A/N: For those of you who follow me, I'm really sorry because I was being a brainless twit and accidentally deleted my story "Shot in the Dark" because I was trying to change the title. Technology... I do not understand.
His Spongebob Boxers
I saw the love of my life on a sunny August afternoon inside a humid, cramped auditorium. He stood on the stage, posing with four other guys who looked similar: close-cropped hair, sunglasses, black shirt and blue jeans.
"He's so hot," I said, sighing.
"Which one?" Marina asked from where she was reclining against one of the chairs until her head nearly touched the knees of the person behind her. She looked bored. "They all look the same to me."
I reacted in extreme indignation. "Nuh-uh! That one's hair is more… short."
"Uh-huh." She yawned. "Why are we here again?"
"Scientific appraisal of the wonder that is the male anatomy," I replied. "And to answer your question, the one on the left."
Marina raised an eyebrow, appraising the men on display, specifically the one I'd pointed out. "Huh. He does seem cuter than the others, now that I look harder."
"He's not cute. He's hot. Handsome. Steamy. Mind-blowingly sexy. I bet he mows his parents' lawn on the weekends and dresses up in a suit and tie to go to church—"
"I get it," Marina said, yawning again and pushing her delicate cat's-eye glasses up the tip of her nose. "Come on, Darcy. My competition starts in thirty minutes."
"Okay. Five more minutes, then we'll go." I drank him in, falling more in love with him with each passing second. His blond hair curled over perfectly shaped ears, and his eyes, I could see, were a beautifully jolting blue.
"Do you know if he's a senior?" muttered Marina.
"No," I said, admiring the way he smiled with all the confidence of the world. Oh, yes. He was one sexy piece of man-meat, and he knew it.
"Do you know if you have any classes with him?"
"No," I said, guessing at his name. It was probably something impossibly exotic and delicious, like Raphael. Or Zach. Or Brad.
"Do you even know what his name is?"
"No," I said dreamily. Oh, the things he did to me in the thirty minutes I'd seen him.
Resisting the compulsion to swoon, I smiled at Marina. "Okay. I've gotten my fill."
She gave me a dubious look but rose from her seat. Everyone else continued avidly watching the ongoing judging of Most Photogenic Male, and I sorely wanted to stay behind, but I had a duty as a best friend to follow mine to hell.
And it was hell, I reflected as I followed Marina down a bunch of winding stairwells into the basement where the competition was taking place and the sound of bubbling and chalk against blackboard screeched against my ears. Just with a lot more chemicals and equations.
"You're late," snapped Marina's scary AP chemistry teacher, Mrs. Jennings, as she thrust a pristine white lab coat into Marina's arms. "Your team is waiting."
"I'm sorry," Marina said soberly, and I instantly felt bad. Obediently, I made my way into the audience and picked a seat towards the front as the two science teams assembled themselves. Unlike the nubile teenage girls that had been overflowing out of the auditorium to watch the progression of the annual senior guys' pageant, Mr. Greenhill High, the crowd for the Greenhill High National Science Tournament was comprised of bespectacled parents and the odd kid who didn't really fit in anywhere except the Chess Club and Ultimate Frisbee.
Oh, and me, the girl who'd unwillingly let herself be torn away from the pageant because she happened to befriend the smartest girl on campus.
Since Marina's parents couldn't make it, she'd asked me to film the competition, so I dug out my camera and began recording as the judge announced the first question. One of the guys on Marina's team, Mason Hayes, practically sprinted to the board and began scribbling down symbols that I'd never seen before, except maybe in some cult.
He looked so focused, his black hair falling into his eyes as he gripped the chalk, filling the board with white. Under his white coat, he wore corduroys and an untucked button-up shirt. His nose was scrunched with the effort, but then he finished before his opponent and threw down the chalk with a passion that surprised me.
Grinning, he looked out at the crowd before seeming to realize he was under a spotlight and gulping, almost leaping back to his seat. I saw Marina give him a high-five.
Mason usually hung out with Marina, but whenever he saw me, he bolted. So we didn't really know each other, except through awkwardly shared eye contact.
But I'd always wanted to know him, since I had a penchant for smart guys. I knew they were trustworthy. And the way he'd solved that equation had kind of turned me on.
