A/N: A thousand thanks to Some1, Natesmama, Frankie, and Lulasan, who either beta'd this, or answered endless questions about law, guns, identical twins' skeletons, and prisoners' underwear. (My mind goes down convoluted paths while writing, and they pay the price.)
Title: "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." - Anne Lamott
"What do you know about your husband's plans to kill three Federal agents?"
"Why did you return to the house?"
"How long has Agent Booth been stockpiling C-4? How did he access it? "
"How long has he been planning this assault?"
"Was he planning a bigger attack on someone else?"
"Did you assist him in his plans?"
By Brennan's estimation, and she was nearly always right about such things, the interrogation had been going on for two hours. Neither of the men firing questions at her were from the DC field office, and it had become clear almost immediately that they weren't interested in the truth. So she'd stopped offering it to them.
But she was paying close attention to every question, in hopes that they would slip up and reveal something about how far the conspiracy had spread.
Focusing so intently on the questions served another purpose, as well: it kept her terror for Booth at bay. The doctor's vague 'he's out of danger' had been so lacking in detail and actual content, she had no idea of her husband's true condition. What were the risks of further complications? Could he make a complete recovery? What were-
Aware of the spike in her heartbeat, she sharply shut down the speculation and returned her focus to the agents. She could do nothing for Booth's physical state at the moment.
The relentless battering went on: what did she know? why did Booth do what he did? Who was he working for?
The men didn't know Booth, and they didn't know her. As best she could tell, they couldn't distinguish between 'forensic anthropologist' and 'lab tech' and normally, she'd have taken a great deal of pleasure in setting them straight. But not today. Today, her focus was on trying to read between the lines of the questions, in the hope that they'd give something away. Not for the first time, she wished for Sweets.
Another hour went by, and it was clear even to her that their frustration with her silence was increasing.
"Dr. Brennan, your silence is not helping your husband. And if we find evidence that you were in on his plot, we'll arrest you as well. And then what will happen to your little girl?"
She thought about pointing out, again, that Booth hadn't been the one plotting, but instead, was struck by the true meaning of the question. The point of the interrogation was less to find out what she knew, and more about intimidating her. Threatening her.
She didn't react, simply tucked the fear of being separated from Christine in with the fear for Booth she'd already put aside. They weren't interested in arresting her, not really. The more people they charged with false crimes, the harder it would be to keep it all straight. And her celebrity status as a well-known author would only complicate that. The news media was currently chasing the story being fed to them by the conspirators, but they were notoriously fickle, particularly where celebrities were concerned.
The other agent repeated the threat, asking if she understood. She nodded, would give them that. The irony that she had, in fact, killed one of the men didn't escape her, but since the truth wasn't a factor here - at least not for the men across from her - she wouldn't think about that now. When Booth was free, and they were together, they could talk about those horrifying moments of fear and death in the their home, about what it meant. But not today.
There was a knock at the door, and the men exchanged a look before one of them stepped over to open it. She heard a quiet conversation, and then a firm voice, not unfamiliar, say, "Dr. Brennan is entitled to counsel."
She turned and saw David Barron standing there next to a deputy escort. Caroline Julian's ex-husband was one of the best defense attorneys in the city, and having seen the two of them together, both in and out of the courtroom, Brennan could well imagine the conversation that had resulted in his standing in the door of her interrogation room.
Actually, she couldn't quite figure that last part out, given the usual protocols, but since nothing about the current situation was normal, why would this be?
The agent she'd decided was in charge turned to her. "You didn't request an attorney."
No, she hadn't. In part because - what would be the point? and in part because she didn't think she absolutely had to have one. She wasn't going to be deceived into answering their questions. But if Barron was there, she'd use him. "I didn't believe it would do any good." Let them puzzle over that.
"This man is your attorney?"
Barron took the seat next to her, and, notepad in front of him, looked at the men. "Now on what grounds are you gentlemen holding my client?" His tone was pleasant, and if Brennan hadn't seen how fierce he could be in court, indeed, hadn't been cross-examined by him on more than one occasion, she might have been fooled.
Thirty minutes later, she was walking out of the interrogation room. She'd not been answering the questions prior to a defense attorney sitting next to her. It hadn't taken long for the agents to realize that extending the exercise once she was, was pointless.
