Bo had never felt so frustrated, so redundant in his life. His injury, his accident, his life falling apart....they had nothing on this. Waiting uselessly outside a closed door, hoping that things weren't falling apart inside, and that he wasn't losing Natasha in some way. But as the minutes past, he became more worried about her, and more fearful that this encounter was going to change everything.
He glanced across the corridor at Nathan, his arch nemesis as such, but there was no gloat, no sarcasm in his expression.
He inclined his head slightly, and offered a response, "shit fest."
Grinning he leaned against the wall next to him, "women, tying men in knots since the creation of time."
"Ain't that the truth." He looked at his hands, studying his nails blindly, before eventually looking up at the other man. "Who is he?"
Nathan rolled his eyes, "the man you just dragged through a hotel lobby?" When Bo nodded, he added, "Gabriel Torrent, older stepbrother of Danny McAllister, captain of the North America team."
Bo ran a hand through his hair, "Danny Mac? The Golden Boy?" He'd heard so much about the NHL's current best player.
He nodded, "the very same, though where Danny is funny, charismatic and superbly fucking talented, Gabriel is angry, bitter and twisted, another one of those bitter college failures, you know?"
He nodded, "a non-achiever jock."
Nathan pointed his index finger at him, like a gun, then fired it, "nail...on...head."
Bo rolled his eyes, they'd all met many wannabes, college jocks who'd failed to make it to the big leagues, some hung on to their group at all costs, others tried to embarrass them at any opportunity to make them look better...all were bitter, angry and resentful. A dangerous combination.
"Your girl seemed upset."
He nodded, "seems that jock..." he gestured to the closed door with his thumb, "has always been a grade A prick."
Nathan rolled his eyes again, "never liked him. She OK, in there with him?"
Bo nodded, "she'll have his balls for breakfast...that kinda girl." He sounded more confident than he was, but he wasn't going to admit that.
"It suits you, love."
He glared at Nathan for a long moment, the man who had stolen the last woman he had any form of relationship with, could say that?
Instead, it was his turn to roll his eyes, "you don't know anything about me any more."
Shrugging, he lifted a bottle of beer to his mouth, taking a drink before speaking, "that maybe so, but you're different."
"And you attribute it all to her? To Natasha? You have no idea what I've been through..."
Nathan cut him off, "you were a cantankerous bastard from the minute you injured your leg, that only got worse after Daniele. This 'you', you're different. It's good."
He made to open his mouth, give some sharp retort and Nathan added, in a rather defeatist manner, "I know, it was all my fault.
Bo laughed, "it was, you made me so fucking angry! Not because I lost her, but because I knew I'd lose you. Fuck man, you were like a brother to me. I hate what you did, not with her, not fucking really, but to us. Shit."
He, again, ran his fingers through his hair as Nathan reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, "I know. I only hope that one day, you'll realise you need me...for something...anything. And I will be there like that..." he snapped his fingers to demonstrate.
And Bo did the only thing he could, he shook his hand.
"I have a child?"
Natasha couldn't turn her eyes from Torrie, even when he forced her, with his questions, to say the words that she'd managed to avoid for years. As she took a deep breath a single tear rolled.
"You did. Mia..." She took another steadying deep breath, blowing out slowly. "I called you when she was born, left a message to urgently phone me, a matter of life or death...and it was."
He ran both hands through his hair, "was?"
She nodded, then swiped at a tear, "she was born with a heart defect, needed surgery, and she never recovered. I called you, tried to give you chance to come see her. But you didn't reply."
Now he was staring, and she could see genuine emotion in his face, "I didn't get any messages, honestly, this is really the first I've heard about it."
"She died in my arms, ten days old. Mia. I called her Mia." She sighed, "the most beautiful little girl."
He was gasping now, like a fish out of water, but she couldn't feel sympathy, "that's why I hate you...I lost everything, and it was all down to you."
"Tash! I mean Natasha, don't be like that. I haven't...shit." His hand swept over his face, and he dropped his head. When he finally looked up, he was grey, "I don't know how to deal with this."
She wanted to feel sympathy, and maybe her father had lied to her, had never told her. But she'd emailed, text messaged, IM'd him...she'd done it all, along with physical messages to anyone who answered the phone in his house.
"And you want my sympathy?"
He shook his head, "no! Of course not."
"I tried to tell you, but you thought I was some obsessed, unstable teenager...I did more than you deserved, so please don't try and make me feel bad."
"That's not what I'm doing, I am just trying to work out what I want to say, fuck." He slumped down the wall until he was sat on the floor.
This wasn't anything like she expected, him upset, her feeling bad for him. She'd imagined that he'd have been angry, defensive and she'd have been well within her rights to punch him. In fact she'd imagined just how she'd administer the blow almost constantly for more than a dozen years.
"You can act surprised, Torrie, but I left you so many messages."
He shrugged, "a girl calling the sorority house asking me to call them back, they were ten-a-penny," when she glared at him, he offered a sorry smile, "sorry, that's the way it was."
She laughed, "Torrie the stud, no one good enough for a call-back."
That was far too close to the truth and he had the good manners to look embarrassed, "I can't say I'm proud, but I was a different man back then."
