Meet the Sheldricks

Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognise. The characters, setting and plot are otherwise mine. I'd appreciate it if you do not steal and force me to take legal action.

Brandon McArthur was perfect.

Or at least, that was what I heard. I had never actually spoken to him, but I'd heard enough about him from a couple girls I knew to be crazy for him. I'd loved him from the first moment they said his name. I'd seen him a handful of times and that had only made things worse.

He was a freshman– soon to be sophomore– at the state college nearby and from what I'd heard, he was perfect. He played on the football team, he had a four-point-oh GPA, he was in line to be Valedictorian, he had been the Student Council President for two years in middle school, he was funny, witty and sarcastic… Brandon was the whole package.

And his absolute flawlessness was what nearly broke my heart. Because I could never be with him.

It wasn't like I was hideous or anything. In fact, I was fairly pretty. The truth of the matter was that I'd probably stay single all my life because I didn't think that any guy on the planet deserved to be subjected to the torture that was my family. Sure, most people were of the opinion that their families were mental, but mine really took it to a whole new level. The only possible explanation for why we were the way we were, was that parents must have been on crack when we were been born. That was the only thing that could possibly redeem them for the humiliation they had put us through.

My father, Octavian Sheldrick, was the eldest of three brothers; the other two being Ralph and Simon, in that order. My father had married my mother pretty young and they'd produced three healthy children– my elder twin brothers and me.

Ralph, the biggest, nicest sweetheart on the face of the planet, had married a gold-digging whore of a woman that could only be called 'bitchy' on her nicest day. Needless to say, after bearing Ralph three children, the woman divorced him and took off with a sizeable portion of his fortune. Poor Ralph, his mind broken, decided that Africa seemed like a nice, harmless place to live after a few years with his wife. So the poor sot had dumped his three children on my father and had taken off. He wrote to us once a month at least, and seemed to be thriving.

Uncle Simon was a bit of a fool, who'd married a loud-mouthed– albeit nice– woman named Janice. Together, they'd produced four children. The problem lay in the fact that Uncle Simon was also a gambler. Being a gambler and a fool was not a good combination. And therefore, he'd bankrupted them after his first child was born. And, like Ralph, Simon had believed that his older brother– my father– was the be-all and end-all, the alpha-omega. And so, Simon, Janice and their four children came to live with us too.

We were, therefore, a family of ten children, raised by four adults who didn't quite know exactly what they were doing.

The lucky thing was that the older kids learnt to look after themselves fairly quickly, and then devoted their time to caring for the younger, impressionable kids. There was a year's gap between all of us and the difference between the youngest and eldest was only seven years, plus we were all related by blood, so we got along relatively well. We were four girls and six boys, which didn't always work out in us girls' favour. Because of the uneven numbering, all us girls had an 'older brother' complex, as five of the six boys were elder than us and were highly over-protective.

Drake was the eldest at twenty-two. He was Uncle Ralph's son. Uncle Simon's son Lex was next, all of twenty years old. My two blood brothers, Ian and Ron were both twenty. Lex's brother Cory was nineteen, only a year older than me. I, Lettie, came next at eighteen. Cassie, Drake's sister and Uncle Ralph's only daughter, was seventeen. Addy and Mercy were Uncle Simon's last two children, twin sixteen year old girls. Bob, Drake and Cassie's younger brother, was the youngest of us at fifteen.

I did love my family. They were so endearing that it was hard not to. But other people didn't get along quite as well with my little circus. And so, no matter how much I loved them, I wouldn't have subjected my worst enemy to my family and so, even thinking about asking Brandon out was out of the question. It was a shame really, because Brandon was gorgeous.

It was a bright October day, in the middle of my senior year. I was waiting at the coffee shop where I worked as often as I could, mostly in an attempt to get away from the house and meet some cute guys without my brothers breathing down my neck.

"Hey, Lettie, will you take the register?" The manager and owner, Mr. Carlisle asked me.

"Sure." I said. I headed for the register and relieved a very pregnant Dannie. She was about twenty-four and soon to be a single mother. I tried to help her by taking her shifts as often as I could and still giving her the money. It didn't work too often.

"Thanks, Lettie." She smiled at me. "I really need to pee."

"Take all the time you need." I said. It was a Saturday, but luckily, it wasn't too crowded. The afternoon rush wasn't in yet. I sat down on the stool and flipped through a magazine under the counter. There was the sound of a throat clearing above me. I jumped and looked up.

Staring at me was the most gorgeous guy I'd had the pleasure of seeing in my life. He was tall, tanned and freckled, with an impressive array of muscles on his lean body, which was visible through his rather form-fitting t-shirt. His hair was a dirty, sandy blond with strands of sunshine blond and dark brown mingled in the mess. He had a cute, white smile and the most beautiful honey eyes I'd ever seen.

From the few times I'd watched him play football– and spied on him in the multiplexes in towns– I recognised him as Brandon McArthur, the secret object of my miserable, pathetic desires.

"Hey." He said. His voice was low and deep, as beautiful and sweet as his eyes.

I got to my feet, feeling a blush hot on my face as I knocked over the stool. "Hi." I stupidly said. Silence settled between us. I saw the expectant look on his face. "I'm Lettie." I stupidly said, pointing to the nametag.

He was a guy and a gorgeous one at that, so I was more flattered than offended when he seized the opportunity and took the introduction as an invitation to ogle my chest. When it started to get uncomfortable, I coughed.

His eyes snapped up and he looked a little sheepish. He ruffled his hair. "Sorry." He said. There was silence again. He was watching me expectantly. When I didn't speak, he grinned and leaned forward. Rather conversationally, he asked, "So, Lettie, are you going to take my order?"

I wanted to melt into the ground, or curl up in a corner and die. Or maybe both. I flushed. I'd told him my name like an idiot and had given him an invitation to stare at my chest. Basically, I'd done everything but my job.

"Excuse me a moment." I squeaked.

Brandon was looking amused. "Sure, Lettie."

I turned away from him and took a few deep breaths to calm myself and get rid of the blush. Telling myself to act normal, I pasted a smile on my face and turned to face him. "Hi, I'm Lettie, and I'll be your server today. How may I help you today?"

He was smiling. I wanted to kiss him. "I'd like two chocolate doughnuts and a coffee, please, Lettie."

The blush was rising again, mostly because of the way he kept repeating my name in his deep, beautiful voice. The truth was that I hated the nickname, but I had gotten stuck with it years ago, because my actual name was too long for my family to say. I had to admit though, that Lettie was a damn sight better my real name and when Brandon said it, it didn't sound half bad at all.

"Certainly." I politely said, "Would that be a take-away or for here?"

"Take-away, Lettie." He said.

I quickly took out what he wanted and put it into a box, passing it over the counter. "Is that all?"

"Sure is." He easily replied, pulling out his wallet from his back pocket. I tried very hard– and failed– not to stare at the way his muscles bulged. "How much is that, Lettie?"

"Two-fifty." I replied, voice high-pitched again. He handed over a note and the register binged as I stuffed the note in and fished out the change. "Here's your change. Thank you."

"No, thank you, Lettie." Brandon flashed me another smile and walked away.

I shook my head, feeling like a fool. I glanced at my watch, and seeing that my shift was over, I headed for the 'Staff Only' area, removing my apron in the process. After clocking out and grabbing my bag, I headed out into the main area again, bidding good-bye to Dannie.

To my surprise, Brandon was sitting at a table by the door and when he saw me stop in surprise, he stood. "Hi, Lettie." He grinned at me.

I took a few steps forward. "Um, hi." I said, pretending like I didn't know his name. "Is something wrong with your order?"

"No." He easily said. "I just realised that while you were polite enough to give me your name," I flushed, "I didn't give you mine. So, I'm Brandon McArthur." He stuck his hand out. I took it and gave it a limp, uninteresting shake.

"Nice to meet you." I lamely said. "Well, I've gotta go." I headed for the door.

Brandon jumped forward and pulled it open. "Allow me." He easily said. I felt myself melt. He was so gorgeous and a gentleman.

I smiled and stepped out before him. I was about to turn and thank him, when I heard a low whistle from behind me. I turned around to see that Brandon's gaze was decidedly lower than my chest. On my ass, in fact. And he'd just whistled.

"Excuse me?" I asked, feeling a little peeved.

Brandon's eyes snapped up and he flashed me that same sheepish smile again. "Sorry, I couldn't resist." He said and then, added rather thoughtfully, "My mother says I'm shameless and my father says I'm incorrigible. I guess they're right, aren't they?"

I could only gape. I had just met the guy I was crushing on for the first time, and in the space of fifteen minutes, he'd stared shamelessly at both my boobs and my ass. Was there nothing he balked from doing?

"Well, I better get going. It was nice to meet you, Lettie." Brandon winked at me and strode off, whistling slightly.

Brandon came back to the café a few more times over the next week– seven times over five days, in fact, or so Dannie told me. I was never there when he came, but according to the same source, he'd asked her when I had my shift. I didn't believe the lying, pregnant woman, but it flattered me nonetheless.

A week later, on Friday night, I was back behind the register, taking the order of an old man who changed his mind as often as Addy changed clothes before a date– which was too often.

"Thank you, sir." I said in relief when he ambled away. I closed my eyes and sighed.

"Hey, Lettie." Brandon's voice caused my eyes to snap open as I gaped at him. It just seemed like my luck that he would arrive when my hair was a flyaway mess, my mascara no doubt running and my face sweaty. It seemed like some cruel joke.

"Hello." I said, pretending like I didn't want to die. "How may I help you today?"

"Well." He leaned forward, his arms on the counter, bracing his weight. "Do you even remember me?"

I smiled and dryly said, "Sure do. There aren't many guys who would openly stare at my boobs when I introduce myself, nor that many who would open a door for me just to whistle at my ass."

He laughed. "Well, at least you remember me." He looked around. "So, Lettie, do you think you could help me?"

I watched him warily. "Depends."

"Smart girl." He grinned. "Okay, without being too obvious, look over my shoulder. You'll see a group of guys, right?" I glanced. They were all watching us. I directed my gaze back to Brandon's. "So, those are my friends." He stopped.

"Um, congratulations?" I offered, uncertain about what I was supposed to do.

Brandon laughed again. "Okay, my friends have been irritated with me because I've been dragging them all here for the last week, just hoping to get another peek at you." I flushed. "So, they gave me a dare."

"Yeah?" I asked, shyly looking at him. "What would that be?"

"They dared me to ask you out." Brandon easily said. "And I figured that I had a better chance to get a 'yes' if I just told you the truth. So, what do you say? Tomorrow night at seven?"

My heart was thudding. "Depends on what you want to do." I cautiously replied.

He grinned. "Nothing too illegal, I promise." He laughed at my expression. "How about a movie and a pizza dinner afterward?"

"Sounds perfect." I breathed.

"So, I'll pick you up around six-thirty. Just give me your address."

That was when I came crashing down to Earth. "Um, no." I said, putting it as politely as I possibly could. Brandon looked taken aback. "I mean," I hurriedly said, "how about I just meet you at the movie theatre at six forty five?"

He looked a little confused. "Okay, sure."

I let out a sigh of relief. Brandon looked like he had boyfriend possibilities, but if I took him home, chances were he wouldn't stick around long enough for me to see whether I was right.

"See you tomorrow." I smiled.

To my surprise, Brandon leaned over the counter and pecked my cheek. When I felt myself furiously redden, he gave me another wink. "Just, you know, in case you need incentive." And he strode out.

Not a moment too soon. Just a few seconds later, my elder brothers, Ian and Ron, came in from the back door.

The two had been identical as kids, but as they'd grown up they'd veered in two different directions until only the colour of their features, their bone structure and height was the same. Both of them were tall, with curly black hair and bright blue eyes.

Ian preferred the 'bulky' look, if his body was any testament. Broad and muscled, he nonetheless managed to look decent as compared to guys on various gym signs. He kept his curly hair short and was pretty intimidating that way, which didn't bode well for my love life.

Ron was the exact opposite. He was thin, but he couldn't be Ian's twin and not have some muscle on him, so he had a pretty lean appearance. His hair was about shoulder length, always pulled back into a ponytail, and he had a spike through the top of his earlobe.

Sometimes, it was difficult to tell which of my brothers was more intimidating.

"Hey, kiddo." Ian said, grabbing two doughnuts from nearby and stuffing them in his mouth.

"You about done?" Ron finished the sentence, grabbing two for himself.

I glared at the two of them. "You do know that I'll have to pay for that from my pay-check, don't you?"

They exchanged looks and moved towards me. Both planted their crumb dusted lips and half-chewed doughnut full mouths on either of my cheeks in a loud smacking kiss. They left behind saliva and some chocolate. "We love you!" They said through full mouths.

"You sick, sick barbarians." I muttered, grabbing napkins and wiping off my cheeks. Living with six brothers had taught me early on in life that there was no point to protesting in a high-pitched voice and shrieking… usually that just egged them on.

"You know you love us." They chorused.

"But on most days, I wonder why." I glared and forcefully shoved them out of my way as I headed for the back.

Our parents had taken a break and had gone out of town. It was a good thing that I had the date to look forward to. Otherwise, I would have gone mental having to survive only my siblings for the next few days.

The next evening, I stood in my room, rapidly throwing clothes every which way, trying to search for that elusive 'perfect' date outfit.

"Whatcha doing?" I whirled around to see Cassie in the doorway, looking at me expectantly. I groaned.

That was one of the drawbacks of living in a large house with lockless doors– people barged in whenever they wanted, not caring if you were in the middle of an embarrassing rendition of 'I'll Be' at the top of your lungs or in a state of undress.

"Cass, don't you knock?" I demanded.

"Nope." She easily said. "So, whatcha doing?" She came to sit on my bed, which was littered with clothes. She was munching an apple. Watching her, it didn't surprise me that most guys went for Cassie. She could make even make the simple act of eating an apple look seductive.

The only way to describe Cassie and do justice to her was to speechlessly gape. She was stunningly beautiful, almost like a model and I couldn't believe that someone like Uncle Ralph had produced her. Then again, she probably took after her mother, the Bitch. Cassie's auburn hair was thick and wavy, falling to her waist, and her grey eyes were always warm. She was petite in stature and had a false air of innocence to her. Cassie could be the biggest bitch on the planet when she wanted to.

I pulled out a pair of old jeans and held it up to my body as I looked in the mirror. "Getting ready for a date." I absently muttered. When Cassie let out a shriek that only dogs could hear, I froze, realising what I'd done.

A few seconds later, Mercy came sliding in, followed by Addy. "What's going on?" They chorused.

Addy and Mercy were as alike as Ian and Ron had been when they were kids. Both were fairly tall, with nice long legs and curvy bodies, despite being only sixteen. Their hair was a shade of blond that most women couldn't even get from bottles and their blue eyes leaned more towards aquamarine. Exactly identical even in personalities, most people couldn't tell them apart.

Their eyes roved over the clothes. "Are you going on a date?" They gaped in perfect sync.

"I hate it when you do that." I muttered. They took that as confirmation and let out identical shrieks. "That too."

And then, the boys arrived one by one.

"What's going on?" Drake authoritatively asked. Being the eldest, he was left in charge since our parents were out of town.

Drake's looks were as deceiving as his name when it came to his personality. He– like all men in my family– was tall. He had jet-black hair and cold grey eyes. He was pale, his cheekbones were prominent and so, he looked every bit the villain that his namesake was. However, Drake was nice, goofy, sometimes aloof guy, who took being the eldest most seriously.

"Lettie's going on a date!" Addy shrieked, jumping up and down.

"It's not the apocalypse." I muttered, but I knew better.

In my eighteen years, I'd been on few dates– most of which didn't progress past the 'first date' stage– and all with guys who were bums or good guys who my family had eventually scared away. That was why I had been unwilling to let Brandon pick me up. I deserved at least a few blissful hours before he realised what a freak-show I was.

"You what?" Ian demanded, glaring at me.

I sighed. "I have a date." I replied. "You know, one of those things where a guy takes me out and then when he drops me home, you guys politely convince him to dump me?"

Ron frowned. "None of them are good enough for our baby sister." He proudly said.

"That's not fair." I insisted. "I want to go on one proper date, and this guy's really sweet."

"What's his name?" Lex wanted to know. He was already cracking his knuckles. Tall and lanky, but with an alluring grace, Lex had a beauty that women didn't see in many guys. With an aristocratic, haughty face structure, wavy light blond hair and hazel eyes, one glance was enough to send most girls into a tizzy as far as Lex was concerned. But when he was glaring and cracking his knuckles, most guys wanted to run in the opposite direction.

I sighed and relented, figuring that they'd eventually find out. "Brandon McArthur." I said. There was dead silence as everyone stared. "What?" I defensively asked, feeling rather self-conscious.

"He's the hottest guy in town." Cassie breathed. "How on earth did you land him?"

"Well, thanks." I snapped. "Now, can you all get out?"

Obviously, being the morons that they were, they didn't listen. "Is he coming to pick you up?" Bob exchanged a look with all my other brothers.

He was the spitting image of Drake, with the same black hair and grey-eyes, though he was shorter and his frame was admittedly lankier. It was nicely rounded out in the end, what with Bob being a carbon copy of Drake.

"My poor Bob," I muttered. "Have they converted you too? Have they turned you to the dark side?"

"What? Speak louder." Drake ordered.

"No, he's not picking me up." I firmly said, louder, in answer to Bob's question. "And he's not dropping me off later, either. So you're not going to meet him."

Drake shot me a look that told me I was sorely mistaken. "Where's he taking you?" Cory casually stuck his hands in his pocket, blinking too innocently.

Like his brother, Cory had hazel eyes, but the green in his was more pronounced than in Lex's. He had thick, wavy black hair and even sported glasses. Being extremely thin, very wiry, and incredibly tall somehow worked for him. I rather thought it had something to do with that charming dimple of his and the way he winked at anything in a skirt.

I weighed my options. If I told them, they could follow me. If I didn't, they'd follow me anyway. It was a lose-lose situation. "A movie." I sighed and relented. "And then pizza afterwards."

"Dork." Ian snorted. "I told you he wasn't good enough."

"Well, I'm not asking you to go out with him!" I snapped. "Now that you've dissected my non-existent love life– for which, I'd like to add, you guys are to blame– can you please GET OUT?"

All of them rolled their eyes. "Jesus, don't get your panties in a twist." Cory muttered as they all exited.

Forty minutes later, I stood looking at my reflection. I was wearing a pair of jeans, a dark-green turtleneck because it was pretty cold, and a pair of boots. My hair was loose and I was wearing the bare minimum make-up. I was finally satisfied.

I was ready to leave when I heard the sound of a bike shattering the silence of the street. I paled because it was public knowledge that Brandon McArthur had a bike. A few seconds later the doorbell rang. I threw my room door open and ran down the stairs. Later, I couldn't fathom how I ran so fast wearing boots with heels.

I reached the door just before Bob and threw it open, stepping out and slamming it shut behind me. "I told you not to come!" I wailed.

Brandon was standing on the front step, a bouquet of lilies in his hands. He was dressed in jeans and a button-down, with a black leather biker jacket on top. His hair was ruffled and his eyes held a mixture of panic and surprise.

"Lettie?" He asked, a little disoriented.

"I told you not to come!" I repeated.

He looked a little taken-aback. "I asked that nice woman at the café for your number. I figured I'd pick you up, just you know, to get a few extra brownie points." He looked so bewildered. "Why, are your parents strict or something?"

I sighed. "Not so much my parents as my siblings."

"Your siblings are strict?" He asked, confused.

"Not so much strict as mental." I corrected.

"Your siblings are mental?" He repeated, as though he was trying very hard to understand.

"Sounds about right." I nodded. I looked around and placed the bouquet on the doorstep. "I have everything. Do you think we can make a run for it?" I hopefully asked.

The voice came from behind the closed door. "Don't even think about it." Drake intoned. "Why don't you introduce us to your little friend?"

Brandon was looking quizzical. I leaned closer to him. "How fast does that thing go?" I asked, looking at the bike.

"Pretty damn fast." He whispered back, eyes confused but voice full of pride.

I eyed the bike. "Let's test that out, huh?" And I grabbed his hand, pulling him away.

By the time my family realised what was going on, both of us were already straddling the bike and he was kick-starting it. The sound echoed through out the neighbourhood. The door was thrown open and all nine of my siblings flooded into the yard, Bob excitedly yelling, "They're getting away!"

"Step on it!" I howled, squeezing Brandon's midriff hard.

He couldn't have heard me, but he got the hint and the next thing I knew, we were flying down the street, wind in our hair. There went my elaborate hairdo, but it was actually worth it, turning back to see my family's glaring, flummoxed faces.

We made it to the theatre in record time. Once we were off the bike and I was running my hands through my hair, trying to untangle it, Brandon turned to me, staring. "What on earth was that?" He demanded.

Very reluctantly, I answered, "That, Brandon, was my family."

He gawked. "All of them?"

"It's complicated." I shrugged. "Only two of them are my real brothers. My aunt and uncle live with us with their four kids, and my other uncle's in Africa, so he left three of his with us. It's a big family."

He did the math. "Ten of you?" He gaped. "How long has it been like that?"

I thought back. "Well, my aunt and uncle have been living with us since before I was born, three years before, I think. And the other three arrived when I was three. So we've been ten of us for the last fifteen years."

Brandon shook his head. "Wow."

I looked at him a little shyly, finally realising that I was on a date with him. "So, do you still want to finish this?"

He snapped out of his awe and shot me that charming grin I loved. "Hell, yeah." He nodded. He took my hand in his. I nearly died. He pulled me forward to the ticket counter and asked for two tickets to the scariest movie there. I kept quiet, choosing not to mention that I was terrified of scary movies ever since Drake and Lex had made me watch The Exorcist when I was five.

In the way of a perfect gentleman, Brandon bought me popcorn and a Coke, choosing two of the same for himself. We had to let go hands to balance it properly, as we entered the theatre. We were pretty early so we claimed seats close to the back, but in the middle of the row and sat down with our junk food.

Brandon turned to me. "So, tell me something more about your family. They sound interesting."

I shook my head. "It isn't really. We're four girls and six guys, five of whom are elder than us. Growing up with five older brothers isn't really a piece of cake."

"But it must be fun." He pushed. "I mean, being an only child, I know how it gets boring sometimes."

I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. We never have a dull moment, but that can get on your nerves sometimes." I knew that if I kept talking about my family, I'd blurt everything out, which wouldn't be good because my date would come to an abrupt stop.

Luckily, the theatre was filling up, mostly with couples, I noted. The entire hall darkened and the screen came to life. I watched the trailers, taking note of some movies I wouldn't mind watching. If the date went well, perhaps I could get Brandon to take me.

The credits of the move we were watching started rolling. Next to me, Brandon gave a huge yawn and stretched high before casually lowering his arm casually over the back of my seat. I turned to look at him in confusion and found him smirking slightly at me.

"What?" I asked him, feeling a little lost. "What's going on?"

"Nothing." Brandon grinned at me nicely, almost fondly. He tugged at my hair and his smile grew. "Watch the movie." So I turned forward and let out an almighty shriek before clenching my eyes tightly shut.

Luckily, I wasn't the only one. Several girls had screeched with me because of the thing in front of us, on the screen. There were several sickening sounds as the creature slaughtered the first character to cross the screen.

"Whoa." Brandon breathed from beside me, sounding a bit amused. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." I lied through my clenched teeth. I kept my eyes tightly shut and swore to myself that I wouldn't look at the screen under any conditions. It worked well for the next five minutes before Brandon leaned over to whisper to me.

"What's wrong?" He asked in a low whisper.

"Nothing." I lied again. "Just sleepy." I pretended to yawn and tried to make my tightly squeezed shut eyelids look more natural.

"Is it too scary?" He persisted, sensing my mood.

"I wouldn't know." I replied. I paused, before admitting, "I haven't been watching."

He let out a small chuckle before dropping his arm onto my shoulders. It wasn't too heavy, and in fact, settled quite pleasantly. He used the arm to push me closer to him. "Don't worry." He murmured in my ear. "You can watch. I've got you."

I melted and turned my head to look at the screen. I felt a small smile tug at my lips. The movie was fine for two seconds before another brutal killing happened and I closed my eyes again.

"It's just a movie." Brandon calmly reminded me. His hand was beginning to stroke my upper arm gently, tracing circles and I was distracted from my fear. I moved unconsciously closer to him. "Better?" He asked me with a smile.

"Kinda." I said, distracted, but still not opening my eyes. Then I realised what an idiot I was being and how stupid I must've looked to Brandon. He must've thought I was a baby. Gritting my teeth at the thought of Brandon McArthur thinking of me as a frightened little girl, I opened my eyes and forced myself to stare at the screen.

Every time there was a sudden movement or a killing, I gripped the t-shirt at Brandon's side tightly and clenched my teeth to get me through the scene. His shoulder was very inviting, so somewhere during the course of the movie, I found my head resting on it. Before the interval, everything got way too scary for me, so I turned my head and buried it in Brandon's shoulder, refusing to see the rest of it.

I could still hear the sounds though and they made me jump. Brandon took to gently stroking my hair instead of my arm to get me to relax. That coupled with his strong scent kept me calm. I busied myself with observing his tensing and relaxing shoulder muscles because they fascinated me. It took me about fifteen minutes to realise that he wasn't watching the movie either.

"What?" I asked when I glanced up absently at his face and found his beautiful eyes boring into me. I was feeling disconcerted under the powerful gaze.

"Nothing." He said. He was looking at me with a curious expression, still stroking my hair. "So," he murmured, softly, boldly, "can I kiss you now?"

My skin tingled at the cockiness, the authority in his voice. My heart was thudding and the butterflies were having the time of their life in my stomach. My mouth was dry and there was a lump in my throat. But even if I had been able to speak, there wasn't much I could have said because my brain had turned to mush.

So I just nodded.

A smirk tilted the corner of his lips upward and I found myself reciprocating. He leaned forward, and our breath mingled. My breathing hitched. I could see every wondrous colour in his eyes, every freckle on his cheeks. He was beautiful. His eyelashes were nice and long. His lips looked strong. Kissing him would be something else altogether.

Of course, I never got a chance to find out. Just before Brandon could kiss me, popcorn and an empty Coke can came crashing down on us, the latter catching Brandon on the back of his head. "Score!" I heard a hiss from behind us.

Both Brandon and I whipped around so fast that I almost heard our necks crick. There were four shadows two rows above us. "What the fuck?" Brandon demanded from them.

"Break it up, lovebirds." One of them commented.

"Or take it outside." Another one added.

Brandon's face looked furious. He looked like he was going to go over there and bash their faces in. But I recognised the voices, so I shook my head and took his hand, giving it a powerful squeeze.

"Forget it, Brandon." I muttered. "Let's just go, okay? We aren't watching the movie anyway."

Brandon shrugged off the anger and tightly nodded. He intertwined our fingers and stood up, leading me out. As we passed their row, both Brandon and I paused to give Drake, Ron, Ian and Bob the finger.

The light blinded us when we got into the lobby. "What the hell was wrong with those assholes?" Brandon demanded.

"Who cares?" I shrugged. "They clearly don't have girlfriends, and so they have to ruin other people's dates." I smiled slightly at him. "Let's just go and get dinner, okay? I'm kinda hungry."

He nodded and took a deep breath, his countenance settling back into the cool, calm, unruffled one. "So, Tony's sounds good for you, or do you want to go somewhere posh?" He smiled at me. "Either is cool with me."

I grinned. "Tony's please. It's the only place where I can eat like a pig."

Brandon laughed and held my hand tighter, leading me out of the movie theatre. I wished that he'd stopped to kiss me first, but the mood was gone. I made a mental note to kill my brothers later.

He suggested we walk there, because it was strategically located near the theatre. And even though I was a little uncertain about leaving Brandon's bike where I knew my brothers were, I shrugged it off and agreed.

Tony's was a pizzeria that served one-hundred percent Italian, awesome pizzas all through the year. It was pretty big, owned by one large Italian family. The ambience was nice and cosy, with bright lights, scrubbed tables and constant chatter always serving as background music.

Brandon pushed the door open and held it for me. As I walked past him, I took care to swing my hips a little extra, just in case he was looking. From the sudden hissed intake of breath from behind me, I knew he was. I turned my head, flipped my hair and grinned at him.

His eyes narrowed. He stalked towards me. "Tease." He murmured, playfully slapping my ass as he moved past. I gaped and he laughed. "Don't play with fire." He advised. "You'll get burnt."

I was devoutly thankful that none of my siblings had been around to see that. Brandon might have been missing a hand and a very important part of his anatomy if they had.

There was a booth being vacated, so Brandon calmly claimed it and waved me in before following. "Thanks." I said, smiling at him.

We were presented with two menus and quickly scanned them before giving the waiter our order– one large pepperoni pizza, a Coke and a portion of garlic bread for Brandon, and a potato salad, serving of garlic bread and a Coke for me.

Once the waiter had rushed away, Brandon looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "Potato salad? What happened to eating like a pig?"

I looked at him haughtily. "I like how you assume that you're the only one who's going to be eating the pepperoni pizza."

He laughed. "Okay, fair enough." He looked closer at me. "You know what I just figured out, Lettie?" A shiver ran down my spine at the way he smoothly said my name. I could only shake my head. "That I don't know your proper name."

It was like someone had doused me with ice water. I had been dreading this. "What makes you think 'Lettie' isn't my name?"

"Because it's a nickname." He easily said. "Go on, tell me what your real name is."

"You first." I stalled.

Brandon rolled his eyes. "Okay. My full name's Brandon Wesley McArthur." He said. "And I'm proud of it."

"Yeah, because it's normal." I muttered.

"Oh come on, yours can't be that bad." He said. I raised an eyebrow. He grinned. "Come on, Lettie. What's your name?"

"Promise you won't laugh." I warned.

"Promise." He grinned.

I took a deep breath. "You should know the back story first– it helps. The truth is, my entire family has this love for really strange names. When I was born, I wasn't named for a whole month. Everyone just called me 'baby' because my father was trying to search for the perfect name. Then, my eyes turned from the typical baby blue to green and my father knew what he was going to call me."

When I didn't continue, Brandon prompted, "Which was?" I muttered it. He looked confused. "Sorry?"

I sighed. "Scarlett May Sheldrick." I told him.

For a moment, he stared. "Your name's Scarlett?" He incredulously asked.

I shrugged. "Hard to meld us two together, right?"

"Nah." He leaned forward a little. "She was supposed to be stunning and so are you."

I grinned, amused. "That was quite a line, Brandon. It's just a pity that I've heard it a million times before."

Brandon laughed. "Okay, how's this?" He paused for effect. "Maybe we should've ordered the spaghetti, like in Lady and the Tramp." He waggled his eyebrows and I burst out laughing.

"Nice." I wheezed.

"I thought so." He proudly said. I noticed that he was extremely close now and my laugh faded away. Breathing was difficult again. Brandon's smile was gone too, but he was smirking. "So, I'm going to kiss you now." He murmured.

I decided to take a little initiative and moved closer too. "And I'm not going to stop you."

Brandon McArthur was going to kiss me. I was going to kiss Brandon Wesley McArthur.

"Lettie!" The voice was oddly familiar.

Brandon looked like he couldn't believe we'd been interrupted again and when he realised that we had been, he groaned and then let his head fall onto my shoulder, as Lex came striding up, Cory following him.

"Lettie." Lex smirked gloatingly at me. "It's been ages."

I clenched my teeth together and refused to answer. "Oh, I'm sorry." Cory said, blinking innocently. "Were we interrupting something?" I knew that if I spoke, I'd scream, so I kept silent. Brandon straightened.

"Hey." Lex said to Brandon. "I'm Lex and this is my brother Cory. We're Lettie's ex-boyfriends."

Brandon gaped and so did I. I regained my bearings faster than him. "You always were shameless." I hissed glaring at them both.

Lex leaned forward and, with an air of imparting a secret, told Brandon, "Don't believe a word she says. She doesn't really have any experience."

I gawked, unable to believe they'd take to that level. Cory nodded. "And take it from me, don't take her home. She just might end up cheating on you with your brother."

The thing was that I knew Lex and Cory didn't really mean any of the stuff they were saying. They just wanted me to be celibate my whole life and Brandon was a real threat to that. But it still hurt and it must have shown on my face.

Brandon's face became cold. He stood and pushed his way out of the booth, taking my hand and pulling me along as well. "It's a good thing I don't have any siblings, then, isn't it?" He stonily asked. He shook his head. "Fucking sour grapes. Come on, Lettie. Let's go."

Both Cory and Lex were gaping. This little bit usually worked on most of the guys who had taken me out before. I felt a brilliant smile on my face and my heart's thudding beat sounded oddly like 'Brandon'. "Suckers." I muttered on my way past.

Brandon stopped a moment and turned around to look at them. "By the way, I hope you enjoy paying for our dinner, fuckers."

"I'm so sorry." Brandon said, a while later. Both of us were holding hands and walking in the park nearby. I looked up at him.

"What for?" I asked, sure that I looked like a slave looking up at her master. I wouldn't try to deny it. After the way he had handled my demented brothers, I would do anything for him.

He shook his head in disgust. "For taking you out on the one night where every psycho in town decided to go out too."

I laughed. "I can't really blame you for that."

We were silent for a few moments. "You didn't really date those guys, did you?" Brandon suddenly asked. He sounded like he already knew the answer.

"No way." I snorted. "They're just these two guys who have been stalking me for the longest time." I smiled shyly up at him. "I happen to have excellent taste, thank you very much."

Brandon stopped us. His hand left mine and instead wrapped around my waist, pushing us together. He was so much taller than me, I had to tilt my head completely back to meet his eyes. He smirked down at me. "I happen to think so too."

I grinned. "Will you finally kiss me now, Brandon?"

"I'd love to, Scarlett." He smirked and leaned down.

When we were interrupted again, I wanted to scream and kill the entire town– a la Carrie– except, of course, for Brandon. A low voice drawled in a very pathetic Transylvanian accent, "Good evening, my children."

Brandon slowly turned his head and I followed suit. Ahead of us on the path, in the shadows, was my entire family . I nearly started sobbing. "We tried to stop them!" Addy suddenly burst. "We did, but–"

"Silence, minion!" Drake hissed.

I was suddenly extremely, extremely tired. "Drake, stop it." I insisted, breaking free of Brandon's hold. "This isn't funny."

"Who is this 'Drake' you speak of?" Drake asked in his Transylvanian accent, ever the drama queen. He was a fucking hypocrite. When it suited him, he threw a tantrum about his real name but when he wanted to be intimidating, we weren't allowed to call him 'Drake'.

Brandon was looking confused. "You know these freak shows?" He asked me, incredulously.

I shook my head, warily. I eased my hand out of his. It would be easier to take his rejection if he wasn't touching me. "Remember how I told you about my family?"

He understood and gaped. "No way."

"Why don't you introduce us?" Drake murmured.

I turned to my family. "Can you please come into the light first?"

They came. Brandon was staring at everybody, so I figured introductions were in order. "Brandon, these are my siblings." I sighed. "Drake, Lex, Ian, Ron, Cory, Cassie, Addy, Mercy and Bob."

"No, no." Drake silkily said. "Why not use our full names?"

"For what it's worth, I really am sorry." I sighed to Brandon. "But you can't say I didn't warn you." And with that, I commenced actually freaking him out. "Brandon, that's Dracula, Lexus, Damien, Thorne, Corvette, Cassiopeia, Cadillac, Mercedes and, brace yourself, Bob."

For a moment, there was absolute silence. Brandon gaped and said, "Are you serious?"

