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  Nico isn’t expecting Levi to be waiting around for him.  It has been almost a year since they last spoke or saw each other, and Nico knows that there has to have been other men.  There have been for him—good looking, faceless men he took to his hotel bed to pass the nights in cities he was passing through.  He knows the world turns, and people turn with it.

  What he isn’t expecting is for Levi to have moved on, mostly because, despite his most valiant efforts, Nico hasn’t.  Though his body follows the Mariners from port to port, his mind keeps swimming back to Seattle and all he thought was behind him.

  So, one late summer day, when the Mariners have returned to their hometown for a series, Nico caves to the ache and traces his steps back to Grey Sloan.  He says his hello’s and have-you-been’s, doing his best to stay in the eye of the storm raging inside.

  Levi is not hard to find.  A second year, he stands taller in a crowd. 

  But he is not alone. 

  The male nurse is handsome—black curls, broad shoulders, and a beaming grin—and it is obvious in the way his hand lingers on the small of Levi’s back.  Whatever they are, it is not insignificant.

  Content and sheepish, Levi smiles a smile that splinters at its edges when he catches sight of Nico lurking on the peripheral.

  He does not come to Nico immediately, and when he finally does, its with dragging feet and an avoiding gaze.

  The pleasantries they exchange are cursory.  Brittle.

  “I’ve missed you,” Nico confesses, culling a lull in the conversation. 

  “You said that once before,” Levi says. 

  “I meant it then, and I mean it now.”

   "But then and now are different, Nico.  Then, I thought you were as good as I could hope for and that I shouldn’t press my luck.  I mean, how often does someone like me end up with someone like you?  But now I understand I wasn’t ‘lucky’ to be with you, not in the end.  I was just convenient. I was convenient for you until I wasn’t.  Well, I am not a convenience or an inconvenience.  I am a person—a man with legitimate needs.”

  “I know,” Nico replies quietly.  He extends a hand.  “I know what I said was unfair—”

  Levi steps back out of his reach.

  “Unfair,” he agrees thickly, “but accurate.  You told me to go find someone who could give me what I needed.   So I did.”

  Nico’s arm falls to his side.

  “…the nurse?”

  “His name is Harry,” Levi corrects.  At last, he looks at Nico directly, allowing Nico to bask in warm, wet brown, and, despite Levi’s wistful smile warning that heartbreak is ahead, he dives in heart-first.  “He and I actually went to high school together, and while he was a real jerk back then, he grew up into someone incredible.  We became friends after he started working here, and now….now, I can’t see my future without him.”

  Levi pauses, tilting his head back to stop his tears, but they come anyway, sliding down the small arches of his cheeks.

  “Thank you,” he says with earsplitting finality.  “You did help me open the door to who I really am.  You also helped me to see that what I want is a partner.  Give and take.  You were my boyfriend, but you had no interest in being my partner.  And it took me a little while to realize that it wasn’t personal.  It wasn’t me—it was you.  You didn’t have an interest in being anyone’s partner.  Maybe that’s changed.  Or maybe you’re just in town and lonely.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  You’re a lesson I learned.  You’re something I had to go through to be ready for when Harry came.  I am glad we met.  I am glad I loved you.  And I am glad you broke my heart, because I am happier without you.  So, thank  you, Nico, and I hope you find someone too.  I really do.”

  They part with little fanfare, just as they had a year ago, except Nico is now the one who has been marooned, his lifeboat drifting out of sight.  In the fading light, he weighs his options.  Considers his potential futures.  He could accept this fate and ship out with the tide, as he has become accustomed. 

  Or he could make a stand.  He could plant his flag right here and lay siege.  Take whatever Levi offers—rage, tears, and maybe, one day, forgiveness. Prove that he won’t scare this time around.

  But, perhaps, proximity can’t grant him passage back into Levi’s good graces.  Perhaps, that boat has really sailed.

  Perhaps there really is no heart to come home to.