A/N: Although I'd done fanfics for the S3 and S4 finales, I wasn't sure I was going to do one for S5. I was one of those fans who was very disappointed in the finale, because I'd foolishly put too much emphasis on the title. I was expecting something very different than what we got at the end of that ep, and it's taken me most of the summer to come to terms with it. My feelings are rather guarded about the new season - I'm curious about what they're going to do, but am not letting myself get over-invested in it. My fault, completely. It's Hart's show and his characters and he can absolutely do what he feels his right. (But I'll never again pay any attention at all to an episode title. I sort of wish he'd just number them all. LOL.)
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I got the idea of writing up some version of what I would have liked to see, even what I expected to see going into the finale, and this is the result. It's sappier (sap alert!) than I think they would have given us even if they'd gone this direction, but well, that's just a fan's creative license. ;)
It's two chapters, and the first borrows very heavily from the actual finale. The second chapter will be up tonight as well, because things are kind of hectic for me at the moment.
There are NO S6 spoilers in this, unless knowing that this isn't even close to how it plays out is a spoiler.
Early May, 2010
Temperance Brennan settled on the bench with her coffee, though, in truth, she wasn't certain she could drink it. She felt slightly nauseous. Hopefully, it wasn't indicative of a looming intestinal virus.
Booth was nowhere in sight, and a glance at her watch told her he was officially late. He was nearly always on time, if not early. Something must have happened to delay him, that was all. He'd said he'd meet her at the bench midway between their offices, as they frequently did, so he would be here.
But he'd not really wanted to do so. A few years ago, she might not have realized that. But she did, now. She didn't know why he was avoiding her, but she recognized his behavior for what it was. Even when she'd said it was important, that she needed to talk to him, he'd been reluctant. She wouldn't make a final decision before talking with him, but she'd put off giving the organizers of the expedition her answer as long as she could.
She took a sip of her coffee, regretted it when her stomach roiled. She'd thought they were doing better, that the awkwardness between them – apparent even to her – after she'd turned down his romantic overtures had faded. He'd even gone out socially with Dr. Bryar. So why the reluctance to talk to her now?
And then she saw him coming toward her. He was walking quickly, but his head was down, his scapula seeming more curved downward than normal. She watched as he stopped at the coffee cart to get his mug filled before coming over and settling on the bench next to her.
He glanced at her as he did so, but without meeting her eyes. "So, Bones…here we are. What's all the mystery about?"
So often, these shared breaks were times of camaraderie and connection. Aware that wasn't the case today, she was uncertain about how to proceed, and finally settled on the simple truth. "I've been offered the chance to head up the Maluku Island project."
He nodded. "Yeah, I heard." He still wasn't looking at her, and her stomach roiled again. "Daisy told Sweets, Sweets told me."
"Oh." Even more uncertain, she looked away herself for a moment. What was wrong with him? Why wouldn't he meet her eyes? Turning back, she said, "I'd like to accept."
"I thought you already had."
Shock kept her silent for a moment. How could he have thought that? And then a new thought crept in – was he feeling hurt? Was that why he wouldn't look at her? But why had he doubted her? "We've been partners for five years. I wouldn't make a decision like this without talking to you."
She saw him smile while she was speaking, but there was something wrong with it. It didn't look like him, somehow. Maybe because the smile was directed anywhere but at her. "Bones, look, you don't need my permission, okay? It's cool."
This was all wrong, and she didn't understand why. And in not understanding why, she didn't know how to correct it. "You say that, but you won't look at me. You're the one who taught me the value of making eye contact. So…please?"
A long moment passed, and she saw him swallow and glance down before finally turning towards her. "I'm sorry. I don't do really good with change, I guess."
Relief made her weak, until she processed the meaning of his words. Had there ever been evidence of him not handling change well before this? Not that she could remember. She was the one it was always difficult for. "Better than I am."
"Pyramids are better at change than you are."
Not expecting an insult in the middle of the conversation, she simply stared at him, tried to understand it.
He smiled a little. 'It was a joke, okay? I was being affectionate."
Glad that he seemed to be acting more himself, she changed the subject, asked what she'd been wondering. "Will you go back to the army?"
He nodded. "It's what's best for me right now."
Brennan hesitated, confused. He'd initially said no to the army's request, so how could it be the best thing for him now? Then it struck her: the only thing that had changed was her being offered the chance to lead the expedition. The data indicated he was going to a war zone because of her. Should she do something about that? Say something? But what was there to say? Then another thought struck her, just as her stomach shifted again. How long was leaving for? Would he be coming back? Unable to ask, she said, "I'll only be gone for a year."
"Me, too! So what's a year, after all?"
Relief made her weak and she took refuge in facts. "It's the time it takes the earth to make a full revolution around the sun."
He gave her one of his looks. "In the scheme of things…you know, the grand scheme of things? I'm just saying a year, it's not too bad."
"Right." He smiled.
"We can come back, pick up where we left off. Nothing really has to change." She hadn't realized how much she'd counted on him being in DC, on knowing the life she had would be waiting for her when she returned, until right now.
