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to live within your heart and always call it home

Chapter Text

Someone's holding her hand. 

Casey hears the steady beeping of some machine and the low murmur of voices. There's light above her, so bright it glows through the skin of her eyelids. Her throat's dry and her whole body aches. She feels like she got hit by a truck. Is she sick? Hungover? 

The hand is heavy and warm, wrapped around her own, fingers curled under her palm. She squeezes it and groans. 

"Casey?" The voice is husky, and familiar. 

She blinks her eyes open. Someone on her right leans over her and the fluorescent lights shadow his face. But she knows who it is. 

"Derek," she rasps. "What's going on?" 

The second voice comes from Casey's left. "You're in the hospital. You and Derek were hit by a snowplow," her mother says. She's teary-eyed and seems to be resisting the urge to throw her arms around her. "Oh sweetie, we were so worried." 

"Yeah," Derek says tightly. He smiles at her, more warmly than he probably ever has, and brushes some hair behind her ear. She must have had a close call. Well that explains Derek relaxing his no-touching policy (even though they both break it all the time). Maybe later she'll tease him about it and the fact that he really does care about her.  

"Did the Prince make it?" she asks.

"She's still out of it," George chuckles. "No, Casey, the Prince already bit the dust, remember?" 

It did? Did Derek forget to tell her? 

Nora rests her hand on Casey's arm. "Are you okay, baby? How do you feel?"

"Terrible," she groans. "But fine, I guess. Mostly just sore." 

They page the nurse, and get her some water, and George and her mom discuss the phone calls they're about to make to all the kids and her dad to say she's woken up. Casey doesn't quite follow the conversation, since some of what they say doesn't make much sense, like Lizzie being in Guatamala? Her head's all foggy and she's so tired

Casey lets her eyes start to droop, down towards her lap. Derek already sat back down in the chair next to her bed and he's still holding her hand. Strangely though, Casey doesn't mind. It's sort of nice. When she glances up at his face, he smiles again. He mouths something to her, but Casey can't figure out what because it can't be what it looked like he said. He's never once said those words to her, no matter how long they've been family. Then he starts rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, and that feels nice, too. 

"They got my name wrong," she mumbles.  

"They did?" Derek asks. He turns her hand in his to get a look at her hospital band himself. 

"It says 'Casey Venturi.'" She snickers, though no one else seems to find it funny. What she doesn't notice is the tension in the seconds she takes to form her next sentence. "The hospital must have assumed we'd have the same last name since we're siblings." 

"Step-siblings," he corrects, a little too sharply. 

The room is still — silent save for the beat of the heart monitor counting lengthened seconds by.  

"Casey," her mom says gently. "What's the last thing you remember?" 

She tries to think, but it's taking effort for anything to come clearly to her. "Midterms?" 

"Case... we're not in university anymore," Derek reminds her. But that doesn't sound right, what he's saying or the concerned way he says it. 

"She's just out of it," George says again, a bit more desperately this time. 

"You're married, Casey," her mom says. "Remember?"  

"I'm what?" They're just not making sense. But then Casey looks down at her left hand and her eyes widen. There's a ring there. "Did Truman propose?" 

"Truman?" Derek croaks. 

"Sweetheart..." Nora is treading carefully. "You broke up with Truman." 

"Yeah, but we got back together last summer and he moved —"

"After which, you broke up again," her mom says. "And that was years ago." 

"But..." Casey shakes her head. Even though she has no idea what's going on, they have to be wrong. "... I love him." 

"No, you don't," Derek says, soft and stern. 

She closes her eyes, trying to think — to remember. But all she sees is darkness. 

Casey looks back up at her mom. "Then who's the guy I'm married to?" 

Nora hesitates. 

"Me," Derek says. "You're married to me." 

Casey draws her hand away. "That's not funny, Derek," she says weakly. How could he possibly try to prank her right now? Because he has to be joking. 

This is the point where her mom or George should be telling Derek to lay off her. But when she turns to them for back-up, they just look anxious. 

"Babe," Derek murmurs, reaching for her hand again. 

"Stop." She yanks her hand all the way up to her chest, as the feeling of panic creeps up her throat. "Don't touch me."   

