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AN: Just a quick New Year's Day present for you all, I give you this quick one-shot, based on a combination of spoiler information we've been receiving for the upcoming episodes and my own personal hopes for the resolution of the Booth/Brennan/Hannah triangle we've got going on at the moment...

The Choice

As Booth stood outside the diner, his hands in his pockets as his fingers fiddled with the small box in his pocket, he wondered once again if he was really ready for this.

He knew that he loved Hannah, and he could probably see them staying together for the long term, but a part of him still couldn't shake that nagging itch in the back of his brain- fortunately far away from where that tumour they'd taken out had been- that told him that he wasn't doing this for the right reasons...

It was too late to go back; she'd said herself that they'd missed their moment, he'd agreed with that (Albeit by not denying it, but it amounted to the same thing), and things would move on from there and be left at that.

God, he'd been kicked in the metaphorical teeth by her for the past six years to varying degrees; feeling sorry for her did not give him the right to break everything he'd tried to live his life by and become a cheater! He was in a good, happy, stable relationship with a woman whom he could be relatively sure wouldn't freak out and back off if things got too emotionally intense- no matter how understanding he'd tried to be, everything had its limits in the end-, and he wanted to take it further; there was nothing wrong with that...

Then again, maybe the trouble he'd had finding this ring should have reminded him that this wasn't exactly going to be easy; he hadn't even been able to get a female opinion on the ring because he didn't know any female agents at the Bureau well enough to feel comfortable asking them for an opinion, and turning to Cam, Angela or (God save him if he'd actually reached the point where he was that desperate) Daisy for advice would have been at best awkward and at worst would have prompted questions that he really didn't know how to answer...

Admittedly, the Jeffersonian had still ended up getting involved in this mess, but that was just bad luck; from what he'd heard, Hannah had gone down to the Jeffersonian to see him- he'd naturally 'forgotten' to tell her that he had other matters to attend at the time, particularly since their last case had turned out to just be a suicide rather than a murder- and had only realised that she'd left her credit cards and money behind after arriving, so someone from there had agreed to give her a lift down to meet him after she'd called him and he'd explained the situation.

He just wished that he could get his thoughts out of this stupid loop he seemed to be stuck in; even as he knew that his feelings for Hannah were genuine, there was still that part of him that seemed determined to remind the rest that what he'd felt for the other important woman in his life was a lot deeper and more serious...

As a car pulled into a nearby parking lot that Booth always used when he was in the diner, his eyes noted the two people inside it- he might be getting on a bit but the sharp eyesight he'd developed in his army career didn't go away that easily- and he couldn't help but curse.

Damnit... he thought.

Of all the people who could have given Hannah a lift from the Jeffersonian and made him feel more awkward about what he was planning to do, it had to be Bones, didn't it?

Then again, he should have expected it; Angela's pregnancy had reached the point where Hodgins was almost constantly 'mother-henning' her to ensure that the kid and mom-to-be came through everything all right, Cam wouldn't leave the Jeffersonian unsupervised unless she had to, and asking any of the 'squinterns' to take Hannah here would have been a bit insulting. Bones might be the Jeffersonian's leading anthropologist, but she was also at least (Kind of, anyway; he admitted that he wasn't sure what their relationship was really like any more after... what he'd said) Hannah's friend; it wasn't that implausible for her to give Hannah a lift if Hannah needed it...

As he stood up and walked out to the door of the diner to meet them when he saw them leaving the lot and walking towards him- asking Bones to leave inside the diner was really pushing things a bit for his comfort-, the two women coming ever-closer to him, Booth was slightly ashamed to admit that he spent at least a few moments trying to think of the most diplomatic way to ask Bones to leave without making things even more awkward than they already were for him...

Then, as he stood outside the diner just as they reached him, he saw the glint from a nearby rooftop- a glint that only someone who'd used such a weapon would recognise as the setting sun shining on the targeting scope of an aiming sniper rifle-, his mind quickly processed that the currently-near-deserted street had only three likely targets, and he acted almost without thinking.

"MOVE!" he yelled, grabbing an arm and yanking its owner into the diner's door as a gunshot sounded through the silence of the street.

