A/N: Pay close attention to the chronology, hopefully it isn't too confusing. I'm in the middle of midterms, so I claim that as my excuse if the format is completely cracked out. Lol
"Men aren't perfect, but not all men are murderers or backstabbing professors, sweetie. Remember that."
Angela's always optimistic, but two weeks with Hodgins and now she's doubly so.
Brennan doesn't like it. Which isn't to say she's not happy for Angela, she just doesn't like it. All these spontaneous bouts of romanticizing: they wouldn't be happening quite so often, they wouldn't be happening in the lab, if Angela's 'lover' weren't also her coworker.
Skulls line a nearby shelf in her office, constants that have remained here far longer than any of the men that have entered and exited her life without ceremony. Or rather, some exit her life without ceremony—others do so by denouncing her credentials on a witness stand, slamming a door in her face when she refuses to partake in a séance, or getting arrested by Booth.
'A hallmark of the socially inept,' an old professor once said in jest: 'the ability to understand the dead better than the living'.
There must be a trade-off: social aptitude for intellect. Look at Zack. Look at her. Some people do manage to remain outliers on the scale of human experience.
"It's a good thing I like being alone," she tells Booth while he stands beside her desk—a living, breathing reminder of everything that eludes her. Intricacies, and intuition, and 'more things in heaven and earth, Bones, than are dreamed of in your science'.
"Bones, you're not alone, okay."
She thinks he shouldn't feel obligated to feel sorry for her. "Booth."
"Hey, you're my partner. It's a guy hug. Take it."
And she does.
She smiles. She should stop this. She should stop…whatever it's called that they're doing. His thumb shouldn't be tracing circles on her back, and she shouldn't be pulling his body this close to hers. Objectivity, she thinks, her hips touching his: it looses its place, its definition, in moments like this. There's give and take and there's whatever this is called. She'd give it a name if it were more familiar. But it's not.
Her hand slides into her pocket, clenching self-consciously as she pulls away. "Thank you, Booth," she says, smiling still. "We should get dinner. Neither of us has really eaten and I'll pay."
'Bones, just because..." he trails off, leaning forward on the balls of his feet. "Hey, you don't owe me anything, okay?"
At dinner they're mostly quiet. He tells her he's trying very hard not to ask about her date with the ax-murderer. She shrugs, reaching toward his plate for a french fry. "Go ahead and ask."
That night the walls of her apartment are too thin; her neighbors argue, then their headboard's too loud against the paneling. In the Journal of Physical Anthropology someone suggests Homo floresiensis is just a microcephalic human, and her laugh sounds so loud and unnecessary it's jarring.
The staccato of her heels on hardwood is a familiar noise in the space where she lives. And success has afforded her so much space.
In the dark, she turns under her sheets. Booth's wrong, she is alone.
He watches her hair splay across her back with every disbelieving shake of her head. Her words become mumbled and lodged between sniffs and long pauses for breath, and he wishes she would turn around.
Sometimes he's not completely sure he likes her, but he never wavers in knowing he cares. When it comes to her it would seem he cares a lot. So he walks up behind her, doesn't touch, but moves just close enough so she feels heat against her back, just close enough for her to know he's there.
"I'm Doctor Temperance Brennan," she chokes out.
That's all he has to hear, all he has to see—the back of her shaking shoulders—to know what comes next.
"I know who you are. Hey, I know." He reaches for her; he's not the type to hesitate. But then, neither is she. She turns into his chest. It's instinctive and new, the way her arms wrap around him. Indistinct words get murmured into his jacket and shhh seems to be enough of the response she wants from him. So he says it, until she pulls away with an apology for dampening his jacket that he quickly waves off.
She dedicates her book to him and this is something he'd never thought he'd be: her partner and friend, Special Agent Seeley Booth. He jokes that even though she wrote it down she should be able to say it too.
"You're my friend," she tells him one night, as he pushes a case file across his desk to her.
"Good." He gives a small smile to the stack of manila folders before looking up. "We're friends."
A few nights later, after he hasn't been allowed to see Parker yet again, she's at his door with take-out and a quiet question of 'is this okay?'.
He nods yes. Yes to the hugs, yes to the Chinese food, and yes to her being here, right outside his door.
She's quiet, awake at midnight and unable to think of little else but the man who no longer looks anything like her, asleep on her couch. It's awkward, not necessarily in a bad way, it's just...he's incongruent with her couch, her living room, in some way.
