Disclaimer: 'Bones' belongs to Fox and Hart Hanson & Co (and somehow they don't seem inclined to sell it to me.)
Author's Note: I imagine this fic to take place sometime between Season 1 and Season 2 (because I wanted it to be before the advent of Cam.) Just an idea that came into my head and refused to leave until I wrote it out. I tried to make it in-character for Brennan but you can be the judge of my success on that front. At this point, I plan for this fic to be 4 chapters, plus an Epilogue.
This first chapter might seem a little choppy but all the little scenes and bits of dialogue kept coming and just wouldn't leave so I had to put it all in and wasn't entirely successful at connecting them together.
Learning About Love
Chapter 1: Foundations
Brennan knocked sharply on Booth's door, waited, but didn't hear anything. He had to be home at this hour of the morning, couldn't still be asleep, surely. Maybe he was in the shower?
She raised her hand again intending to hit the door with her palm but before she could, the door opened and instead of touching wood, her palm flattened on firm, warm flesh.
He had clearly just shrugged into his shirt.
He stiffened, sucking in his breath, at her touch and for a fleeting second, she didn't move, forgot where she was, forgot what she'd come here to tell him, could only stare at the muscled expanse of his chest and her hand, that looked very pale and delicate against his solid chest. She could only stare, conscious of the heat of him and the nearness of him and of her own sudden wish to move her hand, caress his chest…
But only for a moment and then she collected herself, mentally shaking herself, and snatching her hand away as if she'd been burned. (She knew it was irrational but she could almost swear she still felt the heat of his skin lingering on her fingers.)
"Sorry," she said quickly, not daring to look at him. "I just thought of something and decided to stop on my way to the lab."
He silently stepped back to allow her inside and she hurried on, suddenly unwilling to let silence linger and trying to pull her mind away from the sight of his chest—and her own, unwilling, instinctive reaction to it.
"Heather Costello didn't run away," she said flatly.
He paused in buttoning up his shirt. "How do you know that? The story checked out. She was unhappy and ran away, taking most of her things with her."
Brennan whirled around to face him, forgetting the earlier moment of awkwardness. "The picture, Booth, the picture on the wall by her bed. She'd never have run away without that picture." She paused and then went on, the words almost spilling out of her, her tone betraying more emotion than even she realized. "It was all she had of her past, her family. Would she ever have left that behind? I know she wouldn't have. People don't do that; they hoard and treasure what little they have and she'd never have left without that picture."
"Then Sidwell's lying or his wife's lying," he answered, finishing her thought automatically even as his heart ached for her, for the shadows under her eyes and the pain in them. He knew this was a hard case for her, the victim was a 16-year-old girl in foster-care who had, according to her foster parents, disappeared a couple months ago never to be heard from again until someone had found her decomposing body, shallowly buried at the edge of a park. He wanted to hug her but didn't dare. She wouldn't welcome it now, he could see; she was firmly in her professional mode. "I'll go talk to some of the neighbors. Someone might have seen or noticed if Sidwell was home that afternoon," he told her.
She nodded. "I'll be in the lab."
He nodded as he let her out. "I'll call you, Bones," he promised.
"Thanks," she said, flicking her gaze up to his eyes before she left.
He watched her go before he hurriedly finished dressing, filled with a jolt of energy now that they finally had something to look into for this case. They had something to work with now. Heather Costello hadn't run away from her foster parents and then been murdered. Something else had happened. And Booth had the grim sense that he knew what. Only Hank Sidwell had had the opportunity to fake a runaway by throwing most of Heather's things out, probably in some public dump where it would never be found again. The question was whether he'd killed her first or if he'd somehow threatened her to make her run…
"We know what you did," Booth said coldly as he shouldered his way into the house, Bones beside him.
"What? You're crazy. I'd never--" he began but Booth could see the guilt in his eyes as they started shifting, looking frantically for a way to escape, a moment before Sidwell broke and ran.
Or tried to. He hadn't counted on Bones and she was too quick for him, grabbing his arm and twisting it behind him with that strength that was so surprising to those who didn't know her and then finished him with a kick to the groin.
Booth fastened the handcuffs on the man, prodding him none too gently out of the house and into the back seat.
