Uniquely Flawed Logic

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11. I Possess Your Spine, Bro

Nicolai Roman didn’t deserve Wes Chang.

It should have been an undisputed fact. In Steve’s world, it was an undisputed fact, but all those low-lives Nick had surrounded himself with, those dram losers who were soft and weak and had supported Roman for far too long had corrupted the jock, changed him.

The Nicolai Roman of three years ago, he didn’t deserve Wes Chang.

But the Nicolai Roman of today, he might deserve Wes. Just, maybe a little. If popularity meant nothing, then he did.

If Steve were being completely honest, he knew it didn’t, wouldn’t in the long run, but he had enough shit on his plate so he wasn’t going to throw off his entire status quo for just one dude.

From the little experience Steve had accumulated with Wes, he just might be a little bitter about this fact. When Steve had stepped back to look at it, this felt completely justified. Because, you know, Wes.

It had been exhilarating, those few moments in the locker room. It was like Steve had finally won something, something really important, and with Wes…Steve would be honest, he hadn’t seen it coming.

In retrospect, it somehow made sense, and it had been (for lack of better words, and this was his mind so it didn’t matter how stupid it sounded, he was still badass) sort of wonderful. Because Steve wasn’t alone.

Yeah, there was Russel, but being thrown in league with him wasn’t any fair, because Russel was practically a girl anyway, and the only thing that ostracized Steve from all the other guys was the fact that he had these random urges to make out with them sometimes.

It was a relief when Steve figured out that Chang hadn’t been playing him, or tricking him, or baited into it by Russel or something (Steve would give Russel this, he could keep a secret despite all the reasons he really shouldn’t, despite the vengeance he could be seeking, the potential blackmail).

It was almost like a gift, too good to be true. And it was, because it had all come tumbling down because of Roman.

Damn that prick. He always came first, didn’t he? Always got to have claim to everyone. Even the guys, apparently.

That was what you got for being the biggest man-whore in town.

It wasn’t surprising that Nick and Wes used to do the dirty. Or the almost-dirty. What, with Nick being the skankiest of skanks and Wes being the…

Alright, Steve was willing to admit he had no idea how Wes was benefiting from the arrangement. Wes had said it was to get Nick to stop treating him like garbage, but Steve was not convinced. It was deeper than that.

He knew it, that chick Annelea knew it (arrogant, obnoxious bitch, but Steve owed her so much, for accepting and dealing out only mild judgment that felt more obligatory than heartfelt, he sort of got what Nick had seen in her), and Russel probably knew it.

The only one that was in the dark was Wes, who was still fighting it.

If there was one thing that Steve was acutely aware of, it was that attraction was an untamable and frustratingly spontaneous beast. There was no rhyme or reason to it. You couldn’t control it and you couldn’t wish it away. In the end, your dick and your heart would go ahead and decide to pin their hopes on something without bothering to consult the brain, because the majority ruled. And who needs common sense anyway? Who needs to conform to society’s expectations? What did that have to do with libido or comfort or overall happiness?

None, so why the hell should the brain be involved at all?

Steve had wasted so much time trying to do the mind-over-matter thing, trying to will all these feelings and urges to the back of his head. He had tried convincing himself that it was a fad, or simple curiosity, that it didn’t mean anything. It was a phase, and it wouldn’t be lasting, it couldn’t be lasting. It was nothing to worry about.

If his head had any say in the matter, if Steve could pick out his attractions for himself, Steve would have taken the path of least resistance and never thought about it twice.

Goodbye to worry; goodbye to pondering his manhood, or the lack he had to make up for, no more feeling like less or like a freak. No more wanting to hide; no more anger, or sorrow, or fear.

It would be girls all the way, and just being another one of the guys. No social movements, no uncertainty, just girls.

He would have taken that choice every time.

Wes Chang deserved better than Nick Roman, but Steve knew that what Wes needed outweighed that distinction of character and satisfied what he, as an individual, truly deserved.

It was obvious that Wes was still a grasshopper when it came to accepting the unchangeable force of attraction, that he was having a hard time of it. As someone who had been there, Steve had decided he would give back, what little he could offer (he knew it wasn’t much, but he had to at least try to pay it forward, to make up for what he’d done).

