6. Survival of the Fittest
Russel was more than happy to accommodate Wes’ visit into his schedule, graciously slotting the teen during the mid-evening (allowing them both enough time to recuperate after rehearsal) without question or hesitation.
Of course, this was probably less from trust and appreciating the prospect of Wes’ social skills than it was from already being up-to-date with Nick’s Wes-wooing status. While a majority of the drama club was still blind to this (disturbingly so, because Gina sure as hell wasn’t keeping a lid on it) Russel and Hope, being the observational geniuses that they were, had definitely noticed the sudden change in the winds.
Until this point Wes hadn’t bothered checking to see their opinions on the matter, but he knew if he were in their shoes, he would have found the entire situation absurdly hysterical.
As neither of them had yet to good-naturedly attempt to intercede on his behalf (not shocking from Hope, but Wes had expected more from Russel), Wes could only assume that they had similar feelings on the subject.
At least Russel should have known by this point that when Wes and Nick were left to their own devises, no good could come of it. Russel had empathy. He was a mature human being.
Wes had thought that he and Russel were cool. Like, they had bonded somewhat through glee club and mutual aggravation for some of Nick’s more imbecilic pranks.
The other teen leaving Wes on his own was not completely unreasonable, they weren’t the best of friends, but he had thought they were on better terms than that.
Perhaps Russel was trying to turn over a new leaf. Maybe he was attempting to exercise control. To restrain himself from meddling.
Well, he sure picked a lousy time to do it.
Whatever, it didn’t matter. Russel had agreed to the meet up and Wes could finally settle things with a person who wasn’t mentally unstable. It would be a refreshing turn of events.
When Russel ushered him into his bedroom, Wes wasted no time fortifying their position, locking the door and window (he wasn’t paranoid; Nick’s addled mind wasn’t completely set on the proper regulations for flirtation and tended to stray into the realm of stalking once or twice). Taking one last cursory examination of the room, Wes decided the defenses were satisfactory and finally relaxed, dropping his backpack to the ground.
When he looked back up, Russel was giving him an amused look, though slightly concerned.
Wes shrugged, sitting down on the bed. “He gets creative.”
Russel nodded in understanding, taking a seat at his desk, hands folding in a way reminiscent of a therapist. “So, I assume this is about Nick.”
Wes nodded, tentative quiet mourning, then shook his head when he remembered his actual reason for coming.
“Yeah, I need your help. Your…expertise, I guess,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head.
It was a good sign when Russel leaned in, completely entranced. Wes used that as confidence to spur himself on, glad to know he had come to the right place. “I need to get Nick off of this whole wooing-thing. I have a plan, I just…I’m not sure how to play it.”
Russel quirked an eyebrow, head tilted in consideration. “And you figured I would know what to do?”
Wes swallowed, then nodded. “I figured you would actually want to help, seeing as our…arrangement was a bit of a…mockery, I guess, to you.”
It wasn’t something he had ever gathered up the courage to talk about with Russel yet, but this whole deal with Nick sort of seemed like it was a sham. Like it was insulting to Russel. Wes knew how difficult (okay, so he didn’t, he had kept his mouth shut for a majority of high school because of how afraid he had been) it had to have been for Russel, all the trials the other teen had gone through for his sexuality. Wes had been friends with Russel since Sophomore year, had known of him since junior high, he had seen the phases. It had taken Russel a long time to come out of the proverbial closet, even when there wasn’t anyone out there to back him up outside of the theater students (thank you small town Texas). That took more guts than Wes could ever dream of retaining.
It took a long time for him to finally find someone who loved him for him, who accepted him, who wanted to be with him. And then Wes and Nick just…fell into their little thing, minimal complications, just like that.
Up to this point they hadn’t incurred Russel’s wrath (at least, Wes hadn’t) but they had never really talked about it either.
Strangely enough, Russel didn’t look all that mad now either, even when he was directly approached with the subject. Instead he looked a little… sad, that could be it, but it flitted away too quickly for Wes to be completely sure, replaced with the same friendly professionalism as before.
“I do want to help,” Russel allowed finally, leaning back in his chair. “But I’m not, nor ever have been, upset with you Wes.”