It was in the middle of one of the most climactic moments in the history of Einstein's Theory of Relativity (that was the only science term that I knew) that I happened to turn around and observe one of the weirdest moments in my high school experience.
Everyone else in the crowd was gripping the edges of their seats in anticipation while Marina raced against her opponent, a pale redhead who seemed to have never seen the sun, in finding the indefinite integral of the velocity of a bell in space or something. I had no idea what I was saying, but science and math had never made much sense to me.
I figured Marina wouldn't know I wasn't watching her if I continued filming, so I kept my hands steady as I turned my head to follow the movement that had caught my eye in the first place.
There was a guy in the dark corner of the basement taking off his shirt.
He didn't have a six-pack; that much was obvious. Rather, he was skinny and lithe, and he was currently shuffling out of his jeans. His boxers had neon Spongebobs on them. When he caught me staring, he winked and held a finger to his lips. Actually, he looked kind of familiar, but the sole cone of light focused on the mad scientists on the stage made it difficult to tell.
None of the others noticed; they were too caught up in the thrall of derivatives of the pi or whatnot. I was the only one who thought a guy stripping was more interesting.
I was the freak here. Obviously.
At some point, my arms had followed my head and slowly moved from filming Marina's victory over the sun-starved redhead to the shirtless guy.
The timer ticked. Marina's time was running out.
Marina's honey skin had a rather malicious red tint to it as she furiously scribbled across the board. Her lab coat billowed around her slim figure like some fancy ballroom dress. But it was obvious that the redhead had more than her, although she was also breathing harder and caked in chalk dust that made her pale complexion even sicklier.
I realized I probably had five minutes footage of a guy taking off his clothes instead of Marina's valiant fight to the death with integrals. Quickly, I returned to filming Marina, but out of the corner of my eye, I watched him.
He had tied a red towel around his neck and kicked off his jeans. My hand flew to my mouth as I finally saw his face, but I wasn't surprised. It was him, after all.
Just as the redhead was making finishing touches to her equation and the bell was making its last tick, the guy took off running through the aisle yelling, "Greenhill Gremlins, go, go, go!"
In the split second it took the redhead to recover from the fact that the Superman had not come to visit Greenhill, Marina zoomed across the board, drew some squiggly lines and satanic symbols—at least, that's what they seemed like to me—and whirled around, dropping the chalk first.
Mrs. Jennings had grabbed the guy and dragged him to the edge of the auditorium, shaking a finger at him, but the way her lips were pressed together tightly made it seem as if she was holding back a smile.
The judges looked torn. Clearly, they didn't usually get half-naked boys with Spongebob Squarepants boxers running through their competitions to show school spirit.
Finally, the scores got tallied, and it looked like Greenhill had been ahead before the final question. Marina was radiant as she held up the gleaming golden trophy.
"Worth a detention, don't you think?"
I jolted, looking next to me. Spongebob had slid into the empty seat beside me (there were a lot of those), and was grinning ear to ear. Now under the overhead lights, he looked clearer, though I wasn't sure if that was a good thing. He wore a ratty sweatshirt and the faded jeans he'd discarded earlier, and his red towel was around his neck. Close up, he wasn't as skinny as he looked from a distance, but his nose stuck out a bit too much.
Also, I knew him.
I groaned. "Landon."
"If you ask me, they had it coming. I merely facilitated the process." The red towel slid off his neck and wormed to the ground.
"They didn't deserve that," I said, suddenly becoming the voice of reason, even as I tried to get a look at his Spongebob boxers again when he bent over to pick up his towel.
"That redhead looks like she has a permanent stick up her ass," he responded, wiggling his eyebrows as he straightened. "Don't say you didn't notice."
"I did. A little bit," I admitted. Then I smacked him.
"I haven't seen you around. Are you still getting tutoring help from Marina?" Landon and I had been great friends for most of our high school career, but I'd seen him around less and less through junior and senior year, mostly because our classes were so different. He took a bunch of AP science classes even though he always procrastinated and slept during lectures, and I tended towards the English department. He'd ended up hanging out with Marina more, since they were in many of the same classes, and teachers always thought he could learn a two from her. But Marina couldn't stand him, so the three of us never got along together.
"So much potential," she'd say, throwing up her arms. "But he wastes it snoring away."
