AN1: If you haven't said happy birthday to RositaLG yet, you probably should. She's pretty awesome and is therefore deserving of such things. This is her gift, so if you like it, thank her for being born, and if you hate it, send complaints her way. Parting thought; here, there be smut (kind of). This is my first time ever attempting anything remotely "M" rated, and I think I warned Rosita that I found writing sex to be way harder than having it, so I guess I should warn you too. If it's bad, again, forward all complaints to the birthday girl; she made the request. This is not an especially jovial fic, although it does have its fluffy moments... because unlike SOME people *cough* RositaLG/biba79 *cough* I can't do 100% angst without fighting the urge to curl up in a ball and cry/cut myself. If I had it my way, there would be puppies and rainbows, but it's not my birthday.
AN2 at RositaLG: Note that I was also going to use 100% U.S. spelling for this, but then after the hundredth time I had to stop and backspace to take out 'extra' vowels and such, I was like, eff this it's way too hard. Besides, I tend to switch between spellings when it comes to 's's versus 'z's anyway. So there. Parting thought: Happy Birthday. I'm very glad we're friends :).
Never Let This Pair of Hands Forget
Do I feel what I feel? Well?
Do you feel this way too?
That every wound seems to heal when I am around you.
Around You, Ingrid Michaelson
"Get out. You don't deserve to be a father. Get out."
Quick tempers have run their course through generations of Booth men, and Hank is no exception. He's no stranger to seething anger and in this moment, when he can so clearly hear the dull crack of muscled hands meeting pliable flesh, and so clearly see one small body cowering while another body – even smaller than the first – cries on the sideline, he feels that if his son (he almost throws up; son. His son) was to stay in his sight one minute longer, he could actually kill him. But, along with the quick tempers, most of the Booths he has known seem predisposed to guilt and regret in spades. He's no exception to this either. As the car peels out of the driveway and disappears down the otherwise quiet street in a cloud of exhaust and a squeal of rubber tires against asphalt, bile rises up in his throat anew. What has he done? The boys have no mother and now thanks to him, they have no father to speak of either. Kids need parents. Kids need a roof over their heads. They don't know how to do things like pay the mortgage and hydro and property taxes. What has he done? And then his brain turns back on and all but slaps him in the face for beginning to panic. What has he done? He's saved his grandchildren from tyranny, that's what. And what kids really need is love and stability and to close their eyes at night without the memory of their father's fist plowing into them. He may be getting old, but he can manage that much. He'll have to. The bridge has been crossed and he has no choice but to stand and watch it burn.
He turns back to the house and on the second storey, the curtains on the window facing the street snap shut. The yellow light seeping through them goes off a second later.
Hank squares his shoulders and shelves his internal battle. In a moment his life has changed, and there are two small children waiting in this average sized home who are now his sole responsibility. There had been signs that Joseph wasn't well, but when he had seen his grandkids, when he had watched that scrawny little shrimp interact with the man he used to call his son, Seeley's face had been an open book of admiration and willingness to please and it had been so easy for Hank to convince himself that the little knot in his stomach, the one that told him something wasn't quite right, could be chalked up to getting old and maybe developing an ulcer. Because he has seen the way Jared and Seeley play; he has seen the punches and the sword fights and tumbles down the stairs that send them crashing into walls. They are busy kids, and it's expected to see bruises. Tonight's images are his earthly punishment. He hadn't seen what was happening early enough to stop today from occurring, and now he will see Seeley's stiff body and clenched eyelids in his mind every time he has a moment to think. From now until the day he dies, he will spend agonising nights awake questioning whether he maybe just didn't want to see, and praying for absolution.
He has no idea what he's going to say to the boys when he reaches them and he wants the walk to the second floor to take an eternity, but it seems to only take the span of three heartbeats before he's on the inside of the front door and headed up the narrow stairs. The master bedroom where he had seen movement from outside is now dark and still, and he wonders just how often Seeley has lived this routine in order to become so adept at erasing all traces of himself from rooms. The boys' bedroom is equally quiet; the only sign of life comes from the mocking grin of the clown night-light plugged into the wall by Jared's bed. He checks every closet, under every bed, and he doesn't find a trace of the kids he knows are somewhere in the house. Lastly, he checks the bathroom in the hall and he finally makes progress. When he opens the door he catches a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye – that kid is fast; damn fast – and Seeley stands in front of the now-drawn shower curtain looking terrified and determined all at once.
Hank steps toward him and Seeley shrinks back, and even though Hank knows it's a reflexive reaction, it breaks his heart nonetheless. "Hey now, shrimp, it's okay. Where's your brother?"
There's silence as Seeley gazes up at him and shifts his weight from side to side, as if he's can't quite decide whether he wants to answer the question or make a run for the hallway. "I don't know."
It's a boldfaced lie. While Hank is trying to figure out how to respond, Seeley's eyes shift furtively to the curtain in his peripheral vision and back again, and things click into place for Hank. Bless that kid's heart. Deep purple bruising is already forming on Seeley's arms – his t-shirt prevents Hank from seeing anything else, although from the way his grandson is favouring his left side he's sure the damage is far more extensive – and there's blood crusted on his bottom lip. From where Hank stands, he can see that the damage to his mouth is self inflicted; Seeley bites to keep himself from crying. One kind of pain to distract from another. It's a technique the boy is much too young to learn. And still, he protects his brother. He puts himself in the line of fire and keeps Jared safe. Pay no attention to the boy behind the curtain.
"Your dad isn't here," (a bit of the anger returns with the word; dad. Son. What kind of person does this to family?) "I won't hurt him, Seeley. I just want to be sure you're both okay."
"He's fine," Seeley answers him resolutely.
Hank hesitates. He could pull back the curtain himself, but something tells him Seeley wouldn't easily forgive it. No, Seeley has to make the decision on his own. He settles himself on the linoleum floor and eliminates the vast height difference between them. "C'mon, shrimp, trust me, alright?"
