To this day, and since the very beginning, her relationship with him has been predicated on a genuine curiosity that's never quite been sated. Of course, there have been days when she wondered whether he really even liked her, whether his constant strives to humor her were insulting or endearing or some impossible mix of the two, or whether her partner was really capable of being the consummate gentleman all of the time. All people lapse, all people make mistakes. He rarely tells her when her provocations have gone too far, and sometimes she wishes that he would. The truth is that she will never understand him.
They twist so easily from teasing to loving to pretending they aren't doing either that it honestly makes her quite sick when she cares to stop and think about it. They're too diametrically opposed and too secretly similar to possibly work.
And yet, somehow she knows that he's good for her. That the things he says and does are meant and felt and that there have always been times she's wanted to love him even if she couldn't.
It works like this:
She takes a bite of her salad, the holier-than-thou look she knows that he loathes breaking clear across her face. He stops her train of thought, says something insightful, crushing, and true.
"Here we are…all of us, basically alone, separate creatures, just circling each other, all searching for that slightest hint of a real connection. Some look in the wrong places, some, they just give up hope because in their mind they're thinking 'oh there's nobody out there for me'. But all of us, we keep trying, over and over again. Why? Because every once in awhile, every once in awhile, two people meet and there's that spark. And yes, Bones, he's handsome and she's beautiful, and maybe that's all they see at first. But making love, making love, that's when two people become one."
She gets it. She's learning.
And…none of this is real for her now.
She is more intelligent than he will ever be; that isn't arrogance, it's the truth. The thing is: it is scientifically impossible for two objects to occupy the same space. Now she knows that people can't push themselves together and expect to fit. She's tried.
(No…no really, Bones, you haven't tried at all.)
She imagines she gives a letter to him, something significant and quite straightforward, as a means to an end. It's sparsely written and all the more dramatic because of that—on a piece of her stationery, and in her own handwriting. It might begin with there is a line or there was a line or there should be a line and would end with a very serious, might we still have coffee sometime? Everything very proper, neat, and clean. A severe crossing of the lines in her t's and not in her heart.
I have no desire to go out into the field and would like to reduce the frequency of my assistance in cases.
But Brennan isn't dramatic, and she doesn't believe Booth would accept any of that. He would be angry but unconvinced. She decides to call it a break; a break isn't so bad as a decision to sever all ties. She doesn't want to sever her ties to him.
"Field work has left me significantly less time for personal scientific inquiry and I would like to reduce the frequency of my assistance in cases," she enunciates into his answering machine.
By mistake, she forgets the bit about coffee. She thinks it was the most important part.
Somehow it's all filtered through one of his desk jockeys anyway, all of her words boiled down to a tiny message slip, written upon in Charlie's messy scrawl.
8:35 am: Dr. Brennan called concerning a request to reduce her involvement in casework.
The no 'return call requested' box has been checked very neatly and it's amusing to her that the FBI has managed to retain little relics like this, of earlier times. Maybe it's only Booth who gets his messages in this way. He likes standing on precedent, keeping tradition.
"What the hell is this?" she hears at 9:25 am, the message slip dropped onto her keyboard. It slides down the keys and into her lap, as she startles at the voice, not unexpected but Booth doesn't sound loud or belligerent or angry, like she might have expected. No—he doesn't even sound hurt. She hardly hears his voice and her face rises to stare back at him, all shock and innocence. She's had time to think this over; she is the innocent party here.
"I left you a message."
Her lips purse, the heat rising in her neck and in her cheeks. He's smug again—his hands are sitting on her desk.
"Is that really what you want?" he asks.
"It's only a break. Maybe you'll remember more without me," she says quietly. The slip of paper gets moved back over to him, his annoying hands, and she feels slightly like she's breaking something inside of herself. But this is the way that things go. People move in and out of her life, and she never asks for anything permanent. Really, it could be any man standing in front of her now. But it's Booth. It's Booth. "Distance would be useful. For the both of us. I'm not always levelheaded where you are concerned and I worry it may start to seep into our working relationship. I can't remove myself enough to…"
She shakes her head, looking up at him again. She wants to stand. The balance is off when he's looming over her like this.
