Author's Note: Horribly late! I'm terribly sorry! O_O I'm back in school since a while back, and the time for fanfics is sparse, if any...

Hope you'll like it anyway! Whump is a dish best served cold, right? Right? Oh well...

oOoOo

The doors to the hospital opened as a cheerful force known as Casey McDonald stepped inside. She was holding a large paper bag in her left hand while humming on happy tune she didn't quite remember the title of. Her whole being was like a beaming light of optimism and joy, which could come off as odd in a hospital full of sick people.

Casey trotted over to the nurse station and knocked on the counter for attention. A slightly heavy nurse in purple scrubs, who seemed to be rather busy with some charts for the moment, turned to her. She did not look too enthusiastic about the interruption.

"Excuse me, but could you please tell me where Derek Venturi's room is?" Casey asked the nurse politely with a bright smile. "He was admitted yesterday and I just want to-"

"Are you family?" The nurse asked and left the charts to walk up to the nearest computer and hit a few buttons.

"Step sister." Casey asked, still smiling. "My name is Casey McDonald. George Venturi is together with my mom, Nora McDonald, so Derek Venturi is-"

"In room 405." The nurse interrupted and turned her back to Casey. "Third floor."

"Well… Thanks for that." Casey said with an uncertain look and quickly headed for the elevators. "… Ok, she was probably just having a stressful day at work. Or, Derek is making it a habit to get on the wrong foot with large nurses…"

Casey eventually got to the right floor and started looking for Derek's room. She cringed as she could hear a man roaring in what had to be great physical pain. Casey tried to shut the noise out as she hurriedly read the signs and finally located room 405. But the closer she got, the man's screams got louder. The voice seemed to be coming from the same room that Derek was located in. Casey froze. Were those screams coming from… No, wait. It didn't make any sense! The voice was way too deep. And what kind of hospital would leave a patient screaming in agony anyway?"

Casey wasn't sure what to expect when she finally peeked inside the room.

"The red deer stag roars, not only to attract females, but also to establish his dominance over the other males. And as shown so often in the animal kingdom: louder means better."

The TV in the room was showing a huge deer roaring once more, as the British narrator tried to talk in the background. The noise was unbearable. Casey looked over at the bed where Derek was lying while lazily watching the TV with the remote control in his hand. The sound on the TV was set on "deaf", most likely for the sole purpose to annoy everyone in hearing distance.

Casey noted immediately a few details she didn't usually see on Derek. There was an IV-tube attached to his left arm, none less than three different bags filled with liquid was hanging on a stand by his bed, and a nasal cannula was going from Derek's nostrils to what Casey assumed to be an oxygen supply. However, none of these things appeared to bother Derek even half as much as it bothered Casey. He just looked very, very bored.

"Just as good as sports, right?" Casey said with a smile.

Derek turned his head to the door in surprise and Casey waved happily at him when he noticed her. He observed her for a brief moment before simply turning back his attention to the TV again.

"Heey, Case." Derek said casually and lowered the sound on the TV, but without looking at her. "What's up?"

"Really? That is how you greet me?" Casey asked in disbelief. "After everything that happened yesterday? After making me think that you were dying or worse?!"

"… Long time no seen?" Derek tried with an uncertain look at her.

"Forget it. I just… Kinda expected something a little more heartwarming, that's all." Casey sighed and stepped over to Derek's bed. "Never mind. I don't know what I was thinking."

"Huh. As usual then." Derek stated and watched as two stags on the TV were silently observing each other with no indication of wanting to fight whatsoever.

"Why are you watching that, anyway?" Casey asked with a frown at the TV.

"Because this hospital only got four channels and has the lamest TV-supply in all of Ontario…" Derek answered deadpan.

"… And you still chose a documentary about the red deer?" Casey asked with a semi smile.

"It's either this or a black and white romantic movie, some kids' show about a bear and a huge chicken, or educational TV. I don't think I have to explain myself further." Derek said and added in pretend interest. "Did you know that the European red deer is the fourth largest deer specie in the world and that the stag can have as much as twenty girlfriends all to himself? I'm telling you, this dude knows how to party."

"Yeah… I guess?" Casey said with a less impressed expression.

