4. That Prophetic Thursday Night
Nick didn’t have a lot of solid rules he tried to follow (aside from the law, and that was more of a loose interpretation), but rule number one in the world according to Nickster, was that when his lady called for him, he answered.
No matter where he was, or whatever possible pranks he could be pulling, he came running, (mostly because there was a chance he would get to mack on her, which being the red-blooded, macho male that he just happened to be was a far superior pastime than ruining someone else’s day).
There was always the chance that she just wanted to talk, but unlike most chicks, Annelea’s chatter was only about the most badass of subjects, so Nick didn’t mind. Also, one flash of the bulldog eyes (not puppy, Nickzilla was too cool for that) usually made her laugh enough that a good mood was guaranteed, so the making out would probably happen anyway.
However it turned out, Nick was golden.
His lady was ready and waiting by the time he crawled through her window (her mother liked to pretend she didn’t hear the doorbell whenever he showed up, and it didn’t hurt that Annelea had this strange fascination with like, ninjas, and sneaking totally turned her on). There was an empty chair set up in front of a cork board, covered with miscellaneous pictures tacked up beside graphs and random scribbles.
So, strategy meeting.
He could do that.
See, his lady was a game changer. While other people sat around and took satisfaction in being the miserable couch potatoes that they were, Annelea trucked on. She didn’t wait for things to happen; she got out there and made them happen, taking matters into her own hands. Sure, sometimes it backfired (like that sex tape that could have gotten them arrested since they were both minors) but if Nickelea were anything, they weren’t quitters.
He wasn’t sure what she wanted to achieve during the summer though, usually her plans revolved around becoming more popular. That was kind of hard to do if you didn’t have access to a mass of impressionable, unsuspecting teenagers from which you could take advantage of/appeal to/boss around.
The drama club didn’t count; they were above Nickelea’s ability to manipulate. Something about them all being, “secure in their own decisions” or something. Which was remarkably rich, coming from show people.
Whatever, maybe she had found a way around all that.
Nick sat in the chair with easy familiarity, settling himself in for the long haul (these things could go either way time-wise, and with that much stuff on the board, Nick would have to be dreaming to think he could get out of here any time soon).
“So,” Annelea began, not bothering with any foreplay (God, he loved that about her). “I had an interesting visit from Wes the other day-”
Nick rolled his eyes, cutting her off before she was forced to go into detail. “What the hell did that spazz say now?”
Nick’s friend liked to try and find common ground with Annelea by complaining about Nick’s faults, which had worked up to a certain degree, but Nick found incredibly sickening. It was practically gossip, which shouldn’t be Wes’ thing, but that kind-and-quiet act was straight-up fake most of the time anyway. Wes just wanted people to think he had everything under control, but in truth, the guy was about as spastic as they came.
Nick would know based on how stupid the guy acted towards their fake-counseling. Couldn’t even keep it together for five minutes.
It was kind of sad.
“Don’t worry about it,” Annelea ordered, waving it off. “There was a lot of yapping going on that I didn’t really pay too much attention to, something about the ‘destructive nature of your stupidity’.”
Nick tried to object but Annelea carried on, “But what I really got from all that, and the prior conversations like that… is that you and Wesy-boy have a little something going on.”
She raised her eyebrows suggestively, though Nick didn’t really get it at first (of course they had “something” going on, Wes was his best friend). But after a few seconds, the funny tone and eyebrows kind of clicked, causing Nick to recoil.
“You serious?” he asked, about ready to bail this popsicle stand (he couldn’t make out with her now, not after such accusations had come out of her mouth).
Annelea held up a placating hand, preparing to explain her crazy, mad person conclusions. Nick didn’t really want to hear her out but…well, she was pretty much the coolest person he had ever dated, so…
Nick settled down (not sulking), still trying to erase those thoughts from his mind.
Sure, Nick might have disregarded his normal dating criteria for her (he had been on a strict cheerleaders-only method of operation the moment he had joined the football team), but Annelea was superbly badass.
Wes was not, and even if he was badass enough, Nickzilla couldn’t really ignore the special kind of junk he had in his trunk.
Male tail was not his thing.
“You’re reading this all wrong,” Annelea explained, and now it was his turn to doubt (because he was pretty sure he wasn’t). “This,” she continued, eyes fixed on his. “Is an opportunity.”
