Disclaimer: I do not own Life With Derek or anything else I may reference herein. No profit is being made nor is any infringement intended.
Part One: Casey.
On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Casey woke up a little bit later than she'd meant to and had to scramble to get herself showered and dressed before everyone else woke up and clamored for the bathroom. Scurrying back into her room, clad only in a towel, she ran smack into Derek.
He managed to catch himself before he toppled, grabbing her arms to make sure that she stayed upright, too. As he did so, the towel unraveled. Casey, blushing hot enough to want to get back into the shower, yelped and grabbed it before it could slide all the way down.
"And it's not even my birthday," Derek said, grinning. Then he went into the bathroom and shut the door.
"And speaking of birthdays," Casey muttered to herself. "Happy Birthday Casey." If he forgot, I swear, she thought. She went to her dresser, grabbed some underwear and turned back to toss them onto her bed and saw a gift bag with a note attached.
Tell the truth, the note read. You were about to kick my ass for forgetting your birthday even after the Facebook reminders, the little hearts drawn around today's date on MY calendar, not to mention all the hints you dropped this week, right?I should be insulted by how little faith you have in me. I mean, I didn't even eat any of these.
She left off reading and took the wrapping off the first little package revealing a little box of chocolates. She debated eating one right away, but was pretty sure that there was an unwritten rule about eating candy before breakfast.
"Eat one already," Derek said from the doorway, making her jump and drop the box. Good thing it was still sealed.
"De-rek!" she yelped, whipping around.
He stifled a laugh. "Happy Birthday, Princess."
"You jerk," she said. "I love you."
"I love you, too," he said. "Especially when you yell at me with only a towel on."
She gasped and reached for her robe, quickly covering herself.
"Out!" she signed, shooing him away as he continued to laugh at her. "Goodbye!"He went back into the bathroom and she heard him turn on the shower shortly after that. She wiggled into her clothes, still blushing and then picked up the note again.
I've been looking forward to today, Derek wrote, because it's going to be so much fun making sure that you don't get any studying done.
"De-rek," she muttered.
You, Casey McDonald, are going to have fun if it kills me. Because I love you.
The school day was endless, filled with people whose names she couldn't place wishing her a happy birthday, complimenting her on the little Russian nesting doll earrings Derek gave her. Emily got her a couple of balloons, drawing even more attention to her, which, for the first time in forever, felt pretty good.
Still, it was hard to pay attention in class on a day like this. It was warm out—warm-ish anyway, and the trees flowered almost overnight. Some of the teachers had opened the windows so that fresh air came into the classrooms, so Casey was pretty sure that she wasn't the only one who just wanted to go outside.
Derek really had stolen her index cards, of course, and hidden her ASL dictionary. He also knew perfectly well that she'd read ahead in all of her classes, so there was no other real work to do. He didn't stop her from signing to him, at least.
"As long as you don't talk about anything that I think might come up on a test," Derek teased as they (finally) headed toward the Prince. "No asking for directions. No talking about your summer vacation."
"Can I talk dirty?" she signed. The effect was ruined by the balloons, which got stuck in the doorway that led to the parking lot. She had to take a minute to get them to clear and to get far enough away from the door to avoid tangling with other kids leaving for the day.
"Yes," Derek signed, "Please. Talk dirty."
Dangit! She hadn't really planned on doing anything of the sort. She wracked her brain trying to come up with something to say to him. She bit her lip.
"I got nothing," she signed.
"I really have a lot of work to do," Derek signed.
"You'll teach me?" Casey signed. "Isn't that too much like studying?"
"This is different," Derek signed. "It's a life skill. You need to know it."
"You just want to corrupt me," she said.
"That too," he said. He leaned in to kiss her, pushing an errant balloon out of the way.
"Now let's get moving," he said, pulling away. "We don't have much time." He turned back toward the car and she had to take a couple of running steps to catch up to him.
"Why?" she signed. What did he have planned? Should she be worried?
"You're getting kinda old," Derek said.
Casey tried to hit him with the balloons, but the task proved to be beyond her. She yanked them but couldn't get them to connect with his head.
Derek cleared his throat, took the balloons away, holding them just out of her reach with the air of a babysitter dealing with the unruliest of little monsters. "Do you need a time out?"
"Besides," Derek said. "You need to do it like this." He held the balloons more firmly, with less slack on the ribbons and threatened to hit her with the whole bunch, backing off at the last second as she shrieked and tried to get away. As soon as she relaxed, he booped her nose with one of them. After that, there was chasing and some light wrestling, but again, Derek put a stop to it.
"Act your age, Grandma," he signed, unlocking the car.
"You're older," she signed stowing her books in the back.
He raised an eyebrow at that, then leaned over, grabbing her bag. He reached into it and pulled out an open pack of lifesavers, fuzzy with lint.
