Chapter 1

No doubt about it: my sister throws some awesome parties, Alexander Jonson thought while he took a large gulp of booze, the liquid sting his throat on the way down and causing him to smile at the sudden, brief buzz that followed.

It was early evening on a Wednesday, and their parents hadn't been gone for more than half an hour before the bash was in full swing. The music was loud enough to shake the walls of every house on the block, the booze was in the backyard and open to anyone who wanted a drink, and there were more people crammed in the prim, proper Colonial house than were usually seen at the somewhat boring, rather atypical high school Alex was unfortunate enough to attend most of the week. His dear mom and dad, bless them, had not thought to make responsible, reliable Sheila swear on pain of death not to throw a party on a Wednesday, and, as a result, his much loved sister had taken that to mean she had their permission. Alex doubted she believed that, but (since he whole-heartedly agreed with her logic) he decided to put on his patented "innocent face" if and when the neighbors showed up, probably with cops in tow.

It would be a headache for the folks, sure, to find another ticket on the table, but what was all the money for if not to bail their children out of jail?

Alex snorted, softly, and stared into his glass. If anyone had been around and awake to see him, they might have been surprised to see the pained, almost longing expression that flashed over his face, before another gulp of booze wiped it away. Really, it was great having a college student for a sibling, especially a twenty-one year old college sibling. Alex didn't know if he'd ever gotten along better with his sometimes overprotective, somewhat parental sister, and it was a nice change that he actually liked his sibling.

And he did like Sheila. He really did.

Then again, that was probably just the booze talking.

Of course, all liking aside, he admitted that the party was why he was really here. Supposedly, he was staying with a "friend" tonight, but, upon hearing that his folks were going out of town (a fact they had endeavored, as hopeless as it seemed, to keep from him, even though they'd probably be gone in the Bahamas or whatever for a week) he simply couldn't resist hauling himself back to his own house. Or at least that was what he told himself, right up until he tried to drown himself in booze.

It was all Gabe's fault, of course. Gabe's parents, while somewhat intimidating to make-out around, were not really the issue, and if he'd tried, Alex could have lured him into the pantry or nearest closet and gone to work. But no, poor Gabe, large, stocky Gabe, had started shaking in his dull black combat boots when Alex had even hinted at being affectionate in front of his terribly strict, terribly proper parents. And then it had started.

They don't know I'm gay, he'd said, wringing his hands. It's risky. Inappropriate. And on and on it went, for nearly twenty minutes, right up until Alex had felt that pre-breakup-shiver. Then, he'd smiled his perfectly charming smile, said goodbye to the perfect family, and calmly walked out the door, all his plans of "spending the night with a friend" going up in smoke.

Poor Gabe probably didn't even know that he'd been broken up with.

It wasn't working out anyway. You'd think that his parents would have guessed something when they met his friend with pink hair, but no. Idiots, the whole family. God, we weren't even dating yet.

Not that he minded. When he'd gotten back to his home, he'd easily slipped into the party swing he was so used to, tossing away the "devoted boyfriend" persona that had been developing in the past month away like an empty beer can. Once he was surrounded by the loud music and downing drinks as hard as rocks, he had easily found somebody who wasn't so worried about showing who they were. Somebody who wasn't really worried about anything after a few cups of beer, for that matter.

Alex grinned, and took another gulp of his drink, only just marginally aware that the "somebody" was asleep, snoring, and lying rather heavily (and inconveniently) on his shirt. In the great scheme of things, it really wasn't important, of course, because he had hundreds of shirts and he couldn't think of a single person who would be upset at seeing him half-dressed; he knew many who would probably prefer it, in fact.

When he was feeling the effects of Jack Daniel's like he was just then, he could admit that he was blessed that way. Screw anyone who said otherwise.

Alex tipped his drink back for another strong swallow of whiskey (the beverage of choice since beer had started to lose its edge) and found the glass empty. He frowned at the foggy crystal before tossing it next to the body on the bed.

What's their name again? Jason? Jackson? He wondered briefly, before raising the blanket up and reveling the head and torso of his no-longer-wanted-guest. He smirked a bit before dropping it again, groaning and shaking his had slightly. Oh yeah. Jessica. Maybe Sheila is right, and all this booze is taking away more brain cells that I can spare. Then again, Sheila drinks more than I do and she's fine.

