A/N Yep. Might not work for you, although I hope that isn't the case. :) It's a silly, idealistic sort of a fic that I really wanted to write for some reason. It's kind of strange, actually. applepips16 asked me to write a "non-Dasey" fic thereby displaying an over-estimated faith in my imagination and well...this came out. Since after Dasey, this is the pairing I read the most! Also- Dawson's Creek reference alert (I've never seen it but I have the book version of the first few episodes!)

Title inspiration from "Hope is the thing with feathers" (and an excellent fic of the same name by zherotan). (And snappleducated has made phone sex a neccessary part of every LWD fic. Because, hello, hot.) Also, in this I wanted to show Lizzie's insecure side (the one that always feels there's "too much pressure") and not the animal-loving, karate-learning, grade-making strong!girl

It was tradition.

_ _

It starts with storms and lightning flashes and thunder which is just too loud.

They've even given up the pretence that the marriage is working. They sleep in different rooms and you wander around the house feeling like you're about to walk on broken glass any second. You don't say much, because each word can be that one breaking point and then your family will just be a statistic. To be listed in every magazine dealing with 'Are We Losing Our Morals? Number of Divorces in Canada on a High Rise'.

It's always been different for Casey. She can cry and rant and then calmly discuss 'feelings' and how everything 'probably will work out for the best'. It's like…like she has an on/off emotion switch. You've lost count of the number of times you've wished you were more like her.

But you're not. You like football and hockey and wear basketball shorts. You hate fussing about your hair or sewing or reading romance novels. It's like…somebody wanted to make you a boy and then decided your mom was probably not equipped to handle one and changed half-way through. Your chest is completely flat and your hair seems to be permanently in a state of revolt against convention. As much as Casey or your mom try to assure you that once you hit puberty it'll all be different, you secretly fear that newspaper-reporters will be taking pictures of you and writing articles about 'Freak! Seventy Year Old Woman Yet To Develop Breasts!'

You're…strange. Weird. You love rats and snakes and hate storms and like lizards. You always mention it in between a sentence, and fast, because it's such a stupid thing. Afraid of storms. You never tell Casey because she'll very rationally explain why there's nothing to be afraid of, and you don't tell your mom because you're already tied to her apron strings and you just want to grow up.

So you go to him.

The thing about your dad is he doesn't really care. He's perfect and you love him way more than he reciprocates, but whenever there's a clash of the elements outside, it's his bed that you go to. Because it's safe and warm and his arms are strong and he never asks questions.

(It's clear on the day he finally leaves and you're glad because you would have had no one to hold on to).

_ _

You like Edwin. He's like the Bonnie to your Clyde (you've never had very well defined gender roles anyway) and when you first moved in you might even have had a little crush on him. Although that changed when you realized it was incest. (That's a dirty word you know).

Your other step-brother is…just strange. He doesn't care about anything or anyone and he lives to make Casey's life hell. You occasionally wonder how he used to occupy his time when she wasn't around, because he never leaves her alone. He's considered "hot" by every single girl in both middle and high school. Your friends are jealous that you get to live with him and you pretend you're his best friend even if you've both barely spoken a word to each other.

It's life, you realize.

_ _

Dark. So dark.

You take the familiar route down the corridor and turn right, your mind filled with the sort of fear that knows no reason. (Loud. Oh god, make it stop).

You reach the room and slip inside, like you have so many times before (Daddy'll make it all right. He always does).

"Who's that? Smarti, is it you?"

And the voice doesn't sound like your dad. It sounds like -

"Lizzie...?" He floods the room with light.

You don't answer (because the loudest clap of thunder yet…oh god), your feet automatically propel towards the bed.

He looks at you though half-closed eyes "Are all McDonald women that crazy? I thought Casey was a genetic defect."

And then maybe (maybe) he registers the panic in your eyes, because his own light up gleefully, "You're afraid of storms? And here I thought you weren't just another princess!"

"I'm sleeping here," you manage through gritted teeth.

He stops halfway through another spew of poison, "Uhh…let me see…no."

You're in his bed before he stops speaking.

"Look Liz, I know you were in an all girls' school," his eyes light up for a moment and you know his thoughts took a wide run from their usual PG-13 to NC-17, "and sleepovers and pillow-fights are extremely common. But let me give you some advice. You don't jump into bed with strangers, 'kay? Now get out."

(He's not a stranger. He's just…Derek.)

Outside, the elements play their power game, and everything is lit up in an eerie, moonlit glow that makes the world seem on the edge of apocalypse.

"Please Derek", and you can't hide the desperation now. You'll have plenty of time to hate yourself later, "Please."

He switches the light off in answer. "Liz…"


"If you kick me any time during the night, I'll throw you off the bed."

(You kick him thrice. He doesn't throw you off).

_ _

The thing about him is…he likes to pretend a lot.

You're not sure whether he himself realizes how much. You're always amazed at his ability to change himself to fit whomsoever he's pretending to be at that moment.

He sets his hair for a little too long, his clothes are just a little too messy, his eyes a little too seductive.

