Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Spoilers: Through Season 6, Ep 10 'The Body in the Bag'
Chapter 1: Winner Takes it All
I've played all my cards
And that's what you've done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play
The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That's her destiny
(Winner Takes It All, Abba)
Temperance Brennan sat at her desk, idly shuffling papers. Idleness was not a natural state for her, but she had noticed that it was a state occurring more and more frequently over the last few months. She was unwilling to admit that there was also a correlation between these periods of idleness and her interactions with either Booth or Hannah, or worse, both. She sighed heavily as she tried to wrestle her brain back under control.
Angela stood in the doorway, watching her best friend. She had just come back from another lunch with Hannah and was just as down as she always was after. Angela shook her head; she just didn't understand why Brennan was cultivating this 'friendship' when it made her feel this bad.
"Sweetie, why do you do this to yourself?"
It was a sign of how far Brennan's mind had wandered that she jumped, having had no idea Angela was standing there for over a minute. She quickly composed herself and asked, "Doing what?"
Angela stepped inside the office and settled herself on the couch. Standing these days was a little more of a trial than it had been before she got pregnant. Looking at her despondent best friend, she said, "This thing with Hannah. This is not what people do."
"I don't understand. People have friendships all the time."
Angela sighed. "Not with the girlfriend of the man they are in love with." Brennan started as if to protest, but Angela cut her off. "Not gonna fly, hon. If nothing else, the fact that you are so depressed after each of these Hannah outings just confirms what I've said for years. You're in love with him. Now tell me why you're torturing yourself by hanging out with her."
Brennan thought long and hard. She had been thrown by the Lauren Eames case and had tried to reach out to Booth. After being rebuffed by him, she had withdrawn back into her familiar compartmentalized behavior. But maybe, she needed to make sure that she didn't have regrets with any of her other relationships.
Terrified at taking this step after the attempt with Booth had gone so disastrously wrong, she pushed through. "It is the civilized thing to do. If I were to rebuff her advances, it would appear as if I were jealous or trying to drive a wedge between them."
Angela shook her head, perplexed as always at the way in which her friend's mind worked. "So what?"
"Booth appreciates behavior that conforms with social rules and expectations."
Angela scoffed. "Not when it comes to you, sweetie. That's one of the things he loves about you. I'm sure if you made some big bold declaration, he would be all 'Hannah who?'"
"No, Angela." Her heart ached to think of the how her big bold declaration had turned out.
"You never know until you try!"
Angela stopped short at the quiet admission. "What? When?" she stammered. She looked at the sorrow on Brennan's face and stopped her, "Wait. Just hold that thought. Don't move, I'll be right back."
Hurrying back to her office, Angela grabbed a bag of chocolates and rushed back. As she passed Hodgins on her way back, he turned to talk to her, but she gave him her 'Not now, dear' look, shaking the bag of chocolates. He nodded his understanding as he watched her breeze into Brennan's office, closing the door behind her.
Pulling Brennan out of her desk chair and guiding her to the couch, Angela shook opened the bag and offered some as they sat down. Brennan looked confused. "Why are we eating chocolate?"
"Trust me, chocolate is the social rule for anything that can make you look that sad. So tell me what happened."
Brennan took a breath, uncertain where to start. "During the Lauren Eames case. I, Sweets was right, I was overidentifying with her. She had closed herself off from everyone. I think I'm afraid of the same thing happening to me."
Angela leaned forward, as much as she was able, and said earnestly. "No, Bren. You think you could disappear and none of us would notice?"
"But how would you know that I hadn't just gone off to Guatemala or Maluku again?"
Angela nodded. "Yes, that would be a possibility. But if you think that I wouldn't call out the National Guard and search every corner of the world until we know for sure, you are quite mistaken, Dr. Brennan."
"The world is round, Angela. It doesn't have corners."
Angela shook her head, smiling. "Poetic license, sweetie. So, you were shaken by the case. It's understandable. It happens to all of us at one time or another. But what happened with Booth?"
"He saved me from being hit by a car that night in the rain. And as he was driving me home, I don't know if it was the stress from the case or the elevated adrenal levels from nearly being in an accident, but I told him I didn't want to have any regrets."
"Regrets?" questioned Angela. "About what?"
"About telling I couldn't change for him, to be with him." Tears welled in her eyes and she swiped them away angrily.
Angela inquired gently, trying to cover her surprise, "He asked you?"
Brennan nodded, tears spilling down her cheeks. "And I was too scared, too stubborn to give us a chance. And so he said," she gulped back a sob, "he said he needed to move on. And he did."
