It was my own fault, really, though as much as I blamed myself for the way I was feeling right now, I knew later, it would be worth it. But right now, I was standing under the scalding hot spray of my shower, crying and trying hard not to sob. I hadn't even undressed yet. I was too afraid to even touch the clothes I'd been wearing when that killer touched me, even though I was completely unhurt. But I needed the water to wash the filth of his hands off the clothes before I could stand to remove them.
0 0 0
The case was not popular, at the Bureau or with the lab's Board of Directors. Of course, the press loved it. "Modern Day Jack the Ripper Strikes Again!" One prostitute, every month, killed the same way, in the same car. Picked up from the same general area, too. Except the car traces were generic, the carpet and fabric a component of at least three makes of cars. We'd come in after the second body was found-- it turned out to be the first one, chronologically. The killer seemed to have the same approach each time. Pick up a prostitute, take her someplace, have violent sex, probably rape, in the car, and then mutilate her and slit her throat. The bodies were discarded in roadsides not far from where they were last seen, alive.
None of the other prostitutes the victims knew could identify the john, and they could only say the car was a neutral colored, four door, late model American sedan. "Looked like any other dude in a car wanting a blow job" was the usual description, each one confirming that if they'd seen the victim leave, it seemed consensual when she got in the car. The women were all scared, but continued to work-- some of them had drug habits, but I could tell by the spread of some of their pelvic girdles that they might well have children to provide for. Booth was taking a lot of criticism at the Bureau for working the case as much as we did, and the Board of Directors complained to Cam several times about the lab's being mentioned in articles saying "authorities have still failed to find the killer."
It was after the fourth one showed up that we had the only thing that could be called a breakthrough. Based on the injury patterns and defensive wounds, I knew the height, weight, and build of the killer. Due to skin scrapings under the fourth victim's nails, found two weeks ago, we had a DNA sample-- but no hits in the system. We needed to find an actual suspect to run it against. I was proud of that fourth victim. She'd gouged completely through the epidermis when she fought. He would have scars, whoever he was, and that might help us find him.
I could say that it was really Angela's fault-- she was the one who'd noted the critical facts as we all sat in the lounge, frowning over all the evidence, but I was the one who insisted it was our best chance to catch the killer.
We had identities, and descriptions, and in two of the four cases, actual photographs. Booth was talking out loud, trying to get us to "brainstorm," and was listing off things each victim had in common, including the particulates data. He'd been speaking a while, and then paused, staring at the things on the table, until Angela inhaled sharply and said, "They all look like Bren. Dark auburn or mid-brown hair, lighter eyes, tall, thin, stacked."
Booth's head flew up, looking at me, then looking down again at the photos and drawings. It was true, although I wouldn't call myself stacked, I reflected, as I looked at the photos and re-catalogued the heights and weights of the victims. They did look like me. Or I looked like them.
"It's true," I said. Booth gritted his teeth, though it was clear the killer was only interested in prostitutes-- I was in no personal danger. I said nothing further, and we talked some more about other data, before breaking to work on some other things, hoping the change in perspective might prompt new leads.
0 0 0
It didn't. A week later, we still had no leads, and Booth and I had interviewed everyone we could find who knew the four victims. The last woman had a six year old boy at home. Now the system had him, in a group home, for now.
I waited until we were out of the lab, at my place, going through the files again, before I broached my idea to Booth. I started slowly. "There will be another one Saturday night, unless he changes his pattern."
"I know," he responded, teeth gritting.
"Someone should warn the ones he's likely to go after to stay away."
He nodded. "It's not like that's any guarantee, though."
I sighed. "It's all that we have."
He looked at me then, levelly, his usually expressive eyes shuttered. "Don't even think about it."
I'd only just gotten the courage to bring it up with him the day before, and he already knew what I was thinking. I spit it out, more tart than I'd meant to. "Why, do you have a vice cop who looks like me and who can discern physiological markers, who can also subdue the suspect long enough for us to get a DNA sample?"
"Goddamnit, Bones, that's not the point." His voice had risen in volume, his nostrils were flaring, and his respirations had sped.
Well, I knew it wasn't the point. He was feeling protective, as he always did, though he knew I could take care of myself.
"The more people there are hanging around in an alley trying to catch someone, the less likely it's going to happen, Booth. You put a vice squad officer out there, dressed up, and tuck me somewhere else to try to get a look at the suspect, and then you or a swat team another place, everyone wearing wires? It's just a recipe for failure."
He stood up and walked away, standing with his arms crossed as he stared out the window. "Do not presume, Temperance, to tell me how to run a stakeout." Oh dear-- he was really upset. Not only was he spitting his words through his teeth, but he was using my first name.
It wouldn't do to fight with him in this mood, so I left it at this. "Well then, you'd better figure out something else, or we'll have another dead prostitute and no new clues come Sunday morning." He was still staring out the window, arms crossed, when I gave up ten minutes later and went off to bed. He'd stay on the couch or let himself out, but he wasn't in a mood to be reasoned with.
0 0 0
He came by at lunchtime the next day to check on the case, stomping up onto the platform and coming to a halt opposite me, the fourth victim's remains lying between us. "Nothing new," I told him, as I looked him in the eye, calmly. That vein in his forehead started throbbing and he turned and strode out again, saying nothing in response.
"What was that about?" Angela asked.
"I suggested a course of action to Booth last night. He didn't like it. He's trying to think of another." I replied. She nodded, confused. Confused was good. She'd have protested if I told her what I was thinking.
0 0 0
Thursday night, after I'd already gotten ready for bed, there was a pounding on the door. He was really angry if he wasn't going to just let himself in with his key, like he usually did, and I sighed a little, knowing he was going to be nearly impossible to deal with the next few days.
I opened the door in my robe and pyjamas, and stood to the side as he stomped in, carrying a small black bag in his hand. He dropped it, not lightly, on the table, and it made the solid thump that meant electronic equipment. A wire.
His teeth were clenched, that vein in his forehead was jumping, and the tendons in his neck were standing out when I reached him and unzipped the bag. I took the equipment out and inspected it. "Simple enough," I said, turning it over in my hands. The receiver was small, the wire and microphone very small and discreet. I could probably fit it in my cleavage, or tape it between my shoulder blades, and conceal a weapon as well-- as long as I purchased the right clothing.
