Disclaimer: Lyrics courtesy of Sullivan. LWD is not mine.

Soundtrack: F-Stop, Sullivan.


I : Walk into flames that you start with yourselves


Start Tape.

--

The scene is set with a girl sitting alone at a kitchen table. A boy (maybe her brother, maybe the love of her life-she can't tell) is stomping up the stairs and there are no more secrets. A pencil snaps in her hand and she throws it to the ground.

She liked her secret.

She liked it locked up inside where he couldn't find it.

But the main point of having a safe is to not lose the key.

--

Rewind: It's after dinner and she's doing her homework. She shakes things up a little, with a giggle to herself, and strays from her normal haven. She can hear a hockey game coming from the television and almost pesters Derek to do his homework, but thinks that he would like her to just keep her mouth shut, thank you. (She only wants him to do well.)

She's working on an essay for Romeo and Juliet when he saunters into the kitchen. Her heart flutters and she frowns, pretending to be engrossed in it. She's really engrossed in the back of his head as he fishes through the freezer for ice cream.

And then she speaks, completely without meaning to: "Didn't you eat enough at dinner?"

He turns his condescending brown eyes onto her and watches her tap the pencil. She stops, puts it down, and moves her hands to her stomach.

"Of course I did, Spacey. Is there ever a time when you aren't going to lecture me?" He turns back to his hunt and her stomach lurches. She wraps her hands around it with a face and tries to concentrate on Romeo. The book character, yes.

"It was just a question."

And just like that, she begins to contemplate sewing her mouth shut.

Finally having found the mint chocolate chip Ben and Jerry's, he silently moves to get a spoon. She wants to cry (just a little) when she sees a second in his hand.

"Sure it was." He comes to sit next to her and tosses the spoon on top of her book. "What are you working on?"

"I, uh…Romeo and, um, Juliet." He looks at her strangely and flicks the lid off the carton.

"Nice stutter."

He makes her nervous. She wants to stab him with her spoon, and-maybekisshim, maybealittle-never mind. She'll stay stuck.

"You…you don't have to be such an asshole, Derek." He turns to her with his mouth in a neat little 'o'.

"Did you just cuss? And I'm not an asshole if I'm sharing my ice cream. So be nice," he warns.

She shakes her head. (Just keep it cool, okay?) She slides the spoon away and goes back to writing. She feels him watching her pencil as she grinds out sentence after sentence-destructive, alone, suicide-and realizes she's being uncharacteristically dark. She wonders if he notices.

"Emo," he accuses. Of course he notices; he's watching her. She smacks the pencil down on the table.

"Can I help you?" He gestures at the ice cream after a moment's pause and she narrows her eyes. Snatching up the spoon, she carves a gaping hole through it and stuffs the spoonful in her mouth.

She sucks on it quietly while she moves back to her essay-determinedly. He laughs a little, and she tries not to but ends up snorting and she feels like she might spit out her ice cream, and maybe a little like a pig. She doesn't even like mint chocolate chip. Her eyes are watering like she might explode. When she spits it out in the trashcan she starts to laugh a little too hard, to compensate. She means well.

"Wow, Case. I didn't know you liked ice cream that much," Derek bites out. She hides a grimace with her hand and walks to the sink to wash off.

When she pumps out the vanilla hand soap and lathers up, she thinks to herself: they only get along when no one else is there. And it's true, too.

She sobers up quickly and walks back to the table. She starts to write again, lost in her thoughts, and Derek scoops the ice cream into his mouth. After almost five minutes, she stops writing and turns to stare at him. (Enough is enough.)

There are questions in her eyes, but the most prominent makes its way through: Why are we like this? Why do you like me when nobody else can see? She knows he can understand her. She knows he has an answer.

He's still staring at her essay and she follows his eyes when he refuses to look at her.

Derek and Casey met under terrible circumstances. Upon this meeting, they fell in love-

She doesn't get any further. She snatches up the essay and holds it close to her heart as he stares at her with an inscrutable look on his face. (That's what you get.)

And just like that, everything changes.

--

She tosses the ice cream and puts her essay through a paper shredder. Every single time she meant to write Romeo it turned out as Derek.

