A/N: This story is actually the backstory to a collaboration between a friend and I have been talking about for a while now.

Warnings: This story contains slashy themes. It also has mild violence. It also has strong language.


It was hard not to stare, though Chris desperately tried not to. Having used the heel of his palm to destroy the nose of someone twice his size, the boy named Alexander Grey had simply returned to munching on his lunch, which seemed to consist entirely of a bag of chips and a diet Coke, like nothing had happened, or better still, as if he broke the noses of meat-headed morons all the time.

Chris thought it was brilliant.

On a normal day, it was hard enough not to notice Alexander. He was, at seventeen, too pretty for his own good, and he got a lot of flack for it. So much that he started to wear sunglasses all the time to hide his eyes, which drew the most attention, and grew his dark hair out to disguise the fact that his jaw was far too delicate—in appearance. He could take a hit better than nearly anyone in school, and he gave at least as good as he got, which strangely enough made people want to pick on him more.

Personally, if Chris called someone a fag and said fag landed a punch squarely on his jaw and dislocated it, Chris would call it a day and take up a more suitable hobby—like knitting. But perhaps it wasn't for nothing that Chris was an honor roll student.

"Are you listening to me?" Chris turned to face Brooke. She looked impatient, a scowl marring what may have been an otherwise pretty, if not too perfectly made up, face.

"Why do you wear all this crap?" he asked her softly, brushing his thumb across her tanned cheek. She pretended to rummage in her designer purse to hide the blush that had spread across her cheeks and was know turning the tips of her ears pink. It was the cutest thing she had done in weeks. Perhaps the only thing she had done that could be considered cute in weeks. She pulled out a tube of lip gloss. Chris winced when he saw the color. He hated that particular one. It tasted like stale bubblegum. Apparently, Brooke remembered his distaste for it, because she put it back in her purse and pulled out another one. That one was cherry-flavored.

"You'll be there, right?" she asked. She used the cover of her cell phone as a mirror to apply an unnecessary coat of lip gloss.

"Of course, sugar," Chris replied, fully intending to ask Michael exactly where he was supposed to be and when. She wrinkled her nose.

"Don't call me that. You never mean it in a nice way." She rose from her chair, pulling ineffectually at the hem of her skirt, which wasn't getting any longer anytime soon. Chris rose with her. He pulled her close and kissed her softly, just long enough to taste a hint of her lip gloss. "Be on time," she said sternly. Chris nodded. She smiled. "Later."

Chris sat back down to find Michael grinning at him. "What?" Chris asked his brother.

"When you and Brooke break up, do you mind if I ask her out?" Chris took a moment to determine if Michael was serious. There was a smile on his brother's face, but his green eyes were earnest.

"Not if you don't mind having your older brother's leftovers." Michael's smile grew wider. "Not like you have a chance with Brooke anyway," Chris added.

"She's going to break up with you, which means she won't be leftovers; you'll be rejected, and she'll be upgrading."

"To you?" Chris asked incredulously.

"What's wrong with me?" Michael asked, running a hand through dark brown hair. There was nothing wrong with Michael, really. He and Chris looked very similar- except Chris' own eyes were hazel and his curly hair was a very light brown that could bleach near-blond in summer sun. Michael was a little shorter, thicker in build with darker features- and he was a junior.

"Nothing," Chris said, smiling at his brother. "You're great," Chris murmured.

"Hey," Michael said quietly, so that the rest of the table couldn't overhear, "are you all right? You've been a total space cadet recently." Chris shouldn't have been surprised that Michael noticed. Michael made it his job to notice these things and considered himself Chris' best friend. Chris conceded that Michael was probably right on that account.

"I'm okay. I'm just tired of this place and even these people. Same old, you know?" Michael nodded, though Chris knew that he wouldn't understand- not yet. In a year, Michael would understand completely. "I want to move on. I want to talk about things that matter, not things like whether Brooke should put highlights or lowlights in her hair," Chris said, half-jokingly. Michael laughed.

"I'll trade you. I'll take Brooke."

"And what do I get?" Chris asked. Michael grinned.

