Chapter: 2/? [WIP]
Characters: Brennan, Booth
Rating: R (rating is for some language and adult themes.)
Summary: Where does Booth go on a night when his job feels like too much? Story set in season 3. Possible spoilers through 3x6.
Warning: This story is rated R because of some adult themes, mild profanity, and some potentially difficult emotional content.
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to FOX, not me. This story is purely meant to entertain. No copyright infringement is intended.
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Does anyone know where I can find a beta? I'm considering writing something a bit darker, and I wonder if I'd benefit from bouncing some ideas, etc. off someone else.
Chapter 2: Fail with consequence, lose with eloquence.
”I don’t know." His eyes focused everywhere but on her, and the urge to grasp his chin and make him look her in the eye flashed through her with such power that her hands curled into fists.
"Don't lie to me." Temperance realized her lips were trembling and clamped her jaw shut.
"I...I don't know why I came here." He shook his head and turned away from her, shoulders bowed like Atlas. "I'm sorry I bothered you."
"Fuck you, Booth. I never took you for a coward." The words were out, and she couldn't take them back.
Booth's back stiffened and his head came up. "I'm not a coward."
"Then tell me the truth. You came here for a reason, and I want to know what it is. Please." There was a pleading note in her voice, and she hated herself for it — and Booth for putting it there.
Slowly, he turned to face her. "All right. I came here because I needed to see you. Because I thought you would understand. Because—"
“I do,” she said, unable to resist interrupting. "Or at least I'm trying," she amended.
“—I can breathe a little easier when I’m with you.”
The words trembled in the air between them, alive and nearly corporeal.
"But I know it was a mistake."
"What? Coming here tonight or kissing me back?"
"Look," he said with a sigh, "I wasn't thinking clearly." Temperance knew it wasn't rational, but Booth's words turned her stomach to ice. Still, she willed herself to ignore the cold and plow forward. She would not back down.
"Oh, I understand now. You only kissed me back because you weren't thinking clearly. Stupid me for thinking that something was happening here, between us."
"But it can't happen, Bones. Don't you see that?"
"Obviously, I'm not your type," she said, continuing as if she hadn't heard him, the ice melting as her gut began to burn. "Not blond. Not as good with people as I am with bones." She swallowed the lump in her throat and forced out the next words. "Perhaps just not good enough for you."
"No." One word — a bullet. Booth began to pace, hands on his hips, holding back a phantom suit jacket — a gesture so familiar it made her ache. "No, that's not it at all. Bones, you're plenty good enough. That's the problem. You're too good."
"What does that mean?" For a moment, she wished for their easy banter, for Booth's smug smile and laughing eyes and the crackling retorts that always sprang so easily to her lips. But there was no ease in this. Nothing familiar but the man standing in front of her. She had crossed the line by kissing him, but she'd done it without a map. Now she had no idea where to go next.
"Look at me," he said, and she did. He ceased moving, arms spread wide, and laughed humorlessly. "I'm a mess. An addict. Fifty kills to atone for. You've seen my x-rays. I'm broken, Bones. You know where and you know why."
Broken? He was no more broken than anyone else.
She stared at him, and it hurt her to see the self-loathing distorting his familiar features. How could eyes that saw so much in others, ferreting out secrets and lies, be so blind?
Yes, the x-rays had shown her the ghostly evidence of the fractures in his feet and the scarring that revealed he'd been injured while trying to shield someone. That was Booth — always trying to shield someone from something. But who shielded him?
Her lips twisted and her throat felt heavy with the need to speak the right words — the ones he needed to hear in order to understand. "More often than not, fractures heal. It's a natural, if sometimes painful and imperfect process." She hesitated, silently debating whether or not to tell him. The answer presented itself when she remembered Booth's long ago declaration that partners shared things. He'd shared with her tonight, telling her about Tom Gallagher. She could certainly try to do the same. She realized with a pang then how much he already knew — about her dysfunctional family, her passwords, and even the awkward, gawky girl who'd wanted to take dance lessons.
"I traveled to El Salvador several years ago in order to perform identifications at mass graves. I was in a tent near one of the sites, working on the remains of a young girl who'd been shot in the head and then dumped in a well. A police officer, possibly a soldier, showed up. I assumed he was sent to guard me, but he told me to stop. I refused, so he called in two other men. They bound my hands and feet, put a bag over my head, and dumped me in a cell with a dirt floor and no windows—"
"God," he said, scrubbing his hands over his face. "Just...I'm sorry, Bones. I didn't know."
She held up a hand, stalling him. If she paused too long, the words would die in her throat. "Let me finish. They held me captive for three days. Three days that felt like more than a week. He told me that he would kill me and toss me in a well, so no one would ever know who I was or what had happened to me." The irony had not been lost on her. She raised her gaze to meet his, determined not to flinch. The truth was the truth was the truth — and it could not be changed. "He raped me, Booth," she said, voice steady even if her hands were not. They shook, opening and closing as if scrabbling for something to hold onto.
