Note: "Allergy Season" does NOT apply, due to the fact that…I haven't seen it yet. As a favor to me, try to approach reading this as if you haven't seen it either (and if you haven't yet, well then, score). I took this opportunity to vent my opinion about how I thought the Max/Casey relationship would eventually end, without being influenced by canon. I'd like to see how it compares. ;)
Written for Brandi (bsloths). I apologize for being late. A combination of collegiate life and my inability to write a one-shot that is anything less than fifteen pages long. Sigh.
The Mating Ritual of the Pubescent Homo Sapien
Researched, Compiled and Reported by:
Sheldon Schlepper & Emily Davis
In the process of mating, a young, virulent male will scan his surroundings until one female in particular catches his eye. Once interested, he will attempt to show off his superior qualities in the hope that she will respond favorably.
"Did you just throw something at me?"
Derek shrugged. "Possibly."
Casey narrowed her eyes, searching around her chair, checking for remnants of Derek's dinner. "Edwin, what did Derek throw at me?"
Edwin looked up from his mashed potatoes, mouth stuffed full of food. "Huh?"
"Uch, nothing." Casey swung her head around, looking for the elusive object while Derek chortled, watching her grow angrier by the second. "Derek!"
"Check your shirt!" Marti called helpfully.
"What – " Casey looked down at her shirt and turned bright red, catching sight of a piece of bread that had flown down her top. "Derek Venturi, you – you – "
Derek laughed to himself, pushing the food around on his plate innocently. "I couldn't resist."
"Mom!" Casey fished the bread out of her shirt semi-discreetly, fuming.
Nora walked in from the kitchen, a bowl of salad in her hands. "Guys, no fighting tonight, okay? Please."
"But he – "
"Just get along," Nora said firmly. "George is working late, I have no back up."
Derek smirked, taking a huge bite out of his dinner roll and staring straight at Casey, slowly flushing redder beneath his gaze.
"Pig," Casey muttered, trying to focus on her food.
"George is working late?" Lizzie asked. "On that environmental case, right?"
"Yes. And no, you cannot ask him about it, you know he can't tell you anything," Nora replied.
"Man, it would be so perfect for my science report," Lizzie grumbled.
"Wait, what about my hockey game?" Derek asked. "I have to be there in like, an hour and a half."
"I'm sorry, sweetie, I don't know if he'll be able to make it," Nora said apologetically. "He said he'd try when I talked to him earlier, but…"
"You've gotta be kidding me," Derek groaned.
"I'll be there," Marti said.
Derek sighed. "Thanks, Smarti."
"You know, it's really unfair that Derek's hockey games are always such a big freakin' deal," Casey said sourly. "You guys didn't even come to my dance recital last week."
"That's because no one cares about your frou-frouey dance things," Derek informed her.
Casey rolled her eyes. "'Frou-frouey'? Thanks, Grandpa."
"Casey, you have dozens of recitals; we come to the important ones," Nora said.
"What makes this game so important?"
"It's the semi-finals," Derek insisted. "If we win tonight, we're going to Montreal. Which is why Dad sucks."
"Yeah, Derek's been puking all week," Edwin said, mouth full of green beans.
Marti scrunched up her nose. "Ew."
"Shut up, Ed."
"We'll all go," Nora said. "We'll cheer you on, Derek."
"My dad won't," Derek pointed out.
Nora's smile faltered slightly. "Isn't Marti your lucky charm?"
"Yeah." Derek visibly forced the frown off his face and made a face at his little sister. "You're gonna cheer the loudest out of anyone, right Smarti?"
"Right, Smerek!" Marti pumped her fist in the air, a true fan. "Can I wear your jersey?"
"Because I have to wear it," Derek said, poking her in the side.
"Plus, you don't wanna wear his smelly old practice jersey, do you Marti?" Casey piped up. "He hasn't washed it since last October."
"November, actually." Derek corrected. "And Sally has it anyway."
"Sally has your jersey?" Casey repeated incredulously.
"Yeah, well, she needed something to wear to cheer me on," Derek replied, puffing out his chest.
"Is she coming tonight?" Edwin asked, straightening in his chair slightly and reaching up to mess with his hair. Lizzie gave a scoff and rolled her eyes.
"She said she might stop by," Derek said nonchalantly.
Casey smirked at him. "Oh, is she bringing Patrick?"
Derek gave her a sickly-sweet smile. "You know, there was more than one piece of bread," he informed her.
"Urrgh!" Casey pushed back from the table, glaring. "I'm going to go change. Call me when he grows up."
"Casey – " Nora shook her head, stopping mid-sentence as Casey stormed off upstairs. "Derek, why do you have to antagonize her all the time?"
"But she was the one who – "
"Just eat your dinner, okay?" Nora shook her head. "I'm going to kill George."
Casey whirled around and glared. "It's not a poncho, it's a shawl. And it's very stylish."
"Whatever you say." Derek leaned against the doorjamb of the bathroom, linking his hands behind his back casually.
"What do you want, anyway?" Casey said flippantly, turning back to examine the state of her lip gloss in the mirror.
"What are you all dressed up for?" Derek asked, ignoring her question. "You know that hockey games take place in ice rinks, right?"
"Please," Casey scoffed. "I'm not going to your stupid game."
Derek stiffened, standing up straighter in the door way. "Oh? Like you've got anything better to do?"
"As a matter of fact," Casey replied, "Max has a basketball game with his Cub Scout troop tonight. I'm going to help out."
Derek blinked incredulously for a few seconds, staring at her in disbelief. "I…don't know which is worse, the fact that you're ditching my game for your Ken doll boyfriend, or the fact that Ken hangs out with Cub Scouts on a regular basis."
