i've rated this story M for future chapters, cuz you KNOW i'm gonna get to the smut eventually, and we will also be winding our way through a puzzling and dangerous mystery. this chapter, however, is complete and utter fluff. seriously. see your dentist afterward. i shall not be held accountable for any cavities.

i had a headache myself when i wrote this chapter, and what's the best thing for a headache? vicodin? no, a comforting booth! but in the absence of an actual, real-live booth, we'll have to do with my imagination.

this story was conceived of during the dry spell of the writers' strike, so it assumes general knowledge through santa in the slush.

i'm not exactly sure who really owns bones, whether it be fox, or hart or kathy reichs, or some combination of them and other entities... but i'm pretty sure i'm not one of them.

Temperance Brennan hadn't felt so off-kilter since she fell out of a tree at age thirteen. It had been such a fall that she could taste the pain. Metallic. Slightly like blood, but more bitter. Now she was getting a repeat performance, made no less irksome by the man who stood stubbornly by her side, firing endless questions at the doctor.

She didn't need to stay at the hospital overnight, said the physician, she knew that she certainly didn't want to, but he'd added the caveat that she shouldn't be alone. She groaned inwardly. Why did he have to say that with Seeley Booth, gentleman hero in the room? Her father or brother could have helped were they not in prison. She was certain that Angela would have volunteered in a heartbeat, but she had sped off on vacation with Hodgins the previous week and, being as how Brennan's head was throbbing menacingly, she finally submitted to Booth's insistence that she stay at his apartment. He was already at her side, after all, and had been since he'd whisked her to the emergency room six hours earlier.

"I really don't need to be taken care of, Booth," stated Brennan while pulling on her boots.

Booth shifted feet, hands stubbornly low on his hips, "I know you don't need it, but you deserve a little bit of coddling."

She scoffed.

"Look, you've said yourself that head injuries can be unpredictable. There's no way in hell I'm leaving you alone tonight, Bones. Just drop it and let me help you."

In the end she acquiesced and let him pull the truck around to the entrance of the hospital, where an orderly helped her into the front seat.

It seemed to Dr. Brennan that her partner was driving just a little bit more mildly than he usually did. Secretly glad, she kept her discomfort at the movement and glaring lights of oncoming cars to herself.

Booth eventually broke the quiet, "I knew there was something wrong with that lab."

"There's nothing wrong with it, Booth."

"It bit you!" Booth's low voice practically squeaked.

She looked out the window, closing her eyes when a set of bright headlights swept over the car, then spoke normally, "Last time I checked, the arm on the electron microscope did not have any teeth."

"Well, you mustn't have looked very carefully, because I swear I saw some come in contact with your skull."

"I wonder what Dr. Sweets would have to say about your choice of metaphor," she pondered calculatedly.

Was she serious? He wondered whether she would turn on him and snitch to the prepubescent shrink. They'd always been united against him, but this was Bones, there was no predicting her actions sometimes, even with his detailed knowledge. He deflected, "You hate psychology."

"Well, we have been working on a different case this week, but it does seem like a quick leap between having Gormogon hanging over our heads for months and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, objects from my lab no less, giving them figurative teeth and effectively turning them into the very thing we're hunting for."

"Technically, it's not your lab, Bones."

She paused while Booth made a turn, twingeing slightly at the movement, then said, more quietly than normal, "Nuances of ownership. You are my partner, but that doesn't mean you belong to me."

They sat in silence for a moment.

Booth's hands shifted nervously on the steering wheel. "You really going to bring that up to Sweets?"

"What? Ownership?"

"No, Bones, anthropomorphizing your lab."

"Well we need something to talk about there, or like you said, he might think we're hiding something and split us up."

He choked out a cocky chuckle, "That is not going to happen."

"You know, there's a long history of the connection between protectiveness and notions of ownership," she said matter-of-factly.

"Yes. Yes, there is," he knew it was illogical to try, but he used his best end-of-discussion tone. It worked with most people, but Dr. Temperance Brennan was not most people, and when she didn't pursue his comment, he cast a concerned glance in her direction. She remained fixed forward and didn't return his gaze. He took the next turn very gingerly.

