Hey, everyone. The reviews for last chapter blew me away…you guys make my day, you really do. You deserved a much quicker update for it all, but I ended up going on social and entertainment lockdown all weekend to study for an exam, and this week was busy. Plus two episodes this week..both were fantastic. Next week is dead time before finals, so hopefully the next one will be up faster. This is another long chapter, so hopefully it'll be worth the wait. Without further ado:
I sit on the couch and Angela stands in front of me, a looming, intimidating presence. I feel like a kid in the principal's office, although even that analogy feels like I'm trivializing the situation.
Angela stares down at me with undisguised disgust. It's not the same kind of disgust she gets in the forensics lab, when the bodies or the facts get too gruesome for an artist; this is more loathing than grossed out.
She folds her arms. "She told me what you said."
I suppose I should have known that; why else would Angela have stormed in and slapped me without preamble? Still, I'm a little surprised. "She did?"
Angela smiles tightly. "I had to force it out of her. Started circling her block and refused to take her home until she told me." The smile, insincere and humorless to begin with, drops. "But she started crying again about thirty seconds after she got in the car, and Bren…she doesn't do that. She's my best friend, and I've known her for years, and she's only cried like that in front of me once before and that…" She meets my eyes, dead serious. "That was a big deal, so I knew this was, too."
My own words replay themselves in my head for maybe the hundredth time since it happened. Some phrases are louder than others.
Total inability to care.
Cold, unfeeling clinical robot.
I grimace, bile rising in the back of my throat, as if my self-disgust has turned physical. Angela's right; this was a big deal.
Angela's studying me now, and I can see she's trying to work out where to start, but I feel suddenly pressured to explain, or at least acknowledge my own awareness of how awful I was.
"I know," I tell her quietly, my voice ragged with exhaustion. "I know it was horrible, and I was just-"
"Nuh-uh." Angela holds up her hand. "We aren't doing that. Don't make excuses. That's not why I'm here."
I start to protest, but her look quells me. I barely repress a meek Yes, ma'am.
Angela draws a deep, calming breath, and then asks, "You two never talked about it did you?" At my blank expression, she clarifies, "The shooting. Your death." The word drips with sarcasm. "Beyond the whole argument about whether you should have told her or not?"
I pause, somewhat thrown by the question. "Well…not really, but…everything was going on with Gormogon and Zack."
"Right, I didn't think so." Angela finally gives up her intimidating stance in favor of comfort, sitting down in the chair across from me, which suggests we are about to begin the long haul. "Like I said. I'm telling you all this because I think you should know; not because you deserve to, or even because Bren would want you to."
I nod, barely trusting myself to speak.
"I don't know how much you remember, even while you were conscious…" She raises her eyebrows at me, and it takes me a second to realize that she's inviting me to respond.
"I…I remember Bones shooting Pam. And I remember her talking to me, she…she was holding my hand."
"Great. So you probably remember how terrified she was."
I did. I remember the horror, the panic in her expression; I remember the way her voice had gotten progressively more hysterical as she begged me to hang on.
Angela continues, and even as she describes my injury her eyes remain utterly pitiless. "You passed out at some point. She kept yelling your name for awhile, and when the paramedics got there, it took two of them, plus Cam, Hodgins and Sweets to make her let go of your hand and move away.
"We kind of had to pull her up, and I think she was in shock at that point. She was shaking all over, and just stared at you, laying on the floor. We tried to talk to her, but it was like she didn't even hear. Then they got you in the gurney, and started heading for the ambulance, and she tried to follow. But the police were there, and they needed a statement from her about that woman. She started to panic; she kept saying 'I have to go with Booth' over and over."
My stomach feels like it's folding in on itself. Why did I never ask about any of this? I had never been able to reconcile the terrified, panicked Bones that had been the only thing I could focus on before I lost consciousness with the angry, detached version that had been waiting for me post-funeral. I'd never asked about what happened in between.
"We promised to get her to the hospital as soon as possible. Sweets was trying to explain everything to the police, about that woman's connection to the case. Cam and I got Bren over to one of the officers, and they started asking questions, but all she kept saying was 'she shot him.' She was staring at the door where they took you.
"The police gave up, finally…there were dozens of eyewitnesses to confirm Pam was about to shoot again. Jack and I drove Brennan to the hospital; I wasn't about to let her try to drive. She was dead quiet the whole time, white as a sheet…staring at her hands. There was blood on both of them, and all down her arm. But when we got there she didn't bother washing them…Cam had gotten there before us and found your doctor. They said they were about to take you to surgery. Bren wanted to see you, but the doctors said there wasn't time."
