Entitled: Always Tomorrow
Fandom: Life With Derek
Words: 6,000 words
Notes: I was supposed to be done with this fandom. But then I watched the last three minutes of the finale. And I remembered something. And that thing I remembered was that Derek Venturi is one dangerous boy. I say this because I took one look at him and all that pretentious crap I'd been fangirling early got blown out of the water by the star of a kid's show.
Notes2: Also I missed you guys, and NaNoWriMo is secretly a misleading bitch.
Notes3: This is like the sappiest thing I have ever written in my life. Also, I wrote it in one day! Yay, me!

The S. S. Casey had sustained critical damage.

"I hate this game," she said, "It's immature and childish and probably induces seizures."

"I like the part where the screen keeps on flashing stuff like 'loser' and 'you suck.'" Derek noted. Casey suppressed her rage. Partially because he was right and he'd just kicked her butt and she was supposed to be good at dancing.

DDR seemed to have other ideas. Also, those little arrows were mocking her and she hated them. But not as much as she hated her step-brother. Her brother. Well. Derek. "Don't you have anything better to do than invading my dorm room and—and defile it with that abomination? And your feet. They're defiling it too—get off my bed."


"But they're—!" Casey rummaged through her drawer and threw a pair of thick pink socks at him, "They're dirty! I sleep there!"

"You've got your coffin hidden somewhere."

"I hate you."

"Not really."

"Casey," Cynthia took her aside one evening, very tastefully, of course, they were all such tasteful and responsible girls and did things like organizing the refrigerator by caloric intake. "You know the rules. No boys allowed in dorm. I'm afraid that I'll have to issue a complaint—"

"But you can't!" Casey burst, "I didn't even invite him! I'm the victim!"

This made Cynthia pause, and she steered Casey into a chair before proceeding, "Casey, we at Queens take our student's security very seriously. If this boy is harassing you in any way—"

"What." Casey blinked at her, before shooting out of her chair in a panic, "I mean what, no, no, he's my step-brother—I mean, he's my brother. I mean. He's Derek. And ew." She made the sign of the cross as an afterthought. Cynthia raised an eyebrow. Casey looked at her shoes, "It won't happen again," she said, in a very small voice, "I'll, um, I'll talk to him about it."

Casey knew something was up when she found Derek in the library. As in, studying. As in, with books. Also, wearing fake-glasses.

And since when could Derek read?

"Go away," Derek whispered when she claimed the chair opposite him, "I'm on a scavenger hunt. The next item is a hot librarian."

Casey glared at him.

"It's a fraternity thing, okay? You wouldn't understand. Don't you have orphans to save, or something?"

"You're ruining my life," Casey explained patiently, "So I think it's time we established some boundaries."

Derek leaned forwards and dragged his pencil down the middle of the table. Casey was appalled. She glanced over her shoulder frantically, and then threw herself forwards, hands splayed over his vandalism, "Oh my god, Derek! What if they arrest you!?"

"Well, they'll have to take my attractive accomplice into custody as well, won't they? He tilted his head, grinning a little, and Casey wanted nothing more than to run her fingers through his hair and


Wait, what.

Casey put her head down on the table and hyperventilated. Derek kicked her knee. "Casey, you're making a scene."

"Please be quiet," Casey asked, her voice squeaking and shivery, "I am trying to postpone my mental breakdown."

"You baby," Derek muttered, "It's not like they can't erase it."

Casey said nothing. After about fifteen seconds she felt something jab at the top of her head, "Casey?"

"Fine," Casey squeaked, "Fine, I'm just. Just. Crisis management."

"I'm switching tables," Derek threatened, "Thanks. Now I'll be stuck in here for another hour. You scared off my target." She heard him shift, but the chair didn't scrape backwards and he didn't leave.

Finally, something pliant and spongy was pushed into her hand. Casey stared uncomprehendingly, but Derek was already throwing his things into his bag, face tilted away. His hair was sticking up at the back, like he'd slept on it wrong and—and Casey was just going to stop thinking about that now and—why was she even talking to him again?

Oh, right. "Wait, Derek," she said, too loud, "You can't hang out in my room anymore."

About half the library turned to face them at that, and Derek looked at her in total exasperation, "Do you feed off of my misery?" he muttered, and stomped out. Casey watched him go, and then realized what she was doing. She looked back down at the table and began dragging the eraser across the border, steadily erasing the line.