Seeley studies his grandfather's face and then a fraction of the tension leaves his body. Just a fraction. He's still on guard and ready to bolt at a microseconds' notice. Keeping his head turned toward Hank, he slowly pulls back the shower curtain and sits protectively on the edge of the bathtub. Hank leans forward and there's Jared, curled up in a ball and fast asleep in the centre of the cold tub. He reaches into the tub and affectionately pushes back some of the dark hair that has fallen across Jared's closed eyes, and beside him, Seeley's body starts to tremble.
"You did good, Seeley," Hank assures him, placing an arm across the boy's shoulders and adjusting his grip when its weight draws a small gasp of pain.
The anger returns, and Seeley senses it. Of course he does. However, Hank decides to take it as a positive sign that his grandson doesn't recoil from contact this time. Instead he turns away from his vigilant watch over his younger brother and makes eye contact.
"Please don't be mad at dad," he requests softly.
Hank sighs. "You understand that your dad... what he was doing, it's not okay. Right Seel? You get that?"
Seeley shrugs and Hank shakes his head. "Your dad's a grown man; he doesn't need you defending him. I'm gonna give you some advice, shrimp. It's not always your job to protect everybody, okay? Sometimes it's alright to just sit back and let someone else do all the hard stuff."
Seeley doesn't answer him. He quietly ducks out from under Hank's arm and climbs back into the tub, and he sits beside his brother with his knees drawn up against his chest. In all likelihood, Jared won't even remember this night by the time he's grown. The most Hank suspects his youngest grandson will retain will be shadowy vestiges of a former darkness and an occasional rush of fear that he won't be able to quantify. Perhaps flashes of memory that will be there and gone so quickly, he will be able to convince himself they never really happened. Hank wishes the same could be said for Seeley. The boy's eyes are old and Hank knows that he will never be traditionally normal. He will always have difficulty finding the state of total relaxation that comes easily to others. He will wake up screaming.
"I watch Jared. It's my job. Mom..." Seeley swallows and then raises his chin, "...Mom says he's little now but when he's older, he'll watch me too. So it's important."
There's a challenge in his eyes at his use of present tense, as if he's just waiting for Hank to draw attention to the fact that their mother is gone and she isn't coming back. It's a test, and Hank passes.
"That's true. It's what brothers do." The fight goes out of Seeley like air out of a balloon, and the boy slumps against the wall of the tub. Hank chooses his next words carefully. "Maybe you and I can watch him together from now on, huh? You and I, Seel. We'd make a good team."
Seeley runs his tongue over his bloodied lip. "Just until dad gets back?"
Hank clenches his jaw and swiftly buries the spike of simultaneous anger and sadness that passes through him before Seeley can see it. "Yeah. Until your dad gets back."
He doesn't care what the books say. Sometimes, lying to a child is what's best.
Seeley watches him warily for a few seconds and Hank doesn't doubt that the kid knows he's not being told the whole truth. But at the end of the day he's still a child, and he wants to believe that things can be better. He wants to believe that he won't always have to shoulder this burden alone.
"Yeah," Seeley mutters eventually, "I guess that would be okay."
"Good boy," Hank says thickly. He reaches into the tub and scoops Jared up against his chest without waking him. It's a practiced art in parenthood that is never really forgotten. Hank adjusts to the long absent feel of a small being's arms sleepily looping around his neck, and then he stands and reaches for Seeley's hand.
"Come on, sport. It's way past your bedtime."
After a brief hesitation, Seeley cautiously slips his tiny hand into Hank's larger one. In the morning, Hank will keep the boys home from school and check them over from head to toe – although he suspects Jared really is fine, just as Seeley claimed – and maybe he'll rustle up some grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Because what kid doesn't love grilled cheese? But now, right now, he'll let them sleep. He'll watch over both of them, because it's about time that someone does. And if his troubled son never comes back, it'll be too soon. He hopes that someday, when Seeley and Jared are old enough and maybe have children and grandchildren of their own, they'll understand.
In a homey, slightly cramped apartment above a liquor store, metaphoric light years away from where and when he had grown up, Seeley Joseph Booth knew what it was to be content. He had learned what it was to experience sadness, to experience loss, to experience pain, and he had learned to squirrel away feelings of happiness for the days that were perhaps not so happy. Survival was one of his many talents (and that's important to note; Seeley Booth survives) but in the soft, early light of this particular morning, his mind was far from survival.
Brennan lay beside him. Her presence wasn't the product of a coma-dream or an overtired fantasy or related to undercover work, it was simply what they were, now. They came home to one another. They had been coming home to one another for months, and it had become the new normal. Sometimes, change was good. Sometimes, it didn't break your heart into a million little pieces.
Eventually, watching her sleep wasn't enough. He leaned over and pressed a wet kiss against the tip of her nose, then watched in amusement as said nose crinkled in distaste.
"I hate it when you do that," she murmured sleepily without opening her eyes.
Booth grinned. Yes, she hated it. And that was the primary reason he often couldn't resist the temptation to do it in the first place. It was also the reason he saved his attacks for early mornings, when her brain was still too foggy to retaliate with anything more than adorable irritation.
She sighed and turned her face into her pillow. "What time is it?"
"A little after seven."
Her eyes flew open. "Booth!"
"What?" he ignored her accusatory tone and feigned ignorance.
"I turned it off."
She started to sit up and pushed angrily against his arm when he effectively blocked her.
"Come on, Bones. We just closed a case; Cam isn't expecting anyone to come in before ten."
She huffed, knowing he was right but still resenting him for taking the choice to stay in bed out of her hands. "This is going to be one of those days during which you make it your mission to greatly annoy me, isn't it?"
"I thought you didn't do speculation?"
"It's a hypothesis based upon years of observation, Booth."
