MAJOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 4, EPISODE 8 - THE CON MAN IN THE METH LAB
Okay. First, I want to thank everyone for being so patient. I have been dealing with a family emergency, and have been spending most of my time at the hospital, and now the physical rehab center. I have not been able to post as I would normally. However, the situation has started to improve, and I am gradually picking up the pieces of my own life. I still do not have a lot of time for writing, but it affords me a bit of a catharsis, and gives me a break from my daily situation. I'm starting with a short one-shot, with MAJOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 4, EPISODE 8 - THE CON MAN IN THE METH LAB. If you haven't seen it yet, do not read this until you do! I just felt that there were some connecting scenes that I had to write, as I perceived them, based on some actions by the characters. I wanted a bit more from what was a truly stellar episode. Nothing earth-shattering here, just a little...more. I hope you enjoy this story - if you do, I would love to hear from you. And there will be more to come!
A/N - My apologies for the initial paragraph structure. It's been a while - what a rookie mistake! Thank you to everyone who pointed out how hard it was to read. The problem has been corrected.
How had it all gone wrong? She stared at the elevator buttons, her skin crawling on the side nearest her partner. Her partner who wasn't speaking to her. She wanted to look at him, to say something, anything to ease the discord, but she knew it wouldn't be welcome. She didn't know what to say to fix things. It had been her comment to Booth that had started the fight. Not a fight, actually. A fight would imply anger on both sides. She'd simply repeated the statement about Booth that Jared had made at the White House. Eager to gain some insight into her partner, she'd absorbed the information, impressed that Jared knew his brother so well. Even more impressed that he cared enough to know him that well. And it made sense – often, Booth had seemed on track to career success, only to come up just short. But when she'd mentioned Jared's remark to Booth, he'd become instantly enraged, invading her personal space as he would one of his suspects. Confused, shocked, she'd only stared at him when he demanded to know if she thought he was a loser. You're not answering the question, Bones. Answer my question! Struggling to understand what was going on, she waited too long to answer. And he'd had his answer. With dismay, she thought back to the hurt that had darkened his eyes, surpassing his towering anger. And then it was too late. Even she knew that. Nothing she said would matter.
Now she hazarded a glance at his shoes, not daring to raise her eyes. The impatient toe-tapping she was accustomed to was absent. The shoes were still, toes pointed slightly away from her. Not something she'd normally notice, but she'd gradually become more observant when it came to her partner. And now she found herself craving any data she could obtain to gauge his mood. A relentless weight pressed on her chest, almost the same as when she and Hodgins had run out of air in her buried car. Guilt. Not an emotion she felt often. She was too rational, had too much common sense to blame herself needlessly for things over which she had no control. But this – the responsibility for the pain she'd seen in Booth's eyes was hers alone. She hadn't meant to damage the connection they had, to damage them. But she had. Perhaps irreparably.
She exited the elevator next to him, gratefully throwing on her sunglasses as they approached the exit. When he opened the door for her, she blinked in surprise, and then mumbled her thanks. Of course he would open the door for her. His anger would never change who he was, never cause him to discard his beliefs or be deliberately rude to her. She knew that about him. Even when much of his past had been a mystery to her, she'd been certain of that. Unable to bear the thought of him opening her car door, she strode faster, reaching the truck several steps ahead of him. But her attempt to forestall him was unsuccessful, and his hand gently swung her door closed. Misery swamped her - desperate for a distraction, she checked her phone for any new data from the lab. Nothing. She sighed, closing her eyes. If he was still angry, if he was shouting, she could understand that. She could accept that, would accept that. But she had no defense, no course of action against the bitter ache that shrouded his face. He spoke again, and despair flared in her at his terse sentences. Professional, of course, but that was all. His voice was devoid of the spark, the lively notes that usually marked his tone when he spoke with her. It was her fault. And there was nothing she could do.
She opted not to take the Metro back to the Jeffersonian, walking instead. She needed time to clear her head. Dashing furiously at the tears dotting her cheeks, she called herself every bad name she knew. How could she have been so stupid? So trusting? She, who rarely trusted anyone, had trusted him. He'd spoken lies to her, and she'd simply smiled and acknowledged them as truth.
Her conversation with Cam and Sweets floated through her head, and she cringed as her pompous declarations replayed themselves. You have no evidence of that…Evidence…I am comfortable with evidence. Evidence. She laughed sourly, hating herself. She'd needed evidence of Jared's duplicity, yet she'd accepted his statements about Booth without a shred of corroborating proof. She'd been completely taken in by Jared – by his charm, his assertiveness, his successes – and the fact that he was Booth's brother. Booth was so exceedingly honest; she hadn't been able to comprehend that the same might not be true of Jared. Why would he lie? Of course, now she knew why. Well, not exactly why, but he'd subtly acknowledged that something had happened. As he'd made his admission, she'd realized the enormity of her mistake. Realized how horrible it must have been for Booth to face her, knowing what she thought of him. And realized that it might indeed be the end of their friendship.
Shouting at Jared had felt good, very good – but not quite good enough. Shoving him off the barstool had felt better. She thought, now, that if she'd stayed in his presence another moment, she wouldn't have stopped there. But most of her anger was directed toward herself; most of her disgust was self-disgust. So she'd stormed out, and now…She wanted to go to Booth, needed to go to Booth. To apologize. But she couldn't. He wouldn't want to listen. She'd been offered a silky line, a falsehood about her partner, her friend. And she had believed the falsehood. More to the point, she hadn't believed in her partner. He'd shown her, time and again, for over three years, the type of man he was. Shown her not with lofty declarations or bragging, but with his actions every day. In the space of one minute, she'd allowed herself to be swayed from what she'd been shown. What she knew.
