STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU
Ladies and (probably not-very-many) Gentlemen, the trailer for the LWD movie, "Vacation with Derek" is up on YouTube. There are mixed emotions about it at this point, and, yeah, probably not a whole lot of Dasey action is to be anticipated. Plus, the whole boggling mess of Derek's hair…not to mention Lizzie's, though that bothers others more than it does me, personally. But (as in all non-canon ships) we, the shippers, have to make due with what we've got.
In the spirit of longing and hope that this movie will give us answers to as-yet open questions (What happened to Demily and the Trashman?) and still show us the beloved characters that we yearn to see (making out behind the boathouse) falling in love, I give you…
THE DASEY SCENE THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN IN THE MOVIE, BUT OH, WE CAN DREAM!
Also entitled, Stuck in the Middle with You
Disclaimer: I just play with them, kiddies. I don't own them, and at the end of the day, I have to give them back. And since I have no idea what actually happens in the movie since it's not even out yet, there could be some serious cock-ups in the plot details. Forgive me in advance.
A huge thanks to InvalidMinds for beta-ing this piece for me! Also, for the first time, I'm experimenting with present tense. Forgive me.
She comes out of the lodge where the party is still in full swing. The light glowing from the windows and open double-doors casts a bright halo ten feet from the building. The rest of the world is soft blackness filled with crickets and night birds.
Inside, Jesse is waiting for her—seated at a table for once, rather than waiting on one. He's cute and rugged and he can dance. She feels a little like Baby in Dirty Dancing, except that Jesse's not nearly as skeezy as Patrick Swayze's character was. He's sweet, and respectful, and he makes her feel like she's filled with light and butterflies.
(So did Truman, her brain reminds her. And Sam, and Max.)
She'd love to tell her brain to shut-up, but she's no fool. (Not any more, at least.) And her tummy tingles don't mean that Jesse is The One. Even if he does smell so nice. She will be going to Queens in less than 2 months, and then who knows what. Casey hasn't told anyone yet, but she's going in undeclared. There are so many choices and just the one life to make them in. Does she still want to be a doctor, like she did when she was fifteen? Does she want to go into law like her father and step-father? Should she major in English and literature? Maybe get a teaching degree? Or go into drama? She'd love to be on Broadway.
She is sure someone would tell her she was over-thinking things.
And speak of the devil…. Casey's feet patter to a stop and she sets hands on cocked hips as she glares at the shadowed form of her step-brother lying back across the top of a picnic table, his knees bent and feet flat on the bench. One arm is lying across his stomach, holding something upright. The other is lost somewhere at his side in deeper shadows.
"There you are. What are you doing out here? Don't you want to come join the party?"
Derek jerks at her voice and cranes his neck around to look at her. "Me? What about you? Shouldn't you be inside with twinkle-toes?"
"Don't call him that. Jesse is a perfectly nice person, I'll have you know." Derek mutters something she chooses to gloss over. "And I'm out here because you ditched us almost an hour ago. What's wrong?"
"Not a thing." His voice rises in pitch, and she's learned to tell when he's lying.
She comes closer and watches him raise the thing in his hand (a flask, it turns out) to his mouth and take a sip. She watches him try to hide a shudder, and she feels herself warm and fizzle with indignation when she realizes that he's drinking alcohol!
"Derek! What are you thinking? Are you out of your mind? You're getting drunk? Now? Here? With our family inside? You idiot!"
"Our family, as you pointed out, is inside right now. They're not going to be coming out unless someone's shrill voice brings them out. Can you hazard a guess at whose voice might do that, Casey?"
"Ugh, you are just so…."
"I'm not drunk, Casey. I'm barely even buzzed. I'm just… librated."
"Librated? George is going to 'liberate' you from driving privileges for the rest of the summer and possibly beyond if he catches you. Where did you even get that?
Derek points to a shadow Casey hadn't noticed sitting underneath a big sycamore twenty feet away.
"Who is that?"
"That's Bernie. Say hi, Bernie."
"Hi," Bernie says.
"…Hi." Creepy much? she shudders. "Derek—"
"If you're going to keep talking, you might as well come sit down. You're making my neck hurt having to look back at you like this."
"You could sit up, you know." She says even as she walks around the picnic table and climbs up beside him.
"Yeah, but then I'd have to really exert myself. I'm just… really not in the mood right now."
She watches him sip again at the flask, now shuddering openly, and Casey doesn't even want to speculate what might be in there. Whiskey? Taquila? Drain cleaner?
"Roxy. Hot Roxy. Rich Roxy. Viscious Roxy. Roxy, the girl who does this thing with her tongue where she—"
"That's enough!" Casey interrupts.
"The girl I like…is a bitch," he concludes.
"Well, to be honest, that's not that unusual an adjective to describe the girls you like."
He snorts and rolls his head to the side to look at her, "You're telling me."
Not knowing how to respond, Casey sifts positions until she's mirroring Derek: back pressed to the table top, arms folded across stomach, feet on the bench below. Her knees were pressed firmly together, though. The skirt she has on is pretty short, and Nora raised a lady.
"Shouldn't you be getting back in to your admiring audience?" he asks after a moment.
She shrugs, the rough wood and cracking red paint of the table abrading her shoulders at the movement. "I will. Eventually." She turns her head and finds him still looking at her. "Will you be okay?"
"Psht, are you kidding me? This is Derek Venturi you're talking about."
"Yeah…I know." Voice soft, she repeats, "Are you going to be okay?"