"You get nothing- nothing to distract you from staring off into space and looking like a total nut."

"Good deal," Chris said, laughing. Michael raised an eyebrow.

"You know, maybe you are a total nut."

"Signs say 'yes'," Chris replied, as the bell rang. Michael bolted, since his next class was on the other side of campus. In the window not ten feet away, Alexander Grey continued to eat his lunch as if the bell hadn't rung. Absently, Chris wondered how long it could take someone to eat a single bag of chips. He sighed. He wasn't supposed to be clocking how long it took the guy it took to eat his lunch. He wasn't supposed to be noticing the guy at all. Remember? Chris said to himself.

Yet, it was difficult not to notice, just like it was difficult not to stare. Chris knew from experience. He had been trying not to notice for a long time, but a spectacular case of Senioritis and boredom were making the act of noticing seem more and more appealing.

"What are you looking at, breeder?" Alexander snapped, looking up from his lunch.

Busted, said a singsong voice in the back of Chris' mind. "My newest hero," Chris replied.

"Yeah?" Alexander asked skeptically.

"Yeah, Andy is a douche anyway. Glad you broke his nose."

"I'm not," Alexander replied, frowning.

"Yeah?" Chris asked, surprised.

"No, I meant to kill him. Guess I didn't hit him hard enough. Maybe next time." The sarcasm was thick in Alexander's voice. Chris grinned, and turned to walk away. "Hey, you got a name?" the other boy asked.

"Just call me your biggest fan," Chris said. Alexander laughed. His laughter wasn't something Chris was used to hearing. He kind of liked it.

Chris came home to find his brother fuming about something. "What's eating you?" he asked, opening the fridge.

"Fucking fag broke Andy's nose," Michael growled. Chris snorted.

"Andy's fucking fault."

"You knew? And you didn't tell me?" Michael asked. Chris shrugged.

"Yeah, happened right before lunch. Let me tell you, Andy should've seen it coming. Everyone else in the hallway did," Chris said, grabbing a can of soda and shutting the fridge door.

"You standing up for that queer?" Michael asked, his face screwed up with a mixture of distaste and disbelief. Chris rolled his eyes.

"One, you have no proof that kid's queer. Two, I'm just saying that Andy may have taken one too many hits during practice because he's too damn slow for his own good."

"He hasn't had a girlfriend, has he?" Michael pointed out, ignoring what Chris said about Andy.

"Of course not. What girl would want to date him when you guys are always picking on him? Last I checked, chicks don't dig it when they have to let their boyfriends out of lockers on a weekly basis. Besides, why are you keeping track of his girlfriends? Ask me, that says maybe you're more queer than he is," Chris said, with a sideways glance at Michael, who suddenly went tight-lipped.

"Brooke called," Michael said, changing the subject abruptly.

"Yeah?" Chris said, resisting the urge to shake his head. Nothing got to Michael more than being accused of being gay. It was funny, usually, but today it was just sadly predictable.

"She said to remind you that you were supposed to take her home after her meet."

"What time does that end?" Chris set the can down to look at his watch.

"Four. You got T-minus ten minutes until you're in the doghouse."

"Asshole," Chris muttered.

"I heard that! I know where you sleep, Chris."

"That's a relief, I was beginning to think you didn't know anything."

"Now you've got jokes, huh?"

"I've always got jokes for you."

"Keep wasting your time joking with me and the one thing you won't have is a girlfriend."

"Fair enough," Chris called, bolting out the door, leaving his unopened can of soda on the kitchen counter.

Chris drove like a madman and pulled into the parking lot at two minutes until four. He would have been on time to meet Brooke, if, on his way to the auditorium, his dry throat hadn't reminded him that he left his drink at home. Brilliant. Chris took a detour to grab a drink from the vending machines down by the cafeteria. He rounded the corner just in time to see two guys harassing his newest hero.

One of them, the taller of the two, had taken Alexander's backpack. Angry, Alexander reached for it, only to be pushed back against the row of lockers, hard, by the other guy. "Hey!" Chris yelled, jogging over. "Hey, cut the shit. Give him back his stuff." "What are you going to do about it?" asked the shorter one, not even looking over his shoulder to spare a glance for Chris.

