Scarred

Summary: Tempe finally tells Booth the whole story about her abduction in El Salvador (from the season 1 episode The Woman In The Garden, but still makes sense if you haven't seen it). Kind of angsty, hurt/comfort. Much less fluffy than my usual fare, but still BB.
Rating: T, it gets violent. Language is minimal.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never have been. But maybe someday :-)

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It being a Monday morning, Booth leapt up the stairs, swiped his ID, and was met with the familiar sight of Brennan in her lab coat, peering intently at some sort of pale yellow-greenish fluid.

"Bones! What have you got for me?"

"Hodgins extracted a fungus from this that indicates -"

She paused mid-sentence, beaker in hand, and looked past him towards the entrance -

CRASH

As the glass shattered, Booth looked up in surprise - since when did she drop things? - and was stunned to see that Temperance Brennan was utterly terrified. Her face had gone white, and her bright eyes were suddenly wide with fright. Even though she was always a perfectionist, she had seemingly forgotten the shattered beaker, and her gloved hands had reached out to clutch the table in front of her.

"Bones? What's wrong?"

She didn't move, didn't speak, gave him no response other than simply continuing to stare past the platform. Following her gaze, Booth was confused. The only person there was a harmless-looking man. Average height and build, Hispanic, maybe mid-forties or so, clean-shaven, dressed in a nice suit and heading calmly to the stairs. But her gaze was fixed on him, and the look of utter revulsion, mixed with sheer terror, frightened Booth. She wasn't like this.

Unnerved by her sudden freeze, Booth tentatively set a hand on her arm. "Bones? Are you okay?"

She flinched very slightly at his touch, but his voice seemed to bring her back to reality. Taking a deep breath, she turned away, peeling off her gloves. Zach and Hodgins, who had been waiting for her to join them nearby, were looking at each other uneasily. "Dr. Brennan?" Zach asked timidly. "Is something wrong?"

She was still breathing slowly. "No, Zach, it's - it's fine. It's fine." Without another word, or meeting anyone's eyes, she left the platform and went into her office.

Bewildered, Booth stared blankly at Zach and Hodgins, till finally Zach spoke up. "Someone should go see if she's all right."

"Booth can do it," Hodgins quickly volunteered.

"Why me?"

"Zach and I have no social skills. Besides, she likes you best." Hodgins glanced back at Zach, who nodded. "Go, man. We'll get this cleaned up."

Deciding not to argue - after all, she did like him best - Booth sighed and headed for the office.

XXX

She was sitting on her couch and staring at the wall, face blank and pale.

"What happened out there?"

She looked up at him, her eyes hollow, and finally spoke. "You saw that man?"

"Yeah."

"I thought - I thought I recognized him."

From the look on her face, there was a bad story here. But damned if he was going to let her bottle it up and stew in it. So he sat down slowly into the beside her, searched her face, and finally got her to meet his eyes.

"Tell me. Please."

Pursing her lips, Brennan looked away, out her window, before beginning the story.

XXXXX

Four years ago . . .

The beautiful, hot sunny weather was gruesomely at odds with the the grim reality of a murdered child,dumped into a well to be forgotten. Brennan, in El Salvador for the third time to identify the victims of the death squads, paused to wipe the sweat from her forehead as she pieced together the small skeleton. She had just picked up the skull when he appeared, dressed in the light, faded clothes of the local police and carrying a rifle like theirs. He told her to put the skull down and leave. Not understanding - why were the police telling her to stop? - she asked what was going on. He repeated his order.

Beginning to understand, she refused.

His eyes narrowed, and he barked out something she didn't catch before advancing with the butt of his rifle ready. Backing up, she was reaching for her knife when rough hands grabbed hers and threw her to the ground. Two more men had appeared. One knelt on her back, tying her hands and feet, while the other yanked a sack over her head. She kicked and struggled, but she was no match for three of them. The rough burlap of the sack chafed the skin of her face, and she screamed out loud as they started to carry her, and then she felt a dull pain as they dropped her. She heard a loud slam, an engine starting, and then there was a sharp blow to her head, and before she could register the pain she was unconscious.

