A/N Hello and welcome!
This is my entry for the Summer Fill-in-the-blank Challenge presented by the wonderful Razztaztic.
The rules were pretty simple:
Begin your fanfic with the end of S2.09 "Aliens in a Spaceship." You can start anywhere from the rescue to the end of the episode but you cannot change canon.
End your fanfic with the beginning of S2.10 "The Headless Witch in the Woods." You can stop at any point in the episode but you cannot change canon.
So, this is my response to that challenge. This was the first time that I responded to a challenge and the first time I've been bound within any parameters, but I hope that you like it anyway…!
Please review and let me know your thoughts, I'm really nervous about posting this chapter.
Disclaimer: I still don't own Bones or its characters, but I sure love to write about them!
Booth knew he'd be walking Brennan up to her apartment. Regardless of any argument she may put up, he was reluctant to leave her alone. Ever again.
The ride back to her place had been relatively quiet. Once they were on the road and the adrenaline drained from her body, Brennan slept for majority of the journey while Booth stole sideways glances at his dusty, exhausted partner. After pulling into the parking garage, he found the spot he'd claimed as his own since partnering with her, and Booth killed the engine. He sat silently, watching the rise and fall of Brennan's chest as she slept, slumped against the back of the seat, facing him while snugged beneath his black FBI logo jacket. He hated to wake her, but knew she'd be uncomfortable if he let her sleep much longer in that position.
Reaching over, he rested his open palm against her knee, which was drawn up to the seat, as she'd rolled herself into a fetal position before falling asleep, mid-sentence, about twenty minutes out from the quarry. "Bones," he spoke softly, afraid to startle her. "Bones, we're home; wake up."
Disoriented blue eyes peered at him from beneath fluttering lids. "Huh?" Then realization dawned on her as she came out of her sleepy fog. "Oh!" She spun in her seat quickly, momentarily terrified that she was locked inside the car. The parking garage was dark despite the fact that it was still daytime, giving her the impression that she was waking, once again, in a car buried underground. But as soon as the panic set in, she felt herself calming at the careful hands of her partner.
"Shh, Bones. It's OK. You're home; you fell asleep on the way." Booth grabbed her hands as they lashed out at an unseen assailant. "It's me, Bones; you're safe." He recognized the wild look in her eyes to be one that is brought on while waking from a sound sleep into an unclear world of nightmares where you're never really sure if you're awake or still sleeping. This was a state of semi-consciousness with which he was intimately familiar, often waking in a cold sweat, reliving memories of torture and beatings. He was grateful to see that his partner calmed once she focused on his touch and his face, recognizing him immediately. Locking eyes with her in the shadows, he held her hands firmly, brushing his calloused thumbs over her smooth skin. "You alright now? You awake?"
"Yes…. Yes, I'm OK, Booth. Sorry." Her voice was shaky. "I just… I'm…" she shook her head, as if trying to metaphorically clear her mind.
"It's ok, Bones, you don't need to explain; I know...I know…." His words were barely more than a whisper and he gave her a warm smile, the kind that spoke volumes to Brennan while simultaneously leaving so much unspoken, and he gave her a squeeze before removing his large hand from where it covered both of hers. "I'll walk you up. C'mon." He nodded his head in the direction of the stairs that would lead them up to the lobby of her apartment building.
Wordlessly, she agreed and turned towards her door, cracking it open before glancing back over her shoulder at her partner. "Thank you, Booth. I really appreciate you being here for me…" She felt like weeping, but didn't understand why; there was a feeling deep down in her soul that she was yet to understand. What she did understand, however, was that she was grateful that her partner was at her side.
Booth offered Brennan his arm as they moved towards the stairwell, and he was thankful that she took it without argument, and maintained their contact all the way up to the top floor. Her movements were stiff, evidence that she'd spent long hours sitting in a cramped space before the team was able to extract her and Hodgins from the submerged vehicle.
As they approached her apartment, Brennan instinctively held back, knowing without question, that her partner would clear the apartment before letting her enter freely. Standing just inside the door, she watched as Booth moved carefully and silently through her space, his gun drawn just in case. She watched as he methodically checked each room, listened as he opened every closet and met his intense gaze once he was confident she would be safe. With a single nod, he wordlessly conveyed to her to shut and lock the door, a direction with which she happily complied.
Booth watched his partner rest her forehead against the now-closed door, her shoulders rising and falling in time with the deep breathing techniques he'd been witness to in the past when she was working to calm herself.
"Bones," he beckoned her quietly as he stood close behind.
Without pause, she turned to him and crashed into his waiting embrace, burying her face into his broad shoulder while clutching at the sides of his disheveled oxford white shirt where it had come un-tucked at his waist. "Booth…" she mumbled breathlessly through threatening tears, but she didn't know what she wanted to say. She only knew that she wanted to feel his arms around her.
