Author's Note: …And summer boredom for the English Lit. major strikes again. It's been a while since I've actually posted anything - I've really been trying to have some integrity and work on my own original stuff. I guess I can summarize what happened here in one word: Oops. For those of you who are familiar with my Twilight fanfic, Fireworks, such an epic began just this way. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but we'll see where this goes…
P.S. This story takes place in Season 6, post-Hannah but pre-6X22. Enjoy!
CHAPTER 1: NOTHING EXCITING
Temprance Brennan lay alone in her bed in the dark, asleep for all intents and purposes, though her senses remained highly tuned to the goings on around her – an irrevocable result of six years working in close acquaintance with the FBI. Even prior to this rather unorthodox cornerstone in her career she'd never really considered herself to be a heavy sleeper. She'd done too much travelling and gotten herself into too much trouble not to know better than to ever completely let her guard down anymore. Perhaps it was for this reason – or maybe because something inside of her, something intrinsically linked to intuition or the divine, had been unexpectedly stimulated, though she was more likely to attest to the former – that her consciousness stirred even before her ears caught the subtle click of her front door unlocking.
Her blue eyes opened a sliver in the darkness and she blinked once, giving her retinas a moment to adjust before she moved. She heard the subtle creak of the door being opened, the whisper of someone's careful footsteps as they proceeded down the hall into her living room without turning on any lights. Experience and highly adept anthropological training led her to deduce such footsteps belonged to a male, either tall and muscled or short and heavy-set; assuming the assailant wasn't taking deliberately long and slow strides, she could conclude that tallness was the more likely explanation.
Silently opening the drawer in her nightstand, she reached in and retrieved the .357 revolver she'd acquired for such foreseeable occasions , and ghosted soundlessly out from under her sheets, her bare feet skating over the hardwood floor as though they belonged to a bird and not a five-foot-nine, hundred-and-forty-pound scientist. Keeping her back trained to the wall, the bare skin of her shoulders tingling as it came in contact with the cool, dry paint of her hallway around the spaghetti straps of her nightgown, the gun poised in both hands at her waist, she sidled slowly down the length of the corridor behind her intruder, working all the while to keep her breathing in check – deep, quiet, regular intakes that would keep her heart rate down and controlled exhales that would be undetectable to anything short of superhuman hearing.
She took one more step and she'd reached the end of the hall. She could see him now, a dark outline standing motionless in the center of her living room, as though appraising the setting with a relishing air. Confident, and suppressing all irrational pin-pricks of fear she might have felt, she raised the gun to his back. If it hadn't been for the delicate click of the hammer being cocked in the darkness, he never would have been alerted to her presence at all. Almost instantaneously she saw the muscles in his back tighten and he froze, raising both hands to shoulder-height in a non-threatening motion. "Don't shoot," beseeched a velvety, slightly tense voice that immediately disarmed her in all ways ranging from emotional to physical – the only voice which had ever outwitted her in conversational combat.
He turned and she launched herself at him, pitching the cocked revolver across the room as she felt a surge of elation thrill through her body, converting the adrenaline into excitement.
"Whoa! Bones!" He caught her as she threw her arms around his neck, shielding and embracing her at the same time as the gun landed with a metallic thunk against the baseboard of the adjacent wall. He'd closed his eyes in that split second of uncertainty, squeezing them tightly shut, as he tended to do, against the possibility that he might, once again, about to be blasted into oblivion. She raised her chin over his shoulder, mistakenly reading the way he was crushing her against him as one of his strange ways of showing affection.
"When did you get back from Israel?" She demanded, pulling away just enough to hold him at arm's length, grasped securely by the upper arms between her hands. He had even more protuberant bicep and brachialis capacity than he had six months ago….
"About an hour ago," he replied, prompting from her that disapproving tilt of her head and reproachful fix of her gaze that used to so easily render him – a trained interrogator – into abashed silence. "I thought I would surprise you." He offered up the winning half-smile that had salvaged him so many times in the past in the feeble hope that, for once, it would work on her. Brennan merely looked provoked.
