Ultimately, they decide to start with Casey. It's easier to get a hold of her. She's more gullible. They have a greater chance of guilting her into staying if she figures out what's going on. Most importantly, of the pair, she's the most likely of the pair to crack.
As a family, they agree to wait until Derek sends his hockey schedule. Eventually, it's Casey who remembers to send the schedule along. There is an unspoken agreement that this is more proof to add to the pile. Deciding that it would be best to do it on a weekend when Derek was traveling with the hockey team for an away game—to prevent Derek from inviting himself along—Nora consults the schedule and calls up Casey a week before he's set to be gone.
Unsurprising, it takes some convincing. Casey's reluctant to make the drive on her own. It's more energy-efficient if they come up on the same weekend, but predictably Casey caves. "It will be nice to get to focus on just you for a weekend," Nora says. "We'll do a separate weekend just for Derek, too."
Casey is still hesitant, but, ultimately, she agrees.
The following weekend, when she comes through the door, Casey is bright-eyed and eager to see her family. Despite her reluctance, Nora knows her daughter misses the family. There's an exchange of hugs, and then they all take a seat in the living room while Casey works on removing her scarf, coat, and an extra sweater. When she next looks up, her expression changes from thrill to concern as she takes in their odd posture and slightly manic smiles. They were supposed to present as reassuring, but only Marti really manages to pull this off, in a natural lounge in Derek's recliner.
She carefully places her bag out of the way, surveying the members of her family. "Casey, honey," Nora forces her smile to be brighter, "have a seat."
"Who died?" Casey blurts, falling into the indicated seat.
They all exchange a look before turning back to face Casey. George chuckles nervously. "No one died," he promises. She looks relieved, even as he continues, "It's just, uh…" He looks to Nora for help, eyes desperate. She had agreed to go first.
She nods, turning in her seat to face Casey. "Honey, I think—I know—that I speak for all of us here when I say that we love you, no matter what. You may make certain decisions or wind up in situations that are beyond your control. These choices and situations may be difficult for us or others to understand, but that doesn't mean we love you any less. We support you, no matter what." There are nods from the other family members. Nora continues, "We really think honesty—"
She's cut off by a small noise in the back of Casey's throat, something between a cough and a choking sound. Casey stares at them, looking horrified, her tone disbelieving as she asks, "Is this… is this an intervention?"
"Not exactly." Nora deflates. Lizzie rocks her hand back and forth in a 'sort of' gesture. They hadn't expected her to jump to that so soon. Maybe they shouldn't have followed the advice of intervention shows and pamphlets so exact.
Meanwhile, Casey is looking more and more horrified by the second. She blinks, staring at all of them as if they've each grown three heads. "I'm not on drugs," she insists. "I swear, I go to one college party. I had a single drink. Just the one! I don't have a problem." Her gaze sweeps over all of them, reluctant to land on any single person. "Did Derek put you up to this? This is so like him. I swear, I'm going to kill him…" And she goes on until Nora decides to give up.
They all scatter, content to go about their business. However, Nora does insist that they don't believe her to have a drug or alcohol problem and that Derek didn't tell them anything. They each spend the rest of the weekend trying to talk to her individually. In hindsight, it was a mistake to try and coax it out of her as a group.
Nora tries to corner Casey throughout the weekend. She talks about 'honesty' and 'trust' and laying it on thick just how much she values their relationship and their ability to talk about what's happening in Casey's life.
Lizzie tries the sister bonding approach. She tells Casey about her breakup with her boyfriend and the new girl she has a crush on. Lizzie never really came out. One day she and her boyfriend broke up, and a few months later, she was talking about this new girl at school. Her bisexuality hadn't been a topic of concern or an issue with anyone in the family. Still, Lizzie did lay it on a bit thick about how not everyone understood, but the family had tried and been supportive. That had been the important part, Lizzie insists: the family was supportive. Casey was happy to be there for Lizzie, but she didn't offer anything about her personal life. Even when Lizzie pressed for information.
"What is the college dating scene like?" She asks, stretched out on Casey's bed. Her feet are by the headboard, and Lizzie is propped up on her elbow, looking at her sister, who sits leaning against the headboard.
"I wouldn't know," Casey admits.