He yawned, stretched, and stood, scratching at his head absently with one slim hand as he looked at the digital alarm clock on his bedside table. 9:27, it read, and already he was fairly satisfied, if a little nauseous from the recent turn of events. He felt almost content, actually, much more so then he had been at school that week, or even at Gabe's. It was a rare night that he was actually somewhat-happy, and now he found himself satiated before the party was even in full swing. He'd have to remember to thank Jessica when she woke up…if he saw her again. It wasn't often that he saw the college students that Sheila invited over after the party actually ended, although sometimes he heard about them. So-and-so did this. Prissy-Crissy was irritated with him for sleeping with her brother. Usually it wasn't worth listening to with more than half an ear.

Alex smiled his famously charming grin, a practiced motion that actually held some truth to it tonight, and walked (stumbled) to his dresser, pulling out the first shirt he found, a dark blue shirt with the words "Too Sexy for My Shirt" on the front. He ran his fingers through his hair, resettling the vivid pink locks in a fashionably messy style. He yawned again, and left the room without a backwards glance to the sleeping, unwelcome body inhabiting his bed.

The night had just begun, after all.

-x-

-x-

It was 9:30 when Matthew and Michael Brooks pulled into Missile Drive, snagging the first available parking spot some four houses down from what Michael hoped wasn't their final destination. As they came to a complete stop and Matt climbed out of the car to head in that unwanted direction, Michael's eyes widened and he groaned inwardly. He chanced a glance towards the house, hoping that it wasn't as bad as he had originally thought, only to glance away quickly and all but dive for Matt's arm. There were people spilling out of any and all crevices available, people strewn across the lawn and dancing in the street while impatient cars went around them. Heavens, even the bushes in front of the overlarge house had people practically bursting out of them. It was enough to make Michael nearly hyperventilate, and cling desperately to his older brother's arm despite the latter's obvious attempts to pull free.

"Um, Matt? Where are we?"

They had left their house not a half-hour before, with Matt assuring their overly concerned parents that they were going to help a nearby church put on a fresh coat of paint, and wouldn't be gone for more than a few hours. Matt had assured him that it would be "a true experience" and Michael, always the dutiful son and brother, had put on a pair of faded jeans and an old t-shirt from his younger, smaller days, perfectly prepared to help those who needed it, as any good Catholic schoolboy would. He should have known that Matt, a very bad Catholic schoolboy in comparison, would have been taking them somewhere else.

Michael was pulled out of his thoughts when Matt sighed, seeming to take pity on him.

"This is the home of one of my friends from college. She said she was throwing a party, and asked us to show up." Matt said casually as he continued moving in the direction of the house, merrily shaking Michael off like it was no big deal. Michael, having a vague idea of what happened at college parties from the bits and pieces he'd picked up from books, immediately went pale.

"What? What about 'painting the church?'" Michael stammered out, surprise and a little fear making his voice squeak, before he darted after his brother, ducking and dodging around the bodies littered across the lawn.

Matt looked at him like he was insane as he paused outside of the front door, which was, surprisingly enough considering the "bursting at the seams" appearance, actually closed.

"Do you really think a church would be painting in the middle of the night? That was just for Mom and Dad and their worrywart tendencies," Matt said with a laugh as he reached for the silver, honest-to-goodness silver, door knocker.

"They could be painting inside," Michael said stubbornly, slapping his brother's hand down before he continued in a slightly hoarser voice.

"Matt, are you insane? We shouldn't be here; our parents will be furious if they find out we went to a party! And what about me? I don't even like parties. Why in Heaven's name did you bring me?" Michael said in a hushed, urgent whisper. Damn, damn, damn, he should have known Matt would pull something like this. Matt, a very adventurous person by nature, always did things like this and Michael, a very non-adventurous person by nature, was left to deal with the aftermath.

Matt shrugged, and again raising up a hand, this time succeeding in giving the knocker a quick series of thuds.

"To make them less suspicious. They know that you would never conspire with me to go to a party behind their backs," Matt said with a wicked smile, pushing past his smaller brother and entering the house when a rather dazed-looking young man opened the door, despite Michael's stammered protests for him to wait.

