He didn't know if it was the wetness on his arm or the noises of distress that woke him. The latter was soft, just occasional whimpers, but it broke his heart. Her cheek was resting on their tangled hands, her other hand resting lightly against his arm, as if she needed yet more contact.
It had to be the most uncomfortable position imaginable for sleeping, and a look at the clock told him she'd been that way for hours – the doctors would be making rounds soon. Slipping his hand out from hers, he threaded it through her hair and began to massage just above her neck. "Bones," he said quietly. Not Brennan, though that was her legal name. But 'Bones.' His Bones.
She whimpered again, a sound bordering on despair, and he slid his hand around, wiped the tears, cupped her cheek. "Bones," he repeated, a little louder.
This time, her eyes opened. Confused, wounded, hopeful. Had he caused all those things?
"You called me 'Bones.'" She stopped, cleared her throat, slowly sat up, and pulled away from his hand. "Do you remember m-more?"
He'd bet nearly anything that she'd been about to ask, 'do you remember me.' Regretting the loss of the soft skin of her cheek, he once more took her hand. "I've always called you that. At first it was just to tease you, but later…"
"Later it was a nickname, a show of affection." It came out more gruffly than he'd intended, but regardless, it brought a shy smile, quickly hidden behind her hair, in response.
At a loss as to what to say or do next, he went for the practical. "I don't remember everything yet. And some of it's just images, no real details. I remember the diner, and ice skating with you. I remember zero-G and something about a circus." There was more –a kiss under mistletoe, a vague memory he was pretty sure was of him arresting her father, and her with Sully. But what he didn't remember was exactly how much more than partners they were, and until he did, he didn't want to broach those things. And hadn't Sully been his friend?
Before he could pursue that line of thought, there was movement at the door as Dr. Jurzik came in. The doctor looked thoughtfully at both him and Brennan, and then turned to him. "Good morning, Agent Booth. How are you this morning?"
Unsure what the man was looking for, he shrugged. "I'm starting to remember."
"Are you? That's very good. I expect as your friends come in later, more memories will return. Are you in any pain?"
He reached up, touched the bandages, then shook his head. "No."
"Good." Jurzik glanced at Bones, to include her in the conversation, and then looked back at him. "I've ordered some post-op tests for you this morning – standard, just to see how things are looking. If everything is as it should be at this point, and if your memories continue to return, I may release you this afterno—"
"Yes!" He couldn't stop the grin from spreading over his face. He really hated hospitals.
The surgeon gave him a mild look, and continued, "…contingent upon you having someone you can stay with, or who will stay with you, for a minimum of 72 hours. We don't want neurosurgery patients alone until we're certain all chance of seizures is past." He turned to Bones. "I assume that's you – that you'll be with him?"
It was a good thing Jurzik was asking her directly. Given how little Booth understood about their 'partnership,' he had no idea if the doctor's assumption was a safe one or not, though he found himself rather desperately hoping it was. Far more interested in the answer than the doctor was, he turned to watch her.
Something flickered in her eyes for just a moment but her nod was immediate. "Yes. Perhaps it would be better for him to be in his own place rather than mine? Wouldn't that assist with the return of memories?"
"Probably, though it depends on how much time he's spent in your residence." Jurzik turned back to him. "Someone will be coming by in a few minutes to take you down for the tests. We're also going to get you up out of that bed and walking – we need to see how your coordination is, as well as your stamina after being prone for so many days."
Glancing at Bones, Jurzik said, "I'll be back after lunch to go over the results of the tests. We'll make a final assessment of his readiness for discharge at that point. My recommendation, then, Dr. Brennan, would be for you to go home now and get some rest while we're performing the tests. You've not left the hospital for days," he ended gently.
She hadn't? Really? Fascinated, Booth stared at his partner, who seemed very nearly flustered, and wouldn't look at him. "It was important for someone to be here," she said. "But yes, I'll go…check on things." Finally glancing at him, she picked up her handbag and laptop, and hurried from the room.
A flustered Bones. Even without all his memories, he knew he'd not seen that very often. Pleased, he grinned to himself before turning back to the doctor.
Being out of the hospital felt as good as he'd expected it to. Everything else was lousy. He was weaker than he'd expected to be. He didn't like that while the roads around him were familiar, he couldn't quite figure out where he was. And he hated not being the one driving, particularly since the woman at his side seemed to be taking a perverse amusement in the fact that she was doing so.
Mostly, he hated that he still didn't understand what his relationship with Bones was. She'd agreed with his statement about their being more than partners. But he still didn't know how much more, or what the exact nature of their …whatever-it-was was.
She'd stayed with him at the hospital, was going to stay with him at his place for the next few days. Furthermore, not one of the people who'd paraded through his hospital room after his tests earlier, from their colleagues to Rebecca, had thought that odd or unusual. In fact, Sweets had appeared to relish in it.
