Disclaimer: If you recognize it from somewhere other than this story, I don't own it. So don't try to sue me.
Author's Note: This chapter takes place nearly two months later. At this point, all of the events of season 3 have occurred, everything in BitB, VitS, WitW, and PitH. And, despite her earlier resolve, Brennan and Booth still haven't had that talk.
If I Should Fall—Chapter 20
"Hey, Hodgins, is Bones in her office?"
"Yeah, she should be," Hodgins replied, not taking his eyes from the lenses of the microscope that he peered into. Booth nodded and thanked Hodgins, stepping off of the platform and making a beeline for Brennan's office.
"Bones, I need you," he called out through her open door as he made his way across the room. "Could you sign off on—" he stopped abruptly when he stepped into her office.
His partner was fast asleep, curled up on her couch. He exhaled softly and stepped toward her. Her face was serene, gently illuminated by the lights of her office, but even in sleep her strong will and independence shone through. The hair of the wig that she wore, that looked so much like her own hair, had parted at the base of her neck and now fell just beneath her jawline. And no matter how many accidental glimpses Booth had of the raised, pink scar that ran along the base of her skull, it still sent the smallest of shivers through his spine. It would be a permanent reminder to her, and he hated the thought of that.
He watched the subtle, rhythmic rise and fall of her chest and was content to simply sit and watch her sleep. Kneeling beside her, he gently swept a strand of hair away from her face, his fingers brushing her cheek so softly that he thought maybe he'd imagined the contact.
He stood again. He didn't want to be looming when she woke. Shifting the file into his left hand, he extended his right and rested it softly on her shoulder, rubbing it gently to rouse her from her slumber.
"Hey, Bones," he said gently. With a start, her eyes flew open and she sat up on the couch.
"I'm awake," she said, her bright eyes alert and focused. "What's up, Booth?"
"I, uh, needed your signature on the paperwork," he brandished the file, "from the Kortowksi case." She ran a hand through her hair to smooth it and stood to retrieve a pen from her desk. Booth handed her the file and she flipped through the pages, embellishing the designated spaces with her signature.
"Okay, it's all signed," she said, closing the file and handing it back to him. "Sorry I was asleep, I must have dozed off…"
"Eh," he shrugged, "It's not a problem. You excited for the banquet?" Brennan scoffed, and they shared a smile. "Aw, come on, Bones, you get to get all gussied up, drink champagne, and try to avoid getting your feet stepped on when all of the old, rich guys try to dance with you," Booth said, chuckling at the look of utter revulsion on his partner's face. She typed something into her computer and glanced at the screen, nearly jumping out of her seat.
"I have to go," she said suddenly, hurriedly gathering her purse and a thick manila envelope from her desk. "Thank you for waking me. See you tomorrow?"
"Wait, where are you going? Your banquet is in an hour and a half." She headed out of her office, walking at such a brisk pace that he almost had to jog to keep up with her.
"I have somewhere I need to be. Don't worry, I will be back in time."
It was hardly 20 minutes later that Brennan was traversing the halls of the hospital, made familiar by all of the time that she had spent here throughout the course of her illness. She couldn't help but stop and stare for a moment into the room in which she had spent those grueling afternoons, seeing now that an elderly man occupied the bed that she had once slept in. She tore her gaze away and started off again before he could notice her stare.
A minute later she was knocking cautiously at the door of another patient. The colorfully decorated nametag told her that the girl had never left. A soft affirmation from inside prompted her to push the door open. Clara beamed at the unexpected visitor.
"Hi, Clara," she said, smiling at the preteen, who wore an electric blue, crocheted cap. "Nice hat."
"Thanks, I made it. Your hair grow back already?" Brennan shook her head, explaining that she had purchased a wig.
"How have you been?" Clara shrugged.
"Oh, you know, same old thing. Still studying… there's not much else to do around here. At this rate I'll be able to get my diploma by January," she gave a small laugh. "So if you're in the clear, then why are you back in this hellhole?"
"I thought that if you needed something to do," Brennan said, extracting the heavy manila envelope from her oversized bag, "you could take a look at this and let me know what you think." She handed the small package over to the girl, who looked at it curiously. She looked toward Brennan for confirmation before carefully opening the envelope and sliding out the thick stack of paper. "I know it's late, but happy belated birthday."
"No way," she gasped in awe, her eyes wide with jubilant disbelief. "No way," she repeated.
"Yes, way," Brennan said with a small laugh, remembering that this was supposed to be the correct response. Booth had told her that once. "I just made the revisions recommended by my editor."
