Sinking Like Stones
Summary: Follow-up of sorts to my OS "Good Enough For Me" (you're welcome to leave now and read that first, it's fairly short). Takes place as Booth wakes up from his brain surgery at the end of S4. My take on what would happen if the neurosurgeons were not able to remove all of the tumor in Booth's brain. AU, Brennan's POV.
Advisory: I do not own the show Bones or the characters involved in this story. I just enjoy filling in gaps and re-writing my version of the show we know and love. This story will not have fluffy bunnies running rampant, however, I am inclined to say that if you read it, you will be touched in some way by it. Hell, you might even enjoy it.
It was nearly silent.
I could hear both of our breathing patterns clearly; his more shallow and inconsistent than mine. I lay beside him, head resting a bit uncomfortably on his clavicle and suprasternal notch.
Booth had lost weight in the progression of his disease, causing his previously well-defined musculature to become atrophied and weak. The bones of his face and chest protruded more than I could have ever imagined to see. However, this temporary discomfort was welcomed in trade for simply being able to hear his heart continue to beat.
I propped myself up on my forearm just enough to see his face. The dull flicker of the television danced across his features. To any other bystander, this was not Special Agent Seeley Joseph Booth. It was the shell of a man once known and revered; a reminder that even the strongest of us are vulnerable to the most unimaginable, horrid circumstances. Visitors asked why I'd want to stay when he looked so different than the man he'd been. Hadn't we only been 'official' (as he'd called it) for a short period of time? Weren't we basically still just partners? Why stay now? Why elongate the inevitable?
While I appreciate candor and facing a problem head-on, I found myself frustrated with their points of view. The reason I stayed, although made out to be complicated to those looking from the outside in, was fairly simple: this was still Booth. My Booth. The same man he was before any of us knew about the brain tumor swallowing him alive.
Denying the ways in which he'd changed would have been foolish of me. Entropy is inevitable, as I'd once told Booth, and he certainly had demonstrated that. He'd lost weight, become a bit more impulsive, reached out to those he'd 'neglected.' But the metaphorical underlying structure of Booth was there. His physical bones were intact, but more so, his character 'bones' remained. He was still strong, brave, loving, protective, and passionate. Even as he grew weaker and more lethargic, I could see my Booth – I could see the foundation holding the frame steady, not wavering for the hurricane-force blows he was receiving.
I reached out and gently stroked the outline of his zygomatic bone beneath his pallid skin. The dark shadow in the space between this and his jaw quivered slightly in response to the contact. His eyes blinked several times heavily before meeting mine. The orbits of his eyes were sunken and dark, but in the hollows remained the two warm brown eyes that had been there since the day we met.
I may have been discussing de-fleshing techniques to a lecture hall full of admittedly bored students at American University, but until the tall and aesthetically pleasing man in the suit walked in, I was simply counting down the minutes until I could take off those wretched high heels and slip into something more comfortable. Even gum boots would have been an improvement.
At first he barely opened the door and peeked in. He looked interested and quite surprised. I knew immediately that he could not be a student or instructor at the University because he came into the classroom and walked straight up the aisle with no regard for the lecture taking place. As I finished my explanation of the boiling technique, I asked the class and our unexpected guest if they had any questions.
The man immediately spoke up. "Yeah, uh, I have a question. It seems to me that if you remove the flesh, aren't you destroying the evidence?" He smiled in a way that made him seem overly confident. I wondered if this man was from the Board of Educators, stopping in to audit my course. I had spoken with other Professors that had found these auditors to be annoying and rather irrational with the questions they asked in order to challenge the instructors and see how they responded under pressure.
I rarely feel this 'pressure' that others refer to. I am highly intelligent and see no reason to metaphorically 'sweat' when I am challenged intellectually. Statistically, I am smarter than most people, after all. I responded almost immediately. "On the contrary, I am revealing evidence."
His smile grew wider as I spoke, and somehow I could not manage to keep the corners of my own mouth from mirroring his. He was rather handsome. Even someone as intelligent as me cannot avoid primal attraction.
The bell rang and the students filed out quickly. Moments earlier they were practically asleep but now they had energy to jog out of class? I had a doctorate in Kinesiology and I still did not understand this phenomenon. The suited man walked through the throngs of students, most of which could sense his imposing presence and walked far around him as he made his way to me.
"Just one more thing," he said as I turned around and retrieved my notes from the table behind me, "isn't all the good evidence in the flesh, you know, like the poison and the stab wounds and the bullets?" I could tell he obviously still believed that he was right.
I glanced at him briefly, trying to determine why he had come there that day. The way he filled out his suit indicated that he was in good shape. His triangular upper body suggested that it was not just a product of good metabolism, but probably also involved a gym membership. His hair was neatly combed back, but the haircut itself suggested that he did not wear it this way all of the time. His outfit was bland, a black tie and shoes with a black suit - excellently tailored, I might add. The way the jacket fell on his right hip indicated that he was carrying either a concealed weapon or a cell phone on his belt. I assumed the former. All indicators pointed to law enforcement rather than educator, so I continued to make my point known.