He was quiet for a long time, looking up at the stars now. Finally, he sighed, "Meh. She's just a girl. It's summer. There are more where she came from."
Casey nods and sits up, then jerks in surprise when Derek shoots up next to her, capping the flask and setting it on the table. "I feel like doing something stupid."
"Well, that shouldn't be too hard for you," she mutters.
"No, I mean really," he insists, and even with him standing in the shadows, she can see both mischief and determination in his eyes in the light reflected from the windows from the lodge. The heat in her stomach turns over like a warm kitten and starts brushing up against her ribs when he looks like that. (She thinks it's probably acid reflux. Derek is giving her an ulcer, she just knows it.) "Come on, Case, it's summer! Are you really just going to sit here, content to while away your time with Grammy Dearest in the safe campgrounds?"
"Yes," she answered honestly, nodding her head. "I really am."
His shoulders droop at the pronouncement, and he rubs the bridge of his nose. "Casey….Ugh, you know what? Fine. I don't want to waste my time standing here arguing with you. You want to stay here, fine. Go back inside with Johnny Salsa and have a lovely night. I'm gonna go…."
He looks around, finally turning his back on her to look down at the water where the camp boats are tied to the docks. And even with his back to her, Casey can tell when he makes his decision is made. His shoulders relax for a breath, then rise, squaring, readying to move. She slides off the table carefully, mindful of splinters, her whole body tense.
"I think I'm going to go for a midnight sail."
Before she can even close her mouth (which has dropped open at the stupidity and sheer recklessness of his declaration) he's striding across the grass to the docks, his open jacket fluttering out around him.
"Derek! DEREK!" she calls after him. "Are you crazy? You can barely know what to do on a boat. You can't sail alone!"
He turns to face her, walking backwards, and calls back. "You can go in and rat on me," he says, and they both know that it's really only a shade of a possibility since they both gave up on tattling in their merry war a long time ago, "or you can come and help me sail. Either way, I'm getting on that boat."
He turns back around and starts loping down the wooden dock to one of the boats moored farthest out.
"He's going to get himself killed," she muttered. "That's just all there is to it, he's going to get killed." Casey crosses her arms and huffs, foot tapping. "And at the funeral, everyone will say, 'oh, poor Derek' like he wasn't the moron who got himself dead in the first place. And then they'll say that someone should have been there to stop him. Or save him." Realization dawns. "And then they'll find out I was here—I'll get blamed!" She gasps then glares down the dock where Derek is already out of sight. "That jerk! He wants to die so I'll get blamed for his death! Oh, that is just so…damn…typical!"
She runs down the gentle slope after him, her high-heels clomping on the dock as she follows. She winces at the noise, imagining one of her heels going through a crack in the boards to send her sprawling face down with Derek's mocking laughter ringing out. Again. (It doesn't happen, and for that she's unspeakably grateful.)
"Derek! Wait up! You can't go sailing without a buddy!"
"I thought that was swimming?" She maneuvers onto the sailboat he'd chosen while Derek untied the moorings. His hands pause as he smirks up at her. "I guess there's more than one thing it takes a buddy to fully enjoy."
"The lotion and tissues under your bed is testament to the fact that you still try to do it alone, though."
He choked out a laugh as he scrambles onto the sail boat. "Snooping, are you?"
"Ammunition for when you go though my stuff."
He fiddles with the lines and things until Casey pushes him out of the way. "Move it. You wouldn't know a gaff from a jib. Just go to the rudder and pick a direction. And just so you know, we should really have life vests on."
"Blahdy-blahdy-bloo," he mocks, doing as she says. "We're doing something stupid, remember? It's not stupid of you follow the proper safety precautions."
"Of course not," she snorts.
He watches her fiddle with lines and ropes for a minute, slowly bringing the big sail down and turning it to find the wind. He raises an eyebrow and asks, "How do you know so much about sailing?"
"This is my grandmother's camp, remember? I came here all the time when I was little."
"Do you have any idea where you're going?" she asks, undoing a knot.
"Yep. Right to the middle of the lake."
"Right. Okay. That makes sense. You do realize there's nothing at the center of the lake? Just water."
"And soon, one boat and two eighteen-year-olds."
She sighs, thinking the whole plan is poorly thought out. (But then, this is Derek, so that makes sense.)
She looks over her should at him as she runs up the sail and turns it to catch the wind to push them out onto the lake. Together they gently guide the boat away from the shore and onto the water. With only two people manning the boat, it takes maybe fifteen minutes to get out past the swimming buoys. Ten minutes later, the lights from shore are the only signs of civilization. Casey feels like she's been swallowed up by the dark, and she shivers as childhood fears creep up the back of her neck.
Finally, Derek says, "This is the spot. Go drop the anchor."
Casey looks around and found that yes, indeed, they are pretty much in the middle of the lake, several hundred feet away from any shore. Behind them, the light from the camp looks like a glittering line of life and celebration. On the other side of the lake, the development own by Roxy's father lies sullen and dark with only a few tiny dots of light glaring belligerently across the water at the victors of the contention over Blue Heron Lake.
"You weren't kidding when you said you wanted to be in the middle of nowhere," she mutters.
"Yep. Now go drop the anchor. Go. Go-go-go."
She sighs at his pretentious prompting and considers letting the long yardarm go to whack him in the head, but "Oops! It slipped!" probably wouldn't go over too well with their parents or the paramedics. She furls the sails then goes to drop the anchor to halt their progress across the surface of the water. As soon as the boat shudders to a halt, swinging on the chair on the anchor, Derek steps away from the rudder and joins Casey on deck.
