”Do you… hear that?” Matt puts a hand on his brother’s arm, pausing to listen more intently. Nick looks confused for a second, before he hears it too. It’s the sound of someone outright sobbing a bit further down the corridor.
They’ve just come down the stairs to the basement floor of an old building at the edge of campus, which houses nothing more than a small kitchen and a few rooms to study in. The lack of anything particularly useful and how out of the way it is means it is empty most of the time, and that suits the Jackson brothers perfectly.
But, it also means that it’s not looked after very well, and the flickering fluorescent lights coupled with the echo through empty corridors leaves Nick to shoot an uneasy glance at Matt.
“Uh, hello?” Matt calls out, and the sobbing stops abruptly with a sharp inhale.
“Dude, what are you doing?” Nick whispers sharply, grabbing Matts arm. “Do you want to be the first person who dies in the horror movie?”
“It’ll be fine,” Matt whispers back and starts walking before calling out again. “Are you okay?”
There’s no answer except for the muffled sound of someone trying – and failing – to regulate and silence their breathing. Seeing that Matt has no intention to stop and turn back, Nick follows him.
They stop at the staircase on the other end of the corridor, and Matt peeks around the corner into the alcove underneath the stairs. There’s someone sitting there, curled around their own legs, wide red-rimmed eyes the only thing visible between the knees and a mop of blond curls.
“Hi,” Matt starts, stepping out into the alcove. “This is a weird place to cry.”
The person just stares at him, still sniffling slightly.
“Okay, that was a dumb thing to say,” he continues, shifting on his feet.
“Yeah, no kidding,” Nick snorts, leaning on the wall behind him. Matt sticks his tongue out at him, before turning back to the person on the floor.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” Still getting no response, he walks over and sits down next to them. “Okay, well, we can’t just leave you here crying on your own, so…” He gestures to Nick, and there’s just enough space for the three of them to sit side by side, even if their shoulders press together uncomfortably. “We’ll stay here with you until you feel better. I’m Matt Jackson and this is my brother Nick.”
They both smile at the stranger, who looks between them before lowering their eyes to their knees and clearing their throat. “’m Kenny.” The voice is scratchy and Kenny sniffles at the end of it.
“Oh, actually,” Nick opens his bag and starts to rummage through it, “I think I have some tissues… Here!” He holds out a pack of Hello Kitty tissues to Kenny, who takes it after a moment of hesitation.
“I can’t believe you kept those, Nick,” Matt laughs, pointing at the package. “After what Gallows did?”
At Kenny’s bewilderment, Nick’s cheeks colour. “Long story.”
The Jacksons start bickering but Kenny isn’t really listening, instead tracing the shape of the cheerful cartoon cat on the tissue package with a fingernail. Slowly, he removes a few to blow his nose and dry the tears on his cheeks.
Matt notices, leaning over to look at Kenny. “That’s better, hm?”
Kenny nods shortly, and after that, the conversation begins to flow. Kenny goes from only offering the occasional word for input to making his own jokes and laughing along with Matt and Nick’s. Suddenly it’s two hours later and Kenny is sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him, knocking knees with the others.
When there’s finally a lull in the chatter, Kenny takes the opportunity to speak.
“So actually, um,” Kenny mumbles, “I’m here because I got dumped.”
“Oh, wow,” Nick offers.
Matt lets out a low whistle. “That sucks.”
“Yeah, it uh, it was a long time coming but it still hurt, you know?” Kenny frowns, gaze on his lap.
“I can imagine.” Nick works his arm out from its spot squished between them and places a tentative palm on Kenny’s knee.
“So, were you dumped here, or did you come here after? Because as weird a place it is for crying, it might be an even weirder place to dump someone.” Matt’s voice is full of mirth when Kenny glances over at him, but his eyes are soft, and Kenny can’t help the snort of amusement he lets out.
“No, but it was close enough. I came here to be alone, I guess.”
“Sorry for imposing.” Nick takes his hand back and Kenny immediately misses the comfort.
“No, it’s fine,” Kenny says quickly, far to quick to seem natural. ”To be honest I’d probably still be crying if you hadn’t, so.” He stares at the crumpled tissues in his hands. “Thank you.”
“Hey, no problem. It’s not like we had anything better to do,” Matt says, with a small smile.
“That's a lie, but we’re glad you’re feeling better.” Nick shifts and gets up to stretch. “We should probably get moving though, these floors aren’t exactly comfortable and AJ’ll be pissed if we’re late again.”
Matt groans as Nick reaches down to help him up, after which they both pull Kenny to his feet. He stumbles slightly, but the other two catch him before he has any chance to fall. Together they all make their way up the stairs and Kenny throws away the used tissues in a bin they pass on their way out.
“Hey, let’s swap numbers,” Matt suggests as they step out into the courtyard.
“Good idea,” Nick adds as he pulls his phone out. “Also, I don’t think we ever got your last name?”
“Oh, it’s Omega. Kenny Omega.”
“That has to be one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard,” Matt exclaims.
Kenny ducks his head, grinning slightly. “Thank you?” Matt and Nick both can’t help but notice the adorable way his eyes crinkle when he laughs.
Nick and Kenny swap phones, and Kenny types out his number with nerve-clumsy thumbs, distinctly aware of Matt’s eyes on him.
“I’ll grab your info off of Nick,” Matt says, when Kenny hands Nick’s phone back to him and slips his own into his jacket. “We’ve gotta run, we are so late.”
“See you around, Kenny Omega,” Nick says. He waves, and Matt gives Kenny a mock salute as they start to walk away.
And with that, Kenny’s standing on his own, half-full packet of Nick’s Hello Kitty tissues in his pocket. At least the pretence of returning them would give him a good excuse to see them again.