Disclaimer: The following work of fan fiction isn't intended to infringe on any copyright or to make a profit. I don't claim the characters, setting, concept, but the story is mine. Please don't reproduce, link to, or sue without permission from the author.

Warnings/Rating/Spoilers: PG-13; slash, crossover between The O.C. and Everwood (Bright/Seth). SPOILERS for the spring 2004 season finales of both shows.

Notes: Written in answer to the Teen Summer Dance Party Challenge.

Experimental
by Katie

Tahiti was a consolation prize.

Bright's parents called it a vacation, a chance to get away before he started classes and his dad really got into the swing of his new practice with Dr. Brown. A way to celebrate graduating (they never actually added, "Thank God," but Bright could hear it in their voices whenever the subject came up). They called it a vacation, but Bright wasn't stupid, even if he couldn't do better than the local junior college. He knew they were trying to make something up to him. He just wasn't sure exactly what they thought they were making up for. From the baffled way his father looked at him when he thought Bright couldn't see him and the determined cheerfulness in his mother's voice whenever she talked about the trip, Bright had come to suspect they didn't know either.

It was a relief when his dad handed him a wad of colorful money and told him he was old enough to spend the day however he wanted. His parents were going sight-seeing, but Bright had gotten a good look at the beach from his hotel window. All the sights he wanted to see for the day were likely to be found lounging on the sand.

Armed with a beach towel, a couple of bottles of water, sunscreen, and his dad's lecture on heat stroke, Bright wandered down toward the water. White sand stretched in an unbroken strip next to the ocean, with only large beach umbrellas marked with the hotel's name in French and English to provide any shade. A couple of families with little kids played near the water, but most of the people Bright could see were his age or older, and gloriously almost naked. There was more bronzed flesh and defined abs on that one beach than Bright had seen in all his years life-guarding at Everwood Municipal Pool. Best of all, none of it belonged to anyone who was likely to ever speak to his parents.

"Bright Abbott, you are going to get laid," he said with quiet satisfaction, setting his beach towel down beside an unoccupied umbrella and turning to survey the possibilities.

"Is that a wish or a prediction?"

Bright jumped at the unexpected voice, heat already rising in his cheeks as he looked more carefully under the umbrella. Sure enough, someone was already there--a black-haired, darkly tanned kid about his age who was staring at him over the rim of a pair of sunglasses with smirk that would have done Ephram proud.

"Because if it's a wish," the kid continued, pushing his sunglasses back up his nose with one finger, "I'd say it's got a decent chance of coming true. Girls tend to like that whole Aryan/jock/who-needs-brains-when-you've-got-muscles thing you've got going, but you might want to think about a more subtle approach. Like not using the word 'laid'. I've found it tends to spoil the mood."

The kid turned back to his book, leaving Bright feeling like he might just have been insulted. Or maybe complimented. It was hard to tell.

"It was a game plan," Bright said finally. "Mind sharing the shade?"

The kid shrugged. "It's a free beach. Or, you know, maybe not. I guess someone probably owns it, but since no one's walking around collecting rent or anything, you're probably safe picking any bit of sand that doesn't already have a towel on it."

Bright took that as a yes. Dropping down onto his towel, he said, "I'm Bright Abbott. From Colorado."

"I know." The kid smirked again. "I'm Seth Cohen. From Newport Beach."

"Yeah? Where's that?"

The kid--Seth--looked at him like he'd asked who George Washington was. "California? L.A.?"

"Like Disneyland?"

Seth laughed. "Yeah, it's the magical kingdom, all right."

Something in Seth's tone made Bright change the subject. "What're you reading?"

Seth held up a book with familiar artwork on the cover. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bright read, and felt a strange pang that wasn't quite homesickness.

"My best friend likes manga, too," he said, to get his mind off the weirdness.

"In Colorado?" Seth looked pleased. "Wow, the geeks really are taking over the world. I always knew it would happen one day."

Bright shrugged. "He's from New York."

The Ephram-like smirk was back. "So does that make him more or less of a geek?"

Bright frowned at him. "It makes him gripe a lot, actually, but he's still my friend."

Seth shrugged, turning back to his book. "Friendship is overrated."

Bright could have argued that, but Colin still hurt too much to be shared with some punk from California with a chip on his shoulder, and Ephram--Ephram was a twisty subject on any day. It was easier just to let the subject drop.

Leaning back on his elbows, Bright scanned the beach. So many choices, so little time. He could barely believe his luck in getting today to himself; his parents were sure to demand his presence for at least part of the week they were going to be there, and he had a mission that he couldn't carry out with them around. His dad might have said he was a grown up now, but Bright wasn't dumb enough to imagine that "grown up" meant "it's okay if you have sex, and, yeah, if you have sex with a man, I won't freak at all."

Actually, Bright wasn't entirely sure he wasn't going to freak over the man thing, but he didn't figure he'd have too many more chances any time soon. Going to the junior college in Everwood meant living in the same town where his dad was the doctor and his mom was the mayor and nearly everybody in the vicinity had known Bright since he was in diapers. The odds of Bright having an affair in Everwood of any kind, gay or otherwise, without his parents finding out were very, very slim. If Bright wanted to figure out whether the feelings he'd been having were real, he was going to have to do it in Tahiti.

