A/N: Hey, I'm Itch. Just wanted to do my own version of the 'Hallalujah, Booth remembers!' story. I think this one is a little different than others that I've read, but every author thinks his or hers' is 'different'. Regardless of my thoughts, I hope you enjoy the story! And as a disclaimer, I don't own anything about Bones. Just saying.
She hissed as she took in her appearance. God, she'd seen bodies in the morgue, victims of domestic abuse who looked better than she did. New Orleans had been child's play, a walk in the park, a damn bruise compared to this. One eye swollen shut, twenty-seven stitches crawling like ants across her left brow, zygomatic ridge fractured, the skin stretched tight and shining over it, peppered with bruises, one laceration providing a focal contrast. She wanted to grimace, needed to grimace if only to see something uniquely her, an individual expression, but knew the action would hurt. Badly. The parchment thin skin of her bottom lip was enlarged, apple red, apple tight, apple shiny. Another reason the grimace would have been an admittedly idiotic call was the fact that her tongue and cheeks were gnawed bloody, resembled ground beef, disgustingly enough.
Meeting her own gaze was a task she suddenly found difficult. Why? Was she ashamed of herself? She had no reason to be. At least, that's what she told herself. She had done everything possible to fend off her attacker, to defend herself. They had gone into the interrogation room to ask some routing questions, and with no history of violent behavior or reason to suspect Jim Reynolds of anything other than being the father of a murder victim, she and her temporary partner, a man who was a rather alarming gap in the evolutionary chain , had gone in to question him. And the minute the amazing evolutionary gap stepped out to confer with Sweets over some psychological discrepancy, Jim had taken the opportunity to fling the steel table against the door.
And come at her.
It was as effective a beating as she'd ever received, and she'd been the recipient of one or two that would have absolutely knocked the socks off of even the most stoic of agents she'd come across.
Damn, but it had hurt. The pain had been a living entity. Some sort of inner fire coursing through her chest, her stomach, her every nerve ending.
The panic was worse, though. She was trapped in a room that was all but air-tight with a crazed, 200-pound, six-foot-something forklift operator who had, in all likeliness – and despite a thorough lack of evidence, she decided to go with her gut on this one – killed his daughter using only a crowbar and his own rage to fuel his actions.
What was even worse was the fact that she had fought back. It terrified her that the blows she landed didn't seem to get through to him. It was as effective as beating an angry bear with a whiffle bat. She had kicked wildly, flailed her legs, losing sight of uniform self defense, all of her tough-as-nails martial arts training turning tail and sticking it's head in the sand when he pinned her to the floor with his thick, rough hands and stared at her with such brutal anger she'd quivered. He'd wrapped them, those cruel, brown hands, around her neck, squeezed like hell, like he wanted to snap her spine in two. But that was only after he had backhanded her over and over again, kicked her in the stomach after she collapsed from a sucker punch so hard, she heard her ribs crack.
Obviously, as she was standing here in her bathroom, examining herself in the dim, artificial glow of the vanity lights, still breathing, still very much alive and in pain, Agent Ape had managed to muscle his way in and incapacitate Reynolds. She remembered being able to breathe again, the sound of testosterone-fueled shouts, adrenaline driven scuffling. Then, Sweets' earnest face, bending over her, concern, anger, fear intermingled in his puppy-dog eyes. "Calm down, Dr. Brennan, you're gonna be fine. Just fine. Agent Black is cuffing him now," his face turned toward the door, "get a medic, dammit!" Surprise had coursed through her, riding on the back of her pain. Sweets never cursed. He relied more on antiquated idioms to convey his feelings. It struck her as strange. Then she heard a current of sound, of panting, gasping, piteous moans underscored his words. "Just lay still, Brennan. Lay still and calm down." Frustration and urgency in his voice. Calm down? She was fine.
And then she realized with horror that those pathetic, animalistic whimpers came from her, and even as she lay there, she felt a hot wave of shame course through her body, as bright and blooming as the pain, which was practically everywhere. She'd clenched her teeth then, making a notable attempt to cease and desist all helpless cries, and halfway succeeding.
Humiliation swept over her at the memory. Laying on the gurney, an EMT slipping on a nude neck brace, curious, horrified, scornful, sympathetic, concerned gazes landing on her as they wheeled her to the bus.
And mortification as she recalled the one name she'd repeated on some sort of uncontrollable loop.
"I want Booth. I want my partner. Booth? Booth. I want Booth. Booth. Booth. Booth."
