Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Their fights never lasted. That was something that Bea could always count on. They snapped at one another, they steamed and stomped off to cool down and then they found their way back to each other. They always found their way back to one another. Yet this time Bea left for Paris and soaked her sorrows in a bathtub while furiously eating macarons. Was it the adult way to handle things? Not by far. Was it all she could do at the moment? No. Yet it was all she felt up to doing and that was going to have to be how it was until she could put her jumble of thoughts together and face Nora. It took several days of pouting and tromping through one of her favorite cities feeling miserable before she finally made her way back to San Francisco.

Immediately, she made her way to the hospital. She could feel Nora's presence. Maybe it was a Lantern thing, or maybe it was simply an intuition that had been built over the years. Whatever it amounted to, Bea caught sight of the blonde striding through the halls and sent out a little message to her through their telepathic Lantern link. Will you please meet me out on the grounds? She didn't wait for a response but found her own way there and sat under a tree, cross-legged and fidgeting with a tear in her jeans. The words were swirling around in her head, what she wanted to say, and she hoped they came out right. It was hard for her to express her emotions without an explosion but she had to work on it, had to work through it or she'd never get any better than she was. She owed it to her therapist, her family and friends and most of all to herself. Staring down at the ground, she licked across her bottom lip and waited to see if Nora would take the extended olive branch or if she'd have to wait a bit longer.

Nora stepped beyond the double doors that separated the massive waiting room the rest of the floor. Beyond those doors were the surgical suites, the pre-op unit, the PACU, and a few offices, most of which weren't accessible to friends and family. She pulled her scrub cap off and accidentally jostled her glasses as she did so, one of the ties getting caught in one of the stems tucked behind her ear. She readjusted her frames and shoved the cap into an empty pocket before surveying the waiting room for the family that she was looking for.

There were multiple pairs of eyes on her immediately; family members were understandably anxious and waiting for updates, and the opening of the double doors never failed to catch their attention. Nora looked around to see which one of those families was holding onto one of the waiting room pagers, lighting up in red and green to indicate that their attention was requested. It didn't take long for her to find them, and she gave them a small smile and confidently walked over to the family. "Mrs. and Mrs. Sholes-Hix?" she asked as she approached them. They had spoken not that long ago, just a couple of hours earlier as they sat with their child in the pre-op unit. Nora gladly delivered the news that the surgery had gone well, that the hernia was no more and that they could see their son as soon as he settled into the PACU.

It was a common procedure for her field, so much so that she all but had the post-op spiel memorized. How soon they could go home, what recovery would look like, any complications they should look out for. And though she liked to remain engaged with her patients and their families, Nora had been distracted for the past few days and was running on autopilot as she gave the family an update — so much so that she nearly flinched when the telepathic message came through. Caught off guard, she tried to brush it aside until after she was done speaking with the family.

It was only a few more moments until she was walking down another hallway, dodging the other hospital traffic during a busy afternoon. Fifteen minutes earlier and you would've caught me in the middle of sutures, she answered back. There was some annoyance at being confronted at work despite knowing that Bea likely didn't mean any harm. I'll find you in a few minutes. Gotta make sure I'm not needed elsewhere.

When the telepathic response came back, Bea swallowed hard and clamped her hands together. Maybe this was a terribly bad idea. Nora was at work. She should've checked in, or hell, asked for them to meet someplace. Sighing, she looked up at the sky through the trees. A dozen other scenarios flitted through her head but she'd somehow found this to be a safe place. Nora wouldn't explode on the hospital grounds, nor would Bea put anyone in jeopardy by emotionally lashing out where anyone could see. It was a neutral place. That had been the thought in her head, though she hoped there wouldn't be any need to lash out more than had already been done. Okay. I'll uh, I'll be here.

