A/N: Sorry for the long waits between updates, guys. And thanks so much for all your lovely reviews! I do love reviews.

Okay, so I'm officially ignoring "Derek's School of Dating" for this one—never happened. The freeze-out strategy and Amanda exist, but the events in that episode never transpired. Mmkay? Mmkay.

To avoid any confusion, Pete is the one mentioned at the beginning of Allergy Season, the one Emily wanted Casey to hook her up with. Ryan is from The Bully Brothers. Teddy is from Misadventures in Babysitting. Jamie—well, I assume you all know who he is. The ever-so-briefly-mentioned AJ is of my own creation, and is merely used to illustrate a point.

Sorry; I know it's a short chapter. I actually originally had a lot more planned for this chapter before I realized that none of it was working out, so I scrapped a huge part of it and just decided to include all the necessary bits in the next chapter.

We good? Then let it begin.

"Casey!" Derek's bellow easily carried up the stairs and through the door into her room. "Someone's here for you!"

"I'm coming!" she called back, and quickly got up to go downstairs. She saw who it was about halfway down and nearly tripped her way down the rest of the stairs.

"Sh-Sheldon?" she said, regaining her balance at the foot of the staircase.

Sheldon it was, standing in front of the closed front door with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, looking rather nervous. The most likely cause of this was Derek, who was leaning against the banister with his arms crossed and giving Sheldon a suspicious glare for no apparent reason.

"Hi, Casey," Sheldon said, and Casey was forced to accept that he really was standing in her house, slightly lisping voice, short dark hair, dorky clothes and all. "Long time no see."

"Yeah," she said, still blinking with shock. "Why…um…What brings you back?"

"Oh, we're just visiting relatives for a week, so I'm just here 'till Saturday. I would have come sooner, but,"—he shrugged—"you know. Relatives."

"Right," she said. She tried not to show her bewilderment too much—although she was sure he'd never just dropped by her house to see her when he still lived in London. "Have you been to see Emily yet?"

Sheldon made a strange face. "Well, no, not exactly," he began.

"Too awkward?" she guessed.

"No, it's not that, it's—" Sheldon glanced over her shoulder at Derek. "It's actually what I came to talk to you about. D'you think we could, um, go up to your room or something?"

"Oh, sure," said Casey, slightly confused. She turned around and found herself face-to-face with Derek.

"Move," she snapped. He gave her a begrudging look and did so. She could feel his eyes on her back as Sheldon followed her up the stairs.

"Sit," she invited Sheldon, opening her bedroom door and gesturing to the bed. She closed the door and perched on her desk chair, swiveling to face him.

"So," she said. "How's Newfoundland?"

"Oh, it's good," he replied, removing his jacket. "Cold."

She nodded, smiling sympathetically. "But you've been doing all right there?"

"Yeah. Bigger school, nicer house…different. But nice."

She nodded. He nodded. She supposed they looked like bobbleheads.

"So…" she ventured. "You wanted to talk to me about…?"

"Oh! Right, Emily." He coughed. "Um, see, even though I'm only back for a week, I wanted to meet up with her, take her to the Valentine's dance—remember, we were just beginning to go out around last year's dance? I know we decided this long-distance thing was too difficult, but just for this week—just for Friday night, even, I'd kind of like to be with her again."

"Wow," she said. Who knew Sheldon Schelpper could be such a romantic? He was full of surprises, that's for sure.

"But I need your help," Sheldon said earnestly. "I kind of want to surprise her. Ask her to the dance with some big, romantic gesture…what do you think?"

"I think that sounds great," she said. After all, unlike Lizzie, Emily happened to love big, romantic gestures. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, that's why I need your help. Any ideas?"

"Um," Casey said, thinking quickly. "Well, let's leave the Amazing Grace lyrics out of it this time." He nodded sheepishly. "I suppose you couldn't go wrong with surprising her with flowers and a box of candy during lunch tomorrow. But," she said as he opened his mouth to say something, "no singing." He quickly shut his mouth.

"Right," he said. "Got it. Sounds good. Thanks, Casey."

"Of course," she said, smiling. "Emily's a romantic just like me; I'm sure she'll swoon…or leap into your arms and kiss you." She sighed, wishing Noel would do such a thing for her.

"Well, that's what I'm hoping," Sheldon grinned.

"Just come near the beginning of lunch—you remember when it starts, right? I'll keep her at her locker until you show up. It's the same as last year, number 1126, by the Chem lab?"

"Yeah, I remember," Sheldon says. "Thanks again, Casey." He stood up, gave her a quick and awkward hug, and left, managing not to trip over anything for what may have been the first time in his life.

No sooner had she heard the sound of the front door being opened and closed than her phone rang. She saw it was Emily and picked it up right away.

"Hey, Em," she said.

"Casey!" Emily's squeal was so high-pitched Casey was sure it must have punctured her eardrum. "You'll never guess what. You'll never believe. Go on, guess."

"Um," Casey said. "I don't know?"

"Oh, you're no fun." She could practically hear Emily's pout through the receiver. "I'll tell you anyway." She took a deep, excited breath. "Pete asked me to the dance!"

Oh, snap.