Where was the brain-to-mouth filter that she was never without? Granted, she never went a day without making some sort of social faux pas, but at least when it came to herself, to her emotions, she kept them under tight wraps. Choosing her words carefully, censoring her actions, her dialogue in reference to Booth was even more important now, taking into consideration the way her actions had been perceived these last months, had been scrutinized. Five months, two weeks, and four days since he'd woken up, since he'd personally resurrected those walls for her he'd worked so hard to tear down, since he'd left her without leaving, since he'd stopped being hers. At least in the sense she was accustomed to.
She had moved in with him for a time. Her motivations for doing so had been innocent. She simply wanted him to remember; and to be safe. Her kindness had earned Booth's appreciation, respect, camaraderie, and friendship in return. All over again.
And his fellow agents' speculation, lewd comments and derision. Apparently no good deed was safe from gossip-hungry secretaries and agents with ladder-climbing agendas and cruel intentions. So, she censored what she said to save their relationship from further misconstructions.
But she didn't have her partner, did she? Her wishes, her cries had gone unanswered.
In all honesty, though, she preferred he didn't see her like this. It was bad enough she had to suffer seeing herself, better to not subject others to it as well.
He was in Philly with Parker, visiting his grandfather's grave. Visiting some cousins, too. An aunt or uncle thrown in maybe? In short, family. He was making his required annual visit. He likened it to a physical, only with more beer and an over-abundance of language. He had also told her that he wished he didn't have to go, but that it might jog his memory, help him to regain some lost ground.
Yeah, he pretty much loathed the whole idea.
Hated it all.
Excepting his grandfather, of course. He liked his grandfather. Correction, had loved him. He had told her all about the man over coffee and ice cream one night at the diner around some ten months back, and a week ago, she had sat through another retelling. Same words, same proud expression, same nostalgia, same old Booth. She never let on that she knew, let him think he was giving her something, some insight, some part of himself.
She had been doing that a lot, lately. Giving of herself. Be that either lying by omission or willingly giving over information she had never imparted to Booth prior to the whole brain tumor fiasco. Five months could sometimes seem like five years. An illogical concept.
But she didn't want to bother him while he was busy with family matters. He needed his space, some time to relax and escape from her nervous, hopeful glances. Her encouraging smiles and over-attentiveness. She felt like a damn puppy sometimes, constantly trailing after him.
Besides, Angela had been more than willing to pick her up from the hospital, something Brennan had appreciated. Then again, she should have anticipated that once Angela saw her looking like she did, the artist would summon up her inner Bea Arthur, and maternal instincts. Which she did.
"Bren, Sweetie, my God!" She'd whispered, muffling the words with her slender fingers, and then starting to cry. Lord, she didn't know how to deal with tears. She quickly tried to amend the situation.
"I'm fine, Ange. I promise. It looks… much worse than it really is. A couple of cracked ribs, a sprained wrist, a…" she'd gestured towards her face, and then hid a wince the movement elicited, "myriad of hematomas and lacerations. But nothing serious. Really."
She left out the tidbit about getting CAT scans and MRIs and ultrasounds to check for internal bleeding and just barely managing to skirt admittance. Yes, her doctor had been an extremely unhappy… hiker? Trekker? Camper? They all sounded in the vicinity of correct. Booth would have known. She felt that now common-place stab of loss, and hid another wince caused by a different kind of pain.
"It looks like a Quentin Tarrantino character went after you with a billy club and a vengeance," she snapped, "you're not fine. Not close to fine. I know it, you know it, and if Booth were here he'd say the same damn thing. Don't try to feed me that bullshit," she said, her tone too sharp, her eyes too flinty, obviously shaken. She was tired of seeing Brennan like this—bruised on the inside and out. It tore at her.
Brennan had been surprised. Both by the language and Angela's stubborn resistance to her hedging. Brennan swallowed and looked down and away, entirely unsure of what to say, what to do to calm her friend's frazzled nerves. That was always left up to Booth, the comforting.
"Are… did they give you any pain meds?" Angela added after a long moment, making an attempt at gentleness, hating that she sounded angry. Because she wasn't; not at Brennan, not at Booth; not really angry at anyone. Just angry at fate. Angry at everything.
"Yes, they gave me some Valium and told me to take what I needed."
"Good, that's good," Angela had the suspicion that even though she had the medicine, Brennan would neglect to take it. Too stubborn for her own good, that one. Crossing her arms over her chest, Angela started in again, "I'll drop by that little vegan market on the way back to my place and get some of that soup you like and some chai tea that'll blow your mind. And then we can hole up with some ice cream and watch girl movies after I draw you a bath."
"Wait, Ange, no. No, no. I'm going back to my own place. There's no need to –"
"Absolutely not. Do you honestly think that I'm going to leave you alone in that dreary museum you call home? You have no TV, no food, and no one there to check up on you. If I do leave you alone, all you'll do is read anthropology journals and go through case files and that's completely out of the question. And it's in my nature, Sweetie, you know it is."
