Uniquely Flawed Logic

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2. The Incontrovertible Contrivance

That should have been where it ended.

‘Should’, being the operative word.

Like most things in his life, the only reason such a forgettable (if hilarious) story had any lasting repercussions was due to Nick’s incomprehensible quirks.

Wes had planned on having a relaxing summer vacation to properly gear up for senior year. It would be his last reprieve before the worries of college applications, SATs, and AP exams came calling. Between his Xbox and Netflix, Wes was going to make the best of it.

It took Nick two weeks to ruin those plans.

Wes applauded the other teen’s restraint.

It wasn’t that Wes had been avoiding his best friend since New York, so much that those terrible events had just happened to occur near the end of the schoolyear, when things were at their busiest.

There were finals to be taken, One Act Nationals to almost win, AP exams. It made sense for Wes to be occupied with studying, mild disappointment, and more studying. It wasn’t his fault Nick couldn’t contribute to any of those activities. Not at all.

And…maybe Wes had been a little on edge about spending any time alone with Nick.

It wasn’t like they could have a repeat of the New York freak out, or that Wes was afraid Nick wanted revenge on Wes for getting a crowd of strangers to boo at him. Both of those were improbable and water-under-the-bridge, respectively. There wasn’t anything to actually fear, but…

But there was something, and it was either dwell on the uncomfortable feelings kindled by that memory long enough to stick a label on them, or repress, repress, repress.

Like the normal human being he was, Wes chose option two. It was probably nothing anyway.

Part of that repression-thing may have involved seeing less of Nick on a one-on-one basis. It was a necessary sacrifice; maybe some time apart would do them some good.

That was why when Nick called him on a seemingly insignificant Tuesday evening, a couple of weeks into summer, Wes decided to yield on his (not avoidance) tactics. But only because Nick had demanded he show up at Russel-and-Seth’s house ASAP, guaranteeing that they wouldn’t be left to their own devices.

If Russel was going to be there to run interference (and possibly Seth, if he wasn’t out doing whatever do-gooder quarterbacks did during the summer), then Wes would be okay.

He really should have known better.

It started off rocky and only got worse.

“Gentlemen,” Russel began. There was a clipboard clutched in hand, a stylish light blue thing.

Wes had been trying to see what was on it for the past five minutes, to no avail. Russel was a slippery bastard.

The teen in-question had ushered them into his house without any explanation. His room, as was to be expected of a budding fashionista, was clutter free and dressed to the nines, if that were possible for a room to achieve. It looked like something out of a magazine, and Wes almost felt bad for intruding into the space, as though his very presence could destroy it.

Nick had no such reservations, and didn’t seem to care about the wrinkled comforter beneath them when Russel indicated they should take seats on the bed.

Nick was a charmer, that way.

Russel continued, pausing to tap his pencil against the side of his clipboard. “I am so glad you came to me with your problems, I assure you everything you tell me will be kept in confidence.”

Wes’ mind had ground to a halt at “your problems”, so it was Nick who picked up the conversation next. “I already told you this is strictly for appearances sake. Me and Chang are fine.”

Russel’s response was a smile that was patronizing in only the nicest way.

“I’m sure you are,” he chirped, amused by Nick’s comment. “But just to be thorough, why don’t you tell me what this is all about?”

Me too, Wes thought, mind searching for an answer. His best option right now was to wait for Nick to explain what the hell was going on.

It was a recurring theme in their friendship.

“Well,” Nick began, running a hand through his disheveled blond hair. “When Wes and I went on our accordion mission, Wes had some kind of identity crises. Long story short, there was a public disturbance and the cop said he’d let us go if we agreed to get counseling. So, here we are.”

During the course of his explanation, Russel’s eyebrows seemed to slowly rise to the top of his head.

Wes was glad someone else was having that kind of reaction, glad even as he felt the blood drain from his face in disconnected shock.

That was what this was about? The stupid, Nick’s stupid-

The aggravation from that night began to creep back up on him, and Wes took a few deep breaths before he could say something he would regret because he did not have an identity crisis, he had had a crisis of respect, which was completely different. He thought Nick had figured that out by now.

Whatever, he just needed to end this stupidity before that mess could be dragged back up.

“The only reason,” Wes began, trying to keep his tone as calm and relaxed as possible. “He said that was because he thought we were a couple Nick.”