He freezes, with a look on his face like she had just slapped him. He doesn't look sorry, though. Instead he looks hurt, like somehow he's the victim. He swallows and when he speaks his voice is so fragile she can't take it. 

"Casey, it's okay..." 

She can't breathe. She sucks in air, but it's like there's no oxygen in it. 

"Get out." 

She's crying. Why is she crying? 

"Casey, just—"

It's too much. 

"Get out!"                              

Chapter Text

She may yet fully recover her memory, the doctors say. Or she may start to remember bits and pieces. Or she may never regain anything that she lost. 

Casey doesn't really care. Because she isn't so sure that she ever wants to get those years back. She doesn't think she'll be able to handle it if she starts to remember...

She doesn't even want to think about him. Which is difficult, considering that even before they were... even before, he was such a huge part of her life, whether she had liked it or not. (...and she had started to actually like it.) She hasn't seen him since she first woke up, she doesn't want to, and it didn't take long at all for her mother to drop the subject. 

So instead of going back to the life that she'd had (with him) Casey's released into the care of her mom and George. She spends the two hour drive from the hospital in Toronto next to two suitcases full of some things that her mom had picked up from her apartment. (Her and Derek's apartment.)

The biggest shock (besides the obvious) is Marti and Simon waiting for them in the living room. Marti's all grown up and Simon's a foot taller and missing some of his teeth. Casey can't even do the 'Oh, look how big you are now' because none of it's that cute; it's just jarring. 

Dinner is uncomfortable. Casey takes the seat at George's left before anyone else sits down, because if she takes her old one she'll keep expecting to look up and see Derek smirking at her. Simon tries to remind her that she's in Marti's chair, thinking that she simply forgot that, too. But Nora insists to him that it's fun to shake up the seating arrangement sometimes, and sits in Casey's seat. Marti sits on Casey's left (where Derek would be) and keeps staring at her empty ring finger.

Nobody brings up Derek. Thank God. It's almost like he never existed. Someone put away all the photos of him, including the ones from before. His old room is now Marti's (though last she remembers, it had been Edwin's) and painted a funky shade of teal. Even his stupid chair is gone. 

None of it really helps. Because it's like the house is haunted. Derek's in the kitchen, eating cereal, and in the bathroom, brushing his teeth; he's walking in the front door and hanging his leather jacket on the coat rack, and he's walking in the back door and dumping his smelly hockey bag on the ground. There are memories of him everywhere and she can't escape him, though she can sure as hell try ignoring him. She'd gotten pretty good at that over the years of living with him. But somehow it's harder to ignore him now, despite the fact that he's not even here.  

She lies awake in the guest room (Marti's old room: the only place in the house where Derek was consistently not-a-jerk) and stares at a crack in the ceiling because if she concentrates really hard on it, she won't think about...

 

lll

 

She Skypes with Lizzie — who is, in fact, in Guatemala. 

Liz fills the silence talking about what's going on with her in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Yet Casey can tell how much her sister would rather talk about the accident, the amnesia, and that other thing-that-no-one-is-supposed-to-talk-about. It all hangs over them throughout the conversation, like a dark cloud.

Finally, when Lizzie seems to have exhausted every facet of her conservation work, she asks, "So, uh... how are you doing?"

"Fine," Casey says. Though everything swirling around her head starts descending and churning faster... "I want to hear more about you. What else is going on?" 

"Uh..." Lizzie thinks for a moment. "Oh, I guess I need to come out to you again."

Her sister's voice has grown distant and Casey can't see through the fog. "Huh?"

Lizzie chuckles awkwardly and holds up her fists. "Who's got two thumbs and is gay?" 

Liz's words finally penetrate the haze. "Oh! — I mean... That's great!" But Casey can hear how flat her tone is, and knows her smile can't be much better. 

Her false enthusiasm has nothing to do with Lizzie; Casey just hopes that her sister can tell, and that her first coming out had gone much better. Casey had been distracted, of course, by the maelstrom in her own life, but then Casey was struck by a new lightning bolt. 

