Disclaimer: Life With Derek belongs to the Family Channel, maybe the Disney Channel, or whatever conglomerate owns either or both.
Note: This is an edited version of the first chapter.
"It's a film project, not a marathon." Derek put on his best begging face, crouching slightly to reach Casey's level. "Pretty please?"
Hiding a smirk, Casey refused to meet his eyes, instead digging inside her desk for some anonymous, elusive object. "Give me one good reason."
"Uh, if you do this for me, I will…" Derek floundered for a second. "…do the dishes for a week."
"No you won't," Casey said easily.
"Yes I will."
"No, you won't," Casey said again. "Why do you need me to do it anyway? Why don't you ask what's-her-name?"
"'What's-her-name's name is Rebecca. And I can't ask her because…" Derek smirked. "Well, talking isn't exactly her strong point. And I need someone who's good at talking." Casey paused, sensing the insult before it came. "And, well, I thought to myself, 'who would be amazing at blabbing my ear off?' And you instantly sprung to mind."
She snorted. "Not one of your better one-liners, Derek. I find myself unimpressed."
"Yeah, well, it's due tomorrow. I'm a little pressed for time." He stepped backwards and flung himself on her bed, the motion shaking the various books and knickknacks sitting on the shelf above the headboard.
Casey jumped up, frowning. "Derek! Could you refrain from breaking my bed, please?"
"Hey, you're welcome to join me. We could break it together." He leered up at her suggestively.
"Pig." She rolled her eyes, reaching over him to push her books back into place. "You're not being very convincing, here."
"Fine, fine." He pushed himself up into a sitting position, grabbing her wrist. "Casey, please do this for me?" he asked, his face a mask of sincerity. "If you do, I swear on my virtue that I will repay the favor." He laid his free hand over his heart dramatically, grinning.
Casey rolled her eyes and snapped her arm away from him. "Virtue? What virtue?"
"Hey, I have virtue!" She snorted. "Dude, I totally do."
"Don't call me dude," Casey said. "And no, you don't. You have numerous pick up lines, you have every birth control method known to man, you even have three different kinds of wine on hold at any given moment. But virtue – you don't have."
Derek made a face, unfazed. "Okay, what do you want me to swear on, then?"
Casey smirked, thinking for a moment. "Swear on your…car."
"My car?" Derek blanched. "No way."
"Okay," she replied breezily. "Have fun then, I'm sure your professor will love a film about Becky's hair products."
"It's Rebecca," he said sourly. "And you suck."
"You want my help, you swear on your car. Those are my terms, and they are infallible." She raised her eyebrow at him. "That means they don't change."
"I know what it means," he snapped. "Okay, okay. Because I need this grade, I, Derek Venturi, swear on my…" he winced, "…car, that I will pay you back for this ginormous favor that you are doing for me."
Casey held out her hand and he shook it, scowling. "Thank you," she said cheerily. "It's your own fault for procrastinating until the night before, you know."
He waved a hand dismissively. "Is it my fault that college professors are such downers about deadlines?"
She blinked. "I…don't even have a comeback for that, Derek. God."
He smirked, rising from the bed. "Sooner or later, Casey MacDonald, I will bring you around to my line of thinking," he said. "That's a promise."
"Your line of thinking?" Casey adopted a faux confused look. "You think?"
"Ha ha." He shook his head. "You just don't know how to have fun."
"I do too," Casey protested, frowning. "Just because I don't serial date with every bimbo in a two-mile radius doesn't mean that I don't enjoy myself –"
"Actually, since I do have my car, it's about a twelve-mile radius," Derek interrupted.
She scowled at him. "You're such a jerk."
"Oh, we're onto name calling now? That's my cue." He headed for the door, swiveling around in the door way to smirk at her. "Be downstairs in an hour."
She bristled at the order. "Excuse me?"
He rolled his eyes. "Be downstairs in an hour, please," he said. "You're mine for the rest of the night." With one last passing grin, he left.
Shivering, Casey frowned. "Goody," she said sarcastically. His words ran through her mind again, and tingles raced down her spine. She frowned. "Must be cold in here," she muttered, heading for her open window.
Casey trudged down the steps to the bottom floor of the apartment, practically dragging her feet in her foreboding. "Okay, where do you want me?" she asked sullenly.
Derek, fiddling with a tripod, didn't even look up. "Naked in a bedroom."
Heat flooded to her face and she grabbed the nearest object, an errant couch pillow, and chucked it at him. He dodged it easily, laughing. "There will be no more of that, thank you very much."
"You can't ask me something like that without expecting something, come on." She glared at him. "Okay, I'm sorry. Okay? Come sit over here." He gestured to his special recliner, rescued from their home in Ontario.
"You want me to sit in The Derek Chair?" Casey asked incredulously. "Why can't I sit on the couch?" she whined.
"Because I want to frame the shot evenly, and the couch won't work," Derek replied. "Besides, there's nothing wrong with my chair."
"Ugh," Casey said. "It's like, thirty years old, Derek."
"Oh, it can't be more than fifteen," he shot back indignantly.
"It's falling apart at the seams!" Casey exclaimed. "Besides, who knows what kind of germs or diseases you've given it over the years."
