Word Count: 2571
Timeline: This story is set in Season 2, after Episode 11 (Judas on a Pole), though I may have changed the exact month.
Summary: Thoughts of Booth are keeping Brennan awake at night. Question is, what is she going to do about it? This story is set in Season 2, after Episode 11.
Spoilers: Through 2x11 (Judas on a Pole)
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to FOX, not me. This story is purely meant to entertain. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 10: Stronger Than the Monster Beneath Your Bed
Lying on her back in Parker’s bed, Brennan looked up at the ceiling, eyes traversing the fluorescent green glow-in-the-dark stars and planets posted there. There was no pattern, no organizing factor she could discern for how the stickers had been planted. No, it appeared they’d merely been stuck haphazardly.
A memory returned to her unbidden, surfacing from the depths of her brain. She’d been a child -- probably no more than 7 or 8 years old. It had simply happened too long ago for her to recall with greater precision. One sunny Friday afternoon after school had closed for summer vacation, she’d watched from her bedroom window as her father and brother had driven off.
When she asked her mother where they’d gone, she smiled and said they’d bought a tent and gone camping. “A little father–son time,” she said. “Don’t worry, honey, we’ll have fun without them.”
All weekend she pictured Russ and her father having an adventure, sitting around a campfire, laughing – without her.
They returned Sunday, just as she and her mother were sitting down to eat dinner. The sound of tires spitting gravel reached her ears through the open windows. Her mother rose, a smile forming on her face as she walked out of the kitchen and toward the living room. Brennan remained in her chair, even when she heard the squeak of the screen door opening.
“How are my boys?” her mother asked, her voice carrying into the kitchen, where Brennan still sat, swinging her legs. “Did you have fun?” She stuck her fingers in her ears so she wouldn’t have to hear their answer.
But a minute later, they tromped into the kitchen. Her father had a hand on Russ’ shoulder, and though both of their faces were sunburned and peeling, they were also smiling.
For the first time, she wished she were a boy.
Russ pulled out a chair and sat down, looking at her with his mouth stretched in a wide grin, and she hated him just a little bit. When he said, “Hey, twerp,” something inside her burst open: she dumped her icy lemonade in his lap and then ran out of the kitchen, heading for the safety of her bedroom. Her father’s laughter boomed out from behind her, and her mother said, “Matt, don’t encourage her!” as she flew past them and up the stairs.
She managed to lock her bedroom door before Russ could catch up and give her the bloody nose she heard him promise her. Later, her mother popped the lock and came in wearing a disappointed frown that led into a long lecture about good behavior. Brennan didn’t say a word. Her mother brought her dinner up, saying that until she learned better table manners and apologized to her brother, she would eat in her room by herself.
She left her dinner untouched that night, tasting nothing but salt as she cried herself to sleep.
One night two weeks later her father ushered her into the station wagon. Despite her repeated requests, he refused to tell her where they were going. “You’ll see,” he said, smiling. The rhythm of wheels against the road lulled her, and she dozed off with the rays of the dying sun warm upon her face.
The lack of motion woke her. Sunlight had been replaced by darkness. “Come on,” her father said, his face mostly in shadow. She blinked and shivered before reaching for the door.
A flashlight clicked on. Their hands brushed as he handed it to her. They followed the yellow beam up a long hill, grass swishing against their shoes as they climbed. Somewhere an owl hooted, and Brennan stumbled in the darkness. “Easy, honey,” her father said, resting his free hand on her shoulder.
Finally, the ground leveled out. They stopped at the top of the hill, in a clearing with just a few trees around the edges. Her father unrolled a sleeping bag and lowered his backpack from his shoulders. Plastic crackled and tore, and soon they were seated side-by-side, eating graham crackers and M&M’s. As they munched, bugs chirped, and a breeze danced through leaves and grass, playing a nighttime symphony. With her father beside her, she was no longer scared.
She didn’t know how long they stayed up there. He pointed out constellations one by one, and she committed the names to memory. There was Orion the Hunter, wearing a star-studded belt, with his dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Following his finger, she saw Leo, Scorpius, Lepus... After pulling out binoculars, he helped her find the distant glow of the Andromeda Galaxy in the wide, dark sky above them.
“Did you show Russ?” she finally asked, after the crackers were nothing more than crumbs on her hands and lips.
Her father chuckled softly, looping an arm around her shoulder. “No, I didn’t,” he said, and she ducked her head and smiled into the darkness.
Now, as she lay in the darkness of Parker’s bedroom on an unfamiliar bed, Brennan pulled the blanket up to her shoulders, shivering from something other than cold.
