Disclaimer: If I owned Bones, this season would have ended with three far less devastating words. The title of this fic comes from the Switchfoot song "Yesterday," which I don't own either.
It was five months to the day since she'd realized she loved him. Five months since she'd sat in his hospital room 35 hours after all his monitors had gone haywire, signifying his severe, unexpected reaction to the anesthesia that at least had not presented itself until after the tumor had been removed. She had attempted to remain clinical throughout the surgery as she observed the doctors carefully picking through his brain. She dealt with death daily, but she was not accustomed to seeing brain matter still crackling with life—certainly not the brain matter of her partner, who she … cared for very strongly. Booth was always so strong, so vibrant. He had a presence—she'd recognized that even when she found that presence rather abhorrent. But he had looked so small on the operating table. So frail. It hurt her to see him so, hurt so much that she couldn't quite compartmentalize it away, even as she ran through her head everything the doctor had told her that promised it was statistically likely he would be fine. But he had asked her to stay with him through the surgery, voice heavy with a vulnerability she was only accustomed to hearing from her own mouth, whenever he convinced her to lower one of her own walls. How could she deny him, when it was her selfish request for an offspring that had stressed him enough to cause this attack? She would be strong for him, because that's what Booth needed, and that's what was logical—he was going to be fine, so why was she upset?
The blind panic had come with the discordant sounds of the instruments measuring his heart beat and brain waves. She daren't ask what was happening—she still had the clarity of mind to know that the doctors needed to focus, now more than ever, and she'd promised them before they'd let her accompany Booth that she wouldn't interfere—but she couldn't make herself move, either, so strong was the sudden fear that he was going to leave her. They'd left the realm of scientific probability now, and Booth's fate was in the metaphoric hands of a capacious force she did not believe in. One of the nurses pushed her away as she bustled about the operating table, and Brennan backed herself against the wall and focused all her energy on remembering how to breathe and keeping herself from sinking to the ground. She was back in that club, his blood all over her hands as the light faded from his eyes and God, what would she do when this time it was for real.
When the chief surgeon pulled off his gloves and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder she hadn't even realized the sounds from the monitors had changed—becoming not altogether quiet as she feared but returning to their low timbre and steady rhythm. "You can relax, ma'am. Mr. Booth gave us quite a scare, but he's stable now."
It took a few moments for the words to sink in. A few more for her to remember how to formulate a response. "What happened? Was the surgery successful?"
"We removed the tumor. The surgery was nearly complete when he had an adverse reaction to the anesthesia."
"Booth reacts very strongly to drugs," she responded, remembering his bizarre behavior while on Vicoden, and his even more extreme response to anti-fungal medication.
"We saw that in his chart, of course. But there was nothing to indicate he'd have a reaction with this particular compound. Luckily we were able to stabilize him and replace the bone flap."
"So he's going to be okay?"
Brennan might not have been good at reading people, but she knew that the doctor paused too long before answering.
"Tell me what happened!" she demanded, shocked at her own vehemence.
"He's in a coma. I'm confident that once he awakens he'll make a full recovery. But I can't tell you when that might be."
The news could have been worse, she knew, but it should have been better. Still, there was a strange calm. Booth is a coma was far better than Booth flat-lining on the operating table. Booth would fight his way back to her, because he was strong and he had promised he would never betray her. And leaving her now would be the biggest betrayal, after spending years making her need him.
He had asked her to stay with him, so she did. Even when the others came to cajole her away, Angela swearing he wouldn't want to see her look so haggard, Sweets suggesting she'd be able to think more clearly about the situation after a good night's sleep. The first night the nurses tried to kick her out after visiting hours. She bought their silence with a large donation to the hospital. After that they tried to lure her to the nurse's break room, promising her a cot she did not accept. She would keep watch and he would come back to her—that was her decided course of action, and she determined not to let anything or anyone sway her. Realizing defeat, Angela had brought her a fresh change of clothes and her laptop. Brennan had repaid her with a genuine smile, thankful that her friend had realized she'd be calmed by the capability of doing something productive.
She'd always found her thoughts easiest to organize when she wrote them down. And she'd had so many thoughts to work through. Irrational thoughts. Ever since Booth had been wheeled into surgery she'd been so damn irrational.
She'd spent the first night in the hospital awake, trying to figure out why she was so frightened. She was not the one recovering from brain surgery. No matter what happened to Booth, she would be fine. But that didn't seem quite true, even if it should have been. Booth's death would affect her career. She'd grown fond of the fieldwork, and it was unlikely another agent would let her do it, even unlikelier they'd get along well enough for her to be able to stand working in such close proximity. It would be an adjustment, going back to the lab full time. But forensic anthropology was her passion, not detective work, and she could still bring justice to the world by identifying victims, even if it was another who caught their killers.
