A/N: and here we are at the final chapter! enjoy!
You never gave a warning sign /
I gave so many signs
Derek is staring down at her, his gaze darting between her eyes and mouth. "Case…" his breath hits her lips and she feels a shiver go down her spine—and since he's still lying on top of her, she's sure he feels it, too.
When his eyes darken, she knows he has.
"We can't," she murmurs.
Derek groans, burying his head into her neck. After a second he mumbles, "I know." Then he rolls off her and leaps to his feet with surprising agility. "C'mon," he sighs, reaching down to help her up.
She lets him pull her to her feet, but she's frowning as she remembers. "Don't think I forgot about the diary comment."
He looks momentarily caught off guard. "Edwin was just—"
"Which diary was it?"
Her eyes narrow, "Which diary was it?"
"Your…dream diary," Derek answers hastily, "That was the only one you, er, kept in the house."
It's the right answer, but she can suddenly feel it's not the true answer. "That's correct," she responds slowly, "But I thought you Venturis weren't interested in dreams."
Derek only stares at her, but he looks vaguely panicked now.
She stares back at him, hands on her hips. "How did you do it?"
"Do what?" he asks warily.
"Get into my bank vault."
"I...what? Bank vault? What bank vault?"
She advances on him threateningly, "Derek."
"Alright, alright," he cracks, hands raised. "It was after—after you left. The first winter break, when you didn't come home. I was—I don't know, okay? Pissed, I guess. And…" He swallows, "Hurt. You...it hurt, that you didn't…" He shakes his head quickly, "This is why I didn't want to get into this."
"So instead of…calling me…you decided to…read my diary?" Casey screws up her face as she tries to understand what he was thinking. "I don't get it."
"I just—" Derek's voice raises suddenly and he stops, visibly composing himself. "I just wanted to know if—if there was anything…if you ever…"
She watches in confusion as heat creeps up his neck and his cheeks flush. "If I ever what?"
He audibly groans, "Don't make me say it."
"Say what? Derek, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"God, you really are a Space Case."
He explodes then, "I wanted to see if you WROTE ABOUT ME, OKAY?"
Casey stops short, blinking rapidly. "Wh-what?"
"If you had ever felt—anything—if you ever felt for me what I—"
She fills in the words he can't say. Ever felt for me what I felt for you. The rush of emotions leaves her dizzy and she falls back into her seat, stunned. "Derek, I—"
"There was nothing there, of course."
He doesn't sound particularly accusatory, but his tone is so casually offhand that it can only be an act. Casey closes her eyes, wishing she hadn't asked. "That was a total invasion of privacy, Derek. I never thought you would…"
"Stoop that low, yeah I know," Derek has the sense to sound contrite. "Edwin kept trying to talk me out of it. I tried to make it seem like some huge prank, but he knew better. I think that's when he realized how much…" His voice goes hoarse, "How much you meant to me."
Casey reluctantly gets to her feet and makes her way over to Derek. It doesn't miss her notice that he's watching her every move. "First," she says sternly, with more anger than she actually feels, "Never do anything like that again. If we're going to be in a relationship—a real one—I need to be able to trust you."
"It was a one off," Derek says quickly, looking away from her. "And I've felt shitty about it ever since."
He looks so miserable that she believes him. "Okay," she continues, now softening her tone. "Second, that diary was high school Casey. You remember her, don't you? The one whose life you made miserable?"
"Trying to get my attention," she finishes wryly, "Yes I know that now." She pauses, closing her eyes as she tries to remember that time in her life. "I cared about you, Derek. You grew to mean a lot to me, especially towards graduation and—and that summer, before…" She swallows the rest of her sentence, because they don't need to rehash those details again. "I'm sorry. That you didn't find what you were looking for in those pages. But that Casey hadn't experienced what this Casey has."
"This Casey is the one who realized she was in love with you," Casey goes on quietly, stepping closer to him. "And you'll never see it, but I got a new diary in New York—also in a bank vault, obviously—and one day when I decide to publish my memoirs, maybe you'll get to read the whole story about…" Her voice catches as she chokes back tears, "About how I fell apart without you."
Then Derek's there, gathering her in his arms and murmuring her name over and over again as he buries his face into her hair. "Case," he breathes, "I'm sorry."
"Me too," she feels her sobs subside as she relaxes in Derek's arms. "Me too."
