Title: Thicker Than Water

Rating: PG-13 to be safe, but if you don't have a problem with the books, you won't have a problem with this.

Summary: What would happen if Sleepy realized that Suze was having some problems with Paul Slater and decided to interfere?

A/N: For the sake of this story, just pretend that Sleepy is in his senior year.

Disclaimer: Oh, yeah, everything belongs to me. And there are pink bunnies with blue polka dots floating around my head. ~snorts~ People, if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm not Meg Cabot and nothing belongs to me. So don't sue. Really. DON'T sue.

My sister has a habit of getting into trouble. Let's just face it: The girl's a magnet for mayhem.

I'm serious. Some of the things that've happened since she and Mom moved here have been truly bizarre.

Decapitated statues, a serial killer/geek with the hots for Suze, the body of a 150-yr. old found in our backyard, said serial killer/geek trying to kill me, my family, and Suze's totally hot friend from NYC by rigging our car are just some of the strange things that have been going on.

Not to mention the fact that Suze brought home what has to be the ugliest cat to ever walk the freakin' earth.

Or that out of the four guys that Suze has been interested in, one's had a freak accident with his collarbone and a crucifix-yes, I did say a crucifix- and transferred, the second dude…well, there was something about a tank of dead fish, a fire, a missing uncle, and a dad who thought he was Dracula. Needless to say, he skipped town pretty quick. The third guy was the serial killer/geek I told you about. Killed four people, tried to kill us and destroyed my car (bastard), and then tried to kill Suze again out at the Point. He is now currently residing in the state penitentiary.

Man, my sister can sure pick 'em, can't she?

And as for the fourth guy…well, I'm getting to him in a moment.

Things have been pretty calm since we found that body in the backyard. Suze has stayed out of trouble since, which is a relief. Doc came back from camp, my dad finally finished the hot tub, and everything was okay.

Then Paul Slater showed up.

Don't ask me why Suze won't go out with this guy. She was babysitting his little brother back when she was working at the hotel, and something happened between them. All I know is that she refused to go out with him for some reason, and he got pissed off enough that he threatened to go to Caitlin(our boss) and tattle on her taking his brother off hotel property.

I guess that's a reason enough for Suze not to like the guy. Threatening to tattle on a girl if she won't go out with you isn't exactly the way to win a girl's heart. But-I don't know. Something else is going on.

And my suspicions were proven last night.


Mom and Dad were out, and Dopey-what can I say, Suze's nickname is kinda catchy-was gone, presumably with some skank. So, Dave, Suze, and I were home alone. (I had the night off from delivering 'za.) Since the dishwasher was broken, I was washing the dishes, Suze was drying, and Dave was putting them away.

Just then, Dave noticed something on Suze's arm.

"Hey, Suze, what's that?" he asked innocently, pointing to Suze's arm.

Suze hurriedly pulled down the sleeve of her shirt. "Nothing," she said quickly.

But I'd already seen them. Five bruises, in the shape of fingers, were imprinted on her right arm.

Someone had grabbed her arm. Hard.


Suze looked at me and tried to laugh. "It's nothing. Um, Cee Cee tripped and grabbed my arm yesterday."

It wasn't easy, but I smiled back. "What, she needs a refresher course on how to walk now?"

Suze laughed in relief and said that, no, she'd got walking down pretty much pat. It was the walking down stairs she needed help on.

Dave and I laughed at that, then sat down and watched movies for the rest of the night.

But I couldn't forget those bruises.

No matter what Suze said, a girl couldn't have caused those kind of bruises. Suze's friend wasn't strong enough to do that, especially to Suze, who had to be the toughest girl I'd ever met. Those fingerprints were too far apart. The person who'd grabbed Suze like that had to be a guy. No one else's hands were big enough.

And I couldn't get the look in Suze's eyes out of my head. She was scared.

And nothing makes Suze scared. Nothing. Ted Bundy showing up on our household threatening to kill us? Suze would just yawn, finish painting her nails and coordinating her outfit, and then kick his ass. Nothing scares this girl.

Except, apparently, Paul Slater.


Okay, so the next day I was at school, hanging out with my crew when Clark Thorton taps on my arm.

"Uh, Jake?" Clark asked, his eyes nervous behind his thick glasses. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

Shooting a look at the rest of my friends, I sighed and said, "Sure."

We walked a few feet away, then I turned to the guy and went, "All right, man, what's up?"

Clark was looking extremely uncomfortable. "Well, it-it's about your sister, Suze."

Great. Suze was up to her old tricks of kicking some poor dude's ass. Who does she think she is, Buffy?

Sighing, I said, "Look, man, if she kicked your ass or something, then there's nothing I can really do about that. I mean, we employ a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy with my sister."

