Ghosts of Derekus Past
It was four days before Christmas. Derek sat in the driver's seat of the car he had bought just a few months earlier when the Prince had eventually given out. While it was just getting dark around 4:30 in the early evening and the roads had been slick from the recent snowfall along the 401 just outside of Toronto, Derek insisted on bugging his dear stepsister Casey.
Of course, if you asked their friends back at Queens about the two, they were more likely pinned as good friends with a dangerously high level of sexual tension. As Derek and Casey had decided over three years earlier, they were to not mention their parent's marriage and would just stay high school acquaintances. It was surprisingly easy for them to pull it off. They had different last names and siblings. They had never considered each other family and when asked about their parents, both would reply that their parents were each divorced and had remarried.
Derek had kept his small secret from all of his friends. They never bothered to go further into the subject and probably didn't care much. His hockey buddies usually had different thoughts on their mind than their friend and teammate's home life. Casey on the other hand had told their secret to her new best friend just a few weeks into their 2nd year away at university. While it pained Derek that someone in this part of their life knew about their secret, Casey felt that it strengthened the bond between her and Stacy. It was a special connection that only they shared at Queens and could bug Derek with at will.
Derek was great at picking up on social cues and differences when he wanted to. At first, he thought Casey's friend had the hots for him when he met her at his first hockey game of the season. Stacy would shoot glances at him when Casey wasn't looking and giggle to herself like she had heard a funny joke. It wasn't until he noticed a sly smirk exchanged between Casey and Stacy that Derek knew his first prediction had been wrong.
When Derek dropped Stacy and Casey off at their quad on campus, Derek's arm shot out catching Casey's wrist in his grasp.
"Hold on a second, princess," Casey scowled lightly; still not enthused about the nickname.
"Yeah, Derek?" She replied raising an eyebrow.
"Stacy…" He began.
"She's off limits Derek. No dating my friends; especially my best friend."
Derek laughed at Casey's quick assumption. "Not that Case." He leaned across the seat bringing her closer so she couldn't avoid his eyes. "Casey, you told her about us, didn't you?"
Casey tried to feign shock, but when she saw he wasn't falling for it, she confessed immediately.
"She kept asking questions…" Casey tried making excuses. "She started assuming we were, you know…"
Derek shook his head confused. "I clearly don't Case, so just spit it out please," he fake smiled.
"She thought we were more than friends… in a romantic connotation. I didn't know how to explain it so I told her that we were step siblings."
Derek ran a hand through his hair. Casey had caved so easily. "What's so bad about her assuming we were 'more than friends in a romantic connotation' Case?" He smirked, mocking Casey's previous word choice.
Casey blushed profusely before loosening his grip on her wrist and pulling away. "I wasn't going to lie to my new friend Derek." With that she slammed the Prince's side door shut and ran into the building to catch up to Stacy.
in the car on the way to London for the Christmas break, Derek flicked the radio on, picking signals up from Chum FM in Toronto. There were good and bad things about hitting the GTA (greater Toronto area) section of the 401 when they traveled the route back and forth from university to their parent's house. It was nice to hit an area with many places to stop for gas or catch something to eat. During the first two hours of their journey, it was one small city after another with only a few exits off the highway. When they saw the sign for Pickering, they knew they were close and would stop somewhere for food. The bad part about this part of the trip however, was the traffic. It was supposed to be less busy heading into Toronto when the majority of the traffic was heading east out of the city on the Friday night. But, alas, both directions of travel were horrible.
Derek peered over at Casey who had been pouting about the recent slowing of traffic as the car would inch forward every fifteen seconds or so.
"I could just as fast walk there from here," Casey said annoyed.
Derek agreed that traffic was never a fun thing, but what would whining about it do? He couldn't make the cars in front of him go faster! "Do you want me to turn the flying setting in this car on?" He asked sarcastically.
She looked over at him surprised, probably not even talking to him in the first place and huffed. "That'd be great," she replied snottily.
Derek returned his attention to the road in front of him as he focused on the break lights of the Camry in front of him. The radio station had finished playing a few songs and commercials started. Casey turned down the volume and looked over at Derek.
"I know a back-route," Casey said cocking her head to the side, trying to remember it from when she lived here.
Derek rolled his eyes. "Casey, I'm not straying off the main road for you to get us lost."
"I won't get us lost," she looked offended. "We just take some residential streets, a few country roads, and the QEW. Then we will loop back around to the 401 after Mississauga."
Derek took a few minutes to consider it before making his way slowly to the right most lane of the highway and taking the next exit. "Where to Miss GPS?"
