Love it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment, a cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be
-Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
I glanced at my cellphone, noting that Derek was 15 minutes late now. I wasn't that worried about it, just a little impatient. The previous three weeks had been surprisingly good. I still couldn't find an apartment so I had continued to live with Derek which seemed to not bother him at all. He had stayed true to his word, hiring a team of movers to get my stuff; although I ended up going with them to make sure they got everything and didn't mistakenly take something of Dev's. The boxes were currently sitting in Derek's dining room.
As for Derek and I, we were good, even if I didn't know how to define our relationship. We got along well, enjoying each other's company but also knowing when to give each other space. A few intimate gestures had slipped into our daily lives, a touch here or a glance there, but for the most part it all still remained in the bedroom. At some point it seemed we had crossed the line of meaningless sex, but I didn't know if we were actually in "relationship" territory. I learned more about him as he slowly opened up to me. I did the same for him. He even cooked dinner for me a couple times, although it seemed more friendly than anything else. Whatever we were, we were good.
"Sorry I'm late, bloody traffic," Derek said as he took his seat.
We had planned on meeting up for dinner. I had a double shift at the coffeehouse and he had meetings lined up all day on our only non-rehearsal day this week. We knew we would be too tired to actually cook this evening so we had planned on going out.
"I hope you don't mind I ordered for you. I am starving and I didn't want to wait."
"Depends on what you ordered me," Derek hedged, although amused.
"You are a lovely woman, I must say. That's more than fine with me."
"I figured. So how were your meetings?" I asked before taking a sip of water.
"Dull, but we got some financial things figured out which will hopefully keep us going for a while."
"How was your shift?"
"I caught a customer looking at porn on his laptop."
"What? You've got to be joking," Derek laughed.
"I wish. I had to kick him out."
"What is even the point?"
"I don't…" I trailed off, my eyes glued to who just walked on.
"What is it?" Derek turned around to look behind him. "Is that who I think it is?"
"Yes," I said tightly. "That's Dev and the woman he cheated on me with."
I watched as the couple was led to a table two down from ours. Dev spotted me and then his face grew cold as he saw who I was with. Luckily he didn't come over to say anything; instead turning back to the woman he was with.
"Well, this is awkward," Derek whispered.
"Do you want to leave?" Derek asked, his voice filled with concern.
I considered that option, but decided against it. "Honestly, it's not as upsetting as I thought it would be. I'm more angry than anything else."
"If you want, you can put your hand under the table and I can make obscene faces so he thinks you're giving me a hand job," he said in a completely serious tone, although his twinkling eyes tipped me off that he was kidding.
I chuckled at his suggestion. "That seems a little juvenile."
"Or, I could challenge him to a duel in defense of your honor. Although all we have to fight with are butter knives…"
I full out laughed in response which earned me a genuine, sweet smile from Derek in return. Those smiles were rare and I loved each one that I garnered from him.
"There you go," he said softly, reaching out to touch my hand with his. "That's how you make him jealous. Show him that you are happy."
That's when I realized I was happy. There with Derek, sharing my day and laughing at something he said, I was very happy. And that scared me.
"Let's go through it again, from the beginning of the number," Derek called out.
I inwardly groaned, tired of doing this stupid tango. My feet were sore, I was thirsty, and I still smelled like coffee from my morning shift. I wanted rehearsal to be over. I reached out for James who brought me into his arms again. Derek counted us off. Halfway through the number was when it happened. The couple next to us over did it on a turn, losing balance and knocking into James who dropped me on our own spin. I fell backwards to the ground, feeling one of my ankles give in an excruciating way.
"Shit, what happened."
"Who is it that fell?"
"Did she hit her head? Do we need to call an ambulance?"
I groaned from all of the noises and the vision of over a dozen heads staring down at me. "Don't call an ambulance. I just twisted my left ankle."
"Look, I think that is a wrap for the day, we should give her some space," Tom called out.
