Author's Note: This was somewhat inspired by our talk at The Fort about Greg being an only child and needing his space. Just a random fact for ya.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters that are mentioned.
Acknowledgements: Thanks goes out to Amanda for editing, as usual.
Summary: Greg's missed their past four dates, and Nick's heart can't possibly break any further, but somehow it does. Is everything going to come crashing down?
An Anniversary of Missed Dates
The lights were off, the TV dark, the stereo silent, the whole apartment quiet. The only sound that could be heard was a soft shuffling of feet on the shaggy, dark green carpet of Greg's residence. Well, not really just Greg's—Nick lived there, too.
Nick scuffed his foot against the carpet again, pulling at his necktie. His suit jacket already hung over the back of the chrome and metal chair, his vest partly unbuttoned.
Greg was late, again. Fourth time in a row … fourth time in a month.
One hour …
Two hours …
Nick couldn't feel anything anymore. All he knew was that he was still breathing, his heart still beating. Yeah, he was still alive. But this relationship … it was killing him. It was obvious to Nick that Greg didn't want to be around his partner anymore. They spent no time together; they were always out of the house at different times. But what do you do?
What do you do?
Nick loved him. Loved Greg with all his heart, all his soul. He couldn't let go of the first serious boyfriend he had ever had. Nick needed Greg, but obviously … obviously Greg didn't need him. And obviously their time together meant nothing to the younger man.
It seemed to Greg that Las Vegas was never quiet. There was always noise, always someone around him, always someone to talk to, but a lot of the time he didn't want that. Space was one thing Las Vegas didn't have. One thing he didn't even have at home anymore, and Greg resented that. In a dark, bitter corner of his mind, Greg even resented Nick a little bit for stealing the one thing his apartment held for him: privacy, silence, a place for him to just be alone.
Even as Greg walked along the darkening street towards his apartment building, there was still life all around him. Dogs ran by him, dragging an unwilling owner behind them. Couples strolled by, holding hands. And then there was Greg, slowly walking towards his doom. Or was it Nick's untimely end?
Greg knew that he was destroying every last part of his and Nick's relationship. He knew that their love meant everything to Nick, but did Greg do anything to try and fix what was happening?
Things were breaking apart, and he did nothing. Sat back and watched as he ruined his best friend's life. Ruined a love that had been ongoing for eight years. Ruined everything that he had worked towards.
Greg was almost at the steps that led up to the front door of the apartment building, and he hesitated, just gazing at the dark glass doors.
Nick never yelled. He didn't raise his voice. He wasn't angry, ever. Whenever Greg walked in the front door, his head down, his eyes peeking at Nick every once in a while, Nick just stared at him. Those chestnut brown eyes broke Greg's heart, but he couldn't comfort his boyfriend.
Mainly it was the silence that was a killer. That chilling, sudden silence that overtook the room whenever they were together. It hadn't started all at once, but after the second missed date, they both froze. Froze into different patterns, different lives. It was if they weren't even together anymore, they just shared a house, a roof, a bed, but their hearts were not in it.
Letting his breath out noisily, Greg strode up the stairs and punched in the password. The doors clicked and he entered, the motion sensitive light flicking on.
The metal stairs leading towards his second storey apartment were completely empty. No one else came and went, and it was only his lonely footsteps that were echoing in the gloom. There was only one more landing to go, and then … Greg's heart started to pound, his feet going heavy, his limbs moving mechanically. He was there.
Greg's hand was shaking slightly as he softly tried the door. It was open, it always was. It was as if Nick had actually expected him to come home on time.
Greg stood rooted to the spot, his heart hammering out a thundering beat in his chest. Could he go in? This … this was a different night, he knew for a fact. This might not be taken so lightly.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door inwards and turned on the light.
The living room was empty. No light spilled from the hall right across from him, leading towards Greg and Nick's bedroom, and the bathroom. Greg quickly turned and stared into a Nick-less kitchen. To the left of the living room was the open study, and Greg's boyfriend was not there, either. This was the first time Nick hadn't been waiting, the one time he wasn't there. The only thing that greeted Greg was a limp and defeated suit jacket hanging over his favorite chair.
Greg crept softly into the living room, gently shutting and locking the door behind him. How late was he?
The clock on top of the TV read two o'clock. He was supposed to be home at seven, so they could go out for supper. Seven hours late.
Greg fell into his chair, putting his worn feet up on the cluttered and battered, dark rosewood coffee table, his thoughts straying, fleeing from what this could mean. Nick wasn't here …
A soft whispering noise from right behind Greg made him whirl around, on his feet in an instant. No one was there. Not Nick, not anyone. He was completely alone in the apartment, and this is what he wanted, wasn't it?
Greg lowered himself back down onto the chair, picking up the papers that had flown to the floor, and quickly putt them back on the coffee table without another thought, until his hand came upon a sealed envelope. An envelope with his name on it, written with Nick's cramped but neat script.
