AN: Many thanks to redrider6612 for her editing on this. The writing wouldn't be nearly as tight without it. I hope you enjoy this. For those who care, I am still working on the sequel to Wounded and Scarred and generally writing about a chapter a week. The story, Voyeur, turned out to be more complex than I originally knew and I expect it to be at least July before I'm ready to post it. But I want you to know that I haven't forgotten my promise of a sequel.
WARNING: Spoilers for The Pain in the Heart
From the walkway above the lab, psychologist Dr. Lance Sweets observed his colleagues below.
Special Agent Seeley Booth slid his security card and mounted the steps to the platform, bag in hand.
Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist with the Jeffersonian Institute, looked up from the remains she was examining.
"Hi, Booth. Do we have a case?"
"Nah," he answered. Offering her the bag he continued, "I just thought you might like a muffin."
Looking at her gloved hands, she said, "Thanks. Would you mind putting it on the table over there?"
He complied and she returned her attention to the femur she was examining. "Zach, would you…" she began automatically before remembering that he wasn't there. The satisfaction of catching Gormagon had been tempered by the revelation that Zach was his apprentice. She still hadn't adjusted to Zach's absence.
He stepped toward her and stroked her upper arm with the back of his hand, trying to offer a bit of comfort.
He opened his mouth to say something, but his phone rang. He flipped the phone open and said, "This is Booth."
He listened for a moment. "I'll be there in 10 minutes," he said before snapping his phone shut.
"Sorry to drop by and then rush off, but the local cops picked up one of my suspects."
As he turned to head back down the platform, she grasped his wrist gently.
"May I come with you?" she asked. Although it had been a week since they'd solved the case, the lab still felt weird without Zach.
He looked at her carefully. Her expression hadn't changed, but he could see the pain in her eyes. He doubted many would notice, but he knew her very well. Maybe it would be good for her to get out of the lab for a while.
"Okay," he agreed slowly. "But this isn't related to one of our cases, so you'll have to stay in the observation room. Cullen would have my head if I let you in the interrogation room."
She nodded and offered him a small smile before snapping off her gloves. She snagged the muffin bag and hurried after him. When she caught up, he slung his arm loosely around her shoulders.
Dr. Sweets watched their retreating backs thoughtfully. The pair's strong emotional bond had always been obvious in the casual physical contact between them, mostly initiated by Agent Booth. But over the past week, she'd been initiating the contact more often. He wondered if they'd even noticed that the heightened intimacy.
Before it had been the usual hand at the small of her back, tapping her on the shoulder, and the occasional hug. Lately though, she'd lean into him if they were standing closely, and sometimes he'd brush her hair out of her face. And then there was this morning. Maybe all they needed was a push in the right direction.
As he left the lab, he called his office. "Hi, Sandy…"
The next morning as Booth opened the door to his SUV for her, Brennan asked in puzzlement, "Do you know why Sweets wanted to see us? We're not his patients anymore."
Booth shrugged. "He said he has some questions related to his 'observation of our working relationship.'"
She frowned. 'Sweets had better not be doing another experiment on us,' she thought, remembering the stunt he'd pulled by not notifying her of Booth's 'death.'
When they arrived at Sweets' office, his assistant Sandy ushered them into his office saying, "He'll be with you in a moment."
"Look's like he's rearranged the furniture," Booth commented, noticing that the usual two armchairs had been replaced by a love seat.
Brennan shrugged, picking up a small piece of paper before sitting down. As Booth sat down next to her, he heard the sound of the door locking. He looked up to see Sweets smiling at them through the glass. He pointed at the paper in her hand and then disappeared from view.
Catching the movement from the corner of her eye, she asked, "Was that Sweets?"
"Yeah. He just locked us in here and pointed at that paper."
Brennan frowned and read the note out loud. "I think you two have a few things to discuss. Take all the time you need, and remember, this is a truth zone."
The partners glared at the door. They spent a few minutes complaining to each other about his high-handed tactics.
Then Brennan said, "Let's just call Sandy and ask her to let us out."
"Sweets probably told her not to," Booth replied.