"This is—why did you—wow. Just…wow." Brennan grinned at the girl's reaction. Her brown eyes were alight, sparkling with glee.
"If you could look it over, I'd love your feedback," she said honestly. Clara beamed over at her in disbelief. "Just as long as you do not utter a word or inference to anyone before it comes out."
"I wouldn't dream of it." She couldn't stop smiling.
"Anyway, I have to run…there's somewhere I need to be, but I thought that would keep you busy for a while. I'll be around next Saturday morning for an MRI, so I will try to stop by."
"Awesome. I'll get started on this right away. I can't begin to thank you enough, Dr. Brennan."
"You're welcome, Clara."
It was a beautiful banquet, set up in the grand atrium of the museum. The chandelier glistened in its own soft light overhead, and smooth jazz filled the room, mixing with the chatter of the attendees. Tables draped in fine, navy blue linens and set with silver candlesticks framed a paneled dance floor, and groups of well-dressed men and women were clustered in small groups.
Brennan sat alone at one of the tables, nursing a glass of champagne that she had received from one of the uniformed wait staff. Her eyes drifted toward the dance floor, where Angela had been asked to dance by one of the donors and Cam had been beckoned into conversation on the other side of the room.
She didn't want to be there, she thought, taking another conservative sip from her glass. As usual, Hodgins had refused to go, and with Zack gone now, the last thing that Brennan wanted to do was make small talk with donors who simply wanted to rub elbows with a scientist.
The song ended and shortly thereafter, Angela joined her at the table, an expression of distaste in her eyes as she sat, crossing her legs and re-draping the soft, burgundy satin of her dress smoothly over her knees.
"Having fun?" Brennan asked wryly, raising an eyebrow and turning to face her friend.
"Ugh, please don't let that happen again. That guy was a skeezeball."
"I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing nothing good." Angela nodded fervently, grabbing her own flute of champagne from a passing waiter and taking a swig.
"What have you been up to?"
"Just sitting around, trying very hard to avoid conversation." Angela shrugged.
"It can't be that bad," she said. "At least nobody is trying to make you dance."
"Not since that man from the Pure Research. And we did have a decent conversation up until he tried to get a little too close."
"You didn't break his wrist, did you?"
"No, but I made it quite clear that he would be losing more than his wrist if he tried anything else with me. Things were slightly awkward after that."
"You can't blame him," Angela said with a smirk. "You look hot. Making you buy that dress was a really good decision."
Brennan's dress, cream-colored, knee-length, and strapless, was a recent acquisition condoned by Angela earlier that week, when she had coerced her friend into a shopping trip. With some careful manipulation by Angela, her hair (well, rather, the wig, as her hair had not grown out yet) was curled, hanging gracefully around her shoulders. The scar at the back of her head was healing, but the pink, raised tissue would still draw unwanted attention.
"Speaking of hot," Angela continued. "Where's Booth?"
"It's a Thursday night, so he's probably working."
"Tell me again why he couldn't come to this shindig?"
"He's neither an employee at the Jeffersonian nor a donor," Brennan said, "besides, being at something like this would want to make him take out his gun and shoot something. And I wouldn't blame him," she muttered the last bit under her breath.
"Well, what about that time that you went with him to the FBI banquet?"
"I only went because his date cancelled last minute. I was being a good friend."
"Uh huh," she said, disbelief evident in her voice. Brennan was about to open her mouth and make a retort, but two men passed by their table, their conversation audible.
"…the young Dr. Addy. You know, the one who insisted upon incinerating spam and throwing pigs through woodchippers."
"Yes, he was quite off-kilter, got himself involved in cannibalistic murders and thrown into a mental institution," the other man was saying. "Good riddance, I say."
"Makes you wonder how on earth someone like that could be hired in the first place…"
Their conversation grew faint as the men moved away from where Angela and Brennan sat. The two women sat in the stunned silence in the wake, and when Angela looked up at her best friend, she saw that her jaw was clenched in anger.
"Come on, sweetie, let's get some air." She reached out, but Brennan shook her hand free of her arm and stood abruptly.
"No, Angela," she said. She swallowed hard, unwelcome memories flooding her mind. "I'm—I'm going to go outside. Please, I just need some space."
With that, Brennan stood quickly and turned on her heel, sweeping out of the hall and into the warm summer air. She breathed a sigh, walking halfway down the stairs before sitting on of the steps, looking out at the lights of the city. The soft music drifted through the open door, mixing strangely with the distant sounds of night traffic.
