A/N: So about the plot of this story and settings: I realize that the idea that Brennan could just fly into Afghanistan to visit Booth there is completely false and would never happen for real, but just hold onto the image of Brennan crossing oceans to his rescue! Fluff alert.
One-Shot, no sequel. Sorry guys, I've sold my soul to Physics this summer...
Also, I own nothing related to FOX's Bones, although I have an impressive collection of Kathy Reich's novels
The Ring on the Chain
It wasn't even ten o' clock in the morning and already the Indonesian air was thick and heavy enough to cut and serve with whipped cream. The team of archeologists had already begun to sweat through their first layer of clothing in the dense jungle where they worked. Dr. Temperance Brennan mopped up yet another bead of sweat which threatened to obscure her vision with a dirt-covered hand. A shrill voice that she had been attempting to drown out the past seven months pierced the fog that the humid day brought to the atmosphere and her brain.
"Dr. Brennan! Dr. Brennan!" Daisy cried shrilly as she picked her way among the open pits faster than should be possible by a human being. "Dr. Brenn—"
"Yes. Daisy, I can hear you perfectly well without the added volume. What is it?"
"Some Major-Something-or-another from the Army is on the phone for you over in the main office."
Brennan's mind suddenly became less irritated with poor Daisy as her heart skipped a beat. She was sure she had felt abnormal palpitations…but no matter that. Why is the Army calling her? Had something happened to Booth? She snapped out of her reverie and addressed her assistant.
"Did…did he say what he wanted?" She began to collect her brushes and probes into her leather satchel.
"Just that he needed to speak with you urgently and that he'd hold. So…I put him on hold and came to you, now here we are!" Daisy clasped her hands in front in a very self-satisfied way with an obnoxiously wide grin.
Without another word, Brennan picked up herself and satchel and meandered through the pit field as fast as she could (though not as fast as Daisy). She tried to settle her mind and fears by reciting the times table in her head, a nifty trick that she picked up in foster-care. After Four times Nine is Thirty-Six, she reached the office and settled at the only open phone of the three they had. With trembling hands she picked up the receiver and hit the blinking red light.
"Dr. Brennan speaking." Her voice was much more cool and collected than she felt.
"Is this Dr. Temperance Brennan? A.K.A. Bones?"
So, this was about Booth…
"Yes. To whom am I speaking?"
"This is Sergeant Marc Edwards calling from the Army hospital in Afghanistan…"
Calm. Beginning to shatter.
"…about Sergeant Major Seeley Booth."
She found her voice before he could continue.
"A car bomb and a gunfight in the market place threatened to take out some civilians and Sergeant Major Booth—"
"Did he survive?"
Her voice cracked.
"They both did…for now…"
"…Booth got out of surgery about an hour ago. Last I heard he was on his way to being stable."
"On his way? So, he's not stable?" She was beginning to get frustrated.
"But he will be. We're waiting for him to wake up."
Brennan was trying to wrap her mind around this awful news and the soldier's peculiar wording. But he will be…She was unsure of what to do and how to proceed. She knew what she wanted to do. But how to make it possible…
"Ms. Brennan? Hello?" The man at the other end of the phone brought her back.
"It's Dr. Brennan. I'm currently at a dig in the Maluku Islands. I will be arranging for the first flight out of here to the base. Would someone be available to transport me from the airport to the hospital?"
"Whoa now…Doctor. I know you're he's your fiancé and all…"
"…but this is a war zone you'd be flying into. Knowing Booth, this is the last place he wants you to be. He's always telling stories of the troubles you two manage to find. Ha! Quite a character that Sarge. But anyways, we'll get him fixed up right nice here and when he's more stable, we'll lift him to a hospital in Germany for further recovery."
"That being so, sir, I am still coming. Booth has obviously left out the part in his tales that I am an adult capable of making my decisions about my life. I need to see him and see that he's being properly cared for…"
"Ma'am, I assure…"
"…No more. I'm coming. Will someone be able to transport me or will I have to hire a rickshaw?"
A heavy sigh escaped the Sergeant. That Booth sure has his hands full with that one. What a woman!
"Excellent. At what number may I reach the pertinent party when I have made my arrangements?"
"You can call me directly at…" Brennan jotted down the extra long number with the international codes and military extensions. She thanked him and hung up.
