Author's Note: I'm terribly sorry this chapter is late. Most of my free time was taken up with Paradise Lost, which I wanted to read before I started writing this (but it's a long and complicated poem, and not to be rushed). I've had very little time for anything else this week, and that includes sending out thank you notes for reviews. A blanket thank you here will hopefully convey my gratitude regarding reviews because I'm not sure I will be able to catch up.
To all my reviewers, even though I may not always be able to individually thank each of you with a note, I appreciate you all and write with you in mind. Thank you!
1. (a) an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.
1. (b) an animal, person, or object offered in a sacrifice.
2. (a) an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
2. (b) in Chess, a move intended to allow the opponent to win a pawn or piece, for strategic or tactical reasons.
Working with Booth had taught Temperance Brennan to question herself. This observation, spoken softly to Cam, was rooted in all the discussions Brennan had undertaken with Booth himself over the years when they'd argued about motive. Actions were clear but the reasons behind them were occluded behind cranial bone, shrouded in neural tissue streaming electrical impulses that somehow, Booth read through muscular twitches on the face, sweat on the brow, breaths and sighs and movements of the eyes.
Blind to such cues, Brennan had dismissed motive as unknowable (but to God, who did not exist) and therefore unimportant. What mattered was what people did (the assaults, the murders), and their consequences that she so often faced without knowing why it happened. What did a 'why' matter when one person was dead at the hands of another?
In justice, however, the why was just as important as the what that resulted. Killing in self defense was a vastly different act than the crime of killing in anger, and that in turn was treated more leniently than killing for profit. It all boiled down to the why behind the action. In helping Booth discover the who and the what, he helped bring out the why that occasionally revealed evil, but more often it revealed a tragedy borne of human failings.
Sometimes, good people did the wrong thing for the right reasons (her father and her former intern Zack, most especially).
Yes, in working with Booth she had learned that sometimes, the why mattered more than the what.
"Since good and bad are such subjective concepts, how could you ever be sure you were doing the right thing?"
Once upon a time, she'd asked Booth this very question as they discussed the rogue sniper Booth was determined to stop (former friend and current vigilante, Jacob Broadsky), sparking an argument between them and wounding her partner in the process. Booth thought she was questioning him and took exception to the comparisons she'd made.
With Jacob Broadsky temporarily thwarted, Brennan sat beside Booth at the Founding Fathers and contemplated the argument she'd just ended merely by pointing out her metaphorical location - unquestionably beside him, like always - and worried that he had failed to understand what she'd been trying to learn from him when she'd compared his actions as a sniper to Broadsky's. It was a case of mistaken motive, hers this time.
"Yeah, Bones?" He'd finished his drink and spent the last few minutes just as immersed in silent thought as she was. Her hesitance brought his head around to facing her and he waited for the inevitable question, knowing it was coming because he knew her.
"I know I upset you when I compared you to Broadsky."
He nodded, probably accepting what he assumed was going to be a backwards, Brennanite apology, but as usual she had a different route in mind.
"Yesterday I told Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray that the way to find an answer is to ask the correct question. I didn't ask you the correct question and I'm sorry for that."
"It's okay," he soothed, and placed a gentle hand on her arm. A quick, reassuring squeeze intended to tell her all was well, then he withdrew because as far as Booth was concerned that was enough. (And they were still in a precarious place where touching for too long was forgotten territory they'd only just begun to explore again in the last couple of weeks since Hannah had rejected his proposal.) So he pulled his hand back and left it on the table beside her ulna, close enough that she could still feel the heat.
So close and yet she missed the warmth of his heavy hand on her. Brennan knew she was being foolish and sighed in self-reproach. "What I should have asked was, why is Broadsky wrong?"
"Gah," he groaned, and seemed to withdraw from her even further and she could tell he wished she would cease her probing of the inner workings of his conscience.
"Please, I don't know how else to ask!" Booth was always so certain, she imagined he must have a dependable algorithm that he applied to any given situation and, if that was the case, she wanted to know how he made his decisions. Broadsky's behavior was logical but it was also wrong; there must be something else she could use to guide her for the times when logic failed. Because she didn't want to be like Zack, making a tragic mistake for what seemed like a good reason but in reality was only self-delusion.
