He chants it, a prayer that pounds through his body like the rhythm of feet hitting stairs as he descends from the FBI building to his truck. "Tony, Tony, come around, something's lost that must be found..."
Only it's not something this time. It's a someone, and Booth knows he doesn't have time to rail against God or to question why. All he's got time for, in this brief second, when his brain is mostly full of "go go go" and "gotta move, gotta hurry, gotta get there fast", is to pray for speed, and the kindness and help of the saints. Without Brennan, without Bones, he knows, he'd be praying to St. Jude more often.
The little explosion in the sand is all he needs. He hasn't felt his heart leap like this since someone told him "it's a boy", and he doesn't know how it happens, but he's flying down the hill until he can get to her. When he reaches out and grabs her hand, and he sees her eyes just for that brief second before he she sends him back for Hodgins, he knows he's saved her from hell.
"What'd you ask for?"
Speed. Strength. Hope. Time. Precious, precious time.
"That's between me and a certain saint. And... I said thank you."
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for giving her back to me. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Mary. Thank you Anthony. Thank you, thank you, thank you....
The hospital is cold, impersonal, and uncomfortable. Temperance knows other people often think of her that way – as though she's a highly-sanitized version of a human being, incapable of the dirtier emotions, but in truth she hates hospitals. For all that she's worked with corpses for decades and understands that death is part of the life cycle, hospitals are full of emotions on all sides. Hope, joy, grief, devotion, betrayal...
And she sits, with her laptop across her knees, worrying over the keys while Booth struggles to breathe. Doctors and nurses shuffle in and out, hmming and tutting and checking pulse rates and whispering under their breaths, but she's too tired to demand to know exactly what's going on until the head surgeon walks in the room.
She rises to her feet. "Doctor."
"Ah, Doctor Brennan. We were just discussing your..."
"Partner," Tempe says firmly. "Booth is my partner."
"Right. We were just discussing his condition."
"Good. Because Booth is not acting like Booth," Tempe says, trying not to wince visibly at how banal that sounds.
"He's slipping into a coma," the doctor says, spreading his hands. "I'm afraid from here on out there's not much we can do for him. We can monitor his condition, of course, and do what we can but... if and when he wakes up are up to Booth, now."
A cold, creeping certainty sweeps over Brennan. "If?"
"I'm afraid, my dear, that there is every possibility that he won't wake up." The doctor clasps her shoulder in professional sympathy, squeezes it gently. "I am sorry."
Brennan nods, but she wants to rail against him. There's not every possibility, because that man in the bed is Booth and he doesn't give up and any moment now, he'll open his eyes and tell her a joke, or make a pop culture reference she won't understand and... any minute now, he'll come back to her.
For a long time, she stands over his bed and watches the machines make sure he breathes, watches the steady pulse of the heart rate monitor. When her legs go weak and her knees start to buckle, she sits again, pulling her chair closer.
She begins to speak in a clear, soft tone. "Once upon a time, Booth, we didn't solve murders. The world – it's not as simple as cause to effect. Modern science suggests to us that time forks and branches like rivers into brooks, streams and creeks... that there are multiple realities layered over each other, different people we could have been and..." She draws in a deep breath. "I know you'll think it's silly, but... While you're laying there, I'll just tell you a story, is that all right?"
His eye seems to move underneath the lid and her heart leaps in her chest. She could be imagining it, but she pulls her computer up and starts to read from a file she has not shown anyone yet.
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." Parker's voice fills the truck as he sings with abandon, kicking his feet.
"Sorry, Bones," Booth says, wincing. "Vacation Bible School, you know how it goes. He sings these songs for weeks on end."
Brennan's face twisted into the expression he'd come to recognize as one that meant he'd done or said something culturally interesting to her. "Vacation Bible School?"
"Yeah, sure, Bones. You get dropped off at church every day for a week and make houses out of Popsicle sticks and sing songs about Noah and the flood and building an arky arky out of hickory barky barky... you know how it goes, right?"
Brennan shrugs. "I never attended. So this is an annual occasion?"
"Yeah. Parker goes every year."
"Hey, Dad, guess what?"
"We made an ark! Out of Popsicle sticks!"
"See what I mean, Bones? Popsicle sticks and Noah. Some things don't change." He twists over his shoulder. "What'd you learn, then?"
"About rainbows." Parker leans forward. "Hey, Bones, did you know that God makes rainbows to remind us that he won't ever flood the world again?"
"Strictly speaking, rainbows are an aesthetically pleasing outward sign of the reaction that occurs when light..."
Booth clears his throat. "Bones, Parker's eight, okay?"
"That's certainly old enough to understand how light fragments in a prism, Booth."
"Oh yeah, we did that in science already," Parker says, waving his hand. "The thing with flooding's cooler, though."
Brennan's mouth drops open a bit and Booth grins. "God is cooler than science, Bones."
"Nah," Parker says from the back. "Ms. James teaches science, and she made blue fizz that ate a pencil, once. Plus, she's cooler than Mrs. Wilson."
Brennan beams, but Booth holds up a hand. "Not a word, Bones. Not a word."
They're tiding up the mess her friends have made of her kitchen. Wine glasses, egg nog mugs, dirty plates, forks, spoons, serving platters... the debris of having so many people over is a little bit overwhelming, at first, but Booth rolls up his sleeves and together they dive into it with the same enthusiasm with which they tackle everything else they do together. She gathers up the various dishes and he scrapes them into her sink and loads them into her dishwasher – not in the most logical pattern, but she's learned that sometimes, it's okay to let him do things his own way.
"So, what'd you think, Bones?" Booth shouts it from the kitchen while she's transferring dip from one container to a smaller one in the dining room. "Big family dinner, cousin Margaret..."
"It was..." Brennan searches for a word that encompasses everything she feels at the moment, "...exhausting. And fun."
Booth peers around the doorway and beams at her. "Good, Bones."
"Thank you," she says, suddenly, from the doorway. "For encouraging me to do this. It was – well, perhaps it might have been better than El Salvador."
"Not a problem, Bones. It's... what we do, right?"
Bones ducks her head. "Right."
He smiles at her, the sort of smile that makes her heart twinge in her chest – something that might have been alarming normally but is part of her response to that particular smile from Booth. He wipes his hands on his pants and clears his throat awkwardly.
"Dishes are done. I should get going. I've got Parker tomorrow morning, and..."
"Yes, that would be best." Brennan crosses her arms across her chest. "Dad will come back after he drops off Margaret, so..."
"Right. Good." Booth grabs his coat from the hallway and swings it across his shoulders. He pauses, awkwardly, in the doorway. "Thanks for a good Christmas, Bones."
"I got you something," Brennan says awkwardly. "I... didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but..." she runs to the closet and grabs him a small box. "I thought you should have this."
Booth starts to open the paper, but she stops him. "Wait until you get home. Merry Christmas, Booth."
"Merry Christmas, Bones."
Standing outside her door, Booth opens the ribbon, the paper, the box, and finds a paper, carefully folded and well-worn.
No matter what happens, I have faith that you'll find me. I have faith in you.