ENTITLED: But Never Jumping
FANDOM: Life With Derek
LENGTH: 2,200 words
SETTING: Post-series, Christmas break, and the kids are home from college.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Life With Derek, which should be obvious, given the rating.
NOTES: Yo, what's up fandom? Kinda thought I was leaving you guys, but, hey. "Here I am, if you'll have me."
NOTES2: So my latest shtick is blurting out lines that should belong in cheesy romances. You should try it! Does wonders for your self-confidence.
SUMMARY: Derek drops the L word, and everyone else is severely underwhelmed. — CaseyDerek
"Gimme the milk?"
"I'm in love with you."
"Derek, milk." Casey didn't so much as look up from her comics. Thin wisps of hair had broken from the bun she'd slept in, and she reached up now to push them from her face. Derek sat. He said it again, slightly louder.
"No, Casey, listen to me. I'm in love with you, stupid. Really. And I'm not giving you the milk."
Casey looked up, frowning a little. "What?"
Derek heaved a great, exasperated sigh, complete with excessive eye-rolling and sneering. Which could only mean that he was covering up something. "Okay, look. I realize this might be a difficult for you, but occasionally, there grows between two individuals a certain attraction—"
Casey was squinting at him. She looked under the table. "Derek. Stop. You're being weird. This is weird. Wait. Are you—is this coercion?"
"No, moron, I'm telling you that I'm in love with you."
"I heard you," she stuck out her tongue, "I'm waiting for the punch line."
Derek stared at her. And then, rather stiffly, he passed her the milk.
"I don't really want it anymore—"
"Eat your damn cereal."
"You eat the cereal."
"I can't," he stabbed at her with his index finger. "You put a pink sticker on it. Pink stickers mean I'm not allowed to eat it."
Casey growled. Derek smirked at her for a moment, and then seemed to remember His Mission, "And in spite of this alarming psychosis, I still love you."
Casey scooted her stool away from the table, bringing her bowl with her. She held it closely to her chest, almost like a shield, "You're freaking me out."
"Yeah," he raised his eyebrows, "I kinda got that."
"It isn't funny."
"They why are you—" she hesitated, scrunched up her face, "Ugh, whatever."
"Because I woke up this morning and I realized that I didn't know what I was waiting for. What dramatic and awful thing had to happen. Maybe you'd have to get hit by a car and fall into a coma, I don't know. The point is: What if you didn't just fall into a coma? What if you died?"
Casey stared at him. Her mouth was slightly open. He was careful not to look her in the eye.
Casey struggled to process this, "So you…want to hit me with your car?" She seemed almost comforted by this. Derek hissed, pulling his fingers though his hair and slouching even further over the counter.
"No. No, Casey, I do not want to hit you with my car. And you know I don't. So stop trying to dodge around what is right in front of you."
"Did you do this with your old boyfriends?" he jabbed at her accusingly with his fork, and a bit of egg went flying across the kitchen, "Did you meet their heartfelt declarations with affected confusion?"
Casey's mouth snapped closed, and her previously bewildered look morphed into one of righteous offense, "No!"
"What's going on?" a sleepy voice muttered, and George stumbled into the kitchen, claiming the stool next to Derek and absentmindedly resting his elbow in his son's breakfast. Casey dropped the empty bowl with a shriek, and backed rapidly into the sink. There was a moderately loud crash. That even this did not succeed in startling George fully-awake seemed testament to the household's level of chaos.
"Nothing!" Casey squeaked, clinging to rim of the sink. She stared at her step-father with wild eyes for a moment, and then forced a reassuring smile. "Nothing. Derek and I were just fighting. Like we always do. Because—"
"I'm in love with her," Derek cut in. Loudly.
It was fortunate that Casey wasn't holding any more crockery. "Stop it!"
George's head came up, and rotated slowly as if attempting to locate the source of distress. The kitchen went silent as it waited for his verdict.
"Derek," George said sternly, "Be nice to your sister."
Derek looked pained. And not just because his father was now trying to eat eggs off his elbow.
Casey fidgeted, slowly releasing her strangle-hold on the sink. She looked like she was waiting for permission to leave. When no one spoke, she took a few, tentative steps to the door, almost flattening herself against the wall when she passed Derek—like he was going to lunge out of his chair and tackle her—before she bolted.
Derek listened to the thunder of sprinting feet going up the stairs, the loud slam of a door, and the ensuing stillness. He looked to his left. George's tongue was still hopefully outstretched, and he looked to be on the verge of dislocating his shoulder.
"I mean it," Derek threatened, "I'm in love with Casey. And I'm not changing my mind. So there."
"Would you get me the ketchup?"
Derek's jaw worked for a moment, before he visibly gave up, "Yeah, sure."
Casey stayed shut up in her room for the rest of the day. Derek sulked on the couch, and spent several hours staring at the television before he remembered to turn it on.
But Casey had never been one to avoid a problem. And come dinner time, she was sitting at her usual place, directly across the table from him. Derek raised his eyebrows. She stared back defiantly.
"So!" Nora's voice broke the tension, "How was everyone's day?"
"Edwin farted." Marti announced, and stared reprovingly at her brother. Edwin did not appear even moderately ashamed of this.
"Well Lizzie set her pet frog on fire."
