A/N: It's been awhile since I did something that wasn't part of a larger project, and it felt like time. It's an angsty little multiple-friendship piece. And, I believe it's the first fic I've written that isn't blatantly B/B-centric. Wow! Branching out:) Let me know what you think.
I watched a little uncomprehendingly as my partner Seeley Booth breezed through the door of my apartment with a 6-pack of beer. Uninvited, of course. I was obviously not expecting company, dressed as I was in my flannel pajamas, my hair pulled back and my face scrubbed clean. I was never really expecting company anymore. "Can I help you, Booth?"
"I thought I'd just stop by to try to cheer you up," he said lightly, dropping his things on my kitchen counter and removing his jacket. Make yourself right at home, Booth.
"Cheery isn't a word that ever really describes me," I pointed out, still standing while he sauntered to the living room and plopped down on the couch. If he got the hint, he ignored it. I hovered for a moment, in case he decided to read (and respond to) my body language, before sighing resignedly and joining him.
"Well, if not cheer you up, maybe just chat a bit." Ah, his true intentions at last. He flashed me a smile, the one that women tended to find irresistible. To me, it seemed a little patronizing right now. "How ya doing, Bones?"
"Nothing much as changed since I saw you this morning. Still number 3 on the bestseller list. Still have some work to do on those war victims' remains that were shipped in the other day. Still plugging away on the serial killer case. The Ravens won their game tonight, and it's a lovely, balmy 50 degrees out right now. All in all…things are just fine." His smile had faded a little as I talked, and discomfort filled me a little as I became more and more sure that I wasn't saying what he wanted to hear. Time to redirect. "How are you?"
He didn't answer right away, seemingly considering whether to submit to my small talk or say what was really on his mind. Apparently taking a cue from my own typical bluntness, he went with the latter. "Not bad. Guess who I got an email from today?"
"No idea," I lied. Not sure I ever lied to Booth before. At least, not intentionally.
"C'mon, take a guess. I'll give you a hint. It's our favorite new Parisian artiste."
"That's not a hint. That's telling me straight out." He ignored me.
"She's tearing up Paris. I guess everything's been exploding since her last show…she's getting commissioned all over the place."
A dull pang hit my chest, and I immediately swallowed it, letting no hint of it cross my face. "Good for her. I knew she would be successful there."
"That's our Ange," he agreed, then paused. "Bones…she says that she hasn't talked to you in two months. That you haven't returned her phone calls."
My logical mind had been anticipating this confrontation. "Yes well…it's been difficult, you know. With the time difference, there's really no time to call that's convenient for both of us. We're both busy, and she's got a lot going on with the new gallery. And with Hodgins, of course…the new house, and everything. Don't want to bother her."
"I've emailed," I said, unable to help the note of defensiveness that was creeping into my voice.
"Barely. She didn't even know about the new serial killer case we've been working on. Or that guy that you were dating for awhile."
"I called her, too, a couple times right after she moved. We talked for a few minutes before she had to run somewhere. Or go to bed."
"So you stopped trying."
I didn't like this interrogation. I didn't need my partner, who supposedly came to cheer me up, trying to make me feel guilty. For something that I had no control over, of all things. "You're reading too much into things, Booth. Angela lives thousands of miles and hours away. That makes staying in contact a little more difficult."
His face showed concern, and I wanted to smack it. "She's your best friend, Bones."
I remembered that. I remembered that every day. And she left me. Standing, I tried to disguise my annoyance from my partner by turning away. "Let's be honest. No matter how close you are to somebody, geographic proximity is what enhances that bond. Yes, Ange is my friend. Always will be. But we literally live in different worlds now, and her daily life doesn't involve me. So…what's the point in calling and discussing the minutia of work that she doesn't do anymore? Or of a date I had that isn't going anywhere? She needs to concentrate on her own world. My world is…really just unimportant in the grand scheme of her life. As it should be now." That final statement, voiced definitively, sounded familiar to my own ears. I had been reminding myself of that often.
Because I was turned, I wasn't expecting the touch of his hand on my shoulder, and it made me jump a little. "It's okay to miss her," he said, softly.
Something in me violently pushed away his empathy. "Of course I miss her, Booth. You really aren't making arcane, insightful points here. People move. Friendships ebb and flow, that's natural. Life goes on." I shrugged, having the effect of slipping his hand off of me. "I'll call her tomorrow if that'll make you both feel better." Maybe my abrasiveness would get him to back off. Get him to stop probing at my bruises, my weak spots.
