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The bar is crowded with people, and they are sitting very close together, their low conversation bringing them even closer. Her name is Jessica – Jess, for short. She’s blonde, and smart, and decidedly hot. So basically, she’s just his type. Derek watches as she laughs, one hand coming to rest on his knee. He likes her, and he knows she likes him, he can tell. He can see in his mind how this is going to play out, if it all goes well. And he needs it to go well, he really does. It’s been too long.

He needs to get laid.

Derek catches the exact moment where her mind is made up, and less than a minute later she proposes to move this conversation somewhere more private. And here comes the tricky part, because he hasn’t come this close to leaving the bar with somebody in months. He somehow always finds himself chickening out, or rain checking.

He’s not used to this part being difficult at all, but it is now, for some reason, so he has to play it right. He has to get himself back to normal.

Jess smiles at him, the promise in the curve of her lips making his heart beat faster. “I’m just gonna go to the bathroom real quick, and then we can leave, okay?” she tells him, voice sultry and soft like velvet.

He smirks back at her, “Sure.”

Derek gets up from his seat as Jess disappears through the crowd, and leans himself against their table, taking a deep breath. You can do this.

His eyes roam the room, looking for something to distract himself with while he waits. He can feel himself growing fidgety, his fingers seamlessly tapping against the table top. He watches people talking and laughing. A group of guys playing darts in one corner, some girls gathered around the pool table, glasses in their hands. He then looks over to the bar (big mistake), and freezes.

Fuck, no.

She’s sitting at the bar, shiny brown hair curled, and cascading down her back to her waist. She wears it so long this days, it reminds him of their last year of high school. She has her back towards him, but there is no world in which he wouldn’t recognize every bit of her. He could literally pick out her pinky finger from a row with a hundred others if he was asked. He knows it’s her with just one look, and honestly, it’s weird that he’s just now seeing her, because she looks like she’s been sitting there for a while, if the numerous glasses in front of her are anything to go by. Plus, he’s always had this sort of sixth sense when it comes to her. He can just tell when she’s in the same room, mostly because all the oxygen gets sucked out the instant she walks in.

Don’t you dare go near her, Venturi.

Why, why did she have to pick tonight to come to the bar? Doesn’t she have exams to study for? The semester is almost over, what is she doing here?

The next thing that catches his attention is that she seems to be alone, and if he wasn’t already making his way towards her (he’s such a fucking idiot), he would use that as his excuse to approach her.

The bartender gives Derek a warning look when he notices him behind her, and he assumes that the guy must be looking out for her. He ignores him, and drops unceremoniously on the empty seat beside her.

Her blue eyes narrow the second they set on his, “Oh, great,” she scoffs.

Despite everything, Derek can’t help but grin. “What in the world are you doing here by yourself, Space Case?”

“I’m drinking,” she announces grandly, swaying the glass in her hand for emphasis.

Derek eyes her with a raised eyebrow, “I can see that.”

He looks towards the bartender, who just shrugs, “She didn’t order even half of what she drank,” the man says, clearly hinting that men have been buying her drinks. It doesn’t seem unlikely.

He turns back towards Casey, who’s silently seeping her drink, “Are you drunk?”

She grimaces and he laughs. He loves drunk Casey; she’s like a funnier, bolder version of regular Casey that rarely comes out to play, usually just when he drags her out of her dorm to get her to live a little. Still, it’s a rare sight that he would normally be all for enjoying, but he hasn’t really seen much of her lately, and things still feel weird between them. And then, there’s his other problem.

They had gotten closer, here in college. Derek wouldn’t admit it, but one could even say that they are friends. The first year at Queens had been challenging for them both, and for some reason, they continuously found themselves sucked into each other’s orbit, just like they always had.

Third year had started easy enough, and he had finally found himself comfortable with their dynamic. Yes, they were close, and they would probably always be, no need to run or make things harder. It was better to just accept it and go with it. Of course, things just couldn’t remain easy when it came to them, so now that everything’s properly gone to shit, he doesn’t really know how to deal with her, drunk or sober.

“No, but really, why are you alone?” Derek asks, and he doesn’t even try to hide his concern, because who is he kidding? He had stopped pretending he didn’t care about her a long time ago. “You didn’t come with Heather, or Rachel?”

Casey shakes her head, “No, I came with Dean.”

… And there goes the last of his good mood.

“And where is he?”

She shrugs, “I don’t know, we broke up.”

Derek snorts, “Is that why you’re drinking?”

Casey pouts at him, offended and he has to literally force himself to keep his eyes from drifting downwards. “No,” she huffs.

“Then…?”

