The Salt on Her Skin
This is just a little holiday fanfic I wrote at the beach. The title is a cliché, I know, but my boyfriend suggested „The Fish Bone in Bones" and that would have been even worse.
Wave over wave of the Atlantic Ocean crashed against the rocks, and Temperance Brennan wondered for the hundredth time how she did end up here. Methodically she applied sunscreen on her milky white skin and noticed with a disapproving frown on her face that her shoulders already possessed an unpleasant crimson shade. A seagull circled the flawless blue sky, its cries swallowed by swooshing of the ocean, its shadow darkening Brennan's bare stomach for a brief moment. She turned to her best friend who was lying next to her on the blanket – tanned, smiling and completely in her element, beaming like the sun itself.
"Ange, please tell me again why this was necessary, and what we're doing here in no-man's-land."
"Sweetie, this is hardly no-man's-land, this is Portugal. We're here because I have this sexy, rich husband with estate all over the world and because we all need some time together after a whole year apart. Booth needs time with Parker, you need time with Booth, and I need time with you. Don't act as if I've abducted you; this is a vacation, not a punishment."
Brennan could hardly hear her friend's words because of the rolling thunder the mighty waves created. The rhythm was overwhelming and steady as Mother Nature demonstrated her powers. In the distance some surfers were riding the waves, and Brennan spotted an old fisherman on the rutted surface of the rocks, poking the water with a long stick. It was peaceful, she had to admit. Peace born out of the recognition that a human being was ridiculously small compared to the force of the sea. When she turned her head to the other side she could see two distant figures with a colorful kite sailing in the air above them. Her partner and his kid.
It's been a month since they had met at the reflecting pool in Washington D.C. Their reunion had been heartfelt and awkward at the same time. They had hugged, but only briefly, because the second Booth's strong arms had been around her, Brennan had felt as if she could never let him go again – and therefore she had released him immediately. They had found their way back to the old routine with little effort, but a shadow of the awkwardness had remained. It kept lingering between them like a hunter, waiting patiently for the right moment to surprise its prey, and every time Booth touched her – placing his hand on the small of her back, standing too close in her personal space – the predator made its move and evoked stirrings in her body she had never felt before...
A child's laughter brought her back to reality, and Brennan saw Parker Booth running towards her. The Southern sun had already lightened his curly hair, and the little face was beaming at her.
"Bones, look at my kite! It's awesome, it almost blows Daddy away! You have to try it."
"Parker, I'm currently not in the mood to be blown away."
'By your father,' her mind added, but Angela knew no mercy.
"Brennan, don't be such a fun killer, humor the child."
The artist waved her hand in a way that made it clear she tolerated no objection in the matter. With a sigh Brennan lifted herself from the blanket and knotted a fluffy scarf around her hips.
"I obey the force of democracy then," she stated in mock dignity and sashayed into her partner's direction.
Parker giggled and plopped onto the blanket next to the woman, swirling up an unpleasant amount of sand in the process.
"Bones is so funny."
Watching Brennan's retreating form, the kid addressed Angela in serious tone, "They like each other a lot, don't they?"
"Yes, Parks, they do."
"How come they never kiss then? Is something wrong with them?"
Angela sighed. "They're just careful."
That obviously made no sense to the child, and so she searched for a better way to explain what she could hardly understand herself – hell, the whole Jeffersonian and about half of the FBI wondered about the two partners' relationship.
"Remember when you started playing hockey?" The child nodded enthusiastically, eager to follow her explanation. "Were you afraid to set foot on the ice?"
"No," came the indignant reply.
"Okay, but maybe some of your friends were, and they needed more time for the first step than you?"
Parker nodded slowly. "Jacob didn't want to go in the beginning."
"You see, Parker, your Dad and Brennan are just like your friend, afraid to step onto the ice."
"But there's really no ice."
"I know, but for some people a kiss seems just as dangerous and slippery. They're afraid to lose balance, to fall and to end up hurt."
Parker thought hard. "But one day they won't be afraid anymore, right?"
'I hope so,' Angela wanted to say, but then a mischievous grin split her face. "Parker, why don't you ask Brennan? Maybe she can answer your question."