"At five in the morning?" She challenged. "By breaking into my apartment?"
He tried the smile again. "Just like old times, huh?" He raised both arms in the air in a dramatic flourish of revelation. "Surprise!"
She shot a pointed glance toward the front door as she turned and flicked on the light. "Did you pick my lock?"
Suddenly Booth sobered. "Who gave you a gun!" He questioned fervently, evading the question. At this Brennan looked slightly affronted.
"I've always had a gun," she informed him matter-of-factly, as though he had asked when she'd started wearing contacts.
A humourless smirk eclipsed Booth's features. "Well you really shouldn't," he remarked a bit shortly as he shouldered past her to retrieve the weapon from where it had landed, wedged between the floor and the wall, having blessedly not been discharged.
Brennan followed his motions with her gaze, pivoting sharply on one bare heel as he moved around her. "What's that supposed to mean?" She retorted, irredeemably vexed.
"It means," Booth countered, grunting slightly as he straightened from picking up the gun, "that you've shot people before. Me included." He emptied the chamber into his palm and pointed the diffused barrel at her emphatically. His smooth voice grew suddenly serious. "You should know better than to throw a loaded firearm across the room." He said this in a tone which almost inferred he was speaking to an eight-year-old, rendering Brennan momentarily into silence. She found she considered the relationship they shared to be relatively unconventional in this way; sometimes he would behave toward her as though she were his superior in every conceivable way, infinitely more intelligent and able to equal, if not supersede, his formidability in a potentially hazardous situation, and others he would treat her as though she were something that needed protecting, virtually infantile in her helplessness to take care of herself. She briefly considered disputing this tendency of his, but then decided under the circumstances it might be best to simply alter tactics.
"So did you catch a terrorist?" She inquired instead, her piercing eyes widening in genuine interest.
Booth grimaced in obvious discontent, like some carnivorous hunter that had just been denied a meal. "No," he groaned, avoiding her gaze while he played with various parts of the .357 she'd nearly killed him with between his hands. "The FBI thinks there probably never was a terrorist." He shrugged as though this mattered little to him, though Brennan knew him far too well to ever believe it. "When we get calls like that a lot of the time it's just a false alarm – someone cried wolf or something to that effect, or they think…" he shrugged again, reluctant to continue.
"What?" Brennan prompted after a moment.
"They think…it…could have been a diversion of some kind." His deep brown eyes came up to meet hers as he said this, quietly gauging her reaction as he struggled to keep his voice casual. Her expression was unreadable.
"A diversion?" She parroted, the clear plane of her brow furrowing in the way Booth had come to perceive as apprehension. It was the way she sometimes looked when an unexpected twist came up in a case, steering the answer in a direction she didn't want it to go.
"Yeah," Booth replied, noting the way she seemed to swallow this information with a bit of resistance, as though it were bigger than it looked. "You know, to get a certain agent or two out of the way for a while so someone can pull something here in the U.S." He took the sudden look of alarm that hijacked her features then to mean that she, like him, was feeling a patriotic concern for her own country. "But nothing happened, right?" He reassured her, quickly backpedalling to diffuse the panic he could see building behind her eyes. "We're back. I'm back and all is right with the world."
Brennan was quiet for a moment, contemplative. She looked down at the fingernails of her left hand, which she was absently picking at with her right. "Yeah," she answered finally, her voice so quiet she might have been speaking solely to herself. "Everything's fine."
When he didn't say anything else she forced herself to look back up at him, levelling his gaze staunchly with her own. "I'm glad you're back, Booth," she told him, her low voice ringing with the sincerity of church bells.
He opened his mouth so say something in reply but before the words had a chance to arrange themselves on his tongue Brennan had rushed him again, the statement barely off her own lips as she buried her face in his shoulder, locking her deceptively strong arms around his waist this time. Timidly, he raised his own to encircle her bare shoulders, reminded of too many times before when she'd embraced him this way, like a child. A child that needed comforting.