In a movie, this would be the place where Nick said, “How so?”, and then Annelea would continue on her rant. But like Nick said, his lady was a game changer, so she kept going without his input, pointing to some random photos on the board.
“These,” she said, tone victorious. “Are pimps. Not prostitute-running pimps; we’re not aiming to make money here, as nice as that would be. These are social pimps, playahs, winners, complete and total dominators of the party scene social construct.”
Nick nodded slowly, indicating she hadn’t lost him. She hadn’t, for the most part, but despite his more ‘free thinking’ attitude, figurative speaking was not always his forte.
Annelea kept going, pointing to a graph. “Now in the high school social system, a pimp is one of the tops dogs, mostly because he or she is a rare occurrence.” She pointed to another picture of a guy cozying up to at least three different females and another dude. “Pimps get tail. They get all kinds of it; they date more than one person because no one person could possibly handle all that sexual energy focused solely on them.”
It went without saying that she was the exception to this rule, and she paused, pointing to a yearbook picture of Wes, blown up and posted on the cork board with obvious care.
“We have the opportunity to make you a pimp. You know how guys find it sexy when two girls get it on? Well, the reverse is same for girls, and unlike the rest of your gender, females are only too happy to express their gratitude with their unadulterated adulation.”
Nick blinked slowly, trying to process this. He guessed he sort of understood where Annelea was getting at. It was super hot when two girls went to town on each other’s faces, and as unappealing as it would be to do that with Wes, if it could get them even more tail…
Annelea sighed, putting a hand on her hip. “I’m saying if you date me and Wes there will be nothing to stop you from being a high school superstar. No name calling, no hassle, no more waiting in lines; only loud, unreserved glory.” She gleefully counted these things off on her fingers, smirking at him. “I’m talking prime time cafeteria seating, I’m talking a specially reserved parking space, nerds to do your homework, hell, they’ll probably start bringing you slushies just so they could get the honor of getting an icy facial from the only pimp Lakeside High has ever seen.”
She paused again, looking at him almost fondly. “Think of it Nicolai, we could rule this school.”
He did like the sound of that, but...
There was one huge problem he could see that he didn’t think was going to go away any time soon.
Well, that and the fact he didn’t want to make out with Wes.
He looked at her doubtfully, scratching the side of his head. “I thought it was pretty clear after all the stuff that happened with Russel that this town wasn’t ready for that kind of thing.”
For a long time, Russel had pretty much the only openly gay kid Lakeside had. The law of averages dictated that there were probably others (take Aaron for example, who had transferred in at the end of last year), but with the amount of bullying Russel received, it was no wonder any of the others had decided to keep their mouths shut.
As a member of the drama club, Nick had exactly zero issues with punching any of those homophobes in the face (which had landed him in detention more than once), but hell, Russel was a good guy, and he didn’t deserve half the shit he got based on an attraction he had no control over.
That shit was bogus, but still a valid point. If the teens of Lakeside gave Russel and Aaron grief, there was no way they would turn a blind eye to Nick deciding to date Wes.
Annelea had prepared for this argument (because she was a social genius, no matter what Wes said). She motioned Nick over to an overlooked corner of the board that had pictures of Nickelea and Wes-Gina (otherwise known as the Asian fusion).
“That’s because Russel doesn’t possess a certain fondness for the female figure. With you being hooked up with my fine body and Wes likewise engaged with Gina, whom I’ve already run this past…” She trailed off with an evil grin. “You play both sides Nicolai, and there’s no way this can fail.”
He liked the sound of that. Nick liked the sound of that a lot.
It solved all kinds of problems. First of all, there was no way he would be an outcast anymore (even with the boost of being on the football team, all that bigot punching tended to cost him popularity points). If he had pimp glory spread all over the school, no one would dare mess with him. Seriously, who messed with pimps - and by association, no one could mess with the drama club (which was filled with outcasts in their own right, but they were Nick’s kind of outcasts, and he liked them).
And with this, he would easily be the king of Lakeside’s underworld. Nick wouldn’t even have to pull pranks anymore (not that he would stop, a guy’s gotta do something with his free time, idle hands and all that) because he would automatically be the baddest of bad.
This plan was pure win.
Nick gave Annelea a skeptical look. “I still don’t want to make out with Wes.”
Or hold hands with him, or cuddle, or do any of the normal stuff you usually did with a chicks (because Nick would be the dude of the relationship, besides the obvious reasons, he wasn’t the one who regularly phoned other people’s girlfriends to complain).
