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Defining Life

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“I’m planning a double major, in English and Economics.”



Casey McDonald was ambitious, to say the least. She had every moment and aspect of her education, career, and life planned out before she even entered high school. She was going to graduate high school with honors, walk the stage with her head held high, accept her diploma, and give an inspiring speech to her fellow graduates as class valedictorian. After high school, she would go on to her dream university and make friends that would last for the rest of her life, meet her future husband in one of her classes (probably her Romantic Literature class, because he has to be like Ivanhoe), graduate at the top her class, on the Dean’s list, Magna Cum Laude, and accept her diploma with her head held high. Then she would go on to one of the best law school’s in the world, Harvard, visit her dad as much as possible since they would be in the same country, buy a house with her fiancé, and graduate, with honors, and accept her diploma with her head held high.


She would get married in the Rose Garden Tent at the Royal Botanical Gardens on June 9th, with all of her friends and family, in the most beautiful white dress; a strapless ball gown, with flowers embroidered into the lace, and a long train, which Lizzie would help carry. Her dad would be fighting back tears as he gave her away, and her husband would not be able to hide the look of awe and wonder when he saw her walking down the isle.


They would honeymoon in Paris, where they would stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower at midnight, and fireworks would be set off as they gazed into each other’s eyes. They would drink wine, eat the finest Parisian delicacies, and make love under the stars.


Casey would be the best corporate lawyer she could be, and make her father proud. She would help build businesses with her clients, give them the best advice she could with her vast and expensive knowledge.


Her and her husband would have two children, one boy and one girl, and they would go to the finest private school money could buy. They would work hard, get good grades, and never fight. Her children would be planners, just like her, and they would have a similar path for themselves that she had. They would aspire to be the best. Because if you’re going to do it, do it right.


She would grow old with her husband, watch their kids become adults, watch themselves become grandparents, and at the end of her life, she would never look back and wonder if she did anything wrong, she would never have any regrets. Her and her husband would die together, within minutes, she first from old age, and then him, from a broken heart. They would be buried together, caskets laid next to each other under the dirt.


She planned everything, and it was all going to be great.




And then, instead, her mom married George.



Year One, start.



“What do you want?”


Casey sneered at Derek, his attitude coming across clearly in his words to her. She crossed her arms and raised her left eyebrow, pursing her lips. He looked at her impatiently, waiting for her response.


“You have one of my boxes,” she said, accusation evident in her tone. A look of confusion crossed his face.


“No, I don’t,” he huffed. Their parents had just left, about three hours ago, needing to make the long drive back to London before it got too late. Derek and Casey rode together in the Prince, while George and Nora trailed a u-haul with most of their belongings, plus some furniture they would need, now that they were living on their own, sort of. They argued the whole way, of course. After the summer ended, she held onto a glimmer of hope that maybe Derek would be less of an asshole towards her, that maybe they could become something resembling friends. What a pipe dream.


Casey pushed her way into his dorm, ignoring his protest of “hey!” and dropped her jaw when she saw that he had literally done nothing. Nearly all his boxes were still taped shut, stacked haphazardly on top of one another. The only thing he had unpacked, was his stash of junk food. Three bags of chips lay on the card table he had stolen from George’s garage, one of them opened, chips spilling onto the surface, two bottles of cola, Coffee Crisps, Smarties, and Macintosh’s scattered about.


“Der-ek! This place is a pit! What have you been doing?!” She was appalled. Classes started in two days, how could he just eat junk like nothing was happening?! Didn’t he have to lay out his schedule, color code study materials, plan library sessions—


Oh, no, wait. That was her. She did that.


“Hey, leave me and my food alone. We have a very special relationship and I don’t want you coming in and ruining it. I’m finally free from parental supervision, and I plan on doing what I want, when I want, and eat what I feel like eating. No more of your tofu, green, rabbit food. I’m a man, and I’ll eat like one. If you don’t like it, you can leave,” he sneered after following her into his dorm.


Casey turned to face him, “No, you still have one of my boxes, and I’m not leaving until I get it.”


“Whatever, Spacey, get your box, and get out of here,” he pointed to the open doorway.


“Why are you so eager for me to leave? Hiding something?” She narrowed her eyes at him.


“No, you were the one who wanted to pretend we didn’t know each other, I’m just following your lead,” he shot back, sounding a little bitter, if you asked her.


She scoffed, and took a step closer to him, “Uh, excuse me? You said that we were going to be, and I quote, ‘best buds,’” she raised her brows, clearly a challenge.


Derek eyed her, and took a step towards her as well, “Hah! I only said that so I could get to know your sorority sisters, you actually believed me?” His head tilted down in her direction.


With a huff of her breath, she walked up to him, toe to toe. “What, backing down now because I might score with one of your teammates?”


“I would never back down from you, Princess. I always win,” his voice dropped low, his signature smirk adorning his features.


“It seems we’re at a stalemate, Venturi,” she matched his tone, fire playing in her eyes, the familiar thrill in her abdomen whenever she and Derek got into one of their verbal sparring matches.


No wait, that’s not right. She didn’t get a thrill from this. If anything, the feeling was indignant anger.


“It seems so, McDonald.”


It was an intense stare down, her eyes refusing to leave his, because if they did, she knew he would win. And that just wouldn’t do. Casey felt his crossed arms brush hers, making the hair on her arms stand up.


“Uhh, are you Derek?” A voice called from the doorway. She immediately took a step back, catching her breath that she didn’t know she was holding. Derek turned to face the voice that spoke, and Casey looked around Derek to see who it was.


“Yeah, you Dean?” He sounded casual, like he wasn’t just in a heated unspoken competition with his step sister.


Casey took in Dean’s appearance. He was…cute. To say the least. Dean had shoulder-length dark brown hair, a sharp jaw, and bright green eyes. She thought he looked like a cross between Josh Hartnett and Ethan Hawke, two of her many celebrity crushes. When Dean flicked his eyes over to her, he smiled an incredibly awkward grin, and it made her heart flutter.


“Yeah, sorry to interrupt you and your girlfriend—”


Derek and Casey spoke at the same time, interrupting Dean.


“She’s not my girlfriend!”


“I’m not his girlfriend!”


Dean’s eyes widened at the outburst, “Whoa, sorry. I just assumed. Anyway, uh, I just got here, my parent’s are bringing my stuff up now. It’s nice to meet you Derek, and…?”


Casey walked over immediately, extending her hand to Dean, “I’m Casey, Derek’s step sister,” she said with a wide smile. His hand was large in hers, as he shook it with a small smirk. “It’s nice to meet you too, Dean.”


Derek watched their interaction with narrowed eyes, and interjected before something else happened that he was not ready for, “Alright, Spacey, enough fraternizing with my roommate. Get your box, and get out.” He grabbed her shoulders to steer her away from Dean, shoving her towards the stack of boxes in the corner.


“No way, Derek. You haven’t unpacked a single thing, and if I don’t do it for you, it’s never going to get done.” She started on the first box at the top, cutting through the tape with her set of the Prince’s car keys, and starting removing items.


“Whatever, Keener. Just don’t touch my records. I’ll handle those myself.”


Dean stood awkwardly in the doorway, watching both Derek and Casey as they bickered over the right way to unpack a box, where to put his belongings, and whether or not Casey would be doing his laundry (she wouldn’t be, not if she could help it), and wincing when Casey smacked Derek upside the head when he said laundry was a woman’s job, not a man’s. “Uhh, do you need help, Casey?” Dean asked, apprehensive.


Derek and Casey both looked over to him, both wearing matching facial expressions.






Maybe Dean shouldn’t have said anything, and maybe he should have been more careful in picking his roommate, and not just gone with someone who had the same initials as he did. He sighed, and walked out to meet his parent’s downstairs to bring his belongings up. It was going to be a long year, he could already tell.


Derek’s dorm was nice, bigger than Casey’s, but it didn’t have separated bedrooms, something Derek had a huge problem with. But George would not budge, claiming it was cheaper this way, and Derek wasn’t paying for it, so he got no say on the matter. Instead, their beds were against opposite walls, the bathroom in between them. Their dorm only had one window, on Derek’s side, so he could at least look out at night, so there was that. His issue with the bedroom situation was that Dean would be the first person he saw when he woke up, a direct eye line to Dean’s bed, and it seriously cramped on Derek’s plans to have a different girl every week. How could he hook up with Casey’s sorority sisters if there was another guy in the room? Not cool, George, not cool at all.


Casey had decided not to pledge to a sorority, wanting her own space for a while. Her dorm room was…tiny. It was just her, thank goodness, and she would enjoy the newfound quiet of not having a bedroom right next door to Derek. Plus, she knew how she was, and didn’t want to overwhelm a potential roommate with her particularly tedious study habits and cleaning routine. It was nice. However, she didn’t have her own bathroom, and had to use the community restroom down the hall. At least it was an all-female residence, so as bad as it might be to share shower space, it was way better than sharing it with men. Especially if any of the guys here were anything like Derek.



Dean is in my Romantic Lit class.


