A/N: There are aspects of this oneshot that echo of spoilers for the season finale, so if you're hard-core against spoilers, you won't want to read any further. On the other hand, if you're like me and can't get enough of them, then carry on. :) This shot (which is not a songfic) was inspired by the song "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie, who are amazing. All rights reserved to their respective owners. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
No blinding light, or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the No's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark...
- I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Death Cab for Cutie
Brennan's eyes snapped open and she sat up in her chair, as if suddenly shaken into consciousness. To her left, Cam was staring blankly at a pamphlet in her hands, not really reading it, eyes glazed over. The seat to her right was empty—Angela hadn't been able to sit still longer than a few minutes without getting up and pacing the halls anxiously. She was a restless soul, it was what she did; like a hummingbird, her wanton flittering defined her, in the best and worst of times.
"Did the doctor come in yet?" Brennan asked Cam, rubbing the sensation back into her right forearm. She had been leaned against her elbow, eyes fighting to stay open, and had apparently taken a brief nap in that position. The weight of her head pinched the nerve in her elbow, numbing that arm. She rubbed vigorously as Cam slowly shook her head, not bothering to lift her eyes as she lazily flicked one of the pamphlet's pages.
"I would have woken you if they had," she replied. Brennan nodded—of course she would have. She just had to ask.
She had set her alarm for three o'clock that morning, picked him up by four, and had him to the hospital by five. She forwent breakfast on account of him having to fast before surgery, so they both sat in the small hospital room with growling stomachs, waiting for the nurses to come prep him for surgery. He had a peculiarly lumpy skull under all that hair, Brennan discovered, and they both laughed about it as he surveyed his new look in a hand mirror. Here, the nurse had said, touching the back of his head, is where Dr. Cascioli is going to open the skull to remove the tumor. It's not large, but it's pretty deep, so it's going to be a long surgery. You'll be asleep for a while afterwards too, so I hope you set your DVR before you came!
A brain tumor. It was benign, something he'd probably been carrying for months, nestled deep in his grey matter, toeing the line between his occipital and parietal lobes. Visual hallucinations are caused primarily by occipital lobe tumors, while auditory ones are generally due to tumors on the parietal or temporal lobes, the doctor, a short man with thick salt and pepper hair and kind eyes had explained. The position of yours, Mr. Booth, explains the intense and complex nature of your hallucinations. Everything, it seemed, had a medical explanation. The Smurfs. Luke Robitaille. Teddy Parker. Well, Booth still insisted that Teddy hadn't been an audiovisual product of his brain tumor, but a true ghost. Brennan, however, found the doctor's medical explanation to be sound.
"You can't wear that into surgery," one of the nurses had said, motioning towards his neck around seven-thirty, when the operating room had been prepped and readied for him. Shrugging, he undid the fastener on the glittering gold chain, and held it out towards his partner.
"Hold onto it for me?" he asked, and Brennan nodded, taking the Saint Christopher's medallion and pocketing it. They asked if he was ready; he nodded. As they unlocked the wheels on the bed, preparing to roll it down the hall towards the operating room, he very suddenly reached his hand out over the side of the bed. Without a thought Brennan bridged the gap between them, taking his hand in hers and squeezing it tightly. He sighed, shutting his eyes as he rested his newly bald head against the pillows, then nodded.
"Okay," he said. Brennan walked alongside the bed down the hallway, until they reached the fiercely guarded doors of the O.R. The nurses gave her a sympathetic but firm look—thou shalt not pass. She gave Booth's hand one last firm squeeze, and he gave her one of his disarming grins, that was dimmed only by the worry hiding in his gaze.
"See you on the other side," he said. She smiled and gave a little nod, and let go of his hand. The buzzer sounded and they pushed him through, leaving her standing in the bright white hall, reeking of antiseptic, the feeling of his hand still warm on her palm.
Presently Hodgins re-entered the waiting room, balancing an armful of Styrofoam boxes and coffee cups. He littered the magazine table with them, opening each one in turn. Nothing looked particularly appetizing—greasy ham and cheese sandwiches, congealed egg salad, and what might have possibly been mashed potatoes in a past life but now more closely resembled plumber's putty.
