A/N: Tears alert. Read at your own risk. I cried like a maniac while writing this, but I'm depressed as hell about the show ending. So, I had to channel it somewhere.

Leave reviews please, thanks :) I might just write a sequel once I'm less emotional.

Based on Taylor Swift's Breathe (Fearless, 2008), set post- Mars Landing, with elements from Clean Break.


Breathe


Jess loaded the last of her things into the trunk of her car with a heavy heart. She closed the trunk with a thud and turned around to face the guys. All of them were standing sombrely, and none of them looked too happy. But no one had questioned her decision. Living with an ex you're in love with was difficult, and heartbreaking. Every day hurt and they could see it. They had resisted the idea at first. Even Nick had. But slowly he too had realized that maybe it wasn't for the best. If they wanted to move on, it would be easier to do it if they lived apart.

She smiled sadly at them, and Schmidt and Winston enveloped her in a bear hug. Nick stood a few feet away, eyes fixed on the pavement. As she hugged Schmidt and Winston, she stared at him over their shoulders, imploring with her eyes to look at her. He didn't. She could see the madly beating pulse in his neck and knew that he could sense her gaze. As she pulled away from Schmidt and Winston, she walked over to him, but he refused to look at her. She tried to go in for a hug, but he stepped back. Sighing, she said softly, "Bye, Nick. Don't become a stranger."

As she turned away, she felt him grab her wrist and turn her around. She crashed into his chest as his arms went around her back, enveloping her completely. She bunched his shirt in her hands, and let the tears fall. No sobbing, just quiet tears that only Nick would know she was shedding. After clinging onto him for a few more seconds, she drew back sniffling.

"Goodbye, Jess," he whispered into her, planting a kiss on the top of her head.

She turned away and waved at the guys one last time before hurrying into her car. She revved the engine, and started to drive towards Cece's apartment, watching in the rearview mirror as the guys disappeared into the building one by one. Nick lingered on the pavement, a few seconds longer before bowing his head and walking into the building.

As she drove away, she could see his face in her mind from two days ago; the look of panic that she was sure mirrored her own, and the obvious heartbreak as she ended it between them. She almost couldn't do it, but it had to be done. They wanted different things and it was better to just walk through the fire quickly than to just slowly burn their way through it. None of them had thought that it would end this way, but... people changed their minds, she thought, her eyes pricking with tears again as she thought of everything she'd wanted, and how he'd not wanted any of it. But after all their time together of whispered admissions of love in the middle of the night, silent exchanges in crowded rooms, secret smiles at the mere thought of each other, it killed her to have to let him go.

Frustrated, she attempted to block the thoughts in her head that she knew would escalate to a point where she would just turn around and go back to him. She turned on the radio and groaned when she heard the melody of a familiar sad song as Taylor Swift crooned about having to drive away from someone she had no choice but to let go.

Just perfect.

As she pulled into the parking near Cece's apartment, she rested her forehead on the steering wheel. She had no energy to take her stuff upstairs. All she wanted to was go upstairs and pass out, blocking all the thoughts of him. She knew that their relationship, which was flawless while it lasted, was a damned tragedy and thinking about that would only bring her down further.

Sighing, she started to step out of the car when her eye caught the ceramic mug tucked away in one of the boxes in her backseat. She grimaced at it, remembering how she couldn't help but sneak it into her stuff while she was packing up. She knew it was a bad idea to bring that mug along with her, which she was sure she would tuck away behind her clothes and cry over every once in a while, thinking about how it symbolized the beginnings of incredible nights with Nick.

Ha, clean break, sure. It would never be a clean break. Someone save me.

She thought annoyedly, but made no move to remove the "sex mug" as they used to call it. Closing the door behind her loudly, she tiredly dragged herself into the building. She wondered if Nick would even notice if it was missing. Smiling sadly at herself, she knew that he wouldn't be able to see beyond the alcolohol induced daze he would drown himself in. She hoped the boys would take care of him, and made a mental note to check up on him the next morning. He'd definitely have his phone switched off, and knew he would get angry if she tried to inquire about him through Winston or Schmidt. She herself wasn't brave enough to go there just yet. She wouldn't be able to stand those longing looks he'd give her, filled with apology. He would try to talk her out of it; she knew the man like the back of her hand. But she was too afraid to be talked out of it; not being able to see where their relationship was going scared her.

