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All I Ever Wanted by SpikedCoffee

Chapter Text

Derek and Casey were now in college. Their lives were beginning to be paved before them. The future no longer felt so far away, but still out of reach.

After graduation summer took its natural course. Casey and Truman broke up, again. This time Casey had the sense to break it off before summer was over and before he cheated again; her emotions were in the clear and she didn't cry once. Derek and Emily broke up on mutual decision, they both realized that it was going no where, he didn't love her and she actually still loved Sheldon, her ever present crush for Derek was killed by a relationship with him. Now they were just friends. Casey, Derek, and Emily spent most of the summer around Emily's pool, on occasion Sam or Ralph would stop by, other than that, nothing else happened.

* * *

At college, life seemed harder for both Casey and Derek. The day they arrived at school was the last day they had spoke to each other, unintentionally intentionally of course. Derek had his hockey and Casey her homework. There were times when they would see each other across the quad. Derek would see her entering or leaving a class or the library. Casey would see him lounging about the campus with his hockey buddies or going to a class (which surprised her).

Casey would attend each of his games, he didn't know. She would sit somewhere different each time, just to keep up appearances; never allowing him to see her. She watched his familiar form enter the rink. She would cheer for him, standing up and getting fully engrossed in the game. She would stay until there was 30 seconds left on the clock, she would then proceed down the stands, stopping herself in front of the exit and watch as he made the winning shot. She'd scream and whoop; she'd leave the arena with a big grin on her face. She went for him and herself; she needed to see someone she knew, someone she cared about, some sense of home.

Once, Derek was on the ice, he was prepping himself for the final shot, knowing it was going to him; glancing up at the crowd he searched for a familiar face…anybody.

In high school his whole family would be in the stands watching him, Marti would be wearing an old jersey screaming her little ass off, he would look at them for support, and in college there was nobody.

His eyes landed on a brunette girl in a pink beanie and scarf, her face was slightly flushed from the cold arena, their eyes caught for a second, it was Casey. He quickly stifled his shock and took the shot, the winning shot. As his team came around him to congratulate him, hitting him and thoroughly roughing him up in the excitement, he looked back up at the stands, she was no where to be found. Maybe he was just imagining it, she never came to his games back home why would she start now?

Derek had an apartment, the only thing his mom ever gave him since his parents divorce. He also had a roommate, Charlie, also a hockey player, and a drunk. Derek would be up late studying (yes studying) and Charlie would come stumbling in at around 1 am and promptly pass out in the doorway to his room. Derek would push his unconscious body into the room, lay him on his side, and close the door.

Being a freshman in college was tough, especially if you were on the hockey team. His coach had sat the freshman players down, the sophomore, junior, and senior players standing around them, and preceded to inform them that if they got below a C average in a semester they were on suspension, if they failed a class they were off the team. There was one more condition, making all the freshmen groan, no alcohol. If they were caught intoxicated or somehow the coach heard about a party involving them, they were off the team.

This was slightly hard on Derek; he wanted college to be the full college experience. On the other hand, hockey was his livelihood, his future; he decided he didn't want to risk it, unlike Charlie. In a passing he thought it was particularly Casey of him to think of the future.

* * *

Casey was moderately happy, she was studying, one of her favorite things. She completed her homework on time, her essays always just a bit longer than required. Her time was spent either in class or in the library; books always piled around her effectively blocking her from view. Allowing her to become immersed in whatever the subject was. On the weekend she would be getting ahead in her homework and reading in the local coffee shop. She spent most of her time alone. Actually, she spent all of her time alone.

She had a roommate which, surprisingly, she didn't get along with. When Casey was preparing for college she was hoping she and her roommate would be friends or at least pleasant acquaintances. When she arrived, she got the shock of her life. At first her roommate appeared nice. She had long blonde hair, bright green eyes, and good smile. The first evening there was horrible. Casey was unloading her books and setting them up on her shelf, organizing her clothes and personal possessions when Claire, her roommate, barged in; she was wearing a very short skirt and a tube top. Casey didn't want to judge but she looked like a slut. They hadn't spoken much during the day due to moving in, but she thought they got along pretty well. Anyway, Claire barged in dressed like a slut, pulling with her a random college boy, her mouth suctioned onto his face. They, Claire and mystery-man, were in the process of shedding clothing, Casey just stood there in shock. Claire pushed the guy onto her bed and turned to Casey,

"I don't need to hear it from you, I could tell you're a prude just from looking at you. So, if you don't want to watch us, leave. Now! I'm giving you two minutes. Go!" She yelled.

Casey just grabbed her purse and jacket and left the room as fast as she could. Oh, she most definitely was not going to stay and watch. This was pretty much the routine. She spoke to Claire and they had 'compromised' Claire had free reign of the room all day, at 9:30 Casey would come back; she wanted/needed sleep. Saturday Claire got the room and on Sunday Casey got the room. It was about a month into the semester when Casey realized that she roomed with the school slut. When she would return to the room at night, Claire would be saying goodnight to a new guy. It was disgusting.

Chapter Text

Derek woke up on time, at 7:00. He opened his eyes and greeted his pillow, the now familiar humming returning to his body. About one week into the semester Derek noticed this weird humming feeling begin to spread throughout his body. He felt like a fuse ready to ignite, he just missed the spark. He became restless, and fidgety. The only time he didn't have the freaky humming was on the ice, when the adrenalin flooding his body over powered it. It was becoming incredibly annoying. Derek sighed and got up. He sat on the side of his bed for a moment, rubbing his eyes, and trying to get enough energy and incentive to move.

  I need to get the shower before Casey does!   He jumped up, grabbed a random towel from his floor and reached the door. With his hand on the knob he paused; realizing there was no competition for the bathroom any longer. Space-case ain't here. Ha. I can take my time.  His face showed no victory, he sighed and shook his head trying to dislodge those useless thoughts.

Derek sauntered lazily to the bathroom, slowly waking up and stretching the kinks from his exhausted frame.  Ridiculous practice last night.  

His shower wasn't ever hurried, he took his time; the time he never got during high school. Exiting the shower, the towel around his waist, he would look in the mirror. His upper body wracked with bruises, his eyes were tired from his late night studying; he styled his hair the usual way, brushed his teeth and left the bathroom. He got dressed and proceeded to Charlie's room. Opening the door carefully, hoping his roommate wasn't on the floor, he looked around the room, nothing.

  Evidently Charlie never made it home last night. Oh well.  

Derek grabbed his bag, turning off the lights and locking the door he made his way down to the parking lot. He was about to unlock his car door, when he heard a low groan from the bushes near the lot. He looked over; he spotted a pair legs sticking out of the shrub. He groaned, he knew it was Charlie. Placing his bag down, his keys in his pocket, he made his way to Charlie.

His roommate lay there like a slug; he was on his stomach, his arms laying haphazardly about him. Derek stooped down to turn him over. Grasping Charlie's arm, Derek hauled him out of the bush and carefully turned him over, that's when Derek got a good look at his face.

Charlie's face wasn't pretty. His lips were split in multiple places, both eyes were blacked out, he had a goose egg forming on his head, and several other cuts bleeding were on his face.

He got into a fight.

Derek groaned, he was thankful he didn't have a class until 11 otherwise this would be a great inconvenience. Derek tried to wake him up, slapping him on the face a few times; nothing. He was out. Derek looked around for Charlie's phone searching the bushes. He came across a puddle, thought nothing of it, then stopped.

"Are those teeth?" he asked no body in particular, he crouched down to get a better look, it was blood, vomited blood, at a few teeth.

"Oh Gross!" Derek gagged and plugged his nose. He looked back over at Charlie.

"Damn it! He needs a hospital!"

Derek managed to effectively drag his 'friend' to the Prince, getting him in the car in the seated position. He closed the door and leaned against his car taking a deep breath. His frustration level was through the roof. He had taken care of Charlie before, cleaned up after he puked in the middle of their hallway, the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen, Charlie's room, Derek's room, and the front stoop, everywhere. He had had it.

Derek reached the hospital in record time; he pulled into the ER parking lot. He got out and entered the hospital and approached one of the desk nurses.

"Excuse me?" the nurse looked up at him her eyes quickly appraising him for any injuries, "Hi, yes, I have a friend in my car, I found him this morning passed out in some bushes, he was evidently vomiting blood and was beaten up, I believe he's also lost some teeth. Also, believe that he was extremely drunk." He said in one breath. The nurse looked at him carefully, she walked around the desk.

"Take me to see this 'friend' of yours" she said, gesturing to the doors. Derek led the way, walking to his car; he opened the door, catching Charlie as he almost fell out The nurse approached the vehicle, took one look at the boy in the front seat, and ran back into the hospital. Two seconds later, her, two paramedics, and a gurney exited the building.

Derek stepped back and allowed them to do their job. They quickly loaded him onto the gurney, swiftly wheeling him in. Derek followed knowing there would be questions and paperwork.

Entering the building, the nurse grabbed his elbow and dragged him over to the counter.

"I need you to fill out this form describing the condition in which you found him. Then this form describing your relationship to him and his personal information, if you know him. Can you do that for me?"

Derek nodded and began filling out the paperwork. After he finished Derek handed the completed pile of papers to the nurse and walked out of the building. He got in his car and rested his head on the steering wheel.

Urg. Why did I have to get such a stupid ass roommate! Why couldn't I have someone who wasn't drunk all the time, cleaned up after themselves and respected by apartment!

Derek took a deep breath; he counted to 20 and calmed down. Suddenly he began to laugh, truly laugh, for the first time in a long time.

Wow. His hockey career is over. I can't wait until he's out of my apartment.

With a renewed outlook on life Derek sped out of the parking lot. For a second he forgot about the humming and focused happily on his lack of roommate.

Chapter Text

Casey opened her eyes and glared at the ceiling. It was time to get up. She glanced at her clock, the red numbers screaming 6:30. Getting up quickly she moved to her small desk. She picked up her thick planner and glanced at the things she had to do today, making adjustments here and there.

   Okay, I have my morning Yoga class at 7:30 until 9. Then I have to got to the library to review my notes and study for my English exam, which I have at noon today. I then have my medieval history class at 4:30. I get out at 7:45. That gives me enough time to do my laundry before I go to the library to finish my paper. I'll stay at the library until ten. Full day, I like it.    

Casey set down her planner and got dressed in her yoga pants and pulled on an oversized shirt from her drawer. She brushed her hair into a perfect ponytail, her face was clean and make-up free. Stopping by the mirror she glanced at herself. She still had the serene Casey face on, her eyebrows raised up in indifference. She glanced at her roommate's bed; there she lay. Casey sneered at her sleeping form, silently praying for a new roommate.

She looked at herself again. Shrugging at her reflection, and left her dorm.

With her yoga mat tucked under her arm she walked to the gym a few blocks away. Passing a building she remembered to be Derek's apartment, she glanced at her watch.

It;s 7:15, he's definitely not up yet.   A true smirk appearing on her face.

Casey kept walking, her ponytail swinging back and forth with her strides. Entering the gym she was greeted with the smell unique to gym equipment. Walking passed the front desk to the Yoga studio in the back; she began her breathing techniques, inhaling and slowly exhaling. She spread out her mat in what would be the back row of the class; carefully sitting down on her mat in the half lotus pose.

Her class started on time, the 6 other people in the class had arrived and set up. They went through the difficult positions, her tension and stress slowly melting away. Her eyes were closed, her breathing even and controlled. She felt the slow stretch of her tired muscles. Her shoulders, which carried the weight of her stress and studying, slowly relaxed and the tight muscles released their tension.

Half way through the class she couldn't take the heat of her shirt, she stripped it off, throwing it on the floor next to her keys and cell phone. Clad in her sports bra and yoga pants she continued her routine. She began thinking about dance, something she missed a lot since she started college. Sadly she had to quit her local dance troupe during the summer, since there were no good dance studios near school she took up yoga. It served its purpose, strengthened her muscles, and used her already toned dancer body in a proper way; never building up or straining the wrong muscles.

Class finally ended with a final rest and her mind cleared and prepared for the day. Gathering her stuff up she went to the locker rooms, washed her face in the sink and wiped the sweat from her chest and stomach. Grabbing her shirt she began to pull it over her head, her nose caught a new scent. Pausing she sniffed again. She realized it was the shirt. With her curiosity peaked she removed the shirt from her body and examined it. It was a worn out Guns and Roses T-shirt.

   Guns and Roses? I don't remember having a Guns and Roses shirt.    

Casey brought the shirt up to her nose and took a big whiff. It was Derek's shirt. The familiar smell filled her nose, the scent of his body spray and own Derek musk. She took another deep breath, closing her eyes. It reminded her of home.

Home.

She needed to call home. Needed to talk to he mom and sister, needed comfort. School was beginning to weigh on her, her lack of friends causing more frustration than anything. She had become snappy and cold. She missed Emily and Lizzie, someone to talk to, to vent on and with, companionship.

She made her way from the locker room, shirt in hand. Looking down at the shirt she didn't watch where she was going and walk straight into a elliptical machine. The ground met her posterior causing a curse to fall from her lips. Brushing herself off quickly, she stood up. Bending down she grabbed the shirt, her keys, and her phone. Straightening up, she tensed. Subconsciously waiting for a Klutzilla comment; when none came she breathed. She exited the building and began her walk across the parking lot; getting some weird looks from the other people in the lot. Looking down she realized she forgot to out back on her shirt. She blushed out of embarrassment but didn't put on the shirt. Wrapping Derek's shirt around her arm she decided to run the rest of the way home, she looked like a jogger anyway.

Her run felt good, she felt good. Well, she didn't feel good, but she felt better.

Her dorm room was empty when she got back, her roommates bed unmade, as usual. The rest of her morning passed without any new developments, she took a shower and got dressed, did her make-up and hair. Gathering her books and purse she left her room.

The wind was starting to get chilly and leaves were beginning to fall from the trees. With her sweatshirt snug around her, she made her way to the library. She paused outside the doors, she didn't feel like studying, she knew the material, studied it thoroughly the night before. Casey huffed at her own indecision. Finally making her way to a nearby bench, she sat and deliberated.

   I really don't feel like studying right now. I've got it all down and practically memorized. What would mom say in this situation? Mom! I should call her; I haven't in the last two days.    

Casey reached in her pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Scrolled down to her home number and pressed the call button. It rang once, twice, three times. Finally George answered it.

"McDonald-Venturi residence" his voice came over the line.

"Hi George! It's Casey."

"Oh, Casey! Hi, Nora was about to call you. Are you okay? Do you need anything? Are you out of money?" he rattled off questions like a worried father. She laughed at his genuine concern.

"No, George I'm fine. I just want to talk to my mom for a bit, if she's not busy."

"Oh, right now she's packing, I'll go get her for you." With that she heard him put the phone down. Casey waited and waited.

There was suddenly some labored breath on the phone.

"Casey? Are you there honey?"

"Hey Mom! How are you?"

"Oh, I'm doing fine. The baby has been kicking an awful lot lately, especially at night. So I'm a bit tired. How are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine, I had some time before class and I wanted to talk to you, so here I am calling you," she sounded dejected, sad that the height of her social life was her pregnant mother. "Mom, I was wondering, George said you were packing, what for?"

"This is the sweetest thing Casey, George knows that I'm really stressed right now and that I haven't been sleeping well lately so… he planned a small weekend vacation at a spa for both of us. He said it's probably that last weekend we'll get alone before the baby comes."

"Aw, Mom that is sweet. Where are the kids going to be?"

"Edwin and Lizzie will be staying home for the weekend by themselves. With the Davis' checking in every once in a while. Marti is going to be spending the weekend with her friend Rachael. Her mother offered to take her for two nights."

"Mom, I'm really happy for you, call me before you leave okay?"

"Of course sweetie."

Casey and Nora talked for another half hour. By the end of the conversation Casey was depressed. She wished with all her heart she could go home, to see her mom, George, Lizzie, Edwin, and Marti. She was so lonely, all the time.

She looked at her watch. 11:30. She had to get to class, she had a test.

Chapter Text

It was late Friday night. Casey sat in her dorm room; finishing up the last of her homework. Sighing, she put her pen down and closed up her notebooks and textbooks. She placed them back in her bag and put it by the door; ready for Monday. She looked over at her pajamas longingly; she still had to take a shower.

She made her way to bathrooms and got under the warm spray. This week had been hard; three exams. Casey stood under the water a little longer, hoping that her worries would be washed down the drain. She stepped out of the shower feeling relaxed and sleepy.

Casey was thankful Claire had decided to stay at her boyfriend's dorm for the weekend, correction , one of her boyfriends dorms for the weekend. Casey quickly put on her pajamas and sat on her bed, her back against the wall, laptop on her lap. She felt snuggly and warm wearing her favorite pajamas, her 'Space-case' pajamas.

Derek, for her birthday, had bought her some pajama pants with planets and stars on them, calling them Spacey pajamas for 'Space-case'. She never wore them. While packing for college she found them in the bottom of her drawer. With her old pjs looking old and tattered and the cute dancing cupcakes looked a bit adolescent for a college student, she grabbed them, thankful she didn't have to buy new clothes. After she finally wore them, they became her favorite, they were loose enough to be comfortable, thin enough to be cool, the right fabric to keep her warm, all in all they were perfect. Who knew Derek had such good taste in pjs?

So there Space-case sat, in her Spacey pj pants. The newest addition to her favorite pjs was Derek's Guns and Roses t-shirt. It smelled like home, so she wore it. She clicked through her e-mails, nothing but spam and coupons sent from her favorite stores. Her eyes began to blur and she felt her exhaustion creep up on her. Putting her laptop on her desk, locked her door, turned off the light, and crawled beneath her warm covers; the scent of Derek's t-shirt to lull her to sleep.

Derek sat on the bench inside the locker room, his body tired from his Friday night practice. He sat with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands; the annoying humming slowly returning to his limbs. His mind was on practice. Going through the plays and tactics over and over, thinking about what he needed to work on. His muscles ached and his eyes wanted to close.

He thought about his apartment, now empty. Like he foretold, Charlie was kicked off the team, he was in the hospital for a week due to alcohol poisoning and four broken ribs. Served him right.

Slowly the smell of vomit was leaving his little abode, being replaced by the smell of Derek. It was beginning to smell like his room at home, which made him very happy.

His hockey teammates were still talking away, participating in locker room talk. Compared to college, high school locker room talk sounded like a children's book. These guys had done the worst things; it was slightly disgusting, even for Derek.

Suddenly the door of the locker room burst open, a heaving man ran in. He paused to catch his breath.

"There is a fire at Smith Hall, the girls dorm!"

Immediately guys were out the door, boyfriends became frantic; leaving in order to make sure their girlfriends were safe.

Derek looked shocked and genuinely worried for those involved. He stood up and a sinking feeling attacked him. The humming in his body was full force. He pulled on his pants and shirt, when he felt a tugging at the back of his brain; he shrugged it off as worry. Ready to leave he placed his towel in his locker. He glanced at the pictures inside.

One of him and Marti, of course, A picture of his dad and Nora, a separate one of Edwin and Lizzie looking characteristically mischievous, and finally one of him and Casey, it was of graduation, both of them had their full cap and gown looking genuinely excited. Derek liked this picture because it was taken right before he gave her a huge wet willy.

Then it hit him. Casey lived in Smith Hall.

"Casey!" he flew out of the locker room, running as fast as he could to the girls dorms. As he approaches the dorm he sees chaos. Girls are huddled everywhere, crying or in shock, several of them have their boyfriends holding onto them. He sees a few receiving oxygen. The fire trucks were all lined up, firefighters still trying to kill the flames. He sees paramedics looking after girls sitting on benches.

He looks around for Casey. Unable to find her he feels the panic start to rise in his chest. He sees a campus security guard with a clipboard going around and collecting names.

He runs over to the guard.

"Sir, have you found Casey McDonald? Is she out of the building?" he asks franticly.

The guard quickly looks through his list. Derek notices that certain names are highlighted, not a good sign.

"Young man, what is your relationship with Miss McDonald? Its very important that I know." The man gives him a harsh stare.

"I'm her step-brother. I'm also on her emergency forms. Can you just point her out to me? I need to see if she is okay." He can feel his frustration level rising; he fists his hair, impatiently waiting for the guard's response.

The security guard gives him an appraising look.

"Follow me." He turns on his heel leading Derek deeper into the chaos. Finally the guard stops in front of a woman with another clipboard.

Urg. Not another clipboard! I need to find her! I need to find her…

The guard has a few words with the woman; Derek doesn't pay any attention; he's frantically looking in every direction for Casey.

"You need to follow me." Says the clipboard lady.

"Can I just see Casey? I need to find her!" he retorts, unable to handle the stalling.

The woman puts her hand on his arm; he stiffens. "Listen to me kid, your sister…"

"Step-sister" he automatically corrects.

"…Your step-sister is out of the building. But..."

Derek winces.

"…She is being treated for burns and is still unconscious. I'm taking you over to her now. I need you to stay calm." She gives him a reassuring, yet sad, smile.

Derek nods, his hands fidgeting in front of him. He follows her over to a nearby ambulance; his eyes widen at the sight.

Casey is on her side, an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. Her eyes are closed, as if she is asleep. There is a paramedic standing behind her working on her back.

Derek steps up to the gurney and looks down at his stepsister. He wants to cry; its like a bad dream.

The clipboard lady speaks to the paramedic, informing her of his relationship to the patient. The paramedic nods and continues her work.

"Will you help me out with something?" the paramedics voice brings him out of his shock.

He nods. He can't speak.

"I need you to hold the front of her shirt in place and hold her in place so she doesn't roll. I have to cut the back away, removing it from her wounds."

He nods again. Silently holds the front of her shirt, keeping Casey covered. He studies the shirt, unable to look at her face in the mask.

That's where my Guns and Roses shirt went! 

He looks over her pajama clad form.

She's wearing her 'Spacey' pjs I got her. Cute.

He hears the fabric tearing. The paramedic winces and she peels the fabric from Casey's back. Derek can see the burnt skin sticking to it.

"This shirt saved her from any truly serious damage."

Derek grabs onto Casey's hand, squeezing slightly.

Casey is in a fog. She feels groggy and she can't move; her face feels trapped. She doesn't want to open her eyes; they sting. She feels a strong hand grab hers with a small squeeze. A few seconds later she feels another hand begin to brush her hair in soothing stokes.

Derek sees Casey's eyes flutter and squats down to be at her eye level.

"Hey Doc! She's waking up!" he yells at the paramedic.

"Oh boy. This is going to be very painful for her. You need to keep her calm, talking helps."

Derek looks at Casey's face, he continues to stroke her hair and hold her hand.

Her eyes open.

Chapter Text

Derek was crouching eye level with Casey. Her brow was wrinkled in confusion, eyes still adjusting to the surroundings. The colors were vivid; lights were flashing, the glow of the fire engulfing the area. Sounds assaulted her ears, sirens, screams, crying and random voices calling out orders and instructions.

The sudden pain of her wounds caused her to completely wake up. She began gasping for air; her eyes clouded tears. She scrunched her eyes closed again.

Derek watched as the pain finally caught up with her. It pained him to see her cry; he hated tears, especially hers.

"Can we take the mask off of her? I think she can breathe fine now," asked Derek. The paramedic nodded and continued to dress Casey's wounds.

Derek removed the oxygen mask from Casey's face, his fingers lightly brushing her cheeks. Casey's eyes were closed, the tears running down her face. Her chest kept seizing in pain and sobs, nothing giving her relief or comfort.

He began to stroke her hair again, breathing out words of comfort to her. "Shh… everything is going to be alright. I've got you. I'm here. Everything is going to be fine. Relax. Shh…"


Casey

With her eyes closed the sounds became amplified. Noise was everywhere. She began to feel everything, the pain of her wounds shooting all over her body, the light yet firm touches on her back, the chilled November air stinging her wounds and sending shivers up and down her spine. Suddenly there was a pressure on her head, a soothing motion distracting her from the pain momentarily. Fingers teased her hairline; someone was smoothing her hair.

She then heard a voice, a familiar but unrecognizable one. It was low, tender, and soothing to listen to. She couldn't make out what they were saying, but she didn't care.

Casey began to calm down, her unconsciousness finally gone completely. Her brain began to work rationally again.

Okay, Okay. Casey, pull yourself together. Breathe, in, out, in, out. Good. Okay. Open your eyes. Just open your eyes and figure out what is going on. Good. Keep breathing.

Casey opened her eyes. She looked straight into worried brown ones. The hand on her head stilled. A thumb made its way down to her cheek and wiped away the stray tears.

Derek!

She opened her mouth to speak. A finger stopped her.

"Listen to me Case."

She nodded.

"There was a fire in your dorm," her eyes widened in surprise, "everyone made it out okay. You've been burned though. I know you are in pain, but I need you to be calm. There is a burn on your back. They will be taking you to the hospital soon. Okay?"

Casey winced but nodded again. Derek leaned down and pressed a firm kiss on her forehead, staying there for a few seconds.

"Do you trust me?"

She nods again.

"Then I need you to stop worrying and making lists and plans in your head. I will take care of you. There is no need to worry. I can handle it."

They stayed in that position for the next five minutes. Derek stroking Casey's head, whispering words of comfort; Casey staring straight into his eyes, drowning in their familiar brown.

The paramedic finished the bandaging and began prepping her for transport.

Casey tightened her grip on Derek's hand, her eyes pleading with him.

She croaked out her request, killing off her throat, "Don't go," desperation clear on her face.

"Case, I have to follow you in the car. I'll see you there. You'll be fine. I'm sorry but I have to get my stuff from the locker room. I need to call home and tell them everything. I'll be there, don't worry. I promised to take care of you and I will. Just relax and trust me, okay?"

More tears poured down her face but she relented, too tired to argue.

He kissed her head again, whispering, "It's okay" into her hair.

The paramedic gestured for him to get out of the way and began to load Casey into the ambulance. Derek held Casey's hand until the last minute. Casey watched him standing there, the doors finally closing her into the ambulance, shutting away the chaos.

Derek ran to the locker room, he scrambled around, grabbing his phone, keys, and jacket. He left the locker room as fast as he could. Running to his car, he toyed with his keys until he found the right one.

His car started and pulled out of the parking spot, he slammed his foot on the gas, speeding off towards the hospital. Derek could see the ambulances pulling out of the school; he followed as close as he could, knowing if he didn't get there soon Casey would panic.

He whipped out his phone and hit #3 on his speed dial. He waited while the phone rang, silently cursing his slow father. Finally his dad picked up.

"Yes Derek! What do you want? If it's more money, no can do."

"Dad! Shut up for a second! This is an emergency!"

"Derek don't tell me to shut up!"

"Dad, Casey's dorm had a fire. She is on her way to the hospital."

"…"

"Dad!...DAD!" the other line

"Oh my god… NORA!" Derek listened to his dad talk to Nora in the background. Panic was let loose. Nora grabbed the phone from her husband.

"Derek, what is going on! Tell me now!"

"There was a fire in Casey's dorm. Casey is on her way to the hospital, I'm following in the car right now. She's awake and fine. When I found her she was being treated by the paramedics."

"She's okay? She's not in a coma or anything? Nothing's broken? Where was she burnt?"

Nora asked questions as fast as she could, fearing her daughter was physically damaged beyond repair.

"She has a very large burn across her back; her face and hair are in tact, nothing is broken. She's fine, just confused and shaken up. Nora, I need you to calm down please. I'm handing this as best I can. Do you think you can make it to Kingston?"

"Sorry, I just freaked out there for a second. No, I can't make it to Kingston. Your father and I are in Niagara falls for the week."

"What do you mean you're in Niagara Falls? How come I don't know about this? Why on earth would you go to Niagara falls?"

"We told Casey. Your father surprised me with a Spa weekend before the baby was born.

"Right, Casey. Fine, I'll take care of everything. I'll call you whenever I can with details. I gotta go. Bye."

Derek hung up on Nora, frustrated that he couldn't get her here for Casey. Sighing, he pulled into the hospital parking lot. Derek parked as fast as he could.

 

Chapter Text

Walking into the ER reception area he looked around for some sort of assistance. He spotted the lady with the clipboard from the school. He jogged over to her.

"Hey, I need to know where Casey McDonald is. I'm her emergency contact and stepbrother. I need to find her now," he said with haste. Trying to hurry the lady. The woman looked down at her all knowing clipboard.

"Burn Unit. Down the hall to the left, she should be in room 234."

"Thanks."

Derek speed walked the rest of the way to her room. He paused at the door. Casey had on a hospital gown. The Nurse was trying to get her to take off the Spacey pjs. Casey was shaking her head no as fiercely as possible. Her eyes were red and her face blotchy; her hands clinging to the fabric of her pj pants.

Derek walked over to Casey.

"Excuse me? What seems to be the issue?" he asked the nurse, giving her a stern glare. She was causing his Casey pain.

"She refuses to let me have her pajamas. I am going to dispose of them, they smell of smoke," the nurse stated in a bossy and frustrated tone.

"Are they damaged in any other way besides smell? Are they burnt?" he questioned.

"No, they are not burnt. But they reek of smoke; the smell will not come out. She needs to get over it and let it go."

Derek turned to Casey, his eyes softened. She looked small and fragile.

"Case, I'll get you new pajamas, you need to give them to the nurse. Please," his eyes just asking her to get it over with.

Casey wheezed a bit, her voice cracked, " but they're my favorite" she said, her lower lip beginning to pout.

Derek chuckled. "Case, I'll get you new Space-case pajamas. Don't worry."

Casey just nodded and released her grip on the pajamas. Derek turned around to give her privacy. One minute later the grouchy nurse stood in front of him with the pjs in a plastic bag. "Just to let you know, she is on light painkillers for the time being so she might me a bit loopy or lethargic depending on her response to the drug, also, don't touch her back."

Derek nodded and turned back to Casey. Casey sat on her bed, her feet dangling from the sides. Tears leaked from her eyes. Derek made his way to her.

"I would hug you, but I might hurt you. Sorry. I got here are fast as I could."

He sat down next to her. Casey turned her head to look at him.

"You don't hug, remember. You don't do PDA, feelings, or comfort; and when we were home you would remind me almost daily," her eyes full of slight shock, pain, and sadness.

"Seeing how my dad and Nora are at Niagara Falls, you nearly died, and I'm all you've got, I'll make an exception," he smirked at her, "anyway, I usually make exceptions with you." He winked at her.

Casey leaned on his arm and rested her head on his shoulder; her eyes tired and her body drained. Derek remained still allowing her the opportunity to rest a bit.

"The nurse said that the doctor should be in soon. I hope he hurries up. I'm tired…"

Casey continued to ramble on about whatever came into her distraught mind, the drugs slowly derailing her train of thought.

Derek was tired too, his adrenaline was crashing, his mind relaxing in the presence of Casey. He zoned out, thinking about the evening. He began going over ever hockey plays and stats, thinking about homework and tests. He heard Casey continue to mumble on about whatever. He smiled down at her, resting his head on hers. He thought about her laying on the gurney with the oxygen mask.

From far away it looked like nothing was wrong with her, she looked like she could have been asleep, curled up in her Spacey pjs and his Guns and Roses t-shirt. The thought of her burning to death in her sleep made him shudder and wince. He cursed his own imagination, the image of her body burning in her bed assaulting his mind. He raised his head and looked back down at her.

"Hey Case?" She turned her head to him; a wonky smile adorned her face.

"Yep" she popped the 'p'.

"How did you get my Guns and Roses t-shirt and why were you wearing it?" he asked with a genuine Derek Venturi smirk. Casey blushed.

"Well…um, I… I was going to yoga class and I found it in the bottom of my drawer. I didn't notice until I was in yoga class. I took it off before I stunk it up. So I kept it…" Casey blushed a bit more and giggled, "It smelled like home, so I decided to sleep in it."

Derek chuckled a bit, "Now Case, if you wanted my shirt all you had to do was ask. You didn't have to steal it!"

Casey's mouth dropped open and her eyebrows shot up, "I…I… I didn't steal it! I promise!" Her actions were over animated and childish.

Derek just laughed at her antics and patted her knee. "It's okay, I understand. You're obsessed with me. But what can I say, I am The Derek Venturi, amazing and awesome in every way!"

Casey just giggled, "you sounded like Mary Poppins! 'Practically Perfect in Every way'."

Just then the doctor walked in, his white lab coat flaring out behind him. His face looked firm and tired. In was midnight.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Marshall…"


The examination didn't take too long, about ten minutes; then there was the dressing of the burns followed by a brief run down of her recovery plan. She would be released on Friday. It was Monday at 1:30 in the morning when all the doctors and nurses left the room leaving Derek and Casey alone.

Casey lay on her side facing Derek, who sat in the chair by her bed. Her eyes were closed; her breathing was rhythmic and controlled. Her were painkillers wearing off, they wanted her to remember that her back was burnt so she wouldn't roll over in her sleep.

Derek watched her breathe through the returning pain. His mind racking up questions that needed answers and problems that needed to be solved. Such as, where is she going to live? Was any of her stuff salvageable? How is she going to afford clothes? Is the scar going to be horrible? How much is she going to cry over the damage? After this is over, is she still going to want to see him? Does she have a boyfriend? Does she have friends?

He realized he hadn't talked to her in over two months, two months to long.

"So, Case. Do you need me to tell anyone you're in the hospital?"

Casey lazily opened one eye to look at him. He looked nervous, not looking her in the eye. She closed her one eye; a small smirk appearing on her face.

"No."

Derek looked back at her. Nobody? No friends, boyfriends?

"No friends? Boyfriends?" he asked hesitantly. Casey's smirk grew a bit.

"Nope. Nobody." She stated.

"Really? For someone who never went longer than a month without a boyfriend in high school I figured you'd have somebody by now." He relaxed a bit.

"No. I have nobody. No boyfriends, crushes, or guy-friends."

"Girlfriends?" he asked, his voice suggestive.

"No. Perv, I don't have any girlfriends, girl crushes, or even friends." She retorted, not opening her eyes but still glaring in his general direction.

"Wait! Did you say no friends?"

Casey nodded, her face becoming stony.

"Even Emily was your friend on your first day of school!"

"Well to be honest, Emily and I only became friends after she found out I lived in the same house as you. You were the conversation that started our friendship," her voice dead and low.

"Really?" asked Derek, he was truly surprised.

"Yep" Casey snuggled deeper into her pillow. Derek slouched into his chair. His face puzzled and slightly annoyed.

"If it makes you feel any better, I don't have friends or a girlfriend," he offered.

Casey opened her eyes in surprise. "Are you serious? The Derek Venturi doesn't have a girlfriend or girl friends ? No buddies or hockey friends?"

"I do not have a girlfriend or friends. I haven't even been on a date. I have hockey buddies, but they're not really my friends. They party and get drunk all the time and I don't."

Casey sat up; her mouth open and her eyebrows raised in genuine confusion and surprise. Who is this guy? I feel like I barely know him? What happened to him?

"Who are you and what have you done with Derek Venturi?"

Derek just laughed. "No Case, it's me!"

"Are you on drugs?" asked Casey; he could tell by her face that she was dead serious.

"No. I don't do drugs, never have," he replied truthfully.

"You don't have blonde bimbos entering and leaving your apartment at random times in the night?"

"No. What kind of guy do you think I am Case?" he looked at her aghast.

"Just figured, by your track record in high school, that you would have… um… increased your annual quota," she said the last part in a business-like tone, trying desperately not to reveal how revolting the idea was.

Derek leaned forward, his eyes searching her face in an analytical sort of way. Casey turned her head away from him in slight embarrassment.

"Look at me." She looked.

"I need to clear up some misconceptions." Casey just nodded; slightly surprised at his use of a big word and the seriousness of his tone.

"First of all. Despite my high school 'chasing of skirts', I never slept with any of them. Not once, not ever. I have only slept with someone once. Sally." He looked down at his feet, he felt like he was in confession.

Casey's face was passive; inside she was surprised and impressed.

"We decided to lose it together before she left. We talked about it and we loved each other, she was leaving, and it was kind of a last goodbye." His eyes finally met hers again.

"Do you regret it?" she asked tentatively.

"No, I don't. We talked about it, I didn't pressure her; it wasn't spur of the moment. It was her idea. I thought it would make it harder to say goodbye, it did. But, I still don't regret it and as far as I know neither does she," his face was serious in a way Casey never thought she would see, she could still see the remaining sadness leftover.

Casey placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I'm sorry."

"Don't be, you couldn't have stopped her from going," he replied, rubbing the back of his neck.

"No, I am sorry for that too. I mean, I'm sorry that I assumed the worst of you. I am actually impressed. I'm proud of you Derek."

She smiled big, her face sincere. Derek smiled back, it felt good to have her approval, the 'always perfect' Casey was proud of him and impressed by him. Cool.

She dropped her hand. "So what's this about no parties?" her smile turning into a smirk.

They both relaxed; relieved to have ended their only truly serious conversation ever.

"Well..." said Derek leaning back, "My coach said 'No Parties, No drinking' or we're off the team. Most of the others don't follow the rules, but I do. I have goals; they want an easy ticket with a hard drink attached. That's how my roommate got kicked off the team and out of my apartment. He was a complete drunk, barfed his insides out all over my apartment, I took him to the hospital after a bad night and he was admitted for alcohol poisoning. He got kicked off the team and his parents picked up his stuff and took him home. Haven't heard from him since."

"How sad. I'm sorry you lost your roommate."

"Don't be sad or sorry. I was an idiot, I was so happy he left. I can now walk into my apartment without being welcomed with the smell of vomit. It's great," his smile wistful.

"Anyway, he was a distraction. It was hard for me to study or get sleep with him walking in and out, stumbling about like an idiot. It was like babysitting 24/7." He flicked his wrist in nonchalance.

Casey just looked at him; he really had changed.

"So what do you mean study? I bet you've never studied hard a day in your life." Casey crossed her arms in victory. It was short lived. Derek pulled a folded paper from the inside of his jacket. He flipped it open as if reading a verdict. He turned it dramatically towards her. It was an A+. Casey grabbed the paper, her jaw dropping.

"That is the midterm for my Calculus class. A+ baby!”

"You actually got an A+! In Calculus! I'd be lucky to get a C+ in that class, I don't understand a thing and I study all the time, the only time I'm not studying is when I'm sleeping!"

She flicked her gaze back up to his proud face. "Once again, Derek Venturi I am proud and impressed. Good job. I'm glad you finally decided studying was worthwhile task."

Derek nodded his thanks and sat back in his chair. A smug smirk plastered on his face. Casey yawned and laid back down, her energy completely spent. She closed her eyes again. Derek just yawned with her, settling deeper in his chair.

"Will you stay the night?" Casey asked drowsily.

"No, I have to go back to my apartment. Do you need anything? There's a 24 hour Walmart close by." Casey opened her eyes at this.

"Yes, Do you have money? I'd give you my card but it's in my dorm."

"Yeah, I have money. Just tell me what you need."

"Well… um… I need some new pajama pants and a t-shirt."

"Okay" Casey suddenly blushed.

"What do you need? Just tell me," his smirk on but his face paled, "Its not girly products is it, you'd think they'd have that stuff in a hospital."

"No. No, it's not girly products… technically." She glanced away from him.

"What does 'technically' mean?" He asked using air quotes.

"I need a new bra and panties." She covered her face with her hands, scared of his reaction. When there were no sounds she shifted two fingers and peeked through them.

Derek just sat there smiling. Casey dropped her hands.

"What are you smiling about?" she asked.

"Are you seriously embarrassed with me picking out your underwear?" Casey nodded.

"Case, answer me this. How many times did I vandalize your underwear drawer, steal your underwear from the dryer, or remove all your clothing from the house in high school?"

Casey just stared at him, counting in her head.

"That's right, you can't count the times. It doesn't matter, I know your bra size anyway." Once again flicking his wrist in nonchalance, giving her a smirking sideways look.

"Oh, really?" countered Casey, making it into a game. "Pray tell, what is my bra size?"

"34C" he said without a second thought.

Casey widened her eyes for the millionth time that night.

"Alright, you win. Congratulations you know my bra size; that is only slightly creepy. I wear a size medium in shirts and..."

"… a size 4 in pants," Derek finished for her.

"Wow, you know me too well," sighed Casey.

"Okay, now we have established your clothing sizes, you need sleep and I need to go."

"Fine. Drive safe." Casey grabbed his hand as he stood up, " you will come back, right?" She gazed at him imploringly.

"Yes Space-case, I'll be back tomorrow, with you things. You just get a goodnight sleep. Okay. I'll see you tomorrow." He bent down and kissed her head.

She dropped his hand and curled up deeper into the bed, a contented smile upon her face.

He paused at the door, turning to look at her. She was already asleep.

Chapter Text

Derek sat in his car in the middle of the nearly empty hospital parking lot. The motor was running and heat was cranked up high. His head rested against the steering wheel. He was counting in his head, trying desperately to get a hold of his emotions.

All he could see was her laying there on the gurney, still unconscious and vulnerable; he'd almost lost her. It was one thing to know she was still alive and somewhere on the same campus as him, it would be entirely different if she was not there at all. He would be alone, in every sense of the word. Yes he would have his family, hockey friends, and Sam and Ralph, but not having Casey meant not having the consistent blunt conscience that he lacked before she came into his life. She was the small voice inside his head, the one that told him he was being stupid or a complete ass. What he said in the hospital room was true; he always made the exception for her.

Derek finally lifted his head and pulled the car into reverse, quickly distancing himself from the source of his confusion. In his mind he went over a list of things to get for her. He knew she had only told him some basics, not wanting him to make much effort. So he had to think like her for a moment, going over all the things he used to watch her do in the morning. Thankfully he knew her morning routine better than he knew his own.

Okay, she needs a couple t-shirts, a pair of pjs, bra and underwear. What else would she need? She will probably want to leave the hospital with actual clothes. Maybe a pair of those stretchy black pants she used to wear on Saturdays? She'll need a sweatshirt or something. Socks. Shoes. Knowing her she'll want to smell good. She always did smell good. Deodorant. She'll probably need a brush. And a toothbrush, she brushes her teeth like three times a day. Okay so she'll need:

t-shirts

pjs

stretchy pants

a sweatshirt

socks

shoes

deodorant

hairbrush

toothbrush

Yep, that seems like the basics. Anything else I get later. 

Derek let his mind wander the rest of the way to Walmart. He saw the overly large everything store approaching, grateful that it was open 24 hours.


Derek entered the store leisurely, thankful that no one was really there. Then no one would see Derek Venturi the hockey player picking out girl clothes. He made his way to the clothing department, eyeing the merchandise. He knew everything about Casey's style, what she liked, hated, and what colors she liked the most.

She saw a rack of plain v-neck t-shirts, he approached and quickly picked out a white one, black one, and aqua colored one.

He then made his way to the pajama department, looking over the brightly colored garments for a certain piece. He found it. They weren't the same, but the theme was right. He found her new Spacey pjs. They were black with white and yellow dots of stars, there were comets on them shooting in every direction, there was even some sparkle evident in the fabric. Casey would love them. He saw some sheepskin lined outside slippers sitting on a table nearby, he grabbed her a pair, hoping he remembered her shoe size. She wears an 8, right?

With his face now smug with victory, Derek took towards the athletic clothing department. He spotted a pile of plain black yoga pants. He quickly grabbed her size and turned towards the final department. Lingerie.

Derek was hesitant in approaching this department. Yes he told Casey it was no big deal, but to be honest it scared the crap out of him. It was one thing to vandalize pre-bought bras; it was another thing entirely to pick them out for her. He knew she never bought anything boring.

Opening her drawer at home was like opening a drawer of candy, bright colors, fancy patterns, stripes, polka dots, and then there was the lace. Casey was a true girly hopeless romantic, her drawer had a special section dedicated to lacy things, all in sinful colors, and they were sexy to say the least. For a girl who spouted on and on about feminist ideals she knew what kind of underwear could make a man have a heart attack.

Derek never admitted to studying her underwear so thoroughly, but it was true. The first time Derek planned sabotage he didn't really think of the repercussions. He opened the drawer and found every pervy teenage boy's fantasy drawer. Only, this drawer belonged to his keener stepsister. He had stopped for a few moments to study the contents, he didn't touch, just looked, surprised beyond belief at the arsenal of sexy lingerie his step sister had. He then quickly poured an enormous amount of honey and chocolate syrup all over them.

Now he was faced with choosing the dangerous pieces of fabric, this would haunt him later; he was sure of it.

Derek took a deep breath bracing him for the task ahead. His face stern and his mouth resolutely tight he walked to the lingerie department. He stopped at the edge of the carpet; he then took a hesitant step into the unknown. Placing his foot down hesitantly as if the ground would crumble beneath his feet. With his foot firmly planted he continued.

Derek walked slowly through the maze of frilly things, purposefully steering clear of anything red or ridiculously small, nearly non-existent items. His palms were sweaty and his eyes shifty.

He saw a rack with simple yet girly items. He carefully lifted his hand to inspect the bras. He found a plain light blue one, with a small white bow in the front. Perfect . He grabbed her size hastily. He turned to the neighboring rack, underwear. There sat the matching bottoms to the bra in his hand. Only problem, there were three different types.

What! There are different types! All I knew of were thongs and granny panties! Boy shorts?! Bikini?! Hipster?! Um… Oh, god.

His eyes frantically darted between the different styles. He slowly realized there was only one way to decide, pick them up and examine them. Oh God.

Derek reached for the underwear; he picked up the 'boy shorts'. Holding them up he looked at them. These looked fine, not granny-ish in any way. These looked safe. He grabbed a pair in her size and made his way to the beauty section. He quickly gathered the rest of the items he needed, a brush, a toothbrush, and deodorant. He made his way to the cashier.

Once outside in his car, he breathed. That had to be one of the hardest things he's ever done. It was hard enough lying to Casey about how easy the situation would be; it was even more difficult following through. The look the tired cashier gave him didn't help either.

Chapter Text

Derek grudgingly walked into his apartment. He threw the bags onto his recliner, not caring how they fell. His eyes were tired and his body even more tired; the aches from hockey practice finally catching up with him. He made his way to the bathroom, shedding his clothes along the way. He stepped into the shower, the heat of the spray quickly relaxing his tired shoulders. He quickly washed and exited the shower; mild excitement washing over him at the thought of sleep. He changed into his pajamas and flopped on his bed.

This was when his excitement ended. He was comfortable, content, and sleepy. The only problem was his body. It had become routine for him; to lie in bed no matter how tired and pray for the humming throughout his body to go away. He expected it the moment he got in bed, preparing himself for the return of his constant annoyance.

This humming was really annoying, keeping him up as if he still had energy, meanwhile his mind and muscles begging for sleep. So he waited. Waited for it to come, as always. He waited a long time. It never came. The humming that invaded his body never came. It was gone. He was surprised, he thought he didn't notice it because his mind was elsewhere, he was busy, preoccupied. But no, it was gone. Finally.

Derek fell asleep with a smile on his face for the first time since he had arrived at Queens.


Casey awoke to a nurse entering her room. She slowly opened her eyes, adjusting to the light emitting from the doorway. She still lay on her side. She knew her neck would be stiff today. She looked at the clock on the side table next to her bed. 8:30. I slept in .

Casey groaned; she hated hospitals. She slowly rose from her position, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. The nurse looked slightly startled for a moment.

"I see you’re up. I'll get you some breakfast."

Casey sat there dumbly. Her head was pounding and her neck ached. All she wanted was to go home.

What home? My dorm is gone. Mom and George are at Niagara Falls; I can't go home. Where am I going to live, come Friday I'll be practically homeless. I don't have any friends to take me in for the time being. I should start looking for an apartment, hopefully something close by the school. I wonder if anything can be saved from my dorm. And to think I had just finished my paper. Gone, all of it gone. I wonder if Derek's apartment building has an opening, its close by. But, then I'd be neighbors with Derek, again. Not that it would be that bad now. I mean, he has matured a lot in the last two months. He seems almost normal. He didn't make fun of me or fight with me. He even offered to buy me stuff! Since when has he been so charitable?

The nurse walked in with her breakfast. Oatmeal. Casey hates oatmeal. Really hates oatmeal. She prayed for a cup of coffee or something to save her from the boring taste.

The nurse came in again, this time with some clean bandages and special ointments. Casey looked up.

I wonder how bad it is. They're keeping me in here for the rest of the week, last night I didn't get to see the damage. It must be bad though. The nurse kept looking at me with pity. 

"Excuse me?" Casey called the nurse.

"Yes dear, what can I do for you?" the nurse walked to her bedside.

"Um, I was wondering if I could see my back in the mirror, I want to see how bad it is," Casey asked hesitantly.

"Oh, yes, you can, just give me a moment to remove the bandages."

Casey turned her back to the nurse. She felt the bandages being removed from her skin, the medical tape pulling slightly on her sensitive skin.

"Okay Darling, the bandages are off. I need to warn you. The burn is bad, it will not look good at all, there is a bit of oozing. Okay. You're staying in here because of how severe it is and to prevent infection. Prepare yourself."

Casey got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. She turned her back to the mirror. She took a deep breath and turned her head to look at her back. It was horrible.

Her skin was of the deepest red and broken apart. She could see small skin fragments remaining. The burn covered from her mid back to just below her shoulders. It looked painful; it was painful. She winced at her reflection.

Casey turned to the pitying nurse in the doorway. "Will it scar?"

The nurse looked a bit hesitant, then nodded. "It will scar, but not bad, it could have been a lot worse."

"Is there anything I can use to lessen the scaring?" Casey asked.

"Yes, there are some ointments and creams that help rebuild skin after a severe burn. You'd have to apply them twice daily," said the nurse.

The nurse gestured to the door, "Come, lets get those bandages on you." Casey nodded and followed her, stealing a glance at her own retreating form in the bathroom mirror.

Casey sighed as she sat on her bed again, waiting to be bandaged.


Derek woke late; the clock said 9:15. He pulled himself out of bed and walked into the kitchen. He turned on the coffee pot and rubbed his eyes thoroughly. He stole a glance around his empty apartment. After Charlie left, there wasn't much furniture; Charlie took the couch and coffee table. That left Derek with his recliner, the TV and a table and chairs. He kept telling himself 'I'm a bachelor and this is my bachelor pad, I don't need furniture.'

Derek walked over to his coat layer haphazardly on the floor. He grabbed his phone from the pocket and flipped it open. He scrolled through the numbers until he found his coach. He pressed the call button.

Derek waited through the rings,

"Reynolds!"

"Coach, It's Derek Venturi."

"Ah, Venturi. What can I do for you?"

"Coach I was just calling to let you know that I won't be able to make it to afternoon practice today." Derek waited, hoping he was on his coach's good side.

"I have some good news for you then, Venturi. For the next two days practices are cancelled."

"They are? Why?"

"Well, it seems, because of the recent events the school has decided to cancel all classes for the next week. I talked them into allowing us practice during the last part of the week. They said that the girls needed time to recuperate and find housing, so everything is cancelled. May I ask why you are calling to tell you won't be able to make it? Last time I checked you didn't have a girlfriend and the reports didn't mention you being in the building at the time of the fire."

Derek paused, he had told no one about Casey. The team didn't even know about her existence in any sense.

"Well, you see, coach. I was not in the fire and I don't have a girlfriend. But, I do have a stepsister. She was in the fire. She has been admitted with second-degree burns. She was one of the ones on the gurneys sir."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't know you have family at the school with you. What year is she?"

"Freshman."

"Oh, just like you. Interesting. Well tell her I hope she gets better. I do expect you at practice on Wednesday. No excuses."

"Yes Coach. Thank you. Bye."

"Bye."

Derek hung up the phone. No school for a week. This is great! I have to call Dad and Nora and give them an update.  

Derek pressed the #3 on his phone, hoping his dad would answer.

"Hello?"

"Hey Dad!"

"Derek, Hi! How's Casey doing?"

"She's fine, just tired and slightly burnt." Derek winced. He could remember the doctors looking at her back; he saw the extent of the damage. It was bad.

"Do you need anything son?"

"I just wanted to let you know that Casey's alright and I may need some money."

"Why do you need money? I just put more money into your account two weeks ago."

"Well, Dad. Casey's things were all burnt in the fire. That includes her wallet and cards, her cell phone and all of her clothes. Last night I had to go out and buy her stuff. Now instead of using my money for me I am also taking care of Casey too. So yeah, I'm going to need a bit more money. Can't you just give me any money you would have put into Casey's account?" Derek was getting frustrated, his dad always needed a laid out reason for giving him money.

"Okay, I understand that you're taking care of Casey, thank you. But, I don't give Casey money, Dennis does."

"Dennis? Casey's dad? I didn't know she still had contact with him." Derek was definitely confused.

"I'll talk to Nora and see what I can do. Hold on a moment." So, Derek waited.

Nora got on the phone.

"Derek?"

"Yes Nora."

"I have a proposition for you." Started Nora.

"Okay, spill." Replied Derek.

"Your father and I think that Casey should move in with you." Nora waited for a big reaction.

"…" nothing.

"Derek? Are you alright?" Nora asked the phone, she didn't need another child in the hospital.

Derek woke out of his stupor.

"Yeah, Nora, I'm fine. Did you just tell me that Casey should move in with me?"

"Yes, Yes I did," said Nora in the most business-y tone she could muster.

"Okay, why?"

"Well, I know that your roommate is gone and Casey's dorm is no longer livable. My guess is that she already is planning on looking for an apartment near the school. You have an empty room, she needs an apartment, and it's not like you haven't lived together before."

So, Nora had a very legitimate reason for sharing an apartment with Casey. Derek pondered the outcome of this arrangement. Casey was clean, respectful (somewhat) of his stuff, and never ever drank. Fine, she could move in.

"Okay, she can live with me, but I'm not going to be the one to talk her into it. Nora, that is your job, I've done enough."

"Okay, I agree to those terms, I think I can convince her."

"Fine. Now, I actually called about some money." Derek was trying desperately to stay on topic.

"After I convince Casey, I'll give you Dennis' number, then you can call him and tell him about the situation. I think he'll be more than willing to put up some money towards apartment furniture and stuff for Casey."

"Alright, I'll call you guys soon, I'm about to go visit Casey. I'll have her talk to you then."

"Okay, Bye Derek."

"Bye, Nora."

Derek hung up quickly. Living with Casey. Oh boy, this was going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

Derek arrived at the hospital at 10:00. He had with him a small overnight bag with all of Casey's things in it. Carefully folded; he knew she would pester him about wrinkles if it was any other way.

He glided into Room 234 with a small smile on his face. He saw Casey sitting in her bed, gingerly resting on her back, watching TV.

"Morning Space Case!" he said loudly. Casey jumped a bit in surprise.

"So you finally decided to show up. I thought maybe you'd forgotten me." She was scowling at him. He really didn't know why, nor did he care. He just walked up and kissed her on the top of the head.

"Nice to see you too, Casey!" he said in mock cheerfulness. Casey just made a face at him. Then she saw the bag in his hand.

"Ooo, what's in the bag?" she suddenly had a smile on her face, her hands clasped together like a kid at Christmas. Derek willingly put the bag on her lap and slumped in the chair.

"They're the clothes I promised you."

Casey was hesitant in opening the bag. In all her years of knowing Derek, and his pranking history with her, she didn't know what to expect. Either he had bought her ugly clothes that she would be embarrassed wearing or he would buy her something utterly slutty just to piss her off. She couldn't decide which was more likely. She would just have to find out.

Casey slowly unzipped the bag and pulled open the sides. What was revealed was a surprise to her. Everything was neatly folded. She could see a few shirts, some black pants, new pjs, and, to her surprise, a cute simple set of undergarments perfect for her.

Derek the entire time was looking away, trying desperately not to blush. It was awkward to say the least. He had contemplated running, but he knew he would get lip about it later.

Casey turned to look at her crimson stepbrother. "D, you surprised me," pure awe on her face.

Derek looked up at her in confusion. "What do you mean I surprised you?"

