She knew it instantly, the way he darkened her doorstep, a thundercloud waiting to burst.
"Booth? What's wrong?"
He held up his hand ironically and she frowned at him quizzically. He sighed, and pulled the poker chip out of his pocket, reminding her there were still people listening in on their lives. She shrugged irritably, letting him know very clearly where he could stick the transmitter.
"Booth?" she touched his face but he shrugged her off as if her touch burned. She felt the flash of hurt dance across her features. He looked as if he was sorry but she turned away before he could reach out. She was sick of everything always being about her anyway.
Instead he opened his briefcase on her desk. Heart hammering, she waited as he rummaged through the papers before throwing one her way.
"Did you read this?" He knew before she even caught and looked down she had. His tone and body language suggested as much. Brennan wished sometimes she could turn off her brain.
She delicately plucked the pages he had tossed at her. They lay wrinkled and worn together among a sea of field reports, the only hand written pages fallen in a fire of typed ones. She thumbed to the last page and slid her eyes closed: Jared.
"Where did you get this?"
"It was on my desk."
Brennan remembered. She had been reading Jared's letter in Booth's office; he had come in and swept all the papers off his desk, including Jared's letter.
"Booth I –"
"Can you really Brennan? Can you really explain?" he was storming now, having broken quietly and dangerously out of her line of sight. He rained down on her relentlessly. "I think my whole life I'm protecting him…that I'm saving him…but then he goes and writes a letter like this."
"I know Booth," she said it quietly, standing in the eye of the storm, unsure of where to put her hands, if she should kiss him still or let him rage. She was not good for him. Their relationship was so uneven.
"I should have been better," Booth seethed, his teeth grinding so loudly she could hear him four feet away. She stared at him unblinking, unsure of what to do. She sank to her couch, peering over the back of it for Angela or Cam, or someone to come and rescue her from his onslaught of himself. He was breaking in front of her and she didn't know how to stop it. She wasn't even trying.
"He's your brother Booth." Brennan winced. She was stating facts as if saying them aloud would somehow solve the situation.
"Exactly," her partner snarled. He spun on his toes, towering over her on the couch and Brennan pulled a pillow in front of her heart as if to protect it, although she felt silly even as she did it. He wasn't going to hurt her; only himself. She mutely held the cushion out to him, unsure of what else to give him. He took it just as silently, suddenly defeated and sad. He stood, a bowed angel, planes of slumped shoulders and scars hidden by his white-collar shirt, his white-collar job.
He ran his thumbs over the surface of the pillow blindly searching the surface for the words he was groping for. "I was supposed to take all the…and he wasn't supposed to see. He was supposed to stay a kid. He wasn't supposed to see anything. I did it all for him. And he still…he still got like me…" He chucked the pillow back on the couch with the last bit of anger left before throwing himself down after it. His head rolled to hers, eyes begging, finally raining.
Brennan was mute and dry, confused in the midst of his onslaught. Jared shouldn't have written the letter. He should have let Booth save him.
"And if he…" Booth stopped to swallow it down, his face convulsing with an ugly painful twist, suddenly spasming into anger, fist clenching by Brennan's thigh. Brennan glanced down at it between them in the crevice of the tan couch cushions before flicking her gaze back up to Booth's face. "…What was it all for? Why the hell did I let him beat the crap out of me for? I was doing it for Jared. I was protecting him…for the better life…and it turns out it was all complete and utter bullshit. My whole life is a fucking lie."
"No it's not," she immediately countered, but her mind was buzzing blankly. She wished Cam or Angela would come in. He loved her but he shouldn't. She was smart in everything but the things that mattered. She didn't know what to say to him. Everything he was saying made perfect sense to her. Yet the way he was staring at her, with a sort of desperate clarity, hoping against hope she would lie to him, was rending a damaging path through her pulmonary tract.
"You…" she stuttered and had to try again, staring anywhere but at his face, cracking beneath the weight of his grief, the lightning lashing it in spasms of anguish at random intervals as the memories flitted across it unbidden.
