by Amy L. Hull
Written in the LJ Bitesize_Bones "What if" comment fic meme to a Prompt by Biba79: "Booth/Brennan - "Two Bodies in the Lab" - What if Brennan had been blown up instead of Booth?
Some lines of dialogue from "Two Bodies in the Lab" by Stephan Nathan
Wonderful Betas: LadyChi and Ayiana2
"How is she?" he snapped. "Every detail."
Angela sighed. "She's stable."
"That's what you said last time." He scanned the street for his team, but it was still clear.
"If you don't believe me, you should come and see for yourself."
If his nerves weren't thrumming with fury and guilt and exhaustion, he might have cared that she sounded strained and exhausted. "You know I can't stop till I find who did this to her."
Quiet breathing came through the phone. Angela was waiting, listening. Damn her patience.
"And, no, I haven't found much. Just that there was no way Hollings could have set that type of bomb and that no one matching his description was anywhere near Bones's building."
"I thought Hodgins said the explosive was from the company where he worked."
"It was. A perfect match. Too perfect." Booth pounded the steering wheel with the heel of his hand.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that everything about this feels wrong. The explosives may have been right but the construction and the detonator are all wrong. I should have seen it and-"
"Booth, this was not your fault."
"The hell it wasn't! I could have gotten my own damn drink, but I let her wait on me like-"
"You can't blame yourself for that bomb! You didn't set it. You're not the one who hurt her!"
"I was supposed to protect her. Me. I should have had the entire apartment swept before I let her set so much as a foot in the door." He laughed bitterly. "She wanted to stay at the lab. Said she'd be safer there with its security. If I'd listened to her she wouldn't be in the hospital right now. There wasn't a single booby trap at the Jeffersonian. Just in her goddamned fridge. So you tell me how that wasn't my fault, Angela."
"Because you did not set the bomb and blow her up!"
"I still should have gotten my own drink. Then at least it would be me in that bed," he snarled.
"Right. Because that would have solved everything." Now she was using her Mom Voice. Great. "Booth, she wouldn't want that any more than you want this. Anyway, you know what happens when anyone tries to stop Brennan from doing something she's determined to do. I'm surprised you got her to go home at all."
Booth fell silent. Arguing with Angela was like arguing with Bones.
Bones. He could see her singing "Hot-Blooded"...doing that high kick, letting loose for once...then she went for drinks for them, and it felt like the whole building shook. Those images merged with ones of her on the floor, her sleeve on fire, her arm and wrist at unnatural angles, her face blackened by soot, grimy, swollen. Somehow she still had a sick pallor under it all. As they wheeled her out strapped to a gurney, her body wobbled like a rag doll, even with that white collar around her neck, with her arm strapped, her feet elevated. One EMT squeezed an IV bag, the other called into the radio about shock...
He shook his head to clear it, just as he had that night while ordering the teams as they collected evidence.
"I need this. Whoever did this, whoever shot at her, they're still out there, and that means she's still in danger."
"I know," Angela said. "That's why you have those extra-serious FBI guards at the door. That's why I'm here to scream if anyone comes in and acts weird."
"Just...be careful, Ange. And let me know if anything changes."
"She's holding her own, Booth. They're going to set her arm and wrist surgically tomorrow."
"What about her face?" He hesitated. "And her eyes?"
"They're not saying much...and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Just...go get the bad guy, Booth."
Kenton and the rest of the team helped circle Hollings' place. They cleared the exterior, stormed the door and cleared the interior.
"He took off," Kenton declared as agents rifled through drawers. "I want all of this bagged."
A junior agent handed Booth a map with the part of town where the other victim had been found marked. "Fuentes," he said, and the young agent turned back. "Where'd you find this?" The kid pointed to a drawer. Booth knew they'd searched that drawer and all the others. Either Hollings was messing with them, or something was still off-and his gut said "off."
His phone rang. "Booth."
