Disclaimer: I still don't own Life With Derek or any of its characters!
Dedicated: To my sister, who is coming to visit me tomorrow, yay!
Tons of thanks: To all the kind reviewers! I really enjoyed writing this story and I loved hearing what people thought about it. This is the last chapter, but I'm sure I will write more Life with Derek fic sometime. Thanks also to the people who favorited this story or put it on their Story Alert list.
George and Nora were in the kitchen making dinner when Lizzie, Edwin, and Marti arrived back.
"Hey, how was the park, kids?" George asked.
"Great!" they all chorused with a suspicious amount of cheerfulness.
"OK..." George answered slowly. He figured that since they were all present and lacking any visible wounds, things must be OK, right? (That was basically his parenting philosophy.)
"Dinner will be ready in half an hour," Nora announced.
"OK, we'll come down," Edwin answered.
"Yeah, we'll come down. Lizzie and Edwin are going to show me something cool upstairs!" Marti squealed.
"Something cool?" Nora raised her eyebrows, her mom trouble sensor going off. (George wished he had one of those things.)
"Yeah, uh, something on Ed's computer," Lizzie explained hastily.
"OK..." Nora answered, exactly mirroring George's earlier tone of bemusement.
The three kids ran upstairs, and the two parents exchanged calculating looks.
"Were they acting weird to you?" George asked.
"Duh, Georgie. So which one of us should go up there and find out what's going on?"
"I guess I can. Sure you can handle tossing the salad all by yourself?" he teased.
"I've got it under control." Nora smiled and leaned over to give him a kiss before he left, and George basked a little in their still-fresh newlywed glow before he went up to deal with their romance-killing children.
He crept up the stairs slowly, using the sneaking skills that he had honed as a teenager and unfortunately passed on to Derek. He heard quiet voices from the direction of Lizzie's room,so he walked silently up to the door and pressed his ear to it.
"Aw, she's so cute!" he heard Marti exclaim.
"Shh, talk quieter, Marti!" Lizzie reprimanded.
"She's so cute!" Marti repeated at half volume. "What's her name?"
George's eyebrows furrowed as he tried to figure out what they could be talking about. A doll? A stuffed animal? Lizzie didn't really have many of those around anymore. And why would Edwin be in there if all they were doing was having girly squealing time? Of course, Edwin and Lizzie were basically inseparable.
"Look, she's chasing me!" Marti laughed a minute later.
Chasing her? That sounded weird. Well, maybe they were just playing a game.
"I'm going to make sure no one's in the hall," Edwin said suddenly, and before George could move, the door was yanked open and he fell through it, landing flat on his face.
All three of the kids yelped and leapt back.
"Dad!" Edwin and Marti yelled, just as Lizzie shouted, "George!"
"What are you kids-- whoa!" George cried as he peeled himself off of the carpet and came face to face with a tiny kitten and three freaked out kids.
LWD LWD LWD
Nora wondered what was taking George so long. He would be back already if nothing big was going on. She decided to abandon the salad for now and make sure he didn't need backup.
She sneaked up the stairs, but before she reached the top, she saw Derek's door swing open. He walked over to... Casey's room? Why would he go there? Nora decided to lurk for a minute and make sure that a huge Derek-Casey fight wasn't about to break out.
Derek knocked on the door, surprisingly politely. "Casey?"
The door slowly swung open a minute later, and Casey's face appeared around it. "What do you want, Derek?"
Derek sighed and hesitated in a very nervous and un-Derek way. "I wanted to tell you something."
"What? How much I suck? How much you hate me? How lame I am? I pretty much get the idea." She started to pull the door closed again, and Derek stuck out his hand and stopped it.
"No! That's not it."
"Then what is it? I'm busy, I haven't got all day." Casey was being snippy, but Nora could read the hurt in her eyes from afar.
"I wanted to tell you... I never thought I'd say this, but... you were right."
"Right about what?"
"I don't hate you. And I want to call-- a truce." Derek stuck out his hand as though to shake, and Casey gawked at it.
"Is this a trick?"
"Are you serious?"