She didn't just lose the memories of all the things concerning herself (and Derek). She lost everything that happened with those around her. Simon can read and Marti can drive, and how many other moments can Casey not remember of them growing up? Meanwhile, the sibling Casey had had the longest and strongest relationship with had gone through a crucial moment in her life, during which she may have needed support and encouragement.... and for Casey it's like it never happened. Everything Casey's shared with anyone during that whole period of time is just gone.  

 

lll

 

Edwin is a part-time accountant and a part-time aspiring stand up comedian. 

"The most millennial career path you've ever heard of, right?" He leans on the punchline like it's a mic stand in some hole-in-the-wall bar. 

"Um. I guess." 

"When it comes to jokes, I need honest constructive criticism, Casey," he urges through the phone. "Though you didn't laugh, so that kinda speaks for itself. Millennial jokes are overdone anyway." 

Edwin had started dabbling in stand up during school — University of Toronto. He'd liked it there, and the city itself. "Plus it was cool being so close to — family. You know, in London." (He changes the subject.)

Now he lives in New York City and Casey's finally glad to talk at length about something in her life that had been entirely Derek-less. (Besides all the phone calls, to withstand that nagging feeling of loneliness the whole time she was there.) So she and Edwin trade stories about New York and share their favorite spots with each other: places she thinks he has to go, places he loves where she'd never been...

"Yeah, maybe when you and Der-aad," —he coughs— "Dad and Nora visit, we can go. Then I'll take you on a tour of the best comedy clubs and you can see some actually funny people." 

Edwin ends up running through his new material with her. Casey isn't in much of a mood for it but he gets her to laugh a few times, which she appreciates. 

Though a lot of the jokes she just doesn't get. Some aren't exactly in her wheelhouse, like his geek humor. (She's seen Star Wars, but she doesn't remember the part where Harrison Ford died?) And a lot of them contain contemporary references to things she has no memory of (What's Bitcoin? Who's Hamilton and why is it so hard to get concert tickets?) Edwin does try to explain some of those when he realizes, but that only helps so much. So not only does she not get the jokes, but it just reminds her again of all the things she's missed. 

"Oh, shit! Force Awakens only came out in 2015. I totally just spoiled that for you."

Casey has no idea what that means. 

 

lll

 

The flowers had shown up at the house the day after she was released from the hospital. The phone call doesn't come until two days later.

"Do you want me to fly up, sweetheart? I'm sure I can work a quick trip in sometime next weekend."

"No, Dad. It's fine. I know you're busy." In all honesty, she's not sure if she'd have the emotional energy usually required when seeing him. Even after her year in New York, they're just not that close. "Maybe some other time." 

The call is brief. Dennis just doesn't know what to say. And though Casey has learned to hold him more accountable for his shortcomings as she's gotten older, she's not even sure how much she can blame him this time. 

Her mom must have talked to him beforehand (like with everyone else) because he remembers Rules #1 and 2 of Amnesiac Club. (Don't talk about Derek ...ugh, he was the one who made her watch that movie in the first place.) But her dad must not have paid too close attention to any rules after that, because he's the only one who comes out and acknowledges it since she left the hospital.  

"I know this must be hard, Casey. But you're tough. You'll get through it. You always do." 

Sometimes it's like her father doesn't even know her. 

 

lll

 

Casey should have known better than to trust Marti. Alarm bells should have been going off as soon as Marti suggested they go shopping, because scheming is a Venturi past-time and she learned from the best (or the worst).

But Casey's had nothing to do and can't turn down an opportunity to get out of the (haunted) house and her own head. So she gets in the Princess (hoping that despite her car's moniker, Marti drives like a McDonald and not a Venturi) and doesn't question it.

"How's school?" Casey tries after the first few minutes of silence. 

Marti shrugs. "Good." 

"Are you applying to universities yet?" 

"Yeah."

"Which ones?" 

"U of T, Queen's," Marti says the two almost pointedly. "Et cetera." 

"Do you know what you want to major in yet?" 

"Nope." 

Casey sucks her lip, as she tries to think up topics. With Lizzie and Edwin, she hadn't needed to be the one driving the conversation. She knows that Marti has always been more difficult with her than with... other siblings. But Casey suspects that Marti has been kind of mad at her since she came home. 