Casey realized the solution to her all her problems about three days later. She dialed unhesitatingly, secure in her belief that all her problems would soon be solved.

Paul picked up on the third ring, as he always did, "Casey?" he asked, sounding strangely anxious, "What's up?"

"I have a hypothetical problem," she said immediately. There was an extremely long silence.

"If it's a hypothetical problem, then you don't need to solve it," Paul said gently. Casey cursed his soul-reading abilities.

"Okay," she said, and felt her insides shriveling up, her face tingling with heat, "Okay, I have a. A prob—this is confidential, right?"

"Unless your phone's bugged," Paul said wryly. Casey sat up very straight, her brain feeling like it was about to explode. Derek had given her the cell phone she used. How could she have been so blind?!

"You're right," she said seriously, and checked under her bed just in case Derek was lurking there, a headset clutched to his ears, "We had better discuss this in private."

"Casey, I was kidding," Paul sounded alarmed.

"YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT HE'S CAPABLE OF," Casey shrilled, now actively examining her room for cameras. There was a sudden stream of static, which at first she perceived to be Derek's equipment malfunctioning, but was really just Paul sighing.

"So, it's about Derek, huh?"

"No!" Casey laughed, "No, it's…it's womanly issues." She winked madly at the phone before remembering that Paul couldn't see her and that she was acting like a crazy person.

"Uh," now Paul was the one who sounded panicked, "Maybe I'm not the most appropriate person for you to talk to—"

"Of course you are!" Casey interrupted, shocked by his humility, "You know everything!"

"Casey, you know I'm not even a real counselor, right?"

Casey crawled into bed and huddled beneath the sheets. "I'll drive into town this weekend," she whispered, "Saturday at nine. And. And we can meet up at—oh, I'll just stop in at your office. Rosebud!"

"Casey, I—"

Casey hung up, and hid her phone underneath her pillow. Paul wouldn't fail her.

Paul, for reasons he could not explain fully even to himself, found himself tossing his car keys back into his pocket and stepping grimly forwards. Casey had left the school doors open for him. He didn't even want to think about how she'd managed to get a copy of the keys.

She was sitting up very straight and very prim when he entered his office, her ankles crossed sweetly. She fixed him with an unblinking stare, and Paul strongly regretted succumbing.

"Paul," she greeted him, "Have a seat."

Paul thought about responding to that. But it wasn't as though he'd be able to escape any time soon. He sat down wearily, holding his coffee for support, "Casey, don't they have a counselor at your college?"

"Oh, yes, of course," Casey nodded eagerly, "But they actually have a degree. That makes them seem so much more…intimidating, don't you think?" she nodded before Paul could say anything and ploughed on, "So, uh. About my hypothetical problem."

"Your real problem, Casey," Paul rolled his eyes, "Acceptance is the first step, and all that."

Casey visibly struggled with this, "Okay. So, my friend has a problem—"

Paul just looked at her. Casey silently combusted.

"I have a problem."

"Okay," Paul said pleasantly, and sipped his coffee. The old routine was coming back to him, now. It was just Casey, after all. He'd seen her six months ago, he could deal with one constantly-stressed teenage girl. "What problem could be bad enough for you to drive several hours for a meeting with your ex-counselor?"

"Oh, Paul," Casey said comfortingly, "You'll always be my counselor!"

Paul closed his eyes.

"But I'm dodging the question, aren't I?" Casey said nervously, "Okay. Okay, it's—I think there's a guy."

Paul shifted forwards slightly. With Casey, it had never been 'a guy.' She wasn't the sort of girl who held back names. "Okay," he prompted. Casey squirmed.

"Well, I—I've known him for a while," she said awkwardly, now crossing her arms and toying with her hair, "And. And recently I've noticed that things are—different."

"You mean, like an attraction?"

"NO!" Casey shrieked, and recoiled dangerously, so that her chair rocked backwards, "I mean, I—well. I don't know. I thought maybe it could have been because of college? Because, um, because it's a new place and I don't know many people there and he's…familiar." She made a face, stared at him for a moment, and then smiled painfully, "So, that's…that's right, isn't it? It'll all go away after a while?"

Paul shrugged.

Casey made a face to suggest that he had just shredded all her hopes and dreams, so he hastened to add, "Well, it could."

Casey brightened. He added, "Hypothetically."

Casey sighed, some of the nervous tension leaving her, "Well, I just—I just want to get over this, okay? What should I do, Paul?"