"Still?" It's her second year in college, and she hadn't mentioned any prospective partner since her first semester. That had been an unmitigated disaster. Casey had expected dating to be a more mature experience in college—her words, not Lizzie's. When it had been more casual than she'd anticipated. Casual did not work well for Casey, which was fine as it wasn't her personality, but the guy—like someone else they all knew—held the belief that college was not for settling down. It had been a rather brutal disappointment for Casey, so Lizzie couldn't blame her for being more cautious. Knowing her sister, though, it seemed unlikely that there was not a single person she might potentially be interested in.
Casey shrugs. "I haven't had much time, honestly. I have classes and studying to worry about. There's the newspaper, too, and the dance team. I've been swamped."
In the end, Lizzie lets it drop. Mostly because Casey has never been much of a liar, even when Derek had been coaching her. She seems to be telling the truth here. This baffles Lizzie, but she doesn't know how else to approach it.
Edwin's approach is simple but equally ineffective. He tells Casey that he's always there for her, no matter what. "Ride or die," he says, a phrase he's recently picked up. "I'd hide a body for you, same as I would anyone else in this family."
"That's… reassuring," Casey says, taking a step back. "I appreciate the sentiment, thanks."
He nods and goes about his business.
Unfortunately, George's attempt can hardly count. It involved a lot of rambling, going off track, and they never really broached the topic.
Even Marti had no luck. She doesn't say what she tried, but the result was Casey laughing hysterically. Then she offered to go pick up dinner for the family and was gone for far longer than necessary.
Sunday afternoon, they all watch Casey pull out of the driveway. George puts his arm around Nora's shoulders. "I really thought she would crack in the first five minutes," he admits.
They all thought that, but maybe they should have tried the individual approach first, then the group intervention if it hadn't worked. "Derek is going to be even more of a challenge," Nora sighs.
"It doesn't help that he's going to have a head's up," Marti says, flouncing back into the house. She seems amused by the whole thing.
"We'll just have to wear them down," George decides.
If there had been any doubt that Casey would tell Derek about her visit, they would have quickly vanished. Before, when Derek found out that Casey was coming to visit without him, there had been dramatics. "What? Nobody wants to see me?"
"Of course, we do," George had said, tiredly. "We thought it would be nice to do some one-on-one visits." Derek had, understandably, been suspicious about that, but George had played it cool. "We've gotten relatively used to the peace and quiet that's come with the two of you away at college. The summer was hard enough to deal with. We thought it would be nice to have a visit, but a peaceful one."
Derek had spent some time trying to talk them out of it, claiming that her taking the car that weekend violated some kind of car agreement they'd come up with upon moving to Queen's. Nora was willing to bet that he was a part of why Casey had remained as strong as she had before caving and agreeing to visit.
Now, however, when they tried to arrange his Derek-centered visit, Derek mysteriously had plans that couldn't be changed. His excuses are never-ending (and incredibly convincing). This, Nora decides, only serves to prove what they already know. Now, if they can only make their kids be honest and open with them. It's all healthier that way!
It isn't until Marti—a month and a half later—gets on the phone begging Derek to visit that he agrees. They can't plan around Casey's schedule as easily, so it's a surprise when Derek shows up alone. Even while claiming to hate one another, the two have always been supportive of one another. They always put up a stronger front as a unit than they did on their own.
When Nora voices this concern out loud, George shrugs his shoulders. "Maybe she's ready to crack." It had been several weeks. Some of the guilt trips had to be eating away at her. "Maybe she didn't want to risk it."
They watch from the window as Derek gets his duffel from the back seat. "Should we have invited them down together? Maybe separating them like this isn't going to get the message across that we're trying to be supportive." It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she wasn't sure.
George doesn't have an answer. He only shrugs. What's done is done.
They abandon the intervention style approach ("You guys did look freakish when Casey came, it's a wonder she didn't spill all her secrets," Lizzie had said with an eye roll), so they have Marti greet him at the door instead. It's more genuine. "And it will soften him up," George rationalizes.
By the time he comes through the door, Nora and George are in the kitchen cleaning. Edwin is stretched out on the couch watching TV, and Lizzie is in her room working on homework.
The door opens, and Marti throws herself into Derek's arms, squeezing him tight. Her pleas to Derek may have had duel intentions, but she'd genuinely missed her Smerek, which was probably the only thing that had convinced him to come.
