A/N: Hello lovely readers! Now this chapter was difficult to write. I am a little nervous about it, because the emotions I wanted to portray are rather complex. Be warned: this one is very angsty, but I'm sure you all knew it was to be expected.
Now, I hope I responded to everybody's fabulous reviews! You have no idea how much they motivate me :D
To my beta joybrennan: you are priceless babe!
Booth sat in the plastic chair and stared through the gap in the blinds. The sun was slowly rising, as the world prepared for another day. There was a small line forming at the coffee cart in the park below. Booth turned away from the window, and his eyes automatically fell on the woman sleeping in the bed next to him. Most of her face was obscured by the ugly green mask, and the skin that was visible , looked sickly. Booth didn't dare look further past her face. The first time he had laid eyes on the intubation had been enough to sear the image in his memory forever.
Booth found it hard to believe that, this time yesterday, he was getting ready for the work day. He had stopped at the Diner for a coffee before confining himself to his office to finish his share of the paperwork. He remembered wanting to take his time in order to prolong the moment when he would need to see Bones. How much had changed in twenty-four hours. Yesterday he hadn't wanted to be near her, to speak to her, nor hear what she had to say, because he hadn't wanted to face his own failures. Today, he would give anything for her to open her eyes and say something, anything. He would even settle for scientific jibber jabber, only just to hear her voice and see her eyes light up.
His exhaustion was slowly giving way to panic. She had been moved from Recovery more than six hours ago, but her condition hadn't changed. The sounds coming from the machines were making his head throb. The thought that she needed those machines to keep her alive, was nauseating.
A comforting hand on his shoulder pulled Booth from his thoughts. He gaze flicked to Cam's tired and worried eyes. She held out a cardboard tray with two Styrofoam cups in her other hand. Booth accepted a cup, and took a sip, without tasting the coffee. Numerous attempts - by the Squints, Sweets, the medical staff - were made to get him to go home and let Sweets keep him company as he recovered from the concussion. Despite this, Booth had not left Brennan's side since she had been moved from the ER to Recovery. Hodgins had forced a distraught and exhausted Angela home with the promise of coming back first thing in the morning. Cam had made a few calls, and then asked Sweets to drive to Booth's apartment – now a crime scene – and grab his overnight bag from Charlie.
Cam had volunteered for the first 'shift'. They had decided amongst themselves that neither Booth nor Brennan was going to be left alone. She knew a few of the medical staff at the hospital, and had had a quiet word with them about the need to extend visiting hours for Dr Brennan in order to prevent a possible scene. Max Keenan had looked ready to murder anyone who dared to coax him to leave his daughter, and Booth had ignored everyone's requests.
Cam placed her coffee on the spare seat and picked up Brennan's chart. Everything looked to be the same as the last time she had checked. The doctors were monitoring her closely for any signs of infection as a result of the transfusion. She was still relying on intubation, but her heart rate remained steady. Cam's eyes traveled to the woman in the bed, and she let out a long breath. Even after a night in the hospital, she was still having trouble processing the fact that the person lying before her was Dr Brennan. Everything had happened so quickly, so unexpectedly, that the situation seemed surreal; from the call she'd received from the FBI, to waiting in the ER, to witnessing Angela's rage and Booth's distress. Looking at Booth again, Cam realised he was still in his blood stained clothes. The bag containing his spare clothing was lying forgotten underneath his chair.
"Booth, you need to get out of those clothes. I told you that the nurse allowed you to have a shower in the bathroom here." Cam gestured to the door in the left hand corner of the room.
Booth continued to play with his cup.
"Where's Max?" He asked.
"He's outside talking to Russ. They're making arrangements to get him to DC as soon as possible."
"What about Hodgins and Angela? What about Sweets?"
"Hodgins called and said they're on their way. Angela has the day off to stay here today, and Hodgins will be staying this afternoon. Sweets told me before he left this morning, that he would be in as soon as he could, and that he'll sit with you tonight." She touched his arm, "Booth, we are going to get through this. You need to let us help you. I'm right here. Go on; go and take a shower and get out of those clothes."
"You don't understand." Booth placed his coffee cup on the bedside table and pushed the bag out from under the chair with his feet. He grabbed it roughly with one hand and shuffled towards the small bathroom.
