Part II :]
The next morning, I entered the clinic with trepidation. I glanced around the room to see if there were any five foot eleven step-brothers hiding behind plants or pillars. I breathed a sigh of relief when there were none.
"Hi, Pat. Should be a good day, huh?" I asked conversationally, coming upon the reception desk and smiling at her gratefully.
"Of course Miss Casey, it is Friday after all." Fridays were always somewhat slow in the office, and not as many patients came in. She figured unlike her, they had lives to lead and the weekend consisted of the only time they could do so.
Gathering the files of patients that would be coming in today, I entered my office and placed my purse on my desk when Pat chimed in on the intercom.
"Miss Casey, that strange boy who says he knows you and has even said he's seen your naked baby pictures is here." Pat's amused voice flowed through and I stiffened. Before I could react, my door flashed open and the bane of my sorry excuse for an existence stood there.
"Derek Venturi, what in seven hells are you doing here, again?"
"I'll have you know that I stubbed my toe yesterday and it's still hurting." Derek whined, but I could see the playful mischievousness in his eyes.
"5 year olds stub their toes, they cry and they get over it. If it still hurts, soak it in warm water until whatever swelling goes down. Goodbye now." I waved him off nonchalantly, going back to my files, but I was still very aware of his presence.
"But nothing, have my mom give me a call should you die sometime." I sneered, hoping to hurt him at least a little bit, but as usual, he brushed it off as if it were nothing.
"Sure, whatever you want Case."
"It's Casey, damnit!" I slammed my small fist on the desk, and when I looked up he was gone.
Five days later.
"I totally cut myself shaving, and it's so uncool to walk around with this wad of paper stuck to my face. Do something about it." Derek was sitting across from me, pointing a finger at his unfortunate accident.
"I appreciate the humour and you know, the wasting of my time, but get out." I said with a straight face, but I knew he could see the irritation blazing in my eyes.
Four days later.
"So like, because I'm so tall and whatever," He began that afternoon, and I rolled my eyes because he wasn't really that tall. He was tall enough that I reached his chest and his arms could wrap right around my shoulders. I didn't want to think about that however, so I tried to focus on whatever lamebrain problem he had now.
"I totally dinged my forehead this morning, and I've had a headache ever since." He pouted at me then, and I threw my head down at my desk. Would this torment ever end? I knew every time he came to visit me, it was just a way to see me without the potential awkwardness the outside world brought to our relationship. Who knows what would happen if we were alone somewhere like a restaurant or one of our places.
I could tell that even he wasn't ready for that yet.
Two days later.
"Oh my god. You were here two days ago, what's the deal?" I asked him, slipping my thin silver rimmed glasses off my nose and rubbing at my temples. It was beginning to turn into a routine, him showing up at my office unexpectedly and expecting me to take care of him.
The days were getting shorter but I found that I didn't lament the disappearance of the sun during the evenings as I normally did. I still went home alone in the darkness, and spent my nights alone in the darkness, but his memory would linger in my mind. For years I had trouble remembering the way he smelled or the way he looked at me, but now it was so easy to recall those memories now that he had come back into my life. Even though we hadn't so much as mentioned what happened long ago, I had come to accept that he wasn't leaving. He just had that way of wearing me down.
He walked in, but I noticed he was limping slightly. I looked up at his face and it was twisted in pain, and I could see sweat forming on his forehead.
"Oh my god, what's wrong?" I felt my heart race, and I jumped up to help him to the chair to sit down. I remembered distinctly a time during a hockey game when he got seriously hurt. I remember being on the ice, and hugging his bloody head to my chest while the referee and his coach were trying to separate him from me.
I felt tears prickle at my eyes from the memory, and I shook myself out of it, willing myself to focus on the present.
"Derek, what are you feeling right now?" I asked gently, brushing his hair back from his forehead and flinching at how hot it was. "Oh god you're running a fever." I grimaced, rushing over to the small sink and soaking a small white towel with cold water and pressing it against his head. A goofy smile spread across his face and I ignored the upward twitching of my own lips.