He chuckled and kissed the soft skin of her bare shoulder. "Well, it's wrong." He dramatically pulled the comforter over his head and continued the trail of kisses playfully between her breasts, stopping only to impatiently push her tank top out of his way. "I just want to spend some time with my girl."
His voice was muffled both by the comforter and his close proximity to her skin, but Brennan heard him loud and clear. She rolled her eyes and did her best to ignore the feel of his mouth on the weighty underside of her breasts. "You're doing it right now, Booth. I'm not a girl. I'm-
She gasped as Booth bit her right nipple without warning and quickly used his tongue to soothe the sting. The sensation traveled swiftly from her breast to her centre, and she swallowed hard before ripping back the blanket and glaring at her partner.
"That's not funny."
"I wasn't really going for funny."
"I am not rewarding your juvenile behaviour with sex."
"That's what you're saying, Bones, but your body," his eyes darkened and he kissed the inside of her upper thigh, smiling lustfully when her hips reflexively moved forward, "your body is telling me a whole other story."
She bent her knees, planting her feet firmly on the mattress, and she released a sigh as he continued to nuzzle the inside of her thighs and the dip of her lower belly, pointedly avoiding direct stimulation.
"You're misinterpreting," she made a pathetic attempt at banter despite the scent of her growing arousal.
He kissed her through the soft cotton of her underwear until he felt them dampen, and then he pulled them off and sent them to their proper place on the floor. Before she could gather her bearings, he blew a stream of cool air against her mound and then ran his tongue between her folds, chuckling triumphantly when she stiffened and wound her fingers into his hair. "I think I'm interpreting just fine, thanks, Bones."
Brennan made a brief attempt to control her breathing and then conceded defeat when he took that damn tongue of his and flicked her nub. With one last glance toward the time displayed on the digital clock, she closed her eyes and tightened her grip on his hair. "Make it fast," she demanded. "We don't have time-
"As you wish."
"I know that one!" she exclaimed proudly.
Pop culture reference successfully identified, Brennan found herself suddenly much more amenable to the idea of a morning interlude. She tugged insistently on his dark hair until he cooperated and made the journey back up to her face, and then she pulled his mouth hungrily to hers and nipped at his bottom lip when he teasingly denied her tongue access.
"Fast," she breathed into his mouth. "You promised..."
That wasn't entirely true, but she was beautiful and warm and there was the tiny fact that he loved her, so Booth obliged. He grasped a misshapen piece of her tank top and pulled upward, and she released him just long enough to raise her arms. In half a second flat, the thin garment was on the floor across the room. Synchronization. They were good at that.
She hummed contently as his index finger snaked between them and played with her moisture soaked lips, and she lifted her hips in an attempt to better meet his hand. When he adjusted the position of his fingers to keep the distance the same, Brennan frowned and pushed her hand into his boxers to show him exactly what she meant by fast.
Booth let out a choked breath as she grasped his hard member and then stroked her thumb across the head. "Okay, you've made your point."
"Are you sure?"
She grazed her fingernails lightly over his testicles, and then she wrapped her hand around him again and squeezed.
"Yeah," he groaned, "yeah. Definitely."
She pumped him once from base to tip and back again, and gave a self-pleased half smile when he thickened in her practiced grip. She raised her free hand and pushed against the inside of his elbow, causing his supporting arm to buckle and enabling her to easily roll them over.
"No," Booth said firmly.
"What? It's my turn!" she protested.
"No, it's not, Bones. Don't even try."
"Last night doesn't count," she said dismissively, pulling his boxers free of his legs and then straddling him, grinding her pelvis shamelessly against his length.
"Yeah? What about the time before that? And the time before that, for that matter?"
"That is not an accurate recollection of-
Booth palmed both breasts and flicked her hardened nipples rapidly, and then he removed one hand to mirror the action on her sensitized clit. She hissed and Booth took advantage of his current lead, sitting up halfway and flipping her back beneath him.
"It's accurate, Bones. Trust me."
"Don't tease me," she warned.
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"You were just-
He aligned himself with her entrance and buried himself to the hilt without further preamble. She laughed triumphantly and clamped her thighs around his hips, enjoying the fullness of him inside of her for a moment before loosening her grip and rocking forward to spur him on. He withdrew himself almost completely and then entered her once more in one smooth, powerful stroke.
"You're perfect. You're fucking perfect."
Just as he began to quicken his rhythm, his phone vibrated against the night table beside him. It – understandably – took them longer than it ordinarily would have to place the sound, and once they did, Booth began to determinedly thrust faster.
"Booth," she murmured, "Booth it could be important."
"It can wait," he grunted.
But Brennan was distracted now. "At least see who it is," she insisted breathlessly.
Booth exhaled loudly in exasperation and fumbled blindly for his phone, then squinted at the display. "Cam," he breathed shortly, tossing the phone back onto the stand.
"Wha- Why is Cam calling you and not me?" Brennan asked, offended.
"Exactly. Don't worry about it."
Except, just as they had both put any thought of Cam out of their minds, the phone began to vibrate. Again. Booth hit the ignore button and resisted the urge to throw the phone into the nearest wall.
"You can't!" Brennan protested too late, "What about- what about the pre-complete ring-off?"
"Cam can take the pre-complete ring-off and go fu-
The phone began to buzz for the third time and Brennan wanted to cry. "She's going to keep calling," she pointed out in defeat, "you have to answer."
With one last thrust deep inside her she gasped and he reached for the phone, muttering to himself the whole time. In between curses, he hit the call button none too gently. "What?"
Brennan tried to keep still, she really did, but she had been so close she couldn't help shifting her hips just to add an almost negligible relief to the pressure.
Booth inhaled sharply and then slapped her thigh to catch her attention. When she opened her eyes, he made a deadly serious cease and desist motion and once again tried to concentrate on the voice in his ear.
"I need you to come to the lab."
