A/N: Hey everyone! I love LwD, so when this idea popped into my head, I just had to write it down. It seemed so perfect to me, with all the symbolism. I think the inspiration came from my own necklace. I just got some dog tags that my two best friends and I share, and I don't know – I feel confidence whenever I grip them, especially when I'm nervous about something.

Sorry for any misspellings or poor grammar. Also, I tried to keep Derek and Casey in character as much as possible – it's really hard to do that. And, in the USA, Season 3 hasn't finished airing yet, so I don't know if Max/Casey is no more… if it isn't, then this one-shot's slightly AU. Flashbacks are in italics, present tense is in regular.

Please read and review! It means SO much to me, you don't even know!

Disclaimer: I don't own Life with Derek or anything you recognize.


.:Her Heart:.

She wore that stupid necklace every day and night.

Always hanging down, the chain clearly seen. Some days resting on her blouses, and other days hidden under the rim of her shirt like a turtle in its shell. It was almost like she was afraid to wear it, but she seemed to need it like life support.

Sometimes, I would see her clutching it. Not holding the soft silver in her palm, or gently sliding her fingertips over the polished surface. She would clutch it, grasp it in her hand as if it was the only thing keeping her grounded on earth. There would be little imprints on her hand, no doubt caused by squeezing the diamond studs too hard.

Everyone tried to get her to take it off. Nora would constantly bribe her with beautiful lockets and sparkling sapphire to take the place of that necklace. But Casey refused each one with a polite "no, thank you" or "it's nice, really, but I can't". Lizzie tried persuading her, and Edwin once stole it while she was sleeping. Unfortunately, they both failed – very painfully on Edwin's part.

But no one knew I wanted to get that damn necklace off her neck more than anyone else. And we all know Derek Venturi does not stop until he gets what he wants.

I remember the day she got it more clearly than a normal one.

"I'm in love!" Casey shouted, spinning through the doorway to our house. I was currently lodged on my favorite recliner – courtesy of a hockey game on the television. She leaped and twirled like a dancer, and I couldn't help but stare.

"Yeah, right." I rolled my eyes, pushing myself off of the chair and heading towards the kitchen. Orange juice directly from the carton seemed like a good idea at the time.

She scampered in after me, not even hanging up her coat. "Don't you want to know with who?" she giddily asked. As if I had ever cared about her love life.

"Max. That was hard," I replied sarcastically.

She pouted, but it was completely fake; she was too happy to be sad.

"Don't ruin the moment with your sarcasm, Derek," she said, skipping around the island in the middle of the kitchen. "But, yes, Max. He told me he loved me after school today."

"Fabulous."

"And he gave me a gift to prove it."

She finally draped her coat over a chair and hopped right in front of me, just as I lifted the carton to my lips. There was seriously something wrong with her; she didn't scold me at all.

"See? Look." From under the pink collar of her blouse, she pulled out a necklace. The feathery silver chain draped around her neck and held a tiny, solid heart at the point. The rim of the heart was studded with tiny diamonds, and I could see myself in the reflection of the silver.

I quickly finished drinking the orange juice, wiping my mouth with my hand. "As much as I'd positively love to stay around and talk jewelry with you, I have a prior obligation. Hockey practice."

"It doesn't start for another two hours, Derek!"

I shrugged. "So?"

She sighed, shaking her head and hiding the necklace back down under her shirt, where it was safely tucked away from view. "I know you don't care, but you could at least pretend you did."

Casey sounded completely serious, so I put on a fake smile – I hoped it didn't turn out as an antagonized grimace – and said, "Eh, I guess its okay. It's not like I've ever been in love or anything." I put air quotes around 'love'. "But, if you're happy, I'm cool with it."

She smiled; not a huge, overly happy one, but a small, subtle one. I could tell those words made her happy. "Thanks, Derek. It means a lot."

"Yeah, yeah. Now go live your happily ever after before I throw-up."

Casey stayed with Max for another couple months. They dated, and I had never seen her so happy. Her face glowed with the intensity of Christmas lights after going to the movies, or smiled like the night's sky after walking on the beach during a summer's evening.

And I could only think of how I wished I could make her happy like that too.

All the while, she wore that necklace. It was a permanent spot on her chest, a symbol of her love for Max. Always wearing it on the outside, people began to associate it with her. And then, there was the hidden question no one dared to ask: what if they broke up?

I wasn't the only one worried.

"Derek!" a voice called from down the school hallway. I whipped around, only to come face to face with Emily, Casey's best friend. People shuffled around in the hallway, obscuring my view of her every few inches.

"Hey, Em," I greeted, continuing to slowly walk down the hall to my next class. There was no hurry; when did school ever matter?

"Derek, we need to talk," she said, keeping up with my pace.

"I don't think now's the best time," I continued. "There's a history test next period, and if I'm late one more time – "

"Derek, cut the crap. We both know you haven't cared about grades since forever."

She got me there.

"Okay, fine," I said, stopping in the hallway by a set of lockers and turning to face her. Worried creased her brow and her hair was windblown from running. "What is this huge emergency that you have to stop me in the middle of school for?"

