Author's Note: Hello again everyone! I'm back (not like I left, but you know what I mean lol)! Alright so I'll try to keep this short. Before I start to get hellfire because of some of the characters I wrote, I'll just say now that if you're uncomfortable with homosexual relationships, then this story probably isn't for you. I wanted to write a multi-level love story that showed the struggles of more than just the typical relationship, and this is what I came up with. I hope you guys love it! If you don't, well, to each their own :) Anyways, happy reading! And like always, thank you so much for your support!

Chapter 1: The Beast Man, Alex

I want to tell you a story, but not just any ordinary story, and not just one singular story. It won't be a tale about knights and princesses, about dragons and warlocks, or even about the angsty period of teenage romance. No, this story won't be any of that. This story will be about a house full of outcasts who, despite all the odds, consider each other family. This will be a tale about love and hatred, struggle and luxury, friendship and heartache. Mostly, though, it will be a story about six whackadoos who somehow manage to function in everyday life.

Ah, yeah, sorry to get you brimming with excitement over how extravagant this story would be. I just wanted to ruffle your feathers a bit. The truth is the story I'm about to tell is, for the most part, about a house full of six dysfunctional roommates and their daily lives dealing with each other in their own sorts of relationships. Each person has their strong points, their weak points, their secrets and their eccentricities, but each person also has their own struggle to overcome. It's just… none of them are really competent in the areas of love, life, or friendship. But, I feel I'm getting ahead of myself. I suppose first, as the author and narrator, I should begin the introductions.

First up is Alex. That name is short for Alexander Akihiko Krauss. Why such an odd mix of nationalities in one name, you might ask? Well, let me tell you. Alex was born to a German father—a tall man with blonde hair, burning-yet-icy blue eyes, and a penchant for good beer. His Japanese mother, on the other hand, was a quiet, subservient woman with straight, silk-like black hair and soul searching eyes who was hell-bent on the honor of her family. The strange couple, though completely different in almost every way, managed to birth and raise someone who was quite possibly the most terrifying looking man on the face of the planet.

Alex was doomed from the start with the face he was given out of his parents genetics. He had his father's height and his mother's quiet demeanor and silky black hair, but with the sharp slant of the eye from his Japanese mother and the icy hot intensity of his father's burning gaze, Alex carried a look of complete and total need to bathe in the blood of his enemies. His brutal—yet unintentional—glare was enough to drive nearly everyone away. His father's family believed he was the spawn of the devil, and his mother's family thought him to be a demon in their grandson's/nephew's/cousin's body. Of course, neither of his parents believed that utter nonsense, and both raised him as though he were the most precious thing in the world.

Still, despite all the love and tender care he had at home, Alex hardly—if ever—smiled or spoke a word. It wasn't that he was saddened by everyone being frightened of him, or that he believed himself to be the monster other's thought he was. No, it was none of that. To be quite blunt, Alex just didn't have an interest in people. He cared very little for the names he was called, or the ever-changing drama of the classroom, or the girls who would be big-hearted enough to try to talk to him. Even though this lack of interest served him well in not getting hurt, it only made him seem more frightening. Though, I guess, when you look at it from his perspective, that was just all around easier for him.

Yes, Alex enjoyed his time as a loner, even at a young age. However, that time was cut unreasonably short once sunny afternoon in the first grade when his mother received a strange phone call that would inevitably change young Alex's life forever.

"Alex-kun," his mother said in her thick Japanese accent, bending down to pat the unusually tall boy even though she was wearing her traditional kimono. "That phone call was from Miss Pierce-san, the kind and gentle woman who helped us buy our house. Do you remember?"

Alex gave his mother the same blank, uninterested stare as he always did.

"She has requested your help. Miss Pierce-san has a daughter who will be joining your class tomorrow. Her name is Katherine. Will you be her guide, Alex-kun?" she asked.

His mother's smile gave the illusion of Alex having a choice, but he knew better. In her eyes you could see that this wasn't a request, but a demand. It was the honorable thing to do to accept, and so, without hesitation, Alex nodded once in acknowledgement.

What Alex expected to find the next morning as he wandered into the colorful first grade classroom was a shy little girl who would only need his help in finding her seat and hanging up her backpack. Instead what he found was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen.

The girl had silky straight hair, like his mother's, but it was the vibrant, golden color of the setting sun. In some sort of enchanting way, the top of her head was covered in a bright blonde color, but as it went on it changed from bright blonde to pale brunette. It hung like a ragged mess in her face and was knotted all over the place. Here and there were bow clips and half-tied ribbons that made it clear she let a toddler do it, and even though it got her the disapproving looks and whispers of her new classmates, she still had the biggest, warmest grin on her face. Her skin wasn't as pale as Alex's, but it was also dotted with a light sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks. If you looked close enough, you could see the fading bluish, yellowish mark of an old, healing bruise around her strangely color-changing eye. You'd look at her one moment and her eyes would be a deep, dark gray, and the next moment they'd shift to a light amber or a dark blue, or even a deep green. Her clothes were messy and disheveled, and her shirt had chocolate pudding stains on it that still looked fresh. The pudding, Alex concluded, had to come from the open lunchbox the girl clutched in her hands in front of her legs as she rocked back and forth on her heels, things falling out all over the place. Her backpack was also fully open, like she forgot to zip it shut or something, and the only thing she carried in it was a big book of classic fairy tales. At first glance anyone would have mistaken her for a complete walking disaster, but not Alex. What he saw first, before the hair, before the freckles and fading bruise, before the messy clothes, was the light in her eyes. The first word that came to his mind when he saw her was "pure".

