|More Than the Sum of Our Parts
Author: Greened Ink PM
What would you do? ... WARNING: Mature readers only. Slight B&B wishes. Contains assault.Rated: Fiction M - English - Hurt/Comfort/Drama - T. Brennan - Chapters: 2 - Words: 17,592 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 2 - Published: 08-24-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7319960
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
WARNING: For Mature persons only. Contains Physical and Sexual Assault. Not rape exactly, and not too graphic, but can still be disturbing, please don't read if you are bothered by such things in fiction.
Author's Note: While I was contemplating posting this, the thought of how to break it up was a big issue. Finally, I decided to split it into two parts and post them within minutes of each other. That way, there would be no "cliff-hangers" stuff and I could also say that the meetings with the counselor are mostly left up to the imagination. I chose to only include what I believed to be the essential issue for each character. Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: Show and characters not mine, someone elses. Story is though. As is Dr. Judith Carter.
More Than the Sum of Our Parts
Cam sat awkwardly in the counselors office. Dr. Judith Carter sat across from her in a chair, sedately looking over the report she had filed about the incident.
"How's your leg?" Dr. Carter asked.
"Fine." Cam answered a little too quickly. "Just a bruise."
"Your wrists and ankles?"
"Rope burns and lacerations are practically gone already." Not the truth really but… She tried a tiny smile but it quickly faded.
The doctor put down the file. "You've been through quite the ordeal."
"No." Cam laughed darkly. "No, I haven't."
"Why? Because your subordinate, Dr. Brennan suffered more? Does that somehow negate what you endured Dr. Saroyan?"
Cam shook her head. "You don't get it."
"What don't I get?"
Grasping for words with a physical gesture, Cam tried to explain. "She…she didn't fight. Dr. Brennan always fights, but she didn't, because that gun was pointed at my head. She could have fought. She should have fought when he started hitting her, but she didn't, to save me. That's my fault."
"Seems to say more about Dr. Brennan than it does about you." The doctor calmly replied. "What happened was not your fault. That blame lies solely with the perpetrator. Dr. Brennan obviously cares about you a great deal. Maybe you feel unworthy of such care. Don't you think you are worth protecting? Don't you think you have enough to offer in return?"
"Perhaps a better question would be… would you take a beating like that to save Dr. Brennan's life?"
Cam didn't know what to say at first. She examined her feelings, emotions so complex they made her head hurt. "Of course, if it was between life and death-"
"So why wouldn't Dr. Brennan, your colleague, your friend, do the same?"
"She's- she's different." Cam said lamely.
"She doesn't…trust easily. She doesn't have many friends outside of people who see her every day. Who've gotten the opportunity to see who she really is."
"And who is she, really?"
"Remember, anything you say to me is in strictest confidence. And it might help me in speaking with Dr. Brennan later."
"She's been hurt." Cam answered reluctantly. "Not just physically. She's not the sort who usually, willingly, shows her vulnerabilities. It… hurt me, I guess, that I was one of her vulnerabilities. Knowing that she had beatings like that before, in foster care. Back when she couldn't defend herself. That she had to go back to that… makes me feel ill. Sad, helpless. That I couldn't help her, I couldn't stop it."
"That's right. You couldn't. You couldn't have stopped any of it. It's okay to hurt because of that. To feel sorrow and pain. Anger. You need to realize that that's okay. That you're allowed to feel strong emotions too, even if all that pain wasn't physically inflicted on you, it still affected you. But the guilt that lies beneath does not belong to you. In your report, you mentioned a moment, when Dr. Brennan was allowed the comfort of burying her face in your lap. Why did you do that? Allow that?"
"She'd been through hell! Why wouldn't I?"
"She's your friend. You did it because she needed it and so did you. It was all you could do. How do you know that wasn't the difference between where she is now and where she could be? Dead? Broken?"
Cam sat in shock.
"Guilt has no place in this. Your friend saved your life. That's the long and short of it. Maybe you saved her life as well. Who can say? You need to understand that you did everything you could. Dr. Brennan isn't going to need you to feel guilty. She's your colleague and your friend. It's okay to feel all those emotions you're feeling and to express them to her. Don't forget that she cares about you."
Angela could barely speak to the counselor around her sobs. They spent the first hour with Dr. Carter once again trying to calm her.
