A/N: As much as I have it in me to still be very optimistic about Show - the dynamic this season, as well as the mass reaction to it, has done freaky things with my writing mojo. Mostly, I've been a bit surprised by everyone hating on Booth so much when I think that a lot of what's happened is kind of telling, and can be explained well within what we've seen of his character so far. This is my little attempt at that - a very BB slanted look inside the Booth/Hannah relationship as well as its ensuing demise. I kind of hope that it doesn't come across as some kind of Hannah/Booth-bashing affair, because although I don't think Hannah's character has been particularly well constructed, I wanted this to at least be a fair analysis.
This has, in the most vague sense possible, spoilers for 6x10, as well as more specific spoilers for all aired episodes.
Thanks as always to my beloved Tadpole24 for input and beta :)
The Five Things Hannah Burley Learned from Temperance Brennan (About Seeley Booth)
1. Seeley Booth has a son.
In Afghanistan, he never put photos on his walls.
He thought about it though, for about five minutes when he first arrived and was pointed in the direction of what was to be his room for the year, but as soon as he looked down at Parker and Bones' smiling faces – felt the familiar twist of longing in his gut, his personal relics were relegated to the heavy trunk at the end of his bed.
And there they stayed.
Or at least, there they stayed most of the time.
For the first few weeks, he had to keep pulling them out – one photo in particular – her arms curving around Parker's and glittering smiles on both of their faces. It was probably slightly ridiculous, but there was this part of him, loud enough to send him back to the trunk several nights in a row, worried that amidst all the terror, stuck in this hell–on–earth day after day, he'd stop being able to picture her face in his mind. On those first few days – the days where he could still feel his flesh burn under the sun and the tight knot of anxiety in the back of his throat – he couldn't help but be terrified that there'd come a time when he'd stop being able to see the perfect curve of her cheek, the slope of her chin...
Like he said, it was probably ridiculous.
It had only taken three weeks – three weeks of that same hollow fear and familiar dark longing – for him to seek out that same feeling of numbness that had protected him so well the last time he'd been stuck in a similarly bleak war zone. After that it all didn't really matter quite as much any more.
It had taken eight weeks – give or take – to meet Hannah.
He's not exactly proud of the way they started out. There had been so much sex (fig tree sex, up–against–the–back–of–a–van sex, hot–sweaty–under–the–stars sex) and not a whole lot of making love – he almost felt like he was betraying the part of himself that had once made a speech about breaking the laws of physics, crowing about the importance of closeness and intimacy like a man with a point to prove. He almost felt like a fraud for making that whole idea seem like the standard to be met when a quick fuck with Hannah somewhere (far enough from prying ears and still all–but–fully–clothed as he buried himself to the hilt) seemed to be quite sufficient to satisfy his needs.
Mostly, he just grabbed hold of the numbness that made Afghanistan bearable and applied it to his new–found sex life.
It was a vicious cycle.
He and Hannah had found each other out of some kind of common need – though she never really said anything specific, there was something to the way she spoke about her work, it was as if she'd begun to worry that she'd been doing it all just long enough to stop feeling, that the terror and the atrocities of war didn't affect her as much as they had on her first day. Errant words and half formed sentences (their communication staple) seemed to convey the worry that she was numb now and sex (lots of sweaty, fiery sex) meant feeling something, even if it wasn't the right something.
It seemed to compliment his need to feel nothing all too well.
And so it went on – he needed Hannah to stave off all the unwanted feelings (fear, loathing, longing) – hormones and raw desire taking up all the space in his mind that he didn't want to use feeling like shit for going back to the very same place and to the very same work that had once torn him down, missing his son in a near consuming fashion or eating his heart out over Bones – the fact that she left, the way she abandoned their partnership. And when the guilt about the Hannah situation seemed to get too much, he just added it to the pile, another thing to forget amidst sweaty nights and fumbling climaxes.
It was why he kept going back, why it went on for more than the few days it should've taken him to come to his senses. What they'd started with wasn't exactly real – not when they were two people using each other as obviously as they were – but it worked.
It had worked for so long.
Except now, it felt like something had... shifted ever so slightly. Like after all these months that Hannah had maybe started to get a little attached – and he didn't exactly have a problem with that – she'd just been asking more personal questions, the types that were once carefully avoided, bits and pieces about his life back home, offering more of herself.
And for the first time in months, it sent him back to that trunk, pulling at the edges of the photo tucked down one side.
Because he'd started to think that maybe he could do this.
A small, almost selfish part of him wanted this to be his chance to free himself.
Albeit in a complicated, kind of messy way, the time he's spent with Hannah had helped him. She'd been an escape – been exactly the person he'd needed at the time to let him quietly work through all those things on his mind, let him take whatever it was he wanted from her without question or price.
As much as the numbness played its role, he's started to feel that little bit better.
He was all too aware how easily his resolve could come tumbling down – how easily he could slip back into that place and end up miserable. All of it – his feelings for Bones, the pain of being in Afghanistan, his uncertainty about just... everything – it never seemed that far behind him – it was always buried just a few inches from the surface, ready to creep back if he gave it the chance. It made him want to cling to what he'd achieved in any way he could – build on it, to be sure he didn't have to feel like that again.