Brennan couldn't even muster up the energy to argue properly. She gingerly pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose, desperate to release the pressure thrumming in her sinuses and behind her eyes. "I would really like to have my own space tonight, Ange. I just… I need it." She met Angela's still tearful gaze and tried not to reveal how close to tears she was herself; how incredibly tired, how incredibly drained and emotionally weighted she felt. Had felt ever since Booth woke up in that hospital and made her life that much harder, even though the fault did not lie with him. Tried to appear cool and detached, and maybe even a little aloof. Distanced from the situation and psychologically if not physically sound. Tried not to show how great a toll that effort had taken on her.
"Ever since…" she tried again, but her voice broke and she croaked, "…I don't think I would be good company," she continued, "and truth be told, I don't want company. I'll always love you, Ange, but now, I need space. I need to…process. I just can't be with anyone tonight."
Angela eyed her carefully, her warm brown eyes—too much like Booth's, too insightful, too keen, too full of an emotion Brennan herself felt more often than she let on—passed over her face, tightened in speculation, then relaxed. She let out a sigh and gave Brennan the smallest of smiles, "You ready for me to take you home then?" She had taken Brennan's hand without waiting for an answer, "And I'm still getting you the soup, I don't care what you say. I've seen the way you keep house. You can't feed anyone with ketchup and crackers."
Ridiculous. She didn't even like ketchup.
And now, seventeen long hours later, she still felt that emotional drain sucking at her soul. She was tired; even after sleeping for around ten of those seventeen hours. So beyond tired, that exhaustion couldn't even touch what she felt. She remembered exam weeks, how she would spend hours sitting at the library, inhaling cup after cup of bitter, burned coffee, or seemingly endless nights holed up in her dorm room, sitting in that god-awful chair at that cluttered little desk and stare at paragraph after paragraph of text that she forced her brain to take in, to comprehend. Those nights had seemed never-ending and had grated her emotions to fine powder, easily stirred up, easily scattered. But then, that season passed, and she had found comfort in those nights, knowing that they would end. Exams would eventually end, her dissertation would eventually finish itself, and she would finally become what she was supposed to be.
But now, she had no baseline, no starting point. The remainder of her life would be an endless string of exams, it seemed.
Shrugging off her unease, she padded into the kitchen to sip on the Chai tea Angela had picked up for her. The cup was warm, felt good against the tender, swollen flesh of the base of her hand. She leaned against the edge of the counter and stared at a brick building out the window, admired the way the sun washed it garnet red. She took another sip of her tea, frowned, set the cup down delicately. No tea. No anything. Food sounded terrible right about now. Not even the pudding cups she had filched from a hospital tray sounded appealing. She remembered how much Booth had loved them. Wondered if he still did. Wondered if he remembered loving them.
Heaving a sigh, she turned to find her bottle of Tylenol 3 and her glass of water, resolving to take a nap on her couch, when she heard someone at her door.
"Coming," she called, wincing at how hoarse she was. Angela had called three times already. Once to check up on her, another time to ask—correction, beg—her to come over, and the last time to reassure herself that Brennan was indeed alive and to see if she was really sure that she didn't need a milkshake or a burger or for her to come over and play nurse for a while. Naturally, when she stiffly opened the door with her left hand, she expected to find Angela on the other side, bright eyed, wearing that I-ate-the-canary grin, toting some sort of fattening food source.
What she got was another thing all together.
"Booth," she said reflexively, unnerved but glad to see him. Too glad, she thought as she stifled a sigh at the sight of him.
He didn't say anything, but she saw the way his eyebrows twitched up, how his jaw stiffened in synchronization with his frame. She saw those eyes that she knew so well and had stared into so often sweep over her in that way he had always done, assessing, searching. His lips pressed thin and he swallowed tightly. She saw his hands bunch into fists, the knuckles turn white as the bones beneath his skin. Her stomach clenched. His expression was dangerously placid, schooled to be so, but his eyes couldn't lie.
"She said it was bad," he murmured, and met her gaze. His eyes were dark with what she knew to be fury, but creased in a way that belied sadness. "I didn't realize that she meant this bad."
"Not so bad. When did she call you?" Brennan asked, trying to sound stronger, happier than she felt. But she was never good with brush-offs.
"Bad enough," he said, rough, angry, his fingers empty and aching to either strangle the bastard who did this to her or comfort her, "She called after she left your apartment. About eleven last night." He reached out and brushed the side of his index finger against her face, against blemish-free skin, and she felt a rush of warmth, of familiarity, of hope rush through her while her stomach simultaneously coiled into hundreds of knots. "She didn't say how or why, just that it was bad. That he'd beat the hell out of you."