“I’m drinking because men are trash,” she states, loudly. The bartender makes a face at Derek, and he rolls his eyes back at him. Casey comes to the conclusion that ‘men are trash’ every time she breaks up with her latest dickhead. What she doesn’t know (even though Derek has told her a million times), is that her taste in men is what’s trash.

“Why?” he drawls, sarcastically. “Did he finally come to his senses?”

Casey narrows her eyes at him, “What are you doing here, anyway? Weren’t you about to leave with some blonde like, five minutes ago?”

He doesn’t know why the first thing that strikes him from that sentence is not the fact that he does, actually, have a date of his own, who’s probably drowned herself in the toilet by now with how long she’s taking in the bathroom. No, what strikes him is the fact that Casey had seen him and deliberately decided not to approach him (as he should have done). He ignores the punch to the gut this brings him.

“She’s in the bathroom,” he says, easily.

Casey smirks, “You think she climbed out the window?”

Derek smirks back, “Unlike yours, my dates don’t run out on me.”

“Dean did not run out on me!” Casey exclaims, outraged. She tips a little to the side on her stool and Derek’s arm shoots out to steady her. “I broke up with him, I’ll have you know.”

Derek leans his face into his hand, amused. “Did you?”

Casey launches into the story of how and why Dean was a shit boyfriend, and how she had tried to make things work because she thought he was such a nice guy. There are so many aspects in the way she’s talking that have Derek’s mind going ‘yup, she’s hammered’ several times, like how she keeps tipping to the side, how she slurs a little and how she gets even more passionate about all her insane expectations on how people should behave and why chivalry is, indeed, dead. Derek can’t help but smile and wonder, not for the first time, when exactly her annoying self became so damn adorable.

She talks about how today was her and Dean’s ‘monthaversary’ or whatever, and how she wanted to do something special, but he’d managed to screw it up somehow – and Derek’s only half listening at this point, because she has a tiny strand of hair glued to her lip gloss, and it’s kind of distracting. And maybe he should go look for Jess. He will, he’s about to get up, he is, just – give him a minute.

“So I decided to give him some time, see if he was worth it,” Casey’s saying, “But then.” She shakes her head, “It was the last straw.”

Derek’s lips turn up in one corner, “Oh, what did our boy Dean do?”

Casey puts up her index finger, “It’s more about what he didn’t do.”

“Meaning?”

Casey shrugs, downing the last of her drink. “He sucks in bed.”

Derek’s jaw tightens.

Casey’s sex life is not something he likes to think about. There was a time when he blissfully deluded himself into thinking that she just didn’t have one. That she was this pristine, untouchable, asexual being. He was fine with that, really. Those were the days.

But reality caught up to him eventually. During their college experience, growing up and being away from the family, he had been forced to acknowledge to himself that Casey’s sex life does, in fact, exist. Still, he likes to pretend it doesn’t.

With one exception, of course.

He grimaces, annoyed. “Okay, that’s way too much information, Spacey,” he says, and tries to keep his voice composed.

This is just so fucking shitty. He has his own goddamn problems, problems he’s meant to be resolving tonight (he really should go find Jess), he doesn’t need to be listening to Casey’s stupid whiny problems, he doesn’t need to hear about her having sex, he really doesn’t. All of a sudden he’s reminded of why he’s pissed at her, and why things just can’t go back to normal between them.

Casey laughs, and there’s something sarcastic in it that makes Derek narrow his eyes at her. “Who’s the prude, now?” she snorts.

Derek rolls his eyes at her, “Whatever.” He turns to the bartender, who’s still lurking close by, “Could you call her a cab? I’m leaving.” The man gives him a thumbs up and Derek starts getting up, ignoring the way her eyes follow his movements – only to stop in his tracks when he sees Jess standing behind Casey, arms crossed over her chest, and a decidedly pissed off look on her face.

“So you just hit on everyone at bars, or is tonight a special night?” She says, icily.

Derek’s eyes widen, “What? No, I wasn’t hitting on her. I was just about to go looking for you.”

Casey and the bartender are both watching all of this play out. The man looks enthralled while Casey just looks bored, which is surprising, considering that normally she would be tripping over herself trying to explain to Jess how this is just a big misunderstanding.

Jess scoffs, “Really? Because I’ve been standing here for ten minutes, just watching you flirt with this one, waiting to see if you were ever going to notice I wasn’t there.”

“I did notice –“

“Clearly, you found something more interesting,” she states, looking towards Casey with eyes full of disdain.

Casey stares back at her, unimpressed. She always looks at Derek’s dates like that, with that air of superiority. Like she’s the fucking landlord and all those girls are just guests in her property. Like she’s telling them (and him), just by looking at them that way, ‘Yeah, enjoy him while it lasts. You know he’s mine, anyway’. It always makes his blood boil. Like, who the fuck does she think she is?

