"One more gift for everyone! Merry Christmas!" George and Nora thrust a flat boxed present into each of the kids' hands, the last one of the day. Piles of opened toys and in Derek's case, a guitar, are scattered on the floor. Everyone has the same type of box in their hands, a lightweight one that felt like nothing was in it.
Liz meets Casey's eyes, a wide smile on her face; they once had a similar gift several years ago as kids, maybe it was the same….
"Go on, open it," George signals, laughing as the box lids fly off onto the floor.
"I knew it!" Casey squeals, a print out of a Disney hotel confirmation in her hands.
"Disney?" Derek dubiously stares at the paper in his hands, a strange look on his face. "We're going to Disney?"
"Yup," Nora beams, laughing as Marti gets up and starts dancing. "We're all going together during the school break in March."
"I'm so excited! Thank you Mom, George!" Casey pulls them into a hug. She loves Disney. It was literally the happiest place on earth. It had been far too long since they were last able to go, when she was nine and Lizzie was six. That had been the last vacation as a family with their dad before the divorce.
"Can we go to Universal too?" Edwin asks, unsure whether to allow himself to show the same level of excitement as the girls. Derek was reacting in his usual too cool fashion, merely tucking the confirmation into his hoodie pocket.
George frowns. "Sorry kiddo, not this time. We're only going for a few nights."
"I can't wait to ride Space Mountain," Casey claps. "Ooh, we each need to buy those Mickey ears and take a picture in front of Cinderella's castle! And Mom, did you book a reservation for Be Our Guest? How about fastpasses?"
"Fitting Spacey would want to ride something called Space Mountain," Derek rolls his eyes. "And I'm not wearing a pair of those dorky ears."
"Der-ek, you have to! It's tradition!"
"I booked us a reservation," Nora interjects. "I think a Mickey ears photo would be wonderful."
"Derek, you're wearing the ears," George says at the same time. "It'll be a good bonding trip."
"Oh, and we need to have some Mickey waffles! What hotel are we staying at? Can we do a character breakfast?" Casey goes on, her mind whirling at all the things they had to plan. "Mom what's the itinerary looking like so far?"
"I have a binder," Nora reassures her. Derek wrinkles his nose. It's a reminder that despite being pretty cool, Nora is definitely a McDonald. "You can look over the info later and help me get all the last minute details ready."
"Why do you need a binder for a vacation?" Derek shakes his head. "It's supposed to be relaxing!"
Lizzie laughs at her step-brother. "Disney is a battlefield, and we have to prepare to fight for rides."
"What?" Derek tilts his head, looking at her weirdly. "Sounds like a nightmare, not a vacation."
"It's just better to be well prepared," Nora reached back behind the sofa for a binder that had been hidden. "Here Casey, these are the plans."
"Ookay," Derek gets up from his chair, grabbing his guitar. "That's my cue."
"Don't you want to know where we're staying?" Casey asks, looking up at him with big eyes. He ignores the familiar pang he gets whenever she does that, forcing the warm feeling down. Way down. So far down it reaches the other side of the world.
"Nah, I'll just leave you to it and see when we arrive."
Casey pouts, clutching the binder in her hands. Was that disappointment?
"I'll help Casey!" Marti plopping down into her lap. "I want to meet Mickey."
"And me," Lizzie adds, looking pointedly at Edwin. He sighs, sliding closer wordlessly. Derek shakes his head and turns away, eager to mess around with his guitar.
Family vacations are so not his thing. Especially childish themed ones.
"Casey, here's your ticket," George hands his step-daughter her flight ticket a few feet away from security. She yawns, accepting the ticket and struggling to stay awake. It's far too early in the morning, she decides. They have a five-thirty flight to Orlando to catch. She is pretty sure no one slept much the night before, since the taxi to the airport was for two am. She plans on sleeping during the flight, just to make sure she will be ready for a day at the parks when they arrive.
They get through security with minimal issues, except there's a moment where Casey's carryon gets flagged for a search because she forgot to put her hand sanitizer into the plastic bag. Once past through, the Venturi side decide to get burgers - Casey shudders at the thought of so much grease so early in the morning - and the McDonalds plus Marti get a proper breakfast.
It doesn't occur to Casey to check her seat assignment until they are parked in the chairs by their gate, waiting for the economy boarding announcements to start. Already the first class is boarding when Lizzie brings it up.
"Hey, what seat are you?" Lizzie leans over Casey's shoulder to look. "Ooh, back of the plane. Tough luck."
"What?" Casey's eyes flew down to her ticket. She groans. "Ugh, noo. 54B! It's a middle seat. Mom, are we all sitting together?"
Nora sheepishly smiles. "No, when we booked our tickets it was already pretty sold out. Marti is sitting with Georgie, the rest of us are random."
Casey narrows her eyes. "Where are you sitting?"