"You stood up when you thought you had to," she said in a mumbling sort of voice. "That makes you…better. Better than him."
"Doesn't feel like it," he rasped tilting his head back into the ring of halogenic lights.
"You…Booth you…you had something to believe in."
His head rolled slowly towards hers, his eyes shuttering against the light in squinted disbelief. She smiled tremulously, knowing what he was going to say long before he said it.
"Are you…lecturing me on belief? You…the unbeliever?"
She reached out her fingers to find his cross medallion beneath his shirt. "There's more than one kind of belief," she informed him coolly. She dropped her hand and he dropped his head with a reluctant, broken grin. Neither mentioned the tear that he licked hastily from the corner of his mouth.
"So that's it, your big deduction huh?" he scoffed at the ceiling, his pupils contracting to pinpricks, his brown irises eating at them, and Brennan knew it was to burn the tears out of him. To force the sun to come out. "Belief kept me sane? So now it was all worth it."
Brennan hated when he drawled like that, all smug and falsely ingratiating. He wasn't hers then. He was far away and cruel, faintly sarcastic as his teeth glinted at her more than his eyes, refusing to make contact. She dropped her gaze so he wouldn't feel obligated. "Belief Booth, is what kept your little brother alive. Because you believed you were doing something bigger for him. You could have given up. And you would have gotten thrashed the same."
"Jared doesn't care," he shrugged. "He might has well have according to this letter. His childhood was all a lie."
It was Brennan's turn to give him his own faintly sarcastic smile back. He looked startled to see it on her face, ripping him out of a black cloud of nightmares. "Booth, he may have suffered, but you faced a war. Every day you were a soldier."
His mouth drew grim. "And then I became a soldier. What does that say about me?"
Brennan shrugged. "I don't think it says anything about you. I hate psychology."
Booth gave her a tiny half smile. "So my belief in what, myself, is what saved Jared?"
"Yes," she said without blinking.
He didn't laugh this time.
"Do you believe in me Bones?" He sat up as he spoke, slowly, not dangerously but a thundercloud rolling off a mountaintop, leaving it soaked and its trees broken.
She paused, surveying him.
"I believe in beer," she finally sighed.
Booth laughed abruptly, taken aback. She had run through every possible option in her head but discarded the responses as too trite. She smiled coyly instead. "I believe in beer because you always tell me to have a lager when I'm depressed."
"I think this is a bit different," Booth prevaricated with a wry half grin.
Brennan raised her eyebrows.
"Really? I don't see how. Are you suggesting you shouldn't follow your own advice? That because I am female I should somehow be subordinate to your advice?"
"No. No! Bones…come on. Now that's just mean. You're pulling all this feminism crap because you want to make me feel bad about not getting a beer with you at the Founding Fathers."
A graceful eyebrow rose over a blue eye. "You think feminism is crap?"
"Uh…no. No, not what I meant…you're doing this on purpose! Damn it! Stop with your smartness…and…and your anthropology! Just leave me alone damn it!" But he was laughing as she got to her feet and he allowed her to pull him up.
"I'll even drive," she swore solemnly, "seeing as you're such a big proponent of feminism."
"Ugh," groaned Booth, dragging his feet, but he dangled the keys above her head nonetheless. Brennan didn't mention the traces of tears still glistening around the hard lines of his mouth as she tucked herself in next to him and they headed for the bar.
"No, no Brennan I can't go in," Booth dug in his heels at the reflections visibly refracted in the glass door.
"Booth, they're our friends."
"Sweets is there. And Cam. She'll know something's wrong for sure. And then there's Angela. She's like, psychic."
"There's no such thing as psychics Booth," Brennan corrected him severely.
"Well whatever, all of them are ridiculously observant."
"Even Hodgins," noted Brennan.
"Yeah," agreed Booth peevishly. "Even the bug man. So let's leave well enough alone."
