Happy New Year!

I decided to try a Casey story (though I couldn't resist having Obsessive Derek rear his ugly head for a bit, I promise it gets fluffy), and for some reason I can write her more comfortably in first person, so tell me if it works or not.

I know I told some people I would be posting a chapter fic, and I promise I will soon, but right now I had to get this out of my head. I'm also working on a second chapter to The Story of Us, which has a few requests to continue. So that will be a twoshot eventually. Anyway, on to the story!

Review, review, review! (please, and thank you)

--Brandi

Disclaimer: If Life with Derek suddenly changed hands overnight and became mine, I would be throwing a huge party. Did you, as a Dasey shipper, get invited to said party? No? Okay, then you know it's still not mine.

VENTING

"Sounds great, Noel. I'll see you tomorrow!"

I hung up the phone, feeling kind of giddy. I had been in such a slump since the Big Breakup with a certain football player, and I was flattered that Noel had called tonight. So it was kind of a given that I'd say yes when he asked me out.

Do I like him? Sure. Do I like like him? Uh, I'll get back to you on that one.

See, about three weeks ago Derek and I were sitting on the couch watching some lame reality show, and we actually had a real conversation. We talked about college, and our futures, and how it was kind of scary to be more than halfway done high school and still be so confused (me), and be halfway done high school with terrible grades and nothing but the hope of a hockey scholarship for encouragement (him).

It was the best conversation of my life.

And it was then that I decided I didn't hate Derek after all.

About two weeks ago we went to the movies, just the two of us. I had been planning to see it with Emily, but she had gone with Sheldon, and Derek had been planning to see it with Sam and Ralph, but they had gone without him.

It was one of those movies that you just have to see, because everyone else talks about it and you don't want to feel left out. So Derek barged into my room, and said something about how he was leaving in five minutes and if I wanted to see this movie I'd better be in the car…so I went with him.

At the theater he put his arm around the back of the seat, almost instinctually, and I jumped, even though his arm hadn't even touched me. He realized what he'd done and removed it with a smirk, but for the rest of the movie I almost wanted his arm to be there.

It was then that I decided I really kind of enjoyed spending time with Derek.

About one week ago Derek and I got into a huge fight with a can of whipped cream and that squirtable relish stuff while on assignment to clean up the kitchen. As we lay on the kitchen floor covered in food, laughing our heads off, it was then that I realized I actually liked Derek. Yes, like like him.

It's wrong, right? He's my stepbrother! And he's…Derek!

I've been jumpy around him all week, and I wonder if he can sense it. I've always been obvious about my crushes before, so I was being extra careful to keep Klutzilla at bay and keep Casey in control.

It's tough though. He asked me to pass the butter at dinner on Tuesday and I started daydreaming about how amazing it would be if we had a butter fight. It'd get in his hair and make it all shiny, and he'd probably have to take his shirt off because it'd be full of grease…

He had to ask me for the dish four times before I snapped out of it, and he gave me a strange look. Thank goodness no one else seemed to notice my weird behavior.

So anyway, operation Be Normal Around Derek is a challenge, but I'm sure I can pull it off.

Paul doesn't think so.

I told him how I feel, and to my surprise he didn't laugh, or frown, or look at me in disgust. He kept a straight face and told me he was glad I was finally getting in tune with my feelings. He said since Derek and I aren't related, it was perfectly legal for us to be together.

I think I was breathing into a paper bag by this point, and I called him some names, and I may have even thrown a book at him when he insisted I tell Derek how I feel. Then I stomped out of the office, and proceeded to break down and cry in the girls' bathroom. How dare he!

In retrospect I think I overreacted a little, but did Paul have to be so darn calm? Here I was telling him the most revolutionary news of my life, and he acted like it was perfectly normal to be crushing on my stepbrother.

I went back later and apologized, but told him there was no way I could tell Derek how I felt. I would be completely mortified if he didn't feel the same, which I don't think he does. How could we live together after something like that? Paul told me I was making a mistake, but he said he'd support my decision. I think he was just happy I wasn't keeping my emotions bottled up anymore.

I get the feeling he's known about my crush on Derek a lot longer than I have.

So, back to Operation Be Normal.

As I hung up the phone with Noel that evening, Derek came bursting into my room, looking furious.

"You're going out with that loser?" he practically yelled, eyes flashing with anger.