Hannah was a nice person, someone who despite everything she faced, tried always to be bright and happy. Someone who brought that brightness and happiness into his own world – just that little bit. And if Hannah wanted to love him, if someone finally wanted to give him a little piece of themselves, well, he couldn't help but feel a little entitled to that.
Entitled to experience that kind of love after so long without.
It was this feeling – all of these emotions and thoughts swirling around in his head – that sent him back to the trunk.
He needed to be sure.
As he pulled the photo between his fingers, as the familiar curve of her smile caught his eye – he could feel it all there, still those few inches below, and he bit back on it all reflexively.
He couldn't do that all again.
He couldn't go back there and be the same.
Both of them knew that – without saying it in so many words, both had known as they left that things had to change.
He needed to change.
Just like he'd said.
He'd been too busy lost in these thoughts to notice he was being watched. From across the room, the same carefully curious voice that had made itself known in the last week broke through his reverie. "Who are they?"
He looked up to find her hovering in the doorway, peering over at him. "Oh. Whoah, Hannah."
"Sorry, I was... watching. Just for a second."
With the same practiced inflection as before, carefully devoid of accusation, she asked, "Who are they?"
"That's... that's my little boy." His finger traced the glossy outline of a face.
She seemed unfazed, curious, "You have a son?"
"Yep, that's Parks... Parker. He's nine."
"And that's... his mom?" Hannah pointed without touching the image. Keeping an almost respectful distance.
"Nah." He smiled carefully, reaching for the right words. "That's my... best friend. That's Bones."
"Oh." Hannah nodded, considering and then seemingly accepting this information.
He could've told her more. He could've taken an obvious opportunity and tried to explain at least some of the whole complicated situation, actually confided in someone for once. He was sure talking about it with another person wasn't completely without its benefits; that beyond that, maybe it was the right thing to do by Hannah as well, to tell her the truth.
But then he thought about how much he wanted to escape that feeling, how badly he just wanted to be a part of something uncomplicated, to be loved...
In that moment, he decided to offer her something else instead.
Something that had seemed so very small at the time.
"Well, uh, your work takes you all over – and newsworthy stuff happens in DC all the time, yeah?"
"…What do you mean?"
"Well if you were ever in DC – for work, or something like that – you should come and meet Parks. Meet the team."
"There's a team?"
"Yeah. Back home, the people I work with. They're... a team."
With carefully chosen words, he steered them from a dangerous avenue of conversation.
She didn't need to know too much about the other person in the photo.
"Oh. Yeah." Her tentative smile, pulling around the edges of her lips, suggested she was quite pleased with this idea. It seemed to confirm to him that this was what she'd been looking for with her quietly probing questions – some kind of indication that this was all... going somewhere.
She nodded. "That would be... nice."
The invitation would have so many more implications than Booth could ever imagine at the time.
(Moving, living together, Bones….)
Except, he had no way of knowing this right then.
All he knew – right there as he uneasily strung words together to form some kind of invitation – is that for the first time in a long time, he was going to try for a different result.
Amidst numbness, hope and quiet longing – tired of feeling too lonely for too long – he could only hope he was doing the right thing.
2. Seeley Booth once had a brain tumor.
In the number of months Hannah had lived with him, there'd been a business card tucked behind the calendar that was pinned to his wall. Whenever her eyes fell on it she'd wonder – her mind full of words spinning sensationalist stories all the while – why on earth Seeley would need the card of Dr M Connor, Neurologist stowed carefully behind the organizer in his kitchen.
For some reason – maybe the way the card was tucked out of sight, or the way it was never mentioned – she couldn't help but feel it wasn't something she was really meant to know about. It was her job, after all, to know which questions were the ones you weren't allowed to ask.
It was probably to do with an old case.
Sometimes though... sometimes she'd think about the thin scar she could feel just under his hairline. Whenever his mouth pressed reverently into her neck, trailing kisses back and forth as a precursor to so much more, she'd slide her hands into his hair and she could feel the imperfection of flesh under her fingers.
But Seeley had a lot of scars. A lot of scars with a lot of stories, and though she didn't know much of those either, it was all she could do to believe that it fell safely within this category – the things she could easily explain. A war story, a souvenir from the job – those she could accept.
Yeah, the card was probably to do with an old case.
At least, that was what she told herself each time it caught her eye.
It was a Tuesday morning when he woke her up with his hands on her shoulders and a gentle kiss to the forehead.
"No," he said with a soft laugh, "It's your other boyfriend waking you up at the butt crack of dawn to say goodbye. Got a body, so I gotta go."
She groaned again, her eyes only half open, and swatted a hand in his general direction.
"I'm gonna be home a bit later tonight."
Her voice was still gravelly as she asked, "How late?"
"Eh, not that late. 6.30, 7 maybe? Dr Connor's squeezing me in for a special appointment after work."
"Okay..." she mumbled, rolling back over and pulling the blankets up around her ears.
She fell asleep before the information (right along with his final farewell) quite reached her brain.
She'd recognized the name.
As soon as she'd woken properly, buzzed through the kitchen on her way out the door, it had all kind off fallen into place.
Seeley was going to see the neurologist. For an appointment.
In an attempt to stay calm, she'd done one of the things she'd always done best – as soon as she'd gotten to her desk at work and nodded hello to Amy across the hall, she'd begun her research.