Booth felt his heart swell in a way that surprised him. During the time period that she'd been missing, he realized just how deeply he truly cared for his genius scientist. Disregarding the one night a year before their partnership actually became official, when they'd almost fallen into bed together, Booth and Brennan had been through several ups and downs. Throughout their increasingly improving partnership, they'd gotten to know each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies, which not only served to skyrocket them to the top in the success of their solved cases, but it also constructed a cushion of respect that surrounded them as partners and friends. Booth knew that Brennan was careful to a fault of who she let into her life; she maintained a strict code of protection that was intended to keep her from being hurt emotionally. The fact that she turned to him in her time of need, unrestrictedly opening her metaphorical heart to his comforting temperament, made his eyes swell with unshed tears of pride in her evolution.
"I was terrified that we'd lost you out there today, Bones," he spoke into her hair, ignoring the dust and dirt that infiltrated his nose. "Technically speaking, you two should have run out of air down there…" He rubbed large circles over her back. "Thank God you two're geniuses… Anyone else would have been lost. I would have suffocated, I have no doubt."
She didn't respond, she just clutched tighter, ignoring the weakness that she was displaying for her partner. When they were close to death, Hodgins had told her she had faith… 'What you've got is faith, baby'… But she didn't believe in faith – not like he did, not like Booth did... But nevertheless, she believed in Booth and knew that he wouldn't rest until he found them. Raising her tear-stained face up to look at her partner, she sucked her lower lip into her mouth while building the courage to make her request.
"Are you…are you going to go to church, Booth? I know you go to church sometimes after tough cases…" She shrugged one shoulder ever so slightly as she asked.
Studying her inquisitive eyes, Booth searched for any sign of mocking, but found only openness. "I'd like to, yes. But I can always do that tomorrow…I, uh, I thought I'd stay with you for a bit, Bones…" He brushed his thumb along her cheekbone, wiping away a particularly dark smudge of dirt. "I know you told Angela you didn't need company this evening," he held her gaze, referring to a conversation he'd overheard the ladies having, when the artist was trying to insist on spending the night with her best friend, only to have Brennan deny the need for companionship. "But, umm, I'd like to…well, I thought that…"
"Will you take me to church with you?" She cut him off before he could complete his broken thought, blurting her words out rapidly, afraid that if she didn't say them, she'd lose courage.
He looked at her in disbelief and dropped his arms from where they were still looped around her back. "No, Bones. No." He shook his head firmly, refusing to provide the outlet for his Atheist partner to insult his religious convictions in church. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Booth," Brennan understood immediately why Booth denied her request. "I promise to control my confrontational tendencies while you're observing your ritualistic practices." She watched as he raised an eyebrow at her rushed oath, then she softened her gaze. "I won't challenge you, Booth. I just thought that if you wanted to go, which I now know that you do want to go, then I could go with you and maybe we could grab something to eat while we're out…" She rolled her lips between her teeth and continued. "I mean, I know how important your worship time is to you…"
Instantly, Booth saw through her guise and thinly veiled excuse as she rambled on about his religious needs; Temperance Brennan was asking him to keep her company – to spend time with her after the harrowing experience she'd just endured. And he knew, without a doubt, that there was nothing he wouldn't do for his partner if she asked. His personal situation was complicated; he was wise enough to recognize that simple fact… He was involved with Cam – enjoying a loose, casual relationship that they both knew was volatile regardless of how heated it was. But he was simultaneously infatuated with his partner – the woman who was so far out of his league that his fantasies were nothing more than frustratingly erotic, because he innately knew she would never feel the same about him. Booth tried to focus on her words, but he found that he was, instead, lost in thought, realizing how vacant his life would have been if he'd lost her. Booth knew, regardless of how much he cared for Cam as a person and dear friend, not taking into consideration the amazing lover that she was, that if Dr. Temperance Brennan, the logical-to-a-fault absurdly-rational scientist who'd turned his world upside down, were ever taken from his side, his life would be forever altered.
"Yes," he cut off her dissertation explaining why he should take her with him to church. "Yes, Bones, I'll bring you with me." He raised his hands to her biceps and looked her square in the eyes. "As long as you're not going to insult God in his own house, and you cannot treat me as an anthropological study…" He grinned when he saw the relief in her eyes. "I've got a change of clothes down in the truck. I'll run down for my bag, if you don't mind me using your guest shower…"
"That's fine, Booth. I'll go shower and get dressed." She stepped aside, so he could leave the apartment. When he walked out the front door, Brennan found herself unable to leave the door unlocked, even though she knew Booth was coming right back. She clicked the deadbolt and waited for his return.
Several minutes later, Booth approached the door carrying his duffel bag, and he heard the lock click open before the door swung inward, inviting him to enter. He knew that meant she'd been watching out her peephole until his return, and he gave her a warm smile as he entered, inwardly contented that she was willing to share her evening with him.
As they turned to leave the church, Brennan looped her arm through Booth's, staying close to his side as she surveyed their surroundings and other parishioners who were scattered throughout the vastly open sanctuary. "Thank you, Booth, for bringing me…" she whispered rather loudly, but Booth didn't care who heard.
"My pleasure, Bones. I'm glad you were here," he grinned as he kept his eyes forward, letting his sniper skills take in everything and everyone around them. "What do you feel like eating? You wanna go to the diner, or Wong Fu's?"
"Can we get take-out and go back to my apartment? Is that alright? Do you have other plans, Booth?" She was uncertain how much time he was willing to spend with her, and didn't want to press her luck with having him near.