“If you find somebody that you can trust, you hang onto ‘em. Remember that,” her father had said, staring at her with a different face but the same eyes she’d always known – right before he had joined Russ in the truck that would drive them straight out of her life. Again.
As sleep turned her eyelids heavy, Brennan sighed and turned her gaze from the luminescent ceiling to the room across the hall, recalling the chill in Booth’s eyes as he seemed to look straight through her when she said good night – and wondered if he had ever pointed out constellations to his son.
Sighing heavily, Booth changed position, flipping over from his back to his side. Bad move: his bed smelled like her. The pillows, the sheets, the blanket. All of it. He’d been lying there for hours, fighting to fall asleep and escape the thoughts spinning in his head. No luck. The harder he tried to close his eyes and not picture his soapy hands gliding over the smooth slope of Brennan’s back, the clearer the image became; it blazed behind his eyes -- in high fucking definition.
This was his bed. His damn bed. He usually slept in it alone; he was used to that. With no one to tell him otherwise, he could sleep on the right side on Monday, the left on Tuesday, and straight down the middle on Wednesday. So why, after one night of sleeping in it with his partner, did it feel too big? You did more than sleep, buddy.
Digging the heels of his hands into his eyes, Booth ruthlessly slammed the door shut on that thought before it could lead anywhere. That was the problem, though, wasn’t it? Whether he thought about it or not, he’d started to learn her with his eyes and his hands and his mouth.
Booth wasn’t naïve enough to think he now knew everything there was to know about Temperance Brennan. A woman like her could take a lifetime to reveal all the secrets hidden behind her eyes and beneath her skin.
But he knew what she tasted like now. He knew how she sounded when she just let it all go. He knew how she looked when she woke in the morning – sleep-hazy eyes, soft, messy hair, and cheeks with pillow creases ironed into them.
It would be a long, long time before he forgot any of that – no matter where she slept.
He couldn’t blame her; she told him the truth from the beginning. She almost always did. Sure, her honesty might make him cringe sometimes, but in general he liked it, even admired it.
Frowning, Booth dragged a hand through his hair. A whimper tore through the quiet, rending his churning thoughts. Wide awake as he was, he didn’t wonder if he’d imagined the sound. The instincts of a father had him moving before he even realized what he was doing. Throwing back the blanket, he slid out of bed, his feet hitting the carpet soundlessly.
Crossing his arms over his chest in an effort to shield himself from the cool air that collided with his bare skin, he moved across the hallway and into Parker’s room, bending to fumble with the switch on the lamp sitting on the nightstand next to the bed. He blinked as it snapped on, his eyes adjusting. Through the small circle of light cast by the lamp, Booth saw that Brennan lay on her side, legs bent and curled protectively into her body. His shirt had ridden up on her. The blanket that should have covered her sat in a crumpled heap on the floor; he assumed she’d kicked it off.
Brennan’s eyes squeezed shut and her forehead wrinkled as she moaned in her sleep. The sound made the hair on Booth’s arms rise. Whatever she saw behind her closed eyes, it wasn’t pretty. He knew a nightmare when he saw one, having had and witnessed plenty of them. Kneeling next to the bed, he said, “Bones. Wake up.” Her eyes remained closed, moving beneath her eyelids. Another whimper escaped her lips, and his stomach tightened like a vise in response. He reached out, and his hand closed around her shoulder. He gave her a gentle shake. “Hey, babe, come on. Wake up.“
Babe. The word had just slipped out. He hadn’t intended to say it. Good thing Brennan was asleep. Otherwise she’d probably give him a black eye.
When nothing happened, he shook her again. “I need you to wake up, Bones,” he said, pitching his voice a little louder this time. Just as he brushed the back of his hand over her sweat-damp cheek, Brennan’s eyes shot open and she turned her head, glancing around her like she didn’t recognize her surroundings. Booth pulled his hand back from her face. “You’re in Parker’s room,” he said, quietly, trying to ease the disoriented feeling he sensed in her. “You OK?” He kept his eyes trained on hers. “I think you were having a nightmare. You… were whimpering. I heard you from my room. I wanted to make sure you were OK.”
For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Booth stared at Brennan, and she stared back, eyes wide and cheeks pale and bloodless. He felt his heart beat in his chest, and was suddenly glad it was an involuntary action he didn’t have to lead. Somewhere close by, a truck roared past, its diesel hum slicing through the stillness of the night. They heard it even though the windows were closed against the chill.
“You want to tell me about it?”
