[A/N: I haven't read any post-"Body in the Bag" fanfic. Not sure why I wrote this except that I seem uncontrollably drawn to angst and current events on TV made me wish there had been more angst than acceptance. I really don't want to deal with the stuff that happened, but I have struggled to put it into context for filing it away. This won't give you any real answers, but maybe it will help you put the episode to rest, too. Hope so!]
The Double Standard
When Booth knocked on the doorframe of her office, Brennan bristled. She knew they didn't have a case. She'd have gotten a phone call if they had a case. She could only postulate that his visit was personal. Since yesterday, she'd decided that she really wasn't inclined to deal with Booth on a personal level. In fact, she'd hoped to avoid him until their next case. She wasn't quite certain that her anger with him would subside by that point in time, but she had convinced herself that it would abate to some extent naturally with the passage of time.
Given the fact that she'd only become furious with him the previous day, she hadn't had sufficient time to "chill off" or "cool out" or whatever one was supposed to say in those situations. His presence annoyed her.
After seeing her glance up at him, Booth sauntered into her office slowly. He had to admit that her silence was intimidating. He hoped she was just immersed in analysis of the remains of some ancient dead guy. If that were the case, he'd invite her out for a drink and then get out of dodge to let her get back to her work. But his conscience—at least the guilty part of it—worried that her aloofness meant that she was frustrated with him or that she wanted to avoid him. Neither of those could be a good thing. Feigning relaxation and friendliness, he did a mental inventory of his actions of late to try to pinpoint what he might have done to offend her.
As he plopped down onto a chair and watched displeasure color her features, it hit him. Hannah. Holy crap.
Most women in the situation in which Hannah and Bones found themselves would have had the decency to stay away from each other or at least avoid the topic of conversation that could only be awkward. He'd underestimated both of them. Were he still a gambling man, Seeley Booth would now have bet all the money in his checking account that Hannah and Bones had talked about them—about him and Bones. Crap.
Hannah hadn't said anything to him about talking to Bones. He knew that she and Bones had met for drinks. She'd come home a bit quiet, but he assumed it was because of the drinks she'd had. Sure, they hadn't made love, but they weren't required to do that every day. Crap. His gut starting spelling out his problems for him in very clear terms.
As if ignoring the problem might be possible, Booth cleared his throat and smiled at his partner. He knew the smile wasn't one of his most convincing, but he gave it his best try. "So Bones…," he began, "wanna meet at Founding Fathers tonight for a drink?"
He watched, ready to read her emotions in her response.
"No," was her emotionless reply.
"C'mon, Bones. Just one drink. It's a tradition. We finish the case, and we have a drink. One drink won't keep you away from your work for too long. You name the time. Whatever's most convenient for you."
"What's most convenient for me is for us not to meet for a drink. I appreciate the offer, but I would prefer to focus on my work. Thank you."
He sat there for a long moment and watched her. Bones was brooding. Well, she was at least stewing about something. He knew she was angry with him. Instinct told him to get up and leave. Giving her what she wanted was the safest option. But he'd never been able to take the safe way out where Bones was concerned. They were partners. They made a habit of poking and prodding one another at inconvenient times. He doubted she'd talk to him much—her face was a mask so tight that he knew she was furious. But he needed to get her to open up and talk to him. He told himself it was for the sake of their partnership. It had nothing to do with the way that his gut was churning with the possibility that he'd hurt her once again.
"C'mon, Bones. It's tradition… It's…."
"Stop. Don't do that. Don't talk about the fact that going out for a post-case drink is what we do because we're partners or because we're friends."
"Booth, I have work to do. Please leave so that I can focus my attention on this report."
"You okay, Bones? Do you want to talk about what's upsetting you?"
"No. I would prefer not to discuss my anger with you. I'd prefer not to discuss anything with you. You are the one adept at reading people, Booth. You should be able to translate my distance and refusal to meet you for drinks to mean that you need to give me time and space. Please leave."
"Whoa… Time AND space? I can't just walk away and pretend that I can't tell that you're angry with me Bones. We need to talk about this. I can apologize. Talk to me so that we can move past this."
"Were I inclined to discuss this with you, I would not do so here or in a public place."
"Okay. So you're really mad. We can talk somewhere else… my apartment… or yours."
"Why should we bother talking about what's wrong honestly now, Booth? We've avoided such conversations for years. I see no reason to begin having them now."