She would miss the time they spent together. Lunches at the diner, drinks at the Founding Fathers, Thai food and paperwork late into the night. Bantering in the SUV, on the platform, in her office. Aggravating Sweets by being purposefully uncooperative.
Nor would she have anyone to go to in the middle of the night, when she'd thought for hours about something without reaching a satisfying conclusion. She used to go to Angela for advice on emotional matters, on the rare occasion she thought she needed it, but Ange, while sympathetic, did not have a lot of patience. So many times she asked Brennan just to "go with something," unable to explain exactly why or comprehend when Brennan didn't get it innately. Booth was good with matters of the heart, and she could tell how much he wanted her to understand. He didn't judge or rush her. She could show up at his apartment at any hour and he would hand her a bottle of beer and let her vent, no questions asked.
In their four years of working together, she'd come to appreciate that his lessons were ones she wanted to learn.
She let him change her, something she'd always resisted. Some of her foster parents had tried to tell her she was worthless, and their scorn had made her even more determined to make something of herself. She would be her own person, not anyone else's. But Booth thought she could be more than she'd ever striven for, and without consciously choosing she began to try to emulate his ideal.
Lately his words had struck her more than normal. Everything he'd said about love seemed increasingly appealing. Even though it never seemed to work out—for awhile she'd thought Angela and Hodgins were a rare exception, for the entomologist been so hyperbolic yet sincere in expressing his love for the forensic artist in that car when he thought he had only hours to live, yet that had fallen to pieces for some subtle reason Brennan still couldn't grasp—those around her continued to search. How many times had she and Booth arrested a wife who had killed her husband, or a husband who had killed his wife, and yet the way he spoke of love, as if it was some adventure far more fulfilling and intense than any of the digs she had ever been on, made her yearn for something that would supersede the statistics, complicate all anthropologic studies with its uniqueness.
He had left all sorts of metaphorical marks on her, that much was certain, and she didn't want to scrape them away—not now, not ever. But would they fade, if he was gone? Would she go back to being the Temperance Brennan she had worked so hard to be: focused, distinguished, brilliant and impenetrable, or would the changes he had wrought on her remain emblazoned on the organ he had always seemed most fixated on—her heart?
In truth she would miss him, and she wasn't sure if it was much more complicated than that. She would miss his grin, his cocky attitude with his buckle to match, his hand at the small of her back constantly reminding her of his presence, his arms always ready to hold her if she needed them. She was more dependent on him than on anyone else—even Angela. He had become integrated into nearly every facet of her life, until it sometimes seemed like they were more of a team than two individuals. Two halves of the same whole.
All searching for the slightest hint of a real connection … two people become one.
His words, so clear in her mind.
Oh dear. More complicated indeed.
The realization hit her with the force of a body dropped seventeen stories.
She, Temperance Brennan, was in love with Seeley Booth.
There was none of the fear she was expecting, no desire to run from the person who could hurt her, because that person was Booth, and he wouldn't, she knew that. But this—this revelation was problematic. She remembered other things he had said, about lines, and people in high-risk situations not being able to be involved romantically. There was no way she would give up working with him.
But he didn't love her back, so what did it matter? She could hide her feelings, and nothing would have to change.
Except that just didn't feel right—was it her so called "gut" telling her that, like it supposedly imparted so much wisdom to Booth on a regular basis? Booth had drawn the line, yes. But she thought of the way he had looked at her before the surgery, needing her to stay with him just as desperately as she never wanted to leave his side. That was not how partners looked at each other. Not even how friends did.
He was in love with her too.
It was suddenly clear. There was so much evidence. All the promises he made her that she would be loved, his tendency to drive away her sexual partners, how upset he'd been when she'd dated his brother. A hundred little clues hidden within things he'd said and done. He had just been waiting for to recognize her own capability to love.
Instead of being stifled she felt liberated. Booth would wake up soon, and they would share all the things she had yearned to experience. Their happiness would be all the greater for this one last trial. In the legends of nearly every society joy came only after great sorrow, to make the emotion even stronger from the contrast.
Feeling inspired, she began churning out a novel, a half-formulated plot in mind. She and Booth were romantically involved, but still partners, though not in solving crime. But crime still found them, and they had to solve a murder without any of her forensic knowledge or his FBI training. The important part was at the end of the day instead of staring longingly at each other over coffee or beer and then going home to their empty apartments they went home together and made love, falling asleep in each other's arms and never doubting that they'd stay that way forever. They were partners, but not just partners. Even with the murder their lives were nearly perfect.
But she couldn't stick to the narrative. She kept diverting into monologues that tried to synthesize all her newfound conclusions about love. Despite Booth's current condition, her words were infused with hope as she circled around the topic. Literarily it was a mess, as she realized after two days of nearly non-stop writing. It was certainly not something she could turn into her publisher. Eventually she deleted the entire thing, realizing it was too private to risk being read by another. They were not words meant to be shared with anyone else. She would retain the truths they allowed her to discover, and that was all that mattered.