I decided to stay calm. "Why, yes, Derek. He called me and invited me to dinner. Is that a problem?"

"I heard he's a player-" Derek began, but I refused to listen to it.

"No way, Derek. Don't start. Noel is a great guy, and I've known him for months."

I could tell Derek was trying to calm himself down, and he tried again, this time at a normal volume. "But Casey, you just broke up with-"

"Don't you dare say his name! I'm not with him anymore, and I'm over it, so just go away and leave me alone." As you can tell, it's still a touchy subject between us, ever since he said all those mean things at Christmas.

I stomped out of my own room, leaving Derek in there to stew.

Suddenly I spun around, a thought occurring to me.

"Derek," I called back into my room, and he looked up. "How did you know Noel asked me out? I just hung up with him a minute ago. And my door was closed."

Derek tensed, but soon the all-too-familiar smirk returned to his face, and he said, "You talk loud."

"Loudly," I corrected automatically as I came back into my room, and he left it.

I would have accepted his answer if not for the unmistakable look in his eyes as he left.

The look I had seen when he fought Sam over the Male Code, and when I brought home Trevor, and when I started going out with Scott (excuse me, Snot) and with the aforementioned football player.

I felt compelled to get to the bottom of this. How did he know my business so quickly? And why did he badmouth every guy I showed interest in?

I knew only one person would know: Edwin.

I stormed up to his attic bedroom, and knocked rapidly. "Edwin! We need to talk!"

He opened the door as I was in mid-knock, so that I ended up pounding on his forehead.

"I know I'm the exact size and shape as one, but trust me, I'm not a punching bag," he deadpanned, as I quickly stopped knocking on his face.

"Sorry, Ed," I told him as I let myself into his room and closed the door.

He looked at me quizzically as I made myself comfortable in his desk chair.

"Um, Case? We're friends and all, but why are you in my room?"

"I need information, and you're the man for the job."

"Shoot," he replied, settling down on the bed across from me.

"I need to know how Derek eavesdropped on my room tonight. He heard my whole phone conversation, and my door was closed. I think he's done it before, too. Awhile ago, Emily and I were talking about something private, and he made a remark that made me think he'd heard us."

"What did he say?" Edwin asked, clearly interested, and clearly stalling so he didn't have to answer my question.

I blushed. "We were talking about who we'd rather be with, Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom." I ignored Edwin's snort. "And later, Derek said something like, 'I'll bet Orlando would love you in that shirt,' or something. I didn't think anything of it then, but now I think he's got my room bugged. Did you help him do it?"

Edwin took a long time to answer me. He stroked his chin, then scratched his ear, and fiddled with his sweatshirt's zipper.

Finally, he spoke. "That's crazy. He didn't bug your room. You watch too many movies."

"Edwin!" I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I really didn't want to resort to blackmail, but I didn't seem to have a choice.

"If you don't tell me the truth, I'll tell my mom that you were the one to break her glass punch bowl while you were pretending to be Edweirdo last week."

Edwin froze. "You wouldn't."

"Oh, I would," I grinned mischievously as I stood up and headed to the door.

Edwin beat me there and threw his arms wide open, blocking my exit. "No! She cried when she saw the crack! I'll tell you, I promise!"

I nodded and sat back down. "Wow, Ed, you're weak. I'd have thought Derek would have toughened you up by now."

He shrugged, clearly uncomfortable. "Well, I actually think it's a good idea to tell you the truth."

This threw me. "Wait…you do?"

Edwin looked sheepish. "Derek will kill me if he finds out, but I think you have a right to know. So you can maybe do something about it."

I was totally intrigued. "Oh, really? Well, answer my question. How is Derek eavesdropping on me? And why does he put down every guy I go out with?"

Edwin got this really big grin on his face, and rolled his eyes at me. "You're more oblivious than I thought."

"Gee, thanks. Answer the questions."

"You know the heating vent in the wall between your rooms?"

"Yeah…"

"He can flip a switch on his and hear everything that goes on in your room."

"Everything?!" I did a mental rundown of all the phone conversations I'd had in my room lately. I didn't think he'd overheard anything important, and luckily I'd never talked about my feelings for him to anyone but Paul.

Edwin rushed to clarify. "He doesn't listen in all the time. I thought he had stopped, actually, but apparently he didn't."

