This is my first attempt at drama using an actual plot. Usually I just wax rhapsodic about some plotline from the show. So any suggestions would be appreciated; I want to improve. This is also my first attempted chapter fic. I've already started chapter two, so hopefully the rest will flow. Not likely, but I'll do my best. Sorry about the title and chapter names; I'm not very creative in that department. Without further ramblings, please read on.

Disclaimer: I am not Canadian and I by no means have the money to buy nor the ability to run a production company.

Figuring out Family

Sighing, Casey dropped her books on the mattress. Slipping out of her shoes, she slid onto the bed, curling up against a pillow as she flipped to page 192 in her Geometry book.

"So, what exactly was that history homework stuff all about?" Emily wanted to know, plopping next to her best friend.

"The French Revolution," Casey responded absently as she searched through the text and scribbled an answer in her notebook.

"Yeah, I got that part. Why did we need to talk for thirty minutes about the same question? I know the modern teen isn't all that smart, but you'd think anyone could get that. I mean, does she think it takes that long to sink in? And what was that whole thing about her dog? Casey?" Casey made a non-committal noise as she worked through a problem.

"Come on, Casey," Emily griped as she pulled the homework from her friend's lap, "we're supposed to be hanging out, not doing homework. Besides, don't you usually study after dinner?"

Casey sighed but made no move to retrieve her books as they thudded to the floor, courtesy of Emily. "Yes, but Derek, Marti and Edwin are conspicuously absent and I want to finish before they come home and distract me." She looked exasperated as Emily gave a skeptical look. "Come on, Em, don't you know how hard it is to study in this house? Derek blasts music all night, Edwin hides behind couches spying on everyone and Marti . . . well, Marti plays really loudly!"

"Sorry, Case. No homework now."

"But, Em, I need to finish these problems before Tuesday!"

"Casey, it's the weekend! You have plenty of time to do homework later. Right now we're hanging out, got it?"

Casey let her exasperation dissolve as she smiled reluctantly at her best friend. "All right, Em. You win."

"Great," Emily pulled Casey off the bed and down the hall.

"Where exactly are we going, Emily?"

"I want some food. And then we can watch a movie. Unless you'd rather talk." She dropped Casey's arm as they thudded down the stairs. "Ooh, you'll never guess who got asked out in Media while you were talking to the teacher."

"Sure I will," Casey informed her, a slight smile playing at her lips, "because you already told me." Emily looked thoughtful, obviously remembering their earlier conversation. "Let's just watch a movie, okay?"

As the girls strolled into the kitchen, Emily couldn't help but continue on the school drama update. Casey listened with vague interest as she turned on the microwave and watched the popcorn bag expand.

"And that's why no one sat next to him at lunch today," Emily concluded, just as Casey poured the popcorn into a plastic bowl. "It was completely gross."

"Eww," Casey moaned, half-sympathetic, half-disgusted. "No wonder." Grabbing the popcorn they moved to the couch, collapsing against the cushions as they poured over movie options. Never Been Kissed was deemed too predictable; they had watched Tristan and Isolde once too often; and Casey wouldn't consent to watch Must Love Dogs, which her mom had rented earlier that week. Finally, Emily picked Ever After. It was the perfect mix of romance, action, humor and drama. Besides, Cinderella always was Casey's favorite fairy tale. Especially now that she had her very own wicked step-family--or at least a wicked stepbrother. Flipping the movie on, the girls curled up on the couch with their snack and a fuzzy blanket. They cooed and squealed for the next two hours, making occasional comments like, "oh, how sweet," and, "I can't stand that woman!" After all, it wouldn't be a good chick flick afternoon without a running commentary.

"I love that movie," Emily gushed once the credits were rolling.

"I know," Casey agreed, "It's great how they managed to make a good movie out of a fairy tale. Usually they're juvenile remakes for seven year olds."

"It's totally realistic too," Emily went on, "Like at the beginning, Prince Henry and Danielle hate each other, but then they fall in love. You can see them falling for each other against their will. It's so funny."

"Are you analyzing chick flicks again?" Lizzie asked, exasperated, as she descended the staircase. "You guys have more fun talking about them than actually watching them!"

"I can't help it if I enjoy looking at the intellectual aspects of a film," Casey defended as Lizzie rolled her eyes. "And I like watching them, too."

"Well, mom just called. George is on his way and she'll be home in about an hour. We're having tofu for dinner."

"Tofu?" Emily made a face. "If you don't mind, I'll sit that one out, Case."

"When have I ever forced you to sit through the grueling, disgusting, barbaric custom that is the Venturi/MacDonald dinner?" Casey asked. "Trust me, I envy you for escaping while you can." Turning back to Lizzie, she complained, "Tofu again? Why does mom keep making that stuff?"

"She thinks we're losing our health consciousness," Lizzie informed her. "She says since we don't like tofu anymore and eat snack food more often, the Venturi's are getting to us."

Casey's expression turned triumphant. "Well we already knew that. Maybe this will make her think more seriously about the negative effects of merging two families without forcing some people to accommodate."