"I feel like complete and utter shit." He croaked out then, and he couldn't even breathe properly because he was in so much pain.
"Oh god, oh god." I was beginning to freak out, something I hadn't done in a long time.
"Space Case," he said then with so much familiarity that I could feel my heart squeezing in my chest, and I gripped at his shoulders. "Relax, I can't really calm you down when I'm like this." He managed a small smile but cringed when another bout of pain hit him.
I breathed in deeply and ran through the normal procedure. I was a freaking doctor for god's sake, so why did I revert back to a teenager?
"Do you feel nausea, muscle aches, pain in your abdomen?" I asked then, flipping over the white towel on his forehead so that the cooler side reached him.
"Yeah, all of those. It's like hard for me to breathe right now, Case." He said, lifting his hand to his shoulder and covering mine. I blinked, feeling the inevitable shivers pass through me.
"Okay, have you thrown up?" I asked then, wiping the sweat on his brow and neck. He looked up at me like I was about to save his life and I threw him a critical glance.
"No, but I really want to right now." His body convulsed, and I knew he was extremely nauseous. Not good.
"Derek, try and go to the bathroom right over there," I pointed to the room next to my office in the hallway. "And throw up, you'll feel like shit I know—" and he raised his eyebrows at my use of what I used to refer to as the s-word. "But you'll feel better in a few days, your body is trying to expel the virus you have." His eyes widened comically.
"Stomach flu, D." I said, and I stepped back slightly from him when I realized I had used his nickname. Things were getting entirely too comfortable between us, and while a month ago, I would've adamantly said I didn't like it. But now... now I just wasn't sure of anything. I was still sure that I hated him though. I hated him when I was in love with him, and I hated him now because he threw me into a state of uncertainty with him, much like our teenage years.
"No one's called me that in a long time, Case."
He gave me that look again, the same one he did before he held me that night outside on the sidewalk. I couldn't look away as much as I tried, but then he broke the moment by running to the bathroom with his hands covering his mouth.
I sighed heavily. I didn't know about the last six years, but I'd never seen him this sick before. I knew I was pulling a Casey, but I couldn't help but feel obligated to the poor lout. Walking out to the reception area, I smiled gratefully at Pat.
"So... that boy who has regretfully seen my baby pictures," I started and she smiled at me. "He's... um, how do I put this?" Over the years that I had started to realize my feelings for Derek as a teenager, I had developed an aversion to referring to him as a step-brother to strangers, and it honestly felt silly to even feel that way but I couldn't help it.
I think back then I felt like if enough people looked at Derek and I as just a guy and a girl, and not step-siblings, it would start to be okay to have feelings for him.
"He looked mighty sick, Miss Casey. Maybe you'd like to assist him? Your appointments are over for the day after all." Pat said then, giving me one of those smiles that made me question just how perceptive this older lady was. At that moment we heard Derek retching loud enough to reach our ears, and I grimaced.
"I'm going to take him home, so I'll be leaving a bit early." It hit me then that I'd either be going to his place – unlikely because he was probably still a pig who didn't clean up after himself and I couldn't stand it, so that left my home. I didn't want to drive all the way to London and shove a grown man onto my mother to take care of, that was unnecessary and he needed rest as soon as possible.
I wondered to myself if I was making excuses to finally have it out with him, alone and face to face – even if his face was covered in vomit.
"Please, if I had a handsome boy like that to look after, I'd be out of here sooner than you." Pat laughed, and I couldn't help but laugh along with her. She was something else.
"Now look here Venturi, don't get any ideas okay?" We were standing beside my small red honda and he was clutching his stomach, leaning over the hood. He tried to scoff but it came out as some garbled noise. The sun was setting but the air was still warm and comforting. The remaining rays of sunlight lit up his reddish brown hair and I flicked my eyes to his reflection in the car window.
"What ideas? You'll probably use this opportunity to chuck me into Lake Ontario while I am unable to defend myself." He said bitterly, but I could see traces of a smile on his lips.
