Better To Have Loved

This fic follows on Falling Into Place, and both contains spoilers for and will not make sense without that work. You should read that work first.

Thursday September 4, 2008

Nick runs his hand through his hair, nervously. It's shorter than he's ever worn it before, and he knows how much Wade liked it longer.

Still, he doesn't think his longer, moppier hair fit the med school asthetic very well, as much as there was one. Or maybe it was just what he imagined it was like, full of professional-looking doctors with their short-cropped hair and collared shirts and ties.

Speaking of which, he had to get a tie, too, for the interviews. And a suit.

He knocks on the door to Wade's apartment, feeling somehow more nervous than he should. It opens after a short delay.

"Hey, babe."

"Hey!" He doesn't miss how the smile on his boyfriend's face briefly falls as he looks him over. But then it's back, and he's stepping aside. "Come in. I just ordered food, so it should be here soon."

He walks into the apartment, slipping off his messenger bag -- oh yeah, that was new, too -- and sitting on the couch. Wade sits next to him and throws an arm around him.

"How are the applications going?" Wade's hand runs cautiously through the short-cropped hair on the back of Nick's head.

"They're going well, I think. I have a couple of interviews with my less-desirable schools next week. I'm hoping that'll help get me in the right frame of mind for the ones that matter."

"That's great." His hand drops back onto Nick's shoulder. "I'm happy for you."

"Yeah." He isn't sure he's feeling so happy at the moment, though.

"So what..."

"Can we talk about this?" He turns toward Wade, wanting to see his face.

"It's fine. I just need to get used to it." He's plastered on a smile that isn't fooling Nick.

"It's still clearly bothering you."

"It's just... do you think maybe you're changing too many things at once? Taking this entire process a little too seriously?"

He'd been expecting that, but hearing it still hurts. "Babe. This is my future we're talking about. Our future. If it can help, at all, isn't it worth it?"

"Those people aren't going to be judging you based on how you look. They're going to be asking you questions, and caring about how you answer them."

"But the first impression you give is important. I want to come across as tidy and put-together. It seems more... trustworthy."

"Right. That makes sense." Wade turns away from him, trying to end the discussion in the way that always bothers Nick, and sitting back on the couch again. "I just need some time to get used to it. That's all."

"Okay." He lets it happen, sitting back himself, leaning against him again, and letting his arm drape over his shoulder. "I'm still me, babe," he adds, for good measure.

"Can you regrow the facial hair, though? Maybe after the interviews? You don't look... quite right, clean-shaven."

That feels like a reasonable compromise to make. "Sure, babe. After the interviews."

He doesn't say that he'll regrow his hair afterward, even though that too was supposed to be temporary.

He wonders just how temporary these changes are.

Friday September 18, 2008

"I just feel like I need to find something I can do for him, you know? To prove to him that I'm not ignoring all of his wants and desires. I just don't know what I can do that won't also hurt my chances, somehow, in these applications."

He stops speaking, and Laura just stares at him in the way she does when she's formulating a response, and that he hates. He sits there, patiently, fiddling with the buttons on his shirt cuff.

Oh yeah, that's new, too.

That's probably one he'll drop of his own accord. Button-up shirts are too stifling.

"Have you considered that maybe you two aren't right for each other anymore?"

"What?!" Of all the things she could have said, it's one he hadn't been expecting. "How can you say that?! Laura, I... I love him. We've been together for almost two years. We're... we're planning our future together."

"Are you?"

"Yeah! I'm... applying to NYU, and Columbia, and CUNY so we can move to New York, for his work."

"If I recall correctly, you didn't want to move to New York. You said it was too 'industrial' and 'metropolitan'."

"Yeah, well. Do you think I should remind him of that? That I'm doing that part for him?"

"Do you?"

She's doing that thing again where she wants him to say it instead of just offering the advice he'd come to her for.

If she wasn't such a good friend, and these weren't helpful so often, he thinks he'd just stop asking.

