Title: All the King's Horses
Word Count: 4000
Spoilers: Wannabe in the Weeds and Pain in the Heart
Disclaimer: All things "Bones" belong to FOX, Hart Hanson, and Kathy Reichs. I'm just having fun.
Summary: What if Booth hadn't stepped in front of Brennan in time to catch Pam Nunan's bullet? What if Pam had hit her target?
Author's Note: I can't believe it's finally finished. Many thanks go to obrien_blue, zerodetorres, and tempertemper for holding my hand through this last bit, which was exceedingly difficult.
This whole piece has been a learning experience (I learned that I should really stick to one-shots, for example. Heh.) and I am so grateful to all of you have read and commented with encouragement.
On with the show, I guess.
All the King's Horses, part 5/5.
He is walking and she is following.
They are outside the Jeffersonian.
She feels like she's been chasing him for days.
She has been chasing him for days. Three, to be specific.
Sometimes she thinks they spend their lives chasing each other.
"I said I was sorry, Booth."
"I said I don't care, Bones."
"Since when have you ever listened to the Bureau?"
"They said your life-"
"Not good enough."
"Stop acting all high and flighty with me, Booth-"
"Mighty. High and mighty."
She missed that, him correcting her attempts at colloquialism.
"Yes, stop acting all high and mighty when you know you would have done the same thing."
He spins around, confronting her and she nearly runs into him.
"I would not," his voice is hushed, intense. "Absolutely not. No way. I would've made sure you knew. I would never do to you what you did to me."
"What I did to you? Do you think I liked it, Booth?"
"Do you have any idea what it was like, Bones? Picking out a headstone, writing your eulogy? You were dead. Dead." His voice cracks a little and his anger dissipates into something else that she cannot identify.
"I thought I'd never see you again. I thought… God, I thought…"
She is tender, gentle. "Do you think it didn't kill me, Booth? Not being able to tell you?"
And just like that, the anger is back.
"But you could have told me. You see this thing here?" He grabs his Blackberry from his pocket. "This is called a telephone. You pick it up, press number two on your speed dial and, presto!"
His mocking hurts her a little and the tightening of her chest is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. He has been angry with her before, but not like this.
"It's not that simple, Booth."
"How complicated could it have been? You. Are. Not. Dead. Seems pretty easy to me."
She doesn't know how to tell him that it wasn't.
She doesn't know how to tell him how many times she had picked up her phone, intending to call him, or how many times she put it down, knowing that if she did, she could be responsible for his death.
She doesn't know how to tell him that she hated it, that she knew it was necessary, but that the logic didn't stop her from hating it.
She doesn't know how to tell him that she missed his smile and his easy laugh and his terrible taste in beer.
She doesn't know how to tell him anything about what she experienced in the two weeks she was dead, but she needs him to know that it wasn't easy for her to deceive him. She wants him to read her like he's always read her and see that.
But he is too angry to be perceptive, and she can't blame him for that.
So instead of telling him things she doesn't know how to say, she tells him what she thinks he would say, if he were in her position.
"Booth, I'm sorry. I know how you must feel-"
He steps in close to her, so close and she can feel his breath on her face and the echoes of their kiss in the cemetery still reverberate through her.
"You have no idea how I feel."
She tries to tell him that she does, that even though her situation was different, she is sure it was no less painful.
Waiting to see their station wagon coming up the driveway.
Asking Russ when Mom and Dad were getting home.
Waking up in the morning, sure that she could smell pancakes coming from the kitchen, but finding nothing there but Russ' bowl of half-eaten cornflakes.
Thinking they were dead. For years. Because that was the only rational, logical explanation. Them leaving her, just because they wanted to, somehow never made sense.
She understands. She knows.
She tries to tell him, but the words don't come. She has never been good at this sort of thing.
He turns his back.
"This conversation is over."
He walks away.
He is the only one who does not stare.
He takes her reappearance in stride and hardly blinks when he sees her on his doorstep.
Of course he isn't surprised. Her father is a career criminal, and she has worked in the criminal justice system long enough to know that career criminals are not surprised by much.
He ushers her inside his apartment, hugging her and laughing and offering greetings to which she responds appropriately.
She is not yet used to seeing him in an apartment as opposed to a jail cell, in jeans rather than an orange jumpsuit. She likes it, even though she knows she shouldn't because he really was guilty and she spends her life putting guilty people in jail cells and orange jumpsuits. But with him it is heart and not brain and she is Temperance and not Dr. Brennan and she knows what that means now.
They sit on the couch.