There's little to talk about, little it seems they share besides Russ and genes. And even still, there's a happiness that's settled in her stomach; she doesn't complain when her father finishes off the last few dumplings at dinner without asking, doesn't even snap at him when he begins asking about her personal life.
"Russ told me you were seeing an investment banker. Those financial types are all bad news, Tempe. Hey, what about Booth? How's he doing?"
She supposes con men are supposed to be a little more subtle than that.
She shrugs, furrowing her brow. "What about Booth?"
That night, Max hugs her before he goes to bed. It's something reminiscent of childhood, only for a moment—a brief flicker then it's gone. He hugs her and her mother should be upstairs reading a book before turning off the lights, Russ should be coming home right at curfew to poke her in the ribs, the fridge should be filled with leftovers not takeout.
She extricates herself from his arms then paces the length of her bedroom, because memories can only sustain a person for so long, and Max Keenan will never be dad.
There. That's decided.
She calls Booth, locking her bedroom door then lowering her voice, mindful of her father—not wanting to wake him and not wanting him to hear either. She thinks this is what it would have felt like at sixteen.
"Bones," Booth answers on the second ring, his voice graveled by sleep.
"My father's asleep on my couch." There's only silence and she clears her throat. "Sorry, it's just that usually you're still awake at this time."
"No, I'm awake."
"I've never been hugged so many times in one day," she muses, smiling wryly into the receiver.
"Hey, look, I know you don't believe in psychology and all that, but don't you think you needed to be hugged? Even you've gotta admit you felt better after really getting the chance to hug your father."
"Yes, it was a relief." She collapses on the edge of her bed, crosses her feet on the carpet. "In extant primates, hugs are found to reduce stress levels when offered as a form of consolation. So I would just like to thank you."
"For what?" he says, chuckling lowly on the other end.
"Offering a form of consolation."
"Yeah, just don't expect me to be willing to incriminate you next time I'm on the witness stand."
"You don't really have a choice. The law protects you from incriminating your spouse not your partner, Booth."
"People always have a choice, Bones." He's silent for a moment and all she can hear are what she thinks are rustling sheets on his end of the phone. "Hey, I don't know what your schedule looks like tomorrow with your dad and everything, but…lunch?"
Yes, she nods. So, he's implying that given the choice...
"Is that enough?" she asks, patting down earth he's only just dug up.
"As much as any good dog, hey…could hope for. Even with limited vocabulary skills, okay?" His hand falls to her shoulder, her lip trembles, and suddenly she's close.
Her eyes are wet and deep blue against the late-afternoon sky. All this for a dog; tears, a eulogy, and a Saturday afternoon spent. It's nice, it's proper, and it's good. He considers this with her pulled against him, cool, wet earth under their feet. He tries hard to skirt any lingering thoughts of inadequacy (hasn't she reassured him enough today?), but god, does it feel like she cares more about this goddamned dog and than she ever did when it was his grave she thought she was standing over.
In her own way she feels something. She must, or she wouldn't be crying on his shoulder.
Cheers, he says, after the bartender fills the two shotglasses before them, leaving the bottle.
"Cheers to what?"
One: to Ripley, may he be in heaven smiling down on her right now. ("Don't anthropomorphize, Booth. Dogs have no concept of what a smile is."
"So they can't smile, but I'm glad you finally admit they can go to heaven."
"Considering the amount of time we've spent discussing religion, I assumed my disbelief was implicit." She shrugs. "And according to your beliefs, because Ripley killed someone, he would get sent to a pit of fire or languish in a limbo state. Seeing as you have also killed, I don't understand how Catholic dogma can be of comfort to you."
"Uh huh. Don't let the bourbon go to your head.")
Two: she hopes that Booth realizes she is thankful for what he's done for her today, and if there were a heaven— ("That's not a toast, Bones."
"I'm not very good with funerals, you understand. So thank you, Booth. Really.")
Three: to, uh, trying new things. Like that hole-in-the wall restaurant they always pass on the way to the Hoover building. ("I wouldn't be laughing if your throat was burning, Booth! Ethanol is very potent at this concentration."
"I'm not laughing." He laughs. "You downed that one like a girl."
"Thank you. If you keep practicing maybe one day you'll be able to as well." She blinks, tracing the rim of her empty glass.