Just moments after she tossed away the product of her four day vigil, the blank computer screen staring back at her with an infinite number of possible ways to be filled, he began to stir. She was so ready for the moment—how proud would he be that she'd finally recognized his subtext and shifted her heart into overdrive.
But she'd forgotten how quickly elation could turn to bitterness. "Who are you?" he said, and it was nearly as bad as that moment in surgery. That was the one question he should never have had to ask her. He knew—he was the only one who knew, probably better than she knew herself. How could he not know, now? How could he forget?
"That isn't funny, Booth," she answered, needing it to be a joke. She'd slug him for it as soon as he was well, but to have him joking with her now rather than the alternative would make up for that.
"I'm not kidding," he said solemnly. He looked so odd, gauze wrapped around his head, eyes wide and flitting about the room. "Surgery? Coma?" he muttered. "What happened to me?"
"You started having hallucinations. Months ago, but we didn't realize they were serious. Five days ago you started conversing with a cartoon character when we were interrogating a suspect. I brought you right to the hospital. The doctors discovered a brain tumor."
"I have brain cancer?" He was so distraught she reached out and clenched his hand, as she had when the doctor first gave him the diagnosis, but this time he did not squeeze back.
"The tumor was benign. It hasn't spread. Now that it's been removed no further treatment should be necessary. You're awake now, so you should be fine." Physically, that was true, but mentally? No one had warned her about memory loss. "You really don't know who I am."
He looked at her so long she wanted to fidget under his gaze. It was not so hard a question. "We're married, right?"
She recoiled as if he had struck her. He had sounded timid like Parker, the first time she'd met him, and Seeley Booth was never timid. And his words. No matter the number of times she'd denounced the institution of marriage in his presence the thought of them so bound together now shook her. But he was so wrong, and wherever had he gotten the idea, and she finally knew for sure that her nightmare was not over.
"No," she answered, too sharply, shaking her head as if to clear it as much as anything else. "We're not. We work together. We're just partners." So many times before she'd said those words, and most of those times she'd thought she meant them, but never had they seemed so thoroughly wretched.
"Oh." Was that confusion, sadness, disappointment—she couldn't tell. "What do we do then?"
"We solve crimes."
"Yes. You're a Special Agent with the FBI. I'm a forensic anthropologist for the Jeffersonian Institute's Medico-Legal lab. There's a team of scientists at my lab that help me indentify dead bodies, and we analyze the evidence to help you catch the murderers."
She'd just summarized their four years together, and his response had been "huh." She tried to figure out what could be going on, but no one had warned her that this might happen and she didn't know much about brain surgery. She had a sudden irrational desire to find Mr. Nigel-Murray. He was likely to have all sorts of knowledge on the subject.
"So we work in The Lab?"
"It's not really 'the' lab. It's 'a' lab. I work there. You work in the Hoover building, with the other FBI agents. But you come by all the time to see what we're up to, and then you and I go out and investigate."
"Who do you work with?"
"Angela, Hodgins, Dr. Saroyan…"
"Sort of. He's an FBI psychologist, but in the past year he's helped us with profiling on numerous cases."
"Wendell? Daisy? Vincent?"
The fact that he remembered her grad students, most of whom he'd barely even spoken to, but not her hurt, but she tried not to let him see it. "They're my grad students. They intern in the lab on occasion."
That time she could not stop her face from crumbling. "Zach was the intern when you first started working with the Jeffersonian. He was my assistant."
"But he doesn't work there anymore?"
"He's in a mental institution."
"Oh." She wanted to ask him what the hell was going on but she didn't think he'd have an answer. There was no lucidity in his gaze. "And what's your name?"
One sob that she disguised as a hiccup, and pain flashed so clearly across his face that she swore she would not cry again in his presence. "Dr. Temperance Brennan."
"Brennan," he repeated. He reached back to run a hand through his hair, encountered the gauze, and then dropped it awkwardly back to his bedside. "And we were really just partners?"
Again with that hated phrase. "Friends, too," she amended. "We were—are—friends."
"So that's why you were waiting for me to wake up."
"Yes," she lied. She could not confess her love to this man that didn't know her, not when she had never told it to the one who did. Everything she'd written about love which she'd thought so inspired at the time now seemed like drivel. Nothing more than fool romanticism—it was physically impossible for human beings to fly without the aid of mechanics. And this burden did not give her wings. It was tearing her arms out of her sockets.
He was released a week after he came out of the coma. His skull was healing nicely, his brain scans were clear and aside from the fact he'd made no progress on regaining his memory, his mind and his body were functioning normally. The doctor recommended someone stay with him for a few days until he became reaccustomed to his surroundings. Brennan volunteered immediately, and no one argued with her.
They were halfway through a silent drive to his apartment when he asked, "So what do I call you?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, knowing full well what he meant, but needing to stall so she could collect her thoughts.