Bringing one knee up to her chest, she rested her chin there and watched the people milling around. What were they going through, she wondered. Had they gotten good news or bad news that day? Maybe something in between. She thankfully couldn't hear any thoughts since that particular week had started and she was more than grateful for the small reprieve. It had been almost too much for her already fragile mind to handle, no matter how much Babs had told her they'd figure it out together. She was teetering and she'd been weak in a moment that Nora had come to her, asking for something completely innocent but that Bea had taken to heart more than she'd thought she would. Her brows furrowed as she thought about why it'd hit her so hard and she found herself closing her eyes, shaking her head as she rested her forehead against her knee instead, doing a steady breathing exercise to move herself out of a moment of anxiety and back into one of calm. It was okay. They'd get through this, Bea simply had to be honest in a way that wasn't at all like she had been the night she and Nora had fought in the first place.

She pursed her lips as Bea's response came through and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose instead. With them on, she was a brunette, one who only vaguely resembled the blonde in a cape that could be seen flying around during certain of weeks. They may have given her a false sense of security — surely someone had to see through that easily enough — but she clung to it desperately despite that.

Nora found her way to one of the staff lounges so that she could review her notes and pages to see if anything required her attention before she took a breather. Once she saw that she only had a couple of medication requests to put into the system, she breathed a little easier despite knowing that it meant that she could actually take a few minutes to talk to Bea, her best friend and part of the reason she'd had her own minor meltdown at the holiday gala that weekend. Once that thought settled in, she felt herself sit up straight and tension returned to both of her temples.

It didn't take long to get through the small pile of work that she had, and a few minutes later, Nora was navigating the labyrinth of the hospital halls to try to suss out wherever it was that Bea was. Her ring wasn't much use for tracking her down given that they were presumably pretty close together as it was, so she relied on being able to hear and recognize Bea's heartbeat. Eventually, it led her to one of the exits towards the outpatient medical building, and Bea was easy enough to spot as she walked through the doors to the outside world. Realizing that she probably still had OR hair, she carefully undid her ponytail and pulled her hair back again, hopefully smoothing out any bumps and flyaways from spending an hour or two under tightly-wound fabric. "Um. Hi," she greeted as she took a seat next to her friend. Her seafoam green scrubs were so drab compared to what most other people around them seemed to be wearing but she shrugged the thought aside. "Didn't see you at the gala the other night."

She heard her approaching and knew that her time was up of contemplating how to start things out. To try and explain where she'd been coming from or why she'd exploded so, well, violently. Swallowing a little, she flicked her gaze to Nora and she still felt it, that feeling of being home even though things between them were tense. At Nora's comment, she let out a sigh and rubbed at her forehead. "Yeah. I—I had a dress and everything but at the last minute I just—I couldn't do it, knowing we were like this and you'd be there." Pinching the bridge of her nose, she knew how sad it sounded. "I felt embarrassed and small and I just needed to get out of the city so I wouldn't explode." She paused. "Well, at least not any more than I already had."

"You could've gone," she shrugged. "You should have gone." There was so much more that she wanted to say — that she understood the need to get out of the city but that running away wasn't going to help — but she kept quiet. This conversation, whatever it was, was going to be difficult and challenging enough as it was, and Nora knew she needed to try her best and practice some restraint, in part because of where they were, but also because she still had a job to go back to after this and didn't want to stray too far from that headspace.

A silence fell between them for a moment as Bea gathered her thoughts and organized them once again, Babs urging her on internally. It wasn't just her best friend that was playing a part in this, it was Babs' best friend as well. "I took a couple days, trying to figure out why it had hit me so hard, such a simple thing that you asked of me. I knew it didn't come from a malicious place and yet it felt that way in this twisted little part of my brain. And then I realized it had nothing to do with you at all, it was—well, it was things that my ex, Joe had said about me before. And Thad…" She crinkled her nose up and reminded herself that she couldn't cry, not right there. She'd had her bouts of crying in that stupid overpriced bathtub thousands of miles away.

"I flirted too much, teased too much. Basically all the ways that someone could call a woman a bit of a slut without actually coming out and saying it. And I know—I KNOW that wasn't what you intended, but the connotation was hanging there and it dug into me and I didn't let my logical brain take over. I let the triggered part of my brain just react and I snapped at you. And even as I was scrambling to stop myself, it was too late. My brain kept telling me you were looking down on me, thinking less of me, that maybe you did think I was some kind of slutty girl that would do embarrassing things at the party and you had to bring it up to me so I wouldn't. And once the thoughts were there, they just ate away at my practical self and I turned into this angry monster, lashing out because I was hurt. You're—you're my best friend. You're my sister. Imagining you thinking poorly of me, it killed me. And I could've said that, but I just couldn't get it out."