If I told him I was sorry that it was necessary for me to do this, then that would give him an excuse to tell me not to. If I showed that I was a little afraid of how things would go, then he would definitely find a way to prevent me. If I kept a calm demeanor, and pretended like he wasn't as upset as he was, then he'd have no choice but to do it. He knew there really wasn't any other choice, if we were going to catch this killer.
"I'll go shopping tomorrow," I said. His jaw clenched again, and he blew out an exhalation like a bull getting ready to charge. He was extremely agitated, moreso than he'd been in the past when the threats had been more specifically targeted to me. It was comforting, in a bizarre way. I'd come to accept his overprotectiveness, and not just as the cost of our working together. My feminist self remained aghast at the extent of Booth's alpha maleness, but the part of me that was his friend, and that wanted him as more than my friend, too, didn't mind this seething display of concern.
"God help me, Temperance, you'd better find a place to pack something smaller than that cannon of yours," he said, as I looked at him, waiting for him to either say something, or stomp out on me again.
"That won't be a problem," I said, trying to stay calm for his sake. It wouldn't. I'd traded my .45 for a 9 mm. and a .22 and thought I might have room for them both in the outfit I had in mind. I wasn't looking forward to doing the shopping, but it needed to be realistic, and when I'd floated the idea to Booth in the first place, I'd already decided what I needed to wear-- between what the victims had worn, and what the women we'd met with had been wearing, I had a fair idea what the killer would find alluring. Or enticing. Or whatever prompted him to choose them.
I debated asking him if he wanted a beer, or for me to order him takeout, and stepped to the side to head for the fridge, but he stepped in front of me and hauled me into his chest, his arms crushing me to him. This was no guy hug. I returned the embrace, silently, debating how to respond in the long moments while I listened to his heart hammer in his chest. He dropped his arms suddenly, stepped back, his eyes black as he said "Be ready at 8, I'll pick you up here."
"Fine," I replied, slightly speechless, then watched as he turned around and walked out, the door closing with almost a slam behind him.
0 0 0
"I haven't seen Booth all day, Bren," Angela said the next day, right before lunchtime. "He does know that the killer will probably go hunting again, doesn't he?"
I'd been sitting at my desk, wrapping up paperwork, and getting ready to go shopping for the things I'd need for tomorrow.
"Yes, he knows," I replied. "He's got a meeting for a sting operation the Bureau has planned for tomorrow."
Angela shuddered, then said, "I don't envy that vice cop."
I was proud that my voice didn't shake when I said, "I don't either."
0 0 0
I'd just finished taping the reciever in place as I dressed in my bedroom when I heard him yell out "Bones!" from the front of the apartment. I looked at the clock. He was early.
"Still getting ready!" I called, then returned my attention to the rest of the costume. I'd already done my hair and makeup, and pulled on the thong underwear and fishnet stockings these women seemed to prefer, then strapped on the black vinyl bustier, making sure the receiver stayed put in the middle of my back, and that the microphone was taped at the midline of my sternum. In then end, I'd decided there was only room for the .22 in my cleavage along with the microphone and a few smaller things, and wedged the weapon in once I'd finished cinching the laces up the front.
"How much longer are you going to be?" I heard his voice say, just outside the door.
"Not long, ten minutes, maybe," I said, eyeing the clothes I still needed to put on, as well as the jewelry. It had taken me longer to shop than I'd anticipated, in order to find the right price point of clothing and the right level of quality (or lack thereof) items to come close to what was found on the victims. I wrestled on the red vinyl skirt, checking in the mirror to make sure that there was a gap between the top of my stockings and the bottom of the skirt, as the women we'd met seemed to believe was the appropriate level of enticement. The sheer black low cut tshirt pulled on over the bustier still gave me access to my gun, so I piled on the fake rhinestone and silver jewelry I'd bought, checked my makeup one last time, and shoved my lipstick into the side of my cleavage, away from the weapon. Booth could hang on to everything else. I pulled out the boots I'd bought and sat on the edge of the bed while I pulled them on. I'd thought about the more traditional platform stilettos, but some of the women wore these, and the heel was slightly thicker, the sole slightly more solid, so that if I had to run or kick, I'd be better prepared.
"All set," I called, checking the time. It was just eight now. I walked out to the front and Booth was clad in his usual stakeout attire of jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket and baseball cap. He turned around as I entered the room, taking in my attire, his jaw as clenched and his posture as tense as it had been the other night.
"I thought I told you to pack something," was his only greeting as his eyes raked over me.
"I did," I said, reaching in and pulling out the butt of the .22. His eyes widened as I shoved it back into my cleavage, then that vein in his forehead started jumping again.
He grunted, then said, "go back to the bedroom and turn on your receiver."
Fine. If he was going to be a surly caveman tonight, I'd play along and not argue, as long as it got us our murderer. I turned and walked away, and swore I heard him grunt softly again as I left the room. These boots did make your hips sway more than average. I supposed I'd gotten the gap between the top of the stockings and the bottom of the skirt correct, to judge by his nonverbal reaction.
I went back, closed the door, and reached up under the bustier to switch on the receiver. "Booth," I said, speaking softly to test the range of its audibility. "I'll say 'You're a real looker, there, handsome,' if it's him."
"Fine," I heard him call, so I switched it back off and came back out.
He was looking straight at my face and ignoring the rest of my outfit as I returned to the room, and picked up the trench coat I thought it advisable to wear between here and the truck. There was only a four block radius where the killers' victims had worked, and I'd determined to take the one just off the central street where there was room for parked cars, but still some shadowy alcoves along building walls for trysts. I told Booth this on the way down to the truck, and he merely clenched his jaw, gritted out "That's what I thought," and stayed silent the rest of the ride.
He let me off a block over after I switched on my receiver, and I ignored him as he pulled past and turned onto the street where we'd agreed I would "wait." By the tissue lividity, the victims had been killed before midnight each Saturday, so I didn't anticipate having to walk more than two or three hours before I was approached, if at all. On my way to my destination, I received several cat calls, and strutted my hips somewhat more as if I were enjoying the compliment. I'd decided on a version of my Roxie persona from Las Vegas, the same brass, but harder, and made it halfway down "my" block when I got my first proposition. It was a car of young hispanic men, who were all too physically small to have inflicted the damage, but I walked over to the car and leant forward on the window in response to their "Hey, Mamacita." I could see Booth's truck, parked half behind a dumpster, at the corner of an intersecting service alley.
