A/N: I don't know why I keep doing this. I really need to update some of my other stories rather than adding more stories onto Fictionpress, but I can't help it! This has been sitting in my Doc Manager for nearly two years. I need to do something with it! Anyway, forgive my procrastination, I will get to work on Danny-boy and all my other stories as soon as I can. Anyway, for now, enjoy this new story!

Story - Rules of Life, Love, and Survival

Chapter 1 - New Kids On The Block


Rule #1: ALWAYS OBEY


"Hey, Jackie!"

I froze at the sudden call, feeling my shoulders tense in response to the voice.

A large arm quickly appeared, then proceeded to wrap around my neck and yank my head down, entitling me to a rough noogie on the top of my head, messing up my short, scruffy blonde hair. I struggle weekly, pushing at the arm around my neck, confining me.

The person suddenly let go, leaving me slightly off balance. I shot one hand out to steady myself on a nearby tree, then quickly straightened up and looked down into the face of my older brother, Brian. I had to look down, not because he's short or anything, I'm just really tall.

"Hey, uh," he says in a whisper, sidling up to me dramatically with a hand over the side of his mouth, "You think you could cover for me tonight? You know, tell mom I'm out studying with friends?"

I was raised in multitudes of foster homes and orphanages. In those types of environments, you learn things. How to hide your valuables, how to get food, how to fight.

But the most important thing of all?

How to make life easier.

One of the ways to do that is to always obey.

If someone tells you to clean your room, do it. Arguing is just a waste of time. And you usually get backhanded if you do disobey.

If someone tells you to beat someone up, do it. If you don't, you'll most likely be on the receiving end of a beating yourself.

And if someone tells you to cover for them, do it. Because, odds are, they're doing something bad. And if you don't cover for them, they'll do something bad to you.

So, even though I really didn't want to, I just quietly and obediently said, "Sure, Brian."

Brian gave me a radiant smile and a slap on the back, then quickly ran off to go join his minions - uh, I mean, friends - that were waiting in a car nearby. I silently watch them speed away in Brian's beat-up jeep, then begin walking towards home.

I like walking. It's peaceful, almost hypnotic. You just put one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right, left, right. And hardly anyone ever bothers me when I'm doing it.

I'm over six feet tall, and I'm a pretty intimidating guy. I've got a pretty well built frame, if I do say so myself. I'm not one of those muscle-y, insanely built steroid-using type of guys, but I do enjoy working out at the gym and running whenever I need to vent. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you want to look at it another way) since I'm big, people usually resort to the stereotype "big = dumb."

Now, I'm not a genius or anything, but I'm not stupid either. I've had my share of cases were someone has "dumbed down" their speech when talking to me. Of course, being underestimated does have it's advantages.

...Sometimes.

Pretty soon, I'm in my usual trance, mind empty, the rhythmic crunch, crunch of gravel beneath my feet all I hear as I walk. And all too soon, my feet leave the road and onto a freshly paved sidewalk. I look up and my steps slow in surprise at what I see.

Everything in my neighborhood is pretty much the same as usual (green grass, colorful trees, shiny SUV's, a sprinkler going off in someones yard, and a few children's bikes laying around. Typical suburbia) except for one thing. A large moving van was parked in the empty house right next to ours. Boxes were strewn about the yard, and a couple little kids were running about and shrieking, chasing a large golden retriever.

I gave them a quick glance, then continued on my way to the front door of my house, uninterested. Looks like a new young family moved in. I doubt they had any older kids. I mentally crossed my fingers that the two kids running around wouldn't become an annoyance, then opened the front door to my house and walked in.

I quietly took my shoes off and set them next to the door, out of the way, then attempted to stealthily make my way up the stairs to the second floor. I don't know why I even tried. It's almost impossible to be stealthy with my size.

"Jackie, honey!"

Crap. Caught.

I paste a smile on my face and turn towards the cheerful voice. "Natalie," I said, giving a polite nod.

The voice came from a middle-aged woman with blonde hair and a frilly pink apron standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Her name was Natalie Harper, and she was somewhere in her forties, though she looked younger. Natalie is my mother. Well, my adoptive mother, anyway. She adopted me when I was ten. To this day, I am still grateful for her from saving me from that hell-hole called a foster home.

"Sooooo...How was your day?"

Uh-oh. That was Natalie's I'm-asking-you-a-polite-question-to-get-your-guard-down-so-I-can-get-you-to-do-something-for-me voice.

"Fine," I answer cautiously. Here it comes.

