I know, i know it's been over two months but i've been busy! Think of this chapter as an apology, an apology that has neither sex nor Rodrick in it. Oh dear. I hope you enjoy anyway, this chapter ties up a few loose ends and prefaces all the gregrick that i have planned for you guys. As always any reviews fill me with joy and rainbows.

The next few days were, for Greg, surprisingly uneventful and he supposed this had a little something to do with the fact that neither he nor Rodrick were leaving their respective bedrooms. Once his relatives had departed on Boxing Day Greg had dropped his forced smile, grabbed a six pack of soda from the refrigerator and holed himself up in his bedroom. He and Rodrick had bumped into each other in the hallway a few times, but it seemed to Greg like Rodrick was just as keen to put some space between them as he was, although he knew it was for very different reasons. Greg just couldn't stand looking into the face of someone he had once idolised and seeing only hatred. Rodrick couldn't stand him, period. Or at least that was what he assumed, but when it came to Rodrick who knew?

Greg could see his parents becoming more and more anxious with each day that passed but it wasn't until the 29th of December that he realised the effect his reclusiveness was having on them. He had been playing the invalid act to its maximum potential, insisting on eating meals in his bedroom, but that evening when his mother came to bring him food he probably wasn't going to eat, instead of setting it down on his desk and of going back downstairs as she usually did she sat down on the end of his bed and crossed her arms.

"Greg. This behaviour, I don't know why you're being like this but it's got to stop. Talk to me, me and your dad we both want to help you but we need you talk to us, tell us what's wrong." She looked at him, the patented Susan Heffley stare, the one that had made him spill his guts within seconds when he was a kid. It occurred to him that maybe if he opened up and talked to her, told her what was going on she could talk to Rodrick and make it all better. But he just couldn't.

"Mom, I can't spend every minute of every day with you and dad, I'm 16 I want to be alone. That's all it is, really, I'm fine." Susan Heffley raised her eyebrows in obvious disbelief, but she didn't voice whatever it was she was thinking and Greg was grateful for that. She just huffed a sigh and left the room in a flurry of irritation at not being able to get him to crack as she usually did.

The next morning he found out just how much he had under estimated his mother. He had woken up early and decided there was very little point in going back to sleep. His dream hadn't even been that bad compared with some of the things that came to him while he was sleeping but something about it had gotten under his skin. He had been running, only every step he took he became more tired until he couldn't move at all. He had woken up before he saw what he was running from. He wasn't sure he wanted to know anyway.

He showered with the water so hot it was almost scalding and dressed quickly afterwards, shivering as he pulled on a long sleeve button up and a sweater. He dragged a brush through his hair wincing when it snagged on a particularly stubborn knot. It was still only 7 in the morning and the house was completely silent and dark, comforting Greg as he padded down the stairs in search of some cheerio's.

He was playing with the soggy remnants at the bottom of the bowl when his mother sat down on the other side of the table. A hand reached for his own.

"Rowley rang yesterday" she paused and said slowly in pained voice:

"He wanted to know how you were doing since you haven't been returning any of his phone calls." Greg sat silent and motionless. Sadness seemed to stretch out a vast hand settling over him, casting him in shadow.

"What I want to know is why you haven't been answering any of his phone calls. Why you haven't been leaving your room, why you aren't talking to your friends?"

"I just got a little wrapped up in myself I guess, I'll go call Rowley right now if you want me to" Susan Heffley narrowed her eyes.

"Oh, you'll do one better than that" said his mom "while I was speaking to your best friend he told me about a New Year's Eve party at Holly's that he's been trying to invite you to for days. You're going to accept his offer."

"Fine. It sounds like fun." Greg lied, looking at his mother and trying to radiate normal.

She snorted, obviously not believing a word of it.

"I'm going to ring him right now."

"Greg? Where've you been? You haven't returned any of my texts or calls. I even emailed, and that's for old people!" Greg smiled despite himself; at least something's never changed.

"Rowley I'm not your boyfriend, calm down. I just wanted to rest up; don't take it personally. Besides I'm back now."

"Oh well that's good we were all getting worried, Angie wanted us to throw rocks at your window but Holly said it would be a bad idea."

"Yeah, just a bit"

"Anyway, when I spoke to your mom she said you were allowed to come to the New Year's Eve party, so are you coming, it's going to be awesome. Everyone's invited!"

Greg winced at the emphasis on the word everyone.

"Yeah I'll be there."

By the time the two of them said their goodbye's Greg had worked himself into a state of near hysteria and was severely regretting letting his mother bait him in to going to this stupid party. He knew how it would go anyway, the only fun house party he'd ever been to was his and Rodrick's and even that had ended in disaster.

The next evening at 9 o'clock he found himself standing outside Holly's house and for the first time ever not knowing whether he should go in or not. There was muffled music coming from inside the house and the silhouettes of people dancing were visible through the drawn curtains. The pretty blue icicles were still up but they seemed less enchanting surrounded by the air of drunken rebellion. A hard shove to the small of his back sent him stumbling forward. He spun round, expecting to see one of the morons from the grade above but was instead faced with Angie.