It also shamelessly turns him on. A little bit.

The worst part, is that he’s not sure she even knows she’s staring them down like that. But the girls, they all notice. It always has them asking him about Casey afterwards, wanting to find out if she’s an ex or something. And just like that, she manages to make every single little thing in his life about her, without even needing to lift a finger.

Sometimes, he just fucking hates her so much.

Jess’ face screws up in anger (she clearly noticed the look, too), and turns back to Derek. “Well, you can forget about tonight. I hope she puts out.”

He winces, “What? No, it’s not like that – “

But she’s already turning her back on him, so he has to at least try and save something. “Wait, at least let me call you a cab?”

“I have a ride,” she snaps.

He tries yelling desperately after her, “I’ll call you!” (No, he won’t.)

“No, he won’t!” Casey calls cheerily, and Jess throws her a dirty look over her shoulder.

Derek turns back to her angrily, “What the fuck, Casey?”

Casey’s eyes widen innocently, “What? What did I do?”

“You could have said something!”

“Honestly, Derek, you should start taking responsibility for your own actions.” She turns to the bartender, who’s casually wiping the bar top right beside them, “He’s very irresponsible,” she assures him.

“What actions?” Derek hisses through gritted teeth, “I didn’t do anything wrong, I was here looking out for you!”

Casey shrugs, “I’m perfectly fine here with my new friend, Tom,” she says, pointing towards the bartender, “You could have left with her.”

Derek scoffs, “Yeah, you’re so perfectly fine that you’re drunk off your ass and weeping over some douchebag who sucks in the sack.”

“I’m not weeping!” Casey retorts, angrily. “I’m just sick and tired of this shit, and people taking me for granted.” Derek doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but she narrows her eyes at him in a suspicious way, and he immediately gets defensive. “Because I’m great!” She pokes his chest with her finger.

“Oh, are you?”

“Yes, I am!” she exclaims. And then she pauses, and her gaze locks with his. There is a mischievous glint sparkling in her blue eyes, and his heart trips, because the next thing that comes out of her mouth is, “I mean, you should know. You’ve slept with me.”

Derek chokes on air.

He can feel his brain imploding inside his skull (which is inconvenient, considering he needs it to continue this conversation) while images that he had incessantly tried to suppress flash through his mind like a slideshow – Casey’s dorm, her soft skin under his hands, her quiet moans, the curve of her mouth, the taste of her lips, and his name being ripped apart in the sexiest, most mind blowing way.

He swallows as ‘Tom the Bartender’ raises his eyebrows at him, and Derek shoots him a murderous look that has the man scurrying away from them, leaving them alone, or as alone as they can be inside a bar full of strangers.

Casey raises her eyebrows at him, “What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”

The mockery brings him out of his stupor, and immediately the anger bubbles up inside of him, “Oh, you’re one to talk.” Because seriously? She’s going to act like he can’t talk about this when she was the one who ignored him for a straight month after it happened? “Did the alcohol clear your memory, or something?”

She cocks her head to the side, “And did I just clear yours? Or did I just actually forget about all the other times you’ve mentioned it?”

“You know what? I’m not doing this right now,” Derek says firmly, getting up from the seat, he needs to get out of here, fast. “Come on, I’ll drive you to your dorm.” He doesn’t even look behind him to check that she’s following him, and keeps going straight for the exit.

Another night ruined, just fucking great.

It’s not that either of them has a bad memory, it’s just that they haven’t talked about it. Which is decidedly ridiculous, considering the amount of time they spend together, and that it’s been seven months already – not that he’s counting.

The slight breeze of the night is a welcomed change of scenery, and he breathes in eagerly, trying to calm his nerves. He stands there for a second until Casey comes out of the bar behind him, and then starts walking down the sidewalk. He parked his car about three blocks away.

Derek remembers that night as if it was yesterday. It had been late November, and fucking cold in Kingston. He and Casey had holed themselves up in her dorm, watching movies and ordering in. He doesn’t know what made that night different from other nights, but they were arguing less than normal. They could get along, contrary to popular belief, because they were always so in sync with each other. Even when he actually thought (or pretended) that he hated her, he knew that they were always in the same tune, vibrating at the same frequency.

Over the years, and the longer time passed, it was impossible for him to deny that there was something between them. He felt it, and most of the time he was sure she felt it too. That pull, the magnetism that seemed to encapsulate them. All that tension built up, and he doesn’t know why it was on that night that the breaking point came, but one second he was staring at her – at her impossibly blue eyes, her smooth skin and plump lips, and he couldn’t help himself – he just leaned in and kissed her.

