, why not spring for braless? Then he froze, because why would he want to touch his step-sister’s boobs. There was something seriously wrong with him. 

 

It felt nice though - not as nice as he had expected it to feel for girls when he touched them like that, but nice. Then he realized with dread that this felt too real to be a dream. 

 

He heard the alarm go off again and it startled him into quickly dropping his hands. He ran over to it and looked for the off button, and ended up having to unplug it.

 

The door started to open and he jumped, his ears being met with a loud “Der-ek!” But the voice was wrong. It sounded like… him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Bursting into her own room, ready to give her step-brother an earful for doing whatever the hell he had done, Casey stopped with her mouth open as she came face to face with… herself. Her own face was looking at her like a deer caught in the headlights, with an almost guilty expression on her face.

 

This was beyond creepy.

 

She walked over slowly, keeping a guarded distance between herself and the other Casey in the room. “Derek?” she asked cautiously, startling herself by hoping that it was indeed him and not some alien that had taken over her body.

 

“What the…” Derek trailed off, hearing his voice - her shrill voice, coming out of him for the first time, “Hell…” He stared at his own face glaring down at him - literally down at him since he was a head shorter now. This had to be a hallucination or something. It was so bizarre to see his face contorted into that indignant, accusational sneer that he was only used to receiving from, “Casey?!”

 

Her eyes basically fell out of their sockets as she looked down at him - her - him (ugh!) and came to the disturbing conclusion that they were trapped in each other’s bodies. She still held some hope that it was all some weird, perverted dream, but it was quickly fading at this point. It felt too real.

 

“What have you done to me?” Casey demanded, with her (his?) fists balled at her sides.

 

Sputtering, Derek glared at the person currently invading his body. Because everything had to be his fault, “What do I look like to you? A wizard?!” Derek asked, his words unintentionally coming out like a shriek. Like he would ever plan something like this if it wasn't just some kinky dream! He was very happy in his original body, thankyouverymuch. He suddenly realized the unsettling absence between his legs and shifted uncomfortably.

 

Was that what she sounded like? Casey wondered, stepping closer to Derek to observe her face up close. She looked completely different than she thought she did, or what she used to see in the mirror, but not in a bad way. From this side of things, she couldn’t see all the little imperfections she used to obsess over every morning, like the line of her eyebrows or the shape of her nose.

 

Realistically, she knew Derek couldn’t have done this. He looked as frazzled as she felt, and this couldn’t be an ideal situation for him either, stuck in her body. Casey let her eyes wander down, where Derek suddenly had boobs - her boobs! He better not have done anything inappropriate while she wasn’t there! - and eased off, accepting that this was probably happening to both of them.

 

“Okay,” she nodded her head slowly as she crossed her arms. “Okay, you didn’t do this.”

 

“Oh, you think?” Derek mocked, exasperated. He felt a little sick actually, letting himself sit on the bed, elbows propped up on his knees as he held his head level, his long hair falling like a curtain over his face.

 

“Not so loud!” Casey accused, flailing her arms in a shushing manner. The last thing they needed was their parents coming to check on them and finding them like this. At least not until they had a plan.

 

In a whispered shout, Derek did his best Casey impression as he glared up at her, “Apparently, this body doesn't come with a quiet function!”

 

“And apparently your body doesn’t come with any brain function because I can’t think to figure out what the hell is going on?!” Casey snapped.

 

“Your brain isn't any better!” Derek argued, “You think I know what kind of voodoo mindfuckery is going on right n-” a lightbulb went on over his head. He stood up suddenly and grabbed her by the shoulders, an action that felt totally strange and weirdly validating as he had to reach up and grip muscular delts, “Casey.” He gasped. It was the only explanation! “Megan!”

 

Casey stared at her own bright eyes, puzzled as to where he was going with that. “Megan?”

 

“Of course! Megan!” Derek repeated, as if it wasn't completely obvious, “I swear, she did some weird shit to my hand. And what was with that whole…” He bobbed his head back and forth to illustrate “Wo ooo oo, cryptic spell shit she said?”

 

She blinked. That was… “Don’t be silly! Megan couldn’t have done this. She only did that for show, she’s not actually a witch or anything.” She paused, reviewing what he’d said. “Also, kindly watch your language while in my body, it’s unfitting.”

 

Stepping back to cross his arms over his chest, a feat which proved difficult (was he supposed to do this over boob or under boob?), he stared her down, “You got a better theory?” He challenged, and then as an afterthought added, “And I'll swear as much as I goddamn please because this shit is fucking insane.”

 

“Der-ek!” Casey berated, crossing her arms indignantly. Okay, maybe she didn’t have a better idea, but there had to be something more credible than Megan did it. Wracking Derek’s brain uselessly (how many brain cells was it running on?) she eventually gave up and sighed in resignation. “Fine, we’ll go with your idea. But only because I can’t think of anything else right now, and I want to get back to normal, like, right now.”

 

Derek regarded his possessed body, looking it up and down. It was wrong seeing himself standing like that, with one hip jutted to the side. Not to mention the way his voice came out, lilted like Casey's. It was too hyper-feminine, it was seriously off-putting. He needed to get back in his body asap

 

This was a serious puzzle, and for the first time in his life, Derek was willing to put everything aside and work together to fix this. “What was it she said?” He asked, trying to think back to the party, the whole thing passing like a blur. “Something, something… morality? No… explore our shared humanity. That's gotta be it right? How did the rest go?”

 

“Something about ending a war…” Casey jumped in as the verse came back to her, “and submitting to…” she swallowed, the next word making her feel uneasy, like it tied back to something else Megan had said, she couldn’t put her finger on. “Gravity.”

 

“Still makes zero sense.” Derek grumbled. Why did this magic shit always have to be so cryptic? “But sounds like some kind of… walk a mile in each other's shoes bullshit. Maybe we should just walk for a mile, maybe that'll undo it.”

 

“Walking isn’t going to fix this,” Casey said, regarding him with her most disgusted expression - not an easy task when she was looking at herself, then moved on. “But you are right that it’s about understanding each other: ‘our shared humanity’,” she quoted. “And ‘end the war’... That’s it! We just have to get along!”

 

Derek deadpanned, “So you're saying it's hopeless.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “It can be a temporary truce. We’ve done that before!”

 

“Okay... easier said than done.” Derek said simply, “But sure. Necessary. I get it.” Clearly it would take some time to set in, maybe they had to get along for a full day or something. Either way, he could bite his tongue for something this important. “We should also confront Megan. And I don't want to wait for Monday in case this whole getting along thing doesn't work. I think we can both agree that we don't want to go to school like this.”

 

“Definitely not,” Casey agreed, picturing Derek ruining her grades and making her look like a fool on purpose. Oh, no! That was not going to happen. “Do you have her number? You did that project with her once, right?”

 

“I have everyone's number.” He said arrogantly, “But what am I supposed to say? ‘Hey so remember how last night you put some kind of spell on me and Casey to make us switch bodies? Yeah, can you just go ahead and undo that? Much obliged’?” This whole thing felt like a huge cosmic joke.

 

“Well, yeah,” Casey said crisply, “whatever it takes to fix this.”

 

As much as Derek agreed, and as much as he was trying to stay civil, he couldn't help but turn it around on her, “If it's so simple, maybe you should call her.” He looked up at her, challengingly. The change in perspective was off-putting, as he would normally be looking down at her, and he was now getting a glimpse into what Casey would normally see when they got in each other's faces. It was a lot harder to come across as intimidating from this altitude, and he was secretly a little impressed at how well she was able to pull it off.

 

From the look on his face, it seemed he was trying to be threatening or something, but all her expression was able to pull off was a wild eyed puppy glare, and Casey pouted a little, somewhat disappointed that her own face and stance didn’t instigate fear as much as a desire to pet her on the head. 

 

“Fine, sure,” Casey said with a shrug. She wasn’t afraid of Megan, or even of confronting her about it. The worst thing that could happen would be Megan denying everything, and if they were wrong, then they would just move on to intensive research for a solution. She loved research! Now actually eager to move on to that step, she turned back to make her way to Derek’s room. “Just get me your cell phone.”

 

Staring at her like she was stupid, Derek laughed, “You have my phone. I…” He picked up the pink sparkly thing from Casey's bedside table, “Have your phone.”

 

“I can’t find it through that pigsty you call a room!” She called over her shoulder as she slipped into his room, looking around aimlessly for the elusive phone. It was such a mess in there, she wondered how he ever found anything.

 

Derek quickly followed and snatched his phone from under his bed, where he always kept it at night. He realized he should probably… clean it up a bit before he let Casey roam through it. He cleared his text messages and went through his photos to delete a few that would offend her delicate sensibilities. That risque shirtless bathroom selfie could stay though.

 

He handed it over. Truthfully, he didn't want to talk to Megan, he was low-key scared of her, and it might be fun to watch Casey stutter and flounder. Besides if they were going to call from his phone, they should use his voice.

 

God, what do you even have to hide?” Casey grumbled, snatching the cellphone from Derek’s hand impatiently. She went and looked down his contact list - he really did have everyone’s number - scrolling until she found Megan’s.

 

After a few rings, a perky voice picked up, unlike the low mysterious voice from the night before, “Hello?”

 

“Hey,” Casey started, trying to affect Derek’s nonchalant, slightly flirty voice as she continued. “Megan.”

 

“Oh hey, Derek!” She answered like a typical preppy teenage girl. Her tone slowed suspiciously, “This… is Derek, right?”

 

“Funny you should ask! That’s why I called,” Casey said casually, as Derek flagged her down, pointing at the phone and mouthing speaker, “I’m not quite feeling like myself this morning,” she emphasized before pressing on the speaker button. Happy now? She mouthed back at Derek who glared at her and gave a lazy thumbs up.

 

“You don’t say!” Megan said thoughtfully, “I admit it is out of the ordinary for you to call me out of the blue like this. Especially since you never called me after we kissed.”

 

Derek paled at that, shrugging innocently at Casey as she turned to give him a look. He forgot about that kiss, it was a totally random make out at a party, over a year ago, before he was with Sally, he didn't think she was expecting a call. 

 

“Of course he made out with you too,” Casey mumbled under her breath, her eyes shooting daggers at her shameless playboy step-brother. “Heh,” Casey floundered as she went back to her phone conversation, trying to think about what Derek would say, “you know how it is, we had a great time, why spoil it with unnecessary conversation?”

 

Derek cringed at Casey's feeble attempt at imitating him. He was charming, not a chauvinist! He scowled at how seedy she made it sound in his voice. He would never say something like that in that tone. There was a subtlety to his charming ways that was clearly lost on her. Ugh, he wanted to vomit.

 

“Classy,” Megan scoffed, as Derek shook his head judgmentally out of the corner of Casey's eye, “I was just teasing you about not calling me. So, what is it? You must want something.”

 

Wincing, Casey affected a cheery voice. “Right! Yeah! About last night. Great party, ammirite?”

 

“Uh… yeah! Totally.” Megan responded, “Ended pretty early, but I had fun. People were getting super into my readings.”

 

“Speaking of that,” Casey jumped on the opening, “Great trick! How do you do it?”

 

“Well…” Megan said hesitantly, “I would tell you that anyone can learn how to become a palmist online, but I can't give away all my secrets. Why? Are you interested in becoming a mystic?” Her voice turned teasing, almost flirty, “There's good money in it if you get booked for parties. Though I would have to say I'm a fierce competitor in this business if you're looking to encroach on my territory.”

 

Forcing a laugh, Casey shot a crazed look at Derek, lost about how to react to Megan possibly coming on to him over the phone.

 

Derek shrugged, flailing aimlessly, offering no help. It just figured that he would be useless. Rolling her eyes, Casey soldiered on, dropping the act and deciding to get on with it. “Okay, actually, listen, did you do something to my hand yesterday?”

 

The voice of absolute innocence responded, “What? It was just a… palm reading. I don't - Why? Is there something wrong with it?”

 

“Well, for starters, it’s not mine!” Casey said, irritated. Enough dancing around the issue, she wanted to get back into her body, dammit!

 

“What?” Megan asked, giggling. “What do you mean it's not yours?”

 

“Look,” Casey sighed. “I’m not Derek. This is Casey. In…um… in Derek’s body.”

 

Megan burst out laughing, “That's!” She laughed some more, “That's funny! Is this being recorded as some kind of prank?”

 

Derek knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was Megan's doing.

 

“Megan, this is Derek.” He called out in Casey's frantic tone, “It's not funny. You need to fix this.”

 

“Wha-” Megan stammered, “Casey? You guys are… serious?”

 

“Yes, really serious.” Casey said.

 

“Dead serious.” Derek agreed.

 

“Meet me at the cafe by the library.” Megan said abruptly, hanging up. 

 

 


 

 

There were a few hurdles to overcome before they could actually leave the house.

 

First, there was the matter of getting dressed. They were able to brush their teeth and freshen up easily, but changing was a serious obstacle.

 

Casey picked out an outfit for Derek, and placed it neatly on the bed. When she turned back to him, he was holding up her Babe Raider tank top against his chest. “Don’t even think about it,” she snapped, rushing to snatch the piece of clothing from his hands.

 

“Oh, come on!” He chuckled playfully, “It's better than this pink thing.” He picked it up between two fingers and flung it at her, “I can't believe you're going to make me wear this. Can’t we just say you pranked me and stole my clothes so I had to wear yours or something? Then I could wear my clothes.”

 

“Last time I wore your clothes, I got weird looks from everyone, Derek. That’s not happening again,” she shoved the shirt aggressively back into his hands. “Take this, and close your eyes.”

 

Derek stared at the offensive pink thing in his hands, “Close my eyes?” He asked with disbelief, looking up at her with an eyebrow raised, “Do you seriously expect we’ll come out of this whole thing with our dignity intact? What about showering and stuff?”

 

Crossing her arms over her chest, she pinned him with a death glare. “We won’t need to shower because we are not spending another day like this!” She gritted. “And since this is temporary, you will do everything I tell you, and close. your. eyes.”

 

“Okay, fine, fine.” Derek dismissed, closing his eyes. He placed the pink thing on the bed next to him. He reached over his head to grab the collar of the shirt he was wearing and pulled it forward over his head, getting Casey's long-ass hair caught in the process, “Ugh,” He struggled, “How do you do anything with all this hair in the way?” He managed to get free. 

 

He patted the bed blindly until he found the shirt and felt around for the opening. There were like six damn openings! And where were all these straps supposed to go? He made his best guess and ended up tangled in the shirt in a way he suspected wasn't right. “Ok, can I open my eyes? This shirt is like a labyrinth.”

 

“I’ll do it,” Casey said sharply, pulling the shirt over his head. “Keep your eyes shut!” She untangled the thing and prepared to put it back on him, swallowing hard as she eyed his chest, the swell of his breasts pushed up by the sports bra. She stuttered as she said “L-Lift up your arms.”

 

Derek obeyed, raising his arms above his head, feeling weirdly exposed, “We uhh ... we locked the door, right?” He asked unsteadily.

 

“Yes,” Casey said. She pulled the shirt down, her fingers ghosting over the skin of his stomach. She breathed in deeply as she took a step back, pulling on the front of her pants uncomfortably, freezing when she felt something hard against her hand. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Straightening, she crossed her arms again - that was safer.

 

Hesitantly, Derek opened one eye, then the other to see Casey handing him a pair of pants. She glared at him until he closed his eyes again. He slipped the soft pajama shorts off of his hips, feeling the curved slope of his shape as the shorts fell around his ankles. He kicked them away and reached out, feeling the jeans placed in his grasp. They were much more straightforward, except for how tight they were. He had to jump around a bit to get them all the way up. 

 

Once he was zipped and buttoned he opened his eyes and risked a glance in the mirror. He groaned. It's not that he looked bad, he looked like Casey on an average day. He just felt so weird to be dressed up in girl clothes. And how did Casey manage to keep her hair so smooth all the time? He was rocking a serious rats nest. He smoothed out the long hair and scowled into the mirror, it was good enough. 

 

“There.” He huffed, “Satisfied?”

 

“I guess,” Casey said, then sidestepped him to get to his room. “I should change too, you probably don’t want to be seen in yesterday’s clothes.”

 

He put on his best smirk, assuming it had a different effect using Casey's lips, “Maybe I should watch so I can make sure you keep your eyes closed.” He said suggestively as he followed her.

 

“Please,” she scoffed, deflecting anxiously as she made her way to his closet. “I’ve already seen everything there is to see.” Not only that, but maybe he didn’t have to know that she’d popped a boner while watching him change.

 

“Oh really?” He said with fascination, “So you did take a peak, too curious huh? I don't blame you. Seems a little unfair though,” He teased, stepping closer to her, unable to stop himself from torturing her a little, “Isn't there a saying about that or something… I'll show you mine…” He trailed off as he noticed her face - his face getting red with blushing fury, “But oh well. Go ahead and freshen up. Keep your eyes open all you want since you've seen it all already.” He resisted the urge to wink, especially since he was wearing Casey's face right now - it would be too weird.

 

Her face heating up furiously, she turned to the closet and picked out one of Derek’s favourite sweaters - the striped blue and purple one. She actually liked it, too, she’d always thought it looked soft and comfy. “I-I didn’t…” she grumbled shyly, “actually look… down there.”

 

Derek snorted with laughter at the way she could barely say the words, “Guess you haven't seen it all then.” He said toyingly with his usual nonchalant attitude, “But either way, I don't really care.” 

 

In fact, the thought of Casey being so curious she had to sneak a peek, was kind of intriguing. It's not like he wasn't tempted. He realized now that earlier when he thought he'd been dreaming, he was actually touching Casey's boobs. He figured she deserved a freebie if she wanted. He crossed his arms at her and waited. It was his body after all, no need to be shy.

 

“Whatever, Derek.” Turning her back on him, she took off his shirt. That was the easy part. But then her fingers paused at the button of his jeans, way too close to certain protruding parts of his body for comfort. She decided to slowly put the new sweater on instead, taking deep breaths to calm herself and biding her time until it hopefully went down. Pulling the fabric over her head, she inhaled the scent deeply; it was freshly washed, but still smelled a little of him. As the thing between her legs twitched in response, she decided that breathing was overrated anyway and held her breath instead.

 

Quirking an eyebrow, Derek watched as Casey slowly got dressed, acting like the clothes were going to burn her. The image of his back hunching forward, folding in on itself insecurely, made him feel uncomfortable. He figured since Casey was - he assumed - pretty innocent, it would be a real mind-fuck to be in a guy's body. He felt a little bad for her. “What's wrong?” He asked, a little impatiently to avoid outing himself for giving a crap. 

 

“N-n-nothing!” She answered, too quickly.

 

He sighed, taking pity on her and turning around, “I'm not looking, okay?” He huffed, the words coming out a lot softer than they usually would, filtered through Casey's sweet voice.

 

Looking over her shoulder to confirm that he had turned around, Casey sighed gratefully, and finished changing quickly, really quickly, so she didn’t have to interact with his private anatomy longer than she had to. “Okay, we’re good,” she said finally and made her way back to him, hands wringing nervously. “Thanks.”

 

He grabbed his deodorant from the shelf and passed it to her as he turned to face her, “Here.” He said, brushing over her thanks, “You’ll need it. Trust me.”

 

“Okay,” she took it without arguing and applied it under the shirt. Because of his nice gesture, small as it was, she was relaxing a little, letting go of all the anxiety she had been stricken with since she woke up in Derek’s body. Now that she wasn’t in full survival mode, that newly relaxed state brought attention to lesser, but nonetheless important needs. She held back the urge to pee, because she was so not doing that. But she couldn’t stop her stomach from growling - loudly.

 

Hearing the loud gurgling, Derek laughed, “Yeah, you'll get used to that. I'm always hungry. There's food at the cafe, let's go.”

 

Finally dressed, they were ready to head out. It was when they arrived downstairs that they encountered their next obstacle - completely unprepared.

 

“Morning, kids,” Nora said from her spot at the table where her and Lizzie were eating breakfast. “There’s pancakes!”

 

Casey’s stomach growled again at the mention of pancakes. Oh wow, it smelled so good.

 

Derek wasn't super hungry, which was abnormal for him. He could hear another grumble coming from Casey and he rolled his eyes. Having been in that body up until recently, he understood. “Great!” He chirped, Casey-style, nudging her with his elbow to break her out of her food-induced trance. He didn't want to be around the family but he figured a few pancakes couldn't hurt if they ate quickly enough. “Thanks, I'm starving.” He said, giving Casey a sideways glance.

 

Looking down at him like he’d just given her a Christmas present, she whispered “thank you,” before making straight for the table, sitting at her usual spot and piling pancakes high onto a plate. She was so hungry.

 

She didn’t notice the strange looks she was getting, barely hearing Lizzie’s “um… hi, Derek?” As she shovelled the food into her mouth. Oh my god, this was so good.

 

“Der-ek!” Derek scolded comically in his best Casey impression - it was fun, no wonder she loved saying it. “Manners, much?” He had watched her scarf down pancakes like a wild animal and reminded himself to brush up on his table manners, realizing their importance for the first time in his life. He loved that she was the one getting scolded this time, totally undermining every time she had criticized him in the past for the same thing. “And you're in my seat.” He added defiantly, crossing his arms and tapping his foot irritably.

 

“Oh,” she said through a mouthful as she looked up at her own angry face - though she could totally see the playful glint in his eyes. Right. She was Derek. And she was in Casey’s chair… what would Derek do?

 

She shrugged, and went back to devouring her delicious breakfast, grabbing the maple syrup to squirt some more on her plate in between bites.

 

Derek didn't really care about the seats but he was supposed to be Casey, and Casey would totally flip out. “Derek! You have no consideration for anyone but yourself!” He shrieked and stomped like a child to sit in his usual spot, turning his nose up as he dished himself up a stack.

 

“Got that right,” Casey mumbled under her breath, with so much pancake in her mouth, it was unintelligible.

 

“Hi Casey?” Lizzie tried carefully.

 

“Hey...” Derek said, quickly wracking his brain. What would Casey call Lizzie? “Kiddo.”

 

Casey’s fork quickly hit an empty plate, and she looked longingly at the pile in the middle of the table.

 

Making his way through his own stack of pancakes, Derek swallowed a large bite. He wasn't as ravenous as usual, like the beast sitting across from him. But the pancakes were still delicious and he was shovelling in big bites, even though he was already getting full. He just wanted more delicious pancakes. Why did his - Casey's stomach want him to stop?

 

“How was your party?” Nora asked Derek amicably, overlooking Casey’s Derek-typical behaviour.

 

 “It was great!” Derek responded, acting enthusiastically to channel Casey's persistent optimism, “Thank you for asking!” It was hard not to sound overly formal and robotic.

 

Casey looked disgustedly at Derek as he acted exceedingly perky. Was that what he thought of her? Ugh, he was such a pessimist. She felt incredibly compelled to poke fun at him, maybe throw in a well-placed insult. “Yeah, it was great!” She said, sarcastically cheerful, the way Derek would, to make fun of her. “Everyone got a palm reading, and I was told I’m going to find a nice prince, and marry rich, and be happy for the rest of my life!” She clasped her hands together, then dropped the act completely, planting a firm, unimpressed gaze on Derek. “Admit it, Spacey, your party was totally lame.”

 

Amused, Derek vaguely registered that they shouldn't be playing this game in front of the family, but he was having too much fun. He wished he could call her out on saying her own party was lame, or agree with her, but he had to stay in character. He plastered on a look of outrage and glared at her, “Shut up Derek! It was so not lame! Plus…” He switched tactics, slipping into a dream-like tone of voice, thinking of a way to torture Casey in a moment where she couldn't retaliate without blowing her cover, “I got some really sweet birthday gifts…” He goaded. He reached up to his exposed neck and felt the necklace resting against the soft skin there. He took the pendant in his fingers and played with it teasingly. 

 

Knowing that he was totally taunting her about Truman’s necklace, Casey narrowed her eyes warningly. If she’d been entertained by their pseudo argument for a minute, now it was only fading into wariness as she was reminded of the freshness of the wound in her guts. He better hope to catch onto her signals to cut it out, otherwise she was going to kill him, and that meant she would never get her body back.

 

“Oh really?” Nora said with interest. “What did you get?”

 

“Yeah, what did you get?!” Lizzie echoed excitedly.

 

Noticing Casey's clear warning, Derek decided to back off. He didn't want to risk tipping off the family to anything. But now he had to answer their questions politely and he wasn't really sure what to say. “Oh, uh…” He mumbled awkwardly, shooting Casey a glance, “Truman got me this really sweet necklace.” He said in the softest, most genuine voice he could muster - causing him actual physical pain in the process.

 

Breathing deeply, Casey accepted Derek’s effort for what it was, and braced herself for her mother’s subsequent question.

 

Nora smiled and reached forward to touch the pendant lightly. “What does it mean?” Nora asked, frowning.

 

“What is it?” Lizzie poked in, leaning over the table to try and see what it was.

 

“Well…” Derek started. How the hell was he supposed to explain the creepy necklace without making it sound creepy? What kind of romantic bullshit would Casey have in mind? “You see...sometimes I would draw on Truman's hand with my pen, a little heart and a C. Something for him to think about me when he looked at it,” He tried not to gag as he spun his cheesy story, “So he got me a necklace with a T so we can match. Isn't that romantic?” He gushed like a school-girl to drive the point home, with as little sarcasm as possible. He felt like he needed to wash his mouth out with soap. 

 

“Aw, that is very thoughtful of Truman, sweetie,” Nora acknowledged, smiling softly as she brushed hair behind Casey’s ear.

 

Casey herself was dumbfounded, she looked at Derek like she’d never seen him before, trying to figure out where that came from. He’d made up a really sweet story to explain the necklace, and her heart was hurting a bit, knowing that it wasn't real. There wasn’t a sweet, thoughtful story behind it. 

 

“Wow,” Lizzie said quietly, “I didn’t think he had that in him.”

 

“Yeah, me either.” Derek said, a little bitterly, unable to hide the sarcasm this time as he held back a groan, “But people surprise you!” He tacked on cheerfully as a cover up.

 

“Yeah,” Casey said softly, watching Derek intently as she set her chin down into her hand. “They do.”

 

Anyway.” Derek droned, needing family time to be over, “Derek lost a bet to me," He said, smirking at her, “So he has to help me with something. We’d better get going.”

 

“Uh,” Casey floundered, breaking out of her thoughts and shaking herself. “Right! Yes, that… thing!” She got up hesitantly, “thanks for breakfast, mo- Nora!”

 

Cringing at Casey's slip up, Derek gathered their dirty plates quickly and tossed them in the sink, before grabbing Casey's muscular arm and dragging her away from the table to leave. 

 

At the front door, Derek grabbed his jacket off the hook and then realized. He looked at it, forlorn, and reluctantly shoved it into Casey's chest.

 

She took it, a smirk making its way onto her face. She hoped it looked every bit like his signature smirk, knowing that giving up his jacket was like giving up a kidney. “Thanks, Case,” she said, slipping it on verrrry slowly to make it as painful as possible.

 

Grimacing in disgust at the thought of giving his jacket away, he had to admit, he looked good in the jacket, so if someone else was walking around in his body, they might as well look hot doing it. He reached into the pocket against her side, causing her to flinch away as he pulled the keys to the Prince out, “I'm driving.” He said without room for any arguments.

 

Casey chuckled and admitted that taking his jacket was enough, especially after what he just did for her at the table. She could leave some things for him too. “Lead the way, Princess.”

 

 


 

 

They entered the cozy cafe and spotted Megan, sipping on a cup of tea in a secluded booth in the back of the room. Soft jazz music played overhead. It was an old building, but it had character. Megan blended in perfectly with the scenery. 

 

She looked up and spotted them approaching, her eyes analyzing them carefully. “I was starting to think you two weren't coming." She said carefully, gauging their reactions suspiciously.

 

“I’m so sorry we took so long!” Casey apologized profusely, sliding in the booth across from her. “There was a bit of an issue with the whole getting dressed thing,” she continued, rambling, “then I was soooo hungry, and then there was my mom, and-”

 

“Let's just say, it's been a bit of a learning curve here.” Derek quipped, joining them, “This being our first time being stuck in each other's bodies and all.” 

 

Halfway between shocked and amused, Megan looked back and forth between them. “Okay, I have to admit, this is pretty convincing already.” She let out an uncontainable chuckle, “If this is a prank, you two should seriously consider going into acting.”

 

“I happen to be a great actress,” Casey said primly, provoking Derek to roll his eyes next to her, and sighed, “but sadly, this is not an act. It’s for real, and you have to help us!”

 

“Yeah.” Derek said firmly, “You did this to us. So undo it.”

 

Megan eyed him defensively, “What makes you think I had anything to do with this?”

 

“At the party, when you were touching my hand…” Derek maintained, unwaveringly, “You did something. It was all tingly and sparky and weird. Not to mention that cryptic little spell you said.”

 

“Look, guys…” Megan held her hands up innocently, “Let's say I believe you. Even if I wanted to do something like this, I couldn't. I don't have that power.”

 

Shifting forward, Casey stared Megan down. “If you didn’t do this, then what was that all about? ‘Explore each other’s humanity, end the war and unyielding gravity’ that wasn’t just an act.”

 

Sighing deeply, Megan took a sip of her tea. She set down her mug and looked at them, very seriously. “Okay. I can see why you would jump to that conclusion. But I can explain…”

 

“By all means then,” Derek glared, “Start explaining.” 

 

Megan seemed uneasy as she started getting ready to open up, “You can’t tell anyone. This is a well-guarded family secret. I need your word.”

 

“As long as you don’t tell anyone about us, you have my word,” Casey conceded, looking over at Derek for his input, and he nodded tersely.

 

“Fine. You have my word.” 

 

“Okay.” Megan said quietly, taking a deep breath, “I come from a long line of witches.” She looked up for their reactions.

 

Unimpressed, Derek let out a short laugh, “Is that supposed to convince us you didn't do it?” 

 

“Please let me explain.” Megan said, standing her ground. “It's not like the witches on TV. I can't do spells, not the way you would imagine them anyway.” She laced her hands together, placing them on the table, “Through years of study and hard work, I have developed a sense of connection with and an understanding of nature. I can sense energies and divine truth about the world around us. I can use what I know about nature to my advantage sometimes, but that doesn't mean I can interfere with it. A hypothetical body swap spell would totally screw with nature, it's not possible.”

 

“And yet, here we are! So, how do you explain that?” Derek demanded.

 

“I don't know, honestly!” Megan insisted, “It must be some major cosmic event! Nature can do some pretty insane things, but I've never seen anything like this before. I suspect it might have something to do with your palms, but again, I'm not sure. Could I maybe take another look?”

 

Casey was tempted to believe her. It was the aura around Megan that made Casey feel at ease and like she could trust her. It was clear that there was something magical about her, no matter how crazy the existence of witches sounded - it wasn’t crazier than two step-siblings swapping bodies. It was like a light around her, a warm, sincere energy. Casey believed that Megan didn’t do this to them, but she had the knowledge to offer guidance.

 

Before she could give her trust completely, though, she needed more clarifications about Megan’s power and what she could do. “You can. I believe you. But before we let you do that, you need to explain what happened at the party. What you said, it sounded like a spell - like an incantation.”

 

“It was… in a sense,” Megan admitted, “They are called words of power. Words hold a lot of meaning; they have their own energy. When put together in a thoughtful way, often with rhyme and rhythm… they can have a minor effect on the world. I was mostly saying it because I was in character, and I wanted to calm everything down. I thought the two of you could use all the help you could get in settling your differences. I figured it might help you on your path.” She looked down shamefully, “In hindsight, it may have contributed, to set the wheels in motion, but it wasn't intentional.” 

 

Derek wasn't convinced enough yet to let Megan touch his palm again. He hated it so much the first time and he was still pretty sure she did something to it. “What about when you touched my hand?” He interrogated, “It burned, and when you traced that line it shocked me, like electricity.”

 

Casey looked at Derek, frowning slightly at his confession. It hadn’t felt like that to her. She did feel something course through her, and incredible tension in the room, but nothing like Derek was describing.

 

Megan looked back at him sheepishly, “That happens sometimes during a palm reading. It actually means you're well grounded in reality, you have a strong physical intuition. Most people don't feel anything. I noticed when I touched your heart line that the energy was really intense. I think it was because I had just touched Casey's, so that energy pattern was really concentrated and it kind of… short circuited? It's really hard to explain.”

 

“Wait, what does it have to do with me?” Casey cut in. “That you touched me first. I didn’t feel anything from the person you read before me.”

 

“The person before you didn't have a heart line that was identical to yours.” Megan explained, “I touched yours, then I touched Derek’s.” Her voice drifted off dreamily, “The same pattern on two separate beings.” 

 

Casey shifted uncomfortably at the mention of her and Derek’s identical heart lines. It had seemed like some type of joke yesterday, but the way things were now, it seemed more meaningful. She wanted to know more, find out what it all meant, and hopefully get her body back in the process. Letting Megan read their palms again might be the only way to get there. What did they have to lose?

 

Looking over at Derek again, she searched his expression for a reaction, waiting for his signal to go ahead.

 

Derek sat with a stone cold expression that looked unnatural on Casey's face. He still wasn't sure if he was willing to hand over his palm.

 

Sensing his hesitation, Megan pressed forward, “If I can touch your palms I can gain more information, which is what we need. I might be able to tell you if this is reversible… or not.” 

 

Sighing in defeat, Derek reluctantly put his palm on the table, with Casey following suit.

 

Megan started with Casey, seemingly to appease Derek whose delicate hands were almost shaking. The second her fingertips touched Casey's skin, Megan pulled away abruptly. Then she took a breath and returned her fingertips to trace along the ridges of Casey's large palm.

 

Casey startled slightly when she felt the electric shock. It wasn’t anything painful, but unexpected. Her hand kept spasming a little as Megan retraced the lines of her palm.

 

“Wow…” Megan droned.

 

“What?” Casey urged on. “Tell us.”

 

“It's hard to say...” Megan said, scrunching her face up to concentrate, “The energy is intense. Imagine it like a sound wave. It's very loud, everything becoming muddled together, it's hard to make out what it's saying.” She let go and turned to look at Derek, “May I?”

 

He nodded slightly and winced as Megan's fingertips brushed over him. It wasn't as bad as he was expecting, just some vague tingling and sparking. 

 

“Hmm, same here. It's like your futures have been sewn together, overlapping, indistinguishable from one another.” She looked up at them nervously, “I want to try something but it might be uncomfortable. I want to trace your heart lines.” 

 

They looked at one another and hesitantly nodded, urging Megan to do whatever was necessary. 

 

She started on Derek, tracing softly over the highest crease. She let out a small puff of air and smiled, marvelling at his hand. The tingling felt more intense now, but it was still bearable. Megan moved on to Casey's hand and traced the same line. The racing pulse of Casey’s heart overshadowed the feeling in her palm. 

 

“It's like the eye of the storm.” Megan said with awe, “The information is really clear here.” She took turns tracing over the same line on both of them. “It represents a link, a bond… a gateway. This is what allowed for the change to occur. It’s a rare natural phenomenon. My palm reading combined with my words of power must have somehow activated it.”

 

“Is it permanent?” Derek asked grimly. 

 

“I can sense that this event has put things into a state of chaos. Nature will try to right itself.” Megan explained. She noticed their perplexed expressions and elaborated, “I'm confident this isn't permanent. It will eventually fix itself to restore the balance.” She smiled at them encouragingly, giving their hands a little pat. 

 

Derek sighed with relief knowing this wasn't going to be permanent. He wasn't sure he could live as a woman for the rest of his life. But the hope only went so far without knowing how long this could last. The possibility thrummed anxiously in his chest. 

 

Slowly regaining some of her nerves, Casey licked her lips. “Is there something we can do to help it along?” She asked timidly. “Like, something that could be done today?”

 

Today?” Megan asked as if it was the dumbest question she ever heard. She composed herself respectfully, “No… I highly doubt that, sorry. But there might be some way we can speed it along. I can look into it, I'll need to do some research in my family compendiums.” She levelled them both with a warning glance, “But for the time being, expect to be stuck like this for the foreseeable future. You're going to have to work together to keep this a secret and protect each other from letting your lives fall apart. I expect there will be a lot of challenges. I'm so sorry, but this could go on for years, there's really no way of knowing.”

 

“Years?!” Casey shrieked. She couldn’t be stuck like this for years, not as a guy - not as Derek. What about her boyfriend, her future, her life? She wouldn’t be living her own life anymore, instead acting as a placeholder for Derek’s, hoping to keep things tied together unless it all came crashing down on them and they ended up losing everything.

 

Derek stared dumbfounded, words caught in his throat. Years?! He was supposed to graduate, maybe even go to college, and have his first legal drink. He only had so much time left in his youth to spend it doing whatever he wanted. He couldn't go to university as Casey and follow all her little rules and choices along the way while she was out there living his life!

 

Clearing her throat and holding back tears, Casey asked Megan the biggest favour she could ask for. “Can you please do anything possible so that doesn’t happen?”

 

“Of course!” Megan assured, “I know this must be really hard on you both, and I'm so sorry that I contributed to setting you down this tumultuous road. I'll do everything I can, I promise. I know it's not much, but I sense this won't last years, and I sense that once you've made it through this, it will have been worth all the trouble.”

 

Casey nodded blindly, breathing deeply to keep from crumbling down as she took everything in. Maybe it wouldn’t be years, but it would still be a long time. She had to make sure that she did everything she could. “What should we do, until then? Is there some research we can do, or…”

 

Megan looked at her apologetically, “There isn't anything you could find in any normal library, or online. And my family compendiums are top secret. You guys focus on how to maintain your lives, and I'll make this my top priority.” 

 

Shaking, Derek rubbed the goosebumps from his arms. Casey's body was so reactive to any tiny amount of anxiety. And this whole disaster was prompting a lot of anxiety. A tight knot cranked inside of his stomach and he felt the rapid rise and fall of his chest, unable to slow down. His heart, Casey's heart, was almost beating out of his chest. Was this what she felt like all the time? Like she was dying? He laid his head down on the cool surface of the table, wrapping it in his arms as his breathing got more and more shallow.

 

“Derek?” Casey called out softly, recognizing the signs of a panic attack. She only had them too often. “Derek,” she rubbed her hands up and down his arms, prompting him to sit back up. “Look at me.”

 

The stinging in his eyes only freaked him out more. He never cried, yet before he knew it, tears were rolling down his face uncontrollably. He couldn't breathe. Every inhale felt like it was squeezing his throat. The only thing he could compare it to was that one time he got a knee to the chest while playing hockey and got winded. “What - the" He struggled between sharp breaths “Hell is - happening to me!?” He looked into his own face through tunnel vision, staring back at him with concern. A surreal feeling washed over him, like none of this was real.

 

“It’s okay, Derek,” Casey said, cupping his face between her hands. “Look at me, and breathe. In,” she demonstrated, “and out. Do it with me. In… and out.”

 

He did his best to breathe with her, finding it surprisingly hard to hold back the gasping sensation.

 

“I can help too.” He heard Megan say softly, feeling her warm touch on his arm. 

 

He slowly started to feel better, his breathing slowing down. He closed his eyes, so that he wouldn't have to look at his own face talking to him. It had only been about five to ten minutes but it felt like an hour. His body was suddenly exhausted. He leaned forward, letting his head rest on the shoulder in front of him.

 

“Thank you,” Casey said gratefully as she turned to Megan, who looked back at her with compassion and guilt. Her fingers slipped into the hair on the head resting on her shoulder, and a tear fell down her cheek as she blinked. She remembered when her panic attacks got this bad, when they felt unsurmountable, before she knew how to deal with them. She imagined Derek wasn’t familiar with something like this. It must have been terrifying. She didn’t resist her urge to take him in her arms, hugging him to her tightly, almost protectively. It felt weird to hold herself like this, but she closed her eyes and pictured Derek as she ran a soothing hand over his back.

 

Drained, Derek allowed himself to be comforted. It felt safe and secure in the embrace, his own arms wrapped around him securely. As small and fragile as he felt, Casey’s hand on his back made him feel like everything would be okay. His heart was still beating quickly in his chest, like he had just gotten off the rink after an intense game. He still wasn't sure what just happened. If Megan hadn't been so helpful in calming him down he would have assumed she put him under some kind of spell, or drugged him or something.

 

“Casey... “ He mumbled, turning slightly so that his face wasn't muffled in her shirt, but still leaning on her desperately, “What was that? Does that... happen a lot?”

 

“Yeah…” Casey whispered, sniffing back tears, not wanting to disturb the calm state that seemed to be settling over him. “That was a panic attack. I get them sometimes.”

 

“Fuck, Case.” He said breathily before putting his face back into her chest, letting out a muffled, “I'm sorry.” He realized that making it his life goal to provoke a reaction out of Casey might have done more damage than he thought. Some shaky sobs threatened to hiccup out from him again but he held them back, breathing rhythmically like she had shown him.

 

“It’s okay,” she said, hugging him tighter. “I’ve had them all my life. I can manage.”

 

“No.” He insisted shamefully into her sweater, finding it hard to keep his emotions at bay, “I'm sorry.“ He couldn't elaborate.

 

Her own stricken voice wrapped firmly around her heart, and it felt like he was apologizing for something else. It was so surreal, to be holding him like this, while he cried and blamed himself. She had never been as close to him as she felt in that moment. It was overwhelming.

 

Gently pulling away, she held his shoulders and looked into his eyes - blue eyes that now reflected every piece of Derek. “It’s okay,” she asserted, smiling softly.

 

Pulling away abruptly, thoroughly embarrassed, Derek rubbed the wetness from his cheeks. He noticed that a waiter had brought a glass of water to the table at some point to help, and he took a few gracious gulps. “We need to get our bodies back.” He concluded, as if it wasn't already the mission. 

 

Megan looked at him with a deep aura of guilt and purpose, placing her hand comfortingly on his arm, “We will.”

 

Casey nodded. “I trust Megan.”

 

Derek knew they had no other choice but to trust her, “Our lives are in your hands.”

 

 


 

 

Derek was feeling much better after he took some time to listen to some music in his - scratch that - Casey's room. Thankfully he had his own iPod, but he missed the comfort of his room. He could lock himself away there whenever he needed to shut the world out. Casey's room felt too sterile, like he wasn't allowed to put his feet up and get comfortable.

 

Needing a snack, he made his way out into the hallway, finding Casey pacing back and forth and muttering to herself. Which in his body, was a bizarre sight to be confronted with. “What's up with you?” He questioned, raising an eyebrow.

 

She looked up, surprised, and smiled innocently. “Heyyyyy,” she drawled, failing at sounding casual. “Ha ha, funny thing, he he.” She drifted off, unable to say it out loud.

 

“What?” He asked cautiously. Then he noticed the way her eyes were darting to the bathroom and how she was shifting from one foot to the other. “Ohhhhhh!” He realized what was going on. He held back his laughter, trying to put on a serious face as she started looking more and more distressed. “Oh.” He looked her over sympathetically as he lounged against the wall, “It’ll be fine, honestly. Just… get it over with.”

 

“What,” Casey sputtered, eyes wide. Surely, he wasn’t expecting her to… “What do you mean: get it over with?”

 

“Would you rather piss yourself?” He teased, appealing to her logically, “Because that will happen eventually.”

 

She looked longingly at the bathroom door, switching feet as the need to urinate just got too strong. Oh god, she would pee her pants if she didn’t go. “Won’t you help me?”

 

Taken aback, Derek sputtered, “How?!” 

 

“Der-ek!” Casey screeched. “I am not touching your… your...”

 

“You want me to - “ He was trying to wrap his head around this. Did she really think it was better if he held it for her, like that would be less weird? “Need I remind you that I have your hands?” He held them up as proof.

 

“Oh,” she squeaked. She was way past the point of logical thought, she really had to go.

 

“Look… I'll help if you want me to,” He offered awkwardly, hoping she would come to her senses, “But you don't have to be scared of it. It's not gonna bite.” He joked, teasing Miss. Never-touched-a-dick-before. 

 

“Derek, I don’t want to look at, much less touch your... “ she lowered her voice to a staged whisper, “penis!” 

 

“Oh my god, fine!” He said, exasperated, ushering her into the bathroom. She squeaked in fear - he never realized he could make a sound like that. 

 

He shut and locked the door, if someone walked in on this they would have to pack their bags and start whole new lives. They would be disowned on the spot. Helping each other pee wasn't exactly appropriate step-sibling behaviour. 

 

“So, how do you want to do this?” He groaned, “Standing, like a man? Or sitting, which while possible, is also awkwardly girly.”

 

“I can do this sitting down?!” Casey said, hope returning to her eyes. “I don’t mind girly. I like girly! I am a girl!”

 

“Yep. Pretty straight-forward.” He explained, “Really you can do it any which way. You could pee while doing a hand-stand so long as the aim is there.”

 

She looked at the toilet, scrunching her face up in thought. “Won’t it like… touch… the water?”

 

“Ha, I'm flattered.” Derek joked, then seriously added, “But nah.”

 

“Okay,” she said as she moved slowly to the toilet, nodding to herself in encouragement for the tremendous task ahead of her. “Okay. I can do this.” She pushed her pants and underwear down, feeling Derek’s… penis kinda dangling between her legs awkwardly, and kept her eyes firmly up as she sat on the toilet seat. 

 

It was painful for Derek to watch. He cringed. Even though it was his own body it felt like a violation, and he had to avert his eyes. Especially watching himself pee in the weirdest, most awkward way possible, it was all a little...much. 

 

Casey wiggled around on the seat, until she felt it aiming inside the bowl. No longer able to stall, she went for it. “Ohhhhhh my god,” she practically moaned as she finally relieved herself after holding it in for so long.

 

Derek kept his eyes trained on the wall, reminding himself this wasn't the weirdest thing to happen today, or maybe it was, he couldn't tell anymore. “Am I going to have to be in here with you every single time? Please say no.”

 

She sighed as the stream subsided, then looked up at Derek with a frown. “But, Derek, what if something happens?”

 

“Like what?” He asked, appalled. And for good measure added, “And when I need to go, you're sure as hell not watching.”

 

Excuse me?” she said, standing and pulling up her pants. Should she have wiped it first? “You are not going anywhere near my private parts!”

 

“What planet do you live on where it's less awkward for you to assist me?” He almost yelled, struggling to keep his voice down so that nobody would overhear this bizarre conversation. He was completely unable to fathom her strange mindset, “I mean, just picture it. Not to mention I would rather shoot myself in the head than have you wipe my ass!”

 

“Oh,” Casey said, stumbling over herself and almost falling to the floor. Thankfully, she caught herself on the counter. “Oh god…” she hadn’t thought about that kind of relief yet. They were really going to have to take care of everything for each other. She figured, letting another human being wipe your butt wasn’t the worst thing in the world. She might not mind as much, if it were anyone else. But Derek? “Why is this happening to us?”

 

Sighing, Derek grabbed a handful of the long hair on his head. “I don't know.” 

 

Derek studied Casey's frantic state warily, she was clearly freaking the fuck out about being in a man's body. She had lost her mind enough to put them in this cringy situation. If she was totally sane, she wouldn't be suggesting this nonsense. Derek was freaking out about being in a woman's body too, but at least he'd seen one before - touched one. 

 

“Look, Casey…” He said awkwardly, knowing this was a touchy subject, “I get it. It's your body, okay? I'm not going to do anything… creepy to it.” As much as he was secretly curious to take his new parts for a spin and see what all the fuss was about, he wouldn't want to do anything violating. “Can we just… get over it and go to the bathroom normally and shower and stuff without it being weird? Who knows how long we're going to have to do this.”

 

Casey gulped, realizing that Derek was right. She washed her hands as she considered his request. It wasn’t completely unreasonable. Things were only going to get more awkward from now on, the least they could do was make it easier on themselves by addressing perfunctory basic human needs right off the bat. It would be difficult, but she could go along with that. “Okay,” Casey nodded in agreement, turning to dry her hands on the towel next to the sink.

 

Thank fuck! Derek thought. No matter how much Casey would have pushed, he would never have agreed to any more mutual bathroom sessions. Mutual showers - now that was up his alley. Not whatever this was. “I'm going to wash my eyes out with soap now - and my brain.” Then, he realized with dread that this whole thing made him have to go. “Actually… Can you…” He said, motioning for her to leave, “I gotta...”

 

She rolled her eyes and stepped towards the door, stopping shortly by the threshold to look back, biting her lip nervously. “What you said… about not doing anything… creepy, or whatever. You promise?”

 

Feeling super guilty about the boob thing now, Derek gave her a serious look, “Yeah, promise.”

 

Nodding with finality, she left the room, allowing him his privacy.

 

 


 

 

Casey was hesitant to call it weird, after everything else that had happened that day, but it was definitely somewhere in that ballpark. Spending time in Derek’s bedroom since the rest of the family was home, alone, it was extremely odd, and she felt a bit out of place. This was Derek’s sacred place, his sanctuary, where he spent most of his time doing… guy things? What did Derek even do in his free time? Certainly not homework, that was for sure.

 

He’d let her open a guest session on his computer so she could browse and do some research for a school project, but she was too distracted. The more she tried to concentrate on the screen, the bigger her headache was getting. Not to mention that she had some trouble reading, her vision being somewhat blurry. She chalked it down to today’s traumatic events, and decided to relax and listen to music instead. 

 

It was way later in the afternoon when her cell phone vibrated in her pocket. She squinted at the text from Truman.

 

Truman: We still on for 2nite?

 

Sitting up suddenly, Casey realized that she had completely forgotten about her date with Truman! There had just been so much going on! And in the state she was in, she should probably cancel.

 

But then again, she already felt that her relationship was on thin ice. They hadn’t talked since that conversation in her bedroom yesterday, and he’d escaped before she could catch up to him later. If she cancelled a date, it may look suspiciously like she didn’t care, or like she didn’t want to spend time with him. She was, admittedly, squeamish about the idea, especially after Derek’s cutting words had made their way into her brain and successfully distorted her perception of everything.

 

Her hand instinctively reached for her neck. She frowned down at Derek’s favourite necklace between her fingers - he basically never took it off.

 

The necklace Truman got her was really nice, it didn’t look like some cheap thing he only bought on a whim, or even last minute - he’d probably special ordered it. That was thoughtful on its own. When it came to the ‘T’ pendant, though… was it really that creepy? It was so cute when Troy did it in High School Musical, so why did Truman’s gesture make her uneasy?

 

That way everyone will know that you’re my girl, he’d said. Had he meant that in a gross possessive way? Like he was putting his name on his ‘property’, as Derek had so delicately put it. But Truman didn’t strike her as the possessive type; he didn’t keep her from talking to her friends, other guys, or go out on her own whenever she wanted. It wasn’t some kind of abusive kind of thing.

 

Then again, she replayed in her mind Truman’s tired exasperation when she’d pulled away from his kiss, the same displeased sigh that he heaved everytime she pushed his hand away from under her shirt, or the resentful look he shot her everytime she so much as mentioned something Derek had done to her, and all that added up to some big discomfort.

 

It didn’t seem abusive so much as he was displeased with how slowly they were moving on the physical level. Sometimes she even admitted to herself that she could be a bit of a prude. She just… wasn’t ready to go there with Truman yet. She knew that he resented her for not even letting him touch her boobs, when she’d already let Max do it (she never should have told him about it!). But it just wasn’t the same.

 

Casey wondered if in the end, she was the one who didn’t make enough of an effort. After all, Truman had been patient. He may nudge her out of her shell a little, but it was somewhat in her best interest. She would eventually get to that point - she wanted to, wanted the intimacy and the passion. And things with Truman were getting serious enough to consider going to the next step.

 

Sometimes, he did something really nice, or said just the right thing, and her heart would skip a beat, sending butterflies fluttering about in her stomach, and then, in those moments, she thought he could be the one.

 

A couple of arguments about her annoying step-brother didn’t erase that. If she was being fair, she could react better to Derek’s teasing. It wasn’t so much to ask of her to make an effort and be more mindful of her boyfriend’s feelings.

 

So she couldn’t cancel the date. If she wanted a future with Truman, or at least find out if they had one, she would have to put in the work.

 

And that meant asking Derek to play along...

 

Sighing deeply, Casey braced herself for another awkward conversation, and made her way over to her room, where Derek was lounging on the bed, the door left open while he read a comic book.

 

She knocked softly.

 

Derek looked up from his comic, startled to see himself standing in the doorway. Yep, he was never going to get used to that. “W’sup?” He asked, noticing her sheepish expression. She was going to ask him for something, he could just tell.

 

“Hey,” she said lazily, closing the door behind her before sitting down on the bed. “How are you doing?”

 

He quirked an eyebrow and smiled sarcastically, “Living the dream.” Then he decided to cut the bullshit, “What do you want?”

 

Casey rolled her eyes, of course he wouldn’t let her do small talk before jumping straight to the point. “I have a date with Truman tonight.”

 

Blinking at her, Derek tried to wrap his head around what she was saying. Was she somehow still expecting to go on this date while in his body? Or was she - “No!” He gasped, sitting up straight, “No-ho-ho way! I am not going on a date with Truman. That's - no. You have to cancel.”

 

“Derek,” Casey said calmly, urging him to understand how important this was to her. “I can’t cancel. Things with Truman are kind of strained right now,” she looked down, poking at her comforter. “I just need things to get back to normal.”

 

Sure, Derek thought, Normal. Him on a date with Truman trying to keep Casey's relationship from falling apart was the definition of normal. “Pretty sure it would just make things more strained, because there's no way I would ever act like Truman's girlfriend.” He stared at her incredulously, “You don’t actually expect me to kiss the guy, do you?!” He shuddered just thinking about it, “He’s going to notice something is off when his girlfriend won't kiss him.”

 

“Not really,” Casey grumbled, shifting nervously. Of course she didn’t expect Derek to go all the way in her place, but surely he could try to keep up appearances until they figured out a long term plan. “Look, you wouldn’t have to like french kiss him or anything, even a kiss on the cheek would do.”

 

Derek made a point of gagging comically, “Ugh, seriously? Come on!” The thought of putting his lips on Truman in any way shape or form, and acting like some doting schoolgirl was nauseating, “I wouldn't expect you to do the same thing with - ” He smacked his hand on his forehead. “Shit!” He was such an idiot, how could he forget? “Sally! I had plans with Sally tonight!” 

 

“That’s fine!” Casey jumped on the opportunity. “That’s great! We can make it a double date! Then there’s less chance of… you know!” She smiled encouragingly.

 

He groaned, knowing it was probably the best option. As much as he hated the idea of going on a date with Truman, he couldn't leave Sally hanging, not when it was her last night in town before heading back to University of Toronto. How could he have forgotten about Sally? There had been so much going on that he didn't think about how this whole thing might affect his relationship. 

 

“A double date sounds… safe.” He admitted with defeat, “One on one time is not an option - I refuse to be left alone with him.” His face twisted with disgust. What if Truman tried to make a move? He would rather not live through that nightmare. “And I doubt you'll want to be left alone with Sally either. Let's just say we’re a bit beyond kissing.”

 

“Oh,” Casey sat back straight. She kinda had figured that Derek wasn’t just kissing his girlfriends - not that she thought about that a lot! And it was only fair that she went along for the sake of his relationship if he was doing the same for her. She’d touched boobs before, they did it all the time at sleepovers at her old school. Maybe she could… probably... let Sally touch Derek’s private parts… like over the pants. “I mean,” she continued as casually as she could, shrugging like it was no big deal. “I might have to eventually. How beyond are we talking?”

 

Mind spinning, Derek imagined Casey going along with his relationship with Sally. She probably had no idea what she was suggesting, but his imagination was having a field day. He should be bothered by the idea of Sally having sex with someone else even though they were in his body, but the implication of Sally and Casey was weirdly hot in a way he would never admit out loud. He cleared his throat awkwardly, trying to think of a way to fill her in on what she was suggesting, exactly. “Uh. Like, to infinity and beyond, Casey. What did you expect? ” He eyed her suggestively “I know I might look like a virgin at this moment in time, but I'm not.”

 

“To…” Casey drifted off, her thoughts coming to a screeching halt as she looked over at Derek, in her body, with her face on, smiling in that lewd way while he declared his non-virgin status. He looked like a vision of herself she imagined sometimes, sensual, completely at ease with her sexuality. It was unnerving somehow - not mentioning what the picture he was depicting in front of her did to Derek’s nether regions (what was wrong with that thing?). “Right,” she said, shaking herself, and aligning her hips sideways to hide the little tent shape forming between her legs. “Okay, how about we start by getting through tonight, and we’ll make a game plan for the rest later, alright?”

 

Already regretting this, Derek groaned, “Fine.” He pulled out his phone, “I'll text Sally about the change of plans.”

 

“Great!” Casey said excitedly, jumping up, and added before leaving, “Truman is picking me up at 7 to go to the movies. Be ready by then, okay?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Sifting through Casey's closet, Derek frowned at his options. He still hated the idea of wearing girl clothes; it made him feel oddly insecure, which was new for him. Walking around in a girl's body just made him want to hide under a large parka or something. Even if he was a girl, Casey's clothes wouldn't be his style. 

 

It was also weird knowing he was trying to pick out an outfit for his date with Truman, that fact still grossed him out immeasurably. To stay safe, he told himself that he was going on a date with Sally, not Truman. 

 

He figured if he was getting dressed up for Sally (and he had to be a girl tonight) he could at least make an effort to be a hot girl. He dug through Casey's closet trying to find something that was sexier than her usual outfits, which he had once described as ‘overgrown toddler’. 

 

Casey's underwear drawer was a terrifying and thrilling obstacle. He knew Casey wouldn't want him taking too much pleasure in the task, but he still had to change his underwear from time to time. He could manage this without sneaking a peek. He looked through the drawer and found a push up bra (also Casey's diary, but now was not the time, later though). 

 

It turned out that putting on a bra was a lot harder than taking one off. It required real flexibility, and since he knew he wasn't allowed to look in the mirror right now to see what his fingers were doing in the back, he decided on a new strategy. He clasped the bra before pulling it over his head like a t-shirt, making sure each boob was in there snugly. He wondered if the ‘nothing creepy’ rule applied to routine adjustments as he fussed with the placement. He figured it was above board since there was no way Casey could walk around with a dick in her pants and not adjust anything ever, unless she wanted to be wildly uncomfortable. 

 

He opted out of the frilly thong option, surprised she even had underwear like that. Truman wouldn't be lucky enough to catch a glimpse and Derek decided he might as well be comfortable.

 

The skirt he put on was awkward yet weirdly freeing, and he threw on a shirt that really showed off his new assets

 

Looking in the mirror, he admired the body in view. It looked damn good. But the fact still remained that he was looking at himself. Even though Casey's body looked great right now, he still felt like he was being forced to play dress up. And to be honest he looked too good right now, and Truman would think it was all for him to ogle and claim. Appalled by that, Derek quickly changed out of his womanly costume and opted for a pair of relaxed jeans, a t-shirt and a zip-up hoodie. 

 

He looked decidedly less hot now, but much more at ease. 

 

Time to get this over with. 

 

He found Casey waiting impatiently by the front door, already set to go, as George and Edwin watched TV on the couch. Casey cast him a sour look as he trampled down the stairs to meet her.

 

As it turned out, Casey didn’t have any trouble getting Derek ready for a date. She’d considered changing, but felt an odd twinge when she went to take off her Derek’s favourite shirt. It looked good as it was. 

 

The one thing she needed to work on was his hair. She spent about twenty minutes in the washroom trying to tame it, parting it in different ways, and ultimately decided that Derek’s fake messy, neglected style was the way to go. She hated that he had it so easy. He could basically roll out of bed, looking good and ready to go.

 

That was partly what disgusted her when she saw him walking down the stairs looking like a discarded potato bag. She at least tried to make an effort - even if it wasn’t needed. Derek, on the other hand, decided that she wasn’t worth it.

 

She sighed heavily as he met her by the front door. She was about to comment when she caught sight of George in the corner of her eye, and remembered that she had to play as Derek. Well, that was one way to get her message across. “Wow, Case,” she said, adding a little extra notch of annoyance to her voice. “I knew you and Truman were having trouble, but I didn’t realize you’d just given up.”

 

Far too amused to be offended (especially since she was essentially criticizing her own appearance and relationship), Derek found it hard to hold back his smirk. How would Casey play this? It was fun to tease each other like this, it added a whole new layer to their banter, “Well,” He returned casually, “Since I'll be hanging out with a pig tonight, I figured I should dress for the occasion.” He wasn't sure if he was calling Truman the pig or if he was pretending to be Casey calling himself a pig (one of her standard insults for him) but either way, it worked.

 

Casey narrowed her eyes at the double insult, but decided to let it go. She was thankful that he agreed to go along with it to begin with, plus this look was better than what she’d expected him to pick out. At least she wouldn’t look slutty and give Truman the wrong impression.

 

Instead of arguing, Casey slipped on Derek’s jacket. “Well, a little makeup wouldn’t hurt,” she couldn’t keep herself from commenting. Her phone beeped. “That’s Truman, he’s waiting outside,” she said, and led the way out. “Come on, Klutzilla!”

 

Derek chuckled at the Klutzilla comment. Clearly Casey was having fun doing the teasing - now that she could see why he loved it so much. The amusement left as soon as he realized he had to see Truman, his - blegh - boyfriend

 

They walked outside to see Truman’s car parked on the street. Derek started walking slower, dreading any interaction with him whatsoever. He felt a strong hand on his back push him forward to the passenger door and he cast Casey a glare, as she smirked back, enjoying this way too much. He peeked in through the window to see Truman greet him with a fond smile, he cast a painful smile back at him and stood back up, grimacing before plastering on a neutral expression and hopping in the car.

 

“Hey,” Truman greeted, leaning over to kiss his girlfriend on the cheek. It took every ounce of strength for Derek not to smack him, as Truman's slimy lips met his skin. He couldn't help but flinch away slightly, completely on instinct. 

 

“Ew,” Casey said, in her best Derek impersonation as she sat in the backseat, throwing Derek a lifeline. “Can we not with the PDA?”

 

Truman rolled his eyes heavily, glaring into the back seat, “Remind me why this has to be a double date?” 

 

Casey fake gasped, bringing her hand over her chest like she was insulted. “Are you saying you don’t want to spend time with me? I’m hurt, Truman.”

 

Truman’s face grew beet red, and Derek had to stifle a laugh. It brought him indescribable pleasure that Casey was using this opportunity to torture her boyfriend. But what was he supposed to do? Stand up for the guy? He couldn't exactly tell Truman the real reason for the double date: ‘Well Truman, you see I'm currently stuck in Casey's body and the thought of being left alone with you makes me want to hurl so we all just have to deal with it.’ Not gonna fly. 

 

He just had to live by his new life motto: WWCD, what would Casey do? 

 

“Der-ek!” He shouted into the back seat, “I thought we agreed we would keep things civil.” He turned to Truman, putting on a strained sweet smile, “Our parents decided we needed some bonding time to try and patch things up. We told them we had dates tonight and they said we can either double date, or we're grounded.” 

 

“Bizarre…” Truman grumbled under his breath. Derek turned his head away so that he could sneer, Truman was the worst.

 

“Tell me about it,” Casey said. “Our parents come up with that kind of stupid stuff all the time.” She took out a piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to Truman. “Here, that’s Sally’s address.”

 

The drive was wordlessly uncomfortable. Even though Derek had no desire to talk to Truman, he felt a little offended by the fact Truman didn't even try to talk to him. He was supposed to be Casey, so why was Truman ignoring him? He just kept his beady eyes on the road while gripping the steering wheel like he was trying to choke the life out of it. Being offended on behalf of Casey was a new colour on Derek and it made him feel uneasy. He reassured himself that it was only because being such a bad date went against his principles, on top of his general distaste for Truman - rather than some hypothetical protective side. 

 

As they approached Sally's place, Derek sneakily texted Casey in the back seat.

 

Derek: Hes a real chatterbox

 

Casey barely held back a laugh when she read Derek’s text. She really shouldn’t find it funny. It was really awkward with the three of them in the car. Being the outsider looking in on the ‘Casey and Truman’ dynamic offered a completely new perspective on the whole thing. For example, while she wasn’t the one squirming in the front seat, she got to notice how cold Truman was acting towards her. Derek being here probably didn’t help - she caught that glare Truman sent her in the rearview mirror earlier. She couldn’t explain why, but it had felt like he was threatening her, like he was silently telling her to back off something.

 

Anyway, she didn’t care so much if her boyfriend didn’t like her step-brother. She didn’t even like Derek either - most of the time. But she had committed to make more of an effort, so she (as in Derek) should probably say something.

 

Casey: Ask him abt uni application?!

 

Derek frowned at his phone and then sighed quietly, forced to break the ice in the car, thanks to Truman's frosty attitude. “So…” He bit the bullet, “Truman, have you given any more thought to what program you want to apply for?” It came out totally unnaturally, but not entirely un-Casey-like in such an awkward moment. 

 

This seemed to appease the pompous douche, as his fingers relaxed on the steering wheel and he let himself glance at his girlfriend for a millisecond.

 

“Uh, well…” He considered, giving it at least a little thought. “I'm still leaning towards chemical engineering but I'm weighing my options.” 

 

And the icy chill returned as they silently pulled into Sally's driveway.

 

Derek: Brrr…

 

Casey: shut up

 

The door opened, and Sally slipped in, beaming warmly at Casey next to her. “Hey you,” she said, before turning towards the front. “Hi, guys! Thanks for picking me up!”

 

Wishing he could be in the back with that ray of sunshine rather than in the front with the ice king, Derek looked back at her, “Hey Sally, thanks for agreeing to this whole double-date thing.”

 

Casey felt a soft smile slip on her face as she looked at Sally, and instinctively grabbed her hand, tangling their fingers together. “Yeah,” she said, “thanks for putting up with this weird arrangement, George and Nora really outdid themselves.”

 

Sally gave her an odd look, frowning like she’d said something weird, but adorable. Then she chuckled and squeezed her hand. “It’s nothing, I think this is a great idea!” 

 

Slapping on some exaggerated Casey-like optimism, Derek turned to look at Truman encouragingly, wondering why he was even bothering to placate him, “I for one think we can make the best of this situation!” He projected cheerfully, coming out mockingly despite his best efforts. “Don't you think, Truman?” 

 

Finally, Truman relaxed and smiled softly, making real honest-to-god eye contact, which Derek had to actively try not to look away from. “Sure.” He said sweetly in submission. “Yeah, of course.” His words didn't seem too enthusiastic, but at least they sounded genuine. Derek smiled back simply, not wanting to encourage too much intimate eye contact. Thankfully, he was saved when Truman put the car into drive and headed to their destination. 

 

“Oh, Casey!” Sally cooed, leaning forward to touch Derek’s arm affectionately, “I’m really glad we get to spend some time together, it’s been too long!”

 

Next to Sally, Casey’s smile grew bigger as the sound escaped her lips. “Awwwww.”

 

Ignoring Casey's painfully non-Derek outburst, Derek placed his hand on top of Sally's over his arm. “Awwww.” He said, at least knowing what would come naturally to Casey in the moment, “Me too!” Sally was so adorable it was going to be tough not to flirt with her all night. Distractedly, he wondered how Sally would react if Casey came onto her. 

 

He felt a twinge of sadness knowing that Sally was only here for the weekend before going back to U of T, and the whole trip was ruined due to a poorly timed body-swap. Then he felt a twinge of panic realizing that if not for the body swap, this weekend was supposed to be special, in a way that Casey might struggle to live up to.

 

Meanwhile, Casey was observing Sally and Derek closely. Derek’s face wasn’t usually so expressive, so when he looked back at Sally with Casey’s face, she could see plain as day how much he loved her. Casey’s heart fluttered a little, not only because it was so romantic to watch them, but because she liked seeing that look on her own face. She didn’t think she’d ever looked at someone like that before.

 

Sally returned every bit of warmth that Derek did, and Casey wasn’t quite sure what to make of that - because Sally was looking at her. But the girl had always been super friendly. Attentive. Supportive. All the qualities of a great girlfriend - as in girl friend, of course.

 

“So what movie are we watching?” Sally asked sweetly, her voice breaking through Casey’s thoughts as she cuddled into her side.

 

 


 

 

“Why did we decide to see this movie again?” Casey whisper-shouted over Sally’s head, flinching when the chainsaw cut into some guy’s arm on the screen, and her ears were filled with the sounds of screaming and the crunching of bones. “I don’t remember agreeing to this! Gyaaaah!” She jumped, holding onto Sally’s shoulder for dear life.

 

“Tell me when the gore is over,” Sally mumbled with her face hidden into Casey’s neck.

 

Derek would have been entertained by Casey's reaction to horror. Except for a few things getting in the way of his enjoyment. One: she was making him look like a total wuss. Two: Sally should be cowering adorably into him. And three: Truman's heavy arm behind his neck and the way he kept subtly pulling him in by the shoulder, like he was expecting Derek to hide into him in fear. Derek ate his popcorn, thankful that he could scowl freely in the darkness. Any time there was a jump scare, Derek sat stoically while Truman jumped, using it as a transparent excuse to tug him in closer. Eventually, Derek slid closer but just a little, so that Truman would take it as a win and stop trying so damn hard. 

 

He didn't seem to get the hint though. At the next jump scare, Truman's hand found Derek's thigh, which was the scariest thing to happen all night as Derek nearly jumped out of his skin, standing up abruptly. “Uh, I'm thirsty, I need to…” He trailed off as he snuck past Sally and Casey, who looked pleasantly coupley, and made his escape.

 

Casey watched as Derek stormed off, frowning worriedly. Oh no, did Truman make a move on him or something? It wouldn’t be good if Derek couldn’t go through with this. She looked over at Truman who seemed to be stewing with his arms crossed, and sighed at his complete lack of chivalry.

 

“She, uhhh,” Casey floundered, pointing in the direction Derek fled to. “She’s like super scared of horror movies,” she explained to Sally before running after him. 

 

She found him waiting in line at the concession stand, looking kind of traumatized.

 

He wasn't even thirsty but he had to come back with a drink, so he stood in line anxiously, his skin crawling. He noticed Casey approaching him, probably to check up on him. He scuffed his shoes against the patterned carpet, “Movie too scary for you?” He deflected, “Need to take a break?”

 

“Actually, yeah,” Casey conceded, standing next to Derek and letting him take the out for now. It wasn’t everyday she got him to go on a date with her boyfriend, so she could give him a break before antagonizing him about it. “I’m also starving.”

 

He nodded as she slipped into the line with him, appreciating that she didn't force him into talking about anything. Which, ironically, made him want to say something. “Is he always so…” He wasn't sure how to finish that sentence.

 

“Pushy?” Casey offered, looking down at her hands.

 

Crossing his arms protectively over his chest, Derek shifted uncomfortably. He was starting to get pissed off, “It's like the more he saw you weren't into it, the harder and harder he tried!” When he was on a date with a girl and she started pumping the brakes, he would slow down, not speed up!

 

She kicked at some stray kernel on the ground, nodding somewhat shyly, and pushed her hands in the pockets of Derek’s jacket, without offering further comment. She shouldn’t be ashamed that her boyfriend tried to be intimate with her, should she?

 

They got some popcorn and drinks and made their way back to the theatre, but before they went inside, Derek grabbed the leather at Casey's elbow, stopping her.

 

“I seriously need to ask. What do you see in him?” He needed to know she had a good reason if he was going to commit to this whole thing for her sake.

 

Taken aback by his question, she took a minute to think about it and gather her thoughts. “Sometimes he’s really sweet,” she started slowly, “and most of the time, he challenges me… and it feels like he really knows me.”

 

Even though ‘sometimes’ and ‘most of the time’ weren't exactly passionate, they were good enough, so Derek groaned, rolling his eyes back into his head, making his way back to the double-date from hell.

 

Once inside the dark theatre, Casey stopped Derek, grabbing onto his smaller arm, before they got back to their row, and waited for him to turn and look at her. “I just wanted to say,” she said, smiling softly. “Thank you.”

 

“Yeah,” He smiled back, a little sadly, not wanting to draw attention to his act of heroism for putting up with Truman. “At least you and Sally seem to be having a good date.” If he couldn't give Sally a great date this weekend, at least Casey could in his place.

 

Feeling the heat rising to her cheeks, Casey looked down and shrugged. “Yeah, I guess we’re hitting it off.”

 

When she got back to her seat, Casey snuggled back against Sally, while keeping a watchful eye on Derek.

 

Truman didn't make a move for the rest of the movie. In fact, he was extremely distant, which suited Derek just fine.

 

 


 

 

After the movie, the group left the theater and wandered around the parking lot, finding a stretch of green space with a picnic table. 

 

As they gravitated towards it, chattering amongst themselves (except for Truman, who was silent), Derek noticed Casey, arm in arm with Sally. She looked at Truman intently with discouragement. It looked like she wanted to do something to fix the tension in her relationship. Since Truman would never listen to Derek, it was up to Derek to mend things as Casey's mouthpiece.

 

He didn't really know what to say though so he did the noble thing and went to grab Truman’s hand. When it was gently swatted away, Derek looked back at Casey. Her face crumpled, deeply hurt. He frowned, as if to say I tried

 

They reached the bench, Casey and Sally sitting down comfortably together. Derek was about to join them when Truman placed a hand on his shoulder. 

 

“Can we talk?” Truman asked ominously. Well, he said it with a kind enough tone but it sounded ominous to Derek nonetheless.

 

Was he allowed to say no? He really wanted to say no. But Casey would never say no to that, she would want to talk about it, whatever it was. Derek exchanged a worried glance with Casey before saying, “Uh... yeah, sure.” 

 

The two of them walked a short distance away. Derek kicked at the dirt awkwardly, unable to read Truman’s expression. “What's up?” He asked, not even faking the anxious high pitched tone. 

 

“Casey, I need you to be honest with me.” Truman sighed. 

 

Derek looked up at him in anticipation, “Of course. What is it?” 

 

“Do you still have feelings for me?” 

 

“What?” Derek asked, taken aback. He wanted to shout no, but Casey would kill him. She would obviously want him to say yes, but how was he going to be able to sell it? “Of course I do!” He insisted, “Why would you even ask me that?”

 

Truman ran his fingers through the hair at the back of his head sheepishly, “It's just, any time I try to touch you or kiss you, you act like I disgust you.”

 

The dude had a point, Derek supposed. That most definitely described how he had been reacting all night. 

 

Derek sighed. “I'm sorry. You don't disgust me.” 

 

He should be getting paid for this performance. He still wasn't sure why he was so dedicated to helping Casey with this - perhaps since they both had the power to destroy each other's lives. If he ruined this for her, she could retaliate by dismantling his life in return. 

 

“I'm just feeling a little off tonight. It's weird being on a double date with Derek.” He emphasized his own name with disdain, like he imagined Casey would.

 

Expecting his words to calm Truman down, Derek was surprised to see his face turn purple like a grape under the moonlight. 

 

“This has nothing to do with Derek.” Truman said harshly, “This is about you and me.” 

 

Whoaaa, Derek thought, his eyebrows jumping up to his hairline in shock, where did that come from? When Casey said her and Truman were in a rough patch, she wasn't kidding! A little context would be nice right about now. He blinked at Truman, needing more information. 

 

“And you've been acting like this for weeks, now. You won't kiss me, you won't touch me, you won't even put in the effort to dress up for our date. You sure don't act like you have feelings for me. It's not too much to ask that my girlfriend is attracted to me!” 

 

Derek scoffed. Mr. Entitlement expected Casey to dress up to the nines for his skinny ass? “I am dressed like this because I wanted to be comfortable.” He said with offence, figuring it would be in character for Casey anyway. Even though she wanted him to protect the relationship, she must still want to maintain her dignity and not let Truman walk all over her. 

 

“Fine.” Truman conceded, “But admit you're not into me anymore. I keep trying to get close to you and all I'm getting is you're not interested.” 

 

“I will admit no such thing!” He said indignantly, crossing his arms. At this point he was just saying things he had heard come out of Casey's mouth before. He had no idea how to navigate this conversation so he was just throwing out catchphrases. 

 

“So you are attracted to me?” Truman probed. “Is it so terrible that I just want you to show me from time to time? I mean, is there anything you like about me?”

 

“Of course! I…” Derek strained to think. Did he really have to call Truman attractive? “I'm totally attracted to you!” He said in a high pitched voice, tasting vomit, “You're… sweet." He omitted the ‘sometimes’, “And you challenge me. I feel like you really know me...” 

 

Truman softened like putty with his words. “Really?” He asked, almost pleadingly. Derek was surprised by the guy's ability to do a complete 180. 

 

“Mhmm.” He hummed affirmatively. 

 

“Then… why don't you like it when I kiss you or come close to you?”

 

Derek knew why he didn't like it. But he had no idea why Casey didn't. He took his best guess as to what was going on, “I guess because… it freaks me out sometimes? The pressure.” 

 

Truman paled, “Casey…” He said with concern, taking Derek's hands in his, “I don’t mean to pressure you, ever. I just want to be close to you and it hurts when you're constantly pulling away.” 

 

At a loss for words, Derek stared at Truman. He supposed he was trying to be sweet, but it was honestly kind of hard to tell, he hated the guy so much at this point he was hesitant to sympathize with him. Plus, he’d experienced Truman's pressure firsthand. 

 

“Can we just… move past this?” Derek suggested, “No more expectations or anything, just… blank slate?” 

 

Truman sighed with relief, “I’d like that.” He said softly, “I know I shouldn't have brought it up right now, but you know how being around Derek puts me on edge.”

 

Jaw dropped, Derek couldn't tell whether to scoff or laugh. If only Truman knew who he was really talking to. He never realized that he had such an effect on the guy. The feeling was mutual.

 

He couldn't help but chuckle a little bit, “You reaaaaaally don’t like him, do you?” 

 

This seemed to set Truman off again. “You know it's not about that.” He said tensely. Man, the guy was like a roller coaster! “It's your obsession with each other!” 

 

Obsession?! 

 

“Excuse me? ” Derek asked sarcastically, breaking character. Since when were he and Casey obsessed with each other?! Truman acted like this was a well known fact.

 

“Oh my god, Casey.” Truman said, exasperated, “I'm not having this same fight again. On the rare occasion we have the opportunity to get close, Derek seems to pop up and ruin it somehow.”

 

Why did everyone blame shit on him? He had nothing to do with Casey and Truman's relationship!

 

“What?!” He asked, his voice coming out shrill, “Give me one example.”

 

“Uh, okay, how about tonight? Him crashing our date?”

 

Derek rolled his eyes, “Not like I had much of a say in that.” 

 

“It doesn't matter, it always happens. We’ll be talking or about to kiss and he'll walk up and say something that totally distracts you and suddenly it's all about him! He's all you ever talk about!” 

 

If Derek didn't know any better, he would think Truman was jealous. 

 

That's ridiculous!” Derek argued, because it was. He couldn't believe that they were even having this conversation, and that apparently it wasn't the first time. He could have really used that context. Thanks a lot Casey.

 

“This is going nowhere.” Truman sighed, frustratedly, “Even fighting about him makes it all about him. Either way it's all about him.” 

 

Derek was about to bite through his tongue to prevent himself from going off.

 

“I don't want to fight.” Truman said, going back to being soft and sweet. This back and forth was seriously exhausting. Truman picked Derek's hands up again and looked at him deeply in the eyes. Derek held his ground, his feet itching to flee.

 

“Kiss and make up?” Truman asked suavely. He had to be kidding. Was that supposed to work? Derek suspected Casey would be too pissed off to kiss Truman right now. 

 

Which was convenient because there was no way in hell!

 

“Not right now, Truman" He said firmly, “I’m too upset.” He watched Truman's face fall, “Maybe later.” He added. Not really though. 

 

Truman’s hands pulled away quickly and he suddenly appeared very distant. “Right. Got it.” He said before turning back around to walk to the picnic table, not waiting up. 

 

 


 

 

After being left alone with Sally, Casey forced herself to push her anxiety away and trust that Derek would act in her best interest. She sincerely hoped Truman wouldn’t bring up his ridiculous ‘Casey and Derek are obsessed with each other’ theory. Derek would let it go to his head if he found out that her and Truman argued about him all the time.

 

Instead of letting herself get sick with worry, she focused on her own task, admittedly easier than Derek’s. His relationship with Sally seemed practically perfect; healthy, well balanced. She resented him a little for it.

 

Sally curled up by Casey’s side on the bench as they leaned back against the table, looking up at the dark sky. They couldn’t see many stars because of the lamp posts scattered around the lot, but the view was nice all the same, with the moon a sharp full circle illuminating the night.

 

“This is nice,” Sally said as she let her head fall on Casey’s shoulder. 

 

Wrapping her arm around her girlfriend for the night, Casey pulled her in tighter, enjoying the comfortable moment. “Yeah, it is.”

 

It didn’t feel so weird for Casey, not as much as she imagined it was for Derek. This wasn’t actually much different from the way she was with her girl friends on a daily basis. She suspected it was because girls being affectionate with each other was widely normalized, whereas boys showing affection, well… that was another story.

 

“I’m glad you changed your mind and took my advice,” Sally said, looking up from her spot on Casey’s shoulder with a proud smile.

 

“What advice?” Casey asked softly, frowning down at the girl in her arms.

 

Sally sat back slightly, leaning her elbow on the table and letting her head rest into her hand. “About being nicer to Casey. I haven’t heard you argue once since you picked me up, that must be a record.”

 

When she looked closely at Sally, Casey could see the slightly smug tilt of her mouth, but also the pride she took in her boyfriend’s behaviour. Her bright green eyes were sparkling with fondness, and so much love that Casey let herself be bathed in. It felt nice to be someone’s whole world for a moment, and she surprised herself by realizing the intensity with which she envied Derek for what he had.

 

She couldn’t keep her eyes from wandering over to where he’d disappeared with Truman. She could still see them faintly in the distance, standing stiffly at a generous distance from one another, but the tilt of their heads indicated that they were talking. It was probably a good thing that they weren’t shouting or arguing, and if Derek found it in himself to put a little bit as much care into this act as he did in his relationship with Sally, then maybe she would still have a boyfriend by the end of this whole thing.

 

“I don’t like seeing her like that either,” Sally said, grabbing back her attention. It was obvious that Sally was a good friend, and Casey liked her very much as well, but she seemed to have the misguided idea that Derek actually cared.

 

“Why would I care?” Casey deadpanned with as much disinterest as she could muster when her relationship was in the balance.

 

Sally rolled her eyes and sighed good heartedly, “I know, it’s against nature.” She said it like she was playing along with some inside joke. “I’m just appealing to that part of you deep deep deepdeep down that doesn’t hate Casey.”

