Disclaimer: I don't own Glee.
A/N: This is the FIRST story in the Nick-Verse. I know I posted them out of order, but that's mostly because I wasn't planning on there actually being a Nick-Verse. Anyways, this will end up being a four-parter, so still three parts to go! Enjoy!
Reviews are like crack to me. :-D
Nick lounged on his bed, headphones in and socked feet tapping mindlessly against the bedposts at the end of his mattress. He smoothed a hand down his Dalton hoodie, shoving the crumbs leftover from his lunch to the floor. He'd sweep them up later. It was a little after one and while he'd normally be spending time in the commons with his friends, he'd decided to hang out in his room and wait for his new roommate. He'd been without one after his last roommate's family had moved to Germany. It had been nice having the spacious double to himself and had been looking forward to the privacy for the rest of the semester.
Then he'd gotten the email from the administration informing him that there was a mid-semester transfer coming in and that he'd been assigned to room with him. There were only two reasons mid-semester transfers were allowed, this kid was either related to one of the school's boosters, or he'd been bullied. Nick was kind of hoping it was the latter, as bad as that sounded, but only because his family didn't have that much money and he'd been lucky to be offered a full-ride musical scholarship. He didn't want to feel awkward in his own room.
So there he was, waiting for this new kid to show up. He turned the volume up on his iPod and closed his eyes, letting the beat of the bass drown out his thoughts. He doesn't know how long he stays that way, but it's long enough to miss the door opening and the small, brown haired boy take stock of both him and the room. He misses the appreciative glance at the polished wood floors and the critical eyes scanning the wall behind his bed, cataloguing every one of his posters.
He also misses the look the boy gives him as he walks across the floor to stand before him. He doesn't hear the polite "Excuse me," but he does feel it when the kid taps him on the leg.
He doesn't miss the surprised look on the newcomer's face as he bolts upright so fast that he actually manages to fall off his bed. He also doesn't miss the floor. He let's out a loud grunt as the air is forced from his lungs and looks up into the face of who he is assuming is his new roommate.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you but I didn't know how else to get your attention. Are you okay? Do I need to get the nurse or some ice?" The kid's babbling, but stops and cocks his head to the side as Nick just lays there. "Are you going to get up?"
"Sure," he wheezes. "As soon as I can breathe."
His roommate winces before sticking his hand out and offering some help up. He takes the hand and gingerly climbs to his feet, doubling over a little and holding onto his ribs as he gets his feet under him. New kid must notice, because he's looking worried again, and holding out both hands now in case Nick falls.
"Are your ribs okay? They aren't broken are they?" Nick shakes his head and sits on his bed, finally able to take in the boy in front of him. First thing he notices, the kid's into fashion. He takes in the knee-high boots and way too-tight jeans and wonders how he's going to handle wearing a uniform all day. Second thing he notices, the DG sunglasses perched delicately atop the boys hair.
"Are those real Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses?" he asks, because hey, you never know, some of those knockoffs are pretty believable.
The other boy reaches a hand up and plucks the glasses off his head, looking down at them fondly before replying. "Yeah. I had to save my allowance for almost a year to get them. I'm Kurt, by the way. Kurt Hummel." He's still standing in front of Nick's bed, so Nick leans forward a little to grasp the hand that Kurt offers in greeting.
"Nick Landry. Nice to meet you. So," he says, leaning against his pillows. "Why'd you transfer?" And oh, was that the wrong thing to say. Kurt's fidgeting, looking anywhere but at Nick and then he's turning, grabbing one of the boxes he left by the door and putting it on the bed opposite Nick's own.
"Oh. Um. I just... I needed someplace new, you know?" So, bullied then. He's about to pry some more, but is interrupted by the arrival of another teen entering the room, carrying a couple more boxes. Kid's freaking huge, and what the hell? He is only getting one roommate, right?
"Geez, Kurt. What did you put in these?" Finn puts the boxes down, carefully Nick notices, and turns to look at Kurt, who is staring back at him, arms crossed, with what can only be described as a bitch face.
"If they were so heavy, why'd you carry two?" he asks, and the boy now known as Gigantor looks confused.
"Dude, less trips to the car."
Kurt rolls his eyes but smiles at Gigantor, who pats him on the shoulder and turns to leave, but stops when he sees Nick.
"Oh, hey. Sorry, I didn't see you before. My names Finn." He too holds out a hand for Nick to shake.
"Shame. I had taken to calling you Gigantor in my head. I'm Nick."
Surprisingly, Finn isn't offended, just laughs. "It's better than what most people call me."
"Oh? And what's that?" he asks.
"You're a liar. That's much cooler than Gigantor. So how do you know Kurt?"
"He's my step-brother," Kurt says, coming to stand beside Finn. "For what? About a week now?" Finn nods, but says, "Yeah, but now Kurt's living here, so our brotherly bonding stuff will have to wait for weekends. No, hey, Kurt wipe that look off your face," and indeed Kurt does look distressed now. "You know I understand why you're here. I mean, I wish you'd have stayed at McKinley, but dude, I get it."
Yeah, because that's not confusing, but now Kurt's smiling, and Nick guesses he would understand what that jumbled mess was supposed to mean.
"Thanks, Finn," he says, eyes slightly misty. "But don't call me dude."
"Sorry," Finn says, sheepishly. "Anyway, I'm gonna go get another box. Your dad should be up soon." He's just about out the door before Kurt catches him, eyes wide and worried.
"Finn, make sure he's not carrying anything heavy up the stairs. He's not supposed to do anything strenuous. Please?" Finn starts to answer, but a voice outside the door stops him, and he smiles smugly down at Kurt.
