bones. pull it till it breaks (or, an assortment of moments collected among the living and the dead (but mostly the dead)). brennan, booth/brennan. rated pg. 2432 words. spoilers through season 3 (OLD SCHOOL!)
notes: oh boyyy. i don't even know. i was trying to study this afternoon, and instead this kept pouring out of me? basically, i've been watching season three lately, and basically i have this really huge problem that there is never any fallout from the whole karaoke club shoot-out, for lack of a better term, and i am sure 90% of fandom has already written about this, but whatever, this is my long-winded way of saying: i do what i want, haha.
Here is the black box, the shut eye
the bullet pearling in his living skin.
Driving, Not Washing; Richard Siken
There is a man who is leaving skeletons in the beds they once inhabited when they were flesh.
“’There’s a man goin’ ‘round, takin’ names,’” Booth says. “Johnny Cash,” he adds. Brennan has her back turned to him and he can see her shoulder blades flex, she can feel his eyes on her. The room is well-lit, it faces the east, and the sun shines in through the open venetian blinds.
“I know,” she says, off-hand.
“I know,” she says.
People die. Sometimes that happens. Inevitably it happens to everyone, you and me and him and her included. Sometimes it happens on purpose, other times by accident. They say the best way is when the clock runs out and you’re a ninety year old bag of bones who one day doesn’t get out of bed to put her teeth back in her mouth and run a kettle on the stove. They say that, but the fact is when that knife invades a chest cavity or a rope becomes a noose about an outstretched neck that same clock has run out, too.
That’s not natural, they say.
But yeah, we argue, death is. Death is the natural end for everything.
So people die. And the caveat to that?
They’re not really supposed to come back.
And then, Booth came back).
“I think Sweets thinks I’m a sociopath. Or at least a candidate.”
“A candidate? Bones, you say it like it’s an election or something.”
“I think he was trying to get a rise out of me. Or it’s just his concept of humor. Rather juvenile, I think.”
“You know, we talk about Sweets a lot. A lot, a lot. Way too much a lot. He’s, like, the third wheel in our relationship.”
“Partnership. Potato, po-tah-to.”
“That implies partnership and relationship are one in the same yet go by different names.”
“But that’s not true.”
“Alright. Let’s hear it Dr. Phil.”
“– don’t know what that means. I know. I walked right into that one. Forget it.”
“A partnership is a kind of relationship, I suppose.”
“Exactly what I’m talking about!”
She doesn’t know how to say things like hi I love you I thought I lost you, so she doesn’t.
She thinks instead: I don’t know what that means.
(That means: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and the sharp crack rather than the pop of a bullet and the dull sound it makes as it enters human flesh and does not leave and it’s c’mon Booth c’mon and maybe it’s the sound of sirens or maybe it’s not hearing the sound of sirens because there’s too much blood rushing in your ears, there’s too much of someone else’s blood on your hands and it’s the fact that these things leave a mark and – ).
“You two have such a history,” Angela said, and then she sighed. Brennan dismissed it.
“All human beings have a history. Shared, at that,” she said blankly.
“That’s not what I mean,” Angela said and sighed again. Brennan knew that. To placate her, Brennan offered a half-smile, close-lipped, and took a slow sip from her beer.
Angela just shook her head.
“I swear,” she said. “I swear.”
A week later a man was dead and she walked into a karaoke bar with Booth.
Tony and Roxie and Buck and Wanda, they were funhouse reflections of themselves.
Her mouth smeared in red and his smile cut a little more predatory, a little more dangerous. It didn’t come as a shock that she was so good at a game of pretend (Joy Keenan and Temperance Brennan and Bones).
(Eventually her own mouth will come to smear against his own, there will be no red, only flesh, only pink and lip and tongue. Her name will be Temperance Brennan, her name will be Bones and he will be Booth, he will be Seeley, and his mouth will taste like the same plum sauce that has leaked its way onto her coffee table and she still won’t have a TV, she still will not have said hi I love you I thought I lost you and he will have yet to say I know, I know).
A fourth skeleton is found on a Sunday. It is a gray day, no rain, just cloud and cloying humidity. Booth presses a hand to the small of her back as they enter the bedroom and her shirt sticks to her damp skin in his wake.
Brennan didn’t die, but sometimes she can’t breathe.
She doesn’t know what to do with that either.
Serial killers complicate this job in a way she doesn’t like to think about. She doesn’t mind writing about them, warm in her apartment and warm in her home and that fourth wall stands mocking as she actually types words like “her partner” and means them. Reality is different, reality is always different. It’s one thing when there’s parts of a skeleton found decomposing in a shallow grave. There are still imprints of humanity, however faint they might be.
“I was just so angry,” the perp might say (and also a note: Booth tells her that no one actually says perp, except for in the movies, and apparently her books, Booth teases, so she doesn’t say it out loud, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t think it).
“I was so jealous,” they say, and those, she thinks, have read too much Shakespeare and probably have seen too many of those movies Booth talked about, where the characters are allowed the word perp.
“I hated him so much,” and that’s rational, she thinks. Ethical, no. Moral, probably not. Rational, yes. You kill what you hate. You destroy it.
“I loved him so much,” and this, Brennan will never understand.
Fat Pam said: I’m doing this for us, but Brennan didn’t know that at the time.
Brennan didn’t say anything when she shot her.
