And The Winner Is...

by TheBucketWoman

Disclaimer: Don't own Life with Derek, Little Shop of Horrors, "You Can Leave Your Hat On" The Full Monty, or anything Leonardo daVinci has ever said.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Part One: Lizzie.

Derek made his dramatic exit, followed by Casey. Lizzie supposed that that was to be expected. She thought for a minute about how attention was like oxygen to Derek, and rolled her eyes.

Of course he's gonna act like an attention whore, Lizzie thought. He's Derek. What did you expect? Modesty? Grace? Puh-leeze.

She looked over at Edwin, who seemed to have been taken with a sudden case of the Stupids. He stared at the door, his mouth open. He stood in the middle of his room and blinked at the doorway several times before he turned and caught Lizzie's eye.

"He didn't hate it," Edwin said.

"I guess that's one way of putting it," Lizzie said.

"He laughed in all the right places and stuff," Edwin said. "He laughed for real. He did, right? I didn't make that up? That laugh didn't sound fake did it?"

"He liked it, Edwin," Lizzie said. Lizzie thought that Derek more than liked it, actually, but the concept needed to be eased into Edwin's brain, a little at a time. As it was, the idea that his brother wasn't currently pounding him, or at least giving him the silent treatment seemed to be all he was capable of registering.

"Edwin!" Lizzie said.

He turned to her.

"What'd I just say?" Lizzie asked.

"Huh?" Edwin said.

Lizzie started to laugh at him. "C'mere," she said. He walked over to the bed and she grabbed him around the waist. He leaned over and kissed the part in her hair. His arms closed around her. She pulled back to look at the stupid look on his face again—she didn't think she'd get tired of it. He looked down at her in confusion, probably wondering why she'd pulled away. Before he could say anything, though, she put one hand on either side of his face and pulled it toward hers. From a couple of inches away, she looked into his huge round eyes. For the three hundredth time, she marveled at how they took up his entire face. And then they widened before she kissed him.

"What, you didn't see that coming?" Lizzie asked after she came up for air.

"Um," Edwin said.

Lizzie giggled.

"It's..." Edwin began. "A...nice surprise, I guess."

"I kiss you all the time," Lizzie said.

"Uh huh," Edwin said.

"And you're still surprised?" Lizzie said.

Edwin cocked his head to the left, as if to ask what part of that she didn't understand.

Part Two: George.

George had almost sent Marti to bed early five times that night. Not because she'd done anything wrong, but because he wanted a legitimate excuse to go upstairs to see what the other four were doing. Lizzie had filled them in about the screening earlier, bribing the three of them with movies Casey had rented.

When he chased Marti into bed, they'd all still been in Edwin's room, and he'd promised not to peek. He cursed his bad timing.

The devil on his shoulder told him that he was the Dad around here and as such, there was no reason not to barge right the hell into Edwin's room to see what the kids were up to.

The angel on the other shoulder talked some shit about patience and trust. It also gently reminded him that if he went back on this promise by playing the Dad card, Nora would not be happy. And if Nora was unhappy, he would be unhappy. She'd make sure of that.

The devil suggested that Nora was just as hungry for information as he was, and if not, if she got mad, he might just buy her something tomorrow.

The angel wondered how long George could go without sex.

He went back downstairs, where Nora laughed at the cranky look on his face.

"You do realize that that's the exact face that Derek makes when you make him take the trash out," Nora said.

George perked up. "Did he take the trash out? I bet he didn't. I should go up and tell him—"

"Georgie," Nora said. She was officially giving him The Look.

He sat down with a huff, and Nora helpfully informed him that he now making an Edwin face.

"Will you be sitting under the table next?" Nora teased.

"You're no fun," George said.

"No?" Nora asked. "No fun at all?" Her bangs had fallen into her eyes and she stared up from under them.

"Well, okay," George said."Maybe a little."

"A little?!" Nora said in exasperation. She threw up her hands and headed to the basement. He followed her, all the way trying to dig his way out of the doghouse, talking about how much fun she really was. Did he say she wasn't fun? Whatever could he have been thinking?