 

Casey snorted. “Add a couple more ‘deeps’.”

 

“It’s just as many as you admitted to.”

 

Admitted to? Derek had admitted to maybe not hating her deep down? That seemed unlikely. But there was a familiarity to this conversation that told her it wasn’t the first of its kind.

 

“Do we… usually talk about Casey this often?” She asked, making it sound like she was displeased with the prospect to cover for her curiosity.

 

Sally chuckled, shaking her head affectionately. “Fine, I get the message. See me dropping the issue,” she mimed dropping something on the ground. It was probably just as well. There were things Casey realized she wasn’t ready to find out. “Anywayyyy,” Sally continued languidly, “since it’s just us right now, maybe we should make the best of it.” She was smiling suggestively as she put her hand on Casey’s thigh and leaned forward slowly. “I missed you,” she whispered, her breath ghosting sweetly over Casey’s lips.

 

As her eyes fluttered shut, Casey found herself leaning forward the rest of the way to meet Sally’s lips. She couldn’t tell why it felt so natural, but the feelings and the build up were there, and the honesty of the moment was palpable.

 

The press of their lips was soft, almost tentative as Casey explored something new. It was nice, Sally’s silky lips felt like velvet over her own, and the smell of fruity chapstick invaded her senses. Sally sighed deliciously, pushing forward with earnest, loving warmth that relayed such strength to her affection that she couldn’t be denied.

 

Casey let the emotion course through her, allowing the kiss to deepen, her hand coming up to cup the side of Sally’s neck gently as their tongues met. She shivered as a spark ignited somewhere in her belly, goosebumps pebbling across her skin, and let herself be swept away by her soaring heart.

 

 


 

 

Rather than running after him like Truman probably expected, Derek sauntered back leisurely, drawing attention to Truman's pettiness.

 

Not that anyone noticed, considering Sally and Casey were a bit… distracted. 

 

He stopped in his tracks, taking in the sight. Watching himself making out with his girlfriend was one thing, but that was Casey in there. 

 

The prudish tease Truman had been describing was nowhere to be found as Casey appeared completely lost in the kiss, pulling Sally close eagerly. They didn’t even notice the interruption. Casey's hand was on Sally's hip, her fingers teasing up the hem of Sally's shirt. 

 

It broke Derek for a second as he wasn't sure how to react. He felt a blush creep up his skin, the deep red kind that would typically crawl up Casey's neck. There was something undeniably attractive about the whole thing, Derek couldn't quite put his finger on it as he gaped at the heated moment. 

 

He couldn't shake the image, and he started picturing it overlapping with the image of Casey kissing Sally in her own body. Why was that so fucking hot? Something stirred, deep in the pit of his stomach as he felt his breath hitch, the feeling spreading lower, causing Derek to press his thighs together. Though completely foreign, the sensation was no doubt arousal. If he had been in his original body, it would have been much more obvious. 

 

It was a strange experience, and it only reminded him that it was Casey's body, capable of reacting with such desire. That thought only made the feeling between his legs stronger.

 

He wanted to punch Truman for clearing his throat and interrupting the beautiful moment. 

 

Sally pulled away first, glaring subtly at Truman’s intrusion. Casey flushed, suddenly stricken with guilt. If he knew it had been her, and not Derek kissing Sally like that, she would be in serious trouble. It occurred to her that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d kissed Truman this way, or even felt anything remotely as passionate when she was with him.

 

“Guess playtime’s over,” Sally whispered conspiringly, a smirk growing on her kiss swollen lips. Casey tucked in her chin, smiling shyly.

 

“Jeez, get a room you two!” Derek grinned with glee as he directed his comment toyingly at Casey, watching her face redden intensely. “I thought you hated PDA Derek.” He said, his tone implying a wink. He wasn't complaining.

 

Was it just her, or did Derek sound… pleased? Casey couldn’t wrap her mind around it, but she was thoroughly embarrassed to have been caught. “Maybe you’re just jealous, Space Case,” she grumbled weakly, remembering at the last minute that she was Derek and should feel no shame.

 

He should be jealous, shouldn't he? But, he wasn't. A heated make out session was pretty common in his relationship with Sally. From Sally's perspective, she was just kissing him, her boyfriend. So there was nothing to feel threatened about. Except for maybe Casey trying to steal his girlfriend once they were back in their own bodies. Maybe there was a reason Casey didn't seem attracted to Truman, maybe Sally was more her type. He was going to have to tease her about it until the end of time. 

 

“Jealous?” Derek quipped, placing an innocent hand over his chest, “Do I look like the kind of girl who would do something so indecent in public?”

 

Oh God, she totally was that kind of girl. What the hell came over her? She really needed to change the subject. “Isn’t it getting late for you, anyway? Wouldn’t wanna be the kind of girl to miss your curfew, would you?” She said with a pointed look and a stiff smile.

 

“We’re carpooling Derek!” He bantered haughtily, then raised an eyebrow suggestively, “If you want some alone time with Sally, just say so.” Teasing her about this was probably Derek's favourite thing of all time, aside from the kiss itself. 

 

Casey huffed, getting ready to deny it when Sally put a hand on her shoulder. “Actually, we were thinking of getting back to my place to have some alone time, since I’m leaving tomorrow,” she said, “would you mind dropping us off, Truman?”

 

“Sure.” Truman said tightly, “No problem.” 

 

Derek's wide eyes jumped to Casey. He knew exactly what Sally meant by alone time. Even though Derek decided at this moment that he would be 100% cool with Casey taking his body for a spin with Sally (seriously, he couldn't stop thinking about it), he guessed Casey wouldn't be comfortable going down that road. How was Casey going to talk herself out of this? Sally wouldn't be coming back to visit for a couple weeks, so she would be crushed if he called it a night right now. He trusted Casey would let her down easy.

 

“Thanks!” Sally said brightly and tugged on Casey’s leather. “Come on.”

 

Even though she’d anticipated a relaxing night at home, after such a long, chaotic day, Casey didn’t have the heart to refuse Sally. It was understandable that she wanted some cuddling time with her boyfriend before heading back to Toronto for who knew how long. The prospect wasn’t so bad either, Casey had a good time with Sally, they were friends, so she could totally enjoy a nice girls night of sorts.

 

Everyone piled up in Truman’s car, and Derek wondered why Casey hadn’t said anything yet. She couldn't possibly be considering this, right?! As much as his imagination entertained the idea, there was no way Casey would ever go through with it. As they started driving it became clear there was only one explanation… Casey had no idea what she was getting herself into. He needed to defuse this bomb… and tease Casey a little more in the process. 

 

Derek: Just so u know. U have my blessing

 

Subtly pulling away from Sally in the backseat, Casey angled herself towards the window to read her text. She expected that Derek didn’t want to be left alone with Truman. When she read the message, Casey frowned in confusion. She had assumed that he wouldn’t have a problem with her spending time with Sally. He even seemed pleased by her commitment to the bit. She supposed he was giving her permission to get a bit more heated, if they ended up making out again. Her heart kind of bounced in her chest at the thought.

 

Casey: Won't disappoint u, D

 

Yeah, she clearly had no idea. 

 

Derek: U DO know what ur getting urself into… Right?  

 

And in case she still didn't get it…

 

Infinity and beyond Case remember? Sally will want a proper goodbye

 

That might actually have Casey panicking a little. She remembered their earlier conversation, but she hadn’t considered that it would be in the cards for tonight. It wasn’t like they were doing it all the time… were they?

 

Though, realistically, with how heated just kissing Sally had gotten, it wasn’t such a stretch to believe that she would want more. Casey understood now why Sally had said ‘alone time’ in that way.

 

Oh.

 

Casey: Omg!!! What do i do???

 

Derek: Depends. What do u WANT to do with Sally? ;)

 

Casey: I can’t have sex with ur girlfriend derek!!!

 

Derek swallowed thickly at the implication that she wanted to.

 

Derek: Of course u can I just gave u my blessing

 

Now properly alarmed, Casey looked disbelievingly at the back of his head, where his long hair was scattered about messily. He couldn't really mean that.

 

She deliberately kicked the back of his seat.

 

He turned to smirk at her before sitting back comfortably as they pulled into Sally's driveway. Casey still hadn't denied it, maybe she really was open to the idea. 

 

Derek: Don't forget to use protection ;)

 

 


 

 

Still unable to believe that Casey actually went with Sally, Derek found himself truly alone with Truman. 

 

He alternated between fantasizing about whatever was going on at Sally's place, and being uncomfortably aware of the silence in the car. 

 

Casey's relationship with Truman seemed miserable. Derek had only been living in it for a short while but dating the guy was exhausting. The dude had major issues and there was absolutely no warmth whatsoever. 

 

He had never given much thought to Casey's relationships before. He assumed they would be super romantic and cheesy but it was just kind of sad and empty. They clearly had no chemistry, even when Casey was in her own body. They were the opposite of compatible. She had triple the chemistry with Sally. Hell, Casey had more chemistry with Derek himself than she did with Truman, and Truman knew it. 

 

It started raining as they pulled up to the house and Derek considered making a mad dash for the front door. But since Casey was clearly doing wonders for his relationship with Sally, he decided to repay the favour by saving face with Truman. “Thanks for this.” He said softly, in Casey's sweetest voice, “The double date thing. I know it wasn't easy.” Ugh, Casey had too much humility sometimes, Derek wanted to shout screw you! And never look at Truman again. 

 

Truman sighed deeply, “Of course. I know it wasn't ideal for you either.” 

 

Taking that as a win, Derek smiled politely and opened his door to leave. Truman killed the engine quickly and came out to follow him to the door. Great, now the guy chose to be chivalrous. Derek put his hood up and put his hands in his pockets as he walked towards the front door with Truman, getting soaked in the rain. He was not looking forward to having to dodge a good night kiss but he knew it was coming. 

 

They reached the threshold and Derek grabbed the door handle, keeping his head down. He felt Truman's hand cup his cheek and turn his head up to look at him. 

 

Eyes wide with panic, Derek watched Truman lean in with his eyes closed, lips slightly parted.

 

Oh god he couldn't do this. He turned his head at the last minute, hiding it with a cough. 

 

Truman backed away, deeply insulted. “You know what Casey? I can't do this anymore.” He said frustratedly, turning on his heel to leave.

 

Good riddance, Derek thought. Then he felt like shit for not being able to keep Casey's relationship afloat for even a day post body swap (even though it pretty much fell apart on its own regardless), and he found himself chasing after him. “Truman, wait!” He called. Casey wouldn't let things end like that, not in a million years. 

 

Apparently, Casey's body was naturally clumsy, because Derek’s foot caught a slick of mud and he went down, getting the muck all along his side and in his hair. 

 

At least Truman had the decency to help, so Derek stood back up with his support. “Can you please give me" - Casey - “One more chance?” He asked, holding on to him and trying to get him to look into Casey's pleading face, appealing to the part of Truman that cared for her. 

 

The rain poured down on them and Truman scoffed, looking around like he was still pretty set on his decision to end things. 

 

Here goes my dignity, Derek thought, grasping Truman’s face in his hands and leaning in before he could let himself chicken out, planting a kiss firmly on Truman’s lips. Casey owes me. Big time!

 

He managed to do it without vomiting by telling himself he was kissing Sally, or really anyone other than Truman. 

 

Initially intending it to be a simple peck, Derek didn't have much say in the matter as Truman took hold of his waist, pulling him in closer. Derek had never kissed anyone taller and stronger than him before, and was shocked to find himself trapped against Truman's body. 

 

It wasn’t that Derek would never consider kissing another guy (not that he would ever admit that to anyone, ever). It wasn't exactly on his bucket list or anything, but he would probably do it on a dare if there was enough alcohol involved. He could be open minded. Except Truman grossed him out so much, and was the last person he would ever kiss willingly.

 

It took every ounce of strength not to squirm when he felt Truman’s tongue. He shut his eyes tightly, kissing Truman back at the bare minimum. He kept his own tongue glued down tight, waiting for the kiss to be over as he tried to make Truman disappear with his mind.

 

It went on for what felt like forever and he went stiff as a board in Truman's arms, nearly gagging on the tongue darting towards his throat. Their teeth clashed a few times as he tried to retreat, head locked in by Truman's possessive grasp. Finally, Truman pulled away, leaving Derek feeling thoroughly violated. 

 

“Wow,” Truman said, dazed, as if it had been the best kiss of his life. “I think maybe… we can make this work,” He concluded hoarsely, tucking some stray wet strands of hair into Derek's hoodie. 

 

Painfully, Derek tried to smile at Truman, “I should…” He looked back at the house and then up at the sky, gesturing vaguely to the rain, still hooked by Truman's arm, pressed against him. 

 

“Right,” Truman chuckled, releasing him from his grasp. He leaned down to kiss him sloppily on the cheek. “See you later?” He asked smoothly, backing away towards his car.

 

“Mhmm,” Derek hummed, pressing his lips together awkwardly and waving before running inside. 

 

He kicked off his soaking wet shoes and ran upstairs, ignoring the concerned “Casey??” That must have come from Nora. 

 

Locking himself in the bathroom, he braced himself on the counter and looked into the mirror. Casey glowered back at him, straggly muddy hair sticking out from the drenched hoodie. He felt anger boil up inside of him as he had a sudden urge to punch the mirror. Instead he stripped the hoodie off and threw it on the floor in frustration. He was starting to feel the rise and fall of his chest again, tears brimming his eyes. 

 

“Uuuaaarrrgggggg" He growled, turning away from his reflection. Why was he so fucking emotional?! Casey's body was a prison.

 

Without thinking about it, he turned the shower on. Then he took pause. This was kind of a big deal. But he was going to have to shower eventually, and he was covered in mud, and he needed to wash himself clean from that traumatic experience. 

 

He got a towel from the linen closet and slowly took off his clothes, almost as if he was apologizing for what he was doing. Nothing creepy, Derek reminded himself, as he felt an intense urge to check himself out in the mirror. 

 

All hesitation went out the window the second he stepped into the shower, letting the hot water run over him soothingly.

 

He sighed, letting his head fall back, the water running through his hair. He rubbed the mud from his neck. It felt amazing and a soft moan left his lips unknowingly, startling him a bit. The little moan in Casey's voice brought extra attention to the fact that this act of being naked in the shower, in Casey's body, was intimate. 

 

He shut his eyes tightly, Casey's nakedness was too much to handle. It was like having a naked girl right in front of him, except more like right on top of him. He was inside a naked - no. No pervy thoughts allowed. 

 

He figured washing his hair was the safest place to start, straying away from the thought of lathering up soapy slippery skin.  

 

As he worked the shampoo through his hair, massaging his scalp, he couldn't help but think about how good it felt. It was almost too sensual, like he was acting out a shower scene from a movie. Even rinsing his hair felt like a lewd act. 

 

Once his hair was washed with Casey's signature vanilla shampoo and conditioner, he grabbed the loofah and Casey's coconut body wash. He gave it a deep inhale, he secretly loved the scent of it and he did this from time to time. Now, he had an excuse to actually use it. 

 

He started lathering up with his eyes closed, his heart pounding as the loofah roamed over the sensitive skin of Casey's stomach. He actually gulped as he passed it over her breast, the mesh of the loofah grazing over a hard nipple. 

 

Collecting his breath, Derek had to stop. He was getting way too into this. He braced his hand on the wall. He had to open his eyes. All he could see behind his eyelids was Casey and Sally and whatever they might be doing right now. 

 

Throwing his head back, Derek let out a sexually pent-up groan, unable to help himself with all of these thoughts running wild in his head. The feeling between his legs was back with intensity. He didn't know Casey's body could get so aroused, and it was making him lose his goddamn mind. 

 

There was a building need in his belly, a nagging frustration. All he wanted to do right now was jack off, but that was impossible, since he didn't have the right equipment. And touching Casey's body like that, no matter how much her body wanted to be touched like that, would definitely fall under creepy stuff

 

He would swear on his life that he had no control over it, as his eyes turned downwards, catching his first glimpse of her naked body in all its glory.

 

“Fuck.” He whispered. He wasn't supposed to do that. But it was too late now and he couldn't un-look. The vision sent him over the edge, the need between his legs unbearable. His thighs pressed together as he braced himself against the wall, a soft squeak leaving his throat. 

 

Fuuuck, he wasn't even touching her down there, but his thighs seemed to be doing all the work, doing something that caused a literal jolt of pleasure. 

 

He shifted his weight and his thighs rubbed together, clenching at a different angle and the pleasure built, concentrating itself to a small spot, radiating out. 

 

Even though he wasn't really doing this - it was just happening - he worried he was doing something wrong. Maybe he could think about something else - a turn off, like Truman. But he couldn't go there. This was already a runaway train.

 

Another moan left his lips, sounding just like Casey, and he couldn't help but let his mind wander to Casey and Sally. Together. Casey feeling the arousal and pleasure in his body the way he was now in hers. Sally's lips on her skin, making Casey feel things she never had before. Sally was amazing with her to-o-ongue. Derek whined against the shower wall, the feeling between his legs getting too much. His fingers itched to travel down but that would be crossing a line so instead, he clenched his legs together harder, and a loud moan escaped his lips, feeling something almost pulsing like a heartbeat in his core.

 

Now that he knew what Casey's body looked like, his mind ran with the new information. The porno in his mind showed Sally kissing down Casey's naked body. 

 

His thighs rubbed together torturously as this image flooded every inch of his consciousness. Finally with a loud moan stifled into his arm, he had to separate his thighs, and a feeling of exhausted relief came over him. Heart beating rapidly, breath shallow, and legs shaking, Derek’s eyes shot open.

 

Was that a? 

 

Did he just have a?

 

Whoa.

 

 


 

 

There was no way to prepare for what Casey was about to walk into. Unless, of course, she’d missed the class on how to have intercourse with your step-brother’s girlfriend: while in his body. She would have to bring it up with the school direction. Since no such thing had been made available to her, though, she was on her own, lost in pitch darkness.

 

She was still debating going through with this. It seemed completely insane to her, like, on a scale of zero to this whole frickin day, it was reaching new unimaginable heights.

 

On one hand, it would probably make Sally suspicious if Derek turned down sex. It might also make her feel sad, possibly insecure, or rejected. Rejecting Sally seemed like the worst thing Casey could do right now. 

 

She was also fighting with a treacherous part of herself that wanted to do it, almost aching to feel that close to Sally again, and recreate that perfect moment at the picnic table where she’d uncovered her own desire and stripped it bare.

 

On the other hand, how could she even consider this?! This. This ludicrous, completely obscene idea. Not only was she in her step-brother’s body - which in itself was deceitful, it would be like a desecration of Sally’s trust and the temple built off of her and Derek’s bond. But she was also not in her body, which, even though this body had experience, she didn’t, and she would be robbing herself out of experiencing her first time the right way.

 

Then again, what way was right, really? As long as it felt right.

 

And it really, really did. It felt right when Sally led her through the quiet house and into the bedroom, where she turned on fairy lights that dangled freely from the ceiling above the bed, giving the room a magical glow. It felt right when they lay next to each other, not even doing anything, just looking at each other, and all she could think about was how safe and warm she was right here.

 

Overwhelmed by this deep seeded feeling of rightness, Casey reached out and brushed her hand over Sally’s face, studying the blush of her cheek with meticulous fingertips. She met satin skin, the softness there like a blanket that settled over her, and under the blanket, it was just the two of them - pulling closer and tangling together, cloaked and sheltered from the world.

 

“I’m sorry you have to go,” Casey heard herself whisper, but it was like a dream.

 

Their breaths mingled and she inhaled and exhaled Sally like she was air, until their lips collided, and she couldn’t breathe at all, like she forgot how.

 

Casey had never kissed like this, never been kissed like this. She lapped up the taste, taking all of it for herself, as she quenched down her envious thirst. It wasn’t hers, and she knew it, but still snatched it selfishly from the silver platter Derek had presented to her, because she so greedily wanted what was his.

 

She thought it might just be Sally, that beautiful girl whose smile was like the sun, whose touch softened the deepest of aches. Was this what was missing? A stroke of feminine tenderness, light little gasps from plump red lips. It seemed right.

 

Even the low growl in Derek’s throat as Sally pushed her on her back, straddling her hips, pressing their bodies together so tight there wasn’t room for anything else to exist.

 

The strain between her legs was uncompromising, seeking out Sally’s hips like it had a mind of its own.

 

Sally pulled back slightly, all sparkly eyes and breathy sighs. “I love you, Derek.”

 

Then it was teeth against her throat, hands unzipping her jeans, and an assault of tears down her cheeks.

 

“Sally,” she called, Derek’s voice breaking over the shards of her heart. “Stop.”

 

This wasn’t hers.

 

A delicate thumb brushed over the river down her face. “Der - what - did I do something wrong?”

 

Casey opened her eyes, tugging Sally down into a soothing embrace. “No. You - you’re perfect.”

 

Used to exasperated groans and heavy growing tension, Casey held onto the cloud of kindness and sensitivity surrounding them, knowing that this, she could keep.

 

After a loving goodbye, Casey breathed in the cold night air, and with a long exhale returned to reality. Sitting on the curb under the heavy rain, she pulled out her phone and texted Derek through glassy eyes.

 

Casey: Pls come get me

 

Derek: Omw

 

 


 

 

As he drove to pick up Casey, Derek’s mind shuffled through the possible subtext. Did something happen between them?

 

He was starting to feel a little weird about the whole thing. Even though Casey and Sally together was the sexiest fantasy he could imagine - apart only from throwing himself in that mix - the reality of that scenario was a bit more complicated. Sally would have no idea she was actually with Casey, not him, and that felt wrong. He shouldn't have encouraged it so much. He was still a horny teenage guy at heart and it clouded his judgement. Now that he'd gotten some release, everything was a lot clearer. 

 

He pulled up to Sally's place and saw Casey sitting on the curb, getting soaked in the rain. It was dark but he could see she was crying. Shit, something bad must have happened.

 

As soon as she spotted Derek, Casey wiped her cheeks and jumped to her feet. She slid into the passenger side of the Prince, dripping water everywhere. “Thanks,” she said quietly, and looked out the window as she settled into a numb silence.

 

“N-no problem.” He mumbled, slowly peeling the car out. The drive was quiet. There had been so many awkward car rides today. At least this one was short and the silence wasn't tense, it was more… sad. He tried to read her silence but he had absolutely no idea what was on her mind, or what might have happened with Sally.

 

When they pulled up to the house, Derek left the Prince running. He really needed to know what happened, and he supposed Casey needed to know what happened with Truman, as mortifying as it would be to tell her. 

 

She still hadn't looked at him yet. “Casey, what happened?” He asked softly.

 

“Nothing,” she mumbled, watching her fingers fidgeting in her lap. “We just kissed.”

 

Derek's eyebrows knit together, as he regarded her, he had never seen his face look that upset before. Even for Casey and how emotional she could be, this seemed serious. “Then… what's wrong?”

 

Sniffling to hold back more tears, because she was getting the feeling that it freaked him out, she tried to figure out how to put it onto words.

 

It felt like she’d been so close to getting something that she craved deeply, but right as she was about to touch it, grasp it, it had been taken away.

 

She saw it as an awakening of sorts, finally putting into place that one missing piece of the puzzle - why she couldn’t feel this way about Truman. She didn’t love him. Now the question was: could she love him? And what would it take?

 

The other question: how did she tell Derek that making out with Sally was like a sexual awakening?

 

“I just…” Casey started, clearing the lump in her throat as she looked out the windshield. “I couldn’t do it… even though I wanted to.”

 

Derek had no idea what to say to that. He wondered if he should be focusing on why she wanted to, or what stopped her. Was this her way of… coming out to him? He decided to confront it, as gently as possible, knowing he would never get any real answers if he hid behind their usual banter.

 

“Casey… why were you willing to go there with Sally if…” He wasn't used to having tough conversations, and he was certain he would put his foot in his mouth, “you don’t even want to kiss your boyfriend…” 

 

She chuckled sadly, thinking of everything Sally was, that Truman wasn’t. And everything Sally gave, that he didn’t. “She loves you,” Casey said, turning to look at Derek with a soft smile.

 

It was starting to make a little sense now. Truman wasn't exactly the warmest person on the planet, and Casey was a romantic at heart. “Yeah.” Derek said huskily, smiling sadly back at her, “Sally can really make the world stand still when she looks at you, huh?” 

 

Worried that the floodgates would open up again, Casey looked away, nodding honestly as she sniffed back tears.

 

For the second time that day, Derek found himself really empathizing with Casey. Her relationship with Truman was so strained and there was absolutely no affection there whatsoever. Every moment he spent with Truman as Casey had been a nightmare. Their relationship problems seemed entirely separate from the body swap thing, like they'd been circling the same issues for weeks now, and Derek was exhausted after just one day of it. He could see why spending time with Sally, as her boyfriend would show Casey what she was missing.

 

“Things with you and Truman are… not great, Case. I'm not gonna lie.” He said awkwardly, “For a while now, it looks like.”

 

“Yeah… it’s been like that since…” Casey sighed tiredly. There used to be a time when she really felt something for Truman, in the beginning when it was still new and passionate. They had gotten really close for a minute there, things had gotten pretty heated, and then- maybe she really had caused all of it. “It wasn’t always like this…”

 

It was hard for Derek to imagine a time when Casey and Truman had a good relationship. It was kind of unsettling to know things could just fall apart like that into such constant tension, “What changed?”

 

“I- I pushed him away,” Casey said, frowning at the way her heart twisted in her chest, as if it didn’t like what she said.

 

The anger lurking under the surface threatened to come out but Derek held it at bay, needing some clarification before he let it get to that point. “Like… emotionally… or…”

 

“Both?” Casey said, thinking back on how things really turned upside down. “We were… he was…” She was already ashamed, the fact that she was confiding in her worst enemy made it even worse. He probably wouldn’t understand. It might even be easier for him to relate to Truman, confirming his long standing opinion that she was uptight and frigid. For some reason she didn’t want him to think of her like that, but she felt compelled to tell him anyway. “It got to a point where we almost… I thought I wanted to, but then I changed my mind, and he… I let him down. And after that everytime he tried to get close, I couldn’t…” she choked on a sob, and drifted off, pointing out her own failure and putting it into words too painful to continue.

 

The anger was definitely there now. Derek's jaw clenched as he tried to breathe steadily through his nose. “So? You changed your mind. You weren't ready. That doesn't mean he should make you feel like shit about it.” Instead of kissing Truman for Casey, he should have punched him for her. “I mean, you changed your mind with Sally. Did she send you on some guilt trip about it?”

 

“No,” Casey admitted, shifting uncomfortably. “She hugged me.”

 

“Because Sally gives a shit that you're actually enjoying yourself!" Derek scoffed, “All Truman cares about is getting what he wants from you.”

 

“It’s not like that,” Casey defended, looking sharply at Derek. Her eyes settled on the delicate chain on his neck. “He cares,” she gestured faintly at Truman’s gift.

 

Don’t even get me started on the fucking necklace! Derek wanted to say. Instead, he pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, “He knows you're not into it. If he cared about that, he wouldn't keep trying to push it.” He shook his head in disgust, thinking back to his own experience. He had not enjoyed that kiss one bit, but Truman didn't seem to notice, or care, “He’s too busy thinking about what he wants from you to care about what you want. I know Casey, I've been in your shoes tonight, and it's been…” He fought off a shudder, “Enlightening.”

 

She observed him thoughtfully, part of her screaming that he was right, it shouldn’t feel this way; the cold, the shame, the guilt. Truman should want to protect her from that. If she could just get things back to the way they were… she wondered if that was even possible. Even if Derek had been able to save face for her tonight, he’d seen the disaster from up close and saw it for what it was. It was doomed to fail. “How was it?”

 

Derek groaned. Where to start. “The lengths I've gone to tonight to save your relationship Casey, I swear to god, and this guy’s not even worth it.”

 

Maybe something more painful than admitting that her boyfriend was scum and that he didn’t care, was the fact that even Derek cared more about her and was more dedicated to doing things right by her than Truman ever was. She wondered, as the tightness in her chest eased off, what lengths he had gone to and if he actually did it for her or if he had only been going along for the sake of their truce. “Like- like what?” She asked.

 

“Well when he wasn't completely ignoring you or trying to make a move on you, all he did was bring up the same arguments.” Derek explained frustratedly, “He demanded you admit you don't have feelings for him. And apparently I'm the reason - me as in Derek - for all your relationship problems. If anyone is obsessed, it's him.” He shook his head with disbelief at Truman's hypocrisy.

 

Groaning, Casey slapped her palm over her face. “I’m sorry he brought that up.”

 

“Yeah, thanks for that by the way! Could have used a warning.” Derek laughed humourlessly, drenched in annoyance, “If Truman thinks the very mention of my name is ruining your relationship then why is he constantly bringing me up in your fights? It's weird.”

 

“Yeah, well,” she scoffed bitterly. “He thinks our relationship is weird.” She gestured between the two of them.

 

Oh, they definitely had a weird relationship, especially now. But that didn't mean Truman could act like the world's worst boyfriend and then blame it all on him

 

“Even if it is, I don't see why that should make a difference. He seems to think it's standing in the way of your closeness. And we both know what he means by closeness.” 

 

The more Derek heard himself talk, the more he realized that Truman was probably his least favourite person on the planet. He could list criticisms all day long, they just kept popping into his head.

 

“The guy sets himself up for failure too, it's like he wants you to reject him to prove a point, making a move at the absolute worst times.” 

 

Honestly, Derek was a little pissed off at himself for putting in such an effort in the first place. He hardly ever put himself out there for Casey, so why did he agree to this? Why help Casey try to hang on to something when she was so clearly better off without it? Why go to such extremes? It was the whole body swap thing. He was struggling so much with it, and so was she. They had been forced into a position where they had to support each other. He had to support Casey, with whatever crazy thing she needed, because he needed her support just as much. That notion of him and Casey relying so much on one another was almost more unlikely than the switch itself. 

 

“I tried to save face for your sake, I really did, even though he made it impossible. And it still wasn't enough, he wanted his…” Derek shuddered openly, “Good night kiss.”

 

“Kiss?” She eyed him sideways, a teasing smile pulling at her lips.

 

He pointed at her “Don’t.” He said evenly, “Seriously, don’t.” He banged his head on the steering wheel, not wanting to go into it. She had to know what happened though, it was her stupid damn relationship in jeopardy. “I dodged it.”

 

Even though she should be disappointed, she really wasn’t. She hadn’t expected him to do that for her, and even if he did, his special brand of persuasion was starting to sway her, the way he somehow always did. 

 

She smiled genuinely, kind of sympathizing with him for what he had been through. “What did he say?”

 

“Well he wasn't happy about it!” Derek said exasperated, “He said he was done Casey. It was the last straw for him.”

 

Nodding in understanding, she sighed. “Well, I know you did your best. There probably wasn’t much to save anyway.”

 

“Wait, are you -” Derek shook his head with disbelief, chucking without any humour whatsoever, “Are you telling me I could have just left it at that?! Didn't you hear me when I said I saved your relationship?!”

 

“You did?”

 

Derek grunted with deep seeded regret and anger at the situation, “Yeah! Well I didn't think you'd let him walk away so I went after him! Your Klutzilla body made me fall into the mud in the process!”

 

Casey couldn’t help the laughter rumbling in her chest. After everything he just said, how much he argued that Truman wasn’t worth it, he still went after him. “Ha ha ha! Don’t-“ she shook her head, shaking with amusement. “Don’t tell me - ha ha - don’t tell me you…” she left the question hanging in the air.

 

Turning beet red, Derek was overflowing with fury and mortification “W…. I- ” He stuttered. “He’s your freaking boyfriend and you made it pretty damn clear you wanted him to stay that way!”

 

“You just! Ha ha ha!” Casey took a deep breath trying to calm herself. “You just spent- ha!- twenty minutes trying to convince me he wasn’t worth it! Why would you even do it?!”

 

“He’s not!” Derek yelled, waving his hands wildly, “If it were up to me I would have kicked him to the fucking curb, but it's your damn life!” He shook his head, and looked away from her, unable to handle her ridicule on this topic. “You could at least be a little grateful considering it was probably the worst thing that's ever happened to me.”

 

Laughter subsided, Casey was left with a nice glowing feeling inside her chest, and a surge of affection for the guy who kissed her worthless boyfriend just because that was what he thought she wanted. It made her feel warm inside, stomach fluttering as she looked at Derek who was the very picture of indignation with her flushed face and pouty expression. “Thank you,” she said sincerely, hearing her own smile in Derek’s voice.

 

“Yeah, well. Congrats.” Derek said, still bitter, “You still have your boyfriend, for whatever that's worth. Hope it's worth my PTSD. I swear it's going to take 50 more showers before I can start to feel clean again...” Derek’s voice faltered as he realized that he just tipped Casey off to his very educational shower. 

 

Huffing one last laugh, she slapped his arm companionably. “So, how was it?”

 

“The kiss?” Derek asked, wanting to vomit. He considered it seriously for a second “...Traumatic.” Seriously, he was having flashbacks, “Just waiting for it to be over while in a vice grip with his tongue down my throat.” 

 

“While this is entertaining - and awfully graphic,” she said, letting her head fall back against the headrest, “I meant the shower.”

 

Every last drop of blood drained from Derek's face. He took way too long to answer as he stared forward into the distance. “Fine.” He said, an octave higher than normal. Casey's voice was really exposing him right now.

 

“I’m not putting you on the spot,” she reassured gently, “just curious.”

 

He stared at her warily, like he was walking into some kind of trap, “I thought you'd be freaking out or something, like insisting I shower in the dark.”

 

“I almost had sex with your girlfriend,” she offered simply as an explanation.

 

Yeah, he still couldn't wrap his head around that one. “Earlier today you couldn't even look at my dick, were you really going to fuck Sally with it?” He couldn't keep track of all of Casey's epiphanies and breakthroughs. “And what exactly are you saying? I thought I wasn't even allowed to look. No creepy stuff.” And he had been so good about it too, respecting her boundaries even though the temptation was so strong. Except for one accidental peek. And one teensy spontaneous orgasm - which was totally not his fault. 

 

She shrugged. It had been a long ass freaky day. “I just figure,” she said slowly, “if this is going to last a while, then this is going to be my body for a while, so… you know.”

 

The tension in the car thickened as Derek absorbed what Casey was saying, the sound of the rain deafening to his ears. “So...You're just.” He leaned in closer to her, lowering his voice like they were sharing a secret, “You're just giving me free rein over your body?” He hoped she couldn't see the dark reactive blush rising into his cheeks, expecting her to call him out on it and smack him saying that's not what she meant at all. 

 

She met Derek’s eyes, watching as his blown pupils overshadowed the sharp blue there, like an eclipse over a clear sky. The implications of giving Derek complete control over her body sent a shiver down her spine, flooding her brain with images of things that he could do to it with her full permission. 

 

The most unnerving thing was how thrilling it was to picture him pleasuring himself in her body, him getting wet between his legs, her own voice thick with desire as he moaned in rapture; the idea that he felt lust as she did, even now, while she fought the urge to squirm, her own desire growing hard against the front of her pants.

 

Casey swallowed harshly as she stared at Derek, her whole being vibrating with anticipation as she formed the fateful words. “It’s your body while you’re in it.” As an afterthought, she added, “just don’t defile it.”

 

Derek was practically leaning all the way out of his seat, fascinated beyond measure at the possibilities. He stared at Casey's bottom lip, which was strange because it was his own, and he felt compelled to keep the conversation in this new dangerous territory. 

 

Biting his lip, his eyes flickered back up to Casey's to find her serious, almost sultry gaze. 

 

The feeling between his legs returned, bathing him in arousal at the opportunity to explore Casey's body fully, experiencing the whole range of sensation, and find out all the little sensitive areas of flesh that drove her wild. Casey's uptight body could use some release, it was practically begging for it, slipping over the edge without even needing to be touched. Actually being able to touch, admire, and appreciate opened up a whole new range of experiences. 

 

What turned him on more though was the look in Casey's eyes, like she was just as into this as he was.

 

He spoke low, eyeing her suggestively, “We might have different definitions of defile.”

 

“Don’t, like, mutilate it or whatever,” Casey said breathily.

 

“Don’t worry.” He assured her, “I'll take really good care of it.” He put as much emphasis into it as possible. So long as he had any say in the matter, Casey's body would be riding waves of pleasure under his touch at any given opportunity. “But what about you?” He asked, turning it around on her teasingly.

 

Basically quivering at the promise behind his words, her eyelids falling heavily over her eyes, Casey shifted her hips, instinctively angling her body towards him. “I’ll take care of you,” she fumbled, “I-I mean…”

 

He couldn't help but grin playfully at that, “I don’t doubt it.” He laughed. He was more than happy to be in her capable hands. “You know…” He said thoughtfully, “As crazy as this whole thing is… it's definitely a unique opportunity…”

 

She was a puddle at this point. She never knew her voice could have that low, seductive quality to it - at least, to that level of intensity. Even though it sounded like her, all she could hear was Derek. “Um,” she tried, at a loss for words.

 

“Aren't you curious to know what it feels like?” He goaded, hoping to appeal to the same desire he had in himself. He had been worried he was the only one thinking about this kind of thing, and it was a relief to know he wasn't alone in letting his mind wander. He and Casey had something in common they couldn't talk about with anyone else. “I mean, how many people get that kind of first hand knowledge?”

 

Fuck, what was he doing to her? Why wasn’t she able to move, or talk intelligibly, or do anything besides staring at his mouth, at her own parted lips, and keep drifting closer to him as if she was pulled in that direction. “Yes,” she managed to answer his question, his forthcoming tone extorting the truth out of her.

 

The intensity in the air was humming in the short distance between their faces. Derek could see Casey's subtle lean and the way she eyed his lips, realizing they were possibly building up to a kiss. While the idea of making out with his step-sister was startlingly, shamefully hot, and as compelling as it was to make out with himself (in a vain sort of way)… Derek had to back away, crushingly reminded of his girlfriend. 

 

While it was easy to imagine they were living in their own little body-swap bubble, the rest of the world still existed, and that included his relationship with Sally, not to mention their family and the world at large. 

 

Exploring this step sibling body swap fantasy wasn't exactly on the table. And the idea that Casey wanted to kiss him, or herself… well… exploring that idea wasn't on the table either. 

 

Now that he had full control over Casey's body though, there was nothing stopping him from using those fantasies to provide inspiration for later once he had some privacy.

 

Even though he backed away, he kept eye contact, “I guess we’ll find out." He said casually. 

 

As the distance between them grew, so did Casey’s eyes, confusion and remorse filling her at the realization of what she had almost done. If he hadn’t pulled away, she would have kissed him. Sudden dread kept her unmoving, even though the need to run was as urgent as her need to breathe.

 

He finally turned the car off and prepared to go inside and call it a night. Day one of their weird new lives was a success for the most part. Before he left into the pouring rain though he needed to say one more thing, “Now that I get more choice over what I do in this body, there's one thing I'm never doing.”

 

She eyed him nervously, willing her hands to stop shaking as she waited for him to continue.

 

“Consider that the first and last time I'm ever kissing Truman.”

 

“Don’t worry,” she said under her breath as her trembling fingers found the door handle, “I’ll take care of it.” Then she was fleeing, rushing inside to wash herself of the murky rain and this whole freaky day.



Chapter Text

The second Casey opened her eyes, she wished that she didn’t. It was bright and early on Sunday morning, and she stared at the reflection of the sun off the wall resentfully.

 

She was still in his room. She was still in his bed. And - she looked down - yup, she was still in his body. It had probably been naive of her to hope that she would wake up back to her normal life, and even better, to find out that it had all been a dream (she was somewhat hesitant to call it a nightmare now - but it was still singularly painful).

 

Groggily making her way to the bathroom to freshen up before breakfast, she paused at her reflection in the mirror. Sore, tired eyes stared blindly in her general direction, Derek’s features affected by a deep forlorn expression that she couldn’t shake off.

 

After coming home last night, she’d gone through the motions of showering, while paying no mind to the noticeable changes in her body. She’d just wanted to be clean, and to have that dreadful day gone and over with. Then she’d locked herself in Derek’s bedroom, shutting off the rest of the world.

 

Casey sighed, following the movement of Derek’s chest as she breathed in a lungful of air, and observed the slight part of his lips as she exhaled at length. His lips, that had almost touched her own. She traced them with her fingers, soft and full, and when she found her own gaze in the mirror, catching herself in the act of relishing the feeling, she dropped her hand guiltily.

 

As if being stuck in her step-brother’s body wasn’t confusing enough. As if her own life, now in his hands, wasn’t hard and complicated enough. She’d let herself get swept up in a sea of new sensations and emotions, and almost made irreparable mistakes that would likely have sent everything crashing down. It hadn’t taken her one day.

 

She had plausible deniability for the way she had reacted to Sally. She had assumed Derek’s part and played things out accordingly. It wasn’t so much the first kiss that she regretted. Even though she had gotten swept up in the moment, it had been sweet and innocent enough. It had been enough to be convincing.

 

But when she had been alone with Sally, in her bedroom, that… was something else. She’d discovered something about herself, something that she’d been desperately searching for. She’d found out that she could feel, and want, and love, in a way that completely consumed her.

 

(Maybe she’d also discovered that she didn’t hate the touch of another girl, and that made her feel all fuzzy inside.)

 

Her worst offence of all, though, what twisted everything up irreparably, was to let herself feel, and want, and-

 

For Derek.

 

He had shifted everything around on its axis, from how thoughtfully he’d respected her wishes and privacy; to saving face with her mother, her sister, her boyfriend; by letting her hold him while he cried; and letting her pour her heart out in front of him without so much as a snark or degrading comment. He’d caught her doubts and vulnerability, held them in his hands, looked at them, saw right through some of her deepest fears and desires, and gently put them back on the soft altar they’d fallen from (added some bubble wrap for good measure).

 

She’d looked into her own blue eyes all day, seeing nothing but him in them. As much as she wanted to pretend that the attraction she had felt was rooted in a bizarre curiosity to discover herself, it wasn’t quite the truth. The truth was more dangerous.

 

Megan’s words swirled around in her mind, words of power that wouldn’t stay quiet. Things about paths and unyielding forces and intense bonds she would be powerless to fight.

 

Her hand reached out to her reflection, pausing halfway as she held her palm up in front of her. She took it to her chest, frowning at the line she traced with her thumb, thinking of magical gateways and natural phenomenons.

 

All the words were jumbled in her head, like backwards sentences she couldn’t make sense out of, but she felt it, she knew their meaning somewhere deep inside.

 

Thinking about it made her dizzy and exhausted, and she felt it like an open wound in her chest. Tiredly, Casey pulled herself away from the bathroom mirror as everything kept spinning around her. There was no pushing it away completely, so she let it stir at the back of her mind as she dragged her heavy, lethargic body down the stairs.

 

She found her mother cooking, alone in the kitchen, and sat at the island quietly, simply basking in the peaceful presence of the woman who made everything better just by being there. She wished she could talk to her, tell her about what she was going through and all the confusing feelings. Her mother always knew what to do.

 

But she was Derek. Derek didn’t confide in Nora (or in anyone). Plus, her current turmoil wasn’t exactly the usual kind, it couldn't be patched up with band-aids and kisses.

 

She settled on accepting her mother’s offered plate of eggs and cup of coffee. “Thanks, Nora,” she said, and ate her way through her next two plates of eggs gratefully.

 

The silence was broken when the younger siblings came crashing down the stairs, Lizzie running in after Edwin as she chased him playfully around the kitchen while he brandished a sheet of paper in the air.

 

“Edwin!” Lizzie shouted menacingly. “Give me back my assignment!”

 

Using the kitchen island as a barricade, Edwin caught his breath, “Come on, Liz! It's just this one time, you know how swamped I've been!”

 

Casey looked on curiously, amused by their antics.

 

“You can do your own homework!” Lizzie shot back, faking a swerve to the right and catching up to him as he ran towards the left. “I will not help you cheat, Edwin!”

 

“Who’s talking about cheating?” Nora chimed in, and sighed when she went completely ignored by the younger teens.

 

“It's only one assignment and you won't even let me peek!” Edwin argued, “Come on! Help a brother out! I'd do the same for you!”

 

Lizzie followed him out of the double doors, tackling him somewhere around the couch. “Give! It! Back!” She punctuated each word with a punch, if Edwin’s pained shouts were any indication.

 

With a small smile, Casey turned back to her breakfast, intent on eating every last crumb - there was no wasting food when she could literally eat a horse right now and still be hungry.

 

“I saw a bird yesterday that looked just like Edwin.” Casey heard as Marti came to sit on the stool next to her. “I took a picture on Nora's phone, wanna see?”

 

Casey looked down at the grinning girl, offering a light chuckle. “Yeah, Marti, I do!”

 

“The resemblance is uncanny,” Nora said as she handed her phone to Marti, and turned to take care of the dishes.

 

“See?” She said, showing off the picture proudly, “It even has his crazy eyes.”

 

Casey actually laughed when she saw the image. The bird really did look like Edwin. “Good job, Marti. It’s even better than Edwin’s yearbook picture!”

 

Marti giggled, “You should have heard the sound it made too! It was so funny, it was just like him.”

 

“What did it do, did it fart?” Casey joked.

 

“No, I'll show you!" Marti grinned, “Hey Edwin!” She called, as a pained groan came from the couch in response, “Come over here for a sec!” 

 

Edwin made his way over, almost limping in an over-dramatic attempt to gain sympathy. “What?”

 

Marti stuck her fingers into Edwin’s side causing him to flinch and jump with a startled giggle “AAAAAAEEEE-HEHE HEY!” 

 

Marti looked up at Casey triumphantly, “It did that.” 

 

“Oh that's it!” Edwin threatened playfully, sending his own hands to tickle Marti’s sides, catching her as she fell off the stool. He lifted her from around her waist continuing to tickle her as he backed away into the living room.

 

“AAAAHH!” Marti squealed through rolling laughter, “Smerek help me!!”

 

Startled by the nickname, Casey remembered that she was Smerek. She’d forgotten, easily swayed by the normalcy of this morning. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Ed,” Casey said, imitating Derek’s fake ominous tone, and sucked in her pinky dramatically, slurping loudly, leaving thick wet spit shining on it. “You wouldn’t want my friend Willy here to get involved, would you?”

 

Edwin dropped the girl to her feet, wide eyed, and raised his hands in surrender. He took a beat before turning and bolting upstairs. He seemed to be doing it more jokingly than out of any real fear but it still worked. 

 

Laughing freely, Marti ran up and hugged Casey around the waist. She looked up at her with a familiar smile, “Thanks Smerek.”

 

“You’re welcome… Smarti.” Casey said, hugging back her little sister before playfully ruffling her hair, feeling a thousand times better than she did ten minutes ago.

 

Stepping away naturally from the embrace, Marti looked up at her, “So… what's up with you?” She asked, casually enough, but with a definite undertone that she was calling attention to something.

 

Frowning lightly, Casey forced a chuckle and went back to her - now cold - food, taking a bite. “Everything’s great, Marti,” she said through a mouthful of eggs.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Casey watched as Marti came up next to her, watching her face intently with suspicion. “You seem… different today.”

 

Squirming in her seat under Marti’s inspection, Casey wondered if she was able to tell that her brother had been replaced. That would sound inconceivable to anyone else, but who knew what Marti could come up with, with that imagination of hers. “I’m not different, Smarti, what are you talking about?” Casey deflected softly.

 

Marti’s suspicion only grew, she lowered her voice conspiratorially, “Is this a Purple Shark situation?”

 

“Purple Shark?” Casey questioned out loud, at a loss for the meaning of the random secret code.

 

Raising an eyebrow questioningly, Marti made it clear that Derek was supposed to know what that meant. “This is more serious than I thought.” She looked around to make sure Nora wasn’t listening in, “Emergency meeting in Fluffy Town” She slowly slipped away, looking back when she wasn't being followed. She beckoned secretively, “You can bring your food, come on!”

 

Partly fearful and partly curious, Casey decided to go along, as Derek would, grabbing her plate eagerly, and followed Marti to some secret location.

 

Marti’s room was a disaster as always, with various craft projects strewn across the walls and floor and a minefield of stuffed animals. In one corner, an orange sheet was draped against the wall, supported by her bed-post. Marti crawled inside and turned on a small pink lamp, illuminating the structure.

 

“Wow, Marti,” Casey said with wonder as she folded herself into the tight space, leaving her plate by the made up door. She hadn’t indulged in a blanket fort in years and had forgotten how magical it felt. “This is really nice.”

 

“I know.” Marti sighed proudly, “These new pillows make a big difference.” 

 

They snuggled up comfortably, the soft light from the camping lantern between them lighting up their faces from below like they were telling scary stories. 

 

“So…” Marti coaxed, “What is it Smerek?”

 

Casey relaxed into the pillows, stretching out her long legs sticking out of the tent. “I’m okay, Smarti,” she said reassuringly, the smoothness of Derek’s voice soothing over her as she talked. “You don’t have to worry.”

 

“Der-ek…” Marti whined quietly, “You know there are no secrets in Fluffy Town. I know something's wrong.” She looked up with a pout, “You tell me everything, right?”

 

Casey’s heart warmed as she looked down at Derek’s favourite person in the world, the perceptive little girl who knew him better than anyone else. “Of course I do,” Casey said. “What makes you think something is wrong?” 

 

Marti bit her lip in contemplation, “I just… know.” She looked up at her intently, like she was searching for clues deep in her pupils, “You're not yourself.”

 

“Not myself?” Casey asked, raising a questioning eyebrow. There was no way she could explain the accuracy of that statement.

 

“Yeah, you're acting weird,” Marti insisted, “Like there’s something going on but you don't want anyone to know.”

 

Sighing, Casey recognized that Marti would not let it go until her Smerek told her everything. She knew how important this would be to him, Derek couldn’t lie to his little sister knowing it would break her heart. “Okay, Smarti, I’ll tell you,” Casey levelled with her as she tried to think of an explanation, without actually unveiling the whole freaky body-swap thing. “But you have to keep it a secret, alright?”

 

“Fluffy Town is a fortress of trust.” Marti nodded emphatically, eyes sparkling with anticipation. “I promise.”

 

“See, I’ve been playing this game… with Casey,” she started slowly, “and during this game, things got a little weird.” Understatement. “Things got… mixed up. So now, I’m just trying to figure out how to unmix it all up. That’s what’s going on.”

 

There. Vague, while somewhat close enough to the truth.

 

Marti hummed thoughtfully. “Did you accidentally show her you care again? Maybe you can let it stay mixed up this time.”

 

“I don’t know, Marti,” Casey said, trying to ignore the way her heart pounded at the notion that Derek cared about her - unsuccessfully. Even though the circumstances lended to cooperation, his actions had been more caring than really called for. That really pleased her, and she worried that she was the one getting things mixed up. “I’m worried I may have shown more than I should, this time,” she said, finding that she really meant it about herself.

 

“I still don't understand you know…” Marti said sadly, “Why you're so scared to get close to Casey and show her you care.” She hesitated, “All you ever say is that it's too hard, like it hurts or something. Why does it hurt?”

 

Was Derek scared too? Admittedly, she hadn’t been the only one leaning in for a kiss last night. He looked like he felt it too. Maybe that was a side effect of their fates being entwined, now that they were undeniably linked, it manifested into a kind of attraction. That would explain why she suddenly felt this way, why she was going crazy over it.

 

She didn’t know what it meant for Derek; what him possibly caring, even before this, could mean; why it was so hard for him; or why it hurt him. But the way her chest hurt, she thought, she’d like to talk about it, and who knows, maybe Marti would understand.

 

“It hurts because…” Casey said, forming the words as they came to her mind. “I’m not allowed to care about her the way I want to. And how much I want to is what is so scary.”

 

Marti’s jaw dropped, her eyebrows raising, before she quickly composed herself, “Oh.” She squeaked, “Wow…” Her shock turned into a knowing smile, giggling nervously, “I guess I never thought you'd actually say that.” She fell forward into Casey’s chest for an embrace, snuggling her face in close, “It's okay Smerek.” She said, muffled, “I'm glad you told me.”

 

Holding Marti tightly against her, Casey let out a relieved sigh, like saying it out loud was making it easier to grasp and hopefully fix. “I’m glad I told you, Smarti.”

 

It occurred to Casey that her admission, if heard by the wrong ears, could get her into a lot of trouble. She didn’t worry that Marti would betray her big brother’s secret. What she did worry about was what Marti would tell Derek, once this whole thing was over. “Can we…” Casey tried cautiously, “can we not talk about this anymore?”

 

Marti shrugged against her, “Yeah, okay. Maybe I can tell you a secret now.”

 

Snorting a laugh, grateful for a change of subject, Casey hugged Marti against her side. “What is it?”

 

Marti hid her face in her hands, “I was passing a note to my friend in class, about how I have a crush on the new kid,” She blushed furiously, letting out a hysterical giggle, “And the teacher saw us. And she was going to come and grab it and read it to the class. So…” She giggled some more, thoroughly amused, “So I ate it! Hahahaha! I got detention.” 

 

 


 

 

Derek woke up in the afternoon, the sun beaming through the window. How long had he slept? Felt like years. He had really needed it though, after such an insane day. 

 

Still not ready to face day number two, Derek roamed Casey's room, snooping around and browsing the little details since he had the opportunity. 

 

Remembering Casey's diary, Derek retrieved it from her underwear drawer. He hesitated before opening it. After all, the only point in reading Casey's diary would be to tease her about it, quoting it to embarrass her. But he didn't feel like driving a wedge between them right now. 

 

Too curious to see what she might have written about him though, Derek looked inside.

 

It was just a bunch of handwritten lists! How anticlimactic.

 

Top 10 Universities, Dream Careers, Pros and Cons of Dropping Yearbook.

 

Most Likely to Cause my Nervous Breakdown Subsequently Leading to my Untimely Demise:

  1. Derek

 

There were no other names on that list. Yeah, he shouldn’t be surprised. 

 

Rolling his eyes, Derek grabbed a pen - he could add a list of his own to Casey's little journal.

 

Crazy Shit Goin On:

  • Woke up in my step sister’s body and might be stuck like this for YEARS
  • Was told I’m not even allowed to look at it, where’s the fun in that?
  • Surprise! Witches and magic are real
  • Watched myself/Casey pee because she’s scared of dick
  • Went on a date with -barf- Truman (he’s jealous because Casey is obsessed with me lol)
  • Kissed a dude in the rain (NOT as romantic as it sounds) (not romantic AT ALL)
  • Was forcibly choked by said dude’s tongue (traumatized for life)
  • Casey made out with Sally!!! She also almost had sex with Sally IN MY BODY - she WANTED to (Couldn't stop thinking about how fucking hot that is for some reason)
  • Had a spontaneous hands-free orgasm in the shower - totally not my fault by the way!!!
  • Had a heart to heart with Casey (just as weird as anything else on this list)
  • Casey granted me full control over her body… 

 

That last one was something else entirely. The whole list was crazy and unbelievable but the thrilling freedom that came with this new permission was overwhelming. He didn't even know where to start. It was so built up in his mind, he was almost scared to try anything.

 

But…

 

It was Sunday, he had nowhere to be, and his door had a lock. This could turn out to be a very fun, constructive day… and he felt that he deserved it after having such a hellish day yesterday.

 

First though, he needed sustenance.

 

He got dressed - another comfortable boyish look, and went down to the kitchen for a protein bar.

 

Opening the wrapper halfway, he shoved it in his mouth to bring it back upstairs with him. He almost choked on it when in his rush, he turned around and slammed into Nora.

 

His stepmother grabbed his shoulders startlingly, giving him a curious look. “Hey Casey, is everything okay?”

 

“Sorry.” Derek mumbled, mouth full, “Yeah, yeah, totally fine.”

 

“Are you sure?” Nora’s frown deepened, even though he was acting very normally right now. “You came home in a rush last night, your clothes looked all dirty. Did something happen on your date?”

 

Snatching the bar from his mouth and swallowing a large bite, Derek's mind reluctantly revisited last night's events; the mud and the pouring rain, squirming against Truman's tight grip and slimy tongue, his disheveled appearance in the mirror.  

 

“Oh, that... “ He floundered, trying to think of an alternative story, “That was nothing.” His eyes shifted around the room, “You know me! Clumsy…”

 

Nora’s look only grew more worried. “I do know you, Casey. And it’s not like you to wake up past noon on a Sunday. Is something going on with Truman?”

 

Casey's body betrayed him again as a hot blush rose to his cheeks. Busted. Nora's eyes widened in acknowledgement. He sighed dismissively, “Just a crappy date,” He avoided her probing gaze “No big deal.”

 

“Casey…” Nora said, her voice shifting to a soft reassuring tone, as she cupped his cheek. “You would tell me if Truman did something, right?”

 

Shocked by Nora's intuition and supportive touch, Derek stuttered “I… he -"

 

“Oh sweetheart,” Nora gasped, her eyes growing, glassy and sad - betraying a hint of simmering anger, and tugged Derek into a tight embrace, her fingers brushing gently into his long, silky hair. “What happened?”

 

Something about the way Nora was holding him made his heart ache, as he wrapped his arms around her. What she was assuming was probably way worse than what actually happened. It was just a bad kiss - that he initiated. “Really it was nothing…” He assured into her shoulder, his voice tightening. “It wasn't like that, it just…” 

 

The heightened emotions floating through Casey's body started bubbling up again as he felt a wave of catharsis from the sheer blanket of support that Nora’s arms offered. Stray sobs started escaping his throat against his will, the combination of remembering that terrible experience and sorely missed motherly affection was too much in Casey's excitable skin. 

 

Nora hugged him tighter, cradling the back of his head against her. She sniffed, like she was holding back her own tears. “It’s not nothing if it makes you feel this way, baby,” she said, her voice stricken. “Whatever it is, it’s important. You can tell me.”

 

Confiding in Nora felt necessary, like oxygen. It came spilling out of him from a place he didn't know existed. “He was going to break up with C - with me. I didn't know what to do,” Angry tears spilled down his face, he wanted to hold them in but they also felt good to let out, “I slipped in the mud and I ki… issed him. But it wasn't… it -"

 

As she ran a soothing hand up and down his back, Nora relaxed her hold slightly, softly exhaling the breath she’d been holding. “It wasn’t…” she encouraged gently, pulling away to look into her daughter’s eyes as her thumb brushed over the tears on his cheek.

 

Closing his eyes shamefully, he shook his head, “It just felt wrong.” Not because it was a guy, or even Truman specifically. It was something about the kiss itself that unsettled him. It was the way he was locked in so aggressively, and how Truman overlooked how stiff and unresponsive he was, claiming his mouth with his tongue. His face twisted with disgust under Nora's touch. “I h-ated every second of it! He… he really dragged it o-out.”

 

“He dragged it out,” Nora repeated sympathetically, her eyes showing deep understanding. Her fingers brushed through his hair again. “Did you kiss him so he wouldn’t break up with you? Does he threaten to break up if you don’t do things?”

 

Conflicted, Derek wondered how much he should really be telling Nora. It was Casey's relationship, and Casey's mom. He shouldn't have said anything in the first place, but he wasn't in control of himself. It was Casey's emotional body driving him to insanity.

 

His tears subsided a bit, as he held Nora at arm's length, gathering his breath. Truman was scum. If the rat made Casey feel even a fraction as terrible as he felt, it was unacceptable. When all of this was over, if Casey still had it in her head to keep the guy around, Nora should know exactly the kind of guy her daughter was with. “He gets really… disappointed when sh - when I push him away.” He explained, more calmly but with palpable hatred, “I felt like I had to… to keep him around.”

 

“Sweetie, you don’t ever have to do anything you don’t want to, with anyone, even your boyfriend,” Nora said calmly, but just a bit firm, her tone betraying her less than flattering opinion of her daughter’s boyfriend, and continued, “If this boy makes you feel that way, he might not be good for you.”

 

He couldn't agree more. So long as he was in this body (or regardless of that even), Truman wasn't going to lay a grubby hand on it again. “You’re absolutely right.” He said, tears drying on his cheeks. Thankfully Casey didn't seem too attached to her relationship anymore, so he didn't have to try and fight for something he didn't believe in. Talking with Nora untangled a knot inside of him, “Thanks, uh - thanks… mom.”

 

“It’s what I’m here for, baby girl,” Nora said, leaning in for another hug. Softly, into Derek’s hair, she asked, “promise he didn’t force you to do anything else?”

 

“Promise.” He whispered against her, suddenly missing his mom deeply. He couldn't remember the last time he saw her, maybe when he was failing Spanish. He hugged Nora back tightly.

 

 


 

 

Casey occupied herself by watching TV the rest of the morning, until Edwin came into the living room, eyeing her strangely. Quickly flipping the channel from her favourite soap to hockey, she stuttered a weak explanation. “Just, uh… gathering intel for my next prank…” Edwin didn’t seem convinced, so she diverted the conversation - by leaving the room in a rush.

 

Shortly after lunch, Derek still hadn’t gotten up, so she gathered her notebooks and settled to do her homework due in a couple of weeks - she didn’t usually procrastinate so much!

 

She heard the door to her bedroom open as she was setting up, and decided to give Derek the chance to get breakfast and freshen up before she cornered him with a game plan for Monday.

 

Picking up her english assignment, Casey sighed, looking down at the blurry letters on the paper. She rubbed her eyes of exhaustion, really needing to get a head start on this. A growing headache made its way into her brain, beating against her forehead the more she frowned at the instructions on the page.

 

She took a break, putting her notebook aside and she closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She had been really stressed, her energy stretched thin over the course of yesterday, but she felt better now. After talking and having tea time with Marti in Fluffy Town, she felt more like herself (on the inside). After heaving another sigh, Casey willed herself to get back to work.

 

The lines were still as blurred as ever, and she remembered how she’d had trouble reading things up close yesterday as well. She could vaguely make up shapes, but it really hurt her eyes. Was something wrong with her eyesight? Was this a body-swap side effect? That seemed unlikely, she didn’t have a problem reading bigger, farther away things, and she’d definitely seen Derek reading with his nose in his comic last time… when he was in her body.

 

Oh my god! Derek needed glasses! How did he survive through school like this-

 

Well that explained some things.

 

Did he know about this? Did he realize that he needed glasses? And if he did, why didn’t he tell her, or George, or like, an optometrist!!!

 

This was terrible! Derek might not care for his academic success or his future, but she did! She couldn’t keep up with school work like this.

 

She really needed to confront Derek about this.

 

Stomping down the stairs, she stopped short when catching sight of Derek hugging her mom in the kitchen. He was sniffling, wiping his cheeks. He was crying. Did he have another panic attack?

 

“Promise,” Derek whispered so gently she barely heard him.

 

“I love you, Sweetie,” Nora said as she pulled away and patted his cheek softly. “Come to me if it happens again?”

 

“Yeah.” Derek said hoarsely, nodding, “L- uh… loveyoutoo.”

 

Casey couldn’t help but smile at what seemed like a heartfelt moment. She felt a light tug on her heartstrings. She couldn’t get her mother’s reassurance the way Derek could in her place, but she also wondered how much of this he had missed growing up, and as it occurred to her that she’d only seen Abby a handful of times in the last two years, she couldn’t bring herself to fully resent him for it.

 

Not wanting to intrude, Casey waited until they separated from their embrace before barging in, in all her Derek glory.

 

“Still crying? Jeez, you’re like Niagara Falls,” she quipped, a subtle softness to her tone she hoped Derek would pick up on - she didn’t really want to make fun of him for showing feelings.

 

“Derek,” Nora chided gently.

 

Embarrassed, Derek let out a small laugh. He watched as Casey sauntered down the stairs. He met her teasing gaze and felt the need to roll his eyes. He used to think Casey was so over-dramatic, but now he was starting to get it. 

 

“Well,” He quipped back light-heartedly, “I happen to have a soul. Unlike some people.”

 

She stopped in front of him, grinning at the playful banter. She liked it much better this way - when they weren’t actually trying to hurt each other and it was all in good fun. She thought that maybe it was always supposed to be like this, and they had just gotten caught up in the heat of it. “I was looking for you, Keener,” she said, getting back to her reason for seeking him out. “I need help with that, uh, english assignment.”

 

Obviously code for something, Derek smirked, looking her over. The subtext to their teasing while in each other's bodies was constantly entertaining, “Did Derek Venturi just ask for my help? Are you sure you're not coming down with something?”

 

“Yeah, well,” she sighed dramatically, “looks like keenerness is contagious.”

 

“Well then Keener, welcome to the club.” He said smugly, making his way to the stairs and casting a thankful glance back to Nora.

 

Casey dutifully closed and locked the door after they entered Derek’s room, and turned around to watch him carefully, her grin slipping into a worried frown. “What was that about?” She asked gently, gesturing towards the floor in the direction of the kitchen.

 

Averting his eyes, not really wanting to get into it again, Derek laughed dismissively, running his fingers through the hair at the back of his head, “Oh, you know. Just some… mother daughter bonding time or whatever.” He didn't need Casey to know how ashamed he was about the whole Truman thing, or how much he hated the guy for the way he treated her.

 

“We don’t have to talk about it,” she allowed, and looked down, frowning at her feet. As much as she hated him sometimes, she didn’t like seeing him like this. It brought her back to the cafe yesterday when he’d cried in her arms, and reminded her of how much she wanted to comfort him. “I just…” she started, looking back at him shyly. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah.” He replied with a scratchy voice. There was once a time when he would do anything to distance himself from Casey, only letting himself get close during the controlled chaos of a prank or provocation. But now, for some distressing reason every time he looked at her, he felt compelled to get closer, seek connection. Her downturned gaze made it seem like she wanted the same thing. Like a magnet, his words were pulled from him, “She just… saw me come home last night and got worried.”

 

“Oh,” Casey said, surprised that he decided to tell her, and nodded slowly as she took in his meaning. “So that was... about Truman?”

 

Eyes trained on the corner of the nightstand, Derek crossed his arms and shrugged, tears stinging his eyes again. Damn it! What was this, hormonal?! This time, he was able to keep them in. He cleared his throat, “Yeah.”

 

Casey crossed her arms over her chest to cover her breaking heart. He looked so… hurt, upset, like whatever happened with Truman had seeded deep inside. He had told her how much he’d hated kissing him last night, and now she felt truly guilty for making fun of him. “I’m sorry.”

 

This was so stupid, he shouldn't be so upset about this. He was ashamed of how weak he felt. He wished he could be in his own body so that he could go teach Truman a lesson. “I know he's supposed to be your boyfriend, Casey. But I can’t-" He rubbed his hands over his face angrily, “I'm not going to let him touch you again.” He coughed, realizing his slip up. “Er, me - fuck it, you know what I mean...”

 

“I know,” Casey said. She already promised she would take care of things. If he had made Derek feel like this, she didn’t want Truman anywhere near him. “You won’t have to.”

 

“Good.” Derek huffed. An awkward silence hung in the air, like Casey wanted to say more but didn't know how. He diverted. “So what's this about an...” Air quotes, “English assignment?”

 

Sensing that the tension needed to be broken, Casey decided to act as if nothing happened. She sighed in annoyance and crossed to the bed to pick up her assignment. “Is there any reason you could see for me having trouble doing this assignment?”

 

Looking at the piece of paper with confusion, Derek droned, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhh.” His eyebrows knit together as he searched his mind. He found nothing. “No?”

 

“Are you sure you’re not seeing anything?”

 

It was just a piece of paper! What was he supposed to be seeing? According to her tone it was obvious, “I don't know! Spit it out, what's the problem?”

 

“Der-ek!” She shouted quietly, letting the paper fall dismissively on the bed. “You need glasses!”

 

“Ohhhh!” Derek said, realizing for the first time that he wasn't having any vision problems. He wasn't used to wearing his glasses, so he forgot to tell her. He did fine enough without them before. He laughed, realizing how confused she must have been looking down at the page. “Yeah, I know!” He chuckled, “That doesn't mean I wear them!”

 

“What?!” Casey gasped. He had glasses? He had glasses and he didn’t wear them? How did she not know about this? “What do you mean? How do you even pay attention in class or do your homewo-“ she paused. She knew the answer: he didn’t. She swatted at him comically. “Der-ek!”

 

Continuing to laugh he held his arms up against her assault, “You think if I wore them I'd do my homework?” He swatted back at her, “It's not even that bad and I mean, what kind of teenager needs reading glasses, and actually wears them?”

 

“Are you saying you don’t wear them because you think it doesn’t look cool?!” Casey shouted.

 

He shrugged comically, “And you gotta like, carry ‘em around with you and ehhh it’s just not worth the hassle.”

 

“Not worth the hassle?” Casey repeated, perplexed, “and you’re not worried that straining your eyesight will make it worse?”

 

He shrugged again, “Meh?” Then he had a horrible realization, “Wait. You're not gonna like… wear them at school or anything, are you?”

 

“Derek! Unlike some people, I want to pay attention in class!” Casey yelled.

 

“It's not like you need them to see the board!” He argued, steering her away from this humiliating road. He could picture her now, strolling into school tomorrow, taking her little reading glasses out of their case to study from her textbook at lunch. His reputation was on the line. “They're just for reading. Do the non -dorky thing and just hold things further from your face like a normal person, m'kay?”

 

“How does that look less stupid?!” Casey objected. “Also, we actually do read in class, Derek. You would know that if you paid attention!”

 

“Ugh, Casey!” He groaned, exasperated. He took a breath and stepped closer to her, looking up at her threateningly, “Okay, fine. Do whatever you want. But remember. If you humiliate me, I can humiliate you.”

 

She stared him down - literally down - and smirked at how non-threatening he looked. She patted his head with a mocking little pout. “Just get me the glasses, will you, boo?”

 

Oh she didn't know what was coming to her. Derek smiled serenely. He walked over to his dresser and made eyes at the dusty glasses case. She would eat her words. And whatever minor humiliation she caused him, he would double. It might even be fun.

 

Cracking the case attentively, Casey peered at the glasses Derek was so ashamed to wear. Her curiosity too strong, she gingerly put them on and crossed over to his mirror.

 

Oh boy.

 

He looked hot.

 

She looked back at him with a chuckle, shaking her head sadly in his direction.

 

He shook his head back, “Dork.” He said simply, unable to hide the affectionate undertone. 

 

 


 

 

This time, Casey made sure to take Derek’s seat when the family gathered for dinner.

 

It hadn’t bothered her in a while that their family was so big now. She had gotten used to it, learned to appreciate the noise, the madness, the chaos. She liked it. Except now - when she had to dodge questions from five other people and sell the act without being exposed.

 

Derek figured he should be nervous, but he was actually looking forward to family dinner. It was strangely thrilling that they had to dance around such a big secret. There was that small risk of getting caught. But there was also the added security that no one could guess the truth in a million years.

 

But the minute the first question came, he realized that this was going to be a lot harder than expected.

 

“So, Derek,” George said, spearing a chunk of potato with his fork. Startled by his name, Derek looked up from his plate, “is Coach still working you to the bone for the Northbridge game?”

 

Derek turned his attention to Casey, who was decidedly not paying attention, stuffing food in her mouth.

 

“Derek?” George called as Derek kicked Casey's shin under the table. This was going to be a disaster. Casey knew fuck-all about hockey.

 

Startled, Casey looked up questioningly at Derek who was subtly pointing his head in George’s direction. She turned her attention to George. Oh, yeah. He'd asked Derek about some game. She vaguely remembered Derek complaining about it all last week. “Yup,” she answered and took another bite of vegetables, hoping this would be the end of the conversation.

 

“Man, that Northbridge, I tell ya,” George continued, animated. Derek knew Casey was in the deep end with this one. George was obsessed with the rivalry from his days growing up, it was all he had been talking about for weeks. “How are you feeling about the big game? Your team ready to crush some Falcons?”

 

Unsure what that gibberish was about, she figured confidence was the way to go with Derek. “Yeah Dad,” she said, leaning back casually into her chair and extending her arm over the back of Edwin’s seat. “My team kicks ass.”

 

Poking his fork in the air, George smiled through his mouthful of chicken, “That's the spirit, son! Just remember not to get too cocky, you don't want to underestimate them.” He seemed about ready to launch into a whole speech, so Derek cut in to steal the show.

 

“Since when is Derek anything but too cocky?” He teased in Casey's usual amused snark.

 

“Aw, come on, Case,” she grinned, tilting back her chair as she lifted an eyebrow in Derek’s direction. “I’m the very definition of humble.”

 

Hearing Lizzie’s snorting laugh, Casey grinned brighter.

 

“How would you know that?” He smiled smugly, “You've never even seen a dictionary.”

 

Marti started to giggle and George and Nora exchanged looks across the table, acknowledging the start of the dreaded dinner banter.

 

“Who needs a dictionary when I have you around to pound all those big words into my head?” Casey said, illustrating her point by knocking the side of her head comically with her fist.

 

“Careful!” Derek warned, affecting concern, “You might dislodge your last remaining brain cells!” He found Casey's foot under the table and gave it a small kick.

 

“Nah, who needs those,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “I’m totally breezing through on my charms and looks alone.” She stared him down, returning the nudge with her foot.

 

“I happen to be a triple threat" Edwin piped up proudly,  “I've got the charm, looks, and wit!”

 

“Nobody thinks you’re witty, Edwin,” Lizzie pointed out.

 

Derek held eye contact with Casey the whole time. Imitating their own banter was riveting. They were poking fun at the way they poked fun at each other. It took on a whole new playful, self aware quality. They couldn't take it personally because they were essentially making fun of themselves. And more than just selling the act, it was clear to him that they were both reveling in it, just for the hell of it. 

 

“So now you're charming and good looking?” Derek said with disbelief, raising his eyebrows knowingly, hoping to point out in their private conversation of subtext that she just called him attractive, “Please.” He nudged her foot again, harder this time.”You’re a caveman.”

 

Fighting off her blush as much as she could, embarrassed at being (subtly) called out, Casey pushed the act further, knowing that she couldn’t back out - for the sake of their cover and of her own dignity (she wasn't a coward!). “Everyone knows I’m the hottest guy in school, Case,” she bragged as cockily as possible, her next kick missing Derek’s foot and brushing against his ankle. “It’s just a fact.”

 

Derek fought off his grin. Hottest guy in school, eh Case? I'm flattered, he wanted to say. He cocked his head to the side, narrowing his eyes, “Oh reeeeaaally?” He goaded with a new kick. He left his foot lounging on his heel under the table, brushing up against her. “I thought you were supposed to be the very definition of humble.” He pouted, as if confused by the contradiction. 

 

“Oh, I am,” Casey persisted, forcing herself to hold his gaze, and leaned forward with her arms crossed over the table. “And sometimes that means acknowledging the truth, no matter how painful,” she continued, affecting condescension and hoping he couldn’t hear the quiver of her voice as the foot lingering at her shin sparked a shiver up her leg. “Even a keener like you can see that.”

 

He didn't dare move a muscle. They were touching under the table, that wasn't so abnormal, right? It just ended up like that and they hadn't pulled away. It didn't have to mean anything, still walking the line of innocence, so he still had the plausible deniability to flirt with her without showing his hand to Casey or the family. But… he would have to be naive to think they weren't playing footsie, while the whole family watched the spectacle, unaware of the hidden communication going on. 

 

“All I can see is your massive ego.” He fired back, keeping eye contact while heavily aware of the eyes around the table. Edwin watched on out of the corner of his vision, eating his food absently as he regarded them like the world's most exciting tv drama. 

 

“Now, Case,” Casey chuckled, “it’s not that massive,” she said suggestively, while her toes tickled the side of his leg, daring him to pull away. “I’d say it’s more average sized.”

 

Did that mean what he thought it meant? Had she finally satisfied some of her curiosity? Her suggestive movement under the table seemed to confirm it. “Now there’s that humility. Your ego..." He stressed, using the word as a substitute, “Knows no bounds.”

 

“Ehh,” she drawled, almost breathily, and she had to cough to cover up how flustered she was getting. She let her foot wander down to rest on top of his. “You’re just jealous cuz you’re an ugly troll.” She faked a smug smile while on the inside she was growing more and more agitated. What was she trying to prove here?

 

Ha! Derek had to hold back his impending burst of laughter. Did she just call herself an ugly troll? She was clearly, not so subtly, fishing for a compliment. “Real beauty is on the inside, Derek.” He teased, pointing at himself, watching as a flicker of anger passed over her face. 

 

He felt a hard kick under the table and a startled “Ow! What was that for?” came from Edwin.

 

Derek wasn't going to leave her hanging though. After all, she did call him the hottest guy in school. “And besides, I'm much better looking than you are. But I don't feel the need to flaunt it. It's called self respect Derek.”

 

Narrowing her eyes skeptically, Casey tried to decipher if he said it to stay in character or if maybe he meant it in response to her own admission. She didn’t get to overanalyze it though, because right as she was about to fish some more, Nora cleared her throat pointedly.

 

“Ahum, so, Casey, did you finally decide what universities you want to apply to?” Nora asked. Casey, doing her best to hide her disappointment, took her foot back, tucking one ankle behind the other under her chair.

 

“Aahhhhuuuhhhh…” Derek stalled, taken off guard by the sudden question. Thinking back to the list he saw in Casey's room, he picked some familiar names, “Well, Queens is still very much in the running. Um… U of T.” What else was there? He looked up at the ceiling, unable to think of any other universities, “I uh, still have a lot of research to do.”

 

“That’s fine, honey,” Nora said, “I’m proud of you for thinking it through. It’s an important decision. What about you, Derek?”

 

“Um,” Casey faltered, already reeling from the shock of finding out Derek knew what universities she was considering, while realizing with shame that she had no idea what his plans for university were. “Probably Western, like everyone else,” she shot in the dark, then covered with a grin, “or, you know, I’ll probably have to fight off all those hockey scholarship offers. I’ll go wherever the wind takes me, Nora.”

 

Nora raised an eyebrow, “well… Western is a fine fallback plan if none of these offers pan out.”

 

Casey wasn’t sure what it was, because she knew her mother was just being practical, that made her somewhat insulted on Derek’s behalf. Sure, he could seem over-confident, but it was widely known that he was a great player. He was practically a star at school. It seemed kind of unfair that Nora didn’t give him her vote of confidence. 

 

If Casey was being honest though, she probably would have said the same thing herself just two days ago. Derek’s dream of becoming a professional hockey player was audacious, but precarious. It would be foolish not to consider a back up plan. Still, she felt that his family should encourage him to pursue his passion and reach as high as possible. He deserved that.

 

(And maybe she’d seen some of his games, and even though she had no idea what was going on, Derek really was impressive to watch.)

 

Derek watched the conversation with dread. He completely forgot about hockey scholarships, making the upcoming game against Northbridge even more crucial. The game was in 2 weeks. He clenched his jaw, looking down at his plate. How was he supposed to play in the big game if he wasn't in his body? There was no way Casey could play in his place. He wasn't even sure she could skate! Coach would kill him if he backed out though. Suddenly, it was like his whole future was falling apart as he pushed some peas around with his fork.

 

“I know you want me to be practical,” Casey agreed, letting the smirk slip on her face, “but you can’t hold back greatness, Nora, the world is ready to see this star shine.”

 

Nora laughed softly, wrapping a warm hand around Casey’s forearm. “I don’t doubt that,” she said with an encouraging smile, making Casey smile back happily. Best mom ever.

 

Derek stayed silent for the rest of the meal as the family chatted normally, only supplying the occasional necessary comment. It wasn't fair he had to give up hockey, it was one of the only things he felt truly good at. At least the only thing that other people considered valuable. He was going to ride that hockey scholarship to university, get a degree while having an awesome college experience, and possibly even go pro. Now, he would be lucky to get into university at all, and would be stuck working some dead end job for the rest of his life. Maybe Smelly Nelly’s would take him back.

 

 


 

 

Casey looked up from her planner to peer at Derek over her glasses. He was lounging in her bed, leaning back against the headboard, and while he answered her questions about his schedule helpfully, he was otherwise quiet. A quiet Derek was a bad sign.

 

Finishing up her notes on hockey practices -why were there so many?- she sighed and put her pen down. “So we have things set up for the whole week, we’ll switch schedules and exchange notes for assignments, I’ll show up for practice Wednesday through Friday after school as well as Saturday, and you’ll go to the yearbook meetings on Tuesday and Thursday,” Casey resumed. “Oh, and I’m supposed to go shopping with Emily next weekend!” She remembered, adding the engagement to the calendar.

 

“Mmhmm.” Derek mumbled in response, staring off into space. They could plan until the end of time and it still wouldn't help. He was screwed.

 

Sighing once more, Casey put her planner aside on her desk, carefully placed her glasses next to it, and rolled her chair to the end of the bed. “Okay, what is it? You went suddenly silent at dinner, and now you look like I kicked your puppy. What’s up with you?”

 

“Nothing.” He responded with a sigh of self-pity. At least nothing that could be fixed. “Just one gaping hole in that plan.” He dropped his head back, banging it against the wall softly. He wanted to get up and rage, throw something, do anything to fight against this. But nothing would put him back in his body and back on the ice before practice. A single second of Casey on the ice and his life was over. Coach would probably see to that personally. “The captain of the hockey team should at least know how to hold a stick.”

 

Right. Okay, she didn’t know much about hockey, but she was totally a fast learner! “You think I would let you down?” Casey said seriously, “I know how important this is to you - and I can skate! I’ll do everything I can.”

 

He looked up at her, to see that her genuine expression matched her words. Something twisted in his heart knowing she would have such dedication to protecting what he held sacred. But Casey's perseverance was never really in question. 

 

Scooting down the bed so that he was sitting on the edge in front of her, he gave her a serious look, “It's taken me almost ten years of practice to get to the level I'm at.” He explained earnestly, with a slight frantic edge. It was all for nothing apparently because he wasn't even allowed to play in the biggest game of his life! It could define his future. 

 

The anger inside of him wanted to burst out at how unfair this whole situation was, but instead he felt a strange exhausted calm. There was no point in getting angry, since it wouldn't change anything. He was just completely powerless.

 

Not wanting to mope in his own misery for too long, he cocked his head and slipped into a casual, teasing voice, “We can’t study our way out of this one, Keener.” He hadn't failed to notice through all of this that his insulting nicknames had developed a truly affectionate quality.

 

No matter how much he tried to cover it with humour and teasing, from this close, Casey could see how disheartened Derek was in his bright blue eyes. She knew it would be hard, and maybe she would fail, but they at least had to try. “Then we practice,” she said with determination. “Everyday if we have to. We’re not giving up yet. We have two weeks to make it work, right?”

 

He had to hand it to her, she sure was optimistic. Somehow, Derek doubted this would lead to anything other than disappointment. He sighed, looking into her determined gaze, then his eyes fell to their knees - or rather, the limited space between their knees. When he looked back up, her expression hadn’t changed, still as stubborn as ever. “Right.” He conceded.