"Looks like," Nora glances down at her ticket. "50C."
"I'm 51C!" Lizzie pips up. "Right behind you, Mom."
"And I'm across from you," Edwin doesn't bother looking up from his handheld gaming device. "51D."
"We did ask the woman at the desk to try and pair us together if possible," Nora shrugs. "You're not too far behind us, Casey."
"Yeah but I'm in a middle seat," Casey slouches back into her seat. Her eyes fall on Derek, his eyes shut with his headphones over his ears. She can hear the angry rock music from her spot. Where was he sitting on the flight?
Hopefully on the wings, she thinks.
"Welcome to Flight D418 Toronto to Orlando. We are now welcoming passengers in group D to board. Again all passengers in group D are now welcomed to board."
"Derek," Casey taps him on the shoulder, a bit harder than necessary. His eyes fly open, a hint of annoyance crossing his face. He pulls a headphone away from his ear. "We're boarding now, come on or you'll miss the flight."
The rest of the family are already in the line, inching their way up to the airline crew. Nora casts an uneasy look back towards them.
"Everyone is already boarding."
"Alright, alright," he stands up and stretches, a bit of his hoodie riding up and exposing his tone abs. He grabs his backpack, not noticing the way Casey flushes when she sees it.
"Do you have your passport?" Casey asks to get his body off her mind as they join the line, not missing the look of relief on her mother's face when they do. She waves before disappearing down the jet-walk with the rest of the family, probably relieved the oldest weren't going to miss the flight due to fighting. Wouldn't that be classic?
He rolls his eyes. "Relax Case, I couldn't get through security without it, remember?"
"Well knowing you I wouldn't be surprised if you misplaced it already."
"And miss out on the hot girls down in Florida?" He shakes his head. "Not for the world."
"You're such a pig," she rolls her eyes, handing her ticket and passport to the airline employee. She marches ahead of Derek, catching up with the line on the jet-walk. Unfortunately he catches up with her.
"Where are you sitting?"
"I'm in a middle seat," she grits her teeth as the line slowly inched forward to the plane door.
She shoots him a look. "Let me guess you got extra leg room?"
"I wish," Derek glumly replies, shaking his head. Casey watched, mesmerized as his hair got into his eyes, watching the motion of his hand as he fixes it. She forces herself to look away.
I do not think my step-brother is attractive, she lies to herself, touching her forehead and praying her cheeks aren't pink (they totally are). Derek is not cute. Derek was, actually, very cute and it's completely not fair.
"I'm in a window seat at least," Derek finishes saying, shifting his backpack as they start moving again. She had missed what he said.
He looks at her oddly. "I'm in the back of the plane," he repeats extra slowly. "54A."
Casey groans internally. Three whole hours stuck between Derek and a stranger? Ugh. "Fantastic. Just fantastic," Casey mutters under her breath. "I'm stuck beside you for the flight."
Derek smirks. "I'm taking my shoes off."
They pass by George and Marti, towards the front of economy, and then Nora, Lizzie, and Edwin a few rows before their own.
A big man wearing golf clothes and a white cap is sitting already in the aisle seat. He looks slightly irritated at having to get up again and allow Casey and Derek to settle, especially when Casey whisper-yells Der-ek! when he nearly drops her carry-on on her foot. The situation doesn't improve once seated. The economy section has little room between seats, clearly saving space. She feels cramped in the middle, unconsciously leaning closer to Derek as the flight goes through the pre-check and safety video. The golfer is a big dude, taking up a lot of space and spilling in towards her seat. Casey tries not to hold it against him, and fails.
She feels a bit claustrophobic, and when the plane takes off down the runway, lifting high in the air, she also feels just a smidge of panic. It's the taking off and landing part of flying that always gets her. She grabs Derek's hand in a moment of weakness, not releasing it until the plane steadies it's course. Derek doesn't say anything, not even teasing, just simply bunching up his jacket to use as a pillow once they're in the air with his free hand. When she finally does release it, he turns towards the window.
The golfer takes up the armrest in that confident manner only middle aged men tend to do, forcing her to use Derek's unused one. He looks asleep though, curled up beside the window with his headphones over his head. She assumes that he's wearing it to deter conversation, since she can't hear music blaring out of it.
Casey has to use the bathroom towards the end of the first hour of the flight. The golfer gruffly gets up to let her through, but not before she already spills some of her water on him during turbulence. When she makes it back to her seat, she turns to the in-flight entertainment, browsing through shows. Somewhere during an episode of Friends, she falls asleep against Derek's shoulder.
Unbeknownst to her, sleeping on the plane proves difficult for Derek. The moment her head falls on his shoulder he notices it. He waits a few minutes to make sure she is completely asleep before shifting slightly so she can be more comfortable, his arm casually wrapped around her for warmth. He closes his eyes again, drifting off in a nap.