Casey had tried before to catch up with her. But when she went into Marti's room (not Derek's) to talk to her, Casey was faced with a collage of photos on the wall and every one of Derek's tiny faces seemed to stand out like each was under its own tiny spotlight. Then the teal of Marti's walls started turning into a drab green and Marti's eighteen-year-old face looked too much like her brother's twenty-one-year-old face and Casey had to leave. But not before Marti had taken note of where Casey's eyes had been and smirked in a way that was horribly familiar. Casey isn't sure if her mom and George had forgotten to remove the offending photos from the bedrooms or Marti had refused... or they just knew there would be no getting Marti to take them down, anyway. Because she's stubborn, just like... a Venturi. 

Casey tries to tell herself that Marti's a teenager and if Marti wants to be mad at her for the sake of her favorite sibling, that's understandable. But that sentiment doesn't last long. 

"So where exactly are we going?" Casey finally asks. They've been on the freeway for longer than she would have expected. 

Marti grips the steering wheel a little tighter. "Dad and Nora forbid me from talking to you about it before you're ready, because the whole ... 'thing' distresses you too much," she says. "But I think that's stupid. So we're going to Toronto." 

"What?

Marti stays firm. "I'm taking you to see Derek." 

"No!" And just like that, she's drowning. "Marti turn this car around! Please. Please, Marti, I can't..."

Marti's as stubborn as she's always been ("It's for your own good, Casey") until the point that Casey's crying and pleading turns into a panic attack. Casey only starts to calm down when Marti finally relents and turns off onto an exit. 

"I'm sorry," Marti mumbles once she's pulled into the nearest parking lot. "I thought... I thought if you just saw him again, maybe..." She stares down at her hands in her lap and she looks eight, not eighteen. "I'm sorry." 

Casey doesn't say anything. This would be the moment where she either berates Marti or forgives her. But she's too shaken to drum up the proper amount of indignation for yelling... and she just can't forgive Marti right now, either. 

"Before you go blaming Derek, he didn't have anything to do with this," Marti says. "He'll probably be pretty pissed at me when I tell him how much you flipped out." 

(Casey almost tells her that Derek's never once been truly mad at her, and she doubts that's changed. Except that would mean acknowledging his existence, so she doesn't.)

She folds her arms protectively over her chest and looks out the window. "Can you just take me home now?" Then she pretends not to hear what Marti mutters under her breath. 

That's what I was trying to do.

Chapter Text

Casey has to pull over six times to have a small breakdown and turns around to go back twice, but she finally makes it to Toronto. 

She doesn't know why she's doing this. It's a terrible idea. Being in the house where she remembers Derek as her step-brother is hard enough. But being in the apartment where she doesn't remember Derek as her... husband

Maybe it's because Marti put the idea in her head. Maybe it's because Casey finally looked in the box from the hospital and went through the contents of her purse. Either way, she's got an address from her driver's license and a set of keys. All she'd needed was transportation. So when Marti rode with a friend to school that morning, Casey had seen it as her opportunity to 'borrow' the Princess. (Marti totally owes her anyway.)

Whatever the reason, here she is. Standing at a door, where on the other side of it is an entire life she doesn't know — and doesn't think she wants to know. She unlocks it anyway, and steps inside before she can come to her senses. 

It feels strange. The apartment is completely foreign to her; she feels like she's intruding on someone else's space. But something else about it feels so bone-deep familiar, like... home. 

Then she starts to recognize things: that little painting she'd bought from an artist in Central Park currently hanging in the entryway, the throw on the couch that Lizzie'd made for her at the zenith of her crocheting phase, her favorite collection of short stories with the wine-colored spine nestled among the shelves lined with books...

... And there, between W.B. Yeats and Maya Angelou to partition the poetry from the memoirs, is a display case with a signed hockey puck... tucked under the TV are a few game consoles, including the one with a snowboarding moose sticker still stuck to it... and on the dividing wall to the kitchen is the 1989 Pixies concert poster Casey had tried to track down for at least three Christmases and two birthdays.  

His chair is even here, though she hadn't recognized it at first. It's dark blue now and no longer hideous. (How much had they fought over it? Whether she would allow him to keep it, whether he would allow her to re-upholster it? They probably even bickered over what fabric to use.) Yet somehow here it sits as a monument to their cohabitation.