"I'll give you a ride back to the hospital, where your car is," he said as they waited for her personal effects to be returned to her.
Aware that anyone could be listening to them, Brennan merely nodded and focused on powering up her phone as they headed toward the parking garage. There were calls and texts from Caroline, Angela, Cam, and her father, but none from unknown numbers. None from the hospital. The tension in her muscles relaxed a little at that realization.
Settling into Barron's old SUV, Brennan looked over at him. "Booth needs an attorney more than I do."
He gave her a sideways look. "Are you retaining me?"
"I didn't exactly hire you for what you did for me back there," she observed. "But yes." She didn't intend for there to be a trial - she was going to clear Booth - but he still needed an attorney. "How much do you know about what we've discovered?"
"As much as Caroline thought I needed to know," he said grimly. "Conspiracy, set up, Agent Booth arrested on false charge."
"Will I be able to see him?"
"Probably not until he's moved to the jail infirmary. They don't have the resources to care for a patient recovering from the kind of surgery he's just had at the jail, so he'll remain at the hospital until he's a ready to be moved. But that makes them twitchy about visitors."
Desperation twisted inside her. She needed to see him, damn it.
"As his attorney, I'll be able to see him. And his doctors will give you progress reports on his recovery."
With a promise to call her as soon as he'd been allowed to see Booth, Barron dropped her at her car and went to park.
Brennan stared at the building, How could he be in there, just on the other side of that space and bricks, and she wasn't allowed to touch him? To see for herself how severe his injuries were? It was wrong, and she was tempted to tell them so. But, no. She was nothing if not practical, and trying to find a way to see him would not only risk making the situation worse, it was a waste of time. And Brennan made a point of not wasting time. Her phone buzzed as she settled into her car, the text from Angela brief and to the point: "where are you?"
Before she could answer, her attention was caught by something in the floorboard of the passenger side. Habit had her slipping her hands into gloves - she kept spares everywhere - before she picked it up. It was part of a shirt she'd used to staunch the blood pouring from Booth in the moments prior to the EMTs' arrival, though she had no memory of still having it in her hands when she'd gotten into the car. She frowned, turning it over. She didn't recognize the material. Closing her eyes, she reviewed those terrifying moments when she'd realized how gravely injured he was. In the smoke and chaos of their destroyed home, she'd reached for the first piece of cloth she could find, stopping the blood loss her only priority.
Brennan stared down at part of the shirt the last Delta Force agent had been wearing. Not all of the blood on it would be Booth's.
Stuffing it into an evidence bag, she responded to Angela's text: "On my way to the lab."
Out of habit more than anything else, Brennan went first to her office. It was late, but she could hear the voices of the team somewhere, a quiet, reassuring murmur. Still, she stood for a long moment in the shadows. Booth had once called the Jeffersonian her house, her place of reason. As usual, he'd been right. The lab had been her oasis, her place to step back from turmoil and confusion and make sense of the senseless.
Before. Tonight, there was none of that.
She found the team in the upstairs lounge - Angela, Hodgins, Cam, Sweets, and Caroline. They were oddly quiet she thought, for a group of people who were seldom silent when together. Sweets was pacing, while Hodgins sat with his head in his hands. Next to him, Angela leaned back on the couch, Michael Vincent asleep next to her, his head in her lap. Caroline and Cam, sitting at the table, were staring down at their hands.
Sweets saw her first. "Dr. Brennan." He stopped, and seemed to struggle for words. "They let you go."
Angela eased out from under the little boy's head, and came to hug her. "We were so worried."
Brennan turned to Caroline. "Thanks to Ms. Julian, they elected not to continue the interrogation."
"He's annoying when you're married to him, but he's still the best there is." She gave Brennan a sharp look. "But you still wouldn't be here if they'd made up charges against you, too."
Brennan filled them in on the interrogation and then handed Hodgins the evidence bag. "We should be able to match DNA from that to one of Foster's killers. It still won't prove they're not FBI-"
"-but it will be hard to explain why he was in both places," Cam said. "I'm still running the agents database, but it's very slow going."
Sweets cleared his throat. "The official record of Foster's death says he wasn't murdered."
"I still have my original report, and the evidence which supports it is secured."
"You admit to having falsified a death report, and you might really need David's services, chere."
