Disclaimer: I wish I did, but I don't own Bones. Or anything else, really. So don't sue me. You would lose money and time, and gain nothing.
If I Should Fall—Chapter 1
"Passenger Tony Walker, please report to the lost baggage counter. Tony Walker to lost baggage." The masculine voice echoed through the crowded baggage claim terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport. Several recently arrived flights caused a sudden flood of assorted passengers into the area, making it very difficult even for Seeley Booth to struggle through the crowd.
He craned his neck, hoping to catch a glimpse of his partner through the hullabaloo of rolling wheels, mechanical machinery and the occasional shrieking of air travelers reuniting with loved ones who had come to fetch them and bring them home. Quickly losing patience, Booth had half a mind to call in an order of detainment simply as a way to find his partner a little bit faster so that they could get out of there. He stopped for a moment and squinted around at the electronic monitors that were still flashing updates on arrived and delayed flights. There it was, the 4:17 from Managua, right on time and at baggage claim carousel 4. He turned to start out in the right direction.
As if on cue, Temperance Brennan's face appeared in the sea of people. Her hair was tied up and her face sun-kissed from the time spent in Latin America. Grinning, he made his way through the crowd and to her side and they embraced, her duffel unintentionally smacking him painfully in the back. But he didn't mind—his Bones was back. The two exchanged smiles and a silent agreement that it was too loud to talk at the moment. Booth tried to remover her duffel from her grasp, but she slapped his hand away, giving him a look that clearly said she was capable of carrying her own things. The hiss of the automatic doors opening came with it a rush of cool, fresh air as they crossed the walkway into the parking garage.
"Hey, Bones," Booth said, grinning again. "How was your trip?"
"It was exceptional, although the flight back could have gone more smooth—Booth!" she broke off as, in one swift motion, Booth had succeeded in grabbing her luggage from her and insisting on carrying it himself. "I am perfectly capable of doing that myself," she said indignantly.
"What, isn't a guy allowed to be a gentleman anymore?"
"Fine, then. Just be careful, there are some very valuable artifacts in there that need to be transported to the Jeffersonian." They traversed the parking garage, Brennan's heels clicking importantly on the pavement.
"Oh, good," Booth said sarcastically, almost wishing that he hadn't volunteered to carry the bag in the first place. "How many human skulls did you bring me from this trip?"
"Two, neither of which are for you," she said. "But I did bring you something, though not anything ossified. If you had wanted something bone, you should have told me before."
"No, no, that's perfectly ok." They approached Booth's car and the electronic chirp indicated that the doors had unlocked. Booth opened the trunk and placed Brennan's luggage into the car before closing the back door and climbing into the front seat with her.
"So what did you bring me?" Booth had a boyish grin playing across his face and Brennan couldn't help but smile back.
"I'll show you when you aren't driving," she told him, fastening her seatbelt.
"So," he said about ten minutes into the drive. "What exactly did you do in Nicaragua, again?"
"There was a terrible fire in the public garbage dump there, which was propagated further by a number of small explosions caused by the ignition of the escaping methane from the trash heaps. It was terrible, really. A number of bodies of adults and children, even two infants. I was there identifying them," she explained, turning in her seat to look at him.
"People live in the garbage dump?"
"Well, yes, about 200 families and at least 1,000 more people who commute to work there."
"How do they work there, I mean, what do they do?"
"In Nicaragua, there is no public recycling system. These people, the ones who work in the dumps, collect recyclables and other trinkets that they can salvage and they sell them. Anthropologically, these people cannot find other work. Not even the poorest of the poor want to live near them, a symbol of one of the most extreme types of societal marginalization I have ever come across."
"Wow," Booth said, shaking his head a little and adjusting his sunglasses. "I almost wish that I had never asked."
"Why?" she shot back indignantly. "You see, and Americans question why people from other countries see them as ignorant. It's important for all of us to be aware—"
"Ok, ok, I'm sorry." The car came to a stop at a red traffic light and he looked overtop of his sunglasses at her. "I apologize." There was a brief pause. "Are you hungry at all?" She smiled at him.
"I could go for something to eat. Airline food doesn't usually agree with me."
"Excellent, because I'm starving. Want to go to the diner?"
"You read my mind," Brennan told him with a smile. He laughed and tore his eyes away from hers as the light turned green and he had to pay attention to driving again.
"You're getting really good at speaking metaphorically."
The bells on the door jingled as the two of them walked into the Royal Diner. The waitress smiled at two of her regular customers and gestured at them to choose a table.
"I'll be right over with menus for you both," she said cheerfully. Booth and Brennan nodded in her direction and headed for their usual table by the windows. The waitress returned with coffee just as Brennan was setting her bag down at her feet.
"Thank you, Ruby," Booth said gratefully, taking a sip from the steaming mug.
"You're welcome, Agent Booth. You two just let me know when you're ready to order."
"Thanks," the two of them said, the waitress turning her back to leave.
"So," Booth began, leaning toward her playfully, "You said that you brought something back for me?'
