Underneath My Being is a Road That Disappeared
On bended knee is no way to be free;
lifting up an empty cup I ask silently
that all my destinations will accept the one that's me,
so I can breathe.
Don't come closer or I'll have to go;
owning me like gravity are places that pull.
If ever there was someone to keep me at home,
it would be you.
Guaranteed, Eddie Vedder
Booth closed the door gently behind him, pausing after the soft click to listen for signs of stirring within the apartment. When all remained still, he slid the bolt into place and started toward the bedroom, grimacing as he caught a whiff of his suit; scents of charred wood and flesh clung to him, much more evident now than they had been at the crime scene. He needed a shower. A slight change of direction brought him to the laundry room door, and he stripped in the hall and tossed the soiled clothing directly into the 'dry-clean-only' hamper – the one Brennan had insisted the laundry room needed – before doubling back to the bedroom.
Upon entering the room he saw Brennan stretched out on her stomach in the middle of his bed, and suddenly the night didn't seem quite as bleak as it had only moments before. He had told her he wouldn't be home for hours, and even though she generally spent Tuesday nights at his place, in his absence he had expected her to return to her own apartment. Light and fresh on the air there rested the unmistakeable scent of his partner's body wash. Her soothing smell enveloped him through the now open door; it repelled the scent of death clinging to his body, and he savoured the calming effect of the honey and lavender vapours. He was partial to that particular soap of hers; it was the same honey and lavender scented soap she had thought she so subtly slipped under his sink a month or so into their relationship, after she began spending increasingly frequent nights at his place. The same honey and lavender scented soap that had stuck out like a nun in a nightclub amongst the other unquestionably masculine toiletries that filled his cupboard. He smiled to himself and gazed fondly at the body mostly buried under the blankets on his bed as he thought to his quick discovery of said body wash, and its subsequent relocation.
His gaze followed her through the mirror as she hung a towel across the bar to the right of the shower. He had intentionally pulled back the shower curtain, so he knew it was only a matter of time before she noticed what he had done, but until that point he revelled in observing her, the way he always did. Should she suddenly turn around, she would find him dutifully brushing his teeth, clad only in his boxers and a pair of socks. He saw the exact moment her eyes found the body wash sitting on the rim of the tub, in the corner tucked in-between his bottles of soap and shampoo as if there had never been a time when it didn't belong there. Her eyes darted swiftly between the bottle resting in the shower and the cupboard in which she had last left it, and Booth took his gaze away from her long enough to spit the toothpaste into the sink and rinse out his mouth before casually turning toward her.
"Morning, Bones." He grinned, tapping the excess water from his toothbrush before dropping it into the cup beside the faucet.
"Good morning." She responded uncertainly. Logically, she had realized that if she didn't want to go to the lab smelling like Booth, certain changes had to be made. Logically, it made sense to keep supplies in Booth's apartment now that she didn't always have time to make it back to hers before work. Unfortunately, as seemed to occur when it came to her emotions involving Booth, reciting these rational conclusions to herself did little to appease the irrational nervousness tingling through her.
He put her out of her misery quickly. Closing the distance between them he slid his hand beneath her thin cotton tank top and ran his hands over her soft, chilled skin.
"I want you to be comfortable here, Bones." He murmured in her ear as he pulled the tank top over her head. "Whether it's a tiny ass space on the sill of my tub, or half my damn closet. Everything I have is yours; don't be afraid to take it."
He liked to think she understood that he had been referencing a lot more than her girly smelling soap.
His muscles began to relax from the moment he reached to turn on the taps, and by the time he stepped out from under the spray of the showerhead, Booth felt a languid exhaustion pooling in his limbs. The knowledge that he was steps away from clean sheets and his partner's warm, sleeping body was enough to give him hope for a solid, dreamless slumber.
