AN:

Tag To: The Parts In The Sum Of The Whole

I still don't own Bones, nor do I own Social Distortion's King of Fools.


It begins to rain the moment he drops her off at her building.

He knows there's a term for this weather and how it mirrors the sorrow that's pulling him beneath the waves to drown. Something pathetic. He was never good with words when it mattered most: classroom speeches; Rebecca's fight for sole custody; standing up to Jared any one of a thousand times the bastard didn't deserve a bail-out. He could now add "confessing love to Temperance Brennan" to that damn list.

His cell phone is in hand the moment she steps inside her lobby, walking away without a backwards glance. He scans the recent calls and hits the key, listening to it ring. Before there can be any greetings on the other end of the line, he speaks.

"There's a reason I went to Gamblers Anonymous," he utters angrily. "I went to be a better man. I knew that no matter how much I'd won, I was losing what mattered. I listened to you and I lost again."

There is a gasp on the other end of the line, a half-stuttered syllable. Booth isn't interested.

"I will never say another word about this. Neither will you. It is off-limits, forever. And your book is crap."

He hangs up and drives away from her, from a future that seemed to shine so brightly in recent months. What the hell was he thinking? No future for you, as the legend himself once said. The rain begins to fall in sheets, the wipers scarcely pushing the water aside before it streams anew. He can appreciate the image.

It's how he knows he'll grieve the loss of hope. A storm is rolling within...

"I was born a King of Fools.
Most people think I'm just a playboy breaking rules.
But they don't know that when it comes around to love, I always lose.
That's why I call myself the King of Fools..."

It's masochistic, but the first album he reaches for is Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell. Whether it's for the song selection, the nostalgia or the way he's avoided it since the day she busted into his bathroom and he understood the toll of his unquestioning obedience in faking his demise, Booth can't say. He can't say anything, really. He pours himself a shot of scotch and knocks it back quickly, soothed by that familiar burn.

I knew. Ha. I know nothing.

He'd never known a damn thing when it came to women. He could charm them, sure. Say the right things to get a date, get another, get to third base in the back of his car. Blondes seemed to love him best, a study in contrasts. Smart blondes, feisty ones with minds of their own - those were his favourite.

He'd never been the moth to the flame until he'd dared to flirt with the fire-kissed auburn of her hair.

Another shot, another song begins. I blew it. Just like Rebecca. Just like Tessa. Cam didn't count; they'd both known the score from the first moment of the first time they'd dated. Too alike. Two bulls in a china shop, fighting over the cups to smash. And now, Bones... I pushed her, he thinks bitterly, pouring another shot. You can't push her. She doesn't change; she evolves. Slower process.

"Stupid kid," he grumbles. "Stupid duck."

He's pushing 40 and he's alone. Pathetic. But maybe it's what he deserves. God knows he's confessed plenty over the years. Casual sex. Child out of wedlock. Killing men as ordered by his country, which saved lives, but it doesn't matter tonight. None of it matters tonight, because he's grasping at straws. He can blame teen promiscuity and addiction and anger issues and none of it changes a goddamn thing.

He's seen a vision of a life with her as his wife - breathed it into his soul. And now, it will only ever be a dream.

"I was born never to care,
But now I wanna love that I can share.
I've searched in vain for a love that would never be true.
That's why I call myself the King of Fools

King of Fools, King of Fools
When it comes around your love, I always lose..."

By the seventh shot, he's nearly called her twice.

Loose lips, sinking ship. He wants to tell her more about the world he sees in his mind: the two of them, just as they are, only so much more. Solving crime and making love to celebrate life itself. He wants to tell her that her heart is perhaps delicate and terrified, but it is bigger than his, expansive. It is the centre of his universe. His moral compass. He wants to tell her how the thought of risking what they have literally stops his heart for several beats, such is the terror. He wants her to tell him that arrhythmia should be investigated by a doctor.

I love you, he tells the dial tone. I've loved you for years. I see that now.

Amazing fall from her grace: "I don't have your kind of open heart!" Another shot. Another regret. "You are a bully! You grabbed my arm just like the judge. You use your badge and your gun to intimidate people!" It's all a fresh wound and he can't be bothered applying pressure. Bleed out.