"Fine, Angela then. Or you could shoot the lock," she suggested.
"No. You know how much paperwork I have to fill out each time my firearm is discharged," he responded firmly.
"So we're just going to sit here until Sweets decides to let us out?"
"What? Can't stand spending a bit of time with your partner?" he asked with a charm smile. After being "dead" for two weeks and missing her terribly, he treasured every moment he had with her. Lately they'd been leaning on each other a little more, and he didn't mind one bit, although he wished the circumstances were different.
She glared at him, but didn't have the will to resist his smile. "Fine," she gave in ungraciously.
"The last month has been…" he paused, looking for a good adjective, but coming up empty. She was watching him with a puzzled air, so he tried to explain. "I was shot; you killed Pam; I 'died;' I shot Gormogon and Zach turned out to be his apprentice."
He presented the list as she might have, matter-of-factly, watching her face for a reaction.
She looked at him thoughtfully and commented, "And that's two for me and fifty-two for you."
"I… Gormogon feels different than the others," he said. "When we found him he was eating huge piece of meat with those damn dentures Zach made. The FBI lab tested it; it was human." He shuddered at the thought, and then continued his story. "When he realized we were there, he threw a knife at Simmons and hit him. Then I shot Gormogon. After what he's done, it seems like too good a death."
Brennan nodded, "Especially since he took part of our family with him. Things just aren't the same without Zach."
"I know," Booth agreed quietly. "Worse than when he was in Iraq either." He paused a moment, debating whether or not to ask the question that had been weighing on his mind. Deciding honestly was always best with her, he asked softly, "I'm not going to lose my partner now like I did then, am I?"
Immediately, she shook her head. "I may have more work to do in the lab more for a while until we can figure out how Zach's work will be redistributed, but I'll still come in the field with you."
She could practically see the relief flowing off him as he sighed.
"Being in the lab is hard," she admitted, returning his open honesty with a confession of her own. "Everything reminds me of Zach. When I'm out in the field with you, it's easier; I have something else to focus on. I can't help but wonder where I went wrong. I couldn't have done anything to change my parents or Russ' choices, but I keep thinking if I'd done something more, something different, that Zach wouldn't have been vulnerable."
Booth scooted closer to her, placed an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. She remained stiff for a moment and then relaxed into him, resting her head on his shoulder and accepting the comfort he offered.
"We all feel like that, Temperance," he said. "You, me, Angela, Jack and Cam. At least the two of us get out of the lab sometimes. I imagine it's harder for the others."
She shifted her head to look him in the eye, their faces close, and he saw her pain. "Just when I get my father and brother back, my new family is broken." Her voice broke. No longer able to keep her emotions at bay, she tucked her head back into his shoulder.
When her tears soaked into his shirt, he realized that she was crying. He wrapped his other arm around her and pulled her closer. Somehow, Brennan letting go of her emotional control made it okay for him to release his own. He rested his head on hers and took a few deep breaths and allowed himself to feel the frustration that he hadn't been able protect their family from betrayal within. Objectively, he knew he couldn't protect her from everything, but oh how he wanted to, and he certainly tried to. He worried that this would drive her back behind the walls he'd been so patiently tearing down for the last few years.
After she cried herself out, she sniffed several times and gratefully accepted the tissue he offered. Then she looked up at him, eyes red-rimmed from crying, and said, "Thanks, Booth. You've been my rock this past week."
"You're more than welcome," he replied sincerely.
After a moment, she frowned. "You've done so much for me," she said. "And…."
Seeing where she was going, he interrupted, "Don't you dare say you haven't done much for me. You let me hang out with you when I need company. When it's important, you listen to me without judging me. Every case we solve, you're helping me put away criminals."
Although he didn't say it, she understood that he was thinking of his goal to incarcerate at many criminals as kills he'd made. And now they were both up one.
He continued fervently, "Just seeing you brightens my day. I'd do anything for you, Temperance, even die for you."
"I… I know," she replied in a faltering voice. "You… you've already taken a bullet meant for meant for me this month. But, Booth, I'm not sure I'm worth that kind of devotion."
