Chapter Title: With you, there's no easy answer.
Characters: Brennan, Booth
Summary: "Yup, the mighty Temperance Brennan was sick."
Notes: Takes place after Season 3, Episode 4. Minor reference to something mentioned in Intern in the Incinerator.
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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A/N: Ok, so I know this is nowhere near as good as an episode of Bones, but maybe it will ease the pain of the hiatus just a little bit. Thanks for reading. :)
"I don't believe in being gracious, Booth. I believe in being honest."
Booth turned to face her, his legs brushing hers as he did so. "Really? You mean that?"
"Of course," she replied without hesitation. "You should know that by now."
Maybe this was the opening he hadn't known he needed. "Then you won't mind if I ask you a question." He had tried to keep his tone neutral, but he felt the stiffness in her body, as if she were bracing for a blow. Maybe she knew him as well as he knew her.
The atmosphere in the room thickened, and for a moment, Booth studied the shadows cast against the wall by the lamps situated around the room. He took a deep breath and then slowly released it.
"What was it like for you when you and Hodgins were buried alive?"
Brennan's eyes widened, and she gasped as if she'd been struck. "What? Why would you ask me that now?"
"We've never really talked about it, and maybe it would be good for you to—"
"To what? Delve back into something that happened a long time ago?"
"Not that long ago." Booth shook his head and frowned. "It'll be a year in a couple weeks, Bones."
"Don't you think I know that?" She stood and started to pace, the paleness of her bare feet standing out against the navy blue of her sweatpants.
"Bones, you're sick. Why are you wandering around barefoot?" He gestured at her feet. "Go put on some socks."
"Don't boss me around, Booth." Her eyes spit fire as she turned to look at him. "You don't get to tell me what to do."
"Either get some socks or I'll go through your drawers and bring you a pair myself. Your choice." He raised his eyebrows. "What'll it be?"
The glare she shot him might have intimidated him at one point. Now, he felt immune. He sighed and shook his head as Brennan turned and stalked away from him.
When she returned, he had Tylenol and a glass of water ready for her. "Here," he said. "Take these first, and then we'll talk."
She accepted the pills and water without comment. He waited until she'd set the glass down on the coffee table. "The very fact that you do know that it's been almost a year means something. Believe me, it means something. And that's part of why I think we should talk about it." He tried to keep his voice soft. "These things...They can eat at you. I told you about...about Kosovo, and General Raddick. I had never talked about that with anyone, Bones. Didn't really want to. But Hank, he made me see that I needed to—even though I didn't want to. So I told you."
"But why me? Why tell me, of all people, Booth?"
"I told you because I knew you wouldn't flinch away from the truth. And I knew you wouldn't say any of the stupid, meaningless things people say when they hear horrible things that don't make sense. That can never make sense. I knew you wouldn't tell me to get over it, or that time heals all wounds. Bones, I knew you wouldn't lie to me."
Shaking his head, he crossed to stand by one of the bookshelves. "There are certain things you do, or things you have done to you, that you never get over. You just absorb them. They become a part of who you are. As much a part of you as"--he paused and fumbled for the right words--"as your bones." He rubbed the back of his neck, hoping he was getting through to her. "I knew that, with your parents leaving, you understood that." He sighed and shrugged. "Look. It doesn't...It doesn't have to be me that you talk to. Have you talked about it with anyone?"
"Not even Angela?"
"Why not? She's your best friend. I think she'd understand."
"It was hard enough for Angela, having Hodgins trapped down there with me. There wasn't any point. She needed to move on."
"What about what you need, Bones?"
She shot him a hard look. "I won, Booth. I'm not obligated to answer any of your questions."
"No, you're not," he acknowledged. "You're right about that. But I'm asking you to anyway. As your...friend." He swallowed. Friend. The word couldn't begin to encompass what he'd started to realize she meant to him.
"Because it matters to me. Because I think you need to talk about it—as much as I needed to talk about Kosovo." Brennan pulled the sleeves of her sweatshirt down over her hands and looked away from him. Her gaze drifted toward the front door, telegraphing her thoughts. "Don't do it. Don't run from me," he said. "Please," he added, his voice soft. "I'm not trying to hurt you."
