('Head Case.' Oh, the horrible, horrible pun. George'd have made it, but then his brains might have exploded.)

What the f*ck is this, you ask?

Your guess is as good as mine.

[it's stories such as this which should make everyone glad I don't own LwD.]

::in which a metaphor is beaten to DEATH::

There is no satisfaction in hanging a man who does not object to it. –GBShaw

Don't ask him. He doesn't know. He doesn't know how it happened, okay?

"Oh, god, Derek…" She's saying, and oh no, that's not the first time she's said it; that's not even the first time she's said it like that. And damn it all if his body won't stop insisting that they maybe share a species, after all (maybe, dammit; his body is no scientist and has been wrong before –remember that time it convinced you that eating the canoli under the bed was okay, Derek, remember how wrong it was), that by the magic of Walt Disney or the mysterious workings of God or the nefarious intrigues of Satan she has been miraculously transformed from his institution-bound step-sister to a Real Girl, and that it's okay to react so physically to the sight of her throwing her head back against his thighs, eyes fluttering closed, mouth parted except that little bit of lip, trapped in her teeth— "Mmmm…right there…"

Her eyes are closed so she can't point out to him that he's nodding slowly, emphatically at her instruction, the expression on his face one eager to do just exactly as she says straight away, Miss McDonald; anything you need, you just say the word.

(Derek Venturi is not in at the moment. Please leave a message.)

But no, no no no. No-no-no-no-no-no. What is happening is by no means sanctioned conduct; don't They have Very Specific Rules against this sort of behavior toward enemies? There is no favor currying or back-scratching in the world of international politics; that sort of thing means conspiracy, that's lingo for treason and –he's almost certain—is punishable by death. They're going to drag him to a tribunal and They're going to kill him and –dearfreakingod—he's really trying to care. (Wait-a-moment. What the hell is a tribunal again? He thinks the Native Americans might have had one. Or maybe it's that noise Casey's making in her throat, the low, breathy one that's shivering invisibly through the air and shattering his eardrums.)

Incidentally, he's not sure where all this terminology is coming from; it could be that before this Seditious Activity began they'd been studying together for the PoliSci midterm, but he's no longer capable of verifying such a thing with any degree of certainty. All he knows for sure anymore is that if you can be thrown out a window for a foot rub (now he's getting politics confused with Tarantino! this cannot bode well), you can most certainly expect some horrifying form of punishment for giving The Enemy a massage. (Oh, right. That whole 'death' bit.)

He'd been trying to provoke the opposition into combat, distract it (yes, IT) from its mission to bore him into submission (a mission which had been experiencing frightening success), and he'd thought the best way to instigate battle would be to straight-forwardly march into The Enemy's territory, transgress the (oft-and-explicitly defined) boundary separating his territory from Hers, which, Meticulous, Extensive (hands-on) Investigation has revealed, is the most direct, most delightfully effective antagonism. Long experience with The Adversary has taught him to expect immediate forced expulsion followed by even more immediate retribution, so when his hands had appeared at her shoulders to give her a rough knead, he'd expected to be beaned with a textbook, or at the very least absently smacked in the face to the tune of 'De-rek!'. When instead The Foe stretched tight muscles, gave an involuntary shiver, and said, "Yeeessssss…" before she arched her shoulders and leaned back against the couch, he, out of sheer bewilderment at this unprecedented reaction, pressed a second rolling weight through his fingers and into her upper-back and shoulders, marveling at the way it seemed to ripple throughout her entire body and meld her to the sofa.

So what does one do when one accidentally discovers an intimate weakness of one's arch nemesis?

Well, here are some things they don't do: they do not pull themselves forward and sling a leg on either side of The Enemy's territory, they do not stare at the line of bared throat of The Enemy as if it is the sexiest goddamn thing they have ever seen, and they certainly do not continue massaging The Enemy's shoulders.

(But he's thinking of defecting, anyway.)