"My plans involve spending as much time with you as possible tonight, Bones," he answered honestly and without pause. "I mean, I don't wanna overstay my welcome, but frankly, I'm not really willing to leave you alone right now… and I don't care if you tell me I'm being an alpha-male. I'm your partner, and, well, I want to stay close…"
She smiled in appreciation. Brennan hadn't realized, until she thought she might never see him again, just how much she had come to depend on her partner. Nor did she realize how much she found herself wanting to be near him. For more than half her life, the world-renowned anthropologist had worked to keep people from getting too close, certain that if she opened her heart, she would feel nothing but pain and regret when everything went to hell. But over the past two years, Seeley Joseph Booth had integrated himself into her life in more ways than one. She welcomed him into her home unconditionally, trusted him with her life, knew that he would fight to protect her and understood that he had sacrificed many hours helping her understand common pop-cultural references and colloquialisms that 'normal' people already understood, but were somehow beyond her comprehension – and he did it without complaint. She knew that she had thrown away any chance she ever had at being with him in an intimate sense, the night she left him standing in the rain outside that pool hall, after he'd made a difficult confession to her about his gambling habit. But she held onto the hope that she could be the best friend he'd ever had, and she cherished the times they spent together.
"We could watch a movie or something, if you'd like, Booth… you know, while we're eating…" She attempted to sound nonchalant, not too needy and definitely not dependent… "I bought that new TV and have hardly used it…."
He grinned as he pulled into traffic, "sounds like a good plan to me, Bones. AMC has a John Wayne marathon this weekend; they're starting it tonight." He practically felt her smile light up the interior of the truck, and was happy that she was receptive to his input.
Their dinner was eaten at the living room coffee table, the sofa cushions relocated to provide them with seating on the floor. They sat, side by side, with their backs to the couch and their legs stretched out in front of them. At some point, during the second movie of their evening, Brennan scooted closer to her partner, just barely, but close enough that she could feel the heat from his body radiating welcomingly against her arm.
Sensing that his partner needed something more, Booth turned to look at her, studying her profile for a few moments. He raised his arm and draped it across the couch base behind them, and looped his hand down to her opposite shoulder, pulling her into his side. She slumped against him without protest and dropped her head to his shoulder. "Thank you for sitting with me tonight, Booth. I'm sorry if I ruined your other plans…" Her voice was soft, unusually small-sounding.
"I didn't have any plans tonight, Bones. You didn't ruin anything." He rested his cheek against the top of her head, inhaling slowly as the scent of her jasmine and honey shampoo filled his senses. "I'm doing exactly what I wanted to be doing."
She nodded, remaining silent, but found she was struggling to maintain her feeling of calm, knowing that he'd be leaving soon; it was getting quite late. "I'm just going to take these dishes and left overs out to the kitchen, Booth. I'll be right back…" She abruptly pushed herself up, pulling from his grasp, and grabbed the remnants of their shared meal. She hurried into the adjoining room, leaving her partner to stare after her in silent question.
After situating the left-overs into containers, she stood at the sink, staring blindly at the drain. "Do you want another beer, Booth?" She called out to him without turning, though she felt his presence closing in behind her.
"Uh, I dunno, Bones…" he kept his voice quiet as he entered the kitchen, carrying the few things that were left on the coffee table. Booth was unsure of how to ask Brennan about the possibility of him staying over, though he did not want to leave her alone. "It's, ah..." His thought was interrupted by an incoming text causing his phone to vibrate in his pocket. Reaching into his jeans, he glanced at the small screen then looked back at his partner. "Oh, ah, 'scuse me, Bones," he backed away slightly and turned his back to Brennan.
"Seeley, r u coming over 2nite… or u want me to come 2u? **wink** just b/c no NY this wkend doesnt mean we cant spnd the time 2gethr…been w8ing to hear fr u"
Booth paused and stared at the words. He knew he was supposed to see Cam that night; they had made plans. But his partner needed him. And he needed her. His mind raced at the replayed images of his own hand reaching down into the sand pit and pulling his partner from her would-be grave. He relived the feeling of his heart pounding against the inside of his ribcage, threatening to break free. He remembered the terror – the fear of losing the woman he could never have – and he was reluctant to leave her side, even though she would never feel the same way about him.
"Seeley? R u there? Did u fall asleep? Im heading ovr ur way"
The second text jarred him from his revelry and he knew he had to stop Cam from wasting her time going over to his apartment. He also knew that he had to figure out how to start to break things off with Cam. No matter how much he cared for her as friend and lover, in his heart, he knew he would always choose his partner over his partner's boss.
Frantically, he punched out a response.
