[A/N: I really appreciated your very warm welcome to this site. Thanks for stopping here and for your patience with this long note.
This story takes place slightly more than one year after the Bones S5 finale. This was my very first idea for a Bones fanfic. It hit me mid-Season 5 and had been originally intended to be set back after the S4 finale. However, after I wrote the first two chapters, I got an enormous case of writer's block and put this story aside. After finishing "Translation," I was left bereft of ideas, so I decided to revisit this story to see if any of it still resonated. Fortunately, it was very easy to shift this story ahead one season to focus on Bones and Booth working together after what happened in the S5 finale instead of after recovering from what happened at the end of S4. The core of this story was developed before any spoilers were out (obviously), so any similarity that arises is utterly coincidental.
Excited about shifting the backdrop for this whole story, I found that this storyline reeled me back in and demanded to be written-twenty pages the first day I picked it back up. I was held hostage. I am not kidding. In fact, I wrote all of the chapter titles first and then wrote the chapters. That was a first for me.
Unfortunately, inspiration departed just as abruptly as it had arrived, and then it continued to play hide and seek for quite some time after—making writing this a roller coaster ride. I can't forget the idea, and yet I am still struggling with this more than I have in any fic I can remember writing.
The reason for telling you all this is that I'm being reckless and spontaneous here (not my nature). I am departing from my original plan of writing this entire story before posting any of it. Posting without everything planned and with kinks remaining in the storyline worked really well for me last time. I hope your reviews will inspire me to fight through and resolve the issues I haven't been able to put to rest. You have no idea how much I hope reading goes more smoothly than the writing process did!
I would be remiss if I didn't thank my GCatsPJ's pal for helping me settle upon this title ages ago. I am so happy to finally be able to post a story with it!
Hope you'll enjoy reading here. Please let me know what you think!
P.S. I do not now and shall never own Bones. Or Booth (except in my dreams).]
The Heart in the Vise
Oh, to love someone intensely and to be loved wholeheartedly in return... To feel-whether with or without 'that incredible someone' - as if my heart were in a vise. Oh, to love recklessly and with utter abandon-even when it's extremely painful, even if it's dangerous, especially when love shouldn't be enough... but somehow can be more than enough anyway.
Chapter 1: The Awkwardness in the Return
Silent, synchronized steps fell on shadow-darkened tiles.
Special Agent Seeley Booth and world-renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan continued to walk deliberately through the long, dark hallways in the maze of a dank basement in the long-abandoned building. Remaining close to one another, the partners inched their way carefully and quietly down the third hallway they'd searched, each lost in his own thoughts. Flashes of lightning and the roar of thunder and wind from the storm outside did nothing to reduce the tension in the atmosphere around them. It was as if an ominous shadow hung over both of the partners.
Trying to discern images of real things in rooms crowded with eerie shadows dancing a waltz of sheer foreboding, Booth paused at each door they encountered to look inside for the criminal for whom they were searching. They'd been tracking this particular killer for weeks, and Booth's frustration with the leads that continued to fizzle or dead-end had peaked. He was tense; the adrenaline pumped wildly in his veins, and his muscles were locked into uncomfortable knots as he continued the dangerous search for the criminal he and his partner were focused on apprehending.
As he tried to keep his mind clear and his focus sharp, Booth had to admit that he'd reached his limit. He was ready to take this creep down. He ached to finish this jerk off and didn't even pause to consider that this had been the first time he'd felt the urge to draw blood since before rejoining the army. He knew without consciously thinking about it that he hadn't felt this wound up about catching a perp since the Gravedigger. That in itself should have been cause for alarm. The fact that he also felt the need to prove himself in this first case back from his latest stint in the military made it even more stressful.
Fortunately, that singular sobering thought had finally been enough to help Booth shake out the cobwebs and focus all of his energy and skill on continuing their search for the latest murderer—the one Hodgins had dubbed "the Taker." Booth hated that moniker as much as he detested the faceless person it represented. He really hated the fact that the nickname had stuck.
