AN: I'm a day late but in my defence, this one's two episodes for the price of one and I'm working two jobs again. Angst, anyone?
Tag To: The Partners In The Divorce; The Doctor In The Photo
Disclaimer: I continue to not own Bones, nor do I own the lyrics of "Madness" by Muse.
"I, I can't get these memories out of my mind,
And some kind of madness has started to evolve..."
It started as a tiny lump, perhaps the size of a walnut. Barely discernible, yet he somehow sensed it jostling within him. Indigestion of a kind. It took up residence in the central region of his gut, occasionally tumbling around and jamming into his organs, just to remind him. I'm still here, it whispered ominously as he made love to her. I'm not going away.
Adjustment was necessary, but it was one born of joy, of relief. Reunion. But the lump, it swelled to the size of a plum, laughing at his foolish notions. It was a stone, harder than the failed pancakes she'd made that morning.
Things aren't okay.
And maybe they weren't, but how could they be? The system had turned on them for a hellish summer, tearing them apart for the third time since that fateful meeting. Only this time, the stakes had been higher than ever before. He'd tossed and turned each and every night, mourning the day when the scent of her had finally worn off the pillows. Worse, the bastard responsible was free again, a promise of pain and grief his farewell to them.
But we're together now.
Booth thought it would all snap back into place, that they would simply fit. In hindsight, he should have anticipated trouble. But it wasn't until the grating Carmichaels put the ethers of his fear into words that he understood the problem.
"People change," Gavin Carmichael said.
"And if you don't believe that, I feel sorry for you," added Melanie Carmichael.
The look of terror on his partner's face mirrored one he'd seen three years' prior on the steps of the Hoover and his heart stopped cold.
The lump continued to fester as the investigation wore on, metastasizing quickly as the brewing storm crashed over them.
"I was going to take Christine to the children's museum," Bones said calmly.
And there it was, just like that: he wasn't there. He wasn't even in her thoughts, it seemed. They'd been apart for months and already, she was making solo plans. It was Rebecca all over again, just before he'd desperately proposed, both to do right by her and their child and to keep her from inevitable flight.
"Well, I was thinking that maybe, you know, we can go to the carousel, give her another chance – "
She cut him off quickly. "Why? I told you she didn't like it."
"I know, but maybe it'll be different, you know, now that her dad is there," Booth explained.
He had no idea why this was such a sticking point with him. Somewhere within, he understood that it likely wouldn't make a difference. But he had missed it. He hadn't seen Christine's reaction to her first carousel. Couldn't she understand that?
And then, the bottom fell out.
"Are you saying I didn't know how to take care of my daughter?"
She was clearly hurt at the very suggestion, although he didn't believe he'd made it. Had he suggested that?
"What? Wait a second, Bones – "
"It wasn't easy out there, Booth!" she cried out.
"Here we go again!" he snapped.
The lump turned and pumped bile throughout his system, and suddenly, there was only anger, only rage. Because people did change. Temperance had changed. His daughter had grown – changed. And him? He'd been left in the dust. But who cared? It was all about her, wasn't it? Her new experiences, her memories with their daughter. What about his memory of his family running off into the night, crushing what had been one of the brightest moments of his life into the deepest despair he'd ever felt? What about his memories of sleepless nights and desk duty and crying on the floor of Christine's room after talking to Parker and trying to reassure his son a world away?
"What do you mean, 'what'? You're not out there anymore, Bones, okay? You're back, and I'm part of your life, remember?"
She scoffed. "Yeah, it's hard to forget."
"Okay, what's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
"I'm not getting into this now. You're angry."
"Of course I'm angry," he snapped. "Huh? Wouldn't you be angry? I try to understand you, but it's like you wish you were still out there!"
"Don't be absurd!"
She was so damn indignant! So oblivious!
"Argh! God, maybe you should just try and seeing things from my point of view – how I'm seeing things. Because it ain't pretty here, from what I'm seeing. I get shut out all the time –"
"I'm not going to fight. We'll talk later when you are capable of being rational."
He was trapped in a goddamn Dr. Phil episode. He slammed the wheel in disgust.
The lump became a knot the size of his fist, pulsing within.
He tried again once they'd reached Bartlett's floor. He needed answers. He needed reassurance. With every minute of silence between him, he felt the chasm widening.