"Why?" He automatically questioned the request before he remembered that the why didn't actually matter, because Cam wasn't his boss and she couldn't tell him to do anything. "No."
Curiosity piqued, Brennan started to sit up, and Booth quickly covered the microphone with his thumb. "Cut it out," he hissed.
Sheepishly, she settled on her back and concentrated on remaining still.
"I don't want to talk to you about this over the phone. Just get your ass over here, Seeley. Fast."
There was urgency in Cam's tone, traces of concern and fear as well. But there was something... else that he couldn't identify, and in the end, that was what brought him around. Because he couldn't remember the last time that he had talked to Cam without understanding both the said and the unsaid.
"I'll be there in a half hour."
He hung up the phone and sighed. "Ready?" he asked Brennan.
Reluctantly, she nodded her head.
He withdrew from her quickly; like ripping off a band aid and pretty much just as painful. This was a new first for them. They had been interrupted during foreplay and immediately following climax, but mid-act? No. He couldn't say that he was a fan.
"What's going on?" Brennan asked when she trusted herself to speak.
"She wants me at the lab. I can't figure out what's up with her."
Booth lay on his back beside her gazing fixedly at the ceiling, and she took a few deep breaths before propping herself up on her elbow to stare at him. "Would you like me to-
"No," he shook his head.
"You look quite uncomfortable. It wouldn't take long; I'm very talented."
It was tempting, it really was. But she was no more satisfied than he was and it hardly seemed fair.
"No. Just please put some clothes on."
Booth was in the bathroom quickly brushing his teeth when Brennan received her own instructions from Cam.
Come with him; he's going to need you.
She frowned at the text message and then glanced at the closed bathroom door before rapidly sending off her response.
I don't understand.
Her message had barely cleared the screen before the reply had the phone buzzing in her hand.
Make sure Booth doesn't leave that apartment without you.
Fear began to twist in her stomach but she steeled herself and compartmentalized. With a determined clench of her jaw she pulled on clean underwear and a bra and the first jeans and t-shirt her fingers touched, and then she threw her hair up into a neat ponytail.
She was reaching for the bathroom door when it swung open, and Booth stopped abruptly beneath the frame to avoid crashing into her.
"I'm your partner; I go with you," she blurted.
Initially he looked flabbergasted, but after a beat passed he simply shook his head. He was not going to get sucked into one of those time consuming, mindless arguments they had, when he knew that he would inevitably forget what it was they were even fighting about and she would end up going with him anyway.
"Fine; let's go."
The knot in her stomach loosened ever so slightly, because accompanying Booth had been her direct assignment and as long as she did her job, everything had to be okay. It had to be. Any other outcome was unacceptable. He was already heading out into the hall and she hurried after him, and then she grabbed his hand desperately as he began to open the front door.
He tilted his head when he looked at her as he waited for an explanation, and she took a deep breath before stretching upward and kissing his mouth hard.
Booth licked his lips as she pulled away. "What was that for?"
Brennan's brow furrowed and she tried to ignore the erratic thumping of her heart. "It's a good memory," she finally said. "For you to remember if things get bad."
"You developing psychic powers, Bones?" he tried to smile, but he had his own gut instinct screaming at him to take her back to bed and stay there for the rest of the day, for the rest of his life, and the smile wavered and died very quickly.
She didn't rise to the bait. "Remember this morning," she insisted softly. "It was a very good morning."
Booth cupped her cheek and rested his forehead against hers, and he tried really hard to quell his rising agitation. Eventually, Brennan squeezed his hand.
"Time to go," she murmured softly.
"Yeah," he agreed, pulling away from her and swallowing hard. "Yeah."
When they pulled into the underground parking lot, they both saw Cam – pacing restlessly in front of Brennan's parking space – at approximately the same time. She placed her hands on her hips when she recognized the vehicle and took a step back to allow Booth entry.
Brennan scrambled out of the passenger side the moment the SUV was put in park (first; she likes to be first; especially when she feels unprepared. She can get the experience over with quickly and bury it away to be dealt with when she's ready) and Booth climbed out after her.
What's going on, Camille?"
He tucked his hands into his pockets and slouched slightly as he waited for the response. Don't call me Camille. It was cheesy, but it was one of their things. Instead, Cam stepped forward and Booth saw a spark of rage in her eyes that contradicted the composed demeanour she had adopted the second she had seen them coming. All furtive hopes that Cam just needed paperwork completed or furniture moved or maybe for him to be her fake boyfriend again flew out the window.
"Not here. Let's go upstairs."
He was about to challenge her, but she saw the ire rising in him before he had decided exactly how he was going to express it, and after absently smoothing the front of her skirt she simply turned her back to him and began to walk purposefully toward the staircase. Booth had no choice but to trail after her, but he did so reluctantly and with a great deal of grumbling while Brennan observed both of them quietly.
They congregated in Brennan's office. There had been no further conversation between them as they had journeyed up to the lab, but it was a safety zone for both Booth and Brennan and whether it was consciously or not, the three of them went straight to the dark space without debate.
Brennan shut the door and flipped on the lights, and then years of habit had her hanging up her coat and dropping her bag beside her desk while Cam perched herself on the arm of the couch and Booth stood stiffly by the bookshelf. She looked between Booth and Cam and was suddenly angry at her (sort of)boss for managing to make her feel so unsettled in this place that was so undeniably hers. Sit, stand. Sit, stand. She wavered between the two options and then she promptly threw herself down in her computer chair before she could change her mind again.
Cam stood, and Booth noted the way she picked absently at her cuticles. He hadn't seen her do that in years. Cam worked really hard to keep all traces of insecurity buried from pretty much everyone.
"This might be the last time you talk to me for, well, forever, so I need you to know that I'm as angry as you are going to be. I'd also like to point out that I'm only the messenger... although I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, that part's not all that important."