At the end of their last ‘chat’, Steve had come to four obvious conclusions.

They were:

1) Wes Chang really was as nice and courteous as everyone had assumed. (The guy never talked, but he had also not gone out of his way to punch people in the face, so this had previously just been inferred).

2) Underneath that kind and courteous exterior was a stupid goofball that was (adorably) overactive.

Which may or may-not be considered endearing by certain bystanders.

3) Nicolai Roman in no way, shape, or form deserved the affections of one Wes Chang.

And…

4) Wes Chang was totally and utterly screwed.

Steve honestly didn’t know Nick well enough know what he saw as important or worthwhile in that jacked up world of his, had no idea if Nick was capable of the kind of relationship Wes was looking for.

Truth be told, Steve felt uncomfortable even thinking about it, so he stuck to what he was good at. Waiting, watching, being there in case Wes needed a morale boost. Those were things Steve could handle (and seeing as most of the drama club hated him, they were probably the only things he could do without inciting some kind of riot).

For the most part, things had been going peachy. Or, you know, just maintaining a steady routine.

Wes would make conflicted faces at Nick, Nick (the dumbass) would goggle at that teacher he seemed so desperate to pine over, and then Wes would make a new sad face. Rinse, repeat, sometimes add in an encouraging pat from the girlfriend (and Steve could not understand this, only knew that Wes probably had the best girlfriend in the world who encouraged permanent threesomes. She kind of made Steve wish he was into ladies).

And then, one not-so-special day, things changed.

Now Wes would skip straight to step three, the look away and sad face. Truly, no one could compare with the teen’s mastery of not-looking at people. It was almost like Nick didn’t exist, except Wes had to be constantly aware of where the jock was so he could consciously avoid looking at him, and Nick knew it, and Wes knew he knew it, and just didn’t care.

And now Nick had finally entered into Wes’ old program, the conflicted looks (or as conflicted as Nick could get, Steve didn’t really look too hard) and then he would be ignored, and then Hope of all people would try to pat Nick’s arm, but he’d shake it off and walk way, glaring at her before repeating the entire process all over again.

So…progress?

This felt like progress. It wasn’t success by any means, but at least Nick was involved now and that had to count for something, right?

Steve wished he could feel more encouraged by this. He also wished he would feel a little more freaked out by how interested he was in these people’s lives.

Seriously, he had shit to do; he should be focusing on homework and stuff, not drama-club soap operas.

And…nope, still interested.

"You."

The tone was accusatory at best, and it was the only warning Steve got before Cooke Evans ran into his side.

It was as though the kid had been going for some sort of attack but hadn’t been able to determine the best kind before plowing into Steve.

Should have startled him more, but it really, really didn’t. Drama club was a magnet for the less-intellectually gifted students of Lakeside, so stupid drama club kids doing stupid drama club things were a constant in their world.

Steve was sort of miffed that his nice gesture towards Cooke had been ignored though. Either cower in fear, or go for apathetic neutrality.

If Steve really wanted to dream big, he would have hoped for forgiveness and acceptance (as in the case of Wes), but from someone like Cooke, Steve had expected one of the prior options.

This was clearly not the case.

Cooke had enough momentum that he had pushed Steve out of his maybe/perhaps-spying zone where he might have been observing another one of Nick’s fail loops.

On the bright side, it was after school, so the last few students that were around didn’t pay Steve and Cooke much attention, too distracted by the prospect of freedom to give a damn.

Good, Steve didn’t like being taken by surprise. Now he could let the blond have it without worrying about repercussions.

With his best bully-face on (Steve practiced it because it was armor, it wasn’t nice, but it was what he had); Steve glared at the other jock.

“What the hell-?”

He really shouldn’t have bothered.

Seriously, Cooke Evans did not take hints well. Or warnings. Also, had the intelligence of a toothbrush (which felt like more of an insult to the toothbrush, if Steve was being honest).

"You," Cooke said again, disregarding the threat in Steve’s voice and returning his glare with a fierce one of his own.

