After a short break, I'm back with a new fic as promised. It's AU again, beginning with The Hole in the Heart this time, but as with my last fic I've only changed one detail: in this case, the outcome of Booth's sniper duel with Broadsky. Vincent is still dead, Angela is still pregnant with the (adorable) baby boy that we now know as Michael Staccato Vincent Hodgins, and as for Brennan, well you'll have to wait and see. ;)
Thanks as always to my wonderful beta, uscgal04, for helping me brainstorm ideas this fic and for finding a creative way to edit this chapter in spite of computer/Internet issues.
"Bones? Bones, wake up," Booth's voice said, pulling Brennan out of the peaceful oblivion that had finally washed over her just as the sun began to rise.
She groaned and burrowed deeper under the covers, fighting to stay asleep.
"Bones." This time he nudged her shoulder, shaking her gently. "Come on, sleepyhead, it's time for you to get up."
Brennan opened her eyes slowly. Booth was sitting on the edge of the mattress, dressed only in the sweatpants that he'd worn to bed the night before.
He grinned when he saw that his attempts to rouse her had been successful."Morning. I made you some coffee." He pointed to the dresser where he'd placed two steaming mugs, including the 'World's Greatest Dad' one that Parker had given him for Father's Day once, which she couldn't help finding endearing despite its ridiculously hyperbolic claim.
It wasn't until she sat up to accept it that she remembered that she was completely naked herself; that after more than seven years of making excuses, she was finally here in his bed like she'd so often fantasised about. Brennan had never been one for modesty where the human body was concerned, but she felt strangely shy now, arranging herself so that she was leaning back against the headboard, the sheet tucked firmly under her arms.
She took her coffee from him and sipped it, unsure of what to say now that it was done and there was no going back. It hadn't been her intention to sleep with him when she agreed to spend the night at his apartment and she doubted that this was what he'd had in mind either. What if he already regretted what had happened? What if he thought it was some kind of grief-induced mistake, never to be repeated?
"I'm sorry I had to wake you up when you only just got to sleep," he told her, sounding genuinely remorseful, "but I need to get over to the Hoover soon and I'd feel better if you'd let me drop you off at the lab on the way. The last thing I need today is to be worrying about whether you made it to work safely."
His protectiveness was nothing new, but still, she was touched by his concern. It was one of the things about him that she'd missed the most when they were on separate continents. "It's okay. I understand." She was relieved that he hadn't snuck out while she was asleep and left her to wake up alone, not that she really expected him to. He had always told her that having sex should mean something, and for the first time in her life, she felt like it did. Although if she was honest with herself, she wasn't sure what that was, exactly.
"Are you hungry?" he asked, a little too politely considering that he had been tangled up naked in bed with her only an hour before. She wondered if he felt as confused and overwhelmed as she did. "Because I could whip us up some breakfast. I think there're still some eggs in the fridge."
She shook her head firmly. "No." Her stomach was still too unsettled to eat. She didn't know if she would be able to keep anything down until Broadsky was somewhere where he couldn't hurt anyone else.
"Me either," he admitted."But maybe when I'm done with Broadsky, we can grab an early dinner together?"
His hopeful expression made her wonder if his desire to share a meal with her was about more than upholding their end-of-case ritual. In her experience, sex usually came with the expectation of a relationship of some kind, but were they really ready for that?
He was still waiting for an answer so she decided to ignore those niggling doubts and just focus on being here in the moment with him. "I would like that," she told him with a sincere smile.
She knew that she'd said the right thing when his face split into a broad grin. "It's a date."
The word caused her heart to beat faster like she was on the verge of a myocardial infarction. She watched his eyes dart down to her lips, and for a moment, she thought he was going to kiss her, but he stood up suddenly.
"You probably wanna take a shower," he told her, rubbing the back of his neck; she flushed at the memory of stroking the same spot as he kissed his way down her body, so reverently that she was afraid she would start crying again. "I'll see if I can find you a towel."
He turned to go, but she couldn't let him leave without acknowledging that something out of the ordinary had happened between them. "We had intercourse last night," she called after him.
She wasn't sure what convinced her to phrase it that way when she knew he hated that term. Whenever she'd slept with someone in the past, it had been about mutual gratification – satisfying an urge, scratching a metaphorical itch – but this time was different: desperate and raw, more need than want. She'd needed him to prove to her that what he said was true, that two objects really could occupy the same space, even if it was only for one night. Initiating a spontaneous sexual encounter with her partner without considering the potential consequences was the most out of control thing that she'd ever done and she wasn't one hundred per cent sure that she didn't regret it yet.
"I know, Bones, I was there," he reminded her, but she could see the amusement in his eyes.
"Shouldn't we talk about that?" she pressed. It felt strange to be the one instigating the discussion when she'd always done her best to avoid it before, both with him and all of the other men that she'd been romantically involved with.