"What's goin' on, boys," I said, giving them a view as my cleavage threatened to spill out of the top of my bustier.
"Well, you got it goin' on, baby," said one of them. "Ain't seen you here before."
"I got bored with my usual block," I said, winking. "Heard there was more going on over here." The four of them snickered, and proposed a transaction that I judged far too inexpensive even for the prostitute I was trying to be. I stood up and acted offended, putting my hand on one hip. "Try later, boys," I said scathingly. "Go round up some more milk money, first. Mama's expensive." I turned on my heel and strutted away.
I walked up and down the block, then rested against a building for the next hour or so. There were several other prostitutes working the street, one who gave me a glare but said nothing, and two mixed-race women who actually came over to warn me that the killer seemed to be preying on women who looked like me. I tried to hide my surprise that they would warn me, and said "Thanks for the warning, but I got bills to pay, unfortunately." They made commiserating noises, and walked off in their separate directions.
I received one on-foot proposition, from a man who again offered less than what I'd learned from our witnesses seemed to be standard, and I told him "I don't do discounts," before he shrunk and walked away. Poor Booth. I'd never looked toward him, and had studiously ignored him as I waited.
I'd just about decided that I would need to change my location when a beige, late model American four-door sedan pulled up alongside me as I walked, just down the street from Booth's truck. The driver had rolled down the window and was checking me out. "Hey, gorgeous," he called, stopping the car as I turned to look at him. I stood far enough back from the car that he couldn't reach me unless he got out. "Evenin'," I said, pushing my breasts up between my arms as I placed my hands on my legs and bent forward. "Can I interest you in a ride?" he said.
I stood and looked at him appraisingly, one hand cocked on my hip, so my skirt rode up on one side. From where he was sitting, he seemed to be the right height-- but he would have to get out of the car and take a few steps toward me before I could tell for sure.
"I don't know. What kind of ride?"
He laughed. "Aren't you choosy?"
I laughed in return. "You're the one who stopped, sugar. You must have seen something you liked. Seems like it's my turn, now..."
He smiled, nastily, but I expect most johns do, whether or not they're also serial killers. "And what if you like what you see?"
"I might be convinced to go for a ride. For a price."
He laughed again. "There's always a price, baby. What's yours?"
"It depends," I responded. "But like I said, I got to like what I see, first." I licked my lips, and leaned back against the wall behind me, crossing my arms under my breasts as I brought the sole of my foot far up enough against the wall that my skirt started to ride up, exposing the inner expanse of my thigh. That seemed to decide him, and he got opened the car door, and sat half in, half out as he looked me up and down. I felt soiled, immediately, in a way I hadn't with the other men who'd propositioned me, and I was sure that this was him. But unless he stood up and walked toward me, there wouldn't be enough evidence of physiological markers for my testimony to hold up in court.
He waved his hands toward himself, mock-bowing. "Well, what do you think?" he asked.
"Not bad, so far," I said, licking my lips and cocking my hip, "but I'm a real fan of tall guys. You tall, sugar? I'm not such a fan of low riders." As I said this, I pushed my arms up further under my breasts, sliding slightly down the wall so my hips jutted outward. His eyes flicked to where my skirt had ridden up again, and he stood. I guess he liked what he saw.
After three steps, he was right in my face, one arm braced against the wall as he looked down at me. It was him, I knew it. And flicking a glance at the underside of his exposed forearm, I saw three parallel scratches, deep ones, still healing.
"No low riders here, sweetheart," he said, then ran his other hand down the front of my shirt and over my skirt, pushing my hip into the wall.
His cold fingers started to trail under the hem of my skirt as I said, "That's right. You're a real looker, there, handsome."
"So, you gonna come for a ride, baby?" he asked, leaning forward to breathe in my ear. "I got a premium ride, just for you."
"Sure," I said, smiling hard at him. I pushed forward off the wall, pushing my hand into his chest, until he backed away. I made to follow him as he went back to his car. As soon as his back was turned, I snaked my foot around his ankles and tripped him, pushing him down with my hands. Booth came flying around the corner, vaulting over a car in the way as he did so. The killer tried to roll over and grab my leg to pull me down, but I jumped back out of the way and drew my gun, leveling it at him. He stopped, staring up at me, as Booth came around and announced himself, his own weapon drawn. "FBI, roll over, now." The killer made to get up, and Booth didn't hesitate to kick him, then flipped him over and cuffed him.
The three agents sitting in the car down the block serving as back up pounded up, and two of them took over from Booth, removing the suspect. I pulled a pair of gloves out of my cleavage, and opened the car door, motioning to Booth to hand me his blacklight as I knelt over the driver's seat, looking in back to see if I could see any bloodstains. There weren't any obvious ones, but I heard a strangled "here," so I turned. Booth was studiously looking over the roof of the car, but the other agent was gaping at me from the sidewalk. Oh. I'd forgotten my skirt would ride all the way up, bending over like that. Or that I was wearing a thong.
I took the blacklight from Booth, and shone it over the backseat. "Well, someone's been busy back here," I said. "Come around to the other side, Booth." He did, looking in back as I showed him the semen and blood stains still present on the seemingly clean fabric. "He also has three parallel scratches, deep, on the inside right forearm," I added, turning to look at him. He was again looking over my head. I looked down. Oh. In all the motion, my breasts had moved further out of the top of my bustier, and would spill out completely if I didn't adjust things.
I slid back out, adjusted my breasts, then reached down to pop the trunk with the button on the driver's side floor, only to hear a strangled "Jesus Christ, Bones."
"Well, then go get my trenchcoat," I suggested, moving to the back to look in the trunk. I shone the light over the assorted items in back. More bloodstains, and a knife-- a serrated military style knife, like the one that was used on the victims. I was suddenly nauseated, though I'd never been in any real danger, knowing that this trunk was the place where they had been butchered. All because he thought they were prey, not people. I could tell it in the way he looked at me, the cold oily confidence rolling off him as he waited for me to take up his proposition.
