Author's Note: My most favorite episodes in any series can usually be narrowed down into two categories: birth (of my OTP's child) and danger (of the life-threatening kind, usually involving the female member of my OTP. No, I'm not misogynistic, I just find the guy's intense emotional reaction in that situation to be incredibly moving, irresistibly sexy, and all-in-all something quite endearing to watch). I think they resonate so deeply with me because they feed into my own deep-seated needs: to be a mother, and to be taken care of by someone who loves me. But enough of my psychology spouting XD Suffice to say, I'm nearly CRAWLING OUT OF MY SKIN after the promo for "The Shot in the Dark". I have not been *THIS* excited for an episode since "The Prisoner in the Pipe", and as such I just couldn't resist typing out a small one shot while the anticipation is still so fresh and so overwhelming. What you're about to read is a speculatory take on what goes down the night Brennan is shot, from Booth's POV. And please, friends, review when you finish. There is no greater praise than to know your hard work was enjoyed.
It had started out so innocently at first, a small comment taken the wrong way about how she'd overcooked the meat, but on days when the stress of a stagnating case flowed over into evenings with a cranky nine-month-old, that was when exhaustion had a tendency to create firecrackers out of the two of them. Booth wasn't really sure how their argument escalated as quickly as it did, but he was acutely aware of the moment that it ended. When yelling gave way to slumped stances and throbbing headaches, made worse by the chorus of cries from the nursery upstairs as Christine called for an impasse.
Brennan kneaded her temple, scowling and standing up from the table to march out into the hall, Booth on her tail.
"Where are you going?" He'd tried to keep the query light, but somehow the residual anger from their fight remained caught in his voice.
"To the lab," Brennan snapped in reply, grabbing up her purse and jacket. Her hand was reaching for the handle when Booth got in between.
"Bones, you know I don't like it when you work this late-"
"I need to clear my mind. I can't do that here." Brennan gave him a little shove and Booth teetered to the side when he saw the fire in her eyes; the stubborn streak that so attracted and so infuriated him in equal measure. She never failed to get her way, in the end. He was powerless to her desire.
"I need some space, some time to myself," were her last words, before the door was slammed shut in his face.
Booth exhaled, and in that release fled a great deal of his steam.
It wasn't that living with Brennan was difficult, Booth thought as he ascended the stairs two at a time. No, it was the best decision he'd ever made in his entire life - one he knew he would make again in a heartbeat. But it wasn't easy, either. Maybe that was why he loved her so damn much. Night and day, brain and heart. They bickered over everything under the sun, complete and utter opposites, and yet... somehow... they belonged together. They fit. They just had to learn how to navigate this dance that so thoroughly tangled their professional and home lives, until it was hard to tell where one began and the other stopped.
Booth cracked open the door dutifully labelled "Christine's Room" in Parker's boyish scrawl, smiling down at the source of so much of his and Brennan's fatigue-born disputes as she rattled the rails of her crib. Or prison, if you'd have asked her. Booth chuckled, drawing near with a twinkle in his brown eyes.
"Aren't you supposed to be sleeping, little lady?"
"Dadadadada!" Christine wailed, her arms coming up to waggle desperately toward her father. Most times, he would have dodged the nimble fingers until Christine was coaxed back onto her pillow, but tonight was different. Tonight, he needed the comfort of her body against his chest; the comfort of knowing that even if he did a million things wrong, he did just as many right.
Christine settled down into him as Booth carried her over to the rocker, her fussing devolving into soft sniffles and chirruping hiccups that made Booth want to melt. He watched and waited, quietly, as first one eye floated shut, then the next. Head bobbing, thumb nursing, it didn't take long until the tiny girl was dozing pliant against his shoulder.
Booth sighed, letting his head fall back into the chair and staring up at the painted yellow ceiling, one hand stroking Christine's flaxen sprigs of hair while the other played with a loose thread on her jammies.
"I shouldn't have been so short with Mommy," Booth murmured. He blinked his eyes closed then open, closed then open. They felt sluggish and strained. "I feel horrible about it. Daddy is really stupid sometimes, Christine."
