Uniquely Flawed Logic

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8. Soup for You

Let the record show that attempting to visually-stalk someone through crowded hallway was remarkably difficult.

So far Wes’ attempts at being subtle ended with him whirling about in a spastic manner while he pretended to do something else whenever Petrovski so much as tilted his head in the Wes’ general direction. So far, the ‘something else’ mostly consisted of the oh-so natural activity of staring at the wall.

It wasn’t really going that well.

Seth and Cooke had taken to following Wes around to see what the hell was so fascinating about Lakeside’s dented lockers. When Tiffany had joined their escapade, Wes knew that his stealth mission was beginning to look more like a lost tour group that was being scammed for all they were worth, rather than a covert ops team.

Great, Russel decided to join the party. Fan-freaking-tastic.

It was days like this where Wes wished he had stolen Nick’s spy camera, back when they participated in the simple art of speaking.

They didn’t really do much of that nowadays. It hurt, kind of, in its own way. Nick had been a steady constant in Wes’ life since middle school, having his friend back out on him because of a little bruised ego was just…stupid.

Sure, Wes had other friends, but they didn’t embody the particular flavor of idiocy to which Wes had become accustomed.

Whatever.

He could have really used that spy camera.

Micaela, riding the high of being a leading lady (the musical cast list had been posted the other day, and Wes had a part. Like, a real part), floated over to the group. She snagged Seth’s arm (how that couple worked, Wes did not know) and eagerly joined in Russel’s enthralling discussion on the provocative nature of this water stain as compared to that one. Something about how it represented the blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah-blah-

Wes began edging away from the group, hoping he could still get back to tailing Petrovski. He wanted to intercept the other teen before he got to his car. Ideally, he could find a good place to corner Steve and do that ‘talking’ thing before Wes’ brain exploded into a thousand gooey pieces. Now that would be something worth looking at.

Wes had almost made his way around the corner, each step slow and deliberate. Carefully, thoughtfully, not sporadically, he moved.

There was no need to disturb the others. If they wanted to be enthralled with discussing the deeper meanings of extracurricular activity poster arrangements, who was Wes to stop their fun? He wasn’t a party-pooper.

No sir, he was Wes Chang. Laid back, awesome, cool- No, scratch that, super cool. And as a super cool guy, he was just going to nonchalantly walk this way as though he had not inspired a bunch of people to stare at a wall-

“Dude.” The voice came from right next to Wes’ ear, familiar and warm and – other stuff Wes decided to ignore. Nick leaned over Wes’ shoulder and watched the proceedings with subdued fascination. “What are they looking at?”

Nick stared at Wes expectantly, as though he had not just spent the past week avoiding Wes.

That was fine, actually, Wes could get behind ignoring issues- No, ignoring nothing, because it was only an issue if you considered it one, and this hadn’t been.

On another note, Nick didn’t seem all that bothered by his gross violation of Wes’ personal bubble. Chest to back, hand on shoulder while he gave the rest of their friends a confused look over the other one, Wes kind of wanted to sucker punch him for how freaking oblivious he was. He was a guy, and Wes was a guy who was trying to re-assert his heterosexuality (you know, as much as one could while chasing down a guy they had once made out with) and Nick wasn’t helping.

Wes pulled away, shucking the other teen’s hand off his shoulder as casually as possible.

“Nothing,” he bit out.

He wanted to follow that up with ‘You’re an idiot’ and ‘Got sick of that wooing-thing real quick, huh?’, but he couldn’t find a way to vocalize those needs without conveying desperation, which he did not feel. He wasn’t bitter or hurt, and he certainly wasn’t empty he was just…annoyed. Aggravated at the hell Nick had made his life over something he so easily disregarded.

Wes was allowed to hold some hard feelings over that.

“Nothing,” Wes repeated, and with that, Wes ducked around the corner and sped away. In a very manly fashion.

That was him, machismo incarnate.

Wes hadn’t wasted too many brain cells on Nick lately (or, not him exactly, but- whatever) but after the sudden disinterest in the Asian Fusion and Annelea, it seemed reasonable for Wes to think about his friend. Specifically, his friend’s sudden development of goo-goo eyes for the new substitute, Mrs. Thompson.

Mrs. Thompson was on the young side of the substitute range, falling into the niche of ‘thankfully tolerable’ when she exploited slang, and kind enough to allow them to listen to music when doing classwork. She was hot, in a scholarly kind of way, well-put together, but she was also, you know, their teacher.