"Take the next left under the bridge," Casey replied ignoring his quip.
Casey's route was a little out of the way and they would have to grab some fast food between there and London since they missed some of their favorite restaurants, but it was a lot more peaceful when Derek's speedometer stayed above 60 km per hour disregarding stop lights and signs.
Derek looked over to Casey once they were back on the 401 and genuinely smiled. "Way to go McDonald."
Casey blushed, not entirely used to getting true compliments from Derek. "Thanks Derek. I try," she replied trying to stay cool.
Considering how close the two had become since their first year away at university, they still had these shy moments. There was an elephant in the room with them. No matter how close they were, both relationship wise and physically, there was always unresolved tension between them. When they decided to get an apartment together to decrease costs in their third year, things just got more confusing between them. They suspected it would be like high school. They were wrong. There were whole new aspects that they never had to deal with back in their early days. Now halfway through their last year at Queens and their last year sharing an apartment together, many issues still arose on a constant basis.
What were the rules with bringing dates back to the apartment and how was the other going to handle it? There was always something intimidating for their girlfriends and boyfriends when they found that 'a friend' of the opposite sex was living with them. On many occasions Casey suspected that Derek and scared her dates away with his pre-date talks. Casey was pretty bad as well. She was a lot friendlier with Derek in those last two years and while the two didn't notice, everyone else did. She would coo over his quirks, make sure he ate healthy meals and kept on his case with grades among other things. Derek's dates and friends noticed this almost immediately. His friends chatted about his interesting relationship with Casey and his girlfriends would suddenly back off, not wanting to get between the two if they were to eventually hit it off. To everyone else, there was no one good enough for Casey except Derek and there was no one that could handle Derek like Casey could.
It wasn't until 7:30 that night that Casey and Derek arrived at their parent's house. Derek took in both suitcases as Casey grabbed her purse from the back seat and went in to greet everyone.
Lizzie was first to see the car drive up and waited patiently at the door. "Liz!" Casey shouted when she had stepped in from the cold, kicking off her shoes covered in snow.
Lizzie enveloped Casey in a big hug as Nora joined the two. "Hey mom, how is Simon? They grow so fast at his age!"
"He is down for a nap right now actually," Nora replied before kissing Casey on the cheek and pulling her into another hug.
Edwin lounged lazily sitting on the last step of the stairs as he smiled at Casey giving her a head nod.
"No hug?" Casey asked only slightly surprised at his teenage ways.
"I don't do hugs," he waved Casey off nonchalantly, clearly taking after his brother.
Just then, Derek came through the door unloading the suitcases in the main entrance way quickly before running up to Edwin and surrounding him in a bear hug.
"Derek!" He swatted his older brother away as Derek laughed hysterically.
"Come on Derek," Casey said grabbing his hand. "Let's go find Marti and George. I think they're upstairs."
Derek conceded and dropped his brother who was almost as tall as Derek and willingly followed after Casey upstairs.
Down in the living room Edwin smoothed out his button down shirt as Nora and Lizzie exchanged curious looks. Was Derek listening to Casey and had he really brought in both of their suitcases. Something was different.
The family had not seen the two together since last Christmas since Casey stayed at the university for the first three months off and Derek left home early for hockey training camp a month before school started; the two were never in London at the same time.
"Let's just be happy that they haven't killed each other," Lizzie finally spoke breaking the silence as Edwin looked up at her confused and clearly not part of the silent conversation.
The next couple of days ran like they always had. Everyone in the family bustled around finishing up last minute Christmas shopping and Nora and Casey set out on multiple trips to the grocery store making sure they had enough food for Christmas day.
"We surely don't need another repeat of what happened our third Christmas here… or should I say Derekus," Casey laughed as her mother placed two packages of stuffing in the cart.
"Oh, that was a disaster at first. But we managed to make it work in the end right?"
Casey smiled fondly. "Yeah I guess so mom. I can't believe that Aunt Madge convinced Derek to actually turn the night around."
Nora nodded as she waited for Casey to start pushing the cart down the isle again. "Uh, Casey?" Nora finally spoke after Casey had been daydreaming for at least half a minute.
"Yeah?" Casey whipped her head around to see her mom waiting impatiently. "Oh, sorry. What's next on the list?"
Back at the house, George had come back in after fixing the lights on the roof again and saw Derek laying back in his recliner partly watching a Christmas movie.
"So I see you finally got the car," George spoke from behind Derek.
Derek, surprised at his dad's sudden presence sprang up in his chair and turned to face him. "Yeah, do you like it? It took some haggling but we finally managed to get the salesman down to a reasonable price."
