Why am I doing this when I have a ton of other things to be writing? (Just Friends, Second Chance, my novel, just for starters...) Because I was listening to this song today and the idea hit me. I couldn't not write it. I actually cried while writing this which is kind of a first for me. So here it is, in all its angsty, depressing glory - if you're looking for fluff, you might want to look elsewhere ;) I also suggest listening to the song when it comes up in the fic.

Of all the pains, the greatest pain
Is to love, and to love in vain
-George Granville

"Come on, just one more?" the blonde asked with a pleading smile and those wide puppy-dog eyes that he just couldn't resist. He smiled, linking their hands and nodding.

"Alright. But then we have to get something to eat – I'm starving!"

"Of course you are. You're never just hungry, are you?"

Nick grinned, following the blonde into the next clothes shop. They'd already been out for hours, searching store after store and gathering a rather large collection of purchases. Nick wasn't too bothered by the whole thing – he was more than used to it by now after eleven years of marriage and a previous two years of dating – but when his stomach spoke up, that was when the shopping had to stop. But then again, who could say no to that face? That imploring puppy-dog gaze?

Nick finally managed to escape after only half an hour (a record in his eyes), dragging the blonde behind him. They laughed as they made their way through the mall to the closest place where there happened to be food – Nick didn't really mind too much what it was, as long as it was edible.

"Impatient, aren't you?"

The brunette smiled. "I'm starving, sweetheart, and you know what that means."

A laugh. "Yes, that you get grumpy and annoying."

Nick was too busy focusing on the conversation and finding something to eat that he didn't quite remember to also concentrate on where he was going. He was reminded of that fact when he bumped into someone and went stumbling into the blonde at his side. Quickly he made sure his partner was alright before turning to apologise, cursing himself mentally for not looking out for other people. But the words died on his tongue as he caught sight of the man he'd just run into.

"Hi Nick," the man smiled sadly, hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. Nick stared for a moment – too long – before stuttering out the name of the person standing before him, who he hadn't seen in how long again?


He looked almost exactly the same as the last time Nick had seen him. Just… older somehow. He wasn't quite sure how, but Jeff looked both his age and just the way he had fourteen years ago, laughing and grinning and happy.

"Yeah," the second blonde replied, still smiling a smile that didn't reach his eyes – dark brown eyes holding pain both new and remembered.

"Nick? You know him?" A tug on his hand "Are you going to introduce me?"

Blinking, the brunette flashed Jeff a smile and said, "Jeff, this is my wife, Rebecca. Bec, this is Jeff… an old school friend."

He saw Jeff wince slightly at that designation – old school friend, of course – while the woman at his side grinned happily, reaching a hand out. "It's lovely to meet you."

Jeff shook her hand before returning his to the depths of his pockets. "The pleasure's all mine."

Nick unconsciously bit his lip. He heard all the pain leaked into the other's voice, the bitterness and the resentment. He locked eyes with Jeff, speaking carefully with an undercurrent to his tone that gave away everything he meant to say.

"It's a surprise to see you – I thought you hated New York."

I didn't think I was going to see you again. What are you doing here?

Jeff retained the sad smile as he answered the mostly-unspoken question, "Just visiting old friends. I still hate the place, really."

I came to see you. I'm still angry.

"That's too bad. New York's a great place – Bec and I love it here, don't we?"

I came here to get away. I have Rebecca now. Please, go.

"Yeah!" Rebecca enthused, switching her gaze from her husband to his friend, pasting on a face of obliviousness and innocence despite the fact she could see something was going on underneath. What it was she didn't know, but for the moment she decided she would play dumb and maybe later have the chance to find out.

"You look happy," Jeff said quietly, giving Rebecca a quick, genuine smile "But I should go. Leave you two to it."

You look so happy with her. I'll go. I'm not a part of this anymore.

He waved goodbye before wandering off, back hunched over slightly. He was soon lost in the crowd, not even giving a backwards glance to the pair. Rebecca tugged on her partner's hand again, jerking him out of his faraway staring gaze.

"Are you alright?"

Nick smiled. "I'm fine."

The meeting was soon pushed back to the recesses of his mind. Nick preferred to ignore it than remember exactly why Jeff looked so upset, so cold, so sad. He didn't want to go back to that time when he'd done stupid things and made mistakes and hurt people he'd never meant to hurt. There was a reason they hadn't seen each other in so long.

When the doorbell rang two days later, Nick went to answer it as Rebecca was busy in the kitchen. Opening the door, he could have expected anyone but who he found standing on his front step.

"What are you doing here?" Nick asked in surprise "How did you even know…"

Why would you come here? You know I don't want you here.

Jeff shrugged, staring at the ground as he replied, "People like you. They know you."

