A/N: My friend decided to celebrate her half birthday this year and this was my gift. She thought it would be a great idea to share it with everybody on here and viola – the first chapter. Special thanks as always to Carie Valentine for reading through this and Phoebe for being my unofficial sounding board (and official president of my fan club). I appreciate it!
Happy Half Birthday Ash…I'd be rolling my eyes now if it was physically possible to do so via text.
Disclaimer: The characters of Life with Derek are the property of the Family channel. No copyright infringement is intended.
Everything In Transit
He had always been a storyteller. Stories could be anything he wanted them to be because they existed on a plane that defied all laws and used a machete to cut through red tape. A person's imagination ran the show and their muse ran wild in a vast white room just waiting for colour paint. And any place without rules and expectations was a place Derek Venturi wanted to get lost in.
As a kid, stories of being the hero and saving the girl flittered through his mind in the full Technicolor Dreamcoat hue spectrum. He'd never had the gift for words but learned that a story didn't need them if it had the right pictures. His first grade teacher droned on about the importance of spelling and printing while Derek was drawing out the scenarios in his language book—evidently his teacher recommended he be held back a grade.
Then one night, while his mother had been screaming and his father yelled back, his brother crawled into his bed and they both sat and listened in silence. Eventually, Marti started to cry and the roar of words stopped downstairs, but the damage had been done. They tried to explain to him why his mother was leaving. His father stumbled through the whole conversation while his mother stood behind him offering a variation of synonyms in agreement to his father's words. And maybe they underestimated him because as Derek sat in front of his parents trying to understand why they were telling a story that wasn't true, he wondered why his mother didn't correct his father for not saying he was sleeping with his law secretary like she had screamed yesterday. In Derek's confusion, only one thing was crystal clear: stories that weren't the truth weren't as wrong as he thought they were.
His parents had overcompensated for Marti's fifth birthday—everyone there knew it but nobody dared to utter why. Joyful clowns, jumping castles and ice cream cake in the park for his sister's entire kindergarten class was a handful for the best of couples but for two people that barely tolerated each other, it was complete mayhem. Derek was too old for clowns by then, jumping castles too if he wasn't being totally truthful, so he was only there for his sister—and the cake. But Marti had her friends and the cake wasn't until after presents so Derek busied himself with the Gameboy he stole from Edwin who was apparently still young enough for balloon animals.
His father appeared, shoving the family's bulky camcorder into his lap and instructing him to film before running after a boy who was seconds from taking a header out of a tree. As Derek looked through the lens, his whole world seemed to square in on the tree the camera just happened to be facing towards. The way the entire picture changed if he moved just slightly or the how the sun looked shining down on a little girl running passed with a smile smeared in melting chocolate. That familiar feeling he had as a little boy whenever he saved the girl in his carefully illustrated stories came whirling back and somehow he knew just the story he wanted to tell. He went and found his sister.
Now he was sitting in his room, nineteen years old and spinning around in his desk chair hoping for inspiration to guide him in the direction of finding a story in the sea of footage cluttering his hard drive. His offer into Queen's University was still conditional pending an interview with the director of the Film and Media department, as his transcript was less than exceptional. Derek had two months to put together the greatest portfolio that old man had ever seen—he had taken pictures and located letters of reference, now all he needed was a video.
And yet, as he scrolled through his footage, he was still uninspired. Casey flossing, Casey yelling, Casey tripping, Casey yelling again, Marti playing with Dimi, Lizzie playing soccer, his father and Nora dancing, Emily smiling, Sam and Ralph bordering alcohol poisoning at graduation—god it was any wonder why he had nothing.
When had his vision turned into mediocre snapshots of convenience? He couldn't even impress his family with this and they were conditioned to be supportive of everything he did—Casey withstanding but he'd given up on expecting her to fall in line a long time ago.
What the hell was he going to do?
His door slammed open and he abruptly stopped mid-spin, grabbing onto the edge of his desk so he wouldn't lurch out of the chair.
In strolled, Casey. Her special brand of insults at his expense was exactly what he needed right now—sarcasm, clearly. It was going to take everything he had left to keep up with her attempts at making sense and he really just wanted to stew in his frustration alone.
"Der-ek! How could you?"
Her arms were flailing to the same beat her head was whipping back and forth and he absently found it amusing that she reminded him of the incapacitated seagull that loitered outside Smelly Nelly's. That and she lost him already.
"Well, I'm just that awesome, I suppose," he drawled, wondering if that even made any sense.
He decided Casey's reaction would be humourous if he talked to her in gibberish so he ended up not caring either way.
"You broke up with, Emily! How is that awesome?"
She was pecking again and waving her arms in an attempt to fly towards him. Derek scratched the back of his neck, not exactly sure what to say. He supposed he should have thought about Casey's need to take on battles that were already over—maybe there was a time delay way up on her pedestal that was just about crushing her horse—because taking that into account would really keep these situations down to a minimum.
"What business is it of yours? And if you're going to pull out the best friend card, don't bother. You've been so consumed with Frenching Frenchie that you didn't know a thing about our relationship."
He went back to sorting through his files—or more like dragging them to the trash—while he gave Casey time to think of a retort. Somehow in the midst of shortening her skirts and loosening her legs for her weasel in a bag, she had lost the stellar wit and vocabulary that made her who she was. It was kinda sad really and she just wasn't interesting anymore.
Casey giggling was going into the trash—she didn't giggle and he didn't understand why he'd waste his time filming that. This video might be a lot harder than he thought.
"I don't care what you think, Der. The fact that Emily has spent the last couple weeks shacked up in her room is proof enough for me."