"Well, Dr. Temperance Brennan sure is a mouthful. Dr. Brennan is too formal. I know you told me I could call you Brennan in the hospital, but that doesn't sound right either. And Temperance…" He seemed to stumble over the syllables, not at all the way he'd used to say her name those few times a moment was so intimate that he'd use it.
"No one calls me Temperance," she told him with a heartless chuckle. "Angela calls me Bren."
She couldn't at all identify the look that passed over his face. "No. I couldn't. Not if that's some gal-pal thing."
"My family calls me Tempe."
"Tempe." It sounded wrong from his lips, and even he seemed to know it. "I guess that works. But that's not what I called you before."
"You want me to remember that on my own." She wanted to sob, because even without his memory he was still able to figure her out, and if he could realize that, what else might he discover? But she'd determined not to cry in front of him, so she pushed the pain away and nodded.
"I will," he promised. "Someday." It was only then she realized that it was years ago he'd started making promises he couldn't keep.
She stayed with him for nearly a week, and each day was agony. She did not understand the way this new Booth looked at her, and sometimes she was nearly certain it was with disgust. She had spent years learning to understand him but suddenly all that knowledge was useless. His personality should not have been altered, but he did not react to her the same way. They had always bantered, the antagonism gradually melting into a mutual respect that still allowed them to grapple for dominance. But it was hard enough to even engage Booth in conversation now. He never disagreed with her, never teased her about her lack of pop culture knowledge—though he had forgotten eight years of his own pop culture knowledge and she found herself quite able to follow his words now, and sorry for it. She cooked him macaroni and cheese he politely complimented but did not rave about, patiently answered whatever questions he asked and fell asleep each night in Parker's room feeling farther from him than she'd been those four nights in the hospital. As soon as the doctor cleared him to live on his own she went back to her apartment.
Never before had the need to run been so strong. She wanted to go off on a dig to somewhere far away—Greenland, or Australia, or Mozambique. She'd learned after her parents left that distance made it easier to ignore love. Maybe it never went away completely, but you could bury it like a coffin, submerge it so deep that it metamorphosed into something else—anger, usually, which she'd become quite adept at compartmentalizing away. She could already feel the transformation starting—he had spent four years chipping away at all her defenses, making her open up to him, demanding her trust so unassumingly she had given it to him, only to do what everyone did, though he had sworn he would not—he had left her.
But she couldn't leave. Before his operation he had asked her to stay by his side, and her faith in him was stronger than her desire to flee. He needed her, and if she had been the one with amnesia there was nothing that could drag him away from her. She knew that. She wanted to be that faithful.
But every moment with this Booth that was not her Booth was painful. The first time she took him to the diner she expected the familiarity to spark some memory. How many times had they sat there, debating the nuances of life and arguing about pie? Surely something would have to come back to him. But he took everything in with wide, puzzled eyes. He ordered a steak sandwich, didn't ask for desert, and there was no meaning or joy in their conversation. Yet she remembered everything: the evening he'd explained to her the difference between crappy sex and making love, and she'd imagined him running his hands down her body and let him win the argument simply because she wanted him to be right; singing her dad's favorite Poco song with him, ignoring the fact he was terribly off-key because she was so glad he was all right; when she'd stared through the window at him as he talked to that kid about the responsibility of being a father, and she was so sure he was the best man she'd ever known that it took her breath away. When two more visits were just as unproductive, she stopped taking him there because she couldn't bear it. They found another place to eat, a burger joint with crappy food and dingy surroundings, but at least there neither of them had anything to reflect on.
She outlined countless cases they had solved, telling him of the clues in the bones that had led them to various suspects. But she found herself omitting the personal details. She didn't tell him about their late night conversation during the Christmas lab lock-down, when she'd been so sure he was going to kiss her, even if it was only the anti-fungal medication making him loopy. Didn't mention how he'd given her a Brainy Smurf figurine after she'd rambled on about evolving—just detailed a high school reunion gone awry, soupy remains and accidental murder. Truth was, she was desperate for him to remember such moments on his own. She needed to know, if his memory seemed to return, that he did actually know her, and had not just gotten better at synthesizing what he was told.
After two months with no progress she began to despair. For sixty days she had spent at least a few hours at his side and he hadn't regained a single memory that mattered. At first she'd seen his memory loss as a trial they'd both have to work through, but the possibility of it being permanent seemed increasingly likely. It became harder to drop by his apartment and endure the awkward silence as they ate Italian food because he did not know he used to prefer Thai. So she started to decrease the frequency, citing a need to catch up on her work that was not quite a lie—her number of Limbo identifications was far beneath her personal standards, because it was hard now to look at the bones and drown out all the thoughts swirling through her head. His nickname for her was so tied to her profession she could not help but think of him as she stood over her skeletons. This loss of her ability to focus galled her. Without Booth, she should have had her work to fall back on, but even that gave her little fulfillment anymore.