You were always the popular one.

The brunette shook his head, trying to find a way to tell Jeff to leave him alone without sounding too harsh. What had happened was in the past, and both of them had to forget that time. There was too much pain, too much guilt. Too much confusion. But just as he opened his mouth, Jeff beat him to it. The blonde looked up and into his eyes, making sure the other was listening as he spoke.

"I know I shouldn't be here. I should never have tried to find you – yes, I came here looking for you. I'm not even sure why. But I just needed to see you again. It's stupid. And now I've seen you –" With her. "– I'm going to go. I just wanted to give you this."

He held out a CD case, waiting until Nick took it from his hands before continuing.

"I understand why you did what you did. I'll probably never forgive you for it – it's been so long and I still haven't been able to – but I understand. Please, listen to that and…" Brushing away the welling tears with the back of his hand, Jeff paused briefly to get his emotions under control. Nick was torn, fighting between reaching out to try to comfort him or backing away. He wasn't allowed to do anything anymore.

Finally Jeff finished in a quiet whisper, turning his face away from the brunette standing in front of him. "I know you never really loved me, but would you please not forget me?"

Without waiting for an answer, Jeff walked away, arms wrapped around his chest as he headed down the street. Nick watched from the doorway, bewildered, until the blonde had disappeared from view – and he knew that he would probably never see him again.

Shaking slightly, Nick stepped back inside and shut the door. He stared at the CD case in his hands, opening it to see a plain CD inside with a simple Nick written on it in black Sharpie. Without quite knowing what he was doing, Nick walked to the stereo and slid the CD in, turned the volume down so Rebecca wouldn't hear, pressed play.

And was taken back fourteen years to what was both the best and the worst year of his life.

I heard that you're settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now
I heard that your dreams came true
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you

"Are you ever going to get a girlfriend, Nick?" Thad teased, slinging an arm over his friend's shoulder as they made their way to Warbler rehearsal. The brunette laughed, sneaking a glance at the boy walking on his other side. The blonde smiled shyly, knowing what Nick was thinking. Who needed a girlfriend when you had Jeff?

Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light

"I could totally set you up," Liam said, proceeding to detail how wonderful and hot and sexy and gorgeous his girlfriend's sister was. Nick smiled but tuned out. He wasn't too bothered about finding a girlfriend at the moment. He was quite happy to sneak away with Jeff at opportune moments. The blonde in question, always at his side, slid his hand surreptitiously into Nick's, but the brunette pulled away and stuck his hand in his pocket. No point risking exposure. He felt guilty at the upset look that crashed over Jeff's face, and vowed to make it up to him later.

When they were alone in their dorm, of course.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over

Nick closed his eyes, losing himself in the rich, agonized voice of the one he'd lost all those years ago. The boy – all grown up now – who'd given Nick the heart he'd then walked all over and broke. He'd always known Jeff had this sensual, beautiful voice – singing Adele had been what had gotten the blonde into the Warblers back in high school. Nobody else could sing like he could. And that was probably him playing the piano too – he'd always been so talented.

Emotion, raw and powerful, filled the words pouring from the speakers and gave them life as memories continuing to flood Nick's brain.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead, "

He didn't identify himself as gay. In a pressure-filled world that demanded he label himself as something, Nick didn't think he was gay. He really did like girls. Liam's girlfriend's sister was actually quite hot and he was totally planning on attempting to date her at some point. There just happened to be a boy – one boy, that was all – that he kind of liked too. That didn't mean he was gay. That just meant he was experimenting.

"You care about me, right?" Jeff broke away from Nick's mouth long enough to ask, genuine confusion in his voice underneath the tremble of his words that clearly indicated how turned on he was. The brunette laid a trail of open-mouthed kisses along Jeff's jaw to just behind his ear, whispering, "Of course."

"Re-really?" The blonde stammered as Nick kissed and nipped and sucked at the skin of his neck.

Hands roamed across an ab-defined stomach as Nick answered. "Yes."

You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days

"Come on!" Jeff laughed, dragging Nick behind him. The brunette just laughed as his friend pulled him up the hill until they reached the top. There they paused, the blonde looking down with a grin.


"For what?"

Jeff just patted him on the back before throwing himself forward. Nick watched in shock as the blonde tumbled down the hillside before coming to a stop at the bottom on his back. He called for Nick to hurry up.

"I could die!" Nick shouted.

"That's the fun of it!"

With a roll of his eyes, the brunette let himself fall forward until he too was rolling and spinning his way to the bottom. Coming to a stop near Jeff, Nick let out a shaky breath and grinned.

"That was ridiculous."

"I know."

