A/N: I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS IS!
And now we've gotten that out of the way...
Why hello there good people. It has been a while. So welcome to me, I guess. Anyway, my muse ran out on me for quite a while there. But now it has returned. As this. I don't even know. But who am I to question. This is all a little strange, but bare with me people.
(On a lighter note, it does seem as if all your critique has helped me become a better writer. I ended up with two A+'s and an A for my final English marks, so yay for that. Thanks for all your advice.
Also, thank you so, so much to everyone who has dropped reviews for my other stories. I was re-reading them the other day trying to get a pick-me-up or inspiration to write or whatever, and they were all wonderfully sweet and encouraging and just magical. You are all my favourite and I love you. If there is anything I can attempt to for you all or whatever, let me know).
So I have no idea how the American schooling system works. I probably could have written this as taking part in an Australian school, Happy Feet was filmed in Australia, and even though the voice actors are largely American, I probably could have swung it, but I wanted to write a campaign-style high school AU, and in my experience, we don't really have anything in Australian high schools that are up to that. I mean, we had school captains where I went to school, but all they did to get the job was make one measly speech, and then they got to wear a dicky badge around and nobody gave a toss about it. So all the ideas about campaigning for senior class president, and American High School in general, I got from Glee, with the speeches and the platforms and people who could actually care less about the results. Forgive me for when it is totally inaccurate.
Anyway, enjoy, and if you could, I'd love it if you dropped a review (I'm sorry it's so weird)!
I own nothing. Un-beta'd. Any mistakes are my own and spell check's.
His hand was sore. Honestly, his ego was a little bruised as well, but that was just a dull emotional ache behind the fact that he may of broken a few fingers. He waved his hand around a little in an attempt to shake of the pain, and then stopped with a sharp gasp when he realised what he was doing. Bill let out a soft huff of laughter from next to him, and took the offending appendage in his own.
"Why'd you do it, Will?" he asked. "Admittedly, punching a wall is pretty badass, especially when you mean it, but still..."
Bill stroked his fingers lightly across Will's grazed knuckles, back and forth, back and forth, and Will managed to grunt out an answer. "John didn't deserve it, you know. The man was just waiting for his boyfriend, and those guys came out of nowhere. No one deserves to get pushed around like that."
Bill's fingers continued to rub, as if they ran over the bruises enough times they could ware them away. "That's true, Will, I get that. But really, you're not a fighter."
It was true. Will was not a fighter, and the one punch he had thrown in the ensuing scuffle over John had sailed over the bully's shoulder and collided hard with a wall. And not just any wall, but a brick one, bearing a poster advertising Will's candidacy for senior class president. There was some sort of humour to be found in punching yourself in the face while defending someone, even if the face was just print on paper. And when Will's hand stopped hurting, he find it, and be able to laugh along with Bill.
Will made a non-committal noise before continuing. "Well, maybe it's time I became one. I'm never going to win this election if I just sit back and let things run their course. I need to take action, strike out."
Back and forth, back and forth the stroking went, until Will couldn't even remember the pain beyond the light caress of his friends fingers. He yanked his hand free, and immediately regretted it, as the pain returned. Bill did not seem to even notice the sudden movement, just returned his own hand to his side.
"Come on," Will said, turning sharply and striding briskly down the high school hallway. "Let's go to that little cafe where they burn pictures into the bread. I'm feeling vindictive. Maybe if I beg enough, they'll let me chew on something with a face."
Bill shook his head fondly, and followed behind.
Bill huffed loudly as he fell into a chair opposite Will. "You couldn't make it easy on your campaign manager, could you?" Will smiled benignly. "I mean, I'm pretty sure most students don't adopt platforms for senior class president."
Will shrugged. "I don't know, man. I've just been thinking, since John, that I'm just a small fish in a big pond that nobody notices, and I'm never going to win this thing if I don't start fighting for it." He pushed around the salad the cafeteria mum had given him, despite his protests to the negative. A few limp chips were still hiding under a lettus leaf. Will picked them all up at once and shoved them unceremoniously into his mouth.
Bill grimaced, though Will wasn't sure if it was because of the food inhalation or how much more work he was going to have to pick up. He used his fork to separate the foods on his plate, and then started on his salad, declaring as he did so, "We're going to have to adopt a new slogan."
Will grinned, snagging one of his friends chips. "That's why you're the campaign manager, and I'm just the pretty face, my man. You adopt, I'll adapt."