--

The scene is set with a girl sitting alone at a kitchen table. A boy (maybe her brother, maybe the love of her life-she can't tell) is stomping up the stairs and there are no more secrets. A pencil snaps in her hand and she throws it to the ground.

She liked her secret.

She liked it locked up inside where he couldn't find it.

But the main point of having a safe is to not lose the key.

And she practically tossed it into his lap.


II : Great, a diversion to buy yourself time, to give thanks to the ones who are all alone


Honest to god, she didn't want him to know. She was perfectly content loving him in secret. (It's safer that way.)

Because now, it's even worse-he's avoiding her like she's on fire. Every time she sees him she wants to die.

Because now, when she walks through the school wearing a skirt or her cheerleading uniform, she feels his eyes on the back of her thighs. And she loves-loves-him, but isn't so sure if she's okay with that yet. Not so sure if she's okay with his eyes communicating with her instead of him.

--

Press pause: It's Friday night football and Casey has an extra couple of hours at home. She skips the kitchen table and the homework altogether (unusual?), and instead opts for television. She wonders where Derek is briefly-and then remembers that she's the plague and he's susceptible.

She sighs in annoyance and flips mindlessly, only to find herself falling asleep.

She dreams she's on a seriously unstable bridge crossing the ocean, and it's a pretty midnight blue that she wants to jump in. It's not suicide, she knows, because she's read about it and would recognize the symptoms. She just wants to swim. There's a handy little gap in the side and she drives the car through it, crunching the metal, and she's fallingfallingfalling-

-Until there is no car, and she's falling up instead of down and clouds are hard like bricks. The vapors stick to her like a second skin and wrap her in a sticky cloak, and the little molecules whisper to her. (You lost your secret.)

Wings sprout from her back and she hits the sun, skin melting and dripping into the atmosphere. It's smaller than she thought, or maybe she's bigger, and it's more cold than hot. Or maybe it's just her.

She sees Derek: far, far away, and waving to her from the depths of space. The sun burns brown like his eyes.

And when she wakes up she's aching for something she can't identify.

--

It's only later that night, after their team tied the game, that she realizes what she was aching for.

And here's a hint: everything in her life comes back to Derek.


III : These hives, they break into your skin like a thief, and they rob you of-


It's driving Casey crazy. It hasn't even been a week and he still isn't talking to her, and she wants to scream and rip her hair out. At the rate she's going she'll have to be put in an asylum by her senior year.

Maybe sooner if he steps it up.

--

Press play: She's standing in front of the toaster waiting for her bagel to pop up. It's honey wheat, her favorite, and she's trying to decide on cream cheese or butter. (Cream cheese tastes better.)

When she makes her way to the fridge to get the container, she sees Derek walking into the kitchen. He slows when their eyes meet and she frowns before she can stop herself. When she bends over to reach a low shelf she feels his eyes on her ass.

She's thinking: I know I'm hot shit, but please-a little respect?

Or maybe she's not, because that's a little vain. She's not. In fact, she's blushing even thinking about it.

The toaster pops and she straightens.

When she turns around, he's right there-seriously, right there-and she backs up until she's arching against the counter. She notices with a shiver that their pelvises are touching and she lets out a shaky breath. He watches her closely, seemingly unaware of their position. (As if he doesn't know how intimate they are.)

"What are you doing?"

"Idiot," he says lightly. (The words weigh heavy on her mind.)

His thumb brushes over her lips and his own twitch.

She blinks slowly. He reaches up a hand and tucks her hair behind an ear, and it's so sweet she forgets to breathe. For a moment, she thinks he might want her, and then-

-And then he steps away and the moment is lost.

And just like that, she realizes why she had that dream.

--

He's like a damn drug. She knows if she uses for long enough, she'll get the hang of it. Just the right dose, the right vein to inject… Once she figures it out, it'll be so good she won't be able to stop.

She knows she should be afraid of things getting a little lethal, but can't seem to force the fear. If she were right in the head it wouldn't have to be forced.

So he watches, she waits, and together they drift in limbo. She's prepared for whatever comes, maybe. She thinks she is.


IV : I've got hooks and a chain that will fit you well


Noel wants her. She can tell by the sweet doe-eyes he casts at her when they talk or pass in the halls, and it makes her squeamish inside. Maybe she wants him, or maybe she doesn't. (She did at one time.) All things pass in good time.

