A/N: I've been advised by a beta-reader that this chapter should maybe have a hankie alert. Of course your mileage may be different (this from someone who cries at supermarket openings), so it's just a heads up. Do with it what you will.
A slight nod to "The Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House"
Thanks to those who reviewed Chapter I of this story, and as Choeb said in her "Eventually" fan fic, "I'm considering the story and author alerts as anonymous positive reviews, so thank you for those as well!"
Disclaimer: I do not own Bones. That's Ok.
I do not own Booth. Darn.
The Gambler in the Agent
He had realized long ago that it really doesn't matter why he's a gambler or why Jared is an alcoholic. For years he blamed his father, the raging, angry, abusive alcoholic. But eventually he had to admit that no one ever forced him to make a bet, and no one ever held Jared down to pour booze down his throat. He knows that life isn't black and white. His father could be a good man, but he was fighting his own fears and anger. His mother had told him that his dad came home from Vietnam a changed man. Because of Booth's own military experience, the things that he has seen, the horrors of war, he understands that today. But as a young boy growing up trying to protect his mom and his brother, he didn't understand that then.
He's knows now that the toughest part to overcome, to compartmentalize, isn't the physical abuse, but the verbal abuse his father had thrown at him. Fighting his own demons, his father had screamed his fears at his young sons and that's what stuck. At times like this, when he's at his lowest, that's what comes back, those are the words he hears over and over in his head. It's those words that haunt him, the words that wake him up in the middle of the night, the taunts, the jeers, the doubts. "You're not good enough, you'll never be good enough. Of course, she turned you down, do you think she wants to be with a loser like you?" He wonders if it's like that for Bones as well, and then realizes that he's not unique and it just adds to the torment.
He is grateful that he has his faith. It has stood him in good stead. Of course, that's not to say that there haven't been times when it hasn't wavered. It has certainly been sorely tested. He thinks of the times when he's felt that God has abandoned him. He remembers before Jared was born when he'd hide in the closet wondering where God was when his father was beating his mother. After Jared came along, he couldn't understand how the nuns could tell him that there is a loving God when he was standing between his drunken father and his little brother. Sweets would tell him that's where his white knight syndrome comes from. But even through all of that he had his faith. He's grateful for Pops who saved the two Booth boys when their father left and didn't return. He remembers the little nun who had been his savior in high school, the one that encouraged him in sports so he'd have an outlet for his aggression. He survived. Jared survived. If his faith could help him survive that, certainly his God is big enough to get him through this.
He walked her to her car that night at the Hoover and it took every ounce of restraint to just push the door closed and tap the roof as she started the engine. He didn't look back as he walked to his SUV, but he knew he had lost. The biggest gamble of his life and he has lost. He thought of stopping at Founding Fathers for a drink, maybe a quick game of darts. But in his gut he can vaguely sense that would be none too smart, and this time listening to his gut seems to be the right thing to do. Instead, he goes home and crawls into bed.
He's gone over that night and her words every night since. He isn't going to meetings as frequently. Sometimes on Thursday nights he'll stop in at the meeting on DuPont Circle, but he never goes into Virginia or Maryland for meetings anymore. He knows that Hank still goes. He calls Hank and arranges to meet him for coffee over near Federal Triangle. As he talks to him about what happened, Hank just listens. He doesn't try to fix it, he doesn't seem to judge, he just listens to Booth talk it out. About taking a gamble. No, he hadn't laid a bet, but he can see that all of the old behavior is there – and if he's still doing it, it probably is not old behavior. He wants to put it all on Sweets. "It has to be you, because you're the gambler."
But, talking it out with Hank, Booth knows. He can't deny it any longer. It would be delusional to try to convince himself otherwise. It wasn't Sweets. It wasn't Bones. It's him, Booth. He was the one that was wrong, he is the one that owes her amends. What he did to her that night on the steps wasn't any different than what he'd done to her on that first case, except it was more subtle this time. If one could call what happened outside the Hoover subtle!