That word never left him in all the time he spent with her. Alex quickly learned that Katherine, who preferred to be called Kitty, was something close to a pixie. She was clumsy, air-headed, and had a beyond-difficult time grasping reality—mainly because she constructed her reality to be based around the fairy tales she loved so much—and was therefore in desperate need of a constant caretaker. No, little Kitty Pierce couldn't tie her shoes, or hang up her backpack, or dress herself, or find her way anywhere, or even eat her lunch without making a mess. But she was also kind, so unbearably kind, that Alex was quickly pulled into her strange sort of magnetism before he had time to blink. Not once did Kitty hesitate to smile at him, to hug him, and to hold his hand. For the first time in Alex's entire life, he found someone who saw right through his unfortunate face and grasped tightly onto his unconcerned, barely-beating little heart.

Really, that was all the gargoyle-like child needed. He spent almost all of his free time with Kitty, helping her get through the day as normally as possible, and that made him something close to happy. Alex would tie her shoes for her, hang her backpack, take her to and from the bathroom so she wouldn't get lost, brush the knots out of her hair, clean the mud off of her clothes and hands and face, and would even make quick, short-lived phone calls to her parents when she managed to hurt herself while Alex wasn't looking. Kitty was unfit to get through life by herself, Alex decided. The normal things that you or I would consider part of an everyday routine, Kitty couldn't grasp the idea of. But, that was fine with Alex. He didn't mind helping her out when he was with her, because in a very short time, he discovered why his newfound friend was the way she was. Kitty couldn't function in what we would consider 'normal' activities because she wasn't meant to do them. Alex learned, as he watched her like a first-grade guardian of a fair and somewhat ditzy maiden, that Kitty Pierce was meant only to dance.

The way she twirled and twisted, the way her feet and hands and limbs all synchronized in such a glorious manner, the way her smile shone a thousand times brighter when she spun and leaped to the music only she could hear… those were the things that captivated Alex completely. To see her shine so brilliantly in her self-made joy made Alex to feel that she was someone worth his time. But really, more than anything in the world—more than playing on the playground or going to gym class or eating hot lunch at school—Alex just liked being around Kitty. She was like the sun for him, and he felt that he could be the gravity around her that kept her life stable.

Alex's feelings of wanting to just be near her changed into feelings of needing to protect her one day during recess in second grade. His mother, who was a terrifying woman when it came to her precious son, managed to make it to where he and Kitty Pierce had the same classes all throughout elementary school. That, however, wasn't the case for their other classmates. When second grade came around, so did a whole new batch of faces. It was usual for everyone to avoid Alex, given his terrifying looks. Kitty, however, was much easier to target. This little fact was something Alex never considered, since he and Kitty were usually always together and everyone was afraid to approach them because of him. This day, though, when Alex had to leave Kitty during recess for a bathroom break, some of the classroom boys came along to lead away and pick on the girl who still couldn't walk down the hall by herself.

"Are you stupid?" one child asked.

"Yeah, are you re-tar-ded?" another one joined in.

Kitty, in her usual air-headed way, put her finger to her chin and smiled up at the sky. "Mommy says I'm special, like an angel. But I think I'm special like the magic fairies have."

"Fairies?" one of the boys asked in confusion.

The first boy chuckled, sauntering up to her casually. With a mean snicker, he shoved little Kitty Pierce against a wall.

"Shut up, fairy girl! You're not special! You're just dumb!"

"Yeah! You're dumb!"

"Dumb fairy girl!"

At a time like this, it would be expected that most little kids would cry and run away. Kitty, however, was not like most little kids. She didn't quite grasp that she was being made fun of and bullied. She thought it was some sort of game, and as the taunting turned into a strange musical chant, Kitty hopped around to their insults as though she were dancing to their off-beat rhythm. Alex, on the other hand, knew right away what they were doing the moment he spotted them. That was the first time Alex felt anything other than disinterest or, when he was near Kitty, a slight sense of belonging. For this, he felt rage.

Unfortunately for him, the boys who surrounded poor (but not really) Kitty Pierce had felt his murderous intent from nearly ten yards away, and spotted him and ran before he could beat them into the hot asphalt. He slowed his fifty mile-an-hour sprint towards her to a steady trot once the perpetrators left, glaring at them with all of his concentrated fury as he did. Once he reached the girl he felt so much for so suddenly, his fists were still shaking and his jaw was still tight. Alex couldn't look at the girl yet, as he was too busy within his own mind on how he would silently assassinate the boys without being noticed.

"Alex?" Kitty's sweet, heart-melting voice asked. "Hey, Alex?"

The boy whirled around, the heat still blazing in his icy blue eyes, as it slowly dawned on him that with such a scary face and an even scarier emotion boiling inside, he would probably look terrifying even to Kitty. So, as was his first sort-of clear thought, Alex tried to counter his scary expression by doing something he couldn't remember doing before. Smiling.

Kitty's then-hazel eyes looked as though she were off in la-la land at first. Then, as the image of Alex Krauss, the scariest, biggest kid in school smiling down at her sunk in, she had no choice but to throw her hands over her mouth to cover up the shriek.

Instantly Alex took this action as her way of unintentionally telling him he's more horrifying when he smiles, so without a second thought he quickly melded his face back into his I-couldn't-care-less expression and said, "I'm sorry for scaring you."

"Pfft!" Kitty giggled, stomping rapidly on the ground in front of him, like she couldn't hold in her excitement. "You look like a bunny!" the girl cried through her knitted finger mask.

Alex was a bit taken aback, and more than a little confused at her statement. "A… a bunny?"

"Your teeth! They're like bunny teeth! They make you look cute!" Kitty giggled.

The tense boy quickly pressed his fingers to his lips, feeling his teeth just beneath the soft flesh. Alex had no interest in mirrors, you see, and keeping track of his ever-changing appearance was something he could never bring himself to care about. That's why, on this particular day, Alex was shocked to realize that the two front teeth he had lost three months ago had grown into large and unbecoming adult teeth. That's also why, from that point on, the girl named Kitty called her terrifying-yet-indomitably-loyal companion… Bunny.