He wondered if she realized the irony of her use of the word "devotion." She was using a word usually used to describe, yet she wasn't willing to acknowledge just how deep their intimacy went.
Firmly he answered her insecurities, "You are the most amazing woman I've ever met. I think you're worth that and more."
He kissed her forehead gently and shifted. "What do you say we get out of here and get some pie?" he suggested, knowing they both needed the comfort of the familiar after such a difficult conversation.
The tinkling of her laughter thrilled him. "You're always thinking of your stomach."
"Hey, I can't help it if the Royal Diner has the best pie in D.C."
Simultaneously, they stood and went to the door. Booth knocked loudly and Sandy let them out.
"Have a good day," she called as they left.
Sweets was sitting at their regular table waiting for them. They sat down opposite him in silence, signaling their displeasure with him.
When the waitress came, they ordered their usual, two coffees and one piece of apple pie.
Finally Sweets broke the silence. "So, did you two have a good conversation?"
Booth scowled at him and asked Brennan, "Do you think we should answer his question?"
After a short moment of contemplation, she shook her head, "Nah, we shouldn't encourage him."
Booth looked at Sweets and said, "If you ever do that again, I will shoot you, understand?"
Sweets nodded, but pressed his point. "So?"
Brennan glanced at her partner as she answered, "We talked."
"And?" the psychologist prodded.
The agent responded, "You can't honestly expect us to share our conversation."
Somehow, these two always managed to put him off balance. "I, um, just thought maybe you'd made some important realizations."
They looked at him as if he'd grown a third eye. Apparently they hadn't.
Forking a piece of the pie, Booth said, "You know, Bones, you really should try this pie."
"How many times do I have to tell you that I don't like my fruit cooked?"
He tossed her one of his charm smiles. "You've never even had the diner's pie, so how do you know that you don't like it?"
She looked at him and sighed, "Fine. If I have a bite will you stop bugging me about it?"
He smiled broadly, loaded his fork with a piece, and moved it in her direction.
Sweets watched in amazement as she opened her mouth and allowed him to feed her. Given his comment from the week before, he had been sure she would have refused. Perhaps things between them weren't as platonic as they appeared. Maybe the Gormogon case would be the catalyst that got them together. He had never met a pair who complemented each other better, both on the job and off. The question was how long it would be until they admitted to themselves and each other.
Booth finished the coffee in his cup and stood up. "Well, Sweets, we've got places to be and people to interrogate."
As they drove the short distance to the Jeffersonian, their earlier conversation played through the agent's head.
"I meant what I said before, you know," he said, after they'd exited the car. "I would die for you."
She gave him a long look, and weighed her response carefully. "Yes, Seeley, I know you would, but I would much rather you live for me. I don't like what life is like without you."
Feeling that an apology was necessary, he said, "I'm sorry you weren't notified. Still, I wished you'd slugged Sweets."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Sometimes you're worse than a kid, Booth."
He reached out and gently grasped her shoulder. "I wasn't trying to minimize what you said, Bones," he replied. "I just… did you really mean that?"
She squared her shoulders with his and looked him in the eyes. "Yes, I really meant it," she said softly.
He searched her eyes for a moment, then took a small step toward her. Tucking a stray hair behind her ear, he caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers, and asked again, "You really mean that?"
Although reading the subtext of conversations had never been one of her better skills, she knew him well enough to know that he was asking if she was really ready for this.
She stretched up to whisper "I never say anything I don't mean" in his ear, knowing that it would bind them more closely together.
Freed from the last of his doubts, he bent his head and softly kissed her lips, a kiss which surpassed their Christmas kiss and only hinted at the passion between them.
He pulled away when his head told him he should and pulled her into a crushing hug. They had plenty of time to explore this change in their relationship.
After a long moment, she pulled away. "Everybody's probably wondering why we were gone so long and where we were," she said. "What are we going to tell them?"
His smile was brilliant. "The truth, Bones. We tell them the truth – Sweets locked us in his office."
"Angela's going to jump to all kinds of conclusion," she groaned. "You know how she is."
He winked at her as he held the door to the Jeffersonian. "Yep, and this time a few of them might even come close to being right."