Scowling, he stared at the building in front of them as they pulled into a parking space. "This isn't my place. It's yours."
Apparently misunderstanding his scowl, her expression was one of remorse when she responded. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm sure you're exhausted, but I just need to run up and get a few things. I'll be as fast as I can."
"It's not a problem – I just thought you were here this morning, while I was having the tests done."
She shook her head. "I had things I had to finish up at the lab."
Completely unsurprised, he nodded, and then moved to open his door.
"You don't need to come up. It will only take me a moment." Her voice was anxious, and annoyed him.
"I'm fine, Bones. I'm not completely doddering just because I had brain surgery. I want to see your place, see what I remember. I've been here before, haven't I?"
"Then let's go." He pushed open his door and got out, hoping she wouldn't notice the way he leaned on the door for a moment to steady himself. Jurzik had said some weakness was to be expected, and would lessen as he resumed normal activities. He fully intended to resume everything which could be resumed.
Inside, she headed for the elevator, and he scowled again, knowing full well that she normally took the stairs. He considered taking the stairs himself, anyway, just to make a point, and then felt his left leg wobble. Deeply unsettled, he turned and followed her into the elevator, then leaned against the wall, hoping she'd not notice.
But of course she did. "Booth, there's no shame in experiencing physical weakness. Not only have you been in a coma, and in a prone position for several days, there's still a possibility that the surgery will affect your large motor skills at least on a temporary basis."
He really didn't want to discuss it. Really, truly, didn't. "I'm fine, Bones." He cast about for something else to say, something which would distract her. It was damned difficult to do so when he still didn't have all his memories. "What were you working on at the lab?" Yeah, that sounded pretty desperate, actually.
But it worked. "I was replying to some correspondence and finishing the report on the last case we worked on."
So she could take several more days off. He heard the unspoken words, and remembering the comment the doctor had made about her not having left the hospital, guilt pricked him. "Listen, Bones, if you need to go to work…"
"I'm fine, Booth. There is nothing urgent on my desk at the moment. In fact, I thought I could work on the proposal for my next novel while you're recuperating."
Relieved that he wasn't keeping her from work, he grinned. "Will I be in this one much?"
Somewhat primly, she said, "As I've told you before, Andy is not based on you."
Before he could come up with a response, her expression changed, and as she glanced away from him, he'd swear she was blushing. Bones, blushing? Perhaps Andy was beginning to resemble him, after all. He grinned at the thought, but the door pinged, announcing their arrival at her floor before he could pursue it further. Promising himself to look into it later, he followed her down the hall.
He stepped into her apartment behind her, wondering how familiar it would be. The answer was immediate: very. Images rushed at him, of meals, work, teasing…and a pool of blood, with Bones clinging to him, terrified. Not Russ. It hadn't been Russ, after all. His relief had been nearly as great as hers – he liked her brother, liked him a great deal.
But he had to admit to not minding the way she'd turned to him for comfort.
Then his eyes settled on her balcony, and an even uglier memory came back. Epps. The absolute fear of knowing the serial killer had been with Parker, had talked with him, settled into his stomach, and then grew quickly into remembered fury. Barely aware of her, he followed the path he had that night, leaned against the railing and stared down.
"I didn't kill him."
"But I didn't save him."
"He didn't want you to save him."
"I'm not sorry he's gone." It felt good to say the words.
"Neither am I."
He sighed, and turned to lean against the balcony, watching her. Idly, he wondered why Epps seemed to trigger a memory of his having shot a clown, but decided not to pursue it. Coping with the accompanying emotions to the surge of memories was exhausting. He'd rather just contemplate his relationship with his 'partner' – the one who was even now regarding him with concern. "I'm fine, Bones. Go ahead and get your stuff together."
She stared at him for a full ten seconds before nodding and turning back to her bedroom. Resisting the urge to follow her and see what her bedroom looked like – had he ever been in there? – he settled on the sofa, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Everyone had just assumed she'd watch over him while he recuperated. He thought again of the friends he'd seen that morning – the squint squad, Rebecca…he'd not seen one startled look from any of them when he told them he was going home with her. Not one. So their relationship was deep enough, established enough for that.
He had thousands of images of her in his head, but none were of them making love. So they weren't lovers, despite what he knew was a shared attraction, because he'd remember if they were. He was certain of that. He did remember kissing her beneath mistletoe, but the emotion associated with that was silliness and of being flustered rather than simple passion and tenderness – someone had been watching them.
Intimate. Even knowing they'd never taken things to the level of lovers, what they had felt intimate to him. More images bombarded his mind, of late night conversations, of him in a car with Hodgins racing to save her, of her turning to him in grief and fear. She trusted him, and he thought it was in a way she'd not easily trusted before. Then what he recognized was a more recent memory came back, of her saying, 'there's something wrong. Trust me, Booth. Trust me' and he knew the trust went both ways. He had trusted her. Did trust her. Absolutely.