Landon's voice brought me back. "You could say that. She helped me pass AP Chem." He smirked. "You probably haven't seen me because I've been spending most of my time in detention." He stopped, mused. "And a time or two in the principal's office."
"Same old, same old?"
"Yep. Same old lecture every time. Being told not to live when I was born to do it." He leaned back, lacing his fingers together and propping up his feet on the edge of the row of seats in front of him. "Enough about me. Tell me how you've been, Darcy."
"Uh… I'm going to the college near here." It struck me how strange it was to be talking to him about stuff I would tell him immediately. It had been after Homecoming, when I'd gone with a douchebag whom I'd accidentally made my boyfriend and then dumped afterwards, that Landon and I had drifted away from each other, both of us swamped in college applications and school. I was busy leading Writing Club, while he was advertising Awkward Club's leaves (yes, just leaves. I don't understand either).
"As am I." He nodded. "Go on."
"Er… I'm here for Marina."
"Really? Is that why you were taping me the entire time?"
I reddened. "Not the entire time…"
He roared with laughter. "It's okay. I'm flattered."
"What's going on?" Marina stood in front of me with her giant trophy, looking at Landon with considerably kinder eyes. Mason stood next to her, nervously shifting from foot to foot, not bothering to brush his black hair from his eyes.
Landon threw an arm around me and tugged me close, grinning. "Darcy here was just telling me about how she came here solely to support you."
"I know. It's so sweet of her, isn't it?" Marina beamed, and I had the distinct feeling that I'd been duped, but not knowing how I felt about it. "Oh, do I need to do introductions? You guys already know each other. Darcy, Landon, Mason."
Mason gave a meek little wave.
"Excellent job on the first problem," I said eruditely. "It was extremely well-put."
Landon began coughing fitfully, and Marina shot me a what-bullshit-are-you-spouting look while Mason went an adorable shade of pink. "Thank you," he murmured, lowering his head in modesty.
Gosh, he was really cute.
I pounded Landon in the back rather forcefully to get the coughing to stop.
"I have to go," Mason said to Marina, looking regretful as he eyed his watch. "I have a pre-calculus tutoring session, and I try to make punctuality a habit."
And he used the word punctual! So many great things about this guy, his big brain only being one of them. If we ever got married, I knew that he'd never forget to pick up the kids.
Mason left, and so did Darcy, since she needed to call her parents and give them a play-by-play of the tournament. I still hadn't figured out what to do with the video and Landon's footage, but I convinced myself that I'd find a way.
Speaking of Landon, didn't he have somewhere to go?
"Don't you have somewhere to go?" I asked bluntly.
"No," he said, shrugging. "I'm all yours for today, milady."
"We've barely talked. We're like strangers."
"But I feel like I've known you all my life, you know?"
I couldn't help smiling.
As we walked to the cafeteria to get lunch, Landon got clapped on the back and knocked fists countless times. How many friends did this guy have?
He pulled out a chair for me, waving me into the ugly plastic contraption like I was the Queen of England. "I'm going to get a burger. Do you want anything?"
"Just a soda, please."
"Coming right up." I sat at the table, watching as he strode to the line, moving skillfully through all the hungry students. Once he was in line, he immediately struck up a conversation with the girl in front of him.
Shaking my head, I turned around just in time to see Hot Guy sit down beside me.
He grinned at me, his teeth blindingly white. His skin was tan, and his hair streaked with light gold. A surfer boy, further confirmed by the sharktooth necklace hanging around his neck. A stereotypical surfer boy, to be exact.
"Hi," I said, feeling like I wasn't fit to be beside his glory. I was decent, as far as looks went, since I'd inherited my mother's almond shaped green eyes and her unblemished, pale skin. But still. You didn't take a regular human and put her next to a Greek god. That just didn't happen.
"I'm Austin," he introduced himself, holding out a hand.
"Darcy." My hand disappeared in his much larger one, molding to the calluses on his skin.
Mmm. I loved a guy with big hands.
"Are you looking for your friends?" I blurted.
He looked befuddled. "No. I was looking for you." He shot me that blinding smile again, and I resisted the urge to shade my eyes as I reluctantly let go of his hand. "I noticed you were at the pageant, but you left early. Why's that?"
