The Woman in Limbo

She's been quiet, her expression alternating between confusion too strong to become anger, though she's trying, and this expression of resigned, utter sadness, like all those Pieta Madonnas my grandmother had hanging in every room in her house. Except none of those Madonnas looked quite as sad or as beautiful as Bones. It'll lift for a bit while we're actively talking about specific facts she can pay attention to, follow up questions she can ask, pieces of the puzzle we can put back together, but as soon as we're at a stalling point, waiting until we can gather the next fact, find the next lead, she falls back into a reverie-- sitting at her desk, staring off into space, or looking out the window in the car as we drive somewhere.

Her confusion that's trying to be anger breaks through a bit, and I'm hoping that's good. The way she belted Russ, made him tell her what he remembered when they were little-- that's definitely good. It's productive, and it snaps her out of it a bit, but now we're standing in the barn of a murderous pig farmer in witness protection full of venomous lies and I want to do nothing more than rip his throat out for making that look of sadness turn into one of betrayal. She doesn't believe him about her mom running off with him, that much is clear-- but the shock that her mother would willingly know him-- and it's clear that he was, he knows too much about them to deny it-- it's too much for her.

So I let the lying sack of shit walk away. I know where he is now, what he looks like-- I can deal with him later. It's more important that she stop questioning who she is-- those tears of hers are killing me. She doesn't know the whole story, we don't know the whole story, and yes, she's right that so much of what happened when she was a kid is upended-- but that doesn't take away from all the things she's achieved since then, who she's made herself into.

I know who you are. Hey. I know. It's okay. Shh. It's gonna be alright.

She doesn't even hesitate when I hug her, though she's never really let me before, and she feels as small and tired and scared as she did that time with Kenton. I keep repeating myself, because it's true-- I know who she is, now. She can be whoever she wants, no matter who her parents were or are. Finally, she gets some kind of control over her breathing and looks away, ashamed at losing control in front of me. As if being upset at finding out your whole childhood was a lie isn't enough reason to cry.

It takes forever to get back to D.C., the traffic's ridiculous, and by the time we finally get to the beltway it's past dinner and we haven't had any calls from the squints anyway. Without asking, I take her back to her place-- she's hardly said a word the whole time we've been driving-- just sitting there with her elbow propped in the windowframe, chin in her hand as those blue eyes of hers glitter with tears she refuses to continue to shed in front of me. Though I wish she'd just let go around me, I know that this is part of who she thinks she is, who she wants to be, too-- someone who's strong enough to take any hit and keep going. But unlike everyone else, she never gives herself a little time to rest, to think about how she's been hurt, before she keeps going. Even tough guys take R & R.

When I pull up to her place, she doesn't argue when I say I'll come up to order her something-- she just nods, that sad look now full of the strongest, worst look of betrayal I've ever seen in my life. And who wouldn't feel that way, really? But it makes my heart hurt to see how in the space of a two hour drive all the anger has drained from her, the furious version of that spark in her eyes when she's feeling annoyed or just feisty gone dim.

But there's nothing I can do until morning when we get back to the lab-- no concrete way to make her feel better and encourage her that we'll find the answers. Because no matter what the answers are, there are some truths that won't change. Her parents are criminals who endangered her and her brother by associating with scumbags like McVicker, no matter what remorse and attempts to break free came later, and her brother abandoned her, knowing at least some of the truth, and let her live with what he knew was a lie. Maybe he thought it would be better that way, but I find it hard to believe. Even as a kid, I'm sure Bones had to know everything, asked a million questions about what and why and what next-- even then, I'm sure facts and truth were important to her. If Russ knew her at all, he'd have told her-- at least after she was an adult and could make her own decisions about how to deal with it. He could've found a way to tell her. But instead, she's got to revise her whole childhood in the space of a few days, and figure out who killed her mother and how.

So I pay for the food, crack her a beer that I know damned well she won't drink and ask her what she wants to eat first. She's going to want to pretend like everything's normal.

"Whatever," she says, her resignation shading to apathy. My Bones-- apathetic. One word I never thought I'd use to describe her. I make her a plate, just a few bites of each. I know she probably won't have more than a few bites-- she didn't that first night when I brought all that food over-- but some food is better than nothing.