He held up one finger, telling her to be patient as he pulled out the old fashioned change purse she'd gotten from a flea market back in Toronto. It was made of old, cracked pink vinyl, fake pearls on the old fashioned clasp.
"Full of pennies?" he asked. She narrowed her eyes. He pretended not to notice her glaring at him as he blew the shmutz off of one of her mints and popped it into his mouth.
She laughed at him as he was forced to spit the candy out a second later. He pretended to be put out by this.
"We better get home," he said. "Before your support hose fall down or something."
"Six months older," she signed, pointing at him, before he pulled out of the parking space.
Part Two: Lizzie.
"So Derek and Casey are gonna be home in a few minutes, I think," Edwin said. He, Lizzie and Marti were hanging out in the living room, watching cartoons and avoiding their homework as usual. He turned to Lizzie and Marti. "We should totally hide!"
Lizzie cocked her head in confusion.
"So that when they get here, we can jump out and be all 'surprise!' and scare the heck out of her," Edwin said.
Lizzie turned to look at him, stonefaced.
"No, huh?" Edwin asked.
"No," Lizzie said.
"Nuh-uh," Marti said, not looking up from the thing she was coloring.
"Bad idea," Lizzie said.
"Bad," Marti agreed. Because everyone knew that it wasn't good to startle Casey, or to sneak up behind her for any reason. She was even easier to startle than Derek was. She tended to freak out and then stuff got broken and people got grounded. This was not something that anyone should expect to change anytime soon, Lizzie knew.
"No fun," Edwin muttered. Then, he thought of something else. "What if we just act like we all forgot it was her birthday?" It would work, since Derek and Casey had left so early that morning.
"You must really want your teeth knocked out," Lizzie said.
"Casey's not the violent type," Edwin said.
"Who said anything about Casey doing it?" Lizzie said.
"And Derek never does any damage that requires dentistry," Edwin continued, pretending not to notice the fist Lizzie held up.
Liz smacked her fist into her palm.
"Eeep!" Edwin said and shrank away from her cartoonishly, cracking Marti up. He ran off and Lizzie gave chase through the house. Edwin ran out the back door and Lizzie followed him through the backyard and around the front.
She cornered him shortly after they both came back inside. She pinned him on the couch and commenced tickling.
"Uncle," Edwin wheezed.
"Sorry, what?" Lizzie asked.
"Uncle!" Edwin said. "Uncle-uncle-uncle!"
"Ohhh," Lizzie said. "That's what I thought you said." She let go of him. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
"Oh my God," Lizzie said as Edwin pounced on her and did some tickle torture of his own. When she couldn't flip him, she started to wonder if he'd had a growth spurt recently or if he'd been letting her win fights.
Why would he do that?
"Stop," she wheezed finally. "Can't...breathe..."
So Edwin stopped tickling, but he continued to hold her down. She asked to be let up, but he wasn't having it. She couldn't be trusted, he said.
"You're gonna need to get up eventually," she said. "You haven't eaten in ten whole minutes."
"And what's to stop you from jumping on my back before I can get to the kitchen?"
"I'm a nice person," Lizzie said. "And I'd never keep you from your between-snack snack."
He narrowed his eyes. She took a calculated risk.
"Plus," she said. "Before long, you're gonna need to go to the bathroom, right?"
"Ssssssssssssssssssssss," Lizzie said. This made Edwin laugh, weakening his grip on her so that she could wiggle away.
"You fight dirty," Edwin said. He sounded impressed.
"I learn from the best," Lizzie said.
"Not you," she said. He actually looked offended for a second, so she took it back.
"I'm just kidding," she said. "You're a total bad influence." That seemed to satisfy him.
That was weird, Lizzie thought as she climbed back onto the couch. As she looked around for the remote, she noticed that Marti was so busy watching them that she seemed to have forgotten all about her coloring book.
Part Three: Derek.
Nora brought home Japanese takeout for Casey's birthday dinner. That meant chopsticks. The best way to make sure that no food made it to Derek's mouth was to serve it with chopsticks. On his own birthday, they'd had Chinese and he'd used the usual fork, knife and spoon combo, like the happy barbarian that he was. Chopsticks were only good for drumming on the table, or, in cases of extreme boredom, shoving up one's nose.
But Casey wanted him to try, so he tried. His suffering amused her.
Then it happened.
Just when he was contemplating having Edwin distract her so he could just grab some California roll with his fingers, Casey beckoned to him.
"Wha?" he said.
She got up, and came over to his side of the table, displacing Edwin, who switched with her, walking away with a certain amount of unreadable grumbling. She held the chopsticks so that he could see that she held one straight while using the other one as sort of a lever. Then she grabbed his hand and guided it, showing him how to hold it.