The phone is in his hand again and he goes as far as calling her number up on screen before setting it down and taking a swig from the bottle. No sense in playing at niceties. He's getting shitfaced tonight, right? That's what losers do.

The anger is seeping to the surface now as his veins run at 40 proof. What's wrong with him? Why isn't he enough for her? Is he too stupid? Too much a man of his gut? I don't need protecting from you, Bones, he thinks. That's bullshit. You know it's bullshit! And I have to work with you? Stand beside you as you date my damn boss and screw other men and feel your pity for me as I continue to stupidly fawn all over you? No way, he decides as he takes another swig. That's pure proverbial free milk without selling the cow.

Not that he's a cow... He's drunk. But not a cow.

The one saving grace he can rely upon is her discretion. She'll never reveal their discussion to anyone, not even Angela. What's ours is ours, he can hear her say in that soft voice of hers. It doesn't matter that what they have is God's grand joke on him - it's still theirs. Still private. Like the Vegas case, where she'd pulled him back from the brink of relapse, been a literal life line as she held on to his hand.

Her beginner's luck, he suddenly recalled. She couldn't lose. Refused to lose. She'd bet on him, having faith - a foreign concept to his partner! - that she would win and he would survive the fight. Refused to lose... It suddenly seemed all too clear.

Booth wasn't someone she cared to risk and yet ironically, in attempting to protect him, the ground had fractured beneath them. Nothing was certain anymore.

"I was born without one good thought.
Just to live fast, tell a lie and break a heart.
I have broken many hearts and I've broken many rules
That's why I call myself the King of Fools..."

The song changes and he pumps his fist appreciatively in the air. It might as well be his damn anthem. The King Of Fools: a memoir by Seeley Booth. No need for a movie version. Knowing Hollywood, they'd cast that idiot from that vampire movie in his role.

Another swig and he realizes that the bottle's nearly empty and the phone is back in his hand, even as he's headbanging and swaying around the room. He hits dial and immediately cancels out, tossing the phone on the couch in a flustered rage. She doesn't want you! She's probably sleeping by now. A fleeting image of a bed shared in a comatose world twists the knife deeper. I'd give anything to lie beside her tonight.

He's given her more than anyone, he figures through the haze. Taken a bullet; taken a few hits, really. Sacrificed relationships, sleep, his personal beliefs about sperm donation, his integrity as an officer as he pocketed evidence to protect her - all of it razed in the wake of her passion.

It's more than he can take. The bottle hits the wall across the room, raining shards down onto the hardwood floor as he growls in frustration. His breath is heavy and fierce as he sinks in exhaustion onto the couch, bowing his head.

Beside him, his phone rings. It's her.

"I was born the King of Fools.
At any other game I never lose.
But when it comes around to love, that's when I realize:
I was born the King of Fools..."

He contemplates ignoring the call for the first two rings. By the third, he's struck with the thought that she's in danger and he jams the Answer button forcefully.

"Bones? What's wrong?"

Her voice is scarcely audible over the music. "Nothing... Well, nothing more than when we last... I'm sorry. It's late."

"No Bones, it's fine," he tells her, nudging the volume down. "Not like I'm sleepin'."

He can hear her breathe over the line, wincing at the slight hitches that betray the calm she desperately wants to project with her voice. She's hurting. And with that knowledge comes a release within. Anger gives way quickly to concern.

"Bones," he tries again, softening his voice. "Talk to me."

"I'm sorry." The words are gossamer threads, pulled too taut to withstand the pressure. "I just... I'm sorry."

He lifts the needle of the record player, plunging the room into silence. "For what?"

"You know," she insists. "Don't make me say it..."

He almost misses the sound, but he's so attuned to her voice, it registers. "God Bones, are you crying? Please don't cry... You - you can't help what you feel."

"I want to be able to, Booth. I'm certain it's... it's no consolation, but it's sincere..." She draws a deep breath and blurts out, "Be safe tonight."

Something's wrong. So much lies between her carefully chosen lines. "Bones, take a cab. Come over."

One sob. Just one. He can see her now, likely seated on her couch with her feet tucked beneath her, an armed hugged across her chest to contain the emotion, contain herself. Like so many children with difficult childhood experiences, she feels too much. Too much space taken up. Too much asked for.