Brennan blinked, and her gaze skittered away from his. Then, a frown pulled at her lips – and at something inside him. “I couldn’t…” Her voice trailed off, but he waited. He shifted a little on the floor, knees cracking like a gunshot. Her hand, the one he’d held as he came inside her, fisted on the pillow, fingers clenching the fabric as she took a wavering breath. “I couldn’t breathe.” The words came out low, but he heard them clearly. “It was dark,” she said, and a rock settled in his stomach as he began to understand. “Too dark.” Her head moved, her gaze lifting to the ceiling and the stickers he’d put up there for Parker. “I thought I’d never see the stars again.”
Booth nodded, not trusting himself to speak as he absorbed her words… and their meaning. Of course. He should have known. Not much time had passed.
Still silent, he stood and crossed to the door, where he clicked on the star-shaped nightlight he kept plugged in for Parker. Sometimes that tiny beacon of light was enough to keep away the ugly, faceless things his son swore lurked in the dark spaces beyond the edge of his bed. Other times it did nothing, and Booth woke in the middle of the night to find a small, sturdy body burrowed against him.
He picked the blanket up off the floor and spread it back over the bed, covering Brennan. After turning off the lamp, he slid into the bed, sheets whispering against his legs as he did so. It was only a twin bed, so it was a tight fit. But if he lay on his side, it could work.
“What are you doing?” Brennan asked.
“You don’t want to sleep in my bed, so I’ll sleep here.”
“Booth, that’s not what I said.”
“Bones, just shut up.” The words were brusque, but his tone was not. “Trust me, I know exactly what you said. But I’m not going to leave you in here alone while you’re having nightmares.”
“It was just a dream. I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m sure I’ll fall right back asleep.”
“You didn’t wake me. I never fell asleep.” A bitter note crept into his voice. Though he hadn’t intended to show it, it was there and couldn’t be retracted.
He heard her sharp inhale, but she didn’t say anything else. He hadn’t expected her to.
Shoving aside his confusion, Booth inched closer to Brennan, aligning his body behind hers. With a sigh, he tucked his knees against the backs of hers. He was wearing boxers, so they were safe on that count. Feeling the tremor that went through her, he curved an arm around her, holding her as close as their separate bodies would allow.
He lied to his son. He told him monsters didn’t exist. Because he thought it was the kind thing to do. Parker was just a kid. Just a boy. As the softness faded from his face, so would much of the innocence. Then, as his boy became a man, he would learn what all adults learned: there were monsters – things that lurked in the dark and yes, sometimes even in the light, and they bit and scratched and hurt you – sometimes in places no one else could see.
Booth prayed and hoped and begged his God to allow Parker to learn that lesson in a kindler, gentler way than Booth had. Still, Booth knew his son would learn it, one way or another, and he would not be able to protect him from it forever. For now, though, Booth told a kind lie, warned him not to talk to strangers, and made him memorize his and Rebecca’s addresses and phone numbers.
But the person lying next to him right now was a woman, not a child. She would see through a kind lie the second it left his lips. He had tried to protect her, but he had failed at that, hadn’t he? He couldn’t undo the things she had been through or protect her from the things she had yet to live through, much as he wanted to. He would do his best, but he wouldn’t lie to her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, breathing the words against her skin, “for what that monster did to you and Hodgins. I’m sorry I wasn’t there—“
“Booth,” she said, interrupting him.
“—but I’m here now. Shh,” he murmured. “Go to sleep.” Reaching up, he smoothed Brennan's hair away from her face. “Sleep,” he said again, and felt her press into him just a little. Maybe less than an inch of give. For now, it was enough.
Author’s Note: If you have a minute, please comment; I'm always interested in hearing what you thought.
Have you ever had one of those weeks where Monday starts out bad, and you just know things are going to get progressively worse? Yeah, that’s this week, for me. I have to tell you that being an adult just plain sucks sometimes. Did you see the news about that poor woman in Austria? The world is a sick, sick place sometimes. To anyone else who’s struggling right now, I hope things get better for you quickly. And to everyone who’s having a good week, I’m happy for you. :)
Also, I'm trying something new: I'm attempting to finish out one story at a time instead of updating several one after the other. This is new for me, but I'm interested to see if that helps my writing and gives me more focus. I'll still be writing ficlets and oneshots as they come to me, but besides that, now that I've finished Unwell, I'd like to try and complete What Would Happen if We Kissed? before turning back to my other multi-chapter fics. It's unclear whether I can force myself to work like this, but it's worth experimenting. Anyway, rest assured that none of my stories are abandoned unless I write "On Permanent Hiatus" in the summary.