On the second day of classes, she spotted him, sitting in the third row from the bottom, nearest to the windows. She paused in the doorway, gasping lightly when she saw him. He looked over and saw her, his eyes squinting for a second before they widened in recognition. Dean waved her over, good thing too, because she was just pushed by someone else trying to get in, so she had already started taking the first step towards him. She saved her fall by taking that step, it wouldn’t be good to make her introduction into Queen’s as Klutzilla. Derek would have a field day if he heard that.


She smiled shyly as she sat next to him. “Funny seeing you here,” she giggled.


Dean looked down at his notebook for a second, before returning to her gaze, “Yeah, well, I want to be an English professor someday, so. Gotta take all the lit classes.”


An English professor?? And he’s in my Romantic Lit class!


Her heart soared.


And that’s when Casey decided that maybe her mom marrying George wasn’t so bad, after all. She could stick with her plan.



“This is not happening.”


Derek was furious.


Because Casey, fucking CASEY, was dating his roommate. Or, well, they went on a date. This was not happening. This was not in his plan for university. Casey was not supposed to be dating anyone he knew. And his roommate definitely qualified as someone he knew. This was not fucking happening.


“Derek, calm down. This isn’t the first time I’ve dated one of your friends,” Casey was furious, too. Because she was her own person. Derek did not dictate what she could and could not do, and that included her romantic life.


“No, this is so much worse than when you dated Sam,” he growled, “I live with Dean! You can’t date him!”


Casey saw red. How dare he? What, he could sleep with any of her friends when he wanted, and she had to distance herself from any male in his life? Not fair!


She grit her teeth, “I can, and I will. You are not the boss of me, you’re not my father, and you’re not my brother. You have no bearing over what I do, or who I do. So take the stick out of your ass, and leave me alone.”


“Oho, no, Casey. I can’t leave you alone now. You have pretty much guaranteed that I will always be around when you and Dean want time together. I live here, and you aren’t allowed to have men stay the night in your dorm. It’s against the rules. So, when you want to spread your legs for him, you’ll have to think twice, because I am always going to be here,” he snarled. Casey wouldn’t break the rules. He knew she wouldn’t. And now that he promised to always be around when her and Dean were at his dorm, there weren’t many places they could go to be alone alone. Derek would do anything to prevent Casey from sleeping with Dean. For no other reason than his dislike for Casey barging into his life and ruining his plans for himself. It was a challenge, and Derek never, ever, backed down from a challenge with Casey.


This really sucked for Derek. Dean was actually a really cool guy. He was nice, had a great sense of humor, and knew how to party. Everything that was not Casey. Derek also learned that Dean was the resident drug dealer in their building. He didn’t deal anything like cocaine or heroin or meth, just weed and some psychedelics. Derek had dabbled with marijuana a few times in high school with Sam and Ralph, and even Casey had gotten high one time with them. After graduation, they went to Ralph’s party together, and Sam had procured a little baggie with the green stuff. He, Sam, Ralph, Casey, Emily, and some of the hockey team and drama club (Casey’s idea) had sat in a circle, surrounding a fire pit in Ralph’s backyard passing a blunt around. That night Derek had found that Casey might not be so bad, she had gotten super giggly, laughing at everything he said.


He remembered that night fondly, not that he would ever admit it to Casey, but he had a really great time with her. Telling her stupid jokes, pulling on her pig tails, and he tried to convince her that the moon was actually a sentient being that watched her and judged her every time she tripped down the stairs or spilled her lunch. She had gasped dramatically, grabbed his face with both her hands and bore her wide blue (and red) eyes into his half-lidded golden brown gaze. When he couldn’t keep the lie going any longer, he snorted loudly and cackled at her, his head thrown back. She started laughing with him and dropped her head onto his shoulder, his arms automatically embracing her. He never noticed the looks everyone was throwing them, acting so out of character. What he did notice, however, was how the scent of the crackling fire clung to her hair, mixing with her vanilla shampoo, how, without thinking, he pulled her tighter to his chest, and dug his nose in her hair, inhaling deeply. How she had relaxed against him, her fingers curling at the back of his neck. How the warmth of the fire at their side was nothing compared to the heat of her body. How when she finally pulled back, she had a beaming smile on her face, how her eyes sparkled at him, and how much he wanted to kiss her.


He blamed the weed for that last one. He wouldn’t have thought that stupid, disgusting thought if he wasn’t high.


Fuck you, Derek,” she shouted at him, her eyes glowering with her anger towards him.


Derek advanced on her, his rage fueling his movements until, once again, they stood toe to toe, “Not even in your dreams, Case.” The words came out lower pitched than he intended, gravelly and rough.


His fists clenched at his sides, knuckles white. Derek saw the blue flames dancing in her eyes, and couldn’t look away. They both knew whoever broke eye contact first, lost. It wasn’t exactly difficult to stare at her, but it always made him slightly uncomfortable in ways he didn’t want to explore.


Casey felt her extreme irritation for him boiling in her stomach. Her fingers itched to do something, slap him, shove him, anything, but her arms remained crossed below her chest, and she gripped her biceps hard, nails digging half moon crescents into her skin. The intensity of his gaze caused her face and chest to redden. From rage, not because of anything else, of course.


She was thankful for Dean, because he must have heard their shouting match from the hall, and he entered his dorm to find Casey and Derek in yet another unintentional staring contest. As soon as he came in, both Derek and Casey looked away. Derek went to lay on his bed, opening a comic book and ignored Dean. Casey walked to her almost-boyfriend, and wrapped her arms around his neck. They had already shared their first kiss, well, first seven-ish kisses, on their date the night before, so she felt comfortable enough to stand on her toes to peck him on the mouth, just to piss Derek off more. She never backed down from a challenge either.


“Come on, Dean. I know a great Italian place not far from here. Let’s go get dinner, and we can work on our papers together.” She didn’t give Dean time to reply before she grabbed his hand and dragged him outside. Her stomping feet didn’t cease until they were four blocks away, safe from Derek and his schemes to ruin her relationship with her potential future husband. When they had reached the stairwell of his resident hall on their way out, Casey could have sworn she heard Derek let out a frustrated yell, and she grinned. That felt like winning, to her.



Derek made good on his promise; he was always there. Dean had no idea what Derek had said to his girlfriend of three months, only that he seemed to be playing the protective brother role a little too well. Dean was getting a bit frustrated with his and Casey’s lack of privacy, but Derek acted oblivious.


It wasn’t subtle, either. Dean would bring Casey over to watch a movie on his laptop, and Derek would nudge himself between them, feigning interest in whatever period piece Casey picked out. He would pick apart each scene, making snide comments on the script, how unoriginal the plot was, etc.


Dean would try to take Casey out for drinks, and Derek invited himself along, claiming they would need a designated driver, and hey, he’s being responsible for once, Casey, it should be encouraged. On the way back from the bars, Derek would always drop Casey off first, and walk with them when Dean escorted Casey to her door.


Dean tried time and again to convince Casey to let him stay in her dorm, but Derek had made friends with some of the girls in her hall, who would report back to him on her doings, because, wow, that’s so sweet, looking out for his naïve sister. Derek also made a point to mention that it was against the rules to Casey, and because she had an obsession with being a rule-follower, never made an exception for Dean.


If Derek had a game scheduled, he mentioned to Nora that he would feel better if he had his dear step sister to cheer him on, so Nora convinced Casey that she should attend his games for moral support. Sometimes Dean went, but mostly not. Hockey wasn’t his scene.


Unfortunately, this had an unexpected side effect. Derek was actually hanging out with Casey, quite regularly. He got to know her, better than he had in high school. And, Derek really hated thinking this, she was kind of, almost, a little bit, fun.


When the three of them would watch movies, Casey and Derek shared laughs together. One time, she touched his knee at a particularly side-splitting scene in the latest comedy. He denied that it had sent bolts of electricity under his skin.


When they went out for drinks, he and Casey would people-watch, making up outrageous back stories about the bar patrons. It was always fun, and helped Derek develop his creativity that he could use as a future director. Casey would adopt various accents and dialects, creating characters out of thin air, and he would throw insane plot twists at her. When they walked her back to her dorm, his hand would brush hers ever so slightly. A few times he had to carry her in his arms and put her to bed, while Dean was passed out in the backseat of the Prince.


Derek introduced her to the girls in her hall, and she started making some really great friends. A tall brunette named Lexi, who lived three doors down from her, was a Performance Arts major. She helped Casey join a ballet class after hours. Derek tried to make it every Wednesday evening to watch her dance.


When he had a game, (he wasn’t a starter, only went out on the ice every now and then) he felt his pregame nerves subside when he saw her in the stands. She started bringing baked goods to the team, whether they won or lost, and would give his teammates tips on how to keep the colors on their jerseys bright and vibrant.


He liked spending time with her.


When Casey and Dean had their first fight (over a test that Dean didn’t study enough for, even though Casey begged him to take it seriously), she called Derek, and she brought him into her dorm. All the girls knew he was her step brother, so Derek was deemed an exception. He talked her through her anger, helped her realize that she can’t control Dean’s study habits, only her own. If Dean wanted her help, he would ask her for it, Derek told her. Just go easy on him, Case, he had said.


The three of them smoked pot together once. Derek stayed safely on his side of the room, while Dean and Casey sat on Dean’s bed. It wasn’t a particularly memorable night. The strain was an indica, so they were all slow and sleepy with their conversation and movements. Casey brought up the moon, and Derek tried not to remember the last time he and her got high together. He took her back to her room after Dean succumbed to the relaxation of the weed.


