Author's Notes: Set after 2x12. Slightly AU in nature. Rated for adult themes and scenarios.
Reviews = love.
She wasn't sure exactly what had happened. Epps had been there, ready to bludgeon her with a tire iron. Booth had entered, gun drawn, and she'd been thanking the circumventing measures she'd taken to get a gun licence without Booth's knowledge. She'd seen the look in Epps' eyes; his IQ was high enough for him to have figured all the probabilities and variables that existed, and to come to the conclusion that death was his best option. They'd chased him towards the balcony. Booth's arms were longer, his grip stronger. But Epps had still fallen out of reach.
She'd tried to make excuses for Booth but he wouldn't take them. She tried to make excuses for herself, for not reaching far enough, but she knew when she was just rationalising to make herself feel better. And then Booth left.
The agents that had been guarding her followed soon after until it was just her, sitting, arms crossed at her table, wondering where to go from there. Booth would be at the hospital, with Cam. Angela would be with Hodgins, trying to forget the human heart she'd been sent. There was a report to write, to exonerate Booth from any blame the bureau might choose to place on him. The blame he placed on himself, she wasn't sure she could reach. Sometimes he seemed so far away, the self imposed walls around him so impenetrable that she wondered in these moments if they'd ever been close or whether it was just a façade.
At night, when it was quiet, when they'd just been through a particularly gruelling case, Booth would usually show up with Thai food and they'd sit, talk about anything but the case, pretend they hadn't just seen enough to make them both lose faith in the humanity of people. Nights like these, sans Booth, the quiet made her think too much about what the point of it all was until putting on music wouldn't even drown it out. Nights like these were when she called the person she'd never told Angela or Booth about.
After almost two years, she still knew the number. She just hoped he would still be on the other end.
"Hey." She thought it was his voice, but she couldn't be sure.
"Carlos?" There was a pause and she knew he was struggling to place her.
"You're not okay." He said it as a statement and she knew he didn't read her tone so much as realise that she only called when she was teetering on the edge of a precipe.
There was a pause between them and she could hear him breathing. Times like these felt so familiar to her. She used to listen to him breath, in the dark beside her, and know she was safe.
"I'm going to send a car for you. Ten minutes." He disconnected and she listened to the dial tone for a minute more, pondering why she'd called. Carlos was one of the people from her past that she'd actually kept in touch with. Their meetings were erratic and for entirely selfish reasons. They'd been comforting each other since they were both fifteen and found themselves in the same foster hell house. Carlos had taken to sleeping in her room after their foster father had tried to sneak in late one night. She'd called out to anyone to help her and he'd been there straight away. There was a brief fight; Carlos punching the other man in the face while he was still buckling his pants up. He'd left without what he came for and Carlos had held her until she stopped shaking. After that night he'd wait until everyone else was in bed then sneak across the hallway to her room. Eventually they'd been found out, and kicked out, their foster parents finally finding a technicality they could get rid of them on. She'd never slept with him in the way they imagined until later, but she'd also never forgotten what it was like to wake up feeling safe.
The buzzer rang from downstairs and she grabbed her bag as she left.
xXx xXx xXx
He looked the same as she remembered; coal black skin, perfect features marred only by the scar that ran down from his cheekbone, past his jaw to his neck. It had been a knife fight on the street. She still remembered seeing him walk into the group home, one hand holding the side of his face. She'd hurried him to the bathroom and used sticky tape to patch up his face until they could both sneak off to get him to hospital. She'd been so worried that he'd pass out on the floor that she kept slapping him on the other side of his face to keep him awake. He still reminded her of it occasionally, telling her that she'd slapped him so hard the pain had kept him from thinking about all the blood she had on her hands.
"Hey." He drew her into a warm hug and invited her in. She let the door close behind him before she reached up to kiss him. She needed more than the comfort of a friend. She needed the kind of connection that only the closeness of sex could bring.
"A drink?" He smiled at her and she nodded, took her jacket off and let it fall to the floor.
"You seeing anyone?" She was genuinely interested in his life. They weren't the type of friends to talk on the phone. They never promised to catch up, or meet for coffee because the things they'd been through were worth more than that.
"Not at the moment. Business keeps me busy." Even if he had been seeing someone, Temperance knew her coming over, being with him, would never count as cheating to either of them. It was what they needed to do, for an old friend.
"Hm." She preferred not to know much about what he did. He had rows of black cars in the garage and lived in a house with a view that would probably make Hodgins look twice. She knew it wasn't above board and that this was in direct conflict with what she did and the kind of people that she worked with but she'd known him before she'd chosen her career field and she would always accept every facet of his personality. Underneath the cloudy job description and henchmen that showed up at all hours, she knew there was still the fifteen year old who'd held her in the dark.
