Title: A Change is Calling Out (And I Am Listening Now)
Word Count: 3500
Spoilers: Through "The Parts in the Sum of the Whole."
Summary: It is always a quiet night when the world changes.
Disclaimer: Bones is not mine. The end.
Author's note: Thanks to the fabulous Miss Margaret for a very helpful beta (and the title). You are wonderful, chica.
It is always a quiet night when the world changes.
It is always quiet.
Change does not happen in big events. Change does not happen in loud moments. It does not occur when people most expect it to.
But rather, when they don't.
When the night is quiet and still and the truth has room to breathe.
This night is quiet.
This night, her world is changed.
It is snowing, big, thick snowflakes and she thinks that they may have a white Christmas after all, despite the unseasonably warm winter.
But she isn't concerned with Christmas.
She looks out the window, past the falling snow, and waits.
She has been waiting for four days.
She doesn't know it yet, but she will continue looking out the window for the next fifteen years and the answers she will find will both comfort and hurt her.
But that is later and this is now.
Now, on this quiet winter's evening, she gives up hope that her parents will ever return.
Later (but not quite fifteen years later), her world changes again.
She is tired and her feet ache from a long day of lecturing about different methods of cranial reconstruction. She enters her apartment, toes off her heels, and tosses her mail onto the kitchen table.
She can hear the wind outside the walls of her small studio apartment, and she hopes that the upcoming winter will be as mild as the last because her bedroom window has a leak and probably needs to be replaced, but she just doesn't have the money this year.
Turns out, they don't pay associate professors all that much.
That's something they don't tell you in college, when you're piling loan upon loan to pay for your degree(s).
All she wants to do it sit on the couch and open the new issue of Scientific America that arrived today, but there is a stack of bills waiting for her, and that takes precedence.
She sits at the table, and pulls towards her the pile of mail and begins to sort through it.
She finds it between her ComEd bill and a Chinese restaurant menu.
The thing that will change her life.
She takes her time, scrutinizing the envelope. Her address on the front, scribbled in black ink, a man's handwriting, probably someone left-handed. The return address in the corner, stamped on and a little smudged, but still legible.
She opens it slowly. Almost cautiously.
She is afraid. (But just for a moment before she remembers that fear is irrational and illogical.)
It sits there, in her hands.
She reads it. Once, and then again to be thorough.
She squeals a little, the kind of squeal that you emit when you're young and good things come without strings attached, and her joy takes her out of her chair and into the middle of her living room, dancing around her, giddy with possibility.
She will start work at the Jeffersonian Institution in the spring.
The Jeffersonian Institution.
Suddenly the leaky window and the quiet, windy night don't matter because her world has just changed.
The next time her world changes, it is raining.
Pouring, really. It's not a quiet night, in that sense, but it is an ordinary one. A night devoid of significance.
Except when it does.
There is tequila. Lots and lots of tequila.
And him. There is him. This man who stormed into her lecture hall with questions about flesh versus bone, who took her into the field and perked her curiosity.
About any number of things.
His penis being one of them.
She is standing outside, moments away from his lips and she wants him. She wants to take him home with her, to pull his clothes from his body, to rid herself of her own and to join with him in the most primal of acts.
She has had casual sex before, engaged in a couple of mutually beneficial friendships, but she has never been intrigued like this.
He fired her.
He fired her and it turned her on.
It's never been quite like this.
He is different.
She kisses him (or he kisses her, she doesn't know which), and she knows that he isn't a one-night stand. He doesn't kiss her like a one-night stand.
He kisses her like a lifetime.
And she knows and her world is changed.
(Later, he will say that he knew. That he was the one who, in thirty or forty or fifty years would say that he knew.
But she disagrees.
Because in that moment? That one, quick moment when her lips are pressed to his and it is raining and they are kissing like it's forever? She knew. If only for a moment.)
He is different, and so she does not sleep with him.
It has nothing to do with tequila and everything to do with that thing.
The thing in her stomach that she felt when his tongue came into contact with hers. The thing that said "STOP. DON'T GO THERE."
That thing that tells her that, if she slept with him, she might not ever be able to stop. That part of her that doesn't want to stop. Ever.
It scares her.
That thing? That scary, exhilarating thing? It changes her life.
She doesn't know how, and she won't know until fifty years later.
("I knew first, you know."
But it does.
Her world changes in May.
The night is warm and his blood is warmer, spilling through her fingers like so many grains of sand.
He is gone.
Her world changes.
That was the night that she learned that he could leave her.
This is the night that she learns she can leave him.
She is fresh off the plane in Guatemala City. The air is heavy and dense around her, a thick blanket of guilt that clings to her skin and makes breathing more difficult.
She is here.
There is a skeleton waiting for her. There is always a skeleton waiting for her.
It is much less often that there is a hospitalized Booth waiting for her.
And he is.
For her return.
The air thickens.
She should not be here.
She should be in DC, helping him reclaim his life.
She should be with him, supporting him as he always has her.
Instead, she is here. Ready to dig up a corpse and forget that he had called her his wife.
