So. This isn't a new chapter of USteps. I am a dirty, lying whore. (No one should be surprised.) I have the next chapter written out...I'm just not sure I like it very much. I'm trying to clean it up and make it presentable, but failing that, I do promise at the very least to post it before the weekend is out.


This piece is meant to be a companion fic to WhenLighteningStrikes' gorgeous story What You Call Winter (told from Emily's perspective)--it's the 'bedroom scene' toward the end (yes, I WROTE it! woooo!), wherein Truman, Derek, and Casey are all (unwittingly) locked in a room together. Out of context, it probably won't make a whole lot of sense, so if you haven't read WLS's fic, you should probably go do that first (of course, if you haven't, then where the hell have you BEEN?)

Obviously, this is for WLS, without whom this fic would not be possible.

Also, though, this is for pistachios, which are delectable.

(I think I should mention that I tried out some new formatting for this fic, so if it's a bit disjointed, then...well. It's at least sort of intentional.)

[I recently purchased Daphne Ballon on e-bay, so now I do, technically, own LwD. And also my very own white, padded room.]

::in which Derek prestidigitates::


Warning: Derek Venturi's going to be displaying all the classic signs of being Clinically Insane.


And just like that, all the air in his entire body goes rushing out of him and he can't draw it back in.

He's six again: one moment he's hanging excitedly from the monkey bars (proudly impersonating a sloth for his mother) and the next he's receiving first-hand knowledge of the Normal Force (and dammit, Casey's got him thinking Physics terms –who knew that blind panic was all he needed to tap into his inner-Keener?) as the blacktop exerts an excruciating amount of pressure through his spine and goes zipping out his fingertips and suddenly he can't breathe and he can't move and it's the most terrifying experience of his young life, except that he's got that prickly-painful feeling to ground him, and some part of his mind instinctively knows that he's going to be okay, that if he just waits a moment he'll be fine.

This time there's no reassuring agony to keep him from spinning off into space; just a sort of dull, throbbing ache that begins somewhere in his chest (where That- Thumping-Thing-He-Doesn't-Have should be) and radiates outward, like ice as it starts blithely numbing his limbs and cutting off the oxygen to his brain, and Truman's hand is somewhere beneath the folds of Casey's dress, fingers sliding over flesh he has only ever had brief flashes of on treks from bathroom to bedroom, and all Derek can think in the midst of all this happening is that it's his fault.

His fault for all but throwing Truman at her (Sam: "After how he treated her?") for his own convenience, his fault for making brash, reckless, selfish decisions (Casey: "Did you set this up so you could have Emily all to yourself?"), his fault for ignoring literally everyone around him about the Scum Content of this French bastard (Emily: "After what he did?"), his fault for making her feel miserable enough about being alone and guilty enough about ruining Emily's prom night to take the cheating slime back (Casey: "Okay, for their sake, I'll go to the prom with a jerk like you."), his fault for letting her leave the house in a dress begging to be ripped off of her, for not stopping her when she started liberally pouring drinks down her throat, for whispering to her that she looked every bit the part of the Ugly Step-Sister this evening, maybe half a minute before Truman dragged her away from him and vanished into a room with her, closing the door behind them with a sickening finality (Emily: "It's not as bad as it sounds.").

(It's exactly as bad as it sounds.)


He knows it's insanity because his step-sister is Casey McDonald, and not only is she a girl (qualifying her automatically for at least Moderately Unbalanced), but he has it on good authority that she has recently been made (by other card-carrying members of the Utterly Unhinged) the poster-child for the Deranged and Psychotic masses of the world.

He's never had first-hand knowledge of Mental Instability before, of course, but he's had the dubious pleasure of observing it in its natural habitat: he's watched it brushing its teeth, eating its dinner, compulsively folding (and then re-folding) its clothes, drooling on its pillow in the dead of night...and he's had the good fortune –no, the privilege of poking at it mercilessly, incessantly (for research purposes) to watch it magically transform into Uninhibited Lunacy.

And this is most certainly insanity (of the gravest sort), because he's already disentangling himself from Emily, his very new, very cute girlfriend (who's actively trying to undress him), and he doesn't even look at her (doesn't spare her a thought; he's already forgetting she's there and he isn't sorry, and maybe he'll feel terrible about that later, but Em's a sharp gal and she's done her research and she has to know), and it's just like the movies, because he's having his moment of Liberating Clarity (only it's not 'liberating' because Casey's his sister), and he knows exactly what he has to do.