"Well I just expected one of two extremes. Either you'd get me stuff that was doughty or incredibly slutty. But instead you got me things that definitely look like something I would wear. I'm surprised. I gave you a perfect opportunity for a prank," she smirked at him.

"Well, I am full of surprises. Don't worry about the pranks; I have to make up for lost time. You are two months overdue on a good prank. Consider this your warning," he gave her a firm but playful stare.

"Oh I'm so scared," Casey just giggled and proceeded to empty the bag. When she found the pjs, she smiled.

"Awwww, you got me new Spacey pjs! Thank you Derek!"

"Hey, I did promise you, didn't I?"

Casey nodded. She was still trying to piece together this new Derek. He was sweet, caring, and still had his sarcastic sense of humor. It was weird. She didn't expect him to come back today. She didn't expect him to stay if he did. But, here he was sitting next to her bed as if this is normal behavior for him. This was anything but normal.

Casey packed everything back into the bag and lowered it to the floor. She put her hands in her lap and took a breath. She then turned to Derek, her face serious.

"Derek, what has happened to you? You used to be arrogant, lazy, and completely annoying. What changed?"

Derek sighed and leaned forward. He rubbed his hands down his face then through his hair. He looked up at her, his face matching hers in seriousness.

"Case, yeah, I've changed. I know I've changed. It scares me sometimes. I'm still lazy, I still spend hours playing babe raider and watching hockey. I still eat junk food and sleep way too much on the weekends. The differences, I believe, are circumstantial. I am no longer the king of the school. I have friends, but nothing like Sam or Ralph. The last date I went on I broke up with Emily. I don't drink like everyone thought I would. I go to hockey practice then go home. After games I go out with the team, then I go straight home. I do all of my homework because I want to stay on the team. The coach said if we fail a class we're off, I don't want that to be me. I hoped to have a good roommate who would want to sit around and play video games but instead I got a drunken loser, who reeked of vomit and came back to the apartment only to pass out. Circumstances change, so I have the change to fit the circumstances. I can say the same about you; you no longer have that fire you used to have. You're timid and quiet. You don't pick fights with me, you used to love to pick fights with me."

Casey just looked at him. It had happened Derek Venturi had matured. Really matured. She opened her mouth to say something then closed it to think for a moment.

"I guess you are right. Circumstances have changed. And your right about me changing too," she lowered her gaze to her hands.

"I'm alone; all the time. I get up early so I don't have to face my roommate. I spend all day alone, I walk to classes alone, and I eat alone. I study alone, I get ready for bed alone, I never talk to my roommate; the highlights of my week are my yoga classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The only person I have long conversations with is my mom and occasionally Lizzie. This has got to be the longest face-to-face conversation I have had in two months. I hate college and love college at the same time. I mean, I love my classes, enjoy the lectures, but I have no friends to discuss them with, no one to tell that my history professor has hair plugs," Derek chuckled, "I thought college was supposed to be fun, not lonely."

By this time Derek had made up his mind, Nora didn't need to convince Casey. It seemed Casey would jump at the chance for anyone to talk to, even if it meant him.

"Casey," Derek started, he put his hand over hers, "It seems your mother has got it into her head that it would be a good idea for you to move in with me."

He waited.

Casey lifted her eyes to his, they were wide; he could see the Casey wheels turning in her head. Analyzing every possible situation and fight, along with anything else she had in her head she equated living with him. There were only two possible outcomes. One, the whole idea ends with flying objects and hair pulling. Or two, they end up being close friends because college does not have the social benefits expected. It's not like she hasn't lived with him before, only this time there would be no parents or snoopy siblings to break up the fights.

Derek watched her expectantly. He kind of wanted her to live with him, she was good company, always had something to say, she liked the quiet needed to study, they could even study together. It's not like he hadn't lived with her before.

"Yes." Casey looked up.

Derek stared at her for a moment.

"Really? You're okay with the idea of living with me?" Derek was shocked, but happy. (Although he would never tell her that.)

"Yes, I think it is a good idea for us to live together. I mean; we managed to live together all through high school and not kill each other. And you have matured a great deal in two months and you have an empty room. So logically this is a good idea. I'll move in with you, not that there is much to move." Her voice cracked a bit with her last words. Derek felt sorry for her, wishing this had never happened to her.

Casey could feel the unshed tears behind her eyes. This whole ordeal was scary. She finally let loose, allowing the tears to roll down her cheeks.

Derek acted fast, he knew just how to handle her in this state, he had seen it plenty of times, and usually her tears were because of him or because of a stupid boyfriend. He got out of his chair and sat on the edge of her bed and gathered her in his arms, holding her tight enough for comfort but gentle enough not to hurt her.

"I was waiting for the Casey freak out, you lasted longer than I expected." His voice was light and playful, he waited for an easy comeback from her. He felt her arms work their way around his waist holding him tighter.

"I promise not to tell Marti about cheating on her by hugging me." Her tone was equally playful but definitely not light, there was still pain involved. Derek just chuckled.

"Have you seen the burn?" Casey asked him.

"Yes, I have."

"I saw it about an hour ago. It's really bad. The nurse says it's going to scar." Her voice was full of self-pity.

"I know, Case, I know," replied Derek before dropping a kiss to the top of her head.

"I was thinking about it before you came. I realized that every time I wear a bikini or a fancy dress everyone will be able to see it." Derek just nodded.

"…And fancy dresses include my future wedding dress. Everyone will be able to see the damage. My future husband will have to accept me with my scar. I'm damaged goods. I have an ugly scar on my back, who would like that! Who would want a woman with a giant mark on their back? Who?! Derek! No one will want me!"

Casey was now hysterical; her voice had cracked and risen several octaves. Tears were now flowing fast down her face and soaking into Derek's shirt. Derek continued to soothe her as best she could. He could hear her whispering to herself, "I'll never be good enough, I'll never be good enough…" it hurt him to hear her say that, knowing that nobody deserves her, she is too good.

"Case? Case, I need you to listen to me," Casey just nodded into his chest, "You are beautiful and any man would be crazy not to want you, It doesn't matter if you have a scar or not," Derek said sincerely. Casey just froze. It was one thing for Derek to mature; it was an entirely different thing to compliment her so openly.

She leaned away from him. She studied his face. Slowly, she moved her hand to his forehead. "Are you feeling okay? Are you taking anything?"

Derek just shook his head and chuckled. Casey looked genuinely confused. "No Case. I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

"I just never thought I'd see the day that Derek Venturi would compliment me without blackmail involved. Did my mom or George tell you to be nice to me? Is this some kind of prank?" Casey looked around the room for a reason to believe.

"No Case. This is not a prank, I'm not being paid, and Nora and my Dad did not put me up to this."

"Lizzie or Edwin?"

"Nope."

Casey seemed to ponder something for a moment. "Well in that case. Thank you." She put on a small smile. He could still see the doubt present in her eyes. He decided to change the subject.

"So you and me, living together, again. This will be quite the adventure," he joked, breaking the slight tension.

"I know right. I never thought I'd see the day that I was willingly moving in with you, but as you say we change to fit the circumstances." Derek just nodded his agreement.

"Oh, I have news." Casey looked up expectantly. "It seems that the school has cancelled classes for the rest of the week. You don't have to worry about any missing work. You're in the clear. Oh, and Coach Reynolds says to get well."

Derek moved back to his seat.

"Coach Reynolds? Isn't that your hockey coach," Derek nodded, "why would he want to tell me to get better?"

"I called him to let him know that I won't be making it to practice today." Casey opened her mouth to protest, Derek raised a hand to stop her. "It seems besides just school being cancelled practices are cancelled until Wednesday."

"But you have a game on Friday night. Do you think that you'll be ready?" Derek looked at her for a second.

"How do you know about the game on Friday?" His head turned to the side, like cops do on TV shows.

"I… I… um…" Casey blushed.

"You…you…um… what?" Derek asked, a sly smirk growing.

Casey closed her eyes. Hoping the situation would just go away; it was her turn for confession.

"I've been to every one of your games." Casey winced waiting for the laugh.

"You've been to all my games?!" Casey couldn't tell if he was surprised or angry.

"Yes, every one. I would sit at different spots and leave before the game ended."

"You'd leave before it ended, you never got to see my winning shots!" Derek was now out of his chair pacing. Casey really didn't know why so she just kept talking.

"No! I saw all of your winning shots, I would get up at the last few minutes of the game then wait at one of the exits and watch from there, then I would leave right after you won. I would get out before the crowds and the traffic."

Derek just stared at her. "Why?" he asked.

"Because…because it reminded me of home. It felt like home. To watch you play was familiar and comforting," she said nervously.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know, I thought you wouldn't want me involved in your life and I didn't think you would care if I was there or not." Casey put on a brave face and turned towards Derek.

Derek looked back at her holding her gaze for a moment.

"I wanted you there."

Chapter Text

Casey looked at him aghast. "Really?!"

"Yes, Really."

"Oh, you never asked me or told me when your games were, I just assumed." Casey was really confused. First he was nice, then she found out he was lonely just like her, and now he wanted her at the games. What next, his favorite author is Jane Austen?!

"If I remember correctly, you told me that I was bad luck and you never wanted me to come to your games! That is what you told me! Every time the family got ready to go to one of your games! YOU didn't want me! I thought it just continued into college!"

Throughout her rant Casey had gotten very agitated and was pointing her finger at him, directing the blame to his face.

"Geese Space-Case! Take a chill pill! No, you weren't welcome in high school. It's true you were bad luck. But then I had Marti; Marti was my good luck charm. Now I have nobody! Dad and Nora don't come to my games, I have no one to cheer me on and you wonder why I would want you there?" Now Derek was pacing; you could practically see the pain and anger running off of him.

"DER-EK! Oh, don't you DARE! Don't put all the blame on me! You told me when I was dating Sam that I couldn't come to the games. I believe that was the fight that broke one of my mom's lamps! We got grounded for the weekend AND I still didn't get to see him play! So don't pin this one on me Derek Venturi! It was all you!" Casey crossed her arms attempting to officially end the conversation.

Derek, on the other hand, felt amazing. This was the most fun he'd had in months. His body was on fire, in an entirely good way. Secretly Casey felt the same way. Derek didn't want this to end; so he continued.

"It was you who hit me first! It was also YOUR foot that hit the lamp, not mine! That fight was ALL you! ALL YOU!" He pointed his finger at her.


By this time both voices had gotten very loud, echoing throughout Casey's room and reaching the nurses station. The nurse on duty was running down the hall, hoping it wasn't a domestic dispute. She reached the door and was slightly shocked.

Casey was sitting straight up in her bed, face burning red. Derek was standing at the end of her bed, his hands grasping the bed frame, leaning towards her, his face also red. Okay, for people having a verbal fight that was normal. What wasn't normal was both of their eyes were incredibly sparkly and bright and both had huge smirks on their faces.

They were having a stare down. The air was crackling between their eyes, the silent conversation deep and electrifying. Neither were backing down, both determined to win.

The nurse stood in the doorway taking in the scene. In all of her years in nursing, she had never seen a more passionate pair than the two before her. She had seen young lovers, old lovers, newlyweds, and divorcees fighting; some couples sickeningly sweet and overly romantic; others trying to come off as sexy and flirtatious. But she had never observed a pair who looked like they would nearly tear each other's clothes off at any moment. The heat radiated off of them. They were equally passionate and equally stubborn, a perfect match.

She cleared her throat alerting them to her presence. She blushed slightly; feeling as if she walked in on an intimate situation. Neither of them broke their eye contact. Casey just gestured for her to enter.

"Could you please keep your voices down, we don't want to disturb the other patients." She kept her eyes fixed on the pair.

Derek cleared his throat, "yeah, sure. Sorry 'bout that," his eyes never leaving Casey's.

The nurse turned and left the room quickly giving them some privacy. When she reached the nurse's station she broke into a fit of giggles. She had realized that they had no knowledge of their chemistry, completely oblivious to the fact that it was so obvious to everyone else. She quickly ran over to one of her nurse friends and filled her in on the funny gossip.

They continued to hold the stare, both waiting for the other to admit defeat. Suddenly Derek's phone rang. Derek reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. His gaze locked on Casey's, he flipped the phone open to answer it.

"Yep?"

"Derek, It's me. Nora. Are you with Casey? I want to discuss the room situation with her."

Derek dropped his eyes; both secretly disappointed.

"No need, I managed to convince her."

Nora was definitely confused; Derek had never managed to convince Casey of anything this important. Let alone something that involved more time with him.

"How did you manage to do that?"

"Long story. Do you want to talk to her?"

"Yes, of course!" Derek handed the phone to Casey.

Casey gave him a questioning look. Derek mouthed 'Nora'. Casey just nodded and grabbed the phone.

"Hey Mom!"


Derek just watched Casey talk to her mother. He could see her relax a bit, the fire that was once behind her eyes dying out slowly. Her eyes returning from the electric blue they were when they always fought to her usual grey blue. Her tone was light and comforting to her mother. Calming her motherly worry. Derek chuckled lightly, remembering all the times that Casey managed to calm down her mother and visa versa. This was one thing that both mother and daughter shared, they both had the incredible ability to calm each other no matter how hysterical the other was. This felt so much like home.

Derek began to get bored and hungry. He left her room and went towards the vending machines. He passed the nurse's station on the way; his ears detecting them whispering. He turned towards them; both nurses at the station suddenly went back to work and stopped talking. Weird .

Derek reached the vending machine. He fished a few bucks from his pocket and contemplated the machine. He got his candy bar and turned to return to Casey's room.

As he passed the station, he glanced at one of the nurses. It was the nurse who'd interrupted them. She looked back quickly looking back down at her file, shaking her head and smiling knowingly. Derek just continued to walk passed, his brow knit in confusion. He shrugged it off and entered Casey's room.

Casey was still seated on her bed, his phone pressed to her ear. Obviously she had gotten bored with the conversation. Her shoulders were slumped slightly. She turned slightly as he entered. She rolled her eyes at the phone and raised her hand into a puppet; her hand puppets mouth moving constantly. Derek chuckled and rolled his eyes in return. Both of them sported joking smiles as Casey returned her attention to her rambling mother.

Derek plopped down into 'his' chair and turned on the TV. He flipped through the channels until he reached the sports channel. Blocking out the chatting girl next to him.

Nora continued to rattle on and on about the joys of pregnancy and the sweetness of her husband, all of which Casey had no desire to hear.

"Mom, I'm going to have to call you later; the doctor's coming in for a check-up. I'll call you in a few hours. Okay?"

"Yes, I'll tell him."

"Okay, love you too. Bye." and with that Casey slumped into her bed and flipped the phone closed. She let out a breath and closed her eyes.

"Wow, pregnancy hormones do not work for my mom. It makes her too nostalgic. I did not need to know about her and my father's sex life during her pregnancy with me. I mean really! There are just things that should never be mentioned in light conversation!" Casey flopped her hands on the bed. Derek just laughed.

"I am soooo glad that she seemed sane while I was talking to her yesterday. I don't think I would have survived that conversation without intense psychotherapy afterwards." Casey just chuckled.

"Are you sure you don't need psychotherapy anyway?" She turned her head to look at him; her face teasing.

"Nice one McDonald. Yes, I might need it, especially after living with you for four years."

"Get ready, because I'm moving in again!" Casey replied through her giggles.

They sat in comfortable silence, lazily watching the hockey reruns on the TV; occasionally sneaking smirking glances at each other.

"I missed you," said Casey after a bit.

Derek gave a small smile, his eyes fixed on the TV.

"I missed you too."

Chapter Text

The rest of the day went smoothly. Occasionally a doctor or nurse would come in and do their thing, then leaving Derek and Casey alone. They spent their time doing whatever came to mind; they played cards, watched a TV movie, chatted about anything, ate, and spent a good few minutes fighting again. At about 5 pm Derek stood up and stretched, Casey immediately thought he was leaving her.

It's not like I have a claim on him, but I still don't want him to leave me. I wonder if he'd be willing to stay the night? No, that is too much to ask. He's done enough. I don't want to overstep his generosity. Just let him go Casey. Everything will be fine. He'll be back tomorrow... right?

Casey's face had panic written all over it, her eyes showing her insecurity and fear. Derek put on his jacket and turned to face her. He softened his features; she looked scared.

"Case, I'm going to go home now. I'll be back tomorrow, I promise. You're going to have to let me go home if you expect to move into a clean apartment." He grinned.

"Right! Cleaning, you go ahead and go. I'll be fine," she said nervously, her hands wringing in her lap. Derek just leaned over and kissed her on the head. He moved quickly from the room. Stopping at the door he said, "Don't worry, I'll be back. I promise. Sleep well, you need it." And with that he was gone.


Casey was incredibly bored. Derek had left the playing cards so she entertained herself with solitaire. Derek had changed dramatically. Kindness and patience seemed like the new norm for him. Casey was very confused. Establishing the fact that he had matured was one thing. He was a new person complete with a sweet disposition and kind heart! This was not the Derek Venturi she knew.

One thing was certain; he still could get under her skin in a matter of milliseconds. He still had the fire behind his eyes when they fought; something she was glad was still there.

He probably is being nice to me because I'm injured. This happy time will end the moment I move in. It will be right back to normal; whatever that is. I like this new Derek. He seems like everything I wished he was when I first met him. He still had that damned smirk that can get me all riled up. I didn't realize how much I missed our fights until I got a small taste. The fights today were good, not as fiery as they used to be. Gosh I really need someone to talk to about this. Lizzie would be good to talk to; she would probably like a break from Edwin anyway.  

Casey picked up the phone next to her bed and quickly dialed her home phone.

She waited. It rang, rang again, again, again, she was beginning to give up hope; finally a breathless person answered the phone.

"What!" it was Lizzie.

"Hey Lizzie! It's Casey!"

"Casey! Oh My Gosh! I heard! Are you okay? You're not too burnt are you?" She rattled off, catching her breath the entire time.

"I'm fine Liz, I have a bad burn on my back but other than that I'm completely healthy."

She paused.

"Liz? Why are you breathless?"

Lizzie chuckled for a moment.

"Um, well you see… Edwin had stolen my backpack and was running around the house with it. So I ran upstairs and took his prank-planning book, then I ran back downstairs and threatened to cut it up. It was really weird; it was like you and Derek. Then the phone rang and caught him off guard. So then I tackled him and threw my backpack out of the way, I pinned him to the ground and reached over and answered the phone. I still have him pinned if you want to talk to him." Lizzie explained, Casey could hear the victory and humor in her voice.

"Good job Liz! I knew you wouldn't disappoint! I just wanted to talk to you for a bit… in private. Is that all right?"

"Yeah sure. Hold on a minute."

Casey listened hard; she heard some scuffling. She could hear Edwin yelling "ow!" occasionally. Finally, Lizzie picked up the phone again.

"Okay, he's taken care of. What do you want to talk about?"

"Liz, something's wrong with Derek."

"What could be wrong with him? Besides what already is wrong with him," Lizzie asked.

"He's nice!"

"What do you mean nice?" Lizzie was surprised.

"He bought me clothes and stayed with me all day. He complimented me! He comforted me when I broke down! It was weird. I don't know what to think. I mean, I like this new Derek; but, I expected the worse."

Lizzie could hear her sister's confusion in her voice. She felt sorry that she couldn't be there to talk her through it. If there was a subject Lizzie knew it would be Casey and Derek. Through extensive study with Edwin, she knew exactly what to do. She needed her partner in crime. I'll brief him later.

"Casey, breathe please." Casey took in a breath. "Okay, there is a new Derek. What is wrong with that? Isn't that what you've wanted the entire time you've known him? Why are you complaining?"

"I know, I know. This is just what I've always wanted. We did fight today a few times, but nothing like we used to. We were reprimanded by a nurse, which was funny, but other than that the fights were pretty tame. I'm just scared that the moment I move in with him, this whole charade will end."

"You're What!!!!!" Lizzie nearly fainted.

"What?" Casey asked her sister.

"Moving in with Derek! Are George and Mom bribing you? How the hell did you end up as Derek's new roommate?!"

Casey didn't say anything. She really didn't know what to say. Casey heard in the background a thump and a loud boyish "WHAT!" She figured it was an eavesdropping Edwin getting the shock of his life. She giggled a bit, picturing the mischievous duo actually being shocked for once by her actions.

"Casey! Answer me!"

"I'm moving in with Derek. I'm not being bribed. It was mom's idea, but Derek was the one who asked. I agreed. Liz, I don't have any place to live and he has an empty room. His apartment is two blocks from school. I walk by it every time I go to Yoga. It's a perfect situation."

"Perfect! This is you and Derek we're talking about! You nearly killed each other with the family in the house! What are you going to do when there is no supervision or go-betweens?" Lizzie was now genuinely concerned for her sister's mental health. She had let Edwin into her room by now; he was sitting on her desk chair anxiously waiting for new info for their research. Lizzie was up pacing in her small room, gesturing wildly. To Edwin, it looked like she was having a Casey worthy freak-out. He would have to add this to his notes on her (Lizzie).

"Come on Liz, I just told you that Derek has changed, maybe there is hope. I just want to know what you may know about the new Derek; anything that I don't know. Ask Edwin!"

Liz turned to her stepbrother, her face expressionless.

"Okay, here he is." And she handed the phone to Edwin.

"Casey?" Edwin didn't know what to expect.

"Hey Ed!" he was slightly surprised. It seemed as if she was having a freak out, but it seems the only one freaking out was Liz, a rare occurrence.

"So… what's up Casey?" he asked tentatively.

"Well, you see Derek is being nice to me and I am just wondering if his actions are because I'm in the hospital or if it's been a process? Do you think it's an elaborate prank?"

Edwin was silent for a moment going over his recent conversations with his brother. Derek had changed. He talked about his classes, homework, and hockey. He never mentioned girls; Edwin just thought he was saving him from the gory details. He was still his sarcastic, stubborn, bossy, lazy older brother; only he actually did his homework.

"He's changed since school has started. He does his homework and goes to his classes. He never mentions girls or parties to me. It seems that this is real, not another one of his pranks or anything."

"Really? Wow, this is weird. Okay Ed, hand me back to Liz."

He handed the phone to Liz.

"Yep?" asked Liz, unsure of what to expect from her mentally unstable sister.

"Thanks for the info. I wish we could talk more but the nurse is here to change my bandages."

"Okay, Call me anytime! Love you."

"Love you too, bye!"

"Bye." And Lizzie hung up.


Lizzie turned to her silent stepbrother.

"What do they feed them in college? It's like they're two new people! I don't even know my own sister anymore!" She was nearly hyperventilating. Edwin quickly moved over to the spot next to her on the bed and put a comforting arm around her.

"Everything is going to be fine. I have an idea, why don't we add this new development to our notes? If we look over our notes we might find something to explain this craziness." Edwin was trying desperately to calm his best friend.

"You're right. I'm over reacting. And we haven't opened their folder since they left for college." They both got up and silently made their way up to Edwin's attic room. So much new information, so little time.

"I personally think that they both are lonely," said Edwin when they reached his door.

"I know Casey is lonely, she told me once that she was. I figured Derek would have made himself a social life," replied Lizzie.

"Maybe this was what they needed to become friends," Edwin wondered out loud.

"Maybe."

Edwin went over to his desk and pulled out a large binder filled paper, carefully labeled and organized.

He threw in onto his bed next to Lizzie and plopped down into his desk chair. Lizzie grabbed the binder and flipped it open to the first page.

"Why don't we start at the beginning, four years ago."

Chapter Text

Lizzie lay on her stomach on Edwin's bed, her head being supported with one hand, the other flipping slowly through the pages of their all-important notes. Her countenance was set in concentration. Edwin was at his desk looking over all the notes and pictures on his computer relating to 'the case'.

Lizzie was reviewing their first investigation, four years ago. The notes were in depth and organized for kids in upper elementary. They had a list of theories and questions that were very adolescent and funny and some that made Lizzie re-think some of their later observations. Such as,

"Will Casey or Derek murder each other?"

"After their time locked in the bathroom, there was new understanding. By end of week new understanding gone."

"Derek starts calling Casey 'Case', 'Spacey', 'Keener', and 'Space-Case'"

"In turn, Case calls Derek 'D' and mocks with 'Der-bear'. In fights or if she is yelling she breaks his name into 'Der-ek'"

These observations at the time were new and interesting, now with Derek and Casey in college and Lizzie and Edwin in high school, this was normal everyday things. This made Lizzie laugh. Going over the pages she realized that they were a consistent pair, Derek and Casey. Her and Edwin knew just what to expect. About ten pages in words and actions now had symbols and acronyms. Derek and Casey turned into C or D. Their notes became more random and scribbled, mostly done in the games closet or hidden in the corner spying. On some pages there was definitions and psychological terms. There was a whole page written about couples, sibling, and friend dynamics, folded and stuffed randomly in the book. Lizzie had never read this. She scanned the page, eyes slowly growing wider. One paragraph said something that made all their notes make sense, it all fit. Finally.

' Unresolved sexual tension is the interaction between two people fueled by sexual desire, the interactions are stifling and usually carries an unsatisfied air with it. Common outlets of Unresolved Sexual Tension or URST are playful or sarcastic banter, fighting, and physical aggression between the two people. Signs of URST include, aggressive behavior between the two, predatory body language, dilated pupils, increased heart rates, and physical fatigue. These symptoms carry over into sexual intercourse. Another sign of URST is during interaction between the two it seems as is they are ignoring or oblivious to the world around them. Sometimes the two are oblivious to their own attraction to the other causing more discomfort and confusion, that confusion and discomfort become more fuel for their bickering or heated discussions.'

Lizzie looked up at Edwin, he was concentrating hard on the computer screen in front of him.

"Ed." He doesn't look up.

"Ed…Edwin!" He jumps slightly and turns towards her.

"What?" He asks, carefully observing her face.

"Read this, third paragraph from the bottom." She tosses him the paper.

He quickly reads the blurb, his face going through the same progression as Lizzie's.

"Oh My God! That's it!" he looks up at Lizzie. She just nods in agreement.

"That's been the problem the entire time, URST!" He slumps back in his seat, a shocked smile on his face.

He gives a low chuckle, "I'm so glad we figured this out after they left the house, I would not want to be there when they finally give in."

Lizzie was silent, her face unreadable. "What is it Liz?" Asked Edwin in concern.

Lizzie sighed, "If they resolve and relieve the tension, then the tension will be gone. Then 'they' would be over, nothing to draw them to each other. Nothing would be left of what makes them 'them'," said Lizzie, her face falling.

"I don't think so." Lizzie looks up at her stepbrother.

"What do you mean?"

"I think that Derek and Casey push each other so much that they would never rid themselves of the tension. It may lessen, but it will still be there. Derek gets under Casey's skin too easily and Casey's keener tendencies drive Derek up the wall and that will never change."

Lizzie thought about it for a moment then nodded in agreement. "You're right. They'll never change," she said with a chuckle and small smile.

They both sat there in companionable silence, reviewing the 'new' development in their heads. Suddenly Lizzie spoke.

"One thing I don't understand. Why is Derek acting so nice to Casey all of a sudden?"

"Good question? I think that he is lonely, he knows Casey, and, despite his denials, he cares for Casey; at least a little bit. He doesn't want to be alone, she's there, can't really run away from him, so he takes advantage of the situation."

"True. And Casey is lonely too. She'd probably do the same thing," agreed Lizzie.

"I also think that little bit of friendship they had around their graduation and over the summer is coming back."

"I think they're going to be fine. Do you Ed?"

"Yeah, they'll be fine," he said turning towards his computer.

Lizzie continued to flip through the book, occasionally pausing to read some bit of information that only proved their latest discovery. She stopped suddenly, looking carefully at an earmarked page. In the top right hand corner of page 17, written in light pencil, was one word.

'Love?'

"Edwin! Do you think they could fall in love?!"

Edwin turned to look at Lizzie. "Is that even legal?"

"Well Look!" exclaimed Lizzie getting quickly off the bed and standing behind Edwin's desk chair.

Edwin turned back to his computer. After a few minutes of research, the answer was found.

'It is legal to have a romantic relationship or a marriage between step-siblings that are not considered siblings by adoption.'

They both just stared at the screen. Edwin looked back at Lizzie, Lizzie looked back. For people who could read each other and knew each other well, neither could tell what the other was thinking.

They stood there studying each other's faces for a moment, neither saying anything. Edwin looked away first. He cleared his throat.

"Well, I guess that's that. I'm all for 'em. Heh heh," he said nervously, avoiding eye contact.

"Do you think we should let nature take its course or push them together?" asked Lizzie after moving back to the bed.

"We should let things happen on their own. It would be far more interesting to observe than plan."

Lizzie got up from the bed after a short time and made her way to the door. Edwin watched her figure move slowly. He broke out of his daze.

"Where're you going?" he asked, trying to be nonchalant.

Lizzie pivoted on her heel to face him, her hands nervously fidgeting in front of her. "I was going to go down and make dinner for both of us, I really don't want to order pizza…again," she said, not raising her eyes to meet his.

"Oh" said Edwin, his eyes steadily watching her nervous frame.

Lizzie began to turn towards the door; she changed her mind and turned back to Edwin.

"Hey Ed?" she looked at him this time.

"Yeah" he raised his eyes to meet hers.

"Why is it that Casey and Derek fight and 'hate' each other and we are best friends?"

Edwin thought for a moment. "I think its because we weren't teenagers when we met. There were no facades or expectations, just us, the real us. I'm glad I met you when I did, I can't imagine not knowing you now, you're my best friend," he answered with a shy smile.

Lizzie just nodded. "So, you don't view me as a sister?" Lizzie asked hesitantly.

"No, I don't," he didn't even pause to think it over.

Lizzie gave him a small smile. "Okay. Um, I'll call you when dinner's ready." She exited his room quickly not giving him the chance to respond.

With the door closed separating them Lizzie leaned against the wall and looked up at the ceiling taking a deep breath before making her way downstairs.

Edwin just stared at the door. "Oh Boy," he breathed before getting out of his chair and flopping unceremoniously on his bed, his face buried in the blankets. A small grin appeared on his face, the sheets smelled like Lizzie. Lizzie smelt like vanilla. Taking a big whiff, Edwin settled into an impromptu nap, completely relaxed.

Chapter Text

Derek had made his way home within a comfortable daze. Casey was moving in, they were getting along, and it seemed as if he had a friend…finally.

He pulled off at the nearest grocery store. Slinking into the store with a content grin on his face he made his way over to the cleaning aisle grabbing a cart along the way.

The moment he entered the strikingly sterile passage his face fell. Cleaning was one thing Derek Venturi had never done without bribery or a significant amount of money. He glanced around the brightly colored bottles and spray bottles. All the labels looked like gibberish or some strange intergalactic space language. Derek just stood there with a lost look on his face; his eyes wide and darting back and forth desperate for an answer. He needed help. He dug his phone out of his pocket, he scrolled through his contacts, searching for someone who wouldn't laugh or mock him too much.

Sam .

He hit the call button. Shifting his weight from foot to foot he nervously waited for Sam to answer the phone.

"Hello."

"Sam! I need your help."

"Hi Derek, good evening to you too," replied Sam, mockingly, the grin evident in his voice.

"Listen, I need cleaning supplies. I have no idea what to get. You've cleaned before right? I mean you've always been cleaner than me. Right? I don't know what to get. I just need to get stuff," Derek was rambling.

"Derek, first of all, why do you need cleaning supplies? And second, are you on something? You never clean."

Derek took a deep breath. Preparing to give a speech he never thought he would willingly give.

"Casey's dorm had a fire and she's in the hospital. My roommate is gone so I have an extra room and she needs somewhere to live so I said it was okay for her to move in with me, I know I need to clean up a bit, I mean she'll kill me if she sees the apartment like it is. She's the queen of clean and I have old pizza boxes lying around and the bathroom is horrible now that I think about it."

Sam was stunned on the other end.

"I let me get this straight. Casey is in the hospital and moving in with you. You have been living the bachelor lifestyle and now that she's moving in with you; you're worried about the state of your apartment. It sounds as if you want her to live with you, do you?"

"To be honest, I never thought I would say this and mean it but, yeah. I want Casey to live with me." Derek answered, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Okay, I'll talk to you about your mental state later. Right now you need cleaning supplies, right?" questioned Sam.

"Right."

"Okay. You need a bottle of all purpose cleaner." Derek grabbed the nearest bottle and dropped it into the cart. "Got it."

"Now you need some floor cleaner, I would get one of the wiffer things." Derek looked around; there was nothing that said 'wiffer' on it. "There is nothing 'wiffer' around here."

"It's a fold out mop thing. I think the packaging is purple." Derek spotted an area of purple packaging. "Did you mean 'Swiffer'?"

"Yeah that thing, get the beginner pack with the pads and disinfectant." Derek grabbed the biggest package and tossed into the cart.

"Okay, anything else?"

"Yeah, toilet bowl cleaner and toilet bowl scrubber." Derek grabbed the items, into the cart they went.

"That's it right?"

"Dish liquid and this stuff called Tile-x." Derek grabbed the Tile-x and moved to the dish washing liquid, he picked up a few bottles and looked at them, "Dude, they have different fragrances and stuff! Did you know that?" He was shocked and awed.

"Yeah, I knew that. Casey would like a Lavender scented one." Said a bored Sam on the other line.

"No, Casey hates lavender. Her favorite scent is Green Apple," said Derek nonchalantly.

That got Sam's attention. "So that's why she never wore that Lavender perfume I got her?"

"Yeah man, Lavender makes her nauseous," said Derek, picking up a bottle of the Green Apple scented dishwashing liquid.

"Oh," sighed Sam, "How do you know what her favorite scent is?"

"Sam, if there was a test on Casey I would ace it. I lived with her for four years. I also happened to share a bathroom with her for those four years, which included looking at her apple scented shampoo and conditioner, apple scented body wash, apple scented lotions, and apple scented body sprays. I once had to take a second shower because I accidentally grabbed her body spray instead of my Axe body spray, I smelled of fruit."

Sam was cracking up. "Sorry I forgot you shared a bathroom."

"You were her boyfriend, didn't you ever notice she always, and mean always, smells like that?"

Sam thought for a moment. "Nope, I never noticed she smelled like that."

"You've got to be kidding me, every time she would walk by, shove me, or pretty much do anything I always smelled Green Apple."

Sam chuckled. "Stalker much."

"Ew! No! I just noticed that's all." Sighed Derek dejectedly. He knew he should never had told Sam about that, I never told anyone that he had always liked the way Casey smelled.

"Listen, that's pretty much all you'll need for now. I have a test tomorrow, so I have to study. I'll call you later to see if you survive."

"Thanks dude, talk to ya later." He hung up and groaned.

He had a long night ahead of him.

Chapter Text

Derek woke up in a daze. His body ached as if he had just spent 10 hours in hockey practice. He didn't know where he was. He slowly opened his eyes, adjusting to the light. He found himself in his recliner, draped there in complete exhaustion. He rose from his chair and groaned. His lower back was killing him. He inched his way to the bathroom.

He flipped on the light and was blinded. It took a moment for the shock to wear off. He blinked. Everything was spotless. Everything. The toilet glistened and the shower, he swore, looked like the end of those annoying cleaning commercials, all white and sparkling. He blinked again.

Whoa, I cleaned!!! I really did it!

Derek did a very small happy dance and ran around the apartment looking at his handy work. The kitchen was like the bathroom, spotless. The living room looked clean and sparse. The floors were shiny and worth a good sock slide. He slid all the way down the hall to what could be Casey's door. This was the hard room, the one that killed him off. The memories came flooding back. It was horrible. His roommate was an animal. If he remembered correctly this was the last room he did and it took the longest. Thankfully there was no furniture to clean around or under.

He creaked the door open. The room was clean, very clean. There wasn't a spot in the carpet and the windows you could see through. He could remember scrubbing the crud from the glass. The room smelled nice and fresh. He walked over to the window and opened it, allowing the breeze to fill the room and clean the air. Derek exited the room with a smile. He was proud of himself. He couldn't wait to tell Casey.


Derek arrived at the hospital feeling good, sore, but good. He even winked at the nurse from the other day. In his hand he carried a bouquet of Casey's favorite flowers. Hyacinth. Not many people knew Casey's favorite flower. Derek had watched boyfriend after boyfriend give her roses or daisies, she said thank you and put them in water. He remembers going with her to the grocery store with her once, she saw the hyacinth and nearly peed. She was leaning over them attempting to get high off them. He could remember her grabbing a bunch remarking that the store rarely had her favorite flower. He shrugged it off in typical Derek fashion. All the while filing it away for future reference. He never believed he would actually use that knowledge.

He glanced at his watch in passing, 11:30. Just in time for lunch.

He sailed into Casey's room, finding her exactly the way he left her. She turned her head; her eyes were blotchy. He put the flowers on her side table and sat on the bed next to her.

"Case, what's wrong?" he asked, genuinely concerned.

She shifted to face him; she looked at his face for a second. With a weary tone, "I thought you forgot about me. I immediately jumped to prank. I'm sorry. I'm just so emotional right now, I don't know why. I'm sorry." She began to tear again.

Derek moved his thumb to her face and wiped away her tears. "Casey, Casey, Casey, how could anyone forget you?" he said with a comforting smirk.

Casey grinned bashfully, her eyes went to the side table; they widened, her smile fell.

"You brought me hyacinth. My favorite," her voice was small. She turned wide-eyed toward him.

"How did you know?" she looked like a sad puppy.

Derek just chuckled. He brushed her hair from her face and put it behind her ear. "You told me once," was all he said.

Casey gave him a small smile, but still stared at him in awe. "Nobody has ever remembered my favorite flower. Ever, even my mom. How did you, of all people, remember?"

Derek replied with mock hurt, "Casey! I am appalled, me of all people who knows every way to get under your skin has got to be very observant and a good listener. I just happen to remember certain things, that's all."

Casey just giggled and through herself into his arms giving him a firm hug of gratitude. He lightly held her shoulders, careful of her back.

"Thank you Derek." She pulled away.

"Why are you here so late? I figured you'd be here at least a little bit earlier," she asked, reminding herself and him of her distress.

"You'll never guess what I did last night," said Derek with a proud smile.

Casey decided to play along, "What did you do last night?"

"I cleaned."

Casey was in shock, real, honest to goodness shock. Derek Venturi, THE Derek Venturi, had cleaned. Casey blinked.

"Wait… WHAT?!" her voice rose in octave and volume.

Derek laughed. "No, you heard right. I, The Derek Venturi, cleaned; the entire apartment." He said popping his collar for dramatic effect.

"How clean are we talking?" questioned Casey. Knowing that her version of clean and Derek's version of clean are two different things.

"Casey clean. I mean, really clean, my hands are raw, the bathroom is sparkly and my floor is shiny and I scrubbed down your room." He said with excitement.

"Sparkly?" Derek nodded. "Shiny?" He nodded again.

Casey's face split into a big grin. "Really?!" her voice had gotten girlishly squeaky.

Derek just laughed and nodded again. "I knew you would kill me if the apartment was not up to your standards, if it wasn't then you would decide to clean it, which you hurt you more and you just need to rest and recover. So, I did it. I'm not sure what came over me, I think I was abducted by aliens and imprinted with a 'Clean like Casey' chip or something."

She just sat there grinning at him.

Wow, he is so thoughtful. This is like having one of our 'feel-good-Derek and Casey- moments, all the time! He's so cute when he's all proud of himself. 

She reached up and just stroked his brow; he leaned into her touch a bit, her fingers making his skin tingle.

"I'm really proud of you Derek. I don't know what I'd do right now without you. Thank you." Her voice was full of admiration and cracked a few times in sincerity.

The nurse walked in, this time instead of a full blown fight, she saw the two sitting close to each other, smiling, love was beyond evident in both their eyes. It made her want to cry, she saw Casey lightly touching his forehead. It was a very intimate and sweet act. She felt like she was watching a really life soap opera, she wanted to scream at them to kiss or something. She knew they wouldn't, but she could hope.

She knocked on the doorframe. "Knock, Knock" The two shifted uncomfortably and Derek moved to his seat next to her bed.

Casey cleared her throat. "Come in."


The next few hours were just like the day before, doing whatever came to mind. Around 3 they got a call from Dennis. He had deposited $3,000 dollars into Casey's account. That was good for her first month in the apartment and some new furniture and clothes. Casey was ecstatic. Derek was shocked. He never expected Dennis to be so generous.

The evening passed by in comfortable silence with the occasional conversation about school and home, or a discussion about furniture and Casey's room. Casey was excited about her new room, now that she wouldn't have to share her personal space with an obnoxious twit and for the fact that she would be able to have a full size bed like she had at home. Derek was happy because Casey was happy.

He thought it was kind of funny, because he had never had that happen with her before. He wanted her to be happy and wanted to do almost anything to make and keep her happy, even if it meant cleaning for the first time in his life.

Casey could hardly stop her mind from drifting to all the new clothes and décor she was going to be buying. Her excitement more than evident on her face. She was also happy because Derek was there, a first for her. When he left for the night she always felt alone and depressed again, almost counting the minutes to his return.

As the evening progressed Derek had moved to the bed with Casey. The bed was in the reclined position; Casey was half leaning back on Derek's chest, his arm wrapped loosely around her shoulders. They were watching a movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, at Casey's request of course. Derek wasn't complaining; it wasn't a bad movie he had to admit. Casey of course gasped at the kiss in the rain, no matter how many times she saw it, she gasped every time. Derek thought it was adorable and just chuckled as he watched her eyes sparkle at the romance.

At about 8:30 the nurse came in, again.

"Okay you two, visiting hours are over. That is unless you want to stay the night young man? I can get a roll away cot for you."

Casey half turned to look up at Derek. Derek looked down at her, her eyes were silently pleading with him to stay. Derek couldn't say no; he ever could to her.

"I'll stay." Casey just grinned and turned back to the television, she snuggled gently deeper into his chest.

The nurse just chuckled and shook her head as she left the room.

Chapter Text

Casey watched Derek as he slept; it was 7:30 in the morning, Casey, being Casey had been up since 6. He was sprawled on the rollaway cot looking completely at ease. His breath was steady and even, occasionally he would snort and sniffle, causing Casey to release a little giggle. He was drooling.

She was enthralled by the change that had come over Derek. He was attentive and caring, knowing just what to say to make her calm down. He brought her flowers.

She glanced over at the hyacinth in a vase on her bedside table. The tears were waiting to spring from her eyes. She wanted to do something for him, but she was stranded in this hospital room, just itching to get out. In her mind she went through all the things he likes and dislikes. His mind went over every morning and evening she had spent with him.

Food.

That was the way to re-pay him for his kindness towards her. She pulled out a little notebook from her drawer and a pen. She set to creating a meal plan for the two of them, breakfast and dinner. It consisted of all of his favorite meals. She could remember making breakfast some mornings and he would gush to Nora about how this was his favorite dish; meanwhile unaware that it was Casey who had prepared it. It made her laugh just thinking about those mornings at home.

Casey spent about 15 minutes going over her meal plan and writing out a grocery list for them. At about 8:00 she called for the nurse. She needed a shower, her hair still smelled of smoke and she just felt disgusting.


Bathing was an obstacle. She would stand there while a nurse would hold a small plastic sheet over her bandages, Casey would wash her hair the best she could and wash down her front. What she really wanted was to shave her legs.

This morning she told the nurse she planned to do just that. The nurse brought her a razor and some shaving cream and Casey set to work. She sat on the tub, in a towel, washing down her legs and lathering them up. Her work was methodical and practiced. She felt good, finally doing something constructive with her time.

She rinsed off her legs, patting them dry with a towel. She rubbed her hands over them, making sure she got everything. Content with the state of her legs she stood; only to come face to face with a shirtless and blushing Derek.

“Oh, good morning," said Casey, now blushing as much as Derek.

Derek just stared at her for a moment. He broke out of his daze.

"Yeah, good morning." He moved his eyes to a place over her shoulder, trying not to look at his stepsister clad in a remarkably small towel.

"How'd you sleep?" questioned Casey.

"Good, good. The cot is surprisingly comfortable."

"Good," Casey stared at his chest. It's not like she hadn't seen it before, but it seemed as if he had become even more ripped, college hockey was doing wonders for him. She wanted to reach out and trace the planes of his abs with her fingers.

She pulled herself out of her trance when she realized she was moving her fingers towards him. She sidestepped him. "You can use the bathroom now; I'm done," she said as she walked from the bathroom, her hips swaying just a little more than normal.

Derek closed the door behind her. Despite having a huge bandage covering her back, Casey in a towel was sight. With her dancers figure and hourglass figure, she was perfect. Her dark brown hair, wet sticking to her shoulders, it was downright alluring. A cooler shower was in order. As Derek stepped into the shower he wondered to himself why he had managed to survive all those years of high school sharing a bathroom with her.

Casey heard the door close behind her. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes bulged. He was so toned. Casey caught herself, its not like she's seen him without a shirt on before, she lived with him for four years. But seriously, college was changing his muscles dramatically. Casey felt herself begin to blush; she quickly changed into her yoga pants and shirt. Hoping to calm herself enough to look at him when he exited the bathroom.

When Derek emerged his hair was wet and he was fully clothed, much to Casey's chagrin, and Casey was sitting up in her bed, lounging in her outfit Derek had picked out reading. The sight made him sigh; she looked as if she was at home. She had no make-up on and her hair was brushed into a simple ponytail, she looked…beautiful, naturally. Derek was momentarily taken aback by his own discovery. He had always known that Casey was good looking, but he himself had never really acknowledged it.

Derek moved to his seat next to Casey.

"Listen Case," Casey looked up from her book, her cheeks lightly flushed, "I have hockey practice from 4 till' 9 tonight. I'll stay with you as long as I can, but I do have to do a few things. I'm going to stay at the apartment tonight. Okay?"

Casey looked up at him for a second. She nodded. "D, go home, you've spent the last 24 hours with me, you need a break. The doctors will be spending a lot of the day in here anyway, running tests and checking for infections. If I am good enough I can get discharged early. The nurse this morning said that I was healing quicker than expected."

"That's great!" he exclaimed standing from his chair, he moved over to where his stuff was, "Okay, I'm going to go home for a bit, I'll come by around lunchtime, what do you want for lunch? You must be sick of this hospital food."

"I really, I mean really want a good sandwich. Derek, would you make me one of your famous sandwiches? You know what I like right?" Casey looked at him imploringly, if Derek was going to make something it would be a sandwich, his sandwiches were amazing.

Derek just looked at her, she had never asked him to make a famous sandwich for her, he was willing to jump at the chance.

"Sure Princess I'll make you a sandwich, what kind would you like?"

"Turkey, with cheese, lettuce, mayo…"

"…hold the mustard," Derek finished for her with a wink.

Casey just blushed. "Yeah, hold the mustard."

"Okay, I'll see you then." He made his way over to her and planted a kiss on her forehead. He lingered longer than before, Casey allowed her eyes to fall closed at the gesture.

Derek quickly left the room; Casey could feel the pressure of his lips still present on her forehead.

Chapter Text

Derek had returned, as promised, with one of his famous sandwiches. They ate and chatted a bit. Casey made sure that she didn't take for granted her small amount of 'Derek time' she got that day. Derek was hoping that she'd be okay for the rest of the day without him.

At 3:00 Derek stood to leave. "I'll call you after practice to make sure you're okay."

"There's no need to worry Derek, I'm in a hospital; not much can happen to me here." She grinned impishly at him. Derek just grinned back at her.

"The doctor is coming in at 5 to see how I'm progressing. I'll let you know when you call. Don't worry about me, go to practice, play well, and show the coach how good you are," she said with a smirk.

Derek gave her an embarrassed smirk. "Talk to you later Princess," he said, dropping a kiss to her forehead. He exited the room feeling very confident.


Casey's doctor, Dr. Marshall, came in promptly at 5 o' clock. He immediately instructed her to sit criss-cross on the bed. He removed the bandages and inspected the wound. He applied the needed topical treatments and changed her antibiotics. He re-dressed her wound and allowed her to cover up before speaking to her.

"Miss McDonald I am pleased to say that you are recovering remarkably well. Your burns are clear of infections and scabbing over. You can be released tomorrow morning. Is there someone you can stay with? You're going to need someone to apply the ointments and bandages until it is completely healed."

"I'm moving in with my step-brother, Derek," she said.

"Oh, that young man who has been coming to see you everyday?" he asked, a knowing smile spreading slowly across his face.

"Yes, that's him."

"The nurse tells me much about you two. I'm glad you are moving with him, you guys are good for each other," he left the room in a hurry, allowing his words to sink in.

Casey sat there in a trance. "…good for each other," Casey mumbled, subconsciously raising her hand to the place Derek kissed her before he left.

* * *

Derek's practice was long and agonizing. His coach was making up for lost time. Derek kept his mind on the phone call waiting for him at the end of practice. He was hoping she would be cleared to go home, he hated seeing her in the hospital.

His practice was nearing and end, everyone was skating slowly off the rink. All of them drenched in sweat and beyond tired. Derek crept into the locker room, his gear weighing down his every step. He threw himself on the bench in front of his locker. He pulled off his gloves and immediately reached for his phone. He dialed to her room number.

The moment the phone rang, Casey had grabbed it.

"Derek?"

"Really Case? You were that desperate to hear my voice?" Derek tiredly mocked.

"Really? You're the only one who knows this number." They both chuckled.

"I have news," said Casey in an excited tone.

"Good or Bad?" He could tell it was good, he just felt like messing with her.

"Really, really good." Now that statement in itself is not that risqué, but the way Casey said it caused Derek to flush and his breath to hitch.

Derek cleared his throat, "So… what is this really really good news?"

"I'm cleared to be released tomorrow morning!"

"Really?! Casey, that's great. What time do I need to be there?" Derek was ecstatic.

"You need to be here by 9 o' clock. The nurse and doctor have to teach you to bandage, and stuff. I'm sorry that you'll have to do that, I can't do it alone." Casey felt guilty for having to need him more; she hoped he wouldn't regret his decision to have her move in with him.

"It's alright. I'll be there. After, do you want to go shopping? You need a lot of stuff."

"Derek, did you just ask me if I want to go shopping? I thought you really knew me. I guess I was wrong," replied Casey in fake disappointment.

"Wow really? You're attempting to guilt-trip me? That's a new low Case, even for you."

"Did it work?"

"Only for a second until I remembered I was talking to the Empress of Drama herself."

"Ooo, a new nickname, I thought Princess was getting a little old," teased Casey.

"No, you'll always be Princess to me." Derek winced as he finished the sentence, realizing he said too much.

Casey heard exactly what he said. She felt herself blush a deep crimson. She thought quickly hoping to deflect some of the awkwardness.

"I promise I won't tell Marti, for some reason I think she'll take it personally."

Derek was thankful that she didn't point out his slip. "Don't worry Marti knows she's the Ruler of All, she really doesn't need a title."

Casey just laughed. "You need to go home and sleep. I'll see you in the morning, Venturi. Remember, 9 o' clock!"

"Don't worry I'll be there! Geese woman!" They both laughed.

"Night Der," said Casey softly.

"Night Case," Derek replied. He flipped his phone shut after he heard the click on the other line.

Derek took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

One of Derek's teammates, Sean, sat down next to him.

"Yo Derek. I've never seen you smile like that, who's got you so happy?" Derek just smirked.

"An old high school friend, that's all. She goes to queens too." Derek got a wistful look on his face.

"Is she the hottie from the pictures in your locker?"

Derek threw a quick glance at his locker. "Yep, that's the one."

"She taken?" Derek's head shot up. Yes!!! I mean no. She's not.

Sean waited for an answer; Derek's silence was the answer.

"Oh, I get it?"

"Get what?"

"She's not taken, but she will be." Sean just patted him on the back and left his side, not giving Derek the time to react.

"Just don't take too long, I might wanna go," called Sean over his shoulder.

Derek just shook his head, too tired to really think about what he meant.

Chapter Text

The next morning went rather quickly. Derek was at the hospital a half hour early, anxious to see Casey out of the hospital. Derek had showered and double-checked the apartment before he left. He felt like he was picking up a date, his palms were sweaty and he kept checking his perfectly messed hair in the mirror.

Casey was just as nervous. Her nurse had gotten her up early to prep for the doctors. Her face and hair were cleaned and brushed; the nurse was kind enough to bring her some make-up basics, like lip-gloss, some blush, and mascara. Casey meticulously applied her make up in true Casey fashion.

When Derek arrived, Casey was patiently waiting and watching the news. She was ready for the day, wearing her yoga pants and her hair was pulled up into a simple ponytail. She still had on her hospital gown on for a top.

Derek entered her room in a rush, "Hey, Case. Sorry I'm late!" Casey looked at him in confusion. "D, you're early," her eyes and tone teasing. Derek glanced at her then at the clock on the wall. "Oh," he looked blankly at the window. "I can leave if you want?" He turned back towards the door.

"No!" Casey leaned forward dramatically in her bed, her arm stretched out as if to reach him from so far away.

"Okay, hold your ponies Princess, I'll stay," he said with a grin. Casey relaxed against her pillows and turned her attention to the news on TV. Derek moved over to 'his' seat next to her bed. He glanced over at her. At the time he was planning on a mere glance and retreat, but at the sight of her all dolled up he couldn't help a stare for an age.

Casey could feel his eyes on her; she could feel her blush starting at the back of her neck and moving to her ears and cheeks. It felt as if his fingertips were tracing her features. Derek was 'tracing' her features but only with his eyes, much to his chagrin. He followed over the planes of her cheeks to her long lashes, finally landing on her conservatively glossed lips. They looked plump and beyond kissable. Derek inhaled sharply. He turned his eyes to the TV, hoping to get his mind off of the downright kiss-worthy Casey sitting next to him.

After she felt her eyes leave her face, Casey took a gander and the young man next to her. His hair stylishly messy; his eyes locked purposefully on the screen. His jaw seemed wired shut and there was a vain in his neck that seemed to be throbbing erratically. He was on edge. She had seen this look many a time. He got it before a game, usually before his regular bouts of vomiting. "Are you alright? You seem tight in a way." She looked at him with genuine concern.

Derek closed his eyes for a second, preparing himself for the sight before him, he turned to her.

His eyes opened to face her concerned ones; worry evident in the deep pools of blue. Derek cleared his throat and shifted in his seat before answering.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just had a rough practice last night."

She gave him a look that said 'not buying it, Venturi!' She was the only one besides Marti who could see through his lies.

Derek hung his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. He contemplated telling her how beautiful she looked. He decided to try lying better. He turned his attention to the TV. He dropped his shoulders and slumped back in the chair.

"My lack of sleep is getting to me," was all he said, his 'weariness' echoed in his voice.

Casey studied his face for the signs of lying. Right on the corner of his mouth an incredibly small frown appeared. Yep, he was lying. Though Casey could see his lie, also present was an air of nervousness. She decided to let this one fly; she'll get it out of him sooner or later.

"Whatever you say."

Derek just smirked.


After 15 minutes of comfortable silence the nurse walked in. My favorite couple ; she thought sarcastically in her head.

"Okay, I'm here to teach Derek how to bandage and clean the burns. You ready?"

Both nodded hesitantly.

"Casey, sit facing the foot of the bed in the criss-cross position. Derek, sit behind her with one leg bent and the other hanging over the edge of the bed." Casey and Derek got into position. Derek sat far behind her.

"Good. But, Derek you need to be closer.

Derek scooted a bit.

"Closer Derek."

Derek scooted again.

"Closer."

Scoot.

"Closer."

Derek scooted until he could touch Casey's back with his arm bent at a 90-degree angle. "Stop. That's perfect," she said with a knowing smile. Both teens looked uncomfortable and were blushing.

"Casey, remove your gown." Casey blushed deeply, but by now she was used to exposing her back to many different hands. Even though this was Derek, she knew they would have to got through this every night anyway, might as well get the embarrassment over now.

Derek choked and blushed a deep crimson. In his mind, it was one thing to run into her with a towel on… after a shower…in the hallway, it was another thing for her to willingly take off her top.

