Title: The Dark
Author: Winter Ashby (rosweldrmr)
Disclaimer: Bones © Hart Hanson & Fox Network
Timeline: Alternate timeline, sometime after Hero in the Hold.
Summary: She knew what it was like to reach out, and up, and pray. Because even an atheist, like Brennan prayed. When the darkness came rushing in – there is nothing else that crosses through your mind except, "Please."
Authors Notes: I started writing this as soon as I saw Hero in the Hold. It's taken me a while to get around to finishing it. I can't help it, I love angsty Hodgins.
Night was never the same again. Black skies and oncoming dusk crept in on Hodgins, the way it might have done when he was a boy. Night became more than the absence of the sun. It became a thing, a looming cloud of oncoming pain and the promise of a black forever. And it was inside him, all around him. He could feel the it, squirming in his chest, trying to break free.
Hodgins grew to hate the dark, the night, the cool chill of dusk and stars. He hated sleep and all the other clearly irrational personifications he came to associate with night. The dark that hid behind his eyelids felt as if it was alive, crawling up from inside him. It was a part of him, something he couldn't escape – no matter how much money he had to throw at it. He still couldn't buy daylight in the dead of winter.
Jack shivered. The chill in the air was devious, dark. And he could tell night had fallen while he was hidden in the archives.
Ever since, since Booth, and the Navy ship, he couldn't sleep again.
He'd thought Angela cured him of it, before. Before, when she loved him and he loved her and they worked. But now, now that it was all surfacing again and he had no one to lay with him at night, to wake up with, to touch (skin on skin and lips on lips), it all came rushing back.
And it was just like before. When he closed his eyes, and the darkness came, there was an overwhelming fear that maybe, this time, it would be real. Maybe this time he'd be back in the car, running our of air, buried under mounds of earth that felt miles deep.
And even now, even as the reality of who the Gravedigger really was settled, it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to chase away the dark and the fear. Because, it would seem, the Gravedigger was more than a person to Jack Hodgins.
He became more than an entity, bound by the laws of physics. He wasn't a woman with control issues and a severely disturbed streak, he wasn't human. He was a presence, a figure that lurked in the corners of dimly lit rooms, and passed like a shadow streaking past the corner of his eye. The Gravedigger was death, and fear, and power, and all things that children fear from the dark when they're ten and they've just watched Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time.
The Gravedigger was the Boogie Man.
To Jack, at least.
So, he'd taken to hiding among the towering shelves of the Jeffersonian archives into the wee hours of the morning, reading, pretending to take in the words on the pages. But really, even though he didn't move for hours and hours on end, he was running. The pages sliding under his fingers, ink and paper, it could only last as long as the slope of a letter could keep his attention until they all just blurred together and there were no more words on pages, just smudges of black breaking though the white backdrop of the paper.
And he knows. He understands, logically, what the books mean. What they give him, why he seeks them out. They are an escape.
The aim was distraction. The aim was peace and quiet and just one night without looking out across the main lawn to the faint lights on the garage, of which he still couldn't bring himself to shut off. Because then, it was just one more thing, one more way that he was alone, one more way the dark could get in.
And no matter what Sweets thought, the hate and fear and burning need to run wasn't coping, not really. It was just delaying the inevitable. Because soon, very soon, he was going to crack. And all those walls and books and money in the world wouldn't be able to bring him back. Even Angela, back when they were perfect and removed from the world in a bubble of whirlwind romance wouldn't be enough now.
Rationally, he was aware that the Gravedigger was caught. She was a woman, just a woman who killed and took pleasure in it. Rationally, there was no reason to be frightened of the dark.
Sweets would've told him that fear of the dark was just a natural way that humans manifested the archetypal fear of the unknown.
Booth would've told him to man it up.
Cam would have told him that it was alright to be afraid, and that it would pass. Because, in the end, that's who she was. Even death and bones couldn't take away her optimism. She could try to hide it as much as she wanted, but Jack knew it was there.
Angela would have told him that he couldn't stop the fear. And then she'd touch his face and lock eyes with him. And everything would just fade away, right out of existence, until just the site of her would wash away the dark. And in the night, when the fear resurfaced, she'd take his hand and run her fingers up his chest and whisper his name into the dark. And like magic, like a spell, the fear wouldn't be there anymore. That's what she would have said if she still slept in his bed, and kissed his neck in the morning.
Zack would have told him that, logically, there was nothing to fear from the dark. That the Gravedigger was behind bars, and the statistically chances of being buried alive were some million to one. And then he'd give him that puppy-dog face he made when he knew he was supposed to do something human, but couldn't figure out what. And it would be enough, even if it was the wrong sentiment, just the idea that Zack knew something was supposed to take place there, and give it a try – even though, clearly, he wasn't made for things like emotions, it would be enough. Almost enough.
And Brennan, she wouldn't have told him anything. Because he couldn't talk to her about any of this. Because he could still see her face, dirty, tear-stained, full of dread and fear and everything he felt in his own heart, like she was some kind of mirror that reflected what was inside him. She knew what it was like, to know you were going to die. To know that glimmer of hope that maybe, everything will turn out okay. She knew the dark, and exactly what hid behind his eyelids at night. She knew the feel of blood on her hands, and the dizzy-high of slowly suffocating every time you take a breath. She knew, all too well, what that moment felt like, just before the explosives blew.
