Here's chapter two; the next, and final, chapter! Enjoy!
Max scoffed. "What are you doing here?"
Derek still couldn't seem to close his mouth. "You're Casey's ne-stepbrother?"
Max's face darkened. "Yeah. It was an unfortunate accident by marriage." Derek winced, recognizing the words. "Don't tell anyone about this." He turned to Casey. "I've told you about talking to people that know me!"
Casey flinched and Derek swore. "What the hell? She's allowed to talk to whoever she wants!"
Max sneered. "I don't think so. I'm not going to have the reputation I worked so hard to build ruined by some stupid, klutzy, keener."
Derek blinked, taken back by the venom in Max's voice. Even when they had been pranking each other he'd never sound this bitter. Something must have really changed for him in this world.
Duh! He realized. He's dad got remarried. He probably never got over it
That still didn't give him the right to treat Casey like crap. He stepped between Casey and Max. "Casey will hang out with who ever she wants. I have just as much social power as you do. You won't be very liked if people find out what kind of a jerk you are to someone who hasn't even done anything wrong."
Max was visibly seething, and Derek was glad that he was still the same size as he used to be. Fridge Ryan would destroy him, but Max he could take if he had too. "Fine." The other boy said finally, turning and walking into the house. "But I don't want it getting around that she's related to me!" She slammed the door.
"But..." Derek looked at the wood in confusion. "You're not related to her." He shook his head then turned to Casey who was visibly shaking. "Hey..." He stepped towards her. "Are you okay?"
She shook silently for a few more seconds before letting out a sob and throwing her arms around Derek's neck.
"Whoa..." He almost pulled away, but finally remembered that this Casey didn't know that he didn't do tears. Taking a deep breath, he patted her reassuringly on the back. "Come on, Case. It's okay."
"T-thank you!" She finally chocked.
Derek grinned as she detached herself and smiled up at him sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I kinda couldn't help myself."
Derek shook his head. "No problem."
Casey smiled. "You have no idea how much that means to me." She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. "So, really, thank you." She gave him a small wave before shutting the door.
A slow grin slid across his face as he touched his cheek. Things were definitely going better this time around.
Casey giggled as she and Derek made their way out of school. "You really tried to blame it on your little brother?"
Derek nodded. "Yeah, except he couldn't write yet."
Casey laughed harder. "That is so irresponsible, but cute."
Derek grinned, popping the collar of his jacket. "I'm just full of charm."
Casey shook her head and rolled her eyes. "No, your full of ego."
Derek's grin widened. This was the Casey he was familiar with. They'd been hanging out nearly everyday since he'd 'rescued' her from Max on the porch nearly a week ago. Christmas break began today and he and Casey were going back to his house. He was half hoping that she would walk into the house and everyone would drop what they were doing, scream her name, and tell them how much she missed them. He wasn't surprised however, when she walked in and no one was home. The whole family was different without Casey. Nora wasn't Nora without her eldest daughter and it had changed George as result. And Lizzie, little Lizzie, had actually told Marti to get a clue because Santa wasn't real. She'd done that before he'd woken up in this world, but he'd still had to remind himself not to scream at her. She and Edwin had never bonded either, maybe because she didn't have an older sibling. Edwin had once told him that was what they'd initially connected over. His brother was still the same shy, timid little boy he'd always been before the McDonald's as a result.
"Oh..." Casey pulled off her coat as she walked inside. "You're house is..."
"Boring," Derek supplied, taking her coat and dumping both his and hers on his chair. "I know."
Casey shrugged, obviously attempting to make him feel better. "It's no big. Some people just aren't into decorating for the holidays. I love it. We used to do it all the before my dad left." She looked down. "After the divorce, mom just gave up on the holidays. My new stepfamily," Her voice was full of venom once more. "doesn't help."
Derek felt the familiar twinge in his chest; the one he usually got when Casey was upset. "You want to decorate this place then?" Casey looked up and he grinned, hoping she would return it. "It's not the same as decorating your own place, obviously, but it might be nice. I think my dad still keeps our old decorations in the attic. Since Ed's not living in it anymore. He added silently.
Casey beamed. "That would be great! But I should warn you, I'm a bit of a perfectionist."
