7. No Cookie For You
“What the hell is this?”
There was absolutely no hesitation in Wes’ mind when the words, complete with disbelieving/surprised/disgusted/general-wtf-ness tone, reached his ears (which was kind of pathetically sad in its own way).
Once again, Wes found himself with the familiar self-deprecating need to bash his head against a wall.
It was for a good reason this time.
See, it may have just dawned on him that he had not, in fact, taken Russel’s pamphlet out of his backpack.
In itself, that didn’t seem altogether unreasonable. The pamphlet thing, not the head bashing…well, Wes supposed that was sort of reasonable as too, considering the circus carnival that had taken over his life.
But the first thing, with the pamphlet, that was completely understandable even in the most normal of average-Joe, no-name, suburban kind of circumstances. It had been a busy week. A busy, jarring week. There was Nick (still), and then musical tryouts, and then trying to win back Gina, and between all of that the pamphlet had just sort of slipped his mind.
It should be ridiculous, right? That was red-flag item there, a rumor starter, racy material, just waiting to push buttons and destroy what very little reputation Wes had left, for those few that acknowledged his existence.
He should have burned it. Or hidden it. Or burned it and then hidden the ashes, and then burned the hiding place a few days later, just to be sure. It never hurt to be thorough.
Instead, of course, Wes had forgotten, which was completely reasonable. It wasn’t like anybody ever poked through his backpack. He didn’t have anything special. He wasn’t like Gina with her secret stash of fruity lip balms and candy bars and pixie sticks, or Russel with his multi-functional satchel that seemed to contain any and every tool necessary for the day-to-day life of a high profile fashionista (which somehow included a set of pliers and two rolls of fashion tape, whatever that was).
Wes didn’t have anything worth snooping through, and it wasn’t like he ever bugged anyone enough for them to ever want to go riffling through his backpack on a personal vendetta. He might become a bit…ridiculous when it came to dealing with Nick, but to everyone else, Wes had managed to keep it cool.
So really, what the hell?
There had to be some sort of universal law that dictated that there was only so much misfortune and tomfoolery a person should have to endure in a week. What was he, the world’s punching bag? Was there some kind of higher power out there having a rainy day that found inspiring misery in certain well-adjusted teenagers the equivalent to a Zoloft? And in that case, what had Wes done to deserve that? Could he undo it?
He was willing. Come on, he had been willing to make out with Nick of all people. If that didn’t scream desperation, he didn’t know what did.
Not that Wes had to be worried about that anymore.
Oh yes, Nick had finally seen the error of his ways.
Or he had gotten bored, or lazy, or grown as a person, but whatever the reason he just…stopped trying to win over the Asian Fusion (which was something Wes would be celebrating more if Gina wouldn’t stop whining about it). Wes had no idea what had happened, but Nick was still his friend. They weren’t as tight as they used to be, but it just…nothing. No questions, no comments, just nothing. They were back to being just bros.
Russel seemed to be the most disappointed by this turn of events (aside from Annelea, who was still hunting Wes down), muttering something about disposing of some elaborate double-dating plans (helping out of the goodness of his heart, Wes’ ass) but aside from that, everything seemed to be getting back to normal.
Or, at least as normal as it could get at Lakeside High.
There had been an odd feeling of…something, when Wes had figured it out. When the attempts and the ploys had petered off into nothing. It was almost anticlimactic, not that he missed it or anything, but it seemed like things were different than before.
Maybe he had wounded Nick’s fragile ego, but that was something Wes severely doubted. They had been friends for pretty much ever, there was no way Wes had a shot at penetrating that level of self-admiration.
He didn’t worry about it. See, this was Wes, not worrying about it, not worrying about his friend being weirdly distant, because this was high school and everything would be fine in a couple of days anyway. Everything would be fine.
It figured that the moment Wes caught the slightest hint of a break that the universe would come smashing down on his poor, pathetic noggin.
He should have burned that damn pamphlet.
Should have, would have, had not.
Of course, it wasn’t just anybody who had found it.
No, it wasn’t one of his friends, or Mr. Powel, or even Coach Wyatt (the head coach for football).
No, the world had something far greater for him in store.
Steve Petrovski frowned at Wes, gripping the pamphlet between two fingers as though it could contaminate him with its unapologetic shininess.
A bit of backstory on Petrovski:
He was a jackass.
And now for a more illuminating backstory on Petrovski.
Steve Petrovski was undoubtedly one of the most backward, narrow-minded, obstinately loud of his very selective opinions, low life, homophobes Wes had ever had the displeasure of meeting.
