Warning: this fanfiction contains strong language that some people may find offensive.

"You know, Fang, there's something I ought to tell you," Max said. She was leaning against the wall beside the television, on which I was watching a game show of some sort, with her arms crossed over her chest. I flicked my eyes to her face and back to the show.

"Yeah? Tell away," I told her. I didn't much care. There really wasn't anything important that had been going on recently, so there wasn't much to be interested in. I assumed she was going to tell me to try to stop leaving my wet towels on the floor of the bathroom, or to stop dunking Iggy's toothbrush in the toilet as retaliation whenever he blew up my stuff.

"Well," Max started, and it sounded like she was searching for words that were very difficult to find. "I think… that perhaps… you have been acting a bit homophobic of late."

I raised my eyebrows at her and placed another potato chip into my mouth from the bowl on the coffee table.

"Really?" I said nonchalantly. "Is there something you'd like to tell me, Max? Have you had the sudden urge to ride a motorcycle and wear leather jackets of late?"

Scowling, Max stepped away from the wall, putting her hands on her hips. She did not look happy.

"See, that's just what I'm talking about!" she snapped, narrowing her eyes into the patented death glare. "You carry on like that and you might just lose some friends!"

"Hmm…" I replied. "Like who?"

Max hesitated. "Well…"

I grinned, my point made. "Yeah. See? Can't even find an example."

"You like Iggy, don't you?" Max finally said, and I shrugged.

"Of course. He's my best friend. What of it? He's like totally sexist, he won't give a crap."

Suddenly, Max looked deflated, as if all her angry hot-air had just escaped. I almost expected to see steam coming out of her ears. She twirled a lock of hair in her fingers, looking nervous. I wondered what could make her act so awkward.

"I'm not supposed to tell you," she muttered.

"Tell me what?"

"Just… you know, acting homophobic isn't cool. It's stupid."

"Whatever. Tell me what?"

"Don't overreact. I'm not actually supposed… you're not supposed to know."


"Iggy's gay."

I stared. Max stared back.

"He told me because he trusts me. I'm not even his best friend, you are. What does that say about how much he trusts you, Fang? Maybe you better clean up your act."

"What are you talking about? Iggy can't be… gay. It's impossible."

Max glared. "Right. And it's impossible for humans to have wings. But here we are."

I just looked at her for a long moment. "What?"

"You're not gonna be all stupid about it, right? Stop being such a homophobe. It's mean. Iggy's certainly not feeling too good about it."

I didn't answer her. She looked at me like I was crazy.

"So… you're not kidding? Iggy's actually gay, like, he likes boys gay?"

Max gave me a quizzical expression. "What other kind of gay is there?"

"The happy kind. You know, you're gay. You're happy."

"It's not that kind. Well, I guess sometimes it's that kind, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about homosexual gay."

I reached for the remote, which was on the coffee table next to my potato chips, and turned off the television. I stared at Max again for a long, long moment.

"How'd you find out? Why'd he tell you? He was doing a good job of hiding it. I still think you're joking."

Blushing, Max shook her head.

"So… why did he tell you? When?"

"I, uh, was cleaning his room yesterday. You know, I have to do it myself if I don't want to pay him ten bucks. And… um… well, I found a Playgirl magazine under his mattress."

I laughed out loud. The concept was ridiculous. What would he do with a Playgirl magazine, anyway? He wouldn't even be able to look at the pictures.

"So, you find a Playgirl magazine under his mattress and you automatically assume he's gay? Nudge could have planted it there. She owns a few, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Max closed her eyes as if gathering herself. "I confronted him about it, asking him why he had it. I assumed he had stolen it from Nudge or something, and I wanted him to apologize and give it back. But before I said anything except 'I found this magazine under your bed,' he had burst out about how he didn't mean to be gay, and it's not like he chose it himself, and to please, please not tell anyone else about it." She paused. "He seemed really upset about it. Especially about you. Seemed to think that you wouldn't want to hang out with him anymore if you found out he was gay."

"Well…" I started. The thought that I had spent a bunch of times alone with the guy without even know that he was gay was sort of freaky. "Why the heck would he have a Playgirl magazine? He can't read or look at pictures."

