Note: lol, I'm glad you all "enjoyed" Aunt May. It was fun reading your reactions to her. Anyway, I hope this chapter offers some satisfactory explanation. Thanks for the feedback...you guys eternally rock :)
"Hey, babe," Derek said when Casey strutted into his room the next morning. But, his smile faltered when he caught her icy glower.
"Does this mean I'm good enough to be your girlfriend today? Gee what an honor."
He sighed. "I knew you'd take that the wrong way."
"Then why'd you say it--you know, forget it; it doesn't matter."
She shoved a packet into his chest.
"It's a list of the things that would make you a 'good boyfriend.'"
"You're kidding me, right?"
"No, I'm not. I mean, I figured since you were so very gracious in sharing your criteria with me, that I'd go ahead and share some of mine with you."
"When you've got 'em all covered, let me know. But, until then, I'm gonna go ahead tell your Auntie exactly what I think… 'kay, babe?"
Her glare was steaming as she pushed past him.
"I think you're amazing."
Casey's eyes widened as Derek stepped into her room twenty minutes later, her list twisted in his hands. He looked uncomfortable, but determined as he moved closer. "And, most days I look at you and I decide that you must have selective brain damage for picking me for your boyfriend and your…" he sighed, eyes dropping for a moment, "your list pretty much proves that, so I wasn't dissing you last night, okay…
"….And, I wasn't trying to change you or control you…I was just asking, I guess…and… I'm sorry," he exhaled and shook his head, "I suck and I'm sorry."
She beat him to her door and stood between him and the wood, eyes apologetic as she stared back at him.
"I don't know what you see when you look at me, but if it's anything besides someone who's crazy jonesing for you, then you're the one with brain damage."
She reached out, grabbed the list, and ripped it in half.
"And, if you want me to do this incredibly nonsensical, cryptic thing for you, then fine. I'll do it if makes you happy."
Her face was red with emotion as she leaned up, cupped his cheeks and pressed a kiss to his forehead.
"…what's so difficult about making tea!"
Casey's brow creased as she headed down the steps. She followed the voice towards the kitchen and when she saw Derek there with Aunt May, she stayed silently in the doorway.
"I'm sorry, Aunt May," he was muttering quietly.
"You would think ten years would have changed you," Aunt May ranted on, "But, no you're just as rude and incompetent as always."
"Yes, Aunt May," came his robotic reply.
"Now could you at least shovel the walkway so I don't break my hip—unless that's what you're secretly plotting?"
"No, Aunt May. I'll get right to it."
May went off in the other direction and Derek sighed, grabbing his hat off the counter and heading towards the door. When he saw Casey standing there, they watched each other for a moment, before he mumbled, "Sorry you had to see that," and brushed past passed her to get the shovel.
"What are you doing out here?" Derek questioned when Casey joined him a few minutes later with a smaller shovel.
"Shoveling," she said plainly.
He sighed. "You don't have to help."
"I know. I want to."
He looked reluctant, but he didn't say anything as she began shoveling.
"It's seems like you spent a lot of time with her growing up," Casey commented after they'd been shoveling for a while.
"Aunt May?" he asked over his shoulder.
She nodded and wiped some of the blowing hair from her face.
"Yeah, I mean…before we moved the first time, she pretty much raised me. Dad just got the job at the law firm and my mom was still studying, so they weren't around a lot."
"That must have been hard."
"It wasn't too bad," Derek said and then grunted as he shoveled off a particularly big heap, "Ed was around to keep me company, and Aunt May was always there, so you know…" he trailed off with a shrug, "Plus I was starting to get into hockey then, too."
She chewed her lip, as if deciding, before continuing, "George said she and his mom were really close."
"Grandma?" his voice gentled and realized she'd never really heard that tone before as he nodded, "Yeah, they were cool. Grandma and her would watch soaps and stuff, while I'd pretty much tortured Ed for fun upstairs," Casey smiled slightly as he continued, "But…then she got sick pretty fast so…" he shrugged it off and cleared his throat, "Yeah, so it was just Ed, Aunt May and me….
"I'm so sorry, Derek."
There was no pretense of shoveling now as she walked over to him.
"It's fine. Grandma Shirley's been dead for years now, it's no big deal."
"Of course it's a big deal. She was your grandmother and it sounds like you really loved her."
Derek finally looked up from the ground and at her sympathetic face, and he jerked back. "Why are we even talking about this?"
"I'm sorry," Casey said instantly, "We don't have to if you don't want to."
"I don't want to," he answered firmly, before grabbing his shovel and starting again.
"Here's your soup, generously salted; and your tea with just a touch of honey."
The others watched in awe as Casey set the tray before Aunt May, clad in a prim blue dress, her hair pulled up impeccably, and wearing an apron.
