It had been a fairly slow night in the bright, clinically lit emergency wing of the hospital. Snow storms usually caused a few cases of frostbite and hypothermia to trickle through the doors of the ER, but they generally discouraged the hypochondriacs and over-protective mothers. Feeling somewhat restless, Dr. Bridgeman checked in on his few unhappy patients who were unable to leave due to the snowstorm. The patients responded to his attentions with cold glares, and the doctor quickly went off for coffee.
A huge yawn split his face, reminding him that his shift should have ended five hours ago. The boredom was eating away at him. He slumped down into a chair and contemplated taking a quick nap. Just as the cold metal table was beginning to look like a suitable pillow, Dr. Bridgeman heard the commotion.
Leaping to his feet, he jogged out into the corridor toward the nurse's station. The commotion was out of sight, around the corner, but the doctor could hear the sound of a few men shouting and a nurse screaming. He rounded the corner quickly, his feet almost falling out from under him in the process.
Two men were struggling to drag a third into the waiting room of the ER. They both had bloody noses and were cursing profusely as they avoided the aimless punches of the third man. He was considerably larger than the other two men, but seemed profoundly disoriented, giving the other two a slight advantage.
"Can we get some help over here Doc?" the young man with a bloody nose asked as a flailing arm hit him across the cheek.
As the doctor approached, the two men dropped the third one exhaustedly. His two supports suddenly missing, the third man stumbled clumsily, just barley managing to stay upright. It seemed to be a tremendous effort for him to focus his eyes on the doctor and his face was a mixture of extreme confusion and distress. The doctor flinched when the man lunged towards him, but he merely grasped the shoulders of the young doctor, leaning heavily on him.
"We have to go back," he said.
The man's voice slurred almost to the point of incoherency.
"Me and my son found him outside," the older man told the doctor as a nurse held an icepack to a bruise rising on his forehead.
"Snow's made him loopy," the son added, pinching the bridge of his nose.
The doctor's head swung back and forth as the man began to shake him.
"She's still- she's still," the man stuttered. "She's still out there…"
Dr. Bridgeman, beginning to feel a headache coming on, pried the man's hands off of him. He called to the nurse for a stretcher and attempted to coax the now swaying man into a chair. The man swatted his hand away violently and the doctor sighed, placing a placating smile on his face.
"Sir," he said slowly. "I know you're very confused right now, but you need immediate medical attention."
The man narrowed his eyes at the doctor.
"If you won't go look for her," he slurred, "then I will!"
With and unfocused glare, the man turned on his heels and stumbled into the wall. Dr. Bridgeman rushed forward as his patient collapsed into a heap on the floor. He pressed two fingers to the ice-cold skin of the man's neck. The pulse was weak but steady. There were no obvious signs of frostbite, but the man's state suggested his body temperature had reached a critical level.
The doctor sighed in relief as his stretcher arrived and the medical technicians manipulated his patient onto it. As he followed the stretcher down the hall his beeper went off. Group of campers just arrived in ambulances. Severe frostbite, it read. Dr. Bridgeman sighed. He would never complain of boredom again.
Booth woke up in a profound state of confusion. He vaguely sensed needles in his arm and heating pads on top of him. The sensation of being warm was oddly foreign to him. He opened his eyes into narrow slits and saw a clean, white, sterile room. A hospital. He was in a hospital.
Terror ripped through his chest and he sat up suddenly. The heated blankets fell off his chest and his head exploded in a horrible headache. Groaning loudly, Booth's hands flew to his temples as he attempted to rub the headache away. Unfortunately, even the pain wasn't enough to take his mind off the overwhelming sense of failure and despair.
His eyes darted around the room and finally settled on a clock mounted on the wall. Twelve hours… it had been twelve hours since he left Brennan alone in the SUV. Desperately, Booth searched his memory. He fuzzily recalled being rescued. Why hadn't they gone back for Brennan?
The horrible sentence came back to him. There was no one in there. Booth held his head in his hands as his mind raced frantically. How was that possible? Surely Brennan wouldn't have left the SUV… Perhaps his mind had been so affected by the cold during his rescue that he had imagined going back to the SUV and finding it empty.
"Impossible," Booth whispered to himself, remembering all to well the anguish and denial that had ripped through him despite his altered state of mind.
Booth sat on his bed helplessly, his mind reeling. He barely noticed as a nurse strolled in, chatting cheerfully and checking his vitals.
"I see you're finally up!" she pronounced briskly. "I hope you're feeling better than you were last night. You put up quite the fuss! We had to treat the two men that brought you in. You broke both their noses!"
She made a loud tutting noise and reached up to check his saline bag.
"Now that you're awake, I can get you some warm broth and paperwork," she told him amiably. "I know the paperwork isn't so exciting, but it's necessary. You were so far gone last night that we were unable to even get your name."