She hastily swallowed back the lump that had risen in her throat, the patron's words still reeling through her mind, heat rising to her cheeks and her eyes brimming with angry tears. It had hardly been a week and a half, and she didn't much care for gossip, but the betrayal that had shaken their team to the core couldn't be stopped from the rumor mill.
Even though it wasn't rational, Brennan carried a weight of guild in her chest, a certain sense of responsibility for what had happened to Zack. Maybe if she had been there more, connected a little bit, even worked to further develop his process of logical evaluation, he wouldn't have been lured into such a terrible situation. The aftermath had rebounded through the lab even now, like the aftershock of an earthquake, taking a toll on the team. Cam had become colder and more alienating toward the rest of the team, Sweets was more intrusive and intent on trying to help them get through the events, and the strain of the loss was beginning to have corrosive effects on Angela's relationship with Hodgins, though neither of them would admit it outright.
Footfalls on the stairs caused Brennan to whip around. Angela was making her way down the stairs, carefully avoiding tripping over the hem of her dress.
"Hey," she said calmly. "You left your bag inside." Angela handed Brennan the clutch purse and carefully took a seat beside her friend. A gentle breeze caught on Brennan's face and she sighed.
"Am I really that terrible a judge of character?" she asked suddenly, turning back to her best friend. Angela gave her a gentle smile before shaking her head.
"You're not a bad anything, sweetie." They shared a smile and Brennan chuckled, shifting the weight of her purse from one hand to the other.
"Booth told me that once."
"He's a smart man, Booth," Angela told her, smiling. "Well, most of the time." Brennan let out another disappointed sigh.
"I really, really wish I could have hit that guy," she said, giving Angela a small smile.
"Yeah, Bren," Angela said. "Me too." The two of them sat in silence for several minutes in the night air on the steps to the Jeffersonian before Angela gave her a hug, sensing that she needed to be alone, and disappeared back into the museum.
Brennan sat there in the quiet solitude of the night, looking out to the city. For the first time in a long time, she wished that she could see the stars through the clouds and pollution of Washington, D.C. How long she sat there, she didn't know. But the sound of a car made her look up.
The window of the SUV rolled down and Brennan squinted to see her partner's face grinning up at her.
"Need a ride?" he called out to her. She looked at him, sitting in the front seat of his vehicle with the motor running, and gave him an evaluating glance. With a quick disbelieving shake of her head, she stood and walked to the car, folding her arms over the open window.
"What are you doing here, Booth?" she asked. He shrugged.
"I'm rescuing you. Come on, I have coffee." He said, a playful note in his voice.
"I don't need to be rescued," Brennan told him matter-of-factly.
"I know that." A silence fell between them. "By the way, you look—" he paused, trying to think of an appropriate word, but came up empty. She was ineffably stunning. "You look really great."
"Now you're just trying to flatter me into coming with you," she said, though his appraisal had brought a smile to her face.
"Is it working?" he asked as she took a moment to consider him.
"If you want me to come with you," she said with a small grin, "you're going to have to unlock the door." Booth clicked the button and Brennan pulled the car door open, settling herself in the front seat and buckling her seatbelt.
They sat in comfortable silence in the car as Booth pulled away from the curb, neither speaking again until they reached the beltway.
"Where are we going?" Brennan asked him curiously as he accelerated and she watched the scenery speed past her.
"You'll see," he said playfully.
"I should really call Angela and let her know that I left."
"I should have known," she muttered, rolling her eyes with indignation. "She called you, didn't she?" Booth's silence told her that she had guessed correctly. But Brennan was too relieved to be away from the insufferable banquet to care much where they were going.
Brennan wasn't surprised when they pulled up to the parking of the Lincoln Memorial. They stepped out of the car, each carrying a cup of coffee, and made their way up the steps of the monument, Brennan still wearing her dress and heels. It was late, and they were alone. It was nice, she thought, drawing comfort from sitting here, beside her partner, sipping the hot coffee in silence, looking out onto the blackness of the reflecting pool, its hematite surface rippling in the occasional warm breeze.
Booth looked at his partner carefully. She had been through so much in the last month and a half, from her brush with cancer, to father's murder trial and release from prison, to his being shot and his death being faked, to this final tough blow of losing Zack to a manipulative cannibal. She had been put through so much emotional turmoil, and she didn't deserve it, he knew. He sighed and took another sip of his coffee.
"How're you holding up there, Bones?"
"I'm okay." Booth nodded. "Thanks for getting me out of the banquet."
"Anytime," he said, smiling. "Angela told me what happened. Do you want to talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about. It's not like I hit the guy."