"You know, you can't just cut me off like that because you're scared to fight."
"I'm not engaging, Booth."
"Oh, right, that's it, sure. That's right. Just run away, just hide behind that big brain of yours, escape all the messiness," he raged.
"Acting like an adult is not hiding," she insisted.
It was suddenly uncomfortably warm. He tugged at his tie absently, seeking relief from the fist clawing its way from his stomach to his esophagus.
"Well, you know what? You're going to have to face it sooner or later."
She spun around suddenly, and the anger in her eyes was a knife in his gut. Her words, however, confirmed his worst fears.
"Do not tell me how to live! We are not married and we are both free agents and I've done just fine on my own!"
She wants to leave me, he realized.
"Fine!" she echoed.
Things were anything but fine. Booth was losing his family – again.
"Hey, is everything okay here?" the contractor asked.
"No," his partner replied.
"No!" he echoed.
Nothing was fine. She'd changed. She didn't want or need him. Not like he needed her.
Bones was all business now. "I need to get to your construction chute," she explained.
"Wait now, that's a very dangerous area. I can't let you go back there," he protested.
Booth thrust his badge into his face. "FBI! Angry FBI!"
It was enough of a distraction that she was able to push past and examine the chute, where she quickly determined that her theory was sound. This was where the lawyer had likely met his end. Booth was satisfied to simply have the chute brought back to the Jeffersonian and retreat to lick his metaphorical wounds, perhaps consult a lawyer of his own to ensure he wouldn't find himself in the hell Rebecca had created with her gallivanting over Europe with his son, but his partner needed proof. Blood. And she wanted to find it inside of the damn chute.
"Wait! Now, this is my site. I'm responsible. You can't go in there!"
"He's right," Booth agreed. "You can't just go rappelling down some garbage chute!"
"He – he could be the murderer, Booth!" she countered, which got his attention. "He already admitted that Bartlett was suing him. Just – hold my feet."
Her purse fell to the ground as she prepped her equipment. Booth folded his arms over his chest, offended by her audacity. How dare she shove him out of her life and expect him to just be at her beck and call? He wasn't a goddamn intern. He had a mind of his own.
"No," he replied firmly.
"Fine! Then as previously stated, I will act as the free agent I am."
"I'm not sticking around here and watching her kill herself," Lester announced, turning away.
"One move and I'll shoot you!" Booth snapped.
He could be the killer. She wasn't wrong. He was almost ready to vocalize that agreement when out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of movement: Bones going face-first into the damn chute without anything to tether her.
"Bones, no!" He flailed and grabbed her ankles and calves.
"Don't drop me," she calmly stated.
"I won't! Bones!"
He clung to her for dear life, fighting the pull of gravity as visions of horrors flashed in his mind. If he failed her... if she fell... Oh God, don't let this happen. Don't let me screw this up.
"I see blood and tissue, Booth," she announced within the chute.
He peered over her shoulder, tightening his grip. "What?"
"This is where he died."
It was, mercifully, not where she died.
"I just don't understand how two people like you got married in the first place."
He looked over at her and for a moment, he wanted to smile and agree. The Carmichaels were tripping over themselves to incriminate each other. It was almost comical. but then the fight they had (are still having?) was back at the forefront of his mind. Booth suddenly recognized worry on her face... not disdain or pure confusion.
The comparison he could feel her drawing was terrifying.
She disappeared after the interview, during the booking process. He assumed she'd gone home until he noticed her text, advising him to pick up Christine from the Hodgins residence on his way home. Baffled, his mind was fueled by the knot-fist's thirty different scenarios for Brennan breaking up with him as he drove. The worst was the one where she simply disappeared with Christine, never to be seen again. It was the least likely to come true, but the mere thought shattered him.
Which was why Hacker's call pissed him off beyond measure.
"We need you to back up Narcotics on a bust," he explained over the phone. "Hostage situation. Very tense."
"Those guys can handle it," Booth snapped.
"They need a sniper, Agent Booth. A proficient one, in case negotiations fail."
Crap. Booth cursed beneath his breath. This was an order, not a request, and the last thing he needed was to tangle with Hacker and his smug face.
"Fine. Text me the address and details," Booth grumbled.