The two boys continued to eat in silence, Will watching the way Bill's fingers drummed constantly on the tabletop, a habit his friend had when he was thinking. Bill had been doing it since they were both ten years old and meeting for the first time, and Will found it was something he had never quite gotten used to. He wanted to reach over the table and cover Bill's hand with his own. Anything to stop the constant tapping. It was all he could hear, despite the constant buzz of conversation around them.
"What's with the gay rights stuff anyway, Will?" Bill said, startling the other boy out of his reverie. "I never knew you to be all that interested in starting a chapter before."
Will shook his head, as if to clear it. "I don't know." he said. "It's just, we're on the bottom of the pile in regards to these sort of things. The world is bigger, my friend, and it is changing."
Bill speared a piece of tomato on his fork. Will watched its passage from plate to mouth. "Yeah, well. People just think you're gay now."
Running a campaign, especially one with an actual platform, was hard work. Will had never been more grateful that his best friend was the ideas man instead of him. Since they had known each other, Will had rushed headlong into action, and Bill had always been there to get him out of it. One of his fondest memories was of his tiny eleven year old best friend trying to explain to their parents that it was pirates, not Will, who had smashed the overhead light with their swords, and that Will was only defending him from having to walk the plank.
Now, Will had decided to run for senior class president, without thinking of the hows or whys, and Bill was left to do the organising. It was always the way it had worked for the two of them. Will wanted to get out, stand out, and Bill just tagged along for the ride, and tried to stop him from doing anything too stupid.
The cafeteria was almost stifling in its heat. Outside, the weather was cooling rapidly, but the mass of students forced into the small eatery was generating enough body heat that the windows were fogging and sweating. Will glared at the chips on his plate, today looking particularly droopy. Bill, however, seemed content with his salad, and did not stop eating to talk.
"All I am saying is, this stance you're taking, all this PFLAG stuff, it's alienating some of the student body. You need to get out there and talk to some people."
Will nodded. He wondered how his friend had managed to grow so much over the summer seeing as he was now living on a vegetarian diet. He didn't think that you could put on so much muscle eating rabbit food.
Bill waved a hand around. "Yo, Will. Listening to me? You need to go out and mingle, man. This is my advice as your campaign manager."
Will smirked. "Yeah, Bill, I hear you. Go be one with the people." But he lingered a little longer, watching the way his friends fingers, reached into his pocket, pulled out his iPod and danced along the screen. Will found he was watching Bill's fingers a lot, lately. Ever since that day he had punched a wall, and those very same digits had rubbed across his own, back and forth, back and forth. He found them compelling. Bill looked up to see Will watching him and smiled, making a shooing gesture, before turning back to his iPod. He started singing along quietly to the song, oblivious to what others may think, invisible to almost all but Will, one student among hundreds.
Will turned around and faced the wide expanse of student body, alone. He believed that he was going to change everything about this school, and one day, he was going to make his mark on the world. All he needed to do was to lead the change, to show that it was possible. And he knew that Bill would be there to follow him every step of the way. He beamed.
Will watched the way Bill's adam's apple bobbed when he swallowed. He'd noticed it before, of course, but in eight years he'd never actually paid attention. He wished this realisation wasn't happening now, that it had never happened. Bill was staring him in the face, but Will couldn't look him in the eye.
"What do you mean, you don't want me as your campaign manager any more, Will?"
Will sighed. There was a bead of sweat running down Bill's neck. The heating in the class room was on far too high, and Will felt stuffy, confined. "It's just. You're distracting man, you know that." He wanted to tell Bill everything, he did. But it didn't seem like the right time. "And, I mean, you're hanging around me all the time, and you already said that everybody thinks I'm gay now, and I don't want you to have to put up with that too."
Bill swallowed again, and Will watched as the movement made the sweat roll down faster, slipping under the collar of Bill's shirt. Will saw it go, and knew he was going to miss being able to watch things like that.
"But I don't care, Will." And Bill's voice was rising, now, too much for the heat of the class room, "I don't care what people think of me, I don't care if they think I'm gay because I'm friends with you, and I don't even care if you are gay. Will, you're my best friend. We've been together since we were ten. We're supposed to do this together. Please don't leave me."
Will shook his head and watched as Bill closed his eyes. Will had always liked Bill's eyes, even before he'd realised how he really felt about him. He wished Bill would open them again, for one last look. But he didn't. "I'm sorry, Bill. Don't follow me."
Will couldn't breath as he left the room. He told himself that it was that damn heating.
"Finally, I know you're all wondering why I decided to run my campaign for senior class president on a platform, and I know you all have your theories on why I chose the one I did. Well, I'm going to end by telling you that most of you are right. So you can all stop whispering behind my back. I am gay. Thank you."