There are other things she notices, too: dirty dishes in the sink, clothes strewn around, opened mail piled up on the counter, liquor bottle and glass left out on the coffee table. She thinks about cleaning up. She's here, there's a mess, and she's Casey. Not to mention that picking up after him is just habit at this point. But that feels too domestic now. Besides, if she did, he'd know she'd been here. 

Casey starts down the hall, and through the first door is what appears to be an office, judging by the desk and computer. There are two bookcases filled with magazines, binders, notebooks, video equipment, and a stuffed frog. Boxes are stacked in one corner, but Casey doubts there's anything in them of interest to her. 

She turns around to find a wall displaying several framed articles: an investigative story, an interview, a think-piece... from various printed and online publications. All of them say 'by Casey McDonald' instead of Venturi. (Did she give up her career when they married? No, of course not. One article only came out last year. She just kept her name professionally.) One frame has a crinkled piece of paper that's just a website print-out, with the full html on the bottom of the page and everything. There's two overlapping coffee rings on it and the top corners have been abused by thumbtacks. It's dated six months after she would have graduated from Queen's: her first published article as a professional writer. 

So that's what she does for a living: freelancing. Casey had been trying so hard to avoid knowing anything about her life, that she hadn't given her occupation much thought. Though it would seem that she had other side projects, as well. 

On one side of the desk is a row of magazine holders. Three have worn cyan sticky-notes over the labels that say "Casey's Book: Title TBD," "Casey's Other Book: Title also TBD," and "Casey's Other OTHER Book: Title (you guessed it) TBD." They're all in Derek's handwriting. She turns to the computer monitor, and among the collection of sticky-notes there is another cyan one, also in his handwriting (except for the 'e' at the end in a different color ink, which she must have added herself). 

Breathe
It's OK
   ♥   

She can hear Derek's voice clear as day. Deep breaths, Case. 

It's her last memory of him and it feels like it had happened just weeks ago: He'd come through her front door after receiving a string of her harried texts ("Time for another Derek-Mandated Midterm-vention, keener!") and ignored all protest —as he usually did— while he'd dragged her from her desk and knocked the notecards she tried to grab out of her hands. ("You're not bringing those with. What part of study break do you not understand?") He'd proceeded to shove her in her coat and wrap a scarf around her neck (and mouth — "Will you stop complaining?") before grabbing her roommate's dorkiest hat off the pegs. ("Your bad hair day is not an accepted excuse.") They'd then spent two hours at the Vietnamese place down the street, eating huge bowls of pho and making up the life-stories of everyone they people-watched out the window. By the end, she'd forgotten she was even stressed. When Derek had gone up to pay, the owner came to the table to collect their dishes and called Derek her boyfriend. Casey hadn't bothered to correct him.  

Casey shakes herself out of it and forces her gaze away from the little lopsided heart. 

What she's looking for isn't in the office. So she continues her investigation down the hall. Bathroom, linen closet... and master bedroom. Casey quickly peers around the room (without looking directly at the bed and pair of nightstands) and assesses it's not there, either. So she takes a better look in the living room and homes in on the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases.  

Casey sits down on the floor and pulls a photo from her purse. It had been tucked into one of the suitcases her mom had picked up from the apartment. She suspects that Derek had put it there. The picture is a close-up of the two them, arms around each other and smiling wide, sitting on a tropical beach. It's not a good picture, to be put in a frame and displayed. Their faces are in shadow and neither of them are ready for the picture to be taken. But that candid moment captures more authenticity than a posed shot could. They both look so happy... Happy and (Deep breaths, Case) in love.

On the back of the picture is scrapbooking tape.

Casey surveys the the row of photo albums and deliberates over the one that says "Wedding/Honeymoon" on the side. Chances are, that's where the photo came from. She steels herself (Deep breaths, Case) and opens it up to the back — she isn't prepared to see pictures of her in a white dress and him in a suit, standing across from each other, and saying...

