Full Summary: Adrian: a notorious player with an angelic face and a penchant for trouble. Wants: to hook up, have fun, and Megan. Megan: new to town and just out of an abusive relationship. Wants: to start over and nothing to do with Adrian. Kim: vengeful blond whose fiance ended it with her just "'cause", Megan's new friend. Wants: payback, no matter who she has to walk over to get it. Charles: Megan's brother and Adrian's best friend. Wants: to be left alone.

Rule #1 in life: You don't get what you want. Sometimes what you don't want is what you really need.

Author's Note: Another new attempt at a story. I'm trying a new style, just as an experiment. This is going to be written in a two-person POV. (Depending on if writer's block hits, the count may increase to either three or four different ones). I'm not fully sure where I'm going with this, so I'm kind of making it up as I go along. I hope you guys like this.

I do not own anything you recognize.

(P.S. I'm a total review whore.) End rant...

Adrian's POV

Chuck set down the spray bottle he was using. He stares thoughtfully at the wall.

"Red," he says, extending his hand.

"Red," I confirm, shaking the bottle a couple times and giving it to him. He studies it for a moment, decides it's okay, and aims it at the wall.

Silence for a bit as we work. After several long sleepless nights of sneaking down here, our 'vision' was finally turning out the way we wanted it to.

"Black," I say.

"Black," echoes Chuck and I feel the cool metal aerosol can in my hand.

Again silence. The whooshing from the cans and the fumes from the paint fill the air.

I pause to brush my hair out of my eyes. It needed to be cut.

My hand comes away from my face damp. I'm sweating all over and it feels pretty disgusting. Beads come rolling down my face; my shirt sticks like skin to my back, tempting me to take it off. How Chuck could wear a hoodie and not be dying amazed me.

"Adrian, quit fooling around, man," warns Chuck. "It needs to be finished today."

In the early morning light, I glimpse his face. Mine probably mirrors his. Unshaven. Hair a wreck. Glazed eyes, rimmed by dark circles. We won't be picking any girls up looking like this.

Sad thing is, I usually have better luck than Chuck. If I can't get a girl, he isn't.

"I'm not," I snap at him. Both of us have been extremely short-tempered lately, even with each other. Which is rare. Normally we can put up with each other completely fine. "And we will. We're just about done. You're a friggin perfectionist."

Chuck glares at me and mutters a string of curses under his breath. He turns back to the wall, spraying out a jet of paint. He's seriously a perfectionist. I would've considered the thing done hours ago.

It's just a stupid dare, it's not like we're recreating the Mona Lisa. The only thing that matters to the guys was that we do it. We just had to vandalize something with our interpretation of a cop. Kind of rub it in their faces a little.

There's an old bridge on the outskirts of town. Supposedly it was built by our forefathers, or some other load of crap. A decent walk to reach it from the city, maybe five to ten miles if you drove. We took Chuck's Jeep to get us through the surrounding wilderness. Currently the Jeep's parked on the other side while we worked.

The bridge has a name, a real name, but most everyone refers to it as "Town Bridge". Which made no sense, because it wasn't in town. (Duh). A flimsy wooden thing, perched precariously on the rocky (and steep) river banks. Lots of people hike here, have a picnic, or just chill, because of the peaceful environment.

You don't get much peace in the city.

On the other side of the bridge is a sheer face of stone. Mine and Chuck's canvas. The browns and grays of the rocks are hidden by the bright colors of our paint, our masterpiece. Sure pops out in contrast to the extremely green surroundings.

Be pretty damn hard to miss.

A giant pig, probably eight feet in height, daubed on the wall. It's wearing the stupid black shirt that all cops wore, badge and all. The shirt is open so the prominent rolls of fat can be seen. Fat for a reason. The pig is inhaling doughnuts—like they all do--mouth full of them and keeping 'em coming. Its expression is both greedy and stupid, and, on one of our better days, Chuck said it looked mildly stoned.

In spite of Picasso's protests, I had added a joint and a d-ck. Chuck then said I ruined it. Told me it was supposed to be lifelike.

I let Chuck's insults slide. There's really no use in arguing with him right now. (I'm too tired to fight and/or argue at any rate). I want to go home and I want to go to bed. Fighting would make it take longer.