"Why did you stop?" she asks him, suddenly needing something more than yesterday's explanation.
"In the car. Why did you stop?"
"I told you." But he nods, and she fixes her eyes on his face. "Remember how you told me that I said you were special. Well, I've never stopped thinking that, Bones. I don't know why you would think that I had. We're a hell of a lot more than an SUV in some deserted West Virginia backwood."
"Why should it matter? How is a bedroom any more special than a boat, or a plane, or a train?" she says, teasing, though truly she understands.
He blanches a little at the suggestions. "You sound like a Dr. Seuss book."
"I know who that is," she replies, a smile flitting across her face for just a moment. She clears her throat. "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am."
He smiles next, his expression almost giddy, and she's becoming more and more enchanted by this notion of the two of them being like this, always. He's entrenched in her life in every possible way; no man will ever live up. It isn't fair.
"You told me what it meant to make love, and, you're right, it was nothing like what happened yesterday. Emotions aren't quantifiable. You should never have attempted to map your thoughts—your feelings—about sex onto mine."
She sounds like their shrink.
His jaw tightens and he leans across her desk. She doesn't pull back. "No. No, you see, I know you want to believe those things too. To feel the exact same things," he says determinedly, and she neither confirms nor rejects the statement. There's a weak sort of nod that comes almost a minute after the fact, prompting his lowering of his face down into her face, his hand sliding over her hand.
"I love you, Bones," he says, his voice raw, and she can hardly look at him.
He tears the slip of message paper in half, dropping it into the garbage can without so much as a glance at her, and she thinks it's just dramatic and meaningful enough to be coming from Booth. There he is, ripping her excuses apart; she warms to the thought that they're here keeping each other honest. With a quick grin, his hand extends over her desk, and she stares a little dazedly at it, the I love you just beginning to sink in. He loves her.
"I'm Special Agent Seeley Booth," he says seriously, and she puts her hand in his, giving a vague sort of shake. "I'm going to be your partner and you're going to do field work with me. Cam was prepared to fire you once. If you want to quit doing your job, I'm sure Clark over there would be a much cheaper hire."
"Cam would never fire me. My name alone garners enough funding to—you're blackmailing me," she says, staring up and she can hardly believe it.
He tilts his head. "Yeah, I am."
"This is the opposite of what I set out to accomplish," she explains.
"Kinda the point, Bones."
She believes the point is this: the Booth she knew and the Booth she knows are the same person. Time and space, and barriers in his brain aside, central things do not change. This is Booth and he loves her. It's all she can think about.
You see two people and you think, 'they belong together', but nothing happens.
Is it any fault of their own? People say that there's a spark, ask them are they blind? To so clearly have something right there in front of them…don't they ever wonder?
What might have happened had she had carried on with him in his car? What he might have done if years ago she had rolled up onto her toes, pulled his mouth to hers in that firing range?
Of course she wonders.
People have their hearts broken every day, fall in and out with each other and with love, because nothing's sacred, nothing possesses the properties, the endurance, to last forever. With the idea of love comes too much complexity and somehow not enough; there's no explanation beyond allowing every aspect of your future to be dependent upon someone else's, permitting every moment, each pull and swing of another's hips and those three words inevitably mingled among right there and fuck and harder to go to your head.
Which is stupid in so many ways, she thinks, but remarkably human too.
And there's only so long she can close herself off. Because it isn't logical or involuntary at all. No matter how much she likes to tell herself that something snapped when she was fifteen, that she's the way she is today solely due to circumstance.
There's no excuse to justify lying here half awake to herself, to have taken men into her bed unthinking, unfeeling, for so many years. Let them touch her, slide their palms across her shoulders, down the furrows of her spine, as though she would someday warm to words that went beyond the realm of science. As if anything below her surface were ever up for exposition. And where was Booth, she wonders, her partner, whose touch is hot and crackling, the sincerity in it disarming. Whose fingers can chase out the chill, make her chest rise and then fall with more force, less abandon, than anyone she's ever known. She can be cold and aloof, and she's made herself this way for a reason. But when reason no longer stands, when she's no longer just that child who curled into the corners of tiny rooms that were never her own, who studied Descartes and Darwin and Dostoevsky as if they alone would teach her about life, then there's no longer legitimate reason to be the way that she is.
