Reasoning it Out

After she had finished crying on her mom's shoulder (and using some very creative language mostly consisting of four-letter words to describe Truman. Some were even compound words. Derek would've been downright proud had he heard her) Casey trudged up the stairs to her room. She numbly changed into her favorite pink pajama set and bunny slippers. The bunnies usually made her feel better, but tonight they just reminded her of the roadkill her heart had become. After hitting the bathroom to wash off her (now badly smudged) make-up, she climbed under her blankets and tried to sleep.

Truman, his eyes like licorice and his mouth like Twizzlers.

She shook her head and tried again to clear her mind.

Vickie. Bitch.

She sighed and tried lying on her stomach.

Truman and Vickie.

Casey huffed and glared off into space imagining both Victoria and Truman forever whirling in the tornadic winds of the first level of Hell. Dante deserved her eternal gratitude for that visual. She couldn't help but smile as she imagines their faces—rather like Munch's The Scream.

She turned over onto her side and resolutely tried to relax.

Just think calming thoughts, she told herself. Fluffy clouds skipping off to the horizon of Dream Land. Penguins happily sliding on ice floes into the water to find pebble to give their soul mates. Puppies and kittens cavorting in a garden of English roses.

Truman and Vickie kissing. Vickie kissing Truman. Truman's non-attempts at stopping her. Truman ditching her all night to hang with his stupid friends. Truman not introducing her to anyone, like he was Derek and ashamed of her. Truman freaking kissing freaking Icky-Vickie!

Casey growled a girly little snarl and sat up to punch her pillow into submission, as if it were conspiring against her to keep her up all night. Damn traitor. She lay back down (on her other side; maybe there was just too much pressure on the right side of her brain), but again, the horrible scene—Vickie, Truman (ha! True Man her ass!) kissing. Kissing, Truman, VICKIE!—kept playing itself over and over like the memory was stuck on repeat.

And the one question it kept bringing along with it.

Why did every guy she like—from the kid in first grade with the uni-brow to her senior-year boyfriend who'd gone to so much trouble to woo her—always end up going for Victoria?

Because the fact of it was, none of those boys had to fall for Vickie's wiles. They all chose to kiss her back. They made up their minds to go out on a date with Victoria Pollick instead of asking out plain old Casey McDonald. Not one of them had wanted Casey enough to just go for it, and instead they followed Vickie around by the nose, just like she wanted. And Casey was left alone. Again.

What Vickie wanted, Vickie got. Like always.

She absolutely hated the hot tear that leaked out the corner of her eye and reached up to brush it away before it touched her pillow. Like it needed any more contamination.

Music blared through the vent for a second making the wall behind her headboard throb with the force of the bass before it was abruptly silenced. Casey almost smiled. Finally, after nearly three years, Derek was learning about the courtesy of using headphones at one-thirty in the morning.

Derek!

(Insert light bulb here.)

Casey was up and fighting off the blankets as soon as the thought hit her.

Derek, while maybe not the most unbiased of judges (was the laugh track just in her head, or could others hear it, too?), was still, you know, male. And he'd kissed Victoria once. And he had the whole boy-stupidity thing working for him in this instance. So maybe he'd be able to offer some insights.

Casey was pretty sure this was a bad idea by the time she'd left her room and pivoted to face Derek's door. Really, three seconds of reflection was a long time when it came to Really Stupid Ideas. And yet, look! There was her hand. It was in a fist. It was raised. It was knocking, firm but polite. Had she no control over herself whatsoever?

Apparently not, since she decided to let herself in when he didn't immediately open the door. Really Stupid Idea, I'd like you to meet Reckless Disregard of Personal Space. (Their relationship in a nutshell.)

Derek, too, had changed into pajamas, which for him consisted of long flannel pants and the grungiest T-shirt Casey had ever seen. She thought there might be a band name on it somewhere, but between the stains, the crumbs, and years of fading, it was hard to tell. He was sitting at his computer desk, headphones on, staring blankly at the screen as he pointed and clicked away at whatever he was working on. Or possibly a game of Solitaire. He looked up when she barged in with the same expression on this face as when Edwin did it—mouth parted, brows raised, nostrils a little flared like a predator scenting an invader in his territory.

He pulled the headphones down to hang around his neck, the soft sound of whatever band he was listening to (Lumped Biscuits, or something hard rock like that, she was sure) muffled in the silence.

"Uh, can I help you? And by that I mean, get out."

"Actually, I was hoping you could help," she admitted, her fingers suddenly fumbling with the hem of her flannel shirt. "I have…sort of a request."