If I could have, I would have reached out and given Tom a huge hug. Almost everybody cleared away except Tom, Julia, and Derek.
"Let me see?" Derek demanded, crouching down to get a closer look. He took my ankle in his hands, gently unbuckling my shoe and removing it. He prodded my ankle and foot, asking me to bend my foot and wiggle my toes. "It looks like a mild sprain. But, we can get you to the hospital if you want to double check."
That seemed like such a hassle in that particular moment. "I just want to go home and rest. If it gets worse I will go to the doctor tomorrow."
"Is there anybody we can call, a boyfriend or friend perhaps that can come pick you up?" Julia asked, maternal concern dripping from her voice.
I tried to keep my face neutral. "Um, no not really."
"I can take her to her apartment, make sure she gets home okay," Derek offered.
"Really?" Tom asked incredulously.
"Really," Derek responded coolly.
"He's got this," Julia said to Tom, drawing him away.
"Can you put any weight on it?" Derek's voice was much softer now that Julia and Tom were out of earshot.
"I think so."
Derek put an arm under my shoulder and helped me to stand up. He kept his arm around me, supporting a lot of my weight. I put my left foot down lightly, and grimaced. But, my ankle held firm.
"Can you make it out of the building?"
"Yup, no problem." I tried to sound confident.
The two of us hobbled slowly out the building, with Derek holding as much of my weight possible without completely carrying me. I grimaced at the pain, but kept going, knowing it was only a short distance to the street. Once we made it there, Derek hailed a cab and helped me in before sliding in beside me. Once the door slammed shut and the cab took off after Derek spouted off his address, I collapsed against Derek.
"God, it hurts like a bitch." I groaned.
"I'm sorry," Derek whispered, putting his arms around me.
"You should be. This is all your fault, you and your stupid choreography," I bit out, although with no real venom in my words.
"And stupid Julia and Tom for creating such a stupid musical to begin with."
"Oh, and stupid ankle that can't even hold up my own weight, it doesn't seem like that hard of a task. And I swear to God if you make a joke about my weight I will punch you so hard."
Derek laughed, kissing my forehead. "I wouldn't dream of it."
"Distract me. Tell me a story."
"Anything? Something funny."
"Well, when I was eleven I had to go to the front of the class to write out a math problem on the board. I dropped the chalk and when I bent over to pick it up the seat of my pants completely ripped."
I laughed into his jacket, where my head was still buried. "You just made that up."
Derek chuckled. "I wish. That day I learned the importance of a good fit in your pants."
"Is that your most embarrassing moment?" I asked, peeking up at him.
"Sadly no. That title is reserved for when I was 15 and out on a date with Emma Collins. I had a huge crush on her and I couldn't believe she actually agreed to go out with me when I asked. I bragged about it to all of my friends. We had gone to this restaurant she had insisted we go to. Turned out this guy she liked worked there and she just wanted to try to make him jealous. It worked. I got ditched halfway through dinner."
"Oh poor teenage Derek. Girls can be vicious."
"Don't I know it. What about you? What is your most embarrassing memory?"
"My junior year of high school in English class I got a note from this guy, asking me out. I was so excited that when the bell rung I ran off to tell my best friend and I smacked right into the door."
"What?" Derek guffawed.
I felt my cheeks heat up slightly at the memory. "My timing with twisting the door handle and pushing the door open wasn't exactly synced up correctly and I smacked my face into the door. The whole class laughed at me and for the rest of the year I was called Door Face…they weren't exactly the cleverest bunch."
"What about the guy that asked you out?"
"Oh, well he thought it was funny enough to merit still going out on a date with me. Although, his idea of a romantic date was taking me to the local 7-11 in his filthy truck, buying me a slurpee, and trying to cop a feel."
"So a real soul connection between you and him."
"I lay awake at night, thinking about how I let true love slip through my fingers."
Derek snorted, such an un-Derek sound. "Almost there."