Some of the fury has drained from Angela's eyes now; she's far away, reliving that night. I would be relieved by this, but I'm caught up in what she's saying, by the blanks I never had filled about everything that happened while I was in surgery, and later, in hiding. At the same time, I'm dreading what's coming.
"We all wanted to stay; I tried to get Brennan to go wash her hands, clean up a little, but it was still like she didn't even hear me. She just sat in one of the chairs in the waiting room, trying not to cry, all curled up like she gets when something bad happens."
I know what she's talking about; I remember finding Bones curled on the couch in her office like that several times after we identified her mother's remains: arms wrapped around herself, shrinking into the back of the couch like she was trying to disappear. It's a position that is equal part vulnerability and self-protection, and it's always broken my heart. My chest tightens.
"I tried talking to her for a little while, but she was completely shut down. We were mostly quiet for the first few hours, but then Cam and Sweets started talking about the Pam woman, and Sweets made some idiotic comment about how she perceived Bren as a threat to your supposed affection for her. And he was talking about your protective tendencies and Bren just….she got up and walked out.
"I found her maybe fifteen minutes later in the hospital chapel." I glance up in surprise, and Angela shrugs. "Who would've thought, right? She said it was where you would be." Her face softens, only briefly. "That's how I knew exactly where to find you after she was shot."
For some reason, it is at this moment that I know I don't want to hear this entire story. My dread for the certainly painful things I'll be hearing has up to this point been battling with a sort of morbid curiosity, but suddenly I'm not interested. I know asking Angela to stop would only bring back the hostility, and do no good, so I keep quiet, my eyes closing as though I can block out the images she's conjuring.
"I could tell she'd been crying, but she still wouldn't really talk to me. So I sat with her for about an hour, and then I told her that the doctors might know something by now, so we went back to the waiting room. Everyone was asleep, and about a half hour later, the doctors came and they said…"
"They said I'd be fine," I said dully, repeating what Bones had told me outside my apartment.
"Yes," Angela said, that hard quality back in her tone. "Bren about fell over, she was so relieved. She wanted to see you, right then…she actually said please. But the doctor said it wasn't allowed, and that you wouldn't be awake until morning anyway. He said we'd be allowed in at eight a.m., but in all likelihood you wouldn't be awake until around noon.
"Bren didn't want to leave, even with all that. She was afraid you would wake up early, and she didn't come right out and say it, but she didn't want you to wake up alone. We finally convinced her she should go get showered and changed, and I promised to come back with her early the next morning. So she finally agreed. Jack and I drove Brennan back to the Checker Box to get her car, but she was still sort of freaked and I didn't want to leave her. She was exhausted, and I wanted to make sure she got some sleep. She barely even argued when I insisted on staying at her place. I said I'd go back to the hospital with her, really early.
"It was probably four a.m. when we got back to her apartment. Bren took a shower, finally got that blood off, but I don't know if she actually slept because she woke me up in the guest room before seven, shouting about how we had to be at the hospital before eight. She was pacing around, trying to hurry me up, threatening to go without me." Angela pauses, her eyes darkening, and I can see her steeling herself for the next part, the important part.
One of the agents he…he came to my apartment. To stop me from going, I guess…and Angela…Angela was there, and we were about to g-go back, but he came to the door…
Bones' words echo in my ears, that completely broken tone, and suddenly I can't stop myself from saying hoarsely, "Angela…I can't-"
She raises her eyebrows at me, tone cool, "Can't what? Can't listen to this? Too bad, Booth, because you're going to hear it." She leans forward, expression completely solemn. "I was in the guest room and Bren had been shouting at me to hurry every thirty seconds or so. But then she stopped; and I heard someone else's voice. A man's. So I…I went out to see what was going on." Angela bites her lip and looks away briefly, enough to give me a clue of how bad it's going to be, this recollection I don't want to hear. My hands are clasped in front of me, knuckles white.
Angela meets my eyes and continues, "There was an agent standing in the door. He was looking at Brennan with this alarmed expression, and she…she was standing there, hugging herself, shaking so hard I could see it even from across the room. Her face was so white, and she just…she yelled at him 'Go' She was trying to sound all authoritative, but her voice was almost hysterical. And then she looked at me, and she said, 'Angela, make him go now' So I just nodded at him; I figured there could only be one thing an agent would come over that early for.
"I didn't know what to say to her. I-I put a hand on her arm but she jerked away. She was trembling all over, and then she kind of leaned against the wall like she couldn't hold herself up. I asked her what happened, even though I knew." Angela meets my gaze. "Only one thing could make her look like that. And she shook her head a lot, and then…." Angela closes her eyes, and when they open I can see the unmistakable sheen of tears. "…she let out this long, low moan that was just…horrible. I never want to hear anything like that again…it was just pain. And she just slid to the floor and…and she completely fell apart."