She finds the open space where the photo had to have come from. Next to it is another version of the same picture, but from a better angle and with both of them accordingly posed. The thing that draws Casey's attention is Derek's hands. From the wider shot, she can see him touching her bare waist and hip, skin he's never touched on her before. Not just touching, holding — because she was his to touch, his to have, and to hold. And Derek has touched her, held her, had her... everywhere. Because she was his. It's apparent in the way his fingers press into her sides with a.... casual possessiveness that makes her skin... crawl. Yes, that's what that shiver was. 

How did she decide that the Wedding portion of the album was more dangerous? When the latter half is full of pictures of them next to naked in newlywed bliss? She tries to escape the image and flips to the next page, only to come up against a picture of them kissing. 

Casey stares at it — mouth open and unable to look away — for a full three seconds before she closes the album altogether. 

She doesn't even get the chance to get over the shock, when she hears the jangle of keys unlocking the front door. Her heart just about leaps up into her throat. It's three in the afternoon and he shouldn't be home right now! Or at least that's what she had assumed, because she realizes she has no idea what Derek does for a living, either. There's barely any time to think, much less to hide, before the door is opening and he sees her sitting there on the living room floor with their wedding album.   

Derek stops... and smiles. Relief floods his face at the sight of her here; but then as he keeps looking at her, that smile ebbs. Because he must realize how far that feeling of his is from being mutual. She's not glad to see him; just him standing in front of her is enough to make her chest ache. (Deep breaths, Case.

"I didn't think you'd be home," she manages. 

He doesn't say anything. He just nods and closes the door behind him. 

She's not sure how she hadn't noticed at the hospital how different — how much older — he looks now.  He doesn't seem quite so lanky anymore and he's able to grow a decent beard now, too, judging by the scruff along his jaw and upper lip. Though there's something else that she just can't put her finger on, that makes him seem undeniably more... mature

"You found the picture," he says, his eyes sweeping over to the photo lying next to her.  

She squares her shoulders. At least this feeling is familiar. "Was this your plan, Derek? Trick me into coming here?"

But he doesn't follow protocol and take the bait. He just sighs. "It wasn't a trick, Casey. It was a... reminder. Of us." 

Us. The word seems to echo in the empty space between them — the only thing louder than the blood pounding in her ears. 

She needs to get out of here. She shoves the album back on the shelf, picks up her purse and the photo, and stands to leave. But the entryway is narrow; he hardly has to to put his arm up to halt her. She could push past him if she wasn't so uncomfortable with the idea of being too close to him. Not to mention the fact that they had always bodily pushed and pulled each other around when it had suited them in the past, which isn't something she wants to risk at the moment. She keeps thinking about his hands on her bare skin and she's not sure she can handle him touching her at all right now without going into cardiac arrest.   

"Casey, please. We should talk." 

"Talk?" she sputters. "You want to talk?" 

He tilts his chin down at her, his mouth set to the side as if to acknowledge the irony. "I learned how," he says, almost solemnly. "For you." 

Once, she would have loved if Derek showed just an ounce of emotional maturity. Now she hates it. He doesn't just look different. It's like she doesn't even know him anymore. 

She folds her arms, standing her ground the best she can against this devil she doesn't know. "Then talk."

Derek clenches his fists and glances away, as if trying to recall some speech he may have planned for first seeing her again. "I know this is all a lot for you. So I let you go back to London —" 

"You let me?"

"Well, I didn't fight it," Derek amends, with an edge of aggravation. "No matter how much I wanted to. But you weren't ready to see me, so I stayed away, sat on my hands, and waited." He exhales, letting the strain out of his entire person, down to the very look in his eyes. "And now you're here."

"I already said: I didn't come to see you."

He raises his eyebrows at her, the way he does whenever he calls one of her assertions into question — albeit in a less antagonistic manner than usual. "Then why are you here, Casey?" 

This time she she doesn't have an answer. Any excuse she can think of (Marti? the photo?) sounds pathetic. Nor can she formulate a rebuttal that wouldn't sound like transparent deflection. 

Derek finally nods, satisfied by whatever meaning he interprets from her silence. But he doesn't say anything for a long time, weighing the words in his mouth until he can't seem to hold back any longer. 

"Casey, I love you." 

