A/N: Takes place during and following Ep. 101 (S.5), "The Death of the Queen Bee" Booth's POV on what happened at the Hoover and what it will take to make things right. Guest appearance from Booth's old Army buddy Hank Lutrell (played by Mitch Longley in "The Soldier on the Grave" - S.1/E.21)
I do not own Bones. I imagine everything about my life would be vastly different if I owned a TV show. ;-)
The Gambler in the Agent
Is it the gambler in him that makes him act the way he acts, or does he gamble because of how he acts? Does it really make a difference? Sweets could probably cite some study that would give him answers, and Bones could probably tell him the anthropological reasoning behind his behavior. But what he knows is that no matter what their answers, reasons, or explanations about his gambling, he discounts their input because they learned something from a book, not from their own experience, they've never struggled with the obsession and the compulsion and don't understand when he tries to explain it to them. "Just don't gamble," they tell him. Yeah, right. Is that the same as "Just say no?"
Between the three of them, they have weathered similar storms growing up, Sweets and Bones in abusive foster homes, him with an abusive father. None of them have come through unscathed, following different paths to where they are today, each fighting their own demons, but each of them faced their challenges and rather than allowing them to be stumbling blocks (although, admittedly, each of them still stumbles from time to time), they have each used them as stepping stones in their lives. Hank might call it, 'a touchstone to progress.' And, while it has perhaps never been their intention, they each find themselves working towards a similar goal of trying to make the world a better place.
Looking back he can see that while this may not have been the career path he imagined for himself when he was a kid, for the most part, he has been pretty happy with his life. Sure, there have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but he has people in his life who care about him. He has a son who loves him, he even has an ex with whom he is on pretty good terms most of the time. On reflection he knows just how lucky he is to be in this place instead of on the path to destruction he was on when he first met Bones. So why now, has he gambled again and put all of that at risk? How has he once again found himself on the wrong side of a bet?
The night before he walked into that lecture hall and met Bones for the first time, he'd spent in a pool hall. He was spending a lot of nights in pool halls. Of course, it nicely supplemented his FBI income. He controlled it when necessary, then he would go on a binge and if he was lucky, he'd be flush for a few weeks. As good as that sounded, winning was sometimes worse than losing. When he won big, the voices in his brain just tried to convince him that he can win bigger – and when he lost, he knew it was just one more bet until his luck turned around and he'd make the big score. It wasn't just his mind talking to him anymore; there was the adrenalin rush in his body, the anxious feeling in his gut.
When they finished the Gemma Arrington case he got her drunk to fire her. Then she suggested that now they could have sex. But as they stepped out of the bar and kissed, there was something different, he remembers the thought going through his mind, "this could lead to something." Then the words when he admitted that he had a gambling problem. He didn't intend for those words to come out of his mouth that night, and he still wonders what it was about that moment that brought him to what, up to now, has been his bottom. What caused him to say those words and be willing to take the actions that would change his life? When she left in the cab alone, it was everything he could do to not turn around and go back into that bar and bury his feelings, his emotions, his anger, his frustration, in a game (or two, or three, or more - depending on whether or not he was winning). But he didn't, he went home.
It wasn't the first time that he became aware of the consequences of his actions. It certainly wasn't the first time a woman had led him to the edge and then left. He knew his gambling was starting to affect his job performance. Even Cam had called him on it that day that she had referred him to Dr. Temperance Brennan for the case. A case that was quickly cooling and was close to going into the cold file.
Besides his job performance, he knew that he was putting his security clearance in jeopardy. One of the things they look for in a background check is if someone is at risk of being blackmailed. He wasn't then, but he knows that if he had continued in the direction he was headed, that they could have easily come up with a reason to pull his clearance. But he'd been there before, and that hadn't ever stopped him. Some might call it cocky, but he knows it for what it is, arrogance and pride. So, what was different about that night that got his attention – made him willing to change and ask for help? Or was it just time for him to change? No matter how he looked at it, it all came back to Bones. The only different factor in the equation was Bones.