Quietly, he turns to the port side and gazes out at the darker shore where Roxy probably sat in her room, hating him right now for his role in ruining her father's business deal. Casey watches his face become even more unreadable in the dim light of a half-moon. She wants to reach out to him, touch his arm, hold his hand, hug him, offer some comfort…but she knows from long experience that he would quickly brush her away, retreating before she even finished raising her arm. So instead she shoulder-bumps him and asks, "What now, genius?"
Derek takes a deep breath and pulls his confidence back on. His movements are once again the jerky, bouncing, boyish mannerisms of a Derek full of mischief that Casey is both used to and slightly wary of.
"Swimming?" she echoes. Casey peers over the rail at the gently lapping water and decides it looks cold under the white light of the moon and stars. She shivers just looking at it.
He steps back a few paces, his brows lifting in challenge ("Go ahead and try to stop me," his face says), and toes off his gym shoes. Next goes his light jacket, dropping it to the deck. He pulls his T-shirt over his head revealing a skinny (scrappy, he keeps insisting) chest and stomach with a faint line of dark, coarse hair dribbling down from his belly button, behind the top button of his jeans. After just a second of hesitation (his shirt is still over his face. He can't possibly have noticed. It was just for a second!) Casey finally squeaks and turns away, her hand flying up to act as a blinder between her step-brother and her peripheral vision.
"You cannot be serious," she sputters. "That water's probably freezing! It doesn't matter that it's July. This is Canada, not Jamaica."
"Lighten up, Case."
She hears a tinny jingle, the rustle of fabric, and a heavy clunk of metal meeting wood and just knows he dropped his pants. Oh my god. Oh my god, ohmygod, ohmygod!
"I can't believe you just did that," she gasps past her shock, imagining that he's naked right now. (Not him naked, just that he's naked. There's a difference. Big difference. There are big black bars across…certain areas that she is not imagining. Or maybe one of those pixilated blurs used for witnesses to heinous crimes who wish to remain anonymous. Yeah. One of those.) "This is so inappropriate, Derek. Not cool. Not cool at all!"
"I still have boxers on, Prudey McHyperventilates. You can stop freaking out now. Like I'd want to be naked in front of you."
She tilts her head a little toward him, not dropping her hand from beside her eye until she's checked a sliver of one hip out of the corner of her eye and finds that he wasn't lying. (She didn't know he owned Snoopy boxers, though. Either he was doing his own laundry now—ha!—or they were a recent purchase and he hadn't washed them before putting them on.)
"Sorry," she mumbles, glad it is dark and he can't see her flush, but she still keeps her gaze focused passed his left shoulder.
"No big," he smirks, arms crossing over. "I'll even let it slide without a comment, considering…."
And there it is. The Pregnant Pause Derek's so good at. Casey tries not to rise to the bait, but it's hopeless from the moment he trailed off. He knows it, she knows it—they both know it, and she has to answer.
"Considering that it's your turn."
And now, the Dumbfounded Pause—a close cousin of the Pregnant Pause.
"Wha-huh?" she asks, unconsciously echoing one of his favorite responses.
"I'm giving you two choices here, Casey," he says, walking toward her, making Casey step back slightly. "You can either take off whatever you want to stay dry so that you can put it back on once we get out of the water—"
"Or," he continues like she hadn't even spoken, "I can pick you up and toss you in fully dressed."
Casey gapes at him. "You are—"
"Being incredibly generous," he finishes with a smirk and a wink. "I know. But this is a limited time offer, only. It won't last long, so I suggest you get to stripping."
"You are delusional if you think I'm disrobing even part-way to go into an icy, icky, germ-infested lake with you."
"You have to the count of five, Casey. One…."
He takes a step, "Two."
"Four." Another step.
"You're certifiably unhinged, you know that?!"
"Four and a half," and another.
He sighs, closes his eyes at her girlish panic, and brings his hands up to rub the bridge of his nose.
"Casey," he murmurs, closing the space between them. He sets his hands on her shoulders, warming her skin, holding her steady even as he was goading her into foolishness, and making Jesse's tummy-butterflies swarm confusedly inside her belly and chest despite her warning them that this is Derek, not a real boy. The tummy-flies can't seem to tell the difference. Stupid tummy-flies.
"Derek," she warns softly, unsure whether she's warning him or herself.
"Casey," he says again, his voice both soft and rough, like velvet. "It's the middle of the night, in the middle of a lake, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of summer, the summer before we go to university. Don't you want to do something a little bit crazy?"
And suddenly she's fifteen again, and their home is filled with high school students (most of whom they don't know), and Derek is leaning against the back of the couch, looking up at her through his dark lashes, this same smirk on his face, and asking, "Haven't you ever wanted to live a little…dangerously?" And the way he says it, just above a whisper—dangerously—sounds like dark chocolate on his tongue, and for a second she's just another girl, and she wants to kiss him, to lick the inside of his mouth and see if the taste of smooth, bittersweet chocolate lingers. She has to drop her eyes (then and now) to smother the temptation before he sees. (He always sees.)
"If I don't go you'll probably end up hitting your head on the side of the boat or on driftwood or something and get knocked unconscious and drown," she grumbles almost inaudibly, "so I guess I better go with you to keep you from dying of your own stupidity."
"That's my girl." His smirk threatens to pull into a real smile as he squeezes her shoulders once before releasing them and steps back. "Hurry it up, though. We're wasting moonlight, McDonald."