"It's definitely him," I said, when Booth returned. I handed the gape-mouthed agent standing by the blacklight while I shrugged on and belted the trench coat, then took it back from him and shone it over the blood-stained carpet and knife.
"Right. Call a tow," ordered Booth. "We'll meet you back at the Hoover."
The agent nodded, now staring at my cloth-concealed chest. "They're just breasts," I said, and he blushed and looked away.
0 0 0
"You going to come in to talk to the bastard, or you want to go home?" he asked, when we were alone in the truck again, and he could now look me in the eye because I was clothed. His jaw had stopped ticking, and his forehead was smooth again, so I suppose he was feeling more relaxed, now that things were essentially over. I, however, was feeling increasingly ill. At least Howard Epps wanted to kill me because I was a challenge. This one only wanted to kill me because I was a woman, and therefore below him. The sheer sexual baseness of it was somehow more disturbing.
"No, I'm coming with you," I said-- thought I wished now that I'd brought a change of clothes. I'd have to stay in the trenchcoat, or subject Booth to more needless teasing from his colleagues about me. I knew they shared Angela's opinion that I was "stacked"-- if I appeared dressed as a prostitute, poor Booth would be subjected to more comments about whether we were involved than he would be comfortable with. He viewed me as a friend, but I knew it bothered him when other men thought of me as a sexual conquest. It should have been annoying, and it used to be. At some point, it had become endearing. I stifled further thoughts about Booth, then. I was becoming adept at it. I'd been taxed by that embrace the other night, and feeling the solid heat of him against me. But he had that line, and we were professionals, and in any event, he wasn't interested in me. He was simply an alpha-male.
"Fine," he said, then relaxed a bit more as we drove away from the scene and headed back to the Hoover. "Nice takedown, Bones." He was feeling better, if he wasn't yelling at me for letting the killer get so physically close.
"Piece of pie, Booth."
"Cake, Bones. Piece of cake." I knew that. But I knew he'd feel better, correcting me.
0 0 0
Two hours later, we got our confession, as Booth and I sat opposite the killer, confronting him with the evidence. He was inclined to be arrogant, and pretended we didn't know what we were talking about. He was clearly furious that I wasn't a prostitute, but had in fact helped apprehend him. Initially, we weren't getting anywhere, and I realized that something was needed to drive him over the edge. Standing, I took off my trench coat, and sat on the edge of the table.
"What is it you like about prostitutes?" I asked. "The stockings? The short skirts? The way they talk, or walk? Or is it because you're not man enough to find someone you don't have to pay for their company?"
His eyes narrowed, raking my cleavage again as I sat opposite him. The cold, oily feeling I'd had earlier returned. I leaned forward, dragging my false fingernails up the top of my leg. "Is it the makeup? The heels? Do you like their nails on your back?" His nostrils flared. I was getting to him with my provocative movements.
"Or do you just want someone to call you sugar, sugar? Come on, you can tell me," I cooed, leaning forward, my skirt hitching up the leg hooked onto the table.
I grabbed his arm, and pulled it over and down, until the exposed fingernail scratches were facing up, then traced between them, lightly, with one fingernail. "Or is it something else, that I don't quite understand? Come on, sweetheart," I said, dragging my nails down his forearm more firmly. "Talk to Mama."
That did it. He smiled, that same evil smile he'd first given me when he asked me what I'd do if I liked what I saw. "I just like hearing them scream," he said, then lunged for me only to be stopped as Booth and I both grabbed his throat. I let go, and let Booth push him back in the chair.
"Yeah, you're a real peach, sweetheart," I said, getting up, and grabbing my trench coat. That did it-- he'd talk now. I didn't need to breathe the same air anymore.
When I walked out to the observation room, shrugging on my trench coat, it turned out Dr. Sweets had arrived, and was watching from the observation room. He swallowed and averted his gaze as I belted the fabric again, then sat in the chair opposite the window, and waited for Booth to be done. He half turned, looking at me. "Aren't you going to listen to the rest?" he asked.
"No," I replied, simply. "It's nothing I haven't heard before. We just needed it out there on the record for this one. Booth'll be done shortly. But you go ahead."
Sweets looked at me oddly, then returned to watching the rest of the interrogation. He had the sound turned on, and the cameras were running as they always did, so I could hear perfectly well as the killer began to confess. I shut my eyes and rested my head on the back of the chair, feeling dirty and tired as the killer started to rant about how all women were whores and whores were the worst of them all. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before-- hadn't dealt with myself in one form or another several times. Men always thought that they could take advantage of you, just because you were smaller. I'd had the luck of not having it happen before I started martial arts training my first year in college, but I hadn't been immune from the bullying boys at college parties of the occasional overweening first date. Not that anything serious ever happened-- but the intentions were there, and as oily and cold as this particular killer, who just happened to get further in his sickening personal development. I was relieved that we'd stopped this particular one, but nauseous because I knew that for this one, there were still thousands like him still out there.
0 0 0
After a half hour, Booth had obtained the full confession, and called the supporting agents to take the killer away. He came out to the observation room then, and answered a few questions from Sweets as I continued to sit there, legs crossed and eyes closed.
"Ready to go, Bones?" I cracked an eye, and he was looking at me.
"Yeah, sure," I said, pushing myself out of the chair and joining them. "I need a shower."
Sweets looked at me, not understanding, but Booth nodded and said "Let's hit the road."
0 0 0 0
He drove me back to my apartment, and walked me upstairs. "Want takeout?" he asked.
"Not really," I replied. "I'm not hungry. I just want a shower."
He nodded, then said, "Do you mind if I order something then?" He looked hesitant, as if now that things were over, I was going to call him to task for his overweening behavior.
"Go ahead," I said, sitting on the edge of my couch to pull the boots off. After a moment, I picked them up and carried them over to the trash, and dropped them in, then fished out my weapon and lipstick from the front of my bustier. I unbelted the trench, but out of respect for Booth's ridiculous prurience, I left it on as I reached down through the bustier to rip off the microphone, then behind me to remove the receiver. I threaded them out and tossed them on the counter, eyeing them with disgust. They were dirty, too. I'd have to clean my weapon before I could use it again. Maybe I could get Booth to do it for me, instead. I threw out the lipstick without further thought.