She watched his brows rise as he motioned her forward. "Did you reconsider my offer to beat him up? 'Cause I can get behind that request."

Casey found herself, again, almost smiling as she came to stand directly in front of his desk. "Believe it or not, I'm actually considering it. I'll get back to you."

"Hey, it's a standing offer," he said, leaning back in his desk chair, a smirk pulling at his lips. "It's the one aspect of this whole 'big brother' deal I actually like—getting to intimidate, beat up, prank, insult, and generally mess with all of your boyfriends. Not necessarily in that order."

"Thanks for the offer. I'll keep that in mind." Casey rolled her eyes as she shook her head, trying to be annoyed with him. (And completely failing, by the way. Pesky little smile just wouldn't go away. Didn't her mouth get the memo that she was Very Depressed tonight?) Then, remembering why she was here in the first place (as if she'd forgotten) she bit her lip and took a quick breath. In for a penny….

"Actually, I have a question. And I know that this probably violates a couple of the rules in the McDonald/Venturi Treaty, but…well, you're a guy. Sort of. And I need a guy's opinion."

Derek winced and had some kind of weird spasm of agony in his chair that ended up with him rubbing a hand over his face. "Tell me this isn't going where I think it is?"

"I just need to know," Casey pleaded, stepping around the corner of the desk, closer. "Why Vickie?"

"Case, I really don't think I'm the one to be answering this." He ducked his eyes away from hers and turned back to his computer screen.

"Oh, come on!"

"Nope."

"Please?" Another step. She was right beside his chair now. She could smell him. He was a little…funky, actually. Musk and salt and too much body spray. Not all bad, necessarily, but just too much all together, like it had built up over weeks. It was making her stomach…turn. Yes, definitely turning, not flipping. Did he just not bathe?

"Come on, Derek, please? You're the only one I can go to—besides Truman, and, pfft! Like I'm even going to acknowledge that…that…bottom-feeding, rat-faced, big, fat…booty-hole even exists. So you're kind of it." She took encouragement from the fact that he was (kind of) smiling (a real smile) at her description of He Who Shall Not Be Named. "Besides I know you'll be honest. You won't hold back to spare my feelings."

He snorted. Like that was ever a possibility.

"So? Pleeeeeaase?" Using the last weapon at her disposal, she widened her eyes and clasped her hands together. Yes, she gratuitously puppy-faced him. "Just answer this one little question, and I'll go away and leave you alone."

"Forever?"

"For the rest of the night." He started to put his headphones back on. "And all day tomorrow!"

He rolled his eyes up to the ceiling as if he thought someone up there might actually deign to help him out of this.

Lacking any lightning bolts or angelic appearances, Derek sighed and gestured for her to take a seat on the edge of the bed. Casey quickly went to shut the door and took her seat.

"I'll answer, but on two conditions," Derek warned, holding up two fingers.

She nodded.

"One," he ticked it off, "this never, never leaves this room. Ever."

"Agreed."

Like she'd ever want anyone else to hear exactly why she was such a loser with guys. Such a…such a six and a half. Maybe less.

"And two, you in no way read anything…complimentary," he shuddered at the thought, "into what I'm about to say."

She raised her eyebrows at him and answered, "Uh…'kay."

"Fine." He nodded and crossed his arms in front of his chest then simply took to staring over her left shoulder as if the answer to life, the universe, and everything was written there. (Or was it the question? Clearly she'd been reading too much Douglas Adams again.)

She actually started counting her heartbeats after the first few seconds. Twenty-seven, plus however many went by before she started counting. Twenty-eight, plus however many went by before she started counting. Twenty-nine, plus however many went by before she started counting.

"Are you actually going to start any time in the near future, or will I be earning my doctorate before you get on with the list of what's wrong with me?"

"There's just so much to wade through, prioritize, consolidate...."

"Derek!"

"Look," he rubbed the bridge of his nose, pointedly not looking at her, "as much as there is wrong with you, that's not the reason guys go for Vickie over you, okay?"

She scoffed. "So it's what's right with me that drives guys I like into my cousin's clutches? Great. Perfect. Thanks for clearing that up."

She got up to leave, but he rolled his chair forward and grabbed her wrist.

"You wanted to know, right?" He didn't wait for her nod. "Then get your butt back down here and listen, because I am not saying this again."

Casey huffed, but she sat back down, legs crossed at the knee, arms folded across her chest. "Fine. Go on. What's so 'right' about me that my crushes go bouncing off to my cousin's tender bosom?"