When they arrived in front of his apartment building, Booth slid into the parking spot nearest the front door and pulled the parking brake.

"This isn't your spot," Brennan noted as Booth moved around to her side of the car to help her out.

"Ownership again, Bones? No it's not mine. It's the guest spot, and it's a bit closer. No one'll mind it being occupied tonight." Booth thought she would be on the verge of protesting until he reached her side of the car and saw her face. She'd opened the door herself and swung her legs out, but sat still and stared at the pavement. She was definitely the worse for the ride home. From the beginning, Booth had tried to drive conservatively, and had taken backroads where traffic was less pronounced and turns were at slower speeds, but he had still felt her twinge occasionally in the seat next to him regardless of her banter. Her face was pale and she looked... well, she looked weak, which was a word that didn't belong in the same library as his partner, let alone the same sentence, but right now it fit. And it broke his heart.

"You gonna be alright to walk up to my place?" he asked gently.

She nodded almost imperceptibly, lips pursed shut, as she reached for his proffered arm and pulled herself to her feet. It was a relatively slow progression to his elevator which had, thank God, been fixed last week. The stairs would have been an ordeal; she never would have let him carry her. Stepping out onto his floor, she stumbled slightly and he shifted the hand at her back to her waist, holding her to his side as they walked the remaining distance.

"Do you feel like going to bed right away? If you're hungry, I could whip us up a little stir-fry," Booth let her make her own way to the couch, but followed closely behind until she sat down. "It has been nine hours since lunch, after all."

"I could eat," she smiled up weakly.

Booth smiled and rubbed his hands together, "Veggies a la Seeley coming right up."

Several pans made their way out of cupboards and ingredients snaked out of the fridge as Seeley Booth set his kitchen ablaze making dinner for himself and his partner.

In the living room, Brennan had stretched herself out on the couch, letting the sound of sizzling and light clanging from the kitchen lull her in the direction of her subconscious. She might have been able to sleep if her head weren't also surrounded by a bubble of intense, riling pain. Wait a minute, she'd been given medication for this. Hadn't Booth swept up all the bottles before they left the hospital? She was sure he had, but where had he left them? Her weary eyes scanned the room until they finally landed on a paper bag her partner had deposited on his dining room table and she made her way to retrieve it. A bottle of water, pop of a lid, and a gulp later she was back stretched out on the couch, waiting for the vicodin to take effect.

Before long, the sounds in the kitchen subsided and Booth backed out the door holding aloft two steaming plates, that -- if she was honest with herself -- smelled really good. Booth deposited them on the coffee table and settled next to her on the couch as she slid to a sitting position.

Booth was an annoyingly good cook (though he did seem to do everything well, so she figured it shouldn't come as a shock), but she ate slowly. The man beside her practically swallowed his dinner whole, including a few strips of steak. He'd had the good sense to not try to push meat on her, at least. It occurred to her with a pang that, though he hadn't said a thing about it, he hadn't eaten in nine hours either. Halfway through her own meal, he'd finished his and she pushed her plate into his hands.

"Don't you like it?" Booth asked, the tiniest hint of disappointment in his voice.

"No, it's great," Brennan replied. "It hit the spot, but I think my stomach is a little feeble at the moment. I'm not sure a full meal is a good idea."

He accepted her excuse and polished off her meal himself at her insistence. The dishes were cleared back into the kitchen, and when he returned, his partner was leaning her head back, pale and eyes winced shut.

"You doin' alright, Bones? Want to try for some sleep?"

"I'm not sure I'll be able to," she replied. "My head is killing me."

"Well, the doc gave you pain meds, right?"

"Yes, I took a pill before dinner. But apparently it hasn't gotten into my system yet." She pulled her head forward and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I guess I'll just get ready for bed, maybe a little movement will help."

"Great. You'll take my bed, of course, and I can sleep in Parker's room."

Brennan sighed, pain having temporarily worn down her resolve for independence, "Thanks, Booth. For all of this."

