Author’s Note: The When and the How: A Bone to Pick is a fictitious alternate version of how Booth and Brennan’s relationship evolved romantically. ‘A Bone to Pick’ refers to the case absorbing them, the catalyst for their processing of residual relationship issues from the previous year.
If you enjoy a fast paced, detailed and compelling case and a little (a lot) of romance, you will enjoy The When and the How: A Bone to Pick … or I’ll give you your money back. (All $0 of it!) I don’t own these characters or their universe. They belong to Hart Hanson.
Chapter 1: The Absolute Truth
Booth enters the diner and pauses, as if looking for someone. The lunch rush is winding down and the place is half empty. He sees Hannah sitting at his usual window table and advances slowly.
Hannah stands up, not knowing what kind of reception she’ll receive, searching his face for a clue. Tightening the belt of her black leather coat, she plunges her hands into her pockets, as if preparing for a brisk breeze.
Booth advances slowly and stops in front of her.
“Hannah,” he says, unemotionally with a nod.
For a moment they stand there as he appears to be weighing options. After a pause, he leans forward and kisses her on the cheek. Not a frigid greeting, but not a particularly warm one either.
Sensing now that he will at least listen to her, she exhales, realizing she hadn’t taken a breath since she spotted him through the window crossing the street a moment ago. A flash of memory recalling their affectionate greetings at this very café, at the bar, even at his office in the middle of the day, tugged at her heart.
“Thank you for meeting me, Seeley.” She grimaces, watching him to see what kind of mood he might be in.
“What’s on your mind, Hannah? I’ve got about 5 minutes. You are … looking good … as usual.” He says without smiling, and not breaking eye contact. All business.
She smiles, grateful. “Thanks, Seeley. You look … healthy.” Pause. They sit on opposite sides of the table. She takes her hands out of her pockets and picks up a rubber band she discovers wrapped around the salt shaker on the table. She fiddles with it nervously, then slips it around her wrist and takes a sip from her coffee cup.
“I have missed you, Seeley. Do you ever think about me?” Hannah doesn’t look him in the eyes, nervous about his response.
“I’ve, uh, been kinda busy.”
“She’s fine, Hannah. Why’d you ask me here?”
She looks up, but still says nothing.
“You’re not rethinking my offer, because it’s no longer on the table.”
“I wouldn’t expect it to be.” She puts her hands in her lap, fiddling with the rubber band once again.
“I didn’t believe it was over, we were over, for a long time,” she says. “But then I had to face what I had known all along … that our relationship was a detour, but not the real ride. I never really expected it to last. We had a great present, but our futures, your future, was always meant to be with someone else. We did have some amazing experiences. But we were never a team, Seeley.”
“It felt real to me.”
“Did it really, Seeley? I mean really?”
The waitress tops off Hannah’s coffee cup and puts one in front of Booth. He puts his hand over the cup.
“Not for me, Liz. Thanks.”
Hannah fidgets again with the rubber band, slipping it on and off the handle of her coffee cup. She is obviously anxious, and trying to muster the courage to say what she’s come to say. It was a lot easier saying it to her reflection in the mirror this morning, and in her car on the way over.
Hannah puts creamer into her cup, stirs it with a spoon, takes a sip. Puts the cup back on the table and takes a sharp breath in. Here goes nothing.
Booth just looks at Hannah, not yet sure where this is going.
“How are things at the Jeffersonian? I assume you and Temperance finally have the chance to be together?”
“It’s complicated,” he answers as he looks out the window. This is going slow, but he can tell there’s something she’s working up to, though she’s having trouble getting to it. He decides to wait her out, but not for too long.
Hannah looks at him and slowly nods, as if she’s assessing what exactly that might mean. Has he moved on from Temperance?
Facing her once again, Booth says, “Listen Hannah, when you called, it sounded like you had something you wanted to talk about.”
“I did. I do. I wanted to find out how you are. We haven’t seen each other since, you know, the night I moved out.”
Booth lets out an exasperated sigh. Is that the most significant thing she remembers about that night? He had asked her to share the rest of her life with him …
“Yeah, I remember when we last saw each other.”
“You mean a lot to me, Seeley. I don’t want to just leave it how we did. I feel like I’ve committed an egregious crime against you – and you might never forgive me.”
“So, what? You wanna be friends?” He looks at her disbelieving and somewhat annoyed.
“No, Seeley. I’m trying to move on, but I … can’t until I explain some things. I can’t live my life knowing that I hurt the one man I came close to abandoning my independence for. You deserve more than that from me. I really did, really do, love you. Even though it will never be the same between us.”
“What’s with you people? If one more woman cites her independence as an excuse not to share their life with me … I will shoot her. No questions asked.”
He holds her gaze for a heartbeat, expels a lengthy breath, then softens visibly. Six months ago this would have enraged him. But he’s learned a lot since then.