The immense amount of relief and gratefulness that flooded through Wes made him hesitate for a moment, a lump solid in his throat that he immediately swallowed as he looked away, trying to compose himself. It was ridiculous, but Wes was…thankful that someone was on his side for once. The kindness was refreshing.
Unable to speak, Wes nodded his appreciation, keeping his eyes averted for fear of revealing the mess that was becoming his insides.
Russel, the wonderful, benevolent person that he was, didn’t call Wes out on it. “So, Mr. Chang, what’s your plan?”
Wes smiled, not at all deterred by the use of his last name. Slowly, he pulled himself back together. “I want to let him win.”
It didn’t take long to see that hadn’t been the choice of action Russel was expecting at all. The other teen hid it well though, his only tell being the slight widening of his eyes. Professional as always, Russel kept on track, saving his questions for later.
“Go on,” Russel prodded, desperate for more but exuding it in a subtlety that Wes would never be able to master.
Did Wes mention how much he liked this guy? He liked this guy, a lot. He was on his way to becoming Wes’ new favorite.
Not that Wes really had an old favorite. For the sake of his love life, he would labeled Gina as best, but since that was pretty much down the hole now anyway….
Yeah, Russel was his new favorite.
Wes leaned forward, encouraged by Russel’s interest. “Nick thinks he wants to date me. I want to let him think I’m interested. Then, when it comes time to, you know, do the acts of physical affection most people perform when they’re in a relationship, he won’t be able to deliver, because he doesn’t like me.” This was a very important point that Wes felt needed to be stressed. Repeatedly. As it was the truth. “After that, I’ll be able to call him out on it, and then he’ll have to stop bothering me and Gina.”
Now that he had said it out loud, Wes was struck by the absurdity of it all.
It was a good thing he no longer had his pride.
Though it had seemed impossible, Russel’s eyebrow quirked higher, the other teen clearly traveling along the same train of thought.
To which, Wes shrugged, already too aware of his abundant lack of shame.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
“So…” The would-be therapist trailed off, searching for the right words to explain the tragedy that was this plan.
Wes stepped in to save him the trouble. “It’s like chicken.”
Russel tilted his head, look of perfect disbelief still on his face. “But with sex.”
Wes flushed, which was stupid, he was stupid. “Frottage,” he corrected, raking a hand through his hair. “I know it sounds dumb, but I’m pretty sure it will work.”
Approaching circumstances intellectually didn’t seem to be working. So why wouldn’t this have a shot?
Okay, so Nick was affecting his judgement, but Wes was all in at this point.
There was an awkward silence in which Russel attempted to take in it all. Thankfully, due to their many years of the “Lakeside experience” (small hick town’s tended to generate a special kind of insanity) the Broadway know-it-all was willing to suspend his disbelief for Wes’s sake. Russel seemed to go along with it, not objecting or pointing out the bizarreness of it all.
Seriously, new favorite.
“And the problem…?” Russel trailed off, gesturing for Wes’s response.
Yeah, about that…
“I don’t know how to do it,” he confessed, wringing his hands. “I’ve been so adamant about not wanting to date him that if I just give in now he’ll know something’s up. Sure, Nick’s stupid-” (Wes said this with affection, sincerely, from the bottom of his heart). “-but he’s not that stupid.”
Which could be debatable for a guy that drove into a gas station and tried to steal an ATM, but Wes knew that underneath that thick layer of (not endearing) unintelligence was a small sliver of crafty brilliance. True, Nick didn’t use it all that often, but Wes knew it existed. It was one of the few consolations he took from being Nick’s best friend. They had the ‘odd couple’ thing down perfectly.
When Wes looked back over to Russel, there was a genuine look of fondness on the other teen’s face. While Wes wasn’t sure why it was there (check the tape, Nick was not endearing), Wes just appreciated the fact that it wasn’t mocking in any way.
Russel immediately schooled his face into impassive amusement about a second afterwards and tilted his head, as though stewing over Wes’s plan.
“That is a problem,” he muttered, rubbing his chin. “And I suggest…” he snapped his fingers as a stroke of genius (or what Wes really, really hoped was a stroke of genius) hit him. “I suggest method acting.”