It was a long drive to a nasty neighbourhood, and ultimately a complete waste of Booth's time. The idiot dealers had finally released their hostage just moments before Booth reached his position on the roof of the adjoining complex. Angrily thrusting his gear into the hands of the team leader, he slipped behind the wheel of the Sequoia and blasted the radio as loud as it would go.
He had to drown out the thoughts circling vulture-like inside his skull. He couldn't – wouldn't – believe in a world without Temperance Brennan at his side.
He followed a construction detour through side streets, drumming the wheel in time with the music until he came to a corner he recognized. His foot slammed on the brakes, earning an angry blast of a horn behind him.
It was raining hard, the windshield wipers scarcely able to keep up.
Franklin street. Woodland. He hadn't been here in years, not since –
"Why the hell are you out here, Bones?" he mumbled, parking on a side street. At the corner down the street, he saw her step out into the storm, oblivious to the icy water running down her face.
He found himself parked on that same side street now, staring at the scene playing out as if it were happening all over again.
Her face was ashen, her stature just a little slumped. Exhaustion. He knew how it clung to her frame, like a leering letch in a bar. She fought its grubby hands often, but this was a new intensity and it was terrifying to behold.
The kid had called him, genuinely worried.
"Dr. Brennan is incredibly vulnerable right now," he'd said.
"I'm scared, Agent Booth. I'm admitting that I'm scared for her. I've offered my help, but she won't take it. I couldn't get through."
Sweets was a bit of a wimp in the field, but Booth was increasingly worried as well. He'd heeded the call and now he was trailing his partner all over the city, right into the epicenter of D.C. poverty and crime.
He stepped out of the car, walking slowly across the pavement. This was his partner. They were supposed to be a team. So why hadn't he been with her all along?
"Because I saw the similarities too," he whispered in the present. "Only I knew she could never be forgotten like Eames. I couldn't forget her."
It had happened so quickly: had he not been approaching from his precise trajectory, he never would have spotted the car in time. She was caught in the headlights, lost between this world and the one she'd slipped inside over the last three days.
"Dr. Brennan is incredibly vulnerable right now."
The kid's words had echoed in his head as he ran into the road, shouting her name as he'd grabbed her and pulled her to safety.
"Bones, what are you doing here?"
"What are you doing?"
"I don't know. Following you to a bad part of town and saving your life. You know, the usual. Your turn."
"Lauren came to Woodland to beg the family of a brain-dead boy to give his heart to Sam Dworsky."
So she was still working the case, even if she wasn't fully... herself. "Oh. So, what, they were the ones that killed her?"
"No, Booth. No. When Lauren was really disappointed or upset, it's like Sweets said. She couldn't handle the intense emotion, so she'd do something dangerous."
"Right. Like coming here in the middle of the night," he stated pointedly, his heart still racing from his partner's near collision.
"I'm not her. We're not the same person at all. It's just the universe turned upside down for three days."
No, she wasn't the same person. But their story, it was reflected in the life of Lauren Eames. Distorted, perhaps, like a funhouse mirror. But it was there, and as they drove towards her apartment, Booth understood with sickening clarity that she had noticed the lines that could be drawn. Perhaps it was they that gave her the courage to speak aloud the truth he'd been silently denying.
"She never gave him a chance."
"Micah." He was dodging her implications, the car seeming to shrink in size.
"No, the helicopter pilot," she clarified. "He offered himself to her, but she never gave him a chance. That was her regret. I got the signal, Booth. I don't want to have any regrets."
His head pulsed as her unspoken words confirmed what he'd sensed for weeks now, ever since Angela had made a passing remark about men and stupidity. It was his dream and his nightmare all at once: she loved him, wanted to be with him... but he couldn't be with her.
"You know, I'm with someone, Bones. And Hannah – she's not a consolation prize. I love her."
He said it as much for himself as for her. Because he couldn't leave Hannah, couldn't betray her. He loved her. He did.
So why did he want nothing more than to embrace Bones and kiss her until their heads spun?
"I, I tried so hard to let you go,
But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole, yeah..."
She began to sob and his stomach turned, because he knew this pain. He knew exactly how it felt to love someone so completely, to bare yourself, expose your jugular, only to be torn apart for confessing weakness. He had moved on, had told her he would do so. So why did he feel so guilty?