"Hey Booth, Dr. Brennan," came a voice from behind them. It was Wendell. A step behind him was Arastoo. Both were in sweatpants and short sleeves. It struck Brennan as unprofessional, despite the fact they weren't in the lab.
"Where are you guys coming from?" Booth asked in spite of himself.
"Arastoo recruited me for his mosque's baseball team," Wendell said with a good-natured grin.
Arastoo hitched a guilty half smile in place, glancing inside as if to check who was there. "I'm hoping that by reeling in Wendell I can entice Dr. Hodgins to play as well. I've been badgering him forever."
"Are you allowed to have non-Muslims on your team?" Brennan asked bluntly.
"Bones," hissed Booth as he automatically held the door for Wendell and Arastoo. Brennan ducked under his arm and even though he tried to grab her arm to hold her back, she was already through and he had to follow.
They were greeted with a hail of cheers from the already seated table.
"It's fine Dr. Brennan," Arastoo threw over his shoulder as he slid into a vacated chair by Cam.
Booth went to order and Brennan found chairs for the two of them. She placed them a little bit outside of the circle, to Angela's amusement, but thankfully, not to her commentary. Brennan had a carefully worked out alibi – that she and Booth were working on their 'relationship.' Although, strictly speaking, Brennan realized with a bit of a blush, this was not untrue. Her and Booth's newfound romance was such a well-guarded secret, even she forgot it sometimes.
Booth slunk into his chair with a pint for her set on the table. Brennan knew it was more out of polite company than for her actual taste; she hated the beers Booth favored. He simply wanted it to look like he wasn't drinking for two.
Brennan had been finishing off the remains of Angela's drink, who had known from the get go what Booth's not so cunning ploy was, when the first strains hit her ears. It was jarringly familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time, because she wasn't acquainted with rap music.
"I know this one," she muttered. She tapped Angela's arm insistently. "I know this one," she told her.
Angela rolled her eyes. "Who doesn't?"
Booth laughed a bit.
"What?" Brennan accused him.
"It's Parker's dance song."
"You know, the one where we helped him learn to –"
"Oh Booth let's dance!"
The table had gone deafeningly silent at those words. Brennan glanced around and flushed a bit, but not as brilliantly crimson as Booth had.
"Oh come on Booth," she begged. "I know this one."
"Yeah come on Agent Booth," added Sweets.
"Go Booth!" cheered Angela.
"Go get 'em Seeley."
"I will murder you all," Booth swore, "if you think I am leaving this chair."
"I'll dance by myself then," Brennan huffed, and got up, tapping the metronomic rhythm on her pant leg and bobbing her head, trying to find the beat.
"Oh good Lord," Booth rolled his eyes. "It's five, six, seven, eight." And on that he jumped up too.
"Forward, cross, back, kick, bump, bump, samba!" coached Booth into her ear. She grinned delightedly and leaned into them when they got to grind, their tension tenfold more sexual now that they could actually act upon the emotions. She could hear him groan beneath her.
"Ow, ow," cat called Angela, unaware of their predicament. "You get him Brennan."
Brennan turned her face to apologize to Booth and found her mouth inches from his. They kept dancing for those split few seconds in stasis, almost touching before pulling away, the agony of knowing how much better it was to crash together than to fall apart.
When the song was over, the entire bar burst into applause, and they got drinks on the house. Booth's eyes were dilated with lust as he slumped beneath his corner of the table, his nose almost level with it.
"Do you feel better?" Brennan asked him sweetly as she passed by his ear, pretending to have dropped her straw.
Booth shot her a murderous glare but heaved a sigh.
"Yes. Beer works."
"Dancing too," she reminded him reproachfully.
"You know what else would work?" he growled, but Brennan leaned away.
"Stop it," she muttered. "There are too many people here, and like you said, Angela might actually be psychic."
"Okay, then let's talk about something else. Something boring."
His face darkened with frustration. He patted his pocket for the poker chip but she shrugged, gesturing to the speakers overhead. "Can they hear us over that? I don't know why we didn't just come here before."