"Calm down, Kiddo. I'm fine." But Kurt's having none of it, immediately taking the box out of the man's hands and ushering him inside, informing him that he can stay up here and help unpack. Nick observes the two together, not quite believing that they're actually related, but then he sees the way they both stand tall, heads high and shoulders broad. They way the corners of their eyes crinkle when they smile at one another and he realizes that a lot of Kurt's mannerisms come from his father. Kurt fixes his hair in the same way his Father fixes his cap. They both smooth the wrinkles out of Kurt's sheets in broad strokes of their hands.
Nick watches them interact for a few minutes, and though he doesn't even know them, he can tell they adore one another. He slowly gets off his bed, feeling only a mild twinge in his ribs, which by now he's sure are bruised, and pads across the floor to Kurt's bed, drawing the attention of Kurt.
"Hey," he says. "You need any help unpacking? I'm Nick, by the way." The last is said to Kurt's dad, and he reaches out to shake the man's hand.
Burt and Kurt, heh. Nick chuckles to himself quietly and Kurt shoots him a look that says he knows exactly what thought just went through his head and expects to be called on it.
"If you're sure you aren't busy, help would be great. I haven't texted Blaine yet, or he'd probably be in here," is what he gets instead.
"Oh, you know Blaine? Wait. You're not..."
"Not what?" Burt interrupts, and he looks angry.
"Not that kid..." he continues, hesitant. "That kid who came to spy on us, are you?"
"Oh," Kurt says, and he looks surprised and... relieved? What did he think he was gonna say?
"Yeah. What did you think I was going to ask?"
Kurt's messing with some clothes he brought, folding them and then smoothing them out again, and Nick takes this as a nervous habit. Burt's lost the angry flush from his face, but he stands at Kurt's side with a hand on his shoulder, like a protective force.
"I thought... we thought...," he takes a deep breath and releases it before forcing the words out. "I thought you were going to ask if I was gay. Because I am. Gay. I hope that's not a problem." He still won't look at Nick, but Burt is staring straight at him, obviously waiting to see if he needs to get Kurt out of there.
"Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. That's definitely not a problem. If that were the case administration would never have placed you in here, because we have to fill out those questionnaires, you know?" He wants to comfort Kurt, who's looking slightly teary at the prospect of someone he just met being so okay with him, but Burt's still got his hand on Kurt's shoulder, and that man is scary, so Nick isn't taking any chances with him. Instead he smiles at him, and when Kurt smiles back he figures that's the end of that.
Finn comes back with the rest of the boxes after that, and after checking that Kurt's okay, Burt and Finn head out, but not after clinging to Kurt for a good half hour. Burt pulls the brim of his cap down low as he heads out the door, but Nick knows that Kurt saw the tears in his father's eyes by the way his own eyes go misty and he has to scrub at them to keep the water from falling down his cheeks.
They spend the next few hours setting up Kurt's side of the room. Kurt finally texts Blaine, and the boy shows up not long after that, immediately shedding his coat and settling in to help. They head down to the dining hall for dinner, and Nick leaves Kurt with Blaine, going off to sit with his friends. He spends dinner discussing his new roommate with the other boys at his table, and he's honestly surprised to say that he's looking forward to getting to know Kurt better. He expected to have some residual bitterness from losing his privacy, but after seeing Kurt interact with his family, he's not upset that Kurt's there. It's obvious he needs it.
Later that night Nick is once again sprawled out on his bed, one hand tucked behind his head and the other idly scrolling over the track pad of his laptop. He's got iTunes open, music playing softly so as not to disturb Kurt. He glances across the room at the boy, who has been sitting in front of a mirror applying something on his face for the past twenty minutes. Nick watches him for a bit, frowning in curiosity before speaking.
"What're you doing?"
Kurt jumps, fingernails slipping over his cheek at the sudden movement. He frowns, rubbing at the spot in annoyance. "Um. Moisturizing. Is it disturbing you? Because I can go..."
Nick sighs, interrupting him and holds out a hand to stop him from gathering the various bottles littering his bed. "No. You're fine, but I think it's time we had a talk." He shuts the laptop and swings his legs over the side of the bed before standing and shuffling to the middle of the room.
"Talk? Okay. What kind of talk?"
"Just the general roommate talk."
Kurt nods, fiddling with the bottles and causing the glass to clink as they bump against one another. "If that's what you want."
Nick points. "First of all, that has to stop."
Kurt looks up at him from where he's still seated on his own bed, confusion in his eyes. "Stop what? What did I do?"
"You can't just agree with everything I say. This is your room too and I want you to be comfortable in it. That isn't going to happen if you're always freaking out about what I want."
Kurt looks away, eyes traveling around the room, lingering on the pictures Nick has taped to the wall. "I just... this was your room first. I know you've got your routine and I don't want to get in the way. I already feel bad that you had to give up your privacy."
Nick scoffs. "Don't be. If I'm gonna be completely honest with you, which I am, and I hope you will be with me, then I gotta say that while privacy is nice, it gets really lonely after about the first week. I've gotten increasingly tired of listening to all the other guys talk about their weekly 'Rockband' nights while I'm in here just messing around with the drum set."
Kurt doesn't say anything, just kind of nods into his lap, which is apparently pretty damn interesting.
"Hey, what color is my hair?" Nick asks, because he has a point to make now.
Kurt's head snaps up, brow furrowed, "Brown. Why?"
"I was just wondering if you knew, since you won't, you know, look at me."
"Sorry. I guess I'm just... freaked out? I mean, you're used to boarding and being away from home. It's my first night in a strange bed, in a room with someone I don't know. I'm just... It isn't exactly an easy situation," he's frustrated, wiping ineffectively at his eyes and Nick knows this emotion. Kurt's homesick.