Then…"He put that gun to my head. She threatened that guy with the gun. Like she hadn't just gotten the crap beaten out of her. We were both tied up and I still believed her. But that bastard said he'd kill me or hurt me. And… damn, she just rolled over. He straddled her and she just laid there while he cut her."
"What makes you more upset? That she was cut, or that she bared herself for it so willingly?"
That made Angela pause. "The second, I guess…"
"Because it didn't fit with what you knew of your friend?"
"No! It… Bren doesn't just roll over for anyone, or anything."
"Except for you."
"No, god! She… I've never seen her like that." Angela rubbed her temple. "I tried, later, when she was half-naked and tied up in that- contorted stress position, to sooth her with my voice. To let her know that I was there for her. But, I couldn't look at that cut. I stared at the scars on her leg instead. Then, he made her beg to get up. So that she could lie down."
"What disturbed you most about that was that she didn't seem like the same person you knew." It wasn't a question.
"The Doctor Temperance Brennan doesn't beg." Angela answered angrily anyway.
"But at that moment, she wasn't a doctor. She was just Temperance. A scared and hurt woman. Still the same person you've always known. What you're really angry at is yourself for feeling disgusted with that."
Angela broke into sobs again.
"But that anger is misdirected." Dr. Carter said gently.
"What-do you- mean?" Angela asked around gasping breaths.
"You think you should be mad at yourself for thinking of Dr. Brennan that way. For being put off, even for only a moment. That cut is an embodiment of that view of your friend, which explains why it almost pains you to even think about it. But your anger is at that man that made you think that. For treating your best friend that way. It's okay to be mad, but leave that anger directed where it belongs." The doctor reached forward and touched Angela's knee. "Dr. Brennan loves you. You love her. You love the strong, fierce woman that she is, not was. Having a gun pointed at your head at the time doesn't help, but seeing someone being vulnerable doesn't mean they're not strong. You know that, you just need to remember it. It takes strength to survive all that, and not just from Dr. Brennan. You are strong as well. Keep that in mind."
Slowly, Angela nodded, wanting to believe.
Sweets wasn't used to being on the couch while someone with a file sat in a chair before him. It felt unnatural. He was silent, nervous. Gulping more than was necessary.
"Dr. Sweets." Dr. Carter said.
He started a little in surprise. "Yes?" His voice cracked. He cleared his throat. "Yes?" Too low, but he didn't try again.
"I realize you must feel uncomfortable, being the one being counseled."
He shrugged with a bit of false-sounding laughter.
"In your report. You wrote that the Man's plan involved your field, psychology. That he attacked her mind because of you."
"Well, he would have attacked her anyway. He did it that way because it fit me."
"And Dr. Brennan had told you about that incident before?"
"She told Booth and I... well-"
"That she had been locked in the trunk of a car before."
He nodded shakily.
"By her foster parents."
"But I notice, you seem to focus more on when she got out, than when she entered the trunk."
"She'd been panicking. It was... disturbing."
"Because she's usually so collected."
"Yeah." Sweets nodded again.
"But you write more about her with Cam."
"By your own admission, you couldn't look at her."
"She asked Him not to make her." Sweets answered quietly. "He said it was up to her, but that I would die if she refused. She climbed in to save me. Relived that nightmare for me."
"And you were surprised?"
"She- she doesn't really like me."
"That's obviously not the case. She wouldn't have done it if she didn't care about you."
"Maybe. I have feeling she would have done it for a stranger."
"Hmm. Perhaps, but that wasn't why you couldn't look at her."
He knew that tone. "Oh?" He raised an eyebrow. What was she trying to make him see?
"No. It was because of Dr. Saroyan."
"Cam?" He asked surprised.
"Yes. You were jealous of her."
"Jealous?" He was confused.
"Yes. Jealous that she was able to comfort Dr. Brennan. That Cam could! You wanted it to be you that Dr. Brennan could count on. To you, it would have proved that she did do it because she cares. That she let you in. Because you feel honored every time she lets you see a piece of whats inside her."
"Well, yeah, but-"
"You could have. She would have let you comfort her. Be there, do that for her. Trust me."
His mouth twitched.
"Ask her, Lance. Ask her to let you in. Ask her if she cares about you. She won't break. That, I can promise you."
He wasn't so sure.
Hodgins was frowning. Glaring too, but that was unintentional.
"You're angry." Dr. Carter said conversationally.
"Thanks for that, Sherlock." He snapped.
"Just stating an observation. Dr. Hodgins. Are you angry at feeling helpless, tied up as you were?"