As she crept along slowly behind Booth trying not to distract him from his search-and her protection, Temperance Brennan's focus was directed more on her partner than on their environment. As much as she still hated psychology, she considered that her intense scrutiny of her partner was more than likely a defense mechanism. She simply hadn't wanted to dwell upon the work they were doing in that moment, so she posited that her brain must have shifted her attention to Booth so that she didn't have to think about the dangerous, unpredictable work they faced.
Once that thought had registered and been processed, it had been simpler for Brennan to remind herself how much she hated psychology than to acknowledge that thinking about Booth had become as natural a process for her as breathing or as using any of her senses. Through the early years of their partnership, he'd managed to chip away at her reserve and her façade, somehow managing to monopolize her time (not that she was complaining about that) while embedding himself in nearly every aspect of her life—even in her sacred work at the laboratory.
She'd been overwhelmed last year when he'd reached out to her and asked her for even more—for her heart. She'd felt stifled, afraid that she'd be enveloped by Booth completely, and terrified that she might not be able to handle the compromises that might require and that she might hurt him in that failing. So she'd run away toward the opportunity of a career-lifetime wondering if she'd really run away from something she might actually need even more.
While she'd been away from Booth for nearly a year—for the eight months she'd spent in Maluku and then back at home documenting the results of the dig while he completed his tour of duty in Afghanistan, her thoughts had so often drifted to him that she had long since stopped acknowledging the fact that they did so. Irrational though it had been, that long, hard, lonely year away from her partner had not been spent thinking about him less or becoming more comfortable not being so immersed in working with him.
Oh, she'd reveled in the opportunity to lead the team in Maluku and enabled them to complete the first phase of the dig ahead of schedule. She had been energized by time spent in the remote jungles and by discovering remains and artifacts with such anthropological significance. She'd enjoyed putting her mark on the field by leading a team of top experts in more than six months of incredible scientific discovery about the evolution of humankind. Not surprisingly, she'd adapted well and engrossed herself in her work. She'd been the first one working each morning and one of the last to stop each evening. She'd eaten well and enough to stay healthy, exercised as regularly as the weather and her workload would allow, stayed in touch with her family and friends more often than she'd expected, developed an idea for her next work of fiction, and penned three impressive, widely acclaimed articles. Even by Brennan's high standards, her time in Maluku had been extraordinarily successful, and she'd returned to the Jeffersonian refreshed and eager to immerse herself in pure science until her partner returned.
Success and considerable accomplishment aside, Brennan's heart clenched when she considered how much she had missed Booth while they'd been apart. Although he'd been the person with whom she'd wanted to communicate most, the logistics of his work in a war zone had severely limited their contact. Sometimes it had been months before she had been able to see video evidence that he was still alive and breathing. His e-mails had been brief. She knew that his words had been limited by necessity and by his desire to minimize her worries. She had felt uncomfortable considering the fact that his brevity might also have been a result of the pain she'd inflicted upon him by refusing his overture to her.
Despite the fact that a substantial portion of their routine communication during their partnership had been through e-mail and text messages, she had found relying upon such forms of communication during their year apart unsatisfactory. She had clung to each opportunity to hear his voice over an impromptu phone call or a scheduled videoconference. More often than not, she had shed tears when those calls ended, rationalizing that it had been normal that she missed her partner because he was also her very best friend. She had hated the fact that some small part of her had called her a liar for pretending that missing her friend had been the only reason that clicking off each call with him made her feel so sad and so alone.
With thoughts of that separation and its significance weighing her down, Temperance now observed her partner more carefully—with as much scrutiny as the low light and their constant movement would allow. Booth was leaner now—in better shape. His hair was still military-short, but it was starting to grow out to look more "Booth-y." Booth was now a bit more serious than he'd been before their time apart—it took him longer to crack a joke or to tease her about things these days. But he was still Booth, and she didn't think that she'd ever tire of watching him work and being near him and being his partner. Suddenly emotional as she watched the tick of his jaw and realized how tense he was and how worried she was about him, Brennan's thoughts shifted back from her partner to the situation they were now facing.