"Alright, alright." She huffs and kicks off her heels then loosens the pink tie around her neck to pull over her head. "You are such a jerk. I don't know how I let you talk me into these things, I really don't."
She slips the still-knotted tie over her wrist to hang and raises her hands to the buttons running down the front of the white men's dress shirt she has on over a long white tank-top and matching bra, but hesitates before she has the first undone. She looks up to find Derek watching her hands with lazy concentration.
"Do you mind?" she snaps, and Derek looks up at her, trademark smirk twitching his lips into a mockery of a smile.
"What's the problem, Case? I've seen you in a bathing suit before. I've also seen you careen from the bathroom to your bedroom in just a bra and jeans when you've forgotten something in your room."
"This is different," she insists, her arms crossing over her chest as if he could see through what she wore to her skin beneath. Her eyes and voice drop in uncertainty. "There's a big difference between seeing someone half-dressed and watching them undressing."
"Really?" he asks with an exaggerated lift at the end of the question and the high lifting of his brows. "'Cause here I was thinking it was all the same difference."
Casey looks up at the last two words, knowing he used them deliberately. And sure enough, he's got one eyebrow cocked in challenge because siblings would have seen each other undress (at least down to their underwear) and wouldn't have been in the least affected. Siblings would not feel that each others' gaze was like a spotlight in the dark. Siblings would not be embarrassed to let fall thin fabric defenses before one another.
Cheeks burning, Casey still forces her chin up and lifts her fingers to the buttons of her shirt. But, unable to live up to her own expectation, she turns her back on him as she finishes releasing the buttons. She can hear him snickering behind her back, but she just can't face him while she undresses. She's too…and he's…it was just way too….She just couldn't.
Unlike Derek, Casey folds her shirt and sets it on one the bench that runs around the raised hull of the boat. She coils the pink tie on top of the white shirt, choosing to leave the tank top on over her white bra. Her hands drop to the hook-and-eye fastener above the side zipper on her skirt when she hears Derek choke on nothing behind her.
"What?" She glares over her shoulder at him.
"What kind of underwear do you have on?"
"What?" she asks, now truly confused.
"I just want to make sure I'm not about to get more of an eye-full of Casey than I want to. So…boxers or briefs, Case?"
She rolls her eyes, silently amused that he's worried. (Same difference, huh? Whose feeling it now, buddy?) "I have on bikini briefs, Derek. Is that covered enough for you?"
She swears she can hear him gulp. "Yeah," he squeaks. "That's great."
It's her turn to snicker now, and she relishes it a little as she takes her time to unfasten the skirt and slide it down her legs to reveal the black-and-white striped briefs with a spray of neon stars across the rear. "What would you have done if I'd told you I was wearing a thong?" she asks as she folds her skirt and primly sets it atop the shirt and tie already on the bench.
"It's a good thing we'll never have to find out," Derek says as he reclaims the space that Casey forced between them when she turned to undress. He grabs her left hand, and Casey notices that his palm is damp even though his grip is firm and steady. He leads her to the opposite side of the boat, away from where their closes are piled. But it's not until they reach the rail and climb atop the bench, ready to jump in, that Casey realizes that this could all be a prank. He could be waiting for her to jump in, then release her hand at the last second so that she's the only one wet and he's still onboard and laughing at her stupidity. With a fierce glare, she latches her right hand onto his arm.
"Yeowch! Case, watch the nails!" he yelps. "What's your problem?"
"Just a little insurance that you're going into that water with me, Venturi."
He grinned. "Afraid I was going to let go and you'd jump in alone?"
She glares her answer and Derek chuckles at her. "On the count of three, 'kay? One, two—" Casey tightens her hold and pulls in a big breath— "three!"
They're over the side and dropping. The water resists for a moment, slapping their feet and shins before giving way beneath them and allowing them entrance. And it's as cold as Casey predicted closing in over their chests, shoulders, and finally their heads, getting up Casey's nose and cutting off the staccato exclamation of their slash, turning it into a dull gurgle in her ears. Casey's already let go of Derek to use her arms to help pull herself to the surface, but she keeps brushing him and slapping him as she fights her way up.
They break through at almost the same time, and Derek's laughing almost as soon as he takes a breath. "Holy shit! You weren't kidding!"
"I told you it was cold, moron," she sputters, teeth chattering.
"Yeah, but crap!" he reiterated, his teeth now mimicking a woodpecker, too.
"No, shit, Sherlock. Can we get out now?"
"Just bob for a while, Casey." Derek demonstrates with huge dunking bobs, his arms flailing at his sides as he disappears and reappears. Casey couldn't help laughing even while she was still shivering. Derek always complains about maintaining his reputation. He's Mr. Cool Guy, and while that allows him some goof-off room, no one (except the other members of their family) knew just how dorky Derek could be.
"Whoo! Okay, I feel better, don't you?" he says, and Casey just shakes her head, still laughing.
"Come on, you didn't even do it," he argues. "The more you move around, the warmer you'll get."
"It's not just the cold, Derek. There are…things in lakes. Like fish. And lake-weed."
"Like seaweed, but in lakes. And there's trash! And untold numbers of microbes."
He groans at her. "Just close your eyes and pretend it's the pool in Emily's backyard."
"The pool in Emily's back yard has chlorine in it."
"Urrrgh." He swims over and tugs on her arm, pouting. "Caseyyy. Can you please just go with it? For once?"
"Look, just lean back and float for a while." He pushes himself a little further back, twisting to the side, and practices what he preached. He leans back in the water, back straight, arms out to his side, and floats face up in the water. "See? Easy as cake."
