Warnings: One bad word. Dark themes.
Death is the Road to Awe
She found herself hesitating before the door that had once been a cheery and pleasantly unique home. Now, the deep oak only shut her out; harsh and unwelcoming. The very thought of opening it had her envisioning a dark void which provided the entry into nothingness. Associating such a thought to him, of all people, left her with a cold feeling in her chest. She debated knocking, but knew the occupant wouldn't answer.
Making a decision, she took the knob in her hand, turned, and pushed open the door gently. From where she stood at the threshold, everything looked as it always had—nothing out of place. But the familiar space gave her an eerie feeling now, and though the room was dotted with furniture and a few pictures to decorate the walls, it felt incredibly empty.
Taking a slow, calming breath, she stepped in and made her way into the living room, her heels echoing hollowly on the wooden flooring. Everything around her was clean—too clean. She stood there, in place, for a healthy amount of time, taking in her surroundings. Finally, she was about to voice her presence when the need to dissipated.
Feeling his indistinct presence, she quickly turned her head in the direction of the kitchen, which adjoined the living room and dining room, separated by a small walk space. Leaning against the island cabinet which resided near the center of the culinary room, his shape was unmistakable. He wore a pair of black cargo pants and had his arms crossed aloofly over a simple black tshirt—the dark attire giving him added height as well as making him appear a solid shadow.
His normally warm chocolate eyes matched his clothing entirely: jet-sable and as bottomless as the depths of oblivion. The dark circles surrounding them added to his ominous and rather ghostly appearance, as well as the rough stubble all along his jaw.
Angela shifted distractedly, watching her friend with worry. "Booth?"
He remained unresponsive, staring off into nothing. She took a cautious step forward—not fearing him, of course, but wishing not to startle him if he was lost in some sort of reverie. It was then that she took note of the bottle of whiskey that was sitting against the surface of the island not far from his form.
Her suspicions arose, but she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. She did, however, happen to notice that the bottle looked rather full. "Seeley, have you been drinking?"
"No." He appeared to drift out of his stupor for the time being, blinking, though not meeting her gaze.
His voice was different somehow. Though, his mind apparently processed her query, because he then twisted around and nudged the bottle, tipping it forward absentmindedly, deliberating.
"Booth, look at me."
Following his lack of compliance and gained ability at ignoring her, she moved forward, coming around the island opposite him and not giving him a choice. The eyes she'd thought were tired looked across at her now with an unsettling chill. They were clouded, yes, but not with alcohol, as she'd first assumed. Something else entirely. They were glazed over with a cold steel that sent an involuntary shiver down her spine.
She found that Seeley Booth was most dangerous when he didn't speak. When he was still and without definite expression. The FBI agent and former-Ranger was surrounded by inclusive silence. And his face held the coldness of a stone statue. It was equally unresponsive.
Angela, however, could feel the waves of hostility and rage wafting off him like smoke. Glancing past him, she finally noticed the twin duffle bags and a case that was unidentifiable to her memory. One duffle bag was black, much like his chosen wardrobe, but the other was a familiar shade of green. BOOTH had been painted on one side, faded now with age and use. She felt a heavy sinking in her chest, and found her attention drawn painfully then to the mysterious case. She was getting an idea of just what it might be, and she wasn't liking it at all.
"You're going back there, aren't you?" Her fine eyebrows arched upwards in a pained and despairing expression. "Booth, the Bureau could suspend you. Worse, maybe—"
"Fuck them." His utterance shocked her. He found that, inwardly, it even surprised himself. He'd said the words with a callous edge immediately upon her cautioning. But now, he hung his head slightly and his following words came out barely above a whisper. "They're the reason she's lost."
That word tugged on the artist's heartstrings painfully. "The search parties are shipping out again tomorrow." Her voice was quiet. "At least, that's what Cullen told me after I pleaded with him for any information." She stalled her voice for a moment before looking to him again. "Please tell me you're packed to meet up with them."
Instead of replying, he moved away from the island and stepped into the living room, his boots thumping against the floor. There was a long end-table that stretched across the back of the couch. Booth reached over the bench-like contraption and down below the sofa's front. His hand disappeared from her sight, but when it came back into view, the thing he held made her blood run cold.
