Title: The Futile Fight
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Rating: K+ probably.
Summary: Cullen's Bullpen Entry – Brennan suffers the effects of being buried underground, and tries to find sleep through exercise. BB-centric.
A/N: Hi there. I think this challenge proved to be, well, a challenge for most of us, this time. It left so many avenues open, yet it was so unspecific that it was difficult at the same time. I did not want to be clichéd, and I imagine this is what we all wanted to achieve with this challenge. I hope everyone likes this, and reviews would be, as ever, greatly appreciated.
Shifting uncomfortably, she pounded the cushion with her fist, turning to face the stereo. Tapping her fingers on her belly to the swells of the Japanese flute music, she wished the soothing sound was enough to loosen the painful knots in her shoulders, and bring sleep to her fatigued bones. The hollows whispers of the flute, which had long since been her secret for a peaceful night sleep, made her twitch anxiously, and for the tenth time in an hour, she cursed herself for being irrational.
Turning her eyes to the flickering flame of her aromatherapy candle, a pale lavender purple column of half-melted wax, she wondered if the soft scent would be enough to make her drowsy. Somehow, she doubted it. For the past week she'd had a fitful sleep at best, and for three days she had been wandering the lab as though she were lost, and it made her even more annoyed because she hated her weakness. Hated it more than anything else.
Growling, she swung her legs over the edge of the sofa. She was not going to be a victim of the so-called Gravedigger because, first and foremost, she and Jack had not died down in that car and secondly, she was not Temperance Brennan is she allowed herself to succumb to her fear.
Blowing out the candle, she watched a bubble of purple wax skitter across the antique oak table, solidifying in a few short seconds. Straightening her spine, she massaged her shoulder for a moment, reaching out to turn off the stereo. She had often found that, in times of stress, a good work out at the gym, a few marital arts moves, and her body welcomed rest. The trouble with exhaustion and insomnia was, she was not entirely sure her body had enough strength left for a work out.
Pulling her hair into a high, tight ponytail, Brennan snagged her car keys with her finger, reaching for her pre-packed gym bag with her other hand. Tired of moping, she decided the best thing to do was at least try to see how much fighting strength she still had. On the coffee table, her cell-phone vibrated heavily against the wood, and she jumped, her heart leaping and thudding erratically against her ribs. She spread her fingers over her chest, willing herself to be calm. These days, birds flapping outside her window were enough to set her heart off.
"Brennan," she whispered, as though the sound of her own voice might trigger a reaction. She hated that she wasn't proving to be as strong as she always imagined she would. Each time she closed her eyes for more than a blink, she saw the confines of the car, and the earthy soil, pressing heavily against the window.
"It's me." She felt her shoulders ease and inwardly she smiled a little at his greeting. "Why aren't you asleep?" Pacing her living room, Brennan massaged her right temple, mentally counting how many concerned calls she got everyday since the case. Angela. Russ. Booth Angela again. Booth. Once, Zach even called.
"I'm not tired," she lied, keeping her voice jovial. "I'm going to the gym… maybe I can burn off some of my energy." Booth hummed on the other side of the line. "See you tomorrow?" she asked, turning to the window. Outside, the darkness seemed to close in on her and it bemused her how such wide open space could seem so much like it were suffocating her. Her apartment was her haven and outside was the abyss.
"Bones?" she started, momentarily forgetting he was on the line, or that she was holding the phone to her ear at all. "You'll be alright." She nodded.
"Yeah. I know I will," she replied, holding her body firm and straight. "Even the strongest people can be left shaken by what… Jack and I went through…" She could feel Booth on the other side of the line, nodding in agreement, listening to her with his usual kindness. "Are you with Camille?" Brennan reached for her gym bag again.
"No," he admitted, making no attempt to ask how she even knew about their 'secret' relationship. If only he knew that each and every member of the Anthropology department were aware of who he was tousling sheets with. "Camille went to New York. I… didn't." He did not need to say anything else.
