Author's Note: I've been sitting on this one for a while. I had to make a couple edits after the most recent episode so, yes, there are minor spoilers for Doctor In The Photo. The rest of this is just, well, something that fell out of me one day when I should have been writing something else. Hope you enjoy.
It was storming the first time he kissed her. He's kissed a lot of women during thunderstorms but since that kiss with her he's never been able to hear thunder without thinking of her.
It had been six days since Hannah left. Maybe if he'd thought more about kissing Hannah during thunderstorms instead of kissing her he wouldn't be single right now. But he is single right now. And damn it all to hell if it isn't storming.
He ought to have been feeling sorry for himself. Instead, the only thing he could feel was the crackle of the electricity in the air and how it caressed his skin. He was hard then, after thinking about those kisses. Hell, all he ever had to do was hear thunder rumbling in the distance and he was like a steel pipe. God help him if it was silent lightening flashing across the sky.
He wondered if she still thought about him. There was a time, when they first all came back together, he caught her looking at him. He thought, then, that perhaps she regretted her decision. Even if only a little.
Then she relaxed back into herself. She made friends with Hannah and damn, but it made him jealous. She was his and he didn't like to share. Maybe it should have told him something way back then – when he was more jealous about having to share his partner with his girlfriend than he was about sharing the girlfriend herself.
But he wasted months. Months more after seven months away and he should have felt grateful when he came back. Grateful he was alive, grateful he had friends, grateful he had a beautiful woman who, as much as she could have, loved him. But instead all he felt was a little dirty. Always, just a little – and sometimes a lot, like he was cheating on her.
He put up a good front. So good, in fact, he'd almost entirely fooled himself. He'd convinced himself and most everyone else he was happy. He thinks, most times, he'd actually almost fooled her.
But he hadn't. He's sure of that now. He's sure of it by the way her face broke when he'd told her. She didn't look happy – and he was hoping she would. He was hoping that his change of status would prompt another change of status. He had hoped she'd fall into his arms and tell him she'd always known he should have been with her.
She hadn't done that. Of course she hadn't done that. And while he'd hoped she would he wasn't at all surprised when she didn't. That broken look on her face, though, that was a surprise. And he'd always considered himself a man who liked surprises.
As it turned out, he didn't. Like surprises, that is. Because while he anticipated light and hope to fill her eyes, they just hardened. Immeasurably. Nearly imperceptibly. But he'd seen it. And she knew the moment he had because her face cleared. Her eyes, anyway. Because her mouth tipped down at the corners when she told him she was sorry to hear it and even as her eyes brightened, her chin trembled as if she'd burst into tears.
She didn't. She offered words less empty than she might have before he'd left. He hadn't realized she changed so much in their time apart – time half a world apart and then more time with a woman between them. He should have expected it. She did nothing if not always grow and adapt.
And she did. She grew and adapted right up and away from him. He'd felt it, in little bits, during those first months home. He'd felt it in the way she forged a bond with a woman she'd likely have liked if he hadn't dated her. Because while she made friends with Hannah he was never under the illusion she truly liked Hannah.
He looked out the window again and focused on the lightening having found that while he was staring out the window it had been many minutes since he'd actually seen anything. And there was a knock on his door so perfectly timed he'd have thought it thunder if he hadn't been completely aware of the space around him. His chest tightened. What would he do if it wasn't her?
It wasn't. He answered the door and Angela stood on the other side. Her hair was plastered to the sides of her head like her shirt was soaked against the gently rounded skin of her pregnant belly. He waved her in with the hand holding his scotch glass. She didn't mention it but he found he was guilty for being caught drinking in the near dark during a thunderstorm.
"I wasn't so sure you'd want to see me," she said nervously from her place in front of the couch. She looked like she'd like to sit down but at the same time didn't – for the sake of his furniture.
He was genuinely confused. "Why wouldn't I want to see you?"
She sighed like there were so many answers to that question. He supposed there were. "I don't know, Booth. And before you ask, she doesn't know I'm here. As a matter of fact, she's at the Founding Fathers with Cam and Jack."
"Aren't you supposed to be at the Founding Fathers, too?"
She nodded solemnly. "I am. And I can't help but think you should be to." She shrugged, looked behind her at the couch then down at her soaked clothing and sat down anyway. "I was sorry to hear about you and Hannah."
He couldn't help the wry smile. "Me too."
"She's miserable," Angela blurted as if it was some big and secretive revelation.
"Hannah?" he asked even though he knew they were talking about her.
She shook her head. "Bren. She doesn't know what to say. Or how to say it. And she hurts for you but she doesn't know why."
"I'm sure she's capable of figuring out the why of the whole thing, Angela."