The phone quieted, Daisy gone; Brennan was left to her own mind and the news. He'd been shot?He's still not awake?Will he ever awaken? The details were so sketchy that she was left to imagine the worst when things might not be that bad. What if he'd had another bad reaction to the anesthesia? Why didn't I look over the medical records he was sending to the army? Did they know he's allergic to Penicillin? Should I call the hospital and—
Her strength was beginning to crumble as her mind ran away from her. Her torso tensed up holding in her breath as she doubled over, tears spilling from her eyes.
Four Months ago:
"Bones, you gotta be real careful in that Indonesian jungle, okay?" He gave her that ridiculously overprotective look he always gave her. And she understood why. It was partly her fault. She wouldn't allow him the extra role in her life that he desired to have, so he overcompensated in the protector aspect. She could also tell that he didn't want to be parted from her. He had taught her so much about people in five years and it never ceased to amaze her how in sync they had become; more often than not these days it only took a look to communicate thoughts, feelings, desires, longings…
"Booth, in a week you'll be going to a war zone." Her voice was about to fail her. Seeing him in his uniform, while very flattering, only made her think of the heroic acts that make Booth who he is. He is a self-sacrificing man who would do anything to protect others. Anything. "Please don't be a hero…please just…don't be you."
Her eyes pleaded him. I need you, Booth. Please come back to me. He nodded.
He stepped toward her and for a few seconds she thought that he was going to kiss her, which would not be unwelcome. Instead he simply took her hand. She reveled in the feeling of his rough hands. She memorized the feeling of them and each detail of this moment, knowing that this was it for a whole year. He spoke.
"One year from today we meet at the reflecting pool on the mall. Right by the—"
"—Coffee cart" She finished for him. She nodded and put on her strong face, holding back the tears she would save for when they arrived in Indonesia and away from Daisy. "One year from today." She tried to hold onto his hand for longer, but he pulled free and walked away.
Brennan watched his retreating figure, knowing that she should do the same. Security was going to be a nightmare explaining her tools to them but she wasn't ready just yet. A spontaneous thought popped into her head and she began to carry it out without further deliberation.
He turned back to her as she was running after him; a puzzled, yet pleased expression twisted his handsome face.
"Where are your dog-tags?" She requested, not giving herself time to change her mind.
Eyeing her suspiciously, he reached under his collar and pulled them out. "What do you want with these?"
Brennan stepped within a hair's breadth of him and pulled off the ring she wore ever day that had belonged to her mother. She fumbled with the chain on the tags until she found the clasp. She undid it with shaky hands and slipped on the ring.
"Bones…" He muttered softly, staring at her face in disbelief, hope surging through his chest. Her cold hands reclosed the necklace and slipped it back under his shirt. Booth was thoroughly confused. He attempted to play it off by teasing her. "Isn't there some 'anthropologically' term for this sort of thing?"
"Of course there is, but I can't seem to think rationally right now." Her voice cracked as a small tear founds its way down her cheek. Booth gently brushed it away with his fingertips and continued to softly stroke her cheek, memorizing every angle in her face, each shade of blue in her eyes.
She nodded and then leaned into him, throwing her arms around his neck. Brennan didn't mean to exactly, but before she could really think about it she kissed him gently on the cheek. She could feel Booth tense up at the unexpected contact, but he tightened his hold on her.
"Promise me you'll be safe, and not do anything to get yourself hurt," she whispered fervently in his ear. Her breath shot goose bumps down the whole left side of his body and settling into more intimate areas.
Boy, does she know how to rile me up! He thought.
Booth brushed her hair away from her ear and whispered: "Only if you'll promise the same."
"I promise." She returned with no hesitation or remarks about taking care of herself.
"Good. Then I promise you too." He moved and gave her a lingering kiss on her temple. They held each other close for another moment or two before Daisy's shrill cries of Dr. Brennan! Dr. Brennan! broke the moment.
"You should get going before Daisy wets herself." Booth tried to be humorous.
Brennan nodded and kissed him on the cheek one last time, lingering longer, relishing the feeling of their faces so close together. Feeling Booth's musculature and how his trapezoidal muscles flexed and relaxed, she could tell that he was just as reluctant to release her. She felt so complete with Booth like this. Now she understood what they had been missing, what she had said no to. In that lingering moment, she was aware of what Booth meant when two people became one. Not yet on the plane and she was regretting this trip already. She quickly pulled away from Booth, feeling his lips brush her forehead. No time for thought; only action: she rolled her suitcase towards security and away from Booth.