He stared at her a moment before he remembered how to blink.

"Yeah, okay, getting away from thoughts of Victoria's tender bosoms—"

"De-rek!"

"—the thing is that Victoria's easy. And I don't just mean that she'll jump into bed like a frisky little bunny. I mean, she's simple, uncomplicated."

Casey opened her mouth, but he held his hand up to stop whatever protest she was going to make.

"Look, guys see you, and you're…pretty…ish. And you're smart, and talented, and you're usually pretty confident. Kind of. Which, of course, tends to make you incredibly oblivious to the guys who are interested in getting with you—with all that that implies."

Derek raised that damn eyebrow and licked the corner of his mouth (which made her blush and become suddenly very aware of his lips and mouth and tongue; stupid Derek and his stupid mind games) as he sat back in his chair, lacing his hands over his stomach.

"So the guys figure they don't stand a chance. You're a girl with 'standards.'" He used finger quotes, spitting the word out like a joke, like a slur, and Casey felt her stomach drop. Because of course, to Derek, having standards was bad thing. "Then they see Vickie. And let's just say that there's a family resemblance."

Which she knew. Victoria and Casey were only four months apart. Both of their mothers looked a lot like their mother, and somehow both girls ended up getting the same characteristics in the exact same configuration. It was just a freak of genetics. They'd been confused for sisters, even twins, all of their lives. Nora and Fiona thought it was so cute to dress their girls just alike when they were kids, adding to the illusion. They went to the same elementary, middle and high schools (for a year), went to the same dance instructor, auditioned for the same plays….And went for the same guys.

"And when those guys look at her, she looks back, and smiles, and gives a sassy little come-hither glance." He shrugged. "And it's easy. There's no work involved. They don't have to try. She's ready and raring to go. And since you look a lot alike, some guys might even be okay with being with Vickie and imagining she's you. They get what they want without having to jump through all the hoops they know you'd hold up for them."

"But…Truman already had me," Casey insisted. "I mean, yeah, there were hoops, but he had my interest. And he still kissed Victoria."

"Which just goes to show how big an idiot he is. Don't worry about it." He swiveled to face the computer again and pulled the headphones up. When she didn't move from his bed, he was the one to roll his eyes. (Headphones down.) "That was your cue to leave, Spacey. Your question's been answered. Be gone now."

She pursed her lips at him and huffed. "Well excuse me for trying to digest here. I mean, you being insightful is cause enough for a moment of dumbfounded silence."

"Great, go silently digest in your room."

"Fine," she muttered. Then, before she turned to leave, since really he had done what she asked (for once), she said, "Thank you."

He grunted, not bothering to lift his eyes away from the screen.

She walked to the door, and behind her she heard the creaking of the springs and pleather as Derek tried to resettle in his chair, as if he were uncomfortable. She was nearly in the hall when the thought came to her. The reason she had come to Derek for his (informed) opinion. She stopped. And turned around.

"Derek?"

He didn't stiffen at her voice, but that could have been because there was already a steady tension in his arms, his right hand tapping rhythmically on this armrest. But he hadn't put his headphones on again, either. Almost…like he was expecting the question. She decided to take this as a sign to continue. (Stupid, Reckless Action in progress. All personnel not wearing appropriate protective gear please leave the premises in an orderly fashion.)

"You kissed Vickie."

Right downstairs on the washing machine. She'd been wearing Casey's red dress, one of her favorites. And they looked like twins. Vickie was simple, and Casey was complicated, completely aside from the whole step-issue. And he'd kissed her.

"Ah-ah-ah, Spacey. Rule number two, remember? Don't read anything into what I said." His eyes (a very dark, cinnamony brown in the soft yellow light of the desk lamp) flickered once to her, and then away again. "Dismissed."

"Right," she muttered. "Sorry."

She made the door again before she paused long enough to say, "G'night, Derek."

But he already had his headphones back on and was nodding along with the music.

Casey was still awake two hours later to hear the sound of him moving from his desk to the bed which probably held the smell (stench, really) of him captive in the sheets. Behind her eyelids the world was tinted red-brown and she had a craving for coffee cake. She couldn't remember what color Truman's eyes were.


This is my first foray into LWD fiction, and if this fic is any good at all, it's because I shamelessly imitated both Phoenix Satori's and WhenLighteningStrikes' style. Also I'd like to give a huge thanks to WhenLighteningStrikes for reading through this and helping make some corrections. Seriously, I am not worthy.