A/N: This chapter is totally going to make up for the three week hiatus. I promise!
Chapter 10 – Walls
Three days after Jared came to tell them Booth was dead, Brennan got the call she'd been waiting for and Angela could almost feel how much more relaxed her friend was after having talked to her … what? Partner? Well, obviously the man she was in love with, but Brennan had yet to confide in her. Angela knew she should ask a million questions – Why exactly had Brennan come back from her dig? What had she talked to Booth about? How was he doing, being kidnapped? What would Brennan say to him when she saw him next – but she couldn't seem to find a minute alone with her friend. Angela was beginning to suspect that this turn of events was by Brennan's design rather than by happenstance. What didn't she want to talk about?
Sitting back on her couch, staring at a picture of the man who had killed most of his family, Angela sighed. It was well past time to let go of the best-friend mantle, wasn't it? That title had belonged to Booth for so long, Angela had a hard time remembering how things had been before. Never would she give up on Brennan, but she knew that the time when she really needed Angela was gone. Now they could just be very good friends, which was probably for the best, seeing as now Angela had a husband – a real one this time – and had been looking forward to building a life with him for so long, she couldn't remember how things had been before that feeling either.
How could Michael Gleeson have attacked the people closest to him? Sweets said that the wife's death was probably accidental, that this man whose picture she held had probably snapped and killed the rest of his family out of grief or hopeless despair. God, what a shame! Angela saw things she wished she hadn't every day at this job, but helping put people to rest, people like Kirk, was good work. Work she couldn't leave behind just yet. People were drawn to the places they were supposed to be at the times they were supposed to be there. Angela believed that. And no other place felt as right to her as the Jeffersonian. Not at the moment. And that's what Angela loved best – living in the moment.
But now she had to think about the past, and about how this awful, broken man might have aged in the thirty years since his disappearance. If she could get a good, accurate projection of how he looked today, her face-recognition software might be able to find him in any number of databases. It was worth a shot, anyways.
After staring at his old driver's license photo, maintained over the years in a police file, copied and scanned several times over until the picture blurred frustratingly, Angela got to work, lengthening the jowls, nose, and ears, adding the wrinkles and wear of time, deepening the frown lines with sharp, angry strokes of her pencil. This was not a happy man, and Angela wondered if he ever had been. He'd been angry and disturbed enough to massacre his family. But had he loved his wife at some point? Had they started out a happy family? Had they gone on their honeymoon, full of hope for the future and the first plans they'd ever made for a family, a long full life together? Or had he always lived in the moment, at times ecstatic and at others furious? Maybe if she found him, she could ask him these questions – look this monster in the eye and figure out how different he was from her, to have been able to do these things.
Smacking at the dry, bitter taste in his mouth, Booth carefully opened his eyes, squinting at the bright afternoon sun blinding him through the window of – oh, his hospital room. There was something new…
With a sigh, he sat up and glared around the room, noting the IV in his arm, the fact that his lucky socks were gone, damn it, and there was a grumpy looking man in a suit sitting in the chair next to his bed. "Uh, hey," he said when the man, who had dark skin and gray hair and the stink of State Department all over him. "What happened?"
"That's what we were hoping to ask you, Sergeant Booth," the man said, his accent Southern-tinged and no-nonsense. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Thinking back, Booth groaned. Zack had drugged him. But he'd also said there were some things he was supposed to remember. Oh, yeah. He'd supposedly been drugged for the past few days straight. "Not much, really. Leaving the mess hall, maybe?" Booth lied casually, knowing how to hold his cards close to the chest when it came to talking to these institutional stiffs. "Where am I?"
"Montreal General, though your doctors keep getting furious calls to transfer you to Royal Victoria from a ... Dr. Brennan? To the best of my knowledge, she's not a medical doctor." The man frowned again in distaste, presumably angry that his day had been ruffled by my appearance in his life.
"No," Booth answered, smiling a little at Bones' tenacity. "She's my partner."
"Like, your girlfriend?" he asked.
Furrowing his brow at the stranger, Booth replied, "No." But that wasn't quite true anymore, was it? "I mean … maybe? It's complicated. We work … worked together." Wanting to change the subject before he confused himself any further, he asked, "Who are you?"
"David Price," the man replied, holding out a (surprise, surprise) US State Department ID.
Booth asked, "The Pentagon send you?" getting a sharp nod in response.
"Sergeant Booth," the man sighed, standing up and looking down at him from beside the bed, "you don't remember anything about your time in captivity?"
