"How long have you known?" Marie asked as they started walking down the quiet street.
"I should ask you the same thing," Derek said. Although his voice was light and free of any resentment or betrayal, Marie still felt sick to her stomach. Guilty. Ashamed. It wasn't her secret to share but some part of her still knew she should have told him. She wasn't sure why her loyalty to him suddenly rose higher than her loyalty to Mrs. West, someone she had known and respected for much longer.
"Your grandmother told me a few weeks back. Right before I left for Palanadia." Marie wrapped her arms around her waist and stared ahead. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she said and dropped her eyes. She jumped when she felt him press a kiss to her cheek. Derek grinned when she looked at him. "It wasn't your secret to tell, I get it," he said and pulled up his shoulders. He held his hand out invitation. Marie's eyes went from his hand to his eyes and back. She finally gave in to a sigh that broke into a smile and broke the hold she had around her own waist to place her hand inside his. Marie looked away to hide her smile from him. His thumb stroked gently over her hand and it caused a flutter in her heart. "I believe you have a story to tell me, Mr. West," she said after clearing her throat.
"Right," Derek said as they strolled past a park. Marie stared at the way the leaves colored the grass in rich browns and yellows until she could manage to drop her smile. Derek led her to one of the park benches. He refused to let go of her hand even when they sat down. Derek looked down at their braided fingers between their bodies and ran his thumb over hers once more. "There were a lot of little signs. Eventually there were too many to ignore the obvious. After we met her, for some reason her face was too familiar and I couldn't put my finger on it. Somewhere during the next day I had a crazy thought that Cleo looks kind of like the photographs of my mother when she was a child, after that I couldn't get it out of my head. That day I went to get your skirt confirmed it for me. Cleo kept on talking about her mother and too many things clicked. Eventually she told me her mother's name was Angelica and . . ."
The silence that followed cause Marie to look at him. Derek had his eyes low and distant. A little crease of a frown formed between his brows. Marie gave his hand a light squeeze and the focus returned to his eyes. He shook his head. "It was weird. I didn't know how to deal with it exactly. Wasn't sure if I should have been happy or upset."
"How do you feel about it now?" Marie asked. Derek's lips tugged at a smile. "She's a great kid . . . and some part of me always wondered if my mom ever had other kids. When I listen to Cleo, it sounds like they had a good life."
The frown on his forehead began to form again. "But?" Marie asked. Derek shook his head.
"I've never actually wanted my mom to come back. I've thought about her life, wondered what she might have been doing and who she was, but I didn't have a desire to know her. Even when I heard she died last year I felt . . . nothing. I found it stupid that my grandmother had asked me to go to the funeral. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer; why should I go to the funeral of someone I never knew? Why should I go to the funeral of someone who I meant nothing to? The woman who drove my father to be the drunkard he was. And I was in my final year, I didn't have the time to do anything but focus on getting my degree. Flying back, even for one weekend would be a waste of time and money." He paused then let out a breath. "I thought that any connection to her would bring out an anger in me I wasn't ready to face. Growing up I had my grandma, that's all I needed. I didn't want some stranger to come back into my life and claim to be my mother after all these years but . . . some part of me wishes I knew her, the woman Cleo described and knew, but I don't want to know her as my mother, I want to know her as Cleo's." Derek smirked. "She raised a pretty awesome daughter so she couldn't have been that bad in the end."
Marie smiled and felt the warmth of it all the way to her heart. "Does Cleo have any other family?" Marie asked. "Not that I can tell. She never speaks of anyone else. I don't even think she knew her father." He let out a breath. "But she's such a happy kid. It's been a year since she's lost the only person in her life that she could call family. I wish I could fix that for her." The last part came out so quietly, Marie wondered if it was difficult for him.
"She's got you."
Derek looked at her when she said that. "She's got your dad," Marie continued. "She's got Mrs. West." Marie smiled and pulled up her shoulders. "I'd call that family," Marie said. Derek looked away. "I wouldn't. She doesn't know I'm her brother, she's living with a man she has absolutely no relation to, a man I barely speak to, and both my father and grandmother kept this massive secret from the both of us. I don't know what your definition of family is, but this particular scenario doesn't seem like one."
Marie leaned into his shoulder and put her free arm around his in a form of comfort. "Family is a group of people who love each other. Despite what you think, you love your little sister. And you can learn to love your dad for her. It's not as easy as it sounds, I know, but it wouldn't kill you to try for Cleo. She deserves to grow up in a loving family and this is her second chance at it. It depends on you," she said. A few seconds passed then Derek rested his cheek against her forehead. They sat motionless in the silence for a while. Marie smiled. "That child idolizes you. She's going to be ecstatic when she finds out." She felt the muscles move in Derek's cheek and had to assume he was smiling. "Does your dad or grandmother know you know?" She asked after a few more seconds. "I don't think so," Derek said, I've been waiting to see when one of them would build up the courage to tell me."
"It doesn't seem to bother you that much," Marie said. A few seconds ticked by before Derek replied. "I guess . . . for as long as they don't tell me, I don't have to react to it yet. I . . . Cleo's a great kid, I wouldn't mind having her as a little sister. Spending time with her actually turned out to be more fun than I expected."
