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Under a Spell

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He knows how he got roped into this.

It was her cute, innocent, adorable blue eyes blinking up at him. Oh, and those little hands folded in the air at her chest, begging her little heart out.

So, of course, he agreed to play with Marti. Like he could ever say no to dressing up and marching around the house with her, slaying dragons and other imaginary foes.

He just wonders when Casey got roped into it, too.

Usually, it is only him and Marti. Usually, Smerek is the only one to agree to play with her like this. And usually, no one else cares to join.

So he's confused how Casey has come to be standing beside him, in a too-small tutu, and a tiara perched on her head, and talking like someone straight out of Hamlet. "Taketh up thine sword," she enunciates, and he rolls his eyes.

"What?" he scoffs.

"Thine sword, Knight Smerek," she repeats, her forehead wrinkling with incredulity.

"You mean this?" he clarifies, lifting up his hockey stick and waving it at her.

"I pray thee, yes."

"Are you even talking English?" he shakes his head, blinking at her.

For a moment, she breaks out of character. "Yes, you doorknob. I just thought this would be more fun if we spoke like Kings of yore."

"Kings of yore?" He can't stop a scoff from escaping his throat. "God, you're such a dork."

"Says the boy with a bed sheet wrapped around him and a wreath of flowers on his head."

"Hey, I am a prestigious knight of the round table. I have fought wars you could never even imagine." He stops his lips from curling upward when he notices a small smile creep across her face.

"Like hell I couldn't," she retorts. "I am a renowned Princess Warrior, descended from the royal women of Scandinavia."

He sandwiches his face between his hands, as if in wonderment. "Ooh," he drawls. "Scandinavia!"

"Shush!" Marti intervenes. "You'll blow our cover!"

"Our cover from what?" Casey asks, turning quickly away from Derek (after stabbing him with one last scowl), and then crouching down beside the youngest Venturi.

Bringing a finger to her lips, Marti dramatically whispers, "The Dragon."

A sharp breath cuts Casey's throat. "Oh no!"

Derek's eyes roll upward at her contrived enthusiasm. "It's just a dragon," he jests. "Guess they don't have those up in Scandinavia, huh?"

At the interruption, Marti tugs on Derek's makeshift toga until he is forced to kneel beside her. "I said be quiet!"

He lifts his hands in surrender. "Your wish is my command, m'lady."

Okay, so he kind of thinks Casey has a point about the whole speech thing. And even though he doesn't know exactly how to convert his thoughts into seventeenth-century speech, he admits, it makes pretending pretty damn easy.

The Dragon? There is no dragon, and it turns out that Marti is imaging the creature, perched on the opposite side of the house - far in the living room, past the stairs and dining table.

"He's angry," she informs, turning to Derek and Casey. "He has Casey's Princess Jewels, and we have to get them back."

Derek nearly laughs at Casey's serious expression. Her eyes widen, and her jaw goes slack, like this is an actual occurrence. Like she actually is a Scandinavian Princess, with lost jewels.

"The fiend!" she squeaks.

He has to hold his tongue - keep himself from rolling on the ground and teasing her to no end for taking this so seriously. And even though he finds her totally dorky, it's also kind of endearing. He's known a lot of girls - some "better" than others - but he has never known any of them to do this. To dress up and make a fool of herself just to please his little sister.

So he can't make too much fun of her, because he likes it. He likes that she is comfortable enough to do this with them, and he likes that she hasn't even made fun of him yet, either. (Other than that spat about his bed sheet attire and headdress, but he's decided not to count that jest as an insult).

There's been quite a few girls who have made fun of him for being such an avid playmate of Marti's. And on the other hand, there have been many girls who have thought he was cute for playing with his little sister.

But none of them, in all of his dating history, had ever put on a tutu and brought themselves to tears over a couple imaginary jewels being taken hostage by an imaginary 'fiend'. This is a first for him: playing pretend with someone other than Marti. It excites him a little bit - just a little bit, mind you.

His stomach lurches, though, when Marti's voice turns very formal, and direct. "Smerek, you are the Prince-"

"Hey, I thought I was a knight?" he defends. "We agreed I was Knight Smerek."

Marti's bottom lip pokes out in a threatening pout. "I want you to be a Prince."

His eyes roll. "Fine. Whatever. I'm a Prince."

She claps her little hands, very joyfully. "Casey is your Princess-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Derek interrupts, and takes a step back, arms waving dolefully in the air. "My Princess?"

Casey agrees with Derek. "I'm not... his Princess."