"Actually, that's not it," Clark said. "Not that I don't doubt your sister could kick my ass any time she felt like it," he added hastily "-but it's just-two days ago, I saw your sister talking with Paul Slater."

"That's not that unusual," I told him. "It's pretty obvious he's got the hots for her."

"No, they weren't talking so much as arguing," Clark clarified. "Yelling, almost. She wanted to leave and he wouldn't let her. He was yelling about some guy named Jesse or something…anyway, she turned to leave and he grabbed her arm."

Suddenly I was a lot more interested in what the nerd had to say.

"He what?" I asked, staring down at the guy.

Clark fiddled with his glasses. "Then they spotted me and he dropped her arm real fast. But-the part that just stuck in my head was…for a second, before they saw me, I saw fear in your sister's eyes. She was actually scared of this guy. And that was just-I mean, everybody knows how tough your sister is. I mean, you remember Michael Meducci? She kicked his ass out there at the Point. And he'd killed four people by then."

"Yeah, Suze has always been a bad-ass," I agreed, running my hands through my hair. Dammit.

"Look, maybe I'm just making a mountain out of a molehill, but-I just thought you should know."

"No, no, you did the right thing," I said quickly, looking around for Slater. I spotted him across the quad…walking straight towards Suze.

"I have to go now," I said quietly and started walking quickly in Slater's direction.

I try not to get involved too much in Suze's business. Really. Live and let live, that's my motto. I take a Zen approach to life. Just let things flow and everything'll work out fine.

But dammit, some jackass giving my younger sister bruises is just not cool with me. No freaking way am I taking that lying down.

A point I was anxious to make.

"Hey, if your sister asks, you didn't hear anything from me!" I heard Clark holler after me. I ran up to Slater and grabbed his shoulder. Hard.

"Hey, Slater," I said, pasting a smile on my face.

Slater stopped and looked at me warily. "Ackerman."

"Listen, I need to talk to you," I told him, dropping the fake smile.

"Look, can it wait?" Slater asked impatiently, glancing at Suze, who was now watching us nervously.

"It's about Suze," I told him, gripping his shoulder even harder.

Slater glanced at his shoulder, which I had in an iron grip, then back up at me.

"All right," he agreed.

We walked out of the quad. As soon as we were out of the sight of any interfering teacher/nun/priest, I turned to Slater, grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and slammed him against the wall. Hard.

What can I say? I was pissed off. Suze and I might not get along, but come on. She is my sister, for God's sake.

"What the hell are you doing?" Slater demanded, staring at me.

"Look," I said, sounding calmer than I felt. "I'm only gonna say this once: Stay away from my sister."

Slater's eyebrows went up. "Is that what's going on? Look, I didn't do anything to her."

I snorted at that. "Dude, I saw the bruises on her arm. I have no idea what happened between you two, and I don't really care. But if you hurt her in any way again, I will hurt you. Got it?"

Slater snorted at that. You know, for a guy who was this close to be pounded within an inch of his life, he was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.

"And who's gonna stop me?" Slater sneered. "You?" With that, he pushed me off him.

"Damn right," I replied, getting madder by the minute. You know, all of a sudden, I was starting to see why Suze didn't like the guy.

Slater smirked at that. "You don't even know who she is. What she is. And what she's capable of."

I just stared at him. Okay, this was getting a little too cryptic for my taste. Up until now everything had been pretty simple. (Well, as simple as anything is with Suze involved.)

See bruises on Suze.

Find out who caused bruises.

Kick dude's ass all the way back to wherever the hell it is he came from.


Slater grinned at my bewildered expression. "I didn't think so. Trust me on this one, Ackerman; you don't want to get in the middle of this. Believe me," he hissed.

I just stared at him. Who does this guy think he is? This is just like a freakin' soap opera.

"Am I supposed to be intimidated by that?" I demanded with a laugh. "Listen, Slater, I already am in the middle of this. I became involved the minute Suze got those bruises, so if you think some spoiled, snotty rich kid's gonna scare me, you've got another thing coming."

To my satisfaction, the smirk on Slater's face was wiped off. "You know, you really shouldn't have said that," he replied, glaring at me.

Oh my God. And the Oscar for melodramatic acting goes to…

"Let's get one thing straight, Ackerman," Paul said, getting right up in my face. "You are in way over your head. So why don't you go back to delivering pizzas and your friends, because you have no idea of what both Suze and I are capable of," he whispered.

I glared at him. That's it…this guy's so dead…

That was when Suze showed up, followed by Mr. Walden and Sister Ernestine. "Jake, what are you doing?" Suze demanded.

At this point, it might be considered wise to back off. Two teachers are there, and if I punch Slater now, I run the risk of getting suspended and grounded if my dad hears about it. Not fighting would really be the smart thing to do.

But you know what? I really don't like this bastard.


"What were you thinking?" Suze demanded in Father Dominic's office.

