A/N: I know the post-100th stuff is probs overdone at this point, but…I couldn't resist the urge to fix them. *sniff* So, spoilers for the 100th here.
Many thanks to lizook and shipperatheartrealistbynature, who helped me avoid a complete schmoop-fest.
Romance on the Floor: 3rd person
Confusion and alarm were apparent on his face. She couldn't blame him for it; she must have looked pathetic and ridiculous, soaked all the way through, face puffy with hours of out-of-character crying, eyes wide and desperate. "What … how … Jesus, get in here."
He took her by the shoulders and physically urged her inside, her feet moving only to avoid falling over. Seeing him had only confused her more, made her feel more miserable; she couldn't even explain to herself anymore why she'd made this trip, and it made her feel selfish and cruel and terrible. Are you trying to make things harder for him? Jared had asked her, and while the answer was no, she couldn't be entirely sure that it wasn't exactly what she was doing…
She'd called as a last resort. She hadn't been able to get in touch with Booth for days, his car wasn't in his driveway, and she was informed by the field office that he was on vacation—but he hadn't told her about any vacation, and Cam gave her a sympathetic look and told her she didn't know either. Booth, Brennan knew, was a grown man, capable of taking care of himself. The panic she felt at not knowing his whereabouts was illogical but overwhelming, and she was sure it was apparent when she called Jared.
Jared's voice was cool on the other end of the line; yes, he knew where Booth was, yes, he was fine. He hesitated when she asked if he'd please be more specific. "I'm not sure that's your business anymore, Temperance. You know, I had been rooting for the two of you. But you really fucked him up, you know that? What do you want to do, go out there and make things harder for him than you already have?"
It had hurt her, what he said. But she pressed, and maybe it was the quiver in her voice that made him cave as he told her about the cabin in the mountains, right down to the GPS coordinates. Still, the reluctance was apparent in his tone.
"Don't make me regret telling you this, Tempe."
She wasn't even sure she knew why she was making him tell her, at the time. She didn't know what she was doing when she got in her car and started to drive, and she didn't know why, when the skies opened an hour later, muddying the back dirt roads of the mountain, she started to cry. What she knew was she couldn't stand the way things had become – the awkward silences, the forced conversation, the pain in his eyes when she talked about the dates, the strange, sick feeling when she heard about his. She'd made a decision all those weeks ago to save both of them future pain, when things inevitably fell apart. But it felt suspiciously like they were falling apart anyway, and it hurt so very much. The rain and her tears made for dangerous driving conditions. She pressed forth anyway. Completely illogical.
When she got to the cabin, it was dark outside and still pouring. She got out of the car, focused on the glow in window, ready to confront this, him … and then she didn't move for nearly ten minutes. As the rain soaked into her clothes, chilling her all over, a million panicked thoughts rushed through her head. What was she going to say to him? What if he was angry she'd followed him? What if he rejected her, told her she was crazy and that it was too late to make this better?
What if he wasn't even alone in there? The thought made her shudder.
In the end, it was only the threat of hypothermia – and the doubt that her car was capable of carrying her back down the washed-out mountain roads – that forced her into action. She'd put this in motion, and now she had to follow through.
Even if it was the last nail in the coffin of their partnership.
There was a fireplace at the far end of the room, lit high and crackling and lending warmth against the surrounding chill. It provided most of the light in the room, dark as it was outside—there was no electricity here, no lamps. The sound of the rain on the roof and the crackling of the fire seemed deafening as he urged her to sit on the rug in front of it. "Hold on, I'm getting you a towel."
She stared at the flames until he came back, barely noticing when he wrapped a large white towel around her shoulders and pressed it against her. The touch brought her back to awareness that she was so cold, her teeth were chattering, and she moved just a little closer to the fire to suck up the warmth.
Booth circled around her, easing down on his knees. "What are you doing here? Are you okay? Are you hurt?" His eyes searched her up and down, checking for signs of injury.
His concern nearly made her start crying all over again. "Jared told me where you were." It was the hopelessly inadequate answer, and it didn't for a second take away the confusion in his face. She tried again, her voice trembling. "I find that I'm … unhappy."
She saw his mouth set in a line at her words, and knew that they were the wrong ones too. Wrong, and wholly insufficient.
"You came to the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain because you're unhappy."