Casey untied her gown and let it fall from her shoulders. She clasped her arms around her breasts, hoping to maintain some of her modesty. If this had been any other situation and there was no nurse present it would seem alluring.

Derek steadied himself. His eyes swept over the bandages on her back; inside he was nearly crying for her and thankful that Marti was not here to see this.

"We're going to do this slowly and methodically. Derek start at the upper left corner of the bandage. Carefully peel the edge of tape off. Careful." Derek did as he was told.

Over the next five minutes Derek did precisely what the nurse did and all of Casey's bandages were removed. Leaving her burns open to the air. Derek held back his gasp after finally looking at what he uncovered. Her skin was blotchy and red. There were large portions with scabs that were oozing puss and some parts of her skin were blistering.

"Oh, Case," he said softly. His thumb on her right shoulder drawing small circles on her skin; she leaned into his hand a bit and looked over her shoulder at him. He was tearing up a bit. She saw the sympathy and the angst in his eyes.

The nurse plowed on. She showed Derek the proper way to apply the ointments and gave him a detailed list of do's and don'ts. Following her directions again, Derek redressed Casey's burns.

"Okay. Good Job Derek. You did excellent. Now, help with her bra and pull on her shirt and you two can leave."

Derek just looked at her with a stunned face. The nurse decided to have a bit of fun.

"I know you've taken it off of her before, now just put it on," she said with a sly grin.

Both Derek and Casey nearly died. Derek had a coughing fit and Casey let out a squeal between clenched teeth, her eyes wide. Casey placed her bra straps over her shoulders and placed the cups securely in position. Derek grabbed the sides and pulled gently, his hands shook as he carefully clasped it. He laid it gingerly on her back. Casey quickly pulled the t-shirt over her head and Derek pulled it down to her hips.

Derek nearly leapt off the bed. He excused himself to the bathroom. The nurse just left the room giggling.

Chapter Text

As Derek wheeled Casey out of the hospital, it came to both their attention that they were entering new, yet familiar, territory.

Both had changed dramatically. Derek was more patient and Casey was more lenient. Derek stopped the wheel chair just outside the automatic doors. He took a deep breath. In his mind Casey was now safe, out of danger. With him. He could always know where she was and now there were no creepy doctors checking in on her at odd hours. They were once again, Derek and Casey. Just Derek and just Casey, together. … But not 'together'together.  

Casey was worried that the moment she was out of the hospital the new Derek would be gone. The old, brassy, annoying, and downright crude Derek would be back; she would once again have no one to talk to or listen to, she would be alone. She was also nervous, what if this new Derek was real? He would end up being her friend and listening and talking to her? Would she ever have that battle of the comebacks again? She missed their fights since starting college, normal conversations have seemed boring to the yelling spats she's had with him in the past. She could genuinely say for once in her life, that she could not plan or carefully guide herself into this new situation. Everything depended on how Derek treated her. She didn't know what to expect; and because of that, she was surprisingly excited for what lay ahead.

"Okay Case. Where to first?" asked Derek as he wheeled her, quite dramatically, to his car.

"I was thinking, first we should go back to the apartment. Then, while there, I can make a list of things we need, such as furniture, dishware, accessories, and bathroom stuff. Also, make a list of everything my room needs and all the clothes and necessities I might require. I may also need to call Lizzie and have her send a list of things I have in my room at home, so that I don't over buy. Then we shop. First I want to find a bed, and then go shopping for some sheets. Then clothes. I need clothes," rambled Casey.

Derek just chuckled and listened to her speech. By the time they had reached the car, Casey had finished her 'list' and Derek was just smiling.

"Casey, it's good to have you back," he said with a chuckle and dropped a kiss to the top of her head. Before moving around her to open the car door.


They made it to the apartment soon after, Casey still rambling on and on about what she needs, occasionally asking Derek if he has certain items.

Derek pulled into his parking spot and turned off the engine. Casey turned to open her door, but felt his hand on her arm.

"Case," Derek began.

"What is it Derek?" asked Casey, slightly worried that he had been lying when he said he had cleaned.

"Just to let you know. I don't have much. All those things you listed I most likely do not have. In the living room are my recliner and a TV, which is on the floor. I think I have two towels in the bathroom, and the only things I have in the kitchen are a package of paper plates and disposable cups and cutlery. I'm serious Case, I don't have much."

Casey looked at him, her face blank and completely unreadable. Derek was scared that she would assume he just wanted her to move in for the stuff she would bring or worse, give him the silent treatment because she thinks this is all a big prank.

Suddenly Casey's mouth moved from a flat line to a true Venturi-worthy smirk.

She let out a throaty laugh and got out of the car, sliding her, now tingly, arm from his grasp. Derek just sat there and watched her. When she was out of the car she turned around in the door jam and bent down to his eye level, giving him a view of her cleavage.

"You realize you just used the word 'cutlery', right?" she asked with a smirk, her eyes sparkling with humor and with that she shut the door.

Derek just sat there for a second before grinning. It really was good to have her back.

By the time Derek had climbed the stairs to his door, Casey was leaning on the wall looking at her imaginary watch.


"It's about time," she said with a grin. Derek just shook his head smiling and moved to unlock the door. With the key in the lock he turned to look at her. She was standing remarkably close to him, their noses nearly brushed.

"Welcome to your new home," he said, ending with a slight gulp. Casey just looked him straight in the eye, her emotions swirling.

"Thank you," it came out soft and breathy.

Derek swiftly turned his head and pushed the door open, revealing the dark entry way to his, their , apartment.

He moved to the side to let her go in first.

Casey turned on the hall light, her first steps small and cautious. Derek followed her in, watching her every move.

"Nothing's going to jump out and grab you," Derek said, breaking the tension.

Casey threw him a smirk over her shoulder and moved quickly into the apartment; her eyes scanning over the non-existent furniture. In her head she was planning out the new living room. Color combinations that would hopefully work for the three of them; Derek, herself, and Derek's recliner.

Derek flipped on the overhead lights illuminating the room. Casey's eyes moved to the breakfast nook and the small kitchen. Her gaze moved across the entire room once more before she turned to Derek.

Derek was unsure of what she would say. Not sure whether to apologize or blame the choice of apartment on his mother.

"I love it! It's an antique. There is old wood flooring and classic moldings, and the kitchen is downright adorable! The stove is vintage! Vintage! This place is amazing! You chose a great apartment!" she pounced on him with a hug around his neck. Derek settled his hands on her hips. Casey just held him tighter.

Derek got a whiff of green apple scent and nearly died, it smelled of home. Casey could smell Derek, just Derek, she didn't know what to call it, but it was comforting. She reminded herself to steal another one of his shirts to sleep in.

She released him, reluctantly, and sprinted towards the hall.

"Last door on the left!" called Derek after her.

Casey followed his direction and went to the last door on the left. She flung open the door. She walked into the room slowly, taking in the fact that this space was now hers. She no longer had to share or keep 'her side' clean. There was a full closet for only her clothes. There was a radiator in the corner, filling the room with heat. Her large window had a view of the rooftops of Queens.

She didn't hear Derek walk in behind her. He leaned against the doorframe and just smiled. He could tell by her body language that she liked it.

She turned to the door. She jumped slightly at the sight of him.

"You like it?" he asked, a small smile gracing his features, his eyes held happiness for both of them.

"Love it," she replied.

"Now to the bathroom!" Derek gestured dramatically and twisted out the door. Casey just followed him giggling.

"I mainly want you to see how clean it is. I'm quite proud of myself." He flung the door open and stepped back for her to enter.

Casey moved into the bathroom, taking in the 'sparkle' and giggling at his pride. It really was clean, and she was impressed. She could tell that he was living on basics and needed some serious help.

She turned to him. "You were right," she said. Derek raised a questioning eyebrow.

"It really is Casey Clean."

Derek just winked at her and moved towards the living room.

Derek planted himself at the kitchen table. He gestured, to the only other chair at the table, for her to sit. Casey seated herself gracefully across from him.

"So you really like it?" asked Derek, staring at his hands, his fingers picking nervously at each other.

Casey reached a hand across the table and stopped his fingers, laying a hand over his. Derek looked up. Their eyes connected.

Casey looked meaningfully into his eyes, "I love it. Honestly, I do."

Derek visibly relaxed. He put on his confident mask quickly, "I don't really care, I was just checking."

He got up and moved to his backpack on the floor. He pulled out a notebook and a pen. He placed them before her.

"Get crackin' Case. I'm going to take a nap." He swaggered himself towards his room. " Wake me up when you're ready to go!" he called over his shoulder.

Casey just laughed to herself, "Same old Derek."

Chapter Text

Casey was thorough, very thorough. She had compiled a list of everything they needed for the apartment. She began with the kitchen, going through every cupboard and drawer. She had plates, cutlery, dishtowels, kitchen utensils, mixing bowls, salad bowls, and more. Her list was color coded by importance, and then by how long they could wait before they bought said items. Next was the living room… where it was fairly obvious what they needed. A couch, TV stand, area rug, coffee table, and very 'home-y' accessories. The bathroom, which consisted of the basics, towels, shower curtain, and bath rug.

Casey's room, on the other hand, was much more guesswork, after all one never really knows exactly what one may need and normally the bedroom contains things from childhood and holds various current treasures. She needed a bed, sheets, a desk, desk chair, posters, and side tables. Then came her clothing. On her list she just wrote 'EVERYTHING' as boldly as she could.

Casey needed some rest; her muscles ached from the return of physical activity and her medication made her drowsy anyway. She needed a bed tonight and that meant waking up Derek so they could go buy one. Casey marched her way over to Derek's door. With her hand on the doorknob she realized that she was at a crossroads. In the past she would barge into his room and state her business; now she was his roommate and friend-ish person. She felt like, until her furniture was added to the space, she was his guest and guests don't just barge into their host's room. But then again, he is Derek and she is Casey. She chose the direct approach; she marched right in.


Derek was in a happy place. He was asleep. His dreams were peaceful and content. At the moment, he was dream-chasing Marti in the backyard, she was laughing and giggling her purple princess cape flapping behind her, the tiara on her head sparkling. Liz and Edwin were playing pass off in the corner of the yard and Casey was lying on her side on a blanket, thoroughly absorbed in her book. Everything was as it should be.

Marti had finally told Derek that she was done playing chase and that it was time for her to play with Daphne, "…I have been a neglectful friend," she stated.

Casey popped her head up, "Nice word Marti! You now have a bigger vocabulary than Derek!" she said with a smirk, her eyes falling on Derek as she finished the sentence. Marti just giggled and ran off.

Derek sauntered his way over to Casey. He stood with his feet 6 inches from her head; his shadow being cast over her figure, "What do you want Derek? Can't you see that I'm busy?" she asked, not looking up from her book. Derek just looked down at her. He noticed some space on the other side of the blanket. "Care to share?" he asked, gesturing to the spot.

"Sure, why not," she said, marking her spot in her book and flipping onto her back, she scooted over to make more room for him. He stepped over her and dropped unceremoniously onto the blanket. He stretched back, his hands behind his head. After he was situated he felt a weight drop onto his chest and an object wrap around his midsection, holding him tightly. He glanced down and was met with the smiling blue eyes of Casey McDonald. He just smiled back and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, his fingers making circles on her smooth skin. Yes, everything was as it should be.


Casey tugged hard on the blank wrapped tightly around Derek's midsection. Hoping to get him to wake up, he just smiled and snuggled deeper within the covers. He looked peaceful, but she needed him to wake up, she wanted to find a bed and fast, she wanted to sleep tonight. Finally, she gave up on the nice tactic and chose the tactic she used through high school.

Taking a step back, Casey took a deep breath and let it out; it had been a while.

"De-rek!"

Derek leaped from the bed, his hands ready for attack. After he realized that he was not being attacked he blinked a few times. His eyes focused on Casey standing a few feet away, on her face a wicked smirk. "Nice one Case," he said, untangling himself from his sheets. He sat on the edge of his bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

Casey waits for him to wake up. "When you're ready we have some shopping to do," she says with a grin.


It was around 1pm when Casey and Derek left their apartment, having excellent sandwiches, courtesy of Derek's Deli. Casey had the list clasped in her hand; her eyes were determined and excited.

They made a quick stop to the bank, withdrawing all but $150 for her rent, she was 'family' George would kill him if he over charged Casey for rent. Now, with a wad of cash, Casey was ready to shop. They went to Ikea. Which was daunting to say the least. Casey was in heaven. She had both her and Derek armed with carts. They first went to the Kitchen section, getting plates and cups, silverware and dishrags, and any kitchen utensils in Casey's red color list. Next they went to the bathroom section and bought some towels and bathroom accessories. When they made it to the living room section both just sat down at the nearest couch and stared at the selection before them.

"Okay Casey, which one do you like?" asked Derek, his eyes closed and his head resting on the back of the couch, "as long as it's not this one, or that crazy orange one." Casey, though slouched, was still alert. Her eyes scanned the assortment of couches. She spotted the prices and calculated her budget. She saw a simple couch in one of the corners, it had rounded arms, it looked comfortable, and it came in the tan fabric she was wanting. Grabbing Derek she pulled him over to the couch and threw him onto it.

"What do you think?" Derek just lay there. "Perfect for a nap," he said with a grin. He stretched the length of the couch and pushed himself deep into the back of the couch, "Case, sit down and try it out." Casey sat carefully on the edge in the middle of the couch.

Suddenly she felt an arm grab her around her waist and pull her down to the cushions. Casey let loose a squeak of surprise, "De- rek !"

Derek just held her tighter, forcing her to lie down. "Just relax Spacey and enjoy this nap-worthy couch." He felt her relax a bit in his arms and he smiled into her hair, which smelled like Green Apple, not that he noticed.

Casey was blushing like mad; she was basically spooning with Derek on a couch in the middle of Ikea. That little voice in her head was screaming **you like it! **the whole time. She had to admit though it was a comfortable couch. She sunk deeper into the cushions…and Derek. She felt his arm tighten a little more around her, his scent filling her nose; she closed her eyes for a second and just enjoyed the moment.

Behind her Derek was very happy and warm, wrapped up in Green Apple.

Casey opened her eyes and saw an elderly woman smiling at the two of them, the woman turned to the man next to her and whispered in his ear. The man just kissed her and pulled her farther down the aisle. That's when Casey realized what they looked like. They looked like a couple, picking out the furniture for their first house. She shivered, but was it out of disgust of anticipation? Casey didn't know. She carefully extracted herself from Derek's arms and moved towards the carts.

Derek felt her leave him and sighed. It was time to leave dreamland and return to reality; which included more shopping and more confusion. Derek jumped up from the couch and followed her to the carts.

Casey wrote down the item number and began to push her cart towards the mattress section. Derek moved into position next to her. "I guess that's the couch we're getting," murmured Derek.

"You guessed right," said Casey. She stopped at the info center for the mattress section. Gabbing a pamphlet she moved over one of the beds and sat down. Her brow was furrowed in confusion.

Derek sat down next to her and looked over her shoulder at the pamphlet, "What's wrong Case?" he looked at her confused face.

"I've never had to choose a mattress before, there was always one given to me or already there when I arrived, like at home or school. I don't know what I like." She looked around the showroom. "Do I like firm or soft? Pillow topped or not? I don't know what I want!" She seemed defeated, not a good look for Casey in Derek's opinion. He grabbed the pamphlet from her hands and tossed it over his shoulder. Casey gasped and frowned at him. Derek grabbed her hand and stood up, pulling her to the first section.

"Okay, this is what I want you to do," he sat her down on the bed and stood in front of her, " I want you to think of the most comfortable bed you have ever slept on, ever. I mean, the moment you laid down, you didn't want to get up." Casey thought for a moment and then began to blush.

Derek looked at her, raising a questioning eyebrow, "Which bed is it?" he asked, nervously chuckling at her blush. Casey mumbled something real low; Derek couldn't hear her. "What?" she mumbled again. Derek stooped low, his hands on her knees, he leaned in; Casey turned her head away. "What'd you say?" Casey shook her head, her blush deepening. Derek smirked and tightened his grip on her knees.

"It was my bed at home wasn't it?" Casey’s blush reached a deeper shade. Derek laughed. "When did you ever get a chance to lay in my bed? You didn't sneak in while I was sleeping, did you?" his face showing fake disgust, his eyes shining with amusement.

Casey took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She looked him straight in the eye. "Do you remember when you, George, and Edwin went on that 'man-weekend' last summer?" Derek nodded, and rolled his eyes at the memories of that weekend. "Well, Marti was going through Smerek withdrawal and wanted to spend the night with me. Staying in my room didn't last long, she begged me to stay with her in your room, I begged her not to but, she convinced me otherwise. Anyway, we got into your bed and both of us fell asleep immediately. Your bed is so comfy! We ended up sleeping there for the rest of the weekend, we pinky-promised each other that we wouldn't tell anyone. I'm so sorry Derek; I know you hate it when I go in your room, while you're at home or not. But, you've seen Marti's puppy pout, who could say no to that face?"

Derek was grinning at her the entire time. "Case, I knew you guys stayed in my bed."

Casey looked at him in shock, "She told you didn't she?"

Derek shook his head, "Nope, I knew the moment I laid down in it. The whole thing smelled like you and cotton candy. Since the only one who smells like you is you and the only one who smells like cotton candy is Smarti, I figured you two must have stayed there."

"I'm so sorry Derek! I tried to tell her that you would hate if I slept there but she started to cry and I couldn't take it." She hung her head in shame.

Derek chuckled and got up from his crouching, kissed her head on the way up and walked away.

"De-rek! Are you going to help me or not?" she yelled after him. Derek suddenly flopped onto a random mattress. He stayed there for a few seconds. He got up and moved to the next one and repeated the flop test. He did this about 5 times until he reached one bed in particular. He stayed there for about a minute. Casey walked up and stood next to the bed, Derek turned his head to look at her, a happy smile plastered on his face.

"This is the one. Try it," he said, scooting over and making room for her. Casey turned and walked backward until the back of her knees hit the bed, she fell backwards onto the bed. Her body sunk into the mattress, so did her tension.

"Yeah, this is it," she said, her voice wistful. Derek chuckled deeply and closed his eyes. They lay next to each other for another 5 minutes, both of their minds drifting happily.

Casey broke out of her thoughts first. She grabbed Derek's wrist and turned it so she could see his watch.

3:48pm.

"Come on Derek, we still have to get bedding," she said, getting up reluctantly. Derek rolled off the bed.

They spent the next fifteen minutes in the bedding department. Casey pointed to something and Derek telling her how ugly it was, how it made him want to puke, and finally that it looked like something great-grandma Mabel would have on her bed. Derek grabbed a package of the Mabel-esque bedding and put it in her cart, "This is perfect!" Casey stood with her arms crossed and her hip thrown out, with her eyebrow up. Derek just snickered.

"Derek, remove that mess from my cart." Derek laughed and tossed the package at her. Casey managed to catch it, thankfully.

Casey looked around; she spotted a dark plum comforter cover with matching pillowcases. "Oh! I love this one! Derek what do you think?"

Derek looked at the bedding then looked at Casey; his mind picturing her lying on top of them in very little. Derek choked on air and cleared his throat (and mind), "It's perfect, looks like you."

Casey grinned and picked out the bedding package and down comforter and pillows. For the first time in since the second night in Derek's bed at home, Casey was excited to go to sleep that night.


After a trip through the TV stands, coffee tables, and bedroom furniture, they made it to the checkout. Their bill ran up to $2,147.66. Casey counted out the cash to the shocked cashier. The couch and mattress were going to be delivered that night. Casey and Derek walked out of Ikea with big grins on their faces.

After the car was loaded to the brim, with two rugs and four various sized boxes stacked on the roof, Derek peeled out of the parking lot. Both exhausted but excited, Casey excited for the arrival of her bed and Derek for the arrival of the nap-worthy couch.

Chapter Text

The evening came and went in a mess of instructions and Allen wrenches. Derek was in charge of the living room, and Casey her bedroom.

Derek sat in the midst of chaos, the T.V. stand was done first (of course) and the side table was complete. He was, at the moment, screwing a leg onto the coffee table; his tongue sticking out in concentration, his eyebrows knit together, and he was cross eyed as he fiddled with the bolt. He knew Casey would test all the furniture to make sure he followed the directions, so he followed the directions. They were simple enough…bolt A goes with washer B in slot C. He had even sat on the furniture to make sure it was stable. They all stood up to his weight. He was proud and hoped Casey would be pleased.

Casey was in an organized mess. Her side tables were completed and in the right spots, framing where her bed was going to be. Her drapes were hung, along with her mirror. She was putting together her dresser, all the drawers were completed and she was assembling the frame. She had double-checked every socket and bolt to make sure they were tight and stable. She knew that if something fell apart Derek would mock her forever; she could hear him telling her that even her furniture was klutzy. She had sat on the side tables to make sure they were sturdy; no chances were to be taken.

At 5:30 the doorbell rang.

There were bumps and spastic movements between the two step-siblings as they scrambled to the door. They fought physically until Derek finally reached the doorknob and flung the door open.

The delivery man, also named Dave, had heard the commotion and biting remarks, but when the door was opened it revealed two calm and collected college students.

"I have a delivery for Casey McDonald."

Casey pushed her way in front of Derek eager for both her bed and the very handsome and muscular delivery man. Deliveryman Dave grinned at Casey, he quickly scanned over her body and his eyes twinkled at the sight of her curvy dancer figure.

"Are you Mrs. McDonald?" he asked, curious to her response.

"Miss. It's Miss," replied Casey, her tone giggly and full of added sugar.

Derek scowled behind her. Casey twirled a lock of her hair between her fingers and dropped her hip in what she assumed was an alluring pose.

Deliveryman Dave appreciated her pose from the front, and a grumbling Derek from the back.

"I have your couch and a mattress, just sign right here," he pointed to the line on the clipboard "and I'll go get them for you," he winked at her as she returned the clipboard.

Derek had officially decided people with clipboards are his least favorite type of people and that included Deliverymen with the name of Dave.

Deliveryman Dave pranced muscularly down the stairs of their apartment building; Casey leaned against their doorframe ogling him.

Derek had had enough of Casey flirting with random strange delivery men and wanted her attention back.

"Case…" Casey sighed, "Case!"

"What do you want Derek!" she snapped at him. She paused for a moment, in shock at her sudden outburst.

"I'm sorry Derek, I don't know what came over me. I guess I'm tired or something," she said, her face one of self-confusion.

Derek looked at her for a moment, he flashed back to the days of Truman and Max; she was snippy and touchy about everything especially when it came to him.

"It's okay, Case, it's good to know the old Casey is still in there somewhere, I just thought you had matured since then," he mumbled as he walked back into the living room.

"Since 'them'? What is that supposed to mean?" She defensively strutted behind him.

"I meant, you used to always act like that when you were around Max and Truman. You would get all snappy and talk back to people. You became harsh and defensive, I took a lot of it," Casey raised an eyebrow, "but I egged you on a bit," he said with a chuckle.

"I didn't realize I was like that," she sat gingerly on his recliner, "was I always like that?" She raised her head so she could look at him.

He could see the shame and confusion in her blue eyes. He dropped down to her level, his hand resting on her knee.

"In the beginning you were nice to everyone, but me, and sweet to your sister and Ed, always great with Marti, then when you changed for your boyfriends you would become Crazy Casey," Casey glared at him, "Hey! Don't look at me! 'The Sleuths' coined the phrase."

"Crazy Casey, huh?" Casey bit her lip, going over all the incidences described, they were all true…she was crazy.

"I wasn't intending to go out with him or ask for his number or give him mine, I just liked the fact that I am desirable, I know he couldn't see my scar, but it still felt good to know he wanted to look." She looked at him with dejected eyes.

"Casey," he brushed a strand of hair behind her ears, Casey closed her eyes at the gesture, "believe me, with or without the scar, it is hard not to look at you."

Casey's eyes sprang open; she looked him full in the eye. Derek dropped his hand, leaving it heavy on her knee. Casey switched into joke mode, hoping to turn off the emotions swirling between them.

"If I remember correctly, I look like an ogre without makeup on and a monster with makeup on," she laughed but her eyes questioned him the entire time.

"Believe me or not Casey, you're not that bad to look at," he replied with a chuckle. His eyes were serious and there was a bit of longing hidden under the small smirk always present.

There was a knock on the door, Derek jumped up. "…Not bad at all," Derek mumbled as he moved to open the door. Casey heard him, but just barely.

About ten seconds later and the big box was wheeled in from the entryway, Derek gave directions to Deliveryman Dave to leave it in the hallway. He didn't want some stranger looking at Casey's bedroom.

Casey continued to sit on Derek's recliner; she made herself comfortable and sank deeper into the abused chair. She felt herself relax a little bit, the chair smelt of Derek and subtly of Marti.

Deliveryman Dave wheeled the dolly back out the door, pausing in his stride to wink at Casey again. Casey blushed and smiled, but her smile didn't reach her eyes. She no longer felt the need to flirt with Deliveryman Dave; in fact she suddenly felt put off by him. How many women must he hit on everyday? She wondered how many lonely housewives he's taken care of. At this naughty thought Casey could picture him at a woman's doorway saying, "I've got a package for you." This made Casey giggle, her giggle turning into full on laughter.

Derek was watching Casey the entire time. He saw Deliveryman Dave wink at her and Casey blush, he saw the strange look pass over her face and then the humor rise to the surface. When she burst into laughter, he couldn't take his eyes off of her, she was stunning.

"You've finally lost it Casey! I knew this day would come," he said, moving to stand next to her.

Casey looked up at him, her eyes watering from laughing so hard. "I was just picturing Dave standing at a doorway saying…" she burst into laughter again, " saying…"

Derek waited patiently for Casey to find breath; she clutched her sides carefully controlling her breathing so she could hopefully say the punch line.

"…Saying, 'I've got a package for you'," she said, dropping her voice a few octaves and made her voice as suggestive as she could without cracking up again.

Derek just looked at her flushed face and grinned.

"Have you been watching 70's porn again Casey? I thought you got over that!" he teased, smirking full force.

"I have not been watching porn again!" Casey yelled as she stood up, ready for the fight she had secretly been aching for; her once flushed face beet red.

Deliveryman Dave stopped in his tracks at the doorway. He cleared his throat.

Casey and Derek spun around to see Deliveryman Dave and an unnamed Deliveryman both holding an end of a couch looking really uncomfortable.

If it was possible, Casey's blush deepened. Now Derek was barely keeping his laughter at bay, he was biting his bottom lip hard, and his eyes were watering.

Casey stood there for a moment and gained her composure, "put the couch over there," she said her voice tight and nervous.

She pointed to the spot on the other side of the recliner. The Deliverymen moved the couch quickly to the spot and deposited it smoothly. The mystery Deliveryman ran from the room, leaving Deliveryman Dave to handle the awkwardness.

"Thank you for your business, have a good evening," he said quickly, not making eye contact with either of them, and followed his partner out the door.

After the door closed, Derek burst into laughter, falling on the floor and clutching his sides in agony. Casey stood above him with her arms crossed and her foot tapping impatiently.

"Are you done?" she asked, tilting her head slightly. She was not smiling, but her eyes were.

Derek took a couple of deep breaths, "Come on Case, did you see their faces! That was damn funny!" he said, wiping the tears from his eyes as he stood up.

Case glared at him, "At my expense! That was so embarrassing! Now they think I watch porn!"

"Case we both know that you would never watch porn, you're too much of a prude," he said, waving it off.

Casey raised an eyebrow and smirked, her eyes taking a dangerous turn to alluring.

"Sure, Derek. Whatever you say…" she sauntered towards the bathroom.

Derek's jaw dropped and watched her hip sway back and forth with each step.

' Damn good to look at, ' he thought as she glanced over her shoulder at him.

"Damn good," he whispered.

Chapter Text

Pizza had arrived about five minutes after Deliveryman Dave had fled the scene. Before Casey would let Derek eat she made him unpack her mattress. It was fluffing up when they sat down to greasy pizza and a table set with the remainder of Derek's disposable dishware.

It was 6:10.

Derek and Casey had finished dinner and remained at the table bantering amiably over future improvements to the apartment. Derek lazily glanced up at the clock. Jumping violently up from the table, leaving Casey quite startled, Derek ran to his room. He came back out barely ten seconds later with his bag shouldered and his shoes slipped on. He quickly made his way to the door, backtracking only to kiss Casey on the head and moved towards the door. He called over his shoulder, "late to hockey practice, be back at ten. Sorry for the mess!" and the door slammed shut.

"Okay, bye?" said Casey quietly to the empty apartment. She sighed and began cleaning up dinner.


Casey's evening was spent cleaning up all the packaging from their new furniture, she made no less than 6 trips to the building's dumpster. Having cleaned the living room, arranging the rug and furniture in a good-looking way; she stood back and appraised her work happily. She lit the candles she bought, a musky scent that both she and Derek had managed to agree on, and turned on the one table lamp. She adjusted the pillows and throw one more time before moving on to the kitchen.

The kitchen had the most work, they had unpacked none of the dishes or utensils yet; everything was still in bags on the counter. Casey began the tedious job of organizing the kitchen. About a half hour later the cupboards had been wiped down on the inside, cleaning whatever mystery gunk she found from the shelves, dishes and silverware were put away and Casey had moved on to the cookware. She placed the few pots and pans they had where she wanted them, all the cooking utensils were placed in a jar by the stove; so even Derek couldn't miss them.

Casey decided to take a break; her shoulders and neck were aching from cleaning and lifting things onto the various shelves. She leaned against the counter and faced the living room. Her eyes followed the line of the furniture, the flicker of the candlelight dancing on the vacant walls. She smiled a little bit; she liked their first home.

Their first home . She stiffened. She had to stop thinking like that. They were roommates, that's it. It was just Derek. Yes, he was handsome; yes, he was funny. Yes, he knew her better than anyone ever had, even her closest friends; on occasion he knew her better than she knew herself. But that didn't mean anything. She was Casey and he was Derek, it could never work out, ever. ' But it was,' said a small voice in the back of Casey's head.

Casey sighed and removed herself from the support of the counter. Entering Derek's room; her eyes scanning his remarkably clean room for a stereo. She found one gathering dust in the corner. He kept his CD's under his bed; she dropped to the floor and reached her arm under his bed, careful not to grab anything that felt like a magazine. She found his CD case and pulled it out. Sitting criss cross on the floor she flipped through the pages of CD's looking for the one she used to steal from him. She found it; it felt a little too snug in the sleeve. So she pulled a little harder; it slipped out revealing another CD under it. It was a burned CD. Written with a big black Sharpie was 'Mix 4 Case'. Maybe he knew another Casey, but would he call that Casey, Case too? She was confused. Looking at the CD skeptically she saw in smaller writing under it, 'for the only person who gets under my skin.' Yes it was definitely for her.

Casey was momentarily taken aback by the idea that Derek had made her a mix. Seeing how the CD flip book had loads of dust on it, it seemed like he had made it for her before they left for college; before the new Derek… before the new Casey. Back when they would fight like clockwork. She stared at it for a minute, fighting the urge to play it. Finally giving in she removed it from the sleeve and grabbed the stereo and placed everything back to the way she found it. Turning off the light and closing the door behind her she moved back to the living room. She found a plug and set everything up. The stereo clicked on and she popped open the CD deck and placed it carefully in. She closed it and went to press play.

Her finger paused on the button. She knew that she wasn't supposed to find that CD, what if it was really private? Would he be mad if he found out? What if he forgot he had it? Maybe he forgot to give it to her? Maybe she was meant to find it when she wanted to steal that other CD from him. Yeah, that was it, she was meant to find it. It does have her nickname on it.

She pressed play.

A soft beat echoed through the room, it was perfect for her. She felt relaxed and at home. She realized what song it was, 'Here with Me' by Dido. She loved that song; the album it was from was always on her Christmas list, but no one had ever gotten it for her. Derek knew she liked it, she sang along with it every time it came on her favorite radio station. He would grumble and mock her singing every time causing her to snap back, thus beginning a new fight, ending her concentration on the song. Laughing at the memories she decided it really was a start to a good mix.

Walking lazily back to the kitchen, she swayed with the music. She unpacked the last bag of kitchen items. The next song surprised her; it was a soft remake of a Beatles song. She just smiled and carried on with her work. The counters were wiped down, the pictures on the fridge re-arranged, and the sink was clean. Turning the stove light on and the overhead lights off she left the kitchen, turned up the music a bit and went to her room.

The mix continued to play; she loved every song. Her room of course was already clean; all that was left was making her bed. She unfolded her new sheets, placing them carefully on the bed. She unpacked all her pillows and her comforter. She made her bed with practiced hands. When it was finished she stepped back to admire her work.

The bed looked luxurious in deep purple and cream. For a second the word sexy popped into her head. She decided it looked like a magazine, she giggled and clapped her hands in true girly fashion. She hoped Derek would be impressed by the state of the apartment when he got home.

She looked over at the clock on her side table; it was only 8:45.

Her shoulders sank a little bit and she groaned; it would be a while until he was back.

She walked into the living room and sat down on the couch, the smell of the candles lingering in the air. She breathed deeply and turned her attention to the CD player. The music had stopped and the CD remained spinning. She got up and turned it off, the apartment growing slightly quieter. She grabbed the remote and sat down, she sank into the nap-worthy couch and flipped on the TV.


Derek was home by 10 'o clock like he said. Hockey practice was tiring, but what was more tiring in his mind was worrying about Casey. Hockey tonight had been a release for him. His anxiety and worry about Casey and her situation finally getting an outlet. He was very happy when he got home, his muscles ached and his body was warm, he just wanted to go to bed, or take a nap on the couch, preferably with Casey.

Speaking of Casey, Derek found Casey seated gracefully on their couch, the remote resting on her knee, completely relaxed in her new home. Derek dropped his gear at the door, thankful that he had showered before he got home, and made his way over to the couch. He sat down next to her, sinking into cream-colored comfort and sighed.

"How was practice?" asked Casey, she glanced lazily over at him. He turned his head to look at her, "It was rough, and I'm beat."

He eyed her lap for a moment; it looked comfortable. He grabbed a pillow, held it to the side of his face, and fell onto her lap.

"Der-ek! What do you think you are doing?" Casey questioned him, sending a pointed glare down to his head.

"I just want to nap for a bit, then I need to help you with your bandages. Your lap just looked really comfortable that's all. Come Case, be a good stepsister and humor me just this once," he replied in a tired voice.

"I humor you all the time, but fine, you can stay there for a while, I'm not doing this again." Derek just grinned and his eyes already closed.

Casey didn't know where to place her hand; she looked at the already sleeping man-boy in her lap and inwardly groaned. His hair looked slightly damp and tangled. She ran her fingers through it, detangling it as she went. Derek sighed in his sleep and buried his head deeper into her lap. She silently giggled. She continued to run her fingers softly through his hair, massaging his scalp.

Derek was in half-asleep heaven. He had never felt so relaxed in all his life, everything seemed to be right, perfect, nothing could be better then where he was now.

Chapter Text

15 minutes after Derek found comfort in the calming motions of Casey's head massage, the massage stopped and his shoulder jerked.

"Time to get up! I'm tired and I want to go to bed." She got up after Derek had rolled off of her lap dramatically. She set the remote down on the side table and turned off the TV. The soft glow of the sidelight and candles remained. Derek paused to let his eyes adjust.

"But first, I want to show you what I did! The living room," she gestured dramatically, "What do you think?" Derek opened his eyes and took in the room; it's layout and the basic Casey-ness it exuded.

"I like it! Looks homey. Looks like you , but I like it," he shrugged, glancing at Casey. She seemed happy with his reply. He looked over the room again and spotted his stereo in the corner.

"Oh, you helped yourself to my stereo," he said sarcastically.

"Yes I did. Including your CDs…" she waited for his reaction. He met her eyes; they said I found it . He raised an eyebrow.

"You enjoy the music?" he asked, acting like it was nothing.

"Every song," she said seriously. Derek's face broke into a grin.

"Good," he said. He shrugged off the embarrassment.

He gave her a quick pat on the shoulder and went towards the kitchen, "What'd you do in here?"

Casey ran after him and excitedly spread her arms, "I organized the entire kitchen! All the dishes and cups, pots and pans, dish towels and cleaning supplies are all put away! Isn't it great?" Casey was bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet.

Derek smirked her pride with her own organization skills. "Did you get the cutlery?" he asked with a teasing grin, his eyes sparkling.

Casey giggled and smiled, "Y eeeess , I even put away the cutlery," she teased back.

"I'll show you where everything is tomorrow. Next is my room!" she scurried down the hallway towards her door.

"Case, I'm going to put on my pajamas first, then get out the bandages and stuff, I'll meet you in there, get yourself ready for bed," he paused, "well…half ready for bed."

He went into his room and shut the door. Casey did the same.


Casey pulled out the only item in her dresser, her Spacey pjs. She undressed and pulled on her pj bottoms, she didn't know what to do for a top so she sat in position and pulled a pillow to her chest.

Derek knocked a few minutes later.

"Come in!" Casey called.

Derek entered to what normally would have been a seductive situation, Casey sitting on a deep purple bed, topless, only a pillow covering her, but the large bandage on her back, took him out of his momentary fantasy.

He sat down behind her, setting the kit they were given next to him on the bed. He took a deep breath and moved her hair out of the way.

"So, you know I like the apartment. Do you like the apartment?" Derek already knew the answer, but the silence was already killing him.

Casey cleared her throat, allowing the shiver she got from his fingertips on the back of her neck to pass through her.

"Yeah, I like everything we got, I think it works well for both of us and I made sure there was no pink so you wouldn't fuss," Casey joked, breaking a small bit of the awkwardness.

Derek was a quarter of the way through peeling off the bandage.

"Good, I enjoyed shopping with you," they both blushed slightly at the memories.

"What's your week like?" questioned Casey, changing the subject.

"Oh, I have um…class at 10 until noon then again from 3 until 5, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have class from 10 till'5. I usually have practice every night from 6:15 until 9:45. Occasionally, I have a game on Friday or Saturday, but you already know that," he ended in a teasing tone.

Casey giggled.

"What about you?" asked Derek.

"Oh! Um… I have yoga every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30. Followed by English at noon until 3, then history at 4:30 until 7:45. On Tuesday and Thursday I have classes from 9 until 4. I don't have anything to do on the nights, except for maybe going to your games."

"You don't dance?" asked Derek, slightly put off by the idea that Casey no longer danced regularly.

"I didn't have time in my schedule and yoga is good for dancing muscles anyway. It is also incredibly relaxing and a good stress reliever. I could use a good yoga session right now," said Casey, her voice wistful at the memories of her once yoga filled mornings.

"What time do you get up in the morning?" asked Derek; it felt weird asking her what her wake up time was. He felt like he should know this already.

"It's the same as it always is," sighed Casey.

"6:30" they said in unison. Casey's giggle was cut short as Derek pulled the last bit of tape from her back, they both hissed when it finally released from her skin with a small 'snap!'.

"You probably sleep until you have to go to class, don't you?" asked Casey, reminding Derek of the conversation.

"Believe it or not Case, I've been waking up every morning at 7:00 since school started…" he thought for a moment, "except on weekends, I still sleep until noon if I can," he laughed.

"Well, you can't sleep in too late anymore, I have to have my bandages changed on schedule, otherwise I could get an infection," she said seriously.

"Alright, as long as you promise I get pancakes for breakfast on the weekends," he bargained, he had finished cleaning her wounds and had moved on to the first treatment.

Casey hissed at the application of the ointment.

"Sorry," Derek whispered.

"S'ok," she whispered back.

They sat in silence for a bit while Derek applied the ointments, he carefully rubbed them into her tender skin; he occasionally blew on the really red areas giving Casey some relief from the stinging sensations.

Casey enjoyed the feeling of his fingers massaging into her back despite the stinging that came with it.

Derek wiped his hands on the towel he brought with him and began to unroll the gauze.

Casey needed to fill the silence, it was comfortable but she needed him to say something, other than the quiet mutterings she heard from behind her of, "oh, Casey," or "I'm sorry," as he viewed and inspected her burn.

She knew she had his pity; she just wanted his reassurance and friendship.

"You ready for your game tomorrow?" her voice slightly strained.

"As ready as I normally am, I'm ready for the vomiting that usually comes before a game; tomorrow will be spent in the bathroom," he said with disgust.

"Oh, I won't let you get nervous, tomorrow we will be spending the day shopping. I need clothes bad, and as much as I like what you bought me, If I don't I'll have to start borrowing your clothes," she joked.

Derek just chuckled and began taping the edges.

“Speaking of your clothing, can I borrow one of your shirts to sleep in?" asked Casey nervously.

Derek smirked, "Of course you can Case, I'll just get one from the laundry."

"Can I have a clean one D? I don't want to smell sweat the entire time I'm asleep."

"Fine…" sighed Derek dramatically. He taped the last bit and put the tape roll back into its assigned place. He returned to her back and checked over his work, smoothing out edges of tape.

He brushed the skin of her shoulder; she shivered a bit. He gently leaned forward and placed a small kiss between her shoulder blades right above the start of her bandage.

Casey gasped at his actions and turned slowly to face him, still holding the pillow securely to her chest.

Their eyes met, she saw anguish in his eyes, something she never thought she would see.

She raised her hand up to his face and rubbed her thumb across his cheek. Derek closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying her touch.

"I scared you didn't I?" asked Casey. She waited for him to answer.

Derek opened his eyes and looked directly in her eyes. He was the most transparent she had ever seen him. All of his emotions and thoughts bare before her. His eyes were slightly red from holding in tears.

"Derek, I don't do tears," she said with a sad smirk, her own eyes welling up. Her thumb continued to stroke his cheek, hoping to comfort him.

Derek laughed a little at the irony. "Don't worry about me, Case, I don't do feelings. It'll pass; I'm just really tired."

She dropped her hand and gave him a teasing smile and eye roll.

Derek stood up and moved towards the door, "I'll be right back with a shirt," he said over his shoulder.

He closed the door behind him.

On either side of the door both teens took deep breaths. Derek just wanted to hold onto her, to make sure she was real, that she hadn't left him in that fire. Casey wanted the same.

Derek returned five minutes later, Def Leppard t-shirt in hand and eyes clear.

He handed it to her and turned around so she had some privacy.

Casey slipped on the shirt, inhaling deeply as the fabric passed over her nose. It smelled just like him.

"You can turn around now," said Casey.

Derek turned and saw the vision that was Casey smiling at him, drowning in his t-shirt and wearing the pjs he'd bought her. He blushed and smiled back.

"It's getting late and tomorrow we have a full day. Get to bed, you need rest for your game," her bossy side coming to the surface.

Derek just chuckled and slipped one arm around her waist and pulled her in for a hug. Casey sank into his chest giving into his affection. Derek placed a kiss on her forehead, his lips lingering a bit longer than normal.

He pulled away and sauntered out her door, "Night Space-Case!" he called over his shoulder.

"Night Derek!" Casey called back as she climbed into bed. She lay on her side, making sure not to tweak her bandage. She had a relaxed smile on her face. She closed her eyes, the smell of Derek filling her nose and lulling her to sleep.

Derek had his arms behind his head, his eyes adjusting to the darkness, a small smirk on his mouth. He sighed deeply and let his eyes close; Casey's smiling face filling his dreams.

Chapter Text

Derek woke to the smell of bacon. His nose was filled with the heavenly scent of the cooking mea, his mouth began to water and his face broke into a grin. He opened his eyes, his head facing his door, which was open.

I thought I closed it? he thought, confused. He heard soft steps moving towards his door. Casey's figure appeared.

"Derek it's time to get up, we have shopping to do and I still need my bandages changed," she said, she was frustrated with him already and it was only 8:30 in the morning.

"I'm up! I'm up!" replied Derek, his head sinking deeper into his pillow; the scent of bacon was growing stronger.

Casey just rolled her eyes and went back to the kitchen.

After about 3 minutes Derek rolled out of bed. He lumbered into the kitchen and stopped at the entry, he rubbed his eyes and yawned a final yawn before joining the living.

His sleepy eyes focused on the pajama clad Casey standing in front of the stove, her hands moving fast over the three pans containing eggs, bacon, and diced potatoes. It was one of his favorite breakfasts.

Yes, living with Casey was going to be good.

He moved over behind her and peered over her shoulder to inspect the progress of breakfast. She gave a small gasp when he slipped his arms around her waist and hugged her to him.

"Have I told you recently how much I love…" he paused, not sure what exactly he was planning to say, "…your cooking."

Casey released the breath she was holding and turned slightly to look at his face, his arms still around her, "No, in fact every time I have ever cooked something for you, you have accused me of trying to poison you," she raised her eyebrow and smirked.

"That's because I'd die from how good it was," he smirked back, planted a kiss to her forehead, and released her from his grip.

He winked then sat down at the table. She just rolled her eyes and blushed; and went back to cooking.

Derek held his grin; inside he was daydreaming of all of Casey's cooking. Going over his favorite dishes in his head. Hoping that her decision to cook was not a one-time thing.

His inner monologue on the amazing-ness of Casey's cooking was cut short when a plate of it was set down in front of him, along with silverware and a cup of orange juice. His eyes lit up at the pile of food. He immediately dug in, groaning as he ate.

Casey was seated across from him; she just rolled her eyes at his antics, taking in the fact that he looked as if he would marry his breakfast as a 'thank you'. A way to a man's heart is through his stomach , she thought sarcastically.

She just smirked and began to eat her own breakfast daintily. Breakfast passed silently, except for the occasional moan or groan from Derek. Casey smirked each time. Every time he decided to have a problem with her; she would just put some food in front of him and he would practically kiss her feet.

Casey cleaned up her plate and began tidying the kitchen. Derek finished the last of his orange juice and was about to get up, leaving the mess behind, when he paused. A thought he never imagined coming into his head decided to show up; maybe you should help Casey wash the dishes?

Amazingly enough he agreed. Picking up his plate, cup, and cutlery, Derek made his way to the kitchen. Casey had delicately stacked all the pans and dishes that were used next to the sink waiting to be washed.

Derek made his way over and turned on the hot water, grabbed the apple scented dishwashing liquid and began scrubbing, humming as he went.

Casey paused in her wiping of the counter to look at him in shock. She then broke into a big smile and continued her work.

Derek saw the smile, which made him smile. He decided he would end up helping her out more, if it made her smile like that more often.

As Casey passed by Derek she paused, Derek kept on washing the dishes oblivious to her actions, stood up on her tip toes and kissed him on the cheek; causing Derek to fumble with the dishes momentarily.

Casey just smiled and made her way to the bathroom to take a bath.


Having bandages on her back made hygiene difficult. To clean her body Casey had to take a bath, to wash her hair, Casey had to bend over the edge of the tub and wash her hair with the shower hose. When she was in the hospital she had the nice nurse to help her shower, now the only nurse on duty was Derek and he was not helping her shower.

Casey came out of the bathroom 15 minutes later. She was clean, her hair was clean, and her bandage was only slightly damp. She felt accomplished.

Derek had finished the dishes and had moved on to his bedroom to get dressed. Casey could hear him rummaging around his room. She reminisced momentarily on the mornings in high school. Good times , she thought.

Casey lay out her only remaining clean shirt and only bra. She changed into her remaining pair of underwear and yoga pants. Not wanting to stand in her room naked from the waist up when Derek could march right in, she slipped on his shirt and proceeded to brush her hair and apply the little make-up she had.

Derek did march right in; he had the kit in hand and an extra towel. He sat down in position and waited for Casey to finish.

Casey finished quickly and sat down in front of him, she reached to her waist and pulled the shirt right off. Derek took a deep breath and started working. Casey sat there patiently and waited for him to finish. The entire time was silent, but neither of them cared.

Derek didn't want to talk because he was afraid he would lose focus on the task at hand and look over her shoulder at the full-length mirror in front of them; because Casey was topless, not even a pillow to promote modesty, just topless! She had forgotten to grab a pillow. Casey was just thinking about the list of clothes she wanted to buy. All the while Derek was struggling behind her.

Derek finished his taping, going over the edges, just like the last time; and just like the last time he placed a kiss between her shoulder blades, just above her bandage.

Casey sighed at his actions and grabbed her bra. She put the cups in place and pulled the straps over her shoulders and held the clasp for him. Derek linked it together, then gently placed it over the bandage. He picked up the kit and fled her room.

Casey just sat there for a moment. She would probably never understand his ways; though she may try. She looked at herself in the mirror; from this angle you can't see the bandage .

That's when it hit her, her eyes went wide, her mouth dropped open, and looked down at her bra covered chest. She jumped up from the bed and had a momentary Casey freak-out.

I was topless the whole time! Oh my god! This is so embarrassing. Had he seen me? Had he looked? Maybe he did look! Was that why he was so quiet? He didn't want to tell me! That Perv!

Casey was now angry. She roughly pulled on her shirt, she forgot about her bandage and she felt the edge pull from her skin.

"Ow!" Casey winced. Derek knocked on her door, "Case, are you alright? Is something wrong?" he asked frantically.

Casey's anger dissipated, he wasn't looking, he was trying not to look. That's why he ran out of here so fast.  

"I just snagged my shirt on the bandage. You can come in, I need you help re-sticking it," Case replied.

Derek hesitantly opened the door and peeked in, she was clothed. Whew

Derek made his way to her and lifted up the back of her shirt, his hands found the source of the problem and he quickly fixed it, carefully laying the tape back down on her skin.

Their eyes met in the mirror in front of them, "thank you," said Casey quietly.

"Anytime," replied Derek, neither breaking eye contact. He pulled the back of her shirt back down and smoothed out the fabric.

Casey blinked and got herself together.

"We have shopping to do. Are you ready?" she asked, grabbing her sweatshirt and slipping on her shoes.

"As ready as I'll ever be," smirked Derek as he waltzed out her door and into the living room.


The day was really long and hectic, Casey was madly rushing through stores, trying on various items, and making Derek sit there and comment on her appearance. She could spend up to an hour in one store and then buy nothing. She seemed to try on the entire store, every time. If that wasn't bad enough, when she would buy something she would immediately transfer the bag into his hands. Derek had one small success which was managing to stop her long enough to have lunch. By 3:30 both of them had at least three bags in each hand, and her long list of necessary clothing significantly smaller.

Derek, by this time, was really tired. Every time Casey would enter a new store he would find the nearest chair and plant himself; usually close to the dressing rooms so he could act like he cared about what she was trying on, and, on occasion, help her if her bandage came unstuck.

He had begun to drift, not really paying attention, but paying enough attention not to get in trouble with Casey. So, when Casey pulled him towards Victoria's Secret, it took him a minute to realize where he was. He stopped Casey before she had managed to pull him into the store with her.

"Casey!" he dug his feet into the ground.

"What is it Derek?" asked Casey, a small smirk on the corner of her mouth.

"I can't go in there with you!" he gestured dramatically to the store, "and I am most definitely not commenting on your choice of… garment . Count me out on this one."

He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away from the tantalizing images in the store window.

"Alright Derek, there's a video game store across the way, just go poke around over there," she said pointing to the other side of the hall.

Derek quickly scurried over to the store and waved over his shoulder, Casey just chuckled, shaking her head, and wandered into the store.


About 45 minutes later Derek was getting antsy. He had looked at his watch many times and had perused the store at least three times and Casey was still not out of the store. It was 4:25 and his game was at 7, he needed to prepare and, most importantly, eat.

Finally, after pacing in front of Victoria's Secret for a few minutes he got up the gumption to walk in. It's not that he didn't want to go in, it was that Casey was in here trying on god knows what and possibly buying some of it. He was struggling not to glance at the sinful items, he knew Casey, he had seen her underwear drawer before, he knew that half the things in the store she would like. He also knew that 90% of the store he would like on her. This was a serious problem.

He saw the nearest fake-boobed, fake blonde, fake nosed sales girl and approached her.

"Excuse me?" the woman turned and Derek cringed a little on the inside, he had gotten used to a makeupless Casey and this chick had to have pounds of it on.

"How can I help you?" she said, her eyes sized him up quickly, her smile got just a little more flirty.

Derek pulled out the Venturi Charm and put on the smile that made all the girls in high school, except for Casey, swoon.

"Yes, have you seen a blue eyed brunette in yoga pants anywhere?"

The girl just smiled, "follow me." Derek smiled back and followed her, he realized she couldn't walk as good as Casey in her high heels. The sales girl led him to the dressing room area.

He saw one of the big dressing room doors, on it was a small in-set white board, the name Casey written in a curly font.

"Casey?" the sales girl knocked.

"Yeah," came a loud voice from behind the door.

"Your boyfriend is here looking for you," the girl smiled up at him.

"Boyfriend?" Casey replied. "Oh! Derek!"

"Casey, you alright?" called Derek, deciding that if Casey wasn't going to correct the sales girl than neither was he.

"Yeah, I just finished. Get in here, I need your help."

"I'll let it go just this once. Usually we don't let more than one person in a dressing room at a time," and she waltzed off.

Derek's hand was on the doorknob, his ear pressed to the door. "Casey, can I come in?"

"Just get in here," she replied.

He entered slowly and closed the door behind him. He had his eyes dropped, giving her privacy.

"You can look up, you dork," she teased. He slowly brought his head up and looked at her. She was sitting on the provided chair, her hair was a bit ruffled and she was fully clothed; but she had many sinful things hanging about the dressing room.

"Um…" Derek really didn't know what to say. "What took you so long?" he finally managed.

"Well, unlike everything else I bought, bras take two sets of hands to get on. So I had to find everything and then ask for the manager so she could help me clasp it with the bandage, so it took twice as long, also I needed to get fitted," she rambled off, grabbing the many bags from the floor and handing them to him, he looped the handles around his wrists while she began gathering up her future purchases.

Derek just nodded and began an attempt to exit the dressing room with all the bags. Casey finally pulled on the door and opened it wider for him; he nodded his thanks.

Standing in line, Derek couldn't help but glance at the items in Casey's hands, they were sinful… down right sinful. He saw a few plainer looking bras and panties, but he was more focused on the small pieces of dark lace that were hanging delicately from her finger. He shivered a bit and shook his head trying to get rid of the naughty thoughts he was having about his step-… roommate .

He swallowed the lump forming in his throat and stood behind Casey at the register. He waited patiently as a smaller clone of the other sales girl rang up all of Casey's items. Derek decided to focus on the back of Casey's head, everything around him was pink and sex laced; and in the presence of Casey the situation could quickly turn south.

The girl finally handed Casey the receipt and two large bright pink-striped bags. Casey moved from the line and Derek obediently followed.

When they were finally clear of the store Derek released the breath that he didn't know her was holding. Casey giggled.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked, his voice cracked a bit.

"I thought it was cute how you tried not to stare," Derek looked away in embarrassment, "and you're blushing," she giggled again.

Derek just huffed at her and blushed a little more. Casey just smiled at him. He felt her take the bags from one of his hands and transfer them to her own. He smiled a little bit; those bags were starting to get a bit heavy. He took his now bagless arm and put it around her shoulder. He steered her slowly and tiredly out of the crowded mall, Casey giggling at him sympathetically the whole way.

Chapter Text

Derek swung the door to the apartment open dramatically. He dropped the bags in the middle of the hall and proceeded to drop lifelessly onto the couch, which he loved so much.

"De- rek !" yelled a stumbling Casey from the entryway, "You left the bags in the middle of the doorway!"

Derek yelled gruffly from the couch, his eyes closed, "Quiet Casey! It's Derek's nap time!"

Casey just rolled her eyes and shifted the bags out of her way with her foot.


Casey had let him have his nap time. She didn't want to admit it but he did deserve a rest. He had been through a lot recently; and he had never liked to go shopping and he just spent the past 6 hours doing just that.

She had all of her bags piled on her bed, each item was being carefully folded and the tags and receipts were put away in an envelope, just in case.

While inspecting her buys carefully, she realized her style had morphed, and she liked it.

Her jeans had gone from curve hugging boot cuts to dark washed skinny jeans, and her usual girly flair of pinks and light blues had transitioned to dark greens and deep purples. The accessories she bought were more muted and understated. Her t-shirts weren't sold colors or sparkly and shiny in any way, they were interesting and graphic, slightly artistic.