Part Three: Casey.

At around midnight, Casey left Derek with his nose pressed up against the computer screen. By the looks of him, he was going to pull another all nighter, pass out at the desk, and wake up owl-eyed and inarticulate. Again.

Casey was thinking that she'd have Derek show his video at the end of the week. She'd make this happen if she had to wrestle the thing away from him. She was looking forward to the wrestling part, come to think of it. She'd have to leave that part out when she filled Lizzie and Marti in on the plan.

The only question was how to get him to decide that it was ready. She read once that Leonardo daVinci said "Art is never finished, only abandoned." That fit. She was going to write that on an index card and tape it to Derek's monitor as a hint.

She was giggling over his possible reactions to this when George stumbled into the kitchen. His hair was all over the place and it looked like he'd just barely thrown his clothes back on. His regular clothes, not his pajamas. She had a mental image of his naked arm reaching for whatever clothing was handy so that he could go get some food. Because they'd more than likely worked up an appetite downstairs.

Stop it. Stop thinking about that right now! She thought. She looked up at George, who blushed and buried his head in the fridge.

Oh God, she thought, hiding a grin.

After George had increased their ecological footprint substantially, he pulled his head out of the fridge and carried some leftover salami and cheese to the counter. He grabbed some bread began to slice it up.

Then he tried small talk.

"So, Casey," he began. "How'd the screening go?"

After she was done laughing at him, she said, "Really well."

"Edwin's movie?"

"You won't believe it," Casey said.

"That good?" George said.

Casey nodded.

"How 'bout Derek's?" George asked.

"Derek's still working on his," Casey said. "Especially now that he's seen Edwin's."

"Oy," George said. "Do I wanna know how long it'll be before he's finished?"

"It'll be finished by the end of the week," Casey said. "No matter what."

George nodded. "Does he know that yet?" he asked.

"Nope," Casey said.

"It's gonna be a long week," George said.

"Do you find that you say that a lot?" Casey asked.

George stuck his butter knife upright in the jar of mustard and forgot about it for a second while he thought about it. "Yeah," he said finally. "I really do."

"Me too," Casey said.

"But really," George said, picking up the knife again. "There are worse things. The way I figure it, I'm getting off relatively light in the angst department. Everybody's safe and accounted for, and we all like each other" He knocked on the nearest piece of wood, in this case, the kitchen cabinet. "Let's just hope it stays that way."

"I give it a week," Casey joked.

"That sounds about right," George said. He offered Casey a cut of the sandwich. She shook her head, so he took it and a couple of cans of ginger ale downstairs.

"Night Casey," George said. Then he stopped in the doorway. "What are the chances of you getting him to go to sleep at any point before dawn?"

"Slim to none," Casey said. "I'll give it a shot, though."

In the end, she stole an idea from Derek himself. She sat on his bed, making sure that she was in his line of sight. Then she yawned hugely.

"Why don'tcha go to bed, Case," Derek asked, stifling his own yawn.

"Nope," she said. "I'm good. It's early yet. What is it?" She looked at his alarm clock. "12:45?" She yawned again.

"I know what you're doing," Derek said.

"Huh?" Casey said.

"Oh come on," Derek said. "Quit trying to bullshit a bullshitter. You're trying to get me to start yawning" (Here, the very word "yawn" made him do so) "And then you're gonna start to curl up on my bed, like a kitten—there you go now, just like that!"

"Then what?" Casey asked.

"Then you think I'm gonna look at the computer, then look at you, then look at the computer—" Derek said.

"And?" Casey asked.

"And say 'to hell with the computer' and shut it down for the night 'cause you're making the bed look real damn comfortable," he said. "And you're doing this even though I'm totally on to you. Even though I've done the same damn thing to you."

"Well, is it working?" Casey asked.