Wes ignored Russel’s look of intrigue and kept his focus on Nick, who, as pure usual, was unbothered. Of course he wasn’t bothered. Nothing bothered Nick. He was Nickzilla, Nick the man, the stud, the-

Wes’ urge to strangle was slowly returning.

“Laws the law dude,” the jock shrugged, oblivious to the burning fury he threatened to reignite. “I’m just trying to follow it.”

Russel was beginning to pick up the hints of rage that were emanating from Wes’. Out of all of their friends, he was one of the more perceptive. Even with this knowledge though, he decided, unwisely, to push on with this farce of a therapy session.

“What exactly happened during this meltdown, per say?”

“Well first he started threatening to kill me, which was not cool by the way,” Nick replied offhandedly, only too happy to fill Russel in. “And then after that he started yelling about how I couldn’t push him around, and that he wouldn’t be ignored, and a bunch of other girly stuff like that.”

As Nick put to words his take on what had happened Wes couldn’t decide whether to hide from the humiliation of it all or give into his violent urges and initiate an all-out attack. They were both tempting options

In the end, he settled for lowering his face into his hands to buy time and decide which would be the more viable choice. In retrospect, the story was more embarrassing than liberating.

Russel cleared his throat awkwardly. It was easy to see he was confused, a victim of Nick’s detail-surpassing nature, but Russel, in with his usual can-do air, attempted to hide that fact.

“So…” Their ‘counselor’ began. “You were ignoring him, I assume?”

“That’s just the thing,” Nick replied, and he didn’t bother to hide any of his confusion or assumed innocence. “We had just spent like, two hours together. How could I ignore him? I was with him the whole time!”

He didn’t bother thinking about the implications of his statements; Wes briefly wondered why Nick picked Russel of all people to be their mediator.

“You’re such a girl, Wes,” Nick continued with a sigh, like he was the injured party.

Like he was- like this was Wes’ fault that they were here, and not his for deciding that they needed to partake in a therapy session they had been sworn to on the honor system? He hadn’t even taken them to an actual therapist, or at least the school counselor or-

Once again, Wes found himself trembling in a fit of rage that he could not fully describe with words. Nick must have recognized his decent into animosity, because his eyes had widened.

Good, he was learning. He had recognized the signs; it had only taken how many years of friendship to-

Instead of defending himself like a smart human being, Nick turned to the only witness to the would-be murder.

“That’s the look he got before it all started,” he explained, and Russel nodded in approval and continued jotting down notes, mentally capturing the look.

To keep himself from injuring an innocent bystander, Wes settled for only letting out a brief gargle of rage. He scrubbed angrily at his face in a futile attempt to make himself forget the past ten minutes, before he bolted out the door, down the stairs, and completely out of the house.

There was a possibility he had freaked out Seth’s mom when he charged out of the living room, Wes wasn’t totally positive, he had only seen red at the time.

When Wes got outside, he realized that Nick had been the one to drive them there, probably to make sure he wouldn’t be able to escape. He was devious in that way, tactful when it came to stupid details – that was why they were such a good team (when Nick wasn’t inclined to be a jackass).

There were two options left for him, and Wes decided on the pettier choice.

He flipped the other teen’s truck twin birds, before he took off down the sidewalk. He had two capable legs damn it, he would walk home.

Three blocks later Seth caught up to him in his truck and drove Wes home, eyeing him with the Cookee trepidation usually reserved for Petrovski (school bully and resident dickhead extraordinaire) when he was on a rampage. They didn’t speak a word the entire time.

Wes would call Russel later to apologize (it wasn’t his fault he was dragged into this, it was Nick’s) and then he would promptly spend the rest of his summer avoiding his best friend until he decided to be a pal and forget their accordion debacle entirely. And if that didn’t work, Wes could always just keep, you know, not talking.

Of that, he was pretty much a champion.

Wes would like to say there hadn’t been a second counseling session.

It would be a lie, but it would be a lie in which he greatly wanted to believe.

The second counseling session produced slightly better results than the first, though like the previous one, Wes had been tricked into showing up to it.

He should have assumed that once Russel caught whiff of two guys with any kind of relationship issues (platonic relationship, Wes could not emphasize that enough) that he would not release his talons from it until he was either dead or a resolution had been reached.

The Broadway-versed teen had sucked Seth into this as well, enlisting his help to lure Wes back into his dungeon of despair. The Quarterback had called Wes on another Tuesday night of no particular significance (he should have recognized a pattern there) and demanded that Wes show up at his house. The story had been that Cooke wanted to challenge his mastery of DDR (of which, Wes was supreme, they had agreed this), and that the Asian needed to defend his title.