"Please don't cry, baby. I'll come over there, alright? I'll do anything you need me to," he pleads, reaching for his wallet.

"No, no," she counters forcefully. "I don't think that's wise for either of us."

"Bones - "

"Booth, I've hurt you. I know I have. And you should sleep, or listen to your records, or... Don't come. I'm going to bed."

There's no room for argument in her tone and Booth relents, sinking back into the couch, defeated. "If that's what you want."

"It's what we need." A pause, and she adds, "Goodnight, Booth."

"Goodnight, Bones," he replies softly. "But if you need me, any hour, you call."

"Okay... Goodnight."

She is gone. Alone again. Thirty, forty, fifty years old... this is his life. And maybe it's stupid to stay at her side, forever doomed to look but not touch, but where else could he possibly be?

"I am not a gambler. I'm a scientist. I can't change. I don't know how..."

"I can't change either," he muses aloud.

He will always belong to her.

And so he finds himself at her door Monday morning, two coffees in hand, early enough for a breakfast at the diner. She is drawn tight, her eyes small and hesitant, scanning, always scanning him for some sort of sign. Fear, he recognizes. Not of him, but of how this is destroying him. Fear of him wanting answers she can't provide. His hand slips to the small of her back as they walk towards the diner and he can hear her sigh in relief.

She needs the routine. His dream the night before reminded him of how devastating sudden shifts can be for her. He'd woken up in a cold sweat, remembering the pieces of the puzzle of her youth: her parents leaving; her brother leaving; her cruel foster parents.

It's okay, Bones. I know who you are.

The waitress greets them and he immediately orders steak and eggs, because a few clogged arteries mean nothing, right? She orders fruit and granola, as is her custom, and quietly sips her second coffee of the day. Waiting.

"Any cool new mummies in the lab?" he asks lightly.

"Booth, mummies are a rare and often protected find," she gently chides him. "Anok was a special case. I do have a significant number of remains to attend to in Modular Storage, and Clark's begun his doctorate project."

"Teacher Bones today," he muses. "Perhaps murder will take a break, huh?"

She nods thoughtfully. "I know that it is statistically improbable, but a part of me wishes it would take a year off."

A year. No cases for a year. Man, he's blown it.

"Booth, I would still see you," she tells him. "The violent end of a human life is tragic. I would just... like a world of peace at times, as foolish as it is to conceive of such a thing."

Her hand reaches across the table and their fingertips graze in a charged rush. It's so unfair, this power she possesses. But she is sincere and he is relieved, because a life without her... It's no life at all.

"I understand, Bones. Peace would be nice."

She excuses herself to the restroom and he is alone, thanking the waitress as their orders arrive. As hungry as he is, he waits for her. It's what he's always done, even thought she finds it foolish, because her question was a loaded one: Can we still work together? To Booth, it is a tangled web of expectations, one he's promised to her. His heart is broken, but he will pick her up and bring the coffee, and he will wait to eat with her, because she finds it sweet. He will refuse to let her drive during investigations and she will complain and he will love it, love her, until he figures out how to move on from the only woman he's ever been himself with, 110%.

"You're such a sweet couple."

Booth glances up, realizing the older gentleman paying for his take-out is speaking to him. "I'm sorry?"

"I come in here every morning," the man explains. "I see you often and at my age, I've seen a lot of people. Lot of people. Couples that never talk, couples that race each other to eat, constant anger... Not you two. I'm sorry for intruding, but it's rare. Thank you, Nancy," he acknowledges the waitress. "Just sayin', it warms an old heart."

"Oh. Oh, well, uh, we're partners. I'm FBI. We're not a couple..."

The man's eyes widen as he leans closer. "Well, then maybe you oughta be. She's a rare one. Rare ones fly away. Don't be foolish."

Booth nods silently, a fist-sized lump lodged in his throat. The man departs with a jaunty walk and Bones is there, settling in her chair.

"Booth?"

"Yeah. Bones?"

"Do you know that man?"

"No. No. Hey, let's eat!"

He picks up his utensils and cuts a piece of steak he chews without tasting it. Her delicate hand lifts her spoon and he watches her absently brush aside a stray lock of hair from her cheek. She's the only one who can't see what could be, what already is.

I have to move on. I have to let go.

Just not today.

"When it comes around your love, I always lose..."