Charlie and Nick attend Truham Grammer School for Boys. Charlie is one-year below Nick. Since it was school gossip, Nick already knew Charlie was gay and that he was bullied for it, but the two guys barely knew each other. That is, until January, when Charlie and Nick are placed in the same form group. In the seating plan, the teacher places Charlie next to Nick and they meet for the first time.
At first, they say very little to each other, though Nick makes the effort to say 'Hi' every day. One lesson, Nick's pen explodes and Mr. Lange sends both the boys out of the classroom to clean Nick up, who is covered in ink. They get caught up in conversation, talking about fountain pens and their mutual dislike for the science teacher. However, they talked for too long and inevitability passed first bell. Afterward, Charlie and Nick become friends and grow closer, with Charlie starting to harbour a crush for Nick.
In February, during a P.E. lesson, Nick watches Charlie from afar as he does laps around the track. Later, Nick interrupts Ben and Charlie, the former of whom was turning violent towards Charlie. He asks if everything is alright and Ben leaves. Charlie voices concern saying 'Ben is kinda a dick', but the conversation changes to rugby. Charlie asks if he wants to join the rugby team, though Nick is reluctant and embarrassed by his small size, but agrees to think about it. Charlie leaves for a drum lesson, leaving Nick a little in awe that he can play the drums.
One week later, Charlie turns up to the rugby club and Nick is absolutely elated to see him. He launches into the rugby rules, telling him all about tackling and penalties. Charlie spends the rest of the lesson teaching him how to pass the ball, score and finally tackling. Nick is constantly supportive and after a few weeks, Charlie is playing with the rest of the team. During one practice, Nick comments that Charlie's hair is sticking up and comforts him when bullying is mentioned by saying he likes him. Charlie leaves the lockerroom, but Nick follows.
Nick sensing something was awry, follows Charlie, and witnesses Ben sexually harassing Charlie. Nick intervenes pushes Ben away with anger who promptly leaves. Nick checks to see if Charlie was okay and teases him for always saying sorry. They leave school and head their separate directions. Nick begins to start having feelings for Charlie.
Nick searches up Charlie on social media and sends him a short message checking to see if he's okay. At his home, Nick smiles upon seeing the message and says he's okay. Nick presses on asking if he's sure and wants to talk about it. Charlie agrees and tells the whole story of Ben's abusive behaviour to Nick. Immediately after, Nick responds by saying how much he hates Ben and saying he 'will kick his ass' if he tries to come near Charlie.
Initially, Charlie is anxious after telling Nick the whole story, wondering if he wouldn't want to be friends. The exact opposite is true and in the new few weeks, Charlie and Nick grow even closer: texting constantly, spending lunch together and playing rugby. During rugby, Nick picks Charlie up and carries him around, with Charlie refusing to drop him down. Both are holding obvious crushes on each other, but Charlie is anxious about his crush since Nick is "straight".
Now it's March. Nick tells Charlie about a cheesecake he made, and tries to show Charlie a picture of it, but instead finds a picture of his dog Nellie. Nick invites Charlie around his house on Saturday to meet Nellie. They surprisingly live only 10 minutes away from each other. On Saturday, Charlie dresses up and worries about his haircut, likely wanting to impress Nick. Charlie arrives and meets Nick's gran and of course, Nellie. They play Mario Kart and Charlie wins at every match. Nick insists Charlie is good at everything and makes a list of all the things to prove his point, but Charlie refuses to agree and playfully shuts up him up by putting his hand over Nick's mouth until Charlie notices it's snowing.
The two boys decide to go and play in the snow. Nick gives Charlie one of his jumpers, though it is little too big in size. They walk around in the snow with Nellie and have a mini-snow fight. Charlie makes a snow-angel in the snow and Nick takes photos. They return inside and Charlie is shivering and freezing from the cold, so Nick fetches him a towel. Eventually, Charlie has to return home. Nick tells him Nellie will miss him and tells him not to 'slip and die on the ice'. Both Charlie and Nick now have more apparent crushes on each other, with Charlie crying over falling for a straight boy and Nick beginning to question his sexuality.