The light in the nursery was really bright. Too bright. Maybe if he simply closed his eyes, kept them that way for just a bit, while he held vigil for Brennan...
Barely intelligible, the weary FBI agent swore, "I'll apologize the second Bones gets home."
The last thing Booth remembered thinking before succumbing to the bewitching snares of sleep was that he and Brennan were going to have some truly amazing make-up sex upon her return.
Booth woke with a start, jerked from strange dreams where frightening black skeletons with gleaming red eyes came to life and battled each other on the lab's platform, while Brennan cried on the floor underneath them. For some reason, it had left a sour taste in his mouth, and as Booth sat up - breathing heavily and checking to make sure Christine was still snoring soundly in his grip - he noticed his agitation growing.
And no wonder - 10:56, the watch on his wrist blared. Booth rubbed his eyes. It had been hours since he last heard from his partner. Where was Brennan? Surely she wasn't still at work?
Booth deliberated, running a hand through his hair. He knew that once upon a time, the Brennan of old would spend hours holed up over her bones, searching valiantly for clues while dawn slowly chased out the moon. But that was before she had let him into his life; before they shared a home and a daughter and the various obligations those two entailed. It had been years since she stayed past nine, let alone eleven, and something about that nightmare had left Booth discomfited.
He quickly finagled out his phone and dialed the familiar digits, having to remind himself halfway through that gulping air did not readily calm the heart. Deep in... slow woosh! out. Deep in... slow woosh! out.
Booth tried not to worry. He was fully aware that Brennan had a tendency to hold grudges when she felt so inclined, and it would be just like her to ignore his calls in order to spite him. Yeah... yeah, that was probably it. Booth began to breathe a smidge easier. He hated that she was still mad at him. It was beyond time to make amends.
The brown-haired man sat up and shifted the baby to his hip.
"Easy does it, Christine. Shh. That's a good girl. We're gonna go for a little car ride and visit Mommy!"
Christine fussed almost the entire car ride, no doubt expressing her immense displeasure at having been displaced from her warm and comfy bed. It wasn't until they pulled into the Jeffersonian that she finally lightened up, pointing out the window and chirping "Nu-Nu! Nu-Nu!"
"No, no Ms. Noonan today, sweetpea." Once upon a time, Christine had been enrolled in the Jeffersonian's in-house daycare, but that was before Brennan's constant meddling drove the aides batty. Max stepped in for a little while, but when his babysitting availability diminished, Booth had to cajole Cam into getting involved. Under her pressure, the daycare relented, reluctantly allowing Christine to attend a special three-day-a-week play group with the other children whenever Max was busy. The much enamored "Nu-Nu" was Christine's teacher and head of program, Ms. Noonan... the irony of which being that it had been Ms. Noonan herself who petitioned so fervently in the beginning that Christine should be expelled, to save everyone the trials of her emotionally taxing mother. It never failed to amuse Booth at how irked and how jealous Brennan became whenever the woman was brought up in conversational gibberish by their little daughter, and it was this he thought of with a chuckle as Booth carefully untangled the happily bouncing Christine from her seat. "We're going to see Mommy, remember?"
"Muh-ma," the baby cooed.
"Yes, Mama, and we're gonna go tell her how sorry we are so that Mommy feels better," Booth said, now strapping Christine into her stroller. Once he was sure the belts were secure, the two made their commute through the parking lot, and Christine began singing random notes as she banged atop her small table.
Booth sighed. "Bones is still going to kill me for keeping you up this late, though."
They entered the enormous acropolis of knowledge into a heavy pall of silence. Even Christine went still - tense, almost - as they rolled across the marbled floor, and Booth had to shiver when they passed the examination platform. His eerie dream from before replayed itself in horribly vivid detail, leaving the man a stomach-churning combination of sick and guilty.
"Bones?" Booth called. He peeked into her office - no Brennan. There was really only one other place he expected her to be right now.
"Bones, you here?" Booth traversed the hallway, past Angela's study and toward the bone room. "Look, I'm sorry, alright, you're the best mother in the world. I miss you. Christine misses you."
The bone room came into view. Booth stopped dead in his tracks, and the sensation of numb disbelief that followed was akin to that of an ice bucket dumping a gallon of frigid water down his chest, then spreading outward.
