Story: those eyes to tide me over

Summary: Off in the distance, she heard Derek speaking, but in the forefront of Casey's mind was such blinding indignation that she almost didn't feel his hand under her elbow, guiding her from the counter to a plush chair by the door. How could Derek move somewhere that didn't even have scones in its coffee shops? What would she eat with her coffee when she came to visit?

Notes: My god, I have to stop infecting the domain of children's entertainment. I really do. Even if a) the male leads are ridiculously attractive to a degree that probably isn't even legal stateside, and b) the Sexual-Tension-o-Meter goes off the charts any time said male leads and female leads snarl at each other.

Even so. I am a horrible human being.

At any rate, this was picked up at fanprompted over on LJ; the prompt, courtesy of moirariordan, was Derek is moving far away and Casey goes with him to scope out the city . . . only to find herself attempting to sabatouge the entire event. For once, I actually followed the prompt. Be startled, and minorly afraid.

(EDIT: Thanks a million to amoenavi for pointing out my epic failure when it comes to US geography. Urgle.)

Disclaimer: If I owned Life with Derek, Marti would so be a ninja squirrel for Halloween.

"Casey, seriously—another sandwich?"

She flipped her hair out of her eyes and dashed for the kitchen. "Yes. I mean, what if the first one spoils and we're out sitting at one of those picnic tables at a rest stop and a really fast squirrel eats the second one? Then we'll need another sandwich, won't we? Because we can't go apartment hunting on an empty stomach."

Derek swallowed a sigh and trailed after her, tossing his car keys from hand to hand. "Case, we can eat in the car if you're so terrified of ninja rodents."

"You're making me sound unreasonable," she snapped, yanking open her fridge and reaching for the strawberry jam. "I'm being extra-reasonable, here."

"There is no such thing as extra-reasonable. It's not even a word." As Casey took two slices of multigrain sandwich bread from her steel breadbasket—positioned exactly two inches from the toaster, for an easier morning routine she had told him—Derek sighed outright and leaned against the doorjamb. She was measuring peanut butter now, using the tablespoon to leave little mounds on one piece of bread.

"How do you know?" she asked. "You're not exactly the type to read the dictionary."

Casey probably thought she was being extra-reasonable again, Derek realized, and he was too amused by the situation to let it go (and really, Marti was primed to be the sole mature Venturi, and who was Derek to steal her thunder?). "I've been known to, on occasion. Literacy is kind of a requirement for a director. We need to be able to read scripts. Of course, I've been wondering about you for years Casey—dyslexia might explain those horrible high school years of yours."

"Har. Har," said Casey drily, and she rinsed off the tablespoon and stuck it into the drying rack. She returned to the counter to wipe off the crumbs, and was finally left staring at her (third) perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the day. The crusts were perfectly aligned. It was kind of cute, in a very annoying kind of way.

"No more stalling," said Derek, and he turned on his heel and made his way to her front door. "I am leaving in two minutes, Case, and if you aren't in the car I'm just going to go to Portland without you."

"I'm coming!" she cried. "Do we have enough to drink?"

Six of the eleven hours into the trip, Casey was asleep.

At least, she was pretending to be asleep. Derek was driving, and had eventually pulled an executive order five hours in that there would be no singing in his car. And as Casey was physically incapable of listening to the radio and not singing along with every bad Bon Jovi cover that came on, he'd turned off the radio.

No radio meant utter silence. Utter silence meant Casey's mouth would promptly go into convulsions and she would word-vomit her way through the remainder of the car ride. Word-vomit meant she and Derek would probably kill or be killed by each other by the time they found their way to the hotel she'd made reservations for in Springfield.

Casey actually approved of the upholstery in Derek's car. She didn't want it to get stained.

The thrum of the car was soothing, she noticed as she drifted between half-awake and mostly-dozing. Derek was tapping the beat to something against the steering wheel of his car, and as she reorganized her mental list, she matched her bullet points to the soft sound of his fingers.

One. Establish cultural base of the city . . .

"Hey, Case, want some coffee?"