"They didn't have much left," he sighed, taking one of the coffees in hand and sitting across the way from Brennan and Cam. "The fast food places in the food court all closed at like, eight. I figured at ten o'clock you can only be so picky, right?" He tried to smile but it came out as a tired, half-hearted leer that he quickly dropped. It was not supposed to take this long. They'd had him in there fourteen hours now—fourteen hours Brennan had bounced from chair to chair, wandered the halls, perused the gift shop aimlessly, watched muted television, and just generally tried to occupy herself until he got out of surgery. Cam had left and come back several hours later, Angela had been unaccounted for since about six that evening, and Hodgins had left for a brief lunch around noon. She had not left. She was going to be there, whether they needed her there or not, until she knew he was okay.
It's a smooth-edged tumor, she reminded herself, stomach turning as the overpowering smell of burnt cheese and greasy ham filled the room. The chances of accidentally damaging the healthy tissue around the tumor are very slight in operations such as these. Dr. Cascioli is the best in his field. The tumor is small. Booth is strong. There's no reason to worry. She ran the thoughts through her mind on repeat, almost chanting them mentally, like a mantra. There's no reason to worry. There's no reason to worry. There's no reason to worry.
Angela fluttered back into the room and landed lightly on the seat next to Hodgins, folding her hands in her lap and looking severely lost.
"Any news?" she asked, to a chorus of shaking heads. She picked up the greasy sandwich, and Brennan watched in mild repulsion as Angela consumed the entirety of it in under two minutes. Angela had always been an anxiety eater—maybe that's where she had been this entire time, the cafeteria.
"When was the last time they gave us an update?" Hodgins asked, looking down at his wristwatch.
"Around eight," Cam said as she poked the unyielding potatoes with a plastic spork. "They said they were getting close, and if—" Cam suddenly stopped speaking as Dr. Cascioli walked into the room, hair still hidden beneath his scrub cap, clean hands clasped in front of him. Immediately Brennan stiffened, sitting up rigidly in her seat as the room turned their attention to the man.
His mouth opened and he began to speak, but she couldn't understand the words. She squinted hard, leaning forward in her chair as if she were simply too far to hear. No, she could hear him—she just couldn't make the sound take shape. It was like the accidental clatter of dropped cymbals, the amplified unharmonized first strums of a guitar, the guttural clearing of a singer's throat before they begin. Disorganized sound, deadening, so loud as to overtake her ability to hear, to think. She heard herself say something over the thunder, but her own words were shapeless too—they were the lonesome strings of a violin, an understated melancholy barely audible over the world crashing down around them.
The strings warbled and the doctor shook his head, irreverent to their pleas. The chaotic, orchestral scream of reeds, wounded howl of brass, the anarchic cacophony of drums pounding out of rhythm with one another, with no rhythm—they completely overtook the gentle whine of the bow against strings, a full, sorrowful melody that would not be heard.
She hastily rose from her chair, brushing past the doctor and striding down the hall. Her lost feet echoed down the hall, each of them a warble, a cry, the long draw of a bow with masterful purpose. Each step stretched her further, wound her tighter, tuned her sharper and sharper. Something would snap soon—it was strung too tightly, stretched beyond its means, unable to hold its shape.
She did not feel the cold snap of night, or the rain that drizzled down from the surly storm overhead. She didn't feel anything but the tautness, the winding within her, tighter and tighter. The sharpness, growing shriller and more grating; less like a tune and more like a scream.
The engine whined too, fading out to a whistle and then an inaudible grumble. The wheels grinding against the pavement as the car bolted down the main road played a macabre duet, a mourning bass to accompany her.
She was beyond music, though. She was beyond tune, beyond tempo. The lilting symphonic scales were lost to her—the sounds did not assemble anymore. Nothing did. Nothing assembled, nothing fit together at the edges. They had no edges, really—they had no parameters, no defining boundaries, no clear markers. The beats, the scales, they'd fallen apart—everything orderly had simply ceased to be.
The light reflecting off the wet road before her stained red, and her foot moved towards the brake, but it wasn't there. It just wasn't there. All things came to an abrupt halt and the strings snapped, finally. The wood bout splintered into a thousand fractures of a whole, scattered across the shining black asphalt and landing soundlessly. All that once was rested in the angry glow of the intersection light and the sweet, sweet blessing of silence.
When she opened her eyes, he was there.