"No." He didn't elaborate.
"Your written report was very clinical. You named the scientific names of both the poison Ivy and the snake, as well as characteristics of the mud they poured over Dr. Brennan."
"Trying to distance yourself from it?"
"Wouldn't you?" He barked.
"Yes, most likely. But I'm not the one who witnessed everything that happened, or felt that gun at my back."
"Yeah, you're not."
"For which I'm grateful. You weren't completely helpless though. You were able to relay information via Miss Montenegro that probably helped Dr. Brennan keep from being bitten by a venomous snake."
"Fat lot of good it did Dr. B when that mud closed over her head." He spat.
"And there it is." She whispered.
"There what is?"
"Part of the sticking point for you. After what happened to you and Dr. Brennan with the Grave Digger you found it hard to accept that she didn't "totally freak" when she was essentially buried alive again."
"Sort of." He admitted reluctantly.
"Because you think you would have? Freaked out?"
He swallowed. "Probably."
"She probably didn't have the strength by that point."
"Dr. B doesn't freak."
"She doesn't, to your knowledge, does she? Not now, not when you were both in that car, not even afterward. That must make you a little angry."
He looked at her with wide eyes. "I'm not mad at Dr. B."
"Not even a little? Even when she could protect Miss Montenegro and you couldn't?"
Now his mouth was hanging open. "What? No! I'm.. I'm angry at him! At myself, at the whole damn thing!"
"Including everything about it. Angry that it had to be Dr. Brennan protecting Miss Montenegro and not you. You would have gladly given your life to protect Angela, wouldn't you?"
"Part of you was mad you didn't get to do that for her. For Dr. Brennan. That Dr. Brennan seemed to handle everything better than you. Just like before."
"You resented Dr. Brennan a little, didn't you?"
"Yes." He whispered shamefully.
"That's okay, Dr. Hodgins. That anger is mostly for yourself, at your own inability and that feeling was almost completely drowned out by gratitude, wasn't it? You're also grateful that Dr. Brennan was able to be there for Angela when you couldn't. Grateful she didn't fight any of that slow torture, to protect you."
"Yes." This adamantly.
"That is what matters, Dr. Hodgins."
Booth's leg jittered as he stared into the space between he and Dr. Carter. He felt... damn, he wasn't even sure how he felt.
The doc was smiling a little, reassuringly.
He saw the gesture out of the corner of his eye. The silence had stretched on for so long already, he both prayed for its end and hoped for its continuation. He really didn't want to talk about anything in his report of the incidence. Uncontrollably, the second his mind strayed that way, he winced.
"Something bothering you, Agent Booth?"
He stayed silent, glaring.
"It's about what's in this file, isn't it?" She tapped the file laying closed on her lap.
He stared at it like it was a cobra ready to strike.
"About what happened to you, your colleagues and friends, and more precisely, to your partner Dr. Brennan."
He couldn't look away from the file.
"What she went through for her friends, for you. What you had to watch her go through." She paused. "How did it feel, to see your partner being beaten?"
He couldn't control it, he winced again. "I... I felt angry."
"At her attackers? Or at Dr. Brennan?"
"Those bastards, of course!" He yelled in a snarling growl.
"You expected her to fight back, didn't you?"
"Yes." He admitted in a more moderate tone.
"And when Miss Montenegro was threatened? How did you feel when Dr. Brennan was cut? When she was tied up, trapped so she could only see you and when she started to crack, physically?"
For a moment he didn't speak, thinking it over. "Proud." He thought some more. "Trapped." He added succinctly.
"Because you were quite literally trapped, or because Dr. Brennan was, because Angela was threatened?"
"Both. Bones would never let anything happen to Angela. Not ever."
Dr. Carter nodded. "What about when Dr. Sweets was threatened?"
Booth clenched his fists. The look of panic that had crossed Bones' face in that instance flashed in his memory. "Panic."
He looked away at the floor. "For Bones. Her panic... she never panics."
"You knew what being locked in the trunk of a car again would mean for her."
"No one should have to relive something as traumatic as that. Not ever."
"But Dr. Brennan did."
"What about when she was doused with poison ivy and placed in that glass container with the snake?"
He spoke without thinking. "Fear."
"That the snake would strike."
"How did you feel when she was buried under all that mud?"
"The same." He answered robotically but added quietly, "Just like when she was buried alive before."
"Did seeing her being brought out alive give the same relief as when you found her after that incident?"
