A/N: I couldn't help but write a post-ep after that finale. Not to mention I'm on this existential "what am I doing with my life" bender that is making me reconsider everything I've done, am doing, and will do with my life. Combine the two and this is what you get. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
PS: I wrote the first half of this at work (it was like getting paid to write fanfic... one step closer to my dream), and the second half while listening to the piece "Appalachia Waltz" played by Yo-Yo Ma. I would highly recommend the song to anyone who has any appreciation for strings and/or beautiful music. It may or may not also color the way you read this fic if you listen while you read. Just a thought.
She laid the skeleton out on the backlit table meticulously, as always. Mandible, cranium, a long trail of vertebrae starting at the atlas, traveling the length of the cervical spine, down into the thoracic, then the lumbar curve, and ending at the coccyx. Then back up to the thoracic skeleton-clavicle, clavicle, rib, rib, matching pairs on each side. Ribs true, false, and floating. Scapula, humerus, ulna, radius, down each arm into the carpals, metacarpals, and distal, medial, and proximal phalanges. Two innominates, and then the femoral head hovering just near the joint as she lay the long, heavy bone down on the glass with a clunk. Tibia, fibula, then the tarsals, the heavy calcaneus, the long, delicate metatarsals, and the phalanges of each foot.
Every bone had its place, every skeleton had its order, in perfect protocol. One after the other, in easy succession, exactly as prescribed. The steady clink-clink-clink of bones touching down gently on glass was soothing to her, a sort of meditation all her own. Everything here was in order. Everything was as expected. Everything made sense, perfect sense, in perfect placement. She could close her eyes and arrange the skeleton before her without even having to look, the familiar motion of bone after bone etched deeply into her muscle memory. It was so innate that it had become less of a mental map and more of a natural reflex. This here, that there. Exactly as it should be.
Then she opened her eyes, and nothing made sense. Nothing was as she had placed it, as she had expected it. There was no order, no method, no protocol. She let her eyes wander over the perfect skeleton before her and wondered how her life, which had previously been arranged as meticulously and by-the-book as the remains before her, could have become this. She had spent thirty-something years arranging a perfectly ordered life, and in one fell swoop he had come in and scattered everything—she could practically hear the clatter of a well-organized existence falling to pieces on the floor.
But was it bad? It was a question she had asked herself repeatedly over the past several weeks. From the night she came to him panicked, grief-stricken, and fell into his bed and effectively into his life in a new, deep, unretractable way, the unraveling began. Hot breath, soft touch, and the overwhelming stricken sense that everything she ever wanted, needed, and survived on, the essence of her life, was so small and fragile that to close her hand too tightly around it might simply break it. She could only lay within it and breathe, and so she did, and so did he.
Vincent was dead. She had felt more warmly towards him than any of her other interns; there was something about him that was gentle and kind, unassuming, sweet-natured, but also uncommonly brilliant. Something that, like a precocious child, wanted to be nurtured and brought into its full. She saw a little bit of her younger self in him, but a much more likeable version of her younger self, a person she wished she could have been as a student, and even now. Someone loved. Someone cherished. Someone missed.
It was maybe that, witnessing the death of a part of her she identified with but also lacked, that sent her into his bed. Life is so short, so fleeting, and when it's over, what are we? Who remembers us? Who cares? Brennan knew that Vincent would be loved and missed long after his death, but would she? And who else would she love and miss when they were gone? Watching him lying on the floor, bleeding out, reminded her so much of watching Booth do the same. When she thought about almost losing him, when she recalled the long days in which she believed she had… it was too much.
And so that scattered night, in his sweater, watching the fan whir overhead in the dark, her chest seized and her eyes were hot with tears and it was just too much. Life is only ever getting shorter, she knew, and she was dying all the time. So was he. They were dying all the time, little by little, and not even together. It was too much. And he was there, now, breathing, fully alive, pointing a gun and it was maybe the fear and adrenaline and epiphany of it all that finally toppled them, together, over the edge of it.
She ran her fingers along the smooth, round edge of the cranial vault, squinting against the brightness of the exam table and letting the bones before her turn into darker blurs against the brilliant white background. There was no turning back, clocks or people, this man's remains proved it. The two bright pink lines on the pregnancy test proved it. Sitting in her bathroom, EPT in hand, she realized that with more acuity than even years of sifting through death could give her. We are living a break-neck, shocking, breath-taking and painfully short existence that does not make U-turns.
For a long time that idea—that reality—had terrified her. For years, maybe all of her years, the concept of a past unalterable and a future unpredictable had frightened her beyond words. And the longer she lived, harder she worked to make every tomorrow more predictable than the last. She wanted a script, a schedule, an itinerary to her life. She wanted, needed, craved to know what would come next, and to be assured that whatever would come would be okay. In college she had every semester planned out by the third week of freshman year. She spent weeks in front of the mirror rehearsing her interview answers for graduate school. She drafted such involved outlines of her books that there was barely any writing left to do, it was merely filling in the blanks with what she considered aimless fluff and Angela called "the stuff people like to read."
And then she met him, and slowly he loosed all the threads of her tightly-woven existence until that night in his arms where she died, and lived, and realized that neither of them could die again without the other, and unraveled completely. And then she stood in the bathroom, staring down at the row of positive tests on the edge of the counter, and realized that she was beyond unraveled—now there was not even the end of a string for her to grasp, no semblance of the order she had once maintained, no hint of the expectations she previously had for herself and her life. Nothing. There was nothing but the breath of the beginning within her and the end of everything, every step, that had come before. Nothing from before seemed to hold any significance anymore.
And again, she asked herself, but is it bad? Is it so bad to lose sight of everything you thought you needed, to let go of the last string and live your life unattached to the expectations of what you thought it would be? Not long ago, she would have said yes, vehemently. Now… she placed a hand on her lower abdomen, still smooth and unobtrusive, and smiled.
Maybe losing her old life was not so bad. Maybe watching her own expectations float away on the wind like dandelion seeds just meant that her beliefs as a child were true—if you wish on them and send them away, those wishes float to heaven and come true. She laughed at the idea, a loud laugh, a present laugh that rang throughout the empty, cavernous Medico-Legal lab like church bells. Whether she believed in heaven or not was irrelevant anymore. All she had to believe in was now, and the reality and presence of this moment. Later couldn't be held, couldn't be touched, couldn't be wished upon. There was only this moment. Only now. And whether she expected it or not, whether it was charted or an absolute twist of fate, she felt strangely okay with it.
"What's so funny?" a voice asked. She looked up and saw him standing on the opposite side of the table, his presence unnoticed until just now. He looked down at her resting hand and smiled. With anyone else, this insanity of living would be too much. But with him, she felt that whatever happened, expected or not, it would be okay. They would be just fine.