Chapter 1: The Skid
Derek’s eyes drifted out the window of the slowly rolling school bus, the sky grey and gloomy. The road was gently coated with ice, the sides lined with mounds of snow. It would have been a welcoming sight had he been in any other situation.
He tore his eyes away from the outside and instead settled his gaze on the other occupants of the bus. Casey was in the row across from him, looking both nervous and frustrated. Emily was a few rows behind her, staring out the window with a blank expression, much like he had been doing just moments before. Sam was settled in closer to the back of the bus, posture lax, but sporting an expression of subtle anger on his face. Derek felt guilty for the latter; it was his fault for Sam being there, after all.
As Derek was musing on his unwelcome feelings of regret, Principal Lassiter turned around in his seat from the front of the bus, “Now, you kids know what you’re doing here. You all have caused me a lot of trouble these past few years, and, being seniors now, I expected you to learn some maturity. It seems I was wrong. We’ll be approaching the camp in about two hours, and I don’t want to hear complaining, chit chat, or loud music. Are we clear?”
The four of them gave muted nods as well as a small grumble from Derek.
Derek had roped Sam into spray-painting the teacher’s lounge with graffiti. He guessed Principal Lassiter wasn’t too thrilled about the very unsubtle penis painted over his picture, or the fact that the paint they used was his least favorite color, green, which Derek had found out when eavesdropping in an attempt to get answers to his upcoming English test. It was probably the dick that did them in though.
Casey, in an attempt to get the school to be more environmentally friendly, had created an entire recycling program, with bins and everything, and brought it on to campus. It was, however, seen as littering, and, as it was done without the school’s permission, was also considered personal property that was discarded. The bins were thrown away, and Casey was added to the list of miscreants. Ironic.
Derek had no idea what Emily had done, but it had apparently been the final straw because Lassiter completely went off the rails with this new punishment.
Their principal must have had no life (not that that surprised Derek) because he scheduled their detention at some juvenile correction camp that was supposed to make you polite and well-mannered in three days. Worst of all, it was during winter break, a time that was SUPPOSED to be for vegetation and sleeping.
At least Lassiter had the decency to schedule it after the holidays.
Unsurprisingly, his dad and Nora had agreed this might help him and had given their permission for this trip. However, shockingly, they also agreed Casey would benefit from this and had signed her slip as well.
Needless to say, Casey was not thrilled.
Her head was knocked against the back of her seat, disgruntled expression on her face, although it failed to give her a threatening look. The moving shadows from the snow beginning to fall outside cast odd shadows on her features. Her chestnut hair fell over her shoulders, waves pouring over her body like a river at dusk. She was ho-
Oh shit. He couldn’t think like that. Casey was his step-sister for god sakes; although, he did emphasize the “step” part of that title.
As if sensing his gaze, she turned her burning, ice blue eyes towards him, her face never losing its anger.
“I hope you’re happy.” She spat.
Derek raised his arms above his head, settling into a relaxed pose, “Oh, believe me, I’m not. But I am delighted to see you get dragged into this with me. It’s not even my fault this time.” He smirked.
Her expression darkened, “Derek, you’re the most insuf-!”
“No chit chat.” Principal Lassiter cut in with his monotone voice.
Casey shook with anger before whipping her head back around to look out the window, staring at the passing forest like it had personally offended her.
Great, now his only source of entertainment was gone.
Derek turned his head around to face Sam. Their eyes met, and Derek shot him a hesitant smile.
In response, Sam scowled before following Casey’s earlier actions and turning to look out at the road.
Yeah, he deserved that one.
He sighed and turned to face the front of the bus. Perhaps the balding back of Lassiter’s head could give him some form of entertainment for the two-hour trip.
Update, thirty minutes later, the bald spot was about as interesting as it was when Derek first faced the front, as in, not interesting at all.
He elected to switch to the back of the bus driver’s head. When Derek had first gotten on the bus, he’d only glanced at the man’s face, so now he was trying to make up what the man could possibly look like based only on his back.
Boredom was a hell of a drug.
Just as he was musing on that thought, the bus lurched, skidding on the icy road.
Derek gripped the seat cushion tightly between his fingers, his head whirling to the right to check on Casey.
