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 43: That Time Brennan Wasn't Happy to Be Home
It wasn't a happy time.
In retrospect, Brennan figured that she should've been happy. After all she was finally home. Even more importantly, in the immediate short-term, Sweets and Daisy Wick had left her alone with Booth. It was what she'd wanted for months―even longer if she was honest with herself―and now she finally had it. She was alone with Booth. It was everything she'd thought she'd wanted...except now, it wasn't.
It is what I've said? Brennan thought as she chewed her lip and watched Sweets and Daisy shuffle out of what had once been―and would so be again―the Medico-Legal Lab at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington D.C. I can't deny that or else I'd be lying. I wanted Booth. I wanted to be alone with him. I wanted to be alone with Booth...for the purpose of telling him. I thought I was finally ready. I just needed to have the opportunity to do it right, and I needed to tell him in person. I needed to tell him that I'm still not sure what love is, but I think…maybe, possibly, that if I've ever been in love, then these emotions that I feel for him…no, because of him are love. I'm in love with Booth, and I wanted to be alone to tell him. I promised myself. As soon as I landed in D.C. I was going to find him and tell him so that we could be together. I'm finally ready now...except it doesn't matter. I can't be ready. Or, to be more precise, I can be ready all I want, but my current state of preparedness is irrelevant. It doesn't matter because there's nothing for me to be ready for…because he did what he said he was going to do. He moved on, and I wanted him to do that. I just thought he'd move on with me…only he didn't. He moved on with someone else and now I'm stuck next to him, and for the first time in my entire life, I don't know what to say to him.
So, as she stood nervously next to her partner, the pair of them dressed in casual clothes and staring at the Jeffersonian exhibit―"Giants of the Ice Age" ―she did what she swore she never would be shallow enough to do: she relief on casual chit chat to get her through what she knew to be one of the most awkward silences they duo had ever shared as it rose between them like a pile of unleavened bread dough.
"Did you see how happy Hodgins was…to be back at work?" Brennan said quietly, struggling to find a neutral topic that would allow the pair to talk about appropriate work-related topics that seemed to be at a premium to find to discuss not that the Logan Bartlett case was firmly behind them.
Pursing her chapped lips together, she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She felt very out of place in this space that had once been such a refuge to her. For some reason, she doubted it was because of giant stuffed mastodon she was staring at or the fact that she was in the lab in a casual top and pair of jeans that was covered by a bulky trench coat. The fact that Booth stood next to her in a similarly casually dressed way. Brennan stuffed both of her hands into the pockets of her trench coat and focused on the mastodon as she told herself she couldn't smell a faint, but extremely familiar scent waft to her nose.
I'm not smelling him, she calmly told herself. The faint lemon scent that I believe my olfactory sense is processing is not Booth's aftershave. I believe it is just the remnants of the floor cleaning products used by the cleaning staff to wash and polish the floors. I'm imagining things. Because I know that Booth would definitely not be wearing the same scent of cologne that I bought for him last Christmas if he'd moved on with someone else…especially if the woman that he's purportedly fallen in love with after less than six months away from me is a trite woman with a trite job and a given name that rhymes with banana.
A flash of anger at the thought of the triteness of the entire situation caused her to clench her fists into balls within the pockets of her trenchcoat. Unable to help herself, she let her eyes surreptitiously move so that she could glance at her partner using her peripheral vision. She immediately chided herself when she felt a flush of warmth go through her as she took in the smooth skin of his freshly shaved jaw, the immaculately pressed line of the casual black sports coat he wore, and the way the crisp fabric of his dark blue jeans molded to his body. Chewing on the inside of her lip, she realized that the heaviness that had hung around Booth in the months before they had left for their respective destinations the previous spring was no longer there.
He's happy, Brennan thought miserably. He's happy…and it's because he's no longer depressed because of me. So, whatever happened to him with whomever when he was over there…the cumulative effect was positive. That means I need to keep my mouth shut. There's no reason dragging up what he's obviously consigned to the past now.
"I'm definitely doing the right thing," Brennan muttered under her breath, more to reassure herself than because she believed in the truth of that statement.
Unfortunately for her, Brennan had said the comment loud enough so that Booth could hear it. Turning to her, he gave her a lopsided smile as he replied, "Okay. I think there's a little more going on there, Bones―" He paused for a beat as he took a step towards the mastodon that took up the majority of the space that had once served as the lab's main work platform. "Wow!" he said, a touch of childlike excitement coming into his voice as he stepped towards it, his head craning to see the whole of the large prehistoric animal. "Okay," he repeated when he realized how big the animal was. Turning back to Brennan, he had a casual smile on his face as he nodded at her and added, "That thing is really big!"