I throw back the rest of my Red Bull. If I didn't have constant access to these, I would have passed out long ago. Hell, while I'm taking a breather, I help myself to a cigarette.

I inhale deeply, taking in not only the smoke, but the fresh piney scent of nature. I drew another breath, trying to relax. Maybe try and lose myself in nature like all of those outdoorsy people could.

Nope.

I'm a city kid, born and raised on the crowded streets. Noise and smog and people yelling and blasting their horns were part of my habitat. All of this nature shit—where the loudest noise was a bird chirping or the river flowing—sucked.

"If you're not gonna help me, go the fuck home," Chuck seethed. "I'll finish it myself."

I waved my hand to shush him. I heard sirens—pretty much my anthem—cutting through the rush of the river and annoying twittering of birds. Now this reminded me of home.

Oh shit.

Sirens.

Right on top of us. How in the hell had we not known this sooner? I blame sleep deprivation for our lack of mental awareness.

The real pigs are coming for us. How'd they know we were here? One of the bastards who dared us to do this had to have ratted us out.

"Chuck," I say urgently, "we gotta go." Yeah, because we have a great head start. I can already feel the handcuffs closing around my wrists.

Before we run for it, we knock our supplies off the ledge. Evidence that could be used to bust us. They splash into the river and are carried from sight. Screw the environment. Our asses are on the line.

There's scarcely enough time to snap a photo as proof. (And why didn't I think of this sooner?) I get one, but the angle and lighting are horrible. I'll be lucky if the photo even turns out. Otherwise, the guys will never buy it. All of our time will be wasted—and we'll have to do something else.

Something worse.

But then again, if we get busted, they won't believe we did it either.

We run back over the rickety bridge, which groans and sags in protest. For a moment, unless I've suddenly taken to hallucinating, I swear the boards under me snapped. It feels real; from the sickening sensation of falling, to the sting of the icy water. I thrash about wildly, trying to stay above the water.

And then there's Chuck, pulling me back into reality. Telling me to snap out of it and move. Damn, I have to get sleep after this. Be it in a cell, preferably not, or my room.

At least three cop cars come crashing into the clearing, sirens blaring. Wow. You'd think we were at least doing something wrong. Apparently a little graffiti is a threat to all of society. Who cared if murders are prowling the streets, maybe even at this very moment? There are vandals on the loose!

Then they're out of the cars, ducked behind them, guns pointed. So dramatic.

Even one would be able to take us in our present condition; the others hated us so they just tagged along to watch our arrest.

"Freeze!" one orders.

"Hands above your head!" another adds unnecessarily.

I'm lightly armed with a cell phone. Chuck has car keys. Lot of good they would do against a gun.

The cops begin to advance, guns still on us. "Take it easy, guys," one coaxes, clearly mistaking us for dangerous felons. "Don't do anything stupid."

Chuck and I exchange a long look. We look at them. Then Chuck takes off for the Jeep; I bolt the other way into the woods.

Tumble down a hill, crashing through everything my way, and land hard. I can take a hit. I'm on my feet. Look up, panting. The cops are back in their cars, sirens wailing. They're coming after us. Hill is too steep to drive the car down, so they have to pursue me on foot.

Flash of red and the Jeep is gone. I feel bad for Chuck. He's got two cars full of 'em on his ass.

The cops start down the hill after me. I run. Thorns pull at my clothes. Then at my skin when pieces of my clothing are ripped away. I need to keep my head start. I tear blindly through the woods, jumping over fallen trees and pushing aside low-hanging branches and vines. Puffing and shouting behind me.

These guys must be running on the treadmill or something, 'cause they've gotten faster. 'Course I'm beat, so I'm slower. One of them is right behind me. One good lunging grab and he would have me by the back of my shirt.

So much for my lead.

Damn. Shoulda given Chuck my phone. It's much likelier, I realize, that he's gonna get away.

Hell, the bastard's probably half-way back to the city by now. He's got a lead foot on the gas pedal and the Jeep is more cut out for this than the cop cars. It's nothing personal. If he fell behind, I would leave him.

