A Second Hold for Questioning Request
Disclaimer: stares:: ::blinks:: ::stares again:: Yeah. I still don't own anything…but, you knew that from the stares, right?
Summary: Brennan tends to have bad luck when going through security checkpoints at the airport. What might've happened on this one time she returned from Guatemala? Set just before the start of 5x01 - "Harbingers in the Fountain." One-shot. Complete.
"…and I've been informed by the flight tower that there's been a small back up in the number of planes that have been cleared to land on our scheduled run way. So, I'm sorry to have to inform you that we're going to have to circle just a bit longer before we make our way into D.C. But, some good news is that the weather in the District is beautiful today, with the National Weather Service reporting that it's sunny with a high of 84 degrees. A light wind from the south should come in tonight to keep things balmy with the low falling to no more than 70—all in all, a picture perfect evening in Washington. So, please be patient with us just a little while longer while we endeavor to get everyone settled in once we land at Dulles. As soon as we've gotten clearance to land, I'll be back with an update. Thank you," the airline captain finished droning on over the airplane's PA speaker.
I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the final bing of the intercom system signaled that the captain had finished his unpleasant message.
It had been a long flight after a very long six weeks. I think part of why it seemed a lot longer than normal was because I didn't have the normal amount of time before I would usually commit to a field season. I hadn't planned to go on any of the longer of the short-term digs because I wasn't sure what the status of my health would be at the time I might have to leave, and so I didn't want to take any unnecessary chances. I'd meant it when I told everyone that I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to put everything I had into achieving that goal. And, but for an accidental turn of events, I might've been pregnant at this very moment in time. But, then we found out that Booth was sick and needed immediate medical attention. And, when it became clear that his illness wasn't life threatening, and that he'd survived the worst of it, I knew that I really needed a chance to get away. I know it was selfish―an incredibly selfish thing to do...to leave my partner, to leave someone that I care about so very much alone like that, but I had to do it. I needed some time and space. I had to get away from it all...away from him. And, ultimately, that's why the trip had been a spur of the moment type.
I hadn't intended to go to Quiriguá, but when one of my colleagues from Northwestern―a very knowledgeable scholar and Mesoamerican archaeologist who'd already committed to serve as the osteological expert on the recovery of some heretofore bone fragments that had been partially recovered at the site, and then had to pull out at the last moment, it seemed providential when I got the call. As I said, I needed a chance to get away. I'm sure if he'd been awake when I left―and really been aware of what was going on―he, no doubt, would've insisted that I was going to dig up Aztecs. For some reason, those seem to be the only native people in Latin America that he can remember.
In fact, Quiriguá was a fairly important trade site during the Maya Classic Period dating to about 200 CE. It's located on the Motagua River in the municipality of Los Amates, about 120 miles northwest of Guatemala City. It was excavated extensively in a joint project between the University of Pennsylvania and National Geographic between 1974 and 1979. It's a World Heritage Site, and a fairly famous historical site and museum that's been protected in the last several decades by the Guatemalan government. However, some maintenance work was being done to stabilize one of the iconic stelae for which the site is known, and local archaeologists uncovered a cache of what they think may be either fragments from human sacrifices or ancestors who were worshiped by the Maya. Of course, it's probably the former. While the Aztecs get the bad press, thanks to the Spanish chroniclers, for human sacrifices, the Mayas were just as brutal in their killings even though most people don't know it.
Glancing out the window, over the bent body of the elderly woman who was dozing in the seat next to me, I could only really see the bright blue of the sky and the wispy white tendrils of the high cirrus clouds through which the plane was currently coasting. Perhaps it was staring out the window, maybe it was the rhythmic breathing of the old woman sleeping besides me, but with nothing better to do while I was waiting for the plane to begin it's final descent, my eyes started to glaze over. Shortly after that, my breathing slowed and my head started to fall forward just a bit. And, the next thing I knew, I must've fallen asleep, because the flight attendant was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me that we'd landed.
"You slept straight through the final descent and landing, dear," the now awake older woman who'd been sleeping next to me said with a smile. "You seemed so peaceful, it almost seemed a shame to wake you."
"Well, aviation laws aside, I'm glad I was awakened," I told her with a curt nod. "I've got much to do now that I'm home."
"Home?" the woman said with a smile. "That's a good feeling then, coming home." She stopped and tilted her head at me as she added, "Do you have any one coming to pick you up? A husband? A boyfriend?"