The Barret M82 rifle shone dangerously in the low lighting of the Agent's home. Angela held back a gasp, her stomach dropping. He set it carefully on the surface of the waist-level table, smoothing his hands over it carefully, his fingers barely grazing the life-taking metal.
She knew now what the case in his living room was for. "Oh, my God…"
Booth wasn't listening. Or, at least, he couldn't hear her; his gaze boring into the dangerous weapon. Not an hour before her arrival, he had removed each fragment of the sniper rifle. He'd begun to piece it together, seated on his couch, slowly and like a puzzle. Each part that snapped perfectly into place had echoed in his mind, haunting him.
Each internal locking of pieces rejoined, sealed, brought back every agonizing memory. One nightmare at a time. A reliving of his past in brilliant, derisive Technicolor.
His breath trembled in his lungs, and he pulled his hands away from the instrument of destruction as if touched by fire. A lump formed in his throat that he found himself unable to swallow.
"Why do you still have that?" he heard Angela's shaken query just behind him.
He remembered all of them. Each kill. Each one seared into his memory like a brand. Each hollow bullet shell that had ejected had signified a piece of himself, his soul, dying. A little bit at a time. When he'd finally been sent home, he couldn't consider himself a person. He wasn't living. He was simply existing. He didn't react, or feel. He only echoed.
His stare was set hard against the black steel. He reached out and brushed his fingers tentatively across the scope. "A reminder."
He also remembered what had changed him. Touched his heart with saving grace. He'd been a rather cold man after returning home. Not cruel or pitiless. Just cynical and a little uncaring. Until her.
The first time he'd met her, he'd felt his breath returning to him. He had finally begun to feel once more. Before her, he never really could. He couldn't even cry over the things he'd done. He was hollow.
A broken man.
She hadn't really meant to hold such sway over him—elicit such an effect. Maybe that was part of the cause—her lack of understanding her importance. With every glance of oceanic pools, any touch: clinical or heartfelt… every instance in her presence... he felt himself breathing easier. Each tiny miracle of her looks, her touches, her very involvement in his life, began to restore bits of life to him. Where the shots had taken away, she gave back. She restored.
She was his elixir.
The first day he'd met Dr. Temperance Brennan, he'd been annoyed. Inconvienced by the need for a partner. He'd never worked well with partners, least of all those Vulcan scientists. But with her, it was an even worse impression... she'd stirred something within him. He'd been so accustomed to his newly adopted way of life that he felt downright belligerent toward any hint of change. Nevertheless, that night when he'd gotten home, he wept. Nothing held him back. He'd sobbed beside his bed, on his knees with his face in the crook of his arm, clutching at the sheets with shaking hands. He'd cried himself to sleep: able to feel, at last, and not knowing why.
She made him real.
It went beyond affection and caring—beyond even love. He could not function properly without her. He couldn't live without her.
"You're not that person anymore, Seeley." He heard Angela assure him earnestly. He could hear the tears in her voice.
He allowed her words to sink in, mulling over them carefully. He blinked slowly, looking back down at the M82. "No." He wasn't, she was right. He remembered then why he'd started packing—the purpose behind his solo mission.
That was how he felt now.
Her absence was enough to break him, both mentally and physically. He swore he was even becoming ill without her in his life. He was certain she was brushing off on him, because it was completely irrational for someone to physically need another to survive. He couldn't understand it. Perhaps it was the situation. Having her lost. Abandonned somewhere in a dark hellhole, struggling to survive, despite being afraid of what tomorrow could bring. He'd swore he'd never leave her. Never betray her. And so he couldn't just stand back and wait for the authorities to uncover her. Doing nothing was unacceptable.
"But I remember." His voice had a creeping, underlying edge to it, and Angela knew he wasn't finished. A muscle in his jaw tightened, and he glared at the weapon that would soon become his only ally. He suddenly seized it in his hands, no longer afraid of the fire. "And I can get there." He snapped back the bolt, causing Angela to flinch, and checked for stray bullets in the chamber. Upon its emptiness, he moved around to replace it in its case. The chamber would not be empty for long. He could get to that place, that level, again. He could find it. For her.
