Title: Mysteries and Miracles
Summary: After a shooting, Booth prays for a miracle.
Disclaimer: Bones belongs to Hart Hanson and FOX. No infringement intended. I am definitely not making money out of writing fanfiction.
Author's Notes: Spoilers until S5, Episode 100.
As a Catholic, I totally relate to Booth's faith, although I'm with Bones on certain aspects of religious practice. But personally, I find that meditating on the rosary brings a semblance of clarity, although no-one I've ever been involved with was ever shot.
Also, this story in un-beta'ed as of the moment. It's 6 AM over here, and my beta is probably still asleep. Do let me know if I've missed out on anything, especially spelling and tense shifts. Thanks and enjoy!
After difficult days (like today), he prays the rosary. The beads, still smelling sweetly of roses, are stashed away in the corner of the third dresser drawer on the left, just behind pairs of colorful socks, tucked beneath a particularly garish blue-and-orange pair that Parker bought for him three birthdays past. Wine-colored, each bead hangs suspended on a delicate gold chain, the imprint of a bud still visible on the surface despite so many prayers. He received it among his mother's things when she died – a broken woman, the bruising on her face evident despite the best efforts of the mortician. His father did not attend the funeral.
Booth sits on the edge of the bed, twines the rosary beads around his callused fingers, bends his head in absolution. He knows (or at least Bones told him, during one of the innumerable car rides to and from crime scenes, late-night diner runs, carting away one suspect or another for interrogation) that Catholicism did not invent prayer beads, that they were simply a physical tool for meditation. Buddhists, Muslims, even the Shinto priests, ghost-white and silent, used beads to pray, to focus their thoughts on a higher power.
Today, she almost dies. A suspect on foot had a .38 and a surprisingly good aim, and even though she insisted she could take care of herself, the man had gunned her down, the bullet passing clean through her shoulder. He fired – once, twice, his mind warring with his body. Local police had handcuffed the man when he went down, Booth's perfect aim slicing clean through the flesh. The perp would have a nasty-looking scar. Booth rushed to Brennan, pressing the heel of his palm against the wound, feeling the blood pump against his skin. She is pale and sweating, her auburn hair sticking out in all directions, her eyes a cobalt blue. He held her against his chest, murmuring nonsense words of comfort, until the paramedics arrived and bundled her off to the hospital. She fluttered her fingers, an almost-shy smile dancing on her lips, as the gurney trundled back into the waiting ambulance.
Now he is home, her blood still staining his fingers. He's shed off his suit jacket, the shoulder holster, the gun (missing two rounds now), the badge. He promised to visit her at the hospital, but now he just wants to lose himself inside his head. He takes a deep breath, his mind slowly running through the ritual words. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. They've had too many almosts, too many moments where they could have lost each other to a violent randomness. The words I love you have passed his lips ("The princess is in the tower, but nobody's listening," he'd said once, knowing that she would not know what he meant); he meant them with very fiber of his being, coma be damned. They kept on circling each other, neither one willing to succumb to change, the center stagnant, stale.
The first Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden. His lips move around the words in silent prayer, silent thanksgiving. Every single day, he is thankful that he is able to go home, to climb into bed with his head and arms and legs intact, his mind and aim still as sharp as when he was twenty, his heart still pumping blood through his body. He knows he is never alone: having a son assured him that he would live on, even after his body had turned into dust. But the apartment always seems empty somehow, without her. He half-expects her to be just sitting on the couch, paperwork and half-finished takeout boxes scattered on the coffee table, a glass of beer in her hands. But the space is empty, echoing, waiting for the self to reclaim the shadows.
The second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. His mind maps the scars on his body; tonight, he was thankful he didn't add one more. But she took the bullet ("Payback," she'd mouthed silently) and for that, he is heartbroken. He would've gladly taken all of her pain on his shoulders, soothed the tense muscles of her shoulders, her back, her head. He would gladly taken bullets for her, a stab in the stomach, breaks in the bone. She is no fragile flower, but he wants to take her in his arms all the same, soothe away her fears. He didn't want to add to her scars; he wants to be the balm to smoothen the wounds left by her parents, her brother, the parade of men who used her and refused her and broke her heart.