The next Saturday, Nick arrives at Charlie's house and Charlie tries to teach him on how to use the drums. Charlie grabs onto his hands to guide him, making them both blush. Later, they start doing homework, but Nick gets bored and takes Charlie's homework. They playfight and Nick pins Charlie to the ground. Charlie teases Nick for being strong as he's a 'rugby lad', and Nick imitates a stereotypical British lad. Nick admits defeat and they decide to next play Mario Kart. Afterwards, they get a drink, and Nick meets Charlie's family. Later in the evening, they watch a movie together and Charlie falls asleep. Nick reaches to hold his hand but gets flustered and retracts his hand. Nick eventually has to go home. Before leaving, Nick tells Charlie he looks cuddly and gives Charlie a surprise hug. Once he leaves, Tori, Charlie's sister comments that she doesn't think he's straight.
- Charlie – “I wish you didn't have to go”
- Nick – “I wish I didn't either... You look so cuddly in that.”
- Charlie – “Do I??”
- Nick – “Yeah”
- — Nick and Charlie moments before their hug
Once he gets home, Nick begins to get emotional and spends the next hours searching for 'gay tests' on Google and questioning his sexuality. During the next two weeks of the Easter Holiday, Nick and Charlie spend every day with each other and begin to become more physical and hug more. They visit the arcade and get rather close in the photobooth. Nick visits Charlie and helps make a birthday cake for Charlie's sister, Tori. They have a mini dough fight. One evening they take Nellie out for a walk and they almost kissed. Charlie is suspecting that Nick might like him back, but Tao tells him this isn't true as Nick has a crush on a girl from Higgs called Tara Jones.
Charlie watches Nick play rugby, albeit a little sad after finding out Nick likes Tara. Truham wins the match and Nick runs over to Charlie, picks him up and hugs him in victory. They talk and Charlie affectionately brushes the mud from Nick's face. Later, Nick invites Charlie to Harry Greene's birthday party. Nick admits all his friends are 'assholes' and would rather spend the night with Charlie. Charlie reluctantly agrees and attends the party. He and Nick are excited to see each other and decide to get drinks in a quieter part of the hotel. However, they are interrupted by Harry Greene, who forcibly takes Nick to see his old crush Tara Jones. Charlie watches them with a clear look of heartbreak. Nick eventually leaves Tara to try and find Charlie, however, is stopped by Harry's taunts and insults against Charlie and their friendship. Nick yells out in protest against Harry, calling him 'homophobic self-obsessed dick', and essentially choosing Charlie's company over Harry.
He finds Charlie on a table by himself and sits beside him. Charlie tells him about how he ran into Ben during the party. Nick immediately gets worried, but Charlie tells him he dealt with it, prompting Nick to hold his hand and tells him he's proud. Charlie is immediately feeling more happy with Nick around. They decide to go somewhere quieter and hold hands, though Nick drops his hand in embarrassment. Charlie decides to race him around the party and they reach a large empty room. Charlie asks if his crush 'on that girl' is true and Nick tells him it isn't. Charlie continues and asks if he has crush on anyone and Nick suggests he does. Charlie presumes it's a girl, but Nick corrects that it might not be. Charlie asks if he'd kiss a boy and Nick is still hesitant and unsure, as he still questioning his sexuality. Charlie asks if he would kiss him and Nick responds 'yeah'. The two boys finally have their first kiss.
They kiss again, more passionately, until they are interrupted by sounds of Nick's friend calling for him. Nick leaves, rather abruptly, still rather flustered and embarrassed from the kiss. Charlie is left alone guilty from the kiss.
The next morning, Nick visits Charlie's house drenched in the morning rain. They both go to Charlie's room for privacy and to talk about what happened. Charlie immediately goes into a long apology about the previous night and their kiss. Nick interrupts him by kissing him back. They have a passionate kiss, before breaks away and they start laughing with Charlie saying "you've been sending a lot of mixed signals". Nick apologies and goes into his own rant about being confused about his sexuality. Nick gives him a long hug and offers to make tea.
They spend the rest of the morning together, acting very touchy and close. They sit in Charlie's conservation and Nick asks Charlie about how he knew he was gay. Afterwards, Nick is still confused about his own feelings but admits he likes Charlie. Charlie seems shocked by that, prompting them both to laugh, since Nick said it was obvious. The vice-versa occurs again when Charlie admits he likes Nick too. They both talk have a conversation about what happens. Nick apologies for leaving and Charlie tells him he could be bisexual.
