WARNING: Triggers for miscarriage and the loss of a child.
A phone call in the middle of the night was a common occurrence. He yawned, blinked once before his lids dropped closed again, and reached for the vibrating, beeping rectangle of plastic on the bedside table.
With the ease of familiarity, his thumb hit the correct button as he turned over and struggled to push the cobwebs of sleep from his mind.
"Booth." The words rumbled like gravel on a dirt road.
"Bo . . . Booth . . ."
The repetition of his name . . . in her voice . . . broken by the clear sound of her tears . . . swept the weariness from his brain instantly. He was on his feet before he realized he'd stood up . . . reaching for his weapon and his pants, in that order . . . consumed with the immediate need to get to her . . .
He rushed through the closed door without knocking.
She was sitting up in the narrow hospital bed, red-rimmed dry eyes staring at the wall until the noise of his entrance turned her head toward him.
Her face crumpled . . . and she reached for him.
Later, he would remember that moment. Her arms, calling for him . . . the despairing need for the comfort he was almost desperate to provide . . .
But just then it registered only as an image in his memory before he was beside her on the bed, pulling her into his embrace without a word . . . holding her tightly against his chest . . . gently rocking from side to side as she turned her face into his shoulder and soaked his t-shirt with her tears.
Silently, he grieved with her.
Every new sob that rocked her slender frame ripped one more jagged piece from his heart.
He let her cry . . . one hand stroking her back, the other cupped against her head as she wept into his neck. He wrapped her so close their shadows became one person.
He pressed a kiss against her forehead . . . and one against her temple . . . and one in her hair . . . and then another . . . and then a hundred more as he murmured sounds that weren't words . . . and swayed with her in an easy, graceful to and fro.
And still she cried.
And so did he.
When the storm of weeping finally abated, she slumped within the circle of his arms. Her hands clenched into fists against his back, tying knots in the soft cotton of his shirt.
She couldn't leave the safety of his embrace.
He couldn't let her go.
They didn't speak.
There were no words.
They had a child.
And then they didn't.
He kept rocking back and forth.
She cried again, and he pulled her even closer.
"I was fine." The whisper didn't travel past his ears. "I was fine. Then I woke up . . . and I was bleeding and . . ."
His hands were almost rough as he rubbed her back and held her tight.
"The physician on duty said I didn't do anything -"
"Shhh." His response was immediate, his voice as quiet as hers. "Of course you didn't do anything. Of course you didn't."
She turned into his neck again and he felt the slide of fresh tears against his skin.
"Is this where you tell me it was God's -"
"No." His chin brushed back and forth over her hair as he shook his head. "No. I don't believe God has a hand in anything like this." He shifted her deeper into his arms. "Sometimes . . . sometimes, things just happen."
She pulled back, finally, but only by inches and only so that she could look into his face. He didn't hide his own sorrow or try to brush away the moisture from his cheeks.
They mourned together for a loss they shared, the burden of their grief made infinitesimally lighter as the pain was borne between them.
She was pale and blotchy from crying, her nose red, her eyes swollen and bloodshot. Tears still fell and dribbled into the drainage under her nose.
She broke his heart again with the tragic beauty of her face.
"You were right." Her chin wobbled as she fought for a pretense of composure.
Unwilling to let her go, one arm still circled her waist. His fingers rubbed lightly against her ribcage.
"Loving something that's only potential." Her eyes filled again; the words she spoke were barely audible. "I didn't even get to hold him but I loved him."
He framed her face within the palms of his big hands and peppered her with hard, short kisses . . . on her lips, beside her lips, on her cheeks . . .
He tasted tears and mucus and he didn't care . . . and she didn't care . . .
His forehead rested on hers, their eyes closed as they breathed for each other.
"Of course you did," he whispered, moisture leaking out beneath his lashes as he wept inside, too, where she couldn't see. "Of course you did."
She shifted, and a sliver of silver peeked out as she looked at him. "I don't know," she admitted haltingly, "that the child was male but that's what I imagined." Her lips quivered into a semblance of a smile. "He looked like you."
His chest swelled and tightened. His fingers trembled against her cheeks. "I pictured a little girl," he whispered, staring into her grief-ravaged face. "She was as beautiful as you."
Her hands lifted to cradle the stubble-roughened, pebbled jaw.
Scant inches apart, their faces cupped within the others hands, it was an awkward pose that, in the intimacy of the moment, neither noticed.
His eyes searched hers.
Hers searched his.
She braved the small space that separated them and pressed her lips against his.
The sweet tenderness of the simple gesture knocked him back on his toes. And when she broke away only to sigh and nestle again into his chest, it took every ounce of self-control he possessed not to crush her in a hold he was sure would break her bones.
Her arms curled around his waist.
He circled her shoulders and pulled her in closer.
The everyday noises of a busy hospital made an odd soundtrack to the silence that fell as they held each other.
Finally, she withdrew and sat up. Her fingers tangled in her lap.
His hands slid down her arms before he covered hers with a squeeze.
"There's . . . no impediment to . . . to . . . prevent us from . . . trying again." She spoke hesitantly, nervously, without meeting his eyes.
His grip on her hands tightened involuntarily.
"No." Jaw clenched, he met the eyes that shot up to look into his. "No, I can't." He forced himself to continue, to override the automatic desire to be whatever she wanted. "Not like this. It was killing me, Bones." Silently, he begged her to understand. "I can't do that again."
With the proof of their shared grief still on her face, she held his gaze and shook her head. "No," she whispered. "Not like this."
He stopped breathing. He was almost sure his heart stopped beating.
He stared at her, afraid to assume. Afraid to hope. Afraid of being wrong.
"I don't know what that means."
Standing on the same unfamiliar ground, her fear matched his. "I . . . don't either," she admitted quietly. "Perhaps we could figure it out together."
"Miss Brennan?" A young nurse in faded scrubs stood in the doorway, one hand on the rolling computerized medical chart just behind her. "I just need to ask you a few questions and then we can let you go home." Her voice was quiet, her expression sympthetic.
The two people on the bed never looked away from each other.
"Your friend can stay with you, if you'd like," she offered helpfully. She rolled the cart closer and pulled out the keyboard. "This won't take long."
Sitting across from her, their hands joined, Booth held her eyes. "I'm not going anywhere." The quiet statement was a promise.
Her hand turned over beneath his. Their fingers twined together.
"Nor am I."
It was a start.
Don't hate me.
This was always where this story was going and I worried about it so much, I had to ask Excellent Driver for permission to tell it this way before I ever put fingers to keyboard. I have felt so guilty everytime someone mentioned a nice fluffy ending because I knew that wasn't going to happen.
I've been pregnant twice and I have two beautiful children to show for it. If this story caused you pain, I am so sorry so sorry so sorry. Come to Nashville, I'll buy you a drink and I'll cry with you. Hell, come to Nashville even if it didn't and I'll buy you a drink.
Thank you to everyone who read this story, left a review, commented on Twitter or FB or just kept coming back for every update. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun to write without you out there reading.