Tears clog my throat. I don't want this. I don't want to hear about Bones in any more pain. I'd been stung by her behavior after my fake death; that much I had made clear this evening. But now I don't care. I'd rather think she'd been alright. I don't want to hear about suffering.
Angela is noticeably shaken by the memory of what happened, but is determined to tell me everything. "I don't even know a better way to describe it. Bren's so together, so strong all the time. She doesn't break. But right then…she didn't even care that I was there watching, she had no control over it. She just lost it.
"She was crying. I've never seen anyone cry that hard, Booth. She couldn't catch her breath between sobs, and her whole body was shuddering. I sat down next to her, tried to hug her, but she fought me the best she could. She was curled up again, her head cradled in her hands and I just….all I could was sit there while she cried. It seemed to last forever. Then I started to get really worried…she couldn't seem to stop long enough to catch her breath, and I was afraid she'd make herself sick, so I went to the kitchen and got a paper bag, and I came back and made her sit up, made her breathe into it. I figured that's what you do…then I tried taking her hand but she wouldn't let me touch her."
Angela's blinking back tears, and my eyes aren't exactly dry either. She's doing too good of a job putting a mental picture in my head; I've had enough firsthand memories of Bones in pain lately (because of me, because of me)… now another one is being added.
"She calmed down a little once she started breathing normally, but she was still crying a lot. But she let me hug her…I think she was too weak to fight me off. I asked her what she needed and…and she answered in this lost little girl voice I've never heard from anyone, much less Brennan…she said 'Booth."
I set my jaw and squeeze my eyes shut. I know the voice Angela means, too. I heard her use it tonight, for the first time.
"It broke my heart," Angela continues quietly. "She just looked so…hopeless. So broken. Like there was really nothing anyone could do for her anymore. Including me." Angela takes a breath. "We sat there for awhile longer, and then Bren told me I could go. But I was afraid to leave her alone, so I refused.
"She stood up. She had stopped crying, for the most part, but now she looked kind of…dazed? Numb, I guess. It was like she was at the beginning of the hospital. She said something about needing to wash her hands again, and I let her go to her bedroom alone. I called Jack, to see if he knew, and he said Cam called. When I hung up, I went to check on her, and she was laying on her bed…tears streaming down her face, holding…I don't know, exactly, some sort of pig figurine and what I think was a smurf…"
"Jasper. And Brainy Smurf," I say, my voice cracking. I can see the confusion on Angela's face; it's clear this part was never something she understood. "I gave them to her…"
"Oh," Angela replies softly. "I didn't ask her, and she just…she never said. But anyway, I…I sat down next to her, and she looked at me with this…" She pauses, searching for the right word. "…this devastated look. And she said 'I can't do this'."
A wave of nausea grips me and I drop my head into my hands, fingers clawing at my scalp to distract myself. "Stop," I beg. "Angela, please, that's…I get the point."
Angela makes a sort of snorting sound to indicate her disbelief. "You get the point? Too bad, there's more. She had to live it, you can listen to it." While I'm desperately trying to come up with some way to refute this statement, Angela leans forward. "You said she didn't care, Booth. You told her she's an unfeeling robot who wouldn't care if you died. So you're going to sit and listen to all the reasons you're dead wrong."
I wince when she throws my own words back at me, and, chastened, I nod.
"Good. She kept saying that over and over. 'I can't do this, I can't do this'. And I told her she could, that she would, but none of it made any difference. She wanted me to go, so I compromised and left her alone in her room for awhile.
"She came out a few hours later and she looked different. It was …scary. Before…her eyes had just been raw. Anguished. And suddenly they were just…hollow. She looked haunted. She walked straight to her CD cases and pulled out a Cyndi Lauper and got the disc out; she threw the case at the wall and snapped the CD with her hands. Her face was blank the whole time."
I shudder; this would've been Bones' equivalent to punching a wall. I allow myself to settle, briefly, on an actually pleasant mental image: Bones singing that night. I'd been captivated by her, and it was fitting that this had been what was going on right before I got shot; I could've done much, much worse in terms of my last moments on earth.
Angela's voice jolts me back to the far less enjoyable aftermath. "And that was when she shut down. She didn't say another word all day; she barely looked at me, even when I talked to her. She dragged out that stupid punching dummy thing she has in her closet, put on those gloves and just started beating it. I tried to get her to eat something after awhile, and she just shook her head.