I couldn't help but feel a stab of some type of irrational emotional response as a thought of Booth popped into my head, and I quickly pushed it aside. "No," I said with a shake of my head. "I don't."
"Oh," she said. "That's too bad. There's almost nothing as sad as coming home and not having anyone who's waiting for you―waiting to welcome you home."
I opened my mouth, and was about to say something to correct her, but as I thought about it, the more I realized she was right. It was a sad thing. Quickly snapping my mouth shut, I merely gave her a curt nod before I unbuckled my belt, stood up, and cracked my back before I reached into the overhead compartment for my messenger bag. Popping it over my head, and adjusting the strap on my shoulder, I nodded goodbye to my seat companion and walked in the direction the flight attendant had indicated I should disembark as one of the first-class passengers to exit the plane.
I should've known as soon as I finished walking down the ramp that connected the plane door with the gate that something was off. Seeing two uncomfortably formal men dressed in black suits, white dress shirts, and drab solid colored ties wasn't an unfamiliar sight to me. But, as I exited the plane―perhaps it wasn't so coincidental that I was the first person off the plane after all―one of the men took a step towards me.
"Dr. Temperance Brennan?"
"Who's asking?" I said, my brow furrowing and my body tensing as I mentally chastised myself for giving a respond that sounded just a bit too much like the one Booth would've given had he been there.
"Are you Dr. Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institute?" the older of the two men repeated.
"Yes," I finally sighed. "Why?"
Moving his hand, he reached into his jacket―one I could tell that was of far inferior craftsmanship as compared to the suits that Booth normally wore―and pulled out a badge. Flashing it at me, he then began to speak. "My name's―"
"Homeland Security?" I said, cutting himself off.
"You're Homeland Security?" I asked, not really caring what his name was.
"Ummm, yes," he said, clearly surprised by my ability to recognize what was already a fairly familiar law enforcement insignia, even if he'd only shown it for a few seconds to me.
"And," I said as I narrowed my eyes. "Let me guess. You didn't happen to get a hold for questioning request about me from another governmental agency, did you?"
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, the look that fell over both men's faces was a clear indicator that the situation I'd describe was indeed the exact one that had brought them to my gate at the time my flight from Guatemala landed.
"Uhhh," the second of the two men said when it was clear the older man was clearly too off-put to speak. "We need you to come with us, please."
Sighing, I glanced at my watch. "Fine, let's get this over with, so I can get on with my itinerary."
Both of the men gave each other a strange look before they turned to me and one of them said, "This way, please."
That was how I found myself sitting in a nondescript holding room in airport security. If I was superstitious, I would admit that I thought it might've been the same room where I'd found myself sequestered almost five years earlier right before Booth re-entered my life after a year's absence.
The more I tried not to think of him―that was the whole point of me going to Guatemala for six weeks right after his brain surgery, after all. But, no matter what I did, it seemed as if I couldn't escape him. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how far I went, I couldn't seem to get away from him. He was always there, everywhere. If anything, it seemed the harder I tried to put distance between us―of both a geographical or physical and metaphorical kind―the more it seemed as if the universe was telling me that such a goal was futile.
As I waited for whoever would come into the room, for whatever reason―although I couldn't imagine what it might be since I wasn't even carrying any human remains or illegal/confiscatable materials on my person―and begin to question me. I sighed again as I drummed my fingers on the table edge since I knew the one person who wouldn't possibly be coming through that door was suddenly the same one I very much wanted to see…if though I probably could never admit such a thing to anyone else.
And, then, suddenly, there he was.
The door opened, and Booth walked in, cocky as the first day I had ever met him. He looked healthier and more well-rested than when I'd seem him six weeks previously. If I didn't know better, I'd say that the light charcoal gray suit that he was wearing was new. It clung to his body perfectly, even though he hadn't buttoned it. As he moved, carrying a manila file folder in his hands, I could see the flash of his cocky belt buckle and the hint of a pair of dark black suspenders over the crisp starched linen of his white Oxford dress shirt.
To say I was surprised was more than a slight exaggeration.
"Booth?" I asked.
"Dr. Brennan," he said with a cavalier grin as he sauntered into the room. "How are you?"
"I'm…I'm well," I said, clearly taken aback, by his swagger into the room. "I-I…I didn't expect to see you here."
