A/N: I don't blame you if you have forgotten about this story…but I haven't forgotten about it, and I certainly don't plan to. I heart you, my faithful readers.
Thanks to the lovely Mia for looking over this, and me.:)
She paused mid-stream of water being poured from the cup to the plant hanging by the kitchen window. That was definitely a thump she had heard coming from the front of the house. There shouldn't be any thumps. There should be dead silence. There is was, again. It was only Saturday; Booth and Brennan should have only begun their weekend getaway, and if it were them, she should be able to see their car in the driveway through the window.
This was simply wonderful. She was here for five minutes, and someone was already trying to break into their new house.
Not on Angela Montenegro's watch.
Inching towards the front of the house, where the commotion outside was becoming ever more obvious, she picked up the poker from the fireplace along the way. Tiptoeing to the door, she slowly brought the metal rod up over her shoulder. He must be picking the lock. He was going to get a nasty surprise at this particular "empty" house.
The door creaked open, and Angela didn't waste any time, rushing towards the intruder bellowing all the way, which in hindsight was a bad idea. Well, it would have been a bad idea, if it would have been an intruder. As it was, it gave Brennan time to yell her name, and Booth time to reach out and easily catch the swinging poker, the metal hitting his hand with a smack.
"Jesus, Angela," he fumed, as she let go of her makeshift weapon in shock.
"Sweeties. You scared me."
"We scared you?" Brennan asked incredulously, recovering remarkably quickly and reaching back onto the porch step to grab the bag she had left there. "We just came home, and you tried to kill us!"
"Well I didn't know it was you," the artist replied defensively. "You're not supposed to be here until Tuesday. And I didn't see your car…" She looked out the open door. "Where is your car?"
Booth had redeposited the poker by the fireplace, and was heading back outside to bring in the remaining bag. "The car broke down. The people from the repair place dropped us off."
"Oh my God," she said plaintively. "You guys just can't catch a break, can you?" Followed by a smack on Booth's arm. "What's wrong with you? You should have just had them drop you off at the cabin. You know Jack or I would have taken care of the car stuff and picked you up on Tuesday."
"Would you stop trying to hit me?" he said irritably, tossing the bag into the corner of the room before collapsing in the armchair, rubbing his face.
For the first time, she really looked at her friends…rumpled, disheveled, dark circles under their eyes, looking positively drained. Certainly, they had a stressful night, but their countenances reflected a sort of weariness for which the inconvenience of car problems alone could not account. It should have made her feel sympathetic, but instead she just found herself being annoyed. They shouldn't even be here right now. She hadn't sent them away for a vacation, per se. She had sent them away so they could have time to appreciate being together again, and their being here felt like a distinct rejection of that gift.
"Thanks for trying to help, Ange. We appreciate it." Brennan approached her tiredly, putting a comforting hand on her arm. "You can go though. It's just not going to happen."
Angela's eyes narrowed as she looked at her friend. "I don't think so."
Brennan's eyebrows rose. "Excuse me?"
"Sit." Angela gave her a small push, which propelled her onto the couch cushions. "I gave you guys a chance to work this out on your own, and you didn't take it. So I apparently have to be here for this."
Booth made an attempt. "Angela, our car broke down. It's hardly a cause for an intervention."
"Shut up, Booth," she said, as kindly as possible, before turning back to Brennan. Bren had been her best friend since sophomore year chemistry, and she knew better than to try to get rid of her when she was on a mission. "What's up, Sweetie?" she asked, gentle now.
Brennan's shoulders slumped. "Booth's family is going to move here."
"That isn't for sure yet," the agent spoke up defensively.
"It's probably going to happen, and he's not doing a damn thing about it, and we don't agree about that," she finished, earning a petulant look from the man on the chair.
Angela blinked. "I knowyou aren't telling me that after everything you two have been through, the thing that's pulling you apart is in-law issues."
"They aren't my in-laws," Brennan informed her dryly.
"Like it matters," Booth shot back.
"I'm just stating the semantic inaccuracy of…"
"Guys. No. Wrong," Angela interrupted, snapping her fingers and taking a seat on the other end of the couch from Brennan. "Not helpful."