He winced slightly; Derek never wanted to hurt her. He tried to explain that he couldn't be what Emily wanted him to be when she basically offered herself to him a couple weeks after the prom. He wasn't going to be that guy unless he loved her, and surprise, surprise, he didn't feel anything close. She was important to him though and he had made a mistake letting the line he had spent so many years drawing between them blur.
"Can we just drop this, Casey? I'm not really in the mood right now for relationship advice, especially from somebody like you."
Derek hadn't looked at her yet in favour of watching the files disappear from his computer screen so he didn't know how hard the barb hit. All he had left were a couple videos of Marti and one of Casey's dance competition he had yet to burn for Nora. He could probably do that now, actually.
"…are you even listening to me?"
Oh, shit, she had been talking all this time. He thought it had been another lull their arguments were now so accustom too. It didn't matter though; it was an easy fix.
"Not really. You never say anything important anymore," he commented, until he realized what he said. "Or ever."
It was half-hearted, he knew, but he just really didn't want to argue with her. He had other things to worry about and the troubled life of Casey McDonald that everyone and their sister warned her about when she started to date True-Loser was not on the list. Derek was a believer in learning from your mistakes—hell it was all he ever did—and he'd let her tumble down that hill for a little while longer before he came tumbling after.
"What are you doing?"
This surprised him; the fact that she was right next to him and he hadn't noticed was somewhat terrifying. He inched away on his chair in the pretense of putting a DVD into his computer tower.
"Burning a video," he replied absently while he dragged the video into the proper folder.
She instantly recognized it and it wouldn't be long until she'd rip off her shirt and display her Captain Obvious costume hiding underneath. It was just like Casey to be afraid of flying and spend her days driving around in an RV constantly on the lookout for blatantly obvious things to explain to the general public, making the fact she had a costume not all that surprising.
"That's my dance competition."
And really, did she have to make it so easy all the time?
She was leaning in further and Derek inched away again—no pretense this time. She didn't seem to notice; she was too busy watching the video. The orchestra picked up in the classical number playing in the background while Casey leaped across the stage apparently showing her 'internal struggle' or at least that was what Lizzie had said when Edwin asked.
"I recorded it for Nora since I didn't really care about missing anything and I had a better angle."
He had to say, he had done a pretty good job. It had been the first thing he had recorded with the new camera he had bought with the gift cards his father so lovingly picked out for him for Christmas. The analog beast his father purchased sometime during a World War was finally laid to rest beside his father's 'nostalgic chest' in the attic. The amount of leather in that thing was just disgusting.
The CD popped out, seconds after the video had come to an end. Derek grabbed a sharpie from under a stack of college course books, resting centimetres away from the hip Casey had casually leaned against his desk whilst watching herself dance, and scribbled a title on the blank silver disk. Snapping the case closed, he stood up abruptly and smirked in Casey's general direction.
"Always a horror speaking to you, Casey. Dreading our next meeting as always," he quipped and was out the door seconds later.
He briefly wondered why he was leaving her in his room, considering all the spiteful things he knew she was capable of. Of course that was pre-idiot, and he'd really like to see new Casey even try.
Nora was downstairs, in the kitchen cooking. He had mixed feelings as the smell of tofu reached his nose already baking away in the oven. His step mother must have spotted the grimace on his face because she laughed.
"Don't worry, the Tofu is for, Casey. Leftover chili for you."
He smiled at this and absently nodded his approval before sliding the CD across the counter her way.
"Casey's dance competition as promised."
She picked it up and smiled up at him. It was weird, Nora always had the ability to make him feel accomplished, even when he was just handing her something as mundane as a CD. He liked that—it was nice.
"Thank you, Derek," she smiled before her look turned curious. "Still having problems with the video?"
He was surprised she knew, but then again Nora just seemed to know these things. It was one of those 'mother's intuition' things he was still getting used too, since he only ever witnessed his mother's enough times that he could count on one hand.
"Yeah, I guess," he mumbled.
Nora saw right through his evasive answer but he couldn't say he was that surprised again.
"Having problems getting inspired?"
She seemed to know what she was talking about but he supposed she was used to similar circumstances as an interior designer. Maybe Nora could help, she seemed eager for the after school special moment that was fast approaching and he really had no clue what to do.
"All of the video I have just isn't inspiring. It's hard to tell a good story when you have crap to start with."
He looked at her, waiting for her to help him come to an astounding realization and for cheesy music to play. It was an acceptable price to pay if it helped him.
"Well, I know nothing about telling stories, but maybe you just need to create a story and then figure out how to film it," she smiled helpfully. "And I don't mean writing a script and forcing the family to play along. That was horrible enough the first time."
Nora's face was amusing—eyes wide and shifty with her mouth drawn into a frown. Casey's quest for a dream family was the stuff nightmares were still made of, apparently. But he took her advice under advisement and wandered upstairs. Casey wasn't in his room, and he smiled slightly when he realized the stack of CDs he had near his computer monitor had magically decreased in size.
New Casey was apparently a kleptomaniac.
Lucky for her, he had more pressing matters then going to get his CDs back. It wasn't like they'd go very far anyways and he could just take something of value from her to make up for it later. She had been stealing his CDs for years—though he was sure she thought he had no idea—and hey, he was just happy to educate the music illiterate. Anyways, on to more pressing matters.
Create a story…how did he go about doing that?
He'd always looked at his footage and let the story form itself from the jumbled pieces. The few times he came up with a story on the fly it had always been in the moment, looking around and forming it from cues he'd seen in the situation.
So maybe he needed to find a situation—or better yet, make one.
He had one month: half to film, half to edit—meaning whatever he came up with had to be a 'like it was yesterday' type thing. And he knew of only one thing that could possibly qualify as a guaranteed dose of inspiration in that time frame.
A road trip.