niki_chidon: (National Treasure)
Niki ([personal profile] niki_chidon) wrote2012-11-20 01:21 am

Fic: Interchangeable (National Treasure, Abigail/Ben, Ian/Ben, Riley/OC)

Title: Interchangeable
Writer: Niki
Fandom: National Treasure
Pairings: Abigail/Ben, Ian/Ben, Riley/OC (Mina)
Rating: G
Series: An unnumbered part of the “International Treasures” universe, spoilers to everything
Disclaimer: Only Mina and Anne are mine
Notes: for [ profile] hc_bingo's prompt “invisibility”
More of a character study, both the hurt and the comfort come from within
Summary: I hadn't realised how much it would hurt to turn invisible.

- - - - - - - - -

I don't know when I first realised it.

The first time I met Ben he was... well, he was using a false name, for one, and was very – guarded. Then shifty. Then determined, but I never got to see the passion until later.

Ian, then... When I first met him I was angry, scared and frustrated, too brimming with negative emotions towards everything and the man, calm as he was at the centre of the violence and action was more of an idea than a person in his own right.

To Ben I was a fellow enthusiast, a sounding board, a partner in a way Riley – wasn't. But when Ian was there... that was his role. In the church, looking for further clues with the aid of the glasses, circumstances withstanding, to Ben it didn't seem to make much of a difference who was there to share the discovery, me or him.

That should have told me everything, or at least a lot. We were interchangeable. Up to a point.

When he kissed me... it felt like a decision made, and – blindly – I thought I knew what the decision was. Later, when I came to realise what he had actually decided, I thought it didn't matter, in the end. After all, the decision had been made, and it had been me.

If only he had been able to stick to that decision.

I don't know when I realised what – who – he was thinking about, lying next to me in our bed, unable to sleep. When I caught him staring into the distance, catalogues and magical discoveries littering his desk momentarily forgotten.

I had time to resolve myself to it. I thought I was ready. I thought I was fine.

When I gave him the final push out of the door, towards Ian's prison, Ian's arms, I thought I had made my peace with it. As soon as the first adrenaline had faded we had become friends, good friends, and I thought that might actually be better for us. Our passion was better used in our work.

I hadn't realised how much it would hurt to turn invisible.

I knew what Ben's passion looked like. I hadn't known what his love looked like. I hadn't realised he could share so much, so willingly – so easily. I hadn't realised how little we had actually shared, how fleeting our influence in each other's life.

He and Ian were so good together, so fast, so easy. I didn't know Ian, of course, and yet this relaxed, smiling man was a revelation. His teasing tone when he talked to Ben, the barely hidden tenderness in his eyes when he looked at him. He carried himself with assurance, not apologetic, not hiding his talent, as I might have expected from someone who had been trying to kill us just a short time before.

If Ben was okay with that, I had to be, too. If I wanted to stay Ben's friend, I had to tolerate him, too.

Watching them work, plan, love together made me realise my peace had been an illusion. I was not over Ben. I loved him, and not as a friend. I loved him, and I missed having his passion turn to me in some other capacity than a colleague.

I bit my lip – metaphorically – and lived with it.

I became friends with his father, whom at least I knew had preferred me as an in-law. We didn't talk about it.

I became friends with Riley, in a sibling sort of way, like an annoying little brother I never had, whom I would tease mercilessly, but protect to the death against outsiders. I saw Ben look at us, occasionally, with a pondering eye, and knew he was wondering if maybe there was more there. Maybe it would have made him feel better about it, when he happened to remember who I was, who I had been, to him.

Mina put a stop to those thoughts, of course. I was jealous of her. Not because Riley fell for her, no, nothing like that. But I had been the only woman, I had been something special, even if only as their friend, and maybe, maybe...

I had given up by the time we picked up Anne. Ben treated Mina just as he did me. I was not special. I was... well, if not invisible, then at least a part of the scenery. A pair of ears and hands. A brain. I knew he appreciated my opinions, I knew he enjoyed my company... but not more than anyone else's, save Ian.

I had to stop dreaming. I had to stop waiting. I had to become his friend. His, and Ian's. That was the way I could keep him, and still have a life of my own.

I didn't really miss what we had, having now seen how much less it had been than what they had. I didn't even necessarily miss having that to myself, with anyone. The work has always been enough for me, relationships just... something that always took a back seat to that.

And, dammit, I liked Ian now that I didn't need to fear him. I wanted to have them both in my life, as friends, as actual friends. And I wanted to be a friend to them. I didn't want to cause Ben to feel awkward when he realised who and what I was when he wanted to kiss Ian, to hold his hand, to be a couple but not rub it in my face.

I wanted to tell him it was all right. But it wasn't, yet, so I didn't.

It took Anne going crazy, Patrick getting hurt, Riley getting married, and me spending extended amounts of time with Ben and Ian, doing research, existing quietly around each other, for me to realise that it had happened.

I was their friend, they were mine. I didn't miss my life with Ben, nor did I begrudge them theirs. I wanted to laugh with joy. I wanted to share this realisation with them. Because that's what you do with your friends.

And because it was mutual, because Ben didn't need to feel guilty, he could see me again, interact with me, in all things, and I didn't need to make myself invisible anymore.

I never had, really. Funny how that works.

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