Then, miraculously, Derek had a late hockey practice. Casey was ecstatic.


She had come over as soon as her ECON 110 class let out, and Dean was there waiting for her. She had been looking forward to this for three months. It wasn’t going to be perfect, she knew, and she had already lost her virginity to Max in grade 11, so it wasn’t going to be exactly what she pictured when she was a preteen, but it could get pretty close.


Dean had bought cheap candles from the dollar store in town, and set them up on his desk near his bed. The lights were off, and the window near Derek’s bed was covered by the curtains Casey insisted they put up, so the flames from the candles cast a low glow in the corner of the room. Casey smiled, he was so sweet. How Dean and Derek were actually friends was beyond her understanding.


“Hey,” she bit her lip, suddenly bashful.


“Hi, beautiful,” Dean pulled her into his arms, warm and safe. Casey closed her eyes as she leaned up and kissed him. Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck, drawing him down to her. She sighed into his mouth, content in his embrace. This was the only opportunity they had to make this work, and she didn’t want to rush it, but she also didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth and insist they wait. Casey wanted this, to sleep with Dean. She thought she could fall in love with him, but wasn’t one hundred percent sure, mainly because of Derek’s continued presence in her romantic life with Dean.


As their kiss deepened, Dean slowly dragged her to his bed, laying her down. The gasp she let out as her body fell on the mattress was an excited one, and Dean smirked at her. He crawled his way over her, his hands touching and caressing everywhere they could, and Casey let him. One by one, items of clothing fell to the floor, forgotten in their endeavor for the connection of their bodies. He took his time with her, licking, kissing, nibbling, until she was a panting puddle beneath him, desperate for his touch. She groaned when he entered her, gasped when he pulled out, moaned when he went back in. Their bodies rocked in sync with each other, the candle light adding to the steamy ambiance. Whispers of his name left her lips to caress his skin. Tongues twirled together, hands intertwined, her legs wrapped around his back, his hips slammed down into hers. It should have been perfect. She wanted it to be perfect. And the truth of the matter was, that it was perfect, in every single way, save one: she couldn’t stop looking over to Derek’s bed, wondering if his mattress was more comfortable than Dean’s.


Afterwards, when they lay together, upper bodies at the foot of the bed instead of the right way, legs tangled and sweaty, her head resting against his bare chest, they spoke softly to one another.


“Hey, baby?” He whispered into her hair.


She hummed, eyes heavy.


“Have you ever done acid?”


She knew about his, ahem, extracurricular activities. She tried not to have a problem with it. Derek had been the one to tell her, in an attempt to get her to break up with him, a week after their first date. But that would mean that Derek won, and she just couldn’t have that. Plus, it wasn’t like she had a problem with marijuana, she had gotten high before, so that would make her a hypocrite if she did. Casey just wasn’t sure about the psychedelics he was involved with. They scared her, she didn’t know what they could do to her mind. She remembered the anti-drug education classes in grade 7, warning that it only took one time to make one lose their mind if they used drugs. Casey was also afraid of what she would do under the influence of mind-altering hallucinogens. She thought back to that night after graduation, where she got high for the first time. Derek and her had behaved…oddly. That was putting it lightly. She remembered the warm comfort of him finally hugging her, how amazing it felt, how the feeling of him laughing against her body sent a shiver down her spine, and the look on his face when she grinned at him, grateful for his sudden affection. Casey hated him, and herself, for it. It was wrong, in how it felt. When she smoked with her boyfriend and Derek, she sat rigidly on Dean’s bed, refusing to give herself the opportunity to misbehave like she did her first time.


“No, I don’t know if I should,” she finally answered, her voice sleepy.


Dean trailed the tips of his fingers up and down her spine, the blanket covering their bottom halves. It left her breasts somewhat exposed, but she kept herself close to Dean’s body, the heat radiating from him to warm her.


“Well, you’ve smoked pot before, it’s kind of similar. Just more intense. It’s like…everything feels better. Food tastes better, the world looks more beautiful, it’s a very emotional experience. They say you should only do it with people you really trust,” he murmured gently against her head.


Casey pondered what he said to her. It didn’t sound too bad. She already enjoyed the beauty of nature, if LSD made it more beautiful, then, why not? Plus, she trusted Dean, she knew he wouldn’t force her if she didn’t want to try it, and would guide her through the trip if she did decide to take it.


“I’ll think about it,” she was still a little unsure, but maybe, one day, she could do that with him.


Dean started to talk more about what LSD felt like, but Casey wasn’t listening. How could she, when she heard a very distinct laugh from outside the dorm, and the unmistakable sound of the door opening?


She froze, fear (and something else she couldn’t name) coursing through her veins. Dean didn’t notice her stiffen, and continued his lazy exploration of her back. That is, until Derek walked in.


“What the FUCK?!”



Derek had a very tiring, rough practice that night. All he wanted to do was eat a pizza, have a beer, and watch movies on his laptop. His feet were aching, his body sore, and he just needed to relax.


But no. That would be asking for just a little too much, wouldn’t it?


He dropped his hockey bag to the floor with a load thud, eyes blown wide, jaw hanging open. Shocked by the sight before him, his feet rooted themselves to the floor, refusing his mind’s demand to run.


Casey’s naked. Those are her tits.




Dean sat up, faster than lighting, and pulled the blanket up to cover Casey. She couldn’t move. Her eyes were stuck staring into Derek’s. Embarrassment flooded her face, a deep crimson color. Derek’s face, however, was white as a ghost.


“Dude! Can’t you knock?” Dean yelled out, voice high pitched and mortified.


Something in Derek’s eyes registered that Dean was talking to him, and with a jolt, his mind returned to reality.


“I fucking live here, why would I knock?!”


Casey found her voice, after hearing Derek, “Der-ek! Get out!” She shrieked, and Dean winced when the sound pierced his eardrum. Derek turned his gaze back to Casey, the tips of his ears burning red. She looked at him, her blood cold. With only a second of hesitation, he spun on his heel and walked out, slamming the door behind him.


Casey let out a breath, closing her eyes tight. This was so embarrassing, she could die.


“Oh, my god. I cannot believe we lost track of time,” she groaned. This was going to have to be addressed. Casey couldn’t just let Derek walk around knowing what her breasts looked like. She had to give him a stern talking to, warning him that if he ever said anything, to anyone, about this, she would kill him. Literally.


Dean rubbed a hand down his face. He got up out of the bed, and started gathering their clothes, handing Casey her underwear, pants, and shirt. He couldn’t find her bra; it must have gotten lost somewhere in the sheets. Dean slipped on a t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants while she dressed herself quickly.


“I’m sorry, babe. I should have paid closer attention,” he sounded sincere to Casey, and she couldn’t blame him, this wasn’t his fault. She sighed.


“No, Dean, it’s fine. I have to talk to him though. He’s going to need extensive therapy, but I can at least try to talk him off the ledge,” she tried to joke to ease her mortification. It didn’t work.


Dean nodded, pulling her into what he hoped was a comforting hug.


“I’m sorry our night got ruined,” he mumbled.


“No, no. It wasn’t ruined. It just had an…unexpected ending,” she returned the gesture. “I’ll call you tomorrow after class.”


She gathered her bag, slipped on her shoes and coat, and walked out.


Derek was leaning against the wall opposite of the door. She shut the door softly behind her.




Derek stared at his shoes, still whiter than she had ever seen him. He looked like he was going to be sick; pale, sweat beading on his forehead, eyes wide and unfocused.


Casey cleared her throat. He didn’t look up, or even acknowledge that he heard her. She tried again, louder.


His head jerked up to meet her eyes, his pupils enlarged. Taking a cautious step towards him, she sighed.


Derek didn’t speak. Casey supposed she should have expected that he didn’t talk first, this being a very traumatic scene he stumbled upon. She knew she needed to say something, but she didn’t want to talk about it any more than he did. And besides, how does one even broach the subject? She was certain the internet would be clouded with inappropriate imagery and advice on What To Do If Your Step Brother Sees You Naked? Shaking the thought from her head, Casey moved to stand next to him against the wall, letting the firm surface behind her become her new backbone.


“So…” she started quietly. If she was being honest with herself, she was extremely afraid for Derek’s reaction. In his attempt to keep her away from Dean, she ended up spending a lot of time with him, and she found that it was one of the best things he ever did. Not because of Dean, of course, but because she felt they were finally friends. Hanging out with both Derek and Dean was easily the best part of her day. Not only because she was spending time with her boyfriend, but Derek made really good company. He already knew her quirks and habits, could read her emotions better than Dean could (Casey figured because they lived together for three years, he had a leg up on Dean in the Emotional Casey department), and she didn’t want to lose that.


Derek’s eyes followed her movement. He chose not to speak, terrified of what he might say to her. He tried to keep his mind in the present, outside his dorm room, with Casey next to him. But every little twitch or tremble her muscles made, he couldn’t help the images in his head, on a constant loop, of Casey staring directly into his eyes as her boyfriend covered her bare chest.


Casey cleared her throat, obviously extremely uncomfortable in this situation. “Look, let’s be adults about this. It was awkward, and weird, but you have to eventually come to grips with the fact that I am a young adult woman who is sexually active. I am going to have sex with my boyfriend, whether you like it or not.”