Apparently, Dr Connor was the best in the city. The best in practically the whole of North America. That much at least was reassuring.
As she read (a little bio on Connor prefacing a journal article online, a brief write up of his work in the field of neurology on some medical website, anything really that she could seem to find) she couldn't help but jot down the location of his DC practice – it was right there on a few of the websites she'd skimmed through, some pictures even, inviting her to view the building's beautiful facade – so that she might recognize it were she ever to pass by.
It was all there – all this information about the doctor himself, but as expected, no real suggestion as to why Seeley might feel compelled to visit him.
She had however, the address and a time.
For the rest of the afternoon, she'd watched the clock and thought almost too hard about all those things that good reporters would do.
When he sailed through the door after 7 already loosening his tie, Hannah had a couple of cartons of Chinese ready and two plates haphazardly arranged on the table.
She watched carefully as he slung his jacket over a chair – her eyes following him still as he crossed the room to give her a quick kiss hello.
"I got dinner," she looked up with a smile.
"Mmm, I know. Smells good too – I got that pork thing you liked last time."
To this he just grinned, sliding into a chair opposite and reaching for a carton.
And as his chopsticks buried into the steaming noodles and he nodded with his approval of her choice, it seemed that that was all he had to say.
Which was fair enough really – it wasn't as though their evenings together wouldn't normally follow a similar sort of path – quick greeting and a quiet meal. The often–confidential nature of his cases (the all–too–familiar line that The FBI doesn't comment on ongoing investigations) right along with the fact that she was a journalist for one of the county's major news outlets meant that work wasn't always widely discussed.
And Seeley worked a lot.
She had come to accept the fact that their relationship was just as much about quietly enjoying each other's company as it was anything else.
But tonight, she couldn't help but feel a little disappointed as they slipped into silence. She'd hoped...
No. She'd been fairly sure it was going to go just the way it had.
Which was why she'd come prepared.
"So how was your day?" She carefully tipped the contents of her own container onto a plate, not lifting her eyes. As a few noodles missed the china below, she'd scooped them up with her fingers, licking them clean once she was done.
"Mm, fine. Frustrating case."
"And your appointment?"
"Your doctor's appointment today? You said this morning you were going after work."
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was fine." A nod, a shrug.
His expression betrayed nothing and she couldn't help but wonder – knowing what she'd seen that afternoon – where he'd learned such an excellent poker face.
Hannah measured her words. "...What'd you go to the doctor's for?"
"Just a check–up." And then he smiled, a proper, Seeley kind of smile, "Nothing too exciting this time around. And after all that, apparently I'm as right as rain."
In spite of everything, his assertion did seem vaguely reassuring.
She let him go back to his meal.
She'd seen them though. Them.
Just moments after her eyes had flicked across her watch at 6.30, Seeley and his partner had pushed through the glassy doors of the neurologist's office, walking quietly into the street. A foot of space remained between them and the strain that seemed so evident in their interactions immediately set her on edge.
She'd thought something was wrong.
But then Temperance had leant in, her hand carefully skimming the back of his head as she smiled warily. Seeley had given her some kind of awkward thumbs up as she'd stepped away once more, and though their actions still seemed stilted, they lacked the very obvious bleakness that came after receiving bad news.
She'd tried to relax.
Most of the conversation that had taken place was lost to her. Hannah had been too far away to hear more than a few words of what had been said, and she'd cursed her need to stay hidden as words like tumor and no evidence of... had floated through the air.
After complete remission she'd decided it was time to pick up the Chinese she'd ordered – a small attempt at guilty domesticity – as she'd quickly tried to discern just how much over the speed limit she'd have to drive to make it home before her boyfriend.
Much later – after Seeley was asleep and she'd long since given up on her own attempts a similar kind of escape – she'd returned to her research.
It always made her feel better.
But as she'd trolled the Wrong Diagnoses and the WebMDs – as she'd hunted diligently for some kind of reassurance that her boyfriend wasn't about to spontaneously drop dead – it hadn't taken her long to come to the conclusion that she knew nothing. Not where the growth had been located, not how big it had been – not even which of the many 'oma–suffixed types of tumor he'd very possibly been afflicted with.
She had nothing.
Her research could tell her nothing.
She pushed away from her laptop with a quiet groan of frustration and her rolling desk chair carried her a few feet back across the room. With only the light from her laptop to illuminate the space around her, she spun like a child in the chair, watching as the grey–green walls of the room flew by.
Though it seemed he'd never actually lied to her when she'd asked her questions at dinner, Seeley's evasive answers were evidence enough that he'd never wanted her to know all that much about this small part of his life. She could almost understand it – almost see the motivation someone might have for concealing something quite so... bleak – but at the same time, she just wanted to know. The inherently human part of her needed reassurance that everything was going to be okay.
But he hadn't told her. Despite a perfectly decent opportunity to calmly discuss the more serious nature of his appointment, he'd brushed it off. She couldn't help but think that this was the most telling of all.
In such a number of years as a journalist, it told her that nothing good could come of asking more questions.
From the window in the office, she watched as the sun came up and asked herself about the value of truth and the dangers of conflict.
By morning she'd made her decision.
And though it was motivated by fear, by a quiet lack of faith in so many things she ought to have faith in – it felt like the best decision she could make.
She wasn't going to ask.