Or, as fierce as you could get while wagging around an umbrella in a very unintimidating manner.

If Steve weren’t so annoyed with the interruption, he would have found it amusing- no, stupid. Yes, definitely stupid, but appropriate, because well, Cooke.

Cooke waved the umbrella again, jabbing it at Steve’s chest.

“You know things and I-” the blond pointed the umbrella back towards himself and almost jabbed his eye, not that this detered him. “-would like to know things.”

When Steve opened his mouth to make him clarify or, you know, go away, Cooke pushed forward into his personal space, squinting at Steve in what the blond must have perceived as a menacing fashion.

“Look, I know that you’re keeping your thing with Wes on the down low-”

Steve tensed. That did not sound at all how Cooke intended it to sound, and even if there weren’t a lot of people around, there were more than enough to condemn Steve if they heard the wrong thing.

Cooke, oblivious, continued. “But you know things. You’re his friend - as much as I don’t like it - and I’m his friend and we should be working together to stop the-” Cooke motioned to his face as he mimicked Wes’s kicked-puppy expression. “-from happening. And in order to do that, I need to know the thing you know so we can fight evil and make Wes feel better. Also,” Cooke pulled the umbrella back towards his chest protectively, as though he’d forgotten who it belonged to, and added, almost childishly, “You should not know things I don’t know.”

And then he glared, this time challenging Steve to deny him, daring him to say no because Cooke, though a moron, could be a determined little snot when he really wanted to be.

It was how he had made the varsity football team despite being a new kid, it was how he probably ended up dating Hope (for that brief, glorious period), and it was how he was going to lay down his ultimatum for Wes, because Cooke stuck by his friends.

While the blond was not a fan of Steve, he would do what it took to take care of Wes.

If there was one thing Wes Chang did deserve, and had totally earned, it was the support of a bunch of kick-ass friends.

Steve lost himself in that for just a fraction of a second, because he desperately wanted (and knew he didn’t deserve) that too. Unrelenting support. No questions, no qualms, just a constant stream of backup.

Steve wished he was a good enough guy to have that.

“So,” Cooke said, jolting Steve out of his thoughts. “We on the same side?”

Yes? No? Maybe?

Steve couldn’t give Cooke the entirety of Wes’ crises, but could he let Cooke in on a little of it? Just, throw the guy a bone (not that- shut up brain) for putting up the effort?

A trio of voices spared Steve from having to come up with an immediate answer; the familiar tones urgent and hushed, moving down the adjacent hall.

Steve wouldn’t have noticed them if he hadn’t distinctly heard the words ”Wes" and ”Nick" exchanged in fierce whispers, and with Cooke’s look of confirmation, Steve knew the other jock had heard it as well.

They moved as one, peaking around the corner just in time to see Hope, Russel, and Gina duck into an empty classroom. A few seconds later Annelea, who must have also been eavesdropping, followed in their footsteps, only halting just before the door to stare in the direction of the two football player’s, as though she had known they were there the entire time.

Steve held his breath, felt Cooke do the same beside him. Was she going to call them out? Go on the attack? It was hard to tell with Annelea.

After a tense moment, Annelea rolled her eyes and motioned into the classroom, gesture conveying “move it, you losers”.

Steve hesitated, but Cooke didn’t need to be told twice. The blond strode forward boldly, borrowed umbrella still in hand.

When he realized Steve was not beside him, Cooke glanced over his shoulder. Was he…waiting for Steve?

What, were they partners in crime now, or something?

What had he said before? “I need to know the thing you know so we can fight evil…”

Steve had overlooked it earlier, in panic, but-

Yeah, Cooke Evans was a dopey kid, but at least he was entertaining as hell.

There could be worse crime partners, Steve supposed.


Phase One (and Cooke had decided to do this in phases because it gave him structure, and a plan, and he liked plans, they kept him from getting confused) was to enlist/threaten/blackmail the help of Steve Petrovski.

Phase One (One being capitalized because it was the name of the phase, and you know, structure) in its entirety had been broken down into four steps. They were:

1) Get Petrovski into a conversation, preferably while being civil and only resorting to violence as a last resort.