For years, her career had been her greatest concern, and now, it didn't even register on the list. "I'll say I went back and re-examined it."
"Perhaps telling the truth will be an option at some point," Cam said. "That you falsified the data out of fear of exactly what happened."
Brennan shrugged. "Booth's priority will be finding out who is behind the corruption. Mine is on clearing him.
"We need to get him out of there," Angela said. "I took one of my most powerful servers off the network and have it running the decryption program, but it's very complicated. It won't be fast - we'll be lucky if it gives us one piece of usable data every other day."
Sweets frowned. "If they're familiar with your setup, won't they know it's gone?"
Angela shook her head in response to Sweets' question. "I've been in the process of virtualizing for a while now. I had to be creative with data loads, but anyone looking at the network would think that physical machine is still there. Instead, it's sitting next to the others, running the decryption program without being seen."
"That's good, Angela. Thank you." Brennan stood. "I'm going to go look over the Foster case, see if I actually did miss anything." She hesitated, then looked around at them. "Thank you. And Booth thanks you."
"He goes down, we all eventually do," Hodgins said. "The white hats have to win here, or we're all screwed."
Brennan stared at him. "White hats?"
"He means the good guys, sweetie."
"Like in the Western films that Booth watches."
Booth had an extensive collection of such films. Even as the thought formed, she amended it to past tense: he'd had an extensive collection. The DVDs had probably not survived the fire fight. Suddenly weary, she said, "Maybe I'll wait to begin my re-examination of the Foster case until in the morning. I'm going to Max's - I want to see Christine." Her throat closed on the last words, and she turned. She needed to leave, needed space, needed to hold her child. Booth's child.
"Brennan." Something in Angela's voice had Brennan turning back toward her. "You might want to clean up here before you go." At Brennan's look of confusion, her tone gentled. "You still have Booth's blood on you."
She looked down, stared at her sweater and then lifted her hands, examined them. Blood. It was only blood. With a nod of acknowledgement toward Angela, she turned toward her office, where she kept spare clothes. It only made sense in a lab environment - particularly this one, where Hodgins' experiments could misfire at anyone. After the case involving the doomsday survivors, she had even started keeping a change of clothes for Booth.
Blood. It was only blood, something she was no stranger to.
Change of clothes in hand, she went to the decontamination area, carefully locking the outer door behind her. Cam had had the lock installed after walking in on Clark - even as she'd sent a reminder that the shower wasn't to be used except for emergencies. Cam was nothing if not practical about the people she worked with.
As she stripped, she occupied herself by evaluating whether the board, or whoever Cam answered to in this respect, would consider the current circumstances an emergency.
Blood. It was only blood.
In the shower, she turned the water on high and hot. She'd not even known she was cold until she started shaking. The water hit her face, her hands, and streaked toward the drain, pink in color.
Blood. It was only blood.
But it was Booth's blood, and she sank to the floor and wept while the water poured over her.
Brennan slowed as she turned into their drive three days later. Barron had called and told her the FBI techs were done processing the scene and the house had been released back to her. She sat for a moment, studying the damage: crime scene tape, bullet holes, boards on the windows the crime scene techs had put up, to secure the scene.
The inside would be worse, and as much as she wanted her focus to be on finding evidence that would clear Booth, there were decisions that had to made here. She had an appointment with the insurance agent scheduled for later, but first, she needed to know if the techs had missed anything.
She'd known what to expect when she stepped inside, but it was still a shock to the system. Smoke, destroyed furniture, blackened walls. At a sound, she turned, saw Hodgins and Angela coming in behind her.
"Whoa." Hodgins turned in a slow circle. "I knew it was bad, but this is something out of a war movie."
"It's worse than I remembered," Brennan said. "I suspect the techs did more damage in their efforts to clean up the evidence."
"As opposed to doing their job and collecting it." Sarcasm laced his tone. "Guess we don't have to wonder if the conspiracy has spread to the FBI Crime Lab."
"At least the ones who were here. They cleaned up the blood." Brennan motioned to where one of the fallen agents had been.
"Then they're not operating according to protocols, so they may have missed something." He turned again, surveying the room. She knew he was imagining the details of the firefight.
