"Feathered Friends"

By Sister Rose

Rated: PG-13

Written for TWoP Naked!Character Challenge

Disclaimer: The characters of "The O.C." belong to Fox and no infringement on those rights is intended in this fictional work.

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"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," Ryan said.

"It'll be fun," Seth said.

"Tijuana was supposed to be fun. Golfing was supposed to be fun. The Vegas was supposed to be fun. I could go on," Ryan said.

"The Vegas was fun, Mr. Trucker Hat," Seth said.

"I don't really remember it that way," Ryan said.

"That's because you have no sense of romance or adventure. This, however, this will be fun even for the romance- and adventure-impaired," Seth said.

"Just because we're old enough to get drunk and do something stupid doesn't mean we have to," Ryan said.

"We are neither drunk nor stupid," Seth said. "Well, not drunk, anyway."

Ryan gave him a look.

"Who's the brains around here?" Seth said defensively.

"You're supposed to be, but ..."

"No buts," Seth said. "This will be fun. And it will get me out of debt."

"How could you get into so much trouble in just the two weeks since college started again?" Ryan said.

"Natural talent," Seth said. "I inherited it from my dad. And he would be the first to agree this is going to be fun."

"I can call him right now and ask him," Ryan said, reaching for the cell phone in his locker.

"No, that's all right," Seth said hastily. "He doesn't need to know everything. And we're taking care of the money. Those lacrosse players have promised not to kick my ass until Wednesday."

"You get an allowance in just a couple of weeks," Ryan said. "Couldn't you get them to wait until then?"

A door opened. A burly man came out, pointed to a man in a doctor's coat and said, "Williams, you're up."

Seth and Ryan could hear the noise through the door. It hit a fever pitch as Williams went through.

"OK," Seth said, increasingly panicked. "You're right. This was stupid. And no, my debt-holders were reluctant to let it go until Wednesday, let alone the end of the month."

"You could call Kirsten for an advance," Ryan said.

"My mom will NEVER know about this," Seth said with fervor. "Not one single part of it. Not the poker part, not the losing part, not the stripping part."

"Let's talk about the stripping part," Ryan said. "Why again is it that I have to strip, too?"

"It's amateur night," Seth said. "I might not win, and I need the money. You, on the other hand, might win."

They sat and thought about the possibility for a minute or two. Ryan looked at Seth's physique. Seth looked at Ryan's.

"You know," Ryan said, "Maybe neither of us will win."

"We'll cross that bridge later," Seth said. "For now, let's concentrate on sexy moves."

They thought about that. Neither one got up from the locker room bench to practice sexy moves.

"Can we talk about the way the thong itches?" Seth said.

"Can we talk about the way these thongs were your idea?" Ryan said.

"So I shouldn't complain?" Seth said.

"I can," Ryan said with a frown. "You most definitely can't."

"OK."

Seth sat quietly, listening to the crowd in the other room. He shifted on the bench. His thong still itched. And the feathers were scratchy, too. He was certain Ryan's costume was more comfortable.

"Want to trade costumes?" he said.

"No," Ryan said. "I'm not wearing feathers."

"But you will wear a cop uniform," Seth said. "I would think you would be too uncomfortable in cop's clothing. Or maybe you like the feeling of being on the other side of the law for once. Hey, maybe this could be the start of a whole new career for you."

Seth took a breath.

"From law breaker to law enforcer, the story of Ryan Atwood," he intoned. "Hollywood will come calling. We'll make millions. We'll be rich. Well, richer. Though I don't feel rich right now. I feel like I'm wearing feathers and a thong. Scratchy feathers and an itchy thong."

"Seth," Ryan interrupted. "We're not trading costumes."

Ryan thought about it for a minute, then added, "It's not as if we'll wear them very long anyway."

"I really wish you hadn't said that," Seth said.

His fingers went nervously to the the velcro on the side of his pleather loincloth. Yep. Still intact. Funny how naked he felt without being naked.