"Casey, I don't understand why you're so adverse to this guy in the first place—" and then he stopped, because it was suddenly, shockingly obvious to him what was going on. So he straightened his spine and folded his hands and leaned forwards and said, considering, "You know, Casey, maybe you ought to give him a shot."

Casey's mouth fell open. Paul backtracked immediately, "I mean, it'd…get him out of your system, you know what I mean?"

"NO," Casey yelled, "PAUL! YOU TRAITOR!"

"Okay," Paul sighed, "Tell me why not?"

"Because he's—" Casey sputtered, "He's gross! And we don't get along! And he would probably lust after my cousin—by the way, he's sort of already done that and…I…and my mom would be against it!"

"You really think your mom wouldn't like you dating Derek?"

"Of course not, she's seen how horrible he—HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WAS HIM?" Casey leapt out of her chair, lunged at the door, and then visibly restrained herself from leaving. She sent Paul a panicked look, and then hastened around the desk, dropping onto her knees and gripping the arm of his chair, "Paul, please don't tell anyone!"

Paul was understandably alarmed. "Casey, I think you're over-reacting."

"No," Casey assured him, "No, I'm not. Because if he knew, I would have to die."

Paul would have rolled his eyes if he wasn't worried she might strangle him, "That's a little melodramatic, don't you think—"

"He would never let me live it down!"

"It's not like it's a victory, Casey."

"Oh, but it is," Casey snarled, and yanked at her hair, "Right now, I'm vulnerable. I might…I might compromise, Paul. Or," she visibly paled, and could only say the next part in a whisper, "Or let him have his way."

She shivered slightly. Paul surreptitiously edged to the opposite corner of his chair. "Well—well, why don't you level the playing field?"

Casey stared at him.

"I meant," Paul said quickly, "I meant, we need to get you back to normal."

"Or," Casey muttered, "Or I could—could—I hate the word 'seduce.'" She writhed, and Paul wondered when, exactly, he had gone so wrong.

"Hello, Derek," Casey said brightly one morning. One very, very early morning. Tousled heads poked into the hallway to regard this new intrusion. Casey beamed at them. Derek did not. Derek resisted consciousness with all the power within him.

"There's a girl in your room, Derek," one of the young men prompted helpfully, "Is she your hot librarian?"

"I am not!" Casey said indignantly, "My current outfit is a clear display of urban conservatism!" She scoffed for good measure. Derek's fraternity brothers all looked at each other and wondered if they were allowed to pretend she wasn't there.

"Derek," Casey said again, perhaps a bit more loudly, "I brought food."

Derek made the great effort of pointing at the door. Casey ignored this, set down her picnic basket delicately, and waltzed into his bathroom with a bag slung over her shoulder. Her audience barely waited for the door to shut before they attacked.

"Dude," one of them grabbed Derek by the ankles and dragged, "She brought you pancakes."

Derek clung to the comforter, "Go away."

"You know, I think I've gotten over Jessica."

"Shut up, Max."

"She's as beautiful as she was in tenth grade!"

"Tinker," Derek snarled, "Do you have a radar or something?"

"There's syrup and jam! And whipped cream!"

"Get out of my room!" Derek yelled. Everyone stopped and looked at him in a moment of silent betrayal. Derek crossed his arms and refused to be cowed. The tension stretched until Casey reemerged from the bathroom, freshly changed and smiling.

Half of the room's occupants promptly retreated. Derek's mouth fell open, watching as Casey flounced to the table and began setting out breakfast. She caught him staring and grinned, "You're awake!"

Derek attempted to crawl back into bed. He watched her from the safety of his sheets, "I'm going to go back to sleep," he told her, "And when I wake up, things will be normal again."


Derek stared at her, "Okay, so it's not a dream. Is that a costume? It is, isn't it? Where'd you get it?"

"I made it!" Casey said proudly, and smoothed down the very short, ruffle apron. "Do you like it?"

Derek chose not to comment. "And you made me pancakes. Why. Why did you make me pancakes? Is it my birthday? Are you trying to get me to do something? Did you poison them?"

Casey looked hurt. He refused to feel guilty. He was momentarily distracted by the crowd lurking outside his dorm room, and nonchalantly slammed the door shut. She shifted her weight slightly, which made his eyes zip down to her legs and this was so unfair.

"What," she said defensively, "I was just trying to be nice."