Emily sighed in exasperation at where the conversation was headed, cutting it off before it could develop into an angry rant. "Speaking of some people, do you know where Derek went, Lizzie?" Her eyes looked hopeful as she awaited a response. Derek and Emily had indeed become friends, but Casey still saw hints of a crush now and then. It was really irritating, but there was nothing she could do. After all, her best friend just refused to listen to Casey's endless descriptions of what a beast Derek was.

"Yeah, Mom and George were arguing about it this morning before everyone came down. They went to visit their mom," Lizzie's voice held a note of foreboding. Casey looked surprised. She was opening her mouth to respond when the door slammed shut. George strode in, dropping his briefcase by the door as he slung his coat on a hook.

"Hi, George," Casey greeted. "Lizzie told us you'd be home soon." She looked closely at his harried appearance. "Bad day? Did you have trouble with the case?" she wondered, concerned. He'd been working on an especially difficult case lately and it had been taking up all his extra time. He didn't answer; just shook his head and moved into the kitchen.

Emily looked around awkwardly for a moment, then stood and walked to the door. "I'd better go," she explained as she grabbed her jacket. "Mom will want me home soon for dinner." She shot her friend an apologetic look as she swung open the door. "But we're still on for shopping tomorrow afternoon, right?"

"Sure, Em," Casey smiled. "See you tomorrow."

"Yeah, bye," Emily called out just as she shut the door.

"Let's go see what's up," Lizzie suggested, and Casey had to agree with her. George was definitely in a bad mood. They found him in the kitchen starting dinner, but apparently he didn't want to talk. He kept avoiding questions and spoke very little, which was odd for George. From what Lizzie said earlier, Casey deduced that he was nervous about his kids seeing his ex-wife. He probably thought they would decide to go live with their mom, or something. She almost said something to reassure him, but restrained herself. Instead, Lizzie and Casey--but mostly Casey, as Lizzie didn't really like to cook--helped George make dinner. He didn't attempt tofu, as Nora instructed, but Casey didn't mention it. She was glad to escape that fate; far be it from her to say anything and ruin the family's good fortune. Even if George's chicken wasn't much better. Casey set about simmering an alfredo sauce to make the meal more edible. Lizzie set the table and poured drinks as George and Casey worked in silence. Casey was slicing the French bread when the front door slammed loudly enough to shake the vase on the table. Wiping his hands on a dishrag, George moved toward the disturbance. Derek strode--well, more like stomped, really--through the door, herding Edwin and Marti in front of him. Of course it would be Derek. Who else would behave in such an uncivilized manner? George didn't reprimand his son, to Casey's annoyance; merely watched as Derek directed his siblings up the stairs. Once Marti and Edwin were safely out of earshot, Derek let loose.

"I told you, Dad! I told you it was a bad idea! But you didn't listen to me!" Even during their daily--and often violent--fights, Casey had never seen Derek so vehement. He was angrier than she had ever seen, too, and she thought he looked a bit hurt for a moment. Maybe not, she decided as the latter emotion seemed to vanish.

"Really, Derek, there was nothing I could do! I have custody because Abby didn't want it, but she still has the right to see her children. If I refused when she asked she could take us to court! If she wanted you to live with her, Derek, you would. The courts usually side with the mothers, son." He calmed his voice, but as he continued he sounded frustrated. "I don't even know why she wanted you kids to visit. She's never expressed much interest before." Neither George nor Derek paid Casey any attention as she listened in surprise. Who knew there was so much tension in that family? What could the problem be? As far as she knew, George had spoken to Abby a few times over the last few months and they always talked civilly. They seemed to be on good terms.

"Whatever, Dad!" Casey thought Derek wasn't blaming George for the problem--whatever that may be--so much as he was just yelling at whomever he could. Casey had never backed down from a fight with Derek, but at that particular moment she was glad to blend into the background. Derek visibly restrained himself from saying more, turning on his heel and stalking up to his bedroom.

"Dinner's almost ready," George called at his retreating figure.

"Not. Hungry," he bit out before disappearing around the corner.

George sighed, rubbing his eyes wearily. He had forgotten Casey altogether, a fact which she chose to exploit. Creeping around the side, she raced soundlessly up the stairs, hoping to hide in her room until whatever was happening blew over. Normally she'd want to help,--find out the problem and discover a solution, talk to George and argue with Derek until they agreed to talk things over--but she sensed this was not something she could fix. Besides, she knew next to nothing about the Venturi family dynamic before the merge and she had a feeling her curiosity would not be appreciated. Padding to her room, she paused as a low murmur reached her ears. She had heard Derek slam the door not three minutes earlier, but now light spilled through a two inch crack. Taking care to stay far enough away, she peered through the gap. The low murmur had been conversation, she saw, between the Venturi children. Edwin sprawled across his older brother's bed while Derek himself sat on the floor, leaning against the mattress as he cradled Marti in his lap. His voice was utterly different from what she had just witnessed, a low comforting murmur that was indistinguishable from Casey's distance. Feeling intrusive, she quietly slipped past the room, softly opening her door and slipping into her bedroom. Lying stiffly across the squishy mattress, Casey stared at the shadows on the ceiling, trying to make sense out of the brief display she had seen.

Hopefully I can get the next chapter up soon. I think I'm almost finished with it; I just can't decided if I should finish it now or make a longer chapter. Hmm. With luck, all this school crap won't get in the way, either. But if I'm inspired, I'll stay up til 3am anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter.