1.

I'll admit now that as a sixteen-year-old girl coming home from school to a nine-hour wait before her parents returning home from work, my mind was more focused on ways to pass the time than the possibility that there could be people inside. Actually, it's pretty safe to say that as I jammed the key in the lock, that was the last thing on my mind.

My school bag was uncomfortably heavy on my shoulder, and resting painfully on the bruise that yesterdays load of books had caused on the walk home. Still, I'd always been good with dealing with pain, so I paid it no mind as my gloved hand shoved the key in the lock and twisted it whilst shaking. School had ended early, when the first of the year's winter snow had fallen with the such a speed that it had been ankle-deep within an hour.

I really hoped that we didn't get snowed in, again.

Still, I did notice that something wasn't quite right when I stepped into the house. I could have sworn that my mum had some kind of OCD that meant that the doormat was always at exactly 90' when we left the house. It was the first thing she did when she woke up, and the last thing she did before going to work and, in turn, bed. As I stepped onto it, I couldn't help but notice that it was at more of a 120' angle than anything else.

That was the first clue.

The second was the fact that I could smell hot chocolate and pancakes. Yep, that's right, whoever had snuck into my house during my absence had taken the liberty of making themselves hot chocolate and pancakes. I could see the pancakes piled on the table in the kitchen through the empty doorframe (my dad had managed to yank it off its hinges the week before, and my mum had decided she preferred the room 'open' and had never replaced it,) and the hot chocolate in the tall mugs that were rarely ever used.

I did the only thing that a sensible teenage girl would do, and grabbed the beautiful sword, that had been as far as I could remember ornamental up until this point, off its stand on the wall where my mother kept it and took a few moments to adjust to the weight of the metal. It was around then that I was glad that my mother had taken me to pretty much every martial arts or weaponry class available, and that I'd excelled in all of them. It meant that with the sword in hand, and maybe even without it, I was a pretty formidable opponent.

I left my trainers on my feet; although they meant that it would be harder to make my footsteps silent, I also knew that it meant that it hurt a lot more for the person on the receiving end of any kicks I gave out, and a lot less for me. Call me selfish.

Honestly though, the pancakes and hot chocolate had clued me in that this wasn't exactly a normal break-in, but I'll still admit to being mildly surprised to hear the upstairs showers running. It was around that point that I started going over the past few days, searching my memories for the news that relatives were going to be arriving.

Unfortunately for my paranoia, no such conversation had taken place.

Which meant, since all five showers were running, that there was multiple people of undisclosed identities on the upstairs two floors of my house. Wielding the sword carefully, and keeping my weight balanced on the balls of my feet, I headed slowly forward- my back to one of the walls to ensure that no-one could sneak up on me.

I knew that there was someone stood to the left of the stairs, beyond the corner at the top. Walking towards me, by the sounds of things. I decided on the tactic of ambush, and steadied myself at the top of the stairs; laying the sword by my feet, just out of sight, but not out of reach, and waited for the footsteps to be close enough. When I deemed that they were, I spun, and leapt- taking the stranger by surprise and sending him careening to the floor.

"What the hell!" The teenage guy before me cried, as I pinned him to the floor- trying to ignore the fact that he was wearing nothing but one of our white towels around his waist, and a second around his shoulders- I presumed that he'd been drying his still wet hair with it.

"What do you mean, what the hell?" I snapped. "You are in my house, and you are a complete stranger." The guy frowned for a moment, and then started laughing- leaving me more confused than ever.

"I take it your mum never got around to calling, huh? I'm Darren, one of your Aunt's adopted kids." His accent was vaguely American, in a way that I didn't quite understand.

"Aunt..." I trailed off.

"Aunt Tori? Your mum's sister?" There was a long pause, before I finally recalled my mother actually saying that she had a sister called Tori, and then I rolled off Darren and held out my hand. He laughed before shaking it and saying,

"Is this how you greet all your guests?" He said, mock serious.

"Only those that are stealing the hot water." I answered before climbing to my feet and offering him a hand- he took it, and re-hitched his towel as he stood to make sure he covered himself. "I see you've made yourself at home, how many of you are there?"

"I see, and there's actually six of us. Only two of us are actually biologically your cousins, though, the rest of us were adopted before they were born."

I nodded, and then, suddenly remembering that he was still in a towel said, "Well, I'm gonna go and change. Hopefully when I see you in a few moments we'll both be fully dressed, and neither of us will be tackling the other to the floor."

He nodded, grinning, and headed towards one of the spare rooms as I headed to my own.

It had been a strange day so far, and I had a feeling that it was only going to get stranger. After all, my mum hadn't spoken to either of her sisters in well over seventeen years, so why were Aunt Tori's kids now staying at our house? And since I'd clearly never met this Darren guy, why did he look so familiar?

And why the hell was this bothering me so much?