"Why are you asking at all?! Isn't it obvious?"
"No." Frustrated, she stared down at the coaster that supported her drink, a slightly soggy piece of cardboard advertising beverages and trivia questions that held obvious answers. Even if she didn't currently possess the knowledge, she could easily research the topic and glean the correct answer to a question that asked for a concrete solution: "Question: How many items comprise the world's largest collection of beer-drinking vessels? Answer: over 13,000 glasses, collected from over 4000 breweries." This was information verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, an empirical point of fact. It was objective and quantifiable.
Moral situations did not provide data, merely subjective feelings and shifting circumstances that altered the very same action into the correct one in some cases but the wrong one in others. It was frustrating for an empiricist who wanted to grasp the nuances that could tell her when killing was commendable, versus when it edged over an inexact and arbitrary - not to mention a frequently arbitrarily shifting! - line. How could she ever know she was right, when logic wasn't enough and Booth wasn't available for consultation.
Broadsky shooting murderers who'd escaped justice, when there was irrefutable proof that they'd circumvented the system, did not appear to be morally wrong and yet Booth thought he was. Why? Why was it good for Booth to shoot Radick who killed for hatred, but wrong for Broadsky to shoot Heather Taffet who killed for money? Why did he stop Brennan herself from shooting Howard Epps inside her own apartment all those years ago, but told her it was justified when she shot Gil Lappin in a dark and lonely postal sorting center? What was the difference that governed these similar shots and made only some of them morally justified?
Suddenly realizing that in thinking of her own experiences she'd stumbled across an important detail, Brennan looked back up at Booth and formed a better question. "Why was it acceptable for me to shoot Gill Lappin, but unacceptable for me to shoot Howard Epps?"
His guarded expression seemed to melt away as he remembered the circumstances of both situations, and started to understand her confusion at last. She was comparing motives, not methods, and for the same reason she couldn't let the question go, Booth responded to the why behind her probing. "You shot Lappin to save me. You thought he was going to kill me."
"He was," she breathed softly, remembering the pipe raised up overhead, poised to come smashing down into Booth's precious skull to crush him. To kill. So she'd squeezed the trigger almost on instinct, squeezed and breathed and the gun went off without conscious thought other than to protect her partner. "But Epps was going to kill me and you wouldn't let me shoot him."
"No, Bones, not once I was there. It would have been murder."
What is murder but the unsanctioned killing of another human being?
If it would have been morally justified before Booth arrived, why did his presence change things? When does killing become murder, where is the fuzzy grey line. Now that she'd turned her question onto herself, Booth had lost his defensiveness. He could face her and the moral dilemma with an unbiased eye (relatively speaking) and as she'd hoped, he had an answer.
"Because I wouldn't have let him hurt you."
Booth was a protector, this she knew, and he'd gone to her apartment that night to protect her from Epps. "You would have shot him to save me?"
"Yeah." Unapologetic. Booth dropped his warm eyes back down to his empty beer glass, shrugged a little. On the few occasions when her life had been seriously threatened, Booth had killed for her.
"And if he'd have turned his tire iron on you," Brennan reasoned carefully, "then if I shot him, that would be justified? Because I'd be saving your life?"
"Yeah," he said again and just that fast they were connected again with locked gazes and an another reassuring touch of his hand.
Pinching her lips tight as she applied this new insight to Broadsky, Brennan found she could use inductive reasoning to know what criteria Booth must apply to moral situations. "Broadsky profited from the shootings," she offered slowly. And he wasn't saving lives.
Booth confirmed her conclusion a moment later. "If you're killing to save a life, it's never wrong."
When Cam brought the chipped tooth, showing Brennan an alternate path to Pelant's location, Brennan realized she had a decision to make. A moral decision.
