Disclaimer: Don't own it.
A/N: I'm sorry this took me so long, it's been a crazy month and a half. However, now that it's over I should have updates up quicker. There's one more part after this one in this installment of the Nick-Verse, so this story is almost finished!
Enjoy, and please leave me some reviews. I love them so!
Nick's shoes squeak loudly in the otherwise silent hallway of The Ohio State University Medical Center. It was a hallway he knew well and one that he's traveled many times throughout the last two years. A gift box dangles from his right hand, occasionally brushing along his leg as he walks. Its shiny, brightly colored paper catches the sunlight streaming through the windows, reflecting endless patterns across the faded linoleum.
A nurse shuffles along ahead of him, sneakers squeaking as she rounds a corner into another deserted hallway. The silence threatens him, telling him that it doesn't matter why he's here. Nothing's changed. Nothing will ever change.
He ignores it and continues walking before coming to a stop outside a closed door. There's nothing special about it; no decorations or cheery welcome signs. Just faded gray paint and a tiny placard displaying three numbers etched into Nick's brain.
He heaves a sigh before pushing the door open and walking quickly into the room. He takes in the various machines, their beeps and whirls a comfort to him as he notices that nothing has changed. Finally, his eyes drift to the bed situated in the middle of the room. It's occupant is still, chest rising and falling as the ventilator pumps air into his lungs.
"Hey, Danny," he whispers, settling into the lone chair next to the bed. "Merry Christmas."
Setting the box on the bed, he removes the paper, folding it carefully and placing it aside. He lifts the lid, extracting the gift within.
"I know how cold it gets in here, so I got you a blanket to keep out the chill. Batman's still your favorite, right?" He waits for an answer, draping the fleece across Danny's legs, knowing he'll never get one. When he's done, he lowers himself back into the chair staring into the other's face.
"I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. I go back to Dalton tomorrow." He stares at the other's face, taking in every minute detail and wishes he could see the eyelashes flutter and open. Wishes he could look into the irises and know that everything was going to be alright. But he cant. Instead he stands and leans over the prone form, pressing a soft kiss to Danny's forehead.
"I love you, little brother," he whispers before standing and gathering the box and paper. He throws them in the small trash can and makes his way to the door. Turning back, he wishes one final time that Danny would wake up. Would call out to him and tell him to stay. It doesn't happen, and the click of the door closing as Nick walks away echoes in and around him in time with the re-breaking of his heart.
Sleep came slowly that night. Nick's mind racing with thoughts of Danny and school and did he remember to pack his cell phone charger? He sighs, throwing the covers off and tumbling from his bed. He settles in his desk chair, laptop already booted and pulls up his facebook page. Quickly typing in a new status and then let's his eyes mind wander, staring blankly at the words.
'Nick Landry is too overloaded to sleep.'
He's brought out of his thoughts by the vibrations of his cell phone radiating throughout the room. He watches it skitter across his bedside table for a moment before reaching over and snagging it before it's able to hit the floor.
Sleep is overrated anyways. Everything okay? - Kurt
He's mildly shocked that Kurt is still awake, having grown used to the other boy's need to be in bed by 9.
You're still awake? Is the apocalypse happening? N.L.
Tapping his cell phone against his thigh, he waits for Kurt to text back.
Hilarious. Seriously, Nick. Are you okay? - Kurt
Nick chews on his bottom lip and glances at a framed photograph on his desk. It's he and Danny, arms thrown around one another and heads tipped back in laughter. He can just make out a faint smudge of something on Danny's forehead and it takes him a minute to remember that he'd smeared cake frosting on it during Danny's birthday party.
He lets his fingers fly over his phone, not really paying attention to what he's saying until he looks back at the sent message.
Things'll be better when I'm back at Dalton. Simpler. N.L.
He tosses his phone on his desk, and buries his head in his hands. If anyone would understand, it'd be Kurt, but he doesn't want to share it over text. He doesn't want to share it at all. He lifts his head when his phone vibrates again and he takes a deep breath before reaching for it.
You know you can talk to me, right? I want this friendship to go both ways. I feel like I dump so many of my problems on you all the time. I can listen, too. -Kurt
Damn. Nick didn't want Kurt to think that. To think that Nick didn't perceive him as a friend. As someone to confide in. He did. He does.
I know. I promise, I'll talk to you. I'm just not ready yet. N.L.
Nick stands from his chair and crawls back into bed, setting his phone on his chest and closing his eyes. Kurt won't let that be the end of the conversation and he's not surprised when he feels his phone go off again.
Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah? -Kurt
See, that was the thing Nick most appreciated about his roommate. Kurt didn't push. He let Nick sort through things at his own pace.
Yeah. I'll see you then. Goodnight, Kurt. N.L.
He doesn't wait for the customary goodnight text from Kurt. Just turns off his phone and rolls over, attempting to force sleep to claim him. He knows it won't work, but maybe if he wishes hard enough he'll at least get an hour of peace that night.
