Fighting the Invisible Foe, by Chibiness87
Spoilers: Yup. Big, huge stonking one for 4.25 CitC. If you haven't seen this ep and want to stay spoiler free, turn away now.
Length: 2655 words
Summary: A bug isn't something I can go out and shoot to get rid of; it's up to the person in the bed to do the fighting. Of course, this time, it's not a bug.
Disclaimer: Yeah, why would I give Booth a brain tumor?!! I don't own it. Or The SIMS. Or Where's Waldo.
A/N: I've lost count how many times I've watched the last 5 or so minutes of this episode. And I still tear up, each and every time. Please note, the science-y stuff in here is what I found online; I in no way claim it to be completely accurate. If you're in the know, and I've made a huge, massively blazing error, please let me know and I'll correct it.
Truth to tell I'd known something was, not wrong per se, but definitely not right for a few months. I just didn't want anyone to be worrying over me, not when they have so much to worry over anyway. And it wasn't like the hallucinations were doing me any harm, not really. Heck, sometimes they were just what I needed to keep going, keep trying. Teddy especially. I don't know what I would have done if Teddy hadn't shown up on that boat. So yeah, hallucinating tends towards badness, but it was a badness I was totally okay with.
And then Stewie showed up.
When Bones dragged me out of the room and found out who I'd been having a conversation with, I was surprised the first words out of her mouth weren't, "I don't know who that is." But then, she was more freaking out about my past 'episodes' than a pop culture reference. Of course, there was absolutely no way I was going to tell her it wasn't the first time I've seen the little cartoon baby this week. Any other time, maybe, but no way no how was she going to find out I'd had a little chat with the guy when I was at the clinic trying to donate my... stuff for her.
The worry I saw in Bones' eyes scared me. Here she is, this wonderfully tough person, who has stared down the barrel of more guns than I could have ever wanted (seriously, just one was one too many), and never even blinked, never mind looked scared. In fact, I can recall seeing this look on her face exactly twice in the past. The first when I was shot, and the second when I was clonked over the head at that hockey game when I had a nice 'visit' from Luc. I had promised myself that night I was never going to be the cause of that look again, and yet here I am, not even 4 months later and she's wearing it again.
She drove me to the hospital, leaving our suspect in the interrogation room for some lackey to deal with; her attention shifted to me over the case now. I hate hospitals. I've spent more time than I can care to recall in one hospital or another, even when I was a kid and 'got in the way' of my dad when he was wailing on my mother with his fists. Even when I'm not the one in the bed, I still feel at odds, useless. A bug isn't something I can go out and shoot to get rid of; it's up to the person in the bed to do the fighting.
Of course, this time, it's not a bug.
There's questions, and blood tests, and more questions, and scans, and yet more questions, and I don't have a clue what any of it means. Bones hasn't left my side apart from when she absolutely had to, when I went in for that head scan. But as soon as I came out she was right back there again, taking in everything the docs were saying to me, translating what she needed to so I could understand.
The scans come back, and they won't tell either one of us what's wrong with me without a second opinion. I'm no expert, but when in a hospital and someone needs to get a second opinion, that never leads to a good thing. A glance at Bones' face confirms that thought. She'd never admit to it, but she worries her bottom lip when she's nervous or anxious, and her forehead creases when she's worried, and right now her lip is being worried so much I'm surprised she hasn't bitten right through it, and I have never seen the lines on her head more pronounced.
Finally, finally, the doc and his buddy come back, scan in hand. They hold it up to the light, point at some bit of the scan, and talk squint. I'm usually not one to boast, but after all this time working with the squints in the lab, I've picked up a lot of the squinty words they use. Ask me about iliac crests, and hyoids, and heck, even temporal or occipital bones, and I can tell you not only what they are, where they are, but also why they may help in the case.
I have no idea what these docs are saying.
I don't like not knowing. In fact, not knowing is pretty much the opposite side of the scale I like to be on. I spend my life now looking for the truth, trying to catch the bad guys. And sure, sometimes it's nice and easy, and the bad guy might as well have one of those markers in the SIMS games over their heads, but sometimes it's like trying to find Waldo in Waldo-world. So while I may solve mysteries in my professional life, I like things to be nice and simple in my personal life.