He pulls back a little, his gaze searching hers. And then he's leaning forward, and she finds her eyes closing despite her earlier protests and—
"Guys, family picture! Get down here!"
They spring apart immediately. Derek shakes his head, looking equal parts frustrated and annoyed. "Impeccable timing, Nora."
Casey throws him a look and pulls open the door. Edwin comes out of his room at that moment and he gives them an appraising glance, but wisely chooses not to comment.
The three of them stop midway through the staircase, however, when they see what's waiting for them in the living room.
Nora, George, Lizzie, and Marti are all standing around Aimee…who is somehow wearing the exact same PJs they are.
"Uh…" Edwin clears his throat, "What…" He trails off and looks at Lizzie, who shrugs helplessly back at him.
Casey, however, can only stare at her mother in abject betrayal. Where else could Aimee have gotten these PJs, if not for her own mother?
Derek slowly descends the remaining stairs, wearing a vague confused expression. "Aims, what's with the wardrobe change?"
"Well Nora said you guys didn't have a family picture of everyone wearing these because of that whole falling out you and Casey had, so I figured today was the perfect day to finally get that picture taken," Aimee babbles happily.
"Yes, but…" Derek eyes her, "Where did you get that?"
"Oh Nora had an extra pair, isn't that lucky?"
"Okay that's it," Marti cuts in loudly, "If no one else is going to say it, then I will. Aimee, you're NOT—"
"What Marti means is—"
"What my daughter is trying to say is—"
Derek suddenly bellows, "Everyone shut it!"
The room quiets in surprise and heads swivel to look at Derek, who looks very much like he's trying not to lose his shit. "Okay Aimee," he says carefully, "The thing is, this is a family photo and…you're not. Family, that is."
"Right," Aimee agrees with a wink, "Well, not yet."
"Not yet?" Derek echoes, "What…"
"Uh hello," Aimee raises her hand, flashing the ring on her finger. "Did you forget we're engaged?"
"No," he replies slowly, staring at her hard. "But don't you think…this is a little much?"
Aimee's expression flickers. "It's just a picture, sweetheart."
Derek's hands clench at his sides at her response. "There's no cameras watching, sweetheart."
"I think I heard the phone—"
"Was that a knock at the back door? I should—"
"Yes, let me help—"
Everyone who's trying to make their getaway from the impending trainwreck in the living room freezes at Derek's tone.
"Honey," Nora wheedles, "This really sounds like it should be a private conversation."
"No," Derek says shortly. "Everyone stays."
Casey's still standing halfway up the stairs, tightly gripping the banister. She doesn't want to watch what's happening, but she can't bring herself to look away.
Aimee, for some odd reason, doesn't seem to recognize the tension in the room. "Alright, Derek," she sighs, "I guess it's time to come out with the truth. In fact, I'm glad your family is here to hear me say this."
"Yes," she says firmly, and then walks forward and takes ahold of hands. "The thing is, I don't want this to end."
"I know our contract is up in a few days when the movie premieres," she goes on earnestly, "And so be it, forget the contract. But this—you and me—I don't want it to end. Being engaged to you has been the most fun I've had in a long time, and talking about our summer wedding—even though it wasn't real at the time—it made me realize how much I want that for us."
"Oh boy," Nora mutters under her breath. George merely gapes. Edwin and Lizzie are staring at each other, eyes wide. Marti looks disgusted. Casey—who had half been expecting something like this—can only stare at Derek, who looks awfully pale.
"What," he repeats weakly. "You can't be serious."
"And I want to apologize," Aimee adds, "For all that shit I gave you about visiting Casey and leaving the festival to take care of her when she was sick. I totally had the wrong idea about you two." She laughs a little, "Can you believe I was jealous?" She turns then to catch Casey's eye, "But then I came here and saw how the two of you fight constantly and realized how wrong I was." She smiles sincerely, "I'm really sorry."
"It's like seeing a car crash," Edwin says in wonderment, "Repeatedly."
"And no matter how much you want to walk away," Lizzie says faintly.
"You can't," Marti finishes, now looking a little green.
Silence descends upon the room.
Derek's mouth opens and closes silently. Then his gaze roams over to Casey and his expression hardens. He looks back at Aimee, squaring his shoulders. "No."
"No to all of it," he gestures with his hands, "To everything you just said."