I took away the ice pack from my eye and glared up at her. "I was thinking that that bast-uhh-jerk deserved it." Come on, it's not like I'm about to swear in front of a priest. It'd be-what's the word-blasphemous.

Father Dominic, from behind his desk, looked concerned and alarmed. "Jake, what happened? This isn't like you."

I looked up at him pitifully. "Can I get some aspirin?" Maybe if I give 'em the wounded innocent thing, they'll drop it.

Suze was having none of it, however. "What, you were bored and decided to punch Paul Slater for kicks?"

Through the one eye that wasn't black and blue, I looked at her in confusion. "Suze, you hate the guy's guts, so don't say you weren't happy that I kicked his ass out there."

"Are you kidding me? You're a mess!"

You'd think the guy with the black eye and throbbing head would get a little more sympathy.

But then again, Suze doesn't know the damn meaning of the word 'sympathy'.

"Just what are you planning to tell Mom and Dad?" Suze wanted to know. "They're going to-"

I glared up at her. "Suze, I had just found out that that jackass gave you those bruises on your arm. I wasn't planning on hitting him at first, but that's what happened."

Suze stared down at me, her mouth making an O.

"Excuse me?" Father Dominic demanded, standing up. "What bruises?"

Suze turned to face him. "No bruises," she insisted unconvincingly. "There are no bruises on me. Nope. No bruising here."

I snorted at that. " She's got five bruises from where that jerk grabbed her two days ago. And if you don't believe me, look on her right arm."

Father Dominic stared at Suze. "Is this true, Susannah?"

She didn't answer, just stared down at the ground.

"Susannah," Father Dominic repeated. "Is that true?"

Still not looking up at us, she muttered, "Yeah." Then she looked at me, confused. "Wait a minute. Then-the only reason you went after Paul is because of me?"

"Well, duh," I replied. "You think I like being sent to the principal's office?"

"But-you don't even like me," Suze said. "You still think I'm in a gang, for God's sake."

I sighed at that. "Suze, even if I hated your guts, which I don't, I'd've still done what I did out there today. I'm your older brother. Protecting you's part of the job description."

She just stared at me, and I started to get a little uncomfortable.

"Hey, can the guy with a migraine get some aspirin here?" I asked Father Dominic quickly.

He nodded. "You'll be able to go to the nurse in a minute-" Then he looked past me, and I noticed that his normally warm blue eyes had gone cold. "Mr. Slater."

I got out of the chair and turned around to see Slater was leaning against the doorway, a cut at the edge of his mouth and a bruise under his eye.

"What?" Slater asked innocently. "Doesn't the victim get some sympathy?"

I took a step toward him. "You'll get a hell of a lot more than that if you don't-"

"If I don't what?" Slater asked, standing up straight now and meeting me straight in the eyes. "Careful, Ackerman, you're already looking at a suspension. You don't want to get expelled now, do you?"

I glared at him.

Suze interrupted. "You know, Paul, if you weren't so pathetic I might actually feel kind of sorry for you."

A muscle twitched in his jaw.

She took a step towards him. "You know, I used to feel afraid of you. It seems so silly now. I was afraid of some spoiled rich kid who kept waving these cryptic hints in my face. Maybe I don't have all the answers, Paul. But I don't need to get them from you," she spat, and then turned to me. "Let's get out of here."

I nodded and we walked past Slater.

Suze turned to me and pulled out a bottle of aspirin. She handed it to me. "Here."

"Thanks," I said.

"Look," Suze said awkwardly. "I still don't think you should have gotten involved, and especially not without talking to me first, but-thanks, anyway."

I smiled down at her. "You're welcome."

She looked up at me. "Do we hug?" she asked, furrowing her forehead.

I considered that for a moment. "Nah. I think we're too bad-ass for that."

She looked down the hallway and winced. "Uh-oh. Looks like Mom and Andy are here." I looked to see my parents walking toward us with Sister Ernestine leading the way.

"Aw, man," I moaned. "Dad's gonna freak."

"If you want," Suze offered, "I could tell them about the bruises. Maybe they won't be so pissed off then."


She nodded and gave me a half-smile. "It's the least I could do, seeing as how you were trying to help."

I nodded and took a deep breath. "Ready?"

As we walked to our parents, I couldn't help thinking on something my grandmother had said once.

'Blood is always thicker than water…'

Okay, so Suze and I aren't related by blood. We are related by marriage, so I guess that still counts.

Yeah, so Suze has a talent for getting into trouble and hooking up with the wrong kind of guy.

Hey, she's still my sister. Like I said, protecting her is part of the job description.

But dude, if I ever find out she really is dating a gangbanger from the Valley, heads are gonna roll.

And speaking of gangbangers…

"Hey, Suze?" I asked, remembering suddenly. "Who's Jesse?"

The End