"You're upset. It's obviously my fault. I can't just walk away knowing that you're angry with me, Bones. How can we work together if we can't talk about things?"
"I'm currently reconsidering whether a continued working relationship with you is prudent."
"Lower your voice. You heard me, Booth. I'm only being rational and logical and weighing my options."
"Your options? What about my options? We're partners, Bones. Neither one of us should make decisions like that without talking about it. Look, you've been angry with me before. I get mad at you, too. We can work through this."
"I'm not certain that's possible this time."
"Dammit, Bones! You and me… We're talking about this tonight. Where and when—you decide."
She glowered at him for a long moment. He was leaning over her desk staring daggers into her. He looked furious but she could see his fear in his expression. Well, at least this partnership means something to him, she mused.
"Fine. My apartment. Eight o'clock. Unless you and Hannah have other plans."
"Eight sharp. I'll be there."
"See you at eight," he barked before turning to leave her office. She sat there for a long moment considering what she'd say to him that evening. Deciding that she'd already spent too much time ruminating on their problems, she pushed those thoughts aside and returned her focus to her work—where it belonged.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD….. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD….
Booth got angrier the more he thought about that conversation. Dammit, Bones was too cool and composed. He hated that she could compartmentalize everything… even their partnership. Frustrated, he dialed Hannah without fully considering what he was going to talk to her about.
"Burley," she answered when she picked up the call.
"Hannah, what did you and Bones talk about last night?" Booth barked into the phone.
"Seeley, Temperance and I are friends. You don't have a right to pry into our friendship. I try to give you space and avoid prying into your friendship with her."
"She's angry with me, Hannah, and she won't tell me why."
"Don't be such a guy, Seeley. She's probably upset that you told me about the talk you had with her. She said that you shouldn't have told me about that. Her feelings are hurt. She's a woman underneath her intelligence and science."
Listening to Hannah defend Bones didn't sit well. He knew that she was right and that he was being an idiot for not understanding why Bones was mad at him. Now he felt stupid and insensitive in front of his girlfriend. His gut twinged again uncontrollably.
"Yeah. I guess you're right. Listen, I need to talk to her… clear the air. Can I get a rain check on dinner and drinks so that I can go talk to her?"
"Of course. She's really being gracious about the whole thing, Seeley. I can tell that this isn't easy for her. You should apologize and promise her that you'll be more considerate of her feelings and her need to deal with them in private."
"Yeah. You're right. Thanks. Thanks, babe."
"Be good to my friend, Seeley."
"I will," he said quietly before clicking the phone off. He'd been an ass. Even Hannah could see that. Bones had every right to be furious with him. He had to be honest and apologize. He had to figure out a way to restore her trust in him. He sighed. He knew it wasn't going to be easy.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD….. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD….
By mid-afternoon Temperance felt the beginnings of a tension headache taking hold. She'd done yoga and practiced rhythmic breathing. She'd immersed herself in work. Nothing she'd done had helped her stress level. She was dreading the conversation with Booth, and she couldn't seem to shake her anger with him. Finally frustrated enough to take desperate action, she packed up her office and left without explaining her departure to anyone.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD….. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD…. THE DOUBLE STANDARD….
By 7:30 p.m., Temperance was on her second drink. She was grateful that she really could hold her alcohol well. She had a feeling that she'd drink more this evening than she had the night before. As she sat and willed the warm brown liquid to dull her nerves and ease her pain, she reviewed the facts over and over again. Despite her attempts to arrive at a different conclusion, she could not. Her theory appeared to be sound. And it did nothing to take the edge off her anger toward Booth. She knew that she'd struggle to discuss the reasons for her anger with him as upset as she was. However, she resolved to do just that—she'd tell Booth what had made her angry and then dismiss him. The burden of solving the problem would be placed on him. She was exhausted from shouldering their problems alone unnecessarily. She wouldn't do that any longer.
When she heard the knock on her door, her heart beat erratically for a moment. It was just her partner coming by to talk with her. She told herself that it was irrational to feel as if this conversation would affect the course of her life.
She walked over and opened the door. When she saw Booth standing there, she turned away and returned to her seat on the sofa. He accepted her brushoff—he'd expected it. Unfortunately for him, he had no way of expecting what the rest of their evening would hold.