Three minutes and seven traffic violations later, Wes was there, only to find neither the accusing blonde nor the video-game-in-question. No, the moment he walked through the door, Wes was literally attacked and dragged up the stairs (by Seth as fate would have it), and then bodily shoved into Russel’s room

By the time he had pulled himself off the ground, the door had been blocked by Aaron, who was doing his very best to make his five-feet, three-inches seem as imposing as possible.

Not that Wes wasn’t glad to see Russel’s boyfriend (of the two of them, Aaron was the one who knew football and could give acting tips that didn’t leave Wes confused), but the circumstances of lies and deceit were leaving a bitter taste in Wes’ mouth.

There could only be one reason for this.

When Wes turned to ask Russel what the hell was going on, he was surprised to find that Nick was thankfully absent.

A small blessing.

While he was mentally celebrating this, Russel answered his unspoken question, “I decided it would be wise to bring backup this time.”

Wes nodded briefly in response and then considered the repercussions of knocking Aaron out of the way and making a break for it. Sure, Russel would be mad at him for a while, and odds were that Seth was still prowling around downstairs, but he had to try didn’t he?

Window, Wes thought, eyeing it to see if it was one of those kinds that could fully open or if it it was the type that just mocked you. It was the second floor; he could make the jump no problem.

As though reading his mind, Russel moved to block his secondary exit with a worried look on his face, this time a pink clipboard clasped in his hand.

Because what was a therapist without a clipboard?

“Last time we let Nick do most of the talking,” Russel began, his voice low and easy. It was almost the Cookee tone one would use to address an injured stray dog, like you needed to emanate a sense of calm and goodwill without getting thesnot bitten out of him.

Let, like Wes had had a choice the first time. He never let Nick talk, it just freakin’ happened.

Russel continued, “So I thought that maybe we should hear your take on things.”

“You don’t believe him, do you?”

The words were out of Wes’ mouth before he could really think about it, his mind still focused on the stupid that was Nick. “Because he is not innocent.”

"Mm-hm, mm-hm,” Russel interjected quietly, pen racing across the page. “Go on.”

It was a wish Wes was more than capable of fulfilling, even as he felt his anger begin to grow again. Wes began pacing back and forth, agitation building.

“I mean, I didn’t mean to get that mad, he’s just so…” Wes paused, running his hands through his hair wildly, trying to find the right word."Stupid,” he settled on, and continued his pacing.

“I’m not even asking for a much. I mean-” he halted again, this time turning to Aaron. “-a little respect’s not a lot to ask for, is it?”

Russel’s boyfriend wisely shook his head “no”, and Wes was back off on his tangent.

“And I shouldn’t…I mean, he should just…He’s my best friend, so shouldn’t there be a little respect? Just a little? Why do I have to ask for it? It should just be there!”

Cooke was cool with him and they’d barely known each other a year.

“I thought he treated everybody like that,” Aaron broke in, addressing Russel. Like Cooke, Aaron was relatively new to Lakeside, so he wouldn’t know much of Nick beyond the drama club. He must have heard stories of the Nick of old, because-

Wes halted abruptly and stared at Aaron in amazement, because he was right. Nick used to treat people like that. He used to rag on the new kids in town, he used to never take class seriously. The Nick from a year ago would have never consented to joining theater because it could have made him look bad, but now he was a different person. He was the one who talked Micaela out of getting a nose job, he was the one who wanted to back Seth up when trying to woo his girlfriend. He was treating everyone better except for Wes, his best friend, who he treated with the Cookee amount of casual disregard as he used to and how the hell had Wes not noticed that sooner?

“Are you okay?”

Distantly, Wes registered the question as coming from Aaron. The concern barely broke through the haze of his epiphany, the weight dizzying and unpleasant all at once.

“He doesn’t,” Wes whispered. A laugh erupted from his throat, the giggle sounding almost psychotic, and in his peripherals he could see Russel and Aaron share a look that would best be described as “oh no we broke him”.

Wes couldn’t be bothered with their troubles though, he was on a roll now.

“Why should I be special?” he proclaimed, smiling even though he felt far from happy. “I’m just the background guy! He’s only known me forever!”