When you're Temperance Brennan you know a great many things. How to measure stature from long bones, the currency for trade among the Aché, and that you can't ask someone to lock their heart in a box and expect them to be okay, really okay at the end of the day. Because it's impossible, like two people becoming one, like two solid beings occupying the same space, and still she's always tried. Like love, and yet not like love at all, cynicism and coldness can run their course, reach a natural conclusion. Burn like a wick at both ends until all that's left in her is the sincerity and misplaced doubt from which they bloomed in the very beginning.
She loves him.
It doesn't leave her giddy, doesn't make her want to speak things from mountains or dissolve into an incandescent puddle like popular culture suggests; it sits inside her, still and patient, hovering in compromise halfway between her head and her heart. Perhaps it's selfish, but she wants to tell no one at all, let it suffuse her with color and warmth as the day becomes a minor blur, as she signs evidence slips, and inventories skeletons to a small chorus of alright there, Dr. B? and sweetie, you're glowing, now spill, and 10,000 marriages a year result from romances that began during coffee breaks. And why must everyone be so damn perceptive?
When she retreats to her office the admission is still unspoken, still foreign on her tongue. She comes close to uttering it aloud, rolling it loosely to let it pass from her lips.
Close to noon, there comes a knock at her door, no pause before it opens.
"We've got a body, Bones."
We, and she wipes quickly at the corner of her eye.
She comprehends the risk that she takes, the line she's long overstepped.
Because with love there can be no treading carefully, no halfways and maybes. It's all or nothing. It has to be.
In the end, it has to be Booth and Brennan.
("That's my conclusion."
"And, what, that makes Booth one of your scientific theories?"
"Yes. Because more than an idea, more than a simple hypothesis, a theory is capable of withstanding all of the rigors of testing and time."
"And Booth can. He has.")
There's a softness at her back, a chest, and no words. Booth. Her fingers smooth against the front of her lab coat, and she lets herself lean a little into him, but only a little. He's very solid and still, watching her head bow to examine the fragments of bone laid out before them. Only, it's less watching and more like he's touching her with his eyes.
"It's late. I think Mr. Bones there can survive the night without you," he says against her hair, and it comes out muffled so he steps away. She's heard him perfectly though, and gives a low sort of laugh like she knows what's coming next.
"So can you," she says.
"Yeah…you know, I'll be okay. I'm like that guy in Bourne Identity. Women find my confusion irresistible."
"I don't find Ben Affleck or his confusion irresistible at all-"
"I'll just be on my way. You know, save the world or something-"
He chuckles at the sound of their voices layering over one another and she slides her chin against her shoulder, staring back at him. He looks tired and handsome, and she gives him the best smile she knows how, her teething sliding against each other, and it's so natural if she really stops to think about it. The smile is more unconscious than she knows.
"You were Clark Kent for Halloween two years ago." It comes after a long pause and it's awkward; she's fishing, she thinks, for something. She wants to hear that he loves her again, his voice richer this time, not as though the feeling is undesired or particularly painful. She's made things painful for him; she reaches for him behind her, takes his hand, pressing it gently into her own as she smiles in attempt to clear the awkwardness. He's not letting go. She worries her fingertips are greasy still, from the bones.
"That's right…" he trails off. He returns her hand to her, and it slips easily back down to her side. "So…uh, since you haven't actually turned around yet, I'm guessing dinner isn't part of the plan for tonight."
"I can't, I've fallen behind since you…"
"Since I lost my mind," he laughs, pressing a palm to the examination table and giving her a sideways glance. She stares warily at the hand; he removes it.
"Sweets says your joking is a coping mechanism."
"And you believe him?"
"Should I believe him?"
She sighs, unconvinced.
"It has to hurt, at least somewhat. You know, we read ancient texts like the Popol Vuh or The Analects. Yes, it suffices, and maybe it's enough to capture the intention of a certain people at a certain period in time, but it's not authentic. Confucius didn't write the Analects. Mayans didn't write the Popol Vuh. I didn't experience things the way you did. And ultimately words convey very little. I've never found them more ineffective than I have in the past few months. They remove complexity from situations and events that should mean something."