Bag slung over his shoulder, and Marti locked around his middle, Derek shuffles into the living room. If he seems surprised that they aren't all sitting in a semi-circle waiting to accost him with love and support, he doesn't show it. He ruffles Edwin's hair, calls hello to George and Nora, and heads up the stairs to drop his stuff and say hi to Lizzie. He comes down a few minutes later, Marti no longer attached but still trailing along after him, and gives them both a hug. It's brief, but with how tight he holds them both, they know he missed them.
Marti drags him into the living room to play. It's a board game that they, and Casey, made up together with the incomplete pieces of Candyland, Mouse Trap, and a mismatched deck of cards. Nobody but the three of them understands the rules, so Marti only ever plays with them. Typically, they save it for when all three can play, but it's been a while since Marti has seen Derek, let alone Derek and Casey together. While they play, Marti talks about how embarrassed she was to tell her dad and Nora her secret. "I thought I was going to be in trouble," she explains patiently, nudging a mouse forward on the Candyland board. "But they already knew, and they didn't make me feel bad or anything." She paints it all as if she's just filling Derek in on the things that he's missed, and really, she's better at this than the rest of them. "They said they love me no matter what," she adds.
"They're very supportive people," Derek agrees, laying down a King of Spades. This, apparently, suck for Marti because she frowns, adjusting her game strategy. "Remember that, because not everyone has that kind of support."
"They love you, too, Smerek."
George and Nora are hovering in the kitchen, listening to this. When they peek in the dining area, Derek is leaning close and whispering something to Marti. She's nodding along, smiling. When they corner her later to find out what was said, she doesn't spill.
That night, over dinner, Edwin makes his attempt. It's still better than with Casey, but Derek has the advantage of anticipating them. He shares a story about how his friend kept a secret from his parents because they were worried that the secret might divide the family. Eventually, the fact that his friend was keeping secrets caused the problems and not the secret itself. "Eric's family just really wanted to be there for them." He ends the story by puncturing a chunk of broccoli on his plate, eyeing it with suspicion.
"Well," Nora smiles bright, wishing that Edwin would have picked a name not so close to Derek, "I hope things work out with Derek and their family."
The entire story, Derek listens with the patience one reserves for younger siblings telling a story that one doesn't particularly care about. When it's over, he's nonchalant about the whole thing, only asking someone to pass the ketchup.
George is, if possible, less subtle. At breakfast Saturday morning, he tells a story about his coworker who married his stepsister, and how the family doesn't talk to them anymore. It's the most reaction they get out of Derek because he chokes on his orange juice, and George has to thump his back. He waits for the coughing fit to quiet down before continuing as if nothing had happened. "I'm not sure I understand what the big deal is, though. It's certainly nothing to be disowned for. They're not hurting anyone. They're happy, which is all any parent wants for their child, and it's not like they grew up together as siblings. Everything is consensual—"
He's got more, Nora can see him winding up to a Big Parent Speech, but Derek interrupts, "That's great, dad, for them. Really. But I promised I'd meet Sam while I was in the area, so…" He doesn't offer much more than that, abruptly standing and heading for the door.
For a moment, they all stare at the spot where he'd just been sitting. "Maybe," Nora says, slowly, "we shouldn't have tried subtlety." It was more of a reaction than they'd gotten from Casey during her visit.
"Yeah," George wants to laugh, she can tell, but he sobers up. "But if we're wrong and that reaction is just him weirded out at any insinuation that they're—"
"I know," Nora nods her head. They'd talked about this already. Subtlety, they had all agreed, was the best route just in case they were wrong.
"I don't want to hear it," he tells Casey when she opens the door Sunday evening. He shoulders past her and her smug, smug smile.
Still, she sniffs and has the nerve to feign offense. Casey doesn't have to ask what he's talking about. All weekend long, he's been keeping her abreast of their family's weird behavior. Just as she had when they'd unleashed it on her. "Unlike you, I'm not the type to say, 'I told you so.'"
"Funny how you worked that in there anyway," he says, sitting on her desk's edge. "Only, I think I know what it's about."
This does come as a surprise. They've done some theorizing, of course, since Casey's visit, but once Casey accepted that it wasn't some prank at Derek's hands, nothing had made any sense. She leans against her bed frame. It's lofted, her desk tucked neatly under it. All it would take is a small shift in her stance, and her foot would be touching his. She thinks about things like that a lot, lately. It's not as surprising as when she first realized the direction her thoughts had taken her. "Oh?" She shifts, and now the tip of her socked foot is touching the toe of his shoe.
