He's dizzy but he knows that somewhere there's a better word for it – vertigo, that's it, he decides. It encompasses the rushing sound in his ears, the uncertain patterns of light behind his closed eyelids. And then there is movement, real movement; the coldness of linoleum floor under his head is replaced by sudden warmth that must be Cory's lap.

"All right there, Shawnie," Cory asks. The soothing tone he attempts is thoroughly spoilt by the giggling. Shawn feels Cory's hand stroking through his hair and it's absurd that he wants to laugh or purr but instead just leans into Cory's fingers. The disconcerting nausea is slowly replaced by a flooding of strange warmth that must be due to the alcohol. He smiles suddenly. Everything is perfect. He opens his eyes, blinks up at Cory.

"Let's get out of here, Cor," he says and Cory gets up, helps Shawn to his feet. They each take another sip from the bottle of whiskey before climbing out of the open window hand-in-hand.

Shawn's never seen the streets of Philadelphia as beautiful as they are tonight; he finds something poetic about the lights reflected in puddles on the sidewalk and in the gutter. He wants to tell Cory about it but all that comes out is the question, "When did it rain?"

Cory laughs. "I don't know," he says. "Maybe they shouldn't give this stuff to kids." Shawn stumbles; Cory laughs again. "Careful, Shawnie," he says, wraps an arm around Shawn's waist, pulls him in close.

Once again, he's filled with the glowing warmth and optimism. Shawn is in love with the world tonight. He leans his head against Cory's shoulder, tilts his face up, breathes in Cory's ear and feels it when his friend shivers all over. The moment stretches, uncertain, and then Shawn breaks the tension. "Pass over the bottle, man," he says. He drinks deeply. The whiskey tastes like Cory.

"I like losing," says the bum on the street. Shawn wants to chime in that he does too, but he misses the moment in the conversation because he is too busy thinking of beautiful things like the shards of the shattered whiskey bottle gleaming up in the darkness, or giggling against Cory's chest and copcar seventy-two. The alcoholic buzz seems to be wearing off, leaving a blank sort of melancholy in the wake of euphoria, but Shawn doesn't really mind.

The bell over the door to the convenience store rings as the bum disappears, and then Cory speaks. "You know what, Shawnie? I always thought Topanga was the one person I could never live without. But she's gone and you're here and I'm alive, so…it must be you."

He says this like it's some sort of great revelation. Shawn thinks they're the most important words ever to have been spoken. "I'd take a bullet for you," he breathes and he blinks at Cory, waiting for something even though he's not sure what it is that he's waiting for until Cory says it: Shawnie, I love you. He's back in Cory's arms feeling goldensparkling electric, so maybe it isn't the alcohol after all. "Yeah," he says, "I love you too, Cory. I'm not ashamed."

The funy thing is that it's all true for once, both parts – the loving part and the unashamed part – and the world is still and quiet and full of possibility. He finds himself wanting to kiss his best friend, unexplicably, and then the bum returns with beer and platitudes and the moment is over.

It is still the best night ever.

Shawn is hungover and trying to do his history homework, hoping that it'll provide some sort of distraction from everything else, everything else – the look in Alan Matthew's eyes we feel you need some time apart as if he knew, he knew, bad influences – not just alcohol but also near-kisses with your feet in a Philadelphia gutter and your eyes on the stars.

He'd offered to stay away from Cory to put things right, put things back to normal. He doesn't quite believe in normal anymore.

The history-reading is unbelievably boring – enlightened monarchs who freed the serfs – and it is impossible to keep from daydreaming. Frederick the Great, Prussia, he doesn't care, he doesn't. The word "homosexual" stands out as if written in all capital letters. Shawn thinks he's going to throw up.

He has to forget. He has to put things back to normal, he has to bring Topanga and Cory back together because despite whatever Cory said about loving and forever, Shawn knows better. He'll have to put things back to normal, store his own revelations away with the other things he's hidden: postcards from his mother and unsent letters to his brother, volumes of poetry and a cheap plastic bottle of vodka.

He's doing this all for Cory.
He likes losing.