Before Russel had come out of the closet - before Wes, Nick, and Seth had gone over to the ‘dark side’ of drama club, Petrovski hadn’t been that bad a guy. Like any of the other jocks on the football team, he was a bit of asshole, but awesome at parties. He had enough charisma that made people want to be around, and participated in as many stupid stunts as the rest of them had, despite being in almost all AP classes.
That was pre-homosexual-at-Lakeside Steve.
Post-homosexual-at-Lakeside Steve (when omg-the-world-is-ending-haaalp attitudes were a dime a dozen) had been a legit terror. He had been Russel’s number one bully, slamming the poor kid into lockers when he was alone, bothering him in between classes, putting the fear of god into Russel for even considering using the men’s bathroom.
It got to the point where they had to develop a buddy system for Russel, and even then, Petrovski had only backed off after a very poignant parent-teacher conference featuring his dad, and Russel’s parents.
To this day, Russel refused to elaborate on what had exactly happened, but after a two-week suspension, the only thing Petrovski threw Russel’s way was angry glares, and that was good enough for Russel.
To this point, Petrovski had yet to find another object to torment. Wasn’t Wes just uber lucky?
How could this have happened? Football season had just about ended, leaving Wes almost free of interacting with the guy. All they had left was to clear-out their lockers.
On said locker-cleaning day, everyone else had already left, except Wes.
Apparently, Petrovski could be added to that list as well.
Wes only had his backpack open so he could cram in the last of his gym clothes, how they hell had Petrovski managed to find that damn pamphlet in the bulging mess? Wes could have sworn he had tucked it into the bottom of his bag. It had been near the bottom right? Why the hell was Petrovski digging through his bag in the first place, how did he manage to find the one thing-?
The other teen was still expecting an answer, boldly holding up the glossy folded paper (as though Wes didn’t know what he was about to get his faced punched for) and glaring and glaring and-
“It’s not mine.” Where the first words that came of Wes’ mouth, and they were not very well received.
Not that he had expected them to be, as it was becoming startlingly clear that he sucked at thinking on his feet.
Hell, given a proper amount of time he still didn’t know how he would have approached this situation. It was a no-win scenario. Unless he had not acted like a guilty-child caught in the act of stealing from the cookie jar, in which case, Wes could have played it off as a tasteless prank.
But Wes’ acting was far worse than his improve, and by this point Petrovski wasn’t going to buy that no matter how thick Wes laid it on.
There was some more glaring.
Wes swallowed nervously.
His mind continued to be blank.
He really wished the other teen wasn’t so much bigger than him. It wasn’t hard to tell that Petrovski played defense, what with being a tall, broad, impenetrable wall of muscle, and Wes was on special teams for Pete’s sake. All he did was kick the ball.
This was not helping.
What was he supposed to do anyway? How could this not end up as the new school scandal? There was no conceivable damage control for this situation. Sure, Petrovski had backed off Russel and started an anti-bullying campaign (by the way, he had done that, and Russel and Gina and Wes had found it superbly hysterical, because who the hell had Petrovski been kidding?), but that had just been for publicity, right? Petrovski was just pretending he had turned over a new leaf so he had a shot at winning Prom King (as though he could compete with almost-Jesus Seth).
Maybe he wouldn’t punch Wes in the face but…ah hell, what if Petrovski started following him around for his anti-bullying campagin? That was not what Wes needed. He needed to play it cool, to remain invisible, to-
To answer Petrovski’s question some time before the football player lost his patience and ran to the school blogger and ruined Wes’ life beyond repair.
That would probably require talking.
Like, with words and stuff.
The teen swallowed the lump in his throat and attempted to school his features into the dull, guy-in-the-background face of blankness that he had mastered so many years ago. It didn’t quite fit right, too much time with the drama club, but Wes at least managed to not look like he feared his eminent and unpleasant demise. His insides were still aware of the nerves attempting to consume his stomach, but his face wasn’t quite as pathetic as it had been. Hopefully.
Wes kept his eyes locked on Petrovski’s, attempting to regain some ground.
“Intellectual curiosity,” he explained.
It was the closest to the truth he was willing to divulge to someone of Petrovski’s particularly unfriendly temperament.
Steve’s eyebrows threatened to disappear into his hairline, mixed looks of disbelief and amusement etched into his features.
What? That was a completely reasonable explanation. Wes was an honor student for Christ’s sake, straight A’s, a scholar. So what, he wasn’t allowed to be interested in things outside the scope of a normal heterosexual male of his age?
And…nope, even in his head that did not work out.
Instead of calling him out on it, or punching him in the face (which had not-happened long enough for Wes to begin to get hopeful), Petrovski decided to move on.
“Where did you get it?”