The docs have moved on and are discussing next stages, but I'm still at the start line, trying to work out what the race even is. So I do what I usually do when I'm lost in squint speak; I look to Bones. Only this time, she's talking along with the docs, and hasn't realized I'm floundering behind. My hand finds hers, tugging on it like Parker does to mine when he wants my attention. It seems to work for grown up Booth's too, because she's stopped and is looking at me now.
"Bones. I don't... what..." My voice cracks, and I can feel myself beginning to panic slightly. "I don't know what this means." I know if I had a mirror I would see a little-lost-boy expression on my face, I can feel it there. But right now, I feel like a little lost boy, thrown in with the adults and left to fend for myself.
"It means..." she starts, only to stop and clear her own throat. Taking the scan from the doctor, she holds it up so we both can see. "You see this shadowy part here?" she asks, pointing to a part of the scan that's slightly darker than the bit surrounding it. My throat has blocked up again, so I can only nod in response. I bravely meet her eyes when she starts up again, "That's what's been causing the hallucinations."
At those words I have to close my eyes. Even I know what that means the shadow on the scan is. Words start flying around my brain. Tumor. Cancer. Suddenly the panic that has been slowly building in me since I saw Stewie at the clinic takes over. My heart starts hammering, I can't breathe, can't think. I need to get away. Get out of this bed. Every survival instinct in me is screaming. Go. Now. Retreat. I still can't breathe.
And then Bones is there, holding my head, forcing me to meet her gaze again. She's talking to me, I can see her lips move, but the buzzing in my ears means I can't hear what she's saying. The doctors are pulling up needles and vials of liquid, and that just sets me going again. The buzzing gets louder. I still can't breathe.
But then I'm met with that blue gaze of hers again, and even though every part of me is freaking out, I can still read her eyes. Her tears make the blue a little hazy, and it suddenly hits me that they're for me. She's crying for me. Her eyes are begging me, pleading with mine for me to calm down. To breathe.
I struggle to do what she needs me to do, gasping in quick breaths. The buzzing starts to fade, and I can hear her talk again. "… with me. Nice and easy, Booth. Come on, deep breath. That's it. Breathe with me." Her eyes never leave mine as I manage to calm my breathing to be in synch with hers, and the panic that consumed me begins to fade. The docs have put the needles down now, and are standing back, letting Bones do what they couldn't.
"Okay?" I don't know if she asks it aloud or not, but I can see the question in her gaze nonetheless, and I nod, keeping my breaths deep and even, letting the adrenaline fade. I finally turn to the guys in white lab coats and give a sheepish look, apology on my tongue. Before I can speak it though, they have waved it away. I'm guessing mine is a common reaction to the news I've just been given.
Oh god. I have a brain tumor.
I turn back to Bones, needing her to keep me calm. "Okay. Okay, so, um, what's the uh…" I wave my hand feebly at the film on my bed, trying to force the words out. But then it turns out I don't need to, both the docs and Bones seem to know what I'm asking.
My hand finds hers as the doc reaches over and picks up the scan, holding it so I can see where he points. "You see how it seems to be a smooth line, like a circle?" I glance at where he's pointing, but I'm not sure what I'm meant to be seeing. I nod anyway. "That makes me and my colleague here think it's a pilocytic astrocytoma, located in your cerebellum, midline based, meaning it's affecting your optical nerve, which explains the hallucinations you've been having."
"Pillow-sit-ic astro what?" Another reason I hate hospitals. You ask for things to be simplified, and they still give it to you in super-squint-talk. I again look to Bones for help.
"Astrocytes are a type of cell in the brain, and when they grow into a mass that's not supposed to be there, they're known as astrocytomas. Pilocytic means it forms as a solid mass, not fluid, so it's easier to remove. The cerebellum is the bit of the brain that hangs down at the back. Midline means it's in the centre, not off to the left or the right." She turns to the doctor holding my scan. "You said it was smooth edged. Are you thinking it's benign?"