He doesn't pull away. That's something else Casey thinks about lately, how he never seems to avoid her touch, even in the beginning. He notices, though. She watches as his eyes flicker down to where they're touching and back up at her. "Yeah."
Casey waits for him to explain or elaborate, and when he doesn't, she raises her eyebrows. "Well," she hums, "Oh wise one, what are they on about?"
"You're not going to like it." He says it with such conviction. He's thought about this, whatever it is. She doesn't like to admit it, but Derek knows her, can read her like a book. Casey believes him, goosebumps rising on her arms. The vulnerability underlying the conviction baffles her, and that's what she focuses on trying to uncover.
"It has to be better than not knowing."
Shrugging, he adjusts his position on her desk. Her eyes focus on his foot, which doesn't stray from hers. It makes her think of that episode of New Girl, the one where Cece tells Jess that a man's feet point at what he wants. Sometimes, when thoughts of that episode come to mind unbidden (often when Derek is around), she looks to see where Derek's feet are pointing. Unless they're walking, they're very often pointed toward her.
She used to wonder if there was any truth to that episode. It's just a TV show, of course, but that doesn't always mean it's fake. When she took psychology second term last year, she'd asked her professor. Apparently, there has been some research, and it's one of the body language indicators that a person is into you. "If someone's feet are pointed toward you, that's good. If they're pointed away from you, that's bad," she'd told Casey.
Since then, Casey had started paying even more attention to where people pointed their feet. She'd already been focused on Derek's, but now she had a professor—someone with a degree and knowledge about this kind of thing—tell her that it meant something.
Derek tells her about the story Marti had told him. He doesn't share what he whispered back at Marti, not yet, but he tells her about Edwin's story next.
"I see a pattern of love and support," Casey says, crossing her arms, "but I'm still not seeing what they're concerned about." The support part had been clear at Casey's visit. This isn't new information.
"Ah," Derek grins at her. It's like they're in on a conspiracy together, the smile he has when they share a secret. It's a very different smile from the one he has when he's keeping a secret from her. "I was just as confused, but then came Saturday morning." There's a pause. For all his talk about how dramatic Casey is, this is all about creating anticipation. He can be just as dramatic. It's the storyteller in him. "I'm sitting there minding my own business, eating breakfast, and dad starts in about one of his coworkers. I'm only half paying attention because there's this tone they've all got—except Marti—" there's pride in his voice as he excludes her. It makes Casey smile, "when they're telling a story that's meant to be a lesson or reminder."
Casey nods. It had been the same when she'd gone. As hard as they tried to be subtle, it hadn't worked. When they wanted to get her to open up with one of their stories, they had all taken on a weird tone, attempting to pass for casual. No one in the McDonald or Venturi family was known for subtlety.
This time when Derek pauses, she doesn't think it's for dramatics. He's hesitating. "Derek," she prods.
He holds up a hand and takes a breath, avoiding her gaze. "He tells me about how one of his coworkers is married to their stepsister."
There's more to this story. She knows there's more to this story, but he pauses, and she's grateful. Casey can feel the blood drain from her face, and there's a rushing sound in her ears. She ought to say something—the earlier vulnerability makes sense now—but for once, she can't seem to form words. She's unsure how long passes before the familiar sounds—students in the hallway, the mini-fridge's buzzing—come back to her. "Oh?" She manages, the word sounding hollow and strangled. It's the best she can do.
"Yeah," Derek nods. He still won't look at her. "Apparently, assuming this is a true story, the family doesn't talk to them anymore."
Her voice is barely a whisper, "That's awful." It occurs to her, just as it has over the last year or so, that it would be miserable if she lost her family, that she wouldn't know how to cope if they cut her off, deciding that they can't deal with her.
"Yeah," he repeats. He swallows. "Then, dad says that he doesn't understand the problem, thinks that their situation is different, that they aren't hurting anyone and that as long as everything seems consensual…" Here he trails off, locking eyes with Casey.
"They think that—" Casey tries to breathe, can't seem to remember how to inhale correctly. She thinks back to her mother's words: we support you, no matter what. Had they really thought—even then?
