Booth's cell rang at 3am that Sunday morning – definitely not a good sign. He woke from a dream he couldn't quite remember, but based on the way Seeley Jr. was standing at attention, it had been a pretty good one. It was Cam's voice on the line when he answered, and he fought the urge to hang up.
"We need you in here – immediately."
He closed his eyes. "Isn't it Sunday? And the middle of the night? Check my contract – I'm pretty sure I don't work either one of those."
"You don't have a contract, and I don't have time to argue. I need you to pick up Brennan. Don't pass go, don't stop to smell the roses. Just get her and bring her here."
His irritation vanished when he recognized the urgency in Cam's tone. "Why – what the hell's going on?"
There was a pause on the line, and he felt that familiar dread crawl his spine – the feeling he always got when Bones might be in trouble. After a second or two, Cam finally answered.
"Someone Brennan put away a few years ago just escaped – it was before my time, but apparently he's made a number of threats over the years. I've already got two guards outside her building, but I assumed you'd want to bring her in yourself."
He didn't press for more details, instead pulling on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, and strapped on his gun as he was heading out the door, still on the phone. "Well, you got that one right. How long's he been out, and where was he coming from?"
"He was in Sing Sing, maximum security. No one's exactly sure how he got out. Or when – but he was there for lights out Friday night."
"And no one's seen him since?"
He locked his door, taking a second to gather his senses once he was outside.
"No. Two guards were found dead in his cell the next morning – no one heard anything."
"Or if they did hear, they're sure as hell not talking," Booth guessed. Outside in the chill of a cool October night, he took a second to get his bearings before unlocking his car and getting in.
"All right – I'm on my way now. What'd you tell Bones?"
"I didn't tell her why she was coming in – just that there was a case she was needed on. And that you were coming for her." She paused again. "Seeley, from everything I've read about this guy, he really had it in for her. I'll feel a lot better when you're both here."
Booth closed his eyes, offering up a little prayer to the night sky as he started the car. "Don't worry – I'll bring her in. It'll be fine."
He pulled into the street with his head already in that cold, silent place that meant something serious was going down. Once he got to Brennan's neighborhood, he slowed down a block from her apartment, then killed his headlights when he was on her street. Everything was quiet; he spotted the cops Cam had sent immediately – which meant if this whack job was already here, he'd probably spotted them, too. Booth parked directly in front of the building, and took a second to feel out the situation before he headed inside.
A drunk came 'round the corner a little too fast, muttering to himself, and there was a hair of a second there when Booth almost reached for his gun. When the bum was safely tottering back down the street, the former sniper forced himself to take a breath. This was a job, he reminded himself. He'd been doing it for years – it didn't matter who he was protecting, just that he did his job. They'd be fine.
He got out of the car, noting that the lights were on in Bones' apartment. He let himself into the building using the key Bones had given him, and nodded a quick hello to Manny, the security guard in the front lobby.
"On the clock already, Agent Booth?" the older man asked.
Booth smiled, relieved to return to normalcy – see, everything was fine. Maybe he was overreacting.
"The dead never sleep, Manny," he quipped. That was a good one, he'd have to remember it. "How're the kids?"
"Always growing – if it's not shoes it's jeans, and if it's not jeans it's jackets. They always need somethin'. How's your boy?"
Booth paused at the front desk, still taking note of exits, stairs, elevator. The lobby was empty except for him and Manny – a good thing, because he might've had to shoot Bones himself if she'd met him downstairs. He'd told her a long time ago to stay put when he came to get her, especially this late at night. He liked to meet her right at her apartment – too many years on the job watching people get shot on their front doorstep. Too many years as the guy doing the shooting. Booth took another glance around. Instead of answering Manny's question, he lowered his voice and asked one of his own.
"Listen, Manny, you haven't seen anything weird tonight, have you? Any strangers in the building, anything like that?"
The man hesitated – which meant he had, but didn't want to get in trouble for whatever his reaction had or hadn't been.
"Anybody at all?" Booth prompted. Finally, the guard shrugged.
"Not really – I mean, it's Saturday night, so… There was a party in 311, a few people I didn't know there. And 212 – hot tamale, that girl – always has a new guy by the weekend."
"And 311 – everyone there signed in?"
Manny looked uncertain, but then Booth's cell phone rang – which pretty much shot his interrogation to hell. He checked the caller ID and smiled – just a little – as he answered.
"Bones! I'm on my way up the stairs now."
"Why don't you ever take the elevator?" She was cranky, he could tell by that little edge to her voice. He kind of loved it when she was cranky – his smile inched a little closer to a grin, despite everything.
"I do take the elevator – all the time. Just not on big cases in the middle of the night." He gave a little half salute to Manny, who saluted right back at him, and headed for the stairs while he continued talking. "Elevators can malfunction, get shut down, catch on fire… I take the stairs and I've got an exit on every floor, guaranteed." He kept talking as he jogged up the stairs, enjoying the movement.