"We?" George asked confused.
"Yeah, me and Casey."
George nodded slowly. "So how much was it?"
Derek shot him a look. "It was our money, not yours dad. I don't want your opinion on what we could of got for a better price and where we went wrong."
Instead of looking hurt at his son's coldness, his ears perked up again. "Our money?"
It was clearly an obvious statement for Derek, but George found it a bit conspicuous. "Yeah, Casey and I put our money together to buy it. I paid for 2/3 of it since I drive it more and she paid for the rest."
"You do a lot with Casey now huh?" George asked taking a seat on the couch.
Derek sensed this conversation was about to become much longer and took the sound of the car coming into the driveway as his exiting point.
"I'm going to help with groceries. Talk later dad." It was more of a command than a suggestion as George lay back on the couch and sighed.
"Hey Case," Derek called as he opened up the trunk and handed Casey a bag with milk and juice in it.
"I see George tried 'fixing' the lights again," Casey pointed out at the uneven and straggly looking icicle lights hanging from the roof.
"Yeah. I warned him not to, but he didn't listen. If Edwin doesn't get back from his friends house before 2:00, do you want to help me actually fix them?"
Casey nodded before turning back to the house to take in the bag. Nora caught Derek's gaze following Casey and quickly spoke up. "Nice to see you helping Derek."
Derek couldn't tell whether it was genuine or not.
"Looks like you can finish up here with the turkey and the rest of the bags she said pointing to the trunk. "Casey and I will put everything away."
"Gladly," Derek replied sarcastically, but still decided to do as he was instructed.
Nora took a deep breath as she went inside. What had come over her? She was definitely over reacting to her daughter and stepsons growing friendship. She should be happy, not frustrated. Yet, something about it bothered her.
Marti came bounding down the stairs as Derek brought in the last bag and dragged it over to the kitchen countertop.
"Simon's up!" She said happily. Ever since the baby was born, she wanted to be a big part of his life, but she wasn't old enough to do most of the work. She wasn't big enough to change him or properly feed him and she couldn't handle the times when he would cry uncontrollably. But, being there and helping out in the slightest was all right with her.
"Can you tend to Simon Case? I'm going to finish up with the groceries."
"Sure mom," Casey smiled.
Derek followed Casey upstairs after Marti as they made their way to Marti's old bedroom where the baby room now was.
"You don't need to help, Derek." Casey said when she saw that he had not entered his own room like she was expecting him to.
"He's my baby brother though. Of course I want to help. I haven't seen him in ages, have I?" Derek finished, turning to Simon who was sitting up in his crib, rocking back and forth against the pile of stuffed animals inside.
Derek picked him up under his arms and started talking to him in baby talk.
"Just like you speak to your hockey buddies, right?" Casey teased.
Derek didn't address her and instead spoke to Simon. "Casey thinks hockey guys are just meatheads with no brains."
Casey laughed. "I don't believe that. At least I know you have at least half a brain."
Marti looked up at her older brother and stepsister puzzled. The bickering was there, but they were almost, dare she say, playful?
"Here's a new diaper Casey," Marti said interjecting herself into the conversation as she reached under the change table to pull out a blue and white disposable diaper.
"Thanks Smarti," Derek said ruffling her hair.
"You're welcome Smerek." No matter how old she got, her special nickname with Derek would always be something shared between the two.
"Derek, can you hold his feet up while I clean Simon and put the new diaper on?"
"Sure," Derek said changing his attention from his little sister to Casey.
Derek stepped closer to Casey, reaching across to hold Simon's legs up while she disposed of his dirty diaper. Marti stood by Casey's other side handing her each baby product as needed.
In under a minute Simon was changed and ready to go. You want to take him down stairs and ask Nora if he needs food yet? I don't know his eating schedule."
"Yeah, of course," Derek smiled back as their eyes lingered for a little too long. "As long as you help me with the lights after."
George's work with the outside Christmas decorations had much to be desired. The light up deer in front was, well, not lighten up and the roof lights were off center.
"I'll use the ladder to unhook them from the gutter and lower them to you, okay?" Derek instructed as he surveyed the front lights figuring out where to set the ladder up first.
"Be careful, it's really slippery right now," Casey warned him.
"Yeah, yeah Case. I have lived in this climate as long as you have."
Casey rolled her eyes as he began to climb. "I'm just saying."
They were ½ of the way across the house when Derek dragged the ladder back to the start to put up the lights again; this time with less drag in the middle. He found the spot in the lightly snow covered grass where he had set up his ladder like last time and then leaned it against the house. He was half of the way up when the bottom started to slip out from underneath him. Panicking did no good for him and he was about to come crashing down when Casey's foot stopped the ladder and held it in place just in time; the top rung of the ladder just inches from sliding off the edge of the roof and collapsing.
