"Are you okay?" Rosie asked as she thumped a choking Casey on the back.

"No." Casey gasped. "I just discovered my closest friend at college is an insane lunatic."

Rosie grinned and sat back on the couch. "Why?"

Casey coughed the last of the liquid from her lungs and gasped "You just suggested that I date Derek."

Rosie shrugged. "What's wrong with that?"

Of course there was one blatantly obvious answer to the question but Casey avoided it and went with her gut-feel.

"Did you not see us in the quad? We hate each other."

"Yes. But despite the fact you have different surnames you also know each other. You aren't actually related and you said yourself Derek knows how to rock climb and you know how to do logic puzzles. Perfect! I assume you can both swim, and, really, how hard is it to jump out of a plane?"

Casey's eyes widened like an owl's. "I hate heights… and I also hate Derek. There's nothing elementary about this." She protested. Then Casey slouched thoughtfully. "Of course the idea of throwing him out of the plane has some merit. Although I might have to forget the chute." A sly smile curved onto her lips and Rosie knew if she didn't reel her in, her roommate was lost.

"Casey. Come on. If you two entered this competition you would stand a significant chance of winning."

"Except it means me dating him. Seriously? And even if you could persuade me to do it, Derek would never go for it."

Rosie folded her arms with a smug expression. "I bet I could persuade him."

"Well why don't you do the challenge with him then?" Casey suggested sitting forward suddenly. "I could help you."

"Because I don't know him and you do and nothing you could teach me would top that."

Casey shook her head and sat back in her seat with her arms firmly folded. "Sorry Rosie. Under no circumstances am I entering this competition with Derek."

Rosie sighed. "Spoilsport."

It was a Thursday and Casey had been to the library. She had studied till the point where she had a headache but on the plus side there had been a really cute guy who kept looking at her.

Of course, it might have had something to so with the fact that she had bitten her pen and the ink was all over her mouth, but she liked to think there was a more genuine attraction there.

She smiled to herself as she pushed open the fire door on her dorm corridor and made her way to her room. Now that she had broken the back of her "Feminism in Literature" assignment she could spend the evening with a nice vegetable lasagne, rocky road ice cream, and a well-worn "rom-com".

Casey liked college. There was a comfortable degree of independence and sociability in the dorm– and there were no nasty step-brothers to ruin her evening.

"Hi Case!" The voice called as she unlocked the door to her room. Casey looked at the speaker in horror.

"What the hell are you doing in my room?" She gasped, forgetting her no-cuss policy in the heat of the moment.

Derek leaned back on her bed and rested on his elbows. The bed was typically Casey: a mix of purple and pink, satin and velvet, plus a couple of "Nora-special" cushions. By contrast Derek's own bed had a green-toned throw half-hanging over its edge as if its owner had just abandoned the room.

But he also had two "Nora" cushions. (His were made from band t-shirts.)

"Rosie said you wanted to see me and she kindly used your spare key to open your door for me, so I thought I'd wait here." He smirked and then looked over at the second, unmade bed. "Where's your roomie?" Derek asked in genuine curiosity. "I kind of thought you shared with Rosie."

"I don't have a roommate. My allocated one ran off with her boyfriend on day two and the admin team haven't sorted out a new one." Casey sounded distracted. "Derek, get out of my room."

Derek was still processing the injustice.

"You have a spare bed? And no room mate. No Way! Life is not fair."

Casey smiled. "Life is very fair. For example, I have enjoyed a few weeks of pure blissful non-Derek time. I am looking forward to enjoying a whole year of non-Derek time…just as soon as I evict you." The last words were uttered through gritted teeth.

"Casey, Casey, Casey. Is that anyway to talk to your beloved step-brother?"

"Beloved by whom?"

The two step-siblings glared at each other…and then the door opened.

"Ah! You're back. Cool!" Rosie came into the room.

Casey rounded on her.

"You and I need to have words, missy. What the hell was Derek doing alone in my room?" She nodded towards him. "You do realise he has probably cleaned me out of snacks, money and condoms by now."

Derek looked up in shock. "You have condoms in your room?"

"Of course, Derek. I'm a safe sex kinda gal."

Her step-brother had turned a vivid shade of green. The thought of a sexually active Casey was…upsetting. Derek wasn't exactly sure why. To distract himself from some very unpleasant thoughts, he began to adopt the behaviour he was accused of and started exploring her room.

Rosie decided to intervene by changing the subject. "Have you told him yet?"

"Told him what?" Casey answered blankly. She genuinely had no idea what her friend was talking about

"About the competition."

Casey shot her friend an "Are you mad?" look and then turned her attention to monitoring Derek's progress around her room.

"What competition?" Derek winced as Casey snatched her diary from his hands.

"You know. The Challenge." Rosie prompted.

Casey frowned. "Why would I want to tell Derek? We agreed that you were insane. Are insane."

Derek sensed Casey's fear and latched on. "Tell me what." He asked with a smirk.