"No, I mean, yes! What can I do to prove it?"
"Hmm." Casey got her conniving look and seemed to be carefully considering. "You can give me a hug."
"You never want to hug me. It's like I have cooties or something. If you want a truce, we have to have a nice, friendly hug." Casey giggled evilly.
Derek was cringing and looking miserable, and Casey's grin fell as she noticed.
"OK, fine, you clearly aren't serious, since you're acting like the thought is so disgusting!" Casey made to slam the door closed again, but Derek stuck his arm in the way and stopped it again.
"That is not how I'm acting!" he growled. "OK, you want a hug, Casey? I'll do you one better!" He reached behind the door, hauled Casey out, and pulled her into his arms. She stared up at him, startled, but apparently not too startled to wrap her arms around his neck, and before either of them said a word, Derek leaned down and kissed her on the lips.
Nora clapped her hand over her mouth to keep from gasping. She felt like she must be dreaming or hallucinating. She vaguely thought that she ought to stop them, but her body didn't seem to be responding to her thoughts.
Casey pulled back after a minute and stared at him, her mouth hanging open. "Derek?" she asked. All the anger had seeped out of her voice.
"Why do you think I didn't ever want to hug you, Casey?" he said softly, and she slowly smiled.
"So Em was right."
"Huh? Right about what?"
"We're just like a movie."
"Yeah, a horror film," Derek joked, and Casey swatted his arm.
"I thought we called a truce!" she scolded, smiling despite her words.
"Does a truce mean we get to do that again?"
This time Casey closed the gap between them and pressed her lips to his, and Nora finally came out of her trance.
"Casey! Derek!" she exclaimed, and they both jumped apart.
"Nora! Hey!" Derek said after a moment, chuckling casually. "What's up?" Casey seemed to be speechless, and Nora wasn't sure what she should say, either.
"We... need to have a talk about this!" she finally stuttered out.
LWD LWD LWD
Marti was the only kid who wasn't in trouble at the family meeting, but she was there anyway. She had been the one to witness the really funny spectacle of her dad and Nora colliding in the hall, George yelling out, "Lizzie and Edwin have a kitten!" just as Nora cried, "Casey and Derek were kissing!"
Now the whole family was gathered in the living room. Derek was in the chair, as usual, and Marti had hopped into his lap. Casey was sitting on the side of the couch nearest to Derek, nervously twirling her hair and frowning, and Lizzie and Edwin were sitting next to her. Marti smiled to herself as she saw how they were smushed up right next to each other, their shoulders touching as they glanced at each other with worried looks on their faces. Lizzie had Christine in her lap. Marti thought to herself that she and Christine were the only happy ones in the room.
The parents were standing up, looking disapprovingly at their various kids, but clearly not sure where to begin.
Christine let out a little mew, which Marti's dad seemed to take as a sign that Lizzie and Edwin should be addressed first
"Lizzie. When did you get a kitten? How long have you been hiding it from us?" he began.
"Yeah, and what were you thinking?" Nora added.
"Dad, Nora, it wasn't Lizzie. I gave her the kitten for her birthday. It's all my fault. I told her not to tell you guys. Don't be mad at her. It was me!" Edwin blurted out. He grabbed Christine out of Lizzie's arms and held her, like that would prove his story.
"Edwin, no!" Lizzie cried. "She's my kitten. I'm the one who hid her in my room and didn't tell anyone. Edwin was just being nice to me because I told him I wanted a pet. It's my fault." She snatched Christine back.
"No, Liz, stop. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for me." He reached over and grabbed the cat again, but Lizzie pulled her back.
"That's not true. I made my own decision to keep her and hide her. You were just... helping me. Like you always do." Her rushed, yelling voice quieted a little at the end, and she looked down shyly.
Everyone else was staring at Lizzie and Edwin. They seemed to have forgotten what they were there for. Marti leaned back against Derek's chest and continued watching the show.
"Lizzie, stop, I don't want you to get in trouble." Edwin was talking more quietly now, too. He hadn't taken his hands off of the kitten, but instead of pulling them back, he slid them over a little so that his hand was covering Lizzie's.