"At least Summer will never know," Seth said.

Ryan busied himself with his shoes.

"Right, Ryan?" Seth said.

Ryan turned to the locker and dug out a comb and his cop hat.

"I'm going to fix my hair," Ryan said, walking toward the cracked sink and mirror in the corner of the room.

"Ryan," Seth said with growing alarm. "Summer won't ever know, will she?"

Ryan walked away without looking back or answering the question.

"Ryan?" Seth said.

"Is that your boyfriend?" said a voice beside Seth.

"I beg your pardon," Seth said. He gulped as his eyes established the height, weight and depth of the beefy gentleman next to him.

"I said, is that your boyfriend?"

"Um. No," Seth said. "My brother."

"A brother act. Hmm. Interesting," the large man said. "I just wondered if he was your boyfriend, cause you argue like boyfriends."

"Um. No," Seth said again.

Seth looked at the man's neon shorts. Neon purple shorts. With white racer stripes.

"So what are you supposed to be?" Seth said.

"I'm a boxer," the man said. "I've got a champions robe and a big belt to go over the shorts. I can do some peekaboo stuff with it."

"And the ladies go for that?" Seth said.

"My boyfriend does," the man said.

"Um," Seth said again.

"Where did you and your brother get your outfits?" the man said, ooching closer on the bench. "Did you make them? Did you work your little fingers to the bone sewing them for both of you?"

Seth gawked slightly.

"Um, no," he said. "We rented them. Are you flirting with me? Cause I've got to tell you, as big as you are, my girlfriend would go into a rage blackout and kick your ass."

"Never hurts to offer, that's my motto," the unabashed gentleman said.

"Wise advice," Seth said. "And speaking of advice, do you have any more? Like, have you done this before?"

"A couple of times," the man said.

"I'm Seth, by the way," Seth said.

"Willis," the man said.

"What you talkin ...." Seth blurted.

"Don't even finish that," Willis said.

Seth checked out the glower on the man's face and decided Nick at Nite humor wasn't the answer to this particular problem.

"Sorry," he said.

Ryan walked back to the lockers.

"Hey, Ryan," Seth said. "I want you to meet my new friend Willis. He's going to give us some tips."

"Is one of the tips not entering?" Ryan said. "Because that would have been a good tip."

"No, no," Willis said. "This will be fun. Two virgins."

"We're not virgins," Seth inserted hastily. "I've got a girlfriend, remember?"

"On the stage," Willis said. "First timers. Newbies. Cherries. Babes in the woods."

"We get the idea," Seth interrupted. "Virgins. I didn't really want to be a virgin again. It wasn't that great the first time."

"Well, the big thing is to pick out just one girl and dance for her," Willis said. "And you don't have to be in rhythm or anything. Just kind of prance around, and then pretend you're taking something off and put it back on a few times."

Seth reached up to his head to fondle his feathers. Ryan touched his newly donned cop hat.

"No, not those," Willis said. "Start with a shirt. Leave the hats on until nearly last."

"I don't have a shirt," Seth said.

Willis looked at Seth in his loincloth, feathered headdress and tribal necklace.

"No, you don't. Where did you say you got those costumes?" he said.

"We rented them," Ryan said. "They were part of a Village People set. And they were the only ones that fit."

"They're not really right for stripping," Willis said. "You want something with lots of pieces, like a lawyer suit or something. That way you can take your time and make sure the ladies love you. The contest is judged on audience response."

"We'll definitely think about lawyer suits next time," Seth said.

"We won't be doing this again," Ryan said firmly. "But thanks for the advice."

The door to the waiting room opened. The proprietor stuck his greasy head inside, ticking off a name on a clipboard.

"Cohen," he said. "You're next."

"That's me," Seth said.

"Break a leg," Willis said.

"Yeah, thanks," Seth said as Willis got up and went toward the urinals.

Turning to Ryan, Seth added, "Not the most comforting thing he could have said."