With almost numb fingers, he slit it open, the card falling onto his lap. It had the picture of a heart. Fairly simple, but it glittered in the darkness, almost like a thousand diamonds, or all the stars in the sky. On the front it read: 'This heart may be simple, but on the inside, there are always things I've never said to you …' Greg opened the card, and continued reading. The next words were written by Nick: 'I just wanted to say that you are the best thing in my life. You're my reason for getting up in the morning, my reason to smile every day, my reason to believe that there's a God, just because he sent you to me. You're my everything, Greg. You make me a better person, and I love you for that. I just wanted to say all that, and to wish you a happy third year anniversary. I know we'll have lots more. Love always, Nick.'
Greg was struck dumb. He didn't know what to think, what to do. The card fell out of his limp grip, and fluttered tenderly down onto the carpet. Greg felt himself fall back against the fabric of the chair, tears burning his eyes severely.
He had ruined everything. Screwed it all to hell. It had been burning before his eyes, and here the relationship was, just ashes now. Not even an ember still smoldering. All of it had been turned to smoke. Gone.
Why hadn't he just talked to Nick about all of this? Why couldn't he have opened up to the man he loved? Why had he shut out the Texan?
"Goddammit," Greg growled aloud, trying to push back the tears that were threatening to cascade down his cheeks.
Nick couldn't have left, could he? That wasn't Nick's style. But lately … lately Greg didn't know what Nick would and wouldn't do. But, if Nick was anywhere in their apartment—
(or was it just Greg's again?)
—he would be out on the balcony, or lying on their bed.
Greg vaulted to his feet, already racing towards their bedroom. Down the hall, past all their pictures, past all their memories, and into the light blue room plastered with music posters and … and the bed was empty. Neatly made, the pillows on top of the desolate comforter. No one had been here.
Only one place left …
Greg walked past their bed, past the light beige drawer filled with their clothes, and pulled back the curtains that blocked out the lights of a thriving city. Standing on the other side of the glass, his back to Greg, was Nick.
"Hey," Greg said softly, opening the door and shutting it behind him. He walked over to the rusted iron railing and leaned against it, gazing at the older man. Nick made no response; he didn't even turn to look at Greg.
Greg took a deep breath. "I know you're angry, Nick. I know that you're upset, that you're wondering what the hell has been going on with me, and I know I've probably broken your heart, and our relationship, but I wanted to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry you had to fall in love with such a selfish guy." Again, tears threatened to fall, but he blinked them back fiercely. No crying right now. If things didn't work out, then there would be a time for despair. But not right now.
Finally Nick turned around, his eyes moist, but his jaw was set. The two men just stared at each other, the dry desert air whispering around them in the twilight. The only lights came from the skyscrapers in the distance, and the cars moving along below them.
"Why?" Nick asked finally, his voice low, almost expressionless.
"I … I needed my space," Greg choked out, hating himself for saying the words, but he wasn't able to stop. "This place used to be mine. I cleaned it, I paid for it, I took care of it. This balcony used to be my place, too. I'd put on my iPod and come sit out here on my evenings off, just watching everyone else go about in their lives. Just watching everyone else thinking their own thoughts, and observing how they didn't even notice the other people around them, but somehow I did. I used to come out here to think, Nick, but now, now it's your place, too. My thoughts don't seem to be private anymore. It's our thoughts. Our place. I just … I needed my home back."
Silence. A deathly, abnormal quiet fell on the world. Greg could no longer hear people moving around on the street below, no more cars seemed to go by. It was just him and Nick.
"Why didn't you just tell me?" Nick inquired softly, his mouth trembling, but his jaw was still set.
"I … I didn't want to hurt you, Nick," the younger man explained, realizing how hollow his words sounded. If he hadn't wanted to hurt the Texan, then he would have talked to him.
"It wouldn't hurt as much as you skipping all of our dates, Greg. Especially this one."
"I—I know, I know, Nick. I just … I can't make up excuses for my actions. And I know, this was our third year of being together, and I ruined it. I ruined a lot of things, but I hope," Greg paused, his heart starting to quicken, "I hope I didn't ruin our relationship. I love you, and I always will. Nothing will change that."
"I'll always love you too, Greg, but maybe … maybe I should go back to my old house. It's just being rented out till the end of the month. For some reason I figured that I shouldn't sell it or anything. Maybe I knew I'd be back sooner, rather than later," Nick replied, sighing.
Greg reached over hesitantly, then took hold of Nick's left hand. He stroked the back of it softly with his thumb, tracing circles. "Maybe that would be the best idea. But that won't mean much. It'll be just like old times—for some reason I'll always end up over there. I don't really know why, though."
Nick let a smile creep onto his face, and he pulled Greg to him, embracing the man in a gruff, but romantic hug. A hug that let Greg know that Nick understood, and that everything was going to be all right.
Greg didn't know how long they stood there, holding each other, comforting each other, but when they broke apart, Nick had his regular old smile on his face.
"Well, Greg, seeing as how you missed our dinner, I think you should make up for it."
Greg grinned. "Oh, and how would I do that?"
Nick chuckled and, leading Greg by the hand, he pulled him back into the bedroom, quickly shutting the curtains behind them.