A/N: So, it's been awhile since I've written and this story just came to me a few weeks ago. This one-shot got quite out of hand (4556 words??) but I'm very pleased with the results and hope you will be troopers and make it to the end. All authors love reviews :) Thanks for reading and enjoy!
What is Love? Baby don't hurt me...no more.
It was a night like most nights at the lab after closing a case. Booth and Brennan were sitting in her office completing the paperwork on their latest case. A week earlier a set of bones had been found deep in the country by a farmer checking fences. Our favorite pair was dispatched to the scene where Brennan deemed the remains to be a female approximately thirty to thirty-five years of age and approximately 160 cm tall. Unique dental work made for a quick identification: Sharon Hibbert was her name. She had married Robert Hibbert eight years ago and they had had a child, Sean, five years ago. Her remains had much more to tell besides reconstructive jaw surgery. Numerous breaks, some fresh, others healed over, all dating within a decade. The cause of death: a kitchen-type knife to the back of her head. The amount of force it would have taken to penetrate the skull to the hilt at the height and angle it was delivered was so great as to suggest great rage in the act.
When Brennan handed Booth that information and told him the bones' story, Sharon's story; they exchanged an unpleasant look knowing that the case had just that little extra brutality that other cases lacked. They brought the husband in for questioning; he didn't deny the domestic abuse, he couldn't! He had been charged with it six years ago, did some time, but Sharon came back to him like she always did. Robert hadn't reported her or Sean missing because "I thought she'd left me again". He hadn't heard from her in three months. Sean was found alive and well at his maternal grandmother's house. "What a shame," Sharon's mother cried, "I didn't want her to marry him, and she never would have left him. Ever. Even if it killed her—"
The mother revealed that Sharon hadn't dropped off Sean three months ago; Robert had. A quick search of the family house revealed a set of steak knives, one which tested positive for blood. No one else ever bothered to come by the rundown house anymore. Robert had the only access and opportunity. The living room carpets were brand new; pulling it up revealed a large bloodstain on the padding he was too cheap to replace. A shallow, blackened hole in the back yard showed remnants of clothing that had been burned in the pit, and a false bottom in Sharon's sock drawer revealed a diary. The last entry dated around the time of her death, indicating that she was ready to leave him again. Case Closed.
The diary was not vital evidence to the case, as Robert had immediately confessed when presented the knife, but it offered Booth and Brennan an insight into the unbalanced relationship Sharon and Robert shared. One entry said: "Oh Robbie! I love him so much! He's the best husband, the best father, the best man a girl could ever ask for! Also good news: I get the cast off tomorrow and we can put this all behind us." Three months later: "Robert hit me again tonight. I guess I just got so comfortable in our new life that I forgot to change the laundry over before the pants in the dryer got wrinkled. I know it was just one little slip up. We'll get past it. He's been so good lately. He made sure that Sean didn't see it this time. I still love him. I always will." And the cycle continued.
Robert, while he hadn't kept a journal, talked a lot during his confession. "I love Sharon so much". When they were dating he had cheated on her one drunken night and she had left him for a couple of months. He was so distraught that when she came back, he immediately proposed to her, making promises that he never kept about how happy they'd be together. "No two people can love each other like Sharon and I do". They were married all of five months when the drunken rages began. After each trip to the hospital, he would clean up his act, stop drinking and was the loving husband she gushed about in her diary. They were like newlyweds until she healed and he began to drink again. "We're so happy together; why would she want to leave me?" When he would get so bad, she would threaten to leave him and in his drunken stupor he would hit her. He would hurt her so that she wouldn't leave him. "I love her! Why would she leave someone who loves her?" When she was hurt, she had to stay with him to get better. "I can't believe she's dead. I can't imagine life without her…I love her so much." The last night, who knew or cared where the son was? By now he was old enough to know that when the bottles clinked, it was time to hide away somewhere secret. She was going to leave him again "for good". And he lost it. His final act was a lot harder to clean up.
