Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot!


When people are together for long periods of time, it either makes a relationship, or breaks it. Some couples only grow stronger together and fall deeper in love as the years pass by. Some couples slowly get sick of each other and fall apart with the passage of time. For Greg and Nick, both seemed to happen. After four years together Greg couldn't help but fall harder for Nick every day. He still got butterflies when their eyes met, he still got that almost-nervous feeling just before they made love, and he still lost himself in the roll of the Texan's deep voice. But it seemed to Greg that time had not been kind to his love. Nick seemed to distance himself slowly from their relationship. The time they spent alone together slowly dried up until their intimacy was restricted to sometimes having sex before Nick would roll over to his side of the bed and fall asleep, leaving Greg to lie awake for hours afterwards, holding back the tears. They began fighting, and it always ended with Greg's apologies, even if it had been Nick who had started it, or done something wrong. It was always Nick full of harsh words and it was always Greg full of hurt.

The older man began going out without Greg, not saying where he was going. After a long time Greg was forced to face the possibility that Nick was cheating on him. But he never brought it up because he was so in love despite everything that Nick cheating on him was better than Nick leaving him. So he carried on like life was fine and he wasn't slowly dying inside. He carried on like he didn't cry himself to sleep every night. And he carried on to others as if Nick were the most wonderful, attentive, caring person in the world. Some saw through it, others didn't, but no one tried to help. Greg didn't want help. He wanted his Nick back. But he gave up on that a while back.

That night, they had fought again, but it was worse. Neither could remember what had started the fight, but it had escalated in to a screaming row and Nick had thrown a framed photo of the two of them at the wall. The glass had shattered all over Greg, cutting in to his face, and the blonde had been shocked in to silence. Then Nick had left. He didn't say a word, didn't show any feelings of remorse, just grabbed his coat and stormed out for the first time. And it was seven hours before he returned home, pulling in to the driveway of their home not knowing exactly what to feel. He stood on their front lawn and stared at their house, with its innocent white siding and mundane wooden door, before sighing and going up to go inside. When he opened the door he was met with the sound of loud music. At one time this had been a normal occurrence, Greg being, well, Greg. But after a few fights he'd stopped putting on CDs all together, using only his iPod if he wanted music and never singing along. So Nick was very surprised to hear sound blaring through the house, and ever more surprised to hear his boyfriend's voice singing along in full voice.

But that wasn't the biggest shocker. No, the thing that made him dropped his keys on the floor was the choice of music. Greg liked hard rock, Marilyn Manson kind of stuff. The music that Nick was following through the house was soft, sad, and slow. He turned in to the living room to see Greg sitting in the big red armchair, so still, with his eyes closed and singing along to It Matters To Me by Faith Hill. He brought forth every word by memory as if he listened to this all the time. Without bringing attention to his presence, Nick looked down at the coffee table and saw a CD case with a handwritten list of songs inside, indicating it was a custom burnt mix. He picked it up and scrolled his eyes down the list. The top proclaimed 'Songs For Nick', and many of them were country. They were all slow sad songs, songs of heartbreak. Some of them he didn't know, but the titles made their content all too obvious.

Nick stayed still and silent, watching Greg. The blonde kept his eyes closed and sat perfectly still as he sang his way through Don't by Shania Twain, laughed bitterly through Home Ain't Where His Heart Is by the same artist, and allowed his eyelashes to moisten while he belted the lyrics to If My Heart Finds Out by Alyssa Morrissey. It seemed that he did do this a lot, if his familiarity with the words of all these songs were anything to go on. As Nick stood there the next song started up and Greg's face twisted in to a smile that said he hated himself. A smile that said I hurt, and I want it to stop, but I can't think of how to stop it. A bitter smile. A dying smile.

"Ah there it is. Nick's song." Greg whispered without opening his eyes. He tilted his head farther back and tears slid down his cheeks as he sang. Nick had never heard this song before, but the words hit him like a ton of bricks as he listened carefully, watching the tears on Greg's face fall rapidly and unchecked.

Your fingertips across my skin
The palm trees swaying in the wind
Images

You sang me Spanish lullabies
The sweetest sadness in your eyes
Clever trick

I never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

We walked along a crowded street
You took my hand and danced with me
Images

And when you left you kissed my lips
You told me you'd never ever forget these images, no

I never want to see you unhappy
I thought you'd want the same for me

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

I cannot go to the ocean
I cannot drive the streets at night
I cannot wake up in the morning
Without you on my mind
So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine
Did I make it that easy
To walk right in and out of my life?

Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should've known you'd bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do

He leaned against the wall and slid down, watching Greg start the next song, A Little At A Time by Chris Cummings. That song hit him hard too. They were songs that spoke of a love that began as amazing, like theirs had. But in both songs one partner fell out and the other was left behind. They spoke of being left, being abandoned when they were still so in love, and the pain it caused. The way Greg had announced that the one was "Nick's song" said that he thought Nick wouldn't come back. He thought Nick had left for good; that it was over. And the one he was singing now said he thought that Nick had known he would leave for a long time. The older man felt his own tears welling. Had they really gotten so far apart? With every new song that played he felt Greg's voice boring in to him, and his words were like fire on his heart, burning him up with a sad passion Nick didn't know could exist.