The nurse finally stopped in her bustling around and chattering to take a proper look at her patient's face. The turmoil and despair etched across Booth's features caused her to stop in her tracks.
"Now, honey, what's wrong?" the nurse asked, perching herself on the edge of the bed.
Booth couldn't find words to describe to the friendly-faced nurse exactly what was going on inside him at the moment. How could he convey in words the fact that he had no idea where Brennan was or if she was even alive? This wasn't like the case with Kenton where Hodgins had helped him break out of the hospital; he was helpless and useless to Brennan at the moment. The knowledge was killing him.
The nurse worriedly patted his hand.
"How about I get the doctor?" she suggested, standing up.
Booth eyes snapped back to the nurse, suddenly seeing her in a new light- a source of information.
"Wait!" Booth exclaimed, his voice raspy from dryness and emotion.
The nurse jumped, surprised to hear him talk. Booth swallowed and attempted to moisten his lips. His heart thudded in anticipation of asking the question although he already knew the answer.
"Was there…" he began. "Was there anyone else brought in with me?"
Looking slightly bewildered, the nurse shook her head.
"You were brought in alone," she told him. "I doubt those men could have handled anyone else with the way you were carrying on. You kept telling them to go back."
Anger blossomed in Booth's chest.
"That's because my partner was still out there!" he shouted. "Those bastards left her out there!"
Booth breathed heavily for a second, before his body sagged slightly and his anger dissipated.
"I left her out there," he said softly, dejectedly.
The nurse, who had backed away in fear when Booth had yelled, now approached again, taking pity on Booth's guilty sorrow. Again, she sat on the edge of Booth's bed, giving him a sad smile.
"You were in a bad state," she told him gently. "You're lucky that you managed to save yourself."
Booth shook his head. None of it mattered unless Brennan was okay. Anguish clawed at him, but he forcibly pushed it away. He couldn't allow himself those feelings yet, not unless he was positive. The pain would kill him.
"Were there any others brought in last night?" Booth asked the nurse with an unsteady voice.
The pleading tone that had crept into Booth's voice caused the nurse's eyes to moisten slightly. She patted him consolingly on the hand again and grabbed a pen and a pad of paper.
"Of course there were others brought in," she soothed. "Now is it your wife you're looking for?"
Booth shook his head.
"No," he replied. "It's my partner… I'm with the FBI. Special Agent Seeley Booth."
The nurse nodded and wrote it down on the pad of paper.
"And her name?" the nurse inquired when she finished writing.
"Temperance Brennan," Booth said, emotion flaring as he spoke her name aloud.
As the nurse carefully annotated her name, Booth couldn't help but feel like her name alone wasn't enough. What if like him, she had been unconscious when brought in? Booth began talking again, his voice increasing in speed and emotion.
"She's tall," he blurted. "And thin. Bluish-green eyes. She… her hair. Um it's brown, kind of reddish? And sort of curly too. Especially when it's messy."
He fumbled in his mind for more information to help the nurse find his partner.
"She has a scar on the back of her neck, from a burn. It looks like… um two circles?"
The nurse continued writing, and Booth continued speaking, almost unable to stop herself.
"She has a PhD in forensic anthropology so make sure you call her 'Doctor' and not 'Miss' because that can really get her going," he rambled. "She can be really stubborn and bossy… she definitely won't be happy to be in the hospital. She's very independent… strong too, you know? And really, really pretty."
By now the nurse's eyes were definitely moist and Booth adverted his eyes, somewhat embarrassed. The nurse had filled up two pieces of the paper with Booth's description. She gave him a soft smile before preparing to leave.
"I'm going to fax this around the hospital, okay hon?" she said quietly. "Then I'll come back with your broth and paperwork."
Booth nodded, too worked up to give her a proper thank you. He lay back down in his bed, preparing to play the most tortuous game of all- the waiting game.
It was about an hour later when Doctor Bridgeman walked into Booth's room to introduce himself. He shook Booth's hand and gave him a friendly smile, but his eyes were reproachful.
"You seemed to have survived your collision with the wall last night," the doctor told him with dry humor. "And your temperature has finally returned to the scale of what we in the medical field call normal. We'll be keeping you until you maintain that temperature for another two hours, and then-"
Unable to listen any longer, Booth interrupted.
"Did you find Bones?" he asked abruptly.
The doctor gave him a blank stare.
"Excuse me?" he questioned, lifting an eyebrow and wondering if perhaps the wall collision did cause some damage.
"My partner," Booth clarified. "Temperance Brennan."
The reproachful look returned to the doctor's eyes, and Booth realized with a sinking feeling what they must mean.
"You didn't find her," Booth stated flatly.
Doctor Bridgeman sighed.