Cam stared at his back, until he disappeared behind the bathroom door. She had no idea what to do.
Once Booth had locked the door, he leaned back against it and let the bag fall from his grasp. Even being separated from Bones by a door felt wrong. He owed it to her to be there with her. With that thought in mind, Booth pushed off the door, kicked off his shoes, and walked to the tub to turn the taps. His hands found the buttons on his shirt, and he proceeded to undo each one while looking straight ahead. After the last button, he shrugged himself out of the shirt, bunched it, and laid it carefully on the small vanity, careful not to touch any of the stained parts. He didn't deserve to touch any part of her. He unbuttoned his pants and let them pool at his feet. The socks were last to come off, and he avoided looking at them as well. Booth grabbed the duffel, and pulled out a plastic bag, which he folded and tied clumsily around his shoulder, knotted it under his arm pit, and ignored the sharp stabs of pain. The voice in his head told him he deserved it and should therefore just suck it up. He was responsible for putting his partner in her current condition, and he couldn't handle a flesh wound?
Booth stepped into the tub and let the water from the shower head spray onto his face. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed the images to go away. If he was honest with himself, he wanted the last year to go away. He wanted to wake up and for everything that had happened to have been a dream. He had never listened to Sweets and rushed Bones; they hadn't run from each other; he hadn't jumped into bed with a woman he barely knew - in a warzone; he hadn't pushed Bones away upon their return; he hadn't failed to notice her and everything she brought to his life; he hadn't jumped at the first opportunity to prove to her that she wasn't anything special or worth waiting for when another woman had shown him how willing she was to be with him; he hadn't consoled his wounded pride with lust, and a need to prove that he could have anyone he wanted; he hadn't ignored his best friend's loneliness; he hadn't blamed her for failing to move on; he hadn't told her that he didn't need her.
This however, was a nightmare he wasn't going to wake up from; he was living it. Booth turned the tap and increased the temperature to the point where the hot water was scalding his skin. His chest and feet were turning pink. He grabbed the small bar of soap sitting at the edge of the tub and began to scrub at his skin. He was unclean and tainted. He wanted to erase the other woman from his life, from his body, from his mind. That same woman shared responsibility for what had happened to the woman hooked up to machines in the next room. That woman had touched him everywhere, with her dirty, murderous hands; had looked at him adoringly with her deceitful gaze; had whispered sweet nothings with her manipulative mouth.
Booth's skin was burning from his aggressive, panicked fingers scrubbing at his skin, and the scorching water. His eyes were stinging with tears, and he let out a sob as images of Brennan's face flashed before him. A few tears escaped and mingled with harsh spray on his face, as he remembered, really remembered the brief flash of pain in her eyes when he had told her that he had fallen in love in Afghanistan. He scrubbed his left arm harder as he realised how hard she had tried to hide her pain every time she had seen him and Hannah together: kissing, laughing, going on dates, having fun. He scrubbed his right arm as he thought about the night he had received a Bakelite phone as a house warming gift, had kissed his girlfriend and conveniently forgotten to acknowledge the woman the gift had been from. He reached around and scrubbed his back as he thought back to the time his girlfriend had been in hospital, and how his partner had tried to reassure and assist them as best she could.
Booth sobbed harder, trying to stifle the sound so that Cam wouldn't be able to hear anything but the sound of the water. How he hated himself for not wanting to notice every way in which Brennan had shown her love, especially when she had tried so hard to be happy for him while watching from the sidelines as he 'loved' another woman. He didn't deserve that sort of pure, unconditional devotion from her, not when he had gone out of his way to close himself off to her feelings and her barely masked pain. So much for him preaching about love, and what it entailed. Sure, he had given Bones the facts, but she had shown him real love in all its painful glory.
Booth rested his forehead and his hands against the tile. It was becoming more and more difficult to contain the shuddering sobs racking his body. He tried to banish the memory of every nasty and uncaring thought he'd had towards Bones since she had refused to accept his gamble, but they were behaving like a vindictive monster, roaring to the forefront of his mind. The memory of comparing her 'missing links' to the supposed perfection of a woman he'd only known mere months – with Caroline Julian of all people – made his stomach churn. No wonder Bones felt like she was invisible. She had felt at the time that the people in her life only needed her as an anthropologist, not a person.
