Nick climbs the stairs up to the bedrooms slowly, thinking to himself. He's thinking about what prank he could pull next, and whether he should actually take the Warbler Council's advice and tone them down a little. He's thinking about where he could maybe get a cow, because he's heard that they can't go down stairs, only up, and would it really be that hard to get a cow up the flight of steps he's currently climbing? He's thinking about what Kurt and Blaine could possibly be doing to be making that noise. He's thinking about Jeff.
He unlocks his bedroom door and pushes it open, dumping his bag on the floor next to his desk and taking off his blazer and tie, hanging them over the back of his chair. There's a cough from behind him and he spins round to see Jeff sitting cross-legged on the bed, his pink converse resting on the floor next to the bedside cabinet.
"Jeff! Where were you, I've been... why aren't you in uniform?"
Jeff looks down at his pink t shirt and jeans, playing with the frayed fabric at the edge of the rip across his left knee. He stays silent, and it's a little while before he meets Nick's gaze.
"I have to go."
Jeff frowns as Nick walks toward him, jumping up over the bedstead and landing opposite him on the bed.
"Why do you have to? Why do you have to go? You don't HAVE to go."
"Yes, Nicky, I do."
"I won't let you."
Jeff opens his mouth to speak, then stops himself, studying Nick's face for a moment. He looks... angry. Angry and upset and although Jeff knows that he has to do it, it doesn't make him happy.
"Nicky, let me tell you something, and you have to let me finish, ok?"
"Are you gay? Is that why you're leaving? That's stupid, you know no one would ever – "
"No! I'm not... Nicky, please just let me talk."
Nick nods, watching Jeff curiously. He's sure that whatever reason Jeff has for leaving, he can change his mind.
"Nicky... I'm not real."
Nick's eyes widen. He wasn't expecting that.
"That's stupid, you're sitting right there."
"You made me up."
There's a long silence before Jeff speaks again.
"I've never... Nicky, remember when you were small, and you were shorter than everyone, and even though you knew you were good at things, no one else would ever have believed in you except your parents? Remember how alone you were? You needed a friend, and so... you made one."
Nick's staring at him in disbelief, shaking his head.
"No. That's stupid, how can you... I can't have an imaginary friend, I'm SEVENTEEN."
"Nicky will you just LET ME SPEAK!" Jeff almost yells, his voice cracking, rubbing his hand roughly across his eyes.
"I was... your best friend, I was everything you ever needed me to be. I was that one person who told you you were the best at the things you tried to do to. When you needed someone to be there with you, I was holding your hand. You were lonely at school, and I was there, and then, when you made friends, you didn't need me any more so I left. I came back when you needed someone to give you the confidence to kiss a girl, or when you just needed someone to pass the time with. I was always there. Then, when you moved to Dalton, you lost everyone, you didn't know a single person here and so there I was. There we were, Nicky and JJ, pranking people left, right, and centre... No one ever knew I was there, Nicky. You did this all by yourself."
There are tears streaming down Nick's face, but he doesn't think he can move to wipe them away. He's just staring at Jeff. He can barely open his mouth to whisper, his voice hoarse, throat hurting from the sobs he's been holding back.
"But..." is all he can manage before bursting into huge, gut wrenching sobs. He feels like everything he's ever known has been ripped away from him. Jeff's arms are around him, somehow, cradling him against his chest, his head resting against Nick's.
"You don't need me anymore, Nicky."
Nick lifts his head, looking at Jeff, whose face is now as streaked with tears as his own.
"I'll always need you."
Jeff smiles, shaking his head.
"No, you don't. You've got Kurt, and Blaine, and Thad, and Wes and David, you've got so many friends here Nicky. You haven't seen me since yesterday afternoon because you've been with your real friends. You've barely thought about me."
Nick's shaking his head in protest. He has been thinking about Jeff. Well... maybe not as much as he used to.
"JJ, please. I don't want you to go, how can I make you not go?" Nick's voice is wobbling, he's verging on pleading with Jeff, wrapping his arms around him as if he can hold him there.
"I need to, Nicky. If I don't go, you'll never..." Jeff breaks off, sobbing once before restraining himself. "If I don't go now, you'll never have a real best friend." He laughs softly, "One that other people can see."
Nick shakes his head again, his face pressed against Jeff's neck.
"I don't want one. I just want you to say you'll stay."
"Please. Don't leave."
"I'm not leaving you."
"You'll stay with me?"
"Until the very end."
Nick pulls back, looking at Jeff for a moment before laughing.
"Did you just... quote Harry Potter?"
"I might have done."
"Idiot." Nick shoves him gently. "You're not staying, are you?"
Jeff shakes his head. "No."
Nick flops back against the pillows, Jeff following, lying next to him, both of them staring up at the ceiling. Nick slips his hand into Jeff's, his fingers warm as they intertwine with Nick's.
"I don't understand... you feel real."
"It's all in your head Nicky, but that doesn't mean it can't –"
"Don't quote Harry potter again." Nick says, laughing as he turns his head to look at Jeff. Jeff grins back at him, and for a few seconds they study each other before Nick's bottom lip starts to wobble, and he begins to cry once more.
"Nicky... no... please don't cry." Jeff moves closer, pulling Nick into his arms again. "I always protected you from the monsters, but you can do it yourself now. You've always been doing it yourself, really."
Nick doesn't reply, just shifts nearer to Jeff, his arms tightening around Jeff's body. They lie like they did when they were kids, a tangle of limbs, Nick's legs thrown over Jeff's, Jeff's hair sticking up at the back where he's been resting against the pillow, Nick's hand finding Jeff's and holding it tight. Nick's sobs quieten gradually, Jeff stroking his hair, comforting him as best as he can.
Nick's just drifting off to sleep when he hears the whisper, this tiny, disembodied voice of a friend he had when he was a child.
"You don't need to be invisible anymore, Nicky," JJ whispers, "Promise me you won't be."
Nick nods sleepily, his eyes closing.
When he wakes up, he's alone. Jeff's gone.
Oh god, you all hate me now.
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I'm writing another multi chap Neff (shorter though) which should start being updated in a week or so, maybe less, so THANK YOU for reading this, and I hope you'll stick with me for that one