"Well, about 85% of cases are, yes, and from this scan I don't see any metastasis. Of course, we won't know for sure until we operate, but I'm fairly certain it's benign."
"Benign? That's good, right?"
Bones squeezes the hand I'm still holding on to. "Yeah. Benign means it's not interfering with anything else, it's just… there." She waves her free hand feebly in the air. "A benign tumor stays where it is and doesn't spread to other parts of the body. Basically, if you have a tumor, a benign tumor is the best kind to have."
"Right. Okay. Good. That's… good. So uh, what's next? You said operate?" I ask, turn to face the doc again.
"Yeah. Ideally, we'd like to get you in as soon as possible. It's rare to see these tumors after the age of about 18, although there has been an increase in the number of 30 to 40 year olds who have developed them. As with any type of brain tumor, the sooner we go in, the better."
"Right. Okay. Where do I sign?" Suddenly, all I want is this damned thing out of me. I don't care about statistics and what it's made of. I want it gone. Vamoosed. Sucked out with a straw, whatever. As long as it's out, and I'm still me, I don't care.
My intent is clear to the docs, and they scurry off to find what they need to find for me to go under the knife. The hand in mine squeezes hard, and my eyes find those of my partners once more. She's trying so damn hard to be strong for me, I can tell. And then it suddenly hits me with force. I'm in love with her. Completely, utterly, ass over teakettle in love with her. And I can't tell her. Not now. Not like this. Not when there's a chance I won't come out the other side still me.
"You should go tell the others what's happening. And uh, can you, can you call Rebecca for me? Just in case? Parker… he should…" My voice cracks again at the thought of my son. Bones doesn't call me on my basically pushing her away. She just nods, squeezes my hand once, and moves towards the door. Just as she's at the threshold, I realize I don't want to be alone.
I'm about to call out to her, when she turns back and faces me. "I'll be back in a bit, okay? Try to rest, I won't be gone long."
And then it's just me, and nurses and forms, and all I want is her to be back with me, holding my hand, telling me it's going to be fine. I'm beginning to panic again slightly, my breath hitching. Pads hook me up to machines, drips get inserted, and I still look for her, wanting, needing her to come back. I still feel like I can't breathe. The room empties, and the fear is almost taking me over again when I see her, standing in my doorway again, a small smile on her face. My heart lightens immediately, and I feel I can breathe again.
She must have talked to the doctors again when she was out, because she's got more information for me about the length of the op. I can tell she's still trying to be the strong one, telling me it's going to be fine. It's what I've wanted to hear from her, desperately so, and still it nearly kills me to think I can't help lift her burden of worry this time. This time, it's her on the outside, wanting to fight what she can't touch. I try to help, cracking a joke about getting lonely without the hallucinations, and it works for a second. She smiles, even lets out a small chuckle, and it's enough that I can fine one of my own in return. I wonder, fleetingly, if this is what she felt when I was rushed in to surgery because of a bullet meant for her.
I won't let her go through that again.
"Will you come in there with me? To the operating room?" My voice cracks some more, as I ask, plead with her. She may not be a neurologist or a surgeon, but as I tell her, she's a genius. Not that that's the reason I want her there, of course. No, I need her there because then I know there's at least one person in the room who doesn't see me as another statistic, another case. To her, I matter. And I need that.
Plus, it's hard to fake my death to her again with her standing right there.
When the doc comes back in, she does as she said she would, and takes him off to one side. I can only imagine what she says to him to let her into the room with me, but whatever it was works, and she's led off somewhere to change into scrubs.
It's on the way to the operating room that I realize I want to have a baby with her. No matter what. It may not be a full love confession, but those are clichéd to be deathbed scenes, and I have no intention of this being my deathbed. She's surprised, and I can't blame her, not after what I said back at the Hoover. She agrees though, and then I'm being pushed down the hallway once more, my hand clasped in hers.
As they push the anesthetic into me, I catch her eyes again. "I'll see you later?"
She smiles back at me. "Yes," she says, "You will."