Disclaimer: I don't own jack. However, I am definitely interested in renting Booth. A five-hour minimum would apply, ten if he's wearing a U.S. Army dress uniform.
A/N: Props to my friend and coauthor Lesera128 for the prompt. This itty bitty little ditty takes place at the beginning of the Season 3 finale, "Pain in the Heart."
I stood there, the way I used to when I was in the Army, standing in formation, steely and hard and immovable. Rigid. A statue of flesh and bone.
It's what you do, when you're in formation like that, especially when you're pulling honor guard duty, the way I was—or, at least, the way I was pretending to at that moment—standing there with the other honor guard soldiers. I was standing at attention, my back ramrod-straight, my eyes fixed on a point along the horizon somewhere in the distance, a ceremonial M1 Garand rifle held against my right leg as I listened to Caroline eulogize me. It was everything I could do to keep my gaze seemingly straight while letting my awareness take in the man's movement as he approached from the left side.
"I knew Seeley Booth," Caroline said, the loping cadence of her voice reminding me of a woman preacher I once heard officiate a friend's wedding at a whitewashed, ramshackle little country church outside of Fort Benning. "He was a good man who earned my respect and affection. And I don't like many people." It was all I could do to hold my jaw firm when I heard that.
"Booth had a selfless commitment to his work, first in the military and then the FBI. Two weeks ago, he made the ultimate sacrifice—giving his life to save his partner. And in that brave act, he showed us what greatness we are all capable of."
I heard Angela's murmur swell to open weeping just a few feet in front of me, and my old friend Cam draw a deep breath, but from Bones—my partner, my best friend, the person I held as dear to me as anyone in the world—I heard nothing. She stood there, just a couple of feet away, her arms crossed and sort of bouncing impatiently on the balls of her feet, but she uttered not a peep. At least, up until that point. After a few moments, though, she broke the silence.
"That woman was aiming at me and I would have happily taken that bullet," she said, making no real effort to soften her voice despite the setting (Arlington National Cemetery) or the occasion (a funeral).
I saw Angela turn to her and say quietly, "I know."
Bones shifted her weight from one hip to the other as Caroline continued. I blinked, trying not to show a sliver of emotion as I watched my friends mourn my passing. I drew a curtain of cold imperviousness over my face as I summoned up the same expression I'd perfected as the son of a physically abusive alcoholic years before the Army taught it to me in Ranger anti-interrogation training. None of them, except for Bones, knew the truth, that I was alive. It was weird, but sort of heartening to know from Cam's sighs and Angela's quiet weeping that I would be missed.
"May God's mercy and love shine on Seeley Booth," Caroline said, her voice cracking as she paused for a fleeting moment to pull herself together, "as he takes his place beside the Lord."
Awww, I thought in the half-second before Bones again shattered the silence, declaring loudly, "If there were a merciful God, why wouldn't he have saved Booth?"
I blinked at that remark, swallowing a little at hearing my partner's little outburst, then focused my attention on the Sergeant Major in charge of the honor guard.
"Standby," he called out in a voice firm and practiced from decades of drilling and, more soberly I noted to myself, countless other military funerals. "At ease." My chest tightened as I heard Angela choke back a sob. "Aim," the old Sergeant Major barked out as I joined the other members of the Honor Guard in raising my rifle.
It happened very fast. The target moved in with his single white rose to place it on my coffin, and I made my own move. I lunged forward, pushing Zack and Sweets out of the way as I swung my fist and nailed the guy in the jaw before I tackled him to the ground, knocking over my own casket in the process.
"What the hell is going on?" I heard Angela say as I wrestled with the guy.
Good ol' Captain Obvious, Zack, said, "They appear to be fighting." If I wasn't busy trying to apprehend the suspect and keep him from knocking my front teeth out, I would have told him, No shit, Sherlock, but being otherwise engaged as I realized the guy was about to make a grab for the pistol he'd dropped behind him, the thought suddenly evaporated from my mind.
