Levi hesitates for an indefinite amount of minutes before finally pressing his finger into the doorbell, and when he actually does he only wants to run away as fast as he can. He doesn’t really need the stuff he left inside Nico’s apartment, does he? He can buy new underwear. Yeah, definitely, he’s just going to-
Eyes squeezed shut, Levi stops in his tracks with a resigned sigh, his foot halfway to reaching the lower step. He slowly turns around to face Nico, head leaning back to make up for the difference in height, even more pronounced like this.
“Hi,” he breathes, walking closer to the door. “I need to pick up my stuff. I called.”
“Yeah, of course,” Nico nods, opening the door wider. “Come in.”
Levi clears his throat and steps inside, hands in his pockets and back uncomfortably straight. It doesn’t feel right for him to be here right now, and it adds to the things that are breaking his heart at the moment.
The last time he’d slept here he hadn’t known it would be the last. It’s probably silly, but maybe he would have done things differently. Taken a longer shower. Appreciated the wide windows more.
Maybe, knowing what was going to happen, he would have tried to be more understanding, or more accommodating, and maybe they wouldn’t have gotten to this point. Maybe he’s actually the one expecting too much from this relationship, maybe Nico is right and he’s too intense, too emotional.
Or maybe Nico knows absolutely nothing and he’s just an asshole who got tired of having a serious relationship. Somehow, for some reason, that doesn’t really make Levi feel entirely better. It’s probably because he knows that that is not the truth at all.
Nico brings him out of his thoughts when he closes the door behind him and shuffles into the living room, not even bothering with a real greeting or anything close to it.
“I tried to gather as much of your stuff as I could so you wouldn’t waste too much time,” Nico explains, pointing to the bags sitting on the couch.
Levi’s heart falls to the bottom of his stomach, both because the sight doesn’t feel the same as when he brought them in, and because Nico is way too unbothered by this.
“So, do you need help carrying them out?” Nico asks.
Anger starts bubbling up alongside the sadness, because this is not fair. This is wrong and there’s nothing Levi can do to fix it, but it still hurts because he seems to be the only one of the two to be less than happy about this.
“Uh, if you want, sure,” Levi finally decides, reaching the couch and looking down at what Nico had piled up on it.
Levi hasn’t spent enough time in here to be able to spread his things around, most of his belongings still tucked into the bags he’d used to move them in, the day that feels like so long ago now. It’s all here, everything he owns, ready for him to take it somewhere else.
He opens a few of the bags to peek inside, mostly for a lack of something else to do. Nico is hovering awkwardly, leaning against the wall, watching Levi obviously waste time. The air in the room feels like it’s standing still, waiting for either of them to do something.
Nico opens his mouth but Levi doesn’t want to hear it, so he just sits down heavily on the couch and stares down at his knees. He takes deep breaths and his chest fills with them, but he still feels like he can’t get enough air into his lungs.
“Um,” Nico takes a step closer. “Do you need…”
Levi interrupts him with an annoyed glance. “Can we just be honest for a second?”
“I’m not lying about anything,” Nico defends himself.
“No, you’re just pretending everything is fine.”
Nico rolls his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest. “Here we go with the feelings talk.”
Fire erupts in Levi’s belly, his vision goes blurry at the edges, and he springs back up to his feet with full intention to make the biggest scene of his life.
“It’s not my fault if you can’t function like a normal person,” Levi snaps.
“I literally have never met anybody who wants to just sit and talk as much as you do,” Nico shrugs.
It almost hurts. “You used to love sitting and talking with me.”
Nico doesn’t answer that. He just stares intently at Levi and stands unnaturally still. Levi is not done, though.
“Even if you don’t anymore, how is this normal? How is it fair?” he asks.
“People break up, Levi! It’s normal, it happens!” Nico sounds exasperated.
“No it’s fucking not!” Levi answers just as loudly. “This is not normal! Not after more than a year, not after what we’ve been through.”
His voice breaks on the last word even though he tries his best to keep it as even as possible, betraying the fact that this is affecting him quite a bit. The surely red ears and the pinched expression probably don’t help with that either.
“It doesn’t have to be such a big deal,” Nico argues. “We can just agree that this isn’t working anymore.”
Tears spring up to Levi’s eyes despite how much he’s trying to stay mad. His shoulders drop and his hands go limp, releasing the tight fists they’d been clenched into the whole time.
“How can you just say it like that? Why doesn’t this hurt you even a little bit?” Levi almost whispers.
Nico stands his ground, but Levi knows him by now. He sees the slight twitch of his eyebrows, the sad light that washes over his eyes. He sees it and he can’t do anything to soothe it, and that’s probably the worst part.
“I thought we were fighting,” is all Nico comes up with.