"Max happens to be a very sweet, dedicated person," Casey said indignantly, stressing her boyfriend's name. "Like you would ever do anything as selfless as volunteering for a bunch of kids."
"Please, like he's actually doing it for the reasons you think he is," Derek said derisively. "Two words, Case – resume packer."
Casey scoffed. "Max isn't like that."
"Right, right. Because you deem him worthy to hold hands with in the hallways, it must mean he's a saint, right?" She bristled slightly, glaring at him in the mirror. "Anyway, where's he gonna take you after this riveting game of basketball with the third graders? Chuck E. Cheese?"
"It'd be a lot more fun than watching you and the Neanderthals you call a team stumbling around all night, making yourselves sweaty," Casey shot back.
"We may stumble, but at least we look cool doing it," Derek said.
"Whatever." Casey shook her head. "Like you really want me to come, anyway."
"I do want you to come!"
"Yeah, right!" Casey turned on her heel so she was face to face with him. "You never want me to come to your games, even when I want to go. You say I'm a bad luck charm."
"That was, you know." He shrugged. "A joke."
"A joke?" Casey laughed, slightly bitterly. "Max doesn't make jokes like that."
"Yeah, Max is all kinds of perfect, I get it," Derek spat.
"Tell me why you want me to come, and I'll come," Casey said calmly.
Derek squirmed. "I just – I assumed you'd come, since everyone else is coming, and – "
"That's not what I asked."
Derek shifted uneasily. "Case…I – "
Casey took a step back after he lapsed into silence, turning her head away briefly. "Fine," she said, voice tight. "Good luck tonight, Derek. I'll see you tomorrow."
She brushed past him quickly, keeping her face turned away. Derek watched her scurry down the hall to her room and slammed his head back against the doorjamb. "Damn it."
If this fails, the male may become embarrassed and will attempt to hide his affection for the female out of fear of rejection. He might even transfer his feelings to another female more receptive to his advances – but it is inevitable that he will eventually return to the original object of his desire – especially if he sees signs of jealousy from his beloved.
Casey slammed her locker shut, resisting the urge to lean back against the metal and close her eyes. Yawning, she gathered her books up into her arms and wandered in the general direction of her math classroom, flinching when she was almost run over by an errant hockey player.
" MONTREAL!" The guy yelled, paying no attention to the girl he almost trampled. He ran down to Sam, who was standing at the opposite end of the hallway, and the two jumped into an elaborate high-five/handshake ritual, yelling and whooping. " MONTREAL, DUDE. SERIOUSLY. WHOO!"
"Won the semi-finals, huh?"
Casey turned to see Emily leaning by the door of their classroom, looking down at the excitable pair with an amused quirk of her mouth. Casey smiled and shrugged. "How can you tell?"
Emily grinned. "Derek must've been a handful last night, huh? Did you go to the game?"
"Nah, I went out with Max," Casey said. "I haven't seen Derek since before I left last night, actually. I got back late."
"Ooh, anything interesting happen?" Emily said. "Details, girlie."
Casey laughed, walking with Emily into the classroom and heading for their seats. "If playing a very strange game of basketball with a bunch of seven-year-olds for five hours counts as 'interesting,' then yeah."
"You played basketball?" Emily asked, stamping down a laugh. "Um. Wow. That's…huh."
"I wasn't that bad!" Casey protested, giggling. "Well, I wasn't when Max was around. After he left, I really started to suck."
"Wait, he left you alone?"
Casey shrugged. "He had to get home for some family thing, and the kids' parents weren't coming for another hour." Emily gave her a look. "What? It wasn't like he had a choice! It wasn't that big of a deal."
The teacher walked in at that moment, clearing his throat over the noise of chit-chat from the students. "Everyone take their seats, please."
Emily shot a look at the teacher, then turned back to look at Casey. "Not that big of a deal?"
Emily looked unconvinced, giving a little shrug and retreating to her own seat.
As the teacher started the lecture, Casey took out her notebook and prepared to take notes, trying valiantly to keep her eyes from drooping. She'd had to stay extra late since one of the boys' parents had been late in picking him up, so it was at least midnight before she'd gotten to bed. It definitely wasn't as bad as the Ivanhoe disaster of fall semester, but she was still fighting to keep her eyes open.
Movement from outside the classroom door caught her attention and she straightened in her seat, leaning forward slightly to get a better view out of the long window next to the door. Catching sight of blonde hair, she immediately recognized Sally, talking to another figure still out of her sightline. As she watched, Sally reached up to the other figure, placing a kiss somewhere on his face – cheek? Mouth? What? Was it Patrick? Was Derek seeing this?
Casey leaned forward a bit more, glimpsing shaggy, reddish-brown hair and a brown shirt. She frowned, trying to lean forward even further, attempting to recognize the second figure –
"Ms. McDonald, is there something outside that interests you?"
Titters spread across the classroom and Casey blushed, pulling back into her seat normally. "Um, no, sir. I was just, uh – "
"Paying attention to my riveting lecture?" the teacher asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Um, yes, sir." Casey deflated as the teacher returned to the front of the classroom, picking up his lecture where he'd left off. Casey forced herself to pay attention, taking down notes as fast as she could write.
"Mr. Venturi, so nice of you to join us."
Casey's head snapped up to see Derek (late, as usual) sauntering into the classroom, smarmy grin in place. Her stomach dropped as she glimpsed Sally behind him, retreating down the hallway. Derek and Sally kissing? Sally kissed Derek?! A stab of panicked nausea shot through her stomach and she froze, biting her lip viciously.
"Sorry, Mr. T," Derek said flippantly, moving to his seat and slumping down into the chair.