He shifted his gaze between them wildly. He wasn’t even sure why this mattered, but he had been friends with Nick for so long it was almost as if the other teen took his companionship for granted. Wes, despite himself, actually liked having Nick around, but what was he to Nick if the other guy treated him like dirt?

“I don’t talk, so I must have no soul right?” he asked, shouting at the ceiling. “And if you don’t have a soul, you don’t have feelings right? Right?”

As he finished his rant, he collapsed onto the edge of the bed, weighed down with a modicum of despair.

There was no amount of counseling that could fix this, but having spoken it aloud, Wes did feel a bit better.

Maybe Nick’s stupid whim to follow the police officer’s instructions had done him some good after all.

Now, there was a good chance it could have ended right then.

Russel and Aaron could have talked to Wes and assured him that he was fine, that he had a soul, and that Nick wasn’t doing it on purpose (even if he was, Wes would have taken the lie). They could have done their good deed, Wes could have done his ranted, and then everything could have ended without this devolving into further calamity.

That was not what happened.

For behind the door, probably but a few steps down the hall, came a voice.

The voice, Wes assumed, was talking to Seth, and not even the barrier of the door could muffle the clear annoyance in that tone.

“I see he’s still acting like a chick,” Nick joked from the safe confines of the hallway.

Wes was at the door in an instant, shoving Russel and Aaron aside without a second thought. He whipped it open to reveal a surprised Seth and-

It didn’t matter what Nick looked like, because Wes was too busy trying to tackle Nick to the ground. He wasn’t actually sure what the next step of that plan was going to be, only that if rational conversation had failed thus far, maybe violence would do the trick.

Unfortunately, Seth managed to intercede before Wes could make his mark, shoving an arm in front of the charging teen and using his superior arm reach to keep him away from Nick.

“Woah, uh…hey,” Seth had never encountered angry Wes, and the unfamiliar waters did not do well with him. “Why don’t we um…calm down and finish this later?”

“Why don’t we finish this never?” Wes countered, shaking out of the other teen’s grip.

With that, he shot Nick a look filled with as much venom as he could muster, and walked away. Shouldering past the two jocks to the safety of the stairs.

He didn’t bother looking behind him when he walked away.

And that, for real, should have been the end of it. They should have had the rest of the summer to cool off, and then when school started back up again, they could pretend like nothing had ever happened.

The only thing that would really be wounded was Wes’ pride, but he could live with that. He hadn’t gone into their friendship ever thinking that Nick would really consider him his equal (which a bit sad, when he dwelled on it), and it would be dumb to expect that to change just because it was their senior year.

Maybe for everyone else, but not for Wes.

It didn’t leave a bad taste in his mouth.

A majority what had happened was Nick’s fault. In that, there was no question.

But the place where things really went downhill was with Annelea.

Nick may have set up the campfire, but Annelea was the one who doused it with gasoline and cackled above the roaring flames like a maniac. Annelea was the one who had ruined it all.

Wes had been the one who had crafted her a handmade invitation to the fray, so he guessed that by the end of it, this was really all his fault anyway.

Nick had talked to Gina.

Wes had no idea what the other teen had said, only that it had left his girlfriend so infuriated that she was giving both of them the silent treatment.

Now, Nick could act like an ass to Wes as much as he wanted, but the moment he pissed off Wes’ girlfriend, the tables were turned. That was an infraction that could not be ignored, and if Nick was going to be incomprehensible and refuse to let this accordion therapy thing die, then Wes was going to take matters into his own hands.

Fight fire with fire, as you would.

It was with this justification in mind that Wes had set off to Annelea’s house, deciding that the only way to get back at whatever Nick had done to Gina was to have a conversation of his own with Nick’s girlfriend.

Of course, Annelea was about ten times more unpredictable and heartless than Gina, so Wes had gone in with backup.

That backup may have involved promising Cooke video games a pizza and then trapping the teen in his car when he figured out they were heading in the wrong direction, but backup was backup and Wes hadn’t felt like being reasonable.

All he had wanted to do was piss off Nick’s girlfriend. It was an awful goal when he put words to it, but Wes had been desperate, okay? Nick kept being all…Nick about things, and Wes just wanted everything to return to normal.

Maybe if Wes riled up Annelea, Nick would be distracted with her and stop trying to get Wes counseling for things that obviously weren’t going be fixed.

It was a simple thing he had wanted to achieve.

Five minutes with Annelea was long enough for Wes to figure out that it wasn’t going to happen.