"Completely," Derek said. He saved everything and shut down the computer quickly. He kicked his shoes off and wiggled comically out of his t-shirt. Then he caught her watching him and began to do a little dance as he undid his belt. Casey hummed a little bit of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" from The Full Monty as she got up from his bed.

"Where you going?" Derek asked.

"To my own bed, Puppy," Casey said. "Because I value my life, and I don't wanna think about what might happen if one of us is actually found in the other's bed after sunrise."

"You're no fun," Derek said. He stood in front of her in his drawers, arms folded in front of his chest. She reached out and tickled him as he first tried to wiggle away, then grabbed her hands. There was a moment where she stopped what she was doing and got a really good look at him. She saw him everyday, so sometimes it was hard to notice changes, but at that moment, she remembered what he'd looked like in the weeks after his accident, after that liquid diet. It hadn't lasted long at all, but he'd lost weight faster than she'd thought possible and she'd been able to count every rib. The worst part was that she always called him scrawny before he'd gotten hurt. She hadn't known the meaning of the word. In the hospital, he'd given her these strong hugs with those bonier than usual arms and she'd understand why his mother had gone into that protective frenzy, trying to forbid him from ever playing hockey again. After all, she'd felt those bones rattling against her, too.

But as she looked at him in the light of his bedroom, geeking around like the Chippendale dancer that he wasn't, she noticed that he was perfect, better than he had been, even. She didn't know how this had escaped her so much of the time.

"What is it?" he said, worry creeping into his voice.

"What?" Casey said, as he came closer and thumbed a tear off of her cheek.

"This," he said.

"Nothing," Casey said. " Everything's cool."

"Casey," he said. "Tell me."

"It's only gonna weird you out," Casey said.

"That's comforting," Derek said. "Are you pregnant?"

Casey had to put a hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. She shook her head, still laughing. He didn't look reassured.

Once she got under control, she said. "There's no way in the world that I could be pregnant, okay? Trust me. Everything's okay on that front."

He let out the breath he'd been holding. He knew that she wasn't going to lie about that.

"So then, what is it?" he asked.

What if I just told him? Casey thought. Then she tried to explain what she'd been thinking, and, as predicted, he was hilariously confused.

"Huh?" he said, eyes narrowed.

"Told you it was gonna weird you out," Casey said. "Tried to spare you from the mush, but you just had to have your mush. Are you happy?"

He looked down at himself, then back up at her. "Wasn't that bad," he said.

"It was," Casey said. "It was like you'd caved in. You started bouncing back pretty quickly, but I can show you pictures from only a few weeks later. Remember that party for George's officemate?"

He nodded, held both hands up. "I guess I'll take your word for it."

"But now it's like it never happened," Casey said.

"Well," Derek said, considering it. "Dunno about that. There is the fact that the whole hockey team started wearing way more protective gear."

"What else could they wear?" Casey asked. They seemed padded within an inch of their lives already.

"There's the hard plastic neck guard that usually just the goalies wear," Derek explained. "I have to wear it—doctor's orders—but everyone else will be too."

"That's fair," she said.

"And there's my voice," Derek said.

Here we go, she thought.

"You're the only one bothered by it," Casey said, not even trying to kid herself that he'd listen to her.

"I know," he said. "Most of the time, I'm just glad that I have one. But once in a while, I turn into you when you get school pictures back and you go on and on about how you have one earlobe that's bigger than the other."

"Shut up!" Casey said. She instinctively put her hands over her earlobes.

"But nobody notices it but you," he said. "So yeah, I know it's irrational, but I still hate the sound of my own voice. And I still worry that even though I don't much like it, it'll keep going away, which it probably will. But I'll live."

"And I guess there's another reason that we can't deny that the accident happened," Casey said, pushing his bangs out of his eyes.

"Yeah," Derek said. "But I like to think that there had to be a less dramatic way for us to get together, ya know?"

"Nah, dude," Casey said. "We're idiots."

Derek laughed. "You sure you have to go?"

"Yeah," Casey said. "Immediately. Or I won't be able to."

"See you in the morning?" Derek asked.