(She didn't hear it. Not all of it at least.
As they stood outside the doctor's office and DC seemed to slowly wind down around them, Hannah didn't hear the parts of Booth and Brennan's conversation that really mattered.
The air between them had been heavy – the thick and palpable tension that seemed to have grown between them the last few weeks only worsening given the almost–too–confronting circumstances. The appointments always put them both on edge.
And yet, despite everything that had changed between them in the past few weeks – despite everything she'd changed with her rainy car confession – there had been no question that Brennan was to come to the appointment.
For this, she was too involved. Had always been too involved.
It was too important.
Resting his hand on the door, Booth stopped before exiting the practice and turned. "Hey, uh, thanks for coming Bones. I mean, you didn't have to..." He faltered, "You don't have to feel like you're responsible for all this."
Her words were clipped. "What do you mean?"
"You still... You shouldn't have to... pay for all these things, come with me and everything. I don't want you to feel obligated just because..." Again the words trailed off.
It was all very frustrating.
"I don't feel obligated. I asked Matthew personally to oversee your treatment, and given my very fortunate financial position, I am more than happy to ensure that only the best possible care is accessible to you."
Though her tone was even, there was a tension running just below the surface that Booth couldn't miss.
She held his eyes with a warning glare. "If you don't want me to–"
He quickly cut her off, "No! No Bones, it's not that. It's just..." A pause. His voice softens, "It's fine. I really... appreciate everything you've done."
Pulling at the door finally, he let her slide past him onto the street. For the first few steps, she maintained a distance between them, carefully not looking in his direction.
Booth scrambled for something that would lighten the air between them.
"So your doc in there seems to be pleased with everything he saw."
Brennan nodded, turning to face him in the street. "Given the nature of your tumor, there has always some concern that it would re–grow and that your symptoms would reoccur. I'd imagine Dr Connor is very pleased that there is no evidence of this taking place."
He smiled, stepping into the space she'd tried to put between them. "Yeah. I am too."
In a moment of weakness it seemed, she drew herself in further. A careful look passed between them as her fingers came up to graze his scar, both burning at the contact and fighting so hard against the tide of emotion that welled in its wake.
These were the feelings that had infected their every exchange since that night – doubt, frustration, denial and that undercurrent of something more.
It seemed no matter the distance they could put between them – no matter how cold they could be to each other when it seemed to be the only safe thing they could do – they couldn't seem to escape these quiet moments of intensity.
Gently lifting her hand away, Brennan offered him a smile. "I was... very pleased when Matthew explained the results. I can't imagine..."
"I know Bones, I know." Booth's soft response then dissolved into a lively smile and jovial words, his thumbs pointed upward in some kind of over exaggerated gesture, "But hey, apparently I'm headed for complete remission, so we've got nothing to worry about."
Brennan could only try to laugh along with his almost childlike demeanor as the moment fell away around them. Stepping back, she restored the few feet of space that seemed to be needed between them and tried to rebuild her resolve.
Booth had tried to stay bright.
"Hey, really, thanks for coming today Bones. This brain tumor stuff... well, you're the person I'll always want with me for all that, okay?" His voice dropped, "We're... partners."
Brennan hesitated, "...I was surprised that you didn't ask Hannah to come to your appointment."
Her bluntness seemed to bite a little more than normal.
He faltered. "Yeah, well, I just... I didn't want her to have to worry. Or to feel like she came all this way only to get stuck with the sick guy."
"But Dr Connor said that your prognosis is excellent. I see no reason for you to be concerned with her reaction."
"It's just…" But then his eyes went hard and the more gentle edge to his voice disappeared. "Yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe next time I should bring her to one of these things."
It hurt a little, putting that distance there – watching as Bones felt the force of his darker words.
But he was fighting so hard.
Fighting against the practiced intimacy of their moment before, fighting against all those feelings he'd been trying so hard just to ignore, fighting against the damned memories his appointment before couldn't help but drag up, of coma dreams and wives and babies….
He needed to fight.
Because that night, with the rain and her soul–twisting tears, he'd heard what she was saying. Really heard it, louder than almost anything she'd said to him in months because as hard as he'd tried, it was one of the first time that he truly couldn't help but listen. In that time – through all those days and weeks when he'd tried in the name of self–preservation not to hear – it was as though he'd known, somehow, that it was all going come to this. Known, also, in the deepest recesses of his own morality, what he was going to have to say.
And fuck if he hadn't been completely wrecked by the irony that the only way that he could prove to Bones that a romantic relationship means something was by breaking her heart.
Breaking his own heart.
It just seemed to him that making something of what she'd said – not giving all that he truly had to give to a committed relationship – could only undermine everything he'd tried to tell her about what love means.
How could he prove to her he would never leave if all he showed her was walking away?
So he used facts. He played it her way and used facts and logic to try and make it all hurt as little as possible, because that's what she deserved. What she'd always deserve.
And as that fear had welled up – the still injured part of him quietly glad to be protected from more of their hopeless mess that had seemed to unfold between them in the last however–many months – it couldn't help but play second fiddle to his need make this point to her. Though he couldn't avoid this cloying nag of panic – right there, telling him to keep well to his side of the car, stopping him from just reaching out to just touch, to comfort... – it was this point, his last stand at morality after so many months before of empty sex and lies and pretending that had forced him to make his choice.