Casey glared at the back of her stepbrother's head, frantic thoughts racing through her mind. What is wrong with him? Helping someone cheat? I mean, I know he doesn't have the strictest moral code in the world, but I never thought he'd sink that low – and what about Patrick? He's twice Derek's size, if he finds out he's gonna beat Derek to an inch of his life! And Sally? I never thought she was the cheating type – what exactly happened at that stupid game last night? I should've gone anyway, but Derek was just being such a jerk, like always, jeez –
Casey jumped, turning around at Emily's hiss. "What?"
Emily raised an eyebrow, pointing. Casey looked down and realized she was tapping her pencil against the desktop violently, eliciting dirty looks from the people surrounding her. She stopped abruptly, shooting her classmates a sheepish grin. Calm down, Case, she told herself. None of your business, remember? You hate Derek. Right?
A few rows ahead, the person in question turned slightly, a devilish smirk twisting his mouth. Casey growled under her breath and jumped slightly, looking down to discover that she'd broken her pencil.
Edwin dropped his sandwich in fright, turkey and cheese scattering over the living room couch. "Dude, what'd you do?"
Derek looked unaffected, slouching down further in his armchair. "Nothing."
Without missing a beat, a blur of blue and white sailed through the air and smacked him in the face. "Nothing, yeah right," Casey hissed. "Your stupid hockey gear is all over the backseat of the car. The whole thing smells like a locker room." She crossed her arms. "And what the hell happened to you? I waited outside the school for an hour!"
Derek blinked stupidly for a second, blindsided. "I caught a ride with Sally," he said. "You were waiting for me?"
"Well, that is the whole concept of sharing a car," Casey said. "Wait – Sally? Oh, you were with Sally, were you?!"
"Sally was here and you didn't tell me?" Edwin cried, dismayed. Casey turned the full force of her glare on him and he squeaked, leaping up. "I'm gone!"
"Look, I don't know what your damage is, but you're blocking the TV," Derek said carelessly. "Do you mind?"
"Yes, I mind!" Casey stomped over and switched off the television. "I'm trying to have a fight with you, here."
He sighed. "Okay, yeah. I'm an evil bastard for leaving my stuff in my car. And then daring to let you drive it today by catching a ride with someone else. Damn my inconsiderateness."
"You – you drove home with Sally," Casey spat.
"Yes, we've covered that." He scoffed. "Now, can you please spaz out somewhere else? There's a wrestling match on in ten minutes."
"I am not spazzing out!" Casey shot back. "I am, however, marveling at your complete lack of decency."
"She gave me a ride," Derek said. "And not in the fun sense. In the totally boring, normal sense."
"You know, anyone could've seen you today," Casey said. "I saw you. Half the class saw you!"
"Saw me what?"
"Ha!" Casey snorted, crossing her arms. "Like you don't know."
"Uh, I'm pretty sure I don't."
"A likely story!" Casey thundered.
Derek stared at her incredulously for a second before plopping back down in his chair. "Whatever. Wrestling. Move."
"She has a boyfriend," Casey burst out. "I know you're not exactly the 'monogamy yay!' type, but you could at least pretend like you have some decorum."
"Do I seem like the decorum type to you?" Derek sneered. "And I still have no idea what you're talking about."
"That kiss with Sally!" Casey exclaimed, frustrated. "Everyone saw it."
"Kiss with…" Derek scrunched up his face. "What kiss?"
"Outside math today!"
"Outside…" Derek trailed off and snorted out a laugh. "That? That was not a kiss. Not a real one, anyway."
"Oh, so you admit that you kissed her?"
"I didn't kiss anyone," Derek said shortly. "She kissed me. On the cheek. She was congratulating me on the game. Not that you'd know, since you freakin' bailed on it and all, but I did score the winning goal."
"You – the winning goal, really? Wow, Derek, that's – uh, hey. Don't distract me!"
"Not that hard to do," Derek muttered.
"Why would she kiss you on the cheek? Isn't that a little forward? I don't kiss people on the cheek that I don't like – "
"Why do you care?" Derek asked suddenly.
"I – I don't?" Casey cleared her throat. "I don't. I just don't want to clean up all your blood after Patrick beats the crap out of you."
"They broke up," Derek informed her sourly.
"They – " Casey floundered. "So she does like you!"
"Who cares if she likes me?" Derek burst out. "Are you jealous?"
"Then drop it."
Casey huffed and dropped down on the couch, arms crossed. "Fine."
Silence fell and Derek switched the television back on, the only noise in the room.
"I'm not watching wrestling," Casey said suddenly.
"Then go away," Derek replied.
She sighed mournfully. "There's a new episode of Desperate Housewives on tonight," she said.
"Don't even think about it."
"But Der – "
She huffed. "Fine."
Derek rolled his eyes and turned up the volume, the wrestling match starting. Casey made a small, distressed noise and he growled softly. "Not a word," he warned.
"I didn't say anything!" Casey was silent for a second. "So…you and Sally…"
"There is no me and Sally."
"Oh." Casey picked at a loose thread on the couch cushion, biting her lip. "So who are we rooting for?"
Derek gave her a look out of the corner of his eye. "Whoever wins."
"That doesn't even make sense!"
"Does it have to?" Derek grinned.
Casey rolled her eyes, trying to control her smile. "I guess not."
The female, possibly, may not be as aware of her feelings as the male, and may use a placeholder male in order to fulfill her needs, unaware of the happiness she could find with the one she truly wants. This may cause tension between the male and the placeholder if the two come into direct contact, as both feel they have a superior claim to the female.
"What are you doing here?"
Derek blew out a long breath, ruffling his bangs. "Athletic fair. I am an athlete. Duh?"
