AN: Had a change of heart. This one is staying right hurr. Following chapters will be up soon. - D.g.

Brody was 95 percent sure he was not gay.

His favorite movie was Fight Club. He wore moderately loose-fitting jeans. His hair was too long, he preferred his old worn sneakers to anything Italian, and he hated dancing. Brody wasn't even sure if he knew any gay people—all of his friends were heterosexual and of the same gender, like everybody else around. Not to mention his immense appreciation for those of the female sex; he had even dated two of them, seriously, or as seriously as ninth graders could be. They didn't last, due to his appreciation for other members of the female sex. Brody had always been a little careless, doing what he wanted with little thought beforehand. That must be what was to blame for his stunt at Noah's birthday party.

He didn't notice Linden when he came, uninvited, with somebody else—probably Cara. She was the only one who would know where to find someone like that character. The swept black hair, lip ring, sweatband…in a room full of slackers, smokers, and society's extras, he stood out like a rock star. Linden didn't know where to sit and disappear once Cara was making the obligatory rounds of greeting and hugging until he saw the deflated tweed couch against the wood panel wall. Out of the way and yet able to survey the entire collage of niccotine fog, colored bottles, and high school cliches, it was an ideal perch. The only occupant was Owen Brody, the anti-party partier, sitting with his head reclined back and a dimming cigarette in his hand.

Brody was something of an accessory; people invited him, he came, and that was the extent of his interaction. Everyone knew he was witty, and when anyone remembered he was there, he could easily entertain the masses with everything from informed liberal politics to reciting monologues from Family Guy. When Brody was drunk, which was the inevitable result of his 'party' arrival, it was much better for him to be seen than heard. He was tall, fair, and always smiling; his ash brown hair was at that neglectfully loose length that only models—and Owen Brody—could get away with. Something boyish glowed in his rather mature good looks, and the much appreciated female sex would mourn to lose such a possibility to the infamous 'other side'. As stated before, Brody did not last very long in the relationship arena. That could not keep them from staring and dreaming, and Brody smiled, basking in the periodic attention.

Too much attention was always annoying.

Noah's party was supposed to be one of the best. The basement was packed, and someone had brought enough beer to stock a frat house. Brody, for one, was having a fine time. Heather Marshall had given him three smokes while flirting quite disgustingly with him before she had realized his icily sarcastic comments were not completely in jest. Nobody had asked him to move or hold their drink. His 'friends', who ironically for the most part he could not stand for more than thirty minutes at a time, had kept their irritating inebriated antics away from him. After five minutes of idle practice, he had nearly perfected the smoking ring trick. He took another ambitious drag and blew a perfect circle.

"That's pretty cute." Brody's brown eyes rolled to the boy who had snuck onto his couch and been watching him for some time. He frowned, sat up, and threw what was left of his smoke into a brown ashtray on the nearby table.

"Hey, Panic," Brody greeted with feigned interest, "where's the rest of the disco?" Linden cracked a self-conscious smile and shook his head.

"Yeah, I get that a lot." Brody kicked his faded Vans onto the edge of the table. "I'm actually into heavy metal, but thanks for the snapshot judgment."

"I really enjoy the Carpenters. Having shitty taste in music doesn't make you special," Brody sighed tranquilly and resumed his staring at the ceiling. They weren't friendly. But, they interested each other. Linden could have wandered over to where Cara was in the bedroom, yet he had a feeling he would be better off here, next to this seemingly disagreeable stranger.

At this point, Linden was 113 percent sure he was gay and that Brody was that kind of young, dreamy handsome every boy lover loved.

"So, I'm guessing you're over here alone because…you're that intimidating 'cool guy' nobody is brave enough to approach," Linden probed with a genuinely friendly air.

"You apparently have the balls," Brody replied composedly. Linden wisely stifled the first thing that came to mind with a small grin and kicked his own sneaker-clad feet onto the table.

"I don't know very many people…well, anyone…here." Brody finally noticed that this stray had a couple of bottles next to him on the sofa. That was just what he needed. He lifted his head and motioned for one of the two to be handed over. Linden easily complied.

"My name is Brody, nice to meet you," Brody introduced smoothly while positioning the top of his bottle under his pewter belt buckle (imprinted with a four leaf clover, Linden amusedly observed) and twisting his face into a concentrated scowl. Once the cap was bent, he handed the drink back to Linden and waited for the next.