After she had hung up certain items and put away the rest in her drawers she laid put on her favorite outfit.

It was a forest green v-neck long-sleeved shirt with a drawing of feathers around the collar in black, her new skinny jeans, and the only thing Derek had managed to talk her into buying, a pair of classic black and white Chuck Taylors.

She looked at herself in the mirror, gave a turn. My butt looks great in these jeans; I should have started wearing these long ago.  

She thought this was a good outfit to wear to Derek's game tonight. She looked cute and eclectic.

She gave herself a nod in the mirror and went to her dresser, on top lay many little boxes containing all of her new make-up.

This was the most interesting of her buys, in her opinion. Derek had once again managed to talk her into not buying very much. He had told her that she didn't need make-up. He had gone on a small rant in her ear at the fact that the girl who was selling her the make-up was probably wearing so much because she was trying to cover up her scales.

She had only bought tinted moisturizer, powder and natural toned blush. Derek had given her a small smile and nod of approval. He had also mentioned that he thought lip-gloss was disgusting and sticky; so she bought no lip-gloss. What she had not allowed him to talk her out of was the eye make-up. If there was one thing Casey liked about putting on make-up it was doing her eyes. In her mind it was another expression of creativity. She had invested in the basics for blue eyes, brown eyeshadow and smoky color. Along with black eyeliner and mascara and some darker eyeshadows to go with her new look.

When a girl loses her make-up it is life changing. She has to re-create a kit to her own identity. What she looks like, no matter how crazy, can be altered with the simple application of make-up. For Casey, her make-up would change with her mood. More dramatic when she wanted to feel sexy and mysterious and simpler when she didn't really care about how she looked.

What Casey was really struggling with was the fact that she had allowed Derek to influence most of her make-up purchases. In high school, she would have ignored him and told him to stick it. Now, she had seriously listened to his opinion and changed a significant part of herself based on what he said. What was even more shocking was that she liked everything she had bought more than her old stuff; he actually had good advice. She was confused but pleasantly surprised.


Derek woke up at 5:30, to the smell of spaghetti. I could really get used to waking up to food , he thought as he heaved himself from the couch.

The table was already set and ready for dinner, he could hear Casey fiddling around in the kitchen. His mouth was water at the smell and the idea of Casey's meat sauce. He held his head in hands, his elbows keeping him upright. He heard her walk over to the table and set a steaming plate of spaghetti in front of him walk over to her seat and do the same. He allowed his neck to support itself and looked up at the smug face of Casey McDonald.

"Why so smug?" he asked, his eyes going over her new look, make-up included. She looked beautiful; he'd tell her later.

"Finish eating and I'll tell you," she said, meeting his eyes, hers sparkling mischievously.

"Fine, don't tell me," he said with a huff and a small smile. Casey just giggled and swirled her fork.

Dinner passed with mild chatter and playful fighting. When dinner was over Derek picked up both his and Casey's plates before Casey could say a word. He walked into the kitchen and proceeded to wash the dishes and pots, Casey silently moved next to him and began drying and putting away. The entire time neither said anything and merely smiled to themselves, occasionally sneaking playful glances at each other.

To an observer, this would be considered flirting; to Derek and Casey it was friendly competition. Yeah, right, they were flirting and they both knew it; they were just in denial.

When the dishes were done Derek turned around and leaned against the counter as he dried his hands. He looked over at the smiling Casey, still wondering what she was so smug about earlier.

"So, you gonna tell me why you are so smug?" Casey looked up at him innocently. She then smiled that smug smile again, she moved closer to him, reached up and kissed him on the cheek and walked away.

She had a swagger going and in her new skinny jeans Derek could not take his eyes off of her. Turning around, Casey looked at him, her eyebrows up and her arms crossed in front of her, "we better get going, you don't want to be late for your pre-game warm-ups," she said with a wink.

Derek looked at her in confusion for a moment then he realized what she said.

"I have a game today!" he ran past her and dove into his room for his gear. By the time he made it back to the living room Casey was already sitting on the couch, bundled up for the cold rink, her new gloves and scarf, and one of his beanies. She had the keys in her hand.

"I'll drive," she said walking passed him and out the door.

Derek followed her after a confused moment. Once again Casey had beat him, the prince was running and parked next to stairs up to their apartment, ready for him to get in. Casey was sitting in the driver's seat, still sporting the smug grin.


Derek made it to the stadium on time and not in the least nervous. Casey explained to him that she had purposely acted as if nothing important was happening today so that his mind would be more focused on getting out of the mall and home to take a nap. She was giggling at his shocked face.

It had been customary for him to spend the day of a game in the toilet, purging himself of nutrients. His vomiting would echo through the house and gross everybody out; by game time he would still be running to the bathroom randomly whenever he had a bout of nausea. Casey had said many times that if he just kept himself occupied and distracted his nervousness would pass or at least not hit him until right before game time. But of course, because she was Casey and Derek didn't want to hear what she had said, he would ignore her and spend the day worshiping the porcelain god.

Casey still had the smug look on her face when they entered the stadium. Derek had an amused but annoyed look on his face. He thanked Casey with a roll of the eyes and a head nod before he entered the locker room. A bout of nausea hit him the moment the door closed behind him; at least I had a full stomach , he thought as he ran towards the toilets.

Casey just grinned and proceeded into the empty stadium. Nobody was really there yet, there were a few groups of girlfriends and parents set up with blankets around their legs. Casey realized for the first time that she would have to sit and stay for the entire game, in a spot that Derek would see her. It was weird for her not to be sneaking into his games and to actually be welcomed and encouraged to come. She chose a spot right in front and in the middle of the row. She chose this spot so that people could leave on either end of the row allowing her to wait until everyone was gone before she would have to get up.

Casey had brought with her a small blanket and a magazine to read to keep her occupied during the pre-game warm-ups.

Derek and the team entered the rink soon after she had finally chosen her seat.

Derek gave a quick glance around looking for Casey when his eyes landed on her he smiled. He knew where she was and she wasn't going to disappear at the end of the game. Their eyes locked and Casey smiled back and winked at him. He blushed and circled back over to the team.


The game went by quickly, Derek was on fire and played the best Casey had ever seen him play. She was standing up and screaming her heart out, smiling the entire time. There was 30 seconds until the game was over and as usual Derek went for the winning goal. Casey didn't move from her spot thankful that she didn't have to try to beat the rush.

He scored and threw his arms up in the air as the buzzer went off signifying their win. Derek circled around victoriously as screams filled the stadium. He met eyes with Casey and became even happier, if possible. Casey was bouncing up and down, clapping and screaming; her flushed face had a big grin. When they made eye contact she mouthed to him, good job .

He blushed and nodded his thanks and winked.

Chapter Text

Casey met Derek near the entrance to the locker rooms. He came out with a big smile on his face, his hair was still damp from the shower and his clothes were slightly disheveled. He was the first out of the locker room, which was interesting because he was the last in. He spotted her sitting on a bench, her hands under her thighs and her legs swinging back and forth to the rhythm in her head.

"Case!" said Derek loudly as he approached her.

Casey jumped up from her seat and propelled herself into his arms; she hugged tightly around his neck. Derek was surprised by her affection but welcomed it nonetheless. He dropped his bag and pulled her tighter to him, he spun around once with enthusiasm. Casey just giggled.

"You were great out there, I've never seen you play so good!" she exclaimed, still hugging him around his neck, his arms still wrapped around her. He buried his nose in her hair for a moment, the adrenaline still pumping through his veins slowed slightly. He inhaled that wonderful green apple scent and just smiled; he was genuinely glad that someone was there for him.

"I play better when I have an audience," stated Derek, releasing her from his grip.

Casey let go of his neck, still smiling, and linked her arm with his. "Are you going out with the other players or are you going home?" asked Casey, she was unsure of his post-game ritual.

"I always go home after a game, the other guys go out partying," Casey nodded. "At least I won't go home alone," he ended, smiling down at her. He un-linked their arms and wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. Casey felt comfortable nestled on his side, she had never felt this comfortable like this with someone; she welcomed the feeling.


When they arrived home, Derek's adrenaline rush was still in progress. He just kept talking away about whatever came into his head, and Casey just smiled and nodded at the appropriate times. They only fought once in the car over whether or not to stop at the store for celebratory ice cream. Derek had won; they stopped at the nearest store and continued to battle it out in the frozen food aisle. Casey had won; and the low fat ice cream made it into the cart.

After getting ready for bed and re-bandaging Casey. During which, Derek had managed to calm down enough to do it properly and kiss her, once again, between the shoulders. Casey still didn't know how to deal with his new appreciation for PDA. He had never even hugged his family in public, other than Marti; and now he was hugging her openly in front of people and had decided that her shoulders were the official resting place for his arm.

Dressed for bed, and still wide-awake, the befuddled step-sibs settled down to a movie. It was an action movie, which they both had agreed on. Their respective ice creams were dished into bowls and rested on their laps, both lounging on the couch. About half way through the movie Derek finally crashed. He fell asleep on Casey's shoulder and didn't wake up, no matter how many gunshots were fired from the screen.

Casey's shoulder had begun to ache; his head was heavy on her dainty frame. She removed his ice cream bowl from his lax hands and put it on the side table to join hers. Then, she maneuvered herself deeper into the corner of the couch with a pillow on her lap. She carefully guided his head into her lap. He stirred for a moment and then made himself more comfortable, swinging his legs onto the couch. She smiled down at his sleepy form, she was proud of him, the victory, and of him for taking care of her through this wacky time. He had become the mature Derek she always knew was in there somewhere. She ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp as she went. Derek smiled contentedly in his sleep.

When the movie had long been over, Casey continued to stoke his head. She lounged deeper into the couch, she was thankful for this one moment of peace out of a very stressful day. She reluctantly got up, carefully depositing Derek's head onto the couch. She grabbed the throw from the back of the couch and laid it over him. She bent down and kissed his temple as a goodnight and went to bed.


The next morning it was Casey's turn to wake to food. The smell of pancakes woke her happily. If there was one thing Derek could make, it was pancakes. Casey rolled out of bed quickly and shuffled down the hallway to the kitchen.

"Morning Space Case!" called Derek from the stove; he flipped a pancake with professional ease. Next to him, on a plate, was a large stack of pancakes.

Casey approached him from behind and leaned around him to watch him work. She grinned at his appearance. He was shirtless, standing in front of a really hot stove, flipping pancakes. He was muscular so it wasn't a bad sight; the bad sight was the very large bruise he had across his shoulder from the game.

Casey reached up and kissed his cheek, "It is a good morning," she said happily.

Derek chuckled at her cheerful attitude. He turned off the stove and brought the stack of pancakes to the table, meanwhile Casey retrieved the proper table settings and poured out the orange juice.

Derek sat down and began loading pancakes on his plate; he left Casey three. Casey sat down and deposited her pancakes carefully onto her plate, then cut up her pancakes into even pieces and poured syrup over the top. Derek just pigged out. Breakfast was eaten and Casey cleared the dishes; who immediately began washing them.

There was an unspoken rule evidently, one cooks the other cleans and the rolls can switch at any time. They both silently agreed to this rule, enjoying their own unique routine and teamwork. It seemed completely opposite of the way they were at home, aggressive, combative, and sometimes downright mean. There was rarely teamwork and always a competitive drive to outdo the other. Here they were on a level playing field; both were in college, both lived in the apartment; there wasn't really a home turf. Although it was Derek's apartment and Casey was the one who moved in, it had never felt like a home field to Derek. The moment Casey moved in was the moment it became more than a living space to Derek; it became more of a home, away from home. They were equal.

They were still Derek and Casey, they were just Derek and Casey sharing a space with ease, a concept so new to them that everything seemed interesting.

They dressed and bandaged quickly. Derek, of course, was ready before Casey. Casey took her time and applied her make-up flawlessly, coordinated her new outfit, and tidied up her room.

Derek was sitting in his recliner watching television, not really caring what was on; he just needed something to fill the silence. Casey made her way into the living room, she felt good and healthy again. She was taken care of, she had clothes, and she had her own space; things were finally getting back to some sort of normal.

"Derek, I need a ride to school, I need to check to see if anything was recovered from my dorm room and also I need to purchase new books," she said quickly, hoping that he wouldn't be upset about interrupting his lazy Saturday.

Derek looked over his shoulder at her; she was looking nervous and wringing her hands in front of her. "Sure Case, just let me get my jacket and we'll go."

Casey let out a breath of relief, she always remembered how frustrated he would get if someone asked for his help on a Saturday, usually money would have to be exchanged to get him to do anything.


The ride to school was silent, both were thinking of the events that had occurred there. The stadium was far away from the dorms, so though they had been on campus they never got to see the extent of the damage.

They pulled into the student parking lot, it was a short walk to Smith Hall and they could already see the safety cones and tape surrounding the building. Casey took a deep breath and exited the car; Derek quickly followed and caught up with the fast walking Casey.

As they approached, Casey's breath became erratic and tears began to burn behind her eyes. Derek saw the signs of a Casey freak out and moved his arm around her for support. She leaned into him, his warmth and comfort calming her rapidly fraying nerves.

She took a deep breath as the building became fully visible. There were no windows and everything around it was scorched. The most heart wrenching was the black marks from where the flames had come through windows. Casey looked up to the 3rd floor and counted seven windows from the left; she found her window. There were shards of glass still present in the frame and flames seemed to have climbed highest out of her window. She lifted a shaky finger and pointed out her window to Derek.

"That was my room," she said in a small broken voice. Derek just pulled her closer to him, hoping to give her more comfort. Casey turned in his arms and buried her face in his neck, hugging him tightly.

"I don't even remember what happened, I just remember waking up in pain and confused about why you were there. Derek what happened?"

Derek took a deep breath and released it, shakily. "I don't really know. All I remember was a guy running into the locker room saying there was a fire at Smith Hall. After the initial chaos from boyfriends running out of the locker room, I realized that was your dorm. I ran over and began looking for you, when I couldn't find you I started to panic. I found somebody with a clipboard, he took me to someone else with a clipboard, and that person took me to you. You were unconscious on the gurney when I finally found you. All I can say was I was relieved and scared to death at the same time. I almost lost you Case," explained Derek, his emotions rising and falling depending on his point in the story. Casey could hear his panic as he spoke of being unable to find her; so she hugged him tighter.

Casey was the first to break the hold. She linked her arm with him and pulled him towards the student offices. As they entered, a white haired stern looking woman glanced up at them.

"How can I help you?" she asked, her voice bored and tired.

"Hi, I'm Casey McDonald, I was in room 324, Smith Hall. I was wondering if anything was recovered?" asked Casey hesitantly. Derek was waiting in the background, occasionally picking up a pamphlet. He smirked at some of the titles.

The woman's countenance immediately changed, "Oh, sweetie, let me check the boxes." The woman got out of her chair and moved into the back room. Casey waited patiently.

She came back out a minute later with a cardboard box, the numbers 324, written on it in thick sharpie.

She placed it on the counter in front of her desk. "Now, you are lucky if this is your stuff. That room was one of the worst, but because some of the things were so carefully put away they were saved from severe damage."

Casey looked inside of the box, Derek jogged up behind her and looked over her shoulder.

In the box, sat her laptop, scorched on the top, and the case removed. A few of her textbooks that were inside of her backpack, obviously the rest didn't make it; and a few family photos all singed on the edges.

Derek reached in and pulled out the family photos; out of the 6 that were there 5 of them were of their family. He placed them on the counter next to the box. Casey pulled out her laptop; she opened it up carefully and pressed down on the start button, and after a moment the loud cord played as her computer came to life. Casey breathed a sigh of relief. Her computer worked.

She began to smile; Derek watched as the loading screen came on, Casey quickly typed in her password and her background popped up. It almost made Derek cry, it was of Casey, Marti, and Lizzie making cupcakes, they all had silly faces on and frosting on their noses.

"When was that taken?" he asked, looking over her shoulder.

"Man weekend," was all she said.

Casey quickly flicked through her files happy that her finished research paper was not lost.

The woman at the desk cleared her throat, "So I take it everything in there is yours?" She asked.

Derek answered, "Everything, but this picture." He gave the picture to the woman and began packing up Casey's box. The woman looked at him carefully.

"You're Derek Venturi!" she said excitedly after a moment. Derek looked up at her in confusion and then looked at Casey who had a smirk on her face. Ladies man, even the old ones can't stay away , she thought.

"Yes, I am." He answered hesitantly.

"I went to the game last night, you were magnificent!" Finally everything clicked for Derek, "Thank you, it was my best game so far," he said proudly.

"Well good job young man," she smiled warmly at him. She then looked at Casey and then back at Derek, "it must have helped having such a pretty cheerleader in the stands."

Derek looked at her stunned for a moment then over at Casey, who heard every word, but cared more about her homework.

"Yes, yes it did," replied Derek with a charming smile.

The woman nodded then pulled a slip out of one of her desk drawers, she handed it to Derek. "This is a slip she can take to the bookstore and they'll replace all of her textbooks and notebooks; free of charge. I would suggest you go as soon as possible before they run out of her necessary books."

Derek nodded his thanks and picked up Casey's box, he nudged her with his shoulder and began walking out of the student office.

Casey quickly shut her computer and thanked the woman while running after Derek.

Chapter Text

The house had been quiet since Derek and Casey had left for college, the loudest it got was when Nora yelled for help. Nora was a walking whale, there was still a month until her due date and it felt like a year. She had to have help walking upstairs and getting in and out of chairs. Right now, George, Edwin, Lizzie, and Marti were changing around the rooms.

Since the baby needed it's own room, things had to change. Edwin took Marti's room after Marti had decided his room was better than hers. She had watched the movie Little Princess and decided that she too needed an attic room. Edwin didn't really care, because it meant that he was closer to the bathroom. Derek's room had been taken over by George and Nora, it took an exterminator and a cleaning crew to get it clean enough to even paint. Since Casey's room was closest that became the baby's room.

The basement had been re-done, with twin beds and a fresh coat of paint. They had collectively decided not to tell Derek or Casey of the changes until they arrived home for Christmas.

Lizzie and Edwin were sitting on the living room couch flipping through channels, not really caring what was on. They had spent the day packing up the remainder of their older siblings' belongings and moving them downstairs. They were tired.

Lizzie had her head resting on Edwin's shoulder, occasionally dozing off and jolting herself awake. Edwin flipped passed the same channel for the third time and finally turned off the TV. That woke Lizzie up, again.

"Is there nothing on?" she asked, her eyes closed.

"Nope."

"I'm tired but I don't want to go upstairs, Marti is having another Dance Party Extravaganza and she keeps jumping up and down, right above my bed," her eyes were still closed.

They were silent for a little while longer both thinking of things to do.

"Have you talked to Casey recently?" asked Edwin, out of the blue.

"No, have you talked to Derek?"

"Nope," answered Edwin.

"I wonder if they've killed each other yet? It's only been three days since Casey moved in," wondered Lizzie.

"I think we should go visit them," said Edwin after a time.

"You know, check to make sure they're alright, fix any fights that might be happening," he listed off, "…observe," he finished in what hopefully was a convincing tone.

This heightened Lizzie's curiosity. "But would George and Mom agree to it?" she asked.

"If it would mean a weekend with just Marti and no loud teenagers, then yes. I could also offer to pay for the bus ride it would take to get us there. My Dad has a hard time refusing when I offer to pay."

"I like it," she decided, "we'll ask them over dinner."


"Hey Dad? Me and Liz were wondering if we could go visit Derek and Casey next weekend?" he said, quickly putting a bite of lasagna in his mouth.

"Next weekend?" questioned George.

"Yep," piped up Lizzie, "since Casey had the accident and moved in with Derek I haven't gotten a chance to really talk to her. Also, I think it would be best if Ed and I attended at least one of Derek's games this season. I mean, since Mom has been pregnant the family hasn't seen Derek play this year and I'm sure he would like it if we watched him play once," Lizzie had really laid on the guilt, playing on her mom's delicate hormone riddled emotions.

"Oh, Georgie! She's right; we haven't seen Derek play this entire season. I don't want him to think we don't care, because we do!" Nora looked saddened by the thought.

"Nora, we can't drive them over there! Also, it would cost way too much to put them on a bus. I'm sorry kids we just can't do it right now. I also need help finishing the baby's room this weekend," he said looking sympathetically at Nora.

"What if we promised to finish the baby's room by Thursday and pay for our own bus tickets?" negotiated Edwin.

George looked thoughtful for a second before nodding his head, "Okay, finish the nursery by Thursday and pay your way; and you can go."

Edwin and Lizzie smiled at each other in triumph.


Liz and Ed now needed to convince Derek and Casey to let them stay. Lizzie thought Casey would be easy to convince, it was Derek they had to worry about.

Liz and Edwin were in Edwin's new room, perched on his bed. They had their research binder out in front of them, ready to document any new information.

Lizzie dialed their apartment and waited. The phone rang a few times before Casey answered the phone.

"Hello?"

"Casey?" asked Liz.

"Lizzie!"

"How's my favorite big sister?" asked Lizzie, hoping that sweet-talking would work to their advantage.

"Lizzie, what do you want? You know I can see straight through you," replied Casey, hoping her smirk couldn't be heard through the phone.

"Uhhhh….listen Casey, I was wondering or… I guess we were wondering…I mean to say Me and Edwin…"

"Edwin and I," corrected Casey over the phone.

"Edwin and I were wondering if we could come to visit next weekend?" she closed her eyes and waited hoping Casey would come through with a straight yes.

"Hold on, I have to ask Derek," replied Casey, putting the phone down.

"She has to ask Derek," she whispered to Edwin, her eyes wide, "since when does she ask Derek permission for anything?"

Suddenly Derek's voice came onto the line, "Liz?"

"Oh, Hi Derek," said Lizzie hesitantly.

"How's my favorite step-sister?"

A "De-rek!" was heard from Casey in the background.

"Is that jealousy I hear from you Case, if you wanted to be my favorite you just had to ask. I'm sure we could work something out," he replied to her in a teasing voice.

"You're an ass," was the response.

"Lizzie, I am so sorry you had to hear that," he was slapped on the arm.

"It's okay, Ed and I want to know if we can come visit next weekend?" she asked in her sweetest voice.

Derek thought for a moment, "I don't see why not. Did Dad and Nora say it was okay? You guys didn't do anything illegal did you? Edwin didn't get caught doing anything, did he? I refuse to be an accomplice."

"Derek, they said it was fine; and no, Ed didn't do anything illegal and neither did I," replied Lizzie, chuckling the entire time; sometimes she really did miss her older brother.

"Sure, then come on over, we'd be glad to have you. Just bring an air mattress, we don't have a guest bedroom."

"Alright, our bus will be at the Kingston Transit Station at noon on Friday, is that okay?"

"Yeah, noon on Friday, gotcha. I'm gonna be the one to pick you up, Casey has class."

"Okay, that sounds great we'll see you then," said Lizzie happily.

"See ya," replied Derek and he hung up the phone.

Lizzie turned to Edwin, "the plan worked, we are geniuses," she reached over and hugged him before excitedly running towards her room.

Edwin sat there with a silly smile on his face and the scent of vanilla in the air.

Chapter Text

The next week was horrible for Casey; it passed by in a flurry of new assignments and looks of sympathy. Every class she had there were lists of missed assignments and new notes followed by kind words regarding the fire and good luck for her recovery. Because Casey was still bandaged up she couldn't do yoga in the mornings so her frustration level was rising and her tolerance for other people was dwindling. Casey was almost fed up with all the pity and over dramatic discussions with fellow victims of the fire, but at least she had Derek to go home to; normal, consistent, distracting, sometimes downright annoying, but sometimes lovable, Derek. Her fiery attitude and quick tongue that was once suppressed by her borderline depression and loneliness was returning with force.

Derek on the other hand was having a great week. Every morning he would wake up to Casey's cooking and come home at night to Casey's cooking, his new favorite parts of the day. His classes were all the same and his workload was minimal. The best part of the week was his coach's reaction to Friday's game; everything he said was wonderful and encouraging. For Derek this was a turn for the better after having such a boring and depressing beginning to a semester. His coach pulled him aside during Wednesday's practice and told him how much he had improved in such a short time and that he was looking more alive.

"Whatever made this change in you, embrace it! Confidence looks good on you," he projected in Derek's ear; and with a hard slap on the back he sent him back out on the ice.

Derek did what his coach said; he embraced the change. Casey, of course, was the first to notice, Derek was reverting back to his old confident, egotistical, and sarcastic self. The only difference was that he kept the better parts of 'new' Derek, the affection, thoughtfulness, and maturity. She liked the combination.

They quickly set in motion a routine, organized by Casey and silently encouraged buy Derek. On Monday and Wednesday they spent the mornings together, studying until Derek left for his first class at 9:45 and didn't see each other again until Derek arrived home after practice that evening. On Tuesday and Thursday they had dinner together at the apartment for the half hour that Derek had between his last class and practice, Casey would cook. They both realized that this was what the rest of the year would look like for them.

They had rhythm together that they never had at home, one that would probably shock their family and friends. Every morning Casey would wake up at 6:30 and begin making breakfast. Derek would wake up at around 7; he'd saunter in, usually shirtless, and kiss Casey on the forehead. He'd let out a mumbled "good morning" and plant himself at the kitchen table. After breakfast Derek would clean up the dishes and begin washing them, Casey would clean up the counters. Before Casey left the kitchen to go get ready she would stand up on her tippy toes and kiss Derek on the cheek.

By the third day of this routine Casey would tilt her head up waiting for Derek to kiss her on the forehead and Derek would lean down slightly so Casey could kiss his cheek.

Besides the new liking to affection between them, the core of their relationship began to re-emerge.

Their fights.

Every now and then Derek would say something stupid or Casey would make assumptions and a fight would ensue.

Their first real fight was over bathroom time, neither wanted to give up the hot water. Casey's back was beginning to heal; she would sooner or later be able to shower normally; this did not bode well with Derek. Having lived on his own for the semester he did not like the idea of his personal routine being skewed. Casey wanted her personal routine to remain as normal as possible, despite her wounds. Finally, after fighting, physically for the shower two mornings in a row, they (meaning Casey) drew up a shower schedule. Derek would shower in the morning and Casey would bathe during the evening, throughout the week, on the weekends it was whoever got there first. This reintroduced the excitement they once had in their fights, which led to more fights.

The petty fights they used to have at home, were now arriving in Queens; fights over the car, the remote, junk food, and music.

A major difference between the fights at home and fights at Queens was the fuel. Before, Derek and Casey were fighting for supremacy, the right to be called Number One at the top of the sibling food chain. At Queens their fights were about fighting. They both wanted to feel the buzz that came with combat. Derek's smirk was more playful and Casey's glares more teasing.

A few times their fights would become physical, them tumbling about trying to grab the remote from the other, or one of them chasing the other through the apartment. The physical fights would always end soon because Casey would hit her back wrong or tear her bandage, causing her to cry and Derek to comfort and mend; by the end of the ordeal their fight would be forgotten.

The ending of the fights was the most drastic of changes. At home, there would be slamming and locking of doors or a parent or sibling negotiating a truce. Now, they would have to hammer it out themselves, learning to live with one another and not relying on childish forms of revenge, such as the silent treatment or pranking.

A few times Derek had to apologize for insulting her or just plain pushing her to far over the edge. A few times Casey would have to apologize for making assumptions on his behavior and not giving him space. Most of the time they would both apologize silently in their own way, Casey making Derek his favorite breakfast or dinner; Derek picking up Casey's favorite ice cream on the way home from practice or giving her the remote while a hockey game was on.

By the end of the day however, there was no fighting. No matter what disagreement might have arisen between them, they would never end the day with a fight. Derek would get home around 10 and he would always find Casey on the couch waiting for him. He would drop his things at the door and sprawl himself across the remainder of the couch, his head on a pillow in Casey's lap. Casey would ask about practice and his homework while she ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his head as she went. This had become a ritual for them, Derek would never ask and Casey would never mention it. Around 10:30 they both would retire to their separate bedrooms to get on their pajamas. Casey would wait patiently for Derek to come over to bandage her up for the evening. They wouldn't say much, but Derek would always kiss Casey's back, above her bandage, before leaving her for the night.


Thursday Morning:

Derek emerged from his bedroom after getting ready. There was still sleep in his eyes and achy feeling from practice the night before, he stumbled into the living room to find a dressed and studying Casey at the kitchen table.

Casey was dressed and her hair and make-up was done, she was concentrating diligently on her math homework. She looked like Casey, except something was different, Derek couldn't really put his finger on it, but something was new, whatever it was it made her glow. He turned his head as he looked at her, trying to figure out the mystery that was his Casey.

Casey realized she was being watched and looked up, "What?" she asked, put off by his weird stance, "You look like Horatio from CSI: Miami and it's really freaking me out. You even look like him a little bit," her mouth quirked up in a teasing smile before returning to her homework.

Derek snapped out of his contemplation, "oh, sorry." He walked past her and into the kitchen. Casey shook her head and tried to concentrate again.

"Hey! I do NOT look like him, I'm hot!" he yelled when he finally realized what she said.

"You really do!" she yelled back.

"Do not!"

"Do to!"

"Do not! Times a million-bizillion!" yelled Derek.

"Are you done?" asked Casey.

"Yeah," said Derek reluctantly. Casey just laughed, "You so do, I win!" she said under her breath.

"No you don't!" yelled Derek from the kitchen.

"We are not starting that again," replied Casey.

Derek glanced at the clock in the kitchen, 8:15.

"Case, you got 15 minutes before you need to leave!"

"Thank you Derek! I know, I'm just trying to figure out this last problem!" yelled a frustrated Casey.

"Whoa, take a chill pill Space Case, I can help you, remember? I am actually good at math," he replied somewhat lazily. He sat down across from her; she was sitting up straight, her arms crossed in front of her, raising a challenging eyebrow at him. He raised an eyebrow back; they fought with their eyes for a minute. Finally Casey relented with a huff and pushed her homework at him.

"Go for it Einstein."

Derek just chuckled as he plucked her pencil from her hand.

Casey sat there annoyed while he looked over the problem then quickly began scribbling down the answer. It took him about a minute before he shoved her notebook back at her, "Done."

He folded his hands professionally in front of him, his eyes were mocking her mercilessly and he was smirking his best smirk.

Casey stuck her tongue out at him in response, unable to come up with a legitimate comeback.

She glanced down at the problem and looked over the sequence with a critical eye; it was no use, he was right.

"Fine, you are right," Derek smiled back, "but no gloating!" she warned as she began packing up her stuff.

With her bag packed and sitting by the door she ran back to the kitchen to grab her sack lunch. Derek was still sitting at the table, smirking. She paused in front of him; a small smile adorned her face, her eyes already sparkling with excitement for what would have been a good round of banter had she not needed to get to class.

"Thanks," she said. She leaned down and solidly kissed his cheek. As she rose back up, she whispered in his ear, "Keener."

With that she ran from the room, quickly picking up her bag and exiting the apartment.

Derek decided that the word 'Keener' had never sounded so sexy.

Chapter Text

Friday:

Casey woke up on time as usual. "I really don't want to get up today," she mumbled into her pillow.

I'm going to sleep in, I'm tired, don't want to make breakfast. Derek can make breakfast. It's a long morning anyway.

She talked herself out of getting up. Her reasoning was sound and logical; yes, today Casey McDonald will sleep in, she didn't have class until 12 anyway.

She slumped deeper into her pillow, getting comfortable easily. Sleep came quickly.

Derek woke up on time too. He sniffed the air for the usual scent of breakfast meats and found none. He sniffed again, hoping maybe it was pancakes, nothing. He sat up quickly, why wasn't Casey making breakfast?

He got out of bed with unusual speed and marched across the hall to Casey's room. He opened the door quietly; Casey was curled up in a little ball, dead asleep.

He could hear her soft breathing and saw her contented smile. He chuckled to himself; I'm a bad influence. Casey had never slept in on a school day all through high school.

He shut the door and shuffled over to the kitchen. Derek then proceeded to make pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes. He happily whistled as he flipped the flapjacks. He had even set the table; he knew Casey would appreciate that. He managed to create quite a stack of pancakes, more than enough for him and Casey.

He placed the stack on the table and poured the orange juice. He glanced at Casey's door; she's still not up .

With a sigh he made his way to Casey's room, he really hated waking her up. The few times he had hadn't ended well for him.

He chose to take the kind and gentle approach. He quietly entered her room, she was still sound asleep. Her hair was fanned across the pillow and her breathing was slightly muffled by the pillow she had clutched to her chest and face.

He sat down next to her on the bed; she sniffled for a moment. He stilled, careful not to jolt her awake. He gazed at her for a moment. She looked angelic; I could wake up to this everyday .

He brushed some of her hair behind her ear, he continued to run his fingers through her hair; it reminded him of when she was on the gurney. Unlike then, now she was safe, now she was healthy, she wouldn't leave him, she was here to stay. With me .

"Case," he called quietly, hoping to gently wake her.

"Casey, It's time to get up," he brushed his thumb over her cheek.

"Derek," she mumbled in her sleep, thankfully she was smiling, so she wasn't killing him in her dreams.

"Casey!" he said a little louder.

Casey stirred, and her eyes began to move under her lids, she blinked once, then again.

She felt the heat coming from him, his hand continued to stroke her head.

She closed her eyes again, "If you keep doing that, I'll never get up," she said with a tired smirk.

"I made chocolate chip pancakes. You need to get up; we have a busy day. Today Liz and Ed come," he got up from her bed and turned on her sidelight. Casey groaned and buried her head inside her pillow.

"Come on Case. You're going to turn into me if you keep this up," that statement got her up.

She threw her covers off and got out of bed with a long groan. She obediently followed him to the kitchen.

He told the truth, chocolate chip pancakes sat waiting to be eaten. She plopped herself down and proceeded to pile several large pancakes on her plate.

Derek watched her in wonder, it was a rare sight to see Casey McDonald act lazy or like a slob. So when Casey was being both, it was really special. Derek thought she looked beautiful.

He grinned impishly across the table at her; Casey was shoving her third bite of pancake in her mouth.

"Whaw?" questioned Casey with her mouth full.

"Nothing," he paused, "You just look really pretty when you're a slob." His smirk was full and teasing.

"De-rek!"

Derek put his hands up in surrender, "I meant it as a compliment, take it for what you will," he continued to smirk at her.

She glared playfully at him while swallowing; "you look pretty too Derek," she winked at him. He stuck his tongue out at her.

"So, Ed and Liz come to visit," she put another bite in her mouth, Derek nodded, "where are they going to sleep? I'm not giving up my bed," questioned Casey.

"Don't worry Princess, I won't turn you out of your royal chambers," Derek laughed and inhaled the last of his first pancake. Casey stuck her tongue out at him.

"I was thinking, Lizzie takes the couch and Ed can have the floor," he continued.

"That sounds good," agreed Casey, "What time do they arrive?"

"Noon."

"Derek, you and I are both in class at that time, neither of us can pick them up," Casey was now worried and annoyed at Derek's poor planning.

"I talked to Ed, I told him that I would be picking them up around 12:15. I told them to wait for me. Everything will be fine," he reassured her.

"We're going to have to leave them alone in the apartment for the evening until I get home from my last class, do you think they'll be okay?"

"Casey they're both 15; I am sure that they will find something to occupy their time," he replied.

"Derek, all we have is a TV, I'm not sure that will be enough to entertain…"

Derek interrupted her, "Casey, the TV will be enough, I'm sure they have homework. Case, it was their idea to come visit… and they both understand that we have class. They're old enough to entertain themselves without trouble." His look told her to let it go; so she did, reluctantly.

Derek finished off his orange juice dramatically and began clearing the dishes. Casey picked her own up and made her way to the sink to begin washing.

Derek cleaned up the remainder of his pancake mess and put the used items in the sink. He stood next to Casey for a moment, enjoying the quiet morning. He had quickly grown accustomed to having Casey all to himself, their little world undisturbed by their high school selves. Now, he was going to have to be the Derek Venturi he hadn't been in over 3 months. The worst of it was that now he had to share Casey with Lizzie and Edwin; they would once again be Derek and Casey the elder…siblings. Not Derek and Casey…roommates.

He put his arm around Casey's shoulder and pulled her to him for a moment, he pressed a kiss to her forehead, holding his lips there for an extra 4 seconds. Not that either of them were counting.

He released her and exited the kitchen quickly, leaving Casey at the sink.

Casey rested her hands on the edge of the sink; she closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. She was feeling flushed.

She shook it off and finished her job quickly.


At 9:30 Derek came out of his room, he was dressed and ready to go. Casey was still in her pajamas, even though her bandage had been changed.

She was sitting at the table finishing the last of her assignment…that was due Monday.

Derek slumped on the couch for a moment; he still had 15 minutes before he had to leave.

He rested his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes.

Casey got up from the table and made her way over to the couch. She plopped down snuggly next to him. She allowed her head to fall on his shoulder; he didn't brush her off.

"It's been a long week," she began, "I'm glad it's almost over."

"Hmhmm…" hummed Derek; his eyes still closed. He lolled his head over and laid it on top of Casey's.

Casey sighed.

"I'll do all the prep work for dinner, I'll just need you to make it for yourself and them."

"Okay," Derek didn't bother to argue that it wouldn't be as good if he made it.

"Will you be home after practice?" she asked softly, hoping that she didn't sound too clingy.

"Yeah, I'll be home." He always came home.

They sat in silence for a bit, relishing the alone time. Not that being alone together was something special, they were just used to it being just the two of them; nothing was going to change. Right ?

"Have you been taking your antibiotics?" asked Derek randomly.

"Yes, every morning," Casey answered.

"Good."

Silence.

"Do you want me to pick-up some movies for you guys tonight?"

"Sure, but nothing to gore-y," Casey snuggled into his side; Derek moved his arm over her shoulder and tucked her closer to him. Casey closed her eyes and inhaled his unique smell.

"Of course Spacey."

"Will you promise not to let Liz bandage you? I'll be home in time," Derek sounded hesitant to ask this of her. It's not like Liz would do a bad job; it's just that it was his job.

"Don't worry about me D," Casey sighed back, he was getting worried about her again; she was fine, he's taken good care of her.

"Just promise, I don't want her to do something wrong…on accident," Derek explained.

"I promise." Casey had the extreme urge to giggle at his protective gesture.

"Good girl," Derek sighed in relief.

They sat like that for a time. Finally Derek knew it was time for him to go. He glanced at his watch. 9:46.

"I gotta go Princess," he said, getting up slowly while untangling himself, reluctantly, from Casey.

"I'll see ya at 10," he said before hauling his backpack onto his shoulder.

Casey stood up and made her way to Derek. He stood motionless, unsure of her intentions. She reached up with one hand and brought his cheek down to her lips. She held her lips there for an extra 4 seconds. Not that either of them were counting.

She released him; "See ya then."

Derek gave her a nod, not sure why his voice decided not to work at that moment, and left quickly.


Liz and Ed arrived at the Kingston Transit Station right on time.

They sat on the bench outside the station, three large duffle bags sitting at their feet. They waited patiently for the arrival of Derek; they eagerly wanted to see the change in him with their own eyes.

About 15 minutes after their arrival they spotted an auburn haired head running to meet them.

"Derek!" yelled Lizzie, genuinely happy to see him.

"Lizard! Wow, you've grown!" he exclaimed when he finally approached them. He quickly scooped her up into a brotherly bear hug.

Lizzie gave a squeal of surprise; it was the first hug he had ever given her willingly.

Derek set her gently back on the ground before he rounded on Edwin with a manlier one-armed hug.

"You got taller Bro! It must be great to finally be as tall as the girls you're crushin' on," Derek smirked.

Edwin had had a growth spurt, again, he was almost eye level with Derek.

"Ha ha, very funny. Good to see you too D," replied Edwin sarcastically.

Derek just laughed and picked up the two pink duffels he assumed were Lizzie's and began walking towards the car.

Lizzie followed him in awe; Derek was being helpful without being asked.

Edwin stood there for a moment stunned before picking up his own dark blue duffle and following them.

When they arrived at the Prince Derek popped the trunk and threw the bags in, "Geeze Liz, when did you start packing like Casey?"

"Just one of those is mine Derek. The other is full of stuff Mom sent for Casey," replied Lizzie with a laugh.

"Good, I was getting worried there for a second. One Space Case is enough."


On the way back to the apartment the three of them stopped at the grocery store. They managed to find everything on Casey's list in record time.

After the grocery store they stopped at the video store. After some serious debate between the boys and Lizzie they decided on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It was to last them through the weekend and they all agreed that it had enough romance for Casey and enough action for the rest of them; Lizzie couldn't turn down a good action flick.

When they finally arrived at the apartment the car seemed to be overflowing with packages and bags.

Derek carried the groceries and movies up to the apartment; leaving Liz and Ed to carry their own duffels up two flights of stairs.

They all entered the apartment the same way they entered their house, loudly and barbarically.

Derek dropped his keys on the table and proceeded into the kitchen. He began unpacking and putting away the items they had bought. Knowing that Casey would prefer it if he didn't leave her a mess to put away.

Liz and Ed dropped their duffels on the living room floor and sat down tiredly on the couch.

Both of their heads were moving back and forth as their eyes took in the apartment. It was fascinating to them to study the environment that their explosive siblings apparently shared peacefully.

Derek just continued in his chore, oblivious to the amazement of his two younger siblings.

They sat there for a bit longer, occasionally whispering things to each other and making mental notes about what to add to their notebook.

When Derek finished he walked into the living room and stood there for a second observing them; for a change.

They were both older and taller; he never figured that 3 months could cause such a change in them. He noticed that their styles were pretty much the same as ever but there was a sense of responsibility that wasn't there before. They were the oldest siblings in his and Casey's absence and it was obvious that they took that responsibility seriously.

He cleared his throat and moved into their line of sight, "Do you guys want a tour?" he asked with a smile.

They both just nodded dumbly.

Derek gestured with his head towards the hall before walking in that direction.

The pair got up quickly and followed his direction; he stopped in front of the first door.

"This is the bathroom," he swung the door open so they could see inside.

"Case takes baths at night so you guys are going to have to either shower after she's done or in the morning after I'm done."

He left them at the door and moved to Casey's door, which was closed.

"This is Casey's room," he opened the door and walked in casually.

Lizzie jumped into action and grabbed his arm, "Derek! You can't go in while Casey's gone! She'll kill you!" she warned.

Derek looked down at Lizzie's hand with an eyebrow raised; she released him.

Derek continued to walk into Casey's room, "Liz, I already know where everything is and she doesn't have a diary for me to try to find, not that I want to find one. I know everything that's going on in her life anyway. She has nothing to hide," he said honestly; mostly he was having a personal revelation about how comfortable and trusting he and Casey had so quickly become with each other.

"I bet you've gotten away with some great pranks now that Dad and Nora aren't around," smirked Edwin; his own mind going over a few he would have pulled.

"I haven't pulled any pranks," said Derek with complete honesty.

Both Lizzie and Edwin just stood there, eyes wide with disbelief.

"You can put that in your observation notebook," he gestured between the two of them before walking around them and out to the hall.

"You guys coming?" he called from the hall.

The shocked pair broke out of their trance and left Casey's room. Lizzie carefully closed the door behind them.

Derek gestured to his door, "And that means that this is my room."

He opened the door and allowed them to walk in before him.

They hesitantly walked in and looked around, once again, in amazement.

"Dude, It's clean!" exclaimed Edwin.

Derek laughed, "Yes Edwin. It is clean." He moved in front of them and began pushing them out his door.

"You've seen enough. Now go get set up or whatever," he flipped his hand as if it would motivate them, "I'm going to take a nap before I have to leave for my next class." After all Derek was still Derek.

The two retreated from his bedroom door and began familiarizing themselves with the rest of the apartment, Edwin with the kitchen especially.


Derek had slept and left the apartment by 2:45. He told them Casey would be home at 3:15 to say 'hi' before her last class and that he would be back at 5:15 to make dinner before practice.

Casey arrived home precisely at 3:15. She unlocked the door and was greeted with a set of arms wrapping themselves around her tightly. Lizzie had been looking at the clock every 20 seconds since Derek had left.

"Casey! I missed you so much!" Lizzie hugged her tighter.

"I missed you too Liz," Casey dropped her bag in order to properly hug her sister. Edwin stood in the background waiting patiently for her hello.

"Edwin!" Casey let go of Lizzie to hug her brother. "My you've grown! You're as tall as me now!" She hugged him tightly, glad that he wasn't freaking out hugs like Derek was at his age.

Edwin accepted her hug, surprised that she was so excited to see him. Casey released him and just smiled warmly at her younger siblings.

"How was your trip here?" she asked.

"It was great! It wasn't as long as I thought it would be, we were here in no time," answered Edwin.

"Good, good. Lizzie, did Mom send the stuff I asked for?" Casey asked excitedly.

"Yeah, I put the bag on your bed."

"Great, I'll take care of that when I get home later tonight. I only have," she glanced at her watch, "30 minutes before I have to leave. I need to get started on prepping for dinner and writing out instructions for Derek. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me," she briskly walked to the kitchen, already planning the meal in her head.

"Does Derek know that he's cooking tonight?" asked Edwin after her.

"Yeah, we discussed it this morning," Casey called back; she was already pulling out ingredients.

Casey lined up all the ingredients and pulled out all the cookware he may need for the meal. She then sat down with paper and a pencil and wrote out simple instructions for him to follow. She had everything down to the amount of time it should take, after all Casey was still Casey.


Casey left at 4:15 promising that she would be home at 8 o' clock. She reminded them that Derek would be home at 5:15 to make them dinner, she told them to tell him not to order pizza. She gave them a pointed look.

Ed and Liz sat on the couch for the hour that they were alone, flipping channels. Both were bored out of their minds but were still glad to be away from hormonal Nora and to see their older siblings.

Derek arrived home again at 5:15. Ed and Liz directed him straight to the kitchen, warning him not to order pizza.

Derek just laughed and obeyed Casey's indirect order. He picked up Casey's three-page set of instructions and chuckled at how 'Casey' it was before following them. He enjoyed following her directions, they were sarcastically written in her loopy font. He could almost hear Casey telling him what to do; which made him enjoy it more.

"Kid's set the table!" he yelled from the kitchen, "we didn't allow you to invite yourselves over to be waited on!" Casey had written on there what time to tell them to set the table.

Edwin and Lizzie rolled their eyes and got off the couch making their way to the kitchen. They were momentarily surprised, for the 54,689th time that day, that Derek actually was following Casey's instructions without fuss and looked quite comfortable in front of the stove.

Derek dished the three different things Casey had him make and balanced them on his arms professionally all the way to the table. Lizzie and Edwin were patiently waiting for him.

They all dug in eagerly, "I didn't know you could cook!" observed Edwin after he taken the first bite.

Derek swallowed what was in his mouth before answering. Make that 54,690th surprise of the day.

"Case and I switch off on dinner duty. On days like this I usually make something then leave leftovers in the fridge for Casey for when she gets home."

Lizzie and Edwin just nodded at this new information and chewed their food thoughtfully.

"What are we going to have for breakfast tomorrow?" asked Edwin, his mind currently on Casey's breakfast making abilities.

"Well…since I made breakfast this morning, I'm assuming it's Casey's turn," reasoned Derek.

The chatter consisted mainly of Edwin and Lizzie asking questions about their routine as roommates. By the end of dinner both had concluded that Derek and possibly Casey had had their brains switched with an alien life form; they no longer could predict what either of them would do next.

Derek left quickly at 6 telling them to be good for Casey until he got home at 10.

The pair stood in the doorway to the apartment, slightly put off that Derek had just said that to them. It felt like they were being told what to do by George.


Until Casey got home, they spent their time, once again, watching TV. Casey clamored into the apartment at 8:00.

She dropped her bag in the hall and dropped very un-elegantly into Derek's recliner.

Both Edwin and Lizzie were going to correct her for sitting in Derek's recliner, but thought better of it. From what they had seen from Derek in Casey's room this was probably allowed.

Casey blindly watched the TV for about ten minutes before excusing herself to her room.

"What movies did Derek get?" she asked when she returned.

"Lord of the Rings," the two said in unison.

"Jinx! You owe me a soda!" yelled Lizzie as she punched Edwin in the arm.

Edwin smiled despite the pain and rubbed his arm.

"Oh, good. I love those movies. I'm going to take a bath and then we can watch the first one," she said as she turned to leave the room.

She paused mid step, "You guys better use the bathroom before I get in there. I take long baths."

Edwin jumped up and ran to the bathroom, it was the fastest he had moved the whole day.

Casey walked back into her room to prepare for her bath.


When Derek arrived home at 10 all he wanted to do was stretch out on the couch and have Casey massage away his post-practice headache. So when he entered the apartment and saw two of his younger siblings occupying the couch and a sleepy Casey curled up in his chair, he didn't know whether to smile or cry.

He looked longingly at Casey's hands. Dropping his bags in the hallway he sat down in front of Casey and leaned back onto the base of his recliner.

Edwin and Lizzie looked at him for a moment before turning their attention back to the TV. Casey sat up in his chair and moved her legs so that they were behind his back, moving his head so that it rested on the knees. She reached down and began rubbing soft circles right behind his left ear. Derek immediately relaxed and silently thanked Casey for reading his mind.

They finished the movie like that, Casey softly massaging Derek's cranium with practiced hands; Derek drifting off every now and then under Casey's gentle touch. The pair on the couch barely staying awake, Lizzie had her head perched on Edwin's shoulder.

Finally the credits rolled. Edwin got up slowly and stretched out before removing the disc and putting it away. Lizzie grabbed her pillow and blanket and began making herself a couch bed. Casey got up and turned off the kitchen light and locked the door.

Derek remained on the floor, leaning against the chair, resting his eyes.

Edwin pulled out his sleeping bag and laid it out in front of the couch. After Casey had finished her rounds she reached down and brushed the hair from Derek's forehead, waking him up.

"Hey Sleepy Head. I need you to doctor me up. Come on," she said quietly before reaching a hand down to help him up.

Derek accepted her help and got up lazily. When he finally was standing he flung his arm over her shoulder and steered her towards her room drunkenly.

Lizzie and Edwin watch the exchange with wide eyes. This was the first time they had seen them communicate the entire day and they act as if they're best friends.

They wait until they hear Casey's door close before they tip toed through the hall and press their ears against the door.

They hear the dropping of clothes and the squeak of the bed frame. After a silence they heard the ripping of a bandage and a hiss.


Inside, Derek was removing Casey's old bandage with practiced hands. He inspected the wound carefully before cleaning it and applying the proper medications.

Casey sat silently, she enjoyed his gentle touches on her back, they were quite soothing.

"Derek?" she piped up.

“Yeah," Derek responded tiredly.

"How was practice? You seemed wiped out when you came in," the concern in her voice not hidden.

"I am wiped," he sighed, "Couch decided to wear us out before the weekend. I didn't stop moving for 3 and half hours. I don't even remember if we had a break."

"That sounds ridiculous. I remember once before a dance competition, my instructor had us practicing for 5 hours straight. I couldn't walk by the end of it," she sympathized.

"I remember that, I was forced to come pick you up and you made me carry you to the car," he fake pouted.

"Don't fuss Venturi, I haven't asked you to carry me since," she teased, "I promise I won't make you do it again."

"If you hadn't been almost asleep the whole way home I would have given you crap about it Princess," he teased back.

"You know if you keep calling me that I'll begin to believe I am a Princess," Casey sing-songed.

"You already are and you always will be in my book," replied Derek.


Outside, Lizzie and Edwin were listening intently at the door, making notes in their heads.

When the two in the room finally remained silent did Ed and Liz retreat to the living room.


Inside, Derek had finished applying a clean bandage; he kissed between her shoulders, like he did every time, and helped her with her shirt.

After she had her shirt on Casey turned around on the bed to face Derek.

"I want to sleep in tomorrow. I'm exhausted from this entire week," she flopped the rest of her body across the end of her bed and closed her eyes.

Derek followed suit.

"I think that is a brilliant idea. You're a genius Case, really you are."

"That's what the test results said," she said deadpan.

Derek opened his left eye, the one closest to her, and turned slightly so he could see her.

Casey had a smirk on the side of her mouth and her eyes were still shut. Derek just grinned and closed his eyes again.

"You know, it might have been a bad idea to let you get this bed, I don't want to get up. It's too comfortable," he commented after a time.

"Why do you think it was so hard for me to get up this morning," she whined.

"We could make it easier for you to get up in the morning if we switch beds. I'll take your bed and you take mine!" he jokingly tried to convince her.

"Not happening."

"At least I tried," sighed Derek dejectedly. Casey just giggled tiredly.

"D, you have to get out of my bed."

"But I don't want to!" pouted Derek.

"If you don't get out you're the one making breakfast for everyone in the morning!" Casey threatened.

"A small price to pay for comfort," smirked Derek as he grabbed one of her pillows and moved it under his head.

"De-rek! Get out," Casey exclaimed quietly before hitting his arm. Derek reluctantly heaved himself off of her bed and stumbled to the door.

"Okay, okay. I'm leaving, but you're still making breakfast!" he said, he shut the door before she could contradict him.

Casey sighed and climbed under the covers. She grabbed the pillow that Derek and commandeered and put it under her head. She rolled onto her side and settled down into her bed.

Her nose caught the musky scent of Derek from the pillow. Casey breathed deeper and sighed contentedly. Her bed was warm from the two of them, her body was immediately cocooned in heat. She really didn't want him to leave, but she was still unwilling to admit that to herself. She would much rather have him sleeping next to her, creating more luscious heat and giving off more comforting smells. Casey gave a huff and flipped over; sleep was not finding her as fast as she had anticipated.

In his room Derek tossed and turned under his covers. While he was in Casey's room he had been surrounded with her smell and warmth. In his room all he could smell was his dirty hockey gear and the remnants of his cologne. It didn't smell of green apple at all. He pulled the blanket over his head and tried to will himself to sleep.

Tonight was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

Saturday:

Casey did sleep in and so did Derek; neither of them had slept well. Casey woke up at 9:00, she didn't sleep in much, but it was a lot for Casey.

Derek was still asleep when Casey made her way into the kitchen. He heard her footsteps and woke up from his light sleep.

He lay there for a moment, preparing himself for the rest of the day.

When Casey entered the living room she was careful not to wake the two sleeping teenagers. She tiptoed into the kitchen and began pulling out pans for breakfast.

Derek entered 3 minutes later, Casey jumped at his entry.

"Oh! Derek, you scared me!" she put a hand on her chest, "did I wake you up?" she glanced around him at the couch.

"Nah," he lied.

"You wanna help make breakfast?" she asked after opening a package of hash browns.

"Nope, if I remember correctly, I was only supposed to make breakfast if I got to sleep in your bed. Since I spent the night tossing and turning in my own bed, I will not be making breakfast," he crossed his arms in satisfaction.

"Will you set the table for me then?" asked Casey with evident annoyance.

"I believe I can do that," he replied with a smirk.

"Thank you!" she turned back to the stove, shaking her head.

Derek got up and proceeded to set the table for four; arranging it the way Casey liked it. "They're washing the dishes," he decided as he eyed how many plates they were using.

"Agreed, they also have to wash the ones from last night," added Casey as she dished up the plate of sausage.

Derek walked over to Casey. He stood right next to her and watched as her hands moved professionally between the various pans.

"I love watching you cook," he said out-of-the-blue. Casey smirked; her face soon bloomed into a full smile.

"Thanks," she blushed. Derek chuckled at her and flung his arm over her shoulders leaning into her. Casey continued to work on breakfast, completely comfortable with Derek draped casually on her.

Derek reached for a link of sausage from the plate. Without blinking Casey reached over and slapped his hand. He quickly pulled his hand back, "Casey! You hurt me!" he whined, "and you have reflexes like freaking Ninja!"

"I'll do worse to you if you try that again," she warned as she began dishing out the scrambled eggs.