Why did it feel as if he was betraying both women in his life?
"The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but those are the facts."
"I understand. I missed my chance." She laughed uncomfortably. "My whole world turned upside down. I can adjust."
"I did," he said quietly.
"Yes, you did."
"Do you want me to call someone to be with you?" he asked.
"No, I'm fine. Alone." She paused, allowing her words to bleed him out. "Thanks," she added.
They drove the twenty remaining minutes in silence, Booth mulling the chaos that he'd created. So many decisions he wished he could un-make. So many other roads to travel. Nothing was certain, save his instinctual understanding of her tensed posture.
She was going to bolt again.
He couldn't blame her for the desire to retreat; he'd done as much in accepting the offer to train in Afghanistan. But he'd had reason to return home, to come back to her. He'd effectively slammed the door on her minutes prior, which meant a lack of hope.
She'd often said she could work anywhere in the world she desired. Why would she stay now?
His anxiety reached a fever pitch as he'd called out that he would see her the next day, only to be met with silence. With trembling fingers, he dialed the number of the only person who could make it right and explained the mess they were in.
"Why should I help you?"
"You shouldn't," he admitted. "But help her. Please. Don't let me ruin her life."
A pause. "This all could have been avoided if you'd just listened to her from the beginning, really listened to what she said."
"I'm on my way."
There was nothing to do but wait. Wait and wonder if he'd made the right decision. Wait and remember anew how much he hated himself for the way he'd come at her in front of the Hoover, pushing his desires onto her. Wait and wonder why he hadn't understood that she wouldn't call him from Maluku because that was Bones: she was consumed by her work at all times.
He slipped his lucky poker chip from his pocket and began worrying it, turning it over and over between his fingers. He had to pull it together, had to remember what it represented. But in remembering that, he recalled the motivation behind his recovery in the first place, and a tear slid down his cheek in frustration.
All he'd ever wanted to be was the kind of man she would be proud to know. The kind of man she could desire and maybe one day love. Maybe that was his fatal flaw, this need for love. He needed to be loved. There were worse things in the world, granted, but to pain a woman with such a kind and vast heart... Surely, this was a tremendous sin.
His hand thrust open the car door, immediately pulling it shut again. Hannah. She was a good woman too, and she loved him. She enjoyed making him laugh and had given up her preferred job to be with him. Betraying her would impinge his honour, a trait Bones admired in him. He would still lose, only twice over.
"How dare she tell me this now?" he muttered.
When had she realized she loved him? How she decided only now that she was willing to risk it all to be together? For a woman who seemingly plunged into dangerous situations without any concern for her welfare, how was love the one realm she'd cowered from for so long?
Flip, flip, flip went the chip.
He was being an asshole. After the loss of her family, of course she'd hidden from love. Loving someone meant opening up to the possibility of devastation at their loss.
"I have finally seen the light,
And I have finally realized
What you mean..."
Her lights remained on. All of them. She wasn't sleeping. Maybe she was already packing up her life, preparing to leave. Where the hell was Angela?
"Bones, don't go. Don't do it."
Again, the door opened, only this time, he found himself standing beside the car, staring up at her bedroom window. Should he go to her? Should he make her understand that hurting her was killing him, that if she'd only told him sooner, he would have been hers, heart and soul? Or would that be salt in the wounds he'd created?
Would there be any kindness to such cruelty?
He glanced up and sighed in relief. "Angela."
"Has she come out?"
"No. Angela, I – "
"Not interested tonight. I'm here for Bren. You want sympathy? Go talk to the blonde."
"Angela, she knew I would move on," he protested.
"And you know her well enough to know that Bren doesn't change; she evolves. It's a slow but beautiful process. You settled for the synthetic 'new and improved' boxed model," Angela snapped. "Now go home, and let me take care of her."
The artist spun on her heel, jogging towards the front lobby doors. With a resolute sigh, Booth slipped back behind the wheel and turned over the engine. The craving began for a drink, but he refused it, driving past several bars. One bar would lead to another would lead to a third with a pool table and then, then he would never be worthy of her friendship.
He'd failed her enough for one night.
"And now I need to know is this real love,
Or is it just madness keeping us afloat?
And when I look back at all the crazy fights we had,
Like some kind of madness was taking control, yeah..."
