Disclaimer: Still don't own 'Bones' or anything related to it.
Author's Note: Apologies for how long it's taken to post this but first the holidays and then classes starting again got in the way. As always, thank you to all of you who've read and reviewed and added this to your favorites list. You guys are the best.
Learning About Love
Chapter 4: Willing to Learn
Brennan knocked on Booth's door and then waited, shifting the box of Wong Foo's in her arms. She'd decided, on impulse, to stop off at Wong Foo's to get food first and she'd brought the case folder for what they'd managed to find from Gary Shelton's remains, out of a vague idea that she could use it as an excuse—or something—if it didn't go well.
She had never been so nervous in her life.
Even defending her dissertation, she'd been calm and confident that her research and her work was as good as she could get it.
Now, though, she was nervous, her heart beating erratically.
It seemed like an eternity, although rationally she knew it was probably about a minute, before the door opened.
Booth's eyes flickered from her face down to the box of Wong Foo's and the folder from the Jeffersonian lying on top of it and then back up again. "What are you doing here?"
Not the most welcoming question in the world but she took a breath and continued. "I- I wanted to talk to you. I brought dinner," she added inanely. "Can I come in?"
For one terrible second, she thought he would say no, thought he might just close the door in her face—but then he stepped back silently.
"What more do you know about Gary Shelton?" he asked abruptly.
"He- he suffered multiple blows to his head and upper torso and the likelihood is that he was left to bleed to death. Zach is working on trying to identify the weapon or weapons used to inflict the blows," she answered automatically, putting down the box of food and hesitating a little before she looked up at him. "Booth, I didn't come here to talk about work."
He visibly stiffened. "Brennan," he began, his voice curt, but she cut him off, interrupting him.
"I'm sorry, Booth! I'm sorry for what I did and what I said. I- it was a mistake and I should never have done it."
He sighed, passing his hand over his face in a weary gesture. "Look, Bo—Brennan," he corrected himself hastily and she felt her heart give a painful leap at his near-slip. He'd almost called her Bones. That had to mean something, right?
"Call me Bones," she blurted out, on impulse. He would understand that for what it truly meant, wouldn't he?
He stopped, staring at her and she met his gaze, for once not trying to hide anything but simply letting him see all he might be able to read from her expression—whatever there was to see. He was the people person, after all, and he… he understood her.
Booth simply looked at her, seeing all her sincerity and her regret and something warmer still in her eyes, and felt the last remnants of the wall he'd been trying to build around his heart crumble into nothing. Even if part of him was still wary, even if part of him still told him he shouldn't, he knew he was going to give in, knew he was going to forgive her—no, already had forgiven her. It was a foregone conclusion. Irrational and insane as it might be, he couldn't resist her, couldn't stay angry at her for long.
These past couple days had been some of the longest and hardest of his life. If he'd thought his gambling addiction had been strong, he'd realized that his addiction to her was even stronger. He didn't know how many times he'd picked up his cell intending to call her only to forcibly stop himself—and then when he'd gotten the information about the body found in Shenandoah, his heart had leaped involuntarily and he'd had to delay calling her until he'd managed to work up his anger and his hurt again. But, God, it had been so hard! So hard not to talk to her and tease her so he could see her smile, so hard not to touch her, so hard not to try to help her (even when he knew she didn't need help, it was hard)… And as for what it had felt like to call her Dr. Brennan, hard wasn't the word for it. He'd known it would hurt her and even in his own heartbreak, it hurt him to hurt her.
He really was pathetic, he thought a little grimly. But the fact remained that he couldn't resist her. Temperance Brennan was his weakness; she'd gotten under his skin and into his heart and now he couldn't get her out. She was Bones, his Bones, and he… he loved her…
He sat down beside her on the couch, although he was careful to keep some space between them. "Bones," he said, briefly, acknowledging her. Just the one word but she felt herself relax, immeasurably comforted.
"Booth, I- I want to explain why I did what I did that night."