"Hey lovebirds," a gruff voice wakes them up, annoyed. Casey startles, losing warmth as she sits up. Derek rubs his eyes, confused.
Oh my god, were we snuggling? Casey bites her lip, embarrassed. She looks at the golfer beside her, who has an expression on his face like he's eaten a lemon.
"We're starting the descent," he pulls his seat up into the upright position. "Just thought I'd let you kids know before the attendant." The flight attendant is a few rows ahead, asking passengers to buckle up and correct their seats.
"Thanks," Derek replies too casually, as if being called a lovebird with his keener step-sister happens all the time.
Like he doesn't mind.
Casey sits up straight, throwing his arm off her's with a bit more force than she intends. By the time the flight attendant walks by, she's sitting straight up in her seat in the upright position, her seatbelt fastly secured and visible. Derek doesn't comment, simply following her lead.
He even gets her carry-on down - after the golfer takes off before them - and drags it down the narrow aisle for her until they're off the plane. She stares at the back of his head, utterly confused.
Derek's first impression of Disney's Contemporary Resort?
"We've been ripped off," he scoffs when they first arrive. "How's this a Disney resort?"
"Oh shut up Derek," Casey snaps. They're in the lobby, waiting for Nora and George to sort out the rooms. Edwin sits on the floor by their luggage, while Marti and Lizzie check out Chef Mickey's.
A monorail goes by above. Derek stares at it with an unreadable expression.
"I'm just saying, you kept going on and on about how magical Disney is. A glorified train station hotel doesn't seem very magical to me."
Casey rolls her eyes. "The parks are magical, Derek. Give it a chance. We won't even be spending a ton of time in our rooms."
"I hope not," Derek says, effortlessly catching Marti as she runs back ahead of Lizzie.
"Smerek, did you see the monorail? Lizzie says we can take that right to the parks! How cool is that?" Her eyes are wide with excitement and she can't keep still in his arms.
"It's pretty cool, Smarti." Derek ignores Casey's smirk.
"Alright guys, here are the room keys," George and Nora come over, keycards in hand. "We're in the Tower. Marti is with us," George pauses, looking unsure at Nora. She nods with encouragement. "And, Casey, Derek," he plows forward, looking very pointedly at them. "You are in charge of Lizzie and Edwin, in the room next to us."
"We're sharing a room!?"
"I have to share a bed with Edwin?!"
"There might be a couch," George lifts up his hand to stop them from bickering further. "I'm pretty sure there is. I don't care who sleeps where -"
Casey accidentally catches Derek's eye; he smirks at the implication of his father's words and she instantly feels her cheeks burn.
"- But figure it out amongst yourselves. We're trusting you to get along."
"It's only four nights," Nora reminds them. "And you're both going to college in the fall. Show us that you're mature sharing close space on this trip and we'll feel more inclined to let you explore on your own at the parks."
Casey beamed a smile at her mom. "You will?"
"We will?" George looks very unsure at that suggestion.
"Yes," Nora firmly says. "Now let's get out of the lobby and check out our rooms. I want to get to the park soon!"
There's a quick scuttle for the beds once the door to their room is opened. Casey claims one of the queen size beds for her and Lizzie while
Derek pushes Edwin away from the other one.
"You're on the couch," he says, stretching out comfortable.
"Why do you get a bed by yourself?" Edwin crosses his arms. "That's not fair."
"I'm the oldest," Derek closes his eyes as the room's aircon kicks on.
"Casey, you're okay with this?"
"Look, I don't care. We're at Disney and there's other things to focus on than Derek being his normal selfish prick self." She gets up, rummaging through her suitcase for clothes to change into. "We're going to Animal Kingdom today, so.." she trails off, her eyes narrowing as she catches sight of Derek already soundly asleep. "DER-EK!"
"What?!" He jumps up, pillow in hand.
"Did you really just fall asleep?"
"Uh, no. I was just resting my eyes, Case."
"Get ready, we're leaving in ten."
Derek protests, "What are you my mom?"
Casey rolls her eyes, grabbing a fresh sundress and comfortable shoes out of her bag. "Come on Derek, be a good role model for the kids." She disappears into the bathroom.
"Be a good role model, Der-Ek," Derek imitates her while throwing his suitcase on to the bed and getting clothes out.
Lizzie catches Edwin's eyes, stifling a laugh as Derek marches to the bathroom, knocking on it and hurrying Casey up.
"More like his wife," Edwin whispers once she lets him into the bathroom.
"Der-ek!" They can hear from behind the closed door.
Lizzie smirks. "Wanna make a bet?"
Animal Kingdom, Derek admits over dinner, is pretty fun. Marti loves the safari, and the Bugs Life show, which makes him happy because his little sister is. He lets her drag him around for a while, while George and Nora take a break at a jungle themed bar for drinks. He hands her back in time to join Casey, Edwin, and Lizzie for the Everest ride, somehow convincing Casey to sit up front with him.