Once again he had tried to bully his way through and when that didn't work, he'd resorted to what he'd been taught from the time he was a kid, and he'd certainly learned how to be a bully from the best. He'd issued an ultimatum. "Do it my way, or I'll leave, I'll move on." Great, Seeley! Sure, that'll work. Prove her right. Prove what she has always feared, that if she's not good enough, if she doesn't do it your way, that you'll leave. How is that any different than what she has tried to overcome since she was fifteen?
He grew up with those fears around his father. He knows all about bargaining with God, "if I don't upset him, he won't hit Mom." "If I just play quietly in my room, he won't get drunk." He knows what Bones went through when her parents left. She has shared with him how she felt, that it must have been her fault that they were gone. Then Russ left and it was just one more nail in her emotional coffin. Then there were some of the things she's let slip about the foster homes. There she was, abandoned going over it and over it in her head, "if she had only tried to be better, if she had tried to understand, if she hadn't shouted at him" then maybe she wouldn't have had to go into foster care she wouldn't have wound up where she did. He knows that part of what has pushed her is that unspoken fear that if she'd only been better or smarter her parents wouldn't have left. Then he enters her life and does this. "Do it my way or I'll leave." How could she have seen this as any different than what he did in his office five years ago, except that this time he didn't grab her arm and push her out of a room. This time, just like his Dad, just like the foster parents with whom she was placed, he used words. "Do it my way, or I'm gone." He owes her amends.
Now, here they are at Burtonsville High School attending Bones' high school reunion. How's that for luck? One night he's standing on the steps of the Hoover issuing an ultimatum, and a few weeks later they are undercover as a married couple at her class reunion. He knows that she doesn't want to be here, that she has unpleasant memories of high school and that she has desperately tried to forget these people. But he also knows that is not why they've been on shaky ground through the whole case.
She's had trouble meeting his eyes and he can tell she is trying to find her way to a new normal, that she's unsure of herself, unsure of him. His heart aches when he sees the caution in her actions, her words, in her eyes when she looks at him. He hurts for her as he watches her awkwardness around her former classmates. He watches how she responds when one of them calls her Morticia, the stiffening of her spine, the set to her mouth. He has a whole new awareness of how difficult high school was for her and a reminder of how cruel people can be to each other. When she moves into his arms for the slow dance, he can feel her chin resting on his shoulder, and when she reaches her arms up around his neck, he aches to pull her against him. He wants to tell her then how sorry he is, how he has been wrong, but this isn't the place, not here, not now. He sees Mr. Buxley with the knife and then the stars fall from the ceiling and Bones knows the answer to the puzzle. It was the metal stars. It was Julie, the Queen Bee.
As they watch the police car drive away, he cautiously puts his arm around her. He turns and pulls her into a hug, hoping she won't pull away, even as he feels her stiffen against him. "Bones, could we take a moment to talk?" Her body tenses against his, he sees her eyes widen, and he sees the fear in them. His heart drops at the look on her face. Him. He has done this to her. This isn't from Max or Russ. This is because of his actions. He has to step up. He has to take responsibility.
He moves them over to a bench near a small grove of trees by the tennis courts and sits her down. He turns towards her and waits until she turns her body towards him. She won't lift her head, won't look him in the eyes, her chin is down and she seems to be staring at a spot on his shirt. He puts his fingers under her chin and gently raises her head to see if she will look at him. He sees the pain in her eyes, he sees her tears and he knows that this is because of him. This is all on him.
"Bones, I need to make amends for what I did. I was wrong in how I handled things last week at the Hoover. I was inconsiderate, I know that. It was thoughtless and unthinking for me to throw all of that at you and then expect you to make a decision, to not give you time to think about it, to not hear what you were trying to tell me. But what was really wrong was for me to give you an ultimatum. I know that I didn't hear you. That I just kept barreling on. I didn't give you time to talk or even to think about what I was pushing at you, and that was just so wrong of me.