"Great! Hey, Jackie?"

"Yes, Natalie?"

"I need you to do one teensy-weensy little thing for me. Please sweetie?"

No. I really don't want to. I just want to go to my room and listen to this new CD I just bought.

I gave a small nod.

She gave me a blinding smile and I resist the urge to cover my eyes, crouch to the floor, and yell "IT BUUUURNS!"

From out of nowhere, she pulled out a tray filled with chocolate chip cookies (How does she do that?). "Can you take these to the new neighbors? Wouldn't want them to feel unwelcome or anything!"

I sighed, then told her I'd be right back. After dumping my shopping bag onto my bed, I jogged back downstairs, grabbed the cookies, and headed out the door. I squinted a little at the bright sun and walked across the lawn to the new neighbors' house.

Those two kids from earlier were nowhere in sight, but the dog was still out. He cautiously came up to me and started sniffing my offered hand. Deeming me harmless, he waged his tail, licked my hand, and then promptly walked off. I scrunch my nose a little at the dog slobber, then wiped it off on my jeans.

The front door to the house was left wide open, so I knocked on the door frame. Peeking inside, I saw the inside of the house was pretty nice. It looked really wide and spacious, with some stairs leading up to the second floor and boxes spread out on the ground. I heard a few voices deeper into the house yelling something, but I guess no one heard me, so I knocked again, a little louder.

"Hold ON, I'm COMING!" yelled an annoyed feminine voice from upstairs.

I heard someone running down the stairs as a girl my age quickly came into view. She had an annoyed look on her face, but as soon as she saw me, she blinked, stared for a few seconds, then broke out into a flirtatious grin. I gulped. She came up to the door and popped her gum, twirling a strand of bottle blonde hair around her finger.

"Can I help you?" She had a kind of loud voice.

"Uh, yeah. Welcome to the neighborhood," I say, offering her the cookies.

"Oh, how sweet!"

I winced a little as her voice went up a few octaves. She took the offered cookies and then asked, "Do you want to come in?"

Before I could say anything, she grabbed my wrist and yanked me in after her. I blinked, surprised at her strength. I could easily resist her, but I figured it'd be better to just go along, so I allowed her to drag me into the house. She pulled me into what looked like the kitchen, then set the cookies down on the counter.

"So," she said, turning to me, "I'm Crystal. What's your name?"

"I don't think he wants to tell you, meth-head."

I turned towards the new voice. Coming quietly down the stairs was another girl about my age with shoulder-length spiked black, red, orange, and green hair, with smokey gray eyes. She was wearing bright purple and pink plaid mini-skirt with neon orange leggings, a green shirt, and a Hello Kitty armless hoodie. There was an eyebrow ring on her right eyebrow, and different colored piercings all along the shell of her ears. I blinked at the color overload.

And when she reached the bottom of the stairs, allowing me a closer look, I noticed that there was something...off about her. And then, with sudden clarity, I realized what it was.

She - was a he.

A guy.

In a skirt.

How...unusual...

"Shut up, Onyx!" Crystal hissed at the girl - boy - person coming down the stairs.

The girl - er, boy - Onyx - whatever - walked into the kitchen and grabbed a cookie off the tray. He took a bite, then paused, his eyes widening slightly. He turned to me and asked, "Did you make these?"

I shook my head, not bothering to elaborate.

Onyx gave a careless shrug and muttered, "They're good." He suddenly gave me a look, as if he just noticed me. He looked me up and down, and I almost squirm under his scrutiny. "Wow, you're big," he suddenly blurted out.

Yeah, and you're in a skirt. Wanna keep stating the obvious?

"ONYX! My God, learn to shut up! Jeez, you're rude!" Crystal quickly turned to me. "I'm really sorry about him. He doesn't have a filter between his brain and his mouth."

A filter? So what, he just says whatever come to mind? Impossible. Nobody's that...free. Then again, that skirt sure looks...freeing.

"Onyx, Crystal! I need you to help me get the dresser up to the stair-Oh...Um, hello...?"

I looked towards the stairs again (Déjà vu, anyone?). Standing on the bottom step was an older woman, looking at me with wide eyes.

"Can I help you?" she asked politely.

"Mom, this is - um, what's your name?" Crystal turned to me, her eyes questioning.

I squirmed as I suddenly had three pairs of eyes staring at me.

"...Jack."

"Wow, you don't talk much, do ya?" Crystal nudged me in the side with her elbow.