He drove home slowly, mulling the past few weeks, studying them in a new light informed by his past failings. Context, she'd call it. Perspective.
He was being irrational, but then, when wasn't that the case? Brain and heart: it was their union. They'd endured so much together, not the least of which was his relationship with Hannah and the fallout that left him wallowing in rage and unable to shake the sense that he would never be enough for anyone. He'd held back on pursuing Bones for months, needing to find faith that maybe it wasn't just him, that he wasn't too flawed a man to hold love together. For all of the whispering inside his skull that she had only ever become his by pregnant chance, he remembered her words on the steps of that church and trusted in her sincerity.
They had love. Real, honest love. The kind that most people dream of but never experience. Their bond had been tested in every possible way he could imagine and still, still they remained a unit. Still, she trusted so wholeheartedly in him that she would dive into a chute of death face-first and know he would grab her legs, no matter what he said.
"Pelant is the goddamn villain here," Booth muttered. "Why are we taking it out on each other?"
But even that was inevitable. Two intensely stubborn people could never not argue. And when they threw down the gauntlets, they put MMA fighting to shame. Booth wasn't proud of this, but it seemed a part of their chemistry.
Turning onto their street, he recalled her insistence on not fighting while angry and winced at a sharp pang of guilt. She'd tried so hard not to be cruel, but he'd pushed. It was his habit, and she'd resisted, as was hers, until she exploded.
Maybe she didn't mean it. Maybe the "free agent" crap was just spite. Or maybe I finally drove her away with my constant accusations about her wanting to be on the run still.
He could still remember how incredible her body felt against his in that crappy motel, how the sheer relief of holding her had buckled his knees. He could hear her demanding to come home, hear Max's anger that she'd found a way to summon him to her side, because she couldn't live like this anymore.
"It wasn't easy out there, Booth!"
Life was too goddamn short to waste it on carousels and pancakes. They could never have back what Pelant had stolen from them, but by arguing between themselves over its impact, weren't they just letting him steal more time?
Booth called Angela from the driveway, quietly asking if their friends would keep their daughter for a night.
"I was going to suggest it when you arrived," Angela replied gently. "Don't let go of her, Booth. Not now."
"I don't plan to," he mumbled before hanging up and texting an update to Brennan.
He only hoped that she shared his desires.
"And now I have finally seen the end (finally seen the end)
And I'm not expecting you to care (expecting you to care)
But I have finally seen the light (finally seen the light)
I have finally realized (realized)
I need to love..."
He was several rounds in when she came home and the scotch sloshed uncomfortably in anticipation of the talk they needed to have. But he had to know she wanted to stay, that she wanted them. He desperately wanted to believe she did, but right now, the entire world seemed to spin and every synapse fired with pain, pain, pain. Escape. Flight, not fight.
He didn't want to fight anymore.
"Hi." She walked in slowly, setting her purse on the couch gingerly.
"Kinda late," he prompted.
And it was: even with his detour to Woodland, she'd arrived a solid hour behind him.
Anxiety marred her beautiful features. "Well, I... I went to see Sweets."
He swallowed back the emotions bubbling to the surface, ordered his fears into silence. She's leaving, no she's not, she is, fuck, why'd she willingly talk to Sweets? The thoughts were a steady stream of frantic words.
"'Cause... something is wrong with me."
And she meant it, very much so. The words were a knife to his heart. He suddenly thought back to the Hoover, to her fears of hurting him, and they've come full circle to a night he's regretted ever since. But this time, he had to get it right. There was even more to lose, because he'd seen how wrong she was then and knew she was wrong now.
"Come to me
Just in a dream.
Come on and rescue me.
Yes I know, I can be wrong,
Maybe I'm too headstrong..."
He rose slowly, approaching her cautiously. "No, Bones, nothing is wrong with you."
"No, I thought today when we apologized to each other that everything was fine."
"Because we were being polite."
He rubbed his eyes, weary. Fuck fuck fuck. Of course she would think that. She doesn't deal in mixed messages and passive-aggressiveness. Her plain honesty was one of her remarkable qualities he'd always treasured.
"We were polite, but you still knew everything wasn't fine," she elaborated, visibly pained.
"That was, uh... hoping that it would be. You know, in the future."
"But only if we admit that it isn't fine right now."