Derek felt a migraine coming on, "Yeah, so I just remembered, I have this…thing. That I have to do. Right now."

"Oh, can I come?"

Derek choked, "No," he said as firmly as he could. Which wasn't all that firm, considering…well.

"Please?" Casey whined, pouting, and—God, it was so weird.

"Stop that," Derek ordered, "I—seriously, what're you doing?"

"Maybe I just wanted to hang out!"

"Casey!" he yelled, and at least that was familiar, "You're wearing a maid's uniform!"

"We've been over this. It's empowering, and I was nervous about meeting your frat brothers." Casey sniffed.

Derek stared at her for a moment, before he realized that he was systematically shredding his pillow. He cleared his throat. "You aren't going to meet them," he announced, just as the door sprang open and they all piled in, grinning and considerably better dressed than he was.

"Derek," Max smirked, "Aren't you going to introduce us?"

"No," Derek sulked, wishing they'd all evaporate, "Casey's going to leave in a minute, anyways."

"Derek!" Casey snarled. It was oddly comforting, considering. He sighed.

"Everyone, this is Casey. Casey, this is everyone."

Casey obviously didn't consider this to be a proper introduction, for she stuck out her hand, shook out her hair, and said, "Casey McDonald, pleased to meet you. I'm his step-sister."

Derek grimaced, though he couldn't say why.

"Paul," Casey whispered into the pay phone, "Paul, it's me."

"Casey?" Paul sighed, putting his heart attack behind him, "You just about gave me a heart attack. Where are you calling from?"

"A payphone. I think he bugged my phone."

"Casey," Paul sounded just the tiniest bit exasperated, though Casey couldn't imagine why, "Do you really think he'd exhaust that much time and energy just so he could listen to a few phone calls?"

"Paul," Casey rolled her eyes, "Have you been paying attention to me for the past four years at all?"

Paul conceded the point. "Well, what is it? I'm sort of in the middle of disciplining someone right now."

"Is it Edwin?" Casey asked excitedly.

"You know that's confidential, Casey—"

"Edwin!" Casey bellowed, "Edwin, can you hear me?"

There was a faint, "Hi, Casey!" in the background, before Paul hung up on her. Indignant, she redialed, and did so for the next ten minutes until Paul gave up and answered the phone. Edwin was laughing hysterically in the background.

"As I was saying," Casey cleared her throat, "My plan has been executed flawlessly!"

Paul was silent, then, "What plan?"

"You know," Casey said impatiently, "The plan where I make pancakes for Derek and wear a maid's outfit."

Paul choked on what might have been an air particle, "Sorry?"

"Don't be. It was fantastic. You should have seen his face," Casey sighed happily, "One of the best moments in my life."

"Wait, but Casey—" Paul stuttered, "You aren't actually going to make Derek fall in love with you, are you?"

Whatever reply Casey might have made was cut off by the sudden roar of noise from the background, and the sound of overturned furniture. Paul said something that was not especially professional, and left to deal with Edwin.

Casey stared at the dial tone in horror.

For the second time that week, Casey found herself driving into town because of a stepbrother.

Not necessarily the same stepbrother, mind you.

When she spotted Edwin walking home, she didn't so much park the car as she did ninja-roll out of it, and tackled him to the ground.

"It's just a misunderstanding," Casey panted, while Edwin floundered in terror, "I assure you, there's a very logical and…and…Oh, Edwin, please don't tell anyone!"

Edwin scrutinized her for a moment, before his eyes narrowed and took on that particular, enterprising glint she'd come to know so well. "I think an arrangement can be made."

"Edwin!" Casey cried, "You're my family! You're supposed to do me favors without complaint!"

Edwin snorted.

"Well, Lizzie does!" Casey snapped defensively, and rocked backwards so Edwin could sit up. She sighed, "Come on, Edwin, please?"

"I'm sorry, Casey," Edwin shook his head, "I can give you the family discount, I guess."

Casey began to protest, and then reconsidered. "Okay."

"All my math homework until the end of the semester." Edwin demanded. Casey's eyes widened.

"End of the quarter!"

"Semester," Edwin stressed. Casey struggled…and relented.

"Fine," she sighed, "But you have to promise me you won't say anything, okay?"

"Oh," Edwin smiled evilly, "I won't have to."

Casey pretended that the goose bumps were from the cold.

Casey commenced with phase two of her grand seduction plan, which basically entailed totally cutting Derek off. She ignored his text messages, didn't answer his phone calls, went to extreme lengths to make sure they never crossed paths, and begged off any social gatherings in which they might meet.