Booth immediately thought to their last case, and the semi-public screaming match that had occurred between himself and his partner shortly after the body had been found. Cam had been pissed. They had been in Brennan's office with the door closed, but the walls were hardly soundproof and as luck would have it, Cam had been in the middle of assuring one particularly sceptical bureaucrat that the recent change in the relationship between Temperance Brennan and her partner wouldn't do anything to compromise her work or the integrity of the institution.
You two couldn't have waited five minutes? Honestly, Seeley, sometimes I really think you do this on purpose.
Cam had smoothed things over; she was good at that and wasn't that what she got paid to do anyway? But they hadn't made it easy for her. He glanced at Brennan, and the fear in her eyes told him she was thinking along the same lines as he.
"What did you do?" he growled.
Cam's gaze dropped to the ground briefly and he knew that he had hurt her feelings, but he couldn't bring himself to care. When her head came back up she met his eye squarely and stopped fidgeting.
"I did it for you," Cam said calmly, "and if you're going to be mad at me, then there isn't anything I can do about that. But it doesn't change anything."
Booth frowned. "What are we talking about?"
Cam took a deep breath. "Your father was here."
He saw Brennan freeze out of the corner of his eye and Cam was watching him anxiously, and he supposed that if ever there had been a time for dramatic outbursts and wall-punching, it was now. But he couldn't bring himself to do anything but laugh. This was a joke. Maybe Cam was trying to remind him that there were worse things than having his partnership with Brennan severed before dropping the axe on both of them. He wouldn't put it past her.
There was a part of him that immediately knew he was being unfair to Cam, but the part of him that needed to prolong this delusion just a little while longer won out in the end.
"The guard stopped him before he could get all the way up here, and then they paged me at the desk."
The lopsided smirk fell away and Booth stood straight and tall. "Knock it off, Cam."
"He had that newspaper photo with him," she continued. "Do you remember? The one from the banquet last month?"
Of course he remembered. Brennan had been forced to attend and so he had been forced to go as well (it's not fair, Booth, you have to come too), but the evening had been surprisingly pleasant. Maybe this was punishment for enjoying himself that night. She had looked stunning and after she had done her mingling, they had danced and laughed, and his personal highlight had been when drunk-Hodgins had knocked over a table. It had been one of those nights when the entire team clicked, and it was possible to believe that there would never be a moment in which they would not all be as happy as they had been then. Some reporter had caught the partners laughing after Booth had entertained Brennan's girly, spontaneous desire to be traditionally twirled on the dance floor, and the picture had been displayed on page eight for all of D.C. to see the next morning. Bones had a copy tucked into the top drawer of her night table. Not that he would ever tell her he knew about it.
"No. I don't remember."
Cam's mouth formed a hard line and it was clear that they both knew he was lying. Unfortunately for him, she wouldn't let it sidetrack her.
"I wouldn't tell him where you lived. I called as soon as he was gone. I would have come over myself but I didn't want to chance being followed."
"This is crazy." Booth pushed away from the bookshelf and began to pace the room. His fingers sought out his poker chip and then tightened into a fist when he remembered that it was back home in yesterday's suit. "You've never met my father. I barely remember what he looks like."
Lie. Lie lie lie lie.
"I may not have Dr. Brennan's eye for skeletal structures, but there's a strong resemblance between him and Jared."
He reminded Cam of Jared, not that she would ever, ever consider voicing that particular opinion to Booth. But the features were similar and the actions were the same; there was this ability to go from charming to malicious in the blink of an eye and an instability that couldn't be ignored. Not by her. Yes, she could laugh with Jared and spend a pleasant night in his (platonic) company, but she could do so because Jared never stayed long and because he was important to Booth. She could do it because Booth was loyal to the people he loved even when they didn't remotely deserve it.
Booth swallowed and fought to keep his voice neutral. Because this didn't matter. It shouldn't matter. He wasn't a child, for fuck's sake. "Where is he now?"
Cam's eyes darkened. "I called security and they hauled his sorry ass out of here."
The seconds ticked by and the women closest to him waited for a reaction. Any reaction. And then they both saw his face set like polished, cold marble. The restless actions of his fingers – lost without the stress reliever they depended on – ceased, and Booth nodded his head in calm acceptance of this overload of information.
"Alright. Thanks, Cam."
"Thanks?" Brennan echoed incredulously, speaking for the first time since arriving at the lab. She stood up from her chair and met him in the middle of the room. "Booth-
"Is that it?" He cut Brennan off without taking his eyes away from Cam, because he hated seeing that flash of hurt that always crossed her face when he was abrasive with her unprovoked, but he didn't want this conversation carrying on a moment longer. He had a spare suit in his car; he was going to get dressed for work, he was going to head to the Hoover, and he wasn't going to think about this again. Because it didn't matter.
Cam wordlessly nodded her head and Booth turned on his heel and left the office, pulling the door gently shut behind him. Brennan watched him head toward the entrance without once looking back, and then she turned to Cam.
"That's all?" Her eyes flashed, "You tell Booth his physically abusive father is in town looking for him at my lab and then you just let him leave?"
"He's not going to want me right now," Cam said softly, "that's why you're here. I stopped being the person he talks to about these things a long time ago."
Some of the fight left her and she folded her arms across her chest, feeling agonisingly vulnerable. "What do I do?"
"What you always do," came the simple answer. "It seems to work."
"I don't know what that is," Brennan confessed. "The things I say that seem to provide the most comfort are very rarely intentional."
Cam bit back a sad smile. "And that is one of your more endearing qualities. You don't have to do anything you wouldn't normally do; Booth would hate that."
She caught up to him just inside the parking lot. There were things she did, assumptions she made, concerning Booth, that she never gave a second thought. If anyone were to ask her why she had decided to take the elevator instead of the stairs, her answer would probably point out that the elevator was the fastest method of getting from point A to point B. It wouldn't occur to her that she knew Booth always took the stairs when he was upset because he didn't have the patience to depend on anything he couldn't control. It wouldn't occur to her that she knew taking the elevator would be the only way she could counter his head start.