Greg looked up when Nick began sobbing. He didn't react. He simply opened his eyes and kept singing, holding Nick's gaze like a vice and throwing all of his pain and confusion behind his lyrics, singing louder and throwing his heart down on the table for Nick to finally see. Nick was seeing what he had done.

"Without you, I'm not ok," he sang for Nick, "and without you I've lost my way." He understood then. Nick understood why Greg was sitting here alone, crying and hurting, and singing his sad songs for Nick. He realized that he had hurt the man beyond repair, but that Greg couldn't leave. On their first anniversary Greg had whispered what most people call sweet nothings to him, and he had told him that Nick was his air. Without Nick, he couldn't breathe. The brunette was fast realizing that most people hadn't met his boyfriend. Greg did not whisper sweet nothings, he whispered the truths of his heart, and Nick had ignored them time and again.

"Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah," Greg sang now. He could speak through the song and tell Nick everything he felt, and everything he thought Nick didn't feel in return. He was telling Nick how he himself was falling apart, but not out of love. He was falling so much deeper in love and that love was pushing him back. He felt unwanted, used, useless. Nick could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and feel it in his words. As they stared at each other he thought back over the past two years and he saw exactly what he had done. Now that he stopped to think about it he could see exactly how he had hurt Greg, and yet he couldn't see why. There was no reason. He had just slowly turned cold inside and taken it out on their home.

Suddenly the music stopped played and the stereo made the click to tell them it had reached the end of the CD that it was playing. The songs for him. Nick couldn't stop his sobbing, and the silent tears running down Greg's face only made it worse. The blonde did not get up and comfort him like he usually would. He had always been the one to try and help Nick up on to his feet, even if it meant bringing himself down in the process, but he didn't even move now. He knew Nick had finally found the truth and he was waiting for it to end right there. It was plain in his face; he expected Nick to turn and walk away without looking back. He thought they were over. And he was broken.

Nick choked on his own breath as he shoved himself off the world behind him and stumbled over to Greg, falling at his feet. For the longest time he couldn't find a single word to say. He simply cried brokenly and loudly over Greg's lap and hesitantly reached his hand out to touch him, snatching it back every time.

"Are you going to leave me?" he finally whispered. Greg regarded him silently before sighing and getting up, brushing past the man on the floor and walking over to the stereo,

"No Nick. You're leaving me." He snapped the CD back in to its case and looked down at it in thought while he spoke again, "You know, I listen to this every time I feel sad about us. It's well worn." Nick cried harder, but Greg was calm. It struck the older man how ironic it was that their roles had been reversed. It was the blonde who always cried and apologized and tried to make things better. Now it was his turn to beg for forgiveness and pray that his boyfriend had any left in his poor bruised heart.

"My god Greg," Nick's voice came as a sob. "I'm not leaving. How could I ever-. I mean I still-. I love you Greg. You know that." Greg turned and looked him in the eye again. His tears still fell but he had no expression.

"No Nick. I don't know that anymore." He stated. It was too much. Nick hugged himself as he got up and scrambled over to the younger man, taking him by the arms and pulling him close for a kiss. Any other day it would work, it would quick-fix their problem, but today Greg was broken. He pulled back and looked at Nick's incredulous face. He sighed and brushed a strand of brunette hair away, his touch tender and loving.

"You can't just kiss me and make it go away this time," he whispered. "I don't know who you are." He didn't try and leave Nick's embrace, but he didn't try and return it either. He let his love cry on his shoulder like he used to, his mind bitterly remembering the days when they'd held each other this close just because. It had been so good, so right. And now it was so long ago they were just memories that he clung to after Nick had used his body and rolled away. Nick would have fallen to his knees if he hadn't wanted to hold Greg close and if he weren't so afraid Greg would just decide to leave.

"I'm sorry," he pleaded. "It doesn't fix anything but I'm sorry. I don't know why I did it, but I see what I've done. And I'm sorry. Please baby, you have to believe me. I love you more than life itself, and I'd give anything to fix this. I'd give my life to make it better. And I know that it's me that has to fix this because I'm the one that broke it. Broke us. Greg, please, tell me what it's going to take." He tried to hold on tighter. Greg held his gaze and he waited. Every second that passed by was agony in which he feared rejection and separation. Finally Greg stepped away from his arms, keeping their eyes locked as he gave his reply,