"I don't know! It feels a bit... cattish to throw it back in his face."

"Right. So you probably shouldn't use that as your grand gesture."

"But then... what?"

"You've changed a lot over the past few months, Nick. Starting at the end of last year." She says it matter-of-factly, but he takes it as judgemental anyway.

"It's just temporary." He's trying to convince himself as much as her.

She shakes her head. "It's not just your appearance. You've always been more studious than most of us, but lately you've been obsessive."

"It's just temporary," he repeats. "Until applications are done."

"Are you sure?"

"You're doing that thing again." He can't help but call her out on it, this time. "Laura. I don't know. What do you want me to say?"

"I don't want you to say anything. I just want you to think about whether you're doing things for the right reasons. And whether Wade is worth it."

That makes him angry. "You have no right to say that. What do you mean 'whether he's worth it'?!"

That one seems to get through to her. "Nick. Listen to me. You are both my friends, and this isn't easy for me either, okay? But sometimes the best thing you can do for someone you love is to let them go. And all I'm trying to say is that maybe you need to think about whether it's time to let him go."

"No. Absolutely not. I'm not throwing away everything we have because of this... temporary hiccup."

"Fine. Then figure out some way to show him that this will work." She nods and pats his shoulder, grabbing her backpack and leaving.

It takes him a second to realize that's exactly why he'd come to her in the first place.

So this was all just a big waste of time.

Thursday September 25, 2008

There's a knock on his door, right on cue, and he opens it. "Hey, babe."

"Hey." Wade gives him a kiss. "Sorry I'm a little late."

"It's not a problem. It doesn't start until 8, and we can always eat during the show."

Wade shrugs off his backpack and stops when he notices the candles and champagne. "Nick. What..."

"I feel like I owe you an apology. I've been so deep in applications lately, in addition to classes, and I feel like I've been ignoring you. Not just you, but all of your... requests."

"Hey. It's okay. I understand."

"I just... I love you. And I want to make it up for you. Even though there's not a lot I can change at the moment. So I just thought I'd make a... gesture."

Wade smiles in the way he does that makes Nick melt. "I love you, too. But you still didn't have to do this."

Nick kisses him, instead, his hands wrapping around Wade's back and loving the way Wade's hands finds his neck.

They break, breathless, but Wade seems to be staring at him. "Did you... not shave, today?"

"Oh. Yeah." He blushes. "I don't have another interview for another couple of weeks, and I figured if I grow it out and then trim it, it should still look good enough for that."

"I love you." Wade kisses him again, more deeply this time, and he starts to feel like maybe everything will be okay.

"So, we still have 20 minutes before 8..."

Wade smiles, taking his hand and dragging him toward the bedroom.

And in a corner of his mind, he wants to tell Laura, I told you so.

Friday October 24, 2008

He knocks on the door to Wade's apartment, feeling guilty, despite himself.

You shouldn't feel guilty, he tells himself. Not for doing the responsible thing.

The door opens, and Wade smiles at him. "Hey. We were getting ready to leave without you." He stops, and his smile turns to a confused look as he looks him over. "Is that what you're wearing to the club?"

"Hi, Nick!" Someone calls out from behind Wade, but he's feeling too guilty at the moment to really figure out who it is.

"I... I don't think I can go tonight."

"Oh." Wade seems more disappointed than he would have expected. "But the DJ is..."

"I know. I know it's an important night. But I... have a flight on Sunday, and an interview on Monday. I need to prepare for it. If I go out, and drink, that's tomorrow morning gone, and I have the classwork I need to get done besides that."

"You don't have to drink. Just come dance with us. With me."

"We'd still be there past midnight. I think I really just need to call it an early night, tonight. I'm sorry."

Wade stares at him for a bit. "Fine."

"Next time, babe. I promise."

"I understand. Just... do well on your interview, okay?" Wade manages a half smile, and he thinks that's something, at least.