Fifteen feet into the journey and she caved and looked back at him. He too was fifteen feet away from where they had been, his hand was pressed to his chest where she knew her ring laid against his bare chest.
He gave her a sad half smile, tipped his head to her, turned around and walked away.
She had made the necessary preparations with the airport and the military, gave Daisy a curt and quick à dieu, and three hours after the initial call she was plane-bound for Afghanistan. After an hour of hopelessly attempting to read or work on papers for the dig or the new book (which she was writing in a futile attempt at escaping the jungle)…she accepted that she would only be able to stew over Booth's condition.
We're waiting for him to wake up.
Did he have another poor reaction to anesthesia? Was he shot in a major organ? Did he loose lots of blood? Will he ever walk again?
She twisted the nearest piece of paper into a long spiral, a nervous habit she had not exhibited since learning to channel her frustrations and anxieties into productive work habits. Booth had certainly managed to turn her world upside down in a few short years. There was no logical reason for her to on this silly plane. The hospital doctors and surgeons and whoever else could take perfectly good care of him without her interference. They would even call her twice a day if she would have requested so…still:
She needed to see for herself that he was alive and well. It had been two months and 23 days since they had been able contact each other; but who's counting? It had been a bittersweet video chat, too much getting left unsaid…again. If he…was seriously hurt (she refused to think of the d-word, despite its daily presence in her life)…she would never forgive herself for letting him think she didn't love him.
Brennan knew that she wouldn't be able to sit still or sleep until she had physical, hand to hand, eye to eye contact. And she didn't plan on waiting another few months or however long it took him to recover in a German hospital to do so. No, being on the plane was the right thing to be doing.
The guilt didn't help her fragile emotional state either. No matter how illogical, her gut twisted and turned that it was her who had put him in the position to accept the Ranger's proposition. "If only's" wouldn't help him much now. She tried very hard to push it aside since, there were bigger, more important questions to be asked first.
Why had the army called her? Why not Hank or Rebecca? Why did the Sergeant call her Booth's fiancé?
She checked her watch: 4 hours to go.
The world was dark.
But he was not dark.
He was conscious of the darkness around him. All was still and comfortable and secure. Within this darkness he had no past and no future. The present did not even exist. Only he existed.
But who was he? Bertram? Bundy? Boysenberry?
At that point, a tiny speck of light appeared in the center of this darkness. It pierced his comfort zone as the cushy darkness was disturbed. The speck slowly grew and grew. He could feel the effort it took to try and shut the light out, but it came anyway and pried its way through the whole darkness. It burned his eyes. He desperately tried to cling to the darkness but like oiled silk it escaped his grasp.
He hurt everywhere. His legs were sore, his torso was filled with needles and he couldn't open his eyes because his head pounded like crazy. He felt like his whole body tied down tightly to the bed and heaped upon with sandbags. His mouth was so dry, like the desert he remembered now that he was in. All that he had been unaware of in the darkness was painfully brought to life.
Godammit, Booth thought. Only a small break from one hell-hole to the next. I wonder if I get morphine this time…
He could distantly hear voices and footsteps coming towards him. Booth wished they were in socks or some kind of slippers and speaking sign language. Every kind of stimulus hurt.
"Booth?" A soft, quiet voice cooed in his ear while a soft, cool hand stroked his cheek and ran through his hair.
Whoa! Except this stimulus…What the hell was Bone's doing here? Ouch! Damn, thinking even hurts…but not her hand...
Her cool hand continued its soft ministrations, easing his pain. He visibly relaxed under her touch. Based on the way his eyelids were squeezing tight and relaxing and how he was slightly moaning in pain, yet consciously reacting to her touch, Brennan could tell that Booth was awake.
"On a scale of 1-10, how bad is your pain?" She asked softly, just like a doctor.
"Ten." He whispered tightly, trying to move his torso as little as possible.
"What can I do to ease it?"
He paused, mustering for the strength to utter another word. He had so much to tell her, in words and actions. Still, immediate physical needs were to be cared for first. It's only logical, right? He braced himself.
"Light." Pain shot through him again. He forced himself to focus on her soft, small hand cradling his cheek.
"You want the lights to be off?"
*Tight, slight, stiff nod.
