TITLE: Bus Rides
AUTHOR: ponderer
SUMMARY: It all started on a bus.
DISCLAIMER: I want for nothing. Except for maybe a Reese Cup, because that sounds delicious right about now. You know, the kind that is egg shaped from Easter time? Yeah, those. Amazing, aren't they?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I don't know if they live by water. But, I do, so… I embellished. I'm thinking of taking this into a four part series, throughout all four years of university, or I might leave it as a one-shot. Let me know what you think.

Bus Rides

It all started on a bus.

Their first year of university goes something like this:

They don't live together. Not that their parents didn't try to sway them in that direction, but Casey was determined to live in the academic dorms while Derek was determined not to live with Casey. They also don't have that weekly random get together where Casey comes unannounced to his dorm where the jocks live. Nor does he get pissy when he finds out she's dating someone. Instead, they only see each other on the weekends spent at home. They meet at a pre-determined location (Casey's idea – usually the bus stop, because well, they will be taking a bus; Derek thinks that the university may not doing their job with his step-sister), every three Fridays. They don't speak much, except for the usual jab to the gut (to her when he wants one of her pretzels she stashes in her purse; to him when she wants to listen to his IPod for awhile).

While they are at home, they hang out with other friends that are home for the weekend. They spend time with their family. They are exactly the same, except instead of talking about high school drama, they talk of college drama (hers – her roommate that stays up too late and talks too loudly on the phone and never cleans up after herself, his – he's on the bench because he's a freshman, and he can't get older girls because he's a freshman, he doesn't have a better dorm because he's a freshman).

When the weekend's up, they get a ride back to the bus depot and head back to school. They talk a bit, laughing at their siblings stories of high school, reminiscing about their own memories. He snags a pretzel out of her purse and she doesn't say anything, she takes out one of his headphones from his ears and they listen to music together, drifting to sleep.

The bus comes to a stop and everyone piles out sleepily. They look at each other, nod, and go their own way.

"How's classes?" she asks as they settle in for their long ride to Queens. He nibbles on the offered pretzel and begins to speak before he's swallowed.

"Fine I guess. Never realized how much work I'd actually have to do," is what she thinks he says, but his mouth is full of salt and gum he hasn't thrown away and bits of pretzel. She feels sad that she understands his words through his mouthful.

"You should learn to finish chewing before you speak," she muses, taking a bit of her own pretzel. He smirks.

"Yeah well, I'm at university, not at a manner's academy." Casey huffs.

"Maybe you should have considered that an alternative while applying."

He laughs, and she laughs.

"How are you… you know… doing?" he asks and she notices that he had swallowed. She smiles.

"I'm doing fine," she answers softly. He nods and then pushes his headphones into his ears and over the hum of the bus she hears his music. She rests her head against the rest and closes her eyes.

This is what you call progress:

While on the bus returning to school after Christmas break, they come to a sort of truce.

"I have a game next Saturday," he tells her while she gets the travel snack her mother has packed them.

"Yes, I heard you telling that to George. Is he coming up for it?" Derek shakes his head, taking the small bag of cookies from her hands, brushing against her fingers. He ignores the smooth skin, pushing on. Casey thinks he looks nervous, but doesn't push.

"No, he has an important case coming up."

"Oh, sorry I guess." She's confused and he looks weird which confuses her more. "Was there someone else you'd like? My mom gave me some water bottles too."

"I'm fine."

He's quiet for awhile, munching on the cookies thoughtfully. Casey keeps an open eye, making sure he wasn't planning on doing something when she wasn't paying attention. He was prone to doing that still, from time to time.

"Are you busy then?" he asks, breaking her thoughts.


"Saturday, are you busy?" Her eyebrows are up into her hairline and he would laugh, but his stomach is in knots and he doesn't understand.

"No, I don't think so," she answers simply, shocked. He breathes out.

"Well, it starts at two." And that's all he says and that's all she's going to get as an invitation.


She goes to her game with anxiousness in the pit of her stomach, waiting for something huge to happen.

But, it's a smooth day. She's unsure of whether or not to wait for him after the game and while deciding, he catches up with her. "Um, good game," she says, unsure. He quirks an eyebrow and smirks. "I mean, what I meant to say was… you weren't that bad." His smile broadens, but he's unsure now too, of how to respond.

"Thanks, Spacey. Just don't make a habit of coming, all right? I don't want your clumsiness to rub off on me," he jokes but she laughs and it's a new, playful fight that they are doing.

"Sure, Derek."

His team is cheering as they come out of the locker room as a large group and call Derek over. "Come on, Venturi. It's pizza time!" Derek looks back at her while he walks away.