"You overestimate me really, but no, I'm taking you home." I jingled my keys and throttled them in the lock, popping the back passenger seat door open. Cue second garbled noise.
"W-what? I've been practically like stalking – well, not stalking, but going to see you when I had no right to and barging in on your life and now you're giving me a VIP pass?" He asked as I ducked his head underneath the top of the car, settling him in the seat and doing his seatbelt for him. He was getting progressively worse and I didn't understand why he was still talking.
Not only that, but he was forcing me to think about this whole fucking mess.
Excuse my language, but I must be out of my mind.
"Derek, let me tell you something. I'm doing this because I'm a good person and you just don't know how to take care of yourself. Plus I don't think you have..." I trailed off, because I wasn't sure if he did have another woman in his life or anyone at all who could take care of him. Here I was again, taking charge of a situation when I probably didn't need to. Shutting his door and seating myself in the driver's seat, I started up the car.
"You really haven't changed, doing things you don't want to do because you can't stand it when people around you aren't happy." He muttered under his breath, and I looked at him through the mirror. I frowned and didn't bother to respond. I didn't know what he was trying to get at with that remark, but I wasn't in the mood to get into it at that point.
"Okay... you're certainly piling on a lot of debt, D." I said using his nickname once again after I set him down on the bed in the guest bedroom. Mom and Lizzie often slept here when they visited, and it felt weird to have Derek here. It felt weird to have Derek in my life, period.
It honestly felt like an alternate universe. This apartment that I had spent years in alone, and even had enough money to move out now that I was working, was suddenly housing the man I refused to think about for the last six years. I glanced at the picture of our family on the nightstand, the only picture of him that I let myself keep, and it occurred to me that I hadn't moved out because I was still too attached to memories here.
This was the place last I had seen him.
"Oh? How can I pay off this debt of mine? Perhaps a certain kind of favour..." Derek's voice that was already somewhat raspy dropped in pitch and I raised my eyebrow at him. He wasn't seriously coming on to me was he?
"You're completely delusional."
"Last I checked, stomach flu doesn't come complete with delusions. Shouldn't you know that, doc?"
Night had fallen and I reached over to turn on the light next to him. "Well, you need lots of fluids and something to keep the pain at bay – how does soup sound?"
Derek rubbed at his arms then, and I knew he was feeling the chills. "Try not to burn down the place, alright?" He smiled and I turned to walk out of the room.
"Ungrateful son of a bitch." I muttered under my breath.
"What happened to my sweet, innocent, beautiful Casey?" he retorted within a second and I stopped in my tracks. Was he implying that he didn't find me attractive anymore?
"You're what happened." I said plainly, throwing him a glance. His eyes trailed down my body like they often had in the last month that he had been back in my life, and I smirked.
"Touché. Hey, hold on the noodles, more on the chicken eh?" he said and I growled at him.
"I'm not your maid Venturi, and I'll do as I see fit. If that means slipping ex-lax in your soup, I'll do it because I can." His eyes widened in horror.
"Don't you have some hypocritical oath or something? Like you can't hurt me because you're my doctor?" He scrambled and I couldn't help but laugh.
"Hypocratic oath you dolt, and I was never your doctor. I'm just your poor sap of a step-sister and I can never seem to..." I trailed off, and the smile on his face faded. He knew what I wanted to say. No matter how much I hated him, I could never push him away if he pulled hard enough.
I shut the bedroom door and I was met with the empty silence of my apartment. But instead of looking forlornly out on the empty street lit up by the city lights, I walked straight towards the kitchen. It felt like the lord of the lies was instilling purpose in my life again, as if that was surprising by any margin. Derek always pushed me to do better because for some reason he could see right through me and I thought that if I showed any moment of weakness, he could use it against me.
Even still, when I had shown moments of weakness in the past, he either yelled at me until I was on top of the world again or he actually comforted me, in his own insensitive jerk way. But when he would look at me with those eyes, even though he would be struggling to get out of a death hug, they would be glittering with a sort of knowing and understanding that I'd always be there for him and that he'd always be there for me.