"I don't think I can control the light in this room. I'll go ask the nurses…" her hand slipped away and her weight came off of the bed.
"No!" Booth's eyes shot open for a split second before the pain forced him to close them and speak quieter again. "Stay."
Brennan sat back down on the bed at his side and undid the brightly colored scarf around her waist. Moving as gently as she could, she tied the scarf around his eyes so that his eyes were at least in darkness once more. She tenderly went back to stroking his face and head and neck, humming softly in his ear.
Mentally, since it hurt to do so physically, he sighed in contentment. Okay, so it was a little painful. He'd pick this any day over comfy, lonely darkness. He gingerly fumbled for her free hand which she gladly slid in his.
Someone was playing with her hair. It elicited a strange tingly feeling whenever someone played with her hair, but it had been ages since that had happened. Brennan remembered how her mother would stroke her hair to help her fall asleep or when she would give her an "up-do" for the junior high dances. She loved that feeling and since her mother's disappearance, few had shown interest in touching her that way, or Brennan would jerk away from them. Her lovers would try to play with her hair sometimes, but she would recapture it possessively. That sensory memory belonged only to her mother.
"Are you awake, Bones?" Oh. Booth was playing with it. She found it strange that she didn't instinctively yank her hair out of his reach, but she chided herself when it occurred to her that Booth was the only one who made her feel as safe and loved as her mother.
Brennan slowly cracked her eyes open to see a sideways Booth wearing her colorful scarf around his temple like his rock-star necktie get-up. His eyes were no longer hidden from the light and the hospital room was dimmer than when she'd fallen asleep.
"Hi." She stated simply. Wow Tempe…way to break the ice…
"Hey," He crookedly smiled at her, but the way his eyes couldn't settle and his head swayed slightly, she suspected that he was now taking some kind of narcotic.
She slowly sat up as her vertebrae ached at the movement; her head pounded with a head ache from uncomfortable, irregular sleep. Her mouth felt like sandpaper. She tried unsuccessfully to suppress a groan.
"Whoa Bones! You okay there?" Booth asked with a mixture of concern and giddiness.
"I'm fine, Booth. Merely a few side effects of my sleeping arrangement," Brennan retorted with slight irritation. "I should be asking you the same question." She shot him her "Angry Brennan" look.
"Me? I'm feeling loads better!" A horridly giddy smile was plastered on his face.
Brennan narrowed her eyes and rose from her chair. She picked up his chart from the end of the bed (this hospital has yet to convert to electronic medical records) and scanned it. Noting the type and amount of pain killers administered intravenously she said tightly, "I see."
"Aw, com'on Bones…So what if it's pain killers that's made the pain go away, mostly? I'm just real excited to see you. Com'on…I know you're at least a teensy bit jazzed to see me too."
"I don't know what that music type has to do with your present condition. I am NOT excited to see you in a hospital. I am NOT excited to have gotten a phone call telling me you were SHOT, and captain whoever couldn't even tell me how bad you were except that we were just waiting for you to wake up! Do you remember what happened the last time someone told me that? Or the time that everyone thought you were dead? What the hell did it have to do with a civilian anyway? You told me, or rather strongly nodded, that you weren't going to be a hero! What the hell Booth? And why is everyone under the impression that I'm your—"
"Shhhh…Bones! We gotta keep that lil' tid-bit on the DL." Booth furtively whispered. Brennan drew closer to him and sat on the edge of his bed.
"What's the DL and why the hell are we whispering? Explain your grand plan NOW!" She returned in a semi-quiet angry whisper.
"DL. Equals the Down Low. Secret, you know?" Brennan returned with a single nod.
"And about the…you know. Look, I knew that if something would have happened to me that you would have flown to wherever and raised a big stink, creating a lot of hassle for you when all you would care about is seeing me. So I put down the fiancé thing so that you would have an easier time of getting to me without a problem. Girlfriends don't get very far, and "work partner" wouldn't have cut it. This was the next best option without breaking a few laws." He timidly chuckled, gauging her reaction.
She was staring at him expressionless. He knew that that face meant that she was contemplating her emotions. He could tell that a fierce battle was waging within her, unsure of the next step. What that step was surprised him.
She gently wrapped her arms around his bruised torso and buried her face in his neck. Booth was a little jarred at first but quickly recovered and wrapped Brennan up in his arms. "Thank you. Your assumptions were correct. I'm sorry for yelling at you. I suppose any sort stimulus is only making your head injury feel worse."