"Besides, not all of us can drink like Catholics."
"Bones, that is such a stereotype."
"Booth, I am an anthropologist. I don't stereotype. You are the one who told me that joke about the priest who was seven sheets to the wind…"
Emphatically, he shakes his head no.
"Yes, you did. An inebriated man walks into a confessional and-"
"Shhh…" his hand clumsily covers her mouth before she pulls away. "Bones, do you realize that nearly everyone at this pub is probably Catholic?"
"Now that is a stereotype.")
They're wearing sloppy smiles, and he swears he must be a bad influence on her.
Emphatically, she shakes her head no.
She's going to die. She's going to die and there's the knife and there's the gun.
Kenton brings a brick to the blade, speaking soothingly of when and how her death, her mutilation, will occur. Never has she cared less that she's close to tears.
What are her last thoughts supposed to be? There's a feeling—because yes, she does feel—that people, places, and things should find some place in her mind. But there's no one, nowhere, nothing. Nothing but I should have fought harder, I should have figured it out, I'm going to die.
She thinks oh god—a reflex only—as the butt of the gun angles toward her head.
Then there's a shot and there's Booth. And never before has she been truly happy to see him, happy to see someone familiar and carrying a gun. 'This is why I need a gun,'she'll tell him later, making light of the case as they fill out paperwork. But now she lets out a breath she's been holding for far too long as he pulls her down off the hook and into his arms.
"It's okay. I'm right here. It's all over, okay. Shhh…"
Her body trembles more than when she believed she had seconds left to live, her wrists pressed close against his neck. For a moment she's unaware of the fact that she's leaning much too near to his broken ribs; it leaves her warm, hugging another person like this.
She pulls back, looks him in the eye.
"How did you get out of the hospital?"
She'll ask him the same question two years later, just after she says he's a liar, an untrusting-death-faking-protocol-following-inexcusably-bad partner, and clearly not her friend at all. And never before will she have been so truly happy to see him.
He's getting pummeled to goddamned death and his view of her cleavage as she bends forward to speak can only be described as a reprieve.
"…quadratus lumborum, hit him there!" she shouts to Booth, and he's getting none of this.
"Hit him where?"
Monroe pulls tighter on his chokehold as she begins to speak again. He's getting his ass kicked and there are her lips, so damn red. Like his blood on the concrete floor.
"His lower back above his right kidney!"
That her instruction wins him the match doesn't surprise him in the least. Isn't that the point of having a genius for a partner, so she can get him out of binds like this?
Still. He's so thankful he could kiss her.
He can barely see, but in his periphery she smiles and moves toward him in a triumphant sort of dash. And the good thing about Tony and Roxie, he'll think later…the good thing about Tony and Roxie, is that whether they were engaged, engaged-to-be-engaged, or otherwise involved and undefined, they were a little more impulsive and a hell of a lot more effusive than Booth and Brennan.
So when she reaches round his neck and pulls him close to her in front of all those people, he does his best to remember that this is Roxie and not his partner, even as she smiles against him, even as she whispers in that low voice that sounds like Bones and only Bones.
He's sweaty and bloody and maybe this should gross Roxie out. His arm ends up slung over her shoulder far too many times than he thinks Bones would find acceptable—in the middle of the make-shift ring, at the bar, in the lobby on their way back up to their room—but she leans into him for the most part anyway.
It's because it's three in the morning or she doesn't really care, but they're alone, watching the elevator buttons light up and flicker back to neutral, when she lets him pull her even closer than before.
There's a point, when he's got a concussion and she's got a difficulty with staying upright, when he admits she's the person he likes to spend his waking hours with. She grabs his hand for balance and maybe just to hold on. He curls his palms around her waist to push her forward—they really should be skating a little faster.
And haven't they become pretty damn effusive after all?
She's crouching, headphones hanging limply in her hand, when she sees him.
There's a swell of something in her chest, something that clouds her eyes and brings color to her cheeks, because yes, that's really Booth. The helicopter hovers and she can't hear herself when she screams his name. Her shouts hit the wind and fall on deaf ears; there's no response, and he's just there—standing like he isn't aware that C4 will blow him apart. Like he isn't aware she's right here, desperation this close to cracking her voice.
"Hurry, Booth, come on!"
Never has she cared less that she's close to tears.