The response was hardly encouraging, but she took a deep breath and forged ahead regardless. "So, what are we going to do?"
He felt that little tug in his stomach at her assumption that these things didn't happen to him or her but them, but he tried to push it away. "Nothing. We aren't going to do anything."
"But we have to do something, Booth. The look on your face right now makes me uncomfortable."
Booth couldn't suppress a tiny smile. "You can stop looking at me like you're expecting me to hit something, Bones. I'm fine."
"Respectfully, I am choosing not to believe you," she said cautiously. "I think you are going to hit something."
"I'm not," Booth promised. "Are you good here for the day? I'm gonna head over to my office."
"Look, Bones, we can talk at home, okay? I don't want to get into this now. Not when we have a full work day ahead of us."
He stopped short when he reached Brennan's assigned parking space.
"Uh oh," Brennan said beside him.
Someone had clearly run right into the back of the vehicle. It was hard to damage an SUV, but this jackhole had managed. The bumper was intact, relatively speaking, but it was hanging crooked and one tail-light had been knocked out. Booth gritted his teeth. This was going to be a terrible, terrible day.
"Are you okay?" she asked tentatively.
"Are you sure? You hate it when things happen to your vehicle."
"I said I'm fine."
"The damage is extensive. We will have to use my car while it's being repaired."
"You hate my car."
Why couldn't she leave anything alone? He had her chirping in one ear and Cam going in the other and his father of all fucking people showing up out of fucking nowhere, and the back of his truck was a mess. Of course it wasn't fine. But he didn't care about any of it. He locked his jaw and felt his body begin to hum with the violent energy he had been just-barely keeping at bay since Brennan's office. Without another word he popped the trunk and rifled through the piles of crap on the floor until he happened upon the riot gear still stowed away from that training day a couple weeks ago. His hand grasped the heavy baton and it immediately felt right. Like an extension of himself. Violent and powerful and damaging and unyielding like everything his father had been and everything he probably would be too. Eventually.
"What are you doing?"
He twirled the baton expertly in his dexterous hands. "You want to see how much I don't care, Bones?"
He didn't wait for an answer. With one slight movement of his right hand, he knocked out the other tail-light. And the sound of glass shattering was so pleasant, he had to do it again. He took the baton in both hands and swung with everything he had, and he felt the vibrations hard in his elbows as the rear window gave way. Satisfied, he drew the weapon high above his head and brought it crashing down with all his might for the second time.
"Did you break this window, Seeley?"
"It was an accident, sir."
"I didn't ask if it was an accident; I asked you how it happened. You need to learn to listen."
"I think it's dead, Booth."
The voice came softly from behind him, and once the words filtered through he couldn't be quite sure whether he was more surprised that she sounded so calm, or that she had managed to make a fairly normal joke in the middle of a really screwed up situation. He stared dumbly at the glass littering the dirty ground and his shoulders slumped as the pulsing rage disintegrated. The baton fell from his suddenly limp fingers and dropped to the cement at his feet. When he turned back to the vehicle and was faced with the gravity of the damage he'd so impulsively caused, Booth suddenly felt lightheaded. What the hell had he done?
"I believe, in colloquial terms, you have just beaten the absolute shit out of your car," Brennan stated matter-of-factly.
It was only then that he realized he had spoken aloud.
"This is bad," he said numbly, "Like, 'shooting at clowns' kind of bad."
He sat on the damaged bumper and was absently surprised when it held his weight. Brennan gingerly kicked aside the baton – just in case Booth got it in his head to attack the vehicle again – and then took a seat beside him.
"I find that I also enjoy striking things when I am upset," she offered conversationally.
A jolt of love vibrated throughout his exhausted body for this woman who would stand by and let him destroy a government issued vehicle just because she thought it might make him feel better.
"I know. It's kind of your thing. I'm just glad you don't punch me anymore."
"Sometimes I want to."
He laughed humourlessly at the honest answer and rubbed the back of his neck. "How can you be so calm right now? Look at this."
"It's a car," she shrugged. "I'll buy you another one if the FBI won't. Although I would suggest that if you wish to keep your job, we maybe do not tell them exactly how this happened."
By the end of the day, Booth was wondering if Brennan had managed to get any real work done in the nine hours that had passed since they parted ways. Not a single hour had gone by without a text from her, but she had managed to not once ask how he was feeling. For that, he was grateful.
It wasn't the only reason he had to be thankful for her today. Not by a long shot.
That morning, she had unceremoniously pushed him off the bumper and then gazed critically at the damage before picking up the baton and taking a swing of her own at the back of the vehicle. He hadn't been able to do anything but stare at her in shock, and it had been another two swings before she had taken any notice of the stunned look on his face.
What? This is an accurate dent pattern for impact with a medium sized car. Besides, it looked like fun when you did it.
He didn't like that kind of deception. He had already decided to just go with the whole truth when the tow truck showed up, but Brennan had jumped in with her own detailed account of events before he could say a word. She had never been able to lie to protect herself – nor had she ever felt the desire – but she could apparently lie to protect Booth when she believed he deserved it.
You are one unlucky son of a bitch, Booth.
Someone finally got sick of you driving like you own the road, huh?
How does it feel to know you're going to be getting chauffeured around in your girlfriend's toy car for the next week?
Bones was nothing short of thorough, that was for sure. No one had questioned her story, and somewhere around the fourth joke at his expense, he had passed the point of no return. There would be no coming clean. This would get tacked onto the bottom of his epic list of things that evoked feelings of sickening guilt.
There was a knock on his closed door and he looked up from the file spread out across his desk.
The door opened and Brennan poked her head in. "Are you almost finished? The cab's waiting."