"cant see u this wkend Cam. Gonna b tied up all wkend. Sry; I know I said we'd see echothr but...i just cant"
Sixteen point three miles from where Booth currently stood in Brennan's kitchen, Dr. Camille Saroyan stood in her foyer. With a small overnight bag in one hand and her phone in the other, she felt her smile melt from her lips as she read her lover's response. Those twenty-four words stung her unexpectedly. If she were to be perfectly honest with herself, she shouldn't have been surprised; she was witness to something that happened between Booth and Brennan out there at the quarry. They didn't speak, they didn't hug, in fact, once Booth had successfully pulled Brennan from the car, Cam wasn't sure that they had even touched…But undoubtedly, there was an interaction, an almost intimate feeling in the way she watched the partners look at each other while sitting there in the sand, surrounded by a flurry of activity as EMTs and officers flocked in from all directions. She didn't need him to tell her where he was or why he couldn't see her that weekend – she knew that he was with Brennan. Again, she silently chastised herself for the slight surprise she felt well up in her chest; he told her, shortly after she joined the Jeffersonian team, that he was with Brennan – all the way. That was a different circumstance, but the basis of his declaration was evident… Seeley Joseph Booth would stand by his partner regardless of other opportunities. She nodded and turned back towards her bedroom, pausing only long enough to tap a quick reply to her long-time friend.
"OK, Booth," (yes, she was consciously aware that she had reverted to calling him 'Booth' again, not 'Seeley'), "pls give my best 2 DrB; I hope she is well"
She turned off her phone before waiting for his reply, not really wanting to know what he said, and ambled back into the privacy of her bedroom, content to spending the weekend alone, and surprisingly accepting of that fact. They would deal with the fall-out of their relationship next week, or the week after…whenever the occasion called for addressing it. Regardless, she was confident that they would remain close; they'd been through this before, years ago.
Spinning back to face his partner, Booth met her big blue eyes as she watched him expectantly from where she had been standing before his texts came through. "Ya know, Bones? I will take that beer…" He closed the distance between them until he was standing directly in front of her and took the chance of making a suggestion. "It's late, and I should probably be leaving, so you can get some rest…but if you don't mind, I think I'm gonna crash in your guest room…I don't want you to be alone tonight." He braced himself for the inevitable onslaught of argument he was certain to receive from his independent, bull-headed partner, but instead, he found himself on the receiving end of her immediate embrace as she threw her arms around his waist and crashed against his chest.
"I don't mind, Booth…" she mumbled against his shoulder, reluctantly accepting the truth that she was grateful that he had just invited himself to stay; grateful that he wanted to stay. There was a time that she would have metaphorically thrown him out on his ear for making such an assumption, for being such an arrogant alpha-male, but after facing what could have been her demise, she wanted her partner close, and was happy she didn't have to do the asking. She could deal with the feelings of need and desire, but she hadn't wanted to display those emotions by inviting him to stay.
Brennan knew that Booth was seeing someone, but she didn't know who the other woman was. With that little piece of knowledge, she felt her chest swell with even more warmth, because she also knew he had just made a choice, standing there in her kitchen. And he had chosen her…
Pulling back, she swiped her open palm across her eyes, catching the few disobedient tears that had sprung free from her lower lids. "I'll grab your beer, Booth, if you wouldn't mind bringing out my wine glass? I'll top it off since you're staying…"
The partners finished their next several drinks in front of the TV, enjoying the John Wayne marathon, quoting well-known lines in really bad Wayne-accented imitations, until they were both so tired they could barely keep their eyes open. Subconsciously, Booth found himself reaching out to touch his partner as often as possible, grabbing her hand, tapping her thigh, draping his arms across the back of the couch and loosely pulling her against him before quickly releasing her, lest ancient instincts overrode his brain, causing his hands to wander further.
To Brennan's credit, she didn't call him out on his tactile tendencies; in fact, she found that she quite enjoyed feeling his light touches. Perhaps even more than the all-too-few hand-holds and light brushes against her leg, she enjoyed the brief moments when she rested against his side. She would let her head fall against his shoulder, take a deep breath of the smell she recognized as Boothy and close her eyes for a few seconds before righting herself again.
"We should probably get some rest, Booth…" her voice was small and hesitant. She struggled with a torrent of emotions she didn't quite understand, but the one thing she did know was that she hated the idea of spending time away from her partner, but it was an irrational feeling, because she was an independent woman…
"Yeah," Booth let his head drop back against the couch. "I'm sure you're beat, Bones. I know I am." He placed his large hand over hers where it rested on the seat cushion between them.
"Thanks again for sitting with me tonight, Booth. I would have been fine, you know, even if you had simply dropped me off…" she attempted a brave face, painting on the familiar defiance Booth had come to know as a defense mechanism, but he didn't point that out, he simply nodded and wrapped his fingers around her hand.
"Yeah, I know you would've been fine, Bones…" He rolled his head so he could look at her. "You're the strongest woman I've ever met…"
Booth's career as a sniper had taught him many thing, including one important skill: how to be a light sleeper.
When Booth and Brennan left the comfort of the couch and went to their separate bedrooms, the agent could hear his partner shuffling around in her room; the wall that separated the two rooms was not exactly sound proof. He listened for the better part of an hour before he recognized the stillness that accompanied the eventual settling of the stubborn anthropologist as she climbed into bed. When he didn't hear any more closets opening and closing, and no more drawers sliding out from their bureaus before sliding back into place, and her private bathroom light switch turning off and on, Booth knew she had either resigned herself to facing the darkness and finally sleeping, or she simply fiddled around until exhaustion overtook her partly-druken state of mind. Whatever the case, he knew he hadn't been asleep for long when he heard Brennan's bare feet pad into his room, and he lay on his back, quiet and unmoving, waiting to see what she had planned.