Brennan looked up from the paperwork at her partner, her brow in a deep furrow. Booth believed in love. It was a topic of much conversation between them (debate is a better word). Especially after a case like this. For once, Brennan was at a loss for words. She was navigating unfamiliar territory. She could understand Sharon's bones. She could make the triangle between killer, weapon and victim. She understood pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth as motives for violence. Evil begets Evil, it's logical. But to have Love so tied up to their case was…unfathomable to her.
She jumped out of her stupor realizing that she was staring directly at Booth the whole time. Her face reddened.
"What?" He said with his classic goofy smile, "You tryin' to take an X-ray of my head?"
He waited for her normal smart-aleck statement about CAT scans or something being more appropriate, but she seemed to just become even more lost in thought. He could see the gears clinking, like when she's pouring over remains and gets so absorbed in them; an earthquake wouldn't have the power to pull Dr. Temperance Brennan away from that alternate universe in the bones. But this time seemed different. She looked troubled or confused.
"Bones?" He asked cautiously.
"Booth," She started, meeting his eyes again from across her desk. "I'm…puzzled," she stated after searching for the right word. "This case...I don't—" she cut off at a complete loss for words. Booth didn't say anything but stayed quiet, yet open. He didn't want to frighten her into silence. What she had to say was very important, but he would let her find the words.
"Love, Booth," She started again, most awkwardly, "That was the most frequently heard word in this case. As it pertains to motive, I find it difficult to accept that Love was the driving force for such a horrific crime. I don't understand how if you're supposed to love someone as much as these two claim they did, how that equates to a motive for murder. Cases like this affirm my disbelief in love. These two would have been much better off had she never gone back to him that first time. She loved an idea of him, but it obviously wasn't real love. Does this shake your faith in love too, like the schizophrenic case a few weeks ago shook your faith in God?"
"Not one tad little bit," He said without hesitation.
She looked at him dumbfounded. "Why?"
"You said it yourself Bones, what those two had wasn't love. It was just a classic domestic abuse case ending up in murder." He gave her that hard 'I'm not eff-ing around with you' intense stare. "That was not love. Their relationship was based on control and power...what did Sweets call it?
"Co-dependency," she answered him.
"Yeah, that. Robert needed to take care of her; but he needed her to be the weaker one—"
"But he was an alcoholic and obviously couldn't control his emotions. One could argue that he was the weaker person."
"Exactly Bones. He needed to weaken her so that he could feel like he was the 'alpha male' as you would put it. And when she became stronger again, stronger than him, she would find the will to leave him, and he would just weaken her again, you know. It's just a vicious cycle. She didn't feel like she had anyone else to rely on; and he confused her with all the 'I love you's after beating her... So she returned to him."
"This is lots and lots of psychology," Brennan mused as she adjusted the paperwork in front of her. "Even for you…"
"Well, you can't avoid it in these cases, Bones. As much as you hate psychology, there's a reason we keep Sweets on staff." He sighed a shook his head, running his hand through his hair. They'd had this conversation too many times over. "Only you claim to be someone who acts 'rationally' or who thinks through every decision so 'thoroughly'—"
"Booth, that is far from—"
But he cut her off and continued: "The fact of the matter is that when people love someone else, or think they do," he quickly added as she opened her mouth again to contradict him, "they don't act rationally and they do rash things that seem rational at the time, like beat up their spouse to keep them from leaving, jealous love triangles and affairs ending up in dead bodies in shacks…the list goes on Bones. It's our job to sort out these crazy things people do, regardless of motive, and put them away."
"So, you're saying people in love are delusional," Brennan questioned him, in a challenging sort of way. The way she cocked her head and pursed her lips was meant to make him uneasy. But Seeley Booth was not afraid of her; or this side of her at least. He was ready to challenge her.