It was a plan of great potential and pining.

It also didn't work.

Casey had never realized how much Derek talked to her, how often he passed by her during the day, how many times he could text her during class.

Still, her will was strong. She had heard from excellent sources (the pile of magazines beneath her bed) that the cold-shoulder method was the premium tactic to getting someone's interest.


She sort of missed Derek. Missed him unconsciously, kept on finding herself flipping her phone open or looking over her shoulder—only to realize that he wasn't there.

She lasted three days.

And then she made more pancakes.

"Derek?" Casey knocked on his door lightly, and then waited. When he didn't answer, she called, "I made pancakes?"

Silence. Complete silence.

She set down the picnic basket on his doorstep and turned to walk down the hall. She had almost made it to her car when she sat down on the curb and burst into tears. Her butt was freezing and she had never, ever felt so guilty or so sorry for herself in her entire life, and she was completely certain that Derek would never talk to her again because he'd never really been angry at her, but now he was and it was all ruined.

It was funny, then, that when she opened her eyes he was standing in front of her, wearing pajama bottoms and bare feet, hands in his pockets.

"I'm sorry," she said, and kept saying it, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again."

She had to stop then because her chest hurt too much, and her face was all watery and ugly and she didn't want him to see her like this, even though she sort of did, but some part of her felt better for him not leaving.

Before she left she took off her socks and made him put them on, because his toes had gone all scrunched-up and white, and when she drove off she sat at the stop sign on an empty road, wondering if she should have stayed.


"Casey?" Paul coughed, his throat thick, "You sound awful. Have you been crying?"

"Yes," Casey said, and just hearing his concerned, almost fatherly tone was enough to start her up all over again, "Paul, I'm horrible."

"Casey," Paul said tiredly, "You're not horrible."

"Yes, I am," Casey said insistently, "I hurt him so badly and he still forgave me and I don't know why he would because I'm—I can't believe I did that. I—Vogue sucks!" she sniffled, and quieted, comforted by Paul's soft nothing-words. "So my new plan," she told him, "Is to just stop. To just let it go back to the way it was." After a minute, she added, "Thanks for letting me harass you about this. I'm sorry, I won't do it anymore. You were right, I need to grow up. No more games."

She hung up before Paul could say anything else.

Casey woke up the next morning when someone sat on her and bounced. She felt the air squeeze from her lungs as they compressed, and thrashed blindly, almost hitting Derek in the center of his entirely too-smug grin.

"Shh," he whispered, "You don't want to get caught with a boy in your room, do you?"

Casey pitched him off of her, and sat up with a grimace. "How'd you get in?"

"You didn't lock your window."

"You did not climb through my—"

But the window was open. Casey stared at it, before scurrying over and peering over the ledge, trying to calculate a route up to it. She shook her head.

"You just pulled this open after you came in," she accused. Derek shrugged—and then Casey realized that it was seven in the morning and Derek was awake.

She went into a state of minor paralysis.

"Casey," Derek snapped his fingers in front of her nose, "You hear me? We gotta move."

"What?" Casey blinked, "Where? Why?"

Derek rolled his eyes, strode to her closet and started throwing clothes at her, "Weren't you the one with the attention span?"

Casey gaped at him, but allowed herself to be pushed into the bathroom to change. She tied her hair back, applied a fast layer of make-up and studied her mismatched outfit with considerable woe. She jumped when a car horn blared outside, and tore out of her dorm room before Cynthia could yell at her. She dove into Derek's car and fastened the seatbelt automatically before—"Wait, where are we going?"

"You're buying me breakfast," Derek explained patiently, and broke about five different traffic laws without batting an eyelash. Casey patted her pockets in confusion.

"But I haven't got any money."

Derek shrugged.

Casey pinched herself.

"My pancakes," Derek said with his mouthful, "Are way better than yours."

Casey glared at him, "You didn't make these. It's cheating."

"I'm the ultimate hunter-gatherer." Derek said, and to prove his point, downed her orange juice. Casey muttered dangerously, but took another bite. They were awfully good pancakes and Derek's knee was warm against hers and—

Oh, right. She wasn't going to do that anymore. She shifted, hoping he wouldn't notice.

Derek glanced up from his plate, looking strangely at home at the sunny window booth, cheap red seats and all. He looked tired, like he hadn't slept, and his hair was stuck up in the back again, but when he smiled he just looked—happy.