"What? It's enough," he says, a hand on her shoulder and a gentle squeeze. She thinks about memories—her own—and the last time she can recall his fingers curling around her shoulder like this. Years ago, the sinking feeling she got watching her father drive away, and she wishes there was a history shared and felt between them. Booth is still the best person she knows, and she thinks this now, like she thought it then, while handcuffed to that bench. "It's enough," he presses. "I read the bible I believe you, Bones. Even if the things you tell me are your own interpretations. I will always believe you."
"I don't believe that anything in the bible is true."
"But I do."
She blinks, stopping the tears before they start.
"I feel like I'm saying goodbye to something." She exhales, looking down at the bones again. They blur before her. "Please don't laugh."
"I'm not going to laugh."
There's a careful movement from him, his hands slipping into her hair and gathering it as it falls into her face. He's good to her in this way, good for her in this way; he's the best at small things. None of his gestures are grand—she loves that about him. He's someone very real to her.
"There's this amazing Greek place on K street. I was eating there the other day and thinking, Bones would love this souvlaki," he whispers, unsteadily, into her ear. She breathes—her shoulders lifting—really breathes.
"I don't eat meat."
She frowns, biting at her lip. "You are laughing at me," is her measured reply, her back still turned. But there are tears welling in her eyes. A quiet moment passes between them as she places the vertebra that's between her fingers back onto the table; then she turns, her hair whipping against his shoulder. "You know, I am capable of connecting with other people. Not just you. You're not the only one who complements me. There's no such thing as soulmates. I'm a whole person all by myself."
"I know you are."
He nods, very hardly like he's never been so convinced of something—of anything—before. She laughs a little at that, at him lying to her in this way, and it comes as more of a choke. Her palms press over her thighs again, sliding against the lab coat as she looks down.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't…I'm being mean," she murmurs, his fingers tilting her chin up and into his line of sight. Her palms press to his cheeks, the slight scratchiness there, and she shakes her head a little, thumb settling into the indent behind his nose. She's nervous and it amuses her to realize that he is too, letting her press forward into him first before sliding his fingers back into her hair, his lips capturing hers.
His mouth moves gently against her own, so slow, and she pushes her tongue tentatively in, as her fingers draw away, splaying against his chest, and she's never felt so well-known to another person before. She knows him too. It's Booth and that makes her content, makes her gasp a little into his mouth as his fingers fit themselves along the contour of her waist, over her lab coat. His palms fall onto the stainless steel table and she laughs a little, feeling leisurely and experienced with this, with him, though all of this new. This is against biosafety protocol.
Her lips pull away and she turns, fingers sliding over steel and where his palm-prints remain.
"I still can't go to dinner with you," she states quite clearly as she looks back to her work. Her voice sounds so thick and she feels too thoroughly kissed to possibly focus. She's smiling into her hair.
"We're going to be okay," he says, sounding less breathless than she remembers him being a moment ago. "Do you believe me?" he asks, turning her to face him.
"I trust you," she says, nodding solemnly, then smiling. "And…I believe you."
On an evening in November a woman leaves a bar. The street is brightly lit, the night crisp and cleansing—she feels more awake, alive to the possibilities of winter, of the little things that come with having family at the holidays. It's easier to adjust to than she thought.
"Even with a coat, you've gotta be freezing," she hears from her left.
Booth. Sitting on a bench, birthday cake in his hands. It's like a punch to the gut.
"No revelations, just share this with me," he says gingerly, staring up at her.
Her legs feel shaky beneath her. She sits. "Was this an implanted memory or…?"
"Shh…" He pushes a forkful of the cake between her lips. The frosting is granular, unbearably sweet in her mouth; it tickles, something rising in her throat and for the first time not sticking.
"I love you," she says clearly. She's sure to look him very closely in the eye; it's something she doesn't want to be ashamed of. "I know you said no revelations…"
"I know," he whispers.
She knows that he could shatter her now if he wanted to. Break her into little pieces, ruin her around the heart. Broken hearts are terribly dramatic, but the truth of the matter is this: she's learning not to worry. More than anything she trusts him, and maybe that's all that will ever matter.
