Things were calm after Steven came back. For a little while, nothing went wrong. No one got angry and threatened anyone's life. No one did much of anything out of the ordinary.

And before I knew it, it was my birthday.

The year that had passed had been one of fear, turbulence, and discovery. I'd grown into someone very different from the Harley Todd my mother had raised. I was brave when I needed to be. I knew what love was, and how to put someone before myself. I knew how to work through difficulty instead of running from it. I was still learning, mind you, but I'd come a long way.


I spent the morning lying around being lazy, thinking I wasn't working or doing anything besides eating my way through my pantry for my birthday.

That, however, changed. Drastically.

As always, Billy didn't knock. Actually, he practically ripped my door off the goddamn hinges before he strolled inside like he forgot I lived there.

Blowing smoke through his lips, he gestured with a smirk of irritation at my sweatpants and t-shirt.

"Jesus, Todd. Let's go." He sucked down a hard drag and charged into my kitchen. Cracking open a can, my brother helped himself to whatever was in my fridge while I blinked dumbly as I followed him.

"Go?" I wiped a hand over my face, praying I didn't look like I'd eaten my weight in Cheetos that morning. Billy swallowed a gulp of beer and sighed, leaning on the counter.

"Didn't Joe call ya?" I snorted loudly.

"Joey? Do what he's supposed to?" Billy returned the sarcastic snort and grinned.

"Get dressed, smartass. Bodie's on his way." He waved for me to leave, dismissing me in an all-too-familiar gesture. But I did as I was told, running for my room to throw on black leggings and a green top. I was tripping on my own feet when Bodie's voice joined Billy's in my living room. Slipping on my regular boots and slapping on just enough makeup, I reappeared to a room which was startlingly full of men. Bodie, Joey, Heco, Tommy, Baggy, and Billy were all drinking my beer, stopping only when I stumbled into view.

"Booooo!" Joey was the first to yell, his hair spiked with something bright red. "Go back!" There was a laugh from the kitchen and the men all chuckled quietly as I turned red.

"Shut up Joey, you asshole." I muttered. Another laugh came from the kitchen, and this time I realized it wasn't one of the guys.

"Yeah, Joe. Your ugly mug can't say shit." From behind Billy, Jackie appeared, her freshly opened beer foaming out onto her hand as she quietly swore. While she wiped the mess on Joey's jacket, I got a look at her and embarrassment made me blushed harder. She was wearing fuck-me heels and dark grey jeans that hugged her every curve. Her top was black with slits across the stomach to show off her figure, leather accents shining on the shoulders. But that wasn't the best part of her outfit. Her eyes were surrounded by thick, black eyeshadow, turning her green eyes into lightning with her long blonde hair was piled up high on her head in a ponytail. Jackie was drop dead stunning, and I wanted to run back into my closet and hide.

She took a slurp of her drink and handed it to Heco, who took it and held it in front of him before it sloshed out onto his shirt.

"Come on, birthday girl, let's get ya fixed up." Parting the crowd, she followed me back into my room. We both dug through my closet, going through my makeup drawer and straightening my hair until I thought it had caught fire. Less than five minutes later she finally nodded and pushed me towards the living room.

"FINALLY!" This time it was Bodie who cheered, his second beer thrust in my direction as I teetered on sky-high boots. My makeup was dark and dramatic, poking out my cheekbones like I was make of marble instead of skin. Jackie's straightening had lengthened my hair to my collarbone, accenting its dark and messy asymmetry. It wasn't polished, but I couldn't help but feel good when all the guys took their time looking me over. Even Billy's stony expression softened as he stared. But it was Joey that gave a startling hoot.

"Fuck yessssssssss!" My ridiculous brother stumbled his way into the hallway and grabbed me around the waist, hoisting me into the air. Everyone laughed, Jackie slapped my ass, and we all piled out of my apartment.

We drove in three different cars, Jackie driving me in the third as we tore into downtown Boston. It was like a surreal dream, laughing and carrying on as part of the group. Joey was at my side like always, but it was so much more than that. I wasn't just tagging along on some night out. It struck me head-on as we pulled up to a club: we were out for me.

I blinked back a little watering in my eyes and Jackie winked at me in the rearview mirror.

"Ready ta rule the world, baby?"

"Hell ya." I murmured. Joey hollered and Heco cheered from the passenger's seat.


Harder.

That's what the club was called. As we all walked from the parking lot to the street, I realized why I was wearing boots with a lethal heel. Why Jackie was wearing so much makeup it made her look like another person. There was a line of people in leather and chains, some with whips and such. My palms were sweating almost instantly.

I swallowed as the boys all headed towards the door with loud laughs and heavy stomps. Jackie clicked alongside me, her hair swaying back and forth with each stride.

"Jackie, is this a…" A guy in a fishnet shirt gave me a wink, both of his nipples pierced beneath the material. "…BDSM place?"

Her laugh turned a few heads. Reaching over to wrap an arm around me, she chuckled into my ear.

"Only if ya want it ta be." Wagging her eyebrows she bit her bottom lip. "The point is leather, rock & roll, maybe a little pain…" She squeezed me closer. "But it's mostly about sex I guess." I gave a small nervous smile and she snorted. "Oh come on, it's just a bar."

"I didn't figure my brother for the kink bar type." I muttered, watching as Billy charged right past the bouncer. Jackie shrugged.

"Eh, he's not. But he gets tons of action when he does come here." Rolling my eyes, I could only nod. There were beautiful girls in corsets in the line down the block, dozens of them. There was no competition with the regular girls at the Four Roses. As we ducked by the line and past the bouncer, the light from the street vanished and I blinked to try and see.

