Author's Note: I know you probably thought I'd completely forgotten about this story, but have no fear. It will be finished, eventually. It's just slow going at the moment.
Later that evening, Booth arrived at the Jeffersonian to find Bones and drag her home, but she wasn't in her office. He headed to Angela's office and stuck his head in.
"Ange, do you know where Bones is?"
She looked stricken. "She isn't with you?"
"What? No, I was supposed to pick her up, but she's not in her office. Maybe she's in bone storage?"
"She left, Booth." She looked at her watch, "A little before five. I just assumed that she was meeting you."
Booth didn't even respond. He turned and headed for the parking garage. On his way to her apartment, he called her cell phone three times. Every time it went to voicemail.
The third time was just as he pulled up in front of her building. Her lights were on. She was home.
He was at a loss. His instinct was to confront her. Ask her what the hell was going on and refuse to leave without an explanation.
But he knew Bones better than anyone and the quickest way initiate a complete shutdown was to try and force answers out of her. He sat in his SUV by the curb in front of her apartment for almost half an hour, talking himself out of going up and knocking on her door.
He knew that the right thing to do was to go home and wait for her to come to him, but he wasn't sure if he could face an empty apartment right now. You trust her not to run, he reminded himself. Give her the chance to come to you. He wasn't playing hard to get, just giving her the opportunity to meet him halfway.
Despite the gnawing feeling in his gut, he pulled away from the curb and headed to a little dive he hadn't frequented in years. He sat at the bar, the blank screen of his cell phone mocking him, for nearly three hours, nursing a beer and shredding paper napkins into confetti.
At nine o'clock, he finally gave it up and decided to go home.
As he entered his apartment, he sighed and started stripping, headed for the shower. By the time he reached his bedroom, he was wearing only his boxers and socks.
He stopped short at the sight of a figure tangled in his sheets. "Bones," he whispered to himself. "Oh, baby."
It wasn't even nine-thirty, but she was curled on her side, deeply asleep.
In his bed.
Why didn't she call? he wondered.
Forgoing the shower, he shucked his socks and climbed into bed, wrapping himself around her. She curled into him and sighed in her sleep.
He tried to relax, but his mind wouldn't shut off.
Finally, the steady rhythm of her breathing lulled him into a fitful sleep.
Booth was running down an endless hallway. He could hear Bones calling him, crying out in pain, but there were no doors to either side of the corridor. Thighs burning, gasping for air, he just kept trying to run faster. It sounded like she was screaming right in his ear.
He sat bolt upright in bed, covered in a sheen of sweat. Bones was whimpering his name in her sleep. Collapsing next to her in relief, he pulled her into his arms and threw one leg over her hip, pressing himself against her. He rubbed her back in lazy circles and whispered her name softly.
"Shhh. Just…lie here with me a while." She buried her face in his neck, and they lay quietly pretzeled together.
Finally, Booth spoke up. "I'm sorry, Bones. I shouldn't have said anything this morning about your testimony, I—"
Brennan placed a finger on his lips. "It's fine, Booth. You don't have to apologize."
He didn't answer right away, considering her words, trying to figure out what the problem was if she wasn't mad at him for butting in this morning.
"I'm not angry with you, Booth. I was irritated this morning, but…you were right."
"Well, then…what was going on today?"
"I was being irrational. I should have just talked to you, but…"
"Irrational about what? Please, give me something here, Bones."
She reached over and turned on his bedside lamp, flooding the room with light. "Are you hungry?"
"I—yeah, I guess."
"Come on. I'll make some eggs."
"Bones, it's midnight."
"I didn't have dinner. I suspect you didn't either."
He looked at her worriedly.
"I'm not avoiding the subject, Booth. I'm just hungry. We can talk while we eat."
He nodded reluctantly. "I'm gonna take a quick shower. I feel grimy."
She pulled on his hand to help him up and cupped his face with her hands. She just looked into his eyes for a moment, then kissed him softly. "I missed you tonight."
He swallowed hard, feeling lost and confused. "I was worried about you."
"I know. Go. Shower." She kissed him once more before placing her hands on his shoulders, turning him towards the bathroom and patting him on the bottom.