Derek blinked. Something was not fitting, he thought, with what she said. The way she phrased it, it almost sounded like she was more worried that he would be shocked to find out the she had sex in general, not a word about the fact that he walked in on her while she was exposed.


He didn’t comment on it.


And because Casey cannot stand silence between the two of them for some reason, she continued to fill it with words, “Obviously this situation isn’t…ideal, but I really like him, and I know you do too. You guys get along great, and I just want this to work out. For all of us.” She couldn’t look at him, so she stared at the floor, her head hung low.


Derek attempted to swallow the lump in his throat, but coughed instead, mouth and throat devoid of any moisture. “Do you—” he cleared his throat, “do you want me to walk you back to your dorm?” His voice was rough and scratchy, and he hated it.


Casey released a heavy sigh, and tilted her head to thump against the wall. “Derek…” she shifted her eyes to him, “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have had to have seen…what you saw. Dean and I didn’t think, and jumped at the first opportunity we had while you were away. I know this whole thing started because you were trying to sabotage us, but…I think you and I have kind of, become friends because of it, right?”


He blew air out of his mouth forcefully, his hand reaching up to run through his hair and rub his neck. Casey observed him from the corner of her eyes, watching his expressions morph from shock, to bewilderment, to the unmistakable tired. Her heart thudded in her ears, waiting for him to respond.


“Yeah, Case, we’re—we’re friends,” he finally let out. “I shouldn’t have tried to keep you guys apart. It really blew up in my face.” He didn’t outright say he was sorry like she did, but that would have to do for now. It was much more than he had planned on saying, maybe ever. Admitting he was friends with Casey was surreal, it went against everything they were in high school. He knew it was a bit juvenile to think that way, but it just made having her in his life easier if he denied what their relationship had turned into.


Casey nodded stiffly against the wall. Apologies out and over with, she tried to make light of the situation. Derek always responded to humor, even Casey’s lame attempts. “Well, now that you know what my…breasts look like, don’t go spreading the news to everyone, or I’ll have to murder you in your sleep,” she forced a grin.


Color returned to Derek’s face, even if it was red, it made Casey feel a bit better about the situation. When he smiled, it didn’t look forced. On the contrary, it looked like he was trying not to smile too hard.


“What, you mean the fact that you have a freckle—”




“Hey, you were naked, in my dorm. I can’t be blamed for what I saw,” he teased, and despite the very adult theme, it felt normal. She was used to Derek teasing her, no matter the topic of the teasing, and it made her relax. He continued, “Know any good therapists? Oh, what’s Paul’s number? I know you have him on speed dial.”


She laughed, a real, true laugh. “Shut up, Venturi. Walk me to my dorm.”


He slung his arm over her shoulders, “Whatever you say, McDonald.”





As Derek made the trek back to his dorm after dropping Casey off, the looped image of her played constantly in his head. When they lived together, he had maybe, once or twice, thought about what her chest looked like. But not because he was like, obsessed with her or anything. Just male teenage curiosity. He had seen Sally’s and Kendra’s, and when he thought of them, his mind would trail off to wonder what Casey’s looked like. Would her nipples be pink or tan? Were they really that perky, or was it just her bra that held them up so high? Would they bounce or slightly jiggle if she was sitting on his lap, riding him? What would they feel like in his hands?


Well, at least he knew what they looked like, now.


Not that he genuinely wanted to know, just curious.


He had been so shocked by the sudden sight of her in Dean’s bed, that he didn’t notice the erection he had unwillingly sprung until he walked out of the room and waited in the hall. Thankfully, it went away the second the door opened, and he thought Dean was going to be standing there, waiting to knock him out for seeing his girl like that.


His feet stopped outside his room.


Derek was still somewhat intimidated by the potential that Dean would tear him a new one for barging in, but hey, Derek lived there, he shouldn’t have to be careful about entering his own living space.


When he opened the door to step in, he noticed Dean sitting on his bed, back against the wall, smoking a bowl.


“Hey,” Derek grumbled. He had always liked Dean, but in that moment, he loathed him. Derek tried to convince himself it was out of brotherly concern for Casey. It didn’t work.


“Hey. Would it kill you to give us some space?” Dean started right away. “I mean, I know she’s your sister—”


Step sister.”


“—whatever. But come on, man. As a dude, you know what it’s like. I’m 19, and I have a smokin’ hot girlfriend that I’ve been dying to get into, and you constantly being around is really fucking me up.”


Derek blanched at the way Dean spoke about Casey, and crossed his arms. “Well, Dean, as her step brother, I’m not sure I’m liking the way you’re talking about her. She really likes you, and you’re referring to her as a piece of ass. She’s not. And if you don’t treat her right, I’m going to have to do something about it.”


Dean sighed, “Look, you’re right, sorry. She’s not just a piece of ass. I really like her, too. I just wish you weren’t so protective over her. She’s an adult, she can make her own decisions.”


Derek slumped onto his own bed across from Dean. He didn’t want to have this conversation, not one bit. “Whatever, man. Just show her some respect, and we won’t have a problem. I’m going to bed.”



By the time the holidays rolled around, exams complete, bags packed to visit home, Casey thought Dean would want to take the next step in their relationship and meet her blended family.


“Dean, please? I know my mom and George would really like you, and I think we’re ready for this,” she pleaded with him as he packed his suitcase.


“I don’t know, Casey. I’m not good with the whole ‘meet the parents’ thing. Besides, my dad has my little brother for Christmas this year, and I never get to see him anymore. You can understand that, right?”


She could; being a child of divorced parents herself, she knew that if she could only see Lizzie a few times a year, it would kill her inside. She hardly ever saw her dad to begin with, losing someone as special to her as her sister would be devastating.


“Yeah, I guess. But we’ll talk everyday over break, right?”


“Of course, I’ll call you every night,” he assured her.


“Thanks, babe.” The door opened, and Derek sauntered in. “Oh, hey, D. Do you have everything—”


“What did you call him?” Dean interrupted.


Casey stared. “D? It’s…what?” She was confused. She could have sworn Dean was around whenever she referred to Derek as D. It was just one of his nicknames, like Der, jerk, pig, cad, asshole…


Dean shifted his incredulous gaze quickly between Casey and Derek, and Casey could see the wheels turning in his eyes. Derek was just as confused as her. It was only a nickname. What was the big deal?


“Nothing, forget it. I gotta go,” Dean mumbled. Casey wore her puzzled look blatantly on display.


“Okay, I’ll call you when we get back to London.” She stood on her toes to kiss him goodbye, but Dean turned his head, so her lips landed on his check instead. Rejection stung deep in her chest. With one last look, Dean left.


Damn, Princess, what did you do?” Derek asked.


“I have no idea,” she spoke, sadness evident in her tone. She shook herself, “Anyway, are you done packing? We need to get going soon, or it’ll be really late and we’ll miss dinner.”


“Ah, about that…”





When the front door opened, Casey and Derek were bombarded with tight hugs, I’ve-missed-you’s, and voices tumbling over one another. George put their suitcases in their respective rooms while Nora set the table. Simon was babbling in his high chair in the space between Derek’s and Nora’s seats in the dining area. Casey sat herself in his chair, tickling under Simon’s chin, getting him to laugh, and feeding him baby food. Derek watched the scene from his spot at the island in the kitchen. She was so good with babies. Kids, not so much; he remembered when she needed his help for Marti’s summer camp. Her idea of fun activities couldn’t entertain anyone, let alone a bunch of grade school kids. He smiled softly, as he watched Simon grab a lock of Casey’s hair, and tug.


“Ow!” She yelped. Derek’s feet moved before his mind told them to, and he came up behind her to untangle Simon’s fist.


“That’s what you get for sitting in my chair, Spacey. Simon’s got my back, don’t you buddy?” Simon let out a squeal, drool and mushed carrots dribbling around his mouth.


Casey looked up at Derek, eyes filled with mirth at seeing Derek interact with their baby half-brother. He let a hand linger on the back of the chair she was sitting in, and she felt his fingers brush her shoulder.


“Hey, Derek,” she whispered, “after everyone goes to bed, do you want to meet me in the backyard?”


He paused. “Why? Planning a hit?” He kept his voice low, not knowing what she was planning, but had a feeling it was supposed to be a secret.


She giggled, “Not in the way you’re thinking. I haven’t quite reached the ‘contract killer’ stage of our relationship yet.”


He picked up what she was throwing down. A smirk played at his lips, as he leaned down to whisper in her ear, “Why, Casey, you wouldn’t happen to be referring to a certain friend by the name of Mary, would you?”


She had a glint in her eye, that told him, yes, that is exactly what she was hinting at.


“I might be,” she breathed.


“Alright, we’ll meet at midnight.”



Throughout dinner, Casey and Derek fell back into their bickering, although it took on a more mischievous tone. Nora and George exchanged silent looks across the table; it was apparent that Casey and Derek were getting along better, but it felt weird. They weren’t used to the two of them exchanging in somewhat normal conversation. The insults still flew between them, but without their words dripping with distaste. Derek and Casey didn’t notice.