Sure enough we were about a block away. When we arrived Derek paid for the cab and helped me out onto the sidewalk. I cringed as I gingerly put weight on my ankle.
"You know, I could just carry you up the apartment," Derek offered.
I considered that option, but it felt slightly humiliating to have to be carried across the lobby when I could technically limp across the distance. "Thanks, but I think I've got this."
"If you say so," Derek said, keeping his arm around me as we slowly made our way across the lobby. It was excruciating, but I made it. The elevator was fast and we made it to the apartment relatively quickly from there. Derek unlocked the door and we got inside. All I really wanted to do was lie down, but the image of the stairs horrified me. I didn't really want to lie down on the stiff couches either.
"I don't know if I can do those stairs," I noted.
"Would you like me to carry you up them?" Derek asked, politely.
Before I could even finish getting the words out, Derek had swept me up into his arms. I felt a little ridiculous, but I had to admit I felt safe in Derek's arms. He took me upstairs and very gently placed me on the bed.
"Let me get you some ice and ibuprofen for your ankle," Derek said before disappearing.
Derek reemerged with the bottle of ibuprofen, a glass of water, and an icepack wrapped in a washcloth. I took the bottle and water from him, popping the cap and taking out three of the maroon pills, swallowing them with a gulp of the water. Derek arranged my ankle so it was resting on a small pile of pillows and the icepack on top. He handed me the remote for the tv on the dresser that we never used because we were always otherwise occupied when were in bed.
"Here, pick something out to watch. I'm going to go downstairs and fix you up something to eat. Call if you need anything."
What I actually wanted more than anything was to take a quick shower. I still smelt like coffee and now I felt sweaty and uncomfortable to boot. The throb in my ankle was intimidating though. I glanced over to the bathroom. I could do this, I told myself. I got up, and hobbled over to the dresser, grabbing a pair of Derek's sweats and one of his t-shirts. It sounded comfortable to me. I half walked, half hopped to the bathroom. I took a quick shower, keeping my foot off the shower floor as long as possible. Once I was done, I got dressed and hopped back to bed, putting the icepack back on my foot.
I felt much better and I think the ibuprofen was starting to kick in. The throbbing had subsided to a dull ache. I snatched the remote and turned on the tv, flipping through channels. The sight of Julie Andrews singing on a vivid green hill stopped me in my tracks.
"Ah, The Sound of Music," Derek said, entering with a full tray. He came over and set it next to me. He climbed in bed, joining me. On the tray were two bowls with soup and two glasses of wine.
"Whenever I was sick as a kid or had a bad day, my mum would make me chicken noodle soup, but the crappy kind in the can."
I was touched by the thoughtful gesture. "My mom did the same thing. One time she tried giving me homemade chicken noodle soup and I refused to eat it. All I would have was the condensed kind."
"Cheers to delicious, cheap soup then."
I raised my bowl in response before taking a small spoonful. It did make me feel better, as irrational as that was.
We watched the movie in silence for a few minutes, both of us sipping our soup. Derek was the first to speak.
"You know you are going to have to stay off your ankle for a couple of days, maybe longer. You should probably call into your work."
"I'm off tomorrow, so I'm fine for the night. I will call first thing tomorrow morning. What about rehearsals? Are you going to replace me?"
"Nope," Derek said confidently. "This kind of stuff happens. We can easily let you heal up for a week or two, it will be no problem."
I half-wondered if Derek said that because we were sleeping together, but that didn't seem like him. Not to mention, I was only a chorus girl and we didn't have any performances coming up.
"I want to at least come to rehearsals so I don't miss anything."
"You should rest tomorrow, but I will see if I can rustle you up a pair of crutches."