Booth stepped under the spray feeling disoriented. He felt like he had emotional whiplash. He wasn't sure what to make of Bones' behavior just now. It was such a contrast to the way she'd acted that afternoon, when she'd been physically open but emotionally shut down.
Since they'd started this, he'd been certain they could make it work. Hell, they already knew each more about each other, more of each other than either of them had shared with anyone…well, ever.
But the tiniest seed of doubt was starting to work its way into him. Maybe they were both just too damaged, carrying too much baggage, to have a healthy, successful relationship.
He lathered his hair and considered what would happen if they couldn't make this work. After having slept wrapped around her, after watching her come apart underneath him, after hearing his name trip from her lips in that husky groan…
No. He refused to even entertain the possibility. They would make this work. She'd ruined him for anyone else now.
Besides, she'd come here. He almost couldn't believe his eyes when he'd come home to find her in his bed, her frame swallowed by one of his old, worn t-shirts.
After rinsing off the soap, he stood under the scalding spray for a few minutes, until his skin was lobster red and the air was so thick with steam he felt like he was breathing through wet cotton.
Brennan was buttering toast and scrambling eggs when Booth emerged from the bedroom, wearing a pair of soft flannel pants, his wet hair sticking up in random spikes.
She was standing in front of the stove, barefoot, clad only in his faded t-shirt that hit her mid-thigh. She was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen.
The smell of the food made Booth realize that he was ravenous. But before he could eat, he needed some answers.
He wanted to fold her in his arms and kiss her neck, but he was waiting for a hint from her on how to proceed. She turned and smiled at him shyly, handing him a cup of hot chocolate.
"I thought coffee would be a bad idea if we're going to get any more sleep tonight."
He nodded mutely, searching her face for a clue as to what she was thinking.
Brennan read the wariness in his eyes and cursed herself for behaving so irrationally. The entire time she'd been so distant she'd known she should just talk to him, but the words wouldn't form. She needed to process internally first.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him closer. He pinned her against the counter, hands at her waist, and held her gaze. When she didn't speak, he took half a step back and boosted her onto the counter, positioning his hips between her knees.
"Tell me," he whispered.
She winced at the pain in his voice. "I'm afraid."
He dropped his head to her shoulder, because looking into her eyes was tearing him up inside. "Of me? I swear, Bones, I—"
She gently lifted his face and forced him to meet her eyes. "Booth. You know better than that." She fed him a bite of scrambled egg from the pan. "I'm afraid that my presence in the field might put you at greater risk."
"You—what?" He tried to step back, but she tightened her legs around his hips.
She finished chewing her bite of toast and said, "This morning, when you advised me about my testimony, it forced me to consider our partnership and how it might be affected by the…new developments in our personal relationship. I'm concerned that I may be a liability to you in the field."
He knew what it must have cost her to admit that. Honestly, it was something that he had considered, too. Years ago, when he'd realized how much he cared about her. That he'd do anything—anything—to keep her safe. Hell, he'd already risked his life and his career for her. And though he was tempted by the thought of her safely ensconced in the lab, he knew she wouldn't really be satisfied. He didn't want her to resent him later.
He spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. "If you want to stay in the lab most of the time—if you think that's what's best—then I won't fight you on it. But, Bones, the fact that we're together now is not going to change my behavior in the field." She fed him another bite, and he sucked her fingers into his mouth, eliciting a gasp of surprise. He smiled smugly, and continued, "I've been in love with you for years. I couldn't possibly feel more protective of you now than I already did. And hey, if you're in the lab, then who's got my back?"
She frowned slightly. "I hadn't considered that."
He leaned forward and kissed her neck, his hands skating up her thighs and underneath the t-shirt she was wearing. "Which is why you should just talk to me instead of—oh, baby, you are naked under here." His tone was light, but his eyes had gone so dark that a delicious shiver ran down her spine.
His hands were roaming all over her now, and she was writhing against him in response.
"Maybe we should just…eat later," she panted in his ear.
"Mmmmm-hmmm," he murmured against her collarbone.
She grabbed the hem of the shirt to pull it off, but he stopped her. "Leave it on," he rasped as he shed his flannel pants.
"Yeah?" she asked with an arched brow.
"Oh yeah," he groaned.