Except that it's nothing like the movies at all, because even as Derek sees himself curling his fingers around the collar of Truman's shirt (he can't see her fingers underneath it), jerking him the hell off of her (even as the emaciated weasel's sinking down onto her), shoving the sleaze to the ground (while she does whatever shrieking thing she needs to do to make her stance on violence once again Perfectly Clear), and smashing in his face, he is instead circling the bed (they don't see him, they don't even know he's there) and doing what he does best with Casey: insulting her.

(And watch this, Truman French, as Derek Venturi magically makes you disappear.)


He doesn't remember the first thing he says, only that he says it (too) loudly and that it makes her spring immediately (immediately) away from Truman. She's scrambling clumsily, drunkenly out from underneath him, crowding back against the headboard as Truman looks up at him in faint annoyance and, more prominently, startled confusion. But the boy is not an idiot, despite what Derek will tell you to the contrary, and comprehension follows swiftly on bewilderment's heels as Derek shoots him a half-instant smirk and turns the whole of his attentions to the frenetic, wide-eyed, guilty-looking girl anxiously smoothing down clothing and adjusting her hair and breathing very heavily.

"Der—Derek, what, what, we were just—" He pins her with a sharp gaze and cuts her off, picking up right where he'd left off (wherever the hell that was),

"She's stuck-up and a drama queen and she freaks out about everything! She does work for fun! She thinks tofu should have its own category in the food pyramid!" Casey's staring at him, agape. She's moving a little slower tonight than usual, he thinks, and chalks it up to the alcohol. He is undaunted. "She's a grubber and a keener and a conceited brat! She can't study for a test without eventually acting like a meth addict!"

She finally catches on.

"Oh, oh-oh yeah?! At least I study at all! At least I didn't fail the first grade!" And the battle is on. He licks his lips and keeps looking at her with a steady intensity that he knows she's perceiving,

"She's seventeen and still owns bunny slippers and pyjama sets!"

"He—I—he still reads comic books!" She points at him wildly, scooting forward onto her knees, shoving Truman lightly when he tries to lay a hand on her shoulder, and Derek's grin is feral.

"She looks like The Thing that lives in the swamp when she wakes up in the morning!"

"He still plays with sock puppets!"

"She throws like a girl."

"He was tied to a chair by a twelve-year-old and force-fed broccoli!"

"Casey has a dream diary and likes to share!" He takes a slow step toward her, and maybe he sees Truman tense up and glare at him out of his periphery.

And maybe he doesn't care.

"He failed his driving test five times!"

"She can't wink without looking like she's about to have a seizure!"

"Derek thinks a ficus is called a fergus!"

"Why the hell are we back on the fergus?"

"FICUS!" Her chest is heaving and her face is red and she is stunning

"She chews like a squirrel!"

"He's the one who's afraid of small, fuzzy creatures!"

"I've seen her eat the goopy green stuff girls put on their faces before they climb into their alien capsules to regenerate. She eats the goop." Casey has shuffled to the edge of the bed by the time his knees bump against it, and Derek smirks in triumph and silently gloats because they are very, very close (--are you watching, Truman?).

"It's avocado, you ignorant mule!"

"She has Mandatory Reading Time!"

"He SUCKS at Babe Raider!"

"She always smells like cake!"

(So he's really lost it, hasn't he?)


"Casey," he says, and then he grabs her, pulls her against him, kisses her hard, desperately, and maybe it's just the alcohol that snaps her whole spine taut as she pushes herself (immediately) into him, but Derek prefers to think that he just has this effect on women. Either way, her hands are cool and shaking violently at his jaw, her lips are soft and warm and part for him before he even has the chance to coax them open, and it hurts because (yes, okay, he admits it) he's wanted this for so long.

A couple of seconds later, though, Derek experiences a different sort of hurt when Truman (jeez, is he still here? can't a guy take a hint?) pulls Casey away from him, cocks his fist back, and punches him in the face.

(This whole insanity thing is a complete and total pain in the ass.)


At the hospital (he'd had to drive himself because she'd been too sloshed to operate a motor vehicle. meanwhile, he bled all over the upholstery the whole way there and tried –valiantly, futilely—to tune out her impressively banshee-esque shrieking), while he stands beside a fretting Casey, holding an old towel against his nose to stanch the flow of the blood, the frazzled, clearly over-worked entrance nurse questions them wearily.

"Relation to patient?" She wonders uninterestedly, and Casey glances at him in panic.

"She's my sister." He shoots her a malicious grin that is very painful. "And also my girlfriend."


Wow, I almost made it an entire fic with no 'de-rek!'s. That would have been a feat, indeed.

See you in a couple days, lovelies.