Nick follows Kevin into his remedial math class, sets Kevin's math book on the desk in the center of the room (Kevin's favorite), makes sure his zebra notebook is on top. He even digs a pencil out of his bag, hands it over.
"Because you always forget yours," he says, smiles, and shifts his bag higher on his shoulder. "See you at lunch."
Except he doesn't see Kevin at lunch, he sees Kevin in the hall right after class, when he takes Kevin's books for him. His notebook's open to a doodle of an otter with a trumpet, because math was too hard today, and Kevin waits for Nick to tell him again how you can't play a trumpet with flippers, and also how would an otter get a trumpet, and also it would rust, and maybe if you paid attention in math you wouldn't be a senior in a class for the freshmen who're behind, but Nick just tilts the notebook a little.
"Nice picture," he says, and carries Kevin's books to Kevin's locker.
Nick gives Kevin the extra slices of tomato off his sandwich at lunch, without Kevin even asking, cuts his apple into handy slices, offers to take his trash when he goes to throw away his own. Joe and Stella are looking at him funny, then they're looking at Nick's back as he heads towards the trash can really funny, then they look at each other and look at Kevin funny again.
"He's being really nice today, huh?" Kevin asks, beaming. Niceness is really awesome.
They look at each other again, and Joe looks like he wants to say something, but Nick's back; Joe shuts his mouth, which is weird, that never happens, and Nick just asks if Kevin's next class is English and when Kevin says yes, walks off towards their lockers. When Kevin gets there, he's already gotten Kevin's textbook and copy of Hamlet and notebook with the lion cubs on it out, tucked under one arm, and he just smiles at Kevin and walks off towards the classroom.
Nick holds the door for Kevin when they're leaving school, which seems kind of dumb 'cause he's carrying his own bag and Kevin's, but he won't move until Kevin goes through so maybe there's some good reason for it that Kevin doesn't get. That happens a lot with Kevin, when he thinks something's dumb it turns out it's actually smart. Maybe Nick's trying to get some extra exercise in. He opens the car door for Kevin, too, and Joe gives Kevin another one of those funny looks, like he's kind of confused but also about to start laughing and also he knows something Kevin doesn't.
Tuesday goes the same way, mostly, except Kevin has a kiwi that needs to be scooped out, not an apple to be sliced, and Nick holds the classroom doors for him, too, and Joe and Stella's funny looks have more of the laughing and I-know-something-you-don't-know than the confusion. Which is kind of not fair, 'cause as awesome as niceness is, coming from Nick this much it's confusing, and Kevin liked not being the only confused one.
On Wednesday, when Kevin goes to make his bunks they're already made, his sleep mask laid out nicely on his pillow in the middle bunk and everything perfectly scented with his favorite vanilla linen spray.
Thursday, Nick's right there with a plate of guitar pancakes and a smoothie when he wakes up, and Kevin is delighted but also this is way too much confusing.
"Did you lose a bet?"
Nick frowns. "Uh, what?"
"You're being all awesome, and you're usually only awesome when you lose a bet and I make you be nice to me as payment. What was it this time?"
Nick rolls his eyes, tells Kevin to enjoy the pancakes, and walks off. Maybe to get Kevin's bag ready, like he did yesterday. The pancakes are awesome.
When Kevin finally has to stop reorganizing his guitar rack thanks to his stomach grumbling so loud he can't concentrate, he finds Nick in the kitchen and the table set up kind of fancy-pants, with candles and a vase of pretty flowers in the center, and two place settings.
"I was just about to come find you," Nick says, fills two plates with steak and veggies and takes his chef hat off. "Come on, it'll get cold."
It's not all that weird for just two of them to eat dinner together; Mom's mostly only worried about having one meal a day as a family, and that's usually breakfast, so the rest of the time they eat whenever they're hungry with whoever else is hungry. But the candles are kind of new. And the flowers are really pretty.
"Um, thank you," Kevin says, after a dinner full of Nick being all weirdly not-mean to him, of Nick listening to a straight twenty minute recap of all the shows he watched on The Precious Animal Network last night without falling asleep or rolling his eyes even once, of Nick looking at him kind of funny (but a different kind of funny than Joe and Stella, and not the kind of funny where Kevin starts to worry laser vision is real and Nick's gonna make him explode. And then he goes back to reorganizing his guitars.
Saturday afternoon, when Joe's taken Frankie to Chicago for pizza, when Dad's on the phone with Malcolm Meckel and Mom's off doing...whatever, Mom-things, or something, Nick shoves Kevin up against the wall.
"You're a moron," Nick says, and aww, but the nice was so nice.
"Um," is all Kevin can think to say, at least that's not an insult, and maybe Nick will keep being nice if he's nice?
Nick just rolls his eyes, and okay Kevin almost kind of missed that, and then he pushes in closer, leans in, presses dry lips against Kevin's and just...holds them there, a freeze-frame of half a kiss (half 'cause Kevin hasn't moved, isn't sure how to respond, so there's only one person in this kiss so it can't be a whole kiss and wow Nick's lips are really soft).
Nick pulls back before Kevin can react, squints at him a little, calls him a moron again and then walks away.
"Oh," Kevin says, to the empty room.
Nick's lounging in bed later, scribbling down lyrics in a notebook that doesn't have a single animal on it (or anything, it's just plain blue. How does he even get inspired with that), and he doesn't look up when Kevin sits on the edge of the pit.
"I think," Kevin says, "you're supposed to ask someone out, not just start dating them."
That gets him another eye-roll, which is dumb 'cause for once Kevin's right about this and Nick's wrong, so he can't really do the I'm-right-you're-wrong eye roll without being a big fat liar, but at least he knows Nick heard him. Eventually, his pen stops moving, and Nick caps it, clips it to the notebook and sets them both aside.
"Yeah," he says, and see? You can't eye roll if you're gonna admit the other person's right.
"I just thought you might not know. 'Cause you didn't," Kevin says, and lowers himself in next to Nick, stretches out next to him. "But it's okay, I forget important steps all the time."
Nick's brow furrows and he opens his mouth, probably ready to outline all the ways he's not at all like Kevin and for the love of all that is holy please never make the comparison again, but since Kevin already knows that's what he's gonna say it's not really necessary, and he cuts Nick off by kissing him, pressing his lips to Nick's full lower lip and waiting until Nick sighs to draw it in a little, kiss him deeper.