"What am I going to do about it? I'm going to shove my foot so far up your ass that your breath is going to smell like sneaker until they surgically remove my shoe from your throat, asswipe. Now give him back his stuff." That actually made the guy turn around. Success, Chris thought sarcastically.

"Shit, you're Chris Graham," the guy said, turning pale. Chris raised an eyebrow, glad to see that being captain of the basketball team was good for something besides college applications and picking up cheerleaders.

"Yeah, I know. I manage to remember that all by myself. Stuff. Return. Now," he said, glaring.

"Yeah, man, no problem," the taller guy said, putting Alexander's bag on the floor.

"Leave." The two guys took off at a run.

Alexander shouldered his bag, grinning at Chris. It was a cynical grin, full of wry amusement, but it looked good on him nonetheless. "Never thought I'd live to see the day a jock stood up for me, much less a big star like Chris Graham," he said. His voice was cutting and his gaze was cool. "Forgive me for not recognizing you earlier. I don't really follow school sports. Idiots are hazardous to my health."

"You could've taken them," Chris said with an ease that he didn't exactly feel.

"You think so?" Alexander asked, cocking his head. Chris grinned.

"After what you did to Andy? I know so. I just figured that I'd save you the bother. You really shouldn't have to beat up more than one idiot in the same day." That earned Chris another smile.

"How thoughtful of you." The voice still had knives in it.

"'Thoughtful' is my middle name," Chris replied. He wasn't sure what compelled him to say what came next "You want a ride home?" he heard himself say. Distrust flickered across Alexander's face.

"Why?" he asked.

Why indeed, Chris wondered to himself. Really need to work on that "not noticing" thing.

"Like I said, you're my new hero. Part of hero-worship is making sure your hero gets home safe and sound." Over the top of his sunglasses, Alexander shot Chris a doubtful look.
"Now, you're just inventing new ways to mock me." Chris crossed his heart with his index finger.

"I swear. If I'm lying, you can kick me in the nuts later," he promised.

"I'll kick you in the nuts later," interrupted a female voice. "I've been waiting for you for ten minutes now."

Ah, of course. Chris turned to face his girlfriend, who looked less than pleased. "Brooke, sugar, you're not going to spoil if I leave you waiting for ten whole minutes, I promise."

"Especially not since she's already rotten," Alexander muttered under his breath. Chris snickered, despite himself.

"And now you're letting this little shit make fun of me, asshole?" Brooke asked, smacking Chris on the arm.

"Hey, he's got a mean palm strike. He broke Andy's nose today."

"So what? Are you trying to get revenge or something?"

"Hell no! I'm going to buy him a milkshake, if he'll let me." Brooke stared.

"I don't get you," she said, after a moment's pause.

"You and my mother, both," Chris sighed. There was a moment of awkward silence. "So who wants a ride home?"

This isn't awkward at all, Chris thought as he, Brooke and Alexander drove in complete silence. Brooke slammed the door to the car as she got out. Chris winced. Alexander dropped his bag in the front seat and climbed into the seat a second after. "You should go after her," he said. "Continue being thoughtful."

"Right after she stops being a royal pain," Chris replied through gritted teeth. "This is typical Brooke. It has very little to do with you or with me being late. I wasn't even that late- for me."

"If you don't like her, why do you date her?"

"I ask myself the same thing about all my girlfriends," Chris murmured, pulling out of the driveway. "How about that shake?" Alexander grinned.

"Far be it from me to turn down free food when the company isn't threatening to knock my teeth out. By the way, my name is—"

"Alexander Grey, I know. I've been watching you give my brother and his idiot friends a hard time since eighth grade."

"You're a stalker too?" Alexander asked, still grinning.

"I'm not stalking you—yet," Chris added. "But you do tend to keep a high profile." Alexander's grin vanished and he slumped down in his seat.

"Yeah, unfortunately for me," came the sullen reply.