"Why, thank you," Aunt May said slowly, "But, I certainly-"
"Couldn't eat a proper dinner without a table cloth, of course," Casey chirped, almost magically pulling out a cloth and setting it on her lap, "I warmed up the basement for you, 'cause I know you were bit chilly down there last night, and right here," she said, setting sheet of paper before her, "Is a list I've printed out of activities you might be interested in while you're here. No pressure, of course, we'd love for you to stay at the house and relax, too, if you'd like. And, please, please feel free to let me or anyone else know if need you anything. Anything at all," she finished with a honey-sweet smile.
"I well…um…that will do just fine for now," Aunt May finally sputtered, clearly unsettled as Casey beamed back at her.
"Brilliant," Casey said, "I'm gonna go ahead and get the second course ready."
"Like homework?" Marti whined.
"No, not like homework," Derek mumbled, eying Casey intently as she strutted off into the kitchen.
"What are you doing?" Derek said, apparently having managed to sneak out into the kitchen.
"Cooking dinner, what else?"
"Since when do the meals have courses around here?"
"Since now—can you pass the butter?"
Derek sighed, but reached over and handed it to her, "Casey, why are you doing this?"
"Because she's your family, and you asked me to be nice to her…so here I am, being nice to her."
"No, here you are, being her maidservant."
Casey rolled her eyes as he stepped closer to her, and whispered more urgently.
"Stop it, alright?"
"No," she said, "I want to be a good a hostess."
"But, that's just the point. You're never going to be a good enough hostess to her, because nothing is ever good enough for Aunt May…"
"Well, she didn't seem to have any complaints just now."
"Give her time," he promised, "She's just warming up."
"Derek," she said with a sigh, "I don't mind. Really. So just let me do this for you, okay? I want to."
He groaned, but didn't stop her as she went off with the next tray.
"I hope you enjoyed the meal," Casey said as Aunt May set down her fork.
There were a few scattered clinks of silverware and then the rest of the table froze, watching expectantly.
"I suppose it was..." May paused, and then reluctantly finished, "Satisfactory."
A wave of sighs followed.
"I'm honestly surprised," she went on, wiping the corner of her mouth with her napkin, "Who knew something so well prepared could come out of George's house?"
"Heh, that's, that's really funny, Aunt May," George said with forced laughter.
"Well, it can be a little messy around here," Casey conceded, "But, I'm guessing that's because he's so busy doing well at the firm. He got promoted, you know."
"No, I wasn't aware."
"Well," Casey shrugged casually, "It's not like it was headline news, or anything. Although he did make the local newspaper—here's a clip."
Aunt May's eyes bugged and Derek just watched, amused, as Casey pulled out a laminated copy.
"Hmph," was all she said before Casey slipped it back to her side of the table.
"And, I just happen to have this scrapbook of family achievements and awards we keep around," the photobook fell with a big whoosh before Aunt May.
"Photobook?" Edwin repeated, puzzled. When he felt Lizzie's sharp kick under the table and winched, "Oh, riiiight, the photobook, of course."
"We'll have to skim through this part," Casey announced, guiding her through the pages, "Derek's just won so many trophies and awards and tournaments and captainships…" she sighed as if exhausted by it, "And of course there's when he was prefect, but I'm sure you heard about that," she paused as if deciding, "Let's just hurry on and move to Edwin's science projects, shall we…?"
"…and last year she won an award for perfect attendance," Casey finished to a silent and stunned audience. She shut the thick photobook and looked expectantly at Aunt May.
"Oh, well, this has…certainly been informative. I suppose a lot has changed since I've last visited," she cleared her throat, "And, you seem to be quite the impressive young lady."
"Yes, she is," Derek said without thinking. When the rest of the family sent him inquisitive looks, he hurried on, "Well, impressive at being lame, of course, heh."
It was apparently believable because George and Nora chided him simultaneously, "Derek."
"I don't know what you expect," Aunt May interjected, "He's never been known for his manners or eloquence."
Derek looked away, and Casey quickly stepped in, "Well, it's been great catching up," she said brightly, "Please, once again, let me know if I can do anything for you."
"Well, it does certainly look like you are capable of doing anything," Aunt May said stiffly, "Well…maybe except for the one thing I'd really enjoy. But, never mind, I'm sure it's much too sophisticated to be had here."
Casey spoke earnestly, "No, please, anything."
"Well, if you insist….I'd love some freshly baked Baklava."
"Baklava," Casey said, "It's a Greek pastry."
"Well, it might as well be a Greek leprechaun, because there's about an equal chance of us getting one."
Casey rolled her eyes. "It's just food; I can cook it."