He paused to look at Bones who was watching stonily, her expression hard and yet with a terrible grief mingled with anger burning in her eyes. He'd had the strong suspicion that Bones had once been abused in some way by one of her foster parents; her reaction to Heather's situation had been too strong, too personal, and she'd had a harder time of distancing herself. And now he was sure of it. That look in her eyes was so bleak, so raw, he was suddenly sure she was seeing and remembering someone else, something in the part of her past she never liked to talk of. (He fought back his automatic wave of fury at that unknown person; it was pointless and, at any rate, his concern for her easily pushed aside his anger on her behalf.)
He flinched and moved closer to her. He wanted to put his arms around her but this was neither the time nor the place so instead he settle for teasing, trying to gently tease her out of her bleak mood. "Do you want to borrow my gun?" And he was secure in asking because he knew her answer. Whatever else she might do, Temperance Brennan would never shoot a man who was already helpless, handcuffed.
He waited, hardly daring to breathe, before she let out a breath and looked at him. She didn't smile but her expression had eased, was still somber but no longer so frighteningly immobile. "No, thanks for the offer."
And he breathed again, his chest filling with sharp, poignant emotion. She was his Bones again.
He put his hand on the small of her back. "Let's get this over with."
And they did.
He dropped Bones off at the Jeffersonian and then put Sidwell into custody and the man broke and admitted everything in a remarkably short time, how he'd hit Heather and how she'd fallen so her head struck the sharp edge of the bed-frame, killing her almost instantly, and how he'd gotten rid of the body and then made it look like she'd run away by throwing most of her clothes into a trash bag and throwing it into a public trash dump out of the way.
It was over.
Brennan started at the sound of the knock on her door, hastily swiping at her eyes before she opened the door to see Booth, his arms full of a box of Wong Foo's.
"Booth, what are you doing here?" she asked, sternly suppressing the flare of gladness in her heart.
"I stopped by at the lab but Angela said you'd gone home and I figured you might not have eaten dinner yet. Besides," he added, giving her a charm smile, "I'm hungry."
She had to fight to keep from smiling in return, even as she stepped back to let him in.
It was only because she was hungry, she told herself. She was hungry and the smells from the box were making her mouth water. It was only the food, nothing to do with the man who'd brought it.
She knew the moment he saw the picture of Heather which she'd been looking at. She hastily grabbed the picture and put it away, back into the case folder and was thankful when he didn't pry.
But of course he wouldn't. She wasn't sure when it had happened but Booth always seemed to understand when she really didn't want to talk about something and knew when to distract her, or tease her, or even deliberately bait her into thinking about something else.
And as she'd almost expected, he kept the conversation light, inconsequential, as they ate and it was only later, once they'd finished, and a brief silence had fallen that he finally said, "Sidwell admitted everything. He was home that afternoon and he hit her and she fell, hitting her head on the edge of the bedframe."
"The trauma to her skull indicates that she was hit more than once," Bones said flatly.
Booth flinched. He hadn't wanted to tell her the rest. "Yeah. Sidwell admitted to punching her repeatedly and then even after she'd hit her head. He- he admitted to being drunk and then when he sobered up and realized what he'd done…"
"He panicked and he made it look as if she'd run away, dumping her things somewhere and then her body where we found her," Brennan finished.
"Yeah. Just like you'd predicted." He paused and then added, softly, "It's over, Bones. Heather Costello can rest in peace now."
She didn't say anything for a moment and then, finally, she said, "She was so young, Booth… And the Sidwells were supposed to take care of her…"
There was another pause, another silence.
"I'm going to pay for Heather to have a proper funeral."
"That's… nice, Bones. Really nice."
"No one else was going to do it and Heather Costello deserves that much at least. A funeral might be a rather archaic ceremony but it still symbolizes closure, a final farewell and tribute to the deceased," Brennan said with an attempt at sounding coolly rational that failed.
He didn't say anything, only looked at her somberly, his eyes warm and understanding and knowing, as if somehow he knew why she'd reacted so personally and so strongly to Heather's story. And something about that look in his eyes made her admit something which she'd never told anyone else, had never even thought she would tell anyone else, and if she'd thought about it, probably still would not have told but her mouth opened and she found herself blurting out the words, almost against her own volition. "They hit me at one of those homes. It was the third one I'd been to in a year and the father drank, not that often, but when he had bad days and when he drank, he'd hit me. His son was older and not home but I was an easy target." She let out a shuddering breath, almost the first sign of emotion in what had otherwise been a very stark, emotionless confession. "That was when I decided to learn martial arts. I was helpless and I never wanted to be helpless again. I learned martial arts and then how to shoot as soon as I got to college so I'd always be able to fight, always be able to defend myself. I told myself I'd never be helpless again."