"You drove all night? That's ridiculous. This is nothing. I've had worse," she insisted, and bit her tongue as his eyes darkened further, realizing it was the wrong thing to say.
"So why'd he jump you, Brennan?" He said after a long beat and she almost flinched when he said that. Almost. But she had forced herself to grow accustomed to the way he said her name. Her given name. It sounded wrong coming from him, almost like language and brusqueness coming from Angela.
"Sweets told me it most likely stemmed from a deep-seated issue he has with women. Especially women with positions of authority. I don't remember the details, but essentially, Sweets said he reacted like a cornered animal. When we brought him in, he made an effort to control his baser urges, to not give in to his desire to bring me down from the pedestal he believes me to be on, but when an opportunity presented itself, he took it. In most cases, I think psychology is about as helpful as applying a band-aid to a Basilar skull fracture, but I defer to Sweets in this. His reasoning seems legitimate."
Booth didn't say anything after her long-winded speech, just nodded, just stared at her wordlessly. Squirming under his gaze, she moved to the side and gestured loosely toward her kitchen.
"I was just having some tea. Do you want to… come in and sit down? Maybe talk for a while?"
He smiled, and it seemed genuine even if it was small, "Sure. I could stand a good talk. And beer, if you have any."
"You're in luck," she said, biting down a moan of pain when she lifted her injured hand too quickly, "I have some in my pantry."
"Yeah, I brought a box of Sam Adams back from a party Ange and Hodgins threw a couple of weeks back – you went, you remember – and just forgot to put them in the fridge."
"Warm beer?" His lip twisted up in disgust. "I think I'll pass this time."
"Oh, and I have pudding," she said, suddenly remembering, "hospital pudding. You like it, right? Vanilla?"
He stared at her, momentarily rendered speechless. She stood before him, battered, wounds still raw, face still swollen, a women who, by all rights, should still be confined to a hospital bed, and here she was playing the hostess, thinking of his preferences in dessert. She surprised him. Continually. He suspected she always had, and that made him appreciate her, like her, care for her all the more.
"Yeah, I like the pudding," he finally said, catching her puzzled expression.
"Would you like some?"
"No, not just yet. I had some tacos on the way," he murmured, still staring intently at her. Intently enough to make her shift. She didn't like it when he tried to figure her out like this.
"Parker doing okay?" She asked, turning toward the counter and retrieving her tea.
"Yeah, he's fine. He was going to see the Liberty Bell today with my cousin Carl and his kids."
"I loved the Liberty Bell. My mom and Russ and I went on a weekend. We stayed at some thirty-dollar-a-night motel, lived on cheese-steaks and pizza, went shopping, sightseeing," she started to smile, then stopped. Her face was too stiff. Smiling was painful. It always had been. She sat down at the table and he followed suit, settling in a chair next to her, all legs and arms, bigger than life. Having him here felt good, felt right, and it filled some hole in her that she had never known existed until she met him.
"It was a good weekend, then," he asked, even though he knew the question was stupid.
"Yeah," she breathed, "it was. You should have stayed and gone with them." She felt guilty, and she couldn't pinpoint why. Because Parker didn't have his dad for the weekend? Because she was stealing away a memory from Booth? A memory with his son he could have had?
"So what'd they say?" He said suddenly, ignoring her comment, and his eyes fell to the ace bandage on her wrist and jerked to her face again.
"About what?" She asked, confused by the jump in conversation.
"About the damn—" he started in a low, furious voice, stopped, checked himself, resumed, "about Reynolds. About you. About the case. Where's everything going from here? You obviously need a break of some sort from work. How long are you going to take off?"
She blinked, then frowned. Just stop working? Just like that? Oh, that's right, he'd only known her for five-and-a-half months. Five-and-a-half months going on five damn years. She swallowed.
"I don't take breaks," she told him, trying not to sound cool. That's how she felt these days, hot one moment, as warm to the touch as her cup of tea, and the next second, a wave of disappointment chased away the warmth and reintroduced her body to icy conditions. Hot to cold. Cold to hot. She used to be lukewarm. Whatever happened to tepid? To indifferent, apathetic, uncaring?
"The hell you don't," he snorted at the idea of her working like she was, "everybody takes breaks. And you of all people deserve a break. You haven't slowed down since I checked out of the hospital. You're letting everything wear you down, you're letting—" he broke off, and suddenly looked up at her, his dark eyes almost black, remorseful, guilty, and distressed, "I shouldn't be here," he said suddenly, and a surge of self-deprecation sang through him, "I should be doing this on my own, not burdening someone else; burdening you."
She jerked as though shot, stared at him wide-eyed, "No, you aren't—" she started to protest.