Derek and Casey watched how the stags on the TV kept staring at one another, while the narrator went on in the background about something that seemed completely irrelevant to the situation.

"So… Are dad and the rest coming?" Derek asked, trying to sound more indifferent than he managed to pull off.

"They are." Casey answered simply. "But not right now. Mom and Marti will drive over here once they pick up Edwin and Liz after school. And I'm not sure if George told you this, but he has to work to five so he won't be here until-"

"Yeah, yeah. He told me." Derek interrupted with an almost dejected look, but it was quickly replaced by a suspicious glance at Casey. "… And unless that watch over there has stopped, it's only 12:40. Did the school burn down during night, or is there any other possible reason to why you're not there right now?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm afraid that the school is just fine." Casey answered sarcastically. "But I decided to skip the last class and take the bus here instead. I wanted to speak to you alone before the whole family gets here. And I am NOT doing this without permission. Paul has talked to my teachers, so they understand why I can't attend. Plus, Emily is taking lots and lots of notes for me, so-"

"Casey McDonald is willingly bailing on school?" Derek said and sat up straighter in the bed with his first honestly amused smile since they had started talking. "Just to see me? Well, well, Case. I have to admit that I'm flattered and just a teeny tad bit impressed."

"Well, don't be." Casey said with a less amused face. "This is just a onetime thing, and I'm going to study extra hard to make up for it. And not to mention that now when you happen to be out of the house for a week, I might actually get some work done for a change."

"I'm sure you will." Derek said with that perfect mix of disbelief and taunt that Casey hated so much. "And since I don't have my phone on me, you're gonna have to tell the hockey team that I'm gonna miss the training for the next week or so."

"Oh, I already told Sam about your pancreatitis." Casey nodded. "And Emily. Because... Well, obviously I could never hide anything from her. The rest of the school is just vaguely informed of that you're home sick, but nobody knows the details. I thought it would be best that way."

"Okay...?" Derek said uncertainly. "I'm not sure if I really care, but alright. Keep it discreet. Whatever."

No one said anything for a minute, except the narrator on the TV that had a hard time hiding his enthusiasm over some stag's antlers.

"Well …" Casey said to break the silence. "I… realize that I haven't really asked you how you're feeling yet, so… How are you feeling?"

"Me? I'm doing fine. I'm doing more than fine." Derek answered with great confidence for someone lying in bed with several different tubes hooked up to his body.

"How can you be fine?!" Casey asked in disbelief. "You look like a failed experiment by Doctor Frankenstein! No offense…"

"Listen. I got cute nurses tending to my every need, I don't even have to think about school for at least another week, and I think this is actually the first time I've been told to do as little as possible." Derek explained to her. "On paper, this is the life I always wanted."

"Except from the poor TV-supply." Casey added with a glance at the deer.

"Yeah, that does lower the grade a bit..." Derek admitted and zapped between the four TV-channels in a quick row. "And that also goes for the not so very cool hospital gown they're making me wear, the mean nurse who only wants my young precious blood and won't even fluff my pillow, and the fact that I got several giant needles stuck in my arm. But despite all that, it's not so bad."

"Well, I've been here for almost ten minutes and you haven't even insulted me yet." Casey pointed out with a pleased look. "I dare say that being here is actually making you nicer."

"I'd say it's just because these painkillers makes you seem like less of a pain in the butt than usual." Derek explained with a grin.

"Wait a minute…! You're still in pain?" Casey asked in surprise and went over to check one of the IV-bags. "Is it bad? Is it the same as before?"

"Yes… And no. As I just told you, I'm on pain meds. I'm not sure if I even remember what pain is." Derek said and leaned back in his bed in a relaxed manner. "I'm telling ya, this stuff is great…!"

"It's morphine." Casey said with a raised eyebrow as she read the text on the bag.

"Morphine, schmorphine." Derek said and made a petty wave with his hand. "I wouldn't mind having some bags of this at home."

"Yeah… That would make you a junkie." Casey stated in disbelief and sat down on his bed, making Derek try and move away from her with an uncomfortable look. "Anyway. As your thoughtful, mature, caring sister-"

"Step-sister." Derek interrupted.