"It's OK, Ed." They were both smiling, glancing into each other's eyes, then looking away nervously.
"OK, is it just me, or are they acting really lovey-dovey, too?" Dad asked loudly and obliviously, making everyone else jump.
Lizzie and Edwin both blushed and released each other's hands, and Marti giggled.
"Edwin, why did you get Lizzie a cat?" Nora asked, trying to bring the family meeting back to order.
"Because I knew she wanted one and wouldn't get one for herself. I just wanted to get her a nice gift, Nora. I know I should have told you guys but... I thought you would say no."
"That's because we would have!" both parents cried.
"But why? It's not fair. I would have taken care of a pet. I mean, I have taken care of her for a few days and no one even noticed!" Lizzie argued.
"Our house is crazy enough as it is, Liz," Nora began.
"So what's a little more craziness?" Edwin blurted out. "We can handle it. I mean, soon Casey and Derek will graduate, and there's half the craziness gone, right?"
"Hey!" Casey and Derek both yelled, then looked at each other and laughed.
"This is just too weird," Dad said, sitting down on the arm of the couch.
"Yes, speaking of Casey and Derek, I caught them making out in the hallway. How long has this been going on?"
"That was the first time, Mom. It surprised us, too!" Casey said urgently. "I know it's weird, but we didn't plan for it to happen."
"Speak for yourself, Case," Derek smirked, and both parents whirled around accusingly.
"Oh, come on, couldn't you guys see it? Why else would we fight so much? There's always been... tension."
"I wish someone had told me about this tension before today!" Casey grumbled.
"I could see it!" Marti said happily. Derek, Lizzie, and Edwin laughed, but everyone else in the family just looked at her disbelievingly. "What? I could! They fight because they love each other. Just like Lizzie and Edwin hang out in the closet all the time because they love each other."
Dad and Nora both gasped in apparent horror and faced the two middle kids.
"Lizzie. Edwin. Tell me you two haven't been... you aren't..." Nora began sounding strict and serious, but trailed off into sounding freaked out.
"No!" they both answered hastily.
"We're not like that, Nora," Edwin added.
Lizzie suddenly stood up, looking brave despite the little kitten cuddled in her arms. "We aren't like that, but... I want us to be," she said, looking down at Edwin without looking away, this time. "You're not just my friend, Edwin. And you're not my brother. Not to me. You're more than that."
Her bravery seemed to run out then, so she dropped Christine onto the couch and ran up the stairs.
"Lizzie! No... leaving the family.. .meeting," Dad said weakly.
Marti decided it was her turn to speak.
"I'd like to make a motion that we keep the kitten. How about we all vote on it? I vote yes!" She stuck her arm in the air, and Derek, Edwin, and Casey quickly copied her.
"We vote yes, too!" Casey announced.
A minute later, Dad stuck his hand in the air, too.
"George!" Nora gasped.
"Well, it's really cute, Nora. And Lizzie can clearly take care of it herself. No one's allergic. Maybe we should just let this one go and focus on dealing with our weird, lovesick children."
Nora sighed, then laughed. "OK, fine. The kitten stays. But I think we should go find Lizzie."
LWD LWD LWD
Edwin was leading the pack as the whole family ran up the stairs in search of Lizzie. He looked into her room, then checked her cat supply-filled closet, but she wasn't there.
"Whoa, she really has been hiding a cat in here!" Dad marveled as he saw the litterbox, food, water, and toys hidden in Lizzie's big walk-in.
"Where should we check next?" Nora asked
"Games closet," all the kids said at once.
"Why don't you go ahead, Ed? I know girls, and I doubt Lizzie wants us all busting in there," Derek advised.
"Good point. Stay here!" Edwin panted, dashing out of the room.
The games closet was closed, and he stopped and stared at the door. If she was really in there, this was the moment of truth. She'd confessed her feelings (in front of the whole family, no less) and he figured he should do the same. He was still nervous, though. He'd never had any luck with girls. Maybe he could even mess this up.
He forced himself to knock on the door.