Outside the neurologist's office Hannah might not have heard the parts of their conversation that mattered, but it was mostly because they were never put into words.
More than ever, Booth felt as though he was adrift in all those things he could never say out loud.)
3. Seeley Booth has a gambling problem.
Her fingers danced across the spines of the sparse number of books that adorned Seeley Booth's bookshelves, carefully reading their titles as her eyes flew not far behind. Most of them, rather unsurprisingly, were the various volumes of Temperance Brennan's Kathy Reichs series and Hannah reminded herself (not for the first time) that they were probably worth reading.
Sliding her fingers across the last few tightly packed books, with a small measure of triumph she located the one she'd been looking for. Teasing it around the edges, she pried it from its place in the line–up and as it slid into her waiting hand, several pieces of paper tumbled to the floor in its wake.
She hadn't often seen Seeley's handwriting – a casualty, she supposed, to the era of smartphones and email – but she still recognized his scrawl as she bent to gather the folded pages. The unexpected weight of them was evident as soon as she lifted them into her hands, and very quickly, she became aware of the roll of an object wrapped inside.
Carefully, she straightened the sheets.
Inside was a little gold shiny token and without inspecting it too closely, the weight of it surprised her. It was intricately pressed, with words and dates embossed onto the design in a careful scroll, Seeley Booth, five years. She slid it gently onto a shelf as a date (nearly two years before) and an obvious heading to the piece, caught her eye.
Hannah couldn't help but peer at the clock.
With a private nod of confirmation, she turned back to blue ink and worn edges.
Like many people who've been involved in the program, there's been one person in particular who's had a major impact on my recovery these past five years. Dr Temperance Brennan, who I'm proud to call a partner and a friend, has been important to my journey in a way that I've been asked to share with you now.
Flicking her eyes down the page, it became very apparent that the loose pages weren't the letter she'd originally thought, but instead some kind of speech. A story meant to be spoken and shared. Leafing through quickly, she saw no inky mistakes – no crossed out paragraphs, no sentences scribbled in margins – and it seemed to her that he'd agonized over his words elsewhere and written this perfect copy out by hand when he'd carefully decided on all those things he wanted to share.
It seemed like a very Seeley thing to do.
It was more personal that way.
Flattening the folded paper to the desk, she couldn't deny the curiosity that prompted her to look back down, seeking out the next line in Seeley's masculine scrawl.
When I met Bones in 2004, I'd managed to convince myself at the time that my gambling problem was under control.
Shit shit shit shit shit.
Holy mother of–
Hannah stood up abruptly.
A gambling problem?
She swallowed a lungful of air.
It couldn't– She couldn't–
She had to look back down at the page.
She needed to look down at that page. She needed more.
Gambling for me became problem when I returned from active service a number of years before. Until my son was born in '01 it had provided an escape – and like most of us I suppose, I'd had my highs and lows – won big some nights and lost everything I had not that long after. I promised when I became a father that I'd be more responsible – and in a way I was almost successful achieving that goal. After Parker, I did my best to cut back and from there it had been easy to convince myself that I was on top of the problem. I held down a job, I made rent, paid child support, and to me this meant I was fine. It didn't matter to me that whatever was left each week was lost at some pool hall or pissed away at some casino 500 miles away, because I could tell myself I'd done the bare minimum, in my head I couldn't let anyone down so long as I got my short list out obligations out of the way.
Hannah's eyes broke once more from the page.
There was a part of her – the very small part not consumed by what she'd just learned – that was impressed with the care that had gone into Seeley's words. From a journalistic point of view, she knew how difficult it was to write these kinds of accounts and had she not been so personally involved, she might have admired the eloquence of the story, and the moral there to be learned.
As it were, she couldn't help but feel as though she'd been kicked in the gut.
Blood rushed between her ears as she almost had trouble concentrating on the words – words that were twisting and blurring as her brain tried to process the enormity of what she'd read.
She skimmed over a few more paragraphs with nervous eyes, until another string of sentences grabbed her attention.
From the moment we met, she pushed me to be a better person. Bones demanded honesty, she demanded that I be a better investigator, demanded that I work harder. But more than that, she made me want to do all of those things – more than anything had before.
She was stubborn, infuriating, dedicated and completely brilliant, and it was a desire to impress her that forced me to really look at myself and the way I'd been living my life.
For the first time in a long time, I wasn't all that impressed with what I saw.
She didn't stop reading – couldn't stop reading – as he began to explain some of the changes that had soon occurred. Ties and socks and belt buckles – all things that she'd just accepted as inherently Seeley – seemed to belong to Temperance. She'd given him that part of who he was.
And, as Hannah read just one line more, she'd been the first person he'd admitted his problem to.
It made sense almost, that Temperance would be the one. Hannah had always been aware the two were close, always had the feeling that there was something deeper to their relationship. Knowing this part of their story now, it all seemed to fit a little better in her head.
She burned through the pages almost without noticing the words fly by, and though she felt the same sting of surprise that had twisted in her insides when she'd learned of his tumor weeks before, this time she had before her everything she could possibly want to know.
She couldn't tell if that was worse.
Her eyes turned back to the final page.