"Oh, yes," Brennan said enthusiastically. "Hold on a second, it's right—"she dug around for a while in her bag, "here." She pulled out a package carefully wrapped in brown paper and tied with string and presented it to Booth.
"Thank you," he said, his face lighting up like a kid on Christmas. Carefully, he untied the string and pulled off the paper. Brennan sat across the table, biting her lip lightly, trying to scrutinize his reaction.
"What do you think?" she asked slowly, unsure of what he'd think.
"It's—wow, Bones. This is beautiful." He looked at her deeply. "Where did you get this?" He moved his eyes from hers, mesmerized by the 8 ½ x 11 photograph beneath the glass frame.
It was a beautiful shot, capturing the shimmering blue Lake Managua and the towering, green mountains that rose up above it. The rising sun was just peeking between two mountain peaks, pure rays of morning light captured in every peak and valley in the photograph and reflecting mysteriously off of the silver morning mist that hung between the mountains and the lakeshore. The scene had a tranquil, mysterious beauty that moved him.
"I, um, I took it, actually," she said, looking quickly down at her coffee cup and then back up at her partner. "It was the most beautiful and enchanting part of the day there, and I was enraptured just looking at it. I thought of you, actually. I thought that you were one of the only people who would truly appreciate it. I wanted you to see it. Of course, nothing can replace being there in person, but—"
"Bones," Booth said, lifting his eyes to meet hers. "Thank you. It's beautiful." Her blue eyes hesitated a bit, then she smiled at him. It was one of those soul-searching smiles, the ones that the two of them often shared, where just by looking into the other's eyes each could see the emotions of the other. That realization of closeness between them had scared Brennan at first, but she had over the years had taken comfort in that Booth often knew what she was feeling without having to ask.
"You're welcome." A throat clearing made both of them look up. Their usual waitress was looking down at them, pen and order pad in hand.
"What'll it be today?" She asked.
Twenty minutes later, both were munching on their lunches and looking at other photographs from Nicaragua on Brennan's digital camera. There were so many, especially of the dump in which she worked. It was a terribly unimaginable scene, and the photographs of the despair far outnumbered the ones that highlighted Nicaragua's natural beauty. And scrolling through them, it took Booth to the end to realize that most of the photographs had been taken in—
"—Black and white, I know," Brennan said, taking a sip of coffee. "The destruction down there was so terrible that I had trouble taking the photographs in color." Their eyes met again, and she held his gaze. She allowed his eyes to search hers.
"I had no idea that you were such an artist," he said, a corner of his mouth twitching upward.
"I'm serious, Booth. If you had been there—" she trailed off, dropping her gaze back to the smooth surface of her coffee. As she did, she noticed a dull pain tugging at her head. Great time for a headache, she thought, but said nothing.
"Hey, Bones," he said, tipping her chin up to meet her eyes. "I've seen my share of death and dehumanization. Trust me when I say that I get it." Brennan nodded.
"I do," she said. "Trust you, I mean." For whatever reason, her headache was getting worse. She again looked away from her partner in order to dig through her bag and retrieve a bottle of ibuprofen. Using her coffee (admittedly not the best idea), she swallowed two of the tablets.
"Hey, I hope you brought enough for the rest of the class."
"Never mind, Bones, it's an expression. What's with the drugs?"
"Just ibuprofen," she said, tucking the bottle back into her bag, along with her camera, which Booth had handed to her. "I have a little bit of a headache, probably just dehydration from the plane. It's nothing to worry about."
"You sure you're ok?"
"Fine," she nodded. "I probably just need to lie down and rehydrate myself, I'll be fine." She smiled. He read the expression in her face.
"Ok, then, I'm sick of this scenery… let's take care of the check and get out of here." Brennan nodded, grateful.
The gentle motion of the SUV lulled Brennan to sleep. Pulling out front of her apartment building, Booth cut the engine and looked over at his partner, fast asleep with her head against the window. It had been a long trip and she was clearly exhausted. She looked so peaceful, he didn't want to wake her. But good judgment trumped. He leaned over and gently put his hand on her shoulder. She didn't flinch, but it was enough to rouse her from her slumber.
"Bones, hey," he said softly, caressing her shoulder with his thumb. "We're here."
"Where?" She asked quietly without opening her eyes.
"Back at your place. Do you need any help with your luggage?" Brennan opened her eyes and sat up straight, undoing her seatbelt with a click.
"No, I'll be fine on my own." She opened the door. Her head was still pounding. She shook it off, knowing that it was probably the lack of water and sleep catching up to her. She unloaded her duffel bags from the backseat of Booth's SUV and hoisted one onto her shoulder. Looking down for the second, she saw that it had disappeared.
"I've got it," Booth said with a smile. "You're tired." She opened her mouth in protest but shut it again, glad that he had volunteered.
The door swung open and Brennan found that her apartment was exactly how she had left it. Both of them stepped inside the doorway, Brennan removing her jacket and dropping her bags near the door. Booth set the bag he was carrying down with the rest of her things as Brennan took a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water.