That was her problem, she realized. If a theory or idea couldn't be physically proven within the confines of a lab, then the theory or idea was suspect, open to challenge. She took nothing on faith. To this point in her life, that approach had served her well. But she'd stumbled badly when it came to the Booth brothers. She'd trusted when she should have questioned, and questioned when she should have trusted. Just one more example of why she shouldn't be allowed to leave her office. So, she was left with no options at this point – she would have to 'take her lumps', as she'd heard Booth say once.
The Jeffersonian rose grandly in front of her, as much her church as any building could be. If she prayed – she corrected herself. If she was capable of praying, she would ask for forgiveness from Booth. She blotted her face one last time, walking slowly through the doors.
The time it took to confront the killer seemed to be hours. She supposed that's how it was, sometimes, when things happened all at once. From the moment Booth had revealed their knowledge of his guilt to the last screech of tires couldn't have been more than five minutes. But it all slowed down in her mind, allowing her to dissect each emotion as she felt it. Shock, as the sheriff grabbed the poor woman by the throat and pointed a gun to her head. Desperation as she thought frantically for a way to outwit him. Frustration as she disagreed with Booth about same. The flash of a gun and the ensuing burst of pain in her arm leaving no room for anything but fear.
That might've been the end of it, she thought. She knew Booth would have killed him at that point. But he was bearing the wrong gun, and firing would risk the hostage's life. He looked at her, his eyes full of fear for her safety. He shouted her name, once, twice, three times before she could find the breath to respond to him, to assure him she was all right. In dizzy awe she watched as Booth traveled down the street at a dead run, pumping shot after shot into the sheriff's car with movements so fluid, so effortless, it was almost breathtaking. It was a strange irony – such violent actions being borne out with such grace. The car careened in a tight arc, coming to rest against a parked truck, and Booth began to carefully approach the wreckage. He needed backup, she had to cover him – she struggled to stand, clumsily aiming his gun with her left hand.
But there was no need. The sheriff wasn't going anywhere. It was over. The pain and blood loss were beginning to have an effect on her, but still she stood, eyes trained on him. Then Booth turned and looked at her, and it was the old look, the controlled focus of the FBI agent rapidly being washed out by wild concern for her. The intensity on his face as he strode toward her left her short of breath yet again - but for a different reason. When he reached her, he switched the shotgun to his left hand and snaked his arm around her, jerking her tightly to him. Knowing that this embrace might be their last, she grabbed at the opportunity. She grabbed at him. The emotional overload from the long, horrible day made her shudder violently, uncontrollably, as she locked her good arm around his neck. At the first sign of her tremors, he simply tightened his grip on her and stood straight, lifting her feet off the ground. Moving her the last several steps to the curb, he made her sit, keeping her still until the medics arrived. My partner's been shot. His partner. He still considered her his partner. He believed her rather emotional reaction after that to be from the gunfight and her injury, and she didn't enlighten him. Her own pitiful neediness didn't matter. She didn't matter. All that mattered was what she'd done to him, and if there was any way she could ever make it right.
The conversation wasn't going well. She could see that much, even from a distance and through the wobbly panes of glass. It had been made abundantly clear to her that she didn't know Jared well enough to determine his mood, but Booth was a different story. The set of his shoulders, the stillness of his body, his head ducking low – all were clear indicators for her. He was unhappy, angry. Guilt-ridden. After a moment, Jared casually sauntered back into the bar, and she felt another burst of anger directed at him. Booth's birthday party was turning out to be anything but a party for him. Dealing with his troubled sibling when he should be honored. It appeared that the pattern was repeating itself once again.
Unfortunately, this was not the time or place to confront Jared. She was sure Booth wouldn't like it if she punched his little brother, regardless of the problems he was having with him. She started for the door but stopped, cake in hand, suddenly unsure if she'd be welcome. He had appeared to accept her public apology, but she knew firsthand that the sting of betrayal could take some time to fade. The bleak emotion etched into his face was what finally galvanized her, and she slowly made her way outside. She had to at least try. If he told her to leave, she'd have to respect his wishes. But he didn't reject her. With a slight jerk of his head, he invited her to sit, and she carefully perched on the bench. Prepared to merely sit in silence with him, she was surprised when he spoke, pain coating his words.
My dad drank. One sentence. A sentence that, upon initial examination, didn't say much. And yet, knowing what she knew, the sentence took on horrible significance in her head. She'd been in the foster system, had seen what could happen. Had direct knowledge of what could happen. And her heart twisted for him. Knowing that she often said precisely the wrong thing, she remained silent, yet wished that she had a special phrase or key bit of wisdom to offer. It wouldn't matter, though, what she might say to him – nothing ever really erased the pain. She had her own grief and sorrow tucked deep inside to this day. Maybe – Angela had told her a long time ago that physical contact could sometimes help when words couldn't. That approach had helped once before. Ignoring the pain lancing up her arm, she angled herself in his direction and leaned against him. But he pulled away instantly. Before she could feel more than a moment's hurt at his withdrawal from her, he stood, stepping around her feet and sitting on the other side. I don't want to hurt your arm. Eyes stinging at his statement, she leaned again, knowing that if Angela saw them, she'd be hovering instantly. But that didn't matter. Nothing did. Nothing but her partner. Her friend. He needed her. And she intended to be there for him. She would not lose her way again.
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