But the point is that Derek is holding her back. No, not physically-there are no handcuffs, really, but a good metaphor can really bring you down. She smiles at Noel, and when she turns Derek is watching her from across the room. That's how it is now. She likes how they seem to fight over her, but really? Come on.

She's a big girl, and big girls make their own decisions. She'll pick when she picks. Not when boy number one or two swoops down and captures her first.

--

Press Fast Forward: "Well, what if he asks you out?" Casey clicks her locker shut with a breathy sigh, and wishes for the hundredth time that Emily wasn't so persistent. Best friends have an annoying habit of being there even when you don't need them.

"I don't know. Noel and I don't really talk much outside of practice for the musical, so what if it's awkward?"

"Don't you think you could work past it? It seems like you and Noel have really good chemistry." She shifts and pulls her bag higher on her shoulder.

"I'm sure we could. I'm just…not sure if I want to. Maybe he's not the guy I'm supposed to be with, Em." She knows she's pushing the limit, but losing your secret once makes you a little…reckless. (Or maybe just slow?)

"Do you have to be with the right guy now?" She gives Emily a look. "I don't know. I just think you should give him a shot. He could turn out to be better than you expected. Kind of like, you know, Sheldon did. He was certainly a surprise, wasn't he?" Emily smiles a little to herself and shrugs. "I don't know. Do what you think is right."

Casey nods in agreement and when she turns the corner, she runs right into him. How lucky of her, right? (Maybe not.)

"Oh-Noel." She hears Emily mumble something-speakofthedevil, and isthatmyenglishteachercalling?-and then Casey wants to curse best friends for having an annoying habit of disappearing when you really do need them. She looks up with an earth shattering smile and nods at Noel.

"Hello. How are you?" he grins back like they have an inside joke and she feels sick. She wants to blame it on the mint chocolate chip ice cream, but that was, like, days ago. (Totally invalid.)

"Good. I was actually wondering if you wanted to practice for the play after school with me?" His face is so hopeful that she feels her heart breaking in her chest, and she can't really say no, can she? She couldn't in the first place. Derek is just as invalid as the mint chocolate chip ice cream. She takes a deep breath and glances at a poster for dive team that proclaims, "dive into new experiences!"

So she does.

"Sure, I don't see why not, Noel."

--

Press Pause: It was only after school when Noel showed up at Derek's car that Casey realized just how stupid she had been. The car rides were awkward enough with her and Derek lately, but now Noel's endless chatter from the backseat was making things that much worse. She sees Derek's fingers flex white on the steering wheel and she hopes he won't crash the car. Deep down, she sort of hopes he will, so she won't have to be in this mess anymore. (Is that wrong?)

Noel is babbling something about homecoming, which Casey notes with annoyance isn't for another three weeks, and Derek turns his head a little to glance at her. His eyebrows pull down over his eyes like he's angry with her, and then-

-And then she decides that there is no hope in winning this sick game with Derek. She can try all she wants, but he's the mastermind. She's a pawn and he's the king. She frowns back anyway and starts actually listening to Noel.

--

Press Play: When the car ride from hell finally ends, Casey opens the door for Noel (role reversal?) and watches Derek slam the front door to the house so hard it shakes the porch light. She smiles grimly, and Noel doesn't take the hint, but she leads him inside anyway. Derek has disappeared upstairs, thankfully, and Casey sighs internally and sets to work running lines.

Almost twenty minutes in, Noel holds his hands up with a determined look on his face. Her insides freeze-she saw this coming.

"Case, can we talk?"

(Don't call her Case.) "We've been talking, Noel," she says in a strained voice.

He shakes his head. "No, like…really talk. I have-have…something to ask you," he gulps.

Nonononono-"It's about homecoming," he adds

Casey takes a deep breath, and she's thinking: don't do this Noel. Derek might hear. Homecoming's not for another three weeks. We have the play to concentrate on. Any excuse will work, really. But…he continues anyway, because he can't read minds. (Obviously.)

"Would you like to go with me?" He looks hopeful and she can already feel the guilt of rejection floating up into her throat. It's not fair that it has to be like this.