2) Lay down the Wes-law and address his Wes-concerns (Cooke’s friend, his, so he was entitled to helping, this was an undeniable fact so suck it Petrovski).

3) Find out the epic secret of doom that only Petrovski got to know.

4) Finagle Petrovski into aiding his plight in righting the wrong that was Wes’ permanent sad-face time. Violence was also a last resort for this one (even if Cooke didn’t want it to be, he had to respect Wes’ bad-friend making choices).

Steps one and two had been easily accomplished. Step three (which was the freaking important one) had yet to yield any kind of success. Cooke was still a little uncertain about how step four was going, but Petrovski was following him and hadn’t tried to slam him into any lockers yet, so Cooke just assumed they were going the “begrudging-help-as-long-as-we-don’t-talk-about-it” route. Which Cooke was cool with. He didn’t want to talk about it either. Didn’t want to have to deal with Petrovski.

But if he had to, then the best way was probably this one, with both of them pretending they just happened to be doing the exact same thing at the exact same time for the exact same reason with possibilities of collaboration and absolutely no good feelings about it.

For both of their egos, this was the best choice.

Cooke was glad he had waited before talking to Petrovski. So what if it was because he hadn’t been sure what to say, or how to do it- because he had waited and then bang, something had happened.

Like, there was a shift in the wind and Gina knew it, and Russel knew it, and Wes was blatantly sad and things, things were going down.

And then Petrovski was doing that thing that Wes had been doing to him, except without randomly staring at walls (see, Cooke wasn’t that dumb, he had caught onto Wes’ spying and had his back, check it, Cooke was a great spy).

But back to the waiting. It had totally paid off because now the trail was hot. That was Russel, Gina, and Hope (though Cooke didn’t know what she had to do with it, but girls gossiped and Hope was a girl, so-) and then Annelea, the scary chick who conned Wes into making out with Nick, got involved and beckoned, honest to god, beckoned him and Petrovski over.

Things could not get better. Cooke was going to get in on the gossip, Petrovski was going to be his backup, and nobody who was supposed to know things would not-know things. Everything was gonna be groovy.

Cooke knew what to do even, had figured it out from watching Seth. See, other people only knew you didn’t know something if you told them, or if like, you acted confused. So Cooke wasn’t going to do that. Cooke was going to play it smooth. He would just stand back and let everyone else do all the talking and nod like this was all yesterday’s news and then none of them would be able to keep him out of the loop because they were feeling vindictive or mean or were Petrovski.

And then Cooke would help Wes, whether he wanted it or not.

See, he had this all figured out. This was the new Phase Two. Cooke liked new Phase Two.

They entered the classroom just in time for Annelea to finish telling Hope off (Hope was scary but she should know better than to deal with Annelea on a rampage).

Perfect timing on their part; now Cooke and Petrovski didn’t even have to do anything. Hope looked like she was going to put up a fight, but Annelea gave her The Look. Capitalization intended.

Cooke knew this from one too many late night rehearsals. It was Annelea’s “Oh really, you still want to burden us with you mindless drivel we all know is unimportant? Does your ego hurt? I bet it hurts. Please, please give us more words with which we can mock you, because that is honestly all that will happen if you keep talking. You cannot win. The idea that you think you can still win is immensely pathetic and we are all laughing at you for still having hope. Seriously, stop talking.” look.

Cooke was not the one who entitled The Look. Yes, it was appropriate, despite how long it was, but he had not named it.

Russel had.

Cooke wasn’t nearly as suicidal.

Hope snapped her mouth shut (familiar with The Look), deciding to save her breath for something productive.

Having a similar thought, Cooke decided to give Russel a look of his own, one that hopefully said something along the lines of “I know what you know and you suck for keeping it from me”.

He knew he wouldn’t be as effective as Annelea, but Cooke thought he got the point across.

Maybe. Sort of.

Russel raised his eyebrows and gave the barest tilt of his head (which Cooke was taking as a super apology, and he wasn’t seeing things or making it up, so shut up anybody who thought that).