"… I brought you some things to cheer you up." Casey continued happily and held up the paper bag that she had brought with her. She started to dig through its contents. "I think you're really gonna like the first one. I've heard that hospital food is horrible, so…"

Casey dramatically picked up a burger meal box from the bag and placed it carelessly on Derek's stomach, making Derek flinch and groan in sudden pain.

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" Casey quickly added and moved the burger meal to Derek's legs instead. "I forgot that your abdomen is probably still tender…"

"… no worries." Derek said with a strained smile. "Just leave it alone and let schmorphine take care of it, ok?"

Casey carefully started to pick up two cheeseburgers, a box of fries, some dip, and a large paper mug of Coca Cola.

"… Taadaa!" Casey smiled and made a hand gesture towards the food. "A meal fit for a king."

"That's… Really thoughtful." Derek said with a reluctant look at the hamburgers. "You actually picked something you knew I'd like. Nice job there."

"I know, right!" Casey said in excitement.

"Well, I hope that you like cheeseburgers too." Derek said sincerely and placed one hamburger in Casey's hand instead. "You keep that."

"What? Why?" Casey asked in confusion, but then seemed to realize something. "Are you feeling nauseous from the pain? Do you need to throw up? Should I get a nurse or a bucket or-?"

"No, no, and ew." Derek said, his voice calm but his eyes annoyed.

"Then what is it? Are you not hungry?" Casey asked with a frown.

"Are you kidding me?! I am starving…!" Derek told her with a miserable groan and fell back towards the pillows in anguish. "I'd eat a candlestick if it was covered in mayo... And I'm not kidding, by the way."

"Then, why-"

Derek cut her off by simply pointing at the IV-bags without even looking at them. Casey gave him a confused look.

"… I'm not sure I follow you." Casey said with a frown. "And no matter how utterly ridiculous this sounds, I think you know more about this stuff than I do right now…"

"My so called "doctor" says that I'm not allowed to eat real food." Derek said in a voice that reeked of sarcasm and passive aggressiveness. "For five days! It's not humanly possible! But according to him, digesting good food would upset my stupid pancreas or whatever, and then the pain will be back even worse than before, blah, blah, blah… and I'll just throw up anyway, so there's really no point eating anything at all. No crisps, no sandwiches, and absolutely no burgers. These bags of fluid are the only snack I'll get. And it's not even flavored…!"

"Oh." Casey said in surprise and hurriedly packed down the forbidden goods and put it all back in the bag. "Sorry to hear that. Well… I guess it's the thought that counts…?"

"If thoughts were eatable…" Derek mumbled with a tormented expression.

"Well, luckily I brought some stuff that is not food." Casey declared lightheartedly and dug through the paper bag again.

"Casey, I swear. If you brought me homework, I will press that alarm button." Derek told Casey with a serious look.

"To be fair, it's not exactly homework." Casey said and pulled up a history book and some papers. "This is a very interesting assignment that you missed since you weren't in school for most of yesterday, and it's a group effort so I thought that maybe you wanted to catch up a little on the subject so that your group won't have to pick up your slack-"

Derek quickly reached for the button on the wall with a threatening glare at Casey's direction. Casey sighed in frustration and simply put the book and papers back in the bag.

"Fine… It was worth a shot." Casey stated and picked up a small bundle of papers instead.

Derek barely took one glance at the papers before he immediately reached for the button again.

"Relax, it's not more "homework"." Casey said reassuringly and handed it over. "I just thought that you might want some nice reading material while you were here."

"Casey, I don't do reading." Derek explained with a mocking smile as he took the bundle. "And I don't do school work when I'm not in school. I do however love hamburgers, but since I'm not allowed to eat any, I have to knock off a few points from that too. So basically, I want you to take all of this in consideration next time you visit me, and-"

Derek trailed off as he noticed the first page. The title was "Tomato or Tomato. A study of British English and American slang", and underneath it was the name of Casey McDonald.

"I'm glad to see that you recognize it." Casey said cheerfully and took back the bundle of papers to hold it up for Derek to see. "See? I got an A+ on the English assignment you took from me. I just got it back today, so I thought that perhaps you wanted to read it for yourself and see what kind of fictional treasure you've been sitting on the whole time. And if you want your grade in English to be as good as mine, I'd say this is what to strive for."