"Linden. Linden Harrow."

"Congratulations, Linden," Brody toasted, "you are now one of the cool kids!"

Linden made a childishly excited face, and Brody smirked. The rock star wasn't so bad. In fact, he seemed extremely comfortable where he was and just as he was, which Brody knew was much more than most of this crowd could ever dream of being. He could blame high school for the crushing peer pressure they were all folding under, but now that they were mainly seniors, they should have developed some sense of self by now. Brody was mildly disappointed to observe that everyone was still wrapped up in the image of everyone. The whole reason Noah was throwing this party was for everyone to like him. The only reason he had invited Brody was so that everyone would come. The only reason Brody was sitting on the couch and smoking was because everyone expected him to—but nobody would expect him to befriend the weird lost boy. After a few more drinks courtesy of Linden's eagerness to please, that was getting easier and easier to do.

"That's not true!" Linden stammered through painful laughter. He was nearly rolling over onto the pile of glass forming next to them on the floor. "You're a liar, Brody, not true!"

"I swear, I swear, I swear," Brody protested with a bright smile, "she was completely naked."

"You didn't notice a girl stripping in the passenger seat of your car?"

"I thought she was taking off her jacket." Brody chuckled as he drained the last of his bottle. "That…and many other things…were taken off."

"You must be a legend," Linden gaped.

"Well, you go to Crapshoot High, so how would you know?" Brody snorted. "How do you know whoever it is that dragged you here, anyway?"

"That's Carpview High," Linden corrected, snickering, "and she's my ex-boyfriend's cousin." He heard the words leave his mouth and immediately regretted it. For somewhere close to four hours, he had been saved from awkward silent standing next to Cara by Brody's conversation; now he had probably ended it. Ex-boyfriend…Linden buried his eyes into the pile of empty bottles.

Damn that dumb high school buzz that eliminates inhibitions.

Brody heard the words, but the numb, mischievous smile that always lingered on his expression did not change. He leaned forward from his slumped position facing Linden and studied the younger boy's face until Linden realized how he was being watched. It caught him off guard. Brody began to chuckle, handed him his empty bottle, and released a long, content sigh.

"Dated a boy? In this town?" Brody laughed again and gave his new friend a sloppy pat on his long jaw. "Not surprised," he nodded, dropping his hand to Linden's shoulder, "but I think you may be the most fascinating person I've…ever met." Linden's dark green eyes expanded at the most unexpected reaction. Brody continued to laugh, finding this all very droll, and rummaged around for another bottle. No luck. Well, that was probably well enough. He was having a grand time already, thanks to Linden, the only spark of originality in the stagnant cesspool of his so-called social circle. He had referred to himself as Jack's broken heart, for all's sake. Linden didn't seem so pleased.

"Yeah, I'm gay," he repeated a little less confidently, waiting for Brody's real response to the fact. Brody nodded and shrugged. "That's nice," he nodded with an edge to his voice, "that's nice that you can shrug it off, because it's kind of a big deal, and I don't want the rest of…them," he gestured to the oblivious party, "to know."

"Why?" Brody teased. "Why should it matter? You're funny. You're intelligent. You have the lip ring thing that chicks drop trow for, and…oh, shit," he sniggered, "forget that, Captain, but you know what? You're golden." Brody was glad to see the simper return to Linden's face.

"All I have is Cara," he confessed in somewhat slurred terms, "and honestly, she isn't much." Brody rolled with laughter. It was exactly what he thought.

"You're golden," he muttered through uneven chuckling as he grabbed the boy's jaw again. Linden beamed, a little confused but too drunk to argue with a happy Brody. As far as they were both concerned, they were the best of friends. What happened next neither would have seen coming.

Brody leaned forward and kissed the other side of Linden's soft cheek, leaving nothing briefly European about it. He had always been careless, that Brody. Aloof, cynical, sarcastic, and unwilling to let anyone believe he really cared…until that rather unpredictable night. Linden didn't say anything when Brody retreated in a high-pitched laugh, falling back against the couch closer than before. He thought it was the cliché drunken mistake, something odd that straight boys did when they got too excited and then denied while puking the next morning.

The truth of the matter was, that in that moment, Brody was 60 percent sure he was not gay.