"Yes you are. This is my game. You have to be the Princess."

Casey huffs. "I am a Princess. Just not his princess."

"Please, Casey? Please?"

Casey bends down. "Why don't you be Prince Smerek's princess?" She suggests, in a bit of a panic. "You'd make a great princess for a prince like Derek." Her voice is high, and even though he searched for it, he can't detect even a hint of scornful sarcasm.

"Yeah, I'd much rather you be my Princess, Smarti," he pipes in.

Her arms cross in defiance. And her left foot stomps in frustration. "No!" She lifts a pointed hand at them. "I want to be the magical fairy."

"But Marti-"

"I want to be the magic fairy, Smerek! Casey is the princess!"

Both of the older siblings lose their voices at her demands, and make terrified eye contact. But they know there is no arguing, and it's too late to say no to playing this game. That would make the little tyrant before them even angrier.

So Derek hangs his head and sighs. "Ugh. Fine. Whatever."

Casey repeats his sentiments.

And once Marti is back on top of the world, she starts orchestrating the scene carefully, telling them what to do, and what is happening, and where they need to stand.

Once in a while, Derek finds himself laughing and smiling. And he really finds himself smiling whenever Casey says something, and she's still talking all gobbly-gook, with thee's and thou's and thine's.

"Oh no!" Marti screams.

He panics for a moment. "What's wrong?" he asks, reverting to Big Brother, rather than Prince Smerek, and rushes over to his baby girl.

Marti's hands cup her face in worry. "Casey has been put under a spell by the dragon!"

Casey perks up. "I have?"

He groans a little bit. Of course she would be excited about something like that. She'd probably claim it was 'romantic' and 'old-fashioned'.

Marti confirms the action, and Casey dramatically presses the back of her hand to her head, and falls to the couch, falling gently and rather attractively. (But Derek definitely doesn't think that. Totally not. Not in a million years).

He joins Marti at Casey's bedside. "What's the prognosis?" he asks, and when Marti scrunches her little eyebrows at him in confusion, he clarifies, "what spell is she under?"

"The sleeping beauty spell."

Aw hell no.

He knows where this is going. And the way he sees Casey's eyes snap open, he can tell she has the same thought as he does. And then she sits up.

"Actually, Marti," she intervenes, trying to smile through her panic. "I have a minor spell. Like just a passing dizzy spell. Yeah, that's all. I'm fine now."

Marti's hands grip onto her stepsister's shoulders and shoves her back down. "No. You are under the same spell as Sleeping Beauty. And you're asleep. And you need a prince to kiss you in order to wake up."

Casey fights back. "I don't think that's very fair, Marti," she argues, and pushes Marti's hands away so she can sit up. "That's kind of sexist, don't you think? Why does it have to be a prince? Why can't it be another princess? Or a fairy like yourself? Or even me? Why can't I break my own spell, huh?"

"Because I said so! You can't wake up until the Prince kisses you!"

Derek gulps. His voice betrays him when nervous laughter escapes his throat. "Too bad there's no more Princes around here."

Marti blinks at him. "Smerek, you're the Prince."

"Not anymore," he says, crossing his arms. "I just promoted myself to King."

"When?"

"Two seconds ago."

"No, I didn't say you could do that."

"Well, it's already done. Can't take it back. My new crown and throne were on sale, no returns, no exchanges, no refunds. Can't go back to being a Prince, even if I tried."

He watches as his little sister's eyes grow wide, and - oh God - a tear starts forming in her eye. "No. I didn't say you could do that."

"It's already done."

"Then, I magic you into a Prince again," she says, and waves her magic wand high in the air, and taps his chest with it.

He sighs. Because he can't very well argue with magic.

"Can I say something?" Casey says, opening her eyes, but remains horizontal on the cushions. "I'd like to stay sleeping. I don't mind sleeping for a hundred years, or longer. I didn't get a good night's rest last night, so I bet I can catch up if you let me be." She nods enthusiastically and stares at Marti, pleadingly.

He can see the dismay in her eyes (and he has no doubt he looks just as panicked as she does). He wants to laugh at the predicament - play it cool - but the way Marti keeps stamping her feet and her fists are clenched tight at her side makes him scared to end the game.

There's a reason why many people don't like to play with him and Marti, and that's because Marti can turn into a little Monster. He's the only one who puts up with it most of the time. And he knows if he's going to rest easy, he can't deny her demands.