It was only because she'd learned how very much a why could matter that Brennan began questioning herself. If the goal was merely to reach Pelant and end his reign of misery, then did the how matter? Did the why? Why did Booth want to kill Pelant? Why did she want to follow the clues Pelant had left to help her locate him? If the goal was merely to find Pelant, then Flynn's tooth would serve and she could abandon the cold cases.
But if she abandoned the cold cases, would another killer go free?
Thoroughly frustrated, she jutted her jaw forward and frowned her way through afternoon traffic until finally the small pub came into view. Once inside the perpetually uninhabited Paradise Lost, she spotted former Father Aldo Clemmons leaning against the back of the bar with a newspaper open. A tiny squeak sounded, signalling her entrance and he snapped the paper shut and grew attentive when he saw her come in.
Just past the threshold Brennan hesitated, knowing that to cloud her mind with alcohol would be a terrible decision, but she recalled the price of Aldo's advice had always included a purchase. "Is it okay if I don't have a drink?"
Exasperated, Aldo groaned. "No, you people are killing me here. This is a business."
She glanced around, noting again the dearth of patronage and wondered why no one ever seemed interested in this particular paradise. "Not a very good business."
"Because people don't buy drinks."
A rudimentary recollection of the epic poem trickled down, the idea that paradise existed only for those willing to abide by the rules and for Adam and Eve, there was only one rule: don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge. In Aldo's paradise, the singular rule was equally simple: do purchase a beverage to keep the garden flowing with ... advice. There, the metaphor broke completely under its own foolish irreverence because alcohol was generally known to remove knowledge and wisdom, not enhance it. Thus Brennan came closer, proposing a compromise and cash. "Okay, what if I buy a drink but don't drink it."
(After the money exchanged hands, she would be in possession of the beverage and free to waste the libation as she saw fit, and he would be satisfied that rules were followed.) He shifted forward, slapping the counter for her to sit with a resigned shrug. "That works for me."
So she slapped a five dollar bill on the bar, and took a seat on the same barstool she'd tested before. Before he'd even finished pouring out the drink she would not consume, Brennan blurted out, "Booth wants to kill Pelant. Which is fine, he's a very bad man; he has murdered ... we don't know how many people."
And there would be no justice otherwise, for he had demonstrated twice already his ability to slip through legal crevices until he disappeared, only to return in a new form that required an entirely new battle. If insanity was doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, then it would be insane to arrest Pelant. He would only escape again. And kill again.
Death, on the other hand, was inescapable. Booth could bring the insanity to an end with just one shot. Logically, it was the only moral option and thus the idea of Booth killing Pelant didn't really bother her when weighed against the consequences of his continued existence. It was only that idea that Pelant had whispered to her in Limbo about another hidden serial killer that had brought her here. That, and a niggling suspicion that killing him might be morally wrong. "What if there's someone worse and we need Pelant to catch that killer?"
Aldo listened to her gravely, but when she got to the last question he sighed and shook his weary head. "God…" Then he seemed almost amused. "It's these ethical dilemmas that drove me out of the priesthood."
And clearly he did not want to go back.
"I need to know what Booth is going to do," Brennan explained. Would he lead a charge of FBI agents to take Pelant's location, or would he go alone? Would he act under the auspices of government authority, or would he take a vigilante stance and go in alone to kill. It was a question of grave importance to her.
"So you can protect Pelant," Aldo guessed, and not with approval.
"He's more valuable alive than dead, that's all." More valuable to Booth's conscience, at any rate. Whether Pelant would really cooperate and help her find another killer was almost moot at this point. The only thing that mattered was motive, Booth's motive, because that was how she would come to understand her own.
She actually expected more of an argument but Aldo jumped directly to the answer she needed. "It depends which Booth is there."
"Seeley Booth, the one I love," she reminded him. Because there was only one Booth.
"No. I mean, like all of us, he has two sides to him. There's one side that wants to save the world, and one side that wants to take care of the people he loves. Those two collide, well, that's what you call a tortured soul."
"There's no such thing as a soul." They'd gone over this before. A sinking in her belly signaled the advance of what she had already begun to fear. Flynn's death at Pelant's hands, Pelant leaving her stranded with that toy grenade, Booth's stony eyes: Pelant was goading her partner by lobbing threats ever closer to home.