"I know that."
"Good. That's something, at least." He gripped an edge of the bookcase. "Look, if even a little bit of your hesitation is about wanting to protect me, you've gotta know there's no need. I know you thought there was a good chance you might not make it out alive. Bones," he said, knowing he was taking a huge risk, "you didn't lie to me; I'm not going to lie to you, either. I saw it." He paused, hoping that telling her the truth wouldn't turn out to be a monumental mistake. "I saw the goodbye note you wrote to me."
Her gaze snapped from the floor to him. "What? When? You went through my things?"
The betrayal in her voice cut him deeper than the knife that had sliced his thumb. "No. Let me explain. That isn't—"
"Get out." The coldness of her voice startled him. "Just get out." Her eyes flashed as as she pointed at the front door.
"Hang on, Bones. I'm not leaving." Booth crossed the room to grasp Brennan by her shoulders. "Just listen to me for a minute. Please. Just listen." She tried to shake him off, but he held fast, hating that he bore responsibility for the frost lining her voice and eyes. "I didn't go through your things. While you were sleeping, I got bored. I hadn't read Cross Bones, so I pulled it off your shelf. When I opened it, the note fell out. Then I read it. I swear to you, Bones, I didn't go looking for it."
"How do I know you weren't snooping through my belongings?" Her shoulders felt like stone beneath his hands.
"You don't. But you trust me, don't you, Bones? You trust me with your life, and I trust you with mine. Doesn't that mean something?" She wouldn't look at him, but at least she no longer tried to shake him off. He loosened his grip and let his hands slide down to clasp hers lightly. "God, don't use this as an excuse to shut me out. Talk to me. Please." He tugged her toward the couch and waited for her to sit.
She pulled her legs up in front of her, curling them to her chest. "Are you cold?" he asked.
Maybe he deserved that. She was sick, and he was pushing her. But what if this moment was the only chance he'd ever have?
"Hang on," he said, turning to head back down the hall. He returned carrying her blanket, feeling relieved that she hadn't run away while he'd slipped into her room. As gently as he could, he tucked the blanket around her. "Better?"
Brennan tilted her chin, avoiding his gaze.
Booth sat down next to her and leaned his elbows on his knees. "I wish I could tell you I'm sorry I saw your note." In truth, he wished a lot of things. "But that'd be a lie. I'm not sorry. Because that note tells me something. It tells me you knew that you and Hodgins might die down there. And almost dying like that, Bones, had to have affected you. In a big way. The other thing it tells me is that you wanted to protect me." He looked down at his hands. "And I want to thank you for that."
He slanted Brennan a glance to see if any of his words had affected her, but her face remained shuttered and impassive. He hated that. Anger he could take. But indifference, her indifference, chilled him.
Finally, she spoke, and he started to feel warm again. "I don't want your thanks, Booth. I was simply telling the truth. Rationally speaking, it wouldn't have been your fault—"
"Thank you anyway," he said, cutting her off. "Look, you must have been terrified, but that note was all about me and Angela and Zack." He paused. "I want to know about you."
"But I don't understand why, Booth. All right, so you accidentally saw something you shouldn't have. What good will it do to discuss the kidnapping—something that's over and done with?"
"Are you absolutely sure it's over and done with Bones?" he asked, wishing, not for the first time, that he could see into her thoughts. "'Cause I can tell you that sometimes you don't realize what an emotional weight you're carrying around till it isn't there anymore. Or until it's lighter. Like when I had to see Dr. Wyatt. I don't think I knew how much the thing with Epps was bugging me until Gordon Gordon forced me to talk about it."
She turned her head to look at him, her expression serious. "Are you forcing me to talk about it?"
He silently considered her question. "No. I'm asking you to."
His answer seemed to satisfy her, because she nodded. "All right. Let's see...I woke up, and at first I didn't know where I was. The radio was playing. I switched on the interior light, and I felt this pain on the back of my neck. I reached up, and I ascertained that it was a burn—most likely from a stun gun. When I tried to open the door, it stuck. And when I rolled down the window, dirt started to fall inside. Then I heard this sound. A moan. From the backseat. It was Jack, and he was injured. That's...That's when I knew we were buried alive."