Max hesitated. "I dunno. I guess he can feel them, you know, with his feel-colors power."

The thought of him rubbing his hands all over pictures of naked men grossed me out.

"Oh, come on Fang. He's not a different person or anything, he's still you best friend."

Best gay friend? No way. I'd rather retain my straight masculinity, thanks. I didn't really even want to be alone in the same room with him anymore.

But what I said was "Uh, fine then."

Max looked at me, as if searching me for some sort of answer to an unspoken question. Then she nodded slowly.

"I was going to go out for the groceries with Iggy… but I want you to go instead. While you're out, find some way to let him know that you don't care whether or not he's gay. Okay?"

Trying very hard not to look at Max like she was crazy, I sighed.

"Okay. When?"

"Now, actually. IGGY!"

I turned to see Iggy stick his head in the doorway of the living room, looking hassled with his hair all mussed up. It was like I was looking at him in a new light, with different eyes. Suddenly, everything about him seemed unbelievably gay, from his long, expertly groomed-and-styled strawberry-blond hair to his torn jeans to his double-knotted tennis-shoes. It was like, hello, why didn't I see it before?

"Yeah, Max? Aren't you ready to go yet?"

"Actually, I've got to stay and do something with Nudge. Fang's going instead. That alright?"

Iggy shrugged. "Sure. I'm leaving down. You ready then, Fang?"

Max cast me one of her looks – not a death glare, but something close – and I rolled my eyes and stood, walking over to Iggy with my hands in my pockets.

"Whatever," I answered, and he raised an eyebrow.

"You sound happy today," he said, grinning. Even his grin was totally gay.

I shook my head, trying to get those thoughts out of my mind. Iggy was still my best bro, right? You know, maybe he could just be my friend. My buddy. My pal. My close acquaintance.

My gay cousin?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was thinking honestly Fang, are you really that shallow? But the primary part, the part that was loudest, was telling me that I really didn't want a guy who liked guys to be my best friend.

On our way downtown, Iggy was talking to me about a bunch of stuff that I assumed I would have been into yesterday, but now could hardly listen to. All I was thinking about was that before, Iggy walking super close to me was normal. I mean, he was blind after all, he had to be led around, right? It used to be something I didn't even think about, something that was just Iggy and me, being bros.

Now, it was a totally annoying invasion of personal space that I was finding slightly disturbing. All I could think about was that a gay guy was standing close enough to me that I could practically feel his breath on the back of my neck. I couldn't really, but it felt like I could. And the thought kept crossing my mind that if he wanted to, he could totally just reach down and grope me. That's what gay guys did, right? Groped other guys?

I was getting into this sort of weird, hypersensitive mode, where I could feel every move Iggy made, and was trying desperately to pretend to be listening to him all the while struggling to refrain from brushing against any part of his body. It was odd, really, how much different a guy seemed when you found out he was gay. Suddenly, every move he made seemed like he was about to either grab some part of my body and squeal, or excitedly begin to chatter about the latest fashions. It was sort of stereotypical of me to think it, but there it was.

I was still thinking about this when we finally stepped onto Main Street, which led to the grocery store. Because it was Main Street, it was extremely crowded with all sorts of people, and because it was crowded, Iggy immediately reached down to my waistband to hook a finger in my belt loop.

But I wasn't really thinking, and the second I felt his fingers brush the back of my pants, I glanced to the side, where I saw a group of high school boys, hanging out and staring at me, laughing. I didn't want them to think I was gay. I wasn't gay.

I knocked Iggy's hand away with much more force than necessary – actually, with so much force that I felt something crack, and the thought crossed my mind for a second that I had broken one of his fingers.

"You're a freaking queer, man!" I snapped. "Keep your faggy hands off my ass!"

I stalked away.

It wasn't even until I had finally reached the grocery store and turned around that I realized what I'd done. And that was only because when I'd turned around, I saw that Iggy wasn't behind me.

Then, I felt horrible.

Why had I acted like that? That was so horrible of me! I had never felt like him holding my belt loop was gay before… why had I reacted so cruelly to it then?

It was just because I was a freaking homophobe. I was going to have to change it. No matter how I felt about a guy liking other guys, Iggy was still my best friend. I had grown up with him, trapped in cages in the School with the rest of the flock. There was no reason for me to freak out about him like I did. I definitely had to get over my idiotic attitude towards gays. It wasn't necessary. It was, like Max had said, completely stupid.

