Author's note: OMG. IT IS HERE! The ending. One hundred and thirty-one pages of writing. Countless hours of love and devotion, of over-thinking and overwhelming, a combination of days of non-stop writing and periods of too long abandonment.
I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but a sequel is in the works. I don't want to write something and then abandon it later, so if I get a good bit of writing in, I'll give myself a reason to continue writing. Look for "The Unfortunate on the Landing" in the future. Just know it won't all be based on Giggles. There are plenty of other dark characters in my mind who want to come out to play. ;)
If you liked this story, please, I encourage you to let me know. I know a lot of people have been following this from the beginning, so if you've remained silent this whole time, let me know if I've wrapped it up all right. Thanks to everyone for reading! I've loved having you as an audience!
Three weeks after the shootout at Giggles' house, Brennan found herself in her office at the Jeffersonian pouring over WWII soldiers' notes and X-rays, in much the same way she had passed every day since then. The work was tedious but familiar, just the sort of useful employment that Brennan had come to love in recent days. And best of all, it didn't involve working with Seeley Booth.
Angela sat opposite her. "Sweetie, you should talk to him," she said as if reading her mind. "You haven't answered one of his calls in weeks. He's really worried about you. He was only trying to protect you. David was the one who pointed the gun at you—"
Brennan had stopped listening. Angela had unknowingly thrust her back to the moment in the warehouse when two opposing bullets exploded from their respective guns. The brilliant flash of igniting gun powder illuminated the pale visage of her boyfriend, David Simmons, and not the serial killer, Hubert Giggles, as she had expected. Why he was there and firing at them, she had no idea. All she did know was that the bullet he had actually fired wasn't at all intended for her. It missed her by more than six feet, slamming into the thick wall to her left. So why fire at all? Had he been in the warehouse when she confessed that she didn't love him, and even if he had been, was that reason enough to contemplate killing her? The ludicrous scenario that he was in cahoots with Giggles the whole time tickled the back of her brain; she knew it was crazy, but that didn't stop the macabre wheels from turning. What other explanation could there be?
She didn't love David. When she told Giggles that, she had meant it. She did not feel guilty about not loving him. She told herself she did not feel guilty for not loving him. She insisted that she did not feel guilty about not loving him. And yet despite these protestations, there was something sour and squeamish that roiled in the pit of her stomach. It was agony not knowing.
"Brennan, are you listening to me?"
A deafening roar and the hot smell of gun powder laced with blood flooded the hallway as the silhouette crumpled to its knees. A heart beat later, so did Temperance Brennan.
She had seen the face of the shooter, pale white with the veil of death. David Simmons flopped backwards as though some puppeteer had finally severed his marionette's strings. His limbs fell in a jumble; somehow he didn't even look real.
Brennan sat motionless on her knees. She was relatively sure she heard Booth utter a series of "no's" in horror before radioing desperately for help. Ironically, it came instantaneously. HRT stormed the warehouse, paramedics in the midst of the cluster. If they had been there just moments before, David would have been alive, Giggles would have been captured, and life would have continued much as it always had.
But David was dead. Her boyfriend of sorts. They had never been formal on the matter—Brennan hadn't allowed him to be—but she supposed she had always associated him with that idea in her own mind. He left things at her place and she at his, things she would now have to recollect because he could never return home—toothbrushes, shampoo, clothes, a couple of Dizzy Gillespie CDs. The anguish and the distress were overwhelming. Someone who had been there for her would no longer be. She had silenced his phone call earlier that day, and now Booth had silenced him forever. Bitter, spiteful irony.
Scenarios raced through her brain which explained how David could be Giggles and not at the same time. The simplest explanation was usually the right one, but Brennan could not think, not now.
An EMT gathered her up in a blanket. It was warm that night, warm enough that sweat gathered along her brow, trailed down her spine and tickled the small of her back, but she accepted the blanket immediately. Swaddled in its thick folds, there was the small comfort that she was getting away from the scene as fast as she could. She had no interest in investigating the warehouse for clues, no desire to see the ashen flesh of her one-time lover.
As the EMT led her out of the dank pit, she glanced over her shoulder, not at David but at Booth, who was talking stonily to another agent. He looked shell-shocked. She knew the moment he was alone, he would beat himself into the ground. She wanted to run to him, to collapse into him as he would into her, and together they would drown their confusion and sorrows in the comfort of each other's secure embrace. No matter what he had just done to David, he was still her Booth, and they would share each other's pain as no one else could. But the paramedic guided her toward an ambulance, and she went, stealing one last glance at the man who had shot her boyfriend.