She looked up from her copy of A Guide to Portland, ME—highlighted and thick with Post-Its—to see Derek pushing his sunglasses up his nose and staring across the way at a coffee shop. It was small and picturesque, exactly the sort of place Casey always approved of patronizing, and she flipped through her guidebook when the name sounded familiar. There was a Post-It over the name, and Casey had scribbled a small note to visit the place and check out its highly recommended music scene.

"It says here that local artists come here on the weekends and play in the hopes that they'll be discovered—I suppose you can do a little research/hiring here," she began, but when she had looked up Derek was already halfway across the street, ignoring the blaring horns of irritable drivers and ducking under the overhang.

Casey sighed, and made her way the crosswalk. Sometimes she wondered if it would physically kill Derek to be polite; these thoughts were inevitably followed by rather more vicious visual images of forcing him into courteous conversation and then having his head explode.

When she walked into the little shop to find Derek lounging against the counter, chatting up a scarily thin woman with a low-cut shirt, dreadlocks that might've once been blonde, and three rings through her eyebrow, Casey's mind took a decided turn towards the murderous. She absently wondered if it was possible to stab someone through the jugular with a coffee stirrer.

"Derek!" she hissed once she was at his side. "Would it kill you not to walk off in the middle of a conversation for once?"

The blonde blinked lazily and turned to survey Casey. "Sorry?" she said. "Can I help you?"

"Yes," said Casey. "I'd like a cappuccino and a blueberry scone, please. Derek, so help me god, I'll let you get hit by a car if you leave me like that again."

"I'm sorry," interrupted the blonde. "We don't have any blueberry scones."

"Then I'll have a raspberry one!" said Casey, frowning at her. What kind of coffee shop didn't have blueberry scones? She was still talking to Derek as she pulled out her guidebook and made a note in pencil on the Post-It. "Anyway, what I was saying before you so rudely left me in the middle of the sidewalk was that this shop has a reputation—"

"We don't have any scones," interrupted the blonde again. "Do you want something else?"

Casey's mind blanked. Not have any scones at all? But she always had scones with her coffee! She turned in vague outrage to Derek, who saw the expression on her face and sighed so dramatically she could see his diaphragm expand and contract under his button-down.

Off in the distance, she heard Derek tell the blonde that she would have a slice of lemon poppy-seed cake, and that she'd like green tea instead of a cappuccino if they didn't have any scones, and he'd just like a cup of the house blend, cream no sugar, but in the forefront of Casey's mind was such blinding indignation that she almost didn't feel his hand under her elbow, guiding her from the counter to a plush chair by the door. How could Derek move somewhere that didn't even have scones in its coffee shops? What would she eat with her coffee when she came to visit?

"Oi, Case," he said, snapping his fingers under her chin, and she came to herself so violently that she almost upset the green tea he had put on the table in front of her. "Jesus, no need to spazz because they don't have any scones. I'm sure somewhere around here stocks your precious pastry."

"Hmph," said Casey, taking a bite out of her lemon poppy-seed cake. It was moist, chewy, and all but perfection, but she still gave the shop black marks on her Post-It note once they had left.

Derek sighed a little, and shifted in his seat. The tapping stopped, and Casey's mental ordering hiccupped. A second later, he resumed, this time humming the guitar riff along with the taps, and she began again.

Two. Begin the process of apartment-hunting . . .

The realtor Casey had contacted back in Toronto had been kind but firm; if Casey and Derek wanted to view some apartments, they were going to need to contact the supers themselves and work from there. So Casey had done that—she'd contacted twenty, deemed only eight of them actually reliable, and then discarded two because they were relatively attractive women, and Casey knew her stepbrother. If he moved into an apartment with an attractive landlord, he would have slept with her and moved on in about two weeks. Then the poor woman would be left pining after him and/or hating his guts with a passion, neither of which would have made for pleasant living arrangements.

"You MacDonald?" grunted Joe Fontaine.

"Yes, that's me," said Casey, smiling at the man through the patchwork lines of the screen door. "This is my stepbrother, Derek Venturi. We're interested in looking at the opening you have?"

Joe suspiciously glared at Casey and Derek, his piggy eyes narrowing even more upon the words "stepbrother." "I won't be having any weird shit in my building," he told her.