There had been this panicked moment, where she froze and he thought for sure he had screwed everything up, before she leaned back away from him to look intensely into his eyes. Her gaze was unreadable, and he doesn’t know what she saw in his own, but a mere second later she was leaning back in and kissing him back enthusiastically, and well… the rest is history.

The morning after was… just plain awkward. Neither of them knew what to do with themselves, because they had known each other for six years, and even though there clearly was a subtext between them and a lot of build up, this was the first time they had crossed that line. And they had not just crossed it, they had completely sped past it, the line was several kilometers back. There was no turning back from here (or so he’d thought).

He could see that Casey was slowly spiraling into a full blown freak out, and he had to calm her down somehow, so he assured her that it was okay, that it was not a big deal. That seemed to calm her down somewhat. She had become a little subdued after that, but he figured everything would be fine if the freak out had been avoided. He couldn’t have predicted how it would turn out, because even though Derek is pretty sure he’s the person who knows Casey the best in the entire world, he still doesn’t quite get the inner workings of her mind.

The truth is, however, that it had been a big deal. It was amazing. They just fit together, like puzzle pieces. Everything had been easy, and smooth, and hot and just good. Best night of his life, hands down.

But also, his biggest mistake.

Because Casey straight up avoided him for a solid month after that. And Derek let her be. As much as it freaked him out that they weren’t speaking, he knew it would eventually sort itself out. The next time he saw her, it was when they both went back to London for Christmas. And the entire week before that he had been mentally preparing himself for when he saw her, and got ambushed with all her feelings that would most definitely crash against him.

And he was ready for it, because he wanted this – her, or whatever. He really thought they were compatible, and most of all, inevitable. So there are no words to describe his confusion when he saw her again and Casey just – pretended nothing had happened. He was genuinely surprised, because when had there ever been an issue that Casey didn’t feel the need to talk to death?

At the time, Derek figured that now that they were finally back on speaking terms, she would eventually bring it up. He waited it out for two months, because it was Casey. Something this big, this life changing, surely couldn’t go unacknowledged forever, right? I was just a matter of time before she came over to his dorm and demanded he explained his intentions with her, and what it all meant, and how they were going to act from there.

When it became obvious that she wouldn’t come to him, that she wouldn’t acknowledge it after all, well… That was flat out rejection, wasn’t it? And the worst kind too, because she didn’t even consider him worthy of talking it out. It fucking sucked, if he was being honest.

Once he came to terms with all of that, he decided he needed to move on. There was this girl, Melody, from his Economics class with whom he flirted on and off. They had gone out and ended up back at his dorm, and things were getting pretty heated, and just when the time came… He couldn’t. Not because he didn’t want to, no, but because his body would literally not cooperate. It had been so fucking embarrassing (mostly because he had to see her again in class every week), and it only got worse from there.

Derek isn’t a one-night-stand kind of guy. He has had some, but he doesn’t make a habit out of it. But he obviously seriously needed to have one. So he had tried to sleep with other women, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He didn’t know what the hell his problem was. Casey had just ruined him. Eventually he became so scared that he wouldn’t be able to go through with it, (which is insane, because when had he ever been scared of sex?) that most of the time he chickened out before the flirting got heavier.

One day, he realized what his problem was, why he couldn’t let this go, why he couldn’t bring himself to sleep with someone else. And it was hard to accept, because it was one thing to acknowledge to himself that he’s attracted to his step-sister. Another completely different is to admit that he’s in love with her.

If he believed in all that karma bullshit, he’d think that this is the universe’s way of getting back at him for all the crap he used to pull back in high school. And for everything he had done to Casey, and the way he used to treat her.

It’s unfair though, he’s pretty sure he has never made her feel this way. Casey fucking McDonald, starring both in his best dreams and worst nightmares.

“De-rek!” she shouts now, from a couple of paces behind him, “Wait up, you jerk!” Derek reluctantly slows down until she catches up, huffing. “I’m gonna get blisters now,” she whines.

“You’ll survive.”

They pass through a playground, and Casey immediately perks up, “Ooh! Monkey bars!” And then she’s off in the direction of the children games.

“Casey! What the hell are you doing?” Derek shouts, annoyed and following her through the multiple games towards the monkey bars.

Casey grabs his arm and he flinches away, unconsciously. “Did you know I can hold myself upside down in the monkey bars for 5 minutes straight?”

“No, you c – wait, really?”

She turns to him with a plotting smile, “Wanna bet?”

He crosses his arms over his chest, unable to suppress a smile of his own. This is what he was talking about when he said that he loved when Casey got drunk, it was never ending entertainment.

“You’re drunk. You won’t be able to pull it off.”

“Of course I will, watch me.”

