A/N: This is it, the final chapter! I think I got everything sufficiently wrapped up here, but I could be wrong... after all, it is 3 o'clock in the morning and I did just work a double shift, my brain is a little woozy. I really appreciate everyone's support in this fic, reading it and reviewing it and putting it on your story alerts list so you could keep up with it. It makes me feel great as a writer, like I'm doing something right, and I wouldn't have that without you guys. So thanks for being great readers! Tomorrow I will start investing my efforts into Christmas-related shots and my Twelve Bones of Christmas fic, now that I've got this one wrapped up. I've already written two holiday shots, Burn the Bird, Save the Strays for Thanksgiving and Shadow Proves the Sunshine for Christmas. If you haven't read either of those yet, and you like what you've read here, you aught to check them out. :)
Now that I'm done shamelessly plugging for my other fics, enjoy this final chapter, and thanks again for reading.
Brennan watched Peggy's motionless body on the ground; waiting for her to spring up, turn over, make a sound, anything. But she did not. She was quite dead, blood dribbling out of the hole in the back of her skull. It soaked into her hair, then into the parched dirt beneath her.
She tore her eyes away from the body and looked up in the direction the shot came from. At first she saw nothing; then, padding up over the hill's crest, a thickly built brown dog. She could easily identify the animal as a pit bull—its neck was nearly as thick as its chest, and its legs were slightly bowed from carrying its muscular bulk. It waddled slightly as it approached Brennan, but when it caught the scent of Peggy's blood, she quickly realized just how little fat was on the dog, and how much of its mass was lean muscle. It froze, tail pointing in the air, short hairs raised. Growling, it approached the body, sniffing at the air as it took a few tentative steps towards it. The dog sniffed the body, and, once satisfied that there was no threat, turned its attention towards Brennan.
Great, she thought, as the dog stretched its short neck out to sniff her foot. She could do nothing to hold back the dog as it approached her face, sniffing up the length of her body as it came closer and closer to her. If it suddenly attacked, she would be defenseless. The dog pressed its cold nose up against her neck, inhaling her scent deeply. She tensed, feeling its lips part slightly. It moved its nose up to her cheek, then to her ear, blowing cold air and dog snot into her ear canal as it sniffed excitedly.
Then, slowly, the dog licked her face. It was not a wild or excited gesture, but a gentle one—the dog cleaned each of the wounds on her face, the broad scrapes and deep scratches, like it would its pup. At first it burned, but then it felt soothing. The dog jumped to attention, however, when they both heard a man's voice.
"Princess!" he yelled, coming out from around the trees and into view.
He held a twenty-two-caliber revolver in his right hand, eyes wide as he approached Peggy's lifeless body. He eyed the hole in the back of her skull, shaking his head sadly.
"I didn't wanna kill 'er," he said sadly, looking up from Peggy's body to Brennan's eyes. She could see his true remorse.
"You saved my life," Brennan said forcefully. Pete didn't respond, but instead went around to the back of the tree where Brennan was bound. She heard the telltale sound of a buck knife opening, and then felt the taunt ropes binding her arms release. She stifled a moan as she felt the immense ache in her arms as she brought them slowly to her sides, feeling the blood rush into the twisted muscles. Pete knelt down on the ground next to her and cut the bindings on her legs, helping her to her feet.
"How did you find me?" Brennan asked, barely able to move her stiff shoulders and arms. Her legs wobbled beneath her, but she quickly regained control of them.
"Smoke," he said, looking up to the sky. "That's one helluva fire she got goin'. Saw it from the house, thought somethin' might be up. Thought I'd come take a looksee."
"I'm glad you did," Brennan said, wondering how she could have ever doubted the farmer's character for even a moment.
"Let's get you back to the house," Pete said, pocketing the knife and glancing down once more at Peggy's body. "We can call the am-bue-lance from there."
"I don't need emergency care," Brennan insisted, looking down at her arms. The skin was rubbed raw and pink, packed with dirt and scabbed over. She looked as if she had been dragged up the entire hill. "I just want to call my partner."
"Whatever you say," Pete conceded, leading the way through the woods back to his farm, leaving Peggy's body and the burning fire behind.
It had been nearly an hour since she had spoken to him on the phone, and she expected it to be another hour before he arrived. It was quite a long way out from D.C. to drive. So, when she heard the familiar engine rumble and looked to the dirt road to see the large black Toyota kicking up clouds of dirt behind it, she was pleasantly surprised. Booth drove nearly up onto the front porch, jumping on the brakes within feet of the house and throwing the car into park. He slammed the door behind him and covered the remaining ten feet between himself and Brennan in three giant strides.
She stood to meet him as he approached, and he did not hesitate to pull her into his arms when he got there. Her body ached all over and her raw skin burned, but she hugged him back as hard as she could. He pressed her against his large frame with one hand, smoothing her hair with the other as he rested his chin on top of her head.
"I am so sorry," he croaked, unable to make his voice perform at full capacity. She pulled her head back, looking up into his eyes. They were quite wet.