"Says you," Aldo dismissed, "but Booth values nothing higher than his soul. Yet … he's willing to sacrifice his soul by killing Pelant."
Could killing Pelant serve a greater good...? If it was to save lives (to save the world), Booth would be able to justify his actions and his soul would not be in danger.
But if Booth went alone because he was spurred by wrath (as she was increasingly becoming certain he would do), his actions would fall outside the sanctions of government. In effect, he would become that which he hated - a vigilante on the wrong side of justice, like Jacob Broadsky - and she knew it would torment him afterwards. He would do it and then hate himself.
"Why," she breathed softly. Motive, the only thing that mattered now. Was it vengeance? Was it wrath? Or was it to protect her?
As if he'd read her mind, as if he knew Booth as well as she did, Aldo laughed softly. "For you, of course."
Sickened, she met his gaze with her own growing anguish.
"It's always going to come down to you."
That was her greatest fear, the reason she'd come here.
"Do you have coffee?" Abruptly Brennan reached into her purse and withdrew more cash, plunking down payment for clarity of mind and sharpening of her synapses because following Pelant's clues would take all the mental power she could conjure.
"I'll have to brew it," he complained.
"I promise I'll drink it," she countered.
"And waste half the pot?"
Another battle played out between them, one Brennan knew contained nuances that were lost on her because it was always her curse to misunderstand motive. "Do you need me to drink all of it?"
Aldo moved a few steps away, preparing the brew quickly as if to get started before she could change her mind. "Only if you want to." He still believed in free will; no matter what he offered, it would be her choice to consume it. To take it in and let it work in her.
Gathering her thoughts, she watched the coffee grounds tumble into the basket and the basket sliding into place before her own worries were ordered enough to proceed. "Pelant left me a message and waited inside the Jeffersonian for me to follow up on it. He spoke to me directly."
Aldo didn't pause, merely pushed the button and slid the empty pot into place but when he turned around and she saw the darkness in his eyes, Brennan knew motive mattered.
"Tell me what happened."
While she spoke, the coffee brewed. Her story was short, succinct, her description of the grenade making his face grow even more still. But what finally sparked Aldo Clemmons back into motion was her worry over the message Pelant whispered as he left: "I know you. You'll find me."
Leaning over the bar, he asked softly, "Does he know you, Temperance?"
"He's been watching me for years." Her voice shook with the acceptance of it, but the scent of coffee seemed to clear her head as she asked herself the same question again and again. Why? "He knows my work."
Aldo nodded. While she'd told him about Pelant's message the coffee completed its brewing cycle. Now it poured darkly into a darker cup, dark brown in darker black porcelain, which he proffered as an elixir while his wisdom joined it. "And he tempted you with pride, suggesting that as smart as you are, you've missed something."
The coffee went down bitterly, undiluted by milk or sugar. She welcomed the shock of burning and bitter aftertaste, letting it purge the acids haunting the back of her mouth all day from anxious dyspepsia. "He left clues for me to follow, he thinks that I will."
"Because of vanity."
That was the second time he'd said as much. Brennan shook her head and laughed a little. "My appearance has nothing to do with this."
"Vanity is not just a question of appearance, it's a combination of pride and self-importance. Do you think Pelant was appealing to your pride, or his own?"
What Cam had asked her earlier came to mind, "Do you really think Pelant found something that you missed...?" Such an overweening confidence in her own abilities, (abilities that Booth had praised only hours ago), would dictate an impossibility of her missing any clue. If she were truly vain (prideful), she would not follow Pelant's clues; she would not believe him to be more skilled than she was.
Now at a loss, Brennan looked helplessly to Aldo and shook her head again. "I don't know."
"Did you ever read Paradise Lost?" he suddenly asked.