Booth was eyeing me evenly as I removed the rest of the jewelry, and dropped it, too, in the trash, then flicked off the fake fingernails, one by one, their red plastic glittering on top of the cheap silver and rhinestones. I ignored him, and padded off to the bathroom, dropping the trenchoat on the floor after I closed the door behind me. I could here him setting his own things on the counter, where he usually left his weapon and other things that impeded comfortable sitting on my couch while eating takeout.
I felt disgusting. I'd have to throw out everything, cleaning it wouldn't cure the slime of that killer's touch. Suddenly, I couldn't stand the sight of the clothes I was wearing, but couldn't bear to touch them either. He'd touched them already. If I touched them, too, I'd be more soiled than I already was. He'd run his cold fingers across the top of my thigh, the ice of it still there, at least in my memory.
So I turned on the shower, full blast, and waited until it started to steam. I stepped in, still 'clothed' in the attire that had drawn the killer out, overwhelmed with the knowledge that stopping him wouldn't stop someone else from doing it again. The impersonality of it all bothered me more than any time someone had come after me, personally. It only mattered to them that I had breasts and a vagina. Who I actually was, didn't matter.
I soaped my hair, letting it wash over me and everything I was wearing, but it wasn't enough, so I did it again. The third time I soaped and rinsed, I realized there were tears running down my face, so I turned and tried to start tugging things off, to discard them. I couldn't do it yet-- I couldn't make my hands touch anything he had touched. I did manage the stockings, he hadn't touched those, but I was still crying, and biting my lip to keep quiet as I tried a fifth time to use enough soap to make it possible to touch my clothing, rather than just keep scrubbing at myself with the soap covered brush.
The eighth time I tried it, I finally succeeded, pulling my shirt off and letting it slap, wet, at the edge of the bathtub on top of the stockings. My hands were shaking by then, but I managed to undo the bustier, and it hit the tile with a plastic-y flop, to be joined as the cheap vinyl skirt finally peeled off. I tugged off the thong, then regarded the innocent pile of prostitutes' clothing. I'd never approved of women dressing as prostitutes at Halloween-- the concept offended me, since it wasn't possible to understand all the reasons why women felt that they had no other occupational options, but now I was actively nauseated by the idea that anyone would ever think that such a thing was funny, other than pathetic, in the true sense of the word. Pathos, appealing to the public's fear of rejection.
"Hey, Bones, you fall in?" I heard, as the door opened a crack.
"No, I'm fine," I replied, stepping back under the spray and hoping my tear-thickened voice wasn't obvious.
"You sure? You've been in here a half hour." He sounded concerned. As I supposed he should be, if it really had been that long.
"I'm almost done," I managed to say. "I'll be out shortly."
"Okay," he said, sounding doubtful. "You just let me know if you need anything," he added.
I didn't respond, because I was busy re-soaping the brush. Unless he could get me a new epidermis, so I could have one that didn't creep from that killer's look and his touch, there wasn't much he could do. I kept at it, until the water ran cold. My skin was bright red with scrubbing. It would have to do for now, until the water reheated, and Booth had left for the night.
I picked up a towel, and used it to pick up the trench coat and move it off to the side, so I wouldn't have to touch it while I dried off. I finished, then took the robe of the back of the door and wrapped it around me, then wrapped my towel around my head.
"Bones?" I heard his voice coming back toward the bathroom, so I opened the door, living proof that I hadn't "fallen in," as he said it.
"All finished," I said, not meeting his eye as I ducked back to my bedroom to change into something clean. I'd deal with the sodden, soiled clothing later, when I would have time to find gloves and a garbage bag.
When I came out, dressed in sweats and having run a comb through my hair, Booth was in the process of paying the delivery man.
He looked up as I came into the room, opened the fridge, and pulled out the mostly-still-full bottle of red wine I'd opened two weeks ago or so, one night when Booth and I had takeout Italian. "You want beer?" I asked him.
"Yeah, please," he said.
He put the takeout containers and two forks in their usual places on my coffee table, so I carried over the wine, a glass, and his beer. I poured myself a generous glass, then sat and began drinking my wine as Booth started to eat.
"You really not hungry?" he asked, between bites of pad thai.
I shook my head, and took another sip of wine. "Really. Not at all."
I drank slowly, while Booth worked on the food, and tried not to be impatient with my growing need to shower again. I couldn't very well do it so long as he was here, he would know something was wrong, and I didn't feel up to explaining to him why tonight, all men were scum. Not that Booth was, he is always exceptional, but my general disgust with the gender and my continuing creeping response to my interactions with the killer weren't something I could explain without crying again. Booth dealt with that enough. This was a mess of my own making.
I wasn't a good conversationalist, but Booth seemed to take my assertion that I was 'just tired' at face value, and worked on his takeout as I sipped my wine. Fortunately, he had relaxed enough that we could slip back into our more usual comfort zone, where it wasn't necessary to talk all the time. Some people aren't comfortable being silent around other people-- they need to fill every moment with conversation. When we were getting along, and even sometimes when we weren't, it wasn't like that with Booth. I knew if I didn't eat anything at all, Booth would find an excuse to stay, so I helped myself to a spring roll, and then another, as I drank a second glass of wine, and asked him about his plans for Parker tomorrow.
"Mass, the park, the usual. Mac & Cheese from a box or pizza for dinner."
"You don't cook for him?"
He made a face. "He's six, Bones. He doesn't want anything except those things, cookies, fries and a burger, pie, or PB & J. It makes shopping easy."
"I suppose so," I said. "Amy's girls actually like salad, so it's possible to make them eat vegetables with their plain pasta with butter and cheese."
He laughed, giving me a sidelong look. "Hate to break it to you Bones, but that's not really cooking, either."
"I have hope," I replied. "At least they have green food in their diet."
The conversation segued, and I finished my second glass, and sternly told myself not to have a third, at least not while Booth was present. But Booth had other ideas, and poured the rest of the bottle into my glass as he went to get himself a second beer. "Might as well drink it, Bones, that stuff's two weeks old already. It'll turn to vinegar in your fridge if you put it back in there again." He was probably right. Things in my refrigerator did have a tendency to go off before I got around to finishing them.