"For what? Booth, she—"
"I should have protected you," he said. "I should have and I didn't. If it wasn't for me you wouldn't have ever… this wouldn't have…"
"Booth, don't say that," Brennan pleaded. "It's not your fault. It's not."
"Please just forgive me," he said.
"But you didn't do anything wrong."
"Temperance, please. Forgive me. I need you to do that." He looked down hard at her, and she swallowed loudly, feeling the intensity radiate off of him. The way his hands held her lower back, the relief in his eyes clouded with residual fear. The pain.
"Okay... I forgive you," she said quietly, resting her cheek against his chest. She both heard and felt him release a deep breath, and both of his arms wrapped around her again. After a few minutes he removed one of his hands from around her waist and held it to her face, brows furrowed as his eyes flicked across her skin.
"Your face…" he said, stroking it with his thumb. She winced, and he removed his hand quickly.
"I was dragged," she explained. "Or, I think I was. My arms too," she said, stepping back and holding her arms out for Booth to see. They were as scratched and scabbed as her face, and ground with dirt.
"Where's the ambulance? Why didn't the EMT come?" he asked, concerned and a little edgy.
"I didn't call them, I don't need…"
"Temperance! You're hurt, you need medical care," he chastised, pulling out his phone.
"Booth," she said, reaching out and snapping his phone shut. "I don't want them here. I don't need them. I… we have to get rid of the gun."
"The what?" Booth asked.
"The gun, the one Pete shot Peggy with," Brennan explained. Booth sighed, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. Right. Pete shot Peggy, using the gun he wasn't legal to have. He had been so preoccupied with seeing that Brennan was okay with his own eyes, being able to hold her in his arms and know she was safe… he hadn't once thought about the legality of the situation.
"Pete won't go to jail for killing Peggy," Booth said. "He saved your life."
"I don't want to get him tangled up in a big legal procession," Brennan said. "I don't want him to go to jail, to… he saved my life, Booth. Please just make this go away." Booth sighed.
"Okay," he said, pulling Brennan to his chest and kissing the top of her head. It was unexpected and uncalled for, but neither of them fought it or acted surprised by the action. "I'll take care of it. He'll be okay. We'll all be okay now."
"Won't they match the bullet hole to Pete's revolver?" Brennan asked. She was sitting on the lid of Booth's toilet in one of his Steelers t-shirts and a pair of basketball shorts, while he retrieved a bag of cotton balls and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from the medicine cabinet. There had been no arguing about her coming home with him—she wouldn't have tried, and he wouldn't have allowed it even if she had.
"I'm taking care of it," Booth said vaguely, unscrewing the cap and soaking a cotton ball. She had taken a shower earlier and attempted to scrub most of the dirt out of her wounds, but Booth would not be satisfied until he had made sure they were properly disinfected.
"By taking care of it, you mean…?" she asked, eyeing him warily as he brought the soaked cotton ball to her cheek.
"I told you before, don't worry about it," he said. "Now close your eyes, it won't sting."
"I know it won't, Booth," she said, but it did not stop her from resisting. She finally shut her eyes and allowed him to swab the raw parts of her cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead. The peroxide bubbled in the deeper wounds, eating away at whatever particles of dirt might be left in the wounds.
"I can do this myself, you know," she said as he dabbed Neosporin onto the tip of his ring finger, smoothing a thin layer of the goop onto her cuts.
"You're the one who wouldn't call the ambulance," Booth chastised, finishing up on her face.
"Because it's not that serious, and besides, I didn't want—"
"I know, I know," Booth said, holding his hand up. "You didn't want to get the police involved until you talked to me, I got it. I understand. Now give me your arm." She grudgingly held her forearm out and Booth rolled back the sleeve on the shirt, which nearly came down to her elbows. He had intended on stopping by her apartment to let her pick up some things, but she had fallen asleep in the SUV on the ride home, and he couldn't bring himself to wake her. He had received full hell for his decision once she awoke.
"I took that key out from in front of the house," Booth said as he swabbed peroxide over the cuts on her arm, the two of them watching the white bubbles fizz in her wounds.
"Booth," Brennan said gently. "It's not your fault."
"I put the key out there. I left it out there. It's my fault," he said stubbornly, and not without a hint of guilt. He continued to cleanse the scrapes with the cotton ball, rubbing it up and down her arm in gentle strokes.
"Booth, she was insane, clinically psychotic. She would have found a way in whether that key was there or not. You can't blame yourself. Not when I don't." He smiled up at her, and she smiled back. They held each other's gaze for a while, until he looked down at her knees, his neck flushed.
"Thanks," he said, focusing on disinfecting her other arm. "I just feel like I failed you."
"You could never fail me," Brennan said, suddenly and powerfully. The breath caught in her chest; she had surprised herself with that statement. Not that it wasn't true, it just wasn't something she had intended on saying.
"I have a question for you," Brennan said, following a moment of uncomfortable silence.
"What's that?" Booth asked, screwing the cap back onto the peroxide and leaning up against the sink.
"Am I… am I an egomaniac?" Brennan asked, the words rushing out in a quick jumble.
"What? No, of course not. Why?" Booth asked. Brennan looked down at her feet, tracing circles on the tile with her toe.
