Fandom: The OC
Word Count: 1719
Summary: Alex is in Pittsburgh for the holidays...
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and I'm making no money off of this.
A/N: Written before we knew, well, anything about Alex's background, so now that's all AU.
Alex is completely oblivious to the Chrismukkah conflict at the Cohens'. (Actually, she's oblivious to the Chrismukkah phenomenon.) She's in Pittsburgh with her grandparents for the holidays, which is a drag. Family things are not her style at all, but Dad threatened to make her quit her job at the Bait Shop if she didn't come, and it's her only escape.
So here she is, wishing to be anywhere else. At least her father can't hit her with the whole family around.
None of her friends know it, but in her family Alex is the quiet one. The observer. Her friends would laugh if she told them that, because it isn't who she is with them.
Alex is no stranger to living a double life. At home, she's good. Did well in school, before she dropped out. Does whatever she can to please her father. And gets out of the house as much as possible.
Everywhere else she's loud. Obnoxious, even. She has on a protective shell. She doesn't know she let Seth penetrate that shell, but she doesn't like it. Another plus to being in Pittsburgh: she can avoid Seth Cohen.
But she can't run away from herself. Alex doesn't understand her semi-attraction to Seth. She's always liked girls more. In fact, there was a point in her life when she thought she was a lesbian. But then, there's Seth.
She had never been averse to kissing boys. To her, a kiss is just a kiss. To Seth, it's a promise of something more. Alex had given up on hoping for more after the third girl in a row broke her heart, telling her she was a good kisser and a nice person, but "I'm not gay." Since then, kisses meant nothing.
Which is why she had allowed herself to kiss Mandy in front of Seth. Mandy is hot, and Alex's good friend, and Alex has had a crush on her since last year. She'll never tell Mandy, though - she can't risk their friendship. But to prove a point to Seth, she can do anything. She had never been happier when Mandy kissed back.
But Alex knows better than to hope. Hope just sets you up for disappointment.
On the third day Alex is in Pittsburgh, her cousin Matt brings his friend Anna over. She's cute and quirky, with short blonde hair. Alex can't tell if Anna's fashion sense is awesome or awful, but it's definitely unique. She admires that.
Her grandmother drags Matt into the kitchen to catch up (or "schmooze," as she says, which Alex finds unbearably pretentious - they're not even Jewish) and Alex and Anna are left alone in the living room.
Alex clears her throat. "So, what is there to do around here?"
Anna's face lights up. "There's so much to do! What are you into?"
"I don't know. Anything, I guess. Feel like getting out of here?"
Anna glances around warily. "I don't know. What about your parents... and Matt..."
"Matt can survive a few hours with Grandma. And can we please not discuss my parents?"
"Sure." Anna gives her a dubious look that suggests she knows there's more to it than that, but doesn't want to pry.
"So, are we going?" Alex walks to the door impatiently.
Anna is taken aback. "Right. Yeah. Let me get my keys. And you might want a coat."
Alex shrugs. "I'm fine." But Anna grabs an extra coat anyway on her way out the door.
"Fuck, it's cold," Alex says as they sip gourmet coffees outside Anna's favorite cafe.
"I did warn you."
"I'm just used to California weather. Cold in Newport means sixty degrees." Anna is suddenly looking at her funny.
"Newport? As in Newport Beach?"
"You know it?" Alex is surprised. Not many people outside of California have heard of her hometown. She shivers.
"I lived there for a few - here, let me get you a jacket." Anna unlocks the car. "Anyway, it's a long story."
"I'm not going anywhere," Alex points out, suddenly warm as a coat is gently draped over her shoulders.
"All right. I moved there with my parents last summer. Well, technically I guess it would be the summer before last." Anna pauses, remembering. "I came out there."
Alex can't believe her ears. Anna's not saying what she thinks, right? She can't be. "What do you mean?"
"You know, like a formal debut. You get introduced, and then you dance?"
Alex isn't sure whether to laugh or be disappointed that Anna didn't mean "came out" in the context of a closet. She decides on laughing. "That's so... god... outdated. Elitist. Sexist." She could continue, but Anna cuts her off.
"I know, but my parents made me, and you want to know a secret?" She leans across the small table so that their noses are almost touching. "It was fun. Well, aside from the scandal."
Alex is intrigued. Since she stopped going to school, she stopped getting gossip. Not that she'd get the same gossip at her old school anyway. Rich kids have juicier stories, she's decided.
"My friend Marissa's father - he was stealing from his clients and one of them punched him on the dance floor at Cotillion."