Didn’t seem to perturb Nick too much, based on his notebook’s newest scribbles (that Wes spent most of third period trying to catch sight of). Based on all this, Wes had the unsettling feeling that Nick had decided to go for the overall grand supreme title of stupid decision making. One that would definitely involve some form of official harassment charges being made.

Wes wanted to be concerned, he did, but…well, Nick wasn’t his problem anymore. The other teen had decided that for him.

He wasn’t bitter about it, or had feathers ruffled or any ill-feelings he just-

He’d look into it later. Nick was still his friend after all. Wes would take a break take a break and then jump back into the crazy world of Nick Roman and try to instigate a semblance of order. Keep the guy out of jail.

It was the least Wes could do. After everything they had been through.

As soon as the sounds of his friends diminished behind him, Wes took off in a sprint, aiming towards the back parking lot where Petrovski’s truck was located. Nick’s detour hadn’t cost him too much time; there was still a chance that Wes could make it. Worst comes to worst, he could always just throw himself in the front of Petrovski’s vehicle if he tried to leave. Hopefully, the guy’s instinct to avoid jail time would kick in fast enough to keep Wes’s pedestrian ass safe.

Because that didn’t scream desperate. Or confused.

Damn, Wes was confused, though in retrospect, Petrovski liking guys made a lot of his past actions understandable. Not reasonable, because they weren’t by any means, it just meant that there was some kind of human motivation involved that wasn’t just the need to revel in others’ anguish. Petrovski had seen what Russel had gone through and refused to allow it to happen to him, choosing to play as offensively as possible to ensure that he would stay safe.

Wes had to hand it to Steve, it had worked really freaking good. Wes wouldn’t have suspected this in a million years. And the fact that Petrovksi had built up a reputation as a playboy, never dating the same girl twice, also made more sense-

A hand latched onto Wes’ shoulder and yanked him into an empty classroom. The lights were dim (hello creepy horror movie setup), but Wes didn’t need them to know that Petrovski had done the manhandling.

It was, unfortunately, a familiar sensation.

Petrovski must have figured Wes out from his terrible attempts at reconnaissance and decided to provide a more appropriate location for talking.

That was the optimistic outcome. There was also the distinct possibility that he wanted to take back his initial reaction and start making Wes’ face a lot more bruised and unpleasant.

If it was option B, Wes should probably start curling into the fetal position about right now.

“Chang,” Petrovski greeted, terse.

“Steve,” Wes replied, far more aloof than he felt. He was actually a little proud of himself.

With courage he did not truly have, Wes shrugged a hand off his shoulder for the second time that day, resisting the urge to rub it. Petrovski’s grip was no joke, it would be sore later, but now was not the time to show weakness.

Also, wetting himself should be avoided. It was difficult to have a mature and thoughtful conversation with soiled pants. Didn’t really give off the ‘safe and assured’ vibe.

There was a thoughtful silence where Petrovski continued to study him, any possible anger overruled by curiosity, like Wes was some sort of new species or something. After a minute, Steve reached out again, gently rubbing Wes’ abused shoulder muscles. Like an apology of sorts.

It was weird, having Petrovski treat him like this. Wes had pretty much spent the last two years hating him. Take that away, and he wasn’t sure what to do.

“Sorry,” Steve mumbled, staring at his shoulder.

Wes shrugged, shaking his head in silent forgiveness. He wasn’t sure if he could get his mouth to work again. His tongue seemed to be knotted, ungracefully hindering his already lacking conversational skills.

Damn it.

Petrovski stepped closer, kneading the bruised muscles. This seemed like less of an apology, though it wasn’t hostile. There was no way it could be mistaken as a proactive movement (not of violence, at least), seemed even less so when he brought his other hand up slowly.

Was he…? Was this-?

It was almost like an out of body experience, having Petrovski trace the side of Wes’ face like he had done that one time, back then, when he had kissed him and-

Shit, his feet weren’t working, what was he supposed to do? Yeah, he could admit Petrovski was a great kisser, but Wes had a girlfriend and he wasn’t gay and leading Petrovski to think that he was wouldn’t end well for anyone. Wes was probably past the point of no return anyway, because Steve most likely wouldn’t take “Sorry I kissed you, big misunderstanding, hope you don’t mind” too well, and he definitely wouldn’t take to heart Wes’ promise to keep quiet about it, and- Look, he really was a good kisser, even if he was a guy, and Wes was a guy, but let’s face it, he had sucked face with Nick enough times for his libido to get past that little hurtle with flying colors.