"I left with Jack that night, and Bren was in the bedroom again, just laying there. I went in and hugged her, and it was like she wasn't even there, you know? Like she just…looked right through me. I told her Cam said not to worry about work, to take as long as she needed…I told her I left her food in the kitchen, I even said I would leave her something to help her sleep, just for that night. She still didn't say a word. She just barely nodded."
Angela swipes at her eyes impatiently. "I didn't want to leave her, even then. She was scaring me. But I could tell she wanted me to go…the only person she wanted to see then was you."
The pressure behind my eyes is building. I press my fingers against my eyelids and rub lightly. I'd been hurt by Bones' seeming lack of reaction to my death. The truth was much, much worse. It was like Sweets said; it's worse to hear about someone you care about in pain than to be in pain yourself. I'd take back my bruised feelings in a second, as much as I had obsessed over it at the time. There's no gratification here.
"When I got to the lab the next morning she was already there. I think the others were surprised, but I wasn't really. She wasn't going to sit around in her apartment doing nothing but thinking about what happened. She'd try to distract herself…that's how Brennan is." She raises her eyebrows pointedly, blatantly implying I should have understood this.
"She still wasn't talking to anyone. When Cam tried to tell her that no one had expected her to work, that she could take it easy, she just ignored her. She started plowing through those limbo cases. Never took a break. That's how it was for the next week and a half. She worked herself ragged. I saw an overnight bag in her office…I honestly don't think she went home. I kept finding the food I would bring her in the trash, and if she was sleeping it was only a couple hours here and there in her office.
"She at least started speaking again after two days, but only about her cases, and only when she had to. No one mentioned you to her. A week after it happened, we had another case, some body found in a swamp the FBI wanted her to look at. But she made Zack go. And the agent working the case, that idiot Kyle Desmond…he came back to the lab and was hanging around on the platform. The victim had been shot, so Bren was already on edge, and she definitely didn't like seeing some other agent there….then he started hovering over the table. She practically growled at him to get back, and he said something like 'I hear you used to let Agent Booth be very involved in the process.' Needless to say, she flipped out. Twisted the guy's arm behind his back and forcibly led him off the platform…"
The image of Bones manhandling that tool Desmond is amusing for about a second…but then Angela continues.
"…yelling about how he wasn't you and he better stay the hell away from the Jeffersonian and what fucking idiot thought she wanted another FBI agent working there, anyway. Guy was terrified. And poor Bren…she came back to the table and was standing there trying her best not to break down and cry in front of all of us…Cam took pity on her and asked her to get some files from her office, so Brennan could disappear in there for about half an hour."
I feel like we must be near the end of it. I'm physically ill, and I've come to the grim conclusion that there's nothing I will ever be able to do to make up for the amount of hurt I've caused Bones. Not only am I getting completely new information about what I've put her through in the past, but everything Angela's saying just makes my cruelty from tonight even more unforgivable.
Angela's expression has become hesitant, and that turns my stomach even more. She's hasn't been uncertain about telling me anything so far, believing none of it is too awful for me to hear, so the uncertainty on her face makes me nervous.
Ultimately, it seems, she decides to push forward. "There's something else, too. You really aren't supposed to know this, I don't think but…that same afternoon, I went to Bren's office to check on her, and then Cam came in and Brennan…she said she was done with FBI field work. She said a bunch of stuff about how Zack was ready and she would be of more use in the lab, but…" Angela shrugs. "We knew what it was really about."
My chest constricts. So much for Bones putting work first. I know how much the work matters to her; full field involvement, the ability to truly be a part of what we do. Giving those families the truth; that's what Bones is all about. And she was ready to go back to the lab full time, because she couldn't do the work with me?
"I honestly don't know what would've happened if it had been real," Angela says quietly in a voice that sounds like she's merely musing aloud, to herself, rather than addressing me. "I don't see how she could have kept going like she was. She was killing herself. The work all the time, the no eating or sleeping. And that was her way of coping." Angela gives a little shudder before turning her attention back to me.
"The day before your funeral was the first time anyone dared to even bring you up in a conversation. I told her first, just to sort of remind her before she heard it from someone else. When I first told her it was the next day, she looked kind of panicked, and then she got that stubborn look in place. Said she wouldn't go."
Angela crosses her arms, narrowing her eyes at me. "I knew she'd say that. Funerals are too public for Brennan. She keeps her grief as private as she can. You should know that. You should know her well enough to know she doesn't want to whole world to know how she feels. Bren didn't care if most people thought she wasn't upset about you dying…she doesn't care if most people think she's callous or cold or unemotional…but you aren't most people. You are supposed to know her better than that. But tonight…tonight you sounded like everyone else, if not worse."