Her eyes well up with frustration. "Noel, I…can't," she whispers. The resentment is eating at her insides. His face freezes and then it melts down into the collected I-just-got-shot-down look Casey's seen on so many faces. And all because of Derek and his stupid, stupid hold over her. Why can't she just forget about him, anyway? She flinches through the anger-you know why.

"I…why?" you know why.

She looks at him blankly. "I just can't. I don't feel that way about you." He looks a little shattered, but props to him-he's acting great. (Maybe it's all that play rehearsal.)

"Oh. Oh." Noel takes an unconscious step back. It looks like something clicks in his mind, and Casey freezes a little. He narrows his eyes and cocks his head at her, and, hey-she did it again. "It's because of Derek, isn't it?" She looks to the stairs quietly. (What the fuck?)

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Casey, come on. Yes you do. I see the way you look at him. Look after him. It's not like…it's not like it isn't obvious." She clenches her fist. "The two of you are always talking and complaining about each other. It's like it's all you can think about, or something. I can't believe I didn't see it before..." She chokes a little on her emotions and sits down. Noel shifts awkwardly, inching slightly towards the door. "I should go now," he says quietly. It echoes around the room and into her head, but she doesn't hear anything. Instead, she's thinking: Derek doesn't even have to be directly involved in relationships to ruin them. (Good to know, right?)

She hears the front door click shut and she puts her head in her hands.

"Well, well, well," Derek drawls from up the steps. He takes them one pounding step at a time, hand sliding over the rail. "I didn't know you had it in you," he crosses his arms and leans against the wall. "To crush such a hopeful boy's heart…ouch."

She looks up at him in annoyance and gets off the couch. "This is all your fault! If you weren't so-so-"

"So what, Casey?" He stands taller and moves towards her in challenge. "So uninvolved?" She shakes her head furiously. "You know exactly how you are! You know exactly what you do! Don't try to act like you don't!"

He chuckles. "You're supposed to be the actress. In fact, so is Noel…do you think he's crying, now?"

He's only a couple feet away from her, and if she swung just right she could hit him in the face. Instead, she settles for this: "I think you're relieved I said no." He narrows his eyes with a small smirk, but he isn't joking now.

"And why would that be?"

"Because if I went to homecoming with Noel, then I wouldn't be going with you."

"Why would I want to go with you?" he sneers.

She shakes her head. You know why.

He steps forward as if to prove a point. "You know you're mine. Noel or any other boy can't change that."

Anger and weakness flush through her body like morphine, disabling her.

He doesn't say anything else after that, but she knows things are going to be different now. She steps forward and puts one hand, ever so gently, on his face. He looks like he wants to rip his hair out, or grab her, or something, but she silences him with her words.

"Isn't it funny that the one thing humans are supposed to know the most about is never taught to us in school?"

He glares so hard she thinks his face might break in two.

"And what's that?"

"Love," she says simply. She blinks once and pushes around him to run up the stairs.


V : If you try to scream I won't ever tell


Once upon a time, Casey had a dog named Star. Stars like falling stars and shooting stars and pretty things, because that's all little baby Casey thought of, anyway. In the little house where her old family (nobody asked her if she wanted a new one) lived and Casey taped pictures of sunsets on her walls, she fell asleep curled around Star with a full moon pouring milky light onto her face from the window. And sometimes she dreamed of being a writer, or an actress, or a princess. (But never this.)

And one day, she threw a tennis ball too hard and it bounced across the street, to the neighbor's yard. To be honest, she saw it coming-she just thought that Star would have enough time to sprint across the road and be safe.

So when a big black truck plows into her dog-her best friend, her baby, her life, at that point-and doesn't even slow down, Casey can only blame herself. Because she saw it coming. And what did she do? (That's right, nothing.)

Her dad picked up Star, broken body twisted limbs and all, and carried her to the yard, and Casey remembers hearing a little whimper before she died.

So then, little baby Casey learns that the more you love something, the more it hurts when it leaves you. So she decides not to love anything that much ever again.

And here's the worst part: nobody ever taught her otherwise. (But she never really learned her lesson, did she?)

