The Beginning Of The Long Goodbye
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine. ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name on it.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Romance, angst, NIHT II post-ep, Follmer/Reyes.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: After NIHT II, implied spoilers to Release. SUMMARY: Brad Follmer was a habit she needed to break. FEEDBACK: Cherished at firstname.lastname@example.org. I haven't caught up on the feedback from XFVCU yet - please forgive me! MORE FICTION: http://fiction.deslea.com
Brad Follmer was a habit she needed to break.
It wasn't the first time she'd thought it. She'd even managed it, more than once in fact. Quit smoking. Quit playing games. Quit Brad Follmer.
In two days she'd managed to go back on all three.
Changing your life is easy, she thought - just get up and walk away and leave it all behind. But it wasn't so easy when your old life pulled up stumps and followed in your footsteps.
Behind her, the shower stopped running. The bathroom door opened and closed.
"On the balcony," she called. "I'm having a smoke."
Random sounds drifted through the open door. Drawers being opened and closed. Rustling sounds as he put the covers back on his bed.
"You okay?" he said, coming out onto the balcony beside her. He helped himself to one of her cigarettes without asking. "You don't seem yourself."
"I told you, Brad. I'm just shaken up after the explosion. I'm fine." He frowned at her, unconvinced, and she forced a smile. "Besides. I didn't see you complaining before."
"Adrenaline's an aphrodisiac. I know. It doesn't mean I don't worry, Monica. How shallow do you think I am?" His voice was sharp, unexpectedly so. Tinged with affront.
She stared at him. "Where did that come from?"
"Oh, come on, Monica. You've been playing me ever since I got here. Making doe-eyes at me, talking about wanting to stay in DC like it was to be near me - did you really think I wouldn't help you if there wasn't anything in it for me?"
She opened her mouth to protest, but then she slammed it shut. She had tried to play him, and he hadn't deserved it - he'd proven that when she'd finally quit jerking him around and come right out and asked. He didn't sound angry, and somehow that was worse than if he had.
"I'm sorry," she said finally. She didn't know what else to say.
They stood there smoking in silence.
He pitched out his cigarette over the balcony. "You don't think very highly of me, do you, Monica? You never did."
She turned and gaped at him. "I love you, Brad." And she did, even if it wasn't the same now as it was back in New York.
"I know. But it's true, just the same." He looked at her, as though meeting her gaze for the first time. "I'm good enough to have a good time with, but not good enough to stay with."
"No, I'm going to finish. And then we can go to bed, or you can go home, or whatever you want, but I've been thinking about this for three years now and I'm going to have my say."
She pulled his robe more tightly around her. She didn't want him to, but she said quietly, "All right."
"I know I'm not what you want, Monica. You get to slum it with me, but you're gonna wind up with Doggett. Or with someone like him. And no one will be happier for you than me when it happens. But please show me the respect of not shoving your low opinion of me in my face."
She stared at him. Floored. He stood there beside her, looking out at the city. Utterly composed, but she could see the hurt in every line of him. And there was nothing she could say, because it was true - every word of it. She blinked back the rush of tears she felt rising behind her eyes.
"Brad," she whispered.
He sighed and drew her close beside him. Still not looking at her. "I didn't say those things to hurt you, Monica."
She sank her head to his shoulder. "I know." She felt horrible and small. "I'm sorry."
"It isn't you, Brad, it's me." She could have kicked herself for it as soon as the words fell from her lips.
To her relief, he sounded more disgusted than hurt. "Oh, please."
"No, it's true. You make me - want - and - need - and - I get selfish. You make me want to screw on your desk and scratch your secretary's eyes out and stay and be near you no matter what I have to do or who gets hurt to make it happen, and I just can't be like that, Brad. I don't like myself being like that. I'm not generous with you. I'm not generous to you. I want you so much that I just take and take and I never give."
He looked down at her. "And how is that my fault?"
"It isn't. It's just something that happens."
He frowned. "So how do we fix it?"
She swallowed hard. In that moment, she understood the finality of it. The ways that she kept on missing the things that were most important with him, and probably always would.
Incredibly, he was smiling at her. His eyes were over-bright.
She put her arms around him and rose up on her toes. He met her, kisses soft and bittersweet and he made her feel good and warm, but even if they did this again a week or a month from now, she knew this was the beginning of their long goodbye.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was always fascinated by the change in Monica in NIHT/NIHT II. She seemed to be otherwise completely without guile, and yet for much of the episode she was trying to manipulate Brad. It was fascinating to watch, and it spoke to another side of her that she had, perhaps, tried to move beyond in breaking away from him. It seems to me that her decision to leave him might have been part of a bigger attempt to change the things she disliked about herself and her life. I don't know whether I would call this my definitive idea of how Follmer and Reyes relate to each other, but it was an interesting angle to play with.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Deslea R. Judd
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