I was inspired by a trip down the children's bedding aisles of Target. The nightlights started my wheels turning and this is what came out.
Thanks to Sunsetdreamer for the beta work, but mostly for the fangirly squeeing she put in my inbox. Go read her her stories. You will thank me later.
The Fear in the Dark
When you are a child the dark is scary. You ask for a nightlight and for your door to be left open. You ask for monster checks under your bed and in the closet. Sometimes you even ask for the hall light to be left on or you pull the blankets up past your nose. You take comfort in the quiet sound of your parents' voices and in background noises like the droning of the television or the gentle hum and swish of the dishwasher. And when all those things aren't enough to stave off the overwhelming certainty that something is coming to get you, the one thing that never fails to bring comfort is having someone you love, the person who loves you the most, lay beside you in the dark. It's two against the monsters now and together you are safe from the scariness of the unknown. That security makes you immune from the fright. It's the earliest version of safety in numbers. Together nothing can touch you.
As you grow, when you reach that place where you are not really a child, but certainly not an adult, you become less afraid of the dark. You sleep without the nightlight; you don't need monster checks anymore. It may be because you have begun to understand the evils of the real world. You've started to realize that monsters don't live in your closet or in the dusty darkness of underneath your bed. You now know that there are good guys and bad guys and it's not always easy to tell which is which. But the real world is scary, too, so, though you slam your door and beg for privacy in the daylight, at night, you still prefer to leave it cracked just a bit. You still like to hear the sounds that made you feel better as a small child, because they bring you comfort now, too. On the days when the real world has hit you hard, when your heart has been hurt, or your worries are overwhelming, you crack that door open just a bit more and the person who loves you most knows what this means. They come into the darkness and in the safety of their presence you confess your fears and just like when you were small, it becomes a matter of two against the fear and it doesn't seem so insurmountable anymore.
When you are an adult, the dark is a different kind of tricky. Now you do know exactly what kind of trouble lurks in the world and though you know it's not under your bed or in your closet, danger and upset do sometimes seem to be imminent. Worries and fears that are manageable during the day are so much worse at night. They crawl into your brain and fester. They grow and spread and not only does sleep become impossible, but so does thinking of anything else. You understand that while sharing them might make you feel better it will also cause the person you share with to worry. When you are small that is an unconsidered side effect. When you are an adult you prefer to spare the person you love most, the person who loves you, any pain or worry of their own. So you keep it in and toss and turn and try your best to remember that in the daylight, it won't seem as bad.
Nights are endlessly long, though, when you have fears and worries and sometimes, now, the darkness can make you brave. You feel a little bit safe in the night, knowing your features can't be read, or your expressions analyzed and you consider what will happen if you wake your love and confess it all, rather than waiting for your love to come to you, like you did when you were young. You won't be able to see the reaction to your words and there is comfort in knowing you won't be able to see judgment, if there is any. Certainly that has its own appeal. And you know that the while daylight will make your fears seem less terrible, it will also show the person you love, the one who loves you back, the exhaustion on your face or the fear in your eyes and then you will have to confess in the light. Somehow things spoken into the day seem so much worse than when they are shared under the security of darkness. In the darkness if feels like the two of you against the problems. In daylight the outside factors are much more noticeable.
This is the place that Temperance Brennan is now; that place where she can decide to hold it in and perhaps answer for it later or wake her partner and confess her fears in the night. Part of her wants desperately to tell him. After all they've been through to get to this point in their relationship she is usually open to sharing with him. He nearly always seems to know how to provide the reassurance that she needs. But she doesn't want him to worry, because while sharing might ease her fears, the last thing she ever wants is to increase his.
This is part of what stops her. She does not want to cause him undue stress with her concerns. He has a son, a demanding job, an aging grandfather…he does not need her to compound those stresses. In addition to not wanting him to worry, she was self reliant for so long that there is that tiny part of her that does not want to admit she needs anyone, not even him. Not even in the dark.
But she does. Secretly, she knows that she does.
So lying there, in their bed, in their apartment next to her partner, she opens her mouth to speak his name, to wake him and let him help her feel better.
And once again, like so many times before, he beats her to the conversation.
"You okay, Bones?" His voice is soft and gentle in the dark and not as sleep laden as she would have expected.
She scoots into him and lays her head on his chest and he immediately wraps his arms around her. "No." She says and already she feels the burden of her worries begin to lift.
"I find that I am…afraid."
"Afraid of what?"
"Everything." That seems accurate and true to nighttime worries.
"That's very vague and unscientific of you, Bones. I'm gonna need a better explanation if I'm going to help."
"I'm not sure you can help." She says, admitting the other thing she is afraid of. What if he can't make her feel better? Then what?
"Tell me anyway." He answers simply.
So she does. She tells him that she is afraid their child will have enough of her to be socially awkward, but enough of him that she'll be aware of her awkwardness and that she'll hurt because of it. She explains that she's worried that their daughter won't make friends easily, if at all. She fears their little girl won't be invited to birthday parties and that even if she is, she'll say or do the wrong thing, not realizing it's the wrong thing, because that's what she does, too. She explains that she fears the other mothers won't like her and won't allow their children to play with their daughter because of it. She's afraid that her daughter won't know how to navigate her own social world and that she won't have any idea how to help her. She is afraid that their child's only playmate will be Michael Hodgins because his parents will make him. She's afraid she will be the root cause of their baby's crushed heart. And she's afraid she won't be able to fix it.
He is quiet as she speaks, as it all tumbles out into the darkness. It very nearly all comes out in a single breath, as if saying it that way makes these things less of a possibility. But he listens, he listens very carefully, rubbing her back in wordless comfort.
And when she is finished what he says surprises her.
"What brought this on, Bones?"
And that is when she realizes, once again, that he really does know her best. That her anxieties, which she is never quick to admit, are almost always steeped in more than what she initially confesses to.
"The new intern…he made a joke today and I missed it. Angela explained it to me later."
"I just…I just didn't hear it. I was too literal. Again."
He cannot pretend she is not too literal because sometimes she is. He cannot pretend the new intern is an idiot because he is not. So he tells her the truth.
"Who cares about some intern and his stupid joke?"
"You are not making any sense."
"You care that you missed it. You care that Angela had to explain it to you. You care that our daughter might inherit that trait. You care that you might not be able to help her out with that kind of stuff. You care that you might hold her back, which, by the way, you won't. That's a lot of caring, Bones. All that means is that our kid is loved. And I just don't see how you can go wrong that way. The other stuff? The jokes and the other moms and the birthday parties…that's just extra. You love her. That's what counts."
"But I want her to have the extras."
"How do you know?"
"I just do."
"Don't you worry she'll be like me?"
"Beautiful with brains and a big heart? Of course. I pray for it every day."
She chooses to believe him, to let his words reassure her and not to argue the point. She comes to the conclusion that their baby will be half Booth and he does get the jokes and people do like him. Perhaps their daughter will be like him. Or a solid, stellar combination of them both. Suddenly it's not even a matter of choosing to believe him. She simply just believes him.
And that's the great thing about the darkness. Because just like when you are small, the proverbial monsters are so much easier to beat back when you share the fear with the person you love the most, the person who loves you equally in return. The answers don't always have to make sense in the light of day; they don't even have to be real answers. But in the safety of darkness, under the moonless sky of stars, you don't need all the answers. You just need to feel like you aren't facing the fears alone. You just need to feel the safety in numbers.
Just the togetherness is enough.