And the shock wave that pulled her hand from his, and the gravel that rushed in, like a mockery of fresh air. She knew what it was like to reach out, and up, and pray. Because even an atheist, like Brennan prayed. When the darkness came rushing in, and there was nothing but solid earth where just seconds before had been blank space, and there's nothing else you can do but claw and climb and reach for air, for wind and breeze and the sun on your face – there is nothing else that crosses through your mind except, "Please."
Even if you know no one is listening, it's still in your head, growing, expanding, taking over rational thought and notions of 2000-year-old myth. Maybe it wasn't a God she was praying to, maybe it was herself, or her own higher sense of reasoning skills, or Booth. But there was no doubt in his mind, she was praying just and hard as he did.
He prayed for sun and sky and blue. He prayed for air in his lungs and hands on his. He prayed for "Please" and "Angela" and "Not now, not now." He prayed for just one more day, for grass in-between his toes and peanut butter sandwiches. He prayed for time, and years, for the possibility of someday touching Brennan's face (because, hey, he thought he was going to die – and it seemed like an appropriate motivator at the time, to keep on climbing).
It would have been easier to just sink, to just breathe in, to just let the darkness take him.
It would have been easier than trying, than climbing, than hoping, than living.
And as Jack sat, back against a shelf of encyclopedias on I-L, he knew that he lost that battle. Somewhere along the way, somewhere between reaching the surface, losing Angela and Zack, and finding Booth, he lost that part of himself that was willing to keep on reaching.
"You shouldn't be in here."
Jack didn't even bother to lift his head. He knew they'd find him eventually. Security cameras and sign-out logs and everything else the FBI is so good at cataloging and tracking would give him away.
"Did you hear me?" Cam asked, before she took a seat across from him on the floor. Her hair is done-up, twisted up in some pulled back half bun half curl thing. Her black dress hung and snagged as she knelt on the rough carpet. And something about her sitting on the floor, all done up struck him as wrong.
He frowned and shut the book he wasn't really reading to begin with.
"Yeah, Cam. I heard you. But that doesn't mean I'm going to listen."
She held his gaze, longer than usual, long enough (he guessed) to see that he's in real trouble. There was pity in her eyes. And, uncharacteristically, he accepted that.
"Why are you hear?" she asked him, too much like a mother he has vague memories of, at best.
"Can't sleep." He told her, too tired to pretend like he could lie and get away with it.
"I see." She said, like it told some great truth. He cringed, because really, it did. "Have you seen Dr. Brennan tonight?"
She tilted her head a little, like she was offering him a clue. But the fatigue and fear had all but eaten through his cognitive centers, and it slid over him like sea salt on an ocean breeze. (Not enough.)
"There's more than one way pass a sleepless night, Dr. Hodgins." There it was again, that nagging feeling like Cam was reaching out, offering him something he couldn't see.
"Are you propositioning me for sex?"
She snorted a laugh, and tossed her head to the side. And the long, elegant lines of her jaw and neck were, undoubtedly, more appealing than books. "No, Hodgins. Merely offering some advice. What you chose to do with it is up to you."
"I'm sorry… I still don't follow."
"You squints are all the same. Would you like me to spell it out for you, Dr. Hodgins?" There was mocking it the way she said, 'doctor', like he didn't really deserve that title at the moment.
"Please do, Dr. Saroyon."
"Dr. Brennan is still in her office. Maybe you could ask her to explain it to you. I'm sure she'd be glad to have the company." Cam gave him a meaningful nod and stood. Jack still wasn't really sure what Cam was trying to say, but he didn't argue.
It was something about the way she said it, the way she said 'Dr. Brennan' with just a little more tenderness that ordinarily, a little more knowing than usual. He knew it wasn't really alone in this, the fear, the dark, the clawing in his gut that told him he wouldn't make it. She had been there too, right there with him, in his confession of love and wealth and tentative faith. She held his hand when there was nothing else in the world but her fingers entwined with his.
"Brennan's still here?" he asked, like it was a surprise to find that he wasn't the only one who was running without making it past the front door.
"Yes, and I'm sure she could do with some company. She's been hold up in her office for a week straight. I think she could use someone right now." Then Cam pushed up from the floor, flattened the fabric of her dress against her legs and have him a short nod before she vanished around the corner of a row, headed for the door.
He looked down at the book in his hand, and knew it would never be enough to face the dark. But he remembered the feel of her hand in his, and the way she looked just before their daring escape. And for the first time since the nightmares resurfaced, he thought maybe it enough.
He gathered his jacket and left the book on the floor and headed for the lab, to the one person he knew who might be able to share the dark with. She was enough to keep the fear at bay once, maybe she could do it again. Or, he considered as he exited the archive room, maybe it was his turn to help her keep the fear she hid at bay. Either way, Jack had a feeling that together, it was enough, together they were strong enough to face the dark.