He almost got a piece of teriyaki to his mouth without incident. The thing fell back to his plate, but he got it on the second try. As a reward for the effort, Casey picked up a bit of vegetable tempura with her chopsticks and fed it to him. Then she grabbed some spicy tuna roll, dipped it in soy sauce and wasabi and did the same.
She leaned closer to him, smelling of pickled ginger as she flicked a little bit of rice off of his lower lip with her finger. Derek really wished that she'd thought to kiss it off, but...
Derek caught some movement out of the corner of his eye. It was Lizzie elbowing Edwin, which meant that he'd said something that merited elbowing. He imagined it was along the lines of "get a room." Derek looked up to see Nora watching them, wide-eyed.
As Derek wondered how he could forget that there were so many people in the room, Dad got up and came back with utensils for him. He picked up his glass and took a huge swallow of pop, not even trying to blame his need to cool off on the wasabi.
After dinner, everybody hung out in the living room. Lizzie and Casey danced to one of the CDs Casey got as a gift. Derek sat on the windowseat with a sketchpad, trying to make it look like he was staring at her for some good, constructive reason. Then he got the idea to try to capture the face Casey made when she got to the good part of a song. She usually held up one hand and said "wait...wait..." and squinched her eyes shut, then she bounced up and down a couple of times as she sang along. It would make a hell of a portrait, but that face always did things to him that made it difficult to hold a pencil steady.
Derek loved his family, but he wished that most of them would get lost for a couple hours, give him and Casey some alone time.
"Having a good time?" he signed when she eventually sat down next to him.
She nodded. "Are you bored?" she signed.
"Not even a little bit," he signed.
She pulled her hair off her neck. "I'm all sweaty," she signed. Derek agreed that she was indeed all sweaty. He knew he was supposed to protest, to say that she was beautiful. She was beautiful, of course, but he couldn't bring himself to say so. Things were gooey enough as it was.
She gave him one of those looks he loved the most: half smiling and half murderous.
Okay, what the hell, he thought. It's her birthday.
"You're beautiful," he said.
He put his arm around her, pulling her close. After a while, another song she liked came on and she sang along. It didn't get old, watching her sing. Holding her close as she sang was even better. Even given the possibility that she was singing something from that High School Musical CD that Nora had just given her. The box from it was on the coffee table in front of them, at the top of the small pile of CDs Casey had been given that day.
Edwin had been horrified earlier when she unwrapped the thing, or at least he'd pretended to be. Derek was pretty sure he'd caught the kid bopping his head to it at some point. Casey confirmed this after Ed, Liz and Smarti had been sent off to bed.
"I don't get why he'd pretend to hate it so much," Casey said.
"Really?" Derek asked.
He held up the box, which featured some really overcaffeinated-looking actors caught in mid-jump. There was also the problem of the what might be the most literal title in history. Then there were the song titles.
"Bop to the Top?"
"Shut up!" Casey said. "It's way better than it looks!"
"If you say so."
"Okay." The kiddies were out of the room, so he leaned in for a kiss. He'd barely pecked her when she startled. Then the Hand of Dad landed on his shoulder.
"School night," Dad signed.
Casey was happy enough to go along with this, grabbing the remote to shut of the music then getting up to go upstairs. Dad kissed her on the forehead and gave her one last Happy Birthday for the road. After she was gone, Dad turned to Derek.
"We need to talk," Dad signed.
Part Four: Nora.
"We need to talk," Nora told Casey.
"Uh-oh," Casey said, sitting down on her bed.
"Does that mean you have an idea what we're gonna talk about?"
"Um, no," Casey hedged, looking everywhere but at her mother. "It's just that 'we need to talk' is never good."
"But you still have an idea what I'm going to say," Nora said, sitting down on Casey's office chair.
"About tonight," Nora began, swivelling the chair left, then right. When Casey continued to look at her blankly, Nora decided to elaborate: "At the table."
Casey blushed. "Oh."
"Ohhh," Nora teased. "Now you get it."
"Yeah," Nora said. "So, as your mother, I have about 926 questions that I want to ask you right now..."
Casey gripped a double handful of her bedspread, wringing the fabric between both hands.
"But, strictly speaking, none of them are my business," Nora said.
Before Casey could say anything else (or worry a hole in her quilt) Nora said, "What I can say is that I acknowledge that you're not a little girl anymore and that I hope that you and Derek...whether you've been..."
Casey buried her face in the quilt.
If the slightest mention of sex made Casey turn that color and hide her face, that had to mean that she wasn't ready for sex, Nora thought. Then again lots of people did it before they were ready.
"Casey? Look up here."
Casey picked her head up and looked at her mother's chin.
"I know the last time we had this discussion, it didn't really go too well," Nora continued. That was an understatement. Her entire position on the matter had been that neither of her daughters should ever have sex until marriage. Maybe not even then.