Derek sighed heavily. "Casey, will you just sit in the damn chair, please?" he snapped.
Casey rolled her eyes. "You don't need to be snippy," she told him primly. Walking over to the recliner, she eyed it warily before sitting down in it gingerly. "There. Happy?"
"Thrilled," he said dryly, turning back to the tripod and adjusting it a bit more.
"So what's this film project about, anyway?" Casey asked, watching him play with his camcorder.
"An interview," Derek said distractedly. "A documentary type thing."
"So you just…what, ask me questions?" He nodded, and Casey pursed her lips. "What kind of questions?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh, what kind of underwear you own, your sex life, drug habits, your criminal record," Derek remarked sarcastically. "Just questions, Case. He didn't give me a list."
Casey eyed him distrustfully. "What exactly is the point of this assignment?"
Derek shot her a look. "Casey."
"What?" she asked defensively.
He rolled his eyes, huffing. "We're supposed to provoke honesty from a subject."
"Honesty?" Derek nodded. "Okay, why the hell am I doing this, then? Why not ask someone more…willing?"
"I told you," he replied tersely. "It's due tomorrow, and last I checked, you're the only person I know who doesn't have plans on a Friday night." He shook his head. "God, you're so annoying."
"Annoying?" She scoffed. "Sorry, but you forget that I know how you use information against me."
He flinched slightly. "Please, you stopped giving up the juicy stuff years ago."
Casey rolled her eyes. "No questions about sex. I mean it."
"What about your underwear?" Casey glared at him. "Fine. No sex questions. Happy?"
"Yes," she said gladly. "Are you ready yet?"
"Ready enough," he grumbled. "Okay, just relax. You want something?" She tilted her head quizzically. "Some water? Pop? Wine? Valium?"
She grimaced. "I'm good, thanks."
He grinned. "If you're sure." He switched the camera on, zooming out so that the frame captured Casey's upper body and the back of the recliner. "All right, going live…now." He flipped the 'record' switch, and a small red light blinked on. "Derek Venturi, Film 315, Professor Weston." He looked up at Casey, who was sitting demurely in the chair, her face blank. 'Ready?' he mouthed. She shrugged. "Okay. Welcome to my film project, subject. What's your name?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Casey MacDonald."
"How old are you?"
"I turn twenty-one next month."
"Oh, that's right. The seventh, right?"
She nodded, surprised that he remembered. "Yeah."
"Where do you go to school?"
She sighed. "The same place you go, Derek."
He scowled. "Okay, humor me, princess."
Casey leaned back slightly, crossing her arms over her chest. "University of Toronto."
"What's your major?"
She tilted her head at him. "Classical Literature. With a double minor in Creative Writing and English."
"Hmm." He paused a moment, pensive. "What do you want to do after you graduate?"
Casey shrugged. "Get a job. Preferably one that pays enough so I can afford my own apartment," she said pointedly.
"Oh, that can't be a barb directed at your handsome, dashing roommate, can it?" he asked, smirking.
"Oh, never," she said, just as sardonically.
"Okay. What kind of job?"
Casey paused for a second. "Uh, I'm not sure yet," she said finally.
"Wait, you don't have every minute detail planned out?" He gasped dramatically. "Stop the presses, Casey's human?"
"Shut up." She rolled her eyes. "I have a vague idea, but I don't know specifically, no. Does anyone?"
"No, but you're not anyone," Derek shot back. "So what's your vague idea?"
"Well, I want to write," she said thoughtfully. "Fiction, preferably, so I could try going freelance. Or I could go on to get my masters, or my teaching certificate."
"What would you do with that?"
"Teach." She shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know yet."
"Well, which is it? Writer or teacher?"
She bit her lip. "I…I'm not sure. Either way, I'll use my literature background."
He nodded, pausing to think again. "So, creative writing. What do you write?"
"Stories." She shrugged. "Fiction. Poems. Haikus. Songs. It's creative writing, so I write…creatively."
"Which do you like writing the most?"
She thought for a second. "Stories. I want…I think, if I were to be a writer, I'd write stories. Novels."
"Why?" Derek challenged.
"Why would you want to be a novelist? What's so great about fiction writing?"
"I'd want to express myself," she said, frowning. "And I think I could do that the best through fiction."
"How does that work?" She raised her eyebrows, confused. "I mean, just explain it to me," he elaborated. "How do you express your personality, if you're writing about fictional characters?"
"Because they're not fictional to me," she said, her face scrunched in concentration. She was silent a moment, gathering her thoughts. "The people I write about," she began slowly, "are just extensions of myself. They're a way for me to communicate my emotions and my opinions in a way that I understand."
"Isn't that just an excuse?" he asked bluntly.
"It's an easy way out. You want to express yourself, but you're too afraid to do it in your real life, so you make up people to do it for you. But it's diluted because it's secondhand. It doesn't give you the satisfaction that you need."
Casey blinked stupidly, taken aback. "That's true, in a very two-dimensional way," she said, her ire rising. "But there's more to it than that. It's not just escapism."