My face burns with shame and I don't dispute any of this.
"Why did you think she was so mad when you showed up at your own funeral? Sweets was right for once…hitting you meant something. She went through hell for ten days."
"I know," I mumble. God, she's making that clear.
Angela sounds exasperated with me. "I understand how horrible you feel about what happened last week, Booth. Really, I do. You're so protective over her, and it's really adorable most of the time. And you're not easy on yourself, especially when it comes to her, so of course you weren't going to be able to brush it off. But she's been through worse. You both have. She doesn't understand why you might…throw it all away because of an accident." She pauses. "And I don't mean just the partnership."
"I know," I say quietly. I rub my eyes tiredly; I don't want to think about everything Angela just told me, but I also don't want to think about the present: Bones at home alone, most definitely still hurt, and me with no way to take back everything I said. "It's just…when I found out she hadn't been told, and all I was hearing was…compartmentalizing and how she'd moved on and how even Sweets knew she could take it…." My face reddens; I'm embarrassed admitting this stuff now. It all seems so ridiculous.
"You were hurt," Angela finishes. "I get it. I even told Bren once she should talk to you about it, but she brushed it off. It was like she just wanted to forget." Angela shrugs. "To be honest I was relieved she didn't completely avoid you. She hid it by being angry, but the possibility of losing you, realizing how horrible it would be….it scared her to death. Still does." There's a pause, and then Angela adds tentatively, "She still has nightmares about the shooting."
I still, staring at Angela. "She…even now?"
Angela nods grimly. "Yeah. I wouldn't know but I caught her last month, whimpering in her sleep while she was taking a nap in her office."
My stomach turns. "I…she was having a nightmare the other night, at her place. I th-thought it was about the shooting. The other shooting I mean, last week and I…I told her she was lying when she tried to tell me it wasn't."
To my surprise, Angela's tone is kind, "Well, in your defense, she could have just told you what it really was about."
I shook my head, fervently; I'm in the mood for self punishment. "She shouldn't have had to. I know Bones doesn't lie."
Angela rolls her eyes. "Calling her a liar probably shouldn't be high on your list of concerns right now."
I nod once in acknowledgement. Angela was right; I know Bones well enough that I should have known. Tonight, I acted like everyone else does; didn't bother to decipher the emotions under the surface, just assumed Bones was being cold and aloof; when I'm one of the few people who is supposed to know better.
"What can I do?" I whisper, my voice helpless. "What I said…I can't take that back. What am I supposed to do to make sure she knows I didn't mean it?"
Angela leans forward, suddenly business like. "Well, I shouldn't have to tell you this, but recent events make me think I might…do not make her come to you."
"I know that," I assure her quickly. "God, I know…but what if…what if she won't talk to me? I wouldn't blame her, I was…" My voice falters. "I was brutal. Cruel."
"Yeah, you were," Angela says flatly. "But I don't even think she's angry at you. I think she's beyond that…she's just really, really hurt. You basically blindsided her with the possibility of dissolving your partnership, and then started attacking her most vulnerable areas. It's pretty distressing when the guy you love starts exposing your biggest insecurities and saying he agrees."
My heart seems to simultaneously swell and clench….for several different reasons in that last sentence alone, and all I can do is stutter, "Wh-what?"
"Well, you get accused of something enough, a part of you starts to believe it. Even Brennan isn't immune to that. And when even you turned out to think she's robotic-"
"I, I…I don't." I swallow, my mouth suddenly dry. "But….that's not what I meant…the other thing you said…"
And, I swear, Angela smirks at me, "Please, Sweetie. Don't play dumb with me. She loves you. She's been in love with you for years even if she is too scared to admit it, even to herself. I've just told you how heartbroken she was when she thought you were dead…you think she was grieving for just a partner? A friend, even? Do you think what you said tonight would have hurt her as much if you were just a friend running his mouth?"
I'm gaping stupidly at Angela, wanting for some irrational reason to protest but unable to form words.
She smirks even more, clearly enjoying the moment of what she views as levity after all this heavy discussion. "And I know you love her, too." This 'revelation' prompts an incoherent sputtering sound on my part. "That's why you're torturing yourself so much over what happened last week. It's why you stood up in front of the bullet in the first place months ago." She rolls her eyes. "You're both so deep in denial, when really it's the most obvious thing in the world. Usually it's kind of cute, not to mention endlessly entertaining, but right now? Not cute. Because you're hurting her, and that's hurting you, and it's all a mess. So you have to go fix it."