Shuffling his feet a bit uncomfortably, Booth entered her apartment, closed the door behind him, and placed a bottle of good Scotch on the table in front of her. Then, his insides warning him to brace for an attack the way they often had in the face of a skirmish during his time in the army, he sat down on the opposite end of the sofa.
He watched as Bones finished her drink and poured another from the bottle he'd brought. She nudged an empty glass toward him and slid the bottle in his direction. He poured his own drink and took a big gulp. He needed courage in whatever form he could find it.
"Bones, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to get around you telling me what I did to make you so angry. I just… I'm sorry. I hate it when things are like this between us. I want to make it right again."
She turned to face him and took another sip of scotch. Eyeing him thoughtfully, she considered what to say. Finally inspired, she looked at him intensely before speaking.
"I would prefer to do most of the talking. I don't wish to be interrupted. I have a lot to say to you, Booth. And I need to say all of it."
"Okay." She saw him swallow hard. At least he was taking her seriously.
"You said that I'm the standard. I believe that you meant that—or that you thought that you did. But I have come to realize that you apply a double standard to me… and to our friendship."
She held a hand up to stop him and watched him struggle to stop talking. Glancing up to meet her eyes momentarily, he nodded that she should continue.
"When Andrew asked me out, you were upset. You might not have been completely honest with me—I now believe that you were jealous. But you said that I shouldn't date Andrew because he was your boss. Well you had a sexual relationship with Cam right after she arrived. She was my boss. You saw nothing wrong with dating my boss. You applied a double standard."
He wanted to say something. He wanted to tell her that he'd told Cam very clearly that he'd choose Bones if forced to choose between them. But he knew that telling her now wouldn't be right. So he sat and looked at his feet, nodding to let her know that she was right.
"You encouraged me to talk to you about my family and my past. And yet I only know the bare minimum of facts about your family and your own tragic childhood. You expect me to share with you fully while you hold many important facts back. You applied a double standard."
He wanted to tell her that she knew more than anyone else—that he'd never been able to talk to anyone—not even Pops about his father and his crappy childhood. But he knew that he'd missed his chance. He should have told her that years ago. Again he nodded.
For someone who claimed not to have an open heart, Bones sure as hell seemed to be putting a chokehold on his. He shuddered. He could tell she was just warming up.
"You told me that you knew… about us. That you knew that you wanted a relationship with me from the start. But you moved on at the first sign of rejection. That doesn't fit with the type of love you've told me you believe in. I hope you have a stronger, more enduring kind of love for Hannah. Because the way you felt about me wasn't that kind of love. Again—when it comes to me, you have a double standard."
"I'm not finished."
"Fine. I'll shut up. But you're wrong about the last part. I'll let you keep talking, but you don't have everything straight."
"I have enough of the facts straight, Booth!" she roared, standing and beginning to pace. "I can't seem to stop feeling irrational about how angry you've made me, so forgive me if this isn't easy to follow. What I'm really angry about is that you also applied a double standard to our friendship and our partnership. When I told Andrew about your mother's meatloaf, you chastised me for sharing that story. You told me that what happens between us is ours. I believed you, Booth. And I made every effort to respect the privacy of our partnership from that point forward. But you don't treat me that way. You told Hannah about us. You told Hannah about the way I reached out to you even though you knew I deserved for that conversation to remain private. You shouldn't have done that, Booth. Not without warning me or asking me—I thought that my baring my soul and my emotions and my regrets to you was between us—it was ours."
"No. You could have told her we'd considered dating in the past—that we were close and that there was residual feelings and tension. Or you could have told her that you "knew" about us and that I turned you down last year. But you didn't, did you? You took the coward's way out, Booth. You told her about my pain and my struggles. You made it sound one-sided. You weren't honest with her about your feelings—about the depth of what's between us. So you're cheating with Hannah, too. She's getting the double standard—you're telling her half the truth. Making it sound as if I were the one wanting a relationship was more likely to make her angry and resentful with me—and it might have damaged our friendship. I built my friendship with her for your sake, but I will not allow you to damage what has become a genuine friendship. Not with your double standard!"
"No. You sit back down and listen. Because I haven't gotten to the most important problem yet. You see, I went to see Dr. Sweets today. I was seeking anger-management techniques so that I'd be calmer for meeting with you tonight. Can you imagine my horror and my embarrassment when he told me that he knew that I was there because you'd told Hannah about us… about my reaching out to you… about my telling you that I love you!"