"I want to say I'm sorry, Bones. I am. I'm guessing that I'm probably one of the sorriest sons of bitches around. But I know I've said that before and then I turn around and treat you the way I did. I don't want to lose you, but if you need to work with someone else, I'll understand. If you want another agent, I'll take care of it. Please, let me know if there is anything that I can do to make this right. To make us right. I can't change what has happened, I know that. But I'm willing to do whatever you ask of me to make the situation right, even if we can't get back to where we were."
He can't bear to think that she would not want to work with him anymore. He's so afraid as he says those words. But, he's willing to do whatever she asks. He knows that now. He sees the tears in her eyes and he's afraid that once again he has pushed her too far; the damage has been done. He feels tears rimming his eyes as he wonders if they will survive this.
As the thoughts race through his mind, he feels her place her fingers against his lips even as tears fall on her cheeks. "I'm not like you, Booth." He starts to protest and she presses her fingers more firmly against his lips. "Please, just let me say this." Staring into her eyes, he knows that he has to sit and listen to what she has to say. These are the consequences of his actions, if he can dish it out, he has to be able to listen to her response. Actions have consequences and he has to be willing to man up to the consequences of his actions.
"I'm not like you. I have to think about something, I need to examine the evidence. I know that is frustrating to someone like you. You act on your gut, you process differently than I do. I know that sharing a strong emotional attachment with another human being can be a good thing, but there seems to be a disconnect between my mind and my heart. If a relationship seems more than casual, I feel that I need to posit the possible problems, the possibility of success and failure. I get scared, and I miss so much. I'm afraid, Booth, I'm afraid, and I'm afraid to let you know that I'm afraid. But, I have been thinking about it." She gives him a weak smile. Of course she's been thinking about it, she's barely thought of anything else.
"I'm so afraid that we'll try this and that if it doesn't work out, that I'll lose you all together. I'm afraid that if this doesn't work, I not only won't have you, but that we will lose our friendship, too. It's so much to risk and you know I don't do risk well and I have trouble asking for help. I don't have your heart." He feels his heart fall to his feet at her words, but then realizes that she's gone on.
"But, I have been examining the evidence. I don't want to have any regrets, Booth. I don't want to find myself alone with only my regrets to keep me company. I talked with Angela about it and she said I have to take a risk. I'm not a gambler, Booth, and I don't know about love. I'm afraid I can't love. But Angela says that 'can't means won't and that I have to try.'
"The evidence shows that if I don't want regrets, I am going to have to take a risk. I don't know if I can promise you thirty, or forty, or fifty years. But I can promise you today. Can we just start with today, Booth? Can we take the first step and see where that leads us one day at a time?" Looking down into to her beautiful eyes, he can't believe the words he's hearing come from her lips. "I'm willing to give it a try if you'll help me."
He catches himself. He has been watching her eyes as she speaks, so he isn't sure that he's heard her right until he feels her hands at the back of his head, with a catch in his throat he sees her eyes drift closed and feels the touch of her soft lips on his. His breath is pulled from him as he feels her tongue teasing his lips.
As his arms tighten around her and he returns her kiss, he knows that he can do it the way she's asked. He doesn't need her to promise thirty, or forty, or fifty years. He's willing to help her see what a great heart she has, one day at a time. One day at a time he's willing to walk through this as long as she is by his side. He knows that they can do this for one day and then another day, until they have a week, a month, a year. He can do this with her for one day at a time for as long as they have. He can hope and he has faith and now he's found love.
No Maluku. No Afghanistan. No blonde under a fig tree. No hijacked sunglasses.
Booth receives the Bakelite phone for his birthday – from Bones (as it should have been)
BTW, can ANYONE explain the hijacked sunglasses to me?
Gamblers Anonymous can be found on the web at gamblersanonymous dot org
Other Bones stories can be found through my profile page. Thank you for taking the time to review.