Well, he'd probably expect me to. I don't think I would though, even if it got me caught. The guys tell me I'm too soft, but abandonment just doesn't sit right with me.

I guess I'm soft then.

I remember where I am (woods) and what I'm doing (running from authority) just in time. That's a big ass tree branch. I duck. Cop ploughs right into it. It clotheslines him and he's flat on his back on the forest floor, sending dead leaves flying.

If a cop falls in a forest and nobody's around to hear, does he still make noise?

Hell yeah, he does. That guy is gonna have a killer headache tomorrow morning.

One down, but now the other's pissed. Something metal sparkles as he draws nearer. I look back over my shoulder at him. It's his gun. Shit. He may not be as fast as the last cop, but I'll bet his aim is pretty damn good.

The game of tag is over.

Click, goes the gun. He's aiming, all set to fire.

I run harder. Must get out of range.

He wouldn't seriously kill me for this, would he?

He couldn't, not without getting busted himself. I am not in possession of any weapon. I didn't try and attack him. (Though it might be a slightly different story if I was armed). Cop would go the Big House for man slaughter. He knows it and I know it. The gun is just to intimidate me…

Bang.

Hot, searing pain in my leg. I bite back a yell. Bullet's in deep and blood's steadily flowing from the wound. I can hardly move my leg…What'd the bastard do to it? I fall to the ground holding it, trying to slow the bleeding.

Cop slowly approaches, looking pretty pleased with himself. Gun is still on me.

Too tired to fight (for once). Too weak to run.

My imagination spins a picture of what happens as I lie on the ground, bleeding from a fatal gunshot wound. Cop'll rough himself up a little, to make it look like I did it. "Kid attacked me," he'll say to the others, "so I did what I had to." Yeah, considering the kid only has a cell phone on him.

Suddenly there's a roar of an engine and the red Jeep comes falling in out of nowhere and bounces across the cop's intended path. He curses fluently and jumps back, having only just avoided being crushed.

The gun's fallen out of his hand. It's a few feet from its owner and I'm a few feet from the Jeep. Cop's eyes dart from me to the gun and back to me. He dives for the gun and I pull myself to my feet and lunge for the Jeep.

He executes a dramatic grab-and-roll move and takes a couple shots, but I'm in the Jeep, pulling the door shut and yelling for Chuck to floor it.

The tires squeal and the engine roars and the Jeep takes off. We're making up a route as we barrel along. Tearing up young trees, bouncing over large fallen trees and boulders. Leaves and twigs rain down on us as we rip them aside.

Cop sinks further and further into the distance.

Chuck is a maniac behind the wheel and he has the thing doing more turns than a rat in a maze. No one can catch us.

In no time, we've lost the cops and are pulling out onto the main road. Back to the city.

As the speedometer drops, Chuck and I breathe heavy sighs of relief. That had to be our greatest getaway to date. We might not have that cruddy photo, but damn are we gonna have a story to tell.

We grin at each other. We're on top of the world right now, drunk on an adrenaline high; we're young and fast and uncatchable. No one can touch us.

Then reality sets back in.

Chuck notes the damage done to his car and goes off on an incomprehensible tangent. My leg is still bleeding and feels like it's made of jelly. I hope I'm out of the car and far away from Chuck when he discovers the blood on the upholstery.

My leg gives a twinge and I grimace.

Subtly, I go to fashion a tourniquet for it, but Chuck eyes me suspiciously. I pretend I was tying my shoe and my head drops back on the head rest.

The Jeep rides pretty smooth, or it did before Chuck knocked everything out of alignment, and I'm tempted to close my eyes so I can enjoy it better.

I don't.

There's a long pause. The breeze feels good ruffling through my hair.

"Thanks, Chuck," I breathe. "You saved my ass back there."

Chuck's eyes are on the road. "You have the picture," he says in a flat voice.

He doesn't have to know the picture's shit.

I smile to myself, knowing that he wasn't planning on leaving me. Sure Chuck claims he can tolerate me a little better than he can tolerate most others, but I know he likes me. I like him too; he's a good guy.

It's a good feeling, knowing there's someone who'll always have your back.

An elbow jabs me in the gut and I grunt. Must've fallen asleep. "What?" I ask groggily. "I wasn't sleeping."