"Don't you mean pie?"
"Cake is fluffier."
"Come on, Casey," he coaxes. "You've gotta see this."
He turns his head slightly and smirks at her. "You won't know unless you lie back."
"I bet you say that to all the girls," she mutters, but (stupidly, she knows) she does as he says and leans back. It takes her a second to settle in with the lake cushioning her, holding her up. Then she looks up and all her living breath goes out of her.
If she'd thought the night sky was mesmerizing on shore, it was nothing compared to how bright it was on the lake. Even the light from the camp seemed to disappear. And if she floated just a little to the left…there. The top of the mast disappeared from her line of vision and all she could see was the sky.
"God, it looks like someone took whole tube of silver glitter and shook it onto black velvet," Casey whispers more to herself than Derek. "I've never seen anything like it. It's gorgeous."
"I have to admit, it's very cool," he murmurs back. "Worth coming swimming for?"
"Eh, I guess," she equivocates, smiling all the same.
"Even with the fish and the microbes?"
She chuckles, "Yes, even with the fish and the microbes."
"Good." She can hear him sloshing as he rights himself in the water, and then, "Oh no. Oh, god, no! Casey!"
"What's behind me?" She sits up and flounders, splashing as she turns in a circle.
"It's…! It's…a mutant lake-weed monster!"
Comprehension dawns, and Casey glowers at him. Derek drops his Horrified act and laughs at her, pointing and snickering. "You're face, Case. God…you are so gullible."
"You are such a jerk."
"You're such a priss. Seriously? Lake-weed? That's what you're afraid of?"
"I was not afraid of the lake-weed."
"How much you wanna bet?"
"You're seriously trying to bet me on my own fear?"
As always, something about Derek's silliness sparks an answering adventurousness in Casey. "Okay, I'll make a deal with you," she laughs. "To show you that I am not afraid of attacks by killer lake-weed monsters, I propose a race around the boat. I win, you take the blame for this misadventure. You win, I'll take half the blame. Heck, I'll even say it was my idea and you came along to keep me from drowning myself because I had a full mental breakdown over…I don't know, Truman, or because I was nervous about Queens, or something."
He slants a sideways look at her, his mouth quirked higher on one side than the other. "Seriously?"
"Yes," she nods and holds her hand out for him to shake.
Derek eyes it carefully for a long moment before he nods, too. He grips her hand and pumps once up and down, splashing water between them as he smirks. "You've got a deal, Spacey. One that you're going to regret making."
"Oh, I don't think so," Casey asserts. "We start at the ladder, go around the bow, down the starboard side of the boat, around the stern, and the first one to touch the ladder again wins, got it."
"Yeeeah, sure. Start at the ladder, go to the thingy and down the…other thingy…."
Casey sighs and says again, slower this time as if talking to an idiot child (which, as far as she's concerned, Derek is.) "Start at the ladder. Go to the bow—that's the front of the boat, Derek. Go down the other side of the boat, around the back, and touch the ladder. Got it?"
"Got it, got it," he waves her off and pushes the hank of hair falling over his forehead up and out of his eyes. "I'll even be nice, since you're a girl and so much weaker than I am, and I'll let you have the inside lane in this little race."
"Your generosity astounds me," she drawls.
They go to the ladder, each clinging with one hand, Derek's arm warm across Casey's cold shoulders. "On your mark," she counts off, "get set….GO!"
They're off with a splash, neck and neck as they pump water behind them as they head for the front of the sail boat, the bowsprit pointing across the water like an accusing finger. Casey gains a momentary lead as she takes the corner shaper than Derek is able to, but he steals it back as his longer arms churn the lake and his longer legs propel him forward. They're nearly at the stern when Casey realizes she's in a real position to lose. Stupid sexual dimorphism! Derek got upper body strength, and what did she get? Big hips! Mother Nature was just mean, that's what.
But she wasn't going to let it happen. Casey would eat burning hot tar before letting Derek win again. Vengeance would freaking be hers!
Derek was now half a body-length in front of her. If she reached for him, her hand would come in contact with the small of his back (a hard thump to distract him? No, it wouldn't be enough to slow him down,) his stomach (tickling? Not enough time to do any real damage to his pace before he flung her off,) or his hip (whereupon clung the sodden elastic of his Snoopy boxers.) There was really only one choice, and Casey made it with little thought past the moment: distract Derek, slow him down, pull ahead, win the race. As she reaches forward, her hand deviates widely to the right and finds the cloth of Derek's boxers. A sweet, tingling surge of suppressed laughter fires up from her belly and nearly bursting through her mouth as she grasps a fistful of cloth. And before Derek has time to react, she's yanked his boxers down around his knees.
He squawks in shock, arms and legs failing him momentarily and leaving him to flounder in the water, choking on mouthfuls of the stuff, as he first tries to register what the hell just happened (had she actually just fucking done that?!) and then to pull his waistband back up where it is supposed to be.
By that time, Casey has made a mermaid dive below the surface of the lake so that she can dart through the yielding liquid surrounding her rather trying to fight the friction between air and water and girl. She can hear Derek's sloshing behind her, and makes a fast, sloppy turn at the stern of the boat, her head breaking water to gulp in air. She doesn't dare look behind her, afraid that it will be like one of those horror movies Derek loves. If she looks back, the flesh-eating beast will be at her heels and then she'll fall and the zombie will be on her trying to eat her brain and slurp her entrails. Her arms pull the water in front of her backward, her legs propel her forward, her chest starting to burn, until finally the ladder is in sight.