The shrill sound of first bell echoed through the halls of J.S. Thompson High, reminding students they had five minutes to get to class. Ryan slammed his locker shut and punched a few of his buddies on the arm before heading off to English.

He often resented the long walk from his locker to his English classroom. He resented it even more today, when he found himself walking behind Sneaky-Slinky-Stinky and Scrappy-Slimy-Smelly or whatever the hell they called themselves that meant "puny".

"Hey, D," he heard Sam say to Derek ahead of him. "What gives? You ever gonna tell me why you suddenly 'lost interest' in Sally?"

Walking about three yards behind them, Ryan rolled his eyes. How sweet. Relationship issues. And in a hallway that wasn't even completely deserted. What a couple of girls.

"I just…did, okay?" Derek mumbled. Really, even his mumble was loud enough for Ryan to hear.

"But you've been acting really weird lately, man," Sam pushed. "I know there's something you're not telling me."

Derek let out a big gust of breath. Against his better judgment, Ryan listened harder.

"Fine," Derek said. "There's someone else. Happy now?"

"Hey, dude." Sam punched Derek in the shoulder. "Cool. Who is it?"

"I can't tell you," Derek admitted.

Ryan could see the look of confusion on Sam's face, even from where he was.

"What d'you mean?" Sam asked. "Why not?"

Derek shrugged. "You wouldn't understand."

"C'mon, you can tell me."

Ryan nearly gagged. Just his luck to be witnessing this not-so-touching heart-to-heart.

"No, I can't." Derek shoved his hands deep into his pockets as they walked. "I can't tell anyone. I mean, it took me a long time to accept it."

He sounded like a freakin' therapy patient. Oh, Ryan could have beat up this wuss so easily if it weren't for his hellcat of a stepsister.

"I don't get it," Sam said, sounding even more idiotic than usual in Ryan's opinion.

"See, me liking…this person, is just wrong. Sick and wrong. Frowned upon by society wrong..."

"Dude, what are you talking about?"

Yeah, Ryan thought, what was the idiot talking about?"

"Plus," Derek went on moodily as they came into the English wing, "We've always, like, hated each other—"

"You and this person you like?" Sam interjected.

"Yeah. And it would just be weird, you know, if I suddenly told them I was completely in love with them—"

"You really think it's love?" Sam asked disbelievingly.

"I don't know what it is," Derek sighed. "I just know it's not gonna work out."

Ryan followed them into the English classroom and took his seat with a furrowed brow. Who was Derek talking about? Could it be one of Sam's sisters? Probably not; Ryan knew just as well as Sam and the rest of the school that Derek had kissed at least two of Sam's sisters years ago. Besides, that wasn't really "frowned upon by society"—just by Sam.

Was this person engaged? Married? A teacher? Fifty years old? The possibilities ran through Ryan's head as the teacher began to lecture. What was classified as "sick and wrong"? So bad that Derek couldn't even tell Sam? Someone Derek had "always hated"?

Wait…realization began to dawn on him in a slow and sickening feeling of horror growing inside his stomach. It sounded like Derek was…gay. And just who was Derek enemies with? Bingo. Ryan was his name-o.

Oh…that word his mother wouldn't let him say.

"Hey, Lizzie." Jamie slid his lunch tray next to hers and took a seat.

"Hi, Jamie," she said, bracing herself.

"So," he began, grinning. "Excited for Friday?"

"Gee, what's on Friday?" she asked innocently.

"Valentine's Day!" Jamie exclaimed, looking at her dubiously, as though not sure if she were joking or really had forgotten.

"Oh, of course," Lizzie said, stabbing at her salad with a fork. "Silly me."

"Come on," Jamie prompted. "Don't you like Valentine's Day? Full of love and all that—"

"Hey, Jamie. Hey, Lizzie!" Teddy said as he took a seat next to Jamie at the lunch table.

"Hi, Teddy."

"Hey, Teddy." Jamie sounded annoyed.

"I like your hair today, Lizzie," Teddy said.

"Oh, um…thanks," Lizzie said uncertainly. She surreptitiously touched her hair, which looked much the same as it did every other day.

"Anyway, Lizzie," Jamie said, turning back to her and effectively blocking Teddy out of the conversation. "I thought maybe we could scrimmage on the fields Friday after school—"

"The fields are covered with ice," Teddy said from behind Jamie. "You can't play on them."

"Then we could go to Smelly Nellie's afterwards?" Jamie went on, ignoring Teddy.

"Um…" Lizzie said.

"Hey, Liz." AJ waved at her as he passed. "'Sup?"

"Good job on the report today," Teddy told her. "I really liked hearing you talk about, you know, national cooling."

"Global warming," she corrected faintly.

Jamie rolled his eyes. "Anyway, Lizzie," he said. "About Valentine's Day—"

"Hey." Lizzie turned with wide eyes to see what guy was sitting down on her other side. Edwin. At last, she thought, someone—well, relatively—normal!

"Hey, Edwin," she said with relief.

"Oh, hi Lizzie. Hey, Jamie, Teddy, guess what…"

Edwin spent an animated ten minutes talking to Jamie and Teddy about something Lizzie had absolutely no interest in. They all ignored her completely.

Boys were so weird.