I shouldn't be doing this. I desperately owe everyone a new chapter of "No Regrets." But that's in the works, and it's going to be really long, and my friend absolutely begged me to finish this...which is why it exists. And I noted a sad lack of Neff (though that of it that exists is utterly glorious), so I figured...why not post?
I don't own Glee, nor do I own "Dreaming With a Broken Heart."
The morning after Jeff's date with Kurt dawned dark and rainy. Nick would have appreciated the irony, were he not trying so hard to forget that the entirety of yesterday had ever even happened. Groaning, he burrowed deeper under his comforter and squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that the quiet pitter patter of the rain on the roof would be enough to put him back to sleep. As if waking up at six wasn't brutal enough on a typical day. But Jeff hadn't gotten back until after midnight the night before and had immediately gone off to shower without talking to Nick (which, okay, probably had a lot to do with the fact that Nick had pretended to be asleep), and they still hadn't discussed the date at all.
He was just about to drift back into blissful oblivion when he heard the frantic clacking of keys and, confused, forced himself to sit up.
Jeff was hunched over at his desk, typing at top speed and looking like he hadn't gotten any rest at all the night before. "You're awake," Nick observed lamely, wincing as his voice cracked with sleep.
"That I am," Jeff confirmed with a tiny, wan smile, not bothering to look up from his screen. Nick's heart seized. This was his best friend, and they were acting like they barely knew each other.
"Jeff, how long are we going to do this?"
That was enough to capture his roommate's attention, who looked up with furrowed brow and asked, "What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry," he barreled on. "I know I was kind of a dick yesterday. I've just been really stressed out lately," because I don't know how much longer I can keep pretending to be okay without you, "but I shouldn't have taken it out on you." He winced just remembering their argument the previous afternoon.
"So what are you doing tonight?" Jeff asked, eyes bright with excitement.
"Dunno. Nothing, probably," he answered, studiously avoiding his roommate's gaze.
But then there was silence; silence that stretched on far too long. "What's wrong?" Jeff asked finally.
"Why does something have to be wrong?"
Jeff drew back slightly, startled by the bite in his voice. "...it doesn't. Nick, are you sure you're okay?"
"You just...you seem kind of upset."
"I...I have a lot to do, alright? I'm fine." More silence. "Why are you looking at me like that? Don't you have a date to get ready for?"
He flinched, and Nick ducked his head. Apologize. For Christ's sake, apologize. He hasn't done anything to you. But he couldn't make his lips move. Eventually, he heard Jeff walk away, and the rustling sounds of him finishing getting dressed. "I'm going to go in a few minutes," he said, softly. "You should really...do something for yourself tonight. Something fun."
Right. Sure, because I'll be able to focus on anything other than what you and Kurt might be doing. He hated his own bitter thoughts, but he was powerless to stop them, powerless, for once, to make himself view everything through resolutely rose-colored glasses. "Sure," he replied curtly. "You know, maybe I'll hang out with Luke tonight. He mentioned something a few days ago."
Jeff froze midway to the door. "You mean like a date?"
"Yeah," Nick answered, defiant. "Maybe."
"Nick..." Slowly, Jeff walked back over to him. "You don't have to prove anything."
"Who said anything about wanting to prove something?"
"You don't want to go out with Luke. I don't understand why you're doing this."
"Maybe I want to."
"No, you don't."
"How would you know what I want?" He regretted it the moment it was out of his mouth, but everything was spiraling out of control and he couldn't stop himself.
"You told me when he asked you. You said the idea of dating him made you uncomfortable."
"Maybe I changed my mind."
When he'd gathered the courage to look up, he immediately wished he hadn't. The hurt in Jeff's eyes was practically palpable. "Nick, you don't have to lie to me. It's not like I'm going to judge you or something. But I know you better than that."
"Yeah, well, maybe you don't. Maybe you don't have to know everything about me all the time. Maybe I want to have a few secrets!"
"Jesus. You know what, okay. Fine. You're going to do whatever the hell you want anyway, so I don't know why I'm even bothering." He strode back over to the door, and just before he walked out, he added over his shoulder, "But when you're done making stupid choices, make sure you come find me."
"Have fun on your date."
"I plan to." And the door slammed shut behind him.
But Jeff was staring at him, looking completely bemused, and when he finally stopped talking, Jeff snorted. "Dude. I'm not pissed about that."