"No apology needed, I know you're worried. But we're here still, alive and together. That's something to be happy about, right?"
Brennan chuckled, her breath tickling Booth's throat and other parts of his anatomy. She pulled away to look him in the eye. The light laughter had disappeared and she had her serious face on. Booth wasn't sure if he should be worried.
"Booth….I…" But at that particular moment the doctor decided to walk in.
"Ah good! The missus is awake now." The doctor boomed cheerily.
Brennan opened her mouth to correct him, but Booth pulled her back to his chest and clasped both of her hands rather tightly. Their positions mimicked intimacy well enough to fool the doctor. Booth did it to shut her up. Both their hearts were racing.
"Yep, doc," Booth answered good-heartedly, rather a little forceful. Brennan blamed the drugs.
"Sergeant Major Booth, you are one lucky son-of-a-bitch." This doctor doesn't believe in sugar coating anything.
Brennan tensed in Booth's arms. She wasn't sure how well she was going to like this story.
"I'm not sure how much you remember Serge, but lemme lay it down for you." This doctor was also very visually and kinetically oriented as his arms waved about as he told the tale. "Your company was in the market place, just a routine surveillance; maybe pick up some good eats on the way back and a nick-knack for your momma back home. You feel it? Out of nowhere: a car bomb explodes; 20 feet from you Serge. You throw yourself in front of a grateful Afghani mother and her son, taking most of the impact. You're down. Bullets start to fly between the rebel forces and the Americans. You try to get up and join in but you take a clean shot to the chest and you're down again."
Her whole body flinched as the doctor said that. A clean shot to the chest…you're down…you're down again…She composed herself; Booth murmured in her ear from behind, "It's okay Bones…We're still here." She squeezed the hands he held and gave the doctor the sign that he should continue.
"Now, get this. Some guardian angel was watching over you and had this ring," he held out a plastic jar with bits of shrapnel that used to be a dolphin shaped ring, "Perfectly placed under your uniform, Serge. That shot should have killed you, but this deflected the bullet and it only punctured a lung instead." He handed the jar to the couple. He started to explain that most of Booth's injuries came from the explosion, but then he saw how intimately they were wrapped and staring at the ring in awe: he quietly slipped out.
Brennan reached out and took it with a shaky, disbelieving hand. She didn't believe in fate…or didn't use to at least…
As if he was reading her thoughts Booth said to her: "So, Doctor-Know-It-All…what do you have to say about fate now?" He had that cocky gin plastered on his face. 100% Booth, no painkillers clouding his actions.
She turned to face him, her face unreadable. She was thinking…
"I accept your theory as plausible, but one successful outcome doesn't prove a trend. However, I have never been more pleased to be wrong about something."
"You're wrong? Wow Bones! I didn't expect that. Although…I like to think we've had more than one—" However, she cut off his cocky response with a swift kiss on his lips. Now it was his turn to be stunned into silence.
"I don't much care for science and the grand debate of coincidence versus fate at the moment. I am only grateful for your life. I should have put an end to this…impasse, if you will, a long time ago. I think we've lost enough time as is." The latter part wasn't spoken directly in his face, rather down casted. She was ashamed for waiting until he almost died, again, to go through with it. If he even still wanted such with her; Brennan certainly didn't feel she deserved it after all she put him through. She peered up at him from lowered lashes, waiting for his response.
Booth responded by pulling her close and looked in those blue eyes he'd missed so much. "Do you wanna know why I jumped in front of the woman?"
"I assume you were pulling those hero antics I asked you not to perform," Brennan responded sternly.
Booth chuckled but continued his confession: "Her eyes were just your shade of blue. I saw her looking at me and, for some reason, in the heat and that split second that the bomb went off, I ran toward her thinking it was you."
Tears managed to squeak past Brennan's strong walls at his admission. Even when they weren't together he still managed to find ways to protect and love her in his own Booth-y way. Each tightened their hold on the other.
They closed the small gap that was left between them and shared a sweet, slow kiss; very unlike the frenzied ripping of clothes and gnashing of teeth Angela had envisioned. Forgetting the war-torn world outside the hospital walls, and the ancient mysteries buried in the Earth's depths, and all the coldness in peoples' hearts, the couple embraced one of life's simplest and profound pleasures: love.