When he opened the door to the bedroom he hesitated ever so slightly; something seemed… off. Not necessarily dangerous, but wrong nonetheless. His gaze automatically flitted expertly about the room, but seeing nothing amiss and finding it increasingly hard to remain conscious, Booth let it go and moved to his side of the bed. Of course, that was the moment the mystery solved itself. Brennan was curled up on her side, her face twisted with obvious displeasure as she muttered a few unintelligible words and twitched arbitrarily. Booth's face flooded with sympathy and he wished – not for the first time – that nightmares weren't such a common occurrence for both of them. With a sigh he slid beneath the duvet and pulled her body against his, relaxing into the mattress and providing Brennan with the only comfort he presently could. In seconds, he began drifting off into a dead sleep, only to be startled into instant alertness when the woman in his arms stiffened and woke up gasping.
In one smooth motion Booth pulled her into a sitting position beside him and reached over her body to turn on the lamp on the nightstand. He had learned that she always had a moment of panic when she woke up in the dark. A brief moment before she logically reminded herself that she wasn't in a car quickly filling with earth, a second or two at the most, but a terrifying moment for her all the same. She played it off well, but Booth saw. Of course he did. And so he turned on lights before she could open her eyes, and she pretended she didn't notice.
"I got you." Booth murmured gently in her ear, crushing her body against his chest. "You're okay."
"I'm sorry." She breathed desperately.
Booth kissed the top of her head, "Sorry for what? You haven't done-
But she was awake now. The fog cleared from Brennan's eyes and the confusion disappeared soon after. She inhaled and exhaled deeply and brought one hand to her forehead while using the other hand to push insistently against Booth's chest, demanding a little bit of space. Booth obligingly released her, but he kept his palm resting lightly on her back.
"Do you want some water?" He asked softly.
Brennan nodded her head, and without another word Booth was off the bed and out the door so quickly and quietly she could barely process that he'd moved.
She heaved a sigh and then laughed in a decidedly self depreciating fashion. That had been… interesting.
Booth returned with a glass, already slippery with condensation, and she smiled gratefully as she took it from his waiting hands and allowed herself a long drink.
He smiled as she looked around for a coaster, refusing to rest the glass down atop the oak night table until she managed to locate one. When she turned back to face him quizzically, wondering why he had yet to return to the bed, Booth's eyes glinted mischievously and he presented her with the bottle of Tequila he had been concealing behind his back.
"What do you say we go for something a little stronger?" He said lightly, taking a very childish flying leap onto the mattress.
"Booth." Brennan protested bemusedly.
He passed her the bottle. "Ladies first."
The smile she gave him as she took the bottle was genuine. He was sensitive to her feelings, and he really did try to give her space when he thought she wanted it. Three years ago she may not have been able to tell, but now she could easily recognize that he was reacting to the way she had pushed him off of her when she first became coherent; he was trying to make her laugh instead of comforting her directly. It was sweet in a very Booth-y way.
"Tempting." She answered ruefully, but she set the bottle on the floor without opening it. "It's entirely unnecessary though, Booth. I'm fine."
"'Fine' is no reason to turn down a perfectly good drink." Booth replied, feigning great offense. "No one appreciates good Tequila like you do, Bones. You didn't even look at the bottle! I picked it up while you were in Sweden last month."
She suddenly looked very, very tired.
"It's an admirable gesture," she said softly, wearing only a shell of her former smile, "but not tonight."
Dropping the teasing façade, Booth's features grew serious and his eyes darkened protectively as he placed a hand on her thigh. "She won't touch you again. Ever."
"It wasn't that. It was silly." Brennan insisted reluctantly.
Her conviction that the episode hadn't been anything short of foolish was cemented by the rather rare blush that stained her cheeks, and Booth frowned. The, "I'm fine" responses Brennan was apt to delivering when she wanted to avoid admitting weakness were usually coupled with a lack of eye contact and restless movement. While her fingers were indeed twisting nervously, she was meeting his gaze directly and earnestly; something she had difficulty doing when she was skirting the truth. Booth was once again consumed by the feeling that something within their bedroom was off kilter.
"How come you went to the crime scene without me?"
