Title: Imperfect Choices
Rating:
T or PG-13 for language
Characters: Booth, Brennan
Timeline:
Set at the end of 4x25: The Critic in the Cabernet.
Summary: This isn't how he imagined it.

Thanks for reading, and if you leave feedback, thanks for that as well.

***

Imperfect Choices

It's all happening too fast. One minute he's in the interrogation room, and the next he's in the hospital. Booth hates hospitals. The sound of shoes squeaking on those linoleum floors makes him wish he had his gun on him right now instead of a hideous gown that gapes open where it shouldn't. Sweets would probably have something know-it-all and annoying to say about that. Which is why Booth's never going to tell him.

He'd rather listen to Hodgins talk about bugs and dirt for three hours than spend time in a hospital. Hell, he'd rather eat bugs and dirt than be in a hospital. He'd rather have Zack ask him for advice about sex than-- See? Hospital equals bad. Parker is the only good thing in his life that's come out of a hospital. Everything else has been about pain and blood and I'm sorry. We did everything we could.

Unfortunately for him, there isn't a multiple choice option in this test.

They're prepping him for brain surgery. "Prepping" -- as if there's really a way to get ready for major surgery. This morning when he nicked his jaw while shaving and compiling a mental to-do list for the day, brain surgery didn't happen to make it onto that list.

"Cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma," they say. What matters is they're going to cut open his fucking head and God, please don't let them mess up anything; I have too much left to do. His eyes are dry but his stomach is crawling up his throat and everyone is watching him and damn it, he can't afford to lose it right now.

Booth wishes he could just push a button and pause everything long enough for him to unwind the plot of the crazy movie that's happening around him and to him right now. Except this isn't a movie: It's his life. There's no magic remote control in his hand, waiting to be clicked -- just imperfect choices.

He doesn't want Parker to see him like this, but he's too smart not to know that surgery's always risky. So a quick phone call and an I love you he nearly chokes on are all he gets. Parker has Rebecca, and Booth's never been more grateful for that. If the worst happens, he'll also have Booth's life insurance payout. With what he does for a living, there's always been the chance that the worst would jump out of the realm of possibility and into the one of reality. But he never thought it might end like this.

God, this is all such a fucking clichė. None of that changes this unchangeable fact: Booth needs his son, and his son needs him.

-----

There was always supposed to be time -- more time; time for everything to happen eventually; time to show his favorite scientist how two people could break the laws of physics; time for them.

There is someone for everyone...You just have to be open enough to see it.

This isn't how he imagined it.

He's on a hospital gurney, about to be wheeled into the OR. But there's just no room left for cryptic words and half-truths meant to protect them both. No room for the right words or the right time or the right place, either. Sometimes life just happens, leaving nothing but imperfect choices.

"Can we just stop for a second?" he asks the nurses beside him. "Can you just give me a minute, please?"

As they step back, he looks up, and she's there. Because he asked her to be. It's the one thing he can control in this mess, and even though it might not make a difference, he feels better with her by his side. What he feels, it matters, doesn't it?

"Listen, " he says, then clears his throat. "Bones, if I don't make it…"

"Booth, you're going to be fine," she says, voice firm and gaze locked on his face. She's trying to sound reassuring. He appreciates that, but they don't have time for anything but brutal honesty right now.

"Yeah, but if I'm not, I need you to know something."

"What?" She lays her hand on his arm, and he exhales slowly.

Booth glances down at her hand, then up into her eyes. "I love you."

Her mouth drops open as her grip on his arm tightens "I..." She shakes her head, beautiful eyes a little wide and a little wild. It's the image he wants to hold onto during the surgery.

He smiles. "You don't need to say anything right now, Bones. In fact, I don't want you to."

The frown that pulls at her mouth nearly makes him laugh. "Booth, you can't say something like that and expect me to not respond."

"Oh, I'm sure you have a response, and I intend to hear it. Later." He covers her hand with his own, ridiculously happy when she doesn't pull away. "After the surgery, we'll talk." If there is no after, he's still told her the truth. After carrying it inside him for so long, he feels lighter. This, despite what's about to happen to him.

She wants to argue; he knows this the same way he knows she thinks about Zack every morning when she steps into the lab. But after giving him a long, silent look, she nods. "All right. We'll discuss this later."

"Yeah, later. " He takes a deep breath. "I'm ready," he says, still holding her hand. "Let's get this show on the road."