She can hear him again now, and though she can feel the panicked squeal that somehow he's going to pull ahead of her and win the race rise like steam from her gut, past her heart, tightening her lungs and building into a pressure behind her throat, she doesn't let it loose. She uses it to make her straining arms move faster, to make her legs kick harder. Five feet now. And now three. And now her finger's brushed the metal of the ladder—Got it! She's got it! And Derek's still behind her, splashing to keep up, and Casey turns around to see. The panic in her throat turns to triumph that she releases as a shout of victory into the night to echo across the water.
"I won!" She's jumping and flailing and clapping, churning up the lake in celebration. "I won! You lost! I won!"
"You pantsed me!" he argues, his finger accusing her, mouth hanging open.
"You should know by now: I am not above cheating to win." Not when it came to their competitions, at least.
"I know, but that…that…" he's paddling closer, still adorably agog, "that was devious. One might even say, 'cruel' or 'vindictive.'"
Which only prompts a new burble of giggles from Casey. She gives him an aquatic curtsey, bobbing her head and smiling cheekily. "I learned from the best."
"Yes." He's almost smiling and Casey can feel her face and throat flushing with pride. "Yes, you did. Unfortunately, you must realize what this means, little grasshopper." He pulls on a mask of True Regret and sighs. "It means I have to kill you now."
He lunges for her, and she yelps, not knowing when he got too close for her to avoid. Survival instincts kick in, and she immediately smacks a wave of water in his face to try and blind him. It only partially works, stopping him from being able to grab her with both hands; his right is already wrapped around her lift arm.
"De-rek!" she squeals, tying to get away. She kicks hard, half to keep afloat and half to make him let go while Derek tries to push her under.
"Nuh-uh! You don't take down the master without getting some payback."
"Yeah? Is that what you think?" Casey twists away and manages to slide behind him. "Let's see if maybe 'grasshopper' can keep it up, huh?"
Before he can turn, she's jumped on his back and is trying to dunk him. But even in water, it's harder to move him than she hopes. "Not going down that easy, Case."
"I guess that over-inflated ego of yours could theoretically double as a floatation device."
"And all that weighty material you read just pulls you down." He wraps an arm around her waist and peels her off. For a moment, they both go under, each grappling to push the other further while kicking their way to the top. They barely pause their fight to pull in air. Then it's just rasping breath and slick skin knocking against slick skin beneath the water as arms push and pull and twine around one another as they grapple.
She's not sure how it happens, but the fighting has stopped and they're just floating. His left hand is resting on Casey's shoulder from when he'd been so intent on drowning her, and the other is wrapped tightly around her waist, holding her too him so that she couldn't escape. As for Casey, both of her hands are on Derek's shoulders, originally to both keep herself up and to push him down though they've since lost their purpose. And they're staring at each other which is a little creepy, she has to admit. But she can't look away. She's been trying for the last fifteen seconds. The stillness is stealing the warmth that their competition and fighting had given her, and Casey starts to shiver. Derek is the only warm thing in the world, and Casey's embarrassed, knowing he can feel how tight her breasts are (because the water is so cold) since her chest is pressed tight to his.
He licks his lips before he tries to talk. "We—" but it comes out too rough, and he has to clear his throat before trying again. "We should probably get out now."
"Yeah," she nods. "Good idea."
It takes a minute for them to realize that in order to make their way to the ladder, they're going to have to let each other go. It takes a few more seconds for them to actually do so. What was before all intensity is now all awkwardness. Derek reaches the ladder first and immediately starts to climb, not looking back at her.
"So much for being a gentleman and letting the lady go first," Casey mutters loudly enough for him to hear.
"Case, would you rather I let you go ahead of me so I had a clear view of your ass as you went up the ladder?" he calls back without looking.
She flushes and says nothing more.
When she reaches the deck, Derek is already at his pile of clothes, picking up his jeans.
"Wait a sec. Don't put those on yet."
"Why? You want to ogle me a while longer?" he suggests, brow cocked. It would be totally arrogant if Casey couldn't see that his posture was stiff from embarrassment and cold.
She sighs, "Not even a little. Just wait a minute."
Casey walks down into the forecastle, the small shelter on the sailboat that served as a place where the camp kept its compulsory first-aid kit, sun screen, water bottles, emergency rations, and, in the cupboard, a stack of towels. They were brown and fluffy with an appliqué blue heron on one corner with the name of the camp stitched beneath it. She takes out three—one for Derek, one for her, and one for her hair. She bends double and twirls one of the towels around her head and hair, twisting it into a turban, before wrapping the second around her body, under her arms, and tucking the top corner in to hold it up. At last covered, she heads back to the deck.
"My grandmother keeps a stack of towels on all of the boats owned by the camp," she explains. "In case someone accidentally goes overboard while they're on the water."
"Smart woman," Derek declares, gratefully (though not enough to say so) taking the towel Casey offers him.
"It runs in the family," she agrees cheekily.
"Just don't you start skinny dipping, too."
"That's what I said!"
He rubs the towel in quick strokes over his head, making his hair stand out at all angles and looking considerably like a Chia Pet. It draws her attention, and once again, she can't help but be a little disappointed that he'd cut it. As for his hair now being two shades away from black, well…that was her doing, and it made her grin. The India ink she had put in his shampoo hasn't yet washed out. It gives her a warm, cuddly feeling inside.
Derek notices her smirking in the direction of his hair and narrows his eyes. "Don't think I'm still not planning on getting you back for the hair, McDonald."