"De…De-rek…" All these many years being the proud patriot, the loyal citizen…to THINK that the Great, the Indomitable, the One and Only Derek Venturi would be brought low, turned traitor by those two little syllables (his name? don't be absurd. it's a foreign language –it has to be, she's the only one who speaks it)—

"Casey," he says (and since when the hell is he twelve again? he would like advance warning the next time his voice decides to try out that sort of experimental acrobat…ography), and it's really no huge effort for her to look up at him because the back of her head is on his lap; she just opens her unreasonably large blue eyes like there's nothing much the matter, she's only got hair that's probably gonna get comically stuck in the zipper of his jeans when she decides to pull up her head and Return to Normality, no big deal, he's not her step-brother or anything, so this position is perfectly acceptable, totally In The Ordinary. And the noises she's been making? The foreign language she's been speaking (you remember, the one with a vocabulary consisting of only his name)? Certainly not anything to get excited about. Same old, same old. "Casey."

(So why the hell does his chest hurt?)

She sees something on his face, he's shown her something he hasn't intended to (and he's panicking because he doesn't know what it is), and then her big eyes demonstrate that they can, in fact, get much larger, because they are suddenly HUGE (and they're the only things he can see; his whole world is this wide pool of blueblueblue and it just isn't fair because he wants to be an upstanding, responsible citizen and this sort of fraternization with The Enemy is just shameful--), and she's jerking forward and—

(and HAHA, universe.)

Casey's hair catches in his zipper. She yelps, and the abrupt termination of her forward movement has momentum and Other-Physics-Concepts-Derek-does-not-currently-recall yanking her backward, right back to the point of origin.

"Hello again." He says, blinking down at her (because what the hell ELSE is he supposed to say?), vaguely glad that she hadn't gotten far enough forward for the force of her backwards tumble to have hurt him (it appalls him on a great many levels that concern for the Venturi Family Jewels had been merely a distant afterthought; he's terrified now that this means that Casey has injured his mind).

And she says,

"De-REK!" Which should have turned the world right-side up again, but instead sends it careening into Mercury (that's the closest planet to the earth, right? for some reason that feels incorrect, but the only reason he knows his name anymore is because she keeps saying it, so who can really say?), and he just keeps blinking at her.

She's looking up at him like it's his fault that her hair is snared on his jeans, which hardly seems fair. SHE'S the one who started this new-fangled, maliciously clever, perilously effective brand of psychological warfare; it's her own damn fault.

"This would be really hilarious if it were happening to someone else." Derek muses, then belatedly realizes he's said it out loud. He sends a courier out for his brain and hopes the little guy will return soon. (Really, really soon.) "I have lots of really unkind and inappropriate jokes saved for just this sort of situation." He tells her, earnestly. "Some of them are tailored just for you. I always sort of hoped I'd get a chance to use them." (Is he still talking?) "The odds seemed good because you're…you. And everyone knows the Universe hates you, so I figured something like this happening wouldn't be totally out-of-the-question." He has eventually got to shut his goddamn mouth. This has gone far enough. But Casey seems content to (unhelpfully) stare up at him in horror. "But this is not funny." She looks wary.

"Uh…Derek, a little…a little help?" Derek has just given The Enemy an untoward massage – he is not going to take that final step over the line and help her. She seems to have him confused with someone else.

"This is your problem, McDonald." He crosses his arms over his chest and looks down at her (and he thinks he manages a good impression of someone who has control over their own facial muscles). "Help yourself." And his face must be cooperating, because instead of being mortified (like he is) at the way he'd said it (creepily), she instead glares at him in challenge and twists over and then something in Derek's mind just…stops (probably breaks, actually) because now her head is REALLY in his lap (and here's a fantasy he's never had: Casey, between his legs, on her knees), curtained off by the fall of her hair as it drapes over his thighs and spills across his stomach, and for some reason he loses the ability to swallow. (This is the part where he wakes up, isn't it? Surely, surely this isn't actually…happening.) And that's not even the most vexing part, because Casey's grumbling to herself, calling him all manner of horrible, vulgar things, apparently oblivious to such simple (Tremendously-Fucking-Important) details as the fact of fabric's imperfect impermeability; sure the fibers are thatched tightly together, but they're not designed to keep warm breath in close proximity out, and so when she calls him a 'despicable reprobate,' he hears it. And also feels it.