"Oh God, Bones…."
"How dare you talk to Sweets about us! I never did that. I never told him that you approached me that night outside his office. I didn't want to embarrass you or force you to discuss those feelings with him. I certainly did not say that you said that you loved me when you didn't use those words! Did you show me the same courtesy? No! You told him many things that should have remained just between us."
"Bones, I'm sorry."
"No. Sorry's not enough this time, Booth. Dr. Sweets was kind enough to show me just how deep your double standard runs. He told me about his talks with you after the brain tumor. About how you admitted to him back then that you loved me. About how you admitted how you felt about me to Cam. Apparently you told half of the District that you loved me, Booth. But you've never told me that. You just asked me to "take a shot" with you. Whatever the hell that means. So all this time, all that I thought that what was sacred and private between us wasn't. You don't value our partnership or our friendship—except as they benefit you."
"No. You couldn't value me that way. You're selfish and self-gratifying. You want to paint me as a tragic forlorn lonely woman when you're just as pathetic, Booth. You didn't trust me enough to be honest with me about how you felt, and now you're not being honest with Hannah, either. Does she know about your father's alcoholism, your gambling, or your guilt over your kills as a sniper? Does she know that you "knew" about us… about me years ago? No. I'm the one carrying all that around for you. You're still using me as your surrogate for the tough things… for the things that aren't easy to discuss or that might not make her think favorably about you."
"Well, I'm tired of helping you apply the double standard. I'm tired of the misdirection and the subterfuge. I'm tired of feeling as if I failed you when you never trusted me enough to give me a fair chance. And I won't stand by and let you sabotage my friendship with Hannah because you want to use me to help deal with your real problems so that you can hide them from her."
"If you really valued our friendship, you'd have talked to me before you talked to Hannah about me. And if you valued your relationship with her, you'd have been honest with her. The way you've been acting has shaken my trust in you and my faith in our partnership."
"Bones, let me try to explain…," he pled with her. He was reeling. Bones got it—she saw through all the crap he'd thought he'd been hiding from everyone. He should have known that she knew him well enough to see all the crap and to call him on it. Hearing her say everything he'd screwed up shed new light on him as the louse of a friend he'd become to her. He had to be honest with her. He'd swallow his pride and tell her how he'd been in knots ever since that night in the rain when he'd almost lost her. He had to tell her that he had to talk to Sweets about what happened because he was going crazy worrying about her and worrying that he'd really screwed up turning her away the way he had. He had to tell her that he had to talk to other people because the thought of being honest with her terrified him. That he was afraid that she'd stop working with him and being his friend if he admitted how screwed up he really was. He should probably tell her that his seemingly inconsistent actions stemmed from the fact that he was torn between feelings of regret about what could have been between them and trying to pretend that he'd moved on when he still didn't trust Hannah enough to be honest with her about how screwed up he really was. He'd tell her she was right about all of it. And he'd beg her to give him a chance to rebuild what he'd broken.
But his partner wasn't willing to listen to him.
"No. Now that I've told you most of the things I'm angry about I need for you to leave. I need time and space, Booth. You have hurt and disappointed me. I don't want your apologies or explanations. I need for you to think about how you expect more from me than you're willing to give. I'm tired of being your double standard. I'm exhausted from pretending to be happy for you when you won't be honest with the woman you love. I'm tired of pretending that I'm the flawed one who failed us when you're as screwed up as I am. When you've thought about this and made some decisions about what to do, I'll talk to you about how we might begin to repair our friendship and our partnership. Not until then."
Giving in, he rose and followed her to the door of her apartment. Just before she closed the door behind him, he turned and gazed at her with an expression so full of emotion that it staggered her.
"I am sorry. You deserve better. I never meant to hurt you, Bones."
She hated that she could see in his expression that he thought she deserved someone better than he was.
"I deserve the truth from you as a partner and as a friend. And I deserve you respecting what's ours and not sharing that with anyone without talking to me first."
"Yeah. Yeah, you do."
"I hope that you'll stop taking our friendship and our partnership for granted. I miss the way we used to be able to trust each other with everything."
He nodded and looked away, clearly feeling guilty.
Overcome with emotion, he nodded and turned to walk down the hallway. He realized that he'd screwed everything up without even realizing how badly he was taking his friendship with Bones for granted. He had some serious thinking to do.