"You're mocking me." Derek stated with a smirk. "You're mocking the sick guy. I get it. Really, really funny for being you. But you see, I think it would be better if you take this paper with you when you leave, since I'm trying to not to fall into a coma while I'm here-"

Derek suddenly stopped with a hesitant expression. He took another look at the assignment and then slowly realized something.

"This was in my locker." Derek said.

Casey nodded smilingly.

"How did you get into my locker?" Derek asked with a wary look at her.

Casey picked up the fourth gift from the paper bag and handed it over to Derek. It was a tiny, pink gift box with a red ribbon on top.

"Yesterday, after you and George left, I explained my situation to Mr Anderson." Casey told Derek as he stared at her with growing uneasiness. "He was very understanding to why I couldn't hand in my English paper on time, and he was even nice enough to ask the janitor to help me out."

Derek ripped off the ribbon and opened the box only to find his old padlock chopped in half and resting on a tiny pink cushion.

"So the janitor brought a bolt cutter, and I think you can figure out the rest." Casey finished.

"Are you telling me…" Derek said with a look of terror in his eyes. "That my locker; where I keep my private stuff, my hockey game play, my list of the hottest girls in school… Is open for the public…?!"

"Now, what kind of thoughtful, mature, caring step-sister would I be if I allowed that to happen?" Casey asked and picked up the fifth and last gift from the bag. It was a small piece of paper with numbers on it, and yet another red ribbon. "This is the combination for your NEW padlock. I got you a new one yesterday after school. And as we speak it's doing a very good job protecting your personal belongings from your greedy fangirls. There! That was my last gift for you. I hope you liked it."

"Um… Since you are the one who broke into my locker to begin with; this doesn't really count as a "real" gift." Derek said with a smug smile.

"Huh. I didn't think about it that way." Casey said with pretend realization. "You're right. I should probably just take it back tomorrow when I get back to school and you don't."

"NO!" Derek quickly said and then laughed a bit nervously. "No, just… When I think about it, a padlock is actually a pretty… Neat gift. Just leave it where it is."

"I thought so too." Casey said with a smile and put the paper bag down on the floor as she got up from the bed. "Well, that's all I had with me, so I better get going…"

"You are leaving now?" Derek asked in slight surprise.

"Well, the plan was to leave and then come back when mom and the rest get here." Casey explained with a glance at the watch on the wall. "They should probably be here in an hour or so. And I really just wanted an opportunity to give you all this stuff while you were alone."

"Oh. Right." Derek said, looking less amused and turned away from her to reach for the remote control again.

"Or, did you want me to stay longer?" Casey asked with a curious look at Derek.

"I'm not… saying that I want you to stick around." Derek tried to explain, looking somewhat awkward. "But it's not like it'll get more interesting around here if you leave, so I guess what I'm trying to say is that… You can stay if you want. Not because I want you to! But… Well, this documentary isn't that bad. They might get to the mating season soon..."

"Now, what kind of crazy person would say no to an invitation to stay in a hospital bed and watch a British documentary about the magnificent European red deer?" Casey asked with a smile as she sat down on the bed again, making herself comfortable while Derek moved away slightly to make sure that she kept her distance.

"Just tell me one thing." Derek asked with a big grin. "How much did dad freak out yesterday?"

"Why are you asking me that?" Casey said. "You were there. And from what I can tell, George barely left your side even once. Shouldn't you know this better than anyone?"

"Well, my memories from yesterday are not in great shape." Derek explained with a sarcastic smile. "Possibly due to the fact that I was either in excruciating pain or unconscious during most part of the time."

"You're lucky then. I wish I could forget about all that too…" Casey said with a queasy expression when she thought back of yesterday's events.

"So anyway, tell me." Derek continued looking excited. "On a scale from one to ten, how much did the old man loose it? I just like to know for future references. You know, in case I'd ever want to fake a pancreatitis."

"It's hard to say." Casey said with a shrug. "I know that he was really tired when he finally got home. When mom asked if he wanted to go to bed, he actually asked if he could sleep on the couch instead."