But if the intimacy was there, and the trust, and the attraction – he knew he wasn't alone in that, he'd caught how she watched him – then why weren't they lovers? Why weren't they together the way they'd been in his dream?
It continued to bother him all the way to his apartment, the one thing in his life which still felt out of kilter. He knew he didn't have all his memories, but felt like he had enough of them to function – after all, no one remembered all the details of life, anyway. But he needed to understand what he was to Temperance Brennan. Enough had come back that he already knew what she was to him. Bones. My Bones. My heart…
Stifling a sigh, he pushed open the door of her car and exited. Maybe more of it would come back to him when he saw his place. But looking at her as she rounded the car to join him, anxiety moved in. Maybe the reason the memories he was looking for weren't coming back was because they didn't exist. Maybe she trusted him, cared for him, but didn't love him.
The thought depressed him, and he hid it as they entered the building, moving quietly to the door of his apartment. As he'd expected, more memories were coming back, images really. But still nothing which would tell him what he most wanted to know – that she loved him the way he knew he loved her.
He unlocked the door and walked into the living area. Yeah, it felt like home. It felt like he knew who he was, here. Or nearly.
"Booth?" Her voice was a bit hesitant. "Are you remembering more?"
He turned to her, wondering how she would respond if he replied, I'm remembering everything except how I survive when I love you and you don't love me.
She looked so vulnerable standing there, and he suddenly recalled the wounded look she'd worn when he first awoke from the coma and asked her who she was. Maybe he was jumping to conclusions after all, in assuming his feelings were one sided.
It was time to know. To understand. Making a decision, he said, "I remember a lot. Most things, maybe. I know Parker. The squints. I know who I am. I know who you are." He hesitated before finishing. "But I don't know who we are, together."
Her eyes widened, and he wondered if she'd try to fob him off with the 'we're partners' thing.
She looked away, and though they weren't standing all that near one another, took a step back. His mind registered it as a protective move, even as he said, "I know what it seems our relationship should be, given what I'm feeling. But I don't have any memories to back that up. I need to know, Temperance."
She swallowed, and finally met his eyes. "There's a line. You said that people who work in high risk situations…there's a line, and it's dangerous to cross."
More images slammed into him. Cam. Epps. He closed his eyes against the memory of the terror of that day, and the guilt. And the knowledge that what he'd felt for Cam was a fraction of what he felt for the woman across from him. She was still standing there, looking vulnerable in a way he understood few people ever saw, and suddenly he knew what to say.
"I remember," he said quietly, and watched the relief come into her eyes, followed by wariness when he continued speaking. "What I didn't know the day I told you that is that there's more to that line than just making love, more than just affection. There's heart, and need, and…" in spite of himself, his voice faltered for a moment. But something had changed in her eyes, something he would almost label hope. It gave him courage. "I crossed the line a long time ago, Bones – but I need to know if I'm alone in that."
She swallowed hard and looked away from him, a blush tinting her cheeks. He could see the pulse beating wildly in her throat, but when she answered him, her voice was steady. "Do you remember your dream? The one you were having right before you woke up in the hospital?"
Confused and rather desperately hoping she wasn't changing the subject, he nodded.
"I wrote it."
She looked away as she spoke the words, and his confusion increased, her embarrassment not helping. "What?"
"While you were in the coma, I tried to write, to work on my novel. Instead, this story spilled out, of me and you, and a nightclub, and we were," she hesitated, her blush deepening as she looked anywhere but at him. "We were together." Taking a deep breath, she finally met his eyes. "I don't remember doing so, but can only figure I must have read it aloud to you. The doctors did tell me to talk to you, that the first of the senses to return for a comatose patient is hearing and that you'd respond to—"
She was babbling, and tenderness welled up inside him. Tenderness, and hope, and a love that made his heart ache. Continuing to rattle off information about the care of comatose patients, she was still watching him, and now he thought he knew the meaning of the expression 'with her heart in her eyes.'
"Bones," he said softly, interrupting her rambling. "Do you love me?"
It took her a moment to understand the reference, and then the deer-in-the-headlights look faded, replaced by the confidant woman he knew. With a slight smile, she walked over to him, slid her arms up around his neck. "Yeah," the casual word seemed strange, coming out of her mouth. But she stuck to their script. "Do you want me to prove it to you?"
Before he could answer, before he could even decide whether or not to continue the reversed role play from the story, she pulled his head down and kissed him. As he wrapped his arms around her and allowed his tongue to tangle with hers, he decided it no longer mattered if he had all of his important memories.
They were making new ones.