The indignant question came out of left field as Brennan latched on to his moment of uncertainty and used his contemplative silence to change the subject. Booth recognized the distraction attempt for what it was; hell, she had learned to do that from him. But if this was what she needed, he would give in to her. For now.
"Bones, there are plenty of things you do at work without me; why is it so hard for you to wrap your head around me doing the same?"
The frown deepened and she brushed a few flyaway strands of hair out of her face. "In the lab your presence often proves more of a distraction than anything else. In the field I've consistently proven myself to be of great assistance to you."
He slid under the heavy duvet and placed a kiss on her forehead. "Don't worry your pretty little head about it."
Brennan wrinkled her nose in distaste and resisted his touch as he tried to pull her to the mattress. "I'm finding I'm still every bit as irritated with you when you're condescending as I was before we started having sex with each other."
Booth rolled his eyes, "Not now, okay, Bones? Tomorrow morning I'll be ready to argue our conflicting feminist and patriarchal tendencies, but for right now, I just want to hold my partner and pass out for a few hours before the alarm goes off."
She gave a huff of displeasure – one that pleased him because it meant that something about her was normal tonight – but then her face flashed sadness as the memory of whatever it was she was keeping from him found its way back to her.
The silence was oppressive; the air thick with the thoughts weighing on her mind that she couldn't bring herself to share. Booth pulled her closer and refused to be deterred when her body flinched ever so slightly before he could all but hear her command herself to relax. God, he was exhausted. But he would never get to sleep with them like this.
"Temperance," he breathed, "talk to me, baby."
Her breathing stopped for a moment; she couldn't help being affected by the gentle, yet indelibly commanding voice he adopted under circumstances that he deemed exceptionally important. For a moment he thought she would give in, but then she steeled herself and exhaled sharply before falling back onto age old defenses.
"Don't call me baby."
The alarm clock sounded off in the bedroom three and a half hours later, and Booth muttered a few choice expletives as he waited for Brennan to turn the damn thing off.
On a morning not so long ago, she had very practically suggested that moving the alarm from his side of the bed to hers would save him the cost of having to replace the machine repeatedly, while simultaneously saving her from being startled awake when he angrily (noisily) smashed it into silence after a night of too little sleep.
When the increasingly aggravating, monotonous beeping continued, Booth groaned and buried his face further into his pillow.
"Bones, come on. You're killing me here."
When his complaint was met with silence, Booth reluctantly turned his head to her side and opened his eyes. There was a moment of confusion when he took in the empty space beside him, and then the awkwardness of only hours before came rushing back. He wearily sank back into the mattress and placed an arm over his eyes to shield them from the bright sunlight.
The fact that he hadn't so much as stirred when she left the room was testament to his exhaustion. He tried to gather his thoughts and structure an opener for the conversation he was going to have to have with Brennan, but it wasn't long before the blare of the alarm clock was seeping through every part of his consciousness and drowning out all other brain function.
And then Booth was angry. He was angry with the arsonist who had torched the Rose Hill townhouse that morning, he was angry for the family who had burned within it, he was angry at the job that took and took and took from him and still grudged him a full night's sleep, he was angry with Bones and the way she had bolted as if they were a week into their relationship instead of two thirds of a year, and he was angry with that fucking clock-
In one of the blinding fast, practiced movements which told the world that the seemingly calm waters of Seeley Booth ran unquestionably deep, he ripped the alarm away from the outlet and hurled it against the far wall.
That took care of one problem.
He looked sheepishly in the direction of the bedroom door, half expecting it to open as Brennan came to investigate the noise and exasperatedly scold him for the rather childish display of temper. When the door remained closed, the surge of anger faded away and left Booth simply filled with dread for the upcoming day.
Her toothbrush was dry in the bathroom, there was no coffee waiting in the kitchen, and the morning paper was still hanging on the outside of the front door; all indications that she had left the apartment hours ago, possibly (likely) right after he had fallen asleep. Booth sighed and shook his head, putting all thoughts of his partner temporarily out of his mind as he set the coffee percolating and gathered his case files from the living room coffee table.