They kiss again in the conservatory but are caught by Olly, Charlie's younger brother who teases them for kissing. They agree to keep what happened a secret and Nick tells Charlie that he looks really cute. Nick then leaves in the rain, but Charlie runs up to him then gives him a kiss in the rain before running away.
They decide to keep their relationship a secret. During a text conversation, Nick replies with the message 'why are you so great' when Charlie is acting all supportive. Nick sends a selfie of him with his dog, Nellie, causing Charlie to get all flustered. In the next week, they spend every day with each other, in class, on the rugby field and together. Charlie is hurt during a rugby game and Nick carries him, nurses his knee and they make out in the empty locker room.
The week after it is Charlie's birthday. He invites Nick to a bowling match with his friends, though Nick hasn't yet met Charlie's friends before. They hug when they meet each other and Charlie introduces him to his friends. They play bowling. Nick wins the first round and they flirt about Nick's rugby arms. Tao lectures Charlie in private about how he should stop getting close to Nick since he's straight. Nick overhears the conversation and after Charlie exits the bathroom, Nick gives him a big hug and says he'll explain later. Eventually, all of Charlie's friends leave to go home, leaving Nick and Charlie alone. Nick give Charlie his birthday present, a framed photo of both of them during the snow day. They kiss, using a restaurant menu to give them privacy. Afterwards, Nick brings up the topic of Tao and mentions he overheard the conversation. He worries he may become like Ben and said he wishes he knew Charlie back before they met so he could have protected Charlie from the bullying.
Two and a half weeks later. Nick bumps into Charlie in the hallway as he's trying to complete his homework. He was going to complete the homework the day before, but Charlie came round his house and they made out instead. Charlie helps Nick with his homework and Nick watches as Charlie's takes part in the orchestra. Nick talks to Tara and Darcy privately and he admits he's dating Charlie; the first to officially known about their relationship.
Later, Charlie and Nick are studying together. Nick stares at Charlie since he thinks he's cute. Nick admits to him that he told Tara and Darcy about their relationship. Charlie immediately hugs him in support, proud of him for coming out, and they kiss. While kissing, Tori enters the room, interrupting them. Nick is instantly nervous after she finds out about them, but Charlie is supportive, understanding how difficult coming out is.
Next Saturday, Nick invites Charlie to meet up with his friends at the cinema. Charlie is nervous, but Nick promises to look after him and that Harry won't be there. But to their surprise, Harry has turned up, uninvited. Nick introduces Charlie to his friends and they get popcorn. Nick checks to see if Charlie's okay, and calls him 'Char', something that Charlie finds cute. They sit next to each in the cinema and hold hands during the film. They exit the film together and Harry starts asking invasive questions about Nick's sexuality, including whenever he thinks Nick is hot and teasing him about having a crush. Nick is apologetic about Harry, but Charlie dismisses it saying it's fine. Nick refuses to believe that and after Charlie leaves, he and Harry get in an argument and a fight over Charlie, leaving Nick bruised. At first, he keeps the fight a secret from Charlie and texts him to apologise again and ask him formally for a date.
The next morning, Charlie meets Nick for their date. Charlie notices his bruises and Nick admits the truth, earning a long hug from Nick. They go on their date, bringing Nellie with them, but at first, Nick keeps their destination a secret, until they reach the beach. They play in the water, have fish and chips together, and take photos and kiss in a photo booth. Then they relax on the beach, listen to music, and Nick admits that he would like to come out. Nick proceeds to yell 'I like Charlie Spring' to the beach, followed by 'In a romantic way not a friend way'. Charlie gets emotional and cries since he's so happy and thought this would never happen. They officially start calling each other boyfriends and in the excitement, Nick carries Charlie into the sea and they have fun on their date.
At school, Nick tells Charlie that he's come as bisexual to his mother and they make out against a locker, surprisingly not getting caught. Charlie also tells his parents about dating Nick and they ban him from sleepovers. Nick helps Charlie with revising for his Chemistry exam and after the exam asks how it went and they joke about hugs and energy flow.