He came back over to where she was sitting, perching on the edge of the bed. "Listen, Bones," he said, taking one of her hands in each of his and squeezing them gently. "I'm going after Broadsky today and I need to be able to do that with a clear head. But you're right, we should definitely talk about this, so do you think maybe you can hold that thought until tonight? Then I promise I'm all yours."
His phrasing wasn't lost on her, although it was possible that he'd only meant it as a figure of speech. "Thoughts are intangible, Booth," she pointed out, more out of habit than anything else.
"I didn't mean you should hold it literally. Just, you know, wait until then to say whatever it is that you're gonna say."
"You're asking me if I would mind deferring the conversation to a more suitable time?"she supplied.
"Is that okay?" He studied her face intently, as though he were trying to see past it into her mind.
"Yes, of course," she agreed. She needed him to have a clear head too. Losing him yesterday would have been hard, but the thought of losing him today before they had a chance to figure this out was devastating. "I can wait. Broadsky can't."
His relief was palpable, the tension between them dissipating as he cupped the side of her jaw in his palm. He smiled warmly and leant in, kissing her just like she'd wanted him to a few moments before. "You are amazing, Bones," he told her softly. "I swear I'm gonna make it up to you when all of this is over."
She didn't know what he was planning, but she was looking forward to finding out.
They took turns using the bathroom, and once they were both showered and dressed, he escorted her home so that she could change into a fresh outfit for work.
When they reached the Jeffersonian, he insisted on driving her right up to the staff entrance in the underground parking lot so that she only had to walk ten feet before she was inside the building.
For a moment they just sat there in silence while the engine idled.
Finally, staring down at her clasped hands, she began. "Booth…" She wanted to tell him how she felt in case she never got another chance but the words stuck in her throat.
"It's okay, Bones, I know. I'll be careful," he assured her. "But you need to be careful too, okay? Promise me you'll stay in the lab until someone calls and tells you its safe."
She nodded. "I promise," she agreed even though she wasn't sure that the lab was safe for them anymore. Just the thought of walking up onto the platform, stained red with Vincent's blood only the day before, made her shudder. It was one thing to visit a crime scene; another to have your work place turn into one. Maybe she'd stay in the bone room today.
"Make sure Cam and Angela and Hodgins do, too."
She nodded again. "We'll be fine, Booth. You need to focus on Broadsky. He deserves to be punished for what he did to Vincent and his other victims. You're the only one of us who can make sure that that happens."
He offered her a strained smile. "Wish me luck?"
"You're going to need more than luck," she insisted.
"Good thing I'm a kick ass sniper," he quipped.
She knew that he was trying to make her feel better by downplaying his own fear. She leant over the gearstick, winding her fingers around the back of his neck, and kissed him passionately, hoping that her actions would convey to him what her words could not.
"Wow, what was that for?" he asked when she released him.
His dopey grin brought a smile to her own face. "I find that I enjoy kissing you,"she admitted.
"I enjoy kissing you too, Bones." As if to demonstrate his point, he pulled her into another lingering kiss. Brennan had never been fond of public displays of affection, but for the first time that she could recall, she wasn't concerned about anyone seeing them.
He pulled away from her slowly, dropping one final peck on her lips as he did. "As much as I would love to stay and continue this, I really have to go," he told her ruefully. "But I'll see you tonight, okay?"
"Tonight," she agreed with more confidence than she felt. He had enough to worry about without adding her to that list as well. She opened her door and slid out. Then, steeling herself, she turned and walked inside, refusing to look back at him as he drove away.
Tonight, she repeated to herself like a mantra. She would see him tonight.
After he left, she tried to concentrate on examining the bones of the most recent victim in the hopes of discovering some information that might help him. It was all she could do to keep herself from picking up the phone and calling him every few minutes to make sure that he was still okay, or worse, hailing a cab and going after him. She felt like she finally understood what Rebecca must have been through back when he'd served as a Ranger. While she had faith in his exceptional skills both as an agent and a sniper, she knew that she wouldn't be able to fully relax until she saw him again and they could start putting this whole horrible chapter of their lives behind them.
She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn't even notice that she'd made the same observation to Angela twice in the space of an hour.
"Is this because of Vincent?" her friend wanted to know.
"Yes," she agreed. But that wasn't true. Vincent was only part of the reason for her inattention. "And… I got into bed with Booth last night."
She almost regretted her decision to confide in her friend when instead of offering up her opinion like she usually did, she just stood there gaping at her as though Brennan had just confessed to murdering the victim herself. "Why aren't you saying anything?"
"Because I don't want to say 'Hallelujah' so close to losing Vincent."
