Can I get a high five for a two year hiatus! No, because I suck. Well, Year 12 was a bucket of gross time consuming, brain draining disgustingness, which wrote off (ba dum chick! bad accidental pun) all of 2011, and that in combination with a chapter that didn't want to exist pretty much resulted in no updates. It was one of those annoying things where you wrote the first half when you were on a roll, then whenever you came back to try and finish it you saw how good you WERE, then you felt intimidated by yourself, everything new sounded terrible etc. It was a weird place to be :P But yeah, this has been a long time coming, so sit back, relax and enjoy the emotional turmoil (as enjoyable as such situations can be)
As always, nothing but the plot is mine.

Urgency. He couldn't place it; where it was coming from, why it was there, but it was wholly consuming and strangling in its desperation. His heart thudded potently, his muscles trembled in anticipation. Something was pulling him, drawing him, leading him out of the foggy state of unconsciousness. His senses were escaping from their lethargy, however emerging sodden with debilitating slowness. It was akin to watching a sluggish, old film projector; his senses were picking out single frames, flashes of sensory information that were ever so slowly building up into a decipherable picture.

A rasping, dry breath was rattling to his left. The sharp aroma of sterile cleaning products accosted his nose. Starched material rubbed against all exposed skin. His mouth was dry and a lingering metallic taste weighed down his tongue. Strangest of all, an odd sensation of nothingness across his upper torso, from the centre of which streamed an omnipotent burning, jagged shards jutting out from an implacable centre.

But this confusing volley of sensation was disregarded when a quiet moan oozed across the room, like a black fog that encapsulated all the worst aspects of pain. Booth would recognise that voice anywhere, and it acted as a solid rock amid his vaporous awareness. The alley that had consumed his mind moments before was wavering like a sinister mirage, accompanied with a sensation of personal solidification, as though coming back to reality. Bones' voice drew him away from the realms of his war-darkened mind, but those eyes of the angel had him tenaciously gripping to the flickering remnants of his crumbling dystopia of a dreamscape. His throat was raw with his rough calling, his yell of desperation to save this one member of his fast dissolving scene before him. In a blink she was gone. He blinked again, and suddenly the dark alley was no more, but was replaced instead by a blurred white space. One final flutter of his eyelids brought the room into focus, and with it the joy-filled face of Temperance Brennan.

The effect of seeing her face was immediate; peace and calm seemed to quash the panicked feel that had been bubbling unpleasantly away in his gut. She looked so happy, her eyes bright- unlike the eyes of the angel of his dreams, who had been darkened by fear. The last time he had seen this woman's face it had been pale and sickly, with eyes heavily haunted by her ordeal. While she was still gaunt and lacking in her normal inquisitive air, there was now colour in her cheeks, but more importantly, the smile gracing her lips was so purely happy he could almost forget that anything had gone wrong.

His face felt so heavy, but he made himself give the smallest of smiles in return; he was rewarded with a tiny laugh of wonder and happiness. The moment was then shattered, when Brennan's pleasant countenance was slaughtered by a gruesome grimace as her hands flew to her stomach, fingers curled in suppressed pain.
'Bones?' Booth forced the word from between his lips, but his throat was so dry the name was barely audible. He watched, fighting desperately to awaken his deadened body, as she tossed her head back against the thin pillow behind her. She cracked open an eye, and flung her arm out towards the small table beside her bed. Her hand fumbled for the pager to call a nurse to her aid, but in her haste she sent it clattering to the floor.

Confusion-riddled and lethargic, an all-encompassing wave of panic dove cruelly upon Booth's vulnerable and weakened heart. Adrenalin began to perk his senses, but his understanding of the situation remained woefully limited. Were they under attack again? Brennan was not well, not safe as he had sworn to keep her, and no matter the cause he was desperate to remedy the situation. His eyes blearily searched the room, looking for a source of the problem, but there was nothing but painfully white walls. What was this place? He took a sharp breath in to try and quell his anxiety, inhaling the sour antiseptic smell he associated with doctors and pain, his nose wrinkling away as the chemical miasmas accosted his weakened senses. As he choked on the overwhelming stench, gasping for air, something in his brain seemed to clunk heavily into place; doctors meant safety, aid, care. Someone to help.