Casey crossed her arms. "Like you've ever attended any of these things before."
"I came that one time – "
"Fine. It might be required this time." Derek rolled his eyes. "Coach's mandate."
She huffed. "Whatever. Just…don't bother me tonight."
Derek watched as she turned her back on him, heading back to the table she'd been sitting at. "What are you doing here…serving bird food?"
"They're snacks," Casey snapped, adjusting a plate of cheese and crackers. "Mr. Pellegrino got sick, so I volunteered to take his spot."
"Are those…cucumbers?" Derek poked at a tray of vegetables.
"Healthy snacks!" Casey batted his hand away. "Leave, you're annoying."
"Why would you volunteer for the Health teacher?" Derek asked, shaking his head. "You don't take any Health classes."
"I was…being nice. Giving back to my community."
Derek snorted. "Captain Cardboard has nothing to do with it then, huh?"
"I refuse to reply to any sentence that contains that idiotic moniker," Casey said haughtily.
"Well, the moniker just walked through the door with Amy Sheppard." Casey's head whipped around so fast that her ponytail knocked a stack of napkins off the table. "You're right, Captain Cardboard doesn't quite fit. He's more orange than brown, anyway."
Casey clenched at the back of her metal chair, knuckles turning white. "Shut up, Derek."
"They look pretty cozy." Derek snorted derisively, watching Max chumming it up with the blonde cheerleader across the gym. Glancing back at Casey, he frowned. "Hey. Don't do that."
"What?" Casey stood up abruptly, arranging the platters of food meticulously. "Get upset because my boyfriend has his arm around his super-blonde, super-cute, super-everything ex? No, of course not."
Derek opened his mouth to reply, and was cut off by the moniker in question. "Hey, guys."
"Max," Casey said tightly. "And…Amy."
"Hi." Amy gave a small wave, smiling just as tightly at Casey. Looking over at Derek, her demeanor loosed. "And hey, you, haven't seen you around in awhile."
"Hey, Amy," Derek replied neutrally. "Rocking the school spirit, I see."
Amy twirled a bit, displaying her short, brash dress, coordinated with the ribbons in her hair in the school colors. Her eye shadow also fit, too, Casey noticed. "Thought I'd show my support," Amy chirped. "I was gonna wear my uniform, but I found this super awesome dress at Bloomingdale's last week, and I just had to show it off!"
"Super awesome, huh? Even better than regular awesome?" Derek smirked over at Casey, who tightened her grip on a plastic fork tightly.
"I ran into Amy outside," Max said, seemingly oblivious to Casey's distress. "She's running the Skeeball table."
"Buy two balls and get one free," Amy sing-songed.
"Sounds like quite a bargain," Casey remarked tightly.
Amy looked over at her, mouth pinching. "Yeah," she replied blandly. "So, Derek, maybe I'll see you there?" Amy ran a hand sparkling with bracelets down Derek's chest, tugging at the zipper of his jacket flirtatiously. Both Casey and Max stiffened visibly.
Derek raised an eyebrow. "I might stop by." He stepped out of her reach subtly.
"Max already promised to make an appearance," Amy continued. "I'm bound to be the most popular booth here if the both the football quarterback and the hockey captain stop by."
"It's not about popularity, Amy, it's about raising money for the athletic dep – "
"What do you know? When have you done anything athletic in your life?" Amy laughed, then seeing the look on Casey's face, laughed louder. "Oh, just kidding, Case. We all really appreciate your help."
"Please don't call me Case," Casey replied frostily.
Max gave a pained smile. "Those, uh, look really great, Casey. I'm sure your booth will be a hit."
"Thanks, Max." Casey's demeanor melted slightly and she held up a plate of fruit. "Want some?"
"Uh, sure." Max took a strawberry and took a bite, smiling at Casey and raising his eyebrows. She gave a small smile and offered the platter to Amy.
"Oh, I'm on a diet," Amy declined, waving it away.
"This is the Health booth. It's healthy food," Casey pointed out.
"Well, I better get over to my booth. The fair's about to start," Amy said obliviously. "See you later guys." She gave a wink and sashayed away, hair ribbons bouncing.
"Well, she was…friendly," Casey said, dropping the fruit platter with a 'clang.'
"That's one way of putting it," Derek said, grabbing a cracker and popping it in his mouth.
"She's actually a really sweet person," Max said, frowning at Derek.
"'Sweet?'" Derek repeated. "In a certain way, sure."
"You know, I never figured you as the gossipy type," Max said.
"It's not gossip if it's completely obvious," Derek replied dismissively.
"You really shouldn't talk about things you don't know anything about," Max shot back. The two stood glaring at each other, Casey looking on apprehensively.
"Uh, guys?" Casey grabbed the plate of vegetables. "Celery?"
"What do you care, anyway?" Derek said. "Didn't you and Amy, you know. Break up?"
"Yeah, Max," Casey cut in. "And Derek didn't mean it anyway. Not worth fighting over." Hurrying around the table, she cut in between the two, pushing subtly on both of them to back up. "Right?"
"Right." Max took a step back. "Completely not worth it." He looked Derek up and down nastily, implication clear.
Derek bristled and Casey laid a hand on his chest. "Yeah, right," he said finally, looking down at her.
"I'm gonna…go check out the other booths," Max said, turning on his heel and striding away abruptly.
"Wait, Max – " Casey cut herself off, biting her lip. "Great."
"What a tool." Derek huffed. "'Not worth it.' Asshole."
"Yeah, I know you're constantly desperate to prove how freaking tough you are, but do you have to come to blows with my boyfriend?" Casey complained. "You didn't have to push, you know."