It's only when you see him receive a Special Smarti Smug (but not before checking to see whether other people are watching) you know why it's so easy for him.

(He's never known what it is to be who he is).

_ _

"…as my hockey coach or as my step-brother?"

"As your big brother."

(And it's then that you notice- his hair is a little red in the sunlight. Strange it never struck you before).

_ _

You're not sure what woke you up (it's still raining outside) until you hear his voice.

You're about to ask him why exactly he's talking to himself this late at night when the tone of his voice catches your attention. It's low…and so…low.

(And you realize he's on the phone).

And you also realize (in a very long minute) that he probably doesn't want you listening in. Because he's…he's…

(And his words makes crazy butterflies fly around somewhere deep in the pit of your stomach. Because they're not innocent. They're raw and base and crude and you know his eyes are closed and he's probably…no)

You look at him through partially open eyes and his expression intensifies the strange ache. And you've never felt this before.

He's still speaking and his whisper is louder than the thunder.

_ _

You turn fourteen and this time there's no shared birthday party. It's just you and your friends and the feeling of being old enough.

(Did his eyes always have those flecks of green?)

_ _

She's pretty and sweet and charming and you hate her at first glance.

You don't show it, obviously (because she's perfect).

But she turns him into a…party planning, song-inventing, love-declaring pod person and he slips effortlessly into yet another role. (He's so not the director).

You avoid him for days (and he doesn't notice).

And then he kisses her and says something that sounds like a four letter word that he hadn't seemed capable of.

(You try drinking for the first time).

_ _

He's in your room.

You're reading, but your knuckles are too white against the cover to complete the act.

"Why are you still here?"

Why did you tell her you loved her, you don't say. Because really, it doesn't (shouldn't) matter.

"Because it's my room," and you don't watch his eyes narrowing, "Did you lose your way, Derek?"

"It's raining outside," he says, unnecessarily.

"So I observe", but you don't look outside (no, please, no).

He gives up all pretence (because that's the game he plays with Casey, you're not sure you were ever worth having him play games with), "Go to my room."

"No." You don't pretend either.

"Lizzie, stop being a damned fool and go to my room."

"I'm old enough now." (You'll never be).

He smirks suddenly and shoots a glance at your hands (stop trembling, goddamn you), "I don't know what heroism kick you're on, but I'm going to sleep in five minutes, and if you aren't there by then, then you'll never be there again. Never."

You don't look up.

He sits down (because he can't take a hint and he…has reddish hair and…greenish eyes), "What's the matter?"

(You can't handle this, not when he's like…this. Like he cares or something. Like you're his little…sister).

"I just think I should learn to deal with the storms on my own," and you're whispering because…just because, "I'm too old to go running off to you."

He looks at you for a moment. "Try again. With a little more feeling this time."

"…and I have breasts."

The words hang before you (no, no you didn't) and he stares at you before giving a startled laugh, "What?"

"It's not the same, Derek."

(Because you're only a girl. And you've never been like Casey with her morals -this is wrong- or your mom with her strong beliefs. You're just…you, and his eyes are too dark).

"Oh." His mouth sets in a grim line (and does he need to look like that. You mostly want to throw up when you see yourself in a mirror each day. Because this wasn't ever in your goals for life. Oh, wait, Casey was the one with the goals, you're just the freak who thinks her stupid step-brothers' stupid hands are too...stupidly soft).

And then it thunders and you're crying and it's still raining outside and you can't even pretend it's the rain because that's outside and you're such a goddamned...

"Move." He slides in with you and the entire room is warmer.

You don't sleep at night.

His breathing is even complimenting the rise and fall of his chest, his eyes closed.

(He doesn't sleep either).

_ _

Sally leaves for Vancouver

(Your skirts get shorter).

_ _

You never meant for it to happen.

Jamie's sweet and clueless and you think you might be a little bit in love with him.

Of course he finds you (because your life is a compilation of Ten Most Annoying Sitcom Clichés) with Jamie's hand up your shirt and his mouth marking your neck.

You stare at him for a second before he turns away.

(It's only later you realize that you don't know what color Jamie's eyes are).

_ _

It's the worst storm that you've ever seen and your heart refuses to leave space in your throat for such trivial things like breathing.

You're in his room (because you were always a born loser) and he's on the phone (the more things change…). And you don't want to listen, but he's looking straight at you and his mouth is forming words which you're too young to hear and you're staring back at him, throat closed. His eyes are so dark and he's staring at that mark on your throat.

Then he's dropping the phone and you'd known was no one else on the other end (because you know him. You've known him in sleepless nights and days that end too soon). And then he's kissing you and you never realized it'd feel like this. He doesn't mark you, but then he doesn't need to, he never did. You're running your hands through his (too) long hair and his (dark, so dark) eyes are on you and then he's…god.

(The storm ends. You don't leave him).

_ _

It ends with storms and lightning flashes and thunder which is just too loud. But his harsh, uneven breathing in your ear drowns out the thunder and the stars beneath your closed eyelids are brighter than the lightning outside.

He's still the first person you go to whenever the grey clouds appear over the sky.

It's tradition.