A/N: This is a missing scene for 2x12 "Man in the Cell". I wanted to write fluffy Booth as dad fic, but Seely decided to mope.
He knew he should be happy. Parker had survived, more scared by him than by the encounter with Epps. Cam was alive and improving, thanks to Zack and Hodgins. And Epps, he was dead, as he would have been in a few months anyway. All in all Booth knew that he should be satisfied with the outcome of the case and pleased by the performance of his Bones' team under pressure.
But he couldn't stop hearing Parker crying or seeing Cam lying in a hospital bed with her skin pasty and a tube down her throat. He was haunted by the smell and taste of ash and the feel of skin sliding through his grasp. Epps had told Bones that everything would be her fault, but Booth knew better. He had failed to protect his people. It was all his fault.
Booth stared at the half-full bottle on his coffee table and the badge and gun resting beside it. He grabbed the bottle and swallowed deeply before slamming it back down as the alcohol scorched his throat. If he couldn't protect his people what good was he? He couldn't trace a sample of dirt back to its source. He couldn't create a face to go along with a skull or identify a skeleton at a glance. He couldn't even tell if a blow had come before or after death. His job was to protect the squints and to add weight and authority to their investigation.
Booth stroked a hand over his gun and sighed. Someone had given Bones a gun. Now he really was redundant. He wondered if she'd really chosen it because it was bigger than his. He doubted she could hit the broad side of a barn, but she'd looked so strong and confident, standing in her apartment, facing down their worst nightmare. Part of him wished he had let her shoot Epps, but he wouldn't wish what he was feeling on anyone. Not that she would necessarily have reacted the way he had.
He still couldn't quite get a read on her. Her sense of morality, of right and wrong, seemed oddly flexible. But only earlier that day she had questioned his ability to delineate criminals as good or bad. Would the fact that she had killed have outweighed the fact that the dead man was a horrific monster? Apparently it still did for him. This was, after all, why he had left the Army.
The phone rang. Booth placed his gun back on the table and crossed the room to answer it.
"Seely, I just wanted to make sure you could take Parker tomorrow. Rose said you had a tough case this week, that you were freaking out over a guy talking to Parker."
He gave a short bark of laughter. "It's fine. We wrapped that up this evening. I'll be there at 9."
Booth hung up the phone and moved towards his bathroom, instead of back to the couch. The time for wallowing was over. Bones, Zack, Cam, and Parker were fine and Howard Epps would never kill again.