Thank you for all the positive feedback on this story as it has evolved from what I originally wrote out to this lengthier and ongoing story. In this one Booth is dealing with the pitfall of Bones not going out into the field and also not having had Zack rethink his decision to go to Iraq. I hope you enjoy it. It's not a long one, but I think important to the story. Gregg.
Disclaimer: I don't own, or profit from, these characters or franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Booth was sitting in the living room of the apartment that he and Bones now shared drinking his beer and watching the news. It had been a long day, and as per usual these days, Bone had gone to bed. Alone. He sighed. The first couple of weeks after they had moved in together it had been a marathon sex fest. Then not going out into the field had gotten to her, although she refused to go back on her original intent, and the fact that Zack was not in the lab was depressing her even further. She'd become more and more withdrawn from him, though they still had lunch everyday together, and their evenings at home were pleasant, but she always went to bed by herself and he was stuck fending for himself. Definitely not what he'd had in mind when they had decided to move in together. Taking his plate and beer bottle into the kitchen, he shut everything down for the night and went to bed.
Bones knew he was coming into the room without opening her eyes and looking. Her mood was still the same as it had been for weeks now, but she also couldn't deny that this was becoming a problem. If she was completely honest she knew that this wasn't Booth's fault. He'd had good reason not to intervene with Zack. She also had to admit that her staying in the lab was not his fault either, as she just couldn't justify in her own mind leaving the lab without the expert secondary work of Zack to make sure that the work was being done correctly. None of it was Booth's fault, but she seemed to be taking it out on him. It was time to talk. She rolled over to face him when he got into bed beside her.
"Booth?" she asked, startling him.
"Yeah," he sighed. He hoped that she wasn't going to argue. It seemed whenever either of them tried to have some quiet time, the other wanted to talk and it degenerated into an argument about something.
"Are you angry with me?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" he asked. He knew full well what she was talking about, but he wanted her to articulate it.
"That I'm not going into the field," she explained. "That I'm distant at home."
"No," he admitted. "I'm frustrated, but not angry. I understand, Bones."
"I wish I did," she told him.
"You do," he needled. She was brilliant, and she knew more than she let on. All she needed was an occasional nudge to get things to the front of her mind.
"Are you turning into Sweets?" she asked, a hint of a smile on her face.
"Are you saying you would be in bed with Sweets?" he asked, a smile on his face, too.
Bones gave him a slap on the shoulder. "Don't even joke about something like that!" she told him firmly. "I don't like being like this, Booth," she said after a moment.
"You can't help how you feel, Bones," he told her, rolling on his side to face her. "It's just there. But you are letting it affect us outside of work. I know you didn't like that I didn't try and convince Zack that he shouldn't go, but there wasn't anything that I could have done. He honestly believed all that sanctimonious, bureaucratic BS that the President had personally requested his assistance. The President hasn't ever heard of Zack, but Zack doesn't know that."
Bones thought about that and then asked a question she'd wondered about for years. "Why did you join the Army?" she asked. She sat up and shuffled closer to him, letting him know she really wanted to talk, not argue or bicker.
Booth sighed. He'd known that at some point she would eventually ask him about that. Not that he minded telling her, but there were a lot of deeply felt emotions over his service that to this day he still had trouble dealing with. "Two reasons, really," he said finally.
"Serving your country?" she asked curiously. She wanted to understand what would make Zack want to go to do the work that he was going to be doing, even though it was vastly different from what Booth had done in the military.
"That came much later, Bones, when I saw what was happening out there in the world, and later on when I needed some tangible reason to believe that my work as a sniper was important," he replied.
Almost unconsciously she settled closer to him, knowing how guilty he felt over the lives he had taken as a sniper. He wasn't the same man she had met nearly three years before, but then again nothing could erase such feelings completely, cosmic balance sheet or no.