"It's been a few years." She sat on one end of his enormous lounge as he spoke and tucked her feet up under her after kicking her shoes off.
"I haven't seen you since that… Since a work deal of yours went bad." She'd read something about it in the paper; the FBI had tried to take down Carlos' organisation from the inside, but several agents placed undercover had been killed. Carlos had told her that he never wanted people to die. She'd been living with Peter then so Carlos had booked them into a honeymoon suite under fake names. She'd taken a rare day off work, told Peter she had to work late. In the middle of the night, she'd woken up the strange bed, felt Carlos' arm smoothly around her stomach and had felt as if she could stay that way forever. In the morning, as usual, they went their separate ways.
"Did he ever find out?" Carlos said, referring to Peter.
"No. We broke up a few months after that." She took a sip out of her drink and sighed with satisfaction. She never knew what it was he mixed, but it went down smoothly enough to assure her that it was probably top shelf and wouldn't give her a hangover tomorrow.
"I hear you're working with the FBI now." As usual, Carlos knew what was going with her. She was never sure, but she thought he sometimes assigned his men to it, checking she was safe. As good as Booth thought his agents were, Carlos' men were like black smoke; hard to spot, impossible to pin down.
"Consulting on cases."
"And more than that. I heard you got kidnapped… Buried alive. You always managed to put yourself in danger." He trailed off as he sat next to her. She leant into him and traced his scar, tried hard not to think of Epps creeping through her house with a tire iron in his hand.
"You were the one who said pain makes you feel alive." He smiled and drained his drink. The city was spread out before them so that it looked as if the glass wasn't there at all and they were sitting far above the world.
"Does it?" He asked. She dropped her hand back to her lap and half shrugged.
"Sometimes it just makes me feel sad." She said. He wrapped an arm around her and she let him take her drink out of her hands, put it on the table. Their movements were unhurried and comfortable. His hands found the buttons on her jeans easily and she felt her tongue trace his scar the way it always did. His weight pressed on her and she felt her mind clearing. Worries about Booth faded as her shirt was pulled over her head. His hands fit her waist as perfectly as they had the first time and the sadness began to subside.
xXx xXx xXx
Her phone rang suddenly, making her sit up. Carlos was beside her and she watched as his eyelids fluttered, opened, watched her search for her phone.
"Brennan." She was already searching for her clothes. They'd made it to Carlos' bedroom, which had the same view as the sitting room. Sunlight was streaming in through the window and in the light of day, the city was almost hidden under a haze of smog.
"It's me. Where are you?" His voice brought her back to earth and she sat down on the edge of the bed. She could hear the worry in his voice and imagined him outside her apartment. Carlos rested a hand on her thigh.
"I'm… Out." She knew Booth wouldn't approve of her association with Carlos. She wasn't sure she approved of it, but she needed it.
"Are you at the lab?"
"No. Did you need something?"
"Just wanted to get your help on my notes… With the case." In three words Booth managed to bring her back to earth.
"I'll be home in twenty minutes." She pressed the end button and put her phone aside. She couldn't ignore reality forever and she knew Cam was getting out of the hospital that afternoon. She assumed Booth wanted to be there to take her home.
"The man you work with?" Carlos said. Brennan nodded and pulled her jeans on.
"We need to fill out some case notes." He nodded, stretched as he sat up.
"I'll take you home."
xXx xXx xXx
One of Carlos' men brought a car around to the driveway and Temperance climbed in. It was a leather interior inside, and smelt new.
"Nice car." She commented. She knew Booth would appreciate it.
"It was on sale." He said and Temperance shook her head.
"I don't want to know." They shared a smile as Carlos floored his way through an intersection. For her sixteenth birthday, Carlos had managed to lift a bottle of perfume; until the police found his face on a security camera. She'd asked him how he'd managed to afford something like that and he'd told her it was on sale before they came to take him away in handcuffs. He wasn't a serial offender and had been back in the home after three weeks of juvvie. Temperance had worn the perfume every day for the three weeks.
"Why do you let me do this? Just show up when I need to." Temperance asked, looking across the to driver's side. She knew if Angela had heard her ask anything like that, she would have wondered who had replaced her friend. But Carlos had seen her as a scared fifteen year old. She had nothing to hide from him, no emotion that he hadn't seen.
"Do you still feel sad?" He asked. She shook her head and he nodded.
"That's why." Smiling, she leant her head back on the headrest.
"Thank you." She said softly. He put one of his hands down on hers.
"That's what friends are for." She nodded, looking out the window. Some days she'd say Booth was her closest friend. But last night, when they'd both needed someone to talk to, he'd left her sitting alone.