"Hey," he crooned suddenly, his voice softening a bit under the influence of concern but still retaining a ghost of playfulness in case it turned out nothing was wrong, that he'd misread her, though that didn't happen often…. "Are you okay?" He coaxed her shoulders back just enough so he could look her in the face, his forehead still perilously close to hers. "What's with all the hugging?"
Brennan recoiled from him as though she'd received an electric shock, her bold features rearranging themselves instantly into a nonchalant grin. "Nothing," she assured him hastily, her breath thin and feathery like goose down. At the cynical raise of his eyebrows she tried again, taking care to infuse her voice with a considerable amount more substantiality. "Nothing, I'm fine. I just…" this time she was the one to shrug, "missed you. I missed the work we do together. That's all. You know how I find it stimulating."
At this Booth's shoulders and torso heaved once in a soundless laugh. "Yes you do," he granted with a shake of his head, the interworkings of whatever made Temprance Brennan tick remaining perpetually elusive to him.
"I just find it reassuring to have that habitual stimulation again," she persisted, speaking slowly, carefully.
A diminutive, unconvinced smile lifted the corners of Booth's mouth. "Mm." Then he decided on a better response; "So you're saying," he took a step closer to her, raising one hand thoughtfully, as though struggling to grasp a concept, "that you're addicted to me like a smoker is nicotine?" He arched one eyebrow impishly toward his hairline, that roguish half-smile lighting charmingly upon his lips again.
Brennan returned the smile in good humour, though it didn't even come close to reaching her eyes. "If that's the way you'd prefer to describe it," she allotted, leaning back from him before doing an abrupt one-eighty and making a bee-line for the kitchen.
Booth grinned and watched her go. "Oh, I would."
"Do you want something to drink?" She called over one shoulder, ignoring him. "Or would you prefer to just head home? I imagine you must be quite fatigued after a twelve-hour flight…"
"Nah," Booth dismissed the assumption with a nonchalant shrug, resisting the urge to let his head rest against his shoulder when it came close to his ear, his skull screaming for the supple support of a pillow. "I'm still a bit jet-lagged and with the time difference right now it's noon for me." He paused, stifling a yawn. "High-time for a drink."
Brennan was quiet as she reached up for the bottle on the top shelf of her cupboard and poured the contents into two scotch glasses, imparting just enough liquid to cover the bottom brim of each.
"So what about you?" Booth questioned casually from the other room, his voice lethargic as he collapsed onto the couch, working with both hands to rub the drowsiness from his face while her back was turned. "Anything exciting happen while I was gone? Get into any trouble?"
If he had been watching her he would have noticed the muscles in her back tense, her shoulders stiffening as she finished pouring the drinks, and took an excessive amount of time screwing the cap back onto the bottle. She opened her mouth to reply, but found her throat had gone unexpectedly dry. Reaching for one of the glasses, she raised it to her lips under the pretence of remedying this while at the same time stalling for time. Reluctantly, she thought back over the time they had spent apart, what she could possibly say to convey what had gone on in a way that wouldn't result in Booth's head exploding….
Four months earlier…
Blood poured from the deep puncture wound in her side, scarcely visible as it stained the maroon carpet of the apartment building's hallway, darkened under shadow of night. The units were quiet as she staggered past them, using both hands to dam the gaping hole in her abdomen while she squinted at the numbers on the doors she pitched her body weight against in turn, searching for the one she needed. Her vision was beginning to swim; reeling disks of angry red bloomed across her line of sight, creating the illusion that blood was pooling behind her eyes, also. She squeezed them shut for a moment against the sweat that was spilling from her forehead, the blinding pain in her stomach….
She knew it wouldn't be long before shock set in. She could already feel it beginning to take effect, depriving her blood cells of the oxygen they needed to maintain control over her body. Her limbs felt stiff, paralyzed, almost, as she struggled to move. Try as she might she couldn't straighten the crook in her elbow, disengage her right foot from the rigid set of her ankle joint. Her surroundings were rolling dizzyingly around her, making her nauseous and causing her to become disoriented in an effect not unlike that of alcohol. She was fighting to remain conscious.