"It shouldn't have mattered that I was pushing," Derek argued, "since I was pushing about his ex-girlfriend."
Casey winced. "They're friends."
Derek raised an eyebrow. "She's a Barbie doll."
"Well – " Casey blew out a breath. "I don't have to like her. It's not a requirement."
"She's his ex," Derek said flatly.
"I – " Casey faltered, cheeks flushing. "What do you care, anyway?"
Derek crossed his arms. "I'd rather not spend tonight watching you sacrifice your self-respect for some notebook paper quarterback."
"Please, what does that even mean?"
"Come on, Case. Most popular guy in school? Football captain? He fits perfectly on your college applications. The only thing missing is that toothpaste commercial 'ding.'"
"This is none of your business." Casey took a step back, crossing her arms across her stomach protectively. "What makes you think you have the right to dissect my love life, exactly?" she hissed.
"Oh, I dunno, maybe the same thing that gives you the right to dissect mine?" Derek said pointedly. "Last time I checked, Sally and I were none of your business either."
"That was different!" Casey argued. "I – Sally is all wrong for you, and I was just – "
"Well, Max is all wrong for you," Derek said directly. "And you know it – you know it! That's what's so frustrating about all this."
"He is not – I mean, I don't – I have no idea what you're talking about," Casey stuttered.
"You do," Derek said.
"I'm not listening to this." Casey turned away, blushing hotly. She moved around back behind the booth again, leaning down and messing with the platters of food, hair hanging down in front of her face.
"Oh, look. Amy's showing Max how to play Skeeball," Derek said.
"Shut up, Derek," Casey gritted, slamming herself down into her chair angrily.
"How precious – head cheerleader and football quarterback. Sounds a little bit more perfect than the football quarterback and Klutzilla don't you think?"
Casey inhaled sharply and glared up at him venomously. "You know what this is? You're jealous because I have an actual relationship instead of some flighty waitress who leads me on whenever she's feeling neglected by her hunky boyfriend." She sneered. "It's not my fault that Max is better than you in, oh, I dunno, everything?"
Derek grew very still, taking deliberately even breaths. "Better than me," he said flatly. "Really."
Casey gave a humorless smile. "Pretty much."
The two stayed locked in an intense gaze until Derek finally broke the stare, giving a terse nod and walking away from the table jerkily. Casey watched him go, stomach wrenching, and with a small moan, she pushed away from the table and ran for the bathroom.
"Casey? Are you okay in there?" Emily knocked on the door to the bathroom stall, softly.
Casey lifted her head from where she'd been cradling it in her arms, sniffling. "Em?"
"Yeah, it's me."
Unlatching the door, Casey stepped out and headed straight for the sink. "Please don't look at my face."
"Oh, honey, what's wrong?" Casey wrenched the faucet on and started to splash her face with water, managing to give a small shrug as she bent over the counter. Emily gave a sympathetic hum and moved up beside her friend, rubbing soothing circles on her back. "I got here and couldn't find you. Sam said he'd seen you run into the bathroom earlier. What happened?"
"Nothing," Casey mumbled. She reached for a paper towel and started to pad her face dry, knowing without having to look at her reflection that her eyes would be swollen and red. "I mean, yeah, something. It's just…" she sighed in frustration. "I don't know."
Emily gave a small smile. "I'm a great listener."
"I know you are." Casey sighed. "I feel like such a girl."
"You are a girl," Emily replied. "Casey, you're the girliest girl I've ever known. And I totally mean that in a nice way."
Casey gave a small laugh. "None taken."
Emily tilted her head slightly. "Does this have something to do with the Skeeball war going on out there?"
"Skeeball war?" Casey frowned. "What?"
"Max and Derek," Emily clarified. "They're having this weird 'skeeball showdown,' or whatever, supposedly to prove who's better – football or hockey." She frowned. "They seem really, um. Intense, though. Not like the whole prank war thing."
Casey rolled her eyes. "Great. Derek chooses now to go Neanderthal on me."
"We got into a fight. What else is new?" Casey threw the paper towel away, rubbing her hands together against the chill of the restroom. "About Max and his super sweet 'friend,' Amy." Casey raised her hands in the air to make air quotes, rolling her eyes.
"Scumbag," Emily muttered. "Does this mean you're going to dump him? Finally?"
"Finally?" Casey repeated. "Emily!"
"What?" Emily rolled her eyes. "I've been waiting for you to do it for months."
"Where is this all coming from?" Casey asked, stricken. "Max and I are fine!"
"Um, no, you're not," Emily pointed out. Before Casey could protest again, she held up a hand. "Chill out, Miss Drama, and think about it logically. He never supports you in anything. He only feigns interest in the things you talk about and do, because you don't really have anything in common. He never defends you. He doesn't take any effort to understand you, which is why he says or does stupid things and then doesn't know why you get mad…" Emily ticked the points off on her fingers. "Do I need to go on?"
Casey slumped against the sinks, frowning. "No," she replied petulantly.
"Look, it's a little weird, that's all I'm saying," Emily said. "You used to dump Sam for barely looking at you the wrong way, and now…" she trailed off and shrugged.
"I let him walk all over me," Casey finished glumly.
"No…" Emily protested weakly. "Well…yeah. A little."
"I don't know what's wrong with me," Casey moaned. "It's like…it's the popularity thing." She sighed. "Sam's popular, but…not Max popular. Plus he was Derek's friend and he hung out at the house so much, so I already kinda saw him as, you know. An equal. But Max…"
Emily nodded and rubbed Casey's shoulder sympathetically. "You don't call him on anything because you're still thinking it's too good to be true, that he could dump you for someone more popular in a second…"
"Wow." Emily shook her head. "That's…really unhealthy. Like, seriously, Case."