She didn't have to imagine it. And as if afraid she'd forget it, her subconscious insisted on revisiting it in dreams every night. Dreams that didn't always end with Booth still alive. Queasy, she cleared her throat. "I imagine they did. That would be a side effect of preventing us from working the scene."
"Eliminate the best, you get substandard." Pulling evidence bags out, he began working in a clockwise pattern around the room, searching for anything the crime lab had missed.
Angela, who'd still not said anything, walked over and stood next to her, tears in her eyes. "Your beautiful house."
Home. Family. When she'd once thought she'd have neither. A thousand memories were here, from watching Booth and Wendell rebuild it, while she waddled around pregnant, to their first nights with Christine, to the sofa where, more than once, they'd impulsively made love. "It's just physical materials, Angela." She couldn't allow herself to think otherwise. "The priority is Booth."
Her friend cleared her throat, and pulled out her camera. "Damn straight it is. How is he?"
"Barron saw him this morning. They're treating an infection in his leg, but apart from that, he's beginning to regain his strength. The doctors are refusing to be bullied by the bureau into releasing him to the jail. The told Barron it might be another week."
"But they still won't let you see him."
"No. But it's better for him to be in the hospital."
"This whole thing sucks."
There was nothing to say to that, so Brennan went to help Hodgins while Angela began taking photos of the devastation from every possible angle.
They worked in silence for a while, and then Hodgins said, "I might have something here." He had his flashlight focused on part of the wall destroyed in a blast, was poking at the debris with a knife. "Here." He handed Brennan the light, and used tweezers to carefully remove what he'd found.
"A shell." Brennan looked around. "Booth was right here when I came in, making it likely that it's one of theirs."
He dropped it into an evidence bag. "Then let's see what type of firearm it matches."
They found blood spatter that Brennan was certain wasn't Booth's, and she crouched, watched as Hodgins carefully collected samples, while Angela documented with the camera where each came from. "They tried to clean it up," he said. "which is damning in itself. But they're not professional cleaners."
"No. And that will help us." She stood, surveyed the room. And saw only a crime scene.
Eleven days after the attack, Brennan pulled into her father's driveway a few minutes before midnight. It was a small house, tucked away in an old neighborhood, but it had a yard for Christine to play in, and trees to provide privacy - a necessity, according to Max.
She really should think about finding another place for them to live. They couldn't stay with her father indefinitely, and there was no room here for Booth. She clung stubbornly to the belief that they'd soon find a way to free him.
Still, living with Max made the practicalities easier. She'd fallen into a pattern of working during the day, going to the house for supper and Christine's bedtime and then returning to the lab for a few more hours' work.
She was exhausted. But she'd been tired before, and giving up wouldn't find the answers.
The hours with her daughter were important for both of them. She knew that. But they were also the hardest. In the lab, it was easier to put aside the fear, focus on the science. With Christine, it was impossible. What was she supposed to say when the little girl asked where her father was? According to Booth, Brennan didn't always choose correctly in terms of age-appropriate information for their daughter, but she was certain saying, 'Daddy's in jail on falsified charges for killing three men' would be wrong. Maybe Sweets would know. She'd ask him tomorrow.
Firmly putting aside the question for the moment, she exited the car. She'd only taken a few steps toward the house when she realized that she wasn't alone, that someone was watching her from the shadows outside the pool of light cast by the porch light. She slowed, aware of the adrenaline spike. It wasn't the best neighborhood, though her father's reputation generally provided more than adequate security so it probably wasn't a common criminal waiting to assault her. On the other hand, whoever it was had had plenty of time to fire a weapon at her, and hadn't done so.
Tightening her grip on her bag, she strode forward, only to stop when the figure moved closer to the light. The knots in her stomach loosened, just a bit, when she recognized him. "Danny."
"Dr. Brennan." They stared at one another for a moment, and then he said, "I've been out of the country. What the hell is going on?"
Where to start? Who to trust? "What have you heard?"
"That Booth is under arrest for killing three FBI agents."
Booth liked this man, but didn't completely trust him. It left Brennan unsure of what to say. "That is correct."
"It's correct. But I want the truth." Obviously growing impatient, he added, "I can't help if I don't know."
Trust him, or not? Brennan stared at him for a long moment. "Booth was attacked in our home by Delta Force agents who were sent to kill him due to an investigation we're in the middle of."