Since that time, Bones' support has been frank, consistent and at times, completely unintentional. When our work brought me to Vegas and right back into that life I'd worked so hard to escape, she was there walking into the lion's den with me. It was her endearing attitude, that ever–present need to impress her and her unshakable faith in me that saw me through my week in Hell.
At the end of it all, knowing that with her help I'd overcome the most frightening of challenges made me feel strong. For the first time in nearly ten years, I felt I could tell people – I felt I could tell myself – that I was truly reformed.
Bones is fully aware that I have an addiction, and unlike some people that you'll meet, she's fully aware that I'll always have an addiction. Though she'll freely call me a degenerate gambler, she can say this without recrimination or malice – and while it might not be the nicest thing for someone to say, sometimes you need that person in your life who can really see the truth of you and still accept you for who you are.
It was that line. The line about always being an addict that almost swallowed Hannah whole.
Because it was true – in an academic sense she knew that addiction was a chronic condition, not a tumor that could be excised and done away with forever. She knew that even though Seeley had seemingly come to terms with his problem – even though he'd overcome it – that he would carry it with him each day and make decisions consciously depending on this part of who he was.
All the same, she found it impossible to reconcile this idea with the man that she knew.
Seeley was so whole, so unshakeable – it almost seemed impossible for him to have a weakness as significant as a gambling addiction.
She thought of all those times she'd unthinkingly wagered him ten dollars, all the times that she'd bet him something in casual conversation – how he'd never wavered as she'd carelessly thrown the words around.
Mixed with her anger and with her blind shock, was guilt.
She felt disgusted. At herself, at him and at the whole fucking situation.
Tucking the letter back in its place, she took to pacing the floor.
When he stepped through the door a few hours later, Hannah was perched in the corner, a stony glare fixed to her features. Booth's cheery greeting dissipated into the air as she caught his eye and an uneven tension arced between them.
"Hey, whoah, are you okay?"
Her short laugh was bitter. "Am I okay?"
"Well yeah. You seem... upset?" Booth twisted the tie he held in his hands as he surveyed her carefully.
She had no idea what he saw.
"Oh, right, upset," and she nodded, throwing his words back at him, if a little manically. "Yeah. I'm upset."
He tried to be gentle, speaking with the same cautious lilt she'd heard him use on the job a few times. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
A careful threat laced her words, "Why don't you tell me Seeley? I mean, clearly something has to be very wrong if you're going to all these lengths to keep your secrets."
To his credit, his voice remained mostly calm. A wary confusion leaked into his tone as he asked, "My secrets?" A pause. "What secrets?"
But this just made her all the more furious. She thought about the tumor, about how she hadn't asked, how she couldn't ask….
This was just one more thing.
One more thing that she had to find out about him by accident from Temperance Brennan.
With venom she replied, "Mmm, yeah, sure. Best to check what one I'm talking about before you admit to something even worse, right?"
Finally, an edge of anger seemed to ride under his words. "Seriously, what's going on?"
She closed her eyes and drew in a breath.
She hadn't been able to do this as calmly as she'd hoped.
"Look, Hannah... If this is about Bones–"
She cut him off abruptly, laughing longer and with more ice than before. "Bones? You think this is about Temperance?" Her voice didn't waver as she stared at him carefully. "Well I mean, of course you think it's about Temperance. And sure, she's involved, but you're so far off the mark Seeley it isn't even funny."
"Then what?" Booth took advantage of the fact that she'd literally backed herself into a corner and stepped right into her space. His hand traced down her arm gently as he looked up and asked, "What's wrong?"
Hannah pushed back against him, a perfect counterpoint to his gentle approach as she restored the amount of space between them that she needed to think. For a long time, there was silence.
"I'm going on a trip. Work." She nodded to her bags by the door.
Everything she had.
He knew, right away.
"Are you coming back?"
There was a long moment as she studied his face.
"…I think that's up to you Seeley."
Biting back on tears for the first time since he'd gotten home, she stepped around him and gathered the bags from where they sat by door.
"My flight leaves pretty soon so..."
He looked at her, open mouthed. "But I... I don't even know what's going on."
With a watery and rueful smile, Hannah tugged at the handle. "Work it out. You know how to get a hold of me."
And with that, she was gone.
She comes back though. He never calls, never writes, never works it out like she asked – but she still comes back.
It's the middle of the night when she creeps into his apartment – into his bed – and lets him pull her close with careful arms. Instead of talking, they have sex – quiet and desperate sex, fiery lips and vicious, painful thrusts like those nights in Afghanistan – because they'll never talk about what happened. She'll never press him for the truth the way she had once before.
He never told, and will never tell his friends that Hannah was gone for more than a business trip. Like the last time she'd left with angry words – their fight this time much worse than some tiff over work obligations before a trip to Munich – in the weeks she'd been absent Booth had been sour and withdrawn, even less present in their lives as he'd lived his lie. Now that she's back, he'll struggle to mend bridges and worse, struggle to find Bones amidst clinical conversation and sky–high walls.
But in spite of it all, in spite of lies and pain and furious revelations, Hannah comes back.
Because he may fear, more than he has ever explained aloud, that she is his consolation prize – she may be his tool used only to forget about Bones and about being worthy of so little – but he's starting to see that he's all these things for her too. She comes back because he's somewhere for her to belong, someone who makes her feel something, someone she can blindly use to heal herself, just as he has with her.
