Casey tilted her head like a puppy would, curious, but decided that Paul must have closed his eyes due to a lack of sleep. Why else would he do that right after she had told him that he'd "always be my counselor!" just months after she had graduated from the high school where he worked? It was time to get her big concern off of her mind. Without looking down, she picked at her own polished fingernails, wishing she had spelling words to work on just to calm down. Paul looked very uncomfortable, and not because of the coffee-stained chair he was sitting on. Casey didn't blame him, since her stomach was tied into knots, thanks to startling thoughts about Derek. Thoughts not made in anger in regards to Derek, the fool who snuck into her dorm room a lot, getting her in trouble with Cindy, as if she needed a more eventful freshman year of college, Derek had to invade, invade, invade.

Derek is Napoleon, Derek is Amber from "Clueless", Derek is Edina Monsoon! She thought to herself. You arrogant jerk with the boring, useless necklace. Stay away from my dorm room and entice someone else!

It was time to bring shiny hair and big, doe eyes, and a short skirt together….Casey stared at Paul. It was time to bring those ingredients together with food (one of, if not the biggest of Derek's weaknesses).

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"Where are you going with whipped cream, Casey?"

Her head shot up. "I'm sorry?"

"Whipped cream…oh wow, is…is that a picnic basket?" Cindy inquired, leaning as much as she could through the window of the dorm building central office. "Are you hooking up with Yogi Bear?"

Casey pouted. "I'm off to make breakfast."

"In that costume, I presume."


Cindy's mouth fell open, and one of her blonde curls popped out from behind her ear.

"This is unbelievable," she muttered. "I had this image of you that was half-joking, but I meant well, no harm, and…my god, look at you."

"I made this myself." Casey told the blonde R.A., smoothing out the apron of her stereotypical French maid uniform. Then she unzipped the duffel bag in her hand and carefully folded the costume into it.

"So that's why you were back-and-forth with the wannabe-future=costume-designer."

"Ruby, you mean?"

Cindy waved off the response, still staring at where the French maid costume used to be.

"Who is going to see you in that thing?" she inquired.

"Someone who deserves to be thoroughly----"


"Surprised," was Casey's answer, complete with raised eyebrow and a hand on her hip. "If you would just let me do as I please, since not having a boy around makes me fully compliant with the rules of this girls-only----"

"Yes, absolutely, have fun," Cindy replied, nodding. "Look out for yourself."

Casey nodded back, vigorously. "That's exactly what I'm doing…um…looking out for myself, I mean. I---A girl needs her sanity, after all, and I need answers."

"I think all the answers you'll need will be right in front of you once he sees that basket," Cindy told her. "Don't forget the checkered blanket or a bandana for protection. And be careful of the tree bark against sensitive skin."

At those words, Casey decided to walk faster.

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"What're you going to get?" she inquired, her eyes not leaving the large, laminated menu.

"Ten chocolate chip pancakes with a mountain of whipped cream on top."

She looked up this time, meeting her step-brother's overconfident brown eyes.

"You can't order ten pancakes, Derek. That isn't a meal choice."

"Not all the food has its own picture in there."

"Yeah, but you don't have the option of getting---"

"Have you decided what you'd like?" asked a third voice.

Derek gazed up at the pretty redhead with the pen and notepad.

"Yeah, the five pancake breakfast."

The waitress raised the corner of her lips in amusement as she wrote down his order.

That's when Derek winked at Casey and she noticed the very dark half-moons beneath his eyes.

"After this, I can get the other five." He said, and she rolled her eyes in disgust.

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"I love you, you know."

Casey turned her head so quickly that something popped painfully in her neck. Fighting tears, she eased her body in Derek's direction, squinting from physical hurt and the luminescent lighting.

"I said those three words to you a week ago!" she replied in exasperation.

Derek smiled back, his hair a mess, his Guinness-themed pajamas full of wrinkles.

"We go home next weekend for that boring—"

"Pleasant, mandatory family dinner," she cut in.


"You'll get to see Marti."

Derek shrugged in a good-natured fashion. "Be quiet. When Ed tries to blackmail you, I want you to know what's really going on."

Casey set down her glass of juice, glad she hadn't sipped it as planned a moment ago, or it would be all over her diner breakfast plate.

"I'm tired of your kisses tasting like strawberry syrup." She told him.

He shrugged again and grinned. "Too bad."