Annelea gave Nick a cold look, arms crossed folded across her chest with the countenance of an unyielding statue. “You’re being selfish Nick.”
He opened his mouth to object, because he was willing to do just about anything for her but come on...
She continued in a way that suggested she had been expecting this argument. Good to know she had some sanity.
“Look at yourself,” Annelea said, gesturing to Nick’s body. “You are smoking hot, you are a beast of raging testosterone, you are the epitome of the male physique.”
He nodded along; so far he had no objections to her obvious truth. It wasn’t egotistical when it was accruate; he had worked out hard to get this body. Besides, stamina paid off when it came to outrunning the cops, was it his fault that eluding the fine gentlemen in blue kept him in top shape? Nope, not at all.
Annelea’s smile broadened, playfulness sneaking into her eyes.
“What I’m saying here is, how could you possibly do Wes such a great disservice?”
And…she’d lost him.
Nick blinked at her slowly, because right now he didn’t give two cents about Wes and things that may-or-may not be related to him. Like, Wes was great and all, but Nick kept a firm separation between friends and sex. It was the best for everyone.
His super-sexy-smart girlfriend caught sight of this and explained, nodding thoughtfully.
“Clearly, Wes has some sort of…repressed sexual desires for you; it’s only natural of course, you being you…”
“As awesome as I am,” And he was like, superbly awesome. “I think you might be misreading ‘clumsy friendship’ with sexual desire.”
Like, Nick was amazing and all, but there was no way Wes had the hots for him. Nick would have noticed at some point.
“Sweetheart,” Annelea spat the word out between clenched teeth, as though it pained her. “He calls to rant about you constantly. There is no way there isn’t something there.”
“Yes there totally is,” Nick countered with a drawl. “In that Wes is a bitchy little whiner at heart. He needed an outlet for his complaining or he would die, and Gina probably won’t pick up anymore.”
Props to Gina for that, by the way. She should make Wes see a therapist or something, or at least bring it up to his parents. The guy needed it for sure.
“There’s something there,” she insisted. “Gina sees it, and what kind of friend are you anyway? Can you really leave him hanging? Think about it, if I’m ever unavailable, you have a pair of lips eagerly waiting to fulfill your wildest fantasies.”
Nick balked at that, for like, a minute, but then he saw where she was going with this.
She was right, what kind of bro would he be if he just left Wes out in the cold like that (now all those tantrums were starting to make sense) and Annelea was pretty much giving him the go ahead to make out with someone else whenever she wasn’t in the mood.
Sure, that someone else was Wes, but anything in a pinch…
He smiled slowly, seeing the rainclouds coming to bring an end to his awful drought.
Yeah, this plan was nothing but win.
“Wait, that’s how she got you to agree to the…” Wes made a vague hand gesture in place of saying ’the stupid friends-with-benefits’ thing, because he wasn’t sure he could vocalize it without punching Nick.
On one hand, this ‘pimp plan’ explained so many things, but on the other, there had been so wrong with it that Wes couldn’t even begin to comprehend that right now.
“That logic is so flawed I can’t even begin to…” Wes tugged at his hair, hoping it would somehow ground him. “The only way that plan would work is in a teen comedy. This is not a movie Nick; there is no way in hell anyone could pull this off without being crucified. You’re an idiot. Plain and simple, you are an idiot.”
“That was hurtful.”
“And I am not a bitchy little whiner at heart,” Wes continued, turning deftly on one heel. At some point, he had begun pacing during his little tirade, but he couldn’t exactly remember when and he didn’t really care. “And I am not secretly attracted to you.”
“M’fraid that ship’s already sailed,” Nick dismissed this with a casual shrug of his shoulder. “Since we’re already make out on a regular basis-”
“Because of our girlfriends-” Wes hissed.
And because of Hope, and because it was that or further disrespect, and-
“Look.” Nick sat up straighter now, as though it were an act of comradery. “I need you to work with me on this.”
Wes paused. He mentally reviewed the conversation, wondering if he had, at some point, missed a more detailed explanation to Nick’s motivation. Perhaps he had somehow glanced over a heartfelt plea or beseechingness for aid.
Or, more logically, there had been a depth of conversation that Nick hadn’t felt inclined to address, because he was an immature asshole who expected Wes to be able to read his mind.