She stood in the open doorway for several moments, arguing with herself about whether or not to enter her guest room. The room where her partner was sleeping. The same partner who'd been her sole source of comfort for the past several hours. She looked in on his shadowed figure sprawled out in the middle of the queen size bed that occupied the center of the relatively small space. Cozy, she thought, not small… Her mind wandered as he admired the lines of his long, hard body, laying comfortably in nothing more than a pair of wildly-colored boxer shorts. She observed the way his broad shoulders seemed even wider against the pair of pillows he's claimed from the hall closet. She could see the firmness of his abdomen, the steady rise and fall of his chest as deep breaths filled his lungs. Brennan felt herself flush with embarrassed heat that she would study him in such a manner. But, she mused, he is a perfect specimen of the male form…
Stepping into the warm space, she felt her fingers tighten their grip on the object she was carrying. She'd looked at the item several times in the past forty-five minutes, replacing it into her bedside drawer before taking it out again, only to end up tucking it out of sight once more. Finally, she realized that if she didn't do this now, she would likely never again have the nerve to do it, and she yanked open her drawer and withdrew the focus of her distraction for the last time.
Slowly, she moved towards the bed, careful not to disturb her slumbering partner; the best man she'd ever known. They had enjoyed several drinks that night, and she knew that Booth's heavy intake of beer followed by a few shots of bourbon would have helped him slip into a healthy, deep sleep, but she still didn't want to risk disturbing him. She, herself, was feeling the effects of the bottle and a half of wine she'd ingested, but her adrenaline and subconscious still wouldn't let her rest; her heart felt like it was pounding out of control within her chest, she could hear the deafening sound of blood rushing through her ears, proof that she was alive, and her mind was racing with thoughts of what if ?...
What if he hadn't gotten to me… to us?
What if Hodgins hadn't known what to send on the text?
What if I had died…instead of pulling our dirty, dusty, weakened bodies out of the car, Booth would have been pulling out our corpses…
What if I never have the chance to tell him how much he means to me?
Shaking her head, trying to clear her jumbled thoughts, Brennan stepped even closer. She looked at Booth's body under the filtered shadows caused by the venetian blind slats on the window. She could see his battle wounds clearly, even in the dim light. He had been an abused child, he confided that piece of information in her, and his chest and torso confirmed as much. Combined with scars he'd earned during his time as a POW, twice, his handsome body was riddled with various sized reminders of his hardships. She struggled to hold back the tears that threatened to spring free from behind her cerulean blues, as she imagined a frightened little boy, not much bigger than Booth's own son, taking repeated beatings from a drunken father, and cigarette burns to the chest, all the while refusing to cry out in pain for fear that it would enrage the intoxicated man even more. Then her imagination took her forward in time to a would-be twenty-something Seeley Booth fighting his way back into consciousness under the wrath of enemy beatings and torture. And again, a few years later, having both of his feet beaten and broken as a method to try to make the stern, well-trained Army Ranger Sniper spill the secrets with which the US Military had entrusted him.
Her partner had been through so much before they ever met; how he turned out to be such a remarkably patient and giving man was beyond her comprehension. Sure, Booth had a temper and a somewhat short fuse when faced with a true moral dilemma, but he was so open to her in many ways, patient with her inabilities to understand 'normal' topics, willing to teach or help her understand things that no one else even bothered to explain to her… And in that instant, she was overcome with emotion and gratitude that he'd spent this time with her. Not just that evening, though she would be remiss if she didn't acknowledge that his presence after her kidnapping was incredibly reassuring, but the past two years of partnership. At the close of their first case, three years prior, after which she refused to speak with him and avoided every attempt at contact he'd made, she was floored to know that he still wanted to pursue a working relationship with her – even if it was initially driven by his desire to succeed. Seeing at how successful he was in his field, she had every confidence that he would have moved 'up the ladder' just fine without her help; yet it would be negligent of her to think that they didn't make a wonderful team as partners.
Finally stopping at the side of the bed, Brennan lowered her offering to the small end table, so Booth would find it in the morning when he woke. She paused for just another second before turning away and forcing herself to plod back into the solitude of her own bedroom. Before she made it two steps, however, Booth's hand darted out and grabbed her gently, stopping her in her tracks.
"Why aren't you sleeping, Bones?" His voice was rough and thick with alcohol-induced grogginess.
Caught off-guard, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Hodgins is in love with Angela."
Releasing her hand, Booth peered at his partner from beneath one open eyelid. "And that is keeping you awake all night? Causing you to rummage through drawers and closets and lurk at the bedside of your sleeping partner?" His lips formed a crooked smile as he peeled open his other eye and turned his head to face her completely, waiting for the true reason she'd padded into his room quietly, but not as silently as she'd like to think.
"Well, I…" she stammered as she turned her body to face him in return. Ringing her hands together, she studied the shakiness of her fingers and willed them to be still. Inside her mind, internal dialogs of advice from opposite sides of the spectrum were warring for attention.
Tell him how you feel.
No, you'll only regret it. He's your partner, nothing more…
Not until she felt the warmth of Booth's large hand encase her much smaller ones did she open and raise her eyes to meet his gaze once more.