They're still the same people that had met in Afghanistan.
He doesn't know how he fooled himself for so long.
4. Seeley Booth was once a sniper & 5. Seeley Booth is in love with his partner.
She paces the floor of the hospital, back and forth, the even rhythm of her steps helping to lull herself into a sense of calm.
As hard as she tries, Hannah cannot seem to escape the violent images that play behind her eyelids.
(The rifle. Seeley's hand sliding over the gauge. The blood, god, so much blood.)
She wasn't even supposed to have been there tonight – but Seeley had been so frantic when he'd launched himself from their dinner table a few hours before. Eyes burning and hands wavering, he'd flown for the door (I've gotta... go. Now. I've gotta... God, I know where he is!) – it had been all she could do to follow behind and insist that she drive. As she'd accosted him at the time, she'd just wanted to make sure he was safe.
Her eyes flicker to the clock (four hours, four hours in surgery and still no word) and she can't help but feel the stab of bitter irony, cruel enough to make her want to laugh at the whole misguided idea. She has no idea about keeping him safe.
Across the room Temperance is no better off, staring blankly at the wall with hollow eyes – but then, Hannah couldn't really have expected anything else. Temperance had been the one to climb into the back of the ambulance as paramedics whisked Seeley away reeling off instructions about blood types and allergies,she'd been the one standing there with him in the firing line, she'd been the one putting pressure on his wound, wailing at him that he wasn't allowed to do this to her again.
Whatever that means.
Hannah isn't even sure she wants to know.
In the last few hours, she's seen so many things that have frightened her – learned so many things with the power to tear her world asunder.
She isn't sure how much more she can take.
(She'd barely been able to follow along as Seeley had barked directions in the car. As the instructions had flown from his mouth, his eyes had met solidly with his partner's, a heavy look passing between them as it seemed he knew exactly where to go, exactly where to find this man they had been chasing for so many months.
Amidst theories thrown back and forth at near a hundred miles an hour, Seeley's voice had dropped low and his eyes had gone hard. Brennan had said something – questioned one of the many remarks that Hannah could only have hoped to follow, and his reaction had been almost instant.
His reply had been hollow.
I know this guy Bones, I know how he thinks.
From the back if the car, Temperance had given him this pleading look, one Hannah barely understood, and carefully refuted his claim.
No. No, you're not him. You're nothing like him and you shouldn't think that.
The vehemence behind these words had surprised her.
She'd asked of course, Hannah couldn't help but put a voice behind all those questions that burned in her mind, listening as the pair had swapped plans and theories back and forth. Between them, in half sentences and with jumbled words they'd tried to explain – they were chasing a sniper, cold blooded, merciless and always one step ahead of them. Except tonight, Seeley had worked it out. He'd finally realized where it was they'd find him.
Booth has... experience in this area, Temperance had explained quietly, He has a unique insight into a way a man like this might think.
At the time, Hannah hadn't questioned this assertion.
But it would only be an hour – one hour – before she understood exactly what it was that Temperance was talking about.)
The clock she'd been watching has ticked over the five hour mark when a doctor finally comes to tell them that Booth is out of surgery and that all had gone as well as could be hoped. His friends – the ones that had piled into the waiting room twenty minutes earlier after a late and muted phone call from Temperance – seem very happy with this report, all hugs and smiles and oh thank gods.
Temperance's face however, remains stony.
It's Angela – heavily pregnant and waddling as she crosses the room – who takes it upon herself to comfort her friend. Perched on a chair and wrapping one arm around Brennan as best she can, Hannah watches as they murmur back and forth.
"Hey, Bren, c'mon – he said everything's going to be okay."
Brennan just looks up and says nothing.
"It's not like what happened before, okay? I promise."
Her reply is soft, hoarse. "He did it again Ange."
"It was supposed to be me. It was supposed to be me that he shot and Booth knew that and he still..." The words are strangled as Brennan nods towards the door, "He's in there because of me."
As Temperance tucks her head into Angela's shoulder, Hannah struggles with her own reaction.
Tears. Fury. Fear.
Because she'd seen it.
She'd been there – she'd seen all the same things that Temperance had seen and she knows that Brennan is right.
Tonight, Booth had made a choice. And finally, she understands.
(It had all happened so fast.
Without really hearing the words tumble from her mouth, Hannah had been able to convince the pair that she'd be safer with them than alone. Earning herself reluctant agreement, she'd followed them from the car as they found the discarded gun – a sniper's rifle, watched as Seeley carefully inspected its almost graceful form, and felt – literally down to her bones – the moment it had all gone wrong.
There had been no time.
The first shots were warning shots – glancing behind them, too wide for an experienced shooter. She'd heard the idea tossed around before – their guy was a showman, and he had a need to prove himself to Booth – this had to be his way of engaging them, drawing them in so they'd be forced to watch as he won their little game.
Except, Seeley had been ready.
She wished she couldn't remember it all so clearly, but every time she closes her eyes she can still see the familiar way that he'd handled that gun. His so–called unique insight had become almost obvious as her vision had tunneled and her head began to spin. It all may have happened within a split second, but his off–the–cuff shot sailed surely towards its mark.
But then things had gotten so much worse.