 

“Look,” Casey said, pushing away to roll her chair back to her planner, and put the glasses back on. “Let’s meet up after school tomorrow to go over the basics. We’ll take as much time as we need.”

 

Derek let himself fall back onto the bed with discouragement, “Great.” He said a little sarcastically, unable to conjure up any enthusiasm for what was bound to be a disaster.

 

Seeing that Derek would need more than just promises, Casey decided that she would simply have to prove herself at practice tomorrow. For now, he needed to digest. “Alright, let’s call it a night,” she said, getting up from her seat and gathering her papers. “Get some rest, we start real early tomorrow,” she grinned.

 

All Derek could do was groan in response, staring at the ceiling until he heard the door shut. 

 

 


 

 

Maybe it was the fact that he had Casey's brain, or maybe it was the fact that his future was falling apart, but Derek couldn't help but overthink, it was like his thoughts were buzzing with a million what if’s.

 

What if there were scouts at the game and he was missing out on a scholarship opportunity? It would be the perfect game for that. What if Coach saw Casey crash and burn at practice? What if he got benched? What if he got demoted from team captain? What if he got kicked off the team? What if he didn't get into university? What if his life went nowhere and he was stuck serving coffee for all eternity? 

 

It was too much to think about. Derek jumped up from the bed, snatched his iPod, and plugged it into the speakers, needing some music to drown it all out. 

 

The second the deep bass met his ears he felt relief. The beat reverberated through him and he couldn't help but nod his head. Soon, his whole body was getting into the rhythm, pushing his worries farther and farther away. He couldn't remember the last time he danced to music alone in his room, but the physicality of it was grounding the incessant noise in his head, so he let himself get lost in it.

 

As if pulled by invisible strings, his limbs followed their path without so much as a thought. He had no idea what he was doing until he found himself doing it; some fancy footwork here, some graceful poses there. He had never moved like this before. It was freeing. 

 

He lost track of time long before he caught sight of himself in the mirror, and paused to catch his breath, Casey's flushed, heaving chest staring at him. 

 

While the music pounded away, he stepped curiously towards his reflection. He looked himself up and down as his sense of anticipation built. 

 

The song switched and Derek smirked. He just had the greatest idea of all time. 

 

“Come here, baby / You know you drive me up the wall / The way you make good on all the nasty tricks you pull”

 

He started swaying his hips teasingly. He made eye contact with his reflection and he swore he saw a glint of playfulness there belonging to Casey herself.  

 

“Seems like we're makin' up more than we're makin' love / And it always seems you got somethin' on your mind other than me / Girl, you got to change your crazy ways / You hear me?”

 

He wasn't used to moving in such a feminine way, but Casey's body seemed to know what to do, bringing his imagination to life. 

 

Slowly, his hands drifted down, driven by pure instinct, and caught the hem of his shirt. Inch by inch, he lifted, exposing the smooth skin underneath. 

 

“Say you're leavin' on a seven thirty train / And that you're headin' out to Hollywood / Girl, you been givin' me that line so many times / It kinda gets like feelin' bad looks good, yeah”

 

When he pulled the shirt over his head, he shook his long hair out, feeling it fall softly against the newly exposed skin of his back. He tossed the shirt dramatically across the room. Eyes roaming, appreciating, watching every movement intently, he kept occasionally catching Casey's coy gaze. 

 

“That kinda lovin' turns a man to a slave / That kinda lovin' sends a man right to his grave / I go crazy, crazy baby, I go crazy / You turn it on, then you're gone”

 

He ran his palms over her breasts, pushing them together slightly. His hands then traveled down her sides, feeling the slope of her shape. Hooking his fingers under his waistband, he slowly weaved his hips out from his sweatpants, wishing he had dressed up a bit before dressing down, but it didn't matter. He just about drooled at his appearance right now.

 

“Yeah, you drive me crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby / What can I do, honey? I feel like the color blue”

 

Throwing in a sexy lip bite, Derek let his fingers trail back up her stomach and over her breasts. He flirtatiously slipped one of his bra straps off his shoulder, intent on torturing himself, just like she would. He was almost more turned on by the look Casey was giving him through his own eyes than by anything else. Smoothly, he unhooked his bra, and stripped it from himself languorously, admiring the fantastic view revealed to him. 

 

“You're packin' up your stuff / And talkin' like it's tough / And tryin' to tell me that it's time to go, yeah! / But, I know you ain't wearin' nothin' underneath that over coat / And it's all a show, yeah!”

 

God, he wished he could kiss over the sensitive skin of the beauty in front of him, instinctively wanting to lunge at his own reflection so that he could wrap his tongue around Casey's sweet nipples. He wondered how sensitive they were, and rolled them under his thumbs. 

 

“Mmmm…” The soft sound escaped his throat. 

 

Shivering under his own touch, he ran his fingers down until he found the curve of Casey's hips. 

 

“That kinda lovin' makes me wanna pull down the shade, yeah! / That kinda lovin', yeah, now I'm never, never, never gonna be the same / I go crazy, crazy baby, I go crazy / You turn it on, then you're gone”

 

He slipped his thumbs under the waistband of his panties, running them along the hem, and stopping before they could meet at the front, knuckles brushing over her hip-bones. She wouldn't let him see just yet, she was going to tease him, and herself, a little first. He extended his fingers over the fabric. 

 

Gasping slightly, he rubbed further down with a gentle touch, heart beating rapidly at the tickling, tingling sensation. He licked his lips. She was so wet already, a small spot soaking through the cotton. He let out a low moan. 

 

“Yeah, you drive me crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby / What can I do, honey? I feel like the color blue / I'm losin' my mind, girl, cause I'm goin' crazy”

 

It was almost too much for him, the new feeling driving him wild, gripped by the possibility of cranking up the heat even more. And he was just getting started

 

He turned his back to the mirror and looked over his shoulder coquettishly. Grasping her ass cheeks firmly, he couldn't help but let out a satisfied laugh, “Heh.” Part of him always wanted to squeeze her ass, but she would have literally murdered him if he'd tried. He couldn't believe he was allowed to do this.

 

Bending over slightly, he stripped the fabric down. She had such a great ass, it was almost unfair. For the first time he was actually grateful for the body swap. He was probably the only person - ever - to experience something so specifically erotic as giving himself a strip tease in the body of his hot step sister. Seriously, that was just miraculous. 

 

He turned back to take in the full view. Circling his hips to the music, his eyes trailed down as he went to touch himself again - touch her again. 

 

Fuck… She was so turned on, dripping and eager under his touch. His legs trembled in anticipation and he slowly moved his fingers, exploring the new sensation, letting his soft gasps and moans escape freely. A loud cry burst from him when he found her clit, the bundle of nerves sending shockwaves of pleasure through him.

 

“I need your love, honey, yeah! / I need your love / Crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby / I'm losin' my mind, girl, cause I'm goin' crazy”

 

His eyes roamed over her, memorizing every inch of her skin, as his fingers moved in slow circles. He caught sight of something glittering against her skin by her collarbone and froze. 

 

 

Ugh, he couldn't believe he was doing this with Truman branded on him like that. 

 

He grabbed the necklace in his fist and ripped it off, breaking the clasp. 

 

“Whoops.” He said quietly to his reflection, with a mischievous smile. He held the broken necklace up in his palm then let it fall to the floor. 

 

With that settled, he returned to what he was doing, throwing his head back erotically as the teasing stirred a desperate need between his legs. 

 

“Crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby/ You turn it on then, you're gone/ Yeah, you drive me”

 

Far from done with his exploration, Derek made himself comfortable. He lay down carefully on Casey's bed, on top of the blanket, splaying his hair out over the pillow. 

 

Teasing himself, he spread his legs comfortably and traced tickling circles across his inner thigh. 

 

When his fingers returned to play with her most sensitive spot, he studied the way she responded to different movements. Most electrifying was when he would flick back and forth like strumming a guitar. 

 

“Uuhnnnn" He whimpered, appreciating the symphony coming out of his own mouth. Casey moaning was the sexiest sound he'd ever heard. 

 

The fantasies flowed freely, wondering if Casey ever did this to herself, while he was just a room away, unaware. She must have. The thought turned him on even more than the sensation he was stirring between his legs. Casey touching herself, pleasuring herself, exactly like this, when he was so close by. 

 

What if by some cosmic coincidence, he had been touching himself at the same time? What if she was touching herself now, just a room away, exploring his body like he was now in hers? 

 

“Aaaah!” He moaned loudly. He should really try to keep quiet, he was being completely obvious right now. Anyone walking by Casey's room would think -

 

Then he realized how his room was right next door, and how he could always hear every little thing from the vent in their connected wall. If it was open, she… 

 

There was a real possibility she could hear him right now, pleasuring himself, pleasuring her body. 

 

“Mmmmmaaaah!” He whined. As dirty as it was, he wanted her to hear him. He wanted her to touch herself to the sounds of her own moans, to the sounds of him using her body and appreciating it. He wanted her to stroke his cock thinking about it, explore his body and the new sensations that came with it.

 

The thought was his undoing as he writhed under his own touch, fingers picking up their pace. 

 

“Ooh, ooh, ooh, Ooh, ooh, ooh / Ow, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah / Yeah, now baby, baby, baby, baby”

 

“Aaaaaaa-mmph” He had to stifle his scream with a pillow as he gushed between his legs, all over the bed. Fuuu…

 

He panted, thoroughly satisfied, and his heart pounding in his chest. Apparently Casey was a squirter - which suited him just fine.

 

Bringing his tired hand up, he placed his soaking fingers in his mouth, sucking to savour her taste. He hummed involuntarily, wondering if Casey ever tasted herself before out of curiosity. 

 

He sighed deeply and let his hand fall to his side, as a content smile spread over his face. 

 

This was only the beginning. He was going to do his best to make sure this was the best night of his life (if it wasn't already).

 

 


 

 

While she was thankful that he didn’t blast his music too loudly like usual, Casey still couldn’t concentrate over the noise. It was normally muffled, but now it sounded like it was pouring straight into the room.

 

She’d typed up half of her essay already, thanks to the glasses allowing her to read without her brain thumping against her skull.

 

Whenever she pushed them up her nose, she thought of how good he looked with them, and felt a slight twinge of guilt over the way she found herself attracted to him.

 

It had to be a body-swap side effect. Not that she’d never noticed that he was good looking before - because she had eyes. But it was taking on a whole different turn now, like it wasn’t just an observation or a passing fancy, but a full on crush.

 

How did two days in his body cause her to completely lose her mind?

 

She couldn’t stop obsessing over how protective of her he was acting, or how sincere he looked when he reassured her or covered up for her. She couldn’t stop racking her brain for  clues that he had ever been this way before, because apparently everyone but her -and him possibly- believed that he cared. She thought of prom dresses and birthday videos, of published poems and secret phone calls to her dad, and how every single one of those instances had warmed her insides, appealing to that whimsical side of her that melted over the slightest hint of thoughtfulness.

 

Casey knew that it was wrong, completely inappropriate to think of Derek like this. It was just this stupid body swapping situation contorting reality. He only seemed more thoughtful because he had to be, otherwise she would pay him back ten times over if he ruined her life.

 

It was completely foolish. She still had a boyfriend (for all intents and purposes), whom she still couldn’t bring herself to dismiss without a last chance. There were some things she needed to find out for herself, and being Derek offered the opportunity to find that out without being swayed by Truman’s sweet smile and coddling words.

 

She was really just projecting her expectations of Truman onto Derek. Because he’d offered an attentive ear and appeased her anxious thoughts with caring reassurance. It was just an illusion, a trick of the light. A lie she chose to believe in because it seemed better than reality. She was completely fooling herself.

 

And if it seemed that the attraction was mutual, then it really was some unfortunate consequence of their condition.

 

Even Derek’s music flitting through her room seemed to echo her thoughts. ”crazy, I go crazy.”

 

The song invaded the air around her, mingled with soft gasps breathed at her ear. Following the origin of the sounds, Casey noticed the vent on the wall behind Derek’s door was open. She should probably close it if she hoped to get back to work anytime soon (if her thoughts allowed it anyway).

 

When she bent down to flick it closed, another distinctive sound drifted to her ear. A moan. “you turn it on, then you’re gone.”

 

She could hear Derek’s sharp breaths and cries as if she was there, and he was… he was touching her.

 

Or - himself.

 

In any case, he was definitely touching. And enjoying. She swallowed thickly as she pictured what he was doing in her head, imagined her own hands running down her naked skin and her hips lifting off the bed. Then it was his hands over her body and she couldn’t take it anymore, reaching for the switch with shaky fingers and flicking it off, muting the noises and the music almost completely.

 

He was totally allowed to do that. She’d said so. It wasn’t a big deal, anyone would want to try it if they had the chance to find out what it felt like for the other sex. That thought made her strikingly aware of the appendage poking into the front of her pants and of her own aroused state as she straightened, shuffling awkwardly around the room.

 

That thing just didn’t let up! It was like Derek’s body was always horny! Which she realized was probably the case considering ‘teenage boy hormones’ and all that. It was kind of unnerving, waking up like this every morning, trying to pee with a raging hard on. Even breathing seemed to turn him on.

 

At one point, which was not today, she would have to take care of the problem, because if it continued like this, she would be stuck in a state of perpetual boner.

 

Since it had been two days already, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight, she guessed she should at least look, probably, to kind of get used to it? Like, it didn’t bite, so what did she have to be so nervous about anyway? This was her body now, for a while at least, she really should get comfortable with it.

 

Slowly.

 

She found her reflection in the full length mirror behind his door and stared back at Derek. It was so much worse that it was him. Why couldn’t she swap bodies with anyone else? She would have taken Ralph over her step-brother any day.

 

What was so unsettling wasn’t so much that she was in the body of a guy (maybe 45% of it). She could, theoretically, strip down and observe a random male’s body by taking an educational standpoint. But the fact that it was Derek ? That pandered to a whole different area of curiosity. Like, she really wanted to see him naked. She was totally excited, turned on, wet between her thighs, thinking about it. Or hard between her thighs, in this case.

 

She was such a pervert.

 

Pouting at her reflection, she gave in. For the sake of practicality, of course, certainly not out of an overwhelming desire to do so.

 

She pulled her shirt over her head, exposing Derek’s chest to her greedy eyes. She hated that he so obviously worked out. He was so tall it made him look lanky, but he was definitely solid. Defined abs, defined pecs. She poked around a little. Hard too.

 

His nipples were pebbling lightly against the cold in the room, not quite as much as hers would, but still distracting. She gave them a little rub, just to find out what it felt like. Humming softly, she threw her head back, eyes closed, as the touch spread light tingles through her body. So. Pretty much the same.

 

Letting out a long sigh, she forced herself to look again, finding Derek’s cheeks flushed and his eyes glazed over. His dick twitched, straining against the restricting fabric of his boxers.

 

She lowered her hands to her pants, holding her breath as she undid the belt buckle. Unbuttoned and unzipped, Casey hesitated at the waistband of her jeans, eyes trained on the happy trail disappearing underneath. She couldn’t un-see what she was about to see. Forever, even after she returned to her own body, she would know what his looked like.

 

Her pants fell to the floor. There was no going back.

 

Before looking down, she breathed deeply. Then her gaze wandered down the mirror until it was aligned with his pelvis. While still covered by her underwear, his erection was quite discernable, a clear bulge outlined at the front of the undergarment hugging his hips.

 

She observed his hip bones, then drifted down to his strong thighs and legs, committing every detail to memory. Her cheeks were burning hot, her skin tickled by pleasant shivers. He looked really good, so much it almost hurt not to touch him, when every cell in his body begged to be touched. She could feel it deep in her bones, how much he wanted to be touched - how much she wanted to be touched by Derek’s hands.

 

He was in the room next door touching her. Why couldn’t she touch him? She groaned at herself for acting so squirmy and skittish. It was just a penis. She wasn’t a complete prude, she totally could look at one in real life, even touch it. She could touch Derek’s penis.

 

So she did - over the boxers first.

 

When her hand firmly wrapped around it, giving it a gentle squeeze, Casey gasped loudly, urging her to clamp a hand over her mouth. “Oh my god…” She muttered under her breath. That felt really good. Like a pleasing jolt of lightning coursing down her spine.

 

It felt large and thick in her hand, even through the fabric, and it responded to her touch eagerly, pulsing against her palm.

 

Squeezing harder, she gave it another gentle tug, reveling in the tingly sensation as she practically sobbed into the hand muffling her cries.

 

She wanted to feel it against her skin. Looking down, she pulled the elastic band slightly, away from her hips, and peered in.

 

There it was. In all its erect, twitching glory.

 

Derek’s penis.

 

She was looking at Derek’s penis.

 

For some reason, the first descriptive that came to mind was… cute? With the pink smooth skin and little head like a hat on the tip. This was what she’d been so scared of?

 

Feeling bolder, Casey removed her boxers, almost tripping over herself as she passed her feet through the tight holes.

 

Then she looked down again, traced a fingertip over the ridges on the sides of his length, inciting the sweetest tingles. It was bigger than she expected it to be. Not like monster big, she didn’t even know if it was bigger than the average, it just wasn’t what she'd pictured in her head.

 

Biting her lip, she wondered if measuring it would be a step too far. It would be kind of weird if she pulled out a ruler next to it. But she heard that all the boys did it! It couldn’t be that much different if she did it! Right?

 

She decided against it (for now). She was already staring at Derek’s penis, she didn’t need measurements. She could already compare it against her hand. It looked decent. It looked like it would fit nicely inside of he-

 

Oh god! Casey looked at her hand in horror. What was she doing?! Stroking her step-brother’s cute penis and imagining what it would feel like inside of her.

 

She was losing her frickin’ mind!

 

A soft, feminine moan pierced through the fog in her brain, and she turned wide eyes towards the wall she shared with Derek. What were they doing?!

 

Raising her hands in the air, away from her sin, Casey backed away from the mirror, grabbed Derek’s robe, and made a mad dash for the washroom, slamming the door behind her, and took the coldest shower of her life.

 

 

Chapter Text

Groggily, Derek turned back and forth on Casey's office chair, trying to think of the last time he was up this early. Rolling out of bed was clearly the way to go. How long could getting ready possibly take? He yawned and stretched his arms out as Casey gathered some supplies. “Just don’t make me look like a clown m’kay?” He mumbled, half awake. 

 

Sparing him a glance long enough for an eye roll, Casey went and plugged in her hair straightener, leaving it to warm up while she chose a color of eyeshadow to match the outfit that she picked out. “I’m doing this so that you don’t make me look like a clown, Derek,” she said softly. They were keeping low voices not to wake up or be heard by anyone who might wake up soon.

 

Too tired to think of a clever response, Derek simply said, “Hrmmph.”

 

“You look really tired,” Casey said, saddling up in front of him with her liquid foundation in hand, and blushing at the implications of what it was that kept him up so late at night. “What time did you go to bed?”

 

Thinking back fondly to the night before, Derek smiled sleepily. If only she knew what he'd been up to all night (with the occasional water break). “Late.” He said, a little smugly.

 

She fumbled with the cap of the little bottle, palms getting nervously sweaty. She’d heard him go on for at least an hour after her shower, flipped on the vent again because she was too weak to resist, until she fell asleep. She was a little jealous that he was able to get multiple orgasms out of her, considering she usually struggled to get just the one. She supposed she could brush it up to his experience.

 

She focused on composing his face, bracing one hand at the root of his hair as she gently applied the foundation, covering the little blotchy spots and blemishes. He flinched slightly at the contact.

 

“Just keep in mind that I usually need a solid eight hours of sleep to be fully functional,” she warned faintly, lips turning upward at his discomfort with the sponge. “Wouldn’t want to go full on Klutzilla on your first day of school…”

 

The cold sponge woke Derek up a bit and he huffed out a short laugh, “Why not?” He asked, looking at her intently, the corner of his mouth quirking up, “I want to sell the act, don’t I?”

 

“You’re hilarious, you know that?” Casey deadpanned, rubbing the liquid harder into his cheeks playfully.

 

He grinned, pulling his face away from her assault before looking at her squarely, smug as all hell, “I know.” He narrowed his eyes at her teasingly, “But it's nice to hear you admit it. Who knew you thought so highly of me Case? Hilarious… Hottest guy in school? What's next? Will you finally acknowledge my genius?”

 

Damn it, did he have to call her out on everything?

 

That was just part of the act,” Casey chuckled, hopefully being convincingly casual about it. He didn’t need to know that she was lusting over his body. She felt her cheeks warming up as she went over her inspection from last night in her head, and gritted her teeth as she felt the thing waking up in her pants. See?! Breathing! Ugh. She distracted herself by moving on to the blush, the smooth brushstroke leaving a nice pink hue on his cheeks.

 

Derek raised an eyebrow, biting his lip to hold back his persistent smile, “Sure it was.” He might be the one with blush on, but she was the one blushing. As always, he thoroughly enjoyed how flustered he could make her.

 

Casey’s fingers slipped as she opened the eyeshadow case, sending it flying to the floor. Okay, maybe flirting and playing footsie at the dinner table had been a bad idea, an obvious oversight on her part, but she was definitely set on squashing all those pesky feelings and urges - as soon as possible.

 

“Close your eyes,” she grumbled after picking up the eyeshadow, deciding that she would only embarrass herself further if she said anything else.

 

With a self-satisfied smirk, Derek closed his eyes, and Casey applied the eyeshadow. She loomed over him, so close he could feel her breath. He felt a real blush creep up to his cheeks at their proximity, and he sucked in his lips, trying to keep his breathing even. In his old body, he wasn’t much of a blusher - so he attributed it more to her body’s attraction to him than any attraction he was feeling to her.

 

Trying to concentrate only on applying his make up properly, and not on how close they were or how intimate it felt to touch his face like this, Casey held her breath until she was done, then quickly went for the mascara. “Okay,” she sighed, “now open your eyes and look up. Do not blink.”

 

He did as he was told. When he saw the stick approaching his eye though, he flinched away from it at the last second “Gah!”

 

“Der-ek! Stop moving!”

 

“Why? So you can poke me in the eye?!” He argued frantically, swatting her hand away, “I don't think so.”

 

“I won’t poke you in the eye if you stop moving!” She shot back.

 

He did his best to stay still, looking up as the stick came dangerously close again. He instinctively backed up but Casey's strong hand held his head in place, bracing herself against him, relentless in her approach. “This is torture.” He mumbled in protest.

 

“Welcome to womanhood,” she teased, with two quick strokes over each eye before she released him.

 

He blinked, eyelashes heavy and sticky in his peripheral vision. Not all women wore makeup. “Ugh,” He said, going to rub his eyes when Casey caught his wrist.

 

“Do not - do that!” She warned darkly. “Ever.”

 

“So I can't touch my own face?!” He questioned with disbelief.

 

“Well,” she hesitated, “you can scratch - gently.” She placed the mascara tube down and picked up her peachy lip gloss. “But not the eyes - ever,” she reiterated.

 

How needlessly inconvenient. He groaned, “Fine.” He didn't want to look like a raccoon.

 

“Now lips,” she stated simply, plucking her lips to illustrate.

 

Feeling totally silly, Derek puckered up. He made a couple kissy sounds to turn it into a joke.

 

Casey laughed and rolled her eyes. She was tempted to plant one on him just to see his gobsmacked expression after, but steeled herself against that impulse. Just a side effect! She reminded herself. “Idiot,” she said affectionately as she spread the gloss on his lips.

 

Watching through half shut lids, Derek couldn't help but notice how intently Casey was staring at his lips as she softly applied the sticky goop. Involuntarily, he leaned forward slightly.

 

Once finished, she looked at her work closely, noticing how Derek’s thick lashes shadowed his eyes, and how enticing his mouth looked, all puckered and shiny. She was unknowingly lowering her face towards his as she stared into his half shut eyes.

 

Sensing she was finished, Derek looked up, to find their faces temptingly close. “So…” He cleared his throat and sat up straight, “How do I look?” Being in each other's bodies seemed to create this new tension between them. One more second and he might have been crazy enough to kiss her. But he couldn't cross that line. Not when he didn't know what it meant. Not when he had a caring, beautiful girlfriend, who was most importantly not his step-sister.

 

“Good,” Casey said, coughing to hide her nerves as she straightened and moved to put her makeup away, “good.”

 

He was the one to pull away again. She wasn’t sure if that meant he wasn’t interested, or if she was just being incredibly reckless. She wouldn’t have closed the distance and kissed him, but she wouldn’t have backed out either. It was frightening, how hard it was to pull away, no matter how much she repeated to herself that it was wrong, it wasn’t real, it wasn’t hers. It was just a bit hard to remember that he wasn’t hers when she literally owned his body.

 

“Let’s do your hair,” she said, brandishing her hairbrush. This would be better. At least if he turned around they wouldn’t get so close again.

 

“I see that weapon on your dresser.” He said, motioning to her hair straightener. He pointed up at her accusingly, like Casey did constantly to him, “If you burn me?” He slipped on a smirk and continued with mock cheerfulness, “I'll kill you!”

 

Casey rolled her eyes at him for what seemed like the hundredth time, but she was also grateful for his humour breaking the tension. “Wow, that sounded exactly like me,” she grinned, and motioned for him to turn around to face her vanity.

 

He slowly swivelled “That's because…” He said breathily with a teasing aura of superiority, “I know you better than you know yourself.” He caught her gaze challengingly through the mirror.

 

She scoffed and dropped his gaze, “You keep thinking that.” Passing her fingers into his hair first, she started unknotting the bottom gently - he hadn’t brushed his hair the whole weekend, what a mess.

 

Derek used to hate having his hair brushed. Back when he had long hair in grade 7, people kept insisting he brush it, or they would come at him with intent to untangle the mess themselves. He always thought it hurt, so he avoided it at all costs, running away at the sight of a comb. But the way Casey brushed gently through the knots was surprisingly soothing, sending pleasant tingles over his scalp. He had to fight to keep his eyes open since she could see him in the mirror.

 

Smiling down at his head, Casey continued brushing one level at a time until she reached the top. She always liked playing with people’s hair - especially girls’ hair - but Lizzie barely asked her to do it anymore. It felt nice, relaxing, and when his hair was all tangle free, it was so smooth to the touch. She kept brushing just a little longer, for the fun of it, while her free hand followed the brush down on its path, her fingers pressing into his scalp the way she used to like. 

 

Unable to help himself, Derek's eyes fluttered closed, and a soft “Mmm,” broke through his defences, as Casey's fingers did something magical at the back of his head. His nerve endings were firing with contentment and the pressure on his scalp eased his stress.

 

She grinned at his positive response, replacing the brush with both of her hands, running her fingers up and down. She was warm with the desire to make him feel good, the way he made her feel without a single touch.

 

She was doing this on purpose, Derek concluded. He wasn't convinced this was actually doing anything to style his hair at this point. She knew exactly how good this felt, and was showing him just how she liked the caressing touch. “That's amazing…” The words left his mouth without his consent, quiet and secretive. 

 

“Mhmm,” Casey hummed, letting her fingers drift to the sides next to his temples. She was buzzing with some kind of glow, flooded with fondness and a feeling of closeness she didn’t want to let go of.

 

Slack-jawed, Derek relaxed into her touch as her fingers massaged over his temples. He couldn't hold back his soft groan of pleasure. He had no idea why she was making it her mission to make him feel so good, but he wasn't complaining. She was seriously pampering him for no reason, like this was some kind of full service spa, rather than just getting ready for school. 

 

Much better than simply rolling out of bed, that was for sure.

 

When he groaned, it echoed into her ears, like soft moans fluttering through the vent between their rooms. Casey couldn’t help but recognize the sensual turn this was taking, and the way her heart started beating faster. She wanted to do so much more to make him feel good - would probably do anything, at this point, but she knew she was getting carried away.

 

Running her fingers once more at the top, she gathered Derek’s long hair up into a tight ponytail, tucking in all the stray hairs with bobby pins, then pulled away slightly, ignoring the way her insides twisted over themselves, and picked up her straightener to give his tail a wavy end.

 

Disappointed by the way Casey's fingers suddenly stopped spoiling him, he winced a little at the tightness of the ponytail. “Damn Case.” He teased breathily, “You sure know what you're doing with my fingers back there.” He looked up at her through the mirror, hoping to catch her blush.

 

Casey looked up from her task and raised an eyebrow at his reflection. “It’s like they have a mind of their own,” she said, waving her fingers around.

 

Derek chuckled, “Yeah. They're naturally skilled.”

 

“Sure sounded like it last night,” she commented despite herself. Realizing what she said and blushing deeply, she quickly turned away, busying herself by turning off her iron and putting it away.

 

Derek's jaw dropped, lips still upturned in a curious smile as he raised his eyebrows at her retreating reflection. His stomach flipped. He knew there was a chance she could hear him through the vent, but he never thought she would have the audacity to bring it up. He stood from the chair and faced her, as she kept her back turned to rummage through a drawer. “Oh really?” He coaxed, hearing how truly pleased he was as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked her over thoughtfully, “What exactly did you hear?”

 

“Um,” Casey floundered, sifting through nicknacks in the drawer as if she was looking for something. Why was she the one getting all flustered when he was the one getting caught? So typical. “Just, uh, sounded like you were enjoying yourself.”

 

“Oh, I was.” He confirmed, taking a couple deliberate steps towards her as she squirmed, “What about you?” Had she enjoyed herself yet?

 

Feeling Derek getting closer behind her, she let out something resembling a whine and banged the drawer closed, turning once again to avoid him at all cost as she basically fled the room. “I-I forgot that thingy… thing i-in your room,” she stuttered on her way out.

 

Shaking his head, Derek laughed at her hasty retreat. She was in his body. If she hadn't tried enjoying herself in it already, she was bound to try it eventually, driven by instinct. And once she tried it, he was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to get enough. 

 

 


 

 

Reading the scrawled piece of paper, Derek opened Casey's locker. It took a few tries but he finally got it. “Yes.” He said under his breath, studying her schedule taped up on the door. First period: Math with Mrs. Hammer. Hard ass.

 

“So!” Emily practically shouted, “how was the double date from hell?”

 

Jesus - Derek jumped, startled by Emily's sudden appearance. He was surprised that Emily knew about the nightmare date at all, wondering what Casey told her, and what she left out. He figured since Emily described it as hell, he was able to speak freely. Well, as freely as possible without exposing the weirder bits. “It was…” How did Casey talk to her best friend? Was he supposed to be all girly? Rather than risking it, he settled on simple honesty, with a dash of Casey's vocabulary, “It was aptly named.”

 

“Ugh,” Emily sighed, and pouted in solidarity. “What did he do?”

 

With an exaggerated eye roll, Derek hoped to engage in a little trash talk, “He’s such an ass.” He said, imagining that was how girls talked shit, taking Casey's math book from the locker and hugging it to his chest, “We fought the whole time.”

 

Emily laughed shortly, bringing her hand to her chest, “I mean, what else is new?”

 

Derek scoffed in response. Even Emily could tell Truman was bad news. He slammed the locker closed to further his point. “And when we weren't fighting, he was busy making moves on me.”

 

“Wait, what?” Emily frowned. “You mean like by accident?”

 

Raising an eyebrow, Derek studied Emily's confused expression, “What? No, on purpose.” Did Emily not know about Truman and his pushy ways after all?

 

“You always say that about Truman, but Derek made a move on you?!” Emily asked incredulously.

 

Taken aback, Derek had to stifle his overwhelming amusement. He channeled Casey, “Derek ?!” Despite holding back his laughter it bubbled out from him. What would Casey say... Ew? Maybe not so much nowadays. But regardless, this was too funny to pass up the opportunity to comment, “Yeah, he couldn't keep his hands off of me.” He said jokingly. Emily's shock was written all over her face, and a disbelieving smile started forming on her lips. He levelled with her. “I was talking about Truman.” 

 

“Oh!” Emily said, laughing as she heaved a sigh of relief. “It did seem out of character for Derek to hit on you while he has a girlfriend. He hasn’t tried anything like that since the Lucy incident.”

 

Taken aback for a second time, Derek registered what Emily just said, “Yeah, ‘cuz if he didn't have a girlfriend, he would be hitting on me all the time?” He raised a single eyebrow, impossibly high, “And wha - Lucy incident?” 

 

“That time he was two-timing on Kendra?” Emily said, eyeing him curiously, “you made a big deal out of it, remember?”

 

Itching to defend himself, Derek bit his tongue. The Lucy thing had been nothing, he just had doubts about his relationship with Kendra since he wasn't used to being in one for so long. It had basically been his first real relationship and it was completely superficial compared to what he had with Sally now. 

 

“Derek would never cheat on Sally.” He said seriously, not even caring that he was out of character right now. A twinge of guilt raged in his stomach for how much he had been enjoying his new body, and the flirty tension between him and Casey recently. That didn't count as cheating, did it? He made sure not to cross that line, even when Casey seemed to be dancing on it with him.

 

“I know that,” Emily reassured, “that’s why I was so surprised. I mean, before Sally, maybe… but he totally loves her.”

 

He did. He… loved Sally. Even now with her being so far away. They had grown apart a bit with the distance, and she wasn't on his mind constantly, like she used to be. But when they were together, when she looked at him, he knew it. 

 

“Yeah.” He replied, a little sadly, “So…” He trailed off. Was he imagining the subtext in Emily's words? “That's why you were surprised? Not… you know, the whole Derek hitting on me thing?” He slapped on a look of distaste, “Do you honestly think he would ever do something like that? That’s crazy!”

 

Emily scrunched up her face, looking guilty as she tightened her grip on her books against her side. “I forgot you didn’t notice. It’s just…” she tilted her head and shrugged, “it wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

“What?!” Derek asked, genuinely appalled. He didn't hit on Casey… much… before this weekend at least. And not in a way that anyone would notice! “He - no. You're… no - that's insane. When has he ever hit on me?” Clearly, he wasn’t as subtle as he thought he was.

 

“Pretty much whenever you guys argue is just your way of flirting with each other to be honest,” Emily gave him an impish smile.

 

Holy fuck! Derek’s mind shouted, is that what everyone thinks!? It kind of put things into perspective and he was having a hard time denying it, the awkward silence speaking volumes. Casey would absolutely deny this to her dying breath. “Emily!” He exclaimed frantically, in true Casey fashion, “That's! That's wrong on so many levels.”

 

“Casey, it’s okay,” Emily reassured, “I’d totally be the same way if I lived with him. Being that close to him all the time… you’re so lucky.”

 

Equally flattered and creeped out, Derek ignored Emily's obvious crush. “Let me wrap my head around this.” He said with disbelief, needing answers, “I can see why you might think Derek was hitting on me. He flirts with everyone, it's just how he is. But I must be hearing things because it sounds like you're saying I flirt back. Which is…” Exciting, “Sickening.”

 

“Look, Case, you know I would never agree with Truman in a million years, and I honestly wish he could just snap out of existence,” Emily said gently, taking Derek’s hand. “But you do talk about Derek all the time, and it’s like you can’t help yourself when he pranks you or teases you. You get super intense.”

 

So much to process. Emily hated Truman, which… of course, why wouldn't she - he was the worst. And she had a point. Maybe Casey was a little… fixated on him. He always chalked it up to extreme anger and resentment, but maybe it was something else.

 

“Glad to hear you're on my side, Emily.” Truman said from behind them, a little bitterly.

 

Emily rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Truman.”

 

Panicked, Derek spun around to face his favourite person in the world. The sight made him feel a little sick. 

 

“Hey gorgeous,” Truman cooed, approaching him comfortably.

 

Derek remembered what Casey said, about how he wouldn’t have to touch Truman ever again, a promise that he was eternally grateful for. Yet in this moment, he considered giving the slimeball a hard shove in the chest. 

 

Literally saved by the bell, Derek perked up at the annoying ringing, “Don’t wanna be late for class!” He said cheerfully, dodging Truman’s arm. He grabbed Emily by the elbow and ushered her down the hall, leaving Truman stuttering in disbelief at their sudden exit.

 

 


 

 

Arriving at Derek’s locker, Casey found Sam and Ralph lounging around and talking excitedly. She snuck silently behind them as they kept on their cheerful conversation, picking up Derek’s clearly unused science textbook for his first class of the day. She took a look at his schedule for his second period, English with Miss Henderson. This would go smoothly, Miss Henderson loved her!

 

“I actually think just one layer of peanut butter is fine,” Sam said, “otherwise it drowns out the jelly.”

 

“Okay, I see what you're saying, but imagine this,” Ralph pitched, “A layer of peanut butter on each slice, and a double helping of jelly in the middle.” He grinned, proudly.

 

“That does sound awesome,” Sam admitted, “But kinda messy, it’s gotta drip all over the place. What do you think, D?”

 

Casey looked up, eyes wide as she wondered what input she could possibly bring to this conversation. “The messier, the better, I say!”

 

Sam laughed and clapped her shoulder, “I like your style, man.”

 

“The key is to wall the jelly in with peanut butter so it can’t escape.” Ralph explained cheerfully, “But sometimes, you gotta embrace the mess.” He added fondly as Sam nodded in agreement.

 

“That’s real deep, Ralph,” Casey said encouragingly, before turning back to the locker. She searched for Derek’s notebooks but he didn’t seem to have any. Sighing, she took a mental note to get him some, thankful that she’d brought a spare with her.

 

“I’m wiser than I look.” Ralph grinned with pride.

 

“So how was seeing Sally this weekend, man?” Sam asked casually. “Emily said something about you double dating with Casey and Truman? That must have been fun.” He laughed sarcastically. 

 

Fighting off the blush forming at the memory of her time with Sally, Casey forced a groan. “Ugh, being with Sally was great , but a whole evening with Psycho Casey and her sleazy boyfriend? Hell.”

 

Sam chuckled, “Must’ve been.” He crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against the lockers, casting her a thoughtful look, “I’m sure having to watch Truman and Casey together was the highlight of your night. I swear, those two fight more than you and Casey do, even.”

 

These last couple weeks? Yeah, that was about right. Even though Casey was a little surprised that Sam was gossiping about her relationship, when he was always so non confrontational, she figured it was normal that he talked about things like this with his best friends if they told each other half the things she told Emily. She couldn’t blame him either, when some of her fights with Truman had been so public.

 

She was tempted to play it off with indifference, the way she imagined Derek played everything off. But she’d seen his sweet side too much over the last two days to believe that he didn’t care at all. “I witnessed worse than that,” Casey said disgustedly, “I swear the guy has separation anxiety or something. He was all over her the whole time, and she didn’t look into it at all.” Understatement, considering Derek had been basically traumatized since the event.

 

Eyebrows knitting together with concern, Sam got serious, “Whoa, really?”

 

Ralph stepped closer, lowering his voice, just as worried, “What did you do?”

 

“Nothing,” Casey scoffed. “Her boyfriend, her problem,” she said dismissively, pushing the locker door closed. Even though he might care, that still didn’t mean Derek would intervene in her relationship.

 

“Dude!” Sam barked, appalled, shoving her shoulder harshly, “You seriously let him treat Casey like that?”

 

“Not cool.” Ralph echoed.

 

“That’s not like you, man. Even when Casey is concerned.” Sam continued, his tone implying especially when she was concerned.

 

What did that even mean? It wasn’t like Derek ever developed a chivalrous bone in his body - she knew, she was in it. He wasn’t going to jump in all knight in shining armour and save her from a gropey boyfriend. It wasn’t like it was a big deal anyway, most guys acted like that, so why were Sam and Ralph reacting so strongly?

 

“What was I supposed to do?” she asked defensively. “Punch the guy in the face because he tried to cop a feel? Pshh, yeah right.”

 

“If you have to!” Sam argued, as Ralph nodded empathically, shrugging in the air as if this should be obvious to Derek, “You at least say something. Nobody should treat Casey that way, you know that. It’s a matter of principle, man. What about that whole soccer coach thing?”

 

“The soccer coach?” Casey questioned. “He was dating like five other girls. Truman is her boyfriend, that kind of entitles him a bit of touchy feely.” 

 

She didn’t really know why she was defending Truman, because it didn’t sound right coming from Derek, but it also didn’t make sense that his friends would be so on his case about not doing anything. They weren’t talking about… assault, or something. And anyway, even though she came to terms with the fact that Derek may care, it still didn’t indicate that he would interfere. Staying out of each other’s private life, was what they had always agreed on.

 

“Entitle-!?” Sam shook his head, baffled beyond belief, shoving her shoulder even harder this time to the point she almost dropped her stuff. He backed her further into the hallway, looking like he was going to fight her or something, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” He demanded, poking her in the chest.

 

Gawking at Sam, Casey tried to wrap her thoughts around what was happening. He was looking over her almost menacingly as she backed away, hoping to avoid getting physical. Was he really going to fight Derek over this? Was it really that outrageous? She hadn’t seen Sam anywhere near a fight since he’d tussled with Derek two years ago about that ridiculous male code thing. Sam didn’t get into fights. She didn’t get into fights!

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” she shouted, unable to comprehend his behaviour.

 

“What’s wrong with me is I thought you were better than that.” He said through gritted teeth, “You think just because he’s her boyfriend he’s entitled to something?” He demanded, his body language looming aggressively. Ralph got between them, putting a hand on each of their chests. They were starting to draw in a crowd. “The Derek I know would never say something like that. So I’ll ask again. What the fuck is wrong with you!"

 

As she stared at Sam, she repeated his words over and over in her head. Derek would never say something like that. Derek would never. Her shoulders dropped, the tension draining as she realized that she was fighting Derek’s best friend over herself, and she wasn’t even on her own side. She looked at the spectators amassing around them, feeling suddenly sick and lightheaded. She was ruining everything.

 

“I-” Casey started, the words caught in her throat. She felt her eyes brimming with tears and tried rubbing them away. She couldn’t make Derek cry in school on top of everything else. He would never forgive her. “I’m sor-” she held back a sob, barely able to contain herself before she turned and ran.

 

 


 

 

Mrs. Hammer was not a pleasant woman. Derek watched with a familiar sense of dread while the gruff teacher handed out last week’s graded test. As he was handed the slip of paper, he breathed a sigh of relief, remembering that he was Casey, and that he wasn’t going to be bombarded with a shamefully low mark. Even though he was actually pretty great at math, he still hated getting his marks back. 

 

58%?! 

 

He checked the top of the page and sure enough it said ‘Casey McDonald’ in her flowery penmanship. This had to be some kind of mistake. His own math grades were way higher, and he never knew Casey to get anything below an A minus. On the rare occasion she did get a bad grade, she had a total meltdown. 

 

Looking through the exam, he scoffed. The teacher had taken off marks for the absolute dumbest reasons. A whole mark off for a sloppily drawn less-than sign? He had Mrs. Hammer last semester, and while she was a notoriously hard marker, she allowed him much more leniency. Yeah, he was going to grub the shit out of this grade, Casey-style, because this was actually ridiculous. After class though.

 

One boring lecture later, the class was instructed to work on a couple problems from the textbook. Pretending to be hard at work by writing random numbers in his notebook, Derek took the opportunity to check his phone in his lap.

 

Sally: Hey, how are you?

 

Derek: Bored tbh. You?

 

Sally: So you’re in class then.

 

I’m good. Was wondering if everything was okay with you? You were pretty upset on Saturday.

 

Derek: Oh

 

Yeah im sorry about that. Idk what happened

 

Sally: That’s okay, no apology needed. I was worried I did something wrong.

 

Derek: Not at all Sal.

 

I just… wasnt feeling like myself is all. I hope I didnt make you feel bad…

 

Sally: No, no, you didn’t. It just scared me a little when you started crying... 

 

You don’t… usually cry… like at all.

 

Derek: I honestly dont know what came over me. Im really sorry for scaring you.

 

Sally: I know we don’t say it often. Just the once. But I didn’t mean to upset you.

 

Oh shit… 

 

Sally had said ‘I love you.’ That was why Casey had called it off. That really stung, and he felt terrible that he wasn’t there with Sally to hear it himself. He probably would have said it back… at least he thought so. It was hard to know without being in the moment. There was really no way to know otherwise. 

 

They had said it to each other once before. Honestly it had just slipped out. When he said it, he meant like… the same way he loved hockey or pizza, but it made her so happy, and her reaction made his heart soar. And after that he really started falling in love with her. He frowned at his phone realizing he might have lost his chance for that real ‘I love you' moment.

 

Derek: Its not your fault. You know its hard for me.

 

He could say it now, but over text seemed cheap and meaningless, like a coward’s move. It was just… not an easy thing for him to say to someone. In fact, it was terrifying. There were only a few people in his life he ever said that to and the words strained out of him every single time. Romantically, it had only been Sally, that one time, accidentally. There were a couple times when he almost said it to her for real, but then he second guessed himself: Am I really in love with her? How would I even know what that is supposed to feel like? 

 

Even though he wasn't one hundred percent sure, he still wanted it to be love, and maybe that was love. 

 

Derek: I wanted to say it back.

 

Sally: I know. It felt like you wanted to say it back.

 

Derek: I wish we couldve had more time together 

 

Sally: Me too. I’m sorry you left so soon… it was going well before I said…

 

Derek: I should have just stayed with you

 

Guess I was embarrassed or smt

 

Sally: Not that there is anything to be embarrassed about, but I understand how you might feel that way.

 

Thinking back to how Truman reacted to Casey when she pushed him away or changed her mind, Sally’s response was in stark contrast.

 

Derek: Thank you for being so understanding Sal

 

Means a lot

 

Sally: Isn’t that what love is? 

 

He had no idea what love was, really. But he could go with Sally's definition for now. She probably knew best.

 

Derek: I think so, yeah

 

How did u get to be so wise ;)

 

Sally: You’ll see when you’re my age ;P

 

Smiling down at his phone with a melancholy contentment, Derek felt a little relieved that his girlfriend was far enough away that he could just text her and not have to worry about the body-swap complications. Things with Sally were easy this way. Aside from the mess that was Saturday. 

 

Suddenly, a new text popped up, causing Derek's eyebrows to jump to his hairline.

 

Sam: seriously tho WTF?!

 

He stared at his phone in confusion, trying to figure out what Sam was talking about.  

 

Derek: What???

 

He deleted the text before he pressed send. Something told him he was supposed to understand the context here. 

 

Casey.

 

What the hell was he supposed to say if he had no idea what was going on? He was about to text her when he overheard the conversation behind him.

 

“They were like, totally about to fight!” Some girl he forgot the name of said.

 

“I know he’s hot, but he’s a total dick to his sister. Sam was totally right to try to hit him,” Another unknown girl chimed in.

 

What?! Derek strained to listen. First of all, step-sister. Second of all, Casey got into a fight with Sam? Like… a physical fight? The Princess, and Sam?! What the hell could they possibly be fighting about? 

 

Another girl slid her chair closer to the gossiping group. “I heard that Derek said Casey was easy.”

 

That made no sense! Why would she call herself easy? Was that what she thought he would say or something? That didn’t even sound like him. The word around school used to be that Casey was a prude, now she was easy?

 

The first one scoffed. “I knew her innocent schoolgirl thing was just an act.”

 

Excuse me?!” He asked, turning around to face them. Were they seriously talking about Casey while she sat directly in front of them, like she wouldn’t take offence to that? 

 

“Wanna deny it?” 

 

Glaring daggers, Derek wasn’t going to let these snotty girls get the upper hand, “I don’t have to explain myself to you, Bitchface.”

 

The second, nicer girl cut back in. “That’s not what Derek said, guys. And even if he did, it would be totally wrong. What is this, Mean Girls?”

 

“Right.” Derek said firmly, in Casey’s proud tone, “Thank you.” He looked intently at the nice girl, soft and anxious under his strong gaze, “What exactly did Derek say?”

 

She squirmed, uneasy. “I wasn’t there when he said it, but I heard Sam say something like ‘Just because he’s her boyfriend he’s entitled to something?’… I’m not sure but Sam looked like he was about to knock him out.”

 

What the fuck was that supposed to mean? Entitled to what? He had a sinking feeling. It must have been bad if Sam was willing to get into a fight over it. What the hell was Casey doing? “What happened?” He asked anxiously, “Did it get physical?”

 

“No, Ralph stopped it.”

 

“And then Derek ran away crying,” the third girl laughed.

 

His jaw dropped. This was a disaster of epic Casey proportions. He shut his eyes and shook his head with despair. “He didn’t.” 

 

“He did,” Nice girl said with a wince.

 

Turning away, Derek put his head in his hands. Clearly Casey was on a mission to ruin his life

 

He texted her, knowing she probably wouldn’t respond while in class, but pissed off enough that he needed to confront her immediately.

 

Derek: CASEY WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED !!!!!!!!

 

Then he texted Sam.

 

Derek: MOMENTARY LAPSE IN SANITY

 

Sam: sounds abt right, asshole. i cant believe you wld say that kinda shit

 

Derek: Yeah ME NEITHER !!

 

Suddenly, he was shrouded in shadow and he looked up to find Mrs. Hammer looming over him menacingly.

 

“Texting in class, Miss McDonald?” she said with a scary, almost satisfied smile, then held out her hand expectedly. “You can get it back at the end of class.”

 

Reluctantly, he handed over the phone with a groan, plopping it into Mrs. Hammer’s meaty hand. She stalked away proudly, depositing it into her desk drawer.

 

The rest of the class was agonizing - longest class ever. When it was finally over and the other students filtered into the hallway, Derek made his way up to Mrs. Hammer’s desk to get his phone back.

 

She held it out to hand it over, but when Derek went to grab it, she pulled it away with a condescending smirk. “Let this be a warning for good little girls to stay good little girls. Next time, it’s detention.” She mocked, holding the phone out once again.

 

Gritting his teeth, Derek snatched the phone back. “Actually. There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.” He said, standing his ground. Unlike Casey, he wasn’t scared of any teacher.

 

Mrs. Hammer heaved a long-suffering sigh and turned to the papers on her desk. “What, Miss McDonald?” she asked dismissively.

 

“I have some concerns about the way you graded my test.” Derek said boldly, in full grade-grubber mode, but without the usual groveling.

 

“What, no fruit basket this time?” the teacher sneered.

 

Of course Casey gave Mrs. Hammer a fruit basket. She was probably trying to get in her good graces, and it apparently backfired. “No fruit basket.” Derek smiled, narrowing his eyes, “You see, I’ve noticed there have been some…” He searched his brain for a Casey-sounding word, “Discrepancies in how you’ve marked my tests, compared to my fellow classmates.” His innocent tone carried an underlying threat. “I’d be happy to gather some examples so that we can show the principal together. I’m sure he takes kindly to favouritism. Or, we can go over my test right now and fix some of these…” He narrowed his eyes even further, “Discrepancies.”

 

Mrs. Hammer rolled her eyes, but held her hand out for him to give her Casey’s test. “Let’s take a look at those discrepancies, Miss McDonald.”

 

Smirking, he handed over the paper. By the time they got through it all, Casey’s grade was at 71%. Even with the ‘discrepancies’ out of the way, she wasn’t the best at math. 

 

He walked out of the classroom, satisfied with himself. He shouldn’t even be helping Casey, since she was out there dismantling his life, but this was a matter of principle. 

 

 


 

 

First period had been terrible, and by second, Casey was just about ready to move to Newfoundland and turn into a hermit. In class, everyone was looking at her, whispering to each other like she was some kind of travelling circus. She couldn’t even concentrate on the lectures with how anxious she was.

 

She tried to go along with the reading, but when she remembered she needed the glasses, she didn’t dare touch them. If Derek was embarrassed about those, he wasn’t going to like what she did to his reputation first thing in the morning. The least she could do was keep her head down and not embarrass him any further.

 

By taking a few steps back from her conversation with Sam, she recognized that she could have handled it better. Maybe she made Derek sound… seedy, which she guessed was unfair, and Sam, who had like a hundred sisters, was really sensitive to these things. She really should have known better.

 

Groaning internally, she forced herself to focus back on the lecture to distract herself. Participating in class always put her in a good mood. They were reviewing Big Fish, which she knew half the class hadn’t even cracked the first page of. It was actually such a great novel, Casey had read it cover to cover in one sitting.

 

“Assuming Edward’s tall tales were a vehicle for imparting life lessons on his son,” Miss Henderson addressed the class at large, “What lesson is he teaching Will when telling the tale of receiving premonitional knowledge of his own future demise?”

 

Eager to answer the question, Casey lifted her hand animatedly.

 

“Derek?” Miss Henderson acknowledged, with a little surprised smile on the corner of her lips.

 

“Since Edward knew how he was going to die, he could face his life head-on without any fear,” Casey answered proudly. “Therefore, if things are predetermined, he is teaching Will to be brave, to not let fear hold him back from greatness.”

 

There, making Derek sound smart and literate was surely a point in her favour, right?

 

“While that might seem like the obvious answer,” Miss Henderson said, her smile turning into something akin to pity and making Casey’s face fall, then continued, “unfortunately, the lesson becomes moot when you take into consideration the fact that Will never received such mystical knowledge himself. For all he knows, one reckless future action could kill him, so he doesn’t have the same reassurance. Does anyone else have any ideas?”

 

What?

 

Thoughts racing at getting so blatantly dismissed, Casey sank back in her seat, steaming in her own indigence for the rest of the class. 

 

She’d tried! And what she said was totally valid, too. Miss Henderson would normally have been all over her book analysis, yet she’d made her sound like she was… simple minded. Sure, she’d been nice about it, because she was a really delicate person, but she obviously didn’t take what Casey said seriously.

 

Did this happen a lot? Was this how Derek felt like all the time? Like anything he said wasn’t good enough, or he wasn’t smart enough, or that he wasn’t good enough? The thought truly broke her heart. And made her feel even worse for disrupting the social life that he had so carefully built.

 

 


 

 

Scouring the cafeteria for Casey, Derek was dead set on confronting her. He spotted Sam and Ralph eating together, alone - bad sign. 

 

Then he saw her, hovering awkwardly by an empty table. He couldn't help but notice how the eyes in the room focused on the subjects of gossip, namely the two of them, and Sam. He needed to have a private conversation with her, pronto. He swiftly made his way over to her, watching her eyes widen guiltily when she saw him, grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out of the cafeteria.

 

She let him drag her silently, knowing that she’d really messed up and she deserved to be yelled at or whatever he was going to do to retaliate. She avoided his gaze, keeping her head down as he marched her down the hallway. 

 

There was a janitor’s closet Derek used every now and then for private conversations, business transactions, and… other things (before Sally, of course). It came in handy a lot actually. He pushed her inside and closed the door behind them. “Explain.” He said simply, anger just beneath the surface as he glared at her sheepish expression.

 

As soon as his hard expression settled on her, the dam broke. “I-I-” she stuttered, interrupted by a hiccup as her face was quickly drenched with tears. “I-I don’t know what ha-happened,” she sobbed, “S-Sam asked about th-the double date and…” she trailed off, the hiccups making it hard to breathe. “And I,” she took a deep breath, “I just,” she stopped, unable to contain the violent sobs coming out of her. “I messed up! I’m so s-s-sorry!”

 

Derek fought against himself as he looked at her painfully. He was not going to feel bad for her right now, was he? But, yeah, he felt bad for her. She clearly felt terrible about what happened, and it wasn’t like there was a body swap instruction manual or anything.

 

Even so, he didn't have the patience for this right now. He pinched the bridge of his nose, needing to know just how screwed he really was. 

 

“Casey.” He said seriously, trying to sound at least a little reassuring as he placed his hands on the sides of her shoulders. “Look at me.” He said while she tried to hide her face in shame.

 

Meeting his eyes reluctantly, she took a deep breath (in…), and exhaled (out…). Sniffing, she wiped her nose with the sleeve of her shirt. “H-he asked about the date,” Casey explained more calmly, taking deep breaths between every other word. “And I joked about how u-uncomfortable you were w-with Truman,” she looked down, “he asked what d-did I do? and I said nothing. And he got r-really angry with me.”

 

Insensitive thing to fucking joke about, since he was seriously uncomfortable on the date, which she should have known, but... He frowned at her. It still didn't really make sense. Sam would give him shit for not interfering if he noticed Casey was uncomfortable, but he wouldn't fight him over it. If anything, he’d probably fight Truman. 

 

Remembering what the girl from class told him, he narrowed his eyes at Casey, “Is that all you said?”

 

Feeling the weight of his eyes on her, she wrapped her arms around her middle, curling in on herself. “N-no…” she said quietly, the tears were still coming, but breathing was easier. “He asked why I didn’t do anything. And I said because he’s your boyfriend so he’s your problem…”

 

Okay, with hindsight, she realized that what she said was totally insensitive. But not to the point of fighting her over it. And it wasn’t like it wasn’t partly true - it was her responsibility to deal with Truman. She didn’t need someone to come to her rescue, or whatever. He’d just been trying to touch her, his girlfriend, he should be allowed to kiss her without her pulling away every single time. Why was that such a bad thing? 

 

Derek shut his eyes and took a steadying breath, sensing that Casey was still not telling him the whole truth. One word in particular bothered him that he wanted to confront her about. Something Sam would possibly fight someone over. “Casey.” He said, as calmly as he could muster, “All I know about what happened, is what other people have told me.” He looked unwaveringly into her eyes, urging honesty. “What did you say about someone being entitled to something?”

 

“Wha-?” Casey started asking, wondering how that was somehow the most important part of it. “I just said that he’s my boyfriend so he should be allowed to touch me if he wants.”

 

Derek groaned, shaking his head. She didn't actually - to Sam - to the whole school. There was no way she actually implied he thought Truman could do whatever the hell he wanted just because Casey was his girlfriend. “Even if you're uncomfortable? He's entitled to that?” He nearly growled.

 

Staring intently at the ground, Casey shrugged. If she didn’t want to be with Truman, then she should break up with him, it was simple. If she didn’t break up with him, then it was on her. Wasn’t that kind of the point? Boyfriend-girlfriend privilege? That you shouldn’t have to ask?

 

Derek pulled away from her and leaned against the door, lips pursed with anger and disgust. “Is that the kind of person you think I am?” He seethed, staring at a stack of paper towels.

 

“No, I-” she scrambled, confused. “It’s not-” why was he so angry? “Is it so terrible that he just wants me to show him I like him from time to time? What is so wrong with that?

 

He couldn't believe her, she sounded totally crazy. “Casey! Of course your boyfriend is going to want to kiss you!” He said exasperated, “That doesn't mean he-” He groaned, “Has Truman got you so twisted in the head that you seriously don't see what's wrong with that?!”

 

She shifted from leg to leg nervously, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. “I know it shouldn’t feel like that,” Casey said, “when he touches me, I know I shouldn’t-” she paused, closing her eyes against a new onslaught of tears. “Is there something wrong with me?”

 

Truman was a dead man walking now that Derek was starting to grasp the depth of the insecurities he had planted in Casey's mind. “You don’t have to like it when he touches you.” He asserted heatedly, hoping to drill the idea into her skull, “And since you clearly don't, he shouldn't. It's that fucking simple.” He saw the uncertainty in her body language and he sighed, trying to think of a new way to put it. “What if I tried to touch Sally like that, and she was uncomfortable and wanted me to stop? What? Too bad, so sad? She's my girlfriend so she's supposed to like it so I can do whatever the hell I want to her? Is that what you're saying?”

 

“No…” Casey huffed. It wasn’t about that. “Why don’t I want it?”

 

“You wanted it with Sally.” He reminded her.

 

“But why not him? Why Sally, why y-” she choked, clamping a hand over her mouth. She turned her back on him, feeling her eyes widen at what she just said. She was… there had to be something wrong with her. 

 

The emotions flowing through Derek caused his chest to rise and fall rapidly. He stared at her back, frustrated by this conversation, furious with Truman, offended by the words put in his mouth, and currently swallowing a gut wrenching tenderness for the hurt he saw in front of him.

 

He took a couple hesitant steps towards her, “You want to know what I think the difference is?”

 

Slowly, with her breath hot against her palm and her cheeks stinging with drying tears, she nodded.

 

“Sally made you feel safe.” He said low, right behind her cowering back, “You trusted her. She didn't rush over all the good parts to get to the finish line.” Knowing Sally, being with Sally, he knew this was the truth. “She took her time to connect with you and make you feel seen. You knew she wouldn't hurt you.” He watched as Casey started to shake, silent sobs spilling out, “And when it got too much for you, she understood, showed she cared more about the fact you were crying than what you weren't giving her.” He could practically picture it, the look of concern on Sally's face when she saw her boyfriend burst into tears. “That's...” He cleared his throat shyly at how sappy he was being right now. But she needed to know the truth about how this all worked if she was ever going to find it herself, “That's -you know…”

 

L-love.

 

“...Intimacy or whatever.”

 

Listening intently, Casey let Derek’s words settle over her. What he said, it made her feel like she was back in Sally’s bed, under the soft fairy lights, being caressed by her warmth and kindness. She’d known, she’d realized then, that it was missing with Truman, yet she’d thought, maybe she could find that with him. Because so far, no one else had made her feel this way, only Sally, only...

 

Fists balled at his side, Derek painted a much different picture. “Truman, on the other hand…” He growled, “Doesn't even try to meet you where you're at. Just makes you feel guilty for not wanting what he wants when he wants it.” He could feel the contempt on his face as he continued, his voice starting to break with rage, “When it's too much for you, he doesn't understand, he just gets pissed off. He acts entitled to it, like you're doing something wrong.” The fact she thought this was her fault was outrageous. “He tries again and again even when he knows you're not into it. How are you supposed to trust someone, feel safe with someone, if they don't even care about that? If they still want you to do something, knowing you're not into it? That doesn't bother him? ‘Cuz it should. He’s not entitled to shit from you, Casey. Even your mom says so.” He clenched his jaw and took a deep breath, hoping that he was finally able to convince her out of this insane mindset she seemed to have, “If it feels wrong, that's because it is wrong, not because you're not trying hard enough.”

 

Trying to match the picture of being with Sally in her head, Casey dredged up the memory of that night with Truman; the way his hands had felt so cold on her skin, the way his breath on her neck had made her feel crowded; and how she’d had to ask more than once for him to stop. That didn’t feel safe. It pierced through her heart like a hot poker, because it seemed so clear, so obvious, that she could never love someone like that.

 

Still feeling small and ashamed, she turned slowly to meet Derek’s gaze. He was so close behind her, radiating hot, violent rage, with his fists wound tightly against his sides. Her fingers itched to touch him.

 

Through all of that, there was one thing that didn’t quite make her feel so terrible. “My mom?” she asked softly under her breath.

 

“I-" He sighed frustratedly. Of course that was the only part of his whole speech that she heard. He had already exposed enough sensitivity, he didn't need to get into it any more than that. But if he couldn't convince her, maybe Nora could. “I told her. About Truman. Why I was so…” He looked up into her probing gaze and dropped his eyes to the floor, crossing his arms, “She was worried he did something to you, something you didn't want.” Nora knew Truman was a creep. “I didn't want to kiss him - obviously. But I felt like I had to, to keep him around for you.” He heaved a deep sigh, “It was supposed to be a quick thing but that wasn't what he wanted, so…” His nostrils flared as he shook his head with utter hatred, “You know, he should have taken the hint that I wasn't enjoying it, I made it pretty damn clear. Unless he thinks being stiff and unresponsive and trying to back away is a sign a girl is loving it.” He spat out with disbelief, “You wanna know what Nora said when I told her?”

 

If Casey could feel anymore guilty, she would, because she hadn’t realized how truly violated Derek had been. That didn’t sound safe, at all. And it occurred to her, with how outraged she was that Truman did this to him - Truman would never get near him again - that he’d done this to her as well. She needed to be on her own side. “What did she say?”

 

Looking up at her seriously, Derek quoted Nora's motherly wisdom, “You never have to do something you don't want to do. With anyone. Even your boyfriend.” He watched as the words registered in her mind, “She wanted me to promise that's all he forced you into, and to tell her if it ever happens again. She was really upset, Casey.”

 

Casey nodded, understanding how bad it sounded when he said it like this. Her mom had thought… It was just so crystal clear now, how truly warped she’d gotten into Truman’s mind games. It took almost fighting with Sam to get to that, it took Derek doing the one thing he hated most, opening up about his feelings. She needed to get out of there. Not ‘there’ there, in the closet with Derek, because it was oddly nice. But out of that terrible relationship. She needed to break that chain around her neck.

 

“I’m sorry I made you go out with him,” She said sadly.

 

“Thanks.” Derek responded bitterly, “But that's not what I'm upset about.”

 

“I know,” she said, crossing her arms again, “I’m sorry you had to kiss him, I really didn’t expect it to get that far.”

 

Try again. Derek’s frustration was building to an uncontrollable level. “That's not it either Casey,” He ground out. Could she seriously be that oblivious? “Think about everything I just said. Now think about what you said to Sam, in front of everybody, as me.” He wasn’t going to give her the chance to think about it, “If I saw some guy, Truman, or whoever… doing something like that to you? I wouldn't stand around and do nothing.” He said pointedly. It hurt him more than anything else that she didn't know that - that she thought he was the kind of person to let something like that slide, “And I sure as hell wouldn't think that guy is entitled to touch you just ‘cuz he’s your boyfriend - in case I haven't already made that extremely clear.” 

 

It was like her eyes were beaming hearts when she looked at him. How could he say those things, get past all her defences and make her feel this way. She wanted more than anything else to just be swept away by his sweet words and promises. If Truman could have been more like Derek… 

 

Out of everyone in the whole frickin’ world, why did she have to want him?

 

She looked down at her feet in shame, scuffing her shoes against the floor indignantly. He didn’t want her the way she did, he made that pretty clear. He was in love, with someone else. And even though he resounded true, she couldn’t allow that to cloud her judgement. 

 

She didn’t mean to imply the things she did about him. She really didn’t. But she couldn’t just accept that he was suddenly this grand protector, like he hadn’t tortured and ridiculed her repeatedly over the years. And she let that bitterness seep out of her, even though she knew it was the wrong thing to do. “Aren’t you just the knight in shining armour,” she muttered.

 

It was like a slap in the face. She was unbelievable. Derek couldn't think of a time he ever felt more gutted. She was the one who trashed his reputation and his relationship with Sam, he should have ripped her a new one. But instead, he ended up comforting her and opening up to her, and she just spat it back in his face. He shook with rage. 

 

“Screw you, Casey.” He said coldly, before opening the door to storm out. He turned back to say one last thing. “You know… I don't expect a real apology from you. I'm obviously not going to get one. But you owe one hell of an apology to Sam. He has enough sisters to know how wrong what you said is, he’s seen it first hand. And since he clearly knows me a lot better than you do, let me fill you in. I am not that person he saw today.” With one final glare his voice turned emotionless, “You made this mess. Clean it up.”

 

Then he left, Casey standing alone in the dark closet with that big gaping hole in her chest.

 

What had she done?

 

 

Chapter Text

So angry, he had tunnel vision, Derek slammed unknowingly into somebody in the hallway.

 

“Derek?” The voice asked, sounding startled.

 

How did- 

 

Oh. Megan.

 

“I was just looking for you. Are you okay?” she asked worriedly. He finally found her in his vision, blinking at him through her heavy winged eyeliner.

 

“Peachy.” He grumbled, casting a look back towards the janitors closet, where he saw Casey emerge. He ripped his eyes away from her and focused on the shiny leather of Megan's boots. 

 

“Oh good, you’re both here!” Megan said, “I found some stuff that might help you guys!”

 

Coming up next to Derek, Casey kept a shy distance, arms crossed over her chest. She didn’t know where she could even begin to make it better. But anything Megan would tell them had to be good news, and maybe they’d be able to get back to normal before she dug herself any deeper. “That’d be great right about now,” she said evenly.

 

God, she wished she didn’t have to be Derek anymore, didn’t have to face that whole mess that she’d made. But she knew she would have to. There was no coming back from it if she didn’t do right by Sam - and Derek. The way he’d looked at her… sad, betrayed. She couldn’t stand thinking that he would look at her that way forever from now on. Couldn’t they just go back to this morning, when things were nice and she was playing in his hair instead?

 

Megan scrutinized them, standing a considerable distance apart, the uncomfortable tension palpable in the thick air. “Why don’t we uh… go to the library.” She suggested carefully, purposefully not addressing the elephant in the hallway. 

 

Derek couldn't even look at Casey as they made their way to the library, keeping his eyes to the ground. Even the possibility of 'good’ news from Megan wasn't enough to cheer him up. One day, he and Casey would switch back to their original bodies - that was the goal, after all. When she got her body back, she would be fine (he could bomb all her exams and she would still get into University), but what would he be getting back? He may as well kiss hockey goodbye, and probably his future, his reputation, his best friend… He didn't even have much dignity now since he confided in Casey, stripped himself raw, offered her the support she was always trying to squeeze out of him only to have it backfire. That was what he got for letting himself get close to her apparently. 

 

Squirming and feeling like she would burst out of her skin, Casey followed Megan and Derek, lagging a little behind, to a secluded spot of the library. They sat, with Megan between them and avoided each other’s gaze. Casey sighed. “You said it’s good news, right?” She asked, really needing the smallest win right now.

 

“As good as it gets, I suppose, in this situation.” Megan said compassionately. “It seems like you two have been through a lot already…” 

 

Derek scoffed, shaking his head. Understatement.

 

Huddling in closer to the table, Megan spoke secretively. “Okay… I wasn't supposed to do this… but…” She reached down to rummage through her backpack, pulling out a heavy leather-bound book and placing it on the table as delicately as possible with its weight.

 

Casey observed the title-less cover, adorned with some faded circular symbols. The book was falling apart, obviously aged and handmade, but still held a certain charm, like the feeling of finding a dusty treasure chest in an old attic. Expecting to read, she pulled out her glasses and pushed them up her nose as Megan cracked the cover - it actually made a cracking sound, the binding straining to hold everything together.

 

Trying to get invested, Derek put aside his current outrage so that he could prioritize. The magic book with magic answers should be his focus right now, not Casey. He leaned in closer and coughed on the plume of dust that flew from the pages. 

 

Running her fingertips over the page, Megan smiled contentedly, as if absorbing something from the paper through her skin. “I had a surprisingly hard time finding anything.” She admitted, “Something like this is really rare. Mostly, we are still running on best guesses and assumptions. But I did find something.” Flipping a few pages ahead, she pointed to the large cursive lettering.

 

Spirit Embodiment.

 

As Megan spoke, she captivated their attention, and the rest of the world slipped away, “Spirit Embodiment is a natural phenomenon in which the essence of your soul - its past, present, and possible futures, manifests itself as something physical. Such as a birthmark, fingerprints, wrinkles, or lines on the palms. They speak the unique language of your spirit. That's why I can touch your palms and divine knowledge of your personality, and future. See here…” Megan read from the page, “For these embodiments are not mere illustrations of the soul, they are the soul itself, exposed and vulnerable like an open wound, bleeding into our plane of existence. As such, they can interact with and be influenced by the external environment, with the consequence of altering the soul over time as is natural for every living thing.” 

 

So when Megan was touching the lines of their palms, she was touching an embodiment of their soul? She touched their soul? That was crazy, Casey thought as Megan’s guiding voice padded along.

 

Derek followed along the best he could, even though this all sounded needlessly complicated. No wonder he was so uncomfortable whenever Megan touched his palm; she was touching his actual soul, looking at it under a microscope. He'd rather keep that to himself.

 

“Now this is interesting.” She said, flipping ahead. “There is a section which talks about Analogous Spirit Embodiment. It's common in twins. Their physical similarities correspond with certain similarities of the spirit. They often share a special bond. Some twins even have a degree of shared consciousness. And even twins separated at birth have a lot in common that can't be explained otherwise. More atypical is when unrelated individuals such as yourselves share identical physical manifestations, like having the same exact fingerprint, or in your case, heart lines. It says here that analogous manifestations are a single occurrence, though appearing separate to the eye in our physical dimension, they in fact occupy the same space as one solid entity.”

 

One… solid… what? Did that mean what he thought it meant? Derek looked up at Casey, who was lost in thought, staring at her palm. He swallowed thickly. He wasn't sure what it meant exactly, but the anxiety in his stomach stirred in response. They were polar opposites - to share something so rare as a fingerprint - it seemed too significant to be a coincidence. 

 

Casey looked down at her palm, the pad of her thumb tickling the heart line that matched Derek’s. Not only identical, but part of the same entity. That meant...

 

“Your souls are linked. Literally. A part of each of your soul is indistinguishable from one another - one in the same. That is, the portion of your soul that is represented by your heart lines. You're fated to influence each other's lives one way or another.”

 

Yup, that was what Casey thought.

 

Fated to influence each other's lives. That sounds about right, Derek thought pitifully. Ever since Casey stumbled into his life, everything was thrown into chaos, taking away his control. She always seemed to be there challenging him, making things difficult, like a constant fork in the road on his otherwise leisurely journey. He could admit it kept things interesting, and he often enjoyed the challenge, bringing new surprises at every turn. But at times like this, he couldn't help but resent her a little for knocking him out of orbit. It sounded like he would have to get used to it. Their souls were tethered somehow, destined to get on each other's nerves for eternity. 

 

“It goes on to say that such a singularity in space emits a lot of energy and can be unstable, making it especially vulnerable to disruption, on rare occasions, even triggering cosmic events and… transmogrification of both the metaphysical form of the connected souls and their corporeal counterparts.”

 

Vulnerable to disruption… Casey repeated in her head. Like Megan’s words of power activating the ‘gateway’ that triggered this cosmic event? Or had they caused the disruption of that soul bond themselves?

 

Meanwhile, in Derek’s mind: Trans-morga-whata? 

 

“When in its dormant state, those who possess analogous spirit embodiments will likely be unaware of its certain influence on their lives. However in those rare cases, when the stars align, the vulnerability can be exploited, pushed to its threshold to become activated and causing the souls to enter an unstable transitional state. When this happens, unexpected phenomena may occur.”

 

In other words, if they had left well enough alone, stopped arguing for one second, they wouldn’t have brought this on themselves, Casey groaned internally.

 

Straining to keep up with all the new information, Derek rubbed his forehead. Why couldn't Megan speak in plain english? This was more confusing than science class.

 

“The bond will long to enact its divine purpose of self-actualizing. Physical and emotional separation of the analogues will create tension in the chords that bind them as one, and the natural course of nature will be to find a stable configuration of contentment through fostering connection, strengthening the link through physical proximity and spiritual intimacy.”

 

Was it just Casey or did that sound like… they were screwed.

 

Intimacy. Anxiety vibrated through Derek's skin at the thought. The distance between him and Casey right now was tangible, strangling the air around them. Some tense thread in his heart tugged at Megan's words, whispering how good it would feel to give in, to let go of his anger and bounce back to Casey. But his pride held the thread in a vice grip, in a game of tug-of-war against some cruel fate. His life was his own, he wouldn't submit to the undertow without a fight. 

 

“After the transitional state has passed, and once a stable configuration has been achieved, the vulnerability will remain dormant forever, as the souls settle into an organized geography most harmonious with nature. The result is a formidable structure as the souls anchor one another, all but guaranteeing fulfillment as the stability provides protection from negative disruption and chaos, tackling life’s challenges more efficiently than a single soul ever could.”

 

It was pretty damn hard for Derek to believe this mess would lead to some kind of happily-ever-after bullshit for their souls. His soul was a punching bag at this point - the universe clearly had it out for them - and not in a good way.

 

As she slowly realized the severity of the situation, Casey chanced a glance at Derek and observed his features shadowed with anguish. She felt a surge of sadness, knowing that she’d caused this rift between them when they’d been doing so well until now. If she believed what Megan said, and she believed it so deeply, then she’d practically ruined their chance of getting back to normal by pushing him away.

 

Moreso, she might have ruined something much greater, the chance for this soul bond to achieve its full potential, to assuage that feeling in her gut she hadn’t been able to stifle - what she’d thought was a reaction to their condition but was actually the cause.

 

This was meant to happen, in a way, for they had denied and deviated from the natural order of things, and this was how it tried to right itself.

 

Casey couldn’t tear her eyes away from Derek now, as her heart soared, unable to deny the magnitude of this revelation. They were…

 

They were soulmates.

 

It ached how much she wanted it, and she’d all but pushed away her instincts to yield to it - out of bitterness, out of fear of getting hurt by wanting what she could never have, when it was really hers by laws of nature.

 

“What,” Casey said softly, clearing her throat, “what are we supposed to do now, to make it better?”

 

As much as Derek wasn't looking forward to going back to his own mess of a life (now that Casey had done such a number on it), speeding up the process could be helpful in getting him back in his body before she could do any more damage. “How do we get this whole thing over with?” He asked, rewording the question, avoiding Casey's intent stare in the corner of his eye.

 

Megan hummed thoughtfully, “Think of it like this,” She said, taking off the hair tie around her wrist and holding it up to demonstrate. She twisted it around the centre and pulled her hands apart, stretching the elastic taut. “The further the two sides are away from each other… the more tension there is.” She stretched the elastic to its limits, strumming the tight chords with her pinky finger. “This makes it harder for the system to right itself. To do that, the system has to relax.” She eased up the force pulling the band, bringing each side closer together, “The closer together, the more relaxed, the easier it will be to reorganize into a peaceful state.” She looked between them back and forth, “Does that make sense?”

 

“No.” Derek grumbled petulantly.

 

Closing her eyes against the indifference in his tone, Casey nodded her acknowledgement and scratched her temple nervously as she indicated for Megan to continue.

 

Megan addressed Derek directly, “If you want to get back to your own bodies as fast as possible…” She said, her tone demanding to be taken seriously. Derek sighed, dispelling some of his attitude before nodding slightly in submission. Megan continued to speak to both of them, “Spend time together. Bond. Try to find ways to relax and have fun if you can. I know that's hard when you're going through so much stress, but the closer you two are physically, emotionally, spiritually, the easier it will be. If you want this to be relatively fast and painless, you'll try. Otherwise you're just dragging things out.” 

 

Great. Derek groaned. He already tried that, and it didn't work out so well for him. If anything, he wanted to distance himself from Casey, so he would stop getting burned. The distance was unstable, sure, but it was safer that way. The thought of letting his soul get that close to anyone, exposed and vulnerable to attack, was not altogether inviting. Especially with someone like Casey, who was such a loose cannon in his life - an unpredictable wildcard that he sometimes played for the thrill of it, but ultimately kept in the deck.

 

For the purpose of getting back into his body, and putting this all behind him, Derek figured he could suck it up and spend some time with her. After all, they kind of had to spend a lot of time together anyway just dealing with everyday body swap issues. 

 

“Fine.” He sighed, “Is that all? Just a little bonding time?” His voice revealed his underlying sarcasm.

 

Casey sensed Derek’s unwillingness to cooperate and sighed. She couldn’t help a slight twinge of bitterness that he was making it all about him, when she was feeling hurt and confused too. None of what happened - what she’d said - had been about him, not really

 

Her eyes were open about Truman’s manipulations, and she wouldn't make the same mistake again. She knew what she had to do now, and there was a lot of work ahead to get Derek back on board. If not to fulfill the bond, then at least for the sake of ending this charade once and for all.

 

“It's as simple as that, yeah.” Megan shrugged, pressing her lips together, “But I suppose there are things I could do too, to help this along. With your cooperation, at least.”

 

“I’ll do anything,” Casey said tiredly. If she didn’t get what she really wanted in the end, then at least when it was all over she could start to mend her broken heart.

 

Derek rolled his eyes and nodded, showing he was reluctantly willing to do whatever it would take. 

 

“I could devise some words of power to help. You know… guide things along.” Megan explained proudly with a dramatic reaching hand gesture, “Think of me as your…” She contemplated for a moment, “Spirit guide!” 

 

What was this? Derek thought. Some kind of teen rom-com? Body swap, spirit guide… cue the cheesy dance number. 

 

“I want you guys to tell me everything about what you're experiencing. What does it feel like? What are the challenges you've faced? What have you learned? What effects has this had on your mind, emotions, and body…”

 

Remembering last night’s… experiment, Casey blushed. “Like everything everything?” she asked hesitantly.

 

“The more detail the better. Get as personal as you can. That way I can tailor the words to your unique experience. They'll be more effective that way. I hope you know you can open up to me. I mean, what you're going through is pretty crazy, I can't imagine what it would be like, so who am I to judge?”

 

Why couldn't he have a single ounce of privacy? Derek's inner world was usually a pretty tightly guarded place, and he liked it that way. Being forced to open up again and again and again was like letting a group of unruly toddlers roam free in there, trashing everything in sight. He could fill Megan in on some things, but she would have to work with what he gave her. At least he could control that much - what he chose to share and what he chose to keep locked up, deep in a box, never to be opened.

 

“If it makes a difference, I promise not to share what you tell me with each other, so you can still have some privacy.” Megan said, almost like she could read Derek’s mind. “You can write it down, text, call, or email me, meet up with me - whatever you want, so long as it gets to me. And if any challenges come up, consider me a part of the team!”

 

Sighing, Derek nodded, actually quite grateful. It was comforting to know Megan was on their side, since it was only the three of them who knew anything about it. Confiding in Casey was a no-go, and it wasn't like he could confide in his good buddy Sam…

 

Having a confidant would be nice actually. And he liked Megan before this whole mystic stuff freaked him out. She was the cool goth chick, and now that he was getting used to this magical crap, she was the cool witch chick. 

 

“Okay,” Casey reluctantly agreed, crossing her arms over her chest protectively. If this was what needed to be done, then she would do it, no matter how embarrassed she was.

 

Megan gingerly closed the large book and slipped it into her backpack, “I'll keep doing my research and let you guys know if anything useful pops up. We'll do regular palm readings as well, so I can keep track of your progress.” 

 

 


 

 

With something of a renewed spirit, because Casey didn’t allow herself to wallow for too long before getting back into solution mode, she entered social studies class, determined to start making right on her train-wreck series of wrongs.

 

She spotted Sam at the back and smiled sadly, taking a deep breath.

 

Here goes nothing.

 

If she at least wanted her body and her life back, she needed to fix this.

 

“Hey,” she lightly punched Sam’s shoulder as she took the empty seat next to him.

 

Sam eyed her warily before turning his attention to his unopened books “Hey.” His tone was soft but there was an undeniable anger and hesitation lurking in it.

 

“Listen, I-“ Casey started, staring at her own books, “I shouldn’t have said what I said.” Gathering her courage, she looked up at him, trying to make visual contact as she continued with sincerity. “You know I didn’t mean any of it.”

 

Chewing the inside of his cheek, Sam contemplated his next words carefully. “Then why’d you say it.” He asked, eyes glued forward, “And don’t say momentary lapse in sanity.”