Derek's face, a bit pale now, looked down to see Casey leaning as hard as she could at the bottom of the ladder. Unlike him, she looked more calm and collected as if she had been expecting something like this to happen.
"Just come down slowly and we can set up another place that isn't so slick, okay?"
He nodded silently as he slowly placed one foot below the other until he was three rungs from the bottom. "Can you step out of the way now, I think I can make it from here," he informed Casey as she quickly became aware of their close proximity and stepped to the side.
"Thanks," he breathed quietly, looking up at her shyly. Casey couldn't tell if his blush was from the cold or the fact that she had just saved him from a painful injury.
Casey was about to bring up the fact that he should of listened to her when she pushed the thought out of the way and stepped in to hug him. His body was warm, but the side of his face and his hair was icy cold. "I'm just glad nothing bad happened," Casey spoke once she pulled away.
Derek huffed trying to regain his integrity. "If I got hurt, these lights would never be put up properly," he said laughing at his dad's incapability.
"Let's just finish up soon before it gets dark again. Christmas is in two days. If we let this go, it will be time to take them down again before they're even up."
Derek agreed and set his ladder in a drier area of land and had Casey standing at the bottom just in case. The next hour was the longest of her life. Even though it was below zero, she felt like she might melt at the sight of Derek's grins. She'd couldn't help but give him this googly eyed smile every time she passed him the lights. Since when did he have this effect on her? Whether it was the cold or the holiday season getting to her, Casey couldn't help but notice Derek in a different way. It was one thing to act differently around him at school, but here at home too? Casey was beginning to think it wasn't the city they were in that had changed, but the people.
The next morning, the day before Christmas, Casey awoke surprisingly late. When she trudged downstairs in her flannel pajamas and socks, she noticed Derek just sitting down as well. He was pouring himself some of his cereal that he had begged Nora to buy for the time he was here and had just added the milk when Casey sat down beside him.
"Hey, Derek," she said tired.
"Morning, Case," he said just as groggy. "Cereal?"
She nodded as he stood up from his seat at the counter and grabbed an extra bowl and spoon. She accepted it as if it were completely normal for him to be this nice and poured herself some of his cereal as well. She didn't want to admit it to Nora, but sometimes when she was lazy or was having a rough morning, she'd ditch her organic healthy cereal and pour herself a big bowl of Choco-flakes or Fruit Loops. Derek had laughed for a long while when he'd caught her doing it the first time, but after that it was more of an indicator to Casey's current mood. Organic cereal for Casey equaled a normal morning, but if she was eating whatever sugary concoction he had bought last, that meant she would not be too pleasant and it was bets to avoid aggravating.
From the living room, Nora and George watched the two suspiciously. "I thought I was the only one," Nora said to her husband relieved. "I thought I was crazy for thinking that something was going on between the two of them."
"The other day I found out that Derek's new car isn't just Derek's car, but Derek and Casey's car. Joint ownership!"
Nora looked over her shoulder at the two stepsiblings who were talking civilly. "More than that, since when does Derek help Casey get her breakfast and give her his favorite cereal? I have a feeling things have changed over in Kingston since they've been living together."
"Living together…" George said to himself. "You don't think?"
Nora's eyes got really wide. She hadn't even suspected that the two had gone that far, but now that she assessed the situation, it wasn't far off.
"Two emotionally charged young adults living together away from family must provoke things sometimes," George pointed out while Nora winced.
Just then another thought hit Nora. "Casey woke up awfully late this morning as well. And they came down around the same time still looking tired. What if… they're doing it here?" Nora raised her voice as she started panicking causing Derek and Casey to look over their shoulders at the commotion. Derek shrugged it off and both adults smirked at each other when they turned back to their cereal.
Derek leaned closer to Casey and mimicked George's voice. "The car Derek and Casey have is so much better than mine. I can't let them be cooler than me!"
Casey caught onto to Derek's joke and replied in a tone similar to Nora's "Well George, you can't expect to do better than them. You are an environmental lawyer. We all know I didn't marry you for the money."
Derek broke out into a quiet fit of laughter as he tried replying back between mouthfuls, "You're right Nora, I just can't one up Derek anymore."
Casey rolled her eyes and shook her head before returning to her chocolaty mixture of brown milk and sweet crunchy spheres.