"I think I did it because of Vincent," Brennan admitted. If the Lauren Eames case hadn't already impressed upon her how short life was, then watching her favourite intern bleed out right in front of her certainly had.
It took Angela several attempts to formulate an intelligible sentence. "What exactly happened after you crawled into bed with Booth?" she pressed.
Brennan smiled at the memory, but before she could answer her friend's question, Hodgins unceremoniously interrupted them with what he claimed was a break in the case.
"Spill," was all her friend said once she'd managed to shoo him away. "And don't even think about pretending that you don't know what that means."
Angela listened with rapt attention while she recounted the events of the night before, from Booth's insistence that she stay with him, to the goodbye kisses they'd shared in his SUV before he went to capture Broadsky.
"What was it like?" Angela asked when she finished her story.
"It was like nothing I've ever experienced before, Ange." Somehow their first time making love together had been strange and comforting, new and familiar, all at the same time. Strange and new because they were finally stepping over the imaginary line that they'd drawn in the early days of their partnership, and familiar and comforting because, well, it was with Booth and they knew each other better than anyone else.
Angela hugged her as tightly as her swollen abdomen would allow. "I'm so happy for you, sweetie."
"Because I had sex?" Brennan asked, confused. It had been a long time; not since before that night by the reflecting pool when Booth begged her to give them chance. Since then she'd found it difficult to imagine being with anyone else, even after he'd almost crushed the fragile hope budding inside of her by telling her that he loved Hannah and that she wasn't a consolation prize. Regardless of what happened after today, it felt fitting that it was with Booth that she'd finally ended her self-imposed celibacy, as though it was him that she'd been waiting for all along.
"Because you had sex, with Booth," Angela corrected her. "What does this even mean? Are you two a couple now? Please tell me that you are."
Brennan considered the question, her mind wandering back to the only real conversation that they'd ever had on the subject, back when they were trapped in his elevator during the blizzard.
"I always assumed that we'd be very compatible. Didn't you?"
"Because we're both so physical."
"Right. The way we throw ourselves into a case."
"We both have excellent stamina. Making love would be quite satisfying."
"Yeah. But then what? I mean, as a couple, me and you would never…"
"No, it wouldn't work."
Based on his words, he expected her to agree, so she had, but was that really true? Then again, less than twelve hours had passed since they'd slept together and it was already affecting her ability to do her job.
"I don't know," Brennan admitted. She wouldn't until she talked to him about it tonight. "That depends on whether Booth survives his encounter with Broadsky." She tried to keep her voice matter of fact, like the possibility that he wouldn't wasn't something that she'd really considered, but she could tell by her friend's sympathetic expression that she wasn't fooled.
"He'll survive," Angela assured her. "Don't you worry about that."
"You don't know that," Brennan argued, dropping all pretence of calmness. Everyone that she'd ever loved had left her eventually. What reason did she have to think that Booth would be any different?
"Yeah, I do," her friend insisted.
Brennan wished that she could believe that with the same certainty. "How?"
"Because you gave him something worth living for," Angela explained. "He's wanted you practically from the moment he laid eyes on you, and now that he finally has you? He's not going to give that up without a fight."
Despite Angela's assurances that Booth would be fine, when Brennan's cell rang later that day, she pounced on it. "Brennan."
She wasn't the only one eager for news; a tense silent fell over the lounge as the rest of what Booth had affectionately termed the 'Squint Squad' waited impatiently for her to get off the phone.
"Temperance, it's Andrew."
The moment she heard Andrew Hacker's voice on the other end of the line Brennan knew that something was wrong. Not only did he sound grave, but it didn't make any sense for an assistant director of the FBI to call her with an update when he could have one of his subordinates like Agent Shaw do it.
Conscious that the others were listening in, she got up and walked away from the table. "Andrew, what happened? Is Booth okay?"
When she looked back over at the group, they were all watching her with expressions ranging from apprehension (Cam) to fear (Angela). She turned her back on them to try to give herself a modicum of privacy, and so that none of them would see the thin sheen of tears forming in her eyes as she waited for Hacker to fill her in on her partner's condition.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "Andrew, are you still there?" she asked, struggling to curtail her panic. The creeping sense of horror that she'd felt ever since Broadsky's bullet tore through the roof of her sanctuary and killed Vincent began to bubble to the surface again. "Where's Booth? Can I speak to him?"
He drew in a heavy breath, expelling it slowly. "Listen, Temperance, I'm so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but…"
Her whole body tensed in response to his words as though it were anticipating a physical blow. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not when they had a date. Not when they were finally on the verge of becoming more than 'just partners'.
"Something went wrong while Booth was trying to apprehend Broadsky. There was a gunfight, and, well, Booth was shot. He's on his way to the hospital now."
Next chapter: Everyone goes to the hospital and Brennan reflects on the events of the night before...