She made another note, then looked back up at him. Concern shone in her eyes. "And when your life was threatened?"
He felt sick. Shook his head. "Too many things to... everything." He whispered.
"Were you aware before then about the sexual abuse Dr. Brennan endured in Foster Care?"
He shook his head more adamantly. "No, god. She doesn't talk much about foster care much. No, she-she never told me that she was..."
After a swallow, he grunted.
"Do you resent that she didn't tell you?"
Sadly, he shook his head. "A little... but more... angry at myself. Not her. No. That's... hers. To share when she felt ready, not before."
Dr. Carter nodded, looking pleased. "So, how did you feel when Dr. Brennan did what was demanded of her?"
He shook, his fists actually trembling. "I tried to stop her. Tried t-"
"What? Kill yourself?" She questioned.
He frowned. "Not how I was looking at it."
"But if Dr. Brennan had indeed refused, that's what would have happened to you."
"I know. Knew." He grated. "So did she."
"What was your first feeling when the first man was forcing himself on her? The minute it happened?"
He felt more intensely ill. "Sick. Angry at them, and sad. Pain. God." He hung his head back, eyes closed.
"That sick son-of-a-... damn. Wasn't it bad enough she had to go through crap like that when she was a kid?" His voice was raised again. "After... afterward, she threw up. Just turned away and vomited. I've- never wanted to kill anyone more in my entire life."
"Also natural. What about the man that started it all? What did you feel when he- ordered her to-?" She left off actually saying it.
He shuddered. "Mostly the same things. Sick, Angry, Sad." Unbidden, the sight of Bones kneeling before the bastard, drawing moans and gasps, came to his mind. He buried his face in his hands. "He said he wouldn't force her. Said- she had to make it good, or he'd kill me."
"And did she?"
He looked up in shock and disgust. "I-" He stopped the angry retort and thought of Bones. The only conclusion was one he wished he didn't know. "She would have." He whispered. "To protect me. She-she did. He was... enjoying it." His voice was mostly just bitterness.
"Were you jealous?" Dr. Carter asked suddenly.
His frown deepened as he looked at her like she was crazy. "What?"
"Jealous. Everyone knows you and Dr. Brennan are very close-"
"I'm not jealous of that bastard." He hissed. "He forced her. She only did it to save me. And she practically bit it off when the moron gave her an opening." He said, pride in his voice again.
She nodded, as though in understanding.
"Mostly, I'm angry." He admitted.
"And sickened. And sad." She added with a gentle smile.
He nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"Does she sicken you? When you look at her?"
"Bones could never "sicken" me. She's... beautiful."
Dr. Carter smiled a little. Then she sat forward. "Seems to me you'll mostly have to control your guilt and over-protectiveness. It wasn't your fault and just because she couldn't stop what happened, doesn't mean she's helpless."
He smirked. "Yeah, she's said as much."
"My advice is to talk. A lot. Mostly about how you feel so she doesn't get confused. Listen to her her. You'll need to be her friend. Just because you don't feel some of those things we've discussed, doesn't mean she knows that. I wouldn't be surprised if things like that have occurred to her. You'll need to be clear."
He swallowed. "Hadn't thought of that." He grimaced. "Okay doc, read ya loud and clear."
"And Agent Booth, it wouldn't hurt to let her know how this has affected you as well. It actually might help her to open up."
Brennan sat uncomfortably. She really wasn't good at this. She said as much.
Dr. Carter smiled softly. "I know, Dr. Brennan, but trust me, you don't need to be."
"On the contrary, that would seem to be an important thing to have when speaking with a therapist."
"Counselor, Dr. Brennan. My skill set is a little different than your average therapist."
She didn't really know what to say to that, so she kept quiet.
"How are you doing? Physically, I mean."
Shrugging, "Quite well."
Dr. Carter raised an eyebrow. "Really? Because your doctor said that you were quite injured. Mostly bruises from your beating and fighting."
"Does that make you uncomfortable? Talking about your injuries?"
"Not in a clinical sense. However, I have found myself feeling uncomfortable when thinking about anything that occurred. I'd rather not."
"That's okay. Let's discuss your injuries for now. Can you list them for me? Describe them."
"In what order precisely?"
"Any you prefer. I would appreciate an attempt at lay terms though, as I am not versed very strongly in anatomy or your own field."