She had an expression of unbridled panic as the bus swung increasingly out of control. She had paled considerably.
He only wished he could move over and comfort her.
As Lassiter was fruitlessly trying to calm the four teens down, the bus pitched off the side of the road. For a moment, it felt like they were floating before the bus jarred into the ground below.
When the vehicle made impact, Derek’s head smashed into the seat in front of him, and he felt a sharp pain somewhere on his right leg. The world became muted as ringing filled his ears. The edges of his vision darkened.
He turned to his right and caught a glimpse of Casey, unconscious in her seat, before he too gave in to inky blackness.
Chapter 2: The Fear
uh oh. derek in an unfamiliar situation what will he do
Derek came to awareness slowly; the world was in and out of focus. His head was pounding thickly like he had just been in a hockey match that didn’t end well. He blinked rapidly, slowly lifting his head to see out.
It was quite a sight.
The bus was leaning on its left side, indentations were all over the interior walls, presumably from when the bus had crashed into rocks when it went careening off the edge. It was only then that Derek realized his head was leaned right up against the glass, snow directly on the opposite side.
Well, at least that explained why he was so cold.
He tried to shift and see if he could make his way into the aisle. This, however, was a big mistake.
Pain coursed up his leg from his ankle, causing Derek to give out a muffled (completely manly) cry of distress. He ground his teeth and clenched his eyes shut, breathing deeply for a moment or two before opening his eyes once more.
Derek was almost too afraid to look at the damage. Was his leg broken? Crushed? Unusable? Would he ever be able to play hockey again? Or pick up Marti and spin her around?
Logically, he knew it probably wasn’t that bad, but he wasn’t feeling too logical right now.
He peered down at his ankle, careful not to move it or risk passing out.
At first, there didn’t seem to be any noticeable injury, however, as Derek looked more closely, he caught sight of a slowly growing dark spot near the cuff of his jeans. Carefully moving his hand down, he gingerly lifted the dark fabric off his ankle.
He almost threw up.
A long, jagged gash ran from his ankle to almost halfway up his calf. It looked like his leg had its own mouth, twisted into some kind of wicked smile.
He dropped the jean fabric, feeling nauseous and dizzy.
Breathing roughly, he turned his head to the right. His breath hitched sharply.
Casey was dangled from her seat, body limp. He couldn’t see her face because her head was bowed down in the opposite direction. She was pale and looked like death.
Suddenly forgetting about his mutilated ankle, Derek jumped up from his seat, scrambling upwards to reach her. He balanced his feet on one of the cushions and stood up, ignoring his body’s protests.
Derek reached a hand out and gently cupped Casey’s face towards him. She was breathing (Derek internally let out a sigh of relief), but her face was littered with small forming bruises and cuts. There was one bump on her forehead that looked particularly painful. He winced in sympathy.
Unsure of the extent of her injuries, he elected to delicately tap her face, not wanting to aggravate any wounds that might not be visible, like his leg.
At first, she gave no response, but soon enough her eyes scrunched up and she let out a soft groan.
“Casey,” Derek whispered, “Casey are you with me?”
Her eyes slid open, half-lidded and glazed, “Derek...I thought…we had an agreement…not to wake each other…up.” Her sentence was slowed like she wasn’t fully awake.
Derek’s eyebrows upturned in concern, “Case, we’re not at home right now. We were on the bus, remember? On the way to camp?”
Casey’s eyes shot open dramatically, her body jerking upwards, “Oh god, the bus!” She looked around, frantically before honing onto one person, “Emily! Oh my god oh my god oh my god-!”
“Casey!” Derek practically shouted, “Calm down. I’m sure Emily’s fine.” He turned to look at the other girl, who was seemingly slumped unconscious in her seat.
God, he hoped she was alright, for Casey’s sake especially.
Suddenly reminded of the other occupants of the bus, Derek’s eyes drifted over to Sam, who seemed to be beginning to stir. He then looked towards Principal Lassiter who was also waking. Derek quickly glanced at the back of the bus driver’s head; the man was unmoving, so he must still be unconscious.
He redirected his attention towards Casey once more.