Right…right there.

In desperation, he thinks Unsexy Thoughts. His dad in bike shorts. Edwin in a speedo. (Woah, woah. Too unsexy.) Starting again…Ralphie in a dress. Sam in a mini-skirt. Sam…making out with Casey. Casey. Casey falling gracelessly down the stairs. Casey in a pyjama set, toothpaste dribbling elegantly out of her mouth. Casey, after an all-nighter. Casey in a bikini. Casey's head in his lap—

"Could you move any slower?" He snaps, and closes his eyes very, very tight. He is Zen-Derek, watch him as he contemplates the Void. He is rock, he is the mountain, he is ICE. (He is going to have an aneurysm.)

She gives his thigh a sharp pinch at the comment, and, just in case that isn't bad enough, several seconds later, her fingers slip at his zipper and encounter Various Obstacles and Derek sucks in a truly massive breath, and he absolutely does not move. Whatsoever. (And the effort of remaining stationary may have ruptured his kidneys. Because the pain has to be coming from somewhere.)

"Okay, that is it." She growls, at length. "I can't even see anything down here, Derek! Either you're going to help me or I am going to make certain that it's impossible for you to breed. Ever." It helps that her voice (muffled as it is by…circumstances) wavers slightly as she delivers this threat, because it (probably) means she's not completely and totally unaffected by this wholly bizarre turn of events. It's almost…comforting. (In a generally horrifying sort of way.)

Either way, he doesn't protest this time around; he complies immediately, bracing one palm lightly on top of her head while he disentangles her (stupidly soft and springy) hair from its catch with the other, and in a matter of seconds, she's free.

Several seconds after this, he makes it a point to tell her as much, and then she's pulling back, slowly, cautiously, just in case.

And then, as he's trying to figure out what the hell to do with himself in the aftermath of his truly (truly) mortifying behavior, he finds himself suddenly faced with the realization that Casey won't meet his eyes. That she's embarrassed. Flustered. Because, his mind supplies (now that it's working again), while he had most certainly been the one responsible for giving her the (scandalous! treacherous!) massage that led to the (freakishly predictable) Hair-in-the-Zipper Fiasco, she…she had enjoyed it. Which, by his reasoning, makes her just as culpable as he is.

"Der-Dere—" She begins, hesitantly, and he snaps his hand out to cover her mouth. She stops talking straight away.

"A piece of advice, Casey." There's something in the air. Maybe he hit his head harder than he thought at practice yesterday? Mom always said one of these days he'd be slammed into the boards one time too many, knock something important loose. It felt a lot like that moment had come. "Don't say it." She swallows hard. He watches it happen.

She slowly pulls his hand away by his wrist.

"Say…say what?" He can't look away. He can't. (Because he doesn't want to.)

"You'll be very, very sorry if you do." (Her fingers are still wrapped lightly around his wrist.)

"Is that…" she draws in a shaky breath, and she's looking everywhere but at him, "Is that a threat…or a promise?" It's a strange, surreal sort of moment, hearing his own words (from what seems like eons ago) thrown back at him. Especially now, from her, following so soon on the heels of Casey's face in his— *ahem*

"Casey, Casey, Casey," (he speaks a foreign language, too, similar to hers, but very, very different.) "Don't you know it's always both for you?" Whatever the hell that means. Either way, he supposes, he's gotten himself into this mess. He figures he should just go ahead and accept responsibility for his misconduct, turn himself in, face the consequences, so on and so forth. (This, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is Grim Resignation: Exhibit A.)