Booth rolled his head on his neck, lolling like a bendable cherry stem.
"Okay," he muttered finally. "But keep it low."
They talked for half an hour and by that time some of the lab had weaned out. Hodgins and Angela both left to take care of Michael. Wendell went home to work on his graduate schoolwork. It was only Cam, Arastoo and Sweets now, the three of whom weren't paying the least bit of attention to the partners.
"What I can't figure out…" Brennan mused at last, "…is how the killers followed Cam in the first place."
Cam's head swiveled, ears pricked, at the sound of her name. She leaned in to join their conversation, leaving the boys debating Star Wars.
"When?" she asked, playing catch up.
"In Kentucky," Brennan clarified. "That's where this has to have all started."
"You think it started with me?" Cam asked in some surprise.
"What if…" Booth was slightly drunk by now, and neither of his friends was fooled by his 'masking it well.' "…what if the cave in…wasn't…a cave in?"
"What would it be?" scoffed Brennan dismissively.
"No, hang on, Booth could be onto something," Cam cautioned, eyes wide.
Brennan leaned over the bar a moment. "Sorry, could I have the remote? Thanks." She pushed the up volume on the football game. Cam was distracted.
"You like football?"
"Long story," sighed Booth.
"We're being bugged," summed Brennan succinctly.
"Or not that long," shrugged Booth.
"Oh my God," Cam gasped. "Have you gone to the police?"
"No," Booth looked insulted. "This is our only advantage."
Cam rolled her eyes. "You would say that. Go back to the part where the cave in isn't a cave in."
"You think it was deliberate?" Brennan deduced, finally catching onto their shared assumption. "Well, if he followed you running…who was the last one to see you before you went?"
"I was," Booth frowned. "What are you saying?"
Brennan shrugged. "Nothing. I was wrong. The killer wasn't following on foot. Means it was premeditated. Cam was picked out ahead of time, probably because she was alone."
"Did you run everyday?" Booth asked worriedly.
Cam stared into her empty vodka soda wistfully before tipping the ice on her tongue just to buy time. "Yes."
"Camille!" Booth barked.
"Seeley," she sighed. "It's not like I was born into this body."
Booth's eyes flickered and both women groaned out loud with unappreciated noises.
"I'm sorry," he snapped, "but Cam, have you seen what you're wearing?"
Cam sniffed. "It's the same sort of thing I wear everyday."
Booth rolled his eyes. "Exactly."
"Could we get back to the part of the case where I had a murderer stalking me in Kentucky?"
"Well…" Brennan furrowed her eyes in concentration. "What did you differently that day?"
"I…" Cam frowned in concentration. "I went running…I saw a bandana that was relevant to the case…so I went in after it…"
"Easy to plant," huffed Booth, waving his hand. "So easy."
"And then what?" asked Cam skeptically, "It's all humpty dumpty?"
"For us too," Brennan was thinking aloud. "When we were all in there…the second cave in…it wasn't an accident. There were trained technicians supporting the tunnel. It shouldn't have just collapsed like that because four people 'walked' in. That should have been able to support EMTs and a stretcher and -"
"Say that again," interrupted Booth.
Cam zinged between them, watching worriedly.
"I said it should have supported more than just people walking in it."
"No the other part."
"Should have supported a stretcher being rolled through it. And EMTs walking in and out of it. Cam was injured Booth, don't you remember? Booth?"
Booth's face had gone all dreamy. "The EMTs," he said. "Someone who knew the site well…someone who knew us well…someone who would be first on the scene…first responder…who could orchestrate it all…but not a police officer…"
"It's an EMT," breathed Cam.
"And I think I know which one!" Brennan interjected excitedly.
"And that's why Anakin in episodes II and III displays patterns of instability and impulsivity that make him an obvious candidate for borderline personality disorder," Sweets finished impressively with a big grin on his face. Arastoo yanked his hand off his fist, turning back to their conversation as if hoping for a reason to live.
"So what are we talking about?"