"No! Jeez, give me some credit." He rolled his eyes. "I mean, yeah, I was...confused. Since you never said anything about- -well, whatever." He shook his head, obviously wanting to avoid any chance of reawakening the earlier tension and smiled. "I thought about it, and...you know, you were probably right. I shouldn't have gotten involved. I just want you to be happy."
It hit him hard; how many times had he said exactly that to Jeff? I just want you to be happy. He spoke without thinking, words pushed out of his mouth by an illogical swell of hope. "I never went out with Luke last night."
"No." He sighed. "You were right, it would have been stupid."
"Hey...I'm sorry. I was a little harsh."
"You weren't, though. I was being an asshole. It was my fault."
"But if you wanted to, you should have- -"
"But I didn't, and it was all because I- -well, anyway." He caught himself, blanching. "Never mind."
"I really am sorry."
"Oh, come on." Nick laughed. "Are we going to keep arguing about who screwed this up more, or are we eventually just going to be all happy and shit because we're okay again?"
"I like that second one." Face lighting up, Jeff abandoned whatever he'd been working on entirely and all but bounced over to Nick's bed, hurling himself at the other boy. Nick yelped, startled, but still managed to catch him and return his tight embrace. "Jesus, Jeff," he laughed. "Calm down!" But his heart was flipflopping hyperactively in his chest, and he hoped to God that Jeff, who was still wrapped around him gleefully, couldn't feel it as he could feel Jeff's own pulse (slightly elevated, probably from his epic leap across the room, but otherwise steady).
"Sorry," Jeff sang unrepentantly, pulling away enough to look at him (ohmyGodhisfacewassoclose). "I'm just happy."
"That good of a night, huh?" Nick asked, his heart sinking just as abruptly as it had started acting up.
Something unrecognizable flashed in Jeff's eyes for the briefest of moments and he shrugged and carefully disentangled himself from his best friend. "You could say that, yeah."
"Want to tell me about it?" Nick offered, cursing himself internally. I don't want to hear this. But he did, desperately, want to make up for his behavior the night before. Which meant sucking it up and dealing, no matter how much this moment was gonna suck.
"Um..." His eyes darted back to his computer, and he pulled a face. "Later, yeah. I just really have to finish this thing. What are you doing after rehearsal?"
"Nothing, as far as I know."
Jeff laughed a little, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a way that Nick could never help thinking of as completely adorable. "We'll have roomie bonding time then."
He was out the door, clutching his toothbrush, before Nick could reply, and the other boy sighed and flopped against his pillows. He was usually much, much better at dealing with this, but now with midterms coming up, and the council already going all Nazi Germany on them to get ready for Regionals (because yay, we tied with New Directions, happiness and joy, except that Wevid/Thad were kind of already in panic mode- -because shit, we tied with New Directions, why weren't we good enough to win outright, the regionals judges so won't do the tie thing again)...it just felt like too much. And the not-so-small matter of his unrequited feelings for his roommate/best friend had officially graduated from 'unavoidable undercurrent of mild teenage angst' to 'starting to overshadow much more important things, I seriously need to get a handle on all this and get over it.' Because the thing was, he knew, somewhere deep down, that he'd do pretty much anything in the world for Jeff...which, by extension, meant sometimes making himself miserable in order to make Jeff happy. And maybe that was kind of pathetic, but sad!Jeff was just so...well, anyone would understand, if they'd ever seen it. Nick quite literally couldn't handle it without feeling extreme pain of his own. So it was worth it, to him, to make sure that Jeff was happy.
Still. Sometimes the whole thing kind of sucked.
The day itself was strange. There were huge globs of time that raced by, but then there were minutes that felt like hours, class periods that felt like days. The whole thing was very disorienting, but eventually, he made it to Warblers rehearsal.
At first, it was a huge relief to have a place to channel all of his emotions. Luke had come up with a few potential song ideas (ironic? Yes. But he made it a point not to think about that.), and most of them were just the right side of angsty. So that was good. Until, that was, they took a five-minute breather and Nick looked up from his water bottle to see Jeff beelining over to Kurt at top speed. The countertenor met him halfway and took him gently by the wrist, leading him over to a quieter corner and, leaning close to whisper something in his ear. Jeff shook his head and responded, also in a whisper, if how close they were standing was any indication. Nick looked down, closing his eyes in a desperate attempt to block out everything around him. He still managed to glance up just in time to see Kurt pull Jeff into a tight (intimate?) hug right before Thad called rehearsal back to order.