She was still the one he called, when he didn't remember where his hockey league met, or was practically in tears because Parker had cried when he'd forgotten his birthday. When he needed her she was there, but she found that she simple couldn't be there every other time, waiting for a moment that might never come. She knew the rest of her team had contact with him periodically—Wendell and Hodgins invited him over to watch sports and engage in typical male bonding behavior; Cam, who he remembered, tried to bridge the gap between his distant past and the one he was missing; Angela showed him photographs, drew pictures; Sweets tried all sort of psychological mindgames. She let them fill some of his time, stepped back. It didn't make her hurt any less.
Yet five months exactly after she'd realized she loved him, the need to see him struck her so forcefully she left Wendell in the midst of explaining an anomaly on the victim's right femur and sped all the way to the Hoover. As much as she'd always complained about him not letting her drive, she found the task unsettling now. Laborious. And environmentally friendly or not, she missed his hulking FBI issue SUV.
"Hey Tempe," he said when she entered his office. "Long time no see."
It had been more than a week. She was weaning herself off from him, dropping by less often. If this bothered him, he did not say so.
She realized she had nothing to say to him, because she was not sure why she had come. It just seemed significant, that for five months she had loved him, though that still meant nothing to him, and was thereby irrelevant. "I was just wondering if you wanted to grab some lunch."
"I've already eaten actually."
Why wouldn't he have? It was after one o'clock, and Booth had a large stomach that demanding regular feeding, unlike her own, which was used to being ignored. "Oh. I'm sorry to have bothered you." She turned to leave, feeling foolish. What had she hoped to accomplish here?
"Wait. We can still go out, grab some coffee or something."
"No, that's quite all right." But she didn't go.
"One more month," he said, when the silence grew a little too long. "One more month of desk duty, and then Cullen's going to send me to that refresher course at Quantico. Once I'm cleared for field work, maybe we can work together again?"
Six months. Six months Cullen had given Booth to remember his FBI training on his own. He'd been remarkably understanding about the whole thing, swearing he'd do anything he could not to lose one of his very best field agents. Booth's instincts and reflexes were still intact, and if he couldn't remember how to be an agent there was no reason he couldn't learn to be one again. Bones knew the deskwork he'd been assigned in the interim was driving him stir-crazy.
He was hopeful, boyish even, at the prospect of returning to his normal job, and she should have been just as optimistic. To work with Booth again: wasn't that what she wanted? To be partners, instead of people who were once friends but were now simple awkward acquaintances. What was more likely to spur his memories than driving to crime scenes in his SUV, him remarking on her lack of tact while dealing with victims' families, her telling him the anthropological significance of nearly everything even when he did not ask for it?
She just didn't think she could do it. She couldn't withstand her hopes being dashed daily, the constant wondering if she could do something, say something, that would prompt his memory. She'd never thought herself a weak person, but she'd never felt such a mess in all her life. She was just so tired of all of this. Of everything.
"We'll see. Perotta's been working pretty well with my team." She hated working with Perotta. Always had. At first she'd attributed it to the unfamiliarity. It had taken her and her team quite awhile to fall into a comfortable rapport with Booth, but they certainly had eventually. Then Booth got ridiculously accused of a murder and the FBI thought they could just send some perky blond who didn't appreciate their input or understand their processes to help out on the case? Even worse was when her meddling almost cost Booth his life. Brennan had been doing her damndest to save him from the Gravedigger, and Perotta was sticking her nose where it didn't belong and insinuating they had something to do with Vega's murder? Brennan recognized now there her initial observations may have been slightly tainted by jealousy. The agent was Booth's type—blonde, strong-willed. Brennan had dreaded the moment when she and Booth became reacquainted, because seeing the two of them in a relationship would be more than she could take. But Perotta had made no move and Booth didn't even seem to flirt with her, one small relief amidst months of hell. With Booth out of commission, it made sense for the Bureau to assign Perotta to any cases requiring advanced forensics. Working with her the second time around wasn't as odious as Brennan had dreaded, but she wasn't Booth, and Brennan certainly didn't want to be her partner. She accompanied Perotta to retrieve bodies, usually, the need to make sure the evidence was not compromised stronger than her self-pity, but she left all the investigating to the agent.
"You don't want to be partners again?" He looked like a kicked puppy—she thought of Ripley, and how she'd once compared the two, but Booth's eyes weren't reassuring anymore nor did he seem capable of violence in that moment.
"That's not what I said."
"I thought that's what we were. Are. Partners."
Her breath hitched at the word she was beginning to hate and the tears, which she'd done so well at suppressing, threatened to spill down her cheeks and give her away. "Look, it probably won't even be up to us. Cullen will make a decision about your reassignment."
"Are you okay, Bren?" His demeanor changed in an instant, suddenly sympathetic rather than hurt. She puzzled at the moniker as he pulled himself from his chair and took a step toward her, arms slightly outstretched.