Carefully, Wes counted to ten, forcing himself to take slow, deep breaths.
“No,” he said after a moment. “I really don’t.”
Without missing a beat, Nick immediately replied, “Yes, you do. You are my bro, and I could totally get Gina to cooperate if I wooed her in the gentlemanly fashion she was due, and I would.” Wes made a note to ask his girlfriend when the hell Annelea had mentioned this plan to her in the first place. “All you have to do is step it up from make outs to dating, and everything will be cool. You know it won’t be that bad.”
There were several things wrong with that statement.
The first of which being that Nick was arrogant enough to assume he could win over Wes’ girlfriend so easily. The second of which being that maybe Wes really didn’t want to date Nick (as shocking as that may seem), but of all these, the one thing that seemed to pop out of his mouth was-
“What, I don’t deserve to be wooed?”
Because that particular affront to his honor needed to be addressed.
Wes didn’t panic, that would be even more stupid in a conversation that had practically thrived on stupidity. He kept calm, breathing steadily, even as his mind raced to justify his comment.
What? He deserved to be wooed too, damn it. If Nick really wanted this (and he didn’t), then he needed to put forth the effort (which he wouldn’t). And when his execution failed because he truly couldn’t walk the walk, Annelea’s plan would be forgotten, and maybe Nick could do the normal-person thing of post-relationship moping and rebound dates.
Take that, Wes was actually a subconscious genius. Go him.
Nick had the gall to look like he was going to protest, but Wes waved him off.
Time to drive the point home.
“You know what, it’s cool,” Wes muttered, rubbing the side of his head again. “You don’t want to pursue me, that’s fine.” Thank you AP English for forcing them to read Pride and Prejudice. “But if you don’t date me, you can’t date Gina, and you know what dating involves, right?” A boatload of things Nick will never agree to doing. “Dating,” Wes continued, feeling a grin break out over his face. “-involves two people who actually like each other’s personalities and because of that, they make out and go on dates and spend time together. Dating involves wooing and caring and…” Wes waved free hand in frustrated, searching for the right words. “Not just demanding. You had to win Annelea over just like I had to win Gina over-”
Nick gave Wes an incredulous look. “She liked your abs.”
“Shut up.” That had just been the hook; Gina liked Wes for his personality. Really, she did. “What I’m saying, is that dating requires effort and it’s not just something you do just because.”
Explanation complete, Wes collapsed on the end of the bed and waited, hoping that his words would have some kind of lasting impact.
He felt almost shaky, like he was riding the dredges of an adrenaline surge. It was the spur-of-the-moment planning, Wes knew. Improving had never been his thing.
Nick couldn’t do this for real, because Nick didn’t want this for real.
That was logic that could not be denied.
To his credit, Nick actually looked thoughtful, mulling over what Wes had said in a way that suggested he was approaching this with…respect.
Could it be?
Things were looking up, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, Nick was…maturing. And Wes had been the one to witness it- no, to instigate it.
Wes was victorious, Wes had won. He had walked through the valley of evil and survived, he had climbed the tallest mountain, had traipsed through metaphoric jungles and deserts and lived to tell the tale. He was the greatest man on earth right now, nothing could ruin this moment – no hollowness, no disappointment – nothing could dampen his spirits, nothing could–
“So,” Nick said, breaking Wes out of his mental victory dance. “You’re saying I have to woo both of you.”
Wes stared; shocked still. “…No.”
No, this wasn’t fair, he had won. He was a winner.
Unfortunately, Nick wasn’t listening anymore; he was strategizing, rubbing his chin in a thoughtful manner. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”
“No,” Wes mumbled, hopelessness washing over him. “That’s not-”
“I’m always up for a challenge.”
“Please, no,” Wes whispered, praying to whatever god there was to listen.
“I got this!” the other teen declared, springing up from the bed with renewed gusto. “Wes Chang,” he announced, giving the look Wes was only too aware as being his ‘sexy’ face. “Prepare to be wooed.”
And with that proclamation, Nick vacated the room, ducking back out through the window before Wes could gather his wits again and demand a do-over. The teen stared at the well-maintained glass for a long time, trying to convince himself the entire exchange had been a mere figment of his imagination.
When that inevitably failed, Wes attempted to look on the positive side of things.
Suffice it to say he was still unsuccessful, which was only the beginning of his problems.