She was laid out spread-eagle on the ground, tools scattered helter-skelter as if toppled in a skirmish. But Booth did not see any of this, at first. No, there was one thing and one thing alone that captured his attention, and it was now the only thing he could focus on amidst the rushing staccato of his heart.
"Oh my God. Oh my God."
Blood. Why was there so much blood.
Breath hitching, insides curdling, Booth steered the stroller off to the side, falling to his knees and nearly sliding his way over to the prone form of Brennan. His hands were shaking as he touched first her abdomen, then her neck, searching desperately for a pulse; a sign of life. Out loud, he knew he was babbling, but whatever shock-induced exclamations expelled from his lips were trounced by an even greater turmoil from within.
It was weak, but the fluttering of her heart was still encouragingly, mercifully, beautifully there.
Booth wanted to cry with relief, but he knew he had to act fast. He grabbed a wad of tissue from a nearby table and began staunching the blood that leaked from a gaping bullet hole in Brennan's jacket, trying to rouse her in the process with a gentle shake. "Bones, stay with me!"
Christine was beginning to whimper in the background as Booth whipped out his phone, and belatedly he wondered if the girl was somehow cognizant of the fact that her mother was slowly ailing, despite the contrary evidence Brennan used to spout about formative memories and neural networks and wait someone was finally picking up-
"Yeah, this is Agent Booth, I need an ambulance at the Jeffersonian in the bone room, now. Now!"
Booth tossed his phone haphazardly away; there was no time to waste.
"ANYONE HERE, I NEED SOME HELP!" the frantic man yelled, and Christine's wails increased tenfold at the agitation in his voice. Booth wished he could gather her up and soothe his daughter's tears, but right now his primary concern was keeping Brennan stable. When he turned back and looked down again, his breath stuck: Brennan's eyes were struggling to open! Booth pressed harder on the wound and she tilted her face ever-so-slightly towards his.
"Bones, just stay with me, okay? Everything's gonna be fine. Stay with me!" He could see she was fazing in and out, and he feared he would lose her to unconsciousness again. This was not good. Not. Good. "Bones, wake up! Stay with me, you gotta fight!"
But Brennan's head was lolling, she didn't seem to be listening anymore, or more likely she couldn't hear him as the injured scientist drifted... drifted...
"No, Bones, no - don't you dare leave me! You're gonna be fine, alright, just hold on, hold on for me! For Christine!" Booth pleaded, a hitch in his throat, but Brennan did little more than jerk fruitlessly at the mention of their poor terrified child. She was slipping away from him and he couldn't do a damn thing. "The ambulance is coming, okay? Okay, Bones? Bones!"
She was no longer responding, but that didn't stop Booth from continuing to beg and Christine from continuing to bellow. Time folded in on itself; he couldn't determine how long exactly the family fell apart for in that suffocatingly small room, but help did eventually arrive. Booth cradled Christine tightly as he watched Brennan being boarded onto a stretcher, burying his aching countenance in the baby's matted locks. Terror and fury battled for dominance within the weary confines of the man's mind, and there was one thing Booth knew for certain:
Whoever did this was going to pay.
The next hour passed in a surreal sort of blur, punctuated by moments of grim reality wherein Booth made the painstaking calls to all of Brennan's friends and family, informing them of her shooting. It was almost more agonizing the second time around, hearing his worst fears come alive in their distressed reactions; recalling the grisly details that led to Brennan nearly dying, alone in a pool of her own blood. He could have prevented all of this so easily if he'd just kept. his. mouth. shut.
The hospital waiting room had become a very congested place. Max appeared first, and he had barely said two words to Booth before practically assaulting the nearest nurse that walked by, demanding an update on Brennan's condition. The others scrambled in in waves, each handling the stress of the situation in different ways. Angela zeroed in on Booth, completely ignoring his hunched posture and morose brooding to give the man a hug, promising him that it would be alright, Brennan was a fighter. Hodgins tried mightily to keep Michael and Christine occupied, reading to the cranky toddlers - one squiggling on each thigh - from a book about highly dangerous fungi and their effects on humans. Sweets seemed torn between voicing concern over Hodgins' odd methods of entertainment and accosting hospital personnel for information himself, but in the end, it was Cam who had the most success of all of them.