Every little thing she had said or done over the past few months was crashing down on him. Her sadness and loneliness washed over him in endless, painful splashes of burning water. As he turned from the wall, his gaze caught sight of the blood stained shirt on the vanity, through the small gap in the shower curtain. It was as if wearing that shirt, covered in her blood had provided numb comfort these last few hours. Now, he had nothing of hers to cling to in order to keep him sane, and to protect him from his own anguish, from the truth. Not only was he responsible for what the other woman had done to Bones, he himself had physically shot his partner. His own hands had contributed to her current condition and a bullet from his own gun had torn her flesh and caused her to bleed. He had made his own physical mark on her perfect skin. His mind was trying to tell him that he hadn't shot her intentionally; that he had been trying to help to get them out of that situation, but all of that reasoning was clouded by the sound of her gasp, and the look in her eyes as she had fallen to her knees. He might never be able to use a gun again without seeing that image of her in his mind.
Booth turned the taps, shutting off the water. He looked down at his reddened, irritated skin, and felt revolted. The shower hadn't helped him to feel clean at all. If anything, he felt more disgusted than ever, and glad that his tainted skin was no longer enveloped in the shirt soaked in her blood and her scent. He didn't deserve any part of the woman who loved him, especially the heart she had given to him –and only him – so carefully, only to have it crushed and thrown back at her so carelessly.
He took a deep breath, grabbing the white towel from the rack adjacent to the tub. He was never going to move past this. Nothing would ever be the same: his life, her life, their partnership, their relationship. The thought of even looking into her eyes, of touching her, of hearing her laugh – if she was able to ever laugh again – made him sick. All of those things which he had taken for granted were now out of his reach. His own actions had led him to lose Bones and any chance they may have had of a happy life together.
Booth wiped the last of his tears with the towel and dried himself. He removed the plastic knotted around his shoulder and threw it in the bin next to the toilet. He dressed himself without much thought, picked up his clothes and the bloodied shirt, shoved them into the bag, and opened the door.
The fist around his heart tightened painfully at the sight of the woman in the bed. For a second he felt as though his knees were going to buckle from the force of his emotions combined with affects of the long, overly hot shower, and the remnants of his concussion. He managed to steady himself however, and looked at the two other people sitting in the chairs next the bed. Cam had left, and the shift had changed.
Angela didn't look up at him. The only sign of her acknowledging his presence came from the rather aggressive stroke she made on her sketch pad upon his entrance into the room. The occupant of the chair next to her however, pierced him with his gaze. Max Keenan hadn't spoken a word to him since he had arrived at the hospital the evening before. He had spoken to Cam about Brennan's condition, but apart from that, the three of them had sat in tense silence after the others had left. Booth met his gaze for a few seconds before looking away. What was he supposed to say? "I'm sorry I almost got your daughter killed because I was too distracted to know better?" That would certainly help - to get him killed, tied to a pole, gutted, and burned. Nobody hurt Max Keenan's daughter without suffering the consequences.
Booth grabbed a chair and placed it on the other side of the bed, away from the other two, and facing the door so that he wouldn't have to look at anybody, especially Bones. He leaned into the chair – his back protesting painfully – and stared at the ceiling. He wanted so badly just to stroke the delicate, pale hand he knew was lying limply only inches away from him, but he felt too guilty, too unworthy, and had a feeling that Max Keenan would tell him to keep his filthy hands off his daughter. So he didn't dare disrupt the tense silence amidst the steady beeping of the heart monitor and the horrible sound of the intubation machine. Instead, he pleaded with God to help his Bones, and he pleaded with Bones to come back to them soon.
More than thirty six hours later Brennan had been cleared of the risk of developing an infection from the transfusion; however, she continued to rely on the intubation.