( – Booth died, Booth died and she left the hospital with him spilled out all over her, all over her clothes. She drove home, she took a shower, water filled her throat, spilled out her mouth, spilled out all over her. She sat in the dark, the edge of her bed, hair still wet and dripping, darkening the gray of her t-shirt. The keys were solid and right in her hand so she left, so she drove, so his door was right where he left it, his home where he once lived and the door opened as it always had only he wasn’t on the other side. Only there was nothing on the other side, and hasn’t that been what she’s been saying all along? You take the life and there’s nothing left – only bone, always bone, Bones, he used to say. Floorboards creaked under her weight, hair still wet, still dripping, and maybe she shivered because of it. The door to his bedroom was open, the doors here were open, and she entered, she went in, bed unmade, a pair of boxers on the floor, the entire room was quiet and cold and smelled of him. Her fingers played against the line of buttons on the sleeve of a suit jacket in his closet, played against the line of jackets in a row, all varying shades of gray and black and somber, and if maybe she pulled and the bare hanger danced upward, the jacket fell, then maybe she fell too, and maybe she brought more jackets down with her and sat there, the floor of his closet, handfuls of suits, of him, and if she was ever going to sob and howl and beg and cry, this was going to be it, this would be it, these are the things we put in our hearts.
At his funeral she punched him in the face. It wasn’t enough; her hand met the side of his face, flesh on flesh, bone to bone, not enough. She didn’t understand it then and she more than likely doesn’t understand it now, the desire for her hand to reach past the surface, to get beneath that, get inside him and shake him, get inside and never leave, he can’t leave, c’mon Booth c’mon).
“You’re not leaving. Are you?”
“I can stay.”
“You don’t – ”
“I wanna stay.”
Angela says, “sweetie,” like it means something, means everything. Brennan stands with her back turned, the glow of a computer monitor hollowing out her face in stretches of bright blue and when she rubs at her eyes, just the once, her fingers come away wet.
She takes a deep breath, and Angela says, “sweetie,” again, but the thing is: Booth died.
(The other thing is: he is a liar and he comes back. But that comes later).
When they catch the man, he is quiet and neat. He sits across from Booth and Brennan and stares Brennan in the eye.
“I just loved them all so much,” he says quietly, and he says it like he means it. “I just loved them all so much,” he repeats and he might as well be praying.
Booth says something glib, something about skinning people, or something, and when he slams the photographs down there are just pictures of skeletons amid floral sheets, macabre illustrations of quiet domesticity. Brennan swallows fast; sometimes she can’t breathe.
“I only left the bones behind,” the man says and he does not blink. Brennan does not blink either. “I wanted to keep them with me,” he whispers.
Booth shifts next to her and doesn’t say anything, and she doesn’t say anything either. His shoulder brushes against her and she inhales, deep and audible.
So Booth dies. That one time, Booth died – he took a bullet to the shoulder, the chest, he took a bullet and then he fell over and spread himself out on the floor of a karaoke bar in Alexandria. The blood had been dark and sticky and soaked through the fabric at her knees.
(Brennan’s mouth had been sticky and tasted hot, a mix of bile and adrenaline and the remains of an amaretto sour Angela had bought her).
Booth dies and then he comes back. Like a zombie, he teases, once, later, when it’s still not quite funny. For that, Brennan says, like Jesus, and he frowns but it’s not genuine.
He comes back and sometimes he will stand too close and the scent will be too strong. She’ll think of that closet and all the empty hangers and the suit jackets and their sleeves that brushed the back of her head. She’ll think that’s what Angela means when she says things like, these are the things we put in our hearts (but Angela never said that, did she? she only wishes it was Angela who had said that), when Brennan knows the only things that go there are blood and oxygen and the body’s constructed pathways leading in and out. These are the things we put in our hearts, she had thought.
But Booth came back, Booth was alive, and the heart is just another organ caged in bone.
That Thursday, their serial killer will be behind bars and Booth will enter her office, throw a new file down on her desk.
“It’s a good one,” he’ll tease and waggle his eyebrows. “Dead dude at RFK Stadium.”
She will follow him, rifle through the file as she walks. Booth will turn to watch her.
Booth died two months ago.
You’re not going to betray me, Brennan had said.
No, Booth had answered.
No had been his answer and maybe Brennan had smiled a little, a tight lipped gesture. Sometimes when she smiled it was the saddest thing ever. Not to her, of course; it’s never that sad to the one who is smiling.
She drank more of the drink he offered. No, he had said, and maybe, yes, she had believed him.
In her field, you ask questions you don’t know the answers to, you ask in order to understand. This is what is known as learning.
Booth poured more booze in a paper cup and perhaps if they waited long enough the alcohol would have eaten through the thinness that gave the cup its shape. Instead she slammed it back, he slammed it back, and her cup fell crumpled to the floor.
She asked if he would betray her. This is not her field.
They talk a lot but there’s a lot they never say.
(She is the first to say I love you, and that surprises you, doesn’t it? It surprises her too, and it surprises him less. They are in the diner and there isn’t a case – a case has just been closed or a case has yet to start; today everyone is alive and everyone is happy and maybe somewhere decay threads through a body and bone pokes through skin and through dirt and refuge, but they do not know it, no one knows it, and though she is loath to admit it, ignorance really is a kind of bliss.
I love you, is what she says and she says it forcefully, like every other anthropological non sequitur she has ever uttered in this diner or in his presence, and this statement is no different or diminished by lack of fact.
I know, Booth says. I know).
(He will smile then, that’s what comes next: Booth smiles.
His hand will slip over hers, her hand cold from the glass of ice water, and his hand will be warm.
I love you too, he’ll say. Brennan will steal a French fry with her free hand, a flash of teeth, mouth curved in a grin and her fingers will squeeze).
(Booth died two years ago).
What happened once is this:
A girl he calls Bones held the snapped piece of a dead girl’s radius or ulna (he does not know these things yet, he does not know them the way she does, he does not know them the way he will come to know her) up and he watched her. She squinted up at him against the sun and she said, “What?”
Booth did not call her Bones yet. Then she was Dr. Brennan, and she still is Dr. Brennan, that part hasn’t changed.
Everything else has though.
(These are the things we put in our hearts, she will think).