They both turned to look at each other. Nick saw the happiness sparkling in Jeff's eyes, the adrenaline and the pure joy and the love. He was a little unnerved at the last part but didn't get a chance to think it over before Jeff pushed himself onto one arm and reached out over the grass, kissing him soundly.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it
I'd hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over

Nick arched into Jeff's touch, sweat beading on his skin and eyes closed as the blonde pulled him closer. A small part at the back of his mind told him that this was all too heavy, too hot, too fast. He shouldn't be this close to tripping into something he couldn't take back.

He liked Jeff. He really did. But kisses and sex were completely different. If he slept with Jeff, there was no going back.

"Go-oood," he panted, the word stretching into a drawn-out moan as Jeff slammed their hips together sharply. That small part in his mind was screaming now; stop, now, what are you doing, you have to stop, don't let it keep going. But Nick was having a hard time doing just that – he was too focused on Jeff's mouth and hands and hips.

One of the blonde's hands carded through Nick's hair whilst the other gripped his waist tightly. Their mouths clashed, somewhat messy and all teeth and tongue. When Jeff broke off for a second to breath, he mumbled something that snapped Nick out of his haze instantly.

"Fuck, I love you so much."

In his brief moment of clarity, he shoved Jeff away violently. The blonde sat back, breath coming fast and hard as he stared in confusion. Nick blinked as his mind filtered what Jeff had just said.

"What?" Jeff asked as the other shook his head and reached for his shirt, scrambling off the bed "What did I do? I just said…"

Nick winced when it dawned on the blonde and the hurt and pain came rushing into his eyes.

"So you were just gonna… and you don't even…"

The brunette's voice was just as broken as Jeff's when he said, "I'm sorry," before running from the room.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."

"Why is Jeff upset?" Trent asked the next morning.

Nick shrugged, avoiding the blonde's resentful gaze. "Why are you asking me?"

"Well, you are best friends. I figured you'd know."

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

He started dating Ashley a week later. Everyone congratulated him on getting the hottest girl at Crawford to agree to go out with him, but all Nick could think about was how badly he'd hurt Jeff.

He'd liked him, but he'd never loved him. And he'd just led his friend on until they were in too deep and he'd broken the purest, happiest heart he'd ever known. He didn't have to love Jeff to realise he'd just torn him apart.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."

"Why did you agree to be with me if you're straight?" Jeff shouted, tears streaming down his face. Nick reached out to comfort him but the blonde twisted away from his hand.

"You never loved me, did you? I was just some experiment, some phase you were going to get over."

"I'm so sorry."

Jeff closed his eyes and shook his head. "I loved you and you led me on. I was going to give you everything and in return you broke my heart. You don't get to be sorry."

"I never wanted to hurt you, I swear," Nick tried, acutely aware of the fact that half the school was watching this play out. He could feel the eyes on him, the accusatory glares and the surprised stares. No one had expected this – he was straight, he was nice, he was loyal. No one had expected him to be able to hurt anyone like this – especially not his best friend.

"What did you think was going to happen?" Jeff said brokenly, staring at Nick with wide eyes filled with tears "Were you going to end it? Dump me? Or just keep playing me until we graduated?"


"I have to go."

The blonde picked up his bag and walked towards the waiting car. He didn't even look back once as he got in and it drove away, the engine fading into silence. And as everyone else wandered off, bored, Nick stood there and stared for a long while after he'd gone.

He didn't see Jeff again.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."

"Oh, I loved that song when it first came out!" Rebecca's bright voice said as she came into the room, interrupting the fading music and jerking Nick into the present "It's old, but a classic."

"Yeah," Nick managed to smile and quickly pulled the CD out of the stereo.

"Who was singing it? I don't recognise the voice."

"Oh, just some cover. I don't know. Some guy came around handing out free copies," Nick lied, eyes catching on a slip of paper stuck into the back of the case "I think he's some musician trying to make it big. You know."

"Well, I hope he gets his break. With a voice like that he'd be famous."

Nick stared at the paper. I still love you, but I understand that your love lies with Rebecca. She's a beautiful and bubbly woman. I can see why you married her. I hope your love lasts with her – you deserve it.

"What's that?" Rebecca asked, coming up behind her husband to hug his waist. Hurriedly Nick crumpled up the paper and almost casually tossed it into the nearby bin.

"Nothing. Just advertising from the singer."

"Are you okay?" the blonde asked, frowning in worry at Nick's expression when he turned to face her. She saw pain there, and guilt and sadness and a million other emotions too tangled up for her to name.

Nick smiled and shut the CD case with a final-sounding snap. Leaning down a little, he hugged her tightly and whispered in her ear, in a tone that sounded almost as if he were trying to convince himself of the truth of what he was saying.

"I love you."

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