And, in that instant, standing in the dark under more stars than she's seen in her life, she realizes it.
And she would always leave. Leave when things got hard, on a personal level.
She is good at many things.
This is not one of them.
In his hour of need, she boarded a plane and flew as far away as she could. In his hour of need, she abandoned him. In his hour of need, she immersed herself in dead people because the living one in the hospital bed was too much for her to handle.
She left because of "burdens which allow us to fly."
She left because of "Bren" and "Mr. B."
She left because he almost died.
Because she couldn't handle it.
Because she almost lost him.
Because he looked at her like he loved her.
Because she loved him back.
Loves him. Present tense.
So she ran.
She left him. After brain surgery. When his world was turned upside down and he couldn't tell fantasy from reality. When he needed her most. She left.
She knows it now. She knows that she will never be the woman he deserves. She does not have his open heart. She cannot change. She doesn't know how.
She just doesn't know how.
And even though she can't change, her world does. Just a little. On this quiet, heavy Guatemalan night.
Her world was not supposed to change today.
Today, they were supposed to go into Sweets' office and correct a factual error.
That was all.
Then they would go to the diner, like they always did. He would get a burger, she would get a salad and pick at his fries.
There would be laughter instead of tears.
There would be smiles and full stomachs instead of sad faces and empty hearts.
They would walk arm-in-arm, and her world would stay exactly as it was.
That is not what happened.
The night is starless and the city around them is silent.
So silent that when she pulls away from his kiss, she might think the whole world could hear her heart break (if she thought metaphorically, which she doesn't).
She says it twice. Once to him, and once to herself.
Very powerful stuff, no.
He asks "why?," and he asks it twice. She wonders if he repeats his words for the same reason that she repeated hers.
That's all she can think.
"You thought you were protecting me, but it's you who needs protecting."
She can hardly get the words out because she can see what she's doing to him. She can see.
Six years ago, she wouldn't have been able to see.
She wouldn't have seen the hurt in his eyes. Wouldn't have been able to recognize it.
The irony strikes her.
She sees the pain she causes him because he taught her to see it.
She tells him he needs protecting from her and she is vindicated by the emotions he wears on his sleeve. The hurt, the sadness, the disappointment.
If she can do so much damage now, when they are friends, colleagues, how much more would she cause if they became lovers?
"I don't have your kind of open heart."
The words come out in a breath, in a rush and she feels her non-open heart crush under the weight of them.
She does not have his kind of open heart.
She wants it.
But she does not have it.
He is begging now, and she wants so badly to give in.
Her life wasn't supposed to change today.
She wants to give in, to take him in her arms, to kiss him, to promise him the thirty, forty, fifty years that he's looking for.
She is not a gambler.
Gambling implies the possibility of loss, and she cannot lose him. She absolutely cannot.
They are the center and the center must hold.
The center must hold.
They are the center.
Everything he is saying about knowing, she understands. Because she knew. She still knows.
She is in love with him. Or, she believes herself to be in love with him, given that love is not something quantifiable, something evidentiary, something tangible.
Except when it is.
Like when he touches her.
Or when something bad happens and he is the first person she calls.
Or when they are sitting together on her couch eating Thai food and doing paperwork and he is teasing her about hogging the mee-krob, something she hasn't actually done in years but that still amuses him.
Or when he takes out his gun and her heart races a little because, come on, Booth with a gun is sexy.
Or when she stops at the 7-11 on her way back to the lab and buys out their stock in chocolate pudding because she can't bear to see his faith in both himself and his country crumble like bones after thousands of years in the sun.
Then it is tangible, her love for him.
But never more tangible than now, when she stands before him and breaks his heart so that she will not crush it in the future. A tear in the heart muscle can be repaired with just a few stitches. It is much less likely that one will survive if their heart is crushed.
She is the strong one. She is doing what needs to be done.
She is holding them together by keeping them apart.
She wonders if she will recover from this. If they will.
She will still have him in her life. He has reassured her of that.
She finds it odd that he is the one comforting her.
She has told him no. She has pushed him away. She has said "I can't" over and over again and he still stands there, offering her comfort with words of assurance at what is, she knows, a high cost to him.
She thanks him.
It is not adequate.
At this point, she is not sure that anything she could say would be adequate.
Except, of course, what she wants to say but can't.
Her life was not supposed to change tonight.
He says he has to move on and she can feel a piece of her, the hopeful piece, the "eventually" piece, drop away.
He will move on.
He deserves to.
It hurts. The whole thing. It just hurts.
And so she links her arm with his and leans on him, absorbing his strength, and she is tired. So, so tired.
Her world was not supposed to change tonight.
It is a night six months later, six months after the last time her world changed.
After her world, the world she had built with him by her side, dissolved around her.
It has not been an easy six months.
It has not been easy because nothing has changed. They still work together, they still argue, she still corrects his science and he her colloquialisms. They still spend weekends watching movies at his apartment and Tuesday nights with Parker in her pool.
They are, in essence, exactly as they were.