 

“No,” Casey frowned, a bit confused. “No, I was…” she thought of Derek’s face when she’d rejected his earnest confession in the closet. “I don’t know why I said it. I was just so… angry.” Derek’s words echoed in her head, if I saw anyone doing something like that to you? “At Casey. Because she blew me off when I tried to say something.”

 

Sam's eyes fell back to his books, his stubborn mask breaking a little, “What do you mean?”

 

“I tried, Sam,” Casey said, leaning back in her chair with her arms crossed. Of course Derek tried. It was really sweet annoying, but she wouldn’t be surprised if Truman was right all along about Derek interrupting them on purpose; because he knew she was distressed. “I tried to stand up for her, but she wanted me to butt out,” she sighed. “Said I wasn’t some knight in shining armour,” she scoffed sadly. “What I said… that’s what she thinks of me.” Or what Derek thought she thought of him. She bit her lip against the renewed guilt burning in her guts, knowing that she’d hurt Derek deeply. It still wasn’t about him, but she couldn’t let him entertain the thought that she might have such an opinion of him. She didn’t like admitting it, but Derek was a good guy, and he was there when she needed him.

 

Eyebrows furrowing, Sam finally looked over at her. “Oh…” He said sadly. “I guess that… explains things.” He looked at her seriously, “You still shouldn't have said it at all but…” He gave her a mopey smile, “I'm glad to know I wasn't wrong about you, man.”

 

She met his eyes with a grateful smile. “I know I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry.”

 

Leaning into the aisle between their desks, Sam spoke quietly, “Casey might not see it, but I know you wouldn't let anything bad happen to her. That's partly why I was so surprised.” He frowned, “You know, personally, I think she's gotta know you're not that kind of guy. I mean, it's not the first time you've stood up for her or protected her, right?”

 

It was hard to hold back tears, but she kept them at bay, unwilling to undo her progress so early in the game. What she didn’t fight against was a grin, because if she knew anything now, was that she did have a knight, she just never noticed him because he didn’t wear the telltale shining armour. “Maybe you’re right,” Casey said, adding a dash of humility, “if she doesn’t… maybe I oughta let her know.”

 

“I couldn't agree more.” Sam said earnestly, “So what are we going to do about Truman?” The spark of heroism in his eye was accompanied by a mischievous, infectious smirk.

 

“Oh, I think I have an idea,” she said smugly as the bell rang, indicating the start of the class. Before turning towards the front, she extended her hand to Sam for a handshake. “We good, bro?”

 

“Yeah, man.” Sam replied, slapping her hand twice, while patting his own chest in rhythm. Was this some sort of weird secret handshake? Sam raised an eyebrow, giving her a funny look.

 

Casey shrugged, avoiding Sam’s questioning look by turning her attention to the teacher addressing the class.

 

 


 

 

Reeling from her first win of the day, Casey smiled at herself in the mirror on Derek’s locker door. She reached for her binder for last period and quickly caught the reflection of her next target walking right by. Putting the binder back on the shelf, he turned to Sam next to her.

 

“I have someone to see…” Casey said, aiming her thumb in the direction Truman disappeared down the hallway.

 

Sam grinned in response, pointing down the hallway with a nod of his head, and followed behind as she stalked away with purpose. 

 

“Hey, Truman,” Casey said easily when she reached him at his locker. She affected Derek’s carelessness with a large grin and leaned against the neighbouring locker. “What’s up, buddy?”

 

Taken off guard, Truman looked between the eerily cheerful and vaguely threatening buddies confronting him, with a look of bewilderment. “Uh, not much...” He studied Derek's face with suspicion. A defensive smirk played on his lips, “Pal.”

 

“I thought we could have a chat,” Casey said. “You know, I had a great time Saturday.” She crossed her arms over her chest, tilting her head in consideration. “Casey, though, not so much.”

 

“Casey and I are fine.” Truman huffed smugly in annoyance, closing his locker, “But your level of concern for our relationship is very touching.” His mock gratitude carried a heavy demand to drop the subject. Like hell, she would.

 

“Yeah, here’s the thing,” Casey tisked, smiling sadly at Truman in pseudo sympathy. “I know you think everything’s fine, but… Casey doesn’t seem to think so. Actually, she seemed quite uncomfortable being alone with you, got any idea why that might be?”

 

Laughing shortly, Truman rolled his eyes with a nonchalant shake of his head. “I don’t know what you're trying to get at here.” He said with suave innocence as he backed further into the hallway, “But you have no idea what you're talking about.”

 

If she didn’t know any better, Casey might have been convinced by his act. He seemed so sure of himself, taking the high ground like he was beyond reproach, like he couldn’t possibly have done something wrong. Thankfully, she did know better.

 

“Don’t I?” She asked skeptically. “Because I remember seeing you try to grope her at the theatre and then Casey leaving in quite a hurry. She was pretty upset.”

 

Eyebrows shooting up, Truman startled, “Grope?!” His eyes darted between his interrogators, holding his hands up in innocence, “Guys you have the wrong idea!” He chuckled nervously. He took a calculated breath and placed his hand on his heart, “I would never do anything to hurt Casey, I lo- really care about her.” His tone was thick with authenticity - almost over-selling it, “She was just… scared by the movie, that's all! Really.” He bowed his head slightly as he spoke, holding his hand out protectively, urging them to believe him. 

 

Narrowing her eyes, Casey saw right through him for the first time. He would always act this way, charming and innocent, and she used to fall for it. If he expected her to believe Derek was uncomfortable because he was scared of the horror movie, he had another thing coming.

 

“You care? Is that what you call it?” She said, taking a deliberate step into his private space, relishing in the way he backed away from her. It was a powerful feeling, to be in such control of herself, and her own thoughts. When she described what Derek went through, she remembered how many of her nights had ended the exact same way. “You call that caring when she gets home from a date with you crying, feeling invaded and used because she thought the only way to keep you around was to give you what you wanted?”

 

“Whoa!” Truman said, anger seeping in as he looked Casey's intimidating stance up and down, “This is the first I'm hearing of any crying! She was fine when I dropped her off!”

 

“Sure,” Casey said as she kept advancing on him. It might be tricky to break him about the way he treated her, but he couldn’t lie about what he did to Derek. There was no blurred line or confusion there. “If by fine you mean stiff, unresponsive and trying to back away when you’re kissing her. Or didn’t you notice?” She heard the slight waver in her own voice as she got closer and louder. “Because if you really cared, you would have noticed!”

 

Offended, Truman met the challenge head on, “You weren't even there! She kissed me!“ He argued, “And I didn't hear a peep out of her about not liking it. So maybe you should back off, because our relationship is none of your business.” He backed away slightly and shrugged into the air as if this whole thing was beneath him, “You know, I'm starting to think you have ulterior motives here, Derek.” He sang mockingly, almost as if he was taunting her amongst the small crowd that gathered to watch the scene.

 

“You know, maybe I do,” Casey seethed, forgetting about their audience as she got back in his face and grabbed his collar instinctively, grateful for Derek’s extra strength and stature. It seemed civil conversation wouldn’t do with Truman. He didn’t hear a peep out of Derek when he kissed him? That would have been because he didn’t leave him any space to speak with his tongue down Derek’s throat! She practically growled. “Maybe I’ll make sure you never get anywhere near her again.” Not Derek. Nor Casey herself. They were done.

 

Overly casual and amused, Truman smirked back, eyeing the crowd, seemingly confident he could come out of this one unscathed, “And that's different from usual how? You can drop the concerned step-brother act.” He spoke louder, addressing the group, slightly strained from the tight grip near his throat, “We all know what your ulterior motives are with Casey, you make it so obvious. We know I'm not actually the problem here.”

 

It was like Casey didn’t have control over her fist when it went flying in the air, directed towards Truman’s face. She hit him right in the nose, sending him stumbling backwards. 

 

That felt… really good

 

“You can blame me all you want for your shortcomings as a boyfriend,” she called out louder, embracing her performance. “But we all know why she won’t touch you. She has standards, and something called self-respect,” she leisurely made her way back to him, leaning towards his pained face as she whispered, “and maybe she would be better off with someone like me, than scum like you.”

 

Disgusted and furious, Truman shoved her off of him roughly. She stumbled back from the force before running into Sam who steadied her. 

 

Sam spoke warningly in her ear, “D. Man, we should -”

 

“Get to class! All of you!” Mrs. Hammer appeared, shooing the crowd away. “Not you three.” She pointed sternly at them. “Principal’s office. Now.”

 

Casey grinned smugly at Truman as they made their way to the office, feeling somewhat thrilled at the prospect of sitting in Derek’s dedicated chair.

 

 


 

 

After lunch, Derek went through the motions of a normal, crappy, uneventful school day. He paid even less attention in class than usual, and avoided all conversation. 

 

The afternoon passed by in a blur and when the last bell rang, he made his way numbly to Casey's locker. He didn't have the energy to try and teach Casey hockey but he knew he had to; his future depended on it. And of course, they needed their bonding time - ugh. So he decided to wait there for her. She could be the one to put in the effort to find him. 

 

Leaning against the row of lockers, he looked up to see Emily approaching him.

 

“Casey!” She called, like she had something really important to say, “Oh my god! Did you hear?!”

 

“What is it, Emily?” He sighed. Knowing her, this could either be huge news, or something completely irrelevant. It was probably going to be bad, because he really couldn’t catch a break. What did Casey do now?

 

“You didn’t?!” Emily said, aghast, her eyes growing almost comically wide. “Derek and Sam got into a fight with Truman!”

 

“WHAT?!” Derek screeched in alarm, sounding more like Casey than ever before. He wasn't sure what he expected but it certainly wasn't that! Casey was usually such a pacifist. Twice in one day? Did this mean she patched things up with Sam? What… did this mean exactly? “Tell me everything you know.” He said, eyeing Emily seriously. This could turn out to be the best news of all time, or it could be just another disaster to add to the list. 

 

“Derek and Sam cornered him at his locker after fifth period,” Emily filled in energetically. “Apparently Derek was totally on Truman’s case about your date on Saturday. He punched him, and they were all sent to the Principal's office.” 

 

Jaw dropped, a small laugh of disbelief coughed out from his throat. Aside from the comforting fact Sam seemed to be on his side again… the thought of Casey punching Truman in the face was too good to be true. Despite knowing he was supposed to be reacting as Casey right now, he couldn't help but grin. “Holy shit!” A laugh escaped him. He felt nothing short of victory as he pushed himself away from the lockers, pacing a bit in excitement as he pictured the moment in all its face-crunching glory. He banged a fist on a nearby locker jovially, “Ugh! I can't believe I missed it!” He seriously couldn't contain his enthusiasm, even if it was blowing his cover.

 

Emily laughed, bouncing on her feet excitedly. “Does that mean you’re finally dumping Truman?”

 

“Ohhh-ho-ho!" Derek laughed triumphantly, revelling in the moment with Emily, “If I never have to see his smug face again, it will still be too many times.”

 

“How about one last time,” Emily said, grinning evilly. “Right now.”

 

Derek grinned mischievously. Oh he couldn't wait. This was going to make up for the entire shitty day. He set off on his mission, arm in arm with Emily.

 

Coming face to face with them, Casey stopped in her tracks. She shoved her hands into her pockets, observing the huge smile on Derek’s face. She hoped he wouldn’t be too angry that she got him in a bit of trouble with the Principal. “Hey,” she smiled shyly, “we, uh, going to the rink?”

 

“Ah, Derek!” Derek announced, amused, briefly forgetting he was ever mad at her, “I'm actually in the middle of something right now.” He stroked his chin, and pointed at her, “Hey, didn't you, uh…” He smirked playfully, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully, “Get into a fight with my boyfriend earlier?”

 

Emily’s eyes ping-ponged between the two of them, biting her lip slightly to hold back her smile.

 

Invigorated by his mirth, Casey returned his smirk and lifted an amused eyebrow. “You know you’re better off without Trashface anyway.”

 

Trashface. Why didn't he think of that one? It was gold. “Well,” He considered, “About that fight…” He eyed her challengingly, “You wanna watch me finish it?”

 

Casey shrugged, affecting indifference. “Sure,” she said, unable to hold her grin back for more than a second. “After you, Princess.”

 

Derek nodded, pleased, and they all made their way to Truman's locker. 

 

When Derek spotted Truman slinging his backpack over his shoulder, a red bruise already forming over his cheek, he rushed to his side, as if filled with concern - Casey lagging a safe distance behind, “Truman!” He called, hiding his smile as best as he could while looking at the injury. He stroked his back worryingly, “Did Derek do this to you?!” 

 

Wincing, Truman milked his injury, “Yeah.” He whined, “The dude just went crazy.” He leaned into the comforting touch greedily, “Don’t you see? He clearly has something out for me - for us.” 

 

Shaking his head scoldingly, Derek slipped into a coddling tone of voice, “Oh, you poor thing! That's it!” He proclaimed, whipping his head around to look at Casey standing there, probably appearing to Truman like a threatening rival. “I'm never talking to Derek again!” He said with purposefully unconvincing enthusiasm, casting her an impish grin before returning his consoling expression back to Truman, “If that's what it takes to fix this.”

 

Casey snickered at his theatrics, crossing her arms while pretending to be unimpressed by his scornful display.

 

“Really?” Truman asked hopefully, softly looking down at him.

 

Straightening his posture, Derek scoffed humorously, “No!” He took a step back to take in the beauty of Truman's confused, damaged face.

 

“Wh-" 

 

Derek's not the problem here Truman, you are. ” He accused, allowing some of his true anger to slip into his joy at this momentous occasion. “You're nothing but a creep. Derek is ten times the man you'll ever be.” He said smugly as he watched the creep’s face sneer hideously. 

 

“So - you're…” Truman sputtered in disgust, backing away frustratedly, “You're dumping me? For him?!” He gestured wildly to the competition in question, standing a few yards away - arms crossed and a smile tugging at her mouth. 

 

“No.” Derek dismissed, though his heart leapt a bit at the suggestion. “Once again, you blame everything on Derek. I'm not dumping you for him.” He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled with as much sass as he could, channeling Casey wholeheartedly, “I'm dumping you, period.” 

 

Colour drained from Truman's face, except for the purpling bruise on his cheekbone, “You-” He stuttered, “Please Casey.” He said suddenly distraught, taking his hands as if he was deeply hurt and not wanting to lose her, “We can make this work, we can - ” 

 

Derek ripped his hands out from Truman's grasp, “Forget it, Truman!” He backed away towards Casey and Emily who both had their arms crossed like a supportive posse. “It's over.” He continued to back up past the girls, and they turned to follow him. 

 

He turned to leave but then spun on his heel one last time to leave Truman with some parting words, “I know you're not so great at hearing the word no, but I've made up my mind, so don't bother trying to change it.” 

 

“That was awesome!” Emily cheered as they walked away together. She looked up at Casey, “Right, Derek?”

 

“Eh, not bad,” Casey shrugged, “thought he would have some limbs missing by the end of it, but… good enough, I guess.”

 

Derek chuckled goodnaturedly, “Unlike some people, I don't resort to violence.” He smirked, bumping into Casey as they walked side by side.

 

 


 

 

Derek was able to find a pair of skates in the locker room to fit Casey's tiny feet. Casey wore his, which were well worn-in and reflexive to his movements. The new skates felt weird as he glided around the rink, calling out to Casey as he ran her through a few simple drills. 

 

Her footwork was fantastic and she navigated the pucks he placed on the ice like a pro - she was a total natural. He barely had to teach her anything, so far as the movement itself was concerned. She wasn't as good as he was, but Coach would probably put her on the team if she were to try out. 

 

Strategy and knowledge of the game were a whole other issue, but things were looking great so far. He could always teach her the game by watching it with her and pointing out all the best maneuvers. 

 

“Alright!” He clapped, ushering her in, “Water break, you've earned it!”

 

Honestly, to Casey, it felt like she barely had to put in an effort. The second her skates hit the ice, her body moved on its own, like Derek’s muscles had built-in memory. She struggled a bit with remembering the rules - which she took personally because she loved rules! She should be good at this! But it only motivated her to work harder.

 

Even though it turned out to be easier than she thought it would be, she still basked in his impressed and appreciative expression.

 

Gliding towards Derek with grace, she circled around him. “Told you I could pull it off,” Casey grinned proudly.

 

“I gotta admit.” He said humbly, watching curiously as she circled him. “You're a natural. It's like I was watching myself out there.” He cocked his head and smirked, “Well, me on an off day but that's still pretty damn impressive.”

 

“I thought it was a pretty okay day,” she said, lingering behind him on his right.

 

Looking over his shoulder at her, he crossed his arms, his teasing smile hurting his face with its persistence, “Hmm, well, don’t get too cocky.”

 

“I can’t help it,” she taunted, swerving to his left and knocking his shoulder when she passed him. “It’s like it has a mind of its own,” she raised her eyebrow in challenge as she faced him.

 

“Heh!” He couldn't help it, rolling his eyes at her, “I remember it fondly.” He wasn't supposed to be having such a good time with her. Well, according to Megan he was. But according to his pride, no. Even though punching Truman in the face all but made up for the shitstorm that came before it, there was still a part of him that wanted to stay mad at her.

 

“Hm,” she scrunched up her face, “not too fondly I hope.”

 

There were times Derek forgot that Casey had his dick, but then he’d get reminded and his thoughts would wander to what she might be doing with it. And as inappropriate as he knew it was to talk with her about it, he was too fascinated by the whole arrangement. It brought a whole new meaning to getting under each other's skin. He met her gaze teasingly, “I guess I've been able to make do with what I've got.”

 

Casey bit her lip to keep from smiling. As much as she’d been embarrassed to find out what he’d been up to at night, a part of her was flattered that he enjoyed her body this way. It was also more intriguing now that she knew about the root of her attraction, to push and find out how much he felt back.

 

Because he had to feel something. She doubted he’d come to the same conclusion she did when they spoke with Megan at lunch, but if it really was that meaningful, she couldn’t be the only one to feel it.

 

“You’ve made do a lot,” she said, sliding forward slowly to meet him. “You make do loudly too.”

 

Unprepared for such a brazen comment, Derek's eyebrows shot up. He bit his embarrassed smile back as he turned his head away slightly from her probing gaze. So that's how girls felt when he looked at them like that. It was so… deliberate. He felt Casey's famous blush fill his cheeks. He used to love having this kind of effect on her, and based on how he felt himself reacting in her body, she loved it too. 

 

“What can I say,” He said casually, “I've been practicing.”

 

“I thought I was the one who needed practice,” Casey said.

 

“Ohh…” He teased, circling her on the ice as she pivoted to keep him in her sights, “You can never have enough practice!” He came to a stop, skates scraping as he tilted his head up to her daringly, “How much time have you logged?”

 

She almost fell over herself at how suddenly she stopped, but regained balance quickly enough to avoid embarrassing herself. It wasn’t like there was anything to be embarrassed about, considering he was doing it with little to no shame. She still couldn’t hold his gaze though, blushing as she looked down. “Barely,” she muttered, pretending to be fascinated by her skate.

 

He hummed appreciatively, and a little smugly, as if he won the competition of who could practice the most

 

Watching her get flustered, even in his body, was still the goal, as it always was. “Well…” He crooned, grinning at her intently, “Take your time.”

 

It seemed that time was all they had. Casey figured she would be using it well by practicing eventually. Maybe. Okay, maybe not. Ugh

 

But other than the prospect of practicing in his body, when she looked at him again and met his smile, she remembered all the other ways she needed to make good use of her time.

 

“I’m sorry!” Casey burst suddenly.

 

“W-” Derek sputtered at the unexpected change in topic, wading through the steam of their last conversation back to simple reality, “Huh?”

 

“About those stupid things I said, and… implied about you,” she swallowed thickly, taking off her helmet to meet his eyes. “That’s not what I think of you, it’s - it’s the opposite even.”

 

It felt like a literal tug on his heart, the stubborn grip on his hidden anger faltering. He had all but forgotten about their fight, lost in the playful moment. 

 

He realized just how much he needed to hear her say it. Even though she made up for the damage she caused to his reputation and relationship with Sam, the underlying hurt was that she could think those things about him in the first place. Her perceptions and portrayals of him were so much more important to him than he realized, and he felt a jolt of fear thinking about how much control she had over his emotions. 

 

He had to distance himself physically a couple lengths. The possible meaning behind ‘the opposite’ stirred a tentative fire in his gut. 

 

Part of him wanted to run away, or skate away, from the impulse to say what he was about to admit but it fell from his lips as if pulled by a magnet, “Case, you know I would never - ” The words were already tumbling out, so he continued bashfully, avoiding her gaze as he fidgeted on the ice “Let… anybody hurt you.” 

 

“I know,” she said. 

 

"Then…" Derek furrowed his brow, thinking back on all the crazy things that had come out of her mouth recently. If she knew he would never act like that, then why was she acting like that? "Why say any of it at all? Is that really what you believe?" He eyed her closely, wanting some kind of insight into her thought process, "You know… That you owed him something?" If she really did believe that…

 

He watched as her eyes fell to the ice briefly. 

 

If she really did believe that, then it was nothing short of heartbreaking. Just a cosmic injustice that Truman of all people could have that power over Casey. Casey, who was frustratingly stubborn to a fault and never let anyone push her around. It didn't sit right.

 

Her gaze met his again, and he looked so open, so sincere, it made her wonder if maybe he truly understood now. “Not anymore,” she said gently, letting a soft, but sad smile peek at the corner of her mouth.

 

"But, you did." He said with quiet disbelief, as if asking for clarification. When she announced to the world that Truman was entitled to touch her, she wasn't speaking as him, out of some misguided idea he would ever say something like that; she was speaking as herself. It made so much more sense when he looked at it like that, but it also made no sense at all. How could Casey, in all her RAH RAH girl power glory, ever jump to those insane conclusions? "I…don't get it." He sighed, like he still wasn't buying it, "Why would you even think that?"

 

“I don’t know,” she chuckled bitterly, while trying to piece it together in her mind. Of course it didn’t make sense, now that she looked at it objectively. But in the moment, under Truman’s disappointed expression, it had truly felt that way. “I just... “ she looked down again, unable to stand the pure confusion on Derek’s face anymore. So he didn’t understand after all. “I felt terrible for getting his hopes up. It seemed like… he didn’t like me as much when I said no. I wanted him to like me.”

 

Derek pressed his lips together in silent anger. The stupid ass should have just… fucking liked her, as is. It wasn't that hard. Okay sure, she could be annoying, irritating beyond belief. But still

 

He could hardly look at her - his urge to comfort her was way too strong for… comfort. When it came down to it, Casey was just an innocent, a newbie when it came to love and sex and all that relationship stuff, and Truman completely took advantage of that. 

 

When Derek saw her now, so hurt, he just wanted to take her under his wing and protect her - an instinct that was equally frightening and absolute.

 

"Casey…" He trailed off, unsure of what to say, adjusting his stance on the ice, realizing they were still in skates while having such a serious conversation. "You really don't have to…" The words struggled to come out. Why was he so useless at saying these sorts of things? He was great at comebacks, one liners and clever lies, but the minute things got real he was like a fish out of water. "... for someone to like you."

 

I like you… Whoa, where did that thought come from? Derek promptly shoved it under the rug in his mind, alongside the other shameful things, like embarrassing childhood memories, and his lack of hatred for Taylor Swift. Whatever he hid down there was meant to stay hidden, so he could maintain at least some of his sanity.

 

“I know,” Casey said again, with more conviction. She’d always known that she had value beyond what she could give to a guy, yet she still got caught up in Truman’s guilt trip. Looking back on the way he treated her, what he expected her to give even when she couldn’t, she realized that he never truly liked her for who she was. He only saw what he could get from her. Funny thing, when she thought about it, Derek never expected anything from her. “Thank you... for helping me realize that.”

 

"Yeah…" He responded hoarsely, and cleared his throat. Normally he would just accept praise but all he could feel was a twinge of guilt, like he was somehow responsible for the hurt she went through. He knew for a long time that her relationship with Truman was in a bad place but he just ignored it. If things were that bad, he should have noticed sooner. The bruise on Truman's face was weeks too late. 

 

Maybe he would just sit there and do nothing - after all, he did. But if he had any clue what was really happening behind the scenes, he would have… he would have done something. "I'm... sorry for…" He groaned and trailed off. What, for not protecting her like he should have? He couldn't apologize for that even if it was true, because what exactly was he protecting her as? Her loyal step brother? Ugh. "For… getting so pissed off I guess. I didn't know that you… I didn't get it."

 

Casey wanted to skate over to Derek and kiss the sadness off his face. She wanted to pull him in close, wrap him in her arms and never let go. She wanted to embrace those desires building inside of her, yield to the unrelenting gravity pulling them closer, even get lost in it.

 

“It’s okay,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I did kind of make a mess out there.”

 

Breathing a small sigh of relief as the tension in the conversation relaxed, Derek rolled his eyes back at her, "You know, I'm not always gonna be around to save you from creepy dudes or public humiliation."

 

“Well, I never asked you to be the knight in shining armour, did I?” She joked with a teasing smile. “Maybe you’re more like a knight in... ripped jeans and a leather jacket?” 

 

He let out a soft laugh. He could get used to that description. Even if it was a little cheesy. “Yeah,” He rolled his eyes humorously, “That's me alright.”

 

Casey’s heart swelled, and even though she heard the humour in his voice, she still wished she could convince him of how much she meant it. She allowed her skates to bring her closer to him and reached out for his hands before she could stop herself.

 

Sometimes she forgot that he was in her body. It was surprisingly easy to forget, considering looking at him gave her an odd feeling as if looking in the mirror most of the time, but sometimes, she looked at him and she could only see Derek. In those times, it was like everything else around her disappeared.

 

She pulled him along with her as she skated backwards, circling inside the rink. “What’s a princess without a knight?” she smiled.

 

It felt oddly girly to be led around like this. Casey's strength and smooth footwork pulled him easily. He was playing the part of the bright eyed girl, while she played his usual role of suave hockey god. As girly as it was, it was also kind of nice, relinquishing control for a second to let her take the reins. “I don’t know. I think the princess can stand up for herself pretty well. The bruise on Truman's face would agree.” He laughed jovially as he let himself be drawn in by her movements, giving up complete control.

 

Laughing, she brought his arm over his head to twirl him around, like they were dancing. “Nobody treats me - or you that way,” she said purposely smug, then winked.

 

“Wouldn't that make you my knight in… whatever?” He chuckled, impressed by her confident maneuvers on the ice, like they were flowing together naturally - he couldn't skate like this with anyone else.

 

“Well, I’m wearing the boy parts,” she teased, stopping short and catching his waist when he collided into her chest. “Kinda have to make do with what I’ve got.”

 

Now, this felt super girly - his small frame pressed up against his own masculine chest. But confusingly, it made him feel flustered… and a little turned on. She was really getting the hang of being in his body. It was like they were teasingly playing out each other's roles. She knew him well enough to know how he flirted, and now she was using his own moves against him. 

 

He had to be careful. It felt too good to let go, and he kept finding himself neck deep in flirty banter. He still had a girlfriend to worry about. 

 

Even so, it was like he couldn't control his own actions, and arched against her touch on his lower back in order to tease her, “Well, when you finally do… make do, I think you'll be pretty satisfied.”

 

Looking away shortly and feeling her cheeks warm up against the cold air of the rink, Casey chuckled breathily. It was like he just loved to get her flustered. “I don’t doubt that,” she conceded, then looked back at him seriously, tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear. “But for now I just wanna focus on making things up to you, okay?” She let her hand wander to the back of his head, fingers digging into the hair tightly held there and loosening his ponytail as they dragged along his scalp. She needed his forgiveness like she needed his closeness, like she needed air.

 

Looking up into his own tender face, with his own fingers brushing over his skin, Derek felt all kinds of sexually confused. He had always been able to appreciate his own appearance, but he always viewed his sex-appeal from the perspective of what he thought girls would like. But now, with this heavy dose of masculine charm being directed at him, he felt something exciting beyond just vanity. He was a bit alarmed that he found himself attracted to a guy, even if that guy was himself, or Casey, or both himself and Casey - this shit was confusing. 

 

All his confusion melted away though when Casey's fingers massaged small circles over his scalp, bringing back the bliss from that morning. The tight ponytail was torture, and his hair actually hurt as it was slowly released, the massage working wonders. Eyes rolling back, he let his head fall slightly so that Casey's strong fingers were supporting the base of his skull. 

 

The massage only lasted for a minute before Derek's conscious mind registered how intimate this was. If someone were to walk in on this, they would know something fishy was happening, and would probably apologize for the intrusion.

 

He had a girlfriend. He had a girlfriend. He had a girlfriend. He had a girlfriend.

 

Why was it so hard to pull away? It took all of his strength, like pushing a boulder up a hill for him to snap out of it.

 

“I forgot to ask!” He said suddenly, pulling away from the contact, as casually as possible, unable to prevent the nervous chuckle in his tone, “Did you get in a lot of shit for the Truman thing?” He smirked impishly to cut the new tension, “I hope Ol’ Lassypants didn't give you too hard a time.”

 

There had been such anticipation building up that Casey almost felt like she’d been dropped into a basin of freezing water when he pulled away. Even though she knew he couldn’t, and possibly wouldn’t, she still couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to kiss him. If that incredible pull she felt whenever she was around him was any indication, it would have to be amazing.

 

Biting her lip to hide her disappointment, Casey pushed away the image of Derek’s plump lips and forced a sheepish smile on her face. “Oh that,” she said a little shyly, shuffling awkwardly on her skates. She didn’t want him to get upset with her again. “He wants to meet with George tomorrow… to talk about… getting into fights.”

 

When he separated from Casey completely, Derek felt a chill. The rink was colder than usual, it seemed. “Seriously?” He groaned with dread. 

 

George and Nora would not be happy he was getting into fights at school. And they would think he was responsible, not Casey.

 

Then again, he would have punched Truman too, no question, so it didn't feel completely undeserved. 

 

He wouldn't want to be sitting in that hot seat though. “Shit.” He scratched the back of his neck, then pulled his ponytail loose completely. Shaking his long, long hair out, he looked at Casey worriedly, “You can’t possibly be looking forward to that.” 

 

“I’ll totally talk you out of trouble, okay?” Casey said quickly, distressed, and sighed dejectedly, looking down at the ice. “I’m sorry about that too.”

 

He frowned at her. Damn, he thought, she was really beating herself up. “Hey.” He chuckled, in an effort to comfort her, “Don’t ever apologize for punching Truman!” He over-annunciated playfully. His grin stretched across his face to liven her mood, “It miiiight be the best thing that's ever happened.” He skated up to her and gave her an encouraging smack on the shoulder, “I'm just lookin’ out for you rookie. While that ass might be used to being in the hot seat, you're still new to the throne.”

 

“Yeah,” Casey smiled sadly. It sounded reassuring, maybe he wasn’t so angry with her anymore. Encouraged by his lighthearted quip, she brought out one of Derek’s lopsided smiles. “The only time I ever get into trouble is because of you.”

 

In mock offence, he brought his hand up to his chest with a loud gasp. If she could use his own moves against him, then two could play at that game. 

 

He placed his index finger on her chest and anchored himself as he leisurely skated around her with feminine grace, “It's aaaaaaalways my fault isn't it.” He stopped, looking up at her deliberately, “Or maybe you're not as innocent as you pretend to be.”

 

She used to think she was pretty innocent - always doing the right thing and all of that. These days, though? Not so much. It was like being in Derek’s body had opened up that adventurous, slightly reckless side of her she used to keep bottled up. It felt really good, freeing, even more like herself. She was introducing brash, bold, rather seductive Casey to the world. And she couldn’t get enough of it.

 

Something like a giggle escaped her at how spot on Derek was about her, as always. Maybe she could embrace her less innocent side. It seemed to entice him as much as it did her - he couldn’t seem to keep away no matter how much he tried.

 

It felt nice to act this way, switching up the roles, it made her feel powerful and in control of herself. She couldn’t help but be attracted to the deep blush she caused on Derek’s cheeks. The way they kept coming back together and circling around each other, it felt oddly like a sort of mating ritual, dancing around that pull they were both trying to resist.

 

Sliding forward slightly to close the distance between them, she met his teasing look with a daring one of her own. “Maybe I don’t want to be so innocent anymore,” she suggested smoothly.

 

The pull Derek felt towards Casey reminded him of Megan's words. Their souls were linked, tied together, gravitating towards each other naturally beyond their control. He battled with himself internally as his gaze fell to her lips. The distance between them was closing in on itself like a vacuum and every fibre of his being urged him closer and closer. 

 

Words like Sally, and free-will, and step-sister knocked around in the back of his skull, a remnant of his conscious mind. He was holding back, almost shaking, dying to launch forward and capture his own lips righteously, like the laws of nature intended. 

 

But whatever he was feeling didn't belong to him. It was just the universe playing tricks on him, forcing his hand. He couldn't possibly want Casey. That was impossible. Even if there had always been a part of him that found her attractive, even if he knew what that familiar fear of getting close to her truly meant, even if he had always been aware of that line in the sand - he had never intended to cross it! That would be insane! This was insane! 

 

He struggled to gain control over his body and mind to stop himself before he made a huge mistake. He wasn't a cheater, he couldn't do this to Sally. Even though every beat of his heart hammered the same demand: Kiss her. Kiss her. Kiss her. 

 

There was only one option. Pull away. Pull away. Pull away

 

He couldn't. 

 

He never got the chance to find out if he had the strength and self control to put a stop to things, or if he was too weak and helpless to her magic, because the moment was interrupted. 

 

“Whoa.” A familiar voice echoed. The spell was broken as they looked up at the sudden intrusion. Sam stood by the gate to the ice, with skates on his feet and a stick in his hand, face painted with shock. “I - I was just…” 

 

Derek untangled himself from Casey putting some well-needed distance between them. Heart beating in his throat, he looked at the ice shamefully. What the hell was he thinking, letting things get that far?

 

“Sorry. I -” Sam struggled to form words, looking at them like he saw a ghost. He started backing away slowly, “Maybe I should…”

 

“Hey - Sammy, heh,” Casey stammered, doing her best not to look like a deer caught in the headlights. “I was just uh, teaching Casey some hockey moves,” gliding towards Sam, she continued, brushing past him. “We’re done though,” she patted his shoulder with an overconfident smile, “have fun!”

 

 


 

 

Well, day three had been… interesting? Derek was having a hard time wrapping his head around everything. He decided to email Megan. 

 

Initially, he wanted to avoid sharing too much, but he figured writing it all down could be useful just to keep track of it all. That list he’d written yesterday in Casey's diary helped him process the absurdity a little. Details could come later. 

 

For now, he transcribed the list into the email, and added all the new crazy shit. He even wrote the rest of the list in the journal for some reason. It was like some underlying part of Casey's personality couldn't leave it unfinished.

 

Crazy Shit Goin On (Part 2):

  • Cried in Nora’s arms because apparently I'm still traumatized by Truman's tongue
  • Family dinner might have involved an innocent game of footsie
  • Found out I have no future because I can't play in the biggest game of my life 
  • Gave myself a striptease in Casey's body which might have been was absolutely the the best idea I've ever had anyone's ever had
  • Strip tease was followed by multiple orgasms all night long (I mean holy fucking shit it was like a never-ending party, why doesn’t Casey do this all the time?? Or maybe she does wow idk I can't handle that train of thought)
  • I, Derek Venturi, grubbed for a grade
  • Meanwhile, Casey almost ruined my friendship with Sam, my reputation and my LIFE
  • Confronted her about it, ended up comforting HER somehow, and was basically told to fuck off and I swear it was like the universe punched me in the gut 
  • According to some creepy old book, our souls are handcuffed together or something and the magic solution to our problem is “bonding time" - eye roll -
  • CASEY PUNCHED TRUMAN IN THE FACE AHAHAHAHHAHAHA fantastic (wish I’d been there) (at least I got to break up with him)
  • Taught Casey hockey and totally acted like a chick while having some weird flirty “bonding time"
  • Not like I'm attracted to dudes or anything but apparently Casey's body is, because being attracted to myself that way was WEIRD
  • Sam walked in on us… totally about to kiss. (what is WRONG with me) (Still have a girlfriend, gotta remember that)
  • Fuck

 

That was too much crazy shit for a lifetime, but he knew it was far from over. 

 

The craziest part of all was the bizarre stuff going on internally. It was like he was hyper aware of Casey's presence at all times. Even now, he could feel her proximity through the wall. 

 

He should be thinking about Sally. But instead, Casey was on his mind 24/7. He was either pissed at her, or worried about her, or - 

 

Seriously, it was like he was losing his mind. 

 

They always had their flirty banter, but it was getting out of control. Control - he was losing control of himself. Even his thoughts and actions were being yanked in unwanted directions. 

 

He wanted Sally. He wanted to want Sally. He should want Sally! She was perfect for him, she loved him, she was more than he ever thought he deserved. Casey on the other hand, or the idea of being with Casey, instead of Sally, was just insanity balled up into the form of some monstrous siren, tempting him, beckoning him out to sea to his inevitable doom. 

 

He didn't want to want Casey. So why did he? 

 

Ugh

 

He didn't. 

 

It was just smoke and mirrors - some magic voodoo crap trying to push him down that path. He still had a choice in the matter and he was choosing Sally, because he wasn't a crazy person who let himself believe he was meant to be with his step-sister in some quest for happily-ever-after. Pretty sure the family wouldn't be too happy about it, after all. 

 

Screw the universe, he could do as he pleased. 

 

The universe, as always, had other plans. That was made painfully clear when he slammed into Casey in the hall on his way to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. 

 

 


 

 

Just as she had for most of that day, Casey felt guilty. Mostly about the fact that she couldn’t quite bring herself to feel bad about what almost happened.

 

She felt particularly selfish considering that she was single now, she was free to do whatever she wanted. But Derek wasn’t. And yet, she lay there in bed smiling from ear to ear like she just came back from the most perfect date.

 

That was really what it had felt like, a date, spending time with him at the rink and skating across the ice, almost tangled in each other’s arms. It had felt so natural, and so really good, like snapping all those pieces into place.

 

It was all she could think about. She thought she should be worried about Sam catching them, but she wasn’t. The only thing on her mind was the boy in her body next door and how much she wished she was in there with him.

 

Deciding that she needed a distraction, because continuing down that train of thought was just maddening, she made her way to her room to pick up his notes and homework from her classes, and maybe get just a little bonding time in the process.

 

She bumped into him as he came out the door, a whooshing sound escaping her when he elbowed her in the ribs. “Ow,” Casey whined, her hand coming up to hold her tender skin. “Did I really deserve that?” She chuckled.

 

Looking anywhere but at her, Derek deflected as he forced a laugh, “Hey, don’t blame me, blame these bony elbows!” 

 

“My elbows are not bony!” she gasped.

 

Fighting off the urge to playfully attack her with his bony elbows just to prove a point, Derek shuffled awkwardly, “Well, whatever,” He sighed dismissively, side stepping her. He didn't know how to talk with her without flirting.

 

Turning to watch him leave, she couldn’t help but frown at his somewhat morose state. “Is everything okay?” she called at his back.

 

He spun around to face her, crossing his arms defensively with a steeled expression, “Never better.” He said casually, “Why’d you ask?”

 

Casey didn’t understand why he was so grumpy all of a sudden, when they had been so close barely a couple of hours before. She didn’t like how much it affected her. “You’re just…” she said, crossing her arms, mirroring his stance, “Distant.”

 

That's what he was trying to be… distant. Because if he got too close he would flirt with her, and possibly kiss her, because he had no self control - like a puppet being controlled by a god with a weird sense of humour. He used to be so good at distancing himself from her it became second-nature. But now, the thought of saying something mean or sarcastic seemed impossible. Not with her looking at him like that.

 

To balance the scales, he should at least try to drive a wedge. 

 

You don't have to know my every thought. 

 

Aww, did you think we were friends now? 

 

Distant - what am I, your girlfriend or something? 

 

But all he could think of was how her face would fall, and how miserable it felt to fight with her.  

 

He sighed audibly, dropping his head in defeat. “I'm… ugh, sorry.” Apologies felt weird directed at Casey, even now, “There’s just so much shit going on, you know?” He shook his head, trying to keep things light, not wanting to risk a fight or a heart to heart, “Where were you off to anyway?”

 

Shifting uncomfortably, not sure what to make of his strange evasive attitude, she shrugged. There probably wasn’t much to gain by pushing the issue. “Just wanted to get my notes?” She said, pointing her thumb towards her room. “Did Mrs Hammer give us our tests back today?”

 

“Oh. Yeah. Um…” He quickly walked back to Casey's room as she followed behind. He rummaged through his backpack, pulling out the test, which was slightly crumpled. Handing it to her, he averted his eyes, unprepared for whatever possible reaction she might have to seeing the corrected marking and figuring out that he grubbed for her.

 

She took the paper gingerly, the alarming amount of red markings catching her attention. Her eyes darted between the crossed out 58, the circled 71, and Derek avoiding her eyes. Something stirred in her stomach. “I can never get above a 65 in that class,” she said, a little awe tinting her voice.

 

Caught grub-handed, Derek peeked up at Casey's expression, finding a comical look of wonder. It was ironic she was this happy about getting above 65 when he’d seen her have a mental breakdown before about getting under 85 (several times actually). He couldn't help but chuckle, “Well that's because you clearly killed Mrs. Hammer’s entire family with the way she grades you.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully, “Less like a teacher's pet, more like a teacher’s pest, eh?”

 

Looking over the corrected marks, she frowned. “What do you mean?”

 

“You haven't noticed how she finds the dumbest reasons to dock your marks? She doesn't do that on mine.” He scoffed, shaking his head with an amused grin, “You must have done something to reaaaally piss her off. What's this I hear about a… fruit basket?” He teased, bringing his smirk back into the game. He couldn't stop playing for even a minute, he was so weak.

 

“What?” Casey uttered, aghast. She’d noticed Mrs. Hammer didn’t seem to like her so much, but she didn’t think it would impact her grades. She was slightly embarrassed that Derek heard about the fruit basket incident. “Well… that wasn’t fruitful.” She grumbled.

 

Derek snorted at the lame dad joke, shaking with repressed laughter. Not the reaction he was expecting. “Fruitful?” He mocked, raising his eyebrows at her.

 

“It’s clever,” she retorted, then clutched her test to her chest defensively as it occurred to her, “how did you know, anyway?”

 

“Just... ” Derek rolled his eyes, shaking his head in defeat, a shy smile lingering from the hilarity of it all, “Call me Grubzilla.”

 

“Grubzilla?” Casey laughed incredulously. “You grubbed for this grade?”

 

Embarrassed, Derek shrugged dismissively, “What can I say? I'm a method actor.”

 

“That’s 13 points,” Casey insisted. “How did you do that?”

 

Well she wasn't teasing him about it. In fact, she seemed impressed. He could roll with that. He slipped into a self-satisfied smirk, suddenly cocky “Well, I can't share all my secrets, now can I?”

 

Astonished, she let her arms fall at her sides. He’d grubbed… for her? That was so sweet. “Thank you,” she said gratefully, leaning forward before she could realize what she was doing and wrapping him into her arms. He usually avoided her affection, but with his smaller frame now she engulfed him in a tight embrace before he could argue.

 

Hugging.

 

They were hugging.

 

Derek froze, his upper arms trapped at his sides. “Uh!” Didn't he used to have a rule about this? That rule seemed more relevant now than ever. He could still move his forearms so he brought one up awkwardly to return the embrace, “Yeah. Yeah. Don't…” Normally this would be the time to squirm and flail but all he could do was melt into it despite his better judgement, “...mention it…” His cheek rested on her chest, her soft heartbeat pulsing into his nerves.

 

Forgetting himself, he closed his eyes in surrender to the magnetism gluing them together.



Chapter Text

Day four. Had it only been four days? It felt like a thousand.

 

The first thing Casey did in the morning was write her letter to Megan; it felt much more therapeutic to put it down on paper. She would just give it to Megan during their palm reading session later.

 

Then, she took a shower. For some reason, she always woke up sweaty and gross. Maybe it was a guy thing.

 

As she stepped under the water, she looked down, greeting her persistently eager friend. It woke up with her, just like it did every morning. Except, this time, she couldn’t really blame it. She’d had some pretty steamy dreams. In her own body, she would have woken up rubbing her thighs together.

 

Lathering her body, she tried to ignore the nagging urge to touch it. It was just so there! And she remembered what it felt like the other night, when she barely squeezed it and almost came on the spot.

 

Seriously. It was annoying.

 

She moved on to washing her hair, closing her eyes while the hot water ran down her neck. There had been so much stress the last few days, especially yesterday, so it felt nice to just relax for a minute and ease off her muscles.

 

Derek’s muscles.

 

Derek’s strong shoulders. Derek’s arms. Derek’s abs. Derek’s pecks.

 

Her hand completely moved on its own. She didn’t mean to put it there - on his... dick. It was just calling out to her. Relentlessly. She wrapped her fingers around it with her eyes still shut tight. She couldn’t look at what she was doing.

 

What the hell was she doing?

 

“Ooh,” Casey gasped, as she tugged a little, letting her palm slide over the length towards the tip. Derek would get off on this if he found out, she just knew - not… getting off… in that way. She meant he would totally be smug about it. Although… something told her, maybe the other way too.

 

She wouldn’t be surprised, considering she could still hear him moaning, with her voice, whenever she closed her eyes, and whenever it echoed in her ears, she’d pop another boner as if it was springing awake at the single thought of sex. And that was her. She imagined Derek and his dirty mind were having a field day thinking about what she was doing in the shower.

 

As she pulled harder on her dick, squeezing the tip at the end, a groan escaped her. Hearing the sound in Derek’s voice was so erotic. Really, she could just take care of it and get it over with. It wasn’t so bad, after all, it actually felt really good. And it was just a penis, not a creature from the black lagoon. Cute penis, remember Casey?

 

She chanced a look down, watching her hand wrapped tightly around the shaft as the up and down movement sparked pleasure in her gut. It was so… hot.

 

“Oh my god,” Casey whined, going faster. She braced herself on the shower wall to keep from slipping, legs threatening to buckle at any time.

 

It wasn’t just that Derek didn’t mind her doing it, it was more that he seemed to want her to do it, like the idea turned him on, or something. Like maybe when he was touching himself, he was thinking about her doing just this.

 

“Shhhiit,” she swore, the word pulled out of her by the fast movements of her hand. It was like something was building up inside of her; her whole body tingling as all of her blood rushed in the direction of her groin.

 

When she closed her eyes, she pictured Derek doing this to himself; his features slack with bliss, with his lips slightly parted - perfectly kissable; his cute little nose turned up, and his cheeks blushing from the exertion. She wondered if he ever thought about her before, like she sometimes thought about him in those dark shameful nights.

 

Next thing she knew, her hips stuttered, and her eyes rolled back at the indescribable sensation. It was like something shooted out of her, pulled from deep within, the concentration of nerves underneath her hand pulsating. She gasped, opening her eyes wide just in time to watch herself ejaculate all over the wall. She had never seen anything like this before. It felt good, though.

 

“Woah-ho-hoooly shit,” Casey uttered, chuckling at herself. She was suddenly much lighter, like some weight was finally lifted, all the tension gone from her body.

 

That was nice.

 

While her breathing slowed down, she looked over the mess she made, white-ish liquid dripping down the wall, her face scrunching up in mild disgust. Now she needed to clean it up.

 

Finally stepping out of the shower, she dried her hair with the towel and wrapped it around her hips. She wiped the fog from the mirror to look at her reflection, finding Derek’s face looking just the way she’d imagined it.

 

She stared back at him, her heart beating a mile a second, and her eyes brimming with tears - happy ones. She couldn’t tell if it was the afterglow making her feel this way, but she couldn’t help it. She was looking at the love of her life.

 

How had she not seen it before?

 

The way they had been teasing each other since the week-end felt much more playful and flirtier than usual, but it wasn’t actually any different than before. She just never noticed, or allowed herself to notice, how her breath hitched when she was near him or the way his touch warmed her all over.

 

It didn’t matter which body he was in, because he still knew her like nobody else did; he still had the same effect on her. He knew exactly which buttons to push, how to get underneath her skin and make her mad (so mad!); and he knew just what to do to bring her back to earth when she couldn’t think straight, knew just what to say to make anything better, to make her smile.

 

Even before this, she leaned on him more than she wanted to admit, and when she really needed him, he came through - she didn’t even have to ask.

 

They had fought this attraction for two years, almost unknowingly, yet it came back at full force, thrusted onto them by nature’s will. And she realized - she didn’t want to fight it anymore. She wanted to yield to it, embrace it with all her heart, and find that peaceful, happy place that Megan spoke of.

 

Smiling at herself, Casey sniffed back tears and wiped her cheeks. From now on, she was determined to take care of him like he cared for her, and make every day a good day.

 

Leaning closer to the mirror, she observed the soft stubble on Derek’s chin and cheeks. He had such smooth clear skin, she never really realized that he needed to shave. It was still pretty light, but it was patchy and uneven - and itchy too. She should probably shave it before school, though the thought of taking a razor to his face was kind of disheartening. What if she disfigured him? She couldn’t have that. She liked his face - a fact that she would never tell to his face because he would hold it over her forever.

 

Biting her lip, she quickly put on her pants before popping her head out the door, scouring the corridor for anyone walking by. Satisfied that the path was clear, she made her way to Derek’s door. She was about to knock when she realized there was no way he was up already. So, she walked right in instead, and smirked at his sleeping form. He was basically drooling all over her pillow. That was so cute.

 

She leaned down, pressed her lips to his ear, and shouted. “DE-REK!”

 

“WAH-uh-wha-hah!” Derek startled awake, looking around in alarm to see Casey folded over herself, laughing hysterically. He groaned, falling back into the bed with a plop. “Funny.” He said in monotone, “I don’t remember ordering a heart attack for breakfast.”

 

“Hmmm, I guess not,” Casey conceded, still smiling smugly. Pouting comically, she tapped one finger on her chin. “What do you want for breakfast, sweetie?”

 

Throwing a pillow over his face, Derek yelled through his scratchy throat, “More sleep!” He took it away to look her over, “You're all… shirtless and wet.” It was a good look on her, he wanted to say, “You going to school like that? That'll win me some popularity points.”

 

Snorting at his conceited and typical comment, she crossed her arms, shaking her head. “I was getting ready for school, but I found a dead animal on your face. Thought you should help me out if you don’t want me to deface you.”

 

“Alright, alright!” He complained as he rolled out of bed, grunting like an old lady. He stretched his arms wide, “So needy.” He said through a yawn. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes he bumped into her naked torso with a smack as he walked past her to the bathroom.

 

Saddling next to him at the sink, she leaned against the counter, giving him a once over. “You know, you’ll need to shave soon too.”

 

He huffed sleepily. The sandpaper on his legs under the covers last night would agree, “I dunno,” He said thoughtfully, looking at himself in the mirror and grabbing his chin, turning back and forth, “I think you'd look pretty good with a beard.”

 

“Moron,” she scoffed, pushing at his shoulder jokingly. She liked this, she thought as she watched him take out his razor and cream. Light banter while they got ready in the morning. It was so domestic. “I’d say the same for you,” she said, passing her hand over her stubbled cheek, “but it would be a shame to hide this pretty face, don’t you think?”

 

Damn his blush. It showed up for the littlest things. She just had to flirt, didn't she? Just like he did. He didn't want to flirt with her, it just happened. It was the stupid universe. With how much he was flirting back (even unintentionally), he was giving her the wrong idea.

 

“First things first.” He said, redirecting. He placed the supplies on the counter and went to lock the door. “You know, our family might start to wonder why we spend so much time locked in the bathroom together. Especially since you've really learned to flaunt my assets so shamelessly.” He pointed at her bare chest with a raised eyebrow.

 

She looked down, crossing her arms. He did have assets. “We can always pretend the door was broken,” she said, looking back at him, then added with a shrug, “if they find us out.”

 

“Face it, Case,” he said casually, “We're asking for trouble. We have to keep up appearances.” His eyes flickered away from hers for a second as he almost lost his nerve, not wanting to disappoint her or break their newfound closeness. But he had to. “I know we kind of have to bond, but maybe we should keep certain things to a minimum. Like hanging out in the bathroom together, or even each other’s rooms too much, and… like...” he thought back to the night before, when he let himself fall into her embrace, staying there for a lot longer than reasonable to maintain innocence. “Hugging and stuff. We already scarred Sam for life, and I don't think he'll take quality soul bonding time as an explanation.”

 

Frowning, her crossed arms squeezing tightly around her sides, Casey wondered where that came from. He made it sound so casual, but he seemed to have forgotten that her face couldn’t lie. Not wanting to show him how his words affected her, she looked away and forced out a laugh. “You think we traumatized Sam with hugging?” she asked incredulously.

 

“Sam's a sensitive guy.” Derek said matter-of-factly, knowing it wasn't the hugging that shocked Sam, more like the fact that it was them, and that they were milliseconds away from kissing. He picked up the shaving cream. “Okay, this part is straightforward. Just... put it on the parts you want to shave. I know it says for men but I imagine it works the same way for women, so you should have this part figured out already.” He held it out for her. If he was serious about the ‘no bathroom hangouts’ thing, she needed to learn to do this herself.

 

“I do know how to shave,” Casey grumbled, snatching the can from him and spraying some in her hand, “I just don’t want to hurt your face - I’m not used to shaving that part of my body.” She spread the cream out over her cheeks dismissively, starting to feel irritated. “And what does Sam being sensitive have to do with anything?” she couldn’t help but snap, “it’s not like he walked in on anything happening, did he?”

 

No.” Derek argued calmly. “But he might be wondering why we looked so…” He trailed off, not willing to address it directly. “You know that saying about zebras and horses?” He asked suddenly, setting up his argument.

 

“Sure. ‘When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras’.” She frowned. “While I’m impressed that you even know that saying, I don’t see where you’re going with this.”

 

“Well, on top of being a sensitive guy, Sam is also reasonable. So when he walks in on something like that, he’s gonna assume horses. Not crazy body swap soul bonding zebras.” He crossed his arms as coolly as possible, feeling his heart ripping to shreds at his own words, “Wouldn't want to give anyone the wrong idea.”

 

“And what idea might that be?” she asked through gritted teeth. It sounded a lot like he was pulling away from her. To distract herself, she took the razor and started shaving - to hell with his face.

 

Hell hath no fury. Derek had to tread lightly, “I'm just sayin’...” He held his hands up innocently, “People are used to seeing us act a certain way with each other. We don't need to invite so many questions.” He winced as she went at his poor face recklessly, “And don’t press so hard. Let the razor do the work.”

 

She shot him a death glare in the mirror. “I’ve got this,” she said coolly, “You can go now. Wouldn’t wanna give someone the wrong idea.”

 

He narrowed his eyes, “You asked for my help, remember?” Part of him wanted to save face, and get back to their flirty banter. But what kind of guy would he be if he did that? Sally would be devastated. He would only be leading Casey on. And he would be willingly throwing himself at the mercy of some higher power, giving up his free-will and letting himself get swallowed whole by the vortex. “But whatever.” He turned to leave, unlocking the door and peering out into the hallway for safety. “Next time, don’t wake me up for nothing.” He said before leaving her alone with whatever murder fantasy she was surely concocting.

 

Hell hath no fury, Derek thought as he locked himself in his room, like a Casey scorned.

 

 


 

 

Banging the locker door closed, Casey made her way to her first class - ignoring the multiple calls of “hey Derek” and flirty smiles thrown her way. Ugh. It wasn’t like Derek was so charming, people needed to get a grip.

 

What was he even on about, really? Giving who the wrong idea about what? Huh?

 

It wasn’t like his rejection hit her deeply or anything, or like she’d gotten carried away thinking he was anything more than just a selfish jerk.

 

Soulmate? Love of her life? What was she thinking?

 

Clearly, this body swap had corrupted her brain, implanting absurd ideas of romance and true love into her head. Just when she thought they really were getting somewhere… he made it clear that she was the one getting ideas. She had no one to blame but herself.

 

She’d been so close to thinking she was in lo-

 

He wasn’t into her. That was it.

 

No more hanging out in the bathroom, or each other’s rooms. No more hugging. No more almost kissing. Just the bare minimum, really. Maybe saying hi in the morning or something. That was probably enough bonding. Wouldn’t want to hurt poor Sam’s sensibilities, or let anyone think the hooves were horses.

 

She sat at the back of the class, snatching her glasses out bitterly. He didn’t want her wearing them at school? Well, tough. She had to read. So there.

 

“Hey, Derek,” said Bethany, the blonde girl from gym. She leaned over with her hand on Casey’s desk. “Looking good,” she smiled flirtatiously.

 

Aw shit.

 

Of course.

 

It was the stupid glasses, wasn’t it?

 

“Hey,” she practically growled, making sure to affect disinterest as she turned her attention to her textbook.

 

“I didn't take you for the bookish type.” Bethany teased, angling her cleavage closer to Casey’s face, “It suits you.”

 

“Of course it does,” Casey bit out, “everything suits me.” If she sounded a bit maniacal, then… well, whatever.

 

“Normally, I don’t like a cocky attitude, but I’ll make an exception because you’re secretly such a sensitive guy.” Bethany teased, a soft giggle sounding musically against the chatter of the class.

 

“Excuse me?” Casey couldn’t help but laugh ironically at the idea of Derek being a sensitive guy. “Me? Sensitive? You got the wrong guy.”

 

“Oh, now you’re modest all of a sudden?” Bethany quipped, flipping her hair, wafting the scent of strawberries and cream. If the situation wasn’t so awkward, Casey might be flattered to be on the receiving end of that attention. “I saw how you were tearing up yesterday. To be honest, it made me look at you differently. It’s rare to find a guy so in touch with his emotions…” She leaned ever so slightly closer.

 

Oh god. Did yesterday’s clusterfuck somehow… improve Derek’s reputation? Now the girls at school thought he was in touch with his emotions! Like some kind of teenage girl’s wet dream. How did everything turn out so good for him all the time! “T-that was…” Casey stuttered. Seriously, she couldn’t let Bethany go on with such a wrong idea about Derek. She was a nice enough girl. “I wasn’t tearing up! Pfft! I just had something in my eye.”

 

Bethany narrowed her eyes softly, “If you say so,” she said conspiratorially, as if she was saying your secret is safe with me, “I also thought it was really sweet how you stood up for your sister’s honour against her asshole boyfriend. It seems like you know how a woman deserves to be treated.” There was a heavy suggestive undertone to everything she said.

 

“First of all, step-sister.” Casey corrected in horror, “and second…” How did she get out of that one without flirting - or misrepresenting him? “Yeah, I mean… I guess.”

 

“Maybe you can give me a first hand demonstration…” Bethany said, lowering her voice in Casey's ear, “Say… this Saturday?”

 

Wow, were girls always this forward with him? “I have hockey practice on Saturday,” she dismissed, going back to her book. Even though she knew Derek wouldn’t be rude or anything, Casey just really wanted to get rid of Bethany and her flirting.

 

“Well then, what day works for you?” Bethany asked sweetly, “I'm pretty flexible.”

 

“What? No!” Casey said, startled by the ferocity of Bethany’s attacks. “No day works for me,” she floundered, racking her brain. “I have a girlfriend!”

 

“Oh.” Bethany said, standing up straight, suddenly embarrassed, “Sorry, I didn't know.” She brushed it off quickly, “Well…” She said, brandishing a pen from her back pocket. “If that changes, give me a call." She wrote her number down on the page of Casey's textbook, and left with a wink.

 

That was… pretty nice of her… Casey guessed. Looking down at her textbook, she sighed and closed it.

 

Derek did have a girlfriend. A great girlfriend at that, and he would never cheat on her.

 

Maybe he hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings this morning - he was just letting her down easy.

 

If she was being honest with herself, Casey knew she wasn’t angry at him. She was just so angry with herself for falling for him. That would get her nowhere. Soul bond, or no soul bond.

 

 


 

 

Derek felt like shit today. Some dumb part of him missed Casey and felt bad about driving a wedge between them. Even though he didn't say anything particularly bad - he just tried to keep a reasonable distance.

 

What did Casey expect, that they could just flirt and play with fire until he cheated on Sally? She couldn't possibly want that. He would never let it get to that point, even if the universe was trying to take away his choice in the matter.

 

So for most of the day he just sat through his classes, bummed out. The only social interaction he had was listening to Emily talk between classes and adding the occasional “Uh huh. Oh interesting. You're kidding! Wow. Mhmm.”

 

Even Truman didn't try talking to him - thank GOD, just brushing by him in the hallway with a nasty bruise on his face without so much as a glance.

 

Man, Casey really didn't have any friends.

 

His first real interaction came just at the beginning of lunch.

 

“Hey Casey,” some tall, lanky guy shouted at him from down the hallway, running in his direction. “Wait up!”

 

Derek looked the guy up and down as they matched stride. He’d seen him around - around Casey before. He searched Casey's mind for a name. “Uh, hey! ..........................”

 

“... Noel?” the guy said, sounding unsure as he frowned down at Derek like he’d just kicked his puppy.

 

“I know your name, silly!” Derek said anxiously, affecting Casey's goofiness as he smacked Noel playfully on the arm, “What's up?”

 

“Not much,” Noel said, chuckling pleasantly, easily buying Derek’s excuse. “I was wondering if you were coming to the poetry reading? I was on my way there.”

 

Why didn't Casey mention the poetry reading? Was he supposed to go? He was already going to the stupid yearbook meeting after school. “Uhh…. Yeah, totally. Lead the way.” Derek sighed, trying to sound interested.

 

He found himself in a small classroom strewn with Moroccan pillows. The desks were pushed to the walls and there was a podium set at the front of the room. The lights were dim, and fake LED candles lined the desks against the wall. Everyone in the room looked like some kind of hippie, like they would smell like patchouli or something. Actually, it did smell a bit like patchouli.

 

Derek's eyes widened a bit as Noel placed a hand on his back, guiding him to a corner of the room. How exactly did Casey know this guy again?

 

He sat uncomfortably on a pillow on the floor next to Noel. At least there was free pizza being passed around. He took a few slices of plain cheese pizza on a paper plate. The only other kind they had was veggie deluxe, which didn’t even classify as pizza in Derek’s mind.

 

“Welcome everyone,” A red-haired girl said, addressing the room from the podium with a spirit of grandeur, “So great to see all your smiling faces here today. I know you have all worked so hard on your craft and we celebrate this safe space to share that craft freely with one another. First up, the wonderful Megan has some new work she would like to share.”

 

Derek gaped up at the stage, a chunk of pizza almost falling out of his mouth.

 

“Thank you.” Megan said appreciatively as she took her place in front of the podium. “This poem is called United.”

 

Derek gulped as Megan's eyes drew him in, capturing his every breath and attention to her words.

 

“Venn diagram of you and me

Connection to the nth degree

The overlap illuminates

With all our possibilities”

 

As he watched, his peripheral vision blurred, Megan's lips moving hypnotically at the end of a long tunnel.

 

“Twas written in the stars they say

A fate we cannot fight

I'll meet you there halfway

After I've raged against the light”

 

Her eyes flashed, connecting with him in that moment, acknowledging him as a central figure in her message.

 

“Our ship in stormy weathered seas

Is captured by the steady breeze

We sink together, hand in hand

But wash ashore alive, at ease”

 

Words of power, Derek thought, in awe. They still sounded cheesy. But the way Megan described it made it sound so… inevitable. And that alone was singularly terrifying.

 

It's not like they were soulmates or anything.

 

People started snapping their fingers. Oh right, he thought, joining in, trying not to roll his eyes. Poetry was so pretentious. Why couldn't they clap like normal people?

 

He was forced to listen to several more readings, some of which (like the one about flushing a goldfish down the toilet) made him want to pull his hair out.

 

Even worse, Noel kept leaning over to whisper little things in his ear. “It's so profound how she used the fish to symbolize the death of her childhood.”

 

Lips tightly shut, Derek nodded at Noel's pompous commentary. If he had to listen to any more poetry… he - was going - to scream.

 

“Is there anyone else who would like to share?” The host asked, “We have time for one more.”

 

“Casey, you should go up.” Noel prompted encouragingly.

 

Over his dead body, “Uhhh-ha-ha. No. No, I don't think so.”

 

“Come on!” Noel smiled sweetly, placing a tender hand on his shoulder, “Your poetry is amazing! I'd love to hear some.”

 

No - really. He’d rather die, “I don't have anything. Maybe next time.” Not even in his next life.

 

“That's okay,” Noel conceded, his eyes sparkling with hope, “Next time!"

 

Smiling weakly, Derek had a sudden realization that Noel thought this was some kind of date. The poor sucker clearly had it bad for Casey. He had to make his escape and soon.

 

“Thank you everyone for sharing.” The host wrapped things up, “There is so much passion and talent in this room.”

 

When the lights came up, Noel clambered to his feet, holding out his hand to help him up. Derek smiled awkwardly and took his hand, rising stiffly from the pillow and pulled his hand away quickly.

 

“So… Casey,” Noel said, unsure, “I couldn't help but overhear you broke up with Truman…”

 

Here we go. Derek couldn't help but pity Noel a bit, he was so obvious.

 

“Oh yeah, good riddance.” Derek said, wondering how to let the guy down before he even had a chance to ask her out. “After that trainwreck I can't even think about dating anyone else. I mean, at least not for a while. A long while. Focus on my own needs for a change, you know?”

 

It wasn’t like he could blame the guy for being into Casey. She had a certain - something that he himself couldn’t help being attracted to, so Noel didn’t stand a chance against her charm. Noel didn’t stand a chance in general, considering Derek wasn’t keen on getting a new fake boyfriend. Though Noel seemed like the kind of guy Casey would swoon over - the sensitive poet - barf. The thought of Casey dating Noel, even after they switched bodies back, made him feel weirdly threatened, which was stupid. Derek was with Sally, Casey could date whatever schmuck she wanted to - except Truman obviously.

 

“Oh…” Noel said, disappointed. He smiled sadly with compassion, “Of course. You deserve that.” He shuffled his feet and shrugged his shoulders shyly. Derek felt kind of hot and uncomfortable under his purposeful gaze, “And when you are ready to put yourself out there… You deserve a guy who will treat you right.”

 

Well that was… sweet, in a stomach churning kind of way. He figured it was something Casey would melt for. He fought the urge to groan. He could play to his character and say ‘Awww that’s so sweet’ or he could nip this shit in the bud right now with a calculated ‘thanks buddy you’re such a great friend.’

 

He settled somewhere in the middle, “Thanks, uh… thanks.” He smiled sweetly, hiding the awkward grimace trying to fight its way through.

 

Hopefully this wasn’t going to become an issue now that Casey was single. He wasn't stoked about having to fight off dudes with a stick. Not happening, fellas!

 

Not 10 minutes later, as Derek walked to his next class, he learned that was exactly what he was going to have to do. Conrad, a guy on the hockey team, passed by him, letting out a low whistle. “Oooo, baby.” Conrad sang, as he stared back at his ass.

 

Oooo baby?! Seriously!?

 

Conrad was a dead man once Derek got back into his own body.

 

It wasn’t like he hadn’t been hit on by a dude before. Even in his old body, there were a couple instances. If anything, he was flattered. But for some reason, being hit on by guys while in Casey’s body made him super uncomfortable. It made sense, she was hot, she had that whole innocent schoolgirl thing going for her. He just couldn’t stand the way the guys seemed to oggle her, their leering eyes roaming over her as she walked the halls. Was he this creepy while checking out girls?

 

Honestly, gross. One guy actually winked at him. Where was a stick when you needed one?

 

 


 

 

Casey kept her head down most of the day. It worked. She didn’t have to speak to anyone much, besides a little fist bump here and there just to keep up appearances. While everyone wanted to talk to Derek, they seemed to leave him alone when she only grunted in response, surrounded by a big cloud of hostility.

 

Even Sam stayed quiet, just sitting with her at lunch and giving her odd looks over his helping of meal surprise. She scrunched her face up in disgust as she watched the goo fall off his spoon. They really needed to rework the caf menu.

 

When they were done eating, Casey was ready to beg herself off to study, but Sam swerved her towards the back of the school, giving her a look like she was supposed to know what was going on. He led her outside to a secluded corner that kids used to smoke in secret.

 

Then he pulled out a joint, lit it up and held it out to her like it was the most normal thing.

 

Casey suppressed her surprise pretty well considering she was practically screaming on the inside. Derek smoked weed?! Derek smoked! At school?! That was so irresponsible, she shouldn’t be surprised, but she couldn’t help being outraged. Didn’t he know those things were killing his brain cells?!

 

Sam was still looking at her expectantly, and gingerly, she took the joint, reluctantly going along with it, and seriously hoping a teacher wouldn’t walk by and catch them.

 

As soon as she inhaled the smoke, it caught in her throat and she started coughing helplessly. Sam smacked her on the back, snickering as he muttered, “every single time.”

 

So, she didn’t ruin Derek’s street cred with her inexperience. That was something.

 

She tried another hit, coughing significantly less this time as she passed the joint back to Sam. “Thanks,” Casey choked out.

 

“No problem, man,” Sam said lazily, leaning back against the wall.

 

They didn’t say anything else, passing the joint back and forth for a few minutes in silence. It didn’t take long for Casey to start feeling the effect, her system slowing down as her whole body relaxed. When she moved, it felt like slow motion, and she felt a sudden urge to laugh for no reason.

 

Sam laughed along, though it felt more like he was laughing at her, but she was willing to dismiss it. She probably looked really funny.

 

“So, man,” Sam started when the laughter died down. “Wanna tell me what I walked in on yesterday?”

 

Casey couldn’t help the burst of giggles that escaped her. “Zebras!”

 

“Zebras?” he repeated with a dopey grin, “I’m pretty sure my stuff isn’t that strong.”

 

“Nah,” she waved her hand dismissively. “It’s just - not what it looked like.”

 

Maybe she really had been reading into things, seeing things that weren’t there. Derek just behaved the way he always did with her, and she overanalyzed it out of lovesick hope that he felt the same way.

 

“You sure about that?” Sam asked, an eyebrow raised, unconvinced.

 

“Depends.” She lowered herself to the ground, sitting with her back against the wall, and looked sadly up at Sam. “What did it look like?”

 

Sam scratched his eyebrow nervously, “Like you were about to kiss Casey.”

 

Yeah… that was what it felt like too.

 

Casey scoffed, shrugging a shoulder nonchalantly. She went for incredulous, hoping that she sounded convincing enough. “You think I would kiss Casey?!”

 

Shrugging in turn, Sam took a seat next to her on the ground. “Stranger things have happened, man,” he said, then bumped her shoulder. “Plus, you know…”

 

Eyeing him skeptically, she bumped his shoulder back, “I know what?”

 

“It’s Casey,” Sam said easily, “you can’t say you’ve never thought about it.”

 

Forcing a laugh, because she couldn’t cry in front of Sam (again), she pushed at his head playfully. “Now, Sammy, I think you might be on drugs or something.”

 

“Really,” he said flatly, “cuz I remember you biting my head off when I wanted to date her.”

 

“Uh, she’s my sister,” she answered, trying to remember what that fight had been about. “You can’t date your best friend’s sister, bro.”

 

“Right. Casey’s your sister,” he laughed, “and not… I don't know, an accident by marriage, or something?”

 

“It’s all the same, Sam,” she said, plucking at some loose strands of ripped jeans on her knee. That was what Derek thought of her, after all, because he obviously didn’t want to kiss her, or date her, or be close to her.

 

“Hey, look,” Sam said seriously, “I’m not judging. I know what she means to you. Just… be careful. You guys run hot and cold all the time, you wanna make sure things don’t get too hot while Sally’s still around, yeah?”

 

Hot and cold was about right. Part of her was pleased that Sam seemed to see things the same way she did. It was one more point in favour of ‘she didn’t make it all up’. But still, Derek didn’t want his best friend to think that way, didn’t want him to have the wrong idea about his feelings for her.

 

Shaking her head, Casey gave him a lopsided smile, “I’ll agree with you, because I know you’re not supposed to contradict a crazy person, and just tell you this: I’m not gonna hurt Sally. No matter how,” she finger quoted,“‘hot and cold’ it gets with Casey.”

 

“Fine, Der,” Sam rolled his eyes and punched her shoulder before getting up.

 

She followed him inside and moved on to class, fighting her growing sleepiness and random bouts of laughter the rest of the day.

 

 


 

 

Meeting with Lassiter after school was every bit as painful as Casey had anticipated, the most agonizing part was having George there to witness. Facing threats of suspension from the principal was one thing - not that threatening considering Lassiter obviously held Derek in high esteem and was too scared of Coach to suspend the captain of the hockey team anyway. It was another to squirm in front of Derek’s dad, and explain why his son had punched his stepsister's boyfriend. She couldn’t. So she avoided mentioning who she punched as well.

 

She defended it as much as she could, but it was kind of hard without getting into the details of what exactly Truman did, and she absolutely could not tell George about those embarrassing details - body swap included. It was just too personal to tell her stepfather about.

 

In the end, she got off with a warning because nothing could touch Derek anyway. It was like trouble just couldn’t stick to him, she would think it was unfair if she wasn’t so relieved for her own skin (which happened to be Derek’s). What she still had to worry about, though, was George’s punishment.

 

George looked pretty upset with her, falling quiet for the whole ride home. She had never actually seen George upset before - let alone like this, steaming as he shot her disappointed looks that promised she would get an earful once they got to the house.

 

She had barely walked inside and hung up her jacket before he exploded.

 

“Getting into fights at school Derek? No - getting into fights, period?” He shook his head in disbelief, attracting the attention of the rest of the family, “What in God's name were you thinking?”

 

Casey winced, “Look... Dad,” she tried calmly. “It wasn’t that big of a deal, Lassiter was totally overreacting. I’m all cool with Sam, we just had a minor disagreement.”

 

“Almost getting into a fight with your best friend is one thing,” George’s voice raised in pitch as he got increasingly agitated, “But what excuse could you possibly have for punching someone in the hallway! In my line of work, that's called assault.”

 

“You punched someone?! “ Edwin exclaimed, racing into the living room, “Awesome! I mean -" He corrected himself upon receiving a glare from George, “Shame on you Derek… Don’t you know you should use your words?”

 

Lizzie and Marti trailed behind Edwin down the stairs, and her mom was looking on curiously from the kitchen threshold. Casey groaned internally, she didn’t want to cause a scene. But she would never feel bad for ‘assaulting’ Truman when it was so well deserved, George didn’t know what he did to Derek - sadly never would.

 

“It wasn’t just anyone,” she ground out. Hearing the front door open, she looked over her shoulder to see Derek walking in. “It was Truman, and he totally deserved it.”

 

Derek was returning from the world’s most boring yearbook meeting ever. The house certainly wasn’t boring though, more like a lion’s den. He hung back tentatively, pitying Casey for the lecture she was getting and feeling guilty for letting his dad down, even though he didn’t do anything himself.

 

“Truman?!” George asked, baffled, “Is that supposed to make it better? Punching Casey’s boyfriend?” He brought his hands up to his head, unable to fathom the logic, “Please, Derek. Enlighten me. What did Truman do that was so bad you just had to punch him in the face?!”

 

She really didn’t want to tell him, especially not like this in front of everyone. She looked around helplessly, eyes roaming over her siblings on the staircase, her mom approaching with her arms crossed behind George, and settling on Derek. Telling the family that Derek punched Truman to defend her honor would probably go against Derek’s new ‘nothing suspicious’ rule. What could she come up with that would appease George without revealing anything?

 

“Derek was just standing up for me, okay?” Derek spoke up, unable to just stand by and watch as Casey squirmed, “Honestly, instead of punishment, he deserves a medal or something.” He couldn’t help the smug edge behind it, but he was being genuine - Casey punching Truman was an act of justice.

 

George sputtered in response, clearly not expecting such high praise from Casey.

 

Did he really just say that? Casey couldn’t help but smile, relieved. Feeling her mother’s eyes on her, she caught her gaze, then Nora, with a calming hand on George’s shoulder, looked kindly at Derek. “Is that true, Casey? He was standing up for you?” Nora asked, like her question would have a different meaning to him.

 

Derek fought the urge to groan. Oh yeah, Casey and I stand up for each other all the time - we’ve been getting suuuuuper close recently. But he wasn’t about to downplay what happened. Casey’s actions should be recognized for what they were. She was simply standing up for herself. And maybe she was standing up for him too, to some extent.

 

“Yeah, you should have seen him! Defending my honor like that.” He crossed his arms with a satisfied smile, “I'm as surprised as you are.”

 

Unable to fight off her blush, Casey looked away from Derek, watching as Nora whispered into George’s ear. “Maybe we can cut him a break, hm?” she said quietly when she pulled away to share a conspiring smile with her.

 

Casey could think of a few smug remarks Derek might say, but she didn’t want to ruin the moment, looking hopefully at George while she waited for his verdict.

 

“Well…” George looked around at all the anticipatory faces around the room, his anger subsiding, “I-” He seemed torn by how hopefully Nora was looking up at him. He sighed deeply in defeat, “I suppose Derek, that we can let you off with a very serious warning, to never get into a fight at school again,” He said sternly, “It seems Casey can vouch that your actions were… justified. Though violence is hardly justifiable in any scenario. I wouldn’t want to punish you for standing up for your sister.”

 

“Step-sister…” Derek grumbled quietly.

 

“Step-sister,” Casey coughed behind her hand.

 

 


 

 

So, day four had been… somewhat of a success for Casey- at least, when compared to Monday’s disaster. She was off the hook for the fighting, there wasn’t any new drama, and she wasn’t on Sam’s radar for being an incestuous creep or anything. That was a success in her book.

 

She was looking over University websites on Derek’s computer after dinner when a knock came at the door.

 

“Come in,” she invited, and the door opened, revealing a sheepish looking George.

 

He sighed and stepped inside, sitting on the bed, “I think we need to have one of those father-son talks I know you love so much.” He said, lightheartedly, but with a serious undertone.

 

Casey rolled her eyes, knowing fully well that Derek would be cowering at the mention of any kind of serious talk. “Do we really have to?” she asked with an impish smile, keeping to character.

 

Yes, Derek. We really have to.” George sighed, “You got into a fight today. That's serious. I'm worried about you. I want to know what happened.” He patted the bed, “Come on, we’ll keep it as painless as possible.”

 

Chuckling, Casey made her way over, sitting next to George. “I know how serious it is, Dad,” She said honestly, “I’m sorry I disappointed you, but… you have to believe me when I say that he deserved it.”

 

“I know the kind of kid I raised. So… I'm inclined to believe you. But I still need to know what happened.” George assured, “Remember I'm the one who's going to have to defend your actions when I talk to your mother about this. I need to know how much effort to put into that defense.”

 

Casey groaned, her head falling into her hands. Of course, she understood why it was important for George to know, but it wasn’t easy getting the words out. She looked up again, rubbing her eyes.

 

“I went to talk to him about… Saturday,” she said, picking her words carefully. “Let’s just say he wasn’t acting like a gentleman, you know? So I thought I’d mention it to him, see what he says. He just completely denied it, didn’t see a problem with his behaviour at all, like it was totally normal, like he was… entitled to something,” Casey laughed humourlessly. She looked at George painfully, taking a deep breath to steel herself. “He made it sound like it was her fault, George, like there was something wrong with her and he couldn’t possibly be the problem.”

 

George hummed thoughtfully, “Between you and me, I’ve never really liked Truman. I always felt like Casey deserved a lot better than him - he always seemed like a bit of a punk. But that sounds... concerning.” He frowned and cleared his throat, “What do you mean he wasn’t acting like a gentleman?”

 

“George,” she whined, “Dad… she didn’t want him to touch her, okay, and he wasn’t listening.”

 

White as a ghost, George cleared his throat again, “Oh, uh. Wow, uh… I’ve gotta say Derek… I’m…” He trailed off, shaking his head. “I’m impressed.” He concluded, reaching up to pat her on the back, and then gripped her shoulder supportively, “That’s a very noble thing you did, looking out for Casey like that. I still wish it hadn’t gotten physical. But, you know I see Casey like a daughter, and even though you two don’t get along, it means a lot that you put that aside when it counts.” He shook Casey’s shoulders kindly, in the closest thing to a hug Derek would usually allow, “Family first.”

 

Biting her lip so she didn’t stupidly argue the family part, Casey smiled, a real smile because she was really glad to know that she had such good men in her life. “Thanks, Dad,” she said sincerely. “You know I would never let anyone hurt Casey like that.”

 

“I know that, son.” George smiled back warmly, “I’m proud of you. And I’ll break the news to your mom gently. I’ll paint you like a hero, how’s that?”

 

“Derek Venturi, a hero,” Casey smirked, “Sounds about right.”

 

 


 

 

“Wow, Casey.” Edwin said, next to Derek on the couch.. “I never thought I’d see the day you sat through this much hockey. And re-runs no less! Why haven’t you snatched the remote from Derek in a fit of rage yet?”

 

“Pfffft,” Casey scoffed from the comfort of Derek’s chair, shoving popcorn haphazardly into her mouth, “like she would even stand a chance!”

 

Amused, Derek laughed shortly, “My record speaks for itself Derek. In the remote wars, you and I are neck and neck.” He smiled at the TV contentedly. Hours and hours of watching hockey re-runs was his kind of night. If only he could sit in his own chair. Casey seemed to be enjoying the comforts of his lifestyle pretty shamelessly. “But believe it or not, I’m actually enjoying this.”

 

“Who are you and what have you done with Casey?” Edwin joked.

 

“I’ve been wondering that for years!” Casey uttered, crumbs of popcorn falling from her mouth. “Pretty sure they stole her from her crib and replaced her with an alien clone.”

 

Derek chuckled, “Yeah, but I’ve lost contact with the Mothership so I’ve decided to embrace my human life.” He looked judgingly at his brother, “Anyway Edwin, isn’t it past your bedtime?” He threatened, forgetting he was supposed to be Casey for a second. If he was going to truly teach Casey hockey and point out all the best moves, they would have to be alone. She had to be prepared for practice tomorrow.

 

“Bedtime?” Edwin balked, “What am I, twelve?”

 

“Get lost, Edwin,” Casey said offhandedly, keeping her eyes on the game.

 

“Pfft.” Edwin sighed, standing up, “You guys are no fun anyway.” He stretched and let out a chuckle, “You don’t appreciate any of my jokes!”

 

Finally, they were alone.

 

Derek got up and snatched the bowl of popcorn away from Casey. She held her arms up at him in a shrug, offended. He plopped back down on the couch, and beckoned her over enthusiastically, patting the cushion next to him “C’mon!”