Brennan straightened. "I have several bruises of varying degrees from my shoulders to my knees. Most not too severe, the worst centered around my ribs. I have a cut on my left side stretching from the bottom of my posterior ribs to the anterior portion of my hip."
Dr. Carter tilted her head.
"From back ribs to front hip." She corrected, realizing her mistake belatedly. "Muscle cramps that have faded almost completely."
She swallowed. "When I remember not being able to move, it sometimes returns."
Dr. Carter only nodded.
"The cuts on my hands are healed. They won't even scar. I've been cleared of having any possible STD's. My head is also scabbed and won't leave a scar. My wrist will need to be wrapped in this brace for a few weeks, but there's no lasting damage. Likewise, my shin will take a few weeks, maybe a month or two to heal so I have to use this cane, but there will be nothing afterward."
"You seem to focus on the physical aftermath quite a lot. Do scars bother you?"
"Hmm... perhaps it has to deal with your profession. If an event does not leave a scar or a mark on the bone, it is transient and therefore not worthy of consideration."
Brennan frowned. "You're the Counselor, but that sounds like psychology to me. I don't like psychology."
"Of course, forgive me. Please continue."
"There's nothing more to tell."
"Alright, what about the things that are already healed completely? Like the damage to your skin."
"That went away shortly after my admittance into the hospital."
"Was it painful?"
"Were you afraid?"
More shifting. "I...don't..."
"You wrote in your own report that you are afraid of snakes."
"Sometimes. There seem to be a few species that invoke fear more acutely than others."
"But you were afraid when you were placed with that snake."
"And the trunk of the car. You started to panic. You thought you were back in your foster parents car."
"Only for a moment. I was injured, I got confused."
"There's no need to get defensive, Dr. Brennan. I'm just going over the facts."
She nodded. "Of course."
"Can I ask you something?"
"You already have asked me many things. I must speak with you before they'll let me go back to work. Doesn't seem to me to be much about choice."
Dr. Carter smiled and seemed to choose to ignore her comment. "Why did you do it? Cooperate as much as you did. That must have been very difficult. You're the type of woman that fights back. It must have been hard not to."
Slowly, Brennan shook her head. "No. It wasn't."
The woman looked surprised. "Why?"
"They're my family, not biologically of course, and I realize I'm not the best at showing it, but I care about them. Love them. I'd give my life for any one of them. It didn't matter what he did. Not as long as they were safe." She shrugged. "In a way, I had it easier. I could do something to protect them. They could do nothing to protect themselves."
"Or to protect you."
"Yes. That must have been especially hard for Booth. He's very alpha male when it comes to protecting others. He tends to hold himself directly responsible for... everyone."
"Yes, I've noticed that. Of everything that happened, Dr. Brennan, what made you the most afraid? The snake? The car trunk? His knife?"
A moment of silence hung in the air heavily. "The threats."
Dr. Carter leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. "To you, or to your friends?"
"My friends. It... it's my job to protect them."
"Seems that Agent Booth isn't the only one who feels responsible for everyone."
"Booth and I signed up to be out in the field. To be in that kind of danger. None of the others did. Especially Angela. In the field, it's my job to protect Booth, to have his back. Protecting all of them was my responsibility, because I could. That's all."
"And how did you feel towards the men that were doing the threatening? You were angry at them?"
"Yes, I suppose. I told you, I'm not good at expressing how I feel."
"But you did hate that man."
Brennan wasn't sure if that was a question or not. "Yes."
She blinked in confusion. "What?"
"Why do you hate him? Why are you mad?"
"He hurt me." Slightly outraged, she couldn't keep her voice steady.
"Yes," Dr. Carter's own voice turned gentle. "But that's not the only reason, is it? Not just because he hurt you and threatened your friends."
Trying to grasp what the counselor meant, Brennan sat forward. "I... I was afraid of him. I don't like being afraid."
"Why are you afraid of him?"
Now this lady was starting to piss her off. Her voice rose. "With one word he could have killed Angela, or Booth, any of them!"
"He can't do that now. He's dead, Temperance!" Dr. Carter yelled back. Then she was quiet again. "Why are you still afraid of him? Why are you afraid of a dead man?"
Her mouth opened and closed silently. She shook. Looked at her knees, at her hands. "I... I'm afraid he was right. Okay? I'm afraid it worked, that he-they were successful. That my friends enjoyed some of it. That part of them was glad that... I couldn't act conceited anymore. That he really did change me. Break me even. At least in their eyes. Or even in my own."