Because he'd gotten another shot off. The sick bastard who wanted to play war games with them had been able to fire off another shot and before she could even register what was going on Seeley was diving and Temperance was reeling backwards.
There had been ambulances and paramedics and chaos for hours after, but that was what it all really came down to, that moment.
She'd watched knowing Seeley could see just as well as she could what was about to happen and in that moment it felt like everything finally fell apart.)
She waits three days before going to see him.
Everybody had asked of course, though she could see how it might have seemed entirely odd that she'd refused to step outside of the waiting room, given the ICU was all but a few steps down the hall. She hadn't told them all (Cam, Sweets and on one occasion, even Angela) that she'd felt desperate for some time to work out what on earth she was even thinking after what she'd seen just a few nights before, instead murmuring something about it being too hard and mostly, they all left her alone.
After fifty hours, when Temperance had stepped outside of his room long enough to tell them that he'd woken, she'd known that she wouldn't have much longer.
So after three days – three days of sitting in a yellow waiting room, three days of making decisions, of being angry, confused – she finally steps into his room.
He's still groggy, "Hannah?"
"I... I asked for you."
She crosses the floor carefully to his bed. "I wanted some time to think."
"Think?" His voice cracks, heavy with pain meds and anesthesia.
Hannah waits, an awkward silence settling over the room for a long and volatile moment.
And then she goes for broke.
"...You took a bullet for her Seeley."
He watches her for a few seconds, taking some time to formulate his response. "That's my job."
"No it's not."
His reply is quietly urgent. "She's my partner, that's what we do."
"Yeah," Hannah gives him a guarded look, "That's what you do. It's what you and Temperance do. It's not what normal people do."
She cuts him off, "No. This is my turn, I need to say this."
Again, he waits.
She can barely find the words.
"She told me, when we were waiting for the ambulance, that you used to be a sniper. I mean, she must've seen the look on my face, I was... falling apart. I was just standing there watching while she kept you alive and... there was the gun and all that blood."
She can feel the hot, salty tears beginning to streak a path down her cheeks as she tries to explain.
"I felt like I didn't know you. All this time, you've had so many secrets, but this... this was the first time I really felt like I had no concept of who you were." Her eyes roll to the ceiling and her voice drops low, "...Or who you are."
But she doesn't give him the chance.
"I'm supposed to be sharing a life with you, I'm supposed to at least know what makes you who you are. I mean, it's what I said, I've said it to you before – that I'd thought you would never shoot to kill if you could avoid it. I never would have thought you capable..."
She's rambling. She could hear as her words had gathered pace, could hear their keening ring as emotion leaked into her voice and her eyes had begun to sting.
She needs to calm down.
Carefully, she rubs at her temples, taking a breath.
"I'm not trying to accuse you of anything or to say that what you did back then was wrong, but it just seems like... It just seems like I've gotten everything wrong. That I have all these ideas about us in my head now, and that none of it can be right."
"It was years ago!" His voice crackles both with weariness and complete frustration, "You don't know that person because it's not who I am now."
"But it's a part of you. Just like your tumor and the gambling – all that stuff I wasn't meant to know about – it's another part of who you are that I was never meant to know."
She feels a little satisfied as icy surprise sets in over his features.
After all this time, she'd finally caught him out.
"Temperance told me when we first met that if I let you love me, that you would give me all of yourself. And I spent so long in that goddamn waiting room – so long these last few months trying to work out why I wasn't even getting the basic facts, never mind every facet of who you are as a human being. And you know what I worked out? I worked out that you didn't have all of yourself left to give."
"What do you mean?" Booth seems desperate, as panicked edge settled over his question.
The words tumble, a lot angrier than she'd expected. "C'mon Seeley, guys with families, with people to come home to at night – they don't just jump in front of bullets like that."
"Hannah... it's my job."
It's the same line as before.
It's all he has left.
"Just like it's your job to take her with you to all your doctor's appointments? Or her job to help you deal with your gambling problem?" And then her words soften, "She has all of you, Seeley. Everything you had to give, you already gave it to her."
In deafening silence, she does a lap of the room.
"I don't want to be self–pitying and I've tried not to be suspicious – I'd like to think you'd never be… disloyal like that. It's just... I see the way you look at her sometimes. I've seen the way you interact in these moments and the way you just... fit. Together. The two of you." Hannah tosses him a rueful smile as the very–nearly bitter words seep out, "I must've messed up something good when I showed up here. If that's how it is now, well..."
"No. No." He shakes his head. He's visibly clinging to this, for whatever reason, he's not allowed to let go – not allowed to admit, even to himself. "You're wrong."
"People look at me like that sometimes, like I don't belong, like something's wrong with our picture. I guess I get it now."
"No. It's not fair when it's like this – not for me or you or anyone. You don't get to take bullets for her and come home to me."
"So... so what?" His voice breaks a little as the sentence jars into the space between them.
"I think I have to go."
Her reply comes out on a whisper. "Yes."
She probably could've said more, could've explained it more fully or picked a better time – but to her it all seems pointless. Suddenly, the same final result is inevitable.
This time, she doesn't come back.
A/N: So this is complete... I think. There's some temptation there to come back and fix up things between B&B so let me know what you think - both about the piece itself and about whether you think they need some fixing! Feedback is loved, appreciated, cherished and a lot of other good things, as I'm sure you're well aware by now :)