I'm sure everyone's finale-ed out at this point, but this is me, jumping on the fic bandwagon because I can't help it. Season 7 as a whole is never going to be my favourite, but 7x13 has secured itself a place in my personal top five for so many reasons. I love our show.
Once But Never Again
Oh the foes will rise with the sleep still in their eyes
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal and they'll know that it's for real
The hour that the ship comes in.
And they'll raise their hands sayin' we'll meet all your demands
But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharaoh's tribe they'll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they'll be conquered.
When the Ship Comes In, Bob Dylan
Christine cries for three hours straight. Brennan spends the first hour conducting a one sided conversation in which she pleads with her daughter to understand why she can't pull over and comfort her right now. She spends the second hour blindly hoping Christine will just stop, anyminuteanyminuteanyminute, and she spends the third hour crying silently off and on alongside her.
She pulls over to nurse somewhere in the fourth hour. Climbs into the backseat, releases Christine from the binds of her chair, cradles her close, strokes the baby's downy soft hair as she feeds hungrily while opening and closing a tiny hand against her mother's breast.
"This is very difficult for me as well," Brennan whispers. "I'm still not sure I'm doing the right thing."
Christine doesn't give her an answer – can't give her an answer – and Brennan pushes back the longing for Booth's easy presence and conversation that has already become constant. She wants to turn back. She wants to apologise and explain and tell him she loves him one more time. Because already the guilt is dividing her. She knows how it feels to be on the other side of this. Though it isn't fair, Booth will forgive her faster than she had been able to forgive her father. The knowledge of this twists the knife in her stomach.
Her daughter is usually quick to revert to her happy self after she's fed, but Christine will not quite settle as Brennan burps her, changes her, checks her temperature for good measure, and finally settles her in her lap so that they are face to face. They have a staring contest of sorts; red rimmed blue eyes facing off against red rimmed blue eyes. She had spoken with the bias of a mother – not an anthropologist – when she told Booth that Christine has his eyes; the colour is hers, the shape is hers, but the animation behind them is Booth and that is what she sees when she watches her daughter.
But not tonight.
She finds her resolve and gives her daughter the firm look she'd really love to give to herself. "We cannot continue behaving this way," she says. Christine has this way of staring at her as if she can understand her every word (though unlike Booth, Brennan can accept that this simply isn't the case). She clears her throat before continuing. "We have many hours of travelling left to do; no more crying. From either one of us."
When Brennan begins to drive again, jaw steeled resolutely against circumstances which she cannot change, Christine resigns herself to the occasional sniffle.
It hurts Brennan's heart just as much as the crying.
It takes Booth a long time to go home, and when he does, he begins turning the house upside down for any clue as to the final destination (hell, the general direction) of his family. He doesn't expect to find anything – Max is better than that and Brennan is better than that – but he needs to be busy and it's only a matter of time before the FBI realises she's gone and comes to do the same thing. If he can't find anything, then he can be certain the FBI won't either. And in the event he does find something, he can jump in the car and give in to that pressing desire to track them down and join them.
It's the first (admittedly, bleak) win-win scenario he's faced in what feels like forever.
He takes apart jewellery boxes, rifles through drawers and storage containers, and he's equal parts relieved and disappointed when he finds nothing.
He cleans, even though he knows the place will be destroyed all over again when Flynn and his clowns show up. It's just too difficult looking at the baby things haphazardly spread about the ground floor and her medical journal lying open on the counter as if the two of them will be home before dinner.
Angela calls him (because Brennan isn't answering her phone; weird) and brings him up to speed on her findings. Booth opens up Brennan's laptop to review the notes and photographs that remain on it; he hasn't bothered trying to erase them. He wouldn't know how to do so permanently and besides, given the shitstorm already in motion, hoarding a few confidential case files really couldn't make much of a difference. He's having a very hard time caring one way or another.
He needs to be busy.
When the photos and words begin to blur, Booth stands up and paces. Then he sits down. Then he paces again. His mind moves away from the case and makes the leap back to Brennan and Christine, and he needs to see them one more time. Not in pictures but in genuine, three dimensional form. He needs to see the rise and fall of Christine's chest beneath her onesie and the gentle movement of Brennan's hand as she sets the mobile in motion. He's grateful for the cameras in Christine's bedroom; neither of them had these specific events in mind when they made the installation decision, but he's grateful nonetheless. Sometimes the jaded paranoia that comes with doing what they do for a living pays off.
It's while he's scanning the footage recorded just before he and Brennan had left for the church that he catches sight of Pelant and leaps off the couch. To go from watching himself and his partner dress their daughter together to watching a serial killer, that serial killer, defiling his child's room with his mere presence, has Booth's heart hammering against his ribs in seconds.
He forces himself to sit down. Presses play. Rewinds. Presses play again. For fifteen minutes he watches the thirty seconds of video on an obsessive loop and then he looks up at the living room he sits in with new eyes.
What else has he missed since walking through the front door? What else has Pelant touched?
