#Bones ‘The Recluse in the Recliner’ Review: Greater Love Has No Man

ReclinerScreen Shot 2014-03-29 at 10.32.14 PMAn epic tale deserves epic consideration. Fix yourself a glass of your favorite poison—be it diet Coke, kelp slushy or 30 year old single malt—and find a comfortable chair. Reading this may take a while … as it certainly should after such an epic experience.  #ThatIsAll

Riveting. Disquieting. Masterful.
Leaving viewers stunned and relieved in equal measure, this year’s Bones finale, “The Recluse in the Recliner,” was possibly the most riveting hour of entertainment in Bones history. Booth took no prisoners, Brennan kicked radical patootie, and the two fought mightily for each other. No surprise, as David Boreanaz’s forays into directing are action-packed more often than not, and always rife with emotion. This finale was even more so without going a centimeter overboard. How do they do that?

The final hospital scene was a gut-wrenching heartbreaker; the Mighty Hut massacre was an impressive tableau rivaling Guernica. Booth (Boreanaz) and Brennan’s (Deschanel) mounting anxiety was palpable, yet somehow stealthy, creeping up on us until we found ourselves in over our heads and gasping for air. In the center remained the steadfast love of one man and one woman willing to sacrifice their lives for each other; and one sentinel soldier’s the loyalty to and faith in his country which he would go to the mattresses to protect even if he be the last man standing. All this leapt right out of the screen to land heavy on our hearts in dewy, angsty sentiment. Throughout, Booth is the embodiment of integrity, courage and sacrificial love while Brennan exemplifies steadfast commitment, truthfulness at all cost, and tremendous fortitude.

Despite being emotionally saddle sore from the ride, fans around the world nod their collective approval. Why? I’ll tell you why: Booth is alive and he and Brennan are solid. That is what matters most to Bones fans. As long as B&B are alive, they will prevail.

Related Article -> “Bones: Why the Show is So Damn Good” >>>

Brennan is an excellent shot.

Brennan is an excellent shot.

“The Recluse in the Recliner” was clearly Booth’s episode, but Brennan’s star sparkled in her portrayal of a woman we have rarely, if ever, seen so startlingly convicted and on the verge of flying apart. It was amazing. She was amazing. On top of her pull-out-all-the-stops desperate scenes as she verbally sparred with Booth, she also, as mentioned above, brought back the gun-wielding ‘stop-or-I’ll-kick-you-in-the-testicles’ attitude we rarely see post Christine’s birth.

Many aspects of Bones’ highly satisfying finale deserve notice, but most unexpectedly gratifying, other than the obvious fantastic action and phenomenal performances, were the energetic though not frenetic pace which didn’t sacrifice plot, and the cliffhanger that demonstrated the frightening power behind the FBI conspiracy without killing or permanently maiming either beloved protagonist or their relationship. Thank you, Bones fairies. (Hand on my heart) This was a welcome surprise after the last two cliffhangers left the key relationship in massive turmoil as was hinted by in the previews for this one as well.

Post Dramatic Stress
Are fans ready to rehash that mind-numbing, magnificently-executed, phenomenally filmed, even-paced, heart-rending, breath-stealing, Bruce Willis-Meets-Charles Bronson in a remake of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-esque Bones finale butt-kicking? Viewers still linger unsteadily in front of their flat screens and handhelds fingering their remotes or keypads wondering if they have the energy to re-watch “The Recluse in the Recliner” one more time. Why? Because the condition of our psyches in the aftermath of the Bones apocalypse mirrors the decimated combat zone that the Mighty Hut has become after what Nathan, Hanson, Deschanel and Booth, er, Boreanaz … put us through with last week’s hour of crime-u-tainment. A week later and my cheeks still flush crimson just thinking about it. >.<

Quality Over Quantity
In keeping with the Bonesian formula, “The Recluse in the Recliner” delivers a particularly nasty death, a super cool memory chip in a titanium-quality nipple ring, and the most dangerous kind of assassin: A team of government-trained Delta Force operatives. Surrounding the drama, thanks to a two day time jump and a flashback, is the full-circle trauma-drama depicting an unconscious bullet-and-blood-riddled Booth (!) being rushed into emergency surgery as Brennan hysterically (understandably) screams his name from the hallway. Two minutes in and we’re already sweating bullets. Holy crap on a cracker, people. Spfh–wow.