It was probably instinctive, but oh how she remembered all the times she'd clung to him when she was scared. All those days at his bedside she had yearned for the contact, but then he had awoken and it didn't seem something work partners did. She was terribly afraid if she tried to explain to him about guy hugs he wouldn't believe her. Months before their tragedy she'd overheard Booth tell Sweets that guys didn't hug—though at the time she hadn't cared to analyze why he might have told her that particular untruth. But she thought that she could hug him then, and he wouldn't mind. He'd rub her back, whisper something soothing in her ear, and she would feel better, because for a few moments she could pretend.
He was still the same man, she realized. Perplexed, uncertain, but still Booth. Still kind. Generous. Patient. For the first time she could see herself falling in love all over, with this man with no memory. But it had been such a long, painstaking process. She didn't think she had the strength to let him learn her again. To share her secrets, piece by painful piece. To wait, as he even more slowly revealed bits of himself. Even if she could do so, there was no guarantee. Everything good happens eventually, he had told her. He had not said everything good happens twice. She'd never be able to withstand the possibility that this time he might not love her back.
"I'm fine," she lied, swatting her tears away even though he'd certainly seen them. "I should go. You have work, and I shouldn't have bothered you. I'm fine."
"Wait," he called as she left the office, but she didn't.
She knew she couldn't go back to the lab in this state so she drove to the Reflecting Pool. But sitting on a bench, staring out at the water without him by her side only made her remember what she had lost. The center had not held. The Jeffersonian's partnership with the FBI would carry on—all sorts of contractual obligations guaranteed that. She was far from her peak efficiency, her focus shattered, but everyone else still did their jobs. Cases were solved, and a number of her interns were showing great promise. But they were not the family they used to be—or if they were, she was no longer part of it. They all pitied her, even she could see that, and all their extensions of aid were worthless because there was nothing they could do to make her feel better.
This wasn't worth it. Nakamura had been wrong. Nothing could be worth this hell she'd opened herself up to. Logic had never betrayed her, but she'd betrayed it, and now it had abandoned her to these feckless emotions which she no longer seemed capable of controlling.
She went to the cemetery next. Collapsed by her mother's grave, and cried out to Booth's god, who she now hated with a fiery passion. "This isn't fair!" she declared. "Why make me love him, and then take him away? And yet leave him here, just out of reach. How could he have forgotten me?"
She almost wished he had a tombstone she could talk to. It was an awful thought—because surely Seeley Booth missing eight years of memories was far better than Seeley Booth rotting away in a coffin. It would be terrible for Parker to be without a father—but wasn't he nearly fatherless anyway, part of her whispered. The boy still came to the Jeffersonian for science lessons with her father, and she had glimpsed him a few times. He was quiet, subdued, not the bundle of energy he'd always been. The first time she'd seen him after the surgery he had run to her, calling, "Dr. Bones."
"Why doesn't Daddy remember me?" he had asked.
She'd been so desperate to hear her nickname, and his eyes looked just like his father's, so instead of trying to explain potential side effects of brain surgery she wrapped her arms around him, buried her face in his curls and whispered, "I don't know."
If Booth had a grave she'd sit by it and tell him that this was never supposed to happen. She'd asked him to father her child before she dared name the intense connection she had to him, but she'd known her intention—whatever the future might bring, whether death or circumstance tore them apart, she would always have a piece of him with her. Despite everything she'd said about not needing him to be involved, she'd assumed that he would be. They spent so much of their time together, anyway, it was inevitable. She knew he was a wonderful father. He loved Parker so very much, and those few days when they'd taken care of Andy she'd seen his paternal side in full effect. In truth, it had not been in Sweets office when she first considered him fathering her child. It was in her office, when he'd slipped and called Andy "ours." An image had flashed in her mind of a child that was theirs, accompanied by a pang of yearning altogether unfamiliar. She'd buried them both, unwilling to deal with what they might mean, but they'd resurfaced in force during Sweet's silly word association game and she'd no longer felt the need to push them aside.
But now she had lost Booth, and there would be no child. He had made the donation, yes. Technically she could go through with it. But his words in the interrogation room haunted her. Broken. Hysterical. "I can't be the father unless I'm involved." Of course he couldn't. She should have known that. How often had she comforted him when he was upset about not getting to spend enough time with Parker—and how many times had she simply sat beside him, observing his heartbreak and not knowing how to make it go away. She should not have been so vehement about his non-involvement. She should have told him that she wanted to raise their baby together. Instead she'd tormented him so much he'd had a breakdown in the middle of a case. She'd caused him to need emergency brain surgery!
Maybe this was her punishment. Maybe Booth's god did exist, or maybe there was truth in the concept of karma. She had tormented him, by being too stubborn and independent and afraid, and now she was being tormented in return.