What feels like an eternity stretches out between them before she finally locates the courage to pin him in place with an urgent, severe glance.

"Derek," she says determinedly, and opens her mouth to say more, but it's already too late because he's leaning forward to kiss her, deliberately, leisurely; he doesn't try to take it further than the hard press of his lips against hers, and she doesn't respond until she does, and it is, without a doubt, the worst form of punishment. Absolutely. (But he is a noble man, and he will take what is coming to him.)

His hands are the cupping pressure at her jaw, drawing her irresistibly forward, holding her fast (though, if he were capable of realizing it, he'd notice that she doesn't seem entirely eager to escape). It's all very sudden (and only slightly premeditated; if she threatens to take him down for his crime he's planning to plead temporary insanity), and she hasn't pushed him away in horror yet, so he opts to use the time to his advantage and take part in an experiment (for science), and he slips his tongue into her mouth. (He's actually a bit curious to see how far she'll let him go before she snaps out of her stupor, breaks out the Crazy and, you know, castrates him.)

It's bad, Very Bad, because he immediately wants to keep doing it, and it's bad, Enormously Bad, because then she's pushing him away. In the ten to fifteen seconds or so that he's been attached to her lips, the Thinking Thing inside his head (distantly, he's annoyed that he can't recall the term for it) appears to have been closed temporarily for repairs, so he has no idea how to interpret the expression on her face. Sure, on some instinctive level he knows that the flushed cheeks and the darkening blue eyes mean something beyond their apparent capacity to cut off his air supply, but please don't ask him to tease out anything specific.

Instead, he is forced to rely on more telling, actively physical cues, such as the way her fingers are bunching the fabric of his shirt at his chest, and perhaps the way she's trembling faintly against him.

He's inclined to accept these events as indication that she's considering betraying her country right along with him, and he's about to grab her and reprimand her severely when she rises unsteadily (and for one coronary-inducing moment he thinks he's made a fantastically colossal miscalculation, that she's going to walk calmly away and report him at once to the authorities) and, after taking a deep, deep breath, straddles him. One leg at a time (self-consciously, head bowed and gaze nervously pin-balling from his face to his mouth and everywhere in between), sinking shakily to a sitting position on his knees, and just like that, he's trapped in Enemy Territory.

No means of defense.

No hope of escape.


Then, she lays her hands on his shoulders tentatively, shyly, and this makes everything in his entire world a Lie (because somehow it is this timid creature that is actively turning him traitor) and he doesn't even mind, because he's suddenly and inexplicably allowed to touch her, and god why does it feel like he's getting everything he's ever wanted?

"Case," his vocal cords are scraping together with the effort of communicating while his throat has no moisture in it, and she lifts her eyes to look at him in the same instant his hands scoop over her ass and under her thighs to drag her forward in his lap.

And then he's just bewildered, because Casey's…smiling at him. Barely, softly, chillingly, but it's unmistakable. The grin continues to creep across her face in increments (and he can tell it's going to be one of those big, blinding ones) for several more horrible seconds, and his mind, in a last-ditch self-preservation attempt, frantically tries to remind him that she's The Enemy, damn it, and smiling can only mean that she thinks she's won!

But by the time she leans down and brushes her lips gently over his, he thinks he can maybe get used to losing.

[And because Casey is a Kind and Benevolent god, she offers to return the favor of his massage. bahahahaha]

Okay, so I've been struggling with some rather debilitating writer's block with the next chapter of USteps, and to deal with it, I got brilliantly smashed and cranked out this abomination. In lieu of proof-reading or STOPPING myself from posting this grotesque abortion of a fic, I'm going to go pass out somewhere before I do something TRULY heinous (like absconding to Canada to follow through on my plan to abduct Mike).

(Rest easy, though, chums. I promise the next thing I post will be a new chappie of University Steps.

I'm not gonna lie, though. Bribery in the form of reviews is superlative motivation. Even if this story IS retarded. ^_^)

[re-touched 11.07.09]