The place was nearly pitch black for a moment, and then the low spot lights started to fill in my vision. It was as dark as you could get without everyone stumbling around blind. And it was a good thing too. There were people everywhere, rubbing together in mindless groups. Joey was already dancing with a girl, her pale hands grasping at his thighs as he moved behind her.

"Jesus." I whispered. Jackie laughed.

"Want a drink ta wash down that god talk?" She gestured towards a table. "Billy's over there. I'll go order us something."

I didn't get a chance to reply before she was gone, weaving her way through the masses. As she strode away, I realized the back of her shirt was shredded too, like claws had ripped straight through her. I bit my lip and glanced down at my simple green top. I was totally in over my head. Before any brave guys singled me out, I pushed my way to my brother's table. He sat there with a cigarette in his lips like he was the king, his arms stretched wide across the back of the crescent booth.

"It's a little crowded, huh?" I spoke up awkwardly as I approached and Billy snorted, a cloud of smoke leaking from his lips.

"Says the girl who used ta party in the Southie warehouse district." I blushed as I remembered one such party; the night Deb died, the night Billy had threatened my life for trying to buy from Heco. Billy saw my face and seemed to follow my thoughts, his expression softening. "Any dudes get grabby, feel free ta hit 'em." He grinned. "Every time we're here Jack gets rough with some asshole." I smirked at the mental picture of Jackie punching one of the nipple-pierced guys in the line outside. Billy snorted and shook his head. "Dunno why she bothers though. Most of 'em like it."

"I'm surprised they let her back in." I replied. Billy broke into one of his devilish grins.

"All the bouncers want ta fuck her."

"Well…" I laughed and look across the club at Jackie as she leaned over the bar and smiled coyly at the bartender. "…I can't say I don't know why."

"She's a hot piece of ass, that's why." Heco swooped in from nowhere, a beer in each hand as he set one down in front of Billy. Bodie followed, a redhead draped on his arm while Tommy led two brunettes towards the booth.

"Ladies, this is Billy." He introduced them like a pro, the girls giggling as my brother coolly said nothing, exhaling smoke from his lips with a nod. "Bill, meet Nina and Melanie."

"I'm gonna go find Jackie." I muttered as Billy gestured for one of the girls to sit beside him, the boys instantly forgetting my existence. But just as I tried to inch away and escape, she appeared with a black drink in her hand, holding it in my face.

"I have no fuckin' clue what's in these things, but they're awesome." She shouted over the music, her face already flushed from a few drinks. I could only imagine how many shots she'd worked out of that bartender for free.

"Thanks." I took it from her and gave it a sniff. It smelled like cough syrup and tar.

"I'd put a candle in it, but…" Jackie snorted and downed the drink in her hand, making a face as she plopped the glass on the table. "Ugh. Happy Birthday, bitch."

I raised the drink and said a silent prayer, flinching as the stuff rolled down my throat.


Two hours later and too many black drinks down, I was dancing with Jackie to a song that had no beat. At least, not one I could distinguish. Then again, I was blitzed out of my mind. Every once in a while I felt my old habits slip back, my arm itching for a long forgotten burn, but then I'd just look back at the booth. This wasn't my old life. I had made myself a new one.

Jackie leaned into my ear from behind me, her hands on my hips.

"I think Joey wants ta buy you a drink." I laughed, already too drunk. But I nodded and broke away from the dancing, giggling my way over to the bar where my brother stood. His arm pulled me in close and the smell of tequila hit me like a wave.

"Little sister." He slurred, his eyes rolling around in his head as he tried to speak. I laughed and held him up, leaning into the bartender.

"Cut him off." I ordered with a grin, pointing at Joey's face. The guy smiled and saluted me with a wink. Together, Joey and I went back to the booth where Heco remained with the two brunettes, his arms atop their shoulders.

"Joe, you fuckin' lightweight." He shouted when we approached, the girls giggling. "Your sister is holdin' ya up and she's the birthday girl."

"Oh my gosh! It's your birthday!" One of the brunettes cheered, clapping her hands together like a seal.

"We should do birthday shots!" The second added, tapping the table with her palm. "How old are you?"

I grinned awkwardly and sat with Joey in the booth. My brother snorted and poked my cheek.

"Todd's only nineteen." He giggled, turning his finger on Heco as he hiccupped. "And fuck you. I started drinking at four." Rolling my eyes, I tuned out the girls chirping for more shots, and curled up under Joey's arm, content to just listen to my brother drunkenly argue with Heco about how much he'd had to drink all day.

After a while, Heco and the girls cleared out for the dance floor and it was just Joey and I in the booth. He was close to falling asleep on me when I noticed Billy out on the dance floor, his jaw flexing as he moved against a girl. It took me a few more seconds to see it, but Jackie's face eventually appeared and I smiled as I watched her brush her fingers up Billy's neck, holding his head close to her temple.

"He likes her, doesn't he?" I spoke out loud, expecting no reply from my wasted companion. But Joey surprised me, rousing just enough to squint out into the club.

"Jack?"

"Yeah." She was holding one of his hands against her hip, their bodies moving together seamlessly.

"Probably." Joey sighed, rubbing his nose with a hand. "She's been around since forever and she doesn't drive him crazy." I laughed and patted Joey's face, making him flinch and bat me away.

"That's pretty significant for our older brother, wouldn't ya say?" Joey and I continued to observe as Jackie kept her head turned into Billy's, their eyes never meeting but their faces never turning away.

"Guess so." Joey shrugged again. "But he'll never settle." I chuckled.

"Why?"

"Cuz he doesn't want kids. Doesn't want a wife." My brother sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his head on top of mine. "That's why he needs us, Todd." Joey muttered, moments from passing out. "We're the only family he'll ever have."


A/N: I've returned! Thank you for reading! If you could be so kind and let me know what you thought, I'd very much appreciate it. :) Love to you all.