Booth put his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. He fought the urge to put it back.
"We speculated on what might have happened."
"You, Dr. Brennan, speculated?" He hoped the small joke would make the conversation a little easier for her.
She rewarded him with a slight smile. "Yes, I admit I did." The smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. "The details aren't clear in my mind anymore. But I think we talked about the Grave Digger and estimated how many hours of oxygen we had left." Her voice assumed a distinctly detached, businesslike tone. "We did an inventory of our supplies. Bottled water, towels, a laser pointer—"
"Stop, Bones," he said gently. "I know you're tempted to be totally logical and rational about what happened. And believe me, I get that. But I don't think that's going to help you."
"Then I don't understand what you want, Booth." She frowned and shifted on the couch. "You said you wanted me to talk about what happened when I was kidnapped."
"No," he corrected, reaching out to brush a strand of hair off her face. This time she didn't push him away. "I asked you tell me what it was like for you when you and Hodgins were buried alive. There's a difference."
She frowned. "What's the difference?"
"Bones, I'm not asking for a blow by blow replay of everything that happened while you were trapped down there. I'm asking you to tell me how you felt."
She sat silently for a long time; he wondered if he'd pushed too hard. Finally she spoke, cutting through the silence. "I...I don't know if I can do that."
The tremor in her voice convinced him he'd given her enough space. He searched for her hand under the blanket, clasping it firmly when he found it. "Do you trust me?"
"Yes," she said. At the sound of that single word, the knot in his chest unwound.
"Then trust me when I say you're ok. Talking about it won't put you back down there, Bones. I promise you're safe now. You're safe here with me."
"You can't promise that, Booth." She began to pull away, and he felt her starting to bristle and gather steam. "Anything could happen tomorrow. Anything could happen one minute from now—"
"Yup, it could." He tightened his hand around hers. "But right here, right this second, you're safe. With me." He sighed. "Maybe that's the best any of us can hope for." He moved back so he could look her in the eye and then searched his brain for a way to explain it so that she'd understand. "Do you remember when I convinced you to visit your mother's grave?"
"Do you remember how you didn't want to go?"
"Yes. But I don't see how that's relevant—"
He interrupted her. "Humor me. Do you remember what happened?"
She nodded. "I talked to the headstone. And neither it, nor my mother, answered."
"Yeah, but do you remember how you felt afterward?"
"I felt frustrated, because I didn't get a response. Then I saw the silver dolphin my father had left." Her expression turned thoughtful. "And I felt...a bit better."
"Did you only feel better because of the dolphin?" He held his breath and watched the emotions tumble across her face. He wondered if she had any idea how she looked to him.
"No," she said at last. "Well, at least I don't think so," she amended. "It was a relief, maybe, to articulate some of the questions I had about my father."
"Bingo," he said, and waited for her to make the connection. He didn't have to wait too long.
"So you're saying that if I articulate my feelings about being kidnapped, I'll feel better?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. It's really up to you. I can't force you. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to." It was true, he realized; he really couldn't force her. While he could help her see she had a choice, he'd then have to stand back and let her make it.
"But I feel fine, Booth."
"Bones," he said with a sigh. "I want to help, if I can. So let me ask you again—are you absolutely sure it's over and done with? Are you positive you feel fine?" He suspected she didn't. If nothing else, why keep the goodbye note? While it was possible that she'd just slipped the note back into the book and forgotten about it, his gut said otherwise.
She reached for a tissue and then blew her nose. When she looked at him again, her expression made him ache. "I..." she began, and then trailed off. Her forehead creased in a frown. He listened to the distant hum of traffic and waited for the words to come, trusting that they would. "I knew we had to stay calm. If we became too agitated, our respiration would increase, and we would use up the oxygen more quickly."
He eased back against the couch, still holding her hand. "Makes sense."