“Hannah, I really don’t need you to …” he starts, then remembers Sweets’ encouragement to meet with her. “Listen to what she has to say – gain some closure.” Releasing the anger and pain of rejection had been a long process. “Well, what the heck … maybe I do.”
“Seeley, there are some things I want … no, I need, to explain to you.”
He nods, saying nothing, but maintaining eye contact. He doesn’t want to make this easy for her … but he understands, from personal experience, the need to unburden one’s self, to set right what has been wronged
“You have my undivided attention for the next (looks at his watch) three minutes.”
“I’m going back to Afghanistan, Seeley. For good. Or at least until there’s nothing left to report on.”
She lets that sink in. This is not what he expected, and it shows on his face. All of his defenses drop, which is exactly the effect she was going for.
“It’s where I belong, Seeley. I miss being in the middle of it. The important news is all over there. I just want to say good bye. And tell you … and tell you that I was always truthful with you. I loved you and I loved being with you.” She smiles, but her eyes tear up. She brushes a tear away quickly.
“I know, Hannah. I know,” he says, a bit surprised that he’s calmly participating in this conversation with the 3rd woman who broke his heart.
She goes on, “In journalism, there’s something we call The Absolute Truth. It’s the simple truth at the center of every behavior, every opinion, every good deed. Uncover someone’s Absolute Truth, and everything else makes sense. Even the craziest beliefs or motivations behind a behavior become clear.”
“And this is supposed to mean something to me … why?” He looks at her blankly, shaking his head.
“Most people spend their lives oblivious of, or in denial of, their own Absolute Truth. Sometimes they just don’t want to know. The Absolute Truth about us, Seeley, was that you were on loan to me from the beginning. I only had part of your attention.” She tears up again but this time lets the tears fall, reaching in her purse for a kleenex. “Deep inside, I knew that. And I was okay with it. But it didn’t include happily ever after, Seeley. It wasn’t supposed to. I understand that now.”
“Hannah – I was always truthful with you. I was in love with you,” he says, almost beseechingly. Then reminds himself to remain calm – there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since that night on the lawn overlooking the reflecting pool.
“Not really in love, Seeley. Your heart was always divided.”
“But Hannah … I gave you my heart – couldn’t you feel that? Didn’t you know that?” He looks away from her and out the window once again. He’s surprised and confused, frustrated … and sad that she must not have felt this back then.
“Just let me finish,” she says, waiting until he looks in her eyes again.
“I believe you wanted to give me your heart – but you have an Absolute Truth that says there is really only one person who completes each of us. And for you, I am not that person.”
“I think having lost that one person, you were reaching for the next best thing … and luckily for me, I was in the right place at the right time. I could see your pain,” she says, pausing. “Men aren’t the only ones who have the “white night syndrome,” Seeley.”
“Hannah,” He reaches across the table toward her, puts his hand on the table, a pained look on his face. “You were never a consolation prize to me. I would not do that to you.”
She puts her hand on his, and squeezes it reassuringly. It felt … really good … to touch him again.
“I don’t think you would ever intend to, Seeley. But I think it happens to people all the time. You think you know what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. But it doesn’t change the fact that you’re settling for something different than what your heart knows is possible.”
She pauses and lets this sink in for a minute, still holding his hand. She interlaces her fingers with his. She smiles compassionately at him, knowing that he does not see himself as someone who would knowingly hurt someone he loves.
“Hannah, I’m sorry,” He says finally, anguished. This is a truth he didn’t want to hear, but couldn’t bring himself to deny … because, he admits to himself, it is most likely true. He’ll have to think about it.
“It’s okay. It’s really okay. Now.” She smiles weakly. She straightens up, as if preparing for round two.
“I really was in love with you, Seeley, I still love you. And that’s the second reason I wanted to see you. There are some things that I’ve learned about Temperance that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t share with you … things you should really know …”
Booth’s phone rings. He disentangles his hand from Hannah’s and sees that it’s Bones. He answers, leaving Hannah’s outstretched hand on the table.
“Booth, it’s me. I’ve assembled the bio and abstracts regarding Dr. Enrique Larrinaga. You wouldn’t appreciate the complete text of his publications, they are quite scientific. But I think you’ll find this guy’s life fascinating …”
“Bones, I’m in the middle of something right now. Can I call you back in about 15 minutes?”
“Sure. When do you have to be at the airport?
“No later than 2:30. Can I meet you at the Jeffersonian in about twenty minutes, half hour?”
“Sure, we’ll head to the airport from there.
“Thanks Bones.” He hangs up and places his phone on the table.
Across the street, standing on the sidewalk a half block from the diner, Bones says, “You’re welcome,” looking at her phone, knowing that he had already hung up. She looks back toward the diner where she can see Booth and Hannah sitting at the window table, holding hands and leaning across the table toward each other. Booth looking very serious. Hannah, a little upset. She pauses, pensively, before turning around and slowly heading back to the lab.
Continue reading here>>> Chapter 2 How Did I Not See This Coming?