I had said such a horribly mean thing. Iggy's face… I hadn't even looked at him. I had just walked away. I winced when I remembered the crack as I hit his hand. I hadn't really hurt him, had I?

And I had just walked away, leaving him alone in the middle of the crowded street, and he didn't know where he was, or how to get back home, let alone to the grocery store.

"God, I'm a freaking idiot," I cursed myself, turning back and hurriedly walking towards the area where I'd left him. He might still be there, leaning against the wall or something. Knowing Iggy, though, which I did, he had probably wandered off somewhere else to sulk. He would be able to manage through the crowd, he just wouldn't know where he was or where he was going. He would wait for me to find him again in some secluded area. He would wait patiently. And then he would follow me again, not evening mentioning the things I had said or the way I had acted.

Because he was nice like that, and because he was forgiving like that, and because he was my best friend, even if I hadn't acted like it.

I made it back to where I had left him in record time, because somewhere along the way I had started running, I don't know exactly when. But when I got there, of course, Iggy was gone. So were the high school boys to whom I had tried to prove that I wasn't gay. Not gay. Not like Iggy. But right now, I didn't give a damn whether or not Iggy was gay. He was my freaking best friend.

I looked around frantically, searching for any sign of where Iggy might have gone. He wouldn't have crossed the street… and with the way I had treated him, I don't think he would have followed me. So, I figured, if I just kept going back towards the house, I would find him along the way.

I walked hurriedly, glancing into every alley, making sure I wouldn't miss him in the crowd of people. But I didn't see him at all on Main Street.

At the end of the street, I stopped and quickly looked around. The street ended in a crossroads, and I had absolutely no idea which one Iggy had taken.

If he had stuck to the sidewalk and not crossed the roads, he would have turned right, which would have led him into a neighborhood that he knew was dangerous. He wouldn't have gone. But straight ahead and to the right both led to regular streets. However, right was the way to go home. Perhaps he had gone down the right turn? Maybe he had wanted to go home without me, expecting me not to head back to get him? I did have the grocery list, after all, he had given it to me upon leaving the house, so I wouldn't need him for the shopping.

I waited impatiently for the cars to dwindle, then I crossed the street hurriedly, not even caring to look both ways, although I probably should have because a car had to screech to a stop to avoid hitting me. I waved a quick apology and continued down to find Iggy.

I wouldn't have found him if I hadn't heard him. This was because he was sitting on a bench in a small park, secluded between two tall buildings. It used to be an empty lot, but someone had planted grass seed that had grown quite well, and purchased a metal jungle-gym, and several benches. It was just a small neighborhood playground, and I'd never really been there before, and as far as I knew, neither had Iggy. This was part of the reason why I almost rushed right past him. The other was because my vision of him was obscured by the group of high school boys I had seen before, which were completely surrounding him.

"Get the Hell away from me," I heard Iggy say, which made me stop and look back at the pack of boys. I made out Iggy, sitting on the park bench with his arms and his legs crossed. The boys were all standing around him, looking mean and cruel, laughing and jeering.

"That dude back there said you was queer. You queer? You a freaking fairy, man?" one of the kids teased, and I could imagine Iggy rolling his eyes.

"Didn't you parents ever tell you that fairies weren't real? Or do you still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus?"

The guy's eyes narrowed, and his grin turned to a grimace. "What's your problem, queer? You know, we don't accept gays here. You should go back to the freak show you came from."

The rest of his friends laughed in agreement, and I felt some sort of tingling anger start to erupt in the pit of my stomach. Those guys didn't have the right to tell Iggy to get out of town. Iggy was a person, too. Freaking homophobes.

"Yeah, you effing fairy. Go back to Gay Town. The rest of society would be happier with creeps like you out of our skin."

"I don't want to have to worry about my little brothers being harassed by queers like you."

"You fairies are all the same, predatory or not."

"I'm surprised you know such big words," Iggy muttered under his breath, quiet enough so that only I knew exactly what he said, but loud enough so that the rest of the guys heard him.