We fell back into silence as we finished up our soup and wine. Once we were both done, Derek ran the tray back downstairs before rejoining me in bed. He noticed me trying to get comfortable. He grabbed a pillow and placed it on his lap, patting it. I took the signal, readjusting my ice pack before lying down diagonal on the bed with my head on his lap. Derek brushed my hair from my face, running his hand across my forehead and cheek. He kept caressing my hairline soothingly. I should have felt calmer, but the intimacy of the moment made me panic.
"You don't have to keep me company if you don't want to. You can go do work if you want." I told him.
"I'm fine here," Derek assured me.
His fingers kept up with their ministrations. "You know, I'm not going to be up for sex tonight."
We both froze at the abruptness of my words. Derek moved first, turning my head slightly so I was looking up at him. I pulled away, sitting up instead.
Derek became guarded, his face cautious. "I figured as much and honestly I'm a little offended that you would think I expect that from you. What's going on?"
"I don't know," I admitted, truthfully. "All I know is you are being perfect and all of a sudden I feel scared."
"Scared of what?"
"Scared that somewhere along the way I was stupid enough to start to have feelings for you. You've been so nice to me over the last couple of weeks and as ridiculous as it sounds is I am insanely comfortable around you. I know that you're not the relationship type and you don't have feelings and…" I struggled to find the words I wanted to express myself.
"Karen," Derek cut it. "Do you really think I would let just anybody stay at my place indefinitely?"
Derek rolled his eyes, scooting closer. "Look, I wouldn't have done all of this for just anybody. I like you. I like having you around. You are surprisingly not annoying to live with. You let me have my space , and you don't take offense to what I say or do. You are the first woman I have felt like I could be me around."
"So you are saying…" I couldn't wrap my head around it, let alone say it.
"I'm saying for the last week I've been actively praying, and mind you I'm not the praying type, that you wouldn't find an apartment. I'm saying that I don't want you to move out. I'm saying that I want to be in a relationship with you."
I couldn't help the grin that spread across my face at Derek's romantic speech. But I knew that I what he was saying wasn't rational. "You're crazy. We can't live together."
Derek laughed. "What are we doing now?"
"You are housing me until I get my own place."
"Darling, we sleep in the same bed, we cook, we clean, and we tell each other about our days. I think that is living together."
"That may be, but we can't keep living together, even if we both have feelings for each other. We would be going about things all backwards. We need to date for a while before we move in together."
"And how did that work out for you last time?"
I paused. He had a point. Doing everything in the right order didn't guarantee a successful relationship.
"I'm just saying, nothing would really change, except maybe the next time you fall down in rehearsal we won't have to lie about me taking you to your apartment. What's the worst that could happen? We break up and you move out."
I studied Derek for a minute, seeing the earnest emotions written all over his face. It was a little mind-boggling that he wanted to be with me, but I could see it there, written on his face, adoration. "If I do this, I will start chipping in for utilities and food and stuff. You'll also have to give up some closet space."
Derek laughed, pulling me in for a quick kiss. "We'll negotiate the finances later. I'm just glad you are going to stay."
I brought my lips to his for a longer, slower kiss. We had shared plenty of kisses in the previous weeks, but this one felt different. The normal passion and intensity was still there, but there was something else mixed in as well. Love.
I struggled to open the door while keeping my crutches upright and my purse on my shoulder. I'd seen people use crutches before and it seemed simple enough. I had no idea it caused your arms to be so sore and they were actually hard to balance sometimes. Not to mention my purse kept falling off my shoulder and slamming against my crutches. But, I was determined. I had already missed two days of rehearsal and I didn't want to miss what was going on. I had hoped to sneak in during a run through of a number, but I had the unfortunate luck of banging open the door while Derek was talking to the group.
"So, nice of you to join us Ms. Cartright," Derek spoke in his usual dry tone.
I wanted so badly to stick my tongue out at him, but instead I apologized. Tom waved me over to the table he and Julia were sitting at, pointing to an empty chair next to him.
"As I was saying, there needs to be more flirtatiousness between the couples. Just have fun with it."