"You're not really worried about Angela and Hodgins, are you, Bones?" His question was more of a statement ,and she knew he saw through her feeble excuse.
"No…I just… Well, Hodgins confessed that to me in the car…when he thought he was going to die…when he thought I was going to kill him for performing minor surgery on his leg…."
"You did that to Hodgins' leg?" He raised his eyebrows in surprise. He had seen the blood-soaked pants that were shredded along the length of Jack's lower leg when he helped pull the scientist out of the dirt; but he didn't realize that his partner had done the damage… he assumed it was a result of the Gravedigger's handiwork.
She looked defiantly at his shock, jutting out her chin. "It was necessary, Booth. He was suffering from Compartment Syndrome. It could have been life-threatening if I didn't perform the fasciectomy; I had to relieve the pressure in his leg, Booth... And besides, it allowed him to pass out, thus lowering his rapid breathing, which in turn, provided us with additional minutes of breathable air. And once he woke, he was more focused on helping figure out a way to escape! And furthermore, Seeley Booth…"
Booth could clearly see that his reaction had caused her to be upset, and he recognized the stance she'd just taken as one of defense – a stiff posture that she used whenever she was about to 'squintify' something and launch into a dissertation. "Hey, I know you did what you needed to, Bones," he interrupted her thought, cutting her off mid-sentence, but he continued. "I just didn't know, that's all. I saw the blood and assumed it was from the Gravedigger. We didn't talk about it tonight, Bones," he pushed himself up to a seated position, leaning back against the headboard, and tightened his hold on her hands. "I didn't know…" His eyes implored her to understand he meant no offense and he sighed in relief when he saw her gaze soften.
Allowing him to pull her down to the bed, Brennan sat on the edge and released his hand, her back resting against his raised legs. "It could have been worse…I could have killed him…" Her words were quiet and resolved, the reality of her actions hitting home. "But it was a necessary and calculated risk…Had I done nothing the end result could have been death as well…" She swallowed thickly. "At least now he'll have the chance to tell Ange…"
"Hey," he leaned forward and grabbed her waist, feeling her tense beneath his touch. "C'mere, Bones. It's OK." He pulled her backwards into the 'V' of his parted legs, so that her back was resting against his chest. "You did great, Bones," his whispered words brushed against her ear, sending shivers through her body that did not go unnoticed by Booth. "You took a dire situation and you turned it into something manageable… you obviously remained calm and your focus was on helping to heal a colleague…a friend. You did awesome." He pressed a kiss to the loose hair on the back of her head and felt her sink back against him a little.
"It was a survival instinct, I think…If Jack had died," Booth smirked at hearing his partner refer to her coworker by his first name; she always called him 'Hodgins'. She had once claimed it was a way she could keep their relationship strictly professional, because they were 'colleagues, not friends', or so she said… "I could have died as well," she continued speaking, not knowing that Booth's mind was thinking of past conversations. "He was able to determine the type of soil surrounding us and he used the perfume he purchased for Angela to generate additional air… He's very smart, Booth."
He could hear, in his partner's words, the unspoken pride, gratitude and respect she felt for Jack Hodgins, and Booth realized that this was just another facet in the mysterious woman that was Temperance Brennan. She put up a brave, and often unfeeling, mask to keep the world at bay – but she was anything by cold. His Bones was a complicated woman, usually grossly misunderstood and underestimated; a multi-faceted diamond still unpolished in many ways. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his open palms on her stomach, momentarily losing himself in the overwhelming array of emotions flooding his body.
He was thankful that she was here, alive and in his arms, even if she wasn't in his arms quite the way he wanted…He took a deep lungful of her fresh scent, compliments, he was certain, of her shampoo and body wash… He felt her cool hands cover his, sandwiching them between her softness…
Her quiet words interrupted his thoughts. "I knew it was your hand, Booth…Before I even saw that it was you pulling me from the earth... I knew you wouldn't give up… I could never replay you for saving my life…"
"Bones, you don't owe me anything. Besides, you saved my life long ago…" He nuzzled into her wild locks, proof that she had been running her fingers through her hair repeatedly, probably in frustration and stress. He continued, not knowing if she knew the full effect she had on him all those years ago. "If it wasn't for you, Bones, I would probably be broke and unemployed by now, having gambled away everything I owned by this time. But I changed that…because of you…for you… so, you see? You saved me long ago, Bones…"
"I didn't know…" her words were slurred and groggy, he knew she was fading. "Why? When?" Her head lulled back against his shoulder and her forehead pressed lightly against the side of his neck; exhaustion had won the battle and pulled her body and mind into slumber. If she still wanted to know the answer to his gambling addiction turn-about in the morning, he would tell her; but something told him this was a one-night deal of confessions, and it was unlikely that they'd revisit his past as a gambling addict.
Booth remained perfectly still for several moments, knowing that if he stayed in that position for the rest of the night, he'd regret it in the morning when his back and neck were screaming at him in pain. But in the same instant thought, he knew he would endure just as he was, for as long as she would sleep in his embrace; it was a different situation than any he'd ever dreamt about when said dreams involved him and his stunning partner, but nevertheless, she needed him and he would be there for her…even at the cost of some possible back spasms.