"Why not?" he sighed.
"I just did not, Bones…" she heard the slight impatience in his voice, and she was rebuked. She remembered once that he said she needed to offer something of herself in return for the questions she asked. She understood that sometimes her life was a closed book, and it must have been frustrating for a man as private as Booth, to have his personal life intruded upon especially when he got nothing in return. "Catch you later…" she nodded before realising that he could not see her.
"Yeah," she replied softly, snapping her phone shut. For a moment, the silence enveloped her and she welcomed it, just like she would have before her experiences with the Gravedigger. Within seconds, she felt the familiar prickle of apprehension, and she needed to move. Shaking herself physically, she gathered her belongings and slipped out of her apartment, breathing in the air not perfumed by her aromatherapy candle. She felt better already. Whoever said candles were a stress reliever had been lying. She thought it might have been Angela, actually.
Outside, the air was heavily scented with leaves, and the darkness seemed far less oppressive. She could move, unrestricted, and it was the exact opposite of being inside the car, after all. Spreading her fingers, she allowed the tiny breeze to move along her skin like a cool, silk blanket, and she dropped her head back, lifting her eyes to the sky. She saw stars and thought they looked hard – bright and hard and they didn't blink as much as the clichéd romantic novel would have liked her to believe. They looked solid, nowhere near as much a mirage as she had once imagined. Her breath condensed around her cheeks and she let the cool fog settle about her face.
When she got into her car, she focused hard on not thinking about the car that had almost become her coffin, and instead of playing the melodic music she usually settled for, she slid in a Foo Fighters CD that she had taken from Booth's SUV during one of his 'can't beat rock' rants. She had to admit, sometimes she did not want to feel meditated or tranquil. Sometimes she wanted to tap her fingers and nod her head, and think about drum beats and guitar rifts. Tonight, she especially wanted to bang her head hard enough that she would think about nothing other than lying down for a sleep.
The gym she used, three times a week, were so familiar with her, that the security guard permitted her entrance even though the complex had long since closed for the evening.
"How goes it, Dr Brennan?" the guard asked, easing the door open, saluting her with a cheeky smile. "How many times is it this week?" She readjusted her bag on her shoulder, shrugging half-heartedly. "I'll tell you, lady, too many times. You must he exhausted." She kicked off her shoes, slipping her earrings from inside her lobes.
"I find it helps me relax," she replied.
"That Kung Fu stuff you do?" he asked, lifting his eyebrow skyward as though he were sceptical. Brennan thought that, judging by his slight overhang, the guard did not understand the concept of exercise at all. For her, it was vital.
"I vary between Taekwondo and Judo, two very different forms of martial arts," she explained solemnly. "It's a common misconception to associate all forms of defence as Kung Fu." The guard chuckled, shaking his head.
"You enjoy yourself," he said, moving away from her. His amusement could be heard, even from his station at the bottom of the corridor. Brennan frowned, hands on her hips. Even when she tried explaining, somehow she always sounded like a… Squint. She could hear Booth's voice in the back of her mind, taunting, chuckling like the guard. Shaking her head, she replaced her shoes with her sneakers. Maybe she was a little nerdy, a little too deeply rooted in science, logic and facts, but it had been those facts and logic that had kept she and Jack alive while buried underground. She wasn't going to relinquish that intelligence just to 'fit in'.
In the late of night, the gym was vastly different from the afternoon. The machines were silent, foreboding monsters whose motors had grind to a halt at the end of business. The punch bag hung, unmoving and in the darkness, the minute irrational section of her brain imagined it could have been a hanging body, motionlessly attached to the thick, metal chain.
Growling at herself, she flicked the switch, bathing the room in a florescent glow. The mats, the machines, the punch bag suddenly looked far less menacing now, and she scrubbed her face with her hands before lifting her arms high above her head, easing her muscles, she rolled her shoulders, stretching her limbs until all her tensions were gone, and she felt better at once.