"Greg! You asshole why didn't you call any of us!" but her smile betrayed her angry words and she pulled him into a bone cracking hug.

"Whoa Ang, bipolar much? I'm glad you missed me but chill." She shoved him again, rolling her eyes good naturedly.

"Shut it Heffley, you might be a cripple but I'll still punch you if I have to"

"I don't doubt it. You look nice by the way" and she did, hair pinned up and the usual jeans and shirts swapped for a dress. She smiled lightly.

"I look like a girl, it's awful. This dress isn't even mine, Holly insisted I wear it. Anyway, why the hell are we even stood out here, it's freezing. Inside, now." he swallowed, good mood vanishing with the prospect of having to see Holly, but he let Angie pull him into the warmth of the house anyway. Inside it was already packed with people, talking, dancing, but mainly, from the smell of beer, drinking. The music was deafening, some electro pop thing that made his skull vibrate. He pushed through the crowd of people to the kitchen. Every countertop was filled with bottles and plates of food. He grabbed two beers and passed one to Angie.

"Greg you rebel, what would Susan say?"

"Oh blow me Ang, this is going to be a long night, the less sober I am, the better." He took a long swig from the bottle and grimaced at the taste, why the hell did people drink this stuff when it was so disgusting? Angie just smirked at him.

"Yeah okay hotshot, I'm going to go mingle. I hear the guys from the football team are here and although they are all shallow vacuous douche bags, they're hot and drunk and that's a combination I can work with!"

Greg chuckled to himself as he settled into a spare seat at the breakfast bar, thinking about how much he'd missed this, missed bantering with his friends and being looked at as anything other than a pest. Yeah, sure, he was sat on his own in the kitchen at a party but he didn't particularly care about talking to any of these random people, he just needed his friends and he'd be fine. He quite liked it actually, observing what was going on around him, laughing at people's antics. It was a couple of moments later when he felt a soft tap on his shoulder.

"Hey Greg is this seat taken?" he tensed up at the soft obviously female voice. He turned round slowly, relief flooding him when he realised it wasn't Holly at all, just some random girl from his English class.

"Nope, I'm flying solo." The girl giggled. Greg tried to bring her name to mind but he couldn't quite get there. Tina, Tanya, Taylor?

"I'm Trista Evans, by the way, you probably don't know who I am but we have English class together." Ah Trista that was it.

"Oh yeah, sorry. I forget my own name sometimes, so don't be offended." She giggled again, shifting her chair closer to his. She smelt nice, like strawberries. Holly smelt like strawberries sometimes, maybe it was a girl thing. Not like Rodrick, Rodrick smelt like mint and musk. He shook himself.

"So how come you're sat alone in the middle of a crowded party, it's New Year's freaking Eve!" she smiled widely at him revealing two rows of perfect white teeth. Greg wondered why he'd never noticed her before, she really was very pretty. She was a little on the chubby side but she had long, red hair and bright blue eyes with freckles scattered across her cheekbones. Not to mention one of the nicest smiles he'd ever seen.

"Parties aren't really my scene; I'm just here because my mom thinks I'm turning into a hermit." This time Trista threw her head back with real laughter

"I'm the same; I don't see the point in going out when I have food and the internet in my bedroom!"

"Amen to that." he held up his nearly empty bottle and clinked it with hers. She smiled at him again and Greg made an effort to smile back, but found it wasn't really an effort at all; he really was enjoying her company.

"So you're not here with a girlfriend then" Trista said raising an elegant brow. Greg snorted bitterly before replying

"No, I'm not." Trista took a long swig of her drink and swallowed it with a flinch.

"Well, I've never been one for beating around the bush, so if you're not here with anyone you should know I think you're cute and I came over here to hit on you. Do with that what you will." Greg blanched. She liked him? But why, she was cute and clearly had a spitfire personality, she could do a lot better. Emboldened by alcohol he told her as much.

"Oh honey" she paused and the look on her face was reminiscent of how people looked at cute puppies "maybe no one ever told you this but the whole moody emo thing is kind of hot, especially when the guy in question is actually really nice underneath. So what do you say, you wanna make out?" she grinned again and Greg couldn't help his laughter. A cold voice cut through his happy daze.

"No, he does not, excuse me Trista but if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to speak to Greg. Alone." He looked up to find Holly leaning over them lips pressed tightly together, forehead creased. Trista looked at him.

"I thought you said you weren't with anyone" Greg just shrugged "well if you get tired of Blondie I'm always around" she slid off the stool and disappeared into the crowd.

"Wow, three girls at once, you must be terribly proud." Spat Holly her pretty face contorted with emotion.