"He could have said I'll break your leg,'" Ryan pointed out.

"OK, not much comfort there, either," Seth said. He stood up and thought about his options. He tried to picture himself taking off any single part of his clothing and felt terror start to creep into his bones. Ryan always had his back, but maybe this time he should have Ryan's back.

"I definitely think you should go next," Seth said.

"Get it over with," Ryan said ruthlessly. "Like the dentist."

Seth approached the Door of Doom with a trepidation he hadn't felt since the last time he suggested Summer spend more time studying and less time shopping. He heard the noise on the other side and wheeled around in panic. Ryan was right behind him.

"Ryan, I don't think I can do this," Seth said.

"Sure you can," Ryan said. He strong-armed Seth through the door and heartlessly closed it.

Stuck on the other side, Seth lifted his head. He slowly turned around to face his fate.

Women were everywhere. They were wearing bright colors and tight shirts and short skirts. They were tall and short and fat and thin. Some were yelling. Some were laughing. Some were just sitting. Some were crowded around the stage.

They were all different, but they all had one thing in common: They were all looking at him and waiting to see him naked.

Seth had an inkling the women might be disappointed. He tried to picture what disappointed women might do to him, and began praying to Jesus and Moses that he never find out.

He pasted a shit-eating grin on his face. He had never felt so much like a walking four-course meal. Those women looked like they wanted to eat him alive. He could feel the corners of his lips getting stuck on his teeth. He started walking down the runway.

He stumbled slightly. Evidently the women thought it was a shimmy, because they started yelling louder. Well, that wasn't so bad. If they yelled for that, maybe they would appreciate his dancing.

Seth put his hand to his mouth and patted it in his absolute best Hollywood stereotypical Indian dancer fashion.

He bobbed his head a couple of times, hoping his headdress wouldn't fall off. He waggled his hips from side to side and accepted the women's screams as his just reward.

Why shouldn't they get the benefit of the Cohen bod? The Cohen men were known for their virility and masculine charisma.Seth stuck his thin chest out and shook it, too. This was going to work out just fine. Maybe he had a real future in stripping.

Slowly, the cry, "Take. It. Off." grew into a chant. Seth reached up and grabbed his tribal necklace, pulling it over his head. Willis could offer advice all he wanted: Seth was definitely not taking off his loincloth first.

He yanked at the necklace. It got caught in his blue feathered headdress. He yanked again, trying to be smooth.

"Take it off, Cohen," he heard shrieked over the rest of the screaming.

Cohen? Who knew him here? Seth's eyes started roaming the audience as he shimmied his backside.

His eyes targeted the end of the runway and locked there. A tiny woman with dark hair and olive skin was screaming his name. His brain slowly processed her resemblance to Summer as her in fact being Summer. In the middle of all her sorority sisters.

Summer, here. With friends. He was going to kill Ryan. Slowly.

Beside Summer stood a taller blond woman who bore a striking resemblance to his mother. Who, in fact, was his mother. With a margarita in one hand and a loopy smile on her face.

Seth planted his feet, all thoughts of dancing leaving his head.

Oh, yes, Ryan was a walking dead man.

"Take it off, Cohen," his mother yelled.

This could not be happening.

Even worse, Seth's mom appeared to be standing in a group of Newpsies. He saw Taryn and Julie and ..... he felt a tug on the bottom of his loincloth. While he had been standing still, female hands were reaching out toward him. Dollar bills were being waved.

Seth skittered sideways, an involuntary shuffle greeted with more yells. His off-balance movement jerked his arm sideways and his headdress came off with the necklace, leaving him with a handful of blue feathers tangled up in beads and bobbles and a frightening number of his own hairs.

Seth stared at the mess in horror. What was he supposed to do with the feathers?

He waved the feathered bundle around his head, weakly. The women shrieked more. He looked at his own little cheering section at the end of the runway and wondered how many margs had been downed in the pursuit of debauchery. If a few more slid down Newpsie gullets, there was a chance no one would remember the evening or his starring role in it.