Just a few weeks before that night in the bar, he'd run into Hank coming out of the Department of Justice Building. He and Hank had served together in the Gulf. It wasn't long after being assigned to the same unit that they realized that they were kindred spirits. They were the guys planning the poker games, betting at darts in the bars, playing pool, putting down a bet on a football game, a baseball game, a hockey game . . . if there was a sport or something left to chance, if there was a bet to be made, a line to be played, they could be found. Booth and Hank, the gamblers. They seemed to be blessed by Lady Luck until that day when Hank lost his legs in that firefight.
Hank's injury got Booth's attention, but that wasn't gambling. That was war. Hank was medivac'd out and Booth didn't see him again until he returned stateside from his last tour. They'd stayed in touch, but Hank had changed. Booth couldn't quite put his finger on it until one day when they were watching a Steelers game and Hank declined to place a bet on the game – even a friendly wager. Booth remembers being curious at the time, but not curious enough to ask the question in the back of his mind.
He hadn't seen Hank in awhile when he ran into him in front of the Justice Building a couple of weeks before that night in the bar with Bones. Hank took one look at him and suggested that they head over to the Mall and grab a cup of coffee. As Booth thought back on it now, he recalled that Hank didn't try to convince him one way or another, didn't preach or proselytize, just shared his experience and let Booth know that if he ever wanted to do something about his gambling, he'd be available to help.
So that's where he found himself that evening after Bones took off (alone) in the cab. He'd walked home in the rain and called Hank, not even knowing why he was making the call. Hank came over with a friend and Booth waited to see if they were going to pull "good cop, bad cop" on him. He was sure they were going to talk to him about his gambling. Everyone had always talked to him about his gambling. But they didn't do that, they talked about their gambling and no one had ever done that before. He isn't a joiner of clubs or groups, and even though he has a strong belief in God because of his Catholic upbringing, he was just a little unsure of this Higher Power business they were talking about. But, he'd gone to meetings for a while, had worked those steps, had worked with other gamblers, and he hadn't gambled since that night in the rain when she left alone in that cab.
Until that night at the Hoover. He had gone over that night again and again. He and Bones sitting telling Sweets about the mistakes in the book that he had written about them and then telling him about the Arrington case, their real first case. At the end of that session, he remembers Sweets' words, "You're the gambler. For once make it work for you."
He still hears those words reverberating in his head as they walk out the door. Standing in the elevator with her so close that he can smell the fragrance of her shampoo. Helping her with her coat before they exit the building into the rain and wanting to wrap his arms around her. Sweets' words just rumbling around in his head, "You. It has to be you, because you're the gambler. For once make that work for you."
Then without pausing, the words tumbling from him, "I'm the gambler. I believe in giving this a chance. I want to give this a shot" not registering the look on her face, in her eyes. He is caught up in it again and this time the stakes are so much higher, higher than they've ever been, he feels like he is playing for keeps, this is the big one. This is the gamble that will change his life. At the time he doesn't even realize that he has been pulled back into the game – the cunning, baffling, and powerful part of the obsession has lulled him into believing that if he just says the right words, just makes the right appeal, that this time he will win, and win big. "I'm that guy, Bones. I'm that guy."
He is caught up in it again and he doesn't even realize it. He hears her response, but instead of trying to talk it out, he just rushes on trying to get her to see his point of view, his argument, his side of the story, his ultimatum. These aren't facts on a case that he's giving her. These are emotions. She's slow at processing emotions. For as many times as he's told others (Sweets, Max, Russ, Cam, he could increase the list ad infinitum), that she needs time to process, she needs to get her facts, to examine the evidence, she needs to mull, for as many times as he has said that to others, he just barrels on, rolling right over her protests. And then the threat, because that's really what it is, isn't it? He bullies her like he had on the Arrington case. Except that this time he doesn't grab her arm and pull her out of a room, but it's practically the same, isn't it? "Do it my way, or I'll show you! Do it my way, or I'll leave, I'll move on." Those aren't his exact words, but isn't that what he is saying to her? Isn't that what she hears? Like his Dad, "it's my way or the highway, boy!"
It isn't until later that he can look back and know that the feeling is back, the tingling in his fingers, in his body, the high from the rush of adrenalin that he used to get when he placed a bet, the tension waiting for the results of the game or the race, or tonight for the answer to his question. Placing the bet and waiting for the outcome – and his usual response when he lost.
Chapter II is already written and will be posted in the next couple of days.
Other Bones stories can be found through my profile page. Thank you for taking the time to review.