“So,” Russel began, war meeting totally started. “We’re all here for the same reason. We need damage control, and obviously some help from the outside is necessary because this sit-back-and hope-they’ll-work-it-out thing isn’t working. We need a plan but first-” He turned to Hope. “We need to know everything that happened.”

Okay, Cooke was already lost.

They? What did Russel mean by “they”? Obviously one was Wes. Was the other one making Wes sad? That was why-

Oh, wait. Nick. Alright, cool. Nick had something to do with this.

Made sense, Cooke had thought this had something to do with Nick. Just…what?

It had to be different than last time. If it was the same as last time, Wes would have just told Cooke. Not Petrovski.

Wait. Backtrack.

Wes was having problems with Nick. Petrovski knew. He knew because Wes had told him.

And…yes, that still stung. But whatever, sulking wasn’t going to help anyone.

So Wes had problems with Nick. And then, whatever those problems were, they had gotten worse. They made Wes sad. Nick had made Wes sad, somehow.

Alright, cool. Cooke was getting somewhere.

And Petrovski - Russel and Annelea weren’t surprised that Petrovski was there. They were surprised Cooke was with him, but Petrovski being involved didn’t seem to come as a shock.

They must knew that Petrovski was in on Wes’ deal, and for whatever reason they were cool with it.

Gina and Hope were obviously confused but trusted Russel enough not to question it, so Cooke celebrated the fact that at least there were other people who didn’t know everything but…

It was sitting-back time. Hope was going to explain things anyway, maybe that would help.

Scratch that, it would help.

Man, sometimes he was dumb.

Hope smoothed out the front of her dress, a nervous habit. “I messed up.”

Annelea, never one to miss an opportunity to grouse, rolled her eyes. “Yeah, we got that.”

“Shut up,” Hope spat, but there was no real heat to it. She seemed mad at herself. “I was trying to help them out, get Nick back on the right track but then…” She shrugged helplessly. “He was hurt and bitter and actually feeling something and just wanted to unload right?”

“What does this have to do with Wes?” Gina asked, eyes concerned

Yes, please, someone explain this. Cooke didn’t know what was going on.

Cooke glanced to his side to see how Petrovski was taking this, but the guy (damn it all) was absorbing everything just fine. If anything, he mimicked Gina’s concerned look, eyebrows appropriately furrowed, eyes locked on Hope as he took it all in.

Damn it.

Hope sighed. “I didn’t know how hurt Nick was; I didn’t think it was that deep-”

Cue Annelea. “Because you’re stupid.”

“Shut it Annelea,” Hope snapped, frustration spilling over. “I just thought that I could set him straight and then, just so he couldn’t screw anything up, I would immediately get Chang- I mean,” She took a breath. “I could get Wes into the picture so Nick wouldn’t wander away again or have time to think it over, or just, you know-”

“Screw it up?” Russel offered.

Cooke would admit it, Hope was kind of crazy. Don’t get him wrong, she was awesome when she wanted to be, but she was also capable of super crazy un-fun times. Despite this, and some obvious bad decisions, Cooke still felt a little bad for her. She knew she screwed up; they didn’t need to rub it in.

This was probably the safest it was going to get for Cooke to talk, because they were all still in the dark, so Cooke prompted Hope. “So you got Wes into the picture…”

She shook her head. “He came just in time to hear Nick declare him a waste of his effort, saying he was so very unimportant and easy to replace. You know, just the usual stuff.”

Cooke wasn’t the smartest guy, but that did not sound like the usual stuff. He was beginning to understand why Wes had taken moping to full time.

Wait. Nick had been sad. And then he had gotten bitter and said mean things because he was…trying to get over something Wes did?

This.

Was.

Stupid.

Wes had been the one with problems. How could both Wes and Nick be having problems with each other at the same time?

This was shit. There was no other way of saying it. This was total garbage.

Frustrated with himself, Cooke put the question out to people he knew were smarter. “So how do we make it better?”

It was Petrovski who responded immediately, which surprised the hell out of Cooke. “Can it be made better?”

“Dude,” Cooke narrowed his eyes. “Of course it can. Those two have put up with way too much crap to end it now.”

Wes was a saint, if they could just make him see that Nick was having issues he didn’t know how to deal with, that would totally help out like, a lot.