“I gotta go check on Emily.” She made motion to move before wincing and grabbing her head in pain.
Derek steadied her, “Easy, Space Case, you’ve got a killer bump on your head.”
It was then that she turned to actually face him, her shockingly blue eyes meeting his own brown one’s. She studied his face for a moment, “Well, so do you.” She prodded a point on the left side of his forehead, causing a sharp twinge to lace through his brain.
“Owwww! What was that for?”
She looked guilty for a moment before adopting her usual expression of indifference, “For being a hypocrite. Now help me out of here.”
Derek huffed, “Yeah, okay, your highness.”
He gently helped her down from her seat, and into the tilted aisle. Supporting her weight made his leg scream in agony; he nearly dropped her.
Casey sent him a curious expression, “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
He was immediately thankful his jeans were black and hid most of the blood seeping from his gash. It was best not to worry Casey more than she already was, “I’m fine. It’s just my head that hurts is all.”
She seemed to accept that answer as she simply nodded and moved to go check on Emily.
Seeing that Sam and Lassiter were already gaining consciousness on their own, Derek decided to move to the front to check on the bus driver.
The closer he got to the motionless man, the more apprehensive he felt, but he pushed past it.
He was right at the shoulder of the man; his head was facing down. Derek spotted a sickening amount of blood pooled onto the floor in front of him.
“Sir,” Derek’s voice quivered, “Sir, are you alright?” He cautiously shook the man’s shoulder.
At that motion, the bus driver’s head lolled back, and all breath left Derek’s body.
The man’s face was…unrecognizable. Shattered glass from the windshield had lodged itself into the man’s eyes and skin. Jagged spikes had ripped his face to shreds. His chest, stained red, was unmoving, still. He was undeniably dead.
Derek was frozen, eyes wide. His hand was still on the man’s shoulder. He couldn’t move.
A small, “Derek?” gained his attention. He looked down the aisle towards Casey who was semi-supporting a dazed Emily. Lassiter and Sam were standing up as well, “Derek,” spoke Casey, softly, “what’s wrong?”
Dazed, he muttered, “Don’t come any closer.”
Casey’s face twisted into concerned confusion, trying to take a step towards him.
He snapped in fear, “I said don’t come any closer!”
Casey froze in shock.
Derek turned his eyes back to the bus driver, the man he had been playfully entertaining his bored mind with just a bit earlier. His eyes were glued onto the man’s mangled features.
The rest of the world’s sounds drowned out as he stared down. The man’s impaled eyes seemingly stared back in an accusatory glare.
He felt a hand settle onto his own shoulder and flinched, wildly spinning around to face whoever had touched him. It was Principal Lassiter.
Lassiter had a sad, concerned expression on his face. Derek looked around the bus aimlessly, only then noticing everyone was gone.
“Mr. Lassiter where…where did everyone go?”
His eyebrow’s furrowed even further, “I led them all outside,” He glanced at the bus driver, wincing in horror, “C’mon, you should leave too.” He made a motion to reach for Derek’s shoulder once more, but Derek flinched back.
“NO! No no no no no!” Derek repeated desperately, “I can’t leave him I- I can’t- I just can’t.” He was breathing roughly, in bursts now, “I don’t even know his name. I don’t even know his name!” He was shaking.
Mr. Lassiter appeared shocked at his uncharacteristic behavior, “Mr. Venturi- Derek, please come outside. This is no place to stay right now.”
“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
“Please. We need to find somewhere or someone to go to before nightfall.” He seemed to think for a moment, “I’ll tell you the man’s name if you promise to leave the bus.”
Derek paused, “Okay…okay…what’s his name?”
“Okay…Terry Saluca…,” Derek turned to the maimed man one last time, “I’m sorry Mr. Saluca…I’m sorry.”
He numbly allowed Mr. Lassiter to steer him away and out of the bus, into the bitter cold of the snow outside. The other three were just outside, staring at him with burning looks of pity.
He leaned against the upturned side of the bus slowly, roughly breathing and facing downward.
“Mr. Venturi are you alright?” Mr. Lassiter asked faintly.
Derek couldn’t help it; he threw up.
Chapter 3: The Hike
derek puts on his worried shoes
Derek heaved the meager breakfast he’d eaten that morning into the snow, unshed tears blurring his vision.