"She is. She knows the breakup has something to do with her. She doesn't know what, though. Don't you think," she asked pragmatically, "you should tell her?"
He thought he finally really knew what tortured felt like and he felt like a rat bastard because that was really a superficial sort of situation in which to finally get that emotion. "How could she not know? Of course this is about her. But only so far as I'm about her, too."
"She fell in love with you while she was away, you know? Hell, Booth, we all know she loved you before. But she figured it all out while she was away. This is beyond whether or not she thinks she can be with you. And now she thinks she's ruined your relationship."
"How I feel about her isn't her fault."
"No. But she thinks she should have been able to hide her feelings better and that if she had none of this ever would have happened."
"It would have still happened." He sank down into the chair next to Angela's seat on the couch so their knees touched.
She nodded. "Of course it would have. Because you couldn't get over her – even as you tried."
"How does someone get over her?"
She chuckled at his love-struck expense. "I'm honestly not sure, Booth. When she loves she does it with her whole heart. And she doesn't do it often. So it's raw and exposed."
He sat back and took a long sip of his scotch but then sat back up when he realized he broke his meager contact with Angela. And there was something about that simple connection that made him feel like less of a failure. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Oh, I don't know," she said with a small grin. "Maybe you should tell her you're still in love with her."
"She knows," he said resignedly. "How could she not know?"
Angela stood and made her way towards the door. "I don't know. As far as any of the rest of us are concerned it's pretty plain to see. Then again," she said as she turned the knob and pulled the door open, "you came home with a strong and beautiful woman. You moved her into your home. You introduced her to your son. You told her you were happy. What was she supposed to think?" She smiled softly and left, shutting the door gently behind her.
He stood, dumbfounded, in his living room for nearly twenty minutes before he decided to follow behind her. At the curb next to his truck stood Angela under an umbrella. "Took you long enough."
"Geez, Angie, are you trying to get struck by lightening?"
"Geez, Booth," she mimicked, "overreact much?"
Just then a particularly loud crash of thunder followed a brilliant streak across the sky. She ducked and smiled sheepishly. "Maybe we ought to get out of this storm, then."
He couldn't help but smile at her. It was the first time he'd really felt like smiling in days. Weeks, maybe. Hell, it might have been the first real smile in months. "That sounds like a plan." He followed her to her car – a shining little sports-like thing he could tell was new and that despite its cuteness looked awfully practical, too. His hands itched, he hated being a passenger.
"Oh for crying out loud," she said and tossed him the keys. "Could you be anymore transparent?" She laughed with a musical lilt, she always had, and he felt some tension drain out of his shoulders.
He looked at her across the top of the car. "I'm sorry about that night."
"What night?" she asked with genuine confusion.
"The night you and Hodgins told everyone about the baby. I should have been there."
She chuckled. "Don't beat yourself up over it, stud. It was a royal disaster, anyway."
"I still should have been there."
"Be there tonight. We'll call it even."
And he knew that would be the end of it. She didn't harbor any ill-will towards him and he was pretty sure Hodgins wouldn't either. Just that little bit of acceptance went a long way towards making him feel a little less like the outsider he'd become since he'd returned from Afghanistan.
They made small talk in the car. He's not sure what they talked about outside a conversation about Parker. He was nervous. He was nervous, mostly, about seeing her but he was also nervous about seeing Cam and Hodgins. He really had become an outsider. It was his own fault, he knew. He'd let his relationship isolate him more and more. Hannah had never really fit in with the crowd even though they'd tried. In their own way. They weren't the most trusting or inclusive group. They were, however, before he'd come back different, his friends.
When he parked Angela's car at the Founding Fathers he found himself without the courage to get out and go inside.
"You're here; you might as well come in."
He couldn't help but smile – she seemed to have that effect on him. "I think I might need a moment or two."
"Putting it off isn't going to make it any easier. Rebuilding all of this is going to take time. But nobody is ready to write you off."
Angela shook her head emphatically. "She's not. She's upset. Scared. Angry. Confused. But also, Booth," she laid a warm hand on his shoulder, "she's happy because you're back. You you, instead of the guy you've been for the past little while."
"How could she know I'm back? She hasn't even talked to me since the day Hannah left."
"Well, she hopes you're back. Isn't that enough?"
It was, he supposed. And he'd know, even without Angela telling him, he was going to have to put in the time to get things back to the way they were before he left. Or at least somehow acceptable in a new sort of way because he wasn't so sure things could be the way they were before he left. But that didn't mean things couldn't be good.
And so, he pulled himself up by the metaphorical bootstraps, mustered up all the courage he could, slapped a smile on his face and followed Angela into the Founding Fathers. And there she was. Sitting between Hodgins and some guy he vaguely recognized from the museum. Some guy who had his hand just a little too high up her thigh for his comfort.