"I would have," Booth told her, the corner of his mouth turned up in a lopsided grin. Brennan gave a quiet laugh.
"That's why you're the one who tends to end up in therapy."
"Hey, now," he exclaimed, playfully pushing her upper arm. He shook his head, laughing with her. Their laughter died down quickly and his eyes sought hers out, searching them for a long time. She scanned his own for a hint of what he was looking for. He sighed.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, setting his coffee cup down beside him. Brennan held his gaze for several seconds, then blinked and turned her head away, looking out over the reflecting pool.
The summer air still enveloped them. Crickets chirped sparsely in the night and the light from the memorial cast long shadows on the steps below. A lone bicyclist rode soundlessly down the path along the reflecting pool.
Brennan sighed, not wanting to say anything. What could she say? She felt as though her world had been turned upside-down and inside-out so quickly that she had hardly been able to regain her footing between each event. And the touchstones in her life were most affected, which only posed a greater challenge and made these almost incomprehensible episodes nearly unbearable.
"Everything's changing, isn't it?" she said suddenly, her voice breaking the silence as she turned to face him, her eyes clear and inquisitive. He met her gaze.
"Yeah," he said. "It is." She nodded.
"Change is an anthropological inevitability," she said evenly. "Without it, societies would become static and the evolutionary changes necessary for the dynamism essential to allow them to thrive would cease. It was irrational for me not to anticipate a necessary amount of change."
"You know, Bones," Booth said after a minute, "I've noticed that a lot of times when you start on your anthropological ramblings, it's, uh, because you're scared."
"I don't ramble," she muttered, looking back up at him, and he nodded, not completely convinced. She exhaled deeply. "It's just—It's so much." He swallowed.
"It's okay to want to resist change. Especially with stuff that's this huge. You've survived cancer, your dad and brother are back in your life," he sighed, "Zack made his decision…" his voice trailed off.
"You died." Her voice had taken on a hard edge that he didn't like, but he should have expected this. They hadn't talked about his phony death and dramatic resurrection, not beyond assigning blame for her not being told.
"I just got shot. I didn't die, so that doesn't count." He looked back over to her and tried to give a reassuring smile, but her face remained impassive.
"You did, Booth. For two weeks, you were dead to me. It was…" She exhaled slowly, willing her trailing voice not to break. "I did cry, you know. I'm not as callous as people think." He set down his coffee cup and gently draped his arm around her shoulders, giving her upper arm a gentle, reassuring squeeze, simply letting her know that he was there.
"I never said that you were," he said softly. "I can't imagine what you went through, Bones. It was tough enough to sit in the safe house and twiddle my thumbs and not be able to pick up the phone and talk to you. I'm so sorry, and you're right. I should have told you, personally. But you're wrong." She looked up at him, a tiny furrow on her brow, and a question in her eyes. "I do have true, genuine concern for you."
"I know," she said simply. "I think I've known that for a long time." They exchanged comforting smiles. He wrapped his arm more snugly around her and she allowed herself to lay her head on his shoulder, resting in his embrace.
For several minutes they sat like that, still save for the gentle rise and fall of their chests and the occasional warm summer's breeze that gently ruffled their hair.
She wanted so much to tell him, but she didn't know how, didn't know when, didn't know if she should. This was Booth, her partner, her friend, and her closest confidante. She knew that she could talk to him about anything, and he would listen. He was an incredible listener.
But she remained uncertain, a battle raging in her mind.
Booth continued to hold her, running his thumb gently up and down Brennan's upper arm. She exhaled, her head still nestled on his shoulder. She loved the ease of their relationship, and the comfortable familiarity that came with simply being together, whether they were bickering on the way to a crime scene or sharing Thai food and beer at the end of a tough day.
They just fit, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sweets was right. They completed each other.
They had so much to gain, but everything to lose.
Danger and opportunity.
Brennan drew a slow, shaky breath.
"We'd be more than coffee." Booth did not need clarification.
"We would," he agreed. She felt him smile into her hair.
It was all that she needed to say.
And she knew that he understood.
She wanted so much to tell him everything. How she had written the letter to him over and over, but no words could ever say what she wanted to. How even though she didn't believe in a higher being she felt blessed to have him by her side always. How being around him made her feel safe enough to be unguarded, the way she had been at 15 before her life was turned upside down. How he was the truest family that she had ever known, and how grateful she was that he had remained a constant, never even thought about leaving. How she was terrified that they would lose everything that they had in their partnership.
How she couldn't logically comprehend the idea of love, and yet she had felt like a part of her died that night with her partner.
