Author's Note: It's Tadpole24's birthday and by now you know that a birthday in the hamlet means stories galore! Happy, Happy Birthday, Lovely Em! I hope it's a wonderful day full of love and celebration and, of course, great fic.
Thanks for this piece go to my fab beta, jenlovesbones and the talented nelliesbones for her corrections and thoughts as well. In addition, there were many others who gave me their support and I thank you all!
This piece is a little different. I hope everyone likes it, but most importantly, Em, I hope you like it. You asked for Season 5, angsty fluff. Then we had a little discussion about a different Bones moment, and this is what became of that. Enjoy!
She loves him.
Not in that way that outsiders might think, given their past physical relationship.
No, she loves him in that best friend kind of way. In that way where she knows him as well, sometimes better, than he knows himself. In that way that her heart feels everything his heart does. She cries for him when he is sad. Her heart feels joy when he is happy. Besides happiness for herself, she wants happiness for Booth.
That kind of love.
And it is that kind of love that leads her to understand what he is about to say before he even says it. It is that kind of love that saves him from having to say it out loud.
"You're in love with Dr. Brennan."
He doesn't really confirm yes or no, but rather asks her if he is good enough. Is he still who he used to be?
He is and she tells him. But she also tells him something else.
"Be sure about your feelings. Because if you crack that shell and change your mind…she'll die of loneliness before she ever trusts anyone again."
She doesn't say this to discourage him. On the contrary. She's been watching this dance they've been doing for years and the romantic in her does think her friend, the handsome FBI agent, and his genius partner are meant to be together.
She says it because she also has a real affection for the anthropologist he loves. She admires her, respects her and genuinely likes her, overly literal mind and all.
But she also identifies with her. She knows about guarded feelings and letting other people in. She's been hurt, too. Maybe not in the same way, but she knows how it feels to be scared of loving someone…what it's like to be afraid of being loved. She is acutely aware of what it feels like when love is revoked and she does not wish it on anyone, but least of all on Brennan, who has been abandoned and betrayed in the very worst of ways and is only just beginning to find her way out of years of guarded feelings.
She only wants this to work out for them and she knows that they both have to be in the right place, the right mindset, the right heart set, if there is such a thing, for it to spark up and catch fire.
She knows him saying anything will be a risk. Because despite the general bantering and long looks and friendly touching she is not entirely certain just how Brennan feels about Booth. She sees the fear and dedication when he is in a coma and she suspects at the root of it is a feeling the anthropologist herself is still trying to catalogue.
But she doesn't know for sure if Brennan feels as Booth does.
No, that certainty comes later. It is delivered by Mr. White and his henchmen, who lock down the lab and bring them a body.
They are instructed to find only cause of death, but she has never been one to follow the rules, despite the fact that she would prefer it if more people (Hodgins) followed her rules. And so she and her people (and yes, they are her people, even though she is aware they are first and foremost Brennan's people) work to ID the body.
They work hard, all of them, to find the truth, but it is Brennan who conducts the final experiment. It is Brennan who says the bones do not belong to President Kennedy.
But she knows that Brennan has formed a conclusion based on incomplete data. In essence, she has lied.
It's not even a necessary lie, really, unless the necessity is to protect Booth.
She confronts the anthropologist, because she wants to know if this was a purposeful misidentification or an honest (and rare) mistake.
The conversation is only a moment long, a stolen chance in front of the diner. And her suspicions are confirmed. It could be the former president and Brennan knows this. But there is a look that passes across the usually rigid scientist's face that tells her what she really wants to know and relief floods her on his behalf.
"You are a good person. I will never forget what you did for him."
Brennan is an unyielding scientist. She does not play with the facts. She doesn't make guesses. She wants all the evidence before she makes a conclusion.
Except this time. This time Brennan guesses. For Booth. Because Brennan loves him in all the same ways Cam does (plus a little) and in all the ways she doesn't, too.
They keep dancing, though there does seem to be an up-tick in the touching and the looks. She wonders if he was brave and shared his feelings. She wonders if the feelings were returned and it's just not her place to know quite yet.
But then there is a change. A shift, and it's not for the better. She sees a pain in him she hasn't seen in a long time, maybe ever, and she can feel a little ache in her own heart that she has no doubt is only the smallest fraction of what he feels. There is a change in her colleague too, though it's not as easy to pinpoint.