The air is salty and bites at their skin in one final swoop as he climbs in and slams shut the door. She fills the space immediately, bearing down upon him without thought. Thought comes later, coinciding with a return to reason and rationality and a reverting back to normal that will take next to no time at all. It will be good, and her hands will stop shaking.
But they're shaking now as he pulls her nearer, so near to him that there's nothing else for them to do but flatten against his back. His pulse, the fast way in which his blood is moving through his veins, can be felt under her hands. Alive. Alive. Alive. And he's breathing so loudly in her ear, his fingers twisting deftly into her hair, pulling it even further from yesterday's neat style.
Her hands still on his back, and it's as though he's only now cognizant, only now quite sure of the fact that this is really her. He's saying her name, against her face and neck and ear until she feels there is hardly a part of her that his lips, his breath haven't sunk into.
She stopped keeping score a long time ago, but she remembers:
Hey, I get scared and I'll hug you.
She's not sure. Maybe this counts.
He smells like salt and ash. Later, she'll take off her coat and there will be that smell once more, hardly there, but enough to touch her senses and stoke her fears all over again.
She leaves the coat in a corner of her apartment, far from where she sleeps; it reeks of something close to death. In the morning, clear-headed, she'll wake to remember that death is her job.
Now, her words die on her lips before they can be said aloud. Her mind stops her voice short; she's not sure how to say it's alright. Not the way he does. She wants to be a comfort, somehow.
"Booth, it's okay…it's over." It comes out quiet and stilted, not comforting, just wrong, she thinks. Like she's calming herself, reciting words he has said to her many times before.
Booth leans back on his haunches, looks her in the eye. His own are bloodshot and clouded, and the sun provides a glare; most days, when she's this close, she sees herself looking back at him.
"You look," he pauses, breathing hard and scanning her body, "like you deserved to spend last night receiving an award." He inhales, nodding slowly, "Nice. You look real nice."
She pulls a lip between her teeth and shakes her head. "You deserved to be rescued from that ship."
She finds what she's looking for: she finds Booth, she finds the Gravedigger, but she finds no evidence to refute Angela's earlier assertion.
She doesn't not love Booth.
Brennan tells him that people are at their best when they are rational, when they adhere to the objective rather than the subjective. He tells her she believes this solely because she is rational almost all of the time.
"Almost all of the time? Booth, I am always rational."
But: "Rational people don't bet money on their partner in Vegas, and rational people don't spend their vacation time working in a morgue."
She laughs; if that's all he can come up with then clearly she is rational all of the time.
No one is rational all of the time. Not even her.
One evening there's blood in her living room.
"Russ," she says without hesitation, her head shaking almost imperceptibly. A conjecture, from her: it saps the color from her cheeks and leaves her staring, transfixed by the red pool on her clean floor.
"Alright, take it easy. We don't know that for sure."
She murmurs a response, the words running together as she focuses in an attempt to describe what she is seeing. And she can't, not with the objective eye he's used to from her.
No one is rational all of the time. Not even her. Not when it comes to her brother, not when it comes to someone she loves.
It's unexpected at first when she turns into his chest. There's no question, no hesitation, no thinking. He feels he's never been of more use to her than he is right now, providing warmth and sensation, logic and rationality in the rare moment when she has none.
He considers the lines they must already have crossed for him to feel this much, this soon.
And later, he draws an indelible, invisible line that really doesn't even need to be there in the first place. And all it means is that he's with her until just before she goes to bed and greeting her with coffee the next morning. There's nothing in between, not with her, and after a while not with any other woman either. But there's tomorrow, when she'll tell him he is a good father, a good man—somehow she must know it means something when she says it, matter of fact like that; when she will loosen one more button on her top halfway through the day; when her eyes will light when he remembers the pneumonic device she taught him for remembering the names of limb bones before she pinpoints his bad back as a reason to teach him about the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, feeling out each and every notch along his spine, maybe not understanding at all what she's really doing to him, but understanding him nevertheless.
So there's a line, it becomes tangled in no time at all, and no matter what side of it they are on things will always be personal.
Is there a point to a rule, a line, he wonders, if it no longer serves its purpose?
It can't possibly be rational.
She rescues him from the Gravedigger then visits him in the hospital later that night.
Booth asks if she knows how happy he was to see her in that helicopter. She says yes, she knows exactly; she's fully aware of the relief that comes with realizing someone has found your location in time.