Seth got hold of himself. If they could dish it out, they could take it.

He strutted to the end of the runway, stopping every few feet to throw a hip thrust at one side or the other and wave his blue feathered bundle around. He swiveled his hips. Take that, Ricky Martin! Seth covered his chest with the feathers and exposed it, repeatedly. Now you can look, now you can't, ladies.

As Seth got closer to the end, he could see that Aunt Hailey needed some assistance. She was leaning on Taryn and laughing so hard there was a chance she was going to fall down. A good chance.

Seth tossed his headdress-free head. She hadn't been that great a stripper herself. She had no business laughing at his efforts.

"Catch," he said, throwing his feathers to Aunt Hailey.

He turned his butt on the women, leaned over and rotated it. The pleather loincloth shook and swayed.

Seth reached for the velcro on the side of the hip wrap. He untabbed it, just a little, listening to the shrieks grow. He closed the velcro and strutted away. He sashayed back and knelt on the runway, reaching out to all the grasping hands. One of them had a drink in it. He grabbed the glass and chugged it, giving the former owner a wink and a nod in thanks as he passed the empty back.

He stood up and posed, hands on his hips. Step back, ladies. Big Chief Studly is in the room. Then Big Chief ripped off his loincloth and tossed it to Summer.

He posed again in thonged glory before his admirers, basking in the well-deserved applause and hoots and ignoring the laughter from the people who knew him. He knelt down and accepted a few of the bills that were being waved near him, stuffing them into his thong.

The air conditioner kicked on in the dark club. As the first icy blast bit across Seth's bare backside, he suddenly realized he had nothing covering his butt. Nothing. And only a stretchy blue polyester covering the front.

Seth looked around at the clawing hands and decided the tiny triangle of polyester and the tiny little strings holding it in place were not even close to being adequate protection. His personal parts were millimeters away from swinging in the public breeze.

Seth looked around in panic. What was he doing? He automatically accepted another couple of bills and then stood abruptly.

He was naked. On a stage. That he had to leave. Now.

He blindly bolted for the locker rooms. The door wouldn't open. Oh. His hands couldn't turn the knob while they were full of cash.

He opened his clenched fists and let the bills fall, listening to the chants of "More, more more," behind him.

He grabbed wildly at the door knob and made two tries before he got it open. He rushed in and closed the door leaning on the other side.

"They're animals out there," he gasped.

Seth didn't get his expected sympathy. Ryan and Willis were doubled up in the corner, laughing.

"What?" Seth demanded.

Ryan waved at him weakly.

"It's the return of Chief Nekkid Man," Ryan said between barks of laughter.

"Let's see you do better," Seth said indignantly.

"Oh, no, I'm not taking a turn," Ryan said. "I watched you and I'm not doing that."

"What?" Seth said. "How?"

"On the closed-circuit TV," Willis said. "Not bad for a beginner. You could have a real future in stripping, but you might want to think about tanning a little more. Women don't really go for the plucked-chicken look."

"And you'll definitely want to work on your exit," Ryan said, still laughing. "Not smooth at all."

Seth glared at both of them, brown eyes flashing.

"You set me up," he accused Ryan.

"You set yourself up, Mr. Romance and Adventure," Ryan denied. "I just made sure you had enough fans in the crowd to have a fair shot at winning."

"You told my mom," Seth whined.

"No, Summer did that when she was gathering up supporters," Ryan said. "But Kirsten told Sandy. She was supposed to get some phone photos for him, but she may have been laughing too hard. Mind if I snap off a couple now?"

Ryan walked to his locker for his cell phone.

"No!" Seth said, scrambling over to reach inside the locker before Ryan could. "If I'm going down in humiliation, so are you."

Seth grabbed the phone and turned it on. He stuck out his arm and ripped at Ryan's pants.

"Say cheese," Seth said, snapping as the velcro gave.