My entire body feels stiff and cramped from lying in such an awkward position. Aw, man. I wasn't just sleeping, I was passed out. I twist my neck from side to side, trying to get it to crack, and my back too.

Chuck is impatient. He gestures over his shoulder with his thumb. "Get out," he tells me.

We've pulled up at a house.

From a glance it looks like it's a single-family home, but upon closer inspection, you can tell it's really two houses in one. The siding has been bleached to white, but it is streaked brown from smoke and many years of not being washed. The roof is grey tile and could afford to be replaced in the very near future; a bent T.V. antenna pokes out of it. Two porches run around the thing, one on the top, one on the bottom.

The lawn is a mess. Kids' toys and bikes lay scattered in the foot-tall grass. Huge overgrown hedges and scraggly brownish bushes grow around the house, almost blocking the windows.

It's not much, but I've been calling it home these last seventeen years.

I get out of the Jeep and head up towards the house, my bum leg dragging slightly. Chuck honks at me and I jump, not expecting it. "Do something about your leg, man," calls Chuck. "This one looks pretty bad."

Hurts really bad too. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

I give him a half-assed wave and climb the front steps. Chuck drives off down the street and I let myself in.

Too perfect. Still early yet and the family's probably asleep. I head quietly for the basement. It's not really my parents I'm worried about running into.

The parents are alright, I guess. For the most part, they just let me do my own thing. Mom cares a little too much but she's preoccupied with the kids; John, my step dad, could hardly give a damn what I do. He works a lot, so he's not around too much. Which is fine with me. We don't get along great when he is, but he's only hit me once.

'Course I had more anger issues then so I hit him back. Since then we've come to a truce. Now, he threatens all the time, but never does anything.

Like I said, my parents are alright. But they're not my problem.

It's the kids.

I kinda promised them yesterday that I'd take 'em to the park today but I'm so fucking tired I can hardly stand up.

That's my problem: I tend to tell people what they want to hear so they'll leave me alone and let me sleep. When I'm up, I don't remember what the hell I said, but they do, and worse, expect me to hold through.

I think I promised Mom something too. Something about mowing the lawn. What was I supposed to do? Tell 'em no? That'd only make them bug me more.

Right now, the world can wait. I'm fixing up my leg and going to bed.

I snap on the light and climb down the basement stairs. Takes me a little longer 'cause of my leg, but it's worth the wait. The steps are steep and made of concrete, as is the floor, ensuring a hard and painful landing.

The basement is my haven. Pretty dark, kind of dusty, super cluttered, slight infestation of wolf spiders, but I don't mind. Has all the basics I need. So what if it requires squashing a few unwelcome guests?

I pick my way through the mess to the bathroom. Go to turn on the light, bulb's burned out. I make a note to replace it. But not right now. My eyes grow accustomed to the dark and I set about fixing my leg: splash some water and a dab of rubbing alcohol on it. I bite my lip. God, that stings.

Remove the bullet? Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, right. I'd do some permanent damage if I tried. I'll deal with it later, or make it someone else's problem.

So I put a bandage over the bullet hole and wind some gauze around it. Clumsy attempt, but then again, I'm not trying to get into medical school.

I'll just take it easy for a few days. No mowing the lawn. No taking the kids to the park. Nothing but watching T.V. and eating junk food. Maybe actually getting to sleep in, for once.

Sleep.

Sleep is good.

I move automatically to my room, already pulling off my t-shirt as I go. I took off my jeans in the bathroom to have easier access to my wound, so all I have left to do when I get in my room is fall into bed. Which I do gratefully.

My face still buried in my pillow, I kick off all unwanted items on the bed. About a second later, I'm gone.

My room is shaking…the house is shaking… I jump awake and look around in a panic. Drawers rattle out of place. My belongings fall onto the floor. Pounding overhead. Oh, shit. Earthquake.

I realize how stupid I'm acting.

We don't get earthquakes in these parts. The kids are up. Judging by the damage inflicted on my room, I'd say this was a stage 7 on the Richter scale. I shove my head and shoulders under my pillow.

Maybe they won't see me…

Milliseconds later, Caitlin, Natalie, Anna, and Brian come racing into my room, demanding me. "Adrian!" they chorus. "Get up!"