Finally, when she reached Cece's door, she knocked once and the door flew open. Cece was standing there and sighed softly as she took in Jess's appearance. Without saying a word, Cece pulled Jess into a hug, stroking her hair soothingly as Jess cried for the second time that night.

"It'll all be okay, babe," murmured Cece. "It'll work out just fine."

Jess drew back sniffling, and Cece took her hand and tugged at it. "Come on, I have Nadia's room set up for you, okay? Get some sleep. We'll talk in the morning."

...

Nick lay in his bed, feeling like he couldn't breathe. He was at a loss for what to do, knowing that the bedroom across the hallway was empty. He didn't know what to be without her anymore because when he was with her, he felt a clear drive and motivation to do things. She was why he got out of bed every morning. Her sunlit smile and happy pools of eyes almost breathed life into him everyday, and now... he couldn't breathe.

He hadn't wanted this, but he didn't know how to tell her. Besides, he himself was worried about hurting her down the road; his lack of vision into the future had scared him, but it had hurt her. He had tried everything he could to swerve away from everything that could possibly hurt her, but he had never taken himself into account. After telling her what he wanted, or rather blurting out incoherent words in a fit of panic, he knew nothing he said would save them from the fallout. At least he had convinced himself of that.

He was already starting to dread the next few days. He was sure they'd be filled with hushed conversations in the kitchen that would come to a halt when he walked in, and the pitying looks they would give him... those would be the worst. Those looks would make him angry, because he didn't need all that darned pity. He knew exactly what he had let go. It wasn't easy to let her just drive away from him. She was the only one who knew him like the back of his hand, and that had made him feel safe and secure when he was with her.

Don't be a stranger, she had said.

But he was worried that starting tomorrow, they already would be. As his eyes moved around the room, he realized with a clenching pain that there was nothing in his room to serve him as a reminder of what they had shared. A reminder that he would probably never find something like that ever again. Some might say that was a good thing because if he wanted a clean break, he would have to get rid of anything and everything that even remotely reminded him of her. And he had done just that.

Except for one thing.

He reached to his bedside drawer, and pulled it out, peeping into it expectantly. When he was met with nothing but the sight of a few stray papers, he sat up straight, trying to be more thorough in searching for the ceramic mug. It was the one thing that he'd made sure to keep carefully, but it was gone. He sighed in frustration. He wished in that moment that he wasn't as absent-minded as he was. Maybe he'd thought of putting the mug in his drawer, but had forgotten to do it.

Forgotten.

He cursed at himself, wishing he could remember what he had done with the mug, but he knew it was of no use. His memory was usually completely unreliable, even in the direst of times. He started to feel a little breathless again and lay down on his bed again. His clock beeped and he turned slowly to see that it was 2 a.m. He wondered what she was doing at this point; if she'd fallen asleep while he lay awake in bed thinking of her.

One of the many reasons, they'd called it off because they missed being each other's friends. Then why was he laying in bed at 2 a.m., feeling like he'd just lst a friend?

He was filled with a hollowness he couldn't place, and desperately wished he could talk to her. This wasn't going to be easy for him. He wasn't sure if it would ever get any easier, being without her. He needed to hear her voice like he needed air. Against his better instincts, he reached for his phone. His hand quickly dialled her number that he knew by heart, and hovered over the call button. Then shaking his head, he just dialled her number, waiting as it connected. She picked up on the first ring.

"Nick," she breathed.

He could tell she'd been crying, and that made his heart hurt. He wished he could reach out and tuck her away into his chest like he used to. But hearing her voice had already seemed to fill a little bit of the void in him.

"Hi, Jess," he whispered softly. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"N-No," she sniffled. "I couldn't sleep."

"Me neither," he sighed, the following silence broken by the sound of her sniffle. "I hope you know that this isn't easy for me."

"I-I know," she said, crying a little now. "It isn't for me either."

"Then why'd you call it?" he asked sadly.

He heard the sharp intake of breath from her side, and the soft whimper before he heard her dissolve into tears. The sound of it made him regret his question immediately. "I'm sorry," he sighed.

They'd been through this before. It was nothing he didn't already know, and he recited it in his head, almost robotically.

They were too different. They wanted different things.

"I-I'm sorry, too," she whispered.