I inconspicuously moved a few inches away from her. I'm not one of those touchy-feely type people. In fact, I hate being touched. Especially by strangers. I don't understand why people don't respect the personal space bubble. Gives me the heebie-jeebies when I have someone right next to me.

I caught Onyx giving me an amused, knowing look. Turning away, I glanced back at the lady on the stairs and saw her sizing me up. She started rubbing her chin, and pursed her lips. I really didn't like the gleam in her eyes.

What have I gotten myself into now?


"Okay, careful, now! N-no, a little to the leeeeeft...Yeah, there ya go!"

I carefully set the dresser on the ground, muscles straining at the weight. I felt my knees pop as I straightened.

"Thanks so much for the help! Since my brother's not here yet, the kids and I have to do most of the unpacking. And, well, Crystal and Onyx aren't much help." Vivian, Onyx and Crystal's mother, gave me a gently pat on my back.

"Hey, I resent that! We've done plenty of things!" Onyx yelled from another room nearby.

"Oh, yeah?" Vivian yelled back, "And what, exactly, have you done?"

"..."

She let out an unlady-like snort at the silence, shaking her head. "Anyway," she continued, "Would you like something to drink?"

I nodded my head, still a little out of breath.

We went downstairs, and Vivian got me some lemonade from a thermos on the counter.

I was about to sit on a nearby stool Vivian offered me, when there was a loud crash, a bunch of banging and screaming from upstairs, followed by simultaneous yells of "MOM!" A few seconds later, crying erupted from somewhere nearby.

"Oh, no, the twins..." Vivian sighed, then excused herself, heading off towards a room where the crying sounded like it was coming from.

Once she was out of sight, I sat there, feeling awkward, not knowing what to do. Pretty soon, though, Onyx came flying down the stairs, closely chased by Crystal.

"GET BACK HERE, YOU BASTARD! YOU BROKE MY FUCKIN' STEREO ON PURPOSE!"

I winced a little at Crystal's shriek.

I jumped out of the way as the two siblings began running around the kitchen island, nearly crashing into me. I stood, helpless, as they kept going around in circles. Vivian came out of the now silent room carrying a small toddler, took one look at the desperate look on my face and the two teens running around, and then turned around and walked right back into the room she had just vacated.

Alarmed, I watch as Crystal finally caught Onyx and took him down, slamming him into the floor. They began throwing wild punches, pulling hair, and hurling insults. I tried to step around them, but gave up that idea when I was kicked in the shin. Not knowing any other way to safely get away, I reached down, grabbed Onyx's hoodie and Crystal's arm, and hauled them both up.

Prying them apart, I held them away from each other as they panted and occasionally made a grab for each other. Vivian came back out, saw me holding Crystal and Onyx apart, and smiled gratefully at me.

"Want a part time job as a babysitter?" she joked, patting my shoulder as she walked past me to stand in front of the teens.

Feeling awkward and not knowing how to respond, I stayed silent, letting out a small breath when she turned her attention away from me.

"Okay," she said, sighing, "What happened?"

Onyx and Crystal both began talking over each other, trying to tell her each of their highly differing versions of the story. Vivian held up her hand, and threatened, "No TV for a month."

Instant silence.

"Crystal, tell me what happened."

"Onyx came into my room, and began messing around with my stereo. I turned away for a few seconds, and next thing I know, my stereo's sitting on the ground, destroyed, by that- by that- ASSHOLE!"

Onyx started to protest, but Vivian held her hand up again, silencing him.

"I'm sure it was an accident, Crystal," Vivian said calmly. Before Crystal could say anything more, Vivian turned to Onyx and demanded, "Apologize to your sister."

"But-" Onyx started.

"Apologize."

Onyx sighed, then sulkily muttered, "Sorry."

"Good. Now go buy Crystal a new stereo."

"WHAT?" Onyx yelled, his eyes wide with disbelief.

"You better go buy it today before it gets too late. I'm not sure when the stores close around here." Vivian began walking up the stairs, her voice trailing after her. "And be back by dinner!"

We all stood in silence, looking towards the stairs. But then Onyx seemed to realize I was still holding onto his hoodie and jerked out of my grasp. A little embarrassed, I quickly let go of Crystal's arm.

Crystal turned to Onyx and, with a smirk, said, "You better get me a new stereo. In good condition. And if you pick a crappy one, mom'll just make you return it and get me a better one." And with that, Crystal turned and left.

Leaving me alone.

With Onyx.

Who was still in a skirt.

Can someone say awkward...


"Well, here we are..." I said, standing proudly in front of the store.