I groan and clamp the pillow down. My disguise didn't work.

"Go away," I plead. "Come back in, like, a day or two. I'm tired." The last bit comes out as a pitiful whine. After that, how could they be cruel enough to tear me away from my bed?

Easily.

Caitlin, my only biological problem, marches forward and firmly shakes my shoulder. (The other three are my much-younger cousins. Their parents really weren't fit to be parents, so Mom took them in). "Get up," she says bossily. "You're taking us to the park."

I moan in protest as she shakes me. "Quit it. It's not even cool to go to the park," I inform her. That ought to get rid of her, I think, feeling immensely satisfied. Caitlin's life goals are to be noticed, be popular, and look hot.

Going to the park won't look good for her "image" or mine.

"Toby's gonna be there," whines Caitlin. (She knows this how?)

Toby is her current boy obsession. He's a sixth grader who's convinced he's going to be the next Tony Hawk. Spends all of his life at the nearby skate park, but has yet to master the half-pipe.

But her obsession is more than just a grade school crush. She has bigger and better plans for Toby.

Caitlin is one of those very mixed-up kids who think they're anywhere from five-twenty years older than they are. Apparently, my ten-year-old half sister is really sixteen. She's tall for her age and wears tons of make-up and really short tight clothes. Already, she's asked me if I had any extra condoms lying around and gotten invitations to some of my classmates' parties.

God, when I was ten, I was still playing with action figures.

"Adrian's going to take us," she assures the other three, who have enough courtesy not to harass me. "He's just being a lazy…"

I'm getting too impatient to listen to what exactly I'm being. Impatient and pissed-off, which is not a good combination for me.

"Adrian is going to sleep," I tell her, surfacing. "And everyone is going to leave him alone and let him be."

Adrian wonders vaguely why he is talking in third person.

Caitlin stubbornly stands her ground. "You promised!" she accuses in a whiny voice. "You're a liar."

In spite of myself, I begin mentally counting to ten like my counselor Randy suggested during anger management class. It works for his kids, and depending on the severity of the situation, it works for me.

Of course so does punching and throwing things.

One…two…three…I'm not going to hit my sister…four…five…even she is a pain in the ass and deserves it…six…seven…She's keeping me awake…

I get to about seven-and-a-half, before I lash out with a pillow and send her sprawling. Maybe now she'll leave me alone.

My sister looks injured, sounds the battle cry of "I'm telling Mom!" and they all dash upstairs.

How is that for mature?

I slam my door shut behind them and lock it for good measure.

I contemplate getting back into bed. I can already hear Mom's footsteps coming down the stairs. Caitlin held true to her promise.

And I'll hold true to mine.

Tomorrow.

Or the next day. There's about a week of summer left.

Now's she at the door.

"Adrian," Mom says loudly, "what did I tell you about hitting your sister?" You'd think I was a seven-year-old being reprimanded.

"She was bugging me," I protest. "I'm trying to sleep." I consider myself pretty easy-going, but piss me off and there will be hell. Everyone should know this by now.

"At this hour?" is the skeptical reply.

I remind her that it's either eight or nine o'clock and most normal people aren't even up yet. Knowing my mother, she has an answer for that, too. "You have to mow the lawn today. Better to get it done early, because it's supposed to be hot out later."

I think about saying that I was out all night for the last few nights, but she expects it of me now. She'll say it's my own fault.

I decide on guilt. If I make my eyes big enough, I get out of just about anything (except maybe my anger management sessions). Mom had me at fifteen, so before she even got to have her own life, I became her life.

"Can't. I got shot in the leg," I say in my most pathetic voice. I pull on a shirt (because it would be a little creepy for my mother to see me half-naked) and open my bedroom door so she can see my wound for herself.

She'll feel so bad for me that I'll get out of chores for well over a month.

"How stupid do you think I…?" Mom cuts off, seeing the bloody bandage. "Oh, my God. Who did this to you?!"

The question was rhetorical, because before I have a chance to open my mouth, Mom is off. In hysterics. "We've got to get you to the hospital and have the bullet removed immediately. Get in the car right now."

(Am I at least allowed to put on pants?)