"It's not so much of an emergency, but more of a… growing concern."

"Concern," I repeated.

She sighed. "Derek, it's about Casey. She's too attached to Max."

I let out a breath. Of course; Emily always had Casey's best interest at heart.

"Like I haven't noticed. In case you're forgetting, Emily, I live in the same house as her. That's a torture in itself, but – "

"What's she going to do when Max breaks up with her?" Emily asked.

I closed my jaw; it had certainly dropped somewhere in the conversation. I also noticed she said 'when' instead of 'if'. "I don't know." I ran one hand through my hair. "I haven't really thought about that too much."

"This is such untrue love, Derek," she continued. "But Casey twists herself into thinking its real. She's holding onto it with every nerve of doubt she has. And… I'm worried. Max isn't faithful… that's completely obvious. But Casey thinks he is."

I sighed. Could this get anymore deeper? The bell rang somewhere in the distance, but it was too far back for me to care. "I know, she does. She's so happy," I said in a low voice.

Emily shifted her weight to her left side, gripping her next period's books more tightly. "Could you do something?"

"Me? What the hell would you want me to do about Casey's problem?"

"Just talk to her, I don't know, something!" Emily said, her arms flailing with impatience. "Something that will prove to her this isn't worthwhile. Just say something, please, Derek!"

I shrugged. "Whatever. I'll work on it."

"Thanks so much, Derek!" She gave me a quick hug and, relieved, Emily turned around and raced down the cleared out hall. I turned on my heel too, smirking.

I had no intention to talk to Casey whatsoever.

And I didn't.

We continued to argue and bicker about the stupidest things the next few months. It was like we were trying to pick arguments, trying to find some common ground. Casey was probably annoyed at me "ruining her life', or something along those lines. I shouted and screamed because I wanted to keep from having an intelligent conversation from her. I never wanted to do what Emily wanted me to.

Weakling? Coward? Hardly.

I could see the argue that would ensue if I even mentioned Max around Casey – she would surely accuse me of being jealous that she had finally settled down before me, she would raise her voice until it echoed throughout the household, she would maybe shove me down the hallway and call me a few names before I unleashed my own string of hateful words too.

Oh, and she'd hold that stupid necklace all the while.

I finally got myself to talk to her eventually, though. That was, of course, when Max actually did break up with her.

I rapped on her door two times, knowing with full intention that I planned to enter no matter the answer. I shifted my feet on the hardwood floor outside. It was cold for a spring day, and our heating system had once again broken.

"Go away!" I barely heard the muffled, strangled reply from behind the closed door. The wound was still ripe in her heart, only caused two hours prior.

So, of course, I opened the door and charged right in.

Casey was surrounded by pillows on her bed, tissues lining the floor like a blanket of snow. Her face was buried in a huge, pink pillow, and her clothes were wrinkled and wet with tears. That should have been my first warning; I couldn't stand tears, not one bit.

"Don't you listen?" she screamed. I could hear the hurt in her voice; it was thick like clouds on a rainy day.

"When have I, Derek Venturi, ever listened to Casey MacDonald?" I asked with a smirk, leaning against her doorframe.

Without lifting her head, she grabbed a blue, fluffy pillow to her left and tossed it at me. I caught it with ease, but it was the effort that counted. To her, it did, anyway.

So, humor wasn't working at the moment.

"Please, just go away, Derek." It was such a small and quiet plea, I wasn't even sure I heard it.

I tentatively sat down next to her on the bed, afraid of what a single movement would cause her to do. There was no response, so I said, "I'm not here to argue, or anything."

"Well, that's just great." It was intended as sarcasm, I could tell, but did not have the desired effect.

"Case, c'mon, he's just a guy. A stupid idiot who lied."

Obviously, the wrong thing to say.

"Get out!" she screeched, finally sitting up. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, mascara smears trailing down her face. Her lip was bleeding – probably from biting it too much at an attempt to keep from crying – and there was a deep hatred, or maybe some other burning passion, hidden under those brown eyes.

I stood up, putting my hands in a surrender mode. "All right, all right!" If her eyes could shoot actual daggers, I'd be a dead man by now.

As I turned to leave, completely ready to ditch the tears before they started again, she stopped me by saying, "It's just so unfair. He said he loved me."

"Yeah. Life's unfair," I said bitterly, my back to her. I gritted my teeth to keep from saying anything more.

"I mean… I just needed proof love was really true. After what happened with my dad, and your mom… and now this." She sighed. "I'm really sorry I've been a bitch to you lately."

I turned around, finally facing her. She was sitting up, her eyes a little softer and understanding, and staring at the floor. "I admit I haven't been the best step-brother in the world, either," I admitted.

Her faint smile was short-lived, another deeper sadness pulling her under again.

I glanced at her face, so pretty and composed, even though to anyone else, she would've looked like a complete wreck. My eyes traveling away from hers, my jaw dropped open in awe. I couldn't believe what I saw.

That damn necklace still around her neck. Only, this time, it was under her shirt instead of flaunting on top.

"Casey?" I asked hesitantly. "Why the hell do you still have that necklace on?"