It thrills him when she grabs on to his arm when they roll backwards. His eardrum barely recovers before she hops off the ride and demands they get back in line together.
It's a short day at the park. They get back to the hotel and fight over who showers first before dinner at the restaurant downstairs with the family.
The pool is still open when the meal ends, so Casey suggests a swim with the kids before bedtime.
It's unfair that she decides to wear a bikini, Derek realizes when she emerges from the locker room with Marti holding her hand. It's red, Disney themed, and it shows off a lot of skin. She catches the attention of an off duty lifeguard, chatting him up.
Annoyance flickers through him, so he jumps in the pool in front of the deep end where she is standing, getting her wet with his cannon ball.
"Der-ek!" She screams, frustrated. She jumps in after him, tackling him in the water. A whistle blows for horse playing and she looks really cute when angry with him.
"Derek," he mimics, swimming out of her grasp back down the pool where Lizzie is holding Marti's hand and pulling her around in the shallow end.
"You're so annoying -" Casey darts after him, jumping onto his back. She's slippery against his bare back, the feel of her chest distracting him momentarily as she cups water with her hand and splashes him. She screeches with surprise laughter when he pulls her off of him, turning her around to face him. Before she can react, they're both under the water, her legs instantly wrapping around his waist.
Edwin floats by Lizzie on a pool floatie, observing when they re-appear above the surface and Derek starts spinning Casey around.
"Twenty bucks they sneak out of the hotel room tonight together."
"I want in!" Marti says, giggling when Casey escapes Derek and fakes him out, splashing him in the chest.
"You don't have money," Edwin reminds her.
She sulks, then brightens up. "But Dad gave me spending money! So I'm in!"
Edwin shakes her hand. "Lizzie? You in?"
"Definitely. Twenty five says they get caught by George and Nora in a compromising position," Lizzie throws in.
It's close to midnight later on when Lizzie hears Casey and Derek sneak out, and only two minutes later that Edwin gets off the sofa bed and into the abandoned queen that Derek vacated.
The pair don't get caught by the 'rents, much to Lizzie's disappointment, though she does overhear them bickering about their escapade when they sneak back in, if you call loudly whispering being subtle.
"Der-ek!" Casey furiously whispers. "I can't believe you got us kicked out!"
"It's fine Case, we won't ever see them again. Besides you had fun right?"
A giggle. "I guess so, though how you knew about that party is beyond me."
There's a pause. "I'm Derek Venturi. I always know the best spots!"
"Ouch, hey watch that pillow! Okay, okay, I flirted with one of the cast members - ow, come on Case…"
"Poor girl, at least we won't be returning to Animal Kingdom."
"Oh yeah?" They disappear into the bathroom, the faucet water obscuring Lizzie's hearing. "... and she ran into his -" Derek huffed. "Hey, Ed's in my bed!"
"Nice Der, moving up in the world with that rhyme." Casey slips under the covers beside her sister, who was doing a good job pretending to sleep. "There's the couch. Night."
Derek grumbles, choosing to instead pick up Edwin and dumping him on the sofa bed. Edwin is a deep sleeper, not once waking as he bounces forcefully on the squeaky mattress. He rolls over, snorting.
"OMG Derek-" Casey starts, sitting up in bed. "You can't do that!"
"He shouldn't have taken my spot," Derek counters, getting into bed. "Night Princess."
Casey sighs, deeply as if her patience might be wearing thin and not like she lives for being annoyed by Derek. "Night."
It's the next day and it's hot and sticky and if one more person bumps into her while they walk around Tomorrowland Casey is going to lose her shit.
Derek isn't helping, of course. He dipped out of helping play chaperon to the kids while Nora and George take an afternoon away from the chaos of the happiest place on Earth - whoever coined that phrase had clearly never battled the crowds to wait in a two hour line for Space Mountain only to have it break down when they were about to get on. He disappears sometime between riding Seven Dwarf's Mine Train and getting overpriced turkey legs in Fantasyland.
"Casey I'm hungry again," Marti tugs on her eldest step-sister's hand as they jump into line for the Haunted Mansion. Thankfully they have Fastpasses for this one and they can avoid the long line wrapping down towards the river boat entrance for it.
"We can go get more food after this ride," Casey tells her as they walk past some of the gravestones with silly rhymes on them. She's looking forward to getting out of the heat when they ride. "Maybe Derek will turn up by then," she adds, checking her phone again to see he's left her on read.
"He's probably flirting with a hot girl somewhere." Edwin suggests, looking like a mini version of his brother with sunglasses perched on top of his head and a faded t-shirt with the Maple Leafs logo on it. Casey is pretty sure he swiped it from the laundry pile awhile back and Derek hasn't noticed.
The idea of Derek ignoring her - the family, she corrects her brain - makes her feel irrationally irritated.
