AN: Don't own Bones.
Brennan grasped the wooden railing of the patio and leaned far out into the open air, letting the cool breeze whipping over the ocean lift the strands of hair around her shoulders. The salty tang of marine filled her mouth as she smiled, letting her lips fall slightly open to taste the effervescent brine. The sun beat down on her shoulders, bared but for the thin straps of a summer dress, and she reflected on how long it had been since she'd felt the warmth and weight of noontime summer pressing down on her. Flexing her toes against the wooden slats beneath her feet, she lifted herself on her arms and balanced further out, thinking vaguely of a sailing ship's figurehead, dipping proudly through open waves. The rhythmic shhhhhhh of breakers hitting the beach lulled her into a profound sense of stillness, of being paused, as the comically raucous shrieks of seagulls zinged around her.
Her partner stood behind her, the breeze lifting the edges of the white shirt that he wore unbuttoned, the sleeves rolled up over tanned forearms that carried two steaming mugs. He held one out to her, slowly crossing the deck. She couldn't help but glance at the bronze color of his bare chest, gilded by the sun, or the lean symmetrical plating of his stomach.
"Coffee?" he offered quietly.
"Mmmmm," she accepted the mug gratefully, inhaling the dark-roasted steam swirling from the inky liquid. "This smells amazing… did you finally learn how to make a decent cup of coffee?" she teased.
Grinning, he merely quirked his eyebrows at her before taking a swallow from his own mug. Standing by her side, he playfully bumped her shoulder with his and rested his hand next to hers on the railing. His eyes followed her gaze out to the open ocean, resting on the thin seam of the horizon where the deep blue of the ocean met the cornflower blue of the sky. Breathing deeply, as if the ocean air could fill not only her lungs but her belly, Brennan tipped her head back to surrender the even plane of her face to the sun. The light was so bright, so pervasive, that it glowed orange even behind her closed eyelids. She felt suffused, diffused, infused, all at once.
"I'm glad you came," Booth said softly. "You needed a break."
Returning her gaze to her partner's warm eyes, she studied the man that had defiantly grown into her best friend. "I really did," she agreed. Tilting her head onto the broad width of his shoulder, she let the moment wash over her, feeling at peace for the first time in too long.
The sound of laughter, lifted on the breeze, reached their ears. Below them, Angela and Hodgins chased each other across the beach, frolicking like children. Angela's joyous shrieks weren't totally dissimilar from the cries of the seagulls wheeling overhead, Brennan thought with amusement. Hodgins had a handful of what appeared to be seaweed, and he seemed intent on weaving it into the wind-whipped strands of Angela's hair as they tussled with each other in the sand. Their levity seemed to distract Sweets from the book he'd been reading, as he paused to peer at them from behind his oversized sunglasses and ridiculous, zinc-oxide painted nose. She had forgotten that he was here. She had to admit that she'd slowly become fond of the underage psychologist, perhaps against her better judgment, but she could only hope that he didn't intend to spend his time here observing her and Booth. For the time being, at least, he seemed just as diverted by the charms of the beach as the rest of them.
Brennan could only smile as she observed the scene. Maybe she should take more vacations, she mused idly, that didn't involve anything resembling work. This languid relaxation certainly wasn't as bad as she had thought it might be. The fervent kiss of sun seemed to sink into the deepest layers of her skin, so that it seemed she would be able to store it like a solar cell, and bring it back with her when she returned home.
Home… she thought of the word idly as she tipped her head up to stare at Booth's face so close to her own. His smile was gentle as he glanced down at her, and he wrapped his arm solidly over her shoulders, pulling her firmly into his side. "Your Dad wanted me to tell you that lunch is almost ready," he said.
"My Dad?" She frowned slightly, feeling disoriented. Perhaps she'd stayed in the sun too long, she thought. Raising her fingertips to her cheeks, she pressed delicately, testing the temperature of her skin for sunburn. She was quite warm.
Abandoning her coffee mug on the railing, she allowed Booth to steer her into the beach house, his hand planted self-assuredly at the small of her back as usual.
"Hi honey," her father greeted her warmly. "Enjoying the sun?" Taking her elbow, Max directed her towards the table, which was set for a large number of people. In the center, in a frosted milk glass vase, was a cheerful bouquet of daffodils bobbing their yellow heads slightly in the breeze drifting in from the open patio doors. Reaching distractedly for the flowers, she brought the vessel to her nose, smelling the faint springish perfume of the winsome blooms. But there was another scent that caught her attention, and she turned to see her father setting a large serving bowl on the table: sweet English peas, tiny baby carrots, and miniature zucchinis smaller than her pinky, glistening in melting butter and confettied with feathery, fresh dill. Staring in amazement at her favorite childhood food, she felt the déjà vu tug of memory enveloping her.
"Where did you find…" she asked in bewilderment, meeting her father's twinkling blue eyes as an oddly familiar voice called her name from the kitchen.
"Tempe, come wash up before lunch."
Turning to the sound, Brennan felt her pulse falter as she saw her mother removing two oversized oven mitts. From the dolphin belt buckle, to the tea-dyed cotton tunic she always loved, to the warm dark eyes and mahogany hair twisted up at the base of her neck, it was her mother. Her mother.
Feeling lost in a fog, Brennan moved like a sleepwalker towards the kitchen. Her mother reached a hand to her daughter's face, playfully pinching her chin. Brennan realized that she was standing eye-to-eye with the woman she last remembered looking up at—a woman whose soft features and unlined eyes put her at an age with Brennan herself. It wasn't possible; it didn't make any sense.
"Wash your hands," she repeated patiently. "And put those flowers back on the table." Her mother smiled in mock exasperation, noting the vase of daffodils that Brennan still clutched in her hands. Turning back to the room behind her, Brennan saw her father and Booth both staring at her with encouraging expressions, as if nothing strange was happening, as if nothing was amiss. Whirling back to her mother, she felt a fission of panic invade the tranquility of the room, billowing around her in unseen currents like smoke filling a room on fire. She went cold—something was not right. She sound of the ocean faded away. The temperature dropped rapidly against her exposed skin. She felt moisture, oddly, at the corner of her mouth. Dabbing a finger cautiously to her lips, she looked down at the crimson smear of blood on her fingertips.
"Booth…" she implored, panicked. "What…?"
She turned back to her mother, finding instead a sudden darkness, as if the sun had been extinguished. Her mother was gone—the whole kitchen was gone. What was happening? Spinning around frantically, she sought her father, and Booth, but found nothing more than blackness stretching in all directions. The last real thing, the vase of daffodils clenched in her white-knuckled grasp, fell suddenly from her hand and exploded on the bare concrete floor with an explosion of shattered glass.
And then pain. A tight ache around her ribs, a sharp stab on her right leg. A swollen knot on her temple. The stagnant odor of mildewed disuse. And silence.
AN: I promise to post the next chapter quickly. I'm writing it now… : )