Derek doesn't need her to say it for him to know that she's caught on. "I think so." He laughs. It sounds forced; he's usually better at this. "At least, in thinking that, there's a message of love and support." He can't tell where Casey's head is at. Usually, he can, but he's been avoiding looking at her the past few minutes. Her foot is still touching his. That's something that changed with college. They've always been tactile; he's usually bumping into her, or she's shoving him, or they're wrestling over something. Now, though, the touches are more intentional, less aggressive, and often, they linger. He doesn't want that to stop. He thinks that Casey would come around, eventually, on her own terms. Believes that she's already most of the way there and is just working through the mental block. For once, Derek had been prepared to be patient.
It occurs to him now that he could have let his family in on it, to give her more time, but they don't know how to act normal with a secret. They would have been weirder than they are now. He hadn't wanted to rush her into this because they had the potential to last and as scary as that is to him, Derek wants it. He thinks that Casey's serial monogamy is just another presentation of fear of commitment. He took Intro to Psycho, too.
All in all, he's worried about how she's going to react to the idea that their parents think they're already together. It is, in some ways, a load off his mind to know that they would support the decision, and he thinks that was—or would be when she left Denial City into Acceptance Land—a concern of Casey's as well. That doesn't mean she's going to be ready to wrap her mind around the idea of them.
Casey makes a noise, and his eyes shoot to hers. Suddenly, she's double over wheezing. It takes him a second to realize that she's laughing. "Spacey," he prods his foot against hers, gentle. She doesn't answer, snorting a little. Irritable, he eyes her. "I guess you've finally cracked."
Straightening her hands to her knees, she meets his gaze. "Oh, come on, you don't find it a little funny?"
He shakes his head because no, he does not find the idea of them together funny. Maybe a little ironic, given how they started out, but not funny. His tone is dry as he pulls his foot away from hers, a painful squeezing in his chest. Is this what a heart attack feels like? "I'm glad you find this hilarious."
As soon as their feet are no longer touching, she sobers up and seems to understand that she struck a nerve. He wondered if she was ever aware of how much they touched. "Derek," she says, her tone soft, and she reaches a hand to his arm. He wants to pull away, but he doesn't. "We've been dancing around this for who knows how long, you don't think it's funny that they got there before we did?"
Instantly, his body relaxes, and though he tries to keep his face neutral—because, good god couldn't she have led with that?—his face quickly breaks out into a smile. "Okay," he concedes because there is no hiding the expression on his face. "Maybe it's a little funny." He shifts back, and they're touching again; he's breathing a little easier. The chest pain is gone. "You don't," he hesitates before plowing forward, needing to confirm, "you don't think the idea is a little funny?"
She shrugs, smiling. "Maybe little, but not funny in a 'that's so laughable, I couldn't possibly ever see that happening how could they even think that' kind of way." She steps closer now, standing directly in front of him, and they're toe to toe. "At some point," her voice is lower now, and Derek swallows hard, "I think it became inevitable. I just never saw this being the way we finally stepped over the line."
"Not that I spent ways imagining how it would eventually play out—" the King of the Lies rears his gorgeous face once more "—but me either."
She snorts, settling her hands on his shoulders. "It's good, though."
"How do you figure?"
"Well, I imagine if we'd forged ahead on our own, this would have been a hurdle to overcome. I still have trouble picturing us admitting to them that there's something here," there's an uncertainty to her voice now, and Derek can practically tell what she's thinking, "but it will be easier, when the time comes, knowing that they're supportive of us."
"You don't think we should tell them right away?" It surprises him. Casey's never been one to keep secrets, especially from her family.
She shrugs. "Maybe, for a little while. I mean, it sounds like they already think we're dating anyway, so." Casey's eyes drop, "it would be nice to keep this between us for a little. Once it's out, there's no way of taking it back, and… I don't want to jump to any assumptions here, but I'm going to be honest and hope this doesn't frighten you away." Derek nods, encouraging her; he's pretty sure where this is headed, anyway. "This," Casey lifts her hand from her shoulder to point a finger from his chest to hers, "feels different. For me, at least, but I think for you, too."
"It feels Very Big." His reward is a bright smile from Casey. As they so often are, they're once again on the same wavelength.