I sit stock still in the chair, my gaze locked with Angela's. I don't really know what to say to all this; she isn't asking for either confirmation or denial of the blatantly stated fact, so I don't bother. But I'm quiet long enough that Angela knows how right she is…not that she seemed to have any doubt.
I'm the one to break the silence, telling her quietly, "Angela. I can't…I still don't know if I can just go back to normal. Go back in the field…the thought of something happening again…I don't know if I can do it." I meet her eyes, my expression pained, "I know that's going to be rough on Bones, but I just don't-"
Angela holds up her hand. "It's okay, Booth. One thing at a time, alright? Right now, you need to focus on what happened tonight. Make that right, and worry about the rest of it later."
I nod a little. "So…so you're saying I should…?"
Angela groans in annoyance. "Go to her, you stupid, clueless man. God, do I need to slap you again, Booth?"
"No, it's…okay." I'm on my feet then, and Angela, looking relieved, stands as well. "Okay, I'm going."
Angela heads to the door and I follow her. "Angela?" She turns. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me," she replies. "I did it for Brennan. Not you."
I smile slightly. "She's lucky to have you as a friend. I mean it." As unlucky as she is to have me lately, I add silently to myself.
Angela smiles. "I know."
We go down the steps in silence and just as Angela's about to get in her car, she says, "Hey, Booth? You didn't deny it." She raises one eyebrow.
I don't pretend not to know what she's talking about. "Yeah, I…I know I didn't."
She grins. "That's a step." Her voice is cheerful as she adds, "Now go. Hurt her again and I'll kill you."
* * * * *
I'm nervous walking up to Bones' apartment door. My heart's heavy with everything I learned in the past hour or so listening to Angela, and as much as I tried to get my thoughts together on the drive, I have no idea what to say to her.
My hands are shaking slightly when I knock on her door. For a moment, nothing happens, so I knock again. I can hear movement inside, and I wonder if she's standing on the other side of the door, debating whether to open it.
"Bones." I lean close to the door, trying to listen. "Bones, please…c'mon I have to talk to you."
The door swings open suddenly and she's standing there, staring at me warily.
My throat constricts painfully. Bones' eyes are red and swollen; I can tell she's been crying a long time. A big part of me wants to pull her into my arms and promise to be a better person; but there's another part that wants to shake her and say Don't you see how I hurt you?
"What is it?" Her voice, barely audible, is unsteady and guarded; it cuts me like a knife.
I swallow hard. "Can we talk?"
Her shoulders sag; her entire posture screams defeat. "You have more?"
As if my heart hasn't been battered enough tonight, this question makes me feels like it's being ripped from my chest.
"No," I reply quietly. "God, no, Bones, I just…I was all wrong."
Her eyes dart away from me, and then she turns and walks back inside, opening the door a little more behind her, which I take as an invitation to come inside.
Bones walks away from the door, her back to me, so I awkwardly enter and shut the door behind me, unwittingly reminded of Angela's recollection; she's stood right here when whichever agent it was told her I was dead.
"Bones?" I venture quietly; she doesn't turn around, but I can see her stiffen, can hear her shallow, still uneven breaths. I move a little closer. "Bones, will you please look at me?"
She turns, but keeps her eyes resolutely on the floor, only once chancing a momentary glance. I want her full attention so I can convey sincerity, but I can't keep the apology in any longer. "I'm sorry." My voice catches. "Bones, I'm so sorry. What I said…I didn't mean any of it…"
"Yes, you did," she counters softly, still addressing our feet. There's a pause, and then her eyes slowly drift up and lock with mine. Her expression is pained. "It was all too well formed. Tonight wasn't the first time you've had those thoughts."
I tentatively shuffle closer to her, a pleading note creeping into my voice as I answer, "No, Bones, I would never…I know you aren't cold. Or a robot, or incapable of caring. I know that."
To my intense disappointment, she looks away again. "But you honestly believe I wasn't upset by your supposed death. You…you've thought about it previously. Possibly quite often." Bones pauses, pressing her lips together, and her voice hitches in her throat when she continues, "And why wouldn't you? I allowed you to believe it. I gave you no indication otherwise, I-I never even thanked you for saving my life, and I…I haven't been understanding of what you're going through currently. I…I'm afraid all the evidence, it…" Her voice falters and her eyes close. "It supports your assertion. I am cold and unfeeling and…r-robotic."
Bones glances at me again, before ducking her head in something akin to shame, and this time I can see the unmistakable shimmer of tears. Once again, they seem to trigger my own, and my vision blurs.