But she simply could not find the words.
And in the end, she did not need any words at all.
Booth pressed a gentle kiss to the top of her head, as though testing the uncharted waters that both were navigating together. Mutely, she sighed.
"When did this happen?" she asked quietly, Booth's gentle caress still on her arm. He exhaled deeply and cleared his throat.
"I think that it happened a long time ago, Bones." He spoke softly, as though not to disturb the sense of peace that had washed over them. "When neither of us was paying attention." She chuckled softly.
"So no 'black magic' catching you in its spell?" she asked, lifting her head so she could meet his eyes, a small smirk on her face.
"You don't believe in magic."
"But you do." They shared a smile, the light from inside of the memorial gently illuminating their faces. "And you are the one who says, 'there are more things on Heaven and Earth—"
"—Than are dreamt of in your science," he finished, his grin growing wider. "Believe me yet?"
Brennan's eyes sparkled even in the half-light as she searched his warm, brown ones. What she saw, a look of sincere, unadulterated love, made her breath catch in her throat. She allowed him to gaze deeply into her own azure eyes, as he had done before, for the first time hoping that he could see his own affection reflected in them.
A small smile rose to his lips, and she couldn't help smiling herself.
"Do you trust me?" he asked softly, gazing deeply into her eyes.
"With my life."
"Would you trust me with your heart?" She gave him a tiny smile.
"It's not rational," she breathed, "but I think I already have."
Booth's eyes sparkled in the half-light as he gently reached his hand out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear, his touch lingering on her skin even after his hand fell away. And, slowly, as if to give the other time to pull back, they began to close the gap between them, their warm breath mingling in the cool night air.
Their lips brushed, almost cautiously, before joining at last. The kiss was slow, tender, their lips parted slightly, moving together with a sense of familiarity, as if they had been doing this for years. Subtle, unhurried, intoxicating.
Brennan's heart was racing, but for once, her brain was quiet. Feeling rather than thinking.
They pulled apart lightly, their faces still impossibly close, noses nuzzling, eyes still closed, as if opening them would make it all somehow disappear. Booth could feel his partner's breath sweeping over his lips as their breathing synchronized.
Gently, Brennan bit her bottom lip, savoring the taste of him there. At last, she opened her eyes and saw Booth gazing at her with such love and devotion that she never wanted it to end. She smiled at him and tilted her head slightly to the side.
"No," she said quietly, shaking her head slowly. "Definitely nothing like kissing my brother."
He chuckled and her smile grew wider before resting her head again on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms snugly around her. He felt her hand snake around his arms, coming to rest over his heart, her nimble fingers grazing the site of his injury.
"I'd do it again, you know," he told her. "In a heartbeat." She turned in his arms, facing him, her hand still on his solid chest.
"I wouldn't let you." They shared a smile.
"Temperance Brennan, you are truly extraordinary," he said with such honesty that a flush rose to her cheeks and her eyes dropped to the ground. He caught her chin with a gentle finger and lifted her eyes back to his. "And I love you more than you know, maybe even more than I know."
He pressed another warm, affectionate kiss to her lips. This time, their tongues met in unhurried, exploring caresses pouring out all of their unspoken emotion, faith, and absolute affection into each other as they melted into the kiss, feeling as though their heartbeats were one. When they parted, their eyes shimmered with love.
And neither could have been happier.
Booth stood suddenly, pulling her up with him as she regained tentative balance in her heels.
"Come on," he encouraged, his hand resting on the small of her back. "We have a lot to talk about." She smiled at him, their fingers intertwining between them.
"The diner?" She suggested, and he nodded, beaming at her.
"Some things," he said, "will never change."
"I don't know," she told him as they started back down the carved steps of the Lincoln Memorial. "A friend of mine once said that everything happens eventually. But I'm still not eating pie."
The night air was warm, tranquil and still. The crickets still chirped in the distance, and the onyx surface of the reflecting pool stood undisturbed. The two of them made their way back to the car, when Booth chuckled.
"Oh, Sweets is going to have a field day with this one," he laughed.
"Forget about Sweets," Brennan said, groaning, "Angela is going to be insufferable."
Booth laughed as he unlocked the doors and they climbed into the SUV.
There was no hint of awkwardness between them. Nothing but a sense of tranquility and denouement.
It was an end and a beginning.
I'm sorry for the delay in the update, friends, but this was very, very difficult to write. I actually wrote about five different ways for this to happen, and I rewrote each of those at least twice… Please let me know what you think of the finished produce.
And again, thank you so much for sticking with me on this.