She had never adapted to feeling ill-at-ease and avoided such situations. Yet, this situation made it unavoidable for her to escape that feeling. Despite the rush of adrenaline stemming from the potential to catch the suspect, Brennan had always felt less comfortable with this part of their partnership. That had been one reason she often rushed in "recklessly" and upset her partner. She wanted to rush through this part and find and arrest the murderer. She needed that closure, that finality, and for this part of their work to be over. She much preferred the initial retrieval of remains and the calm, sterile, controlled environment of the lab. She also remained fascinated with questioning the criminals and learning the reasons for their sordid or violent behaviors. She definitely enjoyed hours spent hypothesizing with Booth about a murder and all other aspects of the work their partnership had been founded upon to this—this chaotic time in each case that put her partner at risk. There had been times in the past—many of them, in fact—during which the sheer rush of the experience of pursuing a criminal had sent her lurching ahead and racing toward danger. But those feelings of excitement and anticipation now paled in comparison to the dread she felt as she sidled along down the hallway with her partner. Since they'd returned to their partnership after a long year apart, she'd dreaded the return to this part of their work and had returned to it hesitantly—much more for Booth's sake than her own.
Out here in Booth's world of searching blindly and following instincts to try to locate someone trying not to be found, she couldn't feel comfortable. Trying to assure herself of their progress and the likelihood that they'd remain safe, she analyzed the situation in multiple ways-by counting rooms and eliminating proportions of the floor for them to search. But this analysis of facts brought her no comfort. Despite years of practice dealing with the frenzied pace and danger this part of their jobs brought, she hadn't been able to put her tensions and worries to rest when they'd gone back out into the field. Naturally, her discomfort had been magnified by the fact that she still was not allowed to carry a weapon when they were on official FBI business. But that hadn't been the crux of the problem. Her time away from Booth had affected her by making her worry more—not less-about him.
With an awareness that she hadn't allowed to overtake her in prior years, Brennan realized that-out here-her partner was stretched to his limit, and she hadn't been convinced that he was completely ready for such an intense life-or-death assignment. Of course, she didn't have the heart to tell him that he should take more time off and give himself more of an opportunity to adapt to life off the battlefield. Voicing her concerns would have been tantamount to telling Booth that she doubted him. She just couldn't do that to him. The truth was that she didn't actually doubt him; she just hoped that he didn't doubt himself.
Since his return from Afghanistan, Booth had looked and sounded and acted mostly like the old Booth, but she could see clearly that he remained uneasy and not quite himself. She still trusted him and his instincts implicitly, but she had been concerned by the worry lines that often furrowed her partner's brow. He had been on edge and determined to pretend that he wasn't. What hurt had been that he wouldn't talk about his distress with her. She strongly suspected that he avoided her so that she wouldn't demand that he do so. As a result, they hadn't met for many meals or found reasons to talk to each other outside the lab. Since his return, their lives had continued to be mostly separate—mirroring their year apart more than resembling the intimate partnership they had been immersed in before their chosen separation.
Brennan knew that her partner needed to get back out into the field and be the cop he was destined to be. She could tell that he ached to get back to normal and to put this difficult year away serving bravely behind him. She had to admit that that's what she had wanted to do, also. After her return from Maluku, her instincts had been to lock herself in the lab until she'd been able to identify a body from bone storage—or twenty. She'd actually identified far more bodies than that while also assisting with several other notable projects in the four months she had waited for Booth to return. She'd had two-thirds of a year to spend proving that she could still do what she'd been born to accomplish. But she'd also needed to return to the life she'd had before—to her productive work at the lab-just to prove to herself that she could still do what she'd spent years doing on her own and with Booth there.
Since she could understand what he might be feeling, helping Booth adjust to life back at the bureau had become even more important than her own reorientation at the lab upon his return. He'd faced the most danger and strayed farthest from their typical casework during his time away from DC. He was now the one who needed most to prove that he was still an expert at his work. She'd only bolstered her international reputation and acclaim by taking her sabbatical. In contrast, while his peers at the bureau admired Booth for his courage and his sacrifice, the agency culture dictated that he had to "earn" his way back into his old job.