Meanwhile Temperance Brennan had reached her partner. Booth was clad in green bathing trunks and seemed to struggle with the kite in the strong wind. Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, Brennan allowed herself to admire his bare chest, the shimmering bronze in the direct sun. She had always found him pleasing to look at, but normally his personal assets were hidden underneath a suit or – if she was lucky enough – jeans and a shirt. 'Seeing him in nothing more than his beach outfit gives "pleasing" a whole new meaning,' she thought.
"Hi, Booth, Parker insisted I should take part in the fun, but, to be honest," she glanced at the kite, "this doesn't really look like fun."
"Bones, I'm glad you're here. This thing is killing me. Don't say a word to my kid, but my arms are already numb. I almost believe that monster has a will of its own. Could you take over for a while? Please?" He gave her his charming smile, and she couldn't resist.
"Fine, but only temporarily. Or should I bring it down for you? Then it won't be your fault, and you could still be Parker's hero. I suppose this would be a lie in the same category as the Santa story, right?"
"Yeah, that would be very helpful, thanks."
Booth handed her the strings, and she wound them around her wrist carefully. The minute the kite was hers to control, it needed her full attention, and so she missed Booth's eyes roaming over her body. She was so gorgeous in her bright blue bikini, and the black scarf around her hips allowed him a view of her slender thighs. An anklet on her left foot completed the holiday look – not that she wore it voluntarily, Booth remembered with a smirk. Parker had bought it for her in a little souvenir shop on their first day here, and she hadn't been able to reject the child's gift. The strong wind had disheveled her hair, and Booth had to smile at the concentration written all over her face. Then his eyes fell to her shoulders, noticing their reddened tone.
"Bones, you should take better care of your skin, you're burning."
"You have an outstanding talent to state the obvious, Booth," Brennan answered a little breathlessly, because a particularly strong squall chose that moment to tug at the kite. A cry of surprise left her mouth when it actually lifted her a few inches from the warm sand. Within a heartbeat Booth was behind her and wrapped his arms securely around her waist.
"I've got you."
The contact with his body excited and unsettled her at the same time, but the strong wind provided a good excuse to stay close for the moment. 'This is a pragmatic embrace,' she calmed herself as she continued her fight with the kite. Suddenly she felt Booths lips on her tender shoulder, followed by the soothing cold as he softly blew over her red skin, and every thought of pragmatism left her mind.
Booth cleared his throat. "Did you use sunscreen?"
If his proximity hadn't overwhelmed her so much, she would have rolled her eyes at his question, but given the circumstances, she simply nodded. Booth traced her shoulder gently with his fingertip.
"Your skin is too pale for this kind of sun, you're not used to it."
'You're not used to many things,' he added silently as he thought of their reunion a month ago. Sadly most of it was the good stuff. Booth knew that Brennan wouldn't have accepted this closeness if it weren't for maintaining her standing position, but right now he couldn't care less and simply enjoyed holding her. Her skin was so soft where his hands rested on her belly, and he could encircle her slender waist effortlessly. She smelled like sunscreen, summer and the ocean, her windswept curls tickling his face. Another gust tried to carry her away, and for a brief but scary moment he lost his balance.
"Bones, maybe it would be a great idea to bring down that kite before they have to send a helicopter for us," he joked.
"Easier said than done, Booth, the uplift your kite is getting from the sea is quite powerful," she grumbled.
Booth eyes fell to her wrists. The strings were already cutting into her flesh, and he decided to help her with the kite. One of his palms closed around her little hand – the gentle pressure creating stirrings in her belly – and they tugged in unison. After some more struggle the colorful thing landed unceremoniously in front of their feet. Brennan exhaled in relief, but before she could step away from her partner she heard Parker's cry.
"Oh no, Bones, you crashed it!"
Although the little boy was visibly upset, it couldn't ruin Booths blithe mood and he teased, "Yeah, seems as if our Bones here is a little bit clumsy with kites."
Brennan gave her smug partner a lethal glance.
"Sorry, Parker, the wind was quite strong, and your father distracted me."
"Then it's both your fault, and you have to buy me ice cream to make up for it," the boy stated with a child's logic. Booth smiled inwardly and decided to let his son have this one.