The girl had let him and Cooke into her house easily enough; guiding them to her room with one eyebrow raised as though waiting for entertainment. Cooke had made a beeline for the bed as though it could get him out of the range of fire, and Wes had allowed Annelea to take a seat at her desk before he went in for the kill.

Annelea cut him off before he could even shut the door behind them.

“Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?” Annelea began; focus so intense it was unnerving, throwing Wes off-kilter with the subtle deranged feel of it. “I know that Cooke and I here are just dying to know what my hunk of a manchop has done to make you so…like him.”

She stopped, waiting patiently for her answer.

Cooke (the damn turncoat) tried and failed to hide his anticipation, being very unsuccessful in his “casual” staring. The blond had been out of the loop for most of the summer, the only things he knew about Wes and Nick’s falling out had come from Seth, whose opinion could be…misinformed, at times. He wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, was Wes’ meaning.

Wes growled and ran his hands through his hair. He didn’t want to reiterate this again, that wasn’t the point of the visit, at all, but they needed to know. It was like he had this hope that if he continued to tell people about Nick’s disrespect that he would eventually get some form of validation. Maybe Wes could have gotten that from Russel, but there was no way he could brave the other teen’s house again, or call him if that risked talking to Nick. Wes could have turned to Gina if they were still on speaking terms, so now he was back to this.

There were so many reasons why Wes was acting justifiably pissed off.

“You mean aside from the fact,” Wes started, trying to remain calm. “That he keeps calling me a girl?” (Because he was not a girl and did not act like one, no matter what Nick said). “Or how about the fact he somehow managed to provoke my girlfriend just enough that she refuses to talk to me?”

Wes forced his feet to stay glued to the ground. If he started pacing, he was just one snide comment away from assaulting someone, and it would probably be himself.

“How about the fact that he will not to show me even the tiniest amount of respect, even though I have always been cool to him? Or how about the fact,” he started up again, glaring at the floor. “-that he flat out refuses, refuses to apologize in any way for the incident that started this whole mess in the first place!”

The world was moving around him, and Wes realized with a start that his feet had decided to take initiative without his brain’s consent. He was etching wild circles into Annelea’ carpet, but he didn’t really care. Whatever, more power to them.

He stopped suddenly, turning to stare Cooke in the eye. “Did you know that we got mugged while we were searching for that stupid accordion? Yeah, Nick decided we should rap for money, and then we actually lost money because of what he had put in that stupid hat!”

Cooke was confused, mouthing “what hat?” to Annelea just as she mouthed, “What accordion?“, but Wes didn’t stop.

“And then he’s all, ‘Stop being such a girl, Wes’ and ‘Stop making a scene Wes’, and he doesn’t even bother telling me there’s a cop there just waiting to drag me off to jail!” He paused, looking back and forth between them. “Who does that?”

Wes stopped, gazing out the window, trying to make himself take deep, calming breaths.

This wasn’t helping; he wasn’t sure why he had thought it would. Annelea was barely empathetic towards Nick; it wasn’t like she had any excess compassion she could possibly spare on Wes.

He was about to just give up and grab Cooke so they could get the hell out of dodge, when Annelea started talking again.

The other teen cleared her throat in a way familiar in its condescension, considering the amount of arrogance she had displayed so far.

“I’m sensing a lot of sexual tension here,” she declared after a moment of hesitation.

Wes’ brain ground to a jerking halt. His breath caught in his throat and there was this startled gurgle/cough thing that was just loud enough to break Cooke out of his own shock and send Wes a concerned look.

Aside from that, Annelea just sat there, completely impassive. Wes tried to make his voice come back so that he could tell her the multitude of things that were wrong with that statement, but then the idea of “Nick + sex” really hit him and he was forced to claw desperately at his eyes in a poor attempt to get that mental image out of his head.

By the end of it, Wes was just proud that he didn’t completely fall apart then and there in a whimpering puddle of utter dejection.

“I have a girlfriend!” he announced (even though that was kind of a questionable topic, right now). Wes thrust his fist into the air with triumph, as though this was an indisputable fact that completely disproved her entire argument.

Annelea nodded slowly, accepting his conjecture. Accepting, but by no means backing down because of it.

“I’m not arguing that Kato, I’m sure you and Elvira’s relationship is going just as smoothly as me and my super stud’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot of unresolved tension that’s culminating between the two of you that I believe stems from an unaddressed attraction.”

His brain would never recover from this. Ever. He would forever be scarred.