Aimee looks flabbergasted. "What do you mean everything?"
"There is no us," Derek snaps, "We both signed the same contract, Aimee. I'm sorry if you thought…" He hesitates here and softens his tone considerably. "I'm sorry if you thought it was more than that."
He shakes his head once, "I signed a piece of paper and the new adult responsible Derek sticks to his word. But it doesn't go further than that." He pauses, "It can't go further than that."
Aimee looks a little desperate now, "We had fun, D. What's stopping you from trying?"
A muscle ticks in Derek's jaw. He very carefully doesn't look at anyone except Aimee. "I love someone else. I'm sorry."
Her mouth drops open as her gaze darts back and forth across his expression. "Oh my god, you do," she whispers, "I can tell." Her brow furrows, "But who is it? Someone from set? That's impossible, I never saw you even talk to another girl..."
"It's not anyone from set," he interrupts, "It's not anyone...new."
Aimee's shoulders deflate slightly. "The one who got away?"
'Yeah," Derek swallows, clearing his throat. "That's the one."
"You got her back."
It's not quite phrased as a question. Derek shifts uncomfortably, "Not in so many words, no. But I..." His gaze swings towards the ground, "There'll never be anyone else for me. Whether I have her or not."
Casey hopes no one turns to look at her, because it feels like her face is on fire.
Aimee shuffles a foot back and forth across the carpet. "Wow, Venturi. I...only hope some guy feels about me someday, the way you feel about this girl."
Derek looks up and glances at Casey for a fleeting second, before nodding at Aimee with a brief smile. "I hope you find what you're looking for."
Within the hour, Aimee has packed up and cleared out of the house, claiming she has to meet her parents for Christmas dinner. She and Derek seem to part on fairly amicable terms.
Casey watches from her bedroom window as Aimee gets into a cab. The paparazzi come out of the woodwork and there's camera flashes coming from what appear to be the bushes across the street.
"Hey," she says back, not turning around. Derek joins her at the window even though the cab has taken off. "Is everything going to be okay with the press?"
"Sure," he replies easily, reaching up to close the blinds. "We'll get someone to write a puff piece on Aimee joining her parents for Christmas dinner. It'll be fine."
Casey turns to look at him thoughtfully. His gaze falls almost immediately to her lips and he takes a small step forward.
The doorbell rings.
He groans, "You've got to be kidding me. Who could that be?"
"Guys!" Lizzie's voice floats up the stairs, "Come meet Steve!"
Derek frowns, "Who's Steve?"
Casey chews her bottom lip nervously, "It's Lizzie's boyfriend."
"Boyfriend? Since when?"
She shrugs helplessly and hurries down the stairs, Derek at her heels. Edwin is already standing in the living room with the others. His expression is impassive. Neither Nora nor George look particularly impressed.
Casey studies the man by her little sister's side with a calculating gaze. He's on the shorter side, with curly hair and thick rimmed glasses. Lizzie helps him off with his coat and Casey sees he has a wiry build. He's wearing a forest green sweater and jeans that appear to have several paint splotches on them.
Steve looks up towards the stairs at that moment and meets her gaze. "Ah," he starts forward, reaching out to shake her hand. "You must be Marti."
"Casey," she corrects, shaking his hand and noting that his palm is sweaty. She surreptitiously tries to wipe her hand off on her pants.
"Oh," he looks surprised, "But you look so young." He leans forward, closer than she deems strictly appropriate for a stranger. "You must have one of those faces. Say what would you say to letting me paint you?"
Derek has been standing behind her, but at these words he not so subtly steps in front of her. "Derek Venturi," he says in a hard tone, studying Steve through narrowed eyes. "Lizzie's older brother."
"Ah, right," Steve shakes his hand and barely hides a wince as Derek grips his hand. He then turns to Nora and George and hands them a bottle of wine. "Mr. and Mrs. Venturi, thank you so much for this invitation."
"Well," George starts, but stops when Lizzie throws a glare in his direction. "Well," he says again, making a show of examining the wine. "Let me go pour us some glasses, shall I?"
"Thanks Georgie," Nora says through gritted teeth as she turns back to look at Steve. "So! How long have you and Lizzie been dating?"
"Er," Steve glances at Lizzie, "About a..."
"Year," Lizzie finishes firmly. "A year."
Casey glances at Edwin in surprise, but he doesn't meet her gaze.