What should he do? Think, damnit, there had to be options. Options other than panicking.

What should he do?

This wasn’t bad, but Wes wasn’t a whore, but maybe he should be one because then he wouldn’t get his face smashed in and Gina liked it when he made out with guys anyway, so why not just invite Steve to a threesome and everyone could get out healthy and happy and Wes’ mind wouldn’t implode on itself from lightspeed nerve influx.

Did he even not-want to kiss Petrovski? Because if Wes really didn’t, he would have put up a bigger fight by now, but it was Petrovski, and-

“Figures.” a voice called from the direction of the door, grinding Wes’ train of thought to a screeching halt. “I knew you had to get your new squeeze from somewhere. Why else would you dump Nick like a pile of rotting garbage?”

Wes paled and held still, as though that would render him invisible to the naked eye.

Oh no.

He didn’t even have a more creative way to express his despair, just-

Oh no. Oh fricking god no. Not her, not with him, not now-

But Annelea was never one to be deterred, not by Wes, not by Nick, and certainly not by the likes of Petrovski. She entered the hallowed ground of the dim classroom with a confident swagger that could only be portrayed by someone who had completely owned up to who they were as a person. Someone who had never lost a fight, and never intended to.

She watched them carefully, eyes narrowing as though there was anything else she could discern from their compromising position. Wes almost wanted to ask her if this was a ‘women’s intuition’ moment, but it seemed like the distinctly wrong time to be curious.

Fate of his poor, insignificant life at risk, and all that. If she didn’t kill him, Steve would.

Annelea shut the door behind her and reclined against it, a cocky smile in place like she held the secrets of the universe. She gave off the feeling of a grand master inspecting two unsuspecting pupils.

It was their move, Wes realized, and she was waiting. Allowing the anticipation to build.

Wes hadn’t been shoved away, as he would have expected in this predicament. It wasn’t like Petrovski was struck dumb or anything, the other teen was surprised, but…he played to win too.

Damn, stuck in a room with two alpha personalities. This would end swimmingly.

Steve lowered his hand away from Wes’ face but kept the other where it was on Wes’ shoulder, refusing to back away. He didn’t own up to what his previous intentions had been, in what Wes assumed was an effort to show that he didn’t scare easy.

It was a big step, considering what Steve had done to Russel. This had to be far worse for Petrovski than it could ever possibly be for Wes. Wes had dealt with the evil of Annelea before, he knew what to expect.

The hand that gripped his shoulder was shaking, slight and almost imperceptible, but there.

Hell, he was such an asshole for dragging Steve into this (never expected to have that thought). Wes should have just paid his debt and gotten Annelea off of his back, even if she hadn’t earned it.

Steve cleared his throat, getting back into character, as Micaela would say. Transforming from the Steve that could be gentle, to the Petrovski that dumped slurpies on people just because it was Tuesday.

The bigger teen cocked his head to the side, casual, and glared at Annelea. “What the hell are you talking about?”

It was pretty intimidating, considering how they’d been caught, but it was all for nothing. Annelea didn’t pay the taller jock any attention, she just continued as though she had never stopped talking.

“Oh,” she whispered innocently, tapping the side of her chin, attention on Wes. “That’s right. He dumped you. So…” She trailed off, eyeing Petrovski with evilest, most self-satisfied grin ever conceived. “He your rebound?”

Steve tensed, his grip tightening again. Wes’ mind raced to try and put up a reasonable defense before Petrovski decided that Wes’ freak-out in the locker room was fallout from a bad break-up. That Wes had used him - though he hadn’t known, couldn’t that be an excuse? Or hey, how about the fact that he had never dated Nick?

But before he could do that, Wes needed to satisfy Annelea and keep Petrovski on his good side.

Wes was really missing gentle-giant Steve, because at least that guy made him feel safe. It seemed ridiculous, but it was true-

“We weren’t dating.”

Woah, his mouth decided to step up to the plate, actually putting up a strong argument while his head was busy running in circles. Good mouth, you can have a cookie this time.

Or maybe soup, it was a healthier choice.