"Hey, I know Marissa. I think. Tall, anorexic-looking, brown hair, melodramatic?"
"Her ex-boyfriend's foster brother is my boyfriend now. I guess. I don't really know how that happened, though."
Anna's eyes widen (sexily, Alex thinks). "You're dating Seth Cohen?"
Alex's eyes narrow. "You know Seth?"
"Know him? I-" Anna seems to think better of whatever she was about to say. "I used to," she says softly.
Alex knows there's a story there. "Did he talk about someone else while you were with him, too?"
"Talk about someone else? Try double-time both of us and then refuse to choose. I had to make the decision for him. Twice."
"Shit," is all Alex can say. "Who does that?"
"Right." Alex can't tell whether or not Anna looks upset. She looks lost in thought, certainly, but sad? Alex doesn't know.
"Do you miss it?"
"Newport? Are you kidding? Everyone's so fake there. I missed Pittsburgh. That's why I came home. I miss some people sometimes, though. Like Ryan and Marissa. Even Seth, occasionally."
"Well, I don't. I'm glad to get away," Alex announces. "Especially from Seth."
"I just need some time to think. The whole thing has gone so fast. I don't know how he went from working under me to dating me, and actually, I'm not sure I like it."
"You don't like Seth?" Anna questions.
"No, he's a nice guy - I'm just not sure I like guys. That way." Anna looks taken aback, and Alex wonders if she shouldn't have said it. She knows most people don't just come out and say things like that, especially the first time they meet someone new. But Alex has never been "most people."
"Sorry," she says, unsure what she's apologizing for. She just wants to wipe the unsteady look off of Anna's face.
"No, don't apologize. I just wasn't expecting you to be so... blunt, I guess." Alex thinks Anna is sheltered. Not the same way Newport girls are, though. Newport girls are sheltered in a way that means spoiled and unaware of the outside world. Naive, but not in a good way. In Anna's case, sheltered means innocent. Sweet, even. Her voice is sweet, too, like her personality. But Alex bets she wouldn't know what to do in the real world. She seems too trusting, somehow.
"Yeah, that's how most people react to me." Alex's voice is bitter, and Anna scrambles to fix it. "No, that's not what I meant. Your bluntness doesn't bother me."
"Oh." Once again, Alex doesn't know what to say, and they lapse into a comfortable silence. Finally, she says, "So, are you dating my cousin?"
"Matt?" Anna laughs. "No. We're best friends. There are things... you don't know. At least, if you think we're dating."
"About Matt or you?"
Now Anna looks uncomfortable. "I'd better not say."
"What? I'm not going to tell anyone."
"I know. It's just... he'll kill me."
"Well, now I know." And I'm disappointed. Why can't one hot girl be interested in me? Just once. That's all I ask for. Alex glances at her mug and looks away.
"Anyway," Anna says, "Even if he were interested, I've kind of sworn off boys for a while." Is it Alex's imagination, or is that a hint of a smile?
When they're done with their coffees (well, Alex's coffee - Anna drinks Chai) they stand up awkwardly and stare at each other.
"What now?" Anna asks.
"I don't know. You know this place much better than I do."
"You were the one who wanted to go out," Anna points out.
"True. What do you usually do?"
"Well, there are some great stores around here. Do you like graphic novels?"
Alex looks at Anna with a hint of a smirk on her face. "You mean like comic books? You're kidding, right?"
"Okay, never mind, then. And, no, I'm not kidding. It's a perfectly valid art form that gets marginalized because people don't take it seriously."
Alex is in no mood to stand around in the cold debating comic books. If she'd wanted to do that, she could have stayed home with Seth and turned on the air conditioning. "Whatever. Can we just get back in the car? It's freezing out here."
"Oh. Sure." Anna looks a little let down at not getting to debate the finer points of comic books (or "graphic novels"), but she bounces back quickly. "Maybe we should just go to my house if you're so cold. When do you have to be back?"
Alex shrugs. "I'm sure they don't miss me. Matt might notice you're gone, though."
"Oh, god, Matt!" Anna slumps momentarily, pulling out her cell phone. "Hello, may I please speak to Matt? Thank you. ... Hey, it's Anna. ... Sorry. ... Yeah, I know. ... I'm hanging out with your cousin Alex. ... Downtown. ... Okay, fine. ... An hour? ..." She pauses to look at Alex, who shrugs. "Sure. ... See you then. ... Bye." Sticking the phone back in her pocket, Anna says, "We've got an hour, I guess."