"Yes." She bit her lip, and shook her head in frustration, rivulets of water making their way down her cheeks. "I'm being very confusing."
"Yes. Yes, you are."
He looked perfectly perplexed, and … guarded. It was that caution she'd been despising; Booth had been so open with her, for as long as they'd been friends, but now he treated her like he was vaguely worried she'd strike out and bite him. She felt that distance now, and it pained her. "I'm sorry, Booth," she whispered, head dropping. "I really thought I'd be okay with all this. But we're not okay, and … that's worse than me not being okay."
His brain was working, processing … ridiculously, it seemed she could almost feel it, the neurons and synapses wrapping around the words, trying to form conclusions about her intentions. When he spoke, the frustration was evident in his tone. "Bones, I gotta say, I'm really confused about what you want from me. I've been trying to respect your wishes … respect you. But, you gotta understand that things can't be the way they were before, right? It wasn't healthy for either of us."
But it had felt good. It had felt warm and safe and without it, she felt like she was falling into some deep, endless abyss. She found the courage to lift her head again, meet his gaze. "Why did you come here?"
He didn't owe her any answers, and for a quiet moment she thought he wouldn't tell her. Then… "I used to come up here when I started to feel the urge to gamble, after I started recovery. To clear my head, and … it was far enough away that even if I lost that battle, it wouldn't be so easy to give in. Sometimes a man needs distance."
Her eyes widened. "Were you thinking about gambling again?"
Studying her in the firelight, he was slow to respond. "No. Not exactly." Shifting, he eased down to sit fully on the floor, scrutiny unrelenting. "How about you, Bones?"
She was a scientist, and the literal sort. But she knew this metaphor by now. She had to force through the catch in her throat to speak. "Angela told me once that everybody is allowed to have one huge change of heart in their life, without anyone judging or doubting their sanity."
He stayed silent, watchful.
It was torture to continue, but she did it anyway. Had to. Her voice dropped to a whisper.
"I feel like I may have made a mistake."
"A mistake," he echoed, as if not trusting the word.
"Yes," she confirmed, miserably, her eyes downcast. She pulled the now-soaked towel more tightly around her shoulders, and he stood, disappearing for another second and coming back with several more towels and a blanket. Gently taking off the heavy, wet towel and tossing it aside next to the fireplace, he replaced it with a dry one and placed the rest in a pile next to them.
"If it makes you feel any better," he said quietly, sitting down next to her on the floor again, "I recognize that I didn't handle things the best way either."
She felt no urge to ask him why, or how. What had been done had been done; the way they had (badly) handled things couldn't be erased, and now the aftermath was what they had to confront. Still, there was one question that had been tormenting her for days; one that she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know the answer to. It was with trepidation that she voiced it.
"Have you done it? Moved on. I know that none if this really matters, if you have." She tipped her eyes back up, fearfully.
"Oh, Bones." Some of the hardness drained out of his face at her obvious fear and struggling. It was with a huge sigh that he reached out, gathered her still soaking body, and pulled her towards him in a hug.
Terrifyingly, he didn't say anything else for a long while, simply held her to his chest while she lost the ability to distinguish between the rainwater and her renewed tears. This could very well be a farewell embrace, she realized, clinging, and trying to wrap her mind around the enormity of what this rejection would mean. Their partnership was already on tenuous ground. It couldn't take another blow. It couldn't take more distance. She held him hard. If nothing else, she'd remember what it was like to be in the arms of someone who really, truly cared about her … before she had to accept that he'd moved on.
The words were almost too quiet to be heard over the pounding rain on the roof, but she was sensitized to the sound of his voice. She froze.
"I couldn't." A little louder, and she pulled away slightly, still terrified to meet his eyes.
He hooked a finger under her chin, raising it and forcing her to look into his grave face; his tone was tinged with the frustration of a man who had been struggling with an exercise in futility. "I can't."
The admission simultaneously made her stomach drop and her heart twist. Was he saying…?
"The truth is…" He paused, as if considering the wisdom of telling her all this. "I came here to clear my head. The dating … it wasn't working out. I wanted it to, needed it to … but it wasn't."
Her heart was pounding, her tears, for the moment, stopped.