No such luck. He grabbed both of my shoulders, turned me around. Forced me to look at him. "She loves you, Bones. Just because she's going through major changes in her life doesn't mean she doesn't miss you being a part of it. And it's hurting her when you push her away, and she doesn't know why."
Now I was just pissed. It wasn't his place for him to tell me these things, and I didn't want to hear them. "Just…can't you all just let me let her go? It wasn't my choice to move halfway around the world. It wasn't me who decided to reinvent my career. She chose who and what was important and now…and now, we both have to accept the consequences of that. So don't stand here and tell me it's my responsibility to somehow keep our relationship strong across the miles. We all do what's best for ourselves. She did. And now, so am I." My voice was shaky now, and I hated it. "It is not helpful for me to remember how things used to be."
But as I said it, I remembered every minute of how things used to be. I remembered the comforting feeling of seeing my friend every morning at work, the bright smile that she managed even at 7 am somehow making it a little easier for me to start my day, as well. I remembered her working seriously on her new sketch, being amazed by how she brought the inanimate to life, awed by her talent that was so different than my own. Remembered her poking fun at me, trying to make me smile on my worst days. Remembered the late night phone calls talking about the bad and the good dates, the Sunday shopping trips, the evening gab sessions at the diner. How easily I had come to depend on her presence and company and wisdom…I didn't even recognize that I had been depending on it. Until that day she came to me, eyes shining, telling me about this amazing opportunity that she was being given in Paris...
Damn her. I didn't come to her looking for a friend. She offered it to me, sought me out, took me under her wing, even when I didn't feel like being there. And then, when I got used to it…she went away. Damn her.
Booth had been quiet, letting me to my private thoughts, but he took advantage of whatever he was seeing on my face. Saw my weakness, I thought bitterly, as he pulled me to him in a hug and my tears began to fall, silently at first, and then more audibly the tighter he held me. "I am so goddamn selfish," I said, my fists knotting into his shirt, not fully willing to give myself to the embrace.
"It's natural," he said soothingly, although nothing about what I felt seemed natural. "It happens all the time…you can be happy for her, but sad for you. That's not selfish. That's being a friend. That's love."
I wanted to tell him to shut up, but I sobbed harder instead while he stroked my hair and whispered soothing words to me that I couldn't even hear over my cries. Those tears ran their course for awhile, until they dwindled to shuddering sighs, and then sniffles, and then, just me, drained, my body sagging against my partner's. Eventually, he pulled away from me slightly.
"How do you feel?" he asked softly.
I laughed, a little bitterly, wiping at my eyes with the back of my hand. "Well…I kind of hate you right now."
He chuckled as well, pulling me back to him briefly. "That's okay. I'll take it." After a moment, he let go and gently led me back to the couch, where we sat.
"I'm not sure what to do, Booth," I said quietly. "I miss her. But right now, things can't be different. I don't know how to make myself accept the way things are now."
Reaching over, he took my tearstained face in his hands. "Sounds like something you need to figure out together."
Embarrassment flushed my face at the thought, and it took me a moment to realize why. "I don't want to make her feel guilty." I paused, and another, more shameful reason occurred to me. "And…I hate sounding so needy."
Smiling just a little, he stroked my hair aside with his thumbs before letting his hands fall back to his sides. "I don't think anyone's gonna mistake you for that. You know what I think? I think she's gonna be happy knowing that you still care so much."
"Maybe." This was uncharted territory for me.
"Have faith in your friendship, okay? It deserves it."
Faith. I had trouble with that sometimes. "I'll try."
"Thatta girl." Sensing my need to struggle with this new knowledge alone for awhile, he stood. Now he decides to leave. "Call me if you need anything, okay?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"Okay. Just making sure." He gave my shoulder one last squeeze before walking to the door and letting himself out. I watched him go.
After sitting for awhile, I finally got up, made my way to my computer. Pulled up my email. Thought for awhile. Began to type.
"Dear Angela: Things just aren't the same without you…"
Too cliché. Delete.
"Dear Angela: Sometimes it's frightening how much you've come to mean to me in such a short amount of time…"
No, scratch that. Too poetic. Didn't sound like me at all.
"Dear Angela: When I remember that you're gone, I just want to scream with how lonely I feel…"
Well, that's one way to convince a friend that you belong in a psychiatric ward.
Nothing seemed right. Nothing could capture what I was trying to say. I wasn't sure words ever could. How could words describe what it feels like to fear losing your best friend?
Glancing at my phone beside me, an eternity seemed to come and go before picking it up and dialing the number that felt so unfamiliar underneath my fingertips. I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath until it was time to speak.
"Angela? Hey….it's good to hear your voice. I miss you…"