"In a way, I suppose," He retorted, with a sly smile on his lips. "She was blinded by the good that she saw in him, or whatever good she thought was there. You know, maybe they had good memories from years ago, before he was an alcoholic. For all we know, he might have actually been pleasant at some point."
They both smirked remembering how Robert had cursed them out when they knocked at his door the first time. "I don' know nuthin' 'bout that bitch! She took my son and now you fuckin' pigs are here accusing me a murder?..." and it continued, and continued until they showed him the knife they had recovered with his prints and her blood.
"She hung onto memories of bygone years, and once she had Sean, it would have been even harder to think of separating her child from one of his parents; like how she grew up with her single mother," Brennan added thoughtfully, showing Booth the paperwork that showed so.
"Ah. But look, Bones no male figure in her life. She didn't grow up with normal family relations and she never really knew how a man should love a woman, or what a healthy relationship looked like. And the husband, look here: he has a history of abuse in his family too," Booth said pointing to records of Robert's internment into the foster care system at the age of 15 after too many 'domestic distirbances. Brennan pursed her lips and started to shut down from the conversation. She picked up a pen and started back to the paperwork.
"He came from a broken home, Bones," Booth continued, sensing where she was going. "For him, violence was the norm. He grew up seeing that that's how a man treats his woman. If you love her, you'll do everything to keep her around; slap her into her place until her spirit's too broke to go anywhere and you never have to be without her."
Brennan chewed on his words for a moment. "That is very selfish. And not in accordance with the definition of Love you always tell me."
"Yes," Booth replied, knowing that she wasn't done yet.
"You grew up in a broken home," She stated bluntly, looking at him in the eye. Booth didn't reply, but waited for her to continue. "But you would never use that as an excuse to hurt people. I believe you to be incapable of such barbarities (despite your army history which is a null point in this conversation); knowing your history and your feelings for these issues, it would equally destroy you to destroy someone in that way. Especially not to prove you love them. You would never hurt Parker; it seems an atrocity to even say it; I apologize…"
"No, never, Bones. Real love is selfless and patient. Real love protects the ones they love, not exploit them. I was lucky my grandfather took me and Jared in when he did before I became like my father. He taught us that you don't need violence to inspire respect. He taught us that relationships are a balance of mutual respect and care, sacrificing for the other person. Protect, don't exploit." He was gazing at her intensely, willing her to understand.
She held his gaze until she became unsettled. She looked down at the papers in her hands and began to rearrange them. Temperance Brennan, uncomfortable, reverted back to the intelligence mask she uses when such situations arise: "The Greeks had four separate words for love. Eros, from where the word erotic derives, refers to the sensual or sexual love felt by two people in a romantic relationship. Agape, often described as "spiritual love" or the love that, say, a higher power has for mortals in modern Christian superstitions—" earning her a glare from Booth—"Storge, the love that parents feel for their children or that siblings feel for each other. And Philia, the love between friends." She glances up at him having finished her monologue and reorganized the stack in front of her.
"What does that kind of love do?" Booth questioned. I wonder what her mind's churning up…
"Philia is characterized by a fierce loyalty to friends, virtue, familiarity with your friend, and of course enjoying spending time with them. Of course, I don't know why I cite the Greeks on love; even though they were an intellectual and logical society, women had no place in love, unless I suppose you count the mother's love for her children. Many of the men in that society married for money, status, and procreation; then shut their wives up in the house to breed while they copulated with other men while inebriated and studying poetry."
Booth stared at her. As smart as she was, Bones uses her intellect as the barrier she hides behind when she's scared of feelings; when she does this she sure comes off as pretty obtuse.
"Why do you cite the Greeks then?" He challenged her.
"Well, I don't believe in love and haven't experienced what could be considered love, so I have no opinions or experiences to offer to the conversation."
"You believe that I would never hit Parker or anyone else I loved."