Immersing himself in tracking bad guys had been the logical approach for Booth to take to ground himself in his job and his life at home. Brennan couldn't fault him for following logic and doing what he needed to do. So, even though it was a far less comfortable environment for her, she'd ignored her own need to excel in her work at the lab and been adamant that she'd be there at his side to work all aspects of the case in the field. She needed to do something to chase away that shadow that hung over her partner these days. She wanted to remind him how good he was at his job as well as to help him remember that he was no longer fighting in a war zone.
Despite her complete determination to stand by him and help him regain his confidence in his work at the bureau, Temperance wished that they had the benefit of additional FBI staff for backup. This murderer had become known for his particularly violent behavior and his consistent ability to elude police and to leave minimal evidence at crime scenes. She knew that there was little room for error in their search. This killer would not submit to capture without a fight and had proven to be capable of causing great harm to people of a variety of shapes and sizes. Booth was practically on his own to apprehend the killer if he were on that floor, and she worried for his safety.
There had been another team searching the upper floors, but they weren't close enough to be of any real help if something happened. Bones wasn't accustomed to feeling anything but completely safe in Booth's presence. It wasn't that she actually felt afraid. It took much more than facing a killer to frighten her. But she had been barraged with nagging thoughts that kept reminding her that Booth might not be able to manage this search with only her help. Those thoughts felt like a betrayal of her partner and bothered her more than she'd admit even to herself. She had always dismissed such feelings easily on the rare occasions they had ever crossed her mind, but she now found herself plagued by them as they wandered in search of a calculated murderer. In the dark and unarmed, Brennan felt defenseless and out of control. She was not comfortable being either, and she hated feeling like just another risk for her partner to balance. She could see the tension wafting off of him as he led her down the corridor.
The hallway they were now searching remained whisper quiet. Booth continually worked to make sure that he placed himself between any potential danger and Temperance. That had been not an easy task given that she had always been poised immediately behind him, as eager as he had been to see what lie ahead.
Agent Booth continued to nudge his partner gently behind him, stopping from time to time in the hallways to remind her that she was supposed to watch his back. That had been the only rationale he'd been able to come up with to encourage her to stay behind him. He had been uneasy enough about tracking this creep into this dark building, but his partner's actions weren't helping him focus on the task at hand. He'd nearly forgotten how recklessly his partner pursued the truth and put herself at risk. He couldn't stand the thought that she might do so now-not now that they were both back home and working together again.
Trying not to distract him, Brennan attempted to follow his lead and maintain the same pace but she too often slammed into him in her eagerness to stay close and be part of what happened. Once or twice, he rolled his eyes, frustrated by the impact of her body ramming into his. The close, physical contact had been even more frustrating to him because his partner hardly seemed to notice the way that she had been distracting him. He knew that she had not been trying to torture him by accosting him with her body. She was just being his partner and trying to help.
Yet each bump and collision reminded him all too painfully of the separation he didn't want between them. Every time she fell against him, he was reminded that she wasn't falling for him-she didn't have feelings for him. Each time her smaller frame crashed into his it was a stark reminder that she couldn't still be drawn to his body—not the way that he still craved hers. She'd had a year to compartmentalize and forget the knot of emotions that had never left his gut. He knew all too well that he remained the only one confused and distracted by feelings like that, so each unintentional touch distracted him a bit more. The fact that he had been the only one wound up and frazzled by the continued physical contact with her made him more and more frustrated as they continued their search.
Sighing and reminding himself that they were there to track a dangerous murderer, Booth inched slowly down the hallway toward the next room. Uncharacteristically, he found himself hoping that the team upstairs had already found the person they all were searching to find. Just a few more rooms and he and Bones would be able to meet up with the larger team. Just a few more rooms and Bones wouldn't be in danger any longer. Just a few more rooms and….
Instinctively sensing the presence of someone else nearby, Booth slowed and held his hand out to stop his partner from careening into him yet again. He nodded toward the door to let her know that he suspected that someone was inside. Wordlessly warning Temperance to stay where she was, he took a deep breath and burst into the next room.
Instead of finding the murderer or another victim, Booth had been shocked to see the woman sitting atop the table with her long legs crossed, seemingly waiting for him to arrive.
Smiling, she greeted him, "Well, hello Seeley..."
[A/N: Up next, Chapter 2: Uncertainty about the Uninvited. Won't answer all of your questions, but it's a start.]