There was absolute silence.
"I'm not stupid. I know that even my friends get annoyed with me. That I'm conceited. Pretentious." She spat the word. "I'm afraid things can never go back. I'm afraid they'll see me differently. I'm afraid because of everything they heard." Tears were locked in her eyes. She was holding them back by sheer force of will. "About my time in foster care. About who I am. Because they all saw me kill those men. They saw that part of me. They saw me give that man... a damn blow job." She laughed but it sounded a bit like a sob. "How can that not change how they see me? How can we work together? They must be disgusted. Maybe they even hate me. None of them would have even been there, been put through that, if he hadn't wanted to use them against me. To teach me a lesson in front of them, so that none of us could ever forget." She shook her head to dispel sobs that wanted to shatter her sternum and escape.
"It was not your fault." Dr. Carter's voice was low and fierce. "None of your friends think that. He didn't try to teach you a lesson, no matter what he said. It was all about wanting to break you. And there's no way in hell he succeeded. You don't need to learn anything from him. You are not pretentious. That was not humility. That was debasement and they will never be the same thing. Your friends love you. They are grateful for your protection. That is why they will not leave your side. Why Dr. Saroyan is waiting in the hall right at this moment to take you home." She seemed to hesitate. "I know this is hard. It'll take time. But listen to what your friends are saying. Don't fixate on what he said. Anything that came out of his mouth doesn't matter. Your friends will tell you the truth if you listen. You'll find you have nothing to be afraid of. He can't hurt you anymore. He can't hurt who you are. He never could."
Brennan quickly decided she liked it best when the women stayed with her. Both Angela and Cam gave her space enough to be independent. Angela had a knack for distracting her from her boredom while she and Cam never wanted for topics to discuss.
The men, however, hovered. Honestly she was used to it from Booth, but it felt awkward coming from Hodgins, Sweets and at one point, her father who came to see her. Most notably her father. She appreciated the hovering from the others in the intention behind it, in a way, but she wasn't a child anymore. Once assuring him that she was, in fact, quite well and on the mend, he'd finally left.
But even with the women, she couldn't help noticing the concerned looks. They all shot them her way when they thought she wasn't looking. Sometimes their eyes would stray to parts of her skin as though remembering a hurt they were surprised hadn't left any lasting physical mark. It almost physically hurt when she caught her colleagues staring at her lips. For her part, she no longer brushed her teeth so harshly as to make them bleed, but still more than was usual for her. A curious part of her wondered if they noticed she brushed her teeth or washed out her mouth several times a day. There was always someone close by who could notice. She was never left alone. Part of her was grateful for that, but it still chafed a little bit.
One morning, before dawn, she awoke with a very audible cry.
Hodgins was there by her side so quickly, she barely had time to slap a hand over her treacherous mouth. "Dr. B! Are you okay?" He gasped, falling to one knee beside the bed.
Not trusting herself to speak, she nodded. Scooted away from his touch.
"You want to talk about it?" His voice was quiet.
She shook her head.
He shook his own. "Well, I guess its natural to have nightmares. Still, it's a little comforting to know you're not Wonder Woman." He sighed, sitting up on the edge of the bed. He must have read her confusion, because he continued, switching to stare at her pillow. "When they buried you in the mud… I don't think I could have…" He smiled sheepishly at her. "I would have completely lost it. I don't know how you didn't."
She stared at him for a full minute. Part of his face was lost in the shadows of the dark room, the silence seeming to echo in its depths. "I did." She finally admitted in one of the smallest voices she had ever used.
His head jerked up as his gaze flew back to her face.
Still curled in on herself, she shook her head again. "I… was terrified. I only managed to control my breathing, not suffocate, because of you."
"Me?" He asked skeptically.
"You're... strong." She said hesitantly. Her limbs wee finally beginning to stop their trembling as her body came off its nightmare-induced high. "You're not afraid to feel things. I thought of you and the panic was easier to tamp down." She gave a humorless chuckle. "I'm no Wonder Woman."
"You are to me, Dr. B." He said gently and patted her leg. "Can I get you some tea?"
She nodded slowly. "That would be nice."
The following day, she was exhausted. Angela didn't fail to notice but instead of commenting, simply helped her get into the shower. Feeling better, Brennan let Angela help pick out her clothes. She didn't realize the artist had settled until the woman spoke. "I really hate that scar."