Her words are a punch in a gut. I'd rather she be furious at me, slap me as Angela had. Instead, it seems, Bones has taken my cruelly thrown words to heart, once again believing that she is in the wrong.
"No," I say vehemently, my voice thick with emotion and what I hope Bones can understand as certainty. "Never say that, alright? You are anything but cold, Bones. I've never thought you could be. I was angry at myself and I was just spouting off…"
She still won't look at me. "But you thought it, didn't you? You thought I didn't…" Her voice trails off, and I can see her chin trembling, mouth contorting as she struggles to keep her voice steady. "The things you said were direct quotations…compartmentalizing and processing…I led you to believe I didn't care."
Angela's words are spinning in my head, and I will the conjured images away as I reluctantly admit the truth. "Yes." God, I was so wrong.
Bones nods for too long, her arms wrapping around herself in that usual protective stance. Her eyes squeezed shut, she says softly, "I'm sorry I made you think that. I did care…I…I cared a great deal." She swallows, then offers more, "I didn't compartmentalize well at all."
I draw a long, ragged breath, and minimize the gap between us, cupping her chin in my hands and gently tilting Bones' face up to look at me; stubbornly, she keeps her eyes tightly closed.
"Bones," I say, gently, shakily. "Bones, please…" She shakes her head. "Please look at me."
Her eyes, traitorous, open and meet mine. Shining with tears and clouded with hurt, anguish and even the vestiges of leftover grief, her eyes once again prove to be my undoing. I feel a tear drip on each cheek, simultaneously betraying me. "Oh, Bones…" I move my hand from her chin slightly the right, my thumb gently tracing tear tracks on her cheek. "I know you care. I do. It's my fault, I should…I should have known better."
Bones draws back slightly, her eyebrows drawing together. She stares at me searchingly, then says, "Did Angela…did she talk to you?"
"Wh-" I am momentarily panicked; but then, Angela never told me not to tell Bones she talked to me. So I opt for honesty. "How did you know?"
"Because that's what she said tonight. She mentioned continuously that you should have known better." Bones pauses, then tentatively asks, "What did she…?"
"She told me a lot of what happened after…after I was shot. At the hospital, and when they told you…everything up to the funeral."
Bones looks away momentarily, and I scrutinize her face for a reaction. Then, she looks back at me, tears falling now. "I should have told you myself."
"I wish you had," I admit honestly. "But Angela was right; I should have known. I know you better than that, and I…I just should have known." Bones continues to look miserable, so I press on, "You don't wear your feelings on your sleeve, Bones, and that's okay. It doesn't make you cold, or unfeeling."
I force myself to chuckle a little, even though it feels all wrong in my throat. "Bones, you've gotten in a bad habit lately of apologizing when you shouldn't. I should be doing that." I touch her face again, my tone turning serious. "And I am. I'm so sorry, Bones…I'm sorry for what happened last week. I'm sorry for what I said tonight, and…I'm sorry for what you had to go through three months ago. I'm sorry I never asked."
Bones sniffles, and swipes the middle of her thumb under both her eyes. "I went to the lab because I…I didn't know what else to do."
"You don't have to explain-"
She shakes her head. "I-I want to…it was just…it was so hard, Booth." Her voice cracks, and my heart aches for her, for the pain evident her voice. "I thought if I had something to…to focus on it would be easier to get through the days but…while I understand logically time progressed as always, that ten days seemed endless. I couldn't even…I couldn't comprehend the fact that I would never see you again." Tears course freely down Bones' face now, and I take her hand in mine, instinctually, the only comfort I can offer right now. "I'm sure Sweets would have something to say about my abandonment issues or some psychological nonsense but…but it's true that I never thought you would be gone. And in spite of my best efforts to remain independent, the experience forced me to confront the fact that I…I've grown to depend on you."
Bones pauses, choking back a sob. "I even wished that woman had achieved her original objective…to shoot me. It seemed a preferable option at the time." Her face crumples, and I feel like my heart's crumbling to bits, only to be repaired when she is. "I'm aware everyone thought I was being callous and distant refusing to go the funeral b-but I didn't think I could face it." She's sobbing in earnest now, but still desperately trying to get the words out. "I cared, Booth, I did. And last week when I heard those gunshots and you didn't answer… I was so t-terrified. Not for me, never for me…only you. I was so glad to see you standing over me, Booth, I never even put it together that you were the only available assailant…I didn't care, it never mattered, I promise…"
Bones is crying too hard to speak now, and I am finally able to give into the desire that's been gripping me since she opened the door; I move forward so the gap between us is nonexistent and wrap her securely in my arms.
