The Faster You Fall
Chapter Thirty

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and
We'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe
We'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen
We were merely freshmen

-The Verve, The Freshman

Time passes like it always has, and before Nicky knows it, it's halfway into February. With Dave gone he hides his fake ID and goes back to being himself. He calls Dave a couple times a week, careful of interrupting his academic life. Dave always sounds glad to hear from him. And Nicky is always glad to talk to him.

With every phone call he finds out more about Dave, actually getting to know him, figuring out who he is under the layers of Being Gorgeous. Once in awhile, the calls progress into something more, so Dave claims another of Nicky's firsts—sex across cities. But in a weird way, it kind of makes things worse afterwards. Nicky feels so close to Dave when he's listening to him groan down phone lines that his body can't figure out why they can't actually be close.

So he dates other people, with Dave's permission. Ashley sends boys from the drama club his way, courtesy of her new boyfriend, and—perhaps surprisingly—Cokey is Nicky's biggest enabler, keeping him in a different kind of gay boy for every day of the week. One day even Ashton comes up and shoves the number of some guy off the lacrosse team at him. Nicky goes on every date, and he has fun, and, wary of another Dave, he consistently re-meets boys he's known for years, but it never goes much beyond that. Any sex he's having is restricted to bittersweet phone calls with Dave. Any random little tug in his heart is usually because someone has one characteristic or another that reminds him of Dave.

But all in all, life stays good. He goes on the dates, he stays glued to Ashton's side, he babysits Mai Ling and does his homework. He talks to Josh about Dave, a little. And everything's fine, not really centered around the unexpected void Dave's absence had left.

"I've been looking into getting a nanny for Mai Ling," Josh tells him one day, when they're sitting bundled up outside, slugging cocoa and watching Mai build snowmen with the twins' cousins. Nicky is squinting against the blinding glare of sunlight bouncing off the snow and kind of in his own world, not totally listening.

"Oh, yeah?" He asks absently.

"Mm." Josh takes another sip of his drink. "Someone who speaks Cantonese? We don't really need the help, but I don't think our god-awful attempts at Chinese are going to cut it." Josh is really determined that Mai should keep her native language, though Nicky has no idea why. She'll just use it against them in the future. He imagines a teenaged girl capable of conversing in a language totally incomprehensible to her parents, and can't figure out why Josh would do that to himself.

"Sounds good," he says anyway, knowing Josh won't be swayed.

"Really? You wouldn't mind having someone like that around the place? The thing is, there's one—Jesse—that I—"

Nicky tunes him out. Usually he likes talking to Josh, but he'd been up half the night on the phone with Dave, and as usual it had left him feeling more confused than ever. Besides, Nicky couldn't be less interested in some girl coming to stay with them or whatever Josh has in mind. He just lets Josh talk, the soft, certain tone of his voice sweeping familiarly over Nicky as he focuses on the warmth of the sun on his face.

And then he more or less forgets about it, till a couple of weeks later when he's stomping down the front path to go meet Cokey's latest offering. His head is bowed and his eyes are squinted against the icy wind that's blowing. Then there is a sudden, jolting contact, and the next thing he knows he's tumbling backwards. He lands hard on his ass on the frozen cement of the sidewalk. Another guy's gone skidding on the ice, sprawling a second later onto the grass bordering the path Nicky'd fallen on.

Nicky winces, as much with de ja vu as with sympathy and real pain. "Shit, I'm sorry," he shouts over the wind. He moves forward onto his knees and picks up the book the guy had dropped, looking down at it without comprehension. It looks like any standard kiddie book, but it's in Chinese. He looks up again. The other guy's face is covered to the nose with a scarf and to the eyebrows with a hat, but he looks like he's laughing underneath as he shifts and gets back up again, reaching down to help Nicky up.

"Sorry," he says, accentless. Nicky looks at the book again and then lets him help him up, totally confused. This can't be… "Do you live here? I'm Jesse."

"Nick," Nicky answers, totally dazed. This is the new nanny? But he's a guy, and—"Jesse? But you're Asian," he says intelligently.

The guy, Jesse, gives him kind of a weird look, but he pushes the scarf out of the way and grins. "And you're white," he retorts cheerily. "I'm supposed to start working here today."

"Uh, yeah." Nicky glances back over his shoulder out of habit, shrugging a little. "Josh—my dad is expecting you. You're here for Mai Ling? I'm her brother."

"Nice to meet you," Jesse grins, his teeth possibly even whiter than Dave's had been. "I guess I'm making a great first impression."

"No, no, it was my fault. I'm… always doing this." Nicky is distracted by how gorgeous Jesse is. He's starting to think his front lawn is the place to be, when it comes to picking up guys. He watches as Jesse stoops down a little and grabs the bag he'd dropped, and all of a sudden he realizes that his new job means he's going to be living in Nicky's house. He could totally kiss Josh.

"I'd better get inside," he's saying. "I don't want to show up late. But I guess I'll be seeing you around."

Nicky nods a little, dazed, and steps aside so Jesse can move past him up the walkway. When he gets to the stairs he glances over his shoulder and grins again, and—Nicky holds his breath just a little—yes, checks him out.

"See you later," Jesse calls, just as Josh pulls open the door and ushers him inside, out of the cold. Nicky watches for another minute, then turns and shuffles back the way he'd been going, to meet his date for the day. But Jared Smith is officially the last thing on his mind.

As he crosses the lawn, Nicky's cell phone sounds off Cokey's ring tone from his coat pocket. Next to it lies the crumpled picture of Dave and Nicky at Silvana's, rescued from Dave's coat before he'd given it back. Nicky's fingers brush and hesitate on it when he reaches for the phone. Dave.

As he raises the phone to his ear, Nicky notices Ashton waving from the next door window and grins, waving back. Ashley is in the front yard, watching Tommy Watson shoveling her driveway. And Kay's car is coming slowly down the road. The landscape freezes in Nicky's mind for a minute, and he touches the picture again.

Yeah. Dave is gone.

Still, Nicky has the feeling the new year is going to be interesting.


I can't lie, I am broken hearted. :( My FYF is over, I dunno quite what I will do. Well, never fear, I can't stop writing this fic. Gin and I are still reimaging LION/Like It Or Not, and it is a completely new story, so you guys can devote your energies to that for awhile if you want. After that, LYD will be redone. And okay, you didn't hear it from me, but there will totally be a post-FYF fic someday. The only reason it hasn't been begun already is because uh, I'm a little lost. Dave and Nicky were NOT supposed to break up; I literally only decided to do it in chapter 29. I'm sorry, upset people! I promise I didn't plan it, it wasn't my intention. Nicky and Dave were supposed to be utterly OTP and just quietly be happy in the background while I wrote about Kay and Josh again, but instead they decided they'd missed the train. And I didn't plan for Dave to go away, either; I made that decision right as I had Nicky looking around the room for something else he didn't know about Dave. I was trying to think of one more example of something he didn't know and then, BANG, admissions to NYU. I really like the idea and I mean, Dave would've had to go eventually, but I'm sorry if anyone's fiercely upset. If you get really depressed and suicidal I do counseling. For serious. :x Haha.

Thanks so much to everyone who spent time reading this fic and reviewing it. This has all meant so effing much to me, you dunno. THANK YOU! I love y'all.