He doesn't say anything, doesn't really need to. She smiles and nods and heads in her own direction.

She goes to all of the home games she can attend and pretends to decide to leave or stay and he always catches up. He always makes a joke of her rubbing off on him, but it's not the same way he used to say it.

Some people think that it should go like this:

They fall in love. He's always known there's something more and it's him that's smarter in the way that he knows it'll happen but he's smart enough to wait for her to come to her senses. They kiss during a fight and she gets pissed and he leaves with a sassy retort, only thinking of her and her skin against his. They make up; talk about telling their friends and their family. While deciding all of this, they have sex (and it's not his first time, and it could be hers, or it might be her second) and it's great (fantastic, because it's Derek) and romantic (perfect, because it's Casey). Except it's not either of those because it's awkward and messy and it hurts there and please, don't stop, don't ever stop… and it's over.

They fight. They make up. They tell friends and family. They fight again. They have angry sex. He tells her he loves her and she kisses him and that's it.

They live happily, or not so much, ever after.

Curtain falls.

Casey comes to him right after Valentine's Day crying. "Case?" he blinks at her tiredly, wondering how she got into his dorm. He looks over at his roommate's empty bed and thinks he never came home and he forgot to lock the door. But Casey's crying, and he'll think of the unlocked door later. "What's up?" he sits up and notices he's only in his underwear when she wraps her arms around his waist, laying her head against his chest. He's still, unsure of what to do because yeah, this is Casey.

"I miss him," she whispers and it's still pretty loud in the silence of his room, except for the heater purring from the corner of the room. Derek doesn't respond because he's pretty sure he knows who she's talking about (Truman, her father, himself). He's never been sure how to comfort her, but he supposes she knows how he is and still came, so he tries for her.

"Okay, it's okay," he says, putting a hand on her head, to move her hair away from her hot face. "Come on," he says after awhile, tugging on her arm so that she lies down across his bed. He knows she's exhausted (mentally, physically, spiritually) and he is too, so he lies down behind her. She turns to face him, wiping at her face to remove the wet marks. Her makeup is running down her face and he wants to say she looks horrible (beautiful) but holds back and instead uses his thumb to brush it away so he sees the real her.

"Come on," he says again, opening his arm after he lies on his back. She slides closer, putting her head on his shoulder and entwining their fingers on his chest. "It's okay." Except he says it for his benefit.

He's exhausted and doesn't want to talk further because he's not sure of what else to say and he is comfortable so he falls asleep before her.

When he wakes in the morning, she's gone. He should be surprised, but he's not. He looks towards his floor and sees a balled up Kleenex and that's all he has to know it wasn't all just a dream.

"Thank you," she says humbly when they settle in for their routine drive back to their childhood home for spring break. He hasn't seen her since the night it could have been a dream, afraid to break the… whatever it was that happened. He insists on this in fact, and doesn't respond.

"What did you bring me, I'm starved," he says instead. She smiles, as is this is his way of saying "you're welcome". She grabs the bag of carrots and celery she bought at the store and hands them over. He groans at the vegetables, but when she tosses a container of ranch dressing, he shuts up and eats.

That's all she needed to hear.

Their summer vacation goes something like this:

They meet at the pre-determined spot; it's not the bus stop anymore. Instead, it's her dorm because he's done earlier in her in the day, having finished his final at 2 and hers not beginning until 2:30, and she has so much stuff that she begs him to help her carry it.

They don't take a bus either, not this time. They rent a moving van, because the lameness of living in a dorm means you have to move out completely, so he packs all of his stuff while she's taking her last exam and then moves to her apartment, starting to load her things.

She finds him hauling her mushroom chair and bag of curtains to the van. He turns and wipes his forehead and she smiles. "How was it?"

Her smile broadens and that's his answer.

They pack the rest of her things rather quickly, wanting to be on the road by five. They talk of excited plans for the summer, seeing their old friends and not having any classes (although Casey will be taking an online writing course, but that's weeks away and Derek has a hockey camp in mid July) but they aren't exactly thrilled to be thrown back into a busy, packed house – especially being used to their own schedule and privacy.

The small army of their family piles out of the house to help them unpack the van and they take turns taking things upstairs into the hallway. Instead of a huge welcome home dinner, George orders pizza and wings and they all eat on the living room floor, laughing and talking.

It's almost normal.

Casey finds Derek outside on the back porch at two in the morning, smoking a cigarette. She frowns, but doesn't say anything, just sits beside him. The breeze is nice, and it's really quiet except for his exhale. He flicks it away when he's done. "I don't always smoke."

