Chapter 1: Limbo I

"Yeah, that's great Russ. Uh huh. Yes, please tell her hello for me. Yes…Bye." Temperance Brennan hung up the phone gently, her head fuzzy, eyes strangely dry as they had been staring at the same brown envelope on her desk the entire conversation. They were pricking irritatingly. Inflamed sinuses, she consoled herself. Only, Brennan had never had allergies. She pushed the thought away and realized her hands were methodically arranging objects on her desk at 90 degree angles to each other. She began moving furniture inches at a time with her legs, scooting the pieces into their proper places. Her partner walked in as she was folding a blanket by laying it out on the floor and perfectly matching the corners.

"Whoa, Bones, what's wrong?" He asked immediately.

"Nothing," she replied snappishly, "I'm cleaning, that's all."

"You're only anal when you're upset." The words were awkwardly still lingering in the air when Brennan felt a reluctant grin crack her face.

"Booth…" she started.

"I didn't mean to be…" he grinned.

"Obscene?" she supplied dryly. Booth gave her a suggestive, but his signature, little boy's grin.

"I can be obscene." She rolled her eyes.

"Booth, I…" she looked around and saw Cam through the office window. Relief washed her as she made her escape, "I have to see Cam." She fled before his concern, shoving the half folded blanket into his arms, only to run smack into Hodgins. They both staggered back a few steps.

"Hey there Dr. B," said Hodgins, "easy. You okay?"

"Yes," Brennan said blankly, "I've had more severe run-ins during karate." She didn't mention she hadn't been to karate class in some time; Booth had been acting strangely since his surgery and she had not left his side unnecessarily for months. Hodgins stared at her a beat too long before stepping aside.

"Right." He blinked.

"Sweetie," called Angela throatily. She knew it made Brennan smile, but not today. She didn't want to be near either Angela or Booth today; both were entirely too observant. "Brennan, I just got a call from Russ…" Brennan froze in place until Angela finished her sentence. "He was calling about his wedding." Angela's tone was thick with disapproval. "You didn't tell me he had finally proposed!"

"I didn't find it pertinent."

"Sweetie. You suck at being a girl."

"Excuse me?" said Cam, who had walked into the conversation.

"Not you Cam. Brennan. Russ is getting married!"

"Congratulations Dr. Brennan."

"Why?" asked Brennan blankly.

"I…uh…" started Cam, but after her usual casual flicker of her dark eyes, she dropped it. "Booth is pacing in your office."

"Uh oh," said Hodgins.

"Why…why uh oh?" asked Brennan.

"Bren," sighed Angela. "You know Booth."

"Yeah, and when he's pacing he's either pissed or worried about somebody." He declined to mention it was usually Dr. Brennan.

"Did you two fight?" guessed Cam. Brennan felt flickering panic at the triple fire attack.

"I…uh…have to go to Bone Storage. Excuse me." She darted around them and walked confidently through the doors and down the stairs, but at the bottom, finding "Limbo" as Angela called it, empty, she slowed until every step was a plod, and finally slumped to the floor next to an examining table. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she took deep breaths while twisting her mother's glittering ring around her finger. She wasn't crying, she just needed – air. Space. Alone. With no people. No Angela. No Booth. No Russ…no mother.

Her pricking eyes suddenly flooded but she didn't let them fall. She just breathed quietly in and out, in and out, in and started. Booth was suddenly there; she hadn't heard him. For such a big man, he moved absurdly softly.

"Booth." She started to stagger up, but he fluidly dropped into a crouch to her level. In his right hand was a brown folder. Her lids slowly slid closed over icy blue eyes.

"I found this on your desk," he said softly. She didn't respond, even when he settled down next to her on the floor, spreading his long legs in opposition to her tightly tucked body. "It's your mother's file."

"Yes, well," hedged Brennan, trying to distract him. "I was researching…for a book character." His brown eyes studied her face. She wondered what facial minutiae his "gut" was picking up. She held perfectly still.

He had seen her angrily but absentmindedly perfecting the angles of objects in her office. Her face had had that "sad little girl look" he had so often teased her about and he knew she was deeply upset. The last time he had seen that stunned, cold look was at his own mock funeral. When she had headed for Bone Storage he knew something was very, very wrong. She only went down the stairs when traumatized, and the last time had been when finding out and lamenting Zack's betrayal.