He grins and takes a pack of cards out of his shirt pocket. She wonders if he keeps them in there always, or only when he knows she's coming for a visit.
She is here to tell him something.
I forgive you is what she wants to say.
"Booth is angry with me," is what comes out.
"Because of the whole not being dead thing?"
She nods. "Yes, I believe that's why."
Her father puts down his cards and looks at her. "And what do you think about that?"
"I am not entirely sure. While his anger is completely irrational-he knows I was only doing it to catch a serial killer- I understand that irrationality on some level. It is confusing for me."
"He'll come around, honey. That man loves you, he can't stay mad forever."
"Booth doesn't love me, Dad."
"Okay, Tempe. Whatever you say."
"While your words are acquiescing, your tone indicates that you do not believe me."
"Just take my word on it, sweetheart. I know love when I see it."
He smiles kindly and puts his hand over hers. She isn't sure when she became comfortable accepting physical comfort from him, but she finds it reassuring nonetheless.
"Open your eyes a little, Tempe. You'll see it too."
She doesn't have anything to say to that.
Her father thinks Booth loves her.
She doesn't know how to react.
So she changes the subject.
"Do you like being out of prison?"
He laughs. "Do I like being out of prison? Is the sky blue? Do birds sing?"
"Actually, it is a common misconception that birds can sing. It would be more accurate to say that-"
"An expression, Tempe, it's an expression."
"I came here to tell you something."
He eases back, settles into the couch. She sits straight and tall. She always sits straight and tall when she is dealing with important things.
"I figured as much."
She doesn't know how to say this.
She finds that she doesn't know how to say a lot of things that need to be said.
"I have decided to forgive you and mom for leaving me and Russ."
She doesn't know why such a small admission should feel so big.
She continues. There is more to say.
"While I was on my last assignment, I had a lot of time to think. I also experienced some unpleasant emotions associated with lying to my friends and colleagues about my supposed death."
Booth angry with her. Angela crying. Zack looking stunned. The images flood back to her.
"Although I recognize that the two situations are vastly different, I do not think it is unreasonable to generalize the emotional ramifications. Namely, in order to protect the people I care about, I had to deceive them, to leave them, if only in a metaphoric context."
He had been so angry. So angry and so hurt. She didn't know what to say, how to fix it. She still doesn't.
"This proved to be difficult for me, and while I had always believed that leaving Russ and me was easy for you, I am now forced to reconsider my position on the subject."
"It wasn't easy, honey."
She thinks she can see his eyes glisten.
"You left because you loved us. Loved me. And you wanted to keep us safe. My time being dead has shown me a perspective that I had not previously been able to see, and I now understand viscerally why you did what you did."
A breath. A tentative smile.
"Therefore, I forgive you."
Her father grins and moves to hug her. She returns his embrace, pulling back only to tell him one more thing.
"I do not, however, forgive you for robbing banks or killing people and then setting them on fire."
Blink blink blink.
"Come on, guys."
She starts to open her mouth to speak, but he shuts her up with a glare and a curt shake of his head.
Some matters are private.
"Somebody say something."
Like when your partner goes undercover for two weeks and doesn't bother to tell you that she isn't dead.
He doesn't want to talk about how that makes him feel.
What he wants is to get out of here and as far away from her as possible.
What he wants more than that is to get out of here and as close to her as possible, but he's ignoring that part.
If Cullen hadn't threatened him with his job, he wouldn't even be here.
"Great. This is just great."
His foot on the floor.
He feels her shift next to him.
"We have nothing to say, Sweets."
She breaks the silence and he glares at her again. As long as they kept silent, they were home free. Now that she had spoken, something in her tone or her word choice or some miniscule facial tic would tell Sweets something profound that only a twelve year old could figure out and he'd work his weird psychology mojo and they'd be stuck Talking About It.
He doesn't want to Talk About It.
Because talking about it requires him to Think About It, which he'd like to avoid.
"You've got nothing to say?"
Sometimes Sweets really gets on his nerves.
"Yeah, Sweets. Nothing to say. You got a problem with that?"
Neither man (Sweets is ten, he doesn't really count as a man) speaks, neither looks away.
Go ahead, he dares him, say something.
"Yeah." It is small at first, his words, but when he repeats them, he sounds more assured. "Yeah, I do have a problem with that."
Goddamn Sweets. He wasn't supposed to say that.
