A/N: Just a short little oneshot that popped into my head after watching "The Wannabe in the Weeds".
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing.
"So, got any big plans this evening?" Angela asked Brennan as she sat down at the long table next to her friend.
"I was planning on writing, actually. It would seem that when I don't have the time to write, I find that I become most productive at actually getting words down on paper." Angela smiled.
"I know what you mean. It's the same with my art. It sneaks up on me at the weirdest times."
"Hey!" Booth said as Hannah finally showed up. "You made it!"
"I did." She said with a smile and a kiss.
"Everyone?" Booth clapped his hands to get their attention. "Guys, I want you all to meet Hannah Burley. Hannah, this is the squint squad." He said affectionately.
"It's a pleasure." She said with a smile.
"Dr. Hodgins, it's nice to finally meet you in person." He said as he shook her hand.
"You too." She said with a big smile as Angela rolled her eyes at Brennan.
"Hannah, would you care for a drink?" Brennan asked as Booth pulled up a chair for her at the table.
"Actually, we should probably get going. Seeley and I are meeting a bunch of my coworkers at this great bar in Alexandria. They do open mike night and it's apparently hilarious." She paused to think of the name. "The Checkerbox." Hannah recalled. "Do you guys want to come?" She asked the table. It got very quiet as every head turned towards Booth, who was now staring at Hannah. The group of heads then slowly shifted back towards Brennan's direction.
"Hodgins and I already have plans." Angela said as she grabbed Hodgins.
"Michelle's at home..." Cam shrugged apologetically as she also picked up her coat to leave. The interns, who had no memory of a place called the Checkerbox, still had high enough IQs to know that they should just follow behind. They stood up and followed Cam, Hodgins and Angela out the front door. Hannah glanced at Booth, clearly knowing that something was up.
"Okay…" She trailed off, trying not to take it personally. "What about you Temperance? Are you up for a little karaoke?" Brennan was still staring at Booth as if he was crazy.
"You're going there?" Brennan asked Booth, ignoring Hannah entirely.
"It's okay, Bones. Don't worry. It's not a big deal." He stage-whispered to her, presuming she was just concerned about his well-being. He hadn't known what bar they were going to until Hannah had mentioned it to the group, so he couldn't have warned her in advance about what had happened there three years earlier.
"Not a big deal?" She said, offended by his statement. Hannah, and half the bar, had heard Brennan's reaction. Booth sighed as Brennan picked up her coat and started to walk away.
"Bones, wait." Booth said, grabbing her arm. "Wait!" He said as he pulled her closer to him so no one would overhear, including Hannah. "It's not her fault. She didn't know."
"Let go of me." Brennan hissed. Booth had never heard her speak to anyone so harshly. He let go of her arm slowly, still shocked by her tone. "Not a big deal." She muttered to herself as she shook her head. "Someone shot you, Booth. And in response, I killed her." She emphasized. "After which, we all had to sit and watch helplessly as you died in my arms, as you bled out through my fingers. I sat there with you until the blood was dried to my hands, stuck under my finger nails. For days I had to look down and remember what had happened to you. No matter how hard I scrubbed..." She said, unable to even finish the thought. She paused to take a deep breath and collect herself.
"Bones…" Booth said sadly.
"Just because you came back to us does not mean that it never happened." She informed him. "So excuse me if I think that it was, in fact, a big deal." Booth stared at her in stunned silence. Suddenly he realized that the description of blood on her hands was more than a physical reminder. It was a metaphor for her own feelings of guilt: guilt for killing another human being, guilt for letting him die when she felt that she should have been able to save him.
Unable to look at him anymore, Brennan walked out of the bar without so much as a glance back. She made it around the corner before the tears started to prick her eyes. She darted into the dark entrance of an alley, fighting the sobs that she knew were about to be released at any moment. She leaned her head against the corner of the brick wall as the memories from that night flooded her mind.
The metallic iron smell of his blood filtered through her nose until she could taste it in her mouth. She watched the blood seep from his chest up through her fingers, coating the ring she was wearing. It slowly moved on, dribbling down and over her wrist to stain the right side of his favorite shirt.
"Bones!" Booth yelled as he tried to catch up with her. His voice called her back to the present where she realized that angry tears were silently streaming down her cheeks. She saw him before he saw her. She turned away but it was too late, he had already spotted her. "Bones." He called again, running up to her. He wanted to apologize. He wanted to make everything okay for her again. He tried to wrap his arms around her, but she threw him off.
"No!" She cried, the same angry tone still inherently in her voice. "Not tonight! You can't fix this, Booth." She said as she started walking away again.