When did Annelea start sounding like an encyclopedia? And shouldn’t she be more upset about this?

No, thinking like that was just as good as admitting Annelea was right and she wasn’t even kind of right. She was so, so, so wrong. This had nothing to do with man-sex, and everything to do with Nick being a gigantically humongous dipwad.

This was all Nick’s fault.

There was an almost sympathetic look in Annelea’s eye when Wes gathered up the courage to glance her way (like just looking at her would be enough encouragement for her to go into intimate detail on how he and Nick should-ohgodhisbrainnoooo).

“I think you just need to give into temptation and get it out of your system,” Annelea decided, nodding her head in approval. “Preferably where Gina and I can watch.”

“My brain is melting,” Wes complained, mourning this fact to two people who obviously didn’t care.

Well, Cooke could care, but he appeared to have long since thrown in the towel on this conversation and was doing his very, very best to take his mind to anywhere but here.

“I know,” Annelea tried to console (as though Wes could take consolation from the monster who seemed more than willing to force him into nonconsensual relations with her moron of a boyfriend). “It’s a lot to take in at once.”

This was like some bad sitcom from which he could not escape.

“I don’t want to make out with Nick!” Wes yelled, gesturing at Annelea in what he hoped was an intimidating fashion.

It didn’t quite work; the amused face was back, causing a foreboding chill to run up Wes’ spine.

“Then why is your face all red?” Annelea asked, taunting levels at maximum.

Wes glared at her, standing his ground (the ground that was quickly crumbling away from underneath him in the most pathetic of manners).

“From anger!” he shouted back. “And despair.”

Oh, the despair.

“It only gets worse if you try and deny it.”

There was a taunting ring in her tone when she replied, which may or may not be the reason Wes responded immediately without really putting any thought into what he was saying.

Because that had served him so well in the past.

He glared at her; crossing his arms to communicate his decision was final. “I’m not cheating on my girlfriend.”

He tried to make it a growl, but it ended up as more of a weird cough thing that was incredibly unmanly. Fortunately, that wasn’t what the other two room occupants felt like talking about anyway.

Cooke was looking at him in horror, betrayal etched all over his face. “Dude, you want to make out with Nick?”

“What?” No, that was the complete opposite of what Wes wanted. “I just said-”

“No,” Annelea began, happy to fill Wes in on what he had missed. “You said you wouldn’t cheat on your girlfriend, which implies you’d be more than willing to suck face with my Nickster if you didn’t have the old ball and chain.”

Wes was too busy choking on the idea of “Face sucking + Nick” (which was almost as bad as “Nick + sex”, and he really wished his imagination would just shut down right now) to argue.

Luckily Cooke was there, having somehow grown immune to all of Annelea’ mentions of man sex. “I thought that only applies to wives?”

“Whatever,” she replied absently, waving in Cooke’s direction to indicate that the small amount of attention she could dedicate to him was now over. Her eyes remained glued to Wes’, her fingers itching towards a cell phone that he had overlooked resting on her desk. “I bet if I called Gina up right now, she’d be game.”

No, no, no. Nobody was calling Gina. Wes was not going to let any more Nick-related items or people or things get into contact with Gina, especially if they were going to suggest that they do the dirty.

Also, Wes had a small fear his girlfriend would actually accept this proposal (she had tried to not-so-subtly drop the hint that she was very appreciative of some man-on-man action) and while he really loved his girlfriend, he would not do that.

Mostly because he had a girlfriend, and kissing Nick would be like – well, kissing a jerk, and it was Nick, and-

Wes could feel his face flushing, but that really was from anger. With a possible follow up of bewilderment.

Besides, kissing Nick would pretty much be like inviting all kinds of unpleasant sexual diseases onto him.

Wes loved the guy, but not like- Seriously, not like that.

“You people are all crazy,” Wes declared.

Before he could lose his nerve, he darted across the room, snatching up Annelea’ phone like his life depended on it (and it did). He pelted towards the door, shoving the thing in his pocket and avoiding Annelea’s death grip (it was a frightening thing).

He stopped once he made it to the threshold, pausing to glare at Cooke.

“And you,” he murmured, squinting his eyes in a threatening manner. “You are the worst backup ever!”

Mission accomplished (and wounded in more ways than he cared to mention), Wes exited the building, trying to figure out his next course of action.


Flowers, black roses.

Yeah, he just needed to like, serenade Gina and then he could put this unpleasantness behind him. And never, ever think of it again.

