A/N: A few weeks ago, I heard "When I See You Smile" by Bad English...and along with memories of junior high days, I suddenly had a fragment of a one-shot in my head. It took some time to make its way onto the page, but I just couldn't shake the image. So here we are...hope you enjoy! -AnaG
She leaned back in her chair, unable to concentrate on the words on the monitor in front of her
She leaned back in her chair, unable to concentrate on the words on the monitor in front of her. There wasn't any mystery to her distraction tonight. She was worried about him. He'd told her that he was alright and provided a full-wattage charm smile as proof. But she knew him well enough by now to notice how the smile didn't reach his eyes. Well enough to know that what had happened today was weighing heavily on him. If only he would…
The trill of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. She reached for it, a small measure of relief forming when she saw the name registered on the display.
"Hey, Bone Lady. This is…"
"Sid? But I thought….what are you doing with Booth's phone? What's wrong?"
She was surprised when her worry was met with a deep chuckle.
"Nothing wrong here, not that a gallon of coffee and about a dozen aspirin won't cure."
"What? I don't understand."
"Not much to explain. Let's just say that G-man of yours tried to drown some of his sorrows and needs a ride home."
"Oh. I'm on my way."
As the door closed behind him and he stepped into the dark coolness of the room, Booth felt the first hint of separation from the day's events. The suits from the Office of Professional Responsibility had taken his statement and his gun and were back at the Bureau hammering out their report and "recommendations". Brennan, with her worried glances and probing questions, was back in her own office. Now, all he needed was a few minutes of peace and quiet, a huge cup of coffee and a slice of pie and he could start to put the rest of it behind him.
But even as he strode in the direction of the bar, he knew that he hadn't come here looking for comfort food. He'd come here to forget.
So he wasn't surprised in the least, when Sid, after his usual silent appraisal, had placed a single glass and a bottle in front of him.
A generous pour, the splash of liquid against glass, and the count began.
She pressed the heel of her palm against the horn as the black sedan wedged itself in front of her and then hit the brakes. Frustrated, she stared at the line of cars between herself and the red light ahead.
Where had they all come from? Leave it to D.C. traffic to choose this hour of the night to stage one of its famous tantrums.
She rolled her eyes when the tell-tale motorcade passed through the intersection with requisite blue-and-red lights flashing. Great. Some politico wants a night at the opera or the…
Her eye fell on the digital clock glowing from the console of her car, irritation giving way to worry as she calculated minutes and distance.
Sid had said nothing was wrong, but she knew differently. She had seen the look on Booth's face as his eyes traveled from the body on the warehouse floor to the gun in his own hand.
The cars ahead finally began to inch forward, and she pressed her foot against the gas pedal, willing them to speed up. Her partner needed her.
Even if he was too damn stubborn to admit it.
He narrowed his eyes in concentration and attempted once again to focus on the line of upended glasses on the bar in front of him. Somewhere in the blurred margins of his mind, he knew that it was important that he know how many there were. But damn if he didn't keep losing count.
Shrugging his shoulders, he quickly poured another shot and downed it just as fast. In the end, it wasn't the number of glasses that mattered. No, that honor belonged to another number. The one he wished he could forget.
The man—no, make that the kid—the kid today made fifty-two.
Stupid kid. Twenty years old. Didn't he know better than to wave a gun at a federal agent? Especially one that had gotten really good at killing over the years and had the body count to prove it.
He might not know all of their names, but he knew the numbers. The speed and trajectory of the wind. The yardage between his scope and their bodies. How many bullets he had fired to bring them down.
Even drunk off his ass, he remembered every detail with a marksman's precision.
Thirty-two. Guatemala. A thousand yards, straight through the heart.
Sixteen and seventeen. Kuwait. Two bullets centered on white cloth from eight hundred yards.
In familiar, well-worn territory, the numbers came at him with rapid-fire speed.
Forty-eight. The horror show in the Balkans.
Fifty. Epps. Because no matter what Gordon-freaking-Gordon said, Epps would always, be fifty.
Fifty-one. The sadist clown.
And now fifty-two. God help him. Fifty-two.
He rubbed his palm over his face, wishing the images would go away. Knowing that they wouldn't. For every black mark against him that he managed to erase, it seemed that he was adding another to take its place.
Maybe Brennan was right. Maybe there was no cosmic balance sheet to correct. Only this.
He reached for the bottle again, ignoring Sid's raised eyebrow as he poured again.
Stupid kid. Stupid, goddamn kid.
She hurried through the entrance and into the room, intent on her mission. But she stopped short as soon as she saw him, sitting alone at the end of the bar. Seeing him there, listing over a line of empty glasses, the strong line of his shoulders broken into a defeated curve, she was suddenly faced with the true nature weight that he was carrying. And wondered if she would be able to…
"Hey there, Dr. Brennan."