"So you're trying telling me that, in the past three weeks, you," he points at Brennan, "were shot by a madwoman and have been dead for two weeks, only not really dead, and you," Booth shifts uncomfortably on the loveseat, "shot and killed said madwoman and then had to confront some mega-serious feelings you'd rather ignore regarding Dr. Brennan, and nobody has anything to say? Really, people? Really?"
He is a little taken aback at the outburst, though he tries not to show it.
…confront feelings regarding Dr. Brennan…
Who does this kid think he is?
The only feelings he feels right now are anger and a little bit of disgust resting in the pit of his stomach. And the guilt that won't seem to go away, despite the fact that she's sitting next to him, legs crossed and clearly alive.
They are silent for a moment before she speaks.
"I have something to say."
"Christ." He is exasperated. Why can't she keep her mouth shut? Why is that so damn hard? She had no trouble keeping her mouth shut when she was dead. And now, suddenly, she has something to say?
She turns to him and as much as he tries not to look at her, he can't really help it. He never could, with her.
Her body is angled towards his, her eyes greener than normal and he can see her fighting the urge to touch him.
"Booth, I am sorry you are upset at me for simply doing what the FBI asked and not telling you that I was not dead."
"That's a crappy apology, Bones."
She throws her hands in the air.
"It's the truth. I don't know what else I can say to convince you to forgive me."
"How about you're sorry for pretending to be dead? You're sorry for not giving me a courtesy 'Hey Booth, guess what, I'm alive' call?"
"But that would be a lie. I am not sorry for not calling you. I am sorry that it upset you, but if I were put in that position again, I would not change my actions."
"See that, Sweets? No remorse. Isn't that the mark of a sociopath?"
"Dr. Brennan is not a sociopath."
"Coulda fooled me."
"That's enough, Agent Booth."
He is surprised by the sternness in his voice. Figures Sweets'd pick on him. The guy never liked him to begin with.
"The real issue here is not that you are angry-"
"Of course the issue is that I'm angry."
"-it's that you were hurt when Dr. Brennan died."
"She didn't die. She's right there. Not dead. Therefore, no hurt."
"Agent Booth, you displayed some very powerful emotions when you discovered that Dr. Brennan was alive at the funeral. I think they merit discussion."
He's talking about the kiss.
Man, that kiss.
It's too bad Bones is a sociopath (and he doesn't kiss sociopaths), because she really is a great kisser.
"Yeah, well, it was a mistake. It's not going to happen again, so you can just butt out."
If he didn't know her as well as he did, he might think that the look that crosses her face is one of hurt. But it's Bones, so it's not.
"Booth, you are overreacting."
She speaks for the first time in several minutes and he remembers how much he missed her voice when she was gone. How he wanted to pick up the phone and talk to her, but couldn't. How he just wanted to hear her tell him one more time about anthropological inevitabilities and fractured femurs and Jesus was a man who, according to folklore, rose from the dead after three days. That fits the commonly accepted definition of "zombie."
She was dead; he's not overreacting, not even a little bit.
"Oh yeah? What would you have done if it'd been me?"
"I would have understood, rationally, and accepted that you had no choice in the matter."
"That's crap, Bones. You would've sent me right back into the hospital, you'd be so mad."
"Guys?" Sweets looks at them. "Agent Booth? Are you glad that Dr. Brennan is alive?"
"What? What, Sweets, what kind of question is that? Of course I am."
"And isn't that the important part?"
"I'm getting to you. Dr. Brennan."
"How would you feel if Agent Booth died?"
"I would rather not think about that."
"Because it is a moot question. Booth is clearly fine, and speculation accomplishes nothing."
He huffs in exasperation.
It sounds like a warning.
"Fine. I imagine it would be very unpleasant."
"It was more than unpleasant, Bones."
He doesn't know why he admits this to her or where his anger went (it's still there, but no longer piping hot at the surface and he wonders why) but she turns to face him and he sees her for maybe the first time since those first moments in the graveyard.
She is sorry and she wants to make things right between them.
It's not enough, but it's a start.
It is a week later and she thinks that maybe things are starting to mend.
After their session with Sweets, the topic of her fake-death does not come up again.
Like so many things (their mistletoe kiss, the "line," the times he's saved her and she's saved him), she puts it away into the file of Things They Don't Talk About.
They get a case, they work it, examining bones and motives and suspects and victims. It's not the same as it was, but it's tolerable.
They don't go to the diner.
They don't have a beer at his place.
She misses him.
She misses them.
They hear it on a Thursday and he jerks the SUV over to the side of the road, throws it into park, and pounds his fist against the steering wheel.