She gives me an absent thanks, a dull look on her face, and absently chews a bite or two as her eyes threaten to spill a fresh torrent of tears. Christ, she'd killing me here. She gives up after not too much longer, so I put my own plate down, trying to find some words to comfort her.

"This isn't over yet, Temperance. We don't know all of what we're going to find. There's still some story left that may well provide a reason why..." I begin, and she just gives me this look-- like I can't even fathom what she's feeling.

I can't. I've had more than my own share of things to deal with, but they were always straightforward, comparatively. The whys weren't hard to guess at, even as much as the results hurt, or were problems of my own making. It's all still better than being hurt, and being unable to grasp why it happened in the first place. There's no good reason for what she's going through, no matter what we find out.

Her mind's running along the same track.

"The why can hardly change what we already know. They... they consorted with that … man … what kind of people do that, even if they regret it later? He's so... so … evil. They couldn't possibly have missed that, made a mistake and thought he was just some simple criminal. What else did they lie about?"

She shakes her head, and a tear or two spills from her eyes. She squeezes them shut, and when she opens them again they're still pooling, glimmering, waiting for that slightest provocation to break free. She takes what looks like a long, painful swallow of beer, then walks to her window, looking into the darkness.

I join her, not really sure what to do. It kills me, seeing her cry, but at the same time I know she's close to a breaking point-- and as much as she'd hate to do it in front of me, she's never been anything but rock solid in front of her squints. At least with me she's let me see her when she's felt vulnerable, and yet hasn't clobbered me or thrown me out on my ear.

I'm more than a bit lost for words. No one deserves this, especially not her. So I try to hug her again, and this time she turns her head into my shoulder, letting me put my arms all the way around her. Her small hands make their own way around me, and she breathes into my shirt, raggedly. We're standing there, I don't really know how long, and I can feel the front of my shirt getting wet, although of course she's one of those silent criers, which makes me feel even worse.

"I'm not gonna say it's going to be alright, Bones, because it sucks big-time right now, but if nothing else you've got to remember that you're your own person, and who you are now has only to do with all the smart and brave things that you've done on your own. That's still the same, no matter what else we find."

She just exhales, this long wavering sigh, so I squeeze her again, then rub my hand on her back when she makes no move to let go. I don't know how long we've been standing there when she finally sobs aloud, her whole chest contorting with the strength of it.

"Oh, Bones," I say, continuing to hold her as she sobs again, each one so forceful and choking I wonder how she can breathe. So I rub her back even harder, tell her she's not alone and she has all the squints and me and now Russ who all want good things for her, and that we all know she's our fierce, brilliant Bones no matter what, but she's crying so hard now I'm not really sure she hears what I'm saying. Finally, she sobs so hard her knees buckle, but fortunately I'm already holding her so firmly that I catch her before she can get anywhere.

I debate for a second. I shouldn't be going anywhere near her bedroom, not one inch further than the bathroom which is right next door and into I have studiously avoided taking so much as a peek, but if I can get her calmed down and ready to sleep then it's better if I don't have to move her around too much once she drifts off. Decision made, I head to her room, find her bed, and sit at the edge, holding her across my lap so I can keep as much contact between us as possible. This is bad, I want her too much, but I just can't stand seeing her feel so alone either.

"Shh, Bones, shh, sweetheart, don't cry so hard," I try, rocking her a bit as she seems to cry out every bit of suppressed bit of feeling abandoned for the last fifteen years all at once. "You didn't do anything to deserve any of this, and you're too smart and too brave and too all sorts of good things to let this get the better of you, hmm?"

She sobs again, hiccuping, then speaks for the first time since she thanked me for the food she had no intention of eating. "I'm not... I'm not lovable... and they didn't stay because I'm not... and Russ didn't... and nobody wanted me after... I don't know why, but I'm not... and...nobody wants me..." and then breaks into a fresh spate of crying.

I grab her chin and make her look at me, so pissed off at everyone else that what I say next comes out a little more hotly than I intended, but it seems to get the point across.

"You. Are. Wanted. People. Love. You. Angela. Loves. You. All. The. Squints. Love. You. I. Love. You."