Russ had flown from North Carolina to be with his sister and their father. Hodgins and Booth had excused themselves to give the family some privacy. Hodgins went outside to call Angela with an update on Brennan's condition, while Booth walked to the payphone near the gift shop on the ground floor, and dialed Rebecca's number. His only consolation for being away from Bones was, of course, Parker. He had called Rebecca the first night and told her that he and Brennan had been hurt on the job, and that he wasn't in any state –physically or emotionally – to see his son the coming weekend. Rebecca had understood, She was very sincere in her concern for Bones, and had promised Booth that he could talk to Parker anytime he liked. He spoke briefly to Rebecca, and waited while she handed the phone to Parker.
Booth smiled his first genuine smile in…he didn't know how long.
"Hey Bub. How's it going?"
"Ok Dad. Mom said that you and Bones got hurt. Are you OK Dad? Is Bones OK?"
Booth paused, thinking about the best way to explain the situation to his nine-year old son.
"I'm okay Bub, I promise. Bones...she uh...she's going to be ok too, but it might take her a bit longer to get better."
"Oh, OK. Well tell Bones I hope she gets better really quickly. Then we can get milkshakes together, and go bowling like we used to. That was fun."
Booth felt his throat tighten as he remembered that Bones and Parker had barely seen each other since they had returned from their time away. Prior to that, since Bones had agreed to be his village, they had spent numerous happy times together. In his haste to change his life Booth had somehow forgotten how much excluding Bones from his personal life would impact his son. Theirs had been, after all, the most stable relationship his son had seen him in with any woman. Bones had asked about Parker regularly. He had taken that more as politeness and fondness for his son, rather than the fact that she missed him, and missed the moments the three of them shared together. He had known of Parker and Brennan's correspondence while she was in Maluku, but he had avoided reading too much into it, since he had been angry at her lack of communication with him.
"Are you there Dad?"
"Yeah Bub, I'll tell her you're thinking of her."
"And that we can get milkshakes when she gets better?"
"That too", Booth said quietly, He wasn't going to tell his son that there was a possibility that Bones might never get better; not when he himself refused to believe it.
"Cool. I can't wait to show her my ant farm, and thank her for the Science Kit. It's awesome!"
"You can tell her all about it soon Bub."
"I have to go wash up for dinner now Dad. I love you. I hope you feel better. Give Bones a hug from me. Mom says hugs make everyone feel better. Bye Dad."
"Bye Bub. I love you, and I'll be seeing you really soon okay?"
"OK Dad. Bye."
Booth replaced the receiver in the phone box. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he walked aimlessly out the sliding doors and into the chilly D.C. air. It was Friday night, and the people he passed were talking happily of their weekend plans, or making their way from work to Friday night drinks. The painful conversation with his son played over in his mind as he walked. After returning to D.C. he had completely cut Bones off from their village; tried to burn all bridges. He realised now that he had been concentrating so hard on Brennan's replacement, that he had been blind to how it was affecting the two most important people in his world.
Booth stopped abruptly and realised he had come to the end of the block. He turned to walk back to the hospital, but not before he noticed the small florist on the corner. He went inside the tiny shop and looked around at the numerous flowers. There were bouquets, big and small, baskets, boxes, and pots, all of them filled with single or mixed arrangements. Booth's eyes scanned for the one and only flower that he wanted.
"Can I help you my dear?"
A short, plump woman with a kind face, and bright green eyes emerged from behind the counter, and came to stand next to him.
"I uh...I'm looking for daffodils..."
The woman's face brightened, and she disappeared behind a row of pots. Booth followed, and found himself standing before a bucket of beautiful long stemmed daffodils.
"How many would you like dear?" the woman asked kindly.
"Just...just...the one." He picked out the biggest, most vibrant daffodil of the bunch and touched its petals tenderly. Even though it felt silly, Booth felt that perhaps, by putting the daffodil in Brennan's room, next to her bed, it would provide as a light in her darkness, and bring her back to him, to her family. He also wanted to somehow tell her that he was here, waiting for her.
"Oh." The woman considered him with her piercing green eyes. "You know, giving a daffodil can mean many things. It can mean rebirth, new beginnings, unrequited love, chivalry, and eternal life. Giving a daffodil also says to someone, 'You're the only one.' I'm thinking that you're planning on giving this daffodil to the woman you love, right?"
Booth's eyes darkened and he swallowed the lump in his throat. "Daffodils are her favourite flower. She's...not doing so well."