He watches in amusement as she stumbles over to the monkey bars. She’s a head taller than the assembly, so it’s very awkward when she tries to pass her legs through the gaps to hang upside down. Derek briefly wonders what Nora would say if he just stood there and watched her fall on her head. It probably wouldn’t fly, so he lazily approaches her and positions himself close enough to grab her ankles in case she slips. He may still feel a little resentment towards her, but that doesn’t mean he wants her to crack her skull open.

She laughs as her arms let go of the bars, the tips of her hair touching the ground bellow her. “Look, look!” she squeals.

“Very impressive,” he drawls.

Her laughter subsides. “So, how have you been?” she asks him.

“Fine.”

“I feel like we haven’t talked in forever.”

Yeah, no shit.

“Hmm,” he grunts.

“So, about that night – “ she starts.

“Casey, shut up,” he snaps at her. When he said he’s not doing this, he meant it. He wanted this talk months ago, not now that her drunken mind thinks it would be funny to reminisce over it, or something.

“Are you seriously going to ignore it?”

I’m the one ignoring it now? Casey you – “

She cuts him off, “Uh, I think I’m gonna puke.”

“Ugh, goddamnit.”

He helps her climb off the monkey bars and holds her steady while she takes deep breaths and pinches her eyes tightly shut. All the while he’s holding her, he has this strange urge to get away from her, before she hurts– before she pukes on him. But there is also this stupid affection and caring he feels for her that Derek just can’t seem to get fucking rid of. He’s been trying for months, seven fucking months.

Casey opens her eyes again and lets out a shuddering breath (she did that, so why the hell is he the one shivering?) “Do you like me?”

He immediately lets go of her arms, “What?”

“Like, as a person.”

“God, what the hell is wrong with you tonight?” he asks her, exasperated.

Casey pouts and he looks away, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Yes, Casey, if I didn’t fucking like you as a person I wouldn’t be here enduring this right about now.”

“Sometimes I feel like you don’t,” she says, quietly.

Derek’s eyes snap back to her, “What?”

She shrugs, kicking at the grass with her shoe. “You’ve been kind of cold these past months.”

He shakes his head, “Why do you suddenly want to talk about this?”

“I’m drunk.”

“Great, well, let’s just take you back to your dorm then,” he says, turning to walk away. “And you lost the bet by the way, you owe me 50 bucks.”

“What? We never set a price!”

He turns to grin at her, “Yeah, we did, I remember.”

“De-rek!”

“Sorry, Case.”

They reach his car and star the trip to campus, and all the while Derek focuses hard on the road. He can feel Casey’s eyes all over his profile, and it’s honestly putting him on edge. If things were normal between them, he’d probably throw her one of his smirks that irritate her so much and ask if she likes what she sees. But things are not normal, and he’s fucking pissed, and hurt or whatever. He just wants to take her home so he can get rid of her already. And he also wants her to stay with him all night.

By the time they reach the door to her dorm, he’s so emotionally and physically exhausted that he can barely think straight.

“Well, here we are. Drink water and go to sleep, Space Case,” he says, in a monotone voice. His head is fucking killing him.

“Wait, Derek – “

“God, what?”

Casey frowns up at him, but sticks her chin out, determined. “Listen, about what happened in November…”

Oh, for fucks sake.

Derek shakes his head, and lifts a hand to cut her off. “I’m not talking about this,” he says, firmly.

“Why not?

He runs a hand through his hair, frustrated. “Because you’re not making any sense!”

“How am I not making any sense?” Casey exclaims.

Derek waves a hand, gesturing at her entire being. “You’re drunk!”

Casey throws her hands up in the air, “So? I’m still freaking me. I know what I’m saying.”

He shakes his head in disbelief, because why, why tonight and not before? Why does she have to be drunk for this? (Deep down, he knows the answer, but he doesn’t want to dwell on it yet.)

She crosses her arms over her chest, adopting her signature defensive stance. “Okay, so when do you want to talk about it?”

The time to talk about it was seven months ago. Seven fucking months ago.

“I don’t know,” he growls, unable to hide his fury. “Why does it matter now? It obviously didn’t matter when it happened.”

Casey reels away from him for a second, assessing him with narrowed eyes. She looks him up and down, and he has no idea what she’s searching for, but when she’s done, she looks back up at him with disdain. “I think you’re full of shit,” she accuses, “You do want to talk about this.”

“Do I?” Derek asks, flatly.

She nods, eyes hard. “Yes. I think you’re scared.”

Derek scoffs indignantly, “Scared? Of fucking what?”

Casey smirks, and his blood boils. When the hell did she get to be so fucking devious?

“Of me, obviously,” she says.

Derek laughs disbelievingly, “I’m not scared of you.”

Casey just nods gravely, “Yeah, you are. You’ve developed like, an aversion towards me in the past few months.”