"Hey, you shouldn't have put green Jell-O mix in my clay mask. I walked around for two days looking like a Martian."
"Two days, wah-wah," he mocks, pulling on his jeans. "It's been almost two weeks and this stuff hasn't faded out yet."
"Are you going to get dressed any time soon? Or is it that you enjoy prancing around half naked? In front of me?"
She huffs, looking away, and moves to her neatly folded skirt and dress shirt. As soon as she unwraps the towel, she's cold, and the flimsy shirt and short skirt do nothing to warm her up.
"We should get back," Casey says.
"Derek. I'm freezing. Can we please go back?"
He looks her over, really looks, and she's shivering in her damp clothes because even sixty-five degrees is cold when there's no sun shining down and a cool breeze is blowing across the surface of the lake. Derek rolls his eyes and bends down to retrieve their towels from the deck. The one he'd used to dry off with was actually the drier of the two (the third was still wrapped around Casey's head,) so he shakes it out, making it snap, and then wraps it around her shoulders like a blanket.
"Look, you're the sailor here. I'm gonna need your help if we're getting back to camp. We'll take a couple more minutes, let you warm up, then head back. 'Kay?"
"Okay," she nods.
"In the meantime…." He uses a hand on her shoulder to steer her to a dry spot way from the ladder where water was puddling from when they climbed back aboard. As Derek takes the other towel and folds it up to make a thin pad for them to sit on, he looks up at her, an unreadable glint in his eye.
"So, what are you going to do about 'Jessica?'" he snarks.
"If by that you mean Jesse, then…I don't know. Not that it's any business of yours."
"Are you two going to keep in touch?" he asks with a nasal falsetto. "Swap email's? Call each other every day?"
"We did swap email addresses," she tells with a pert little lift of her chin. "And IM addresses, and I gave him my cell phone number."
It's almost funny the way he tenses up looks ready to climb to his feet, away from her. But somehow…it's really not. She feels bad (inexplicably, since she has no reason to feel guilty, and he has no reason to get pissy) and when Derek's ready to open his mouth and say something, Casey can't let him. "But, like you said, it's summer. Realistically, we'll lose touch by September. I'll be at Queens, and Jesse will be off doing his thing. We'll inevitably drift apart. I'm not planning to break my heart over him."
"Oh. Well…good." He clears his throat. "'Cause you know I don't do tears, and if this was going to be another Truman thing, I'd just as soon avoid the inevitable waterworks followed by ass-kicking."
"His or yours?"
"Uh, his. Obviously," he says as he plops down on the towel.
"Derek," Casey deadpans, "Jesse's bigger than you. He's got shoulders out to here. I think he'd pummel you before you got in one good hit."
"How many times must I tell you? I'm scrappy! I could take him."
"Sure you could, D," she reassures him, saccharine sweet, as she sits beside him. "Let's just both be glad that it won't come to that."
"Agreed. For his sake."
As they get comfortable as possible on the hard wood of the deck, Derek laughs at himself and shakes his head. "I still can't believe you pantsed me."
His laughter and words ease a lot of the tension between them, and Casey finds herself laughing along. "Yeah, that was pretty evil of me, wasn't it?" she giggles, bumping his shoulder with hers.
"I'm not sure whether to be more pissed off or impressed."
She can't help either the grin spilling across her face or the glow she feels spreading from between her ribs to warm her up. If he didn't know if he was more angry or impressed, that still meant that he was partially impressed. Even if it was a case of a broken clock being right twice a day, it still meant that, for awhile, she had done something he was impressed by. He was actually a little proud that he'd rubbed off on her, she could tell, and while she wasn't exactly happy that she had finally sunk down to his level, Casey could admit (at least to herself) that she was proud of herself for out-doing him on his own playing field.
Still riding high on the Derek-induced adventurousness of the night, she turns her smile into a smirk and looks at him from beneath he lashes. "Don't worry, D. It's not like I saw anything. And even if I had, the water was awfully cold."
"You bitch," he laughs, and it ends in a jaw-popping yawn.
"I'm just saying."
And somehow the joking helps. The last of the tension eases out of them, and Casey doesn't feel (too) uncomfortable scooting closer to him to steal body heat. If Derek stiffens for a moment at first, he relaxes soon enough.
Casey tipped her head back and looked up at the dark sky alight with tiny fires. Eventually, she takes the towel from around her shoulders and spreads it lengthwise over her curled body to warm her legs. She glances over and finds that Derek's eyes are closed and his breathing has evened out, his chin down on his chest, his arms resting in the V between his stomach and his raised knees. His face is scrunched a little, as if in concentration, with is slightly adorable, she thinks. Casey momentarily considers rubbing a finger between his brows to ease the tension out or kissing his cheek. But she doesn't. Just the idea of it makes her stomach tight, and she's horrified that it's not in revulsion. This isn't the first time, of course, but when it happens, these moments of attraction, it always catches her off guard.
She closes her eyes to make the feeling go away, and when she opens them again, the sun is rising, the rose-gold light glistening on the water. She's warm on one side, and her head is resting against a hard pillow, and when Casey turns her head to look, she finds that she's curled into Derek, her head on his shoulder. The towel that was around her hair is partially around Derek's shoulders, pulled close like a blanket as he slept. Some time during the night they'd turned toward each other for warmth, and now they were (in the most technical terms) cuddling.
"Oh, crud," she mutters, mouth thick from sleep. "Derek. Derek! It's morning."