"I know," Casey moaned. "I know. What do I do?"
"Dump him. Um, duh?"
"I…" Casey trailed off, expression uncertain.
Emily sighed. "Casey."
"I know! I know." Casey bit her lip. "They're really having a Skeeball showdown?"
Emily nodded. "It's pretty intense."
"Ha! Who's the loser now, Captain?"
"Why do you keep calling me that?" Max groused.
"This just proves what we all already know," Derek continued, as if Max hadn't already spoken. "That hockey will now, and forever more, kick football's puny, tighty-whitey ass." He reached over and high-fived a fellow hockey player.
"That was great, Derek!" Amy squealed. "You're at 325 points so far. I think you've won practically every prize we've got."
"Keep 'em," Derek said, winking. "The satisfaction of kicking Miller's orange butt is more than enough."
"Game's not over yet, Venturi," Max growled. The small crowd that had gathered to watch the two square off started to titter, excited at the prospect of a fight.
"Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?" Derek smirked. "That is, if you can tear it away from Skipper over there."
"You never know when to shut up, do you?" Max narrowed his eyes.
"Nope," Derek replied breezily. "Care to make it more interesting? Move this to the basketball court?"
"Basketball?" Max scoffed. "You're on."
"Awesome," Derek mocked. "I hear you're great at it. The Cub Scouts say good things."
Max shook his head. "You know, I always thought you were kind of an idiot, but this just proves it. You never know when to quit, either."
"I could say the same to you, Fake Bake," Derek taunted. "I'd keep an eye out for skin cancer, if I were you." Laughs echoed throughout the crowd.
Max glared at him venomously. "I win," he started, "and you show up at every football game for the rest of the season." He smirked. "In a dress."
Derek snorted. "Wow, congrats to you for the most unoriginal bet ever." A flash of movement caught his eye over Max's shoulder and he stiffened. "If I win," he said, voice cementing. "You dump Casey."
"You heard me." Derek straightened slightly, gaze skirting over Max's shoulder every few seconds. "You can always forfeit, you know. Give up here. Just depends on what you're willing to risk."
Max set his jaw. "You're on." With a deep breath, he reached out and took Derek's proffered hand. "Basketball court by the parking lot in twenty minutes." He stalked off, followed by a crowd of posturing football players and a giddy Amy.
Derek stayed where he was, arms crossed unflinchingly. "Prince Charming in action," he said pointedly, an unreadable look on his face.
Casey stood stock still where she'd stumbled upon the ugly scene, face a deathly pale. "That was low," she managed to whisper.
"Proved my point, didn't I?" He said darkly. "What do I care, anyway? He's better than me at everything, after all." He gave her one last piercing look and turned on his heel, heading for the double doors of the gymnasium.
Emily came up behind Casey, eyes wide. "…whoa."
Casey gulped. "Yeah."
"So that's why…" Emily trailed off as Casey turned to look at her, anguish written all over her face. She shook her head and slid her arm around her friend's waist. "Oh, honey."
"Yeah." Casey blew out a long breath, turning to look back in the direction that Derek had gone. "Yeah."
If challenged, the male will step up to defend his claim over the female. If the placeholder male does not step down immediately, the two will engage in a contest of strengths, both trying to win the affections of the female.
"Are they still playing?"
Casey sighed. "Yup."
Emily climbed up on the hood of the car next to her friend, holding out a thermos. "Here. Straight from Mama Davis."
"Oh, thanks," Casey breathed, taking the thermos and cradling it in her hands. She shivered, savoring the warmth emanating from the plastic. "Your mom's totally ruined me on hot chocolate for the rest of my life."
"It happens." Emily turned to look out at the basketball court. "Wow. They're really going at it." Casey nodded silently, opening the thermos and leaning down to let the steam waft over her face. "They've gotta be getting tired."
"Yeah, most everyone else already went home," Casey said. "The athletic fair ended an hour ago." She scanned the parking lot, seeing a few stragglers still hanging around, mostly talking to each other rather than watching Derek and Max grappling around with the basketball. "Amy's still here," Casey remarked bitterly. "Surprise."
"Have they taken a break at all?"
Emily whistled lowly. "Wow. I didn't think Max could hold his own for this long."
"Hey," Casey protested weakly. "He's…good."
"Yeah, in his head," Emily said.
"What?" Emily shrugged and pointed out to the basketball court, wincing as Max made a pathetic attempt at shooting a basket, sending the ball flying across the gym wildly. "He's a great quarterback and all, but face it, Case, basketball is not the guy's game."
"Not like it's Derek's, either," Casey grumbled.
"Beg to differ. He's pretty good." Emily gave a whimsical grin. "Remember when he and Sam used to use my driveway because yours wasn't big enough? Man, I used to watch them play all the time."
Casey rolled her eyes. "Could you not descend into your creepy Derek-fantasy-land, please? I thought you were over that phase, anyway."
"No harm in looking back on good times." Emily shrugged.
Casey gave a small snort, sipping the hot chocolate. Emily nudged her shoulder, grinning. "Hey, you stopped looking like death warmed over. Mission accomplished."
Casey shook her head, smiling a bit bigger. "This is insane."
"I know." Emily winced as Derek slammed into Max's side roughly on his way to the basket, propelling him back onto the pavement. "Wow."
"Yeah. They've been getting rougher and rougher." Casey clucked her tongue, face growing dark again. "Stupid testosterone."
Both girls winced as Derek and Max collided again. "Someone's gonna get hurt," Emily said worriedly.
"Haven't you said something?"