And so, from that fateful meeting in the first grade, to the life-changing realization in the second grade, Alex vowed to himself that he would always stay by the girl named Kitty's side, and had become her protector, care-taker, and ever-present companion.

Now, back to the present day, where we start our story on a very average morning within the House of Hearts.

"Don't you fucking tell me who I can and can't flirt with, you little shit!"

"I never said any of that. I just called you a whore. Because you are. And little people shouldn't call others little. It's absurd."

"What?! Are you calling me little now?!"

"You're the only person I know who's just barely 5 feet!"

Ah, yes. An average morning in the House of Hearts. It had been two years since Alex and Kitty rented out rooms from the mansion-esque house that belonged to the occupant of the master suite, Kim Lawrence, and only six months since Kim's girlfriend, Nelly Villanueva moved into that suite with her. Since day one of Nelly's arrival, most mornings have been much the same. Though, we'll get into their intense relationship in the next coming chapters. For now, let's focus on Alex.

Since the first grade, Alex's face and form had only grown in the terror-inducing department. He was entirely too tall, standing at 6'7, and with the naturally lean genes of his mother, the towering frame of his father, and the body-building tendencies of his hobby of kick-boxing, Alex tended to look less human and more… like a golem, I guess you could say. If his face was bad as a child, the loss of his baby fat made it worse. His face had rigid lines and his eyes sunk in slightly, making it look like darkness just exuded from his soul. And, of course, since he didn't care about how frightened people were of him, he didn't try to fix his permanent scowl, either. Still, he grew tired of suspicious persons reports being filed against him every morning when he went to jog before the sun came up, so he started wearing hooded jackets and kept his head down. Being questioned by visibly shaking police was uninteresting and time consuming. After all, Alex's mornings were usually very busy.

He started by washing his and Kitty's laundry on alternating days—the roommates had to come up with some sort of schedule so that they all could use the washer and dryer without fights breaking out and whole loads of clothes mysteriously vanishing. If there was no laundry, then Alex would start with laying out Kitty's clothes for the day, as well as packing her work bag. Then, once that was all settled, he would take his two mile jog along the coast in the sand, climb up the cliff at the edge of the beach, and sprint home as fast as he could. You would think he was training for the Spartan Race or something, but no. The guy just liked using his body. Anyway, once he came home he would shower quickly before everyone else used up the hot water, and by the time he was done getting dressed in his white t-shirt and guard pants, the rest of the house would be awake and causing chaos wherever they stepped. If Ferdinand wasn't too busy playing with his boyfriend Tucker first thing in the morning, then he would have already destroyed the kitchen with his extravagant and unmatchable exotic morning meals. It used to be that Ferdinand would make breakfast for the whole house and everyone would eat peacefully together, but since Nelly moved in and the tornado that was her and Kim's relationship erupted each day, breakfast became more of a take-what-you-can-and-go sort of situation.

That worked fine for Alex, though, because then he could spend extra time in making lunches for him and Kitty. His fickle cohort developed a strange taste over the years, which didn't surprise the people who knew her in the least, especially Alex. It did, however, limit who Kitty would accept food from. Since she, herself, was virtually unable to make her own food, the task—like most everything else—was left up to her precious friend, Bunny.

And this, everyone, was exactly what Alex a.k.a Bunny was doing on this particularly average morning in the House of Hearts.

He had already finished with the morning laundry, the morning run, and the morning shower, so all that was left for him to do was to equip himself with the only apron in the house—which happened to be Tucker and Ferdinand's fetish apron that looked like a loin cloth on Alex because of his massive size, complete with heaps of pink and glittery frills, bows, and bedazzled lettering that read "Love Slave" with a heart on the end—pull the ingredients from the fridge, and get the lunches made quickly before the battle between Nelly and Kim migrated to the kitchen.


"Fuck you, Kim! Just stay in your little hell hole for all I care!" Nelly hollered from down the hallway.

Ah, well, I suppose there was no avoiding the battle for Alex this time. Nelly, the newest of the roommates, had a temper as short as her height. She was a petite Filipino girl with a quick tongue and the uncanny ability to worm her way into anyone's business, no matter how unwelcomed she was. Her moods were known to change as often as the weather in Florida, but for the most part she was fiercely independent and entirely unique. And, even though she had the nasty habit of getting into brutal fights with her girlfriend, there was nothing on the face of the earth that Nelly wouldn't do for the people she loved. Well, maybe except for not sticking her nose where it didn't belong.

"I can't believe her!" Nelly growled as she stomped into the kitchen and dining area. Clearly she was talking to Alex, but she spoke in such a way that, if he wasn't listening, she could play it off like she was just talking to herself. "I work my ass off at the hospital six days a week and she gets mad because I talk to the cute orderly? What the fuck does she do all day, besides hole herself up in her room and write lord knows what?! Argh! She pisses me off!"

Nelly waited for a moment to see if Alex would respond, or at least make some sort of movement to let her know he was listening. Alex, though, couldn't possibly care less about her trivial dilemma. All Alex really wanted was to make the lunches and get on with his day, though he was quickly coming to realize that today, like most days, wouldn't hold such fortune for him.

Once Nelly got the hint that she wasn't going to be noticed, despite being not even ten feet away from the guy, she decided to change her tactic and directly involve him in their one-sided conversation. With a defeated sigh, Nelly pulled up a bar stool and sat at the island, laying her upper half across it lazily with her head resting on her outstretched arm.

"I'm hungry. Make me some of whatever you're making, would you, big guy?" Nelly said, peeking up ever-so slightly to see if he was paying attention this time around.

In any other circumstance Alex would have easily ignored her and gone about his business. However, by request of Kitty, he was honor-bound to answer whatever direct questions came from his roommates. Meaning that Kitty felt he was too cold to the people they lived with, and he should at least try to not scare them off.

"No," Alex answered bluntly in his deep, almost booming voice.