The next morning is busy, with packing the car and driving to Dalton and unpacking the car and hauling his suitcases up to his room. He's not surprised that he's one of the first to arrive on campus. The hallways are eerily empty and he breathes in the comforting smell of polished wood and antique finishes before collapsing on a random bench and staring out at the vast grounds. It's good to be back.
Kurt traipses into the room later that afternoon, dragging a large suitcase behind him and then leaving to retrieve another. Nick watches him come and go, waiting for him to unpack before almost tackling him as a welcome back.
"Nice to see you too, Nick," Kurt says, laughing. Nick grins and pushes him away feeling lighter than he has in days. They pester each other about their vacations and Nick's relieved when Kurt doesn't ask about his mood from the night before. Classes start tomorrow and by the time dinner rolls around they're both rushing to print off new schedules and search for new classrooms. They don't see each other until later that night and then it's just long enough to say goodnight before they each climb into their beds.
The next couple of weeks pass much the same way, both too busy to have much time to themselves or with each other. Kurt's spending more and more time with Blaine, and he and Nick seem only to talk about casual things and the Warblers. Nick takes to hanging out in Jeff's room and they get so wrapped up in schoolwork and video games that he doesn't always remember to go back to his own until it's past curfew. It's during one of these late night sneak ins that he notices Kurt crying out in his sleep, fighting off some monster only he can see.
"Kurt," he says, walking over to the boy's bedside. He shakes Kurt's shoulder, earning himself a startled gasp and a suddenly wide awake roommate.
"Hey. You okay?" he asks.
Kurt nods, sweat dripping down his forehead to pool in the collar of his shirt, soaking it.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, Nick. I'm fine." Kurt's answer is shaky and breathless and against his better judgement Nick let's it go, figuring that Kurt will talk to him eventually.
But he doesn't. Night after night Nick walks in on Kurt in the throes of a nightmare and every night he shakes him awake, asking if he's alright and receiving the same unconvincing reply in return. He snaps after the fifth night of the same thing.
"No. Okay, I'm done. You are not okay. Kurt, you're having nightmares every night and I'm honestly getting worried now. What is going on?"
"I promise. I'm fine. It's just stress."
"Okay, yeah. Stress can cause nightmares, but these are almost violent. Please, Kurt. Just let me help you." Nick's pleading now. He knows Kurt is suffering because of these. Knows his grades are slipping and he's falling asleep in class. "Kurt. Please," he says, leaning down to catch his roommate's eyes.
Kurt stares back at him, eyes defiant for a moment before they soften and he sits up, tucking his legs underneath him and motioning for Nick to sit. Nick does so, settling in beside the other boy and leaning back against the wall.
"I... You know why I came here, right?" he asks and Nick notices that he has his sheets fisted in his hands, twisting them so tightly that he's sure the wrinkles will never come out.
"Yeah," he says. "The zero-tolerance policy."
"Right. So obviously you know I was bullied. I mean, you've seen the evidence of that first hand. But uh, th-there was this one kid who, um... who went over the top with it, ya know? It was like every time he saw me he had to do something. Usually he'd just push me or trip me in the hallways, but he'd always make sure I landed into the lockers."
Nick places a hand on one of Kurt's knees, offering strength when he heard the shakiness of Kurt's voice.
"He, uh, he kept getting more forceful with them though," Kurt says. "Especially when I wouldn't acknowledge him. It made him mad and one day he pushed me just right and I kind of lost it. Yelled at him in the hallways and he got back in my face and pushed me again. Of course that was the day Mr. Schuester finally noticed something and pulled me aside. He didn't even really care to ask what was going on, just wondered why it was suddenly getting to me." He reaches up a hand to wipe at his eyes, and Nick follows the movement, just know seeing the redness in his cheeks and wet trails trailing down from his eyes.
He reaches over and grabs a few tissues from the box on Kurt's desk, handing them to the other boy and settling back, giving him time and space to compose himself.
Kurt finishes dabbing at his eyes and brings his hands back down to his lap, toying with the now soggy tissue. Nick takes it before he can shred it, knowing that Kurt'll never get back to sleep if he's got tiny bits of papers strewn about his bed.
"That was the same week we found out our competition for sectionals," Kurt says, voice soft. "I think you remember what came of that."
"Ah, yes. The humble beginnings of our little spy," Nick says, jokingly. It earns him a smile, which was all he really wanted, so he motions for Kurt to continue, grabbing a pillow and settling in to listen.
"Right. So I came here, and I met Blaine, Wes, and David and it was like a completely new world here. I mean, Wes talked about a no-bullying policy like it was a common thing. Like it was something that'd always been there. He said it was simple and I just kind of, lost it. Ended up telling Blaine... everything, really." Kurt pauses, running a hand through his hair and grinning a bit.