"They won't listen to me," Casey said agitatedly. "Watch this – hey guys! Emily and I are gonna strip down to our panties and make out, you wanna join in?" On the court, Derek and Max ignored her completely, circling each other and glaring through narrowed eyes. "See?"
The girls watched them play, wincing at every collision. Max had possession of the ball, but being used to playing with a taller, stockier Sam, Derek was pretty adept at guarding him. They went back and forth in the jerky movements of the game for several minutes before Max started to get visibly frustrated, every movement he made toward the basket being quickly deflected by Derek.
Finally making it close enough to attempt a rebound, Max again attempted to make the shot, this time deflected by a sharp nudge by way of Derek's shoulder. Growling, Max made a lunge toward the basket, already anticipating Derek's move to guard. Bringing his arms up to make the shot, Max quickly lashed out with his right elbow, viciously hitting Derek's face and sending him sprawling backwards on the ground, giving himself enough time to make the shot.
Gasping, Emily and Casey both leapt up. "Max!" Casey cried. "What the hell?" She raced out onto the court to Derek's side, leaning down to his side. Glaring up at her boyfriend, she laid a gentle hand on Derek's cheek, peering down at him. "Are you okay?"
"M'fine," Derek mumbled. "Just, uh. Is my nose supposed to be at the back of my throat?"
"What is your problem?" Emily hissed at Max, who was standing off to the side, frowning. "Derek, are you okay?"
"Fine." Clearing his throat, he waved Casey off jerkily and rose to his feet, every muscle in his body wound up tightly. "I'm fine, okay? Back off."
Casey scoffed. "Sorry."
"Yeah, see? He's okay," Max said, retrieving the basketball from the ground. "Your ball, Venturi."
"What?" Casey shrieked. "No. No way are you two keeping this going."
"We've got a bet to settle," Derek said. "Right, Miller?"
"Guys, Casey's right. You're both obviously too mad to play right now; somebody's gonna get hurt."
"Somebody's already hurt!" Casey cried. She squinted over at Derek in the dim, dusky light, already seeing a bruise forming on his cheekbone. "I can't believe you did that, Max."
Max barely shot her a glance, glaring at Derek intensely. "We playing or what?"
"We're playing," Derek said firmly, looking at Casey.
Casey felt tears clogging her throat and something inside her head snapped. "Fine. Fine!" She marched over to Max and grabbed the basketball from him. "You wanna play? Go get it." She hauled back and threw the basketball as hard as she could, watching with satisfaction as it hit the curb and bounced out into the street, straight into the line of traffic.
"Hey!" Max said indignantly. "That was mine, you know."
"Big fucking deal," Casey hissed. Her use of profanity stopped everyone in their tracks, jaws dropping all around. "You're idiots. Both of you." Tears welled up in her eyes and she clamped her mouth shut, trying desperately to keep them at bay.
"Casey," Derek started, but Casey didn't let him finish, turning and striding back towards the school.
Max watched her go, turning back to look at Derek. "This isn't over."
Derek glared at him. "You're a moron," he said. "Go after her." Max didn't move. "Fucking now!" His tone left no room for argument.
"Fine." Max huffed and turned in the direction of the school, stalking off angrily.
"Charming," Emily said, disgust coating her voice.
The female, generally, will feel flattered by this glorious display of male strength.
"You complete and utter jerk!"
Max exhaled in frustration, jogging to keep up with her trek through the empty hallways. "It was just a game, Casey," he said tersely.
"That was not a game," Casey spat over her shoulder. "A game implies sportsmanship, Max, and that was about as far from that as you could get!"
"Look, I'm not exactly proud of it, all right?" Max replied. "I got angry. He kept pushing me!"
She whirled around, hands on her hips, battle stance engaged. "That's what Derek does, Max. He pushes. And pushes, and then when he's done pushing, he starts to pull. It's this long pattern of pushing and pulling that, while incredibly annoying, still doesn't give you any right to elbow him in the freaking face!"
Max exhaled angrily. "Well maybe it's time someone pushed back."
"Oh, wonderful. Very mature," Casey barked. "For the record, what you did was not 'pushing back.' I push back, okay? All you did was sucker punch him."
"The guy's an asshole, Casey," Max said angrily. "He's been hounding me all night – he was practically asking for it."
"You didn't have to be an asshole back!"
"You know," Max started, laughing without humor. "I hear the rumors. I see you guys together – and I tried to ignore it, really, but – "
"Don't," Casey warned, voice steely.
"Amy even commented on it once," Max said. "I should've listened to her."
"Oh, you did not just bring up Slut Barbie!"
"I always found it kind of weird," Max continued, as if she hadn't spoken. "How you relate practically everything in your life back to him in some way. I never really believed it until now."
"You have no right to say these things to me," Casey said, practically boiling in anger. "You don't know anything."
"I know that you always pick him over me," Max retorted. "Always! And frankly, I'm getting kind of sick of it."
"You know what? Me too." Swiping at her wet face, Casey straightened up to her full height. "I'm sick of never speaking my mind, I'm sick of pretending to be something I'm not. I'm sick of acting like you are what I want, when you completely aren't." She crossed her arms. "We're done."
"Yeah, we are," Max shot back angrily. "We really, really are."
Casey scoffed. "Have a nice life, Captain Cardboard." She narrowed her eyes and marched straight up to him, stomping on his foot with the point of her high heel. Hard. "And that," she said over his cry of pain, "was for punching Derek. No one does that but me, you jerk."
More often than not, the male will come out as the victor in the fight for the female's heart. Swayed by his physical prowess and obvious dedication to her, the female will succumb to his advances almost immediately.
"Don't talk to me."
