I'm, like, tingling with excitement for this one. WOOT!
Okay, first Niff. This SO ain't going well, but I'm going to have the. Best. Time. EVER! Writing it. YAY! I feel like as a Niffer(?) It's about time that I started attempting to inspire others to get in on the craze, cause these two are LEGIT, and I ship them harder than Klaine, which is saying something.
Oh, and while I'm here, I vow NEVER to muddle the line between a Niff and Klaine story. One will be one, the other will be the other. So yay.
Nick didn't really notice it at first. He was pretty attuned to Jeff, even after only a few months of sharing a dorm, but it's not like he was that observant. Okay, well… yes. Nick would admit, he did think of Jeff as a rather modest guy, but he didn't… Whatever. It's not like he was counting the times he had seen him shirtless. That would be weird, stalker-y, and not at all as straight as he claimed to be.
But that didn't mean he never started to.
At first it was just how Jeff would go out of his way sometimes. Nick remembered a couple occasions where they would both slip into their room way, way after curfew, but Jeff would still sneak back out to change into his pajamas. He also could recall one day exceptionally clearly, where they had been riding back to school on a coach bus after a field trip to Quebec, and it was nearing 2 AM. Guys were trading in their Dalton uniforms for T-shirts to get more comfy as they drove through the night, but when Nick woke up the next morning, head on Jeff's shoulder, he realized the other boy was still in his button-up and Blazer.
Naturally, that raised a few questions. Not a lot, but a few. And Nick started to then realize Jeff's complete and utter avoidance of anything regarding taking his shirt off. It was almost ridiculous, the extremes he went to. He didn't even go swimming with them! Jeff's house had two pools, one indoor and one outdoor, and he never had anyone over to go swimming. It wasn't like all the Warblers were banging down his door to go swimming, most of them had their own pools as well, but you would think they'd be invited! And it wasn't just that. It was showers, and changing in the dorm, and car washing, and water balloon fights, and running through sprinklers… Jeff was missing out, and Nick couldn't help but notice.
And with noticing came questions, and with questions came searching, and with searching came more questions, until Nick was hanging on Jeff's every word. And that's when pieces started coming together. He was starting to really listen to the blond now, actually hearing him. He was watching him a bit closer, too, and that led Nick to a couple alarming conclusions.
For example, he saw the way Jeff looked to the ground at the end of every compliment, and he saw the way his eyes widened a bit in what looked almost like… no… but maybe… maybe like fear? It looked an awful lot like fear, and Nick didn't like the sight of it..
He also noticed some of the little things he said. They were so easy to pass off, but now that Nick was looking, now that Nick had a pretty good idea… it was like all of Jeff's words were printed onto a piece of paper, and the tiny but oh-so important parts were highlighted for him. Nick could pick them out like giant marshmallows in a bowl M&Ms.
"'Jeff, man! Looking good!'- 'Nah, bro. Not as good as you!'."
"'Ow, ow! Looks like Jeff's out to snag a lady-friend tonight!'-'Pssh. As if that'll ever happen…'."
And now, suddenly, Nick found himself very, very worried for Jeff. It made his stomach tie up in knots whenever he saw him snag a blazer and dress shirt from the closet and stumble off to the bathrooms in the morning to change or pass up another pool party. He hated what he was seeing in his friend, not because it annoyed him but because it scared him.
And if it scared him, Nick couldn't imagine how scared Jeff must be.
But whatever. Anything going on in Jeff's head was one of the last things going on in Nick's. After two weeks of winter break, Nick was finally going to see his best friend. It had actually been killing him a little bit. Okay, a lot a bit. Most people would get tired of a guy they hung out with 24/7, but Jeff felt more like an old wedding band to Nick; the second he took it off, he couldn't stop feeling the place it used to be. He wanted to put it back on.
Because maybe… maybe Jeff and Nick were only best friends. But maybe… maybe Nick wanted to be a little more. Maybe. He didn't know. It's not like he really thought about it. Well, not too much anyway. Not when he was awake. Just when he was asleep… okay, maybe a little when he was awake, but just when he and Nick were sitting really close and stuff…
So fine, it was all the time, but that didn't mean it was a problem. It just aided the warm tingly feeling twisting in his belly as he climbed the stairs of the Warbler's block. He stepped out into the hallway and saw light creeping out under the door to his and Jeff's dorm. Score! There was nothing but a thin wall separating him from Jeff now!
Nick couldn't resist a smile as he kicked open the door to the room. His eyes lit up as he saw Jeff turning to meet his eyes, but then… oh. Oh. Jeff wasn't wearing a shirt, and the look in his eyes…? Oh. Nick quickly threw his bags on his desk, his hand shooting out to catch Jeff's wrist as the other boy twisted to dart off to God knows where. "No, wait, Jeff it's oka- oof."
