It's fourteen days after his eighteenth birthday that he's released and Cook practically dances out. Wants to fucking click his heels like Mary bloody Poppins and jump around. He hears the insults from the other wankers in there - only holds back from giving them the finger because of the cuffs - but laughs it off, cause fuck it; he's going home.
Well, he's going Naomi's.
Freddie's there, when he swaggers outside into the Bristol limelight, and JJ - with some random chick, pretty fit, and a baby; since when? - and they all look well uncomfortable. JJ beams happily, not really caring when Cook ruffles his hair; not caring when he's pulled flush against the other two in some sort of male hug.
"I've fucking missed you," he says into Freddie's shoulder. "Both of you."
"Well Bristol did lose some of it's character these past few months," JJ tells him with a laugh and Cook watches as he takes the blonde's hand and laces their fingers. Knows he's missed something pretty huge for JJ to have a girlfriend and a fucking kid. "Crime rate certainly dropped."
"Course it has Jay," he scans the bird up and down before holding out his hand. "I'm Cook."
"Lara," the girl says, casually taking Cooks hand and shaking it once before letting go.
"Come on," Freddie pipes up, handing him a fag from the two he's just lit simultaneously. "Should get you to Naomi's, mate."
Cook practically clicks his heels three flaming times.
When Freddie drops him off all he says is "rather you," and skates off like the twat he really is.
It doesn't take that long to notice the changes.
Naomi is proper different now, still shaggable as ever, but different. She's kinda let herself go even more, if that was possible, and mopes around the house a fair bit; locking herself away and apparently studying everything that has ever been written about politics.
It's well boring but she does fuck all else.
When he'd first arrived she had greeted him with a hug whilst Emily had stood in the background; fag in hand. The latter proceeded to give him a quick nod of the head and then told them she was going out - which was well weird because where the pissing hell would Ems go without Naomi? - She'd smiled at him when she walked past them, though, and ran her hand down his arm; just blanked Naoms.
Then she'd just gone.
"The fuck is up with Emilio?" He'd asked as they ate straight from the pizza box.
"Remember the girl who died, Cook?"
He hadn't really wanted to answer that question, been asked it loads of times before, so he'd just nodded along. No point is re-visiting the past or whatever bollocks the prison shrink had suggested. Why should they? It was well and truly in the past; couldn't be changed. Man up and move on, right?
Naomi took a breath and he'd picked at the cheese on the pizza; wrapped it around his finger and swung it up into his mouth. His mum used to hate it. He thought it was well funny.
Nonchalance: the way forward.
"I fucked her behind Emily's back."
(They don't talk much at tea time now.)
She's staring out the window when Cook wanders in; wearing grey joggers and nothing else. He scratches the side of his face - the dried on sweat and grime irritating the skin - and stands next to her at the sink.
"Babe, what the fuck are you looking at?"
She turns to him, glances once over his freshly-woken state and then turns back to the window. He moves away, bored with her, flicks the kettle on; the urge for a beer having to be replaced.
He'd hardly even drank the night before and it was well awkward waking up without a hangover or some sort of comedown.
Even more awkward that he remembers the face of the girl he'd shagged mercilessly against the wall.
(Her eyes were just the wrong shade of blue.)
"Dunno," he answers, leveling a spoon out and dropping it into a cracked cup.
"Emily didn't come home last night."
Sure, he was a changed man but it was far too fucking early for all this bloody drama so he focuses on making his coffee. The Naomi he once knew would have fucking sorted this by now, either left Emily or fought for her.
At least he thinks so.
He didn't really pay much attention to anything more than Effy or Freddie last year. He rolls his eyes and pours the water into the mug, watching the clear liquid turn black. He wasn't going to feel sorry for her when she was doing fuck all about it.
She murmurs "Maybe this time she won't come home," turns to him and stares blankly for a moment, so blank that he actually feels like he's done something wrong. Squirms and realises that he's the one who needs to help someone.
But this Naomi was too morbid and he wasn't sure how to handle it.
She walks out and it doesn't take long for the smell of weed to fill his nostrils.
Effy's gone proper psycho and he jumps at the chance to get out for a bit.
Even if it is to see his wack-job of an ex living in some mental home.