I smiled, remembering our conversation a few weeks ago about having fun while dancing. It seemed he took that lesson to heart.
"I'm sorry about Derek, moody director and all," Tom whispered to me as I sat down.
"It's fine. I'm used to it by now."
"How are you feeling?"
"Better. I think Derek was right that it's a mild sprain. The swelling has gone down a lot. Hopefully I will be up on my feet soon."
"Good. And was Derek okay the other night, you know with getting you home alright?"
I blushed a little at the question. Derek and I agreed that we didn't really care if anybody knew about our relationship or not, it wouldn't change anything to us. Keeping secrets could be exhausting. But, faced with the opportunity to come clean, I didn't know how to even begin to explain. Well actually, Derek and I have been sleeping together for weeks but have just now decided to give a relationship a try. Yeah, that didn't seem weird at all. I went with the simple answer. "He was a perfect gentleman."
"Really?" Tom asked, always eager to see the worse in Derek.
"He's not as bad as you give him credit for being." I didn't say anything else, instead turning my attention to the rehearsal. I felt Tom's stare for a few seconds, but he quickly became distracted by something Julia said about the book.
The rest of the rehearsal passed by uneventfully. I took note of a couple changes Derek made to the choreography and was pleased to hear that they would be working on vocals tomorrow. I wouldn't have to sit out for that.
"Okay, guys that's it for the day. Great work," Derek announced.
I got up from my chair, trying to get the crutches situated correctly. Derek came straight towards me, and of all things leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
"How are you feeling?"
"And you didn't have any problem getting down here."
"I took the cab like you requested. How much trouble could that be?"
"Fair enough. Do you have any requests for dinner tonight?"
"Oh could you make that salmon again. That was delicious."
"Your wish is my command," Derek teased, grabbing my purse and putting a hand on the small of my back. "You ready to go home?"
Him just saying that, home, made my toes tingle. I grinned. "Yeah, let's go."
We walked out together, or I hopped on my crutches. It was then that the rest of the room's occupants came to mind and I noticed that were a good half a dozen people openly staring at us, including Ivy. All of them had dumb-founded looks on their faces. Some of the other people had the decent courtesy to not stare, but they probably were paying attention out of the corner of their eyes. I glanced at Derek who had a devilish smirk on his face. I waited until we were safely in the taxi to say anything.
"You did that on purpose?"
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"That little display in there? It had been for their benefit."
"In fairness, it had been for my benefit too, so I would know whether or not we needed to stop at the store before going back home."
I laughed. "You are so sly."
"I figured that was the least awkward way we could announce that yes, we are in a relationship. I don't want to hide you and I hate secrets. So, while I would have said those things to you anyways, it had the added bonus of telling everybody that we are together. Two birds, one stone."
I shook my head. "You know, I love you right?"
"I seem to recall you moaning something along those lines last night, although it was hard to tell if you loved me or just my body. Or more specifically what my body was doing to your body."
"Definitely just the body. You're just a pretty face to me."
"My looks have always been such a burden. Nobody loves me for me."
I cracked up, no longer able to keep a straight face. I leaned up giving Derek a sweet kiss, which he responded to by moving his lips softly against mine. When I pulled back, his face was serene, giving me his sweet smile that I had learned was reserved for me. I was probably wearing a similar expression.
"I love you."
"I love you, too"
A/N: Just wow on the amazing feedback I've gotten. I love that so many people liked this story. I hope the final chapter lived up to expectations. I really love writing for these two. At the moment, I don't have any other ideas for more stories for these two, but then I again I said that a couple weeks ago after writing Electrify, so who knows. There's another story I want to write for another fandom, but after that, I've got no plans. But, we'll see with future episodes. I'm a grad student, so it also depends on homework load.
Thanks again for all of the reviews. I really don't have time to go through and respond to each one, but please know I read each one and it means a lot to me that you took the time to review. Please, leave me one last review, telling me whether or not you liked this final chapter. Until next time.