She thought of the name of his business, the way he'd turned away from his own calling (but not his religious faith). She'd read the epic poem in high school, but not since then and after all this time the themes were hazy at best. Sin and redemption, the fall of humanity that caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from the Garden of Eden. A loss of innocence and paradise. "Satan's greatest sin was pride," she recalled, tying the sins into what she and Aldo had just discussed. "Eve was persuaded by vanity in her appearance, but also envy. She wanted to be more knowledgeable."
Pouring some coffee into his own cup, he gestured for her to drink hers, which she did. "Why did Adam sin? Do you remember?"
"Because he loved Eve..." She swallowed the hot brew too quickly, almost choking on it and gasping when tears came to her eyes because the bolus was too large and hot to go down easily. Was Booth like Adam, dooming himself for love? She couldn't let it happen. Almost dropping the cup, feeling a splash of brown liquid escape the confines of the cup to strike her hand as she pushed it back, Brennan bolted up out of her seat. "I have to go."
Somehow his steady calm halted her escape in progress, brushed her frantic worries aside and Brennan focused on Aldo once more. "What?"
"Let me ask again: does Pelant know you?"
"Maybe. I don't care. I only care about Booth."
He held her in thrall for a moment longer, nodding solemnly. "Then you need to decide who you are. Are you Eve, who was misled by her own ambition? Or are you Adam...? Once you have that settled, you'll know what to do with Pelant's message."
Once she returned to the Jeffersonain, Brennan plunged into the cold cases with steely resolve. Who did Pelant think she was, Eve? Was that the message he was counting on her to find? As she looked down at the constellation of the eagle, the messenger of a god, at last she saw that he'd summoned her to serve. There would be nothing to learn from him, no reason to preserve his life, because he parted with information only to manipulate her into going.
Hodgins was running the trace analysis on Flynn's chipped tooth, but she couldn't rely on that alone. Brennan left her notes and clues to her location sitting openly on her desk, knowing they would come look for her and she needed to be sure Booth would know where she was. If not from the tooth, then from Pelant's clues.
In the game of chess, an important piece may be sacrificed to bring the opponent out into the open, or at least removing a barrier and exposing a vulnerable square. Sweets had argued that the Prometheus body was just such a sacrifice, Flynn was a still greater loss, and now Brennan added herself to the list. By surrendering herself to Pelant, she placed herself in danger. She would draw him out but more importantly, she would give Booth an undeniable justification.
He would kill to save her and it would not be morally wrong.
With a steadiness of purpose that she found quite soothing despite the fear thrumming in her ears, Brennan entered Pelant's power plant and waited for the next clue. She was not surprised when his disembodied voice sounded from hidden speakers (he was playing the part of a god somewhat enthusiastically) but followed his directions with outward calm and inward deliberation that stuttered only when she heard doors slamming shut behind her.
As she made her way deeper into the heart of his lair, Brennan plotted her own chess game against a well-armed foe. She would request his surrender. Assuming that bid would prove unsuccessful, the next option was to stall for time by giving the appearance of control (or cooperation) just long enough to let Booth reach her.
At the bottom of a catwalk Brennan came across an expanse of monitors, wherein Pelant's damaged face came into view (segmented by screens, yet larger than life).
"Temperance. You look beautiful."
He thinks I'm Eve, Brennan realized. He thought she'd come for knowledge and flattery.
Over the panel of monitors, Pelant revealed more of his intentions when he asked, "How much time do you think we have before Booth gets here?"
"I'm alone," she told him, hoping he would think it true.
"Yes." He finally stepped out into the open behind her and smiled, a rather sickly smile. "But that never lasts for very long. Does it."
Even Pelant understood that there is no escaping a singularity.
The sound of his voice reduced to merely human and close caused her to whirl and pull up the gun clenched tightly in her fist. Brennan ran through calculations, gauging time the same way Pelant seemed to be doing. She no longer cared about his motive, now that the sacrifice was underway. Nothing mattered but saving Booth from the sin of wrath.
Appealing to logic and his innate desire for self-preservation, Brennan made the offer. "If you surrender to me, Booth won't kill you."