"If he is, I swear I'm going to kill him." Casey mutters as she and Marti step up and get into one of the moving seats together. Edwin and Lizzie get the next one.
"I think she actually will this time," she hears Lizzie say before the ride sweeps them away and she can't hear anything except the ghoulish voice of the narrator.
Derek's waiting for them outside the exit of Splash Mountain, holding a pair of those ridiculously expensive Minnie Mouse ears that made him cringe when the cashier told him the price. He holds it out to Marti as a peace offering.
"Minnie!" Marti squeals; Lizzie helps her adjust it on top of her head securely. It glitters in the sunshine, complimenting the red and black outfit Marti was wearing.
"Where have you been," Casey greets him, glad that her sunglasses are a dark enough shade that he can't see her check him out. The heat must be getting to her because Derek looks really attractive with his Ray-Bans, his hair messy and the beginnings of a faint sunburn on his arms exposed to the sun.
"I got a phone call." They begin walking towards the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Florida heat sticking to their skin. Derek is pretty close to her side as the kids skip ahead. "It was a long one. Sorry to ignore your texts."
The line for the ride is mercifully shorter than Splash Mountain, so they're able to take refuge from the heat.
"Oh, well. It's fine." It had been very much not fine, especially since Casey had had images of him flirting with one of the gorgeous princess cast members dancing in her head and it made her feel jealous. "And the call was about..." Casey hedges as they join the back of the line. It's dim, making it hard to see his face.
"I'll tell you later," he coyly replies, tapping her nose and taking Marti's hand as the line moves closer to the ride. The brief touch makes her shiver involuntarily, and she forgets to move her tired feet to catch up until someone pointedly coughs behind her. Embarrassed, she over-hastens her pace, only to trip over her feet and into Derek.
"Whoa there, Spacey," his strong arms automatically steady her. She's a bit too close into his personal bubble, but he doesn't drop his hold on her right away. There's a weird moment where she can see his eyes in the dark light, and there's something about the way he's looking at her -
"Smerek, we're next!"
And the moment is gone, Derek is already moving to join their siblings as a boat pulls up to where they're waiting.
They're able to all fit in the same row of the boat, Casey somehow ending up in the middle, Liz and Derek on either side of her. Maybe it really is the heat, she muses, that's causing her to overthink her proximity to Derek. Halfway through the ride, his hand ends up brushing against her thigh, and it hovers an extra second longer than it really needs to be before it's back in his lap.
The rest of the ride is a blur as Casey tries to calm down, telling herself it really was just an accident and there's no way Derek intentionally touched her. She especially ignores the voice in her head that tells her it excites her to be touched by him.
They meet up with Nora and George for dinner at Be Our Guest, a place that Derek and Edwin protested about prior to the trip.
Derek is unusually quiet while they figure out what to order and Casey can't help but wonder if it's connected to the mysterious phone call from earlier. Funny enough, they're all sitting at the table like they do back home, so she's able to watch him as he fidgets with a napkin.
Finally just when Casey starts to forget about the phone call, Derek clears his throat.
"So, I got a phone call earlier," he starts, looking briefly directly at her before turning to the rest of the family. "It was a recruiter for a university."
George reacts first, sitting straight up in his chair and staring at Derek with wonder. "Well?!"
It's like a bright ray of sunshine being beamed into Casey's eyes as she watches a smile break out across Derek's face. She's totally swept up in it, almost missing what he says next.
"Queens University. They want me to play for them."
It's a big deal, a really big deal. The family explodes around them in excitement, and Casey follows their lead, her mind whirling.
Her acceptance letter to Queens hasn't arrived yet, but it's well known to the family that it's her top choice. Her eyes linger on Derek as he tells the family that technically, he still needs to apply. But once he does…
"Wow, you guys might be going to the same university!" Nora looks delighted, and very proud. "Imagine that Georgie? Our kids going to one of the best universities."
"I'm so proud of you Derek," George gets up and bear hugs him.
Derek clears his throat, a tinge of red on his cheeks - definitely not a sunburn. "Thanks Dad," he says, shooting Casey another look before smiling mischievously. "Please remember this moment when you get the phone bill. Dessert anyone?"
They're in line for the Tower of Terror alone the following morning. Edwin and Lizzie were across the park at Star Tours, deciding to spend the day separate from their older siblings. Nora and George had taken Marti to Animal Kingdom again for the first half of the day, planning to then go to one of the water parks.
Casey has to beg Derek to go on the ride with her. He stares up at it, an unsure look on his face as one of the ride's windows opens up and screams are briefly heard.
"What kind of ride did you say this is?" He asks as they get close to the elevators. Casey refuses to divulge too much information, knowing he hates rides that go up and down.
"It's a ride through a creepy old hotel." Well, that's not a lie is it?
"Uh-huh," Derek narrows his eyes. He catches a glimpse of the inside of an elevator as riders enter it.
