Part Fourteen: Nevertheless

Casey heard the door to her bedroom creak open that night. In the dark, she smiled to herself. She heard as Derek quietly shut it behind him, and then locked it. He pulled the covers back and gently nudged her over. Scooting in beside her, he propped his head up and strained to see her in the dark.

"I thought you were kidding when you said you wanted to continue this later," Casey whispered.

He reached over and brushed the hair out of her face. His fingertips lingered on her face, his thumb gently stroking her cheek. He leaned forward and briefly pressed his lips against hers.

"You're beautiful," he said.

Casey laughed, "You can't even see me."

"I don't have to see you to know you're beautiful," Derek replied.

Casey reached up and pulled his hand away from her face, intertwining her fingers with his. It felt strange to have him in her bed and under her covers. But, it felt so right at the same moment. His bare leg bumped against hers and she felt some kind of jolting waves run through her. His fingers twisted themselves free from hers and he reached up to play with the strap of her tank top.

"Derek…" she laughed nervously, reaching up to push his hand away.

"What?" he replied, scooting towards her and gently pushing her onto her back.

He positioned himself on top of her, and he noticed that she squirmed slightly underneath him. She probably thought that he was expert at these kinds of things. She probably thought that he was completely comfortable when it came to situations like these. But, inside, he was trembling. Sure, it was easy to do these things with girls he didn't care about. But a girl like Casey?

Now, that was a different story.

"We shouldn't be doing this," Casey whispered.

"Nobody will know," he replied, bending to kiss her.

"Nevertheless…" she replied, her voice shaking.

He heard the waver in her voice. Her chest was heaving heavily against his. He gently pushed her hair away from her neck and placed soft kisses on her exposed skin. Her hands snaked up under his shirt and her fingertips trailed along his back.

"This shouldn't be happening," she spoke up.

As his lips met her collarbone, she sharply arched her back, pressing into him. She wanted him. And she could tell that he wanted her, too. There was some kind of force coming over her, and she just let it happen. Gripping the edge of his shirt, she slowly pushed it up and over his head. He let out a little laugh as she tossed it to the floor.

She was able to snake a hand in between them, and she pressed her palm against his bare chest. It was like she had done that first Saturday when they were alone. It was the moment she had realized that something was happening, because it had affected her. It was affecting her now, too.

Derek's hands were gripping the bottom of her tank top. She felt the warmth of his hands against her stomach. He looked down into her eyes, as if asking her if it was okay. She was determined to let this happen. She wanted this to happen. But, at the last moment, there was a flicker of something in her eyes, and he noticed it.

"Case, what's wrong?" he asked, his hands loosening the grip on her shirt.

Tears began to fill her eyes, "I…I'm sorry, Derek."

"Sorry for what?" he asked, his eyes glazed over with concern.

"I just can't do this," she replied.

A solitary tear rolled down her cheek and he reached up to wipe it away. His heart swelled deep inside his chest. He felt as the tightness there became harder and harder. He rolled off of her and sat up, and she sat up as well. She glanced over at him, his bare chest illuminated in the moonlight that filtered in through her window. She couldn't believe that this was happening. How could she ruin the moment like that? He probably hated her.

Derek did something she didn't expect. He reached over and pulled her close. She buried her face in his chest, feeling the comfort of his arms around her. Strange, how they seemed to fit together perfectly.

"I'm sorry," she repeated.

"Don't be sorry," he replied, tipping her chin up so he could look into her eyes, "Don't ever apologize for not doing something you don't want to do."

"I want to," Casey insisted, "It's just that I don't think I'm ready. I know you're used to being with girls who…have experience with these kinds of things. I just can't be like that."

"Hey…hey…" Derek said softly, "First of all, I don't want you to be anybody but who you are. The annoying, beautiful girl that you are," and she laughed in response, so he continued, "And second of all, what makes you think that I've been with anybody?"

"I just figured…" she drifted, "I mean, you always have girls hanging all over you. Besides, you seem to know what you're doing."

Derek smiled, "And you're the smart one?"

She let out a small laugh, "Have I got it wrong?"

He leaned forward to gently press his lips against hers, "You've got it all wrong. I've never been with anybody, Casey."

Her eyes brightened, "Really?"

"Really…" he replied, teasing her slightly, "Come on, I'm not that bad."

"Well, you've got everybody at school fooled," Casey replied shyly, "Including me."

"I do have a reputation to uphold," Derek replied, pretending to pop his collar.

"Hey now," she replied, "I don't care about your reputation as long as you're upholding it with me."

"Only you," he replied, kissing her again.

"You're not mad?" she asked tentatively.