"It's going to take everything of you, Stokes. And I wonder if you even have anything left. I thought you'd given it away long ago. But I wasn't going to be the one to go. I've been waiting for you to leave for so long that I'm not sure how long it will take for you to convince me you're going to stay. You'll have to prove it every day. You'll have to fix this by yourself because I'm not helping this time. I still can't be the one to go, though. That's you." He turned away then and strode out of the room. He didn't leave the house, just retreated in to the guest bedroom and closed the door behind him. Nick stood in the center of the living room for a matter if seconds before he collapsed on the floor and held himself while he rocked back and forth, bawling like a baby. What had he done? What had he done? The words repeated in his head over and over until he was able to crawl in to their bedroom alone. He lay on Greg's side of the bed and sniffed his sharp scent. After spending so many nights on his own he suddenly wanted to hold Greg, to tell him that it would all be ok. After many sleepless hours he tiptoed in the guest room and sat by the bed, watching Greg wordlessly. All the while he was unaware that Greg was awake too, and they both listened to their heartbeats pound until Nick left again.

The next few months were the most painful days Nick had ever endured in his life. The glass box buried under the sand and the thought of certain death were nothing compared to the fear that his love would be insufficient for Greg after so many times hurt. Greg was true to his word; he didn't leave. Yet he never said a word about whether or not Nick was succeeding in his campaign to win his love again. His eyes were always deep and guarded, and he didn't reach out to hold Nick like he used to, when he had been the one trying to salvage them. Now it was Nick who would having moments of desperation, pulling Greg in close for no reason other than to assure them both that they were still here together. And Greg still slept in the guest bedroom. Month after month went by, and finally Nick could see the anger slipping away from those brown eyes he loved so much. Day by day the uncertainty in that face leaked away.

Then one day he came home from a double shift at work and he couldn't find his Greg. The blonde was not in the living room, not in the kitchen, not in the guest bedroom. He didn't answer his cell when Nick called it and the brunette was frantic. When he came to the ultimate conclusion that he had failed, he fell against the wall, in a state of shock so deep he couldn't even cry. He stared numbly at nothing for hours. When he could move he dragged his feet to the bedroom and when he opened the door he gave a double take.

There was Greg, asleep in their bed as if he'd never slept anywhere else in his life. The dawn light in the window caressed his bare torso and his soft hair fell on to the pillow that Nick had hugged for dear life every night as he slept. The brunette had to stare for a long time to convince himself that it was real and finally he let himself reach down and reverently touch Greg's face, his soft, freshly shaven cheek. The younger man's eyelids fluttered open sleepily and he looked up at Nick, taking in the ravages of panic and fear.

"I thought that you had left," Nick admitted in a quiet voice.

"I told you I wouldn't be the one to go," Greg reminded him softly, sitting up. The older man nodded and made to touch his face again but stopped himself. Perhaps the touch wouldn't be wanted and he'd do anything to keep Greg from any more pain. They stared at each other again, Greg sitting on the edge of the bed and Nick standing in front of him. They were only feet apart but to Nick it was miles and miles, oceans and valleys apart. They had been living in different worlds for years and he hadn't seen it. Then Greg tilted his head to the side like he had as he sang that one awful night before. Expect his face was completely the opposite of then.

"I love you, you know," he said matter of factly. Nick gaped. Not once in the past many months of agony had Greg uttered those words. Nick had whispered them over and over as many times as he could every day, and had craved to hear them in return. Now here they were and he felt his heart start to heal in one tiny corner. His body shook as he studied Greg's eyes deeper and then he cried. Forgiveness. He'd finally found forgiveness. With a broken noise he fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around his one true love. And Greg pulled him closer, pulled him up on to the bed and lay close. Nick had finally proven himself, so they wasted no more time in getting reacquainted with each other's hearts.


Years later Nick was looking through their garage for a tool he needed when he came across an old CD case, covered with the dust of ages of disuse. He blew off the thick layer of gray and was greeted with "Songs for Nick" and a handwritten list of songs. Sad slow songs. Most of them were country. He smiled, though, because they had healed the rift that birthed this CD, and they had fought together against the pain, coming out so strong in love that even long after that they barely ever even disagreed, let alone fought. Mildly curious Nick picked up the case and jumped when a thick wad of papers fell out from underneath it, papers that had been torn from a spiral notebook. He bent to pick them up and read the first page.

The first page captured him so, that he had to read the second, then the third, and then all of them. It was a diary, a diary of the days when he had proven himself. They were tear stained and the handwriting was shaky, as if Greg had been crying while he wrote each word. Greg recorded how hard it was to not turn around and forgive Nick for everything every time he saw the pain the Texan was going through. He spoke of how bad it hurt to not touch, to not talk, to not show the love he still had trapped within himself. And what had kept him from all that? His fear, and his love. He was terrified of the love he held for Nick, and even more terrified that Nick would take that love and run. So he held back. He made sure beyond sure that he wouldn't leave, and only then did he allow himself to feel loved.

Nick didn't cry this time. He smiled as he carefully refolded the papers and set them back under the forgotten music disk. Then he went back in to the house, tool forgotten, to find his true love, lay him down on the bed and make love to him just because. Because it every time they touched, they didn't need a reason. It was just right.