"This is where we're supposed to find a stereo? You know, the stereo has to actually work, right? And be from this century." Onyx gave me a dubious look, hands on his hips and a pout on his face. You know, for a guy, he looks pretty cute...

I shook my head, wondering what I was thinking when I offered to drive Onyx around. And what was he thinking to agree to come? We barely knew each other. But, for some reason, I couldn't help but...look at him. I mean, he's wearing a skirt! I've never been so-so intrigued with someone before.

Then again, his attitude kind of leaves something to be desired...

A familiar face suddenly appeared in the old pawn shop's front window, making Onyx visibly jump. The face disappeared, then the door to the shop opened, issuing a little tinkle from the bell on the door.

"JACKIE! Oh, my god! I haven't seen you in forever!" The woman who opened the door jumped up and threw her arms around my neck, locking her long legs around my waist, clinging on for dear life.

"Sunshine, I saw you less than three hours ago..." I said, desperately trying to unlatch her from me.

"Really?" came the muffled reply, "It seems like it's been months!"

After a few more seconds of struggling, I gave up being gentle and just grabbed Sunshine by the collar of her shirt and yanked her off. She gave a strangled cry and quickly let go, setting her feet on the ground and quickly catching her balance.

"How rude!" she said with a pout.

I gave a noncommittal grunt and straightened my wrinkled shirt. "I need a stereo, Sunshine," I told her, "A newer model, if you have one."

"Hmm," Sunshine muttered with one hand on her chin, "I think I know just what you're looking for." She was about to turn around and head back into the shop when she finally noticed Onyx standing behind me. "OH MY GOD, Jackie, who's your little girlfriend?" Sunshine leaped over towards Onyx and grabbed his hand, then began furiously shaking it up and down in an enthusiastic handshake.

I could hear his teeth rattling.

"HiI'mSunshineJackie'sfriendwhat'syourname?" Sunshine said to Onyx, speaking so fast she was almost incoherently. She suddenly squinted, and then made a wide "O" with her mouth. "Wait...are you...a GUY?"

Onyx jerked his hand out of her grasp and glared at her, stubbornly silent. Sunshine, for once, seemed at a loss for words. Before it got anymore awkward, I gently prodded her in the shoulder and said, "The stereo...?"

Sunshine nodded her head in small, quick jerks and gave me a grateful look. She quickly stepped past me into the store, and I looked back at Onyx.

I felt a little bad for him. He noticed me looking at him and narrowed his eyes, making me wonder if I had just imagined the flash of hurt I had seen in his eyes, then stalked past me into the store. I sighed, then followed.

"Well, these are all the stereos I have," Sunshine said, waving to a shelf with five various kinds of stereos on them.

"Which one is the cheapest?" Onyx asked.

Comfortable now that she was talking business, Sunshine began describing the stereos, their prices, and a bunch of other stuff. I tuned out after a few seconds and began walking around the shop.

The shop was a normal pawn shop, with shelves packed full of random stuff; skates, bowling pins, clothes, old books, and a bunch of other little curios and nick-nacks. I had to be especially careful of where I walked. Sunshine had told me that if I knocked over one more thing, I was out of here for good.

I heard Sunshine yell my name, so I headed back over to the stereos.

"Onyx picked that one," Sunshine said, pointing to one of the stereos. When I just stared at her, she made an impatient gesture and ordered, "Well, pick it up! Take it over to the register!"

I sighed, but obediently complied. Once the stereo was paid for and put in a box, and after I promised to come visit Sunshine again, we finally left the store. I set the box in the bed of my old Ford pick-up truck and then opened the truck door for Onyx. He gave me an strange look as he jumped into the passenger seat and put his seat belt on. I ran over to the drivers side and got in, then started the car and began the short drive home.

"Thanks for the ride, and...stuff..." Onyx muttered as I pulled in front of his house. Surprised, I looked over at him. His face was mostly hidden by his hair, but the little that I could see was a light red. He quickly opened the door and jumped out of the truck, nearly tripping over his feet.

I slowly got out of the truck and watched as Onyx ran into the house, his short skirt waving in the breeze, leaving the front door wide open.

I reached into the back of the truck and heaved the box out, then made my way to the open front door. As screaming suddenly erupted from inside, I didn't know whether to feel amused, scared, or annoyed at the new neighbors.

But one thing's for sure, I thought as I saw a pair of panties fly across the room from the direction of the stairs, things are going to be a lot more interesting around here.

Although, I still don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.


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