He sat there, raggedly breathing and shaking.
A shoe came from nowhere and kicked the white powder over his vomit. It startled him severely, causing him to flinch backward like he’d been slapped.
Derek looked up, catching the blurred face of Principal Lassiter. The man’s mouth was moving, but Derek couldn’t make out what he was saying. He looked down again, shutting his eyes tightly.
“Derek,” The voice of Lassiter was muted and muffled, “Derek, please look at me.”
That’s funny, Lassiter usually called him Mr. Venturi.
“Derek, kid, please, can you just open your eyes for me?” He felt a gentle hand place itself on his shoulder. He didn’t flinch this time.
He hesitantly opened his eyes, vision much clearer. He was met with the face of a very concerned Lassiter kneeling on the ground in front of him.
“Sorry.” Derek inwardly winced at how weak and raspy his voice sounded.
Principal Lassiter’s frown deepened, “It’s okay. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
He probably wasn’t used to the Derek Venturi apologizing for anything.
Mr. Lassiter offered Derek a hand, “Alright we need to get moving. We can’t stay out here all night.”
Derek gratefully took the hand and feebly lifted himself off the ground. When his right leg started to support his weight, he swayed backwards a bit from pain. Mr. Lassiter steadied him, most likely assuming it was the aftereffects of his panic attack.
Derek looked up, only now noticing the worried faces of his friends. He felt his face heat up in embarrassment for losing it like that in front of them, especially Casey.
“Alright, freak show’s over. Let’s get moving.” Derek halfheartedly joked. No one laughed.
He took a longer look at Casey. She seemed terrified. She was staring at him, eyebrows upturned in unease. However, the slowly dimming lights from the school bus cast eerie shadows on her face, almost making her expression seem judgmental.
“Students, let’s not just wait around. We need to find shelter.” Mr. Lassiter motioned for them all to begin walking. They, for once, followed his directions.
Derek got closer to the group, trying to hide his limp by trudging through the snow a little deeper. It was agony.
He noticed Sam lagging behind a bit before he turned to Derek, softly whispering, “Hey, man. You okay?”
“What so now you care?” Derek bit back.
Sam didn’t respond, and instead looked surprised, and a bit hurt.
Derek’s irrational burst of anger faded immediately, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with me right now.” He rubbed his hand over his face.
“It’s okay dude. I get it.” Sam gave him a comforting smile before sobering, “That must have been some pretty messed up shit you saw.”
Derek turned his head around, glancing at the bus that had become the driver’s grave and tomb, it’s lights nearly diminished.
He whispered for only himself to hear, “Goodbye Mr. Saluca.”
“What was that?” Sam asked.
Derek looked back one last time to pay his respects. To his horror, he noticed a blood trail coming from their path. It was his. He selfconsciously began trudging deeper into the snow to cover for his injury.
His leg burned. If they didn’t find a shelter soon, he was sure he would pass out.
The group of five travelled further and further into the forest, the trees growing denser and thicker as time passed. The sun dimmed, threateningly, beyond the canopy, causing the temperature to grow colder.
Derek found himself wishing he had taken Nora’s advice and put on an extra jacket over his hoodie, but he had been insistent that it wasn’t necessary. Oh, how wrong he had been.
The entire group was shivering as they hiked.
Casey looked so cold, Derek was almost tempted to hand her his hoodie, but that would’ve been stupid. He didn’t have a death wish.
The five of them approached a clearing; the pink and orange sky faded into deep blue overhead. It would have been pretty had they not all been so tired and frightened.
Emily’s voice rang out above the silence, “Look over there!” She was pointing a bit to their left.
Derek followed her direction, his gaze settling in on a structure not too far in the distance.
It looked like a woodland cabin had decided to merge with a medieval castle, but the odd architecture didn’t matter to him at all.
It was shelter.
Chapter 4: The House
just yikes in general
The group of five picked up their pace as soon as Emily pointed the structure out. The sun was setting fast on the horizon, and Derek knew it would be too dark to see soon enough.
The drastic change in speed made Derek’s leg scream in agony, but he kept up. It must have been adrenaline.