"Oh sweetie," Angela scootched over to sit next to her friend. Brennan leaned into her and cried. Some minutes later, after the worst had passed, she sat back up and grabbed one of Angela's chocolates. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Angela assessing this new information and Brennan recovering from her breakdown.
Angela took her hand and looked at her. "I am so sorry, Brennan. But why are you insisting on torturing yourself by spending time with her?"
"It's important to Booth that we get along. I just want him to be happy. If I can't make him happy directly, then at least I can make his life easier."
Angela shook her head. Sometimes Brennan was so infuriating. "You know, usually I mean something different when I give you this advice, but screw Booth. He's not worried about your feelings. Why should you worry about his?"
Brennan shrugged. "Because I have to," she answered.
The next day, she was working at her desk, preparing a report on her latest Limbo research. Despite the fact that nothing had changed, she found that she inexplicably felt somewhat better after having talked with Angela. She was able to better focus and was working much more efficiently than she had been previously.
When her phone rang, an involuntary smile flitted across her face as she saw Booth's home number on the caller id. Answering, she imagined him holding the heavy phone receiver he loved. "Brennan."
"Temperance, I need your help."
Hannah's voice on the other end was so surprising, she nearly dropped her phone. Recovering quickly, she replied, "Of course, Hannah, what can I do for you?"
"Well, I have a little project I'm working on that I'd like your assistance with. Do you think maybe we could meet for drinks later?"
Brennan reflected on her conversation with Angela the day before. Her friend had made it perfectly clear that she thought the idea of this relationship with Hannah was a bad idea. She understood that Angela was only trying to protect her but she still felt that the happiness it brought Booth was worth the emotional price she was paying.
"That sounds good. Shall I meet you at The Founding Fathers?"
Hannah paused. "How about the Elephant and Castle? I'd rather Seeley not know about this just yet."
"I'm not sure how I feel about keeping something from him. It could undermine the trust that we've built as partners," Brennan replied, trying to sublimate the bitterness she felt that Booth had already done just that when he had shared her feelings with Hannah.
"Oh, come on. I'm his girlfriend; if he finds out he'll be much madder at me than at you. Besides, it'll be a great bonding experience for us!"
She considered Hannah's point. Perhaps a shared experience that didn't involve Booth was exactly what they needed to get to a more comfortable position in the relationship.
"All right. I will agree to withhold this from Booth, temporarily. I will see you at the Elephant & Castle tonight at 8:00."
Hannah had already gotten a booth and ordered their drinks when Brennan arrived. She slid into the booth and took a sip of her drink, pointedly ignoring her sunglasses perched on top of the blond hair.
"Thank you so much for meeting with me, Temperance," Hannah gushed. "I've totally hit a brick wall and I think you're just the person to help me past it."
"What is it I can do for you, Hannah?" she queried.
Hannah's face lit up. "Well, I'm working on this story, but I need some documents to give me some direction on where to go next. The trouble is that I can't just walk in and get them. This is a fairly large conspiracy and they are going to be suspicious of reporters." Hannah unconsciously rubbed at the scar on her leg.
"Well, what type of documents are you trying to obtain? Perhaps you could request them under the Freedom of Information Act," Brennan suggested.
Hannah shook her head. "That would just drive them further underground. I don't want them to know I'm looking at these angles."
"Perhaps Booth could obtain them through back channels. He has a lot of contacts, although if you are not supposed to have these documents, his moral code may pose a slight problem," Brennan mused. "Do you want me to try to persuade him?"
Hannah vague look of panic was missed by Brennan. "No," she said quickly. "Like I said, this isn't really something I want him to know about. Yet," she added, as an unhappy look began to cross her friend's face. "I was just thinking that as a famous author and speaker, you might be able to get into some places I can't, you know, as a journalist. You could say you're researching your next novel. And once you're in there, you could find a way to slip some information out."
"Where exactly are we talking about, Hannah?"
"Well, for instance, I need some autopsy reports from the DC morgue. And any incident reports associated with them."
Brennan considered this. It was likely that she could easily obtain access to the morgue under guise of research. And she doubted that security would be very high on completed autopsy files.
"I believe I could attempt this. But I would like to know why you are keeping Booth out of this?"
Hannah laughed lightly. "Really, I just want to protect him. There is some tie-in with law enforcement in this story. If it breaks and it comes out that he helped me, well, I wouldn't want him to get in trouble for abusing his position or something."
Hannah shuddered inwardly as she recalled the intensity of Booth's face earlier that morning. "No," he had said. "It's way too dangerous. You've got to let this alone. If something breaks, I'll know and I'll make sure you know before everyone else. But you've got to leave this alone. Please."
She smiled over the rim of glass. "It's just to protect him," she repeated.