"Thank you so much," the olive-skinned pathologist gushed, and at her dulcet tones, the team glanced up. Cam had found herself a curmudgeonly looking doctor, but the old man belied his gruff appearance with a warm pat on the shoulder, nodding politely at Cam before exiting the room.
She turned to Booth, clasping her hands together and taking a steeling breath. "I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but that doctor I was chatting with? He's an acquaintance of Paul's, and he claims Paul has spoken very highly of my talents in the lab; my prowess with both a working anatomy and a dead one. He is aware we are waiting on news from Dr. Brennan, and he told me that they are prepping her now for an emergency surgery. But, Seeley, he also said that if I wanted, I could... I could be present inside the room, while they perform the operation."
The group went mum, hinging on Booth's go-ahead.
Cam peered into Booth's dark eyes. "I know you wish that they had chosen you. I wish it too, Seeley. But now we have a way in - we can get experienced Squint eyes in there to ensure everything possible is being done. And you know me, Seeley. I won't leave her side. Not for an instant. I won't let her be alone in this."
It was moments like these when everyone saw just how deeply Cam cared for her colleague, despite the silly games the two frequently played over professional hierarchy in the lab.
Booth closed his eyes and worried his forehead with his fists. "Don't let her go on me, Camille."
The woman smiled back an onslaught of intense emotion at his feeble croak. "Never."
Booth liked to believe that he was a fairly devout man. He went to Mass every Sunday, he recited prayers every night. He tried his very hardest to be a good person; someone who glorified God by stopping wrongdoers and helping others. But there was no denying that in recent years, Booth felt he had fallen from grace in the eyes of his church. How could he call himself a Catholic, when he knowingly disobeyed their statutes? Living with women, impregnating them outside the bonds of matrimony... not to mention all the lives he'd cut short as a military sniper... Booth wouldn't have been surprised in the least if this was not God coming down to collect retribution for so many choices made in sin. But no matter what he deserved, he knew: he could not bear this. He could not go on if the one person who generated so much happiness, so much purpose and so much love, was stolen as payment.
Booth blinked back tears as he brought his hands together, pressing them to his lips.
And then he prayed.
He prayed that Christine did not lose her mother. He prayed that the team did not lose its leader. But most of all, he prayed that God did not take Brennan before they had a chance to grow old together, to see their children have babies and maybe even their children's children have babies.
Angela squeezed Booth's trembling shoulder while on the wall, time ticked down Brennan's battle with the afterlife.
Booth jumped when the door to Room 447 opened, and the entrant cocked a half smile sympathetically.
"Pacing a hole into the floor?"
"Crater, more like."
"You know, you're a little far from the waiting room."
"The others left for the Jeffersonian, to try and catch the son-of-a-bitch before he gets too far. Then Max took Christine for a walk and it was just - it was too quiet. I had to find her, I had to get answers."
Cam swallowed thickly. "Well, I can assure you that she's... stable."
"I sense a 'but'?" Booth queried nervously. "Give it to me straight up, Cam. I need to know, whatever it is."
"On the operating table, Dr. Brennan... she... her heart stopped," Cam said, with supreme difficulty. Her hands shook as she raked them through her ivory-hued hair. "Truthfully, there was a moment when even I wasn't sure she would..."
Booth had trouble speaking past the constricting lump burgeoning in his throat. "But she's okay now, right? I mean, Bones is... she's fine?"
"It was a close one, and she's certainly not out of the water yet, but as Angela testifies - and I thoroughly concur - our Brennan is a fighter. She'll make a full recovery, I guarantee it."
"Thank you, Cam. For everything," Booth acknowledged, pulling his old friend into a tight embrace. Cam nodded against his shoulder. "When can I see her?"
"Soon," the pathologist promised, stepping back but leaving a comforting hand on his chest. "Soon, but not yet. She needs to rest awhile, before entertaining any visitors. You included, Seeley."
She patted him consolingly, and Booth smiled for the first time in what felt like eons.
The nightmare was over, almost.
"Seeley Booth? Is Special Agent Seeley Booth still here?"