They sped through snow they had been dragging their feet through before; in Derek’s mind they were going as fast as a car.
A clearing in the trees approached much quicker than he would have thought. The structure had looked much farther away from below.
The building (House? Cabin? Castle?) was tall and wide. The front porch and right side of the house looked like something straight out of the Smoky Mountains, large wooden planks as well as, seemingly, mud mortar. The other half of the house, and the main structure that looked reminiscent of a bell tower, looked medieval in origin, with stonework and gothic arched windows.
It was, in essence, the oddest edifice he’d ever seen.
Principal Lassiter took a step onto the porch, placing himself in front of the teens. They stepped up behind him.
He knocked roughly, knuckle rasping at the door three times.
For a moment, nothing happened, but then they heard a door lock unlatch before it swung open.
There was a short man in the entry. He had shock white hair and was wearing semi-formal clothing. There was a stern expression on his face, the kind a disappointed grandparent would give a troublesome child.
“Can I help you?” The man’s voice was much deeper than Derek would have imagined.
Mr. Lassiter spoke hesitantly, “Yes, uh, hello. You see, my students and I have just been in a bus crash and, uh, would you mind terribly if we stayed here for the time being? Or at least use your phone to call emergency services?”
The small man’s expression did not change, seemingly unaffected by the shocking news of their misfortune, “It is not my place to say; I am just the butler. However, for the time being, you can come into the foyer. I will go fetch the master.”
Master? How very formal.
The little man spun around on his feet, walking down a long, dark hallway as the group cautiously entered the house.
Just in the front room alone, Derek could see the inside was lavishly furnished. A barely visible living room had a grand fireplace (a place Derek would very much like to be right now) as well as medieval inspired, but luxurious looking, lounge chairs. The foyer had one chair in the corner. It wasn’t cushioned, but in Derek’s eyes it looked incredibly comfortable.
Just as Derek was going over to take his seat, however, Mr. Lassiter beat him to it.
At first, Derek felt miffed at that, seeing as he was injured, but soon his anger faded. It’s not like he told anyone he was hurt, and, plus, Mr. Lassiter could be hurt too. The man had to be, at least, in his late forties if not his mid-fifties as well. He deserved the seat more than Derek.
Footsteps sounded from the corridor. Lassiter stood up from his chair and the three other teens stood a bit more at attention. Derek stayed slightly hunched over, leaning on a wall.
The small butler from earlier rounded the corner, flanked by a tall figure.
The new man was younger, possibly mid-thirties, and built like a basketball player. He was pale-skinned and had slicked back raven hair.
He looked like Dracula.
If the man was Dracula, Derek guessed that made him Jonathan Harker. Or worse, it meant he paid attention in English class.
As Derek shuddered at that horrifying thought, Dracula spoke, “I have been told of your misfortune tonight. My deepest sympathies.” His expression formed into something regretful, “I am afraid we have no phone here, but you are more than welcome to stay the night. I can have Gregorian drive you to town tomorrow morning.”
Ah so the little man’s name was Gregorian.
Lassiter practically leapt for joy when he went to shake Dracula’s hand, “Thank you so much, uh…?”
“Vladimir Dracul, but just call me Vlad.”
Dear god, he was Dracula.
“I’m sure you all are tired let me-,” Vlad froze, “You’re…bleeding.”
Mr. Lassiter looked confused, “I mean…I have a few cuts, but…nothing serious?”
“No, not you. Him.” The vampire pointed at Derek.
Oh shit. Could this guy smell his blood?
Derek looked like a deer caught in the headlights, “W-what do you mean?” he gulped.
The man moved his finger to the floor at Derek’s feet. He looked down.
To Derek’s horror, a small, but growing pool of crimson was forming on the tiles at his right foot.
Derek swayed, black spots dancing along the corners of his vision. Someone steadied him, slinging his arm around their shoulder. He looked up only to meet the red-brown eyes of Dracula himself.
The man looked away from him, turning to look at Gregorian, “Go get the first aid supplies and bring them into the parlor.”
The butler dutifully nodded before running off.
Vlad shifted him into motion and they slowly managed their way into the parlor, the room Derek had been admiring before. The four other individuals followed.