He thought it'd be well good living with those two; figured if he couldn't watch them go at it then he could listen to them. But the most action either Emily or Naomi - well Naomi at least. He's sure he's heard Em talking to some girl on the phone at night; Mandy or something - have gotten is ghosting past each other in the kitchen and Naomi trying not to cry at something Emily said.
He doesn't know when the dynamics of their relationship changed, doesn't know why they put up with it, put up with the heartache.
Freddie was the same, he put up with Effy and her behaviour for ages apparently; before she'd been referred to some crazy clinic after taking a fucking knife to her wrists. She was sane enough to dump his ass though. Cook had laughed for a good ten minutes when Freddie turned up at Naomi's looking all heartbroken and shit.
The knobhead had chased her for so long, let their friendship tatter and fall, that when he'd gotten her he had sent her round the twist.
Karma for letting your best mate's mum suck your dick.
He'd gotten used to Effy and Freddie being an item - gotten used to Effy not loving him - and yeah it had stung, well actually it had sent him bloody mental; but he could get over them; over her. Can't see why Emily and Naomi can't do the same fucking thing.
When Effy smiles at him, he finds he's disappointed that his heart doesn't turn slowly anymore.
She introduces him as her friend.
"Gonna forgive her anytime soon, Emilio?"
They're fighting together on Halo, some game Freddie had brought round earlier, and they're actually kicking ass. He doesn't know what the fuck he's doing, just shooting wankers when they come at him; but it's fun and it's the most he's heard Emily laugh since he's been let out.
"She loves you, you know?" he tells her when she doesn't reply. "She told me she's loved you since she was twelve."
Emily takes three freaky aliens out with clean head-shots before dropping the remote and leaving the room.
He comes in one night, after having a few drinks and spliffs in Freddie's shed - getting properly wankered while remembering the old times; all those girls, all those memories - and finds all the lights off. He wanders into the living room, see's Naomi curled into herself on the couch. Shakes his head at the sight of his tiny friend.
He covers her with a blanket, kisses her forehead and whispers, "You don't deserve this."
Emily and Naomi have the mother of all rows the next morning.
Cook feels like he's five years old again, pretending that his bedroom is soundproof; pretending he can't really hear what his dad his calling his mum.
It's on Freddie's eighteenth that they start making moves forward.
They're playing truth or dare and they're all fucking high as kites and it's ace to feel like everything is back to normal again. Katie is busy slagging him off - he maintains that her tits do look good in that top - as she sits on the couch behind her sister. Effy is laughing along, finally released and looking healthier.
"Naoms, truth or dare?" Cook asks, looking at Emily instead. She looks vaguely interested in what's happening but it's probably the LSD.
"Might as well choose dare since she can't tell the truth," Emily spits, grabbing a bottle of vodka from Katie's hands and taking an impressive swig of it. She doesn't even wince.
"Emily," Katie warns from her place next to Effy. Cook is surprised they can even sit next to each other let alone be in the same room. Figures Katie probably thinks it's safe; Effy won't try and kill her when people are around.
"What? She can't," Emily shifts in place and holds Naomi's gaze steady. "You lied about loving me all these years - since you were twelve right? - you lied about being faithful to me, you lied about travelling around Mexico. The fuck else have you been lying about, Nae?"
The shed goes silent and JJ stutters out that he needs to use to bathroom just as Naomi whimpers out a pathetic, "Nothing."
"Actually, yeah, I have a question," Emily sways as she stands up, then promptly falls onto Katie's lap. "Would you have told me that you'd shagged that, shagged her if I hadn't of found the pictures? You lied to me on that football field, all these months; you just lie Naomi."
Everyone looks up at that, despite being slurred, despite her sound weak and shaky, it's a valid question. Naomi looks like she's about to toss.
"Emily, I - What else can I tell you? You already know everything," she's near tears. Emily looks like she wants to roll her eyes but instead, her bottom lip trembles and she turns to Effy. Steals her cigarette.
Panda is the one who sets it all in motion. Asks Thomas, "When did Ems and Naomi split up?"
Cook watches them realise how distant they really are.
"When did she tell you she's loved me since she was twelve?" Emily asks randomly, two days after the fiasco.
"Dunno, couple of weeks ago."
"Oh," she looks down and takes a drag from their shared spliff. Lets it linger in her lungs. "Think she was telling the truth?"
"Probably," Cook looks at her and frowns. Doesn't say anything for long minutes then, "If you don't want to be with her, yeah, just break up with her."
"She hurt me, Cook."