It's not as though Nelly expected him to comply. He rarely does. To everyone besides Kitty, Alex was like some massive, protective gargoyle that did the bare minimum in human interaction and only involved himself when someone was about to get hurt. This part of him Nelly knew well, because most of the time his gargoyle instincts only really erupted due to her and her sudden and nearly always predictable blood lust towards Kim.

So, since she didn't get the amazingly stimulating conversation she was looking for, she once again decided to change her tactic. This time she would try getting closer, getting in his way, and getting his attention. With her anger gradually melting away and her intense curiosity taking hold, Nelly once again wormed her way into a place she didn't belong, forcing herself in Alex's working area and effectively blocking him from the utensil drawer. She leaned backwards against the counter, resting on her elbows as she judgingly eyed the food the gigantic man was preparing and (sort of) patiently waited.

Alex, being the uncaring and uninterested creature that he was, paid her no attention. He continued on with cleaning the cucumber for Kitty's sandwich, carefully peeling off the crusts of the rye bread she loved, and painting on the honey mustard the way Kitty liked it to be.

Nelly, who lost what little patience she had, groaned and let her head fall backwards, saying, "Kitty eats the weirdest stuff! Where is she? Why isn't she making her own food?"

"The answer is simple, senorita," a velvety, almost royal sounding voice saturated in a heavy Spanish accent answered.

As if to add more uninteresting background noise to Alex's busy morning, Ferdinand and Tucker emerged from their brightly colored room together, hand in hand, like the inseparable pair that they were.

"Miss Kitty only got tastes for Alex's food," Tucker finished for his lover, his own southern down-home accent vibrantly contrasting against Ferdinand's rich Spanish one.

It was no secret to anyone within the House of Hearts that Ferdinand and Tucker were prominent members of the gay community, and they had no problems expressing that… within the house. It was rare to find them apart, but when they were together they always let off this air that made it seem like they were two seconds away from jumping each other right where they stood. Perhaps it was the fact that Tucker and Ferdinand enjoyed more than anything to dress up in new fetish-ware each day, and that fetish-ware wasn't usually anything decent. Though, to be totally honest, walking in on the two in the midst of an awfully erotic make-out session was just something everyone in the House of Hearts grew used to. So maybe it wasn't the sensual outfits and extravagant role-playing. They really were just addicted to each other.

Not much was known about Ferdinand, other than he came from Spain and had the touch of the gods when it came to making food. He looked like a prince, but he always had a charming, humble smile on his face that made him seem more grounded than what people would perceive for royalty. Tucker, on the other hand, was born and bred in the southern states on a large farm where the three main exports were apples from the orchard, corn from the field, and pigs that ate about half of the apples and corn his family produced. He made it clear to everyone that he and his father didn't see eye to eye—meaning his father was so homophobic that it made him physically ill whenever Tucker wore anything remotely close to the color pink—and that Tucker was hell bent on leading a life that would give his father a heart attack. He and Ferdinand met on an international dating site, three months later Ferdinand came to visit, and about two days into his vacation they decided to be together forever, which resulted in the two of them eloping and finding their way into the House of Hearts.

Alex didn't care for them, like he didn't care for most people, but he trusted them when they were with Kitty, and therefore he accepted them. It wasn't that he didn't accept Kim and Nelly, it was just that the two of them often get so wrapped up in themselves that, if they were on Kitty Duty when he wasn't around, Kitty would often end up in some sort of mess that Alex would inevitably have to clean up.

Today the two men were dressed up in what could only be described as the traditional bad-doctor-and-naughty-nurse scenario. Tucker, being the smaller and daintier of the two, wore the white spandex nurses outfit that was clearly meant for women, and Ferdinand wore what looked to be an authentic set of scrubs that were about ten sizes too small for him, slightly altered to better fit his frame and look more sexual (i.e. the pants are now booty-shorts and the shirt looks more like a bikini top), with a white lab coat and stethoscope for added effect.

Nelly lifted her head and looked the two over, forgetting about Alex's inability to pay attention to her and focusing on what caught her eye at the moment. And that just happened to be the set of scrubs Fernando was wearing.

"Those are my scrubs, aren't they?" Nelly asked in a flat, angry tone.

"Aye, mi ascua! Though I had to alter them, since you are so very tiny," Ferdinand answered with a brilliant smile and a little spin, just to rub it in a little.

"Don't he look absolutely delicious, Nel? Mm-mm-mm! I could just… sweet Lord I can't even say!" Tucker spouted, clinging to his exotic lover in a fit of passion.

"You guys are so gross sometimes. And stop taking my stuff! How much do you think scrubs cost?" Nelly demanded.

"Don't listen to her, guys. Nelly's in a sour mood because I called her out on her shameful behavior."

As if Nelly's attitude wasn't darkening enough from her scrubs being cut to pieces, her nemesis of the moment decided to appear and crowd the kitchen area even further.

Kim was mostly an enigma, sort of like Ferdinand, except she made an effort to be that way. All anyone knew was that Kim was a writer, and that she was exceptionally wealthy, and she had absolutely no interest in anything other than her writing and Nelly. She made it clear to each person as they moved in that her office was not to be entered, and that she worked at night and slept throughout the day. She wore big wire-rimmed glasses that blurred out most of her facial features, and if the glasses weren't enough to keep her appearance a mystery, her messy hair and long, unmanaged bangs hung in her face like thick, mysterious curtains. Sometimes she gave a glint of herself when she wore her hair up, but it was never enough to see anything above the nose. The only person in the house who really knew what she looked like was Nelly.

The enigma that was Kim, as per her usual behavior, entered the kitchen area with her notebook in hand, scribbling as she walked without even the slightest hesitation. She was always writing something in that book, though no one knew what, and to see her without it was a sure sign of the coming apocalypse. Even during the rage-fueled fights between her and Nelly, Kim could hardly be bothered to look up from her notebook as she cleverly insulted her lover.