She had only a little further to go. She was sure of it. She was close, now. She could make it. She had to keep going. Ignoring the sickening tang of blood in her mouth, she forced herself to swallow a few shallow, agonized breaths, then gathered herself for another surge of progress. She hurtled herself at the dark expanse of hallway, doing her utmost not to perceive it as an interminable tunnel, with no light visible to indicate an end. She had to clamber forward against the wall for support, long past being able to hold herself upright.
Then she found it. Stumbling to a halt, she peered at the number on the door as though it were a mirage, barely seeing it, scarcely daring to believe it. She took the most fleeting of moments to revisit her torturous journey here, verifying that she was in the right place, the right building, on the right floor. Then, deciding she could wait no longer, she exhausted what remained of her strength in one fierce, quick rap on the door, praying – not that she believed in the power of prayer to any extent – for it to be enough. She highly doubted she possessed the strength for a second attempt. Then she staggered back away from it and crumpled against the opposite wall, spent.
It seemed like an eternity before she finally heard the bass rhythm of footsteps behind the door, though she couldn't be certain that wasn't the thrum of her own pulse in her ears. God, it was like thunder….
A sliver of light bled out from the crack beneath the door moments before it opened, and she heard the music of a proverbial voice, husky with sleep; "Someone better be dying," it was saying as the face it belonged to appeared in the gap. "And I stress dying not dea-" The voice broke off as the two dark, almond shaped eyes landed on her broken form, sweeping transiently over the blood that was weeping from between her pallid fingers, the racing tide of her chest as she struggled to breathe , the no doubt ashen tone of her complexion before finally meeting her own pair of wide, beseeching eyes.
"Oh my God," Cam breathed in an almost inaudible voice, barely above a whisper. For an almost too-long moment she merely stood, rooted where she was by the shock, staring, and then her sense of accountability came flooding back to her in a trauma-crushing torrent and she sprang forward, hitching one of Brennan's arms around her neck before heaving her to her feet. Her friend and colleague let out a cry that made her cringe as though she herself had been subject to the physical pain. There was so much blood…her clothes were soaked with it. How she had managed to make it this far, even if she'd been wounded on the street right outside her building, Cam couldn't possibly fathom.
She deposited Brennan on the couch and leapt back from her, as though whatever she'd suffered was contagious, as though the burden of having to witness one of her best friends – one of her strongest friends – in this state like this now when she wasn't expecting it was going to cause the shock to set in for her, too. Already her blue bathrobe was purpled with blood.
"Dr. Brennan," she breathed, her voice sounding so thin Brennan thought it might break at any moment. "What…how did…?" the words caught in her throat as her eyes flickered from Brennan's tortured face to the gaping hole in her body. "What happened to you?" She managed finally, but the moment the words were out of her mouth she retracted them. Sucking in her breath as though she could physically swallow the question, she pivoted briskly on one heel and made a bee-line for the phone. "I'm calling an ambulance," she amended, her voice growing stronger with a sense of urgency. "We've got to get you to a hospital."
Brennan's voice was so frail that at first Cam couldn't be entirely certain she hadn't imagined it. "No," the word was virtually inaudible, a ghostly fingerprint in the air between them.
Cam rounded on her, the phone poised inches from one ear. "Excuse me?"
"No," Brennan repeated, her voice coming into focus. "No hospitals. That's what he'll be expecting. He'll be waiting for me –"
"Who?" Cam slammed the phone back down on its receiver, turning her full attention back to her friend. "Who did this to you?"
It took Brennan a few moments to answer. The oral stimulation of talking was helping her to stay conscious, but her breath was still coming in uncontrolled, shallow gasps. Even if she did manage to keep her cognizant mind functioning, she couldn't keep her body from succumbing to her injuries much longer. Soon the cell damage would cause her organs to start shutting down. She had to speak now. "It's Brodsky," she managed finally, the words sounding like motor oil as she choked them off her tongue.
"Brodsky," Cam parroted, working to swallow this information.