Good shot of Brennan and Booth With Stark

Brennan and Booth meet Stark outside the court room and assure him the Foster case was an accident.

So masterfully balanced are the three story lines — that of the unfolding murder investigation, the congressional process surrounding Booth’s promotion, and the burgeoning FBI conspiracy/Delta Force battle — that none is subverted to subplot status. Perhaps we could call the occasional though short-lived emotional tussle between Brennan and Booth a subplot … though it’s more of a device to define their mutually intense anxiety over their plight and their fear for each other’s safety.

Finally, the dialog pace, scene changes and cinematography advanced the plot and the action at a decent clip, yet were deliberate enough that no details were lost along the way–an incredible feat when cramming all that activity into 43.7 minutes. Especially impressive was the stealthy build of dark intensity during the last fifteen minutes, from Booth’s shocking confirmation hearing to the final hospital scene. Let us have a moment of silence for whatever we felt as we watched that final hospital scene. Words cannot express … Was anyone else surprised how shallowly you’d been breathing? I almost passed out from oxygen deprivation.

You Rock. Yes, you, Bones reader. >>>  

The Malice in the Manicure
As this Bones finale is the continuation of a complex storyline involving Pelant, the Ghost Killer, and gross wrongdoings within the FBI and beyond, it’s important to briefly review the facts.

  • Stephanie McNamara, assumed Ghost Killer, was found murdered by Dr. Herman Kessler, the man expeditiously framed and locked up for Stephanie’s murder of Maya Zinko 18-20 years prior.
  • Kessler spent his years in prison pouring over classified documents about the McNamaras which were provided to him by an unknown FBI source.
  • Stephanie’s many murders had been covered up by daddy Giles McNamara (Wonder if she killed him too?)
  • The SEC investigated McNamara eight times though never convicted
  • McNamara funded congressional campaigns and God only knows what else
  • Deputy Director Victor ‘I’m-bascially-clueless’ Stark (Sterling Macer Jr) made it clear that powerful FBI suits want the McNamara business dealt with swiftly, judiciously, and quietly
  • Booth is being vetted for a much deserved yet suspiciously-timed promotion to head of the Berlin FBI field office
Brennan and Booth Cyrus Chick

Booth and Brennan interrogate a representative from Cryus Securities who tells them her company provides services for powerful people within the FBI, but refuses to say whom.

Though Kessler has been captured and Stephanie is dead, several questions remain.

  • Who was Kessler’s contact inside the FBI?
  • Where is Kessler now?
  • How deep does the FBI corruption go?
  • Is Stark part of the conspiracy?

By the end of the finale some of these questions are answered, others … well … they’ve been saved for season ten.

La-Z-Boy Swan Song
“The Recluse in the Recliner” opens with a bloody and badly wounded Booth heading into the OR and a frantic blood-smeared Brennan running in after him. You’ve got our attention, Bones fairies. What’s next?

Flash back two days. Booth receives an anonymous call from an informant teasing proof about McNamara, an FBI conspiracy, and government corruption. Before Booth can get to him, the informant has been blown to pieces, Molotov cocktail style.

The victim, Wesley Foster, was held down, tortured, administered CPR until his ribs broke, and then tortured again, this time to death without giving up the goods to his three assassins who turn out to be nameless Delta Force ‘bastards’ whose identities we never learn. Wesley ‘Molotov cocktail’ Foster’s killers ministrations blew off the top of his head; charred, splintered and splattered viscera and bone all over the interior of the mobile home, and fused his remaining skin to the vinyl of his recliner. Now, that’s nasty. Even for Bones. #Excellent

Conspiracy Theorists Justified
The memory chip in the nipple ring reveals emails, bank records and documents proving corruption among businessmen, politicians and foreign officials. Booth asserts that whomever is at the top is so well insulated that the victims probably don’t even know who is blackmailing them … not for money, but for power.

Booth is stunned by the sheer volume of proof and its implications. Only one viable option makes sense: pretend they know nothing, declare Forster’s death an accident, and covertly investigate everything before involving anyone else.

Brennan is not at all happy with this option at first. It’s not rational, she spits. Her anxiety is palpable. The level-headed anthropologist so rarely looses her cool that it’s startling when she does. She knows Booth’s life will be at risk if he goes up against people who have Delta Force, who Do. Not. Take. Prisoners, at their beck and call. She’s frightened as hell and her usual calm is cracking under the strain.