Back on the couch, George turned to Nora in a serious tone of voice, "I'm going to chat with Derek this afternoon. Don't say anything to Casey; she's quick at catching on. I don't want us looking like horrible parents if we're wrong.
Just like he had intended on doing so, George pulled Derek aside after lunch while the other children except Simon, went outside to goof around.
"Dad, I was going to…" Derek pointed to the door where Casey was waiting for him all bundled up in her cute snow outfit.
"You can go out in a little bit, I need to talk to you," George said sternly.
Derek rolled his eyes. George wanted to talk more about the new car. "I'll be out in a bit," he called after Casey as she waved a bit sadly towards him and stepped outside.
"Can we make this quick, dad? Casey and I were going to ambush Lizzie and Edwin with a pile of snowballs we made yesterday."
"That's just what I wanted to talk to you about?" George replied.
"Us ambushing the siblings?" Derek had the feeling he and his dad weren't on the same page.
"No, just you and Casey."
"Oh," Derek looked down at his hands.
"We've noticed things are different between you two," George began. "And Nora and I are worried."
"About what?" Derek asked incredulously, although a picture was forming in his mind.
"I know that we can't control you and Casey's lives, but I don't want you making any mistakes. You live together and see each other so much. You have so much emotion and passion in each of your beliefs and I don't want you being mislead by it."
"Dad," Derek tried to reason.
"Just let me finish Derek," George pleaded. "Right now everything is fine and dandy, but in less than six months, you two will be out in the real world and things will change. I don't want any of you getting hurt, okay? Casey and you are so different. Eventually you'll come off of this high and things will come crashing down. I want you to think rationally about this. What about your hockey and your career? Will you sacrifice what you truly want because of some hormo-"?
"Dad!" Derek finally spoke up yelling. "Casey and I don't have that sort of relationship. We never will, so quit worrying. I'm going upstairs. Don't call me down for dinner, I'm going over to Sam's later."
Derek stood from his chair angrily forgetting all about his plans with Casey. Why would his dad ever suspect that he would ruin his life because Casey and him had become closer over the years? Could being with Casey really affect him that negatively? Derek was pained by the conflict within himself. Of course, he'd never be with Casey! His dad was right; it was a stupid idea.
It wasn't until 11:30 that night that Derek came home. Sam was surprised to see Derek, but excitedly invited Derek to a Christmas Eve party at his current girlfriend's apartment. Derek had only recognized Sam and a guy that used to play football in high school with Max, so he stuck by his friend most of the night. It wasn't much of a party. Not like the ones in high school and definitely different than the parties at Queens. Deciding he should be home for Christmas, Derek left early bidding his good friend goodbye.
When he arrived home he was surprised to see Casey still up. She was laying in bed on her phone reading a book and scrolling through the pages with her fingers on the touch screen.
Once she heard him, she sat up discarding her phone to her side table and found him about to enter his room.
"You're back late," she pointed out. "How was the party?"
"It was okay," he shrugged.
"We missed you out there today. You should have seen Marti and I pounding Lizzie and Ed with our mound of snowballs."
Derek smiled fondly before his dad's words ran back through his head. Instantly his smile vanished. "Well I'll see you tomorrow morning for Christmas."
Casey nodded, but didn't move from his doorway. After almost a minute, she spoke up. "Listen, I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie and grab a bite to eat on boxing day? Nora and George are going out to get those extra gifts that will be on sale and I just thought, we could go out; have some alone time since we've been here."
Derek's mind was reeling. Was Casey asking him out? For all the hard tests he'd taken in university, this had to be the most challenging decision to make.
"Well?" Casey asked. "Is it a date or not?"
In between his internal panic Derek let out a choked laugh. He instantly regretted it once it'd escaped. It wasn't that he found any part of the situation funny. He just had this problem of laughing in awkward situations. What was Casey thinking? He couldn't go out on a date with her! First of all, they were stepsiblings and second… a date with Casey? His dad was right, the idea of him and Casey was preposterous.
"Or not," he finally replied as she looked up at him, hurt etched across her face and a sudden darkness to her bright blue eyes.
"Fine," she muttered crossly before swerving on her heel and stalking back to her room.
Derek was just about to call after her when her door slammed shut and he figured it was a lost cause. Why were things suddenly spiraling out of control for him? Tired and stressed out, Derek flopped down on his bed, closed his eyes and hoped for sleep.
He felt he was just on the verge of resting when his door swung open and he adjusted his eyes ready to see Casey, or his dad or maybe even Lizzie if Casey had run to her younger sister upset. Instead, in his doorway stood Sally; so pale and airy, she appeared almost ghost-like.
A/N: Do you like it so far? Should I continue?