A/N: I've wanted to write a fic about the fact that Brennan actually wrote an entire book about some fantasy life where she was together with Booth for a long, long time and the way 6.22 and 6.23 unfolded has given me that opportunity. I don't want this to stand as another fic speculating as to what happened in those (in)famous missing moments because there are so many wonderful interpretations already, so I've been deliberately vague with some of those details.
For as long as I've wanted to write a story like this, I've had this title in my head and Tadpole24 assures me it's not too porny. She also beta-ed this baby, so you can thank her for ensuring that not only is it grammatically correct, but that I also had confidence enough to post, because as per usual I got cold feet towards the end. Together we write vague smut (because I'm fairly sure this is pushing the limits of its T rating as far as they'll go) and are generally unstoppable - I couldn't have done this without her help :)
An Epic Before Bed.
In the darkest moments before dawn a woman returns to her bed. What life is she leading? Is it the same life the woman was leading an hour ago? A day ago? A year ago?
Who is this man? Do they lead separate lives or is it a single life shared?
When she opens that door (his door) she knows that whatever happens, something is about to change.
Because partners don't do things like this - even they don't do things like this, creeping into each other's beds in the middle of the night. Though they have made excuses and allowances all their days (guy hugs and steamboats and burnt wishes), this has always been that last caveat. One of the very last things that remained out of reach no matter how far over the line of 'just partners' they dared to venture.
She knows, somewhere - in some part of her that is not riddled with grief - that as soon as she steps into his room that they won't be living the same life (and the same lie) as before.
And yet, she opens the door.
In a way it never has been before - once his gun is down and she draws herself nearer - reaching for her seems easy.
With her hand in his it feels a lot easier to reassure her that she has had no part to play in the misery of this day. With their fingers twisted together it doesn't hurt nearly as much as it should when he wavers far too close to her talk of signs from the universe that still leaves him raw whenever he tries to think about that night.
(He was talking to the universe then. He didn't want to go. He wasn't ready, Bones.
His words, hoarse and gentle, blend into her own from a time that seems so long ago as he puts it all into terms she can understand. He wants to help her understand.
And he can see that she's trying – in a way she never has before she's working so goddamn hard to grasp his beliefs, talking of God and should and shouldn't in a manner that would have seemed so unlike her before these last few months.
They're getting closer and closer to some kind of middle ground. They're two such different people who finally want to talk the same language.
He thinks, somehow, that this means just as much as the lack of anger, and the lack of imperviousness that he can feel almost heavy between them.)
She falls into him – a few quiet words and then she's melting into his chest and into his heart.
It seems so easy. Everything between them has always been this struggle and yet it feels so natural to curl together and seek comfort in this physical closeness.
And as they rock carefully, half formed reassurances slipping between them in the dark, he finds it hard to tell where he stops and where she begins.
A single life. Shared.
They stay like this for so long – minutes and hours until its light outside, and when she doesn't want to cry anymore they talk, about Vincent and Broadsky and each other.
It's only when he goes to leave his bed and she feels him slipping away into the man he needs to be to catch a monster that she pulls him back. Because she doesn't want this to be the sum of them anymore. She doesn't want to get so close and have it amount to nothing.
She uses bold words – stronger and braver than she's ever been and he's powerless but to close the space between them (the very last space between them), bringing his lips up against her own.
They'll make promises and agreements and so many things.
And then they'll go out to fight a war.
A storm approaches. It is still over the horizon, but there is lightning in the air. Are either of them aware of the gathering turbulence? Can they feel the crackle of electricity in the wind, or are they aware of only the power that they generate between themselves?
His apartment is dark when she finally gets in.
It's late and she knows it's her own fault, but the appeal of a possible Incan warrior was not something she found particularly easy to deny. Some things never change.
But she's here, now. She said she'd be here, and now some time well after midnight, she is twisting the deadbolt and hooking the chain back into place over his door.
(They've yet to actually spend a night apart. Not since they've started doing this.