She gripped her hands together, staring at the whitened knuckles until she could gather up enough strength to look over at Nora again. "I'm sorry, for thinking the worst when I know better. I know you better. I just...the fact that you came to me with that request instead of just defending me to whoever brought it up, I couldn't wrap my head around it. I would've verbally chewed someone out in your defense, you know that, no matter what fights we've had. I'm in your corner, and it just...it felt like you weren't in mine and instead of talking it through, that nagging bit of pain got the better of me. You were the last person I thought I'd encounter that with, so it threw me."

She chewed on her bottom lip as Bea spoke and continued to do so after she was done. She had questions and she had concerns, she had things she wanted to say but didn't want to delve into at that exact moment, so she took a deep breath to try to get herself to focus on what she actually could say.

"I should have defended you better than I did," Nora started. She crossed one leg over the other and felt herself begin to fidget, staring at the jagged edge of the nail of her thumb on her left hand instead. "Or I could have asked her to talk to you herself — but I also didn't trust either of you not to lash out at each other if that happened." She went quiet again and tried to choose her words carefully.

"So I tried to talk to you, but then you got upset, so I backed down, and then you came back and called me disrespectful and we just kept fighting. And now, if I'm understanding this correctly," she said slowly and intentionally so as not to fuck up. "You...assumed the worst of me because of two of your craziest exes who have nothing at all to do with me?" Nora took paused and took a deep breath, knowing that she was only getting more upset by the second. She kept her voice low and glanced at Bea. "I would never call anyone a slut. I wouldn't ever slutshame anyone, let alone you." Nora grimaced. "Joe and Thad and whoever else...I mean, Joe was the fucking Joker, so."

A knot formed in her stomach and she could feel it making its way to her throat. "How I treat other people is so important to me. So when you accused me of being disrespectful over something that was meant to be the exact opposite of that, that hurt." Nora let out a small sigh as if to let out some of the hurt that had bubbled up to the surface in the past few moments and then shook her head. "Do no harm but take no shit, right? We've all got baggage, we've all got our own issues, but we can't treat other people like crap because of them."

She wanted to interject at a certain point but bit down hard into her bottom lip to keep her from doing so. She'd said her piece and needed to allow Nora to say her own. So instead she stared at the ring on her finger and contemplated how much further this would set her back once she confessed to her therapist how she'd lashed out. Internally sighing, she reached up and ran a hand through her hair before twisting some of the strands around a couple of her fingers and pulling. When Nora finally finished, Bea was silent for a moment before she responded, once more gathering her thoughts.

"I told you it wasn't logical," she started off, flicking her gaze to her friend and holding her palms up. "You're nothing like them, the furthest from it and the correlation shouldn't have been there, ever, but it was. I can't predict when past hurts will tumble into the present and knock me sideways. I've worked on, I continue to work on it, but I can't predict it." She wrung her hands together and sighed. "I'm glad you didn't tell whomever it was to come to me because it probably wouldn't have ended well. Might've been even worse than how it went between us because we both know how harshly I can lash out." She made a face. It wasn't something she liked about herself and never would be.

"It got out of hand, I admit that. I take responsibility for it. And hearing you, now, telling me it certainly wasn't your intention to make me feel the way that I did, I know that's the truth. I wouldn't ever hurt you intentionally either, I don't have that in me." She reached out and touched Nora's hand gently, then pulled back. "I said before, you're my best friend, the sister I chose. It doesn't feel right when we're out of sync and I don't—I don't want anything like that to ever come between us for real. Shit, Norabee. When you told me to just go on and have a nice life, it felt like a punch. I can't lose you over trivialities that could've been talked out like adults. I can't. I won't. So, I—can we—can we forgive each other and try to move forward from this?"