No one had heard those words from her before. No one, save the doctors. Not even Angela knew the details of what had happened in El Salvador.
She hadn't uttered the words before.
The writer in her understood the power of words.
It hit her then, how much motion there was in Booth, even when he appeared still. It was something he had taught her, through countless interrogations, even though she hadn't yet mastered the lesson — how to read the stories the body, the face, the breath, and the voice could tell. His inhalation sounded sharp enough to cut glass. Eyes wide, bottomless, dark, as if immune to the light in the room. Shadows limning the crescents under his eyes. Concern, scored into the lines in his forehead. Pain, carved into the parentheses around the axis of his mouth.
"That's when I learned that sex can be used as a weapon. But I survived, Booth. So you see, things break, but they heal, too."
Booth moved closer, taking her empty, grasping hands in his. The touch completed the circuit, sending a jolt through her. Did he feel it too? His fathomless eyes traveled the contours of her face as if seeing her for the first time. Perhaps trying to read the story there.
"I'm sorry. I wish you didn't have to go through that." He squeezed her hands and held her gaze without blinking. It was so like him, to provide comfort when she should be comforting him.
It occurred to her then that maybe she shouldn't have told him. There were complex rules that governed social interaction, rules that, to her great frustration, could not be found in any text. Maybe she'd broken one of them with her revelation. She had only sought to make a point, to share something the way he had. She hadn't wanted to turn the focus to her issues, didn't want to be just one more thing for which he felt responsible. "We hadn't even met yet, Booth. There's nothing you could have done."
"I'd kill him if I could." Temperance saw the truth of it in his eyes, heard the conviction in his voice.
"I know. So would I." She searched his eyes and concentrated on the sensation of his skin against hers, feeling it in every bone, muscle, and tendon, knowing it might be all she would ever have of him. Wanting it, it and something more, even though she hadn't realized it until he appeared at her door, with rain his hair and despair in his eyes.
"You know, I have my own list. Granted, there is only one name on there right now — Gil Lappin." Her recognition that Booth was right about them all ending up a pile of bones gave her the courage to continue, even as the breath caught in her throat and her pulse pounded in her ears. "I would shoot him a hundred times if it meant saving you." The hyperbole caused heat to steal over her cheeks.
His grip tightened, and she felt the bones in his hands flex. "I don't want that for you," he said, and she knew he meant it, knew that he understood, better than all of them, what it cost to take a life.
He dropped her hands and stepped back, shaking his head and making her want to shake him. "You know what my job is like, Bones. You know how dangerous it is. You deserve better."
"You don't get to make that decision for me. I'm a grown woman, Booth. It's not your job to protect me from you." Thanks to her martial arts training, Temperance knew just how to break Booth's nose with a palm strike. But she was beginning to realize not everything could be accomplished with force, and she couldn't force Booth to step back over that invisible yet very real line.
"You're wrong. It is my job to protect you."
The memory came to her in a flash. Bedtime... Her parents taking turns reading her the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. In that version, the stepmother had forced her daughters to cut off pieces of their feet so they would be able to fit into the gold slipper the prince had managed to capture.
She wasn't Cinderella, and if Booth wanted her to wear the gold slipper of their old relationship, she would have to cut off a part of herself to do it.
Could she do that?
All at once she felt very tired. With the fatigue came a creeping sense of shame. Booth anchored her when circumstance threatened to buffet her every which way. Clearly it was asking too much to think she could do the same for him. He'd come to her seeking comfort; she understood that much. And she'd kissed him, further tangling things when she should have brought clarity. How could she have thought that was the right thing to do? Worse still, she'd kept him there when he wanted to leave. It had been selfish, and she had no right, she acknowledged. They were partners. That was all. Partners didn't have that kind of claim over one another.
She turned and walked toward the couch. She sank down on one end, near the armrest, and folded her legs, hugging her knees to her chest. "When our partnership began, my most meaningful relationships were with dead people. That was three years ago. I like to think that's no longer the case."
"It's not." The rough timbre of his voice made her close her eyes.
"Due in no small part to you, Booth."
He didn't respond, and his silence filled her with numbness. No more ice, no more fire. Only numbness.
She couldn't look at him. "I'm...sorry I didn't know the right thing to do. The right thing to say. If you'd like to leave now, I won't stop you. But if it's all right with you, I'd like to forget all this." The words caught in her throat, their razor edges making her bleed as she spoke them.
The floor creaked as he walked toward her, his bare feet nearly soundless. "You did the right thing, Bones." He sighed. "I don't want to leave." Though her eyes were still closed, she felt the heat emanating from his body as he came to stand next to her. "And I don't think I can forget this." His fingers whispered over her hair, drawing a shiver from her. "Don't think I want to. Is that really what you want? To forget?"
Temperance let her head tilt to the left so that it rested against Booth's hip. She opened her eyes. "No."