"Is that a promise or a threat, Princess?" asked Derek in a low tone, his breath tickling her ear.

Casey blushed and fumbled with the eggs. Derek just laughed and kissed her cheek before removing his arm and dropping into a chair.

Casey soon brought over the various plates of breakfast dishes, placing them carefully down the center of the table.

Derek got up and went into the living room. He looked at the sleeping figures of his siblings before turning on the side light.

Lizzie groaned and tried to hide her face with a pillow. Edwin showed no change.

Derek decided that this was a perfect time to introduce Edwin's nose to his foot. He carefully rubbed his socked foot across Edwin's nose, back and forth until the sleeping boy began to wake. Edwin grimaced in his sleep before finally gagging; his eyes began blinking wildly. When consciousness finally caught up with him, he jumped up from his place on the floor and proceeded to cough dramatically.

"Derek! What the hell?" screeched Edwin.

That woke Lizzie, "Edwin! Don't yell so early in the morning!" she…yelled.

Derek just laughed and walked back to the table. He met Casey's eyes; he could see her trying to stifle her laughter. He plopped down in front of her, smirking.

"That was bad, Derek," was all she said, a small smirk forming on the side of her mouth.

"…Bad…but hysterical," replied Derek as he reached for the eggs.

"Mhm," she hummed her agreement low, her eyes sparkling.

Lizzie and Edwin, meanwhile, were sitting on the couch writing down their notes from the previous night. Occasionally whispering to each other and reminding the other what they missed. They were careful not to leave out anything.

Because they were taking their time, the food Casey had made for them was getting cold. Casey hates it when the food she made gets cold. Her frustration level was quickly rising and Derek could see it. He had known from previous experience that if you take too long to come to the table, when Casey cooks, you might not get anything at all. He had missed out on a plate of spaghetti once and had regretted it ever since.

"Are you two ever going to grace us with your presence?" he yelled from his seat.

"Hold on!" "One sec!" was heard from the couch.

He waited about 45 seconds before trying again. "I will eat all of this delicious breakfast if you don't get your butts over here!" he paused, "NOW!"

Both Edwin and Lizzie jumped up from the couch and ran to their seats; they sat down silently. They both looked very suspicious and somewhat guilty.

"Thank you! Now eat!" commanded Derek before shoving a huge bite of hash browns into his mouth.

And eat they did, Ed and Liz piled food on their plates in haste. Casey chuckled as she watched them. She looked at Derek with a smug look on her face. Popping a bite of sausage in her mouth she continued to smirk at him.

"What?" inquired Derek, smiling nervously.

"Nothing…George," she mumbled the last part. Derek heard her very clearly. He stuck out his tongue at her, she just grinned.

Breakfast was fairly silent, apart from the occasional groan or comment from Derek informing Casey how great breakfast was.

"Okay you two," Casey pointed at the younger two, "you're doing the dishes."

They both groaned.

"Derek and I are going into my room to change my bandage," they nodded, "put all the dishes and such away; you'll figure out where they go." Casey got up from the table and walked towards her room.

The two teens looked at Derek imploringly. "Don't look at me!" Derek held up his hands in defense, "It was my idea," he smirked at them evilly before following after Casey.


Derek and Casey were ready to go and waiting for the other two to finish getting ready. Derek was stretched out the length of the couch, his head on Casey's lap. He was lying on his side, facing the television, and flipping through channels. He continued past the news and morning talk shows; when he finally stopped flipping he stopped on Tom and Jerry reruns. Casey laughed at his choice; "there's still some kid in you after all!"

Derek looked up at her questioningly, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You've been acting so mature lately. I mean, you don't pull pranks anymore and this morning you channeled George!" she smiled down at him, brushing his hair from his forehead.

Derek was now lying on his back, staring up at her face. He reached up and caught the hand caressing his face; bringing it carefully down to his lips. He pressed a kiss to her fingers, holding his lips there and holding eye contact.

Derek opened his mouth to say something when they heard one of the bedroom doors open.

He looked at her for a beat before sitting up. They situated themselves into a natural T.V. watching positions.

Edwin walked in and looked at them, he could see the tension rolling off of them. He had a feeling that he'd interrupted something important. Sighing, he looked at the only open seat available, Derek's recliner.

"Um, Can I sit in your chair, D?" he asked hesitantly.

Derek shifted his eyes from the T.V. to Edwin, "Sure." He looked back at the T.V. casually.

"Who are you and what have you  done to my brother?" asked a confused Edwin.

"I'm still me," chuckled Derek, "I just wanna sit here. That seat is open and you need a seat," he explained, "I think it's a pretty easy problem to figure out."

Edwin sat down gingerly, "No, you're still Derek. But Casey's been slowly brainwashing you over the past two weeks."

Casey smirked and glanced over at Derek, who was also smirking.


The rest of the morning was spent split up. Casey and Lizzie went shopping with money sent by George and Nora.

Ed and Derek went to see an action flick and to the arcade.

Liz and Casey were walking through their fifth store lazily.

"So…" began Lizzie, "how's living with Derek, again?"

"It's fine. We're us; just older."

"You two seem to be getting along, strangely well," observed Lizzie, hoping to reveal something of interest.

"Liz, I can tell you're prying. What do you want to know? Ask away," she arched her eyebrow at her sister.

"Fine," sighed Lizzie, "How would you categorize Derek? Before he was just a pain in the ass stepbrother and now you two seem different."

Casey was silent for a moment, not sure how to explain her 'relationship' with Derek. Lizzie waited; Casey still remained silent. Finally Lizzie was tired of waiting.

"If I was just an acquaintance of yours and you were introducing me to Derek, how would you do it?"

Casey sighed, "I would probably say 'This is my best friend, Derek.'" Casey waited for the gasp; it never came.

Lizzie's eyes were twinkling at this new information, "So…best friend, huh?"

"Yeah, I mean, he knows me better than anyone and I know him better than anyone too. Also, he takes care of me and cares for me. Since I would never put him in the category of 'brother', I'd place him in the 'best-friend' category," reasoned Casey.

"Definitely not a brother than?" clarified Liz.

"Never!" responded with an enthusiastic and obvious tone.

"Why?"

"Because, if we looked at each other as siblings we would have strings attached. When we're just friends we're allowed to be casual and string free. Derek and I could never have strings; we would end up resenting each other; just like in high school. In high school there were family 'strings', so to speak. Here we're just best friends who happen to be roommates too. The stings we have are the strings we choose. It's hard to explain…" she waved the subject away, hoping to end it. The conversation was drifting towards things she wasn't ready to recognize.

"I think you did a pretty good job," teased Lizzie.

"Yeah, yeah," Casey rolled her eyes, "What do you think of this jacket?" asked Casey, officially ending the conversation.


Derek and Edwin, meanwhile, were in the middle of the biggest competition as brothers, the motorcycle game at the arcade. Both had won one game, they were in the middle tiebreaker, the loser had to give the winner five bucks.

Edwin needed a distraction; the subject of 'Casey' seemed perfect.

"So Derek," began Edwin.

"So Edwin," replied Derek sarcastically.

"How're things going with Casey?" he casually inquired.

"Fine. Why?" Derek never removed his eyes from the screen in front of him.

"I don't know? Maybe I'm wondering because you two went from killing each other to best of pals, miraculously!" Edwin threw sarcastically back. They both leaned into the corner.

"I don't know what happened. I guess away from home we got the chance to get along without being forced," Derek shrugged and sped up in front of Edwin.

"Okay," Edwin paused, "So it's good then, to have family with you at college?" Edwin secretly grinned.

Derek momentarily lost control of his bike. "Casey's not family," he said with a low chuckle and a 'duh !' tone.

"Then what is she?"

"My best friend," he replied without hesitation, "other than Sam, of course," Derek amended.

"In two weeks she became your best friend! Riiighhttt…. You can't be best friends when you barely know each other," Edwin laughed, he stopped laughing when Derek passed him in a turn.

"Ed, take for years of getting to know Casey by force," he wove in between obstacles, "add that to all the information I needed to know in order to drive her up the wall. Then , add the two of us talking without parental, sibling, or friend interference," they were now nose to nose in the final stretch, "We both needed someone to talk to and a familiar face was nice. We ended up clearing up a few things. It turns out we know each other better than we thought. Which was nice." Edwin tried to cut off Derek; Derek narrowly missed him.

"If Dad and Nora had just let us be and let us get to know each other on our own terms, we could have reached this point a long time ago. But, I'm glad it happened now." Derek passed the finish line. Edwin hung his head in shame.

"Also, if Casey wasn't such a grade-grubbing keener in high school things would have gone smoother," laughed Derek as he dismounted his bike.

"I win, hand over the dough," he held out his hand and smirked.

Edwin reluctantly pulled out his wallet and handed him over a five.

"If you hadn't been an egotistical ass, things would have gone a lot smoother," jabbed Edwin with a glare.

"Yeah, that too," smirked Derek, "Come on we have to meet the girls for lunch."

Derek walked proudly out of the arcade, a disgruntled Edwin trailing behind him.

Chapter Text

Lunch was spent in saturated tension, unintentional and confused tension.

In order to get Lizzie off of her back, Casey had said that Derek was her best friend. Only when they had met up with the boys did the shock of her statement actually hit her. She considered Derek Venturi, the Derek Venturi, her best friend. She occasionally stole glances at him throughout lunch; each time she found him looking back. His face confused and analytical, she would look away, blushing nervously.

Derek was going through a similar realization. He wasn't shocked that he considered Casey to be his best friend; what shocked him was his own willingness to admit it. His high school self would have scoffed, then laughed at the idea. What was causing him confusion was Casey's lack of conversation during lunch. He would watch her, waiting for her to say something. She would look up, only to quickly look away. He finally settled on looking elsewhere.

What was really worrying both of them was the fact that they didn't know what the other thought. Both feared that the other didn't see their relationship as friendship. Casey didn't want Derek to become distant and Derek didn't want Casey to reject him as a friend.

The two younger siblings were also struggling. Mainly because they couldn't communicate with each other while the subjects of their conversation were sitting next to them.

Edwin and Lizzie kept sending each other questioning looks, occasionally raising their eyebrows or rolling their eyes at the older pair. Thankfully, they understood each other's silent remarks pretty well. They agree that their siblings were acting like awkward junior highers.

Ed and Liz created light conversation to fill the silence and hopefully ease some tension; nothing really worked. The groups 'conversation' consisted of observations made by Ed and Liz and grunts from Derek and one-word answers from Casey.

Casey was picking at her salad and Derek had his eyes set on the T.V. above the bar, while he wolfed down his burger.

"Why don't we all do something together after lunch?" Lizzie finally questioned, hoping it would lead to an actual conversation.

"What a great idea!" said Edwin, too exuberantly.

Derek set down his burger and Casey looked up from her mutilated salad.

"Okay, what do you want to do?" inquired Derek, attempting to act casual.

That stumped the two youngest. They looked at each other for help. "What is there to do around here?" asked Lizzie.

"Well," began Derek, he paused in thought.

Casey jumped in; "There's the movies, bowling, arcade, music store, book store…" she ticked off her fingers, "What else is there?" She looked at Derek.

"I think we should see a movie or do something lazy. I have a game tonight, I don't want to strain anything bowling," reasoned Derek, looking at the two youngest.

"I vote music store," Casey raised her hand, "I have to replace a few CDs anyway."

"I agree with Casey," Edwin raised his hand too.

"I don't care," stated Derek.

All eyes turned towards Lizzie, "I kinda wanted to see a movie, but the music store sounds fun too," she finally said.

"Music store it is," finalized Derek. He picked up his burger and fixed his eyes back on the TV. Casey picked up her fork and continued torturing the innocent lettuce that was her salad.


At the music store the four split up. Edwin immediately grabbed Lizzie and took her somewhere private so they could talk. Leaving Derek and Casey standing awkwardly at the entrance. Casey was shifting on the balls of her feet and Derek was rubbing his neck.

Edwin dragged a flustered Lizzie over to the country section. "What the hell happened?" he asked, seriously confused.

"I don't know! She was fine until we met up with you guys," she explained.

"Derek didn't say a word after we left the arcade," he ran his hand over his face, "not understanding them anymore is really starting to get on my nerves."

Lizzie just nodded. "Maybe we should let them be? They seem to communicate more, perhaps they'll figure it out on their own?"

"Hopefully! I'm getting sick of all the ups and downs of their relationship." He sighed and began flipping through the CDs in front of him.

Lizzie watched him for a minute, "I never took you for a Dolly Parton fan," she smirked at him, "but whatever floats your boat." She laughed as she walked away from a stuttering, flustered, Edwin.

"Hey!" he ran after her.


After browsing the music store for a solid hour and Casey replacing a few CDs, the group returned home. They all busted through the apartment door around 2 pm.

Derek and Casey were talking again, but it was filler conversations with long pauses in between. The moment they arrived at home both went to their separate rooms and closed their doors. Edwin and Lizzie just stood in the living room silently.

"I believe this is the first time they didn't want to talk to each other because they weren't mad," commented Lizzie after a time.

"I feel like we're in some sort of alternate reality. It makes my head hurt," he plopped down on the couch, "you wanna watch some TV?"

"It's not like there's anything else to do around here," she said as she flopped down next to him.


Casey sat at the desk in her room; she had her history book laid out in front of her. She had already typed up her study notes and highlighted the important bits. She was diligently working on the beginning of her paper, which wasn't due for another two weeks.

One of her new CDs was playing on Derek's commandeered CD player. Her head bopped to the rhythm and she sang low with the lead singer. She was successfully drowning out the world and her worry.

Meanwhile, Derek was pacing in his room, he was hyped up with pre-game jitters and his unease about his revelation about Casey. He decided that the direct approach was the best approach.

He straightened himself and brushed his hair back with his hand. He marched out of his room and across the hall. He stopped in front of her door with his hand raised, ready to knock.

I'm feeling as if I'm picking up a date! God Derek! Get yourself together! It's just Casey. It's. Just. Casey. 

He took a deep breath and walked straight into her room. He still had his hand on the doorknob after he stopped. He stood there for a moment, silent. Casey spun around at his entry. Surprised at the bluntness.

"Hi Case," he said in a nervous voice. He gave her a small wave and sat quickly on her bed.

"Hi…Derek?" she turned and closed her books and turned her stereo off. She turned back to face him.

"So…" she trailed off.

"So," replied Derek.

"Listen…"

"I'm…"

They both laughed nervously.

"Case?" he wrung his hands,

"Yes, Derek."

"I um," he cleared his throat, "Do you…?"

He paused and cleared his throat again, "Do you…" he closed his eyes, "Do you think of me as a brother?"

Casey's eyes rose at the blunt nature of his question.

"A brother!" she laughed at his nonsense, "yeah right! You could never be my brother."

He said nothing in return.

Casey thought she hurt him and backtracked, "Unless, you want to be my brother?" She was unsure of what his question was really about. He was sitting there blankly staring at his hands. She was scared of his wishes, as she said to Lizzie, she really didn't want family strings.

"No, I don't want to be considered your brother, because I could never see you as a sister," he finally confirmed looking up at her.

"Oh, well that's…" Casey wasn't sure what to say, first she was slightly relieved but mostly she was confused.

"Listen, I…" Derek started, he rubbed his hand down his face, "…I told Edwin that you are my best friend." He kept his eyes trained on the carpet, scared for her reaction.

Casey was taken aback momentarily, but mainly she was happy. She got out of her chair and sat down next to Derek. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a hug.

"You're my best friend, too," Derek turned to look at her. Their faces mere inches apart.

"Really?" he smiled.

"Yes, Really! Why do you sound so relieved?" Casey released her hold on him, much to Derek's chagrin.

"I just…" he laughed, "I thought you'd laugh at me!" He gave her a look that told her he was serious, despite his laughter.

"Derek, I just realized this today. I was just as shocked and nervous as you were!" she smiled shyly at him.

"Really?" Casey nodded, "Ed was right. We are acting like two junior highers."

"What?" Casey giggled.

"I overheard Ed whisper to Liz while we were in the car, something about how this whole afternoon we've been acting like junior highers," he laughed.

"And I thought we matured so much," Casey fake pouted.

"I guess there's still some kid in us after all," commented Derek, echoing Casey's words from that morning.

They sat like that for a few minutes. Finally, Derek thought that was enough gushy-ness for one day and got up, patting Casey's knee as he did.

"Alright, well that's out of the way!" he made for the door.

"I've got to go vomit now, excuse me," Derek dashed out of the room.

Casey just giggled and flopped back on her bed. She willed the butterflies in her stomach to quiet down.

Chapter Text

Derek spent his time between the bathroom and his recliner. Casey was still in her room, working on assignments. Ed and Liz shared the couch and grimaced every time Derek leapt up from his chair.

Around 5 Casey decided it was time to make dinner. With most of her assignments complete, she had nothing better to do. She waltzed out of her room, only to run into Derek exiting the bathroom, looking very pale. She eyed him with concern, reached up and placed her hand on his forehead and felt behind his ears.

"D? You feeling alright?" she inquired.

"Pre-game jitters."

"I'll go get you some Alka Seltzer," she walked towards the kitchen, "I'm making dinner. What do you want tonight?"

"Nothing," he sighed as he sat down at the table.

"It's better if you actually have something to vomit, you know," she looked over her shoulder at him pointedly.

"I know, I know," he relented, "What are you thinking of making?"

"Stir Fry."

"Ooo, sounds good," he grinned, licked his lips, and waggled his eyebrows.

Casey just giggled and set the glass of Alka Seltzer down in front of him.

Meanwhile, Edwin and Lizzie were both turned opposite of the couch, their eyes just barely over the edge. They were watching their older siblings intently.

"It seems they moved passed the issues from lunch," whispered Lizzie.

"Yeah, they seem to be back to the new 'normal'," replied Ed.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say they're borderline flirting?" observed Liz.

"Don't kid yourself. They are flirting."


Dinner was excellent, in Derek's opinion. Both he and Casey were now back to their old groove. Ed and Liz noticed that Derek continued to compliment and tease Casey; Casey would giggle and tease him back. Both Ed and Liz wanted to barf at how flirtatious and mushy they were being, but the bathroom had seen enough action that day.

At about 5:45 dinner had settled down and Ed and Liz had cleared the dirty dishes. Leaving Casey and Derek chatting with their drinks at the table.

"You nervous about the game?" asked Casey, tracing the edge of her glass with her finger.

"Not so much," he replied casually.

"After hearing you puke your innards, I feel compelled to scoff at you," teased Casey.

"You have an amazing ability to distract me."

"Oh?"

"For some unknown reason you can get under my skin and make me forget what I was supposed to be focusing on," he smirked.

"I could say the same about you," she smiled at him over her glass, before taking a sip.

Ed walked towards the table with a towel, drying his hands. He felt like a waiter attending to them while they were on a date. He shivered. "What time do we need to leave?"

"6:00," Derek glanced at the clock, 5:57, "damn." With a groan he left the table to retrieve his bag from his room. Casey followed soon after to her own room to bundle up. Ed and Liz were ready and waiting by the door when the two eldest exited their rooms.

They all left the apartment in a line, Derek leading Casey out with a hand at the small of her back.


They arrived at the rink in record time. Derek immediately made for the locker room toilets. Casey led the younger two to her new 'spot'. She pulled out her magazine and waited patiently for the game to start. Ed and Liz sat down and started quickly into a conversation about their siblings. Casey, thankfully for them, had 'borrowed' Derek's iPod, leaving her deaf to their conversation.

Casey looked up when she saw the team enter. Her posture perked up and she closed her magazine. Her eyes fixed on Derek. He caught her gaze, making them both smile, and winked. Casey blushed and her heart fluttered just a bit.

Ed and Liz smirked at the exchange.


The game went by slowly and painfully. The opposing team seemed to specialize in aggression and violence. Casey couldn't count the times Derek or one of his teammates were forced into the glass. Her face ached from wincing by the end. They won the game, much to Casey's happiness. It seemed to her that the opposition tried to make up for their lack of skill by inflicting pain.

They're victory was far from celebratory. Derek and his team skated tiredly from the ice and limped to the locker room. Some of them exhibiting painful black eyes and split lips.


Derek exited the locker room slowly; his shoulders slumped in exhaustion and his legs shaky. The three of them were waiting for him. He casually threw his bag at Edwin who, for once, gladly caught it.

Derek was sporting two cuts on his lips and a gash above his eyebrow and a bruise on his cheekbone. What they couldn't see was his torso, bruised beyond belief, his ribs ached, but he was assured that none were broken.

Casey was immediately at his side, supporting him; he had his arms across her shoulders. They slowly made their way to the prince. Casey had the keys and helped Derek into the passenger's seat.

When they arrived at the apartment, Casey gave the keys to the younger two so they could open the apartment and prepare ice packs for him. Casey waited for him to get out of the car; he steadied himself on the door wincing.

"Damn this hurts," Derek whisper yelled. Casey gently walked him up the stairs and into the apartment. Straight to the couch he went, sinking tiredly into the cushions. He dropped his head on the back of the couch with a groan.

"You didn't shower, did you?" asked Casey as she re-entered with the ice packs.

"Nah. Wanted to go home."

"You need to shower. Now. You reek."

"Help me up," he raised his arms, too tired to argue with her. Casey helped him to his feet, gagging the whole time.

"Jeez Case, it's not that bad!" he laughed.

"Yeah it is! I dare you to smell yourself!" she let go of him and walked towards her room.

Derek experimentally raised his arm and sniffed. He paled.

"She's right."


Derek got out of the shower roughly 30 minutes later. The shower had done him good, easing some of the pain. He hobbled to his room. His pajamas, he found, were neatly folded on the edge of his bed and glass of water with two Advil on his side table. He tried to grin, which hurt, at the thoughtfulness of Casey. There was also a note,

Don't go to sleep. I still need my bandage changed. ~C xx

Derek placed the note in his side drawer and quickly (as he could) got dressed.


He knocked on Casey's door, "Come in!" he heard soon after.

Casey was seated on her bed reading a book, waiting for him, her back resting gently on the headboard. She was wearing her clean Spacey Pjs and she had her make-up removed and her hair in a side braid.

He fell ungracefully on her bed with a moan.

"I really love your bed," he sighed and paused for a moment, "I have made an executive decision, as part of your rent you must trade beds with me."

"I'm not switching with you, Derek."

"Sorry, I've already made the decision. It is out of your hands."

"Derek."

"There is nothing you can do. I have already decided."

Casey giggled, "How about I let you stay here tonight and you won't make me switch beds with you?"

Derek fake pondered this for a moment. "Fine, but next movie night I get to choose the movie."

"Deal." They held each other's gaze for a moment.

"Time to bandage me up!" Casey got out of her bed, pulled Derek into the sitting position, and grabbed the kit before sitting down in front of him. She quickly stripped herself of her shirt, pulled a pillow to her chest, and waited.

Derek took a deep breath before starting on his task.

Most of Casey's wound had healed or was almost healed; some bits still had thick scabs. "We're going to need to get you an appointment soon. You're almost healed."

"I have one scheduled for tomorrow."

"You do?"

"Yeah."

"Were you going to tell me? I'd like to be there, you know."

"I was going to tell you. But with Ed and Liz being here I just forgot," she explained.

"Are you sure you want to come? You don't have to," she looked over her shoulder at him.

Derek didn't take his eyes off her back, he just nodded, "I'm sure."

"Okay," Casey turned back.

They were silent for a time.

"You know what I am most excited about after I'm healed?"

"What?"

"Showers."

Derek chuckled, "Showers?"

"Yeah, you don't know how frustrating it is to have to bend over the tub to wash my hair."

"Yeah I do, I can hear you swearing through the door," he laughed.

"Watch it, Venturi."

They were silent again. Derek unrolled the gauze and began taping the bandage in place. Casey sighed; she knew she would miss this. Despite the circumstances, the care and focus Derek showed while bandaging her was endearing. The light, teasing, conversations they shared during she would miss. What she would miss the most is the tingly sensation that came with his fingers on her skin. She felt the tingles every time his kissed her back, cheek, and forehead; in fact, she had those tingles every time he touched her.

Derek didn't want to admit it, but he was jealous. Jealous of the man would get to know Casey's scar. Yes, he knew her scar very well; he had inspected every inch of it. He got to see it at its worse and as it healed. No, he was jealous of the guy who got to inspect it, trace it, and memorize it after it was healed. The man who would know the story and see the aftereffects years later; the man who got to tell her she was even more beautiful with the scar, because it showed her strength and made her more captivating. He didn't want to admit it. Not to himself, not to anyone, especially Casey.

Derek placed his kiss between her shoulders, holding his lips there longer that intended. Casey shivered. He helped her pull her shirt over her head and waited for her to turn around.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Casey got up and went around to the other side of her bed, pulled back the covers, and got in.

"No, no, no! I'm sleeping here tonight," Derek pointed forcefully at himself.

"I know," Casey smirked, "I never said anything about me leaving. Did I?"

Derek was speechless; Casey was willingly sharing a bed with him. He got under the covers and lay perfectly still.

"Relax Derek, I don't bite. Much," she chuckled, "turn off the light. It's been a long day and you need sleep." Casey rolled onto her side, facing away from him.

Derek reached up and flicked off the light. He burrowed deeper into the blankets and inhaled. It smelled heavily of Casey. Pure Casey.

He grinned, "Night Case."

"Goodnight Derek," yawned Casey.

Sleep came quickly for both.

Chapter Text

When Casey woke up she was warm. She felt strong protective arms wrapped around her. She inhaled.

Derek.

Casey was on her side, facing Derek; her face tucked into his neck, her nose brushing against his skin. Derek was also on his side, facing Casey; both arms securely wrapped around her. Their legs were tangled and Casey's hands were gripping the shirt on his chest. His face was buried in her hair.

Casey kept her eyes closed and smiled. She snuggled deeper into his embrace and waited for sleep to return. Derek's grip tightened around her.

Derek was already awake. He'd been awake for a while. He was surprised when he found himself wrapped around Casey and Casey happily snuggled into his neck. Pleasantly surprised. So, he kept his eyes closed and allowed himself this rare opportunity to hold Casey.

He felt her snuggle deeper and he instinctively held her tighter. He didn't want to go back to sleep, to him reality was better than his dreams.

He laughed inside, it sounded like something Casey would quote. It was something Casey had quoted. He thought carefully for a moment.

His mind flashed back to last summer.


He and Casey were lounging by the Davis' pool. Emily was sitting with her feet in the water, her ear pressed to the phone. She was talking animatedly with Sheldon. He and Casey were smirking at her excitement. Suddenly Emily jumped up, the phone in her hand and ran over to Casey.

"Guess what!" Emily squealed.

"What?" humored Casey.

"Sheldon's coming back! Tomorrow!" she squealed again and clapped her hands excitedly. 

"Em! That's great. I'm so happy for you!"

Emily turned and went towards her house, "I'm so excited! I won't sleep a wink tonight!" she yelled over her shoulder as she entered her house.

Casey laughed and said to no one in particular, "You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams," she put her sunglasses back on and lay back on her towel.


Oh Shit! Derek pulled slightly away from Casey hoping to get a good look at her face. He rolled over onto his back, Casey shifted so she was lying with her head on his chest. He studied her face, hair, and body. He thought about the weight of that 'possibility'.

Could he be in love with Casey?

He thought back to the only relationship he considered loving. Sally. Now that he thinks about it, maybe he only loved her because she played hard to get and was confident with herself. He'd even become friends with her first. He cared about her, genuinely. Heck, he almost followed her to Vancouver. Would they have lasted? No , Derek answered his own question. He loved like a high schooler. Not caring about the very distant future only focusing on the next week. He knew, even then, that he wouldn't marry Sally.

Wait! Would I marry Casey?

He looked down at her again. She rested comfortably against him, as if she slept like that every night. He still had his arms wrapped around her, unwilling to let go. Yes, he could picture waking up next to her for the rest of his life. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

Oh God… I'm in love with Casey McDonald!

He realized suddenly that he'd been running his fingers through her hair. He loved her hair. The way is smelled, the way it moved as she walked, and how it looked fanned across his chest. He loved her eyes, the speckled grey blue that became electrifying when they fought. Her nose was elegant and fit her face perfect; their kids would have such cute noses. And her lips, her lips were perfect, rosy pink, and downright kissable. He could count the times he'd kissed her forehead or cheek wishing that he could swoop down and capture her lips. Or when she would kiss his cheek, wishing she would move those extra two inches to his lips.

Derek realized how deep he really was and groaned. He sighed and decided to enjoy the moment while he could and continued to run his fingers through her hair, waiting for her to wake up.


Casey woke up, again. This time she was practically lying on Derek. She could feel his hand in her hair, moving soothingly. She shifted, the hand stopped.

"Don't stop, that felt good," she said sleepily.

The hand continued.

Casey snuggled up just a bit more, "you're like my own personal space heater."

"I get it. You've just been using me for my warmth," Derek teased.

"That's why I keep you around," she teased back.

"You can use me anytime you want. I don't mind."

Casey giggled and, finally, opened her eyes. She met a chocolate gaze.

"Hey.”

"Hey," Derek smirked.

"You sleep well?" she asked.

"Best sleep of my life!" Derek said honestly.

"Good, you needed it after last night."

"Agreed," groaned Derek, untangling his legs from hers and stretching them. "What time is it?"

Casey glanced at the clock from Derek's chest. "Nearly 8," she groaned, rolling over and getting out of bed.

Derek rolled over onto his stomach and buried his face into her pillow and inhaled.

Wow, stalker much! Thought Derek.

"Do you need to shower?" asked Casey from her closet.

"No, showered last night," he raised his head from the pillow to talk, before dropping back down.

"Good. I didn't get a bath last night so I'm going to take one now. Will you make breakfast and wake up the kids?"

A grunt was her response.

"I'll take that as a yes."

She left her room, towel in hand and entered the bathroom. After the door was closed she leaned against it and took a deep breath.

That was so…so…married! We acted like we were married! 

She blushed and smiled; the thought didn't bother her one bit. She turned on the bath and waited for it to fill up. She pulled her hair into a messy bun and striped down. She tentatively placed her toe into the water to test it before submerging her whole foot. She hissed at the tingly feeling of the heated water on her skin. She got both of her feet into the water and then slowly sank down into the sitting position. She reached over and turned off the water and relaxed.

She hugged her knees to her chest, thoughts about her and Derek swirling around in her head. She didn't want to hope, but she liked waking up with him. She liked it a lot. She liked him. She wanted nothing more than to lean up and press a good morning kiss on his lips. She had been so tempted. She had never woken up in a man's arms before. She decided, right there in the bathtub; that she only wanted to wake up in his arms. She remembered the way his ran through her hair. She liked it. She had woken up twice like that that week; she wanted it to continue.

She picked up her bar of soap and loofah and began ridding herself of the previous day's dirt. She really couldn't wait until she could shower. She shaved her legs and rinsed her body of suds. She exited the bath and wrapped her towel around her.

"Urg, this is getting tiring," she said to herself as she bent over the edge of the tub to wash her hair.

Casey exited the bathroom soon after and scurried to her room. She could hear Derek preparing breakfast and Ed and Liz setting the table. She quickly dressed her bottom half before re-wrapping the towel around herself.

"De-rek!" she called from her room.

"What do you want, Princess?" he yelled back.

"I need you to bandage me up!" Derek was there in a matter of seconds.

"We gotta be quick, breakfast is almost ready," he commented after he closed the door behind him.

"Do it right though, the doctor will be inspecting your work today," she pointed out.

"Very true."


They all piled in the car an hour after breakfast to go to the hospital. Casey's appointment was at 10:00, so Casey made sure they'd be at least 20 minutes early.

They entered the burn unit and separated, Edwin and Lizzie to the waiting room; Derek and Casey made their way to the secretary.

"Hi, My name is Casey McDonald. I have an appointment with Dr. Marshall."

The nurse looked her up on the computer. She then looked up at Casey with a critical eye. "You're very early."

"She always is," commented Derek with a smirk. Casey elbowed him lightly in the side.

"I'll let him know you're here. Please take a seat in the waiting area," she gestured behind them.

Derek gently grabbed Casey's elbow and guided her to some seats. After they were seated both shifted uncomfortably. Derek wanted to grab Casey's hand as reassurance; he figured she was nervous. Casey wasn't nervous, but she could tell that Derek was.

"You don't have to be nervous D." She placed a hand on his bouncing knee and left it there.

"I'm not nervous! You are!" he countered.

"No, I'm not nervous. What do I have to be nervous about? Nothing. I'm healing and I don't have any infections. Nothing is wrong. It's basically a routine check-up."

Derek placed his hand over the one on his knee. "I admit I'm a bit nervous. Mostly because I'm scared I did something wrong with the bandaging and stuff. I don't want to make it worse for you."

Casey flipped her hand over and intertwined their fingers. "I think you did fine Derek. If anything I'm probably better than expected. You've taken good care of me, don't worry."

"You make me worry Princess." Casey just giggled and placed her head on his shoulder. Their hands still connected.

At exactly 10 o' clock, a nurse comes into the waiting area, "Casey McDonald?"

Casey stands up, pulling Derek with her. "That's me!"

"Follow me please." She tugged on Derek's hand; he followed obediently.

They walked down the hall into one of the examining rooms, the nurse opened the door and led them in. "Okay, please change into the hospital gown and wait on the examining table." She pulled out a gown and handed it to Casey, gesturing to the curtain. She left smiling as she shut the door.

"Do you want me to wait outside, Case?" questioned Derek, seated on the roll-y stool.

"No, it's fine. I think they have this curtain here for a reason," she teased.

"Okay." Derek eyes the various jars of medical supplies; he was itching to steal a few tongue depressors. He reached over, his hand almost touching the stainless steel lid when Casey startled him, "Don't you dare think about stealing anything!"

He looked over at the curtain; he knew she couldn't see him. He retreated with a huff.

He heard a giggle, "I knew it."

Dr. Marshall came rolling into the examination room right after Casey had stepped out from behind the curtain.

"Ah, Miss McDonald, it's nice to see you again," he shook her hand, "and I see you brought Derek along. Nice to see you." He nodded at Derek.

"Okay, let's get this over with, shall we?" he signaled fro Casey to sit up on the examining table. She hopped up elegantly and waited, her legs swinging off the edge. Dr. Marshall went around to her back and untied her gown, Casey caught the front before she was exposed and held it to her chest. He slowly pulled the bandage from her skin and threw it away. He then looked at the burn carefully, occasionally feeling something or poking at the skin with the edge of his probe.

"Has there been any oozing since you checked out two weeks ago?" he questioned Derek.

"No, sir, nothing that wasn't expected. The nurse told me there would be some. It was very minimal."

"Good, good." He poked a few more times, "you didn't pull off any scabs, did you?"

"No, sir."

"I must say young man, you did an excellent job taking care of her burn. Casey, you are healing well, the damage will be less than we expected," he said happily.

He pulled two tubes from his pocket. He gestured to Derek to come closer. Derek stood up and made his way to the doctor.

"These are the new ointments for her scar. They need to be applied twice daily for the next two weeks. Do you think you can do that?" Derek nodded.

"Okay, I had them labeled 'blue' and 'green' seeing how they both look pretty much alike. The blue one needs to be applied first, then the green." Derek nodded.

"Now, application. Put a quarter size dollop on your fingers and rub it into the skin, in small circular motions," he demonstrated on Casey's back.

"Wait until the skin has absorbed it, then apply the green one. Same amount, same application," he demonstrated again on Casey's back.

"Let it dry completely before you put on clothing, Casey. There is no longer need for bandaging."

Both Derek and Casey nodded. Dr. Marshall handed Derek the tubes, which Derek took gladly.

The doctor touched Casey's skin to make sure it was dry before tying her back up. He walked around the table and stood in front of the two of them.

"Now, remember to wash your hands Derek, right after you apply the second treatment. Don't let it dry on your hands. I don't think there's anything else," he pondered for a moment as he looked over his chart.

"Can I shower now?" asked Casey.

"Oh, by all means. Showering is perfectly fine. Showering right before application is best. If you go to a pool or something, re-apply it after you've washed the chlorine off. Just make sure the shower spray is not too rough on the skin. If it hurts, get a softer spraying nozzle. Anything else?"

They both shook their heads. "Good! I'll see you in another two weeks, Casey." With that he swiftly left the room.

"Well that was quick!" stated Casey. "See, I told you, you did nothing wrong!"

Derek just stuck his tongue out at her. "Change. We have stuff to do. The kids have to be at the station at three."

Chapter Text

The four spent the rest of the morning at the apartment. Edwin and Lizzie lazily watching a movie and Casey and Derek doing homework at the table. Derek and Casey were sitting side by side, their fingers brushing on occasion, causing blushes for both. Casey was concentrating on her calculus homework; she was chewing forcefully on the end of her pen in frustration. Derek glanced over at her.

"What's the problem, Spacey?"

"Math."

"I know that. What are you having a problem with? I can help you."

"Number 27." She pushed her book over to him.

Derek looked over the equation, made a few adjustments and pushed the book back.

"I still don't know what you did," commented Casey as she looked over his work. Derek smiled and pulled the book over so it was between them. He scooted his chair closer. She scooted closer to him, leaning into him a bit. He put one arm on the back of her chair and the other held his pencil. He began to show her how to solve the problem.

Casey, meanwhile, was looking at him. She watched the way his mouth formed words and the way his eyes twinkled. Her face was inches from his, she could smell his cologne and natural 'Derek' smell all around her.

"You get that, Princess?" Derek looked over at her, their noses brushed.

They both held their breath. Derek's eyes drifted down to her lips; they were slightly parted and oh-so inviting. Casey was staring at the freckles that were scattered across Derek's cheek. Casey subtly brushed her nose against his. He raised his eyes to hers. They stared at each other, both trying to read the other. Derek released his breath, which ghosted over Casey's lips. She leaned ever so slightly towards him. Derek looked carefully into her smoky gray eyes, looking for a sign, or an answer. He watched her eyes change from gray blue to a stormy electric blue. He started to lean; Casey's eyelids began to flutter. She was trapped; she wanted so badly to keep her eyes open, but the temptation to get swept away was weighing down on her.

"When's lunch?" Edwin's voice cut through the cloud surrounding them. Derek drew back and looked towards the living room. Casey closed her eyes in resignation and turned back to her homework.

"Uhh…" Derek cleared his throat, "Soon, What would you like?"

"Sandwiches," decided Edwin, "D? Do you think you could make them?"

"Yeah," sighed Derek. He began packing up his homework and cleaning up his side of the table. Casey was looking over her math homework again and going through her breathing exercises.

Derek put everything away in his backpack and put it by the front door. He passed by the couch and imagined Edwin with an arrow through his head. If looks could kill Derek would have tortured Edwin to death, slowly and painfully.

Derek hung his head and made his way to the kitchen to make the damn sandwiches.

Casey followed him with her eyes. She let out a breath and began packing up her stuff. She took everything to her room and closed the door. With everything placed on her desk, she flopped onto her unmade bed. The combined smell of the two of them filled her nose. She closed her eyes and meditated on the feeling she had that morning. Loved. She felt loved and she felt lov ing . Her eyes began to tear; she was so close, so very close, to actually kissing him. The way she wanted to every time she kissed his cheek.

With a huff she flipped over and inhaled from the pillow he had used the night before.

Becoming a stalker, are we? She thought to herself. She clutched the pillow to her face and chest and curled up.


Derek stood at the counter in the kitchen three done sandwiches before him, one in the making. He meticulously laid the smoked turkey on to Casey's sandwich and cut it in half vertically, just the way she liked it.

Casey. He had come so close to finally kissing her. She was right there in front of him and he was too slow, he should have just grabbed her and just kissed her. Stupid Edwin.

He knew he shouldn't blame Edwin, but he didn't want to blame his own hesitation.

"Lunch is done!" he yelled angrily from the kitchen. He grabbed his own sandwich and Casey's and made his way to the table. He was surprised to find the table clear of books and, most importantly, clear of Casey. He sighed and dropped his plate onto the table; he set hers carefully down in front of her vacant chair and dropped dejectedly into his own.

His fear began to creep up on him. Had he misinterpreted her leaning into him? Had he freaked her out? Why did she run?

He glanced at her closed door and bit angrily into his sandwich.

He ate his lunch and waited for Casey to leave her room. He wondered if this was going to be it. Were they going to ignore each other until one of them moved out? Would she ever speak to him again? She was ignoring him, he decided.

He glanced down at his empty plate and wondered if it was all worth it. Should he just give up and hopefully get over her. He sighed and rubbed his eyes in frustration.

He had to force her to face him. He was not going to go down that easily. They weren't teenagers anymore. They were two adults in college; life was just starting for them. It was not going to start with heartbreak.

He grabbed her sandwich and walked determinedly to her door. Deciding not to knock he waltzed right in and looked towards her desk, expecting her to be hunched over studying. She was not. He glanced around her room, his eyes finally landing on her bed. There she was curled up, asleep. He let out a shaky breath of relief. She wasn't ignoring him; she was asleep.

He watched her for a moment before placing her plate on her desk. He went over and sat on the bed next to her, he ran his fingers through her hair, a small smile on his face. Wow, she's turned me into a sap! Look at the great Derek Venturi now, pining after his mortal enemy. I'm pathetic, happily pathetic.  

Casey began to stir; he kept going with the soothing motions. She finally woke completely, "Derek?"

She looked up at him with sleepy eyes. "What's up?"

"I brought your lunch. It's sitting on your desk."

"Oh." She yawned and stretched before starting to climb out of bed. Derek moved out of the way and stood awkwardly by the door. Casey stood and walked over to her desk and picked up her plate.

"I don't like eating in my room. It leads to crumbs; which then leads to ants," she explained with a shrug. Derek turned and left her room, Casey following behind.

She sat down at the table tiredly before starting to eat her sandwich. Derek sat across from her and finished off his soda.

"Aw…you made my sandwich just the way I like it! Cut the right way and everything!" She grinned at him, "Thanks, that's really sweet."

"You're welcome." Derek smiled back. Maybe things will be okay after all .

Casey continued to munch happily on her sandwich while Derek watched. Occasionally they would talk and tease each other. Blushes ran rampant throughout the course of Casey's lunch.

All was well between Derek and Casey, as it should be.


It was time to say goodbye. Derek and Casey had driven the two younger ones to the bus station. Derek and Edwin carried the bags while Casey and Lizzie walked in front of them, arms linked. Casey was already beginning to tear up at the loss of her sister. Derek was beyond happy to be rid of Edwin, especially since lunch.

"Okay Liz, call me every weekend and write me if you want. Tell Marti I love her and miss her. Tell Mom that I love her and give her a hug for me. Tell George that I miss him too. Tell…"

Derek cut her off. "Casey, I think she gets it! Liz, basically tell everyone that we love them and miss them and that we'll be home for Christmas. Can you do that?" He smiled teasingly at her.

"Yes Derek," said Lizzie with a laugh.

Casey latched onto her sister holding her in a tight hug. She then set her eyes on Edwin. Who, after seeing the life squeezed out of Lizzie, was backing away slowly.

"Come 'ere Edwin," she released Lizzie and opened her arms to him. Derek came up behind Edwin and pushed him into Casey's arms. Edwin was hugged a little lighter, thankfully. Casey just giggled at his blushing face.

Derek gave Lizzie a brotherly hug. "If you have any problems with Edwin, just give me a call. I'll take care of him," he whispered in her ear. Lizzie chuckled and replied, "I will. And Derek, you have my permission to fall in love with Casey. In fact you have both me and Edwin behind you."

Derek released her and looked at her, shocked. Lizzie just smiled and winked at him. Derek just nodded dumbly.

Casey finally let go of Edwin and stood aside to let Derek say goodbye. Derek made his way over to his brother; he slapped him on the back. Hard. "I'll miss you, little bro."

Edwin just rolled his eyes and smirked at his form of 'brotherly affection'. "Yeah, I'll miss you, too. Bro."

Edwin reached down and grabbed his bag and began walking to the bus parked 100 feet away. Lizzie hugged her sister quickly and scampered after him with her bag.

Derek drifted over to Casey and flung his arm around her shoulder and rubbed her arm. "Don't be too sad. We'll see them again in about 3 weeks," he offered.

"I know. I just hadn't seen my sister in 3 months. It's hard saying goodbye." She rested her head on his shoulder and watched the bus start up.

Edwin and Lizzie pressed their faces to the glass and waved. Derek and Casey waved back, laughing.

"Is it okay if I say I'm glad to see them leave?" inquired Derek.

"Why would you say that?"

"I'd gotten used to not having to worry about them listening behind a door or peering around a corner. Having them here made me have to watch my mouth and explain all my actions. I had to give them a run down of our entire daily routine the first night they were here. They wouldn't stop asking questions. I still don't know what's been going on with them."

"Very true. I think they came over to spy on us," agreed Casey. "I wonder what they added to their observation notebook on this trip. Do they know that we know about the notebook?"

"Yeah, I may have told them to write something down in it. My guess is that they added at least 50 pages of new information. Edwin kept saying how we were so different. My guess is they thought they had us pegged and we surprised them," Derek laughed.

"I'm even surprised by us sometimes."

They waved the last time at their younger siblings and turned towards the car.

"I just love surprises," commented Derek. He loved down at Casey and winked.

Chapter Text

The next two weeks went by in a blur. Derek and Casey had their routine back and were busier than ever. Both had finals every day and Derek's coach was running him until he dropped. By the time Christmas break was only a week away both Casey and Derek exhausted.

Despite being busy 24/7 and preparing for Christmas, Casey and Derek still managed to take time to talk with each other. Every night Derek would come home from practice to find Casey asleep with her head on her books. He would gently wake her up so he could apply her medications. They would sit and talk throughout the process, joking and flirting lightly. Both of them decided, individually, not to mention the almost kiss incident. Although at night, the moment replayed over and over in each of their heads. Each of them would re-write the ending, change the setting, and Derek would murder Edwin. Despite their supposed unrequited love for each other, their friendship was at a significant high point. Both were comfortable and excited with each other.

Conversations surrounding the last week had been about the way they had acted before the fire. They laughed together at the thought of their friend's reactions to their newfound friendship. Most importantly they wanted to see their parent's reactions. After four years of tormenting George and Nora with mutual aggression, all they wanted to see were their shocked faces.


Thursday Night (3 days until end of semester)

Derek's last class of the day ended and he exited the lecture hall in exhaustion. He'd just taken a history final. He was confident about it, but tired nonetheless. Casey had pushed him to study along with her and he'd forgotten how serious of a studier she was. His test went by easily, which made up for the hours of preparation.

Derek sauntered over to his car and got in with a groan. Every night his coach had run him dry; his body was paying for it. I wonder if I could get Casey to give me a massage tonight, Derek thought as he pulled out of the parking lot. He was eager to get home; Casey was making lasagna for dinner. Also, Derek was experiencing a 'new symptom' since he realized he was in love with Casey. The humming feeling that he had been feeling at the beginning of the semester had returned, full force. Every morning he would kiss Casey on the head goodbye, either him leaving or her, the moment the door closed humming returned. His restlessness returning and even the adrenaline of hockey couldn't tame it. He would arrive home, either finding Casey asleep with her homework or sitting on the couch reading. Derek would help her with her treatment then lay down, allowing Casey to massage his head; the moment her fingers made contact with his scalp the humming stopped, immediately.

He knew he'd have to convince Casey to give him a massage, a real one. His shoulders and neck were stiff with tension. But getting her to do that meant having her put aside her studies for a moment. She would not like this idea. A trip to the grocery store was in order; Derek would have to sweeten the deal.

Derek arrived home 10 minutes later than usual. In his hand was a bottle of wine and bag with Casey's favorite ice cream in it, along with a bundle of simple yellow roses.

"Dinner ready?" asked Derek as he barged into the apartment.

"It's in the oven, give it another 10 minutes." Casey had her face in a book, her hand flying over a piece of notebook paper. Derek dropped a kiss on the top of her head as he passed the table to go towards the kitchen.

Derek emerged 30 seconds later and sauntered back into the living area. He dropped down across from Casey at the table. "How was your history test?" asked Casey, not looking up from her books.

"It went well."

"How well?" A small smirk graced her lips.

"I feel confident that I will either receive a B+ or an A."

"Good." Casey looked up at him and gave him a proud smile before returning to her notes.

"How was your test? What was it, medieval history?" Derek inquired.

"Calculus."

"Ooo," Derek winced. "How'd it go?"

"It went…okay?" Casey grimaced.

"I thought we worked on that for hours. How did that not help?" Derek inquired.

"I was fine when I had you there to talk me through a problem, the moment the test was in front of me I froze! I had a mild panic attack, but I plowed through anyway, I'm not confident about it at all."

"You probably did fine," encouraged Derek, placing his hand over hers, "Just three days, three days and we can go home."

Casey smiled a little. Derek thought it was from his pep talk, but Casey was smiling because her arm was buzzing with happy tingles all stemming from where his hand was touching hers.

Derek removed his hand and the tingles stopped.

"Do you think you can make it?" challenged Derek with a smirk.

"Of course I can. The question is can you?" she leaned a bit over the table, her eyes twinkling wildly. Derek wanted nothing more than to grab her face and kiss her senseless, but he didn't.

"Definitely," he grinned back.

They sat there for a time just smiling at each other, both wanting to ravage the other. Their eye sex was getting worse; if their siblings were there they would be writing up a new chapter of observation.

"So what was with the grocery bags?" asked Casey. She returned to her notes, to both of their disappointment.

"Oh, um…" Derek had had the chance to practice his speech, "Well you see, I was wondering if you would be willing to give me a back massage tonight?" Derek closed his eyes, waiting for her to laugh at his request.

"That still doesn't explain the bags," Derek opened his eyes to see a smirking Casey.

"I bought some wine, I think we both need something to take the edge off and I bought you some of your favorite ice cream," said Derek proudly.

"You're trying to butter me up. Aren't you?" she raised her eyebrow at him, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"Is it working?"

"No." She went back to her notes, smiling.

Derek's shoulders sagged and his head dropped in defeat. He suddenly popped up quite violently; he remembered the roses.

Derek sped into the kitchen to fetch them. Casey wasn't paying attention; she had managed to concentrate on her work again.

Derek returned with the roses behind his back and kneeled next to the seated Casey. Casey finished writing her sentence before turning, shocked, to face Derek.

Casey was having a silent breakdown in her head. All she could think about was how much he resembled a proposing man. This image would never leave her head, if anything it screwed her over for any future proposals, she would always picture Derek kneeling next to her.

"Will you please give me a back massage?" Derek pulled the roses from behind his back and offered them to her. Casey took them shyly, her cheeks bright red. Derek thought her blush was cute.

"Please?" Casey realized she hadn't said anything.

"Yes," She looked his straight in the eye. For some reason, the 'yes' was weighted with emotion, more emotion than seemed necessary for the situation. Derek shrugged the feeling off and smiled before grabbing her around her middle in a tight hug.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Derek practically cried, in a manly way of course. "You have no idea how much pain I'm in!" He released her. They sat with their eyes locked for what seemed like forever. The kitchen timer interrupted their moment. Causing them both to jump.

A few minutes later both were seated at the kitchen table with their lasagna and wine, smiling at the delicious aroma steaming from their plates.

"Do you have Christmas presents for everyone?" asked Derek after a few bites.

"Yes, but I just need to find one more."

"For who?"

"You."

"Me?"

"Mhm…" she took a sip of merlot. "So Derek, what do you want for Christmas?" Her eyes twinkled at him.

You .

"Um… I don't know, peace on earth, good will toward men?

"I can't get you that," she smirked, "Okay, name one thing that you have always had on your Christmas list, but never got."

Derek thought for a moment. "Well, I always got everything on my list."

"Just think of something!" huffed Casey.

"I think you should surprise me. You've only ever gotten me joke gifts. This year get me something worthwhile."

Casey rolled her eyes.

"I got you something worthwhile," he smirked at her.

"You did not! I can tell by your face!" accused Casey with a smile, Derek just laughed and took another bite.

They munched happily together for a while, enjoying the company and the food. Derek occasionally snuck glances at the object of his affections. He wondered how long he could keep her where she was, with him, only him. How long could he keep her away from the rest of male race, away from any potential assholes who would break her heart? Most importantly, how could he keep her away from Mr. Right, how could he keep her from finding the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

He didn't know that Casey was sitting happily at that moment enjoying dinner with the man of her dreams, the one she did want to spend the rest of her life with, Mr. Right, the One… him.


It was 10:15; Derek was due back at any moment from practice. Casey had finished her studies early so that she could have time to take a shower before Derek came home demanding a massage. She was sitting on the couch watching a late night movie and eating her ice cream, she felt warm and snuggly in her spot, the remaining buzz from her wine still lingering. She felt very loved up from her dinner with Derek. She felt like she was on a date, he was polite and flirtatious. When he got up to leave he gave her a hug, which was unusual, and kissed her forehead for longer than normal. He kept thanking her for being willing to give him a massage. Making him happy made her happy, a feeling that had lasted her all evening. She also didn't know that Derek had such good taste in wine, she had managed to finish off the rest of the bottle after he left, slowly, but she still finished it.

Derek entered the apartment with a loud groan and dropped his stuff by the door. He flopped on the couch with his head in Casey's lap. He closed his eyes and relaxed under her fingers.

"How was practice?" came a soft voice from above him.

"Long," he groaned as her fingers dug into a pressure point. She continued her ministrations and eased the pain away.

"I'm sorry."

"It's okay, I had motivation to get home anyway." Derek smirked slightly.

"Yeah, you had a massage waiting for you," Casey accused.

" That and I had a pretty roommate to get home to," he replied smoothly.

Casey blushed and was thankful that Derek had his eyes closed. Derek didn't need to open his eyes to know that she blushed.

They remained there in silence, Casey half-watching her movie and half-watching Derek; Derek enjoying the feeling of her fingers on his scalp and listening to the dialog from the actors on screen.

The movie ended and Casey switched off the TV and began to lift Derek's head as a signal to move.

"Okay, time to doctor me up." Casey got up and stretched her tired muscles. Her shirt rose and gave Derek a good view of her toned stomach; he also realized that she wasn't wearing a bra.

He quickly averted his eyes and began walking towards their rooms. Casey caught up and leaned against him tiredly. Derek veered to his room and put on his pjs.

Derek applied Casey's medication with precision and speed, eager to be massaged. He helped her slip her t-shirt over her head. It was one of his, not one he gave her; it was obvious that she stole it. He said nothing.

After the shirt was securely over her head, he quickly rolled over to the middle of the bed, pulling off his shirt as he went. Allowing Casey a dreamy view of his muscular torso.

Casey watched, a little shocked at his excitement. "Come on Casey, I'm dying here," groaned Derek into her pillow.

It was Derek's turn to be shocked. Instead of sitting at his side and massaging in a more professional way, Casey straddled his back and sat on his thighs. Derek was thankful that he was lying on his stomach.

Casey mustered up some gumption and quickly began work on his back. She ran her hands up and down his back in long motions. Feeling his tight muscles twitch under her fingers. His skin was warm and very inviting. She wanted to press herself against him but reluctantly held back. When she found a spot she began work on the muscle releasing the tension with practiced hands. Derek was under her groaning and moaning at her actions. She was better than he thought.

"How'd you get so good at massage?" Derek strained to ask; Casey had found a particularly troublesome spot. He whimpered.

"I'm a dancer, remember. I have to have loose and stretched muscles. I have to stay limber if I want to achieve certain moves," Casey explained.

Derek just groaned in response. Casey was a dancer and she was limber, Very limber.

The next ten minutes consisted of a whimpering Derek and Casey trying not to think about Derek's skin.

When Casey finally decided that she was done, she flopped onto the bed next to him and looked at his face. Derek groaned once more before opening his eyes and looking right back at her.

"I think we have a new tradition," he sighed. Casey just chuckled.

"Did you know that you have a series of freckles on your back that look like the Big Dipper?" Casey commented.