"I would never make a promise to you and not keep it, Bones," he says.
Brennan pauses to take a good, quality look at him. She needs to learn to remember things well; she's becoming almost sentimental in that way.
"I would never hurt you," he continues.
"And…I'll try not to hurt you either."
"You don't sound very sure of that, Bones," he says, lips turning lopsided and charming. He's teasing, and yet-
"I am sure. I'm very sure, Booth."
"Okay," he smiles. "Okay."
"Happy birthday." She grins—there's an exclamation point in her smile. Happy birthday! I love you.
"Are you happy?" he asks.
"Not everything revolves around me."
"Well, I'm a planet in your orbit," he says—jokes, really—but still she's amazed she has so much pull. Her fingers splay across his shoulder, a predictable movement—she wants to kiss him senseless. She has forgotten how to be coy.
"I feel however it feels to not be alone. Maybe that's synonymous with loving someone." She pauses, shrugs, and feels her speech begin to speed up, to gloss quickly over where the full stops should be. "I like having someone to speak with. Sometimes I felt very lonely…but then there's you. I like having sex with you. I like knowing you call it making love. I like-"
She's beginning to ramble. Her smile turns almost sheepish and her foot kicks quietly against the sidewalk.
"If you knew, Bones, how careful I want to be with this. With you," he says, a gentle hand to her knee. He tries to feed her more cake. She laughs and turns her face.
"Why?" she asks softly. "Haven't you been careful enough? I'm not just going to change my mind."
His mouth fits against her ear, laying a gentle kiss at her temple before he whispers, eyes mischievous and bright. "Move in with me," he says, serious as hell.
"Now you're trying to scare me."
"No. No, I feel very…attached to you," she stammers out in explanation. She never knew she was capable of stammering, of feeling her cheeks tinge in this way. I am very fond of you, she might as well have said to him. Like a puppy or the museum's Moche ceramics collection.
She takes a solid bite of cake. He takes ahold of her hand, folding it between both of his. The plastic fork clatters down to the sidewalk, haphazard, at her feet. How could someone like her have possibly been caught in this way? A type of smile, a turn of phrase, a line in the forehead, his hands to his hips, her hands there too. These inconsequential things that make her stomach gently turn. He likes to make her this way. To taste the frosting at her lips, from her fingertips, take it into his mouth, his clever tongue smoothing over her rounded nails. Delicious, arousing, beautiful, unbelievable, Bones. If only they weren't in public. What does her skin taste like? It's all so unsavory, so insane. He feels like a coincidence. There are no coincidences; he's always trying to convince her of this. There is free will, but then there is also fate; things happen because they are meant to happen, bones. Hundreds of thousands of years gone by, water rising, borders redrawn, small towns and cities, so many stares up at the sun and later the moon, a billion words written and weapons for war, real love and true love and love that is unconditional from all the mothers and fathers of their mothers and fathers. All of it for them to be together in this moment, sitting here with a fork at her feet and her hand in his. The universe has conspired against them.
(It's a bunch of nonsense, of course, but his conviction leaves her a little breathless.)
"Are you happy?" she asks, a finger making a path along the lines in his palm. Suddenly this question is important, she should have thought of it before.
"Yes," he says.
"Good." She pauses to consider. "Me too."
(In the end, human beings are capable of withstanding pandemics and wars, progressing from handaxes to wrecking balls and crossing hemispheres on bridges made of ice. There are outright flaws in our design but they don't diminish the uniquely human ability to process the past, to recall it. Maybe there isn't certainty that you'll remember, but rather, hope. It changes nothing, but it's there. It never goes away.
And that's okay. We're going to be okay.
We're the center...
We are the center, Bones. We gonna hold?
Yes. Yes, I believe we will.)
:D Got thoughts, questions, concerns? Was it horribly out of character? Was B&B almost having sex in a semi-public place too tawdry? Lol Who uses the word tawdry anyway? People laugh whenever I say it. Tawdry. Tawdry. Tawdry. Drop me a review! Let me know what you think! Tell me the hiatus has been called off! Who likes baseball anyway? :)