"I knew we had to be rational and discern if there were clues that could reveal our location. But there was a part of me that wanted to scream—and just keep screaming."
"I'd say that's pretty normal, under the circumstances." He remembered feeling the same way as the hours ticked by and his frustration mounted.
"I had to make an incision in Hodgins' leg, to relieve the pressure. The way he screamed, Booth..." She paused, her mouth twisting at the harrowing memory. "I know it was very painful for him."
Booth squeezed her hand. "It must have been painful for you, too." He deliberately kept his voice neutral, even though the reality of what she'd endured left him feeling anything but that.
"It...I was scared that I'd killed him. I'm not a surgeon; I'm a forensic anthropologist." She released an uneven breath and shook her head. "I'm used to dealing with bones, not living, breathing, bleeding...screaming people."
"I'm sorry." To feel responsible for another person's life, in a situation like that...The burden of that responsibility must have weighed heavily on her.
"For what?" she asked.
"That you had to go through that."
"You can't blame yourself for the kidnapping, Booth."
"But if I'd just—"
"No." She shook her head vehemently. "It wasn't your fault."
Booth was surprised when she squeezed his hand. Her attempt to comfort him affected him as much as the text of that damned note had. Feeling too much, Booth cleared his throat and tried to clear his head, too.
"He was unconscious for a long time," she continued. "I had a lot of time to think while he was passed out."
"What did you think about?" he asked in an attempt to keep her talking.
"Too many things." He reeled at the impact of her sad smile. "I thought about Russ and how we were just getting to know each other again. I thought about all the places I'd never see, and the—the books I'd never write, if I..."
"If you what?"
"If I died down there." She sniffed, and he looked to see if she was crying. Her eyes appeared dry, but her hand trembled in his. "I believed you'd come for us, Booth. Because I'd seen what you could do. But a part of me had to acknowledge the possibility that we wouldn't be found in time." She sighed. "I'm a scientist, Booth. An empiricist. I can't believe in God." She laughed, the sound like breaking glass. "I tried, you know."
"You did?" He recalled her telling him that she hadn't prayed during the kidnapping.
"Yes, I did. While I was trapped, I tried to allow for the possibility that God exists. But I couldn't do it."
"Because I couldn't believe that if God existed, my parents would have left me and Russ."
Her words robbed him of thought and left him helpless to formulate a response. Knowing that she'd been buried alive and unable to find even a measure of the solace he found in God hurt him in a way he couldn't begin to explain.
"I know we all have to die, Booth," she continued, rousing him from his thoughts. "But I didn't want to die then. Not like that. Not buried alive." Brennan's voice broke, and the naked fear in her eyes shook him to the core.
Booth released her hand and wrapped his arms around her, holding her against him in a way he hadn't been able to when he'd pulled her from the earth.
He held her—as his heart thundered in his chest—and he didn't know if he did it for her benefit or his.
He held her, and reminded himself to breathe.
"For weeks afterward, I couldn't sleep without a light on," she said, so softly that he almost didn't hear her.
He slowly released her, pulling back so he could see her face.
"The darkness; it choked me. That first night, I think I only slept for a few minutes, and then when I woke, well, the blackness made me think..."
"What?" he asked, already dreading her response.
"I thought I was still trapped down there." The blanket slipped as she raised a hand to her throat. "The oxygen was running out, and I couldn't breathe. And I kept hearing Hodgins' screams."
Booth's jaw tightened at her admission, and he willed it to relax. This wasn't about him. This was for her. She must have picked up on his reaction anyway, no longer as oblivious to body language as she'd been when they began their partnership.
"Nothing," he said, trying to keep the frustration he felt from coloring his voice.
"I don't think that's true, Booth. If I'm being honest with you, perhaps you could do me the courtesy of doing the same."
Booth couldn't really argue with her logic, but hearing her talk about her ordeal had already left him feeling raw and exposed. "I asked you to let me crash on your couch that night, Bones. But you wouldn't let me. You couldn't get me out of here fast enough. Why didn't you just let me stay?"
"I was tired, Booth, and I wanted to be alone."