"What was that, fairy?" the leader of the pack said. "You better speak up, we can't hear your gay voice when you're so quiet."

"Actually," Iggy started, and I had to stifle a laugh. He had raised the pitch of his voice, and daintily lifted his hand to the side, holding it as if he were clutching a teacup, with his pinky extended. He fluttered his eyelashes and put on a simpering expression. "I was just thinking, honey, that perhaps all this homophobia I'm feeling might be a defense mechanism triggered by suppressed homosexual tendencies. I don't know about you, dear, but my gaydar is going off like crazy right now, and as you know, the gaydar never lies."

The boy's face twisted, and I could tell that he couldn't exactly understand most of the psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo Iggy had just spouted, but he could understand what he was getting at: Iggy had called him gay.

"Did you just call me a freaking queer, fairy?" he yelled, brandishing his fist. "Because I'm no purse-carrying lip-gloss-wearing guy-screwing queer!"

"Oh, I never said that," Iggy said, looking as though he was shocked at the very thought, and still retaining the hilariously high voice. "All I said, sweetheart, was that you may be so mean to gays because you have the desire to have sex with men yourself."

The kid's eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head, they were bulging that much. A vein was throbbing in his temple and his face appeared to be turning purple. The rest of his gang were staring at him with slack-jawed expressions, as if asking "What now?"

Then the guy pulled a freaking jackknife out of his jeans pocket, brandishing it in Iggy's face. I could tell that Iggy could hear the sound the blade made as it sliced through the air, because his expression changed from smug to a little concerned.

"Go to Hell, you dirty, fucking faggot," he snarled, looking like he was about to cut Iggy's face. I wouldn't put it past him, to, he looked completely deranged.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Of course, I was going to help Iggy. The problem was, how?

See, I could always jump in there and help Iggy beat the bullies up. But then we would probably have the cops called on us for assault, and I really didn't want Iggy or myself mixed up in the police just because of some petty harassers. Plus, there was always the off-chance that one of us would end up being injured, either mildly or severely, and possibly gutted by that knife.

But reasoning was pretty much out of the question. After all, a bunch of homophobic teens in an angry rage wasn't going to listen to reason.

"Oh look, it's ten guys on one. How incredibly cowardly," I found myself growling without even knowing I had started to speak. All the guys turned towards me, including the creep with the knife and Iggy himself. I couldn't quite decipher the look on his face, but I could tell that he wasn't all that psyched to hear me. Well, I had been a total jerk.

"Yeah?" knife dude said. "What are you gonna do about it?" Then he narrowed his eyes. "Hey, aren't you the guy from earlier? You honestly come back to help this fag? You didn't seem to keen on him."

I narrowed my own eyes at him. "He's my best friend. Don't call him a fag, that's derogatory."

"Oh, yeah, you didn't seem to have a problem with it before. Besides, what do you care? He's a freaking queer, just like you said."

The boys seemed totally confused that I was sticking up for Iggy, like they couldn't believe anyone would try to help a gay person out. Iggy looked just as confused about it himself. I felt bad about that.

I stiffened my resolve. I had to stick up for Iggy. I shouldn't care about whether or not he was gay. He had been my best friend for fifteen years, why would I end that all now?

"What does it matter if he's gay?" I asked. "He's still a regular person."

"So you're sticking up for the fairy! Why, you gay too?"

Every part of my mind was screaming "No! Of course not!" But that's not what I needed to say. I needed to say something that would emphasize to Iggy that I didn't give a crap whether or not he liked girls or guys or both. So I said something that was difficult to say, but was what needed to be said.

"Does it really matter? If I told you I was straight, I could be lying. But if I told you I was gay, I could be lying too. You'd never know, and it wouldn't matter either way, because I'd stay the same person. Someone who's better than you bullies."

Iggy sat back on the bench and folded his arms, as if to say, "Go on."

I hesitated. "And no matter what you idiots think, being mean to someone because of their sexual orientation is wrong. It's the same thing as racism. It's stupid. And I shouldn't have done it at all. I was stupid and insensitive and worried about how people would perceive me, even though being gay isn't a bad thing at all, it's just different. And I'm sorry."

Iggy nodded, but he didn't smile.