"We found the key," Zack said without preamble. "Hollings never returned to claim them. It matches the bone damage exactly, but Hodgins says a chemical bath removed any DNA by-"
"Thanks." Booth flipped his phone closed. "Hey, Kenton. Hollings never picked up his keys. These guys can finish up here. Let's check in with his lawyer."
He climbed into the driver's seat, clenching his jaw but maintaining his poker face as he cranked the engine. As soon as Kenton's door closed and seat belt clicked into place, Booth brought his weapon to bear. "Keep your hands where I can see them."
"Whoa. Booth, what's-"
"Don't insult us both by pretending we don't both know." He reached over, took Kenton's sidearm, and holstered it. "Now your ankle piece. Two fingers. Very slowly." Once that was in Booth's far pocket, he ground out, "Get your cuffs out. Left wrist first, through the door handle, right wrist with your knee."
"How am I supposed to do that?"
Booth pressed the gun to Kenton's head. "Figure it out. You tried to kill my partner. Twice. You do not want me any angrier." The cuffs clicked and Booth reached over and checked them, notching both bracelets tighter. He leaned back, still gripping his pistol tightly. "How long were you on the take, Kenton?"
The man studied him for a long moment, then deflated, looking at the floor of the truck. "Not from the beginning. But after the first year, they called me in, let me know they were onto me, but that they wouldn't 'take action,' they called it, if I just did them favors now and then."
"Like killing for them?" Booth kept his voice very low.
"And overlooking certain...indiscretions." Kenton looked back at Booth. "Most of the time, the things they wanted done and the goals of the FBI were the same."
"And that makes gunning for my partner all right?" Booth growled, slamming a hook into Kenton's solar plexus.
Kenton wheezed and coughed. "Look, she and her squad of geniuses were going to be able to find out I took out Cugini...and then the Romanos would never have let me talk. I was just covering my ass."
"You shot at my partner. You blew her up. And now..."
Kenton looked away, hunching over his belly.
"You were going to kill her, weren't you?" He shoved his gun solidly into Kenton's side and leaned toward him. His voice was cold, the voice of the killer he saw himself as in nightmares. "And you were going to do it just to save your sorry ass. You are a complete snake, Kenton."
"When I was undercover the Romanos were very good to me," he said. "When you accept their generosity-"
"Oh, just shut up." Booth flipped open his phone and scrolled to Cullen's number. He could almost hear his own pulse in his ears. After requesting a team meet him at the Hoover, he pocketed his sidearm and drove, twisting the steering wheel in a too-tight grip. "What about Hollings?"
Kenton laughed, a barking, short sound. "I thought maybe I could get your people off my trail and get rid of him at the same time. That is one sick bastard the world ain't going to miss. Said he used the keys to 'unlock the soul behind the eyes.'"
The truck was silent until the team met the truck to arrest Kenton. Booth didn't watch as he was led away.
He didn't know how long he'd sat with the engine idling when his phone rang. "Angela? Is Bones all right?"
"She's doing all right. She's awake, and even through the drugs they're pumping her full of she's insisting on talking to you."
He heard a rustling and a "Here you go, sweetie," and then a moan.
"Bones? You doing all right?"
"Not relevant now, Booth. You should," she paused and he could see her forehead wrinkle in his mind's eye. "Should check out Kenton. No such thing as coincidence. Someone shot at me after he got the case. The... we discussed re-creating bullets from paths through bone. He was interested, Booth. Too interested. Then I blew up. The logic is sound. Careful of Kenton."
Only Bones would talk logic while pumped full of narcotics. "You're right, Bones. We just arrested him. He killed Hollings, too, but I can't say I'm sorry about that one. Good comatose investigating, there."
"I don't know what that means."
"It's okay. You just take it easy and work on getting better."
"I'll do my best," she whispered.
"You always do, Bones."
It was five days before they had a full, combined report from neurology, ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedics, and even a start on the beginnings of a plan for Brennan's discharge and recovery.
Booth sat beside her, wanting his presence felt, but not sure where to touch her since she was still more bandage than Bones. Angela was on the other side of the bed, fingers loosely interlaced through Brennan's less-damaged right hand.