"You think someone's going to set fire to my elevator at three-thirty on a Sunday morning?" Bones asked dryly. He could picture her eye roll, that funny way one side of her lip quirked up when she was annoyed.
"No, Bones, I don't – God. But I can't *guarantee* that they're not, now, can I? And as long as you're on my watch – "
He finally reached the top floor, and took a second to get his breath before he left the stairwell.
"You act like you're my bodyguard or something – you're not, you know."
He checked up and down the corridor – nothing. "Geez, Bones – what bug crawled up your butt?"
He reached her door with the phone still at his ear, and didn't have a chance to knock before it opened.
"I don't know what that means," she said, hanging up the phone once they were face to face. She was wearing jeans and a frilly brownish shirt he'd always liked – not that he didn't like most everything she wore, but this one was really pretty (and, he had to admit, he liked that it was kind of low cut. He wasn't a sleaze, but he was still a guy.) Bones didn't seem to pay any attention to what he was wearing, however, continuing with their conversation like he'd been right there all along. "I'm tired, and I'd planned on sleeping in tomorrow and then spending the day on an Aztec reconstruction I've been trying to get to for months."
She sighed. "Besides, you're late."
"Late – how can I be late? Half an hour ago I'm in my bed, having a *pretty* good dream – "
She looked at him curiously and he blushed, nodding to her bag with an exasperated sigh. "Forget it – just come on, Cam said to hurry. And just this once, try listening to me while we're out, okay? Whatever I ask you to do, I've got my reasons. You need to trust me."
Before she could start asking questions, he grabbed her bag and headed for the door. While she peppered him with questions all the way down the stairs, he could feel that cold quiet returning – something was wrong. Bones must have sensed it too, because she was silent by the time they reached the car.
He closed the passenger side door for her and then got in, still unable to shake the feeling that something wasn't right. He locked her inside the car and searched the night until he'd spotted the cops on watch – checked for his gun, checked the night, listened for that not-quite-right tone in the darkness that he'd learned to recognize over the years. He went to the cops – both young guys that he'd met before – and told them to follow behind, just to be on the safe side.
Once he was back in the car with Bones beside him and two marked cop cars following behind, he felt a little better. Still better once they were on the highway, cruising along at a pretty good clip with Smokey Robinson on low. When he was feeling more relaxed, he made an attempt to lighten his partner's mood. He sniffed the air, and turned to Bones in exaggerated amazement.
"Geez – you had time for a shower? How do you do that?"
She looked baffled. "You don't know how to shower?"
"Of course I know how to shower – God, Bones. I mean, how do you always get ready so fast? It doesn't matter what time it is or how out of the blue something might be, I show up at your place and your showered and dressed and your hair's… y'know, all coiffed and stuff. You even have jewelry on."
Her hand went to the Indian necklace she was wearing – a pretty one with aqua blue stones – like she was surprised to find it around her neck. She shrugged.
"I don't know – I guess I've just learned to get ready quickly over the years. My mother never encouraged spending hours in front of the mirror – it doesn't actually take long to bathe and dress oneself. And then in the foster homes…" the sentence died out before she finished. Booth looked at her for a second, before his eyes returned to the road. There was a long silence while he tried to decide whether to say something.
"Y'know, you always do that," he finally said.
"Do what?" she asked, but he had the feeling this time that she knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Mention the foster homes, and then go all quiet. They couldn't have been that bad, right? There must have been someone you liked, someone that was… I don't know, nice to you. I mean, you were a cute, smart, good kid, right? Who's gonna have a problem with that?"
There was more silence, followed by a sigh that he recognized – her 'I'm thinking things through' sigh. When he looked at her this time, her forehead was wrinkled like she was concentrating on something – after another second, she cleared her throat.
"I don't really like talking about it," she finally said softly.
He nodded, sorry he'd brought it up because now she was thinking about it, lost in it, too far to reach – he hated it when she was like that.
"Hey, no problem – I mean, there are lots of things I don't like to talk about. We can drop it."
She nodded, her eyes straight ahead, and he just looked at her for another split second when the tension and the silence returned inside his head and he could never explain how, but he knew it was too late – knew that something was about to happen and he should have been ready, and a milli-second later there was a pop like a champagne cork – except he knew, of course, that it was no champagne cork, and then the front windshield exploded in fragments of glass and light and sound.
Bones screamed, and he reached for her and pushed her head down, his foot hard on the accelerator as he tried to figure out where the shot had come from or where the bullet had landed.
Things got fuzzy after that, because it turned out that the bullet had landed in his shoulder. He saw Bones looking up at him, and the world was swimming and he was thinking, "Just drive, Booth, it's only the shoulder – you've driven through worse," but then his head was so heavy that he couldn't even support it on his shoulders, and Bones was reaching for the wheel, and somewhere off in the distance there was the scream of tires and the sickening crunch of metal on metal.
And then, there was nothing.