Author's Note: I'm posting this today because Sunday is a religious holiday for some. Happy Easter!
I had two specific goals for this story. First and foremost, it was a study aid that worked! I did well in my exams thanks to the preparation for this story that went on behind the keyboard.
My second goal was the most important one: to figure out what 'really happened' in an episode that was just begging for interpretation. I know that a religious person (like Booth) would interpret it very differently and I love playing with that ambiguity a little here in the final chapter. I've always thought that Brennan is comforted by Booth's faith. She knows he has faith in God (and fate, and love) and she finds the constancy of it reassuring even though she doesn't believe what he does.
Now for the science, and I promise it won't be so long-winded this time. ;)
If you recall my previous chapter that discussed antigens and the acute hemolytic reaction, the immune system seeks the antigens of foreign cells. When it finds them, it attacks the foreign cells and destroys them. Given Brennan had an acute hemolytic reaction, her immune system destroyed all the foreign Red Blood Cells (RBCs) in her body, all at once. By definition, that's what the acute hemolytic reaction is. Therefore, there would not be any 'antigens' left in her body to be retrieved surgically two days later. Her body wiped them all out which is what made her collapse in the first place.
Ergo, the antigens were already all gone when Brennan was talking to Angela.
* Science Correction: Brennan is undergoing surgery to fix that broken rib. Or something.
This is Not an Explanation
I have always hated the boredom of hospitalization. While I've spent plenty of time in hospitals because of Booth (too much time, far too much), this was the first time I myself have been confined to a bed. The inactivity made me restless. When my doctor spoke with me during his rounds on the second morning after I'd awakened, I begged a favor of him.
"I'd like to examine my x-rays." He, of course, had objected. Yet my argument in favor of allowing me to occupy myself and simultaneously provide a second expert opinion as to the possible source of my as yet unexplained injury eventually won him over. From one rational mind to another, we spoke the same language. He left me the x-ray films with strict instructions that I was not to leave my bed or tire myself.
I was holding my chest films aloft when my dad came in and looked around in surprise.
"He got a call from Cam about the case. I'm stable, so I told him to go."
He sounded concerned, as I suppose any good father would be. "Well, I talked to the doctor. He said you should be resting."
I am resting, I thought with mild annoyance. It is not physically taxing to hold up film that weighs less than 10 grams and look at it. It is no more work than lifting a television remote to change channels, which I distinctly recall Booth being capable of despite a broken clavicle. When I move my left arm there is a pinch of muscular discomfort and the wound burns, but otherwise I'm fine. "I'm just examining my x-rays, Dad."
"Which isn't resting," he points out in exasperation. "Honey, why don't you relax? Let Booth and the geeks at the lab take care of this."
Since when are my coworkers 'geeks at the lab?' Bemused, I know I must be giving him a curious look. Am I not one of those geeks? Isn't he as well? After all, he used to work at the Jeffersonian, and I do still. We are both of us, 'geeks.'
Perhaps he realized he'd misspoken because he abruptly changed the topic of conversation. My dad lifted a small brown bag and shook it at me slightly. "Look! I brought you ice cream."
The round pint is frosty cold and as I peeled off the lid I saw the green and brown swirls underneath. I took his bait and I was happier for it. "Mint chocolate."
Handing me a plastic spoon he'd swiped from the cafeteria, he reminded me, "It used to be your favorite, when you were a kid."
When my parents vanished, I tried to hold on to pleasant memories for as long as possible, for as long as I could reasonably hope I'd have a good reason to need the memories. As the months passed and the likelihood of them returning dimmed, I'd laid those lovely moments to rest in the vaults of my mind. Indeed, I deliberately forgot them. It was too difficult to accept that I'd once lived a happier life when I faced barbaric punishments and the taunting of unsympathetic peers. Having a loving family seemed like a dream, one that I could never return to, so I forced myself to forget it.