"The nurses are quite pleased with the rate of healing of the various burns, lacerations, abrasions, and contusions incurred. I was quite fortunate that my clothes protected the majority of my skin. The neurologist deemed my concussion so mild as to be barely of note."
"Nothing could keep that brain of yours down, Bones."
"No, Booth, it is simply that the majority of the impact was absorbed by other parts of my skeletal structure."
Angela glanced at Booth and smiled, then patted Brennan's hand. "Go on, sweetie. I haven't heard all the reports yet."
"The orthopedic surgeon is pleased with the setting and pinning of my radius and ulna, as well as the stabilization of my wrist. He also felt that the greenstick fracture of my clavicle and the four cracked ribs are showing appropriate remodeling. The only specialist being guarded in her prognosis is the ophthalmologist."
"Why is that?"
"The worst damage was from the shrapnel in the blast, and corneas, since they must be clear, have a low blood and therefore oxygen supply and therefore heal very slowly. As a result, the healing process is both protracted and difficult to predict."
"How long is 'slowly,' Bones?"
"It might be up to a year before we are sure of my degree of recovery and the appropriate route of treatment." She nodded decisively. "In the meantime, there are a great many options for me." Booth saw that Angela tightened her grip on Brennan's hand and Bones squeezed back. "Ironically, if I bought more of my groceries in less environmentally-friendly packaging, my corneal lacerations likely would have been less severe."
"Wait. Sweetie, are you saying that this is worse because you buy food in glass containers?"
A wry smile twisted slightly at Brennan's lips, and her chin puckered. "Basically...yes." She took a deep breath. "I can feel the constriction where I would cry, but the damage to my tear ducts was severe enough that I am not lacrimating properly, at least, not currently. The doctors are uncertain of the extent to which that will repair itself over time."
Booth knew all of this because Brennan had told him in their nightly conversation before he went to sleep yesterday. The door swung open and a too-cheerful nurse came in with a sheaf of papers. "Are we ready to get out of here?"
"I certainly am ready to return home," Brennan said.
They all nodded through the nurse's endless instructions on wound care, cast care, medication regimens, after-care, rehabilitation appointments, doctor's recommendations, hospital services, counseling for trauma and injury and crime victims. It was Angela who signed the discharge papers when Brennan interrupted the nurse to tell her that she had heard all of the instructions the first three times from the specialists themselves and that she would call if she had further questions.
Booth covered his mouth to prevent himself from laughing out loud when the nurse's mouth fell open as Brennan unerringly reached for the clipboard where Angela had just crossed her 't' and, as soon as she felt it, grabbed it.
"Where is the signature line?" she demanded.
"Honey, I already signed for you."
Bones set the clipboard on her lap and held out her hand. "I'm the patient, and I will sign myself out." Her voice rose slightly in that way that meant she would not budge. "Give me the pen, Angela." Angela lay the pen in the rigidly flat palm. "Now put your fifth phalange along the line."
She set her hand on Angela's and, even with her eyes bandaged, tilted her head as if she were looking at her signature. Booth's throat tightened as the pen hit Angela's hand on the downward stroke of the 'p' and as she paused before drawing the remaining loops of her name. He looked away from the tears on Angela's cheek.
Brennan set the pen on the clipboard and looked toward the nurse. "Now. If you'll give Ms. Montenegro my discharge instructions and prescriptions and leave us so I can change, we'll be blowing this hot dog stand."
"Popsicle stand, Bones," Booth said, leaning close to her ear after the door had clicked closed behind the nurse. "It's popsicle stand."
She pulled a hand from the keyboard, gestured for him to wait, and returned to typing. He stared at her, hands in his pockets. So often it was like nothing had changed.