"I'll do my best." He kisses him, quickly. "I love you. And I'm sorry."

"I love you, too."

Thursday November 20, 2008

"You really don't want to go to New York, do you?"

"What?" He's still focused on Survivor, and wasn't expecting a sudden conversation.

"You don't want to go to New York."

He mutes the TV, turning toward Wade. "Babe. We talked about this, last year and this summer."

"I know. And I feel like the result was that you're moving there for me. If you get in to one of those schools."

"Those schools are some of the best in the country. I would be honored to be selected to go to one of those schools."


"Why are we talking about this now, anyway?"

"I just... I feel like you've been doing a lot for me lately."

Nick's starting to feel like he can't win. "Yes, because I love you. I want to move to New York for you. For us. Because that's where you're going to have the best shot at the job you want to be doing."

"What if you don't get in to any of the schools?"

The thought had crossed his mind, but he'd dismissed it. "I don't think I'm that bad of an applicant. Do you?"

"And what about in another four years, when you're looking for your residency?"

"Then I'll look for a residency around New York. I... I don't understand what you want me to say here, babe."

Wade just shakes his head. "I don't know either. I just... can't help but feel like I'm dragging you somewhere you don't want to be. And I'm not just talking about New York."

"I want to be with you." It should be that simple, and he wonders why it's not, for Wade. "I want to do whatever I need to do to be with you."

Wade does smile at that. "I know. And you're doing it. And I appreciate it."

"Okay. Then keep appreciating it, and keep letting me do it." It really should be that simple.

"Okay." He kisses him. "Sorry. And thank you."

He unmutes the TV again, but his focus is no longer on the show.

Thursday November 27, 2008

"You can't move to New York, Nick."

"Um. Hello to you, too." He steps aside, automatically, but Wade doesn't move from the hallway.

"You can't move to New York."

"Are we going to have this discussion standing in the doorway?"

Wade seems to realize where he is, and walks into the apartment. Nick closes the door after him and watches as he sits heavily on the couch.

Nick grabs the containers of food and sits next to him a little more cautiously.

"You can't move to New York," he says again, refusing to meet his gaze this time.

"So you've said. Why?"

"You're going to be miserable there."

"You don't know that. Besides, I'm probably going to be so busy with classes and studying that it's not going to matter where I am."

"Are you going to be too busy for me?"

That just feels unfair. "Babe. I'll never be too busy for you. But I... I'm really not sure what you want me to say, here."

"I want you to not move to New York."

"Okay. Then what, we're moving somewhere else?"

"I... don't know."

"Then aren't we kind of stuck?" He doesn't want to think about the only other option.

"I don't know." At least it's a relief that he's not saying it, either.

"If you don't want me to move to New York, but you're not sure there's anywhere else that you can move to, I think we're out of options, babe. One of us has to move somewhere that's unideal, and it's significantly less unideal for me to be the one to do that."

Wade's hand wraps around his back, and he takes comfort in that, at least. His hand finds Wade's thigh and he squeezes.

"You're not wrong."

He should be relieved at that, but he isn't. "Okay. Then we're agreed that it makes sense for me to move to New York?"

Wade doesn't respond, but instead turns on the TV, despite it still being too early for the show.

Nick stabs into his chicken, not really sure what to say, either.

Saturday November 29, 2008

"What if I propose?"

Laura stares at him, not even bothering to think this time. "Excuse me?!"

"What if I propose? We've been together two years. It wouldn't be too soon or anything. It'll show him how serious I am about making this work."

"You're going to propose as a way to save your relationship?!"

He isn't sure if that's supposed to be one of her questions for him or not. "Our relationship doesn't need saving! I just need him to... let me do this. For us."

"Nick. Listen to me. This isn't working."

"But why? I... I'm doing everything I can."

"No one's saying otherwise."

"Then... why?" He isn't used to problems he can't solve, or situations he can't understand, and he's irrationally frustrated that the first one to flummox him also happens to have the most riding on it.