Rosie took a deep breath. "There's this inter-dorm competition. It's for couples. You complete a series of challenges and the winning couple get prizes."

"Still don't get the link with me." Derek said sitting down and leaning back on the spare bed. It was remarkably comfortable for a college bed.

Casey rolled her eyes and sat on her own bed. "Rosie thinks you and I should do it." She explained.

Derek waved the idea away. "We aren't a couple."

"I know. That's what I told her." Casey leaned forward for emphasis and Derek caught a whiff of her perfume – it sparked memories of family dinners, post-dinner squabbles and something else.

"We hate each other." He pointed out, unnerved by the new sensation.

Casey leaned back and answered in a bored voice. "I know Derek."

"I'd rather die than kiss you." If he said it with enough force it might actually become true.

"I know Derek."

"God it makes me sick just thinking about it."

"I know Derek."

Rosie stopped watching the ping-pong rally that was going on between them and interrupted.

"That's a shame, because I've already signed you both up for it. The Pop Quiz is on Monday so you both need to prepare. Oh and by the way, Derek, you might be interested to know, the winning guy gets a year's free supply of beer."

"YOU DID WHAT!" Casey screamed.

"FREE BEER FOR A YEAR?" Derek simultaneously shouted.

Rosie looked unabashed. "Okay you two. Listen in. You go to the bar, you get a free drink, and you answer a few measly questions on each other (and maybe hold hands). Then you get selected for the competition. The competition is a series of fun challenges that under normal circumstances you would be required to spend a lot of money to do, and hopefully at the end of it all, you win. If you do, our dorm gets a stack load of money, we get huge kudos with our dorm-mates and Derek gets free beer for a year. What's the down side to that?"

"I totally lose my rep." Derek said. "Because every one sees me date a keener. Never mind what they'll think if they ever find out that she's my sister."

"STEP-sister, moron." Casey was considering buying a t-shirt which said that…maybe without the "moron" bit.

"Same difference." Her step-brother insisted.

Casey leaned back on her bed. "Well it's not exactly ideal for me either. I mean I have a rep too."

Derek sat up. "Yeah. One you should be shifting. I'd be doing you a favour."

Rosie clapped her hands. "So you'll do it?"

"Duh…No." Derek answered even as he stood up. "Right I'm off…thanks for the food and the money, princess. I'll get the condoms next time." He smirked and then disappeared out of the door.

Casey smiled in relief. "I guess your little plan backfired, Rose."

Her friend shook her head. "I haven't finished yet. I'll talk him round." She was looking thoughtfully at the door.

As Derek walked away from Casey's dorm, the smirk had gone and he was frowning. He'd learnt a few things in that short conversation and he wasn't sure he was happy about any of them; things like Miss Goody Two-Shoes could keep secrets from the college authorities, (and apparently from him). Plus, she wasn't planning on waiting until her wedding night to have sex – evidenced by the fact she had condoms- in fact she might even have already have vaulted that hurdle. (That one was a shocker.) But the biggest shock of all was that she had managed to carve a life for herself at college without his help and was totally planning on living it without him too.

Derek had known Casey for a long time and he considered it his role in life to interfere in her life as much as possible. There was no way he was going to let her leave him out of it. He realised it had been three weeks since he had last seen her, and therefore three weeks since his last prank.

He really only had himself to blame.

Which got him thinking…


Casey pranks.

Hmmm…This called for a particularly good one. And of course they were older now-adults - and the prank wasn't going to get discovered by their parents.

Which all meant that he could push the boundaries slightly. He started to plan.

The next time he went to her dorm, he was prepared and it wasn't Rosie who let him in. It was a small girl called Annie. She didn't look particularly bright and, strangely, didn't seem interested in him.

"Is Casey here?"

"Not sure, you'll have to check her room."

"Mind if I go up?"

"Who are you?"

"Boyfriend. She's expecting me. We just weren't sure who'd get here first."

The girl sighed and jerked her head towards the stairs. "Go on then."

Honestly, the security here sucks. I'll have to have a word with George about that.

Derek let himself into her room, there was rarely a lock that could hold him. He was pleased to see that she Casey absent. A quick check of her timetable, pinned neatly to the notice-board revealeded she was in an English Lit class and would be for another hour.

Great. Plenty of time.

He opened the drawer beside her bed and was amused to see that she was as predictable as he had anticipated. He removed the box of condoms from exactly where he thought she would keep them – hidden right at the back of the drawer tucked away under a copy of the bible. Casey wasn't particularly religious but she had very strong morals.

Derek's eyebrows shot into the stratosphere when he examined the pack, however. It was a twelve pack of flavoured condoms and when he opened it, there were only eleven inside. He pushed the (horrific) thought of what that meant to one side as he opened his rucksack and began to prepare the prank.

Later as he emerged from his step-sister's room he almost bumped into Annie. Not that Annie noticed. She was too busy enthusiastically kissing the (attractive) captain of the women's hockey team.

Derek's eyes widened in amusement. Surprises all round.