I was trying unsuccessfully to control my anger. "That…he…such an invasion of privacy!" I spluttered, and Edwin let me process it for a moment before continuing.

"He doesn't do it all that often, I swear. As for the other question, about the whole guys you like thing, I would have thought you'd figure that one out on your own."

I gave him a hard look. "Ed, I am not in the mood, okay? Just spell it out."

"J-E-A-L-O-U-S," he explained triumphantly.

"Jealous? As in, Derek is jealous of the guys I go out with? Why?"

Edwin buried his face in his hands. "Seriously, Case? Still not there? Really?"

Realization hit me. "Oh." I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me, and I took a deep breath. "Ohhh."

Edwin stood up and patted me on the back. "There you go." Then he walked to the door and held it open, motioning for me to leave. "I think I've done enough damage for one night. Goodbye."

"Thanks, Ed," I smiled at him as I left, though I felt as if I were moving in slow motion. This was major. The only thought that came to mind was that Paul had probably seen this coming. I owed him another apology for being dense.

I had the urge to call Emily, but I knew it was more important to talk to someone else first. So I waited until Derek went into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and did a little experiment.

I turned music on low in my room, and then went next door to Derek's and closed the door. I couldn't hear the music. I went over to the vent and flicked the switch, and suddenly the radio was completely clear.

That unbelievable jerk. He's actually been spying on me. But could I blame him? No. I would do the same thing.

I decided I was through with Operation Be Normal.

Throwing caution to the wind, I took the biggest chance of my life.

Derek's computer was on. I opened a Word document and typed in size 48 font, "I feel the same way about you as you do about me. I'll be waiting in my room. –C."

The feeling I got from this was unbelievably freeing. This was so unlike me, and yet, I had to know. I knew I wouldn't be happy until I did. For better or worse.

I paced my room, chewing idly on my thumbnail. Why did I do that? That was so stupid. He'd laugh, and then delete it, and that would be that. I could just go back in there and—

Darn. I could hear him leaving the bathroom and opening his own door. Too late. This was it. The moment of truth.

I stood in the middle of the room, my back to the door, holding onto my desk chair for dear life. If he doesn't come…

I felt warm arms wrap around my waist and Derek's chin resting on my shoulder. I shuddered with relief, and leaned back into him.

"Hi," he breathed, his hands playing with the hem of my pajama shirt.

I couldn't speak. I just kind of nodded. Lame, I know. But trust me, I was in shock.

I couldn't see his face, but I could tell he was smirking. "So how exactly do you feel about me, Casey?" he whispered, his chin vibrating against my shoulder as he spoke.

I knew I'd better say something sooner or later. Gathering up all my courage, I pushed myself out of his grip and turned around so we were face to face. I reached up to place my palms on his chest as he wrapped his arms around my waist once again.

"I like you, Derek," I managed to say, looking straight at him. He smiled. A real, wonderful Derek smile that I received so infrequently.

"I like you, too, Casey," he replied, leaning down to give me the best kiss I'd ever experienced. It didn't last very long, but I knew I'd remember it forever.

When we broke apart, I smirked at him. "Just remember who made the first move."

He pulled away from me, gasping in mock horror. "Uh, that would be me."

"Oh, no. I believe I'm the one who admitted it first."

"But I kissed you first."

"Yeah, no, doesn't count."

He pulled me onto my bed, enveloping me in his warmth. "You're going to hold this over my head forever, aren't you?" he joked, nuzzling his face into the crook of my neck and clasping my hands in his.

"Probably," I answered, trying to ignore the kisses he was planting along my collarbone. I pushed his head up, forcing him to look directly into my eyes. "We have some things to discuss," I told him seriously.

He looked nervous for a second. "Like, who we can tell about this? Or how you're going to break your date with Noel?"

I was having too much fun freaking him out to talk about the important stuff right now. That could wait until morning.

"No, a little matter of how you hear everything that goes on in my room through your heating vent…" I trailed off, raising my eyebrows at him.

"That. That was all Edwin's idea. I didn't even know it was there until Edwin showed me," he said anxiously.

"I had a nice little chat with Edwin. He told me a different story."

"Oh, yeah? Well I'll just have to kill him in the morning," he replied, regaining that cocky attitude of his.

"He's the one who helped me figure out I should do something about my crush on you," I fired back, placing my palms on his cheeks.

"Well, I'll just have to thank him in the morning, then," he answered, kissing me again.