"No, I did not," responded Derek with a smile. "Did you know that there is a certain part of your scar that is shaped remarkably like a 'D'?" he questioned, smirking at her.

"I didn't." she smiled back; reassuring him that it was okay that he talked so casually about her scar.

"Are you going to stay here? Because I would like to go to bed and you seem to be hogging all of the space," she raised one eyebrow as a challenge. She really wanted him to stay and Derek never wanted to move.

"Is it alright? If I move I might ruin all the work your wonderful hands did," Derek pouted playfully at her.

"Yeah, I guess you can stay," replied Casey with fake dejection.

Derek slowly moved himself beneath the cover and scooted over a bit to give her some room. Casey followed suit and filled the vacant spot next to him after turning off the light. Derek wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and protect her for the rest of the night; Casey wanted the same. They both fell asleep happy with their sleeping arrangements for the night.

Chapter Text

At the Venturi Home Base

Thursday Night (4 days until Casey and Derek return home)

Edwin and Lizzie sat on one side of the table behind them was a presentation board, covered, and George and Nora on the other side.

George and Nora had no idea of what was going on, all they knew was that it was important and that their children were nervous.

"Hello," began Edwin, he had decided to take the professional approach.

The parents nodded for them to continue.

"We gathered you here to discuss an impending change." Immediately the parents thought of the delivery of the new baby.

"If you're worried that we will forget you because we're having a baby, don't worry we will make time for you too," promised a worried Nora.

"No Mom, this has nothing to do with the baby," reassured Lizzie, with a smile. Nora was calmed and gestured for Edwin to continue.

"This has to do with Casey and Derek." Both parents straightened and prepared for the worst. Neither Edwin nor Lizzie had told them about the changes that had taken place or their time at the apartment.

"What's wrong? Are they fighting worse than ever?" inquired George, thinking about peace treaties and separation plans for the two of them.

"No, we think that they're falling in love."

The parents looked at them with wide eyes before bursting into laughter.

"Yeah right! That's impossible," managed George through his laughs.

Nora was clutching her stomach, trying to calm herself down, tears forming in her eyes.

The two teens remained unmoved, they had prepared for whatever reactions their parents would have.

"We have proof," stated Lizzie, after the laughter had died down.

"Really?" asked an interested George, his lawyer since tingling.

"Yes. First of all, Derek told me himself, in a roundabout way, that he is already in love with Casey."

Both parents stopped their remaining chuckles.

"You're sure?" questioned Nora.

"Very," replied Edwin, "We have gathered our notes from the past and compared them to our recent notes from our stay with them. We also discussed it with Paul, Casey's old counselor, and he says that he had expected this to happen once both of them matured in college."

"Okay, we're listening," agreed George with a nod from Nora.

Edwin cleared his throat and pulled the covering off of the presentation board, revealing spy type pictures of Derek and Casey, together and separate.

Edwin started at the top left corner. "Here is Derek and Casey making breakfast. Supposedly, Derek likes to hug or hold on to Casey in the morning and anytime of the day, for that matter."

"Derek would constantly be touching Casey, not in a sexual way but in a very friendly way. He would always have his arm around his shoulder or waist and stuff like that. On many occasions we saw him put her hair behind her ear or brush her hair out of her face. He was always gentle and sweet around her. To an outside observer he would look like a boyfriend completely smitten with his girlfriend. He would plant kisses on her forehead or cheek throughout the day, usually before one of them left or after one of them arrived home," imputed Lizzie.

Both parents remained silent, mulling over the changes.

Edwin pointed to the next picture. "This is what happened every evening. Derek would come home and immediately Casey would massage his head, Derek never asked and Casey never offered, it just happened."

"Casey is very affectionate towards Derek; constantly kissing his cheek or snuggling up to him. Compare her actions to the way she would act around her good boyfriends only better and more natural. It's very sweet looking. Like I said with Derek, she looks like a girlfriend who is smitten with her boyfriend," offered Lizzie.

"We think that Derek is dead serious about his relationship with Casey, meaning he is already head over heels for her and content with staying that way. There is a possibility that he would want to marry her. Casey, we think is in the process of falling in love with Derek. She has been more cautious about her feelings since the incident with Truman. But, if their actions were anything to go by, she is probably head over heels for Derek by now," explained Ed.

He pointed to the next picture, a singular picture of Derek. He had a certain look in his eyes that no one had ever seen before. He looked wistful, happy, and loving, the closest thing anyone could compare it to was when he would be with Marti and even that wasn't even close to the look in his eyes in the picture. Edwin pulled it off of the board and handed it to their parents, George grabbed the picture and studied it carefully. His face softened and handed it to Nora.

"That is what Derek looks like every time he looks at Casey. I took this picture when Casey was making dinner for us one night, he watched her the whole time with this look on his face. I think it's sweet," blushed Lizzie.

Nora inspected the picture; she had seen this look before many times, on the face of George. It was the face he had when he would look at her sometimes, it made her start to tear. She placed the picture down on the table carefully; she wanted to keep it for later, it was one of the best pictures of Derek she had seen.

"This is a picture of Casey," Edwin pulled the picture from the board and handed it to Nora. "This is what Casey looked like whenever Derek kissed her on the forehead."

In the picture you could see Derek's arm around her shoulders. Casey was smiling shyly and her cheeks were dusted with pink, she was looking up at Derek. She looked absolutely captivated by him. Nora had never seen this look on her daughter before; it frightened her and also made her giddy with happiness for her. She handed the picture to George, who grabbed it eagerly.

George unknowingly agreed with Nora, he'd never seen that look on Casey before, not even with any of her boyfriends. Of course, he could only compare his stepdaughter with his beautiful wife. He'd seen that look directed at himself on occasion, especially when Nora found his actions cute or amusing. He smiled.

George placed the picture next to the picture of Derek on the table.

Edwin and Lizzie had waited patiently for their parents to finish looking at the pictures before continuing.

"We support their relationship. They are both adults and they did not grow up together. Also, it is perfectly legal for them to be together since neither of you adopted either of them. We don't find it weird or unusual. It's not disgusting or unnatural," stated Lizzie with finality.

"The way I look at it is; they are younger versions of yourselves. They just managed to find each other sooner. They are a perfect balance," added Edwin, with a smile.

"We have also spoken to Marti." Both parents' eyes widened at this.

"Marti!" called Lizzie; there was a bump from upstairs followed by the fast footsteps of the soon-to-be second youngest of the family.

They all watched Marti descend the stairs and plant herself at the end of the table.

"I have arrived!" she announced.

"Marti, would you please tell Dad and Nora what you told us about Smerek and Casey?" asked Edwin.

"Of course! They're in love! Just like in Fairytales! I think they'll live happily ever after!" she said with confidence, only the Marti could.

"You don't find it icky?" questioned Nora.

"Nope! I think it's cute," smiled Marti, she looked over at her older siblings, "do you think they'll kiss? I hope so!" She continued to grin with excitement.

George and Nora looked at Marti then back at the two oldest, finally they met eyes.

"We thought it would be good to explain this to you before they arrived. We didn't want you to freak out and disown them for even thinking that direction. We want you to approve of their relationship, for everyone's sake. What do you think it would be like to have to people pining after each other for the rest of their lives, just because their parents said no to their love. We all know that if you said it was wrong and that you didn't approve that both would back down, because family is very important to Casey and Derek would die if he didn't get to see Marti. Also, because of the new baby, we don't want him or her to grow up without it's two oldest siblings if they did decide to leave the family," explained Lizzie.

"We would like for you two to tell us your decision by Saturday night. We want to know that you support them and will encourage them if they come to you with advice," said Edwin.

George looked at Nora; she leaned in and whispered something in his ear, too quiet for the others to hear. He nodded and then whispered back.

"Would it suit you better if we told you our opinion now?" questioned George.

"If it is a positive one. If it is negative we request that you take more time to think about it," bargained Lizzie. George nodded in agreement.

"We approve," said Nora with a smile. Ed, Liz, and Marti all broke into big smiles upon hearing the news.

Lizzie ran around the table and squeezed George and Nora before attacking Edwin with a tight hug.

"Yay!" screamed Marti as she jumped up and down.

George and Nora watched their children with genuine smiles. George reached over and pulled Nora into a one armed hug and placed a kiss on her forehead. Nora just smiled and blushed slightly, the moment reminding them both of their children.

"So, are they cute together?" questioned Nora with mild excitement.

"Oh, they are soooo cute! Derek is adorable with her, he practically worships the ground she walks on!" gushed Lizzie.

Edwin and George just rolled their eyes at Lizzie's enthusiasm. George looked at Edwin, who was looking at Lizzie. George saw the look Edwin was giving her; it looked remarkably similar to the one from Derek's picture. George sighed, what had they gotten themselves into.


Later that night Edwin and Lizzie were lounging on Lizzie's bed, listening to music and organizing their observation notebook. They had been working on it for a while, typing up all their work and cataloging it chronologically. Lizzie thought it would be romantic if they gave it to them as a wedding present. They were of course keeping the original for prosperity.

"I'm happy with the outcome of our presentation," stated Lizzie, not looking up from her laptop.

"So am I." That means there's hope for us. "I'm glad they were so quick to decide," replied Edwin.

"I just hope it doesn't take them forever to admit it! I mean, you saw how nervous they were around each other and that was only when they were admitting friendship!" chuckled Lizzie.

"I'm so glad we are nothing like them. You know you're my best friend, right?" smiled Ed.

"Don't worry, you're my best friend too," Lizzie looked up from her laptop to wink at Edwin.

He blushed before looking down at his notes. Liz continued to look at him, smiling sweetly. She thought he was adorable and sweet, she knew it was a matter of time before they were followed in their older siblings footsteps. But for now, she was happy with where they were.

Chapter Text

Friday Morning:

Casey woke up with one of Derek's arms around her; his nose nuzzled into her neck, his breath causing tingles across her skin. His arms were in a tight protective hold; one of his hands was under her shirt, warming the skin on her stomach. She kept her eyes closed and snuggled deeper into his arms with a smile.

Derek was still sleeping soundly with Casey in his arms. His nose was filled with her scent, his dreams tormented with everything 'her'. When he finally awoke, he realized he didn't want to move. He shifted his grip on her slightly, pulling her back closer to his chest. He prayed to God that he could stay like this a little longer. He felt Casey snuggle closer to him and smiled.

Neither of them knew the other was awake, both silently wishing that the feeling would last. Casey finally turned over in his arms, eyes closed; and snuggled into his chest. Derek smiled and kept his own eyes closed, figuring she was doing that in her sleep. Casey buried her nose in the curve of his shoulder and inhaled, she exhaled with a happy sigh. Derek just held her tighter and turned his face into her hair.

After 10 minutes of faking sleep Derek finally decided to wake her up. He loosened his hold and ran one hand through her hair.

"Spacey. Time to wake up," he said softly. Casey 'woke up' and turned to face him, still snuggled tightly to his chest.

"Good morning," she smiled sweetly at him.

"It is a good morning," he replied, his hand still moving through her hair; he knew she like that. Casey buried her nose back into his neck and exhaled, causing pleasant tingles to shoot up and down his spine.

"What time is it?" she asked sleepily.

"8:15."

"Hmmm…we still have time before you have to leave."

"We do, would you like breakfast?" asked Derek.

"In a minute," or five , "will you make it?" She shifted in his arms.

"If you want me to. What would you like?" Derek rolled over, pulling Casey with him. She adjusted her head on his chest and hooked her leg over one of his.

"Just some toast and maybe some bacon," she kept her eyes closed, enjoying his willingness to stay with her.

"Okay," he turned and kissed her forehead, causing Casey to sigh.

"Just give me five more minutes," requested Casey, knowing this time with him would soon end.

"Anything for you Princess."

Chapter Text

Derek made his way up the stairs to his apartment. He'd finished his last exam and was looking forward to his final practice. As he approached the door, keys in hand, the door burst open. Casey stumbled out with two duffle bags hanging from her shoulders and a pillow under each arm.

"I saw you pull up. We gotta go!" she pushed passed him and made her way to the stairs.

"Where're we going, Spacey?"

"Mom's in labor." Derek immediately grabbed one of the bags and a pillow from her and followed her to the car.

"Did you pack for me?"

"Yep."

"When'd they call?"

"About two hours ago. I knew you had your last exam so I came home and packed for us. So we could leave as fast as possible," she heaved her bag into the back of the Prince.

"Good, we'll stop for gas before we leave town," he placed his bag with hers and made his way to the driver's side.


They were a good 20 minutes out of town when Derek suddenly pulled off at an exit and turned around and started heading back to Queens.

"De-rek! What the hell are you doing?" exclaimed Casey, hitting his arm for emphasis.

"I forgot I have practice! Can't get out of it. If I don't show up, coach will have my head!"

"Derek…" said Casey in a singsong voice.

"Yes, Casey," he sighed.

"I took care of it."

"What? How?"

"I got the call as I was coming out of my last class. I was passing the Athletic Office. So, I paid a visit to Coach Reynolds."

"Casey, what did you do?" asked Derek in an accusing tone.

Casey glared at him for talking in that tone with her, "I explained that my mother, your step-mother, was in labor and you'd have to miss practice in order to drive back so we could be there."

"How'd he take it?" asked Derek, as he turned around again and headed back towards home.

"He wished us luck and congratulations. He also wants you to e-mail him a picture of you and the baby for proof," Casey smiled.

Derek groaned. "Thanks for doing that."

"You're welcome. He also mentioned something quite interesting…" Casey trailed off.

"What? What did he mention?" Derek was searching his brain for embarrassing things Casey could rub in his face.

"He said it was wonderful to finally meet me after hearing so much about me."

Derek paled and mentally slapped himself for talking so much about the love of his life.

"Yeah, supposedly you talk about me all the time." Casey smirked.

"What can I say? You make a mean meatloaf," said Derek casually, proud of his diversion tactics.

"I've never made meatloaf."

"Oh."

"He said that you always turn down your teammates invites to go out after practice because, and I quote, 'I have to get home to Case.'" She grinned.

Derek was silent for a moment.

"Well, you see…I, um, you needed to be bandaged and then medicated and stuff. I had to take care of you. Yeah, that's why I say that," he smiled nervously at the road in front of him.

Casey had studied his face throughout his explanation.

"You don't lie as well as you used to."

"No, you just can read me better," he countered.

"Did you just admit to lying to me?"

"Hey! It's getting late and we haven't eaten," Derek pulled off of the freeway and drove a bit down the road. "That place looks good. We're stopping!" He pointed to a little diner a short distance from them.

Casey giggled at his nervousness and shook her head.


They made it home at 11:30. Pulling up to their high school home a wave of memories flashed in front of their eyes.

Casey got out and made her way to the door, she pulled out her key and made for the door. When she reached it she noticed a note taped to it,

If this note is still on the door, no one is home. We are all still at the hospital. If you want to switch cars, the keys to George's car are on the kitchen counter. We are at the London Regional Medical Center, maternity ward room 547. Just ask for the Venturi room and they'll bring you in, you're both on the list. Come as soon as you get home.

It was written in Lizzie's hand. It looked hurried and was written on the back of a cell phone bill.

"D?"

"Yeah Case?" Derek called from the car. He had all their stuff in his arms and was in the process of trying to close the trunk.

"Drop the stuff in the hall; everyone's still at the hospital. They left George's car for us," said Casey as she entered the house and found the entire house spotless.

"Oh boy, mom's been nesting," Casey said to herself.

"Nesting? What's nesting?" asked Derek as he entered the house.

"It's common with pregnant women at the end of their pregnancy. They start preparing the house and area around them for the arrival of their child. Its compulsory so they don't really realize they've done it until after they arrive home with the baby. My mom did the same thing with Lizzie; it was ridiculous. She had even scrubbed all the hardwood floors, my dad had told her to stop, but she would just wait until he left for work then she'd start up again. It looks worst this time," she explained while inspecting the living room.

"Oh."

"They said to hurry up and go to the hospital. I've got the car keys, we can leave now."

Derek dropped their things in the entry and stood there for a moment, as did Casey.

"It feels weird to be home again," murmured Derek.

"Very."


They arrived at the hospital a short time later. They pulled into the empty visitor's parking lot. They spotted their parent's car parked close to the entrance.

"We really need to start avoiding hospitals. I'm starting to get used to the smell," grimaced Derek as they exited the car.

"I agree," laughed Casey.

The maternity ward was quiet; the nurse's station was the only brightly lit area. The sounds of women in labor muffled by their not-so-sound proof doors drifting down the hall.

Casey approached the nurse and gestured for Derek to follow her.

"Hello, we're here to see Nora Venturi. Our names should be on the list. I'm Casey McDonald and this," she gestured to Derek, "is Derek Venturi."

The nurse nodded and pulled out the file.

"I was told she is in room 547."

"Yes, she's still in labor. I'll take you in. Please be quiet in the hallways, some of the women who have already delivered need their rest." The nurse led them down the hall, pausing occasionally to hand something to another nurse or sign something.

Finally they arrived at room 547. She opened the door and let herself in.

"Nora? Derek and Casey are here for you, can they come in?" she asked in a soothing voice.

"Please! Get them in here!" Came a loud voice from inside.

The nurse nodded them into the room and shut the door behind them.

Casey saw her mom on the bed; she was lying on her side and clutching the guardrail as if her life depended on it.

"Hey mom, how are you doing?" Casey was immediately at her side, taking her weary mom's hand in hers and speaking softly to her.

Ed, Liz, and Marti were all lying on the roll away cot. Marti was wedged between Ed and Liz, who were both turned towards her. Edwin saw Derek and nudged Lizzie to wake up. Lizzie opened her eyes and carefully removed herself from Marti's clutches. Marti was dead asleep, snoring lightly. Edwin followed Lizzie and moved to one of the chairs.

Derek made his way to his Smarti and sat next to her on the cot. A small smile played on his lips; he ran his hand through her hair and watched her sleep for a bit before shaking her awake.

Marti opened her eyes and looked around the room, her eyes finally landing on Derek.

"Smerek!" she leapt into his arms and hugged tightly on his neck.

"Hey Smarti. Are you excited to be a big sister?" Derek asked softly, his eyes were a bit teary. He had missed his little sister so much.

"So excited!" she beamed, "Is Smasey here?"

"Smasey?" Derek looked at her confused for a moment, "Oh, Casey! Yeah, she's talking to Nora."

Marti removed herself from Derek's arms and launched herself towards Casey.

"Smasey!" She wrapped her arms tightly around Casey's waist.

Casey gave a questioning look towards Derek, "Smasey?" she mouthed at him. He just shrugged and smiled.

"Hey Marti!" She hugged her youngest sister back.

"You can call me Smarti now," Marti continued to hug her while smiling up at her.

"Okay…Smarti." Casey smiled awkwardly back.

Marti released her and looked at the tired, smiling, face of her stepmom. "How you doing, Mom?" she asked brightly.

"I'm doing just fine, Marti. Thank you for asking."

Marti just patted her hand lovingly and went back over to Derek.

Casey waited until Marti was absorbed in a deep conversation with Derek to question her mother.

"When did this 'Mom' and 'Smasey' thing start?"

"She started calling me 'Mom' about a month after you were gone. She said I needed two daughters to call me 'Mom', I thought it was sweet and told her it was fine. Shortly after she started saying Smerek and Smasey all the time. George and I think that she began lumping you two together because you were both gone and at the same place. She told me not to tell you, she wanted to surprise you the next time she saw you," Nora explained. Only stopping once when she was hit with a contraction.

"It was a surprise. Even Derek didn't know about it."

"How are you and Derek?"

"Fine, why do you ask?"

"It's nothing," Nora's grip tightened and she winced, "It's just, you never call to complain about him or tell on him or ask for money because he damaged your clothes. It seems fairly comfortable between you two."

"Yeah, we've grown up a lot. He's become my best friend, Mom," there was a wistful look in Casey's eyes, Nora noticed.

"Where's Dad?" came Derek's voice from the other side of the room.

"I sent him to get me some ice about 2 minutes before you got here. I'm not sure what's taking him so long," explained Nora, she was hit with another contraction soon after.

George flew in not 30 seconds after her contraction finished; he looked tired and frazzled.

"Thank God you're here!" he exclaimed and gave Casey a tight hug.

"It's nice to see you too, George," Casey smiled nervously over at Derek. George finally released her and looked over at Derek, "Good to see you too, Derek."

Derek rolled his eyes and gave his father a friendly wave and went back to talking to Marti.

"I'm sorry," began George, "I've needed your organization skills this past month. Nora wouldn't stop cleaning and Liz and Ed had finals, Marti had a breakdown about no longer being the youngest, and on top of all that, Nora was supposed to be on bed rest and I had to work and cook for everyone and do the laundry. I really wish you were there to plan everything and help."

He dropped into the chair next to Nora and immediately grabbed her hand. He sighed and released some of the tension that was weighing on his shoulders.

"I'm sorry George! You should have called me. I could have helped at least over the phone," Casey patted his shoulder reassuringly.

"Casey," her mother piped up, "could you take Marti home. I don't know if Lizzie and Edwin want to leave, but at least get her home, she shouldn't be up this late."

"Sure, Mom. I'll take over from here. George," George looked up at her, "I am assigning you the job of husband and 'new' father. Just take care of Mom and make sure she is happy and comforted. Speak encouragingly and tell her how beautiful she is and how much you love her."

George nodded, with a small smile.

"Mom. Just get that baby out and don't torture George."

"Okay Casey."

"D?"

"What, Princess?" Derek had a sleepy Marti cuddled to his chest.

"Get Marti out to the car."

"On it." Derek stood up, holding Marti in his arms and made his way to the door.

"Ed, Liz?" Casey looked over at the chairs. Lizzie had her head on Edwin's shoulder, Edwin's head was on Lizzie's; they were both asleep. Casey made her way over to them and woke up Edwin, then Lizzie.

"Come on you guys. It's time to go home and get some rest. We'll come back first thing in the morning."

They both nodded and yawned.

"Go out to the car, Derek should be out there. We're parked right next to you guys."

Wordlessly, Edwin and Lizzie left the room.

Casey turned to her parents and smiled. "Do you want me, Derek, or both of us to come back? Or are you okay by yourselves?"

George and Nora looked at Casey in awe. Things had been so chaotic that having everyone orderly and obedient was a relief.

Nora winced and then spoke, "We'll call you if I need a hand or George needs a break. You can leave the kids alone, feel free to bring Derek with you."

"Okay," Casey walked over to her mother and kissed her cheek, Nora patted her daughter, tiredly, on the head. Casey then moved to George and kissed him on the forehead before moving towards the door.

"Good Luck, Dad," she said to him with a wink.

Chapter Text

The troop entered the house tiredly. It was almost one in the morning. Derek had Marti wrapped in his arms; her head on his shoulder and her arms wrapped around his neck. He kept walking as he entered the house and made his way up stairs. He walked into her room; only to find it covered with Edwin's posters and filled with Edwin's furniture. He stood in the doorway; confused. Ed came up behind him and tapped him on his empty shoulder.

"She's upstairs now," Ed brushed past him and began looking for a pair of clean pj pants.

Derek shook his head and turned out to the hallway and made for the stairs. He noticed the walls were now covered with drawings by Marti. Many of them were pictures of her and the new baby. There were a few of the whole family, just the McDonalds, just the Venturis, some of him and Marti, some of Marti and Casey, a few of Casey and him in front of big brick buildings (most likely Queens), and there was one of a couple getting married. He chuckled at her childish depiction of the world around her.

He opened the, now pink, door and entered every little girl's dream room. There was sheer, sparkly, fabric hanging and draping from the ceiling. Blinking Christmas lights stretched across the ceiling, creating a canopy, all the lights stemming from a sparkly chandelier. She now had a white four-poster bed, covered with more sparkly, sheer, fabric.

She still had all of her dress-up clothes hanging from hooks along one wall; it reminded Derek of all the times he had played with her. The entire room was utterly Marti.

He heard a gasp from behind him; he whirled around and found Casey standing at the entry to the room. Her eyes were shining and her mouth slightly open in awe.

"Wow," was all that escaped her mouth.

"I know it's so Marti!" whispered Derek, "speaking of Marti, can you help me get her changed into her pjs?"

Casey took one more glance around before reaching towards Derek. Derek untangled himself from his little sister's clutches and deposited her into the arms of her oldest sister. He went over to her dresser and found her favorite pair and turned around.

He turned to see Casey sitting on Marti's bed, their sister snuggled into her arms. He handed the pjs to Casey who woke Marti up.

"Hey," said Casey softly, "We need to get your jammies on, can you take off your jacket for me?"

"Okay…" came Marti's small voice. Casey helped her remove her jacket and the remainder of her clothes. She pulled the pj shirt over the little girls head and helped her into her pj pants.

Derek waited patiently, facing the other way. He was looking intently at Marti's desk. It was covered with works-in-progress. Most of them were of him and Casey; labeled carefully 'Smerek and Smasey'. Most were of the two of them standing in various settings. All of them had hearts lining the edges, one of them stood out to him. It was of him and Casey…getting married. It looked remarkably like the one he had seen in the hall. He cleared his throat and looked elsewhere.

"D?"

He turned around and Casey was standing next to Marti's bed, the little girl already dead asleep and tucked tightly into her covers.

"We need to get to bed, we could be called at any moment."

"Okay," replied Derek. He followed Casey out of the room and closed the door behind him.

He watched as Casey walked towards their doors. She stopped early at his door; she opened it and gestured for him to enter. He looked at her confused and entered his room. He peered into his childhood room and found it bare of anything his. It now contained George and Nora's bed and their furniture.

"What happened to my room?" His arms outstretched, searching for an answer.

"De-rek! Shhhh…. probably the same thing that happened to mine." Casey turned out of his room and opened her door.

Her room was the nursery. It was painted a light green with yellow and pale orange accents. Obviously made so that whatever gender the baby was, it would work. Derek saw his old crib, painted white, in the corner. There was a rocking chair, changing table, and white dresser filling what used to be Casey's room.

"Where are we going to sleep?" questioned Derek. Slightly relaxed by the fact that there was a legitimate reason for the change in sleeping arrangements.

"There's only one bedroom left."

"That means…" Derek trailed off.

"I haven't checked that one yet, I thought it would only be fair if we both looked at it together. Especially since we'll probably be sharing it."

They closed the nursery door and turned off the hall light, making their way downstairs quietly.

Casey grabbed her pillow and bag from the entryway and walked towards their parent's old room; Derek just followed her example.

Casey reached the door first, taking a deep breath and opened the door. She slowly made her way down the small flight of stairs.

The room was nice. It was still painted the same color and new curtains hung in the small window. There were two twin beds in matching bed frames lined up parallel to the stairs. Casey saw some of her framed posters hanging on the wall, along with some of the appropriate framed posters that belonged to Derek. There was one dresser placed in between the two beds and a single table lamp sitting on top. On the opposite side of the room were two separate piles of boxes. One pile had 'Casey' written on all the boxes and the other had 'Derek'.

"So this is what's left of our rooms," commented Derek as he placed his things on the bed in front of his pile.

"Yep," Casey did the same.

"I feel slightly disowned. Do you?"

"Just a little bit," chuckled Casey. "It's understandable though. I never thought about where the new baby would sleep. I realize now that I should have prepared myself for it."

"You only lived in that room for four years. I've lived in my room for almost 20! Remember how I freaked out when you wanted to take it over, thankfully I still have my room at home." He flopped onto his bed.

"This doesn't feel like 'home' as much anymore, does it?"

"No, it doesn't."

Casey got her pj pants out and dug through her bag for a sleep shirt she couldn't find one.

"Derek, can I borrow a shirt? I forgot to pack one." Casey turned to face him.

"Sure," Derek pulled his shirt over his head and handed it to her. Casey rolled her eyes and took it from him, a small smile playing on her lips. She enjoyed the sight of his toned chest and abs; she turned quickly towards the bathroom so he wouldn't see her blush.

"Did you bring the ointments?" questioned Derek when Casey returned from the bathroom, changed for bed.

"Yeah, let me get them. I'm glad you reminded me, I almost forgot."

Casey pulled her medicine bag from her duffel and went over to Derek's bed and sat down. He scooted closer and she pulled her shirt over her head; she no longer cared about a pillow for protection. She trusted Derek and she was too tired to care. Derek applied the medications perfectly and helped her pull her shirt back over her head.

Casey turned and faced Derek. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a tight hug.

"Thank you for driving the whole way and thank you for taking care of me this whole time," she whispered in his ear.

Derek hugged her tightly to him. "You're worth it Princess," he whispered back.


Casey woke to the shrill ring of Derek's cell phone. She propelled herself from her bed and answered it.

"Yes?"

"Hey Casey, It's George. Nora only has one more centimeter before she's fully dilated. She told me to call you; tell you to come."

Casey looked over at the table clock…4:13 am.

"We'll be there as soon as we can," she promised.

"Good, see you soon." George hung up.

"Only two and a half hours of sleep…great," she muttered as she moved over to where Derek was sleeping.

"D," she shook his shoulder.

"Mmhmm…" was his response.

"Derek!" Casey shoved him. He finally rolled over to face her. His eyes were blurry with sleep and his brows furrowed with annoyance.

"Jeez Case! Can't you wake me up nicely?" He sat up.

"You can tell me off later. Mom's almost completely dilated. I'm going to the hospital; do you wanna come too?"

"Of course!" was Derek's surprisingly enthusiastic response, "I'm not going to miss this!"

"Okay, you be dressed by the time I get back from telling Lizzie where we're going."

"Yes, your Majesty," Derek bowed with a grin.

Three minutes later Casey was back in their room. "You ready?"

Derek emerged from the bathroom, "Yeah. Hurry up and get dressed, slowpoke!" he teased.

Casey rolled her eyes and grabbed her bag.


They made it to the hospital in record time. Considering it was 4:30 in the morning and there was no traffic.

Casey and Derek walked past the nurse's station and straight to the room. They entered to find Nora sitting up in bed with George and a Nurse on either side. She was sweating like crazy and her face was set in pain. George had one hand on her head, smoothing out her hair and Nora was squeezing the other.

Casey immediately took the nurse's place at her mother's side and Derek got out the video camera. He stood off to the side, so he wouldn't have to 'see' everything and so he was ready at any given moment.

Nora's doctor came bursting through the doors, fully scrubbed and ready to go. Behind him came an entourage of nurses, one pulling a hospital bed for the baby.

"Okay Nora, It's time to get this baby out. When I count to three I want you to push as hard as you can. Okay?" Nora nodded.

"Good, 1…2…3…"

Chapter Text

Nora was fast asleep. George was sitting in a chair next to her bed; he kept running his hand over her hair, a proud smile on his face.

Casey sat in a rocking chair off to the side. She wasn't turned towards her mother or asleep. She had her eyes fixed on the bundle in her arms. She watched the little face twitch and move with sleep. A little yawn stretched the little mouth wider than Casey thought possible. Casey's eyes widened at the adorable sight. She ran her finger over the soft cheek of the infant.

It was 6:00 in the morning. Derek had left to get them all breakfast from the hospital cafeteria. He knew he would lose it if he stayed any longer. He had just witnessed the woman he considered more of his mother than his real mother give birth to his youngest sibling, He watched his father become a father…again, and he watched the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with hold their shared sibling in her arms.

He sat on a chair outside the cafeteria, his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. His shoulders were shaking and the tears he never thought would catch up with him, pouring down his cheeks. Running his hand over his face, he pulled himself together and walked into the cafeteria.

Derek entered Nora's room, quietly. He saw his father looking at his stepmother with pure adoration; he hoped he could look at Casey like that someday. He placed the tray on the table and sat in the chair next to Casey.

Casey still had her eyes glued to the infant in her arms. As he sat down, she looked up. She saw his red-rimmed eyes and gave him an equally watery smile. She took her free hand and placed it on his cheek. He turned his head into her hand and placed a kiss on her palm.

"Would you like to hold her?" she asked with a smile.

"Sure." Derek held out his arms and Casey placed her in his arms.

"She's so small," Derek grinned at the small sleeping figure.

"She's perfect."

Derek nodded his agreement and continued to stare at the infant.

"Have they given her a name yet?" he asked after a time.

"Mom said that they were going to wait until the kids are here too."

Derek just nodded, his eyes remaining on the sweetest sight he'd ever seen.

Casey leaned slightly against his arm and looked over his shoulder.

"She looks like a perfect mix of Venturi and McDonald."

"Yeah, she does." Derek couldn't remove the slight sadness from his voice. This baby was the he and Casey mixed, the daughter he would probably never have.

Casey could hear it, but chose not to hope. She leaned up and away from him, distancing herself.

Derek missed the warmth on his shoulder, but inwardly sighed in relief. He had already cried once that day, he was above and beyond his feeling quota for the year.

Casey got up and moved next to George.

"How you feeling, Dad?"

"Scared, proud, happy, sad, and completely in love with your mother," he replied, his eyes still on the sleeping Nora.

Casey giggled tiredly at him, "I can tell. But why are you sad?"

"She is the last of my children. I know that. It means that this is the beginning and the end of a season. It means that your mother and I are too old for children. She was an accident," he laughed at the situation.

"An accident?" Casey became puzzled.

"Yeah, we had both forgotten what it was like to be newlyweds."

"George, you've been married for almost five years. I think the term 'newlyweds' no longer applies."

"I mean, when you first get married, you're nervous. You only want to be with your spouse. You don't want to share. So, you both agree to wait for kids until you are both ready. At least that's what my ex-wife and I did. So we waited until we were ready for Derek. We had Derek and then Edwin and Marti. Nora and Dennis waited to have you and then Lizzie. We all waited to have children," he paused, unsure of how to explain this to his stepdaughter. So far the conversation was the deepest they had ever had.

"But, we were newlyweds, we wanted to have sex…a lot. So, we used protection. Condoms, pills, you name it, until we were ready." George was blushing by this point. Casey was listening intently and kindly, she thought it was adorable seeing him flustered about the subject; he looked so much like Derek.

"Now, put Nora and I together. Both of us had been married before. Our marriages had lasted long enough that the newlywed phase had worn off and we both forgot what it was like to not want kids yet. Yes, we used protection, but we were never as disciplined. Yes, we were newlyweds. But, we were newlyweds with a whole house of distractions, five of them to be exact. We got lazy and preoccupied with being parents and we forgot. So we have a child ourselves. A beautiful, perfect, baby girl, who I wouldn't trade for the world. But I can tell you she is definitely the last."

"Look at the bright side, now you get to look forward to being a grandfather!"

"Yeah, but you and Derek won't have kids for a while. I get to enjoy being just a dad for a little longer," he chuckled.

Casey's face flushed at the thought of her and Derek having children together. She knew that George didn't mean them, together, with kids, but that's what popped into Casey's mind.

George actually did mean her and Derek together. He watched her face flush and smiled internally.

Derek, despite being captivated by the child in his arms, had eavesdropped in the conversation. He'd blushed too. Having heard enough, he stood up and deposited the sleeping girl into her bed with care. Derek approached his chatting father and stepsister and placed a hand on Casey's shoulder.

"Princess, I need sustenance!" he insisted with a grin.

"You know the word 'sustenance'!" responded Casey with a smirk.

"Yes, I do. Now, I want food. Now." Derek glared at her playfully.

"Alright, Derek," huffed Casey, "We'll go to the cafeteria."

"No. We need to go home. Get the kids up and stoop for breakfast on the way."

"Derek, you only got back from getting breakfast 20 minutes ago."

"Casey, Casey, Casey, I only got breakfast for Dad and Nora. I didn't get any for us," he explained, "besides, I think they need some time, just the three of them. Soon, they'll have a herd in here."

Casey remained silent for a moment, "You're right," she conceded turning to George, "We'll be back at 9:30 with the kids."

George just nodded.

Casey got up and made for the door, putting on her coat on the way. She paused by the door to wait for Derek.

Derek patted his dad on the shoulder and smiled. "Take a nap, Dad. You look like hell."

George just laughed tiredly and shooed him away. Derek gave him one more pat and followed Casey out the door, closing it behind him quietly.


Derek drove in silence to the nearest diner. He snuck occasional glances at the beauty in the passenger's seat. Casey had her head resting on the window, a small smile gracing her features.

Casey was thinking about the future. She had always pictured her future differently than what it was becoming. She had pictured herself with a college boyfriend who loved sports and poetry, bought her flowers and took her out to nice restaurants. She would still be living in her dorm, where he would pick her up with a kiss, leaving her dorm mates jealous as he walked her from the building. She pictured herself with many college girlfriends, girls she would sit around and talk with. Doing their nails and watching romantic comedies, meanwhile discussing the cute teacher's aid from Psychology. She would return home with stories about how great her boyfriend was and telling her mom and sister that he may be 'the one'. After all, most people meet their future spouse in college. That was her picture of her future.

Her future was drastically different. She wouldn't change a thing. Instead of having a boyfriend she considered spending the rest of her life with, she had found a stepbrother she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Instead of having a group of girlfriends, she had one best friend. A best friend she was madly in love with, a best friend who knew her better than her own mother. Instead of watching chick flicks and painting her nails. She watched action flicks and hockey with Derek on the couch. Instead of living in a dorm, she lived in her own apartment with the one person who knew when to leave her alone and when to push her out of her shell. She loved her life and she loved Derek. She was happy because she had a new baby sister and everything was moving in an unexpected and exciting direction.

Her smile got brighter and her eyes began to sparkle at the thought.

Derek just watched her smile widen and so did his. That morning was a peek into what they could become.

They pulled into the parking lot and turned off the car. Both of them sat there for a second not really sure what to do next.

"What time is it?" asked Derek.

Casey glanced at the watch on her wrist. "6:45."

"Breakfast, then home," stated Derek, making sure he had the plan down.

"Right."

They both exited the car at the same time. They met at the hood of the car; Casey was shivering at the significant temperature drop. Derek wrapped an arm around her and steered them into the diner.

Chapter Text

Derek and Casey entered their childhood home with tired eyes. Lunch had been pretty much silent besides the occasional comment about the food or the new baby.

They both collapsed on the couch; Casey lazily slumping on Derek. "Casey, you're too heavy," he groaned, shifting slightly under her.

"I'm too tired to move. Get over it," she snapped halfheartedly. Derek just groaned and moved her with the remaining strength. When all was set, Derek had laid their bodies parallel along the length on the couch. Casey had her head tucked into the juncture of Derek's neck and shoulder. Derek had his arms wrapped loosely around her waist, keeping her from falling off the couch. Casey sighed and settled into the short nap before they had to get the kids up and to the hospital.

Sleep came quickly, very quickly. Both were in a deep sleep, only a marching band could wake them up.

Marti was the first to wake up. She waltzed down the stairs fully dressed in her tutu and extra sparkly headband. She wanted to look good for the new baby. When she reached the bottom of the stairs Marti noticed two snores coming from the couch. She snuck slowly towards the couch, holding her breath. She reached the couch and looked over the back of it, down at the sleeping figures.

She giggled at the scene and wished she had a camera. Marti smiled before walking to the kitchen for a bowl of Froot Loops.

Five minutes later she could hear Ed and Liz whispering from the living room. Evidently they had found the two sleeping as well. The younger pair entered the kitchen full of plotting smiles and blushing cheeks.

The two giggled quietly between themselves occasionally poking the other in the side. Marti could tell they were flirting, but she kept her mouth shut. They were spurred on by the presence of their older and in love siblings.

The three youngest ate their breakfast quietly, allowing their older siblings to sleep. Edwin and Lizzie spent most of breakfast sneaking glances at each other and nudging each other playfully. Marti just sat back and allowed the scene to play out. She knew that the two would end up together, just like Smerek and Smasey. Marti continued to munch happily on her cereal the thought of being a flower girl in the near future causing her to smile.

Derek and Casey woke up at the sound of the phone ringing. Both jolted up causing Casey to roll off of the couch and Derek to follow. They ended up in a pile on the floor, Derek pressing Casey into the ground. The fall knocked the air out of both of them, causing some mild confusion. When realization finally hit, both stiffened. Derek looked down at the girl beneath him and Casey back. Derek released the breath he was holding. His breath warmed Casey's lip and she could smell the maple syrup from breakfast. Her breath caught, his eyes burning into hers.

Derek leaned down slightly; his lips brushed hers, stealing both their breath.

"SMASEYYYY!"

Derek scrambled off of Casey, leaving her on the ground. When he was standing he offered her a hand and lifted her from the ground. Tingles shot through both their limbs.

"Yes, Smarti what is it?" responded Casey with a tired sugar laced tone.

"Mom is on the phone for you." Marti handed the phone over to Casey with a smile. She then winked at Derek before turning and skipping toward the kitchen.

"Hey Mom, how's it going?"

"We're going to stay at the hospital for an extra day or two."

"Why?! Is something wrong with the baby? Is something wrong with you?!" Casey began panicking, her practiced breathing exercises out the window. She no longer was listening to her mother on the phone, she was scrambling around looking for her shoes and keys, thinking someone was about to die. Derek quickly wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair, knowing the lack of sleep was sparking some of the insanity. Casey dropped her jacket and relaxed instantly.

"Casey! I need you to breathe…" Came Nora from the phone. "Everything is fine. They are keeping me here for a little bit. Only because I'm over 40 and just had a baby. Supposedly my blood pressure is fluctuating abnormally and they want to make sure that I'm in working order. Casey? Have you calmed down?"

Casey was silent for a time, her face was buried in Derek's chest, one of his hands tangled in her hair and the other wrapped tightly around her waist.

"Yeah, Yeah…I'm fine. You just freaked me out there for a moment. Sorry, I'm just tired." Casey explained with a sigh.

Derek just ran his hand up and down her back.

"How long are you staying?"

"A day or two. The baby is staying with me; I just wanted to let you know. You may need to restock on groceries and other supplies."

"Okay. Is the emergency card still in the drawer?"

"No, I had to move it when Edwin found it. It's in the copy of Wuthering Heights on the bookshelf."

"Okay," Derek relaxed his hold on her a little bit, "is there anything you want specifically?"

"Just get the basics and some things for the kids. Also, I need more laundry detergent."

"Okay, when do you want us to bring the kids in?" by this point Casey had left Derek's hold and moved to the kitchen to make a list.

"Bring them in after lunch. It sounds like you need some sleep." Nora knew her daughter was walking on the edge of a breakdown. She wondered what stopped the one over the phone, but she had her suspicions.

"Alright, we'll be there after lunch. Get some rest yourself; you just had a baby! I can take care of everything, Mom."

"Casey, you don't need to take care of everything. I just need you to get groceries. Relax; take a nap. Go out with Derek. Enjoy yourself, you're home for Christmas after all."

Casey finally gave up control of the situation and listened to her mother's advice.

"Okay, Mom. See you later. Love you, bye." Casey hung up the phone and started working on her list.

Derek had seated himself at the island. He had watched Casey become resigned to the direction of her mother. He hoped it was for her own good.

"What'd she want?" he asked after Casey had finished her shopping list.

"We need to go grocery shopping and take a nap. We'll take the kids to visit after lunch."

"It's 9:37 right now. How long do you want to nap for?"

Casey rested her elbows on the counter across from Derek; her head in her hands, leaving the question unanswered.

"Mom is staying in the hospital an extra day or two," she sighed, "they just want to make sure everything is in order because of her age."

Derek knew there was more, so he waited.

"That means George is staying with her and the baby there. Leaving us with the kids for a while."

"Your point?"

"Derek, have you looked around?"

"Yes."

"No, I mean really looked around." Derek turned on the bar stool in a circle, looking around his childhood home. He saw nothing out of place.

"What?"

"They haven't decorated for Christmas. It's December 21st, four days until Christmas. That means we have to clean the house then decorate it," she began counting on her fingers, "make cookies, make sure that the kids all have presents and Mom and George have presents from the kids, then I still have to find a present for you!" She pointed an accusing finger at him.

"You still haven't gotten me a gift yet?! When did you become a procrastinator?" Derek joked.

"It's not funny, D! I feel like there is so much to do and so little time and on top of that there's a new baby! There is no time for a nap!" Casey folded her arms on the counter and dropped her head.

Casey was genuinely overwhelmed, but there was a small part of her that wanted Derek to hold her again and if having a freak out would make that happen, so be it.

Derek waited until Casey's tirade was over before moving around the counter and gathering her in his arms. Casey got just what she wanted.

Derek held her for a time before drawing back. "Stay here, I'll be back in a second, okay?"

Casey nodded and extracted herself from his arms.

Derek smiled, "Make yourself some tea or something," he said as he exited the kitchen and made his way upstairs.

Chapter Text

Derek ran up the stairs on a mission. When he reached the landing he almost went towards his room, before realizing it was no longer his.

"Troops! Assemble!" he yelled. He heard scrambling feet upstairs and Lizzie's door opening. Edwin and Lizzie hastily exited Lizzie's room; Derek raised an eyebrow at their disheveled appearance.

Marti flew down the stairs and landed in front of Derek with a salute already in place.

Ed and Liz just stood next to her with questioning looks.

"Alright, George, Nora, and the baby are staying an extra day or two at the hospital. Nothing's wrong, they just want to make sure that Nora's working right before they send her home."

They all nodded, waiting for him to go on.

“Now, Casey's already had a freak out…" All three rolled their eyes; Derek gave them a reprimanding glare.

" …Because you haven't decorated for Christmas yet and she thinks there is too much to do."

The kids looked around in surprise, just realizing what was missing.

Derek continued, "There's no tree, no lights, no nothing. Do you even have presents?"

"We got so caught up in the baby's arrival, I guess we forgot. And yes…" Lizzie gestured to herself, Ed, and Marti, "we have presents for each other."

"Do you have presents for Mom, Dad, and the Baby?"

They all shook their heads no.

"Spacey?"

The two oldest shook their heads. Derek looked pointedly at Marti.

"I have gifts for you and Smasey!" she exclaimed proudly.

Derek grinned and turned to the older two. "Do you have a gift for me?"

They shook their heads.

"I'm disappointed. At least you could have gotten a present for Nora! I mean she did just give you the gift of a sibling!" He poured on the guilt.

Derek thought for a moment. "Alright, here's the plan…. After we visit the baby we're getting a tree. We'll decorate it tonight. Tomorrow , Case and I will take you shopping and we'll decorate the rest of the house. Maybe make some cookies. Okay?"

They all nodded.

"Good. Me and Spacey are going to take a nap. Then we're all going to the grocery store. Then we'll go see the baby."

"Aye aye, Captain!" saluted Marti.

Derek ruffled her hair before going back down stairs.


Casey looked up from her mug of hot chocolate at Derek as he entered the kitchen.

"Hey."

"Hey. Feeling better?"

"Much." Casey smiled sweetly at him. It almost made him melt; he smiled right back at her.

"Good."

Casey motioned to the mug sitting next to her on the counter. Derek looked questioningly at her.

"I made you some too."

"Cool. Thanks." Derek sat down eagerly next to her.

They sat drinking their hot chocolates. Derek finished his first; he slurped down the chocolate-y remains and placed his mug in the sink.

"That was good," he commented with a content smile. Casey felt the lovely numbness that accompanied hot chocolate and Derek.

"Hey, Case?" Casey turned to face him, "Do you want me to run you a bath?"

Casey blinked at him with slight shock and confusion.

"A bath?"

"Yes, that's what I said. A bath. I thought you might want one. A real one, not like the ones you used to take with your burn."

"Um…" Casey hesitated. Only if you take one with me…

"I just thought it would warm you up and help you fall asleep easier. You don't have to if you don't want to." Derek was now nervous that she'd misunderstood his intentions and rubbed the back of his neck in frustration.

Casey thought his nervousness was cute, "I would love that Derek. My favorite bubble bath is upstairs under the sink."

Derek grinned widely at her acceptance of his idea and raced upstairs.

He rummaged through the many bottles that populated under the sink. He couldn't find her favorite green apple bubble bath. He soon realized that she probably took it with her to Queens; that meant that it was long gone. He sighed and began reading over the labels to find one that could be used as a substitute. He chose two, one of the two he hoped that she would choose. It smelled like warm sugar and made him want to hug something or more importantly it made him want to hug her .

He ran downstairs, through the empty kitchen, and down to the basement. Casey was unpacking the last of her suitcase, waiting patiently for his return. Derek went straight passed her and into the bathroom. He turned on the water, making sure it was at perfect 'Casey' temperature. He exited the bathroom with the two bottles in his hands.

"Okay, your favorite isn't up there. And yes, I did double check. So, here are two that I thought you might like." He held out the two bottles for her to inspect. Casey walked up to him, stopping remarkably close to him and looked up into his eyes.

"Which one do you like?" Her voice was husky and low, Derek barely held in a whimper. He pushed forward the warm sugar one.

"Ooo, I love your choice. One of my more sensual options, nice." Casey was still invading his personal space and her voice still held the same tone. Derek nearly took her right then and there.

He allowed himself to soak in the moment before turning away from her and retreating into the bathroom. He closed the door behind him and released the breath he was holding.

With shaky hands, Derek practically ripped the top off of the bottle. He turned the bottle completely upside down over the tub. After depositing nearly a quarter of the soap he stopped. He watched as bubbles formed under the faucet, the aroma filling his nose and making him wish he could join her.

Derek jumped when he heard the door open behind him. Casey stood within arms length from him. He died a little bit inside. She sported nothing but a towel and a smirk.

She invaded his space again and almost pressed her chest to his. "Thank you Derek." Reaching up and leaving a lingering kiss on his cheek before brushing passed him and looked down at the tub. After deciding it was full enough she switched off the water and stepped in gingerly. Derek moved for the door.

"Wait, Derek. Stay." Derek stopped in his tracks and turned to face her.

"Case, as much as I really want to stay. I think you'd prefer it if you had privacy while you took a bath."

Casey tilted her head, "I'll keep my towel for modesty, but I want you to stay. I just want to talk. We haven't sat and talked in a while; I miss that." Casey looked at him with her big blue eyes and pouted her lips at him. Derek groaned internally, he was so close to grabbing her.

"Fine, I'll stay. Just keep that towel in place, I don't want to be blamed for seeing things I wasn't supposed to." He sat on the toilet and looked up at her. She was still standing with her feet in the water. With a grin she slowly lowered herself down into the steaming water. She hissed as the hot water reached the base of her scar.

Derek was in heaven. As Casey lowered herself the towel became wet and suctioned itself to her body, allowing her dancer figure to show. Causing Derek to practically drool. He felt his jeans get just a bit tighter and chose to look away.

When Casey was seated, she lay back in the bubbly water and began swirling it around with her hands, arranging the bubbles to cover the important bits. When she was settled she looked up at Derek with a contented smile on her face. He was still facing away from her.

"Derek?" He turned to face her, since she was in the water her towel was no longer visible, she looked naked. Derek whimpered in the back of his throat.

She raised one leg out of the water and rested her foot on the faucet. Derek watched the suds and water drip off her leg, leaving her smooth skin exposed. His eyes never left her leg, Casey silently cheered. It was good to know that she was considered sexy, especially by Derek.

"Derek." That brought him out of his fantasy.

"Hm?"

"How are you? You've managed to keep me afloat, I'm just wondering how you are."

"I'm fine."

"Yeah right," she challenged. Derek raised his eyebrow at her.

"Really, I'm fine."

"Derek, I've known you for almost five years. I know you and I know that you bury everything. I want to know how you're feeling and if I can help. Like you have helped me."

Derek was silent for a moment; he then reached over and gently grabbed Casey's foot from the faucet. He moved over to the edge of the tub and settled down with her foot down on his knee. He began massaging her ankle. Casey moaned and sank deeper into the tub with her eyes closed.

"You know, just because you're doing that, doesn't mean I'm going to forget the question." Derek just nodded.

"So, how are you Derek?"

Derek cleared his throat. "I'm okay."

Casey opened one eye to look at him. Derek kept pressing into her ankle and arch of her foot.

"Just okay?"

"Well, I'm really excited about the baby." Casey grinned. "I'm also happy about being home, despite not sleeping in my room."

"I can't wait for my Christmas present from you…" Casey flicked water on him.

"Actually I can't wait to give you your present." Derek grinned down at her. She opened her eyes.

"My present?" Casey was flattered.

"Yes, your present. Believe it or not, I got you something worthwhile and somewhat sentimental." Derek blushed bashfully.

"Sentimental?"

“Well, sentimental coming from me."

"Oh."

"But, I know you'll like it."

Casey nodded and closed her eyes again.

"I'm also content. I am happy with my life, our life, and how we live. I like waking up and seeing you in the kitchen and I like coming home and seeing you waiting for me on the couch. I like you Casey. A lot more than I used to." Derek chuckled at the end.

Casey gave a small smile. Inside she was doing a happy dance.

"I like you too, Derek. Despite the fact that you have an amazing ability to both drive me crazy and calm me down better than anyone. Also, I'm happy that you are happy. I like our life too."

Derek just smiled and tickled her foot a bit, Casey giggled and tried to pull her foot away, Derek held on tight.

He stopped tickling and continued to massage her foot. Casey kept giggling softly; her eyes open just a crack so she could watch him. Derek just inspected her face, a light dreamy look passing over his features.

They sat for the remainder of her bath like that, staring somewhat dreamily at each other. Derek continued to massage her foot and Casey just enjoyed the attention and being with Derek. Finally Casey had enough of the bath and told Derek to leave so she could get out.


Casey emerged from the bathroom in her pjs and white tank; her hair was tied up in a ponytail. Derek thought she looked beautiful.

"I set the alarm for 11:00, that way we have enough time to get ready and to get lunch before we go see the baby."

"Good, that gives us a good two hours to rest." Casey climbed into bed and settled on her side facing Derek. Derek stared back from his spot in his bed.

"It feels weird sleeping like this. We're either in separate rooms or sharing a bed. You seem so far away." Derek chuckled.

"I could come closer, but I'm too comfy and cozy." Casey snuggled deeper under the covers. She smirked back over at Derek, who gave her a teasing smile in return.

They looked at each other for a time; talking with their eyes. Casey silently asking if he had the guts to come over and Derek asking if he could join her. Derek got up the gumption and climbed out of his bed and walked slowly toward Casey's bed. Derek carefully climbed over Casey and settled in behind her. Because of the fact that it was a twin size bed there was less space. He put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him. Casey shifted closer to him slightly and closed her eyes in comfort. Derek placed his nose at the juncture of her neck and shoulder and ran it up into her hair and back, she smelled like the bubble bath he chose. He made a mental note to buy her a box of that stuff as an extra Christmas present.

They fell easily into sleep, Derek spooning Casey and both falling just a little bit deeper in love.

Chapter Text

The alarm jostled both Derek and Casey out of their contented dreams. Derek was dreaming of dinner at home with Casey and Casey was dreaming of her and Derek sitting on a beach. Neither really wanted to wake up but things needed to be decorated and babies needed to be seen.

Derek lay there and inhaled the scent of Casey's hair and bath bubbles mixed together, it was different but he liked it. Casey, meanwhile, played with the tips of Derek's fingers thinking about how comfortable she was in his arms. Derek peeked over her shoulder to get a better look at her face. She had a small smile teasing her lips and her cheeks were lightly dusted pink. He tightened his grip on her.

"We have to get up, Spacey."

"I know," she sighed, "I really don't want to move."

"Ditto."

They stayed silent, both relishing the easy comfort that came with waking up together. Suddenly Derek's stomach growled; Casey could feel the vibrations on her back. She giggled.

"I guess we have motivation to get up now. We have to feed you." With a chuckle Casey extracted herself from his hold.

Derek flopped down on the now empty space next to him. "I don't want to!" he yelled into the pillow.

Casey was up and gathering a change of clothes.

"Why don't you want to?" she humored him.

" Because…I have absolutely no motivation."

Casey looked down at him, "No motivation?"

"No motivation," he confirmed while turning his face towards her. "Un less ," he sing-songed, "someone could provide some motivation." He looked at her in, what he hoped to be, a seductive way.

Casey raised an eyebrow at him before turning and opening the bathroom door. She turned.

"You will be out of bed by the time I come back out," she said with finality. Derek rolled his eyes at her.