"Of course not," he replied, pulling the sheets up onto her waist, "Let's go to sleep."

She smiled up at him, and he watched her until she fell asleep.

It was four weeks later, and Derek was waiting nervously for the mail. School had let out a few days earlier and he was anxiously awaiting his report card. Casey had been helping him with his schoolwork (and a few others things), and he was pretty sure he had been able to save his grades. Sure, they had taken a few breaks now and then to…study other things. When he had gone to his teachers for an early estimation, they had been tight-lipped. They weren't allowed to discuss grades with the students until report cards had been issued.

So, here he was, peering out the curtains in the living room. Why was the mail running late today? It seemed the every time he didn't want the mail to come, it came early. And the postman was usually whistling. Today, he was nowhere to be seen. He felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Nervous?" Casey asked.

He managed a small smile, "How could you tell?"

"Well, besides the fact that you're shaking the whole sofa," she pointed to his rapidly bouncing leg, "And that your eyes have been glued to that mailbox for the past hour," she pointed out the window, "You're actually awake and it's not even eleven o'clock yet."

She quickly glanced around the house before bending to kiss his cheek and give him a reassuring pat on the back. They saw the flash of light that always hit the living room window when a car was turning the corner onto their street. After a few anxious moments, there was the postman. Derek was up and on his feet, flinging open the door and running to him at the box. He grabbed all of the mail and shuffled through it.

Casey watched him out the window as he pulled out a white envelope and stared at it. He slowly strode back to the house, tossing the rest of the mail onto the sofa. He licked his lips and turned the envelope over and over in his hands.

"Are you going to open it?" Casey asked.

He shook his head, "I can't."

Putting a hand on her hip, she replied, "You will. Derek, you've worked so hard. And it's right there in your hands. Just open it!"

He stared at the envelope for a second longer before letting out a sigh. He extended it to her.

"You open it," he said.

"Are you sure?" she asked, reluctantly taking it from him.

"Yeah," he replied, "You do it. It'll be easier."

She gave him one last uneasy look before slipping her finger underneath the flap of the envelope. She saw the school's crest in the upper left corner, and prayed that Derek had been able to bring his grades up. She pulled out the sheet of paper and quickly scanned over it. Derek was looking at her anxiously.

"Derek…" she began.

He groaned, shutting his eyes, "I didn't pass, did I?"

She smiled, "You passed everything!"

His eyes flew open, and a grin was spreading on his face, "What? You're kidding. Let me see."

He pulled the report card out of her hand and examined it. She smiled at him. It was strange to see Derek excited about anything besides girls and hockey. He pulled her in for a hug.

"I couldn't have done it without you," he whispered.

She smiled, and then poked him, "I know."

"Dad!" Derek yelled, jogging up the stairs.

Casey sat down in the recliner, not able to wipe the smile off of her face. Things were finally beginning to come together for her. She had found somebody she cared about. She had stopped fighting with Derek. Everything was working out perfectly.

"Hey Casey," Lizzie said, sitting on the sofa, "What's up? Did Derek pass?"

"Yeah," Casey replied, smiling, "With flying colors."

Lizzie regarded her strangely, "And you're happy about that? I thought you hated Derek."

Casey shrugged, "He's not so bad."

Lizzie shook her head and picked up the remote to turn on the television. Casey heard her mother calling her name from upstairs, and she hoisted herself out of the recliner. She went into her parents' bedroom and saw her mother and George getting ready for something. Derek was standing there, report card still in hand.

"Derek passed," George said.

"So I heard," Casey replied, crossing her arms and leaning against the door frame.

"Thanks for helping him out," her mother said, giving her an endearing smile.

"It was no problem," Casey shrugged.

There was a moment of silence as George paused while he tied his shoe and her mother dropped the earring she was trying to put in. Derek grinned at her sheepishly, picking at the edge of the report card in his hand.

"It was no problem this time," Casey corrected herself, "But I won't do it again. I swear, Derek. You're on your own next time."

"Whatever," Derek replied, brushing past her and to his room.

Casey rolled her eyes at her parents, and turned to leave. She went to her room for a few seconds until she heard her parents go downstairs. Then, she quietly slipped into Derek's room. He was already waiting there for her.

"Thanks, Casey," he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"Like I said, no problem," she replied with a grin, "Just don't let it happen again."

He pulled her in for a kiss. She sighed against his lips as they moved smoothly over her own. He always tasted so right, and she was never sure why.

Because he's Derek, Casey reminded herself, Everything about him is right.

Her arms snaked up around his neck and she deepened the kiss, parting his lips with her tongue. He accepted, pulling her closer against his body. Every time she kissed Derek she felt those familiar butterflies in her stomach. She felt like it was the first time, every time. He mumbled something against her lips, and she pulled back slightly.