He wasn't about to let her defend his egocentricity, "Don't even. I mean, look at you. You're almost dead on your feet. Exhausted as well as beaten within an inch of your life," he said through his teeth. Part of him was angry, and another, excited. This emotion, these emotions, were familiar. He was supposed to worry about her, supposed to put her ahead of himself. He knew this, had known this, but actually experiencing it was another thing altogether. It felt like the cogs of his life were straining to reconnect, and she was one of those cogs. Maybe the key to fitting them back together. Another burst of anger, "And part of that is my fault. My fucking fault for shoving this on you without any regard to—"
"Yes I am, damnit! I'm wearing you down. You helped prop me back up and point me in the right direction when I was so disoriented I couldn't find my own ass with both hands and a magnifying glass," something she had done before and would do again, and he could feel, see, sense watercolor images of her actions in the past, guiding him, saving him, "You outdid yourself over and over again, getting me groceries, showing me pictures, trying to jog my memory with stories, taking me to the diner, to the lab, to your place, just to give me a change of scenery," he raked a hand through his hair roughly, his eyes raking over her, mentally grasping at those elusive images. She tried to hold back tears, sensing his struggle, frustrated that nothing was changing.
"And how do I repay you? I stick around, that's what. God, I'm such an ass! You know I didn't think about what this was doing to you? Not once," he snorted in contempt, his features twisting into a grimace, "not a single fucking time. What does that make me?"
He fairly snarled out that last phrase and much to her chagrin, she teared up again, feeling loved and offended all at once. At her tears, he started and looked guilty and concerned.
"God, I'm sorry. I just—I didn't—you're my touchstone in some senses, but I need, I just don't think we—" he broke off and stood up from the table, jerking away, shoving his hands in his jean pockets. She felt alternately hot and cold, wondering where he was going, wanting lukewarm, wanting normalcy, afraid, petrified at the thought of him leaving, "—but when someone is a touchstone, well, I guess that's just a euphemism for being trapped, being cuckolded by a sonovabitch with no consideration for anyone but himself. And I'm sorry I stayed so long, sorry that I—"
"Stop," she moaned, that one word filled to the brim with exhausted grief, "God, please, just stop. Enough."
He felt a vice clamp down on his heart when her hand slid over her eyes, blocking them—the tears, the grief, the anger, what?—from view. She seemed so strong, so capable, and he had always perceived her that way, ever since they left the hospital. He had seen reliability in those beryl eyes, and had found himself anchoring himself to that reliability, to that strength. But instead of using her as a harbor, someone to trust in, just until he found his land-legs again, he'd treated her like a host. And he'd played the willing parasite, feeding on her willingness to help.
He reached out a hand to comfort her, then pulled it back, afraid she would take it the wrong way.
"Brennan, I just—"
"Do you honestly think I've been helping you all this time out of selflessness?" she cut him off, almost matching him for anger, "I know you still don't know much about me, still have a lot to learn – re-learn as you will – but I'll tell you right now, I am not an altruistic individual. Benevolent, sometimes; kind, to those I care for; giving, towards those who deserve. But I never do anything out of selflessness," she met his gaze, staring hard at him to drive her point home and he felt a tug of familiarity and a flush of anger at not remembering her, knowing he should, that he had to, "This, me being with you, staying with you, was as much for me as it was—as it is—for you. In case you hadn't noticed, I don't have an excess of continuity in my life. People that should stay, leave. People that should leave stick around for longer than they're wanted," he started to speak and she cut him off again, eyes sparking, chest heaving, "And don't you dare group yourself in that category. Don't. Because you've been the one person in my life to stick around when you probably should have gone. Not because I didn't want you to stay, but because you could have done more, been happier."
"I'm still a little unsure of myself," Booth started in quickly, almost offended by her supposition, "of who I am now as opposed to five years ago, but I'm almost positive I'm not the sort of person to stand by and let others control me. I've never been indifferent, it's just not in me. So if I stayed, it's because I wanted to, and for no other reason. I'm no more selfless than you are."
She scoffed, but his words seemed to calm her considerably. She swallowed, her throat working under her thin, white skin. Unthinking, she reached up and brushed away angry tears. Which brought the simmering pain in her face roaring back to life.
"Shit," she cursed on a yelp, gritting her teeth, slamming her good hand down on the glass tabletop as tears replaced the ones she just wiped away.
When she cried out, he instinctively reached toward her, and something inside of him seemed to click. One cog, two cog. A watercolor memory solidified, the details so vivid, so tangible that he knew it had to be real.
"Dogs," he murmured. A warehouse. Darkness. Fear that was as concrete as the gun in his hand. Pain. A physical, sharp, inescapable pain. "I remember dogs, and a warehouse, Brennan, and you—you were—" he snapped his mouth shut, biting back black words, feeling that anger again.