It couldn't be that much different approaching a guy than it was a girl, could it? Theoretically, it should be easier, since guys were supposed to have sex on the brain twenty-four/seven--something Bright had pretty much found true of himself, at least, and none of the guys he'd known had done anything to prove him wrong--so any guy Bright approached ought to be as eager as Bright was. Bright sighed. Assuming the guy was gay. That's where the problem lay; how was Bright supposed to know? Some of the guys on the team had said you could always tell, but they'd never known about Bright. Also, they'd always said Ephram had to be gay because why else would he dress like he did, and Bright had spent way too much time listening to Ephram obsess over Amy and Madison and Amy again to hold out any hope for Ephram's gayness.

Which was okay. Just because he sometimes found himself wondering what it would taste like if he ran his tongue down Ephram's neck didn't mean he was any less supportive of his friend's attempts to find a happy relationship. It kind of sucked that the relationship Ephram wanted most was with Bright's sister, but even that wasn't all bad, was it? If Ephram hadn't been friends with Amy and with Colin during that weird time just before he died, it wasn't likely that Bright would have ever figured out he was more interesting than all the guys on the team put together. Since Ephram was his best friend and Amy was his sister, if they got together, it wouldn't be too weird if Bright hung out with them sometimes. Bright had learned to take what he could get. You never knew when you could lose everything.

But that train of thought wasn't helping him complete his mission. He needed to focus on hot guys here, not absent best friends who were in love with his sister. There were several guys on the beach who weren't obviously attached to girls. Weed out the ones who were apparently attached to each other and the ones who were too old or too young, and that left . . . Bright glanced over his shoulder at Seth.

No. Seth was cute enough. A little on the skinny, wild-haired side, but Ephram had taught Bright to appreciate what skinny could do for a person, and Bright had nothing but sympathy on the hair issue. Seth's attitude, though--on Ephram, the emo thing was kind of amusing, but Bright was looking to get laid here, not bond in everlasting friendship. He wanted something easy and fun, not--

"Y'know, if I'm, like, growing an extra head or something, you could just say," Seth said suddenly.

"Huh?"

"Staring, dude."

"Oh. Sorry."

"If you want to get laid, the chicks are out there." Seth gestured toward the beach.

"I'm not--" Bright stopped, his throat threatening to close off permanently as he realized what he'd been about to say. But if he couldn't even say it, how was he ever going to be able to do it? "I'm not looking at chicks."

Seth's eyebrows shot up. Bright braced himself.

All he got was, "I. Um. Yeah. I'm not--"

"Hey, it's cool, man." Almost light-headed with relief, Bright could only grin. "No offense, but you're not my type anyway."

Weirdly, that didn't seem to reassure Seth as much as Bright had intended it to.

"Yeah, I get that a lot." Seth turned back to his book.

Suddenly feeling awkward, Bright searched frantically for something neutral to say. "So, you been here long?"

Seth gave him a look that Bright couldn't read through the sunglasses, but he seemed to relax a little. "Just a couple of days."

"You on vacation with your parents or on your own?"

"Actually, I ran away from home."

Bright stared at him. He didn't look like he was joking. "From California?"

Seth shrugged. "Things were kind of screwed up at home."

"Dude, it took us nearly eight hours to fly here from L.A. That's a whole lot of screwed up."

"You have no idea."

"Do your parents know you're here?" Bright tried to imagine his dad's reaction to him running off to another country. The Apocalypse would be prettier.

"I left them a note," Seth said, and Bright could see his wince behind the sunglasses.

"That had better be a damn good note."

Seth sighed. "Yeah, I know. But I couldn't stay there. Not without--I would have lost my mind. So I figured, I always wanted to sail to Tahiti, so as long as everything at home sucked so bad my great-grandchildren would still be feeling the suckitude, why not go on and do it? Even though I had to do it alone. Like it could make anything worse, you know?"

Bright knew the feeling. When he'd walked away from the wreck and Colin hadn't, he'd thought about going somewhere--anywhere--else. He'd just never quite had the courage to act on it. And he suspected that running away would have made things worse, for his family if not for him.

"So you're, what, staying at the hotel?" he asked finally.

Seth snorted. "Like I could afford that? No way, man. But there's lots of places around here where people take in tourists. Like a bed-and-breakfast kind of thing, you know? And some of them rent out spots in their yard to campers for cheap. I just got a sleeping bag and a pup tent and I was set."

"Are you planning on going back?"

"Aren't you supposed to be looking for some guy to do the dirty with?"

"Do the dirty?"

"Horizontal mambo?" Seth suggested, grinning.

"You're kidding, right?"

"What about him?" Seth nodded at a blond man walking up the beach out of the water. "He's pretty hot."

Bright squinted at the guy, then shook his head. "No, he was all over that red-headed girl with the black bikini." He looked back at Seth. "You're not freaked out by this?"