--

Switch Tapes: She's already decided to skip doing homework in the kitchen ever again, so when she opens the door to her room she isn't surprised to find that Derek has anticipated her move. (When doesn't he?) He's laying on her bed with his hands placed leisurely behind his head. She wants to throw her textbook at his face, but he'd probably anticipate that too. And throw it back.

So she decides to approach slowly, predatory and smiling smoothly. She tosses her book on the floor with a thud and sits in her computer chair with an air of confidence. He watches her every move, eyes traveling over her face and down the length of her body. She crosses her legs and watches him.

"Can I help you?" He raises his eyebrows in suggestion and she shakes her head. She turns and hits the power button for the computer.

"As a matter of fact, you can." She stands and wanders to the window. The night sky reveals a full moon and she smiles a little as her fingers touch the pane. "I want to talk to you about Noel." The smile falls, but she doesn't turn.

"What about him?"

"About earlier. You know." And now she frowns. (He would bring it back up.) She turns armed with a gun full of bad words and finds him standing, halfway to her. She's suddenly reminded of the kitchen, and thinks she wouldn't mind a replay, but that might not be good for the mental states of either of them. "And about what he said."

She evades him in a sick game of cat and mouse until he snaps forward and his fingers snake around her wrist. "Don't you want to talk about it?" He smiles at her, and she can feel her eyelids blinking a little too fast. He backs her up until her knees are touching the bed and he holds her there, trapped.

"Is what Noel said true? Did you say no because of me?" She bites her lip and watches his eyes darken. "Did you?" His fingers slide up her forearm, her shoulder, collarbone, neck, until he's resting his hand on her face. And it really is just like the kitchen. (Or earlier that day, on the stairs.) Only now his other hand is resting in the dip of her back. She unconsciously leans towards him.

He's so…

"You're so demanding." He leans in time with her, his breath washing over her cheekbones. Her eyes flutter and she watches his flecked brown eyes examine her.

He always has this odd way of looking at her-like she's the biggest part of his life. His whole life, maybe. And what if she is? (What if she's not?)

"Yes. I did say no because of you." His breath catches and his eyebrows knot up like he's hurting, and then he pulls back. He pushes her a little and she falls back onto the bed, arms catching her just in time as he backs away.

Casey looks down at her enfolded hands and says into the silence: "But you knew that already, didn't you?"

--

Somewhere out there is a manual on stuff like this. Stuff like working through sticky relationships.

And if there is, truly, then there should be a huge warning label on it. You know, warning the readers that not all methods may work?

Yeah.

…yeah.


VI : You can't hold your breath forever


The first time Derek asked her to perform with D-Rock, there were a lot of comments about wearing revealing clothes. And if she remembers correctly, a lot of grinding and rocking out up on stage to the music. (Rock and roll, you know?) But mostly, Casey specifically remembers wanting to sing the song in ballad form, but Derek forcing her into a faster tempo.

The second time she performed with D-Rock, she helped write a love song to Sally. That time, she specifically remembers Derek whispering 'please' like he was broken, and giving her a nasty look when she sped up the tempo. There was a lot of rocking out alone on stage, and afterwards, Derek went and rubbed Sally's back while Casey was stuck in the audience watching Marti tap-dance.

And now, she's been recruited to help D-Rock entertain at another battle of the bands (think Freaky Friday, the one with Lindsay Lohan)-but this time, there are no girlfriends, no tempo requirements, and no secrets.

She wants to throw up every time they rehearse.

--

Fast Forward: They're backstage, waiting to storm on in all their high-school-rock-band madness (glory?), and Casey's fidgeting. Nervous as hell. (All of the above.) Derek strums idly on his guitar, while Ralph and Sam chat up some chick. Casey narrows her eyes as she examines said chick's eyeliner, and pulls at her hair.

"Why so edgy, Spacey?" She turns and sneers at Derek in contempt.

"I'm not. Why don't you run through verse two again?" She snaps her head back to the band on the stage. This is getting ridiculous, she thinks. First they fight, then he comes to a realization, then he fucks around with her, then they fight again to avoid sharing feelings, and then-well hey. She's starting to sound like Derek, trying to avoid talking about her feelings and all that. She snorts and folds her arms.