"Or whenever it is you get up, Slacker Boy," Casey teased. She pecked him real quick and scurried to her own room, locking her door for good measure.

Part Four: Derek.

He woke up at around eleven the next morning. Casey was nowhere to be found, but Edwin told him that she and Lizzie were off doing girl stuff with the Dad Cash that Dennis had slipped the both of them.

So after a couple bowls of cereal, he decided to park himself back in front of the computer to start working again. He saw a 3x 5 card taped to the top of his monitor. It read :"Art is never finished, only abandoned." --Leonardo daVinci. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for you, Mr. Director.

It was written in sparkly green ink.

"Couldn't be," he said. He pulled it off the monitor and sniffed it. Sure enough, it was apple scented.

"I'm so gonna get her for this," he said. Then he got a thumbtack out of his desk drawer and tacked it to the wall.

Three days later, he resigned himself to letting people see his video.

"Here," he said, handing Casey the disk. "Get it away from me."

"I'll go get the popcorn going," Casey chirped.

"Noooo," Derek said.

"Yeeaaaah," Casey said.

"Stop making this a big thing," Derek said.

Casey checked his forehead for fever. "It is such a big deal," she said. "It's a world premiere. If I could get my hands on a red carpet, I'd roll it out. This is the Venturi Film Festival is what it is. Now come on. Screening's in five."

"Uh-uh," Derek said.

"Uh-huh," Casey said, pulling him. He finally let her drag him downstairs, where he chased Edwin out of his recliner. He settled into the chair himself, pulling the lever and leaning back. Edwin sat on the floor up against Lizzie's legs. His Dad leaned on Nora's shoulder, Marti on his other side. Casey, when she came back with the popcorn (she actually made popcorn) wiggled into the little bit of space next to Lizzie.

Nora picked up the remote. "Are we ready?" she asked.

"Nope," Derek said. Casey shot him a look.

Everyone else said yes.

She hit play.

The film opens with a shot of Casey pacing back and forth in the living room.

"Why do I keep doing this to myself?" she asked. "Seriously? I do it over and over again. I put myself through all kinds of stress, for something that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter much, does it?"

She got no answer.

"So I should just stop," she said, sitting down on the couch. "You can probably go ahead and turn that camera off, Derek, 'cause I mean it. I'm quitting. No more audition."

The camera stayed on her.

"Aw, who am I kidding?" she said, standing up again. "Edwin?"

The camera panned over to Edwin, walking back toward the piano bench like it was an electric chair.

"From the top?" Casey asked.

"Whatever," Edwin said. Then he began to play.

Up came the title: The Drama Princess

"Hoo, you're dead," His Dad said, laughing. Derek looked over at Casey and was relieved to find her laughing, too. Until she reached over and smacked his arm.

A documentary by Derek Venturi. Featuring...

A comically long list of names scrolled over the screen.

The next scene featured Casey singing scales, then there was a montage of her running through her audition songs over a period of several days. That dissolved into a shot of Edwin making himself a peanut butter sandwich and singing one of Casey's songs under his breath. The shot then changed to Nora reading a book while humming the same song. Then Lizzie. Then Marti. Finally, Derek's Dad singing it while barbecuing. Edwin stared at him.

"What?" Dad said.

Edwin shook his head.

The scene changed to an exterior shot of the community center with a sign that read:

Little Shop of Horrors Auditions June 15

There was another quick montage of several people auditioning, including Sheldon, Emily, Chris, Brianna and especially Casey.

"Oh my gosh," Casey said. "Did you get Sheldon doing his impression—"

Onscreen, Sheldon Schlepper was smirking in a suspiciously familiar way and strutting across the stage like he owned it. Casey giggled in shock.

"Even though nobody will get that but us," Casey said.

"He's good," Nora said.

"He totally is," Casey agreed.

"Yeah, yeah," Derek said. "What-ever."

"Edwin does it a little better," Marti said.

"A little???" Edwin asked. "What do you mean a little?"