And, like an automatic reaction, her hand jerked up to it, pulling out of her shirt and enclosing her hand around it. "I couldn't give it back," she said, choking on the words. Waterworks were coming; I could tell by her wavering voice. I had to get out of there soon. "I couldn't, Derek, I couldn't give it back, but he asked me to. I just couldn't."

"Why?"

"It… it's a part of me."

Shaking my head, I turned around and headed out of her door again, not looking back at the sad sight behind me.

And that way it stayed.

She always kept it on and never took it off. It was never flaunted where people could see it, though. It was always tucked neatly under her shirt. Only in the bright sunlight could you see the glimmer of the chain on her neck, or, occasionally, her hand wrapped around a tiny object, that necklace.

I don't think she ever really moved on from that breakup. I mean, sure, she went back to school and appeared to be over him for the sake of her reputation – which, might I add, wasn't that great to begin with. But only I could hear her soft sobs in the middle of night.

I didn't even know why I wanted to get the necklace off of her. I wasn't like I was jealous or angry or anything. It annoyed me the way she depended on it to live, and how she couldn't move on from just one silly guy who was dumb enough to break her heart.

It was about time that I got that stupid necklace off of her anyway.

"Casey!" I banged on the door, willing it to open just a little. It was creepy standing out in the hallway of our house at the dead of night, although I wouldn't admit it to anyone.

"What?" she called from inside, probably working on her homework like a good student. It was around a month and a half after the break-up, and I still wouldn't be surprised to charge into her room and find tears streaming down her cheeks in sorrowful marches.

I opened a door an inch. It was around midnight – way too late for anyone else to be up. After finding the room tear-free, I stepped all the way inside.

She was lying on her bed, a book open – Calculus – with some notes sprawled out in front of her. In pink flannel pajamas, she still had that necklace on. "Any reason for coming in here?"

"Yeah. I'm fed up."

"With what?"

"How you refuse to let that damn necklace go!"

Instinctively, she reached her hand up to clasp the necklace. Her hand curled around it, keeping it from view and harm. A faraway look crossed her face.

"God, just take it off already!" I practically screamed. "You've been holding onto it like a lifeline, like it's the only thing keeping you alive!"

She seemed to be holding back a sob, crossed between being bewildered and angry. "Derek…"

"And you know what else? You can't seem to let go of Max, either! You were so stupid to believe his little lie, anyway! Okay, well, it wasn't exactly little, but you get my point, right? And look where it's got you now. Dependent on a stupid piece of silver to save you."

She gasped at me, horror on her face. "Derek, that's not…"

"And now, I just can't take it. So you're going to have to take it off, or suffer the consequences."

"What?"

I ran my hands through my hair, clearly frustrated. Why couldn't she see the point I was making? It was rash and bold, but it was effective – hopefully. "Just take it off."

"You don't get it, Derek." Her voice was slow and solemn, and she was shaking her head.

"Don't get what?" I was enraged, and my voice was coated with thick venom that lashed out at her.

Casey opened her mouth to speak, but quickly closed it.

"Why do you care anyway?" she eventually asked, seeing the disbelieving expression on my face.

"That's not the point. Take off the necklace."

"Tell me."

"No, Case! Just take it off. Now."

"Derek." A smug look spread across Casey's face, her pink lips tinted in the beginnings of a smile. The first one directed at me that I had seen in a while. "Are you… jealous? That I'm wearing Max's necklace?" Her voice choked a little on her ex-boyfriend's name.

"What? No, of course not," I finished. Too quickly. "Now take off the necklace."

"You're jealous, Derek Venturi." She stood off of the bed in delight, coming face to face with me, ready to brag in my face. "You're jealous of Max!"

"Dammit, I'm not, Casey. Now just take off the necklace!" I took a step towards her. If she wouldn't remove it herself, then desperate measures would have to be taken.

She laughed in my face, her head tipping back. When she lifted her head up again, my eyes challenged her, and she met them. It was an ultimatum; say it one more time, or else I was going to have to do something about it.

"Derek Venturi's jealous." Her mouth curled in a smile, thinking she had won.

But I wasn't going to let her. She needed a curveball thrown at her, and I knew just the thing that would make me happy while annoying her at the same time.

I kissed her.

Her lips were hesitant at first, but she quickly gave in, surprising me. We were kissing softly, nothing fierce or frightening. My hands wrapped around her waist, while hers were running through my hair. We kissed for a couple more minutes, until I remembered my previous mission. It was still a little foggy at the moment; she was incredibly intoxicating, and, dare I say it, I was actually enjoying it.

And, at that moment, I knew. I knew I needed her to live. I knew if I ever had to go without her ever again, I would surely cease to exist. I knew what I had to do to make sure she was mine.

"Derek…" she moaned as my hands slowly moved toward her neck. Delicately and gently, I lifted up the chain, our tongues still intertwined. I brought it around our two heads, the heart dangling below our mouths for a few seconds, and softly placed it on my neck.

"Derek, what are you doing?" she asked, finally realizing what had just happened and breaking the kiss for only a moment before diving back down for more.

But I avoided her, smirking, and bending down to whisper in her ear, "Taking your heart."

And she let me.