She took a seat at the barstool that Nelly had just left behind, laying her notebook down and making a small movement with her head that suggested she glanced up at her surroundings. The slight notion of interest only ended in her writing down more notes in her book, as though no one else was there.

"Oh look. My asshole girlfriend decided to show her grungy face," Nelly announced dryly, standing upright from against the kitchen counter to cross her arms over her chest.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk Nelly!" Fernando intervened, setting his fist on his hip in a scolding mother sort of way. "You must be kinder to your lover! She is, how you say…"

"Precious?" Tucker suggested, snuggling up to the exotic man.

"Aye! Gracias, mi corazon! And what a precious lover you are," Fernando cried, turning to the proud and love-struck Tucker to lift his chin for what was sure to be a passionate kiss.

"Ugh," Nelly sneered.

"Huh. Too bad you're too busy being a lying harlot to take his expert advice, mi amore," Kim said sarcastically.

Nelly growled and flew forward, slamming her open palms on the island counter as if to get Kim's attention—which gave Alex the perfect chance to get into the utensil drawer she was blocking so he could get the chopping knife he needed—and shouted, "Where the fuck do you get off calling me a lying harlot? Huh? I've been nothing but loyal to your infuriating ass ever since we—"

"Oooh, infuriating. Such a big word for you."

That was it. They all felt it. They felt the shift in the air, the static in the energy change to a full blown electrical storm. Kim had gone too far.

Alex, who had been an unfortunate bystander in this whole thing, let out a sigh to himself and put down the knife he was finally able to acquire, mentally preparing himself to play his part.

Nelly snapped, letting out her signature battle cry that rattled the dishes in the cupboards, as she tensed her body in anticipation of attack. Just as she was rearing to let out all of her boiling anger on the uncaring Kim—who never bothered to look up from her notebook during this whole endeavor—Alex spun around, swooped his arm under Nelly's torso, and lifted her into a deadlock hold against his side before she had the chance to scratch her girlfriend's eyes out. It was all so smooth and quick that you would think Alex was part ninja. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Like I mentioned earlier, this sort of thing happened a lot. Enough, in fact, for the entire house to know when and where they should be and what they should do in the event that Nelly's battle cry was unleashed. Alex's job was to restrain her. Everyone else's job was to… well… not make her more mad.

To Alex, who was easily five times Nelly's size, the small girl with the blinding rage felt like a tiny animal trying to escape his grasp. She kicked and clawed and scratched and even tried to bite at him, cursing him in her native Filipino tongue and promising the most painful of deaths onto anyone who held her back. None of this affected Alex in the least, though. He played his part, and now he could go back to cutting up cucumbers one-handed with the same elegance and skill he would have had with two.

"I'm going to kill her! I'm going to fucking kill her!" Nelly screeched, wriggling around like a confused hurricane that didn't know where to cause the most destruction.

"Yes, yes. We know," Kim answered lazily, scribbling some more in her notepad.

Ferdinand and Tucker had already separated and prepared themselves for the usual gentle scolding they would have to give to Kim for being so antagonistic the moment they felt the air shift. The two looked at each other with their saddened here-we-go-again expressions, then at the raging Nelly with their thank-the-higher-powers-for-Alex expressions, then at Kim with their which-lecture-should-we-use-this-time expressions. Together, like a well-oiled machine, Tucker and Ferdinand took up the barstools next to Kim, both leaning in towards her and boring holes into the sides of her head until she stopped scribbling.

"She started it," Kim said plainly.

"Miss Kim, sweetie, you got to try to be… gentler with your woman. I mean, look at her. She looks like a wild fox in a chicken coup," Tucker said in his sweet southern way, glancing over at the, er, wild fox.

"Nelly is the fire to your frost, seniorita. Your cold only serves to make her burn hotter. Besides, does she not act as though she is so deeply in love with you?" Ferdinand asked, his heavy Spanish accent painting the allusion for her.

"You can't expect me to take you seriously when you're wearing… that," Kim replied, ignoring pretty much everything they've said.

"You JUST got up my ass about their outfits two fucking minutes ago!" Nelly screamed.

"Because you were being a bitch about it," Kim retorted, reaching again for her pen to continue writing.

At least until this point the mind-numbing noise that Alex's housemates produced came from one, maybe two people at a time. But with that last little fit between "Ember" and "Ice"—the nicknames that were humbly bestowed upon Nelly and Kim—the noise became racket that erupted from every voice in the room. All four of them talked and yelled and screamed and blamed and cursed at each other, each simultaneously trying to get their point across, for a good solid four minutes. In that time Alex managed to stay out of it, save for being Nelly's beast tamer, and was able to successfully put together Kitty's sandwich. Really, that's all the guy wanted out of the morning bustle, but being the house gargoyle wasn't too much for him to handle. It didn't bother him, and neither did much else. That included the type of scenario that happened next.

While the four housemates battled with each other over the rights to speak, the one housemate who had yet to show up to the psychotic little party was, of course, Kitty. And she wouldn't join the fight, either, because the moment her door opened it was as if time had stopped. Everyone froze where they stood, forgetting everything they were arguing about just so they could pay attention to Kitty when she came out. It wasn't because Kitty was particularly attention-worthy or anything. It was just… Kitty had developed a bit of a dating problem. The kind of problem that changes its name and face every few weeks when she dumps it and replaces it after a chaste slumber party.

This week's 'problem' emerged silently from her bedroom with her, walking behind her with his shoulders slumped, his eyes wide and glued to the floor, and his lips pressed tightly together like he was trying to hide himself from the rest of them. Kitty, though, practically pranced down the hall, skipping with a big smile on her shining face like always, her hair in sleepy tangles and her sleep-ware all mismatched and unmanaged. Everyone knew the routine: the guy would ask her out, she would say 'yes' on the spot even if she had no idea who he was, they would date for two, maybe three weeks tops, she would invite him over to watch a movie or something, he'd stay overnight, and in the morning she would walk him out the front door, kiss him on the cheek and say, "Let's break up, 'kay?"