As he felt her weight grow heavier with wine-infused-sleep, he turned his head to see what she had placed on his night stand. All he could see was a rumpled piece of paper, and that made him curious. Slowly and steadily, he slid his right hand from beneath her grasp, leaving his left hand pressed against the warmth of her tummy. When his fingers wrapped around the paper, he craned his head and eyed Brennan to make sure she hadn't been disturbed, only to find that she was still softly snoring against his chest. Turning his attention back to the dirty, crumpled object in his hand, he slowly opened it, trying his best to stay quiet and willing the loud creases to shut the hell up, lest his partner wake.
With only the street light outside shining through the slats of the window blind, Booth had trouble making out anything on the page, but as his eyes adjusted, and he studied the paper more carefully, he made out the unmistakable scrawl of his partners elegant handwriting. It was the dedication page from her novel, the one that she dedicated to him, torn out and covered front and back with a message… a message for him.
I am writing this from the front seat of my car, as we (Hodgins and I) are buried somewhere beneath the earth. We have tried to send you a text, but have no way of knowing if it even transmitted. And if you did receive it, did it make sense? Was the team able to decipher it? Hodgins is certain that, under the appropriate circumstances, Zach will be able to understand the code; but sometimes he freezes in panic-situations. And I am sure, right about now, that you are panicking and giving the team your best 'pep-talk' by way of threatening them into submission. Don't worry, I don't fault you for that; your methods have proved effective time and again, and I find them comforting when I really think about it. Though, you often terrify Zach.
Hodgins handed me this torn-out page from my book just moments ago and asked 'Is there anyone you want to say goodbye to?' We are about to make our final attempt at either escaping or getting someone's attention; I have rigged the airbags to blow up, with the intent of blowing out the windshield. I know it's a big risk – there's a good chance that we can be killed in doing so. But, Booth, we're running out of air…we're running out of time. I am sure that the Gravedigger did not intend to take both Hodgins and myself, so just as was the case with those two boys in the capsule, our air supply has been cut in half.
Booth, I need you to know that I trust you never gave up hope to find us. I know that you will keep looking until our location is revealed to you. However, on the chance that our message did not get beyond the piles of dirt above us, we must take this chance. It's this…or we simply resign ourselves to succumbing to our fate without a fight. I refuse to go down without a fight, Booth. You would do the same, so please don't lecture me about safety and logic; Hodgins and I know the risks, and we accept whatever happens.
I'm running out of room on this page, I should have written smaller; but the lighting in here is weak and I needed to be able to see what I was writing.
Booth, there is something that I need to tell you. You should know that you are the best friend I've ever had. I know I can trust you with everything, and that you would never purposefully hurt me. You've proven, time and again, what an honest and upstanding man you are, dedicated to your country, your job and your friends. It has been a true honor to work beside you for the past two years, and I can't tell you how much I regret avoiding you for the year following our first encounter. But, I've been told that I'm stubborn, which, I'm sure played a factor in my actions. I am so thankful, however, that you are more stubborn, more persistent and you never gave up on your pursuit to work with me again. That is, perhaps, the greatest compliment I have ever received…Your diligence.
If life, as you believe, continues after death, then I am going to miss you terribly. I'm going to miss hearing your laugh and seeing your eyes dance in time with your smile. I'm going to miss being at your side. I'm going to miss that familiar feeling of your palm against my back as you try to usher me to and fro… You should know that I never let anyone tell me what to do or where to go… you should consider yourself lucky, Booth. (I'm smiling at that statement, because I know it drives you crazy when I self-praise…I hope you're smiling too.)
I'm feeling the unwelcome sting of tears now, as I end this letter, and I am prolonging the inevitable as long as possible. I don't want to say goodbye. It's illogical, but I'm not ready to say goodbye, Booth. Not like this. But we can't change reality and we can't go back in time. If we could, I'd go back three years, and I would have never gotten in that cab alone.
I hope that you have a wonderful life, Booth, filled with happiness and family and all the things that you treasure. I hope that when you read these lines, you find peace in knowing that I never gave up on you. And I don't want you to feel guilt if the team was not able to reach us in time; this is the Gravediggers fault – not yours. Hodgins says I have 'faith' in you…I don't know about faith, but I know evidence when I see it. I've watched you work day and night to help strangers; that proves to me how hard you would work to save a partner.
I hope my writing hasn't gotten too small, Booth…But again, I'm merely prolonging what I know I must do. I'm out of room, I'm out of time. And I'm out of composure and weeping quietly… To Hodgins' credit, he's saying nothing, but I know he hears me from his perch in the back seat. I wish I had more time, Booth. More time with you. More time with my family. More time to understand these feelings. But what I don't need more time for, is to know that I care about you. Deeply. I can't put into words how I feel, because I don't understand the emotions. But, Booth, please don't doubt that you mean more to me than I ever imagined possible. I've worked my whole adult life to keep people out of my heart…yet here I am, hoping against any and all logic to see a ray of sunshine peeking down through the dirt and into the windshield, so I could have just one more chance to see you. But now I must face my reality; I am going to crawl into the backseat and sit beside my coworker and friend, for possibly the final time, while we detonate our little experiment. If it works and we get out of here alive, you will never see this letter. But if it works and kills us, please accept this as my only option of bidding you farewell. I would have much rather done it with a hug if I had to do it at all. Some things are not meant to be, I suppose.
