The entire school was a-buzz with the news as Casey arrived. He groaned, rolling his eyes at whispered speculation as he walked down the hall. It was March 16, after all, and today was always like this as people theorized on the girl. For you see, every year at MHS, a special event occurred on March 17, an event that had become bigger and more entertaining than a few St. Patrick's Day celebrations. March 17 was Tony Marsden's birthday, and there was always a great party to celebrate the birth of the nicest, calmest, hottest, and richest boy at school. But the point wasn't who got invited, the point was Tony's date, because every year on March 17, Tony handed a single rose to one lucky girl and asked her to be his date for the party.

The girls, of course, practically killed themselves to be chosen. The lucky few (and it was always a different girl) were venerated as the few, the proud, the coolest. Not that Casey ever cared. Sure, he was happy for whomever his best friend chose to date, and he had won a few bets in his time with that advantage in mind, but Casey had other things to focus on, like school, and getting into his dream college, and not silently hating every girl who had been chosen over him.

"God damn it," he said aloud, slamming his locker shut harder than necessary. His crush always had to come back and bite him in the ass, didn't it? Sighing, Casey stomped his way to class and sat down...only to be seated right next to the one person he had hoped to not see. Tony was sitting right next to him, quietly reading a Thomas Hardy novel as he waited for class to start. Despite himself, Casey began to admire Tony's looks for...well, not the first time.

Tony was half-Irish, half-Italian, but all gorgeous. He had auburn hair that hung around his face in lazy curls and near-flawless olive skin. His eyes were a speckled green that had always reminded Casey of pesto, though the way they crinkled whenever Tony smiled made him hungry in an entirely different way...

Finally looking away before he could get caught staring, Casey was studying the cover of his Humanities book intently when Tony took notice of him.

"Oh hey Casey! I didn't see ya there, got kinda wrapped up in my book." Tony chuckled softly. "Anyway, how are ya?"

"Oh, you know," said Casey, "hangin' in there. What are you doing in here so early?"

"Hiding," Tony said with a laugh, "Living in fear of those crazy gossiping folk who keep badgering me with questions about tomorrow." Casey clucked in sympathy.

"Well, what do you expect? You're practically royalty here, not to mention it's your senior year. Also, you dug your own grave with this in seventh grade." Tony groaned at the familiar comment.

"It was all my mom's fault, I swear it! She's the one who gave me a rose and told me to give it to someone I like!"

"True, but you didn't have to run with it," Casey pointed out as Tony put his head in his hands.

"You have a point," admitted Tony with a grin.

"So have you picked a girl yet?" Casey asked, leaning back in his desk.

"Just 'cause you're my best friend doesn't mean I'm gonna let you win all the bets again," Tony replied, pulling out his textbook as the bell rang. Any further chance at conversation was cut off by the start of class, though Casey saw Tony fidget as a few people nearby tried to ask him the same question. Where usually, Tony would deflect the yearly barrage with good humor and a smile, today he seemed...subdued, even a little uncertain,. Casey wounded if perhaps he was afraid of rejection, though he couldn't imagine any girl who wouldn't at least have the tact to say 'no' in private.

Tony's depression carried on through lunch, even becoming noticeable enough for their other friends to comment on.

"Tony, I don't know who this chica is, but I can promise you she's not gonna be laughing in your face or anything," said José, pointing his fork at Tony to emphasize his point. Tony barely reacted, merely staring down at his food and nodding.

As the school day wore on, Tony's mood seemed as unliftable as a lead balloon. As the boys walked home, his usual good cheer seemed to return, however, and as they stood at the end of Casey's driveway, Tony said something that set his heart aflutter.

"Thanks for not badgering me about tomorrow. It's nice to know there's someone like you around I can always count on." The smile Tony gave him nearly melted Casey's heart with it's warmth, and Casey bade him farewell from Cloud Nine.

If March 16 had been filled with gossip, March 17 was overflowing with it. It took José promising a fist fight with every person who blocked Tony's path to class to even enter the school, and even José's threats didn't prevent people's questions. Although barely in tune with the gossip, it took Casey all of a minute to discover who the favorite was for Tony's date. Sara Brightman, a gorgeous, leggy junior with a soft, easy-going personality, seemed a shoe-in to be chosen, and Casey fought the pangs in his heart at the thought. Really, what claim did he have on any part of Tony's heart? He had no more right to be bitter than any girl at school did.

Lunch came, and Casey found himself devoid of any appetite. Word had spread like anthrax that Tony was making his choice at lunch, and the cafeteria was filled with tension (and class-skippers) who were curious as to who Tony would choose. The lunch table was empty, the others having agreed to help keep the hordes at bay whilst Tony entered. He had asked Casey too, but Casey wasn't masochistic enough to stand by Tony's side as he chose Sara Brightman for his date. Tony had seemed somewhat disappointed at this, but Casey was pretty certain the heartbreak he was about to feel trumped Tony's feeling temporarily down.

Suddenly, all the noise in the cafeteria died down, and Casey knew that he had arrived. Although Tony hadn't changed a bit since Casey last saw him twenty minutes previous, there was something in the way Tony moved; confident motions that masked Tony's obvious nerves. Casey watched as he began to move in Casey's direction, and he barely had time to react before he saw Tony standing in front of him, holding out the rose.

"Casey Beckham," Tony said, in a voice thick with every emotion Casey had spent two years hiding from him, "will you be my date for tonight?" There was a long, silent pause as Casey stared at him, unable to fully comprehend what was happening. Finally, Casey spoke.

"You're serious about this, right? This isn't just some kind of protest or anything?" Hearing these words, which were obviously not what Tony was expecting, caused him to break out in the biggest, most heart-stopping smile Casey had ever seen. Wrapping his arms around Casey, he whispered into his ear,

"Yes, every syllable of it." Taking a deep breath, Casey gently pushed Tony away long enough to pluck the rose from his hand, and flashed a winning smile of his own.

"Perfect. Then I accept."

The school erupted into chaos afterwards, but the party went on, as perfect as either boy could have hoped for. A year later, with Tony out of high school and the two still together, there was no party to be had. After all, Tony had already received the best present he could ask for.

A/N: Hey! Thanks for reading my first story on here. It's funny how a little boredom in Geometry evolved into this. If you liked it, if you hated it, if there's some mistake that I've missed, leave me a review and I'll be happy to write you back. Toodles!