Booth imagines him sitting on this couch. Rifling through their closets. Eating off their fucking dishes just because he can.
Before he can stop himself he slams the lid closed on her computer and sweeps it – forcefully – off the coffee table.
It settles halfway across the room in more than one piece.
Afterward, it's not the display of temper that upsets him so much as the damage to something he knows she values.
He goes out and buys her a new computer; one that's identical in make and model to the one he's just destroyed. And when he shows up on Angela and Hodgins' doorstep with the new laptop in one hand and the broken one in the other, Angela moves all the data from old to new as requested without asking him a single question.
Weeks go by and nothing changes.
Pelant is in the wind but Brennan is as well, and it creates a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum because the FBI can't quite figure out if this is because he's guilty or because she's already killed him.
Booth goes back to work. He gets his gun and his badge and he sits at his desk irritated out of his fucking skull every day, because while he'd love to tell the FBI where to go and walk away from it all, they watch him less while he's working than when he's not, and the small part of him that still believes in the system believes that the time they save monitoring him will be spent searching for Pelant.
(They're searching for Brennan as well, but he's become very adept at not focusing on this part)
Someone knocks on his door and Booth waits longer than is polite to give them the okay to enter (he doesn't leave it open anymore. He can't be bothered to pretend things are the same). It's a colleague he knows, a colleague he likes, to be honest, but his sullen attitude is the only act of defiance he has left and he refuses to be the one to speak first.
"Hey, Booth. My team's a man down for the Brightwood raid; can you cover?"
It's not Booth's department, but he's skilled enough at a great number of things to do a little bit of everything across the board. In the past, he would have stepped in without a second thought. Today he gives a frank you've got to be kidding look and opts to keep silent.
Agent Davis rolls his eyes. "Come on. I get it; it sucks to be you right now. But it's not my fault and I need you."
And he gets shot.
He's wearing a vest but it still hurts like a bitch.
When he goes home this time it's with the support of his superiors and coworkers and even a (somewhat begrudging) pat on the back from Flynn, because it apparently takes bullets to win back the loyalty of his division.
This turn of events gets filed away with all the other issues inhabiting Booth's lengthy list of Things He Has a Hard Time Caring About One Way or Another.
By the time Booth crawls into bed the muscles in his chest have begun to tighten uncomfortably and light bruising is setting in. He lies awake in the dark, running through his nightly routine of thinking about his partner and child and whether they're safe, whether they're comfortable, whether Max is driving them crazy. Eventually he dozes off, but it feels like only moments later the bedroom doorknob begins to turn and Booth is up in a flash, gun drawn, ready to shoot Pelant right in his fucking face.
But it's not Pelant.
"Don't- I'm sorry."
Brennan's voice shakes and he sees her hands immediately freeze in mid-air. It's a repeat of a scene from their old life, and Booth finds himself playing his part without conscious thought.
"No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
The gun clatters against the nightstand and they meet in the centre of the room, limbs locked tight and not a millimetre of space to be found between them. The left side of Booth's upper body protests heavily, but the discomfort barely registers.
It's a long time before either of them speaks. They've thought about this reunion often but the truth is they're too emotionally stunned to act in any of the ways they envisioned.
Booth switches gears first (he's conflicted and it's unfair but this is still his area of expertise); he's careful not to release her but he pushes her to arms length and makes sure the heavy curtains are drawn. Listens for activity on the street below.
"What are you doing here?" he questions. The words come out harsher than he intends, but his heart is racing and he can't control his tone. "It isn't safe."
"I had to... I saw you on the news. I needed to be sure..."
"They said agents were injured. They didn't say which ones. I needed to be sure."
He hugs her again and tries to memorise the way she fits against his chest, the way her hair feels under his fingers. Because they both know she'll have to go soon.
Against the part of him that knows better, Booth lets her go just long enough to turn on the lights. Brennan's arms cross defensively over her body as she bears his unfiltered scrutiny; nothing escapes him. Not the weight loss, not the heavy makeup... certainly not the change in hair colour.
He resents it. So much of her physical beauty lies in the contrasts... bright eyes and pale skin matched against dark hair. She looks pretty, always, but the utter ordinariness of her appearance cuts into him. There is nothing ordinary about his partner. He hates that she's been forced to become this person. To be less than she is.
"Max is angry with me for coming back. He's quite different now... I wonder if this is how he was with my mother."
"We're all different, Bones."
Awkward silence creeps in and then they're holding each other tightly again, because though there's too much for them to even begin to say and nothing seems appropriate, this is what they have now and they will work with it.
It's Brennan's turn to pull away and she removes a folded photo from her pocket. "Christine," she says softly as he unfolds it.
Booth's breath catches as he runs his thumb over the picture. She's been changing what feels like daily since the day she was born, so it shouldn't surprise him that her features seem more defined. Fuller. But it does. He feels like she's become an entirely different human being right under his nose and handing the photo back to Brennan is the hardest thing he's done since watching her drive away.