I didn't notice Bones had come up from behind on the other side and picked up an arm from the dummy body who'd been occupying my coffin until she whaled on him with that arm and knocked him out cold. She had just tossed the fake arm aside and was staring down at him as I picked myself up off the ground and dusted the bits of grass off my dress blues.
"Bones!" I said with a smile as she turned to look at me. "Nice shot."
And that was when I saw it. The passion. The anger in her eyes. Her nostrils were flared and her lips were curled back in a snarl as she shot me a look that would peel the paint off the walls. She was furious.
But it was more than that. She was angry, sure, but behind the anger, I saw something else. Something I'd seen only once before, the night she and I went into her apartment looking for Russ and found a massive pool of blood on her stained concrete floor. Those eyes of hers—those beautiful, shimmering gray-green eyes of hers—were welled up with tears that rimmed at her darkly-lined lids.
I had barely opened my mouth to say, "What?" when her arm reared back and she slugged me with a hard right to my left cheek.
As I fell to the ground, my head was spinning, not just from the punch, which was hard as I think I've ever been punched—I've got to admit, my partner has a hell of an arm and brutal right hook—but with the gut-tightening realization that her lack of emotion during Caroline's eulogy and the rest of the service wasn't because she knew I was dead, but because, as I later found out, she didn't.
She didn't know. She didn't fucking know. All that time—almost two weeks—and she didn't know I wasn't dead.
Afterwards, as I rode back to the lab with Cam, my hand on my bruised left cheek, I wanted to throw up. Partly because Bones had really rung my goddamn bell with that right hook of hers, but more so because it sickened me to think she actually thought I was dead. I told them to tell her. I told them to tell her I was still alive. Her, Rebecca, Jared and Pops. They were supposed to know I was alive, that I'd survived getting shot at the Checkerbox, and that I was okay. She was supposed to know. But she didn't. I couldn't even wrap my head around the idea.
She'd thought I was dead. I felt guilty, in a way. I told them to tell her, right? She was supposed to know. Did I fuck something up? I wondered. The paperwork or something? What the hell?
What the hell?
What the hell had she gone through? I asked myself. Why hadn't she been crying? Did she not care? No, that wasn't it. If she hadn't cared, she wouldn't have been so fucking pissed that she damn near knocked my head off my shoulders. I thought back to the look she gave me in the split-second before she hauled off and hit me: her chin high, her nostrils flaring as her breaths came hard and fast, her gorgeous square jaw tight and her slender, pink lips curled up as she glared back at me. But it was the eyes. It was always the eyes. And in that split second, those eyes flashed angry. But more so, there was a flicker back there—a fear, a sadness, a confusion, a hurt—that haunted me. It haunted me for a long, long time. Years.
That she felt all that fear, sadness, confusion and hurt for me, thinking I'd left her when I really hadn't, made me angry, so angry I wanted to rip somebody's balls off. So when I found out that it was Sweets who hadn't told her, I wanted to rip his balls off. Then again, I wanted to see her rip his balls off. And when she didn't, when she accepted his lame-ass explanation about it being a "national security issue" and how I was safer with her not knowing I was dead, I couldn't believe it.
In the end, she was still angry at me, and not at Sweets. I should have been the one to tell her, because we were partners.
I'm a Christian, and I believe in forgiveness. I can forgive a lot of things. But I'll tell you something. Although years have passed and Bones got past all that me-not-really-being-dead-and-her-not-knowing thing, and I tell her every night after we turn out the lights how much I love her, the honest truth is, I've never really forgiven Sweets for that. For hurting her. And I doubt I ever will.
The only thing I've ever wanted was to protect her, to keep her from getting hurt. And this was the one time I couldn't keep her from getting hurt.
And, while it pains me to say it, while I really do love the kid, there's a part of me, deep down inside, that will never really forgive him for hurting her, for not keeping her from hurting the way she did those two weeks.
And if that makes me a bad person, well…
A/N: So there you are. A little thing my muse burped out in response to a prompt from my pal Lesera128.
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