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Not Working Out

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Greg fidgeted with the paper of the straw to his water, tearing a piece off of it for every reason he had to finally vocalize the decision he had come to weeks ago now, but had finally mustered the courage to lay it out on the table that separated them.

Just as he laid out all the pieces of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

He needed to break up with Nick Stokes. 

He deserved better.

Nick deserved better. 

He had decided to have the conversation in a public, but private setting. A booth, at their favorite diner–well…not so favorite anymore given recent events, but that just made it easier to rip the band-aid off in a place that both of them had already given a negative association. 

“Man, been a while, huh?” Nick casually strolled into the diner, and Greg felt bad, as if he should have given Nick a heads up, the poor guy, he looked like he was in such a great mood…

Which also made it easier, because Greg would have had a hard time talking to Nick if he was anything but. Nick surely wouldn’t listen to him if he was wrapped up in his own head, chewing on the effects of some trauma dredged up through his throat, too distracted by his blind rage and concentration on repression to even listen to Greg.

That piece was the fifth piece that had been thrown onto the table.

They ordered their food, Nick rambled on about everything and nothing, as Greg felt like he was getting cold feet, looking into Nick’s eyes, watching his smile, even the way he ate was cute and goddammit, do I really want to do this? 

Of course, deep down, he didn’t want to. 

But he needed to.

“It’s not working out. We’re not working out,” he blurted out to Nick as their plates were cleared, and Nick was asking if he wanted to go work out with him, the perfect bridge, Greg thought, at the time, but would later cringe and cry at the recollection of the absolute heartbreak on Nick’s face. 

And the anger. 

And the…understanding? That offered Greg little to no comfort in the end, because he felt stupid that not just he, but both of them had hung onto something they lost a long time ago. 

“If that’s…if that’s how you feel about things…” Nick spoke through gritted teeth, his nails almost breaking the skin of his balled up fists. He nodded at his now declared ex-partner, took a sharp inhale through his teeth as he dug out money for his half of the bill, slammed it on the table and left without another word. 

As soon as he closed his house door behind him, Nick opened the lid on the jar that was just one second more from breaking, and an explosion of emotions burst from his chest in a heavy lurch as he forced himself to breathe.

He was angry, at himself, more than anything, for allowing himself to be so stupid, thinking that he was good enough for Greg. Thinking he would be able to break his “bad luck” with relationships, that somebody would love him with the same passion that he held for them, too. 

But also, he was angry at Greg. Why didn’t he bring up his frustrations earlier? Why did he just have to drop this on him all of the sudden? 

Or was it really all that sudden? 

He should have known from the minute he got back from his training in Hawaii, when Greg was so…flippant with him. When he started paying more attention to Morgan than him. When he yelled at Nick for what, sure, he’ll admit, was stupid behavior, “quitting” and going out and getting himself drunk and arrested, all because of his numbing rage whenever the name “McKeen” was mentioned.

Not his fault that McKeen is on a very short list of people he absolutely hates. 

Not just a gentle dislike, but actual hate.

It was hard to get on that list, incredibly hard. The damage you’d have to wreak on Nick Stokes, or the people he cared about, would have to be irreparable. 

And he was happy, even laughed as he opened a bottle of beer from his refrigerator, the bottle cap clanging to the floor, struggling to reach the same stability that Nick no longer had a grasp of–because Greg Sanders just made that list. 

He was happy to be free of him.

He was better off without him. 

Greg was better off. Without. Him.

He kept laughing, feeling the buzz of what had went from being one beer to his fourth, stared at his reddened, tear-stricken face in the mirror and realized what he truly felt over the whole ordeal. 

He was sad, that what he thought was somehow even beyond friendship, beyond partnership, beyond love was broken apart by just six words, said on an absolute whim, in a public place, in front of complete strangers. 

And he didn’t even put up a fight. 

He gulped down the remnants of his sixth beer–to be honest, he didn’t even remember moving from the mirror, staring at the textbook definition of a broken heart–and picked up the razor, shaved his head, but even after he did, the man in the mirror as not him. Was not Nick. 

Who was Nick Stokes without Greg Sanders?