"So you've made some before?"
"Well…no," she admitted sheepishly, "But that's what recipes are for."
"Casey. The line ends here, okay? This is ridiculous. Let's just…" he rubbed her shoulder soothingly, "Cut our loses and find a nook to makeout in until she leaves."
"No, Derek. I'm so close to pleasing her; and I will not let a few ground nuts and phyllo dough get in the way."
He squinted. "Fifa-what?"
"Ugh. Just leave and send Lizzie to help me."
"Fresh Baklava. Get it while it's…still somewhat together," Casey announced warily as she came out into the living room with a tray.
Lizzie stood anxiously behind her, and Derek off in the corner as Casey presented it to Aunt May.
"This doesn't look like Baklava," was May's snotty reply.
"Yeah, well, it's with a slight…" Casey gestured vaguely with her hands, "Canadian twist. You should try some."
"I would, but I'd rather keep my appetite for the next week, if you don't mind."
"Oh, but I insist you have a bite-"
"And, I insist you stop nagging me and find something productive to you with your-"
"HEY!" Three heads jerked towards Derek as he walked out of the corner. When he realized the attention he'd garnered, he swallowed and repeated more weakly, "Hey."
" 'Hey' what?" May demanded, besides herself.
Derek faltered a little under her look, but pressed on. "You shouldn't—you…she worked really hard to make that Banklavoo…"
"Baklava," Casey corrected numbly.
"Whatever. And, it tastes good. I still don't know what is, but it tastes good. So maybe, maybe you could show a little gratitude for once," his mouth dried and he added lamely, "if that's alright with you...?"
Casey's gaze set in a wide, soft expression as Derek watched his Aunt expectantly.
"Well," May finally said after a long moment, "Look who finally grew a backbone," she chortled, "Ha! You're granddad would be proud…and probably drunk, but thrilled the nonetheless," she glanced at Casey, "Um, and well, thank you, I suppose for this…unique dining opportunity. Of course, I'll still pass on tasting it."
She cleared her throat and promptly left the room.
"Huh," Lizzie responded, looking around, "I don't know about you guys, but I feel pretty good about that."
"Mr. Ducky?" Casey rasped when her door creaked and she saw a shadowy figure approaching her bed.
"No, it's me."
"Oh," she rubbed her eyes and slid up in her bed, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. I just couldn't sleep."
"Thinking about your Aunt?" she guessed softly.
Her face scrunched with empathy and she patted the mattress next to her. "Come here, Derek."
When he sat tensely on her bed, his back to her, she slid behind him and wrapped her arms protectively around him. She rested her chin on his shoulder and murmured into his ear, "You don't have to talk."
"I know," he sighed and his head fell against hers , "It's just weird, you know…I mean, most of time I hated Aunt May and she was always insanely mean, even when Grandma was still around…"
Casey could see he was struggling and she stroked his chest, encouraging.
"…but she was there. She took care of me and yeah she yelled and cursed at me a lot…but she was always there, you know…it's" he shook his head, "It's stupid…"
"It's not stupid," she said gently, "She was there for you during a really scary, vulnerable time. It makes sense that you'd have an attachment to her…"
"Yeah, I guess," he stared down at his hands, "Something about her being here again after so long…it just…took me back to being six again…"
"You're not the same boy you were when you were six," her hand caressed his face and she she tilted it to look at him, "You're a man now. And, you're a good man. With flaws, yes, like every other human being on the face of the earth…but you're good, really good."
"You think so?" he asked, and his eyes were dark, but his lips quirked slightly.
"I know so. You're strong… and kind…and charming…" she planted soft kisses on his mouth with each phrase, "And, you're not too shabby with a stick and puck either…"
"Are you trying to stroke my ego?"
"Yes," she admitted, "But, you deserve it. Especially after so strappingly coming to my defense today," she smiled softly and let her hand trace up and down his chest, "The stuttering was very Hugh Grant inNotting Hill."
"Is that a good thing?"
"Huh," He nodded, apparently satisfied, before shifting towards her and adding,"Then you were very Hot woman in every hot woman movie."
"Did you like the hair or the dress?"
"I liked the you…"
Her eyes lit playfully. "Hmm, that was good, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was," Derek agreed, his gazed amused, but genuine, "You're a very... 'impressive young lady'."
"Oh, god, are you really trying to use Aunt Mayisms to score with me now?"
He shrugged. "Is it working?"
"Maybe," she answered demurely.
"Maybe?" he repeated, leaning closer.
"I guess you'll just have to come and find out."
Her nose bumped his, teasingly, and he smirked before brushing his lips to hers and then deepening it as she leaned into him. "How's it working so far?" he whispered cheekily.
"You are a very, very impressive young man."