She relaxes against me, one arm wrapping around my waist, the other clutching the front of my shirt. Her face presses against my chest, and I can feel her tears soaking through my shirt, her frame shuddering with each sob. We stay that way, me holding Bones and letting her cry for a long time.
"I'm sorry," I murmur against her hair, a few stray tears streaking down my face, a seemingly irrepressible response to Bones' pain. "I'm so sorry." I repeat it several times, a result of my earlier realization that I will never be able to say it enough to Bones. "I never wanted you to get hurt…" What breaks me is how many things this sentence applies to: all I've managed lately is hurting her.
Bones shakes her head against my chest, presumably a protest on my apologies, but I ignore and say, "'S my fault, Bones. All of this… I just want to make it right."
Sniffling, she draws back to look at me, saying thickly, "I told you. You don't have to." She sighs shakily. "I just want things to return to normal." Bones eyes fall on my shirt, which is now soaked on the front. "Look what I did…"
"It doesn't matter," I say gently, and without thinking about it, I reach out and gently thumb away any remnants of tears on Bones' face. "I wish you wouldn't cry though."
"I wish I wouldn't, either. It's quite unpleasant."
I smile weakly, but it doesn't hold. "I don't want to hurt you anymore, Bones. In any way." My eyes dart to her side, the place where I left a scar.
"Booth…I'm going to get hurt sometimes. We both are…high risk situations, remember? Whether it's because of a suspect purposefully hurting us, or one of us accidentally hurting each other – and please recall that I've done that as well – it's going to happen sometimes. The important thing is that we're still here." She smiles tremulously. "We always manage that, at least."
I am able, this time, to return the smile. "That's true."
There's a beat of silence; Bones hesitates, then admits softly, "The other night I was…I was dreaming about you being shot. I have that nightmare quite often, actually and since last week the…the frequency has increased."
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you, Bones."
"I'm sorry I didn't plainly tell you," she counters. "They're quite upsetting, the nightmares."
She nods, then, after another moment's hesitation, says, "I wish…I wish you would reconsider the gun situation. I believe if you just try again, if you continue to meet with Dr. Sweets." She pauses, steeling herself. "Maybe there is some merit to his methods. He has impressive credentials, at least."
She's asking me to try. I think about what Angela told me about taking it one thing at a time. I can't make any promises now, not on anything certain. That feeling at the shooting range, the horrible flashbacks and recollections, is still fresh in my mind.
But I just told Bones I didn't want to hurt her anymore. And if I walk away from our partnership, it will most definitely hurt her.
I can try. For Bones, I can try.
"Okay," I say. "I'll try. I…I promise to try."
There's a pause, and for one sinking moment I am afraid this isn't enough. I stare straight ahead, at the television, cursing myself for not being able to give her more, when she surprises me by kissing me on the cheek.
This happened once before, when I let her brother see his stepdaughter in the hospital, delaying arrest. The sensation is the same, shock waves travelling throughout my body; but this time, we're close together on the couch, and when I turn to look at her in surprise, Bones' face is still merely inches from mine.
Our gazes lock and my heart begins to thud painfully in my chest when enough seconds pass so I can see Bones isn't moving back. For some reason, at this moment Angela's words echo in my head.
Sweetie. Don't play dumb with me. She loves you.
"Hi," Bones whispers shyly, a voice I've rarely heard from her.
The eye contact is intense, but when Bones breaks it, it's only because her eyes drift, slightly downward, focusing on my lips briefly before returning.
Suddenly I'm thirteen again, working up the nerve for my first kiss with my middle school girlfriend; my palms are sweaty, hands trembling, my mouth problematically dry.
I start to edge forward, but an image flashes, unbidden, into my mind.
Bones, crumpled on the ground of the basement. My hand on the gun.
I don't deserve this.
Panic washes over me, and suddenly I back up, breaking the moment, facing forward again, words tumbling nervously out of my mouth as if I can just skip awkwardness. "I'll talk to Sweets as usual. And I'll go back to the range sometime soon. I promise."
I glance sideways at Bones' face, afraid of what I'll decipher in her eyes this time. Disappointment (is that wishful thinking?). Surprise. Hurt?
She shakes her head slightly, recovering, but her tone is strange. "Good. I can go with you, if you want."
"Yeah. Sure. Yes. That'd be great." I smile too widely.
Bones stands up. "I'm going to grab a drink. You want anything?"
I shake my head and watch her go.
I have to try harder.
Alright! Once again, you guys have been great…more reviews, please! I'm interested in finding out what you think about the Booth/Brennan confrontation of course, but also about everything Angela told Booth. Any thoughts are welcome! Hope you enjoyed!