"Yeah," Booth stood and began to shuffle his things into a manageable pile, "Yeah, I'm ready."
She entered the room and sat in the chair nearest the side wall, drumming her fingers absently against the arm while she waited.
"I get my SUV back next week," Booth said casually. "Everyone bought your story."
"Of course they did," she said dismissively, "I'm very smart, Booth. Which is why you will never catch me if I ever have reason to carry out my perfect murder."
He almost believed it was unintentional. Almost. But beginning a real relationship with her had made it even easier to see her tells and he saw the slight quiver in her lip amidst her otherwise oblivious expression that indicated she knew exactly what she was doing.
"Funny, Bones. You're hilarious."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm sure you don't."
They had Thai delivered for dinner, and Booth tried to take comfort in their practiced manner of passing the cartons back and forth across his small table. But he couldn't couldn't couldn't relax. He could feel her watching him. He could hear the seconds ticking down to when he wouldn't have any choice but to address the elephant in the room.
"The mee krob tastes better than usual tonight."
"Are you going to look for your father?"
Booth sighed and considered trying to give her another lesson on tact, but in the end he simply answered the question. "No."
He shoved some more noodles in his mouth and hoped that she would let this go for just ten more minutes.
"I was very upset when Max first returned."
The food got stuck in his throat and lost all its appeal. He choked it down. "Max was a good father to you for fifteen years."
"And then he abandoned me."
He pushed away his plate. "It's different, you know? Your dad... your family's a total wreck, too, I know that. But, one second I'm thinking about how my dad woke me up at five o'clock in the morning on my birthday to take me to the airport and watch the planes take off, just me and him, and then the next second I'm remembering how it felt to have the wind get knocked out of my body so long I thought I might never start breathing again after being tossed into the fridge door."
"You're angry," she observed softly.
"Yes. I'm angry."
Booth raised his eyebrows. "Why are you angry?"
She, too, pushed her plate away and then stared at him through dark lashes and bright, earnest eyes. He wished he could turn back the clock. Turn it back to that morning when she had whispered fast and he had been putty in her hands and he had thought it was going to be the best day ever. Turn it back to before the phone interrupted them and he had planned on enjoying private time with the woman he loved for another two hours before going out into the world.
"I think that I hate him, Booth."
Her voice was strung tight with barely contained emotion, and it felt really, really good to have someone solidly in his corner. Someone who would hate a person she had never met simply because once upon a time, they had hurt him.
"I think that I hate him, too," he answered honestly.
"There are not many people that you hate; I resent him for making you feel this way."
"That's not true, Bones; there's lots of people I hate."
This was what he was going to have to do; make jokes. Keep his voice light. Deflect. Otherwise he was going to fall apart right there in the kitchen. And hadn't going postal on his vehicle really been enough for one day?
Brennan narrowed her eyes. "Name one."
Booth tilted his head pensively. "Kanye West. I know you like his music, but I'd like to punch that guy in the face."
"Booth." She gave him a disapproving frown.
"And what about Michael Stires, huh? There's another guy I hate."
"Because we used to have sex frequently?"
"Yeah, because you used to have sex. But also because he was a jerk. And did you have to throw the 'frequently' part out there?"
"My father? You hate my father?"
"He punched me in the gnads, Bones. That's not something a guy forgives easily."
Brennan cracked a smile, and then her eyes fell to the table top. When they came back up, they glistened brightly with tears he didn't understand and she couldn't explain.
"I wish you would be serious."
"Why are you pushing this?"
"Because you always help me. And I would like to be given the opportunity to try and help you. I like you very much, Booth."
And with that, just like in the garage, she pushed him just beyond what he could handle.
I like you, Booth.
I like you. And he had to be crazy because that sincere admission warmed him to the core.
People don't always like the ones they love, but today, now, in this moment, she did.
His father had beat him and he had grown up without parents and his brother was an alcoholic and he was a gambling addict and he had a child from a previous relationship and he had killed so many people and he didn't go to mass nearly as often as he should and he had a job that ate up close to all his free time, and still, he was enough for her. Temperance Brennan liked him. She didn't judge him when he made rash decisions like beating the absolute shit out of his car, she picked up the baton and she took a few swings herself, partially to help him, but also because it looked fun.
He pulled the table aside and ignored the cartons that toppled onto the floor, and she met him halfway – like always now, because she had learned a lot in the last few years – and they kissed and his world fucking exploded.
They were sharp teeth and quick hands and scratching nails and demanding tongues, and she could handle all of him and he could handle all of her and the feeling of belonging just about burst right through his chest.
He and Rebecca have always had crazy sex. Like, crazy sex. It goes beyond angry sex and passionate releases to something that is decidedly unhealthy and leaves them playing truly messed up mind games. Games that involve doing things like racing to come first in order to achieve the satisfaction of immediately turning over and going to bed, leaving the other person wholly pissed off.
And there's this one day, only weeks before they find out she's pregnant (coincidence? Probably not) that gets entirely out of hand. She's yelling at him and he just has enough and he's yelling back and they're both picking at wounds that inflict maximum injury. They arm themselves with hurtful words and they use everything they know about one another against one another. They judge.
He really thinks he hates her.
She slaps him and he has never in his life so badly wanted to hit a girl, but he settles for "accidentally" knocking her favourite glass figurine to the floor and watching her face as it shatters.
Suddenly they're naked and the sex is good – it's always good – and they're both still furious but they're starting to think that this is enough of a reason to stay together. Because in their darkest moments they know that they are both so, so damaged who else would want them? Who else could handle the burden?
She comes first and she's in a generous mood because she lets him finish too, and then they both fall into a dead, dreamless sleep.
The next morning he wakes up first and Rebecca is huddled on the edge of the mattress as far away from his side as she can get without falling off, and that's fine with him because he's still a little mad at her and he suspects that when she wakes up the feeling will be returned.