As the diner's few other customers at this hour screamed and dived under the tables or behind the counters- there didn't seem to be any further bullets coming this way, but getting out of harm's way after gunfire was always a good move-, Booth pulled out his gun and tried to fire off a couple of shots in the direction of the shot, but a brief-but-detailed glance at the roof was enough for him to see that whoever had just fired at them had run off after getting off his shot.

Then he turned to look at the woman he hadn't grabbed, and his blood ran cold at the sight.

"Booth..." Hannah whispered, blood spreading from the centre of her shirt to cover her chest even as he watched, the red dominating the formerly pale shirt before she fell to the ground.

Booth was too stunned to do anything, even if there was anything he could have done; he knew sniper wounds, and the spread of blood, combined with the angle at which the bullet must have entered Hannah's body while her back was to the shooter, confirmed that the bullet would have entered her back, causing at the least some damage to her spine before puncturing her heart and exiting her body from the other side.

If the damage to her heart hadn't killed her in a few seconds, whatever that bullet had done to her spine and lungs would almost certainly finish the job before he could even try and do anything to help...

And the only thing he could think about was that he was relieved that it had been her.

He'd been thinking of asking Hannah to marry him, and he was relieved that she was dead...

"Booth?" Bones said, looking at him with a wide-eyed confusion that drew his attention away from Hannah and back to her, the woman who'd shaken up his world so many times in the last few years looking at him with a slight fear that he'd always prayed she would never show in his presence.

"It... it's OK, Bones," he said at last, trying not to think too much about just how much things weren't OK- someone had just killed someone they knew right in front of them and they had no idea who or why- and just focus on getting her to pull herself together. "We're still here... we can find him-"

"Why?" Bones asked, looking shakily at him.

"I don't know, Bones; maybe someone Hannah ticked off-" Booth began (It was the most likely theory he could think of, anyway; maybe someone Hannah had angered in a previous article of hers had decided to get revenge).

"No, I mean... why... did you...?" Bones began, only for her voice to trail off as she spoke, leaving her to gesture uncertainly between herself and the now-still body of his lover lying on the floor in front of him.

Even as a part of his mind vaguely registered the other customers getting back to their feet and calling the police, ambulances, or their families, Booth couldn't have stopped the train of thought currently dominating his mind if he'd wanted to.

When faced with an almost certain threat, believing that he'd only have time or the chance to save one of the two women before him, and with no time to make a choice based on anything other than instinct...

It wasn't that he'd wanted Hannah to die; it was just that...

Damnit... Booth thought to himself, shaking his head in frustration. So much for all that effort...

Even after all the time he'd spent convincing himself that he was happy with Hannah, when push came to shove and he'd been left with absolutely no time to make a conscious choice or save them both...

He'd chosen Bones.

No matter what kind of effort he might have been making to move on from a relationship that had left him with a heart that felt like someone had been repeatedly at it with a knife, no matter how often she'd put him through the emotional and psychological wringer, no matter how confused and uncomfortable she made him feel at times...

He already knew that he could come to terms with Hannah's loss.

He had known for years that he couldn't cope if he'd permanently lost Bones.

"Because..." he said, realising that he still had to give his partner an answer for her (Admittedly vague and non-specifically-asked question), "you're Bones."

She didn't respond to his statement, but the look in her eyes was enough for him to know that she'd understood.

Even if things were not going to go... there... any time soon- they'd still have to figure out who'd killed Hannah and why, and that was before he factored in all the mistakes they'd made since that mess with Sweets' book (Or had his tumour been the moment when things started to go wrong; he just wasn't sure any more)-, they had begun to take the necessary steps back to what they'd been.

It wasn't going to be easy, but at least he now had a better idea that Bones wanted to take that particular route once things had straightened out...


AN 2: A bit extreme, perhaps, but killing Hannah off is the only way I can see for HH to dig his way out of the mess he's created in the last few episodes, particularly with the reported images of Booth ring-shopping; he has to be the one to break up with Hannah if their relationship ends THAT way or it creates the impression that Brennan's his 'second choice', but killing Hannah struck me as a neat way to resolve the current situation while still leaving potential for some issues to get through before the 'season' ends...

Well, here's hoping that Hannah's going to be gone soon, eh?