After accidentally dumping himself on Nico’s behalf, more days than Levi would ever care to admit went by in a hazy blur of avoiding eye contact at all costs and leaving rooms in a hurry at the first glimpse of dark blue scrubs.
Was this survival tactic flawed in some aspects? Maybe.
Had it nearly gotten him kicked off a coronary artery bypass grafting when Dr. Pierce had come into the residents’ lounge to grab him and he had sprinted out right past her like a panicked roadrunner? Yes, and Taryn would never let him live that down.
But was running away from his bosses still exponentially less humiliating than the prospect of running into Nico at the hospital and being unable to keep to himself the blind rage that had been growing stronger inside his chest ever since their last conversation? Without question.
He shook his head to himself as if to physically banish that thought as well as the feelings it immediately brought up and took to stirring the pot of boxed mac and cheese in front of him with borderline unnecessary precision.
So much so that he didn’t even hear Jo wake up and walk into the kitchen.
“Schmitt,” She said tentatively as she approached him, leaning a hip against the counter, all softly furrowed brows and genuine concern for her heartbroken roommate who had very quickly (and surprisingly) become one of her favorite people in the world. “I know you still feel a little bit guilty for staying here despite saying you don’t, but please don’t try to make up for it by making that boxed garbage I eat into a gourmet meal,” she quipped, grabbing the wooden spoon out of Levi’s hand. “I like my boxed garbage just fine, thank you very much.”
He looked up, baffled. “You really think that someone who has lived in their mother’s basement until their mid-20s knows how to make a gourmet meal out of nothing?”
Jo chuckled. “Right.”
Surrendering the stove to her without much of a fight, Levi slumped down on one of the dining table chairs and pulled out his phone for no good reason at all. Certainly not to scroll through Instagram to learn if a certain someone was dealing with even just a microscopic portion of the hurt that he was and definitely not to then sit there with resentment slowly swallowing him whole as every new stupid photo from another stupid hike made the truth clearer: Nico was absolutely, undeniably, entirely unfazed.
He never knew that an image of spruces against a cloudless sky could bring up such strong urges in a person to throw something across a room. Maybe if the whole surgeon thing ended up not working out for him he would have a place in the noble profession of art critics.
“Can you believe this?” Levi bemoaned, turning the screen towards Jo who squinted at it for a split second before throwing her head back in an exasperated groan.
“I swear to god I will strangle you with a guide wire,” She swore solemnly with a mouth full of mac and cheese before turning around again and whacking the phone right out of his hand.
Deliberately overlooking Levi whining and vehemently questioning what exactly was wrong with her, she continued talking: “I’m not leaving you here alone for the night if this is what you’ll do the entire time. Get a grip!”
He stared at her, eyes wide, at a complete loss for words. “I- it’s not like... I don’t need to be babysat, Jo. I’m just... infuriated a-and frustrated, okay.”
“Okay,” Jo nodded and sat down next to Levi, placing two mismatched ceramic bowls on the table. “So do anything else, literally anything else, with that except sadistically stalk your ex on social media. If I had been doing that all this time I would’ve completely lost my mind by now, no question.”
“But what?” Levi asked, exasperated, his voice so full of pain in a way that was so familiar to her that her heart ached. “There are all these things I wanted to say to him but he just up and left, didn’t even give me a chance. And now all-” He exhaled shakily. “All I wanna do is yell at him to talk to me, it’s all I can think about, while he probably doesn’t even remember my name anymore.”
Jo reached out to grab the phone out of his hand and tapped the screen gently a couple of times before placing it face down on the table, just out of his reach. “Then why don’t you?”
Levi furrowed his eyebrows like he must have missed a part of the question. “Why don’t I yell at him?”
“Exactly,” she nodded, propping her chin in her hand.
“That’s a stupid question.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is. He’s deathly allergic to feelings, any expression of them, so it could kill him and then I would get the blame for our ortho department going to shit, because of course I would,” he crossed his arms against his chest with a humorless chuckle. “He broke up with me because I was too much, Jo. I refuse to prove to him that it’s true just for the sake of getting closure.”
Jo nodded empathetically as she got up and chucked her empty plate into the kitchen sink. “Do whatever you need to do to feel okay again, just don’t open Instagram.”
Finally, with a resigned sigh, Levi agreed to delete the app and Jo left for the hospital with a promise to wake him up with a call at 3am if she felt like something was wrong.
As the front door clicked shut and he was left alone with his thoughts, he decided that reading the 976 page book titled Neurology through Clinical Cases that he had found on Jo’s bookshelf the other day was his best bet at restoring some of his peace of mind before heading to bed. Sure, it wasn’t necessarily his first choice for recreational reading, but under these circumstances of having an attending for a roommate, he had to take advantage of the $120 medical research publications lying around that he could only dream of affording.
Sitting there in the middle of the sea of blankets on the couch with the rain softly tapping on the window sills and the flames of the candles on the coffee table flickering happily, he felt at ease for the first time in days.
Then, about two minutes later, there was a knock on the front door that startled him so badly that it was a borderline miracle he narrowly avoided falling off the couch.
Convinced that he was getting robbed, Levi walked over to the door, perfectly levelheaded, with the TV’s remote controller clutched in one hand behind his back. It was hardly a weapon, but it was the first thing he could get a hold of. When he actually opened the door only to find Nico standing there with a completely unreadable expression on his face, getting robbed suddenly turned from a fear into a wish.
“Uh,” he started lamely, and he could almost hear his own brain whirring like an old table computer upon powering up. “Are you lost?”
Great fucking job, you actual fool.
“I got your voicemail.”