When he looked up into her eyes, they were bright, almost feverish in their intensity, "I was what?" she asked, her voice scarcely above a whisper.
"Tied up," he said in a clipped tone. A muscle jerked in his cheek as he thought of her like that—vulnerable, bruised, shaking, whimpering. A flush of heat accompanied the anger he felt burning in his chest and stomach. She gasped and tried to strangle the rising optimism in her, tried not to smile too widely.
Another solidification. He blinked, then frowned, "And…I shot someone, didn't I?" Yes, he remembered. Everything about that incident seemed to stand out with vivid clarity—the hesitant give of the trigger as he fired, the sounds of relief and fear that she made, the pressure of her arms around his bruised neck, and the expression in her eyes. The same expression then as she was wearing now.
"I shot someone for you," he said softly.
"That only goes so far," she breathed in reply, repeating her own words from a time that seemed ages ago, wearing a warm smile that turned her eyes a powder blue, "but yes, you did. Many times."
His eyebrows pulled together, "What else don't I remember?" It was a self-directed question, and one that he couldn't find an answer for. Part of him knew he should be satisfied with having recovered a lost memory, but it wasn't enough somehow. Like winning a small battle when the entire war loomed in front of you.
"You may not remember yet," she told him, solemnly, looking worn and tired, "but I have faith that you will."
If it was possible, his throat tightened more at her words. Thank God for her faith, her seemingly limitless faith. Lifting his hands, Booth scrubbed his face, then knotted his nose and chin up in his fist, eyes screwed in concentration. "I try to remember. I try so hard that it hurts, the effort does. But all I see are these…shadows. These phantom memories. It's almost like déjà vu, or a dream that you can't quite remember. You see these sketchy outlines, can grasp a couple of random details, but it's as obscure as a road in a fog, you know?"
Brennan's eyes burned, her smile gone, as she regarded her partner, her friend. Granted, he was much more than that, but was there even a classification for what he was? Did he even remember what he was to her? What they had together? Would he ever remember fully, or would that critical, singular aspect of their partnership drift forever in a sea of fog? She shuddered, suddenly cold, unnerved.
"I'm sorry," she said, meaning it, but hating that she was resorting to platitudes.
"Me too," he pulled back and folded his arms in front of his chest. After a beat, "You know, I think I will have some of that pudding."
"Of course you will," she smiled wryly at his predictability and started to stand only to sit back down when he shot her a glare and leapt to his feet. Overprotective alpha-male that he was, she should feel annoyance, but she didn't. That gesture was too much like the Booth she knew, her Booth; and she decided that she would let it slide this time.
As she watched him pull open her fridge door without hesitating, as he used to do, she let her mind wander. The way he moved always looked cat-like, so antithetical to his build, which was thick and muscled, not lithe and nimble. She wished he would fold her into one of his guy-hugs, the kind where he held her just a little too long and a little too close to make it manly. He hadn't hugged her that way since before his surgery. Since he didn't really know her anymore, not really, she attributed his lack of affection to the fact that he was a tried-and-true gentleman. Chivalrous, knight in armor, Carey Grant sort of gentleman. Therefore, the last thing he would want to do would be to upset her, cross a boundary he didn't know existed. The thought of having to lay out what their relationship really was in graphic detail seemed awkward, innately wrong and she balked at the thought. But living without those hugs, those brief touches, and appreciative glances was more painful than she let on, than she allowed even herself to dwell on.
He returned to the table and settled down with a spoon and a pudding cup, "Did I say thanks for these, 'cause I'm pretty sure I didn't thank you properly," he chuckled softly and gave her that sideways smile that was so familiar she was almost lured into thinking things had never changed. She shrugged.
He scooped up a generous spoonful of pudding and lifted it to his mouth, "Here's to you, Brennan," he quipped, still smiling. She gave him a paltry imitation of a smile, feeling brittle at his too-formal "Brennan", the magic of the one regained memory now seeming unimportant, not enough.
The spoon disappeared between his lips and she sighed, "The last time you were eating that, you were in the hospital. Right before the dog incident. And I got in trouble with you for looking through your x-rays," she paused and grimaced, "which was painful, seeing what you went through. The pipes, protecting your friend. You had sustained some fairly serious inj—Booth?"
She broke off at his stony expression, the way he was regarding her, so intensely she wondered if there wasn't something terribly wrong. Her stomach clenched and her breath hitched, "Booth, I—"
And suddenly, he was in front of her, and folding her gently, so incredibly gently, into his arms. She stiffened in surprise, "Booth, what are—"
"I remember, Bones," he said, lowly. And she felt the way his words rumbled through his frame, felt the familiar way he held her, felt the almost seismic shift in him, and felt herself suddenly unraveling at the seams.
