A/N: Yo! So, here's the first chapter :)

Next chapter is the start of the book, and hopefully from there on things will become more organised and clear.

Warnings: same as the last chapter. For future chapters, all warnings will still apply, but I'll only mention it if there's something new.

Disclaimer: Ditto. Believe me, I'll let you know if I suddenly find myself owning E.E. Richards.

Word Count: 1,340 (wow, this round numbers thing is awesome. Go my freaky coincidental writing skills.)

Chapter 1

So, that's the abridged version of how I came to be in my current situation. My current situation being, uh, having a complete mental breakdown as I freaked out over THE NEW FAMILY I WAS ABOUT TO MEET. I mean, I know I wasn't supposed to worry about it, but sheesh, that was easier said than done.

Calm, Tim. My mind said. You have nothing to fear. They're not gonna eat you, or beat you up, or be mean to you but maybe they will but then you can tell Dad and he won't make you live with them but you can't ruin Dad's happy relationship but you could be seriously hurt but then someone will notice and help but it could just be psychological hurt and you could become mentally stunted and end up in an insane asylum or just wasting your life until you die alone known only as 'that crazy old guy down the road' and actually this is a terrible idea just run, run Tim while you still-

SHUT UP YOU'RE NOT HELPING! I screamed at my mind, before its senseless rambling drove me completely over the edge and fulfilled its ominous predictions all on its own.

... I still think this is a bad idea. My mind mumbled sulkily. I considered getting serious help for a few seconds, before my raging emotions reclaimed control of my brain once again. I decided to try meditating, even though it had never worked before and Damon always looked at me weird when I serenely settled myself in a corner and refused to speak for a while. Wait... Actually, maybe it was the frustrated screaming following without fail every time that did it...

No matter. It would work this time, I was sure.

I visualised a forest. Forests are cool, calm places, where you can walk endlessly without reaching a no longer inevitable end, because the chances are you're going in circles. Circles are relaxing, too. You can go round and round without ever stopping, as one end feeds into another, feeding into another, feeding into another, until you no longer have any idea where you started or where you could possibly end. The still serenity of the forest morphs into a landscape of stars, reaching endlessly in every direction imaginable. Nothing but an endless void, stretching forever into the distance, so vast that time and distance cease to matter, let alone trivial matters like whether three insignificant humans on a tiny planet in an outsized galaxy would have an inconsequentially negative effect on one lone human who will have long stopped existing by the time any events caused by his life reach even the closest galaxy. His life is tiny, meaningless, as he becomes lost in the unending reaches of the void, becoming no more than dark matter as his planet crumbles or explodes or is engulfed by the dying sun it has circled since the very first stages of its existence. The atoms of the forgotten human disperse and connect and collide with other atoms, flowing further into the oblivion that has already claimed everything the human once knew. The infinite universe blends with the next, connecting seamlessly, maybe even counting as a single entity, but no one will ever comprehend this, as no one can define the edge, knowing only that they have reached a different, or possibly the same, place, as they stretch their-

"We're here." Dad said.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! My mind screamed.

Well, now I just felt stupid. All that insanity for nothing. Why? Because my new step-family were lovely people.

Actually, two of them were lovely people. The sister, Cassie, was a complete cow. A scary cow. She seemed to think it was all our fault her perfect life had been disrupted, and had probably been practicing her death glare in the mirror ever since her mum told her. How else could she get it that threatening? She cheered me up as I realised that my concerns may have been founded after all and I couldn't put the drive here under 'pointless moments of my life' just yet.

On the other hand, her mother and brother cheered me up even more, as I realised that my concerns were entirely unfounded, and, while I had just wasted the last forty minutes of my life, it was a small price to pay for my future happiness.

Overall, I thought they couldn't be more wonderful. Even Cassie, because who really wants to get on with everyone in their family? Pshchepff, whatever. Not me, that's for sure.

Amanda, Dad's girlfriend, was perfectly polite and friendly as she welcomed us into her small but cozy home, despite the occasional glares she sent her eldest child in a futile effort to make her be more hospitable. Her son was the same (minus the glaring- I think he was scared to, because his sister can glare better than him). Within a few minutes, Joel (my new sort-of-step-brother) had rescued Damon and me from the awkward-hanging-around-together we always did when at unfamiliar people's houses. It was one of the few times we actually stayed together around other people, come to think of it. Anyway, Joel saved us and dived right in with some slightly forced, if polite, conversation. It was remarkably less uncomfortable than I expected, and I found myself liking him straight away. Damon was perfectly friendly, but I could tell he was still trying to adjust to the whole 'this is the person I could well be spending the rest of my childhood living with' idea. I was too, but Joel made it easy to forget how daunting the prospect was. He was incredibly friendly, and seemed to be genuinely interested in whatever I had to contribute. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite return the sentiment, as I kept getting distracted by various stray thoughts, such as oh my god, this boy is a saint and whoa, his eyes are awesome. They're all fragmented and bright and so many shades of-

"Don't you think?" Joel asked.

"Uh... Sorry?" I blinked and eloquently covered my distraction.

Joel laughed in a non-accusatory way. "You weren't listening, were you?"

"... Maybe?" I tried.


"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I was just thinking..."

"About what?" He asked curiously.

"Um..." How awesome you are. "Nothing important."

"Alright." Joel thankfully let it go, presumably too polite or lacking in confidence to press me further. We relaxed into idle conversation, discovering similarities and differences and just chatting about whatever we could think of. I bet we could have a lengthy discussion about the weather and Joel could make it interesting.

Eventually, Dad broke away from where he was conversing with Amanda, and called, "Tim, Damon! Time to go!" Damon immediately awakened from the glazed state he had fallen into (whoops. I probably should've noticed that...) and set off towards our father. I was more reluctant to stop talking to Joel, but couldn't really think of any reason to continue- and besides, I wouldn't do that to Damon. Cassie had long since disappeared into her room -doubtless earning herself a lecture as soon as we left- and Amanda escorted us to the door, Joel trailing behind and hesitantly waving as we left.

As I shut my bedroom door behind me, my thoughts turned from what Dad had been talking about back to the boy I had met earlier today. So... Not exactly what I feared. Or expected at all, really. He seemed like a pretty decent guy, actually, despite his wonderful influence of a sister. Of course, I didn't like him that much- after all, I didn't know him very well. Although he did seem cute. And funny, and kind, and cheerful, interesting, remarkably attractive, and just overall- oh shit. I did not. No. No way. Nope. You can't just do that! I shrieked at my brain.

Oh, but I can, it replied smugly. Besides, it continued, he is hot. Face it, sucker.

Oh god.

I was so crushing on my new step-brother.