"Matt!" Michael panicked, and grabbed for his arm. Matt had turned to reprimand him, maybe to shake him off a second time and continue on his path to debauchery, but his face softened when he saw the panic in his brother's light blue eyes behind the thick lenses. Matt knew that Michael didn't really like any of the mild, G-rated parties they had attended when they were young, knew that he was quiet and antisocial by nature, and he probably knew that all Michael wanted to do right then was leave.

"It's okay, Michael," Matt said in a gentle voice, trying his best to stop his brother's panic, but the attempt only made it worse, if the tightening on his arm was any indication. He sighed, and tried again.

"All we have to do is mingle for a few hours, then we can leave. You can do it; there are a lot of pretty girls here, and I'm sure that you can be friendly for an hour or two."

"I-I can't talk to girls! And especially not college girls!" Michael insisted, refusing to let go of Matt's arm when he tugged on it. Michael had never been able to talk to girls, could barely talk to guys, and his glasses made him "a geek" before anyone ever met him. He had never been able to handle a birthday party: how could he function at this party? He didn't even think good, devout Catholics went to these kinds of parties.

Matt sighed, and patted him on the head in a rare brotherly gesture, a gesture that saddened Michael somewhat. They had been close as kids, that rare pair of siblings that got along despite the difference with age and interests, but now…Ever since Matt had gone off to college nearly three years ago, they hadn't really had the time to be brotherly. Naturally Michael had jumped at the chance to do something with his brother who was, in essence, his hero. Even now, knowing this was a party with drugs and alcohol and sex, he didn't regret coming with Matt, simply because he was with Matt. He didn't want to be left alone, stranded with these people with no morals or even the slightest idea of personal space. Even now one was creeping close to him, and he shrank against his brother with a whimper while Matt calmly pushed the offending young woman out onto the lawn, where she simply laid down and laughed. Michael scooted closer to Matt, although he was already as close as he could possibly be. These people were so…foreign. So above and beyond anything Michael had ever seen, and it made him nervous, and more than a little bit frightened.

Matt patted his hand, and attempted to forcefully unclench his brother's fingers from around his arm, smiling in an accepting sort of way when it failed. For all his flaws (of which there were numerous), Matt was actually a good brother when he thought about it, and the fact that Michael was panicking was enough to get his attention. Besides that, he really did want Michael to enjoy this party: the kid was way, way too uptight, and Matt had never wanted his brother to act like his parents. It was, as far as he could tell, the last chance to save him from the horrible fate that was maturity.

"Alright, alright. I'll tell you what: just stand over here, and I'll find someone to keep you company who won't make you uncomfortable."

"Like there's anyone like that here," Michael said in a pained, drawn-out voice, but he reluctantly let go of Matt's arm, hoping like Hell it was the smart thing to do.

"Don't worry. I'll find someone." Matt quickly scanned the crowd, and a smile appeared on his face, a smile that Michael recognized, and he slapped a hand to his forehead in exasperation. He should have known it was her party. Matt had been wearing that smile for the better part of the ride, and he knew what that smile meant: the elusive "friend" Sheila was within sight. Michael had never met her, of course, as she was a junior in college and had never bothered to make the acquaintance of her friends' families, but Michael knew that smile. Every time Sheila had called on the phone, every time Matt talked about her or had gone to see her, Matt had gotten that smile, half-dreamy and half-longing. As far as Michael was concerned, when Matt saw Sheila, he was as good as gone. And Michael knew what his brother's next words would be before he even said them.

"Look, there's Sheila." Matt pointed off into the thickest part of the crowd, where a pink-haired woman in a slim black dress could just barely be seen among the throngs of people, tapping a foot to the loud, unrecognizable beat.

"I'll be…right back. I promise." And just like that, Matt was gone, drifting off towards his Sheila, completely abandoning his brother. Michael resisted the urge to throw a nearby beer bottle at him, simply because he didn't trust his aim that much and he didn't want the attention besides. Instead, he chose to sigh and glare off in the direction Matt had probably gone, hoping that he may be true to his word after all. All the while, he contemplated ways to painfully and slowly kill Matt and get away with it (a very immoral thought series, certainly, but he felt he was justified under the circumstances.)

He couldn't wait to go back home.