“I don’t want to fight,” Levi shrugs. “I don’t want to be doing this at all. You’re the one that broke up with me.”
They’re still both standing in the middle of Nico’s living room, only separated by the couch, but they’ve never felt further away from each other.
“Don’t put the blame for all of this on me,” Levi says after a while of silence.
“Ditto,” Nico shrugs.
Another quiet couple of minutes stretch out between them, and only when a car honks just outside the window do they get startled out of their impromptu staring contest.
“I’m not okay with us ending like this,” Levi finally decides.
“I wish there was another way.”
The same anger as earlier comes rushing back, and Levi has walked the few steps between them before he can even think better of it. He lifts one hand as if to touch Nico, but doesn’t actually do it.
“There is another way, but you don’t want to see it because it’s too much work. You’re lazy,” Levi accuses him.
Nico scoffs. “Yeah, let’s go back to that ‘I carried this relationship on my shoulders’ thing you like so much.”
“It’s the truth!” Levi talks over him. “I’m the only one who’s trying to fight for this.”
“I tried,” Nico tries.
Now it’s Levi’s turn for rolling his eyes to the ceiling. “When? I must have missed that.”
Against Levi’s expectations, Nico steps even closer to him, gaze unwavering where he’s staring right in Levi’s eyes. He looks the most affected he’s been this whole conversation, and maybe even for weeks before that. Still, Levi won’t let him win this.
“I had to basically beg you to even consider dating me. I was the first to say ‘I love you’ and you took your time saying it back. I am the only one who ever tried to deal with things while you hid in that place you go to when you’re mad.”
Nico jumps in before Levi can add anything else. “I cheered you on while you came to terms with being yourself, both at work and with me. I supported you when your family didn’t fully. I was by your side, literally, all day when you lost your uncle.”
They just stare at each other after that. Their words hang in the air between them, heavy and so charged they feel electrical.
“Yeah, almost like it was a relationship. You know. Reciprocal.” Levi breathes.
Nico doesn’t answer. Levi doesn’t continue. It feels like the end, is the thing. It is the end, and it feels every bit like it, and Levi can’t decide if he wants to cry or scream. Maybe both at the same time. Maybe neither.
“Levi,” Nico whispers.
At that point, something breaks inside Levi. He lets out a loud sob and brings his hands up to cover his eyes, tears stinging behind his closed eyelids. He starts crying in the way that makes you feel like there is no way you could ever stop.
Nico reaches out and brushes the tips of his fingers over Levi’s elbow, and it burns. It feels like fire on Levi’s skin, and he wants to move away from it, but he can’t. He both needs and can’t stand the feeling of Nico’s hands on him.
Levi tries saying something, opens his mouth and wills words out of it, but all that comes out is another strangled sob.
“This is so lame,” he complains, wailing behind the hands still covering his face.
Nico lets out a surprised chuckle. “What?”
“We should be screaming at each other and maybe even having break up sex right now,” Levi throws his hands down, looking at the ceiling to unsuccessfully keep more tears from falling down his cheeks. “Instead I’m crying and you’re being an ass.”
“Hey,” Nico complains.
Levi ignores him. “We can’t even properly fight! Why can’t we just say mean stuff to each other and then regret it immediately after storming off?”
“We can, if you want.”
“You know I don’t want that,” Levi shakes his head. “And I don’t think you want it either.”
“No, in fact, I just want this to be over as quickly and easily as possible.”
Levi bristles. He lifts a hand and jabs his index finger into Nico’s pec so hard he ends up hurting himself.
“Stop,” jab, “being,” jab, “an ass,” jab, jab, jab.
Nico grabs Levi’s wrist and stops his movements. Levi tries to break free, but Nico only tightens his hold, moving his arm to the side so he can’t reach anymore.
“Enough,” Nico whispers.
Levi just lifts his other hand and goes back to jabbing. Nico grabs that one as well and even takes a step closer to keep Levi from pulling away. It would be a great move to get Levi to stop hurting him, if it didn’t mean that now they’re standing with their chests barely a breath away from touching.
They’re both breathing hard and it’s not for the fighting. Levi still has tears lining his eyes, and he still wants to curl into a ball and then scream at the top of his lungs, but there’s a different kind of urgency swirling around in his belly right now.
“Let me go,” he mumbles, half-heartedly pulling his arms back.
“You’ll just go back to doing that,” Nico accuses.
Levi doesn’t even try arguing. He just stares up at Nico and wills him to understand everything he can’t say out loud.
Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. All that matters is that after what feels like hours of staring at each other, Nico’s forced unimpressed expression drops and finally, finally a hint of the fact that he’s even remotely upset shows on his face.