"But…" Caitlin and I say in unison.

This isn't working out how we planned.

I'm supposed to get out of mowing the lawn and consequently sleep the rest of the day. My leg will be fine.

Caitlin is devastated that she won't be seeing Toby. If I have to go to the hospital, that means I can't chauffeur her to the park. Which means she won't be seeing her beloved.

"Now!" Mom repeats firmly. I have no choice but to force on a pair of jeans and begin a long climb up the stairs. Next outing, I swear, I'm borrowing one of John's guns. Wonder how the pig would feel if I shot him in the leg?

Caitlin and I think about giving each other a spiteful grin, but realize it's pointless 'cause neither of us are getting what we want.

At least, during the hour-and-a-half drive to the hospital, I get to take a nap. (I was supposed to be driving, but I kept nodding off behind the wheel. Not good).

Mom doesn't let me sleep in the waiting room—though I could easily go back to sleep—but there are plenty of hot (and bored-looking) nurses hanging around—and a café downstairs that sells everything, even Red Bull.

In case of a pending emergency—and because I'm addicted to them—I buy two cans. I also pick up a little something for the blond nurse who was eying me.

God, I wish Chuck was here. The nurse brought over a few (equally hot) friends and we're hitting it off. (They don't seem to know or care that I'm seventeen).

We're launching into a fantasy hospital-type scenario—a nurse runs long French-manicured fingers through my hair and down my face, declaring that "the patient is really hot"—when Mom interrupts.

"Adrian, why'd you run off? We're limited for time; the doctor is squeezing us in as it is…" She gets a better look at me. "Do you have any propriety?" she says exasperatedly. "For God's sake, put your shirt on! We're in public."

Well technically, we were in an unoccupied hallway of the waiting room. My 'nurses' had just decided that they needed to bring out the stethoscope.

Hell, the public is probably thanking me. I know I look good.

But thanks to my mother's unwelcome entrance, I'm not scoring any phone numbers. I'm still grumbling about it under my breath when we enter the doctor's office.

My day just got worse. The doctor is a creepy old guy—balding, glasses, completely looks the part of a reformed pedophile—and the bullet needs to be removed.

Ugh. I have to strip, so he can "examine the wound". Bull shit. I swear he's enjoying himself. Standing there in my boxers in front of the doctor and my mother is beyond humiliating.

Oh, and I get stitches too.

Next time I drive the get-away car. Chuck can battle the authorities and deal with this.

I want to say removing the bullet is a quick and relatively painless procedure, but it isn't.

Not for me.

It's very little trouble for the fat doctor, however, who deals with bullet wounds all time. He cleans the area, plunges a pair of tweezers right in, and begins digging around in my flesh.

The quack didn't give me any medication, assuming it will be as easy for me as it is for him, so I feel everything he does. I swear loudly, using only the choicest terms. Counting to ten does positively nothing for my temper this time. He's hurting me and I want to hurt him.

Fearing for the doctor's face, Mom gets me restrained. I'm forced to sit there, jaw clenched, hands balled into fists, fighting my desire to hit him, and wishing each and every one of these people death.

After sawing through muscle and tendon alike, or that's how it feels, the tweezers close on the bullet and drag it to the surface. A strangled yell tears from my throat, half pain, half sheer loathing and anger, and in spite of my restraints, I lunge at the doctor.

He doesn't react beyond looking at the blood-stained bullet and smiling.

Smiling.

"That was in there pretty deep," he says cheerfully.

I glare at the doctor's turned back as he gives the bullet to the nurse. If I could only kill with my eyes, he would suffer a long overdue heart attack.

He faces me again. "You should really be more careful when handling guns," he admonishes. Mom agrees wholeheartedly.

Come on, people, who seriously would be stupid enough to shoot himself in the leg? Have I mentioned yet how much I want to hit this guy?

Now I get to get the stitches. This time he's wizened up and offers me a pain killer, or two, or three, or ten. Wants to knock me out before I knock him out. He's not even the one to do it though. He's volunteered enough of his valuable time and rushes off to a more deserving patient.

(As he runs out, I get a glimpse of his next patient. It's a pretty, leggy blond complaining of a migraine. I'm about to go out when I realize I'm sitting in my boxers, with blood dribbling down my leg. Fuck. I hate hospitals).