‘Bones’ Quotes: The 43 Sweetest Things Booth Has Ever Said to Brennan >>>

Order in the Court
Encouraged by a congenial lunch with Stark and Congressman Efran ‘I’m-a-douche-of epic-proportions’ Hadley (Peter Mackenzie), Booth attends his hearing with Brennan by his side. Hadley takes the floor and verbally attacks Booth about his military activities as a sniper in Pakistan and accuses him of being an anti-American assassin. Hadley escalates the situation, besmirching Booth’s name irreversibly.

Booth, never once cowed by Hadley’s inappropriate and boisterous attack, unflinchingly accesses his inner reservoir of honor and integrity, refusing to defend himself if it means revealing classified information. You see, Booth understands that two wrongs do not make a right and that he stands alone in front of his Maker to account for his behavior … no matter what anyone else does. Booth’s righteousness (and Boreanaz’s delivery of it) sends tingles down the spine and makes a person want to either cry or jump up and down cheering. Hear that guys? Integrity engenders some strong chemistry in the realm of serious, life-altering affinity. This is why we so, so, so love Booth. He is so damn good. Solid, solid good. He’s so much more than the fine Boreanaz face he shares with the outside world. The man’s got a cowboy heart of solid gold (I suspect DB does as well, but that’s really none of my business, nor is it yours #Fact). I digress …

As a result of the accusations and Booth’s refusal to stoop to Hadley’s level, the press swarms, yelling and screaming accusations. Brennan, her heart breaking for her partner, valiantly defends Booth as a decorated veteran and one of the most successful FBI agents ever, but Booth ends up getting fired anyway. Stark remains befuddled. More on this later.

Booth testifies in court and is attacked by Congressman Hadley

Booth testifies in court and is attacked by Congressman Efran ‘I’m-a-two-faced-douche’ Hadley

Booth, brilliant man that he is, knows this means Hadley has been compromised. He also knows the public shaming was intended as a huge smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. The last thing the bastards expect is for him to turn around and smack them right back. Bazinga, bastards, take that.

Nolite Te Bastartes Carborundorum, or Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down
Seeley Booth is made of different metal than a lot of men are. He answers to a commander who outranks everyone at the FBI, the White House, and even the Vatican. That commander demands integrity, humility, and obedience in exchange for which He confers righteousness and discernment, or the ability to see clearly what is morally right in the face of impossible circumstances.

Booth has dedicated his life to a justice system he believes in wholeheartedly, but understands that sometimes even good systems suffer for the immorality of power-hungry people. Booth will not stand down while bastards with superiority complexes rape America of everything she (and thousands of men and women) has fought for. Neither will his wife and partner in everything.

Some have speculated about the effect this FBI betrayal will have on Booth’s faith in the country he’s loved and served for over 25 years. However, while he may question where his directives came from when he was in the field, it is more likely that he will view the current discoveries as a bruise on the face of a beautiful and worthy piece of succulent fruit. The failure is not in the institution, the spirit, or the souls of the many good people, but in the poison of the few. Fortunately for him, Brennan is an expert in the realm of humanity’s power struggles across antiquity and will support him along the way. That is her super power.

Brennan Shot

“I-I have a gun! I’m an excellent shot! You know we are better together!” Brennan chokes out. “We have a daughter to think about I’m not asking. I’m telling. Do you understand?” “I hate you for telling me to walk away … don’t you die!”

I-I Am An Excellent Shot!
God. In a heart-crushing scene back at the Mighty Hut Brennan watches in amazement as her husband, the center of her universe, assembles his arsenal of firearms, ammo and explosives.  Her recent declarations ring, unspoken, in the air: ‘You and I are bound to one another. So much so that I don’t feel that I could survive without you. You nurture me, you protect me. You are my home.’ The fact that she could now lose it all is devastating for her and for us.

Sometimes the time to choose our words and tone judiciously is a luxury we cannot afford. Sometimes we need to be loud, aggressive, authoritative. Booth recognizes this as one of those times and commands Brennan to take Christine and leave for safety. This is Booth’s battle, he insists. Brennan understandably panics at his unacceptable command.  “We are better together! I-I’m an excellent shot!” Gulp. But they have Christine to think of. Brennan is beside herself like we’ve never before seen her. When she says I hate you, she means, I love you with ever fiber of my being and walking away goes against everything I am. She hates that she has to leave him to fight his battle alone. She hates that she can’t protect him. She hates that he is her heart and she has no control. And she hates that she knows he’s right. Wow. Gulp again. The final I love yous and you better not dies are so … God … how do you describe them? Dang, that Emily Deschanel can rip our hearts out.