When rehearsal finally ended, Nick retreated to their room and curled up on his bed, trying to make sense of the roller coaster of emotion that he couldn't quite seem to shake. He knew one thing, though: that things couldn't keep on this way, or he was seriously going to flip his shit.
He rolled his head back to glare at the ceiling. He needed to talk to Jeff. As in, actually talk to him, actually admit how he felt. Because it wasn't fair to Jeff to keep him in the dark, and it was starting to make him insane, trying to hide it all the time. (And maybe starting wasn't quite the right word.)
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
"Hey! Roomie bonding?" Jeff asked, closing the door quietly behind him and beaming hopefully. Nick sat up with effort and managed a smile, for Jeff's benefit.
"Um, in a few minutes, I think. I just...want to practice something real quick."
"Oh. Sure!" Jeff regarded him for a moment and then stretched out his arms. "C'mere."
"Come. Here," he reiterated, grinning, and Nick crossed over to him slowly, tentatively. He hugged him tightly, swaying gently from side to side. "Everything's gonna be okay." Nick let out a shuddering breath and kind of buried his head into Jeff's shoulder.
"You will be," Jeff whispered, sort of rubbing the small of his back. "You will be. I promise."
"Thanks," he rasped, and forced himself to pull away. "I'll be back in a few."
The practice room in the very back of the hallway was Nick's favorite, because it was tucked away into a tiny alcove, and most people rarely noticed it there. The piano wasn't the best, the acoustic wasn't great, but somehow, it felt right to sing in there. He went there on autopilot, letting his blazer and tie fall to the ground with his bag and sinking down onto the well-worn bench.
There were two ways to look at this: talk to Jeff (which, though he'd very nearly succeeded in convincing himself was the only real option back in his room, was now looking absolutely terrifying and pretty much impossible) and risk ruining the friendship (see again: terror); or...or he could just accept that maybe this just wasn't meant to be. Jeff seemed happy, and if he'd wanted Nick...he'd probably have said something by now. Or hinted, at least. For God's sake, they lived together. If it was meant to be, it probably would have started being by now.
He arpeggiated a few random, minor chords, sighing.
"If you love something, let it go..."
Cliched? Hopelessly so. But there had to be a hint of truth in it, no matter how trite it was. Bowing his head, he started to sing, the first words that came to mind.
"When you're dreaming with a broken heart,
The waking up is the hardest part.
You roll outta bed and down on your knees,
And for a moment, you can hardly breathe."
His breath caught, and he squeezed his eyes shut, hard, banging out chords he didn't even realize that he knew. "You're wondering, was he really here?
Is he standing in my room?
No, he's not, 'cause he's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone..."
The tears ran down his cheeks in hot rivulets and splashed onto the keys, but he ignored them, pressing on. "When you're dreaming with a broken heart,
The giving up is the hardest part.
He takes you in with his crying eyes,
Then all at once you have to say goodbye."
He was so embroiled in his song by that point, voice miraculously steady despite his tears, that he didn't notice the door creaking quietly as it swung open. Didn't notice Jeff hovering soundlessly just inside the room, watching him. Listening.
"Wondering could you stay my love?
Will you wake up by my side?
No, he can't, 'cause he's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone...
Jeff closed his eyes, letting himself silently mouth the lyrics as well.
"Now do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hands
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hands?
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hands?
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my, roses in my hands?
Would you get them if I did?
No you won't. 'Cause you're gone...gone...gone...gone..."
Nick's voice broke and he leaned forward, letting his forehead rest against the piano as he finally let himself cry. And, slowly, Jeff inched forward.
"I think I know what that one was about."
He froze. "I- -I didn't know you were there."
"Nick," he said, very, very quietly, "please look at me."
He wiped his eyes quickly as he turned to face Jeff. "What?"
"What was that about?" he asked, kneeling so that they were on the same level.
"I thought you said you knew." I can't do this, I can't do this, Ican'tdothis.
He reached one hand out, ever so slowly, to curve around Nick's face. "That was about me, wasn't it?"
"My God, Jeff..."
"If it wasn't, you should tell me now, before I make a complete fool of myself," he murmured, letting his forehead fall forward to press against Nick's.
He wound his arms around Jeff's neck, shaking his head. "Please."
And then he kissed him.