"Okay, explain," he said a little curtly and she wondered if she was imagining that he'd just moved further away from her, wedging himself more tightly in the corner of the couch.
Brennan let out a breath. She wasn't good at emotional, relationship-related conversations; wasn't good with emotions and relationships in general. She was a scientist; science made sense to her, was what she was comfortable with. This- this was not scientific. And she wasn't used to talking about emotions or relationships with anyone besides Angela and even then, it didn't really come naturally.
"I- I'm not good with relationships, Booth, and- and we've gotten to be friends. Haven't we?"
"Yeah, Bones, we're friends," he said, rather gruffly.
"It's not that I don't want emotional connections with people; I understand that it's important but… but it's just… I- I have a hard time connecting…" she trailed off. "My- my head just doesn't cooperate with my heart, I guess."
She paused, studying the floor, while she tried to think of words. She hated how inarticulate she felt in situations like this. She was a smart, articulate woman, a best-selling author—and yet, when it came to things like this, to human things, she was reduced to this, stammering and incoherence, and she hated it. It's why she tried to avoid situations like this, why she tried to keep everything rational. But this—this wasn't rational. Not much to do with Seeley Booth had ever been rational and she didn't know how to put into words something she didn't quite understand herself.
She finally looked back up at him to see him watching her, his gaze steady and warm and calming, somehow, and she realized, suddenly, how very familiar that look was. It was the look he gave her whenever he listened to her talk about anything personal, the look he gave her when they were talking about her parents and Russ… It suddenly struck her how much she'd shared with him. She'd told him things she'd never really imagined telling anyone…
"The last case about Heather made me realize just how close we'd gotten and I think… I got scared," she finally admitted.
Something flashed in his eyes and he leaned forward a little. "I'd never hurt you."
"I wasn't scared of you," she corrected him. "I was scared of… me."
The slightest hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "That's the least rational thing I've ever heard you say, Bones."
"I mean… I'm not good with relationships. I've never really had a long-standing relationship. I thought… Michael might be…"
His face darkened at the mention of Michael Stires and she blinked a little. "He was a jackass," he clipped out.
A small laugh bubbled out of her, surprising her, at that flat statement. "Well, he wasn't always but… he was the closest I ever got and you know how that turned out. So when I- I thought about you, I just got scared. I tried to rationalize it and thought it would go away."
He sat up straight, retreating from her just that little bit.
Brennan lowered her eyes to the floor again. She didn't know how to look at him as she went on, suddenly remembering what Angela had said about just telling him she cared about him and then jumping him. That wasn't going to happen—but it was suddenly tempting. "I told you the truth that night when I said I was-am- attracted to you. But I- I lied when I said it would only be sex."
She heard him suck in his breath sharply but didn't look up at him. This was it. She needed to tell him now. "Booth, I- I care about you," she blurted out. "You've become my best friend along with Angela and- and you're important to me. I- I hate knowing that I hurt you…" She trailed off, knowing her words had been inadequate but she had no more words.
He didn't respond for what felt like an endless amount of time although she knew, rationally, that it was probably only a minute or so, and she was beginning to wonder what more she could say, what more she needed to say, when she felt his hand touch her cheek.
He cupped her cheek with one hand, gently turning her face until she had to meet his eyes, could see the expression on his face.
"Bones, it's okay," he said very softly. "I'm not going anywhere."
It was completely irrational but somehow it was only then, when he forgave her and she could see it in his eyes, that she felt the tears come. She wasn't sure whether she made the first move or whether he did but it didn't matter; all that mattered was that she was in his arms and he was holding her as she clung to him.
And just like before, the last time he'd hugged her like this, she felt herself reacting, her body softening, molding to his, as she inhaled the familiar scent of him. But this time, she obeyed the impulses of her body and turned her head to touch her lips lightly to his neck.