Annelea raised a dubious eyebrow, clearly unimpressed with his progress. “You were willing to have sex with him.”

The hand on his shoulder tightened some more, leaving definite bruising, but Wes kept his eyes on Annelea. “Frottage.” It was an important distinction. “So he would leave me alone.”

It was all in the details.

The building pressure on his arm immediately subsided. It was a relief, definitely, some of the tension easing out of Wes’ chest with such severity that it took him by surprise. Before he could analyze that anomaly further, Steve leaned into Wes’ line of vision, half-hiding looks of concern. Like he wanted to be worried but just couldn’t show it.

“Is Nick bothering you?” he asked, throwing occasional angry glares at Annelea to establish that he was still the alpha male.

For the most part, she just looked amused. Awfully tolerant of her.

Wes wanted to answer the question, but he found that his tongue had opted to be uncooperative. He wasn’t sure what to say, so Wes shook his head slowly, taken aback by the sudden change into nice-Steve and trying not to be overwhelmed by the fact that nice-Steve was…kind of nice.

Focus Chang.

This was not the time to be sidetracked.

Gagging noises came from the direction of the door, pulling Wes’ focus off of the complexity that was Steve Petrovski.

Annelea rolled her eyes at them, clearly having found that this conversation no longer held anything of interest to her. “Do what you want Changster.” She paused with her hand on the doorknob, giving Petrovski an appraising look. “Your over-gooey love is too disgusting to talk about anyway,” she declared, and immediately left, leaving the two jocks standing in numb surprise.

That was as close to a “Your secret’s safe with me” as they were ever going to get, Wes assumed.

Definitely…generous of her.

“She won’t tell anyone,” Wes explained, spelling it out for Petrovski’s peace of mind.

Steve blinked, jolted out of a thought process that was probably as befuddled as Wes’ had been, and..

And once more, Wes found himself the focus of those damn hazel eyes again.

Great, at some point he had noted what color Steve’s eyes were. What the hell was wrong with him?

Thankfully, his train of thought was interrupted by Petrovski, the taller jock going back to rubbing the sore spot on Wes’ shoulder.

“You and Nick?” he asked, tilting his head to the side casually.

Wes flushed, trying not to fidget again, and looked at the nice, non-judgmental, floor. “It’s a long story.”

A story that Steve wouldn’t have time for, because even a guy as dumb as Cooke would have realized that Wes was magnet for trouble and calamity by now. Smart, safe, but not worth the effort.

And, you know, all that emotional baggage and stuff most high school seniors shouldn’t be carrying out. There was that he got to deal with too.

So they’d say their awkward goodbyes, or maybe reschedule or call a time out or something. Maybe take a vow of secrecy, or maybe Steve would actually punch him, or…

When Wes looked back up, Steve was just studying him carefully, more open and relaxed than Wes had ever seen him before.

He guessed that was what happened when you finally got to own up to everything you were.

Oh, hey, life lessons. Cool.

“Tell it to me,” Steve offered. His eyes were wide, earnest, expression loose like he genuinely wanting to know.

For the life of him, Wes couldn’t find a way to deny his request.


“…and now I’m pretty sure he’s trying to go after Mrs. Thompson, which makes sense because it’s a terrible idea, and that’s sort of Nick’s standard and…Yeah, that’s about it.”

Wes neglected to mention the “Except that time I kissed you” part of this tale, because Steve could see that had yet to wrap up.

A short moment of silence followed the winding conclusion of Wes’ story. It was enough to be fishy, and with a sigh, Wes stopped looking at the ceiling and turned towards Petrovski.

He was greeted with a look of innocent confusion. Sort of like the ones Seth constantly seemed to sport except…uh…cuter.

That wasn’t an opinion, Wes was pretty sure that would be a majority consensus.

But back to the matter at hand.

Steve stared at him, head tilted (or as much as it could be tilted as they were lying on the ground), eyebrows scrunched in thought.

“Your life’s a lot more screwed up than I thought it would be.”

Wes smiled; stupid, he knew, but it felt really nice to have someone else validate that fact.

“I know,” he exclaimed, tapping his fingers against the floor.

The nervous energy that had been plaguing him was finally relieved with what he thought might be…contentment. Comfort, happiness, zero stress. Such a foreign but wonderful mistress.

He had missed her.