Aaaaaaaaand, no, that was not where Wes had thought the hulking football player was going to go with this. In fact, that was so much not what Wes had anticipated that his mouth did that talking-thing without conferring with his brain.
“Russel,” he blurted out unceremoniously.
As though it were possible, the eyebrows ascended higher.
Bad mouth, no cookie.
Petrovski tilted his head to the side. He still held onto the mocking pamphlet, but his complete attention was on Wes.
Wes wished that it wasn’t. Wes kind on wished he was on the Moon right now. Anywhere but here.
Because Wes couldn’t get any more pathetic, Petrovski recounted their very brief conversation, highlighting the epic fail of it all.
“You got this from Russel,” he the other teen drawled, stepping forward in that menacing way that made Wes kind of sad that Nick had given up stalking him. He could have really used a witness right about now.
Going for a backup plan, Wes slowly stepped to the side, trying to get in view of Coach Wyatt’s office.
Petrovski continued, unperturbed by his movement. “Because you were curious.”
Wes gave a jerked nod. “Yep.”
Petrovski stopped and Wes’ legs followed his lead, because they were kind of stupid like that.
Why wasn’t his face experiencing less-than-pleasant fist-smashings right now?
The eyebrows came down and Petrovski finally lowered the pamphlet. “Are you gay?”
Which was…asked a lot nicer than Wes had thought it would be. It was legitimately serious. Not mocking at all. Reasonable even.
It seemed that whatever little breakdown, school-down, de-bully thing that Russel and Hope had worked on Steve had been successful.
Maybe Wes could still get out of this completely intact.
The teen schooled his face again, this time being much more successful at becoming serious. “No.”
The eyebrows threatened to rise again, but Steve remained composed. “Bi?”
Wes sighed. ”No.”
The incredulous look came back this time, unhindered, and Wes felt his eye twitch, the first in a very short chain reaction that led to that certain something inside of him, something that was probably very important, snapping under the stress and pressures of life.
He should have learned by now that silence was the best option, because yelling at other people, had never, ever worked out to his advantage. But you know, when it came to social interaction, Wes wasn’t the fastest learner.
He snarled; face twisting into what had to be a very unpleasant expression. “What, is it because I’m in drama club? Because I auditioned for the musical? What is it? Why the hell does everyone think I’m-?”
Petrovski held up the pamphlet again, but Wes just wretched it from his grasp, shoving it back into his backpack. “And why the hell were you digging through my backpack anyway? And why haven’t you punched me in the face? And why do you care? And what does it matter? And why won’t you people just leave me alone?!"
The tirade was over but that simmering amount of adrenaline was still working overdrive, rumbling under Wes’s skin, begging him to continue his course of action, to implement some kind of plan. The logical part of his brain happily informed him that he really needed Petrovski to not ever talk about this again, ever. While bribes and an offering of personal servitude might work, wouldn’t it be so much better to make this an occasion that Petrovski never wanted to talk about either? And hey, since Wes was in uncomfortable territories anyway, why shouldn’t he just bulldoze through one of the other teen’s most obvious triggers?
Wes did not do his best thinking when he was angry.
Kissing Petrovski probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world. It was practically suicide. To be honest, Wes was surprised that Steve had allowed him close enough to let it happen. He sure as hell hadn’t been expecting it. Wes hadn’t even been expecting it. It had just popped into his head and then hey, he was grabbing a handful of Petrovski’s shirt and smashing their faces together in a way that would most certainly qualify as sexual harassment.
The only thing that would put Wes in the clear was if he managed to provoke Petrovski enough to punch him. Then they would both be even, and they could forget about this unpleasant mess.
No need for this to go past today.
Kissing Steve should have been nothing like kissing Gina or even Nick (not that Wes dwelled on those memories). Despite this expectation, there seemed to be some core similarities – probably devolving from the fact that they were, you know, the same species and everything. The texture was the same, sans-fruity chapstick, and Wes wasn’t going to pretend he was enough of a savant to feel the difference in size and shape, like Gina was a delicate little flower and Petrovski was Petrovski, so hey, there was one mystery of the world solved. Curiosity satiated, awesome.
When his back was immediately slammed against the lockers they had just been cleaning out, Wes figured that despite the absurdity of his plan, it would actually work. That, in itself, was a miraculous success, considering Wes’ the track record of all other absurd plans (hint, hint: they went badly).
He was in the free and clear.
Perhaps, dare he think it, winning.
When he was done, that damn pamphlet was going to be history. Wes would not forget its evil a second time, there would be fire and-
And suddenly there was a hand up his shirt.
‘Up’, not in. Not grappling onto the collar so that it could better position Wes for brutal retaliation.