"It's fun, I swear."
"You and I usually have a different interpretation of fun."
She snorts. "Trust me on this."
Derek is still dubious when they get strapped in.
"There's handles on either side," Casey whispers as the elevator doors shut, and the ride begins to go up, and up, and up.
He's about to make a comment when the ride seems to lurch forward down a projected hallway. Derek has seen a few old episodes of the Twilight Zone, so it's actually not bad at first; he lets himself get into the theme. He can feel Casey beside him, her bare arm making contact with his.
There's a flash of fake lightning, and then -
"Aaaahhhh!" Derek screeches, totally not cool like, as the elevator suddenly drops down. He grabs onto the handles tightly, feeling himself rising out of the seat a bit. Casey is laughing joyfully beside him as the elevator lurches up again, and he swears it might be worth it if he can hear that sound again.
A window opens, and for a brief moment they're suspended in the air looking out into the park. Derek grabs Casey's hand, clutching it tightly as they drop again. He's almost too caught up in trying to not puke when he feels Casey intertwining their fingers tightly as they drop again. The adrenaline is coursing through his veins by the time it ends, and he can't remember how he unstrapped himself out of the seat. All he can think about is how Casey is still holding his hand by the time they get to the ride's shop.
She giggles, pointing to the monitor screen with pictures up on it. "Look at your face, Der!"
He follows her line of vision, spotting the picture of them together. His expression is a look of pure horror, scrunched up with his mouth half open. He didn't realize he had leaned into Casey, but there he is, frozen in the picture leaning close to her as she beams a huge smile, her head tilted towards his.
"We're buying this!" Casey impulsively blurts out, stepping out to the counter. Before he can protest, she has two copies of it in her hand.
"Please burn that when we get home," Derek groans. "It'll ruin my rep."
She tucks them safely into her thin shoulder bag. "Oh, it's fine. It's cute."
He huffs. "I am not cute, Case. Marti's cute. I'm hot."
"You look hot in the picture, terror stricken face aside. Happy?" She tugs his hand, pulling him out of the store and racing towards the Rock-N-Roll rollercoaster next door. "You'll like the next ride better, promise."
He actually does, so much so they ride it a second time before making their way over to Toy Story Mania.
It's when they're eating in one of the busy food places, waiting for Lizzie and Edwin to join them that she brings it up. The phone call, that is.
"So, Queens huh?" She tries desperately to sound calm. The quirk of his eyebrow suggests she is failing. "I didn't know you were thinking about Queens."
"I wasn't," he stuffed a handful of french fries in his mouth. "I was thinking of following Sally to Vancouver until a couple weeks ago, remember?"
"Yeah," Casey avoids his eyes, looking out the window in search of their siblings. "Well, that's cool. Getting to play for a university."
"Is it?" Derek leans forward over the table. "You do realize Dad and Nora might make us share an apartment together."
Her head whips over to look at him. "What? No way, I want to dorm."
He shrugs. "We've been kinda getting along this whole trip. I'm sure they'll be thinking about it."
She wrinkled her nose, thinking. Despite a few spats here and there, they were getting on reasonably okay. It freaked her out how much she liked it too. And the hand holding! God she could just die at how she reacted to it, he probably thought she was so weird for not letting go when the ride ended.
"Earth to Spacey," hands wave in front of her face. Derek has a funny a look on his face, though his eyes betray him with a softer gaze. It's an affectionate expression.
"You need to be meaner to me!" Casey blurts out, not really meaning it but desperate for these oddly charged moments to disappear.
Now he's really giving her a weird look. "You want me to be meaner to you?"
"Yes, they can't make us share an apartment if we continue to fight."
Derek sets aside his fries, licking his fingers in thought. She cringes, not because it's gross - it is - but because her mind goes to a place she shouldn't entertain, thinking about his lips. He pulls them out, making a popping sound.
"No?!" She stares at food place is crowded and loud, but it's like she has tunnel vision when it comes to Derek.
"Yeah, nah. Not happening, Case."
Her eyes narrow. He's baiting her, she knows it.
"Hey guys," Lizzie's voice suddenly says, breaking into the little bubble they've created for themselves. She has a tray of food in her hand, Edwin right behind her.
"Oh, Lizzie," Casey quickly scoots over, patting the space beside her. She ignores the fact Derek is still looking at her as she does. "We're almost done. How was Star Tours? Should we go on that next?"
"Uh," Lizzie meets Edwin's eyes, an unspoken conversation between them as they sit down. "Yeah, it was fun. We just went on the Aerosmith ride."
"So cool," Edwin says around a mouthful of burger.
"We went on that twice," Derek finally removes his gaze away from Casey. "Much better than that awful hotel ride."
"Hey!" Casey kicks him. "You weren't complaining after the ride." It's a loaded sentence, implying something that Lizzie and Edwin are not privileged to.