Angela yawned as she somewhat sluggishly fumbled with the sliding door and made her way into the lab. Playing hooky with Jack yesterday had been worth it – God, had it ever been worth it – but Cam would have her ass on a platter if those sketches weren't waiting for her the moment she came in. Even though it pained her, here she was, reporting for duty, at the absolutely ungodly hour of 6:30am.
She took a sip of her latte and shuffled toward her office by memory, with her eyes mostly closed.
"…grooves in the right ulna contain unidentified fragments; organic in appearance… further lab analysis should reveal-
Angela's eyes snapped open at the sound of her best friend's voice, and her gaze came to rest on the platform where Brennan was hunched over an examination table, intently recording her thoughts via the recorder in her left hand.
Angela smiled to herself and changed direction. She was already impossibly behind on those sketches; a couple more minutes of procrastination couldn't possibly make a difference.
"Morning, Sweetie." Angela grinned as she skipped up the platform stairs.
"Hey Ange." Brennan answered distractedly without lifting her eyes from the skeleton before her.
"What are you doing here?" She laughed, "Are you fighting with Booth again? Is he still mad about you wearing the totally hot fuck-me heels when we went to that club Saturday? Don't blame me, Bren, you looked stunning and the make-up sex is going to be fabulous… hey maybe you can do the surprise quickie thing in his office again around lunch; he sure liked that well enough the last-
Brennan finally looked up, and the teasing smile immediately fell away from Angela's face.
Brennan strode across the platform with feigned nonchalance and placed the recorder on a nearby table. "Nothing happened, Angela. I just have a lot of work..."
"Yeah... I'm going to go ahead and call 'bullshit' on that one." Angela retorted bluntly. Her eyebrows furrowed and under her intense gaze, Brennan took a step back.
It was bad enough thinking about Booth looking through her that way; she couldn't, couldn't handle Angela doing it right now too. She averted her eyes and stripped the latex gloves from her hands, walking purposefully past Angela to drop them in the garbage can. Before she could head to the safety of her office, Angela was stepping in front of her.
"No. No, I know that face. I'm not letting you past me until you tell me what's going on."
The concern in Angela's voice was palpable, and when Brennan was unexpectedly overwhelmed by the care of the friend who had always just loved her, she succumbed to the sudden impulse to throw her arms around Angela and pull her into a tight hug.
Whether the action surprised her more, or Angela, neither of them would ever know.
Hot coffee sloshed out of the hole in the lid and scalded Angela's hand, but she held in the hiss of pain and quickly returned the hug, putting all the love into the motion that she could manage.
"Tell me what happened, sweetie." She encouraged gently, "You'll feel better."
"I…" Brennan started slowly, her voice muffled by Angela's sweater, "Booth… I don't…" A beat passed and then Brennan pulled away. "I can't, right now. Ange, I really can't. Can we do this later? Please?"
Angela took a deep breath. Brennan's expression was desperate, and in the interest of letting her maintain the tentative control she was struggling to keep over her emotions, Angela forced a friendly smile. The crease between her brows smoothed out, and she moved the coffee cup to her opposite hand and wiped the wet one on her jeans before offering the drink to Brennan.
"Here. I think you need this more than I do. There's only a sip or two missing."
Angela winked, and Brennan visibly relaxed. "Thank you. But I really don't have time… I need to get back to work."
"Oh, come on." Angela cajoled, waving the paper cup temptingly, "Hazelnut soy milk latte, no whip, an extra shot of espresso AND a shot of vanilla for good measure. This baby is your dream, Bren."
"I don't want the coffee, Angela!" Brennan snapped, "God!"
Silence descended; Brennan's fists clenched at her sides, and the look Angela gave her almost did her in. Because there wasn't a hint of anger to be seen in her best friend's face. Nor was there hurt, disappointment, or any array of appropriate emotions she had come to recognize in the last few years. Angela just stood there looking so concerned that it made Brennan feel infinitely worse than she would have if Angela had simply given her what she had coming and poured the drink down her shirt.