“Why is he here?” Hope asked.

Clearly, she meant Petrovski.

Cooke smiled despite the situation, because he knew something she didn’t know.

“Don’t worry, he’s cool. Wes likes him.” Cooke paused, and added (with a wink, to show he was confident and knew things). “Like, a lot.”

The last part was so that no one would question Petrovski’s authenticity, because Cooke was a good partner-in-crime and totally had Petrovski’s back, even if he didn’t like him. Cooke was awesome like that.

Also, no one would doubt he knew things. Check him out, thinking on the fly.

He was so cool.

His explanation did not get the expected responses.

To be honest, Cooke hadn’t expected any responses, just some “yeah, okay, cool” nodding and then they would move on.

Annelea was the only one to react with appropriately apathetic silence. Russel raised his eyebrows; clearly shocked before something dawned on him, and then he joined Annelea in normal-people land, where normal things happened and they didn’t act weird when normal things happened, because they were normal.

It was Gina and Hope who seemed to be stuck, incredulous looks plastered on their faces. They stared at Petrovski, minds clearly somewhere else.

This was a girl thing, right? This had to be a weird girl thing.

Cooke, deciding to be nice, stepped in to take the attention off of Petrovski, who looked like he was beginning to fidget.

“It’s not all that surprising. Petrovski sucks way less than he did last year.”

“Watch it Evans,” Petrovski muttered, though he was too nervous to really mean it. Cooke wasn’t sure why.

“Seriously, Wes is a good guy, why wouldn’t he-?”

Russel had a patient look on his face when he interrupted. “Cooke, darling, why don’t you just quit while you’re ahead now-”

“What?” Come on. “No way, they’re being stupid.”

"Oh,” Gina muttered, like she finally got it (and people called Cooke dumb, clearly he was a winner amongst this crowd). She looked at Russel expectantly, who for once, did not seem keen on confirming whatever it is she was looking for.

Well screw it, Cooke would; they really needed to move on.

“Yes,” he said, pointing to her.

Could they move on now?

Nope. ‘Nope’ was the answer to that question.

Hope balked, and then Petrovski looked startled, and Russel and Annelea were confused and then Cooke just wanted to throw up his hands in the air and be done with these people because they were stupid.

“This is not a big deal,” Cooke sighed, running a hand across his face. “Can we actually focus on what’s important here?”

When his suggestion was met with blank stares (except Petrovski, who was still frozen), Cooke elaborated, “Nick and Wes.”

He paused for a moment. “Anybody?”

That was why they were here, wasn’t it?

But Hope and Gina were too focused on Petrovski, for some odd reason, who looked like he really, really wanted to be somewhere else.

Cooke couldn’t help but think he dropped the ball on this one. Instead of begrudgingly accepting Petrovski and moving on, they couldn’t keep their eyes off him.

Might have oversold it with the wink.

“Guys,” Cooke whined. “We cool now?”

“Are you serious?” Hope asked.

“Yes?”

Hope huffed and turned towards Russel, who was displaying his very best poker face.

“Is that why he’s here?” She looked back at Petrovski. “And Wes? He knew, and-”

“How did Wes know?” Gina asked.

Annelea snorted. “They have a network, they all know.”

They all know what? What did Wes know? What the hell was going on?

Cooke actually felt a little bad for whatever it was he had done. He didn’t- he had no words for how much he did not know.

Petrovski, to his credit, had not tried to verbally (or physically) tear them to pieces for all the staring and “oh my God-ing” they were doing. He just kind of looked stuck, like he didn’t know what to do. He refused to look at Cooke, or at any of them.

Annelea, on the other hand, was starting to freak Cooke out, because she kept switching between studying him intently and threatening to rip his arms off with her eyes, and Cooke was really a big fan of his arms staying exactly where they were thank you very much. He didn’t have anything for her to study, and what was going on?

“How did you-?” Petrovski started to ask.

Gina interrupted him before he could finish, almost without being aware of it, still off in her own little world.

“He’s gay,” she whispered.

Damn it, Cooke was ending that shit once and for all.