Yipee Ki-yay, Mothersuckers!
Booth, in full-on Ranger mode, hides firearms, ammo and explosives in odd places all over the house. He is scary prepared and wound up tightly. But why didn’t he call in the cavalry?  Whom else can he trust? Who has the necessary skill set and experience? No one. Booth is the cavalry.

Booth is the cavalry.

Booth is the cavalry.

The combat preparation and action sequences were outstanding, riveting. Gun powder and dry wall dust, splinters all over the place, motes of detritus and gun powder plume in the shafts of light snaking through the blinds. You can taste the sulfur in the air and lots of ground upward smoke-filled camera angles intensify this breath-stealing sequence. Wow.

Booth picks off three of the five assassins before Brennan returns to find him bleeding on the ground. Taking up a gun, she aims and hits one of the advancing targets perfectly. When her gun runs out of ammo, Booth finds the strength to throw himself upon the final assassin, breaking the operatives neck and saving Brennan’s life before slumping over exhausted and wounded on top of his foe’s dead body.

Mighty hut no more.

Brennan, crouching on the floor with Booth amid the decimated mess which was once their home, desperately tries to revive her partner.

The ensuing hospital scenes are heart crushing, but Booth is alive though guarded and handcuffed to his hospital bed.  Thank God Booth is alive and out of danger! Can I get an Amen?

‘Bones’: 37 of the Most Fabulous Dresses of Dr. Camille Saroyan >>>

In the final moments of “The Recluse in the Recliner, Bones’ ninth finale, Brennan is carted off, thrashing and screaming, to be questioned by the FBI and Booth is headed to jail for three months. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot, Bones.

Booth, Buddy, What Were You Thinking?!
Booth had been stripped of his access to the FBI, his badge, and probably his gun. After that day, there would have been nothing he could do to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Booth had to act swiftly after being ousted from his position.

Was it worth it? For the most part, yes. Time will tell about the rest. Failure is merely a lack of perspective, people. The FBI knows they haven’t seen the last of Seeley Booth. They also know that he has incriminating information against the bastards who have sullied the country Booth so dearly loves and endangered his family and millions of innocent people both at home and abroad. That gives Booth leverage. Brennan and the Avengers will continue to dig while Booth heals and faces whatever the FBI has planned for him.

But what gave Booth the courage to attack rather than pack it in and move to Italy? He truly loves his country; he’s fought hard and paid dearly for the freedoms that country provides him and his family. And he loves Brennan more than life itself and would do (has done) everything n his power to keep her safe … even if it means laying down his life. He’s said it many times, and his word is his pact.

Brennan Montage

Brennan at the hospital awaiting news of Booth’s status, then learning he’s going to prison while she’s carted off to the FBI for questioning.

Another thing, and it’s a big one: It’s that Commander Booth answers to. He gives Booth strength. As a man of faith, Booth knows that God tests us so that we more deeply appreciate what we have. Sometimes God uses the strong to  protect His little ones. Sometimes God gives trials to the weak, so they can become strong. Other times He challenges the weak in order to help others be strong for them. No matter what, Booth always knows that his life is in God’s hands and that he will answer to Him one day. That’s what gives him the courage to lay down his life for his family and his country.

Well, Bones fans. There you have it. Only the Bones Fairies with  Stephen Nathan at the helm (and Hart Hanson in his back pocket) know what’s in store for the Brennan-Booth Duo and The Avengers in season ten. I, for one, prefer to be surprised … something I’ve come to rely on in regard to the Bones troupe: a mastery of surprise which I can have faith in.

One thing is for absolutely sure: Bones has thrived (thriven?) for nine seasons and the tenth is in it’s gestational period. Maybe Bones will take us past the decade mark. Anything can happen in the world of make believe. With a humdinger of a finale like the one we just had, things are gonna be different next year. I’ve already purchased my ticket for that ride, kids. How about you?

As we wait out the long summer hiatus, I’ll be posting the occasional Bones article or slideshow on BuddyTV. The most recent postings are listed below along with my S9 episode and interview archive link.