Except. It is different.
Because they KNOW.
And she knows.
And she knows that he knows and he knows that she knows and they know.
And it lingers in the air, permeating everything that they do together and everything that they do apart from each other.
It is an effort to remain normal, not let this affect them, affect their work and their friendship. But it is an effort that she makes willingly, gladly, because he means too much to her to let a silly little thing like the fact that she's in love with him and he's in love with her and they're in love with each other get in the way of their relationship.
Every time he places his hand on her back to guide her through a door, she is aware of it.
Every time he laughs at the jokes she keeps trying to make, she is aware of it.
She functions in a state of hyper-awareness that is, more than anything, exhausting.
They are at a stasis. That weird space between something and everything. A standstill.
Until one day, they're not.
That is this day. The day that I am telling you about.
This day, he tells her he cannot pretend everything is fine. Because, he says, it is not.
They are at his apartment. It is raining.
"I slept with someone last night."
She is silent. She knew this would happen sometime.
She tries not to twinge.
"I can't do this anymore."
"Sleep with her? If you are not inclined to continue a sexual relationship, I'm sure she would-"
"No, Bones. Not that."
She doesn't want to ask.
She wants to tell him that she doesn't know what that means.
But she does.
Inside, she does.
"I thought we were okay. I thought things were back to normal."
She watched him sigh and she thinks that he looks at the same time both older and younger than she's ever seen him.
"That's just it, Bones. We're acting like nothing happened."
"But nothing did-"
"That's the point. That's the problem. Nothing happened."
He is pacing around the living room and she is nursing her glass of wine.
This cannot be happening.
This is not happening.
"I can't do this."
"What are you saying, Booth?"
He pauses. Runs a hand through his hair.
She tries to keep breathing.
"I don't think we should work together anymore, Bones. I can't. We can't…be friends."
She keeps breathing.
"…We can't…be friends?"
She cannot lose him.
"I slept with a woman last night."
"You said that already."
"I slept with a woman last night, and all I could think of was you. All I could think of was you, and I'm not that guy, Bones. I'm not the guy who uses a woman to try to get over another one."
He slept with someone last night.
That shouldn't bother her, but it does.
But what bothers her more is this talk about discontinuing their partnership.
"I can't go on pretending that everything is fine. That that night didn't happen."
She can feel the tears starting to well up behind her eyes and she fights like hell to keep them from surfacing.
"It's not fine."
She doesn't know what else to say.
"I told you that I love you, that I want to be with you for fifty years. I asked you to try. Just to try. Not to make any promises, not to tell me you love me too, even though I know you do. Just to try. And you couldn't."
He pauses. She still doesn't know what to say.
"No. It's not that you couldn't. It's that you wouldn't."
He seems angry now. Angry at her and, if she's being honest, she prefers his anger to his sadness. It is easier, she thinks, on both of them.
"So I can't do it anymore. I tried to do it, for you. I tried to go back to the way it was before, but I just can't."
He sits next to her and he smiles and his smile is sad, defeated.
"You're everywhere, Bones. You're in my work, you're in my thoughts, you're in my apartment. You're at the diner, at the bar. You're in my head. How am I supposed to get over you if you're everywhere?"
She says nothing for a long time.
They just sit there.
And there is rain outside the window.
It is a quiet night.
She feels her world close in on her as she tries to absorb the implications of his words.
They will no longer work together.
She will not see him at the lab, poking around with his pen and joking with Hodgins.
He will not bring her coffee in the morning, a habit he picked up after Zack left.
They will not go to crime scenes together. She will probably not go to crime scenes at all.
He won't teach her to interrogate suspects.
They won't do paperwork over pizza or Chinese or Thai.
No more dinner at the diner.
No more drinks at the bar.
It's too much to handle, and a tear escapes and draws a hot trail down her cheek.
Before she can say anything, he speaks.
"I'm not leaving you, Bones. It's just for a while. Just until I can clear my head."
She does not know what to say.
She cannot blame him for wanting space. His point is clear, and it is one that she understands on a visceral level. He is everywhere for her too.
He is everywhere.
And here, here is the life-changing event.
It is not something big like a kiss, or big like a death.
It is small, like life-changing events tend to be.
It is a moment.
One moment in which the entire world makes sense and all extraneous fears and doubts fall away and all there is, is light. Light and hope and clarity.
He is everywhere.
And she wants to keep it that way.
She remembers a time when she did gamble. Once. They were in Vegas and she was someone she wasn't and someone she was all at the same time.
She rolled the dice.
She played cards.
She bet on him, and she did not lose.
She bet on him, and she won.
What had he called it?
She is certainly a beginner at this.
She is not a gambler. Except when she is. When the gamble is worth it.
And Booth? Booth is worth it.
(She is not sure that she is, and that is at the heart of the matter, but he will show her.
Do you love me?
Want me to prove it to you?
There is time for that, and that is not this story.
But, rest assured, he will show her that she is worth the gamble too.)
She repeats his name and smiles this time.
She says "I knew, too."
This is the day her world changes.