"Okay," he says, flopping down on Kurt's bed, causing to boy to let out something just short of a shriek and grab wildly at the suddenly flying bottles. "So we'll play a game."
"Yep. It's my patented 'Get-to-know-your-roommate' game. Every night, in between dinner and homework and... moisturizing," he pokes Kurt here, and is rewarded with an eye-roll. "We'll ask each other a couple questions, start off with simple things and gradually work our way towards the deeper things until we run out of questions to ask. Okay?"
Kurt's hesitant, but agrees, and Nick isn't sure he likes the scared look in the kid's eyes. "There are a few stipulations," he says.
"Mmhmm. First, you have to answer honestly." Okay, seriously? Kurt just flinched. "Which brings me to stipulation number two. If, at any time, I ask you a question you aren't ready to answer, just say you don't want to talk about it yet."
"Okay," Kurt says, relaxing. "Do you want to go first?"
"Sure. So, like I said, easy stuff first. Where are you from?"
"What, like the bean?" he asks.
"Yep. There's not much to say about the place really. Most everyone is close-minded and unwilling to accept change. Not the greatest place in Ohio. Especially not for people like me." The last sentence is said so low that Nick has to strain to hear it, and while he's curious, he's not going to push the issue.
"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. So, my turn I guess. Same question?"
It's kind of a cop out, but Nick understands that Kurt's nervous, doesn't know what to say, so he just rolls with it.
"I'm from Columbus," he says. "Not too far from here, only about 25 minutes. But Mom kept getting worried about me driving back and forth in the snow, so she just decided to board me. It's strange though, you'd think being so close to home I'd go there a lot, but I really don't."
"That's cool, though. Finn loves Columbus. Wants to go to Ohio State."
"Awesome. The campus is gorgeous. What's your stepmom like? I mean, I met your dad and Finn, so I was just wondering."
"Carole's amazing. She's so supportive and she makes dad happy, even while keeping him on his diet."
"His diet?" Nick asks. Burt hadn't seemed like he needed a diet, looked pretty healthy from what Nick could tell.
"Yeah. He had a heart attack a few months ago, was in a coma for a week. But he's fine now. He proposed to Carole not long after that. I think it scared him that I wouldn't have anywhere to go if he'd died. Not that he doesn't love Carole," Kurt's quick to point out. "But I don't know if would have proposed as soon as he did if it hadn't been for the heart attack." Nick wants to ask about Kurt not having anywhere to go, but he's already used his allotment of questions for the night. He makes a mental note to ask about it later.
"It's your turn," he reminds Kurt after a few minutes of silence.
"Oh. Right. Um," he scratches at the back of his neck, a nervous habit maybe? "Earlier, you said I came to spy on 'us.' Are you a Warbler?"
"I am," he says. "You thinking about joining?"
"I don't know. I mean, Blaine keeps bugging me about it, but I think I might wait until after Sectionals, you know? It's only a couple weeks, and I already feel like I'm betraying New Directions. I don't want to upset them even more."
"You don't think they'd be more upset that you aren't doing something you want to?"
Kurt shakes his head, "Probably not. I mean the only thing Rachel asked when I told her I was transferring was if I was going to be competing against them. A perfectly valid concern, I'm sure, but right then? Not even a 'Why?' Just that."
"That sucks, but if you want my opinion, I think you should join. Especially if singing is something you're passionate about. I know if it were reversed, if Blaine or anyone else had transferred to McKinley, we'd all want him to perform at Sectionals."
"Really?" Kurt looks completely dumbfounded, like he doesn't understand what Nick's just said.
"Of course. He may be a Warbler, but he's our friend first. We'd all just want him to be happy. Anyways," he says, clapping Kurt on the shoulder. The younger boy tenses for a half-second, but it's long enough that Nick notices. "It's getting late and we have class in the morning. I say bed time, yeah?"
Kurt nods, a thoughtful look on his face, and Nick gets up to change. A few minutes later he flips the light off and they both settle into bed. It's silent for a long time, and just as he's starting to drift off, he hears Kurt whisper.
"For what?" he mumbles, half asleep.
"Making my first night not suck."
Nick smiles and listens to Kurt roll over, attempting to get comfortable, and whispers back, "You're welcome, Kurt. Welcome to Dalton," before burrowing into his pillow and letting the darkness overtake him.
Blaine shows up at their door early the next morning, intent on escorting Kurt to breakfast and then to his first class. Nick watches them go, Blaine's cool confidence completely overshadowing Kurt's nervousness. He sees Kurt turn to smile at the older boy, eyes shinning brightly, and makes a mental note to keep an eye on Kurt's infatuation. He and Blaine get along fine, but that's all they do. Get along. It isn't that Nick doesn't want to hang out with the other boy; it's just that he's never really gotten around to it.
Blaine was another mid-semester transfer, coming in halfway through their sophomore year. This scared little boy who used to hide behind unruly hair and thick-framed glasses. He'd been roomed with David, who despite being on the council, was as laid back as they came at Dalton. From what Nick had heard, Blaine didn't know how to handle all these people suddenly accepting him, and had taken to hiding out in a dark corner of the commons whenever the friendly pats on the shoulder and random high-fives in the hallways got to be too much. David would find him and drag him back to their room, kicking out whichever visitor might be in there, before letting the boy have his freak out somewhere more private. He'd come a long way since then, but every once in awhile someone would grab his shoulder and Nick would see him tense a little, like he was expecting something other than a classmate asking to borrow notes.
He catches fleeting glances of Kurt throughout the day. They pass one another in the halls, Kurt glancing down at his schedule, searching for the right room. Nick almost running to reach his locker before he has to sprint across the quad to get to the science wing. They sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria during lunch. Kurt and Blaine are huddled around some papers on their table, occasionally eating scraps from their trays of food. Nick sits with his lab partner in Chemistry, going over a study schedule for their upcoming project. It's the last he sees of Kurt until practice.