It was in that moment, as she saw him smile at her, that suddenly Brennan's heart fell once again into the put of her stomach. She felt a sour taste in her mouth as she gulped for air, struggling to form a proper response.
I've lost him, Brennan thought miserably. I waited too long, and now I've lost him…and God damn it!
The conflicting emotions continued to bubble up in her. Realizing that if she said the wrong thing, she would say too much, Brennan struggled to form an appropriate reply to Booth as he stared at her expectantly.
"It's a lot to work around," she finally muttered lamely.
Taking a step towards her, Booth's grin widened a bit, as he nodded in response, "Uhhh, we've worked around bigger." Brennan shot him a look of annoyance. Quickly, Booth quirked a cooked grin at her as he attempted to pacify what he thought was a vocabulary flub on his part as he added, "Metaphorically speaking."
Finding it difficult to breathe, Brennan could only echo in a faint voice, "Metaphorically."
Taking a step towards her, apparently pleased with himself that he had said the right thing, Booth grinned once more at her as he said, "Welcome home, Bones."
Forcing herself to take a deep, if labored, breath, Brennan used every ounce of strength she had to respond in kind. "Thank you," she said softly. She then nodded at him and added, "Welcome home, Booth."
Once again, Booth grinned at her. His easy grin seemed out of place given the heavy tension Brennan felt between them.
How can he be smiling at me like that? How can he do act like nothing's changed? That nothing's wrong? a panicked voice raged in her head. Because it's not. Everything's changed. Nothing's right. Everything's wrong.
"Thanks, Bones," he nodded at her pleasantly. "I mean, I know there's a lot of work to do, but I'm glad to be back. I really am."
Her head suddenly snapping up, Brennan let out an anguished cough. "I'm not," she suddenly breathed, her brow furrowed as she labored for breath. "I'm not. I-I…I can't do this."
She paused for a minute, then spun sharply on her heels, and her furrowed brow gave away her anguished state causing Booth to wince as he suddenly realized that something was, in fact, way off with his partner…and it had little to do with jet lag or a loss of her workspace in the lab.
"Bones?" Booth asked, not sure what to say, but suddenly feeling terrible if his partner was in as much pain as her facial expression seemed to indicate she was feeling. "What's wrong?"
Smacking her lips together, Brennan shook her head. "You. Me. Us. Everything…everything's wrong, Booth. Everything's wrong…and I'm not happy to be home if home is a place where you've moved on now that I'm finally ready for you…ready to be with you. Everything's wrong if you say you spent years loving me, and now you've fallen out of love with me after just a few months away from me, and you've replaced me with someone who's given name rhymes with musa acuminate. I just…I-I can't deal with this. If this is how things are going to be now…you and me together, but not together, well, I just can't do it, Booth. I can't do what you did for years. I'm not that strong, and I'm not that much of a masochist. I can't…I-I just can't do it."
Brennan watched him for a minute, her words washing over him like a rain shower of bewildered confusion. At last, after several quiet moments had passed, Booth looked up at his partner. His brown eyes were watery for some reason that Brennan couldn't bear to hope to comprehend. His voice had changed into a deeper and more gravelly tone as he finally said, "What are you trying to tell me here, Bones?"
Shaking her head once, Brennan said, "I always wanted you to be happy. I've never wanted anything more or less than that. So, if being with this war correspondent…if being with this Hannah-person that you met and now you claim you have feelings for…if she really makes you happy, then I'm glad for you. It hurts me to say that, but it's true because I don't want you to be sad and hurt anymore." She stopped for a minute, unable to hold his bewildered gaze as she looked down at her feet, suddenly knowing what she needed to do. But, feeling that she owed him some type of explanation before she did it, she added in a voice so soft that she knew it would be hard for Booth to hear her. "I do want you to be happy, Booth. I do...but, if it's true…I-I…I can't stay around to watch it anymore, Booth. I know that's shallow and selfish, but I just can't do it."
And, with one final dejectedly sad shake of her head at him, she quickly turned away and hurriedly walked out the sliding glass doors of the lab, the clicking of her boots on the stone floor echoing in her wake being the only sound that was made as she walked away.