("I'm that guy," he declared, one rainy night, the gambler in him refusing to back down. He was a man, he could take the tears, he could show her his heart and pray that she would take it.
The third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning of Thorns. His fingers trace the raised imprint of rosebuds on each bead, murmuring the prayer taught to him by the parish priest during Sunday school. They are all broken, each and every one of them: Bones, Angela, Hodgins, Cam, Sweets. They each wear their pain like jewelry on their necks, marked around their wrists and ankles like imaginary bonds, scars tracing the skin on their backs. None of them are safe from the world – it is the work that they do, the work they are best at, taking stories nobody wants to tell and giving it a beginning, a middle, an end. They place names on headstones, culprits in jail. They are the best, and none of them can function without the other. (No, not even Zack.)
The fourth Sorrowful Mystery in the Carrying of the Cross. For him, this is always the most difficult of prayers to go through. He knows about burdens. He is a man who willingly takes them on: for his country, for his son, for love. He remembers pipes on his feet, the hot pain of a super-heated ice pick drilling into the flesh of his thigh, the carefully-constructed hallucinations that saved him and almost killed him, the slow breaking of his heart every day as he looks at Bones – mine, his mind chants, my Bones. He knows he has to move on; she tells him that he is insane; he tells her that it is love. Love is a form of insanity, he decides, because only insane people will take bullets for the person they love.
("Ah," says a voice inside his head that sounds suspiciously familiar. "But love is just a chemical reaction."
"Get out of my head, Bones.")
The fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. The fading sunlight slants across the hardwood floor of the bedroom. A flock of birds cast shadows on the horizon. He stares for a moment, wondering if she's still in the hospital. Knowing Bones, she would probably insist on being discharged as soon as the wound was cleaned up and bandaged. She would refuse painkillers and inform her doctor that she would be able to drive home, thankyouverymuch. He is glad that she listed him as her emergency medical contact – the doctors would inform him when she was ready to leave.
There is a point when one either embraces change or leaves. The temptation to leave is always there – he knows how she feels when she boards a plane to Guatamala, El Salvador, Tunisia, Ghana, some other unpronounceable name on the map. She wants to test the boundaries, to see how far her anchors can hold. She says she refuses to change, that she cannot change and does not know how, but he knows that she has changed more in the last five years than she has ever allowed herself to. And this is what frightens her.
The phone rings, startling him out of his reverie. Once, twice. He answers it on the third ring, hoping that it's the hospital.
"Booth, it's me."
"Hey Bones. You okay?"
"You mean, aside from getting shot at? Yes. The doctors have cleaned up the wound and told me that there will only be a negligible amount of scar tissue."
"No more sleeveless dresses for you then."
"Nothing a little judiciously applied makeup can't handle. Angela assures me that the concealer she uses will be perfect for this, just as soon as the bandages come off."
He smiles into the receiver, the rosary still looped around his wrist, the small silver cross clasped between thumb and forefinger. "Do you need me to pick you up?"
"Yes, since my car is still at the lab. Plus I need to get dinner. I was... I was hoping you'd join me."
"Well, when a pretty lady asks me so nicely, who am I to refuse?"
He could almost hear her blush as she attempts to gather her wits after the compliment. "We could try that new Vietnamese place, I heard they made great spring rolls. And – " before he could complain about the lack of meat at such places, " – I read that they do an angry grilled chicken."
"I think you mean 'a mean grilled chicken', Bones."
She laughs. "I know, the turn of phrase just escaped me at that moment. So when shall I expect you?"
He is already walking towards his closet, rifling through his shirts for something to wear. "I'll be there in twenty minutes, Bones. Try not to eat all the pudding."
"I even saved a cup for you, Booth."