"A year!" Nora doesn't bother to hide her shock. "Lizzie?"
Lizzie holds her head up high, but doesn't reply. Nora then turns her attention to the other kids. "Edwin? Marti? Casey? Did you know about this?"
Edwin crosses his arms, "Define 'know'."
"I see," Nora's voice has gone suspiciously quiet. "Anything else I should know?"
Casey sends a glance in her sister's direction, wondering if she's going to come clean. Lizzie meets her gaze and turns to their mother. "Yes. We're living together."
There's a loud crash in the kitchen followed by the sound of glass breaking. "Everything's fine!" George yells, "Just fine!"
Dinner is, if possible, even more awkward than Aimee's speech and subsequent exit. Steve seems nice enough, but rather odd. Edwin flat out ignores him, while Derek shoots out questions at rapid fire pace, as though hoping to catch him off guard. Casey does her best to get to know him, but stops the attempts at conversation when Steve keeps trying to rope her into modeling for him.
"How about everyone go start a movie in the living room while I bring out dessert?" Nora says finally, seeming relieved to have dinner over with.
"I'll bring it out," Edwin offers, getting to his feet. "You spent all day cooking, after all."
"I'll help," Casey follows Edwin into the kitchen while the rest of the family filters into the living room. She smiles a little as Marti begins arguing with Derek over which movie to watch.
"Hey sis, mind if I take over?" Lizzie suddenly appears at her elbow. Edwin tenses and frantically meets Casey's gaze, clearly signaling her not to leave.
"Uh, sure," Casey says hesitantly, unable to ignore her sister. She gives Edwin an apologetic shrug and he glares at her as she edges out of the room. She stops at the corner of the kitchen, just out of sight. But not out of hearing range.
"Oh, so you're finally deigning to speak to me?" Edwin asks sharply, cutting into the pie with far more force than necessary.
Lizzie doesn't say anything for a moment. "What did you think of Steve?"
"That's what you wanted to ask me? God, you're unbelievable."
"At least I'm making an effort!" she snaps back, "Which is more than you did!"
"That's rich," he snorts under his breath, "You're the one who cut me out of your life."
"Yeah, well, I'm here now."
Edwin pauses, looking at Lizzie with a frown. "What do you want from me?"
"I asked for your opinion."
"My opinion hasn't changed."
Lizzie's face falls.
Casey is just about to go back into the kitchen to intervene, when Edwin puts the pie plates down with a groan. He moves around the table so he's standing next to Lizzie instead of across from her. She looks startled when he towers over her. "Why does my opinion matter to you anyway?"
"Because," she sputters, "You're...you were..."
"Not just that you idiot," Lizzie says crossly, "You were my best friend, and..." Her face crumples, "And then you weren't."
Casey watches, ready for Edwin to bolt. To her extreme surprise, he gathers Lizzie in his arms. "Alright, alright," he's muttering, "You know we Venturis don't do tears."
"That's Derek," Lizzie says, her voice muffled.
"Yeah," Edwin says quietly, "I guess it is."
Casey studies them for another moment before silently backing away and joining the others in the living room. They come out with the dessert several minutes later. It's dark enough that no one pays either them any attention, but Casey can see the red rims around her sister's eyes.
Steve leaves a couple hours into the movie. Lizzie doesn't stop him. George opens his mouth the minute Steve is out the door, but Edwin places a hand on his arm. "Dad, not tonight. It's Christmas."
"Fine," George grumbles, "But tomorrow. Tomorrow we're going to have words."
Casey brushes her teeth and waits a healthy amount of time before she ventures out into the hallway. The lights are out under all the doors except Edwin's. She can hear faint voices coming from it but doesn't go closer to investigate.
Instead she slowly climbs up to the attic, her heart thumping nervously. Derek is standing by the window, hands in his pockets. It's almost like he's been waiting for her.
"Hey," he offers when she doesn't say anything.
"Hey," she says back, taking a few steps into the room. "Um...so was that goodbye with Aimee as awkward as it looked?"
He half grins, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. "Worse."
Casey steps closer to him, watching the rise and fall of his chest. When she speaks, her voice comes out breathy. "I guess you should stop making girls fall for you."
His eyes snap open and she's close enough now to see how they darken slightly. "I only ever wanted one."