"I had to get somewhere," I fudged. I didn't want to admit I'd left to watch the Battle of Nerds, not that I was ashamed, but mostly because he'd leave thinking I was lame and I wouldn't get to stare at him up close anymore.
"Okay," he said, nodding agreeably and still smiling. Did this guy ever stop? "But I don't like leaving women unsatisfied."
What a sleazy thing to say! I prepared to order him to leave, but then he stretched. His shirt rose up, exposing abdominals that I would've loved to run my mouth across. The edge of his Calvin Klein boxers peeked at me tantalizingly above the waistband of his jeans.
"And what exactly do you have in mind?" I asked, making sure my voice was total sex-kitten. I hadn't given up hope yet. He might offer a dinner by candlelight, followed by a midnight romp on a picnic blanket while fireworks lit the sky…
"There's a football game tonight," he murmured, his hand slinking towards my thigh. "Come. You can wear my jersey." He said this like he was offering the golden apple of beauty that Paris had given Aphrodite. "Then, maybe we can take a ride in my truck." His smirk made it clear that his idea of a ride was a wholly different one altogether. Instead of the steering wheel, there'd probably be more… stick.
Was that this guy's idea of romance? Jesus. It was a good thing he had his looks going for him, since there didn't seem to be anything else.
"Actually, Austin," I said, pushing his hand back into his own lap. "I never really liked football."
He looked taken off guard. "What?"
"Thanks for your offer, though," I continued. "But even if you do mow your parents' lawn on weekends and look good in a suit, I just can't see myself with you."
"What?" he repeated again, now looking totally bewildered.
"Just leave," I said, fluttering my hand at him.
"Uh… okay." He got up, swaggering back to his other tanned, good-looking friends who probably had heads as empty as his. A girl climbed into his lap a minute later.
"What was that about?" Landon plopped down beside me, unscrewing the lid off of my Coca Cola without asking me. I always asked whoever was available to open my drinks for me. I just couldn't believe he still remembered. The last time we'd drunk soda together was when we were still dorky freshmen, and Landon had been shorter than me. Now, we had more than a year between us, and he was a head taller.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked, running a hand through his brown hair and making it stand up. "Did you not want to drink it right now?"
"No, nothing. Thank you." I took a big gulp and nearly choked.
Landon regarded me. "You okay? Did Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dense do something to you? Do I have to beat him up?"
"You couldn't last five seconds against that guy."
He puffed out his chest and mimed hitting it. "I can do gorilla, too."
"Calm down and eat your burger."
He did, chewing thoughtfully, his dark lashes fanning out against his cheek. "You want to go somewhere after school?"
"Don't you have homework?" I asked, sipping my soda. The carbonated bubbles fizzed in my mouth, and I popped them with my tongue.
"Homework is overrated." He tossed his burger wrapper towards the trashcan. It missed, and he got up to pick it up. "You can do homework whenever you want. Chances like these only come once in a lifetime."
"I'm pretty sure there are people like you everywhere. Slackers, I mean."
"I don't call myself a slacker," Landon said.
I snorted. "Of course not."
"I just think of myself as someone who knows what's important. I prioritize."
I rolled my eyes. "Excuses."
"You'll realize it's true soon enough." During our conversation, he'd scooted his chair closer, and I watched his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed the last mouthfuls of his burger. His hands, I noticed, were pretty big, though his fingernails could use some clipping.
"Do you have a hand fetish?"
"Hmm?" My head shot up.
"You keep staring at my hands."
"They're nice," I said defensively. Then, contemptuously, "unlike the rest of you."
"Ouch." He feigned mock embarrassment. "Well," he said, standing up. "Remedial chemistry calls. I'll see you." Then he loped out of the cafeteria.
I was too high off the pageant and the competition, as well as Landon's intrusion back into my life, to pay attention in my classes. Besides, the year at Greenhill was coming to an end, and with it came the general excitement enveloping the senior class. Senior ball was coming up, and everyone was getting asked, except for Marina and me. But that was okay, since we were going together.
That didn't mean I didn't want to be asked, though. A teensy, teensy bit. Not by Austin, though. Even if I did want to lick his abs. I'd probably so brain dead by the end of the dance that I wouldn't be able to stick out my tongue.
At the end of the day, I was walking towards my car, ready to get in, when Marina popped up from behind it.