No one really knew why she did this, either. It wasn't like she dated all these guys to sleep with them. From what the roommates could tell—especially the snoopy ones like Nelly and Tucker—Kitty never once touched her boyfriends in a sexual way. She never dated the same type of guy, either. One week she would date a Mohawk guy in a punk band and the next she'd date a straight-laced fellow who works in a bank. They could be 18 years old or 36 years old, they could be from any ethnicity, short or tall, masculine or feminine, ambitious or lazy, smart or stupid, handsome or butt ugly, and it wouldn't matter. If they asked, she'd say yes. Whenever her roommates asked her directly why she did what she did, she would usually reply with, "Hmm, I guess I'm looking for my dragon."

The dragon metaphor was completely lost on everyone but Alex. But what would you expect? The two were like extensions of each other. We'll get into Kitty and her dragon comparison later, though. For now, let's get back to the poor soul who was thrust into the House of Hearts only to be tossed back out the morning after.

This particular guy had nothing special about him. He seemed kind of shy, what with the way he was doing his absolute best to avoid eye contact with everyone. Though, if you were to look at the housemates from his point of view, you would see a beast of a man holding onto a madwoman like a ragdoll, two men in sexy, feminine medical-ware who were both standing and angrily leaning in towards a woman who could have very well been an irate, faceless ghost. Not to mention all of them but the beast-man were staring him down with curious-yet-murderous intent. It was kind of like he was being escorted through a haunted house attraction by his cheerful, happy-go-lucky girlfriend who, by the way, found all of this extremely normal.

The roommates watched them walk by without a word, their eyes following the movements of the boyfriend of the week mercilessly. Well, all of them except Alex. He didn't care for her boyfriends, not in the least, and he wasn't about to start caring now. The others, though, had a long-standing interest in Kitty's relationships like she was a living reality show or something. Would this be the guy who would survive the sleep over? Or would he be left in the cold, just like all the others? Would Kitty be able to make a relationship last longer than a month? Would she find what she was looking for in him? Would he be her dragon, whatever that meant? These were all questions that flooded through their minds as each and every boyfriend did his walk of embarrassment and fright through their kitchen and living room in the morning. Don't get the wrong idea, though. Not one of the housemates ever rooted for her boyfriends. It was quite the opposite. None of them wanted her boyfriends to succeed. You see, the reason Nelly, Kim, Tucker and Ferdinand kept such an intense interest in Kitty's problem relationships was because every single one of them wanted Kitty to end up with the one person she was meant to be with. Alex.

Everyone stayed absolutely still until the moment Kitty and Spot—the general name for her boyfriends, since no one bothered to learn all their real names—shuffled through the front door. Once the heavy door closed shut, instantaneously everyone reanimated again, flying from wherever they were to the window by the dining room, the one closest to the front entrance. Nelly, who had by this point lost all interest in her rage-fueled vendetta against Kim, wriggled out of Alex's grasp easily, falling flat on her butt before springing up and sprinting to the small crowd that had formed by the window.

Alex let out a heavy breath, one that was caught somewhere between relief and a lack of interest in their actions, and went back to getting things ready. He stuffed Kitty's cucumber and honey mustard on rye sandwich into a plastic bag, set it in her neon green lunchbox, and tossed in the rest of her lunch items like orange juice, a baggie of sliced pickles, and a fun-sized candy bar. Once that was all finished, he put her lunchbox into her duffle bag for work, threw in three bottles of water, and walked off to the bathroom to get Kitty's hairbrush and hair ties. By the time he came back to the kitchen—still in the too-small pink fetish apron, by the way—Kitty had already come back inside. Boyfriendless.

Kim, Ferdinand, Tucker and Nelly had already rushed off to pretend like they hadn't been watching her break-up scene through the window when she walked in. Kitty looked totally composed as she stepped through the door, as though she didn't just break another man's heart, and sighed quietly to herself, "Phew! Glad that's over."

Kitty ran her fingers through her vibrantly blonde and pale brunette tangled hair as though she were realigning herself with the world she currently inhabited, then turned her warm, sun-like smile on the housemates to tell them each one by one 'good morning!'. Once her eyes locked on Alex, though, it was a different story.

"Bunny!" she cried, dashing across the entrance and dining area to get to him. With her break-neck speeds and her uncanny grace, Kitty sped past everyone, vaulted over the island counter, and slammed into his body, wrapping her arms around his waist and saying, "Good morning, Bunny! How'd you sleep?"

Ah, yes. This was the strange relationship between Kitty and Alex. She wouldn't give a second thought towards the feelings of the men she dated, nor would she so much as hold their hands, but for her Bunny she acted like an overly-attached child. Kitty was the only one allowed to do this, too, because she was the only one who's touch didn't make him tense up and want to punch something.

Kitty clung to Alex, grinning big up at him and waiting for him to pat her on the head like he always did. And, of course, he did just that.

"I slept fine," he answered, looking down at her with his same disinterested face as he patted her head. "You need to get dressed. I'll make you a bowl of cereal."

"'Kaaaaay!" Kitty replied, bouncing away from him with a beaming smile.

I suppose that to someone who wasn't used to Alex's personality, his response to Kitty seemed cold and uncaring. To Kitty, however, the way Alex talked to her was so kind and big-hearted that it made her feel like she was swept off her feet. She was the only one who understood that, even in a deadened tone with almost no hint of sincerity, when Alex spoke to her like that, it was because he cared about her well-being.

The roommates also understood that… to a point. They didn't get him and why he was so frighteningly cold, but they knew without a doubt that Kitty was the only one he would ever speak more than a few words to at a time.