But they were already escalating. "Bones wants me to tell my family to stay the hell away from us."
"I never said that."
"You don't have to."
"You said you'd prefer them not to move. Because you know how intrusive they'd be. But I'm starting to think you want them to intrude."
At least they were showing a little life again, but it wasn't going the way Angela had hoped. "I'm not going to ignore my family in deference to you. Just because you hate the idea of a family doesn't mean I can just forget about mine."
Her voice hushed a bit. "That's not fair. You know I don't feel that way."
The hurt look on Brennan's face made Angela almost regret starting this line of conversation, but it didn't stop her from trying to salvage what was left. "Stop. Just…stop." Deciding to try a different tactic in her impromptu, amateur counseling attempt. "Bren. Can you tell me what "family" means to you?"
She was glowering. "Anthropologically speaking, family means…"
"No. Not anthropologically speaking. From your experience."
There was a pause, and when she spoke her voice was full of annoyance…at Angela, at Booth, at the situation, at being asked these questions, and at the fact she was so connected to these people at this point, that there was no more option to just walk away. "From my experience? From my experience, families are little more than trouble, once a child is old enough to fend for itself. Families leave legacies of emotional issues and interfere with autonomy and identity development. No matter how good their intentions…families hurt people. Just look at the people we know." She was no longer talking to any particular person in the room. "Zack was so lost in the milieu of his enormous family, that he is socially stunted. Hodgins' parents were so involved in their world of business and making money, that he became paranoid and mistrustful of people and their motives." Now she was on a roll. "Angela, the fact that your dad was never around…well, you have commitment issues."
Angela's mouth dropped open, but nothing came out.
"And Booth…" Brennan finally focused on him again. "Your family thrives on guilt. You can't say no to them without feeling like a bad son."
"She's turned into fucking Dr. Freud over here," Booth was muttering under his breath in disbelief, and Angela understood his frustration right now. But she also knew where all this was coming from, and it kept her from screaming at Brennan on numerous occasions.
"And you, Bren? What did your family do to you?" she asked her quietly, fully expecting and accepting the murderous glance it drew to her.
"My family was great," Brennan told her, her voice holding a definite hint of bitterness. "Until they decided to abandon me and my brother to pursue a life of crime." She looked so tired at the moment that all Angela wanted to do was go over and hug her. "Families mean well," she said softly. "But they end up hurting us."
"So your family made you distrust families," Angela said quietly, holding back, making her friend deal with this.
Brennan laughed humorlessly. "Why do you think I never wanted to get married? Never wanted to have any kids? I don't need to be responsible for damaging other people, under the pretense of love."
Angela could see Booth struggle with this...this completely foreign concept of families seen as anything other than the ideal state of being. In his world, family was paramount, no matter how much they vexed him, no matter how complicated it got—for him, the benefits always outweighed the drawbacks. Perhaps because, at the end of the day, his family had always been there.
It was easy for Angela to understand this, and to sympathize with Brennan. It was easy for her to accept, and a problem she was willing to work around to be friends with her. But she knew that being in a romantic relationship was an entirely different ball game, and their was a moment where she had to look away from the miserable-looking couple in front of her, lest they see the doubt that seeped into her eyes. She, as much as anyone, wanted them to avoid their star-crossed fate…but could anybody overcome the fundamental level of difference between these two people?
The immense relief she felt could barely be described, as Booth raised stiffly from his chair, walked the few strides to the couch, and settled in beside Brennan, as close as a person could be to another without actually touching her. It reminded Angela of the earlier days of their partnership, before they had admitted their feelings to one another; she had often wondered if the two had any concept of how minimal was their proximity. She had always half-expected to walk into Brennan's office one day and find her literally in Booth's lap, both of them entirely nonchalant and not even aware of their compromising position.
"I love you, Bones," he said quietly. "I really do. And I want to understand you. But I can't believe in what you're saying. Because I'm your family now…and if what you are saying is true, then that means I will damage you, hurt you. And I'd rather die, you get that? If that's what families are…then we can never be one. And that's unacceptable."
Brennan was studying his eyes in that way that she did, reading a language there that she was still new at interpreting. "Booth, I…" She paused, and glanced over at Angela, who was still watching intently.
