Booth and Brennan were both tense on the drive to Martin's house and neither spoke. Brennan felt nervous, as she was not quite sure what Booth meant by "fixing" the mess. Booth felt nervous, as he was also not quite sure what he intended to do when he saw Martin, but he knew he couldn't just walk away from it. He felt his anger toward Rebecca dissipating somewhat; he understood that she was just scared and angry. He just wished they could get past their customary cycle of overreacting with one another. He opted for redirecting his anger toward Martin.
He pulled up to Martin's house and sat for a moment.
"Booth?" Brennan asked. "Are you having second thoughts about this?"
"No," he said with determination and got out of the truck. Walking around to meet Brennan, he pulled out his gun and handed it to her.
"Do you want me to shoot him?"
Booth couldn't deny the appeal of that offer and if the situation were slightly different, he might have afforded a chuckle. "Thanks, Bones, but no. I want you to hold onto my gun so that I don't shoot him - but I also don't trust the guy."
They rang the doorbell.
Martin opened the door and looked upon them with condescension. "Agent Booth. I can't imagine what possible reason you have this time for being here."
"MInd if we come in?" Without waiting for a reply, Booth stepped inside with a none-too-gentle nudge. "Right. I didn't think so."
"I figured you to be more intelligent than this, Agent Booth. You are making my harassment charges against you far too easy to impose—"
Booth spun around, grabbed Martin by the front of his shirt and shoved him up against the wall. Booth moved his arm so that it kept Martin pinned across his shoulders. "You think you've seen harassment? I have not even begun anything close to harassment. This? This is me reacting to a suspect who assaulted a federal officer. You want to understand harassment? I can find all kinds of ways to make that happen and not regret one moment of it on a child abusing, wife-beating scumbag like you. And best of all, I can get away with it. You feel powerful messing with my family? You don't have a chance in hell against me."
"Messing with your family, Agent Booth? I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"Good, because I'm sure I don't know what you mean when you say your own son was in danger from your wife, but you didn't do a damn thing about it." Booth pulled Martin forward by his shirt again, then turned him around, now holding him by the arm and back of his neck. "Maybe I know that Karen isn't to blame at all and I'll find ample reason—" he forced Martin to his living room, "—to toss around your perfect kingdom for weapons, fibers, and whatever other evidence I deem necessary to our investigation." Booth pushed Martin to the dining room and pressed him down onto the table. "I freeze your assets, search your office, and I hope to God you try to resist arrest or interfere in our investigation in some other way because I'm pretty sure I can interpret any action from you that I want as a direct assault of a federal officer and not worry about my superiors, because, as my partner here can verify, I have a superb record – isn't that right, Bones?"
"It's true. He really does," Brennan said in an unwavering, matter-of-fact tone.
"Yeah, see that, Martin? You've crossed the line with the wrong guy."
"What is it, Bones?"
"There are two plates in the kitchen that look like remains from dinner."
"Guests for dinner, Martin? Gee, I'm sorry I missed them. This might have been even more entertaining."
Brennan walked further into the kitchen. "Oven is still warm," she called out.
For the first time since arriving, Booth noticed a slight change in Martin's expression. The slightest flicker of fear or worry? It rapidly moved into a hardened stare and the whole succession raised alarms in Booth's head. "Bones…can you find a mop or a broom or something like that and bring it out here?"
Booth was cuffing Martin as Brennan came in with a mop. Her hands were gloved from gathering evidence through bagging food and used glasses and utensils. Booth took the mop and pulled Martin up. Martin, in an unexpected display of anger, proceeded to spit on Brennan, who then returned the favor with a well-placed right hook into Martin's nose.
Martin gave a gasp of pain. "Nice one, Bones," Booth said appreciatively as he took the mop handle and jammed it between Martin's hands and back, then threaded it through a couple of the chairs in the dining room to help keep Martin in one place. He gave a well-placed knee into Martin's chest.
"That's a little extra something from me on behalf of my partner. I'm pretty sure you are familiar with where I am going to place this next punch-" Booth swung hard into his stomach, "—as you chose this spot for Marcus, didn't you? Pain, but less chance of lasting marks?" Booth gave him a final shove into the chairs before turning to Brennan, asking her to return his gun to him. She looked at him skeptically.
"I'm not going to shoot, him," he reassured her. "But we need to search this house. I don't know exactly what is up with the dinner dishes, but Martin's hiding something or—"
"—someone." She handed the gun back to him.
They checked the main floor, first. As Sweets and Angela had found it before, everything was precisely placed, but there was no evidence of anyone hiding or lurking anywhere. They entered Kenneth and Karen's bedroom and working on a shared theory, Booth searched Karen's closet and drawers while Brennan went into the master bathroom.
"Two empty hangers," Booth said to Brennan as she came back into the room.
"Both toothbrushes are damp," Brennan reported.