"He was fine!" Lizzie wailed, and covered her face with her hands, "I swear! It was an accident! He just—he might be blind now, but I think he'll get better!"
George and Nora looked at each other, and then at their two eldest, who were once again doing that creepy thing where they stared at one another for long periods of time without blinking.
"Derek? Casey?" Nora tried.
"I was an angel today, if anyone was curious," Marti pouted.
"That's wonderful, sweetheart," Nora murmured, and patted George on the arm. Marti looked indignant.
"Yeah?" Derek replied, perhaps a bit too loudly. He had, in actuality, heard his stepmother earlier and only ignored her in the interest of dramatics. Nora blinked.
"Well…what did you do today?"
Across the table, Casey whitened. Derek looked around triumphantly. "Thank you for asking, Nora. Today, I—"
"Looked at porn!" Casey blurted, and took a hasty, oversized bite of mashed potatoes. The dinner table erupted with cries of distaste, save Edwin.
Derek rolled his eyes. Casey was studying her dinner plate with guilty intensity, and doing everything she possibly could to avoid making eye contact. He nudged her knee and she tipped over the water glass.
"Aw, Casey!" Lizzie wailed, and hastily rescued her roll. Casey flushed and muttered a few hasty apologies before excusing herself to the kitchen for a rag. Derek watched her go. And then he, too, stood.
"I'm going to go antagonize her," he explained, but by this point the family was again occupied by Lizzie's status as the potential committer of an animal hate-crime.
Thus, Derek sauntered into the kitchen, dragged a squawking Casey into a hidden corner, and crossed his arms. "I'm not going to leave."
Casey looked startled, "What?"
"Me. You can't just avoid me forever. And anyway, I wouldn't leave—you know. If we. Yeah." He looked with sudden fascination at the refrigerator. There was a picture of Casey in her graduation gown at his eye-level. He'd drawn a mustache on her laughing, happy face, and drawn it carefully so that it wouldn't obscure the delighted curve of her eyes. "I wouldn't ever leave," he said again, firmly, and then made himself look at her.
Casey was about fifty shades of red, "You're really freaking me out."
"That's not a no."
She looked horrified. "But—Derek—I think you're confused."
Derek resisted his urge to pound a hole in the wall with his head. "How."
"I think—I think maybe you're just coming to terms with…your…affection…"Casey looked slightly sick, "Which is completely normal! Because even though we don't like each other we're still…kinda…thingy."
"I like you!" Derek said indignantly. Casey widened her eyes at him, disbelief writ all across her face.
"Derek. We are complete opposites. And for the first year I spent in this house, I lived in constant fear of waking up to you strangling me."
"Do you still think I'm going to strangle you?" Derek applied his best sales-man smile. Casey looked wary.
"See? Progress," he hung a conspiring arm over her shoulders, "And what made you decide that I wouldn't strangle you?"
"You're scared of my mom."
Derek's arm tightened briefly, "Anything else?"
Casey reached up to tug thoughtfully on a lock of hair, "Because you'd…" she trailed off, glanced at him, and shrugged hurriedly out from beneath his arm, "Oh my god! Stop doing that sneaky seduction thing!"
"Because I'd what?"
She glanced at him, a little too intense, "You'd—"
"Oh my god!" Lizzie snapped, and Derek felt himself be pushed back into the counter as the younger girl forced her way between the two of them, snatching the rag from Casey's slack grip and storming back into the dining area, "The table is soaked!"
Derek blinked. Casey shot him a quick, frightened look, and once again bolted.
But this time he was ready for her, and this time he caught her wrist, and this time she didn't get away. "Why not, Casey?"
She tugged once against his grip, and again he saw the pretty blush, "Well, you'd…you'd miss me. Kinda. Maybe. I think."
Her pulse fluttered against his thumb as he considered this.
"Sometimes I miss you even when you're right in front of me," he admitted quietly, and dropped her wrist. She didn't run. She just looked at him, and her expression just then was very strange indeed. A sort-of happiness that was just a little bit sad.
"And I get that I kind of threw all this at you. And that I'm acting weird. But I just—I didn't want to run out of time. I didn't want to have to drive you away to the edge because sometimes that sort of thing works and sometimes it doesn't. So. I'm in love with you, spacey, and I want you to think about that. And now I'm really freaked out too, so I'm just gonna…go…yeah," he shuffled hurriedly into the dining area.
Edwin looked up, "What took you so long? Where's Casey?"
Derek shrugged, "She's probably still in shock from my romancing."
Edwin dismissed this, "Yeah, okay, can you get the dessert? I don't really want any more potatoes. I think I might have found out what happened to tadpoles, Liz."
"I labeled that container!" Lizzie cried, and looked accusingly towards her mother.
Derek slid back into his chair and pushed his food in circles. After several minutes had passed, Casey rejoined them. She was still blushing, and now sneaking glances at Derek when she thought he wasn't looking. As the level of noise at the other end of the table climbed, she looked up.
"You've got some nerve."
"It depends on how much I want something."
"You did it again," she whined, and then cleared her throat, "I will. Uh, think about it. I mean. Yeah."
"Okay," he said, as nonchalantly as he could manage, "Cool."
"Yeah," she muttered, "Cool."
They let it sit for a minute.
She looked up. He grinned, "Love you."
And for a second, he was sure she smiled back.