Epilogue: Post-episode

As Brennan finally got home - the day had never seemed to end, and had only spiraled down - she dropped her purse, locked the door behind her, and stood still. She had no idea what to do. What was one supposed to do after the revelation that she had been a mentor to a murderer? How did people cope with that kind of emptiness?

Well, Booth had used a beer helmet and bathtub to distance himself from the trauma of pretending to die. He seemed to have gotten through it.

So she took a hot bath, sucking in a long breath as she stepped into the frothy, scalding water. The shock of its temperature hit her skin in a refreshingly physical pain, after all she had gone through the past few weeks, that melted into a relaxing tingle. The water was soothing, a cathartic, cleansing freshness that almost washed away the stain on her mind. She sat motionless for so long, eyes closed, letting the steam caress her cheeks and wishing today had never happened.

Eventually she stepped from the bath, stopping to look at herself curiously in the mirror before reaching for a towel. Heavy eyes stared back at her, out of place in a flushed face that looked surprisingly girlish and confused. Her skin was pink from the bath, slick with water, and her hair looked darker than usual, damp and curly from the humidity. She had lost weight recently, but other than that, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. So normal. Deceptively so. There should be something missing. I can't really be whole. After I failed Zach so miserably. He trusted me. Surely I could have done something. I should have stopped this. This is my fault.

She pulled on pajamas and curled up on the couch, a book at her side, despite the fact that she had no intention of actually reading it. Physically she felt a hundred times better, but the ache in her throat wouldn't leave and she still just didn't know what to do. Hugging her knees to her chest, she stared at the floor blankly.

The knock at her door came as no surprise. Nor did the man who opened it after a few seconds. He still had a key from back a few months ago, a day she had needed him to stop and pick something up. Booth walked in quietly, shutting the door behind him. He met her eyes silently, his gaze probing, searching out all the lines and shadows around her eyes that she had managed to hide from most people. Her gaze faltered beneath his; she knew that he knew just how very fragile she was right now. He said nothing, knowing that she didn't want to talk right now. She bit her lip. He walked over, sitting beside her gently, and wordlessly wrapped his arms around her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. He had a habit of shielding her from the world when she needed it. Booth was warm and solid and masculine, and as his heart beat gently beneath her ear, her body loosened against his and she let out a long, shuddering sigh. The tears she had let fall earlier were long gone. She was too drained to cry. Too tired to think. But she could feel the painful tightness leave her chest.

"You okay?" he murmured. She nodded wordlessly, her hair rustling against his chest. He understood her real answer: No. But I will be. "Is there anything you need?"

"I'm just tired." Dead tired. Physically and mentally exhausted. Worn from having tragedies dropped onto her shoulders.

"You should try to sleep." It's okay, Bones. I'll be Atlas for a while. You've had to hold up the world for too long.

She nodded again, not seeing the need to expend energy by talking. He was right. Her body had begun to shut down, signaling her that it was time to stop. There was nothing more she could do.

"Do you want me to stay?" he asked quietly.


After a few minutes, he convinced her that sleeping in bed, as opposed to on the couch, would be much more comfortable. She went willingly, letting him push her gently towards her bedroom as he turned off the lights and locked the front door.

Her bed was more welcoming than usual tonight. She pushed back the covers and settled down, waiting patiently, and sure enough, Booth came in after her, pulling off his jacket. Kicking off his shoes, he joined her, pulling her back against his broad chest and running a hand absently through her hair.

Suddenly it hit her - this was what she had almost lost.

She couldn't imagine how she would have made it through any of this without him.

She felt him take in a long breath, his chest rising beneath her. "I'm sorry I didn't call you. I should have made sure you knew I was alive."

"It's all right. You didn't know."

"I'm sorry you had to spend two weeks like that."

She took a long breath and let her head settle more comfortably against his shoulder. "I'm just glad I was wrong."

"Me too."

They fell silent, and soon his even breathing told her that he was asleep. Asleep, and alive. Two very good things to be.

Brennan decided that all things considered, she could apologize to Booth's God now. She had judged Him unfairly, since she didn't have all the facts. The Heavenly Helicopter Pilot was full of surprises, it seemed.

And Booth?

Maybe she shouldn't have hit him quite so hard. It was his own funeral, after all.