As soon as he made this connection he searched for some means by which to attract attention, his bleary eyes falling upon the small aid buzzer beside his own bed. Booth reached out and pressed the call button, his concerned eyes only leaving Brennan's face to ensure the little red bulb at the top of the remote flicked on. He whispered her name again, watching in confusion, his head spinning. Was he awake? Was this still some drug-induced hallucination? It must be. The universe could not be so cruel as to keep battering at one already so broken. Booth watched with helpless eyes as Brennan rolled to her side, rocking herself like a child with pathetic whimpers bubbling from her lips.
'Bones,' he called again, his weak voice somehow attracting her attention. Their eyes meet for a fleeting second. She looked so scared, all he wanted to do was gather her broken body up in his embrace and guard her from whatever was causing her pain. The sheer terror in her eyes made him reach out a hand, suppressing a grimace as the shards of pain seemed to jut further into his body, and try to grasp her own.

Before he could reach further than her stiff sheets, however, a matronly old nurse strode into the room, her shoes clicking against the linoleum. Her patient smile was in place, the beginning of a seemingly habitual act she had long since perfected for her job.
'Good to see you are awake, Mr Booth…' She began. She looked ready to dive into a speech of some sort, no doubt trying to calm who she expected to be a very disorientated man. Conversely she became the one who felt muddled with confusion, when she saw the man shaking his head, pointing a shaky hand not at himself, but to the woman occupying the bed next to him.

Booth relaxed slightly upon seeing the woman comprehend, watching her see Brennan and swoop down on her like a mother bird upon its chirping chick. She pressed a pager at her hip, before reaching out to Brennan, asking a flurry of questions to try and find out what was wrong. Booth couldn't follow, her voice was just one agitated stream of noise; he was grateful, though, because that sound meant help for Bones. Catching a glimpse of Brennan's face beneath the nurse's arm, he saw she had raised her walls once again. None of that vulnerability was visible anymore, just a steely and inexpressive façade. He felt perplexed- Brennan wasn't always forthcoming with her emotions, but he thought she knew better than to mask her pain from a nurse trying to help and assess her.

The door swung open again and a youthful man in a crisp white doctor's coat strode in, his face business-like as he moved to the opposite side of Brennan's bed that the nurse. He scanned his eyes across the monitors at the bedside, before dropping them down to his patient's face.
'What's causing the problem, Ms Brennan?' He said in a kindly voice, as he flicked a drip to ensure it was still dribbling at the appropriate rate.
'Stomach.' She said tightly, briefly wincing her eyes shut before forcing the pain behind her mask once again. The doctor placed a gentle hand against her forehead, frowning slightly at the heat he felt there.
'Jacqueline,' he addressed the woman across from him, 'how are the wounds holding up? Any sign of infection?'
'No sir, we've kept a very close eye on these two,' she gestured at the two patients in the room, 'and I personally changed Ms Brennan's bandages not two hours ago. The lacerations seemed as well as they could be, given the circumstances.' The doctor's brain appeared to be whizzing, as he filtered through the possible causes, mentally narrowing down the list. He quickly picked up Brennan's file from its holder at the end of the bed, flicking through the pages trying to find a hint. He lingered on one paragraph, before looking back to his patient.
'You've told us, Ms Brennan, that while you were held hostage you were fed minimal food?' The doctor asked with smooth professionalism, not showing the slightest shake in his façade despite the touchy subject matter. At Brennan's nod he continued, 'What were you provided with to drink?'
'Water, but I didn't touch very much of it in case they'd laced it with something.' Booth, still listening from the other side of the room, felt a small surge of pride at Brennan's good sense.
'Was it clean? Or did it seem unsanitary?'
'I couldn't really see, in the dark…' Brennan trailed off, her eyes seeming hollow and unseeing for a moment, before she exhaled and drew her eyes back up to the doctor. 'You seem to be formulating a diagnosis?'
'Are you familiar with Helicobacter pylori?' Brennan opened her mouth to respond, but instead sucked in a gasp of air as her hands curled into tight little fists. She gave a nod instead, concentrating her efforts on containing her pain. The doctor gave a small sigh, his eyes full of sympathy at his patient's discomfort.
'This is why we insist upon the prescribed dosages of painkillers and antibiotics, Ms Brennan.' He said with a gentle tone holding an underlying firmness, as he slid Brennan's file back in place. Out of the corner of her eye, Brennan saw Booth turn a face filled with confusion and concern towards her, and she quickly averted her gaze up to her doctor's face as he talked.
'I believe you may have contracted this bacterium from your drinking water, and without the full dose of antibiotics it seems a stomach ulcer may have formed. I'll have to go prep for some tests for you just to be sure; I'll be back for you as soon as we're ready.' She gave one last nod of comprehension, and as soon as he and the nurse had left the room she drooped back against the pillows once more.