As Kitty pranced off to dress herself in the clothes Alex had picked out for her, the giant man in the frilly pink fetish apron did as he said and started making a bowl of cereal. Everyone else, however, tried to integrate themselves into the situation in their own, special ways. Tucker was the infiltrator, the one who would sneak into Kitty's room under the guise of helping her dress when really he was just there to snoop about her latest break up. Nelly and Ferdinand would just happen to spark up a conversation right in front of Alex about the last guy named Spot, hoping to get a reaction out of him, and Kim would be… well, writing whatever it is she was writing in her notebook.

Tucker snuck off down the hall, Kim took up a post at the dining room table scribbling in her notebook, and Nelly and Ferdinand sat nonchalantly at the barstools next to where Alex had set Kitty's bowl of cereal.

"That last one was pretty cute, wasn't he Fer?" Nelly started, lazily resting her jaw on her upturned palm.

"Aye, and Kitten seemed, how you say, to like this one very much," Ferdinand responded easily.

The two of them indiscreetly shot glances at Alex, wondering if he was paying attention. But, like always, he didn't seem to hear a word. He just continued making his protein shake and munching on an apple.

"Perhaps Kitten did not find her dragon in this one," the Spanish man said.

"Yeah, maybe the next one will be her dragon," Nelly replied.

"Yes, perhaps she can be swept off her feet!"

"Let's hope the next one is more reliable. And strong. And someone she can cling to. And someone who would go to the ends of the earth for her. And someone who understands her," Nelly hinted strongly.

Alex was no fool. He heard each and every word they said, though they could never tell if he was listening or not. He knew what they were doing. They couldn't be any more obvious about it, to be honest. But Alex felt the bond between he and Kitty was none of their business. He never bothered trying to explain to their roommates what sort of friendship the two had, and he never planned on it since he didn't care about their personal lives, either. They could assume and come to any conclusion they wanted for all he cared. Alex saw Kitty's need to always be dating someone new as her own challenge to overcome, and he was only there to support her like he always was. After all, that's all Alex ever wanted out of Kitty. He just wanted to be by her side. Nothing more, nothing less.

As Nelly and Ferdinand prattled on and on with their obvious hinting that Alex should do something about Kitty's boyfriend problem, the happy-go-lucky girl danced out of the hall and into the kitchen, Tucker following close behind. Ferdinand shot Tucker a questioning look, and Tucker responded with a disappointed shake of the head, telling his lover that he didn't have much luck in getting to the bottom on this, either. As much as the four of them wanted to get all involved in Kitty and Alex's personal lives, they decided their plan of attack wasn't working, and for now it was best to retreat. Maybe if they were alone, they would talk about it and say something revealing. Or, you know, Kitty would talk and Alex would just grunt at appropriate times.

Tucker came around and picked up Ferdinand's hand, gently tugging his boyfriend off the stool and bounding up on his toes to give the handsome Spaniard a playful kiss.

"Come on love muffin, this spandex nurses outfit ain't gonna take itself off, y'know?" Tucker teased playfully.

"Mí amore, say anything else and I will be forced to take you right here!" Ferdinand growled, nuzzling into Tucker's soft reddish hair.

"Don't be gross," Nelly intervened, not even a foot away from the lovey dovey couple. "Go to your room before you start that again."

Tucker and Ferdinand giggled, and as they sauntered away Tucker turned and winked to Nelly, blowing her a flirtatious kiss. As per their usual, they didn't quite make it all the way down the hall to their bedroom before the intense make-out session started, but at least no one was eating near them where they were.

Kim snapped close her notebook, inhaling deeply and pushing her glasses up her nose. Quietly she walked over to Nelly, who was making faces at the lip smacking sounds reverberating through the hallway, and gently played with the short hair on Nelly's head.

"Hey," the usually cold and ghostly girl started. "I'm sorry for what I said earlier. I don't think you're a whore and I know you're not cheating. I just think you're really, really sexy when you're mad."

Nelly's face went hot red with a blush, and quickly she swept up Kim's hand in hers and said, "Sheesh, you don't have to go that far. And you don't have to do this, you know, here, in front of everyone."

The 'everyone' Nelly was referring to was mostly just Kitty, who, with a beaming smile and milky cereal stuck to her chin, watched them like a proud mother would watch her children as they finally got along. Alex, on the other hand, couldn't care less if they kept fighting or made up. All he was concerned with was taking a wet cloth and gently wiping the cereal off of Kitty's face.

"What are you looking at, Kitty?" Nelly asked with an offended tone.

"You two are so cute!" she squealed, perking up like a puppy whose name was just called.

"Kitty, eat your cereal," Alex commanded as he cleaned up the kitchen.

"Mmph!" Kitty responded, which was something along the lines of "okay!" but with a mouth full of cereal.

Kim leaned in to Nelly and whispered something only she could hear, making Nelly blush even brighter as Kim smiled fiendishly. "You think we have time for that before your shift at the hospital?" Kim asked.

Nelly shot up and yanked Kim's hand along with her, saying, "I can be late."

Together the two practically ran down the hall hand in hand, giggling and smashing each other up against the walls to force themselves into a passionate kiss. And this, my friends, is how Nelly and Kim usually make up from their violent fights; with equally violent make-up sex.

All that was left was Kitty and Alex. Once the kitchen was thoroughly evacuated of all the crazy, Alex felt like he could breathe a little better. He took up the brush and hair tie he retrieved from the bathroom earlier and walked around the island counter behind Kitty, where he gently started pulling the brush through her hair as she diligently ate her breakfast.

After a few minutes of precious silence, Kitty set her bowl down and sighed, "I'm really glad Kimmy and Nelly can kiss and make up. They're so perfect for each other. Like cucumbers and honey mustard, right Bunny?"

"Yeah," he replied, focusing on pulling her long, silky blonde hair into an acceptable pony tail.

"Hey, Bunny?" Kitty asked.