What she can pinpoint is behavior. She watches as her friend can't hold that eye contact with his love like he used to and she sees that Brennan doesn't try to meet his gaze as much either. She hears less banter and when they do bicker, it's not easy or light anymore. She notices that his swagger is gone, as is his cocky belt buckle. She notices that the air that used to change in the room when they were together, the air that used to charge with electricity, now changes in a different, more negative way.
But the worst, to her, is the touching. She notices that all too often he goes to place his hand on his partner's back and at the last moment rescinds the action, like he's been burned.
And she thinks maybe he has been.
She takes him out for drinks a few times. The fact that he is readily available to her for drinks is a change as well. It is clear he doesn't wish to talk about it because they talk about anything but the esteemed scientist and if she brings up Dr. Brennan, he quickly finds something else to talk about.
She doesn't just suspect that something has gone horribly wrong for them, she knows it, even without the facts, because he is less quick to joke and his real smiles are few and far between. She wonders what happened, but doesn't ask because he won't tell her, anyway. He never does. He almost always tries to bear his own pain. He doesn't like to share. Sometimes that makes it hard to be his friend, but mostly she understands. Sometimes telling someone else what happened makes it that much more real. It's easier to fake the status quo if you don't have to hear yourself say the words out loud.
She is only halfway surprised when he tells her he is going to Afghanistan. He's not a runner, but he says that Brennan is leaving too and Cam suspects the two things are intertwined. He's been a bit lost and she thinks that perhaps this could be good for him. Bad for her, but good for him. He needs….something. She's not sure what, but she can only hope for him that this is it.
She feels a bit melancholy, not just because her friend (and her anthropologist) are obviously sad, but because things seem to be tilting around her in a way that is beyond her control and she has never been a fan of not being in charge. She says goodbye to Booth and finds herself at the airport saying goodbye to Brennan as well.
"I really enjoyed working for you, Dr. Brennan."
"In fact, Dr. Saroyan, I worked for you."
"We both know better."
It's hard, as Booth's friend, to listen to Brennan tell Hodgins, unbidden, that she loves him, too, and there is a part of her that wants to scream "Why can't you say that to Booth?" She really does understand, though, that it's a different kind of love, much like the kind of love she herself feels for Booth. One that is important, but not everything and that distinction is key.
She hears Daisy Wick say it's time to go, but at the same time she sees Brennan's focus change. And even though the airport is big, that shift, not the negative one, but the good one, is in the air again. She notices Brennan can sense Booth's presence before she looks. Cam herself has to look with her eyes, but Brennan knows before she sees him that Booth is there. He's there and Brennan seems to gravitate more than walk towards him.
"Oh my God."
She can't hear them. Not at all, they are too far from the group, but what they also are is very, very close to each other. She is certain that this is it. All these years it's been percolating. All this time they've been heading towards one singular instant where finally, they will figure out that they are two halves of a whole.
She is certain this is that moment.
Until it isn't.
She watches as they talk and hold on tightly to one another, but not in the way she thought they would. She waits for what she thinks is inevitable: smiles and embraces and kisses and probably even tears.
And then she watches as it all falls apart. She watches as he breaks away first. It's not a mutual letting go. Brennan is still holding on when he pulls his hand out of hers and begins to walk away. She want to scream at him from where she stands to wait because she thinks that maybe this time it is Brennan who wants to hold on and if he waits just another second maybe Brennan will say so.
But he doesn't wait. He goes. And Brennan goes, as well.
She doesn't understand what's happening and she doesn't understand what has gotten them to this point where they can only say goodbye to togetherness and hello to being apart but it makes her feel sick inside. And watching them turn to look at one another one last time makes her feel grief stricken. Seeing them walk away from one another is one of the most painful thing she has ever witnessed and her heart feels tight in her chest.
She imagines it makes each of them feel a hundred times worse. Maybe more.
There is nothing she can do. She imagines a scenario where she chases Booth down and tells him not to give up. She thinks maybe she can reach Brennan before she goes through security and ask her to please, please undo all this, somehow.
But she doesn't do either of these things, because it wouldn't matter. This is not their moment and all she can do is hope they get another chance. All she can do is wait, like she has all these years and hope like she has all this time, that somehow, these two people will find their way back to one another.
All she can do is hope their moment hasn't been missed.
This was was only bearable for me because we know how it turns out! Thank goodness!