Like he hadn't heard her suppress sobs then lift her chin up as if she was fine when she'd been told this nearly-nothing was the best her vision would be. Like he hadn't watched Angela cry the tears her eyes barely made anymore when she was told that was why she wasn't a candidate for corneal transplant. Like he hadn't seen her stretch out her hand from the residual stiffness in her mended wrist. Like he didn't miss her in the field, especially when Zack was particularly, well, Zack. Like he hadn't watched her throw things in her rage. Like he hadn't missed her while she did four weeks of intensive mobility training even before she got that final verdict on her vision. Like he hadn't wanted to kiss her and twirl her around when, after she returned from those four weeks, she'd shown up at the Hoover as a surprise to ask him to lunch at the diner, smiling like, as she'd said, "the cat who ate the pigeon."
Most of the time it was like this, though. Which was to say, same as always.
Her delicate fingers held precious bones like fragile china, but now those fingers showed her most of what she saw on the surface of the bones too. She grumbled about the x-ray enlargers distorting the originals, but had been far more satisfied with Angela's size enhancements that she could examine in the part of her field of vision that still had some sharpness. She switched screen readers about every three months because none of them could pronounce scientific terms, and Zack and Hodgins had confided that they and Angela were working together to create a patch for the one she'd liked best to upgrade its pronunciation dictionary.
Exacting, brilliant, inspiring crazy loyalty in those around her, working as much of the day as those around her would let her, that was Bones.
She stopped typing, hit "Enter" with a flourish, and pulled off her headset, which she hung on the monitor's corner. She turned her chair toward him and all he could see was how the waves of her hair bounced right to the beginning of the v-neck of her purple blouse.
"What can I do for you, Booth?"
"Oh. The, um, Meyer file. Do you have it?"
She set a hand onto her desk and trailed it across the stacks. In the stack on the right, she counted folders, pulled the fourth from the top, and held it out to him. "Right here. The particulates Hodgins analyzed in the stress fractures I found turned out to be a match for the machine shop where you said the ex-husband does his motorcycle restoration."
He flipped through it. "Thanks. We'll get this to Caroline and it should be enough for a warrant and an arrest. You want to grab some dinner at Wong Foos?"
She smiled. "Do you plan to check me out there, too?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Bones."
"Of course not. Should I infer that you don't like the green blouse in this cut either?"
Booth swallowed convulsively.
Bones just looked smug. "Let me just get my purse and my coat." She put in her eye drops, shrugged into the little trench coat he loved, shouldered her bag, and pulled out her cane. After removing the elastic, she only gave the handle a single wiggle and the cane unfolded and snapped itself together. It amused Booth, but Parker could pull the segments apart and watch it snap into place for over half an hour before he got bored.
"We've talked about this before," he said, touching her hand with his elbow. She felt the floor ahead with the cane and tucked the fingers of her other hand into the crook of his arm, standing close enough that their shoulders brushed. "You don't need that when you're with me."
"Oh, really? What if you get distracted and don't notice a curb, a step, a pole, a tree branch-"
"I would never walk you into something, Bones. Geez. Distracted enough to walk you into a pole. What do you take me for?"
"Well, you have said I'm very distracting." She looked up at him, that cheeky grin plastered ear to ear, her head tilted at the angle that meant she could see a bit of his face. The scarring had left a small cloudy patch on one eye and a white spot obscuring part of the blue of the other, but they were still piercing and unique and beautiful.
"Distracting?" He laughed. "I might have said distressing, Bones. That may have been it. Distressing."
"No, I'm sure you said distracting. Just like I find you distracting at times."
"Oh, you find me distracting, too, do you?"
"Too. There, see? You do find me distracting."
"Fine. You're distracting. But in the best way. But I'm not sure I'm that distracting to you . I mean, is that why you kept typing when I first got to the office?" Booth opened the door for them both and they stepped into the brisk fall air. "Is that how distracting I am, that you just keep working and ignore me for five minutes when I show up? Work, work work..."
"It was not five- Just shut up, Booth."
"You only say that because the conversation's not going your way."
She laughed in her throaty, open way, and as they walked to the sounds of leaves and laughter, he thought that he could not be a luckier man.