"Oh, I assure you, Casey hasn't been weird in years," Derek said smoothly, patting her on the head. "We even let her out of the house occasionally, as you have no doubt noticed."

Casey elbowed him in the side and brushed her hair back into place. "We're looking for an apartment for Derek," she clarified, giving the man in question a glare of her own. "Not me. Or, er, us, Mr. Fontaine. Just Derek. Alone."

"Hopefully not too alone," leered Derek unhelpfully, but Joe let them in anyway. He wasn't very talkative, but Casey made up for his distinct lack of amiability, keeping up a mostly one-sided chatter during the long climb up a narrow staircase to apartment 7E. She'd learned a little about the neighborhood—and Joe Fontaine had learned more than he probably had ever wanted to about Casey's own apartment back in Toronto—when they finally made it to the front door.

The 7 on the door was upside down. Casey made a note in her guidebook under the 'residential' section.

Inside was, in Casey's opinion, not much better. She had been well aware from the beginning that Derek wasn't looking for anywhere as nice as his current place in Toronto, mostly because a job with a new production company meant a smaller salary for the time being, but surely this wasn't even proper living space. There wasn't a divider between the living room and the kitchen! The closet was the size of a crawl space—Casey had always had problems with crawl spaces, they gave her the creeps—for god's sake!

"What's the rent?" she asked, and had to stifle a frown at the outrageous number Joe vaguely outlined. The amount, plus most of Casey's misgiving concerning a suspicious-looking mold in the bathroom, went onto the Post-It.

"Derek," she said accusingly once they were out on the street and moving towards their second appointment, "you can't intend on living somewhere like that!"

"Why not?" he asked, slipping his sunglasses over his nose. "It's relatively cheap, close to where I'll be working, and there was this really hot girl on the fourth floor—"

"Derek!" she shrieked. "There was mold in the bathroom!"

"That was tiling grout, you imbecile," he said affectionately, reaching out to ruffle her hair again. She batted his arms away and stubbornly held her guidebook to her chest. "Besides, after sharing a bathroom with you for two years, I think I can handle a little mold."

"What about the closet?" asked Casey practically.

"You know I don't use a closet," said Derek. "My clothes'll just end up on the floor anyway. Where's the next place we're headed, by the way?"

"The corner of second and Klimpton," said Casey, flipping through her guidebook. "The look-see's scheduled for eleven, so we should be able to take a look and then get some lunch, check out the restaurant scene." As if Derek would actually care about the restaurant scene, she reflected. He was a one-place man, if one considered how much time he spent at Smelly Nellie's when they were in high school, and there was probably an appropriately-dingy dive somewhere in Portland that he would appreciate.

It wasn't Casey's fault that she liked nice food and a pleasant atmosphere. Where was Derek going to take her and the rest of his family when they invaded his home? He and Casey always ate together at least once a week—now that he was eleven hours away, she supposed they would have to narrow it down to once a month, but she refused to go anywhere that kept a roll of paper towels in every booth.

She must have said at least part of this aloud, as Derek turned to give her an incredulous look. "What?" he asked.

"What?" she demanded back.

"You just said 'paper towels'," Derek replied. "You all right, Case? You haven't snapped or anything, have you?"

"I'm fine," she groused, then brightened at the sight of a street sign. "Oh look, here's Second Street. The building should be on the next block."

At first sight, Casey was not entirely sure that she had the right place. The note in her guidebook said the building was called the Parkland, and the brick building extending above them shared the title—it was artfully emblazoned on a little brass plaque near the door—but the building was far too nice to be in Derek's price range.

"Wow," he said, tilting his head back a little and lowering his sun glasses to get a better view. "You sure this is in my price range?"

"Not anymore," managed Casey. "It's way too nice for you to live in."

"Thanks, Case," he said, but he put a hand in the small of her back and guided her to the front door anyway. There wasn't a doorman, which relieved Casey a bit on the price-front, but the foyer was partly marble and it actually had an elevator. The super was an old woman with a nasally accent and dead hearing aids, but she was exceedingly pleasant.