"He…" Brennan closed her eyes against the wave of pain and inhaled shakily. "He's trying to send a message to Booth. Something about…collateral damage." Her face crumpled again against the white-hot ache in her side and her sense of urgency redoubled. "I came because you're a doctor," she illuminated hastily, utilizing as few words as she possibly could to conserve energy. "I can't go to a hospital…he'll find me…he was trying to kill me…."
Cam's mouth fell open and she stared at her friend through an expression of blatant torture, her hands inching away from her sides in a gesture of helplessness. "Brennan, I may be a doctor," she allotted dubiously, "but I can only do so much to help you here. The extent of your injuries…" her eyes widened uncertainly as they strayed back to Brennan's blood-saturated shirt, "…I don't have an anaesthetic or an irrigation syringe or antibiotics –"
"Do you have rubbing alcohol and a sewing kit?" Brennan interrupted, her voice cutting.
Cam drew back, startled. "Yes."
"Then get moving."
It took Cam seconds to assemble what she needed. Experience told her that Dr. Brennan was very rarely – even under the most extreme of circumstances – irrational about her decisions. As much as her instincts as both a friend and professional physician were screaming for her to get Brennan to legitimate medical treatment, she knew that her reasons for being reluctant to do so must be thoroughly justified. If she asserted that Brodsky would be waiting for her at the nearest hospital, or maybe even watching multiple hospitals within the vicinity, to eradicate her, then Cam would bet her career on it that she was right. If she had the best chance of saving her life here than getting her the professional treatment she needed, then that was what she was going to do.
Organizing what scanty tools she had in the most systematic way that she could on the coffee table next to the couch, Cam lowered herself onto the cushions next to Brennan and carefully raised her shirt just above the line of her belly-button, exposing fully for the first time the jagged cavity in her skin, the rapidly-spreading crimson stain that was blooming across the porcelain plane of her stomach. "It's a knifing," she confirmed, more to herself than to Brennan, who was already fully aware of the way in which she'd been injured. Her voice was level, fighting for composure as she reached for the alcohol.
Brennan watched her pour and choked back the scream that seethed to her lips at the blistering sear that followed. Breathing heavily, she swallowed hard and rifled through her brain for a subject to distract her. "Where's Michelle?" She inquired, her head tilted back and her eyelids squeezed tightly shut over her oceanic eyes.
"Asleep," Cam replied absently, her own eyes focused and unblinking as she swabbed at the wound with a sterilized dish towel. "That girl could sleep through a hurricane crashing through her bedroom…" her voice trailed off momentarily and she switched out the towel for a pair of sewing shears. Suddenly she looked very disconcerted. "But I don't get it," she stated abruptly, nearly leaving Brennan conversationally in the dust as she switched gears. "Brodsky's a sniper. Why would he risk stabbing you at close range when he can simply pick you off from a distance with a high-power rifle?"
Brennan hardly looked offended by the question. "It wasn't Brodsky himself," she illuminated without missing a bit.
Cam chanced a brief glance up at her, her brow furrowing. "But you said –"
"He has an apprentice. A young soldier he's training to illegally take out bad guys in case Booth takes him in, I'm hypothesizing."
"That's right, Brodsky considers himself the supplement to the American government's justice deficiency," Cam reiterated to herself, musing as she turned back to the wound. "But then…why would he attack you? If he's only out to kill bad guys –"
"He's after Booth," Brennan clarified before Cam was finished. "He knows Booth is actively trying to take him in and he's got this…twisted personal score to settle. He's trying to get Booth to back off his case and now he's changing his tactics. He's going to go through the ones Booth…the ones he's close to, to try and deter him from persisting with his attempts to catch him."
At this, understanding dawned over Cam's features at the same time that a radiating beam of alarm did. "We've got to call Booth," she reasoned in a low, dangerous voice. "We've got to get him back here." Cam made another move for the phone but Brennan caught the sleeve of her bathroom and pulled her back onto the couch with a startling amount of force for someone who'd been stabbed in the stomach.