"And if I don't, you'll shoot me…?" His hands were raised, his voice was calmly deliberative, causing her to wonder if Pelant had a better grasp of her motivation than she'd originally thought. He didn't sound convinced. She flinched but nodded in reply, thinking it better to commit a murder herself than to let Booth do it. "Then there's only one rational choice," Pelant concluded calmly.
The only rational choice was surrender. Their eyes held, hers glowing with purpose and his half hidden behind a cataract and shadows. She hoped his rational decision coincided with hers. "Good."
"But you know Booth," Pelant continued in a personable tone. "Very sneaky, very stealthy. Sniper at heart. It'll take him forever to get inside."
This was the sacrifice she'd made, leaving the clues for Booth to find. If Booth knew she was here, he would not enter as a sniper. He would approach as a paladin, the chivalrous warrior, protective and fierce and trading stealth for speed.
Pelant seemed to be stalling also, or perhaps he was sussing out her motive. "If I try to run away, where will you shoot me?"
"In the head." Lethal and quick. She was an expert marks-woman (no matter what Booth teased, Brennan had always been an excellent shot - a fact that neither Gil Lappin nor Pam Noonan had lived long enough to appreciate).
"Never the head," he disagreed with a little laugh. "That's the part of me that you like best."
She gestured for him to go in front of her, hoping still for a surrender. He shrugged and walked ahead of her agreeably, tossing back a question to keep her engaged. "This mysterious serial killer, are you curious why I think it's a woman?"
"No." If she'd missed a clue, she would find it on her own and if he thought she'd come for that, Pelant didn't know her at all. Aldo's advice pushed her thoughts in a different direction, reminding her who she was. (Adam was wise, accepted knowledge only from benevolent sources. Adam acted with love, condemning himself rather than to be separated from Eve. But she was neither Adam nor Eve; forewarned, Brennan saw the danger and would not let either one of them fall.)
Save Booth from wrath. Save Flynn from ignominy. "But I do want to know if Hayes Flynn was working with you."
"Not willingly," Pelant confirmed in an offhand manner that gave her a crushing sense of injustice deep in her chest. Pelant had framed Flynn, just as he'd framed her, and both actions had enraged her partner. "I mean, he didn't know about the money in his fridge or the bug in his car. Please drop the gun."
Brennan was so caught up in her outrage and his command followed so fast upon the heels of Flynn's exoneration that she didn't comprehend the last thing he'd said. "What?"
He had reached a panel, turning to face her with one dark, triumphant eye boring into hers. In that instant she recognized anticipation - his - and knew he'd gained the advantage. Pelant reached up to press a button and instantly she was blasted with noise and heat. She fell, losing her gun, her hearing, her sense of direction all at once.
Before she could recover Pelant had reached her and he sounded strangely remorseful. "Hey, can you hear me? I … I tried to shape the blast so that it wouldn't deafen you, but you know, nobody's perfect."
He took her hand almost tenderly, helping her up, and to Brennan's still sound-shocked mind he actually seemed to care about her safety. For why else would he brush her off, fuss over her clothes and sound so regretful. "Here, come here. Hey."
With his help she stood, shaking from the disorientation and as her senses settled she heard him gloating again. "I'm always ahead of you people. I … I know how you work. You let me lead you into this trap and Booth is still circling the building looking for a way in…"
"Looks like I came full circle." The unexpected voice startled them both, caused them to gasp and straighten. It was Booth, emerging from a shadowed passageway wearing only a black t-shirt and carrying only a single, small pistol. Her black-clad protector was more grim than Galahad, his muscled arms raised and his sights locked on Pelant. "You okay, Bones?"
She glanced from her partner, (steeled and standing rigid with protective purpose), to their foe, who was himself glancing back and forth and starting to understand he'd misjudged Booth. What he might not yet realize was that he'd actually misjudged them both. Partners in parity, locked in singularity, would act in unison. The only thing Booth needed was permission, and by coming here first, Brennan had ensured he would have it.
She'd given Pelant the chance to surrender to her, which he'd declined. He could still save his own life by surrendering to Booth but within an instant he'd adopted a fatal course instead.