Wordlessly, she turned to find Sid standing beside her, before turning her attention back to Booth.
"The number fifty-two mean anything to you?" Sid asked.
"No." But given what had happened that day, she had a theory, one that broke her heart. And one that she had no idea how to deal with.
"Well, he's been mumbling about it half the night. Rate he's going through the booze, couldn't make any sense of…"
"And you let him? Just let him keep drinking and drinking until…." Concern and anger leached into her voice as she turned on him.
"Hey, hey, Bone Lady. You know Sid don't steer nobody wrong. It was what he needed at the time."
"And now, Sid?" She asked, gesturing towards the bar. "Tell me. What does he need now?"
"Well, Dr. Brennan. That would be you."
"But…" She stared at him, nonplussed.
Sid gave her a quick wink and patted her on the shoulder.
"Like I said. Sid don't steer nobody wrong. Now, I'm gonna get you all some coffee. Something tells me you're gonna need it."
Booth shifted his legs in the cramped space, his bent knees brushing against the console as he focused on the cardboard cup in his hand. Coffee. He thought it was coffee. But this definitely wasn't his car. In fact, if he didn't know better, he would think it was…
The loud thunk of the car door closing startled him. He looked up to find Sid staring back at him through the window. That's right, he was at Wong Foo's, but….
He felt a hand on his own, firmly prying the coffee cup from his grip.
"Hey, that's my cof…."
He turned to his left to find Brennan in the drivers' seat beside him and forgot all about his hijacked coffee.
This was not good.
Mouth pressed into a thin line, she placed the cup into a holder and then looked ahead, eyes not meeting his.
"The coffee's hot. I don't want you to burn yourself."
Nope. Not good at all.
"Ah, c'mon, Bones. Don't be mad. It was just a few drinks."
"I'm not mad, Booth. I'm…"
Even through the haze, he saw the concern in her eyes and turned away from it.
"I'm fine. Really. Let's…let's just get outta here, okay?"
He could feel her studying him, expected some sort of retort, another push for information. But was surprised when he heard only the turn of the key in the ignition.
She sighed in relief when he fell onto the couch with a loud groan, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.
For a while, she hadn't been sure either one of them was going to make it from the car to his apartment in one piece. She had never seen him so…so lost. Wandering left of center as he tried to cross the lobby. Staring like a bewildered child at the numbered buttons on the elevator panel. Searching his pockets for the keys that Sid had confiscated.
But, she told herself, they had made it. And from the steady rhythm of his breathing, it seemed like any further discussion was out of the question.
Squaring her shoulders, she set about doing the best that she could in the meantime. A glass of water and a pair of aspirin on the table beside him. A small trashcan next to the couch, just in case.
Then, the only thing left was to make him as comfortable as possible. Trying not to wake him, she slid the heavy shoes from his feet and was trying to maneuver his legs onto the sofa, when she felt his hand encircle her wrist.
She stilled, and then slowly turned to find him staring at her, a clarity in his eyes that she hadn't seen since she'd arrived at Sid's.
"I'm sorry, Bones."
"Booth, you have nothing to apologize for. Nothing."
Both of them knew that she wasn't talking about his behavior that night. Just as both of him knew that he didn't believe her.
He didn't have to say it. It was there in his eyes, in the way he withdrew his hand from her arm.
She stared at him, unwavering.
"I know what you're thinking. And you're wrong."
"Temperance, you can't…"
"You're one of the good guys, Booth. Whether you choose to believe it or not."
He started to speak, but stopped. Instead he seemed to search her face, looking for some sign that she was placating him, but it wasn't there.
"You really believe that, don't you?"
"Yeah, Booth. I do."
She shook her head, then reached for the soft blanket that covered the back of the sofa and drew it over him. As she gently tucked the edges over his shoulders, she was unaware of the faint smile that formed on her face as his eyes began to drift closed.
"You know something, Bones?" He mumbled, his words beginning to fade. "When you smile at me like that, I…"
Thinking that he'd fallen asleep before he could finish the thought, she leaned away. And almost missed it.
She wanted to ask him what he meant, but the cadence of his breathing told her that he was already asleep. Besides, she had a theory. This time, one that made her think that they had both ended this night in a better place than where they had started.
Standing, she waited a few moments to ensure that he was truly resting peacefully before she quietly walked to the door. Hand on the doorknob, she stopped and turned to look at him.
Then, she carefully made her way back across the room and settled into a nearby chair, curling her legs beneath her as she watched over him.
Only for a little while, she told herself. Just in case.