Fare thee well
My own true love
Farewell for a while
I'm going away, but I'll be back
Though I go ten thousand miles
Ten thousand miles
My own true love
Ten thousand miles or more
The rocks may melt
And the seas may burn
If I should not return...
- 10,000 Miles, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Booth stood still, feeling the water gush over his feet. The earth fell out from beneath him, and he felt that he was being slowly pulled away. He couldn't tell if the sun was rising or setting—it didn't seem to be doing either. It seemed to be everywhere, filling the entire sky at once with its light, and touching everything. He reached out and it reached back, clasping his hands in its warmth. He could feel the sun holding him, wrapping its fingers around his, squeezing him gently. He wanted to squeeze back, but there was nothing there—only air, and warmth, and light. Such light.
Sirens wailed as the ambulance came barreling around the corner into the vacant lot, tires grinding into the asphalt as it slammed to a halt. The back doors flew open and two tall men in uniforms jumped out, carrying a stretcher between them. They barked orders and made their names and intentions known, but she couldn't hear them, and neither could he. She saw their lips move, and a blur of sounds that might have been voices if they weren't so disconnected, so static. Really they were just sounds, meaningless phonemes strung together in nonsensical patterns that weren't patterns at all, for a pattern implies logic and planning. Nothing about this was logical. Nothing about this was planned. She had never planned for this.
Mist was settling on the shore, thick and silvery and peculiarly dry. Like cold smoke. He moved his hands through it, watching his fingers cut the air. He could take it in his hands and try to hold it, but inevitably watch it seep through the cracks between his fingers. Some things you just can't hold onto like that—they slip away. As the fog thickened he breathed in and felt high with delight; this air was so clean, so fresh, so alive. He felt so alive here. He smiled.
His face twitched as they heaved his massive body onto the stretcher, a feat the two of them were hardly able to accomplish. Brennan held the weight of his limp hand in hers, hanging over the side as they lifted him on three, their arms and necks straining under his weight. She let him go briefly when they stepped up into the ambulance, then climbed up after them, repositioning herself by his head after they had fastened the gurney into place. His hands were occupied now, jabbed with IVs and clamped with monitors. Her hands writhed with the need to touch him, to feel him—to know he was still warm, that blood still moved beneath his skin. She put one of them on his shoulder, and the knuckles of the other stroked his hair, matted with dirt and blood. She didn't care—she just had to touch him.
He felt something brush past him, and strained his eyes to see what it was. He saw nothing, but felt summoned in its direction by some unseen calmness. Towards the sun, masked by the thick silver cloud that had descended upon him. Towards the warmth and the touch. He began walking, and felt his feet splash into the shallows. The water was sun-warmed like a tide pool—but even as he waded deeper into it, up past his calves, his knees, his thighs, it did not cool, but remained temperate and welcoming. He felt his fingers at his sides dip into the water as he pushed forward, and he skimmed the surface with them. Just barely touching it, just brushing the top. He could just feel it.
She stroked his hair gently as she heard words zoom around her head—tachycardia, arrhythmia, pneumothorax. They almost sounded sing-songy to her, as if they weren't real conditions but tongue-twister words in a children's rhyme. The men sang them, their rhymes in step with the erratic tempo of the monitors on his vital signs. It was a song she didn't really hear at all. After all, it was just a song. And maybe it wasn't a song at all—maybe it was bells, sounded in turn by only the most pious. Maybe it was birds.
Booth heard the sound of birds somewhere above him, and he stopped waist-high in the water and looked up. Everything above him was hazy and bright, but somewhere beyond it there must have been birds. Their songs whistled and chimed in an unruly tempo, like dueling mockingbirds hanging off the tips of tree limbs. He held his hands over his eyes, squinting into the light so that he might see them, whatever they were. He strained against the miasma, searching for clarity.
Clear. Brennan forced herself to remove her hands from his body, leaning back and watching with a horrified curiosity as they squeezed gel onto his chest and the pads, rubbing them together and placing them on his pectorals. His form jumped and he let out a primordial whimper that let her know he was still there. The lines jumped up and down on the screen, attempting to regulate themselves but struggling. She leaned over him and placed her forehead against his, her hands on either side of his face. She spoke to him in a low, pleading voice, feeling his heat against hers and willing him to feel her too.