XXX

Brennan woke to find herself bruised, in pain, tied up, and thrown carelessly in some rathole of a cell that reeked of blood, sweat, and filth. A throbbing pain on the side of her head turned out to be a swollen bruise, with blood matted through her tanged hair and streaking her dirty face.

Moments after she woke, she heard the rough clang of iron bars. Groggily, she tried to raise her head, but was dragged from the room into one nearby, then dropped in front of the man in the police uniform, who was holding a pistol, watching her like she was his next meal. She lay still for a moment, her entire body aching in protest, before he grabbed her by the hair and forced her head up. Cold metal froze against her skin as he pressed the gun to her head. "I don't want you sneaking around anymore."

"Please - please don't do this -" tears and snot mixed with the sweaty blood on her face, and she struggled to keep from choking "- please, I'll do anything -"

"You're going to end up one of those putrid bodies in the well, bitch," he hissed. "Nobody will even know what happened to you."

She felt the click against her skull as he cocked the gun, and the icy realization washed over her: she was going to die. There was no way to escape. She had no plan, no ally; no one even knew where she was. And she was going to die. They would throw her into the dank, stinking old well with a dozen other unknown victims, and her body would rot while her colleagues in Washington wondered innocently where she was.

Mom, I'm sorry rose unbidden to her mind. Hot tears filled her eyes, and vomit burned her throat.

She heard him breathe, and she stopped breathing, squeezing her eyes shut as the gun pushed harder into her head.

- click -

She stayed frozen, motionless, until it finally washed over her and her eyes opened. That was the click of an empty chamber. The gun was unloaded.

He laughed at her as she threw up, a hard, cruel laugh, and gave her a vicious cuff across the face that sent her sprawling and dazed. The other two dragged her out and threw her back into the prison, where she lay still for minutes, or maybe it was hours, before falling into a fitful sleep.

XXX

When she next awoke, tasting sour blood and vomit, she found the man watching her. Seeing that she was awake, he kicked her across the ribs so hard that she cried out, hearing a crack from her chest and tasting bile. He held the gun to her head again, smiling as she pleaded weakly, before squeezing the trigger and letting the click of an empty chamber turn her into a trembling mess.

XXX

She had no idea how long she'd been there. There was no sunlight, no way to mark the time, and she was weak and dizzy from lack of food. The cuts on her face and arms were starting to get hot and sore and tender, and she knew that in this decrepit hole full of filth, she was likely to get infection, though they probably weren't going to leave her alive long enough to let infection be an issue.

XXX

The cold knifeblade burned against her throat. She clenched her teeth, trying not to breathe as he smiled and let the point nick the base of her neck. Warmth began to seep through her shirt. Tracing its path with his blade, the man slowly made his way down her collarbone and sternum, stopping just above her breast, hovering there before he stabbed her. She gasped in pain, the burning, searing sting bringing blackness to swirl around the edges of her sight, and with a thin-lipped smile, he put a hard elbow to her face, knocking her back into merciful darkness.

She didn't wake when they threw her back into the filthy cell, or when they stripped her clothes off and rolled her in the shredded remains of an old tent, or later when they threw her from the speeding van onto a deserted street corner and drove off, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.

She was found lying in a crumpled heap, wrapped in canvas, on a curb in the wrong part of town, naked and bloody and bruised, more dead than alive. She was rushed to the nearby hospital and stayed there for almost three weeks - the rest of her entire vacation time - before the doctors pronounced her healthy enough to travel again, sending her back to DC with dubious glances, wary of the pretty, naive woman stupid enough to get mixed up with the death squads, but lucky enough to have lived through it.

XXXXX

Present . . .

"They knocked me out and threw me onto a curb," she said quietly. "I woke up in the hospital the next day. I had been gone for three days and no one from the town had even bothered looking for me. They knew it wouldn't help." She swallowed, trying to will away the tears threatening to cloud her eyes. Her throat ached with them. "But I can never forget his face. I swore I'd find a way to get even - that I wouldn't be a victim like that, ever again - and then I saw that man just now, and for a second, I thought it was him." She raised her eyes to his again. "And I froze. You saw me, Booth. I was a coward."

