Disclaimer: Don't Care High is the property of Gordon Korman.
Author's Note: So it is never actually stated who vandalized the Billboard in Times Square at the end of Don't Care High, but I'm pretty sure it happened like this.
Guys Named Steve
The punch was not spiked – Paul knew this for a fact because Sheldon had made a big speech beforehand about how hurt Mike would be if they couldn't all party and have a good time on his behalf without being liquored up. It had promptly become a sign of personal devotion for every student at Don Carey High to be completely sober. (Mr. Morrison, evidently, did not get the memo.) Anyway, back in Saskatoon, spiking the punch at school dances had been something of a tradition. Paul had had seven cups of punch. It wasn't spiked. They were completely sober.
This was not as reassuring as it could have been, considering they were about a mile and a half above Times Square, covered in spray paint and laughing their heads off. It would have been nice to have alcohol to blame it on in the morning. Paul offered Sheldon a stolen licorice stick and dropped down to sit with his back against the vandalized billboard. It was incredibly stupid to hang around. The paint wasn't even dry. They were so going to get arrested.
"So, Daphne," Sheldon said, stretching his legs out so his feet dangled over the edge.
"No Daphne," Paul groaned heartily, letting his head thud back against the billboard.
Sheldon blinked at him in honest surprise. "Since when?"
Paul waved a hand in his general direction. It was a rather flamboyant gesture and meant to convey a moment of dawning realization. He didn't think it got the message across. "She's too tall for me," he said. It was the story of his life, he knew. If he were a Steve he'd have gotten the girl at the end. If he were a Steve, probably there wouldn't have been so much focus put on sewer systems, either. Or a Dirk. Guys named Dirk didn't have to talk about sewers.
"Oh," Sheldon said. "Well, yeah. But some of that might be the heels."
"She's three inches taller than me in her bare feet," Paul said. "Anyway, I think she might be interested in Mike."
"Kinda hard not to."
"At least you got to see her in all those mini-skirts."
Paul sighed. "Mike is a lucky, but oblivious bastard."
They lapsed into silence for a moment, considering their departed President.
"You know," Sheldon said. "Maybe Daphne just didn't realize you were interested."
"Come on," Paul said. "A guy'd have to be dead not to be interested in Daphne." He shrugged. "Dead or gay."
"Yeah," Sheldon said. He rubbed a finger against his cheek, scratching at a smear of drying purple paint. "About that."
Paul blinked at him. "Daphne thinks I'm gay?"
"Well, Daphne thinks I'm gay. And we do spend a lot of time together, so..."
"You're gay?" Paul said.
"Well, I'm not dead."
And he'd been more interested in the working model of the Don Carey Sewer System than in the ongoing saga of Daphne's ever-minimizing mini-skirts. "Huh," Paul said. "And I'm guessing this isn't a secret, since Daphne is no one's idea of a confidant."
"Not really a secret, no."
"Huh." They sat in relative silence for a moment while Paul processed. "So that actually explains a couple things. Like why your sister spent fifteen minutes telling me I could do better and then threatened to pay someone to have me beaten up. I was kind of confused at the time because I thought it had something to do with the boarding passes I had brought for your dad."
Sheldon cracked up, slumping back against the billboard, arms wrapped around his stomach as he laughed. "Oh my God. Remind me to kill her in the morning."
Paul shook his head, a grin tugging at his mouth as he watched Sheldon. "Nah, I like your sister. She's weird. I'm gaining an appreciation for weird the longer I live here." He waited for Sheldon to get himself under control, then nudged his friend's foot with is own. "So, if I'm off-track here, you'll let me know, right?"
Sheldon arched an eyebrow but if he intended to say anything he didn't get the chance before Paul kissed him. It was light and nearly chaste and Paul was fairly certain they were both holding their breath.
When he leaned back far enough to get a good look at Sheldon's face, he almost laughed.
"You're absolutely certain you're not drunk?" Sheldon asked, poking a finger against Paul's chest.
He felt too good to be drunk. "You can't get drunk on fruit punch," Paul said.
"Okay, then." Sheldon kissed him this time and it was not quite so chaste.
Paul was breathless when Sheldon pulled away this time and he laughed at the look on his friend's face. "I hate licorice," Sheldon said. "How much of that stuff have you had?"
"I stole Peter's stash," Paul confessed. The giggles were building up in his chest and he wanted to try that kissing thing again. "He needs to quit anyway."
Sheldon laughed and kissed him again despite the licorice – the third time, Paul thought. He wondered if he'd keep counting or if eventually he'd lose track. "You are going to be recovering from a serious sugar rush in the morning."
"The only thing I'll be recovering from is indigestion caused by Rocca tomato sauce." Paul leaned back against the billboard and rubbed at a patch of paint drying on his arm. His mother would riot when she saw what he'd done to his shirt. It'd probably be a much bigger deal to her than the fact that he'd stayed out till four in the morning kissing his best friend.
The billboard thing would make her freak though. Paul busied himself counting the number of lectures he'd get if she ever found out about it.
"If you are drunk," Sheldon said in a tone so light and casual that it was obviously forced, "then I won't be mad. Tomorrow, I mean. Just, ah. Just pretend you forget all this, all right? For my sake."
It was a way out, Paul knew. It was selfless and brave, because he was pretty sure Sheldon was very happy with the whole kissing thing. But Paul wasn't unhappy about the kissing thing – he'd started it, after all – and anyway, he wouldn't do that to someone he didn't like, let alone his best friend. If they changed their minds tomorrow than Paul would be man enough to face it, not hide behind some excuse of drunken loutishness.
Guys named Steve probably never ended up kissing their best friends on a vandalized billboard a half dozen miles above Times Square. The Steves and Dirks would walk off into the sunset with the Daphnes of the world, heroic and buff, with a semi-automatic rifle slung over their backs.
But Paul had Sheldon and Don Carey High and after tonight he probably also had a minor licorice addiction. He had a crazy aunt and a neighborhood full of weirdos who dressed up like rabbits or whatever. He thought he might have a career in politics, because if he and Sheldon could make Mike Otis the most successful student body president in all of New York, they could probably do it for anyone.
They were sitting side by side and Paul knew if he moved his hand a fraction of an inch, he'd be holding Sheldon's.
Steve could have Daphne.
He moved his hand. Sheldon didn't push him off the sign.
Tomorrow they'd both remember and take it from there.
"Is that a cop?" Sheldon asked.