“No, I haven’t,” he says, and it’s the truth, he really doesn’t know what she’s talking about. “It’s the same aversion I’ve always felt towards you,” he adds, for good measure.

“Really?” Casey asks, an eyebrow raised, “Then why have you been flinching away from me this whole night?”

“What are you talking about? I haven’t – “

Casey abruptly steps into his space.

It’s an automatic reaction. He doesn’t even think about it, he takes a step back. Casey giggles, and takes another step, making him simultaneously step backwards again, unwittingly (what the fuck?).

“See?” She points towards his movements, clearly mocking him.

When she steps forward once more, he grits his teeth and forces himself to stay put. Casey looks up at him with raised eyebrows, and the mockery bothers him so damn much that he abruptly takes a step towards her himself, chests bumping.

Casey gulps and her laughter ceases. She has to crane her neck to look up at his face with wide eyes.

“Now what?” He asks, his voice coming out low.

Casey’s eyes search his, and she says, voice low, “Now, be brave.”

He doesn’t know what she means by that, so he just keeps staring at her, the blue in her eyes shining so bright in the dim lighting of the hallway, they look like they contain the entire galaxy in them. Derek can feel her breathing, her chest brushing against his with every soft inhalation, and he wonders if she can feel his heart hammering against hers.

“Derek,” she whispers, and he closes his eyes, trying to escape from something, he just doesn’t know from what. Is it from her? Has he actually developed a fear of her? Has she completely and utterly fucked him up?

He feels her step impossibly closer and her breath ghost over his lips. He opens his eyes, and catches a glimpse of her azure gaze before her own eyes close. The instant he feels her lips against his, he’s swarmed by everything he’s been bottling up. He wraps his arms around her waist, pulling her closer, putting all of his frustration in the kiss, Casey meeting him halfway every single time, as always.

Derek’s overwhelmed by her perfume, the sweet scent triggering his memory, how it felt to have her wrapped around him, how it felt to be inside her. And he wants her, so badly that it physically hurts.

She moans against his mouth, and he uses the opportunity to slip his tongue past her lips, seeking her taste. Her tongue tangles with his, and he can taste the faint hint of alcohol in her mouth, and suddenly, reality comes crashing back in.

“Mmh, Case – “ he mumbles against her lips, between kisses.

She makes a little noncommittal noise and keeps kissing him, rough and eager, and he indulges himself into savoring this for a couple more seconds, because he’s been drowning, all this months, and this finally feels like breathing fresh air again.

He removes his hands from her hips to grab her face and kiss her deeper, properly devouring her mouth, his tongue seeking out hers, tangling and tasting and remembering, just in case this never happens again. He kisses her again, and again, until his lungs complain.

Then, he forces himself to stop, ignoring her whine of protest, and removes his mouth from hers. “Wait, Case, just hold on for a second.” He says, breathing heavily, forehead resting against hers.

“What’s wrong?” her voice is all breathy and raspy, and Derek reluctantly moves his face away from hers, because there is a possibility he might just go ‘screw it’ and kiss her again.

“How drunk are you right now?”

“What?” Casey scrunches up her eyebrows, seemingly disoriented, her eyes still fixed on his mouth, making his stomach flip.

“How drunk are you right now?” he asks again, softly.

Casey’s eyes snap to his and a look of realizations passes through her features. “I’m sobering up!” she exclaims, pushing away from him and taking a couple of steps back. “Look!” She holds out her arms and stands on one foot, attempting to do a four with her legs, and proceeds to touch the tip of her nose with one finger. She pulls it off, but it still comes out wobbly.

“But you’re still drunk,” he states, waiting for her to confirm it.

Casey sort of looks to the side, avoiding his eyes, as if she was a child and he was an adult, trying to get her to confess to eating from the cookie jar.

“Casey.”

Her eyes meet his again, “Yes.”

He swallows his disappointment, “Then forget it.”

Casey makes this terrible noise, from the back of her throat, like a mixture between a whine and an exclamation of pain. “You don’t want me,” she says, pitifully.

Derek groans, covering his face with his hands. “Oh, come on, Case.”

“Forget it.” She starts turning around, aiming to open the door to her dorm.

Derek grabs her wrist and makes her turn back around to face him, “Stop. It’s not that.”

Casey smiles up at him a little waveringly, and she looks so terribly vulnerable. A total contrast to the bold girl she’s been all night, and it makes his heart fucking ache. “It’s okay if you don’t want me,” she says, voice only slightly above a whisper.

Derek shakes his head, “Don’t do that,” he says, firmly, intent on making her understand. “Of course I want you, that’s not the problem.”

Casey cocks her head to the side, furrowing her brows. “Then what is it?”

“You’re fucking hammered, that’s the problem,” he says, bitterly.