"But we've both grown up a bit since then," Nora said. "And I want to make sure that you're prepared and that you know that you can come to me with any questions you have."
God forbid the same ridiculous misconceptions about sex that Nora used to hear when she was a teenager were still going around. For example, there were dozens of precautions a girl could take so as not to get pregnant and not a one of them had anything to do with actual birth control or condoms. Of course, when Nora was in her teens, the AIDS crisis was really starting to become an issue and that added many other misconceptions to the mix. She thought (hoped) kids were smarter now, but one never really knew.
"I mean it," Nora said. "When I was a kid, we used to hear that you couldn't get pregnant if you took a bottle of soda, shook it up and put it—"
"You believed that one?" Casey asked.
"I didn't know one way or the other," Nora said. "That's my point. I didn't have anyone to talk to about this stuff. You can't imagine me going to your Grandma, can you?"
"Exactly," Nora said. "And I don't want anybody in my family to even have to wonder about something whether soda will do the trick, or if two condoms are better than one..."
"At Fletcher Academy we had that class..."
"I remember. I saw that book they assigned," Nora said. "It was more about scaring you away than anything else. I could imagine you glazing over after the second or third gory description..."
"Or photograph," Casey said.
"Or photograph," Nora agreed. "There's so much more to think about than getting pregnant or the possible diseases you can get or not get. Sex, when it's good, involves trust and love and respect. Does the book bring any of that up?"
"Not that I remember," Casey said. "Mom. Listen, Derek and I haven't done anything..."
Phew, Nora thought. But she said: "Okay. Still none of my business. But I'm not naïve enough to think that it hasn't crossed your mind and that it won't continue to cross your mind. A lot. You know I would rather that you waited, but it's not exactly in my hands, is it?"
Casey looked like she wasn't sure whether or not this was a rhetorical question.
"You know," Nora said. "I really think that this is the quietest you've ever been. We should have "The Talk" more often."
"Mom" Casey groaned, but at least a little of the tension was broken.
"I'm almost done," Nora assured her. "Just a couple of thoughts to leave you with, then you're free to cringe all you want, okay?"
"If it's possible to cringe any more."
"It's always possible," Nora said. "Now, as far as I can figure, maturity means taking responsibility for yourself. You've always been pretty responsible, actually, but if you're not ready to go buy condoms in front of God and the drugstore cashier, you're not ready. If you have questions and you're too afraid to ask me, or George, or even a nurse or counselor, you're not ready. If you and Derek can't talk about it seriously..."
"I'm not ready," Casey said. "I get it."
"And I know Derek has condoms," Nora said. "I do his laundry. He keeps them in his sock drawer for Pete's sake. But I think that protection is for both of you to deal with."
"Finally, birthday girl, full circle" Nora said, and by this time she was really sick of talking. "Do you think you can keep any PDA at the dinner table G-rated? I thought George was going to choke on his Unagi."
Casey made a face and agreed that they'd try to keep the eye-sex (and hopefully any other kind of sex) to a minimum. Nora gave her oldest daughter a kiss on the forehead and left her. Now, all she had to do was see if she could talk George out of putting alarms on the kids' doors.
Part Five: Casey.
Derek tapped on Casey's door not too long after her Mom left.
"Birds and bees?" he signed when she looked up.
Casey nodded. "You too?" she signed.
"Yes," he signed, coming into the room. "This is either the third or fourth time. Does he think I'm dense?"
"No," she signed. "Horny."
He slapped both hands over his mouth to stifle the laugh. She hated that he was still so inhibited about his laugh, but it was almost midnight and he would wake up the house if he didn't smother it. It was a couple of minutes until he got at least a little control of himself because he'd look up, catch her eye and start laughing all over again.
"Sam taught you that," he signed. It wasn't a question.
"A+" he signed, when he could. "Head of the class. Don't bother with that test on Saturday. You pass."
"I wish," she signed. She didn't feel the least bit confident about signing the song. Weeks of planning and she was still off rhythm.
"Don't be a dork," Derek signed. He looked down at her from where he was standing. He moved closer and fingered the hem of the t-shirt she had on, the one he'd given her that morning.
"You're wearing it?"
She nodded. "Trying it on," she signed. "Has my name on it."
The shirt was pink and a size too big, but on it were drawings of several small hands spelling out the word "Princess."
She'd almost hit him after she saw it in the bottom of the little gift bag he'd given her, but now she was thinking of wearing it on Saturday for her test, as a bit of a good luck charm.
A/N: I know. I know. Mea culpa. It's been so long. I hope you guys are still at least a little interested. It's winding down, this story, long as it is, and it would be a shame if nobody stuck around to the end.
A/N the second: The canon version of Casey's birthday would not have fit this universe, so I hope you all forgive the liberties I've taken. :)