Dracula set him down onto one of the lounge chairs. Derek felt guilty now. He was probably going to get blood all over it. At least the floor was just stone instead of rug.
The man briefly left before coming back with Gregorian who was holding a small box and a bottle of peroxide.
Derek shuddered, “You guys…might want to leave.”
"We’re not leaving you, dude.” Sam bravely stated, but when Gregorian lifted the jean material off his right ankle, Sam turned an impossible shade of green and immediately left the room.
“Derek, dear god…” Mr. Lassiter put a hand over his mouth.
Emily was facing the opposite direction and Casey looked like she was about to cry.
Derek winced. He really hadn’t wanted Casey to see how bad it was, but now it was too late.
Gregorian spoke, “I agree with the boy. This needs stitches and I don’t need any unnecessary distractions while I’m doing so.”
“Stitches! I can’t just allow you to operate on my student! We don’t even know who you are!” Lassiter burst out, a very odd display from the usually mild-mannered man.
Vlad frowned, “Sir, I am greatly appreciative that you care for your student, but I can assure you that Gregorian knows what he is doing. He was a military doctor. Derek has lost a lot of blood. If this doesn’t get taken care of now…” The implication was clear.
The little man (apparently former military doctor turned butler) gave a hum of agreement before beginning to clean the gaping wound. Derek winced.
“Alright…alright.” Mr. Lassiter turned to leave the room, bringing Emily and Casey along with him.
“Wait!” Derek shouted, “Can-can Casey stay?” Where had that come from?
What was he thinking? Casey didn’t want to see this, but…god he didn’t want to be alone. He sent imploring eyes to the butler.
He was silent for a moment, “Yes she can stay, but only if she doesn’t make any disturbances.”
Derek looked up at Casey, who was sporting a surprisingly determined expression on her face, “I’ll stay.” She pulled up a stool beside the chair Derek was in.
Gregorian went to the first aid supplies kit as Dracula silently left the room.
“Why did you want me to stay?” Casey whispered gently.
“I don’t know…I just feel safer when I’m with you…” Oh, Jesus, now the blood loss was making him say crazy things.
Casey was still but said nothing in response.
The butler turned around, holding a needle with some kind of thread on it. Derek tensed, instinctively grabbing Casey’s hand tightly. To his surprise, she did not pull away, and instead gently squeezed back in encouragement.
“Alright, this may hurt,” the little man kneeled down at his ankle, “a lot.”
Gregorian plunged the needle into his skin without warning. Derek let out a strangled scream before the pain got to be too much.
Blackness consumed his vision before he knew no more.
Chapter 5: The Thoughts
Casey had never seen this side of Derek before.
In school and at home he always had this unflappable outward personality. He was always smiling (or smirking at her) and avoided emotional situations like the plague, never one for serious discussions.
This Derek…this Derek was new. He was concerned, sensitive, and scared. It was a bit of a shock to say the least.
The way he’d asked for her to stay in the room sounded almost desperate. She couldn’t refuse, especially not when his eyes met hers, so full of fear and pain.
Gregorian, the butler, pulled out a needle. It startled her when Derek clenched his hand in hers. She looked at his face which was unhealthily pale, bruises sharply contrasting to the pallor of his skin. He looked petrified, cold sweat forming at his brow. She gave him an encouraging squeeze.
The butler warned that the stitches would be painful, but it did nothing to prevent Casey’s shock when Derek let out an agonizing scream that made her blood run cold.
His hand went limp in hers and his head lolled to the side.
Casey, in concern, cupped his head in her hands, brushing back his hair. His breathing was shallow and weak. He seemed to be unconscious.
Casey let out a breath, slightly relieved he wouldn’t be in any more pain while he was out.
Principal Lassiter, flanked by Emily and Sam, came rushing back into the room just as Gregorian was finishing Derek’s stitches.
“What’s going on? I heard a scream.” Lassiter was panting. He looked to Derek and his eyes widened, “My god, is he alright?”
“He’ll be fine,” Gregorian informed, “just needs to rest. Although, tomorrow, when I drive you to town, I would highly recommend taking him to the hospital, just in case.”