There was a pause where she tried desperately to salvage her composure, and then she sobbed. Sliding her arms—not remembering, not feeling her swollen wrist—around his back, she pulled him to her. One gulping, heaving, wracking sob after another shook her body, and drove hot tears from her eyes. Waves of relief washed over her and seemed to filter through her pores, washing away the chronic pain of the last five months. Where was her poise, her dignity, her reserve? He was shattering it, he always had.
Part of her had doubted he would ever remember, ever come back to her, but she had forced herself to muscle through the doubt, the fear, and she had been angry at herself for even harboring the idea. Maybe that was why her relief, her grief, was so acute. Because she had lost nearly everything, but had been unable to admit her fear, her loss, to anyone, even herself. There had been no processing through anything, there had only been pressing on, pushing through. The thought drove another muffled sob from her mouth and she tightened her arms around him even though her arm shook in pain from the contact. Her heart hurt more.
It had all come back in a rush for him, which the doctor had informed him was completely possible, that his life could return to him in segments or in an instant. How was it possible that the memories he now had felt like they had always been there, even though he could remember not remembering? Strangely paradoxical. And then, seeing her sitting there, staring at him expectantly, her beautiful face swollen and bruised, his heart clenched, seemed to swell two or three sizes and he wanted nothing more than to hold her. Maybe to comfort her, maybe to comfort himself, he wasn't altogether sure. All he knew was that this woman was probably the most self-sacrificing, loyal, loving individual he had ever had the privilege of knowing, and that all of his previous memories with her in tandem with the ones he had accumulated over the past five months painted a picture he wanted to keep for all eternity. She had given of herself over and over, simply to make him happy, to help him, to comfort him. Everything she had shared with him the second time around—her time in foster care, her mother's death, her family abandoning her, their cases—triumphant and bitter, her fears, hopes, everything. She had laid her heart bare, and he, not knowing anything, had been only moderately grateful, not realizing what it had cost her, how incredibly difficult it was for her.
Almost unable to speak, he knelt down, knowing his eyes were burnished from happiness and suppressed tears, wrapped as much of himself around her as gently as he could, and whispered, "I remember, Bones."
He expected joy, surprise, elation, relief, maybe some tears. So when he heard that first sob, that sob that seemed to come from some dark, grief-filled corner of her soul, he felt his heart shudder to a halt. He was almost about to chalk up that sound to a moan of relief when another sob followed, this one deeper, more wrenching. And then she was squeezing him against her like she wanted to melt into him, be part of him, and her sobs came in sharp, anguished bursts, one on top of another, each one tearing into his heart, ripping into him and drawing blood.
He had always known she cared for him, even when she was cool or indifferent, but this was something else entirely. What did you call this kind of relief? This manner of devotion? She always insisted that she didn't believe in it, couldn't believe in it, but her every action spoke of it.
Now he knew why she had remained stony faced and emotionless at his funeral—because if she had shown any grief at all, she would have shattered.
Another sob, her body jerking against his. "Oh, Bones, it's…" she clasped him tighter, and he knew words at this point would do nothing to quell the storm.
So he decided to let his actions speak for him, just as hers had done. Cupping her face so lightly his fingers barely skimmed her jaw, he drew back and kissed her forehead, the corner of her eyebrow. Her skin was soft, sweet, tasted like he imagined it would both before and after his surgery. It had only taken five months to fall for her again. Maybe he was meant to be with her always.
He tasted salt when he kissed her cheek, damp with tears, her jaw, the corner of her mouth. Her swollen lips, soft and trembling.
"I'm here," he said softly, between kisses, "I won't leave, I'm here," and kept repeating those words like a mantra, willing her to hear them, to believe them. Needing her to believe them.
Each kiss and every word seemed to absorb the sadness, to draw it out of her like a poultice to poison. His lips moved hesitantly at first, and then more urgently, needing everything, more than he dared to take. Moved along her skin, skin that he knew now, knew the smell of and the feel of; moved along her lips, which were new territory, softer than her skin, more her than anything else. With each kiss, she grew calmer, grew more aware of him and of the reality of the situation, of the fact that he was hers again, hers more than ever before. When his lips slid along her jaw, she opened her eyes, tried to convince herself it wasn't just another fantasy born of desperation, not just another frighteningly realistic dream. When his lips skimmed hers, soft as satin, and nipped down on her lower lip, she gave a soft sound of desire, and the need leaped inside him, white hot. Her eyes were no longer that powder blue, but rather a deeper, murkier hue, dark with longing, liberation. He marveled at how quickly the color shifted, at how they were a mirror for her moods. Marveled at her. Everything about her held him.
She felt tightly coiled and simultaneously relaxed. It was a heady combination to say the least. She was losing herself in his eyes, and while she knew she should be afraid of the disorientation, she could only find it intoxicating, strangely tantalizing to trust in one individual so much.