"Angela," he growled.
"You don't get to be mad about this, Booth. You just don't. And it's not serious anyway."
"Looks pretty fuckin' serious from where I'm standing."
She sighed with exasperation. "He's barely touching her. And she's not even that into him. But he's a nice guy and he treats her good and he gives her somebody to go to the theater with. So back the hell off. You want back in the game? Fine. But you get to do it from here, not from where you were before you left. You want her? Fight for her."
"Did you know he was going to be here tonight?" he asked. If she'd lured him there…
He looked at her crossways.
"I swear, Booth, I didn't. Like I said, it's completely not-serious. I'd even go so far as to say casual. Come on. You've got to start somewhere."
"Why do I feel like I'm following a freakin' fairy godmother into a pit of snakes?"
As it turned out it was both more a pit of snakes than he imagined and less. More insofar as he wasn't quite as all right with Hodgins as he thought he'd be and it took Hodgins' wife's gentle hand on his shoulder to take the fire out of the man's eyes. Less because it didn't take Mr. Curator long to ascertain that he was stepping into the middle of something he wasn't equipped to handle – and he skedaddled after only a few minutes of tense conversation.
As the night wore on the crowed thinned until it was only her sitting across the table from him. She seemed less skittish than he thought she'd be to be alone with him. But she did seem sad and resigned in a way that made him feel like a bigger ass than frightening her would have.
They made polite small talk as if they didn't really know each other until she said, "You know, I've had to fight the urge to blame myself for the end of your relationship with Hannah."
He started to speak but she raised her hand to cut him off. "Intellectually, I know it isn't my fault. It can't be my fault because I wasn't a factor in your relationship. When you…when you came back with Hannah I was devastated. I can tell you that now. Because you know, while I was in Maluku I had a lot of time to myself. I was able to think and you know, honestly, I regretted not giving you the chance you asked for.
"But you came back with a girlfriend, Booth, and I was hurt and confused. I know you told me you had to move on but I didn't think you would. I didn't think you could the way you always talked about love. I didn't think it was a decision you could just make. One day you loved me and then one day you didn't? Well, apparently that is true because you came back in love with someone else.
"And yes, I should have been more discreet with my feelings – in that time before I sprung them on you in the SUV that day." She shrugged. "It's hard to be discreet after that. Anyway, before that, I'm sure they were plain on my face. And yes, perhaps I should have avoided fostering a relationship with Hannah – I honestly thought I was doing the thing that would make you happy. But I think, ultimately, she became aware of my feelings for you. I've been told I haven't been all that discreet." She paused a moment to chuckle but he didn't dare try to speak again. "But I was so happy to have you back in my life. I'd honestly missed you in a way I've never missed anybody before."
Her voice had taken on an edge that reminded him of the storm still raging outside.
"But it got worse – that missing you – as time went on. We were partners again. Friends, I guess. But you changed. I'm not sure why but you changed into a nearly unrecognizable person. So part of me is glad you are no longer with Hannah. Something about the combination of the two of you together did things to you I didn't like. But you're unhappy, I know, and for that I am truly sorry. Sorry I played a part in ending a relationship that was important to you and sorry that you had to endure another failed relationship – I know how much you want to find the person who is right for you."
Tears began to leak from the corners of her eyes. "Bones, look. Things between me and Hannah – they didn't end because of you. They ended because of me and the way I feel about you."
He wished her eyes had lit up with happiness, but they didn't.
"So I did ruin your relationship."
"No, that's what I'm trying to tell you. You didn't. I did." When she didn't say anything for long moments full of tense breathing he said, "I don't think I've ever heard you string so many sentences about emotion together."
She chuckled dryly. "Apparently I've been waxing poetic about emotions for quite some time now. Angela keeps threatening to have me examined by a psychiatrist."
He chucked and rubbed the heated skin of the back of his neck. "It's storming out."
She looked at him as if she knew exactly what he was saying. "I know."
"And it's late."
She nodded solemnly, "It is."
"Did you drive?"
She shook her head.
"Me either. Let me put you in a cab." He fiddled with the napkin under his bottle of beer. "Or, we could share one."
"Not tonight," she said simply. "Tonight we can't." She stood and collected her purse and coat. "Lunch tomorrow? At the diner?"
He smiled. "I'd like that."
She smiled back and it made the knot in the pit of his stomach unfurl a little. "Me too."
And he watched her dash out of the restaurant and under the cab stand, watched as she raised her hand and a passing cab pulled up to the curb, watched as she climbed inside, and watched as she rode away.
It was storming the first time he kissed her. That one was her storm. This one was his.