"It does feel Very Big, which is why I think we should keep it to ourselves. It's still very new despite brewing for some time, and I don't want anyone interfering with that, as well-meaning as they might be."
"I follow you."
"Very big doesn't mean lasting," she adds.
"I know that relationships take work." Again, he is rewarded for his use of the word 'relationship.' "I'm willing to put that in."
It's his turn to smile as Casey nods, "As am I."
"But I'm not going to be like all of your other boyfriend's, Case."
She snorts, shoving his chest just a touch before letting her hands fist in his shirt like she's worried he might leave. "Derek, if I wanted anyone like one of my ex-boyfriends, I'd probably still be with them."
"Just wanted to be clear."
"But you are serious about this?"
He nods, touching his forehead to hers. "Absolutely. I want this to work."
"Great." Still clutching at his shirt, she beams and remains with her head against his.
They're close enough to kiss, and though they stay in that position for some time, their lips don't touch.
Ultimately, they agree that since it's very new, there's still a potential for things to mess up. Why bring everyone into the loop for them to adjust, only for things to change down the road. It's not what either of them wants, and they aren't going into this planning on breaking up, but it's a realistic and pragmatic view that shows they've both grown. Derek and Casey complement each other in many ways. However, they are still two very strong-willed individuals who sometimes have trouble figuring out how to work together.
Being in a relationship is not effortless, but it's easy in a way that Derek hadn't expected. It helps that they both went into this relationship with honest and realistic expectations of what they could get from the relationship and what they could give to it. This, too, shows growth on both their parts. Casey has long since lost the expectation of the perfect boyfriend. She knows what Derek's faults are, and she's in the process of learning what she can reasonably ask for. Derek, too, is starting to understand what is reasonable to give and that being in a relationship doesn't necessarily mean losing his individuality.
They are both a far cry from their high school selves, which is probably why it took them this long to get to this point in the first place.
That's not to say that everything is perfect. Still, the transition from enemies, to frenemies, to more friends than enemies, to romantic partners is more seamless than Derek would have expected.
Sometimes, it's a little more intense than either of them had anticipated. It gets a bit more serious than either of them could really foresee. There are days when Derek plans for their future beyond college, a future two years down the road where they're still together. It scares him sometimes.
Likewise, Casey starts to think about their relationship in a way that's different from how she'd viewed other relationships. Then, her visions of the future had been obviously fantasy, with an underlying and unspoken understanding that it wasn't really going to last. She'd known in every one of those relationships that there was something fundamentally broken in every relationship. A big part of it, she now knew, was that she hadn't been ready for real commitment as badly as she appeared to want it.
It takes some convincing, but Casey finds a couple's counselor near the school, and they go twice a month. At first, Derek argues that they don't need couples counseling because they're doing okay. Casey likens it to preventative care at the dentist or the doctor. You go to make sure that everything continues to function as it should. It gets him in the door, and he winds up liking the therapist (and he wants to make this work), so they go. It's a weird situation, the stepsibling thing, so it doesn't hurt to have a little extra help. However, he refuses to go to individual counseling. Casey argues that it could benefit, but he won't do it. Twice a month with Casey is more than enough. Casey does go once a month on her own, to a different counselor through the school. There's some stuff to work out with her dad and commitment, and it just… it helps.
During all this, their family continues to try and get them to open up. Nora often starts phone conversations with, "Is there anything you want to tell me?"
George takes a similar approach with Derek, "If there's something you wanted to tell me, you know I'd be open about it."
Both of their answers are the same, verbatim. "If there is something that I want to tell you, I'll do it when I'm ready."
It only lends credence to their parent's suspicions, but it does mean there aren't any further ambushes. It also means that when they are around their family together, their parents are watching them closely. Despite the change in their status, they don't behave differently when they're at home.
Casey's intervention was mid-August, not long after the term had started. Derek's, late October. Briefly, as they approach the Winter Break, they debate coming clean to their parents, but it's only been a couple months, and everything is still new. So, they continue as they've been doing.
As Spring Break approaches, they once again discuss whether they should talk to their family. They've settled into a routine at this point, and they're more comfortable in their relationship. Still, it's early, and though they're no longer managing their expectations of one another, it feels too early. It comes and goes. The visit once again ends with promises of love and support, no matter what. Casey feels a little guilty. They vow, then, that when they come home for summer break, they will come clean.