It had been a good plan. But in every plan, there were flaws.

The first of which was that Annelea had a perfectly good landline she could use to call Gina, which she did.

The second of which was that eventually Cooke made Wes give Annelea her phone back, which involved being in the same room as her, and the third…

This plan must have been in the making by their girlfriend’s for some-time, because somehow between you’re-such-a-girl-Wes and giving back Annelea’s phone, Nick had a change of heart, leaving Wes outnumbered.

It wasn’t his girlfriend’s puppy dog eyes that made Wes surrender to this terrible idea. It wasn’t the hope of pushing Annelea’s insanity off for another day, and it wasn’t the aspect of kissing Nick (though that probably wouldn’t be too terrible, if he thought about it).

The tipping point had come from Hope, of all people.

Where Seth was the alpha male of the drama club, Hope was the reigning queen. She didn’t get the leads, but she did run the show, snatching up supporting roles and leading the school outside of theater class. Hope was head cheerleader and one of the front runners for valedictorian, and while Wes was almost as afraid of her as he was of Annelea, he felt composed enough around Hope that he could maintain a conversation.

For example, his most recent conversation with her had gone a little something like this:

“I’ll make this brief Chang,” Hope’s voice murmured from the other end of the line, tone warning that bullshit was not an applicable response in any way, shape, or form. “Nick’s been mooning over you since last year.”

This was not the discussion Wes had expected to have at 6 AM during the summer.

In fact, any 6 AM phone call was not a foreseen discussion, because it was too damn early and they were on vacation, so forgive his brain for not totally registering the out-of-the-blue communication from the cheerleader he rarely spoke to.

“I would know,” Hope continued, as easily as it could have been ‘good morning’. “I’ve been on the other end of those googly eyes, and as much as I would love to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing-”

What was he doing? What was this?

“-It would probably be a lot easier for you and for the rest of us if you would take one for the team.”

“What team?” Wes asked, eyes bleary as he tried to blink the sleep away.

There was an exasperated sigh. “The team.”

“What time is it?” Wes croaked.

Was this a hallucination? Was he still dreaming? More importantly, why did his dreams feature Hope, of all people?

“Chang.” The tone was unimpressed.

Wes started to wake up a little. “Is this about Nick?”

This felt like the kind of stupid thing that would be about Nick. Though why Hope felt the need to reach out to Wes about this…

The thought dragged Wes firmly into consciousness. If Hope thought this was a big enough issue that it required her interference, then Nick was causing a bigger ruckus than Wes had anticipated.

And by ’take one for the team’, did she mean…?

Oh, no. No.

This was the part where Wes was going to firmly object, because while Hope might own a marginal sliver of his soul, surrendered to her will because of her “Most popular girl at McKinley” status, he was not willing to do that.

“Listen Wes,” Hope urged, voice commanding but still…he didn’t know. Gentle, maybe? An out-of-practice gentle.

“I sympathize with you, I really do, but it’s not as bad as it could be. And whatever…stupidity Nick is giving you right now, it will probably go away if-”

“If I put out?”

No- see, things were already going downhill, Nick pushed him around enough as it was. Wes didn’t need to surrender more ground to him.

He could hear Hope’s evil smirk in her voice, a deadly kind of teasing that was the closest Wes would probably ever get to friendly.

“Don’t go past first base,” she warned, like this was a done deal. “If he wants more; make him wait until the third date.”

Wes didn’t want to wait till the third date, he wanted to become invisible, now, forever, or at least until the end of high school, when Nick’s stupid opinion of him didn’t matter as much anymore.


It would be nice, for the moment, if Wes could get through a day without his hands itching to strangle Nick.

He ducked himself down slowly, pressing his cheek against his phone before timidly whispering, “…And you’re sure it will all go away?”

“Better,” Hope laughed, sharing the secret that all girls must know. “He will want nothing more than to do you bidding.”

Which…made sense, shockingly enough.

It was how Gina got Wes to do things he didn’t want to do (like meet her parents, or spend more than two minutes inside Hot Topic) and clearly that was how Annelea got Nick to do…anything.

It was a startling epiphany, but somehow everything just kind of clicked together. It was perfectly logical. Hell, it was even better than any rational argument he could think up to get Puck to act somewhat decent.

This had to be like, the secret to world peace.

Or maybe not. It was kind of a depressing world to live in if it could be swayed by sexual reciprocation.

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