"That's about a five." Derek said with an unimpressed look.

"… And he apparently got a speeding ticket when driving you to the hospital." Casey recollected.

"That's… probably a seven." Derek mused.

"I just felt so sorry for him." Casey said with a sympathetic look and thought back on the moment when George got home from the hospital. "He seemed so tired and worn out… He looked like he had aged ten years over night. I think he truly meant it when he said that he has never been this scared in his whole life."

"Ok, that's a twelve, and I seriously don't think I want to hear anymore…!" Derek interrupted with an uncomfortable smile.

"He seemed so vulnerable…" Casey continued mercilessly. "So fragile-"

"Casey! Knock it off!" Derek asked with panicky eyes.

Casey stopped talking and looked at Derek with a smirk. Knowing exactly how much discomfort she was causing her step brother.

"There. Now we're even." Casey said happily.

"Glad to hear that." Derek said sarcastically, but then went quiet for a second and seemed to search for the right word. "And… For what it's worth, I still remember some of the things that happened yesterday. Not everything, but enough to know that I probably owe you a thank you… For helping me out and such."

"Then just say it." Casey said kindly. "Say: Thank you, Casey, for helping me out when I needed it the most. You are the best step-sister a step-brother could ever have. Say it like you mean it."

"Um… thank you, Casey?" Derek said with an uncertain expression and kept looking at the sides as if to see if someone was filming this.

"Aww, Derek…" Casey said and instantly started to tear up. "I'm just- This means a lot coming from you, and I'm- I'm so happy that- That you-"

Derek sat straight up in his bed and stared at Casey in terror as she got closer and closer to tears.

"No! No, no, no, NO!" Derek said and stared at her in horror. "Don't cry. No, don't you dare cry! No tears in here. I declare this a tear-free zone! You got that?"

Instead of stopping, Casey started to cry for real now. Derek winced uneasily and kept glancing at the corridor to make sure that no one was coming to check on the crying.

"Shh! Casey!" Derek tried in a low and desperate voice. "You gotta stop crying now. This is totally not the proper response to a simple thank you. I didn't even mean it! Casey. Stop it. Now. Nothing's wrong. There's absolutely nothing to cry about-"

Casey interrupted Derek by suddenly throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him into a tearful hug.

"No, no, wait! Don't-" Derek protested but Casey had already wrapped her arms around him in a warm, though slightly damp, embrace. Derek winced in discomfort. "… hug me."

"I'm just so glad that you're ok." Casey sniffled and refused to release the hug. "I know that you'll probably go back to being a jerk the second your off the pain meds, so I just wanted to say this while I'm not mad at you over some stupid prank."

"Yeah, speaking of pain…" Derek said in a strained voice with his eyes shut in great anguish. "I think your elbow is pressing at the IV-needle, 'cause it's literally drilling into my arm right now and it hurts-"

Casey immediately let go of Derek who grunted in pain and gave the needle an annoyed glare.

"… Sorry about that." Casey said apologetically and wiped away a remaining tear. "And… Sorry for tearing up on you. But, you know me…! I got so many feelings that sometimes… Well, it all gotta come out! … Ok, how about that we just forget that this ever happened?"

"Gladly." Derek agreed with a stiff smile.

The awkward silence that followed was quickly broken by a bunch of voices filling the corridor together with the sound of footsteps. A lot of footsteps.

"Wow…" Casey said and jumped to the possibility to talk about something else. "Sounds like one of your neighbors is about to get his or her hands full, huh? That must be someone's whole family or something."

"Marti! Don't run ahead! Actually, don't run at all! This is a hospital, not the supermarket! Lizzie, can you go get her? And Edwin, stop dragging your feet. We're here now, try and cheer up. Marti, that's the wrong room! Come on, this is where we're heading."

Nora suddenly stopped right outside the room when noticing the right sign and stepped inside with a bright smile. A smile that quickly changed into a surprised look when she noticed Casey sitting in Derek's bed staring back at her.

"Mom!?" Casey asked.

"Casey?!" Nora said in shock.

"Derek!" Marti yelled cheerfully and bounced inside the room.