Time had not helped stitch up the wound. In fact, it had made things worse, perhaps even pulled it farther apart. Working with Booth since that day had proven near impossible. Every time she saw him, Brennan heard illusory gunshots or smelled hot gunpowder. His words often came across as a dull hum, like the ringing left in her ears after the guns had gone off, and this was only around Booth. Things had grown so uncomfortable, she had sequestered herself in her office and refused to return his phone calls, leaving her team of squints to worry over her absence.
That left the duty of confronting their boss up to Angela, who keenly saw the longing in her friend's eyes. Brennan wanted to be normal again, and Angela perceived that clearer than anyone else in the lab could have, especially after having lost her boyfriend Kirk in the desert not that long ago. She knew all too well what it was to feel disconnected and alone.
Brennan finally realized her friend had asked her a question and snapped out of her morbid reverie. "What? I'm sorry, Ange, I was thinking about a case."
Angela bit the inside of her bottom lip. "You know, you don't have to put up such a front. This is your office, and you can be as open and honest in here as you want. I know you're still hurting."
Without warning and with no way to stop them, tears prickled in the corners of Brennan's eyes. "I can't, Angela. I can't say what I'm thinking anymore without that sick feeling that I'm being spied on. Hubert Giggles escaped that scene with ease, and there's been no sign of him. The rational, anthropological side of me knows that he's made a connection with me—that he believes we share a common culture—and that means he'll be watching me just as he had been. I can't let him in anymore."
"So you're just going to keep us all out?"
"I don't know," she said. Her voice broke, but she quickly stabilized. She imagined this was precisely the sort of scene Giggles would hope for and she'd denied him for weeks. "I don't know what else to do."
"Live your life," Angela said, gripping Brennan's forearm tightly. "Live your life fuller and bigger than you ever did before. We can't do anything about that man yet, but we will. We always catch the bad guy here, don't we." It wasn't a question, and Brennan knew her best friend was right. They were exceedingly good at what they did, and when Giggles did come back for more, they would have him.
Brennan discreetly wiped her eyes with the back of her index finger. She sniffled again—couldn't help it—and said slowly, "Booth shot David."
Angela continued rubbing her friend's arm and staring her in the eyes. "He was trying to protect you."
"I realize that, I do. Every part of me knows that he would never do anything to hurt me, but if you'd seen it. The gun flare, it was like the flash of a camera, and I can't wipe that image of David's death mask from behind my eyes. I don't know how to talk to Booth anymore. Every time I open my mouth to speak to him, nothing comes out. I see David's face, and I freeze. None of this makes sense."
"No more sense than David holding a gun on you in the first place."
"Actually, he never actually did that." There was a small knock on the door, and both of the ladies looked up to see who had just spoken. It was Booth. He was holding a red folder in his hand. A shiver traveled through Brennan's body when she wondered with some horror how much he had heard.
They held one another's gaze for an eternity. Brennan felt the gritty feeling in her mouth again. Images were muddled one on top of the other. Kissing David in the parking lot, kissing Booth in the hallway, gunfire, Giggles' arms, rats in dark, a flashlight going out, mutilated animals on a front porch. They overlapped and blended so seamlessly that she could hardly differentiate when they had happened or even whether they were real.
Brennan caught the sharp intake of breath as Booth at last volunteered to speak. Angela, who had been forgotten on that couch, remained touching her friend. She knew she would have to leave them alone soon enough, but she would lend all of her strength to Brennan for as long as she possibly could.
"It was Giggles all along. Fingerprints on the bullets and butt of the gun confirm Giggles was puppeting him, using our eyes and," he paused momentarily, "our hearts to confuse us. David was already dead when I shot him."
Booth laid the folder on the corner of Brennan's desk and stepped back from it like was a bomb. He examined her carefully as she reached out, her lithe frame flowing as gracefully as it always had, and flipped through its content. She was lovely to watch, even at a distance. Her poise and determination made her irresistible to any man with taste. Booth watched mournfully, terrified that their partnership was on the brink of destruction, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He had shot her boyfriend in a moment of extreme carelessness. Always acquire a positive visual. It was his sniper code, but his heart had overwhelmed his mind, and his snap judgment led to consequences that he could never have foreseen in that moment. His only goals had been to save her life and preserve their partnership. From such innocent hopes came incomprehensible tragedy. To see her so scared and alone, well, it didn't just break his heart, it wrest him in two.
"What is it, sweetie?" Angela asked when she noticed her friend's contemplative face. It was the closest look to the normal Brennan that she'd seen in ages.