He whistled. "Must be some investigation." He gave her a sharp look. "Delta Force being ID'd as FBI to frame him? Someone's really unhappy with that investigation."
Still unsure of how much to say, she nodded.
"So you prove they're not with the FBI and..." his voice faded. "Their records have been purged."
"And others falsified."
"My agency will have records on them."
Booth liked him. Whether he trusted him or not, he wouldn't want him blindly walking into a mess. "I doubt that," she finally said. "What we've uncovered goes beyond the FBI."
"Delta Force guys work with us on occasion. We'll have files."
"You might have had records on them. I wouldn't count on it now."
He shook his head. "They may have tried, but we've got records God himself couldn't find."
"Official files proving they were Delta Force, not FBI, would help a great deal," Brennan finally said.
"Look, I know Booth doesn't completely trust me. But I owe him. And this pisses me off."
Brennan settled into the hard plastic chair in front of the glass divider. Aware of the noise of the guards and other visitors around her, her focus was nevertheless on the room on the other side of the barrier, the door through which Booth would walk.
Twelve days. She'd not seen him in nearly two weeks. Barron had pushed - and pushed hard, she knew - to keep him in the hospital as long as possible. He'd told her he'd be much safer there while recovering from his injuries, and the longer he could delay Booth being sent to the jail, the better. He'd wanted him as recovered as possible before he wound up - no doubt 'accidentally' - with the regular jail population. Brennan hadn't been able to argue with the logic, indeed, had been grateful that Barron had managed to keep him in the hospital for a full nine days. But with the visitor schedule being what it was, it meant today was the first chance she'd had even to see him since she was pulled from the hallway outside his recovery room.
The door on the other side finally opened, and he stepped through. Brennan could see the armed deputies on the other side who were escorting him, but beyond a passing thought that two seemed excessive, her attention stayed on the man coming towards the chair across from her. His gait was sure, confident, and something in her uncoiled a bit...until her eyes met his through the glass. He was exhausted, and, based on the lines radiating out from around his eyes, still in pain. But his voice sounded almost normal as he spoke into the phone. "Hey, Bones."
She had to clear her throat. "Hello, Booth. How are you?"
"I'm great. The hospital fixed me right up. How are you?"
The dialog was stilted, nothing like the usual for them. Reading peoples' expressions and body language wasn't one of her skills. That was no great secret. But Booth wasn't just anyone. Despite her hurt, she'd known, known, that Pelant was behind his calling off the wedding the year before, and since then, she'd become more aware of how often she knew what he was thinking before he said it, what he needed before he asked for it.
And right now, what she was knew was that there was not a little bravado going on across from her. She knew enough to understand why: that he couldn't afford to come across as vulnerable in any way, and so forced himself to be strong, no matter the state of his recovery.
Another thing she knew was that he was worried about not saying anything - either of them - that could be used against them.
"I'm fine. Christine is fine." Should she tell him how much their daughter missed him? That she asked for Booth every day? Would that reassure him about how much he was loved, or hurt him more? She thought the latter, so settled for, "She misses you."
"I miss her. I miss you both."
They watched each other through the glass for a moment. Too much to say, no way to say it. "Danny stopped by," she said as casually as possible. "He said to tell you hello, and that he's thinking of you."
His eyes sharpened with understanding, and he nodded. "Tell him to say the hell out of trouble."
"I will." Another painful silence. "Angela, Hodgins, Cam, and Sweets all said to tell you to be careful." She left unsaid that they were working nearly around the clock to find something that would free him.
Another nod. He'd understood that one, too. "Tell them I'm fine."
"We've been back in the house," she said. Tricky, tricky. It wouldn't be an unexpected topic for her to mention, but... "Hodgins and Angela helped me go through it, pulling out what could be salvaged. It was interesting, the items that were destroyed while others were left intact." She pinned him with her eyes. The round they'd found had been fired from a semi-automatic that wasn't standard FBI-issue, but she couldn't tell him that. She could only hope he'd understand that they'd found something of use.
The puzzled look in his eyes cleared. "Some of your historical doodads, I hope."
"A variety of items," she said with a nod. "I've also met with the insurance company. They want to know what we want to do with the house."