He walks into the rehearsal room and collapses on the nearest couch, entirely too exhausted for it to only be Monday. It takes him a few moments to hear the small chirps coming from his right and he lets his head fall in that direction until he sees the covered cage sitting on the side table.
"Why is Pavarotti here?" he asks.
"Because," says Blaine, coming to stand behind him, hands resting on the soft leather of the couch. "We have a new Warbler."
Nick blinks at the cage, letting that statement process before rolling his head back to stare at Blaine, whose looking down at him, one eyebrow raised.
"Yep." Blaine paused, chewing on his lower lip as he considered his next words. "He told me you talked to him."
"I didn't do anything but give him my opinion," he protests.
"I know, but thank you for telling him that. It was something I'd been telling him all along. Apparently he just needed to hear it from a third party. Someone who didn't know all the details. So, thanks. I think being here will help him adjust." Blaine circles the couch, coming to sit on the armrest beside the birdcage and lifts the cover to check on the canary. "How was he last night?"
"Good, for the most part. We had to come to a little agreement, but nothing big."
"Yeah?" There's a questioning quality to Blaine's voice, and Nick knows that he wants him to elaborate. He hesitates for a minute, wondering if Blaine wants to know because he's honestly curious, or if he just feels obligated to care about Kurt, seeing as he's the only person the boy knows at Dalton. He figures it doesn't matter anyways, seeing as the agreement in question isn't anything of grave importance.
"I made him promise to stop centering his actions around my schedule. He was so worried about messing up my routine, I just... I don't know. Anyways, I told him that it was his room too now, and that he had the right to do his own thing."
Blaine's looking at him now, a kind of awed expression on his face that he hasn't seen him wear in almost a year.
"You're kind of amazing," he says.
"That's what they tell me."
Wes rapped his gavel, effectively gaining the attention of all the boys in the room. Nick sat up on the couch and moved to the middle cushion, making room for Blaine, but he just waved him off, whispering that he had to get up in a few moments anyways. Jeff ended up next to him and they turned to face the council.
"Gentlemen," said Wes. "We have a new member joining us today. Everyone please welcome Kurt Hummel."
Nick clapped with the rest of the Warblers and smiled at the shocked look on Kurt's face as Blaine threw open the doors to let him in. He walked in slowly, a cautious smile gracing his face and had Nick not been watching him closely he might have missed the subtle glances Kurt shot around the room. It may have just been a nervous habit, but Nick thought it looked more like he was scouting out possible exits. Storing that information in the back of his head for later, Nick watched Blaine walk backwards toward him, unconsciously watching his footwork to ensure the other boy didn't trip.
Once Blaine is again seated Nick calms himself and glances at Jeff. The blonde boy is frowning, brows lowered in concentration as he takes in Kurt. Jeff's always been rather quiet, contemplative in a way that Nick's personality could never let him be, with eyes such a deep ocean blue that staring into them is akin to drowning if you aren't careful. Jeff was the first person Nick met at Dalton, and they'd quickly formed a close friendship. Nick had learned over the past couple of years that if you wanted to know something you went to Jeff. He was always observing, and could tell a lot about a person just by watching them in a social setting. So to see Jeff frowning at Kurt sent spikes of worry down Nick's spine. He'd have to talk to him after rehearsal.
He returns his attention back to Kurt in time for Blaine to present him with Pavarotti. He looks shocked again, but also amused, and Nick's pretty sure at this point that he shouldn't have let Kurt come into this blind. That thought is only confirmed when Kurt quips about taking Pav to work with him. Seriously? A coalmine? Hilarious, but so not appropriate. He quickly forms a list of things to talk to Kurt about, rules to follow and other necessities. He red flags some items in his head when he hears "Duran Duran" slip from Kurt's mouth, and would really like to just hide when Jeff glances at him, a disbelieving look on his face.
"Is he serious right now?" he whispers.
"I didn't have time to warn him. I'll talk to him after."
"You might not have to," Jeff states. "Blaine's trying to be sympathetic and not laugh all at once. It's alarming, he looks like he's about to have a seizure."
Nick looks past Jeff to where Blaine is sitting and sure enough he's trying so hard not to smile that he's actually shaking. Nick has to stifle a smile of his own before looking back at his friend.
"I'll talk to him anyways."
The rest of rehearsal goes smoothly, but Nick can't help but sneak glances at Kurt, who's sitting somewhat dejectedly in a far corner, Pavarotti's cage held firmly in his lap. It's abundantly clear that he's uncomfortable and he has the sudden urge to protect him from ever feeling like an outcast. Shaking his head, Nick gets up with Jeff as Wes calls rehearsal to a close and the two friends watch Kurt quickly leave the room, no doubt headed back to the dorms and away from the barrage of questions that the other Warblers would have surely thrown at him. They walk after him at a much slower pace.
"What do you know about him?" asks Jeff.
"Not much. His dad recently remarried and his stepbrother is like, a giant. He's from Lima. That's about all I know. Oh, his dad also had a heart attack not too long ago."
"He's in pain." It's a statement, as though Jeff knows it to be fact.
"Well, yeah. I'd be a little emotional about my dad having a heart attack too."
"No, Nick. I mean physically. He's in pain."
"What?" Nick asks, because he's seen a lot from Kurt in the past day, but pain hasn't been something on that list.
"He walks stiffly, not good posture stiffly either. He's carrying himself carefully, as if every move is painful, but it's barely noticeable. I'm not surprised you haven't caught on yet."
Thinking back to his observations from the night before, Nick realizes that Jeff's right. Kurt never leaned back against his headboard or the wall next to his bed. He tensed when Nick patted his shoulder and he laid on his stomach when they went to bed.