"What?" Seth frowned. "The gay thing? Dude, I'm from California. We invented gay. Okay, not really, because ancient Greece, you know? But definitely an open-minded state. And--" He stopped. "Hey, what about that one? With the long hair?"

Bright couldn't help but look--and make a mental note about where the man's beach towel was located--but what Seth hadn't said had caught his interest.

"And what?"

Even behind the sunglasses, Seth's eyes looked wide and innocent. "What what?"

MAybe Bright wasn't a genius, but he could add two and two and get some weird number involving a right triangle. He had the diploma to prove it. "That trouble at home. It had something to do with a guy, right?"

"Just because I'm not prejudiced--"

"You're checking out guys for me, Seth."

Bright felt a twinge of satisfaction when Seth blushed. It was only fair.

"Maybe I'm just really open-minded. It's not like straight guys can't tell whether a man is ugly or not."

"Whatever, dude." Bright shrugged. He was here to work out his own sexual crisis, not Seth's. "Damn. I didn't move fast enough."

The long-haired guy had been joined by two other guys, one of them leaning against him in a way straight guys just didn't lean.

"Anyway, I've got a girlfriend at home. Or I did. I left her a note, too, so she's probably going to kill me if I ever set foot in Orange County again, but there were definitely boyfriend and girlfriend things going on. Like, more than once."

"Yeah? Was it good?" Bright asked, part of his attention still on the three guys further down the beach. The third one was lying on his side at the feet of the first two, building what looked like a sand castle over their feet. It was weirdly intimate, and it was making Bright's dick do things that were going to get embarrassing in a few minutes.

"Of course it was good! Mostly. Once we figured it out. She's, like, the most incredible person I've ever met."

"Sounds great."

"Yeah," Seth said glumly, his tone finally dragging Bright's attention away from the three guys. "So why is it I run away to Tahiti as soon as Ryan's gone instead of staying in Newport Beach and doing boyfriend things with her?"

He was looking at Bright like Bright was supposed to know the answer. The sunglasses couldn't hide the misery on his face, and Bright kind of wished he'd go back to having an attitude. At least Bright had some idea how to handle that.

"Ryan?" Bright asked, stalling for time.

Seth sighed. "My--I don't know. He was kind of my foster brother, but not exactly. Mostly, he was just the best friend I ever had, practically the only friend, and then he left. And I had to leave, too, because I couldn't stay there if he was gone."

"So, what, you're in love with him?"

"I'm straight!" Seth snapped, then deflated almost as abruptly. "Or I thought I was. I've been in love with Summer forever. But then Ryan comes along, and--"

Bright nodded. He could relate, except he'd always kind of suspected there was more to life than just girls. He'd tried to ignore that feeling for as long as he could, but he'd always known anyway.

"You want to test it?" he asked suddenly. Seth was cute, after all, and since Bright was already doing the bonding thing with him . . . .

Seth pulled the glasses off and stared at him. "With you?"

Bright shrugged. "Why not? We kiss, and you either like it or you don't. Either way, your question is answered." If the plan was good enough for him, it was good enough for Seth, too.

"You said I wasn't your type."

"You said you weren't gay."

"I'm--" Seth stopped and sighed. "Okay. Fine. Kiss me."

Bright blinked. Suddenly faced with the opportunity, it seemed like something was missing. Like there should have been something leading up to this moment, some romantic music or flirting or something, but maybe that wasn't how guys did it. Who knew? This was just an experiment, after all; his as much as Seth's. It wasn't like they were trying to start a relationship or like Bright had to convince Seth to put out. It was just a kiss.

"Bright? Staring again." Seth sounded like he was trying to make a joke, but Bright could tell he was nervous.

Somehow, that made Bright feel a little better. Taking a deep breath, he stood and went to kneel on Seth's towel beside his legs. Seth's eyes were wide. Bright tried for a reassuring grin, although it felt a little shaky. He felt a little shaky.

"You sure?" he asked, reaching out to touch Seth's jaw with one finger. Seth's skin was warm, dusted with peach fuzz, and he shivered slightly at Bright's touch.

Seth swallowed. "I--" He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again. "Yeah."

Bright leaned in, letting his lips just barely brush Seth's. Seth sighed, opening his mouth just a bit, and Bright teased them with his tongue. Oh, yeah, that was definitely working for him. And from the hand suddenly knotted in his hair, bringing him closer into the kiss, Seth had found his own answer, as well.

When he finally sat back on his heels, it wasn't entirely comfortably. He was really, really glad he hadn't worn a Speedo. Seth was breathing heavily, his expression caught somewhere between dazed and intrigued.

"Well. That was, definitely, I mean, yeah." Seth nodded as if he had some idea what he was saying. "Wow, man. Just, wow."

"Yeah." Bright couldn't help but grin. "I know exactly what you mean."

"Want to try it again? Just to be sure, I mean."

"That's probably a good idea."

And Bright couldn't help but think, as he settled more comfortably beside Seth, that as consolation prizes went, Tahiti wasn't bad at all.

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