"No we didn't," he conceded, not without sympathy. "None of our patients came close to matching your description."
The doctor watched as his patient seemed to wilt in his bed, his brown eyes clouding over. Doctor Bridgeman had told countless patients that they were going to die or that someone dear to them had died, but he found himself momentarily speechless at the raw emotion in this man's eyes. He searched himself for the right words.
It was then, that the nurse rushed into the room, her face alight with excitement. She grasped in her hands a piece of paper so tightly that it had wrinkled.
"Doctor Bridgeman!" she exclaimed.
She skidded to a stop in front of him and handed him the fax. His eyes skimmed it and a weight lifted from his shoulders.
"It's from the shock trauma hospital on the other side of town," he mumbled, a grin starting to work its way up his face. "Agent Booth, listen to this."
He began reading the fax.
"We have a patient lifted in by MediVac searching for a Special Agent Seeley Booth. Described as brown hair, brown eyes, tall, large frame, big head, carries a gun."
Booth lifted his eyes, hope bubbling up.
"Does…" he said, his voice beginning to strengthen, "does it say her name?"
Both the nurse and the doctor smiled at him.
"No," the nurse answered gently. "Doctor-patient confidentiality forbids it, but who else would it be?"
Soothed by this, Booth gave the doctor and the nurse the first smile they'd ever seen on his face.
"Well when can I go then?" he asked eagerly, already trying to get out of the bed.
The doctor put out a hand, stopping him.
"Not quite yet," he said amusedly. "As soon as your temperature has remained stable for a solid two hours we'll discharge you."
Booth's face was disappointed, but he still could not quite keep the grin off of it. A sudden thought seemed to occur to him, and he turned to Doctor Bridgeman and the nurse, an injured look on his face.
"Big head?" he asked sullenly.
Hiding their grins, the doctor and nurse hurried out of the room.
Yet another hour passed, and Booth had been measuring his temperature as diligently as the nurse. Whenever it dropped even a hundredth of a degree, he asked for hot tea or broth and gulped it all down as quickly as possible. He was determined to leave the hospital.
It was when he was studiously watching his thermometer that he heard a tiny, amused cough.
His head snapped up, and for a moment, he literally felt time stand still. Brennan was standing near the foot of the bed, smiling widely, whole and unharmed. She was looking at him as though she had never expected to see him again.
"Well?" she said softly.
The single word brought Booth back to Earth, and he leapt out of bed, laughing like a kid. He ran over to her and lifting her up, swinging her around and around, shouting her name happily. She protested just as loudly, demanding to be put down, but as she too was laughing, Booth ignored her.
"Booth," she proclaimed breathlessly. "You do realize that the hospital gowns are backless?"
This was what finally caused Booth to stop. He sheepishly sat Brennan back on her feet and hid his bare behind by returning to his hospital bed, shielding himself with the blankets. Regardless, he couldn't stop smiling and his eyes never strayed from Brennan.
"You're okay," he said softly, indicating the spot on the bed next to him.
She sat and gave him a stern look.
"Of course I'm okay!" she told him, her voice surprisingly tearful. "The helicopter came a couple hours after you left… I told them to go back out but they never found anyone. I thought…"
She stopped and took a shuddering breath.
"I got picked up by a snow plow," he told her. "I thought the same thing Bones."
She nodded, her throat too emotion-filled to speak. Still unable to tear his eyes away, Booth watched her, heart aching from the joy of seeing Brennan and the fear of what could have been. Acting on an impulse Booth gently tilted Brennan's face towards his with his fingertips and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
When the kiss ended, they held each other, holding on tightly to what they almost lost.
"I don't know what I would have done Bones," Booth admitted.
Brennan tightened her grip on him, burying her face into his shoulder. Booth stroked her hair, her back reveling in the fact that she was alive and well. When Brennan pulled back from the embrace, Booth gave her a teasing smile.
"So about this line business…" he began with false casualness.
Brennan gave him a sassy smile.
"What line?" she asked huskily, leaning forward.
Placing her hands on his chest she kissed him deeply, and Booth reciprocated enthusiastically. The kiss left them both breathless and smiling.
"That's what I thought," Booth said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure the door was shut.
An hour later, the nurse waltzed into Booth's room fully prepared to check his vitals and prepare him for discharge. But as she entered the room, the scene before her caused her to step back a second. Agent Booth and Doctor Brennan were both sound asleep in the hospital bed, curled around one another, their hair mysteriously tousled. Both their faces, even in sleep, radiated happiness.
Smiling to herself, the nurse quietly turned off the lights and exited the room.
A/N: Well I actually finished it. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you again to everyone who has reviewed this story. And if you want more, sequels aren't really my thing but I think I might continue my other story Warning Signs since I've had some good ideas for it. It's been fun!