"Excuse me." She mumbled. Then she hurried down the steps and strode stiffly out of Angela's sight.
When he arrived at the lab late that afternoon, the first people Booth saw were Hodgins and Cam on the platform. Hodgins was gesturing emphatically as he explained something to his boss, and Cam processed the information intently with her arms crossed over her chest. At the sound of his footsteps they both looked up, and Booth caught the look of relief they exchanged with one another before hesitantly acknowledging his presence with a nod.
Before Booth could put too much thought into the significance of their shared glance, Angela stepped out of her office and into his path. He immediately raised a hand in greeting, expecting to be met with a flirty grin in return, but he stopped abruptly when instead, Angela's eyes grew stormy as she strode purposefully in his direction.
He stood stock still, frozen in shock at the look on Angela's face that could be interpreted as passionate dislike at best, and something akin to hate at its worst. He was uncomfortably searching his brain for anything he could have possibly done to offend her when she reached his side and thumped her clipboard solidly against his left bicep.
"Ow! Hey! What is your problem?" He yelped in surprise.
"What did you do to her?" Angela's voice was low and furious. "Booth, only you could affect her like this."
Without giving him time to respond, Angela raised the clipboard once again and used both hands to slam it back down on his body.
"Okay, seriously," Booth's eyes darkened, "You need to knock that off."
Angela continued to glare defiantly, but her arms dropped to her sides.
"I have no idea what the hell you're talking about." His voice was a tension wrought growl and his eyes darted about the room, searching for signs of his partner's whereabouts. "What did she say to you?"
Hodgins and Cam had resumed their conversation, but the half dozen times their gazes had strayed to his and Angela's position assured Booth that they were listening closely to every word. Feeling as if everyone in the room knew something he didn't, Booth raised his voice and agitatedly addressed them as well. "What the hell is going on?"
Angela raised her chin and remained wilfully silent. She didn't know anything, actually, but she'd be damned if she let Booth know that. Her friend's utterly despondent face was still fresh in her memory, and Agent Studly wasn't very high up on her list of favourite people right now.
In the end, it was Cam who finally provided him with an answer.
"Dr. Brennan has resigned herself to bone storage for the afternoon." The pathologist stated in an even, practiced tone that revealed nothing and everything at the same time. "She's finding herself exasperated by the lack of focus being displayed by the rest of the team today."
There was no mistaking the sardonic spin of Cam's words. She met his eyes without wavering and quirked an eyebrow expectantly; the message was clear. You've pissed off our anthropologist, Seeley. Thanks.
It was Angela's continuing stubbornness that kept him from getting sidetracked by a general frustration with Brennan and the squints and the world in general. While a part of him wanted to indignantly protest the way they all assumed that whatever had happened (what had happened?) was his fault, the part of him that was in control recognized that it really wasn't like Angela to direct so much aggression his way. If his partner were merely pissed off at something he had done, Angela would be smirking and teasing and verbalizing every sexual innuendo her dirty mind could come up with. This steady fury indicated that Angela honestly believed he had hurt her.
Booth tossed the folder in his hand in the general direction of the platform and stepped around Angela.
"Sign those for me, will you Camille?" He said tersely.
He didn't wait for a response from any of them, and if they gave one, he didn't hear it.
When Booth reached the bottom of the staircase leading to limbo he dialled the familiar number; from the dark recesses of the depressing space, he heard a faint chirping ring through once, then twice, and then cease altogether. He tried dialling her number again, but she was, after all, a genius; if she didn't want to talk to him, she certainly wasn't going to make it easy for him to find her. This time the phone went straight to voicemail.
Starting down the nearest corridor to the far wall, Booth prayed she wouldn't simply walk up the stairs back to the lab once she figured out he didn't plan on leaving until he found her. He walked systematically through the labyrinth-like layout he had come to know as well as the architect who designed it, and he kept his ears attuned to any noise that fell outside the dull buzzing created by the air conditioner.
