Greg hadn't wanted to go.
Not that Nick wasn't his friend, he was his best friend, or that his birthday wasn't an important event. It was just that when Greg had found out Sara was coming too he had tried to back out gracefully. And of course, that wasn't allowed.
Amy had protested, said that Nick wanted him there, wanted both of them there, and so finally he'd agreed to come.
And he did.
Greg spent most of the night making sure that he and Sara were in opposite rooms or at least as far away from each other as possible. Sara seemed to think that was best as well because they didn't once get within arms reach of each other.
Not that he didn't have fun. He'd talked with all his friends, complimented Amy on the arrangements, spent a good amount of time teasing Karen about her newest haircut and basically gave Nick hell about getting old. But he hadn't wanted to go and he didn't really want to stay. His heart wasn't in it.
So he'd waited a decent amount of time before he planned his exit. He didn't just run in and run out, that would be cowardly. Greg needed people to see that he and Sara could co-exist without erupting into a screaming match which honestly hadn't always been the case. It was good to be out in public, with her but not with her. But enough was enough. Greg was starting to watch her more and more from where he was and it wasn't just to make sure that they kept their distance. He was starting to watch her to see who she was with. Who she was talking to and how much and that was a very bad. So before very bad turned into extremely stupid, Greg left.
He found Nick and Amy, said his goodbyes and against their joint protests insisted on leaving.
Nick seemed to get it. That Greg could play nice but only for so long and thanked him again for coming. Amy sensed it as well and didn't push too hard, but she really didn't want him leaving, not like this.
But he did.
Greg took his coat from the spare room and leaving through the back door, walked around the side of the house out toward the street to where he had parked.
Just as he'd started to unlock his door he caught movement out of the corner of his eye by the car across the street.
He looked over briefly and cursed his luck.
Of course it was Sara.
He'd spent all night avoiding her and they'd practically parked their cars on top of each other.
It only took a glance to tell that she was angry. Sara had her back to him, pacing back and forth with her phone fixed firmly to her ear.
"Damn it," she said loud enough for him to hear as she slammed her phone shut and turned around.
Greg looked at her car and saw the problem. Her front left tire was completely flat. When he looked back up to her she had already turned away again.
Knowing he was probably making a mistake even as he put his keys back into his pocket, Greg made his way across the street towards her and her now defunct car.
"Need a hand?" he asked catching her attention.
Sara once more turned towards him and shook her head with her lips pressed tightly together.
"Are you sure?" he persisted. "I mean, I've never changed a tire but the two of us should be able to figure it out."
"I know how to change a tire, Greg."
"Okay," he said not sure if he believed that or if she was just trying to get rid of him, "you can teach me."
Sara looked down but he saw the smile that played on her lips.
"I don't have a spare."
"What?" he asked disbelievingly.
"I don't have a spare," she repeated. "I blew a tire last week and that is the spare. I've been meaning to take it in but work has just been... it's my own fault."
Greg nodded and looked around him unsure what to do next.
"Can I give you a ride?"
Sara positively stared. Not sure he'd said it or if he meant it.
"No," she said shaking her head, "I'm just..."
"What?" he asked cutting in, "you're just going to walk or wait till you can reach someone?"
Sara tilted her head to the side and couldn't deny that it was pretty much what she was planning to do.
"Come on, Sara," Greg said with a sigh. "We're adults. I'm not leaving you out here on the side of the road like this."
A long pause followed as she considered it.
"Alright," she finally agreed.
Sara walked back across the street and waited as he unlocked the door. Out of habit he walked over to her side and held the door for her. She smiled at him but said nothing about it. Shaking his head as he rounded the car, Greg had a bad feeling about this.
Unfortunately the ride couldn't be quiet. Greg had never been to Sara's new apartment and needed directions. The complex wasn't bad but seeing it saddened him. She shouldn't have been forced to move out of their house, he should have.
Greg pulled into the nearest empty spot and parked the car not sure what to do next.
"Do you want to come up?" Sara asked before she could stop herself.
She felt bad just getting out without at least offering. After all, he had offered to help her and had even driven her home. He was right, they were adults. They could handle this situation.
But Greg wasn't so sure anymore. He felt all those familiar rumblings in his stomach. That need for her starting to cloud his vision. Greg knew that the smart thing to do was to politely decline and watch as she went in alone. That was the smart thing.
Greg was never good at doing the smart thing in situations like this.
"Yeah," he found himself saying much to his own surprise.
Sara led the way to her new place on the third floor wishing she hadn't asked. That she'd just said goodbye and gotten out especially upon remembering the state she'd left her apartment in.
She smiled nervously as she opened the door and turned on the lights.
Greg took a look around and was taken back. Sara had been living here for close to four months and it didn't look like she'd unpacked. She'd practically unpacked for the both of them in under a week at their place. There was no accounting for it.
"I've been busy," she said waving a hand at the boxes that were stacked in the corner.
Greg just nodded and said nothing.
"Do you want something to drink?" she asked moving into the kitchen.
"Water's good," he returned, still taking in her place.
It was a good size, probably two bedrooms. She had a nice dinning area and separate living room, the kitchen just out of sight.
She was back in a moment, gave him a water bottle and then continued on to the living room with her own in hand. Sitting down she smiled up at him nervously and he knew he couldn't just leave.
Greg sat down next to her and unscrewed the cap taking a long drink before replacing it again and setting it on the coffee table.
"This couch still itches," he said looking around, needing to say something as he rubbed his hands on the brown fabric on either side of his legs.
Sara laughed nervously and set her own bottle of water down next to his.