"I swear, he saw nothing but me in tears for the first three weeks of our friendship." Nick laughs a bit and assures Kurt that there had to be at least a ten minute span where he wasn't crying.
"It didn't feel like it," Kurt chokes out between bouts of giggles. "Things spiraled out of control pretty quick after that. I took what probably wasn't the best advice from Blaine and confronted this kid..."
Nick interrupts him for a moment.
"Is this Karofsky?" he asks. Kurt looks dumbfounded, unsure as to why Nick knows who Karofsky is.
"How... How'd you know that?" he whispers.
"You've mentioned him before. Once, right when you first got here."
"Oh. You're right, I'm sorry. Yes, it was Karofsky. He's this, huge beast of a guy. Easily twice my size and one day he knocked me phone out of my hands and pushed me into the lockers and I'd just had enough. So I followed him. Yelled at him a lot and he got in my face. I... I thought he'd just hit me and that'd be the end of it. But he didn't. He..." Kurt chokes, eyes misting and fingers grasping tightly to anything they can find. There's pure misery and terror etched across his features and Nick acts without thinking. He reaches across Kurt's back and pulls the smaller boy to him, catching him when he struggles and forcing the hug.
"You don't have to be scared of him here," he says into Kurt's hair. The other boy finally relaxes a bit, winding his arms around Nick and collapsing into him, letting his emotions take over and work themselves out. The trembling of his body does little to ease Nick's concern, but he just rubs Kurt's back and gives him the only thing he can. Support.
He feels Kurt mumble something into his shirt and pushes him back a bit.
"I said... I said that he kissed me."
"He kissed you? Karofsky?"
"Yeah," Kurt breathes. "I called him, I think it was 'extraordinarily ordinary,' and he just, grabbed me. It was awful." He wipes at his tears and this time Nick just grabs the whole box of tissues and hands them to Kurt. They sit there for awhile longer, Kurt explaining about the aftermath of the kiss, calling Blaine, confronting Karofsky. He finally gets to the threat and it takes everything Nick has in him not to bolt from the room and hunt Karofsky down.
Memories flash through his head. Images of fading leaves and bare tree branches. Of a bright blue shirt turning dark with blood and his brother's eyes losing luster as he slowly fades away. Of a voice so like his own calling out for help and rough hands wrapped tight around his wrists.
He shakes his head to clear it, breath short and thin and focuses back on Kurt.
"...and so they overturned it. Karofsky got to go back to McKinley and I came here."
Nick grabs him again, pulling him against him in both an assurance to Kurt and to ground himself with the thought that Kurt is still there. Still alive and breathing and not wasting away in a hospital bed.
"You're safe here. You know that, right? That you're safe here?" he asks fervently.
"I know. I know that, Nick. It's just so hard. I'm so used to having to look over my shoulder and avoid certain hallways and I was doing better!" Kurt answers, voice scared. "I didn't have to worry about it, and then... then Finn goes and tells Karofsky where I am and now I don't know if he'll be there. I don't know if he's going to show up and try something. If he's going to be waiting around the next corner or, or hanging out in the parking lot." He breaks off, face clouding in anger.
"I used to know. Know where he was. Know that he didn't know and now... now it's like I don't know anthing."
Nick clings to him, distressed at the absolute terror Finn has unknowingly thrust upon his stepbrother. He blinks back the onslaught of sudden tears the spring to his eyes and hugs Kurt that much closer to him.
"Know this," he says. "No one here will let anything happen to you. I won't. Blaine won't. The Warblers won't. We care about you, Kurt and we're not gonna let you get hurt." He's shaking, rage and sadness fighting for control and Kurt freezes as he feels the tremors coursing through his roommates body.
"Nick," he asks softly. "What's going on? Talk to me."
"I'm fine. I'm angry and worried. But, I'm fine."
Kurt shakes his head. He's seen Nick angry and he's seen him worried. This is so much more than that.
"That's not it, Nick. Something's going on. Something's been bothering you since before we came back and I told myself I wouldn't ask, that you'd come to me if you wanted to, but this... Nick?"
"I can't. I've never told anyone before." His voice shakes, the strength in him waining. Danny's face flashes before his eyes and he squeezes them shut, trying to block out the sight.
"Then you need to, Nick! Keeping it in like this? It's just hurting you. Please, let me help."
Kurt sits up, grasping Nick by the shoulders and forcing the other boy to look at him. "Please, Nick," he pleads.
Nick opens his eyes to look at him, searching him, before nodding and moving to push Kurt away. He goes, reluctantly, and watches Nick stand and cross to his desk. He plucks the picture from the corner of it and comes back. Running one finger down the glass of the picture frame, he slowly sits and pushes the picture toward his roommate.
"This is my brother. His name is Danny," he pauses, breath catching. "He's three years younger than me and... he's in a coma."