The woman touched his arm. "I'm sorry to hear that son. I'm sure she will pull through, especially with you by her side. I'm sure she knows how much you love her."
She had no idea how much her words had cut through him. He forced a smile and grabbed his wallet from his back pocket to pay for the flower. He was so on edge that a few kind words from a stranger had him threatening to fall apart right there in front of her.
"Thanks, and keep the change." He smiled at her, as sincerely as he could, and hurried out of the store into the cold evening.
He reached her room and found Russ and Max talking quietly at her bedside. Without hesitating, he walked over to the table where several flower arrangements had been placed, and slipped the daffodil behind a bouquet of purple and blue flowers he did not know the name of. His intention wasn't to hide the daffodil, it was only to keep what was between them, theirs. He didn't look at the two other men in the room as he resumed his seat on the other side of her bed.
At around 11:00pm, Booth was awoken by someone gently shaking his shoulder. He looked blearily up at Russ.
"Dad's going to get coffee, and I just need to call Amy back. Emma's had a bad dream and won't go back to sleep until I talk to her. Can you keep an eye on things? I think Lance is too far gone." He gestured to Sweets sleeping awkwardly in the chair with his mouth hanging open.
"Yeah okay," Booth replied, suddenly wide awake and feeling guilty for having dozed off.
He gazed at Bones, and thought again about just picking up her hand, and warming it tenderly with his own. Again he decided against it.
He sat staring at her hand for several seconds, when it happened. The beeping of the heart monitor became irregular for about three seconds, and then went back to normal. Booth's stomach was in knots, as he held his breath. Thirty seconds later, it happened again, then fifteen seconds later. Then he saw it, and forgot to breathe: her limp, delicate hand was moving on the blankets, so slowly and gently, that he could have almost missed it. His eyes flew to her face, and he almost cried from happiness, as he saw her eyelids move. Forgetting his prior hesitation, he carefully picked up her hand and whispered her name. Her hand moved in his, and he stroked it gently and soothingly with his thumb. Booth leaned towards her face, ignoring the mask, and focused on her eyes. "Come on Bones. You're almost there."
Her eyelids fluttered and slowly, almost gingerly, she opened her eyes a little, and peered through her long dark eyelashes. Her gaze found his. Booth's breathing had become uneven as he stared. He felt his heart clench as she allowed her eyes to open fully and focus on his face. He let out a ragged breath as he stood and reached over her carefully to press the call button, taking his eyes off her face for a mere few seconds. When he focused on her again, she was looking at him intently, and he saw recognition, familiarity, and something else in her eyes. His own eyes filled with tears as he recognised what he had failed to recognise so many times before, but could not deny any longer. She continued to stare at him for a few more moments, until she started to blink sleepily. A few seconds later, she had fallen asleep, but he knew in his gut that she really was awake, and out of immediate danger. He placed a tiny kiss on her knuckles and laid her hand tenderly back onto the blankets. His own body was slightly trembling at what had happened.
The nurse rushed in, took one look at the heart monitor, and the intubation, and ran back out to summon the doctor. When the night doctor arrived, Booth was ordered to wake Sweets and wait outside. He shook the younger man roughly awake and practically dragged him from the room. He wasn't going to take any risks by distracting the medical staff or lose time fighting with them in case it did anything to hamper the huge strides Bones had made.
Max and Russ joined them outside the room a few minutes later, demanding to know what was happening, as did a very bewildered and slightly guilty looking Sweets. Booth looked directly at Max.
"She woke up, for about two minutes, and fell asleep after that. Her heart rate continued to be irregular at intervals."
"What did the doctor say?" Max asked.
"She just ordered me out. But I overheard her telling the nurse that Bones was trying to breathe on her own."
Relief washed over Max, and the two other men standing with them in the hallway.
As they waited outside the room for the doctor and nurse to finish, Booth's stomach was in knots from what he had witnessed earlier. He tried to convince himself that she had no idea what was going on, and that she had simply recognised him. The memories would hit her once she was fully awake and able to comprehend her condition better.
