Between Sleep and Awake

Part XII: Knowing

The cool water ran over my shoulders. My hair hung like curtains around my ears. I swooshed it back and turned off the water. My feet hit the tile. Cold tile. Not bloody. Not twisting into a forest floor.

This time a white light began to drown out my view of the bedroom.

My other eyelid was gently pried open. The pen light illuminated my iris.

The doctor, gray-haired and slightly overweight stood back and marked on the chart the results of whatever test he had just performed.

He looked up and smiled, "So we're awake now?"

"Obviously." My groggy voice was more garbled than I had imagined.

He chuckled. He looked and sounded like a off-season Santa Claus. "I was warned that you're a fiery little thing."

"What test did you just perform?"

"Just checking your reaction time. How are you feeling?"

"I hurt. How would you feel?"

"I'd probably be hurting, too."

"Then why'd you ask?"

Another chuckle as he checked the chart, flipping white sheets of paper as he went. "Fever's down. 99.7. That's good."

"Did I need stitches?"

"Six of 'em." He leaned forward and pried back the medical tape. I sucked air through my teeth sharply. "It's looking good."

"I want to see my chart."

He looked at me with a measuring glance. "You're not one for beating around the bush, are you?"

"No."

He handed the chart over. Three broken ribs. Six stitches. "Did they do a rape kit?" I looked up at him.

"I can give you that paperwork if you want."

"I do want it."

Somebody knocked lightly on the door and opened it. A familiar face. Not the one I had wanted to see, but good enough.

"Hey, Tempe." Russ came in and took a seat.

"I'll just give you a few minutes," the doctor turned and began to walk out.

"One second. Can you give me any information on the condition of Special Agent Booth?"

"Doctor-Pat--"

"Patient confidentiality. I know."

He nodded and disappeared behind the door.

"Look what I got for you," Russ grinned and held up a little poinsettia in a red plastic pot.

"It's beautiful. Thanks, Russ."

He set it on the bedside table and turned to me. "How are ya?"

"Tired, groggy, anxious, hungry and sore."

He laughed. "Same old Tempe. Pulling out the thesaurus to answer a simple question."

I smiled. "Hey, Russ... Have you heard anything about Booth?"

He shrugged.

"Before I passed out last, Angela said that they took him off something. Do you know what?"

"Beats me. I guess that the person you need to talk to is Angela."

"That would be great!"

"What? Are you volunteering me?"

"Yes."

He sighed, "Fine. Where do you think your artist friend is? I don't suppose they have a Saks on the Pediatric Wing, do they?"

"They must have a gift shop. It is, after all, a hospital."

"Fine, Tempe. I'll go. And it's only because I love you so much."

He stood and went for the door.

"Wait, Russ."

He turned, "What? You want something from Saks, too?"

I just smiled, "I--I love you... Russ."

"J-sus, Tempe. You're gonna make me tear up." He went out the door. Then his head reappeared. "I love you, too, Tempe." Then the door closed behind him.

"That should keep him busy." I reached over and pulled out the IV from my right hand. "Yow," I winced.

My feet hit cold tile for the second time in five minutes' time. My weight rested on wobbly and uneasy legs.

Slowly, and painfully, might I add, I made it outside of the door.

With one hand on the wall I walked down the hall. A nurse or two gave me a questioning look here or there, but I confidently smiled at them and mumbled an excuse.

An elevator ride later, I found myself on the Intensive Care Ward. The last place I saw him. And, although I didn't wish that he was still there, I wished that he was. I couldn't wait another minute without knowing.

Had they taken him off the floor?

Had they taken him off oxygen?

Off pain killers?

Off fluids?

Off tube feeding?

Off life support?

Was the toe-tag comment just an evil joke spoken by a con-man and a killer?

As I limped along, pain shooting around my fractured ribs, a nurse buzzed past me.

"Excuse me," she muttered.

A second later, a police officer in dress-blues jogged past, gripping his weapon with his right hand.