Laura doesn't respond, quietly thinking again, and he doesn't have the patience for it this time.


"Fine! You want to hear the truth, Nick? This isn't working because you're too fucking stubborn to see what everyone else is seeing. Hell, what Wade is seeing. You two are needing to go in different directions, and to different places, but you're too fucking stubborn to let him, instead convincing yourself that you just need to try harder, or give up more. If he lets you do this, you're going to hate him for it, and you're going to hate yourself for it. Maybe not now, and maybe not even a year from now, but one day, you're going to wake up, and realize you've sacrified too much and you've lost him anyway."

His vision is blurry now, and he's not sure if it's from anger or frustration or from the tears that he's suddenly trying to hold back. "I..."

Laura's arms are suddenly around him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be that harsh."

"You're wrong." He doesn't want to accept it.


"You have to be wrong."

"If you love him, let him go. Before you lose him for good."

He doesn't do this, doesn't cry, but somehow that does it. He lets Laura rub his back as the tears finally flow, pent up over the past three months.

He's still not sure he accepts it, even if he knows she's right.

Thursday December 4, 2008

"We can't do this anymore, Nick."

Wade's standing in the hallway again, and Nick's staring through the open door at him, feeling a sense of deja vu in the worst way.

"I know."

"We can't do this anymore." The repeating thing is back, and he thinks he's never seen Wade be so upfront about things as he's been these times. He's pretty sure he didn't hear him.

"Babe. I know."

"Oh." It does get through that time. "Should I... go?"

He stands aside. "No. I think we owe ourselves a little more than just that, don't you?"

Wade nods in agreement, walking past him and sitting on the couch. The wiff he gets of his cologne awakens a memory from his brain about the first time they'd met, and he does everything he can to push it aside.

He needs to be focused for this conversation.

He sits on the other side of the couch, further apart than the two of them have ever sat, even before they were a thing, just friends bonding over reality TV and a shared love of niche techno music. He waits for Wade to say something else, but the seconds and minutes tick by, and nothing else comes.

"I know, babe," he tries, not sure what else he could say.


They're quiet again, and he forces himself to look at him. "Wade. I love you. But that's... not enough."

Wade's crying, silently, and he's not sure he's ever seen that before, either.


Wade shakes his head, holding his hand out to block Nick as Nick starts toward him. "It's... not enough. And I... hate that it's not enough."

That helps, somehow. "I want to build my life with you. I want to make you happy. I want so many things for the two of us."

"Please don't." It's quiet, choked out between sobs, more familiar now but somehow worse, and it's all Nick can do to keep from comforting the man shaking in front of him.

"But I know it's not what we need. What both of us need. And I know you were... trying to help me see that."

"I... I didn't want to."

"Babe. You've always been the sensible one. You feel things, and you act on them, and you're usually right. I'm... sorry, for not trusting you, this time."

"No. I... I didn't want to be right."

He can't hold back anymore, moving next to him, and wrapping his arms around him. Wade sobs again, not making any effort to break away, but also not doing anything but sitting there.

"I love you. I'll always love you. And I... want us to be friends, still, if we can."

"I... want that... too."

He holds Wade tighter. "Okay. That's... good."

"I should... go."

"Do you want to eat something, at least? We don't have to watch anything, but you should still eat."

Wade shakes his head, pushing Nick's arms away. "No. I just... I just need to be alone, right now."

"Okay. I... understand."

He watches as he stands and makes his way to the door.

"I..." He swallows the love you that so naturally follows for him, watching Wade pull the door open. "...hope you feel better."

Wade nods, shutting the door behind him.

Nick stares at it for a while afterward.

Tuesday January 20, 2009

A knock on the door drags his attention from the noodles that have long since gone cold in front of him. He sets aside the anatomy textbook and opens it.