"Bones," he rasped, his fingers, tracing her collarbone now. A shudder slid lazily through her frame, from his touch and from the way he said her name, like it was some sort of privilege, some sacred thing.
"Mm?" She managed to hum, senses still overcome.
"I'll never leave you. Not if I can help it. I swear."
"I know," she said, serious as hell. And it was the truth.
His fingers stilled on her chest and she could sense his frown before she saw it. Opening her eyes languidly she met his gaze, which was puzzled, aroused, joyful…loving.
"I didn't—what do you know?"
Pressing her cool hand against his warm face, she smiled a smile only for him. One that was full of everything she wanted to tell him, had ever wanted to impart, but had been too afraid, too hesitant to share.
"I love you more," she murmured, low because she could barely get it past her throat, tight from emotion—from fear and excitement and anticipation.
For a moment, he couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't think save for processing those four words over and over again. The four most beautiful words he had ever had the privilege of hearing spoken aloud. He kept examining them in his head like she did with her bones, wondering if what he thought she had said was what had really come out of her mouth. Wondering if every dream he'd ever had was collaborating against him to drive away his sanity.
Seeing his disbelief, seeing that doubting Thomas in him, she leaned forward and pressed her mouth against his, loving the way his lips fit snugly against hers, how they felt like they were made to connect only to hers, only for hers. He responded with desperation, his lips working with hers, the kiss hot and wet, searing them to each other.
"I do, I love you," she whispered again, her words muted and indistinct as she said them against his lips, her very heart in the words.
And that feeling of her lips against his and her words, her declaration, ringing in his ears sent the last of his doubt and misconceptions, his fear of unworthiness and self-imposed restraint tumbling heedlessly over a cliff.
"Love you, too…have…for so long," he told her and grasped her head gently, pulling her to him tightly, slipping his tongue between her lips, stroking, tasting.
Her lips tasted soft and sweet, familiar, yet simultaneously foreign. Almost like a dream. Like his lost memories. He traced her lips with his tongue and felt her open her mouth and moan as he slid his tongue against hers. God, this woman. She was everything. Every memory, every dream, every damn desire. Everything in him wanted to crush her to him in a primal display of ownership, mark her with his teeth, brand her, but he couldn't. Wouldn't. Not when every inch of her buttermilk skin was mottled with bruises. The thought seemed wrong. Instead, he handled her like porcelain, touching lightly, each featherlight brush of his fingers meant to titillate, arouse, stimulate.
Her stomach was clenching with arousal, her body tighter than piano-wires with anticipation, desire. Gently, he pressed his lips against her breast through her cotton shirt, his mouth hot, dampening the skin beneath. A groan slid from her lips, and she threaded her fingers through his short hair, pulling him tighter against her. Each touch, each stroke from this man was electric. A gasp caught in Brennan's throat. She clutched his shoulders as he pressed his lips against a scrape on her jaw, the feeling painful and exquisite, enough to make her eyes water. The need for this man, for his touch, burned within her, an all-consuming flame, too wild, too intense, too damn much. God, everything he was doing spoke of his love for her. Every kiss, every stroke, every word. She had never known what it felt like to have her self-control whipped away from her by one person, to have her senses overrun by one man. The feeling was terrifying and exhilarating and left her reeling, clinging to him.
He sucked her earlobe, scraped his teeth against her neck, slid his fingers along the insides of her thighs. Senses addled, swimming through treacle, she murmured, "I missed you…missed us. It was…you were…you were right there," she whimpered as he pulled away and met her eyes, "but I couldn't reach you. Untouchable, but fully tangible," she panted, her words punctuated by gasping half-sobs, "Loved you, but couldn't tell you. Afraid I wouldn't get the chance," her voice trembled, her lip quivered, her eyes filled.
Every word she spoke was laden with pain and they hit him square in the chest. One after another after another. Breathless with the intensity of her pain, the wonder of the moment, he pulled her down on the floor with him. She slipped down willingly, all her stiff-necked pride and backbone slipping with her, and sat on his lap, her legs on either side of him, her face burrowed in his neck, and he held her. No, not held, clung to her, pressed her, covered her.
And just like that, the heat and fire, the urgency of the moment before was lost, and only the newly lifted sorrow, the need for each other's presence, the relief and love was left. He pressed his face against the side of her head, her hair like brushed, black silk, smelling like vanilla and apples, and just her.
That's all he ever wanted. Just her.
"I know," he finally said, feeling full contentment. Feeling…right.
And she smiled shakily and pulled him tighter to her chest, melting into him like a cat into sun.
A/N: So? It made me happy. I needed some sort of release. Anyways, hope you enjoyed it. Leave a review if you like!