No, that sucker was up his shirt, and there was another winding its way through Wes’ hair and there was a chance, a distinct chance, that he was being kissed so soundly that it put Gina and Nick to horrible shame.
Wes was having difficulties understanding the situation, questions flooding in too quickly for him to really understand the sensations. Was this a fever dream? A shock-induced hallucination? Had Petrovski knocked him out? More importantly, why did Wes’ fever dream feature making out with Petrovski? Inquiring minds needed to know.
In the precious few seconds Wes spent processing that information, the hand rose higher, tired of rubbing against his abs and seeking a more sensitive territory, provoking a very reasonable gasp from Wes. And then there was a tongue in his mouth, and a thigh between his legs, and when had the world become the twilight zone, and was this a prank, or a new game, and if this was gay-horse Petrovski had won already, why where they still going and-
The new voice was commanding enough that they immediately jolted apart, Petrovski smoothing out the bottom of Wes’ shirt as though he had not just been doing very naughty things (ah hell, did he just think the words ‘Petrovski’ and ’naughty’ in the same sentence? Yes, yes he had).
Steve straightened up to his full height, disposition as remarkably cool and casual as you could please.
It was a gross injustice, because in the meantime Wes was still kind of blubbering against the lockers Petrovski had pushed him up against. He felt the blood rushing to his face with such ferocity that he was pretty sure his cheeks would be red forever.
To her credit, Coach Wyatt seemed pretty unperturbed by the events she had discovered in her locker room. She seemed more annoyed than anything else.
Oh God. Oh God, Wes was dead. He had to be, he couldn’t feel his face- This couldn’t be happening, this had to be backwards land. What-?
While Wes was dying, Petrovski was just fine, standing to the side, completely unabashed.
Coach gave them a disapproving frown, and motioned to their backpacks.
“I don’t care what you do on your down time fellahs, but take it somewhere else. I’ve gotta lock up for the night.” She smiled, eyes fading out somewhat as she gazed into the distance. “I’ve got a date to prepare for.”
Before Wes could sputter his rejection (this was not normal down-time procedure), Petrovski just nodded. The bigger jock snatched up their backpacks, thrusting Wes’ against his chest before grabbing the teen’s wrist and hauling him out of the room.
Rough but practical, Wes probably would have remained floundering in the locker room while his brain kept spouting off rejections of “no” and “stop” and “noooooooooooooooooooooo”, were it not for Steve’s intercession.
The other football player stopped after tracking a good way down the empty hall, Wes following along blindly, half-aware that this had to be what life felt like for Tiffany.
He hadn’t mentioned her yet, but she was a doll. Super sweet, but dumb as a brick. Pretty much fit the cheerleader stereotype to a T, but she was really nice about it. She was also in drama club, acting as Hope’s less-intellectually gifted minion.
This had to be what her life was life. Except without the fear. Or maybe there was lots of fear and they just couldn’t tell. Maybe she hid it. Did she need saving? Was she repressing her terror? Did she constantly go through life-?
Oh, Wes should probably be focusing on himself right now, since his existence was hanging at a very precarious balance and all that.
Wes looked up slowly from his shoes, startled to see that he had been focused on the floor. He turned his attention to Petrovski, who seemed to be just as casual as before, were it not for the hardened glint in his eye.
Yes, they would be having words now.
His grip tightened on Wes’ wrist. “This stays between us, got it?”
Wes nodded slowly, not flinching as the fingers threatened to bruise. Steve studied him for a minute before deciding that this was an acceptable response and let go. Wes released a grateful sigh that Steve ignored, choosing instead to awkwardly readjust the straps on his backpack and peak up and down the hallway. He was probably checking to see if anyone had witnessed the exchange. Like it wasn’t afterschool. Like everyone else hadn’t hightailed it out of here as soon as they had the chance.
That was it then, he guessed. Nothing left to do but scrub that particular memory from his brain.
For safety, Wes went back to staring at the floor before preparing to shuffle away, deciding to make a hasty retreat in an attempt to salvage some of his dignity.
It was a long shot, but you couldn’t blame a guy for trying.
The only warning he got before he was kissed again was a hand sliding along the side of his face, ridiculously gentle considering…but he shouldn’t judge, should he? Maybe that was what had made Petrovski what he-
And then Steve pulled back and just as quickly moved away, disappearing around the corner before Wes could get out so much as a ”Buh-“.
And it would have been a really impressive “buh” too.
Aside from absolute bewilderment (which felt like a new perpetual state of being, nowadays), Wes was overwhelmed with the desire to talk to someone about what had just transpired.
Which was difficult, considering the fact that he had pretty much just sworn he would not do that very thing.