"Dead serious." Drake said, putting emphasis on the word 'dead' as though giving a hint and smiling evilly.

Brandon whirled to me. "You're shitting me."

"About what?" I sighed. "The weird names, or Bob?"


I sighed. "I wish." I decided to explain. "Damien and Thorne are my real brothers. My dad has a certain fascination with odd names. My dad's brother, Uncle Ralph– who's currently in Africa, living it up– is a little soft in the head. And Uncle Simon has a fascination for cars. And he's called Bob because Uncle Ralph was smashed out of his mind when Bob was born and seemed to find it oddly hilarious. On most days, I agree with him."

"Easy for you to say. You're not the one being ridiculed by everyone." Bob sulkily muttered. "I can't stand it! Everyone else gets a fucked up first name, and because mine is normal, I look like the worst of the lot– what with me being the youngest– and while everyone else gets a normal middle name, I get a fucked up one so that I 'don't feel left out'! It's fucking mental, I tell you."

The truth was that Bob Delphinus had never stood a chance against humiliation at the hands of cruel peers. "Don't curse." I muttered.

Brandon shook his head. "Really?" He asked me.

"Yes." I replied. "Dracula, Damien, Thorne and Bob were the assholes at the theatre and you'll probably recognise Lexus and Corvette from Tony's." Brandon was shaking his head and I knew that was my cue. "Will you guys go home now? You've already ruined my date." I snapped.

Drake's arm fell from where he'd been holding it aloft. "Are you crying?" He asked, sounding appalled.

"No." But the word was a sob.

"Oh, Jesus." All six guys muttered together.

I wiped the tears away. "Just go, okay? I'll meet you at home." They were hesitating. "Just fuck off!" I yelled. They took the hint and beat a hasty retreat, faces down.

There was dead silence after they left. I was avoiding Brandon's eyes, so I didn't know what he was thinking. "Lettie–" His tone was one I had heard a million times better.

"They're my family." I shrugged, become defensive. "And no matter what freak-shows they are, I guess I'll always love them. Family's family, right? And they mean well. They just want to protect me from the heartbreak that they've put numerous girls through."


"But I understand, of course." I doggedly continued. "No guy wants to date a girl with six brothers and a very fucked up home life."


I didn't let him speak, because I knew that if I did, he would make me cry. "So, we can just pretend like this never happened. I won't tell anyone, I promise."


"No, Brandon, please don't say it." I sighed. "I get it."

"Scarlett, will you shut up for a moment?" Brandon suddenly snapped. He grabbed my face and made our eyes clash. "I have something to say now, will you let me speak?" I mutely nodded. He took a deep breath. "I've actually been hiding the truth from the world, but I figure I can tell you now."

"What?" I asked.

"My real name–" He faltered and took another deep breath. "My real name's not Brandon McArthur. My parents thought it was rather funny, but like Bob, I don't agree. Scarlett, the truth is that my name is actually Peregrine Falcon."

I gaped. "Seriously?"

"No, but I was feeling left out with all the weird names." His face broke into a sunny smile, but it quickly faded to seriousness. "Scarlett, I don't care, okay? I don't care that your parents are crazy or that your aunts and uncles are, too. I don't care that you have six brothers, or that your eldest one thinks he's a fictional character. I don't care that you're going to go home and forgive them for ruining our date, or that they don't think I'm good enough for you. I don't care because I don't want to date any of them. It's you I like and I want you. So, as long as you don't really think you're Scarlett O'Hara or Vivien Leigh, I'd like to finally kiss you now."

I did the only thing I could in the face of such hotness. I snaked my arms around his neck, buried my hands in his hair, pulled him down, pushed myself up on my tiptoes and melded our lips together. He attacked me right back, entwining his arms around my waist and hoisting me up. I hooked my legs around his waist, figuring it would give us better access. It did. At first, he stumbled backwards but quickly held me in place, parting my lips and deepening the kiss.

When we broke apart several moments later, both of us were panting. He leaned his forehead against mine. "That was awesome." I murmured. "Can we do it again?"

"Sure." He grinned. "But I have something to ask you first."

My heart thudded more violently because I knew what he was going to ask. "Shoot." I said through my dry mouth.

"You don't really think you're Scarlett O'Hara, do you?"

"Brandon!" I wanted to swat him, but we were too entwined.

"Just kidding." He grinned. "Okay, so, Scarlett, do you think you want to be my girlfriend?" He leaned forward, because the answer was rather obvious, but I stopped him.

"Why do you call me Scarlett?" I asked him curiously. "Everyone else just calls me 'Lettie'."

He shrugged. "I think it's a beautiful name and it seems a shame to shorten it to something as appalling as 'Lettie'."

All I could think about was how so many guys had stared when I had told them my name, or how I hated the nickname 'Lettie' but had gotten stuck with it because Damien had hated to call me 'Scarlett'. And I thought about how I actually, secretly adored my family's weird names but thought that mine was the best.

And then, I attacked him again with my lips. It was a good thing that Brandon McArthur didn't mind me shoving my tongue down his throat, which was, admittedly, mostly because he was too busy doing the same to me.

A/N: I love this one-shot and I adore the characters. In fact, I like it so much that I think I might revisit them later. Anyway, tell me what you think!