"David's autopsy notes. Cause of death was blunt trauma to the lungs—his right lung was punctured with a standard eight-inch kitchen knife. The gunshot was a secondary, postmortem wound to the heart."
Booth amended softly, "Nothing we could have done would have saved him."
Brennan shook her head. "You still shot him," she said. She didn't mean to sound accusatory, but she couldn't reconcile these feelings—that her partner had intended to kill her boyfriend. Whether or not he was dead in the first place, Booth had taken a kill shot. She knew she could forgive him, perhaps she already had, but she didn't know what to do with these memories, these visuals. She still didn't talk to her brother Russ because she felt he had abandoned her after her parents' disappearances, so what would happen between Booth and her?
Angela knew now was as good a time as any to leave these two alone and encourage the healing process. She stood up and said, "I just remembered some pressing sketches Dr. Goodman left on my desk. I've got to take care of them." She squeezed Brennan's shoulder for a moment and whispered, "I'll be right down the hall if you need me. I love you, Brenn." Brennan didn't say anything, but Angela could read in her eyes how grateful she was. She promptly turned and left the partners to themselves.
Booth took the opportunity to ease further into the room and position himself close to Brennan. "Phone records show Giggles placed a three-minute call to David's house right around the time you pulled up to his place. He must have been watching for you, and when he saw you, he called David. Probably posed as a friend or an agent, told him you were in danger, that he should come down to the scene. When he showed up, Giggles ambushed him, stabbed him through the back with the knife. He died quickly."
"Then it's my fault," she said with the sudden revelation.
"No, no, no, Bones. You don't take life away—you can't. You don't have that within you. You give life back."
Brennan laughed bitterly. "Give one example."
"Grant Fine, Malcolm Green." Brennan was silenced. "You set them free. Fine can now move on with his life—he has closure. And without your conviction of his innocence, who knows where the evidence might have led us? And you freed an innocent man. Malcolm Green will get to breathe fresh air and rent an apartment and sleep in a room of his own. You made that all possible because you knew that something wasn't right. You knew it wasn't right, and you never stopped searching for the truth." She remained quiet, but Booth pressed on:
"Giggles set us up. The bastard had the whole thing planned from the minute we rang his doorbell. That ringmaster ran this show the entire time no matter what we thought or did. I should have listened to you, Bones. I should have listened all along." He paused as she swallowed hard to take this all in. "And there's something else you should know.
"When they Luminoled the warehouse walls for blood, the place looked like a Jackson Pollack painting. Tests revealed three other blood types in addition to the Ruhs' A negative: A positive, AB positive, and O positive."
Brennan's eyes sparked with life for a moment as she realized there was more work to do, more people to identify. "That means there are at least three other women he's killed. At least. And we know one of those women was Jenna."
Booth shook his head grimly. "Actually, DNA results on the various samples conclude eight women in all, not including the Ruhs. And since we don't have a DNA sample from Jenna we can compare the results to, we can't be sure if she's there."
"She is," Brennan asserted. If she was certain of anything, it was that Giggles hadn't lied about that conquest.
"Forensic dating shows he's been doing this as far back as seven years ago."
"Then we may never know who those women are," she whispered.
There was silence and then Brennan buried her face in her hands, her shoulders racked with sobs. Booth reached out to her, but his hand stopped short of her shoulder. "Bones, I'm sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen. You're the last person in the world I would ever want to hurt, and I understand if you want to break off the partnership. I can request a transfer—"
Her head shot up and she grabbed Booth's gaze with her tear-stained eyes. "No," she said aghast. Her hand struck out and grasped his wrist; her grip was so tight, Booth could feel the blood throbbing in his veins. "Don't. Please, don't leave."
In an instant, Booth rounded her desk and had his arms around her. She buried her face into his neck, a place that had become increasingly familiar throughout the course of their relationship. She was reminded of the safety she felt here, of the time he had saved her from the mob's inside man at the FBI, Agent Kenton. She had almost died then, and he was there; now here she was, she felt like dying, and he was there with that same strong neck, that same soothing sandalwood-laced smell. "Everybody in my life dies. It's the poison of my job, it spreads to everything I touch."
"I'm still here," he said into her ear.
She pulled back and stared at him as though she had never seen him before. Here was her ally, the closest confidant she had ever had, even more a part of her than Angela was. The thought of Booth walking out of her life was enough to make her breath catch in her throat, for the sensation to go away in her limbs. "For how long though, Booth?"
"Forever, Bones, forever."