She's not like Derek at all. They're completely opposite and just…not right for each other. Which totally isn't relevant, but-

She jumps and hunches her shoulders when she feels Derek's warm hands on her shoulders. "Relax," he murmurs into her ear. His hands rub into the tense muscles and she shudders. Gradually, her head lolls back onto him and his lips brush feather-light kisses over the soft skin between her shoulder and neck. "We'll be great." She 'mhm's' idly as his hands brush over her stomach.

Casey brings her hands up to rest on his, and their fingers intertwine so so sweetly, and then-

"We have to do something about this, you know," he mumbles into her hair. His fingers dig into her hipbones. "I want you. It's not going to change." She shivers.

"You can't always get what you want," she quotes. He snickers.

"Watch me."

He places a few choice kisses along her neck and she hears the ending chords of the band before them echo onstage, and her eyes pop open. She pulls away from Derek just before Sam and Ralph come jogging up to them.

"Are we late?" Sam asks as he blows bangs out of his eyes. Casey keeps her body forward, but she can sense the frustration in Derek's voice.

"No, dude. Right on time," He mutters. Ralph shoots Casey a typical look, and she smiles at him.

And then it's their turn to perform.


VII : This paper posed as photographs


She likes to think of art as a haven. It's a nice little place to escape to, to vent or express…you know.

But not when you're assigned a project to draw a set of pictures of couples.

Happy, sad, angry, jealous, in love…every emotion you can think of, it's part of the project.

And fuck, the boy in the pictures always turns out like him.

--

Rewind: She risks it. It's a big step, but she's in the living room. So close to the kitchen, who knows what could happen? She's feeling a little reckless tonight. It's just her and her sketchbook, considering that everybody in the family is out or upstairs, and the television is set to the hit list music channel. One lamp shines, and she's curled up in fuzzy pants and her favorite tank top-she's going for comfortable. And she's trying to tackle the angry couple picture tonight.

It should be easy, seeing as she can draw inspiration from everyday life-from, well, Derek. She starts with the girl, long hair leading down to a thin face with glasses and a firm, set jaw. The girl is dressed nicely, casual office clothes with a pencil skirt and button down blouse. Her calves are defined, down to the toes encased in Jimmy Choos. The boy has sharp angles and messy hair. Messy clothes, too. His shoes are two different colors and he's barely taller than the girl. He's a bit on the lanky side.

Casey stops for a moment and looks at the boy, adding a little tan to his eyes. She captures the anger almost perfectly, she thinks. It's in the woman's crossed arms and the boy's sneering face. The faces say it all-slanted eyebrows and dark eyes-and she thinks she's done the angry couple justice. She pulls out the in love picture drawn the day before and compares them.

The woman's hair is pulled in a ponytail and she's smiling beautifully up at the viewer as the boy kisses her temple.

Casey feels a tear prick at the corner of her eye, and for some odd reason lets it fall.

--

Fast Forward: She's half asleep on the couch with her pictures strewn across the coffee table when she sees a shadow wash over the couch. It clicks off the television, blasting some lonely Jon McLaughlin, and picks up a picture. She knows it's him. Who else? (It's because she's near the kitchen.)

She hears his fingers brush over the piece as he examines it and wonders what he's thinking.

Her eyelids flutter open and she's able to watch his face for a moment as his jaw clenches and he flits between papers. He sets them down and their eyes meet. Her hand moves up to her ribcage to calm the pounding of her heart.

"Who are the people in the pictures?" He asks quietly. But it's okay; he already knows.

She experiences the most curious emotion then. She can feel something slide into place in her head, and then it's like they've been this way their whole lives. She's already used to him kissing up the nape of her neck. He's already used to her anger, and he knows how to deal with it. She knows how he likes bananas on his peanut butter sandwiches, and he knows she likes Tiffany's best. It's not real. But it sort of feels like comfort.

"They aren't supposed to be anybody in particular," she responds. She looks up at him with wide eyes and isn't so angry anymore. She feels the relief wash over her as she gives in. He sizes her up.

"They kind of look like…us."

The way he says 'us' gives her goose bumps. The possibility of 'us' alone gives her goose bumps.

She looks down at her knees as his eyes burn into her head.

"They kind of do, don't they?"

--

Here's the thing: There's a fine line between giving up and giving in. She crossed it, but isn't aware-the line was blurred a long time ago.


