Story Notes: I've always wondered what Booth's evening was like after he left Brennan at Wong Foo's and went home to Tessa at the end of The Man in the SUV. This is my way of filling in the blanks. Any questions, let me know.
A/N: As always thank you for reading and/or commenting; I appreciate it.
I fear I am broken and won't mend, I know...
I lay here not sleeping; now the long night has begun...
Oh angels in heaven, don't you care for me at all?
- Kate Rusby
When Booth walks in the door after 8:30, he is greeted by the smell of chicken and rice. He knows he's in trouble because Tessa's lips turn down at the corners when she comes out of the kitchen. "You said you'd be home at 7:00, Booth."
"I know. And I'm sorry. I got buried in paperwork and just lost track of time." The lie slips from his lips before he can raise his hands to catch it. She stands stiffly while he kisses her cheek, but her lips have softened by the time he starts undoing the buttons on his dress shirt. "I've gotta shower. Give me five minutes. Go ahead and start without me." He squeezes her shoulder and heads toward the bathroom.
Pausing in mid-step, he glances back over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
Not knowing what to say, he forces his lips into a smile and hopes it will fool her.
Booth picks at the chicken and rice on his plate because he should; it's what Tessa expects of him. Her blue eyes glint with questions for which he doesn't have answers, so he pretends not to see them. He chews and swallows, chews and swallows, tasting nothing. "This is great, Tessa," he says, nodding at his plate.
"Thanks. I tried something a little different with the chicken. Could you tell?"
"Mmhmm." he says, raising his eyebrows. "It's great," he repeats.
She sits up a little straighter in her chair, and he can tell she's pleased by the compliment.
"So, how was your day?"
The standard question catches him off-guard, though it shouldn't. Ignoring the full glass of wine Tessa set down in front of him, Booth reaches for his milk and takes a sip, buying himself a little time. Super, honey. I shot a man in the head. How was your day?
Quickly abandoning that option, he shrugs and wipes his mouth with his napkin. "Nothing exciting. Mostly deskwork. Catching up on paperwork. What about you?"
She smiles, and he knows she's excited about something. "Well, I'm reading this book on unsolved FBI cases. Did you know that..."
He lets her keep talking so he doesn't have to. It makes him feel like shit, but he makes the appropriate faces and interjects the occasional "Really? I didn't know that."
Sighing, Booth switches off his bedside lamp and rolls onto his side. The sheets rustle and the bed shifts when she slides in beside him. He keeps his eyes closed. Her arm snakes around him from behind. When her nails stroke over his stomach, he tenses, capturing her warm hand in his before it can drift down any further.
"What's wrong?" she murmurs.
Her breath by his ear and her breasts pressed against his back should turn him on, but they don't. Because she deserves better, he tries to keep the irritation out of his voice. "Nothing. It's just been a really long day, and I'm exhausted. That's all."
A long pause during which he listens to her breathe. Then she huffs an annoyed sigh and moves away from him. Relief floods him, and after that, guilt. "Good night," he says, and hates himself.
Though Tessa doesn't answer him immediately, eventually she sighs again. "Good night."
The red glow of the clock on his nightstand taunts him. Tired, but more tired of watching the minutes crawl by, Booth sits up and eases out of bed. He shuts the bedroom door behind him and walks to the living room, shivering at the touch of the cold wood floors on his feet. Without bothering to turn on any lights, he finds the couch and sits down, reaching for the tv remote. Knowing he won't be able to concentrate anyway, he mutes the sound and doesn't even try to watch the screen. Instead, he stares at the wall to his left and lets the light from the tv flicker just on the edge of his vision.
For a second, he closes his eyes and tries to pray. But the words don't come. His mind is empty. No, not empty; too full. Of things he doesn't want to give to God. Can't. What does it matter, if He sees everything anyway?
The tightness in his stomach doesn't ease, so he surrenders to it and opens his eyes.
For a second, his vision blurs. But Booth doesn't cry; there are no tears left in him. It would take an ocean to wash away what he carries inside him.
Then he blinks, and everything comes back into focus even sharper than before--the shadows on the wall, the light from the tv, the things he has done.
Today he took out a target.
His breath rattles in his throat.
No, today he took out another target.
"Is that how you make it easier? Calling him a target?" Brennan had asked him earlier.
Yes and no. Because it all came down to this—today he shot another man. And not from behind a scope, but close enough that the man looked into his eyes and saw death coming for him. Not the death he'd meticulously planned for himself, but death at the business end of Booth's gun.
The man wasn't a stranger. Not really. Farid Masruk.
He adds the name to his list and shakes his head.
He'd sat in Farid Masruk's home and talked to him. Sipped the tea he'd made for him and Brennan.
Farid Masruk had believed in God, not unlike him. Not his God. But still a god.
Booth remembers the warmth of Brennan's hand on his arm. "You saved so many people, Booth. Don't forget that," she'd said.
He tries not to forget. He wasn't just taking orders this time; he did what he had to do. Brennan had pushed him to shoot even before they'd gotten a look at the target's face. "He has all the markers, Booth."
But he'd hesitated. Because he'd needed to be sure. He'd needed a face.
Those seconds of hesitation could have cost them everything, but damn it, he'd needed to be sure before he took another life.
And yet there is no comfort in that. If Masruk had detonated the bomb before they'd positively id'd him, they'd all be dead.
Damned if he did, damned if he didn't.
Maybe he's just damned.
Shoulders slumped, Booth rubs his eyes and winces at how gritty they feel.
"You saved so many people, Booth. Don't forget that." The words echo in his head, and he recalls her eyes when she said them. There was no fear, no loathing. Just...understanding. If that was even possible.
This strange woman who was on a first name basis with death; maybe she did understand, just a little.
Maybe that's why he'd asked if she wanted another drink.
He sighs and thinks of Tessa, asleep in his bed right now. He can't tell her any of this. She's a lawyer. She fights with words, not bullets. What does she know about targets and trajectories, blood and bone?
Sometimes he wishes he knew a little less.
Though his eyes feel heavy and gritty, Booth knows from experience that he won't sleep tonight. So he changes the channel to ESPN and closes his eyes, remembering her hand on his arm...and trying to forget that today his list got one name longer.