Nora cleared her throat, “So, Casey, honey. Tell us about your boyfriend, he’s a friend of Derek’s right?”


Casey looked sharply at her mother, then back to Derek. He had an unreadable expression on his face. “Um, yeah. He’s actually also in one of my lit classes, so we got to know each other from there.”


She noticed how Derek’s posture seemed to relax, after she mentioned she knew Dean from one of her classes, not as Derek’s roommate.


“Oh, what’s his major?” Nora asked, while wiping the spittle from Simon’s chin.


“He’s a double major, English and Education. He wants to be a professor.”


George chimed in, “Well, that’s great, Casey. Good for you. So, when do we get to meet him?”


“Dad, come on, you don’t want to scare away good ol’ Dean that fast, do you? I mean, it’s pretty much a guarantee that if he met our family, he would run for the hills.” Derek joked. He could tell Casey was uncomfortable, after what had transpired between Casey and Dean in his room. What that was about, Derek still didn’t know, and he didn’t think Casey did either. She gave him a grateful smile, which he returned with a wink. “Hey, Ed. Speaking of, you strike out with Cecelia yet? It’s only a matter of time.”


And thus the focus was off Casey, and onto Derek and Edwin, as George reprimanded him for his insensitivity, and Edwin went red and defended himself. Lizzie shook her head, laughing at the dynamics of their family, and Simon threw his food at Derek. Casey laughed so hard, she cried, and Derek beamed at the sound.



Casey was already there, waiting for him. She set up a blanket on the ground for them to sit on, and had two more; one wrapped around her shoulders, the other folded neatly by her side. There was a can of air freshener that Lizzie would balk at her for using (it’s an aerosol! Those are terrible for the environment!), two water bottles, and a pack of mint gum. It didn’t come as a surprise to Derek that she would plan out everything to avoid the stench of burning weed to permeate the air around them, clinging to fabric, water for when they got cotton mouth, and gum to mask their breath.


The night was dark, silent, and the full moon sat high in the black sky, a few stars visible, but most drowned out from the light pollution of the city.


“Took you long enough,” she whispered as he sat to the side, facing her direction, pulling the blanket she handed to him around his shoulders.


“You’re lucky I showed up at all. How do I know there isn’t a hit man waiting in the Davis’ backyard?” He kept his voice low, so as not to alert the household of their activities.


“Because if I was planning to kill you, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it at home with potential witnesses. I thought you knew me better than that, D?”


There it was again, the nickname he had, that Dean was so upset about. It literally made no sense, and Derek wracked his brain, trying to come up with any possible reason why he would be upset by that.


“Whatever, Spacey. Bowl or blunt?” He asked, wanting to get to the good stuff.


“Bowl, no roach to throw away after.”


Casey brought the instrument to her lips, lit the end and pulled. She kept the smoke in her lungs for a few seconds, and released, blowing into his face. Derek waved his hand, muttered “rude,” before he accepted the offered bowl from her and took a hit.


They passed the bowl between them a few times, comfortable in the silence between flicks of the lighter.


When Derek would get high with Sam and Ralph, he did something he never thought he would ever do; they watched documentaries about the universe. There was just something so amazing about the vastness of space that fascinated Derek when he was high. It was so endless, stretching beyond the capabilities of the human mind. He knew there was so much more out there than he could even begin to comprehend. The three of them would throw ridiculous theories at each other, Ralph’s were always the craziest ones. But Derek retained the information he learned from watching. It was truly amazing.


So when he and Casey found themselves laying on the blanket, heads together, but bodies pointing in opposite directions, he couldn’t help but get mesmerized by the full moon above them.


His mind trailed, thoughts chasing one after another, spinning off in various different directions, until he once again pondered his nickname.




She hummed, breathing softly next to his ear.


“What happened today?”


Casey paused, she didn’t want to ruin her high talking about Dean. “I really don’t know, D. I wish I did. I tried to call him after dinner, but he didn’t answer.”


Derek thought for a second, then, “Maybe you shouldn’t call me that anymore.”


Casey pulled her head away from his a bit, turning to look at him. He tilted his head to meet her upside down gaze. Her blue eyes were outlined in red, making them more vibrant and bright. “But, that’s your nickname. I’ve always called you that.” She pouted.


“Well, obviously Dean has some kind of issue with it. It might be best to stick with ‘jerk,’ instead,” he joked, but the inflection was lost in his breath.


Casey reached her hand up to play with his hair. She was always more touchy when she got high. Derek relaxed at the sensation, and scooted himself closer to her, until the top of his head rested against the top of her shoulder. Her throat bare in front of his face, and he could see her pulse point pumping in her neck. Casey let out a sigh, and nuzzled her face into the space between his neck and shoulder, reveling in the feeling of his stubble scraping her nose on his sharp jaw. He closed his eyes, the scent of her vanilla shampoo invaded his senses, overpowering the sharp stench of weed.


“Case,” he whispered against her neck, suddenly more sleepy than he had been just minutes ago.


“Hmm?” Her fingers continued to tangle in his hair. It sent a shiver down his spine that had nothing to do with the crisp December air.


“Do you love him?”


She was silent for a long time, and Derek thought she had maybe fallen asleep.


“…I don’t know.”


He felt her words on the skin of his throat, and vibrate against his lips where they rested on her neck. His heart stammered in his chest, and he reached a hand to intertwine with hers in his hair. “Okay.” That was enough for him.



They stayed that way for another hour, until they were at risk of falling asleep in the frigid outdoors, and finally went to bed. Casey didn’t approach him to talk about that night, so neither did Derek. It became an unspoken agreement between them, that they didn’t bring up anything that occurred between them when they were high. Just like the campfire night. It was acknowledged, but never discussed.


Casey called Dean the next afternoon, and stayed on the phone with him for a long time. Derek tried not to eavesdrop on her from his bedroom, so he put his headphones on and turned the volume all the way up.


At dinner that night, she was more relaxed, happier, and more willing to tell her mom how great Dean was. Derek took that to mean they had made up, and Casey would continue to date him, even though Derek knew, from their midnight conversation, that Casey was doubting how she felt about Dean. He tried not to be disappointed. It didn’t work.



Christmas and New Year’s came and went, gifts exchanged, the final countdown to midnight, and he and Casey didn’t smoke together for the rest of their break. He again tried not to be disappointed, and it still didn’t work.



“Oh, I’ve missed you,” Casey groaned into Dean’s embrace. He kissed the junction where her neck met her shoulder, and mumbled an agreement.


Derek watched from his bed, and tried to hide the expression on his face. That, too, didn’t work.


He was in big trouble.



The weather warmed, spring upon them. The trees had sprouted buds, birds sung in the early mornings. Derek had acquiesced, and gave Dean and Casey more private time, making himself scarce every now and again. Dean thought Derek was finally giving up, in some silent way giving his blessing for Dean to date Casey, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Derek discovered that he was jealous of Dean, in a way that made his stomach lurch, and he felt sick. He slept over at various girls’ dorms, who for some gross reason, were always brunette. They never had blue eyes, though. Derek drew the line there. He couldn’t look into someone else’s blue eyes while fucking them, the thought stabbed him in the side.


Casey insisted that Derek go out with them, though. He still had a great time with her, loved that she could keep him on his toes when making up stories about strangers. Except, Dean chimed in every now and then. Casey would humor Dean, but sought Derek’s eyes when continuing the plot.


There were times when Casey and Derek went out, just the two of them, while Dean was busy meeting ‘clients’ or his supplier. Casey never wanted to tag along with him when Dean was dealing. Derek thought that was safe, he didn’t want her to get caught up in Dean’s shady side business. They could indulge, sure, but actively trading was a different story. Casey enjoyed those times the most, if she was honest with herself. She didn’t have to watch her language, could call Derek D without the fear of upsetting Dean. Casey loved that Derek always smirked at her, knowing glint in his eye, when she called him his nickname. They would drink merrily, laughing wildly at their made up tales. She caught herself holding onto him a few times, when she bellowed so hard she couldn’t breathe, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. Derek would reach to wipe them away with his thumbs, and she would bite her lip. Casey did that on purpose, always, because his gaze would flicker to her mouth. She got a thrill from it, that she would never admit to anyone, not even her diary.



Near the end of March, the three of them smoked together in Derek and Dean’s room. They watched Animal Planet, and Casey was bewitched with the featured Cheetahs, how fast they ran, how graceful they moved, the beautiful spotting of their fur.


Casey turned to look at Derek, who reclined on his bed, facing her direction, “If I was an animal, do you think I’d be a Cheetah?”


Derek snorted, “No, you’d be a swarm of hornets.”


She cackled, her head falling to rest on Dean’s shoulder. She glanced up at him, “Dean? I would be a Cheetah, wouldn’t I?”


Dean kissed her forehead, wrapped his arms around her, and smiled, “Yeah, babe. You would definitely be a Cheetah.”


She giggled, “See? I would be a Cheetah,” she threw Derek a look that said I told you so.


After a few hours, Derek started to feel himself fall asleep.


Casey yawned, “I should get going,” she said to Dean, quietly.


Dean sighed, “Just stay here, it’s late. I don’t want you walking back by yourself, and I’m too high to walk you.”


Casey looked over at Derek, who was laying down, his face burrowed in his pillow. “Derek? Is it okay if I sleep here?”