He's more surprised than he maybe should be to see Wade, standing there, looking nervous and a little guilty. They hadn't seen each other since the breakup in December, and between finals and work and prep and interviews, he'd told himself it was for the best. That it meant he could focus full-time on what he needed to, and making sure that he could build a future for himself, like he wanted.

The problem was that he didn't know what he wanted for himself. And seeing Wade again, in front of him, brings all of that rushing back again.

"Can I come in?" He realizes he's been standing there and staring for far too long, and he steps aside, shutting the door behind him.

"Can I get you something? Seltzer? I think I have some wine left."

"No. I'm good. Thank you."

He stands awkwardly, stuffing his hands into his pockets because it gives him something to focus on. "It's... nice to see you again."

I missed you, he doesn't say, because he knows it won't help anything right now, but he doesn't think he's realized how lonely he's been since then.

"It's... it's nice to see you too."

"So what... can I do for you?"

"I just wanted to come by and make sure you were doing okay."

"Oh. That's really... thoughtful."

"But you seem to be doing okay." His eyes trail over the piles of textbooks and forms and old takeout containers covering both the dining room and living room tables.

"I've just been keeping busy. There's still a lot to do. Even if it's just... me, for myself."

Wade nods, and Nick watches him swallow.

"I'm sorry."

"Ba... Wade. Don't apologize. It's not your fault. I'm... sorry, too, for not checking on you sooner."

"I assumed you just wanted to give me space. And honestly, that was probably the best thing." The guilt he'd been feeling dissipates a little.

"Okay. Yeah. I'm... glad that helped. But um. Yeah. I'm doing okay."

Wade nods again. "So, uh... Ashley and Laura and Dom and Joe and I were going to hit the club this Friday."


"If you wanted to come along."

He thinks about it. It feels like an olive branch, and he realizes he really does miss his friends.

But then his eyes settle on the piece of paper by his food, and the open textbook next to it, the practice exam he'd been filling out.

"I... can't," he says, before he really gives himself a chance to really think about it. "I just have..." His hand gestures vaguely in the direction of the table. "Too much I need to do right now."

"Oh." Wade sounds disappointed, but not surprised. "Okay. Maybe next time, then."

"Yeah. I should... start hearing back from places, soon. Then I should know if I need to do the final few interviews, or if I'm done. And I should have more time after that."

"Okay." Wade tosses something from his hands onto the table. "I'll, uh... see you next time, then."

He moves toward the door again, and Nick resists the urge to reach out a hand, to touch him again.

"Do you want to, um... come over sometime? We could watch something."

Wade stops, hand on the doorknob. "Yeah. I'd... I'd like that."

He doesn't realize how apprehensive he'd been until he feels the stress melt away at that response, and at the slight smile on Wade's face.

"Okay. Um. Just let me know. Well, I guess I'll let you know when I'm free, and we can find a day that works for you, too."

"That sounds like a plan." He opens the door.

"I..." He searches for an appropriate alternative to his usual departing words. "I'll see you soon."

The door shuts behind him, and he makes his way back to the table. The something ended up being his mail, and he remembers how Wade always had a habit of grabbing it for him when he came over, if it was delivered by then.

He's ready to toss the pile aside when an envelope catches his attention. The return address reads "NYU Grossman School of Medicine", and his hands tremble as he works the envelope open.

He doesn't need to read far to realize it's an acceptance, and the first of his acceptances.

He stares at it, feeling like he should be overjoyed, and like he should call his parents, or anyone, to share the good news.

Instead, all he can think about is everything it represents, and everything he's lost.

He throws the letter to the side and weeps.

Thursday March 5, 2009

"Hey. Thanks for coming." It'd taken them a while to find a date that worked for both of them, and he wonders how much of it was actual conflicts versus Wade avoiding him. But he shakes the thought aside, stepping aside so he can walk in.

It was really nice to see him again.

Wade drops his backpack by the door and hands Nick a bottle of wine. "What's this?"

"Just some congratulations. I heard you got into UCSF. And a bunch of other places."