"Thanks, babe." The word slips out even before he could control himself. He winces, expecting her to berate him about the use of infantile words to lay claim on women, but instead, she just clears her throat and says, "I'm in room 24B. Just tell the nurse at the front desk that you're my emergency contact and they'll let you in." And with that, the dial tone fills his ears. He drops the phone on the bed and stares at his closet. The blue shirt, definitely, and a pair of dark jeans. His leather jacket. He tucks the rosary into his pocket, grabs his gun and badge and keys, and slips out the door.
A riddle, wrapped in an enigma, inside a mystery. The phrase marched inside his head as he walked down the antiseptic walls of the hospital towards her room. She is seated at the edge of the bed, back in civilian clothes, her blouse where the wound entered her shoulder still slightly singed. There are butterfly bandages encircling her face, swathes of white bandages wrapped around her left shoulder. Her blue eyes are pale cornflower, her normally pink lips a shade lighter. She brightens when she sees him leaning against the door frame, arms crossed loosely over his chest.
He strides inside the room, sits on the bed next to her. The rosary beads bumps against his skin, smooth and round in the back pocket of his jeans. He takes her hand in his, fingers intertwining like the chains of the rosary around his hands. She does not complain nor pull away; she looks at him curiously, as though he were a new set of remains on the platform.
"Don't ever do that again," he tells her quietly. He wants to give her a scolding, a tongue-lashing, remind her why squints should stay in the lab while FBI agents chased after suspects with guns. But he is thankful, above all, and grateful that she is still alive. "Don't ever do that again. When I tell you to stay behind, listen to me, all right?" He brushes his thumb over the smooth skin of her hand.
"You are correct." She tightens her grip on his hands but refuses to look into his eyes. A curtain of dark hair obscures her features. In the harsh light of the room, the strands turn lighter, maple brown on a sunny summer morning. "It was unwise of me to run after you, especially unarmed. I must admit that the first thought running through my head was concern – I did not want you to be hurt. After Pam Nunan, after the Gravedigger..." She draws a ragged breath. "I realize that I have no right to claim you, Booth. But after today – "
He takes her into his arms, folding himself around her so that they fit like two pieces in a puzzle, like Cam's grandmother's ceramic salt-and-pepper shakers. He feels her shudder in his arms as she exhales, relieved. "I don't need you to claim me, Bones," he whispers in her ear. "You already own me."
Inside a mystery. She is warm and womanly in his embrace, and for an infinite moment, he just wants to stay there, savor her, capture the second when her walls are down, defenses crumbling to the ground. She is his mystery, wrapped inside an enigma, encircled by a miracle.
She looks up, and he has never seen her look more beautiful despite the bandages, despite the smudges of dirt still on her cheek, the unruly twists of hair. "I have to admit," she says softly, "that I may have been wrong in my theory. I find that I am... not adverse to change after all. Especially when you offer an alternative like... like love."
Booth realizes that his heart may have skipped a beat. You're such a girl, Seeley.
"You love me?" It's a question, hanging in the air like mistletoe.
"I... am not sure, since I do not think I've ever experienced such an emotion," she whispered into his chest. Her arms tighten around him, despite the bandaged shoulder. "However, I realize that even though I have no relatable experience to this, I find that I am willing to experiment with this emotion. I trust you implicitly, Booth, and you have given me enough quantifiable data to assure me that your feelings are genuine and you will not disappoint me, at least not on purpose."
He laughs, silently thanking the Man Above, all his lucky saints, and capricious fate. Out of everything that could have happened today, this was definitely not on the list of things to expect. In fact, Booth thought she was going to slug him instead of wrap her arms around him, enabling him to run his hands up and down her back, marveling at the fine strands of her hair that whispered against his fingers. "I love you too, Bones."
She grins at him and hops off the bed, extending her uninjured hand towards him. "Shall we go and have dinner now? I find that after a shooting, I'm inexplicably hungry."
Definitely miraculous. "Okay, Bones." He stands up and slings his arm around her as they walk through the door. She reaches up and links her fingers in his, entwining like beads strung on a fine gold chain.