high school AU
When Howie gets Nick a diary for Christmas, Nick doesn't know what to do with it at first. An actual diary. With leather binding and fresh, crisp pages that practically beg for Nick to fill them with words. On the first page there's already a few lines written down in Howie's neat scrawl: Just remember that I'm always here if the diary isn't enough.
"It helps me sometimes," Howie told him. "Just - whenever there's something I wanna get down quick, this helps."
And Nick appreciates that, of course he does. Howie's always trying to help him in small, simple ways that aren't too overwhelming. But Nick doesn't know how to write. Writing is Howie's strength. Nick can draw his way out of seeing his parents fight, he can paint when BJ sits in her room and drinks by herself, and he can pick up his camera when Chad the mascot tells him he should probably leave before Nick's even caught his breath.
Nick's found a way of coping in that, but putting actual words to his thoughts has never been his strong suit. It's Howie, though, so he tries his best.
He starts out small. Sometimes during lunch, he'll pull the diary out of his backpack and write 'saw aj again today in photography class. it was weird. wonder if anything's gonna happen again' and snaps it shut before anyone can start peering over his shoulder.
He carries it with him in his backpack all the time. Howie sees him writing in it sometimes and gives him a small, slightly curious smile. Howie is Nick's best friend, Nick's only friend, but Howie was right. There are some things Nick just can't tell him.
He carries the diary around for years, until it's tattered and fraying at the edges from being wedged into the bottom of his backpack for so long, between Algebra books and pencil cases. It's mostly filled with little one-liners, insignificant events and things that Nick can't make himself read again.
'justin was chosen as basketball captain today. people were talking about it all during lunch. it's good. he deserves it. he always looks good on the court. i did a sketch of him the other day.'
'heard from chad last night. i didn't look at the message though. howie was there and it was just really weird.'
'had sex with a guy from my art class. i dunno why i'm writing this down. i just want to remember it.'
'me and howie went to the pier today. we bought hot dogs and howie told me that he's thinking about majoring in journalism when he goes to college. i think he'd be amazing at it. howie can do anything he wants to. it's really nice when he tells me stuff like that though. i told him he was gonna be the best journalist ever, because he will be. he looked nice today, he was wearing a blue sweater.'
'justin's team won the game last night. i tried sketching him when i got home. it's so stupid, all of this.'
'howie's gonna be away all summer. he just told me today.'
'i'm supposed to be happy for him, right? it's been a week already.'
'i was in a threesome last night.'
'this summer sucks.'
'howie was showing a new guy around today. his name's brian. he seems really cool. aj ruined another one of my sketches though.'
'brian's hooked up with justin!!!! i didn't know he ... i didn't know.'
'howie went out and got contacts today. he looks so different. it's weird, that he doesn't know how cute he is. i try to tell him but he just ignores me. brian's still with justin btw.'
'brian's not with justin anymore. it only lasted two weeks. i wonder if ... no, this is stupid. this is stupid.'
'fuck, i'm gonna go watch bball practice tonight. i'm allowed and all that, since brian's my friend. i'm gonna go. fuck.'
'i went. i think justin saw me watching him like five times. i am the biggest idiot ever.'
'today brian came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said 'it's okay, nick.' and then he smiled and said, 'he's been asking me about you.' and then he walked away. i don't know what that means. (i do know. fuck.)'
'i hate my mom. i don't care if i can't say that. i hate her.'
'justin talked to me today! i was waiting for brian after practice (actually i was watching justin ... jesus, i sound like a schoolgirl) and he came up to me and we talked until brian was dressed and we had to leave. i really didn't want to go.'
'i think i caught justin watching me today. i think he's ... no. no he's not.'
'howie told me to go for it. the justin thing. i don't know how he knew, but howie always knows everything. he looked kinda weird when he was talking though. and he left really quickly after we'd finished eating. i hope he's okay.'
'i've been working on this sketch all night. screw it. SCREW it. i'm gonna do this.'
It's been years of writing small observations and wishes and regrets, but now Nick slams the diary shut and stuffs it in his backpack. He heads straight from the benches outside to the basketball court, where the team is finishing up their practice. Not that that's why Nick stuck around.
Except of course that's why Nick stuck around, and when he pushes straight through the locker room doors, Justin is the only one there, still drying off his damp hair. Justin is always the last one to leave, because he stays longer on the court than anyone else does. Not that Nick knew that.
Except of course Nick knew that, and when Justin turns around and goes, "Nick?", he almost bolts directly out the door again.
"Hi," he says, pretty lamely.
Justin laughs, which makes Nick's stomach jump around a little. "Hi," he says, reaching into his locker for a shirt. Seeing as he's still bare-chested Nick might be staring at him quite obviously. "What are you-?"
"Could you just," Nick says suddenly, carding a stiff hand through his hair, "not talk for a second?"
Justin frowns at him, but does as he's told. Nick's heart is trying valiantly to pound through his ribcage, but he's not going to let that win out this time. 'It's always okay to push the boundaries a little when there's something you want,' Howie always tells him, and before Nick knows it he's hurtling forward.
Justin's eyes go wide just before Nick braces a hand on either side of his head and kisses him. It doesn't last very long. Nick's barely pressed his lips to Justin's before he pulls back, even though he doesn't move away. He feels a little sick now, watching Justin stare at him like that, but he presses on anyway.
"I've ... I've sort of been watching you for a long time," he says shakily, taking a deep breath. "And you're great. You are. You let me talk to you and it's ... and I know I'm not - but I know what I'm good at and I just ... I think we should do this."
Justin looks vaguely like he's coming out of a coma. He blinks, watching Nick like he's never seen him before. Nick has a split second of complete defeat and embarrassment, and he's about to pull away when Justin yanks him back in. Yanks him in, but doesn't make any move towards anything else. Nick's eyes are round and wide while Justin's are half-lidded, appreciative. Then he smiles at Nick, a lopsided kind of smirk that makes Nick's throat go dry.
Nick's so caught up in watching Justin that he doesn't notice when he grabs a hold of his shoulder and switches their positions. Nick knocks back against the lockers with a loud bonk, but then Justin's kissing him, kissing him, and Nick tries not to moan and beg for it too soon. He fists a hand in Justin's hair and meets him push for eager push, both of them scrambling for skin and making hot, breathless sounds into the heavy air between them. In the brief second when Justin is yanking Nick's shirt over his head, he just has time to mumble, "took you long enough," before crushing his mouth to Nick's again, and Nick figures it's seriously about time to stop talking.
In the morning though. In the morning he can reach for a pen and write a quick 'staying in bed all day' before snapping it shut again and smiling when Justin kisses the back of his neck.
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