Love by Any Other Name

"You've decided to end it haven't you?" he asked, a sense of dread in his voice. "This isn't a casual fling," he tried to insist – a last minute effort to convince her he meant what he said.

"I know," came her whispered reply. She went on. "Nick this means everything to me…"

"Great. That's the way I feel too."

He smiled, wanting her to see the light side so badly. The side they could let themselves revel in, if only she would let them. "Let's get married, have kids." She smiled, briefly. "I've never wanted that with anyone before but I want that with you." He'd never said anything with more passion.

But she was reluctant. "What if we do all that and then in two years time we split up?"

He wouldn't give up trying to sway her to his way of thinking. "Well it's worth taking the risk don't you think?"

Her frown shadowed her face. "Yeah but I'm the one that's taking all the risk! If we stay together one of us is going to have to leave Homicide and you and I… both know that it's gonna be me."

That was when she lost it, crumbling before him, unable to stop her emotions from being on display. "Nick, I've devoted my life to this job! If I leave the Homicide I don't know who I am anymore."

He was ready with an answer. "Okay. I'll transfer out," he offered up immediately.

She turned to face him properly. "You want a family."

She knew he did.

"I want you."

"But I don't know if I'm ready to have children," she replied, feeling the pressure of his life goals.

"Well that's something we can decide in the future."

Nick was always sure about their future. Always able to see it so clearly, so vividly, so sure he could make his dreams a reality. Jen had no such trait as to be able to do that. She only saw what was right in front of her.

"I'm sorry…I just, I don't have the answer yet and it's not fair to keep you waiting until I do."

"Bloody hell." He couldn't stop the lump in his throat from affecting the tone and volume of his voice. He knew then that she wouldn't change her mind.

He pulled at the door handle. "I've got an interview to do."

She knew when Nick swore that she'd taken the heartbreak one step too far. He'd been able to handle her leaving him in an alleyway all alone, her disappearing for five days to clear her head, he'd even been able to handle her having a go at him quietly at her desk in the middle of the office. But he couldn't handle this.

She studied his face as he said it, even though all she wanted to do was look away. His mouth fell down at the sides, drooping sorrowfully, and dragging the rest of his face down with it. The hope had already left his eyes, and the creases that made up his face already looked deeper, darker, older. She knew what she had done to him.

Streets look familiar

I remember the parts

Where I buried my head so deep in my hands all around me was dark

Chapter 1

Nick noticed only one thing in the days after their break up – that Jen was the tensest he'd ever seen her, and she tip toed around him like he might explode. He knew he was the cause. But he was in a way glad. Maybe then she would realise what she had done to him. How much she had shattered his dreams. He could barely function without her, and he took it out on chairs, doors, almost everything in sight. His colleagues noticed immediately, but he didn't go to any effort to reel it in. He couldn't anyway, even if he'd tried.

The finality of Jennifer's words played on repeat through Nick's brain for days. They were torturously hopeful, insinuating that she would perhaps one day soon have the answer, that she was trying to find the answer, and trying to make up her mind, but he knew Jennifer Mapplethorpe better than anyone, and he knew she was not going to find that answer in a hurry. She was going to muddle over it for weeks, months, even years, debating with herself which route would be the best one to take, and in the meantime life would continue moving merrily along, and she would miss her chance without even realising. When she was finally ready with her answer it would be too late.

So Nick decided he wasn't going to hang around. What was the point? He called an old mentor, a guy by the name of Murray, who was these days quite high up in the job at the St Kilda Road complex, and Nick made no secret of his desperation for a new, fresh posting. Somewhere quiet and quaint, where he could forget about her, and move on. He knew it was a drastic move, and one he was putting into action quite swiftly, but the way he saw it, the longer he stayed, the harder it would be to leave, and the more ways he'd continue to dream up to change her mind and take him back.

"Why would you want a country posting mate?" Murray asked, unable to hide his surprise.

Nick exhaled, not wanting to have to answer. He shrugged into the phone. "I just need a change of pace," was all he would say. "I need somewhere away from distractions."

Murray laughed. "Oh it's like that is it?"

Nick knew he was thinking that Nick was getting too into city life, bedding too many women, drinking too many nights of the week and not getting enough sleep. Living life too fast, the way they'd all been when they were younger and fresh out of the academy. But Nick had not the strength to assure him otherwise, so he let Murray believe it. "I just need somewhere that isn't Melbourne. Can you let me know if there's anything available?"

"Will do mate. There should be something."

He was thankful when a week later Murray came through for him. "There's a sweet little offering in Belgrave," he informed a relieved Nick. "I've set you up an interview."

