May 16th was RositaLG's quarter century birthday, and though I was ahead of schedule for once in my life and finished her fic WEEKS in advance, my computer broke down a couple days before it and I couldn't access said fic. And then she wandered away for a month. And then we realised yesterday she never got the message I left her, telling her to let me know when she wanted this posted. So here it is, late, but written with love. Because nothing makes birthdays special like celebrating them with online folks while you avoid real life ones. Happy belated birthday, friend.
Things you should know; 1) This is a two shot. The second part needs minor tweaking but it will be up later today. 2) There are little details throughout that are no longer quite canon (daycare, for one); I wrote this well before the season wrapped up, so please just roll with it.
Let Me Forget About Today Until Tomorrow
A heart that's full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal
No Surprises, Radiohead
In one of the worst moment of her young life she's locked in the trunk of a car and she goes between fits of panic and fits of tears so rapidly, she's voiceless and wracked by tremors before the end of day one. Not that she realises this. She can't keep track of time.
She's always been studious, oddly so, even when she had parents. But with their disappearance her need for constant academic stimulation reaches unparalleled heights. She can't be still. Can't rest her brain. If she doesn't keep her head full of statistics and numbers and facts, she slips and these flashes of another life, a happy life, come trickling in and it's all far too much. So in this trunk, where it is just her and the dark, the punishment is mental and physical and it pushes her to the brink of her sanity.
She goes in on a Saturday night and comes out on a Tuesday morning, and fifteen years from now she'll lie to Booth when she tells him she's never received a B. Because on the Monday afternoon she misses a math test and she's not allowed to make it up. Incomplete. The word is written next to her name in blood red ink and she cries in the high school bathroom for twenty minutes because the nightmare won't end.
Years pass and she becomes a different person. A better person. A strong person. The girl she had once been is so far behind her that when the memory repeats itself, when she finds herself locked in a car buried underground slowly slowly slowly suffocating, she doesn't even consciously make the connection between the two events.
But her mind, which has always been so, so fast, eventually does.
She dreams of terrible things. Of darkness and tight spaces and the gruesome deaths of people she loves. She dreams of running out of air. She dreams of the smell of vomit (because when she tells Booth that she doesn't vomit, what she really means is she doesn't vomit anymore), and it brings back that night with a clarity that would surprise her if she could remember any of the specifics for longer than it takes to wake up.
She's a different person. A better person. A strong person. She hasn't found this place by allowing her emotions and memories to run free. So more often than not, after bad dreams she wakes to her heart beating rapidly, her body covered in sweat, and the gritty taste of earth and stifling dust only foggily remaining.
But that darkness presses on her.
She dreams of terrible things.
They haven't slept in days. It's not a new thing for either of them, especially toward the end of a case, but their daughter is not quite six months old and they're still learning how to balance caring for her with doing their jobs. So Booth hasn't slept much and Brennan's slept even less, because the anxieties concerning Christine are difficult to compartmentalise and when she picks her baby up, it's still so hard to put her down.
The steady motion of the car proves too rhythmic for Brennan and she begins to nod off, only to be jolted back into consciousness when her head falls forward and thumps rather painfully against the window. She jerks upright and immediately glances at her partner in the driver's seat; Booth's tight smile makes it clear she hasn't escaped his notice, but he's too preoccupied to tease her and her heart hurts too badly to dwell on the why.
Brennan rubs her forehead and stares through the windshield. Two vehicles ahead of them is a police cruiser, and in the backseat is their murderer. She thinks about what he's done and her skin itches with rage while her eyes burn.
Booth clears his throat. "Getting a statement won't take long."
"It hardly matters now, does it?" she mutters bitterly.
He doesn't speak again. Neither does she.
They solve a case. She finds the evidence he needs to make an arrest and he makes that arrest, but she shakes her head and gives him a half hearted excuse when he begins to lead her to the interrogation room.
And he gives her a look.
There's no denying that she usually loves this part. That she has fought him hard to be included on a regular basis. But she has no desire to be here.
He knows why.