"Yeah," she says softly, "I'm starting to see that." She takes a final step so her body is flush against his, her nose nuzzling against his. Derek takes a sudden breath, but before he can say anything, she's coaxing his mouth open and then he's kissing her desperately, his fingers digging into her waist and pulling her impossibly closer.
Casey's back hits the wall a moment later as he somehow turns them around and she lets her head fall back when he begins peppering kisses down her jaw. "Derek," she whispers, her fingers raking down the buttons on shirt. She wraps one leg around his waist and whimpers when he presses into her, the evidence of his arousal very clear. "H-here?" she manages to stammer out when his hands slip under her top. His mouth covers hers again and any objections she had to the idea disappears. Her fingers fumble with the drawstring on his pajama bottoms and she's just untied them when he abruptly pulls away.
"Wait—Case—" He's breathing hard, nearly bent over as he tries to catch his breath. "Just..."
Casey can only stare at him in confusion and slight annoyance. "Derek, you better have a damn good reason—"
"I got carried away," he manages to say, his chest still heaving. "Come on, you don't want to do this here, do you?"
"I was," she answers testily and he smirks a little in her direction. Then she sighs because she knows deep down he's right. The walls might not be paper thin up here, but the entire family is still just a staircase away. "Alright," she concedes, "But no more teasing."
Derek grins and grabs her hand as she passes him to get to the door. She gasps in surprise when she suddenly finds herself in his grasp, his mouth at her ear. "Trust me," he whispers, "When this happens, you'll know."
Casey shivers and when she pulls back he's still smirking, and it's so familiar that she feels something deep within her twist almost painfully. Before she can stop herself she's reaching up on her tiptoes and kissing him again. If he's caught off guard, he doesn't show it. His hands roam her back eagerly, the heat from his fingers radiating through her thin top and searing across her skin. She falls into him, and the sense of fitting is so overwhelming that she freezes momentarily.
"Case?" Derek pulls back and looks at her questioningly, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she says slowly, aware of his hands at her hips, steadying her. "I guess I just realized..." He looks so concerned that she smiles, raising her fingers to stroke his cheek. "You're the guy for me, Derek Venturi. I only wish it didn't take me so long to realize it."
His expression relaxes, "And you're the one for me Casey McDonald. Always."
She tips her head up for another kiss, this one is soft and languid and she feels herself melting. "Come with me," she says, taking his hand. "I have something to show you."
He looks confused but obediently follows her back to her room. "You trying to seduce me again?"
She rolls her eyes as she rummages through her suitcase for the envelope. Her fingers tremble a little as she holds it out to him. "Your real Christmas gift."
Derek takes it questioningly, glancing at the front but she's purposely left it blank. "What is this?" he asks, his tone deceptively light. "Truman and Vicky's wedding invitation?"
Casey laughs at that, "No, but I did get one in the mail last month."
He quirks an eyebrow at her, "RSVP?"
"Nope," she replies cheerfully, "Threw it in the trash. I have no interest in going to Icky Vicky's wedding. Family or not."
Derek turns the envelope over in his hands, but still doesn't open it. "If you wanted...we could..." A devilish grin crosses his expression, "Go together."
Casey stares at him, "To the wedding?"
He shrugs and then smirks, "We'd be the talk of the whole shindig."
She ponders this for a moment and a smile spreads on her face, "I like the way you think, Venturi." Then her gaze snaps back to him and she realizes he's stalling. "Open the envelope, Derek. It doesn't bite, I promise."
He eyes her speculatively and pulls out the letter within. Casey watches in trepidation as he begins to read out loud, "Congratulations Ms. McDonald, we're pleased to welcome you..." He trails off and glances at her, his eyes wide. "What is this?"
Casey folds her hands together tightly. "Well, as you know, I finish my residency in a few months so I applied to jobs and...well, I got accepted. Right here."
"Well, it's like 30 minutes away but I missed home so much and, well you obviously and—"
She doesn't get to finish the rest of her sentence because Derek has suddenly lifted her in a hug and is kissing her fiercely. "I'm so proud of you," he mumbles against her lips, "And have I mentioned I love you?"
She blinks back tears at the happiness in his expression. "I love you, too."
*the end! I started this fic exactly a year ago so I thought it was fitting to end it here. LWD/dasey was my first fandom years ago and I'll always love them. If inspiration strikes sometime in the future, I will of course write them again. Thank you all for reading xoxo