He could almost literally feel every line of her rigid body posture, the tight tension of all her muscles and the glassy eyes she so tried to hide. He forcibly had to relax his own muscles out of the instinctive rage that flooded his system at her poorly concealed anguish.

"I looked in the file," he admitted. Her eyes immediately turned to the floor. It didn't take Sweets' training in psychology to know he was getting to what was upsetting her. "This isn't even the murder file; only missing persons."

"I didn't need the murder file," she said firmly, still boring her overfull gaze into cement. He shifted his body towards hers a little and she flinched, betraying her promise to herself to remain perfectly still.

"The most interesting thing on the file is what was highlighted." He dropped the file a couple inches to the floor. The resounding slap made Brennan flinch so hard, he could see she was shivering through the ripples of her fine Egyptian cotton blouse. Guilt immediately inundated him, and he put his hand on hers, on top of her knees. She didn't flinch this time.

"It was her birthday." There was silence. Booth stared at her until her fidgety, scared blue eyes met his. He could pit her any day against killers, against mobsters, against wild animals, but Bones was still afraid of a little emotion. He waited, wanting her to stop being stiff, and when she dropped her shoulders that little bit in defeat he finished his sentence. "Her birthday is today."

"I didn't remember," she said in a low voice, laden with guilt. "I…I couldn't remember, so I thought I'd look it up. And when…and it's…and then Russ called…and he knew…and I just found out…it's…it's…" her breath was coming faster and faster and the air she needed was packing into her lungs and crushing her. She was shaking so hard, her hands slipped from her knees as she tried to choke the words out. She was being ridiculous. She was losing control. She desperately reached for the file; to hold it in front of that gaping hole in her chest where her heart should belong. She knew Booth saw it; he had been staring at her brokenness for years.

Instead, he was there, and his arms were wrapping around her and her face fit perfectly into the crevice between his shoulder and his neck; her nose fit perfectly between his jugular and his tendons, and resting her blood drained face against his fiery neck, she felt alive, and she felt more normal. She could feel, more than hear, his heartbeat pumping through his carotid artery. His arms pulled her tightly wound muscles until they protested before he lifted her into his lap, each leg straddling his hips; if she hadn't been shaking so hard, she might have found the position erotic.

"I'm not crying Booth," she finally breathed, and he almost groaned aloud when his groin tightened fiercely in response to the tickling whisper across his sensitive neck. It was hardly enough that her pristine ivory skin was pressed against him, her lips making little sobs against his collarbone.

"I know, Bones, I know." He said, smoothing her shirt in the back, rubbing his hands across her shoulder blades like she was an infant. She closed her eyes for a brief moment, savoring the sensation, when she realized it was less comforting and more…arousing. The tingling sensation was traveling embarrassingly low in her abdomen, as it sometimes did when Booth invaded her personal space. To take her mind off something even more terrifying than physical feelings, she attempted to talk about her emotional quandary.

"It's just…" she frowned, at a loss, and Booth pulled back and they were inches apart, as always, just inches away. She slowly smiled; she couldn't help it.

Booth was sure his brain had just exploded. Her slow sultry smile was meant in innocence, but he was embarrassingly close to letting her know exactly how close together they were, despite his tight jeans.

"It's just," he echoed.

"She…she left." He had stopped smiling as soon as she had started talking; now his dark eyes were serious, brooding. They were flicking over her face but finally went out of focus as he said.

"I know…mine too."

"Booth?" blinked Brennan. "I thought…I thought, well, I had always assumed with your father that… she died."

"She did," he hurriedly assured her, his hasty gaze meeting hers; that was a mistake, he was forced to tell the truth. "One day I had a mother and one day…well, she didn't want us. She left. We didn't talk about it. Then there was only Dad. Then there was only Dad…" he trailed off, and to her horror, Brennan realized the shivering rippled beneath her hands resting on his biceps weren't from him flexing, but rather shaking. His eyes shaken, and cold, something she had never seen, he echoed dumbly, "She just…left."

"I know." Brennan swallowed. "I know. But at least you had Jared…and Pops. I didn't have…I just don't get to have a family."

"Look at me Bones," laughed Booth, but his laugh made her heart burn to ashes; she had never seen him so cynical, so lonely. "Parker is my son, but I hardly see him; his mom didn't even love me enough to marry me."

"That's not…entirely truthful," she corrected automatically. His eyes flashed up to hers in desperation.