Booth's hand had clenched into a fist at her first words, filled with a depth of rage he'd never felt before at the thought of anyone hitting a young Temperance. He wanted to shoot the damn bastard who'd done it, wanted to kill him for hurting his Bones even so many years ago. To abuse a child… it was heinous.
"Heather… was helpless. And she had no one to protect her…" Brennan swiped angrily at the tears in her eyes. She didn't want to cry, not now, not anymore. "Someone should have protected her…" Her voice trembled a little in spite of all her efforts to control it and then before she'd realized what he was about to do, he'd moved and had pulled her into his arms for a hug.
And even though she'd long ago stopped expecting comfort in the few times when she cried, at that moment, she couldn't help but cling to him, her arms curling around his neck as she buried her face in his shoulder. For just a moment, she let herself enjoy the solid strength of him, enjoy the comfort of his presence and the belief, illogical as it was, that his shoulders were broad enough to shoulder the weight of her troubles… It felt so good to be held, to have someone's—no, to have his—arms around her, the inexplicable and irrational comfort of a touch.
But it was only a moment before comfort slowly turned into something else, a dawning awareness of just how close they were, with his arms holding her against the length of his body. It felt good to be held but what had been merely comforting had become pleasurable in an entirely different way. He'd taken off his jacket soon after he arrived and she could feel the muscles of his back and shoulders; the heat of his skin seemed to burn her through the thin material of his dress shirt and her own shirt. She could feel her body heating, softening, molding itself to his, was suddenly, intensely aware of the fact that her breasts were flattened against the hard planes of his chest… She wanted to let her hands move, explore the taut muscles of his back. She wanted to turn her head and touch her lips to his neck, taste his skin…
That awareness galvanized her into action and she pushed him away, twisting away from him with a motion so abrupt it was almost violent.
"I'm okay now, Booth," she hastily said, busying herself with clearing up the remains of their dinner to avoid looking at him. "Really, I'll be fine."
She wasn't looking at him but she could almost swear she somehow sensed the look of surprise and burgeoning hurt he gave her, except that was impossible. How could she possibly know how he was looking at her when she wasn't even looking at him? Clearly she'd spent too much time with Ange and with him if she started imagining such things.
"Thanks for dinner," she went on rather hurriedly. "And thank Sid for me too, next time you see him. Or I'll thank him when I see him next, whichever comes first." She was aware that she was essentially talking nonsense but she was too nervous to be quiet, too nervous and too aware of him.
Clearly it had been too long since she'd had sex or her body wouldn't be so sensitive. It was just a natural thing, to be seeking out those elevated levels of serotonin in the brain that made a person feel pleasure. That and the fact that Booth was present and a personable male.
That was all it was.
Her natural biological instincts were asserting themselves.
Satisfied that she'd managed to reduce her inconvenient reactions to him to what they were, she glanced at him to see him shrugging back into his jacket, having clearly taken the hint that it was time for this little interlude to end.
Ridiculously, she knew a swift pang of something very like regret—regret that he was leaving (although she'd decided it was time he left) and regret, too, that he had put his jacket back on, disguising some of the strength of his form.
He looked up at her and she hoped desperately that her expression was its usual, coolly detached one.
"See you later, Bones."
"Bye," she said as he headed for the door.
But at the last moment, just before he stepped through the door, some compulsion made her rush forward. "Booth."
He paused and glanced back. "Yeah, Bones?"
She had no idea. She didn't know why she'd called him back. She thought frantically and finally settled for asking, lamely, "Will you be coming to Heather's funeral tomorrow?"
A flicker of confusion crossed his face. Understandably, given the inanity of the question. "Of course."
Stupid, Temperance! She managed a small smile. "Okay, good. Thanks, Booth."
She reached around him to open the door, trying to pretend she wasn't aware of the warmth from his body.
He stepped outside and turned to give her a last quick smile. "See you, Bones."
She watched him go for a long moment, before she realized what she was doing, staring after a man like some teenage girl with a crush, and then shut her door so firmly it was almost a slam.
That was Booth, her partner and her friend, but nothing more.
~To be continued…
A/N 2: Booth wants you to make me happy by leaving a review… Really, he does… Ok, so maybe he doesn't, but I'm sure he would if he knew how happy reviews make me. Please?