10. Nick

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The next few days are a blur for Nick. He spends the first 24 hours sleeping, only awakening for pain pills and bathroom breaks.

He's staying in Ian's room, but instead of his usual spot on the floor, he gets the bed. He's not sure where Ian is sleeping but probably the guest room. Ian is weird about sleeping on the floor.

On day two, Ian says they need to talk about what Nick's plans are. "You can't go home. You know that, right?"

Nick is silent but nods. The truth is that he has no idea what he's going to do. He can't believe he's seventeen and homeless. How did this happen? He only had five more months before graduation.

"I've been thinking," Ian says. "Of asking my parents about you staying here."

Nick shakes his head. "I couldn't do that. That's asking way too much."

"What are your other options?"

Nick shrugs and instantly regrets it—his broken rib throbbing more than usual. He really is helpless.

"Let's just talk to them, okay? They may not even say yes. But they will need to know what happened. They already know you got hurt somehow, just not the truth. I told them you fell down the stairs at school."

Nick reluctantly agrees simply because he has no other options.

And so a couple hours later, the two boys are seated at the kitchen table across from Ian and Bailey's parents while Nick goes over the entire, embarrassing ordeal. He doesn't go into the fact that the abuse has been happening for years or the fact that his mother always chooses Ken over him, and he's thankful when they don't bring up either topic.

Ian's mother, Betty, reaches across the table and holds Nick's hands in hers for a moment before sitting back in her chair. "Nick, sweetie, you know we love you, but..."

Nick braces himself for the rejection. It's just like all the times he begged his mom to leave Ken. He submitted himself to this humiliation for nothing.

"There are some things we need to consider," she continues. She wasn't saying no, so maybe that was a good sign. "First of all, what about Bailey? She lives here too."

"This was her idea," Ian says quickly. All eyes are on him now. Nick can't believe that Bailey suggested this. Although she's probably just trying to be a good samaritan.

"I mean, I was talking to her about Nick, wondering what we could do for him," he gives Nick an apologetic look. "And she brought it up. She had some good points. He stays here practically every other night anyway. And no one has used the guest room in forever. Nick could take it."

Ian keeps going, and Nick wonders if he's about to break out a PowerPoint presentation. "Plus, if you're worried about anything going on between the two of them, you shouldn't. The two can barely tolerate each other."

Nick's eyes widen, and he feels his face turn red underneath his bruises. Ian really has no filter.

Ian's dad, Walter, coughs up his water—just as shocked by his son's statement as the rest of the room. "Be that as it may, we trust Nick."

Nick's heart drops to the floor as visions of the closet play through his mind.

Walter clears his throat and turns his attention back to Nick. "Betty and I will discuss it. But either way, Nick, you know we will do whatever we can to help your situation."

Nick has to force himself to hold eye contact with Walter. This is the most uncomfortable conversation of his life so far, and hopefully forever. "Thank you, sir."

As Nick stands up to leave, he looks at Betty. The look of sorrow on her face makes him want to shrivel up into a hole.

"Wait. Nick," she says and comes around the table. She grabs him by the shoulders, forcing him to look at her. "We don't need to discuss it. Of course you can stay here. You're practically family anyway."

Nick feels his eyes burning at her kind words. He turns his attention to Walter who is shrugging, as if to say 'whatever she wants.' "Thank you. Thank you so much."

He gives Betty a big hug—swallowing the pain—and Walter a silent nod before heading back to Ian's room. Once he is there, he picks up the phone to call his mom. Ian is in the room, but Nick doesn't mind. He would just tell him what was said later anyway.

The phone rings for a long time—to the point that Nick was sure it would go to voicemail—before his mom picks up.

He tells her about staying at the Rogers', and she seems relieved. They make arrangements for Nick to come get his clothes, books and truck the next day while Ken is at work, and that's it. They get off the phone. She doesn't ask how he is, and he doesn't ask about Ken.

"Wow, man, that was cold," Ian states the obvious as Nick hangs up.

Nick grabs his pain pills and downs a couple to help him sleep tonight. "Whatever. I don't give a shit. I'll get my stuff tomorrow and hopefully will never need to see her or Ken again."

He hopes Ian gets the hint that he doesn't want to talk about it, and thankfully, he does. "Alright then. I'm glad this is all going to work out. See you tomorrow."

Nick rolls on to his side without responding. The conversation with his mom just reminded him of this mess he was in, through no fault of his own. He needs to be alone to chill out.

After a few minutes, he hears a light tapping on the door. He groans, and his first instinct is to tell whoever it is to fuck off. The fact that it might be Walter or Betty stops him. Those two are basically saving his life, he needs to remind himself to be grateful and stop feeling sorry for himself.

"Come in," Nick says, sitting up.

He can hardly believe his eyes when he sees Bailey slide through the ajar door. She walks over and sits next to him on the bed. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear—a nervous habit that Nick first noticed years ago.

"So I heard you're staying here."

"Yep. I heard it was your idea."

"Ian would have come up with it himself eventually. I just had to speed him up."

Nick's not sure how to interpret that. He was foolishly hoping she would say she wanted him here, and that's why she did it.

Still dealing internally with the conversation with his mom, he is suddenly feeling defensive.

"I guess I should thank you then for taking pity on me," Nick says sharply. "But you should know that I can take care of myself."

Bailey places her hand on his. "No, Nick, I didn't have pity on you. I did it because I care about y— I mean because it was the right thing to do." She turns her head away.

She stopped herself from saying she cared about him. Of course she did, because she doesn't care about him. How could she? Look at her, and look at him. Even his own mother doesn't give a shit about him.

He snaps his hand out of her hold. "You know what, Bailey? I can't do this right now. My whole fucking life has been turned upside down in the last 48 hours, so if you're here for a 'thank you', thank you very fucking much. Now leave."

Her entire demeanor changes and she stands up tall, cold as ice. "No. Thank you, Nick. Here I was thinking you might actually be a decent human being, and I couldn't have been more wrong. Thank you so much for reminding me of your true colors."

She walks away and out the door, slamming it behind her.

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