He stiffened at the touch and she went on, pressing slow kisses to his neck and up along his jaw until he gave a muffled groan and pulled her in tighter against him as he turned his head so his lips could meet hers.
It wasn't a gentle kiss; it was from the first a hard, heated melding of lips and tongues, as their tongues dueled for dominance, an equal exchange of desire and passion. She'd wondered… if they would be as physically compatible as their interactions suggested… and now she knew… they definitely were…
The thought drifted through her mind and then out of it and she gave up the attempt to think, for once. Stopped cataloging her body's responses, forgot the science of arousal. There was only him, his lips and his tongue and his mouth and his hands roaming over her back, sliding under her shirt to touch her bare skin until she shivered and pressed herself against him…
And then he gentled the kiss, his lips softening, one of his hands sliding up to cup her head, tilting it to allow him better access. A shred of something like coherence returned and she vaguely realized that he was telling her with his kiss that this was more than just physical passion. His touch was… tender… and she suddenly wondered if she'd ever known tenderness from any of her lovers before, only to know that she hadn't.
Sex had always been about satisfying simple biological urges and nothing more. Michael had been the closest she'd ever gotten to a real relationship out of bed and even with him, it had been a competition between them. Booth was different; Booth was more…
He finally ended the kiss with palpable reluctance, allowing them both to catch their breaths, but even then, his lips didn't leave her skin, skating along the line of her jaw and down her throat until she gasped and moaned, feeling liquid heat flood her body.
"Bones," he groaned. "God, Bones, you—tell me… this is real…"
"It's real," she gasped, turning her head to kiss his ear, his cheek, his chin. "Let's go to bed, Booth," she breathed into his ear.
He groaned again just before his lips caught hers in another searing, thought-stealing kiss.
"You have no idea," he told her huskily, "just how many times I've dreamed of hearing you say that."
She gave him a small, half-flirtatious smile. "Well, then, what are you waiting for?"
She climbed off of him and stood up, tugging him with her, as he pulled her into his arms to kiss her again.
They stumbled blindly towards his bedroom, still kissing, shedding items of clothing as they went…
She must have dozed because Brennan regained consciousness gradually, aware of the pervasive sense of well-being almost weighting her down.
"Booth?" she mumbled only to be met with silence and when her hand reached out, it only found his sheets and she finally opened her eyes to confirm that, yes, she was alone in Booth's bed.
She frowned, amazed at the intensity of her disappointment, although she could hear some faint sounds from outside the room that told her where he was and the sheets still retained some suggestion of his warmth so he couldn't have been gone long.
She grimaced a little at her own illogical reaction and turned over, sitting up in bed, keeping the sheet tucked securely over her breasts. She felt as if every inch of her body had been imprinted with him, by him, his lips and his hands and his body—and for once, she didn't mind the feeling.
She relaxed further against the pillow, a small, satisfied smile playing on her lips before she heard his step and a moment later, Booth appeared in the room, holding a tray in his hands.
He had just pulled on his boxers and she felt a small shiver of anticipation go through her at the sight of his bare chest. He really was the most beautiful specimen of a man…
"You're awake, good. I got hungry and then I remembered that you brought food," he said giving her a charm smile.
She smiled involuntarily—his charm smile always had that effect on her and she only hoped he didn't notice.
He slid gingerly onto the bed until he was sitting beside her, his back propped up against the headboard, before he lowered the tray to rest on his lap. "Eat up, Bones."
She was, she realized, hungry too and the room was silent for the next few minutes as they both ate.
Later, after Booth had lowered the tray onto the floor and then resumed his former position, she let herself lean against him, one hand resting on his chest as he slipped his arm around her shoulders, tucking her in closer against his side.
"I love you."
He said the words quietly, not as if he were making some sort of declaration, but as if he were only putting into words a truth she already knew.
She stiffened a little. "I- I know," she finally said, lamely.