"Why should we give a crap?" knife dude asked. "I don't care about some stupid dramatic forgiveness-fest between two dirty fags. I just want to gut this freaking fairy, so are you gonna stand out of the way or not?"

I scowled.

"You should give a crap, actually, because I called the cops, and you'll be arrested for assault and attempted murder when they get here if you 'gut' him. I'm sorry to tell you, but harassing anyone, even if they're gay, is illegal. Now get out of here."

"Dude, do you think he's telling the truth?" one of the kids asked the knife dude, and he cast a frightened glance down the street.

"I dunno, man, but we better get out of here!" he said.

"I think I hear sirens," another one of his friends stated worriedly, and a moment later, all of them were gone. It was just me facing Iggy, who was still sitting on the park bench with his arms and legs crossed. He was glaring at me.

"I really am sorry," I said softly, looking towards the ground. "I was an idiot, and I shouldn't have risked our friendship because of some petty bias that, by the way, I'm totally over." I took a deep breath, and risked a glance up at him. His expression was stony. "I was a total jerk, and I'm sorry I treated you so horribly. Um… I hope I didn't hurt your hand…"

Iggy raised his hand slightly, and I saw that his forefinger was slightly swollen and bruised purple. "You broke it," he said shortly, "But I set it. It'll be find once I wrap it. We're supposed to get medical stuff at the store, anyway."

"Oh god, I'm so sorry," I said. I really was. I mean, gosh, I had actually broken Iggy's finger? And sort of on purpose? I didn't know I had that in me.

"Nah," Iggy said, waving it off with his hurt hand. "Broken fingers don't hurt much, you know that. It was mostly what you said." His face fell. "It's exactly why I didn't want Max to tell you."

"Well…" I hesitated, then continued. "If she hadn't told me, I wouldn't have gotten over my homophobia. So… it's a good thing, really."

We both were silent for a long moment.

"You know, I don't have a crush on you," he suddenly blurted out, then blushed. "I mean, I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around me or anything. You're just a friend to me, okay?"

I stared at him. "Okay," I answered. Honestly, that had been one thing I had previously been worried about, Iggy liking me romantically. But, seriously, I wouldn't get creeped out if I was friends with a girl who had a crush on me, so why should I have gotten creeped out if it was Iggy?

"It doesn't matter," I told him. "I'm your friend either way."

Iggy smiled. "Thanks."

We both stared towards the ground for another long moment.

"Do you want to go shopping now?" I asked. "I still have the list, and it's as good a time as any."

Iggy shrugged. "Sure," he answered, standing. "Lead the way."

I started back towards the store, and Iggy followed a few steps behind me, looking nervous and awkward. This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

I waited for a moment, then when Iggy walked up beside me I reached over and grabbed his hand, the one that wasn't hurt. Gosh, Max was going to yell at me about his broken finger later. And I would deserve every second of it.

Iggy looked at me in shock.

"Aren't you worried that people are going to think you're gay?" he asked. "I mean, if people see you holding hands with me, that's sort of an image-wrecker, especially for potential girlfriends."

I shook my head, smiling.

"Nah. I'm not gay, and I know it. I don't have to prove it to every person on the street. Half of them are probably jerks, anyway. Plus, I don't want your finger in my belt loop. One of them snapped the other day, remember? I'd like to keep most of them intact for the rare occasions when I actually choose to wear belts."

Iggy raised an eyebrow. "You're really sure? This town isn't exactly gay-friendly, as you may have discovered."

I shrugged. "You're my best friend, you at least deserve to be led by hand."

Iggy laughed, then spoke again with the ridiculously high-pitched voice he had used on the high school boys earlier. "Speaking of hands, honey, you really ought to be using moisturizing lotion, your pores are desperately dry. A manicure wouldn't hurt these nails, either. What say you and I go to a nice overnight spa together? We can even share a bed." He raised his eyebrows suggestively.

And we laughed all the way to the grocery store. I didn't even care that people we passed stared with distaste at our entwined hands. Why should I? After all, if you're gay you're gay, if you're straight you're straight. Holding hands isn't going to make a difference, and I didn't need a bunch of strangers knowing I wasn't gay to feel good about myself. Right now, all that mattered was that Iggy and I were best friends. And I didn't give a damn whether or not he liked boys.