VIII : This promise snapped with time elapsed


Seriously, she has nightmares where she falls off cliffs and dies. She's getting a little bit old for shit like that, but Derek brings it out in her. She has these cloudy dreamland moments of freefall where she thinks she'll be okay and then it's-you know that feeling you get when you jerk awake? -She hits the ground, and it's all over. There're broken bones and pain and blood. And then she wakes up all sweaty and gross and there's still a light on under Derek's door.

Sometimes he falls asleep with the light on, but sometimes she wonders if he's listening. Maybe he can hear all of her little girl fears in her sleep. (Does she talk? Does she cry? Scream?)

They have a really dark relationship brewing, here. She wonders if he just wants her body. She wants his. But what if she wants more? She wants his body, but also his mind and his head and his heart-and he doesn't want that at all. Why would he? She's so…

"Why so edgy?"

"Idiot."

She sits and ponders over it, and Derek still has his light on under the door, and when it flicks off her heart shudders like a butterfly caught in a web. Or kind of like her heart and his lamp are on the same circuit. It makes her a little sick. Does he want all of her?

She likes to think that he does, but she also thinks he might not, so really, she tries not to think about it at all.

--

Press Play: She decides that optimism is a lie. She's standing outside of Derek's door in her short shorts and her old, ratty D-Rock t-shirt. Her hair is falling loose around her face, her bare face, and she hears him humming lightly to a CD, and, hey-she shaved for him. And wore her cutest panties.

She wishes she were dead. And she means it, too.

The worst part about this is that she's going to be giving in. It was his plan the whole time, she knows. He's too proud to give in-not that she herself isn't-but…

Doesn't Derek always win?

"Watch me."

Her eyes cloud over as she reaches up to knock on the door. She taps without meaning to and knows that with each knock a little bit of her is lost to him. (As if she wasn't lost already.) What's worse than loving somebody who doesn't see past your face? Your flaws? She shakes her head and scrubs at an eye with the heel of her palm.

He opens the door, shirtless, and watches her closely as she shoves past him and collapses on a chair. She sits, hands tangling together for a moment, and it feels like eternity as he watches her. (This is how it's supposed to be. You knew it would happen.)

She knows she can't change an ending when it's already written. She knows that there was no way Juliet could have stopped Romeo from drinking poison, so why would she be able stop herself from entering this ridiculous trap? That's right. There is no way.

She'll stay stuck.

His face is carefully blank as he approaches her. He reaches out a hand, and she takes it hesitantly, holding her breath before she dives off the precipice into hell. He pulls her up and into him. He sighs a little, like he's been holding his breath too, and his hands press flat onto her back.

She shudders and he steps back a little to kick the door shut.

"I knew you would," he smirks at her. And, well-

-So did she.


Epilogue : You think you do, but you don't know me at all


It's only after when he's holding her that he realizes what she must think. She's got it all wrong. Because he does love her, he does-but how is he supposed to show it? He's got this nasty complex that won't go away, kind of like that time he got mono, and there's no way-

He can't make her believe him. Now when she's so obviously set on thinking he's using her.

He traces his fingers over the planes of her skin and her eyes drift open to watch him.

"Hey," she says.

"Hey," he says.

They stare each other down (because it's always a competition) and he can't help himself-he gives her that look. (The 'I won' look.) She scowls a little and burrows her face into his chest.

"Don't rub it in," She murmurs. His skin tingles, and he hates the sound of her voice-it's like she's given up on herself. That's not what he loves.

They've entered such a dark relationship, and now that they've reached the point where they can't go back, he finally sees.

They'll push and push each other until someone breaks. (Hasn't she already?) He traces her backbone, frail and protruding. It's in their nature. She gets under his skin and he crosses the line, because that's the only way he knows how to fight back-the dirty way.

And he pushed too hard.

--

Press Play: The scene is set with a girl and boy curled up under a plaid blanket. One is face down, eyes clenched shut against a battle already lost, and the other is looking on with victory. (It's unwanted.)

It's the beginning, or maybe the end, but she's thinking the latter because it looks a little like hell around here.

She had fought to keep her secret and officially lost.

And she's thinking: locked safe, locked heart, what's the difference?

--

End Tape.