"I don't care," she says, examining her nails. He knows better.

"It's a social thing, really. When I'm out and it's offered, I take one." He doesn't understand why he feels the need to explain it to her, because really, it's none of her business and she knows that. Her silence bothers him, so he continues. "I don't even like it."

She scoffs. "Then why do it?"

He shrugs in response. "Something to do, I guess."

"Since when you do you do something just because?"

"Since always," he laughs, looking down at his outstretched legs on the wooden steps. He spares a glance over at her and sees that her tan legs are bare and they have goosebumps. "You should go inside, it's cold."

"It's fine, really. Becca left the window open almost all year, so I like the cold," she explains with a wave of her hand.

"Well it's late anyways, you should go to bed." She laughs and he's surprised.

"When did we switch places?"

Derek doesn't reply, because he doesn't like the answer.

They begin to spend time together. Not a lot, but a bit. Mostly because Sam didn't come home for the summer and Ralph is always with his new girlfriend, Sara, and Emily is well, Emily (and she's still not quite over the whole break-up thing, much to Derek and Casey's chagrin). So, they spend time lazying about the house by themselves (because the younger kids are still at school for another two weeks). Their parents begin to hassle them about getting summer jobs, but as always, Derek finds an excuse, and they are equally surprised when Casey searches for her own reasons.

They try not to ask for money to do things, and instead find activities to do without having cash. They go to the beach in the mornings (Casey packs a lunch and Derek forgets the suntan lotion but remembers Edwin's old metal detector) and spend late afternoons taking naps on the couch and recliner. After dinner, they help clear the table without complaint then retire to their separate bedrooms or play with the kids.

And at night, roughly around two AM, they find themselves out on the back porch. He rarely smokes, like he explained, but sometimes he does have one. She never complains, but he knows she hates it. He makes sure to never let it blow in her face (because it happened once and he never heard the end of it from her silence) and he tries to finish it before she comes outside.

"Are you excited for camp?" she asks, wrapping her arms around her legs. He notices she's wearing a nightgown tonight, it's short but it's really hot out, and hell, he's only wearing shorts.

"Yeah, I guess."

"You'll get to see the guys from school, right? Are they doing it too?"

"Some," is his simple response, flicking the last of the bud into the grass. She frowns as he does so. "Your class starts soon, too. What is it again?" He knows the answer already, he just wants to fight.

"You know what it is Derek."

"Remind me."

She sighs. "It's non-fiction. It's technically only for third years, but my writing professor said I have a lot of potential so she wrote me in."

"Sounds impressive," he smiles, bumping his bare shoulder with hers. Heat flows down to his toes. She shivers.

"It isn't that big of a deal," she denies, but he knows differently.

"You'd better hide your work from Edwin, I'm making him send me updates from the family while I'm gone and you wouldn't want me reading that romance shit out loud to the team."

"What makes you so sure it's just romance?" she quips.

"Since when wouldn't it be?"

"I have other things on my mind, too, you know. And if you'd notice, I haven't exactly had much luck in the romance department this year."

He frowns, remembering Valentine's Day. They've never mentioned it and he's shocked that she's sort of reminding him of it.

"Yeah well, maybe if you went somewhere besides the library, you'd meet someone."

She looks thoughtful, and he doesn't recognize the feeling in his stomach. It's not right because it feels like he's about to throw up. Finally, she shakes her head. "I don't think I'm ready yet."

He doesn't think he is, either. He's gotten used to her now, and he's afraid of change.

She's the one that drops him off at the bus stop for camp because his dad is stuck at work and Nora had to take Marti to the doctor. She gets out of the car, sliding her sunglasses up on top of her head while he gathers his stick and bag from the trunk. "I guess this is it."

And it feels like too much of a good-bye for her and she knows she'll see him in like, two weeks. They've never gone that long without each other. "Yep."

Derek sighs, looking over as some of the team holler for him by the bus. "Don't trip while I'm gone," he finally, says, nudging her arm with a small, light punch. She laughs, smiling.

"Yeah, yeah." She bends forward awkwardly and hugs him with both arms. It's too fast and she's already pulling away before he can react. "Have fun." He watches her get back in the car and doesn't stop looking until the car is out of sight.

When he's settled into his temporary dorm miles away, at two AM, he logs into his school email for shits and giggles. He finds an email from Casey, with a document attached to it. He reads the title and laughs. It's a poem about cliché romance and Fabio and roses and Valentine's Day.

At the end of the email, he reads, "I'll miss you."

"Me too," he mumbles.

He logs off his computer, and falls asleep.