"Boy," she sneered, "because a man wouldn't ignore pleas from a girl, not like you did."
He groaned, "I am sorry."
She shrugged, "you may well be, but you are the only person who missed out, I may have only had her for ten days, but I had her, I held her, I kissed her and sang her to sleep. You will never get that back, and you could have...I wanted you to. Despite it all, she deserved to know you were there too."
And that was the truth, she was still so sad that Mia died almost anonymously, only she and Nana H had met her, touched her, kissed her soft downy skin. Mia deserved to be missed by more than just her, her father, her grandparents, none of them had bothered. Mia, like her mother was dispensable.
She turned her back to Torrie, he didn't deserve to share her grief, she now realised that he really didn't know, about her being pregnant, about Mia..but that didn't mean that he was exonerated, He was still an arsehole, still stolen her virginity on a promise of more, and he stole her innocence, her family and for a long time her sanity...all at the same time, so he wasn't going to have her pity, or her sympathy.
Her sadness was overwhelming and she walked away from him, she'd spotted another exit, which meant she didn't have to walk past him, didn't need to look at him again.
She paused, hearing her name cried out with desperation.
"You can't just walk away."
Shrugging, she still refused to look at him, "this conversation is over, Torrie. It's fourteen years too late. This is all too late."
She stepped again, almost at the door, when he uttered the only words that could have made her stop, made her give him that extra chance.
"Can I see her? Do you have any pictures?"
Slowly, Natasha turned, "why?"
When she met his eyes, she knew why, he cared, and it caused pain all over again.
Mia was born before phones had such good cameras, but she was in the digital age, so Natasha had physical photos, stored in a book in her bedroom wardrobe, but she had back up on three memory sticks, stored in three different places, and online storage, images in a secret file on her Dropbox, because that was all she had of her daughter, and lived in fear of losing them.
"Because she was my daughter, and I've never seen her, and I really want to."
Nodding she almost staggered to a seat and collapsed into it, then she opened up her phone.
"I took one almost hourly..." pausing she glanced up at him, to see he'd moved across the room and was opposite her, and anxious.
"I can see you as a wonderful mother."
That caused a lump to stick in her throat, because she never knew that. She'd sat beside her daughter's incubator and done the little bits that she could for her, but she never had the chance to be a mother, and as time went on, she had long decided that she would never, could never go through that again.
"Do you have any children?" She finally asked him.
He shook his head, "no. But I have two ex-wives who ironically cared more about money than children."
"How ironic, indeed."
He smiled, "there's a strong sense of karma. I always wanted children..."
His voice froze as she turned her phone, showing her favourite photo of Mia. They say babies can't smile at a few days old, but she'd held Mia at two days old and hadn't ever felt anything so amazing in her life.
Tiny Mia, born early, underweight and sick. But she smiled at her mother, the bond immediate.
"This is the first time I held her properly. She's thirty hours old."
She glanced over his shoulder, wishing she could see what he was seeing. She was beautiful, thought her eyes were dark, she was convinced they were blue, a full head of dark hair, and pink full cheeks, at loggerheads to her tiny body.
"She has your nose," she offered, "and hair."
He finally lifted his eyes from the screen, "but your eyes...they always were the thing I noticed most about you."
She held up a hand, "don't. Don't make this more than it is."
Sighing, he nodded, "I'm sorry."
Nothing, she felt absolutely nothing.
Bo was going out of his head, Nathan seemed to be finding everything amusing, grinning from ear to ear as No paced the corridor.
"What do you know about this Torrent bastard, anyway?"
Nathan smirked, "told you, loves to pretend he is something he's not. College star, pro hockey failure, married a few times, to well placed women, all ended cos he's a womaniser."
"Womaniser? By who's standards? Takes one to know one and all that?"
Nathan rolled his eyes, "you say you forget about it, then you hang me out...again!"
Bo gritted his teeth, running his hand through his hair, "you don't get it?"
He nodded, "I know that you love her, that she's special, and I wouldn't care what man was in there with her, I'd not leave her alone."
"A cheater never trusts anyone!"
Nathan raised an eyebrow, and Bo apologised, "sorry, but you seem to think this is funny, and it fucking isn't."
"So walk in there, see what's happening."
He shook his head, "I trust her, it is just really hard."
"Drink?" he asked, gesturing at his own empty bottle.
Bo glanced at the door, then his watch, he'd been sat outside the room for half an hour. He could get a drink, she wasn't going to leave with out him.
Ten minutes later, he returned with a beer in hand, and Nathan's new number. And took the opportunity to open the door, without knocking. Then froze. In the centre of the room was that man, Torrent, stood, his arms wrapped around Natasha, her face buried into his neck, his face in her hair. When he opened his eyes, he met Bo's eyes and broke into a smile.
And it was enough to make Bo see red, but instead of shouting, screaming or punching the dick in the nose, he stepped back, closing the door, and returned to the party.
Nathan was at the bar ordering shots of tequila.
"Bro!" He announced when he spotted Bo. "Shooter time?"
Bo nodded, swallowing his sadness. He'd deal with what he had just seen when he had to, now, was all about getting loaded...