What I Wish I Could've Said
Disclaimer: I own nothing... Obviously. Just playing in someone else's sandbox for a bit.
Summary: Hindsight is always 20/20. Everyone has a single moment that they wish they could have said something better than what they actually did. A completely random series of what-if vignettes.
Ch 14: That Time Brennan Had One More Drink
The night, despite all the happy things to celebrate, seemed to be ending on a sour note. Brennan wasn't happy. It wasn't a lack of sleep that fueled her negative outlook, although it would be perfectly logical to expect such a consequence of the arduous demands Heather Taffet's trial had placed on the entire team. No, she wasn't sleepy or tired, per se—but, she was fatigued. She was worn out, drained, and in general, not capable of putting up much of a fight anymore. She didn't know when it had happened—if there was a single point to which she could refer as the crucial bit of evidence in her transition from an unattached, extremely intelligent and rational woman who always knew that she could rely on herself to do what needed to be done to someone else. She had seem to become another woman entirely who wasn't any of those things anymore. She just simply—well, she wasn't.
I don't know when I became this weak person, Brennan thought morosely. Maybe there wasn't just a single event that I can identify as the point when I crossed some proverbial line of no return. Maybe things have been more inconspicuous, a part of a larger change over time, that's resulted from some subtle process that I was unaware was even changing me. But, whatever the circumstances under which my transformation has occurred, I know that I'm not the same person who I used to be. How did this happen? How—
Brennan's thoughts trailed off as she refocused on the worried look of her partner's face, who watched her very carefully with his warm brown eyes full of concern. When Booth continued to insist that it was an evening for joy and happiness—because of the news of the prosecution's victory over Taffet and the revelation about Hodgins' marriage to Angela—Brennan still remained hesitant to concede his point. For a few seconds, as Brennan stared at him, and she remembered the day that Taffet had almost taken him from her. She thought—and not for the first, fifth, or even hundredth time—how horribly things could've gone if she'd only been a few minutes later that day that Taffet had kidnapped Booth, entombed him in the decommissioned naval vessel, and left him never to be found again.
"You almost died, Booth," Brennan said, some of the passionate pain she kept tightly coiled inside her creeping into her voice despite her best effort to hide it. Biting her lip, Brennan insisted, "That can happen again."
Booth stared at Brennan for a moment, but he remained quiet. He knew that Brennan was hiding something, but he didn't want to push too hard if she'd willing tell him herself.
A beat of time passed, and then, as Brennan spoke, there it finally was.
"What if, next time, I can't get to you?"
It's not your fault, Booth wanted to tell her. Now that the blinders had been removed, he could see the fear and guilt eating at Brennan, despite her best efforts to hide it. You aren't responsible for what she did to me, Bones. Why… why are you trying to take the blame? It's wasn't your fault, not at all—
Instead, all Booth could really tell Brennan was a firm reassurance that her fears were unfounded. "It's not going to happen again," he told her confidently.
Looking at Booth, Brennan felt the familiar knot of fear tighten in her stomach. I almost lost you that day. Taffet never would've taken you if it hadn't of been for your connection to me, Booth. That time—*that* time I got lucky. What happens the *next* time something happens? What happens the next time something bad happens to you because of me? And, more importantly, what happens when that something bad happens, and because I'm different—perhaps changed even more then than I am now, because I have no way to know if the process that's changed me has or will stop at any point in the near future—what happens then? You'll get hurt or die or leave me, and then what will happen, Booth? How will I be able to deal with things when I'm this weak and useless individual who's all by herself again? I can't do that—I can't take the chance. I can't take that rick for both our sake's—both for your and for mine—
"I envy your ability to substitute optimism for reality," Brennan finally managed to say to Booth in response to his earlier optimistic comments.
Knowing that he was quickly losing a critical battle with Brennan, Booth suddenly switched tactics. Instead of a blatant approach, one that tried to show her that she was wrong because she wasn't thinking about the whole thing from the right way, Booth hoped a more subtle suggestion might work to enable Brennan to come to the same conclusion herself.