One week later, they play rugby. Nick is annoyed at himself for not coming out to his friends yet, and Charlie admits that he struggles with the idea of being out as a couple. They support each other and are caught kissing by the sports teacher, Mrs Singh-Stevens. They travel home together and return to their houses.
The next morning, Nick walks into school exhausted from his brother and falls onto Charlie shoulder. Charlie invites him to join the school's Paris trip with him and they agree. During an information evening for the trip, Nick and Charlie come out as a couple to Aled, who admits he already knew, and Elle too but not Tao. Aled tells them to keep it a secret from Tao since Tao had accidentally outed Charlie previously. Afterward, Charlie is upset after learning about Tao and is dismissive of talking about it to Nick. On Monday, Nick and Charlie meet and play with Nelle. They talk about Tao, and Charlie admits that he used to self-harm because of the bullying. Nick acts a supportive boyfriend, gives him a tight hug, and he falls asleep on Nick as they watch Iron Man. Nick makes Charlie tea and toast since he hasn't eaten much.
- Nick ruffles Charlie's hair.
- Charlie is visibly blushing when Nick picks him up in rugby.
- Nick and Charlie swapped seats in the classroom.
- Nick takes Charlie's coat when he enters his house.
- Charlie clutches on to Nick jumper to take him out from the rain.
- Charlie checks his hair in the mirror before going to his room with Nick.
- Nick removes his jumper showing his tummy making Charlie flustered.
- Nick hugs Charlie after he gets a strike during bowling and looks lovingly at him.
- They flirt about Nick's rugby arms during the bowling match. Nick moves closer to Charlie.
- The kiss behind the menu during the bowling match.
- Charlie pokes Nick with a straw when he starts getting sad after the Bowling match.
- Nick pokes him back with the straw.
- “But I am your friend and I do care”
- — Nick's text to Charlie, Chapter 2-3
- “You see more like yourself around him”
- — Nick's mum about Nick, Chapter 2-8
- “I can kinda see it. Nick and Charlie.”
- — Sai about Narlie, Chapter 2-13
- Charlie – “Would you kiss someone who wasn't a girl?”
- Nick – “I don't know”
- Charlie – “Would you kiss me?”
- Nick – “Yeah”
- — Nick and Charlie before their first kiss
Narlie is the most popular Heartstopper ship and one of the most popular pairings in the Osemanverse. Ironically, the ship and comic series are especially popular with British and French readers. There are only a few fanfictions on AO3 for the pairing, however, fanart and fancomics are more prevalent.
The ship name, Narlie, is used by the author herself in various tumblr posts. In response to an ask on her Tumblr, Alice said the ship name is occasionally used by other characters 'because they’re always together'.
Behind the Scenes
In the author note for the physical edition of Heartstopper Volume 1, Oseman talks about the history and creation of Nick and Charlie, otherwise known as Narlie:
- “Nick and Charlie have been in my heart a very long time. [...] Neither of them are particularly major characters, but in the novel [Solitaire by Alice Oseman], aged 17 and 15 respectively, they are in a firm, loving supportive relationship. That's where my desire to tell their story began. How did they get to this point? And where will they go from here?”
- — Alice Oseman's author note
- “In my spare time during my A-Levels, I filled an entire sketchbook with my first attempt at telling the backstory of Nick and Charlie. Then I started again, my art slightly better, and filled another sketchbook with a second attempt at the comic. I remember spending hours at a time just sitting and drawing in bed, not even listening to music in the background, completely lost in the story of Nick and Charlie. It brought me peace in a way not even writing my novels could.”
- — Alice Oseman's author note
In 2017, Alice also held an online Q&A for Heartstopper and revealed some info:
- $cary $kulleton! – “Did you think of making heart stopper a novel, or did you always want to make this a comic?”
- Alice Oseman – “Yes! I tried to plan it as a novel several times, actually. But eventually I realised that it wouldn't really work as a novel, because it doesn't have a strong overarching plot. It works much better as an episodic comic, where we just follow Nick and Charlie through their lives and the trials that they face!”
- — Alice during an online Q&A for Heartstopper
- Charlie is 18 months older than Nick.