He sighed and steepled his fingers, turning his head to look at her. "Did you really want to be alone, or did you just not want me to see you break down?"
"I didn't break down," she argued.
"Yeah?" He knew the word sounded like a challenge. "Did you cry after I left?"
"For how long?"
"I don't know."
"Take a guess. Five minutes?"
She shook her head.
She shook her head again.
No response at first. Then, finally, a nod.
"You sat here alone in your apartment and cried for twenty minutes after I left?" he asked, knowing that his voice had risen in volume and feeling helpless to stop it. He didn't wait for a response before continuing. "Why the hell didn't you call me, Bones?"
"Why would I?" Her confused expression sent his frustration soaring up a notch. "There's nothing wrong with crying. It helps rid the body of stress-induced chemicals. Human tears contain leucine-enkephalin, which affects pain sensation—"
"I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. I'm asking you why you didn't call me if you were upset, which clearly, you were, if you cried for twenty minutes and then stayed awake all night," he said, gesturing with his hands.
"Again, why would I? I'm a grown woman, Booth. It's not your job to babysit me. Just because you've seen me upset a few times doesn't mean—"
"Come on. Upset a few times? Give me a break. You should have called me."
Of course she disagreed. Nothing new about that. He huffed. "Bones, I was out there all night anyway."
"Outside your apartment." He gritted his teeth as he recalled sitting in his car the entire night, with nothing but coffee to keep him company. He'd wanted to be inside her apartment, where he could hear her breathe and know she was finally safe.
"I don't understand—"
"No, clearly you don't." Booth rolled his shoulders, trying to relieve the tension that had settled there. "That night—after we found you and Hodgins—I parked my car outside your apartment and sat there. All night, Bones. I was out there all night. If you had just called—"
"Why? Why would you do that?"
He glared at the ceiling. Could she possibly be this dense? "Because I needed to do something for you, and that's all you would accept from me, damn it. Bones, you'd just spent twelve hours buried alive. For the sake of my sanity, I needed to be here in case you needed me." He raked a hand through his hair. "Obviously did a great job of that," he muttered. Taking a deep breath, Booth closed his eyes and counted to ten, trying to focus on her needs instead of his.
When he opened his eyes, he found her watching him with an odd expression on her face. "What?" He silently congratulated himself on the fact that he sounded calmer now.
"Huh?" he asked, not trusting his ears.
"Thank you," she repeated.
"For what?" he asked, unable to keep the wonder out of his voice. Why had she stopped arguing with him?
"For staying, that night, in your car. For staying today, when you found out I was sick. For finding me and Hodgins. And, for listening."
For a moment, all he could do was blink at her and push back the emotions that bubbled up inside him and threatened to spill over. He hoped she couldn't see them on his face. When he recovered, he stretched out a hand and placed it on her forehead. "Has your fever gone up?"
"Oh, shut up, Booth." She shoved his hand aside and then sneezed.
"I was attempting to say thank you."
He looked away, focusing his attention on one of the lamps. "Don't mention it. Did talking about it help?"
"I'm not sure," she said, cocking her head to the side, "but I think it did. I don't feel like I'm carrying around a secret anymore."
"Good," he said with a nod, thinking of his own secret. "I'm glad, Bones."
She sighed, and her lips quirked in a small smile. "You know, I am aware I don't have the easiest personality."
"Neither do I." He smiled back at her. "I once shot a clown head on an ice cream truck," he said conspiratorially.
Brennan's smile widened. "I know. As I recall, I was there."
"Huh," he said, tapping his chin. "I guess you were."
Her expression turned serious again. "I also know I don't accept help easily."
"Really?" He winked and flashed her a grin. "I hadn't noticed."
Brennan rolled her eyes.
He felt his smile disappear. "Thank you for trusting me."
She nodded. "You're welcome. I don't think there's anyone else I could have discussed this with."
Their eyes met and held, and Booth swallowed uneasily. "Look, Bones, there's something..."
Brennan's stomach growled loudly, breaking the moment. "What?"
"Never mind. It can wait." Booth stood, offering her his hand. "Come on. Let's eat."