But he shook his head. "No, things have to change. You know what I taught you about eye contact? You taught me about evolution."
The comment struck her as so out of character for him, she was lost, unsure of a response. A memory came to her, of ice skating with him the year before. He'd told her then that nothing would ever change between them, that he'd always be there for her. There was no pleasure for her in knowing that her words to him, that entropy pulled everything apart, had proven true. But was it entropy that was pulling them apart? Or was it her rejection of him that night in front of the Hoover building? She'd tried to prevent his hurt at her hands, and failed – and didn't that only confirm she'd been right to do so?
Her stomach had settled some, but now, instead of experiencing nausea, there was a hollowness inside, one she knew wasn't hunger.
She looked over at him. He hesitated, then said, "About change…" he said slowly, "there's something I should have said to you that night in front of the Hoover, and didn't, mostly because I didn't think it mattered, and I didn't want to push."
Her stomach started churning once more. She did not want to talk about this again.
His lips twisted into a half-grimace, half-smile, and he said, "I know, you don't want to talk about it. You don't have to. It's just important to me that you hear and believe what I say." He glanced down at his cup, frowned. "Change is inevitable, Bones. And I guess that includes us, that we change, too. Sometimes, anyway." He looked back up, full in her eyes now. "That night, though, you said you couldn't be with me because you can't change, can't be other than the scientist you are. And what I should have said and didn't, is that you shouldn't have to. A guy doesn't love who you are, he's not worth having."
He looked away for a moment, then back at her. "I didn't want you to change, didn't need you to. I only wanted you, as you are. I get that I'm not 'that guy' for you, but someday you'll meet him. Don't feel like you need to change for him. If you do, he's not your guy either."
Now, in addition to the hollowness in her stomach, her chest felt heavy. Tight. A heart couldn't literally break, but as she'd said before, it could be crushed. "Booth, I—"
He waved his hand, shook his head, and stood. "Don't, Bones. Nothing to say. I just needed you to know that." He gave her another lopsided smile. "We'll both come back in a year, and some things will change, but other things won't. We'll both be here."
She stood, too, desperately wanting to ask if that was a promise, because he'd never broken a promise to her. But she couldn't quite bring herself to do so. And then the moment passed, and he lifted his coffee mug. "Here's to change."
She reached out, touched her mug to his.
May 20, 2010
Dulles International Airport
Brennan didn't bother glancing at her watch. She'd said good-bye to Cam, Hodgins and Angela, and Daisy was waiting, her impatience growing. They needed to go, immediately, or they risked missing their flight.
It didn't matter. Booth had said he'd come say farewell, and, however irrational it was, she wasn't leaving until she did so. They'd had virtually no time to talk after their meeting at the bench, and she had to see him. If she and Daisy missed the flight, they'd board the next one.
Ignoring Daisy, she looked back down the long terminal, and finally saw him, where he'd paused, looking for her, a tall man in army fatigues she could have mistaken for someone else if not for his stride when he started toward her. Muscles she hadn't known were tense loosened, and she went to meet him.
They met mid-way, let people flow on around them. "Sorry. I couldn't get a pass," he said. "I had to sneak off the base to come say goodbye." Before she could respond, he continued, urgency in his tone and stance. "Listen, Bones – you gotta be really careful in that Indonesian jungle, okay?"
The ridiculousness of it struck her. "Booth, in a week, you're going to a war zone. Please don't be a hero. Please, just…don't be you."
He gave a barely perceptible nod, and then they simply stood there, staring at one another. No problem with eye contact, now. He started to speak and she cut him off. There was so little time. "What you said at the bench that day, about change?" The right words weren't going to come, and wasn't that another indication that he'd be better off without her? "That night in front of the Hoover…" She stopped, tried one last time. "I've already changed, but I'm not sure into what. I don't see how I can ever be what you need for me to be, but if I'm not a scientist, I'm nothing." It wasn't strictly true. She would still exist, but such existence would be irrelevant.
She was still struggling for words to further explain when he reached down, gripped her hand.
"And that's what this year is about."
She nodded, somehow unsurprised that he'd understood that. Something had changed in his face while she'd been speaking. His mandible was more relaxed than it had been in weeks, and his eyes were different, too. Somber, serious, but not as sad as they'd been. He continued, still gripping her hand. "You don't need to change for me, Bones. And you're already the best scientist I know. You took down Taffet, despite all the people in your life. You don't need to be like her to be an amazing scientist."
She gave a slow nod, took a breath, and returned his grip with one of her own. It was time to go – she and Daisy had to catch their plane, he had to return to base. But it was so much harder than she had expected it to be.
He spoke again. "One year from today, we meet at the Reflecting Pool on the Mall, right by the—"
"—coffee cart. I know. One year from today." It was possible to smile a little, after all, she discovered. It was a promise, and he always kept his promises.
For another long moment, they stood there, and then he glanced down at their hands and back up before releasing her and stepping back. And then he turned, walked away. The smile gone, the weight crushing her chest again, Brennan turned as well, started back toward Daisy and the others. And then, unable to stop herself, she glanced back, saw he'd stopped, was looking back as well.