"Huh?" she asked, looking into his eyes.

He released his grip on her waist, stepping back and looking at her bashfully. Her arms fell from around his neck, hanging loosely at her sides. She looked concerned.

"I love you," he repeated.

Casey's eyes went wide for a moment, and she was finding it hard to breathe. Derek noticed her lack of a response, and bit his lip, turning his back to her.

"I shouldn't have said anything," he replied, and she could hear the hurt in his voice.

There was this feeling inside of her chest that she had never felt before. Her whole body was glowing from it. He had said the words she had been waiting for. It was strange how she hadn't been aware that she was waiting for them. But now, after he had said them, something had clicked inside of her.

"I love you, too," she replied.

He had to bite back a grin. He turned to face her again, pulling her into his arms and spinning her around once. He knew that she thought it was corny, like that movie they had watched with Hannah Stevens that fateful Saturday. But, he didn't care. He finally understood why guys did that in movies.

Cupping her face in his hands, he gently leaned in to kiss her. He kissed her sweetly, so sweet, it made her want to cry. A loud banging on his door interrupted them, and they quickly jumped apart. She crossed her arms over her chest defensively as George opened the door.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Derek took my headphones and he won't give them back," Casey declared.

George shot his son a look of warning, "Derek."

Derek sighed, fumbling through the mess on his desk before retrieving a pair of headphones. He tossed them to Casey and she smirked at him.

"Did you need something?" Derek asked casually, flopping onto his bed.

"Nora and I are taking the kids to see Grandpa Harold today," George replied, "We were thinking about leaving you two here. That is, if you two can quit fighting."

Casey sighed, "I guess that would be okay."

"Just tell Casey to stay out of my room," Derek replied absently.

"You guys know how to behave," George replied, "We'll be back tonight."

Lizzie came up to Derek's bedroom just as George was turning to leave. She rushed over to Casey and gripped her hand, looking up at her older sister with big, pleading eyes. Casey smiled.

"Please don't let them take me," Lizzie begged.

"It won't be so bad," Casey reassured her, patting her head.

Lizzie gave Casey a doubtful look, "Last time we were there, he wouldn't stop talking. And when he finally noticed me, he thought that I was a girl scout."

Casey muffled a laugh with her hand as Nora called for Lizzie to come downstairs. Lizzie gave Casey one last look of desperation. Casey felt bad for her little sister, but all she could do was apologize and tell her to keep her chin up.

"You are so lucky," Edwin said, coming into the room at that moment and plopping beside Derek on his bed, "You and Casey always get to stay home while we go get tortured."

"Hey, Casey and I suffered last time, remember?" Derek reminded him, "Besides, we have seniority."

"Seniority?" Edwin scoffed, "Maybe in the number of depleted brain cells."

Derek leaned over and pushed his little brother off of his bed. Edwin rubbed his elbow as he stood up.

"I can't wait to be a teenager," Edwin sighed, glancing at Derek and Casey once more before disappearing out of the room.

Casey laughed at Derek as he placed his hands behind his head. She went to sit beside him on his bed. She poked him, and he recoiled slightly. He turned to her and pulled her onto him. She struggled for a moment, but rather liking the feel of his body against hers, she let him move her without restraint. Her hair fell over their faces like a curtain, and she smiled down at him. He leaned up to press a kiss to her lips.

"Are you two saying goodnight again?" a voice asked.

Casey rolled off of Derek fast, and he sat up. It was Marti. They both laughed. Derek reached over and pulled Marti into his lap. She giggled.

"Are you going to be good for Grandpa Harold?" Derek asked.

She nodded, and he kissed the top of her head. Nora called for Marti downstairs, and Derek placed her back on the ground. She raced out of the room. Casey and Derek paused a moment as they heard the sound of the front door open. It shut, and it was only a matter of seconds before they heard the minivan start outside. Derek peered out of his window and saw that they had already disappeared off the block.

"So…" he said, strolling to meet Casey in the middle of his room.

"I don't know what you're thinking, Derek Venturi, but I'm pretty sure I won't like it," Casey said, crossing her arms.

He pulled her to him, but she refused to uncross her arms. He laughed and kissed her lightly on the lips.

"I was thinking something along the lines of this," he said, deepening the kiss.

She broke away for a moment, "Okay, you've convinced me."

Casey wrapped her arms around Derek's neck, feeling completely content with where she was. Any other normal day, she would have hated to have been left alone with Derek. Now, everything was different.

Here she was, in his arms, and she was completely sure that it was exactly where she was meant to be.

The End