That's how I knew he cared and that's how I allowed myself to fall in love with him, after years of pushing and pulling. So why did everything go horribly wrong? Why did he stop pulling?
I loaded the soup and a couple of painkillers on the tray, along with a room temperature glass of ginger ale. Taking a deep breath, I willed myself to walk back to his room and opened the door with a quick free hand.
"Hey, moron. Your food's ready and the tab is getting higher. Whatever will you do to repay me?" He was laying there inattentively reading an old Cosmopolitan magazine, and I wondered at his choice – but I supposed there wasn't anything else to do. He closed it slowly, setting it down on his lap when I walked up to him, placing the tray on the nightstand.
"Hmm, what about a nice kiss?" He smiled cheekily up at me and I felt my eyes narrow into slits.
"Gross much? You have a gnarly virus swimming around in your system, not to mention you're Derek." I drawled lazily, reaching over to help him sit up. He cringed in pain, and I tried to be as gentle as I could.
"That's the greatest reason to want to kiss me." He pouted and I felt laughter bubble up inside me. Goddamn him.
"Don't kid yourself, sweetheart." I absently brushed his messy bangs off his forehead, and I felt my heart clench because his fever still had not gone down. He wasn't talking for once and his silence unnerved me. His eyes had darkened again, and I found myself looking at his lips this time. He had the most serious of expressions on his face and unconsciously, I backed up away from him and he grabbed my hand. I didn't let go. I didn't want to let go. But I had to let go.
"I'll be out in the living room, just call me if you need me." I said shakily, avoiding his gaze. This wasn't the office, where there were other people around, even if it was only Pat. This was late at night in my apartment and we were alone.
"I do need you, right now. So stay." He demanded in that commanding voice of his he often used with our younger siblings, and I didn't like it one bit.
"Drink your soup and take the medicine, you won't feel better right away but um, you'll be okay." I had to get out of there. I briskly walked out and shut the door, ignoring his single shout of protest. I knew I wanted to have it out with him, face to face, but I just couldn't do it.
For two hours I stared blankly at the television, not processing anything but the turbulent feelings that were swirling inside me. It was going to become increasingly harder to ignore our past. It's what made us who we are, and how we are with each other.
I heard the hardwood floor cry softly, and I turned at the source of the noise. He was standing there, leaning up against the door, his arm clutching his stomach.
"What are you doing up? You need as much rest as you can get, Derek." I stood up to help him, the sounds from the television fading away into silence and all I could focus on was him. Hooking one arm under his and grasping his shoulder, I tried to lead him to the bedroom but he pulled me with his remaining strength to the couch.
Sighing, I helped him there instead and sat him down. He let out a long breath, leaning back against the couch.
"Casey, we need to talk." He said after moments of silence, and I said nothing. What could I say?
"I mean, you love talking don't you?" He teased and I couldn't say I felt the humour this time. I gave him a sideways glance, and noticed absently in the background the moonlight shining through the dark window.
"I can't talk about this, I don't even know what you want from me, Derek." I put my head in my hands, feeling like I had lost sense of everything.
"I... I'm not sure what I want either," he began, and I ignored the pang of hurt that rang through my body. "I just know that it's always been Derek and Casey – shouldn't that stand for something?" He said, and I could feel the hurt in his voice, the deep regret that he felt. I didn't want to believe it though.
"Then why did you do it, Derek? Did you hate me that much that you had to play me like a fool?" I asked quietly, and I found I didn't have the energy to yell or even cry. I was so tired. When we broke up that day, I had gone over this moment in my mind so many times that I eventually lost count and now that it was happening, it simply felt like it wasn't real.
"Casey... you do know that I loved you right?"
"I knew. But I forgot to remember that you're also a sadistic bastard who didn't really know what love was." I said, feeling bitterness flare up in every cell of my body.
"I knew what I felt for you, Case. You're stubbornly impossible not to fall in love with, honestly." I could hear the smile in his voice. "But back then... I was young and didn't have my priorities in check at all. When we started... when we started, it was real Casey."