It almost seems given that she'd come home here eventually.)
She slides her shoes off at the door and shuffles through to the bedroom. Equal parts of her hope that he is awake and that he is asleep – she'll feel bad if he's stayed up just for her, but at the same time, a slightly unfamiliar side of her wants the chance just to say goodnight. He's already shown her this simple act can be rather enjoyable.
And though she steps over the doorframe to the even rise and fall of his chest – feeling just a little disappointed – her cooler body sliding in beside his causes him to stir. She should've known that he's a light sleeper and that years of Government-instilled vigilance would not slip away in an evening.
(This is still new though. She's still getting used to being here and doing this, so little details like this still catch her from time to time.
She finds she is pleasantly surprised by each of these new facts she can consider learned.)
"Bones?" His voice is gravelly from sleep.
His arms are already closing in toward and around her, even though he sounds a little surprised. Like her, she knows he still can't always believe that this is the way things are now.
"Mm, you're late tonight."
She burrows further into his warmth. "I was at the lab."
He sidles that little bit closer – still only half asleep and only half cognizant of what he's doing – but electricity arcs between them when he presses his mouth to hers. As she responds in kind, her tongue darting out to trace the seam of his lips, he's suddenly awake and the sheets tangle around them as he rolls her below him where they lie.
And like that, they begin.
They still haven't learned to control it yet, this thing that exists between them. It's been a few weeks, but every time they get even a little bit close things seem to spiral so readily out of control.
(She still hasn't decided whether or not she wants it to stay this way.)
It's not long before her top is half way across the room and his boxers have been kicked somewhere off the bottom of the bed and they're still tossing and turning across the sheets as they each vie for some kind of dominance. His mouth is on her lips, then her neck, and then back on his lips again as though he can't decide where to devote all of his attention while her fingers trace mindless patterns across his back, teasing, enjoying.
He pulls away, barely long enough to break the frantic routine, and then he's moaning and she's moaning as he slides home his hand finding hers somewhere amidst the tangle.
Like everything else in these last few weeks, this has come so easily and they do it so well. His head rests in the crook of her neck, nipping and whispering, and they both know that it's more than just being quite compatible as she suggested once, trapped in an elevator – it's about understanding the other completely, about trusting and giving and finally accepting.
They cannot know in this moment (a perfect moment) what's to come when they'll roll out of bed together the next morning – they have no idea right here it's tomorrow that she'll begin to wonder about these changes she's seeing in herself, about that first night together….
A storm is approaching, but they can think of nothing else except this exceptional power and this electricity between them now.
"You know that glass of wine we share every night?"
"I have to stop that."
"Oh come on, Bren. Just because you have one glass of wine every night with your husband, doesn't mean you're an alcoholic."
"That's not why."
"…Yeah! You're pregnant?"
It's not the way she imagined telling him. Not now, and not almost three years ago.
(Because she did. She imagined it then – she wrote it then.
Even in a time when she'd vehemently insist that such a thing could never happen, she still took the time to describe in great detail how it was all meant to go.)
The occasion, the moment and his excited reassurances all get the better of her though and on a street corner the words come spilling into the space between them. Having turned it over in her mind for days (and years even), the way it unfolds still surprises her, her words tasting almost foreign and sounding unfamiliar to her ears.
I'm pregnant... You're the father.
It sounds kind of… wrong.
But then standing in front of her on the street he smiles that same smile – the one from her mind and from her book all those years ago – and right there none of her fears seem to matter because this part is right. This part feels exactly as it's meant to.
Then she's smiling, just like him, and laughing as his arms close in around her, pressing kisses across her forehead and down her face.
There's an excitement to his question that steals her breath (be it scientifically possible or not).
He stares at her (into her) for a moment before wrapping her in his arms again and he can't seem to stop telling her how happy he is.
She's written this moment and she's lived this moment.
And now she knows which she prefers.
People say you only live once, but people are as wrong about that as they are about everything.
After more than four months, it's almost like a dance.