Derek raised his head, one eye open, “It’s fine. Just no funny business, Vaskowicz. I mean it.” He addressed Dean.


Dean got a hard look in his eyes as he stared back, “Wouldn’t dream of it, Venturi.”


Derek rolled his eye, and turned over to face the wall.


Casey bit her lip, her heart fluttering in her chest. She was nervous. She had never fallen asleep in the same room as Derek before, without their siblings. Though she had spent the night a few times in his room, he was never there. Casey knew what he was doing during those times, and felt a twist in her abdomen whenever she thought about it.


She slid under the covers of Dean’s bed, slipping her jeans off under the blanket, they were too uncomfortable to sleep in, she reasoned with herself, but kept her tank top on. Dean settled in behind her, between her body and the wall. She couldn’t help but realize that her and Derek were essentially in the same positions they were that night in the backyard, only separated by several feet. Their faces would be aligned, bodies pointing in opposite directions. She felt Dean’s arm curl over her waist, pulling her in tight against his front. Casey let out a shuddered breath, willing her nerves to calm, and closed her eyes, begging herself for sleep.


Derek didn’t know what time it was, only that it was still dark, when he awoke suddenly. While he was sleeping, he must have turned over, away from the wall. His eyes opened, trying to adjust to the shadowed room. The light from the street lamp flowed in through his window, illuminating his face. He closed his eyes again.


Then, he heard it.


Whispered voices on the other side of the room, from the direction of Dean’s bed. In his half-asleep state, he had nearly forgotten that Casey was spending the night.


“Baby, come on, he’s dead to the world, he won’t hear.”


“I don’t know, Dean, it’s weird. How would you feel if your sister had sex in the same room as you?”


Derek held his breath. Please, for the love of god, no. He feigned sleep, not knowing what else to do. He hoped Casey would stand firm in her decision.


“It’s not the same, you guys aren’t really related.”


Yeah, that was all too true, Derek thought, but it didn’t help, being that Dean was the one pointing it out, just so he could get it on with Casey.




When Casey spoke her boyfriend’s name, it wasn’t in rejection like Derek had hoped, it was as a breathy moan. The sound pierced his ears, traveling deep into his abdomen.


He heard movements, a rustling of the comforter, perhaps, the creaking of the bed. The didn’t speak anymore. Derek heard muffled whispers, the light smacking of lips on skin, and it made him sweat. He wanted desperately to go back to sleep, but knew the adrenaline coursing through his veins would make his wish impossible.


The urge to open his eyes was too strong, and he gave in.


What he saw when the room adjusted, was like a punch to the gut.


Casey was flushed, crimson spreading over her cheeks, down her chest, under her shirt. She gripped the pillow beneath her, body gyrating under the blanket, her boyfriend thrusting behind her. Derek could see a hint of Dean’s hair and forehead, just over the slope of her neck, his eyes shut tight.


Casey’s eyes, however, were wide open, and pouring into Derek’s own. He fought back a gasp. His heart positively raced, a warm, prickly feeling overwhelming his body, down to his toes.


When she realized Derek was watching her, she bit her lip, trying to choke down what would have been a very loud moan. She felt a flutter inside her, not in her chest, but down there. It caused Dean to grip her hip tighter, his movements in and out of her speeding up, but still trying to keep quiet. Casey never closed her eyes, as horrible as it was, she just couldn’t. Derek watching her was giving her more pleasure than Dean ever had. She knew she would have to seek psychological help after, but in the moment, she chased that pleasure. And, she reasoned, Derek could close his eyes if it was that disgusting; but, just like when he walked in on her and Dean, he didn’t.


Derek couldn’t control his breathing, fast and shallow, as he watched Casey get fucked. His palms itched to travel under the waistband of his boxers, but he couldn’t move. Seeing Casey in the throes of passion, just, did something to him, that he couldn’t explain. He regretted not getting Paul’s phone number from her all those months ago; he knew there was something deeply wrong with him for getting excited at the sight across the room. But she looked so…beautiful, ethereal, writhing her hips, small gasps of air leaving her lips.


His eyes, illuminated by the outside light source, were dark, deep, penetrating, into her own blues. She felt a gush of liquid heat at her center, and finally, she let out a quiet moan, loud enough for Derek to hear her. Her right hand slid out from under the blanket, to extend in his direction, and her heart stuttered, mouth fell open, when Derek’s own hand did the same. The feelings she was experiencing would normally weigh her eyelids down, but she knew if she closed them, the spell would be broken, and she didn’t want that. Something about it felt familiar, like their staring contests during a heated argument. First to look away, loses, she thought.


Then, Casey did something that she knew would haunt her, bear down on her subconscious for the rest of her life.


With her eyes firmly holding his beautiful, deep, golden brown gaze, she mouthed his name.




He knew what she said, even without the sound of her voice to accompany it. Something in his mind snapped, and he blindly reached down to where his blood was pumping to, gripped, and furiously jerked himself. My name. Derek. My name. He had masturbated plenty of times in his life, but it never felt like this. His brain tingled, which he didn’t even know was possible, all the hairs on his skin raised, and he felt pleasure shoot through every inch of his body. He bit down on his lip, hard, to prevent any sounds from escaping him. With his right hand occupied, he reached his left toward her, palm facing up, far over the edge of his mattress.


Casey, her eyebrows drawn up, realizing, with a jolt of her hips, what he was doing under his blanket, extended her right hand farther, fingers stretched, wanting desperately to feel his hand in hers. She remembered how their fingers intertwined together in his hair, that night in December, and she let her thoughts linger on the feeling. Quickly, Casey felt the familiar climbing sensation within her, and knew she was going to come, while maintaining direct eye contact with Derek.


She couldn’t help herself; she moaned, quietly, “Baby, I’m gonna come.”


She knew she wasn’t talking to Dean anymore, she was speaking only to Derek. Her boyfriend groaned against her neck, but she ignored him, too caught up in the morphing expressions on Derek’s face. Casey felt deliciously dirty, knowing Derek was touching himself at the sight of her, and she imagined it was him penetrating her, him whom she was dripping all over, his arm holding her tight. 

The dam had been broken, and she couldn’t stop the words flowing from her mouth, “Fill me up.”


When he heard her naughty whispers, he knew it was meant for him. His mouth hung open, his brows scrunched together, hips lifting off the bed to thrust into his hand. He lightly nodded at her, letting her know he heard her. His dick throbbed in his grip, and knew he was going to come with her. The knowledge of that choked him.


As she watched him, she felt her body leap over the metaphorical edge, coming hard around her boyfriend’s cock. She kept her eyes open, not even daring to blink. Her lips parted, gasping wildly as her insides pulsed. Casey felt Dean come into the condom in her, his arm tightening around her stomach, but she remained looking at Derek, until she felt her boyfriend move.


Derek knew the moment she had finished, and it triggered his own orgasm. He bit his tongue, forcing himself to stay silent, as he made a mess over his fist in his boxers and pajama bottoms. He tried to calm his breathing, knowing that if he panted too hard, he would alert Dean of his wakefulness. Derek kept his eyes fixed on her, until Dean lifted himself over her and kissed her cheek. He clamped down the horrible feeling in his throat as he watched Casey divert her gaze, and closed his eyes.


While she watched Derek come, his chest falling and rising rapidly, she suddenly felt guilty, having completely ignored Dean while he was inside her. She looked away first. When Dean kissed her cheek, she couldn’t help but recognize a nagging thought in her head.


She looked away first. She lost.



They both feigned sleep. They knew they weren’t going to get any rest after what had transpired between them. When morning came, she couldn’t meet his eyes. She was exhausted, and she could tell Derek was, too. Casey spent the hours silently crying, while Dean snuggled himself against her neck. Derek had turned over to face the wall, but she knew he remained just as awake as she was.



They didn’t talk about it. It was their silent agreement. What happened when they were high, was acknowledged, but never discussed.



It was only a few days later, when her and Dean were in his bed, and Derek was out with some girl she had never met, that she remembered.


The first time she slept with Dean, when he had been so sweet, lit candles, made her feel so comfortable in his arms. That night, when she couldn’t stop looking over at Derek’s empty bed, she realized, why her boyfriend was so disturbed, so upset.







She had called Dean, D.





“I think I want to try acid.”


Dean picked his head up to look at Casey across their table in the library, mid May. She held her chin in her fist, looking down at her color-coded notes, absently writing in the margins of her notebook. Her textbook lay open next to it, and she periodically glanced between the two.


If he hadn’t heard her, he wouldn’t have known she even spoke to him, the way she was steadfastly not meeting his eye.


“Are you sure? You seemed so against it last time we talked about it,” he questioned. He wondered where her sudden interest had come from, it was very out of the blue for her to suggest she try a new drug.


Casey nibbled on the end of her pen, something she picked up from helping Derek study.


“Yeah, I mean, you made it sound not too bad. And I appreciate that you haven’t tried to push me to do it. And...I trust you,” she whispered the last part, knowing in her heart that yes, while she did trust Dean, there was someone else whom she trusted more, with her life.


“Are you absolutely positive, Casey? I don’t want to be the reason you have a bad trip if you freak out.” He kept his voice low, a droning sound that seeped into her ears. It used to relax her, before that one night. Now it made her feel sick with guilt.