The scent of mint hit my nose. Scent is strongly linked to memory due to the location of the olfactory nerve, which runs close to the hippocampus where associative memories are formed. Mint revived a recollection of taffy pulling machines working in slanting sunlight, their gooey strands wrapping endlessly while my mother bartered with the proprietor. "Mom used to get it at Parkside Candy. They would pack it by hand." I scooped up a bite. The ice cream melted its anciently familiar flavor over my tongue and it brought back even more memories that were immediately interrupted, I suppose, by his.
My father drew in a sharp breath and looked at me intensely, a question forming that he wasn't sure how to ask. "Booth says you saw her. Your mother."
I felt myself startle at the unexpected query. Booth told him, a fact that made me uncomfortable. I don't believe I actually saw her, it was only a dream. Perhaps it truly was a near death experience, which have been well documented. The amygdala and the hypothalamus, for example, are the nexus between memory and emotion; during a traumatic event, these areas are flooded with noradrenaline and this may explain why near death experiences often feature remembered moments from one's life. Either way, it all occurred in my brain not in some other supernatural realm of heaven or afterlife and I hastened to tell him so. "The locus coeruleus in the midbrain can release noradrenaline during highly traumatic events. It can affect perception."
Still he persisted, and he sounded almost disappointed that I didn't share his hope. "You were gone for two minutes. You went somewhere."
"No, Dad. There's no other place," I repeated. I was sure it wasn't real.
He asked me softly, so softly that I heard his hope and grief, and the desire for an answer hiding in the spaces where volume should be. "Does she ask about me? Does she say 'Hi?'"
I heard an aching echo from my own past, one that sent cold shivers across my skin. I wanted to blame it on the ice cream chilling my hands and settling sickly in my stomach—it's too sweet, after all—but it wasn't that. It was memory (mine), begging the universe to tell me if there was any way for Booth to still exist, if he could hear me. During the two weeks I thought he was dead, I wanted nothing more than to see him, to hear his voice.
My father felt has felt the same way for twenty years. I felt tears of compassion stinging my eyes as I tried to answer truthfully. I think it was true, what I told him. "In my dream, yes." In my dream, my mother loved my father so I felt it was kindest to add, "She misses you."
I didn't know what to say when he started crying. "We were very happy, all of us. Weren't we."
My tears gathered and overflowed. I miss that innocent happiness just as much as he does, yet I can't help thinking it was their fault that everything was destroyed.
"I miss that, so much," he cried. "So much."
They had more time together than I did, they did the damage before I was born. And under that still smoldering anger my mind flared with insight: their memories go back before mine. Their family memories preexist my existence and that means he has more to miss than I do.
Once Cam and I discussed it, she went to call Booth while I was prepared for surgery. Booth rushed into the corridor as I was being wheeled toward the operating room, asking what was wrong.
"Nothing. I'm going into surgery."
"Those two things are opposite," he pointed out, reminding me that indeed, though he tries to hide it, Booth is a very intelligent man.
I explained the reason for the surgery, securing his reluctant consent.
"It's not dangerous, is it?"
My own desire for honesty, especially with him, compelled me to pause. Of course there are risks, but no worse than those for any surgery. I don't want him to worry, so I ignore the ordinary risks when I tell him, "It's 100% risk free."
Whenever he looks at me with those chocolate eyes, the way he was looking at me then, I always feel something inside of myself soften until it melts and runs towards him. No man has ever affected me so strongly with merely a gaze, except for this one. Booth kisses me and his steady hands squeeze mine.
I had intended to reassure him, so I do it with a confidence born of his touch. "I'll be fine," I told him. And with just a touch he has also reassured me.
Now supine, I gazed up at the speckled white acoustic tiles and florescent lights above me and the large surgical floodlights just off to my right. Cam stood near my knees, watching the monitors as the anesthesiologist administered the final dose calculated to pull my consciousness away from me. Her steady presence was another comfort to me and as I drifted into a sleepy doze, I wondered for the first time why Booth didn't ask her to stay with him when his tumor was excised. She's a medical doctor ... thus she was ... more qualified...