He couldn't disagree. Running from their problems wouldn't solve a damn thing.
"Sweets says that I am subconsciously rebelling against the fact that my happiness is now contingent upon your happiness and Christine's."
Ugh, I could kill that kid! How could the shrink have planted such crap in her head? Never had Booth sensed any resentment over their relationship, let alone their daughter.
"Sweets, he's good with the psychology, okay, but we're more than psychology." And in that moment, relief set in as he became certain of a truth he shared. "We're going to be okay."
"I just, I don't want to be polite about this," she stressed, pressing her hands against him.
"Well, I'll just make sure it doesn't happen again," he replied.
He blurted out the most ridiculous thing that came to mind: "I'll fart when I kiss you."
She cracked up and suddenly, they were themselves again. He, the goofy guy; she, the serious scientist secretly thrilled with his shenanigans.
"Oh my God..." Her grin matched his.
"I was mad," he admitted reluctantly."I lost you and Christine for three months. I'm never going to be able to get that time back."
"I have a way to fix that."
Puzzled, he asked, "What, you have a time machine in your basement?"
"No, but we can take Christine to the carousel, even though I know the outcome."
"You're a wild woman," he gently teased.
She chuckled. "Well, I love you, and I'm willing to do irrational things to prove it."
Their lips met softly and the knot-lump dissolved into a radiant light of hope. We'll be okay. We're going to get through this.
More kisses as the fire within him raged. He tensed his abdomen on purpose, knowing that any second –
"Don't you dare," she murmured.
"Don't you dare," she repeated.
"I would never – "
She cut him off with scientific babble about sensing his impending flatulence, but Booth no longer cared to talk. He gripped her ass tightly, hoisting her into the air. Reflexively, she wrapped her legs around his waist, a practiced movement between them. Synchronicity. He made his way upstairs, burying his face in the crook of her neck and inhaling her scent. He needed to be inside her, to worship every inch of her pale perfection. She was the sea and he desperately needed to drown.
For the first time since her return, the sex was a celebration, not the solution.
Tangled together, the cool silk sheet caressing them, he pulled her against his chest. His heart careened against his ribs as her lips grazed his flesh.
"Can I make a confession?"
"I'm not a man of the church, but I'll listen," she replied lightly.
With a deep breath, he whispered, "I've been so terrified that you'll leave me. I thought it today, when we went to check out that chute – "
"Booth, no," she insisted, looking into his eyes. "I couldn't... I never once... You believe me, don't you?"
"I do. But fear isn't rational, Bones. You know that."
"I'm afraid, too," she admitted reluctantly. "I started to think that maybe I'd forgotten how to be 'us', that I wasn't strong anymore. I don't want to be impervious to you."
"I'm pretty sure I penetrated you just fine," he teased, kissing her nose.
"Booth! I'm serious!"
"I know, Temperance. But you're still every bit the woman I love, I promise."
"I don't mean to hurt you when I mention our time away. We've always shared everything. I thought that perhaps if I told you as much as possible, that maybe I could somehow... alter the past. I could delude myself into your being present, no matter how foolish an idea it seemed. We've lost so much time in the past..."
Booth caressed her cheek, nodding. "I understand, baby. Those months were hell for both of us."
"Sleeping alone was difficult. I found myself thinking of you picking me up in the morning for a case, pretending we had our apartments still and for unknown reasons, we had to sleep apart." She sighed. "Or I'd think of that case where Hacker sent you to Florida without me."
"I did all the same things," Booth replied with amazement. "Sleeping in Christine's room, sleeping on the couch, pretending it was my old place... Maybe we were together in our hearts, Bones."
With a soft smile, she burrowed her face against his chest. "I concede that may be true. But I prefer being together like this."
"Me, too," Booth murmured.
"I suppose some would find our relationship to be as illogical as the Carmichaels'," she mused.
Booth shook his head. "Nah, we're nothing like them. Ours is a loving madness. And I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Our love is madness."
This was one of those chapters that wasn't in the original outline, but stumbled into my brain one day and suggested itself. I really wanted to pick apart where the hell Booth's anger was coming from, but also, how he went from explosive, jabbing anger to quietly drinking yet anything but calm or okay.
I'd love to know what you think! Leave me a review please, fuel my writing madness... and while you're at it, pick a season: one or four?