Nico squeezes Levi’s wrists gently, then brings them down to join them between their chests. Every time they take a deep breath their skin brushes against the material of their shirts, and it feels like the most they’ve touched in months even though that’s all they’ve been doing lately.
Suddenly, Levi gets an idea.
“Let’s do it,” he says.
“What?” Nico asks, visibly confused.
“Let’s say mean things about each other that we don’t really mean.”
“Because then we’ll have a real fight and we’ll be able to break up without feeling bad about it.”
Nico doesn’t answer for a while. When he does, it’s with a small smile. “That wouldn’t work,” he says.
“It works for most people,” Levi shrugs.
The expression that washes over Nico’s face makes every hair on Levi’s body stand up. They’re sharing the same sadness and it doesn’t make it better.
“We’re not most people,” Nico says eventually.
Levi absolutely refuses to acknowledge the way that makes him feel, because it would lead to somewhere he doesn’t need to go right now. Instead, he bites the inside of his cheek and looks away as he thinks.
“Right,” he decides at the end. “We’re back at the start, then.”
Nico is still holding Levi’s wrists, with no sign of meaning to drop them anytime soon, and this whole thing is not going anywhere, so Levi tries to do a mental summary of what’s going on. By the time he’s done, all he knows is that they’re breaking up. They just don’t know how to get to the next step.
“I don’t like that this is happening either,” Nico beats him to it.
“Really?” Levi asks before he can stop himself.
It probably sounds more surprised than it actually is, but it must still get to Nico in the same way, because he widens his eyes and doesn’t let them harden back to that emotionless expression he uses to protect himself.
“I love you, Levi,” Nico says. “I love you and I’ve loved every second I spent with you, I have, but…”
A couple of seconds of silence go by. Levi swallows around the knot in his throat.
“But it’s not enough,” he whispers.
Nico just presses his lips together in a small pout as an answer.
It’s not enough. They tell you that love is all you need, love is at the base of everything, live is the only thing that matters, but it’s not true. It’s so far from the truth but nobody ever says it, and even when they do say it, nobody believes them.
It’s almost comical how much we’re willing to lie to ourselves in order to protect our feelings. Even when it eventually only leads to those same feeling being hurt. Levi is definitely spinning this more than it needs to.
Bottom line is, the first real relationship of his life is about to end, right here, right now, and he knows less about ending it than he did about starting it.
“I’m sorry,” is all that Levi is capable of saying.
He’s expecting Nico to bring back the asshole attitude, but he surprises him by finally letting go of Levi’s wrists and wrapping his arms around him in a big hug.
“Oh,” Levi lets out breathlessly.
It’s a hug, nothing more than a hug, he tells himself, even though it’s not that easy.
Levi mentally shakes himself and lifts his own arms, circling Nico’s waist and squeezing. His head instinctively goes to rest on the front of Nico’s shoulder, Nico’s fingers creeping up to slide into the hair at the bottom of his neck. It feels so familiar and comfortable that Levi’s heart aches.
“I’m sorry too,” Nico finally admits.
It doesn’t make Levi feel better like he thought it would. He just ends up wanting to cry some more.
“It was fun while it lasted,” he tries to joke, but he gets choked up halfway through.
Nico pulls back just enough to look him in the eyes, his gaze travelling all over Levi’s face before settling on his lips.
“It was,” Nico nods after a while.
“Do you regret it?” Levi asks without thinking.
Nico only lets how affected he is by the question show for a split second, then schools his features back into a controlled expression and shakes his head.
“I would do it all over again.”
Levi bites the corner of his own lips and looks down at the bottom of Nico’s throat. “But still not past this point.”
No answer comes from Nico, but there is no need for one. It’s obvious that they’re at the end of the road and neither of them is willing to throw themselves down to continue.
“I’m going to allow the feelings talk for just a couple of minutes,” Nico brings Levi out of his thoughts.
Nico rolls his eyes, then moves his hands to cradle the underside of Levi’s jaw, thumbs rubbing over his cheeks. He leans his head down and touches their foreheads together, Levi going cross eyed to keep looking at him.
“I love you and probably always will, in a way,” he starts, voice quiet. “But we’re stuck and there’s nowhere else for us to go. We’ve got to let each other go.”
Levi can’t help the sour expression that turns the corners of his mouth down.
“It feels like you’re just leaving me behind and moving on without me,” he mumbles.
Nico sighs. “I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do it.”
Levi would very much like to tell him that he doesn’t have to do it, that they can still try, but he knows that it would just be a waste of words. It’s true that they’ve run their course, they just have to fully accept what it means.
“Alright then,” Levi nods. “Let me go.”
Nico swallows noisily. “I don’t want to.”
Levi has to wait for the lump in his throat to shrink before speaking. “Me neither.”