"The truth is…" he repeated slowly, eyes reflecting a pain that she desperately wanted to extinguish. "I'm not sure what to do. Because no matter how hard I try, I haven't been able to forget how your lips taste in the rain. And whatever road I take, they all seem to lead to you."
"Oh," she breathed, her lungs and heart both aching.
"The truth is … I'm as scared as you are, Bones. Fucking out of my mind petrified. Because whatever you came here tonight to do, I don't know if my heart can take any more changes of yours."
His struggle was apparent. He'd put himself on the line once already, and had been abandoned the way she'd been abandoned. It wasn't something one recovered from easily. She knew this. She knew how it felt to want something so badly it made you ache, and the only thing worse than not having it, was imagining having it and feeling like it would certainly be snatched away.
Her knuckles were white, gripping the front of his shirt. "Will you help me learn how to gamble?" she whispered, knowing that she probably looked positively panic-stricken—at the possibility of either answer he might give her.
He studied her for heart-stopping minutes, and she had sudden and sick empathy for what he must have felt like all those weeks ago, when he asked her to please give them a chance. She'd thought that she'd been saving him heartbreak by saying no, saving herself heartbreak. But she'd been wrong.
God, what did he want? For her to beg? For her to promise that she knew this was right, that she could do this? Because she didn't know that. She was so damn bad at this…
"Will you help me learn how to bet smart?"
She blinked, understanding coming slowly. It took a moment for her to find her voice. "I … I am typically very logical, and rational, and I'm very good at weighing risks and benefits and … yes. I think I can do that."
It didn't happen immediately … she saw several different expressions melt across his face before a small smile took residence there. Tiny, rueful, hopeful … but most importantly, real. He hadn't smiled at her with that genuineness in weeks, and the simple gesture nearly made her want to start crying again in relief.
"Yeah?" he asked, reaching out and brushing a damp, tangled curl from her shoulder.
The enormity of it was almost too much for her to comprehend. She'd been so sure that she didn't get to have happily ever after, that she could never be what he needed; she feared that even trying would make it all fall apart. And all of that was still a distinct possibility; she was too rational to believe otherwise. Yet … these past few weeks had proved to her that while trying may well lead to misery, not trying was a sure path there. She'd been hurting for Booth, hurting for her own brokenness. Things were never going to be the same, but…
She had a chance to make them better. They had a chance. And hell, that chance was better when they were in it together.
"Yeah," she agreed fiercely, falling into his chest at the same time he opened his arms to her. He was well-soaked by this point, both their clothes clinging and uncomfortable, but God his embrace was strong and perfect and she never wanted leave. If they could just stay here, warming in the fire and safe from the storm, this could never go wrong.
They held each other for long moments, not quite sure or maybe just unable to wrap their minds around what they had just agreed to. They only pulled apart when she started shivering again. Regretfully he released her, pulling the second towel away from her and adding it to the growing, wet pile. This time he had more in easy reach, and taking one he circled her with it, pressing it to her damp hair and rubbing to dry it.
She studied has face as he performed the tender gesture – the face of Booth, the one she trusted. The one she made exceptions for. The rush of affection she felt was almost overwhelming. He'd been concentrating on drying her, but the intensity of her gaze caught his focus and his eyes met hers. Their faces were so very close. Her breath caught in anticipation.
He was still hesitating, though his eyes were filled with a familiar desire.
"Booth," she breathed, hearing the towel he was holding drop behind her with a heavy sound.
"I'm afraid if I kiss you, you'll push me away again," he confessed, fingertips grazing her face.
She refused to be afraid anymore tonight, and hell if she would let him give into those fears. Six years ago, she'd melted into the kiss they shared, dauntless in his (their) belief that it was going somewhere, even when she hadn't been quite sure where somewhere would be. Now, being in his arms renewed that strength. She leaned forward into his lips, eyes shut tightly and heart thudding in her chest.
There was stillness at first, a simple, warm, tentative press of lips. And then she moved, brushing her mouth across his. Please, Booth … you said you knew. Don't doubt it now.
Whether triggered by her kiss or in answer to her unspoken plea, the last vestiges of his caution were ripped away in a sudden, breathless moment. He pulled her into him hard, making her gasp against his mouth before she felt the urgent tangle of his tongue with hers. Then they were kissing … really kissing … and the way they had been and they way they were all merged together in a thrilling fusion. There was nobody standing watch, no tequila to dull the sensation.