"Of course. You think I'm going to let my Bones suffer this out on her own?" They exchanged a smile and he led her down the hall to his bedroom, the one part of his apartment, she realized, that she had never seen. They walked in and she discovered it was surprisingly lush, decorated with dark wood and deep, resonant colors. A large bed with plush coverings was centered in the room, amongst a few well-worn armchairs and bookshelves. Her eyes brushed over a set of familiar and well-worn volumes in the shelf nearest his bed. Her name stared at her from the cracked spines and she wondered briefly if her partner's increased knowledge of scientific jargon was due to her own novels. She smiled. Booth disappeared inside his walk-in closet and emerged a minute later with an old, well-loved army tee and a pair of flannel pajama pants. "I think there's a, uh, spare toothbrush in the cabinet if you'd like to brush your teeth," he informed her as he passed over the garments.

She took them and padded into the attached bathroom to her right. A few minutes later a fresh-faced Brennan emerged in what she had decided were the most comfortable clothes she'd worn in a long time, though she'd had to tighten the pants to keep them from sliding down her slim hips. Booth had changed too, and disappeared into the bathroom for his own nighttime ritual.

The rushing water echoed and gurgled in the sink like a gentle river, like some playground for languorous fish. The movement of someone running hands through it was oddly soothing. The sound followed her as she slipped between the sheets of Booth's bed, settling herself in the clean cotton that smelled so much like her partner. She wished that the Vicodin would have been just soothing by now, but the pain pressed beneath the surface of her skull, seemingly trying to force its way out through her eyes and nose. She found her medications on the bedside table with a glass of water and wondered if she should take another. She eyed the bottle and willed the pain killers she'd already taken to start working. Relief had taken a long weekend, and seemed loath to return. She flopped back onto the pillow.

The light switch in the bathroom clicked off and Booth re-entered the bedroom, feet plopping unceremoniously on the hard wood. He wore similar flannel pants, and a very old, very thin t-shirt that flowed from his strong shoulders, clinging slightly all the way down his long torso. He must have splashed his hair, a few drops of water slid down his neck and marred the grey of his shirt.

"How's your head, Bones? Any better?"

Brennan grimaced, "Not really. I was just thinking about taking another pill."

"Well let's try something else, shall we, before you try to OD and check out in my bed?"

She took a deep breath. "I'm open to any ideas at this point."

Booth walked to her side. "Sit up and scoot forward," he directed. She did. Sitting behind her and leaning against the headboard, he pulled his knees up in front of him. "Okay, lean back." He reached to her shoulders and pulled her back gently against his legs so she was sitting supported and slightly reclined.

"Now, all you've gotta do, Bones, is relax."

She hadn't anticipated that his hands, the hands of a military man, a sniper, a boxer, would be so sweetly agile. She'd met his soft touch before on the few occasions when he'd guided her face toward his so he could examine her or meet her eyes, but that was hands acting as a whole. Booth's hobbies were ones that built power in rigid positions. She had expected his fingers to be strong and rough, but not so nimble and practiced in fluid movement.

They slid through her hair and traced light circles at the base of her scalp. First exceedingly soft, his touch slowly gained more pressure until the nerves under her skin simultaneously danced and dozed.

"That hurt?"

All she could do was to exhale a little pleased groan, which caught in her throat. She was sure it sounded more sexual than she had intended. Booth chuckled under his breath and spread his fingers to explore the rest of her head, steering clear of the large welt. She melted back against his legs and let his gentle fingers ease their way beneath the throbbing pain.

It was true that she was able to take care of herself, and she probably could have managed on her own, but Brennan finally conceded that her evening would have been a lot more difficult, even less pleasant had she not succumbed to Booth's demand that she let him help. She wasn't at full capacity, and it did appear to be an advantage to have someone to pick up the slack. The passiveness of the situation still made her restless, but with his fingers so attentive at her scalp, it felt that she was relaxing into a deep feeling of trust that had been hiding in some hidden corner of her memory. There had been a time when she'd had a family home, and an implicit, comforting faith in others, before it had been snatched away.

His fingertips massaged her head, trailed to her long neck and shoulders, and moved back up again. She didn't know how long he'd been at it, but she was fast sliding to a place where the pain, while still present, didn't really register anymore.