"Would you like anything to drink at all?" She asked him, "If you have time, you can stay a minute and have a beer. I didn't get the chance to ask you how your week was." Booth smiled placidly, about to accept her offer when Brennan let out a massive yawn. He chuckled.
"You know what? You're tired. Go get some rest, Bones. I mean, I could stay here but uh, you don't have a TV or anything and I don't mean any offense but An Anthology of Bedrodiga Religious Icons doesn't sound like the most stimulating read. I'm just going to head back to my place. How's that headache, by the way?"
"It's still persisting," she said, shrugging. "It should clear up with some sleep and adequate hydration."
"Ok," Booth said, nodding in satisfaction. "I guess I'll see you at work tomorrow? You know, I wish you'd schedule your work trips so that you have time to recuperate before you go back to your day job."
"Yes, I'll be in. I'll see you then. Thanks again for everything, Booth." Their eyes met and they shared a smile.
"You're welcome. It was my pleasure. Night, Bones."
"Night," she said. Their eyes lingered on one another's a moment longer, then Booth turned and stepped through the doorway, Brennan closing the door and locking it behind him. She checked the clock. It was hardly 8:00, but she felt exhausted. Leaving her bags where they were and finishing her glass of water, Brennan changed into a set of pajamas and quickly brushed her teeth before crawling into her bed, wishing her head would stop throbbing.
"Welcome back, Dr. Brennan," her assistant Zack Addy greeted her as her card access beeped and Brennan traversed the stairs to where the latest set of bones from Limbo was waiting to be identified.
"Thank you, Zack. What do we have here?" The fluorescent lights shone brightly, reflecting off of the stainless steel examining table and giving the aged bones that sat on it a pearlescent look.
"Male, 32-39, splintering rostral to the squamous suture indicates blunt trauma by an object between 10 and 12 centimeters in diameter. Angela's working on the facial reconstruction now. How was Nicaragua?"
"It was a good trip, is Hodgins working on identifying any extraneous particulates left in the wound?"
"Good," Brennan said, nodding to herself. "Zack, come and get me when you have finished there and when Angela has done the facial reconstruction. Then we'll be able to begin identifying this victim.
"Ok, Dr. Brennan."
"I'll be in my office." Brennan turned on the ball of her foot and left the area, her heels clicking smartly on the polished floor of the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal lab. Though she had slept a good amount the night before, her pounding headache warranted an additional 600 milligrams of ibuprofen when she had woken up the next morning, and it hadn't seemed to help at all. She reached her office, closing the door behind her and making her way over to her desk. She sat down and buried her head in her hands, willing against logic for the damned headache to go away so that she could get back to work.
She didn't really know how long she was sitting like that, but before long she became aware of footsteps quickly approaching. The door opened and she soon felt a hand resting softly on her shoulder.
"Sweetie, are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Ang," she said, lifting her head and swiveling her chair to look her friend in the eye.
"You are lying to me. You can't do that anymore, Brennan. I know you too well. Seriously, what's up?"
"Headache, that's all. Are you finished with the reconstruction?" Angela nodded.
"Yeah, Zack said to come and find you."
"Well, let's see it then." Brennan put her hands on the arms of her chair and used them to stabilize her as she stood, walking alongside of Angela to the imaging room, where Zack and Hodgins stood waiting.
"Hey, how was your trip?" Hodgins asked, grinning.
"Fascinating, I had a wonderful time," she said, smiling at him.
"The mountains were breathtakingly beautiful. But we aren't here to talk about my vacation. What do we have, Angela?" Angela scratched away on her digital notepad, pulling up the holographic image of a man.
"Bring us back anything?"
"No," Brennan said, staring at the image.
"Ok, here's our victim," Angela said. "By the look of the skull, Zack and I think that he was hit on the side of the head with a sledgehammer."
"The blunt end of the hammer struck at approximately 35o to the normal at the weakest part of the temporal bone, shattering it," Zack said, "but it wasn't what killed him."
"Then what did?" she asked, her head still pounding incessantly.
"From the damage on C-4, it appears as though he was strangled, but strangling alone doesn't acc—" Her mind began to fog over and she wasn't able to grasp the last part of what Zack was saying.
Not entirely paying attention to Zack, Angela was gripped with panic as she watched her best friend crumple silently to the floor.
"Brennan!" the urgency in her voice caused Hodgins and Zack to turn in her direction, but Angela was already rushing to her friend's side. Brennan was pale, mouth slightly agape as she lay, unconscious, on the floor in a disorganized heap that was so unlike her.
"Dr. Brennan!" Zack exclaimed in disbelief.
"I'll call a medic," Hodgins said, panicked, as he rushed out of the room. The holographic image of their murder victim still rotating slowly at the center of the Angelator. Zack, too, knelt at his mentor's side.
"She's ashen, bradycardic," he began, "But Angela, I don't know what's wrong…"
"Sweetie, sweetie, come on," Angela begged, sweeping the hair out of Brennan's face. "Please."
And that's all she wrote. For now.
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