It wasn't until she had chattered them right into the bedroom that Casey realized the woman thought they were a couple. By then, however, Casey had other things to worry about. The apartment was an absolute dream—corner of the top floor, with a plaster and brick balcony that could just about see the harbor, high ceilings, original molding, and thick wooden floors. Derek actually gave a low whistle in the kitchen, eyeing the yellow cabinets and a pair of windows that opened onto the street. The appliances were all from the seventies or eighties, but they certainly didn't detract from the rest of the apartment enough to account for the price, and eventually Casey had to cut through the super's delighted exclamations of how the office could be transformed into a second bedroom in the case of familial expansion to clarify the menial details.

The price was the same as it had been online. When Casey finally met Derek's eyes, he was standing in the middle of the empty bedroom, staring at her, hands in his pockets, and there was a smile in the corner of his mouth that made Casey's stomach crash through the hand-cut wooden floorboards.

His humming complimented the buzzing of the engine that Casey could hear through the car door; she sighed and mumbled something that she didn't understand herself, and burrowed deeper into the seat, curling her feet up underneath her.

Three. See if the restaurants are good . . .

"Derek, you can't be serious!"

He frowned at her over the lip of his wineglass. "Casey, of course I'm serious. You saw that place. It was a gift from God, not to mention cheaper than the other four places we saw today. If I don't put my name on the lease someone else will by tomorrow."

She poked her salmon with her fork, then dabbed at the side of her mouth with her napkin and reached for her own glass. "Did you hear what Mrs. Kausser said about the last occupants? Ghosts? Hauntings? There's a reason an apartment that nice is on the market—because it drives the people who live there insane!"

Derek had the nerve to laugh, pointing his fork at her before he continued purloining the tomatoes off her plate. "Case, if someone was stupid enough to believe that a couple mice in the walls are the ghost of Christmas Past, than its practically my civic duty to take such a piece of prime real estate out of their obviously unstable hands." He bit into the tomato, and winced as a bit of juice spurted out onto his plate. A waiter rushing to another table sniffed a bit haughtily but otherwise didn't comment.

"Ghosts!" hissed Casey. "What if something happens to you?"

Derek snorted, and contemplated her plate before making for another tomato. Casey cut him off with her fork, and there erupted a short-lived battle of cutlery that killed the conversation, at least momentarily. Casey finally won by stuffing the last two tomatoes into her mouth and almost choking as she attempted to swallow them, and once she had finished her wine to chase them into her stomach, she was ready for more battle.

"I really think that you won't be safe with those windows." Derek actually gaped at her as she continued, twisting her napkin between her hands as she outlined the multitude of ways the numerous upsides of the apartment—the big windows, its placement at the top of the building, the wooden floorboards—could be seen as safety hazards. She finished her speech strong, moving into the ancient appliances and the possibility of fire. "Imagine if you're on the top floor when you set that off," she said, widened eyes and slightly off-tone voice the only hints to her borderline hysteria. "The kitchen is right next to the front door—you might not make it out in time. Then, of course, Marti will blame me for your death and everyone will wonder why on earth I let you rent such an obviously unsafe apartment—"

"—and you can tell them that you tried your best to talk me out of it," finished Derek, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. "This is obsessive, even for you, Case. I'm not going to die in a kitchen fire, okay? I'm probably not even going to use the damn kitchen."

"I use the kitchen," Casey pointed out. "What if I start a fire?"

Derek frowned at her. "Casey, you live in Toronto."

"So?" she said. "Like I'm not going to come and visit you. I'm your stepsister. And every time I come to your apartment you cruelly force me to bake you things so that you don't starve without me. And if I come every month, every month there's going to be something like a 40% increased likelihood of your apartment catching on fire and razing to the ground, and then both of us will die and who will provide a good example for Marti? Edwin and Lizzie certainly won't."

He was blinking at her by now, utterly speechless, and could only move to reach shakily for his wineglass. "Every month?" he said.

"Well, yes," she replied, unsure as to what was so unimaginable. "It's only eleven hours, Derek."