The first week or so after it happened, she had avoided him. She made up excuses as to why she couldn’t go to their room to Dean, and it seemed to frustrate him. But Casey couldn’t very well tell him that she was avoiding Derek, he would want to know why, and she wanted to take that secret to her grave.


After that week, they had run into each other, both trying to use the Prince. Dean was dealing, so she was thankfully alone when she saw Derek approach. When his head lifted to see her standing at the car, driver’s door open, he froze.


Casey opened and closed her mouth, not knowing what to say or how to say it. Derek could see the tears start to well in her eyes, and it broke him. No matter what internal crisis he was going through, he knew Casey was feeling it twice as much. She was a thinker, she over-thought everything in her life. Derek was more of a, go-with-the-flow type of guy, so even though they had both crossed over an invisible line in their relationship, he knew Casey was likely tearing herself apart trying to dissect it all.


A painful look washed over his face, and without saying anything, he closed the distance between them, and gathered her in his arms. She immediately released a deep breath, and cried into his shirt, her hands gripping the back of his leather jacket tight. With his eyes squeezed shut, he whispered into her ear reassurances that everything was going to be fine, his left hand stroking her hair, his right rubbing comforting circles against her back. They stood together for a long time, not noticing the students eyeing them.


Case, he had whispered, it’s going to be okay. She looked up at him, what if it’s not? She questioned, her voice small. He had taken a deep breath, and placed his hand on her cheek, wiping away her flowing tears. I promise, he spoke, I’m not mad, it happened. We can’t change it. She stayed silent for a moment, then, will it change things between us? Derek had shaken his head lightly, I promise, it won’t. We’re still…friends. It had physically hurt him to say it, he knew he didn’t want to move backward from the forward progress, but Casey was still with Dean, he had to accept that. She had nodded at his response, okay. Her arms had wrapped around his neck to pull him down in a tight hug, and he had squeezed her just as hard. I promise, Case. I will always be there for you, he had mumbled into her neck. She breathed, thank you.


Dean stared at her, waiting for her to look at him. Casey flicked her eyes up at him, keeping her chin low, “I’m positive, Dean. But, if it’s alright with you, can Derek do it with us? I know he would want to be there for me, just in case.”


Dean stiffened, his jaw set tight. Over the past several weeks, he noticed a shift in Casey’s relationship with her step brother; she had hung out with Derek more, he was always at her Wednesday night ballet class, and now that the hockey season was over, she spent most of her time helping him study, and going out to their favorite bar together to make up ridiculous far-fetched stories of strangers. Dean never mentioned it, and instead had expanded his business ventures to other avenues. Neither Derek nor Casey knew he started selling cocaine, panicked university students needing the extra energy to make it to finals. Dean had never used it, would never use it, but Casey had made it clear to him at the start of their relationship that she was one hundred percent not okay with the idea of it. She had also started acting strange when she was alone with him. Anytime he felt the moment was just right, to tell her he loved her, she would get a look in her eye, and change the subject, or suggest they go out, surrounding themselves with other people. His moments alone with her, that he had once been so grateful for, were becoming few and far between. She slept over at his dorm, but they never initiated sex again when Derek was sleeping there, across the room.


“Yeah, no problem,” he didn’t want to say it, but also didn’t want to face her wrath if he told her no. She could be incredibly scary when she was mad, no matter who pissed her off. It reminded Dean of his mother, before his parent’s divorce.


Casey gave him a smile, “Thanks, babe.”


Dean nodded.



“Let me just—okay. Hold up. You want to drop acid?”


Derek looked at her, bewildered.


They sat together on his bed, books scattered about. Dean was in class, so Casey took this opportunity to discuss her plans with him.


“Yeah. Dean asked me about it last semester. I didn’t at the time, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I did some research. I think it could be a very enlightening experience.” She shrugged, trying to act like she wasn’t incredibly nervous.


Derek eyed her, and ran his fingers through his hair. “And you want…me, to do it with you?”


“Me and Dean, yeah,” she corrected.


“Are you serious?” He couldn’t believe this was the same Casey McDonald who once thought he was selling drugs out of his high school locker. The difference from then to now was remarkable.


Casey sighed, her head falling back, and closed her eyes. She turned to look at him, “Yes. I am. Dean told me I should only do it with someone I trust, and...I trust you more than anyone in the world.”


Her words hit him right in the chest. His gaze softened, and he reached his left arm to wrap over her shoulders, his thumb rubbing her skin. “I just, I want to make sure this isn’t some kind of, spontaneous, crazy, Spacey moment you’re having.”


“Derek…you said—you said you’d always be there for me,” she mumbled. “And, this is…I just want you there. Please.”


He studied her face. She had nothing but absolute sincerity in her eyes. His heart warmed.


“Okay. I’ll do it with you.”


She beamed.


And then, as Derek was trapped by her smile, he had a thought that frightened him, shook him down to his core, that he knew, had known, maybe for years; I’m in love with her.



Derek spent the next couple of days, in between classes, studying with Casey, and trying not to love her so much, researching the perfect place for the three of them to drop LSD. He knew Casey would want to be far from other people, but still have facilities nearby in case something went wrong. Derek also had a more selfish motivation; if he was going to trip, he wanted the scenery to be amazing.


Which is how he stumbled upon the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve. It was roughly 120 kilometers north of Queen’s, had bathrooms, picnic tables, and was isolated. It was perfect. No light pollution, and the view of the sky was going to be incredible. He knew Casey would love it.

When he told her and Dean about it, she was ecstatic. Dean was interested as well, but Derek could sense the subtle annoyance from him, knowing that Casey wanted Derek to be there. It made him smirk, a feeling of pride welling in his chest. 

That weekend, they had packed up the Prince. Casey brought a tent, sleeping bags, a twenty-four pack of bottled water (Dean told them they needed to stay hydrated, it would lessen the chances of a bad trip), snacks (Casey wouldn’t let Derek bring junk food; dried fruits and nuts were better, she told him, she had researched it), Derek’s portable stereo, and a first aid kit. 

In the car, Casey squirmed in her seat. She sat in the front passenger seat, Derek driving, and Dean napping in the back. The setting sun cast a golden hue on them. She was a ball of nervous energy, excited at the prospect of the location, and a bit apprehensive; she knew that whenever she and Derek got high, they did things they didn’t normally do with each other. Casey held onto the hope that, with Dean being with them, she could keep her hands to herself, and not try to jump Derek. Although, she thought, Derek probably wouldn’t mind it if she did. Casey felt her cheeks warm at the idea.


She glanced over at him, his left hand gripping the top of the steering wheel, his right resting on the center console that separated them. Derek looked at her, his mouth spreading into a wide grin that she couldn’t help but match. She quickly looked over her shoulder at Dean, he snored away. Dean told her he got carsick sometimes, and had taken half a Xanax for the hour and a half drive. When her gaze shifted back to Derek, he was staring at the road again, but he relaxed his body when Casey discreetly threaded the fingers of her left hand with Derek’s right. He didn’t say anything, just gently squeezed her hand in response.



They pulled into the dirt parking lot just as the sun sank below the horizon. There was a concrete helipad, where two or three aspiring astronomers were setting their telescopes up, equipment scattered on to the picnics tables that surrounded the small area. Beyond the helipad, was a wide open field, dense forest creating a wall that cut the preserve off from the rest of the township. Casey grabbed her backpack with her and Dean’s spare clothes, her sleeping bag, and the cooler that contained their snacks. Derek collected his own backpack, the tent, and his sleeping bag, while Dean carried the twenty-four-pack of water, his sleeping bag, and the first aid kit. Derek had to make a second trip for his portable stereo. The wandered over to the far corner of the field, near the tree line, wanting to distance themselves from the skywatchers.


While Derek set up the tent, Casey grabbed a bottle of water, and started chugging. She was nervous. They could only afford one tent, and Casey still didn’t know how they were going to go about their sleeping arrangements. She knew Derek would not want to sleep beside Dean, and Casey didn’t trust herself to sleep beside Derek.


After the tent was put up, they rolled their sleeping bags out in a triangle, wanting to first sit together and watch the sky. After they settled in place, Derek to her right and Dean to her left, Dean pulled out a plastic baggie, with three small squares of what looked like paper.


“Okay,” Dean started, “we each have one hit, that’ll be enough. Case, you have to remember to remain calm. I know you’re feeling a little anxious, and that’s totally normal. I was a nervous wreck the first time I dropped. As far as sensations go, it’s going to take about twenty to forty minutes before you start to feel the onset. Before that, you might get a little nauseous, don’t worry, it will pass after ten minutes or so.” Casey leaned in, listening intently to what Dean was telling them. He continued, “It’s going to start small, like you’ll be fascinated with, like, a leaf or something, and you might feel like your vision clears, like…” Dean struggled to find the words, “kind of like when tv static clears up, and the picture is perfect.” Casey nodded. He finished, “And after that, the feeling builds. You might cry, you might laugh, but I think you’re going to have a great time.” He smiled at her, and Casey grinned back, turning her gaze to Derek. He had been strangely quiet, but when Casey looked at him, she saw that he was listening as closely as she was.


“Ready?” Dean asked them.