"Go away!" Lizzie ordered from behind it.
"Liz? It's me. Can I come in?"
"You're the last person I want to see."
Edwin winced and prepared to flee, but he tried again. "Dad and Nora said you could keep Christine."
Bingo. The door opened a crack and one Lizzie eye peeked out. "For real?"
"That's great!" Lizzie cried, and Edwin set his hand on the doorknob, preparing to be let in. As soon as he did so, Lizzie slammed the door shut again.
"Lizzie! Can you please let me in?"
"No, I'm going to just stay in here and die of embarrassment." Edwin heard sniffles and bit his lip miserably as he realized Lizzie was crying.
"Liz, please! I can't stand it when you cry. Please let me in?"
"I'm not crying, Edwin! Buzz off!" she yelled, sniffling even louder.
"OK, well, move back from the door, because I'm going to push it open!" he declared boldly, shaking out his arm muscles.
"Oh, yeah right, Edwin!" The sarcasm drove a little of the teary sound out of her voice.
"Edwin? How's it going?" Nora asked, and Edwin turned and saw that the entire family was assembled in the hall behind him.
"Just fine, Nora. I'm going to break the door open!" The games closet door was a little loose on its hinges. He could do it, right?
"Um, Ed, do you really think that's a good idea?" Casey asked. He glared at her defensively, and she quickly added, "Because you might hurt the door!"
"It's a risk I'll have to take!" He stood back to make a rush at the door. Just as he began running, the door swung open and he crashed into Lizzie, knocking them both into the back of the closet.
"Edwin! Ouch! You moron," Lizzie groused from underneath him.
He noticed that a few of her tears had rubbed off on his sleeve, and he jumped up quickly and helped her up next to him. "Sorry, Liz."
"Why are you even in here?" She was wiping her eyes and crossing her arms grouchily.
Edwin took a deep breath. Now or never. "Lizzie, I've been meaning to tell you something!" he blurted out. "You're my best friend, too… but it's not just that. I mean, you're my favorite… my favorite person, ever, basically, and there's no one as cool as you or as smart as you or fun as you, and I just don't feel the same way about anyone else… I don't know how to explain it, but…"
Lizzie was smiling so big that she was practically glowing. Then she frowned and turned to the rest of their family. "Do you mind? A little privacy, please?" She slammed the closet door shut, and as soon as she did, grabbed hold of Edwin's hands.
"I feel the same way. About you. About all of it. Like I said before. You... mean a lot to me."
Edwin squeezed her hands so tight that he feared he would cut off her circulation. "Really?"
"Do you think it's too weird?"
"Well, yes, it's very weird. But… I guess for us, that's normal!" She squeezed his hands back and he felt a huge grin spread across his face. He gathered up his courage as he gazed into her eyes.
"Liz, would it be OK if I…"
"Yes. Do it, or else!" For once, Edwin didn't object to her threatening him.
He leaned forward tentatively and placed a delicate peck on her lips. She blushed and smiled, then threw her arms around his neck and returned his kiss with even more enthusiasm.
"You always have to show off, don't you?" he grumbled, and they both laughed. Everything seemed so normal, yet somehow a million times better.
"Maybe we should open the closet before everyone has a heart attack," Lizzie said, giggling with evil glee.
"I guess so." He didn't really want to let go of her.
Before they could make the decision, the door swung open on its own.
"Nice job, you two!" Derek exclaimed.
"Whoa—wha—" Edwin gasped. Did Derek have X-ray vision?
"Don't act so innocent. I can sense face-suckage going on from miles away!" Derek clapped them both on the shoulder as though they had just won a contest.
Casey looked at them appraisingly, then giggled and clapped her hands. "This is so cute!"
"I don't know how I feel about this development, either," Nora sighed, holding her temples as though a migraine was brewing.
"Ditto." Dad put his arm around her and looked even more confused than he usually did.
"Lizzie and Edwin are in love! Lizzie and Edwin are in love!" Marti sang, dancing in a circle around Derek, with Christine in her arms.
As usual, no one dared to argue with Marti.