Because even if he hadn't finally admitted to wanting to be involved, she couldn't have the baby now. How was she supposed to explain her pregnancy to him? This was far outside the bounds of "just partners." The man he used to be had understood her request, because he'd spent years learning how her mind worked. Without those memories he would think her some kind of monster, that she would harvest his sperm but deny him her child.
Perhaps she was a monster. But she could not believe, even now, that he had ever felt that of her. Perhaps he should have, but he didn't. She could remember his voice, his eyes, his words, every time he had comforted her, explained something, simply been there, when she was so used to people disappearing. So many memories, so many moments, and she couldn't compartmentalize them away because in their four years together they had become her life. If she made herself forget, then she'd be nearly as lost as him.
Sometimes when she was alone it seemed like he had to come back to her, because it was simply what he did. He rescued her, and she'd found it infuriating that he felt the need to protect her until Kenton had very nearly killed her but suddenly there he's been, broken ribs and all, to pull her from that hook in the nick of time and hold her until she stopped crying. He'd flown to New Orleans despite her plea not to, helping her to make sense of the frightening gap in her memory and returning to her a piece of her past, despite the potential repercussions to his career, even his freedom, for tampering with a crime scene. When the Gravedigger captured her she had known he would come, even as the fear and the depleting oxygen supply made that increasingly less likely. Every time she saw him that faith flared in her mind, but as each encountered ended with no recognition a part of it died. When it was all gone she was not sure what she would do: move on or become unable to function.
She went back to the lab. Brushed off Angela's attempts to make her talk about where she'd gone. Ignored Cam's insistence she go home at seven o'clock. Worked on Limbo cases until nearly midnight, and then went back to her apartment only because she knew Cam would watch the security tapes, and had threatened to fire her if she didn't go home each night.
But she hated lying in her large empty bed, because while she was usually able to keep her tears in check during the day, at night she could not stem them. All she could think about was the promises he had made her, and all she had imagined for them while he laid in his coma, giving in once to his penchant for conjecture, to her downfall, and how cruel life had been to them both. She clutched a pillow to her chest, wishing it was him, and yearning for the morning.
Maybe it was time to give up. Maybe it was time to go on a dig somewhere. He seemed to be functioning quite fine without her. She was not this woman—someone so soft and needy that a breakup destroyed her. There had not even been a breakup, because there had been no relationship. Not technically. It was absurd for her to be so upset all the time, and she needed to find a way to fix this.
But even resolving that brought no comfort. She'd change her mind in the morning; she always did. She couldn't leave him—she knew far too well how much damage that could do.
A pounding on her door shook her from her misery. She glanced at her clock to find it after one am. Scrubbing the back of her arm across her face, she rose.
Five years ago she would have grabbed the baseball bat from under her bed and had the police on speed dial before she even looked through the peephole, but that night she knew exactly who must be pounding on her door. Eight months ago this would not be so anomalous an occurrence—it was late, yes, but they kept strange hours—but now—whatever could it mean? There was not enough evidence to draw a conclusion, so she yanked open the door to find him, as expected, on her doorstep.
"Booth," she croaked, voice raw from crying and disuse. He wore a loose-fitting t-shirt with some slogan she did not comprehend and grey sweatpants with "FBI" printed down one side. There was nothing too unnatural about that, considering it was one in the morning. But there was something about his stance that was unnatural—unnatural because it had been so natural, five months ago, for him to stand so straight and tall when lately he slouched, the failure of his memory always weighing on him. And his eyes, his warm and reassuring brown eyes seemed to sparkle as he stepped inside and uttered, "Bones."
She was so shocked she stepped backwards rather than forwards, allowing him to close her apartment door behind him. The single syllable she'd so yearned to hear had been spoken with such force, such raw sincerity in the tone she fiercely remembered and she couldn't help the conclusion she immediately jumped to, but nor could she voice it, as if daring to say it would render it untrue. "Do you…" she whispered, unable to finish the thought, not sure that she wanted to hope, because if this was torn away from her now she'd surely shatter beyond all repair.
He nodded, once, and a shade of the smile she adored so much graced his face. "Yeah. I remember."
She sobbed as she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his waist and burying her face in his chest, letting his shirt catch her tears. His arms came around her, one hand pressed against the oh-so-familiar spot on her back, the other reaching up to caress the back of her neck and tangle his fingers in her hair. He was strong and warm and smelled like Booth, and she'd waited so very long to do this. It was far different than many of their past embraces—closer to their desperate coming together on the chopper moments before the Navy ship blew than the far more frequent guy hugs. He rested his chin on her shoulder, shushing her, whispering "I'm sorry, Bones" over and over.
"Prove it," she finally managed. Though it was not a clear request Booth understood.
"You blackmailed me into letting you come out in the field with me, and then you got me in major trouble with Cullen when you shot an unarmed man. We've gone undercover twice, once in Vegas and once in the Circus. We had to start seeing Sweets when I arrested your father right before Jack and Angela's almost wedding, and the kid made us go on a double date to a pottery class with him and his weird fish-loving girlfriend. You have a beautiful singing voice, and a smile the world doesn't get to see nearly enough, and you care so damn much about every body you identify."