We joked around some more as I worked on my wine and Booth absently plowed through the rest of the food. He usually leaves some leftovers, but if he's not paying attention and he's been under stress, he just keeps eating. It was some measure of how worried he'd been before tonight that he ate the other four spring rolls and an entire order each of the pad thai, the mee krab, and the chive dumplings. I was tired, and I nodded a bit, despite my crawling need for another shower. But I didn't want to shoo Booth out the door, and I was used to delayed (or never attained) gratification, so I stifled the urge again.
0 0 0
The next thing I knew, I'd woken to the feeling of those cold fingers running across the top of my thigh. Sitting up, I looked around and saw I was in bed. Hmmph. Either I'd walked here and didn't remember, or Booth had carried me back here. It had happened a few times like that since he'd been shot, though before, if I fell asleep on him, I'd just wake up the next morning on my couch. Overprotective alpha male. I shook my head, fuzzy from the wine and the sleep. My head ached slightly, my mouth was sticky, and my skin was crawling, cold and painful as if I had the flu. That creeping cold oily sensation in my head was coming back too, so I quickly made my way back to the bathroom and peeled off my clothes. Those clothes were still on the floor of the bathtub, so I winced, grabbed another towel, and picked them up to dump them on top of the trenchcoat I'd pushed to the side. I'd throw them out later.
I blasted the hot water again, and stepped under the spray. It warmed me, a little, but the heat also worked as a mental trigger, and even as I lathered the brush as started scrubbing at myself again, the tears started all over. I hate crying, even by myself. Crying is supposed to bring stress-relieving endorphins in their wake, but mine never do. I just feel old, and tired, and dried out. I lathered again and scrubbed harder, the brush punishing me for having been so stupid as to think that being so close to a killer like that wouldn't leave me feeling soiled. The top of my leg remained cold and creeping, at least in my mind, and like Lady MacBeth, I scrubbed harder, hoping if I tried long enough, the stain would come out. I sobbed even as I scrubbed, even as the skin started to turn raw under the bristles.
I hated this. Hated him. Hated every man who ever hated a woman just because she was different from him, something he needed to dominate in order to assuage his own insecurities, remind himself of a physical prowess that was a mere accident of evolutionary biology. "I just like hearing them scream," he'd said, and it was true. That was all they wanted, the rapists and killers and domestic batterers and sexual harassers. They just wanted a submissive response, and here I was, reacting despite myself. Another sob at my weakness broke from me, and I leaned against the wall, stopping for the moment, the brush clattering on the floor of the tub, as my disgust with myself grew, and my sobs broke loose from the weight of rational analysis I'd tried to push down them down with.
I was crying enough to miss the opening of the bathroom door open. I only heard "Bones, hey, what's the matter?" from outside the shower curtain. Goddamnit. In my haste, I hadn't thought to check whether Booth had decided to sleep on the couch, or let himself out. And now he was standing in my bathroom, not three feet away, while I was trying to scrub myself clean of that filth.
"Go away," I choked out.
He must have noticed the sodden pile of clothing in the corner, because his voice took on a soothing tone as he responded. "Come on, Bones, don't be upset. You kicked that guy's ass."
That just reminded me of the fact that I'd had to touch him at the scene, and then in the interrogation room, and I sobbed louder, unable to stop myself. I just repeated myself again. "Go away, Booth. Leave me alone."
"Bones," he continued, ignoring me as if I hadn't just told him to get out of my bathroom, "You can't let a creep like that get to you. We got him, that's the important part."
He didn't get it. He couldn't. How could he possibly? He'd never been idly groped as he made his way from a booth to the bar in a nightclub, or sneeringly condescended to or outright propositioned by males in positions of authority. He could't understand why the prostitutes we'd interviewed were so hard. They saw it on the front lines, every day-- something I'd mostly escaped, as I grew older, more professionally respected, and let's face it, richer. Having money will do a lot to make men at least act respectfully toward you, even if they don't mean it.
Though I meant to keep silent, my anger broke through. "That's not the point. There's a thousand more like him." My articulateness was interrupted by another involuntary sob, one so strong my knees collapsed and I landed with a thud on the floor of the tub. At least the pain distracted me from the way my skin was still crawling-- though the thought brought it all back again. It was too much. And now the water was getting cold, and I still felt soiled, and Booth was being an over-protective alpha male and the exception to the things that were so bothering me on the other side of the curtain, and wouldn't go away. I gave up, and just let the tears take over, curling in on myself.
The next thing I knew he'd turned the water off and wrapped one of the larger bath sheets around me, and was carrying me back to my room. He sat on the edge of the bed, holding me in his lap as I continued to cry, his arms around the towel he wrapped around me. I couldn't be angry with him-- despite his physical prowess, Booth was about as nonthreatening, to me, at least, as men came. "Temperance, come on," he said, "stop crying, please?" I couldn't, and now I was cold from the water still on my skin, and a shudder passed through me. He started chafing the towel on my back, still chivalrously trying to preserve my modesty. Booth wouldn't ever touch a woman in a non-consensual manner, not that he needed to. He was magnetic.
I'd long been attracted to him, but even before his stupid death, I'd begun to realize that it wasn't just physical attraction. The gnawing, hollow feeling I'd had when I thought he was dead was proof enough of that. It was like a limb had been amputated. I could still feel him, still hear him, and in moments of distraction would swear I heard his "hey, Bones!" I would find my head snapping up, looking around for someone who wasn't there. His physical proximity was not helping me to stifle those remembered feelings, and I shuddered again, this time in awareness of him, even as I continued to mourn the events of the evening. He couldn't tell the difference, and shifted me so he could chafe the towel around my legs and up my sides.
In his motion, he rubbed the towel against the edge of the raw spot I'd rubbed where that killer had touched me, and I cried out, despite myself. He stopped immediately, setting me on the bed and pushing up the side of the towel, pulling my leg out so he could look. "Oh, Bones," he said softly, "what did you do?" His warm fingers traced under the raw spot I'd rubbed, and it was too much.
"Don't," I said, and curled onto my side, away from him, crying hard all over again. Instead of pulling away, though, he started rubbing my back through the towel, then pulled me back toward his side, murmuring "Come on, Temperance, don't cry." Damnable, overprotective, comforting alpha male. He hauled me back into his lap, and pressed a chaste kiss on the top of my head. "Not all guys are creeps, Bones," he said softly.
"I know," I stuttered, another sob choking me. "But enough of them are."