"You two go, I'll collect the kite. Then we'll fetch some ice cream, Buddy."
The prospect of ice cream conciliated the child immediately, and he grabbed Brennan's hand. Booth couldn't suppress a chuckle as he overheard Parker's last words.
"Your shoulders are awfully red, Bones. Wanna borrow my sunscreen?"
The estate Hodgins owned in the little fishing village was a beautiful white house with azure blue window frames. It stood secluded on a cliff high above the ocean, offering its residents a beautiful view of the sea. When Temperance Brennan stepped onto her balcony the next morning, a heavy layer of mist soared out of the waves, and the air was enriched with a pure, salty scent. Her chest swelled as she inhaled a deep breath, and she felt painful tension where the straps of her silky white night gown covered her sunburned skin. Immediately the memory of Booth's lips on her shoulder came back. It had felt nice, she had to admit – the kiss and his care.
As if he had picked up on her musings, Booth emerged on the balcony adjoining hers, a mug of steamy coffee in his hands. He was already dressed for the day, and she greeted him with heavy-lidded eyes and a lazy smile. Tousled dark hair framed her dozy face, and her cheeks had a touch of pink – from sleep or the sun, he couldn't tell, but, truth be told, he didn't really care because one way or the other, it was all the same. She was beautiful. 'A beauty that takes your breath away; that makes you want to fall on your knees and whine,' he thought.
"Parker awake at 6 am again?"
"Nah, he knew mercy. This time it was seven," he smiled, trying to regain his composure. "You already had coffee?"
Brennan shook her head. "No, just woke up."
"Wanna share, then?"
Booth padded into her direction and pointed at his mug. Sharing a coffee implied a certain intimacy, but Brennan accepted her partner's offer thankfully and took a first greedy sip. Noticing that the coffee was prepared rather for her liking than his own, she arched an eyebrow at him. Booth shrugged his shoulders innocently, and silence settled over them, as the mug wandered back and forth between the two of them.
"Where is everybody?" she finally asked.
"Angela and Hodgins are at the fish market. They took Parker with them."
The local fish market was a nice place; they all had visited it yesterday. Temperance Brennan generally refused to eat meat for the animals' sake, but she could accept the concept of eating a sea bream a local fisher had caught in the morning with his little boat. Traditional fishermen were – anthropologically speaking – kind of a dying species, and she hated the thought that one day the colorful boats could disappear from the surface of the ocean forever. Booth interrupted her musings.
"Do you wanna spend some time with me? Hang out?"
She took another sip of their coffee before handing the mug back to him.
"Sure, but I'd prefer it if we didn't actually hang anywhere."
He chuckled. "It's just a phrase, Bones, don't take it too literally. How about we go to the beach again?"
"Yes, why not." The moment the words left her mouth she remembered the reason why and tilted her head to examine the sunburn. "I think I should cover my shoulders this time."
Booth's eyes fell to the reddened skin; under the white fabric of her gown it almost glowed. He grimaced in empathetic pain.
"Ouch. Do you have a soothing lotion? Rebecca gave me one for Parker, just in case."
She shook her head. "No, I don't have any, but it might be wise to apply some."
"Hang on a second, I'll fetch it."
Booth disappeared only to come back a moment later with a small bottle in his hand. He surprised her when he didn't give it to her but simply said, "Turn around."
Brennan protested. "Booth, I'm perfectly capable of-"
"Your neck is red as well. You might not reach all of it. Now, please, turn around."
She gnawed at her lower lip, her face full of hesitation, but finally she obeyed.
Booth squeezed some lotion into his palm and let his body heat warm it before he gently reached for her neck. Her skin tingled at the contact, and Brennan blamed it on the sunburn. Kneading the lotion into her flesh, he made an effort not to mess her hair – maybe he enjoyed the feeling of her warm skin under his fingers just a tad too much – and to keep his touches light not to hurt her.
Her shoulders were in desperate need for some lotion as well, and Brennan gasped in surprise when Booth unexpectedly lowered the straps of her gown. The flimsy fabric slid down her upper arms, revealing a great deal of her bare back in the process. Hastily she crossed her arms to hold it in place over her chest.