Only six minutes passed before he picked out her figure. In her own strange and twisted form, Lady Luck was with him.
The aisle he found Brennan sitting in was no different from the previous dozen he had already covered, and as he rounded the corner he exhaled deeply in relief. Her eyes were closed and her knees were drawn up against her chest; arms wrapped around them tight as if some part of her believed the motion was literally holding her together.
That's not possible, Booth. The sound of her sensible voice flitted through his mind in response to the irrational thought that had dared to pass through him, and he shook his head to clear it.
Booth ambled down the aisle toward her with a practiced calm, and he intentionally, subtly, made a little noise for the first time since coming down the stairs.
Brennan opened her eyes and lifted her head from where it rested against the wall of storage containers.
"You found me." She said softly.
"Former ranger, Bones." Booth replied easily, settling himself on the ground beside her without touching her. "We've had this conversation."
He stared straight ahead in order to keep her from feeling pressured. The glassy sheen of her eyes he had witnessed before he sat down told him that while she hadn't been crying, it was taking all her effort to keep emotion at bay. Now that he was sitting here, she was fighting harder than ever. Without turning to face her he let his hand find hers, and after a moment's hesitation her fingers curled around his.
Slowly, her arms dropped away from her knees and fell to her sides, and through their hands alone they remained connected over the two feet of space between them.
For Brennan, it soon felt too comforting. Too safe. Too much as if as long as his hand was warm and her hand was in his, nothing could be as bad as it seemed. Too much conjecture. Where was her logic? She wanted her hand back.
Booth wouldn't let go.
He could feel her emotions whirring, and he could imagine that the anger she was emitting was directed at herself more than it was him. She was trying with everything she had to shove whatever it was that was bothering her into a box, and it simply would not stay. Her brilliant mind was defying her, and she was enraged by it.
Booth waited patiently; the patience of a sniper, the patience of a father; the patience that came of an eight year partnership with one Temperance Brennan.
A week and a half ago, Brennan had left work early of her own free will. No nagging from Booth required. She had slipped past Hodgins and Wendell without a word; focus already redirected from skeletons to her doctor's appointment.
For four days of every month, Brennan underwent the menses stage of her menstrual cycle and shed her uterine lining. Four days at the beginning of every month like clockwork, since she was fifteen years old. And because she was a logical, pragmatic scientist, when those four days hadn't begun precisely on schedule it hadn't taken her more than a moment to conclude a severe ear infection and an intense cycle of antibiotics could have been enough to affect the effects of her birth control; she was never late. But, because she was a logical, pragmatic scientist, because she didn't accept any scenario (no matter how plausible) without irrefutable evidence to stand behind it, Brennan hadn't dwelled on it again until her doctor had provided the required lab work informing her she was, in no uncertain terms, pregnant.
"I'll need a quantitative blood test as well."
"The urine tests are more than adequate, Dr. Brennan." Dr. Faye Callahan had assured her.
She bristled. "I'm well aware of the statistical probabilities associated with testing urine for HCG." She had clamped her jaw shut, because she hadn't had the patience to give a lecture when her doctor was eventually going to have to give her the goddamn test she wanted anyway. "If you'll just give me the paperwork, I'll be on my way to get the samples drawn from the clinic."
The physician paused, having had Brennan as a patient long enough to know the woman was… tenacious.
"It'll be at least a week before you're contacted with the results." She had tried one last time without much conviction.
"I'm aware of that." Brennan had responded, slightly offended by the fact that her doctor felt the need to tell her how long lab results took. She began stripping out of the standard issue gown with her usual lack of modesty and reached for her blouse and jeans. "Just sign the forms. I need to get back to work."
And then, again, the issue had been put out of her mind until yesterday evening when her blackberry had rung as she was sprawled on the couch in Booth's apartment. One minute she had been working on her novel and waiting for him to come home, and the next there had been no more room for denial. Just a slap in the face with the cold straight facts that had left her stunned.