 

She was about to jump off the chair when she paused, watching him thoughtfully. “Maybe I should just stay here,” she said, sinking back into the chair. She was getting a bit wary of his mixed signals. If she got carried away again, she would only get burned.

 

He patted the couch insistently, hearing the slight accusation in her tone. Now was not the time to rehash some argument from this morning, this was serious hockey business. “Get your ass over here Casey,” He said humorously, determined to keep things on a light note, “You want to impress Coach tomorrow, don’t you? It’s easier to point things out if you’re next to me, so…” Pat, pat, pat.

 

Looking at the spot resentfully, she gave in and plopped down next to Derek, making sure to keep a safe distance between them as she folded her freaky long legs on the couch and crossed her arms over her chest. She could do as he said so she would make a good impression at practice, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

 

“Okay, so here.” Derek said, leaning into her, “You see how much the puck gets dribbled from side to side? That’s why we practiced that so much, it’s important for keeping it away from the other team.”

 

As Derek leaned closer, Casey could feel his heat radiating off of him. Their shoulders brushed lightly, and she felt a jolt of static electricity run down her arm, urging her to pull away. She managed to do it as casually as possible while listening intently. “Mhmm,” she hummed in understanding.

 

“Now, if you’re gonna make a play, like one of those breakouts I taught you, don’t hesitate, it gives the other team too much warning. See, watch!!” In his excitement, he unknowingly scooted closer to Casey as he pointed at the screen, urging her to pay close attention. “There he goes, approaching from the outside, looking for clear openings. You gotta always know where your enemies are, and your team-mates, at all times. Pass to people in good positions, and if you spot an opening in the goal, go for it…”

 

Did he have to get so close? Even as she leaned awkwardly away, she could still smell him; the faint hints of her vanilla shampoo and coconut body wash. It was hard not to be sucked into his ramblings, his enthusiasm for the game was infectious, and she couldn’t help but smile as he gestured wildly towards the screen.

 

“The best players though, create an opening. Like, oooh, watch this! Look. Look. He crosses in front of the goal - they’ll slow it down here. See how he can control the puck from the side like that; not just in front of his body, fluid and natural, that’s important. Then BAM!!” He cheered, gripping her arm excitedly, “They’ll show it again. He passes by like he’s gonna circle the net but instead he dribbles and then flicks the puck behind him, between the post and the goalie’s skate. See what I mean about creating an opening?”

 

Their eyes met, and his smile felt like being bathed by the sun. She went for the opening; leaning forward to catch his mouth, and pressed her lips to his with a desperate sigh.

 

Derek nearly jumped out of his skin in alarm, his heart stammering. The shock ran through his body like electricity flowing through his veins and out his extremities. The rational side of his brain was stunned into silence, as some primal reflex compelled his hand to fly into her short hair to hold her close.

 

Not moving, not breathing, Casey just stayed there, with her mouth on his and his fingers digging into her hair. His lips were so soft and inviting, she wanted more, wanted so much to push for more and devour him whole. But as her skin tingled, she realized what she had done, and knew that she should pull away, stop right now before she was too far gone. Yet, she couldn’t - could only stay there with her breath caught in her throat, waiting for him to push her away.

 

It was like Casey’s hesitation hit the reset button in Derek’s mind, and he pulled his mouth away with a gasp, so that they were barely touching. His lips tingled, like each tiny pinpoint of his skin was reaching back out to her. Overwhelmed and still coming back to reality, he chanced a peek up at her expression, not daring to move a muscle.

 

She looked back at him with pleading eyes as his breath tickled her face. Please don’t push me away.

 

They shouldn’t be doing this, the voice in Derek’s head warned. They shouldn’t be doing this.

 

He shouldn’t be doing this.

 

His eyes fell back down to her lips, his own lips, staring at him hypnotically. The voice in his head drifted away.

 

He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be… He shouldn’t -

 

His lips surged forward, pulled by an invisible force. Fear churned in his core in response to his massive cosmic roll of the dice.

 

Casey gasped, taken aback by the renewed kiss - he came back for more. That was all she needed to start moving, pushing forward until he was leaning back into the arm of the couch, her hands grabbing for his waist and travelling around his back. She breathed him in, took in the feeling of his skin on hers and covered every part of his body that she could with her own.

 

Once the arousal kicked in, Derek was a goner, turned on by how confidently she took control in his body, pressing him down onto the couch with her muscular weight with an almost forceful desperation. Her hand was sturdy and warm against his back.

 

Sighing against the kiss, Derek needed to get as close as possible; he grabbed her hips, and pulled her in by the belt eagerly, like he wanted them to meld together. He imagined it should feel weird to be pressed up against a man’s body, to be pulling him closer. But the low masculine sigh that slipped from Casey’s throat only spurred him on.

 

Touching like this only blurred the lines between who was touching who, and who was in which body, creating a surreal spellbinding experience where they could feel everything.

 

Her hips being pulled between Derek’s legs, Casey pressed herself harder on him, wrapping her arms around his small, delicate body. A whine slipped out of her as their hips collided and she felt her hard on being squeezed between them.

 

It was like everywhere their skin touched, it melted together; where her fingertips tickled the dip of his hip under his shirt, his hand at the back of her neck, and their lips sliding over each other feverishly. His mouth opened to catch his breath, and she tentatively sought out his tongue.

 

Derek's conscience tried uselessly to keep up with how fast things were escalating in their desperation. Their kisses became gasping, like they needed each other's breath to survive. The tingly effect he felt in her body overlapped with the memory of what she must be feeling in his. They kissed each other the way they would have wanted to be kissed if the situation was reversed.

 

Casey’s mouth wandered off on instinct, seeking out his neck, and nipped gently against his racing pulse, driven by a profound need to have, to take - to own. Straying hands roamed over his back, pulling his shirt up slightly, and she craved to feel more of his body, her palms drifting towards his sides, sliding up his ribcage and brushing against his breasts.

 

The small voice in the back of Derek's mind struggled to be heard over the erotic gasp pulled from him by Casey's lips on his neck. He was basically a puddle under her touch, his body reacting instinctually as he arched his back and bucked his hips wantonly. Casey's hands softly caressed under his shirt, ghosting over the fabric of his bra. He needed her touch - just the thought of her squeezing her own breasts with his hands was almost sending him over the edge.

 

Though stifled by the overwhelming need, Derek's guilt burned deep inside. He couldn't bring himself to think of the name or his guilt would consume him. It was only Casey, Casey, Casey.

 

The line was drawing closer and closer as Casey's palm passed over the front of his chest. He knew once things passed a certain point, it would be impossible to stop; he already felt that cosmic pull stronger than ever before, and he was losing his will to resist.

 

As wrong as it was, he figured he was already doing this. This was already happening. He already screwed up… so why not enjoy it?

 

That slimy thought broke the spell as his conscience punched him in the gut.

 

"C...Casey…" He forced the words out, trying to get her attention to derail her current fixation.

 

Derek’s voice broke through the fog of Casey’s mind, all filled with thoughts of him, his scent and his taste. She was brought back to reality by the distress in his voice and she felt it like a slap in the face, forcing her to detach herself from him with difficulty.

 

Out of breath, she lifted herself on her hands above him, fear and dread taking over as she took in the damage. She let this get way out of hand, she lost control of herself completely, allowing herself to drown in that overwhelming desire.

 

“Oh my g…” she choked on her next breath. She looked at Derek underneath her, his wide eyes, kiss-swollen lips, features torn up in a painful expression. Oh god… she… With trembling arms, she pushed herself up completely, sitting back on her heels. She wasn’t any better than Truman! “I’m so- so sorry,” she gasped, clasping her hand over her mouth.

 

He stared back at her, catching his breath. Like he could ever blame her for this. He knew first-hand how strong the pull was. But he should have known better than to put them in this position, shouldn't have been so weak. "Shit…" He murmured, looking up at her alarmed, guilty expression. Maybe they shared the blame.

 

When he kissed Truman, it didn't feel like cheating. And when Casey kissed Sally in his body, it didn't feel like she was cheating.

 

But this. No matter which way you sliced it...

 

He sat on the edge of the couch with his head in his hands. "Shit Casey, we…"

 

No, no, no, this could not be happening! He shook his head as his breath quickened with anxiety. "We just cheated on Sally." His eyes brimmed with tears and he choked down an impending sob, which just made him so much more angry with himself. Why did he have to cry now, as if this wasn't shameful enough already.

 

“I-It’s on me, o-okay?” Casey stuttered, guilt chewing on her insides. She moved to rub his back reassuringly, but stopped herself from touching him. She shouldn’t be touching him. “It’s my fault, I-I shouldn’t have done this.”

 

"No, Casey." Derek insisted, his tearful voice dripping with self-hatred, "This is my fuck up, not yours."

 

“No. No,” she insisted, as disgusted with herself as she had ever been, “You didn’t want this. You told me- you said… and I didn’t listen.”

 

If only he could use that excuse. If only he could blame Casey. He couldn't even blame the universe, not completely. Even though the universe was driving him down a path he knew best to avoid, it wasn't the universe that made him do this. There was only one reason at the heart of it all, "I wanted it too much." He corrected her. How could she doubt that for even a second? His weakness made it painfully obvious how much he wanted her.

 

Her breath knocked out of her, unable to think straight, she shook her head hastily, a bit erratically. He didn’t want her, he didn’t - he said. “You don’t - you didn’t. You told me to back off,” she stood up, running a shaky hand through her hair. “It’s the spell, the-the body swap. It’s doing this to you, okay. I took advantage of that because I couldn’t stop myself. Because I...”

 

"You couldn't st-?!" Derek repeated incredulously. He wasn't going to let Casey take the blame for this. This was his fault, and he deserved to feel like shit about it. There was nothing she could say that would convince him otherwise. He had never been so angry at himself before. He stood up frustratedly, staring her down. "I couldn't stop myself," He jabbed a finger into his chest, "That was my job." His hands flew to his hair as he paced back and forth, "But whenever I'm around you I just." He groaned frustratedly, "I lose control, it's-" He was so screwed, "Why else would I avoid getting so close to you, huh?" He demanded rhetorically as the worry coursing through his body became chaotic.

 

“Because you don’t want me, Derek,” she said, looking down.

 

He sat back on the couch, bracing his head between his knees, as if hiding himself might help him hide from the truth, "I wish that was true." He mumbled to himself, unsure if she could hear him. Not that it mattered at this point, he already showed his hand.

 

She took a step back, crossing her arms over her chest protectively. “What does that mean?”

 

He shook his head. He meant it exactly how it sounded. It would be so much easier if he didn't want her. But he did, he couldn't deny that to himself anymore. Maybe it was just the universe playing tricks on him, tugging his heartstrings like a puppetmaster, but he was kidding himself if he actually believed he wanted to stay away. He didn't want to want her because it was too messy, but he did. He really, really did.

 

"If I didn’t-" He argued and then trailed off with a sigh, "... But I do." He said into the floor, the confession tumbling out from him.

 

Taking another step back, Casey turned away from him, wiping her suddenly wet cheeks. If he did want her, then… she wasn’t the only one. If he felt the same way, then they had a chance. This was the answer, she should be thrilled. So why wasn’t she? If they could be together-

 

Oh. Right.

 

They couldn’t.

 

That was the biggest joke of all.

 

Even though the universe wanted it, it had also thrown them the biggest curveball of all, by making them siblings. How was he supposed to be the love of her life if he was also supposed to be her brother? What kind of cruel game was this? She imagined some bearded gods looking down on them and laughing at their misery, as they decided what new kind of torture to put them through.

 

Not to mention, there was still Sally. Sweet, kind, beautiful Sally who did not deserve their selfishness, nor their weakness. Casey could never forgive herself for doing this to her good friend, no matter how inevitable it felt, she knew she was to blame, at least as much as Derek was.

 

So there was the dilemma. Could they surrender to it, fulfill what was set up to be their destiny, even though there were no real guarantee that it would get them back to normal but was quite likely to ruin their relationships - their lives? Or did they reject it, stifle those feelings that were pushed on them without their consent, fight for their own destiny because they were their own person, not puppets for some cosmic powers to play with.

 

Nodding to herself, Casey decided to be strong.

 

“We can make our own choices,” she declared softly, then turned back to look at him. “Just because some higher power decided it would be fun to mess with us, doesn’t mean we have to take it.”

 

Derek sighed with relief. That was comforting. And also… disappointing. And probably not the case considering how impossible it had been to stay away. Regardless, delving into that whole issue was only half the battle. "How the hell am I supposed to tell Sally?" He asked, looking up at her with dread, "I can't exactly text her about something like this, and she isn't coming back until next Friday!" His breathing became more frantic as he realized how deep he had dug himself in this hole, "And what if we're still stuck like this? At the very least she deserves to hear it from me."

 

“Hear what? That we’re stuck in each other’s bodies and it’s making us feel or do things we would never do otherwise?” Casey said, with a hysterical laugh. “She doesn’t deserve to get her heart broken over this… Bullshit!” She flailed her arms around wildly. “This is our problem, we will fix it, and nobody has to hear about it.”

 

Derek groaned. It was like hurt on top of hurt. What the hell was Casey on about? It wasn't often that Casey was the one to take the easy way out. Like he could even look at Sally again knowing that he did this, knowing that he couldn't even bring himself to regret it because he couldn't stop thinking about wanting to do it again. Sally deserved so much more than for him to cheat on her and brush it off as some kind of no-big-deal, fate made me do it thing.

 

"The body-swap didn't cheat on Sally, I did." Derek defended angrily, standing up again to face her directly, "I'm not going to pretend it didn't happen." He crossed his arms defiantly at her, "Sally has to know, even if I can't even tell her the whole story."

 

“Well,” Casey said, mirroring his defensive pose, “It’s your decision. But are you sure you want to ruin your relationship with Sally over this?” Over me?

 

"I can't believe I'm the voice of reason here." Derek said with disbelief, gawking at her audacity, "You think I could just cheat on my girlfriend and not tell her and that I'd see nothing wrong with it?!"

 

“Stop it, I didn’t say that!” Casey said, lowering her tone when she realized she was practically shouting. “Of course I don’t think that.” She shifted her weight on her other foot, fidgeting with her elbows nervously. “Look, like I said. It’s your choice. If that’s what you want, I’ll go along with whatever you decide to do. We have to be a team. If we want to get our bodies back and minimize the damage, we have to do this together.”

 

Derek shut his eyes tightly against the fresh tears forming and took a steadying breath. He had already screwed everything up beyond repair. How could he hurt Sally like this? If only he could figure out a way to tell her that wouldn't completely break her heart.

 

"Casey, what do I do?" He seriously felt like he was going to throw up. "I mean, do I… do I wait until she comes to visit? Pretend like everything's normal and then be all like - Hey, thanks for coming all this way baby," He bit out, "By the way I cheated on you and that's all I can say about it?"

 

Sighing, Casey let her arms fall at her sides miserably. “I don’t know,” she said sadly. It wasn’t like there was any good way to break the news of infidelity to begin with. The context of their situation just made it even harder. But Derek was right, it would be inconsiderate to wait for Sally to come all the way to get her heart broken. Casey wished there was a way they could take back what they did. But there wasn’t. She swallowed thickly as a plan formed in her mind. “You trust her, right?” she asked, looking up at him.

 

"Of course." Derek said wholeheartedly, Sally was the most trustworthy person he ever met, which was just another reason to feel like shit - because she had trusted him.

 

“Okay,” Casey nodded slowly. “Then why don’t we go see her. We can drive to Toronto on Sunday and… tell her everything.”

 

Aside from the fact they would be completely ambushing Sally, Casey had to be joking about telling Sally... "Everything?" He asked, suspiciously.

 

“Everything,” she confirmed seriously.

 

That sounded like a bad idea.

 

But the thought of telling Sally he cheated on her and not even offering an explanation - it felt cruel. It was possibly his only chance to talk to her himself, since his body was otherwise occupied. The only other solution would be to have Casey break the news while he listened in and spoke to her through an earpiece like in a spy movie.

 

"... Okay." He decided. “Fine. We’ll tell her… everything.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Wednesday

 

Still half asleep, Derek made his way to the bathroom like a zombie. His guilty conscience kept him up all night, and he hardly got a wink. He almost nodded off while he peed, resting his head in his hand, propped up on his knee. His head fell, and he opened his eyes, startling awake at the sight of blood.

 

“Ah!” He exclaimed, his heart stopping for a moment when his tired brain actually thought he was dying. “Oh…” He sighed immensely, feeling like an idiot when he realized the blood staining his underwear was supposed to be normal. Couldn’t the universe cut him a fucking break?

 

For some reason, this concern hadn’t crossed his mind before, but it was bound to happen. “Uhh…” He said to himself, looking at his lap and around the room, at a loss for what to do.

 

He quickly learned how much he underestimated the amount of blood. He wiped several times, and even got a streak of blood on his wrist, “Oh my god…” He fretted at the mess, scrunching up his face in disgust.

 

After washing his hands (and even the toilet seat a bit… gross), Derek searched under the bathroom sink, pulling out a box of tampons. This whole ordeal was a mess, he really needed to sort this out. He pulled one out of the box and opened the package, staring at the plastic tube with hesitation.

 

So… he was just supposed to… like… put it up there? The plastic seemed like it would be uncomfortable. Oh no wait, the plastic was like… separate, right? He took the plastic part off.

 

No, that didn’t seem right. What was he supposed to do, stick his whole hand in there? He grabbed the box and found a slip of paper inside, like an instruction manual.

 

There was a diagram of someone with their leg up on the toilet. He narrowed his eyes at the paper, trying to figure out what the heck he was supposed to do and mumbling along with the instructions, “Hold the applicator… hmm blah da hmm… outer tube… until it reaches the… huh. How do I - inner tube, what? The string should be…”

 

Okay, that kind of made sense. He read along. Never leave your tampon in for more than, “Eight hours?” How was he supposed to sleep?

 

Trying to put it in was one of most awkward moments of his life (and that was saying something, considering recent events), but he somehow got it on his first try. At least, he thought so. He was kind of worried that the string might fall off or get lost inside him and then he would never be able to get it out, but that was future Derek’s problem - 8 ish hours from now Derek’s problem.

 

After cleaning up (again - seriously it was like a crime scene or something), and triple checking everything in the bathroom, his skin, and his clothes, the ordeal was finally over.

 

Ugh, he was living in some kind of feminist fantasy where the guy experienced the pains of menstruation. He was on his fucking period. Wasn’t that just great?

 

What a wonderful learning opportunity, huh universe?

 

Screw you!

 

How could he be sure that his current frustration wasn’t due to something hormonal? Because he was seriously ticked off, and he wasn’t exactly sure why. Was he ticked off at the whole body swap thing for ruining his life? Was he ticked off at himself because he had no fucking self control? Or was he pissed off because he had his goddamn motherfucking period?!

 

What did girls usually do while on their period?

 

Eat chocolate.

 

He could go for some chocolate. Why the fuck not? Nothing he did mattered anyway since apparently he had no control over his destiny, so why not gorge himself on chocolate?

 

Making his way downstairs, he could hear Edwin talking to Casey. He paused briefly. He really didn’t want to face her. Not after last night. It was easier to silence the questions in his mind without having to look at her.

 

 


 

 

Jogging down the stairs, Casey eagerly made her way to the kitchen for some tasty breakfast.

 

“Alright, alright,” she chastised her grumbling stomach under her breath. It was always hungry.

 

When she set foot in the kitchen, Edwin looked up from his cereal bowl and quickly jumped from his stool, producing her breakfast automatically. She looked at him with confusion.

 

“Sorry your breakfast wasn’t ready yet, Derek. I didn’t think you’d be up so early,” Edwin chuckled nervously.

 

That was one well trained sibling.

 

Casey shrugged, taking a seat at the island and pinning Lizzie with a pointed look; she could learn a little something from Edwin.

 

A gust of wind blew past Casey, and she turned slightly to catch Derek rummaging in the cupboard for the chocolate dipped granola bars, tucking several under his arms, and rushing back out of the kitchen as fast as he had arrived.

 

He completely ignored her.

 

“What’s up with your sister?” Edwin whispered at Lizzie.

 

“Brother, who knows,” Lizzie said dismissively.

 

Casey ate without a word, ruminating on last night’s events and Derek’s avoidance.

 

So, they had kissed. It had been great - amazing even. Probably the best kiss of her life. But it was just a fluke. They decided to take back control of their destiny; that meant marching forward, not cowering away. Why was he ignoring her?

 

He was admittedly really torn up about it, though. She couldn’t blame him. Looking at her was probably like looking his biggest mistake in the eye and trying not to blink. She was the embodiment of his guilt, of his moment of weakness. It couldn’t be easy for him.

 

Not like it was easy for her either. That kiss - it was everything she’d ever wanted and more. She had felt their connection like it was a tangible thing, thousands of strings hanging between them, tying them to each other, and it was harder than ever to pull away now that she got a taste of it.

 

She kept being swayed by her emotions; every time she thought she was strong enough to resist, step back, walk away, it all faded out as soon as she saw him, felt him, touched him.

 

And she kept oscillating between right and wrong, unable to decide what this was. Her body, her heart was screaming right! It’s right! But her head couldn’t wrap itself around it. Without the vague promise of some type of cosmic contentment, the reality of it was, they couldn’t be together. Falling for such a deceitful illusion would be like jumping down an infinite rabbit hole.

 

Still, she imagined a happy ending where it was like last night all the time, coming together in perfect symmetry, achieving absolute completion with one another and letting go of everything holding them back, all the fear and doubt.

 

When she imagined that, everything was quiet; all confusing thoughts and misgivings melted away, her heart felt light and peaceful in her chest, and nothing else made any sense.

 

Was that…

 

Was that love?

 

If it was love; real, true, infinite, absolute - how could it be wrong?

 

Finishing her breakfast, feeling as confused and undecided as ever, Casey dumped her bowl in the sink and rushed out of the kitchen before the waterworks let loose in front of her siblings.

 

She was so tired of crying. If Derek seemed more emotional than usual since being in her body, then wouldn’t that mean she should be less emotional while in his body? Nothing was fair.

 

“What’s wrong with your brother?” Lizzie whispered.

 

 


 

 

Derek needed a break from the girly clothes, so he opted for some black jeans (just in case the 20 tampons he shoved in his backpack weren’t enough), and a baggy hoodie. He tossed his hair up in a loose ponytail, which he then fussed with so that it was high on his head and a little messy - which didn’t look half bad - sexy even.

 

No makeup, he decided. He didn’t want to be that close to Casey while she dolled him up again, and he knew better than to attempt it himself.

 

He made his way to the bathroom to finish getting ready. The door swung open to reveal a sniffling Casey, staring at her toothbrush and toothpaste in hand, crying quietly.

 

All he could do was stand there, frozen, as she looked up at his intrusion with embarrassment. He had planned on avoiding her as much as possible, so he wouldn’t have to think about last night, what happened between them, and how terrible a person he was. The smart thing to do would be to turn and leave. He would have done the smart thing, but she was crying. Turning his back felt impossible. She looked away from him shamefully and robotically returned to her task.

 

“Are you…” He trailed off. Her teary eyes met his in the mirror, “mm’ryou okay?” He mumbled. It was like there was a war raging inside of him between the side that fought to distance himself from her, and the side that fought to be close to her. But the side that fought for distance still gave a shit, so it had a weakness, a fatal flaw that always led to its downfall.

 

Toothbrush hanging from mouth, Casey paused her brushing and took in Derek’s concerned expression. She knew he cared, but it still surprised her every time he didn’t recoil and run at the sight of her like this.

 

Wiping her cheek with the back of her hand, she nodded and resumed brushing her teeth. He probably already knew how she felt inside, if he was going through anything comparable to what she was going through. But she couldn’t tell him, couldn’t say all of that out loud.

 

“I was just gonna…” Derek said, motioning at the medicine cabinet. Would she want him to stay? Or go. “You… want me to come back later?” She probably wanted him to get lost, but he didn’t want to make things worse by making it seem like he didn’t care that she was upset.

 

“Nuh,” Casey said through the foaming paste in her mouth, just a little faster than intended, and moved a little to the side to make space for him at the sink. Sometimes she didn’t have a single clue what the hell she wanted. But she never wanted him to go away. “Nuh, you can shtay.”

 

Gulping, Derek nodded and stepped up to the sink next to her, getting his own toothbrush ready while making sure not to touch shoulders with her. As he brushed, he could feel Casey’s eyes not looking at him. And he was not looking at her. And it was painfully obvious with the tension in the air that they were both struggling with that task.

 

Even though they weren’t touching, Casey knew that in the complete dark, with her eyes closed, she would still know he was there. She could feel him next to her just as if his side was pressed up against hers. It was reassuring, soothing, and at the same time, unnerving.

 

Done with her brushing, she rinsed and spat shyly into the sink, then placed her brush back in the cabinet carefully. She didn’t want to look at him and betray the depth of her emotional turmoil - which she knew, he would see in her eyes. But she didn’t want to leave.

 

She shifted awkwardly, eyes focusing on his elbow, as she struggled to find something to say - coming up with nothing.

 

Derek tried to focus on his teeth but all he could sense was Casey, like her presence was turned up to maximum volume. The time since Casey had stopped brushing was starting to drag out and he could feel her eyes giving up, warming his skin like a sunbeam while he kept his own eyes glued to his pupils in his reflection. He lost an ultimate battle last night with his willpower, he couldn’t be so weak as to lose out over simple eye-contact. He could do this. He was not going to loo-

 

His eyes flickered to her face in the mirror.

 

Damn it!

 

As if feeling his gaze on her, she looked up, directly at him. She was starting to breathe heavily, and it occurred to her that she was probably acting creepy right now. She needed to leave.

 

“Um,” she uttered, pushing away from the sink. “H-ha… have a good day?” She said lamely.

 

What? God, she was pathetic.

 

Derek’s toothbrush came to a halt as they basked in the awkwardness. He tore his eyes away and spat in the sink. He quickly wiped his mouth on his arm, turning to grab her by the wrist to stop her before she rushed to leave.

 

When his fingers wrapped around her wrist, it was like she was zapped, causing her to turn around with a gasp. She watched him curiously, waiting for him to say something.

 

She just needed him to say something.

 

Shit. Derek had no idea what he wanted to say. He just… didn’t want her to leave. As awkward and tense as the moment was, some part of him was hanging on to it, not letting it come to an end if that meant she had to go. It was the exact opposite of what he was supposed to do, which was spend as much time apart as possible.

 

He searched her eyes for answers, any small hint of what to say. A million possible words choked in his throat as he was mesmerized by the depths of glittering marbles. His own brown eyes held so much more complexity than he remembered. Like a deep pool of molten chocolate and caramel with flecks of gold spiraling down to the centre where Casey resided. A surreal feeling poured into him, like he was gazing into her soul through some otherworldly lens.

 

Time stretched out endlessly as they stared at each other without a word, with Derek’s eyes boring into her like he could really see her, see everything she was trying to hide. Casey was glued to her spot, keeping herself still so she didn’t succumb to her impulse to reach out and kiss him again. If he could just say something.

 

Not only could his mind not think of a single word, it also couldn’t decide on an emotion. Fascination. Pain. Guilt. Frustration. Longing, gut-wrenching longing. Understanding - acknowledgement of everything that existed between them, all their history, and everything left unsaid. Anger, at himself mostly for feeling so intensely about her, and for being such a slave to it.

 

He yanked himself away from her and shut his eyes to hide from whatever bewitchment came over him, fisting his hands at his sides and gripping reality firmly in place. “Uh, ahem.” He coughed, looking up at her - anywhere but her eyes, “Sorry.” He apologized for acting like such a mental case, “Y-you too.”

 

Melting, Casey let out a small, nervous laugh.

 

He was just as lost as she was.

 

Biting her lip, she took a slow step forward, careful not to trip over her feelings. She couldn’t ruin this. Her hand reached out for his cheek, brushing down the side of his face as his eyes widened, unable to deny herself just the slightest of touch. She needed it too badly.

 

She smiled softly as she closed the distance, keeping her breathing even while her heartbeat accelerated, and pressed her lips affectionately to his forehead, letting her fingers drag to the back of his head to tangle in his ponytail.

 

Wanting to linger but sensing Derek’s stiffness, she pulled back, letting her hand drift down his arm until it fell at her side.

 

“See you later…” Casey said, a small snicker pulling at her lips before she left him with a parting word. “Princess.”

 

Derek’s stunned silence was broken once she was gone, and a flustered giggle shook out of his chest. He fought off the girly smile tugging at his cheeks and cleared his throat, shaking his head to rid himself of the fog surrounding his brain.

 

 


 

 

Can't you see that I'm the one who understands you / Been here all along so why can't you see-e-e / You belong with me-e-e.

 

Startled by her ringtone, Casey looked around the classroom and her snickering classmates with dread. Dammit, she forgot to turn it off!

 

Fishing her cellphone out of her bag hurriedly, she saw that it was her mother calling. That could be important.

 

Standing by and waiting at your back door / All this time how could you not know / Baby-y-y, you belong with me-e-e.

 

“Venturi is a Swiftie!” some coward called from the back of the class. She turned her death glare on him.

 

“She has depths!” Casey defended, before grabbing her bag and scurrying out of the room while picking up the call. “Hi, mom!”

 

“Derek?”

 

Oh shit, Casey winced.

 

“Ha, ha. Heyyyy, Nora… can’t get one past ya,” she said lamely.

 

“What are you doing with Casey’s phone?” Nora asked, her tone dripping with suspicion.

 

“I-uhhhh,” Casey fumbled, “... stole it? For a prank! Ha. Ha!”

 

Nora sighed on the other end. “Hilarious,” she deadpanned, “but I really need to speak to Casey, Derek. Is she around?”

 

“Uhhhhhhh…” Looking around helplessly, Casey caught sight of Derek coming out of the girls’ bathroom and yelped, “yes! There she is! Hey, Case! It’s your mom!”

 

“Wuhhh??!” Derek said, taken off guard by the sudden attack of a phone being shoved in his face in the otherwise empty hallway, “Uhhhhhhhheeeeey mom!” He said cheerfully, taking the call, hoping to skip over the whole issue of their switched-phones, “What’s up?”

 

“Casey,” Nora said, “I need you to drive Lizzie to soccer at 4 o’clock, Honey. I promised her I would go watch her play, but I’m stuck at work and can’t make it!”

 

“Sure! Yep, yep I can do that.”

 

“Oh, thank you, sweetie!” Nora sighed gratefully. “I should be home on time for dinner.”

 

“Cool. Gotta go N - mom! See you at home!” Derek said quickly, hanging up, as Casey eyed him suspiciously.

 

“What was that about?!” Casey asked impatiently as she glowered at him.

 

Jeez. What's your problem? Derek almost asked, but adding a fight on top of whatever was already going on between them wasn’t what he had in mind, “Looks like I’ve got a soccer game to get to, and you,” He said, handing her phone back casually, “Have hockey practice. Do you remember everything I taught you?” Then he nearly choked on his tongue, reminded of their almost kiss on the ice, and their very real kiss on the couch - hockey lessons were apparently an aphrodisiac.

 

Blushing as her thoughts unknowingly went to the same place, Casey nodded. “Yup,” she said anxiously, shoving her phone in her pocket. “I’m… gonna go… now!”

 

 


 

 

Derek cheered loudly as Lizzie broke away from the pack, straight towards the goal.

 

“GO GO GO GO GO!”

 

He was living for this game!

 

The score was 3 - 0 and Lizzie had scored all 3 goals. Her footwork with the ball was insane, and she clearly had strategy in mind, more so than the other players who just seemed to run around aimlessly. It reminded Derek of himself on the ice. “YES!”

 

Lizzie scored! Derek cheered, celebrating with the group of moms he was sitting with.

 

It was a thrilling game, and he couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride for his step-sister as she trotted off the field. Lizzie’s teammates pat her on the shoulders and sang her praises as they all filtered back to their families and water bottles.

 

“Holy shit Liz! You were amazing out there!” He complimented as Lizzie guzzled down some water, red-faced and sweaty.

 

Lizzie’s eyes widened comically, probably at his use of profanity, but she grinned. “Thanks, sis!” she said, laughing. “I’m glad you finally came to one of my games!”

 

“I didn’t know what I was missing!” Derek enthused.

 

Suddenly, they were interrupted by one of Lizzie’s teammates, who skipped up to them with a peppy spring in her step while shaking her hair loose from her ponytail. “Hey Killer.” She said toyingly, slapping Lizzie on the arm.

 

“Hey, Ali,” Lizzie giggled, looking down as she shuffled her feet with a shy smile.

 

Derek raised an eyebrow at the pair of them, watching as Ali clung to Lizzie’s side. “I got you this.” The cute girl said, her already flushed cheeks reddening as she handed Lizzie a small flower - more of a weed really, “Figured you deserved something for single-handedly leading us to victory!” She chirped.

 

“Thanks,” Lizzie said, taking the flower gently between her fingertips, and shrugged casually while looking up at Ali through her lashes, “But that’s because I have some great teammates, you totally had my back out there.”

 

“Oh my god, stop being so humble, Captain!” Ali gushed, and then caught Derek’s grin out of the corner of her eye, “Oh! Is this your sister?!” She shook Lizzie playfully.

 

“Oh! Yeah!” Lizzie blushed, looking up at Derek like she’d forgotten he was there. “Casey, this is Ali,” she introduced.

 

Great to meet you Ali!” Derek smirked, shaking the bubbly girl’s hand, casting a knowing glance over at Lizzie who blushed deeply, “And you’re right. Liz is way too humble, she’s a total pro.”

 

“See?!” Ali jumped up and down, smacking Lizzie on the arm again, “Give yourself more credit! Anyway…” She said, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she took a step away and started fiddling with her fingers nervously, “I thought we could celebrate the win by going out for ice cream!”

 

Lizzie looked ready to accept, but then she looked back at Derek and hesitated. “I can’t really,” she said sadly, “my sister is giving me a ride home.”

 

“Pffft!” Derek scoffed, “So? I don’t care, go have fun!” He insisted, eyebrows wiggling slightly. He was dying to tease her about how this was so obviously a date. “Just text me when you need a ride.”

 

“Really?!” Lizzie jumped excitedly, turning to Ali with a brilliant smile, “Okay, then ice cream it is!”

 

“Great!” Ali squealed, shaking her fists excitedly in the air, “Just let me grab my stuff and say bye to some people, then let’s meet at our tree, kay?” She trotted backwards and waved sweetly, bounding away to her family down the field.

 

Derek crossed his arms and eyed Lizzie suspiciously with a wide amused grin.

 

Squirming under his scrutiny, she crossed her arms somewhat protectively. “What?”

 

"Oh nothing, nothing…" He dismissed humorously with a shrug, "I just had no idea you had a girlfriend."

 

Lizzie gasped, looking at him like he’d grown a second head. “She’s not my girlfriend!” she said, swatting at his shoulder. “We’re just good friends!”

 

"Liz." He deadpanned, urging her to be serious. He wasn't blind. "Our tree?"

 

“It’s our tree because we planted it together, so what?” She asked defensively.

 

Yeah, he planted trees with his friends all the time, "Liz." He said again in the same tone, staring her down teasingly.

 

She stared back for a solid minute before letting out a sigh and dropping her shoulders in defeat. “Fine, maybe I like her,” she said, then looked up at him imploringly, “but please don’t tell anyone? Please, Casey.”

 

“Hey!” He reassured, taking her under his wing, “Don’t sweat it kiddo. I won’t say anything. But you should.” The only thing more obvious than Lizzie’s crush on Ali was Ali’s crush on Lizzie, “She’s totally into you.”

 

“You think so?” Lizzie asked hopefully.

 

“Totally!” He said confidently. He knew what it looked like when a girl was crushing, he was practically an expert. “I gotta admit though,” He said, releasing her with a chuckle, “I had no idea you swung that way.”

 

“Is it, like…” she shuffled her feet awkwardly, “weird if I like both?”

 

“No!” He said quickly. The lines of his own sexuality had been blurring recently, so who was he to judge? And he knew he could say the same for Casey. It was a shame that the image of Casey making out with Sally was tainted by guilt and more guilt when he thought of their faces. “Not weird at all.” If Lizzie wanted weird, he could tell her all about the body swap and his and Casey’s doomed souls, “You can’t help who you like. I’ve got your back, no matter who you end up with.”

 

Smiling softly, Lizzie tucked herself against his side in a sisterly hug. “Thanks, Casey,” she said honestly. “And you know it’s the same for you, right?”

 

Derek smiled sadly. He was pretty sure Lizzie wasn’t factoring him - Casey’s step-brother, into that equation, “Thanks Liz.” He said genuinely, “You know…” He said conspiratorially, “I’ve kissed a girl.”

 

Her eyes bugging out, Lizzie laughed, looking up at him incredulously. “Seriously?”

 

Derek shrugged with a coy smile.

 

 


 

 

“Alright ladies!” Coach yelled as the team vacated the ice, “Make sure to come back tomorrow with your heads out of yer asses! Venturi!” He called, “A word.”

 

Casey skated over to the coach with her eyes down on the ice. Honestly, the guy was scary as hell. She had an idea what he had to say to her, and she winced as she stopped in front of him, bracing herself for more yelling. “What’s up, Coach?”

 

“I don’t think you need me to tell ya that you were off today.” Coach said gruffly, crossing his arms over his big belly. “Y’looked like your head was full of cotton, you didn’t know where you were goin’ half the time! What the hell were you doin’ out there?” His death glare softened but his voice remained hard, “You know if you got troubles at home er something you can talk teh me. Nobody given’ you a hard time, are they?” He grinned almost maniacally, “‘Cept me.”

 

“Uh, no!” Casey shook her head, “nothing like that. Just feeling a little off.” She really had sucked today. Big time. If she thought she was decent on Monday when it was just her and Derek, it was a completely different thing with all the other more experienced players skating around. She really had no clue what she was doing. But that just meant she needed to study harder! “I swear I’ll be top shape tomorrow!”

 

“You’d better be.” Coach said sternly, “Can’t have you going soft right before the biggest game of the season. When the Captain’s off, the whole team's off, don’t ferget that.” He heaved a heavy sigh, “I… didn’t want ta tell y'this ‘cuz I didn’t wanna pressure ya, but maybe you need a fire under ya. I’ve heard rumblings ‘bout Queens maybe sending down a scout for the big Northbridge battle. You got a real shot if you get back to yer A-game.”

 

A scout from Queens! That would be a golden opportunity for Derek. She knew she really needed to get this right for him. This was his future.

 

Queens was also one of her top Universities, and going to the same place might be necessary if they were stuck like this for a while. And… maybe she wouldn’t mind having him around either.

 

“I hear you, Coach,” Casey reassured. “I won’t disappoint you.”

 

Alright.” Coach grumbled, “Get outta here. Get some rest, I want yer head screwed on properly for tomorrow.”

 

 


 

 

Sighing tiredly, Casey took off her glasses and rubbed her temples to rid them of the growing headache. She’d been brushing up on her hockey for over three hours, ever since she’d left the dinner table in silence to lock herself in Derek’s room. They hadn’t talked or looked at each other the whole time; no kind of touching either, and definitely no footsie. She pouted at herself, noting the tinge of disappointment this sparked in her.

 

Not that she particularly wanted to play footsie with him or anything like that, but she had to admit that when they touched, she felt a thousand times better. Plus, it was kind of a requirement now, since the only way to fix their predicament was to get closer; physically, emotionally, spiritually. She still had no idea how they could accomplish all of that, but there was no question that bonding time was necessary - even if they didn’t flirt, or kiss. They could still be friends, couldn’t they?

 

When she looked back at her computer screen, her eyes glazed over and all the words blended together. She needed a break.

 

Derek was still awake (as if he would ever go to bed that early anyway), she could hear him shuffling softly in the room over. She wasn’t going to mention that she’d taken up the habit of leaving the vent open at night - for reasons.

 

She supposed now was as good a time as any to bond. Everyone was either asleep or in their rooms. They would have the living room all to themselves.

 

Finding herself at his door, she knocked gently, taking deep breaths as she wrung her hands anxiously. What if he said no?

 

The door swung open a few seconds later, revealing Derek lounging against the doorframe and taking his headphones off of one ear, “W’sup.” He asked lazily.

 

“H-hey,” Casey stammered. Damn her nerves. “I was studying, and um. I need a break. Do you… do you wanna watch a movie?”

 

“Uhhhhh…” Derek said uneasily, eyes wide. It sounded like she was asking him on a date. He was honestly scared of being within kissing distance of her, and he was petrified by how much he wanted to be within kissing distance of her. But he couldn’t let on that he was feeling that way, so he played it cool and aloof, “What, like a… bonding thing?” He asked with disinterest.

 

“Yeah,” Casey nodded with a shy smile and shrugged. Of course he didn’t sound thrilled, but he didn’t say no. “Like a… bonding thing.”

 

Derek gulped, “Kay.” He assured himself that it was necessary - he wasn’t agreeing to this because he wanted to. He cursed the nervous thrill he felt at the thought of spending some one-on-one time with her. “But I’m picking the movie.”

 

“Yeah, sure, that’s great,” Casey grinned, relieved. She didn’t really care what they were watching as long as she got to spend time with him. Seriously, when did she get so lovesick? “I’ll uh, go make some popcorn?” she said, pointing her thumb towards the staircase.

 

Derek nodded and with that, Casey was gone, fleeing down the stairs. Derek sighed, putting his headphones away. The last time they watched something on the couch together… Well, he was going to have to be extra careful about staying on the right side of the line this time. He still had a girlfriend, at least until Sunday when he was surely getting dumped for being a cheating freak who was soul-bonded to his step-sister.

 

He went down to pick a movie. Shuffling through the DVD’s, he looked for the perfect movie to keep them on the straight and narrow.

 

Titanic. Too romantic. Best to avoid highlighting any of the obvious subtext between them.

 

The Ugly Truth. Too sexual. That subtext was even more dangerous.

 

Final Destination. Too scary. He would basically be throwing himself into the fire with that one, since Casey would likely wind up in his lap.

 

Bring it On. Too much of a Casey movie. And if he was remembering correctly, beyond the hot cheerleaders, there was an alarmingly familiar tooth brushing scene. Besides, he needed to pick a Derek movie, so he could cling to some recent past, back when he did everything in his power to win against her, constantly - the good old days before he turned into a hopeless wreck.

 

The Dark Knight. Too… Perfect. Low on the romance and sexuality, and only scary to children. It was one of his favorite movies, he’d seen it twice in theatres. It wasn’t a Casey movie but maybe she would be able to spot a good movie once it was in front of her face - which was important because they also needed something interesting enough to capture their attention away from each other. It was a little long… but meh… it felt safe. He popped it in and started it up as he tried to relax on the couch, buzzing with anticipation.

 

Casey came back from the kitchen with a large bowl of popcorn to find Derek lounging comfortably on the couch, with a DVD menu appearing on the TV. She stood next to him by the couch, trying to sound casual. “You don’t want your chair?”

 

“I - thought we were bonding.” Derek said stupidly. He would be much safer in his chair, had he realized that was an option.

 

“Yeah,” Casey smiled brightly. She wanted him to want it too. “We are.”

 

She came around the couch and bit her lip as she considered where to sit. There was plenty of space for them to sit without touching. She could pick the other side of the couch, and it would be perfectly safe - except, it might seem a bit obvious. And even though she wanted to touch him, she knew that they shouldn’t which meant she still had to keep a considerable distance. In the end, she sat in the middle, making sure to leave enough space for a small person between them (if they were squeezed tight).

 

Plopping down on the couch with the popcorn in her lap, she shoved a handful in her mouth and asked, “Wha arwe washing?”

 

Rolling his eyes, Derek reached over to grab some popcorn himself; Casey was such a movie-talker, constantly asking questions that would be answered if she just paid attention. “Why don’t you wait and see?” He teased, devouring the fistfull of popcorn as he pressed play.

 

“Ohay, fign,” Casey grumbled, making a show of sinking deeper into the couch and keeping her eyes on the movie. He chose a Batman film?! She did say that he could pick the movie, but did he have to be so childish and predictable?! “Yourgh sho immashure,“ she said, shoving more popcorn in her mouth.

 

Derek ignored her comment, locking his attention to the screen. They were going to sit there next to each other silently, and watch the movie. That was it. Easy.

 

Easy - Except for the part where they had to sit next to each other, apparently. It wasn’t 30 minutes into the film and he was already struggling. All he could think about was the fact she was right there. They were sitting in the same spots as last time, and the vivid memory of their kiss kept bleeding into his thoughts. Casey seemed interested in the movie at least, not appearing nearly as distracted as he was.

 

So, the movie wasn’t as bad as Casey would have thought. It was actually pretty good - when she paid attention. She was doing a great job at keeping her eyes focused on the screen, but every so often she could feel Derek’s gaze flick towards her and it was driving her crazy. She wondered what he was thinking about, if he remembered last night as sharply as she did and if he thought about doing it again. Her breath was catching just at the idea.

 

As the movie continued, they were starting to get low on popcorn. In his effort to keep his eyes glued to the screen, he forgot a crucial rule.

 

Their fingers brushed in the popcorn bowl.

 

Derek’s eyes widened, but beyond that and a slight flinch, he acted like nothing happened. He was full after that.

 

With the feeling of Derek’s fingers lingering on hers, Casey wrapped her hands around the bowl in her lap, her heart racing. She couldn’t understand why such a minor little touch affected her that much. Or maybe she did. If she was honest with herself, of course she did. She was getting tired of getting so little of what she wanted all the time, when she knew - deep down to her bones - that none of what she felt was forced on her, or made up, or a cosmic magic trick. It all came from her, and it was real.

 

It was getting unbearable for Derek. There was something deep inside of him that felt like it was trying to climb out - he repressed it, staying as still as possible in his seat. “So…” He started. What! Why was he talking?! “Do you think…” The words were stolen out of him. He tried to hold back with all his strength, but it felt like a muscle twitching and giving way under a heavy force, “For this bonding thing to work properly…” Shut up! Shut your fucking mouth. “We need, uh…” No no no no! Don’t you dare finish that - “Physical contact?” Pathetic.

 

She looked at him this time, she could practically hear a snap with how fast she turned her head. She really didn’t know what would work, but a part of her felt that, if denying their bond was what got them here, then the best way to fix this would be to appease it. Their souls wanted it, wanted to touch. No good could come out of denying that.

 

“I don’t know,” she said honestly, shrugging as she played around with the unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bowl in her lap. “I think it would help,” she offered, meeting his eyes earnestly.

 

Derek cleared his throat nervously, “Mm’okay.”

 

Neither of them moved right away, too awkward and scared to make the first move.

 

Finally too tired and her fingers shaking from holding back, Casey reached out and took his hand, closing her eyes as their palms connected together. That was when she knew, really knew with perfect certainty, and no more doubts in her mind, that this was meant to be.

 

Derek let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, and a wave of calm washed over him. Casey’s palm over his, such a simple, innocent thing, was like Xanax or something. Their heart lines mirrored against one another, the contact spreading tingles up his arm. This definitely felt like it was working. Sitting next to each other while restraining themselves from this was probably doing more harm than good in making progress towards switching back. The overwhelming feeling of rightness was undeniable.

 

Looking back into his face, she could see the faintest smile on his lips. “See?” Casey whispered teasingly, “It’s not so bad, is it?”

 

"It… helps." Derek admitted painfully.

 

“I guess that means…” Casey said slowly, worried about spooking him, “maybe we should do this more often.”

 

Conflict brewed inside of Derek at the suggestion. It was abundantly clear they should be touching more if it meant getting back in their bodies sooner. But it felt too good, and he had to hold on tight to his sanity or he wouldn't be able to stop himself from tumbling into her - lips first probably. He was not a cheater. Even if this was inevitable, he could hold on for a few more days.

 

"Yeah." He said hoarsely, almost in a whisper as he noticed his knee had somehow traveled over to touch hers while he was distracted.

 

Casey could practically see the struggle in his eyes, and she felt suddenly bad for pushing so hard. “If it helps,” she reassured, “I won’t…” She looked away again, observing the way his smaller hand fit in hers and laughing a little at herself for how vulnerable she felt, “Won’t do anything you don’t want to.”

 

The side-effects of being in Casey’s body were starting to pop up again, as Derek felt the warm blush in his cheeks, and the shallow rise and fall of his chest. Casey seemed confident enough that she could hold back, which was a good thing because he was anything but confident about his ability to do that, and he knew if she made another move on him, he’d be powerless against it.

 

He took a steadying breath and hesitantly scooted closer to her until their thighs touched. Heart beating like a hammer, he chewed at his bottom lip.

 

Forcing her eyes away from his mouth, she untangled their hands gently so she could lean her arm on the back of the couch, inviting him in with a soft smile. He hesitated for a moment, and then let himself fall into her side. He relaxed against her instantly and she even heard him let out a soft sigh.

 

She wrapped her arm around him, tucking him in where he was safe, and let her cheek rest against the top of his head. It was nice. It was quiet. It was peaceful.

 

It was unbelievable how comfortable he was right now. He let himself relax completely into her, enjoying the contact. Before, when he was trying to keep his distance, he felt like he was holding on to a taught slingshot - one mistake sending him flying towards her. But this felt easy, natural, content. Of course, there was still a burning desire to kiss her, but it wasn’t quite so urgent anymore. It was just… safe.

 

Still, even though they were on the safe side of morality with such innocent touching, Derek couldn’t help but feel guilty. Because he knew it meant something, there were too many feelings behind it for it to be completely innocent.

 

It was the best option he had though. Pulling back again would bring him back to that unstable place where he couldn’t control himself.

 

He felt more in control now than he had in a long while. Just comfortable and calm with nothing to fear. He closed his eyes, appreciating the peaceful moment as the sound of the movie filtered away.

 

There were so many things Casey wanted to say, but in the end, she didn’t say anything. Words didn’t matter right now.

 

Soon enough, she heard Derek’s gentle snoring and looked down at his face to find him sleeping soundly on her shoulder. Smiling, she kissed his hair, the back of her mind whispering.

 

I love you.

 

 


 

 

Thursday

 

Casey was jittery throughout attendance and announcements in homeroom, her leg bouncing up and down. As soon as the teacher was done, the classroom erupted into a cacophony of gossiping students, and Casey turned readily in her seat to face Megan who was sitting behind her. She had questions.

 

“Hey,” Casey whispered secretively.

 

Megan looked up from her book, “Hey, Derek.” She whispered with a wink.

 

Unsure if Megan was joking or flirting, Casey decided to dismiss that and jump straight to the point. “Can I ask you something? About… you know.”

 

“Sure.” Megan said. She held up her hand and waved it through the air in a circle.

 

“Lost behind the wall of sound,

 

Our private words will not be found ”

 

Upon noticing Casey’s confusion Megan added, “So we can talk freely without being overheard.”

 

That was pretty cool - and handy.

 

“It’s about - you called it ‘Analogous Spirit Embodiment’? Basically that thing that…” Casey looked around the room. Nobody was paying attention to them, and Megan may have placed a spell or something, but that didn’t mean she had to be careless about it. “Casey and I have in common?”

 

“It’s okay Casey, so long as we talk quietly, no one will even think to listen in.” Megan assured her, “What do you want to know?”

 

“You said that a part of our soul was linked, right?” Casey said, swallowing the lump in her throat. “Like it’s the same?”

 

“Well, yeah.” Megan shrugged, “You’re conjoined. Like twins, except you and Derek aren’t related, you’re actually very different from one another.”

 

Could she say: Duh?

 

“Megan,” Casey started slowly, playing with the corner of a sheet of paper on Megan’s desk. “Does this mean we’re…” She hesitated. She’d thought the word a lot, but saying it out loud was a different thing. “Does this mean we’re soulmates?”

 

Megan smiled kindly at her, and then pursed her lips thoughtfully, “It depends on how you look at it, I suppose. I mean, as far as I know, soulmates don’t really exist…” She trailed off, deep in contemplation.

 

“Oh,” Casey blushed at her foolishness, nodding as she tried to hide her disappointment. “Right, of course.”

 

“But…” Megan piped up, “Your situation is… unique. I mean, analogous spirit embodiments are rare enough as it is, even rarer in people who aren’t twins. And in those rare instances, which are so few and far between that we really don’t know much about them at all - they can be romantic or platonic. But I have never even heard of matching heart lines. That’s the centre point, the connection between your souls, and you’re constantly pulled towards it.” Megan’s eyes sparkled with fascination as she looked Casey deep in the eyes and said, “You and Derek might be the closest thing to soulmates that exists, or ever could exist.”

 

That was a lot to take in. Casey had never registered how rare their situation was before now. She knew it didn’t happen all the time, obviously, but it seemed so farfetched to think that they could be the only ones. “Why us?” she asked quietly, almost to herself.

 

“One of nature’s mysteries.” Megan said with wonderment.

 

“Well that doesn’t help,” Casey sighed, pouting sadly. Maybe she needed validation, something to tell her that she wasn’t crazy or a freak of nature.

 

“I’m sorry.” Megan said compassionately, “Have you and Derek been able to bond much?”

 

Blushing anew, Casey straightened in her seat, scratching her cheek nervously - why was it itchy already? She wouldn’t lie to Megan, if for the only reason that Megan could only help them if she knew everything, but telling her (or anyone, really), out loud was just… too hard.

 

“Yeah,” she said, reaching down into her bag. “I wrote it in my letter this morning. We, um. We sort of decided to have regular bonding sessions?”

 

"That's awesome! Has it made things less tense?" Megan asked directly, not dancing around the issue, "Last time I saw you guys… it was pretty clear you were both pulling away."

 

“Yeah…” Casey said sadly, remembering how shitty it had felt - how scary the thought that she had pushed him away for good had been. “It made things…” Unsure how to explain it, she went in another direction. “You know that example you gave us with the elastic band?”

 

Megan nodded in understanding, like that was all Casey needed to say. "Right. Well I say, if it feels good, don't fight it. I know the pull drawing you together might be scary but it's there for a reason."

 

“Right,” Casey chuckled ironically, “We kinda learned that the hard way, I guess…”

 

Raising an eyebrow, Megan asked, "How so?"

 

“Welllll,” Casey dragged out. “Turns out at some point when you stretch the elastic too much, you lose grip on it, and then…” she mimicked two sides crashing into each other with her hands. “Like that.”

 

"Ah…" Megan smiled thoughtfully, "Well then, maybe you should both just follow your instincts. Your souls want things to go in a certain direction. And you are your souls. So if you're avoiding that path it's not because you want to, it's because you think you have to."

 

“It’s just,” Casey looked down at her shuffling feet. She had pretty good reasons to think she had to. “It’s not quite that easy, you know?”

 

"Usually, I would say that nothing’s ever that easy. But in your case, from what I know about how this progresses… it could be that easy. In fact I think it's… inevitable."

 

“But it’s not… fair!” Casey choked out desperately. “How can we feel these things, want these things, when we’re not - we’re not allowed to, Megan.” She leaned forward to whisper shamefully. “He’s my… he’s my brother.”

 

Of course, she never thought of Derek as her brother, never wanted him to be her brother. But for all intents and purposes, they were family. Their parents and siblings probably wouldn’t see the difference the way she did.

 

“Oh, Casey…” Megan said sadly, placing a comforting hand on her arm, “You didn’t ask for your parents to get married. This link has been there since before you were even born! Maybe it's just the weird way nature brought you together. This is such a rare and beautiful thing, at least, that’s how I see it.”

 

“I want it to be beautiful,” Casey said wistfully. If at least one person didn’t think she was a freak (two, if she counted Sam - she definitely counted Sam), then maybe...

 

“If he’s your soulmate,” Megan continued. “If you two are the only soulmates ever to exist. If it's inevitable. If it is all but guaranteed that you will wind up happy and fulfilled. Isn’t it worth everything you have to go through to get there?”

 

“How do we know for sure?” Casey argued. “What if we’re wrong and ruin everything?”

 

“Your soul isn’t some separate thing that doesn’t affect your life. It is you. Just as much as this flesh and blood is you,” Megan said, poking her in the arm, “Actually… more than this flesh and blood is you. It has a shape, and is connected to Derek’s. How do I explain this? When your souls got a poke…” She jabbed Casey in the arm again, “They got all jumbled up. And now your souls are basically wobbling around like a bowl of jello until they can settle. When they settle, it won’t be like how it was before because what you had before was unstable. They will form a brand new shape, one that is really sturdy. In soul speak, that means happy. If you had never gotten the poke,” Poke, “you could have drifted apart. You wouldn’t have been totally miserable or anything, but your lives would always be unstable and stressful. Now that you’ve been poked,” She showed mercy this time, “Your souls will find their most stable shape together. You can’t screw it up, or run from it. You can only postpone it.”

 

Taking in Megan’s words, Casey ran her fingers over the folded letter in her hands, the letter containing her own account of the last two days, as well as her hopes and dreams that only echoed what she was just told. She wasn’t following some great power’s design. She was following her heart.

 

Placing her letter on Megan’s desk, she forced the words out - because they had to be real. They were important this time. Words held power, after all. “I love him.”

 

Megan’s reassuring smile was all the answer she needed.

 

 


 

 

Lounging in homeroom, Derek pulled out his phone. A brand new helping of guilt punched him in the gut.

 

Sally: I miss you.

 

Derek: I know this is last minute but I’m gonna be in Toronto this Sunday

 

Sally: OMG! That’s great news! :)

 

It hurt so goddamn much that he was getting her hopes up like this. She was all bright and warm like usual, with no clue what was coming her way - what already happened. How was he supposed to pretend like everything was fine for the next few days, when she was so trusting and wonderful?

 

Derek: I just really need to see you

 

Sally: Me too. It sucks to be away for too long. :(

 

Casey’s stupid tear ducts were burning and he fought them off. Crying at school wasn’t on his to-do list today.

 

Derek: You’re perfect, you know that?

 

Sally: You should save your compliments for Sunday. I won’t let you leave without a proper goodbye this time. ;)

 

Derek groaned, looking away from his phone shamefully.

 

Derek: You should also know that Casey is coming with

 

Sally: Okay. So what’s the occasion anyway?

 

He wanted to lie as little as possible, but obviously he couldn’t tell her the real occasion.

 

Derek: I want to see you. Casey too. We have a lot to catch you up on I guess

 

To avoid making her suspicious, he added a white lie.

 

And Casey is considering U of T so we’re gonna check out the campus

 

Sally: That’s awesome! You should take notes. Imagine the three of us in Toronto? :D

 

He’d rather not imagine that. In fact, he was dreading the three of them in Toronto, their little… chat. At the same time, he couldn’t wait for it - he felt so terribly that he wanted to send her a text right now apologizing. But she deserved a proper explanation.

 

Derek: Sorry I haven’t texted much. Coach has me super busy

 

Everything alright w/ u?

 

Sally: It’s all great here. Started applying for summer internships. My teachers gave me great recommendations. :3

 

Derek: Sweet! Since I’ve been so AWOL its good 2 know ur doing okay

 

If you dont hear from me much over the next few days its cuz im at the rink or im asleep

 

Sally: XD That doesn’t sound much different than usual.

 

Derek: I’m a creature of habit

 

Sally: But a cute creature. <3

 

Flirting with her felt scummy, like he was being dishonest. He wanted her to be happy, and holding back seemed rude. But he didn’t want to make her too happy and totally blindside her, maybe he should be preparing her somehow.

 

Derek: I dont want to lie to you

 

If he warned her though, she would spend the next few days worrying. If it was him, he wouldn’t want a warning. But this was Sally, she cared about communication above anything else, and she made it safe enough for him to open up to her. She might appreciate the honesty.

 

Derek: Sally. Actually there is something going on

 

Sally: What is it? Is everything okay?

 

Derek: Its really hard to talk about over text. Its why I need to see you

 

I dont mean to be ominous or whatever

 

Sally: Okay… I’m still worried a little.

 

Derek: I dont want you to worry. I shouldnt have said anything

 

Its a long story and its better in person

 

Sally: It’s not gonna start with “We need to talk” is it?

 

Derek: No those words are evil.

 

I have no idea how itll start tho tbh its kind of… idk

 

Weird

 

Sally: ur weird

 

Derek: No argument there lol

 

 


 

 

“Hey,” Casey said pleasantly as she sat at the table next to Megan. “Can we do this real quick? You know how it is on burger day at the caf, they’re out in the first thirty minutes because the football team are all pigs. I cannot miss it.”

 

Derek joined them, rolling his eyes, "She's inherited my hunger apparently." He told Megan. The fact he wasn't starving for burger day and the fact he was spending lunch in the library was honestly ridiculous.

 

"Not to worry!" Megan announced, "Just a quick palm reading." She looked like she was on pins and needles, ready to snatch their hands at any second. "Casey?" She chirped, holding out her hand.

 

“Okay,” Casey said, after quickly wiping her hand on her thigh, and placed it in Megan’s palm, feeling slightly anxious about this palm reading session. Though she had gotten used to it after the first few days, it still felt a bit invasive, like Megan could see into her. And then she would say out loud what she found out. Now, Casey liked to consider herself an open book, she was generally communicative about her feelings, but since their discussion in homeroom, she wondered what Megan would see in her palm today, and what she would divulge in front of Derek.

 

Closing her eyes, Megan traced Casey's palm. Every now and then, a thought would cross Megan's face - little expressions of intrigue, shock, confusion, and elation. "Interesting!" She exclaimed so suddenly it almost caused Casey to jump, "It seems to be speeding up more and more every time I see you! Definitely more stable than last time, but still quite jumbled up if I'm being honest. You two are well on your way. At this rate…" Megan thought long and hard, like she was doing the math in her head, "I would be shocked if you didn't switch back within the year. Don't quote me on that though! No guarantees."

 

“Wow, less than a year!” Casey said sarcastically, turning her ironic smile towards Derek. “Heard that?”

 

He heard it. It was actually good news but… now his mind was crunching the numbers. They could be switching back anytime within the year. What if they switched back around finals? He was already studying for Casey's tests (because she forced him to), but they had different classes this semester, so he would probably need to keep up with his too in case they switched back during exams. His brain was already at full capacity. While he normally wouldn't be so concerned about school, it would fucking suck to get his body back only to miss out on going to University.

 

"Pff, yeah. Better than years, I guess." He offered. At least he'd be back in his body, either way. Being in Casey's body was fun at first but the novelty of being in the body of a hot girl had worn off. Now it seemed to come with more disadvantages than anything. The weird stomach ache he had all day could vouch for that.

 

Megan ran her fingers over Casey's palm once more, "Your overall energy is a lot more harmonious now than before. Much more at ease than that first day, that's for sure. I even sense a really strong sense of hope and excitement, barreling towards that place of contentment. Would you say that lines up with how you've been feeling?"

 

Casey’s heart rate sped up slightly. She was really feeling hopeful since last night when he fell asleep against her side, and it felt like they really could be headed towards something real, since Derek was leaning more into their bond. She still had to wonder though, if Derek saw things in the same perspective. Glancing at him quickly to gauge his reaction, she nodded. “Yeah, I’d say that’s about right.”

 

Derek did his best not to react. If he allowed himself to feel excited, then yeah, he felt excited. But he couldn't go there. Because of Sally, obviously, and because that idea of barreling towards that super soul connected place was overwhelming, like a boulder rolling down a hill, gaining speed. Keeping his distance from Casey was like trying to push that boulder back up the hill.

 

Nodding thoughtfully, Megan dropped Casey's hand, "Great! I'm getting a lot of helpful information, it's so cool to see the changes every time I read your palms." Her piercing eyes found their next target, "Derek?" She prompted invitingly.

 

He handed his palm over with dread. He still wasn't used to the magic stuff, and he was really not used to bearing his soul - literally. What would she see? And what would she announce to Casey? It was definitely not going to be hope and excitement, that was for damn sure.

 

"Oh…" Megan said once she touched his skin, her eyebrows knitting together like she was physically uncomfortable. Then she chuckled lightly, "You've got some inner turmoil in there, ha ha." Looking up suddenly, she caught his warning gaze and her smile dropped, "Uh, sorry." She apologized quickly before turning her attention back to his hand. "It's…" She trailed off, looking for the words, "Closer than before. By a lot actually. But…" She scrunched up her face in concentration, "It's still really unstable, teetering like it's undecided. And I can sense there is a real resistance. While Casey's is leaning towards, yours seems to be leaning away." Suddenly, Megan looked up with a blush at the two of them, realizing she may have released some sensitive information.

 

It wasn’t that bad, Casey reassured herself. That could be interpreted in all sorts of ways. It was obvious that she was leaning towards the bond. She was dedicated to their goal, right? That was a good explanation!

 

She took a deep breath while she resisted the urge to cringe. Looking down at her hands in her lap, unable to look at Derek after such a telling statement, she recognized within herself that she was more hurt by how he was leaning away, when she thought they had been making such progress, rather than by Derek possibly discovering she was more invested into their bonding than she let on.

 

Derek just sat there silently, risking a glance at Casey. He swallowed a sickening feeling of guilt from how disappointed she looked. He felt that pull again, this time telling him to say something to reassure her. But he couldn't tell her what he wanted to say - what she wanted to hear. He wasn't in a place to be making any promises. That resistance Megan was talking about reared its ugly head as he kept his mouth shut, willing the conversation about his inner turmoil to quickly come to an end. He widened his eyes at Megan as a hint to cut it out.

 

Megan seemed to register the warning, a look of embarrassment crossing her face, but then she narrowed her eyes at him challengingly, like she wasn't letting him off the hook so easily. It was truly terrifying.

 

"Where do you think that resistance is coming from Derek?" Megan asked, as though she was a scholar in pursuit of an answer to one of life's most fascinating philosophical questions. Derek clenched his jaw as he saw the sly flicker in Megan's eye, knowing very well the position she was putting him in right now.

 

Not standing down, he all but glared at her. "Well," He smirked coldly, "It's a bit hard to lean into a so-called soul bond when you have a girlfriend to worry about."

 

Wincing, Casey looked up at him guiltily. She felt terrible for putting him on the spot like this, especially when his concerns were so valid. It still hurt though. He said it like he still believed it was all bullshit. Maybe he only went along to spare her feelings.

 

Megan's jaw dropped in shock and she sputtered, completely taken off guard. "Y-you. Wh…" She shook her head, "Oh yeah…" Blushing in embarrassment, she tucked her hair behind her ear. "I guess that makes sense. I don't know why I forgot that, I guess I just assumed…" Shaking her head again she dismissed the thought she was having, "That explains things though. It must be hard to make a commitment and then find out your soul already made a commitment long before that. I could feel that tension tearing you in two ways, I just wasn't sure what it meant."

 

Derek grimaced, she really didn't need to put it all into words like that! And she made it sound like he didn't have a choice in the matter, like his soul was already Casey's. Like iIt didn't belong to him to give freely to whoever. He felt a strong need to argue that for some reason. His soul may be connected to Casey's but it was still his. "Just because some higher power thought it would be fun to mess with us, doesn't mean we have to take it." He insisted, using Casey's phrasing from the other night.

 

She recognized her own words, and it was just twisting the knife in her guts. How confusing was this whole thing? Was it really going to be worth it in the end? There was a part of her (a huge part of her, which consisted of most of her), that wanted this like nothing else. Knowing the depth of her feelings for him now, it seemed impossible to let go. Since her conversation with Megan that morning, she realized that even though falling in love with him was a subconscious process, her soul was her, and she desperately wanted to make that choice consciously. But what if Derek couldn’t? What then? He still had a choice, she couldn’t take that away from him. She kept quiet, because she held hope that Megan could convince him the way she had convinced her.

 

"A higher power?" Megan asked, confused, "I don't know about that. I mean, I personally believe in a higher power and an element of fate to a degree, but it's not like you're being forced into anything. I mean… not anything that you don't…" She sighed, with slight annoyance at herself for not being able to find the right words, "Do I have to give you the same 'you are your souls' lecture I gave Casey?"

 

"Please. No lecture." Derek said seriously, "I've heard enough psychic babble for today." He huffed in frustration, completely over this stupid palm reading that felt more like an interrogation into his inner sanctum. "Are we done?" He sighed heavily, standing up from the table, his stomach protesting the sudden movement with a twinge of pain, "If I don't get a burger in me soon, I'm gonna snap."

 

Soooo... I guess not, Casey thought, watching Derek seethe as he stormed out of the library dramatically, in a way that was so like her that he almost appeared to be mocking her.

 

Derek was furious with Megan for prying into his soul and spilling its contents everywhere so that she and Casey could pick at it and scrutinize it. And his stomach fucking hurt. And he was suddenly craving a cafeteria burger so hard he might punch a football player for one. There'd better be some left! The thought of the burgers being sold out was unacceptable. He stormed down the hallway, his pain and hunger only pissing him off even more.

 

Whenever Casey was especially volatile, he used to tease her and say that she must be on her period, or that she should eat something because she always got cranky when she was hungry. Now he was in her body and he was fucking menstruating, hungry and angry. He was hangry. Casey's body came with the worst side effects and he missed his body more than ever. But getting his body back would require leaning in, which he couldn’t do.

 

God fucking damnit!!

 

 


 

 

The stress that built inside Derek throughout the day dissipated during his daily bonding time with Casey. Any physical contact with her seemed to calm his nerves, almost miraculously.

 

The only nerves that remained were stemming from the suggestive nature of their current position - lounging back onto Casey's chest, sitting between her legs, on her bed. They were totally casual about it, but they could both feel the significance of doing this on the bed. The ever-present guilt was still lurking inside him too. He was also slightly unnerved by Casey peering at him over his shoulder, watching him study, keeping him accountable. He was studying for one of Casey's upcoming science quizzes. While they could hand in their own homework, they had to write each other's tests, and even though Casey hadn't said anything, he knew she was expecting him to do his best. So, he sighed and glued his eyes to the textbook. At least Casey would bump his GPA, except in math, which ironically was the only class he was doing well in.

 

"How many times do they gotta say that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell?" Derek asked tiredly, "It's like… the only thing I can remember because they wont let me forget."

 

“At least you remember something,” Casey jived, her arms resting on her thighs on each side of him. Even though part of her kind of wanted to wrap her arms around him and to hell with everything, it was nice just being like this. She purposely avoided the subject of today’s palm reading, wanting to lean into the lighter mood. And they were doing her favourite thing - studying! What more could she ask for?

 

Struggling to read the next sentence, Derek tried again and again, but he was too distracted by Casey's voice, hanging closely above his head, rumbling through her chest into his back. "There's too much you have to remember in science. My brain is full. Let's switch to your shit, don't you have a math quiz tomorrow?" He slipped into a playfully offended tone, "Normally you would be cramming but apparently my exams aren't worth getting all keener-y over, huh?"

 

“I’ve been studying!” Casey defended, then let her chin fall on his shoulder with a pout. “I just don’t understand anything. It’s depressing.”

 

That was how Derek felt in all his other classes. He laughed, tensing shyly at having her face so close to his neck. Then he relaxed, turning his head into hers. They were so close their breaths were tangling as he teased her comfortably, "I seriously love how much better than you I am at math," He gloated.

 

Casey glared at him, narrowing her eyes. “Laugh it up, buddy. At least it’s the only class in which you have to worry about my performance.”

 

"Well, we can't all be super Keeners like you." He said proudly, "Besides, math is nothing. People make a big deal of it but it's easy. You just have to look at it the right way.

 

“The right way?”

 

Derek sighed, rolling his eyes, this was going to take an annoying amount of effort to explain. "Ugh." He said, shifting so he was looking up at her, "Grab your nerdy glasses and I'll show you what I mean."

 

“They’re not nerdy,” Casey grumbled as she stretched her arm towards her side table, and pushed the glasses up her nose with a smug smile, “Bethany says they look good on me.”

 

"Oooooh," Derek brightened with a teasing smirk, "Bethany?" He could only imagine how that conversation went. Bethany had been staring at him in gym all year. He couldn't help but feel cocky about Casey witnessing the attention he got from girls first-hand. He let himself indulge in the possibility it made her jealous. When guys hit on him in Casey's body, he couldn't help but feel a little possessive - even though she wasn't strictly his.

 

“Yeah, Bethany,” she said, leaning back against the headboard with her arms behind her head in a perfect picture of Derek at his most self-absorbed. “She totally wanted my bod, even asked me out on Saturday.” She lowered her head slightly as she wiggled her eyebrows. “Apparently she’s super flexible.”

 

Derek shook with laughter, imagining Casey's mortification to hearing Bethany saying something like that. "It's nice to know I'm sexy even as a nerd."

 

“Oh, the glasses just make it better, believe me,” she said, resuming her former position, with her elbows on her knees. “I got like five girls’ numbers when I was studying at the library.”

 

"Maybe you just attract the nerdy type." Derek quipped, "I've been fighting off nerds left and right, they all want a piece of the action. But I'm sure you know that already."

 

“Psh, yeah right,” Casey scoffed.

 

"No, I'm serious." Derek insisted playfully, "I even found myself on a date with a nerd before I realized what was up. Had to let the poor fella down gently."

 

“What do you mean, a date?!” Casey yelped, almost frantically. She was so not interested in getting into dating again right now - at least, with anyone other than her soulmate.

 

"Well when your good buddy Noel asked if you were going to poetry club, I thought it was like a regular thing." He sucked his teeth awkwardly, "Seemed pretty special to him though. Poor dude's got it bad. Though who can blame him, I mean…" He gestured down his body, cockily, "Look at me."

 

“Puh-lease,” Casey said, pushing his shoulder to cover her blush, “I’m so much hotter than you.”

 

Derek had to bite his smirk back at the compliment. Were they really going to play a game of who's hotter: body swap edition? That was straying out of the land of innocent and into the land of flirting. But it was hard to tell because it sounded so much like their usual banter.

 

All things considered, it was a travesty if Casey didn't know how hot she was, in her body or in his.

 

"Then how come I get hit on more now than I did before, huh?" He challenged.

 

“Ugh, it’s so typical!” Casey said, flailing her arms around. Even a frickin’ body swap didn’t bring him down a notch. “You even win at this, how do you do that?”

 

"You think I want dudes hitting on me?" Derek asked incredulously, "I'm not doing anything to make it happen. I guess being in the body of a hot girl makes it unavoidable." Was he taking this too far?

 

“Well you must be doing something because nobody was hitting on me before!” Casey argued.

 

Derek forced a chuckle, "I find that hard to believe. If one more guy looks at your ass I'm gonna lose it."

 

Casey huffed, leaning back to cross her arms. “Well whatever it is…” she drifted off, then winced a little as she remembered Noel. “You said you let Noel down easy, right?” She asked hopefully. Noel was really sweet, she liked him, but she really didn’t know how to deal with his crush when he always looked at her like a lost puppy.

 

"Yeah, dropped the whole 'off guys for good since the breakup' spiel before he even had a chance to ask. You know, gotta love yourself before you can love again type crap."

 

She heaved a sigh of relief, grateful that Derek didn’t give Noel some kind of false hope. “Thanks for that,” she said, scratching her eyebrow. “Can’t believe you went to poetry club.”

 

"It was torture. And I'm surprised," He said, raising a questioning eyebrow up at her, "Thought you'd be all over a guy like that," He couldn't help the slight petulance in his tone, "You know… sensitive poetry guy," He mocked.

 

“I don’t know,” she shrugged defensively, “he’s not my type.”

 

"So, what is your type then?" He coaxed.

 

Hey Derek. His conscience quipped. Where do you think you're going with that question?

 

Well, it wasn’t like she could say she was more into the type she was soul bonded to nowadays. “I guess I just figure,” she shook her head dismissively, watching him through her lashes, “I know it when I see it.”

 

Derek hummed thoughtfully and turned his head to look at her directly. He paused and pulled away, studying her face, "I take it back. The more I look at the glasses, the more I like them. I should have pulled these bad boys out years ago." He was really surprised by how sexy they looked - really, he had been holding out on the world for so long.

 

“Told you,” Casey chuckled, then she snickered as a devious thought crossed her mind. She pushed the glasses up her nose and leaned closer, stopping a couple of inches from his face with the most shit eating grin she could muster. “No one can resist the Venturi charm.”

 

"Hmm, got that right." Derek said smugly in return, appreciating the details of his face up close. For some reason, it felt less like vanity and more like attraction to the person wearing his face.

 

“Mhmm,” she agreed softly, her eyes drifting to his mouth. She could kiss him, he would probably let her. But she’d promised she wouldn’t. That was when she forced herself to pull away, clearing her throat as she pulled up her math textbook. “So, what was that about the right way of looking at math to make it so easy?”

 

Derek coughed, abruptly pulled from the moment. Math. He would focus on un-sexy math and get his mind off of Casey's lips. "Well... what's your test on?"

 

“Oh, um, chapter 3?” Casey said, flipping the pages forward and placing the textbook in his lap.

 

"Okay, so look," He said, pointing at the text. He went on to explain some little tips and tricks for approaching an exam. He had struggled for a long time in math before his dad forced him to get a tutor. The tutor explained things in a new way he hadn’t considered, and math just clicked for him. It was broken down into really simple steps, and he didn’t have to memorize much, which made all the difference. Ever since then, math was his easiest class.

 

Casey listened intently, but he didn’t start making sense until twenty minutes later, when he’d taken out papers to show her example after example for each type of question in the chapter. About halfway she had to pull herself away a little because the sight of Derek really getting into their study session was kind of hot. Then, after suffering through severe mental exertion, she finally got it.

 

“Oh my God!” Casey whined, letting herself fall onto her back with her head dangling from the side of the bed. “They’ve been teaching us the wrong way all along!”

 

"Tell me about it.” Derek scoffed lightly, “It also helps if at the beginning of the test you write down the formulas as if you had to rearrange them, just a few more things to memorize and then the whole test is just plugging in numbers." He wrote one down as an example. "Means less work."

 

Laughing, Casey pulled herself back up on her elbows to look at him, all smart and charming, as he showed off his scribblings proudly. “Of course you’d find a lazy way to be good at math.”

 

"Life's short." Derek explained, "Why waste it studying more than absolutely necessary? Not like I'll get into University anyway." He joked, throwing away the comment, hoping she didn't catch the very real edge to his words.

 

She sprung into a sitting position suddenly, distressed by the nonchalant way he stated it, like it was just inevitable. “Don’t say that,” she scolded. “You have a real shot. You could even get into Queens with a hockey scholarship. Coach told me they might be sending scouts to the big game. I’ll make it happen, Derek.”

 

"What?!" Derek asked in alarm, looking at her intensely, "Scouts?! Are you serious?! Fuck!" He exclaimed, exasperated, and he fell onto his back, throwing an arm over his face.

 

“That’s what Coach said!” She placed a reassuring hand on his arm at his side. “And I totally did better at practice today, he barely yelled at me! I’ve got your moves down, I just need to get my head in the game, and I’m getting there!”

 

Peeking at Casey from under his arm, he could see her distress, how much she cared about getting this right. He didn't know what compelled him to bring his arm down and place his hand over top of hers, holding it there. He sighed deeply, "It's… not that." He reassured her, "It's more that… I dunno…"

 

She turned her hand around under his to link their fingers together. “What are you worried about?”

 

Derek cleared his throat. The vulnerable side of him that he usually kept under wraps was starting to peek out as Casey's comforting palm urged him to open up. He was still embarrassed to admit the real reason he was upset. It wasn't because he thought Casey would fail and screw him over. It was because…

 

"I just… I've worked my whole life for it, you know?" He said softly, looking up at the ceiling, "I wanted to show them what I can do. And…" He swallowed thickly, "I don't know, it would have been nice to find out if I was good enough to get scouted."

 

Opening up to Casey usually felt like a death sentence, but something had changed between them, and he found himself seeking it out now. It was the way she asked so gently, with such genuine curiosity about what was going on in his head, ready to accept it, whatever it was.

 

He couldn’t help but notice how similar it was to how he felt around Sally. As sappy as it was, that ability to be vulnerable with Sally was what made him fall for her - it was the difference between some surface level relationship, and something more meaningful, something closer to that love place.

 

Even more frightening was that voice in the back of his head asking if he could maybe have that with Casey. He shouldn't even be thinking about Casey like that, especially not while he was still with Sally. He swallowed nervously, as he let his insecure words hang in the air. It felt like however Casey responded would spell out the rest of his future.

 

“Derek,” Casey said, “you are. If it wasn’t for this,” she waved at herself with their tangled hands to illustrate the body swap and the whole mess, “you had it in the bag. Even Coach thinks so.” She sombered and squeezed his hand. “If I can get this right, if I can get this scholarship for you, it’s only because of all the hard work that you’ve put in. And you’ll get to show them what you can do when you’re Captain of the Queens hockey team,” she finished with a grin.

 

Derek laughed sadly as his heart warmed at her words. "Yeah, maybe." He conceded lightly. She had so much faith in him, and her attempts at a pep talk were admittedly adorable. "Still though. Me not playing in the Northbridge game is like you missing senior prom. Just sucks to miss out I guess."

 

“I know,” she said calmly. After a few seconds of silence, she scooted to his side and lay down next to him, placing her head on his shoulder. Her cheek was sort of grazing his boob, and she quickly dismissed how comfortable it was. “You know, I, um,” she started. “I started filling out applications. For both of us.”

 

Closing his eyes, Derek decided to enjoy the moment and the rush of affection, rather than run from it. He smiled contentedly and let out a soft chuckle. "Got our whole lives planned out, huh? Tell me… what's it look like?"

 

“Hmmm,” she hummed thoughtfully. “I see that by the time we start at Queens, we’ll have our own bodies back.” She shifted the rest of her body closer against his side, closing her eyes to better visualize. “I see that you’ll have a contract with the NHL before we even graduate and you’ll become a professional hockey player with an even bigger head,” She smiled as she got sucked into the fantasy. “I’ll remain my humble self as I start an internship for a prestigious law firm. And since you’ll have more money, you can pay for the house.”

 

The picture in Derek's head was blissful. It was hard to imagine things could ever be so perfect from the wreckage they were in right now, but he wanted that sense of peace desperately. Lying there with Casey, he could almost taste it. "I thought you hated living under the same roof as me." He crooned playfully into her messy hair.

 

All this hypothetical talk of their future should really be freaking him out more - after all, he and Sally never planned a life together, even in a playful, imaginary way like this.

 

“Yeah, well…” She sighed dramatically. “I’m kinda stuck with you for life,” She said merrily, her grin stretching from ear to ear.

 

He couldn't help but laugh at that. "Literally."

 

“I think I’m okay with that,” Casey said quietly.

 

Derek's heart clenched at the tenderness between them, and Casey's shy admission. "I could get used to it."

 

“You’d better,” she said affectionately. “Because you’re not getting rid of me.”

 

That was the last thing Derek wanted. He didn't even want her to leave his bed.

 

 


 

 

Friday

 

As the alarm blared in his ears, Derek reached out to silence it, surprised to find himself surrounded by warmth.