"Oh, yeah. I did. Thanks." He's surprised Wade even remembers how excited he'd been about the prospect, before they'd started talking about their future and he'd filed it away as a pipe dream that would never happen.

He'd applied anyway, telling himself it would be nice to get the validation.

"So I'll be able to come visit you in San Francisco sometime."

Nick likes the thought more than he wants to admit that Wade's willing to come out and see him. "I haven't decided where I'm going, yet."

Wade stops and stares at him. "What do you mean? That was your dream school."

"A lot has changed since then."

"Enough that it's no longer your dream school?"

"I... don't know." He finds a corkscrew and pops the wine open, finding that it gives him something to focus on.

"Nicholas..." Nick cringes at the use of his full name, and not just because he hates it. "I thought we decided that we were needing to focus on ourselves, and our own futures."

He succeeds in getting the cork out, and rummages around for clean glasses. "We did."

"So why aren't you jumping at this opportunity?"

"Maybe I just needed some more time to think. It's a big decision."

Wade just stands there, still staring at him. "I think you're holding out hope for us. I heard you got into NYU."

Damn his mother and her meaning well. "Maybe not everything's about you, okay?"

"No, but I think this one is. You forget how well I know you, Nick."

"Maybe not as well as you think, then." He finds a couple of water glasses that seem clean enough, and starts pouring.

"Nick. You are not moving to New York."

"I don't think that's your decision to make anymore."

Wade shakes his head and picks up his backpack. "This was a mistake."

"No!" He slams the bottle down on the counter with more force than necessary. Nick isn't sure why he's suddenly so desperate to keep him here. "Please. Don't go."

"I don't want to stay if this is going to cause a problem." He eyes him warily, but doesn't make a move toward the door.

"Fine. Maybe you're right. It's just been... harder than I expected to... get over you, okay? And to figure out how to rework all of the plans I'd made in my head for us."

He's worried that'll just make things worse, but breathes a sigh of relief when Wade pulls his backpack off again.

"We're not getting back together, Nick. Even if you went to NYU. We're not getting back together."

"I know that. I keep telling myself that." He pours a second glass.

"Then maybe it'll help if I tell it to you, too." It actually does, somehow.

He holds out a glass of wine, an offering, and Wade takes it. He tries not to focus on the way their fingers brush.

"Do you want to watch something? The food should be here soon."

"I think we need to talk about this." Wade sits on the couch, looking over at him expectantly.

Nick sighs, grabbing his own glass and joining him. They're quiet for a bit.

"I think you need to make future plans that don't involve me. Or any potential of me," Wade says, finally.

"I'm trying." And he really is.

"And a good first step of that is to let yourself be happy about this. I really don't think you feel any differently about it now than you did back then."

"I... I don't," he admits. "But it's just so... hard. It feels so final."

"Maybe that's a good thing, this time."

"Maybe." He doesn't want to believe it, but he's pretty sure he knows it's true.

"I was serious about visiting you. If that's something you'd want."

"I was serious about us remaining friends," he says back, finally meeting Wade's gaze. It's cautious, but surprisingly happy.

"I know. And that's going to be hard too, for a bit. But it'll help if I know that you're really trying to move on. It'll help if you accept that offer."

Nick takes a gulp of the wine, not breaking eye contact. "Okay."

"'Okay' you'll accept it?"

"...'okay', I'll accept it."

Wade smiles, and Nick realizes how much he's missed that smile.

"Good." He lifts his glass. "A toast then?"

Nick raises his own. "To what?"

"How about to you? To being the best you can be, and finding the happiness that you deserve to find."

"I'm not going to toast to myself." He objects to the principle, as much as he likes the message.

"How about to us, then? To each of us, being the best we can be. Separately, but still because of each other."

"That... sounds better."

They clang their glasses together, and Nick can feel himself finally letting go.

And as they ease back into their banter, and laugh together over American Idol, he thinks he finally believes that everything is going to be alright.