She both heard and felt his sigh and hastened to continue, even as part of her wondered when she'd become this person who hated to know that he was hurt. She'd always been satisfied to simply tell the truth as she knew it to be, believed the truth was more important than telling people what they wanted to hear—but somehow, with him, truth mattered less to her than not hurting him. "I- I care about you, Booth, you know that. You're my best friend and I- I don't want to hurt you."
"But you still didn't say it."
She hesitated but then admitted, "I- I can't, Booth. I know I care about you and I want to be with you but I don't know if that's love, don't know if I'm even capable of that sort of love." She paused, dropping her hand from where it had been resting on his chest and straightening up so she was no longer leaning against him—at least, straightening up as much as she could with his arm still around her. "I'm sorry, Booth. Are you sure you want this, to be with me? I- I don't do relationships, not really, and you- you should--"
He cut her words off with a kiss, a kiss that was long enough and forceful enough to empty her head completely and leave her blinking at him when he finally pulled back.
"No, Bones, don't say that," he said—well, ordered, really. "I love you and I'm not going anywhere. Just don't run away from me, Bones, don't run away from us. And for the relationship thing, you can learn. I don't think there's anything you couldn't learn once you put your mind to it," he said, with a smile.
"Dr. Goodman once told me I had a disturbingly steep learning curve," she responded slowly, half-absently.
"See? So you'll learn. Some things are more than just the sum of their parts."
Booth suppressed a sigh, even as he smiled a little, brushing his lips against her forehead. Of course she had to question him. He tried to say something profound and still she questioned him. Naturally. This was Bones after all and she did like to have the last word. And he loved her for it. It occurred to Booth that he had problems.
He thought for a moment. More than just the sum of their parts?
"Like people, Bones. People are more than just the sum of their parts. Even if you assemble all 206 bones-" he saw her smile and paused. "What?"
"I didn't know you knew how many bones were in the human body."
"Do you think I never listen when you and the squints talk?"
She shrugged one shoulder, the sheet slipping down a little further, distracting him so he had to forcibly pull his mind back to what he'd been saying.
"Even if you assemble the skeleton and have all the tissue and cartilage and muscle and skin and organs and blood that make up the parts of a human body, that doesn't make it a person; it doesn't give it life. You know that, Bones." (In some detached corner of his mind, Booth reflected that with no other woman in the world would he use an analogy involving bones, organs and blood to explain something like love, but this was his Bones and she was nothing if not unique.) "A person is made up of more than that; they're made up of their personalities, their beliefs, all those things that make a person unique. People are more than just the sum of their parts, Bones. And so is love. You can try to reduce it down to the chemicals in our brain but that doesn't explain it all."
She was silent for a moment, mulling it over; he could see her thinking about it and allowed himself a small, tender smile at how familiar the expression was. "You're right, Booth. That makes sense."
He grinned, feeling the usual surge of triumph he always felt whenever she said anything complimentary. One word from her meant more to him than a speech from anyone else, except for Parker.
She poked him in the chest lightly with one finger. "You don't have to look so smug about it," she scolded but her tone was mild and a smile was tugging on her lips, glowing in her eyes.
"Dr. Temperance Brennan just told me I was right about something. Of course I'm going to look smug," he responded, only half-teasingly.
She laughed—God, he loved to see her laugh—and he gave in to the impulse he'd felt every time he'd seen her laugh in the past few months and kissed her, soundly, kissing the smile from her lips until all thought of amusement vanished and there was only her, the warmth of her, the taste of her…
And his last coherent thought was that he would rather have Bones, complicated and stubborn and brilliant and challenging as she was, than anyone else in the world. He didn't need the romantic declarations, didn't need to hear the words, 'I love you'; all he needed was her, his Bones, and he was somehow sure things would be fine.
Author's Note 2: This isn't quite done yet! I do have an Epilogue planned (although at the moment, it only exists in my head, so it might take a while to post it, especially as classes have started so I've got less time to write than ever). Thanks, as always, for reading and please, please review and give me something more fun to read than my textbooks.