"Surprise! The next explosion will level the entire building." Where it came from was a mystery, but Pelant brandished a small black box and latched onto Brennan's left arm. Dragging her closer (a human shield, the coward), he glared at his adversary with more confidence than the situation warranted. "Dr. Brennan, tell Booth to leave now or I'll blow us all up."
He counted on her trying to save Booth's life by sacrificing her own. Instead of obeying, she tried one last time to prevent a death and hoped what she said was true. "He's bluffing. It's a toy just like the last time." (A bluffing man will capitulate when his bluff is called.)
Her partner didn't flinch, didn't do anything but step closer. "I'm not gonna to take that risk." If you're killing to save a life, it's never wrong.
Pelant began to crow, misunderstanding partners in parity. "Do you see, Booth? She's willing to risk your life to keep me alive. What does that tell you?"
Brennan twisted to glare at him in shocked, horrified dismay: not bluffs but lies. Booth wasn't listening to the lies, however. The only warning came out almost like a caress, silky and calm. "You put it down, or I'm gonna kill you."
"Shoot him, Booth." Permission granted; culpability avoided. She began to struggle, trying to jerk her arm loose from a man who wasn't bluffing. A killer who'd trapped her and held a detonator aloft.
The tide had turned against him, fate roaring like a demon to clutch at him, to blast him outside of the singularity. Pelant gazed at her in astonishment as the depths of his miscalculations became manifest. "What?"
Fiercely, she spoke to her soulmate, knowing his need as well as she knew her own. "I'm not willing to risk your life to keep Pelant alive! Not for one second. Shoot him."
"Time's up." Booth declared.
Pelant's visage hardened into a snarl and his hand twitched to press the button that would take her life. If you're killing to save a life, it's never wrong. Booth's finger twitched: one tiny twitch that ended a life.
The bullet slammed into the sternal angle joining the sternum with the manubrium, transecting it to pierce the ascending aorta. Pelant fell quickly, his eyes wide and surprised as liters of blood gushed to find no exit and compressed his lungs inside the confined space.
"You okay?" Booth lowered the gun, closing the distance between them no faster than she could throw herself the rest of the way with a gasp of belated terror. "You're okay," he repeated tenderly, closing his arms around her. "He's dead."
"He is dead," she breathed, and for a few glorious seconds she just let Booth hold her while she held him and experienced gratitude.
But death is never instantaneous, it's a process that takes minutes. It would take up to a minute before Pelant lost consciousness. Pulling out of Booth's embrace, Brennan pivoted and dropped at Pelant's side. His lips moved but no sounds came (because his lungs were too severely compromised by their immersion in blood), his eyes beginning to dull already from the catastrophic blood loss that remained hidden inside his fully intact thoracic cavity.
He was dying.
"I tried to stop this." With a compassion that surprised her, Brennan touched his cheek. "I'm sorry."
His one good eye held on to hers for a few seconds longer, until death claimed him.
"Bones." Booth pulled her up and away and she came away willingly, turning to find wrath directed at her. "What the hell were you doing here?"
"I asked him to surrender."
Furious and frustrated, he thundered, "That's my job, I'm the FBI guy, remember?"
It was not hard to read the anguished aggravation in him, but Brennan lifted her chin in that way that she had when she was about to set things straight. "Of course I remember your job, Booth, and mine too. You divided our labor, giving yourself the task of shooting and me the task of cuffing suspects. I brought handcuffs."
And she was going to pull out the proof when Booth shook his head in bemusement and pulled her further away. "We're gonna need a new division of labor here..."
Author's Note: Pelant's ultimate plan still eludes me, but I've guessed he knew Brennan would arrive armed and dangerous (hence the rigged explosion that disarmed her). However, he also banked on her valuing knowledge over love, and that was his fatal mistake. Brennan went intending to protect Booth's soul and she was willing to sacrifice herself to do it. Meanwhile, Booth went intending to protect Brennan's heart and was willing to sacrifice his soul to do it.
That, my dear readers, was the Sense in the Sacrifice. :)
Thank you for reading!