Booth grunted, yanking himself from a dozing position on the uncomfortable wooden-backed chair he'd taken refuge in, after conversing with Cam. He looked wildly around until his eyes alighted upon a nurse in floral scrubs.
"Temperance Brennan is awake and asking for you."
Booth shot up like a rocket, his whole boyish visage taking on an excited gleam. "I have permission to see her?"
"Yes indeed, you do," the bringer of good news replied, and she chuckled warmly as the man fairly bolted from his seat.
Booth was down the hall and standing in front of Brennan's door in barely ten seconds flat, despite the three story set of stairs and various obstacles strewn throughout his path along the way. He was about to knock when a weak voice called,
"Come in, Booth."
The aforementioned brunette had to smirk, wondering if all women were gifted with a second sight, or just his Bones. Booth carefully slipped his way inside, sighing when he observed how fragile Brennan appeared, all wired up in that pristine white hospital bed. It was an image he was not likely to forget.
"My shooter?" she probed, and Booth indulged in a belly laugh.
"First chance we have to be alone together, and that's what you greet me with. Oh, Bones. Only you... only you." The man went sentimental as he perched himself next to Brennan on the mattress, reaching over to caress her cheek. "Yes. Through their (as always) excellent forensic work, the team discovered the perpetrator was a fellow employee named Leroy."
"Leroy? The janitor? Oh no, no not Leroy, he was so brilliant, so quietly brilliant-"
"And apparently, that quiet brilliance wasn't enough for him to join the Jeffersonian's elite. You are a part of the board that continues to turn him down, year after year, and I suppose tonight, that anger he'd been festering boiled over - so Leroy donned an intern Hal's clothing to throw suspicion off himself, shut down security, and... well..."
"Put a bullet through my ribcage," Brennan finished, ever the blunt anthropologist. "I'm glad you caught him, Booth."
"Well, I wanted to kill the son-of-a-bitch to be honest with you, but I figured giving him a taste of his own medicine would only end badly for us, so..." Booth shrugged piteously. "Hey, maybe I earned some karma points up there, though."
"I don't believe in karma."
"I know. And I love you so very much for it," Booth teased. Brennan snorted only to grimace, and her partner grew somber in result. "God, Bones. You terrified me today, you know that?"
"I'm sorry," she whispered, and Booth rubbed his fingers through her hair; down her arm. Picked up her palm and began kissing the back of her soft hand with fierce emotion.
"No, I am. I said some really awful things to you at dinner, and I didn't mean a single one of them, but I still let those insults fly unchecked."
"Booth, you were tired, I was tired, and neither of us was thinking rationally-"
"Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that I inadvertently sent you running headlong into danger, and I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself if I wasn't here, now, talking to you. If I was standing over a body bag downstairs instead. I just... it puts things into perspective, nearly losing you over something so stupid, so trivial. You're my rock, Bones. Without you... I can't function properly. I would not have been able to go on."
"You would have. For our daughter. Because you are an honorable man - a good man. You would go on for her." Brennan's sleepy blue eyes scanned the room. "Speaking of Christine-"
"She misses her Mama, but don't worry - Max is taking good care of her, and I'm sure he'll bring her in come morning, but I'm afraid right now she is one exhausted little baby. And while we're on the topic of people in dire need of some shuteye..."
"I am very drowsy," Brennan admitted in a mumble. She parried the heavy weights that seemed to be residing atop her eyes for a few moments, and Booth coaxed,
"Let it happen, Bones. I'll still be here when you wake up. I'm not going anywhere."
She began inhaling and exhaling in a more relaxed manner. Booth even thought she may have slipped under, but then the woman murmured,
"It isn't logical, but I saw my mother, Booth. It wasn't a dream. She talked to me."
"I don't doubt that for a second."
"I wanted to stay. It was peaceful. But then I heard you. You were telling me to fight. So I did."
Booth let loose a tiny sob, and in this dark, private hospital room - safely tucked in beside his wondrously breathing, living Bones - he finally felt free to cry. And as Brennan fell into gentle slumber, Booth leant down, crushing his lips against Brennan's forehead and thanking God for all that had been saved for him.