(Images courtesy of FOX)
‘Bones’ Season 9 Article and Interview Archive >>>
‘Bones’: Why the Show is So Damn Good >>>
You Rock. Yes, you, Bones reader. >>>
‘Bones’ Quotes: The 43 Sweetest Things Booth Has Ever Said to Brennan >>>
‘Bones’: 37 of the Most Fabulous Dresses of Dr. Camille Saroyan >>>
‘Bones’ Season 9 Finale Cliffhanger Poll: What Fresh Hell Is in Store for Us this Time? >>>

Now everybody pray real hard that I get my very own FOX press credentials (I used ScreenSpy’s before) in the fall so I can resume interviewing the BONES Fairies and screening the big episodes so I can provide you with teaser articles again!

***********

Thank you allowing me to do what I love most while sharing something we both enjoy.
Blessings on you and your families! ~ Catherine
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The Parenting Paradox in ‘#Bones’ The Cold in the Case: Holding On While Letting Go

Bones Header for Cold in the Case Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 10.32.14 PM

Very few things in life are stronger or more extraordinary than the bond a parent feels for their child. For better or worse, that bond is powerful and inescapable; it is self-sacrificing and fraught with complicated emotions. Leave it to the Bones fairies to so eloquently remind us of this while making our skin crawl, our stomach ache with laughter and our eyes fill with tears. Damn you, Bones fairies … and by damn you, I mean, God bless you.

Bones’ April 14th episode, “The Cold in the Case,” presented three significant events in the lives of four very different parents. Two subplots sandwiched between scenes of case details provided several stand-out performances, a resolute display of Bones-y support, and a brief yet intimate glimpse into Booth’s apprehensive heart, his convicted soul. The crowning glory, however, was vignetted in the stirring scenes between Arastoo and his parents.

The Parent Trap

While the instances of parental strife in “The Cold in the Case” ranged from the absurd and disquieting to the precious and affirming, each parent’s behavior reflected the commingled love and fear that pervade the experience of birthing, nurturing, and fiercely loving another human being from conception to death.

A Love That Transcends Death

Our first parent under inspection is Madaline ‘Popsicle Turned Swamp Thing’ Papadelis who sought to assuage her unbearable grief by cryopreserving her deceased daughter’s remains. They say that to be a parent is to forever have your heart walk around outside your body. Conversely, to lose a child is to have your heart disintegrate before your eyes and then be carried away on a chilling breeze buoyed by your dry silent scream of numbing hysteria. Such was the pain of Madaline Papadelis.

Bones’ S9 Finale Cliffhanger Poll: What Fresh Hell is in Store for Us this Time? >>>

As unconventional as it may have been, cryopreserving her daughter’s remains was Madaline’s way of holding onto her daughter. Though it may seem rather extreme, morbid, or misdirected, Madaline’s behavior testified to the depth of sorrow ravaging her heart. Few life experiences are more sobering than grieving a loved one. Few things bring us to our knees more devastatingly than caring for a loved one through a prolonged fatal illness as they waste away, and this is what Madaline had to endure. This takes a visceral toll on a person, a toll which can manifest itself in unique and surprising and ways. #NeverJudge

Frozen Hearts Break Like Glass

“The Cold in the Case” opens with the defrosting remains of a woman who was chloroformed, sedated and vivisected while still alive. Bravo, Bones fairies for coming up with a new level of freakish abomination. Madaline ‘It’s Getting Cold In Here’ Papadelis’ had been given a chemical cocktail transfusion to keep her oxygenated and prevent her from moving until she was frozen. Fun fact: These chemicals are used to vitrify bodily fluids, or ‘convert them into glass.’ What? Oh, hell no. Can it get much creepier? Of course, this is Bones after all …

A crackphone (That’s a real thing, btw, *Shudder*) was inserted into a hole in her cranium to detect and record brain acoustics … not brain activity, because at this point the woman was dead, dead, dead. The crackphone looks for signs of the brain ‘cracking’ as it’s frozen. Once frozen, Madaline ‘I’m Just Not That Into You’ Papadelis’ cadaver was placed in a huge stainless steal cryogenic storage tank called a dewar where she remained for quite some time. Again, creepy to the max!

The Lady Thrown Out with the Bathwater

Four months later her frozen cadaver was removed from the dewar, tossed into a sleeping bag and left in the swamp of a high-end housing development to be gnawed on by larvae at enough differing stages of development to keep Bug Boy gleefully entertained for a while.

Brennan & Arastoo

Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Arastoo (Pej Vahdat) discuss the discovery of a cranial crackphone perforation.

