This Is Where I Leave You

A Chris Evans Fanfiction

Natalie watched the video for the third time. It had been posted on the internet a few hours earlier. She hadn’t intended to watch it but her curiosity got the best of her. With her chin resting in her hands, elbows on the table, she stared at his vacant eyes. To the casual observer he seemed to be saying all the right things. But Natalie knew him better.

She had known Chris for ten years. They met through a mutual friend, briefly dated, then he left to film a movie and when he returned they settled into a friendship. She always had a feeling that, although they got along well, he was slightly intimidated by her independence. Chris was always a bit of a contradiction like that, but she enjoyed their friendship so she overlooked it. He had a right to make his own choices. And he was generally a decent person.

Natalie was an attorney and on more than one occasion Chris had found the need to confide in her. Of course she helped him but she tried to avoid getting involved in his personal matters whenever possible. Hollywood can be a messy place behind the scenes and the less she knew about his messes the better and stronger their friendship could be. It wasn’t that she was in denial. She knew how the game was played. She preferred to see the better side of him and leave the rest to other people. He liked to have fun and she wouldn’t begrudge him that. There was nothing wrong with that if you were a handsome single man.

She turned her attention back to the video. He had made many of these for fans. It was one of the things she loved about him. His selfless desire to reach out to his fans and give them personal messages about how much they inspired him. And they truly did. He had spent many years in the pursuit of spiritual growth and inner peace. The enthusiasm of his fans encouraged him. But sometimes he didn’t feel worthy of their admiration. He did have his demons. Many times he had turned to Natalie to help slay his dragons.

She watched the man in the video. The face was familiar, same nose, same mouth, even the half smile looked vaguely familiar. But she didn’t really recognize this man. This wasn’t her Chris. A few tears began to fall down her cheek and she didn’t bother to wipe them away. She knew there would be more. There always were.

At some point, Natalie didn’t know exactly when, Chris had begun to change. It was so slight that she didn’t really notice in the beginning. It wasn’t until much later that she began to put the pieces together. By then it was too late.

Chris had stopped asking Natalie to help him fight his demons. She didn’t know why; she didn’t understand what had happened. Their friendship continued, albeit in a completely different tone. He became more and more distant. It became more of a chore than a pleasure to be around him. When she finally confronted him about it he became defensive. They had fought and she backed down for the sake of their relationship. Being in his life, in whatever capacity he would allow, was what mattered because she was genuinely concerned for him.

Chris had always suffered from anxiety. He had sought treatment and even publicly admitted it. Natalie believed maybe he hadn’t done enough. Perhaps he thought he could handle it once he admitted to having anxiety. That the fans would understand and accept his behavior and he wouldn’t have to change anything. Maybe it had just bottled up inside of him. She could only guess because Chris had stopped confiding in her.

With each successive movie playing Captain America his popularity surged and their friendship dimmed. She saw a change in him, in his personality, in his values, in his choices. They were subtle. To an outsider maybe, it wasn’t even perceptible. But to Natalie the change was there. He wasn’t her Chris anymore. He was becoming a stranger.

Natalie had lived in Los Angeles long enough to know that Hollywood was a rough game. It could change even the strongest person. Chris had a great family and a strong moral background but she was seeing a shift in everything he had once stood for. He put forth the same public persona. The fans saw what they had always seen. But behind the scenes his life was getting messier.

Natalie hit the replay button and the video started again. The dog was new. She hadn’t seen Dodger before. She was glad Chris had found a new friend. She knew how much he missed East. Still, looking at this video … she tried to tell herself he was just tired. But she knew it was much more.

She avoided watching any of Chris’ appearances anymore. He looked like he didn’t want to be there. His eyes, once sparkling and alive were now dull and vacant. He had lost the shine that always captivated her. Somehow she always saw glimpses of his appearances anyway and ended up watching. She tried to act nonchalantly about it but she had been his friend for too long to just quit. She cared too much, even if he had written her out of his life, even if she had stopped trying to fight him, to see what was happening to him.

Over the last several months he looked defeated. Like he had given up, or had stopped caring. She desperately wanted to call him, wanted to sit next to him on the couch, side by side like they used to and just talk for hours. She wanted her Chris back.

By the end of the filming of Civil War, Natalie had enough. She sat down with Chris and had a heart to heart talk. She expressed her concerns about the changes she was seeing in his behavior, in his actions, in his spirit. He didn’t have the same sense of heart that he’d had before. Chris dismissed her. He was defensive but he managed to keep his emotions under enough control that they came to a détente. They had a polite dinner where they exchanged small talk and he gave her just enough charm to convince her that he was okay, at least he wasn’t going to have a melt-down.

He left to film another movie and, as was sometimes the case, Natalie only got one or two short texts from him that things were going well. She had a strange feeling that things would never be the same. Unfortunately, she was right.

He finished filming and went back to Massachusetts to spend time with his family. Not an uncommon occurrence. But he stopped talking to her. He didn’t return her calls. He didn’t return her texts. It wasn’t until she threatened to text his mother that he would finally send a cryptic text that he was okay, just busy. Natalie had a sick feeling in her core that this was the beginning of the end of their friendship.

She started off in denial. She threw herself into her work, refusing to think about Chris and his odd behavior. As long as she didn’t think about him or see how he was acting she didn’t have to wonder if they would ever speak again. She didn’t try to contact him. She thought maybe giving him space would alleviate some of the pressure he seemed to be under.

She had always tried to keep a good balance between her work, friends and romantic lives. Now everything in her life was chaotic. Her boyfriend had picked up on her deep concern for Chris and was getting frustrated, angry and jealous that she spent so much time worrying about Chris. They had more than a few fights about Chris and by February they had called off their two-year relationship. Natalie was heart-broken, feeling as if she had lost two men at once.

She came to find it was ironic timing. Chris was back in LA for a while, he would soon be doing the press tour for Captain America Civil War, but he had yet to call her. And it seemed that he had changed more than she initially thought. She left message after message for him but only received a few texts saying he was too busy with publicity to call her. Her heart almost broke in two pieces, knowing this was really the end. She didn’t know the worst was yet to come.

When the rumors finally broke Natalie was furious. With Chris for keeping this from her, for not calling her or seeking her help or guidance or even asking any legal questions, and most of all for being a strange person that she didn’t recognize. This wasn’t the charming, funny, self-deprecating, humble, inspirational man she had come to love. She didn’t know who he was anymore. It was almost as if he didn’t know who he was either. And he didn’t seem to care.

She tried to talk to him. She called but when she started to speak he told her to let him live his own life now and hung up on her.

Natalie cringed inwardly as she watched the video, even though she already knew what was coming. He was sloppy, awkward, and he didn’t seem to have any purpose behind his words. It was an empty message. The words were there but the feeling was missing. Again, to an ordinary person maybe it looked okay but Natalie could see beyond the words. There was no sparkle in his eyes. He had lost his shine. He looked tired and defeated and weary. He had lost his fight and his spirit. Her heart broke in pieces all over again and this time the tears flowed freely. She paused the video and put her fingers to the screen, as if she could feel his face under her fingertips. “Goodbye old friend.” She closed the lid of the laptop, dropped her head in her hands and let the sobs come.


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