Oh, what to say? This had to be believable. If they were going to let him see Bones anytime soon, Booth had to lay everything that had happened over the last few days at Zack's feet. Could he really do that? He didn't like it, throwing a … friend … to the wolves like that. Sure, Zack had masterminded everything, but Booth hadn't put up a fight, had he? He'd let Zack lead him away from his responsibilities and back to where he really wanted to be. And, after spending a few days with him, Seeley knew he'd never get Zack back into the hospital until he helped him solve this case. So, Booth had to paint him as the bad guy, as mentally unstable so they wouldn't throw him in a military prison after this was all over. Technically, he was a terrorist, sabotaging an American military base in enemy territory. He could be tried for treason, if they could prove Zack had any idea what he'd been doing. If they could prove Booth hadn't done everything in his power to stop Zack, he'd be tried for treason, too.
So, Booth frowned and lied through his teeth. "I knew him, or I used to," he told the man. "Zack. He worked for Bones … for Dr. Brennan. He wanted to know all these things about an old case…"
"What old case?" Price asked, like he had no idea what Booth was talking about.
"One of our cases for the Bureau," Booth explained, wondering what this guy's deal was.
Suddenly having that ah-ha moment, Price pointed at Booth and asked, "You're a fed?"
"Yeah, for almost fourteen years," Booth told him, furrowing his brow. "Who exactly sent you?" he demanded, not liking for a second how little Price seemed to know.
"I'm sorry Sergeant Booth," he said, appearing sincere in his apology. "I just got a call from an Army Colonel telling me to get over here and ask you how this … Zack? … guy managed to take you from a secure base. She didn't say much else."
"How about," Booth insisted, most of his suspicion dissipated but seeing this as an opportunity to stall for more time to get his story straight, "you get this Colonel on the phone for me? Just so I know everything's above-board. I mean, I'm in a foreign country, I don't know you, those credentials look real, but…"
Pressing his lips together, Price nodded stiffly and left, giving Booth a glimpse at the two soldiers guarding his door. He wondered if they were there to keep someone out, or to keep him in. Either way, Booth hated this situation he'd gotten himself in, not to mention the story percolating around in his brain about what Zack had done.
"They found him, Tempe!" Jared shouted into the phone, just about blasting Brennan's ear off. Though the speaker in her cell phone wasn't nearly powerful enough to do such a thing, she found the metaphor fitting for her current discomfort.
"Where is he?" she asked in what she hoped was a more reasonable tone of voice. "I just talked to him this morning, but he wouldn't say."
"Montreal. The state department's holding him at a hospital there. Um, Montreal General."
"Holding him?" Brennan asked, confused by why they might do that. And with Booth's history of neurological disease, he really should be overseen by the neurology ward at Royal Victoria. She'd have to make a few calls. "Did they find Zack, too?"
"Not that they told me," Jared replied. "Look, I have an important meeting I have to take today, so I can't go get him until tomorrow. Could you…?"
"I'll be on the next plane," she assured him, hoping she was answering the question he hadn't asked.
"Good," he sighed. "He shouldn't be alone in this. Look, I know what these debriefings are like. I conducted enough of them in my time. You have to keep your mouth shut and follow Seeley's lead, okay? If you tell them what you know, Tempe, especially the fact that Seel called you earlier, he could be in big trouble."
"So I can't tell them what I know?"
"Not about the calls, not about Zack giving you the case you've been working on, nothing if you can help it."
Brennan hated the idea, especially since it felt a lot like an order coming from Jared Booth, who had no right to order her around. But he cared about his brother, like she did, so that had to mean he had Booth's best interests in mind, right. "Okay," she agreed. "I will require an explanation eventually."
"Ask Seeley when you see him," Jared ordered her. He must not know how much it irritated her. If not for the itchy need to go book a flight to Montreal, she would have pointed this out.
Instead, Brennan asked Jared, "What's so important that you have to stay here?"
"I'm calling in a favor for him, Tempe. I've got a feeling he'll thank me for this, big time."
"You Booths and your feelings," Brennan sighed, exasperated. "I'll never understand it."
"Just go," Jared laughed. "Have him call me, okay?"
Brennan agreed and hung up. She had plane tickets to book.
When Lance left Angela's office to get his third cup of coffee of the day, he saw Dr. Brennan rush through the lab, pulling off her lab coat as she went and throwing it over a random chair as she passed. That was not normal behavior. Hurrying after her, setting his coffee down on a desk he hoped was safe, Sweets called, "Dr. Brennan, wait! What happened?"
"Oh, Sweets," she said breathlessly as she slowed and turned her head, but kept walking forward, toward the sliding glass doors. "I have to go to Montreal."
"Why? We're in the middle of a case."
"Booth is there," she replied, leading him through the Jeffersonian towards what Sweets suspected was the parking structure.
"Is he okay?" Lance asked, wondering if her haste was because Booth had been injured again.
"As far as I know. I think Jared would have mentioned if Booth was unwell."
"Have you thought about what you're going to say when you get there?" Sweets asked her, knowing she hadn't.
Giving him a sharp look, Brennan shook her head. "You think I need to think about what to say? I'm perfectly capable of speech, Dr. Sweets."