“Knock it off,” he growled. “I thought we had gotten over that crap last year.” He pointed to himself. “Not gay, not bagging on it.” Cooke looked at Russel, just so he’d know, because Russel was a cool guy and didn’t deserve to feel bad about himself. “But I. Am not. Gay.”

Was the it the blond hair? The fact that he had moved in from California? Why were they even bringing this up?

Cooke rocked back on his heels, glad to have gotten that done with.

And now the incredulous stares were back in full force, this time including Petrovski.

Russel was the first one to break the silence.

“Oh Cooke,” he said, half-fond, a half-exasperated look on his face. “I love you so much.”

Cooke grinned at the compliment. “Love you too Russel.”

Because he was secure enough to admit it.

“What the hell is going on?” Hope asked. Clearly, she could not follow the intricacies of bromance, but that was okay, because finally, someone had asked.

Now Cooke could get an explanation.

It was Annelea who shattered the illusion, ruining all the credibility Cooke had been working for in a single sentence. “You don’t know anything, do you.”

It wasn’t eve, a question. If it had been a question, she would have been waiting for an answer, but she wasn’t because she knew the answer and now Cooke was going to get kicked out of the fix-Wes-and-Nick meeting and that wasn’t cool.

He had worked really hard to get here. Or like, to not-ask questions. And that had been hard.

He tried for it anyway. “I know things,” he said, doing his best not to fidget. “I know all the things that everyone else here knows.” He shifted his weight to the side, trying not to look at the floor. “All of them.”

And just like that the tension in the room lessened, except for Petrovski, who was still looking at Cooke in wonder.

“Jesus Cooke,” Hope whispered, pushing the heels of her hands against her eyes. “You are unbelievable.”

“I know things,” he insisted, because he did, like he knew he wasn’t gay and-

Wait.

Rewind.

They weren’t talking about him. Gina wasn’t paying attention to Cooke, she was thinking about…

Holy.

CRAP.

She meant Petrovski.

And Steve hadn’t punched her in the face.

Cooke wanted to pat him on the back for showing such restraint. He really had turned over a new leaf. Wes was right after all-

"How did you know?”

Petrovski had asked that because he had thought Cooke had known that-

Petrovski was gay.

Things made so much sense now.

Like, why he was mad all the time, and why he had picked on Russel, and honestly, all the puzzle pieces were there, but Cooke’s head hurt so he couldn’t figure it out right now but holy shit, holy shit Petrovski was gay.

And then Cooke had winked but that wasn’t why-

“I was conspiring!” Cooke said. He wasn’t sure if he had interrupted something, the others might have been talking, but he had their attention now and that was what mattered. “With the wink, because Wes trusted him and you needed to know Wes trusted him so you wouldn’t kick him out. Because he is my partner-in-crime, and you do not abandon your crime partners. That is a rule. Undisputed fact.” He turned towards Petrovski. “Tell them.”

Petrovski proved to be no help, which was okay, because Annelea felt like talking. “So you didn’t know.”

“No,” Cooke shook his head. “I mean, I do now, but I didn’t, oh-” He turned back towards Petrovski. “I won’t tell anyone. And they-” He pointed to Hope and Gina, because Russel and Annelea apparently knew everything. “They won’t tell anyone either. You-” He pointed to Petrovski, and then he looked at Hope and Gina. ”He is one of us now, okay?”

They nodded.

Russel, surprisingly enough, looked incredibly pleased by this turn of events.

It didn’t matter though, Petrovski just nodded, tension finally melting out of his shoulders.

Cooke smiled because hey- Petrovski wouldn’t be a dick anymore. At least in private.

“Now,” Cooke said, because they had shit to do. “Let’s focus on why we’re here.”

Annelea laughed. “You have no idea how stupid that sounds coming from you.”

“Knock it off Annelea,” Petrovski…okay, Steve muttered, and Cooke grinned up at him. Like he said, partners-in-crime always had your back.

Life was so much better now. Like, it was totally weird, and made no sense, but most stuff didn’t make sense so Cooke just accepted the fact that it was better and moved on. Things usually worked out a lot better when he thought about it like that.

So…

Go team.

Yes, go team.

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