"It's just something Peggy said, up there," Brennan said quietly. "It made me think."
"You're letting slander from a serial killer mess with your head? That's not the Temperance Brennan I know," Booth said gently, placing his finger beneath her chin and lifting her eyes up to meet his.
"She said… she said that women like me subjugate women like her, that we manipulate men to get what we want and stay on top of the social food chain," Brennan explained, diverting her glance despite his efforts to hold her gaze.
"Temperance, you are possibly the least manipulative person I've ever met in my life," Booth said. "Manipulation would require the ability to lie, to omit the truth. Manipulators are sneaky people. You aren't sneaky, and you don't lie. In fact, I don't think you're capable of a lie. You're too obsessed with the truth."
"I just don't like being lied to, is all," Brennan said. "Why would I lie to other people, if I don't want to be lied to?"
"That," Booth said, crouching down so that his face was level with Brennan's, his fingers still resting on the underside of her chin, "is why you are neither manipulative, nor egomaniacal. You just don't have it in you." Their eyes caught fire, each unable to look away from the blaze roaring in the other. That fire brought another thought to mind.
"She said I view everyone as not measuring up to my standard," Brennan admitted. "She said I would…" She gulped, then forced herself to continue. "She said I would even let the perfect man go, thinking he wasn't good enough for me." She stared intently at Booth, her eyes begging the question she would not ask. He breathed in deeply, holding the breath for a moment before letting it out in a rush.
"I don't think you think that," he said carefully, answering the silence. Her hand darted up to where his rested beneath her chin, grabbing his palm with a sudden urgency.
"I don't," she said quickly. "I don't think that. I don't think that at all."
"I never thought you did," Booth said, shifting forward onto his knees and leaning in towards Brennan. He went ninety percent, waiting for her to close the gap the other ten percent of the way. She released his hand, reaching her fingers out and touching the side of his face. It was surprisingly soft for such a hard man, and she realized she had never before touched his face. His hands, his arms, his shoulders, his back. But never his face.
Then she closed the gap. Their lips touched, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. That electric feeling crackled through her like static, every place his fingers rested on her skin burning in a wonderful way.
The day after Halloween, they returned to Kimball. They entered Sadie's diner hand in hand, taking the same booth seat in the back of the restaurant as before. She came out of the back kitchen with the same grumpy face, and lit up when she saw the two of them seated together.
"Well fancy seein' y'all here!" Sadie called out, clapping Booth on the shoulder and touching Brennan's arm lightly with her hand. "Y'all know y'all's local heroes 'round these parts now, don't ya?"
"Heroes?" Brennan asked. Sadie nodded, walking to the wall and pulling down a framed photograph. It was Justine's graduation photo, her silk cap resting slightly off-kilter atop her head, her smile broad. She handed it to Booth, who looked down at the picture with a sad smile.
"Y'all saved Pete a lotta grief," Sadie said quietly. "He done the right thing, and so did y'all. Sometimes pure law ain't what it's all about, it's about doin' the right thing. Folks from the city don't usually get that, but you do. That makes you heroes to us."
"We appreciate it," Booth said, handing the picture back to Sadie. "Really, we do. But Pete's the hero. He's the hero in my book, anyway." He looked across the table to Brennan, who smiled.
"Mine too," she said, nodding. "He saved my life."
"He's a good man," Sadie said. "A little cracked, but a good man. And so are you, Agent Booth. I knew that the moment I met you. A good man. Now, what can I get y'all to drink?"
"I'll have… a coke," Booth said, after thinking for a moment. Sadie smiled.
"What kind?" she asked.
"Sprite," Booth replied like a pro. Sadie laughed, the rich sound filling the room, and Booth and Brennan couldn't help but laugh with her.
A/N: And there it is. :) I really hope you guys liked the ending... I couldn't get it to write right (yes, Melissa, I do mean write right!) but I think I finally made it work out the way I wanted it to.
Now, since this fic has officially come to a close, I wanted to give credit where credit is due. You might (or might not) have noticed that each chapter title is a snippet of lyrics from a different song. If you did notice, good for you, we probably have similar tastes in music. :) If you didn't notice, that's okay, they were kind of obscure parts of songs for the most part. But I wanted to credit each of those songs individually, which is what I will do now.
In the order of song, then artist:
Chapter 1: Face Down, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Chapter 2: Mothers of the Disappeared, U2
Chapter 3: Perfect, Army of Me
Chapter 4: I Miss You, Blink 182
Chapter 5: The Scientist, Coldplay
Chapter 6: Lean on Me, Kirk Franklin
Chapter 7: Invisible, Clay Aiken
Chapter 8: And The Hero Will Drown, Story of the Year
Chapter 9: Until the Day I Die, Story of the Year
Chapter 10: Stars, Switchfoot
Each of these songs is incredible, and belongs 100 percent to their respective owner. I mean no copyright infringement whatsoever, hence crediting each one of them individually. And if you're looking for some new music to check out, definitely take a listen to any of the above.
With that said, thanks again for being such awesome, loyal readers. I appreciate each and every single one of your reviews! So go on, for old time's sake... leave a review and let me know what you think. :)