He shuts off the radio before Cyndi Lauper can get to the chorus, and he doesn't look at her.
She isn't quite sure how to react.
They sit in silence for several long minutes before he speaks.
She knows that he is thinking about it because she is thinking about it too. About the music and the dancing and the laughter. About girls having fun and about the searing pain through her abdomen as the bullet entered her.
There is so much about that night that she remembers, and it comes back to her with the phantom chords echoing from the silent speakers.
"It was my fault, Bones."
She knows what he is talking about.
She wishes he would look at her instead of staring at the steering wheel but he looks ahead as he speaks.
"It's my fault that you got shot."
Her head shakes of its own volition and now he turns his head to face her and she can see the pain there, pain that she caused.
She feels her heart clench, and the urge to kiss him surprises her, as though she could take away the past three weeks with the touch of her lips to his.
She doesn't, even though she knows now what it feels like, how his kiss affects her, causes a reaction in her that she can't quite pass off as anthropological.
"Don't you get it, Bones?" Harsh. Rough. Choked out.
Remain rational. Rationality defines everything, fixes everything.
"It's very simple, Booth, of course I understand. I was shot because Pam-"
"You were shot because of me. Me, Bones."
"That is illogical, Booth. You were not the one who pulled the trigger-"
"I might as well have! She shot you because of how I look at you."
This gives her pause. He looks at her the same way she looks at him. There is nothing unusual in the way they regard at each other.
"I don't know what that means, Booth."
"She shot you because of how I look at you, how I've looked at you practically every day since I met you."
They are facing each other now, bodies angled as the traffic passes them in whooshes and sirens.
His words are anguished and the pain is evident. She may not be able to read people, but she can read him. But she can't remove his pain until she understands, and his words do not make sense.
"I still don't know what that means. How do you look at me?"
"Like I'm in love with you."
And it is out there and it is huge and they are silent.
He is in love with her.
She is not as afraid as she always thought she would be.
Finally, she speaks.
"It is logically improbable that Pam Nunan could deduce your feelings for me by merely observing the way you were looking at me. There are too many variables when it comes to human emotions. Where she saw love, another person could have seen contempt or friendship or any number of other things."
He says nothing. He doesn't confirm and he doesn't deny the admission that hangs in the air, hot and heavy and life-altering.
"It's not your fault, Booth."
"It's okay if you love me."
He looks at her, surprised.
She isn't sure she's ready to do this, to say this.
But he looks at her and she knows that she has to, so she does.
"Our time apart gave me the opportunity to consider our relationship, and I have come to the conclusion that coffee is inadequate as a means of defining ourselves."
"Coffee. You told Sweets once that, were we to no longer work together, our relationship would exist in meetings over cups of coffee. I no longer find this acceptable."
"And how would you define our relationship, Bones?"
"I am not yet certain."
He waits for her. He is always waiting for her.
She doesn't want to wait anymore.
(Because, really, a madwoman could come along any minute and take everything and life is just as ephemeral as love and that somehow makes the latter less intimidating.)
She takes a deep breath.
"Although you know I reject the traditional ideas on love and monogamy, I am not immune to their appeal, nor ignorant of their persuasiveness. I understand how people can be led to believe that they can achieve happiness with one person for an extended period of time, possibly spanning one's entire life."
His surprise registers in his facial features and she suspects it's a good thing.
"I have experienced it myself, with you. Though I know that it is illogical and unlikely, I cannot, at the moment, imagine the feelings I have for you dissipating or vanishing under any conceivable circumstance. It is puzzling."
A pause. A smile. His hand closing over hers.
"I love you too, Bones."
"I didn't say that."
She leans over and kisses him. It's not as wild and frenzied as their last kiss, but it's a good kiss, a good place to begin.
He starts the car and they drive the rest of the way to the lab in silence.
They pull into the parking lot.
"I still haven't forgiven you."
He is grinning, presumably to soften the harshness of his words, but she can still see the truth in them. He hasn't forgiven her yet. She hasn't forgiven herself. But they will get there.
"I missed you too, Booth."
"Of course. When an individual is removed from his or her familiar environment and society, it is only natural to experience feelings of loss."
Their moment is interrupted by Zack tapping on the window of the SUV.
Booth growls and rolls it down.
"Dr. Brennan, you might want to come in to the lab. You have a package."
"Okay, Zack, we'll be right there."
He hesitates a moment.
"Dr. Brennan, your package is bleeding. Dr. Hodgins believes it is from Gormogon."
She looks at her partner.
Back to work. They have a serial killer to catch; the rest will wait.