This was them. And damn if it didn't feel so incredibly right.
She felt herself being pressed to the rug beneath them, moved by his persistent kisses. Her hands grasped at his biceps, the floor suddenly feeling not enough support. She was falling, falling … only this time it felt less scary than exhilarating.
He gasped her name as he pulled away from her –she reached out, trying to pull him back before she saw the tears in his eyes. "I thought I was going to have to live without this," he whispered. "I thought you'd never let me love you."
There was no surprise at his words; the pang of regret for their lost time was fleeting before the heady desire and need rushed in and took its place. "We're both here now," she told him, silently begging him to realize the complex meaning behind her simple words.
His exhale was shaky as he trailed his eyes down and back up her prone form, seeming to drink her in. "I wanna make this last," he murmured, running his thumb across her kiss-swollen lower lip, the adoration in his face making her breath hitch.
"Booth." She shivered from the sensation of her still-wet clothes and the intensity of his expression. "Don't let me stay cold…"
With a sigh he descended on her once more, lips capturing hers, warm hands bolder as they pushed up under the clinging material of her shirt. The intimacy of the touch, and all the promise it held, made her dizzy.
"I won't," he promised against her lips.
Their clothes resisted divestment, but they were no match for persistent hands and eager fingers; they'd each been denied the other's touch for too long, their skin aching for the contact. Neither of them had ever fully given themselves permission to feel this, and now that they had – it verged on overwhelming. He kissed her body with a reverence she'd never experienced before; her eyes traced the contours of his with an appreciation she'd never mustered for another lover. This was so incredibly different, and intoxicating, and … without a doubt, going somewhere.
The outside world faded, and the desperate defeated longing of the past several weeks melted away. They whispered to each other, between kisses, as they explored one another's fire-lit bodies; words of admiration and awe, of relief and desire. By the time he was poised to enter her, the floor solid and unyielding at her back, she was near-begging. It was time for this. She wanted this.
That first moment of joining brought tears to her eyes; everything went still and quiet and somewhere in the midst of all the rightness she had a strange sense of déjà vu. They'd never carried out this particular act before. But the emotion driving it … it had been in her all along. There was no denying it anymore.
"It was always you, Bones,"he panted, squeezing his eyes shut for the moment against the barrage of sensation, burying his face against the silken skin of her throat. "Always."
"I know." Her fingers clasped at him, whether to draw him closer or to anchor herself; needing this moment of stillness to adjust to the storm she knew was coming. "I think … I think it was always you, too." Her coherence was to be short-lived. Him inside her, his skin on her skin, his heart with her heart … this would be so good. It already was.
Then he started to move with infinite tenderness, and there was no thinking of how good it would be; there was only feeling it.
They could have pulled out the sleeper sofa and it may have been a little more comfortable than the hard floor with its cheap rug. But it all seemed too complicated a task in their lazy, sated state, so instead he simply wrapped them in a blanket and pulled some pillows to the floor and they stretched out there, enjoying the warmth of the fire and each other's bodies.
She traced her fingertips along his chest, marveling in the feel of him, and how he'd made her feel. "I'm happy," she confessed, not quite believing it herself.
He smiled down at her. "Endorphins and dopamine and all of that?"
"Perhaps. I'm a scientist. I believe in all those things." Still. While she certainly had experienced her share of the effects of endorphins and dopamine and serotonin and adrenaline … something about this felt distinctly different.
"Do you believe in fate?" he asked her, running a lazy finger around her ear then trailing it across her cheek to trace a satisfied smile.
"No." She'd never doubted the answer to that particular question. It was just the person she was.
He took this in, stroking her hair.
"I believe in us, though." And that … that was the person she'd become. She looked up at him, suddenly concerned again. "Is that enough?"
His face took on that easy, relaxed, Booth smile; the one that she hoped she could give him every day, every time they were together. "That's all there is, Bones. That's everything."
"Good." Satisfied, she nestled her head back into his shoulder. "Because I plan on believing in us a lot from now on. Maybe even a couple more times tonight."
A laugh rumbled in his throat, amused and carefree, and he held her close in the light of the fire. She closed her eyes, completely at peace in knowing that nothing and everything had changed.
A/N: OMG there's only one more Scene left! Meep!