 

He sat up abruptly and something tumbled off the top of his head. He grabbed it and peeked through tired eyes. A small plush kitten. "Wha-" He stammered, looking around at the pile of stuffies surrounding him. A mop of dark hair rose from the mountain.

 

"Morning Casey!" Marti announced.

 

"Sma- Marti?" Derek exclaimed, surprised, "What are you doing here?"

 

"Remember?" Marti said, cocking her head, "I had a nightmare so I came in and asked if I could sleep in your room."

 

Derek had no recollection of this, "Wuh…"

 

"You mumbled something like 'uh huh me bed is you bed?' So I thought it was okay. Are you mad?"

 

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Derek scooped Marti up into a hug, "Of course I'm not mad! What are big br- sisters for if not to protect you from nightmares, huh?"

 

Marti giggled into the hug, "Do you ever imagine what it would be like if dad and Nora never got married? You wouldn’t be my sister! And we might have not even met! You wouldn’t know me, or Derek, or any of us! That would royally suck."

 

Some place from deep within Derek had a scary thought. There was one other way Casey could become Marti's sister. Just remove the step and add in-law.

 

He wondered what life would have been like if their parents hadn't married. Would they have never met? Or would they have been drawn together regardless?

 

"That's pretty crazy to think about." Derek said, "Good thing you're stuck with me."

 

He helped Marti put her stuffies away and began getting ready for school.

 

Looking in the mirror, he frowned. He felt bloated - looked like it too. How long were periods supposed to last? It had seemed like it was finishing up but now was back with a vengeance. There was a dull ache in his abdomen that wouldn't go away no matter how much he moved or squeezed his stomach with his arms. Mirroring the pain in his abdomen, his lower back was starting to knot painfully. No wonder women were cranky on their period - he felt like shit.

 

He got dressed in one of Casey's usual outfits but for some reason he felt like he was bursting out of the skin-hugging clothes. It didn't look like he'd gained weight or anything, aside from being so damn bloated.

 

It made no sense. When he looked at his reflection and thought Casey, it looked attractive. When he looked at it and thought me, it looked wrong and he felt all gross and insecure. He never felt insecure - especially not about his appearance. If he was in Casey's hot body, why did he feel like such hot garbage?

 

He changed into baggier, more masculine clothes and felt a little better, even if he did look like he hadn't made much of an effort.

 

 


 

 

Casey was getting the hang of being in Derek’s body and living Derek’s life. Waking up late in the morning because she never knew she liked sleeping in so much; jerking off in the shower; taking exactly 2.5 seconds to do her hair because she looked hot just by rolling out of bed; being greeted at school like a superstar (she actually signed an autograph); eating whatever the hell she wanted because this body had such a fast metabolism she never felt bloated or gained any weight.

 

She was living the good life.

 

Except for that math test she had this morning - why were math tests always on Fridays? She followed all of Derek’s tips to the letter, and yet…

 

She was certain that she didn’t fail, she just wasn’t sure she did well. On a more positive note, his math teacher was pleasant and treated her like she walked on water - because everyone loved Derek and seriously did he always get everything handed to him?

 

She wasn’t complaining though, because all of that just made this body swap thing easier for her. Knowing Derek, he was probably breezing by in her body like nothing mattered. It so figured.

 

To top everything off, though, she got to hang out with Sam and Ralph and found out that they were amazing friends. Casey was lucky to have Emily, but she was otherwise friendless. It was nice to hang out with those fun loving idiots, outside by the bleachers at lunch, having the weirdest conversations.

 

"Sometimes I dream about a ferris wheel falling apart and the whole thing just like rolling away with everyone still inside," Ralph announced suddenly in a complete change of topic from their previous conversation ranking different flavors of pop, "But like imagine if it was totally safe and didn't crush everyone, then it would probably be pretty awesome."

 

Sam seemed to consider this. “I mean, a way to make it safe could be to make a track or something. Then people could just roll around town in a ferris wheel,” he nodded, a lopsided smile growing on his face. “Kinda like a bus!”

 

"Oh man!" Ralph enthused, "What if someone drove a motorcycle through it!"

 

“That -” Casey piped up, actually putting thought into the subject, for some reason, as she munched on her sandwich. “Actually, I can’t think of any way that would be safe.”

 

"It's not about the danger." Ralph smiled proudly, "It's about the concept…" He jumped up to scale the bleachers, shuffling along the metal beams, "the story… the philosophy, the journey!" He elaborated with enthusiasm.

 

Oh God… this idiot was going to hurt himself.

 

Casey turned her wide eyes towards Sam, at a loss, but only got a shrug in response while he leaned back and lit up a joint.

 

“Hey, Ralph,” Casey called out tensely to the boy playing spider-monkey across the bleachers. “Why don’t you come back here and explain that philosophy?”

 

Ralph scoffed playfully, "Best way to learn is to live it!" He called down, leaning back to extend his arms, hanging on to the tallest beam, "Come see for yourself!"

 

She sighed deeply.

 

Don’t ask her how it happened, but five minutes later, she was swinging from the highest metal bar, yelling strings of nonsense, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD! DANGER IS MY MIDDLE NAME! THIS IS MY PHILOSOPHY!”

 

 


 

 

Derek had a crappy day. Emily was home playing hooky and he spent most of the day alone. He tried chatting with some of his old acquaintances, just slipping into their conversations naturally but he just felt wedged out whenever he tried.

 

The loneliness combined with his godforsaken period cramps made him especially volatile and on edge. At lunch he bought an extra helping of pizza, because food was the only thing that seemed to help, when some guy from a lower grade actually oinked at him. In his rage he dropped his pizza, staining his sweatshirt, making him look even more like a slob. The group sitting at the end of his otherwise empty table snickered at him.

 

He ended up skipping his last class to walk home. He stopped at a playground on the way there, passing the time so he wouldn't get back too early.

 

Kicking at the dirt, he sat on the swing and swayed back and forth, losing track of time.

 

He was startled by the tinkle of chains when someone came up from behind and sat in the swing next to him.

 

A tall man smiled widely at him. “What’s a pretty girl like you doing out here all alone?”

 

Derek grimaced. It was a terrible pick up line. He didn't like the way this guy was looking at him. "I like being alone." He said firmly, "In fact, I wish I was alone right now."

 

“Come on,” the guy said jokingly, “you’ll like me when you get to know me.” He put a hand over his chest, “I’m Tom.”

 

Like this guy would have a chance with Casey. He was like, forty and missing a tooth.

 

Chuckling, Derek returned to kicking the ground, "And I'm not interested."

 

“How would you know?” Tom persisted. “You didn’t give me a chance. You think you’re too good for me or something?”

 

Derek laughed harshly.

 

This fucking guy.

 

"Yep." He said simply, not even looking up from his feet making a mess in the red dirt. "Now kindly fuck off."

 

Tom stood up, and it seemed that he was about to leave, but then his tall shadow loomed in front of Derek as he grabbed both chains of the swing above Derek’s hands, prompting him to look up. “Now, that’s not very kind of you, talking to me like that.”

 

Derek's eyes widened up at the towering man above him, fear churning in his stomach as the man regarded him with a wild hungry stare.

 

"Whoa! Hey-" Derek protested as he walked himself back in the swing to get some distance. The man followed, gripping the chains until Derek was standing, the seat of the swing trapping his lower back.

 

“Look, I’m a really nice guy,” Tom said, “I don’t ask for much. Just some respect, you know. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.”

 

Heart beating out of his ribcage, Derek could smell Tom's rancid breath. He shoved at his chest, finding it surprisingly difficult. Then he palmed his face and pushed it up and away, causing him to stumble back.

 

Ducking the swing, Derek’s hand clenched into a fist with rage. Then, he contemplated making a run for it, unsure if he could actually stand up for himself physically in this tiny body.

 

"Hey!" A voice called from behind him. He turned to see a college aged guy jogging up to them. When he arrived, he situated himself between Derek and his aggressor. "Is this guy bothering you?" He asked attentively with concern.

 

“No problem here,” Tom said with his arms up innocently, wasting no time and fleeing the scene.

 

"Are you okay?" The man asked, extending a compassionate arm which Derek sidestepped, as he hugged himself around the waist tightly.

 

"Fine. Thank you." Derek huffed shortly, finding that he was a little out of breath from the ordeal. His eyes darted in the direction Tom escaped. If he had been in his original body he would have beaten the creep to a pulp but instead he needed some preppy muscular dude to come and rescue him.

 

"You look a little shaken up." The guy said, "Don't worry, you're safe now. My name's Aaron. What's yours?"

 

"Uh… Casey." Derek grumbled. He couldn't be too rude considering Aaron did him a favor.

 

"You want to sit down?" Aaron asked, holding his hands out protectively like he expected Derek to faint at any second. "We can just talk about whatever you want until you feel better."

 

Some resentful part of Derek couldn't help but feel threatened by Aaron. Not the same way he felt threatened by the creep, mind you. But even though the white knight, muscular college dude wasn't hitting on him directly, he could still sense something - some veiled ulterior motive in the tone of this overly concerned, muscular saviour. He was just all muscular and…

 

Why couldn't he stop staring at the guy's muscles, rippling up his arms. Derek felt burning jealousy. Some part of Casey's body seemed to be attracted to this person. Whatever he felt while looking at the guy - It’s a guy, Derek, remember? Not a girl in a guy’s body - was completely alarming.

 

"N-no I gotta… go." Derek mumbled, cheeks heating as he turned to leave. He flipped his hood up and power-walked home, hands in his pockets, occasionally casting a paranoid glance over his shoulder. It was completely unfair that he had to feel threatened just walking around - that feminist literature he read that one time was starting to make a lot more sense.

 

 


 

 

When Casey got home after practice, she was practically vibrating, feeling buzzed from exertion after pushing herself harder than before. It had paid off, she’d even earned a pat on the back and a ‘good job’ from Coach. All in all, a great day.

 

The first thing she wanted to do was tell Derek about it.

 

She dropped her gear bag near the front door and ran up the stairs, barging in on Derek. “Guess who totally killed it at practice today!” She declared with pride as she pointed both of her thumbs towards herself. “That would be me! The great Derek Venturi!”

 

Sitting on the desk chair, Derek had his feet tucked up close, knees hugging his chest under the sweater he cocooned himself in. "Way to go." He smiled, trying to appreciate the happy news but sounding completely unenthusiastic. God, he missed being himself. The great Derek Venturi. He had no idea who he was right now.

 

Noticing the air of sorrow surrounding him, Casey’s face fell, frowning worriedly as she made her way over to him. “What’s going on?” she asked with concern, tentatively placing a hand on his shoulder.

 

"Oh, please." Derek dismissed shaking his head, "I'm fine." Try as he might, he couldn't make it sound convincing. Casey's voice was bad at keeping secrets.

 

Taking in his position and protective posture on the chair, baggy clothes and somber expression on his face, Casey pouted sadly. “I can recognize when ‘I’m fine’ means ‘I’m not fine’, you know. I used to be a girl?” she said gently as she sat down on the bed.

 

"I'm not a girl." Derek stated simply.

 

Casey sighed, supporting her head into her hand with her elbow propped on her knee. “I guess that means you don’t wanna talk about it?”

 

Derek shrugged, "Shitty day. Stomach hurts." There, he talked about it. He might be opening up to Casey more now but he couldn’t begin to imagine how to start a conversation about his lady troubles and general sexual confusion.

 

“Well, you look like shit,” she teased.

 

Derek snorted. He didn't doubt that. "Impossible in my current condition." He said, leaning into the playful moment.

 

“You know,” Casey raised an eyebrow as she got up, moving towards her stereo. “You keep implying that I’m attractive, and I might just start to believe you,” she taunted, starting up the radio to her favourite channel.

 

"Maybe that's been my angle all along." Derek said like he was revealing some kind of evil plan.

 

“Mhmm,” Casey said, making her way back to him as she started moving stupidly to the pop song playing over the speakers. “Maybe I have an angle of my own,” she added, picking up his hands and pulling him out of his chair, twirling him around in a pseudo fancy move.

 

With an amused smile, Derek rolled his eyes at how goofy she was being, "And what's that?" He prompted casually as Casey pulled him in by the waist, and laced her fingers between his. He sighed in resignation to the sudden goings on, resting his hand on her shoulder.

 

“For starters?” Casey grinned and waltzed them around the room in large, lousy circles. “Let’s put a smile on that face!” she imitated jokingly.

 

That broke him. He snickered, throwing his head back. She definitely succeeded in making him smile. "I'm surprised you were actually paying attention." He teased as they glided around easily together.

 

“Probably more than you were,” she teased back, tugging him closer as she slowed their movements a little. “Did you watch the movie at all or did you actually just stare at me the whole time?”

 

He couldn't hide his blush. In this body, he might as well have a neon sign above his head proclaiming his every thought. "Just making sure you were watching the best parts." He diverted, a little high-pitched, "That's all."

 

She smiled, pulling him into a hug and swaying them into a slow dance that absolutely did not match the music. “I remember all the best parts,” she whispered against the shell of his ear.

 

Derek shuddered lightly and closed his eyes, swaying gently against her chest. One minute with Casey and he was already feeling a million times better. He was on cloud nine. He suddenly didn't know what he was running from anymore, why he was denying what he truly wanted. It just felt good. Every second away from her was nothing but stress, turmoil, conflict, and confusion. And every second with her felt like perfection. He couldn't deny the contrast.

 

Feeling Derek relaxing against her, Casey closed her eyes, allowing the moment to linger and expand, like it was forming a bubble around them. She could hear her own heart beating in her ears, chanting a song that went: “This is it. Don’t let this go.”

 

She wrapped both of her arms around him, one hand coming up to play into his hair. “You know,” she whispered, “as crazy as this week has been, I’m actually a little grateful.”

 

He probably would have disagreed earlier that day, but the peaceful euphoria in his chest agreed wholeheartedly. Some experiences had been traumatic, sure… but others, like this one, were worth it. "I know what you mean." He murmured into her with a light appreciative laugh. Instinctively he looked up at the angle of her jaw. "What's been the best part?"

 

“That’s a tough one,” Casey said pleasantly, pulling back slightly to look down at him, “I’m torn between this one,” a slow smirk spread across her face, “or that shower I had on Tuesday.”

 

Filled with an excited shock at the suggestive turn, Derek grinned. "Ah, the shower," He droned, meeting her teasing gaze, "I have some fond memories there myself. What's so special about Tuesday?" He raised an eyebrow curiously, too engrossed in the current moment to worry about lines in the sand.

 

“Hmm, Tuesday,” she sighed looking out in the distance above his head dreamily, “the day I discovered the wonders of the male anatomy.”

 

"Is that right?" He teased, flushed from suddenly being thrust into a porn fantasy, "Sounds… educational. Did anything about the experience stand out to you?” He joked.

 

“Oh yeah,” Casey nodded vigorously, “things were definitely standing out. Like, couldn’t be ignored, you know?”

 

Derek laughed in pure amusement, "Some things are so huge they demand attention."

 

“Things like…” she frowned thoughtfully, tucking his hair behind his ear as she hesitated. “Like a neglected soul bond, for instance?”

 

The simple movement, the slight brush of skin, caused Derek to shiver, his grin faltering. His eyes flickered to her lips as they buckled under her deliberate stare. The weight on his chest was crushing - his soul was touch-starved, needing her like air or water. He couldn't avoid something so critical.

 

“What are you looking at?” Casey snickered, noting his distraction.

 

Shaking his head out of his trance, Derek's eyes jumped back up to hers upon being called out, "Oh, nothing." He said as casually as possible, "Just the spinach in your teeth." He grinned.

 

“You think you’re so funny, ha ha ha,” she chortled sarcastically.

 

"And smart and sexy, among other things." He sang arrogantly.

 

Casey groaned. “Suddenly I’m not so sure about this bond thing,” she joked. “Do you think there’s a way to get it out?”

 

"Haven't you heard?" Derek questioned playfully, "We're doomed!"

 

 

Chapter Text

Adorned by candle-light, Megan re-arranged the scattered documents on her desk and returned to the project on her computer. She had a lot of options for how she could spend her Saturday, but this required her full attention, and she had never felt more invested in anything in her life.

 

Exploring the Prime Singularity of Biological Soulmates: A Palmistry Study on Analogous Spirit Embodiment and its Astounding Physical Side Effects in Non-Related Individuals.

 

When she had first touched Casey’s palm, she knew something magnificent lurked in her heart line, the information loud and exciting, teetering on the edge before scattering into a billion possibilities. But she had no idea the importance of what she had found.

 

Then she touched Derek’s.

 

The rarity of the discovery could not be overstated. It was astounding! Megan herself had only ever seen an analogous spirit embodiment in person once before, on a pair of twins who were well-known in the magical community. They shared identical head lines and could communicate to one another telepathically.

 

In non-related individuals, there were only a few reported cases, some of which were so old and poorly documented, they might as well be legends.

 

Although Megan agreed to keep Derek and Casey’s identities secret, she couldn’t help but reach out to the community for answers. She asked her Abuelo if he had ever heard of matching heart lines, and if he believed in soulmates. He said he’d never heard of anything like that before, but it was possible - he had no doubt it existed somewhere. But, he said that it would likely pass by unseen by anyone who could recognize it. Of the small number of cases of analogues, only a fraction of those would ever be studied.

 

But this one just fell into her hands. Literally!

 

A grand comet just presented itself to her. One palm, then the other. It was suddenly clear then; the noise of their individual futures, once combined, revealed a path - bright and glowing, demanding to be taken.

 

So how could she do anything but help it along? It felt like her purpose in that moment - the universe giving her clear instructions to act as a guide and tend to such a miraculous occurrence. She saw the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of their eternal happiness! It would have been cruel not to give them a nudge in the right direction, really. She really thought she was doing the right thing when she channeled her intent into their palms and when she spoke her words of power.

 

She hadn’t expected them to switch bodies though. That came as a surprise. There was no telling what would have happened. She just figured whatever happened, it would be worth it, because she could see the end result.

 

There was some guilt though, when she saw how much they were struggling, knowing she caused it - all but shoving them down this rocky road to contentment. She hoped they saw her as a figure of support, that way she could ease their burden. It was the least she could do. That’s why she couldn’t tell them that she made this happen.

 

It may have happened regardless, some random time down the line, but then she wouldn't have been able to study it.

 

Her case study was coming along well. She decided to record all of her observations and document the event with as much detail as possible, citing sources from the bank of magical material already available and going to great lengths to find the rarest accounts. Her project was nearing 100,000 words.

 

She was currently adding some information she got from Derek and Casey’s newest letters.

 

 


 

 

“Throughout the transitional period, it seems the magnitude of the pull experienced by the analogues intensifies as they feel more and more powerless to the effects of the bond. As artifacts of their soul aggregate into stable formation, they form a density which the rest of the soul gravitates towards, making the process exponential.

 

The analogues experienced conflicting emotions during this time, struggling to identify the source of their feelings and desires. This conflict acts as an opposing, protective force, slowing the reformation. This resistance may however ultimately speed up the process as distance between the analogues creates a strong psychological urge for closeness.

 

Analogue C.M. recognizes the pull of fate as a factor in her behavior, creating an inner dialogue about how this affects free-will.

 

It has been three days since we switched bodies, and things are just getting more and more confusing. It seems something has awakened in me, needs and desires like I have never felt before.

Have these feelings always been there in a dormant state until they were triggered by the cosmic event? Or are they a side-effect of our condition? How much can I trust what I’m feeling to be real, when it was all a scheme to fulfill a greater design? Am I not in control of myself and my destiny?

 

This brings an interesting philosophical question of how conscious thought versus subconscious thought play a role in the ongoing development of the soul. The subconscious elements of C.M.’s mind, controlled by the attractive forces within the architecture of her soul are in direct opposition of her conscious mind which experiences doubt. Is the ‘self’ limited to the conscious elements of personality, or is it more holistic to include reflex and instinct beyond our control?”

 

 


 

 

Megan pulled up her next source and chuckled. She quite enjoyed reading Derek’s lists. Even though his stream of consciousness letter-style submissions were more helpful for research purposes, the lists offered some comic relief.

 

Crazy Shit Goin On: Part 3

  • Got caught grubbing for Casey (she made a huge deal out of it)
  • Somehow ended up on a date with a nerd. Broke his heart.
  • Went to a poetry reading (barf). I’m just gonna say it. Fuck that girl and her fish that was the worst poem I’ve ever heard. That stupid line is stuck in my head.
  • “And on that day my fishie died
  • As did a part of me, inside”
  • I mean
  • Moving on
  • Kinda wanna tape a big sign over my butt (Casey’s butt) so dudes can’t stare directly at it all the time (“Not Happening Fellas”)
  • Admittedly it's a great butt
  • But no need to be creepy about it
  • Dad was NOT happy with me and Casey had to face his wrath
  • I expertly talked her out of any trouble
  • Casey kissed me, planted one on me out of NOWHERE!!!
  • Could have stopped it…
  • Didn’t.
  • Learned just how screwed I am.
  • I mean, how the HELL am I supposed to tell Sally that Casey and I switched bodies and that I cheated on her?
  • My life makes no fucking sense anymore

 

Megan continued writing, adding in some elements from Derek’s emails.

 


 

 

“Analogue D.V. experiences a similar existential discomfort between the conflicting forces within his soul.

 

She drives me so [redacted] crazy. I swear when I am around her I lose my mind and I’m not in control of myself anymore. I seriously want to tell the universe to go [redacted] itself. I can choose my own future. But the more I try to push her away and take my life back into my own hands, the harder I get sucked in. The worst part is how much I want to be sucked in. I want to run, out of spite, because the universe doesn’t get to tell me what I want. But I would be lying to myself if I said I didn’t want her. I’m starting to realize how powerless I am. I don’t get any other choice. I couldn’t even keep my tongue out of her mouth.

I’m going to have to tell my girlfriend that I cheated on her. I don’t know how to, and I feel like [redacted] because [she] is so amazing and we were happy and I let this happen. I know I’m probably getting dumped. I wouldn’t blame her for dumping me. Don’t ask me if I want to get dumped or not. I have no [redacted] clue what I want.

 

He struggles to go down a path which he doesn’t feel compelled towards, because the compulsion he feels down the path to self actualization is too threatening - to give in would be to relinquish control.

 

His relationship with his girlfriend (S.) is being affected by the magnetic pull he feels to his partner-soul. This creates an interesting dynamic.

 

Through palmistry study, it has been discovered that it is possible for a person with an analogous embodiment to have strong romantic feelings for someone other than their bonded soul. D.V. himself feels quite torn, his energies straddling two possible pathways. At some points, these pathways seem to converge as well, like the parts of D.V.’s soul that represent his relationship to S. are interwoven into the heart-line bond between him and C.M.

 

The pull of D.V.’s soul towards that of C.M. is incredibly strong. Both analogues characterize the pull they feel as a separate, foreign entity, rather than the manifestation of their own desires, the natural forces at work within their souls. Since D.V. attributes this magnetic force to be an outside influence rather than his own desire to be close to C.M., it is possible that his fear and reluctance to give in is causing him to hang on to his relationship with S., trying to force himself down a path he doesn’t ultimately want. It is also equally possible, with how S.’s energies are so interwoven, that the strands are impossible for D.V. to differentiate between, unable to separate his feelings out from the mess at this time. His relationship with S. may surely act as a barrier to his closeness with C.M., and this may provide him a sense of control, given his fear and reluctance, essentially holding him back and postponing his eternal fulfilment. But, his relationship with S. may also be a key factor in creating that stable configuration, given how the strands that represent S.'s soul are implemented into the geography of the bond between the two analogues.”

 

 


 

 

This account was extremely important. Something so rare could not slip by without being studied. There was so much to learn about souls and their interactions within that unseen realm through looking at Derek and Casey’s situation. There was so little known about these rare events - it was an amazing opportunity! Megan felt extremely honoured to be a part of it, and she wanted to capture the occurrence perfectly.

 

As was the life purpose of every witch before her, it was her duty to study the complexities of nature, and expand the communal knowledge. This was a major breakthrough. Many witches would kill to study this body-swap. She wanted to keep it under wraps for now though. If people found out this was happening, Derek and Casey would be bombarded by the magical community as everyone would want to take a look at their palms. The least she could do through all of this was preserve their privacy, they were already going through enough. And as outsiders to the magical community, they probably found it less fascinating and more uncomfortable.

 

The case study was Megan’s chance to make her impact on the magical community, and bring honor to her family name. But more importantly, the collective knowledge of humanity would grow on how the universe itself functions, sacred (even dangerous) knowledge protected by witchkind.

 

As seriously as Megan took her promise to protect Casey and Derek’s privacy, something this significant felt fragile in her hands, and she was scared that if she tried to handle this situation on her own, she would screw it up, and something like this may never happen again. She couldn’t be responsible for messing up such a rare opportunity.

 

So, she decided to tell her Abuelo, Ernesto - the wisest and kindest man on Earth. She knew she could trust him with this.

 

She sat with him in front of the fire with her laptop.

 

“You have me on the edge of my seat, my dear.” He crooned sweetly, “The mind reels when you display such vague excitement.” His eyes twinkled with wonder, “What is this matter of great historical significance you speak of?”

 

“I have been dying to tell you, Abuelo. I could really use your guidance, I want to do this right.” Megan placed her hand on his arm, saturating her touch with her emotions and channeling her intent so her Abuelo could feel the truth behind her words, and how seriously she was speaking, “I have stumbled across something incredibly rare and I need it to stay just between us for the time being.”

 

“Of course, mi cielito.” He promised, placing his trustworthy hand on hers.

 

She walked him through her findings, answering his enthusiastic questions. He stood from his armchair with exuberance. “This is astounding!” He cheered, grabbing Megan's hands in celebration. “I’ve never heard of something so miraculous, and to be put in the path of such beauty… we have been blessed!” He plopped a few kisses on Megan’s head, “Oh I am so proud of you Princesa! You will be known for this discovery for millennia I’m sure of it!” He gasped dramatically, “OH I MUST MEET THEM!” He begged, “Please, please, I must see this up close!”

 

“Abuelito!” Megan scolded, giggling at his enthusiasm.

 

 


 

 

“And everyone blamed it on Greg, when it was actually Jessica who went behind Sarah’s back. And Greg didn’t like, do anything. Oh my god, have you seen him in his new shirt this week?” Emily rambled beside Derek as they strolled through the mall, sipping on slurpees. “He looked so hot, everyone knows he’s out of Sarah’s league anyway, but he’s like, in love or something. I guess it’s cute. He really likes her, and he totally blew off a girl like Jessica! So it has to be serious between them.”

 

Apart from the occasional “Mhmm,” and fake looks of enthusiasm whenever Emily looked at him, Derek didn’t need to contribute to the conversation. He had looked forward to hanging out with Emily, even for a girly shopping-spree, because he hadn’t done anything remotely social in so long. But this didn’t count as social - Emily might as well be talking to a brick wall.

 

“Could you imagine having a boyfriend who’s so dedicated like that? He only has eyes for her! It’s like how Derek looks at Sally. It’s the most romantic thing. I wish I had a guy to look at me like that.”

 

And guilt, right on cue. He didn’t just have eyes for Sally anymore - his eyes had a mind of their own. He couldn’t even control their movement in his skull when Casey was nearby, or whenever he looked in a mirror.

 

“Sure, now that I know Sheldon will be back in the picture eventually it’s like, I know who my true love is, but it would still be nice to get a date in the meantime.”

 

All Emily did was talk about herself, or gossip. It was getting exhausting. Even Ralph had more depth. He realized how much he missed hanging out with the guys and goofing off. Emily hadn’t asked about Casey once, which was a bit weird considering he was dressed like Casey post-breakup, neck-deep in her second pint of ice-cream.

 

“Now that you’re single we’re totally going to chase boys together, and there’s no short supply. I heard from Nadia that most of the guys on the football team are single right now- and apparently they’re all losing their minds since you broke up with Truman, like, they all wanna ask you out. Although she also said that Max kinda scares them so they don’t have the guts to show up around you. I guess you’re kinda done with football players anyway since that whole cheerleading thing. There’s always the hockey team! I saw Conrad totally checking you out the other day.”

 

Derek ground his teeth, he finally had to say something. “The last thing I want to do is chase boys,” He said matter-of-factly, interrupting Emily’s lengthy speech - how did she find room to breathe? “And Conrad’s a snake.” He added.

 

“Really? I thought he was a Capricorn,” Emily said, taking notes on her cellphone. “That totally changes things…” she muttered. After a loud slurp, she looked back at Derek. “But anyway, it has nothing to do with Conrad. I didn’t want to say this, but you look like a trashcan. I can’t let you mope around about Truman, that’s just wrong!”

 

So, Emily was more perceptive than Derek assumed. She was wrong about the why though, but to her credit, she was jumping to the obvious conclusion. Not even Emily was crazy enough to skip over horses to land on body-swap zebras.

 

“Believe me,” Derek insisted. “This,” he gestured to his baggy clothes, “has nothing to do with Truman.” When he hid under the mess of fabric, he knew he looked like a hobo, but that was better than how he felt in Casey’s other clothes. It reminded him of a recurring nightmare he used to have in junior high, where he would somehow teleport into the middle of school in nothing but women’s underwear - exposed, humiliated, girly.

 

“No?” Emily asked, surprised, “I mean, good, because Truman is scum. But then...” she scrunched her face up in understanding, “oh, is it that time of the month?”

 

Derek’s eyes widened at Emily’s weirdly accurate guess, “Okay, that’s not creepy at all,” he joked fearfully. “And it definitely doesn’t help the situation, I can tell you that much.” It was totally bizarre talking to Emily about having his period. His life made no sense anymore.

 

“It never does,” Emily quipped, then stopped dead in her tracks, grabbing Derek’s arm to halt his movements. “Wait, so it’s not the break up and it’s not your period?” She said, her eyes growing wide in worry. “It’s worse than I thought. Are you having an identity crisis?!”

 

Derek had underestimated Emily, and he kind of wished she’d go back to talking about herself, because he didn’t need to be questioned about anything right now. But he couldn’t help but cough out a laugh at how spot-on ‘identity crisis’ truly was.

 

He was having identity crisis on top of identity crisis on top of identity crisis!

 

“Not gonna lie.” Derek chuckled, shaking his head, “That about sums it up.”

 

“Aw, Casey,” Emily cooed, pulling him into a tight hug, then looked into his eyes seriously. “This means you need this shopping spree more than ever. Let’s get going,” she said, taking his hand to drag him towards some girly store.

 

Derek rolled his eyes as Emily guided him around the store. He hated shopping for clothes, even when it was guy's clothes. As hard as Emily was trying to hype him up and offer suggestions, he wasn't having it.

 

She let out an exasperated sigh when he turned down the 5th top in a row. “Okay, girl,” she said critically, “if the usuals aren’t cutting it, you gotta give me something to work with.”

 

Grimacing, Derek looked around, "Everything is just so… frilly." He said with dismay. It was like Little Bo Peep's closet in there!

 

“Too frilly,” Emily repeated evenly, a thoughtful frown forming on her face. “Alright, let’s go somewhere else. I know just the place!” She took his hand to guide him to the next store, like he was going to get lost or something. Girls sure held each other’s hands a lot.

 

They found themselves surrounded by a much darker colour palette. This store did not seem like Casey's style at all. Most of it looked pretty cool - like, for girl clothes at least. Less goodie-two-shoes, more badass rocker chick. Derek eyed Emily skeptically. Did she really think Casey would shop here?

 

“If you don’t want something frilly, you’re obviously not feeling like yourself,” Emily explained. “So let’s find the new you. Just pick like, anything that jumps out to you and we’ll work from there!”

 

Emily stared him down until he finally gave in and rolled his eyes. He scoured the racks and grabbed anything remotely cool, tossing the items out to Emily who was eagerly gathering them in her arms with an encouraging grin. Finally getting into the spirit of things, he allowed himself to laugh along and enjoy himself. He couldn't help but gulp nervously though as Emily pushed him towards the changing rooms. Why couldn't he just look like a hobo?

 

He tried on a pair of ripped jeans and a slouchy v-neck. Checking himself out in the mirror, he raised his eyebrows, surprised by how much he liked it. The shirt hugged his figure nicely without clinging, the fabric soft and flowy with an attractive neckline. Most of all, he didn’t feel like hiding under a rock.

 

Sheepishly, he stepped out of the changing room and shrugged at Emily who was waiting with anticipation.

 

“Wow,” she said, impressed, as she took him in. “You look super hot. How do you feel about it?”

 

Taking in his appearance in the large mirror in the hall, Derek’s lip twitched up into a smirk. He pulled his hair out from his ponytail and shook it loose to the side, tousling his fingers through it. Of course he was hot. He looked like Casey. But now, he didn’t just see Casey in the mirror - he actually saw some part of himself in there. He narrowed his eyes at his reflection playfully, Casey’s doe-eyed stare giving way to Derek’s piercing one. “I do look hot, don’t I?”

 

“Damn right,” Emily giggled. “Good thing you like it,” she continued, barging into the cabin and coming back with his gross jeans and hoodie, “because this outfit is headed to the trash where it belongs.”

 

Like some girly montage in a rom-com, Derek modelled different looks for Emily as she hyped him up. Her enthusiasm pulled him out from the wreckage, and despite himself. he ended up having a blast. In the end, Derek had to narrow down his options, he found so many clothes he liked. He let his mind run wild imagining his style as a hot girl, and he just leaned into that. Shockingly, he even left with a pair of tights (which he intended to rip) and a dress (more like a long, asymmetrical t-shirt - but still… a dress).

 

Thankfully, he had a bunch of money saved up from Smelly Nelly’s because this shopping-spree was eating a serious hole through his wallet. Maybe he didn’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe, sneakers, and leather boots, if this was only going to be temporary. But he had no idea how long this shit would last, so he may as well get comfortable in his skin.

 

Derek and Emily gallivanted through the mall, joking around, acting like complete idiots. Finally, he understood the appeal - why girls liked hanging out at the mall so much. Before, he just saw the mall as a convenient place to flirt and eat fast food.

 

He didn't even care that people were staring at them for being too loud, since he wasn't trying to hide under a hoodie anymore.

 

 


 

 

Another great practice, another great day. Casey skated off the rink with a huge grin on her face, accepting her teammates’ clap on the back as they piled into the locker room.

 

She’d gotten into a routine of taking off her gear and disappearing into her own corner to shower in privacy - and without getting an eyeful of teenage hockey player butts. She might be more comfortable with Derek’s male parts now, but that didn’t mean she was comfortable with seeing the whole hockey team naked.

 

Once most of the guys scampered off, she hung back with Sam, sitting on a bench as they gathered their stuff into their bags lazily.

 

“You know I don’t like to brag,” Casey said brightly, “but man, I am on fire!”

 

Since she picked up the game, it really seemed like she had a chance, that she could lead her team to a sure win - and conveniently land Derek a scholarship.

 

She was really leaning into it, into being Derek. Without the pressure of being perfect all the time, she was much more relaxed and carefree - no more anxiety or panic attacks, even her tight grip on morality was slipping and she didn’t mind. She was just finally free to be.

 

Not that Derek didn’t have any pressures in his life, the big upcoming game was looming large and scary, but it was more of a thrill that propelled her forward. She couldn’t wait to throw herself into that rink and show Northbridge what she was made of. She understood now what it was about hockey that had him so obsessed; the adrenaline, the strategy, the excitement.

 

She was on top of the world!

 

"Since when don't you like to brag?" Sam grinned doubtfully, "Seriously though, keep riding this high man, Northbridge won't know what hit them. You really put the wheels on today."

 

Casey wasn’t sure what that meant but it sounded positive so she shrugged and said, smugly: “that’s just how I roll.”

 

"Pfft." Sam laughed, throwing his head back to roll his eyes. Then he groaned, bringing his hand up to massage his neck, "Ugh, I swear Coach is trying to kill us. Hey, you wanna hang tomorrow and just like… chill, smoke up, order a pizza, and play the new Babe Raider or something? I could use a break."

 

“While that sounds like an awesome plan,” Casey sighed, nudging her knee pad into the corner of her bag, “can’t swing it. I’m driving up to Toronto with Casey tomorrow.”

 

"Oh yeah?" Sam prompted, raising an eyebrow as he stood up, tossing his bag over his shoulder. "What for?"

 

“Uh,” she hesitated, looking intently at her bag as she stood up next to him. Why’d she have to say that? “Casey wants to tour U of T, you know how she gets,” she explained with a strained chuckle.

 

"Makes sense,” Sam nodded casually, "So I guess you're going to visit Sally then? I've been meaning to ask. How's the long distance thing holding up?"

 

Casey paused for a second. Sally.

 

She had deliberately avoided thinking about Toronto and the reason for their visit. And most of all, she had avoided thinking about Sally. She was so remorseful for what happened, it was hard to bear the thought that they were going to basically show up on her to deliver the worst news she could think of - well, besides death or illness… that was something, at least.

 

Not to mention she had no idea how it would go down. How would they explain their Freaky Friday situation? How would Sally react? And what exactly was Derek going to tell her? Was he going to end things? Beg for forgiveness?

 

She realized now that she had no idea what Derek’s plan was, what his intent was when telling Sally. Would they come back to London with a new slate, the opportunity to give them a chance, or would Sally forgive him, and bring them right back to square one?

 

And was she a terrible person for hoping it was the former?

 

“I- yeah, we might stop by,” Casey stammered. Derek and Sally’s long distance relationship was great until she showed up all soul bonded and stuff. “It’s… it’s been. Yeah.” She ended flatly, wincing internally. Great response, Case (shut up Derek!).

 

Sam took pause, and lowered his bag to the floor, "That doesn't sound too good. What's goin' on?" He asked supportively.

 

Shit,” Casey muttered, shaking her head at herself and passing a hand into her wet hair. She couldn’t tell him how much she messed up. He would be so disappointed - maybe even fight her again. She didn’t want that. Except, she obviously wasn’t lying convincingly so far. “We - uh… I-“ what to do what to do what to do, “I messed up.”

 

Abandoning his bag on the floor, Sam was completely invested in the conversation, crossing his arms and stepping closer to her to speak quietly, "Shit…" He murmured, "Messed up how?"

 

Looking at Sam with wide eyes, she opened her mouth, with no sound coming out. She pressed her lips together and looked away, trying to think about how to get out of this. It was too late though, she’d given herself away.

 

Sam read correctly into her terrified look, letting out a small puff of air as he leaned against a locker. "Casey?" He nearly whispered with awe and mild disapproval.

 

She couldn’t look at him. “Yeah…” she trailed off shamefully.

 

"Wow… I - " Sam stuttered, "I'm not really sure how to react to that." He admitted. A silent moment passed before Sam slapped a comforting hand on her shoulder.

 

“You can say it,” Casey sighed, falling back on the bench dejectedly. “You told me so.”

 

Sam smiled sadly. He seemed to consider saying it, before ultimately sighing and sitting next to her. "What are you gonna do?" He asked, sparing her from any gloating.

 

“Gonna tell Sally,” Casey said. “Then it’s not up to me.”

 

Sam nodded solemnly, "That's good - that you're telling her." He hesitated before continuing carefully, "And what about Casey?"

 

“I don’t know,” she said, crossing her arms. “It’s not my decision.”

 

"What do you mean?"

 

“I don’t know what he-“ Casey ground her teeth, “what she wants.”

 

Sam hummed thoughtfully. He looked over at her gingerly and spoke so low she almost missed it, "What do you want?"

 

She knew what she wanted. She wanted Derek, soul bond, cosmic pull and everything. But none of that mattered if he decided to run back to Sally.

 

“I still haven’t figured that out,” Casey settled on.

 

"Sounds like you're going out there together to break the news." Sam worried, "You should make up your mind pretty quick there, D."

 

“Yeah,” she said a little irritably, scratching her eyebrow. If only she could ask Derek what he wanted. But she surely wasn’t going to beg him to choose her. How pathetic would that be? “I know.”

 

 


 

 

With his brand new style, Derek felt like a new man, even if that man was a hot chick. He couldn't wait to see people's reactions when they saw Casey pulling off this edgy look.

 

Revelling in his newfound (or newly regained) vanity, Derek checked himself out in the mirror, dancing around, head-banging to some music.

 

Something was still missing though. The hot girl version of him would probably wear some makeup. The natural look seemed out of place with his new clothes.

 

The thought of asking for Casey’s help was humiliating. Oh hey Case, can you teach me how to put my makeup on? Pretty please?

 

Pffft yeah right. How hard could it be anyway?

 

He rummaged through Casey's makeup bag with confusion. What the hell was bronzer? All he really needed was some eyeliner, to give him the punk rock vibe he was aiming for. So, he grabbed what he assumed was eyeliner (for all he knew, it could be nail polish).

 

Here goes nothing, he thought as he went to draw the bottom line of his eye. He blinked. Ugh. It was like he couldn't let the stick come close to his eye without flinching, too worried he would poke himself. He went up close, pulling down on his cheek to force his eye open, the pencil slowly came closer and closer like something out of a horror movie.

 

The sound of the door opening startled him into poking himself, "Argh!" He complained, rubbing his eye.

 

Casey stopped in her tracks, halfway through the threshold, to observe the scene in front of her. Derek, sitting at her vanity and rubbing his eye with one hand while the other held… her eyeliner?

 

“What…” she asked tentatively, “are you doing?”

 

"Ugh, what does it look like?" He grumbled, still in pain and embarrassed about getting caught.

 

Fair point, Casey shrugged. She crossed the room and let herself fall back onto the bed as she looked up at the ceiling, still feeling a little gloomy from her earlier conversation with Sam. “How was shopping?” She redirected.

 

Grateful to skip over the whole eyeliner thing, Derek sighed, "Good, actually."

 

“Oh yeah?” She smiled, picturing Derek and Emily fussing over a cute top and picking out shoes. She leaned on her elbows to look at him. “Got yourself something nice?”

 

"You tell me." Derek said smugly, standing up into a relaxed, cocky stance to show off the outfit he was currently wearing - snug black jeans, and a tank top that looked like it had been cut from a vintage rolling stones t-shirt.

 

“Sexy,” Casey admitted after looking him up and down a couple of times, and licked her lips. She didn’t know she could pull off the grunge look so well. Yet, there was Derek, with a curve hugging yet comfy looking outfit that made him look like he just came back from a rock concert. All he was missing to top it off was… huh. Eyeliner.

 

Damn right. Derek smirked, "Yeah, no offence but your clothes weren't exactly doing it for me."

 

She smiled as she gave him another once over. He looked much better than yesterday, like his spirits had been renewed. If all it took to get that look back on his face was a makeover, then it was okay with her.

 

“None taken,” she shrugged casually, “what does it for you is doing it for me.”

 

Derek's eyebrows shot up and he bit the inside of his lip, shocked as always when she acted so forward. "Well…" He considered with a shrug, "Turns out I'm just as hot now that I'm a chick. It's almost unfair to the rest of the world, don't you think?"

 

“Meh,” Casey dismissed with a wave of her hand, “when you got it, you got it, baby.”

 

In his bravado, Derek lost sight of the line between them, approaching her to stand at the foot of the bed, "I suppose I should give you some credit here. After all," He teased, motioning to himself seductively, "You gave me a pretty great starting point."

 

“Hmm, you’re right,” she said, frowning, “I should charge you royalties.”

 

"Hey." Derek protested, "I get credit for your current sexiness too. So why don't we just… call it even?"

 

She pouted. “Where’s the fun in that?”

 

Derek had to keep his breathing under control as he fought the sudden urge to pounce on her, her toying words sparking a fire within him. "I like the way you think." He said hoarsely as his mouth went suddenly dry.

 

Smirking at his obvious reaction to her teasing, Casey bit her lip. It was nice to turn the tables on him for a change. Now he was the one squirming.

 

“I know, I impress myself sometimes,” she said, sighing wistfully. “And the way I see it, since you told me you get hit on more now than you did before…” she winced visibly as if delivering some harsh news, “I think you owe me.”

 

"Oh really?" He grinned, crossing his arms, thrilled to go along with wherever this was headed, "And what exactly are you expecting for payment? Turns out a whole new look is expensive."

 

“Hmm, I suppose I will inherit that whole new wardrobe when I get my body back…” Casey said thoughtfully. “But who knows when that will be. There has to be something you could give me now,” she fell back into the mattress, her hands lazily cradling her head. “Surely, you must have something I want…”

 

"You better come up with something fast," Derek challenged, "Because I'm sure I could think of some things that would tilt the scales in my favor. Then you would owe me."

 

“I don’t think so,” she said with a chuckle, “I am way ahead of you. Besides,” she lowered her voice slightly, “you can’t rush this kind of thing, you have to take your time, make it good, make it perfect.”

 

The part of Derek that always wanted to win - especially against Casey, was tempted to keep their flirty argument going and convince her that she owed him. But the other part of him was too curious about how she expected him to repay her.

 

"So you honestly expect me to just wait around patiently until you come and collect?" He teased suggestively, as if the idea was equally insane and ingenious.

 

“Exactly,” she grinned in satisfaction. “I will claim what is rightfully mine in due time.”

 

Derek laughed mockingly, "Oh, I'm so scared.”

 

“Don’t be,” Casey reassured, sneaking a peak at him, “I promise I’ll be gentle.”

 

Humming appreciatively, Derek hid his reaction by clearing his throat. It was taking all his self control to stay firmly planted in place - an absolute miracle that he hadn't jumped her yet. He could let the flirting slide as a side effect to his impeccable self control. But he was starting to get too hot and heavy with the suggestive banter, and he needed to take a strategic step back. So, he took a literal step back.

 

"So, what's on the agenda for tonight?" He asked suddenly. They were keeping to a rigid bonding schedule.

 

“Don’t have anything planned,” she said, covering her disappointment at his change of subject with a shrug. She’d really wanted to see how far she could push him. Maybe that was it. “We could just… talk?”

 

"...Talk." Derek droned skeptically, "About?" There were so many unspoken things that were safer left under wraps. The dreaded talk word tickled his fight or flight response, and he was a little ashamed about his urge to flee.

 

“Don’t get so squeamish,” Casey said, rolling her eyes as she sat up on the bed, legs crossed, “I don’t expect you to talk about your hopes and dreams. Why don’t we bond over clothes and make up techniques, that seems more like your thing now.”

 

Derek groaned, rolling his head back, "Ugh, just because I decided I'd rather look like this than like a care bear or a hobo, doesn't mean I'm your gal pal all of a sudden." He walked over to her vanity and held up the eyeliner, "And this is a medieval torture device," He joked.

 

Casey laughed at his indignant attitude, he was so cute when he got like this. “I can show you how to use it,” she suggested mindlessly.

 

Scrunching up his face, Derek grumbled hesitantly, "Mmmmrrmmph…." His masculinity had taken quite a beating recently, and he would like to think it could handle the blow, but he wasn’t sure.

 

“What was that?” She teased, putting her hand behind her ear as if to hear better.

 

"Mmmmpffff - Fine."

 

“You’re such a big baby,” Casey said, getting up to meet him at the vanity, “it’s really not that bad.”

 

"The only thing keeping me going…" He said dramatically, for effect, as Casey nabbed the pencil from him, "is the fact no one will ever find out about this."

 

She frowned, looking at the pencil as she considered this. “At least until tomorrow,” she couldn’t help but say, then winced, regretting it instantly.

 

Derek winced too, "Yeah…" He said as silence stretched out between them, "How do you even tell someone something like that?..." He hadn't planned on talking about it - avoiding it at all costs really. But that meant they were going in blind, with no plan whatsoever.

 

Casey sighed, putting the pencil down. “There isn’t really an easy way, is there?”

 

"And that's assuming she believes us." Derek laughed humourlessly, "How do we even prove that we're… you know." He gestured between them.

 

“I mean…” Casey said hesitantly, “Megan believed us right away. It must be obvious.”

 

"Megan is a witch." Derek argued, "Sally will think it's some kind of joke. Horses, remember?"

 

Ugh,” Casey whined. Not the horses again. “I don’t know. Just like, tell her something only you would know.”

 

Sighing heavily, Derek leaned against the vanity, "I guess when it comes down to it, we really have no idea how this will go down…" He kept his gaze to the floor.

 

“Yeah…” Casey agreed sadly, crossing her arms over her chest. “How… how do you hope it will go?”

 

"Why does it matter." He grumbled, shaking his head, "I'm getting dumped no matter what."

 

His relationship couldn't survive cheating with his soul bonded, body swapped step sister. And even if it could - it would never survive the pull he felt towards Casey, which he knew he was helpless to. He would be stupid to think he could affect the outcome of this in any way. Guess planning didn't really matter then. What was going to happen was going to happen regardless.

 

“Maybe not?” Casey said, trying to be helpful, looking anywhere but at him. She couldn’t look at his face and see how torn up he was about losing Sally. “Maybe she’ll understand, and… maybe she’ll give you another chance.”

 

"I'd just blow it again." He said quietly, peering up at her. Even now, he was millimetres from the edge.

 

“You don’t know that…” she encouraged gently.

 

He turned his head away from her. "Yeah, Casey. I do." He said solemnly, with a dash of self pity.

 

“How do you know?” She asked, looking at him from the corner of her eyes, her stomach twisting onto itself.

 

Because what the universe wants, the universe gets, Derek thought. "Just a hunch." He said simply.

 

“Right…” Casey said, dropping her gaze to the floor. He sounded so resentful. “I’m sorry, Derek,” she shook her head against her guilt. “I know you said it’s not my fault but… I can’t help feeling like it is.”

 

"You're single." Derek explained, "You're free to kiss whoever you want." He looked up to see her deep in thought, mouth twisting with uncertainty, "Hey…" He said, reaching up to grab her chin and gently turn her to look at him, feeling a strong urge to wipe the guilt from her face. Her wide eyes questioned him as he questioned himself. What am I doing? Where is the line? The pull was too strong. His eyes flickered to her lips, "Maybe it's not our fault at all, maybe it's…"

 

Her insides twisted tighter as she waited for him to finish what he was about to say. In the end, she knew it was their fault, no one else, nothing else. She, at least, had wanted it too much. She still wanted it now, while following the direction of his eyes towards her mouth and a part of her begged for it. Please.

 

"It's… something else." Derek whispered. It was the pull, the tangible pull between them. A magnetic field drawing them closer. The more he stared at her lips, the more intense it got. He tilted his head slightly, testing the strength, and sure enough it became more desperate. Moving his head back was impossible, like things would lock in place, he could only move closer, a millimetre at a time as his willpower leaked, the urge to kiss her growing with every shred of space removed between them.

 

As Derek closed the distance between their faces, Casey had to think quickly. Could she do this? Was she going to let him do this to himself - again? The sight of that mournful look on his face had been the most heartbreaking thing she’d ever seen.

 

When she felt his breath on her cheek and his lips almost brushed hers, she scavenged every little scrap of strength she had in herself to pull away - which was very little, but just enough to move her face to the side and bury her nose into the crook of his neck, with her hand at the back of his head to hold him against her.

 

Gut twisting painfully, Derek sighed frustratedly into her hair. He was such a hopeless fucking idiot. Casey held him close, stopping him from retreating in shame. Instead, he found himself pressed up close to her, with his hand placed on her chest.

 

“Tomorrow…” Casey whispered under her breath, hiding her tears into his hair. It hurt so much. “Will you choose me?”

 

"Like I ever..." The words were yanked laboriously from his throat as he clutched her shirt, "Had a choice."

 

Chuckling sadly, she tangled her fingers deeper into his hair. “Well, whether we do or not… it’s all the same to me.”

Derek wished he could say the same thing. But he needed some sort of assurance that it was a choice - that what he felt was more than just the hands of fate. He wanted her. But only if it was real. Wanting it to be real wasn't enough to sell his soul.

 

He couldn't say anything, but he couldn't let go either. He relaxed into her completely in defeat.

 

“It’s okay,” Casey said, after too much silence. If he didn’t say anything, then… “It’s okay if you don’t feel the same,” she wiped her cheek discreetly.

 

That hurt Derek deep in his core. She thought he didn't want her, when really he wanted her so much he could hardly stand it, "I don't know…" He struggled, trailing off quietly. How I feel. Yes, he did. He felt it for Casey, the emotions loud and unquestionable. He swallowed thickly "... What this is."

 

It was a little awkward, to just be holding him like this while they talked about it for the first time. She wouldn’t pull away though. It was easier to talk about it when she wasn’t looking at him. She took a deep breath. “I know what it is to me,” she said. She was ready, she was so ready.

 

Derek pushed away, holding her at arms length so he wouldn't crash back into her. All he had were speculations on what this whole soul bond thing meant. "What do you think this is?" He asked, not even addressing their confusing relationship specifically. Braced against her, he opened his palm and looked down at it, pointedly, "This."

 

Then he was looking straight at her like she was holding all the answers, and it was hard for her to keep her composure when he was ultimately asking her to expose herself. “I think,” Casey started slowly, bringing her palm up next to his. “I think it’s a part of me.”

 

They pressed their palms together. Warmth spread over their heart lines and Derek stared fearfully at the contact. It was like a million tiny fireworks going off, but not on his skin, somewhere deeper beyond his flesh and blood. The overwhelming feeling caused him to pull his hand back abruptly and force a step of distance between them. "This…" He shook his head skeptically, "This is crazy."

 

“Yeah,” she agreed, staring at her tingly hand. “It is.”

 

He just wanted to touch her again, every nerve itching. "Fuck!" He said, exasperated, hands flying into his hair as he turned away. Why did everything feel so intense with her?

 

“I don’t,” she attempted to reassure, just a little erratically as he pushed away from her - like a part of her ripping off. “I don’t think it’s something that was done to us.”

 

"Really?" Derek asked through rapid breaths, pacing a little, "Because I sure as hell didn't ask for this!" He was happy living his carefree life before it all spun into chaos. The whole thing definitely felt targeted.

 

“Not exactly…” Casey mumbled, letting her hand fall at her side dejectedly.

 

"So what? We're like soulmates or something?" He asked bitterly, directing his question more to the air than to Casey. Like Romeo and Juliet. From the little Derek remembered from English class - things didn't turn out too great for them.

 

Forbidden and inevitable didn't mix.

 

It was like he’d reached into her chest and squeezed her heart in his fist. Wrapping her arms around herself protectively, Casey nodded, looking away again.

 

Lost in his own turmoil, Derek almost missed Casey's look of hurt. He stopped pacing and palmed his face, the frantic rise and fall of his chest slowing. Gut wrenching remorse and tenderness made their way to the forefront, because of course. She thought they were soulmates.

 

In his inability to stay away from temptation he had gotten her hopes up. If this all turned out to be a trick, he could be breaking two hearts.

 

The thought of hurting her like that was unbearable. "Shit." He said regretfully, "Case… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to - "

 

“It’s okay.” She said, shaking her head. She tried to smile - and failed.

 

He stood there like an idiot because as much as he wanted to take her in his arms, he didn't want to send mixed messages. He had to say something, or he risked moving closer to her, "It's not that big a leap or anything… to assume something like that." He reassured, shuffling his feet on the floor "But I like to imagine we still have free-will, y'know?"

 

“I do have...” she said with a shrug, keeping her eyes on the fluffy rug at the end of her bed. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. “It’s what I’ve wanted for a long time.”

 

Derek swallowed thickly. His heart beat through his chest, like he was being struck in the back with each blow, pounding like a drum and propelling him forward. Keeping his feet glued to their spot, his question flowed out of him, "How long have you…"

 

“I don’t know,” she frowned, trying to catch up with her brain. All she could think about was that moment a few days ago, when she’d stood in the mirror looking at him and realized - she’d been in love with him all along. Well, she didn’t have anything to lose by telling him. It was supposed to be worth it, wasn’t it? “Like… always? I just didn’t know.”

 

That resonated with Derek. Even though he just started realizing the pull between them, as it got stronger and stronger… it had always been there. When he used to prank her and insult her, that was the pull, feeding off her reactions. When he avoided getting close to her, and when he slipped up and got close anyway - it was there. But everything they felt, even back then, could have been because of their heart lines, not because of anything real.

 

"So have we ever been in control then?" He asked hopelessly, finding himself a few feet closer to her than he was only seconds before.

 

She finally looked at him, trying to meet his eyes. “We are. Always have been.”

 

That had to be a lie, if the way he was gravitating towards her was any indication. If he was in control, he wouldn't be flying so close to the sun. "So… when you kissed me," He questioned, looking up at her now that he was in her space, "That was a calculated move? Not, say… unintentional… unavoidable? Out of your control."

 

“Well, I didn’t plan it, if that’s what you wanna know,” Casey said sharply. Calculated? What did he think, that she manipulated him into it? “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t my choice.”

 

Derek's eyes softened over her. He let his fingers trail over her arm. "Casey, Casey, Casey…" He crooned. She had to know how little control she had over this whole thing, right?

 

“That’s my name,” she said petulantly, moving slightly away from his touch, “What?”

 

Well, that wasn’t the reaction he was going for. His eyes pleaded with her, trying to connect, as his fingers found her hand, tugging on it slightly to gauge her reaction before taking it into his own. He lined their palms up again and held it between them, letting the warm tingle grow like wildfire.

 

As it spread through her, Casey looked at him warily. He didn’t have to believe her, or feel the way she did - but it would still break her if he rejected her.

 

He felt his breath hitch as the space between them all but disappeared, only their hands in the way. "Don't you feel that?" He questioned softly. The pull wasn't just some run-of-the-mill crush, it was… otherworldly.

 

“Of course, I do,” she answered quietly. “I feel it all the time.”

 

As if proving his point, his other hand traveled on its own volition to stroke over her cheek, the air between them becoming thick with tension.

 

For the first time she had to fight off an urge to pull away, unsure of what he was trying to do. Her heart was beating out of her chest while her skin buzzed underneath the trail of his fingertips.

 

"So do I." He admitted. The pull was just as strong as ever, and he was tempted to run the pad of his thumb over her lip, but he sensed her hesitation. He let his fingers fall from her cheek, placing his hand over her heart to maintain contact. She seemed to be way more in control than he was, which was sort of getting in the way of the point he was trying to make - that they weren't the ones in control here. In the process of trying to make that point, he got completely distracted by the pull, overtaking him again.

 

His warm hand over her heart was reassuring, quieting some of her anxiety - maybe he was starting to see it too. “I know it’s scary,” she said, squeezing his fingers into her hand, “what we’re feeling, it’s like magnified, like maximum intensity. But it’s real. At least for me.”

 

How could she be so sure? "Can you honestly say that you are in complete control around me?" He accused, cocking his head up at her, "Because I can't."

 

“Derek,” she sighed, letting go of his hand and taking a few steps back. If he didn’t believe it, if he didn't want this, then she wasn’t going to let herself get burned. “It feels like that because we keep fighting it. I’m done fighting.”

 

Hands flying up to rub his face frustratedly, Derek groaned. She acted like she had all the answers, like it was that simple. "How the hell am I supposed to know the difference, huh?" He demanded, exasperated. If she had the answers she could at least give them to him.

 

“I just know,” Casey said calmly. “I just - know.”

 

"You just know." He repeated sarcastically, "You just know it's what you want, and not what the universe or whatever wants? How can you be so-" He shook his head in disbelief, "Cuz I know fuck all about what's going on! Why I…" He grunted bitterly, angry at himself for being so all over the place.

 

“What do you want?” she asked plainly. “If you really can’t tell the difference, if it’s really that indistinguishable, then maybe there is no difference. I can tell,” her fists balled at her sides, “because when I stop fighting it like I think I should, there’s no more conflict. I’m not being forced to do something that I really don’t want to do. It’s really me. It’s all just me.”

 

Rubbing his eyebrows to relieve his growing headache, Derek tried to imagine she was right. It would feel so good to just stop fighting. But what if that part of them that said they shouldn't do it… what if that was the real them? What if he stopped fighting and it passed the point of no return, losing himself completely to fulfill some other power's wishes.

 

Maybe he was holding on to something that was already lost, and he was just postponing the inevitable, predestined event. Maybe he could lean into it like Casey was doing. But was he really willing to trade his freedom for his happiness, like a golden retriever living contentedly under his master's rule?

 

"Well I have to fight it." He concluded, "At least until tomorrow."

 

“Then what,” Casey scoffed. “What about after tomorrow?”

 

He crossed his arms petulantly, "Fuck if I know." It wasn't his call to make, was it? And if it was…

 

Then he really had no idea. Or, he did, but he couldn't open that box.

 

“Yeah, of course,” she nodded bitterly, making her way towards the door. “If you really don’t want this, that’s fine. But then you’re going to have to make a decision,” she stopped with her hand on the doorknob, looking over her shoulder. “Because there’s no part of me that doesn’t want to be with you. But I can’t if you think it’s just being forced on you.”

 

Derek winced as the door slammed, sick to his stomach at the sudden distance. He angrily stomped to the bed and grabbed a pillow, shoving it in his face to let out a cathartic screech.

 

Make a decision.

 

Yeah, 'cuz he was just swimming with options.

 

 

Chapter Text

Casey was not angry, that would be a little excessive.

 

When she sat in the passenger seat of the Prince and slammed the door shut, it didn’t mean that she was angry. And the fact that she avoided looking in his direction or any kind of interaction? Didn’t mean that either.

 

So, he totally had a right not to feel the same way. She shouldn’t be angry because her feelings were unrequited. It just felt like - they were, he just didn’t want to admit it. And he had a right to be confused too, the situation was very confusing - she had also fought against the thought that they had no choice in the matter. Except, when she realized that this - he was her choice, then everything made sense. She wished he could see that too.

 

Watching the houses fly by, Casey sighed deeply to make her annoyance known.

 

Derek focused on the road. It was going to be a long drive to Toronto. He couldn’t let his mind wander to the cold distance between him and Casey, or to how he was going to explain this all to Sally.

 

The radio was his only salvation as he tried to let the music drown out his thoughts. But the tension was so thick in the car, he had to break it, otherwise he might drift into oncoming traffic.

 

“So…” He said as casually as he could muster to introduce some awkward small-talk, “We gonna check out the campus while we’re there?”

 

“Sure,” Casey answered shortly.

 

Wow, he was really winning points with people today, wasn’t he? Casey seemed to hate his guts, and after today, Sally would too.

 

They drove a while longer without any conversation. They were almost halfway to Toronto. Derek really couldn’t take it anymore. Casey could wallow in the awkward tension all she wanted, but he was going to do his best to at least feel moderately better than absolute shit.

 

He cranked the music, banging his head to an old rock song and playing drums on the steering wheel. When the chorus came, he started singing along - not for her benefit, but to distract his own troubled thoughts.

 

Here I am! Rock you like a hurricane!”

 

Scrunching her face up in distaste at the appalling music playing, as well as at the sound of her own voice singing to it, Casey reached for the radio to turn it off. She preferred simmering in silence, thank you very much.

 

Startled by the sudden silence, Derek glared at her, "Jeez. What crawled up your ass today?"

 

“You probably don’t wanna know,” Casey replied cynically with a huff.

 

"Whatever it is, it's sideways." Derek grumbled.

 

She rolled her eyes, going back to her careful observation of nature out the window (more like the highway, but there were trees!).

 

As they got closer and closer to Toronto, Derek started getting more and more anxious. They were really doing this. They were really going to tell Sally they had switched bodies, that they might be soulmates or something, and that they cheated on her - oh yeah and that she almost had sex with Casey, thinking it was him.

 

Without so much as music to distract him, his thoughts were getting louder and louder. He started to feel the panic rising in his chest and his eyes stung. This shit had the worst timing.

 

Shoving the feeling down, he continued to drive. He started getting frustrated with how difficult it was to stay calm. The old Derek would be so pissed. Things used to slide right off his back, and now he couldn’t even hold back tears for a full two hour drive. He refused to let the tears fall, remaining stoic as he leveled his breathing, with Casey thankfully looking out the passenger window. But once his vision started to blur, he had to pull over on the shoulder of the highway. He had enough control over his actions that he could at least prevent them from dying. He was not dying before getting back in his body.

 

Startled by the unexpected stop, Casey turned her aggravated expression towards Derek to find him sniffling in his seat. Derek was crying. The sight of his distress melted all anger and animosity instantly. She reached out and took his hand firmly in hers. “It’s gonna be okay,” she said gently.

 

It was so humiliating to cry all the god-damn time! Casey’s pity just drew attention to it, “I know that! It’s just these stupid… panic attack things.” He dismissed, grunting with frustration as he wiped his eyes, “Your body is hell sometimes, you know that?”

 

“Yeah,” she smiled softly. “Been in it long enough.”

 

He looked away from her and grumbled to himself, “Can’t even fucking drive.”

 

“You can- you can let it out, you know,” Casey said, “we can stay here until you feel better…” She suddenly remembered who she was talking to and perked up a little as another idea occurred to her, “-or I could drive us to the nearest gas station and we’ll get some slushies!”

 

Derek imagined himself blubbering like a crazy person on the side of the road. “I’ll take option B.”

 

They switched places, and Casey drove them to the next town a few minutes off the highway. “Red or blue?” she asked as cheerily as possible, with her hand on the door handle.

 

“Pfft, what are you, crazy?” Derek asked incredulously, feeling a bit better now that the tears were gone. He undid his seatbelt and opened his door, “You mix all the flavours together.” He said, educating her on proper slurpee etiquette as he stepped out of the car.

 

“I’m starting to get why you’re friends with Ralph,” Casey said, following him into the store.

 

 


 

 

Derek: Hey we just pulled up

 

Sally: Sounds good, just ring and I’ll buzz you in :)

 

He couldn’t press the button, he could only stare at it. Once he pressed the button, there would be no going back. Or, maybe that was when they arrived in Toronto. Or maybe when they kissed in the first place.

 

Maybe the point of no return was even further back than that - like the day they first met, for example.

 

He was really starting to regret his choice of clothing. Initially he figured he might as well be comfortable, and make an effort to look good if he was seeing Sally. But now his dress long t-shirt with a skull on it, ripped tights, and leather boots seemed a bit too feminine, and like he was trying too hard. Sally might not even believe it was him considering the dress long t-shirt… or the smudged black eyeliner he managed to put on (even more smudged from crying in the car).

 

Casey tried to get annoyed at Derek’s hesitation, but she really couldn’t. She was just as scared as he was, frozen in place. “We should probably-”

 

Bzzzzzp. He just went for it. He really couldn’t put it off any longer.

 

The door beeped open, and Casey held it to let Derek first into the building. Maybe she should be first to talk to Sally - oh god. Derek didn’t expect her to break the news, did he? Casey groaned internally. That was what they got for not talking about it beforehand. It was too late now, probably.

 

As if reading her mind, Derek whispered quietly out of the corner of his mouth, “You’ll have to start. We’ll go from the beginning, I want Sally to hear the worst parts from me.”

 

Nodding blindly, Casey stopped in front of Sally’s door. She gave Derek one last look before knocking. This was it. No going back.

 

Feeling like a dead man walking, all Derek could do was sit back and let the chips fall where they may. He didn't trust the universe to take the reins, but at least he trusted Sally. The blood drained from his face as the door opened, revealing her welcoming smile.

 

“Hi guys!” Sally greeted excitedly, her eyes warm as she lunged at Casey to kiss her cheek. “I’m so happy to see you.” Then she turned to Derek, looking him up and down. “Wow, Casey, loving the new look.”

 

“Thanks.” Derek smiled stiffly, trying not to let the pain and guilt shine through.

 

Casey was going to throw up. Sally was so nice and bubbly. How could they do this to her?

 

“Come on in!” Sally encouraged them in as they kept hesitating in the hallway. Casey looked at Derek over her shoulder in panic as she entered the apartment. She didn’t know where to start! She couldn’t possibly go through small talk knowing she had such a bomb to drop. This was the worst.

 

“Hey, Sals,” Casey said when they all stood awkwardly in the living room. “... what’s up?”

 

Pressing his lips together, Derek let Casey take over, even though it was incredibly painful to watch. She looked like she was about to bolt out the door, very clearly not wanting to have this conversation. He couldn't blame her for that, but this whole thing was her idea in the first place!

 

“I’m great,” Sally said hesitantly, her eyes darting between Derek and Casey like she could see the tension in the room. “Are you guys okay?”

 

“Uh, y-yeah!” Casey stammered, scratching her cheek. This was going well already… “Did De-e- did I tell you why we were coming?”

 

Looking startled, Sally put her hands in her back pockets, her persistent smile turning nervous. “Yeah,” she said slowly, “to visit U of T, right?”

 

Sally's eyes looked so hopeful, like she was pleading with her to confirm that was the only reason. Casey faltered; this was too much.

 

“Also…” Derek cut in, reminding Sally of their text conversation. At least she wasn’t expecting the worst, but they had to get the ball rolling somehow. “We have some stuff we need to… tell you.” It felt totally bizarre to know that Sally saw him as Casey right now. He always felt like he could talk to Sally about anything, but he couldn’t talk to her as himself, at least not yet. “We’re not really sure where to start…”

 

Derek’s intervention brought Casey back to the task at hand. The longer she stood there not saying anything, the more worried Sally looked, and the harder it was to keep talking. “Yeah,” she said. “There’s something… you should know.”

 

Sally looked at her expectantly.

 

“Remember last Friday?” Casey grasped at straws. “My - Casey’s birthday party?”

 

"Mmyeah?” Sally answered, a curious frown on her brow. She probably thought Derek was being weird right now, not knowing that it was actually Casey being - well… herself.

 

Derek cringed at the uncomfortable conversation - which had barely even started. He sat down on the nearby couch with a sigh, hoping Sally would get the message that this was a sitting down type of conversation.

 

Sally looked over Casey’s shoulder to watch Derek sitting down, prompting Casey to move. “Right!” she said, “we should sit!” She laughed nervously to cover her internal suffering.

 

Sitting down on the comfy chair beside the couch, Sally crossed her arms over her chest. “You know,” she said warily, “this is starting to sound a lot like a ‘we need to talk’ conversation.”

 

Shaking his head, Derek laughed sarcastically, “I don’t think there’s a name for this kind of conversation.”

 

Casey took the seat next to Derek, trying to keep as far away as possible. “It’s complicated.”

 

“Derek?” Sally asked, sounding a lot less peppy than her usual self, wary and small. “What is going on?”

 

“I… I’m…” Casey started, looking between Derek and Sally back and forth before blurting, “I’m not Derek!”

 

Derek palmed his forehead with a loud smack. Resting his elbows on his knees, he rubbed his hands over his face tensely.

 

“Huh?” Sally uttered, face contorting in pure confusion and disbelief. “What do you mean?”

 

“Something happened at the party! It was… something about the palm reading,” Casey looked down at her palm like it held the answers. “We don’t know how or- or why,” liar, “but we woke up like this - I’m not Derek,” she pointed at Derek next to her, “that’s Derek.”

 

Sally eyed Derek with confusion, expecting Casey to put an end to the nonsense. Derek smiled sadly, the corners of his lips downturned as he tried to look deep into her eyes, so she would see him past the Casey exterior. "Hey Sal." He said earnestly, blinking slowly at her.

 

She eyed him strangely, before looking back at Casey and bursting into laughter. “Did you rope Casey into some weird prank?” she said, gently slapping Casey’s knee. “Der-ek! I know I said you should get along, but that didn’t mean dragging her into some nonsense.”

 

"Sally." Derek said seriously, grabbing her attention, "If I was Casey, do you really think I would go along with something like this?"

 

“Well,” Sally considered this, unsure, “you can have a sense of humour. Sometimes.”

 

Casey hid her pout at the lowkey insult.

 

"Look, I know how crazy this sounds. But it's true." Derek said, "We switched bodies. I may enjoy a good prank every now and then, but my pranks are funny. This is… well it's not funny."

 

“I wouldn’t say all of his pranks are funny,” Casey cut in, “but… yeah, this isn’t funny at all.”

 

“Okay,” Sally said seriously, fidgeting in her seat, “I’m officially weirded out. You can cut it out.”

 

"Would if we could." Derek said grimly, "Told you what we had to say was a little weird. Or a lot weird."

 

“I’m so sorry!” Casey burst out, startling Sally, “I know this is weird and totally unbelievable but I swear it’s true! Even Derek isn’t crazy enough to come up with something like this, and even if he was, I would never go along with it! And it must totally be a shock because of… Saturday, but I really didn’t mean anything by it, and,” she stopped, her bottom lip trembling as her eyes filled with tears. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

 

Sally observed Casey closely, taken aback by such an outburst coming from Derek, then she turned towards him, questioning silently.

 

"It's me, Sal." He said, hoping she could see him, "Really."

 

“I think I might be going crazy,” Sally said tentatively, “because I kinda believe you…” she trailed off, looking between them with narrowed eyes as if trying to see them underneath the wrong face. She got up suddenly, stopping in front of Casey and leaning down close to inspect her face.

 

Casey pulled back slightly, a flashback of the last time she was this close to Sally’s face running through her mind. “Heh, no judgement, the craziest stuff is happening to us, so..” Casey trailed off, squirming under the inspection.

 

“You’re too jumpy to be Derek,” Sally concluded, then moved on to Derek next, brushing her hand down his face. “You look sad.”

 

He fucking felt sad. That didn't even begin to cover it. Sally's fingers stroked his cheek. Not breaking eye contact, Derek's hand slipped over Sally's wrist against his face. He ran his thumb softly over the inside of her wrist, a meaningful gesture that he often did to comfort her, knowing it was a sensitive spot.

 

Sally let out a soft gasp, recognizing him instantly, “How did this happen?”

 

Derek's gaze fell shamefully, finally seen by those familiar green eyes. "It's… really hard to explain." He mumbled, guilt creeping up on him in anticipation.

 

Once Sally knew the depth of the connection between him and Casey, she would be devastated, and he would have to tell her that he cheated. It still felt so wrong to think of himself as a cheater - especially when it came to someone so sweet and thoughtful as Sally.

 

"It has to do with the palm reading thing." He continued, "Apparently we have matching… lines or whatever, and that means our souls are connected somehow? It's a lot of confusing magic stuff. There's a lot we don't know about it…"

 

“It sounds confusing,” Sally said uncertainly, searching his eyes as she took the free seat between them. “It must have been really freaky for you guys.”

 

Still squirming uncomfortably, Casey could only think about how much she didn’t want to be here. Now that Sally knew about the swap and Derek was taking over for the rest, they didn’t need her, right? “I think I should…” she said, getting up and gesturing towards the door, “I should probably…”

 

Derek wasn't sure if he was annoyed that Casey was trying to weasel her way out of the uncomfortable conversation he was currently stuck in, or if he was insanely relieved. There were things he wanted to say to Sally that he hadn't really faced with Casey yet. And he didn't need to juggle both of their expectations and reactions.

 

As guilty as Sally's sincerity made him feel - because of course she just had to be so perfect and understanding - it also gave him hope that he could open up to her and she would legitimately hear him out.

 

So, he didn't protest when Casey awkwardly snuck out like a cartoon burglar, keeping his attention on Sally as she searched him for answers.

 

Completely at a loss for where to start, Derek could only stare back at Sally's adoring concern.

 

She let her touch slip from his face, taking his hand and tangling their fingers together. “So…” Sally pursed her lips in thought, her nose scrunching adorably, “I guess I freaked her out last week-end, huh?”

 

He could just live in this perfect bubble for a little while longer before he popped it. His fate was inevitable, but he could drag out the good parts at least, they were kinda few and far between lately, except for those rare moments with Casey when it felt less like a nightmare and more like a dream.

 

"I'm pretty sure you completely rocked her world." Derek laughed sadly.

 

Sally tilted her head slightly, “Well, she did seem into it for a minute there,” then she looked down at her lap, looking guilty for some goddamn crazy reason, “until I made her run out crying.”

 

Derek's look hardened for a moment; Sally was the last person who should feel guilty right now, "Hey, you did nothing wrong." He insisted, "Nothing." Sally looked up at him curiously at his sudden passion and he backed off slightly, his tone softening, "She just remembered that you thought you were with me…"

 

“That makes sense,” Sally conceded, then narrowed her eyes comically at him, “so you were just okay with sharing me with Casey is that it?”

 

Derek chuckled nervously through his teeth, "We didn't want to uh… uh-heh… blow our cover."

 

She laughed, “I bet. For some reason,” she frowned at herself, regarding him questioningly, “I don’t mind? Should I mind?”

 

"I… don't know," Derek said honestly. So far the other shoe hadn't dropped, but he knew it was coming, "You're being alarmingly chill about all of this."

 

Sighing deeply, Sally looked over at him sheepishly “It is weird but… is it just me or does it sound like something only you two would get yourselves into?”

 

Derek pressed his lips together. "It's… not just you." He sighed, closing his eyes as he prepared himself to get to the hard stuff, "Sally… I…"

 

“Hey,” Sally chuckled lightly, placing her free hand on his other cheek, and leaned in slowly. “It’s… fine,” she said, misunderstanding the reason for his guilt, “I’m glad you told me.” She closed her eyes as she brushed her lips over his softly.

 

Turning away, Derek's heart twisted painfully, "There's... more." He struggled, "I just… don't know... how to…"

 

She frowned, looking slightly hurt from him pulling away. “Okay… should I be worried now?”

 

"So… Y-you know how I said my soul and Casey's were connected?" He pressed onward. Sally nodded slightly, skeptical that he skipped over her question. "Well it turns out that's kinda… super rare. And the body swap isn't the only… side effect."

 

“Super rare soul connection, huh?” Sally said sadly, looking down as she pulled both her hands back into her lap. “What kind of side effects?”

 

"Apparently…" Derek swallowed thickly, "We're being - I don't know… pushed together somehow. It's like some giant inescapable magnet. I've been… trying to fight it. But, I don't know, that makes it worse for some reason." He couldn't look up at her expression. "And the longer I fight it, the longer we're stuck like this."

 

“Wow,” Sally said, letting out a watery whoosh of air. There was a quiet sniff before she continued, “that sounds an awful lot like…” she paused for a few excruciating seconds, “... you probably know what it sounds like.”

 

"Yeah… I do." Derek murmured. He risked a glance up at her, "I… She kissed me." He finally admitted, his remaining breath leaving him in a whoosh.

 

Sally remained scarily calm, but didn’t meet his eyes. “And did you…” she trailed off, wiping her cheek with the back of her hand.

 

Heart pounding, Derek felt sweat forming on his brow, "I knew I shouldn't. But I couldn't st -" He sighed, hating the excuse on his tongue, "Yeah…" He confessed ruefully, "I kissed her back." He couldn't look at her, turning his head to stare at the coffee table. "It's like I lose complete control around her. I don't even know who I am half the time.”

 

Standing up, Sally walked over to the window. “So I wasn’t the only one who thought you two should get along,” she chuckled sadly. “That’s a big lesson in be careful what you wish for, Sally.”

 

"We're not exactly… getting along right now." Derek said, cringing at himself. Probably not the point he should be trying to make.

 

Sally ignored this. “I can’t even be angry at you,” she accused, and sighed (more like sniffled), “I can’t blame you for something you don’t have any control over.”

 

"I still should have stopped it sooner, I don't know." Derek shook his head, ashamed, "'Cuz if I don't have control over myself then who the fuck am I, even?"

 

“So do you or do you not?” Sally said directly, turning around to face him with her arms crossed. “You said you can’t help it right?” There was a slight hopeful tinge to her voice.

 

He stood up, running his hand through his hair, "Sometimes I can!" He groaned, "But sometimes…" He thought back to the tangible feeling of the pull. Like there were actual physical strings tying their lips together drawing them in tighter and tighter. "Sometimes it's like I'm under a spell or something."

 

“Okay, so… what does that mean? What am I supposed to do with this?”

 

"I have no idea." Derek sighed, rubbing his face tiredly, "I don't know if my feelings are real. I don't even know if I'm one hundred percent myself - there's all these Casey bits thrown in. All I know is I'm sorry. I'm just so fucking sorry, Sal."

 

“I know,” Sally said, nodding with a sad smile, her voice lowering to a whisper. “I know.”

 

"You can get pissed at me if you want..." Derek mumbled. Normally, he enjoyed getting let off the hook easily, but it didn't feel right in this case. "I'm pissed at me."

 

Her smile turned genuine. “I can’t,” she said with a shrug, “what’s getting pissed gonna do?” She sighed, turning sad again. “It’s not gonna get you back, is it?”

 

Stunned, Derek choked on his words, "G - uh? Get me back?"

 

Did that mean she still wanted him? Or did she mean the old him?

 

“I can’t compete against something like that,” she said, looking away.

 

Ah… she meant back from the edge. Because when it came to the inevitability of his future, he was a goner.

 

"If I could choose…" He trailed off. The last thing he wanted to do was lie to her.

 

“Then what?” She asked with gentle disbelief, “you’d pick me over your soulmate?”

 

He looked at her seriously, the burning philosophical questions still unanswered, "What if it's not that?" He asked searchingly, "What if it's more like a... a curse or something?" With an exasperated sigh, he looked up, as if accusing the heavens, "I mean… what if I only think I'm happy about something when really I'm just… drinking the kool aid while I live someone else's idea of my life?!"

 

He wasn't sure when this conversation went from a confession to spitting out every worried thought in his brain, but Sally was the only person he could really open up to. He couldn't bring this up with Casey, she would just get pissed at him again because he was screwing everything up.

 

“What’s your idea of your life?” Sally shrugged.

 

Straining, Derek shrugged back. "I used to know, before all this. But how can I answer that now when I don't even know if my own thoughts are mine!" He paced back and forth, starting to get frantic in his growing agitation. The stinging tears fighting their way forward were only confirmation of what he was saying. Derek Venturi didn't cry! "I've got Casey's shit in my head, and the universe, or God, or Morgan Freeman or WHATEVER!"

 

“It… kinda sounds like you’re overthinking it.”

 

Derek stopped pacing abruptly. "Yeah, well…" He laughed chaotically, throwing his hands up in the air, "Maybe that's the Casey in me!"

 

“Well,” Sally said slowly, taking a deep breath, “what do you tell Casey when she’s overthinking?”

 

"I can't exactly throw a cushion at my own head to shut me up." Derek quipped before continuing more thoughtfully, "But… I guess if I was being real I'd say…" He groaned, "I don't know. Like, just do whatever feels natural? I guess?"

 

Sally nodded. “You know,” she said, taking a few steps forward until she stood in front of him, looking down at him fondly, “besides the obvious,” she brushed some of Casey’s hair over his shoulder, “you still sound like you. And I think you made the decision to come here and tell me all of this because you're still you. So tell me. What feels natural?”