Brennan looked down at the curving scar on her side. The stitches had been removed but the skin was still scabbed and red. "Why?" She asked quietly.
"I hate how you got it. It's like a reminder of everything you went through."
Eyebrows raised, Brennan searched her friends face. "Is that really how you feel?"
Angela sat on the bed with a gusty sigh. "Don't you?"
"No." Brennan answered with a shrug. "It reminds me of you."
"Me?" Angela wore a cross between a frown and a smile.
"Yes." Brennan turned back to her closet. "I love you, as I would imagine one would love a close sister. That's the only reason it's there."
Angela sounded shocked. "So- like a physical symbol that you love me?"
"Of course." Brennan turned around with a frown. "Did you have doubts that I care for you?"
The artist smiled a dazzling smile. "Not for a moment."
When Cam started talking to her, she was sure she was having auditory hallucinations. Cam never shared things like this. But she remembered Dr. Carter's words about listening to her friends, something she had been trying to do, and found that Cam shared much the same feelings she did.
"I'm glad he's dead." Cam finished. She had set the book she had been reading on the coffee table and was staring at it.
Brennan set down her own reading material. "So am I. Glad they all are, except for the man who's going to be in jail for a very long time." She hesitated. "Does that make us bad people?" It was something she had wondered for awhile.
Cam smiled sadly. "No. I don't think so."
She nodded. "Good. Cause I think you are a very good person."
The pathologist looked surprised.
Taking a deep breath. "I never got the chance to thank you. For... letting me lay on your lap. For making me feel safe. Even though I wasn't really- It... helped."
Cam smiled. "I'm glad."
"Booth, I can do it myself!" Brennan shouted angrily.
A knock at the front door interrupted Booth's retort. He opened it quickly and forcefully, nearly knocking Sweets to the floor. "Fine! You deal with her." He shouted at the boy and stormed from the apartment.
Brennan blinked rapidly to try to stifle tears of frustration, both at herself and Booth.
"What was that about?" Sweets asked gently, closing the door with a soft click.
She turned away and thumped over to her kitchen, her cane making loud noises on the hard wood of the floor. She reached into a cupboard, then slammed it shut, setting two mugs on the counter forcefully.
"I'm not an invalid!" She growled, rounding on the psychologist. "I'm not helpless."
"Did Agent Booth say that?"
"Not in words." She turned away again and started making coffee.
"You've been doing well at not prying, don't let our argument stop you." She snapped.
There was silence.
She stopped what she was doing. Damn, she was doing it again.
"Maybe I should call someone else to be with you then." He said standing again.
She looked at him in surprise. "What?"
"If you don't want me here, I'll leave." He sounded hurt and started for the door.
"I-I didn't say that." She said uncertainly.
"Maybe not in words." He said, turning back.
She blinked, nonplussed. "I... I'm sorry I snapped at you. I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings."
"Do you even want me here?" He asked, suddenly intense.
She was playing catch up and didn't like the feeling. "I don't understand."
"It's simple. Am I your friend or aren't I?"
"Aren't you?" She asked worriedly.
"I consider you one of my closest friends, but I have no idea how you feel about me." He looked troubled.
She frowned. Spoke in a whisper. "How could you not know? After... after..." She stopped, still unable to say it.
"You would've done that for anyone." He hung his head.
She laughed. It was harsh, possessing a bitter tinge and a hint of sorrow.
"What's so funny?"
"You-" She tried to gasp around her laughter. "You really think I could have made myself do that- just for anyone?" She gave him a look that she hoped conveyed how ridiculous that theory was. "Are you crazy?"
"Now I don't understand." He said, confused.
She sobered and couldn't help a look of pity. "I have a car with a lighted trunk, with a release on the inside and extra space. All because I am terrified of dark car trunks. The pitch black, closeness and suffocating feel of it. Even more than I can become around snakes. The only reason I was able to force myself inside was because you, my friend, were in danger. Your life was being threatened. That's why, and that is the only reason." She turned back to the coffee.
For many long moments he stood there in shock. Then she heard him retake his seat.
They didn't speak for a long time.
Finally, Brennan set two full coffee mugs on the counter. "Booth..." She began hesitantly. "He keeps staring at my lips. My mouth. I used the excuse of him fussing over me, but really, I was just frustrated because of that. There was no reason for me to yell at him. He's been trying very hard not to be overly... protective? Helpful?"
Sweets nodded, showing he understood.