If someone had told Wes this morning that he would end up recounting his entire experience with Nick to Petrovski of all people, Wes would have called them a crazy person. Clearly, he would never in a million years be lying side-by-side in the abandoned costume room behind the auditorium with Petrovski. Clearly, there was no way that exchange could occur with the exemption of physical harm. And, if it did occur without physical harm, there was no possibility of Wes experiencing some form of closure.

After proclaiming insanity at their proposal, Wes would have had the propositioner carted off to the loony bin to keep the rest of society safe from their delusions, because it just couldn’t happen.

But here they were, and here he was, and everything was okay, and for once in a really long time Wes felt really, genuinely happy.

And you know what? He didn’t care how he had gotten here, he really didn’t. Wes was just going to live in the moment and enjoy it for all it was worth.

There was a small tap on the side of his arm, pulling him from his thoughts. When Wes looked back over, Petrovski had traded in his look of befuddlement for one of curiosity.

“And you kissed me because…?”

Wes shrugged bashfully, feeling a sudden urge of guilt. “I thought you would just punch me in the face or something. If you did that, I could have blackmailed you into keeping quiet about the pamphlet.”

It sounded so much worse out loud, far worse than it had been in his head.

It wouldn’t be unjustified for an explosion to follow. For Steve to shout things like ‘How dare you?!’ and ‘Who do you think you are?!’ and ’I’ll show you blackmail!’.

That was a bed of his own making, and Wes knew it all too well. Even if he hadn’t known Steve was secretly scared or decent, there was a line. A line which Wes had not respected.

He may not deserve a lot of things, but this ire – this, he deserved.

The teen waited, but when his ears were met with no such accusations, Wes risked a glance in Steve’s direction.

Instead of the outrage or indignation Wes had expected to see, Steve just looked…guilty.

The bigger jock swallowed, looking back at the ceiling. “I suppose that’s fair enough.”

Wes raced to think of what to say, the guilt intensifying. Because it shouldn’t have been a fair enough assumption, or it could have, before, but this new-Steve…Well, this new-Steve was his friend. And Wes took care of his friends. He didn’t want them to feel bad for past mistakes (even big ones), and he sure as hell didn’t want to be the cause of any of their sorrows.

Maybe Wes was a softy, he could admit that. He had a hard time hating people. Yeah, exasperation and annoyance he could muster, but at the end of the day, he couldn’t really hold a grudge unless he was given constant motivation to do so.

Since Petrovski was no longer playing the “bad guy”, there wasn’t any point in treating him as such.

Wes put a comforting hand on Steve’s shoulder, emulating what the other teen had done for him earlier.

“No,” he murmured, once he had the other teen’s attention. “It wasn’t.”

Wes had a lot of experience being “the quiet guy”. He had spent a majority of the first two years of high school staying off everyone’s radar by just keeping to himself. By never vocalizing.

That didn’t mean, however, that he didn’t watch.

Being a silent observer had made him adept at reading body language, at seeing the things people didn’t say but expressed so very loudly. It was clear that Steve knew it too, that he had enough experience from only showing select portions of himself to read what other people were hiding.

Strange, how Wes had never noticed it before, but it allowed them their own silent communication. Words they wouldn’t have to express.

It’s okay, Wes said. Everyone makes mistakes.

And in return, from Petrovski, Thank you.

Wes let go of Steve’s arm before the moment could turn awkward, both teens staring back at the ceiling. There was a silent agreement to move the conversation forward, abandoning guilt and apologies behind them. It was done.

“So,” Wes began, clearing his throat. “What do you think?”

Aside from, “Damn, you guys are crazy.”

Wes sort of already knew that.

“Well…” Steve trailed off thoughtfully. “I’m pretty sure you’re bi.”

And…

Nope, Wes couldn’t really argue with him. He had enjoyed making out Steve too much for him to deny it.

That should probably be a much bigger deal, but for Wes, it was more like a missing piece. Maybe Annelea had been on to something when she tried to hook him up with Nick (Nick, who had only agreed to the plan to win back his girlfriend, Nick, who had only agreed to friends-with-benefits because of his girlfriend). Maybe she had seen something Wes hadn’t.

He couldn’t disagree with it though, the label felt right. He enjoyed the company of both males and females; there was nothing wrong about that.

“Alright,” Wes conceded, remarkably composed upon discovering such a life-changing thing.

Wes had already subconsciously acknowledged it; he had just never really… addressed it.