"She's so big," he murmurs in awe.
Brennan nods. "I printed it off in a drugstore. Max is angry about that as well, but I was very careful."
He wants to take the picture back. He could hide it well; no one would ever find it. But it's a risk and they're too deep in this thing they've done to start being sloppy now. So he watches her tuck it back into her pocket and he doesn't let himself think about it again.
"How's she doing?"
Brennan tries to smile and fails. "She's happy, most of the time. She misses you. She knows something isn't right... that I'm not right. Not in terms she can quantify but..." her brow furrows. "It's not fair. My parents were bank robbers and everything that happened, everything that went wrong, it could have been avoided if they had just been Christine and Matthew; accountant and high school science teacher. We've dedicated our lives to bettering our country. We've done everything our parents didn't. And she's going to hate us just the same. We've ruined her life. I've ruined her life. She's going to be damaged and untrusting and what if she doesn't find an Island of Misfit Toys, Booth? What then?"
They don't have time to talk about this now. He stares at her helplessly and Brennan takes a deep breath, composing herself. Ashamed of the outburst. "I'm sorry. That wasn't fair to you."
"No. No, it's..." he lets out a weak laugh and rubs a hand against his forehead. He thinks of her broken computer and hours at the shooting range and the fits of temper he's had in her absence and the way they're both falling apart. And he looks her in the eye and lies. "It's going to be okay."
She almost believes him. But she knows his tells and she sees he can't find a silver lining in all of this any better than she can. But aloud, she agrees. Because it's easier for him that way.
The silence is shattered by the shrieking alarm of the wireless clock sitting on the nightstand. It has turned on by itself and the monotonous beeping has been replaced with the sound of a crying baby, and Booth and Brennan both pale for a moment because they can easily recognise the cries of their daughter.
Brennan watches fury overtake Booth's features and grabs his arm as he moves for the clock. "She's safe, Booth. She's with my dad. It's a trick."
"He knows you're here."
"You don't know that."
"Bones, that's the first I've heard that in all the time you've been gone. It's not a coincidence. Son of a bitch."
His instinct is to smash it into little pieces, because it's Pelant and taking out the batteries just doesn't seem like it'll be good enough, but Brennan grabs his arm again.
When she reaches for it, however, it's Booth's turn to yank her back. "Don't touch it, Bones. Christ, for all we know it's going to blow up any second."
"He wouldn't do that," she argues with certainty. "He likes torture. He can't torture us if we're dead."
She blatantly ignores his protest and picks it up anyway, and a part of Booth is vaguely comforted by that normalcy.
"I'm taking it with me."
"Absolutely not," he counters matter-of-factly.
"You're looking for him, the Jeffersonian is looking for him, the FBI is looking for him... I'm the only one not contributing."
"You're keeping yourself and our child safe. That's contributing."
"Give me something to do," Brennan presses, "Let me help."
There's no one smarter than her. Not even Pelant. More devious, but not smarter. And as she turns the clock in her hands, brow already scrunched in concentration, he feels a little bit of perspective slip back into place.
"The tech stuff isn't really your thing, Bones."
"Everything is my thing," she replies with determination.
New direction causes old confidence to replace the uncertainty that's been coming off Brennan in waves since she walked through the door, and Booth responds to it.
They've always been very good at feeding off one another's energy. Today is one of the times it works in their favour.
Pelant has invaded their home for the last time. They're working outside the law and all the lines of right and wrong and justified ends and means are blurred, but they're the good guys. And the good guys win.
"Take it," Booth concedes. "But please, for my own peace of mind, at least take out the batteries."
In response, Brennan opens her right hand and exposes the large battery already resting in her palm. Booth wonders what other feats of speed and sleight of hand she's picked up from Max in the last three weeks.
They've more than run out of time. Though neither of them wants to think about this, Brennan does the hard thing.
"I need to go."
Booth has spent weeks wishing he could live their final minutes outside the church over. Wishing he could have said goodbye or paid more attention or reassured her that he's never doubted the reason that they're together. But now that she's here in front of him, he realises this parting will go much like the last. The only difference is, this time he knows it's coming.
He pulls her close and she grips him tightly. In the end, they don't say anything at all because choosing one statement out of the million they need to give voice is just too hard. Their foreheads touch and he closes his eyes as he feels her lips brush against his own, and he doesn't allow himself to open them again until he hears the bedroom door close behind her. Because there's still that difference between understanding why she must leave and being able to support anything that keeps them apart.
On the bed, she's left the slightly crinkled photo of Christine.
They're the good guys and the good guys win. They're the good guys and the good guys win.
He repeats this to himself as he commits the picture to memory and then reluctantly tucks it away between the pages of a heavy book on their shelf.
Pelant is still in the city. He's made a move, finally, and now it's their turn. They're the good guys and the good guys win.
Booth gets dressed and heads back to his office to prepare for the next round, and he tries not to think of the miles his partner is putting between them as he goes.