Her eyes were closed, her forehead furrowed as she felt Booth's gaze on her like a spotlight.
'Don't look at me like that, Booth.' She murmured, slowly opening her eyes to meet his. They were filled with confusion, hurt, worry- all those emotions that she knew she would find there. Only moments ago she had got Booth back, properly awake and proving to her that he was going to be okay. It was distressing seeing him so openly distraught so soon after this elation, to have her joy at his recovery hindered by his obvious heartache.
'Why..?' His raspy voice trailed off; he did not even know what to ask. After all she had been through, she was depriving herself of the relief that she deserved, which was perfectly accessible, for absolutely no discernable reason.
'I… I couldn't.' Brennan feebly responded, looking down at her hands and with sombre detachment marvelling at their frailness.
'I still don't understand, Bones.' His voice held more strength now, his gaze more intensity as he continued to look straight at Brennan's face. He knew she was getting uncomfortable, but still he persisted.

'I couldn't let myself, not with you lying there, without knowing you were going to be alright.' Booth just stared. Brennan felt a flicker of anger in her chest, as yet another of her friends dismissed a decision that to her seemed logical and necessary; she returned his persistent gaze with equal fervour, finally letting her frustration batter through her façade into the outside world.
'What would you have done? Your own stubbornness and insatiable need to protect me,' she spat scathingly, 'would have meant you would have done the same thing. You have done the same thing, discharging yourself from hospital the last time I was kidnapped-' she cut off abruptly. Her eyes were dark and surly, her breath gasping lightly. Her thoughts had whirled miles away when she realised the truth behind what she had flippantly said, what it meant for her. Kidnap- it was the stuff of her novels, not something that actual people should go through. But she had. Twice. If she had been the type to have believed in karma, she would have thought she must have done something horrible for which she was now atoning. Things just kept happening, again and again, knocking down her self confidence and strength. Normally she felt like she could recover, perhaps a little battered, but she had always got up and soldiered on. But this time she felt broken, tired.

Now she was lying incapacitated in a hospital bed, her mind addled with irrational thoughts and emotions, experiencing the rare but chagrining feeling that she had done something incredibly stupid. She couldn't have felt less like herself if she had tried. Another acute stab of pain brought her back to the present, back to the haunting gaze of her partner. A shiver of relief ran up her spine again, just from seeing his eyes open, seeing him alert and lucid and caring once more. The simplest things now seemed amplified, now that the extremes of the last few weeks had finally, finally ceased in the return of Booth's consciousness. The enormity of the situation she had found herself in had been all-consuming, blotting out her normal life in a cloud of sheer terror and agonising pain. The tempest of a life endangering experience had roared about her, dulling her senses to anything beyond its strength.

Now, in the silent, empty husks left behind by her trauma, the smallest things were most obvious. Basic emotions ran rampant around her mind, intermingled and confusing, lacking her usual orderly control over such thoughts. Lingering fear from the attack that never seemed to stop haunting the dark recesses of her mind, worry for not only her own wellbeing but that of Booth, guilt over dragging him into the heavy mess that she thought was buried in her childhood. Now added to that broiling mixture was a wearying relief that he was alright, and a desperate longing to leave this blackest of times behind and just escape, just forget, simply blank out this last week and retire back into a life of normalcy. But that would never happen. This would haunt her forever. Her body mangled and scarred, an outward manifestation of the grotesque muddle that her emotions had morphed into.

And now her rock, the one constant in her life who had promised to always help and be there for her, was staring down upon her with unforgiving disgust. Tears stung at her eyes, but as much as she longed to turn away Booth would not drop his gaze, his intense eyes refusing to break contact. She was convinced he would come and physically shake her for her stupidity, if he were able to rise; such was the strength of the ire in his eyes. Her humiliation was growing, and with it her confusion from her total unfamiliarity with this feeling of inadequacy in his presence. She had never felt so belittled since she left the foster care system that stained her childhood, finding strength and liberation in relying solely upon her own wits and her own skills. She had made sure she was capable, more than capable, until she was the best that was possible. She was loathe to ever be in that situation of weakness again, finding solace in her successes, proving to herself that she was so much more than the feeble and broken child that the foster system had spat out into the world.