"Ouch, Case! Don't kick the hockey star, you'll jeopardize my career -!"
"That would be a shame," Casey glared. "I'm ready to ride Star Tours." She makes Lizzie get out of her seat and stands away from the table.
Derek swears under his breath, shoving Edwin out of the way to catch up.
Their siblings stare after them, then watch out the windows as Casey deliberately slows down enough for Derek to grab her arm. They can't hear the exchange, but however it verbally ends seems positive enough, as Casey rolls her eyes and switches Derek's hold to her hand as they stroll out of view.
Edwin recovers first. "I'm upping the bet. Thirty bucks says they kiss before the trip is over."
Lizzie twirls her straw around in her soda, thinking it over. "Forty bucks it's at the fireworks tonight."
"Deal!" They shake on it, eating quickly to see if they can find their siblings and spy.
The Venturi-McDonald clan is back at Magic Kingdom later that night, just in time for a few rides before the fireworks show. It's their last night already, and Casey is feeling emotional. The energy between her and Derek is really weird; she's overthinking every little interaction the past few days and she can tell that he can tell that's what she's doing.
They're in line for Space Mountain, Casey's favorite ride at Magic Kingdom, separate from the family. Marti wanted to go on the teacups one more time, and Lizzie wanted to catch a show, dragging Edwin with her.
"I love this ride," Casey dreamily says as the line painfully inches forward. They're stuck in the hallway, no where close to the front. They had used up their fast passes already for the day.
Derek sits on a rail, leaning against the wall next to one of the ads for the ride dating back to the eighties. "Yeah, I love waiting in lines too," he sarcastically replies. "I loved it so much the first time we waited just for it to break down."
Casey dismisses him with a wave of the hand. "I know it didn't give a good impression last time -" Derek snorts, hopping down the rail and walking a few feet with her when the line moves before resuming a spot on the rail again. "But it's so worth it."
"Hopefully it doesn't break down again."
Her hand covers his mouth impulsively, shushing him. His breath is hot against her skin, and she blinks back in surprise with herself.
"Just trust me," she says, as Derek removes her hand from his face. He doesn't immediately drop it, and there's that familiar feeling back in her stomach. The glow of the eighties tv showing kids on the ride dances across his face. She finds herself wanting to lean up and catch his lips, which is a completely insane thing to want to do with one's step-brother.
But he's leaning down, just a smidge, his brown eyes on her lips. It's suddenly really easy to pretend that they're just Derek and Casey, at Disney, together and completely uncomplicated. In fact, her toes inch her up and his face is right there and -
"Hey, the line is moving!" Some kid interrupts the moment from behind. They spring apart, but not before Derek gives the kid a dirty look. Wordlessly they hastily walk to catch up, as the line really has moved a lot since they were caught up in each other. They stay quiet until they reach the main waiting area. It's an hour or so before the fireworks show, and people are already abandoning the ride's line in order to get a good seat for it.
"I hope we don't miss it," Casey worriedly chews her lip, not noticing that Derek is following the movement carefully. It's too crowded in this section of the line, so he can't hop up on the rail again, instead shuffling on his feet and adjusting his sunglasses to rest on the neck line of his shirt.
"I'm sure we won't," Derek says as a couple a bit ahead of them gets out of the line. Soon enough they're in another hallway, which Casey assures him is the last real stretch of waiting. It's a half hour before the fireworks by the time they're next for the ride. Casey claims the front seat, Derek behind her and a solo rider behind him.
"Get ready," Casey says over her shoulder as they wait to go through the tunnel. They start moving and there's flashing blue lights all around them. Her hair is changing colors under the lights and it makes Derek think about how soft her hair feels on his face when they're fighting for control of the remote or when she shoves him with that dancer strength of hers.
The ride goes dark as they begin to climb, a voice over head making announcements as they go by astronauts and a fake NASA window. There's stars up ahead, and then they're surrounded by them as the ride really starts.
"Wooooooo!" He can hear Casey's shout as they race around in the make-believe outer space sky. He can hear distant screams from the other car looping around the track, and the solo rider behind him is loud with laughter and whoops as they shoot straight down in the track.
Derek finds himself laughing, enjoying not only the fast paced ride but also the fact that Casey is screaming and laughing so freely in front of him. It makes him start thinking that Disney really is magical, because he really, really wants to find ways to make Casey be as happy as she was in this moment.
The ride comes to an end all too soon, though they're both still laughing. Casey insists on buying the picture from this ride too; she's mid laugh, her braid whipping back towards Derek, and he's got the same goofy laugh on his face too. He accepts his copy of the picture, tucking it into his wallet for safekeeping before she takes his hand and runs towards Cinderella's castle, the fireworks starting.
It's crowded around the area, with no hope of finding the rest of the family before the show, so they find a spot to stand and watch.