It took the artist a moment for it to register that this was the point where having a third party present was likely awkward. "Oh. Yes." She stood. "Well. My work is done here." She began gathering her purse and sweater. "I watered all the plants downstairs. I guess…you're on your own now."
And they were. She would be a friend to them in the best way she knew how, and support them in any path that led them to each other. But at the end of the day…only Booth and Brennan could mend what was broken in them.
She would have to trust them to do just that.
She unpacked the untouched items of her suitcase slowly in the bedroom that had been theirs for months, but they had yet to make love in. She was still unsettled by the events of the past 24 hours, and what it meant to her and Booth and their lives together. Briefly, she missed her old apartment, which at this point held more happy memories for the two of them than did this house. All she wanted was to feel like she was home again.
Booth slipped in quietly, observing her for a moment before fully entering and sitting on the edge of the bed. He was wordless for a long while, watching the soothing repetition of her movements.
"I feel bad about the way things happened last night," was what he said when he finally spoke, his eyes cast downwards now.
She paused in her unpacking for just a second before continuing. The sex they had was physically satisfying to her; not just her biological urges sated, but her anger given an outlet, an intensely pleasurable, yet punishing way to release the storm within her. Years ago, it would have been enough…there wouldn't have been anything she'd miss from that encounter. But now…
Now she knew better.
Still, it was a difficult thing to admit.
"I missed sex." She told him the half-truth simply, as if it explained everything.
"I missed you. I still do."
Dammit. How did he do that?
He silenced her with a finger to his own lips, and she looked at him questioningly. He reached across the bed to the phone that was on the nightstand and dialed it, pausing for a moment and holding it to his ear. "Hey, Mom, Dad. I need to talk to you. It's kind of important. Give me a call as soon as you get a chance." He waited a beat. "I love you." Hitting the button to end the call, he stared at the receiver for a second before setting it aside.
She watched curiously, not entirely understanding what had just transpired right away. "Booth?"
Her partner sighed. "It's not worth it, Bones. If standing up to my parents is what I have to do to get us back to good, that's what I'll do. You're my family now…and I won't let that fall apart."
Eyes widening at his words, she felt a strange mix of relief and guilt. This was what she wanted, right? For Booth to choose her over his parents. But more than that…she wanted him to be happy. If this was going to hurt him…she wasn't sure what she wanted anymore. "Booth…"
"Shh." He placed a finger over her lips, for the second time. "It's what I always needed to do."
The clothes she had been holding fell back into the suitcase as she searched his eyes for any hint of regret. She saw none.
When his hand fell away, she spoke. "Is this strange? How we've been feeling."
He chuckled. "This…this is a relationship. It's hard work."
"Oh." She glanced downward for a moment. "I was under the impression that us getting together was the hard part."
"Nope." He shook his head. "The staying together…that's always the hard part."
"Hmm." Her head cocked, considering this. "Do you think…you know…it's worth it?" She knew the answer, but she needed to hear it from him.
Luckily, he was not offended. "Every second," he told her, reaching out once more to cup her cheek and give her a smile.
The look he gave her was warm and reassuring and relaxed and so very Booth…the Booth before the accident, and before things had become so complicated. It filled her with a sense of calm and peace that usually only came from accurately reconstructing long-shattered remains, or putting the very last finishing touches on her new novel.
She smiled back, gratefully.
His hand dropping, he tugged on her arm. "Come on."
"I'm not done unpacking," she complained, following him nonetheless while casting a wistful look over her shoulder at the half-full suitcase.
"It's not going anywhere," he told her, coming to a rest in front of the bathroom. Fingers sliding under the hem of his sweatshirt, unceremoniously pulling it over his head.
Her eyebrows rose as she looked at him questioningly.
"We got caught in the rain, spent the night in a car, and walked miles today. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling like a shower."
"We also had sex," she pointed out, taking his point and also beginning to undress.
"Thanks for pointing that out, Bones. I might have forgotten."
They removed their clothes without seduction, and it was okay…there was a relaxed easiness in their motions, a comfort in watching him test the water with his hand like she had seen him do a hundred times, waiting a full 5 minutes before deciding that it was the perfect temperature. Climbing inside, they shared the space companionably, washing themselves and taking turns stepping under the spray to rinse the awful night off them.