"Positive. The results are undoubtedly positive."
She hadn't been able to bring herself to type another word after that. The phone call had interrupted Andy and Kathy in the middle of passionate, wild, uninhibited sex, and she couldn't move them forward because shouldn't they know enough to be careful?
This baby is your dream, Bren. At the time, she had taken Angela's sentence out of context, but just thinking about it made her want go find her friend and yell at her all over again. This was not a dream. It was real and terrifying.
They had yet to look at one another since Booth had sat down beside her, and she kept her gaze fastidiously ahead after the words finally left her mouth.
In spite of herself, Brennan's mind strayed to that morning and the less-than-nightmare which had been nonsensical and clichéd to the point of ludicrousness. It had been embarrassing, and Booth's attentiveness when she (pathetically) woke up had made it worse.
Logically, there was fact 1: Parker hadn't been planned any more than this… zygote? Fetus? (she had a feeling Booth would dispute both terminologies) .
Logically, there was fact 2: Booth loved Parker more than he loved anyone in the world, regardless of the accidental conception.
But the bill (coin, Bones. It's coin) had two sides. And in examining the negative, the positive points were swiftly out measured.
Fact 3: Parker caused Booth constant worry.
Fact 4: even she, who could claim no blood tie to the child, had experienced a sickening, stomach churning feeling like no other when she saw harm come to him. The time he was struck in the face by that baseball at the game she went to with Booth. The time he slipped on the ice and hit his head when she was supposed to be watching him.
She still couldn't be entirely certain that it was worth it.
She forced her mind back to the present. Back to the man beside her. Back to the news she had just blurted out with her usual lack of tact. Twelve seconds of silence passed (she counted) but Booth didn't pull away his hand. She kept panic at bay by focusing on this detail. Past experience had taught her that while Booth was generally very tactile, furious-Booth refused to touch or be touched by her. She focused on their entwined fingers and told herself that this particular line of reasoning wasn't based in conjecture, but was rather a rational assumption formed upon years of collected data; one and a half sugars in her coffee were fine, but two would be too sweet. Tequila caused hangovers, but overindulging in vodka would not affect her the next morning. If Booth was angry, he wouldn't hold her hand.
She repeated all this to herself one more time as another five seconds passed.
"Okay." Booth finally said.
"Okay?" She repeated slowly, dubiously; as if the word was new and foreign on her tongue and she didn't quite trust it.
"Okay." Booth confirmed firmly, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the velvety skin covering her knuckles.
Brennan couldn't bring herself to break the sense of comfort their lack of eye contact had brought her, but she let her eyes slide Booth's way and studied his face through her peripheral vision. Reading people wasn't her strength, but she could read Booth. Most of the time. She had a vague notion (originating in a place that Booth would call her gut) that no one could read him if he didn't want them to, but that was more conjecture. There had been more than enough of that lately.
She struggled to interpret what she could see from her limited view.
Determination; that was easily identifiable through the clenched jaw. There was fear, too, evident in the way the pressure on her hand increased ever so slightly. The difficulty lay in his eyes; his expressive brown irises were soft, which put them in direct contrast with the tension radiating from the rest of his body. A frown marred the impassive mask Brennan had been maintaining with varying degrees of success as she fought to quantify the anomaly. She knew that expression. Maybe if she were staring at him directly she could place it, but as things stood, it was just outside her-
It clicked. There.
Unbridled love and devotion. The warmth he had taught her to recognize through his own example. The same warmth that crossed his face when he woke up to find her intently memorizing his features. The warmth she had seen so brightly the first time they had had sex (made love, Bones). Suddenly, Brennan thought she might finally cry, even though she wanted very much not to do so.
She allowed herself a small snuffle, and then she scooted toward Booth without releasing his hand until their sides were pressed together and his body heat was seeping through her light cashmere sweater to rest against her skin. Her head dropped to his shoulder, and his head rested against hers, and Brennan tentatively explored the idea that this might actually prove to be okay.