XXXXXXXXXX

"What flavor?" Chris asked, once they were seated comfortably at Chris' favorite diner.

"Strawberry-chocolate-banana," Alexander said, not looking at a menu.

Chris made a face. "Gross."

Alexander stuck out his tongue. "I didn't ask you to comment, just pay," he replied. Chris placed the order with their waitress, who looked amused.

"Now you sound like Brooke," he muttered once the waitress had gone. Alexander grinned.

"I'm way more maintenance then her."

"Oh?" Chris asked, privately wondering how anyone could be more high maintenance than Brooke or any one of her look-alike friends.

"I'm also prettier than her." At that, Chris chuckled. "You didn't deny it," Alexander pointed out. Chris smiled.

"Take off your sunglasses, and maybe I'd be in a better position to pass judgment."

Alexander took off his glasses and put them on the table. That didn't do much good, since it left his hair free to fall into his face, essentially covering everything but his nose. "Pull back your hair." Alexander glared at Chris through a curtain of hair. The overall effect was rather scary and reminded Chris rather strongly of The Ring. "Please?" After a moment, Alexander grudgingly pulled back his hair, holding it at the base of his neck with one hand.

Chris consider him for a long moment. His eyes were amazing—large, fractured blue and grey, and framed with long, dark lashes. They were the by far the most gorgeous pair of eyes Chris could recall having seen. The rest of Alexander's face was delicate. He had cupid's bow lips which were a shade of pink that Brooke would kill for. His skin was marvelously clear. Alexander looked more doll-like than human. Pretty, was the only word Chris could come up with to describe his overall impression. Almost unnaturally so.

"Definitely prettier," Chris said almost reverently. Instantly, the sunglasses went back on and the hair came back around Alexander's face. They drank their shakes in silence. Chris couldn't tell if the silence was awkward or not, so he decided to call it "companionable" and hoped that if he wanted it hard enough, it would be.

"So what happens tomorrow?" Alexander asked, slumping back in his seat.

"H'm?"

"What happens tomorrow? When your girlfriend tells her friends what a faggot I am and your brother and his cronies come after me for what I did to that shithead's nose? What happens then? Are you going to stand up for me then? Or did this afternoon never happen?" The cupid's bow mouth was far less pretty when it was pulled into a scowl.

"I don't know yet," Chris replied truthfully.

"Are you?" Chris asked, poking at the remnants of the shake with his straw.

"Am I what?"

"Gay," Chris said quietly. Alexander's laugh was bitter.

"Gay? Why, what a civil choice of words. What a polite jock you are." The sarcasm was thick in Alexander's voice. Chris fought to hide a wince. "Does it matter? Are you worried that it's contagious?"

"Do I look that stupid to you?" Alexander's eyes flickered over Chris' face.

"I don't know yet."

Touché, Chris thought grimly. That was the end of their conversation. Chris paid for the shakes and he and Alexander slid out of their booth and headed for the parking lot. On their way out, some kids shot them a few weird looks. Chris didn't recognize them, but he had gotten used to being recognized by people he didn't know. Alexander saw them and sent them a glare that would have turned a gorgon to stone. They looked away, abashed. "Do you know them?" Chris asked.

"No, but some people think it's just okay to gawk. Bastards." Chris ignored the feeling of guilt gathering in his stomach.

In front of Alexander's house, it got really awkward. "Thanks," Alexander muttered. "For the thing with the guys, the shake, the ride."

"Don't worry about it. This was fun." Alexander nodded and opened the car door.

Wait." Alexander looked at him curiously. Chris scrounged around in the glove compartment until he found a pen and pulled the receipt from the shake place out of his pocket. "Call me, if you need anything—a ride, free lunch, intimidation services, you name it." he said, scribbling his number on the back of the crumbled piece of paper. Alexander stared at the number and looked back at Chris.

"You're crazy," Alexander said, shoving Chris' number into his pocket. Chris smiled.

"So I've been told, but I'm serious." Alexander didn't respond, simply closed the door and walked away.

It was a long drive home.