"Yes it is," he said. "That's what books and movies and TV shows are, they're ways for people to escape from life. And you are immersed in fiction 24/7, so that makes you the ultimate escapist."
"What?" she snapped. "That's ridiculous."
"Yes," she insisted. "If you take that route, then everything is escapism, Derek. Not just literature and TV – but music, sports, schoolwork, everything. Even someone's career can be their escape," she said. "Writing isn't an escape from my life, it is my life. My work. It's who I am."
"So you define yourself by your writing?" Derek asked, raising an eyebrow.
"In some ways," she said. "But we all define ourselves by everything we do. If hockey were erased from your life, then you wouldn't be the same person that you were before. Or if you take away film school, or Marti and Edwin, or your revolving door girlfriends, or your car," she listed, raising an eyebrow. "Those are all things that you love, and without them, you'd be less…Derek."
He eyed her silently for a few moments, before taking a breath. "Okay. How else do you define yourself?"
She leaned back, coming down from her rant. "My studies. My friends. My family."
He raised an eyebrow. "You could be a bit more specific than that."
She smirked. "Fine. Emily, Parker, Ashley – plus everyone else I hang out with from time to time – "
"You still keep in touch with Emily?" he interrupted incredulously.
"Yes," she replied. "She was my best friend."
"You haven't seen her in three years."
"So? We talk still." Derek stared at her, disbelieving. "Hey, she was my friend before she was your ex-girlfriend. Back off."
"Whatever. Go on."
She shook her head, distracted. "Uh, friends. My mother, George, my father, Lizzie, Edwin, Marti," she paused, taking a breath, "you…"
"I'm honored," he said dryly.
She continued on, ignoring him. "Writing. Music. Poetry. Gourmet cooking. Books." She paused, thinking. "Hiking. The ocean. White wine. Movies with Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck."
He raised an eyebrow when she stopped. "Is that it?"
"No." She sighed. "Do you really want me to list every single thing that I like and enjoy doing?"
"Just the important ones."
"Then yes, that's it." He just looked at her, face passive. "What?"
He jerked slightly. "Nothing." Looking down at the floor, he cleared his throat. "Uh, next question, next question…"
She grinned slightly. "Stuck?"
"I'll get one," he said defensively. He jumped on his heels slightly. "Why did you agree to move in with me?"
She was quiet a moment, almost stunned by the change in topic. "Because you had a gorgeous apartment and I couldn't afford to live on my own. Plus I despised the dorms."
"You couldn't have found a different roommate? There are people who would kill to have someone to split rent with," Derek pointed out.
Casey shrugged. "I knew you. I didn't know anyone else when I came here."
"Yeah, but you hated living with me back home."
"I still hate living with you," Casey said. "So?"
He scoffed. "So why are you here?"
She bristled at his tone. "Do you not want me here?"
"I didn't say that."
"You implied it," she shot back.
He rolled his eyes. "God, you're such a girl," he said resentfully. "I just don't see why you keep living with me when I apparently am the bane of your existence."
"You're not the bane of my existence, Derek," she said tiredly. "You annoy me, yes, but I could have a lot worse in a roommate."
"Uh huh," he said disbelievingly.
"How many times have you yelled at me over the stupidest little things, Casey?"
She blanched. "Stupid things? What stupid things?"
"Uh, let's see. 'You left towels on the bathroom floor again, Derek!' 'You left the toilet seat up, Derek!' 'Don't drink from the carton, Derek!' 'Pick up your hockey gear, Derek!'" He raised his voice to a higher pitch, waving his arms around in a juvenile impression.
"I do not sound like that, you reject," she snapped. "And I yell at you for that stuff because it irritates me that I have to drag the tiniest amount of consideration out of you."
"I consider you," Derek defended himself.
"Oh really?" Casey asked. "When was the last time that you actually picked up your towels or used a glass with your milk?" She smiled triumphantly at his silence. "My point exactly."
"Actually, I think you're proving my point."
"You have a point?" Casey snarked.
"That you stick around here for no reason?" Derek asked. "Yes. That's my point."
"I already gave you my reasons," Casey snapped, her temper rising.
"No, you gave me rationalizations," he said. "You didn't tell me why you continue to live here, in the same apartment, with me, Derek Venturi, of your own volition. Not because our parents are married, not because we're stuck in the same house, not because of money problems. You live here because you want to, for some unknown reason." He crossed his arms, looking her in the eye. "All I want is for you to tell me why."
Casey stared back at him, breathing hard. "Why are you pushing this?"
"Why won't you answer?" he shot back angrily, suddenly furious for no apparent reason.
There was a long, tense silence in which the pair stared each other down. Finally, chest tight, Casey burst. "I don't know, okay? I don't know!"
"I think you do."
She clamped her mouth shut, shaking her head. She stood up, glaring at him. "I'm done." She turned on her heel and stormed past him, heading for the stairs.
"Fine," he called after her. "Thanks so much for the interview, Case! I'm sure to get an A!"
"Go to hell!"
Note: Many thanks to the multiple reviewers who pointed out my Toronto/Ontario mistake, but really guys. It was a typo. No need to keep informing me what the capital of Ontario is. Therefore, the infamous typo is now fixed.