"Mmfmmrmns," he grumbles back.
"Derek!" she snaps, pushing her stiff body to its feet. "Wake up!"
He shivers when his source of warmth is taken away from him, and the combination of cold and shouting is enough to wake him up. "Whu…?"
"Morning, dumbass. We're still on the lake. We fell asleep."
"Huh?" He looks up at her, still not awake enough to pay any kind of cogent attention. The movement must hurt because he winces and raises a hand to rub his neck. "Ow. Crap."
"Come on. Let's get this boat back to camp before someone notices we haven't been seen since last night."
A few more grumbles and Derek gets to his feet. Together they manage to raise the anchor, drop the sail, and make their way back to the dock. Unfortunately, their parents have certainly noticed that their eldest children are unaccounted for, Casey's grandmother has noticed that one of her sailboats is sitting in the middle of the lake, and Casey's new crush has realized that his brand new flame had gone outside to check on her step-brother around ten-o-clock and never come back. So George and Nora are both on the dock waiting when the boat moors and Derek and Casey climb off.
Casey bites her lip at the irate looks on her mother and step-father's faces. She hugs her arms to her and nudges Derek. "Don't forget our deal. I won the race—"
"Yeah, yeah, I get to take the fall."
"Well, it was your idea in the first place, moron."
"Derek!" George hollers, and, "Casey!" Nora echoes. They come striding across the dock, both in high dudgeon, each talking over the other as they scold the teens. "Where were you? What were thinking? We were so worried. We had no idea where you were. You stole a boat?! You could have drowned! You don't know how to sail. You know better than go sailing alone at night, especially without telling someone."
"Guys, guys, chillz," Derek holds his hands up to fend them off.
"'Chillz?'" George fumes. "No, no I am not going to 'chillz.' We didn't know where you were."
"You two were out all night," Nora says, her anxious eyes darting between Derek and Casey, and Casey couldn't tell if it was the fact that her mother hadn't known where her children were all night that was bothering her or that Derek and Casey had been alone together all night. Then again, maybe she's reading into it.
"It was my fault," Derek quickly jumps in, cutting a glance at Casey. "I wanted to go sailing at night. Casey tried to talk me out of it, and she only came with me to make sure I didn't, like, capsize the boat or something."
"And the fact that you both smell like lake water?" Nora asks, her arms crossing over her baby-bump.
Casey's fading blush comes back full force. She is shocked to realize she doesn't want to tell her mom about their late-night swim. It feels private. Personal. It was theirs, and she can't bear to share, to try to explain what had happened. It's ridiculous, she knows, and she dips her head to look at Derek through the corner of her eye, waiting for him to tell their parents that he'd talked her into joining him in the cold lake.
He clears his throat and reaches up to rub the back of his neck. "I might—or might not—have pushed Casey overboard. And then she might or might not have started flailing so that I had to jump in and rescue her."
All hail the Lord of Lies, Casey thinks, her brows rising as she looks at him from the corner of her eye. Though, to be honest, it wasn't technically a lie. More like a prevarication. She can prevaricate, she thinks with a tiny smirk before adding, "Which might or might not have all been a ruse so that I could get him back by trying to drown him. Which, unfortunately was unsuccessful."
"Damn my superior reflexes," he rejoins, smirking, though his eyes are smiling at her.
"Superior reflexes, my foot," she argues. "I maintain that all that hot air in your big head acted like a giant floaty."
"Enough," George cuts in.
"Sorry," they mutter, eyes dropping to the wooden dock to hide their satisfaction.
"Fine, so that explains where you went," Nora continues. "Why are you just getting back?"
"We fell asleep on deck," Casey admits. "We didn't mean to! We were just going to sit for a little while until we dried off once we got back aboard. The next thing we knew, it was morning."
The parents look at each other, silently weighing whether they believe the story and how badly the two need to be punished. Nora shakes her head and shrugs at him. George sighs eventually and rubs his eyes, a move Derek has either inherited or picked up, Casey notices.
"Both of you just…go up to the cabin, clean up, and pack. We're leaving at eleven-o-clock. We'll discuss your punishment at home."
"Whatever you say, Dad," Derek says, echoed by Casey's, "Yes, George." She adds a mouthed, "I'm sorry," to her mom as she and Derek pass on their way back to the cabin.
They pass Casey's grandmother at the verge of dock and grassy bank. She's fully dressed (thank god!) and shaking her head at them.
"What?" Casey asks, wincing at the defensive tone in her voice.
"This isn't quite what I meant when we had our talk the other day," Felicia chuckles.
Casey rolls her eyes. "What can I say? Life with Derek is rarely what you expect," she admits.
The boy in question laughs, and they continue the trudge up to the McV cabin. Their vacation is almost officially over, and summer is waning. The summer flings and misadventures will fade. Autumn will bring Queens—a whole new life. With the same boy. And Casey, watching him rush ahead of her to grab the first shower, savors the anticipation.
Her grandmother's words echo again in her head.
A chance like this only comes around once in a lifetime.
A/N: I couldn't help explaining away Derek's Tom-hair. The only logical explanation was Casey's retaliation against Derek. Thus, India ink in the shampoo. Not sure how long that would take to actually wash out, but let's say a while, huh?
Also, for those of you who actually know how to sail, please forgive me! I've never been on a sail boat, so I completely pulled that out of places the sun don't shine.
Finally, I think I stole the Derek's "incredibly generous" line from Phoenix Satori. Which just goes to show that she needs to update one of her LWD fics. (Hint, hint. Poke, poke.)