Their first night back home for the summer, they're sitting at the dinner table, and Derek gives Casey a look and rakes his fingers through his hair. She adjusts her ponytail. This is their agreed-upon signal that they are ready to discuss the matter. "It's best to get it over with at the beginning of the summer," Casey had insisted. Derek had reluctantly agreed. Sneaking around during their earlier visits had been fun, but he knows she has a point. They thought about taking Nora and George aside, telling them away from the rest of the kids, but considering that their parents had roped in their siblings when they first tried to get the truth, they figured they might as well get it all out at once.
Casey clears her throat, setting her fork down. "This will likely not come as a surprise to anyone," from the corner of her eye, she sees Nora straighten up in anticipation, "but Derek and I are dating."
"Finally," Edwin slumps in his chair. "I thought we were going to be dancing around that forever."
There are expressions and exclamations of relief from other members of the family as well. "We love and support you, no matter what," Nora adds. It seems in the months since their first attempt, they've come around to the idea a little more. Maybe waiting so long was a good idea.
Derek snorts. Under the table, Casey kicks him. "Be nice."
"What?" He grins at her, a twinkle in his eyes. "That's been the anthem for the year, yeah? I mean, I'm glad it still applies now that it's out there." There had been discussion that, maybe, they'd been wrong and their parents were asking about something else, and when this came out, the love and support would no longer be there, so he's relieved.
But it's also fucking funny.
"Why," George glances between them, "Didn't you just tell us when we tried the first time?"
It's Casey's turn to scoff, but she softens it with a smile. "You mean, after your creepy intervention approach?" George looks properly chastened, and she exchanges a smile with Derek. "Funny thing is, I couldn't figure out what you wanted from me then. We weren't together at that point."
Lizzie looks between the two of them. "Holy shit—"
"—you're serious. Sorry, mom."
Derek shrugs. "Yeah, we hadn't—"
"I mean," Casey beams at Derek, "there was an underlying—"
"something was definitely there—"
"We'd never addressed it, though," Casey finishes.
"But," Nora blinks, looking around the table. "We all thought… all of us."
"Yeah," Derek shovels a spoonful of spaghetti in his mouth. "I figured that out when I came by myself, and dad was insisting that there was nothing wrong with his coworker, who is married to his stepsister. It was pretty heavy-handed." He grinned at his dad, who was turning a little pink.
Marti asked the question they were all dying to know, "So, if you weren't already together, then when?"
"That Sunday that Derek came back," Casey admits. This is harder to confess, as she fears they might be upset that they kept it from them for so long. "He told me he'd figured out what you guys were so weird about, and then we decided that it was time to talk about it and give us a shot."
"Best decision," Derek mutters under his breath. Only Casey and Marti hear.
"And knowing that we had your support definitely made things easier." It had been a mental roadblock for Casey, certainly. "Knowing all the effort you were going through to make sure we felt we could come to you, but it was still very new to us."
Their parents are both nodding. "So, you waited until you were sure to tell us."
Relieved, Casey nods as well. "Yeah. We just—we wanted to know that it wasn't going to go up in flame the moment we started dating."
"This whole time," George laughs, "we thought you had been together since last year, that something happened second term."
"I guess something did happen." Casey looks to Derek, trying to pinpoint the exact moment things between them started shifting. She can't. It happened without her knowledge, until one day, she realized that the status quo had changed.
"It was the start of getting to that point, but there was a lot to overcome." Some commitment issues, the fear of how their family and friends would react, the uncertainty about what the other would expect from them, adjusting to being away from home, adjusting to this new dynamic with one another.
Pleased, Nora returns to her dinner. Likewise, Casey picks up her fork. "I guess holding that intervention did work, just not in the way we were expecting."
"Oh," Casey shakes her head, laughing, "I mean, maybe. But had we been dating, and you had approached it like that? I don't know, I probably wouldn't have said anything. Not that weekend, anyway."
"But it worked out," George assures his wife. Maybe they needed to work on their interrogation skills, but at least their kids were safe, happy, and they were finally in on the secret.
"Yes," Casey touches the tip of Derek's foot with her own.
He grins, nudging her back and keeping their feet in contact, "Yes, it did."
a/n: I'm active on Tumblr now. Sometimes I post snippets and things of stuff I'm working on and updates. Feel free to follow me. I'm isinkwiththeship