for linesinthesand. Happy birthday.

It begins this way: a folder in hand, photographs only she can look over without flinching, the scent of earth on bones neglected in ashes to ashes, dust to dust; people missing and forgotten; lost and found. It's only inevitable that they begin, subconsciously, to classify their jobs as something closer to reestablishing identity than exacting justice (or vengeance). He thinks of it as being about feeling, mostly; stemming from and producing some kind of strong emotion, some kind of cardiac arrest.

(it's the closest thing to honesty, he thinks.)

Some nights it ends with the diner; coffee and pie and everything else that makes this a cliché, but they're happy, at least. He's never deciphered that smile of hers; if it means anything at all—on these nights he's happy to play along, laughing and only occasionally brings something grimmer than they need to the table.

After his death, his first, it's like she does the five stages, Kübler-Ross's, in days. Barely a week passes, and she's past bargaining: the small little voice in her head that begs for alternatives she never thought herself pathetic enough to consider; depression: the tiny ache in her chest that grows, walking through the door without a hello, Bones (if that was it at all). She's on the brink of acceptance, and her relief is palpable, when she quietly discovers she's been alternating between denial and anger. The denial is simple enough, only uncannily psychological, but the anger—uncontrollable, at a man who'd ceased to live, at a God who'd never existed—she struggles with.

She's there to witness his resurrection—messed up and sudden and wrong—and the prosthetic falls to the ground; the weight of the world, as she catches him on the side of his face, his perfectly structured zygoma, the arch of his facial structure painfully evident, painfully alive.

(if her anger means anything at all, it's the indignation of being lied to.)

They find each other again, just barely—he finds her shortly after Judas has been paid, thirty pieces times five of silver, stairs bracing her back. She's silent, leaning into him as he inhales the musty, foreign scent of the lab. It's never been like this, he thinks.

"Booth," she says, suddenly enough to startle him. "I-" and something catches in her throat; she stops. She can't help but see this as an exchange of sorts; Zack for Booth, death for life.

His fingers find hers, and the warmth of his skin is strange in the half-light of the stairwell.

(they part, eventually, without words,

she finds herself fingering green fabric stained rust-brown, musing to herself as it goes into the trash with her memories; mother and Christmas and marco polo; it falls—quite by chance—beside girls just wanna have fun, tune lost in firearm serenade.)

(they take the trash out at 7a.m. every Tuesday.)