Angela's gaze had dropped to the floor. Fearing to move, she glanced away from him as he worked. Her attention was snagged by a small circular container on the table which had sheltered the rifle. She reached forward, towards the trademark war paint of a soldier, tentatively touching her hand within. Drawing back, she studied the dark smear on her skin—what she knew would soon become a mask for the man before her.
That was what she felt. That was all she saw now.
Her friend had transformed. A Man no more, but a Soldier. He was back.
Even though she knew what he was doing—what he premeditated to do—was wrong, she could only be grateful. She was never so certain of her appreciation of having Seeley Booth on her side than she was in this moment. If anyone could find Brennan, she knew who that person would be.
His sudden lack of movement caught her eye, and she noticed him standing, still, staring at a photo frame. One duffle bag was already slung over a broad shoulder. Finally finding her legs, she carefully moved over to stand beside him. The photo, unsurprisingly, was one of he and Brennan. Booth had his arms around her, dipping her as if in some spur of the moment dance. Brennan had her head tipped back, laughter on her lips and in her eyes. Her curls fell over her shoulders in a sea of auburn, one of Booth's hands smoothed over them at her back as he flashed his charming grin at her.
The photo touched the artist with both hope and ache. Her vision blurred and she felt the sting behind her gaze. She looked over at her companion and saw the glistening of tears in his eyes.
Booth was still in there. She wondered if she would ever see him again.
"I don't suppose you'd hear me out—if I tried to persuade you against this search-and-destroy-everything-in-your-way mission?" she tried quietly.
She watched him swallow before letting out a shaky breath. "I don't think you'd put up a very good argument." His voice, to her, sounded dull and torn.
"No. I guess not." With that, before he could object, she pulled him into a desperate, sideways sort of embrace. She held him closely, squeezing her eyes shut tightly and allowing several stray teardrops to escape and dampen his shirt. "If you go and get yourself killed, Booth, I'll never forgive you."
After a moment, she felt his free arm come around and return the affection. They were both quiet for a moment before his voice sounded beside her in just more than a whisper. "I'll get her back, Ange. I swear to you. I won't come back without her."
And those responsible will pay.
She nodded against him, sniffing back more tears, and pulled away, watching him carefully as he bent down and began to gather up the rest of his belongings. When all was finished, he grabbed his jacket last. He stood then, unmoving, waiting. The light in the room ended just before his still form, leaving him engulfed in shadows.
Appearing to have reached a decision and mental preparation, he spun and stepped into the light, moving past the artist. The shadow now fell over his face, which was a thundercloud of raw emotion. A fierce determination had settled over him.
Mercy would be forgotten.
The boy he had been, before war… he had grown into a man. And now, that same man would become a single force. He didn't have time for the hope that his Bones would forgive him.
Those guerrilla bastards, the commis, the soldiers—whoever they were, they had awakened a guardian's fury. The fury and rage of which would soon be unleashed. It bubbled now like molten lava, just beneath the surface, waiting to be called forth. It was a tool. A tool of devastation that his enemies would soon be familiar with.
He hesitated by the door, knowing the artist was watching him.
Turning his head to the side, he spoke over his shoulder even though his gaze was downcast. "I was going to tell her, you know." His voice had grown soft, and it held an underlying fracture. "The day before she left."
Angela sniffed, wiping her eyes, watching after him sadly. "Tell her what?"
His eyes held a bit of their former light now, but they did not shine with cheer or boyish charm. They were deeply saddened, and even a little regretful. "Everything," he whispered. With that, he was moving for the door again, stepping through, but not before Angela's last parting words reached his ears.
"Bring her home, Seeley."
He had every intention. Bones would know Home again. No matter what the cost, or how many lives he had to demolish to ensure it.
Her grim-faced protector would soon become the grim-reaper. To achieve this, the old Booth had to face his ghost. He would die; forgotten and left behind. Someone else, something more than a man, would take his place.
A dealer of death would rise from the ashes.
In this bloody dawn
I will wash my soul
To call the spirit of vengeance
To deny my wisdom for anger
To break the scream of the silent fool
And to be the Son of Doom.