Really, Will had expected a bigger reaction to his revelation, but as he looked over the student population, a lot of them just looked bored. There were a few whispers as he swept his gaze over the crowd again, but no one looked particularly shocked, or even interested.
He looked out for Bill's face in the crowd, surly his best friend would be listening to what he had to say, but then he remembered what he had done yesterday.
He couldn't see Bill. Bill who had been a constant since Will was ten, and now, was just absent. Like he had melted in perfectly to all the other students. And he was angry at himself. No matter what he was feeling, no matter how confused he was, he shouldn't have let the fact that sometimes he just wanted to shove Bill up against a wall and kiss him until the other boy couldn't stand any more get in the way of their friendship. They were supposed to be best friends. And now Bill hadn't even turned up to hear Will's speech.
The student body no longer seemed welcoming. The shine of potential change had been scrubbed clean, and now all Will could see was that his peers would not vote for him. He flitted between social groups, trying to drum up support, to even be noticed, but he was beginning to feel tiny and insignificant, like a bug or bottom-feeder, the end of the food-chain, brushed off, un-noticed, by the people he was coming into contact with. He wanted to scream, but he wasn't sure if anyone would hear him.
Coming out, striking out alone, had not increased his prominence in the scheme of things, but rather had pushed him into the background. It was not as if the big, heavy football players, or the skinny drama kids with the weird nicknames ever really payed attention to him before, but now they seemed to not even see him.
Truly, now that he thought about it, the only one who had ever really noticed him was Bill. Bill had been one in a million to him, and Will was just beginning to understand that maybe the other boy had felt the same way, that they had found each other because Will wanted to be different, and Bill just wanted someone to follow into crazy ideas. But now Will had pushed Bill away, and he was alone in the sea of students, with no one right behind him. He was beginning to believe he couldn't even change the school, let alone the world.
The hand that clapped Will on the back nearly knocked him over. "Congrats, man." The bigger boy grunted. Will had forgotten him name - Wayne or Bruce or something to that effect, all the football players looked remarkably similar - but he smiled dazedly at him none the less.
"Yeah, well done." said a skinner boy. This one, Will knew to be one of the drama kids, and went around calling himself Mumble. But each to their own, he supposed, and it seemed as if the kid had voted for him, so he wasn't going to question.
Will was surrounded by a sea of congratulatory students, but he did not understand why. A week ago, it had seemed as if he was well on his way to losing the election spectacularly, but now he was standing here, in the middle of the corridor, the new senior class president. It made no sense.
Finally, the bell rang, and Will's peers wondered off slowly to classes. Will himself had a free period, and was planning on spending it alone in order to figure out what had happened.
The last of the students trickled into their classrooms as Will began to walk slowly down the deserted corridor. There was still a poster baring his face stuck to one of the lockers to his right, and Will looked at it, confused. He was sure he had taken them all down a week ago, when an humiliating loss had seemed inevitable. He went over to the poster and rested him palm on the corner, preparing to take it down, when he heard a voice behind him.
"As your campaign manager, I thought it best if all the posters weren't taken down."
Will tensed. "What do you mean? I fired you."
Bill sighed. "Turn around Will. I want to talk to you." Will turned slowly, to see Bill beaming at him. He wanted to reach out and touch his friend, but guilt was heavy in his stomach. "Really, did you think I'd let you get rid of me so easy, Will? Eight years of friendship isn't that easy to shake off. Admittedly, at first, I was a little pissed at you, but when I saw how much you were struggling on your own, I couldn't just leave you. So I talked to everyone, told them all about what you were standing for, since you couldn't seem to do that yourself, and they all came around. You did it, you know. You're leading a change."
The guilt in Will's stomach twisted and writhed, but in the spaces it moved away from, hope shone bright. "But why? I was such a jerk to you."
"You were." Bill agreed, even as his smile grew wider. "But no matter what happens between us, we're still best friends, before everything. So I was angry at you for firing me. So apparently you find me distracting. So you were going through a sexuality crisis. You'll never not be my best friend, Will."
The bright beams of hope in Will's stomach flared at Bill's words, and pushed the guilt into a shadowy corner. He began to smile back.
"Besides," Bill said, and the fingers Will had been so enthralled by for most of this school year came to rest lightly around his wrist, "I wish I was as brave as you. I'd never get to do anything stupid or life-changing without you."
Will laughed, wetly, and grinned. "I'm so sorry. I don't deserve you. You are the best friend ever." Bill made an offhand, flattered gesture and chuckled back. The sound was cut off as Will pulled him into a fierce hug.