Booth couldn't see her blushing, but when she bowed her head he sensed her sudden shyness and his heart melted for her.
"Sorry, Bones," Booth murmured, "didn't want to ruin it with the greasy stuff."
He took some more of the balm, caressed her shoulders with his slippery palms – all for the purpose of applying the alleviating fluid – and seemed unable to find an end.
'Never before had a sunburn been treated more carefully,' Brennan thought, but this time she didn't mind and allowed herself to relax under his touch – it simply felt too good. When it was impossible that an inch of red skin had been unaccounted for, Booth completely enveloped her in his arms and ruined his former pretext as his greasy fingers came to a halt on the silky fabric that covered the almost non-existing curve of her belly. To his surprise and relief she didn't protest, and so Booth pulled her just a little bit closer until his chin rested on her shoulder.
"The view is beautiful this morning," he whispered into her ear.
"Yes," she agreed in a low voice, "the ocean is so powerful and calming at the same time."
Booth finally released her with a last but gentle squeeze and turned back to his own balcony door. Before he disappeared, he stopped one more time, and she almost missed his whispered comment.
"The ocean is beautiful as well, Temperance."
She felt goose bumps on her skin as she thought about the view he had probably meant...
Half an hour later, they were both in their beach outfits and descended the old stairs which were hewn into the rocks. At this time of the morning the beach was almost empty, and they chose a place in front of a big rock, just a few feet away from the rolling waves. Booth had his trunks on combined with a light white cotton shirt, and Brennan hid most of her sensitive skin under a pale yellow dress. Her hair was a mess the second they reached the beach, and she fought a lost battle with the unruly strands. Booth watched her in amusement; apparently fixing a ponytail wasn't one of her strongest suits, but finally her attempts were successful. She rummaged around in her bag until she found her book.
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all." He winked at her. "I'll test the waters."
Booth jumped to his feet with vigor, got rid of his shirt and ran into the cold surges. Brennan watched him with mild confusion, unsure if that was really a phrase with a literal meaning or just his way of teasing her. He laughed with childlike joy as a particularly strong wave knocked him down, and she had to smile involuntarily. Although her book promised to be very educational, she couldn't focus her attention on the text. Every few seconds her eyes flickered to Booth until she finally gave up the pretense of reading and just watched him. His chest was tanned, and his strong arms divided the ocean gracefully. From time to time a big wave crashed over his head and water drops glistened in his hair. 'He looks like a force of nature himself,' Brennan thought, feeling an ache deep inside of her stomach.
As soon as Booth noticed that she was watching, he made a gesture for her to join him. He looked so carefree, and her heart ached a little bit. A month ago he had come back with haunted eyes, and she really wanted him to be happy again. If she hadn't been such a coward, she could be his reason for happiness right now – at least if she were to believe Angela who had told her repeatedly that she, Brennan, could be this woman for him, simply because he wanted her. 'Had wanted her,' she corrected herself. A year apart from him had been very hard; Brennan had missed Booth more that she could have imagined and she had found cracks in the walls she had built so long ago to protect her feelings.
He was calling her name now and repeating his former gesture with a playful impatience. She really didn't want to get wet, but his mood was somehow contagious, so she stripped out of her dress and padded to the waterline. Her toe experimentally dipped into the foam, and she squealed.
"No way, Booth, it's freezing cold."
Booth smirked as he watched her shivering body and approached her carefully. Her eyes were closed, and when she sensed his intentions, it was too late. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her into the water in one fluid motion.
"No, Booth, let me go!"
Immediately he lowered her body to the surface of the water, and she protested again.
"No! I correct my former demand, bring me back to the beach."
Booth looked at his partner, squirming in his arms.
"No. This is the first time in a month that you cannot run away. It's me or the cold water."
Her face fell.
"Booth... I didn't run away from you."
"Hell you did, you didn't even hug me properly when we met again. I've missed you, Temperance, and you just went back to normal."
Her heart skipped a beat at his words, and she tried to calm her face as myriads of emotions rushed through her insides. Booth sensed her discomfort and although he really hated her distanced professionalism, he didn't want to push her. At least not too hard.