(How can he just say that? So sincerely and so plainly? Like he's said it a thousand times? Derek's not supposed to be like this.) 

He doesn't stop there. "And I know that you have feelings for me, too." 

"I don't," she snaps. 

"Yes. You do," Derek says. He's too calm, too patient, too certain. "Twenty-one-year-old Casey had feelings for me. She just hadn't realized it yet." 

Casey gapes at him before she can find her voice again. And when she does, she wishes it was anywhere near as steady as his. "You don't know how I feel." 

"I do know, because that's what you've told me." Derek steps closer, his eyes searching her face. "We both had feelings for each other for years, it just took awhile for us to figure it out. You didn't until I finally kissed you." 

He's too close now. His mouth is square in her view, and the mere thought of it on her makes whatever's causing the the ache in her chest to pull tighter. The little fortification she'd had is crumbling. So she straps her anger over herself as armor and picks up a sword, switching to the offensive.   

Casey draws herself up. "You think you're just going to kiss me," she sneers, "and I'll magically remember everything?" 

"No," he says softly, her words glancing off of him. "But you'll remember that you love me."  

"I love Truman." This time it cuts, deep.   

There's that face again: the one he'd had at the hospital that looks like she's slapped him... or stuck him in the gut. Then his eyes turn hard. "Truman cheated on you," he says. "You gave him another chance and he cheated on you. Again. But it wasn't some stupid kiss at a high school party. He slept with multiple women behind your back." 

Casey vehemently shakes her head, as if she could shake free all the doubts that had been hanging in her mind since she'd caught him the first time. "He wouldn't do that. Not after he promised —"

"He did. And when you found out, I was there for you." 

(Is that how it happened? An egregious case of rebound with her step-brother, because she was heartbroken and he was opportunistic?) 

"Of course," she says. "Why shouldn't I believe a story where you paint Truman as the villain and yourself as the noble hero whose shoulder I cried on?" 

"Call him up if you want," he retaliates. His composure's being hacked away by her continued provocation; he's losing blood fast. "Then he can give you the same old lines about how 'sorry' he is, and that he's 'changed'..." 

Casey scoffs. "You were the one to get us back together for prom, after the first time he hurt me. Or was that just so you could maul my best friend some more?" 

Derek actually blinks at her, like he can't believe she's dragging up such old history. But it's less old to her, and nevertheless, relevant. "I was trying to be the kind of good guy who could go out with nice girls — like Emily, like you — and I wanted to believe that people could change because I was trying to change. But not everyone can." 

"So which is it for you? Did you change? Or are you only telling yourself that until you fall back on old habits?" 

"Casey..."

"I didn't like who you were then, and I don't know who you are now." Casey takes a step back, ostensibly looking him up and down. "I have no idea how you managed to manipulate me into being with you, but —"

"Is that what you really think, Casey? That you could be manipulated into this? Or are you just scared and looking for excuses?" 

"Scared? More like..." She searches for a word, and it's not the right one, but it'll do. "Disgusted. I don't know how I could have ever loved you." 

It's the death blow. She can practically see the light go out in his eyes. 

This time when she moves for the door, he doesn't try to stop her. 

lll

As soon as she gets into the car, Casey fishes the phone out of her purse without even thinking about it. It's dead — she hasn't ever turned it on because she'd had a feeling what her phone background would be. But that hardly matters now, after inflicting the honeymoon photos on herself. So she fishes the cord from her purse, plugs it into the car charger, and turns it on. 

She can't call the first person she thought of instinctively. (Deep bre— Shut up, Derek.) She can only hope, as she scrolls through the numbers in her phone, that she'd kept up the habit of neurotically hoarding all her contacts...  and that the number hadn't changed. 

The phone rings and rings before finally: 

"Hello?" 

She swallows. "Truman?" 

"Yeah, who's this?" 

"... It's Casey." 

She cries on the phone to him, and she's not sure if he comprehends any of what she's saying. But he agrees to meet, once he'd confirmed that he'd moved back to Toronto, and tells her his address. 

Within ten seconds of him opening his front door, Casey's hugging him, to his complete surprise. Truman still holds her close, though, and it feels so good to be back in her boyfriend's arms.