"Holly, it's not like that. Rodrick made that whole thing about Angie up! And Trista came on to me and I didn't even know me and you had a thing." Greg knew it had been the wrong thing to say as soon as the words left him mouth.

"No wait Holly that's not what I meant, I just, can we talk about this outside away from everyone?" There was no reply but she turned on her heel and led him through the patio doors out to the back garden. It was deserted out here, no one to soak up the thick tension in the air between them.

"Holl I –"

"NO" she held out a hand to silence him "it's my turn. I've liked you for two years Greg, two whole years spent wishing you would just make a move and then the second I pluck up the courage to show you how I feel you walk away from me!"

"I had to, Rodrick was home"

"Oh and this fucking complex you have about your brother. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you should start facing up to your responsibilities and stop blaming every shitty thing that happens to you on Rodrick? You act like he's such a bad guy but you know what, you're just like him." The words hit him like a punch to the chest and his stomach flipped uncomfortably.

"No, I'm not" but Holly just laughed, and it was so cold and unfamiliar that Greg's stomach flipped again because he had done this to her, taken the kindest warmest person he knew and made her so angry.

"Yeah you are, more than you know. More than you'll ever be capable of knowing" Holly replied, her voice thick with anger and tears and years and years of being the good girl who never got what she wanted. Greg closed the gap between them and grabbed her arm.

"Holly, I'm not interested in Angie or Trista, I only want you!" but the words felt wooden and somehow untrue.

"It's not even about that Greg; it's about me being fed up of being used as your emotional punching bag. I have an older sister too Greg and she's horrible. She puts me down every day and you know what I do, I get over it, I brush it off and move on. Why is it that you're so incapable of that? Why does your brother have this sort of hold over you, it's not healthy and I'm tired of being in the middle of it. It hurts too much Greg."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah me too. But I'm stopping it now. We could have been great Greg, we could have gone to college together and got married and had kids and had a happily ever after. Or maybe we would have burned out, too many years of friendship getting in the way, but I guess we'll never know because I'm ending it before it ends me" Holly said in a whisper and Greg could only watch as a few tears slid down her cheeks. Without thinking he bent down and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead.

"I'm sorry Hol, this really sucks, but if you feel that way I'll respect that." he glanced at his watch, 10:45 "I'm going to go home now, go inside, enjoy your party and forget about me. I hear there's a few super cute jocks ready to be taken advantage of in there." He pulled away swallowing down the lump in his throat.

"You don't have to go you know. I'm mad at you but mostly I'm just tired, you can stay if you want." And for a second the selfish side of him wanted to say yes, to clap her on the back and go enjoy the party, find Trista at midnight and kiss her, to act like everything was fixed. But he knew he couldn't.

"I think we both know that's not a good idea. I'll see you at school, have a good night." They were silent a moment while they let the enormity of what had just passed sink in.

"Yeah, see you." She murmured, shaking herself off. Greg nodded a little, tucking his hands in his pockets. He turned away from Holly, trying not to pay attention to her footsteps as she walked back into her home, trying to stop himself deflating when she was gone. He searched in the dark for the familiar garden gate and felt his way down the path at the side of the house until he made his way out into the front yard, the light from the house and street lamps making him blink.

He toyed with the idea of just wandering aimlessly round his neighbourhood for an hour, not wanting to enter 2012 in an empty house, crying over lost love. He snorted at his own ridiculousness, even drunk he would never be the type of guy to do that sort of thing. So he headed home, running his fingers over picket fences, unable to muster up anything other than a vague sense of hopelessness, unable to cry and unwilling to shout, he navigated the streets in silence, just thinking, trying to make sense of how fast it had all happened.

Holly was gone and it would probably never be the same again. She had said they would still be friends but he wasn't stupid, he knew it wouldn't work. He knew exactly how it would play out if they tried to go back to how it was before, things would be awkward and Greg would be weighed under by guilt and his heart would break a little bit every time he forgot himself and laughed, every time he looked up to find Holly staring at him with that hurt look in her eyes.

It would get to Angie and Rowley as well, he knew they were too good to consciously take sides, but when he was so obviously at fault, when he had been such an ass for so long, he knew it would happen anyway. The group would crack under the tension and Angie and Rowley would stay with Holly and Greg would drift away. He was going to lose them in the most painful way possible.

But it didn't have to happen like that. He had experienced loss, felt the pain of having someone you loved ripped away from you but he didn't have to do that to his friends. He knew what he had to do. He would hang out with them, but only in the midst of big groups. He would text them occasionally but there would be no more hour long phone calls. He would walk to and from school with Rowley but that would be it. He would become a part time friend, until eventually they didn't need him at all. It would hurt, but it would be for the best in the long run.

This whole thing was his fault anyway, his mess to clean up.

So, no more Holly. and i did that thing where the title of a story is actually in the story. I love it when that happens, i usually shriek and point for a while. You guys probably aren't as odd as i am. If you liked it leave me a review, if you didn't like it leave me a review, all your feedback is wonderful.