I held a Jewel in my Fingers – Emily Dickinson
I held a Jewel in my fingers -- I woke -- and chid my honest fingers,
And went to sleep --
The day was warm, and winds were prosy --
I said "Twill keep" --
The Gem was gone --
And now, an Amethyst remembrance
Is all I own --
I woke -- and chid my honest fingers,
Booth shifted position on the couch. He cast out his right leg and resting his heel on the carpeted floor, scrunched his toes, then flexed them and then went through the ritual again. The ache that gnawed at the bones and muscles in his foot didn't fully subside but it was enough so that he could concentrate on the game - sort of. The Redskins were down 6 – 9. Scratch that. It was now 6 – 12. He watched the repeated footage of the ball sailing through the uprights and cursed out loud. The score line was almost as painful as his aching foot. Almost.
He thought about calling for a pizza, maybe ordering in some Thai but his cell was out on the kitchen worktop and well, that was just too far to travel. Booth ran his hands through his hair, and pushed back deeper into the couch. He was sore all over. Granted, his feet won first prize in the 'what hurts the most category' but his back and neck were worthy runners up. He closed his eyes. Rebecca used to give the best back massages. Back when they were dating, he'd paid for a series of classes as a birthday gift one year and she'd gotten really good at it. Okay, so maybe the gift wasn't entirely selfless. She'd known that of course. Nevertheless, he'd come home from work, aching and tired, and she would sit him down at the kitchen table and work the muscles in his shoulders and back until the tension ebbed away – all in the name of practice.
The muscle in his cheek twitched slightly as he considered that Captain Fantastic was reaping the benefits of the tuition now. It wasn't a case of jealously, rather a case of money down the drain. Fuck, he was in a bad mood.
In those early days it had all been so easy between them. And then they'd gotten pregnant and pretty soon after nothing helped to ease the tension that took up residence in his body. Booth had never really forgiven himself for breaking things off. Or for letting Rebecca break things off. When the dust had settled it really hadn't been clear who'd ended it. All that mattered was Parker, and it was for his son's sake that Booth still felt guilty for not making it work.
Why the hell was he thinking about Rebecca, about the past? He banged his head a couple of times on the seat cushion behind him, as if that would shake the memory loose.
He needed another beer. Hell, he needed more than one. But the thought of having to get off the couch and walk to the kitchen made him question if he was really all that thirsty. Tiredness rolled over him in waves. He felt beaten and battered by it. His eyes stung. He opened and closed them again. It felt as though there was a gritty film coating his eyes and each time he closed them they scratched against his eyelids. He felt hot, painful tears build up and run into the creases at the corner of each eye. He didn't wait for them to fall. He swiped the back of his hand across each eye and then wiped his hand across his chest; the wetness of his tears darkened his grey t-shirt in places.
He wanted it to be night time already. He just wanted to sleep.
His day had started brightly enough. He'd swung by the Jeffersonian on his way into work to pick up a report from Hodgins about bugs or slime, maybe both – the specific contents of which would always remain a mystery to Booth. This wasn't a bad thing. On his way out he'd run into Bones and confirmed that he'd meet her later for lunch so they could run through their latest case. She was impatient to know some of the details and he'd smiled and said "What did curiosity kill?" She'd looked at him blankly, which made him smile even wider.
The rest of his morning was fairly uneventful. He'd run a couple of training sessions for some of the new agents admitted to the Bureau and finished off about half of the paperwork cluttering up his in-tray. It was the start of what would be a pretty work-light, easy day. Most of his days were easy now. Recently having undergone brain surgery might have had something to do with the significant decrease in his workload.
He ignored the sharp twinge that stabbed at the heel of his foot. His eyes remained closed.
Yep. It had been a pretty run-of-the-mill, everyday, kind of day up until the point he went to see Sweets. The young psychiatrist wanted to know if his feelings for Bones had begun to change.
"Agent Booth, you will find that your feelings of love and sexual desire toward Dr Brennan will wane over time. Personally, I'm a little surprised that you say that nothing has changed since we last spoke."
"So now I'm imagining that I'm imagining I'm in love with Bones?!"