Derek grinned. "I bet you can fight it. Come on!" He raced up the stairs, Casey on his heels.
Two hours later and the house was nearly as festive as it had been before the whole wish mess had started. Casey was singing along to 'Let It Snow', hanging the Christmas tree ornaments on a small plastic tree Derek didn't remember them having. He was wrapping garland around the railing and smiling down at the brunette. This decorating thing wasn't as bad as he'd thought it might have been; Especially with Casey walking around the house singing. He could act like nothing had changed. Why hadn't he wanted to do this before?
Casey finished hanging the last ornament just as Derek ran out of garland. She looked around the house, a satisfied smile on her face. "I think this floor is as awesome as it's going to be. There's just this one thing left," She held up a sprig of mistletoe. "Where should we hang it?"
Derek looked around the living room/dinning room in thought. "I think everything down here is great. Let's stick it upstairs."
Casey raised an eyebrow. "This one piece of mistletoe."
Derek nodded. "Yup, and I know just where to put it."
Casey shrugged but followed him upstairs anyways. "Here?" She asked as he pointed to the bare wall between his bedroom door and the one that used to belong to Casey.
Derek nodded. "Yup. This is perfect."
Casey looked skeptical but hung up the mistletoe anyways. It looked sort of odd, stuck there to the wall, the only Christmas decoration in sight. Finally though, Casey smiled. "Yeah, perfect. It does seem to fit, although I'm not sure why."
Derek threw a friendly arm around her shoulder. "Some things are just meant to be. Oh!" His eyes widened. "That reminds me."
He opened his door and grabbed a small package off his desk. When Casey was still his stepsister, he'd gotten her a necklace with a small glittering C inside a thin silver circle. When he'd discovered it wasn't in its hiding spot in this new world, he'd quickly gone out and bought it again. He returned to Casey and presented the small gift to her. "For you."
She gasped. "Derek, I...I couldn't. I don't even have anything for you."
He shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I bought it for you."
She nodded slowly and took the box, opening it. She pulled the necklace out of the box, gasping again. "Oh wow...this is...beautiful." She smiled. "Thank you, Derek." She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling. "I really wish I had something to give you."
Her eyes flickered over to the mistletoe hung above them and he followed her gaze. He grinned. "I think there might be something..."
He leaned down, lowering his face to hers. Her eyes fluttered shut and he could feel her breath on his face.
"Enjoying yourself I see."
Derek jumped a mile in the air, spinning around to see his Aunt Madge. "What...what are you doing here?" He asked, his hand over his chest from the fright.
"Well...I was going to ask if you wanted to reverse your wish, but I guess you're happier this way."
Derek looked at the frozen image of Casey, still poised and ready to be kissed. "I... I could go back?"
Aunt Madge nodded. "Although I'm sure you don't want to. Right?"
Derek looked torn. "Things...things in this world are so different than they used be." He looked at Casey again. "I can almost guarantee that she would never be doing that in the other world." He missed Madge's knowing look. "But..."
Derek walked over to the frozen Casey, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "No matter how similar she is... she's not my Casey. I miss the old Casey; the one that used to fight with me and challenge me. The one that wouldn't always let me have my way and made me want to be a better person without making me feel like who I was wasn't good enough."
"Even if it means giving up that?" She pointed to the young girl.
Derek nodded. "Even if it means giving up Casey that way. I'd rather have her as the spitfire stepsister I fell in love with."
"You know," Madge joined him, "I'm pretty sure she's going to fall in love with you. And she'll never know the difference."
Derek shook his head. "But I'll know. I'll never be able to look at her without remembering the girl she used to be. Plus, she's got such a crappy home life in this world. I don't want her to have to deal with that."
"So," Derek's turned to her, his face serious. "I want to go home."
Madge smiled, her whole face lighting up. "That's my boy."
But it wasn't just her face that was glowing. It was everything about her. And everything about him was glowing too, he noticed. He turned back to Casey, taking one last look at what he was giving up, before it became too bright and he was forced to shut his eyes.
"You know Derek," He heard his aunt's voice but he was too scared to open his eyes. "Some things from this world are meant to be too."