The smallest Venturi jumped up in the bed and landed perfectly on Derek's still tender abdomen, making him gasp and flinch in pain. Casey gave him a sympathetic look, knowing very well that Marti weighed a lot more than a cheeseburger and some fries.

"Did that hurt…?" Marti asked with a worried look at Derek, her happy spirit immediately dampened from Derek's reaction.

"… Not one bit!" Derek told her with gritted teeth and the biggest fake smile Casey had ever seen him put on.

"What is that?" Marti asked curiously and poked at the nasal cannula in Derek's face.

"Oh, you mean this?" Derek said confidently, quickly recovering from the pain. "This, my dear Smarti, is a special straw so that I can drink soda through my nose."

"That's gross!" Marti giggled.

"Noo, it's convenient." Derek corrected her and wiggled his nose to make her laugh, but then noticed a piece of paper behind her back. "What you got there, Marti?"

"I made this for you in school!" Marti declared and held up a blue colored arch of paper filled with glitter, pieces from different colored papers, an oak leaf, and the letter "D" cut out from red cardboard and glued, or stapled, to the rest of the card. It was dripping of glitter and pieces all over the covers.

"It's a get well card! My teacher let me make one just for you. There were supposed to be pretty beads on it too."

"Yeah, I think we decorated most of the parking lot with those..." Nora pointed out.

"I made it so that you won't miss me when we leave." Marti explained.

"Aw, I'll always miss ya, Smarti." Derek said as he studied the card with a pleased smile and glanced at the now very glittery covers of his bed. "Heh. Nurse Meanie is so not gonna like this... Thanks, Marti. I love it."

"That's great, but may I interrupt and just ask what you are doing here, Casey?" Nora asked with a confused look at her daughter. "I thought you'd be in class right now."

"Well… It's really not that big of a deal." Casey laughed nervously. "I got off school early and I thought I'd take the time to… Deliver some homework for Derek. Sorry, I should have called-"

"No, no. It's not important." Nora said lightheartedly. "Actually, Marti's teacher called and said that she was being a… A bit too excited over to see Derek, so she suggested that we might just as well pick her up an hour early. And then I thought that why not take Lizzie and Edwin with me at the same time. Plus, I figured that you wouldn't mind that we went ahead and visited Derek without waiting for you."

"No, no. Of course not. Why would I mind that?" Casey asked with another laugh.

"I talked to my teacher about Derek too." Lizzie said and turned to Derek in ill-concealed excitement. "Did you know that Pancreatitis is rated as the third worst pain in the world? My teacher had it last semester, and she says that it was worse than giving birth to twins. Which she did like eight years ago."

"Really?" Derek said with a weird smile. "Well, I honestly did not know that. Thanks for the FYI, Liz..."

"I've printed out a site about it." Lizzie continued and handed Derek a bundle of papers.

"On how to give birth to twins?" Derek asked with a weird look.

"No, on Pancreatitis. In case you'd want to read up on it." Lizzie told him.

"Um… You know what? When the movie comes out, I'll just watch it then." Derek said and put the bundle on the night stand with an uncomfortable look.

Derek now noticed that Edwin was with the group too; only that he was standing in the back, a few feet behind all the others and hadn't said one word since they got there. His eyes were wandering between the different IV-stands, Derek, the stags on the TV that was currently fighting over a doe, and then back to Derek again.

"Hey, Ed." Derek said and gestured to Edwin to come closer. "Get over here. Now."

Edwin snapped his head in Derek's direction and then slowly made his way over to the bedside. He seemed unable to look directly at Derek and kept glancing at the floor the whole time.

"Edwin." Derek said with a dark and serious voice. "Listen to me. I need to know that you're gonna take over for me when I'm gone, ok?"

"What…?" Edwin asked and looked up at Derek in surprise.

"I need you to carry on the Venturi name." Derek continued in the same dark serious voice as before. "When dad only has one son left, you gotta pick up from where I left and carry on the task of living up to the Venturi name. You got that?"

"Wh-What do you mean?" Edwin asked with a petrified look. "Dad said that you're coming home in a week…!"