My eyes opened slowly and I was not surprised to see where I was. I think I rather hoped I would come here again, here where she is. I don't know where this place is, but my heart aches because it's not going to last. This time, I know, she's not going to stay. Mom was dressed for work, standing in the entry way while she tucked her wallet into her purse. She was getting ready to go.
"Oh," I sighed painfully. She's leaving, I know it.
She heard me and paused only because I sounded so sad. "I'm just going to work. I'll see you tonight."
As if it was any other day, before that day. As if we both counted on the premise that what happened before can predict what will happen next.
"Not if I survive the procedure. This is going to turn out just like that day." My heart felt squeezed and sore, because I knew where I was, when I was, how it was going to end. I knew what she did not: "We're never going to see each other again."
"We will," Mom assured me. She brought herself to me over the span of a room, or across the span of decades and the boundaries that separate the living from the dead. She embraced me, my mother, and made me believe it was possible. "Of course we will."
After she stepped away, brushing my hair back in a motherly gesture, she spoke. "The advice I gave you back then (use your head, be rational, don't let your heart lead you, use your brain), That allowed you to survive, and it held true. But I have another piece of advice for you: it's time for you to find that little girl that you locked away so deep inside yourself."
I wondered if I looked as confused as I felt. "Why?"
"Because, it's not about surviving anymore. It's about flourishing. It's about living a full life."
Who is that little girl, I wondered. Who was Tempe and did she remain in me? Maybe she did, I could feel her bubbling out of me, prompting me. "If this was real, I'd tell you I love you. I miss you."
Mom kissed me goodbye. Then she smiled, a conspiratorial little smile. "Tell your father, tell Max, that I always knew the first gift he ever gave me was stolen." She winked, and pulled away.
How did she know to tell me that? Or how did I know this was probably accurate?
I was too amazed to do anything but watch her go to the door, where the golden knob was solid under her soft hand when she opened it. She looked back at me from the doorway. Behind her the brilliant white void waited, and then it swallowed her. I wanted to cry but something like a whisper of peace assured me she was safe there and my eyes closed to hear it better...
… I woke up in recovery.
Forgetting where I was and what had happened, I tried to sit and Booth pushed me back just as the stab of pain in my abdomen reminded me he was correct to do it. I asked him what happened.
He told me the surgery was successful and that Batuhan was arrested for two murders and one attempted murder. He gave me that look again, the glance that makes my heart beat and my blood run freely. I felt myself being pulled into him, everything vanishing except for us. I never knew that love could feel like this, until I met Booth and felt it every time our eyes met.
My father seemed to sense it and excused himself briskly, "I think I'll go tell everyone that you're okay. They're all here, you know."
I do know. I know they are all here, my 'different kind of family.' I know they are waiting for news of me, but first there's a message I must deliver to him.
He paused, looking surprised by my urgency. "Yeah?"
I'm still not sure of reality, not sure how I know what to say. Perhaps it's a subconscious memory, recalled because of what we discussed earlier over ice cream. My parents were together before there was me, before Russ. They had a life together and, I know what he will think. I know it will bring him peace. So I say it, what I know is true. Somehow I know it's right.
"Mom knew that the first gift you ever gave her ... she always knew that you stole it."
I've never been skilled at reading facial expressions, except for those I love. In my father I saw a heartcrushing combination of sad and hopeful. He shook his head and I knew he felt it really was a note from my mother. "Nobody knew that, except me. Nobody..."
I watched him leave, his back straighter than it's been lately, as if he hopes she's watching.
And now it is just me and Booth, alone and together. I search for his steady faith, knowing he'll believe what I can't believe myself when I tell him what he's waiting to hear. "I saw her."
He nods as I confirm his expectation. "Did she talk to you?"
"It's crazy to think that it's true." It is. It's not rational, it's not even possible. They were only dreams, but then again I've never recalled my ordinary dreams so vividly or sent messages through them.
He pulls me out of the churning uncertainty with a reminder, with the remnants of our argument that tore us apart for a night. "You know what, Bones? It's okay to be a little bit crazy. Right?"
I look into his warm eyes, (melted chocolate) and he's got that sparkle of victory that makes me laugh a little at the familiarity of this. Us. I haven't given in, yet I feel as though our argument has ended right here.