I love you, Booth. Perhaps not in the traditional male/female fashion, but definitely in a way that I can't put into words. I love being with you, I love the changes you brought to my life. I love the changes you've brought out in me.
Booth lowered the page to his side and stifled the tears that were threatening to spill from his eyes. He was imagining his partner, buried beneath the earth, scared that she was about to die and not understanding the torrent of emotions tearing through her body. He was thankful that Hodgins was there with her – not that he'd been hurt and Booth would never wish a kidnapping on anyone – but he was thankful that she was not completely alone. He tightened his hold on her waist, pulling her even tighter against his torso and wrapped his legs around hers, holding her firmly in place as he pressed a kiss to her forehead.
Her intention was to never give him this letter if she lived, yet she snuck into his room and left it on the side table for him to find. Temperance Brennan was a constantly-evolving creature, which she had proven to him time and again over the course of their partnership… but never more than now. This woman – this independent, ultra-logical, solitary woman looked to him for comfort, came to him in the dead of night for security, bearing the only gift she felt she had to give. He was certain, even as she tried to turn away while she thought he was sleeping, she had hoped he would offer her a safe place to lay her head, a sort-of asylum in which she could drift off to sleep without worry. Booth decided right then, in the wee hours of an otherwise typical Saturday morning, that he would always be her refuge. He would never turn his back on her for as long as she gifted him with her trust. Temperance Brennan was not a trusting woman, yet she had 'faith' and trust in him, and that's all he cared about- that's the greatest gift she could ever bestow upon him.
Booth's phone woke them in the early afternoon, with news that a headless body had been found in a remote wooded area. Although Cullen had offered to send another agent out to the scene, upon learning that Booth was still with Brennan following her ordeal, Brennan balked at the idea and made Booth accept the case.
"Bones, another agent can check it out; they can still filter everything through the lab, but you don't need to be traipsing around the woods looking for body parts!" He argued with her while she made coffee and he caught the glare that she gave him over her shoulder. She's back, he thought dryly, then smiled at the same thought… Yeah, she's back.
"Booth, there is no reason we can't take the lead in this case. I sustained no permanent damage from my kidnapping; not like Hodgins. And I am perfectly capable of returning to work today…I had a very good night's sleep." She smiled briefly at him as she remembered waking up wrapped around his body, just as he was wrapped around hers. But she steadied her stare and met his gaze. "Are you too tired to work today, Booth?" Her question was a challenge, knowing he wouldn't back down.
"Me? No way, I'm not too tired. I was just thinking of you, Bones… Just tryin' to help, y'know?" He turned back towards the living room and grabbed his sneakers. "I'll just go home, shower and change and I'll be back to pick you up." He sat at the table and started to tie his shoes when she came to stand in front of him.
"You can use my shower, Booth. And your clothes from last evening are hardly dirty, you can wear them today; after all, we're going to be 'traipsing' through the woods, as you put it…" She raised her eyebrow at him and tried not to look too anxious for him to stay with her until it was time to leave. The feelings of solitude are irrational, she lectured herself about her own insecurities, what are you going to do tonight when he drops you off? Determined to deal with that issue when it arose, she didn't wait for him to answer. Turning away, she pointed to the coffee pot. "It should be ready in four minutes. I'm going to take my shower now. See you in a few." And with that, she disappeared down the hall.
Watching after her, Booth smirked before growing inwardly serious. He knew what she was doing, he knew that she didn't want to be alone, and he completely understood that, but it broke his heart to see how vulnerable she truly felt. Tossing his shoes back in next to the sofa in a very domestic way, he grinned, planning to use them as an excuse to come back up to her apartment later that night. He moved into the guestroom to retrieve his casual pants, dark shirt and his mocha suede Birkenstock Maines that he'd worn the night before. Then – after grabbing a cup of the amazing-smelling coffee that his partner had brewed – he retreated into the guest bathroom for a quick shower.
The ride to the crime site was filled with their normal banter about everyday topics as they fell into their comfortable routine. Pulling up to the National Park Service Ranger Station, Booth turned to Brennan and gently laid a hand on her knee.
"Bones, just do me a favor, huh? Stick close out there in the woods today, hmm? We don't know what's out there…." And the Gravedigger is still on the loose, he added mentally.
"What are you talking about, Booth?" She gave him a quizzical look, her forehead creasing into her trademark 'v'.
"You wander off, Bones… often… You," he made a hand gesture, his fingers walking in midair, "wander away…"
Opening the door, she gave him a glare. "I don't wander, Booth… I investigate the surrounding areas of a crime scene." She slid from her seat and marched off towards the front door of the Ranger station.
Hopping out of his seat, Booth trotted to catch up with her, rebutting her claim the whole while. "You do, Bones…all the time….wander, wander, wander…"
So…. Whatcha think?
Now that I have (hopefully) successfully completed my first-ever challenge, I will refocus on my multi-chapter pieces, 'Death Plus One' and 'Letters from Maluku'. I have not abandoned them, I promise!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts; I really hope you liked it.