He strips down in the bathroom and discovers he has bruises on his arms and more than a few fiery red scratches spread out along his back and shoulders, and he rolls his eyes (they're a mess, they're such a mess. Why can't they leave each other?) but he gets in the shower and he doesn't think about it again.
The bed is empty when he gets out and he dresses and finds Rebecca in the kitchen and he freezes, because she has bruises too. There are splotches on her arms and the tops of her legs and she's wearing these little Daisy Duke shorts and a tank top, and he wants to find his gun and shoot himself. He can't remember gripping her hard enough to leave marks like those and that makes everything so much worse because it forces him to think of someone else who had left so many marks, and then had often not remembered them by the time he woke up hungover the next day.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
Rebecca turns to face him and with her mouth she's asking him if he'd like coffee and eggs as if they're the perfect happy couple, but with her eyes, with her eyes she's gloating. She's won and she knows it. She's hitting him where it hurts so bad he feels like he might vomit, and he will never get sucked into playing this game again. The cost is too great.
She parades around in those shorts for a week and a half. He knows for a fact that she doesn't even like shorts. She's self conscious about her legs and it has to be a hundred degrees out before she'll even consider putting them on (and that's only if she can't find a skirt) but every time he sees her in the next eleven days her legs are bare. When the bruises go away, the shorts and tank tops do too. It's the cruellest thing she ever does to him, next to repeatedly denying him time with his son.
It's in the back of his head, always, long after he and Rebecca burn everything between them but the bridge that connects them through their son. It's too much. He is too much. He's crazier than Rebecca and if he isn't careful people will get hurt. People will hurt him. He has other partners, but he keeps a part of himself locked away. He knows that Tessa is entirely too fragile to handle much of anything and Cam seems strong but she's built like a wire and he can only imagine the damage he could do to her. He forgets what it's like to give everything of yourself. He never really knows what it's like to give all of yourself (and have it be enough and not too much) until he meets Temperance Brennan.
In his lust driven haze, Booth forgot to check her to be sure she was ready for him. One minute he was outside of her and then the next he pushed his way in swiftly and unexpectedly, and Brennan's knees jerked upward, taking her legs clear off the mattress.
Her right hand stretched above her head and pushed against the headboard. She closed her eyes and tried to control her brain's rapid signal fire to every nerve in her body so that she could reserve enough mental function to analyse this experience. And she was pushing and pushing against that headboard until it wasn't wood beneath her palm but hot, demanding flesh as Booth's hand joined her and clenched fiercely.
He was connected to her in the most intimate of fashions and it wasn't enough. He felt as if he was both with her and far away from her at the same time and he needed to feel grounded by something intangible, something that went beyond the base, reflexive thrusts of his hard body into her soft one. So he took hold of her hand and he squeezed squeezed until her eyelids parted and her clouded gaze found his.
There it was; that connection that took him past sex to the extraordinary thing that existed between them. He needed her. He needed her like oxygen. And he felt like he just might die if he couldn't make both of them come apart. She was his in a way nothing else was. It was often overlooked that he's had as many people leave him, as many people disappoint him and try to break him, as she has, and he felt this surge of anger and possessiveness as she crooked one knee to allow for deeper penetration and then hooked the opposite ankle around the back of his thigh, urging him onward. No one could have her the way he did. She was his alone, and if he could prove this, he could survive anything. Even the sudden arrival of the man that had filled his early stages of development with nearly equal parts sunshine and violence.
Stories of fig trees and other trysts in the desert hadn't forced her away. This wouldn't either. Because she was his, and even when she ran, she always came back. Always.
The position of their intertwined hands atop her pillow of dark hair wasn't at all comfortable. It placed unnecessary strain on his elbow and his triceps burned, but this didn't stop him from furthering the burden by gripping Brennan's hip roughly in his free hand. His fingers dug into her soft skin and her... iliac? Pelvic bone? – he didn't know the answer, but he knew she did. In any case, there was pressure from its peak digging into his palm and the feel of her writhing beneath him, holding his hand because he was holding hers and enthusiastically meeting his strokes with aggressive thrusts of her own (because his desperation had become her desperation and she now needed this too, even if she didn't entirely understand why) put him on the straightaway to orgasm.
Brennan's breathless pants had been mixed with his and while she was usually very vocal, she had been put beyond speech this time around. Until now. Her heel pushed against him hard, offering him all of her, allowing him to take and take until he had enough, and a particularly well timed meeting of their hips caused him to gasp loudly and her to lose her rhythm.
"Oh God... Boo- Booth..."
Her voice took on this pleading tone he didn't hear from her anywhere except the bedroom and then she was panting out words and he realised he was as well, but it was mostly just noise until her eyes squeezed tight and her free hand traveled of its own accord to ease the unbearable ache in her clitoris.
He moved her hand. Under more playful circumstances it was a turn on watching her touch herself, but he wasn't feeling especially playful right now. He pressed his thumb against her and rotated in quick circles and felt his belly coil tighter at her hiss of satisfaction.
"Mine," he murmured possessively.
She pushed herself up on her elbows so that she could press their bare chests together (always together) and then she bit down on his shoulder.
"Mine," she returned.
He felt her walls begin to clench around him a fraction of a second before his own body began to spasm, and they tumbled over the precipice together. Synchronization. Sometimes they fell very far apart, but they almost always got it exactly right, exactly together, when it mattered the most.
Two sweat slickened bodies fought for air and Brennan studied her reaction to Booth's weight on top of her (stable, and safe, and calm. How was it possible for one person's body to make her feel these things?) until he rolled to the side and she was suddenly too tired to think much of anything. A chill raced up his spine as a draft whispered through the bedroom and touched his quickly cooling skin, and Brennan pressed her lips gently against his strong sternum before drawing the sheets and letting her head hit her soft pillow.
With the distant sound of traffic and a sliver of moonlight filtering in through the closed curtains, they slept.