"Only to spare your young mind from the horrifying truth!" Derek said grimly, but with a completely straight face. "So I'm asking you, Edwin. Are you prepared to take over the title of prank-master in the McDonald-Venturi house? To keep the Venturi name cool at Thompson High? And to honor my name when I'm gone forever…?"

"Of course…!" Edwin said desperately. "Whatever you say, bro. I- I'll do what it takes. I just don't want you to- Hey. Hey! HEY!"

Edwin was interrupted when Derek's severe expression suddenly switched to a mischievous one, as he reached out and pulled Edwin closer, locked him in place to prevent escape, and gave his little brother a noogie.

"I can't believe that you actually bought all that." Derek said, still keeping Edwin in a vice grip. "Does it look like I'm going somewhere?"

"No…!" Edwin admitted and gritted his teeth as he tried to squirm his way out of Derek's arms. "I'm sorry! I didn't really think any of that. I knew that you were just faking- I mean, you're the king of deceit! You're immortal. You're- Can you please stop noogie me now?!"

"Yeah, that should do it." Derek said and released Edwin who quickly got up on his feet, panting and scratching his head from the rough treatment. "And since you're up and running. Ed, fetch me a chocolate bar from the snack machine. Stat."

"Ok, sure thing. Do you have any money?" Edwin asked.

"Do I look like I have pockets?" Derek asked sarcastically.

"Right, right." Edwin admitted and thought about it before snapping his fingers. "Teddy paid me back five bucks today in school! It's in the car, but I'll be right back!"

"Yeah, yeah. Just hurry up." Derek said with a casual hand gesture as Edwin rushed outside.

"Why would you send Edwin out to fetch you a snack?" Casey asked with a raised eyebrow. "You told me that you're not allowed to eat anything for five days."

"Yeah, I know." Derek said indifferently. "But Edwin doesn't know that. And it's not like I'm actually gonna eat anything. I'm just trying to make Edwin feel a little more at home. This is entirely for his sake. Plus that I can't have him slacking off just because I'm not gonna be home for a week or so."

"That… Sort of make sense?" Casey said uncertainly.

"I wonder how long it will take for him to figure out that he's gonna need the car keys to open the car…" Lizzie said with a weird look.

"Well, I'm just glad to hear him use more than three words per sentence." Nora pointed out with a sigh. "God, he was so quiet on the way here that I almost thought that I had forgotten one kid at the parking lot again..."

"Again…?" Casey asked with a frown.

"Never mind that." Nora said with a nervous smile and turned back to Derek with a more serious look. "Are you really not allowed to eat anything, Derek? No one has told me that. But then again, George overslept this morning and I honestly think that this is just one of many things that he completely forgot to mention... Well, lucky that I decided to go back on that pizza I thought about bringing. That would just not have been fair to you."

"You know that being constantly reminded of it doesn't exactly make me less hungry, right?" Derek asked deadpan.

"Are you gonna have any surgery?" Lizzie suddenly asked Derek with interest. "My teacher said that the doctors had to remove gallstones the size of grapes in order to make her feel better. Are they gonna do the same to you?"

"Not what I know of…?" Derek said with an almost alarmed look at Lizzie.

"Liz... Why don't you take the car keys and find Edwin, ok?" Nora suggested and handed Lizzie the keys.

"Okay, mom." She said and quickly left the room, with Derek watching her with a grave look on his face.

"Is she trying to get back at me for something I did?" Derek wanted to know.

"That depends." Casey asked with a subtle glare at Derek. "Did you do something?"

"No!" Derek said in defense.

"Then she's just being Lizzie." Casey stated with a light shrug. "She likes to be thorough. Like me."

"Yeah, no kidding…" Derek mumbled with a barely visible smirk.

"What is Bambi's daddy doing?" Marti suddenly asked.

Everyone in the room turned their attention to the TV screen, where the documentary about the European red deer was still running. And had apparently, just as Derek earlier had predicted, now arrived at the mating season.

"Um… You know what, Marti?" Derek said and quickly reached for the remote as Marti was making herself comfortable by using her brother's free arm as a pillow. "I think we're gonna leave Bambi's mommy and daddy alone for now and see what the big, yellow bear and giant chicken are up to instead."

oOoOo

"Why is the bear wearing a tutu?" Edwin asked with narrowed eyes.