He leans in to kiss me, lifting my bed up to help me meet him. I see the darker shades of steady earth and masculine strength shimmering from his brown eyes, I feel the thrill of being pursued and caught, but out of nowhere an impish side of me exclaims, "Ow!"
And he backs off fast, worried he's hurt me.
I am laughing, knowing I've surprised a man who seldom is. "I'm joking."
He laughs in appreciation but our humor changes to a thrill of pleasure when he curls his large, capable hand beneath my neck and our mouths meet. If there was one unvoiced regret I'd have carried off into that white nothingness, it would be this: never again kissing Seeley Booth.
Objectively kissing is simply skin-to-skin contact in an area where a rather larger number of nerve endings are available for stimulation. Objectively all kisses should be equal, but they aren't.
No matter how he does it, no matter which technique he employs at any given time, Booth's kiss opens me. I open to him and he enters in, stirs me, accelerates me. My bruised heart thunders in response, calling out to his as we make love with our mouths. It's always been this way, every time we've ever kissed. It's always been magic between us, even when we both pretended we didn't feel it.
Magic, of course, doesn't exist. Booth has called it magic, fate, destiny, love—each and every one an unquantifiable term that makes my inner empiricist rebel. I tell him it's neurotransmitters and dopamine, the brain's own special reserve of 'cocaine' that ignites the pleasure centers. He laughs at me, every time, and tells me no drug ever felt like this. And this, chemically caused or not, has always existed between us, long before Christine.
The effort of pulling away is sourced only in part by the bed pressing at my back. Mostly, it's difficult because I want to continue kissing him rather than restrain myself. "Booth?"
His lips drop touches on my cheek, brushing over my nose; he's only half ready to hear what I need to say. "Yeah, Bones?"
I push him away, only a little away, just far enough to make him listen. "I want to go fishing with you. I want to rent a cabin by the river "
He looks pained, and ready to give it up for the sake of peace. "You said Christine can't form the memories."
His hand is firm and warm and so strong in mine when I squeeze gently, making him look at me. "I realized, the memories you want to form aren't for her. They're for us. You and me. You've always wanted a cabin on the river, and to go fishing with me."
He is stunned, like I've peeked inside his brain. "How do you know that?"
"I should have just asked you. I'm sorry." Shyness is rare for me, but it happens when I'm unsure that I'm correct. I know why I argued with him, I know what I wanted to hear but I was afraid of being wrong. "I just wanted you to tell me. The real reason."
Booth brushes my hair back, looking at me, and I'm so in love with him that I almost can't breathe. "Taking care of Andy, watching you with him, made me realize what a great mother you'd be. I started dreaming of that kind of life with you, even though it seemed impossible."
This is 'in love,' being completely surrounded by a person. Not just scent and touch, but metaphorically I've surrendered myself to him. He holds my happiness, my love, and thus I can say, I'm so in love with him. And he loves me. I feel happiness lifting the edges of my mouth, because that faith I thought I'd never find is right here in his eyes and the way he loves me. "Sometimes the things we think are impossible, really aren't."
He smiles at me as if he knows precisely what I mean and the teasing begins again. "Like you going to heaven and seeing your dead mother?"
"I did not go to heaven, Booth."
"Yeah you did. Come on, white lights?"
"According to the rules of your god, I don't qualify for heaven."
He has never given up on me, and that includes never giving in when we're sparring. Triumphantly, he corners me. "You just got done saying nothing is impossible. That means God, who makes the rules, can break them whenever and for whomever He pleases."
I feel my eyes rolling in exasperation. "Then why bother making rules if he's just going to break them...?"
This impromptu debate ends like so many of ours do, in a stalemate. I muse on the word, reflecting on how inaccurate the term is. Life with my mate is never stale. I love my life with him.
Our eyes hold steady, my heart beats strongly and I sigh as contentment fills me. "I love you, Booth."
And he smiles, that beautiful cocky grin that I've never been able to resist. "I know."
Thank you for spending your time with me. :)