"But what does that say about me huh? I mean, look at Jared; look at everyone. Jared met the girl of his dreams in a month. She loves him knowing….knowing everything. They don't have secrets remember?"

"We don't have secrets," she whispered pitifully.

"I…" he faltered, "I've never told anyone…not anyone about my mom. Not even Jared. He was so young." She didn't know why, but she hugged him then, and pressed his face into her neck, and rubbed her hands down his broad back, feeling muscle planes under her fingertips, and pushing gently on pressure points she knew from her studies in the East.

Booth didn't notice at first. At first his loneliness had consumed him, but now, he was aware of the delicious scent of her neck, the utter lack of the alcoholic smell of perfume, the almost taste of her centimeters away. With his ear pressed up under that incredible jaw line, he could hear her breath, and the hitch in her throat that made him sit up, though it was the last thing he wanted to do.

"You're thinking about foster homes," he accused. Her wide, wet eyes turned to him.

"How could you know that?" she accused. He leveled a stare at her.

"I know you Bones. I know you." She didn't protest.

"At least you had Jared," she whispered, not trusting her voice not to crack, "Russ left. And mom left. And dad. And then…" her eyes turned inwards, to a panic he knew all too well, having laid awake in terror after his first tour in Iraq. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had driven him to gamble; who knew what it had done to this broken woman. She was unconsciously crossing her arms again. He knew it was her defense; she was always holding herself together.

"Tell me," he commanded. She shook her head in mute horror.

"It wasn't just the trunk of the car," she began in a whisper, referring to a story she had once told him and Sweets about being locked in the trunk of a car for three days in her own filth. Being buried alive must have been agony for her when the gravedigger had captured her. "That was just one home…there were lots. Some were nice, but once they had children of their own…we were always just substitutes…we were always just…just second best…and I mean," she took a cleansing breath, "I know I'm exceptional. Obviously. But Russ – he's in and out of jail, a petty thief. What if I had stayed with him? What would I have become? My drive was to get out. Would I have hated living with my own brother as much as the System? I…I…" A few angry tears slid over her cheeks, and she took her hands off his shoulders to swipe at them irritably, but they kept coming. He felt the acute lack of warmth where her hands had been, and he captured his wrists with his palms.

"This is totally irrational," she laughed, but it came out as a sob. "It's my mother's birthday and…and…" her hiccups grew into tearful confessions until Booth gathered her closer, hugging her so tightly, it felt as if they were one person, with one consistent heartbeat, and what had gone missing so long ago was filled with Booth pressed against her chest.

"No," she protested weakly, "No. I can't…I don't have time…"

"Bones," he used his best logical voice on her, and then added a sinister tone. "You've been holding this in for fifteen years. Let some out. You don't have to let it all out, just some." She shook her head violently. He couldn't see her like this; not like this, not her true self. Not her darkened, twisted soul; she didn't even believe in souls, only sentient ability. He couldn't…he couldn't like her this way. No one could; that's why no one did. Angela didn't even know.

"Booth," she pleaded, but then he began rubbing her back again, and she couldn't help it. She started sobbing into his neck. Her body was wracked until she was spasming in his arms and he held her tighter until she quieted, sobbing so hard he could feel her teeth and tongue touch the skin of his neck. He wasn't in uniform, so through his thin cotton t-shirt he could feel every muscle of her perfectly toned torso shaking, writhing and sobbing with such soul wrenching agony, he wanted it to end, but he also couldn't help thinking of her tongue on his skin in a different way, the teeth on his neck, the spasming, writhing closeness of her body… He groaned quietly; he couldn't help it. She didn't hear, but it seemed to quiet her, until she was breathing again, and not speaking. She drew her head back eventually in mortification, but he only let go of her with one hand to brush back her hair and run his thumb under her eyes and trace tear trails down her face, and under her chin to the pulse on her delicate fluted neck.

He was shocked to find it racing instead of quieting. Similarly, he noticed her own hand was flat against his chest, feeling his heart throb for her in more ways than one.

"I know," he said with his crooked smile, and ran his thumb over her cheekbone. And when he smiled, she couldn't resist. Her tired upset face broke out of its clouds into a weary sun, brightening as her eyes glittered at him, and his sparkled back at her. She didn't know what question he was answering, but if she was honest with herself, it could have been...all of them.