"Well, ya know me, Bones," he grinned. "That's right―I'm a constant surprise."
He came forward, walking towards where I was sitting. Pushing the empty chair that sat next time mine out of the way, he slid onto the table, scooting close enough to me so that I could smell his scent. The scent was fresh and clean and one that I don't think until that very minute that I realized I'd come to associate with Booth. It was a mixture of the Ivory soap I knew he used to wash his body with (not that I ever thought of him doing that because, well, we're partners, and partners just don't do that), the coconut of his shampoo, and the very faint smell of the sandalwood aftershave that I knew he occasionally would wear. It made me feel a bit lightheaded for some inexplicable reason. Shaking my head as I tried to clear the disorientation away, I could feel his look on me as he sat there just grinning.
At last, I lifted my eyes to meet his clearly amused stare.
"I'm glad that you seem to be doing so well that it appears you've been vetted and returned to active duty," I said with a tilt of my head. "When last I spoke to Angela, she said that you were still dealing with some issues that lingered from your bout with the allergic reaction to the anesthetic."
"I'm fit as a fiddle, Bones," he smiled. "Now, the question is―what have you done that's been naughty enough that you made it onto Homeland Security's watch list again?"
Frowning a bit, I nodded and said, "Nothing. Given your presence here, I assume it was a sentimental, if unnecessary bit of wrangling on your part, way to get my attention now that I'm back home given that we've both been here before―"
"Yeah," Booth said, looking down at me from where he sat a foot or two higher from where I sat in my uncomfortably upholstered chair. "We have been here before…and we haven't, in a way."
"I don't know―"
"Yes," he said, as he leaned forward, clearly invading my space. The lightheaded feeling instantly returned, even though it hadn't really disappeared all that much to begin with since he'd closed the physical distance between us. "Yes, you do," he whispered.
"Aren't you curious as to why I had them stop you?"
"No," I answered honestly. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."
"My, my," he said, a look of admiration coming into his eyes. "You sure have changed a bit from the pain-in-the-ass spitfire that kept spouting that 'Don't-call-me-Bones' bullshit from five years ago, haven't you?"
"Evolved, Booth," I instantly replied. "I like to think that I've merely evolved."
"Whatever, Bones―means the same thing, ya know," he shrugged his shoulders lightly. He stopped and then said, "So, you really don't have any idea what was so important that I couldn't wait until you got to the Jeffersonian in an hour or two from here that I had to go to all the trouble that it probably took for me to rig something like this up? I mean, it would take a lot of favors for a guy like me to pull of something like this, huh?"
"Not so many as one might think, I'm sure," I said, my voice lowering a bit as I saw his chocolate brown eyes staring at me intently. "After all, you do know a lot of people, and it seems as if someone always owes you a favor―a lot of someones actually―so I'm certain it wasn't that big a deal."
"Hmmm, no," he agreed after a moment. "You're right. It probably wasn't."
He stared at me, licking his thin lips. His tongue darted out from the corner of his mouth and then gently traced a quick line across his bottom lip. I couldn't help it as my heart race increased and my breathing grew a bit more shallow than I'd anticipated as he looked at me expectantly.
"What?" I asked, my question a single breath as it tumbled out of my mouth on a single deep-throated breath.
"I think―" Booth began slowly. "You should ask me why I had them stop you."
"And, why's that?" I countered.
"Because, Bones," he said with a sly grin. "I want to tell you the answer to the question, but I can't do that unless you ask it."
Happy as I was to see him―whole and more like his normal self than I thought possible given how confused and uncertain he seemed in the days after he woke up―I couldn't help myself as I found myself nodding my head slowly.
"Okay," I said quietly. "Why did you have them hold me for questioning?"
"Because," he replied automatically. "We needed to talk…and talk in private, where no one could interrupt us, and no one could run away before we finished talking to one another about what we need to talk about―"
"That's a lot of talking, Booth," I said evenly. "Especially considering the fact that we haven't really started to discuss anything quite yet."
"Then, maybe we should get started, huh?" he asked.
I nodded slowly, but remained quiet.
"I think…we need to talk about what happened before you left―before you ran away from me," he said quietly.
"I didn't run away from you―" I said, my tone sounding more harsh and defensive than I'd intended it to, but I couldn't help it as he'd hit a rather raw nerve that I'd been feeling guilty about since the day I'd left. "I had to go."