"Did you see any indication that Martin had entered or exited through the kitchen?" When Brennan shook her head, Booth led the way down to the basement with a glance to make sure Martin was still secure.
Heading down the stairs they heard faint voices. Booth gave Brennan a warning glance to stay behind him and they continued. The bottom of the stairs indicated a dim light and rounding the corner at the base they felt just a bit ill at what they saw. Booth did a quick scan and holstered his gun as Brennan had already made her way over to Karen Martin, who was strapped to a straightbacked wooden chair, impeccably dressed and made up, facing a computer monitor that seemed to be playing home movies of a younger Martin family. As there seemed to be two young boys, Booth guessed it was from several years ago, when the younger son, Christopher, was still alive and healthy.
The room was near bare. A lamp, which had been providing the dim light and a small foldable table were the only other furniture items visible aside from the desktop computer running the family scenes. Booth quickly shut it down and pulled out his phone to call in for a paramedic as well as a full FBI unit while Brennan tended to Karen, who was now sobbing in panic. Brennan spoke to her in soothing tones, trying to reassure Karen that they were there to help, that she was safe from Kenneth, and giving Booth one more reason to be grateful that she agreed to come with him.
"Oh God, is it true? Is Marcus dead? Did Kenneth kill him?"
Booth and Brennan exchanged a quick, painful glance before Booth replied gently, "Yes, it's true that Marcus is dead, but we're not sure yet what happened to him."
"It's my fault," Karen cried. "How could I let this happen? I should have gotten us away. I shouldn't have let Kenneth near Marcus anymore…"
"None of this is your fault," Booth said firmly. Upon closer inspection, in spite of her full make-up, styled hair, and neat attire, Karen was clearly a shell of what she had been. Her clothing hung loosely on her body and her eyes showed dark, heavy circles below them. Brennan asked Karen to move different body parts to assess any immediate damage.
A dragging noise from above their heads had Booth on his feet and starting towards the stairs.
"Booth," Brennan called out.
He turned to her and caught her expression with the unspoken question behind it. "Don't worry. I've got it under control." He gave her a reassuring look back, indicating that he wouldn't do anything rash.
Her eyes agreed with him and he ran up the stairs to verify that the dragging noise did not also mean Martin becoming mobile. He could hear sirens growing louder as he reached the top of the stairs and even though he had assured Bones that he would be alright, he was glad that he wouldn't be stuck alone with Martin for more than a minute, because the disgust he was feeling with him might very well encourage him to lose some of that control.
Walking into the dining room, he confirmed that Martin had only managed to slide himself forward a few inches. Martin looked over to Booth and still maintained a defiant expression. Booth merely narrowed his eyes at him as he shook his head, then went to meet his arriving team.
Kenneth and Karen Martin's home had quickly become flooded with agents, forensics specialists, and paramedics. Booth handed off Kenneth Martin to other agents with the recommendation that Sweets interrogate him in the hopes that the young psychologist might have some luck getting any information out of the still tight-lipped man.
Brennan had done a convincing job of getting Karen Martin to accept an overnight stay in the hospital. Booth and Brennan had listened soberly to the details of Karen's painful story. Kenneth had suspected Karen to be involved with someone, but didn't know with whom. She'd had the gumption to say that she was planning on running away with him, taking Marcus with her. He'd retaliated to her revelation quickly, incapacitating her. She'd never made it to call in sick and by the end of the day, when Marcus didn't come home, Kenneth had gone off the deep end.
His obsessive nature kept her clothed and styled to perfection and his attentiveness to these details had frightened her deeply as he'd talk to her in a running commentary with odd stories about how their lives were going to be from now on. He blamed her for Marcus running away, as that was what he assumed happened and while he physically struck her occasionally with the idea that she would divulge where Marcus went, most of his torture had been psychological. He'd forced her to watch the home movies over and over again, to ingrain the anguish of their two lost sons.
She admitted to believing in Ron Gorman and felt that he would have helped them. Neither Booth nor Brennan had the heart to tell her otherwise. In the end, nothing could be gleaned from her story to indicate Kenneth Martin had anything to do with Marcus' murder, bringing them back to the foreman.
Booth and Brennan then visited the foreman, still at the construction site as they were trying to make up for lost time when shut down due to the murder investigation. It hadn't taken them long to bring about his confession.
"The kid was going to wreck this whole deal. I couldn't let something happen to it. Jeez, we've been out of work forever and finally this big project comes along and some thirteen-year old punk is going to derail the whole thing? Gorman had left, but I stopped the kid and he punched me in the nose. I got mad and shoved him and he fell back onto the shovel." He gestured toward the backhoe. "I didn't mean to kill him."
Booth and Brennan were finishing up their post-case drinks at the Founding Fathers. Sweets, Cam, Hodgins, and Angela had all recently left, leaving the two partners to contemplate where they were going to spend the rest of their evening.