Casey smiled back, and somehow, his knee was touching hers again.

"You've got ketchup in your hair," Derek said.

She got kicked out of the dorm two weeks later.

Cynthia had gone ahead and issued that complaint.

Casey, in a tone that was not tasteful or responsible, told Cynthia exactly where she could stick it, and then went to Derek to tell him what a horrible human being he was. She did so at great length. He alternated between ignoring and laughing at her and somehow suggested she stay with him and—

And Casey didn't even know how that part had happened.

But Casey could handle Derek. He might have been six months older, but she was vastly more mature.

And so she locked herself in the bathroom, stuffed towels between the door and the floor, and dialed a well-worn number.

For the first time since she'd known him, Paul did not pick up the phone. She listened to his answering machine, and then hung up. She did so again, because he had a very soothing voice, and on the third time, unwound.

"Paul," she said softly, mindful of Derek overhearing, "I have a hypothetical problem." She took a deep breath then, and tried not to cry, because she'd done so much crying lately, and really, there was nothing to be sad over, "You don't have to call me back, it's okay. But I just—I just wish that—I don't think I can get over it," she finished, softly, and hung up the phone.

She wiped her eyes and let the sink run for a while because she liked the sound of water running, then walked out of the room and took the sleeping bag Derek offered, hugging it to her chest. "Thanks," she said, "For letting me stay, I mean. I'll start looking for somewhere else soon."

"You're not going to break out the air fresheners, are you?" he asked, "Because I don't want my room to smell floral."

"Derek, your room smells like potato chips."

"It's a manly smell," Derek defended. Casey wrinkled her nose, but restrained herself from comment. She lay perfectly still on the floor with her hands clasped over her sleeping back for fifteen minutes, staring at the ceiling light.

"That's really freaky," Derek noted. Casey didn't move.

"Derek," she said softly, "Why're you so nice to me?"

"I'm not, Space-Case."

"Sometimes you are."

Derek said nothing for a while, and then asked, "Do you always go to bed at seven-thirty?"

At eight she asked, "Did you bug my phone?"

"Well, yeah," he said, "I haven't listened for a while, though."

"How long?" she asked, pulse kicking up against her skull.

"About a week after you started going out with Sam," he said, and she wondered what that was supposed to mean.

At nine he said, "Hey, Casey. Why'd you wear a maid outfit that day?"

"Because you have a fetish for girls in costumes," Casey said, and then put her pillow over her face.

At nine she mustered enough courage to mumble, "Derek? When you said I was your attractive accomplice, did you mean it?"

He didn't answer. After a minute she got up and turned off the light. She lay back, listening to him breath, and very aware that he was sleeping somewhere in the dark.

She woke up at two and sat upright, her heart beating too quickly. She turned, and crawled to the edge of his bed and whispered, "Derek?"

"What?" Derek mumbled, his eyes still shut. She paused too long, and he repeated, "What?"

"Give me a minute!" Casey seethed. She took ten.


"I can't," Casey announced, and returned to her place on the floor. There was silence for a moment until Derek shifted, sitting up. He was only a faint silhouette in the gloom.

"Casey," he demanded.

She put her hands over her face, "It's nothing, I told you. It doesn't matter."

But he kept sitting and she kept her hands over her face and neither of them would move and at five it had become less black, more gray, so when Derek got up, she did too.

He laughed at the circles under her eyes, and said she was buying him breakfast but ended up paying anyways, and she couldn't stop looking at him. Not his stupid leather jacket or his messy hair or the lines around his eyes when he smiled—and suddenly he was looking back. Or maybe he always had been.

"—realizing why you always wear make-up, I mean—"

"Hey Derek," Casey interrupted in a rush, "I know that this is going to sound stupid and you're going to laugh at me but if—if I said that I loved you, what would you do?"

There was some soft rock on the radio and salt stuck between the table's cracks. The sun was coming up and the morning was a misty gray. Her fingers were sticky from syrup and sweat, and the check lay on the table between them. Derek was still leaning on one elbow, angled towards her, and he didn't even look surprised, he was just grinning, and they were both wearing their pajamas and he leaned forward and said very gently, "Probably laugh."

And then he leaned forwards a little more and kissed her warm and sweet, and for a second everything was too much and too beautiful, and so it was all she could do to just hold on.

"Ha," he whispered, and kissed her again.