 

Being close to Casey felt like the most natural thing in the moment. But so did this - talking with Sally, she just understood him. The difference was that he didn't feel that same pull, it was just quiet and still. Distance, even long distance back home, felt natural enough with Sally. He couldn't even stand to be a meter away from Casey without it feeling wrong, like the only right place to be was touching her. If he felt any pull right now, it was out the door to wherever Casey ran off to, probably worrying about the outcome of this conversation… and whether or not he would choose her.

 

Through it all, there was only one thing that felt truly un-natural, he was just too cowardly to admit it. He scrunched up his face, eyes shut tight, as he forced himself to confront it, "I can't keep… fighting it anymore."

 

Sally’s arms wrapped around him and pulled him in tightly, her body shaking a little against him as her breath hitched in his ear. “It’s okay,” she sniffed, and hid her face in his hair. “It’s… it’s okay.”

 

He returned her warm embrace gratefully. Things would be so much easier if he could just melt into Sally the way he melted into Casey. As much as he appreciated the hug, and as much as she meant to him, it wasn't the same as it was with Casey. The pull he felt with Sally was more forgiving, like he wouldn't be ripped apart if he let go. "Why do you have to be so perfect huh? It's really…" He laughed a bit, rubbing her back amicably, "It's really not fair."

 

“Maybe I’m not perfect,” she pulled back slightly to look into his face, “maybe… this is a sign for me too.”

 

"What kind of sign?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Like, maybe I have a different path of my own?” She said, a little light of hope returning to her eyes. “And this is a nudge in a direction I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.”

 

He recognized that spark in her eye and the corner of his mouth turned up curiously as he stepped away from the hug, "Oh yeah?"

 

“Yeah,” Sally started slowly, “I may have been offered an internship abroad. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she smiled at him sheepishly, “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna take it because… because of you. But you have... things to sort out, things that don’t include me. So maybe this is a chance for me to try something new?”

 

"That's… wow!" Derek said, surprised, "That's awesome, Sally. Really. You can't pass on something like that." It actually felt like everything was lining up. Sally always talked about wanting to live abroad some day. "It's basically your dream, isn't it?"

 

“Don’t sound so relieved,” Sally chuckled, rolling her eyes. “But yeah. I guess it is.”

 

Derek laughed awkwardly, "Nah… it just..." He smiled up at her peaceably, "Feels natural, I guess."

 

She returned his smile, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. “You know,” she said, her smile turning mischievous, “I kinda always wondered what kissing Casey would be like…”

 

Narrowing his eyes, Derek grinned mischievously, "Really?" It turned out he wasn't the only one thinking about that. And actually, Casey seemed pretty into it too. If things were different, the three of them could have a lot of fun together. He looked up at Sally playfully as her teasing eyes connected with his, drawing them closer together.

 

“Mhmm,” she agreed, closing her eyes before their lips touched, “Call it a… giant inescapable magnet…”

 

The kiss was the perfect goodbye. The only thing missing was a camera to commemorate the moment. It was short and sweet, and it felt like she accepted his apology - accepted him, freaky soul bond and all.

 

Sally hummed thoughtfully when she pulled away. “Not bad.”

 

Derek hummed back appreciatively, “I’m starting to think you and Casey might have a thing goin’ on.” He teased.

 

“You can’t be the only one who gets to have a thing for Casey,” Sally said. “Are you jealous?”

 

“Hmm…” Derek considered, “More like mildly… turned on.” What? He was being honest!

 

“That’s weird,” Sally said as she stepped away, rolling her eyes. Then her smile turned mischievous and she winked. “Me too.”

 

Derek bit his smirk. Somehow this whole conversation went better than he ever thought possible. “Why don’t we, uh…” He stammered, trying to divert away from the dangerously sexy images in his head, “Go find Casey.” He coughed, realizing the implication, “I mean!” He chuckled awkwardly, “She’s probably, uh… torturing herself out there.”

 

Sally laughed, slapping his shoulder as she walked him to the door. “It’s funny, I never realized it until now, but I always used to think of you guys as an item. It was always ‘Derek and Casey’, like one doesn’t go without the other.”

 

Laughing, Derek followed along, as Sally opened the door, “Yeah. Well turns out our souls had the same idea. Kind of a package deal.”

 

Hearing the door open, Casey jumped up from her spot on the floor in the hallway, eyes wide and heart hammering. She wasn’t sure how long they had been in there alone, but to her it felt like hours of swimming in a sea of uncertainty, waiting to find out the outcome.

 

She looked between Derek and Sally, all smiles and looking happy, and she was just as confused as ever. Did they decide to patch things up? That thought hurt more than she wanted it to. But he was talking about her, right? A package deal, that had to be about her.

 

“Hey guys!” She said tensely, waiting for a verdict.

 

Sally tilted her head to the side as she regarded her with a curious smile, “hey Casey, you gotta take care of him for me, okay?”

 

Startled, unsure of what to say, Casey nodded her head eagerly before looking towards Derek inquiringly.

 

“She will.” Derek said casually, lingering on Casey’s questioning stare before continuing on normally, “So long as you promise to send us postcards from Spain or Paris, or Hong Kong or wherever you end up.”

 

“Y-you’re leaving?” Casey asked stupidly, detaching her gaze from Derek with difficulty.

 

“Yup. Wherever the wind takes me,” Sally said cryptically. “I’ll send you postcards before coming to visit,” she said, winking in Casey’s direction.

 

Wh… what did that mean? Casey wondered. “We’ll miss you,” she offered.

 

“I know,” Sally smirked.

 

Hiding his smile, Derek watched the interaction play out. Sally was flirting with Casey, right in front of his very eyes and he would be an idiot to get in the way of that. Especially since Casey looked like a deer caught in headlights. It was too perfect.

 

“Um, so…” Casey said, squirming under Sally’s confusing gaze.

 

“I guess this is goodbye,” Sally said perkily, “You guys have a campus to tour, don’t you?”

 

“Yup!” Derek sighed amicably, elbowing Casey in the ribs, “This one might go there someday. But we gotta admit, the campus thing was more of a convenient excuse to come up here than anything.”

 

Casey coughed, “I mean, it wasn’t a-a lie or anything-“ she started nervously, interrupted by Sally’s hand on her chest.

 

“You don’t need excuses to come see me,” Sally said reassuringly as she readjusted Casey’s jacket at the front, “but you won’t leave without a proper goodbye, right?”

 

“O-of course not!” Casey stammered, before being pulled down suddenly, and lips crashed onto hers. Her eyes widened as Sally kissed her, darting towards a snickering Derek before ultimately closing, and she leaned into the kiss instinctively.

 

It ended too quickly, Sally pulling away with a coy smile. “Have a safe trip back home.”

 

“U-uh, thanks,” Casey said, flustered.

 

“Alright, ladies’ man,” Derek teased, steering a flabbergasted Casey away from Sally. They wouldn’t want to overstay their welcome after such a bizarre conversation. He turned back to Sally one last time though. “Thanks, by the way.” He said sweetly, “For being so… you about this whole thing.”

 

“There’s no one like me,” Sally said smugly. “Don’t forget it.”

 

He never would. Even if Casey was his soulmate, Sally would always be someone important.

 

Looking deep into Sally's green eyes once more as a way of saying goodbye, he let the corner of his mouth tilt into a knowing smile. He never got that real I love you moment with Sally, and he wasn't about to blurt it out last minute, especially in front of Casey. But the way Sally returned his smile told him that she knew, that it didn't need to be said.

 

 


 

 

“What… what was that?” Casey asked after a few minutes on the road, still in shock from her encounter with Sally.

 

Derek laughed through his nose. “That was the chillest body swap reveal slash break up that has ever happened.” That probably didn’t mean much though, considering it was probably the only one in history.

 

“Break up?” Casey asked quietly, trying not to sound too hopeful as she observed him discreetly out the corner of her eye.

 

"Yeah…" He said, a little sadly, "Turns out being soul bonded to my step-sister didn't play out so well for my long distance relationship." He chuckled contentedly at the absurdity of their lives.

 

“I’m sorry…”

 

"Ehh, I think I'm fine with it, honestly." If anything, it felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, like he finally opened a gate to a part of him that had been dying to come out.

 

“Oh,” Casey released the breath she was holding. The future for them was still uncertain, it might still take him a while to come around to the whole soulmates thing - if he ever did. But at least now, them had a future. “That’s good. Right?”

 

The hopeful tone in her voice yanked on Derek's heartstrings, reminding him of that ever-present pull between them. For the first time, he wasn't worried about getting her hopes up. "Yeah." He smiled, "It's good."

 

 


 

 

Sauce dripped down Casey's chin as she devoured her donair.

 

"Casey." Derek laughed as she all but moaned into the meat, "Casey!"

 

Practically jumping out of her skin at being forcibly extracted from her food induced bliss, Casey looked up at Derek. “What?” She said, probably coming off just a little more annoyed than she really felt.

 

"Wow." Derek grinned, teasing her, "Is that what I'm like when I eat?" He reached out and brushed his thumb under her lip, "You're a disaster." He sucked the sauce from his thumb casually.

 

“It’s not that bad!” She argued, slightly vexed. She wiped her chin, coming back with a pool of sauce on the back of her hand. “Ugh,” she complained disgustedly, grabbing a couple of napkins to finish the job. “I’m turning into an animal.”

 

"Admit it." Derek sat back, crossing his arms, "You like being me, don't you?"

 

“Pffft,” she scoffed, “never.”

 

"Oh, don't be so modest." He smirked, "I know you'll miss my body." He fought the urge to wink.

 

Casey blushed, covering her embarrassment by taking another bite of delicious donair. “Whagh I’ll mish,” she said around her mouthful, swallowing half of it before continuing, brandishing the sandwich towards his face, “is eating as many of these as I want.”

 

"Hmm well you don't have to rub it in." Derek said playfully, swatting the donair away, sending lettuce flying onto the table.

 

“Hey!” Casey protested, watching helplessly as the lost pieces of her meal fell to their demise. “Careful!”

 

"So about this campus tour." Derek said, "Do we really have to? I mean, since we're here, we might as well do something interesting."

 

“Of course,” Casey sighed, rolling her eyes, “because education and culture are such boring concepts.”

 

Rolling his eyes back at her, Derek took a sip of his drink. "If you wanna soak in the local culture, you should just hit the streets." He explained proudly. "Tons of 'culture' to be found, right here in the centre of the universe."

 

“Hmm,” Casey said thoughtfully, letting her head fall into her hand as she carefully chewed another bite, “so you wanna play tour guide, Mr. Local Culture?”

 

"If you're up to it." He teased, implying she wasn't the type of person who could easily stray from the plan.

 

“Oh, I’m up,” Casey said, rising to the challenge and actually getting up from her chair. It was reassuring to get back to their usual banter, she was less worried about him pulling away like this. Bracing both hands on the table, she lowered herself towards him with a smirk, “you better be sure you can live up to expectations, because let me tell you, they are high.”

 

Derek grinned at the challenge. There was something thrilling about playing their little game, without having to hold anything back. He was going to enjoy the pull as much as possible now, by dragging it out like a cat playing with a mouse. He slowly rose to meet her, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "Aw, so intense." He teased, patting her on the cheek patronizingly, "I like it."

 

Bewildered by Derek’s renewed spirit, Casey decided to go along, following him down some streets as they argued over which way to go and which neighbourhoods were the most interesting (she had to put up at least a little fight).

 

He led her into the old Distillery District. She was surprised he even knew about it, and that he knew how to get there, considering she didn’t remember it and she’d lived in Toronto most of her life.

 

This area of the city was almost magical, like being caught in a swirl of historical and modern architecture and art. They turned onto a crowded street which held outside markets and where artists performed on every corner, Casey dragging him to every other stand to gush over the incredible craftsmanship of something or other.

 

Beaming from ear to ear, Derek let himself be dragged by the wrist, watching Casey look around in wonder like a kid on Christmas. "I thought I was supposed to be the guide." He complained lightheartedly, even though Casey was the local.

 

She looked back at him, bright eyed, with a pout in place, “But looook,” she whined, “these are so cute!” She held up handmade metal owl shaped earrings towards him and tilted her head to the side. “You’d look so good with these in your new look!”

 

Rolling his eyes, Derek grabbed the earrings and held them up to himself. He actually kind of liked them. "Yeah, who knew I'd be such a fashion icon?" He quipped sarcastically.

 

“You’re buying them,” Casey shrugged with finality as she looked over curiously at another stand across the street.

 

"What am I, made of money?" Derek laughed, putting the earrings back, "By the time I'm back in my body I'll be broke and have nothing to show for it!"

 

The woman at the stand gave him a strange look.

 

“I don’t know what she’s talking about either,” Casey told the lady, gesturing at her head in a ‘she’s crazy’ motion as she took Derek’s hand to drag him behind her towards the stand that caught her interest. “You may not have much to show for it, but I’ll have a funky new wardrobe to start university!” She grinned, “plus I can’t afford the earrings and this.”

 

She turned him towards a bust mannequin set on top of a table amongst multiple leather type objects.

 

Now they were talking! The only thing missing from his look was a leather jacket, like his signature one he loved so much. The mannequin sported a handmade distressed maroon jacket. It was hot and dangerous and the exact image he was going for. Not to mention, Casey would look sexy as hell in it once they switched back. "Yes." Was all he said.

 

Smirking at his approval, Casey stepped up to grab the jacket, “why don’t you try it on, sugarmuffin?”

 

He snatched the jacket and shrugged it over his shoulders with an eye roll, "Whatever you say, baby cakes."

 

It was a perfect fit. He tested the arms a bit and checked himself out in the nearby mirror. Posing, he admired the view. "Not too shabby," He crooned at his appearance, completely underselling it, as he caught Casey's eye, standing behind him in the mirror, "What d'ya think?"

 

“Meh,” she shrugged even though she couldn’t hide her appreciative smile even if she tried. “I guess we’ll just be that matching couple,” she added mindlessly, pulling the price tag off at the back. She refused to look at it, just stepping forward to the merchant and presenting her card, ready to pay.

 

“You two make such a sweet couple,” the lady gushed and handed Casey the receipt. “Take care of your girl, young man.”

 

Casey looked back at Derek, still posing in front of the mirror, and bit her lip in thought. With his newly found grunge chick look, their styles were even more in line, they really did look like a couple. It tugged at her heart a little. They used to get comments like that all the time, but only dismissed them or corrected them too quickly before. Now… she didn’t want to. For one second, she wanted to pretend that Derek was hers.

 

“Thanks,” she said, crumpling the receipt and shoving it in her jacket pocket, “I will.”

 

Returning at Derek’s side, she elbowed him and whispered teasingly, “you hear that? Apparently, you’re my girl now.”

 

You're half right, Derek wanted to say, because if anything was clear now, it was that he was hers - literally; part of his soul belonged to her. The concept of having some part of him belong to someone else, outside of his complete control, wasn't as paralyzing anymore now that he stopped fighting it. It was almost comforting.

 

His own low voice at the shell of his ear made him shiver, as if he was hearing himself admit his own desire - she was his girl.

 

Even their reflection would agree. They looked like a picture-perfect couple with their style, body language, and how their eyes met like partners in crime.

 

Leaning back into Casey's chest, Derek tilted his head up to speak conspiratorially, "Not a girl."

 

But mine, Casey thought.

 

“Alright,” she said, pushing him forward with her hand on his lower back. “Wanna go elsewhere to show off your new jacket now?”

 

"Sounds like you want to show me off" He teased as they walked away together. Casey answered with a roll of her eyes.

 

 


 

 

They decided to check out the Eaton Centre, though Derek secretly planned on dragging Casey to the Hockey Hall of Fame too.

 

On their walk back to the Prince, they spotted a group of people gathered by a brick wall, taking pictures. It was an art installation, with the word LOVE, with each letter spelled out with iron grids. Couples were securing locks to the structure.

 

While Casey looked on with barely restrained interest, Derek shook his head at the kismet. It was such a sentimental gimmick and right up Casey's alley. He couldn’t help but think the whole thing was, well… fitting. They were locked together, after all.

 

From the informative signs and the crowd, it seemed like the art piece was brand new. There was a small stand near the installation where a woman was selling locks. As she spotted them, she perked up, beckoning them over.

 

With a sly smile, Derek dragged Casey to the stand where the woman greeted them. "Welcome!"

 

Casey looked quizzically at Derek, wondering what was on his mind. Since last night, they’d left a lot of things unsaid, and when the air wasn’t tense, she felt like she was putting on a strong face to keep from breaking down. She doubted he had any kind of interest in something like this to begin with, so she was reluctant to engage with the installation knowing it was just for show. It was just painful.

 

“Um, hi,” Casey said hesitantly as the woman looked at her expectantly, Derek’s hand never leaving hers as he snickered beside her. “We’re not…” she tried to explain, stammering, “we’re just…”

 

"Oh, shut up." Derek laughed, hip-checking her playfully, "Yeah, hi. How you doin'?" He addressed the woman. "Would you say this is the right place to… I dunno," He shrugged with an over exaggerated pout, "Honour some kind of freaky cosmic soul bond?"

 

Casey’s heart did not skip a beat. She was not gaping at him and trying to read his expression or tone because she knew he was probably just making fun of this like he did with everything else. He obviously didn’t take their ‘freaky cosmic soul bond’ seriously. That was fine. Totally okay. No problem.

 

She hid her fidgety fingers in her back pockets, laughing awkwardly at his comment. “Ha ha, you’re so funny, honeybun.”

 

"This is absolutely the right place!" The lady assured them. "These types of landmarks exist all around the world!" She gushed romantically. "Lovers from all walks of life come to honour their bond. When two souls become one, it is worth celebrating."

 

As ridiculously cheesy as it was, it was also ironically on-the-nose. "You hear that, sweetcheeks?" Derek smirked up at her mockingly, "Two souls becoming one. What are the chances of that?"

 

Resisting the urge to groan at his antics, Casey smiled tensely. “Yeah, how ‘bout that…”

 

Derek handed the lady some cash and picked out a small lock, "You got like, a sharpie, or a knife or something to write on this thing with?"

 

"Way ahead of you, darling." The woman smiled, waving her hand dismissively, "You're not the first to wanna put their initials down. Here." She handed him a sharp metal stick, "Just be careful, I'm not looking for a lawsuit." She winked.

 

Scratching away, Derek got to work on his engraving, keeping it out of Casey's view.

 

She tried peering over his shoulder, pouting as he turned away to hide. Ugh, it was probably going to be some lame joke that was gonna break her heart all over again. Why was he even doing this when he obviously didn’t believe in it? It seemed like unnecessary torture considering he knew how she felt about it - about them… about him. She’d all but confessed she was in love with him last night, couldn’t he at least cut her a break?

 

After deepening the engraving, Derek blew the metal shavings away and smirked with satisfaction. "Well, I'm no artist," He said proudly, handing the lock over, "But it's pretty accurate if I do say so myself."

 

She grabbed it from his hands, frowning down at his drawing “It’s just a line?”

 

"Not just any line," He clarified. His voice was cocky but his hands slipped into his jacket pockets shyly.

 

Subtly looking into her palm, she compared it to the line on the lock.

 

Okay, maybe her heart did stop this time.

 

It was either the cutest or most cruel thing he ever did. The worst part was, in either case, she still loved it. “Oh,” was all she found to say in response.

 

Derek wasn't sure what to make of Casey's understated response. He felt like a geek for making such a cheesy gesture. Also, he couldn't help but notice how she was less receptive than usual to his flirting, curiosity replaced with skepticism whenever he got too close. Not like that came as a total shock, since he basically rejected her - he would just have to keep flirting until she figured out he meant it. "So, we gonna… seal the deal?" He asked, motioning to the exhibit.

 

Nodding vaguely, Casey followed him to the mounted grids, still staring at the lock like she was going to find all the answers on it. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes against accumulating tears. Ugh, she really resented that she didn’t inherit Derek’s cool attitude the way he seemed to have inherited her emotionality. She could really do without the tears.

 

“You sure you can handle the commitment?” She asked, handing him back the lock. “Once it’s locked, there’s no key to take it back.”

 

"Then I guess I'll just have to come at the thing with an axe in the middle of the night," He joked, sauntering up to the sign. He leaned against the brick wall and regarded her thoughtfully. "I'm not worried though." He hooked the lock onto the grid but didn't shut it yet, asking her the same question.

 

Stepping closer, Casey ran her finger over the cold metal. “How do you know you really feel that way and it’s not just another deception?”

 

Sighing, Derek looked down at his feet before meeting her gaze boldly, "I just know."

 

Damn it, she thought, blinking fast as those treacherous tears just escaped her eyes so inconsiderately. Maybe if she didn’t bring attention to it he wouldn’t notice. She turned her gaze toward the lock, placing her fingers over his.

 

They clicked it shut.

 

Their touch lingered on the lock, emotions swirling as something clicked between them. Their connection felt more real and acknowledged than ever before.

 

Suddenly, a flash went off and Derek's eyes snapped up to see a man taking their picture.

 

"Oh! I am so sorry for ruining the moment." The man apologized sheepishly. "It was just such a perfect slice of life, I had to capture it." He stepped towards them with his hand outstretched to Casey. "Ryan Summers, I'm a journalist with the Toronto Star, I'm writing a piece on the new exhibit."

 

She wiped her cheeks quickly, then shook the man’s hand. “No problem. Nice to meet you.”

 

"I would love to feature this picture in the article." He said, almost pleadingly. "It's gorgeous." He turned the camera to show them the display.

 

They looked like they were completely engrossed in the moment, and each other. Casey couldn’t help but notice how her own feelings showed so blatantly in the picture, and how Derek’s expression mirrored hers. Did she really want everyone, potentially their family, to see this picture where they look so in love?

 

While she had been worried about all the repercussions before, since she made her choice to trust her heart and her soul, it seemed anything would be worth it. It really was a gorgeous picture.

 

She looked at Derek, letting him make the decision because she wouldn’t go against his wishes if he still had doubts, even though she didn’t.

 

As an amateur filmmaker, Derek could see how amazing the picture was. It had real emotion, it told a story, it showcased the art, and the composition was stellar. He kind of wanted to ask the guy to send him a copy of it. There was one small problem though. People would see the picture and draw conclusions. He knew for a fact George sometimes read articles from the Star online. But he also knew that if he was leaning into this whole soulmates thing, then people would find out eventually. There was no point in trying to shove it under the rug. Fuck it. He shrugged up at Casey who was staring at him, silently asking what they should do.

 

"This might be my favourite photograph I've ever taken," Ryan interrupted in their hesitation. "I'm a photographer first, journalist second. I really think I could submit this one for an award. I don't wanna come on too strong but if you guys would sign a photo release I would be so grateful."

 

"Yeah, sure. Aight." Derek said easily.

 

“Okay…” Casey agreed, still searching Derek’s face. She couldn’t tear her eyes from him. He was willing to basically go public with this picture, letting it go out in the open for anyone to see. That had to mean something.

 

They quickly signed some forms. Derek gave Ryan his email address so he could let them know when the article was published. Then, they went on their way, leaving their lock behind.

 

 


 

 

As they walked back to the Prince, Casey instinctively took Derek’s hand in hers and forced herself to keep looking forward so she didn’t betray how scared she was. She couldn’t stand it if she read all the signals wrong.

 

The familiar tingle of their heart lines made Derek smile lightly. The fear he felt before was drowned out by the thrill of allowing himself to be close to her - even if it was something as innocent as holding hands. It spoke to a whole depth of possibility.

 

If it felt this easy, he was going to let it be this easy.

 

“Are you sure…” Casey asked tentatively, “about the picture?”

 

"It's cool." He dismissed. "Why?" His voice turned teasing, "You having second thoughts?"

 

“No, it’s just,” she hesitated, “when they see it, people are going to assume things.”

 

Derek hummed thoughtfully. "Well…" He considered. "Horses are basically zebras anyway, just without all the pizzazz."

 

“Is that your roundabout way of saying it’s all the same thing anyway?”

 

Derek danced around it some more, "Horses, zebras… same dif." With horses meaning they were together and zebras meaning they were cosmically bound soulmates, zebras were just the extreme version of horses.

 

Shaking her head, Casey went along with it. “Really? Because all that pizzazz gotta make you wonder if zebras are even real.”

 

"Until you wake up and you are a zebra." Derek countered, "Then, after a long stretch of denial, you come to terms with it."

 

“So it’s like grudgingly accepting the fact that the zebras exist even though you’re not happy about it?” Casey fished some more, because she really didn’t believe he could have changed his mind so quickly after breaking up with Sally. He would need time, she knew this, and the way he simply bounced back towards her made her worried she was just the rebound girl.

 

Groaning softly, Derek stopped walking and turned to her. He avoided her gaze as he lightly swung their arms and played with her fingers as a distraction. He knew he had to give in and make it more clear to her that he wasn't fighting this anymore. Looking at her deliberately, he slipped on a sheepish smirk. "Nah. Turns out zebras are… kinda cool."

 

Even though it was what she wanted to hear, her knee-jerk reaction was to slip her hand out of his to cross her arms over her chest. She needed more than that. “What made you change your mind?” She asked, almost accusingly.

 

Mirroring her stance, Derek clenched his jaw. Why couldn't she just read between the lines? Why did she have to call him out like that? It was so much easier to dance around the topic like they were speaking in code. Plausible deniability was his best friend. Being so direct was like shining a light directly on the deepest parts of him.

 

"I dunno…" He mumbled self consciously, "Sally, I guess? She reminded me to take a page from the old Derek handbook." He used to be the kind of person who lived on instinct, following his whims shamelessly, going after his desires. He was going back to that mindset again, he wasn't going to deny himself what he wanted anymore. "Less overthinking, more… going with the flow." He explained, hoping he wasn't about to get hit with a million more questions.

 

“So you’re just going with the flow? That’s all?”

 

He sighed frustratedly, and then shrugged, "What do you want me to say?" It felt like she was fishing for something specific.

 

“I don’t know!” Casey said, exasperated and arms went flying over her head. “Excuse me for being skeptical about your sudden change of heart when you turned me away like I was crazy yesterday after I basically told you I was in love with you!”

 

Skipping right over that love part, Derek stepped into her space, like Casey used to do to him all the time, looking up at her challengingly. "I had a girlfriend yesterday, and I still tried to kiss you. What, I'm not allowed to have questions about all this magic voodoo stuff?" He laughed harshly with self deprecating humor. "I'll remind you, I'm not a wizard."

 

“Yesterday, you couldn’t,” Casey said with finger quotes in front of his face, “control yourself around me. And now suddenly zebras are cool? Sure, you can have your doubts, but it’d be nice if you didn’t yank me around like a fuckin’ yoyo!”

 

"And yesterday you said you weren't fighting it anymore, sure doesn't feel like that now!" He debated. If anything, they were the yoyo. "This conversation is going nowhere. Oh, look, the Prince. Must be a sign from the universe to move on!"

 

All he could think as he stormed away to the car was: coward. So much for not running from it; he ran from that conversation like a total wuss. He just couldn't stand to fight with her. Whenever they fought, the pull between them tightened while they stood in place, the strands tearing him open, eviscerating him.

 

Casey practically growled as she wrenched her door open angrily, sitting in her seat and crossing her arms as she seethed. She swore to never speak to him ever again!

 

What. a. jerk!

 

 


 

 

Derek drove them to the Eaton Centre, skipping over the Hockey Hall of Fame. He didn't want to tarnish its sacred walls with whatever toxic fumes they were giving off in their anger. He had wanted to enjoy himself with Casey, but instead they were fighting for whatever reason - he wasn't even sure why.

 

He was so sick of the fighting and the tension - actually, physically sick. Once he felt the freedom that came with leaning into her, he couldn't put it off anymore. If only she would lean back, like she did before.

 

As they silently walked through the mall, Derek realized he would probably have to make his intentions clearer with Casey, as painful as he knew it would be. He just wasn't at that… love place yet. That was still super scary. But he was ready and eager to give in to the pull. Was that not enough?

 

With almost 3 million people living in Toronto, and in one of the biggest malls in Canada, the last thing they expected to hear was…

 

"Cousin Case?"

 

Casey stopped dead in her tracks. Damn, Universe. Did you really have to?

 

“Vicki?” She said awkwardly as she turned to see her cousin walking up to them.

 

“Hey, Der,” Vicki answered smoothly with a flirtatious smile. “What are you guys doing in Toronto?"

 

“We, uh,” Casey floundered, eyes wide as she took in the actual reality of her own cousin coming onto her. “We’re in town to check out the University, Casey insisted,” she chuckled, “super keener being super keener!”

 

“That’s awesome!” Vicki said, turning her wide smile to Derek, opening her arms for a hug, “and you didn’t think to call your favourite cousin to let her know?”

 

"It was really last minute," Derek explained awkwardly as Vicki wrapped him up in her arms, casting Casey a wide-eyed glance, "Small world running into you…" Small world. Big universe. It felt like just another cosmic coincidence to add on the pile.

 

“Sure,” Vicki chortled, “if I wasn’t always hanging here because there’s nothing else interesting to do,” she looked between them as she pulled away from the embrace. “What were you guys going to do after this?”

 

“Probably drive back home,” Casey said, “we do have school tomorrow.”

 

Vicki laughed. “That’s funny, Derek.” She noticed Casey’s serious expression, and switched her tone to vaguely horrified. “Oh god, what did Casey do to you?”

 

“Excu-“

 

"Actually, it's the other way around." Derek interrupted, "We're both fun now."

 

Casey narrowed her eyes at Derek, “I know I am but what are you?!”

 

“Great!” Vicki perked up, “so are you coming with us to this new club that opened last month?” She gestured behind her at her friends lounging around the fountain in the middle of the mall. “We can get you fake IDs.”

 

"Awesome!" Derek announced, ignoring Casey’s crazy eye signal and frantic shake of her head. If they were only in Toronto for one night, they should milk the experience for everything it was worth.

 

“I don’t know, it would be kind of irresponsible to go out on a school night,” Casey paused shortly, looking between Derek’s unimpressed expression and Vicki’s clearly confused look, “I… mean,” she faltered, “why not?”

 

"We'll just text the rents." Derek shrugged it off. School night, schmool night. Sneaking into a club was much more exciting. "Tell 'em we're too tired to drive tonight and that we'll head back first thing tomorrow. We just need a place to crash."

 

“You’re coming to my house, silly,” Vicki slapped Derek lightly on the arm. “Mom and Harry take their pills at like eight, then they’re totally passed out. They won’t even notice what time we come home.”

 

“That’s um… okay,” Casey agreed reluctantly. Spending their Sunday night with Vicki and sneaking into a club illegally really wasn’t what she had in mind, and to top it off she would have to act like everything was normal so she would have to talk to Derek when she’d sworn to herself she wouldn’t. She had to admit, she was some weak sauce.

 

“Then I guess Casey will get to show us her moves, eh?” She smirked, elbowing Derek in the side.

 

"Just you wait." Derek replied cockily.

 

 

Chapter Text

Casey leaned back against the bar, squinting through the artificial fog to observe the crowd while Vicki and her friends danced somewhere off to one corner. She didn’t know much about clubbing, but it seemed kinda early for the place to be so packed.

 

Next to her, Derek was gulping down a beer. She leaned in close so he could hear her over the incredibly loud music. “Is this your second or third?” She asked accusingly.

 

Dramatically, Derek rolled his eyes. It wasn't his fault people were paying for his drinks! How was he supposed to turn down free alcohol? "Relax." He said loosely, putting the bottle down on the bar, a little clumsier than intended. "It's only my second," he lied.

 

“Yeah, well,” Casey sighed tensely, “I don’t need you to turn me into an alcoholic.”

 

"And I don't need you to give me an aneurysm." He retorted, placing his hands on her arms which were crossed tightly over her chest. "Seriously, you look about ready to explode." She rolled her eyes down at him. Rubbing up and down her arms soothingly, he peered up at her. "Can't we just have a good time?" He coaxed.

 

Trying not to respond to his touch, she squirmed to keep her arms crossed and not to reach out for him. It was already hard because of the overwhelming need to touch him, which only got worse when her eyes darted around them and noticed a bunch of guys checking him out.

 

She had to fight against the urge to wrap her arms around his waist possessively. She was still mad at him. Since Derek hadn’t left her side so far, the guys seemed to assume they were together, so she didn’t have to fight them off. Except for that time she came back from the restroom to find him accepting a drink from a stranger. It was like he was doing it on purpose or something.

 

“It will be a good time when I have to pick you off the floor in a puddle of your own vomit,” Casey grumbled.

 

"Oh come on, I'm not that drunk." Derek defended. Though, he had to admit, he was a lot drunker than he would normally be by this point. Those last few sips of beer were really hitting him. Casey's body was a lightweight compared to his own. He leaned into her chest as if he was pleading with her, gripping her shirt - it had nothing to do with his knees wobbling. "You're not gonna make me dance alone are you?" He pouted mawkishly.

 

Even though they were still kind of fighting, and even though he just broke up with his girlfriend, he wanted to seize the opportunity and have a good time with her - no more fighting. The alcohol in his veins made it hard for him to hold back from her, and seemed to quiet his fears of crashing into her full speed with a broken brake pedal. The loud bass of the music also helped drown out those thoughts. Tugging her forward by the fabric of her shirt, he pouted up at her with a soft whine in his throat, begging for closeness.

 

“You can’t even dance,” Casey grumbled, avoiding the big doe eyes he directed at her. That look was probably how she used to manage to get anything she wanted. It was really appealing.

 

"Hmm we both know that’s not true." He scolded. "And I may have picked up a thing or two from this body."

 

Being this close to her, Derek could feel the pull as strong as ever, and in his current state, his grip holding him back was slacking more and more. He never realized how much he loved the smell of his cologne, wafting from Casey's neck making him feel even more intoxicated. Talking about dancing in Casey's body only reminded him of the sexy performance he gave himself.

 

He was way too close for Casey’s comfort. His breath ghosted over her lips when he talked, slurring his words ever so slightly, while he pleaded with half hooded eyes. He said he wasn’t so drunk, but he was definitely tipsy - and touchy. His hands on her chest were warming her up through her shirt. He was totally acting like a drunk girlfriend right now.

 

She couldn’t help but be intrigued though, by the alleged moves he picked up from her. Maybe her body remembered dance the way his remembered hockey. It was an oddly attractive thought, and her eyes drifted down his body instinctively, wondering about all the things he’d learned to do with it.

 

“Fine,” she conceded, adding an irritated sigh for good measure. She picked his hands from her shirt and pulled him towards the dance floor, catching a glimpse of Vicki with her back turned to them.

 

That didn’t mean she wasn’t still angry with him though.

 

"Well don't get too excited." He said, poking fun at her bristly attitude. Once they hit the dance floor, Derek let Casey's body flow to the music naturally, following whatever instinct came to him. He beckoned her with his eyes, like a taunt.

 

Come on, Case. Give in to the moment.

 

No more fighting. No more thinking. Just doing.

 

There were really no words to describe how his dancing affected her. She had never been attracted to herself that way, but really, when she looked at the girl in front of her now, with the grungy look, smokey eyes and punk attitude, she saw someone else entirely. That girl in front of her, dancing alluringly and looking at her like she was the only one in the room…

 

Yeah, that was tempting.

 

Honestly, she felt like she was being pulled by the dick, there was no other way to say it. It was like she couldn’t control herself, stepping closer to Derek, her hands reaching instinctively for his waist as she swayed slightly to the music, letting his movements guide her.

 

The hot grasp on his waist made Derek smile smugly, it felt like a breath of fresh air, like victory. He almost wanted to rub it in her face. Whatever this was between them, it was irresistible, he knew she couldn’t stay mad at him.

 

Rocking his hips to the beat, he languidly ran his hands up Casey's chest to wrap behind her neck. They were dancing closer now, almost pressed against each other. She was touching his waist but he could feel it everywhere.

 

Derek’s hold on her neck brought her face down towards his, and admitting defeat against the incredible force pushing them together, Casey closed her eyes and let her forehead fall against his.

 

It was difficult to stay angry when they were touching like this, when everything suddenly felt so right. But even though he seemed to really lean into the pull now, she still didn’t know what he wanted from her. She made it clear what she wanted from him, didn’t she?

 

“I’m not pulling away,” Casey whispered, her words drowned out completely by the music, as she remembered his earlier accusation. She wasn’t fighting it, she just wanted to know if she was setting herself up for heartbreak - that wasn’t so much to ask!

 

Derek felt her words puff against his lips but he couldn't hear them. He turned into her ear, their hips meeting in the process, grinding together, "You're what?"

 

Keeping her eyes shut tight as her heart twisted in her chest, she repeated. “I’m not pulling away.”

 

When he looked up at her, the intensity he found between them was thrilling but overwhelming. He turned in her arms, pressing his backside against her, unable to stand the heat of her questioning eyes in his current state. Leaning into her shoulder, he turned his head up to speak in her ear just loud enough over the music, "Me either."

 

Even though a hundred other questions came to mind, she didn’t ask any of them, revelling in the moment instead, wrapping her arms over his stomach and hiding her face in his neck. As a warmth spread through her, she let go of her fears and doubts. As long as she knew he wasn’t going to run away anymore, they could figure out the rest later.

 

The alcohol was starting to catch up and Derek felt increasingly out of his head. Their dance was blurring together as Casey's touch - her strong arms wrapped around him, her face in his neck - stroked his desire. He sighed, bringing his hand up to grasp her hair, holding her tight, as he swivelled his hips harder against her. His other hand ran over one of her arms, feeling its manly contours. He never imagined he could be so shamelessly turned on by such overtly masculine things, but he couldn’t bring himself to question that right now.

 

As Derek pushed back against her, Casey was increasingly aware of her body’s reaction to what he was doing. Her own hips pressed gently into his backside, her growing erection letting itself be known. A far away part of her mind was aware that this was happening on a dance floor, in public, yet the deeper she let herself sink, the less she cared. Nobody was paying attention to them anyway (and so what if they were - let them watch).

 

When Derek felt the bulge pressed up against his ass, he let out a surprised moan. Her obvious arousal spoke volumes, and that combined with her hot breath on his neck was driving him crazy. He loved knowing that she was equally aware of what was happening right now - that she could feel his dick growing hard in her pants as he rubbed her ass against it.

 

He wanted to fuck her right there in the middle of the dance floor. Actually, if he was honest with himself about the desires stirring in his core, he wanted Casey to fuck him. Maybe against the bar or something, rough and desperate.

 

He was drunk enough he almost didn't care that they were in public, and that Casey's cousin was there. There was only a small remaining portion of his rational brain stopping him from jumping her in front of everyone.

 

Even the thought of getting fucked by a dick wasn't turning him off, like he imagined it should. The idea of being 'penetrated' like that would have grossed him out immeasurably before. But really, he was turned on by the idea now, he was so curious to know what it would feel like for Casey in her body. Besides, it wasn't some random gross dude he wanted, it was her, she was a woman (even in his body). And it was his dick, so it didn't really feel that foreign or worth questioning his sexuality over.

 

His mind was running wild with dirty thoughts as they moved together seamlessly to the beat of the music. Casey's breath turned panting against his skin as he expertly teased her over the pants.

 

A low growl escaped her. It didn’t sound anything like her, and she had no idea where it came from, but it was dark and urgent, pulled out of her by the feeling of Derek’s ass rubbing against her dick. She wasn’t sure they were even dancing anymore, or maybe it was just how engrossed she was, but it didn’t matter anyway.

 

There wasn’t any more space for rational thought, her brain was only focused on Derek, the sweet scent of his skin, and his soft fingers caressing her. All she could think about was how his curves would feel underneath her hands, and what it would be like to be inside of him. As soon as the thought entered her mind, it was stuck there, and it kept growing louder and louder, until it took her over.

 

She needed to be inside of him.

 

Like, right now.

 

Next thing she knew, she was grabbing his wrist and pulling him along as she scoured the club to find somewhere more… private.

 

Almost out of breath from how turned on he was, Derek followed after Casey in anticipation. He didn't know if she was dragging him off to yell at him or make out with him or what, but he went along with it. Mind swimming with alcohol, he vaguely registered that he was still on his freaking period.

 

As if stars were aligned specifically for this moment to happen, the first door Casey found was unlocked, and it was a single bathroom. The urgency just kept building up, and it was completely overpowering. She couldn’t stop even if she tried.

 

She pulled him up against the sink, grabbing both sides of his face and going straight for his mouth, sloppy and desperate as she pushed her hips against him, trapping him between herself and the hard side of the counter.

 

Derek had almost forgotten how good it felt to kiss her - how they melded together, blurring the boundary between where one of them ended and the other began. The lines were especially blurred through his drunk haze. Even though he was sloppily drunk, and they were attacking each other's mouths without thinking, they moved perfectly together, no clashing teeth or awkward moments.

 

Somehow he ended up sitting on the counter, his shirt riding up. Casey was pressed hard between his thighs against the thin fabric of his panties and tights as he wrapped his legs around her, keeping her close. His fingers gripped her messy hair as he moaned softly into her mouth.

 

She swallowed his gasps and groans, seeking more. Her hands drifted down his body until she was grabbing his hips, fingertips slipping under his shirt to press into the dips at his lower back, palms covering heated skin. She was kept in place by Derek’s legs around her, pulled in tighter against his body.

 

At this point, there was only one way they could get any closer. To get there, they would need to get rid of a couple of things standing in the way. Tucking her fingers under the waistband of his tights, she started pulling down slowly.

 

Oh my Goooooood… Derek’s thoughts droned. He could hardly keep track of what was happening, lost in ecstasy. His lips found the angle of her jaw, tongue reaching out to taste the sweat worked up from their enthusiasm and the rough texture of her stubble. She was so fucking hot. Call it vanity, sexual confusion, hormones, or true fucking love, he couldn't get enough either way.

 

Casey’s eyes rolled back at his onslaught on her neck, only encouraging her further into the removal of his clothes. Gasping for breath, she wrapped one arm around his waist to lift his body up and allow her to slip the tights over his butt and down his thighs.

 

As Casey's strong arm lifted him, Derek gasped in surprise and arousal at how she was taking control in his body.

 

His fuzzy mind reeled over where this was headed. As much as he had wanted this, he was a bit stunned - he really never expected Casey to go for it. It was just a fantasy that was somehow coming to life, and in a turn of events, Casey was the one turning up the heat.

 

In his fantasies, he never imagined he would put a stop to things, it was hot and dirty and amazing. But in his fantasies, he wasn't bleeding out of the fucking vagina. That kind of put a snag in the whole thing.

 

He didn't want to stop and ruin things, or explain why. With her hands on his body like this, one gripping his thigh firmly, the other trailing up his side under his jacket, he only wanted more.

 

When Casey pulled the tights off his legs, they got caught around his boots and she had to grudgingly pull away to look at the tangled fabric. “The fuck…” she grumbled.

 

"Fuck…" Derek laughed, a little out of his head. She should have just ripped them off, honestly. It sort of brought them back to reality as they looked at one another. It was probably for the best they stopped anyways, so he didn't have to reveal the whole 'time of the month' bullshit. "Uhh…" He smiled at her through an awkward grimace, as her eyes roamed his face with a million questions.

 

She passed a hand through her hair, looking down guiltily at her other hand still tangled into his tights. “Um,” she said awkwardly, “sorry about…”

 

"It's fine. Really." He promised, trying to soften the awkwardness. "We just got a little uh…" He cleared his throat, "carried away." The sudden shift in the air was sobering him up and he lowered himself from the counter to stand in front of her. He wasn't completely sober though apparently, because he lost his balance, tripping over the tights at his ankles and gripping Casey’s arm for support.

 

“Hey,” she uttered as she caught him, steadying him against her chest. She heaved an incredulous laugh, rolling her eyes at the absolute insanity of the situation. “Now who’s the klutz, huh?”

 

"Blame it on that shot of tequila." He smirked up at her unsteadily.

 

“Seriously,” she huffed good-naturedly, “how much did you drink?”

 

"Lost track." He said jokingly. Supporting himself against Casey and the sink, he managed to get a hold of his tights. He found a rip and yanked at it, tearing them to shreds. They were caught in his boots and he gave one more hard pull and they came free in tatters at his ankles. He couldn't tear through the thick waistband so he had to step through it. He chuckled as he almost fell over, Casey steadying him by the elbow. He held up the tangled mess of tights proudly and slam dunked them into the garbage.

 

“Yeah…” Casey said as her eyes lingered on his long slender legs, “that was weirdly hot.” She groaned at the persistent pressing feeling between her legs, rubbing a hand down her face and leaning back against the wall. “Shit, I’m so fucking horny.”

 

Derek couldn't help but grin, "Ha, yeah." He looked up at her through his eyelashes, "Welcome to my body." It was almost taking advantage of her, with all the horny teenage guy hormones coursing through her.

 

More than anything, he loved how she was getting that first hand knowledge of how turned on his body got around her.

 

He no longer needed help to stand, but he would use any excuse to get close to her, anchoring himself by gripping her hips. He looked up at her flirtatiously, not wanting to break their new dynamic.

 

She looked at him seriously while her hand subconsciously landed somewhere at his waist. “It’s all. The. Time,” she insisted.

 

He bit his lip to stop his growing smile. A dirty thought crossed his mind: he could help her out. He silently asked himself if he would really do that. Did that officially cross a line into gay territory? Did he even care at this point? Not like he ever imagined having a dick in his mouth, but he had at one point entertained the idea of sucking his own dick (if that were physically possible). He couldn't deny how turned on he got imagining giving Casey that mind-blowing experience. If she was in a guy's body she shouldn't miss out on something so crucial as a blowjob.

 

His fingers toyed at her waistband at the thought. "Yeah, well…" He shrugged, unsure of what to say, his eyes traveling down to the front of her jeans and back up to meet hers. He couldn't offer something like that, could he? Whatever lines were between them, he couldn't see them anymore. Had they already been crossed? Or…? He was flying blind.

 

She observed him carefully, lifting a questioning eyebrow. He looked slightly out of it, but that was definitely a signal. What kind of signal, she wasn’t sure, and she didn’t think she should act on it now that she realized he was way drunker than she’d thought. It was possibly concerning how much she loved the way he acted like her drunk girlfriend, but no matter how much she did, she wouldn't take advantage.

 

Slowly, her hand reached up to caress his cheek gently. Allowing herself logical thinking now that things were less urgent, truly anchored in reality. As she looked into his eyes, she didn’t feel quite the same amount of lust she did just minutes before. It was only love.

 

As her thumb brushed over his deep red blush, she smiled, speaking her next thought. “Why haven’t things always been like this?”

 

Swallowing thickly, Derek struggled under the new type of intensity between them. "I dunno." He almost whispered, cheek warm under her soft touch, "Megan would probably say something about instability or something. But I think that uh…" his eyes left hers shyly.

 

“What?” Casey asked softly, brushing a stand of loose hair behind his ear. Her whole body was on edge, wanting so badly to hear what he was about to say.

 

His eyes met hers again as he built up the courage to be more direct. Why was his heart pounding so damn hard? "It's always been there, in one way or another, hasn't it?"

 

Licking her lips thoughtfully, she considered asking him what he meant, but she knew what he meant. For all that time they fought each other, they were really just fighting their feelings, pushing them as far away as possible, stretching to their limits, until they were in a state of such instability that they were set off by the smallest things. She’d always known a part of her loved to fight with him, and she realized now that it was because it was the only way they allowed themselves to be close to one another, and it felt good sometimes. Except it wasn’t what she really wanted from him. It was never what she wanted from him.

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said, letting her hand drift down his face to press her palm against the side of his neck, “I think I like this way better.”

 

"Me too…" Derek admitted as his gaze fell to her lips. As much as he used to love fighting and competing with Casey, and as much as the body swap threw their lives into chaos, nothing felt as good as when they actually let themselves get close. There was something freeing about it, like a release in his chest where there was once a vice grip - he had been completely unaware of it until it was gone. Even just talking to her about it, he felt that overwhelming rightness that both comforted and alarmed him. How did things change between them so fast? They acted like they hated each other a week ago, and now they couldn’t stand to be apart for one second.

 

Casey felt his words drape over her like a soft, reassuring blanket. It was so, so very nice to hear. Her eyes closed as she leaned forward, pressing her forehead against his. “Do you think…” she drifted off. Do you think you’ll ever love me back? Her throat closed around the words she couldn’t say out loud. Not yet. “What do you think it’s going to take to get our bodies back?” She asked instead.

 

"I… don't know." He said, feeling his breath bounce back at him off her lips, "Maybe it will fix itself now that we've stopped…"

 

“Fighting?”

 

"Mm." Derek nodded against her, licking his lips, almost licking hers in the process.

 

With a final relieved sigh, Casey let her lips meet his into a sweet, gentle kiss. It wasn’t like the fast hungry kisses they’d been sharing so far, but it had the same effect on her heart and on her skin.

 

By this point, or honestly the whole time they’d been in there, she completely forgot this wonderful moment was happening in a gross bathroom at the back of a night club. She was in her own soul-bond, Derek bubble.

 

Derek's whole body tingled with the soft, chaste kiss. It was somehow more electrifying than the sexually charged kisses from before, and a hot ball of affection burned in his chest. He placed another small kiss on her lips and when he pulled back, he met her searching gaze - the power of the pull between them not scaring him nearly as much this time.

 

The intensity was suddenly cut off with a solid knock at the door, and they jumped, yanked out of the moment.

 

“Ugh,” Casey groaned. “Occupied!”

 

“Derek?” Came Vicki’s voice from the other side of the door. Seriously. Could they never catch a break? “Have you seen Casey?”

 

Derek's eyes widened at her in alarm as he stayed dead silent. She returned his horrified look in kind.

 

“I, uh…” Casey hesitated, “she’s- out there!”

 

“I thought I saw her come in here?” Vicki sounded worried. “Did you leave her alone since I left you guys?”

 

Fuuuuuuuu-

 

“I dunno, just,” Casey said in frustration, “lemme finish up, okay? I’ll go find her.”

 

“Okay,” Vicki said, her tone obviously displeased. “Can you hurry? I’m worried, Der.”

 

“Fine!”

 

Silence came back - well, there was still some loud annoying music flitting through from the dance floor, but they were now free of questioning cousins. Casey felt bad a little for answering so rudely when Vicki sounded so concerned about her, but she was panicking. What if they’d been caught?

 

“Fucking shit,” she grumbled. Crude language was just another thing she realized she was inheriting from Derek.

 

"You um… You go ahead." Derek pitched, always in planning mode when it came to getting away with things, "I'll hang back for a minute and then you guys can find me by the bar." He pressed his lips together, acknowledging the new awkwardness.

 

“Okay,” Casey agreed. She hesitated a second, wanting to kiss him again before leaving, but just nodded her head and turned to unlock the door. “Okay.”

 

As she started opening the door, it was forcefully pushed from the outside.

 

“Oh. My. God!” Vicki practically squealed with a pleased smile as she took in Casey and Derek standing in the bathroom next to each other like deer caught in headlights, and probably looking like… well, exactly what it looked like. “I knew it!”

 

“Um,” Casey didn’t know what to say, completely livid. There was no way she could talk herself out of this one. And what was Vicki still doing there? Wasn’t she, like… sick with worry looking for her? “What?”

 

“Oh, please,” Vicki scoffed, with a dismissive wave of her hand, “you guys were practically doing it on the dancefloor, did you think no one would see you?”

 

Previously speechless, Derek sputtered, blurting out the first thing he could think of, "I - we, uh… shit.” He ran his fingers through his hair bashfully in defeat, “Busted."

 

Shooting him a disbelieving look, Casey desperately tried to scramble out of it, “it’s not- not what it looks like?”

 

Vicki eyed her skeptically. Derek rubbed his face tensely. There was really no other explanation.

 

“Fine,” Casey’s shoulder slumped. She bit back a pout. “Busted…”

 

Rolling her eyes, Vicki turned her satisfied smirk to Derek. “I gotta say, cuz. I never knew you had the balls for something like this,” she pointed back and forth between the both of them. “Does aunt Nora know?”

 

Ignoring the urge to joke about how Casey most certainly had balls (literally), Derek addressed the problem head on, "No." He said firmly, "And if you tell her, we'll kill you." He smiled sweetly, his eyes meaning business.

 

“Jeez, what do you think I am? A narc?” Vicki said, crossing her arms and eyeing Casey appreciatively, “honestly I’m impressed. You finally developed some good taste.”

 

“Um,” Casey sputtered, really not sure how to react to being hit on by her own cousin - again.

 

Derek smirked at Vicki's teasing. At least she seemed to approve, which made things a hell of a lot easier. "Yeah, well…" He said, leaning into Casey's side as he slipped his arm around her back, "Turns out innocent ol' Casey McDonald has a wild side. Keep that between us though, I have a reputation to uphold."

 

Regaining some of her composure at Derek’s touch, and somewhat relieved at Vicki’s laid back reaction, Casey tried to get back into character. “Ah, yes,” she said, slapping on a cheesy smile and languidly wrapping her arm around his shoulder, “wouldn’t wanna mess with that raging keener rep.”

 

"Yeah, we can't have that." Derek agreed smugly.

 

Vicki snorted a laugh. “Your secret’s safe with me,” she said dismissively. “So, Der, still our designated driver? Julia’s gotta get home, she is trashed.”

 

“Sure, yeah,” Casey said.

 

“Cool, I’ll gather the herd,” she turned to leave, winking on her way out, “meet you at the car.”

 

 


 

 

They pulled into Vicki's driveway after dropping everyone off. Casey didn't have anything to drink, so there was nothing stopping them from driving back home. But, some possibility hung in the air knowing Vicki's house was an option.

 

“I was going to let Derek have the guest room and we could share my bed, but…” Vicki said saucily as she closed her car door, walking past Derek towards the front door, “something tells me you guys will probably want to share the guest room, so I’ll keep my bed to myself. Good?”

 

Gulping at Vicki’s implied meaning, knowing that sleeping together would be very dangerous, Casey hesitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to - duh - just in case that wasn’t completely obvious. But considering how rapidly things had devolved when they were dancing in a club in public, being alone together and sharing a bed was bound to make things… complicated. She looked helplessly at Derek, at a loss for what to do as they slipped quietly into the house.

 

Stomach churning in anticipation, Derek felt the nervous excitement coursing through every inch of his body, imagining what being alone with Casey might lead to. If what happened at the club was any indication…

 

Why did he have to be on his stupid fucking period? It was tragically unfair. At least he brought enough supplies to last the night or that would be a total nightmare. But he was getting way ahead of himself. For all he knew, Casey completely regretted their little… rendezvous in the bathroom. She was looking at him with panic in her eyes, like the whole thing made her super uncomfortable.

 

"Sure!" He responded to Vicki's suggestion, "Or… uh. Or Derek can just drive us home tonight. If… if he wants?"

 

It was the way he said it that made it sound like he wasn’t asking if she wanted to drive, but if she wanted to go along with it. Why he thought he needed to even ask the question was beyond her. “I’m kinda tired,” she said, scratching her eyebrow. It wasn’t a lie (completely). “We could always drive back early to catch school instead.”

 

Derek tucked in his lips to hide his nervous smile as he nodded, "Cool. Yeah, cool cool cool." It sounded like she wanted to share the bed with him. That was totally cool, he was totally cool with that - it wasn't blowing his mind or anything.

 

“Unless…” Casey said, scratching the back of her head awkwardly as she noticed his attempt to hide his uneasiness. Maybe he didn’t want to, she probably scared him off with her eagerness in the bathroom. She really needed to get a grip. “If you really wanna go home, I could... “

 

"No!" Derek answered, too quickly. He snuck a bold glance up at her, "I'm uh… tired too." He said with a coy smirk. Even though they couldn't do… certain things, he still wanted whatever alone time they could get.

 

“Are you two fucking kidding me?” Vicki cut in, slightly disgusted. “I mean, I’m assuming you were making out hardcore like an hour ago in the club’s bathroom? And now you’re pulling the cutesy, shy ‘no you’, ‘no you’ crap?” She walked around behind them, rolling her eyes, and pushed them forward with a hand on each of their backs. “Like, obviously you wanna get to it, so just do it already.”

 

“W-wha-” Casey stammered as she was rushed towards the guest room. “I mean-”

 

“You know where things are, cuz,” Vicki continued, ignoring Casey’s weak protests and abandoned them at the door in the hallway, “I’m wiped. Night.”

 

Looking timidly at Derek, hoping he didn’t think she was that eager to ‘get to it’, she then brushed past him to get into the room and anxiously busied herself by preparing the bed.

 

Swallowing his nerves, Derek decided that he was just going to enjoy the ride, wherever it led. That was going to be his new (old) way of doing things - the Derek way. The anxiety he felt all the time in this body wasn't going to get in the way anymore, now that he was going with the flow, smelling the roses on his way to whatever happily ever after awaited their souls. He leaned against the door casually. "She sure is uh…" He searched for the right word. "Supportive." He smirked, watching Casey nervously fluff a pillow.

 

“You could say that,” Casey muttered. She felt Derek’s demeanour relax behind her, and for some reason, it just made her more agitated. He was sobering up, reverting back to himself, the aloof charmer instead of the crazy drunk girlfriend, and she was back to being herself, a nervous wreck. With no more fussing to do with the blankets and pillows, she walked over to the chair in the corner of the room and placed her jacket down, grumbling. “She probably plans on torturing me about it for life.”

 

"I dunno." Derek shrugged, "She seemed pretty impressed, and she can't torture you about it if you own it." He eyed her thoughtfully. Did she regret it after all?

 

“I guess,” she mumbled, biting her lip. She eyed the bed, then him, then her clothes. “So how are we…”

 

He lazily removed himself from the door and sauntered further into the room, "How are we… what?" He teased.

 

She flailed her arms in the direction of the bed. “Doing… This.”

 

"Well…" He said smugly, crossing his arms as he regarded the bed, "I usually sleep on the left side, but I'm not picky." He looked up at her, fighting back a grin at how flustered she was getting, intent on tormenting her, at least a little.

 

Okay, Casey nodded to herself. So he decided not to be helpful. That was fine. Not like making things harder for her was new for him or anything.

 

“Sure, you can take the left,” she said tightly and moved to the right side of the bed. She didn’t like to sleep with her clothes on, but she didn’t know what kind of message she would be sending him if she took them off. So far he went along with sharing the bed, so that was something. He probably didn’t expect her to jump him though. That would be weird. Right?

 

She decided to just lie down with her clothes on, she could manage to be slightly uncomfortable for one night. As much as this situation was putting her on edge, she had basically thrown herself in it, because it was thrilling to be in such close proximity like this, and she really couldn’t resist. She covered herself with the blanket and waited rigidly with her back to him, anticipating his next move.

 

Derek raised his eyebrows and had to cough to hold back his laugh. Casey's awkwardness was too adorable. He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it on the nearby dresser. He crawled in next to her - he could practically hear her heart beating as she stayed frozen. He waited and it seemed like she was holding her breath.

 

He shuffled closer to her, towards the warmth radiating from her back. He bit back his smile at how cute her nerves were as he tested the waters, placing his hand on her arm, gently coaxing her to relax and turn his way.

 

She did so automatically and without hesitation, facing him as she settled on her other side. He could probably will her to do anything with a single touch. She observed his face, keeping her own carefully blank. He was amused, obviously holding back laughter, and she rolled her eyes at how Derek he was being.

 

Running his hand soothingly up and down her arm, Derek smirked. "You okay in there?" He asked, straddling the line between teasing and concern, "I can practically hear the gears turning."

 

“I was just,” she said quietly, looking down at the pillow because she couldn’t meet his eyes, “thinking about earlier.”

 

"Hmm… yeah?" He asked breathily, running his fingers over her arm under the blanket, getting lost in the feeling of their skin touching. Even the slightest touch between them was like a drug.

 

She suppressed a shiver as his fingertips raised goosebumps over her skin. “I couldn’t,” she swallowed, wondering what point she was even trying to make, “you know, stop.”

 

"You and me both…" Derek said, laughing shortly through his nose, "Do you…" he trailed off, his fingers stalling. He swallowed nervously before trying again, "Do you… regret it? Or…"

 

“No, I don’t- I don’t think so,” Casey frowned at his tone, unsure about what it meant, “I just,” she sighed, “I dunno, I guess I’m thinking maybe you were right after all.”

 

Eyebrows knitting together, Derek studied her face. He really had no idea how she was feeling, and that freaked him out. "About what?"

 

“About,” she could barely say it out loud. Because she didn’t want to think he was right, she didn’t really believe it, but then this little voice at the back of her mind appeared, taunting her. What if she was wrong all along. “Not being in control.”

 

Just when he was starting to lean into things, Casey was having second thoughts. He didn't know why, but he had assumed she would just… be there, if he ever decided to go there. But, what if she wasn't? "I don't think I care anymore… about that." He admitted, looking at her lips rather than her eyes, "Being in control of this."

 

She knew he was trying to be reassuring, but it didn’t really help, because it still felt like, “you just gave up on it because it was too hard,” she said, as gently as possible, but she knew it came out a little bitter. “It’s not what you wanted.”

 

"I gave up on it because it was hell." He defended, "I'd rather do what feels good." His touch traveled down her arm to find her hand, as a demonstration of what he meant, trailing the tingling sensations down her skin like he knew she felt, "That's what I want."

 

Of course it felt good, when he grabbed her hand like that, with his fingertip scratching that exposed part of her soul. “But you don’t feel the way I do,” she said sadly, closing her eyes against spillage - jeez, she didn’t need tears right now. If this whole thing was supposed to feel so good and make her endlessly happy, why was she crying all the time? She sniffed, rubbing her eye with her knuckle. “Apart from that,” she traced a finger over the side of his hand.

 

He looked at her, painfully. If he was honest, he didn't know how he felt about her, beyond the undeniable physical reaction he had around her. The stuff in his head was a lot more complicated. But he knew it was way more than just…

 

He couldn’t put it into words.

 

But, he wasn’t deluding himself that what he felt belonged to some higher power anymore. He wanted her - he could admit that to himself. And the thought of not having her, now that he knew, was unbearable.

 

Maybe it wasn't exactly the same as what she felt, not yet… but he was willing to follow this wherever it led. He wanted to follow this wherever it led. That had to count for something.

 

He tangled their fingers together as he bit the inside of his lip anxiously. If this was a turning point, he needed to make the most of it. "You asked me if I would choose you…"

 

“You said you didn’t have a choice,” she couldn’t keep the pout away this time, “and you were right.”

 

Derek sighed frustratedly. Why did everything have to be so difficult between them? It was like they were still unstable.

 

When were they going to get to that easy, happy place Megan kept taunting them with? Through the shitstorm they were going through, that was what he really wanted. He wanted that peace - and he wanted it with Casey.

 

"Fuck that." Derek said, fed up with the whole situation. Hearing Casey use his own position against him made him realize it was complete bullshit. He let go of her hand and grabbed her gently by the chin, urging her to look at him, "I do have a choice. I…" Her gaze finally connected with his. "I choose you…"

 

She was really trying to look directly at him, but it was kind of hard with all that dust in her eyes. If he truly meant that, she was probably going to burst. “Really?”

 

"Really." He said, and he meant it, staring into her watery eyes, seeing beyond the image of his own face to that deep place where Casey lived.

 

“Why?”

 

That broke the spell a little, as Derek shook his head in confusion, "Why?" The question almost didn't make sense. Why what? Choose her? Like he knew the answer to that!

 

Why me. Why you. Why us. Did it really matter?

 

Casey was so tired of thinking. And overthinking. And denying. And hurting. She just wanted to do what felt good. Deciding that she didn’t need an answer after all, she leaned in close, and kissed his mouth instead.

 

Startled for a second, Derek froze, but he quickly closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss. His hand cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking delicately over the rough texture - she really needed to shave but he liked it this way. Her lips tasted like freedom from some oppressive force stomping him down.

 

Pulling away with a groan, Casey pressed their cheeks together. “I don’t want to fight anymore,” she said, panting softly against that overwhelming feeling breaking out of her chest. “Not just this. Just at all. Can we do that?”

 

"Mmrff," Derek complained into her neck, finding it so painful without her lips on his. "How about…" He coaxed in her ear, "Only the fun kind of fighting, hmm?"

 

“Oh, that’s okay,” she said, rubbing her nose into his hair, “it’s not really fighting if it’s fun, is it?”

 

"More like a game." He agreed. It felt so good to be acknowledging that side of their dynamic for what it was - some kind of foreplay spanning years of their relationship… since the moment they met, really. "I've always liked our games."

 

“Me too,” she said, and she pulled back slightly to look at him, his beautiful grin lighting up his face. She kissed the corner of his mouth, just because. “I like this one a lot too,” she kissed the other side of his lips teasingly.

 

"Hmm," He considered, "Is this some kind of game, then?" Of course it was, he knew that, by the very fact he was playing along with this conversation and not jumping into things. Trying to out-banter each other was one of his favourite games.

 

“Uhuh,” Casey nodded, “a fun one at that.” The next kiss, she placed on the tip of his nose.

 

Derek chuckled at the sweet gesture, it was so Casey. The way she was eyeing him right now, he really wished he could see that same expression on her face. He lined himself up closely against her, letting his hand trail down her chest, "And how do you win this game?" He asked suggestively, then corrected, "Or rather - how do I win this game?"

 

“Forget it,” Casey said smugly, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him against her chest, “I already won.”

 

"Really?" Derek grinned, honest to god butterflies in his stomach at how Casey pulled him in so firmly. It was exactly what he would have done to her if they were in their own bodies. She was playing her part perfectly. "How do you figure that?" He cut off any smart reply she might come up with by bringing his lips to her neck.

 

“Ngguuh,” was all she found to say as his mouth found that sweet spot on her neck, sucking against her pulse. “I-uh…” he had to know how good that would feel. He was totally using his personal knowledge of his body against her - that was foul play to be honest. If they started that game, it was sure to have no winner. “That-that’s cheating.”

 

Derek laughed against her skin, loving the way her flustered voice vibrated down her throat. "Oh yeah?" He spoke between teasing kisses, hitting every sensitive spot he could think of, in the exact way he would have wanted her to do it if the roles were reversed, "And what are you gonna do about it?"

 

His words tickled her skin, making her shiver every time his lips found a new spot to torment. When she closed her eyes she imagined he was doing this to her in his own body, with his tongue and his mouth. The only thing that could make this better would be if they were completely themselves, the urge to kiss him was overwhelming. She hoped that when they got back to normal, he would still want to touch her like this - that he would always want to touch her like this.

 

And she wanted, as much as anything else, to make him feel the same, to make it so good for him that he would crave it, crave her, always, and want to stick around for more.

 

Disentangling her hands from the back of his shirt, she let them roam over his back as her mind whirled with options for retaliation, wondering what would turn her on the most right now, if she were in his place. Instinctively, her hands drifted down until she was grabbing his ass firmly, and she took advantage of his mild surprise to roll on top of him, pressing herself down between his legs. She gathered his wrists above his head, pinning him down into the bed.

 

“Well now I must have my revenge, mustn't I?” She said, soft and low against his ear, sucked on his earlobe, running her tongue over it, scraped her teeth against that sensitive patch of skin just underneath.

 

Gasping through his teeth, Derek could hardly believe what was happening, completely taken over by sensation. That was Casey doing that? She was practically indistinguishable from him and it made the whole thing feel like he was watching himself do this to her while simultaneously feeling everything she felt. She was either a fantastic actor or she knew him that well. This was how she wanted him to touch her.

 

He couldn't wait to switch roles and re-enact this scene they were currently living. But for now, the role of Casey was nothing to complain about, the overwhelming tingling feeling spreading down to his toes. He was dedicated to playing her role just as well.

 

He couldn't help but wriggle slightly under her tight hold because the feeling was too much in the best way possible.

 

"If you…" He panted breathily, "Get back at me… I'll… get back at you."

 

“I’m really curious,” she said, readjusting her tight hold on his wrists as he squirmed underneath her, and letting more of her weight down on him to keep him in place as her lips grazed his, “how you plan on doing that, sweetheart.”

 

"Hmm…" Derek considered, testing the strength of her grip, feeling a rush of excitement realizing there was really no escape - not that he'd want to. She really had the upper hand right now. But he knew he would take it back eventually, and that was the fun part, passing control between them like a game of hot potato. He slipped into Casey-mode. "I guess I'll have to bide my time for the perfect opportunity to strike." He challenged against her lips, tilting his chin up to her like he was daring her.

 

“You’re so cute when you look at me like that,” she said condescendingly, adding a little peck on his chin to top it off.

 

Derek smirked proudly, "Can't help it." He argued cheerfully, "I have a cute face."

 

“Not just your face…” she drifted off as she slowly dropped kisses down his jaw and his neck, her hips unconsciously pressing down into him.

 

The amount of times Derek heard Casey imply she was unattractive, he really wanted to coax her into admitting how hot she was. The way she was touching him was proof enough of that. "You like what you see, huh?" He panted as her mouth trailed to his collar bone. "Tell me more…"

 

The taunt made her look up, stopping her movements to really look at his face. Her face. She did like what she was seeing, and it suddenly occurred to her that she’d stopped thinking of herself when she looked at him.

 

When she looked at him, she saw a beautiful confident girl, with a sweet face and smooth skin, piercing eyes and silky lips. She liked the way he moved, so effortlessly graceful one moment, and incredibly clumsy the next; the way his clothes hung to his body, his nice slender figure accentuated by perfectly shaped curves. He was so sexy and alluring.

 

But it was her too.

 

She’d gotten into the habit of assuming it was all Derek, with his bold, charming attitude, casting this air of attractiveness around her, like it came from him instead of it being her own. Except, he didn’t make her face look like that. He didn’t carve the shape of her body. It just was. Being outside of it took away that inherent feeling of discomfort, and looking at her body as if she was looking at Derek’s made her less critical of it. Because she didn’t expect him to be perfect, he looked just right the way he was.

 

And so did she.

 

Then she realized, all that sense of amazement and love that she felt towards him, she could transfer onto herself. She’d never hated the way she looked, far from it, but she’d never loved it either. Every morning she used to go through that horrendous process of pointing out all of her flaws to herself and covering them up with clothes, hair clips, and make up. Yet there Derek was with nothing but those smudged smokey eyes; no blush (except his own), no foundation - still looking gorgeous.

 

He looked at her like he was trying to make her see that; like this was how he always saw her and wanted her to see herself through his eyes. It made her feel warm and loved.

 

“I…” she hesitated, gently releasing his wrists to cradle his face, running a thumb over his bottom lip, “I like your lips, and the way they feel on mine.” She kissed him lightly. Pulling back, she let one of her hands drift down his neck and down his arm. “And I like how soft your skin is.”

 

The way Casey's eyes roamed him appreciatively pleased Derek. He smirked adoringly under her gaze. Yeah, you're fucking hot and you know it.

 

With his newfound freedom, he took his opportunity, running his hands down her body to her hips, playing with the exposed skin under the hem of her shirt, "Wish I could take credit, but that's all you." He said reverently before capturing her mouth in a kiss.

 

As much as he would love to continue their flirty banter and have her list all the things she was attracted to about herself, they could always do that later. And he needed to kiss her like he needed to eat after a month of fasting. He traced along the contours by her belt, knowing from experience the sensitivity of that area under light fingers.

 

Halfway between a shiver and a tickle, the sensation at her lower abdomen made her pull away from his fingers with a giggle, panting as she removed her mouth from his. “Stop that.”

 

"What?" Derek grinned innocently, stopping his torturous movements and instead grabbing her by the belt, "You ticklish, Princess?"

 

She fell on top of him as he pulled her back down, a little growl forming in her throat. He knew exactly how ticklish she was. “Smart mouth,” she said, crashing her lips on his with a sigh. She could feel her eyes getting tired, but she didn’t want to stop. She could kiss him all night.

 

Derek moaned into the kiss at her little insult. He was determined to keep his lips on hers now, memorizing the taste. Her lips, even though they were his, tasted like her. His hands traveled up her torso under her shirt, riding it up in the process. The manly shape didn't even phase him as he just wanted to make her feel what he was doing.

 

His hands roaming over her chest were burning like a fire against her skin, and a reminder of how badly she wanted to touch him. She mirrored his movements, playing with the hem of his shirt bunched up at his hips and pressing her palms flat over his stomach. As her hands trekked towards his ribcage, she wondered how far they could go - how far she wanted to go. Just like an hour ago in the club, she wasn’t sure she would be able to stop herself.

 

Tongue reaching out to seek hers, Derek lifted Casey's shirt higher, needing less clothing between them. It was almost surreal - the fact this was currently happening and that it wasn’t some kind of sexy dream or distant memory.

 

Ditching the shirt automatically as he pulled it over her head, Casey went back to Derek’s neck, sucking and biting hard, easily pushing away any thoughts and questions about what they were doing. It just felt so good, so perfect. She pushed her hands underneath his shirt again, fingertips flirting with the underside of his bra.

 

“Nff…” He moaned at the feeling of her teeth nipping at him. Of course, he didn’t want to rush her, but his mind was screaming, fucking touch me, goddamnitt! He arched into her hand automatically - a signal of his urgency.

 

She responded by palming his breasts as he pushed up against her hands eagerly. It was such a weirdly intense desire, to want to touch him like this, when she’d never really felt the urge to touch boobs before. Like, boobs were cool, but they were just boobs. She never understood guys’ fixation with them. But when she cupped Derek’s breasts it was such an intimate, almost possessive kind of touch that she couldn’t get enough of. Beyond that, there was the ultimate goal of making him feel good and warm and desired.

 

“I kinda wanna know,” she said between heavy breaths as she licked up the column of his throat, “what you would do to me, if you were in my place right now.”

 

“Oh my gohh….” Derek couldn’t help but voice his aroused inner thoughts. Why was that literally the hottest thing she could say right now? “hhh-uhh… I’ll have to… show you some day.” He was writhing desirously under her as their hips pressed together firmly, Casey’s erection poking into his thigh. It was like he was riding waves of pleasure under her touch already and they had hardly begun. Casey’s body was so reactive, his skin was tingling everywhere The thought of provoking the same reactions out of her once they switched back was enough to send this body into a state of sexually charged bliss.

 

“Mmhmm,” Casey hummed appreciatively. She couldn’t wait to find out for herself, but right now… “it’s just,” she paused purposely, nipping on his ear and moving her hips rhythmically against his, “I thought it would give me ideas…”

 

He could hardly think straight, it was hard to imagine what he would do differently, she was already doing everything perfectly, she didn’t need any instruction. Licking his lips, he considered her mischievous tone. If she wanted to play, he was happy to do so. “Oh, I have plenty of ideas for what I would do to you.” He informed her matter-of-factly, “But why ruin the surprise?” He would much rather show her what he wanted to do to her by actually doing it, from the comfort of his own body, with her smooth skin under his touch. Not to mention, his brain was too broken to think of anything specific right now.

 

“Ugh,” Casey groaned, “you are so,” she bit the side of his jaw, “difficult.”

 

Derek chuckled proudly, “Admit it,” He said, trying to pull her even closer, which was impossible at this point unless they started losing more layers. “You like it when I’m difficult.”

 

“I really don’t,” she denied quickly, like a lying liar. She wasn’t going to admit that everything he did got under her skin in all the possible ways, it just wasn’t the moment to give him more reason to be smug. While he tried to pull her through him somehow, what else could he possibly be trying to do, she decided that they were on completely unequal standing right now and pulled his shirt off.

 

“How many times do I have to tell you?” Derek teased once he was free from his oppressive shirt. Their bodies pressed together, skin on skin, he dipped his head to kiss the base of her neck above her collarbone. “You’re a terrible liar.” His hands explored her back, grasping and pulling as his hot kisses lowered down her chest.

 

“Just shut up, will you?” Casey said, grabbing his head to bring his mouth back to hers. Derek smiled against her lips in response, even chuckling slightly. The sound resonated in her bones, and part of her wished she could hear his chuckle from his own voice again - she missed that. “If you’re just gonna be difficult, maybe I should just stop, hm?” She taunted, pulling her weight away with pretend disinterest.

 

"Or maybe…" Derek countered, using the new space to his advantage as he swung his leg around her, the momentum pushing her onto her back as he straddled her, "We can do things my way." His hair fell down between them into her face so he sat up and tossed it over his shoulder, looking down smugly at her shocked expression.

 

Surprised, but also thrilled at finding Derek suddenly on top of her, in nothing but underwear, Casey let her hands fall on his hips as she took in his body and the way it fit with hers.

 

She wondered about all the ways they would fit.

 

In awe, she let one of her hands wander up his side. “About time,” she said with a small smirk pulling the corner of her mouth, “I was starting to think you were all talk.”

 

"You should know better than to underestimate me." Derek scolded, punishing her with a torturous circling of his hips, making her groan, her eyes rolling back. With his hands on her chest, he slowly lowered himself down to kiss every inch of exposed skin.

 

“Fuuuu…” Casey sighed at the onslaught of feelings being unleashed upon her. The contrast between the sensual, deliberate movements of his hips and the light kisses he dropped all over her was another level of tantalizing. Giving more while giving less, teasing and leaving her wanting more. She was such a goner at this point. “Won’t make that mistake again,” she said as her hands covered the expanse of his back, and tucking her fingers under the band of his bra to keep him close.

 

Her fingers under the tight fabric soothed Derek's skin. He hated wearing a bra - freaking boob prison to be honest. After wearing the thing all day, he couldn't wait to get it off, and from the placement of Casey's fingers he assumed she felt the same.

 

He sat up again, letting Casey's hands fall into his lap. He was about to rip the garment off haphazardly when he caught sight of her flushed appearance and decided to give her a little strip show. After all, he knew first hand how great it was.

 

Slowly, he reached behind his back, all while eyeing her coyly. Unclasping, he felt the sweet release. Casey's eyes boggled at him as he teasingly stripped and tossed the bra to the floor. Based on her eye-line, he doubted she could even see the way he was smirking at her.

 

It really shouldn’t be so strange to see her own boobs, because she’d seen them before, obviously. Under normal circumstances she barely paid attention to them. But these weren’t normal circumstances - by far. The lust she’d started feeling for the body on top of her came crashing back in.

 

Way beyond that, though, crazy body swapping situation aside, she was more and more aware that it was Derek in there, and no matter who was in whose body, they were getting naked together. She was making out with Derek - okay, not for the first time, but also getting undressed, touching with intent, and in a bed, at night. Her mind was spinning at the realization of where this was obviously headed.

 

She kind of really wanted to go all the way, but she couldn’t help but wonder, still: was she really ready for this? Even though it didn’t matter to her which bodies they occupied, in this specific scenario, she still felt that it mattered. It was perfectly clear to her that Derek would be the one, but she also sort of wished he would be himself, and she would be herself, and they could have this perfect moment the way they were supposed to.

 

She still couldn’t bring herself to stop it, though. Because at the end of the day, it was still them, and she deeply ached for this moment. Maybe a part of her also worried that once the craziness was over, the spell would be broken, and things would go back to the way they were before (or some semblance of it). And then, maybe he wouldn’t want her anymore.

 

Her fingertips dug into his thighs absentmindedly, as she was stuck between two different impulses, but desperately wanting to hold on to him either way. Her eyes slowly made their way up to his face, meeting his gaze. Derek’s saucy grin taunted her, and she barely noticed him picking her hands from his lap until he was bringing them up against him, pressing her palms against his stomach and pulling them up, up until they were covering his exposed breasts. She felt his hard nipples in her palms, and her breath caught, heart speeding up to a mile per second.

 

Placing his hands on top of hers, he squeezed, as he kept swivelling his hips, rubbing himself on her erection over her pants. Casey moaned at the sensation, her own hips lifting up the mattress in an instinctive response. She couldn’t find her voice to say anything, even all her thoughts disappeared while they were consumed by the pure, absolute bliss that Derek and his actions induced.

 

As Derek rubbed himself over Casey with every turn of his hips, he remembered for the millionth time that day, that he was on his period. He was only covered by a thin piece of fabric. As much as he did his best to manage it, the other day he had made a mess of his underwear. It was nowhere near as bad today. He would have been 100% sure at the start of this that he wasn't leaking but with how turned on he was getting, that confidence was dwindling. He didn't trust the wetness between his legs right now.

 

He probably shouldn't have let things get this far since it seemed they were heading in a very specific direction, but he had all but forgotten about his… predicament.

 

It wasn't his intention to get her hopes up and up - rock hard, just to leave her hanging. As much as he hated it, he would have to stop this at some point. It wasn't like his idea of his first time with Casey involved making a mess of her aunt's white sheets.

 

Begrudgingly, he had to remove his hips from hers, just in case. But he didn't want to leave her with nothing. He grasped her hands, which were just fascinated by her own boobs and removed them from their exploration. He bent down to kiss over her torso, moving his raised hips further down her body as he trailed searing kisses down her stomach muscles - it wasn't vain to admire his own abs, was it?

 

Although she was a little disappointed by the loss of his weight on top of her, the feeling of his hot kisses down her body was distracting enough to keep her mind in a foggy state. At a loss for what to do, unsure of the reason why Derek stopped, Casey tangled her fingers in his hair encouragingly, willing to go any direction he wanted to go.

 

Derek worked his way down, still in disbelief about what he was planning to do once he got down there - mostly due to how much he wanted to. It wasn't the act itself he was drawn to, he was just really, really curious to see Casey's reaction. It was entirely possible she didn't want to go there anyway, but if she did, he didn't want to deprive her of it. His tongue found the stretch of skin right above her belt and he looked up at her to get a clue to what she was thinking.

 

She didn’t know what to think. As she looked down at him, his eyes peering up at her while his tongue swiped a line just above the waistband of her pants, all she could process was how stupid hot it was to have his lips so close to her crotch like that. It was probably a crazy idea to have, because Derek would never want to give her a blow job, that would be way too crazy, even for them, but her mind couldn’t stop wondering: what if.

 

Her brain was really messed up by this whole thing. But he was making her feel good, she didn’t mind how slow they took this or what they did as long as they were doing it together. Her fingers dug deeper into his hair as her eyes softened over him affectionately.

 

Derek blinked up at her - she was giving him the green light? He honestly hadn't expected that, imagining a soft tug of his hair back up to continue their make out session. His fingers found her belt buckle as he continued to look up for any small flicker of hesitation.

 

Sudden realization dawning on her, Casey’s eyes widened as Derek went for her belt. Oh. He was really gonna do this? When she said she would do anything, she didn’t mean that. Panic overtaking her, she jumped into a sitting position abruptly, almost screeching. “W-what are you doing?!”

 

Well, he misread that.

 

Fuck.

 

He hopped up to sit on his knees, smiling awkwardly (more like grimacing, at himself) as he assessed the damage - counting one traumatized step-sister. Not the reaction he was going for, man did he ever fuck this up. Fucking embarrassing.