“Um,” he searched Nico’s face for any signs that he had been in an accident that could have resulted in cognitive damage, but when his brows furrowed in question at the prolonged silence, his grip on the remote behind his back tightened. So, apparently, he had left him a voicemail that he didn’t remember. Great. “Voicemail, yes, right of course.”
He watched as Nico went to pull his phone out of his pocket, but Levi grabbed his arm before he could. He looked up like he’d been touched by a complete stranger at a bus stop.
“Come in? Better than standing in the hallway,” Levi pulled his hand back and used it to gesture vaguely around himself, taking a step back to allow Nico to enter the loft - safe from possible robbers.
He walked in and hung up his coat in silence before resuming the search for his phone, and whatever voicemail he was talking about.
Levi leaned on the back of the couch and when he heard Jo’s voice coming from Nico’s phone, he dug his fingers so deep into the cushions that there was a real danger of permanent damage. However, Jo deserved to have it ruined for this, so he made no move to let go.
Then why don’t you?
Why don’t I yell at him?
That’s a stupid question.
No, it’s not.
Yes, it is. He’s deathly allergic to feelings, any expression of them, so it could kill him and then I would get the blame for our ortho department going to shit, because of course I would. He broke up with me because I was too much, Jo. I refuse to prove to him that it’s true just for the sake of getting closure.
Exhaling heavily, Levi wracked his brain to find a way to look Nico in the eye. “So, that was Jo, I had no idea that she was uh- I didn’t know. Um, and I don’t think I’m legally allowed to be upset with her because she saved me from becoming homeless but for the record, I am.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to explain.”
“I don’t? Then what would you be here for?”
“To give you a chance to finally yell at me,” He said easily, his voice almost uncharacteristically soft, which Levi completely missed on account of the anger his words reignited in him.
He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “If you knew me at all you would know that that’s not what I mean when I-“
“Then tell me what you mean!” Nico raised his voice but only enough to get Levi to look at him. He brushed his damp hair out of his eyes and suddenly, he looked utterly resigned.
“I mean that I want you to talk to me! For once, just once, I want you to talk to me about how you feel and be honest! And I just-“ Levi inhaled sharply, tears threatening to blur his vision. “I mean that I want to know if lying to me about your parents and not being open with them was so easy for you because you were already lying every time you told me that you loved me.”
He could hear those words echo in his head like they had been spoken by someone else, and upon realizing that they were in fact his words, he felt his blood run cold.
This was exactly what he had feared. Not that he would be infuriated and unafraid to express it no matter how much it scorched him, but that in doing so, he would succumb into the unnervingly vulnerable version of himself that was possibly never going to come to terms with how easily disposable he seemed to be to the person he knew to be the love of his life.
“You should go,” Levi said hastily, turning his back to him, unable to look at him.
“Levi,” Nico breathed out his name like he’d been punched in the gut.
He bowed his head down, wishing desperately that he could make the tears stinging his eyes disappear with sheer will.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really loved anyone-”
Levi whipped his head around so quickly that he could practically hear all of his cervical vertebrae crack in harmonized unison. “Wow,” he exclaimed weakly, voice breaking.
“You said you wanted me to talk and be honest. I’m trying, so please let me.“
Levi crossed his arms against his body protectively, but nodded.
“Anyone before you,“ Nico emphasized with a quivering breath, shaking his head ever so slightly. “And that’s why I know far less about it than I’d like to admit, but I do know that love isn’t treating someone the way I’ve treated you.”
“That’s not fair,” Levi protested quietly.
“It is,” He said like it was the most uncomplicated thing in the world, like this whole conversation wasn’t making his head spin. He took a step forward and tentatively grabbed both of Levi’s hands. “And you’re not too much. I’m just not enough.”
The glimmer of tears in Levi’s eyes made Nico’s heart ache. He had never known anyone else whose eyes really lived up to the whole being the mirror of the soul thing. Looking in them, all he could see was the earnest tenderness and warmth he subconsciously applied to everything he did. Knowing that the lack of joy shining back at him was because of him was harrowing.
“I’m not sure that I’m capable of the kind of love you deserve,” He finally confessed after a moment of silence. Levi had never seen him look so lost. “I’m sorry, Levi.”
He noticed himself nearly holding his breath as he waited for a response, any response, but none came. All Levi did was snake one hand out of Nico’s hold to cup his face and gently brush a thumb over his cheekbone.
“You’re so stupid,” he finally spoke, smiling at him softly.
“Wha-“ Nico tried, perplexed, but he couldn’t even get the entire word out.
All that came out of Levi was something between a laugh and a strangled sob.
“You just talked about your feelings. In like, extensive detail, by your standards,” He explained, grinning. “I didn’t think that you were capable of that, so I’m not really convinced now that there’s anything you can’t do.”
“Oh,” he breathed out a sigh of relief and rolled his eyes benevolently. “There definitely is. I’ve never been able to follow my mom’s recipes and I think it will be a while before I get to try again.”
At Levi’s raised brows, he shrugged a shoulder easily. “I finally told my parents.”
“Only took me ten years,” Nico chuckled softly, a distinct sadness to it that wasn’t lost on Levi. Without another thought, he placed his hand on his neck and pulled him into a hug.
“Don’t do that,” he whispered into his shoulder. “I’m proud of you.”
“Yeah,” he exhaled, pressing a chaste kiss into Levi’s hair. “Wouldn’t have done it without you.”
They stood there for an undetermined amount of moments, safely wrapped up in each other’s arms and only for that very small, limited set of moments, it felt like everything was going to be okay.
And maybe it was.
At the very least, they both knew that they were ready to work for it to be.