As he took his turn underneath the showerhead, she massaged conditioner into her hair and looked at him interestedly as he groaned in pleasure at the hot water.
"You've been working out," she noted, watching as he ran the washcloth over the stomach that was again beginning to show sharp definition. "Did your physical therapist say that was okay?"
Opening his eyes, he smiled at her amusedly. "Are you complaining?"
"Nooo," she replied, just a little defensively. Ever since Booth's accident, her top priority concerning him was that he healed, and didn't get hurt again. It had almost become habit to worry about his health over everything else. Now, even though he was so close to being recovered…a small surge of guilt went through her for ogling his body.
He smirked a little. "I promise. Everything I do is approved by the docs." Showing off, he flexed his pecs a bit for her.
She laughed, and was almost startled by how good it felt. "You're ridiculous," she told him, placing a hand on his side and pushing him out of the way so she could take his place under the spray and tilt her head back, letting the conditioner rinse down her back, dripping with a wet spatter on the shower floor. It produced an auditory memory of the rain beating down against the roof of the car, angry whispering in the dark night, and then…
"Are you cold?" he asked her, concerned at her sudden shiver.
"The water's starting to cool down," she told him, and it was true…the hot had turned to lukewarm. But that wasn't the source of her goosebumps.
Placing his hands on her forearms, he gently maneuvered her out from under the water, himself taking the brunt of the cooling spray. "Better?" he asked her softly.
His hands were warm on her arms, but her freshly-washed hair was dripping, her skin prickling and her nipples tightening. "I don't know," she whispered, meeting his eyes.
He studied her for a moment, his hands staying firmly in place, and his gaze traveling down her body, and back up again, settling on her face.
"Better," he declared, making a decision and crushing her against him.
A kiss. It was one of the things that was missing last night, so she felt starving for it. She drank the moisture from his lips, pressed her breasts against him, wrapped her arms around him and reveled in the face-to-face, body-to-body contact.
They became drenched, the water pouring over their faces making it hard to breathe and hard to kiss, and when she couldn't breath, she merely wrenched him backwards, out of the spray and nearly falling against the back tiles of the shower. "Booth," she gasped as he pressed into her, slippery hands grasping at her ass and grinding her against him.
He separated from her for a moment, making her whimper at the loss, but it was only to slam his hand against the knob that controlled the shower. The spray stopped, and he nearly ripped the curtain aside, pulling her back into his embrace and stumbling over the side of the tub. They held each other up as they stepped over the obstacles in the tiny room, not bothering to grab towels along the way.
In the bedroom, he swiped her suitcase off the bed, and later she'd complain about having to pick all her previously-folded clothes off the floor. But now, she simply allowed herself to be laid out, soaking wet against the blankets, while he nuzzled the moisture off her body. She had told him she had missed sex, and it had been only partly true. She missed that moment of profound, heartstopping connection right before he slid inside of her and whispered in her ear…sometimes endearments, sometimes curses, but always something that made her feel so incredibly desired and cherished. She missed that moment with the only person she had ever felt truly together with.
And in the moment when she experienced it again, she recognized the things that had stayed the same.
As they lay beside each other afterward in twin exhausted, damp piles, he turned his mouth to her ear with effort.
"Families sometimes hurt us, Bones. But sometimes…they pull us together."
Her head lolled towards him. "We pull ourselves together," she insisted lazily, feeling herself being inexorably moved towards the sleep she barely got last night.
Right before conscious thought abandoned her, she heard: "That's because we are family. We always have been."
And she found that to her tired mind, fatigued from several weeks' defenses…that thought seemed perfectly lovely.
A/N: I promised a few folks a little bit of a happy ending after my last, angsty fic. Don't get TOO comfortable…I can't tell you that there will be NO more drama-rama coming here. But for now, we shall just give our poor kids a nice break.
Also, for anybody who hasn't discovered yet what exactly has been occupying much of my fic-writing time, I direct you to the Pas de Deux thread on my homepage link (in my profile). Tres exciting, I tell you.