Mr. Lassiter nodded in agreement as Mr. Dracul (who happened to look an awful lot like Dracula in her opinion) walked into the room.
“How is the boy?”
“Alright, sir. He’ll just need a place to rest, and,” The butler gestured to the rest of the room, “so will they.”
Mr. Dracul nodded, “We have guest rooms that Gregorian will show you to.”
At that, the man approached Derek’s chair and lifted him bridal style with surprising ease. He started to leave the room, Derek in his arms, without another word.
“Vlad, sir,” Casey glanced at Derek’s motionless form, “could I please stay with him?”
He looked back and forth between him and her before his mouth curved into a knowing smile, “I don’t see why not.” He started to walk down the corridor and Casey followed.
The implications of his expression were not lost on Casey, “Oh, no sir, we’re not like-like that. I’m just worried because he’s my step-brother.”
“Oh, I see…,” His face did not change, “he’s your step-brother.”
The way he emphasized the word “step” made Casey shiver, but she made no other comment.
He stopped at a door, “Would you please open that for me?”
Casey nodded, noting the arched wooden door had more detail carved into it than La Sagrada Familia. She pushed it open.
Inside was the most beautiful room she’d ever seen.
Up against the wall to her left was a four-poster bed with scarlet drapes hanging over it. A gold framed floor-to-ceiling mirror was hung on the wall next to a vanity that looked like it could have been sitting in some past king’s chambers. There were large semi-stained windows with gothic arches on the opposite wall, giving her a clear view of the snow outside.
“Oh my god…” She breathed.
Mr. Dra- Vlad gave a low chuckle before making his way over to the bed, gently laying Derek down on top, “I’m sure you can take the rest from here, madame. Bonne nuit.”
She absently nodded as he shut the door.
Ripping her eyes away from the stained-glass windows, she turned her head to the bed.
She sat down on the edge, gently brushing Derek’s hair out of his face with her fingers.
“I don’t know…I just feel safer when I’m with you…”
Her face heated up. The way he had said that so earnestly had startled her. Had he really meant it? Or was he just saying things in his dazed state.
She shook her head a bit and decided to go over the day’s events.
Derek had chosen to check on her first in the bus, or at least it seemed that way. His wide brown eyes full of concern for her.
She mentally slapped herself for not noticing he was hurt sooner.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?”
A pause, a look of unease.
“I’m fine. It’s just my head that hurts is all.”
And like a fool, she believed him.
He seemed concerned for her safety and wellbeing before his own, a very unusual trait for Derek to display. Casey had thought he didn’t care for anyone but himself, but today’s events told a different story.
“Don’t come any closer.”
“I said don’t come any closer!”
The genuine terror in his eyes will forever haunt her memory, but it must be nothing compared to what will haunt his.
What he must have seen…
It had clearly shaken him. He had thrown up, violently flinching at people’s touches.
Casey, terrified of what now lies behind Derek’s eyes, looked down at him once more.
His eyes were screwed tightly shut, like he was having a bad dream, but he made no motions.
“Derek…” she sighed.
She stood up from the bed and gently started to take off Derek’s hoodie, careful not to jostle his bandaged leg too much in the process. It came over his head without a hitch. She set it on the vanity chair.
Casey then gingerly removed his shoes and set them on the ground. She pulled up the comforter, softly setting it on him.
On impulse, she kissed his forehead before blushing and moving to take off her own shoes.
God, she was tired…it couldn’t hurt to share the bed.
Casey approached the opposite side and got under the covers, reaching out and taking Derek’s hand in hers. His face relaxed a bit.
She stayed that way until exhaustion got the best of her, and she gave in to sleep.
Chapter 6: The Morning
Derek POV again plus fluff
Derek came to awareness slowly.
He could feel something warm up against his left side and soft light coming from the other side of his eyelids.
It was peaceful, quiet even, and was nothing like waking up to a bustling house of six other people in the morning.
The object on his left shifted away and he groaned a little at the loss of warmth.
“Derek?” A sleepy, feminine voice called out quietly, “Are you awake?”
He peeled one eye open to be greeted with a silhouette, softly outlined in pinks and oranges from a sunrise he could not see.
“Casey?” His voice sounded washed out and raspy.