XXXXXXXXXX

The next morning, Chris was nervous, wondering just what he was going to do if Michael and his friends singled out Alexander like they always did. He spotted Alexander in the halls at once: sunglasses on like always, dressed in clothes that were a little too clingy and a little too fashionable. Their eyes met and held for a second. That would have been it, if someone didn't deliberately bump into Alexander on the way past him. Chris reacted first, grabbing the guy by the collar and slamming him against the locker.

"Watch where you're going next time," he said, surprising himself.

"S-sure," the guy stammered.

"Apologize," Chris said.

"S-sorry." Chris let the guy go and he scampered away. Chris gaped after him, shocked at himself.

"You know, it's kinda nice having you around to bully people for me," Alexander said wryly.

"I'm not bullying," Chris insisted, frowning, "but people keep acting like it's open season on your ass." Over the tops of his sunglasses, Alexander shot Chris a look that Chris couldn't quite read.

"It's not quite my ass they're after, but why, after four years of watching, do you suddenly care?"

Chris didn't have an answer for that. Alexander didn't wait for one.

Lunch. Alexander sat in a window by himself. Chris sat at a table with Brooke, Michael and various other people Chris was in the habit of calling his friends. Brooke had decided that she wasn't speaking to him, which was cool by Chris. Chris needed the silence to think."Well, aren't you going to apologize?" Brooke asked out of nowhere. Oh, here we go..., Chris thought, barely refraining from rolling his eyes.

"No," he replied, unfazed.

"So you like that fag better than me?" Chris winced. When did that word become so popular?

"Brooke, I like everyone better than you right now," he replied, his voice cold enough to surprise even him. His tone caught Brooke off guard and she was silent for a moment. Only for a moment, though, and then Chris' response set her screeching. Chris picked up his stuff, and walked away. He tossed his lunch tray and walked over to Alexander's window. Brooke was still screeching at him, but her voice had blended into the rest of the noise from the cafeteria crowd, which had become strangely quiet in comparison to the sound of the blood pounding in Chris' ears.

"Hey," he said softly. Behind his sunglasses, Alexander's eyes widened in amazement, then narrowed in dislike at Brooke.

"—if you don't turn around and face me, Chris, we're done!"

Chris didn't really care what Brooke was saying. What mattered to him now was what Alexander did next. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when Alexander moved his bag and folded his legs to make room for Chris to join him. Chris deliberately didn't look at Brooke as he sat down.

"It's a bit loud in here, isn't it?" Chris asked, grimacing. Alexander grinned and nodded his agreement, offering Chris his bag of chips. The next thing Chris knew, Alexander was scrambling for his jacket just as Chris got a face full of soda. "Didn't realize it was supposed to rain today," Chris muttered, popping a now-soggy potato chip into his mouth. Alexander looked up at him from over the collar of his jacket, and laughed.

Chris drove Alexander home again. This time, the silence was definitely companionable.

"Hey," Alexander called softly, one hand on the door handle.

"Yeah?" Chris asked.

"What you did today? That was kinda cool." The car door opened and was shut before Chris could think of a reply.

On the way home, Chris was couldn't stop himself from grinning like a lunatic.

The grin lasted until he stepped through the kitchen door and Michael practically jumped on him. "What was that today?" he demanded.

"What was what?" Chris asked, suddenly tired.

"Ditching Brooke to go sit with that—"

"Alexander. His name is Alexander. You've been beating him up for four years, you should at least know his name—you know, in the event that you encounter someone else you want to call 'faggot.'"

"I'm serious," Michael said, his voice softening. Chris sighed.

"Too serious. Brooke was a stuck up bitch, anyway, and it was getting real old. So I did something that I knew would really piss her off. End of story."

"Yeah? Then when were you for the past three hours?"

"What? Are you Mom now? I was out. What I was out doing is my own business," Chris snapped. Michael fell silent and looked hurt. Chris stomped up the stairs, telling himself that he wouldn't feel bad about the look on his brother's face, even as Chris' heart sank with each step.


End of chapter one. Thoughts, comments, critiques all welcomed and eaten with a spoon! Review!

With love,

J. Silver