"Or…" Derek's face paled at the sinister look in her eyes, "I will tell George that the dent in the left bumper wasn't his fault."

"You wouldn't!" he sat up and looked at her in shock.

"You wanna find out?' With that she closed the door behind her.

"Damn it! How'd she find out about that?" He asked himself out loud.

He heard a low chuckle from the bathroom. Derek grinned and got out of bed, she really was the only who could handle him.

Derek quickly pulled on some pants. He was buttoning them up as Casey exited the bathroom.

Her hair was pulled into a ponytail and she'd put on a touch of blush and mascara. She was wearing her skinny jeans and an oversized cream sweater. She looked cuddle-y in Derek's opinion.

Casey gave him a smug appraising look as she passed by him. Derek stuck his tongue out at her as a comeback.


Lunch consisted of Derek and Casey making meals for the younger three. Each wanted something different. Edwin wanted a sandwich, Lizzie wanted soup, and Marti wanted her princess noodle mac 'n cheese.

When the others were finally happy with the food in front of them, Derek and Casey made pb and js for themselves, keeping it simple.

After lunch was eaten and cleaned up everyone bundled up in their winter gear. Derek was done first and left to warm up the car and scrape off the new layer of snow.

Ed and Liz were completely bundled, save for the hats. They were fighting over one hat, both claiming it was theirs. Casey wasn't ready at all; she was helping Marti pull on her boots and buttoning up her jacket.

Finally Derek came back in and looked at the scene before him; Edwin and Lizzie playing tug 'o war with a hat and Casey on her knees in front of Marti attempting to wrap a scarf around the fussing girls neck.

With a sigh Derek grabbed two matching beanies from the basket and threw them at the teenagers before grabbing the beanie from their grip. He glared at them and pointed towards the door. The two huffed and pulled on their hats while walking out the door.

Casey was now struggling to get Marti's hat on her head; the little girl kept dodging her. Derek chuckled and moved behind Marti. Marti felt the strong hands of her brother hold her head straight and knew her fight was over. She pouted and crossed her arms while Casey tied the strings under her jaw. When Casey was done she'd gotten over it and skipped out the door.

"Thank you, D," sighed a tired Casey.

"No problem." Derek held open her jacket for her.

When Casey's jacket was on she began pulling on her gloves. Derek moved to her front and began buttoning up her jacket; bottom to top. When he reached the 3rd to last button, close to her neck, he looked up to find Casey staring intently at him.

"What?" Casey didn't respond.

Casey looked him directly in the eye; Derek's hands stopped mid-button and his hands remained attached to the front of her jacket. They stood there silently staring at each other, only inches between them.

Derek wanted nothing more than to kiss her, she was so close.

Casey was realizing that he'd ruined her, completely ruined her for any other man. If he didn't love her back she would never fall in love again. He took care of her, really took care of her. No other man had ever done that, not even her own father. Derek had managed to dissolve, rewrite, and achieve her list of standards in a man. No one could ever match him; ever. He was all she ever wanted and she was screwed. What stood out the most was the fact that if things didn't go the way she wanted she would have to see him every Christmas, Easter, family get together, you name it, for the rest of her life. She would see him fall in love with someone else, marry her, have kids with her, grow old with her, and Casey would have to watch and still be in love with him. It was too late, she would never get over him, move on, or ignore him; he'd managed to tattoo himself to her very being. Almost quite literally, every time she'd see her scar, she'd think of him and how he touched her and kissed between her shoulders. She was in too deep and she knew it.

The door flew open; breaking their moment. A shivering and pissed off Lizzie stood in the entry.

"You guys coming? We're all freezing out there and Marti won't stop singing her 'new baby' song!" She was gone soon after her rant, leaving the door open behind her.

Casey scurried around Derek to grab her boots and slip them on.

They pulled out the driveway 30 seconds later; an excitedly screaming Marti in the backseat.

Chapter Text

The group finally arrived at the hospital, after pulling over once because Marti got carsick. Entering the maternity ward, Edwin and Lizzie walked ahead of everyone, whispering suspiciously in each other's ears, Marti held the hands of her two oldest siblings swinging their arms back and forth to the rhythm in her head. Derek and Casey just grinned as they looked down at the girl between them; she was humming her 'new baby' song, again, and smiling at all the nurses. When they reached the door to Nora's room she paused and dropped their hands. Her smile was gone and her eyebrows were scrunched together in confusion.

Derek dropped down in front of her with a worried face. Casey looked on, ready to jump in if needed.

"Smarti? Is something wrong?"

Marti just stared at the door worriedly. "I'm not the youngest anymore, am I?" her eyes drifting over to Derek's. Derek was slightly shocked by the seriousness of her tone and face.

"No Smarts, you're not the youngest anymore."

"That means I have to watch out for the baby doesn't it?"

"Yep. It does."

Casey knew Derek had this handled so she moved towards the door. Marti stopped her by grabbing her hand. Casey looked down at the little girl questioningly.

"That means I have to start behaving differently."

The older siblings raised their eyebrows at her words.

"You don't have to Marti, you can act anyway you want," consoled Casey. Now she too was kneeling on the ground in front of Marti.

"No, what I mean is…I have to act my age. I'm in 4th grade for goodness sake! Now, I have a little brother or sister, I can't act like a 5 year old anymore!" Derek wrapped her in his arms.

"I'm not your Smarti anymore Smerek! I'm too old!" she was now crying into his shoulder.

Derek pulled back and looked at her, "What do you mean you're too old! You are never too old to be my Smarti! It doesn't matter if you're 50 you'll still be my Smarti."

"Well that's what my friend Rachael said! She said that when the new baby comes everyone will forget about me and pay attention to the baby instead."

"Rachael said this?" Marti nodded.

Casey jumped in, seeing Derek begin to lose his temper, "Smarti, listen very carefully, okay?" Marti nodded.

"If anyone says something like that again came straight to me or Smerek, okay? Whatever they say isn't true. You will always be Derek's Smarti and we will never forget you!"

"But Rachael said…" Casey cut her off.

"I don't care what Rachael said! She's not Derek and she's not me! Marti how can we forget you? You're the only one we have pictures of in the apartment! We don't even have pictures of Lizzie or Edwin! We have pictures of you! You, Smarti!"

Marti seemed comforted by that fact. "Are you sure? I heard the baby is really cute."

"It is cute," agreed Derek, "but I'm not going to see this baby grow up like I did with you. I'm going to be off at college, starting my own family, having my own kids. You , you're the one who is going to see this baby have its first steps and hearing it's first words. You're special in this baby's life, just like I was in yours."

"You realize, Marti, that you are the same age that Derek was when you were born?"

Marti shook her head no. "That means that you get to be the Smerek this time and the baby gets to be the Smarti. You have to look after the baby and protect it like Smerek did with you."

"I get to be the Smerek?" she pointed at herself.

Both Derek and Casey nodded. "Yep, I protect you, you protect the baby. Okay, Smarts?"

"But who will protect you?" Marti grinned back at him.

"I'll protect Derek," promised Casey.

"Forever?" Casey looked over at Derek, as if asking for permission. Derek's eyes gleamed at the idea of forever.

"Forever."

"Yay! Now let's go meet this kid!" She grabbed each of their necks in an arm and forced them to hug her. She released them and scampered into the room.

Derek helped Casey stand up and they looked at each other for a time, both smiling.

Derek finally draped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him, he planted a kiss on her forehead. Casey just giggled happily.


The entire family was now in the room. Lizzie held the baby in her arms; Edwin was peeking over her shoulder, Marti was standing in front of them on her tiptoes trying to get a good look. Derek and Casey sat on the chairs, Derek had his arm draped over Casey's shoulder and Casey was leaning ever so slightly into him. Nora was sitting straight up in bed, her hair finally brushed and her make-up re-applied. George was half way on the bed with Nora, his hand holding hers and his thumb rubbing circles on her skin.

"Okay, I assume you all are wondering about the name." They all looked up at him nodding.

George looked down at Nora for permission to go on, she nodded.

"We thought long and hard about what to name her. We wanted a name that could have a nickname and was still interesting enough to fit with our family."

Nora jumped in, "So we gave her the name Katharine Joy."

An immediate 'awww' came from all the girls. Edwin started rattling off nicknames, "So we could call her Katie, Kat, Kate, Kit Kat, Katie J… you're right there are a lot of nicknames."

Nora turned to Casey. "Sorry I stole one for your names," said Nora, knowing that Katharine was one of Casey's possible name choices for her future children.

"Mom, it's fine. I got that name from you anyway. You told me once that if you have another girl you'd name her Katharine. After you and Dad's divorce I thought you'd never have another baby so I took the name. It was yours first."

"Good, I was so worried that you'd be upset. I know it messed up your life plan…"

"Mom, my life plan is out the window." At that comment everyone turned to face Casey in shock. Derek was looking at the girl next to him with a mixture of shock and hope.

"What?" Casey was blushing out of embarrassment.

Marti saved Casey from more awkwardness. "I want to hold her!" Lizzie's face fell slightly. "Fine."

"Marti, sit on one of the chairs and put a pillow under your arm," instructed Nora.

"Alright," she said with slight dejection. She knew she wouldn't have the strength to hold her standing up like the bigger kids, but it was worth a try.

Derek got up out of his chair and grabbed a pillow. After Marti was seated he arranged the pillow so it was comfortable and supportive. Lizzie walked over and gently placed Katie in Marti's arms. Marti was all smiles until she was fully holding Katie. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open just a little bit. She stared at the little thing she was holding.

"Oh My God!" she whispered.

"Marti language!" reprimanded Nora, with a smile.

"Sorry Mom, she's just so tiny!" Everyone laughed at that. Marti just stared at the girl with wonder.

Casey turned to Derek who was standing next to her, "Is that how you felt when you held Marti for the first time?"

"I was worse, I started to cry." Derek didn't take his eyes off of the two little girls in the chair next to Casey. Casey could see his eyes cloud at the memory.

"Do you think your own kids will ever top Marti?" asked Casey with a laugh.

"Of course they will, they'll be mine." And yours .


After two hours of sitting and talking about Katie, looking at Katie, and holding Katie; Katie had had enough and started to cry and wail loudly. Nothing seemed to calm her down. Finally, a disgruntled nurse came in and told them it was time to go and that the mother and child needed rest. Marti put up some fight but soon got over it when Derek offered to carry her out to the car.

They all said goodbye and exited the hospital with many words flying around them. The one you could hear the most was Marti squealing "She's so cute!" or "She's so small!"

All talking ceased when the doors of the hospital and they were hit with icy December air. Shivering they raced to the car and piled in, Derek turned the car on while Casey set the temperature as high as it could go.

"Where to next?" asked Edwin from the back seat.

"We're getting a tree," announced Derek, as he turned onto the main road.

Chapter Text

The front door opened with a bang. Derek and Edwin carried the tree into the entryway and nearly dropped it before Casey pushed them towards the living room. They both sighed and obeyed. They sat the tree upright in the stand and stood back to look at it.

The tree looked perfect; at least to two out of the four who had fought about it. Derek and Lizzie liked a different one, Edwin and Casey had won the fight. Edwin and Casey liked the wider fuller type of tree, while Derek and Lizzie preferred a thinner and more unique looking tree. The deciding vote was down to Marti. Marti had carefully inspected each tree, walking around them and looking at them carefully. She concluded that she liked Casey and Edwin's tree better. Derek had even tried to sway her vote by playing favorite and promising hot chocolate. It didn't work.

Now a full tree stood in the living room waiting to be trimmed. When the tree was arranged the way Casey liked it she stood back and smiled and clapped her hands excitedly. Derek just laughed at her from his spot on the couch.

"Der-ek! Stand up! You have to help me pull the decorations from the basement!" She grabbed his arm and attempted to pull him from the couch. Derek pulled her down…on his lap.

He wrapped his arms around her struggling frame. "Calm down Case. We have minions!" he said with a grin.

"Troops!" Two groans came from the kitchen and Marti got out of the new recliner.

When Edwin and Lizzie were standing in front of him, he gestured between them, "Go downstairs and retrieve the Christmas decorations. Marti, go help them make sure they don't hit anything and find the Christmas lights."

Ed and Liz rolled their eyes and followed his orders. Marti skipped after them.

When they were alone, Casey realized what position they were in.

"You can let go of me now."

Derek shook his head, "No, I'm going to make sure that you don't work too hard. You usually go into extreme planning around Christmas; I want you to relax this year. The other two are old enough to take over a bit and if this is how I make you relax, so be it." He smirked.

Casey huffed at him. "Can you at least release my arms?" she asked.

"Sure," he moved his arms down to her waist and held her to him. Casey didn't know what to do with her arms so she placed them loosely around his neck. Both refused to look at each other out of nervousness. Blushes now covered both their cheeks along with small shy smiles.

They heard a thump and bickering voices and knew that the kids had reached the top stair.

"If you let me go, I can make some hot chocolate," bargained Casey, not that she really wanted to leave his hold, but the situation could get awkward once their siblings entered the room.

Derek nodded and released his grip on her. Before Casey got up she kissed him softly on the cheek. Derek blushed more and watched her leave the room.

Casey reached the kitchen to find a big plastic bin sitting in the kitchen and two teenagers wrestling on the floor, Marti stood on the sidelines sucking on a candy cane, looking bored with the situation.

Lizzie had Edwin in a headlock and Edwin had his arms wrapped around one of Lizzie's legs.

"What are you two doing?" exclaimed Casey.

"Well, I think they're fighting," stated Marti.

"I see that . But why?"

Marti shrugged. By this time Derek had come into the kitchen and stood with a confused look on his face.

"I think they're doing a re-enactment of two Christmases ago," he commented.

"It feels that way, doesn't it? I feel like I'm having an out of body experience," agreed Casey.

The other three stood and watched for a bit, the occasional wince whenever Edwin got hurt.

"Should we break them up?" asked Casey after a time.

"Nah, they'll end it soon after they forget what they were fighting about. That's how we ended some fights."

"True," nodded Casey before turning to the fridge to grab the milk for hot chocolate.


The lights were strung and the ornaments were hung on the tree. A garland was wrapped around the banister and paper snowflakes were taped everywhere.

Derek was seated in the new recliner and Casey was seated closest to him on the couch. Ed and Liz were upstairs, as was Marti.

"What do we do now? We finished decorating faster than expected," asked Casey.

"Well, it's almost six. We could make dinner, go out for dinner, do some last minute shopping. You name it."

"How about we go out to eat and then get some presents for the kids from Mom and Dad. I talked to Mom, they have only one present for each of them, but they want to give them each three, so Mom asked me to go get them some more presents. I think it would be better to do it tonight rather than try to hide the presents from them tomorrow when we talk them shopping."

"I agree; we better leave now if we want to be able to eat and have enough time to shop."

Casey got up and went to the bottom of the stairs, taking a deep breath, "Guys! Derek and I are going out!" she realized what she just said, "…to get presents!"

Derek chuckled on the couch.

"We'll be back late! Call Derek's phone if you need anything!"

"Okay!" came a chorus of voices from upstairs.

"Make yourselves dinner! Do NOT use the stove!" She continued to yell instructions up the stairs.

"Casey! We got it! Leave!" came Lizzie's response from her room.

"Fine. We'll go," she muttered.

Casey turned to find Derek standing there with her coat. Casey smiled and slipped it on; she waited patiently for him to finish getting his coat before opening the door.

In the car Casey and Derek waited for the heat to come on. "Where to?" asked Casey.

"I think we should just go through some fast food and then on to the mall. If we sit down, we'll end up meeting people. If that happens then we have to sit and talk about life and stupid stuff. I just want to get this shopping done."

"Okay, I don't care where we go."

"Good."


Derek and Casey were walking through Toys 'R Us with wide eyes. "I don't remember having this many toy options when I was little!" exclaimed Derek after looking down the toy car aisle.

"Derek, don't get sidetracked. We have to find something for Marti."

"Right, what did Marti ask for?"

Casey looked down at her list, "She wanted a Be-Dazzler and a…pink electric guitar?"

Derek laughed and grabbed the list from her. "A pink electric guitar? That's my Smarti!"

Casey rolled her eyes and grabbed the list back from him. "We can't afford an electric guitar. How would she feel about art supplies?"

"If we buy her a trunk load she might forget about the guitar. We can get her the Be-Dazzley thingy, right?"

"Yeah, I'm a little nervous about it but we'll get it anyway."

They finally found their way to the girl's craft section; the incredibly pink aisle shocking their systems.

"Wow, that's a lot of pink," breathed Derek.

"You should be glad she didn't want a Barbie, it's worse."

Casey quickly found the Be-Dazzler and pulled a slightly stunned Derek from the aisle and began walking towards the register.


After leaving Toys 'R Us Derek and Casey made their way to the mall.

"What does Lizzie want?" asked Derek as they entered the mall.

"Mom and Dad got her the framed poster she wanted already. It says she wants a new skateboard and helmet and she also wants the complete works of Edger Allen Poe. Wow, Lizzie has a dark side."

"We can get her the skateboard and helmet and I'm sure we'll find the book she wants," said Derek while steering Casey towards the proper store.

"I can't believe Lizzie wants a skateboard. I didn't know she knew how to ride one," commented a confused Casey.

"Of course she does, I taught her over the summer."

"You did?" she questioned.

"Yep, I saw her trying to teach herself and decided to help her. We had an awesome time; I can understand why she would want her own skateboard. My old one is kind of trashed."

"Okay." Casey was glad that Derek was with her otherwise she wouldn't know what to get.

"What does Ed want?"

"He wants a computer game and the box set of the original Star Wars movies."

"Wow, your sister is way cooler than my brother," chuckled Derek.

Chapter Text

Casey and Derek arrived home at around ten that night; large bags clutched in their hands. Casey was the first to drop her bags and look at the house.

All of the lights were off except the tree. The multicolored lights shone brightly in the darkened house. Casey could hear soft instrumental Christmas music playing in the background.

She saw on the coffee table two steaming mugs and a note. She walked slowly over and picked up the note.

Dear Smasey and Smerek,

Ed and Lizzie helped me. I wanted to say thank you for getting us a tree and for setting up Christmas. Thank you too for getting more presents for me. I was wondering if we could make snowmen tomorrow.

I love you,

Your Smarti

Casey felt herself tear at the nine year olds messy handwriting and the many drawings that littered the border. She had drawn the tree, along with different colored presents and some holly and snowmen. At the bottom was a picture of her, Derek, and Marti all holding hands.

She felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around her middle and Derek's head drop onto her shoulder.

"You cryin' Case?" he asked softly, hoping not to disturb the ambiance that was created for them.

"Mhmm," was the answer followed by a small sniffle.

Derek just held her for a little longer while he read the note over her shoulder

"Can we take it home and frame it?" she asked.

"Of course, Princess." He let go of her and fell back onto the couch. Casey remained standing a little longer before sitting down next to him.

She didn't hesitate to snuggle up to him after taking off her shoes and handing him his mug. Derek welcomed her and her warmth with an open arm and a smile.

They sat silently for the next half hour enjoying the quiet evening and the glittering tree. The only sound was the music and an occasional loud slurp of hot chocolate from Derek who was rewarded with a light giggle from Casey.


They spent the night in separate beds. Neither wanted to admit it but they missed the warmth of the other. They fell asleep facing each other and remained that way until Marti came down the stairs to wake them up.

"Guys! Wake up!" she yelled from the bottom of the stairs when she got no response she flipped on the overhead lights.

Derek groaned and tried to hide his face from the brightness. Casey blinked her eyes open and lay there looking dazed.

Marti was now standing between the two beds with her hands on her hips, waiting impatiently.

"What time is it Smarts?" questioned Derek from under his blanket.

"8:30."

Casey got up quickly and began searching for her clothes for the day.

"Derek, get up we have a lot to do today," she mumbled quite loudly in her half asleep wandering.

"Casey, don't over plan it's Christmas!" he yelled at her.

"I'm not over planning. I want to get the shopping done so we can make cookies and play in the snow."

Derek flipped the part that covered his face down, "Cookies?"

"Yes, Cookies."

Marti clapped her hands while jumping on Casey's empty bed. Casey turned around.

"Marti, off the bed." Marti stopped jumping and landed on her butt with a pout. She quickly got over it when she realized that Derek was defenseless and hiding beneath his covers waiting to be pounced on. She silently got off her bed and made the 'quiet' signal to Casey, who smiled and encouraged her. When Marti was standing beside Derek's bed she let out a war cry and flopped dramatically over his blanket-y figure.

Derek yelped in surprise and then counter attacked with tickling. Marti squealed her laughter as Derek relentlessly tickled her sides.

Casey stood off to the side laughing at the scene. She shook her head and proceeded to the bathroom to get ready for the day.


Casey, Lizzie, and Marti were walking through Nordstrom. Casey would occasionally point out things for their mom. None of them could ever agree on what to get. Lizzie would want something practical and sporty, Casey would want something luxurious or pampering, and Marti would want anything that sparkled.

Besides looking for her Mom, Casey was also trying to find something for Derek. She had no idea what to get him. She wanted it to be special for several reasons. First, she wanted to say ' thank you ' and ' you're my best friend ' second, he had said he bought her something sentimental. She didn't want her present to be lame or less meaningful compared to his.

She could get him something hockey related, but that was too normal and easy. She knew he liked photography, she just didn't know how much. She knew he would want something for his car, but if she got him an air freshener it might be considered an insult and it was cheap. She could get him something electronic, but she didn't have the budget. She was at a loss.

"Let's get her that!" Marti's loud voice brought her out of her thoughts. She was pointing dramatically at something in the accessory case.

It was a beautiful hairpin. It had a deep purple gem in the center with smaller pale blue gems surrounding it.

"I like it!" exclaimed Lizzie next to her. Casey was slightly surprised at Lizzie's enthusiasm but agreed with her.

"I like it too."

"So it's settled, this is what we'll get for Mom?" Lizzie confirmed. Casey and Marti nodded.

Casey walked to the nearest sales person and arranged for them to buy it and have it wrapped.

The three girls left the accessory department proudly.

"Now on to the Men's Department," announced Casey.

They wandered the department clueless. Casey and Lizzie had never bought something for their father or stepfather and Marti could care less now that there were no sparkles in sight.

Casey led them over to the tie selection. "Lawyers wear ties, right?" asked Casey.

"I think George has enough ties," was Lizzie's response.

"But they're so boring!" countered Casey.

"I agree with Smasey!" piped up Marti.

"Okay, I've been outvoted, we'll get him a tie," sighed Lizzie.

Casey ran her fingers over the various ties. She spotted a dark blue paisley one. It was a truly beautiful blue in Casey's opinion, but still masculine. She knew it would make his eyes pop.

"I like this one. What do you think?" She held it up for them to inspect.

"I like it, it's unique," stated Lizzie, finally getting into the idea of a tie.

"I think we should get this purple one!" came Marti's voice from across the table.

"No Smarti, we'll get him something he can wear in court." Marti was holding up a very purple tie; old lady eyeshadow purple.

"He can wear this to work!" argued Marti. Casey quickly came up with an excuse.

"You're not allowed to wear purple in court, it's illegal."

Lizzie looked at her like she was crazy.

"That's sad," Marti set down the tie, dejectedly. "I liked the one you picked then."

After purchasing the tie the girls walked out of Nordstrom to meet Edwin and Derek for lunch.


Derek and Edwin were already sitting in the restaurant. They had finished shopping a half hour before the girls. They felt accomplished and proud of their purchases.

The girls walked into the restaurant with smiles on their faces.

Derek scooted over in the booth to make room for Casey; Edwin did the same for Lizzie and Marti.

"So what'd you get?" asked Derek, trying to peek in the bag, Casey swatted his hand away.

"We got Mom a fancy hair clip and we got Dad a blue silk tie," said Casey proudly, as if to say 'top that'.

"We got Nora a spa gift card and a scarf and we got Dad new leather gloves and a book about household repairs," shot back Derek.

"Oh," was Casey's response, leaving a smirking Derek and an awkward silence.

Lizzie broke it, "So after lunch we're splitting up again. This time you and Derek are together and Edwin, Marti, and I are getting presents for you guys," she confirmed.

The group nodded.

Lunch passed quickly. Mainly because all of them wanted to get home and make cookies.

With all of them standing in a cross section of the mall Casey made a quick plan for the rest of the afternoon.

"Okay, we'll all meet at the car at 1 'o clock. That gives you guys a half hour. Stay together!"

With that they broke apart. Derek and Casey went down one wing of the mall and the younger kids down another.

Having finished their Christmas shopping, Derek and Casey wandered around the mall aimlessly. Occasionally pointing at something cool or absolutely ridiculous. The entire time Derek had his arm around Casey's shoulder or Casey had her arms wrapped around one of his. To the outside world they looked like a young couple Christmas shopping. Derek and Casey didn't notice the way they hung on each other, it felt too natural.

At around 12:45 they made their way to the car out of boredom. Once in the car, Derek turned on the heat and reclined his seat as low as it could go. Casey followed suit; neither really spoke. They just curled up and waited for the kids to finish shopping.

At exactly 1 'o clock small gloved hands banged on the window. Signaling the arrival of their younger siblings.


After a day of shopping, sugar cookies, and making an entire army of snowmen, all members of the McDonald-Venturi household were completely worn out.

The kids were upstairs wrapping the last of their presents and Derek and Casey were left to clean up the kitchen.

"You realize it's two days until Christmas?" questioned Derek as he scrubbed the counter.

"I do," Casey was washing the dishes.

"Do you have my present yet?"

Casey fumbled with the mixing bowl in her hand. "I have a few ideas." She refused to look at him.

"So you got nothing," he stated.

"No! I have ideas."

"Those don't count," he argued.

Casey dried her hands and faced a smirking Derek, who was standing behind her with his arms crossed.

"I got nothing," she relented.

Derek momentarily forgot what they were talking about. Casey was an absolute vision to him. She was wearing her red flannel pj pants and one of his t-shirts. She had her hair up in a messy bun and she had flour smeared on parts of her face.

Derek had an amused, yet loving, smile on his face as he inspected her appearance. God, I love her.  

"Derek!" He snapped back to reality.

He slowly wrapped her in a comforting hug. "I promise, I will like anything you give me."

Casey burrowed her face in the warmth of his chest. "What if you really hate it?" was her muffled question.

"If it came from you, I'll like it." Casey revealed her smiling face to him and wrapped her arms around him.

She got up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the nose with a giggle. Derek just smiled and blushed in return.

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve

Casey woke up early for the first time in a week. At 7:00 am she was in the shower. In her head she was going over the different ideas for a present for Derek. She still had no idea what to get him. She was starting to lose faith in her shopping ability.

At 8:30 she was in the car on her way to the mall. She had managed to take a shower, get dressed, and leave without waking Derek. He was still sound asleep when she kissed him on the cheek goodbye.

At 9:00 Casey pulled dramatically into the mall parking lot. She practically leaped from the car. The security guard looked at her funny as she walked speedily into the warm mall. She watched as storefront gates were opened and lifted to reveal the store inside. Casey saw struggling husbands and mothers finding last minute gift already entering the mall.

Casey decided to breathe for a moment. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath focusing on the task at hand. Finding Derek a gift.


Derek groaned into the pillow as the alarm clock went off. Casey had set it to 9:30 the night before, telling him that they needed to get their inner clock back on time. She was scared that they'd get too used to sleeping in and struggle when they went back to school. He argued with her despite him knowing she was right. It was fun and ended in a round of wrestling on the floor between their beds. Casey 'won' but only after she straddled him and he felt his jeans get slightly tighter. He decided to let her 'win' that one and surrendered. He fell asleep with a smile.

Derek rolled over thinking he would see a sleepy Casey staring back at him. He was wrong. Casey's bed was meticulously made and a note lay on the bedspread. Derek got out of bed and picked up the note.

D,

I went to the mall to find you a gift. I took George's car. I'll be back after I find you a present. George, Mom, and Katie are due home a bit after lunch. Make sure the house looks clean and presentable; I want my mom to relax, not clean. Anyway, remember to wake up the kids no later than 10:00.

Love,

Casey

He laughed at the 'Casey-ness' of the whole thing and got dressed.


Casey had been to three stores and still had found nothing. She was getting frustrated and annoyed with herself. She walked grudgingly into a camera store; she knew that he would like anything from the store. It would especially come in handy with the new baby, taking pictures of her and giving his old camera to their parents. She thought it was a safe and good idea. He wouldn't hate it, even if it wasn't as 'sentimental' as his gift to her.

Casey browsed the glass case for a good camera within her price range. She knew he would want digital and an SLR. Not some lame digital camera. She saw a Nikon P100. It was compact, yet big enough to take high-resolution pictures. He would love it. She loved it; it was within her special 'Derek' price range.

Casey had gotten a check from the college, refunding her room and board grant to her. She had gotten $3,000 dollars. Having gotten the mail while Derek was out Casey had managed to grab it before he asked her about it. She hadn't told him about it yet, she wanted to surprise him with a big Christmas gift.

Casey left the store with a huge smile on her face and a bag in her hand.

As Casey was walking towards the exit, she was stopped by a squeal and a pair of arms wrapping around her. She stood stock-still and tried to think who might be grabbing her at that hour in the middle of the mall.

The person released her, allowing Casey to turn around. Casey came face to face with Kendra.

Damn it . Thought Casey. She really wanted to go through the Christmas break without running into one of Derek's ex's or one of her own, besides Emily of course.

"Casey!"

"Kendra!" replied Casey with mock enthusiasm.

"What are you doing here on Christmas Eve?"

"I had to get a gift for Derek, I couldn't think of anything so I took forever to decide."

Kendra looked mildly taken aback by the idea of them exchanging gifts but recovered.

"So," she peeked over the bag, "What gag gift did you get him?"

Casey blushed, "It's not a gag gift, it's an actual gift."

"A real gift? Like something he would want?" Kendra was confused.

"Yes, I got him a camera," said Casey confidently.

"A camera." Casey just nodded.

"You're not together are you?" asked Kendra with a sneer.

"No, we're not." Casey said it with a straight face and kept all the longing she could out of her voice.

"Oh, then why are you buying him something worthwhile?" By this time the girlish squeals and fake niceties were gone. Kendra was standing back with her hands on her hips. She was looking at Casey with a mixture of disgust and appraisal.

Casey also had taken a step back; she had her arms crossed in front of her in defense. She schooled her face to indifference.

"Because," Casey's voice had taken a turn for reprimanding, "there was a fire in my dorm and it left me with a larger burn. Derek let me move in with him and took care of me as I recovered, without being asked. I am getting him this gift as a thank you for all he's done for me." Casey looked at Kendra, her face daring her to respond.

"Oh," was Kendra's weakened response.

"Why did you get so possessive anyway?" It was Casey's turn to interrogate.

"I just…I mean…there were some rumors the last month of school about you two going off to college together. Some people thought that you two had been together the whole time, which meant that he had cheated on me with you. I just…I'm sorry." Kendra looked at her for forgiveness.

"Would it be that bad if we we're together now? You seemed grossed out by the idea." Casey kept her face blank, but inside she was crumbling.

"It would be gross! You're siblings!" Kendra responded like it was obvious.

"Does everyone think that?"

"Oh, lots of people!" Kendra waved it off as if it was nothing. "You're not interested in Derek? Are you?"

Casey snapped out of her inner turmoil and stared at Kendra with wide eyes. "Oh God no! Ew! How could you even think that?" Casey pulled a little bit of her high school self out of nowhere to react the way she was supposed to.

"Well you seemed curious? I thought maybe…"

Casey cut her off, "No, it's just that there are some guys on Derek's hockey team who thought we were dating because they saw us together a lot. Derek had to explain to them that we were step siblings. They said it didn't matter. I was wondering if people would have the same reaction at home, that's all?" Casey laughed lightly with Kendra, secretly she was sarcastically applauding herself at her own lie.

"Oh, I was worried there for a moment. Wouldn't that be weird? You and Derek?" Kendra continued to laugh at the thought.

Casey chuckled and looked down at her watch, giving herself escape from the conversation.

"Look at the time! I have to get home and help my mom make lunch and make some cookies. It was nice seeing you! Merry Christmas!" With that Casey fled the scene.

Casey managed to get into the car before she had a breakdown. She threw the bag into the passenger seat and leaned her arms on the steering wheel and buried her face. Her shoulders shook with sobs and grief.

She couldn't be with Derek; everyone would think they were freaks. Derek still cares a lot about his image; he wouldn't want to be judged in that way. Casey thought of the way Kendra reacted; she reacted as if it was incest. Casey realized that she really didn't care what other people thought of her and Derek; she cared about if Derek cared. She hoped that if there ever was a chance that they could be together that he would think she was worth the embarrassment.

Casey kept the car parked for a little while longer, to calm herself down before driving. Finally she pulled out of the parking lot and began her drive home.


Casey had taken the long way home. Allowing herself to think before she had to face him again. She didn't know how to fall out of love with him. She knew she couldn't; it was impossible. He was etched into her very skin, in an almost literal way. She didn't want to fall out of love with him. She would have to distance herself from him, make it easier to let go. She sighed as she pulled into the driveway.

She got out of the car with grief weighing on her shoulders and a fake smile. She opened the door to her home to find the kids on the couch watching A Christmas Story and Derek nowhere to be found. She sighed again in relief. She took off her coat and gloves and made for the basement stairs.

She practically ran down the stairs. At the very bottom step her foot caught and she fell forward. She put out her arms to brace herself and closed her eyes. She waited for the inevitable crash into the hard basement floor. It never came. She felt two strong arms wrapped around her and a warm body pressed to her back.

"I got ya, Klutzilla," came a masculine voice in her ear, the voice sent shivers up and down her spine. She hadn't heard that name for a long time, but this time it felt different to hear it.

Derek righted her and helped her get her bearings. "You alright?" Casey nodded and looked up into his eyes. Derek's eyes held warmth and worry along with the melted chocolate that haunted her at night.

Derek looked at Casey for real since he caught her in his arms. Her face was tear streaked and flushed, and her eyes were rimmed with red. He was worried, had something happened since she'd been gone? Is she hurt? Is there something wrong with someone else? Did she have a Casey freak out?

"Are you okay?" Derek held her arms and inspected her face and tried to narrow down the horrible possibilities.

"Did something happen at the mall?" Casey nodded and began to tear up again. This time it was about the fact that she couldn't tell him what had happened.

"What happened?"

"I had a run in with…um…Kendra."

"Kendra? My ex-girlfriend Kendra?" Casey nodded.

"What did she do to you?" his face was serious and almost deadly.

"She just…" Casey tried to figure out a lie to tell Derek. "She said some stuff about Truman and how she'd even considered going out with him when he was with me. I just…I guess, because I never really cried the second time we broke up it came flooding back. I also realized that it has been a while since I'd been on a date. That thought led back to the scar on the back thing. I just had a break down. I'm sorry."

By the end of her speech Derek had Casey wrapped in a hug and stroking her hair just he way she liked. She had calmed down enough to where she was just breathing deeply and inhaling Derek's cologne. This moment gave her hope that there was a possibility that they could be together.

Derek just comforted Casey the way he knew how, hoping that he could give her enough reassurance to last until the next breakdown.

"You know you're beautiful, right?"

"You've said that a couple times recently," mumbled Casey from his chest.

"Well, I mean it. You are beautiful and any guy would be lucky to go out with you."

But I don't want you to be with anyone but me.

But I don't want to be with anyone but you.

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve continued

The entire family was seated in the living room.

Derek was sitting in the recliner with Casey seated on the floor in front of him, resting against his legs. George and Nora were seated on the couch with Katie lying on George's chest. Marti was squeezed between the two adults happily. Ed and Liz sat on the floor with their backs against the couch. All of them were staring, mesmerized by the television. They were watching A Wonderful Life .

The parents had gone to see a counselor before Katie was born. They wanted to make sure that there would be little animosity or struggles with the introduction of another person in the family, especially with Marti. Their counselor recommended family time and activities in order to keep everyone together.

So, the McDonald-Venturi's sat down to a family movie.

The movie was coming to an end when Katie thought it would be a good idea to wake up from her nap. Her wailing brought everyone out at their Christmas induced stupor. Nora quickly cuddled the disgruntled baby and walked upstairs to feed her. When everyone had finally settled down, the credits were rolling. George sighed and followed his wife upstairs. He was tired from sleeping on the hospital cot. Lizzie and Edwin were assigned to help Marti set out cookies and milk for Santa. Casey and Derek moved downstairs to get ready for bed.

Derek could hear Ed, Liz, and Marti scurrying around upstairs while he pulled on his pj pants. He could also hear Casey start to run her bath. He lay on his bed with his arms behind his head. He was staring at the floor braces above his head.

He was confused. Since comforting Casey, that morning, she hadn't come closer that arms length to him. Every time he tried to touch her, hug her, or kiss her cheek, she'd shy away from him or turn herself out of his arms. At first he thought it was funny and cute. Then he thought maybe she was flirting or playing hard to get. Finally, after seeing the looks on her face when she looked at him, most of the time, she thought he didn't know, he realized she was sad. Something was wrong. Something else had happened at the mall or she lied to him. Something had caused her to back away from him. He didn't think it was against him or that he'd hurt her somehow. She seemed sad, not hurt, like someone had died.

With careful deduction he realized that she'd lied to him. The girl who could never lie to anyone had lied to him, the best liar around. He was surprised, proud, and slightly hurt. He thought their relationship had moved past keeping secrets like that.

He was prepared to confront her. He didn't want to fight. He just wanted to talk.


Casey sat in the bath. Her legs were drawn up to her chest and her forehead pressed against her knees. She was taking deep breaths. It had been so hard, pushing herself away from Derek. She realized how much she relied on him and how comfortable she had become with him. He could never love her the way she wanted him to. And she didn't want him to have to go through the embarrassment that would surly follow them if they were a couple. Sure, she could live with the idea that people would be thrown off by the idea of being with her stepbrother; if it meant she actually could be with him. She didn't know if Derek could handle the ridicule and disgust that seemed to run rampant through their hometown at the mere idea of them as a couple. He owned the town; he was the top of the food chain, the hockey captain and star. What was she? She was his keener controlling Klutzilla stepsister who was in love with him. He would never choose her over the pride and recognition of many. She was resigned to be the spinster that she had been called so many times. If keeping Derek happy, meant not being with her and having the hockey career and fame he's always wanted, then so be it.

But it would be sad for her; she would watch him grow old with someone else. Watch as his children came into the world, she would be aunt Casey. The aunt that had too many cats and spoiled them rotten because they were the closest thing to Derek she could shower with affection. She would be there as he became a grandfather and she would be a great-aunt to those children. She could see his offspring looking at pictures of them and saying, "There's great-aunt Casey. It's two bad she never got married."

She had condemned herself to a life alone. Living without the love of her life, but having him only a phone call away.

Casey had a small voice in the back of her head; that sounded remarkable like Derek, telling her that she really was being the Empress of Drama. But she chose to ignore it, she was thinking pessimistically, but she was thinking rationally. At least that was her argument against the crazy talk that mini-Derek in her head kept spouting; hope, optimism, and feel good romantic comedy moments. No, Casey McDonald was not a drama queen… she was a realist. At least, she thought she was.


He heard Casey exit the bath and he mentally went over his speech. Casey exited the bathroom; her hair was in one wet braid, she had on plaid flannel pj pants and one of Derek's t-shirts.

She climbed into bed and turned away from him. The entire trip to bed she had a solemn look on her face; Derek could even call it resigned. After a few seconds Derek spoke, "Are you ever going to tell me what is really wrong?"

Casey sighed heavily before turning to face him. Her eyes were sad but her face was blank. "Something else happened at the mall. Something big enough to change your entire mood," Derek stated.

"Yes."

"Are you going to tell me what it was?"

"No."

"Are you ever going to tell me?" Derek was now genuinely hurt, he thought she trusted him.

"I will tell you in time. Right now I need to think about some things."

"But you lied to me Casey and you won't let me hug you or anything! What have I done? How can I fix this?"

"No, you haven't done anything Derek. You've been great. I'm sorry I've been acting weird, I didn't mean to. You don't need to fix anything, I just need to work through some stuff," Casey looked at him in earnest.

Derek could see that she was still hiding something important. But he could also see that she needed time. She even pulled out the puppy dog eyes to get him to let it go; it worked.

"Fine, I'll forget it. For now . But, if you keep acting this way, we're going to have a serious chat," Derek paused, "and no lying!"

"Okay."

"You promise?"

"Yes, Derek. I promise."

"Goodnight."

"Goodnight Derek."

Casey turned out the light and turned away from him again. Derek stared at her through the dark for a while before turning over.

Neither fell asleep for a long time and when they did it was restless and plagued with stressful dreams. It was the first time in over two months that Derek or Casey had fallen into troubled sleep. They each wanted the other to be lying next to them. The distance between the two beds suddenly became a canyon.

Chapter Text

Christmas Morning

Everyone upstairs had had a horrible night; Katie refused to sleep. Downstairs, everyone had a horrible night too, but for different reasons. Both Casey and Derek had slept restlessly, tossing and turning. Occasionally reaching for an unknown object (or person). Therefore, it was no surprise that for the first time ever the McDonald-Venturi's slept in on Christmas Morning.

At around 8 'o clock Marti woke up, in her groggy haze she remembered it was Christmas, but chose to ignore the bubbly feeling that came once a year. Usually Marti was the one to run about the house screaming for everyone to wake up and open presents. That morning, however, there was no screaming. Instead, she was half asleep and mumbling under her breath, she had a quilt wrapped around her and her hair was a mess. She stumbled down the stairs to see if anyone else was awake. She saw no one. She looked up the stairs and then looked towards the basement door. She decided it would be less work if she went downstairs instead of back to her own bed. Marti didn't waste time in her quest. She silently descended the stairs and marched straight to Derek's bed. She nudged his shoulder repeatedly until he turned over to face her.

"What Smarti?" he asked with his eyes closed.

"Scoot over."

Derek didn't question her, he just moved himself over to make enough room for her. She climbed into his bed and immediately fell asleep.


When Casey woke up she was met with an adorable sight. Marti had commandeered all of Derek's blankets and Derek was curled up in the fetal position trying to conserve the little warmth he had left. She giggled quietly as she looked at the clock.

10:30. Casey's eyes widened at the time. It was really late for Christmas morning. She jumped out of bed and went up stairs hoping for some coffee. She opened the door to the kitchen and was greeted with a wall of smells. Casey took a deep breath and moved towards the source.

Nora was up and cooking, she had three skillets going at once. One had eggs, one had sausage, and the last had breakfast potatoes. There was a large pot of coffee sitting off to the side, ready to be poured. Casey allowed herself a small smile at the sight of her mom cooking breakfast; she really missed home.

Nora turned around with a tired smile, "Merry Christmas Casey, you want some breakfast?"

"Sure, mom. Merry Christmas to you too."

"I'm glad you got up when you did, if Edwin beat you, there would be nothing left," she chuckled.

Casey giggled and sat down to breakfast.


Derek woke to loud snoring in his ear. He knew it was Marti. He rolled out of bed and looked at the clock. 10:42. He groaned as he ascended the stairs. He was met with the sight of Casey munching happily on a piece of toast, her braid had almost fallen all the way out and his t-shirt (that she was wearing) was wrinkled and falling over one of her shoulders. He thought she looked beautiful. He straightened up and walked into the kitchen, fully intending to enjoy this Christmas... with Casey.

Casey was oblivious to his presence, she was thinking about how excited and nervous she was to give him her present. She hoped he liked it and she hoped how much money she had spent wouldn't put him off. She sat looking out the window above the sink; her eyes sparkling at the sight of the snow and watching the flurries fall from the sky.

Derek took this opportunity. He wrapped his arms around her middle and buried his nose into the crook of her neck. Casey flinched out of surprise and then relaxed a bit in his arms. She still was hesitant to let her get swept away.

"Merry Christmas, Princess." His breath sent shivers down her spine and caused a pleasant tingle at the base of her neck.

"Merry Christmas, D," she replied softly.

Derek released her and moved towards the food. "Did you make breakfast?" he asked after inspecting the options. He was slightly disappointed that he didn't get to watch her cook; he loved watching her cook.

"No, Mom did." Casey took a sip of her coffee with a sigh.

Derek just nodded, his disappointment gone, and dished up his breakfast. He settled himself next to Casey and began devouring his food. Casey fought the smile that rose to her face as she sadly looked on. Her own revelations still fresh in her mind; she refused to let herself think about the mornings she had cooked breakfast for him and the intimate feeling they contained. She returned her gaze back to the window. She removed all traces of emotion from her face and took another sip of coffee.

Derek could feel her gaze, he could also feel her unease. After she turned away he snuck a glance at her profile. He could see her try to school her features, but he could still see the sadness in her eyes. He was worried; it seemed even after a night's sleep she was still upset.

He turned away and contemplated his scrambled eggs.

Ed and Liz sauntered down the stairs five minutes later, both of them still in their pajamas and massive bed head.

"Morning," mumbled Edwin. Lizzie just snorted her salutation.

"Merry Christmas to you too!"

That woke them up. "It's Christmas?" they exclaimed in unison. "Jinx, you owe me a soda!" Lizzie punched Edwin in the shoulder. Ed groaned in pain, but smiled none-the-less.

Casey and Derek watched the scene play out with amusement. Both holding their coffee cups in front of their mouths to hide their grins.

Marti chose this moment to finally start screaming about Christmas.

"It's Christmas!" she screamed as she opened the door to the basement.

"Yes it is Smarts! Are you ready to open presents?" Derek was definitely ready to open presents, for multiple reasons.

"Presents! I'll go get Mom and Dad!" Marti raced out of the kitchen to find the absent parents.

Casey just raised her eyebrows at Derek and marched towards the living room. As she approached the living room she felt nervousness creep in. Would he like her present? Did he get her something horrible? What on earth is that smell?

"Ew…oh my gosh! Why are you changing her in the living room?" Casey exclaimed at the sight, and smell, of her mother changing her baby sister.

Her mother didn't really have an answer for that, she just grimaced and finished the task at hand.

Casey went to the nearest drawer and grabbed the matchbox and began furiously lighting matches. Derek, Lizzie, Edwin, and Marti just stood at the entrance of the kitchen watching the madness. Casey, after lighting at least ten, took a breath she smiled at the smell of burnt matches.

"Is it safe?" asked Derek with a small chuckle.

"Yep."

"Come on, it wasn't that bad," tried Nora, her face begged to differ. All of them gave her a look of… 'really?'

"It was bad," she relented as she re-swaddled baby Kate. The rest of the family sat down in their choice seats and waited. Nora sat down and rocked Katie back to calmness. George descended the stairs to find the whole family assembled for Christmas. Nora was seated closest to the tree on the couch followed by Edwin and Lizzie with Marti tucked between them. Derek was seated in the new recliner, with Casey on the floor in front of him resting against his legs.

George smiled at his whole family together again and sat down on the arm of the couch next to Nora.

"Okay, who's first?"


It was down to Derek and Casey's gift to each other. Both had been putting off the event the entire morning. Derek decided enough was enough and grabbed his two presents for Casey.

"These are for you, Case."

Casey blushed and took the presents shyly. They were carefully wrapped in beautiful green paper. Silver ribbons crowned the packages. She looked at them both curiously.

"Which should I open first?"

Derek looked at the presents for a split second and then pointed at the long flat on the bottom.

"That one." Casey nodded and carefully undid the ribbons. She took her sweet Casey time, as always, and enjoyed unwrapping the gift. When she finally had it open, she gasped. It was pictures… of her.

There were three pictures of Casey, all of her dancing on stage. She was dressed in a simple dress, her hair pulled back in a bun; she was in various places of her dance, it was in one of her more ballet inspired pieces. As she studied the pictures she could practically feel herself on stage. The pictures were dark and emotion filled black and whites. The single spotlight illuminating her figure, she was captivated.

"Did you take these?" she looked at him questioningly, her eyes already tearing.

"I did, not bad for a crap digital camera."

Suddenly Casey's gift for him seemed perfect to her. She couldn't have chosen anything better. She smiled as she looked back at the photos in her hands; she felt a wave of homesickness towards that stage.

"Open the next one." Derek's instruction brought her out of her bittersweet stupor.

Casey set the frame down reverently next to her and grabbed the second present. She proceeded with the same pace as the previous present. She finally revealed a leather bound journal, with a large 'C' embossed in silver on the front.

"Derek, it's beautiful," Casey breathed. She looked over her shoulder at him and noticed him blushing.

"I wrote something on the inside." Casey turned her attention back to the journal. She unwrapped the silk ribbon and opened it carefully. She knew not to read the passage out loud, she could tell by his face.

 Princess,

 I wanted to give you this as a sorry. I'm sorry for the way I treated you in high school and for constantly invading your privacy. As you know, I would steal your diary just to bug you and cause a fight, just for the thrill. Now that we are roommates and friends I thought it would be a good idea to mend some of the scars. I also realized after you moved in, that you no longer wrote in a journal. I figured your old one was lost in the fire. I thought this would be a good replacement. I promise not to read it or steal it. I thought you might like this one because it is abnormally thick and is made with nice paper, at least that's what the sales guy said. I think that this journal should last you for a pretty long time. Fill it with, hopefully, good memories. I hope you like it.

 Love,

 Derek

Casey read it slowly and soaked in every word. When she got to the end and saw the 'love' she nearly cried. How could he just keep pulling her deeper? Everyday he managed to make her fall deeper in love with him, how does he do it?

She brushed the tear from her eye and leaned her head against his knee.

"Thank you," she said softly.

Derek reached down and brushed his fingers through her hair. The entire family sat and watched their moment in awe. Lizzie and Edwin smirked knowingly and Nora and George witnessed for the first time what their conspiring children meant. Nora wanted to pull out a binder for wedding plans.

The moment was broken when Marti dropped Derek's present from Casey on his lap. Derek winced on impact and thanked Marti with a nod. Marti grinned back and plopped herself back between Edwin and Lizzie.

Casey turned so she could watch him open her present. After opening her own present Casey was filled with confidence about her choice. He was going to love it.

Derek removed the wrapping paper with haste, excited to see if she managed to top his gift. When he pulled the paper away his breath caught in his chest. It was the camera he'd been lusting after for a while, but didn't have the money for. He looked away from the camera to look at the blushing girl at his feet. He could have kissed her, except everyone else was there and he didn't know how she would react.

So he settled for smiling ridiculously. "God, Casey! This is amazing! How did you know?"

Casey chose her words carefully, "I know you," she said with a smile and a wink. If Derek wasn't lost in her eyes before he was at that moment.

"How'd you afford this?" He knew the price was ridiculous for a college budget.

"Well, I was given the money that would have gone towards my room and board from my scholarship. Since it was awarded to me, they have to give me the full amount awarded. Since my room and board was burnt to the ground I was given the money. So after I sent in my change of address I got a large check in the mail. I thought you deserved something for taking care of me. I just wanted to say thank you and this is the only way I know how that doesn't involve food."

Derek blushed and looked back at his camera. Casey rested her chin on his knee and watched his face brighten with excitement at the idea of playing with his new toy.

They never really grow up , thought Nora as she watched their faces. She giggled and stood up to carry Katie upstairs. George began throwing wrapping paper into the fireplace and Liz and Ed grabbed their gifts and marched upstairs.

Derek and Casey remained to help George clean up, all the while sneaking small glances at each other and blushing wildly.

Chapter Text

Derek was sitting at the island in the kitchen. He was contemplating the marshmallows in his hot chocolate while also trying to figure out how to get his dad out of the house so he could talk to him.

After cleaning up the wrapping paper and getting the living room in some semblance of order, Casey had disappeared. He had checked upstairs, thinking she was talking to Liz or playing with Marti. He checked Katie's room, thinking she might be in there; she wasn't. What was left was the basement. He had hesitantly descended the stairs to the basement, hoping to catch her in a relaxed mood. How he found her was somewhat surprising, yet completely Casey.

He had found Casey sitting in the middle of their room with stuff all around her. She had decided that she was going to go through all of the stuff from the boxes. When he asked her what brought this on she gave a long-winded explanation.

Supposedly, not only did their family pack all of their things in boxes, they simply threw everything into boxes and didn't 'pack' anything. Casey said that she had been looking in the boxes for a certain book but when she opened them she had found possibly her worst nightmare. She said his boxes were exactly the same and that she was taking the liberty of organizing his stuff too.

Derek could see the stress and the excitement of the situation in her eyes. He knew that organizing was therapeutic for Casey and she had been tense, so he heartily agreed to let her go through his things.

"Just promise me Casey," his voice was serious, "that you won't read anything or snoop through anything you know you shouldn't."

Casey had merely nodded, noting the serious nature of his countenance.

Derek had returned to the main level of the house to find it empty. He was happy with the space to think. He made himself some hot chocolate and sat down.

Over the course of the next half hour Derek had made some significant decisions regarding his future, very significant. Derek had realized that morning after receiving his first, ever, Christmas present from Casey that he wanted that to go one forever. Now, he already wanted her forever, but he finally realized that meant marrying her. Putting a ring on her finger and changing her name. That also meant telling their parents and getting the one thing he knew he would inherit; his grandmother's ring.

When Derek had turned sixteen, his father thought it was an important coming-of-age moment and deserved something of that significance. His father had shown Derek his grandmother's wedding ring. George had told him that once he found the woman he was supposed to be with that the ring would be his, all he had to do was ask. At the time Derek had been immature and annoyed with his father. So, he had mentioned that if they sold it they could probably get some good money. George didn't take that well.

Now, as Derek looks back, the ring was perfect for a certain keener he happened to be in love with. He had found the girl he was meant to be with and now all he needed was the ring… and for Casey to realize his undying love for him and fall into his waiting arms. But, he decided that could wait.

He looked up from his hot chocolate and glanced around the room, no one was there. He smiled. With the stealth of a ninja, Derek grabbed the chocolate syrup bottle he left on the counter. He pulled the cap over and emptied the contents into the sink. After a time the bottle made a ridiculous fart noise and Derek knew everything was gone. He rinsed the evidence from the sink and threw the bottle away. He then marched determinedly upstairs to find his dad.

Derek paused outside Katie's door. He could hear his dad and Nora talking quietly on the other side of the door. He took a deep breath and pushed the door open. He awkwardly stood in the doorway as his parents looked at him with strange faces.

"Dad! We are out of chocolate syrup. We have to go to the store. Grab your coat, I'll start the car." Derek was now standing in the middle of the room, his entire body tensed and his eyes looking pointedly into his father's.

George had a rare moment of great perception and took the hint. "I'll be back, Honey. Casey should be downstairs if you need anything."

After Derek heard the confirmation he rushed down the stairs and grabbed his jacket and the keys. By the time George was downstairs and putting on his jacket, Derek had the car parked at the end of the drive, ready to go.

George groaned as he opened the door to the house. He knew Derek was going to tell him something important. He hoped it was something good. His worst fear was that Derek was going to drop hockey and decide his calling was to be a plumber.

George slumped into the car and shut the door behind him. Derek sat in the driver's seat nervously, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tight that his fingers were losing their feeling.

"Well, are we going to the store or not?"

That broke him out of his momentary trance. Derek pulled skillfully from the curb. At the end of the street they reached a four-way stop. Derek eased the car to a stop and looked around. Checking for witnesses.

"Dad, I need to tell you something."

George nodded.

"You're probably not going to like it."

"Okay, what is it?"

Derek realized that he was going to admit his love for Casey out loud for the first time. It caused a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"I…I…uh…" he couldn't get the words out.

"You?"

Derek turned away from his dad and placed his forehead against the steering wheel. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"I'm in love with Casey."

The car was silent for what seemed like ages to Derek. He feared the worse. His father was going to disown him or send him to a psych ward. The reaction he got was surprising.

He turned to find his father smiling wide and laughing silently with tears in his eyes.

"Dad?"

"Yeah, son?"

"You're…you're not mad?"

"Why would I be mad?" George asked with mirth.