He heard a soft murmur, and a rustling like old papers blown off a desk by the wind. He felt something soft and maybe feathered brush against his arm in one quick motion, and it startled him in a pleasant way, like being snuck up on by a lover. The mumbling grew louder but not clearer, He wanted to make sense of it but it was too far off across the water. Or maybe it was under the water—the sound came from everywhere, really. Like a hymn it grew stronger, but soft, touching something deep in him and bringing it to life. He felt overwhelmed by the urge to hear it more clearly, to draw closer to it, to touch it with his own hands if it were a possibility. It had to be under the water, it must be. He threw himself out into the depths, sinking beneath the surface of the water, his heart heavy with longing.
The line flattened again, and she felt her chest constrict as they shot electricity through his. They were so close to the hospital, if he could just stay alive. Air leaked out of a chest tube placed between his ribs but it did not alleviate the strain on his heart, which fought to pump what little blood remained. His fate seemed sealed—he would bleed to death, or his heart would simply stop, and there was nothing she or anyone could do. He was going to die, and she was going to watch him die. They ran another current through him, forcing his cardiac tissue to jump and hoping it might kick-start the natural beating process again. All it needed, maybe, was a push in the right direction.
All the water around him glowed in the sun's rays like champagne, light and glorious. Above him it became white with the sun—below him it faded into an indigo darkness. He listened and he heard the hymn, the voice, stronger than above the surface. The water molecules seemed to conduct the noise and amplify it ten-fold. Still there were no words—only a hum, a tune, something deep and familiar. Something that was home to him. It came from the darkness beneath him, and he felt that if he could just swim deep enough, he could understand it. He breached the surface and filled his lungs with air, then plunged into the water again, thrusting his legs through the water like rudders propelling him to the depths.
Two blocks from the hospital, his chest stopped rising. It grew still, and the shallow, measured breaths that marked his life stopped entirely. His heart was flat, his chest was flat. He was, by all accounts, dead. They sent another ripple of energy through him to no avail, then began the arduous task of breaths and compressions. Push push push push. Breathe, breathe. Push push push push. Breathe.
His lungs strained as he swam deeper, but he ignored their demands. He had to get there, to wherever the song was coming from. He had to hear that voice, to make sense of it, to let it fill him and stir him deep inside. He couldn't explain the compulsion—something about the soft melody, the way the indistinguishable notes rippled through the water and into his own depths. It drew him, a force that could not be denied. His chest heaved and tore, begging him for oxygen. He turned and looked above him, to the faint light in the distance. He had to breathe.
He had to breathe. She couldn't until he did. She couldn't breathe knowing he would never draw another breath—knowing she could never breathe out as he breathed in, completing two halves of a whole. One half left an emptiness behind that no breath could fill, and she would not try. She would simply stop.
He stopped paddling, allowing his body to float towards the surface. Five, ten, twenty feet up, then suddenly he heard it. It was quiet, but as clear as if she were whispering directly into his ear.
The line on the monitor suddenly spiked, and his chest contracted violently. He paddled with all his strength into the darkness, leaving the light and the warmth behind him. He had to reach her. He had to. She watched the spikes multiply and the color return to his lips as he heaved, rasping as he filled his lungs. He felt the cold tingle in his fingers and toes as the water and the darkness crushed him, pressing down on him like leaden weights. He thrashed against it, breaking the bonds of the water and emerging on the other shore.
There was an earth beneath his feet again. There was her face hovering above his for a brief moment before they yanked his gurney out of the vehicle, her warm fingers tracing his cheek. There was the ocean in her eyes, the other side of it—and finally the voice, the longing, as clear as the daylight that flooded the world.
A/N: I watched "Fly Away Home" last night (one of my favorite movies) and fell in love with this song all over again. If you've never heard the song or seen the movie, you should do both. Either one will change your life. As for the fic itself, leave a review and let me know what you think. :)