"Who said I wanted to?" Derek shot back, brushing past her to move into the kitchen. "Crazy, uptight, way more trouble than she's worth…"
"Excuse me?" Casey followed him. "I'm crazy?"
"Yes!" Derek wrenched the freezer door open. "You kissed that blunt piece of wood willingly. Don't know what else could make you crazier."
"I could think of something," Casey grumbled, eyeing him.
He grabbed a bag of frozen peas and slammed the freezer shut, still grumbling to himself. "Stop staring at me," he snapped, moving to sit at the island.
"Shut up," Casey snapped back. "You're doing that all wrong."
"Mature." She moved to his side swiftly, hopping up on the bench beside him and wrenching the bag of peas from his hand. "Just let me do it. Idiot."
Derek winced as she pressed them to the side of his face. "Uh, ow!"
"Sorry." She grabbed his neck. "Hold still!"
"Ack. Not so tight, Elvira."
She rolled her eyes and slid her hand across his jaw softly, laying the cold peas against his skin gently. "Better?"
"I guess," he grumbled.
She bit her lip, moving the bag slightly so she could look at the blossoming bruise. "This looks really bad," she whispered, almost to herself. She moved her fingertips to his cheek, pressing at the very edge of the swollen skin. "God, Derek."
"I'm fine," he replied, frozen at her touch. "Really. I've had worse done to me in hockey."
"Not because of me." Casey sniffled.
"You weren't the one who elbowed me," Derek said. She said nothing, pursing her lips. "Hey. Seriously." He dared to crack a small grin. "Not your fault he's better than me, remember?"
Casey's face crumpled. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"Oh God, don't cry," Derek said, panicked.
"Shut up. I can cry if I want to, you jerk." She lowered her arm and threw the bag of peas at his chest. "You're such a – a moron," she hiccupped, collapsing into tears.
"Case – Casey, come on." He touched her shoulder tentatively and she instantly folded into him, burying her face in his neck. "Oof."
"Sorry," she mumbled into his shirt, voice clogged with tears. "I'm so – so sorry," she said, crumbling into sobs again.
"Hey. Hey, hey." Derek frowned, pained, bringing his hands up to rest on her back lightly. "It's okay. Um. I'm fine, and Max is fine, and everything is…fine, so you don't need to cry anymore. Okay?"
Casey gave a short, watery bark of laughter. "You're so bad at this."
"And yet you're waterworking my shirt," Derek replied.
She pulled back slightly. "Sorry."
"Ruined anyway," he said lightly.
"I broke up with him," Casey said on a sigh. "The ass."
"Damn right you did," Derek said. "I hope you made it hurt."
"I stomped on his foot," Casey offered.
Derek considered that for a moment. "Well, better than nothing," he conceded.
"I'm sorry," Casey said seriously. "Really."
"I know. Really," he imitated, gently teasing.
She slapped him. "Don't you have something to say to me?"
He sighed. "I might…possibly, sort of be sorry that I pushed it that far." He tilted his head, considering her. "I know I scared you."
"Well," Casey said. "Better than nothing." He smiled, turning his face away, suddenly bashful. "Does it hurt?"
He shrugged. "A little."
"It'll be screaming at you in the morning," she said. "I'd bet anything that it'll be black and blue, too."
"Great," he groused. "Just the accessory I was looking for."
"What are you gonna tell Mom and George?" Casey asked.
"I don't know." He sighed. "I'll figure something out."
"I could tell them the truth," Casey said. "I'd make it sound good, like you were defending my honor or something."
"Wasn't aiming for your…honor, exactly," Derek replied, wincing.
"Classy," Casey drawled, trying and failing to stifle her grin.
"Finally, you've realized that about me."
Casey eyed him speculatively. "So it's kinda numb right about now, huh?"
He nodded. "Shock factor? Or something, I guess."
"So it wouldn't hurt if I…did this?" She trailed her hand down the side of his face, the warmth of his skin sending shivers from her fingertips all the way up her arm.
Derek inhaled sharply. "No, that doesn't…hurt."
"What about this?" Casey leaned in, her whole body shaking, and gently kissed the side of his face. She felt his hands close around her arms and froze in the position she was in, leaning over to his body, cheek to cheek.
"Definitely doesn't hurt," he murmured. She felt the words vibrate through her breastbone.
She took a shaky breath. "Gonna have to help me out, here," she said, clenching her fists in the material of his shirt.
"Gladly." He gently pushed her back so he could see her face, gauging her expression.
Trembling, she met his gaze. "Are you…" she took a breath. "Sally isn't…"
He chuckled and the rest of whatever she was going to say was lost as he leaned in and kissed her properly, sending sparks of energy racing across her skin. Her eyes slid shut and she gasped into his mouth, all coherent thought vanishing.
Breaking apart for air, she leaned her forehead against his, breathing deeply, feeling slightly dizzy. "Derek…" she breathed, voice sounding far away and foreign to her own ears.
He cut her off again, hands moving to her shoulders. She moved her hands to his stomach, slipping them beneath his shirt and eliciting a soft grunt from his throat, causing another wave of shivers through her and spurring her to shift closer.
Well. Not like she'd had an ending to that sentence anyway.
Together at last, the male and female will live out their own happy ending, secure and stress-free now that the uncertainty and doubt of mating is over. In a true triumph of human spirit, both male and female will spend the rest of their tumultuous pubescent years at each other's side, enjoying all the benefits that come with a healthy, strong and dynamic relationship.
…if you know what we mean.
Well, there you have it. I hope you liked it, Brandi. :) Her prompt was thus: Max and Derek compete in a series of physical challenges to win Casey. So this wasn't exactly what you ordered, but I think I came pretty close, for once. Hope you enjoyed!