And finally, he had managed to strike up the courage to say what neither of us wanted to.
"By when we started, do you mean when we were fifteen or when we were twenty-one?" We both laughed a little, even if it was broken and we weren't happy at all in that moment.
"That's a good point. But yeah... when we were still in London and dancing around each other like idiots." I looked up at him then, and he was smiling warmly down at me, but his eyes were colder than they normally were.
"Speak for yourself, idiot." I said, and without noticing I was even crying, I felt liquid pool at my chin and I knew then why Derek had been clenching his fists. He hated to see me cry.
"I figured it was the only way I could have you, Casey. We're step-siblings, and even though we were eventually friends, I couldn't even think of doing anything. When the boys on the hockey team dared me ... to make you fall for me, I took them up on their offer, figuring I had nothing to lose. If I went after you and you were disgusted, I could just tell you it was a prank and we'd fight about it and that would be the end of it. If the family cornered us and asked us, I could just tell them the same thing."
"But you never expected me to actually feel the same way." I sighed, feeling like I had been in love with the world's biggest moron.
He was silent then and he leaned over, using all of his strength to cup my face in his large hands, brushing away the tears. He was trying hard to ignore the pain he felt I could tell, and I bit my bottom lip worriedly.
"When we got together, and it went so well... I was the happiest guy ever. My girlfriend was the hottest girl on campus, even if she was a super keener. Surprisingly bagging a smart chick becomes cool in university." He grinned, and I laughed, trying to swat him away.
"You really have a way with words." I said dryly.
"Don't I? Not only that Case, you and I just worked. It just made sense of us to be together. I didn't want to tell you the only reason I stepped up to the plate was because of a bet, you would assume the worst and never trust me again."
"You got that one right." I looked down at my hands, which were blurry because the tears were welling up again.
"Goddamnit, stop crying." He growled and I cracked a small smile. I reached up and wiped my eyes, and running a hand through my hair. I cursed that habit since I knew I had picked it up from Derek whenever he was in a nerve wracking or depressing situation.
"So what now, Derek? Why did you come back?" There was a quiet moment and I felt everything sink in. It wasn't lost on either of us that we were once deeply in love and everything had been perfect for a time. Our coming together had been based on lies and half-truths, and it was then that my trust fell through.
I had seen what Derek was like in high school, I knew what he was capable of, and even though I had believed that he was a different person with me, it was in the instant that I found out that all my beliefs crumbled and I felt like I could hear my heart breaking.
"I'm not asking that we get back together, so you can exhale." But my sharp intake of breath at his statement made him flinch visibly, and he knew he had said the wrong thing. In reality though, I was just surprised and not that hurt. If I were younger I would've thrown a crying fit, asking him why he wouldn't take me back with open arms, but I wasn't a young girl anymore. I had moved on from this.
But if there was one thing that Derek and I had learned from our parents who went through divorces and other tribulations in their lives, was that adults often told themselves things that they didn't necessarily believe so that they could lead their lives in the present and not get caught up in the past. The world doesn't stop turning for you and you have to move on.
I stood up because I couldn't; wouldn't stay so close to him anymore.
"I just... miss you Casey. I don't need you to be my girlfriend or whatever, just that you be in my life in some way."
I turned to face him and I saw the pleading expression on his handsome face. He drove me to hell and back, but even I couldn't deny that having him back in my life was secretly a breath of fresh air – even if I felt like strangling the air out of him the entire time. The empty feeling I had been suffering with for years was slowly dissipating and I knew why.
"Okay? Okay what?" He asked hurriedly.
"I still need some time, to get used to this." I said then, and I felt my chest warm at the smile that spread across his face.
"Yeah, I know Case. This is..." he trailed off.
"Weird." I supplied, smiling through my tears.
"Weird yeah, but, I'm really happy about this. We've wasted so much time but I... I'm really happy." He said, lifting himself off the couch with strength I didn't know he possessed, walking over and holding me once again.