So he swallows and rubs the back of his neck and takes his chances at giving Casey a tentative warning glance. "A kiss, huh?" Derek repeats, and kneels down beside Marti, who is seizing up when things aren't going her way.

She nods. "You need to kiss Casey or she will sleep forever."

Casey tries to interrupt again, but he glares at her before she has the chance to protest.

It's just one kiss. How bad could it be? It's not like it would mean anything. They're just playing pretend with Marti. They're just pretending. It's not a real kiss - not by a long shot.

And hey. When has Derek ever shied away from getting some action with a pretty girl? Related, or otherwise.

"Okay, I'll kiss the Princess," he announces, and he watches in amusement when Casey's eyes turn into dinner plates, her chest inflates, and her entire body tightens.

Oh, he's so going to hold this over her head. Forever.

He can just imagine it. Five years down the line.

"Hey, need another kiss, Princess?"

Oh, and the blackmail, too. There's no way in hell that Casey would want anyone finding out she actually kissed Derek. God, he could make her do anything he wants. For as long as he wants.

And he smirks.

And her jaw tightens.

Marti claps her hands. "Okay, Princess Casey, close your eyes."

"I'd rather my eyes be open, thank you very much."

"Casey!" Marti whines.

Derek sticks out his lip. "Yeah. Princess."

Breathing deeply, and crossing her arms, Casey huffs. "Fine." It takes her a moment to actually follow through. She stares at Derek, and he has a hard time placing the look in her eyes right before she shuts them tight.

She didn't look frightened, but she didn't look excited, either.

She was just kind of... Contemplative. And that's just about the biggest word Derek even knows.

So she closes her eyes, and she sinks into the couch cushion, and she lets out a sigh.

Marti nudges Derek's arm into action. "Kiss her," she commands, pushing him closer to the couch.

He swallows, and licks his lips. He's kissed a lot of girls. Honestly, there have been too many to keep track. But he's never felt this nervous before.

He likes to think he's good at kissing; no one has complained thus far. But this is different. This is Casey. No matter how he approaches this, she will only complain. Even if it's the best kiss he's ever given, she'll just spit and puke and whine and gargle with bleach.

And even though he plans on doing the same thing (to keep up appearances), he knows he's not going to hate this kiss.

In fact, he's already cherishing it. He's clearing out a good spot in his mind to store this memory - so he can pull it up and dream about it easily.

He doesn't realize he's been kneeling there for quite a while until one of Casey's eyes peels open and she looks at him. "You kissing me or what?" she snaps.

So he nods, and stretches his arm over her, and presses his hand against the backrest of the couch. And with his other hand, he grips onto the side of the cushion under her.

"Comfy?" he asks, not expecting an answer.

Casey's eyes snap closed again, and her nose wrinkles as she prepares.

"Kiss her!" Marti urges. "The dragon is trying to take her to the tower!"

And - whether he is really into the game, or he feels Marti's urgency - he leans down and kisses Casey. Square on the lips. And... And he holds it.

He counts the seconds - it's easy to because the clock on the wall is literally calling out the time.

One second. Two seconds. Five seconds. Six seconds.

And he's not just kissing her. She's kissing him.

Okay, what?

Some time between two and five seconds, she started to kiss him? Was she even allowed to do that? Did Marti give her permission to do that? Because he sure thinks that's against the rules.

He has a hard time pulling up. It's eight seconds now, and she's sitting up, still lip-locked with him, and Marti is giggling.

Casey pulls away first. Her head jerks backward, and the absence of her lips is agonizing at first. He opens his eyes - since he was unable to keep them open - and makes contact with her gaze.

She doesn't even spit or puke or wipe her mouth with her sleeve.

So he does the honours.

"God," he wheezes, and reels backward. "What flavour lip gloss is that, anyway?" he gags. "Manure?"

She just rolls her eyes, and shoves him back. "If it is, then it's no wonder you would recognize it," she retorts. "It's the only thing that comes out of your mouth."

He would argue with her some more, but is whisked back into a fantasy world when Marti squeals and announces that the dragon is coming to eat them, and they all need to run to her magical fairy kingdom where she can protect them. Which is to say, "upstairs".

Without much thought, his eye slowly drags toward Casey as she stands up, and he stares at her for a moment. She returns his stare, and he swears he can see her lip twitch upward. But he blinks, and the smile is gone, and he wonders if he just imagined it. It is just a game of play pretend, after all.

So Derek stands and moves on

Because his little sister is pulling on his arm, and pulling on Casey, too.

And he needs to slay some dragons - if only to protect the two most valuable playmates in the world.