"I didn't say that."
"What are you saying then?"
"I'm saying I'm surprised. But then, I'm not a neurosurgeon. Perhaps it would be wise to organise an earlier referral with your consultant."
"No thanks. I've been pulled and picked over enough recently. I want to know if you think my feelings could be real."
"I think it's not uncommon for false memories, perceptions or beliefs to form as a result of neurological dysfunction. You underwent surgery to the prefrontal cortical region of the brain which can result in confabulation, which is the confusion of imagination with memories."
"So, in short...in plain and simple English: it's not real. I don't love her? You're sticking by that?"
"The belief is that your surgery induced neural activation patterns to depart from direct experience and learned relationships."
"I'm operating on a short fuse here, Sweets!"
"Agent Booth, your feelings aren't real. When your brain heals, the feelings you have will disappear." Sweets couldn't help but shrink back in his chair as the agent stalked around his office. He doubted he'd ever seen the older man so wired. So upset.
"God. I'm so tired. I know this is the last thing you'd expect me to say but maybe I need something to help me out."
"I can certainly set up extra counselling sessions with..."
"I don't want counselling. I want drugs. I want you to give me something that'll make me feel better. I shouted at Parker again yesterday, for no real reason. And today I nearly took the head off some guy who pushed in front of me when I was waiting in line at the diner. It's not me. I don't feel like me."
"If it helps, it's not uncommon for patients to undergo emotional changes after surgery and feel discouraged and tired. "
"No. That doesn't help." Booth said menacingly. Sweets had to force himself to maintain eye contact with the agent.
"I can refer you back to Dr Grant. He may be able to suggest..."
"So you're not going to give me anything. What use are you Sweets? Really, what's the point of you?"
"Agent Booth, I'm sorry that you feel..."
"Save it, Sweets."
"Please sit down. Let me get you a glass of water. Can I get you some water? Please, Agent Booth, sit down." Something in his tone must have dulled the edge of Booth's temper. The agent sat down again and closed his eyes.
Sweets had said something else but Booth wasn't listening. He made out the sound of a glass being placed on the side table next to him. Sweets had stopped talking. Booth tuned into the silence and tried to calm down. He may even have fallen asleep for a short while. The next thing he could remember is Sweets calling his name softly, then more forcefully. His time was up. He bolted for the door. He didn't stop to say goodbye.
He was dimly aware that he'd grown cold sitting there on the couch. But he hadn't the strength to go to bed. The pain in his foot had lessened and now ached in a way which was all too familiar. He should run a bath and soak his feet. "Get off the couch, Seely. Help yourself. Come on, this isn't like you. You know better. You know that you have to fight." He allowed the chill in the room to settle over him. He wouldn't help himself. Or maybe it was because he couldn't. He didn't know his own mind, right? Booth wiped at the tears that again stung his eyes. The salty moisture temporarily warmed the back of his hand. He tried to keep his breathing even, calm.
It was twelve weeks and counting since he'd last seen a cartoon baby. Twelve weeks since she kissed him and told him she was carrying his child. Twelve weeks since he'd made love to her.
Intellectually, Booth knew that these were imaginings, false memories, but they had left their mark. The question was whether those memories had caused him to feel things that weren't really there or whether those feelings had been present, albeit hidden from plain view, before he became sick.
Was it possible that Sweets was right? That his brain was making him feel things that simply weren't there? Was it a lie that he missed her at night and that he reached for her. Was it just fucked-up cerebral trickery that allowed him to remember the way her skin smelled?
Or did Angela's psychic have it right? Did he love Bones? It couldn't be all in his head, right? He was all about instinct and gut feeling, not rational, reasoned, thought. His love of his friends, his unlimited love for Parker and his faith came from his heart. Not his head. He loved Bones with his heart, not his head, right? He found he couldn't separate one memory or one feeling from another. He couldn't count on what was real and what was not. He was lost.
Booth sighed deeply and shivered against the cold. He understood how his heart worked, didn't he? He loved her. He was in love with Bones. He placed his hand over his heart and for the first time in his life wondered if he could trust it.