The next day he was in much better shape than he had been the night before, and he decided he would go home and give us space. It was weird being back in each other's lives with a conscious decision, and it would take some getting used to. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the attraction was still there and probably always would be there, and I wondered – sure he wondered too – what that meant for us in the future.
It was sort of clear that jumping into a relationship now, or sometime down the road once we got used to each other again, wouldn't be that great of a decision. No odds were against us really, but I think we're both scared of the potential consequences that could arise from it. I didn't even fully trust him yet and he knew I couldn't be in a relationship like that.
It had been three weeks since I had seen him last, but he would call me now and then briefly to reassure me that he wasn't going anywhere much to my pseudo chagrin. He hadn't come back to the clinic and I laughed to myself sitting there at my desk because I had known all along that his doctor hadn't gone on vacation at all. Derek just wasn't a loyal patient.
Pat rang in on the intercom then. "Miss Casey, Little Derek is here."
"Aww, why do you always call me little?" I heard Derek's whiny voice in the background and I held back a laugh.
"Sure Pat, let him in, although he'd barge in here without my permission or not." I ended the transmission and arranged the files on my desk and waited for his arrival.
"So what's the deal, Case?" he asked promptly as he opened the door and sat himself down across from me.
"What's the deal with what?" I drawled, preparing myself to be teased for some inane thing.
"You know, how you only write in that pretty cursivy way for me and not for anyone else." He said smugly, and I set my eyes on him. How did he know about that? It was then that I noticed his hair was slightly wet and his skin was flushed, much like when he would come home after hockey practice.
He was still playing hockey. I swallowed my shock and made sure I responded quickly.
"I must have some sort of illness, you know, the one that allowed you to keep coming here over the last two months." I rolled my eyes. He smirk became wider if it was even possible.
"Hey, go and sit down on that bed over there and I'll take a look at you." He said seriously, but I could see his eyes glittering happily. He held out his hands and I reluctantly handed him my lab coat and stethoscope, and I wasn't sure how I knew what he wanted. I was briefly reminded of the last few times I made him lay down on that bed, and I felt shivers run through me. The morning sun filtered in through the plain white blinds and I stared at the way the sunlight caught his hair again.
Sitting up on the bed, my legs clad in stockings and heels hanging off the bed, Derek came up and stood in front of me, lab coat and all. He placed the buds of the stethoscope in his ear, taking the chest piece and laying it against the breast pocket of my blouse. I felt myself jump at the chilliness of it and he grinned.
The sounds of the cars whizzing by on the quiet street faded away, as did the sounds of Pat making appointments on the phone. I couldn't hear anything but my heart beating and I couldn't feel anything but the warmth flowing off of his body.
"Your heart's beating awfully fast." I closed my eyes, because I knew what would come. To hell with the past, to hell with reservations, to hell with insecurities. I threw it all away for him once, and I could do it again and again – because I would never stop loving him.
"Really? Sometimes it does that." I said softly. He grabbed my hand, and placed it on his chest above his heart. It was thumping hard against my hand, almost as if he reacted to my touch.
I opened my eyes, and he was smiling warmly at me again. This time, his eyes also captured that warmth and he leaned his forehead against mine.
"I'm going to kiss you now." He said, reaching up and cupping the side of my face, tangling his fingers in my hair.
And the moment his lips met mine, I knew he was lying when he said he didn't want to be with me again. I knew I was lying to myself when I said I didn't want it. We were lying to ourselves when we said we had done just fine without each other for so many years.
And the moment the kiss grew more passionate and his arms gripped at me like he was afraid to ever lose me again, I refused to think about how much time we had wasted, and I refused to wonder if there was a way to turn back time. It just didn't matter anymore.
"Will you always write in pretty handwriting for me?" he asked when he broke off the kiss, and I pulled him back, kissing him once more.
"Will you always kiss me like that?" I responded, and his eyes were impossibly dark. He only nodded and began unbuttoning my shirt, parting my legs open with his knees.
"Then you have a deal."