So they don’t. They stay standing where they are, holding each other and breathing the same air, but they don’t move. They let as much time as possible go by before it gets too much, too intense, too heavy.
Nico takes a single step back, and Levi’s head goes into overdrive, he has to act now, now, now. He can feel Nico slipping away and he can’t stand it, grabs the bottom of his shirt with both hands and presses on his lower back to keep him where he is.
There’s the intention of saying something, probably asking why he’s doing this, but Levi doesn’t let him.
He lifts himself up onto the tips of his toes and catches Nico’s lips in one last, desperate kiss.
Nico hesitates for barely a second before moving one hand down to press in the centre of Levi’s back, the other one still holding onto the side of his face and guiding it back to deepen the kiss.
Levi moans into it because it’s as good as it’s ever been, it’s hot and Levi can’t get enough of it, it feels like time has stopped and it will keep still just as long as they don’t break their kiss.
Hands start roaming, Levi’s fingernails digging into the skin of Nico’s back and raking down its length, forcing a noise out of Nico’s throat that makes a shiver run through Levi.
Their lips break apart with wet noises that loop inside Levi’s head like an echo that’s driving him insane. He’s running out of breath but there is no way he will let go, not yet.
Nico bites his lower lip and Levi groans, grabbing the back of Nico’s neck and pulling him down, then letting his hands keep the upwards movement into his hair, tugging on it probably more than is necessary, but Nico doesn’t complain.
Levi tries to catalogue every feeling, every swipe of Nico’s tongue against his own, every zap of electricity that shocks him when their lips join in a new kiss, but it’s impossible, it’s too many things and not even close to enough time.
So he decides to let go of the desperation, unclenches his fingers and calms his breathing. He turns the hungry, deep kisses into delicate ones, just lips opening against lips and warm tongues moving together. Lush, slow, soft.
Nico catches on and stops pulling on Levi’s clothes in order to brush down his back in long, slow but strong strokes that do more to calm both of them down than any amount of words ever could.
Deep kisses turn into just presses of lips, which in turn become Levi leaving one last chaste peck on the corner of Nico’s mouth.
Moving back feels like he’s ripping a part of himself from the middle of his chest, but the only way he can move is away. Their arms stretch to still hold on as more and more space is created between their bodies, until they, too, have to give up and fall back against their respective sides.
As quick as they’d crashed against each other, they float away in two very different directions.
Oh, that sweet kiss in the elevator feels so far away now.
They don’t say anything as Levi keeps moving back, step after step around the couch to gather his bags and towards the front door. Nico watches him go but doesn’t hint at wanting to follow him.
Levi stops with the door open and his shoulders begging for mercy, turns around to take a good look at Nico’s face and takes a deep breath. Nico stares back, but they’re already too far gone to really see each other.
“Goodbye,” Levi whispers with the last of his voice before it breaks from another rush of tears.
“Bye,” Nico echoes.
And with that, Levi closes the door behind him and starts walking. He walks and at some points jogs, just keeps moving without ever stopping, to get as far away as possible before he allows himself to prop himself against a wall, drop his bags to the ground and cry into his hands.
His shoulders pop up with every sob and his throat hurts from the sounds that escape from it, his knees shake and there’s a moment in which he thinks he’s not going to make it to the next one. It’s a feeling he’s never felt and it’s worse than literally having his heart broken.
This is like taking that same heart and telling it that all the effort it put into the last year and a half of his life was for nothing. Not even, it was for something that turned out to be more pain than it was worth.
It’s nobody’s fault and it’s everybody’s fault at the same time, and it’s not fair, it’s not, he deserved better than this.
He’s about to just slide down to the floor and curl up into a ball, when he feels a hand gently land on his shoulder.
“Let’s go upstairs, yeah?” Jo asks him kindly.
Levi swallows and tries to brush his tears away, but he only ends up making a bigger mess of himself. He slowly looks up at her, then lets his head fall down into a sad shake.
“C’mon,” she insists, wiggling the fingers of the hand she’s offering him. “I know a thing or two about heartbreak.”
It only makes another rough sob wreck Levi’s body, but he eventually gives in and accents the offered hand, letting Jo take a couple of his things and help him up the stairs of her – their apartment.
Every step feels like walking directly in lava, but he’s not taking them alone. Levi is not sure how he’ll get up in the morning or how he’ll ever be able to feel anything but miserable again, but he’ll have to.
His first real relationship has ended, his first love Nico Kim is now his first ex-boyfriend, and it feels absurd to even consider, but it is what it is. He lost the sun sword, let it slip away from his grasp, or maybe it was taken away by someone else. He lost the game, checkmate, point of no return.
Nico Kim and Levi Schmitt are no more.