"All of the important indicators are written in the bone if you look carefully." Frankly, I wasn't in the mood for a discussion. He was very pleasing to the eye, but the fact that my feet were throbbing allowed me to focus away from him once again.
"So that's your thing," he asked with a grin. Were the bodies behind me not convincing enough? Why did it matter? This man walked into my lecture unannounced and was questioning me about my line of expertise?
"Yes," I answered curtly. "I'm the best in the world."
"Oh." He seemed surprised. "So you're being serious." He must have thought I was being humorous. It wasn't the first time the mistake had been made. I was undeniably the best in the world. Especially considering my age and standing with the foremost Anthropological experts and societies.
I decided to be indirect and get him to offer up the information that I was already sure of. "Are you a student here?"
"Special Agent Seeley Booth from the FBI." He smiled, most likely thinking I would be impressed by his title. I smiled in return, more for the fact that I was right about thinking he was a member of law enforcement. I stepped off of the lecture hall's stage and finally got a long look at him.
His eyes were a warm brown, complementing his olive skin tone and dark brown hair. His features were nearly symmetrical, showing wear of old scars and sun damage. His jaw was rigid, but fixed in a grin that allowed a dimple to display prominently on his right cheek. His neck was thick and muscular, although I could see the protuberance of his Adam's apple showing just above the crisp white collar of his shirt. Now, I was most assuredly smiling because I was impressed by what I saw before me.
"I'm Doctor Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institution." Surely he knew this already, seeing as he had walked into my classroom. However, the structure of our society has etiquette that must be followed to be taken seriously. I shook his hand. His handshake was firm, his rough calloused palm creating a slight friction against mine. I felt a sudden warmth spread throughout my body; my smile grew as evidence of this.
In one of the most ridiculous lines I've ever heard, he asked "Do you believe in fate?" I responded that I absolutely did not. The idea was ludicrous. However, he could have asked me if I believed in spirits or mermaids or even the extraterrestrial and I probably wouldn't have found it to be overwhelmingly tacky, given the two brown eyes that seemed magnetized towards mine.
His brow furrowed as he searched my eyes for something I couldn't quite determine. I read his look as worry. Silently reassuring him, I rested my hand on his cheek covering the side of his jaw. His brow unknit as he closed his eyes. Stubble prickled my palm; I felt his jaw clench beneath my hand.
I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, now meeting with his once again. His arm that lay beneath my head folded toward me, resting on my hip. He smiled ever-so-slightly as he squeezed the flesh of my hip beneath my pajama pants. For some reason, this was satisfaction enough. I drew myself close to him again, pulling tangles of wires and tubes out of my way. Snug against his chest, I felt his heartbeat. I placed my hand flat on his abdomen, just below his pectorals, fanning my fingers out as if to make as much surface contact as possible. Without hesitation, he placed his own left hand over my right, covering it with no effort. The warmth from his touch radiated throughout my body.
If but for a moment, the beeping of the monitors, the glow of the television, and the smell of disinfectant faded away. If I believed in such a thing, I'd suppose this was an out-of-body experience. Our bodies became one entity, joined by skin and proximity and time and … love. This was new territory for me – technically not new, as Booth told me, but newly discovered. He hypothesized that I'd loved him for years, but did not recognize the feeling as such. "It's a new beginning for us," he'd said. A chance to make up for lost time…
Lost time. A concept I definitely did not fully understand until I met Booth. My life and choices were mostly made in order to further my career, education, standing in the Anthropological realm, et cetera. I kept my days packed with activity so that I didn't fall behind. I needed to become something great to avoid becoming invisible. While I saw this as well-utilized time, Booth once pointed out that I should stop and smell the metaphorical roses. He said I should try to enjoy life. I thought that that was what I had been doing. His intent in his statement was more to get me to engage in activities that did not involve me getting ahead. It was with Booth that I first went ice skating since I was a child. With Booth and Parker, I'd learned how to play 'Sharks and Minnows' in the community pool I'd never even utilized. With Booth I'd enjoyed late night talk shows over Chinese food – something that the more rational and practical Dr. Temperance Brennan never would have done in favor of sleep.
Perhaps this concept of 'lost time' wasn't what I thought it was. I had been under the impression that social opportunities and having fun without accomplishing anything were a waste of my time. Not until I met Booth did I realize that relaxing and being frivolous occasionally could actually be the thing to hold me together.
So when Booth kissed me in the operating room before his surgery, I could not help but feel like this was a missing piece. Something had finally fallen into place and we were going to be better for it. He and I deserved to be happy. We deserved to have someone to love us unconditionally. After all the years of back-and-forth and flirting and almost-kisses, surely we deserved this.
But as I lay beside this ill, wonderful, frail, brave man, I became somewhat distraught. Perhaps this was irrational, but something about this image was not right. The right people, the right time, the right feelings. But the circumstances did not add up. This wasn't how this was supposed to be.
It was nearly silent.
AN: This first chapter is a short jump to the middle of the story. I felt that it was important to make sure that the overall feeling of the story was established instead of starting off slow (see my first fic, "Pain in the Past"). In due time, you'll see my vision for it, and hopefully it will fill you with a contentment like it has with me.
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