With Arastoo on deck, The Avengers identify the bizarre constellation of facts that fascinatingly unraveled the case creepy bit by creepy bit. The stuttered decomposition and the presence of tiny amputated tongues and snouts of woodland creatures alerts them that she was frozen. Why the animal parts? Because the unfortunate creatures’ little tongues and lips got frozen against the icy meaty parts of Mrs. Popsicle as they attempted to eat her. Youch!

The lack of micro-structural changes caused by liquid expansion—cells burst when frozen—the sedation, the lack of physical trauma, the expertly drilled cranial crackphone perforation, and the presence of specific chemicals (anti-freeze & anti-dance elixirs for humans), indicated this was not your run of the mill ritualistic killing or a mob hit. This was an expertly executed $200,000 procedure done with a great deal of care, most likely by someone who loved her. But why? And why was she removed from the dewar and discarded? This is where things start to get hella creepy.

Loving Means Never Having to Say ‘I Won’t Kill You’

The evidence leads the team to CryoNova and Dr. and Mrs. I. B. Frankenstein, er, I mean cryonicists Noah ‘Brain Freeze’ Summers (Christopher Matthew McGarry) and his wife, Michelle ‘We’re Happily Married-NOT’ Summers (Kare Orsini). CryoNova is a facility which cryopreserves bodies in the hope of reanimating them in the future, if and when, the world is disease-free and scientists have invented a way to reanimate popsicle people without degradation of their physical and mental personhood.  That’s a huge if, but who’s judging? #Whatever

Both Noah ‘She Was Alive When I Killed Her’ Summers and Michelle ‘I Talk To Dead People’ Summers had ample means and opportunity, but what on earth could be their motive?

Noah Dissects Popsicle-y Smurf and Michelle Talks to Dead People

Noah is caught on surveillance tape slicing a blue cadaver in half with a circular saw. Apparently he was late paying his bills which made him fair game for having his organs poached and sold. #Harsh

Listening to the recording extracted from Madaline’s crackphone, the team finds Michelle’s menacing voice telling frozen Madaline,  “I knew what was going on with you, bitch,” and “Noah is mine not yours and it’s time we finally end this.” When questioned she says she was talking to a fellow employee, but it’s abundantly clear she was talking to dead Madaline.

Move Over, Mary Shelley, You’ve Got Competition

B&B interrogate Cold

Brennan and Booth interrogate killer Noah ‘I Can Make You Love Me Summers (Christopher Matthew McGarry)

In the end we learned that Noah harbored an obsessive yet unrequited love for Madaline. When Noah began sending Madaline suggestive emails, she vehemently resisted. So, logically, he decided to put her in a little frozen time-out until she changed her mind. He told Booth and Brennan that he wasn’t guilty of murder because he didn’t kill her. Hmm. Interesting.  Yes, he said he’d simply slowed her down a bit. Uh, like completely? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, people? If that does make you break out in a cold sweat, I just don’t know what will. #Twisted

It turns out that Michelle saw her husband’s amorous emails to Madaline and was suddenly in the mood to Spring (Winter) clean the dewars. She was the one who dumped Madaline’s body in the swanky swamp. According to Noah, that made Michelle the real killer, not him.  Sick, sick, sick. Case closed … on to the juicier stuff.

‘Bones’ S9 Reviews, Teaser Articles, EP Interviews and Polls Archive >>>

Once a Parent, Always a Parent

Parents Azita (Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog) and Armin Vaziri (Braeden Marcott) came to D.C. to have dinner with Arastoo, requesting that Cam join them. Apprehensive, Arastoo assumed they would judge his unconventional life with disdain. His career choice and his non-Iranian non Muslim black girlfriend would be a disappointment, he feared, just as his impetuous childhood mistakes had been. Now, why would an adult child do that? Because that is the nature of family dynamics for most people.

Awash in the throws of the universal Child Versus Parent fight for freedom, Arastoo’s narrow assumptions precluded him from appreciating his parents’ guileless invitation. He viewed them through the defensive eyes of a child rather than with the heart of the experienced and poetic man-scientist he has become. His parents’ response, in the end, was to bestow upon Arastoo the kind of grace and love that comes from the unparalleled perspective of the life-ling observers that are his parents. It seems that they were much more prepared to let go of Arastoo’s childhood than Arastoo was. And they knew just how to hold on to this new and very fine man that is their progeny.