"I'm sorry." He called after her.
"You're sorry?" She turned around to face him. "You're sorry?" She said incredulously. She didn't know where it came from but before she knew it, she had walked up and slapped him across the cheek. Booth took it like a man, barely flinching. His lack of a reaction made her even more upset. She pushed him away, but he had a hold of her arm now and he wasn't letting go. She tried to wrestle out of his grasp but he held her fast, letting her half-heartedly pound away at his chest, hoping she would eventually work out her frustration with him. Finally, she gave in, collapsing against his chest as she cried into his shoulder. He held her tightly and let her cry, refusing to let her go. The harder she cried, the closer he held her. His right hand came to rest on the back of her neck as his left hand rubbed small circles on the small of her back.
"You can't blame yourself for what happened, Bones. It wasn't your fault." He whispered into her hair. She shook her head as she pulled away to look him in the eye.
"It should have been me." She told him. "It was supposed to be me."
"No." He said sternly. "Don't you ever let me hear you say that. If anyone was to blame it was me. I was the one who didn't take Pam seriously when she first walked into the case. She was following me that night and I was the person who called you to meet us at the club. It was my fault that both of you were there in the first place." He said authoritatively. "It was my own fault that I got shot and it was my fault that you had to kill someone." He said, taking one hundred percent of the blame. He sighed. "You should have talked to me about how you felt. It's been three years, Bones. We could have resolved all of this at the time it happened." Brennan finally let go of Booth, wiping her tears from her cheeks.
"It's why I said no." She looked him in the eye, not having to explain to him what she was referring to. "I knew," she paused "I know," she corrected herself "that the connection that you and I have created is rare. I know that if I were to let you in, I would have to be all in. You said that you wanted to "try", but I know that realistically, there is no "try" with us. If we were to start a relationship, one of us would have to end up drastically changing our belief system to make it work. It has to be all or nothing." She sniffed. "And when you stood outside of the Hoover and told me how you felt, all I could see was you lying there underneath my hands. And if I hurt that much, if I was altered that much, from that experience as your partner…"
"How could you handle losing me as anything more." Booth finished for her. She nodded. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him once more.
"I'm sorry." She whispered, knowing that despite the fact that he was trying to move on, he still loved her. He kissed her temple before whispering the words he had wanted to say for so many years.
"I love you." The small sentence was heavy with meaning. It was his way of saying that everything was going to be okay, a thank you for saving his life, for loving him enough to care about their future, for letting him try to move on. It also meant, quite literally, that he actually did love her. Brennan, knowing him as well as she did, picked up on all of these statements as she laid her head on his shoulder.
"I love you too." She replied, reciprocating all of the complexities that their tight relationship held. It didn't change a thing, but it felt good to finally say out loud. They stood like that, side by side, leaning on one another, for a few moments more. Finally, Brennan shifted and pulled away. "You should go. Hannah's going to think you left her stranded at the bar."
"Probably." Booth nodded, knowing she was right. "Can I take you home first?" He asked. "I don't want you out like this." She shook her head.
"I'm fine now." She said honestly. "It was just an anger-induced flashback. Emotions are often the stressors that trigger flashbacks within victims of PTSD." She gave him another fact to add to the filing cabinet in the back of his head. "I'm all better."
"Let me rephrase that. I'm taking you home." Booth stated, ignoring her reassurance. "Just let me go tell Hannah where I'm going and then we'll go." She could tell that he wasn't going to leave her alone so she nodded her consent and watched as he disappeared around the corner of the block. She glanced around before sitting down on the nearest stoop to wait. He returned almost instantly.
"That was fast." Brennan noted.
"She was already gone." Booth said. "She left this." He held up a napkin with a note scrawled on it. Brennan didn't need to read it to know what it said.
"Booth, I'm so sorry." Brennan said. "This is my fault. Let me talk to her, maybe I can…" Booth raised his hand to cut her off.
"This had nothing to do with you, Bones." He told her. "You were just her excuse to keep running." He said as he crumpled up the napkin and threw it in the gutter. "She could never be satisfied by living in one place." He said simply. "Deep down, I knew that this was going to happen eventually. She could have picked a better night though." He sighed as he sat down next to his partner on the stoop. Brennan watched as he pinched the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to relieve some of the stress pounding through his head.
"What a pair." Brennan said, reminding Booth of a case long ago. He chuckled softly at the insanity of it all.
"I guess we'll always have each other, huh Bones?" Booth said, attempting to make himself feel a little better.
"Always." Brennan promised as she linked her arm through his. And for the first time in her life, she believed it to be true.