"I'm thinking about getting a new one."
Greg nodded and continued to fidget. They were too close. Just too close. He wanted to reach out and touch her.
"I thought you liked this one," he said instead, still looking about the room.
"It's time for a change."
Greg turned to her and frowned. He suddenly felt oddly attached to this couch. Sentimental even. Too much had changed, this shouldn't.
"If you want," he said finally looking away.
"I'm just thinking about it," she said after a pause. "I probably won't. I don't have time to shop like that and besides, how would I get a new one up here?"
Greg laughed a little and said no more.
"I should go," he said standing suddenly and rubbing his hands down the front of his pants. "It's late; you probably want to get to sleep."
"Okay," she said standing with him.
Sara walked with him to the door, unsure really what she should be doing or saying. He didn't know either, just went on instinct. Moved on instinct.
"Thanks again," she said looking down at their feet as they stood next to the door, "for the ride and everything."
"Don't thank me," he said shaking his head slightly, "it's no big deal."
"No, you didn't have to do it. Thanks."
Greg took in a breath.
They stood facing each other, Greg's back still to the door and Sara inches from him. They hadn't moved. Hadn't spoken in what seemed like an eternity.
"I should..." Greg stopped mid-sentence as he looked up at her and saw her looking back.
He didn't know how the space between them had closed, but it had. And now here was Sara, right up against him, looking very much the way he remembered her to look from before. That look in her eyes there, the one he found slightly dangerous and completely appealing. The one he could not, no matter what, resist.
Greg found what he should do soon overruled by what he was doing.
Unsure how it even started, who even started it, Greg soon had her pinned between him and the wall opposite from where they had stood, lost to everything that wasn't her.
Greg had his hands on her sides, tugging her closer, bringing her as close to him as was possible. Sara had her arms wrapped around his neck, unbelievably, bringing them closer still.
His hands slipped off her and braced the wall now, breaking the kiss with a gasp.
That didn't stop her. Sara's hand moved with familiar ease down his chest as she continued to nip and nuzzle his neck.
"This isn't why I came here," Greg whispered into her ear, "Sara this..."
"I know," she said leaning in and kissing him once more, "I know."
Sara dropped her hands to his hips and ground into him. Greg leaned back into her, kissing her hard on the lips and moaning. His hands slid back onto her sides, pushing up her shirt, exploring her stomach and back.
Her fingers began to work feverishly on the buttons of his shirt as she simultaneously walked him backwards towards the living room.
"Sara," Greg demurred, "I'm not sure this is..."
He stopped abruptly as the back of his legs connected hard against something unseen causing him to momentarily flail before falling backwards onto the couch.
Greg and Sara locked eyes.
For a full minute they didn't speak. They didn't even move.
Greg finally broke out laughing.
"Are you going to help me up?" he asked holding out a hand to her.
But Sara had begun to laugh as well, standing over him and his half ripped shirt.
"I'm sorry," she said in-between giggles. "This is just... what are we doing?"
"Well," he laughed. "I don't know what you're doing, but I'm still waiting."
"Sorry," she said with a huge smile, "I'm sorry."
Sara grabbed hold of his offered hand and helped hoist him back to his feet. Now, standing face to face, she blushed and took a step back, but she hadn't let go of his hand.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, rubbing her thumb across his knuckles without thinking. "I just forgot myself for a minute."
"Me too," Greg echoed, squeezing the hand she still held tightly and taking a much needed breath.
"It hasn't been easy," Sara just managed to say, alternating looks at the floor and ceiling.
Greg eagerly caught her words and stared hard at her. It was the thing he'd simultaneously wanted and not wanted to know. Proof that it wasn't just him that struggled with this; she was so hard to read sometimes. So distant. But this had to mean something, something more.
"I know why..." Sara babbled. "It doesn't matter. It's better if we don't. If... it's probably better if you just..."
But before she could finish Greg was kissing her again; kissing her with the same fervor and zeal as he'd done during the height of their relationship.
And Sara couldn't help but melt.
That's what it was like; melting. She could just melt into him. Become a part of him with such ease it was almost like they were one person, not two.
And like lightning, she remembered.
That wasn't them anymore.
"Greg," she said with a gasp, pulling away even though her body resisted. "We can't. We can't do this..."
"What?" he asked.
His forehead pressed to hers; his hands in her hair; his breath ragged.
"We can't," she said softly. "This isn't..."
But she couldn't finish. This had always been right between them. It was everything but this that wasn't.
"You'd hate yourself in the morning," Sara said.
"You'd hate me too, right?"
She shook her head no and part of him knew she wasn't lying.
"You've made it pretty clear what you want," Sara continued.
"Don't tell me what I want," Greg said with such intensity that Sara nearly lost her resolve.
"I know," Greg relented, finally letting her go, half sitting on the arm of the couch.
And he did. He'd broken it off with her because there was no trust. That's what he wanted, her trust. And if he couldn't have that, he couldn't really have her.
Sara breathed again; relieved and disappointed at the loss of his touch.
"I should go," he said, looking down at his feet.
She only nodded in agreement. Nothing she could say would put the pieces back together again. Nothing she could do. It was all in his hands.
Greg stood up and to her surprise instead of moving to the door, pulled her into his arms and kissed her again.
It was short and bittersweet and familiar.
Sara understood as he moved away from her and towards the door without another word; just leaving.
It wasn't just a kiss, it was a goodbye.
Summary: Part of the 'Happy Enough' series. Old habits are hard to break. Takes place about two weeks before the start of 'Appreciation'.