And then, because I can't stand to see that lost look in her eyes I grab the back of her head and crash my lips onto hers and kiss her until she's kissing me back. She's still got tears welling out of her eyes, but at least she's not sobbing any more, so I turn and sit her on the bed and start covering her with hard, sucking kisses, hoping to get through to her that she's vital and lovable and strong and all sorts of things that anyone who knows her at all would never question.

By the time I've gotten her undressed, she's gasping and writhing under my mouth, which is a hell of a lot better than how hard she's been crying, so I keep kissing her and stroking her hard with my hands so she knows she's not alone. By the time I get myself undressed, she's holding onto me, and when I bend my head to take one of her breasts in my mouth as I slide a finger inside her soft satin core, she's arching against me, her back bowing against the arm I've slipped under her back to hold her to me. She moans as I continue to stroke my finger inside her, and when I slide in another finger she gasps, her eyes snapping open when I look up at her to see her reaction. "Seeley," she half-sighs, half-moans, then moans again when I continue to build her with my fingers and mouth.

"Please," she whimpers, "I need you, oh, please," she continues, and then cries out my name as I enter her, shifting so I can slide my hands under her back and hold her to me as I start to stroke in and out of her. She wraps her arms around my back, shifting so she can take me in deeper, and finally that look of sad, lost resignation on her face starts to disappear as I continue to thrust into her heat. I keep telling her that she's strong and beautiful and brave and wonderful and lovable as I hold her and try to drive out all her feelings of loneliness, and the look in her eye as I repeat myself seems to shift until she finally believes me. I keep going, holding myself back as I continue to tell her I love her and that she's not alone, never has to be ever again-- she finally starts to lose herself as I clasp her tighter and start to speed my strokes in her.

She builds slowly, and I want her to forget everything, if only for a little bit, so I draw it out even longer, until she's crying out each time I return to her, telling her I love her with each completed thrust in her beautiful silken heat. Finally I can tell she's so close that the next return or two will send her over the edge, so I whisper "I'll always be with you, baby," in her ear with a firm stroke-- and she shatters, her arms holding me spasming as her whole body arches once against me, then relaxes as all the tension that's been building in her not just tonight but ever since we first started this leaves her. My own doesn't come until she finally lets go of everything, and it hardly registers because I'm just so relieved that she's better, if only for now.

I withdraw from her, still holding her close, and she whimpers. "Don't go," she says, her voice soft and her eyes merely sad, not empty anymore.

"I'm not going anywhere," I say, shifting just enough to find her covers and pull them us over us before pulling her close, pulling her so I can loop an arm and leg over her, convince her that I'll always hold onto her.

I place a small kiss on her lips, and she kisses me back, whispering "I love you, too, Seeley," as she drifts off to sleep.

When we wake in the morning, it's at the same time, and I open my eyes to see her doing the same. She gives me a smile-- a sad one, but a smile nonetheless-- and says only "Good morning."

I kiss her softly and repeat the greeting as she runs a hand up the arm I still have looped over her. She thinks for a moment with those eyes I could drown in and says "Don't go, stay. Forever."

I nod, kissing her again before I say...

Oh, God.

What am I going to do?

Forever? I want her to need me forever?

That's not about her. That's about me.

What a miserable, needy bastard I am-- her whole life gets turned upside down and all I can do is dream about how I need her to need me so that I feel like I have someone who wants me. I want her to want me-- yes, her-- but it's still as much, maybe more about me than it is about her.

It's always about me… why the hell did I let her let me go home last night after she just picked at her food? I should have stayed... not because I'm a terrible person who can't stop fantasizing about her even when she's in the middle of a horrific experience... although God knows if I'd have been strong enough to not take advantage of her because I want her so much.... But why did I let her kick me out? She deserves to know that she's not alone, even if it's just someone sleeping on her couch.

Not only am I a coward, I'm a lousy... what, friend? how can I even call myself her friend when she's going through something like this and all I can think about is having sex with her and her helping me with all my sick, worthless shit? I'm a sick, sick, bastard who doesn't deserve her. But at least I can help her figure out what happened for better or worse.

I just hope it's not as bad as it could be. I can't trust myself to not take advantage of her when she's vulnerable like this.

I can't let her know how much I need her-- I have to just let her know it's okay to need other people. I can't do that if I'm throwing myself at her feet because she's whatever she is. Forever? That's what she said to me in the dream. She's forever. I can't do that to her, make her have to deal with my miserable self forever.