Gina probably knew though. There were these looks she kept throwing at him, stuff he had dismissed as jokes whenever she had brought it up- at the time they had been jokes…

Steve wasn’t thrown by his complacency, if anything he looked a little envious. “I also think that you like Nick.” He paused, looking at Wes meaningfully. “Like, a lot.”

Well, clearly someone hadn’t been listening to Wes’ stories very well. The teen expressed this with the most disbelieving, surprised look he could muster because clearly, clearly Wes didn’t- He wasn’t-

Nope, he just couldn’t complete that thought. He didn’t want to.

Petrovski met his overdramatic facial expressions with a look of patience. “No one else gets to you as much as he does.”

Wes refrained from making his “no shit” face and instead tried to explain just how wrong Steve was.

“Because he treated me like crap.”

Which was normally why people got mad at other people.

The patient look intensified.

Wes sort of wanted to hit it.

Steve moved on. “And I used to slushy you every Wednesday, but you don’t yell at me.”

Because he usually had burly, over-muscled backup (along with his burly, over-muscled self) and it didn’t really bother Wes all that much.

But those were just details; Wes stuck to the matter at hand.

“You weren’t my friend,” he greatly emphasized ’weren’t’. “Nick is; he’s supposed to treat me nice.”

Petrovski gave him a look of appreciation for his reassurance and moved on, wanting to stay on topic. “But he didn’t.”

“Exactly!” Wes exclaimed, starting to sit up.

He couldn’t handle this lying down, it was too…un-relaxing. Ruining that good feeling from earlier.

Steve quickly followed him, resting his hands on his knees as he quietly murmured, “Maybe that says something for him.”

Wes stilled, wanting to laugh. Wanting to…he didn’t even know, because it was absurd, and wrong, just beyond wrong.

He shared that much with Petrovski. “You’re wrong, you’re just…wrong.”

When he looked back over Steve had his game face on, no longer willing to be the patient listener, and Wes sat back, nervous for the sudden transformation.

He didn’t know what would happen next.

“Really?” the other teen asked, leaning forward, still friendly but taking on a ‘now you listen here’ vibe. “Because you were willing to make out with him just to improve your relationship.”

Wes cringed, wanting to explain himself because it wasn’t like that, but Steve waved a silencing hand.

“Most people don’t do that. Most people would see that it wasn’t worth their time.”

Wes wanted to object, he really did, but it was true, and he still couldn’t figure out why he didn’t, because it wasn’t just for theater, it wasn’t-

Steve lowered his voice, no bullshit, no holding back. Like he knew it hurt, but it had to be said. “I don’t think it was a pride thing, I don’t think you did it for respect, I think you did it because you legitimately like him and the easiest way to handle that was to blame it on any and everything else.”

The words hung in the air awkwardly, landing a solid blow because…

It was true.

It wasn’t just a hypothesis or a maybe, it was life experience, something Petrovski had probably never admitted but wanted Wes to learn from, and he was shocked and it hurt because…

Wes liked Nick.

And it wasn’t just that he liked a guy, it was just…Nick.

Nick, of all the freaking…he was an idiot! Sure, he had his moments were he actually managed to be a decent enough human being, but then he would ruin those redeeming qualities the next second by trying to spike the punch bowl or trying to steal an ATM or trying to hit on a teacher.

Nick was unapologetically stupid, completely disregarded common sense, had questionable priorities, was barely motivated-

But he was also funny and loyal (past transgressions aside), and willing to do the right thing. He was supportive of his friends, tried his damndest even when the odds weren’t in his favor, and had been confident enough that when he approached Wes and Seth two years ago, they had actually been excited by the prospect of theater.

Nick, as much as Wes would like to deny it, was the guy who was mostly responsible for making him who he was today.

Wes rubbed the side of his head, thrown by the sudden epiphany, but then was struck with another thought.

Or maybe that was the wrong word for it, more like a gut feeling, an unaddressed fact, the lurking reason as to why-

Because Nick didn’t care about him. At all.

Not like…not that way. And he probably never would. Whatever voodoo magic that had worked itself between the blond and Annelea just did not exist for Wes, and real feelings, with Nick, would never be there.