"Yeah," he agreed, following her into the elevator when it opened. "But this is the first time you'll see Booth since you've told him how you feel."
"You're trying to use psychology on me Dr. Sweets," she frowned. "I don't like it."
"I know you don't," Sweets chuckled. "But this is important, Dr. Brennan. Agent Booth has probably been through a lot in the past few days. He might need to lean on you."
"I've been his partner for five years," she pointed out, exiting the elevator and glaring at him when he followed, "I can be there for him."
"I just don't want you changing your mind once you see him," Lance explained. "Sometimes the fantasy of something is better than the reality. And then, when we're faced with the reality? It can be difficult to reconcile the two."
Stopping beside her car, Brennan turned and frowned at him. "I don't know what you mean by that and I don't care. When I get to Montreal, I will speak to Booth the same way I always have."
"That's what I'm afraid of!" Sweets cried.
"But," she pointed out, confused, "why shouldn't I?"
"You think you converse like a normal person, but you don't!" Sweets ground out. "You have all these frickin' walls up around you, Brennan, and if you don't let them down when you see Booth for the first time since the airport…" Sweets sighed, knowing he had to warn her, but afraid of her likely response, "…he's going to think you've changed your mind!"
"No offense intended, Sweets," she said, jerking open her car door and dropping down into the driver's seat, "but Booth is quantifiably better at reading my facial expressions than you are. You're worrying about nothing."
"Maybe, maybe not," Lance said, keeping one hand on the top of her car door so she would think twice before slamming it in his face. "But it's something to think about at least, alright? I'm just trying to give you a little friendly advice. I won't be here much longer, Brennan. If something goes wrong, I won't be here to fix it."
Shooting him an angry and maybe slightly vulnerable look, Brennan slammed her car door shut despite Sweets' hand, and drove away. Lance wanted to run after her, to shake her by the shoulders and get her to understand what he was trying to tell her, but he didn't. If she had to get used to not having his help, Lance had to get used to not giving it. He had to remind himself why he was leaving and that Daisy was worth this sacrifice, because she was his family now. Not these people, not really.
Booth was startled awake by a commotion in the hallway outside his room. Blinking and consulting his watch – which the nurse had only given back to him after ten minutes of argument – Booth noticed that it was still early, just past nine o'clock. Whatever it was Zack fed him must have still been in his system. That and the fact that he'd been sleeping either in a cot or in a train/plane/bus seat for the past three weeks let him fall asleep so early.
"…refuse to comply, ma'am, then I'll have to resort to force," a man's voice said from outside and Booth recognized the tone as military. Military police, maybe. Wait. Ma'am?
Scrambling out of bed and hissing in pain when his IV pulled sideways in his vein, Booth grabbed the needle and pulled it out despite the tape holding it in place. "No!" he called out to the guys guarding his room as he stalked over to the door. Pulling it open, he continued, "No one resort to force," and seeing his partner there, glaring at the taller MP like she wanted nothing more than to take him down by his pinky, Booth smiled. "Not even you, Bones."
"You know this woman, sir?" the other guard asked beside him, but Booth couldn't tear his eyes away from Bones so he could look at the man.
Throwing at him a definite, "Yes," Booth waited what felt like a million years for Bones to break eye contact with the first guard and look at him. He held his breath, watching her, noticing how tired she looked with those bags under her eyes, her hair pulled back like that, and most of her make-up rubbed off, like she'd applied it yesterday morning and hadn't bothered doing it again since. Not that he probably looked any better after four days on the road with hardly any opportunity to wash up, standing there in the door to his hospital room, in his hospital gown. Yikes! Shifting his hips, Booth noticed that yes, he was still wearing his boxers, so that was something to be thankful for.
He'd dreamed about seeing her again, at the reflecting pool after he came home from Afghanistan. How he'd wear his dress uniform and she would be so proud of him. How she would look after a year in Indonesia, probably tanned and wearing chunky Indonesian jewelry. They would both look that year older, having been apart, and Bones would hug him, and maybe everything would be okay again.
Instead, as Bones' eyes slid over to him, Booth realized this was so much better than what he'd dreamed. Especially when she took a sharp breath and threw herself into his arms, lips first. Oh, God, she was kissing him and every cell in his body felt it, his arms snapping around her and hugging her tightly like it had always been this way. She'd meant what she said over the phone! She'd meant this! Seeley had wanted to believe, with everything he had, but after what had happened when he told her how he felt, once and for all, he hadn't quite let himself believe it.
But now she was here, in his arms, kissing him fiercely as if to make up for lost time, and Seeley knew, he knew that she felt the same. There was no mistaking this. And he was never letting go.
A/N: See? What did I tell you? In reply, reviews are much appreciated! Also, thanks to my beta, Downside-Left!