Marie laughed. "I've noticed," she said, recalling the day before when he and Cleo had played in the yard. She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him. "You're pretty good with kids," Marie said. Derek dropped his eyes and smiled sheepishly, an expression that delighted her more than she could ever say. "I'm good with a kid, but that's only because she's not difficult," Derek said and raised his eyes to her. He studied her curiously for a few seconds that rendered her motionless. Derek smiled. "You've got the tiniest rim of blue around the edge of your irises," he said. Marie dropped her eyes and felt herself shrink from him with embarrassment. She heard Derek chuckle then his hand cupped the back of her skull and he brought her forehead to his lips.
"You do something to me, Marie Balaco, something potentially dangerous," he said quietly. Marie felt her chest begin to heave as her heart rate became uncomfortably fast. She was sure her body would give in to convulsions if Derek didn't move away soon. Derek's other hand left hers and came to her back. "You're trembling," he said as his hand moved up and down her back soothingly. Marie closed her eyes tightly and dropped her head lower. As if this weren't humiliating enough! She wanted to sink into a hole. She felt like she was fourteen again when she had her first kiss. Actually, this was probably much worse!
"Can you look at me?" He asked. Marie shook her head. "Because you're scared you'll kiss me when you do?"
Marie hesitated before giving a slight nod. She jumped when she felt his lips against her cheek. "In that case" His breath was hot against her cheek, causing the gooseflesh on her arms to raise. "- I'll need you to open your eyes for me, sweet."
Marie's heart tripped over itself. He had never called her by any endearments before. She found herself opening her eyes, more to check if it were a dream than as a respond to his request. Derek smiled in the gentlest way she had ever seen him do so. He brought his hand to her cheek and stroked the edge of her lips.
"You are so incredibly beautiful, Marie," he said with an honesty that centered her spinning world for a moment. "You're making this very difficult for me, Derek," she said when she found her voice. He suddenly broke into a grin. "I should hope so."
Marie smiled and lifted her chin, closing the gap between their lips. The chill that spread over her body canceled out all of her trembling and gave her the strength to bring her hands to his arms. Derek responded eagerly, pressing closer to her and urging her closer with his hand on her back as if he wasn't near enough. She heard him give out a low groan from somewhere deep in his chest and felt the vibration of it. She smiled when she realized the effect, she had on him before falling into a euphoric haze of kisses.
Alright! Sooooooo . . . Hi, guys, she types as she laughs nervously. Uh, I have no idea where to start other than with another apology. I am as sorry as I am embarrassed about my poor time management. I've just finished with exams on Wednesday and was elated when I found out that one of my favorite authors had released a new book which I immediately got my eager little hands on! I cannot tell you how much bouncing was involved after I got the book!
I hope this chapter satisfied a part of you readers that were really shipping Derek and Marie the way I was. I really adore them and their characters. I haven't enjoyed characters like this since I wrote It's Royally Complicated (although I get attached to all of my characters I must admit that Rosie and Ethan's story made me most happy)
I hope you all are doing well and haven't given up on me and this story yet.
*Butterfly: Haha. You're such a spoil-sport with that Chapter 11 comment! Ah, you were completely correct and I actually wish I could send you a physical cookie (not being sarcastic, I swear! I'd actually love to reward you with one - how amazing are cookies?!) I love your comments, they make me smile every time. Thank you for being such a sweetheart reader!
*Lin: Haha. I love Derek. Most of the time I honestly fell like he takes over as a character and writes his own lines.
*Miha: Whoo! Girl, do not get me started on superheroes. I can geek out for hours just on the suits alone.
Civil War!! Oh, my soul! Civil War is the most beautiful piece of superhero masterpiece I have ever seen! I never wanted it to end and I am still fangirling over every little detail! I am such a geek because I want a detailed layout of Spiderman's suit for my wall and nothing else could please me more in this instance. All the new characters made me swoon because of the tech as well as the actors and I cried laughing more than once. When I saw Martin Freeman on screen I had to keep from screaming (massive Sherlock fan!). Every fighting scene satisfied a part of me that I didn't know needed to be satisfied. A part of me died when the movie ended it was just absolutely brilliant!
I know this doesn't really answer your question, but honestly, I LOVE all the characters! I do, however, have a very, very, very, very, VERY soft spot for all the Robin's. I think Jason Todd might be my favorite one (I very much love my villains - freaked out when I found out Jeremy Irons was going to play Alfred since he voiced Scar in the Lion King). Jason is just incredible - he stole the wheels off the bat mobile as a child! But I also love Dick Grayson. He's just bae! He's everything anyone could want in a husband and so much more! I need to find myself a Nightwing t-shirt or hoodie. Haha.
See what I mean? I could honestly go on for hours if someone let me!
On, that note; Marvel or DC? Captain America or Iron Man? Batman or Superman? Also, if Batman and Iron Man were to get into a fight, who do you think has the correct resources to win? (that last question always kills me!)