A swift elbow in the ribs cut him off, but Nick still didn't let go. In fact, he did quite the opposite, latching onto his crush's other wrist. "Jeffie, don't worry about it!" he tried again, awkwardly sticking his leg out behind him to kick the door closed.
But Jeff was worried about it. He was squirming to get out of Nick's grasp, and –crap- were those tears dripping down Jeff's face? Crap, crap, crap. They were, and they were falling in sheets down his cheeks. "Aww, Jeff-" he tried to say, but the words never reached the blonde's ears as he unfortunately slipped away from Nick's clutches and dived to his bed, wrapping himself up in his comforter.
"Just go away," he whimpered pathetically, burying his face into the blanket, and Nick was pretty sure his heart broke. He sat awkwardly on the edge of Jeff's bed, watching his shoulders quake under the covers and listening to him cry. Nick hated this. He hated how his friend seemed scared of him, he hated how he himself was scared for him, and he hated seeing Jeff like this. Because now it was real. Now he couldn't pretend like Jeff was okay. Jeff was scared, Jeff was hurting, Jeff was in pain, and he couldn't ignore it, he couldn't ignore it, crap, he just couldn't ignore it.
Nick hesitated for a moment before laying on top of the mound of blankets his friend was somewhere buried in and wrapping his arms around the whole shaking mess. "Shhh, it's okay," he hushed, feeling and sounding a bit more than desperate. "Jeff!" The other boy didn't respond, just continued to cry. Hard. Did Nick mention that he hated this?
"I'm sorry," Jeff said hysterically after a couple minutes, and Nick's whole head went on 'panic' mode.
"What? Why are you sorry?" he asked, confused and concerned and worried and lost and, gosh, why was this such a big deal? They were best friends; what did Jeff think he was going to do? Nick would love him no matter what! "Come on, Jeff, you're scaring me. What are you sorry for?" he asked, trying to not sound as frenzied as he felt. What was wrong, what was wrong, what was wrong? "Please? What are you sorry for?"
Jeff didn't answer. Not immediately anyway. He just continued to cry until he fell asleep, tangled up in his sheets. Nick wasn't sure what to do now. It had been three days. Three days since Jeff started sobbing over Nick seeing him without a shirt and apologized, and Nick didn't think there was a protocol for this kind of thing. Like, really? Now what? Now what?
He was sitting at his desk, math notebook opened in front of him, but Nick couldn't be bothered to focus on it. No, he was too busy staring at Jeff. His Jeff. His scared and sad Jeff who he didn't know what to do with. Nick was watching him so intently, that he didn't notice for a minute when Jeff started watching him back. He blinked back in surprise when he realized the blonde's eyes had met his own.
"It was for letting you see," Jeff spoke, words slow and calculated. Nick arched an eyebrow, and the other boy continued. "What I'm sorry for? I-I-" Jeff choked, struggling to get the words out. "I'm sorry for letting you see." A sick realization settled in the pit of Nick's stomach, but he didn't listen to it. He had to be sure.
"Sorry for letting me see what, Jeff?" Nick asked, the tension in the room palpable. You couldn't have cut it with a giant, freaking samurai sword, let alone a knife. The blonde shifted awkwardly in his seat.
"For letting you see…" he trailed off, blush tinting his cheeks dark red. "Me," he finished, gesturing at his body, and Nick felt his heart sink a little bit. Oh gosh, no. Not his Jeff. Not his Jeff. Nick realized the other boy was waiting for him to say something, but he didn't know how to respond. At least, he didn't know how to respond in any way that made him sound straight.
So instead, Nick got up from his seat and found himself pulling Jeff up and into a hug. "Why are you sorry for that?" Nick asked, making him say it. He had to make him say it.
"Because I'm ugly," Jeff answered, hiding his face in the crook of Nick's neck.
"Oh, Jeff…" he sighed, not sure what else to do but squeeze his six a little bit tighter. When Nick was five years old, his older brother forced him through this haunted house on Friday the 13th. He had only been able to make it about halfway through before a ghost jumping out at him pushed him over the edge and he ended up sitting on the floor crying. Eventually, his dad had found him cowering between two caskets and carried him out. He and his father had never really gotten along; Nick figured he had always known that he was never really going to be into girls, and that drove a wedge between them. So, there wasn't a lot of talking during the walk out, but Nick remembered his dad holding him tight. Being against him had made Nick feel safe…
Nick wanted Jeff to feel safe, too. He loved him, and, yes, he knew that they weren't out of the house just cause Jeff had started crying. No, they were very much inside it. But this time, Nick wasn't scared, and he would be the strong one. He would carry Jeff out if it was the last thing he did, and this was the first step. A hug was always the first step.
"I'm so sorry, Nick," Jeff apologized again, and Nick pulled away a bit, ducking down and tilting his head up to catch his best friend's eye. Jeff eventually –reluctantly- looked at him, and Nick had to refrain from letting himself smile in relief. He clenched his jaw.