Obviously the drugs did the trick because next thing I know, I'm getting out of the car in front of my house. Mom has errands to run, so she entrusts me with the task of getting into the house.

I'm still kind of woozy from all the painkillers, so I stumble up the front steps. Wow. I'm woozy and even drowsier, if that's even possible. It's probably not the safest idea in the world, but I stretch out on the chaise lounge on the front porch. No need to go back inside.

It's warm outside and the sun feels pretty good. I take my shirt off and cover my face with it. The face is the money-maker. I can't let anything happen to it.

The screen doors squeaks open and John comes out. He takes a cigarette out of his pocket (since Mom banned cigarettes in the house) and is just about ready to light it, when he sees me.

"Adrian!" he growls. "You're supposed to be mowing the lawn." He's supposed to be pretending I'm not alive and I in turn will do the same. He's violating our contract.

I look up at him and grin, putting my arms behind my head. "Can't," I say, "I got stitches in my leg."

"I don't care if you got your leg amputated. You're mowing the lawn." John's face is beginning to get red. This is fun. He is too easy to provoke, and I always win.

"What if I don't?" I challenge, wondering just how far I can push him. After a day like today I have to hit someone—other than my sister with a pillow. "What if I don't feel like it? It's your house after all; mow your own fucking lawn."

John's face switches from red to purple. "Mow the damn lawn, you lazy bastard or I'll…" He struggles to think of something horrible. "…I'll kick you out," he finishes triumphantly.

I raise an eyebrow. I expected worse.

"I was in my mother's life long before you were," I remind him. "I'm the most important guy in her life." John goes to say something, but I continue smoothly. "Do anything to me and she'll be filing for a divorce in under five minutes…"

I'm not being a smartass. Everything I said is true.

John knows when he's defeated. "The lawn better be mowed by tonight," he warns. "Or else." He stomps inside.

He never said who had to mow the lawn. I go inside in search of Brian. He's lying on the couch, watching cartoons; right now it's Spongebob Squarepants.

It's the Texas episode. Spongebob's grip on the door handle slides off and the whole front of the Krusty Krab is torn away.

"Hey, buddy," I say winningly, "you wanna mow the lawn for me? I was kinda shot in the leg today and it hurts…"

"No." Brian's eyes don't leave the television screen. His grip on the remote tightens. "You blew me off, so why should I do you any favors?"

"Nothing personal," I insist. "I needed to get some sleep so I can go out tonight and pick up some cute girls. I can't do that if I look like shit. You understand, right?"

Brian doesn't understand. "Girls are gross," he says in the same flat, bored voice Chuck always uses. "Now shut up. I'm trying to watch the episode." (A fish is dancing with a box in the Bikini Bottom citizens' interpretation of "square-dancing"). I'm trying to reason with an inflexible eight-year-old.

"I'll give you ten bucks," I sigh.

Brian glances away from the television, only momentarily. "I want twenty."

Greedy bastard. "Ten," I repeat. I need some money for gas and cigarettes.

"Fifteen."

We've come to an agreement, now we're just haggling over price.

"Ten fifty."

Brian glances at the T.V. "Sweet! It's a Spongebob marathon!" Meaning he won't move. Damn kid.

I grimace as I dig out fifteen bucks and slap it in the greedy little bastard's hand. He counts it up quickly and looks at me. "I said 'twenty'."

"How's a black eye sound?" That he'll get for free. I'm not in the mood.

Brian is unperturbed. "Mow the lawn yourself. It's your job."

"What part of 'shot in the leg' don't you get? I can't do it."

"What makes you think I can? The grass is really tall and you're stronger than I am."

"I gave you fifteen bucks, didn't I? I don't even get paid to do it."

"All this arguing is really pointless," Brian says, tactfully avoiding the subject. "You could be asleep by now." For once, I can't argue. Kid's too smart for his—and my—own good.

So here am I, curled up in bed, while the lawn mower roars outside. I'm twenty-five bucks down, but able to sleep undisturbed at last. I'll worry about getting my money back later….

I'll get it back. I always do.

I always get what I want.

And damn, am I good at it.