She gets up first, he groans, complains and lingers for just a moment, but follows suit. Some mornings they'll share the hot water of their shower, but most of the time her rationality and a general desire to get to work on time dictates separate stints therein. There's usually a quick, shared breakfast at the countertop in her kitchen, with Booth taking it upon himself to encourage improved eating habits during her pregnancy. Though she's well aware of her body's needs during this time, some days she'll play along because this give-a-little take-a-little has always been how they work.
She knows that now.
On days when they have a case they'll often leave together – though she's slightly reduced her responsibilities, he's not yet been able to convince her to stay out of the field entirely – the rest of the time, they leave separately. Standing at their door he kisses her quickly, before settling his hands over her only-just-visible bump and gently extending his goodbye to 'Baby B'.
The first time she hears this term, Brennan shoots him a slightly bemused look. He just smiles, pointing at himself ("Booth," he explains, putting special emphasis on the first letter), then at her (adding, "Bones"), finally running his hand across her abdomen and so naming it "Baby B."
And every time she hears it, something in her mind seems to shake loose – a kind of familiarity with the term that she can never quite place. It's not something that she spends too much time worrying about because after all, Booth seems to have a particular affinity for naming things in such a manner, and she's almost sure it has something to do with that.
It wouldn't be logical to spend her time wondering over Booth's nickname for their child.
(She has to tell herself this sometimes because like everything with the baby, logical isn't always as easy as it used to be.)
She's almost sure, after all.
It comes to her on a Thursday afternoon, hovering over a skeleton on the Jeffersonian's forensics platform.
The scapula in her hand slams into the bench before her with slightly too much force.
She knows where to find it.
She's always kept all the files and folders on her laptop ordered in a very structured manner, but this particular document takes a little bit extra digging.
(Still, she knows where to find it.)
And sitting there at her desk, she gets lost in a world of Booth and Bren, of Mr & Mrs B and nightclubs and babies and happiness.
When you love someone, you open yourself up to suffering. That's the sad truth. Maybe they'll break your heart, maybe you'll break their heart and never be able to look at yourself in the same way. Those are the risks. The thought of losing so much control over personal happiness is unbearable. That's the burden. Like wings, they have weight, we feel that weight on our backs, but they are a burden that lifts us. Burdens which allow us to fly.
When he gets in a few nights later, he's surprised to find her sitting at the table, hammering away at her laptop keys with a determined look settled across her face. She doesn't look up as his jacket is cast off onto their couch, or when he steps around her into the main kitchen area.
Pressing a quick kiss to her crown as he passes, Booth asks, "You're writing?"
Her eyes remained fixed on the screen, but she at least nods to acknowledge his question. "Almost finished."
"Oh yeah? What've you got us up to tonight?"
(It's a game they play. Booth uses dubious pronouns to try and trick Brennan into conceding her books are about them. Brennan never falls for it.
Until she does.)
"…It's not Kathy and Andy this time."
But instead of feeling a little victorious that Brennan's response could almost certainly be argued as a slip (a debate that would no doubt extend into some infinite time frame, with equally valid points made on both sides never enough to get them to some middle ground) he gets caught by the almost deer-in-headlights expression that seems to have found it's place across her features.
He watches her for a moment.
She hesitates. Then seems to decide on, "Yes."
"Because you're looking a bit worried there." He tries not to make it sound like a big deal.
For a long moment they measure each other, before she eventually, carefully explains, "It's the story from your coma dream."
The revelation kind of falls out into the space between them and for a long time he doesn't know what to say.
The coma dream – the life that tortured him for so many months – the symbol for far too long of everything he could never have.
He's not really sure how to respond.
"I…. I thought you deleted it."
She tips her head. "I deleted a lot of it, I didn't like the ending." She waits for a moment before adding, "It was… easier letting everyone believe it was gone."
"But it wasn't?"
He can't really get to grips with what he's thinking. This is a story from a time he wouldn't care to revisit, about a life to which he'd always aspired.
A story about them, together, that she couldn't bring herself to let go of.