"No!" She yelped, so loudly that Cam fired a fleeting glance at Michelle's bedroom door. It remained stoic. "That's exactly what Brodsky wants! If Booth knew Brodsky was targeting others in his place he would hand himself over, walk right into Brodsky's trap." Brennan's gaze was suddenly severe, penetrating. "He can't know about this," she asserted, her own voice growing deep and trembling as the words shuddered their way off her tongue, tasting sour. The hand that had grasped Cam's robe was now clutching her wrist, so hard that Cam was certain she felt the bone bruise.
Cam stared at her for a long moment, unmoving, gauging the level of sanity behind her pain-maddened eyes. Finally, she couldn't help but come to the conclusion that Brennan was right, as usual, and as much as she hated to admit it. Booth, with almost unfailing reliability, played the hero even when he himself wasn't the reason people were being put in danger. He couldn't sit back and allow someone – even someone he wasn't close to – to be hurt if it could be stopped. It was in his nature. Brodsky knew that, and was conversely playing to Booth's weaknesses. This would ruin Booth….
Grudgingly, Cam returned to her work, probing at the wound with the scissors and doing her best to clean up the edges while simultaneously trying to keep Brennan's attention on anything but what she was doing. "You were lucky," she informed her conversationally, keeping her eyes on Brennan's abdomen. "The knife missed any major organs. As long as I can get this cleaned and closed and get your fluids replenished before you bleed out you should be just fine."
Wearily, Brennan's features contorted into what Cam could just barely discern as a wry smile. "Thanks," she replied, her tone a tightrope between heart-felt sincerity and sarcasm.
"No problem," Cam managed a miniscule smile in return. "So…he attacked you." It was more of a question than a statement, a probe for details.
Brennan nodded. "Yes, just outside the Jeffersonian," she confirmed. "I was on the way to my car -"
"And you got away?" Cam raised her eyebrows and looked up at Brennan admirably, though her friend's answering expression indicated this much should have been childishly obvious.
"Of course I got away." She looked almost offended that Cam had even had to ask. Regarding Brennan's features with what was almost a look of humour on her own, it was only then that Cam noticed the abrasions on her face – a shallow graze running from the crown of her forehead to her temple and a deep gash across her chin. There was a dusky shadow beneath one eyebrow that hinted at a guaranteed shiner in the morning, once the tissue had a chance to bruise. Cam had to resist the urge to produce a dark smile all over again. Brennan had never been one to go down without a fight.
"You know this isn't over," Cam declared, sobering suddenly. "If Brodsky knows he didn't successfully remove you from the picture tonight he'll keep trying. He'll come after you again and again until the job's finished."
For the first time since she'd arrived at Cam's apartment, Brennan looked genuinely afraid. "What should I do?" She beseeched, her voice growing small and her muscles going limp against the couch cushions, the intellectual fight going out of them.
"You've got to get a gun," Cam asserted, glancing up briefly from her work to level Brennan's gaze with her own. "Something to protect yourself when you're alone…"
"Booth says I shouldn't have a gun," Brennan disputed in a rational tone, shaking her head softly.
Cam resisted the urge to sigh in exasperation. "Well Booth isn't here is he?" She almost snapped in reply, and for the briefest of moments Brennan thought she detected the slightest inflection of blame in her voice. Cam returned her eyes to her friend's abdomen, pulling them out of reach of Brennan's probing gaze. "Under the circumstances I think he would understand," she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.
Brennan could think of no response to this. She half-sat half-lay, reclined on the couch in aggrieved silence while Cam finished cleaning the wound as best she could, constantly applying pressure as she deposited the scissors and soiled towels into a mixing bowl filled with sterilizing solution. Finally, she readied a needle and thread. Picking up a wooden curio of a Doric column miniature from her coffee table, she held it out to Brennan. "Here," she said. "Bite down on this." ***
Brennan lowered the glass from her lips, her voice coming out husky and viscous against the burn of the alcohol as she compiled her response. "No," she told Booth lightly. "Nothing exciting."