During the day, there was always a Taekwondo expert who was willing to practice with her, but tonight, she was alone, and she would have to make do. It didn't matter, though, for she was in no real mood to practice her skills, just waste energy. Standing before the punch bag, Brennan sighed. Her body was still, taut and nowhere near as flexible as she knew it could be.
"You shouldn't push yourself."
She stiffened, turning on the balls of her feet. "I can't sleep, Booth," she sighed. "I'm such a fool." Leaning in the doorway, his necktie pulled away from his throat, he looked as though he'd come straight from the office. Their was a heavy weariness in his eyes, and she felt guilty.
"You need to stop beating yourself up, Bones," he warned. "Stop trying to be so strong, because inevitably, you're going to fail and that hurts more than being weak."
"I'm not weak," she huffed, thumping her fists against her thighs. "I'm fine." He smirked a little, lifting his eyes to the metal rafters above their heads. "I've been working, and exercising and eating…"
"You haven't been sleeping," he said, his voice a low sigh. "And burning up a sweat isn't going to erase what you saw. What happened." She turned her back on him, balling her fingers into tight fists, crackling her knuckles against the shiny red leather. The dramatic sway of the bag gave her a small degree of satisfaction. She lifted her leg and in two swift kicks, her the bottom of her foot hit the bag. She grunted. It felt good. "Temperance…" Booth was closer now, his voice gentle and yet insistent, too. She felt sweat prickle under her arms, but not from her meagre amount of exercise, from adrenaline. "Bones…" he was behind her now, his voice muffled by her punches, kicks, grunts. He wanted her to listen, yet she didn't want to hear him. When his fingers touched her shoulder, she reacted on instinct, turning her body with a precise swivel, catching him behind his knee, knocking him to the ground. She heard his sharp release of breath as his body collided with the mat, and she was over him, her foot pressed to his sternum. Below her, his eyes were wide. When she dropped, straddling him, her own eyes crazed and demented, tired and filled with a weary fatigue, his jaw tightened. "I should never have agreed to do field work. I was far more stable when I worked purely in the lab." There was a hint of accusation in her tone, yet Booth knew she barely understood her own words. "I'm…" she sighed, her eyes closing.
He took the opportunity with lightening speed, lifting his hips, jerking her and tilting his body until she fell to the mat, sprawled. "Fucked up?" he finished, leaning over her, his knee between her thighs. She sighed, digging her nails into the firm sponge beneath her body.
"I'm tired, Booth," she said, her voice firm. He stroked her cheek with a gentle awe that reminded her of when he told her she was structured well. He meant to say beautiful.
"I know you are," he said, his fingers shifting over her cheekbones, tracing the lines of her features. "But it will get easier," he promised. "This isn't the way, though…" She dropped her head back against the mat, finding that his weight over hers wasn't so difficult to adjust to. She did not find their position at all sexual, yet there was an underlying sense of intimacy. "Kicking my butt, Bones, it's a bad foot to get off on," he straightened his crooked tie and she chuckled a little.
"Sorry…" she whispered and he offered her a lopsided grin.
"No you're not," he said, leaning back on his haunches, offering her a hand. She took the gesture as being literal, and metaphorical, too.
"No, I'm not," she admitted with a cheeky grin in return.
"I'll take you for some coffee, and I promise, when we're done, you'll sleep." She stood.
"Caffeine and sleep are not two words usually put together," she quipped. His arm slipped around her shoulder. Gathering her things, she leaned into him. "Booth… why didn't you go to New York?" He turned to look at her, flicking off the lights.
"How about, I tell you about that, when we finished our coffee?" She thought back to offering something about herself, volunteering information, and she nodded.
"Okay…" she said, feeling mentally lighter at last.
I thought I would combine a post-ep fic with the CBPC. The gym sequence is movement, right? Let me know if you liked.
P.S. – Why did Booth not go to New York? Well… since these are compulsory oneshots, I guess only I know that answer to that…