"Do you trust me?" he asked, and Jeff looked at him for a minute, a certain terror filling his eyes, before he looked away nodding. Nick let out a breath of air he hadn't realized he was holding. "Okay," he said slowly. "Okay." And with that, Nick let his hands creep around the hem of Jeff's shirt. The blonde took a sharp intake of air.
"Shit, Nick, what are you doing?" Jeff cursed, eyes widening, and Nick snagged one of his hands for a moment, giving it a squeeze.
"Trust me," he said again, searching Jeff's eyes. He looked scared, but he nodded anyway, a resolve taking over his face. Nick nodded back and fingered the bottom of his friend's t-shirt, slowly pulling it up. Jeff was having trouble breathing, and Nick could hear and see him struggling not to cry as he lifted the shirt higher and higher, revealing more and more of his torso. "Arms up," he said quietly, a weird hush having fallen over the room. Jeff complied and Nick slipped the shirt completely off of him.
"Nicky…" Jeff gasped, and Nick slipped the tee through his fingers, letting him hold onto it. "Nick." He laughed.
"It's okay," he told him with a smile, looking at his face and then letting his eyes fall to his body. "It's really okay," Nick said a bit quieter. "Awww. Now come on," he told the upset look on Jeff's face. He pinched at his waist and then brought a hand up to Jeff's cheek, lacing his fingers through his hair. "Look at you. Look at you!" he said happily, and Jeff was crying again. But that was okay. Jeff was allowed to cry.
"Nicky," Jeff gagged through his tears, and Nick held him close, ignoring the awkwardness of fifty percent of their hug being half naked.
"Ssssh. Stop it, look at you!" Nick exclaimed, shuffling them over to the full-length mirror on the back of the door and posing Jeff in front of it. "Look at you," he exclaimed again, and Jeff was sobbing in front of him, eyes screwed up tight against his own reflection.
"I c-can't. Stop, Ni-ick, I c-can't…" he was hiccupping, and Nick ran his hands down from their position on Jeff's shoulder and to his hands, lining up their arms, linking their fingers together, and pressing his chest against Jeff's back. His head rested on his shoulder.
"But you're beautiful," he whispered, and Jeff opened his red, red eyes, but he didn't look at himself. No, he wasn't looking at him, but into Nick's eyes in the mirror. Jeff spun away from him, tugging on his shirt quickly, and threading his fingers through his hair.
"Don't say that," he murmured, and Nick felt a sense of hopelessness well within him.
"But, Jeff, it's true," he tried to say, but Jeff just threw his hands into the air.
"No, you know what? You can't just… just tell me that! You can't just tell me that when I know it's a lie, okay? You don't think that I know it's a lie? Like I'm blind? It's not true, Three. It's not true and you, you of all people, can't tell me otherwise. Crap, especially you. You…" Jeff trailed off, struggling to breath as all the negative emotions accompanying his speech started to catch up with him. "You're perfect, Nicky, so you can't tell me… y-you can't… I-I-I-" he broke off the phrase, and Nick had caught up to him, the initial shock of Jeff pulling himself away dissolving into thin air, and now he was wrapping himself around the blond again.
"I can tell you that, Six," he said, whipping out a pet name of his own. "I can. Because you're beautiful, and amazing, and I know, I…" he paused for a minute, collecting himself. "I've known that you've felt this way for a while, but none of what you're thinking holds any truth at all. And you know what? To hell with it, I love you, Jeff. I love every little bit of you from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes, and I think all of it's perfect, okay? You don't get to tell me I'm lying or wrong when I'm not. You are. You're perfect."
And Jeff was crying harder than before. His shoulders were wracking with sobs, and Nick fitted themselves closer together still and latched on as tight as he could. He was going to make Jeff feel safe. He was determined to make Jeff feel safe. "You're being silly," he whispered into the other boy's ear, ignoring his own fear of rejection in favor of comforting the boy he loved when he needed it most. Jeff let out a forced laugh.
"No, you're silly," he mumbled against his bared shoulder, words hot against his skin, Nick's shirt askew due to the circumstances. Nick felt Jeff shudder as he tried to take a decent breath of air. "I love you, too," Jeff said quietly, and Nick just nodded, rubbing his hands up and down Jeff's back.
"Okay," he whispered, holding onto Jeff with no intent of letting go.
Meh. We do not have near enough of these… I feel like everyone should just write Niff all over the place. Do me a favor and beg your Glee writing friends for them? No shame in groveling! Niffs of any kind!
Also, it's snowing like a BOSS outside, and I keep playing "Let It Snow".
Also, I'm sick. Poor me.
Also, TIME TO WRITE "DELAYED REGRET"! Get pumped, cause this chapter's gonna be intense…