Derek and Casey glanced at each other, a knowing glint evident in each other’s eyes. They both turned back to Dean.






And so, the three of them placed the papers on their tongues, and waited.



“There are so many lines,” Casey whispered to herself. The blade of grass, whose roots sunk low, deep into the Earth, fascinated her. The veins, the ridges and bumps. It was dark, so dark it distorted the color of the grass, until it almost looked purple, though she knew it to be green. They had been keeping hydrated, empty plastic bottles stuffed into a shopping bag to be discarded later. Dean sat to her left, leaning over her shoulder to see what was so interesting.


“Casey…it’s alive.” He breathed into her ear. She felt tears prickle the corners of her eyes.


I know,” Dean was so right, Casey thought, of course it’s alive, it was so beautiful, so small. She wanted to hold it close to her, feel it’s life breathe into her skin, but didn’t want to kill it. Derek’s radio played music softly from near the tent. She felt the music reach into her soul.



“Casey. Casey. Casey, Casey, Casey.”


Dean was rambling, unable to keep his thoughts straight. He felt uneasy. He had bad trips before, and knew the feeling for what it was. He didn’t want to freak Casey out, knowing this was her first time, but he needed to get away. He knew how he was when he had a bad trip, and tried to come up with a way to tell her without scaring her.


She looked at him, her eyes wide, pupils blown. “Dean?”


Dean took a deep breath, “Casey, I have to go lay down in the car. I’ll be back soon, I promise. Derek will look after you.” He knew it was a mistake to take that Xanax, but he had no choice.


“What? No, Dean—”


“You’ll be okay, babe, I know you will. Derek is here with you.”


Then he left.


Casey looked over to Derek. After the onset started, he had settled himself on his sleeping bag, feet towards the tent, his head nestled next to the pillow in her own sleeping bag.


Derek felt amazing. He knew it would be a great idea to come here; the sky was so wide, stretching far beyond, the stars were…he couldn’t find the words. So he stayed silent, while listening to the music and Casey marveling at the little bits of nature around her. The world breathed with them, pulsating with each inhale and exhale of his lungs.


He didn’t even notice Dean leave, until Casey laid her head next to his, in the exact same positioning they took that night in December, her eyes shut. He felt the heat of her hand touch his head, and it tingled through his body.


“Where’s Dean?” He whispered into the air, letting his words float in the light breeze. He could feel when they entered her ears.


“He left,” she spoke just as softly. She kept her eyes closed, feeling him speak into her, even though they didn’t face each other. He let his hand rest against the side of her face, their heads pressed close together. She felt any apprehension of Dean walking off leave her, and sink into the earth below. Casey had Derek, he would protect her, she knew this was truer than anything else in the world.



“Casey, open your eyes.”


She did.


The sky above gazed down upon her. She felt the weight of the stars and the dark matter between them comfort her, embrace her. It whispered to her, told her the secrets of the universe; she knew they were her secrets alone, Dean could never know, never understand, what the stars were telling her. She couldn’t hold back her tears, the astounding beauty above overwhelming her senses. She felt it in her bones, she could taste it, smell it, touch it.


Casey lifted the hand that was not buried in Derek’s soft, feathery hair, up, fingers stretched out.


“Derek,” it seemed they could only whisper now, not wanting to disturb the flow of the heavens, “I can feel it.”


Derek raised his unoccupied hand, his right stayed put on her cheek, and joined hers in the air, tangling together, “I feel it, too.”



“Did you know, the light from the stars that we see, is ancient. Casey, we’re looking back in time.”


She let out a shuddered, trembled breath of air. Her eyes continued to water. “Oh, my god. We’re looking back in time. Tell me more, please,” she begged.


They had moved, his head resting against her stomach, beneath her breasts, and she lay hers against his abs. Their hands clasped together, between them, their bodies curved towards each other.


“There’s a theory, that at the center of each galaxy, is a black hole. If it were possible to travel through, we would reach another universe, and that universe would have hundreds of millions of galaxies, with black holes, and it just...keeps going,” he couldn’t stop his voice from shaking. His mind traveled beyond where they lay, soaring through the solar system, passing through nebulae. And with him, holding his hand, was Casey.



“Do you think it’s possible for another Casey and Derek to be there?” She didn’t know what she was asking, but she felt a compulsion to do so.


Derek sat up slowly, lifting her with him, and stared into her eyes. He could see the lights of the sky reflected in them, shining, and it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Without his permission, his eyes started to water.


Casey felt him move her, and followed along. Derek would keep her safe, she knew. He wouldn’t let her float away with the wind. She kept her hand tight together with his, while he lifted one to brush a stray hair behind her ear, coming to rest on her cheek.


The expression on his face was one she had never seen before, and it exhilarated her.


“No, Case,” he answered, his voice sinking into her abdomen. Derek rested his forehead against hers. “No, there’s just us.”


She let out a sob, knowing that what he said was the truth.


The music surrounded them, wrapped them in a warm blanket, until it was only them; shielded from the rest of the world, from Dean. He was a forgotten memory in the back of her mind. They kept their heads together, their eyes never wavering. It was another familiar moment, first to look away loses, but it felt more profound, deeper. Casey recognized the song as one that played at Ralph’s party last year. It was the most perfect piece of auditory art in that moment. Wait by M83. She felt it swell in her chest, and knew Derek felt it, too.




He searched her eyes as the hand on her cheek migrated to the back of her neck. There was nothing else, but the two of them. The world slipped away, until they were floating together, suspended in time, song carrying them. The urge to kiss her was pulling him towards her. He felt her warm breath caress his lips, she was so close.


Casey felt his nose bump hers. Everywhere they touched tingled, electricity burning her skin. His face was a blur before her, but she couldn’t shut her eyes.


Derek felt his heart race, knowing that what he was going to do, they would never come back from. With a deep intake of air, he leaned in.


Casey felt his lips brush hers, and it made her blood sing. She gasped, their mouths open, touching, but not kissing. A hand lifted, gripping his neck; it was hers, she thought idly. She rubbed her thumb below his ear. Casey felt Derek pull away, ever so slightly, before he tilted his head and finally, finally, he brought his lips fully to hers.


The feeling of her caused something to burst in his chest. When he felt her respond to him, he let his hand slide up her neck and into her hair, pulling her closer. He slanted his mouth against hers, opening to allow her tongue to twirl with his. She tasted like the most refreshing drink of water, after wandering the desert for so long; it was overwhelming. He let go of her clenched hand, and wrapped his arm around her waist, pressing their bodies flush together.


Her heart beat with his, her now free hand reaching up, to tangle the chord of his necklace. She knew, logically, that it was the LSD causing her to feel everything more intensely, but she didn’t care. Casey had unknowingly been waiting for this moment for years; every fight, every laugh, every memory they shared with one another, come together, to lead her here, with him. He felt like the sun in her sky, leading her to warm plains, wheat grass waving with the wind, the color of his eyes.


Nothing existed beyond them, and when he pulled away from her, Derek poured his soul into her dazzling blue eyes, and knew, he could never look away.





When dawn approached, Derek and Casey moved to the tent, setting up their sleeping bags together, smiles plastered to their faces. They had already started their comedown, relaxed in each other’s presence. Derek pulled Casey close to him, holding her head against his collarbone, and she wrapped her arms around his abdomen. They lay there, in the warmth of their sleeping bags, legs intertwined, until they fell asleep.



Late morning, they packed up their makeshift campsite, and walked to the car, where Dean was passed out in the backseat, oblivious to what had transpired. The drive back to Kingston was silent; Derek and Casey had nothing to say, everything that needed to be said had happened, last night, in the silent conversation between them.


Derek had not, however, confessed to Casey the depth of his feelings for her. As high as he was, he knew it had to wait; she still needed to handle her relationship with Dean.



The end of the school year approached fast, and Casey helped Derek pass his classes. Not with extraordinary marks, but good enough to allow him to return the following semester.


They didn’t talk about it. It was acknowledged, but not discussed, what they did when they were high.


But this time, it didn’t feel like a guilty secret to her anymore. She knew, just like she knew in December but wouldn’t admit, that she didn’t love Dean. The day after they arrived back at Queen’s, she broke up with him. She told him it was because of the trip, but led him to believe him abandoning her was the cause. He was upset, to say the least, and it made living with Derek extremely uncomfortable. Casey didn’t go to their dorm anymore, Derek went to hers. They didn’t expand on their new physical boundaries yet, but they both knew, their relationship had transformed dramatically from what it was at the start of the school year.


Derek still went to her ballet classes, and they still went out to drink at their favorite bar. Still told wild stories, but were more comfortable with letting a hand linger here and there.


Casey received great marks around the board, but thought to herself, since their trip, she felt limited by the confines of her academic plans. After much deliberation, pros and cons lists, and conversations with Derek, she made a decision.


Her prepubescent life plan was no more. She wanted to explore, learn, and study, the deep mysteries of the universe. She wanted to find the answers she couldn’t remember the stars telling her.



As they were packing their dorms, loading the Prince and a u-haul with their parents, Casey made an announcement.


“Mom, George, I have something I need to tell you. I’m changing my major.”


And that’s when Derek decided, because he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, ever since he was a kid, and even though they only just finished their first year, he would document her journey as his senior thesis.


Year One, complete.