When his look of triumph was met by Wes’ blank stare and absolute confusion (he would like to point out this was completely warranted), Russel sighed. “You need to play it slow right?”
Wes nodded; since playing it ‘fast’ wasn’t an option, that had to be right.
Russel, glad to see they both agreed (that he was right) smiled and moved on, “So if you want to make your performance believable, you just have to…begrudgingly act like he is actually winning you over.”
Let it be known that after this moment commenced the great blank staring contest of 2011, where the blankest of blank stares was delivered as a gift to somehow alleviate the confusion of the world.
Yeah, Wes knew that. To act like he was attracted to Nick was the end goal here, he just hadn’t known how-
And oh, oh, ohhhh, he got it. Kind’ve, maybe.
Wes looked back over at Russel to see that the helpful, kind, compassionate look from earlier had been replaced by a devilish smirk. It was at that point Wes accepted that even his allies were just a little bit evil.
Yeah, he got it, stupid him for hopes and dreams and whatnot.
So basically Wes just had to keep doing what he was doing, but as a slowly losing battle.
Eventually he would- yeah, they all knew where this was going, and he sighed, rubbing the side of his head dejectedly.
“I’ll be by you every step of the way,” Russel chirped, far too cheerfully for Wes’ growing depression.
Wes shook a fist in the other teen’s direction to express this, though the action was entirely ignored.
“Look it’s not hard, you don’t even have to do anything.”
This earned Russel a glare, but the other teen still didn’t back down, satisfied with his spot on cloud nine. “All you have to do is allow yourself to be wooed.”
Wes blanched at the idea, but Russel would have none of it, abandoning the seat at his desk for a spot beside Wes, bouncing on the bed in excitement.
“Just spend time with him, like you would with a girl.” Yeah, except when he was with a girl, Wes was the one making the moves. “And then slowly allow him to touch you, laugh at his jokes, go out of your way to be with him, act like you enjoy his company…” Wes began to protest and Russel shushed him, too busy explaining his genius plan. “All you have to do is pretend to meet him halfway. Build up his ego and make it believable. Then when he goes in for the kill…Well, you know the rest.”
“You make this sound like a bad romantic comedy,” Wes complained.
“You can blame that one on Nick,” Russel replied.
There was an almost mischievous twinkle in his eye (which was implausible but by this point Wes was willing to suspend his disbelief too) that made Wes think that what Wes thought what “the rest” entailed and what Russel thought “the rest” entailed were two incredibly different animals.
He made a note never to let Russel and Annelea co-conspire anything.
Wes was just not prepared for that kind of world.
“Don’t sweat it,” Russel urged, rubbing his hands together in what Wes chose to describe as glee. “Aaron and I will help you.”
On second thought, actually having sex with Nick wasn’t sounding like such a bad idea after all.
Wes was pretty sure if he tried hard enough, he could repress the memory.
As Russel began to enthusiastically spout off possible plans and wooing sights (something about getting Hope to steer Nick, Wes wasn’t sure – he had no idea how Russel thought they could get the cheerleader ice queen to help, even if she was in theater), Wes realized that he probably wouldn’t be allowed to back out of “Plan: Method Acting”.
Was it really all that terrible? After all, Wes didn’t have to do anything. He could just sit back and be pampered (weird as that idea was). And besides, this could help out his acting for the musical (that he had only kind of, sort of wanted to do because of Gina and, okay, maybe he liked performing a little bit too).
And if things progressed past the point he expected for Nick to call it quits, it wasn’t like Wes actually knew how guys went about…it anyway.
As though reading his mind, Russel slid a pamphlet over to Wes distractedly, still going on about backup plans. For fear of further explanation, Wes shoved it into his backpack as quickly as possible without actually taking a look at it.
He might need it.
Okay, so he was also a bit curious.
Damn him and his inquisitive nature.
“Don’t worry Wes,” Russel cooed, yeah, that was right, he was cooing. “We’ve got your back.”
Just one more year. Wes just had to survive senior year, and then he was done. No sexual orientation crises, no experimentation, no-
Just one more year.
He could do that.