"Hold him steady!" The nurse yelled.

"How'd he get out of the cuffs?"

"How the hell should I know? You're the cop!"

I reached the door and looked in. A man was jerking around in his bed, teeth gritted. Green eyes squinting with anger. Blond hair slick with sweat. "I'm innocent! I'm an FBI Agent! I was framed!"

"Yeah, yeah. Tell that to the woman who you beat all t'hell." The officer, a tall African-American man, snapped a double set of cuffs on Prideaux and smiled a wide grin. "You're gonna be here for a while, brother."

I kept walking. I had a mission. Despite my curiosity about Prideaux's situation, I wanted to find Booth.

Booth.

What would I do if he was in the morgue? I owed him my life and in return, I... I was silent.

"Not any more." My hand slid along the wall.

"Dr. Brennan!"

I turned and looked back toward the elevator. A flustered nurse was running toward me.

"Stop! You're not well yet!"

I started sliding my hand faster. Quicker.

"Agent Booth!"

I turned the corner, my eyebrows pressing together. Did someone just say Booth's name?

And there he was.

Sliding his hand along the wall. One hand keeping him from toppling over. The other hand holding the back of his hospital gown together.

"Agent Booth! You're not ready yet!"

"Dr. Brennan, please!"

Both nurses stopped once the nurse who was pursuing me turned the corner.

But that was all that I noticed. Most of that came from what people told me.

"Bones," Booth said. He shook his head slowly and chuckled. "You should be in bed."

I scooted toward him, going a speed that could only be congruent to that of a tortoise.

"You should talk." I looked him up and down.

"You're as stubborn as a mule. You know that, Bones?" He smiled flirtatiously as he walked toward me.

"You're tenacious and self-destructive. And yes, I do know that I'm stubborn." By then, we were standing toe-to-toe. "I think it's one of my best attributes."

He smiled and ran his knuckles along my face, then cradled it tenderly between both of his hands. The nurse that stood behind him got an eyeful. "I think so, too, Bones."

"Why'd you come here?"

"Same reason as you. I had to know. It was killing me not knowing." He kissed the bandage on my face. The tenderness in his features became pained and sad. "I'm sorry that I couldn't be there for you."

"You were."

He rested his head against mine, "Do you know what I dreamed about while they had me doped up?" He smiled, "You." A second passed before he spoke again. "I realized--I realized that life's too short to keep doing this to ourselves."

"Doing what?"

"Lying, Bones."

He must have seen the tear I felt building in my right eye. "It's OK, Bones. You don't have to be strong in front of me."

The tear slipped down my cheek and soaked into hospital gown.

He reached up and wiped the tear away.

"I... I killed a man."

"You've killed before."

"I've shot people. But this--"

The nail plunged into his neck, snapping like a thousand interwoven rubberbands beneath the force of my fist.

"It was terrible, Booth."

"You did what you had to do."

"I couldn't be another victim. I've seen what people do to each other. I've seen the worst of it. I... I fought. I fought for my life." His thumb continued to stroke my face, then it slipped around behind my neck.

"I'm glad you did. The truth is, I can't live without you."

I laughed, "Then we're in the wrong business, Booth."

He kissed my cheek, taking my breath away once lips lips brushed my skin. A fire spread in the spot where he kissed me.

"Booth."

"Yeah?" Breathlessly.

"I think I can return your feelings."

"Right now, I'm just glad that we get a second shot."

His lips met mine. I wrapped an arm around his waist. Reaching up was too painful. He pulled me closer, deeper. My head spun, and for the first time in days, it wasn't a bad thing. It could have been a side-effect of the pain medication, but I secretly like to think it was something else. Something indescribably wonderful. The kiss was sweet and passionate. Hot and delicate. It ripped me from the demons that held me to earth and pulled me into a different world. A world that I could only wish to stay in forever.

And for once, I couldn't wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

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This story is Fin. Thank you for your replies!!! :D