Booth let out a long breath, staring at her. His mind was reeling. My God - I had no idea - the thought of her lying naked and bruised and broken in that cell - beaten by those worthless bastards - so alone - and believing that she was going to die -

"Temperance -" he whispered, eyes full of muted horror "- Temperance, oh my God, I'm so sorry -" without thinking, he reached out to take her hands, holding them tightly, reassuring himself that she was fine, here, alive "- I'm just so glad you're alive -"

His hands rose to caress her face, delicately tracing the outline of her jaw. For once she didn't seem to mind, leaning into his touch, her eyes closed, letting him draw her close and envelop her in a warm embrace. He held her close, pressing his lips to her temple and sending a mute prayer to heaven. God, never let this happen to her again. Keep her where I can protect her.

He paused, his hand on her shoulder, and looked at her, his voice soft. "Can I see?"

Wordlessly, she nodded, holding in a breath as he unbuttoned the very top of her shirt, pulled the right side back, and pushed aside the strap of her bra. There - on the right side of her chest, just above the smooth curve of her breast, low enough that her clothing hid it, was the scar. After four years it wasn't so bad, just a faint reddish line, about an inch long. But Booth had to suppress a shudder as he traced it gently, the skin raised and rough against his fingers. It was a terrible reminder that no matter how hard he tried, how much he did, he would never be able to keep her as safe as he wanted.

She shivered at his touch, and he quickly snapped back to reality. Folding her shirt back into place, Booth watched silently as she re-buttoned it, then looked up at him. Her face was hard to read. She seemed uneasy, as if embarrassed that she'd been so caught up in her past.

"You're not a coward."

"I froze. I couldn't do anything." Frustrated, she ran a hand through her hair. "I always thought I'd be stronger."

"Bones, you were abducted and abused," he insisted, setting his hands on her shoulders gently. "It shook you up. That's nothing to be ashamed of."

She looked up at him thoughtfully, her jaw set in that squarish way he found oddly endearing. After a long moment she seemed to give in, her face lightening a little as she regarded him. "Why are you being so nice again?"

He smiled to himself, a little sadly. Damned if he'd tell her the real reason - right now, at least. Maybe someday. "Remember I said if I got scared, I'd hug you?"

"Why are you scared? I'm right here."

Taking his life in his hands, Booth decided to steal an arm around her shoulders. Today alone had almost exceeded his usual monthly quota of touches, but now that he'd started, he couldn't help himself. "I know. Not everything I do makes sense."

"I already knew that," she agreed, a smile starting to tug at the corners of her lips.

Good. This was the woman he was used to. "Smartass," he mumbled, earning a sharp jab in the ribs. "Hey! That hurt!"

"Good."

He grinned - goofy Bones was one of his favorite things in the world - and gave her shoulder a squeeze. "So you're OK?"

"Yes." Her face had brightened. "And . . . thanks. For making me tell you. I think I needed to do that."

"The others don't know?"

"Only Angela, but she just knows a very bare outline. I didn't want to frighten her."

He nodded. "Sounds fair."

They fell silent. He glanced at his watch. "I should probably go do some work. You want to do lunch?"

"Sure."

"I'll stop by around noon."

"That sounds good," she nodded. Booth rose to leave, then hesitated. She watched him curiously. "What?"

"Is it okay if I hug you one more time?"

Her face melted into a real smile. "Yes."

He held her close, reveling in her warm softness, burying his face in her hair, so thankful that she was alive and warm and in his arms. She didn't protest when he smoothed her hair back and pressed his lips to her forehead.

At length, he let her go. "See you in a few hours."

"See you, Booth."

As he left, his hands in his pockets, his face thoughtful, he didn't notice her watching him, and so he didn't see the growing smile that ended up staying on her face all morning.

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Author's Note: It's a brief break from Striped Socks, to which I will soon return, I promise. But the little glimpse into her past in Season 1 always intrigued me. And I thought: Booth threatened to murder if she were harmed. It would absolutely kill him to think how close she came to death when he couldn't do anything to protect her, wouldn't it?

Please, please review! I hope you enjoyed.