"Not for work," Booth said. "Not because you're an expert on Mayans whose expertise was so desperately needed there, Bones."
"No," I nodded. "I didn't have to leave for work…but I did have to leave for me."
And, then, the question that I'd been fearing that he'd ask me―and once he asked me, I knew I'd have to answer it―was there. I'd been afraid of that question since the day I'd decided to accept the position on the dig at Quiriguá. You'd think that, given how long I'd been thinking about the question, that I'd have a really good answer for it. But, the truth was, I'd spent so long being afraid of having to answer it, I never really got around to coming up with a good response. But, that happens sometimes…even to the best of us.
But, he was still looking up at me, and I knew I had to give him an answer.
Taking a deep breath, I looked away and said in a voice that was more emotional than even I'd anticipated, "Because―I was afraid."
There. I'd said it. I was afraid.
"Afraid of what?"
I wanted to tell him everything in that moment. How I was afraid of losing him to physical death during the operation, and again in the four day I spent waiting for him to wake up. And, then once he did wake up, and it was clear he was experiencing memory problems, I was afraid the Booth that I'd come to feel so strongly for was gone for good. I couldn't….I just couldn't wait to find out, once and for all, if that worst fear of all had actually come true once I knew that some version of him would live, having survived the removal of his brain tumor. And, so I took the coward's way out―I took the easy way out, and I just left.
Of course, I couldn't tell him all of that. So, instead, I went with the simple answer.
"I was afraid I'd lost you."
There. I'd said it. It was a grossly oversimplified version of the truth. But, for now, it would do.
As I looked away, I wasn't aware that the warm droplets I suddenly felt on my cheeks had actually come from my tear ducts overflowing. As the dribbled down my cheeks, I suddenly realized I was crying silently…although Booth seemed to realize it before I had given what he did next. Leaning forward slightly from the table, and reaching out with a gentle touch, he took his large hand―capable of such violence, but also such great tenderness that it made my metaphorical heart ache―and cupped my jaw.
Lifting my glistening eyes to his, he smiled as he said in a calm and reassuring voice, "You can never lose me, Bones. Never."
I almost wanted to correct him about the implausibility of such absolutes. Instead, I could only manage a single statement.
"You can't know that."
"Oh," he said with a soft chuckle. "But, I do―and then some, Bones. I most definitely do―and I'll prove it to you if you'd just give me half a chance to try."
His callused thumb reached up as he gently stroked my cheek. Our eyes held each other in an intense gaze, each one not quite certain what the other one would do. And, just when the stalemate seemed as if it would go on forever, he moved in, and I thought he would kiss me. I closed my eyes, happily anticipating that the next thing I'd feel was the warm pressure of his lips on mine when suddenly, I jerked forward.
The loud overhead intercom PA system came back on, and my eyes snapped open. I was a bit disorientated through my grogginess as I realized that I was back on the plane.
Back on the damn plane.
As I blinked, and took in the pilot's explanation that we'd finally been cleared to land, I realized that I must've dozed off and dreamed―dreamed of Booth. Again.
Sighing, I glanced at my watch, and realized that I couldn't have been out for longer than thirty or forty minutes.
Just enough time to dream…of hopes and fears…and the one man that no matter how hard I tried to get away from, he always seemed to be there.
All the time.
He was always there.
And, maybe that was the message the universe was trying to tell me.
Then, again, it's not like I believe in messages from the universe anyway.
Author's Note: This piece was written for the indomitable dharmamonkey's wish list in the spirit of exchange gifts for the 2011 festival of Saturnalia. As everyone can tell, this piece is more than fashionably late. I can't even riff and say it's on time by arguing that I'm on the Julian versus Gregorian calendars. That's why this piece was supposed to then be in celebration of Twelfth Night. And, yeah…I missed that. So now, well…all I can say is, better late than never, right? Anyway, her challenge prompt to me was to see what I might be able to come up with when Brennan was on her return flight from Guatemala after being gone from Booth during the six weeks of his convalescence between the end of the fourth season and the beginning of the fifth season. I'm sure it's not what she was expecting, but hopefully it wasn't too terrible a read. Merry Christmas, Joyous Saturnalia, Happy (Extremely Belated or Extremely Early) Holidays―not necessarily those of the winter persuasion. Enjoy!~