"You know what? Maybe you just need to take some time off," Booth said with a jovial nod. "Go to a beach. Lay in the sun—" he continued happily to embroider the picturesque tale. He hope mental images of the warm sun and clear blue waters and ocean breeze might tempt her and perhaps spark some that might appeal to the exhaustion he sensed in Brennan. Come on, Bones. Say 'yes', and I'll have us on the first plane to whatever Caribbean island you want. Name it. You, me, your bikini, my swim trunks, some sun screen, and a bottle of tequila to make all the bad things go away for a while. What'd ya say? Just give me something—please, Bones. Work with me here. Just give me something to work with, Booth mentally pleaded. However, when he saw the look on her face, he knew his idea was falling on deaf ears. She's making a decision about something, Booth suddenly realized. She's making a choice about something, right now. And, she's making the choice because she's scared. She's making up her mind to do what she always does when she gets scared, and—oh, God. She's going to run again, isn't she?
Booth felt his heart fall into his stomach as Brennan's next words seemed to ominously confirm his fears.
"I might need more than a little time," Brennan told him slowly, in a measured tone that belied the seriousness of what her words insinuated.
Shaking his head, Booth went on the defensive, trying to implement his standard protocol for damage control where Brennan was concerned. "Don't... don't make any decisions about your future right now," he advised her, his voice stumbling over the first few words as he said only what he could say, but not everything he needed to tell her.
"I'm just saying—" Brennan began, about to defend the choice she realized she had just made in that moment, as she knew that the only way she could really let Booth go and not self-destruct in the process was to try to rediscover the woman she'd once been—the woman she'd been before she'd ever met him and nicknamed her 'Bones'.
Her tone making Booth even more resolute in his efforts to proactively counter Brennan's impending flight, Booth interrupted her, as he said with firm wave of his hands, "You know when a dentist gives you anesthetic and tells you not to operate any heavy machinery or make any important decisions within 24 hours?"
Brennan stared at him for a minute, and then she slowly nodded.
Booth, feeling a small shred of hope at her tacit agreement, continued. "Alright, this case was bigger than a root canal—" Then, in a flash of inspired brilliance, Booth knew the best way to counteract Brennan was to turn off her brain. And, the best way to turn off Bones' brain is... alcohol, Booth thought, his brain jumping back to another time and place five years distant when he had used alcohol as a crutch that night to help him in getting her to do something that he didn't really want to do in firing her."Come on, let's just go back inside and have one more drink."
Staring at him, quite tempted, Brennan seemed to be at war with herself. If I go back inside with him, he'll find out what choice I've made and then try to change my mind, Brennan told herself. So, I should just go home. Right now, the logical course of action—the safe thing to do— is to say goodnight, hail a cab, and go home—away from him...away from Booth. Because, if I stay, I don't know what might happen tonight... what Booth might be able to get me to do if he really tries—
"Come on," Booth tempted her again, shooting her a smile that he knew usually melted her resolve. "Just one." He reached out, unable to help himself as he grabbed her hand and lightly pulled her back towards the bar.
Brennan felt a small static charge shock her at Booth's touch, and she stopped, caught off guard by the sensation. "You just shocked me," Brennan said in disbelief.
"Whatever I have to do, Bones," Booth said, not letting her hand go, although there was clearly an amused tone lurking just at the edge of his voice. "Come on, now. One more drink, huh?"
"I really shouldn't," Brennan began to protest again. "I—"
Tightening his hold on her hand, Booth squeezed it and said, "Please?" Holding her hand tightly in his grasp, his dark brown eyes beseeching her, Booth asked, "Please? Don't go. Not yet. Everyone else is gone, so, please. Don't leave me—don't leave me all by myself, huh?"
Those specific words hit a particularly vulnerable spot in Brennan's emotional armor. 'Don't leave me,' he asked. That's not fair, Booth. So not fair— Brennan thought to herself.
"Please, Bones?" he asked again, softening his tone once more, and staring at her expectantly, still not having released her hand.
Brennan, feeling her heart skip a beat, knew in that moment, that her resolve had crumbled. She had lost, and he had won.
"Okay," Brennan said after indulging herself by letting her look into his eyes for a few more seconds. Then, with a light nod, she added, "Okay, I'll stay."
Booth grinned at her again, this time pulling her once more towards the bar's entrance, and Brennan allowed herself to be pulled toward him.
"But, just one drink, Booth," Brennan said, setting the terms of her conditional surrender. "Just one," she repeated, even though both of them knew that she didn't mean it.
"Sure," Booth said, giving her a knowing look. "Just as long as you know that since I'm buying, it's my call what we're drinking, Bones."
A mock frown coming over her face, Brennan cringed as she immediately knew what those words meant. With Booth, those words only meant one thing as she said, "Oh, no, not—"
"Tequila," Booth said with a happy nod at her. "Definitely, tequila, Bones."