"The main reason was Pops," he told her, making reference to the man he'd introduced her to a couple of weeks before the aborted Hodgins/Montenegro wedding. "He always told such great stories about being in the military that I wanted to have those kinds of good memories since I had such a shitty childhood. The only problem was that what wasn't included in Pops stories was that for every good memory and story to be told, there were any number of horrible memories and experiences when you go to war. I found out the hard way. The second reason was my Old Man. I wanted to be able to shove it in his face one day that I was somebody, no matter how hard he tried to fuck my life up by being a colossal fuck up as a Father."
"Do you regret having been in the Army?' she asked.
"No," he said firmly. "I regret what I was asked to do in the Army, but I don't regret serving my country in the military. It made me who I am and solidified the values I was taught by Pops and really believe in now. I can't regret that, Bones, no matter how much guilt I have."
"Will Zack have a difficult time when he comes back?" she asked. She felt ridiculous asking such a question since she knew from her own experiences how difficult it really was, despite the brave front she projected and the clinical science she hid her emotions behind.
"Everyone has a hard time coming back from a war zone, Bones," Booth told her quietly. "Some are able to deal with it better than others, is all. I didn't deal with it all that well, as my continued presence at Gambler's Anonymous and my Poker Chip are pretty solid evidence of."
"You never told me you still went to meetings," Bones commented. Not angrily, or derogatorily, just out of curiosity.
"Not often anymore, but a couple of times a month," he explained. "It never seemed terribly important since we started working together."
"I don't understand," Bones told him.
"I was really messed up about a lot of things, Bones," he tried to make her understand. "My time as a sniper, Rebecca rejecting my marriage proposal, not being able to be a regular presence in my sons life. It was all too much. Then I met you, and a year later we started working together. For the first time in a long time I had something to look forward to, and I felt like I was making a real difference. The urge to gamble fell off until I only need to go to a meeting a couple of times a month, and that's mainly to remind myself that no matter what, I'll always be a gambling addict."
"I keep you from gambling?" she asked, startled.
"Pretty much," Booth admitted. "I don't expect that to make much sense, Bones, but for me it's true. That's all I need to know."
Bones was silent for a while as she took all that in. It was deep, and a bit frightening. No one had ever voiced such confidence, and trust, in her before. Oh sure, professionally people had, but never personally. The stirrings of emotion that had been developing this past year since they had began the Friends With Benefits agreement, and how it had transformed since that time, began to take hold and she was feeling overwhelmed. It was a comfortable, but also uncomfortable, feeling. She decided to deflect it for now until she could think about it.
"When Zack gets back, would you be willing to help him deal with his issues?" she asked softly.
"I'm not sure what I'll be able to do, but I can make sure he has the help he needs if it's beyond me," Booth told her. He was still, after all this time, uncomfortable around Zack. He'd been humbled at the kids estimation of him at the wedding, but the connection was still not strong.
"I'm still not sure if I can go in the field until Zack comes back," she told him, still a bit nervous.
"Bones," Booth said in a calm, compassionate tone. "Whether you go out in the field or not is entirely up to you. I may not like it, but I do understand. All I ask is that you don't shut me out when we're away from work. We have something really special here, Bones, but it takes both of us to make this work."
"I think I can do that," Bones promised. She hugged him tightly. "Thanks for not giving up on me."
"Never gonna happen, Bones," he assured her. He pulled her with him as he rolled back on his back, letting her lay across him like she almost always did when falling asleep. A few moments later he could tell she'd fallen asleep and he sent a silent prayer to the man upstairs thanking him for letting Bones make a step forward so they could deal with this whole set of issues surrounding Zack and their impact on their relationship. Within moments he himself was asleep.
A/N: This chapter has been written and rewritten a number of times, and while I am still not happy with it, I think it's about the best I can do on it. I think that it is an important issue in the relationship as I've developed it through tying in elements of the continuing series from the moment the story started. I hope all of you agree. Thank you for your patience and continued interest. I hope to have more soon. Gregg.