She came closer and lowered her head, face coming into focus above him, tenderly brushing back his hair, “Hey.”
There was such fondness to that one little word; it reminded Derek of honey and warm milk.
Derek took a look around, tearing his eyes away from Casey for a moment. To say he was surprised would have been and understatement.
He was lying in the fanciest bed he’d ever seen, drapes of a deep red color adorned the frame. The soft sunlight filtering through the room was reflecting on a mirror on the opposite wall, a mirror Derek could now see himself in.
God, he looked…rough.
There were a couple of visible bruises on his face and his eyes were ringed with black circles. His skin was paler than it had ever been before. He looked ill.
Derek began to sit up.
“Take it easy.” Casey warned.
He gave her a flat look, “I’m not a child.”
She flashed an exasperated, but affectionate smile before it turned into a frown, “I know that, but yesterday…you really scared me. I’d never seen you act that way before and-and when you passed out - oh god you screamed and went limp in my arms and-!” She started to cry.
It tugged at Derek’s heart in way he’d never experienced, “I’m sorry,” He lifted an arm and pulled her closer into a gentle embrace, “I’m sorry. I should have said something. I just – I just really didn’t want to worry you.”
“Yeah, well look at what a great job you did.” She mumbled into his shirt sleeve. Her cries were muffled and quiet.
They stayed like that for a moment before Casey pulled away, eyes rimmed red, “I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to apologize for.”
She was quiet for a second, “How are you feeling?”
Casey shot him a puzzled look, “Your leg, how does it feel?”
And suddenly, all of the previous day’s events caught up with him. Derek sucked in a sharp breath. He lifted the comforter off his body and looked down.
“My leg…it’s bandaged?”
“Yes, after you passed out Gregorian finished the stitches and wrapped it.”
“Oh…you’ll have to remind me to thank him.”
“Derek Venturi thanking someone for helping him? Highly unusual. You sure you don’t have a fever too?”
He jokingly swatted her hand away and they both smiled.
“You didn’t answer my question. Your leg…?”
Derek shifted slightly; a dull ache formed in response to his motion, “Still hurts, but nothing like yesterday.”
Derek shivered, “Hey, wait…where’s my hoodie?”
Casey’s face turned red, “I’ll get it for you.”
She got off the bed and headed to another part of the room, giving Derek a clear view of the windows previously obscured by her body.
The semi-stained gothic arched windows displayed the rolling snowy landscape outside. The trees were vibrant oranges and yellows, frosted with white powder. The slowly rising sun cast hues of pink over everything it touched.
This, Derek decided, was what it must be like to see the world through rose-colored glasses.
“Here you go.” Fabric hit his face, obscuring his vision.
He pulled the hoodie over his head and sat up.
Casey was sitting on the other side of the bed, staring out at the windows.
“Will you help me?”
She turned around, “With what?”
“I want to watch the sunrise.” The “with you” was implied.
She looked uncertain, “I really don’t think you should be walking much right now.”
Casey hesitated, “Alright, but if you’re in too much pain tell me.”
“Yes ma’am.” He gave a mock salute.
She rolled her eyes before coming to his side and looping his arm over her shoulder and helping him out of the bed.
Their progression to the windows was slow and cautious, Derek leaning heavily on Casey for support, but they were able to gingerly make their way there.
He leaned his arms on the sill, letting Casey have a break from the brunt of his weight. The two of them stared out in silence, taking it all in.
“I could stay here forever” said Casey, breathlessly in awe.
Derek turned to look at her, her face glowing from the sun’s reflection through the glass, “Yeah…me too.”
She turned to look at him then, their faces so close they were nearly touching.
‘I could kiss her right now.’ Derek’s unhelpful thoughts supplied.
He held back the urge to slap his own head.
Just as their foreheads were nearly touching, the door to the room burst open.
“Hey, good morning! Vlad asked me to come-!” Emily stopped mid-sentence, staring at them before cracking up and slapping a hand over her mouth, “Oh! Oh! Never mind! Just-just don’t worry about it; take all the time you need!” She was cackling as she swiftly closed the door.
“No! Emily, wait!” Casey called out, “It’s not like that!”
But the girl was already long gone.