"It's just-" She sighed. "Every time he stares at my mouth, I can only think..." She shifted uncomfortably.
"Have you confronted him about it?"
Emphatically, she shook her head.
"Why not?" Sweets' voice was gentle.
"I... don't want to... bring "it", up." She rubbed the back of her hand over her tingling lips. "I don't want him to say... that he thinks about it every time he looks at my lips."
"You think he really does?"
"I think about it, how could he not?" She said miserably.
He looked surprised. "Every time you look in the mirror?"
She nodded and shrugged, like it was nothing. "Yes, but that's not unusual."
He sat back. "How do you mean?"
"It was that way when I was a teenager."
He went pale.
"After every time my foster father touched me, after I spent an half hour or so trying not to throw up, I'd try to shower if I could. Sometimes I'd scrub myself till I bled. Every time I'd pass a mirror I'd feel the need to at least wash out my mouth from when he had kissed me. It continued long after I left that foster home, but eventually it stopped. I can only assume the same will hold true this time." She took another sip of her coffee.
Sweets looked shaken. Finally, he licked his lips and said, "Just because you think of it, doesn't mean that Agent Booth does."
She compressed her lips, disagreeing.
"Even if he does, how can he correct his behavior if he is unaware of how it effects you?"
Brennan sighed. "So you're saying we have to talk about it?"
"Or you could continue to snap at everyone and have more shouting matches with Booth." He said with a small smile.
After a pause, Sweets hesitantly touched her arm."Thank you."
"For what?" She asked confused again
"For talking to me and letting me be here for you." He smiled.
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "You're.. welcome?" She said questioningly.
The next time Booth came to stay with her, she hesitantly sat in the chair next to the couch on which he rested. He'd brought take-out again and was eating from one of the containers. She set her food down deliberately.
Obviously Booth noticed the change in her demeanor because he sat forward slightly.
"I need to apologize Booth." She began.
"'S okay Bones. You must be going stir crazy, having everybody here and not being able to go to work."
She smiled. "Yes, but that's not why I yelled at you."
He glanced at her.
"It's... when you stare at my mouth." She squirmed under his suddenly intense gaze. "I realize it must be hard for you, that...maybe, you can't help thinking about... what they made me do. But every time, I remember it too and I was just frustrated-"
"Wait." Booth cut her off, holding up a hand. "You think I stare at your mouth- because I'm thinking about them?"
She nodded slowly and uncomfortably. "I know it... bothers you. Maybe... disgusts you-"
"Bones, there isn't a single part of your body that could disgust me." He said vehemently. "And I don't stare at your mouth because I'm remembering what those bastards did to you or because I'm angry you didn't tell me about when you were still a kid." He went over to her and took her reluctant face in his hands. "Okay?"
"Yes." She answered quickly. Almost desperately, she wanted it to be the truth. So she wasn't expecting it when his lips pressed against hers. She didn't move, too surprised.
He pulled back. "That is the one and only reason I stare at your mouth." He went back to his spot on her couch and resumed eating.
Unconsciously, her fingers went to her lips. "Oh." It sounded like a pathetic thing to say, but her brain couldn't clear enough to supply anything else. It had stalled. So she took up her food again and finished eating.
Later that night, Booth bade her goodnight and disappeared into her guest bedroom. She went into her bathroom. Caught sight of herself in the mirror and froze. She looked at her mouth, but instead of wanting to scrub it like usual, the sight of Booth's face meeting hers, lips gentle but firm, flashed in her mind. Her mirror reflected her widened eyes. She'd had no idea he could do that. She smiled.
The lab was still quiet when Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth entered it that morning. After almost four weeks of forced vacation, she'd never been so happy to see anyplace in her life. She had finally been left on her own the previous night, with no one sitting in the next room and it had felt exhilarating. However, she had also been very relieved when Booth came to pick her up that morning. As she slipped on her blue lab coat and went out to the platform, a sense of peace came over her. It felt odd that everyone else had gotten to go back to work before she did, but it felt so right to be back where she belonged that she didn't care. Yes, this was right. Dr. Carter had explained that others might treat her too delicately for a while and that if she needed a break from work she should take it, whether it made her uncomfortable or not, but she didn't think that would be an issue. She caught her reflection in a black monitor and smiled at the ghostly feel of the remembered sensation of Booth's lips on her own. She sighed.
"Ya' okay Bones?" Booth was leaning against the railing, watching her.
She flashed him a grin. "Yes. Yes, I am."