"You don't wanna talk? Fine, but you need to be punished then," and without further warning he dove into the sea, taking her with him. The water was cold, really cold, and Brennan clang to Booth's warm body for dear life. When they finally surfaced again, she gasped for air.
"You are so dead."
Booth looked at his partner, water drops dripping from her hair, and he erupted in laughter – the fact that she still refused to let go of his body made her threat seem less dangerous. Brennan was face to face with Booth's chest now, still quaking with laughter, and she couldn't help to admire his structure as the salty water pearled down to his flat stomach. She had always enjoyed her partner's looks, but never before had she been this close to his naked, wet body. Booth was still chuckling, and she wanted revenge, so she placed her hands on his chest and surprised him with a quick kiss on the cheek before she pushed him with all her weight. He lost his balance, but she hadn't counted on him taking her down with him again, and one more time she found herself pressed to him under the water.
And even though it was still cold, Temperance Brennan suddenly felt as if she was playing with fire.
Seeley Booth had been in a state of constant awe since their little group had arrived in Portugal. He had missed his partner during their year apart, but he had almost missed her more in the last month, and part of his happy mood was just bogus. He was no fool, he had noticed the way she looked at him from time to time and he had felt her tremble during the brief moment she had allowed him to hold her at the reflecting pool. He had been a gambler and therefore he knew it was a safe bet to say she had feelings for him – but he wasn't sure if she could ever give in and act on them.
The first time he had seen her in a bikini he had almost lost his breath, but seeing her in cute little summer dresses with sand on her bare feet was even better. Booth wanted easy moments full of sun and happiness for his Bones, and he wanted to give her those moments. So he waited patiently for her to finally find a way to him because despite all his words about moving on, he had realized one thing during the last year: He needed her. More than anything or anyone he had ever needed before.
By the time they made it back to the house, their friends had already arrived, and Parker had a story about a huge sword fish to share. Brennan only listened halfheartedly to the babbling child because one part of her mind was still underwater with Booth. Again, she had been unwilling to let him go, but for the first time she asked herself if this really was that bad or if – maybe – the logical answer to her problems could be to simply stay in his arms.
The day had been perfect, and when Temperance Brennan retreated to her room that night, she felt deep peace. She entered her balcony with a glass of wine in her hand, and although it was too dark to see the ocean, she could still hear and taste its mighty presence. She wasn't surprised when another balcony door opened, and soon she could sense him next to her.
"Would you like some wine?"
Booth took the glass from her hand, sipped carefully and finally shook his head.
"It's great, thanks, but I'm afraid I'm quite full after that meal. Enjoy, though."
He handed the glass back to her, and his fingers brushed hers. His body heat warmed more than only her phalanges, and the brief contact sent shivers down her spine. The two of them stood in comfortable silence for a while until Brennan finally spoke.
"You were right, Booth, I did run. I... I really wanted to hug you very much at the reflecting pool, believe me."
"It's okay, Bones, just – please, don't shut me out. When you don't hug me because you simply don't want to, it's fine, but when you don't do it because you want it too much – that's bullshit neither of us should deal with."
She considered his words thoroughly, took a sip of her wine and nodded slowly.
"Is there a way I could make it up to you?"
Booth regarded her with a questioning look.
"Because you want it, or because you feel guilty?"
Brennan seemed to struggle with her words.
"I want it very much. I've missed you, too..."
With a smile he removed the glass from her hand and set it on the floor. The second they were back on eye level his arms opened for her, and she accepted the invitation. He pressed her gently to his chest, enjoying the feeling of having her so close, and the reality of everything she was invoked warmth in him. He lowered his head to the crook of her neck and took a deep breath – she smelled like summer. Her own hands came around his midsection, stroking the small of his back so lightly that he had to concentrate on the sensation. They held each other for a long time, finally making up for so many missed moments – feeling, touching, reassuring – until a child's cry interrupted the lovely silence.
"Looks like Parker had a bad dream. I have to go, Bones."
Before he released her, his lips grazed over her soft cheek, and she had to pull him close one more time, inhaling his unique scent.
"Night, Bones," he whispered.
Then he was gone, and Brennan found herself alone with the ocean once again. She picked up her glass from the floor and thought about their embrace. It hadn't scared her. It had felt right and long overdue.