Light hit Derek's eyes but it wasn't until that moment that he realized it was dark enough for him to be able to tell the difference. He opened his eyes and blinked to clear his vision. He was greeted by the sight of his bedroom, morning light filtering in through the blinds. He sat up and stretched, yawning and trying to remember what had been going on the night before. The sound of Marti's voice brought it all back. Casey, the wish, starting over, the almost kiss, and wishing to make it all right again. Did it work? He shot out of bed and nearly tripped several times before finally reaching his door. He slowly made his way downstairs, almost afraid of what he was going to find. There was no one in the living room, but there was plenty of noise coming from the kitchen. He all but ran into the kitchen and almost started to cry when his father looked up and gave him the 'disappointed look'. But where was Casey?
"Mom?" Derek's head shot up. "Have you seen my jean skirt? It was in the was-what?"
Casey walked in from the laundry room, trailing off when she saw Derek staring at her, an unidentifiable expression on his face. "What?" She repeated, slightly unnerved by his silence. "Have you come to tell me some more about how nice your life would be without me?"
Derek snapped out his daze and moved towards Casey. "No!" They all looked a little taken aback by his outburst. "I'm sorry I said that. I was mad, but it still didn't give me the right to say that."
Casey stood there, dazed. "It-it's okay."
Derek's face broke into a grin and he took two steps forward and pulled Casey into a hug. "Our family would be so much worse without you." He whispered.
There was silence for a few seconds until. "I don't know what surprises me more," It was George. "The fact that Derek apologized or the fact that he did so to Casey."
"I think it's the fact that he hugged her." That was Edwin.
Derek opened his eyes, as if realizing what he'd just done. He coughed and let go of Casey has if she were on fire. "Yeah, well... holiday spirit and all that."
The rest of the family nodded but Casey gave him a knowing smile. "Thank you." She whispered, before leaving the kitchen. "I'll go look for it in my room." She called back to her mother. "Just keep an eye out for me will you."
Nora nodded then, realizing her daughter couldn't see hear, called out. "Can do honey."
Derek grinned, grabbing a banana from the counter and peeling it. "So?" He turned to his family, his smile brighter than even George could remember seeing it. "What's the plan for today."
They all exchanged looks. "It's Christmas Eve, Derek." George smiled. "We're just going to relax today. Enjoy the day as one big family."
Derek's smile, if possible, got even wider. "Perfect."
Derek knocked on Casey's door. Everyone was already asleep, eager for Santa to arrive the next morning. He heard her shuffling around for a few seconds before she opened the door. "Derek?"
She looked up at him confused, already dressed in flannel pajama bottoms and a matching tank top. "It's almost one in the morning."
Derek pulled her into the hallway and pressed a small box into her head. "Here. I wanted to give it to you before we all open presents. I didn't want anyone making a big deal."
She looked down at the little box. "I... But my gift for you is downstairs..."
"Just take it," Derek told her, already aware of her argument. "I got it for you so you might as well enjoy it."
Casey nodded and opened the box. She was greeted with the sight of the necklace he had given her in the other world. Just like last time, her face lit up and she gasped in surprise. "Derek...this is beautiful." She looked up at him and smiled. "Thank you."
He saw her eyes look to the side but he was too busy enjoying the look on her face to follow her gaze. She surprised him then by leaning up and kissing him on the cheek. "Merry Christmas Derek." Then she slipped into her room.
Derek felt the same goofy grin spread across his face. He turned back towards his door, ready to enjoy a few wonderful hours of sleep before Marti woke him up to open presents. He caught sight of a green spot on the wall between their rooms. He's jaw dropped in surprise.
It was the sprig of mistletoe...
"Some things are just meant to be..." He whispered to himself, smiling, before heading into his room.
His Aunt Madge grinned from where she'd seen the scene from a crack in the bathroom door.
"Merry Christmas, Derek."
Oh wow...how horribly OoC was Derek in this, especially at the end. But I figured I've done a good job keeping him in character for all my other fics (except, ya know, when he wasn't supposed to be) so I'm allowed to have a little OoCness once in a while.
Anyways, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate. Enjoy this two shot, I did enjoy writing it.