"Darcy!" she exclaimed, hopping on the hood of my car. "You're… early." My poor baby creaked as it sunk down with her weight.
"Um. No. I'm on time." Then, remembering what Mason had said, I amended, "I'm punctual."
"Well." She shifted from foot to foot, pushing her glasses up her nose again. "How are you?"
"That's… That's good." She nodded vigorously, tapping her foot.
"Are you alright? You seem a bit anxious. Big test or something?"
"Yeah, yeah! Big test." She nodded again, looking like a bobble-head.
"Are you going to get off my car?" I asked.
"What? I'm not on your car." She hopped off. "See?"
"Okay. Good." I unlocked my door. "You need a ride?"
I sighed, wanting to go home and just ruminate a bit over all the cuteness I'd gotten blasted with today. Normally, school was pretty uneventful—the status quo tended to stay unchanging—but today had been extraordinary, and I knew the rest of the year would probably not be. "What?"
"Turn around," Marina said breathlessly, and I did.
Mason stood in front of me, holding a humongous bouquet of roses. A gasp slid from my mouth. He was going to ask me to ball. He was going to use his gorgeous voice to ask me to ball, and we'd go and talk about all the things under the sun and stars, and it would be a wonderful time. I tried to keep calm as I waited for him to say the words.
He opened his mouth…
…And nothing came out.
We stared at each other, and I could tell he was only getting more and more flustered, until his face was almost the same color as the flowers he was holding.
"Will you go to ball with Mason, Darcy?" Marina jumped in.
"Oh, uh." I looked at him. He nodded, his mouth snapping shut. His hair flopped over his eyes. I tried to bring back the excitement I'd felt when he'd been scribbling all those equations, but somehow I couldn't summon it anymore.
"I'll… think about it." I wanted to melt into the ground. But it was senior ball, and I didn't want to go with someone who I'd be uncomfortable with and be left with all the bad memories afterwards.
Mason looked mortified. Marina looked like she wanted to stab me in the gut and then run me over with my car.
"I'm sorry," I squeaked.
He shrugged, smiling weakly, and I almost leapt into my car in my haste to get away.
Marina opened the other door—I'd forgotten I still had to give her a ride home—and I started the ignition, pulling out of the parking lot, away from Mason, who was still standing there with his lonely bunch of roses.
"What the hell was that?" Marina asked me.
"I'm driving, Marina."
"He's liked you for months!"
I braked abruptly, and we both slammed up against our seatbelts. "What?"
"Yeah!" For once, Marina didn't bother lecturing me about safety habits. "Since the first time he saw you. He's been building up the nerve since forever, and I told him ball would be a good idea to finally tell you."
"He didn't do much telling, did he?"
Marina gasped, and I knew I'd gone too far. "That's low, even for you," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry! It's just…" I smacked at the steering wheel. "Ouch." Rubbing my palm, I continued, "I keep making up this stuff about guys. I embellish these backstories, and they never turn out that way, and I want one guy to just be who he is, and for me to like him the way he is."
"Then maybe," Marina said, "You need to stop expecting things from certain people and realize that there are guys who will be for you. And if it's not Mason, fine. But you can't keep going around making up things about people. Life doesn't work that way."
"Yes, Mom," I muttered, parking at the curb by her house.
"Remember that," she said, hopping out of the car and shoving her phone into her pocket. "I'll see you tomorrow. And by the way, don't worry about hurting my feelings if you go with someone. I already have a date."
She grinned at me. "He approached me after you unceremoniously dumped him, gave me a whorish pickup line about giving me the ride of my life, and I said he'd have to take me to prom first. I think he's trying to bang all the senior year girls."
I sputtered. "But—but—he's only doing this to get into your pants!"
"Don't worry. If he gets too rowdy, a good kick in the testicles will do the trick." She winked. "Biology hasn't taught me nothing, you know. Besides." She patted her bag. "I'll be safe."
And on that ominous note, she skipped into her house.
I sat in my car and breathed for a moment, unable to believe that Marina had snagged Austin.
Actually, Austin had seemed pretty desperate, and I knew that in Marina's gear-cranking, scientific mind, having Austin on her arm would make for a pretty memorable ball.