"Well, that's why we do what we do, Bones. We catch the bad guys." He was rubbing my back again, and pressed another soft kiss on my temple. My need for a caring touch, not one moved by impersonal hatred, prompted my unconscious response, and I turned to look at him full in the face for the first time since he'd come in to the bathroom. I was aroused by his proximity, furious with the killer, angry at myself for my weak response-- a welter of emotion, all in all. He saw it all in an instant, the expression in his eyes tender and yet increasingly responsive to whatever showed of my attraction to him in the moment.
Slowly, giving me more than enough time to pull away, he kissed me, his eyes boring into mine, seeking permission. I gave it, molding my lips to his, closing my eyes, feeling the way his hands shifted from comforting to intimate in an instant. I worked my arms free, and slipped one hand behind his neck as we each deepened the kiss.
Our kiss at Christmas had been a surprise to him, and to me too, though I'd been curious beforehand as to what it would be like to kiss him. This kiss, however, was intentional, exploratory, slow, his lips firm and yet soft as his tongue sought mine, found it, caressed the inside of my mouth. I responded further, wrapping my other arm around his neck, my naked chest pressing against the thin fabric of his shirt as the towel covering me slipped to my waist. My skin had stopped crawling as soon as he kissed me, and his hand found its way to the small of my back, where we each were accustomed to him touching me.
He broke the kiss, shifting to let his mouth trail its way down my neck, then licked his way back up with one hot, firm stroke of his tongue. My head fell back as I said "Booth," while he licked his way over to my ear, breathing, "Yes, Bones?" The tone of his voice and the heat of his breath sent a spike of heat straight to my core, but I managed to gasp out "Are you sure?" as he shifted his mouth to suck at my shoulder.
"Definitely," he responded, returning to my mouth for another deep kiss, before breaking it off to look at me. "Are you?"
His eyes didn't contain any pity, like I was afraid of. Instead, it was desire, and compassion, and something I was sure he'd call love.
"Definitely," I said, returning the kiss with abandon.
My hands found their way under his shirt as my towel fell to the floor, both of us standing as I pushed his shirt over his head. His hands roved over my skin as I worked at his belt. His touch was gentle, but the fire I'd raised in my own skin, scrubbing so hard with the brush in the shower, made my skin hypersensitive, each brush or stroke or caress sending a wash of heat through me. He was cupping my breasts in his hands, his mouth trailing wet kisses from the hollow of my throat to my sternum as his thumbs kneaded my increasing heavy, aching breasts, when I finally managed his belt buckle and top button. I stopped for a moment, to stroke the length of him, straining against the denim, already completely hard, and more than I expected despite what I'd seen while I was yelling at him in his bathroom. He growled lowly when I stroked him again, then fastened his mouth on one breast as he pulled me closer, one arm around my waist as his other hand kept kneading me. I shifted, unzipping his jeans and slipping my hands inside, under his boxers, to grasp him firmly in my hand. He grunted lightly, mouth still affixed to me, his tongue stroking my nipple as I circled my hand around him, sliding my fingers along his length and then back.
I repeated the motion, as he increased his suction on me, then released his mouth with a pop, the wetness he'd left on my breast cooling in the air. He let go of my waist, pushing my hand away from him with a groan as he pushed his own pants down and kicked them away. Having managed it, I expected him to move to the bed, but instead, he dropped to his knees in front of me, and started laying sucking kisses and strokes of his tongue on my stomach, his tongue circling my navel and making its way lower. As he was doing this, his hand at his usual place on my back was pressing me to him, his other hand stroking its way up the inside of the leg I hadn't managed to rub raw. His mouth and his fingers found my core at the same time and the shock of it made me gasp and wobble. His hand at my back pressed me closer to him as the hand between my legs encouraged me to step wider.
As his tongue flicked my clitoris, I complied, then gasped again, grasping his hair unconsciously as his fingers delved into me. "Aaaahhh" was about the only intelligible thing I could manage, as I struggled to stay standing. The sight of him on his knees in front of me was even more overwhelming than the sensations he was creating in me, and I moaned and gasped again as his inventive hands and incredible tongue did things I'd never experienced before. I had never been brought so quickly to climax before, and the strength of it caused me to scream in surprise even as I lost my battle to keep standing. His hand at my back didn't move as he rose and scooped me up, placing me in the middle of the bed in an instant.
"Booth," I panted, looking up at him, his eyes hooded in the dim light coming in through the window and the light coming in from the hall. He crawled in over me, and returned his mouth to the hollow of my neck as his fingers found me again. "So... delicious..." he murmured, as my walls welcomed his hot fingers again, and his mouth made its way over what felt like every inch of me. I lost track of time, as I lost myself to his lips and his tongue on me, his hands on me and in me, the feel of him covering me with his attentions all consuming. I gasped, and panted, and sighed, calling out "Booth!" or wordless cries of pleasure as he coaxed wave after wave of orgasm from me, his hot hands and mouth everywhere. Each time I came and shuddered from the force of my climax, he would stop and murmur some other endearment against my skin. "So beautiful..." he said, and "incredible," and "sexy," and "unbelievable," and lastly, "delicious," again as his mouth returned to my core. His fingers withdrew from me, his hand pushing my uninjured leg upward, my knee bent as he exposed me further to his mouth.
He stroked the length of my folds, the hot velvet of his tongue on me drawing another groaned "Booth" of pleasure from me. He lapped at me, teasing strokes of his tongue across the aching center of me, then around and across my clitoris, the contact sending another jolt of pleasure so strong that I jerked, my hips bucking away from him into the bed. Without his mouth leaving me, one hand came up to hold my hips to the bed, his other grasping my upraised leg and pushing it further away. He sucked at me, until I was whining "please" as my walls cramped, needing fulfillment. His tongue delved into me then, probing and thrusting as I arched against him unconsciously. He stroked my walls as he held me in place, the pace of his tongue thrusting and curling in me slowly increasing as I panted, and continued to beg, "Oh," and "Please." My release was like a lightning strike, and I screamed, my whole body stiffening as I flooded, and his tongue only increased its attentions, now lapping and sucking at me until I screamed again with another release colliding with my still passing electrical climax. He'd already proven there were no such things as physical laws, at least in the way I responded to him. I no longer knew where his hands and mouth ended and I began.