Casey raises her eyebrows in surprise, and honestly, why is this so hard to understand? Does she really think he would take advantage of her like that? Her surprise fades off after a few seconds and it’s replaced with a skeptical look.

“So, if I was sober you would say yes,” she states, but it sounds more like a question. She’s looking at him inquiringly, like she’s analyzing him, and Derek feels inexplicably self conscious all of a sudden. He doesn’t know why he can’t just talk to her tonight. He’s never had a problem talking to her before.

So he just stands there awkwardly, unable to say anything, and she must have taken his silence as a confirmation that he does not want her, because her face falls again, and she starts backing away from him once more.

“Right, good night.”

Derek curses under his breath, “Wait! Yes. I would say yes.” Because he would, he’s such a sucker, it’s not even funny. She stops and looks back at him, still frowning. He continues, “But that’s the thing. I’m sure that if you were sober, this wouldn’t be happening.” He hasn’t really thought about it that deeply, but once it’s out of his mouth, he knows it’s the truth. She’s just sad, and lonely, and drunk, and he worked fine once, why not try again? He’s just the fucking rebound guy who then gets the silent treatment.

Casey shakes her head, baffled. “What? I was sober the last time it happened!”

And suddenly Derek gets really fucking angry, because how can she be saying all of this now? Why does he have to put up with her drunken nonsense when everything that’s happened between them, all the years of building, all of it has always amounted to a big pile of nothing?

“Yeah,” he says, and Casey reels back at his raised voice, “And then you avoided me for a month and continued to play dumb for another six! So excuse me if I don’t really trust your judgment right now!”

I avoided you for a month?” She hisses back at him, and she seems equally angry. “And where the fuck were you? Camping outside my dorm?” Yup, very angry. If Casey’s cursing, beware.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Casey pokes a finger in his chest, making him flinch. “You keep saying I’m the one who’s been ignoring this, but I don’t recall you bringing it up a single fucking time.”

“Because you were the one who was freaking out!” He shouts at her, and really, it’s weird that nobody’s come out of their dorm to curse them out yet. “You were the one who pretended that everything was normal when you saw me again.”

“Well, maybe I thought there wasn’t anything to talk about! Because you were the one who said it wasn’t a big deal, how was I supposed to know you were expecting love sonnets after that?”

Derek feels his cheeks heat up, which is on another level of embarrassing, but if she points it out, he has the excuse that he’s so fucking pissed off right now that it could be just fury all the same. “I wasn’t expecting fucking love sonnets! Just a little acknowledgement would have been nice!”

Casey throws her arms out in frustration again, “Then why didn’t you do it? Why the hell were you expecting me to make the first move?”

He doesn’t have a comeback for that one. He’s spent so many months wondering why the hell she hadn’t made a move that he didn’t even wonder why he didn’t make one.

His silence fuels her argument, “I’ll tell you why. It’s because you were scared. The ‘Great Derek Venturi’, afraid of big conversations, afraid of everything that’s even remotely difficult or emotionally challenging!” she shouts.

God, he hates her so much right now. Because him? Scared? Had she ever looked at herself in the fucking mirror? “And you’re not scared of anything right? You didn’t spend months wondering what the family would think, or making a thousand pro-con lists, instead of coming to me and figuring things out together.”

Casey deflates a little at that, and the usual smugness he’d feel for winning a fight comes to him dulled by all this aching. She looks up at him softly, and speaks pleadingly. “Let’s figure it out now, then. Come inside and let’s talk about this like two adults.”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Casey!”

“Why not?”

Because what if this is not real? What if this is only her drunken brain talking? What if she changes her mind when she’s thinking clearly again? What if she backs out on him, after he’s spilled his guts out to her?

Derek forces himself to calm down, and match the softness in her tone. “Please, Case. Tomorrow, when you wake up and are sober…” He shakes his head, gathering his thoughts and looking for a way to put it, to be absolutely clear. “If you still want me tomorrow, you know where to find me.”

“Derek…”

“Please.”

Casey stops for a moment, thinking. She’s always been a sucker for when he says ‘please’, for some reason. He’s always used it for his advantage, but now he really means it. Please, Case.

She looks at him for a second longer, and he can practically see the gears turning inside her head. “What if I don’t remember?” she says.

“What?” he asks, confusedly.

“What if I don’t remember?” she repeats, a little sharper. “Will you come looking for me?”

Derek shakes his head, because that’s ridiculous, she’s not black out drunk, of course she won’t forget. “You will. You will remember.”

“What if I don’t?” she presses, stubbornly.

“Casey.”

“Humor me.”

“I…”

What the fuck is wrong with him? Just come up with something to say, you moron! Fucking speak!