Brennan put her hand around Booth's. He gave her a warm smile and looked into her eyes, which seemed to search his for something. "What?"
"I was thinking of different times during this case when personal experience has seemed to govern your actions and your investigative insights."
Booth resisted the urge to pull his hand away and resolutely held her gaze. He waited, knowing that she was headed somewhere, even if he didn't like where that somewhere landed him.
"You seem extremely reluctant to share these experiences with anyone."
Booth looked away. "I really don't like talking about it."
He gave a half-hearted chuckle. "But?"
She tilted her head at him in that way that always made him catch his breath. "But… I know from experience that it actually does help to talk about those things. You taught me that."
He placed his other hand on top of hers and ran his thumb along her cool, smooth skin. "Yeah, you're probably right."
"Booth? I'm not saying I think you should talk about it now, but will you talk to me about it someday?"
"Yeah," he said quietly. "Yeah, I will." And giving that verbal commitment, he knew he would follow through with it, but not just because he always kept his promises. Bones had been the only one who ever listened to everything about his past and responded to him honestly and not just with what she thought he wanted to hear. And at the end of the day, no matter what she thought, she still accepted him for who he was.
"C'mon. Let's head out. I'll take you home, and you can decide for us how our evening ends," Booth winked at her.
Instead of grabbing a cab right away, however, they walked together along the street in the cool evening weather, hand in hand.
"Will things get worked out regarding the child abuse and neglect issues with Rebecca?"
"Yeah, you know what? Remember the movie Angela made for Parker about the bike trick he was trying to do? Turns out, it proves how Parker broke his arm and with the ER doc's corroboration and a few character references, it should all be fine."
"Will you be able to find out if it was Kenneth Martin who gave the false report?"
Booth shook his head. "Probably not. But I think we both know that it was him, right?"
Brennan eyed him in a playful, calculating way, then leaned into him with a smile. "I suppose there is some evidence to support your gut on this one." In a more serious tone she continued, "Are things between you and Rebecca okay?"
He shrugged. "As okay as they ever are. Which means most of the time just fine, but other times it's a crapshoot on how we'll react to each other. Probably a good thing she turned down my marriage proposal way back when."
Brennan halted them in their walk at that moment and turned to him. "I do love you, Booth. You know that, right?"
If words alone could stop a heart from beating, his heart surely would have upon hearing the ones Bones spoke to him. "I…" He brought his hand up to her face and let his fingertips trace along her cheekbone and jawline. "Yes."
"When you came back from Afghanistan and told me about Hannah, I felt an unexpected sadness." Booth's face fell into deep regret as he looked down at their still joined hands.
"I'm sorry, Bones. I didn't plan on meeting Hannah. And I never would have thought I would fall in love with her."
"Of course you would. It's who you are Booth. You find love everywhere. Love is ephemeral—"
"No, don't give me that line again. Love, real love, is not ephemeral."
"You just said that you fell in love with Hannah. And you were in love with Rebecca. You wanted to marry Rebecca, proving that I am right. When you said you wanted 50 years with me, how could you possibly know, given this evidence? Love, as wonderful as it feels, is fleeting. And for two people like us, with so many differences in how we live our lives—"
"Look, I'm always going to be the gambler, right? That's who I am."
"And I'm always going to be the scientist, the one who needs evidence. That is who I am."
"So what does science – anthropology – tell you about what will happen between us?"
She gave him that vulnerable moment, the emotion-filled eyes. He saw those eyes piece together an answer. "We will adapt."
"Right?" Booth gave her a hopeful smile. "And we are evolving, which we know takes a really, really, really long time, right?"
Brennan gave an involuntary smirk at his characterization of evolution. She looked at him with a deep desire to feel with him, to ride along with where he was trying to take them. "Yes. Hundreds of thousands of years."
"Then imagine our love as being ephemeral in the context of our evolution. That ends up being a pretty long time, doesn't it?"
"Booth, that really isn't possible."
"Ah, but then you are left with me telling you, once again, that I just know. I wasn't lying back when I said you are the standard. I couldn't make it work with Hannah because she wasn't you."
He released her hand and brought both of his to gently cup her face in them. Looking deeply into her eyes, his voice dropped. "Bones, when it comes right down to it, though, maybe you're right. Maybe our love isn't a lifetime. But I've learned that however long we do love each other is enough to last me my lifetime. And that's enough for me."
Brennan's eyes filled with tears as she returned the warm kiss that confirmed his words. She pulled him in tightly and kissed him again with her own fiery agreement.
"Booth," she whispered. "I've decided how our evening will end."
He did not say anything, but merely smiled into her shining eyes, then led her to his car.
Thank you, as always, for gracing me with an audience. Thanks also to andreuuchis/angiebc for being my biggest cheerleader and Jen/jsq79 for her inspiring reviews and support. If you aren't reading their stuff, by the way, you really should be.