Booth looked through the glass pane separating him from his brother. Jared looked slightly thinner than he usually was and his skin now seemed to be powder white. Of course, the orange jumpsuit he wore wasn't the most flattering colour on anyone.
He had spent his whole life trying to protect Jared. When the old man came back drunk and angry, Booth had made sure he was the one taking the beatings. Jared was his responsibility, his little brother. He didn't deserve the bruises and broken bones. If anyone had to take them, Booth would.
'So how did it feel being rescued by a squid?' Jared cracked. Booth winced and then chuckled and then became serious.
It was his fault Jared was here. If only he had been more careful answering the door. He was a Ranger for chrissake! Since he had left the service, only Ice Pick had been able to get the drop on him.
'It was either that or being blown to pieces. I think somehow I'll get over it,' Booth replied, clutching the plastic phone. 'Look Jared, man, I'm sorry.'
'Why?' Jared looked genuinely confused.
'Because if I hadn't gotten my sorry ass kidnapped, you wouldn't be sitting there in that ugly as suit trying to fight felony charges!'
To his consternation, his brother scoffed. 'You know, Tempe was right. I don't deserve you.'
Bones had said what?
'I gotta say, I was surprised when she called me. Last time we were alone together-' Booth cringed at his words, '- she pushed me off a bar stool because I made her think you were a loser.'
'What?' Booth gaped, trying to suppress the joy that a mental picture of an irate Brennan pushing Jared off his perch produced.
'Look Seel, there are some things I want to say. First off, I'd hijack a dead body from the FBI again if it meant saving your life. Ever since I can remember, you've had my back. Yeah we've bitched and moaned at each other, but deep down I always knew you'd come through for me. You kept Dad from using me as his punching bag, and I'll never forget that.'
'I didn't do it to use as emotional blackmail Jared.'
'See,' Jared pointed out, a self-deprecating smile on his face. 'There's the difference between you and me. If I'd been kidnapped, you would have snuck in yourself and carried that body out, consequences be damned. Me? I told Tempe I had to make a few calls. She told me I was a selfish coward, and you know what? She was right.'
'Bones has a tendency to be a little…abrupt,' Booth muttered half-heartedly.
'I did the same thing you would have done for me,' Jared told him firmly. 'So get that mopey pathetic look off your face big brother. This isn't your fault. I knew what I was getting into and it was worth it.'
'Doesn't mean it isn't right,' Booth murmured, trying to ignore his brother's words.
'Tempe already got me the best lawyer anyone on planet earth could find. Repaying a debt were her words. She said I could pay her back by trying to, and I quote,' Jared said cheekily, 'assuage some of the inevitable guilt that you will feel as a by-product of your ability to protect and serve as the alpha male of the situation being compromised.' This time, Jared did laugh.
'That sounds about right,' Booth replied. As usual, Brennan was right about what he was feeling. He did feel remorseful that his kidnapping had led to this. The Gravedigger had done something far worse than get the drop on him – she had made him feel like a victim.
'But most importantly of all Seeley, I want to apologize about Tempe.'
Booth looked up at Jared's words.
'I knew how you felt about her when I asked her to come with me for that banquet.'
'She's my partner.' The words tasted hollow in Booth's mouth as he recalled what Teddy had said.
Maybe I'm here so that you can tell someone that you love them.
He could still remember how she had latched onto him when he had come aboard that helicopter. She had hugged his arm tightly to her chest, much to Booth's discomfort and pleasure, and had refused to leave his side unless absolutely necessary. He hadn't discussed much about what had happened to him down there, only that a ghost had helped him. Brennan had played along with him, though Booth could plainly see the skepticism on her face, but had yet to offer anything about her time spent buried alive.
They had never really talked about her experience, he mused. In the aftermath, he could see that she was having trouble sleeping. Enclosed spaces made her fidget restlessly and he hadn't commented when she had politely declined to ride in his car a few days after the incident. Booth also hadn't said anything when she had foregone driving to work.
The first time he had been back to the Jeffersonian after he had been discharged from the hospital, Hodgins had drew him aside and told him to expect nightmares like Dr Brennan and him. Booth remembered feeling slightly betrayed that she had shared something so important with Hodgins of all people, but had quietly nodded when the entomologist had haltingly offered a ear if he needed it.
'When Tempe came into that bar to tell me you were kidnapped, she wasn't rational or calm. Her eyes were bloodshot, there were bags under her eyes and she was practically begging. Yeah, I risked my job, but so did she. She didn't sleep much, didn't eat much. When she found out we knew where you were, it was like this light had come back on.' Jared leveled a look at Booth, whose fingers had curled into his palm. 'That doesn't sound like someone whose just a partner.'
'When I was on that ship, I saw Teddy.'
Surprise registered on Jared's face. 'As in Parker?'
Booth nodded. His brother knew a little of what had happened, enough to understand the boy's significance to Booth's life.
'He told me to pass a message to Claire, tell her he loved her. And I asked him what was so hard about telling someone you love them. Just say those three little words to their face. Like it was easy.'
Jared remained quiet until the end. 'You're afraid she'll be another Rebecca.'
Yes, only if Brennan said the same thing, it would literally kill him. When Rebecca had refused his proposal, told him that she wasn't one of those girls, he had felt the world fall away from him. But hearing those same words – like he half expected any declaration of the same sort to her anyways – coming from Brennan herself would cause what semblance of happiness and sanity he had to implode.
She was the thread holding everything together for him. Work, play, business, pleasure – in his mind, they all led back to her. Even his son adored her, and when he saw the way she would smile down at him and run her fingers through Parker's soft hair, he could feel his heart ache so bad because he wanted this to be his everyday.
'She's not, you know?' Jared remarked shrewdly. 'Deep down inside, you know that too. Hell, sounds like even Teddy knew it.' Booth noticed his brother failed to remark about the improbability of Teddy being in that ship with him, or the fact that Booth himself might be loosing his mind.
'Say those three little words,' Booth repeated the words acerbically, shaking his head.
'Just…just think about it, would you? You deserve to be happy big brother, after all the shit life's put you through.'
The guard's voice rang through the small room, saying they had a few minutes left.
'We get to go out in the yard today. Don't know how he got it, but some guy down in cell block four's got a pretty decent single malt scotch to lose.'
Something twisted inside Booth's stomach. 'Jay Jay-'
His brother waved away the childhood nickname. 'Relax Seel. I'll survive. Just keep sending me care packages and visit, would you?'
'You'll beat this, okay?'
'Teflon baby,' Jared tried to joke, but the smile didn't really reach his eyes.
Time was up.
'I'll be by the next time,' Booth said thickly.
'Looking forward to it.' Jared's voice was equally as thick as he swallowed. Abruptly he hung up the phone and got to his feet. Booth watched as the manacles around his wrists dropped nosily to the ground.
He met his brother's eyes and then looked on as he shuffled his feet with the rest of the prisoners.
Booth gently placed the phone back on the cradle.
His eyes burned.