"Holy shit... he is hurt." Jeff stares at him, and Nick turns his head to look back. "What do I do?"
"I don't know, man. Call him out? Will he respond to that?"
"I don't know. Jeff, I've only known him for a day. What if he freaks out? What if... God. I don't know."
"So feel him out." They're almost at Nick and Kurt's room now, and Jeff hesitates. "Do you want me to talk to him with you? I know he doesn't know me, but maybe having more people that care will get him to talk."
"Honestly? I think it'll just freak him out. I mean, he started crying when he realized I didn't care he was gay. I don't think he's used to random people caring about his wellbeing yet." Nick pauses, running a hand through his hair in the hopes of getting his thoughts in order. "No. I think I need to talk to him alone. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?" He gives Jeff a hug and watches the blonde wander down the hall toward his own room before taking a deep breath and opening the door in front of him. As expected Kurt's already in there, Pavarotti on his desk and blazer hanging from the back of his chair. He's sitting on the window seat; legs curled into his chest, watching as his breath forms a patch of fog on the window. He lets it fade away before releasing the next breath and Nick finds himself unconsciously breathing with him. It's calming.
He steps into the room and closes the door behind him. The click of the lock jerks Kurt from his contemplations and he jumps a little as he turns to face Nick. Shooting him a smile, Nick detours to his bed to drop off his bag and his own blazer before joining his roommate at the window.
"Hey," he says, sitting down and pulling his feet under him. It's somewhat chilly in the room, so he snatches a blanket off his bed and spreads it out between the two of them. Kurt shoots him a grateful smile and snuggles into the fleece, sighing in contentment.
They sit in silence for a while, watching the stars twinkling outside the glass separating them from the winter night. Finally, Nick turns back to Kurt, but it takes a moment for the other boy to notice he's being watched. Confused, he turns to face Nick.
"What?" Pavarotti chirps a little, nails clicking against his perch as he hops around his cage.
"I'm sorry," says Nick. Kurt frowns at him before turning to survey the room, as if he's trying to find something to explain Nick's sudden apology.
"Why?" he asks.
"I shouldn't have let you go into that rehearsal unprepared. Well, technically, I didn't see you today, so Blaine shouldn't have let you go in unprepared."
Kurt's blushing and turns his head away to stare back out the window.
"I didn't expect it to be so different," he says. "At McKinley, being quiet didn't get you very far, and blending in only relegated you to the back. You were forgotten unless you screamed. I have to get used to not doing that."
"And you will," Nick assures him. He disentangles himself from the blanket and crosses to his desk, pulling out a slim book from the top drawer. He tosses it to Kurt, who's turned to watch him, and smirks a little as he fumbles with it before securing it in his lap. He looks down at the book, which has a silhouette of a bird emblazoned on it and nothing else.
"What's this?" he asks.
"That," Nick states, pointing at the book. "Is the Warbler Handbook. Read it, it'll help. In the meantime... any questions?"
Kurt's silent for a few moments, fiddling idly with the book. "Can you explain the council? I just... there's no faculty member as a supervisor?"
Nick nods, figuring that would be one the first questions. It's odd, the way the Warblers work. All the other clubs on campus do have supervisors from the faculty, but the Warblers are the oldest club on campus, and with that came the tradition of being student run.
"That started with the founding of the Warblers. Dalton was founded in 1978, and the Warblers were started less than a decade after that. During that time there were only about fifteen faculty members, and no one had time to supervise a club, so they appointed a student representative, who then appointed aides. That was the first council and it's been a tradition ever since. If there was ever a problem Administration would step in to settle it and all performances have to be approved, but for the most part they leave us alone."
"Oh," says Kurt, and then he falls silent, curling in on himself and resting his chin on his knees. His hands play with his feet through the blanket, but the look on his face lets Nick know that he's thinking, trying to force his thoughts into some sense of coherency. Nick sits there for a while, observing him and finally notices the slight winces Kurt gives whenever he shifts. It confirms what he's feared, Kurt's been hurt.
"Anything else you want to ask?" he says, breaking the silence. Kurt shakes his head.
"Not right now. I'm going to read that later. I'll probably have some more then."
"Okay," Nick says. "Just ask whenever you think of one, and I'll explain it to you. Anyways, you up for some more 'roommate game?'"
Kurt sits up a little, nodding, seemingly glad for the distraction. "You want to go first this time?" he asks.
"Okay. You remember the rules?" At Kurt's nod, he takes a deep breath and smoothes his palms on his pants. He's nervous, not sure how Kurt's going to take this, wonders if it's just going to make things tense between them. "Kurt... Are you hurt?"
Kurt pales, the color draining from his cheeks so fast that Nick actually reaches out a hand because he fears he's going to pass out. He stops suddenly though; arm halfway extended because Kurt's just flinched from him. Jerked back so quickly that he accidentally hits the windowsill and has to stifle a sharp cry as the unrelenting marble digs into his back.
"I'm okay," he gasps out. "Nick, I'm fine." He's huddled in the corner of the window seat, back arched away from the sill and hand out to keep Nick from getting too close.
"This isn't fine, Kurt! Damn it... you. You're in pain. You're hurting and it's so obvious now that I see it. Everything you do is painful, isn't it?" Kurt nods, it's useless to hide this now. "And you think I'm going to make it worse." Frustration wells inside of Nick, and for a moment he lets his temper take over as he grabs a book from his desk and slams it to the floor. Kurt yelps and jumps, breath starting to come in short spurts.
"No. You can't. There's a policy so you don't have a choice. Even if you wanted to you can't! They won't let you. I'm supposed to be safe here. Please. No. No. No. You can't." Nick can see that Kurt's panicking. He doesn't know that Nick won't hurt him, doesn't trust that Nick doesn't want to hurt him.