“See? What the hell are you afraid of, Derek? That I will reject you?”

Fuck my entire life. His whole head is swarmed with emotions, and he’s never been good at dealing with those. Derek can tell that he is afraid of something, and it feels so spot on when Casey puts it that way. He’s never dealt well with rejection, but yeah, he guesses that if Casey rejected him it would definitely suck a thousand times worse than any other time anyone’s ever done it before.

“I won’t!” she reassures, desperately. “I’m done denying this, I’m done looking for options somewhere else, I want you.”

His heart is going to fucking explode, and he can’t do this, he can’t. “Casey, please, stop.”

“You think I’m lying to you? You don’t believe me?”

“It’s not that, I do believe you… I just.” He does, he believes her. He knows her, she would never say these things if she didn’t mean them. Derek knows she wouldn’t intentionally hurt him. There is this ringing in his ears, getting louder and louder by the second. He can’t hold everything in for much longer, but this is not the way he wants to do this.

“What, Derek? Why are you so scared of me?”

He explodes. “Because you already broke my fucking heart once!”

Well, fuck.

Casey stays silent for a few seconds shocked. Then, she looks at him sadly. “I broke your heart?” she whispers, “What about my heart?”

“…What?”

He reels back when Casey explodes back at him (seriously, where are all the people in this building?), “You think it’s easy, being in love with you for years and watching you date every single girl in Kingston? You want to whine about your poor rock solid heart?”

What.

“In love?” he repeats, dumbly.

“You know what?” Casey snaps, pushing him back. “Leave! Get the fuck out of here Derek, I’ll see you tomorrow, and then we’ll talk. If you haven’t left the province and changed your name by then.”

A second ago she’s in love with him and now she’s calling him a coward again? How the hell does she manage this entire emotional whiplash, she’s insane. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

He knows a challenge when he sees one, “Oh nooo, now I’m staying,” he snarls, “I can’t wait to see you freak out in the morning when bold Casey is gone and you regret every single thing you said!”

“Well, tough. ‘Cause you are disinvited! Leave!”

Derek laughs sarcastically, “Who’s the pussy now?”

“Still you!” she shouts back, “And I’m going to prove it tomorrow when I confess my love again and you freak the fuck out!”

Yeah, right. We’ll see,” he says, starting to walk away. Who the fuck does she think she is? Confessing her love his ass, she’s gonna chicken out again. It’s just a matter of time.

“Wait,” Casey’s voice snaps again.

He whips around, “What!?”

She huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. “Text me when you get home.”

He rolls his eyes, “Whatever. Lock your fucking doors.”

“I always lock them!”

“No, you don’t.”

“I do too!”

“Whatever!” he throws his arms up, “I’m leaving now!”

He waits outside her dorm until he hears her door lock, and then he goes back to his own place, fuming.

 

---

 

When Derek wakes up and remembers everything that happened last night, he groans, covering his face with his hands, completely mortified.

How were they so fucking dysfunctional? What the hell was that shit show they had mounted in Casey’s residence hallway? What was wrong with him?

‘You think it’s easy, being in love with you for years and watching you date every single girl in Kingston?’

He went to sleep with those words bouncing around inside his head. She is in love with him? She’s been in love with him for years? Derek’s pretty new to his own realization, but he figures he’s felt this way about her for a really long time. He just never let himself truly explore it before. But she has known she’s felt like this for years?

Maybe he had been hard on her. That couldn’t have been easy. Derek can’t help but wonder how much time they had actually wasted running away from their feelings, how much sooner they could have had this.

If he’s being honest with himself, he has been a coward. Casey was right, he could have brought up the subject himself. He was just scared she would reject him. He’s still sure she’s been afraid herself, but well, they have always been idiots when it comes to each other.

Why hadn’t he said anything last night? He did want Casey to be in her right mind for that conversation, but she had flat out said she loved him and he had frozen like an idiot. If Casey could be brave, after so many years of bottling up her own feelings for him, then why couldn’t he?

He owes it to her, and to himself. They are worth a shot. Even if they crash and burn, even if he’s still too prideful and she’s still prone to freaking out, they need to at least try.

And all of a sudden, he’s so ready. He’s so done with pretending, with holding back what he feels. He loves her, and she loves him. It’s been six fucking years in the making, he’s so fucking ready. In fact, he’s so eager to get out of here and go running to her dorm and tell Casey everything he couldn’t tell her last night, that he almost sends her flying to the floor when he attempts to storm out of his apartment.

Derek steadies her by her forearms, and blinks at her, bewildered. “Case?” He doesn’t need to ask her what she’s doing here; all the answers are right there in her sparkling blue eyes, smiling softly up at him.

“Hey,” she breathes out.

Derek smiles back at her.

 

The end.