So he gives her arm a light squeeze and tells her he'll meet her at home, because this is the part that will always be his job and though she so often chooses to share the burden of the why, it isn't actually hers to bear. She's entitled to take a step back and regroup.
For all her anthropological education, all the places she's travelled and horrors she's seen, she's always torn apart by the atrocities human beings choose to inflict on one another.
She can't put her heart in a box when faced with dead children anymore. Dead babies. Not when she's just had one of her own. She's lost that part of herself and on days like today, it's difficult to silence the tiny part of her that questions whether it's worth it.
Booth will be hours yet, between the interrogation and the booking and the paperwork he'll try his best to finish at the office so that he doesn't have to bring it home. Brennan has work of her own to complete and two sets of tiny remains to secure one last time, but she finds herself detouring through the daycare centre on her way back to her office.
Christine is healthy. Happy to see her. She reaches for Brennan's face and squeezes her cheek with small, strong fingers, and she laughs the moment Brennan's mouth stretches into a smile.
It's selfish, so selfish, to burden her child with the task of banishing the darkness that is trying (and damn near succeeding) to suffocate her. But in her arms is this piece of herself who doesn't know anything but love, and she simultaneously feels the need to keep her close (in hopes of some sort of transference to ease the pain in her chest), as well as the compulsion to push her away (and keep from tainting her).
Christine ultimately makes the decision for her when the happy smile fades from her face and she begins to fuss. Not particularly hard, but enough for Brennan to know that if she isn't fed within the next ten minutes, everyone in the vicinity is going to hear about it.
The baby is nearly six months old and just shy of fully weaned; breast feedings have been reduced to once before she's put down for the night. Brennan isn't quite ready to give up this bonding entirely.
Soon, but not yet.
She generally appreciates routine and she knows the daycare centre is more than capable of feeding her daughter, but she thinks that adjusting Christine's nursing schedule just this once can't possibly cause either one of them any permanent damage. She needs her. She can admit now that while she's always survived, while she's always known how to move on and move forward, it's relieving not to have to. It's relieving to be less than strong and still maintain relative certainty that things will ultimately be okay.
Christine quiets as Brennan walks, and soon she's gurgling happily again and experimenting with sounds in that manner which makes Brennan eager to hear the first words only months away from emerging. But her life has revolved around this baby for five and a half months now and she knows this is the calm before the storm. Christine warns her when she's hungry and then she reverts to her happy self, but when the fussing begins anew there will be no calming her.
Only, when Brennan enters the lab, the rest of the team is still congregated in her office.
She can't bring herself to be around any of them right now; not even for the amount of time it would take to kick them out. She's determined to keep this one thing, this one moment of the day between her and her daughter that will so soon be over forever, preserved without flaw. When she walks into Angela's office she's already reaching under her shirt with one hand while cradling Christine with the other – she's always been adept at multitasking, but the number of things she can do with one hand has increased exponentially since having a baby – and she doesn't notice Hodgins and Michael already occupying the room until she's fully entered it.
"Whoa, Dr. B, warn a guy before you bust those out."
Hodgins averts his eyes and the words are light and teasing, but she recognises the strain in his tone because she has heard it in her own every time she has opened her mouth to speak in the last 24 hours.
"Breastfeeding is a natural process. I find that any bounds of modesty traditionally observed by our society come secondary to my immediate need to provide nutrition for my daughter."
The response is direct and automatic (though she does adjust her shirt) but Hodgins picks up on the underlying tension so identical to his own, and he turns his attention to the child in his arms. "Shouldn't you be out arresting people with Booth?"
Brennan stiffens and settles on the couch across from where Hodgins stands. With the cease of motion, Christine begins to squirm uncomfortably in her lap.
"Shh. You are very demanding," Brennan chides softly. "I will not let you starve."
Hodgins chuckles. "Impatient suckers, aren't they?" Then he clears his throat. "And I mean that in the best and most appreciative way possible."
"Their understanding of the world outside themselves is limited," she agrees in her own way.
Hodgins places Michael on the floor and absently begins rolling a ball between them. "I'd die before hurting him. People don't get it; people like that guy. If they knew what it was like to be buried... to slowly run out of air..."
"I don't want to talk about this."