Yet, as they waited, no matter how many excuses he made, he couldn't shake what he felt in his heart. What he seen in her eyes, what he now recognised was undeniable, unmistakable love. Love he did not deserve to be the recipient of. Even after everything that had happened between them, she had been glad that he was there; she wanted him there. Then why did he feel like he'd been kicked in the gut? Maybe because he would have preferred that she hate him; push him away, look at him with nothing but loathing, because that is what he deserved. She had no right to need, or trust in such a tainted man. He would never be good enough for her; he never was.
The door to her room opened, interrupting his thoughts. Every man in the hallway stood a little straighter as they waited for the doctor to speak.
"Dr Brennan is now breathing on her own. We've removed the intubation, but her condition is still critical, so we'll continue to monitor her breathing pattern and her heart rate very closely."
"Is she awake?" Max asked, his fists clenched at his sides; the coffee he had brought was sitting on the floor, long forgotten.
The doctor smiled kindly. "She's awake, but she's very drowsy. She won't be very responsive for a few hours at least. Don't panic if she falls asleep. It's very important that she regain her strength now, so that she can continue with the rest of her recovery at a steady pace."
Russ grabbed the doctor's hands briefly and whispered "Thank you."
"You're welcome." She offered a sympathetic smile and walked away quietly.
The four of them looked at each other, before Max stepped forward and opened the door. He and Russ walked in and stationed themselves either side of the bed. Russ lowered himself into a chair and gently cradled Brennan's hand in both of his, while Max leaned over and ran his hand gently along her forehead, before dropping a kiss above her brow. Booth and Sweets watched from the doorway as Brennan blinked at them sleepily. Booth didn't have the will power to go back into the room. He couldn't risk looking into her eyes and seeing everything he had refused to see for so long. He wouldn't be able to handle it; he would fall apart, right there in front of her father, her brother, his shrink, and Bones. He gazed longingly at her face for a few more seconds, before pushing off the door frame, and turning on his heel.
"Booth?" Sweets followed him down the hallway towards the elevator. Booth didn't respond; he kept walking, his shoulders hunched, and his feet dragging. He jabbed the down button for the elevator, refusing to look at Sweets. The last thing he needed was for the kid to see his turmoil rising to the surface, and on the verge of boiling over.
"Booth, aren't you going to go in?"
"No. She's awake; she's going to be ok. She has Max and Russ."
"She'd want you there too."
"No. She doesn't need me."
Sweet's eyes widened. He didn't know whether to feel sorry for the man before him, or to shake him for being so obtuse. "Of course she needs you. You were the first-"
"No. Enough." Booth cut him off just as the elevator doors opened. Booth walked in and jabbed the button for the lobby. "Call everyone else and tell them she's awake." He barked with his back still to Sweets. The elevator doors slid shut, before Sweets could answer.
Once downstairs, Booth called Jared from a payphone and briefly explained what had happened before asking him if it would be okay with Padme if he stayed with them to clear his head, and decide what he was going to do next. Jared, who had sounded half asleep, became very alert at the news, and immediately offered to come and get his brother from the hospital, but Booth declined, told him he'd get a cab and see him in about twenty minutes.
He got into the first cab, and gave the driver Jared's address. He had declined the offer from Hodgins to stay at the estate, even when offered Zack's old place. He knew that the offer was sincere, but that sort of kindness seemed too much. He also knew accepting wouldn't be a good idea, especially since Angela refused to look at him. Another plus to staying with Jared would be that he would feel less scrutinised; the Squints knew him too well, and right now, he didn't need to be under constant observation.
Booth sighed and rubbed his temples. He would take a shower, catch a few hours sleep, and then go into work. The FBI techs were still holding his phone to test for listening devices, and the SUV had been taken in as well. His apartment was still a crime scene. He would need to find a new place. There wasn't a chance in hell he would be able to go back there and call it his home. He did, however, need to pack his things and arrange for them to be moved once he found somewhere to live.
Booth looked out the window. The thought of going back to that place had his stomach in knots. He would ask Jared to go with him; there was no way he would be able to do it alone.
Thank you very much for reading! I know there doesn't seem to be a resolution in sight. However, to be completely honest, with everything that has happened between B&B (in the show, and this story) I prefer that things aren't rushed, because there is SO much for them to work through.
As always, I love to read reviews!