I was shuddering, one of his hands still caressing me as he leant over the bed, looking purposefully for his pants as I panted. "Please... tell me you..."
"I'm a boy scout, Bones," I head his voice say over the edge of the bed, "I'm always prepared." He found what he was looking for a moment later, and tore and tossed the foil to the side even as I turned to my side, my hands tracing the muscles of his back as his skin jumped under my exploring fingers. I reached for him, intent on exploring him further, but he pulled out of reach, his mouth returning to plant kisses up the midline of my torso as his hands worked at the condom. "Later," he said, before his mouth made its way past my breasts, as he centered himself over me, his hands cupping my hips. His mouth descended on mine again, the taste and smell of me strong on him as I wrapped my arms around his neck. His tongue entered my mouth, thrusting at the same time as he entered me below. The shock as his girth and length filled me completely and stretched me sent a wash of heat through my body as I cried out wordlessly into his mouth, his own grunt at the completion of his thrust arousing me further.
"Aaahhh!" I cried again, as our lips parted and I struggled for breath, the long measured stroke of him retreating and returning to me again unbelievable. I'd wondered, imagined, and utterly failed to conceive of how it might be with him. My arms around him shifted even as his hands at my hips did and he leaned on his forearms over me, a grimace of concentration on his face as he withdrew and then entered me again. I cradled him, wrapping my legs around his hips and back, and this time he gasped as I took him all the way in at the end of his stroke. "God... Temperance," he groaned, his eyes snapping open as he buried himself in me again. "So... unbelievably... perfect...'' he gasped, even as his pace didn't waver, as I arched up to meet him.
We strove with each other, our hips meeting time and again, as I began to be carried away on a rising wave of pleasure, sighing each time he filled me. He slowly increased both the speed and force of his strokes, as I felt myself gathering around him. "Oh... Seeley..." I panted, though I'd never called him his first name-- it just came from me, like the unwilled, uncontrolled response I was having to him. There was no room for any fright at the strength of the emotion he was drawing from me-- he drove it out as he entered me again, my use of his first name causing him to jerk more strongly into me. One hand slipped under my hips, tilting me upward, as he further sped his pace, the head of him gliding across that ridged place inside me, and a new jolt of sensation joining the heat he'd already stoked in me. It didn't take long as his length pushed and slid against me-- I screamed, calling out as my walls cramped and gripped him, the strongest release of my life taking me over.
It seemed like it went on forever, and one rolled into another as he kept returning to fill me, his voice murmuring "sweet Temperance" in my ear as I arched and cried out again as he drew another release from me, his hand under my hips now gently rolling my clitoris between his fingers. "Oh God! Seeley!" I called, as another jolt seized me, a wordless, wailed, "Aaahhhh" following it. My walls gripped him, the pleasure of the contractions almost painful as one release rolled into another, and I lost hold of him as that last orgasm seized me, my limbs falling limp to the bed. He slipped both arms under me then, lowering himself until our chests were pressed together, his head at the join of my shoulder and neck as he panted and gasped in my ear. His own motions became less controlled, each thrust deep and less measured as he withdrew and entered again. "Bones, Temperance," he groaned, and then cried out, stiffening, as his girth thickened and pulsed within me. I thought I couldn't respond to him further, but the force of his pulsing within me as he jerked into me the last few times made me clench and cry out his first name again.
I'd expected him to collapse onto me, but he surprised me again, rolling onto his back so I came to rest on the hip I hadn't rubbed the skin from. He slipped out of me as he moved, pulling a gasp from me, followed by another as that act of protection even as he still groaned from his own release astonished me. I was limp against him as his arms wrapped around me, his chest heaving and our hearts hammering in our chests. As our breathing slowed, he hitched me up toward him until my head was resting at the top of his shoulder, within easy reach of his lips. I didn't resist the temptation to kiss him again, and he responded, his lips and tongue languid against mine. My eyes were shuttering despite my best efforts to stay awake, and I only dimly registered as he left the bed with a whispered, "Be right back."
When he returned, he lay behind me, the heat of his body curled against mine as his arms circled and clasped me to him.
"Sweet Bones," was the last thing I heard as I fell into sleep.
0 0 0 0
I woke to his hands brushing my stomach and breasts as he sucked at my clavicle. At the change in my breathing, there was a low, husked "Good morning," uttered against my skin.
"Mmmm, good morning," I managed.
"I hate to wake you up, Bones, but I've got to get going soon if I'm not going to be late to pick up Parker."
'S'okay," I replied, shifting to lie on my back so I could look at him.
He was smiling at me when I looked at him, drawing my own answering smile in response. He bent down to kiss me, his lips softly brushing against mine. "I started some coffee," he said, then nuzzled my neck. "I'm going to go take a shower," he continued, then pulled the covers up over me. "You sleep some more," he said, kissing my forehead.
I half dozed as I heard him move about in the bathroom, and drifted off at the homey noises of him as he went to the living room and kitchen. He returned after he'd dressed, and bent to kiss me again until I woke.
"I'll call you later," he said. "After Mass. Promise you'll pick up the phone?"
I opened my eyes to look at him, and saw that he looked ... insecure. "Of course I will," I responded, then inclined my head up to kiss him again. "Always." The look in his eyes lightened then, and I smiled at him. "Talk to you later. Tell Parker hi," I murmured. He smiled sweetly then, kissed my forehead, and left with a "Sleep well, sleepy Bones."
0 0 0 0
When I finally woke, it was mid-morning. I made my way to the bathroom, only to see that he'd cleaned up the clothes I'd left piled in a heap the night before. He'd also fished out a tube of burn ointment, some gauze, and some tape, an unspoken reminder that he hadn't forgotten how I'd tried to get clean. I wandered out to the kitchen, and saw he'd left me two cups of coffee in the pot, and a used mug and spoon in the sink. The receiver I'd worn was gone, my weapon had been cleaned, and he'd emptied the trash can into which I'd dumped the remnants of my costume, and replaced the half-full bag with a new one. He must have taken the clothes from the bathroom with him, too.
I leaned with a thump against the counter behind me. "Not all guys are creeps, Bones," he'd said. It was true. But only one of them was Booth, the one who cleaned up after me when I couldn't, and who cleaned up with me when I could. A partner-- and now something more. I looked forward to finding out how things would turn out.