Casey sighs happily as the castle changes colors and a song begins to play; Derek vaguely recognizes it and it's making him want to tug Casey closer to him. He stops himself as the fireworks begin above them. The whole thing is completely cheesy and romantic, but he finds that he doesn't really care when Casey oohs and aahs as the lights above them match with the displays on the castle.
There's a couple nearby with newlywed Mickey ears, who are paying more attention to each other than the pretty lights above. He wonders if that's something Casey would ever want to do, if she got married.
The heat from the day disappeared during their time waiting in line for Space Mountain, and Derek catches Casey cold. She's shivering in her sundress, having forgone additional layers to keep cool during the day.
"Cold?" He leans down and whispers in her ear, his breath tickling her.
"Sort of," she admits, her eyes still on the castle as it changes songs again. He sighs quietly, debating an inner battle she can't hear before gently pulling her towards him, her back against his chest. She freezes.
"Just trust me," he echoes back her words from earlier, waiting for her to nod before wrapping his arms around her. It's an extremely intimate position, especially so when Derek absent-mindly rubs his hands up and down her arms.
Casey can't think coherently as his touch electrifies her skin. She focuses on the music and the lights and her breathing, though the last one is hard to remember how to do when Derek's arms are holding her close, possessively, like she's his and this is normal for them. She lets her head fall back against him too, strangely relaxed.
They stay like this until near the end of the fireworks show, when Casey shifts so her head is on his chest, her hands clasped together behind his back. The last song of the night swells, the lights bursting into pinks and blues and sparkles.
Derek isn't looking at the show anymore. His attention is solely on Casey. She glances up as the last bit of the fireworks takes off and the chorus of the song reaches new heights, close to ending.
It's an impulsive decision, Casey later reflects. The Happily Ever After show got her emotional at age nine, and it makes her feel just as emotional nine years later. The lights reflect in Derek's eyes, and the familiar tug between them is sparking again. There's no sign of their family nearby - it's just Derek and Casey - and people are cheering as the last of the fireworks explode in the sky.
She hesitates for just a fraction of a second before her head tilts up and his lips crash down, capturing hers. She's dimly aware of people beginning to move around them as the show concludes, and Derek pulls her closer to him, his hands firmly gripping her hips as her arms loop around his neck in response. He deepens the kiss, their tongues battling for dominance and Casey can't think. It's like her mind is glitching and overheating, or maybe that's her skin when Derek nips her bottom lip with his teeth.
They gasp for breath for a short moment before Casey boldly pulls him back down, eager to feel the softness of his lips again, his breath mingling with hers while she runs her hands through his hair, his hand cupping the top of her butt and -
Derek's phone vibrates in his pocket, startling them. They stare at each other; Casey's lips are swollen and Derek's hair looks wild.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Casey hoarsley asks, her voice huskier than normal.
"Um, yeah -" Derek blinks, offering her a grin as he fishes out his phone. "Hey Nora," he looks over at Casey. "Yeah. We saw the show, mhmmm. Yup, Casey is just going to the bathroom and then we'll catch the monorail - Oh," he took her hand, guiding them over to the nearest bathroom. "Yeah we'll see you there. Okay. Bye." He offers Casey a half smile as he pockets his phone. She looks at him expectantly.
"They're waiting for us at the exit."
"Oh, right," Casey says, dazed. "I'll just go clean up - um, fix my hair - "
"I'll wait for you," Derek tells her. She nods, fleeing into the bathroom. Derek skips the line for the men's bathroom, choosing instead to go right to a mirror to make sure he doesn't look suspicious. Like he didn't just furiously makeout with Casey. His step-sister.
She emerges back out into the sidewalk at the same time as him. He thinks he should say something to break the mounting awkward tension, but she beats him to it.
"We're not just Derek and Casey," she softly tells him. "Not outside of here. So," she takes a deep breath as his heart clenches. "What happens at Disney, stays at Disney."
Her face falls as Derek nods in agreement, which confuses him. "What happens at Disney, stays at Disney," he parrots back. He smirks briefly, leaning down and giving her a firm kiss, less frantic than the one they only moments ago experienced but far more tender. It kills him to stop it just as she responds more.
Wordlessly, they separate, though Derek lightly takes her hand as they join the crowd exiting the park. He doesn't look back at the castle, determined to keep it in his mind just as it was when they kissed.
"Race you, Spacey," he says as they get closer to the exit. "Last one to the family has to make the other's bed when we get home for a month."
She shrieks, "Der-ek!" as he takes off, winking over his shoulder.
He later claims some of her spacey-ness infected him, causing him to trip and her to win. But that's at Queens, when they become Derek and Casey for real, and she rolls her eyes and kisses him just because she can.
And if his phone's lock screen is a selfie of them together wearing Mickey ears in front of Cinderella's Castle? Well. Disney is magical after all.