Somewhere amidst the jumble of thoughts in his head, her comment from just a few moments before comes back to him, his gut twisting at the implication. "You said you didn't like the ending?"
(The ending where Bren tells her husband that she's pregnant, before they both go on to live happily ever after.
It sounds a little too familiar for him not to be worried about what it all means.)
She dips her laptop screen and comes to stand squarely before him. She's struggling a little with her words, this he can tell, but he needs to give her this space – he needs to hear what she has to say. "I wrote it a long time ago. I wrote it when I thought that love meant that you had to truly be weak.… I was…trying to appreciate the concept of love, but I still thought of it primarily as a burden."
"And now you don't?" His question is low and rough.
She gathers her breath, her courage. "No."
And like that first night in his bedroom, she falls into him and they fall together and in a moment they become this single life, standing together.
(A single life, shared.)
Without thinking very clearly about it, his arms wrap around her, and she curls herself into his chest. Her words are muffled by his dress shirt as she explains, "I can accept now that my story was a form of fantasy – watching you in the coma was… very difficult and imagining that life was one way in which I was able to cope. But I don't need to imagine it any more… I have a life like that, a good life. I wanted to go back and make the story right."
"You're right Bones. That book was a dream," he can't help but laugh gently, "the dream, back then. But nothing can be better than what we have now. You know that, don't you?"
She just nods into his chest.
"Right up until you told me we were having this baby, that story was always the life I wanted more than anything – it didn't matter who I was with or where I was, that was it, y'know?"
Brennan doesn't respond. She so rarely gets to hear him talk about these things, about who they were before they were parents and partners (the kind that share a bed, as opposed to the people that they become at work during the daytime.)
"Hey, hey, Bones. I've screwed up before – a lot – we've both made mistakes but now we're here and we have this, Bones, none of that matters any more. None of that matters because I am living the life I want to live right here and I can't imagine ever wanting it to be different. I don't even want the dream now Bones, I want this."
It takes her a long moment. She's come far since her days sitting at his bedside in that hospital, but sometimes, it still takes her a little bit longer to come to grips with these things, with Booth's generous, enormous concept of love.
She's learning though. And every day it gets a little easier.
"I'm happy too, Booth. I'm really happy."
She's written this life and she's lived this life.
And now she knows which she prefers.
Her book is released to critical acclaim and to a few million Americans all clamoring for one of the copies that never stays on the shelf for long.
Everyone she meets seems to have a different part they enjoy the most – Angela finds a certain spark to the bedroom scenes that she takes every opportunity to tease Booth about, Hodgins loves the element of conspiracy that seems to ride under the mystery and Cam warms to the familiar wit of the sassy female detective that both touches her and makes her laugh.
Brennan likes the ending – the way that the hero and heroine can find a happiness that feels real, attainable and so much less heavy than the words she wrote all those years ago. She likes that it no longer reminds her of what she can't and won't have, but instead is a whole journey of possibility that she still has plenty of time to explore.
But Booth's favorite part is the dedications page, where a million books in a million homes will forever be inked with the promise,
For Booth and Baby B, who will never be burdens.
A/N: As usual, your feedback on this is incredibly appreciated. Not only do I have numerous finals and my thesis due date coming up, but this was my gateway smut fic, so ha, if you want it to continue, you'll need to say horribly encouraging things ;)
Fear not, those of you still waiting on my Flaps Its Wings follow up - I have an outline that became freakishly relevant after the finale that is just waiting to be written. I'm going to hold off until uni calms down a bit, and provided you're all still on board, I shall be back with a post-finale, post-FIW piece (yeah, both, cause I'm a rebel like that) - do let me know if that sounds interesting :)
Also, I got twitter a little while ago, followed about 10 people and promptly gave up. I would very much welcome you all to come follow me (eitoph), please and thank you. It's locked for RL concerns, but if you drop a request, I'm always up for a chat! I respond well to nagging about fic, so it might just be a good way to get me off my butt.