Derek was a proud, grown man. He was a man full of prejudices and misconceptions about his role in the world, and therefore how everyone else should accommodate him with his ideas and opinions.
At first, Casey really hated that about him. The way she saw it, Derek just had an inflated sense of self and took upon herself to take him down a peg. Or a thousand of them.
Now… Well, now she just feels sorry for him.
You see, Derek's pride, and just about everything about his personality, is rather skewed by a childhood trauma. Marti was hardly on formula when it happened, and Edwin was also rather young, but Derek was quite grown up when Abby packed up and left.
It all happened too suddenly, she walked out of their life without looking back, and the two of them were still at odds, giving the poor child the horrible feeling of guilt, of responsibility over the situation.
Casey felt sorry for that little boy, and she feels sorry for the somewhat stunted adult man he left on his place, and, by God, parent drama was something she could relate to.
As the years went by, and the two of them came onto their personalities, shaping themselves as independent units from their parents, much of the trauma went away, bit by bit. Casey was not as much of a neat freak, of a perfectionist to the point of anxiety, and Derek was increasingly more open, more trustful of others.
They were, however, still a pair of needy children, trying to make their way in the world as adults. It was hard sometimes, and, albeit rarely, something would happen that would send them stumbling backwards.
Good thing they had each other to fall back on.
"Derek?" Casey called, as she entered through the front door of their apartment and found the living room with all lights out. "Are you here?"
She flipped the switch. He was there, laying on the couch face down, in silence.
"I just heard what happened. With your mom." She said softly, closing the distance between her and the couch slowly and steadily. "I don't know what she could've said, but I'm sure it must have been hurtful."
The young woman was, by then, standing next to his head. She kneeled, so she could be closer to him, speak more softly, to try and assuage his pain. Looking closely, she noticed his chestnut eyes were shiny.
"Oh, Der. It's okay, you know? You can talk to me, and you can cry. These tears do not make you weak." She murmurs to him. "I won't see you any differently, it's alright to cry."
She runs her hand through his exposed arms, as he wore a t-shirt. He must have run back from the gym when Abby called. It was sunny and warm then, but now he must be cold. His only reaction was the quivering body shaking under her touch, flinching slightly. She took her hand away, as he seemed to grow restless with it, and his heart was conflicted to whether he should reach out again for her warmth, as he wanted it bad, but he was trying to hold onto some control over his emotions and doing it seemed like a mistake.
"Crying just means you're human, Derek. There's nothing wrong with that." Casey hummed softly.
Her fingers brushed through his auburn hair, something she learned he thoroughly enjoyed and found it comforting. He raised his head just a bit, but would not face her.
It was a sign. He wanted her to sit down and put his head on her lap.
She did as he requested and held him tightly, swaying a bit, moving slowly, frontwards and backwards again. He looked like a broken child, she thought as she saw him pull his legs to his chest, curling in a ball and breaking down even more.
Because he is, she reminded herself. Casey wonders if Derek ever had a proper childhood. Lizzie was hard work, but she was only one and Nora had all sorts of privileges George could not afford. Derek had two, and a load of responsibilities she could only imagine, and it did not seem fair.
After a while, he seemed to calm down. He raised his eyes towards her, and something tugged at her heart when she noticed how exhausted he seemed, his eyes dull and filled to the brim with tears. He might enjoy it, but hockey was hard work and a lot of pressure. That certainly did not help.
She did not miss how he would follow her touch and the rhythm of her breathing, leaning into she more when she would make the slightest move, afraid she would leave him.
Casey absentmindedly hummed a random tune, her thoughts wandering around, deliriously, feverishly. She closed her eyes, resting her head against the back of the couch, trying not to get lost in reveries and her own feelings again. She tended to do that, and it does not seem to be particularly helpful.
Soon, she would hear it, she hears his breathing go back to normal, causing her to lift her head and open her eyes. Derek looked so vulnerable, so innocent, and she wondered if it was too cruel of her to enjoy the sight. If she was correct to assume her presence, her acts, were as therapeutic as she judged them to be.
Casey reached for her bag and took out a pack of wet wipes. With those, she wiped his dried tears and snot, and put the woolen mantle she used to watch TV in nights like this over him.
Her hand was soothingly rubbing his back when he sighed in content, a soft smile adorning his lips, dreaming of a time and a place she did not know where it was, what it was about. Yet, she believes it must be nice, because, for once, he truly did look like he was at peace.