Molly strode down the barren street, fuming silently, her breath coming out in puffs of condensation. Her hands, shoved deep into her jeans pockets to protect them from the severe cold, curled up into fists as she thought about the most recent of the infamous fights between her mother and her. She felt like she could just smash something into tiny pieces right now, but of course she didn't. Instead, she simply concentrated on getting to Dakota and Drew's house.

Finally, she spotted their two-story, white house and exhaled, feeling better just at the sight. She knew that, no matter what happened, she could depend on Dakota and Drew to make her feel better. Plus, getting to see Aaron wasn't exactly a horrible thing.

She trudged through the small layer of snow that embraced their sidewalk and pounded up the small flight of stairs to their back door. Not stopping to knock—formalities like that were no longer necessary—Molly flung open the door and stepped into the small hallway.

Immediately, the sounds of a full household filtered through the closed doors of the hallway: the blaring television, running kids, the clicking of computer keyboards, and Drew yelling at the kids to settle down.

She shut the door and carefully wiped her feet on the black mat resting in front of the door before continuing down the hallway. A few steps later, she reached a dark brown door on her right and turned the gold knob. As she entered the room, the noise level went up a few notches.

"Hey, Molls!" Dakota greeted her from her computer desk.

"Hey, Dakota! What's up?" Molly asked.

"Nothing much. Just working on my latest Stargate vid. You know how it goes." Molly smiled. Dakota was one of those computer geeks who almost never left her computer desk. She was a wiz at making music videos (mainly about a television series called Stargate SG-1), building websites, constructing computers, and other such things.

"Hey, Molly. How's it going?" Drew called from his computer desk, located just a few feet away, adjacent to Dakota's.

"Eh, okay. I got into another fight with Mom."

Drew and Dakota shared looks while Molly sheepishly looked at her feet. Molly knew that look meant they were worried about her, and she felt a pang of guilt. Dakota was in her late twenties and Drew was in his early thirties and they tended to act like Molly was one of their kids. Since Molly considered them her parent figures as well, she hated it when she disappointed them.

Dakota turned her computer chair around to face Molly, blue eyes peering up at her from behind her slightly thick glasses. "What happened now?"

Molly blushed. "It's a long story."

Dakota nodded slightly, her ponytail of curly, red hair bouncing faintly with the motion, her expression thoughtful but unreadable. After a few seconds, apparently deciding not to push the matter, she patted the computer chair next to her, saying, "Well, have a seat if you want. I'll show you what I have so far on my vid." She paused. "Or, if you want, you can go in the living room. Aaron's in there watching TV."

Molly's heart skipped a beat at the mention of Aaron's name. She responded casually with, "I think I'll go try to pry the remote away from Aaron."

Dakota simply smiled knowingly and said, "Have fun."

Ignoring Dakota's look, Molly waltzed over to the living room. She stopped right at the threshold, looking at Aaron's relaxed form draped over a black, plush recliner.

She felt a stir of excitement, but she quickly brushed it off. It didn't matter that pretty much everyone in the house knew she had a major crush on Aaron, including him, she was still determined to hide it as much as possible.

"Hey, Aaron."

"Hey," he replied, never taking his glance off the television screen.

Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Molly tucked her long, blonde hair behind her ears and sat in the white, overstuffed chair opposite of him. After a couple of minutes, she nonchalantly glanced over at him. He looked so… indifferent to her presence. She sighed inwardly, knowing that he probably thought of her as a kid, but hoping at the same time it wasn't true.

She tried to watch the show he was watching—some motorcycle program—but her eyes kept wandering to him instead of to the screen. He had his stubble-covered chin propped on his arm, which was in turn resting on the arm of the chair. He was slouching forward somewhat, his long, jean-clad legs stretched out on a footstool and his black Metallica t-shirt seeming to blend in with the chair.

While she was scoping him out, he glanced over at her. His brown eyes caught her by surprise and she quickly returned her gaze to the TV, hoping her face wasn't growing red. And that is where her gaze was firmly kept for the next half hour, being as she was too afraid to look at him again. Five minutes or so after the motorcycle program ended, Dakota called out, "Supper's ready!"

It seemed like there was a stampede in the house as all of Drew and Dakota's kids—Derek, Katrina, Jeremiah, Jimmy, and Adrienne—ran to the kitchen to get their portion of hamburgers and fries. Dakota, aided by the oldest two, Derek and Katrina, swiftly dished out the meal to the kids. While the brood sat at the kitchen table munching away happily, Drew shouted above the din to Aaron and Molly to get some food.

Aaron promptly got up from his chair, followed by Molly, and went in the kitchen. He grabbed a couple of burgers and some fries, and then headed back towards the living room, all without saying a word.

"He's more sullen than usual tonight," Drew commented jokingly.

Molly laughed. "He's probably hung-over."

Drew smiled, the look on his face confirming Molly's growing suspicion that Aaron had once again gone to the bar and drank too much.

Grabbing a burger and a handful of fries, along with a good amount of ketchup, Molly traipsed back to the living room. Once he made sure the kids were taken care of and behaving, Drew followed her, Dakota trailing behind him.

The four of them took up their usual seats and chatted amiably, eating and watching television at the same time.

Watching Aaron, Drew, and Dakota joke around between bites of their hamburgers, Molly couldn't help but smile. She loved being here. She felt like a part of Dakota and Drew's big family. Except, it was way better than actually being family, because they hardly ever fought. And even though Aaron and Molly were practically always there, Dakota and Drew never seemed to mind. In fact, they all had fun together, even if they were just sitting and watching television.

As Molly contemplated this, her earlier anxiety over the fight between her and her mother all but dissipated and she already began to feel relaxed, at home.

She settled back against her chair and wished she could stay there all night. No, more than that. She wished she could live there.


Author's Note:

This is the first chapter of the new and improved version of my old story, "Forbidden Love." The other version had a lot, and I mean a lot, of issues that I hope to have resolved. Of course, I would still love to have feedback on how you think I'm doing. ;)

And a big thanks to everyone who helped with the last version!!