Arastoo's Paretns

Armin and Azita visit Cam and Arastoo to extend an olive branch.

Exquisitely portrayed by guest stars Shohreh Aghdashloo and Pej Vahdat, two scenes of “The Cold in the Case” stand above all others (except for the final scene between Brennan and Booth, but we’ll get to that in a moment). First, the restaurant scene where Azita and Armin awkwardly attempt to get to know Cam. This scene ended in a Farsi shouting match where Arastoo accused his parents of ruining his brother’s life and Azita chastised Arastoo for his impudence and for making such a scene in public.

Most impressive, however, was their final shared scene in which Azita and Armin come to make peace. Aghdashloo’s masterful delivery of the ‘Let Us Be Proud of You’ speech brought the house down. Pass the kleenex please! In that moment, Arastoo grew into a man. In a word, it was beautiful …

A Parent’s Love Versus a Patriot’s Responsibility

Booth was confronted with the possibility of a promotion (possibly) to an American counterterrorism outpost in Germany or elsewhere which could significantly impact his relationship with Christine and Parker, even leave them fatherless. Having been fatherless himself, even though he had Pops, Booth is fervently against doing that to his own children  despite his lack of face time with Parker.

Booth’s current responsibilities are triple what they were in the past when he risked his life in the service of his country. The weight of his domestic responsibilities, a weight that nonetheless gives him wings to soar, is further complicated by his altruistic nature. It’s clear he questions his own right to be happy and safe in his family’s bosom while others suffer torture and death at the hands of warring factions.

Booth Thoughtful

Booth (David Boreanaz) contemplates the impact a promotion would have on his life if it involves using his skills as a Ranger and Sniper.

Altruism’s Bill Has a Nonrefundable Tax

Aside from the potential physical and familial sacrifices, Booth’s disquiet is most likely magnified by the emotional and spiritual toll being a sniper will take on him. He’s already said that he dies a little bit with each kill. It’s safe to assume that his deeds in the field have resulted in cold sweat, night terrors and the kind of pain veterans don’t talk about. Green lighted from above through a chain of command, killing is killing. As a christian, Booth knows the commandments. Thou Shall Not Kill. Hopefully Brennan, Aldo and the Holy Spirit will be able to convince Booth that it is not ignoble to fight for one’s self … and that maybe this time the life he gets to save is his own by finally saying no to the military.

Check out our review of “The High in the Low” >>>

Despite all of that, Booth’s intensely service-oriented psyche is fully capable of choosing once again to pay a personal price for the safety of defenseless war victims. If it weren’t, this choice would be simple.

The jury is still out as to Booth’s response, but you know that if Seeley ‘I Have a New Life’ Booth’s patriotism and his commitment to his family are at cross purposes it will gnaw at him from now until the finale on May 19th and possibly beyond.

Now, in the next episode, “The Nail in the Coffin,” Booth’s apprehension will appear to have been replaced with excitement, but take note that there is no mention of what his promotion will entail. The team is hot on the trail of the Ghost Killer and potential conspiracies within the FBI. There’s an unfortunate possibility that the promotion—as well deserved and overdue as it may be—is merely a diversionary tactic to take Booth’s focus away from the corruption going on inside the FBI. Only the cast and crew of Bones know the truth, and they aren’t telling, bless their little pea-pickin’ hearts.

Stand By Your Man

Delightful and refreshing as all get-out was seeing a lighter side of Cam this episode. Have we ever seen the hard-nosed, self-possessed head of the Jeffersonian’s Forensic Division in such a demure and subordinate role?

For her part, Temperance ‘I’d Follow You Anywhere’ Brennan was fantastically supportive of Booth’s impending professional advancement throughout, going so far as to think about working abroad and the benefits of cultural exposure for Christine.

This final scene with Brennan and Booth was exquisitely executed by Boreanaz and Deschanel. Booth’s pain was palpable as he thought about the potential choice before him. Boreanaz is the master of wordlessly delivering complex emotion in a simple look or gesture. That is Boreanaz’s super power. And every time, he takes us with him (super power number two) and we feel it as he does.

Brennan’s response was fantastic and her delivery was spot on: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. She’s grown to trust his gut almost as much as he does. Regardless, she trusts him implicitly. She will follow him anywhere, as he would her. That’s the kind of blind faith a partnership … and a marriage … are made of. With or without the piece of paper, Brennan and Booth have always had it.