"How was your run? Did you defeat any monsters this morning?" the girl asked excitedly, trying to dip her head backwards so she could look up at the frightening man.

"No monsters," he said, tugging on her pony tail with a little more force to get her to look straight ahead instead of right at him. "Sit still. I'm almost done."

"Awe! How come you never fight monsters or beasties anymore?" Kitty complained.

Alex took up her hair in his hand and gently started twisting it around the base, pulling bobby pins out of his pocket—as was his habit to carry them for her—and pinning her bun down in all the right places. "I wear armor to ward them off," he answered.

"Oooooh!" Kitty sighed in wonderment. "Bunny, that's so smart! Can I have some armor too?"

These were the types of conversations Kitty and the man she called Bunny shared each morning. Alex understood that more often than not, Kitty thought in terms of fairy tales and childlike wonder. It wasn't that she was stupid or slow. On the contrary, she did better than about 97% of her peers all throughout her school career in academics. Kitty just enjoyed looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, and Alex had no problems communicating to her like that, either.

The strangely domesticated and subservient gargoyle finished pulling and pinning the whimsical girl's hair into a tight bun for work. In answer to Kitty's question, Alex set down the brush, shuffled over towards the front door where he kept their helmets and leather jackets, picked up her black and neon green helmet with a pink Mohawk, walked back and easily pushed it onto her head.

"There. Armor," he said plainly. "Let's get going. We'll be late."

Kitty, with the grace and balance that only a dancer's body like her own could hold, spun off the barstool and pirouetted around Alex. She hummed and bounced around, pointing her toes and stretching her body every which way as though she were preparing for work. Which, in all actuality, was probably what she was doing. Kitty worked as a ballet instructor at the dance studio in the mall, teaching children of all ages how to jump and twirl and plié all over the place. The kids adored her, as most of them saw her as a giant kid, herself. It fit her every need in the working world, except for the need to perform. That need was fulfilled on Friday and Saturday nights at the Labor of Love Productions theater where her and her ballet troupe performed classic and contemporary ballets every weekend.

With his nearly obsessive need to stay by Kitty's side, Alex, in turn, took up a position at the same mall that only a terrifyingly huge man like him could fill: mall security. They guy never had many ambitions for adulthood, even as a child, so it wasn't that he was disappointed or satisfied with his work. For the most part he tolerated it because it meant he would be in the same place as Kitty if anything would ever happen. The job also made good use of his kickboxing hobby, which was a plus for him but kind of a fatal danger to wrong-doers. Either way, Alex was contented to be able to take Kitty to work every morning, work in the same building every day, and drive her back every night he could. On nights where Kitty had to go to rehearsal or when she would go on a date Alex would obediently go home alone, but never would he go to sleep or get caught up in something he couldn't leave from until Kitty was safely home.

Today, he realized, would be one of the days where he would be able to take her home with him. It wasn't like Alex to feel annoying things like emotions, but he did feel a bit more relaxed when he knew Kitty would be within his sights all day. Alex was, in fact, a stalker. But a well-meaning one. And, like the well-meaning stalker he was, he cleaned up after his fairy-headed companion, checked her work bag twice more to be sure she had everything she needed, and held out the leather bike jacket he made her wear so she could slip into it easily. Alright, so maybe he wasn't exactly a stalker, but more of an overly doting and way too lenient caretaker of a spoiled princess.

Alex picked up his helmet and his bike keys, throwing both his and Kitty's bags over his shoulder and started to head out the front door when he felt a tug on his leather jacket. Quickly he glanced behind him, wondering why he was being stopped, to find Kitty giggling at him with her face shield pushed up.

"Bunny! Don't let the townsfolk see you in your cute apron! Only I can see that!"

The man with the cute and uncharacteristic nickname of Bunny looked down at the laughing girl, then looked down at his cute and uncharacteristic apron that he almost went to work in. It wasn't the fact that going into work as a mall security guard with a pink bedazzled apron that spelled 'Love Slave' on it was embarrassing to Alex. He couldn't care less about that sort of thing. What flustered him just a tiny bit was that, even though the words were simple and innocent, when Kitty said, "Only I can see that," he felt like he was given an absolute and unbreakable command. No one would ever see him in that apron again unless it was Kitty. That's how he worked.

Immediately he ripped the apron clean off his body, folding it neatly and leaving it on the counter for Tucker and Ferdinand scoff at and fix with Tucker's high tech sewing machine. More than likely they would waggle their fingers at him and tell him all about how rude it was to destroy someone else's sexy costumes, but that didn't concern him. Making Kitty happy did.

Once more, Alex went to walk out the front door and get on with his day, and once more he was stopped with a tug on his jacket. This time he turned around completely, wondering what he could have missed or forgotten, and was met with that sun-like smile that he so desperately clung to.

"Hey, Bunny," Kitty asked, her greenish blue eyes almost twinkling up at him. "Do I look like a biker princess?"

Moments like these—small, tiny fragments of time where the world seemed to come together especially well, happened very rarely for Alex. Moments like these, where his heart beat twice as fast for less than a second, where his mind went blank while he thought of a response, where he felt totally encapsulated by Kitty's warm smile… those moments were ones that never lasted long enough for him to understand them. All he knew was that only Kitty would make time and space react like that, and he would never forget each and every time it happened.

With a small gulp, Alex replied, "You will always look like a princess."

To that, all Kitty could do was lower her eyes, nod her head, and gently grasp Alex's huge hand in hers. "Okay, let's go Bunny. To the steed!"

Together, the girl named Kitty and the boy she called Bunny, rushed off to the steed known as Alex's precious-so-don't-you-dare-touch-it-because-I-will-murder-you Harley Davidson custom motorcycle, where together they would ride to the faraway land known as Uptown Mall.

And thus, my friends, is how we start our multilayered tale of the people who live within the House of Hearts.