"So fucking what, Em? She did something that probably lasted half hour tops, she's felt shit about it for, God - like ten months or something and you're kissing every available lass this side of London. She kissed one other girl, Em. One. Fucked one other girl. It happened, it's not gonna change you know?"
"Fuck off, you don't know..."
"Effy," he says cutting her off. "Effy fucking broke me, okay? I know what it's like. But at least I wanted to fix it one way or another. You're sitting here and you're making it worse for the both of you, babe."
Long moments pass - each thinking entirely different things about what's been said - before, "I don't think I can forgive her."
He briefly wonders if Effy would have given a shit if he'd fucked some random when they were together.
"Fucking - just leave her then, yeah?."
They fight again, about him, about how he knows so much.
A door slams, a teacup shatters; there's crying.
Cook curls into himself and pretends he can't hear it.
He stays at Freddie's over the weekend.
He sits outside their door one night, bottle of Stella in his hand and a fag in the other.
Would you reconsider going there if I asked you to?
Why would you?
You met her there.
He cringes, waits for the argument to start again, waits for the eruption of trust.
I said I'd do anything.
You'd go somewhere else? Where?
The fuck? Nae, what are those?
Tickets. Come with me, Ems.
There's some random shuffling, a muffled cry and Cook stands up.
A holiday won't fix us overnight, Nae, you know that, right? You know.
I just don't want to argue anymore.
(Naomi doesn't sleep downstairs that night.)
They're back to being all shy around each other, glances and tentative hand holding, and Cook knows all they really want to do is shag like fucking bunnies 'til they can't move. Cook knows he wants them to shag like bunnies.
They just won't.
And the tension is driving him to honestly wank everynight - cause every girl he pulls resembles Effy and the past and, fuck, he's not like that anymore. Can't be like that. - and it's been going on for like, 3 weeks.
His elbow is starting to hurt.
So he takes it upon himself to host a party at Naomi's, everyone is invited; absoloutely everyone and their Aunt Fanny. Even invites the kid he nearly fucking killed.
(He won't turn up.)
He's going to get them so hammered they won't be able to keep their hands off of each other and that way, apart from getting front row seats - he'll finally live in a home.
Where people like, love each other.
(He rolls his eyes at his fucking feminine side, he isn't bloody JJ for crying out loud, takes a mouthful of vodka and swaggers over to Katie Fitch. She calls him repulsive, eyes up some footballer whose only just walked in.)
He prides himself on having proper fit mates.
It's a good party.
A week later and he's downstairs.
Listening to them having sex isn't all that appealing when all he wants to do is sleep.
Gina Campell comes home with that politics teacher - what's his name? He'd been too busy nailing Effy on that day - and smiles at them. She's well tanned, been travelling all around bloody Europe or somewhere. Cook dosen't really think doing that was all that Eco-Friendly, what with planes and shit, but he's hardly going to argue with the woman who said he can live in her house.
Not yet anyway.
Cause if she's anything like Naomi she'll get well worked up.
"I'm Cook," he greets with a smile.
"So I've heard," Gina replies and looks slowly at Naomi. Raises her eyebrows. "I also hear you're staying here now?"
"Oh shit, more of them." That teacher mumbles off to the side, Cook watches him go into the kitchen with a slight frown. Wonders why if he hates kids so much does he work with them?
"Don't worry Gina. I'm well good company," he holds his arms out to the side. "And house trained."
"I'm sure we'll get to know each other better when Naomi and Emily head off to India, won't we?" She pats his cheek. "You do need a good wash though, son."
Cooks eyes widen.
They wave them off at the terminal, Emily's fucking skipping through the airport. It makes Katie huff and puff, roll her eyes and shake her head.
Pissed off Katie is well shaggable.
Naomi hugs him briefly, whispers "behave," into his ear and lets go. Kisses his cheek once.
"Go, have some sex on the beach for me yeah? If you want, when you come back you can even show me how you did it."
"Fuck you," Naomi blushes, is nearly drowned out by Katie's over-dramatic retching and Panda's curious questions.
It's well good having the group back.
Like, they can start again or something. Make something better for themselves.
"Fuck you right back," he grins, watches them leave. They hold hands loosely, Emily's laughing at something Naomi said; turns to cook and gives him the finger. He laughs at that, loud; with his head tilted back.
He fucking loves watching girls walk away.