"But the only reason I'm—You don't have a car," he said, and it was just about then that Casey realized that she had been conducting most of the trip under the assumption that she would be spending just as much time with Derek that she had been in Toronto, and so most of the things that she'd deemed necessary—cultural life, his apartment, the restaurants—were things that Casey herself deemed important when they spent time together.

But Derek wasn't going to be fifteen blocks and a twenty minute walk away. He was going to be eleven hours away. Eleven hours. This time it was Casey who gaped, and when she reached for her wineglass and found it empty, she just extended her hand a little farther and wrenched his out of his grasp. "Eleven hours," she whispered to herself, and then she knocked back the rest of his wine. "Oh my god, Derek."

"What?" he asked, looking confused and slightly impressed at her consumption of his wine. "You say that like it's news."

The problem was, Casey realized as she flagged down the waiter and gestured for another bottle of red and the dessert menu—she needed chocolate, and she needed it now—it was. To her, at least.

"Derek," she said, folding her hands in front of her and looking at him seriously. "We have a bit of a problem."

"Oh yeah?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. He seemed to have recovered from his shakiness. "What, the restaurant doesn't have chocolate on its dessert menu? Alert the presses. We'll find a Ben and Jerry's around here somewhere and get you a cone of Half Baked, okay?"

"No," she said, hopefully clearly, because all the wine was barreling through her mostly empty stomach and straight to her brain. "We need to talk about this move."

On the outskirts of Springfield, Derek gave up on subterfuge and began to sing aloud, under his breath. He wasn't particularly amazing—Casey knew that she was better—but it was wordless, a melody that even a tone-deaf squirrel couldn't screw up, and she found herself slightly charmed, lulled into actual sleep by the noise.

Four, was her last conscious thought. Night life . . .

Casey still wasn't entirely sure how they made it from the restaurant to the car, or even from the car to their room on the outskirts of Portland, let alone the car ride, as she was fairly certain once Derek had started kissing her over the last spoonful of chocolate tart—some time between "We need to talk about this move" and "I wouldn't be moving if you didn't insist on spending so much fucking time around me, being all Casey-like"—he hadn't stopped.

All the same, it was the cold doorknob to the hotel room she felt in the small of her back as Derek pressed her slowly against the door, and she fumbled for the key as he brushed his knuckles down her cheek and along her collarbone.

They'd demanded separate beds with all the haughtiness of stepsiblings, and so they now found themselves in a bit a conundrum as Derek pressed her towards his side of the room and she staunchly moved to her own bed. He solved that problem quickly by just propping her onto the desk situated in the middle and slipping between her knees, both of his hands guiding her head backwards until her scalp was caught between the cool plaster of the wall and his hands tangled in her hair.

Her butt slid on the complementary hotel stationary, her hips jerking towards him, and he laughed throatily and pushed back at her. "Let's be clear, then," he said, drawing his lips from her mouth down the line of her jaw to her throat. "You'll move here with me? Just like that?"

"Mmm," groaned Casey. She knew what he was asking, of course, but did he actually expect an answer when he was licking her in that thoroughly distracting fashion?

"What was that?" he breathed against her wet skin, and she sighed at his antics.

"Yes," she ground out between her teeth. "Yes, I will. Now will you please stop being such an adolescent"—here she pushed herself forward and locked her legs around his waist, putting her hands on his shoulders so they were eye-to-eye—"and finish what you started?"

"You're such a commandeering keener, Case," he noted approvingly.

"Like you even know what commandeering means," she said, and still felt slightly flattered. It was just about here that Casey MacDonald realized she was completely and utterly screwed—but by then, it was a bit too late to do anything but march forward. Besides, he'd started kissing her neck again, and she attempted to halt her mental processes, except what on earth would she tell her boss on Monday to explain a transfer? Somehow, she had a feeling 'true love' wasn't going to cut it.

(Hmm, maybe real estate would, though? Especially if she explained the high ceilings and the wooden floors . . .)

"Casey," said Derek, tugging her earlobe between his two front teeth. "Stop. Thinking."

Thoughts? Yeah, I know the ending was a bit awkward, but I couldn't really maneuver it and . . . yeah, not really an excuse, I know. But it's my first time writing Derek and Casey and I'm desirous of feedback!