"Because I just told you I'm in love with my step-sister?" Derek was now officially confused. "You know this isn't a joke right?" he asked.

"I know. I'm proud of you, son. It takes a real man to admit he's in love, especially with his step-sister." He gave Derek's shoulder a strong pat.

"Good, I'm glad you feel that way, because I need grandma's ring."

That shocked George.

"You mean you're going to ask her to marry you? How long have you guys been together? Why didn't you tell us?" Now George was mad.

"Dad!" George stopped his rant to look at his son's face. He could see the pain on his face, the longing.

"You're not together are you?"

Derek sighed. "No we're not. I wish we were. God! I wish we were." Derek finally left the stop sign and drove in the direction of the grocery.

George calmed down and remained silent for a time.

"You can have the ring."

"I can?"

"If you're willing to tell me you're in love with Casey, she must be worth it."

Derek smiled widely, he felt like he had just won the hardest game of his life, times a million.

"So worth it…" he murmured.

"Does she know that?" Derek glanced at his father for a moment.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, think about it. Casey may know that you care about her; she may know that you'll take care of her. But, does she know that you'd give up anything for her?"

"What are you talking about Dad? Of course Casey knows I'd give up anything for her," Derek scoffed casually.

"Does she really? If I hadn't had the reaction I did, you'd probably be giving up your family, home, heritage. You took a huge risk telling me your feelings for her."

Derek pulled into the grocery park lot. He parked the car and killed the engine.

"I don't know that she knows. I haven't really gotten the chance to talk to her. She's gotten so distant lately." Derek opened the door and exited the car. George felt like he was counseling his married son. He sighed as he left the car.

"How so?”

"Huh?" Derek had slipped into deeper thought.

"How has she been distant?" George questioned.

Derek felt hesitant to tell his father how close he and Casey had become. How tactile their relationship really was. But, if it meant he could make headway with Casey he could handle it.

"You promise you'll keep this to yourself? I don't want Nora giving me sad looks and stuff. You know how she gets when she feels sorry for you."

George chuckled and nodded.

"She won't let me hug her or touch her at all. I mean, I used to be able to put my arms around her shoulders or she'd cuddle up to me when we'd watch a movie. I used to kiss her on the forehead every morning. She'd kiss me on the cheek and stuff. Now, she won't touch me. I'd try to touch her and she'll slip out of my grip or turn away and pretend she didn't even see me. We used to talk, all the time. I haven't talked to her, like really talked to her, in four and a half days."

"Four and a half days?" George chuckled at his smitten son.

"I'm not counting or anything," mumbled Derek, half-heartedly.

"When did this start?"

"When she got back from the mall after getting me my present. She had come downstairs practically crying. I comforted her and thought everything was okay. She told me she had run into Kendra and Kendra had told her some stuff about Truman. She said she had had a breakdown about stuff she'd been going through right after the fire. I bought the story, until she started the distance thing. I realized she lied to me. Now, I don't know what the hell's going on and I want my Casey back."

"Did you confront her?"

"Yeah, I told her I knew she lied and asked her if she'd tell me what really happened. She said she would later and just to give her space and that she was thinking about stuff."

"Have you been giving her space?"

"As much space as I can without losing it."

They had walked down random aisles until they found the one with chocolate syrup. They were now standing in front of the chocolate selection. George grabbed a bottle and reached for the marshmallows. Derek's hand intercepted his.

"Casey doesn't like the medium sized ones, she only likes the small ones or the campfire sized ones, no in betweens," Derek commented lightly, as he picked out a bag of small ones.

George let him pick out the right ones and smiled at the grown up son he had in front of him. Derek turned and started to leave the chocolate section. George followed him with a smile.


As they pulled into the driveway George put his hand on Derek's arm to stop him from exiting the car.

"Put the stuff in the kitchen and meet me in my room."

"Okay."

Five minutes later Derek entered George's room; his father and Nora were sitting on the edge of their bed. They both looked up as he entered the room.

"Hey…?" Derek realized how awkward the situation just got. It completely slipped his mind that Nora was Casey's mom. Yeah, he knew it but she was his mom, in a way, too.

"Derek, I want you to tell Nora what you told me. She wants to hear it from you."

Derek worked up the minimal courage he had left and sat next to Nora. He leaned in a bit, hoping that his voice wouldn't carry through the house.

"I'm in love with Casey," he whispered.

Nora just smiled lightly at him.

"I figured," she whispered back.

"I wanted her to be here when I gave this to you. I proposed to her with it."

Derek nodded, feeling guilty that Nora was giving up something too. "She knew when I gave it to her that this was a family heirloom and that it was temporary until I got her a real engagement ring." Derek released his guilt with a breath.

Nora smiled kindly to him and handed the ring box to him. Derek looked down at the box and then back up and Nora and George who just smiled back. Nora gave him a small nod; urging him to open it.

Derek looked back down at the box and tentatively opened it.

It was beautiful, even to Derek. It had a conservative sized diamond in the center surrounded by smaller round cut diamonds. Diamonds also lined the band. It practically blinded him.

"Wow," he breathed.

"I know she'll love it," commented Nora. Derek just nodded in agreement.

He closed the box and swallowed the lump in his throat.

"Now all I have to wait for is her ," he chuckled sadly. Nora patted him on the back.

"Don't worry, she's not far behind.”

Chapter Text

3:27 pm- December 26th

3 days until their return home

"Yo, Princess!" Derek yelled down the stairs.

Casey had moved on from sorting the boxes to repacking and labeling them. It kept her occupied and distracted from the onslaught of affection and mourning she felt towards Derek and their non -relationship.

"What do you want, Derek?" she responded tiredly.

"No need to be snippy, I just wanted to give you something."

Casey closed her eyes and sighed internally, no…no more…it gets harder every time. She heard Derek's strong footsteps coming down the stairs. She braced herself for yet another push deeper in love with him.

"Spacey, you're spacing out." She just then realized that he was seated on the floor next to her, waiting patiently for her to open her eyes. She looked at his smirking face and then down at the object in his lap.

It was a box.

A small rectangular box wrapped in the comic section of the newspaper. She allowed herself a small smile and held out her hands.

"Oh! You want this?" he smirked handsomely at her.

She rolled her eyes and nodded.

"I'll give it to you but only if you give me something in return." He grinned wider. Casey's smile dropped from her face.

"Okay, what do you want?"

Derek chuckled and his eyes twinkled in just the right way. Casey had to keep herself from swooning.

"First I want you to stand up."

Casey rolled her eyes and stood up. Her legs ached and she realized how long she had actually been down on the floor.

"Okay, I'm up." Derek was now standing in front of her, a smile on his face.

"Good." He placed the gift down on her bed and faced her again. With a mischievous look he quickly wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her towards him.

"Now, I want you to relax and hug me back," he said softly into her ear, his breath tickling the curve of her neck and sending tingles down her spine. She willingly gave herself over to his embrace.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her nose in the crook of his neck.

Derek did not want to let go. She felt so good pressed against him, her every curve of her body melded with his to form the perfect puzzle. He held her just a bit tighter to him and inhaled her scent, attempting to memorize all the notes of her fragrance.

Casey felt him pull her closer. She melted into his strong arms, allowing herself a moment without control. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity; just holding each other, the hug had ended a long time ago.

Derek was the first to pull away.

"Thank you. That is all I've been wanting for days," he commented as he released a breath of relief.

Casey chuckled out of embarrassment. Derek still had his hand on her arm, rubbing circles with his thumb.

With his other hand he reached down to grab the package. "I wrapped it for fun. You know, keeping the Christmas spirit alive!" Derek blushed from the embarrassment of that statement.

He looked away and rubbed the back of his neck as Casey took the present from his hands.

"Thank you, D. I like the wrapping paper." She leaned up and gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek.

Derek just nodded, unable to form words.

She carefully pulled the paper from the box and released a breath. It was a phone. Not just any phone, an iPhone.

"Oh my god! Derek! You got me an iPhone!" She leapt back into his arms; Derek caught her and stumbled only from surprise. She hugged him tighter and kissed his cheek five more times to show her appreciation.

When she released him, Derek mumbled something under his breath.

"What?"

"I didn't get it for you. Dad and Nora did." He gave her a small smile, "but thanks for the hug, it was nice."

Casey giggled affectionately at him and began opening the box to her new phone.


Casey had spent the rest of the day updating and reassembling her address book. Derek had made sure that his number was first in the favorites list and threatened pranks if his name was moved. She managed to give most of her and Derek's friends her new number and spent a serious amount of time explaining her need for a new number.

The conversation with Emily was the most emotionally draining.

"Em, calm down. I'm fine. Everything is…"

"No! It's not, Casey! It's not fine. How come I had no idea that you were in the hospital? That you almost died? How come you didn't tell me? I thought we were friends!"

"We are friends! I had to get my own life under control before I could sit down and explain it to you. Now everything is somewhat on track and I have my mind wrapped around the changes. I needed time, Em. I'm sorry."

Casey heard her best friend sigh on the other end and give in, "Okay, I see your point."

Casey wanted to mention the fact that if Emily had just paid attention to her at the beginning of the year the lack of communication would never have happened. They would have been closer and she would have had Derek call her and tell her the news. But no, Emily had managed to get caught up in the excitement of college life, leaving Casey to struggle alone 500 miles away. But Casey decided it was best if she let that one go. She always knew Emily to be flighty and emotionally driven so it was easy to forgive her predictability.

"I'm glad you see my side."

"I have a question Casey." The hesitancy in her voice was evident.

"O-kay, what is it?"

"Do you have a crush on Derek?"

Casey stood stock-still; this conversation needed to be moved out of the living room.

"Ummm…. hold on a sec. I can't talk where I am now."

Casey clutched the phone to her chest. She looked around for a more private setting. Her first choice would be her bedroom, until she realized she shared it with Derek. Her second choice would be Katie's room, but her parents or siblings could walk in at any moment and outside was just too cold.

She ran quickly upstairs. At the top of the stairs she glanced around and considered each door. None of the rooms would work. She saw the stairway to Marti's room and it clicked.

Casey ran up the stairs and pounded on the little girl's door.

"Smarti! I need to borrow your room! Please Smarti open the door!"

The door opened and she was face to face with Derek Venturi. A pink boa wrapped around his neck and an abnormally small teacup in his hand.

"You're late Spacey," he greeted with a smirk.

"Oh, am I?" she smirked back.

"Yeah, we've already had the finger sandwiches and we've moved on the sugar cookies and the peppermint tea," he explained as he let her into Marti's room.

"Now, not that I don't mind you coming in here, but what is all this about using my room?" Marti made herself known. She was dressed in full princess garb and cape.

"I am still on the phone with Emily and she wants to talk to me in private and your room is the most private. So, I was wondering if I could borrow it for a bit. I just want to not have anyone listen at the door or randomly walk in."

Marti considered the situation, "Okay, but on one condition." Marti held up one finger to prove her seriousness.

"Okay, what is it?"

"I want you to make me a cake later, with pink frosting and sprinkles and have a full princess tea party with me, no princes allowed ."

"Deal." Casey held out her hand to shake.

"Hey! What do you mean ' no princes allowed '? Smarts?" Derek pouted at his younger sister.

"What? So I want to have a tea party with someone who is willing to wear a dress? I know it's balsamy!" She gestured dramatically as she stomped out of the room and down the stairs.

"I think she meant blasphemy ," commented Derek, with a chuckle.

"Yeah, but it was adorable anyway," giggled Casey.

"Have fun with Emily." He quickly kissed her on the cheek; before Casey could react he had fled the scene, closing the door behind him.

Casey waited until she couldn't hear his footsteps anymore and sat down on Marti's bed.

"Em? You still there?"

"Yeah, that wasn't a second by the way, seemed like forever. Couldn't you just go in your room?"

"No, my room had been turned into the baby's room. Derek's been turned into my parents room and we share the basement as a guest room."

"Oh." She paused to consider all the new information. "Anyway, back to my question. Do you have a crush on Derek?"

"No, I don't." She said honestly. I'm in love with him.  

"Okay, I'm hesitant to believe you. I think it's funny though; throughout our entire conversation you've only spoken praise and told me how sweet he was and how well he took care of you. You seem closer in a bazaar 'alternate universe' sort of way."

"We are closer, really close. He's my best friend, Em."

Emily remained silent on the other side. She knew her friend and she knew her various stages of romantic behavior. This was a new one. But, if Emily knew her friend at all, which even seemed hard to believe. Based on the changes she's heard in Casey over the course of the conversation, she barely knew her. Casey seemed to go the way Emily had always hoped she would; she finally saw what everyone else witnessed everyday of high school.

"You're in love with him." It wasn't a question; it was a statement.

Casey's breath caught. That was enough of an answer for Emily.

"I'm happy for you Casey."

"Listen, I'm sorry Em but…wait, what did you say?"

"I said I'm happy for you; really happy actually. After Derek and I broke up I realized it wasn't anyone's fault that he would never think of me the way I wanted him to. I realized that I would never think of him the way I thought about Sheldon. But, as I observed over the summer, he would think of you that way and that you'd think of him that way."

"What are you talking about, Em? Right now, everything is unrequited."

"So you are in love with him?" asked Emily with a smile in her voice.

Casey took a deep breath, "Yes, I am. You happy?"

"I already said I was, I just wanted to hear you admit it out loud."

"I hate you."

"I love you too Case," giggled Emily. "Are you sure it's unrequited?"

"Come on, you really want me to believe that he would fall for the person he hated the most. We've only gotten to this point, as friends, because I almost died."

"For being in love with the guy, you don't have much confidence in him."

"Oh believe me! I have all the confidence in the world in him. I just don't see any reason he would love me the way I do him. Like Kendra said, it would just be ridiculous to even think of us together."

"Kendra? You talk to Kendra and not to me?"

"No, I ran into her in the mall while I was getting Derek's Christmas present. She told me everyone thought we were together before we left for college and everyone thinks it would be just plain disgusting, weird, and…wrong. I don't know what to do, Em."

"She told you that everyone thought the two of you together would be wrong?"

"Yeah," she sighed.

"That's all bull shit, Case."

"What?"

"Kendra lied. To be honest, the people who knew you both best believed you'd be great together. Despite the fact that you guys are stepsiblings there's really nothing in your way. Did Nora or George ever adopt the other's kids?"

"No. We're not adopted siblings."

"Then, there's nothing to worry about. I mean really, you'd freak out about what Kendra said? Wait, you're Casey, of course you'd freak out about what anybody said. No one thinks it's weird."

"Really?" Casey was still hesitant to believe Emily's words. "You mean if we came back next year together and crazy about each other, it wouldn't be a surprise."

"I'm surprised you aren't together already! I mean come on! The tension between you two was like watching porn sometimes! There were instances where I almost had people leave the room to give you privacy, I thought you'd jump each other at any moment!"

Emily finally took a breath, allowing Casey to somewhat process what she was saying.

"Are you really just seeing this?" asked Emily after some silence.

"You could say that."

"Well, get your head out of your ass and get your man. I'm sure he's waiting as patiently as possible for you to come to your senses. You've always been slightly oblivious to others feelings about you."

"I guess I could un-distance myself from him now. It's been horrible for the past week."

"What do you mean by 'un-distance'?"

"Well," Casey became ashamed of her behavior towards Derek, "since my conversation with Kendra I've been slowly distancing myself from him. I was scared of being too attached. I wouldn't let him hug me or kiss me on the cheek and I wouldn't kiss him on the cheek. We have a very tactile relationship for people who aren't together. He's been angry with me for keeping him out of the loop and not telling him what's going on in my head. It's eating him up. He told me if my mood didn't get better he'd weasel the problem out of me."

"You cut him off. You took away your affection because you freaked yourself out! That is so you! He probably thinks he did something wrong. Fix this Casey! You know better than I, that if you give him the silent treatment for long enough he'll give up and react negatively toward you back. I'm giving you permission as his ex-girlfriend and mutual friend of both of you to jump his bones to make up for lost time."

"Em! I'm not going to do… that ! God, you're sick sometimes! We are never going so long without talking…ever again! I need you to talk sense into me."

"You always did."


Casey came down the stairs half an hour later, her ear was sore and a smile on her face.

Right when she placed her sock clad foot on the main floor Derek and a giggling Marti came barging through the door. Derek had Marti slung over his shoulder and snow was caked all over them both.

Derek put Marti down when he spotted Casey. He could tell something was different by the look in her eyes.

With a wild grin he advanced towards her, catching her off guard. He quickly wrapped his arms around her waist and picked her up off the ground.

"Der-ek! Put me down you're getting me all wet!" she shrieked in a mixture of annoyance and excitement.

Derek just squeezed her tighter and growled in her ear before swinging her around the entryway.

For balance sake, Casey wrapped her arms around his neck, hoping he wouldn't suddenly let her go.

Derek finally stopped spinning and placed her gently on the floor, but he didn't release her from his hold.

Casey pulled away but stayed in his embrace. His nose and cheeks were bright red and his eyes were on fire. She gingerly placed her hands on his face to warm up his cheeks. Derek closed his eyes the moment she touched him. He could feel her warmth seeping into his skin. He gave a small moan, making Casey giggle.

"You're freezing, D."

"You're warm, Case."

By this point Marti had fled the scene for a more entertaining environment, leaving the two alone in the entryway.

They stood there for a time, growing closer as time went on.

"I'm sorry," it came out so softly, Derek almost didn't catch it. He opened his eyes to a teary eyed Casey.

"For what?" he asked, concerned.

"For treating you like crap and pushing you away. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, I understand," he replied. He caught her chin between his thumb and pointer finger, raising her face to his. When they met eyes he released her and brushed the few tears from her cheeks.

"Will you tell me what was bothering you?"

"In time. I can promise you that I will tell you, but right now I need to keep it to myself. The conflict in my head has been resolved, I just need to decide what to do with the result," she gave him a reassuring smile.

Derek took it as a good sign and let it go. "Fine, I'll wait. But promise me that we're back to the way we were."

"I promise, I won't do this to us again."

Both of them smiled a little more at the idea of them being an 'us'.

"Okay, now give me a hug so I can warm up some more."

Casey gladly wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer to her. He kissed her hair and inhaled the sweet Casey smell he had come to love.

Chapter Text

It was around 11:30 the night before they were set to leave. Casey had spent the day planning and packing their trip. They had rented a trailer for all the boxes left in the basement. Casey had finished organizing and labeling all the boxes. She had even cataloged the contents in a notebook for 'quick reference'. Derek thought it was ridiculous but absolutely adorable. Which made Casey blush when he told her, which made her more adorable in his opinion.

"Casey, everything is done. Come to bed, your scuttling is keeping me awake," Derek whined from his bed.

"This coming from the guy who wouldn't wake up if a brass band marched through his room," teased Casey.

He lifted his head from the pillow to vocalize his discomfort, "Be quiet! You're keeping me from my dreams! I'm tired, my shoulders hurt, and you decided that we have to leave early in the morning, so I want to get as much sleep as I can!" He promptly dropped his head into the pillow with a groan.

Silence came next, making Derek happy. His happiness turned to confusion when he felt the bed beneath him shift. He felt a weight settle onto his lower back. A warm weight…Casey.

Casey had quietly put down what she was working on and padded over to his bed, she made a quick decision and climbed onto the bed. She straddled his back and waited for a response.

Derek turned his head to look over his shoulder. Casey sat looking like an angel on his back. The moonlight from the window framing her face and making her look all the more urethral than he already thought she was. She had a small smile on her face.

"What’s up?" asked Derek nervously.

"Nothing much," she replied softly as her nibble fingers found the skin of his lower back under his shirt. She drew small circles, the pressure growing steadily as she worked the knots there. Derek bit back a moan. She was giving his a massage; good lord, Casey was giving a massage, without bribery.

Casey pushed the back of his shirt up as far as it could go, exposing his back to the chill of the basement. His skin tingled and goosebumps formed. Casey ran her hands up and down his back warming his skin and causing him to groan with appreciation. Casey continued to rub his back, working the muscles on his shoulders and neck. He could feel the heat of her body as she leaned over him, occasionally her hair would tickle his skin.

If Derek was enjoying himself, then so was Casey. She didn't want to admit it, but she really enjoyed giving him massages.

Derek at that moment was just happy that he was face down, so she couldn't see the effect she was having on him.

Neither said anything as Casey continued her work. 15 minutes later Derek was asleep and Casey was feeling really antsy. She finally leaned all the way over and allowed her entire weight to settle on his back.

"Goodnight Derek." Casey gave herself a moment and then removed herself from him. She quickly ran to the bathroom, picking up her pj bottoms on the way.

Casey shut the door with a sigh. She was tired but felt so awake. She could still feel his skin under her fingers and smell his woody, manly scent all around her. After her talk with Emily, she figured they'd go back to the way they were. But, they didn't. Everything was worse.

Derek wouldn't just kiss her cheek or hug her; he'd hold her and nuzzle her neck. His daily kisses had become random and increased in number. He'd kiss her for no apparent reason. His hands had barely left her body since everything had been resolved. It was like he was scared she would disappear. Since that day they had slept in the same bed, Derek latching onto her the moment she laid down. He wasn't going to let her go.

It wasn't just Derek. Casey had taken to running her hands through his hair and cuddling up to him on the couch, she'd kiss his cheek whenever she felt the need to. Just because he was the first to hold on at night didn't mean she didn't hold him right back.

They were as close as they could be without admitting their feelings. Derek didn't do PDA, ever, and he was the king of PDA with her, he never let her go. Casey had come to realize that Derek was probably into her as much as she was into him. She didn't know if he loved her the way she loved him, but he must be darn close.

Casey took another deep breath and turned on the bathtub. She turned the water up as hot as it could go. She poured in the bubble bath Derek had chosen for her a while back. Undressing quickly she stepped into the bath. She hissed as the water caused her skin to tingle. She felt the heat seeping into her skin, slowly overpowering the chill that she felt the moment she left Derek.

Now fully seated in the bath, Casey relaxed into the bubbles. The water flowed around her body pulling the anxiety from her bones. She ran her hands firmly up and down her thighs, rubbing the ache of the day away.

She closed her eyes and sank back into the water allowing herself a break from stress and fear.

Casey remained in the bath only a few minutes longer; her body was burning and water felt cold. Casey stepped out of the bath and dried off quickly. She felt the most relaxed she had felt in six months.

She dressed quickly and exited the bathroom. She was met with a conflict. There were two beds and Derek had already fallen asleep. She wanted nothing more than to snuggle up with Derek, but she wasn't sure how he would react in the morning.

However, her state of mind was drastically altered at the moment. She felt cuddly and warm; she wanted to be warmer. She allowed herself a soft grin as she got into bed with Derek. She didn't hesitate to curl herself into him and place her nose in the crook of his neck.

Derek, in his sleep, felt his favorite body press against his and reacted. His arms wrapped themselves around her and pulled her even closer, the smell of brown sugar bubble bath invading his dreams.

Casey fell asleep within minutes, with a happy smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Derek awakened with the smell of brown sugar in his nose. The soft body of Casey pressed into him, curled into him as close as possible. His arms were wrapped around her, making sure she didn't stray from his arms. He could feel her every curve pressed against him. It didn't take him long to realize she wasn't wearing a bra. He ran his fingers through her hair, massaging her scalp as he went.

He knew it was only a few hours until they began their journey home and he wanted to soak in the moment while he could. He knew they would be going back to their own beds. He felt Casey stir next to him; she let out a small sigh. He smiled and continued to run his hands through her hair.

"Did you take a bath last night?" he asked. He knew she was awake; he felt her eyelashes flutter against his neck.

Casey stiffened. He glanced at her curiously; then shrugged it off.

"Yeah? Why?" she quietly asked.

"You smell like that bubble bath I picked out."

"Oh, yeah bubble bath." He felt her relax considerably against him.

"And I heard you."

Casey pulled herself out of his arms and stared at him with wide eyes. "You heard me?"

"Yeah, the bath turned on and I heard a bit of splashing. I was asleep by the time you got out."

Casey released a deep breath. Derek couldn't help but notice the blush that had risen into her cheeks.

"Why are you blushing? Did you plan a prank or something?" he inquired, smiling at her nervousness.

"No! I don't pull pranks, that's your job!"

"You're right it is my job… I am the best there is." He ran his fingers teasingly against her stomach.

"Stop! Don't you dare!" Casey shrieked.

"Stop what? I'm not doing anything!" he responded innocently as he continued trailing his fingers up and down her abdomen.

"You…hahahah….you know…ha…" Casey was giggling like crazy, her blush intensified by her lack of oxygen.

Derek grinned as he continued his onslaught. Casey tried to fight back, but Derek would have none of it. He rolled himself onto her, pressing her to the bed.

He grabbed her hands with one of his and pinned them above her head; his other hand continued his torture. Casey was losing it and quickly; Derek was relentless. Casey used her last defense, her body. She tried to arch her back, pressing her torso into his, trying to wriggle out of his grasp.

The contact had a different outcome than she expected. Derek's hand stilled on her, now exposed, stomach. Allowing Casey to try to catch her breath. She panted against him. Derek's head was placed in the crook of her neck for protection, in case she flailed.

He could see the rise and fall of her chest, the black tank top barely conserving her modesty. The shirt had fallen lower than he'd ever seen, her breasts almost entirely exposed to him. The shock of her body caused him to falter, his body pressing back into hers.

Casey felt his body press her back into the mattress, his warmth seeping into her bones. Casey let out a breathy moan as Derek turned his face into her neck, his nose running along the crook of her neck and shoulder, his breath hitting her chest. Derek decided this was a good time to make his move. Removing his nose he carefully placed a single kiss behind her ear.

Casey's hands came up around him, gripping his sides and pulling him closer. One of Derek's hands got tangled in her tresses as Casey bore her neck to him. Derek smiled against her skin at the open invitation.

As Derek lowered his lips to her neck a sharp knock startled them out of their moment. Derek scrambled off of Casey and began fixing his clothing. Casey sat up in the bed, dazed. Derek turned to make sure Casey was up and noticed her shirt was still as low as it could go. He quickly reached over and pulled the shirt back up. He turned back to the stairs to meet the intruder.

Lizzie came sauntering down the stairs, her eyes glittering with information to share with Edwin. She had knocked first, on purpose. She had heard the rustling of sheets and deep breaths of her eldest siblings. She smiled before opening the door and beginning her trek downstairs.

"You guys ready? You planned on leaving in an hour."

Derek cleared his throat, "Yeah, we're going to be on schedule. We just woke up late."

Casey sat blushing on Derek's bed, the sheets wrapped around her and her hair tousled. If she wasn't wearing a shirt Lizzie would have guessed they were up to no good. Lizzie glanced at her sister knowingly. Casey's blush deepened.

"Okay then, see you upstairs in a bit. Breakfast is almost ready." With that, she walked back up the stairs shaking her head.

Derek took a deep breath and turned back to Casey. He opened his mouth to speak, but she was nowhere in sight. He glanced around the room, only to see the bathroom door close and her bag missing.

"Freaking Ninja," he muttered before grabbing his own bag.


They were saying their final goodbyes an hour later. The car was warming up and the trailer hitch was triple checked. Nora had her arms wrapped around Casey's shoulders, holding her eldest daughter as close as possible.

Derek had Marti clinging to his neck as he hugged his father. Edwin and Lizzie standing off to the side, having already had their turn. Edwin's arm was wrapped securely around a depressed Lizzie's waist. Lizzie had her head resting on his shoulder.

Nora continued to hold Casey as Casey hugged her just as tight. "I'm going to miss you, Mom."

"No you won't," countered Nora.

"I will!"

Nora grinned and dropped her voice to a whisper, "You're going to be too busy falling in love and living a life you didn't expect."

Casey stiffened.

"What?" she whispered back.

"You have my permission to fall head over heels for the man right under your nose. Allow yourself to fall, he'll catch you." With that Nora quickly released her daughter and moved to hug her stepson.

George moved over to Casey and opened his arms; Casey smiled and hugged him.

"Don't break his heart, because you'll end up breaking your own in the process." Casey stood, shocked in the arms of the man she considered her father. He just kept hugging her through her shock, laughing internally.

"Good luck, call me if you need any advice," whispered Nora into Derek's ear.

"Don't worry Nora, I could write the manual," he laughed, giving her a good squeeze before releasing her.

"Your chariot awaits Princess!" he said as he moved towards the car. Casey numbly walked around the car and glanced at the smiling faces lined up in the front lawn. She gave them a weak smile before getting into the car. Derek looked at her questioningly before turning to the family. His parents winked and waved. Marti was crying and smiling at the same time, waving pathetically. Derek crumbled.

He quickly gathered his Smarti in his arms and gave her the tightest hug he could muster.

"I love you Smarts."

"I love you too Smerek."

He put her down and dropped a kiss to her head before getting in the car.

As they pulled away, Derek and Casey waved wildly from the inside of the car, their siblings running down the sidewalk in pursuit, waving back. At the end of the block the kids stopped but continued to wave frantically at the distancing car.

With a conjoined sigh, Derek and Casey stopped waving and faced forward.

Chapter Text

It was about 1:15 in the afternoon; two hours into their journey back to Queens. The car had been fairly silent since they had left home. Derek had put in a CD that both he and Casey would agree on and focused on the road. Casey had pulled out a book and began tuning out the world. Derek would occasionally turn to look at the woman in the passenger seat.

Casey came out of the bathroom that morning looking comfortable and sexy in Derek's opinion. She was wearing her yoga pants and an oversized sweater that he later realized was his. She had her hair in a single braid and no make up on. After she opened her book she had curled up in the seat with her legs pulled up to her chest, the book resting on her knees. She would sit with one hand poised between the book and her mouth. At a particularly exciting or interesting part she would chew on her thumbnail, her eyes widening just a fraction.

Derek tried to focus all of his attention on the road but his mind kept drifting back to that morning. They were so close; he could practically taste it. As the car got closer and closer to Queens Derek got farther and farther away from a solution. All he wanted was to walk up to her, spur of the moment and show her what she meant to him. But he didn't want to scare he away. He could sit her down and have a serious conversation, but that was not his style at all. He also knew that Casey had a tendency to jump to conclusions when it came to serious conversations and him. He also had a ring box, burning a hole in his pocket. He knew that if they were on the subject that he'd just come out and ask her.

There were more than just two people involved in their relationship. If they were going to do this they had to agree that it was for the long hall, there was a whole family involved.

Derek sighed for the 50th time that hour and looked around at their surroundings. He spotted a small town coming up at the next exit. He was hungry and a hungry Derek is an unhappy Derek, and an unhappy Derek doesn't think clearly.

Derek turned down the music, which caused Casey to emerge from whatever land she was in and look up.

"Where are we?" she asked in a sleepy tone.

"Pickering," replied Derek with no enthusiasm.

"Are we stopping for food?"

"Yeah, sit down or drive thru?"

"Sit down."

"Diner or burger joint?"

"Diner."

"Okay." Derek pulled off of the highway and into the small town.


Lunch was quiet and lazy. They had entered the diner silently, only to be gestured to a booth by an over caffeinated woman in a gingham apron and Keds. She had asked if they wanted anything to drink, they had both said water. The waitress left them again in silence. It seemed that neither of them knew how to approach the subject of that morning. So neither of them did.

Casey got a salad and Derek got a steak sandwich, other than their orders they said nothing. They munched silently through their lunch, neither looking at the other. Derek found the characters within the diner to be interesting and Casey found the snowy grey world out the window fascinating.

After lunch was finished, Casey had to merely look up at Derek to check if he was done. They made eye contact for less than a second before he nodded and left the booth. Derek paid, leaving a decent tip and left the small diner with Casey following silently behind. She nodded her thanks to the waitress before running to the car.

Derek already had it warming up with the music on. He was sitting straightforward with both hands on the wheel, his face emotionless. Casey shut the door and they were on their way.

To say that one could feel the awkward would be an understatement. Oh, it was awkward, one could see, feel, and practically taste the awkward. Casey had taken up her book again and Derek had switched CDs, putting on something more his tastes than hers.

Casey finished her book an hour before they reached Queens. She rested her forehead against the window and watched the scenery fly by. Her breathing was even and relaxed. The tension had finally broken into comfortable silence, both drifting deep into thought.

When they pulled into their apartment complex it was 4:00 in the afternoon. It was beginning to get dark and it was snowing heavily. The parking lot was covered in a heavy layer of white. Casey got out of the car and practically ran up the stairs, leaving Derek to grab their bags.

Derek rolled his eyes as he exited the car; he paused to stretch before getting the bags from the back seat. He slowly climbed the stairs, mentally preparing himself for the unloading of the trailer. He really hated moving boxes, but it needed to be done.

He dropped the bags in the entryway to their apartment. Although he was slightly put off by the fact that Casey had left him to the bags he finally saw her reasoning. Casey had turned on the sidelights and was in the process of lighting a fire in the fireplace. He could hear a load of laundry already in the washer. He assumed she was in the process of doing the laundry when she got the call about Nora. The fact that she remembered there was wash made him chuckle.

Casey turned her head to face him at the noise.

"Do you want to wait a bit to start unloading or do you want to get this over with now?"

"The Uhaul place closes at six, so if we can get this done, I can get that monster back early and save some money," Derek reasoned.

"Sounds like a plan." Casey got up from the fireplace and walked passed him out the door.

Derek stood there for a moment, calming a bit at the fact that they were 'home' again; just the two of them.

"De- rek !" he heard her screech from the bottom of the stairs; with a small smile he left the warming apartment.


Casey carried the last box into the apartment and put in her pile. Derek was sitting in his recliner, his eyes barely opening at her entrance.

"Is that it?" he asked in a tired voice.

"Yeah, that's it," she sighed as she plopped on the couch.

"Do you want to get dinner after we drop off the trailer?" he asked.

"Sounds great, because I'm not cooking anything right now."

"Do you want to change or go as is?"

"Is there something wrong with my outfit?" her voice was hard, yet teasing.

"No, I think you look great. But I know sometimes you like to dress differently when you're going to dinner, so…" Derek lay there allowing his words to trail off. He hoped she would take the compliment and leave it at that, but he was unsure about her reaction so he kept his eyes closed.

Casey smirked and got up from her seat and moved to get changed. As she passed Derek she paused. She saw a faint flicker of fear on his brow. She stooped down and paused again, her face hovering about an inch over his.

Derek could feel her breath on his face and flinched. Casey released a low chuckle and dropped a kiss onto his forehead. Derek sighed in relief and visibly relaxed. Casey ran her hand through his hair once before retreating towards her bedroom. She was smiling the whole way.

Chapter Text

They stumbled into the apartment in a fit of laughter. After returning the trailer they had gone to the local pub, opting for a classic burger and fries. They had spent the evening joking, flirting, and having an all around good time. Finally, at 9, Casey said she wanted to go home. Derek simply nodded his agreement and grabbed his coat.

Having laughed away the awkwardness of the day both were in high spirits and feeling their 'not-date' date was wonderful. They stood in the entryway letting out their remaining giggles before Casey decided to end the evening on a good note and kissed his cheek. She pulled away with a smile and began taking off her shoes. The 'not-date' date officially over. Derek smiled and waited for her to straighten to full height before returning her kiss on the cheek with one of his own. Casey grinned again, tucking a stray hair behind her ear bashfully.

"Thanks for dinner, D. I really needed that."

"No problem, Case. You deserve it," replied Derek with an impish grin.

Casey nodded before practically floating back to her room. She quickly shut her bedroom door behind her; she leaned against it with a sigh. She reached a hand up to feel the spot on her cheek where Derek had kissed her. She felt her cheeks frozen in a permanent grin, which caused her grin to widen if possible. She sighed again before leaving her door to get ready for bed.

Derek stood in the hallway between their rooms. His gaze fixed on her door. A small smile played on his lips as he imagined the goodnight kiss he wished he'd given her. His eyes, which were brimming with anticipation and mirth after the wonderful evening, took a swift turn to longing as he heard her softly sing on the other side of the door. Her voice was melodic and soothing, it caused Derek to realize that he was sleeping alone again. With a heavy sigh, Derek turned towards his room.


Casey lay in her bed 20 minutes later. She still had her ridiculous smile on her face and the butterfly feeling in her stomach. Her room was dark except for the seam of light that through her curtains could not contain. She was comfortable and sleepy, yet her mind seemed to remain busy. She had gone over the 'not-date' date in her head many times. She thought about the way he had placed his hand on hers on occasion. How he had laughed at all of her attempts at humor. She thought about how she had reached up to fix his hair and the way he looked at her afterwards. She could still feel the warmth of his hand on the small of her back from when he led her out of the restaurant.

She was excited to dream that night, more excited than she had been for a while, but she still couldn't sleep. She missed him. She missed the body heat he shared with her when they lay next to each other. How he would fold her in his arms, she missed how possessive he was while he slept. He always had to be touching her while he slept, she would move and he would follow, making sure he had one arm around her at all times. She loved that. Casey's smile turned into a frown when she realized she would not be getting to sleep soon if she kept thinking like that.

She got out of bed and stripped off her pjs. They made her feel constrained and too warm. She searched blindly for her hamper. She quickly dumped it over and felt around for one of his t-shirts. She wanted to feel him and that was the closest she would get that night. Her fingers found a cotton t-shirt and she pulled it from the pile; she gave it a good sniff. Yep, that was his shirt. She was about to pull it over her head when she realized she was wearing a bra. No wonder she was uncomfortable. She quickly pulled off her bra and put the t-shirt on. She smiled as she hugged herself, happy to be wrapped in him. She cleaned up the mess she made before retiring to bed, again. Hoping sleep would claim her.


Derek got out of bed with a huff. It was around two in the morning and he had yet to fall asleep. He knew why and the reason bothered him. Had he really gotten to the point where he couldn't sleep without her? Yes, he had. With a sigh he exited his room and padded as quietly as possible towards the kitchen.

He stopped once he was in the doorway of the kitchen. He took a deep breath and tried to push his tiredness away. He sauntered about the kitchen, obtaining a glass and filling it with water. He leaned against the counter as he downed the glass. He placed the glass in the sink and crossed his arms over his chest and took a deep breath. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the apartment and he could see the furniture and old architecture of the space. The blue-ish light from the window casting an eerie glow about, causing his skin to tighten and tingle in the silence. He sighed again as he moved from the counter and out towards the living room. He paused to look down the hall, longing to go into Casey's room and curl up with her.

He was shocked to see a dark figure standing in the middle of the hall, the light from the window at the end of the hall framing its shape. It was Casey. He followed the lines of the wood to her toes and up her ankle and calf. He had expected her to at least wear some pjs but so far there was nothing but incredibly smooth looking skin. He paused at her knees, one was dropped and slightly in front of the other. He took a deep breath as his eyes rose to her thighs, which were bare. He followed the line of her legs until it disappeared under what he assumed was one of his shirts. Her hands were clasped together in front of her and her shoulders were slightly hunched in a shy manner. All of her hair was slightly messed from bed and hung over her shoulders. He started to walk towards her, she showed no sign that she had noticed him or wanted to.

Casey had heard him get out of bed, she was still nowhere near asleep so she assumed maybe he could help entertain her or possibly stay up late with her; anything really, as long as it was with him. She had silently exited her bed and room, careful not to disturb any of the floorboards. She had stood in the hallway, debating whether or not to retreat to her room or face him. As she had finally made up her mind she heard a deep breath at the end of the hall. Her sleepless mind had told her that if she stood perfectly still and held her breath he wouldn't see her. She knew the thought was crazy but tried it anyway. She stared at the floor intently; if I can't see him…he can't see me! Once again she knew her plan was crazy but it was worth a try.

Derek stopped less than six inches in front of her. Casey finally allowed herself to believe that he had seen her. His shadow covered her face and she felt his warmth in the air. He was shirtless and the little light in the apartment played across his skin. She wondered what he tasted like.

Derek studied her face, she was biting her bottom lip and her eyes remained downcast. He was somewhat scared to touch her; scared that she would disappear; the whole situation felt like a dream. His fingers twitched against his side, aching to feel her, to prove her existence. His resolve broke when her eyes finally flicked to his. Her eyes shined in the darkness, her tousled hair framing her face. Derek's breath caught. He tentatively raised a hand to her cheek. Casey released her bottom lip from her teeth as she let out the breath she was holding. His eyes were open and unmasked. She could see everything he was feeling. Those brown eyes swirled with awe, longing, dare she say it, love; it made her feel like she was a treasure he had found, she felt cherished.

His fingers felt like fire on her skin, leaving trails from her cheek down to the ridge of her top lip. He traced her lips, wondering if she was aware of him touching her. His thumb stilled on her bottom lip, his hand cradling her shin, keeping her head raised toward him. His eyes suddenly held a question; will you let me? 

Let him what ? Love her, kiss her, and be with her, care for her, she could fill in the blank. So far her answer was yes to everything and anything he asked her; she just had to let him know that.

She answered in the only way she knew how. She carefully kissed the thumb pressed to her mouth. Derek's eyes flicked from her thumb back to her eyes. She returned his longing gaze with one of her own. She kissed his thumb again, hoping he got her point.

Derek's eyes darkened as his hand moved from her mouth to the back of her neck. His fingers tangled themselves in her hair.

Chapter Text

Casey barely had time to take a breath before Derek, finally , claimed Casey's lips. His kiss was soft and earnest. Casey had never been kissed like that before; his kiss left her breathless and weak-kneed. She felt like she was on a rollercoaster and she had no intention of getting off.

His lips confidently learned hers, mapping out his new territory. Casey finally snapped out of her daze to return the kiss, pressing back against him and moving her body to press against his. Derek groaned into her mouth his approval. His other arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her the extra few inches. At the full body contact Casey whimpered; her heart leapt in her chest as her arms twined around his neck. One had clutching the skin of his back while the other buried itself in his hair. Derek tilted his head for more access and to deepen the kiss. Casey happily obliged.

They stood in the dimly lit hallway wrapped around each other. They had no sense of time or of the world around them. Both were wholly focused on the other.

Derek was the first to pull away, his mouth slowly leaving hers with smaller kisses; unable to get enough of what was finally his. After his last lingering kiss, Derek leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes closed and his arms pulling her tighter against him. He sent a silent prayer that she was real, that she really was in his arms.

Derek tentatively opened his eyes. He was met with the bright blue gaze of one Casey McDonald. He couldn't help the smile that formed on his face. Casey, while trying to catch her breath, smiled shyly back. Her eyes began to tear; all the tension and doubt had left her mind and body in one frightening and beautiful kiss and it was almost too much for her to handle.

Derek found his voice, it was shaky and raspy from the kiss, "I'm in love with you, Case." His voice was a mixture of amusement, seriousness, and slight embarrassment.

Casey released a watery laugh with a big smile. Her chuckle-sobs continued as she grinned up at him.

"I'm in love with you, too." She placed a soft kiss on his lips and then stepped back to smile at him some more.

"God, I love you." Derek back swooped down and caught her lips again, not allowing her too far away from him. This time his kiss was forceful, demanding, and passionate. Casey barely had time to respond before he had lifted her up in his arms and pressed her against the wall next to her door.

Casey wrapped her legs around his waist, causing him to growl into her mouth. When his hand met the skin of her lower back they both moaned. His hand continued to move up her back, pulling her shirt up with it. His fingers met the base of her scar and traced its edge. Casey whimpered, the sensitive skin tingling in unexpected ways. Casey's mouth left his to release a relief filled sigh. Derek's mouth didn't leave her skin. His mouth worked its way along her jaw and down to her neck. He feasted on the skin that had escaped him the morning before. He nipped, sucked, nibbled, laved, and kissed on her skin, marking her. She wasn't going to escape him this time; she was his.

He finished his task with a final nip, leaving Casey whimpering, shaking, and breathless in his arms.

He found her lips again; he couldn't get enough of her taste. Derek traced her lips with his tongue, hoping he would let her in. She didn't hesitate to open her mouth and invite his tongue to play with hers.

One would expect the typical 'battle for dominance' to happen between them, but it didn't. Their mouths danced together. Each step was fluid and beautiful, each knew their partners' next step and gladly followed. Casey finally ripped her mouth from his. She couldn't take much more. The kissing was too hot, the wall was too hard, and her clothes needed to come off.

"Derek," she breathed his name, Derek stilled against her.

"Yeah?" he hoped she wasn't backing out, he was already in too deep. She used a hand to force his face to hers. She planted a reassuring, but short kiss on his lips.

"Are you mine?" That wasn't what he was expecting.

"What?" he looked into her eyes, the electric blue burning back at him. He saw passion, love, and questions.

"Before we do anything else, I have to know if you are mine. This can't be a one-time thing or a two-month thing. I won't be able to handle it. Derek, are you mine?" she asked in earnest.

"I'm yours, forever. I promise," he replied, knowing exactly what she was asking.

"Thank you," she sighed with a smile. She placed a kiss on the corner of his mouth and then continued. She left open-mouthed kisses along his jaw until she reached his ear. She nibbled on his earlobe, pulling it into her mouth with a firm suck.

Derek was a puddle under her kisses. Thankful for once that he didn't botch the words. For the first time in his life Derek had admitted to love, romantic and sugar coated love. If he knew this would be the outcome he would have tried it a long time ago.

Casey's voice startled him out of his mindless haze.

"If you're mine then I am yours," she paused.

Chapter Text

Derek didn't want to open his eyes. Everything with Casey the night before was a dream, a wonderful heartbreaking dream; he just knew it.

He had woken up only moments before. His body wonderfully spent and his senses fogged by her scent. His body felt heavy and completely comfortable. He felt great; a sure sign that he was dreaming. He never felt that good in reality. His mind was playing a sick joke on him and he didn't want to face it.

The only redeeming factor in the whole equation was the warm, soft body curled into his side, the heavy head resting on his chest just over his heart, and the warm breath fanning across his skin. He was determined to stay right where he was, everything was perfect and he wanted nothing to change.

He was broken out of his thoughts when the warm body shifted as well as the hands attached to it. A soft hand moved from the center of his chest to his side and pulled him closer, if it was possible, to that wonderfully warm body. If that hand wasn't an indication that his dream state was coming to an end, then the heavy head on his chest moving, soft lips pressing to his heart, and a sweet nose nuzzling his skin was.

Casey had woken to the sun pouring through her open curtains. She opened her eyes and looked over his chest to the clock on the side table, 7:33. That's when she remembered all that had happened the night before. She wanted to forever remember that time, it was when she realized that everything was finally right with the world. She felt like crying and dancing at the same time. She had decided that this was the best morning she had ever had. She simply lay there enjoying the feeling of the morning and recounted the moments that had led up to this moment; everything from first meeting to his hand tracing her features before jumping into oblivion.

She could tell when he woke up about an hour later when his body went rigid. His breath was forcibly steady. Her best guess that either he was scared to wake her or he didn't believe anything that happened was real.

If he needed reassurance to either 'wake her up' or that she was real she could give it. He held his tighter and nuzzled deeper into him, while planting kisses on the skin she could reach.

His arms tightened around her, his fingers gripping her shirt desperately. She felt his face turn towards her head, his nose burying itself into her hair.

Casey smiled and continued to kiss his skin; she slowly worked her way across his chest as she moved her body over his. She made sure to keep the blankets wrapped securely around them. Derek's hand found her lower back and pressed her closer. Casey grinned at the action and moved her kisses from his chest up his neck and to his face. She continued to kiss his face and waited for him to open his tightly closed eyes.

Don't open your eyes! Don't open your eyes! You open them and she'll be gone! Was the mantra in Derek's head.

"Open your eyes Derek," came a soft command against his lips.

"Can't."

"Why not?" her voice was husky from sleep and softly encouraging him.

"You'll be gone," was his honest reply. His arms wrapped themselves around her waist and hugged her closer.

"No I won't." She continued to talk against his lips, never really kissing him.

"Yes you will."

"No I won't."

"Uh huh."

"Nuh uh."

Casey chuckled against him, "Are we really fighting about my existence at a time like this?"

"Yes we are." Derek was now debating the existence of dream Casey compared to real Casey. Dream Casey never fought with him like that and dream Casey never felt this warm.

"Just open your eyes Derek. I won't kiss you unless you open your eyes."

"You can't blackmail me Case, it's just not fair."

"Is it working?"

"Sadly, yes."

"Then open your eyes."

Derek took a deep breath and finally opened his eyes.

Casey's face was closely above him; her eyes were smiling and her hair was messed in a beautiful way.

"Hi," she greeted him with a soft smile.

"Hey," Derek smiled back as he brought his hand to her cheek.

Unlike the night before he could see her clearly and she was definitely real. Reality had never been so beautifully messy and sleepy, and he liked reality.

"Will you kiss me now?" Derek inquired.

"Gladly." Casey dropped her mouth to his. The kiss was soft and languid. Derek hummed into the kiss as he ran his hand up and down her back. Casey chuckled when he hit a particularly sensitive spot and released his lips.

"You're here, Casey." He grinned.

"I most definitely am, Derek." She grinned back.

Derek finally settled into the mattress with a sigh. They lay like that until it became obvious that sleep was taking over once again.

"I love you, Case." He murmured.

"I love you too." She tiredly replied.

"You n'mkay?" His mumbled question sounded weird but Casey could understand.

"I'm more than okay."

"Which is?"

"Happier than I've been in a very long time."

"Oh."

"How about you? Are you okay?" Casey inquired.

"The happiest I've ever been."

"Good."

"It is."

They lay like that for some time, both happy that they were on the same page.

"You realize that this is a forever type of thing, right?" Derek pointed out.

"Yep, I do."

"I'm not saying that because I think you want to hear it. I mean in. This is forever."

"I know Derek."

“Forever meaning, we are getting married and we are growing old together.

"I know Derek."

"I'm not letting you go. So you might as well forget the doctor husband who does everything right and buys you flowers because they remind him of you."

"I know Derek."

"You're going to have to settle for the hockey player husband who tries his best to everything right and worships the ground you walk on. Will you be okay with that?"

"I am."

They were silent for a moment.

"You realize that you just proposed to me, right?"

"I do. Do you realize that you said yes?"

Derek realized that the elaborate proposal he knew Casey had envisioned just went out the window and he didn't know if she was okay with that. She hadn't killed him yet, so that was a start.

"I do. I must love you a lot to allow you to propose to me in this setting and still say yes. There was no candle lit dinner, roses, or kneeling."

"It's not my style, I prefer to get you too tired to care and then ask you the most important question of your life. I love to screw with your plans, its second nature to me."

Casey just giggled and wiggled in his arms, raising her head from his chest. Her face was flushed and she had small tears leaking from her eyes. Derek smiled, pulling her face up to his so he could kiss her face all over, sparing her lips.

Casey pulled him over her, giggling like crazy as he continued to pepper her skin with kisses.

Chapter Text

Derek stood in front of a hot stove cooking up a batch of his famous pancakes. He could not remove the happy smile that graced his features, a smirk playing lightly on his lips.

He was humming a song he didn't really know but couldn't get out of his head; thoughts of Casey whirling through his head at remarkable speeds. As he slipped the last pancake onto the plate a pair of hands slipped around him, the hands weaving intricate patterns over his skin. He could feel soft lips press kisses along his spine.

His grin only grew as he turned to face the young woman who haunted his dreams. Casey stood behind him only wearing his shirt and a smile, her hair tousled in just the right way.

Casey was enjoying the view; that was for sure. She had finally left the bed Derek demanded she stay in to venture into the kitchen, the smell of pancakes leading the way. What she found was Derek wearing just his boxers and humming. She paused behind him, silently thanking God that she was finally allowed to touch him how she wished, and he was allowed to reciprocate. She slipped her arms around him and kissed his back.

Derek and Casey finally stood facing each other. In this moment they felt mild awkwardness. This was the moment every morning where one would kiss the other, but never going pass the invisible line they had drawn. They had shared so many moments and almost moments there.

Derek carefully placed the spatula on the counter behind him, moving slowly as if not to scare her off. With the utensil placed behind him and his hands free Derek didn't waste a moment. He quickly gathered her in his arms and caught her lips in a strong kiss. Casey barely had time to react; she clung to his shoulders for support as she was swept away. Derek lifted her into his arms and Casey wrapped her legs around his waist. Derek's arms grew tired and he moved toward the counter as Casey deepened their kiss. He placed her gently on the counter.

Casey shivered at the shock of such a cold surface; but the heat that Derek was emitting was more than enough to warm her back up.

Derek knew he had to stop where this was going, he had just made breakfast and pancakes never tasted as good microwaved as they did fresh. But Casey was addictive and warm. Thankfully Casey's stomach interrupted his fun with an angry growl. Derek pulled away from her lips with a chuckle.

"Sounds like I need to feed you," he teased, poking her tummy, playfully.

"I made pancakes which I would like to eat and despite how delicious you are," he licked his lips at the memory, "if we eat real food now, the more fun we can have later."

Derek turned off the stove and grabbed the plate of pancakes and bacon from the counter and placed them on the table.

He turned to find Casey sitting with her legs crossed on the counter; just where he left her. "Just give me a sec, Case," he turned to leave the room, "Stay."

Casey gave him a small pout, "Yes, Derek."

At her agreement he ran from the room. He quickly ventured down the hall and into his room. His still packed bag from the trip lay on his bed. He went straight to the front pocket and pulled out the prize that lay inside.

Derek walked back into the kitchen and straight to her. He gave her a quick kiss and gathered her up in his arms and carried her towards the table. He pulled the chair out with his foot and set her down in it. Leaving her there he moved to go to his side of the table, but was stopped by the arms around his neck.

Casey at first was startled by his grab and go technique but quickly got over it as she swooned over his obvious upper body strength.

Casey pulled him down for another kiss, a hot passionate kiss. Derek had never really been known for getting weak kneed when he was kissed but that changed quickly. Obviously his body was saving getting weak kneed for when Casey kissed him. Derek had to get his bearings before slipping out of her embrace.

He sat down in his seat and took a deep breath before looking up at the girl across from him. Casey sat there smugly, a distinctive smirk playing on her lips. Derek looked away embarrassed before loading up his plate.

Casey looked at him with satisfaction; he was putty in her hands. She moved to get the plate of bacon when something caught her eye.

A little black box sat in front of her plate, right next to her orange juice.

She looked up at Derek who was pointedly ignoring her and then back at the box.

If the box contained what she thought it contained then he had been thinking about it before they had gotten together. It also could be a cruel prank. She looked back at Derek only to find him looking back at her. She studied his features for any signs of a prank. Yes his eyes were sparkling, yes he was smirking that smirk; but there was something else, something softer, hopeful even.

She picked up the box carefully and she looked back at him questioningly. He just gestured at the box with his head and eyes before breaking into a knowing smile.

She opened the box and immediately dropped the box. The box clattered onto her plate and her hands went to cover her mouth, hoping the catch the squeal she was about to let loose. The ring flew from its safe pillow in the box and landed on Derek's stack of pancakes.

Derek laughed at her reaction, picked up the ring, and got up from his seat and made his way over to Casey, getting down on one knee and looking expectedly up at her.

Casey was already crying and shaking her head in disbelief. He was serious earlier in bed. She believed he was serious about his original proposal, but part of her was hesitant to put him into the fiancé title. Scared that he was half joking.

But he was serious.

"Casey, Casey, Casey… you thought I was joking didn't you?" he smirked up at her, "I realized a while back that I couldn't go a day without fighting with you. Now that I can kiss you I can't go a day without kissing you either. I have also come to realize that you are a sex addict. So I've come up with a solution that will benefit everyone. A solution that would permit you to jump these bones any time you want and I would get to kiss and fight you everyday, that's all I've ever wanted. So Case," he grabbed her hand and held the ring up for her to see, "will you marry me?"

Casey was both laughing and crying throughout his speech. It was so "classic Derek" that it made her blood boil as well as cause her heart to flutter.

"Yes."

Derek slipped the ring on her finger and pulled her down to kiss him. Casey didn't waste any time burying her hands in his hair and giving herself over completely to him. He pulled her off her chair and into his lap. Her legs wrapped around his waist; her hunger forgotten.

They never did get to eat breakfast, but they did have microwaved pancakes for lunch.