"Because I know you to be a good man and you recognize the moral and legal reciprocations that would come with those actions. I know you and I know that you would never forgive yourself for hurting him because you protect what you care about the most. You feel the natural Storge love for him that comes with biological—"
"No, no, no you're missing the point Bones." He cut her off in frustration. "Love is not a head thing that you can dissect to pieces and analyze. You can't run it through a mask special machine—"
"—yeah, yeah whatever. And, yes, I know your heart's a muscle and can't think or feel emotions. But when we go through cases like this one, my metaphorical heartstrings are tugged. And, yeah, I wonder what could have been going on between that couple because it definitely wasn't love anymore. But I know you're not indifferent to these feeling, Temperance. You yourself said it was "heart crushing" when that woman buried her son alone on Christmas day."
"Booth, years of Christmases spent alone and abandoned made me identify with the woman," She was quite taken aback by Booth using her legal name. "Her whole world was her son, and he was gone in the blink of an eye; to face that fact on a holiday that probably meant a lot to her was…indeed heart crushing. But it has nothing to do with the four words for love. Just because I felt sad doesn't mean that I felt love for her. I'm not biologically related to her and she's a total stranger. It was...a moment."
"What about Jared and Padme?" Her cheeks visibly colored at this accusation. He was referring to the toast she made at the bar the other night when she admitting to the existence of love.
"Seeing your brother and Padme, yes; I accept their Love as balance between Eros and Phillia. And I truly do hope that it's not just one of those moments in life for them. Jared seems truly changed for the better because of her. But they are their own separate entity from me and my views of love."
"What about you?" Booth asked seriously. "Where's your piece of the pie?"
"Booth, you know I don't like pie, and I don't know why you brought up dessert in the middle of this conversation," She sighed in annoyance, trying to collect her thoughts. "I-I…don't think it's possible for me to believe in love for myself. All ideas and literature about love seems too illogical and maladaptive for the way I live my life. The mere idea of only one person being the right person for me seems—"
"…Yes…" she agreed hesitantly, afraid of where Booth was going next.
"Too good to be true?"
This time she sat like a stone gargoyle, her icy blue eyes boring through his warm brown ones. Don't you dare, Booth.
"Bones, you were abandoned by the very people who are supposed to always love you, the storage love or whatever…When you lost that love, you lost the hope that anyone could love you like that ever again, if anyone ever did to begin with. If even your own parents didn't love you, who else could?"
"Booth—stop, please" She begged. But Booth wasn't going to let up. He was tired of walking around these eggshells. It's been too long and Booth didn't have enough patience left in him to tread carefully around her anymore.
"You think yourself too logical and clearheaded to love another person unconditionally."
"Yes." She defended curtly. "It makes no rational sense to put all my hopes and happiness on another person just because they exist."
"And yet you blew up the evidence for your own kidnapping case to save me."
She looked at him in disbelief. After pushing all the wrong buttons on her, he hit the target. His target.
"That, Temperance, is true love. And you don't need to think about it. You just do it."
Her eyes fell to the papers in front of her. They weren't scanning for information and her hands sat helpless in her lap as Brennan tried to process the revelation that Booth had given her. His evidence did point to his conclusion. Love protects, it is rational and irrational at the same time. The nature of it cannot be quantified or studied or any conclusion drawn from it. But he was right: it was completely irrational and selfless (yet selfish at the same time??) to have handed over evidence of her case, where she was the victim. Any rational person would have cut their losses to protect themselves. It was maladaptive in a Darwinian situation to give of oneself to other people unless it helped further your own genetics, but that wasn't a playing card for her…or was it? She had wanted to have Booth's baby via artificial insemination before his coma…
Booth didn't expect a response from her; at worst she'd walk away or ask him to leave. And he definitely didn't expect her to confess undying love for him or jump into bed with him. He decided that he had pushed her enough for one night. He'd given her enough to think about for the present, she'll have the weekend alone to muse over it.
Booth picked his jacket up from the back of the chair as he got up. "You know, it's been a really long, trying week. We can finish the rest of the paper work on Monday. I'm gonna go home. Hope you have a good weekend Bones," he said over his shoulder as he was walking out of her office and putting on his jacket.