"It's pretty!" Marti stated.

"Yes. It's very pretty, Marti." Casey said with the voice of a kindergarten teacher. "And look, he can dance too."

"Give me a break…" Edwin sighed miserably.

"He doesn't dance as good as Casey." Marti said cheerfully.

Somehow, the whole family had managed to squeeze down in Derek's bed. All except from Nora, who had borrowed a chair from one of the nearby hospital rooms. They were currently watching as a giant chicken, obviously some guy in an enormous chicken suit, tried to stop the bear from climbing up a ladder to the roof of a house.

"I'm not sure what language they are speaking." Lizzie said in confusion.

"I'm not sure if the chicken is even speaking." Edwin said in disbelief. "It just sounds like incoherent mumble and uncomfortable grunts. I think the guy in the suit is suffocating."

"Quiet! I'm trying to watch!" Marti yelled at them both.

"So… Casey." Nora whispered in order to not interrupt the TV. "Did school really end early today…?"

"Well… It did for me." Casey answered in a low voice. "I wanted to have a chance to talk to Derek before everyone else showed up. And to give him some... Stuff."

"His homework?" Nora smiled with a doubtful look.

"More a kind of "Hurry up and get well so that you can go back to being my annoying step brother again"-gift." Casey explained with a smile.

Nora didn't say anything but looked at her daughter with kind, knowing eyes and were just about to say something, but was interrupted by a stern voice.

"Excuse me." Said a female nurse, who looked like she hadn't won the lottery in a long time. "This is a hospital, not a movie theater. I'm gonna have to ask you lot to leave now so that the poor boy can get some peace and quiet."

"But I wanna watch Teddy and Chicken!" Marti said stubbornly.

"This patient needs rest." The nurse stated seriously. "And five visitors are way too much noise and commotion for him."

"I'm sorry, but isn't that up to him to decide?" Casey asked and folded her arms.

"I don't think so." The nurse said and nodded towards the bed.

Casey glanced at Derek and saw to her surprise that his eyes were closed and he appeared to have dozed off. His head was slumped to the side towards the pillows, completely unaware of his surroundings and still a lazy grip around the remote. Everyone had been so busy with the TV and each other that no one had noticed that Derek hadn't said a word for the last ten or so minutes.

"Well, in his defense. A bear in a tutu would do that to any guy." Edwin tried to explain to the nurse as he waved a hand before Derek's face to see if he would react to it.

"Okay, kids. Let's sneak out as quietly as we can and let Derek sleep for now." Nora told them and ushered Lizzie and Edwin to jump off the bed.

"Can I stay here with Smerek?" Marti asked and snuggled up to Derek's slowly heaving chest while hooking her arms around him in a possessive way.

"No, Marti. Not this time." Nora said sympathetically and carefully picked her up. "But George will visit him later after work, remember? And you'll see him tomorrow after school, so it won't be for very long."

"Bye, Derek." Lizzie said in a low voice and waved a little before leaving the room.

"See ya, bro." Edwin said with one last look at Derek before almost hurrying outside.

Nora carried Marti with her when she walked out, with Marti just silently waving good bye to her sleeping brother. Casey didn't leave immediately. She watched Derek's limp body and remembered with uneasiness how she had felt the last time she had seen him like this. She then finally turned around, prepared to go.

"Don't ever scare me like that again." Casey said quietly before she left.

oOoOo

Author's Note: This turned out waaaaay more Dasey than I had intended… O_O

But this is it folks! I don't really have anything else planned for this story. I had a small fragment of an idea to let Casey and George meet up at the hospital later that day, since they haven't really met since Derek got sick at school, but I think this works as a pretty decent ending. ^-^

Also, I'm sorry if any medical information seems off or incorrect. I always do research for my stories, but the fact is that I'm not a doctor, nurse or even a medical student so I can't know all this stuff for sure. But know that I'vr tried my best! For your sake. ;)

Lastly, I'm just so grateful to every single one of you who have left reviews on this story! It's only thanks to you that I've been able to finish it. And I can't do anything but apologize for my sporadic inactivity. You are beyond awesome. :)