In the next scene, the cast of the show introduced themselves, and it's revealed that Casey got the part of Audrey. This faded into a scene in which Casey, Emily, Brianna and Melissa practiced dance steps in stiletto heels. Chris made a comment about being really glad to be a guy.

After a few more shots of rehearsals, a slide show of still shots from one of the days that they painted sets ran with the subtitle: Photographs courtesy of Edwin Venturi.

"So you did use them," Casey said.

The words Opening Night flashed across the screen. The camera panned over a full house. There were more still shots of the play itself, this time taken by Derek. There were quick clips of "Somewhere That's Green," and "Suddenly, Seymour." Then the scene showed Dennis McDonald giving flowers to his weeping daughter.

The final shot was taken after the cast party. They were back in their living room. One lamp lit the shot.

"Okay, so that was cool," Casey said. "You gotta admit it. Especially since we gotta be back there tomorrow."

The End flashed across the screen.

The first sound that Derek heard, besides the click of the light going on, was Nora sobbing.

"Oh God," Derek muttered.

She got up and headed directly for him. He tried to get out of the recliner while it was still, well, reclining, and he got tangled in the footrest, delaying him just long enough for Nora to squish the daylights out of him.

"Thought you'd get away?" Casey asked. She wiped some tears away quickly, but Derek noticed.

"There is no escape," Nora said. She kissed his hair several times in rapid succession , the way people kiss dogs.

"Noraaaa," Derek said.

Edwin laughed.

"Dunno what you're laughing at," Nora said. "You're next."

They ran Edwin's movie next, because the 'rents hadn't seen it. Nora and Casey sobbed some more. Dad looked dumbstruck, but not too dumbstruck to make corny jokes about clearing room on the mantle for awards.

"Okay," Casey said, after both movies had run. "Gimme. Both of them. Now."

"Why?" Edwin asked.

"Because, in the morning, I'm gonna go to the post office, and I'm gonna send these out," Casey said. "But first, I'm gonna seal them up in envelopes and hide them, because there will be no tinkering with them, capisce?"

"I wash my hands," Derek said.

"Can't look at it anymore," Edwin said.

"Good," Casey said. "Because now you gotta start work on the next."

Derek threw a pillow at her.

She mailed them out the next day, and it took more than a month to hear back from the judges. Meanwhile Casey took a job with Ralph at the music store and Derek was sucked back into working at Smelly Nellie's, where he hadn't worked since before the accident. They were apparently shorthanded since Sally had gone off to university.

Edwin and Lizzie started their freshman year at Thompson, where Derek and Casey started their senior year. Derek threatened Edwin with Freshman Friday even though there hadn't been one of those since Lassiter took over. But Edwin didn't know that.

One day, Derek was pawing through the mailbox looking for his Rolling Stone, when his hand closed on two thick envelopes addressed to Edwin and Derek respectively. He more or less succeeded in looking nonchalant as he handed Edwin his envelope.

"Oh God," Edwin said, his eyes getting huge.

Derek shrugged and tried to hide the fact that his hands were shaking.

Casey and Lizzie looked at each other, then at Edwin and Derek. Neither boy would open their envelopes.

"Gimme that," Lizzie said, lunging for Edwin's. He pulled it out of her reach.

Casey took Derek's envelope and he reached for it but she was too fast for him. She opened it and shrieked.

"Runner up!" she yelped. "2,500 dollars." She practically bent him over the island and mashed her lips against his.

Then, after Derek recovered from that kiss, they both looked at Edwin, who'd apparently gone catatonic. He blinked at the page in his hand.

"What?" Lizzie said.

"Whaaaat?" Casey said.

Derek grabbed it out of Edwin's weakened grip.

"Dear Edwin Venturi," he read. "We are pleased to inform you...blah blah, that—you totally freaking won the whole freaking contest, and you owe your brother twenty bucks because you lost that bet and you get five grand so you can't be too upset about that. I'm paraphrasing a little."

Edwin's daze didn't lift for a while.