"Kurt, no." He steps forward, intending to grab his roommate by the shoulders so that he can get him to focus, but the second his hands touch Kurt all hell breaks loose.
"No!" Kurt shrieks, pushing Nick away before scrambling around him, putting distance between the two boys. He's backing toward the door and Nick doesn't even want to think about what might happen if he manages to get out. He needs help, so he calls for the only person he can think of.
"JEFF!" He shouts through the thin walls of the dormitories. They've done this before, so he knows Jeff will already be out of his room and sprinting toward his own. Kurt's too far gone to notice that Nick has said anything, let alone bellowed out Jeff's name. He's got his arms folded across his chest, protecting himself even as his mind betrays him.
"Kurt," he soothes, voice low. "You're okay. I'm not going to hurt you." He takes a cautious step forward, hands up so Kurt can see them. Jeff opens the door and takes stock of what's happening. Kurt turns at the sound of the door and he shrinks away from the blonde boy blocking his way. Nick takes the opportunity to stride forward and wrap his arms around Kurt, pulling him back against his chest and keeping him from running away. Kurt struggles for a bit, one of his elbows catching Nick in the stomach, before the fight leaves him and he lets his body sag, falling in a heap and taking Nick with him.
Nick glances up at Jeff. He looks sympathetic but not surprised.
"Jeff," Nick says. "Thank you for helping. Can you make sure no one interrupts us? Also, if Blaine is around, tell him I'll have Kurt text him later."
Jeff nods, leaving as quickly as he arrived and closing the door behind him. Nick hears a dull thud as something hits the door from the other side, and he can only assume that Jeff has leaned against it in his effort to keep the others from coming in. He shakes those thoughts away, turning all of his attention to the boy in his arms. Kurt's sprawled out between Nick's legs, staring blankly into the space in front of him. It's disconcerting, seeing someone just... stop the way that Kurt has. Nick takes a moment to form a coherent thought, but he can only think of one thing to say.
"Who did this to you?"
"It doesn't matter," Kurt says, voice low and void of emotion and Nick thinks no one should ever sound that defeated.
"It does matter! God, Kurt, I don't know where you got the idea that you don't matter to anyone, but you can get it out of your head right now. I know that I don't know you, and you don't know me, but we're working on that and I think we could end up being something great. But you," he takes a breath, arms tightening around Kurt. "You have to give me a chance. You have to talk to me." He feels Kurt tense, and he knows that he's still got a long ways to go before he's going to get anything out of his roommate.
"I get it, okay? This is weird. I know this is weird, but I can't sit around and watch anyone flinch at loud noises or cringe away from casual touch and not want to help. Do you know what kind of horrible person I'd be if I could?" He thinks that Kurt probably does know, that that's all he's used to, and the thought makes his chest tighten uncomfortably.
"I am not going to hurt you," he puts emphasis on this declaration by leaning down to press his forehead against the top of Kurt's head, and Kurt shifts a little, eyes closing. "But I'm also not going to sit by and know you're hurt and not do anything. So please, please, tell me how to help you." Kurt doesn't say anything and Nick can feel the emotions building in his chest. He hasn't felt this helpless in three years, and God, he can't think about that right now. If he does, he'll lose it and that's the last thing this moment needs.
"I don't know." The words are soft, spoken so quietly that Nick isn't sure he heard them, but when he raises his head to look down at Kurt, he can see the tense set of his shoulders and knows they were real. They do little to ease the emotional roller coaster he's riding right now. He needs solutions.
"Okay," he says, thoughtful. "Well, maybe I can't help with some things, but I can make sure you aren't in pain anymore, right? Where do you hurt?" Kurt sits there, arms clasped tightly to his chest, unable to believe that someone he met only a day ago would care enough to make sure he wasn't in pain. It didn't seem real. Even Mercedes never noticed that he only walked with his back straight because it was the only position that didn't bother the bruises.
"Kurt?" Kurt jerks, having forgotten for a moment that Nick was there.
"There's nothing you can really do, Nick. I mean... it's just bruises."
"You can treat bruises, Kurt. Cold compresses work wonders. Come on," he says, standing up and grabbing under Kurt's arms to get him standing as well. "Where are they?" He turns to the mini fridge/freezer that's tucked away in a corner of the room and starts to fill Ziploc bag with some ice. Kurt stands awkwardly in front of his bed, not sure where this is going.
"Umm," he stutters. "They're mostly on my back."
"Okay." Nick nods to himself, still hunched down in front of the fridge. "Take off your shirt and lie down, I'll grab a towel so this doesn't get too cold." He closes the fridge and stands before turning to Kurt eyebrows bunching in concern when he spots him still standing in front of his bed, eyes on the floor and hands clenching his shirt to his chest.
"Kurt?" he asks, crossing the room and placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I... I can't. Nick. I don't..." From the way Kurt's folding his arms protectively across his chest, Nick can guess the problem.
"No. Okay. You don't have to do anything. I was just trying to help."
Kurt nods, still staring at the ground.
"Can I... keep my shirt on?"
"Absolutely," Nick says immediately. "It was just an idea. I know the ice will work, and if you keep your shirt on we can forgo the towel idea."
Kurt nods, but hesitates for a minute before walking stiffly toward his bed. He slides onto his front and rests his cheek on his pillow, watching warily as Nick walks over to him with the bag of ice. He winces a bit as the cold seeps through his shirt where Nick has set it and blinks lazily at his roommate.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" Nick asks, looking up at Kurt from where he's sat himself on the floor near Kurt's bed. "Being nice? Helping you?"