"Booth... where'd you learn this?" It surprised her when it came out as the indiscernable mumble of a person talking in their sleep.

His fingers momentarily stopped and slid to the sides of her neck as she felt him shift. "Hmm?" came the soft reply just inches from her ear. She discovered that she either couldn't or didn't want to repeat herself, exhaling deeply instead. A few more breaths and Booth's fingers had sent her to sleep.

She awoke to find herself completely wrapped up in warmth and arms and a scent that meant trust and comfort. Her mind briefly registered that it wasn't rational for a smell to have those characteristics, but her nostrils were filled with Booth, and the familiarity made her skin tingle. Had Booth fallen asleep with her? Yes-yes, said the low thudding of his heart into her ear. His legs had slid down and now she lay between them, reclined against his torso, head turned to the side and angled up so that her cheek rested on his firm chest.

Though her eyes hurt somewhat, Brennan risked opening them for a glimpse of her surroundings. It was mostly dark, though a deep blue light was beginning to glow through the wooden window blinds. Booth's face was angled down in the direction of hers, eyes closed, brow unfurrowed, mouth parted slightly. The slightest trace of a snore escaped his mouth and murmured through his chest. His arms were wrapped around her waist, over a bundle of blankets that he'd apparently pulled up over them.

Brennan let a smile curl the edge of her mouth and slid back to sleep against her partner's tranquil form.

Booth woke gradually to the feeling of a sweet weight in his arms. As his breaths grew deeper, Bones began to stir and emit tiny grunts and groans.

"Morning," Booth's voice came out deep and endlessly calm.

"Hi," Brennan's was a grinding garbage truck. She looked up at him and her eyes tensed at the movement.

"I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to fall asleep here..." he started.

"Not a problem. You're actually quite comfortable." She rested her head back on his chest and shut her eyes.

"So, is your head still splitting into little pieces? Or have we progressed to medium-sized pieces?"

"I feel a little better. It's amazing what a massage and a good night's sleep will do."

A self-satisfied grin crossed his face.

"I saw that."

"How could you see anything?" Booth countered, "Your face is nowhere near pointing this way and," he stretched his neck to look at her, "your eyes are closed."

"Daffodil, daisy, Booth. I know you."

He scoffed. "Those are your favorite flowers, not mine. Guys don't have favorite flowers." He couldn't help but let the fingers of one hand run back to the nape of her neck and rub soft circles there.

"Where'd you learn how to do that, Booth?"

"You know, I actually don't remember." His voice faded out and they laid there sleepily for a minute, his fingers moving slowly.

"Hibiscus," Brennan muttered through her sleepy lips, and Booth blinked.

Hibiscus flowers. He did rather like them. As a matter of fact, though he had never thought about it, if he had to say what kind of flower were his favorite, he was certain that's what it would be. Was it possible that his partner, laying uncharacteristically vulnerable and half-asleep in his arms, was as good at reading him as he was reading suspects? She had seen through his secrets before, but he suspected that he just wasn't any good at lying to her. The act felt fundamentally unnatural. But hibiscus? Could she possibly deduce things about him that he didn't know about himself?

He felt refreshed, but he found his eyelids still heavy. It was the best night's sleep he'd had in ages, since as long as he cared to remember. He decided that he could stay like this, ignoring the rest of the world and curled up (innocently) in bed with his partner for a solid week and he'd be content. But it was too good to last. Nothing that nice wasn't balanced with something equally jarring.

Had he known the pain the rest of that particular day, the next several weeks would bring, he might never have left his bed. But he didn't know, and he extracted himself carefully from beneath his partner to make the two of them breakfast. Pancakes were in order, he thought.

you didn't think it was going to all be tea and crumpets, did you?

i know other authors have talked about how much they love reviews, but i had no idea until i got a bunch of them for my last story. they seriously make my day/week. so send me love, reviews, and thoughts! criticisms too! i have a short distance from here planned/started, but only really really vaguely after that. if you're interested in helping me brainstorm, PM me, i could use a sounding board or two!