I shoved down the feeling of jealousy. It was my fault for wanting to go with someone who I'd actually want to be with.
Later that night, I lay on my bed, unable to sleep, and contemplated the ticking of my biological clock. Or, in this case, the senior ball clock. I was running out of time, and Greenhill was running out of guys.
Well, I could ask Mason again. But it would be horribly awkward, and I didn't want to lead the poor guy on any more than I had in the past. I felt bad enough. But he was somewhat cute, if one looked past the in-need-of-haircut hair and his almost bone-tight skinniness. And he was smart. So he'd probably get some young, trophy wife to tote on his arm while he made speeches concerning the impact of fuel on the global structure of the economy or whatever.
There I went again, making up stories.
Something cracked against my bedroom window. Leaves rustled.
Either there was a gigantic animal trying to get into my room, or some idiot was pretending to be Romeo with the wrong house.
I shoved open the blinds, cursing when they got tangled up.
"Landon?" I whisper-shouted into the side of my house.
"Don't you ever mow the grass here?" he called back. "I feel like I'm on the African safari."
"Shhh. My parents are sleeping."
He waved. "Come down!"
"Do you know what time it is?"
"Now who's shouting?" he asked triumphantly.
"Coming," I said irritably, lowering the blinds again.
"Why didn't you bring a jacket?" he asked me once I'd softly closed the front door behind me.
"I didn't know we were going on a magic carpet trip to see the world," I said dryly. "Why are you here?"
He sighed, taking off his jacket and putting it around my shoulders. It was warm and smelled like detergent. "How was your day?"
"You're going to get cold."
"Mine was great, thanks for asking. Got a burger and milkshake after school and went on a drive around the neighborhood before parking in front of your house and staring up at your window for the last five hours."
He continued. "Remember that time sophomore year when we stayed up really late on the phone? We told each other…"
"…That we'd have a midnight picnic. Yeah, I remember that." I smiled, albeit a bit sadly. "We never did, though. Life got in the way."
"Yeah. That was when I thought getting good grades was the most important thing in the world."
"They still are," I chided.
"Yes, but there are other things more important. For example, midnight picnics." He plunged his hand into the tall grass, resurfacing with a picnic basket and a checkered blanket. "You still like pastrami sandwiches, don't you?"
"I did." His teeth glinted in the soft moonlight. "You like?"
I flung my arms around his neck, toppling him into the grass. "I love!"
He laughed quietly from below me before rolling the two of us over until he was the one on top. We looked at each other for a long moment, his midnight blue eyes bright, before he pulled me up. "Let us feast," he announced, laying out plates and cups.
"Who made all this food?" I asked in the middle of biting into a decadent cream puff.
"Mostly Safeway. Maybe a little Whole Foods. And some of that Asian bakery down the street."
I snorted. "Quite a chef, aren't you?"
"You definitely thought so when I made you that mac 'n cheese when you were sick during finals week."
"The fever had obviously rendered me delusional."
"Yeah," I said, patting my stomach and settling against his side, one of my legs crossed over his, like it was second nature. "Good times."
"So did you ever find that perfect guy you always told me about?"
"Huh? What perfect guy?"
"You know. The hot and smart one who'd lift you into a horse carriage and carry you away into Cloudland."
"I actually said that? What the hell?"
"I may have embellished a bit."
I pondered, pulling grass out of the ground.
"Nah, I haven't. But I think it's all relative, you know? A guy doesn't have to be hot or smart to be attractive. He just… needs to be comfortable in his own skin and be someone I'd want to be friends with." I grinned, poking at his stomach. "He doesn't need lickable abs. He doesn't even need a medal in the Science Olympiad. He doesn't have to be any sort of extreme, I guess. He just needs to be perfect for me."
"Should've realized that earlier." His arm came around my waist, and he rested his chin on my head. I leaned back into him, letting out a happy sigh.
"Yeah. Then I would've had more time to find someone like that to pounce on."
"You've had someone this entire time." He paused, his arm tightening. "Me."
"Yeah," I said slowly, nodding and smiling a bit. "I guess I have."
"So, I guess you already know my next question."
"Will you go to ball with me?" I guessed.
"I wasn't even thinking that, but why yes, I would love to go with you!"
"Bastard," I said, slapping him in the chest before pulling him in for a kiss.