"Yeah, that. I mean... you have no reason to."
"You don't know shit about my reasons, Kurt." There's anger in his tone, and he regrets snapping as soon as Kurt recoils and apologizes.
"No, stop. I'm sorry. Just... Look. I like you Kurt. I'd like to get to know you. I get that there are things you don't want to share. There are things I don't want to share. But you can't question my every move. Like it or not, we kind of live together. I can ignore you if you want me to, but really all that'll accomplish is to make things awkward and uncomfortable." Nick moves to get up, but Kurt's hand is suddenly gripping his shoulder and he looks back at the other boy. Kurt's staring at him intently, studying him, trying to see if he's real.
"I... I don't want that."
"Good." Nick smiles at him and watches as Kurt relaxes into his bed, eyes drifting half shut. "Hey, you gonna fall asleep on me?"
"Sorry," Kurt says through a yawn. "So tired."
"I'm sure. But, Kurt... I still want to talk about this."
"I... can't. Not yet. It's too soon."
"Okay," Nick says with a reluctant nod. "But you'll tell me one day, right? When we're so comfortable around each other that I'm finishing your sentences and you're glaring at me because it's super annoying?"
Kurt smiles sleepily, eyes finally falling shut.
"Sure, Nick," he mumbles into his pillow. "I'll tell you then."
Nick watches him fall asleep and as he hears Kurt's breathing even out he hopes he did the right thing. He pushes himself up from the floor, crossing to turn out the light and thanking Jeff for standing guard. He grabs the blanket still resting on the window seat before falling into his own bed, hoping his brain will shut down enough to let him get some sleep.
Kurt's gone when Nick rolls out of bed the next morning and Nick wonders why anyone would need to wake up that early, ever. He shrugs it off and goes about getting ready for another day. He's just shrugging on his blazer when the door opens and Kurt all but runs to his bed, throwing his messenger bag onto the floor beside it and talking furiously into his cell phone.
"No. Brittany, honey, I'm sure Artie will understand." He stops for a moment to listen, the phone tucked between his ear and shoulder as he exchanges some books from his bag for the ones stacked by his bed.
"Sweetheart, I'm sure you'll find it. It's probably in your backpack. Have you checked that?"
Nick can hear a high, excited voice coming through the earpiece of Kurt's phone, but can't make out what it's saying. He figures from the speed at which they're babbling though, that they've lost something important.
"No, I know magic combs are rare."
Nick turns to stare at Kurt, wondering if he really heard what he thinks he did. Kurt glances up at him and stifles a laugh.
"Listen, Britt. I've got to go to class. You keep looking, but I'm sure it'll turn up. I love you. Okay, bye." He hangs up and shoves his phone into his pocket. He grabs his bag and shoulders it before he turns to leave. As he passes Nick, he pauses, looking up at him.
"Trust me," he says. "It's easier not to know."
Nick just nods, still unsure as to how a comb can be magic, but decides he doesn't really need to know. He shakes his head and grabs his backpack before walking out after Kurt, letting their door close behind him. They part ways at the stairway, Kurt heading down and Nick heading up. As he climbs, Nick hears someone call Kurt's name and looks over the railing to see Blaine hurrying after the other boy. He shakes his head at the two and instead focuses on getting to class on time.
He doesn't see Kurt until he's back in their room that afternoon. The smaller boy is sitting on his bed, hunched over a notebook and scrolling through the songs on his iPod. They exchange greetings as Nick settles in at his desk, intending to get through at least half of his history paper before dinner. They're in the same positions a few hours later, only Kurt has put the iPod aside and is methodically going through a list of songs, crossing one out now and then.
"What are you doing?"
"Hmm?" Kurt asks, chewing on the end of his pen.
"I mean, what's with the list?"
Kurt looks up at him then, face slightly wary.
"Oh. I was just trying to decide what to sing."
"For the solo auditions. Tomorrow," Kurt says, softly.
Nick blinks at him.
"You got invited to audition?"
"Yeah. Any advice?"
"Well, I'm auditioning too," Nick says. Kurt turns back to his bed, nodding slowly.
"I figure it's pretty much a given that I won't get it."
"You don't know that," Nick insists, stepping up behind Kurt and placing a hand on his shoulder.
Kurt turns, looking at him incredulously.
"Think about it, Nick. I'm too new. That and I never had an official audition. I think the council just accepted that I'm a countertenor and was in New Directions. More than likely they're using this as an excuse to see what I can do."
Nick tries, but finds that he can't argue with that logic. Instead, he walks back to his own bed, grabbing his laptop from his desk and settling in against the pillows.
"So what are you going to do?" he asks.
"That's what I'm trying to figure out." Kurt grabs the list from his bed before turning and sitting down where it had been. He stares at the paper in his hands for a moment. "I want to sing something that shows off my range, but at the same time makes a statement."
"The Warblers aren't very big on statements, Kurt."
"I know. But that's who I am."
Nick studies him for a moment, and wonders if Dalton will change him.
"If you need any help..." he trails off, not sure where he was going with that. Kurt looks up from his list, staring at him. He gives Nick a shy smile.
Kurt doesn't ask him for help. In fact, Kurt doesn't say anything to him the next day. Nick again wakes up to an empty room, and he tries to find Kurt in the dining hall during breakfast and lunch, but never sees the other boy. It's almost as if Kurt's disappeared.
He finally finds the other boy sitting outside the commons, mouthing the words to whatever song he's got playing on his iPod. He sits next to the other boy, startling him. Kurt rips the headphones out of his ears and turns to face him.
"Oh," he breathes, shaky. "It's just you. You scared me."
"Sorry. Where have you been?"
"What do you mean? I've been here."
"No," Nick says. "Where have you been? No one's seen you all day."