Adrenalin shot through her as he stood up. Brennan began to panic inside. Was he leaving because I didn't respond? I don't want him to go yet. We usually go out for drinks or he at least walks me to my car…or he'll at least hold me when I'm upset like this, even if I never say anything—Brennan stopped thinking suddenly when she realized it.
"Booth!" He was just crossing the threshold of the office and he turned around to face Brennan, now standing at her desk.
This moment was suspended at the point of a knife: whatever she did next determined the future course of her relationship with Booth; keep him or lose him. She was so afraid of either option. Previously in all her musings of future intimate relationship with him, she would always throw the idea away because Booth was right: she feared that no one would ever love her as all the evidence in her history pointed toward that conclusion. Her genius mind could have even graphed an equation proving to herself that love did not happen to her. But she had not counted that love was just as irrational as the sky is blue. Booth had proved to her like no one else in her life that she was worth sacrifice and patience and protection. She was so afraid of what she was about to do.
She took a step forward, and then another and another; she began to feel as though she was running to him. After that first step there was no more thinking there was only him with open arms which gladly received her.
She slipped her arms underneath his jacket so she could hold him as close as possible without that silly suit jacket. Brennan pressed her cheek against his chest, nuzzling him unconsciously but completely conscious of how wonderful and safe it felt to be in his arms. He had wrapped them around her waist and shoulders, trying to encapsulate her as much as possible, trying to show her that he would protect her; from bullets and bad guys, and all emotional pain. You've suffered enough, Bones, he thought, let me be the exception to your rules. Let me be your home and shelter. Let me love you as you deserve. He kissed the top of her head.
She was gone; Temperance "Bones" Brennan gave up that shield she had kept up for so long. There was no denying it anymore: Booth loves her and she loves Booth. If she implicitly trusted him and he trusted this love, it only follows that she trusts this love. A few tears squeezed their way out, not unnoticed by our hero. The hand on her shoulder reached up and brushed them away and continued to stroke her face with the backs of his fingers. She began to get weak in the knees, but Booth's strong arm around her waist held her securely to him.
"Bones…Temperance" he murmured into her hair, and kissed her head once again.
She shifted, supporting her own weight now, and drew her arms from beneath his jacket. Booth's heart sunk, fearing that he had said something wrong, done something wrong. He loosened his hold on her, about to let go. But she didn't move away. Instead she touched his face: cupped his cheek in her hand and Booth let his head sink into her as her thumb traced slow circles; their eyes locked.
"Seeley," was the only word she managed to get out. It was heavy with five year's worth of unresolved emotions; confusion, yet resolve; fear, yet hope; and love. The tears fell unchecked down her face and Booth drew her as close as possible: foreheads and noses together. Each could feel the other's breathing and heartbeats.
"I love you too, Bones," Booth said with a smile, tangling his fingers in her hair at the base of her neck.
"Too?" She responded confused, "B-but I didn't say anything."
"Yeah you did, Temperance. We both did a long time ago." And with that he pressed his lips to her forehead, each eye, kissing away the tears and finally her lips.
Locked in their embrace, Dr. Temperance Brennan didn't think or analyze for once. She allowed herself to enjoy this moment that she hadn't realized she had longed for. That same, irrational part of her told her that this wasn't just a moment with her partner and best friend; this wasn't going to be a hellish prison like poor Sharon Hibbert's marriage. At this moment, she couldn't come up with a scholar's quote for this feeling, couldn't cite any journal articles, nothing in anthropology could quite define what was making her toes tingle in this new way or why she felt the need to tell him everything that she had ever felt or thought. She abruptly pulled away from their kiss, but Booth would only allow her a centimeter of space.
Looking so close up to his brown eyes she uttered breathlessly: "I love you Booth."
A/N: How was it?? Not too brutal, I hope.