For the first time since coming into the room, he looked away from her, and when he looked back, his face was expressionless. "I don't know, Bones. I can't think about it right now. Do whatever makes the most sense to you."
She didn't need Sweets sitting there to tell her the topic distressed him. "Very well." Silence fell again, and she struggled for something it was safe to talk about. "I've skyped a couple of times with Parker," she finally said. "Explained everything to him."
For a moment, his eyes lightened. "I'll bet you did," he murmured. "Thanks for that. Tell him..."
"He knows you love him, Booth."
"Yeah, I guess."
A buzzer sounded, followed by a voice over the PA system announcing the end of visiting hours. He stiffened, and she realized that she'd not even noticed the degree to which his posture had relaxed while they'd been talking - not until the tension came back. "Gotta go, it looks like."
"I love you."
"Love you, too, Bones."
As they stood, gazes still locked on each other through the glass, she quietly added, "We're going to get you out of here."
The door behind him opened and Booth hung up the phone, watched her for another few seconds before turning and walking toward the waiting deputies. It took effort to walk as if he weren't in pain, as if there weren't still bouts of weakness, so he focused on that until he was back in his cell.
Solitary, for the time being, the jail's nod to his status as a cop. He was pretty sure David Barron was being an absolute bastard about those kinds of details. It was a good thing, as it had been made plain to him within an hour of his arrival that the guards would just as soon kill him as not, and the other inmates had less restraint than that.
Booth laid back on the hard bunk, threw his arm over his eyes, and thought about what Brennan had told him. She'd surprised him. Her acting ability was improving, and the fact that she'd managed to tell him quite a bit, all while sounding like she was making casual conversation, impressed him.
Danny was trying to help from within the CIA, the squints were all still working the leads, and they'd found something useful in the house.
The house. The home he'd destroyed in an attempt to keep them all alive a little while longer. He'd not lied to her when he told her he couldn't think about it. It was just a physical space, that's all. Just bricks and wood that could be replaced or rebuilt. It wasn't the priority here. Getting out of this hell hole, rooting out and destroying the rot inside the FBI - that was the priority.
But it had been their house, damn it. The symbol of the life they'd made together.
They'd make another. One way or the other, they'd win, and would continue that life.
Brennan surveyed the empty living room. Shortly, she'd be meeting with the insurance adjustor, the representative for the restoration company, and the general contractor, to sign off - or not - on the work they'd completed to restore and repair the house.
They'd done excellent work. New floors, rebuilt walls, fresh paint...you'd never know that lives had been destroyed here, that men had died violent deaths.
But she would know. It wasn't that she couldn't recall the good memories, such as the last time she'd seen it bare, right before they moved in. It was just that the memories, the sounds, the smells, the terror, Booth's blood beneath her hands, was stronger.
They couldn't stay here. Couldn't return here. She knew it was irrational. It was only a building, after all, one with many happy memories, and she should be able to tell herself that they'd make more, even that it would be a victory of sorts to return here, to reclaim their home. But irrational or not, she knew if they lived here, she'd see Booth falling every time she stood in this location, looked in that direction. Even if they secured his freedom and he was here, too, that's what she would see.
If? When had she stopped thinking 'when'? She did still believe they would find a way to free him. They were too good, and day by day, they were stockpiling little bits of evidence that, together, would eventually overwhelm even the most powerful conspiracy in the world. Eventually. It had only been a month, after all. A lifetime of hours without him, of nights without his warmth, of moments without watching him with Christine.
But she was practical. And if she couldn't imagine living here with him, the thought of going on without him, here, was even less of an option.
They would have to move. She thought he'd be okay with it. He'd told her more than once, in their brief, stilted conversations, to do as she saw fit, and never once had he indicated a preference for trying to resume their life here. So she'd take his words at face value - which he would be assuming of her, anyway - and do just that. And she'd do it soon.
Christine's behavior was becoming unpredictable, and Sweets had said that while the bulk of it was probably her missing her father, that the disruption of living with Max was likely a factor as well. There was a big difference between staying with grandpa occasionally, and in not having your own routines, in your own home.
Without Booth, it still wouldn't be their routines. But it would be closer. They'd build a new life, she and Christine, new rhythms, the center of which would be planning for the day when Booth would join them.
New memories, new life. But how many times would they have to start over?