Nora let out a heavy sigh, a mix of both exhaustion and frustration. "You can't control it, no. But you can step back and walk away rather than projecting past hurts onto me, or anyone else, and lashing out. Because that hurt me, too," she explained, trying not to sound too distressed when the reality was that she was hurting, too. "That was like a slap in the face, and then the whole thing about being disrespectful…" she trailed off. "You could've hit pause. Said you needed space or something or time to think of how to respond because you were upset. But instead, that happened." Nora chewed on her bottom lip again as she parsed out her words as carefully as she could.

"It wasn't...these weren't just 'trivialities', Bea. We both got hurt here, and I'm sorry for telling you to fuck off. But that was…I'll be completely honest: when we were in the thick of it and you were trying to explain away what had happened, I felt like I was taking crazy pills, or like I was being gaslit, and that wasn't a fun feeling at all. And if you really think that I was being disrespectful to you, then I'm going to need more time so that I can figure out how and come to terms with it. Not just for me, but for both of us. I want us to move forward, but I can't do that without really understanding my part here — I think we both could use a little more time with that, honestly."

On the one hand, it felt like a weight had lifted from her shoulders when she was done speaking. But on the other, it felt like it had been replaced with another, heavier weight altogether, and Nora couldn't help but frown. "I love you," she said, looking over at Bea and hoping that her best friend could trust that she was being honest and meant every word she was saying. "And I want us to be able to fix this. I think that we can, in time, but I also think that we both need to be on the same page here in order to do that."

She allowed the words to soak in. The thought that she'd hurt her friend in a way that had cut that deeply made her feel ashamed. It also filled her with an immense sorrow. She knew what Nora had gone through on her own over the years. "I didn't intend…" She trailed off, shaking her head. "I'm so sorry that I contributed to you feeling that way, that's not something I'd ever want you to go through." Sighing, she rubbed at her forehead, feeling the twinges of a migraine coming on. Gently, she closed her eyes and took a few steadying breaths.

"I do...feel as if there was disrespect on both our parts. And you're right, that we need time. I'm not going to rush this or flip a hand in the air at your feelings because I know you wouldn't do that to me. So, take whatever time you need." Opening her eyes, she lifted her head and looked to Nora, catching her gaze. "I'm here. I told you that before, I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. We'll both take the time to sort through our feelings and I'm...I'm right here, Nora. I promised I wouldn't leave again and I sorta ran off anyway." She groaned, looking up at the sky through the trees again. "I really need to work on that. Running only gets me so far and it never gets me away from what I feel anyway." Chewing at her lip, she wrung her hands again and watched a few people walking around.

Her lips formed a thin line at the admission that Bea had run off after their spat. She hadn't been so brazen to listen for Bea's heartbeat in the city afterwards — it wasn't something she made a habit of doing unless she thought someone might be in danger — and now she was glad that she hadn't. Knowing that she had gone elsewhere would have upset her even more, and she could at least acknowledge that Bea had been able to recognize that much. Nora remained wordless.

"Sometimes it feels so hard to get the words out when my emotions just take charge instead. It's like I'm watching the train speeding down the tracks and I have all the means to slow it down, to stop it before it crashes and some part of me just won't do it. I don't want self-destruction or any kind of destruction of my personal relationships. I just...I have to find the switch and be strong enough to turn it off." She nodded a little, rubbing at the back of her neck. "We'll find our way back to the same page, Nora. I wouldn't know how to do this weird life without you by my side." Reaching out again, she gently squeezed Nora's hand and then blew out a huff of air. "Next time I need to have a serious talk with you though, I promise I'll wait until after work, unless it's a dire emergency. I'll uh, I'll let you get back to your day." She gave a tiny half-smile and rose to her feet, dusting off her jeans. "I'll...see you around?"

There was so much that she wanted to say, but she held back rather than leaving either of them feeling as if she was just piling on. "I'll be around, okay? I have a week-long trip coming up over New Year's, but other than that, I'm here if you need anything. But I do think space is important right now." She felt her pager vibrate at her hip and that tell-tale beeping sound followed. "Speak of the devil," Nora frowned as she unholstered the device to read the message and stood up. "But I'm not letting you leave here without a hug."