"Oh. I had to go to Lima."
Nick stares at him.
"You skipped classes?"
"Yes." Kurt's blushing, but Nick barely seems to notice. He's too amazed at the fact that Kurt's done something he hasn't.
"You skipped classes on your third day?" he asks.
"Yes," Kurt says, rolling his eyes. "Come on, Nick. It's not like you haven't. Right?"
Nick looks away from him, staring down at his shoes. He can feel Kurt's gaze on him, but doesn't want to look back.
"No," he mumbles. "I've never skipped. Been pulled out of classes, yeah, but never skipped."
Kurt starts to reply, but a group of Warblers turn the corner then, and he lets the words die on his lips as they follow them inside. He sits next to Nick on one of the couches, watching as he drums his fingers against his knee. He winds his headphones around his iPod before leaning down to put it in his bag. When he sits back up, he notices that not only is Nick still drumming, but now his leg is bouncing a little.
"Nick," he says, reaching out a hand to stop him. "Are you nervous?"
"What?" Nick asks. "No. No. I just...Okay, yes."
Kurt giggles a little, and Nick shoots him a glare before breaking into silent laughter as well. By the time Wes calls the meeting to order, Nick's lounging back against the couch, much more relaxed.
The nerves don't return until they're once again sitting outside the commons, waiting for the results of the auditions. Nick's leaning over, rubbing his hands together and Kurt shoots him a look, mentally trying to calm him down. He catches Nick's eye for a moment.
"How many times have you auditioned?"
"Three," says Nick.
Jeff, who's sitting between the roommates answers with a six and Kurt suddenly realizes that it wouldn't have mattered had he actually chosen a song geared toward the Warblers, he still wouldn't have gotten a solo. They don't say anything else, because Blaine has opened the door and told Jeff and Nick that they've gotten through to the next round of auditions. Kurt gives Nick a congratulatory smile before turning to face Blaine.
"So, any sage advice?"
Nick opens the door to his and Kurt's room a little warily. Blaine hadn't come back to the practice for a good ten minutes after announcing that he'd made it through, so he was worried about what he might have told Kurt. He finds his roommate lounged on his bed, wearing a simple pair of blue pajama pants and t-shirt. He's got his laptop resting on his stomach and is typing furiously, smirking to himself every so often. Nick figures he's chatting with someone, so doesn't bother him until Kurt calls his name.
"Did you get it?" Kurt asks, sitting up and setting the laptop aside. Nick looks up from where he's been reading and sends him a shrug.
"No. I didn't figure I would though."
Kurt's brow furrows in confusion.
"Because," Nick sighs, "in the second round of auditions you have to go up against the current lead-soloist." Nick eyes him for a moment, and when Kurt doesn't say anything, continues. "Blaine."
"Oh." Kurt says the word into his cotton-covered knees, which he's drawn up to his chest. He rests his chin on them and stares down at his bedspread. Nick frowns at him, wondering at the sudden change in attitude.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
"Yeah. I just...Got a bit of a reality check, I guess."
"What do you mean?" Nick puts the book aside and stands from his bed, stretching the kinks out of his back from sitting hunched over and crossing to sit next to Kurt on his bed.
"Am I," Kurt bites his bottom lip, thinking. "Am I too out there? I mean do I flaunt it?"
"Ah. I knew this was coming."
"What?" Kurt's confused again.
"Let me guess. You were told to tone it down? Not try so hard? Be part of the team?" Nick reaches over and places a hand on Kurt's arm. "We've all gotten that speech. The thing about a cappella choirs is that for the song to work, every part must be synchronized. We're all just cogs in a giant machine."
"That's...really stupid," Kurt says, crossing his legs and looking at Nick earnestly. "I mean, I can understand the need to work as a team, to not outshine one another, but telling someone they have to chance simply for the sake of a high school choir. No way! I didn't let Karofsky change me and there's no way in hell I'm going to let the Warblers."
Nick stares at him for a moment, wondering if Kurt knows that he just let something slip.
"Who's Karofsky?" He watches Kurt freeze and can see him going through his mini-rant in his head. He sees the wince and the dropping shoulders, the resignation setting in.
"He's a jock at McKinley."
"And...he's why I'm here." Kurt stands quickly, crossing the room to stare out the window. Nick watches him from the bed. He wants to push Kurt on this, but they barely know each other, and he doesn't want to push him away.
"Did he," he pauses for a moment. "Did he give you the bruises?"
Kurt stiffens, crossing his arms in front of himself. He lowers himself onto the window seat and presses his forehead against the glass, letting the cold soothe the oncoming headache. Eyes closing, he let's the dorm room wash away and pictures himself sitting on the roof of his house, staring up at the stars. It was something he'd do with his mom when she was still alive, and he kept up the habit when he just needed to think.
"Yes," he whispers. "But I can't...Nick." Nick seems to understand. He whispers reassurances to Kurt, telling him that they don't have to talk about it, that they can just go to bed and once again put off this conversation. Kurt's getting tired of running away from this, but it's still too new, and he can't trust himself to talk about it yet. They settle into their respective beds, Nick switching off the overhead light as he passes it, and they quietly wish each other a good night, both unable to sleep from the thoughts running through their heads.
"Kurt," Nick whispers what feels like hours later.
"Yeah?" Kurt turns, peering across the darkness at the older boy.
"I think I'm going to be really glad that you're my roommate."
Kurt doesn't know what to say. It's weird that he's only known Nick for three days and they're already comfortable with sharing this room. And while, yes, the circumstances are different, he doesn't understand why it couldn't have been this easy with Finn. He tries to find the words to thank Nick, for putting up with him, for being there, for not pushing, but can't. So instead, he whispers a quiet 'me too,' and buries his face in his pillow.