That was what hurt the most. That was what made Wes’s head spin. Not being bi, or acknowledging Nick, just…

It was easy to be mad at Nick for being thoughtless or being rude or being an inconsiderate jerk because those reasons were universally justified. Everyone could see it made sense. No one could argue Wes’ right to be angry, because it was supported. He had reasons; everyone could see them, plain and undeniable. But with this…with what Wes had really been feeling…

He was mad, because deep down he had already accepted the fact that Nick just didn’t care.

And that hurt.

So Wes lashed out, comically, over-zealously, without any real guide, because at least he was getting the emotions out. They weren’t bundled up anymore, an ever-pressing weight against his chest.

Though it never really helped, at the end of the day.

And even when he actually got what he wanted, he lost it in almost an instant.

Because in Nick’s world, Wes was just a pretty set piece. Nice to look at, but easily exchangeable.

And Wes had thought his life was pretty drama-free.

How wrong he had been.

He must have started to look pretty shaken, because there was a hand on his arm, gently pulling him back to the land of the living, and Petrovski’s face hovered into view soon after.

“Are you alrig-?”

“Petrovski!”

The other jock didn’t get a chance to finish as a new voice interrupted, loud and urgent.

Immediately, they were both on edge, even though Wes didn’t really need to be.

Cooke was his friend, after all.

Wes wasn’t sure how the blond found them, but his fellow drama-clubber had his defensive face on, clearly assuming from Wes’ disposition that Steve was up to no good.

Wes tried to intervene before things got out of hand.

“It’s fine,” he hurriedly assured, addressing both Cooke’s immediate concern and Steve’s previous. He held up a calming hand, hoping that Cooke hadn’t come looking for a fight.

It didn’t seem to help much.

“It’s not fine,” Cooke spat out, angry, protective even. The blond glared at Petrovski, who had quickly risen from the floor. “What the hell did he do?”

As he moved to stand between them, Wes grabbed Cooke’s shoulder, a poor attempt at trying to soothe him.

This was not going well.

Steve was starting to slip into his Petrovski mode, seemingly angry, but Wes could tell he was panicking. “I didn’t do-”

Wes cut him off, “Cooke, I’m fine. Look at me.” He gestured to his body, extending his arms and turning them for full visual access. “No damage.”

And that was a fact, jack.

Cooke still looked skeptical, and behind him Steve was hiding a look of hurt, anger with himself. Wes made a silent promise to talk to him about it later, but for now…

“I’m okay,” he said, staring the blond dead in the eye.

So Wes was not entirely okay, not by a long shot, but Cooke couldn’t do anything about it so there wasn’t any point bemoaning that fact.

Just like that, Cooke relaxed, hackles descended as he rocked back on his heels, muttering, “Oh.”

He frowned, and then blinked in surprise, as though finally becoming aware of their surroundings. “Why are you guys-?”

Steve tensed, but Wes easily took over and smoothed out the wrinkles. It was the least we could do.

“We talk, sometimes,” he explained.

When Cooke gave him an incredulous look, he just shrugged. Wes was an easy going guy. Forgiving. Cooke knew that.

He also knew that not everyone would be as accepting of new-Steve as Wes was, and the rest of the pieces fell together accordingly, making further conversation unnecessary.

At least, Wes hoped.

You could never really tell with Cooke.

Wes decided to be proactive and cut off any other questions with one of his own. “And you’re here because…?”

Cooke blinked, back from whatever daydream he had entered, and tilted his head bashfully. “It’s raining; I was going to borrow an umbrella.”

The uneasiness was from the fact that the area that normally held umbrellas was conspicuously empty. Mr. Powel must be trying out a new organization system or something.

There was some shuffling beside them, and then Petrovski was holding out an umbrella, bored look on his face to cover up his nerves.

Cooke wouldn’t pick up on it, but Wes could tell he was fearing rejection.

“Just take mine,” Steve muttered.

When Cooke continued to stare at him in confusion, Steve handed it over to Wes, who in turn delivered it to Cooke.

The blond stared at it blankly.

“Uh…thanks,” he finally replied.

Petrovski focused on zipping up his backpack. “Don’t mention it.”

In this case, he probably meant that.

They were done now, all of them, the quiet contemplation from earlier finished as they slowly trudged out the door, each occupied with their own thoughts. Cooke was probably celebrating his umbrella but pondering the meaning behind it. Petrovski was probably thrown by how freaking weird Wes’s life was and Wes…

He needed to talk to someone. He needed…

Gina.

He needed to talk to Gina. She would be able to help him.

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