He shrugs. "You're already thinking about it. Just like I am. You know it, I know it, hell, the whole lab keeps staring at us because they know it too. I figure it can't make a difference whether we say it out loud or not at this point."
There's truth in what he says, but Brennan finds herself resisting regardless.
"They ran out of air quickly," she says instead.
Hodgins' gaze doesn't waver. "You and I both know that doesn't mean a thing."
He leaves her the room just before Christine begins to cry in earnest. When the baby turns away from Brennan's breast and continues to scream, only to latch on with particular force seconds later, Brennan can't help but feel as if she's being punished.
It's dark. Black. No light can trickle in here and the panic climbs into her throat and gets stuck there. She almost screams but she bites it back as she recalls how futile it is to make noise. No one is coming. She pushes against the top of the trunk knowing it won't give and yet unable to be still. And then her hands brush against something slick and porous. Something she can quite literally identify while blind.
Bones. Small bones. Small, human bones. Two sets. This is once instance in which she can know, without proof, that they belong to children who were three and five. That they are here because a bad drug trip caused their father to lash out at them in a fit of extreme paranoia. That they died scared and betrayed by someone who should have protected them at all costs. She curls herself in a ball and breathes. Tells herself that there is air. It's hot and humid and muggy but there's air, and if she survived this for two days over fifteen years ago, she can absolutely survive it now.
Her hands find another set of remains in the dark. Small; smaller than the other two. She's memorised this skeleton. She carried it inside herself as it formed. She knows no features better than these... not even Booth's.
She forgets her resolve to stay quiet, to keep calm, to rationally remember that she can and will survive this, and she kicks at the top of the trunk with all the force of someone who has gone beyond panic and has nothing left to lose.
It's difficult to muster efficient force while being confined the way she is, but she's tenacious and the trunk begins to bend to her will. There's a sharp cracking noise but instead of being struck by blinding daylight she's showered with damp earth. She turns her face away and tries to clear her nose and throat, but the dirt is pouring in faster now and she can't breathe. Again.
This isn't right. This isn't right. Some part of her terror-paralysed brain recognises that these images cannot be reconciled. The details are distorted. It isn't right.
Brennan wakes up on the couch panting furiously and soaked in sweat. Upstairs, the baby is crying.
She stumbles slightly in her haste to get off the couch and up the stairs; her equilibrium is still off from her recent dream state and she swallows against the lurching of her stomach.
Christine cuts herself off mid-scream the moment Brennan enters her line of sight and then begins to coo contently; Brennan smiles in spite of herself as her heart rate slowly drops down to normal.
"That's not nice," she murmurs, lifting her daughter out of the crib. "I am very much looking forward to when you can simply ask for company instead of behaving as if you're being tortured."
Christine grips the front of her shirt tightly and Brennan sniffs her soft skin, embracing the calming endorphins this triggers. It's only when she feels Christine's skin grow clammy, damp with sweat from her body, that Brennan remembers fractured pieces of her nightmare. Suffocation, panic... something about her daughter. She holds Christine closer. She needs to shower and wash away the feel of a grime she can't name, but she can't bring herself to put the baby back in the crib. In the end, she puts the playpen in the doorway between her bedroom and the bathroom. The draft from the open door eliminates most of the steam, and she steps under the spray confident that her daughter is nearby and comfortable.
She doesn't hear the front door open and close, marking Booth's arrival. She doesn't hear him shuffling around the bedroom as he changes his clothes. She doesn't take notice of the way Christine's babbling changes pitch once recognition sets in. But she hears the low murmurings of his voice as he engages their daughter.
"Hey, kiddo. How you doing?"
There's some more shuffling as Booth removes her from the portable pen, followed by a shriek of mild protest.
"Don't be like that... here; let's get you turned around, huh?"
More movement, and then the baby's contented sigh.
"Just like your mother. You're not happy unless you can see everything going on around you."
Brennan rinses the last of the conditioner from her hair and wipes the water out of her eyes before drawing back the curtain.
Booth grins at her from his seat on the floor. Christine smiles because he smiles.
She tries to return the gesture and fails.