 

“N-nothing!” He dismissed, pathetically. It wasn’t a complete lie, he wasn’t going to do anything if she didn’t want to, and since she didn’t want to, he was officially doing nothing.

 

Loophole!

 

But, yeah, that didn’t really matter because he was clearly a dead man. He chuckled nervously, “Ahaaa… my bad.”

 

“You…” Casey said, barely above a whisper. She was sitting up, with Derek leaning back on his heels between her legs as he squirmed, looking like he was about to get grounded. The absurdity of the moment was stifled by this huge wave of fondness when she looked at him. She brought a tender hand up to brush down his face. “You were going to do that? For… for me?”

 

“Um.” He blinked, wide eyed. Where was the yelling? What was happening? “Uh - ffffssshh…” He floundered, not sure what answer she hoped for, “Yeah?” He concluded with a shrug.

 

Why, did that make him certifiably insane and mockable until the end of time?

 

But he knew if he owned something, stood by his decision, it would be marginally less mockable… so he brushed away the shame. When he did, he felt a little proud, because hell yeah he was going to do that for her, it was pretty bold too. He could own that.

 

He smirked under her palm and shrugged again nonchalantly, “Yeah.” He announced genuinely.

 

“That is so,” she scooted closer, palming both sides of his face as she leaned in and kissed him ever so lightly, “sweet,” she continued with a small chuckle, “and a little weird.”

 

Sometimes Derek thought he knew Casey like the back of his hand, she could be so predictable, and other times, like now, he found himself completely taken off guard by her. He chuckled with relief into their kiss, hands automatically reaching out to touch her casually. “Weirder things have happened.” He joked.

 

“It’s just,” Casey hesitated, looking lovingly into his eyes while keeping her face as close to his as possible, thumbs caressing his cheeks “You don’t have to do that.”

 

“I know.” Derek crooned. She was so adorable to think he was doing it because he thought he had to when he had been expecting some kind of ridicule or accusations of debauchery for wanting to.

 

She heaved a sigh, letting her forehead fall against his. There were three words jammed in her throat that she knew she couldn’t let out without scaring him, so she kept them inside, because she couldn’t let go of him anymore. “Thank you,” she said gratefully, “but I don’t… think I can…” swallowing harshly, because these words used to always lead to bitterness and resentment, she continued, “I can’t handle that right now. Is that okay?”

 

Is that okay.

 

Derek’s stomach churned a bit that she thought there was even a possibility it wasn't okay. Feeling a surge of protectiveness, he wrapped his arms around her in a soothing hug, running a comforting hand over her back. Planting a quick kiss on her cheek he murmured, “Of course it’s okay,” before nuzzling into her neck.

 

It hurt so much to imagine what it would take to pull away from her, blame her, guilt her, in a time like this. The only thing stronger than the bubbling pit of anger in his stomach for that person who treated her that way, was the need to show her exactly how she deserved to be treated.

 

Casey relaxed in Derek’s embrace. Their skin was touching everywhere, his breasts were crushed against her chest, and instead of being weird like she thought it would be, it was nice, comfortable. His warmth and reassurance seeped through every part of his body that touched hers, soothing her. All of her worries melted.

 

He didn’t push away from her with a huff because she was no fun; try to convince her to change her mind because it would prove her feelings for him. He wasn’t angry, or cold, or resentful. Instead, he understood that she was uncomfortable, accepted that limit that she placed, and respected her enough not to push or argue. Instead of leaving her when she didn’t go along with what he wanted to do, he held her and reassured her.

 

It truly felt that he didn’t want to take from her, he didn’t want something from her. And it felt that what she did have to give, and who she was, was good enough. This was how he showed he cared.

 

She had never thought of Derek as kind and generous before. But now, when he was holding her despite his own distaste for displays of affection, silently giving her what she needed, offering her a peek at the softer, tender side of him that he usually kept hidden. Now, she thought - knew that he would kindly and generously give in to anything to make her feel better.

 

Her hands were holding the back of his head and neck, fingers digging and playing into his hair. She inhaled the smell of vanilla-coconut in his hair, and the smell of their scents combined, relished the feeling of his weight pressing into her, how they almost melded together.

 

Nothing would ever be better than this.

 

Her thoughts were interrupted by a drawn-out yawn, making her realize that it was probably really late. She hadn’t checked what time they got to Vicki’s, but it felt like hours had passed since they arrived, and they weren’t anywhere close to being asleep. It occurred to her that they were going to be exhausted for school tomorrow. Oh well.

 

“Sorry,” Casey laughed softly as she stifled another yawn into his neck.

 

Derek wasn't sure when it happened, but at some point he started seeing everything Casey did as adorable. Her huge yawn was almost comical and he smiled, pulling back slightly to look at her sleepy face. It had been a pretty wild night and he had no idea what tomorrow would bring but he wouldn't want to take back a single awkward second of it. He tilted her chin up with his index finger, feeling her head drooping under its own weight, "You want to get some sleep, Princess?" He asked affectionately.

 

“No,” she grumbled childishly, her eyes drooping heavily but returning the gentle smile all the same.

 

He kissed her softly on the lips, "Now who's being difficult?" He murmured, feeling his own exhaustion starting to hit.

 

With a long suffering sigh, she wrapped her arms tighter around him to pull him with her as she lay on her side. “Fine, I’ll sleep,” she said gruffly, tucking him under her arm, “but only if you promise to hold me the whole time.”

 

Amused, Derek shook his head. That didn't sound like a bad deal at all. "Fine." He agreed light-heartedly, as if he was doing so reluctantly, "But I sleepwalk, so only if you're down for a stroll." Relaxing into her felt like the most natural thing in the world. It was hard to imagine a time when he tried to keep her at a distance.

 

“Hmmm,” Casey hummed sleepily, “if you’re gonna sleepwalk you might wanna put your clothes back on before falling asleep.”

 

"What?" Derek played dumb, "You mean I shouldn't go wandering off to find the bathroom and walk in on your aunt like this?"

 

“Well,” Casey said, acting like she was seriously considering the question, “I think it might just be a little awkward, you know?”

 

"Maybe just a tad."

 

“Mmhmm…”

 

Derek felt Casey going limp around him as she drifted off to sleep. He was trapped - comfortably - in her arms. Then, he realized he really did need to go to the bathroom before bed. Stupid lady troubles, it was seriously inconvenient. He also had no idea where the bathroom was in this house.

 

He really didn't want to disturb her or ruin the moment. "Uh… Casey?" He asked quietly, to no response. Sighing lightly, he decided he could wait a little bit longer for her to fall asleep completely before sneaking off briefly. It wasn't so bad anyway, he could enjoy the moment for a bit.

 

Maybe he could reflect on everything that happened…

 

Were they… together now?

 

He said he was choosing her but they didn't get into it beyond that. Casey would probably want some clarity on that, if they even bothered discussing it - an awkward car ride was probably in their future. And if they were together, that brought in a whole new set of issues they had been conveniently ignoring until now. Vicki may have accepted it, but that didn't mean the rest of the family would. Just because he chose her didn't mean they were at the happily ever after stage yet.

 

Fuck. Their lives were so complicated.

 

If Casey asked him what they 'were,' he would have no clue how to respond. Sure, he was willing to follow this road wherever it led, through all the inevitable obstacles, but telling her that would seem a little intense and make things way too serious, way too fast. Not to mention, there was something she said that he had completely blocked out. She had implied she was…

 

He had brushed over it because he thought maybe she was exaggerating to make a point, and because he was nowhere near ready to acknowledge it. But it was possible that she was…

 

In love with him?

 

Or she was somewhere in that ballpark at least.

 

His mind was still coming to terms with having f...eelings for her. This kind of stuff was hard enough for him already, without the added pressures of her being his step sister, and their magic voodoo soul bond, and the fact he just got out of a serious relationship - earlier that day! Sally was the only person outside of his family that he'd ever said those words to, and he never even had that real 'I love you' moment with Sally.

 

He wasn't ready for something so serious as a soulmate. But they couldn't exactly half-ass it, could they? Not when they were putting so much on the line with people finding out and submitting to unyielding gravity or whatever. That was serious shit. He could feel the pull between them like he was tethered to a boulder rolling down a hill, and frankly… he was terrified of what would happen if he really let go, really looked at his feelings, after holding back for so long.

 

Knowing Casey, she would want answers to the millions of questions that came up through all of this.

 

Once Casey started snoring, Derek covertly snuck away, throwing on his shirt and traversing blindly through the hallway to find the bathroom, which thankfully was right next door.

 

When he returned, he slipped back against her sleeping form, pulling her close. She stirred awake.

 

Feeling his weight drop next to her as he nestled back into her chest, she peeked through tired lids, barely making out his shape, and blindly reached out for him. “You weren’t kidding about sleepwalking,” she joked hoarsely.

 

"Shhh…" Derek mumbled into her chest as he nuzzled in for the night, "Don't you know you're not supposed to wake a sleepwalker?"

 

“Idiot,” she mumbled affectionately before drifting off again.

 

 

Chapter Text

Casey was rudely awakened by a pillow being thrown at her head.

 

“Okay, lovebirds!” Vicki said, being inconsiderately loud, “my mom is gone now, so you should get a head start if you wanna make it to school in London before second period.”

 

Jolting awake and shooting up into a sitting position, Casey shot a crazed look at her cousin. “What time is it?”

 

Vicki looked at the watch on her wrist. “Almost eight.”

 

“Oh god, no!” Casey complained. She turned towards Derek and shoved his shoulder roughly, barely remembering the swap at the last minute. “Wake up- sleepyhead!”

 

“You two get your shit together, I’ll make coffee,” Vicki said, leaving the room.

 

Whining when Derek didn’t rouse, Casey shoved him again, harder. “Der-ek!”

 

"Buhh….." Derek complained, head pounding. Where was he? Oh yeah… Ugh they had to go to school. Couldn't he just go back to sleep?

 

“Wake! Up!” Casey insisted, using the pillow previously thrown at her to hit him in the head. “We’re already late!”

 

"Gah, shit! I'm up, I'm up!" Derek groaned, rubbing his face.

 

Getting out of bed in a hurry, Casey went to grab her jacket and realized that she didn’t have her shirt on. “Where’s my shirt?” she wondered out loud, looking frantically around the room.

 

Derek slowly made his way to his feet, the pounding in his skull making him squeeze his eyes shut tightly. When he opened them, he spotted Casey's shirt on the floor, and he was just awake enough to know that she was looking for it. He picked it up casually and sauntered over to where she was spinning in a circle, looking at the floor. Pressing it into her bare torso, her startled eyes met his and everything from the night before came flooding back.

 

“Thanks,” Casey said softly and took the shirt from his hands, allowing their fingers to graze against each other. As she took in his rumpled appearance, she wondered if he was hungover, and how much he’d really had to drink the night before. While everything was still fresh in her memory, it might be fuzzy for him.

 

Her insides twisted over themselves at the thought that he might not remember, and worse, that she didn’t realize he was too out of it last night to truly give his consent.

 

Now didn’t seem like the right time to bring it up, though, they had a long enough ride back home to have a discussion. They should really get going.

 

“Do you, uh…” she started awkwardly as she put on her shirt, unsure of what to make of his silence. He did look pretty battered. “Do you have everything?”

 

Taking stock of his surroundings, Derek made a painful mental note of where all his shit was. "Yup." He said simply. The sooner they were on the road, the better. He could already sense the awkwardness between them over what happened. A big unspoken question hung in the air.

 

Unsure of what the question was exactly, he was pretty sure it boiled down to what does this mean? The question was obviously stuck on the tip of Casey's tongue. Honestly, Derek wondered the same thing. But he was too hungover at the moment to look for an answer, let alone talk with her about it, or do anything that could shed light on the subject.

 

A kiss here, a flirty comment there and Casey would surely explode from overthinking and demand a huge conversation about it. He wouldn’t admit it to her, but he found her really intimidating at times.

 

“Alright,” Casey said, slipping her jacket on easily, “let’s check on that coffee before we go? I should be okay to drive, but I could use a little pick me up.”

 

Rolling his head back Derek braced himself against Casey's arms, "Coffeeee!" He groaned desperately.

 

Laughing at his exaggerated despair, she took a step forward, wrapping an arm loosely over his shoulder, and kissed his forehead tenderly. “Come on,” she chided playfully, guiding him out of the room.

 

As soon as they entered the kitchen, she was hit with the smell of coffee, and almost moaned at the wonderful aroma. She could really use the caffeine right now, even though she didn’t like to make a habit of it.

 

Vicki looked up from the counter where she was preparing a sandwich. “About time,” she said with a sly smile, “I’m sure you’ll have enough time later to be all lovey dovey in bed.” She turned around and picked up the pot of coffee, then nodded towards two cups on the counter. “Want some?”

 

For once, Casey was really grateful for her cousin. “Yeah, that would be awesome, thanks.”

 

"Thanks, yeah," Derek croaked. "I'm dying."

 

“Maybe some water for Spacey, too?” Casey said as she frowned at Derek’s lethargic state. Pulling him in closer against her side, she asked, “are you okay in there?”

 

It was probably a soul bond side effect, but being tucked into Casey's side was like instant pain relief. She was just being so sweet and doting - so Casey. If he wasn't finding it so charming he probably would have snapped about being fussed over while he was in such a crappy hungover mood. Really, he hated when anybody tried to get him to drink water. In this case it would likely help though.

 

He scrutinized her concerned expression comically. "Look at you takin' care of me," he teased warmly. "Don't worry, I'm slowly coming back to the land of the living. Some food, some coffee, and…" He rolled his eyes, indulging her. "Some water… and I'll be back to my old self." Stopping for a second, he reconsidered that, "Well, more or less." He grinned up at her, amused by his own joke, his head only hurting slightly in the process.

 

“Mhmm,” Casey uttered with a smile, rolling her eyes at the inside joke. But the way he looked so proud for thinking of it was just too adorable. “See, just the fact that water was an afterthought tells me,” she pushed her fingers into his hair rubbing gently into his scalp, “you need me to take care of you.”

 

Even though Derek was way too hungover to even think about kissing, he found himself staring at her lips. Her fingers were once again doing something truly mystical, and it soothed his headache wonderfully. She clearly knew how much she enjoyed the head massage thing, and wanted him to feel good and experience it in her skin (he forced his brain to make a mental note to return the favour once they switched back).

 

He could get used to Casey taking care of him - that level of attention and adoration from her beaming one hundred percent onto him. "My knight in shining whatever? Is that it?" He asked playfully into the small space between them.

 

“Sounds about right,” Casey answered brightly.

 

“Oh my god, you two are sickeningly cute,” Vicki cut in disgustedly, startling Casey as she remembered they weren’t alone in the room. Vicki pushed a glass of water into Derek’s hands. “Seriously, how’d you turn the king of cool into…” she looked Casey over, “well, now he’s like your little puppy dog, isn’t he?”

 

"Oh, it was a real transformation." Derek enthused sarcastically at the offensive statement, unable to hide the grumble in his voice.

 

Dear God, they were going to be insufferable, weren't they? He bet the cosmically bound soulmates wouldn't get invited to many parties. For some reason his whole PDA rule didn't apply to Casey, like it was too hard to avoid it with her so he stopped trying to.

 

The nausea in his stomach gave a new kick at the thought of being that kind of lovesick idiot he hated so much. He was nobody's little puppy dog, still the king of cool at heart.

 

As a way of avoiding conversation, he sipped his water. The second it touched his tongue, it soothed the dryness in his mouth and he started gulping it down to fight his massive dehydration.

 

“Oh yeah,” Casey quipped sarcastically, assuming Derek wouldn’t appreciate being called a puppy, “even happened on a full moon and everything.”

 

Vicki snorted, returning to her sandwich. “Okay, well cut it out. I’m about to puke.”

 

"Don't…" Derek warned unsteadily, choking down some water that was threatening to come back up, "Even joke about that…"

 

“Fine, fine,” Vicki said, rolling her eyes. “Come get your coffees, I’m not a damn waitress.”

 

 


 

 

The car ride was silent ever since they left Vicki’s place, and they weren’t even halfway home yet. The silence wasn’t tense, or awkward. It was…

 

Casey looked over at Derek. He was asleep.

 

She concentrated on the road, her legs a little jittery from her second cup of coffee that morning. Even though she would actually appreciate Derek’s annoying energy right about now, since she was vibrating out of her skin, it was probably a good thing that he was asleep. Not only did he need the rest, she needed the time to think.

 

It was like the farther they got from Toronto, the guiltier she felt, like leaving the city brought her back to reality. Now that she was taking a step back from last night, she could see how carried away they’d gotten. Like, way more than usual. There had been removal of clothing, nudity, and some really, really suggestive actions.

 

They almost had sex.

 

She almost had sex with him and he was totally drunk, and she was a terrible person.

 

He had to be really drunk if he was actually going to… was he really going to?

 

Normally, under their current circumstances, when she looked at him she saw through the exterior. But when she thought of him last night, all she pictured was my drunk girlfriend. Her drunk girlfriend humping her in the middle of a dance floor. Her drunk girlfriend eagerly returning her intense kisses. Her drunk girlfriend half naked on top of her, taking her hands and placing them on her breasts. Her drunk girlfriend with her fingers at her belt with the intent of giving her a blowjob.

 

Frankly, Casey wasn’t even put off by how these things just happened anymore. She was used to the weirdness by now.

 

What was really eating at her was wondering how much of it Derek had actually wanted. He’d looked really into it, and there was no trace of doubt or discomfort in his face. But she had been the sober one. And just because she saw things one way didn’t mean it was right. The thought that she may have taken advantage of him was devastating.

 

It was also possible that they were both sucked into the vortex - that’s what they silently agreed to call it, and neither she nor him could have stopped even if they wanted to. That was how it had felt anyway.

 

There seemed to be a shift, at some point, between their mutual promise to see this through and Derek’s admission to choosing her. If she entertained the possibility that he had been sound of mind, then…was he starting to feel the same way she was?

 

She knew that love was something truly scary for him, it was likely why he’d brushed off her own confession earlier that day (to her heartbreaking chagrin), but maybe, if she gave him time, he would come around to it. That is, if she didn’t completely break his trust by forgetting herself last night.

 

Still fidgeting in her seat, Casey spared Derek another glance. He was still sleeping soundly. She was getting too antsy, though. There were so many questions burning on her tongue, so many things they needed to talk about and clarify between them. She doubted they would take the time to have that discussion at school, and she really did not want to wait until after school to have it. It would drive her crazy all day.

 

Deciding to wake him up gently, she turned on the radio to a popular station, adjusted the volume moderately, and sang along softly until he stirred.

 

Light leaked in through Derek's eyelids and he blinked into clarity, noticing the scenery pass by, about halfway home from the looks of things. There was a strange energy coming from Casey as she sang along in his voice.

 

Cuz girl you’re amazing… just the way you are.”

 

Her eyes kept flickering over to him nervously, like she was expecting something from him. That was a bad sign. Maybe he could pretend to go back to sleep…

 

Or lighten the mood?

 

"Sounded better in your old voice." He smiled sleepily. Actually, it didn't sound bad at all. He knew he didn't have the greatest singing voice but the way she used his voice sounded nice. Still though, the soft, pretty sound was a bit weird in his lower tone.

 

“Eh,” she shrugged casually enough, but her eyes kept darting back and forth between him and the road as she tried to get a sense for his mood. He seemed pretty light hearted so far, which was good. “You know, I actually thought you couldn’t sing at all. Turns out, it’s just one of those things you’ve kept hidden from me.”

 

"I'm a man of mystery." He replied smoothly rubbing the dull ache behind his eye.

 

“Oh, yes, that’s right,” Casey said, rolling her eyes playfully. She held on tight to the steering wheel, not knowing how to broach the subject or start the conversation. “Are you feeling better?”

 

Derek shrugged. He had a headache but at least he didn't feel nauseous anymore. "Yeah, a bit."

 

“Good,” Casey intoned in a tense but cheery way. “Good, good, good.”

 

Nodding, Derek waited for the bomb to drop. She was clearly amping up to something - that, or she was at a complete loss for what to say to him. To diffuse the situation, he decided he had to call it out, put it all on the table. "You're thinking too hard, it's making my head hurt." He confronted as gently as he could with his typical dash of humour. They were going to have to talk about it eventually, might as well rip off the bandaid, "This about last night…?" He asked casually enough, only a slight strain in his voice hesitating to let the words out.

 

“Oh,” Casey uttered in shock. First of all, Derek didn’t start conversations. Second, he particularly didn’t start this kind of conversation. It was either no big deal to him at all, or it was a bigger deal than she thought. “Yeah, um… just wondering… how you were feeling about it.”

 

Such a vague question seemed to beg for a vague answer. Good? He felt good about it? Obviously it was way more complicated than that but he wasn't about to spill every single thought he had on the subject.

 

He certainly didn't regret it - maybe she was fishing for him to tell her he didn't. The sinking feeling in his gut twisted with the possibility that she regretted it.

 

"Uhh…" He stalled. "It was… nice." He tried. Fuck, that was lame. More detail. "I, uh… had a good time?" How was that? Still lame.

 

Man, when he started the conversation, he really should have had some sort of idea of what he would say. He was usually quicker on his feet with a well-crafted response but his throbbing brain wasn't at it's best.

 

“You did?” Casey questioned, unconvinced by his hesitation. He sounded like he was just guessing what she wanted to hear. “Because I know you were kinda… well, you were pretty drunk, you know,” she said, the urge to talk about it making it impossible to stop now that she started. “And I was totally sober, so I should have known better. Seriously, you can tell me, if I did something wrong, I didn’t want to take advantage. I really feel like shit about it. You must have been- I mean, you were gonna give me a blowjob, so obviously you were really drunk. I should have stopped it way before I did-“

 

"Aaaaa-ba-ba-ba-bah!" Derek interrupted over her crazy rambling, waving his hand to stop her. "What?!" He shook his head incredulously, "Is that what this is about?" He blinked at her, stuttering "I-" he didn't even know what to say, it was so ridiculous! She thought she was taking advantage of him in some kind of sorry state? At least he was getting some kind of 'get out of jail free' card for the whole blowjob thing, but he didn't do it because he was drunk! He was just as into the whole thing as she was! More probably. To an embarrassing degree even, if she thought his actions were that ridiculous. "I wasn't like… out of it, Casey. I was one hundred percent there."

 

“Really?” Casey asked, perplexed. “You don’t like… regret it?”

 

"Not even a little." He admitted, honestly. Her confusion made it seem like she expected him to regret it, or that she was hoping he would, "I take it that means you regret it?" He asked, a little tensely.

 

“What? No!” Casey said, startled. Why would he think that? Did she make it sound like that? Ugh, why was it so complicated to let him know exactly how she felt? “Not at all- I- I really don’t. I just thought…” she groaned painfully, “this whole thing is messing with my head, okay, because it feels like it’s impossible to stop, but I don’t want it to stop, so it’s fine by me, but you… I don’t know.”

 

Derek sighed. "What makes you think I want it to stop? I… I told you, I…" He hated conversations like this. It was just so… hard to get the words out.

 

“I know,” she saved him from having to say it again. “I know, you said… I guess I just don’t know what that means. And I know you probably don’t either.” She groaned in dismay, hoping she didn’t come across like she was interrogating him. “I don’t mean to extract anything out of you, I’m just… confused.”

 

With another deep sigh, Derek rubbed his temples. "I get it," he said - he was confused too about everything going on. "Believe me." Knowing he would probably regret it, Derek pressed the conversation forward. The only thing worse than talking about all of this was the constant tension from not knowing what the hell was going on. "Just…" He groaned - he was really, really going to regret this. "Ask me whatever questions are knocking around your skull, m'kay?" As an afterthought, he added quickly, "But I get to pass if I want!"

 

Chuckling softly, because everything he did was so cute, Casey relaxed in her seat. She kinda liked this new Derek who was willing to open up. The small amount of talking up until now had been hard enough, and she knew it was a hundred times worse for him. “You really mean that?”

 

Incredibly tempted to take the ‘out’, Derek sighed. "Yeah," he said resolutely through a mostly concealed grimace.

 

Please go easy on me, Case. He couldn't handle any questions about soulmates or true love or forever yet.

 

Staring at the yellow line ahead of them, Casey gathered her thoughts. “I guess, I’m wondering… where this is going? Where do you want it to go?”

 

Chewing the inside of his cheek, Derek forced the gears in his head to turn despite the dull ache. "I have no idea where this is going." He concluded, "Things haven't been the most… predictable lately." He wasn't about to guess where this was all headed when there was a real possibility he would be dead wrong.

 

You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to walk away. He wasn't about to go ‘all in’ on falling in love and finding happily ever after; not when it could all come tumbling down. But he sure as hell wasn't walking away from it either.

 

Casey had a signature move that Derek always felt unprepared for. Every now and then she would just go ‘all in’ - out of nowhere, with that sly look on her face, just to test his willpower. And he would be forced to either fold or meet her challenge head on - cards on the table.

 

With all her talk of love, it seemed Casey was ready to risk it all for that happily ever after but it was like she was challenging him to do the same before he even got the chance to look at his own cards.

 

As far as he was concerned, they were together. He chose her. And the night before meant something. But he was still adjusting to his recent change of heart, and his feelings for her were still fuzzy, coming into focus and impossible to put into words.

 

"And for where I want it to go?" He continued. "I mean… soul fulfillment or whatever sounds like some hippie nonsense but… could be worse." He shrugged with a casual smile. The whole soulmate thing was daunting, but when it came down to it, he wanted to have that with her some day - to have it be easy and natural between them, with that familiar electricity in the air. "And getting our bodies back, obviously. Stable… configurations and all that."

 

The closer he let himself get to her, the closer he wanted to be, the feelings getting louder and more urgent. He was trying his best to hold back and coast towards that end goal of cosmic soulmate fulfilment. The conflicting instincts in his mind - his fear and excitement - tempted him to either pump the brake or stomp on the gas.

 

“So…” Casey pursed her lips. Was he being vague on purpose or…? Really, if he didn’t want to talk about it, why offer it in the first place? It wasn’t like she didn’t give him an out. She did her best to sound neutral all the same, not to betray her disappointment. “Whatever it takes to get our bodies back, basically? That’s the main goal?”

 

"It's pretty high up there, yeah." Derek chuckled, completely aware of how he was dancing around the real questions but unable to stop himself, "Why? Do you not want to switch back anymore? Having too much fun in my body?"

 

“Oh no, I do,” she reassured. While she did find a way to make the best of the situation, there was no question that she would prefer things back to normal. “But what about after? Are we just putting it behind us and moving on like it never happened?”

 

After everything they went through… Derek thought about what that would even look like. There was a lot he missed from the good old days (basically every aspect of being himself).

 

But going back to how things were before with Casey… that was a different story. He imagined her cold indifference towards him in the hallway after she was exhausted by his latest string of taunts and insults - the bittersweet victory of pushing her away for the hundredth time…

 

Now, the image of her turning away from him like that… fucking hurt. It was honestly unbearable, and his nausea from earlier returned full-force.

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Do you really think...that would even be…possible?" He questioned hesitantly, trying (and most likely failing) to keep his tone unbothered. He couldn't even picture it - pretending nothing had changed between them, like the pull never existed. Why would they ever want to do that?

 

Setting her jaw and teeth grinding together, Casey took a few deep breaths. She didn’t know why it hurt, but the idea that he even considered it… just broke her heart. She was getting increasingly tired of his childish avoidance. “It’s possible,” she said shortly, glancing at him quickly and hoping her voice and her gaze translated how serious she was. “If that’s what we want. Is that what you want, Derek?”

 

Eyebrows knitting together, Derek flinched away slightly from her accusation, "Fuck, no!" He argued, appalled. "You think once I'm back in my body the first thing I'll want to do is fight with you over the shower or something?" Honestly it was insane that she didn't know what he wanted, that she didn't know he was practically obsessed with her, when he consistently failed to keep a lid on his overflowing feelings.

 

“I don’t know the first thing you’ll want to do. That’s why I’m asking!” She practically shouted back. Considering he was the one who offered to answer her questions, she expected him to stop dancing around the truth.“If you’ll only give me half answers, just pass on the question. I’m not interrogating you.”

 

Derek let his head fall back on the headrest and stared at the stained fabric of the roof. He groaned painfully, "Fine…"

 

She had a point about the half answer thing. But he was being honest and if she just listened hard enough she could figure out what he was trying to say. He was answering the questions given to him, giving subtextual answers to her subtextual questions. It was obviously not enough though and was just pushing her away. With that image of her indifferent face still fresh in his mind, he had to make more of an effort, and lay his heart on a silver platter.

 

"Full answers." He rubbed his hand over his face with a sigh and looked at her determinedly, "Gimme a new one."

 

Relaxing her tense shoulders, Casey looked at him sadly. He was really trying hard. She almost regretted biting his head off. Maybe she needed to be more specific with her questions, but it kind of hurt when she exposed too much of herself this way only to have him completely recoil after.

 

Oh hell, he already knew how she felt, didn’t he? What was there left to be embarrassed about?

 

She cleared her throat and readjusted her grip on the steering wheel. “I would like to go forward with this, when we’re back to being ourselves,” she stated clearly, without ambiguity. “I’d like to be with you… when you’re you.” What was that weight on her chest? “Would you like that?”

 

The silence stretched between them as Derek absorbed her words, a warm feeling radiating out from his chest. Of course he wanted to be with her when she was her. Kissing her while she was in his body was not the same, and literally every time he looked in the mirror, he saw Casey's lips staring back at him with the cruel taunt that he couldn't kiss them unless he tried to make out with his own reflection. He licked his lips thoughtfully, and closed his eyes at the smooth texture.

 

"I… yeah." He answered breathily. Damn, since when did he become so fucking shy? He was still holding himself back from what he wanted, which was so not like him.

 

He wanted her. He should be pursuing her with everything he had.

 

But… it was Casey.

 

With her, things felt so much more…serious. The intensity lurking behind that wall he built up was astronomical, just waiting for him to let it in.

 

And maybe his hesitation was also due to the constant anxiety he felt in this body, causing him to second guess everything. It was annoying to have to manage that all the time.

 

He straightened up in his seat and looked over at her, forcing himself to regain some confidence, "I could be into that." He smirked, eyeing her deliberately, his tone suggesting it was a massive understatement.

 

“Could?” Casey pushed, unimpressed by his antics, and raised a challenging eyebrow when their eyes met.

 

He grinned and rolled his eyes. She was so stubborn. "Okay. I'm definitely into it." He concluded. They were unofficially together anyway, so of course he could admit to that. It wasn't like she was asking if he thought they were soulmates or if he was in love with her or anything. Those questions, he still didn't have the answers to.

 

Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes, hiding a grin. He was so infuriating. “Well I’m sure you must feel drained from all that emotional exertion,” she said teasingly. “One more question?”

 

"Shoot." Derek said smoothly, as if he could handle any question she threw at him. But apprehension stirred in his gut with all the questions he was still afraid of.

 

She smirked devilishly. If he got to antagonize her, then so did she. With a quick look down her lap, then at him, she continued. “Is that blood on my pants?”

 

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…" Derek said, ears turning bright red as he stared unblinkingly down the road ahead of them, "Pass."

 

 


 

 

Poking at the mush on his plate, Derek was hardly aware of the lunchtime conversation droning around him. They missed first period and homeroom. After one class, Derek was ready to pass out in his pile of meal surprise.

 

Emily was saying something about rain or rainbows or something, and Sam was laughing, but beyond that, there was just a roaring in his ears saying sleeeeeeeeeeeeep.

 

As she watched Derek almost nodding off next to her, Casey felt much the same, and she really wished they’d just ditched school and gone home to sleep instead. Ditching school. That was how tired she was.

 

Sam and Ralph entertained Emily in conversation, and no one seemed to be complaining that she and Derek were zombies.

 

She knocked her shoulder against Derek’s and whispered conspiringly. “Think we could sneak out of fourth and find a nice place for a nap?”

 

"Oh my god." Derek leaned over to whisper, coming out more like a whine, "Don't make promises you won't keep."

 

“Don’t I always keep my promises?” Casey bantered tiredly as she leaned into her hand, elbow on the table. Her head was too heavy.

 

Derek's exhaustion fed off of Casey's as she slumped in her seat. He mirrored her posture, putting his head in his hand. Then, he almost dropped it right on his tray. He wasn't going to make it. Stifling a small yawn, he rested his head against the closest support, which happened to be Casey's shoulder, and closed his eyes.

 

The weight of his head on her shoulder actually felt really nice, and Casey had no energy left to protest his intrusion of her personal space or even keep up appearances. She couldn’t see his face in her dead angle, but the way he was breathing told her he was close to falling asleep. Same, Casey thought, as she let her lids fall shut.

 

“Um,” Emily said from across the table, “did they put something in our food because I think I’m hallucinating.”

 

"They must have. I mean, look at them." Sam added. "They've definitely been drugged."

 

“Shush,” Casey protested weakly, without moving her head from its spot. At this point, if they were going along with the whole soulmate thing anyway, why even try to hide it, honestly.

 

"Don'worry 'bout it." Derek said, struggling to form full words, "We're jus… deleriousss or somth'n, shhh, iss fine."

 

“What he said- she said,” Casey agreed.

 

“And why do they look like they’ve been through six raves and a wash cycle?” Emily asked after what sounded like astonished silence.

 

Huffing a small laugh into Casey's arm, Derek said, "Minus the wash cycle." Knowing he looked like he was halfway through a walk of shame in his clothes from the night before.

 

"Looks like the two of them had a fun night in Toronto." Sam said teasingly, as if he knew exactly what they had been up to.

 

Casey grumbled unintelligibly.

 

“Toronto?” Emily questioned, “what the hell were they doing in Toronto?”

 

Peeking through one eye, Derek caught Emily staring at him accusingly. "Err…" He fretted. His exhausted brain forgot he was supposed to be Lord of the Lies and churned out something truly uninspiring, "Um. You know, sight-seeing, university, um Sally uhh… you name it."

 

Waking up with a start when her head almost fell into her plate, Casey got up suddenly. She could feel there was going to be an interrogation, and they really weren’t in the right state of mind to handle it. She grabbed Derek’s elbow, pulling him up, “hey, Space Case… forgot that… thing… whatever.”

 

Without further comment and ignoring their friend’s incredulous looks, she dragged him out of the cafeteria.

 

"Please tell me we're going somewhere to nap." Derek said as he let himself be dragged like a ragdoll.

 

“Ugh, that’d be great, I don’t think I can stand this any longer,” Casey said, stopping in the middle of the hallway. “What if we just go home? Nobody’s there, so we can sleep in peace.”

 

Quirking an eyebrow at her, Derek laughed lazily, his intrigue piercing through his brain-fog. "Did little miss Keener just suggest we ditch school? I must be dreaming."

 

Smiling pseudo mischievously (because she was honestly too tired for any kind of emotion), she took his hand and walked them in the direction of the main entrance.

 

“I’m actually the king of cool, and I say,” she decreed proudly, “let’s ditch school.”

 

There. He couldn’t say she didn’t know how to live dangerously anymore.

 

 


 

 

After climbing the stairs like they were Mount Everest, Derek made his way to his room. God, he missed his bed. He was so out of it, dreaming of a cozy mountain of blankets and pillows. Throwing himself on the bed, he hummed with satisfaction, it was insanely comfortable.

 

Casey stood by the threshold for a second, watching the scene in front of her and trying to figure out what was out of place. It was already a miracle that she drove them both home safely, she didn’t expect much from Derek’s poor brain cells at a time like this.

 

“That’s my bed,” she finally realized. Or, it was Derek’s bed but like… she was the one using it. So, same thing. “You’re in the wrong bed.”

 

"Shit." He laughed deliriously. He forgot they switched bodies, and rooms, he was that tired, "Forgot. Urgghh, one sec…" Struggling, he rolled into a sitting position to make the long journey to the proper room.

 

“It’s okay,” Casey said. Closing the door and stepping further into the room, she walked to the other side of the bed, flopping down unceremoniously. “Just stay… if you want.”

 

Smiling sleepily, Derek was more than happy to continue sharing a bed. He had been woken so abruptly that morning, he didn't get the chance to enjoy it. "Mmm'okay." He said as he slipped under the covers. Imagining the warm comfort that touching her always brought to him, he beckoned her over clumsily in his dream-like state, "C'mere."

 

As if pulled by some invisible force, she scooted closer, into his arms, and tucked her face under his chin to bury her nose into his neck, lips brushing over his collarbone. She sighed happily. “Why is this the best thing ever?”

 

"Hmmm…" Derek considered, fully relaxed. If he wasn't about to fall asleep, he would want to make out with her again. He settled for a kiss on the top of her head, "I've stopped questioning it."

 

“Good idea.”

 

 


 

 

She drifted awake to the sound of frantic whispering, and grumbling. She pushed her face deeper into her pillow. It was so soft and warm and smelled just like home.

 

“I think he’s waking up,” a mousy little voice murmured.

 

"We should bolt." Another voice said frantically, "We still have time. If he sees us, we're dead."

 

That prompted Casey to look up, frowning with confusion at Lizzie and Edwin standing in the doorway, holding a binder between them and looking at her with terror in their eyes. “What are you two doing?”

 

The bundle next to her shifted, and she realized with dread what her younger siblings walked in on.

 

“We were just,” Lizzie started, “about to leave!”

 

"Yeah!" Edwin agreed, "We were - uh. Wait." He shook his head, as if realizing he wasn't the one who should be interrogated, "What are you two doing?"

 

Derek stirred awake to Edwin's accusing voice. He had to do a double take when he noticed their younger siblings and connected the dots to the compromising situation they were in right now. Face frozen, he stared at them, blinking, "Wh… uh…" It was official. They were screwed. As much of an expert as he was at lying, Derek knew that this situation, much like the one they found themselves in with Vicki, had no other explanation. There was no talking their way out of this one. But they couldn't exactly tell the truth either.

 

“We’re..” composing herself, Casey decided to adopt the long proven strategy of avoidance, “we’re napping, what’s it look like?”

 

“You’re napping...” Lizzie said tentatively like what she’d just heard didn’t make any sense. “Together?”

 

"What are we, on trial?" Derek evaded.

 

“Right,” Casey said, adopting Derek’s threatening face and pointing at them accusingly. “And you better keep your mouths shut, or you’ll regret it.”

 

Lizzie, who seemed to see right through her empty threat, narrowed her eyes and snickered. “I think we can do that, right Edwin?” She said, turning innocent doe eyes his way.

 

Edwin raised a mischievous eyebrow back at her, "Perhaps we could be persuaded into keeping this to ourselves."

 

“Why, you little…” Casey trailed off, shocked by their audacity.

 

Groaning dramatically, Derek rolled his eyes and sat on the edge of the bed. "They're not gonna tell anyone." He challenged, a lightbulb going off over his head as he realized that they didn't actually need an excuse. If the little con artists wanted persuasion, he'd give them some. "No one would believe them." Crossing his arms, he stood up to loom over them in a daring display of prowess. "Not to mention, we have just as much dirt on them."

 

“We do?” Casey asked weakly, then coughed, pulling herself together. “Right, right. We do.”

 

“Uhh,” Lizzie uttered as she stepped away from Derek gingerly, “Casey… are you okay?”

 

"Yeah…" Edwin said fearfully, "You're beginning to sound an awful lot like Derek."

 

"I've never been better!” Derek announced with a surge of pride. Maybe it was the new wardrobe, or maybe it was about giving in to his instincts, but he felt more like himself than he had in ages. He wasn't about to give that up for the sake of appearances, even when getting called out. What, were they going to guess they switched bodies somehow? Even if they did, he could just laugh and suggest a trip to the mental hospital.

 

“Edwin,” Lizzie said, her eyes growing bigger as she backed away further. “I think Marti was right. It’s a code orange emergency.”

 

“No!” Casey jumped up, finally out of her stupor and ready to step in. She grabbed Derek’s arm, pulling him back with her. They didn’t need Lizzie and Edwin jumping to conclusions and start snooping. “N-no code orange - whatever that means,” she chuckled, it sounded painful to her ears. “She’s kidding. We’re um, working on a school project.” Okay, so being Derek didn’t make her a better liar. Sue her.

 

"You, working on a school project?" Edwin chuckled doubtfully, "Sorry bro, but I've done enough of your homework to know how ridiculous that excuse is."

 

Ugh, why did Derek have to be such a slacker and ruin all her chances at coming up with a believable excuse?

 

“Look, guys...” Casey said, lifting her hands up in surrender. “How much do you want?”

 

"Whoa, whoa!" Derek warned, grabbing Casey's arm, "Not so hasty there, Derek." This moment called for some expert negotiation. They weren't at the point where they were forced to fold yet. He still had a few tricks up his sleeve. "We're not giving them a dime." He turned a smug look to their younger siblings, "They won't tell a soul. And… they won't ask any questions."

 

“They won’t?” Casey asked, almost hopeful.

 

“We won’t?” Lizzie echoed skeptically.

 

"Yeah, what makes you so sure of that?" Edwin crossed his arms defiantly.

 

Derek was in his element as all eyes turned on him. Elated, he took a breath and appreciated the moment. Oh, he was going to play them like puppets. "Like I said. We have dirt on you."

 

Lizzie stared up at Derek menacingly, “Whatchu got?”

 

Cocking his head at Lizzie, Derek smiled serenely, "Two words, Liz: midnight snack." Once or twice, he had been up late and caught sight of Lizzie in the kitchen, cooking herself up a serving of shame bacon, which was especially shameful considering she was supposed to be a vegetarian. He hadn't confronted her about it before or let on to knowing, since he figured the information could come in handy. He was cashing in on that now.

 

Eyes wide as saucers, Lizzie gasped. “How do you know about that?! You’re always asleep before midnight!”

 

Impressed, Casey watched closely, eyes darting between Derek and the kids like a ping pong ball.

 

Offering no explanation, Derek shrugged, and thought one sibling down, one to go. His proud eyes shifted to Edwin.

 

Leaning back casually with his arms crossed, Edwin smirked. "You've got nothin'."

 

Derek narrowed his eyes. "Salsa."

 

Letting out a chuckle, Edwin shrugged his hands into the air, "I once took a salsa class, I'm not ashamed! I’m a great dancer!" He embellished his point with a flourish of the arms and a basic salsa step.

 

Trying again, Derek dug a little deeper into his blackmail bank, "Scrapbooking."

 

"Went to Scrapbooking Camp." Edwin bragged, "Got awarded best use of glitter by every single old lady there. What else you got?"

 

This was going to take his best material. Time for the big guns. Derek lifted his chin and smiled down at Edwin victoriously. "Tuna. Sandwich."

 

Edwin's grin fell as the colour drained from his face. "Checkmate." He uttered, slumping in defeat.

 

“Tuna sandwich?!” Lizzie questioned dramatically.

 

"Midnight snack!?" Edwin countered.

 

"And that's how you take care of that!" Derek gloated ceremoniously, casting Casey a cocky smile. "Now, the two of you get lost before I start going into detail."

 

“Let’s go, Edwin,” Lizzie said quickly and ran out, taking Edwin with her.

 

“Impressive,” Casey said, staring intently in the direction their siblings had disappeared, dazzled by Derek’s skills. But it couldn’t keep trouble away forever. “How long do you think that’ll buy us?”

 

"No idea." Derek admitted dismissively. "But they'll stop asking questions. It's not like they can figure it out."

 

Pressing her lips together in thought, Casey turned slowly to Derek. “They can’t figure out the swap, you mean. But they’ll have ideas about what they walked in on, they can figure that one out.”

 

"That part's… not ideal." Derek admitted. There was no getting around that part. That ship sailed the minute they were caught in bed together. He didn't get them completely out of the woods. "But it doesn't change anything so long as they don't tell anyone." After all, they had both agreed to give them a try, post body swap, so they couldn't keep the family in the dark forever.

 

Suddenly, he felt the tension in the air. It was such a bizarre feeling, in moments like this when they talked around this thing between them. It was like he was being pulled in two directions. One, towards her, that familiar tug. Two, in the opposite direction, away from the seriousness of the conversation and all the unanswered questions.

 

“Yeah…” Casey said quietly, not completely convinced. What was Lizzie going to think of her? From Lizzie’s perspective, she was acting completely un-Casey-like, and Lizzie saw Derek as a brother. Finding her in bed with him could scar her little sister for life. “I guess you’re right…”

 

She didn't sound confident but Derek was unfazed, "It'll all work out anyway." He shrugged. That was their fate, right? That this would all work out for the best? They just had to survive the obstacles along the way. There was probably a ton of shit left to come, but they had survived a lot already so they could handle it.

 

Derek had lost that part of himself - that part that felt capable of tackling any challenge head on. For a while he was just completely kicked down by the universe, spending all of his available energy on fighting the pull. Now, that confident part of him was back and all he could think was bring it on. There had been a lot of fun parts throughout the whole thing as well, and he was looking forward to seeing what crazy thing came next.

 

 


 

 

“Move over, Edwin!” Lizzie complained. “There’s a board game sticking into my side.”

 

"We need a bigger meeting place!" Edwin insisted. The games closet seemed to get smaller and smaller every time they went in there. Of course, he would hate to retire such a classic, but it was getting super cramped. Which, given what they just walked in on with their older siblings, was starting to feel a little weird as he was practically nose to nose with Liz.

 

"I second that!" Marti squeaked below them, trapped against the door.

 

Lizzie shifted so that she wasn’t completely pressed up between Edwin and the shelves, that really hurt. He did have a point, too; they were getting a little old for the games closet. “Okay, well that will be the main subject of our next meeting,” she said irritably, but got back into business mode. “Right now, we have to discuss the Code Orange. Marti, what do you know?”

 

"I know Derek's been acting really weird." Marti divulged. She wasn't about to share his admission, about how much he cared about Casey. That was the exact kind of information Ed and Liz would want to hear. But what happens in Fluffy Town stays in Fluffy Town. Besides, Ed and Liz already knew that Derek and Casey secretly cared about each other. It was a main topic in many of their secret meetings in the games closet. So Derek admitting to caring wasn’t earth-shattering news.

 

Beyond that, there was something very strange going on. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on. "Like, he is a completely different person. And he's all jumpy."

 

"Yeah!" Edwin enthused, thinking back to the conversation they just had in Derek's bedroom, "And Casey's acting weird too. I mean, what was that in there? I've never heard her talk like that. Have you?" He directed his question at Lizzie.

 

“No,” Lizzie said, shaking her head with fervor. “Even when she gets all Scary-Casey, it’s never to that level. And what was up with Derek, anyway? He’s not just jumpy, he’s all… anti-confrontational all of a sudden? When has he ever offered to pay you off without threatening you first?”

 

"Never." Edwin said seriously.

 

"He offered to pay you?!" Marti gasped, completely shocked, "What exactly did you walk in on?" Derek would have to be desperate to grovel like that, especially to Edwin.

 

“They were…” Lizzie started, swallowing down the rest of her sentence as she stared off into the distance. It was impossible to put into words, like walking into a parallel universe where nothing made sense. What she saw… what she and Edwin saw, would haunt them forever.

 

"We were blackmailed by Casey to keep our mouths shut." Edwin informed her, gravely, feeling a twinge of embarrassment over the whole tuna sandwich incident.

 

How the hell did Casey even know about that? Derek must have told her.

 

Cringing, he thought back to the time he brought his lunch - a tuna sandwich - into the bathroom with him. The minute he stepped foot in the bathroom, he dropped the sandwich on the floor and figured eh, five second rule, picked it up, and took a bite, only to see Derek standing outside the bathroom, shaking his head in amused disgust.

 

"Really?" Marti exclaimed, quirking an eyebrow at the thought of Casey blackmailing anyone. That was more a page out of Derek's book. "Please. I know all your secrets anyway. Just tell me." She whined pleadingly, "They'll never have to know!" She hated not knowing things and not knowing this would eat her alive! What were they doing?!

 

Lizzie was tempted to tell her. Marti did have insights into her big brother’s head, she would be useful for their operation. It wasn’t like anyone was going to turn on Marti anyway. “She probably does know all of our secrets,” she submitted, looking questioningly at Edwin.

 

"True…" Edwin considered. The three of them were a team, and they would need everyone’s input to figure this one out. Knowing Marti, she would keep pestering them (or resort to blackmail herself) to find out. "They were…" He shoved air quotes in Marti's curious face, "Napping."

 

"Napping?"

 

"Together."

 

"Oh." Marti said, shocked. "Ohhhhhh!" She gasped with realization. "... Oh." She was more confused than ever! "What does that mean?" Were they finally admitting their feelings for one other?

 

“It means,” Lizzie took a deep breath, “the end of the world has officially started.”

 

"Definitely a bad omen." Edwin agreed. "Like the laws of physics stopped working."

 

"Really?" Marti asked, bewildered. "It makes perfect sense to me!"

 

“It… does?” Lizzie asked tentatively. She normally trusted Mari’s instincts, but this was way beyond any human’s comprehension.

 

"Yeah. I haven't even fully come to terms with it yet." Edwin seconded, "How on earth does it make sense?"

 

"Come on you guys!" Marti complained. How could they be this stupid? "You're the ones who study their relationship and talk about how they secretly care about each other. Are you seriously telling me you haven't connected the dots yet?"

 

"Dots?" Edwin questioned, "What dots?"

 

"They're totally in love with each other, you idiots!" Marti exclaimed frustratedly. She was tired of being the only person in the family who had a clue. It was so obvious. She had tried to stay back and let Derek and Casey figure things out. But Lizzie and Edwin just had proof in front of their very eyes and didn't clue in! "Get with the program!"

 

It took a moment for Lizzie to recover from her shock, then she chuckled lightly. “Ha ha, good one Marti. I don’t think they care about each other like that! Ha ha ha, oh my god, you’re so funny!”

 

Edwin paused, thinking deeply as he considered Marti's suggestion. His knee-jerk reaction was that it was insane, but then he thought about his big brother and the way he would tease Casey, the way she seemed to always be on his mind, and how he was constantly devising ways of getting under her skin. It reminded Edwin of the first crush he ever had. Sarah Monroe. He spent every recess messing with her. He even got in trouble once for pushing her in the mud. Derek had pushed Casey in the mud before… loads of times.

 

"You two are the worst detectives ever…" Marti grumbled, slapping her forehead.

 

Edwin could hardly hear Marti while he was lost in thought. Derek was in love with Casey! It suddenly put all of their research into perspective, like the final piece of the puzzle clicking into place. "Huh." He said with renewed intrigue. This was a game changer. It was a life changer. Everything he thought he knew about his brother, about the family, about their lives - shifted.

 

Lizzie stopped laughing suddenly. No one else was laughing, which meant it wasn’t a joke, which meant… oh, no.

 

Was Casey in love with Derek? That seemed like such a farfetched idea she couldn’t wrap her mind around it. But the more she watched Edwin think about it, the more she thought about it. And the more she thought about it, the more she could see the clear signs of a Casey crush. Like how obsessed Casey was with everything Derek did, good or bad; she would either gush or complain about it for days. Or how Casey always turned into such a klutz around him. She was a trained dancer! She was barely ever clumsy, unless she had a guy on the brain, and she’d been clumsy a lot in the last two years - Derek being the only constant around her. No wonder he had so many opportunities to make fun of her.

 

Then there was the napping

 

“Oh,” Lizzie uttered weakly.

 

"There we go!" Marti sighed, "I can't believe it took you this long and that I had to spell it out for you! They're not exactly subtle about it!"

 

“Well they’re always fighting…” Lizzie argued pointlessly trying to salvage some dignity in failure.

 

"They fight 'cuz they care!" Marti defended. She felt like she had a pretty good grasp of their relationship. Even though Ed and Liz thought they were the authority with all their research, Marti knew she saw things for what they truly were. "And they're usually just teasing anyway. Can't you see how much they enjoy getting on each other's nerves?"

 

Lizzie’s shoulders slumped, defeated. “They were playing footsie under the table last week, weren’t they?”

 

Edwin gasped in horror. "They kicked me!" He shuddered, "Okay, I'm convinced."

 

"Do you think they're…" Marti trailed off, going back to the topic at hand. What did it mean that they were napping together, and why were they acting so strange? "Together now? Because that would be news to me!"

 

Thinking back to the intimate way Casey and Derek had been holding each other, with Derek’s face into Casey’s neck, her arms around him and her fingers in his hair, looking so calm and affectionate together, Lizzie didn’t see many other options. “I think,” she said, “that might be possible.”

 

Edwin nodded. What he previously thought was impossible was definitely a possibility now. "This is so crazy. What would dad and Nora think?"

 

"We can't tell them!" Marti insisted frantically.

 

“I’m with Marti there!” Lizzie stated intently. This was huge, way too sensitive to share with parents - any parents, but especially George and Nora. They wouldn’t know how to handle something like this. Not to mention they probably thought Casey and Derek were… brother and sister. That would be weird. “They can’t know.”

 

"Pfft. Well I'm sure as hell not gonna tell them!" Edwin agreed emphatically, "If anything, we have to make sure they never find out!"

 

"Do you think that's why they're acting so weird?" Marti asked, still perturbed by the strange way Derek was behaving recently. He was just so… not Derek. "That might explain why Derek has been so... jumpy. Maybe they're… rubbing off on each other?"

 

"Ew!" Edwin complained, clamping his hands over his ears.

 

“I do not want to picture them rubbing off on each other,” Lizzie said, eyes wide, “I was traumatized enough for today.”

 

"Oh my god you guys!" Marti grimaced, "You know what I mean! Casey is acting more like Derek and Derek is acting more like Casey!"

 

“Yeah. I know what you mean,” Lizzie said, sighing. It made sense, but… they were still missing something. “We need more data though. We’re missing a clue somewhere.”

 

"I agree!" Marti declared, "There's got to be more to it."

 

"More than our older siblings secretly dating?" Edwin joked, "I swear, nothing will ever surprise me again…"

 

“Ew, don’t say it like that!” Lizzie punched Edwin’s shoulder.

 

"Ow!" Edwin exclaimed, rubbing his sore arm. That one would bruise tomorrow. "How else am I supposed to say it then?"

 

“I don’t know! Just - not like that!”

 

"Oh, get over it. Both of you!" Marti scolded. "I for one am happy for them. I've been rooting for them since day one! They're meant to be!"

 

“I wouldn’t say it like that either,” Lizzie grumbled. Sure, she leaned more towards being in favour, but she would need time to get used to it. As much as she knew Casey never wanted Derek as her brother, Lizzie did, and if he dated her sister, then it was really going to take some time to get used to. Meant to be was just one too many layers to process.

 

Bit of a stretch, Edwin thought. Derek probably just wanted what he couldn't have. And Casey was probably drawn by the thrill of rebelling after trying to be so perfect. "Yeah, I dunno…"

 

"Seriously." Marti maintained, "Read the binder again. And just watch them. You'll start to see what I mean. They’re soulmates."

 

 


 

 

Catching Lizzie's scrutinizing gaze across the dinner table, Derek shot her back a look of his own: what are you staring at?

 

Lizzie’s eyes blinked away quickly, but not before narrowing at him suspiciously.

 

“So,” Nora said as she placed the casserole in the middle of the table and took her seat. She looked at Derek in his usual spot. “How was Toronto? How’s Vicki?”

 

Dishing himself up, Derek's eyes flickered to Casey. "Toronto was great!" He announced, the corner of his lip turning up as he caught a slight blush on Casey's cheeks. Turning his eyes to Nora, he shrugged, "Vicki is Vicki."

 

When Derek’s gaze moved away from her, Casey’s drifted to his right, meeting Edwin’s, who was staring intently at her. She didn’t usually feel threatened by Edwin, of all people, but he had some heavy material against her now. She stared back purposely until his eyes flickered away. At least he was still a little scared of her. That was something.

 

“Well, it’s nice that you’re trying to bond,” Nora levelled. “Wish it wasn’t on a school night, but… it might be good for you to get to know your cousin better.”

 

"And how is Sally doing, Derek?" George asked Casey.

 

“She’s- uh, fine. But we, um…” Casey looked over at Derek, silently asking for his permission to break the news in his place. He nodded almost imperceptibly before taking a big bite of his food. “We broke up.”

 

In her periphery, she saw Edwin, Lizzie, and Marti sharing looks across the table.

 

"Oh!" George said, surprised, "I'm so sorry to hear that. You two were together for quite some time and things seemed… Was it - was it the long distance?"

 

“Yeah, kinda,” Casey shrugged, “plus she’s moving abroad for a summer internship and she might stay through next semester, and who knows how long. So it just didn’t make sense to stay together.”

 

"Well…" George sighed, "You had a good run, I suppose. You… uh… feeling okay about the whole thing?"

 

Casey stifled a little laugh at George’s obvious discomfort with the conversation. Now she knew where Derek got it from. But it was nice that he was trying anyway. “I’m okay. We’re gonna keep in touch.” Her eyes shifted to Derek quickly before going back to George. “I guess we were both ready to move on to something else…”

 

"You have a new girl already?" Edwin teased, knowingly, "Impressive. Who's the lucky lady?" He grinned, obviously alluding to something. "Ow!" He exclaimed, jumping in his seat, his knee colliding with the table and causing the dishes to clatter before glaring at Lizzie.

 

Derek stared Edwin down menacingly. Even teasing around the subject was off limits, breaking the keep your mouth shut rule of their agreement.

 

“I was talking about us going in different directions,” Casey said pointedly, narrowing her eyes at Edwin, and avoided engaging the subject as she continued. “Since she’s going to be in another country, and I’m gonna start university.”

 

Derek didn't want to think about university - or Sally. He felt guilty that he ended up almost completely naked with Casey less than 24 hours after breaking up with Sally. It felt disrespectful somehow, which normally wouldn't bother him but it somehow implied Sally didn't matter or that he didn't care about her, which wasn't the case. He never expected to be caught in a love triangle with Sally and his step-sister.

 

"This casserole is great by the way." Derek said, chomping down on his food as a weak diversion tactic, "What's in it?"

 

“Thanks?” Nora said quizzically, with an eyebrow raised in confusion. “It’s Friday’s leftovers.”

 

"Mmm…" Derek said through a mouthful, "S'good."

 

Observing Derek closely, Casey concluded that it was time for a change of subject. “Anyway, I’m not the only one who got dumped,” she said. She had an inkling this new topic might get Derek in a better mood. Maybe it was the look he shot her, with a spark of excitement as he held back a smile. “The Trashman was finally put back where he belongs,” she announced in the theatrical way Derek would, before adding, for good measure. “In the trash.”

 

“Is that so?” Nora asked Derek, attempting neutrality in her tone but unsuccessfully covering her approbation at this new development.

 

Derek smirked, because of course Nora would be happy to hear the big news. No one would be sad to see Truman go, least of all Nora. No wonder she had been eying him the past few days with that ‘I’m here if you need to talk’ face.

 

He forgot he hadn’t announced the break up officially. He’d figured Casey punching the asshole in the face would send a clear enough message to the family that Truman was out of the picture. He would always be surprised by his family’s cluelessness.

 

"Yup." He said, popping the 'p' loudly, "Good riddance, I say." He shared a conspiring look with Casey, unable to fight the corners of his lips from pulling up in satisfaction.

 

“So…” Lizzie said, poking into the conversation, “you’re both single now?” She jumped in her seat, causing the dishes to rattle again. “Ow!” She addressed Edwin, who shot her a look with his eyebrows raised like he was calling her out on her hypocrisy for kicking him earlier.

 

"Yeah. I guess." Derek answered, too quickly. Ed and Liz were walking the line, testing his patience. That was dangerously close to asking questions. His eyes flickered to Casey again, realizing she might take his comment as a definition. The question between them was sucking the air out of the room. They hadn't actually called themselves a couple or anything. But they were a couple… right?

 

“You guess?” Lizzie asked smugly.

 

Casey didn’t know what else to add. They weren’t anything official, contrary to what their siblings seemed to think, even though they had agreed to be something that morning.

 

She didn’t expect Derek to proclaim it loudly at the dinner table if they were official either, so she knew she shouldn’t read into it. But just because she knew that, didn’t mean she could stop her brain from worrying about it.

 

As far as she was concerned, this was it, for her. He was her soulmate, the one, and it made so much sense. She hated how much sense it made to her, when she thought back on how she’d always wanted him, how hard it was to fight against the attraction, how perfect for each other they were…

 

Sure, okay, she never used to think of him as perfect, because he was always so annoying and presumptuous, rude and selfish. But she had also always liked his spirit, his startlingly brilliant, creative mind. She liked how he made things challenging, pushing her out of her comfort zone. Most of all she liked how underneath it all he always made the little sentimental exception, just for her, and how special it made her feel.

 

If he wanted to keep doing this when they got their bodies back, did he, maybe, just a little bit, sorta feel the same way? The possibility had her heart racing. What if the guy she was stupidly in love with, loved her back?

 

Unable to look at Derek, she focused on putting on a casual expression when she faced Lizzie. “Maybe we are, what’s it to you?”

 

“Uh uh, nothing,” Lizzie shook her head innocently.

 

“Well, sometimes being in a relationship might not be the right thing for someone,” Nora cut back in, smiling softly at Derek, “and it’s good to know our children can see the difference.”

 

"Exactly. Thank you." Derek said primly, affecting Casey's demeanour. Leaning back in his chair casually, he crossed his arms, adopting his own personality again, "Let's be honest. Truman was just holding me back." He eyed Casey knowingly across the table, "I can do so much better."

 

Anyone is better than Truman,” Casey agreed readily, holding Derek’s gaze. She smirked, slipping back into Derek mode and leaning back in her chair to mirror him. Maybe she could tease him some more - after all, she could totally blame him for their lack of label. “That still doesn’t say much about your standards. What’s the next one going to be? A toad?”

 

"Maybe I've sworn off men." Derek shrugged, raising his eyebrow with a shit eating grin. Truman was his one and only dip into that pool. Plus anything he did with Casey while she was in his body, he supposed - but not really. "And toads."

 

“Huh,” Casey said thoughtfully, tapping her finger against her chin. It would definitely be less trouble if she swore off men. “I mean yeah, maybe what you need is the love of a good woman. I hear Sally’s single now,” she winked. “You two always had a special bond.”

 

Derek couldn't help but snort in laughter. "How very touching of you Derek, being so encouraging of Sally's happiness so soon after your break up." He teased facetiously, "Maybe I will give her a call." He smirked. She'd better know he was kidding, and that he wasn’t about to go running back to his ex girlfriend.

 

“Oh, no problem,” she said dismissively, then leaned forward, continuing with affected sincerity. “You know, whoever you decide to be with, Casey, I hope you find the one.”

 

Derek took pause, eyes flickering around the table. Marti's hand was cupped around Edwin's ear as they whispered conspiratorially to one another, and his dad was staring at Casey curiously for such an uncharacteristic comment.

 

"Thank you?" Derek said suspiciously, scrutinizing her face, like he imagined Casey would have back in the day if he said anything as sincere as that, surely waiting for the punchline he was about to deliver.

 

“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling at his discomfort. With the way everyone was looking at them right now, she wondered what it would be like if they really were a couple. She returned to her meal and continued casually, like she was bored with the conversation. “Of course, I pity the poor loser who’ll get stuck with you. But life isn’t fair, isn’t it?”

 

Derek's head lolled to the side as he rolled his eyes, "I knew it was too good to be true that you'd actually say something supportive," He teased, playing to his character, "I pity the poor girl who has to put up with you for the rest of eternity, Derek."

 

Still looking at her food, Casey couldn’t help her soft smile. “Honestly, Case,” she looked up, meeting his eyes meaningfully, “when I’m ready for the long haul, I’ll treat that girl like a princess, and she’ll be the luckiest girl alive.”

 

Her eyes sparkled at him and Derek couldn’t help but smile sweetly in return. It was flattering that she saw him that way. Not a threat like, 'you'd better treat me like a princess,' but a trust in him that he would.

 

"What?!" Edwin cut in, "Who are you and what have you done with my brother?"

 

"Hey, come now." George scolded Edwin and turned his attention to Casey, regarding her with what could only be described as awe. "She does sound very lucky." He praised thoughtfully, "That's a fantastic way of looking at things, son. There's nothing better than having that special connection and mutual respect with someone." He turned his gaze across the table to smirk adoringly at Nora who smiled and blushed coyly back at the sentimental comment.

 

“Oh, George,” Nora cooed fondly.

 

"Uueegh!" Edwin complained, making Lizzie giggle.

 

Taking advantage of everyone’s distraction, Casey turned her attention back on Derek, who still looked bashful from her comment, and winked.

 

 


 

 

From the doorway to the kitchen, Lizzie observed Casey and Derek setting up to wash the dishes. They were laughing and pushing at each other playfully, completely distracted from the world around them. It was the perfect moment.

 

She turned to face Marti and Edwin behind her, hiding in the corner of the dining room. “Okay, let’s do this,” she whispered. “We have approximately fifteen minutes before they get through the dishes, twenty if they get into a soap bubble fight like usual. I’ll take Casey’s room. Edwin, you take Derek’s. And Marti, you keep watch at the stairs.”

 

Edwin nodded along, rubbing his palms together dastardly; he was so ready to snoop. As the underdog younger brother, Edwin became addicted over time to the thrill of defying Derek, right under his nose, looking for dirt to use against Derek to build up his own arsenal against his big brother's advantages.

 

Marti brightened with enthusiasm. She loved playing detective especially with Ed and Liz who took it so seriously. The drama this time around was so interesting, and she was invested. Now that there was more confirmation that Derek and Casey were acknowledging their feelings for one another, Marti was making it her mission to make sure they got together. Her stupid older siblings were stupid and didn't always act in their own best interests. So she had to hold their hands and make them play nice. They were soulmates, damn it.

 

Hah! Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

 

Shit!

 

Marti liked to swear in her mind just because she could.

 

She stood up straight at attention and gave Lizzie a dedicated solute. "You got it, Captain!"

 

“At ease, sailor,” Lizzie nodded.

 

Grabbing Edwin’s wrist, Lizzie pulled him upstairs and pushed him into Derek’s room unceremoniously. “Don’t forget to look under the bed!”

 

"Yeah, yeah." Edwin called lazily over his shoulder as Lizzie bolted to Casey's room. Like he didn't already know everything he needed to know about snooping in Derek's room - he was the leading expert! Lizzie didn't give him nearly enough credit.

 

He did his usual sweep. Not a minute in, he started feeling strangely disoriented. Nothing was where it was supposed to be!

 

Most people who saw Derek's room would think it was just a random mess but Edwin knew it was an organized chaos attuned to Derek's unique pattern of behavior. Edwin knew this from studying his brother and his habitat as a scientist might study a wild animal. And as someone who had studied that wild animal for years, Edwin could tell that there was something strange and wrong here, like it was the home of a completely different species.

 

Clothes were arranged neatly in drawers, the floor was spotless, the bed was made…

 

Edwin scrunched up his nose - the air was fresh?

 

He scratched his head as he looked on Derek's nightstand. Casey's pink iShuffle? And a book?

 

He picked up the thick paperback "What on earth - " He questioned aloud with mild disgust, staring at the cover, "Secret Sunrise?" It was quite obviously a romance novel, featuring an overly beautiful couple draping themselves over one another on the roof of a skyscraper with the sunrise in the background.

 

He put down the strange book exactly how he found it and moved on to Derek's desk. It was strewn. Or… covered (strewn was too messy of a word) in schoolwork. On the top of each page was Casey’s name in flowery lettering.

 

Casey’s homework, Casey’s iPod, Casey’s book… How much time was Casey spending in Derek’s room?! Edwin suddenly felt himself blush and he had to shake away the thoughts of what they might be doing in the bedroom together.

 

Blegh. He really didn’t need those mental images.

 

Their family was so crazy. Edwin was still having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact this scandalous thing was going on behind everyone’s backs.

 

Maybe he wasn’t quite the expert on his brother as he thought he was…

 

The Derek he knew… and Casey?!

 

After conducting such extensive research, Edwin thought he had their elaborately complicated relationship figured out, but he was dead wrong! They weren’t nemeses who reluctantly became family, who claimed to hate each other but still looked out for each other like siblings. They didn’t see each other as siblings at all! That was clear by the way they were tangled up in bed - much too intimate for siblings, or enemies for that matter.

 

It was so bizarre to think of Derek having a completely different inner life than Edwin imagined, and that the brother he thought he knew was just a false front. It seemed obvious now. The epiphany splashed over him like ice cold water, causing him to suddenly mature out of his childish idolization of his older brother, and realize that Derek was much deeper than the cool guy caricature Edwin knew him as for the majority of his life.

 

Edwin often imagined himself living Derek’s life, frequently envious of how easy everything seemed to be for him, his confident cool attitude, and how much fun he always had. As Edwin had struggled to form his own identity throughout his formative years, Derek always lived a much more interesting life, full of adventure, popularity, and romance comparatively. Even now, Edwin couldn’t help but feel that ever present dash of jealousy for Derek's secret double-life.

 

Shaking the jealousy away, Edwin continued his search for clues. He shouldn't be jealous of Derek! It wasn’t like he wanted to date his step-sister!

 

Through pure association, Edwin thought of Lizzie and her dumb teasing smile. "Stop it." He scolded out loud, smacking himself in the head to get rid of her face.

 

He could have gone his whole life without looking at Lizzie like a girl.

 

She was his best friend.

 

If anyone asked, he would say his best friend was Danny Clark, his coolest guy friend from school, but really it was Lizzie. She was the person he had the most fun with, who understood him the most, and who he trusted the most. She was his best friend - and his step sister.

 

So as far as he was concerned, Lizzie was a genderless blob he was somehow related to.

 

But now the lines were permanently blurred and he realized that she wasn't just his best friend and his step sister, she was a girl. You know, one of those people he usually turned to mush around, unable to form a single sentence. He didn't have that problem with Lizzie, because he never had to feel threatened by whether or not she liked him.

 

The very thought of Lizzie being a girl - just… a girl… was threatening. So he decided to shove that thought under the rug for all eternity.

 

Lizzie. A girl. It was too weird.

 

Meanwhile, the second Lizzie stepped foot in Casey’s room, she froze, in shock, as she eyed the mess she walked in on. The bed was unmade - Casey’s bed was always made, with precise, careful corners. Clothes were strewn about the place, on the back of the chair, on the floor - everywhere. And her makeup bag was left open, toiletries thrown haphazardly on the desk.

 

Lizzie sniffed the air. What was that smell?

 

In the trashcan next to the bed, she saw the empty wrapping papers for about two dozen chocolate bars. First, Casey never ate that much sugar. Two, Casey never ate that much in her bedroom. Something must have really been going on. Maybe Casey was actually affected by her break up with Truman, even though she claimed the opposite at dinner. That was the only explanation, Lizzie insisted.

 

Moving on to the computer desk, Lizzie figured she would get something out of Casey’s notes. Expecting all the papers strewn about to be homework, she was surprised to find that they were all doodles. Mostly cars. Some faces that vaguely looked like family members. These looked like Derek’s doodles. But why were they in Casey’s room? Did he really spend that much time here? Maybe he just got distracted when Casey tried to get him to study. That made more sense than them dating… right?

 

Lizzie was still trying to wrap her head around the idea, but she had to accept the evidence. The constant arguing, which was more like constant flirting, the looks, the napping. Even the weird argument at dinner. It was like everything they said was laced with a double meaning. Lizzie might still be young, but she wasn’t completely ignorant. She knew flirting when she saw it. And she definitely recognized her sister’s flirting.

 

Turning to continue her snooping, she walked to the other side of the bed when she caught sight of Casey’s diary on the nightstand. She didn’t usually invade Casey’s privacy like this, except to borrow her make up from time to time, so it felt weird to be picking up her diary with the intent of reading it. But these were desperate times, and she needed to bring back answers to the home base.

 

Feeling a thrill go through her as she opened the cover, she flipped through pages of lists to the newest entry:

 

Crazy shit goin’ on

 

 


 

 

Watching intently from the base of the stairs, Marti strained to listen to Derek and Casey's conversation, and not get caught in the process.

 

They weren't paying much attention though, to her or the dishes. They were such idiots, playfully pushing each other around with big dumb grins on their faces. The fact nobody but her had caught on to them before was honestly a miracle.

 

"Der-ek!" Casey shrieked, in a self-aware way like she was ripping his name in half on purpose. "You're getting water everywhere! You are such a menace!" There was something hidden in her tone, like this was an inside joke to them or something.

 

“Sorry, Casey,” Derek said with a dramatic pout, while simultaneously holding back laughter. He stressed her name as if he was purposefully saying it wrong. “Am I getting you hair all wet? Is your make up gonna get all ruined?”

 

Scoffing with mock offence, Casey brought her hand to her heart and took a step back, "Why is everything such a joke to you, huh?" She leaned in and tilted her chin up at him, "Can't you take this seriously for five minutes?" She reached into the pile of bubbles in the sink, "This is a sponge." She informed patronizingly as she held it up in his face, "You ever see one before?"

 

Derek looked at the sponge with exaggerated confusion. “Is that… is that what I think it is?” He leaned closer to Casey, and Marti strained to hear as he whispered fearfully, “is that for cleaning?!”

 

"Very good!" Casey commended sarcastically, like she was congratulating a toddler. She ruffled her soapy hands through his hair, "You're learning." She praised fondly.

 

Laughing, Derek shook his head in Casey’s face, water dripping from the tips of his hair. “I might look like an idiot,” he said pointedly, as if he was insulting her, “but I’m actually pretty smart, you know. I can count to ten… I know most of the alphabet… I even form full sentences from time to time!”

 

"Hmm…" Casey hummed thoughtfully, looking him up and down before turning away nonchalantly to scrub a dish, like it was 10 times more interesting than their conversation, "Beauty and brains..."

 

The way Derek rolled his head back in response suggested an excessive eye roll. “God, you’re annoying.”

 

"Yup!" Casey announced proudly, "That's me! Casey whatever my middle name is McDonald!"

 

“Oh really?” Derek seemed to take it as a challenge. “What about me: Derek Michael cannot take things seriously for five minutes Venturi?”

 

"That's got a ring to it!" Casey beamed, abandoning the dishes completely - not that she was genuinely focused on them before, "Much better than Casey seriously what's my middle name McDonald." She cut Derek off as he was about to say something, "Oh wait, I remember. It's… Ashley, right?" From Marti's vantage point, she could make out a faint smile on Derek's lips, "No wait. That's not it." She said, stroking her chin, pretending to be deep in thought.

 

Marti scratched her head. Why was Casey pretending not to know her own middle name?

 

Casey continued, stepping even closer to Derek, "Is it… smokin' hot? Nah…" She shook her head as his eyes widened, "That's too on the nose. Oh, I know!" She exclaimed, "Casey Keener McDonald! Now that has a ring to it." With a flip of her hair, she quickly returned to the sink, like nothing happened.

 

Laughing like he couldn’t help it, Derek shook his head and threw an arm around Casey’s waist. “I like it,” he said, dropping a quick kiss to her temple before snatching the clean plate from her hands in order to dry it.

 

Marti gasped, she wasn't expecting them to kiss in the freaking kitchen!!! She looked around frantically - thankfully there were no parents around. Then her heart skipped a beat and she jumped back as her dad came up from the basement.

 

Peering back around the corner, Marti watched Casey handing Derek another clean dish, they held onto it together for a moment, looking at each other like they were sharing a secret. Derek cleared his throat and began drying the plate anxiously as they noticed George.

 

They totally almost got caught! I mean, they already were caught… by her. But dad was a different story! A minute sooner and he would have seen how close they were!

 

"Look at you two working well together for once!" George said proudly. Poor ignorant fool, Marti fretted internally. "Why don't you two go relax and I'll finish the rest?" He offered, no doubt as some kind of positive reinforcement.

 

"Really?" Derek asked appreciatively, with a strange hint of disappointment.

 

"Suh-weet!" Casey grinned as she dropped the sponge in the sink and dried her hands on her pants.

 

Marti's eyes widened in alarm as they started moving away from the sink. Casey learned over to Derek and said something under her breath, causing Derek to chuckle - more like giggle. They were headed right towards her! It was too soon! She had to warn Ed and Liz!

 

She bounded up the stairs and burst into Derek's room. "The lovebirds are flying!" She whispered with urgency as Edwin's head whipped towards her, "I repeat! The lovebirds are flying!!!"

 

"Already?!" Edwin called after Marti as she raced to Casey's room. He followed, to make sure Liz escaped in time.

 

He found Marti tugging at Lizzie's arm at the foot of Casey's bed. "Lizzie come on!" She pleaded, "They'll be here any second! Hurry!"

 

Lizzie stared at the book in her hands, in a total trance, clearly not hearing or even seeing Marti.

 

Voices at the stairs startled Marti and Edwin and they shared a worried glance. "They're going to catch us!" Marti said fearfully, giving Lizzie's arm another tug.

 

Edwin rushed forward, grabbing Lizzie and shoving her into Casey's open closet. It was a mess in there, clothes hung haphazardly, with some on the ground. There was only room for two. Edwin squeezed in next to her. As he shut the closet door behind them, he saw Marti drop to the floor at the last second and crawl underneath Casey's bed.

 

Stomach churning anxiously in the dark, Edwin couldn't help but notice Lizzie's breath, close to his face and rapid. He gulped at how they were practically forced into an embrace in the tiny closet.

 

She's not a girl! Edwin reminded himself. She's Lizzie! Your step sister! And there are more important things to worry about right now!

 

Like the fact she was shaking, clutching on to the book. "Liz…" He whispered as quietly as possible in an effort to calm her. His hand wrapped around her wrist to stop its trembling.

 

Looking up blankly, Lizzie could only see half of Edwin’s face lit up through the crack of the door, but it felt like she was going blind, as she was deeply disturbed by what she had just read.

 

“I guess that was nice of George,” Derek’s voice echoed on the other end of the door when he entered the bedroom.

 

Edwin watched closely through the slats of the closet door.

 

"Anything that gets me out of doing the dishes is cool with me." Casey responded casually as she flung herself onto the bed and rolled onto her stomach to look up at Derek.

 

Edwin cringed as the mattress weighed down, hoping it wasn't crushing Marti under there.

 

This wasn't Marti's first rodeo. If she had a dollar for every time she had been snooping and ended up hiding under a bed… well, she would have approximately 12 dollars.

 

She ducked her head as the bed creaked above her, her face coming dangerously close to a dirty plate which smelled like rancid cheese, meat, and pickles. The last time she hid under Casey’s bed it was pristine, practically a vacation. Even if Derek was leaving dirty dishes in her room, Casey would force him to clean it up, or clean it up herself as a last resort. Why would Casey leave this here for - ugh, days apparently?

 

“Typical,” Derek said casually and rolled the desk chair over to the end of the bed, sitting straight up with his hands on his knees, shooting Casey an expectant look. “So…”

 

"... So?" Casey responded suggestively.

 

Edwin started sweating. What were they going to do now that they thought they were alone?! His wide eyes flickered to Lizzie in apprehension.

 

“Well, I guess…” Derek hesitated, the wheels of his chair squeaked as he seemed to squirm in his seat. “I know this is… I know it’s kinda early for this, but… you know, the kids at dinner, they said…”

 

Lizzie gulped, wondering what would happen to them when their older siblings found out that they knew everything. At least, Lizzie knew that either what she read was true, or she was going crazy, or Casey was going crazy - in any case, someone was insane in this situation.

 

"Yeah… " Casey trailed off pensively, "They're definitely starting to pry already. Could be a problem."

 

“Right,” Derek said, chuckling awkwardly, “yeah, that’s what… I was going to say.”

 

Casey paused, narrowing her eyes at Derek.

 

Edwin squinted at Derek's back, his shoulders were twitching nervously. Why was he acting so awkward? There was just something off about the two of them - their personalities, but he couldn't piece it together.

 

"No, it wasn't." Casey accused, with an eyebrow raised, looking Derek over thoughtfully. Something seemed to dawn on her as she slipped into a smirk, "What were you going to say?"

 

“N-nothing,” Derek said quickly, standing up and almost making the chair fall with his sudden movement. He caught the chair and placed it back safely on its wheels. “Just that! Yeah, we should take care of it - before it becomes a problem.”

 

"Riiiiiight." Casey droned toyingly. She swung her legs over and stood up from the bed, taking a couple steps towards Derek, who retreated from her ever so slightly, moving towards the closet.

 

Edwin squeezed Lizzie's wrist in response and then he blushed deeply, realizing he was still touching her and dropped his hand.

 

Casey took another step towards Derek, "You know, I've been wondering…" She postulated flirtatiously.

 

Edwin gulped. There was no doubt about it now, his siblings were into each other, their flirty back and forth was so intense that he could feel his ears turning red.

 

Derek sighed and stopped moving, turning his head to meet Casey’s eyes. “What?”

 

Closing the space between them, Casey looked up at Derek through her eyelashes, her hand coming just below his waist to pull them against each other lightly. "If I asked you out, would that make you my girlfriend, or my boyfriend?"

 

What the hell does THAT mean? Edwin's eyes boggled.

 

Lizzie resisted the urge to scream.

 

From under the bed, Marti strained to listen. Did she hear that right?!

 

With a snort Derek seemed to lose his previous hesitation, and wrapped his arms around her, hands rubbing up and down her back. “Not a boy,” he said shortly, then paused. “Is that even gonna be an issue? It’s not like you’re planning on asking me out anyway, right?”

 

"I'm not?" Casey wondered, "What am I doing right now then, hmm?"

 

Derek was quiet for a while, his head turned away from the closet but he was staring right at Casey, and it was clear that he was shocked. “Are you?” He asked softly, almost under his breath.

 

So they weren't together? Yet? Or they were just getting together right now? It was hard to keep track of, and Edwin was insanely lost.

 

"Casey." Casey said seriously, levelling with Derek.

 

Seriously, this made no sense.

 

Lizzie felt her own eyes growing wide as she listened to their conversation, validating that, indeed, what she found written in the diary was true. Casey and Derek… were trapped in each other’s bodies?

 

“Der-ek,” Derek scolded weakly.

 

"What the -" Edwin couldn't help but blurt out, when suddenly he was silenced by Lizzie's hand over his mouth. He blinked at her, startled. This whole situation was so bizarre, and Lizzie was pushing him against the closet wall and seriously - what the hell!!! Her eyes bore into his warningly as his breath hitched.

 

Not a girl. NOT A GIRL!

 

And speaking of which, what exactly did Derek mean when he said he wasn't a boy? Like… he wanted to be Casey's girlfriend? That couldn't be right…

 

Marti was equally confused by everything.

 

All the dust under the bed must have been messing with her hearing.

 

Her nose tickled.

 

Uh oh!! She tried to hold it in. Nonononononono!!!!

 

"AH-CHEW!!" A squeaky sneeze came from under the bed.

 

 

Chapter Text

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?”