It was true, he had come back to her, and there was such reverence in his voice and she could not put this off any longer, not when she thought she'd never have the chance to say the words he's worked so hard to get her to realize. She pulled away from him, just enough so she could look him in the eye, though his hand was still rubbing circles on her back.
"I love you."
And then the paralyzing fear that maybe she'd misread him, which would be worse than him never having come back at all, but only for a moment. But then he smiled—his full on charm smile which made her feel things she could no longer just attribute to biologic processes—and said, "I know."
His left hand made its way to her face, pushing some wayward strands of hair behind her ear and then ever so lightly caressing her cheek. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the sensation wash over her. Opened them again when Booth began to speak.
"I realized that, tonight. I think that's what made me remember."
Their eyes locked. "After you left today I couldn't stop thinking about you. About how you've been there for me ever since I woke up in the hospital room. And how positively devastated you'd looked when you left, as much as you'd tried to hide it. You're so good at hiding, Bones, and God, I'm an idiot, but I didn't realize until a few hours ago that this was hitting you so hard because you're in love with me. But once I knew that—I knew that I loved you too. Knew it. And then I remembered why."
This was it—the last moment she would let them stand so close, stare into each other's eyes but turn away. She closed the distance, reaching back to his neck to pull his head closer to hers. It started gentle, so achingly sweet, but she was tired of aching and she needed him, so she deepened the kiss and plundered his mouth until she couldn't breathe.
She sucked in air as his lips trailed down her neck. She could feel her pulse racing under his mouth and she did not try to muffle the sigh of relief and ecstasy that spilled from her throat.
But when his mouth made it back to her ear he pressed his forehead against hers, pulling back when she leaned forward. "We don't have to do this now," he said, but his voice was deliciously husky and his eyes were dark was desire. "I can go home and come back in the morning, or I can sleep on the couch. We've got all the time in the world. If you're not ready…"
But he had convinced her that she never wanted anyone else to touch her but him right before that possibility was taken from her, and she was desperate for him to touch her now.
"I've been ready for five months, Booth. I'm so tired of somedays and eventually. Make love to me, Seeley."
He froze, he eyes seeming to look right through her, searching for some shred of uncertainty or regret. Always so chivalrous. But that wasn't what she needed now—she needed him—and she was about to tell him so again when his lips crashed back over hers. Then she was in his arms as he carried her back to her bedroom.
The tears started again when he laid her on her comforter, the mussed sheets reminding her how just half an hour before she had been curled there, with only desperation and loneliness for company. Her life had shifted again, just as it had in that hospital—twice: first when she knew that she loved him and again once she knew she had lost him. The flood of emotions was overwhelming—emotions she had stored away for so long they now rushed through her with astounding force, and she could throw up no walls to contain them. Relief and joy and fear and love, all so strong and muddled, and she couldn't fight them, not with Booth there, whole again and in love with her, his hand inching up underneath her tank top and her body on fire.
But he noticed, of course he did, and he extricated both hands so he could brush his thumbs under her eyes—though as soon as those tears were gone others fell to replace them. "Temperance?" he breathed, and the concern in his voice brought a sob from her throat—how many times in the past five months had she wished he would sense her pain and respond like that?
"I can't— I'm just— Don't stop," she pleaded. Only he could make her whole again. She'd finally accepted that. Together they would be fine. He'd put all her pieces back together.
He hesitated even longer this time, propped on his elbows above her, hands tracing her glistening face. She wanted to reassure him that he wasn't taking advantage, but she couldn't begin to find the words. So she just stared back at him, willing him to know what she needed, and finally he said, "I love you so damn much," and neither hesitated again.
When her lips found the scar on his chest he whispered, "Pam Nunan," and when her hand brushed against his thigh he mumbled "Gallagher." Normally she would not wish to be reminded of such things, but the fact that he knew of them soothed her. It was not only the good moments he'd remembered. It was important that he remembered the meaning of these scars, because it was the bad as much as the good that had shaped them, making them who they were both to themselves and to each other. She had saved him, and he had been willing to die for her, and these were truths learned once she hoped would never need to be re-proven.
Afterwards she lay with her head on his chest, counting his heartbeats. At some point her tears had stopped. There was joy percolating inside her, but the sensation was foreign and she didn't quite trust it. His appearance in her apartment still seemed surreal. She dared not close her eyes.
"You should get some sleep, Bones," he said, his voice rumbling through her as his hand stroked her hair.
When she did not consent, he continued. "What are you afraid of?"
Such a strange dream, he had said. It felt so real. What if this was her dream? Better to stay in it then, for all eternity.
"That I'll wake up and you'll be gone," she finally admitted.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I'm not going anywhere. I promise," he swore. And she found, as always, that she couldn't help but believe him.