"No, Bones. Happy to see you, not happy to see someone."
There's only silence and he looks at her appreciatively, almost expectantly, before giving a slight shake of his head. And she's right here, not like the last time he was laying in a hospital bed. "Bones…" his hand reaches, and she pulls away, a disbelieving, almost frustrated look on her face.
"You're staring at me like I don't understand, but I do," she whispers. "I do understand, Booth, so don't…" she breathes deeply, her fingers clenching around his sheets. "I did many irrational things last night."
He loves her (too).
Booth refuses to tell her what goes on at a bachelor party, what went on at Hodgins' in particular. Not even when she promises not to tell Angela, not even when she explains her interest is grounded solely in anthropological inquiry.
"What did you, Cam, and Angela do?"
"I really wouldn't mind telling you, but since you persist in being secretive…"
It's surprising and immensely satisfying, the ease with which she avoids mentioning her father, the way her voice flickers from mostly-feigned annoyance to comfortable silence as Booth tries out his speech for the reception on her.
Her father broke the law. Many times. And Booth…Booth has had to arrest many people's fathers. It's his job. Max can hardly even be considered a father.
At the altar, Booth decides to broach all of this. Open the whole metaphorical can of...whatever. Booth doesn't know how to whisper.
He steps closer.
His side of the altar is not her side of the altar. He doesn't seem to know that either.
"Bones, your father chose to be arrested because he felt if he abandoned you again, he'd lose you forever. I just thought you should know," he tells her before she wraps herself around him.
Sometimes he makes her so incredibly…happy. Just the words he says sometimes. There's honesty there, always. She can't measure or quantify it, or know he's not simply quelling her concerns, but she's sure all the same.
She's sure that his palm on her back is searing, that as she reaches around his body he begins to smile—she can feel the pull of his cheek, of his chin as his face changes expression. The things they permit in church, she thinks: she is very close to him.
At midnight, after the not-quite-wedding reception, he's flushed and walking staggered lines beside her in the parking lot. He says he's happy. She says he's drunk.
His fingers come to the small of her back, and his proximity is her opportunity to extract the car keys from his pocket. Ha!, she thinks with a smile. She will be driving tonight.
Booth doesn't even notice her hand in his jacket; his fascination with her dress is that great. His hand alternates between drawing smooth concentric circles and clutching fabric between his fingers and palm. It's intimate, or something close.
His fingers are restless, teasing, and inching toward her waist. She really wants to be touched. Anywhere. Everywhere. Not only on her back. Booth's close, breathing into her hair, and if he were any other man she'd have no qualms with turning her face and pressing her lips, herself, against him. If he were any other man he'd have no qualms with taking her right inside his car, touching her everywhere until she screamed.
But he's touching her...
"It's nice," he says, looking down at one last errant finger as it brushes the material of her dress then falls away.
"It's silk. Angela picked it out, she said it was sensual."
"Well this time Angela was right and you were wrong."
She stops walking, narrowing her eyes. "Wrong about what?"
"This is what happens when you drink."
"No…this, Bones," he murmurs in her face, "is what happens when your friend makes you wear a dress like that."
She blinks, uncomprehending, and bites her lip, staring out toward the lights around the Mall. She can process complex language, can derive possible meaning from syntax and structure, but it doesn't change the fact that she's missed something in what he's saying.
Booth doesn't laugh at her blank silence, he never does; she just wishes she didn't have to say it.
"I don't know what that means."
So one day…
Maybe they're too overwhelmed to just stand and smile at one another, or they haven't worked a case together for longer than they're accustomed to. Maybe it's her office or outside the diner, his apartment or her's. Maybe there's some comfort in leaning into the hollow of her neck, or the tears on her face find their place blotted against his shirt.
He hugs her.
She hugs him.
She smiles into his shoulder.
He plays with the tips of her hair.
It's nice: all of it. Better than nice. It's finding words like friend and partner just aren't descriptive enough—embracing this to say the least.
He's warm and he's warm to the touch. Her lips tingle the way her fingers do—his mouth is warm too—and this time she's sure her brain's understood what her extremities felt.
She's facts and feeling, all of the time. He knows this and he knows her by heart.
Fact: Sometimes they're a little too close and sometimes they don't want to let go.
So one day they don't.