Thank God, Nick thought. I'm going to ace this, and I'm going to get out of here.

"You're moving away?!" she gasped. She said it like it was life altering news, like nothing would ever be the same after this, and as Nick looked at her, he pondered if for her it actually was life altering. Had she made a mistake? He wasn't going to wait around to find out now.

Jennifer's face was hurt beyond repair, as much as she tried to hide it. She knew life would change once they weren't together, but not like this. She stared at Nick, waiting for an answer, not knowing what to say after her first initial outburst.

He nodded, not allowing himself to be talked around. He was brutally honest with her, making sure she knew his every reason behind his upheaval. "It's just too hard Jen," his last word came out in a hoarse whisper and stayed that way as he went on, keeping a firm grip on his emotions. "I can't be here and pretend that everything's okay. Because it's not."

A flash went through Jennifer's gaze as she pounced on his reasons. "Too hard?!" she spat back. "So you're just going to run away? Since when did you just give in like that when something was too hard?" She pressed him for the answer she really wanted.

Nick wasn't going to have her sledge him for his decision and he stepped in closer and let her know exactly how much she had shaped this snap decision. "Since you decided we couldn't be together."

That truth propelled her into silence. Nothing she could say could shift the blame off her after a dig like that. She felt the heat rise from her chest, all the way up her neck and to her cheeks. Her ears tingled, making her feel uncomfortable in battle. She just looked at him and in a fleeting second saw the man she had fallen for all those years ago. After all this time the desire had never faded, never weakened, never changed. It was still there, deep within her. It was just these days she kept better control over it than she had been able to when she was younger. It was this control that had made her decide to end it with him. She needed to have that kind of control. Control over her job, her friends, her living arrangements. At least with control over those things she wouldn't miss so much the feeling of being swept away by this detective.

But she knew that if she would just slacken the grip her sensible head had on her cushy heart and admit to Nick how she truly felt about him, how much she loved and adored him and couldn't possibly imagine life without him, then he would stay. But something inside her made her keep her mouth shut.

It would never work anyway, if he's decided on this drastic move, Jennifer thought to herself. We're obviously after completely different things. It would never work out in the long term anyway, just like I said to him in the car. Two, three years, and we'd be over. I'm not going to devote myself to a relationship like that only to have the ass fall out of it in a few years.

Nick continued, at the last second wanting her to really know his intentions. "I can't work in such close proximity to you everyday and…hold myself back…from loving you. I just can't." His voice was still low, almost apologetic, clouded again by his ravenous feelings for her. "No. I have to get away."

"Can't you just transfer to another department?" she asked pathetically, wondering fleetingly if such a simple suggestion could be the answer. "Or I could!" She didn't know why she was suggesting it really, when she was so sure that she didn't want to be in a relationship with Nick that was only destined to fall apart after a couple of years.

But Nick shook his head back at her, certain. He knew it would still be too close, like he was just teasing himself.

"When are you going?" she whispered. They were alone in the office. Everyone else had left not much earlier, and they too were in the middle of gathering up their things to leave as well. Nick was already moving towards the lift, his keys dangling precariously off the little finger of his right hand.

"Friday," he replied as he pushed the button for the lift.

She followed, holding in her gasp at his answer, just trying to process the news. It was already Wednesday.

They rode in silence down through the floors of the complex and to the cold hearted underground carpark. Shadows lurked, as they always did, around each pillar and down every ramp, but both ignored them, heading for their cars. Nick appeared to have run out of steam, Jennifer noted as they walked, and his face had gone back to looking how it had that horrible day in the car. His mouth was down turned, his chin moving up and down and side to side, trying to not cry. He was still a bloke, she thought, and like all blokes, he didn't want to cry in front of others.

He pointed his key at his ute and pressed the central locking button on the side before opening the door and throwing his jacket onto the back seat. He didn't even want to say the words, so he just walked around to the drivers side in silence, his head still down. He opened the door and was in and sitting, about to pull the door closed, when she finally spoke.

"Nick…"

He pulled the door closed and it slammed satisfyingly. He couldn't hear anymore. It was over. He wasn't going to wait around to hear more of her reasons why she couldn't be with him.

He drove away and tried not to look at her in the rear vision mirror, just standing pathetically in the middle of the carpark.

Jennifer could do nothing but watch the ute roar off, like he couldn't get away from her fast enough. Only when finally faced with such an ultimatum as she was right then, when it was finally out of her hands and she couldn't change it, did she realise that maybe she'd made the wrong decision.

There goes my life

There goes my future, my everything

Might as well kiss it all goodbye

There goes my life