Booth had come into her world, grudgingly respectful of the work that she did and the power that her observations held in solving cases. Their relationship had bloomed into mutual respect and amity, and she had finally let herself think that she had met someone different. He didn't challenge her authority, didn't doubt what she said. For once it had been almost effortless to convince another of her worth, but now it seemed that the esteem in which she had been held had irreparably diminished as Booth too joined the ranks of those who found her to be an utter disappointment.

She floundered, her mouth trying to form words but her mind not knowing what to say, how to phrase her thoughts in some way that they could be forgivable, or at least understandable. The door flew open once more, a nurse swirling around Booth's bed preparing to take some initial tests after his awakening. Still their eyes did not break apart. With a rough rattle of plastic curtain rings the nurse yanked the hospital curtain behind Booth's bed out to full extension, moving to next pull across the one between their beds.
'I'm sorry.' She whispered, never averting her eyes away from Booth, feeling a hot tear drip down her jaw onto her arm. The curtain was ruthlessly whipped shut, cutting him off from her sights. The connection broken, a ship cut loose from its mooring and cast out into a rough sea, her mind whirled from all that had transpired.

She had taken for granted that Booth would be the same man he always was when he woke back up. Even in the deep sleep of his coma she had gazed at his face, seeing the same gentle features that had smiled at her, cared for her, imagining them animated and loving once more. But, just as she felt exhausted, pushed past the brink by this final assault on her body, this must have also been the final straw that broke Booth's unwavering patience. Her heart shrivelled as she melted back into her bed, wishing it would engulf her ungrateful body away from the world. What she had taken for nobility was truly stupidity, an insult to the tireless work that Booth had put into locating her, rescuing her, and finally sacrificing himself to ensure she was protected.

As long as I'm keeping you safe, you will never have to worry about being unwanted. He had told her as she clung to him, shivering in his embrace in the dank darkness of the warehouse, willing to provide her with anything that she needed to be safe. She had entrusted herself to his care, care he was so willing to give. But then to betray that, to throw his aid back in his face by refusing to recover when health was finally an attainable goal, was unforgiveable. She didn't deserve that unwavering faith; she could not blame him for backing away from her now. Keeping someone safe relied upon them being willing to be saved, and her stubbornness had got in the way of this submission, this one simple task that she needed to do in order to be granted Booth's undying protection. She didn't deserve to be wanted anymore, not when she couldn't reciprocate the love that Booth selflessly gave her.

Love. He had told her, finally put into words the years of dancing, of skirting the issue which electrified their relationship. Did he even remember those final words, the sentiments he was so desperate to share in the throes of death? It didn't seem that way. Maybe it was better that way, less complicated if he wanted to sever ties with her. Not that she would let it come to that confrontation, no, she would not make him lower himself to have to spell it out to her. Instinctively she knew that it was best to just go, to back out quietly and unobtrusively; probably from a childhood of being that unwanted child, learning from experience that it was often better for her to take refuge in her room with a book rather than bother the reams of apathetic parents she was shuffled between. It would be hard, so very hard, to extract herself from this man; he was one of a select few she had permitted herself to become close to. To disentangle herself from Booth would take effort, would wrench her heart. She longed to break down at the prospect, to cry, to drop the draining masks of emotional disinterest and incapability; but now nurses were swarming in her room again, preparing to take her away to test for the cause of her crippling pain. Later, perhaps, when she was alone, she could indulge this weakness. But for now she was Temperance Brennan, world renowned forensic anthropologist and author, recognisable by her steely professionalism and limited by emotional incapability. Limited.

Another step in the slow development of Brennan into a human beyond the genius we know and love. Brace yourselves, though, for the most colossal of misunderstandings between our lovers-to-be-if-I-don't-go-into-another-writer-coma. I want to move away from the mental stuff a little, I know it can be a bit of a saga to get through and digest, but since so much has happened it kind of feels contrived to make anything else go on. But I'll figure something out, if you have a suggestion let me know!

I've missed hearing from you lovelies, so send off a review if that tickles your fancy! I'll try to update sooner, but for me quality is a big thing, so I'm not going to churn out something quickly if I think it sucks (Exhibit A, above). Everyone who reviews is overwhelmingly wonderful, so if I've never replied or thanked you this is my official THANK YOU SO MUCH for your kind, kind words.