"Bones…" he began quietly; they were so close together she could feel his voice tumbling through every connection of their intertwined bodies. Suddenly the position seemed more sexual than comforting and she felt the hot tingle travel again to where they met lightly where she was sitting. She felt his voice in her hands on his chest, in her stomach pressed to his, in her thighs pressed to his sides. She shivered pleasurably.

"Booth," she grinned back, and while they were both grinning, he took the hand from between her shoulder blades and gently forced her head the last few centimeters. Their lips met in a smile, in a zinging, light kiss, but he drew back, wary.

She felt the electricity slide between their lips and straight downwards, filling her heart so full on the way she wasn't sure if she wasn't experiencing coronary failure. She paused a moment to make sure, only to feel her arousal heighten, and finally be met by his own. The added friction between them where she perched shivering atop him, made him kiss her lightly again, without tongue, without lips moving, just a gentle head tilt. She couldn't stand it.

With her usual flagrance for socially accepted norms, Brennan took two fistfuls of his t-shirt, briefly marveling at its softness before kissing him as she had only dreamed of kissing him. He sat stiffly in surprise as her tongue met his; this wasn't a kiss under the mistletoe, this was her whole body pressed hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder kissing with her. He hadn't realized before how much it mattered; but he had never had his first kiss in such a…position. The flex of her muscles, the shift of her weight, the hotness of her breath all inflamed him more than just her tongue, and before he could control himself, he was kissing back. His mouth captured hers and dominated; she was so used to being in control, and he took it away. He pinned her hands to her sides as his mouth explored hers, and Brennan felt her muscles twitch as his pectorals hardened against her breasts. She struggled to be free of his grip but he grinned instead.

"How flexible are you Bones?" he said, putting weight on her.

"Very," she smiled, "from karate." He groaned into her mouth and forced her hands over her head as he gently put all his pressure on her until she was lying down, back to the floor, her ankles still tucked next to her hips. He stretched out then, putting all his weight on his forearms, and lightly lining his body to hers. Then he took advantage of his control, and moved away from the mouth. Her neck, her tantalizing mouth watering neck that mocked him everyday from beneath that sweep of titan brown hair or under an innocuous but revealing bun, was first to be experimented on.

Brennan had always been secretly ticklish; Booth was attacking her weakness. Unlike normal girls, who were ticklish behind their kidneys and patellae, Brennan had found herself unreasonably sensitive when her father had attempted to chuck her chin, or tickle her ribs. She gasped, and arched beneath Booth when his roving tongue found her sweet spot, underneath the right side of her chin. Her entire abdomen and down was pulsing and Booth had just forced it faster. He chuckled against her skin.

"Bones, you've been holding out on me." She attempted to control herself.

"You never…never askED!" she shrieked the last part of the word as he bit down gently. Frustrated at her ineptitude, she wriggled beneath him until she got her arms free and greedily began exploring his chest under his shirt. His roving mouth stopped and his entire body tightened in response to the first touch of her fingertips. She kissed back now, entirely too pleased with her success as she gingerly pinched.

"We gotta…we gotta stop." He panted. She immediately ceased, miffed and perturbed.

"What's wrong? I thought…"

"No Bones," he rolled his eyes, "but if we stay here…I mean, there are no locks on the doors or anything." She blushed, glad they hadn't been thus far interrupted.

"Well then," she said, attempting to sit up, "" she cleared her throat.

"You want to stop?" Booth all but shouted, running his fingers through his hair. Brennan all but had to restrain herself from grabbing his big, red, cocky belt buckle then and there.

"My place then?" she asked breathlessly, "It is closer…" Booth all but screamed. He staggered to his feet, completely embarrassed by his condition. List of the saints, list of the saints, he mentally chanted. He closed his eyes so he couldn't see her tousled, aroused….SAINTS he shouted to himself.

"You hungry?" she asked casually. Booth opened his eyes incredulously, not sure if she was making a sexual reference.

"What?" She took three steps, and they were so close, the saints were all forgotten in an instant.

"What about…" she started, and grinned suggestively. And he finished for her:

"Thai food?" they chorused. And instead of grinning as they always did, much too close, she moved in for the kiss, but he stopped her head with his hands. A flash of hurt danced across her face before Booth kissed her slowly, languorously, and they only broke apart when they heard footsteps above.

"You order," he directed, and she laughed and skipped upstairs before him, only putting on a serious and professional nod as she passed Angela on the stairwell.