TITLE: Second Chances
SPOILERS: "The Skull in the Desert"

"Would you like us to drop you off at your place, Ange?"

Angela Montenegro turned weary eyes toward her best friend, Temperance Brennan, and her partner, Seeley Booth, who were standing side-by-side in front of her at the baggage claim at Dulles. She shook her head and replied somberly, "No, I'll just go wherever you guys are going."

"Well..." Booth exchanged a look with Brennan. "We were going back to the lab. Paperwork and tying up loose ends with the case and all."

"Then I'll go to the lab with you."

Brennan stepped forward and placed a hand on her friend's shoulder supportively. "Are you sure you don't just want to rest, Ange? It's been a stressful trip for you."

Angela closed her eyes to get a grip on her rising anger and managed to reply softly, but shakily, "It's fine. I'll just go back with you."

She glanced up to see Booth touching his partner's arm, pulling her back. "We'll just take her to the lab with us, Bones. It's what she wants." He then nodded toward the exits with their luggage in his hands. "This way."

Booth and Brennan took the lead and Angela lagged behind, her heart sinking when she watched Booth's hand float instinctively to the small of Brennan's back. She closed her eyes again. Kirk used to do the exact same thing to her. It was times like this that it really killed her how perfect her friends were for each other.

She was silent in the backseat all the way back to the lab. She could tell, from glancing in the rearview mirror, that Brennan noticed her silence. But she also noticed that whenever she was about to comment on it, Booth would give her a look and a slight shake of his head and she would keep quiet. Angela sighed every time this happened. Silent communication. Another plus of being with Kirk.

She had berated herself since he'd gone missing. She should have said this at this time, she should have done this... she should have married him. That was the most prominent thought in her head.

However, if she had married him, would things have turned out any differently? She was a big believer in Fate -- the idea that everything happened for a reason and nothing can be done to change it. And she wanted to believe what Brennan had told her -- that no event is unique, and that she would get a second chance. The problem was... Kirk was unique.

He let her lean on him, though she really didn't have a reason to. He could keep up with her level of playful banter and gave as good as he got. He was protective when he needed to be and let her have her independence when she wanted it. In short, he was the perfect guy, the 'Booth to her Brennan' as she used to like thinking of it.

She climbed out of the car when Booth parked in front of the Jeffersonian, not waiting for him to open her door for her or offer to carry her bags. It might kill her if he did. Chivalry was dead to most, but not to Booth, or Kirk. She didn't need any more reminders of Kirk today.

"Angela," Booth spoke up, predictably, upon shutting the driver's side door. "Do you want me to--"

"No, I got it." She gave him a tight smile, one which she knew was not hiding anything. "Thanks."

Once inside, Brennan gave her one last glance before nudging Booth toward her office. Angela sighed and watched them go, not missing how Brennan's hand lingered on his arm. She was happy to see that her friend was becoming more affectionate with her partner. Things between them really had changed since Booth had been blown up and Brennan had nearly been killed. They at least got pushed a little closer together.

Angela took a long look around the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal Lab, finding that, now that she was immersed in familiar surroundings, the incident with Kirk felt far-off and hazy... like a bad dream.

She made her way slowly toward her office, not spotting her usual two colleagues anywhere in sight. Hodgins was probably off cavorting with bugs and slime, and Zack was probably building another robot. She couldn't help but smile at that last thought, able to picture perfectly the boyish look of concentration Zack would get whenever he was trying to make something. Like a cute kid brother, she mused.

Angela sighed and pushed her office door open, kicking it again when it began to swing shut on her as she was still grappling with her bags. Once inside, she gasped at the pair of clear blue eyes to fill her line of vision. "What are you doing in here?"

Jack Hodgins rose from his spot on her couch, going over to help her with her bags despite her insistence that she could handle it. "I, uh... uh, Brennan called from the airport..."

Angela made a face -- when had she missed that? -- and tried to take her bags away from Hodgins. When he wouldn't let her carry them anymore, she tilted her head, wanting him to understand how much the uncharacteristically-chivalrous gesture was really hurting her.

"And I uh, I just wanted to... whoops!" He fumbled with her carry-on duffel bag for a moment before recovering and tossing it onto the couch. "Hope you didn't have any glassware in there. Anyway, I just wanted to see how... you were doing."

When he spun and she met his eyes, Angela sighed and closed her own. She'd never been shy about admitting to her infatuation with Hodgins' eyes, and currently those eyes were looking right through her. "I'm fine."

"No you're not. And that's Brennan's line. You can't use that."

She rolled her eyes. "Look, I really need to get some work done today, so would you please leave?"

"Brennan's making you work after what happened? Geez, she really is a slave-driver."

"She's not making me work, I just wanted to come back here."

"Why? Shouldn't you be, y'know... taking time off? Resting?"

Angela raised her eyebrows. "'Resting?'" she balked. "I'm not an invalid, Jack."

He nodded, blinking those clear blue eyes slowly. "I'm aware of that. But you lost somebody that you care about, and throwing yourself into your work isn't the answer."

She rolled her eyes again. "Right, and you know what the answer is?"

"Yes. Go home." He gestured toward the luggage now strewn on her couch. "I'll toss those in my trunk and I'll drive you home. You really shouldn't be here."

"First of all, you barely have a trunk in that little wind-up toy you call a car. Second of all..." She felt her voice falter slightly and she stopped, taking a moment to swallow and blink the emotion away.

Hodgins just egged her on with a knowing grin, raising his brows. "Second of all...?"

"Just leave." She reached for his shoulders and grasped them tightly, attempting to shove him toward her door.

He didn't move; just stood with his arms crossed over his chest, a smirk on his face taunting her. She huffed impatiently. "Hodgins, get out of here!"

"Or what? You'll kick my ass?" He chuckled. "Baby, I'd have you pinned to the door before you could even lift a finger."

Ignoring the brief electric wave that imagery sent through her, she shoved him again. "Get OUT, Jack! I'm in no mood to deal with this right now!"

But he still didn't budge. "Move me, and I'll go."

Angela met his eyes, searching them for ulterior motives, but she came up with nothing. So she shoved again. She pushed. She dug her nails into his biceps and leaned her weight against him while stepping with her feet. They ended up just sliding in place across the tile, and he still hadn't moved. She tried again and slipped -- this time, he caught her and held her up. "Angela."

She sighed in frustration and lifted her eyes to his. They held her gaze and for a moment she got lost. The blues were knowing, sympathetic, cajoling... a million things at once. And she crumbled.

She sunk against him, bursting into tears, wrapping her arms tight around his shoulders. Hodgins held her up, twining one arm around her waist while the other slid through her hair and down her back, comforting. While she cried, he whispered inane things in her ear, words of solace that he knew mattered not, but he still felt the need to whisper them.

And Angela, for once, let herself cling to someone, lean on someone. She buried her face in his neck and wept... for Kirk, for herself, for the life and love that she would never know now that it was too late.

Moments later, she had composed herself enough to pull away, but only just enough to meet his eyes. Hodgins still hadn't relinquished his grip on her waist, and she didn't exactly mind. "Take me home, Jack," she murmured tearfully, tremulously.

Hodgins nodded and hugged her again, "Yeah, okay," before pulling away and gesturing her to sit in the chair behind her desk. "I'll go tell Brennan."

Love it? Hate it? Think I should continue? And, if you answered 'yes' to the last one... any ideas for where I should take it? I'm always open to suggestion. ;)