This final scene was quintessentially Bones and the reason we all come back time after time.

<<< #BONES Season 9 Archive                                                                   Cat Cabanela articles on BuddyTV >>>
Brennan and Booth Cold Case

Brennan gets Booth. She recognizes when his gut is in competition with what he thinks is right and gives him permission to go with his gut. She assures him she wouldn’t hesitate to uproot her life for him.

(Images courtesy of FOX)
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‘Bones’ Season 9 Archives

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 6.50.36 PMThese articles, interviews, polls and reviews remain among my all time favorites. Enjoy, fellow Bonehead!

Coming Soon to BuddyTV by Catherine Cabanela: Lots More Bones Love! Also this summer: America’s Got Talent, Mistresses, America’s Next Top Model, and more. 

Editorial: “7 Reasons Why Dr. Jack Hodgins is No Fool”
Editorial: Slideshow: Nineteen of Dr. Jack Hodgins’ Most Outrageous Conspiracy Theories
Collection: Slide Shows for #BONES Lovers
Editorial: Bones Quotes: The 43 Sweetest Things Brennan Has Ever Said to Booth
Episode 24: “The Recluse in the Recliner: Greater Love Has No Man”
Editorial: “Camille Saroyan’s Fabulous Dresses”

Editorial: ‘Bones’ Why The Show Is So Damn Good
Editorial: ‘Bones Quotes: The 43 Sweetest Things Booth Has Ever Said To Brennan
Bones S9 Finale Cliffhanger Poll: What Fresh Hell is in Store for Us This time
Episode 21: “The Parenting Paradox in The Cold in the Case: Holding On Without Letting Go”

Episode 20: The High in the Low: Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them”
Episode 19: “The Turn in the Urn is a Holy Grail of Compassion & Sacrifice”
Episode 17: “The Repo Man in the Septic Tank is a Constant Surprise”
Episode 16: “The Source in the Sludge Review”
Episode 15: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother: Bones The Heiress in the Hill”
Episode 14: “Pulchritude and the Canuck: The Master in the Slop

Review” Teaser: “9 Scoops on Bones Big in the Philippines”
Episode 13: “Dance to the Music That’s Playing: Big in the Philippines
Review” Teaser: “7 Teases About Bones ‘The Ghost in the Killer’”
Episode 12: “Shadowboxing the Specter: The Ghost in the Killer”
Review” Episode 11: “Angels in Motion: The Spark in the Park Review”

Episode 10: “Brennan Lets Loose in The Mystery in the Meat”
Op-ed: “Bones The Fury in The Jury Editorial by MoxieGirl44
Episode 9: “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The Fury in the Jury Review”
Interview with Stephen Nathan: “Bones EP On Brennan’s New Obsession, Cam’s Crucible & The Ghost Killer”

Episode 7: “Agent Andy Plays Hard Balls in The Nazi On The Honeymoon
Episode 6: “Two Ducks in a Row: Bones The Woman In White Review
Episode 5: “Daydream Believer: Bones The Lady on the List Review”
Episode 4: “A Righteous & Riveting Takedown in The Sense in the Sacrifice” Episode 3: “Make Mine Well Done: Bones El Carnicero En El Coche”

Episode 2: “You’ll Never Fugetaboutit: Bones The Cheat in the Retreat‘ Review”
Episode 1: “Paradise Lost; Regained The Secrets in the Proposal Review”

PreSeason Interview with Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan: “Bones Bosses Tease Season 9 Deaths, New Adversary & Wedding Bells”

After completing my 67th post for ScreenSpy, I joined BuddyTV. Keep your eyes peeled for my Bones articles there!. I’ll still be tweeting about Bones and the new shows I’m covering ad nauseam, so join me at @MoxieGirl44 or @CatCabanela if you dare. I tweet … A. LOT. #Truth You can find my BuddyTV articles here. So far I’ve written for Suits, Scandal, Revenge, Arrow and The Tomorrow People and have loved every minute of it.Who knows what will be next?

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SlideShows for #Bones Lovers

After the shock of this past season’s finale, it’s comforting to look over the last nine years and remember how we got here.

‘Nineteen of Dr. Jack Hodgins’
Most Outrageous Conspiracy Theories’

 

“The 43 Sweetest Things Brennan
Ever Said to Booth”

 

“The 43 Sweetest Things Booth Ever Said to Brennan”

 

“37 of the Most Fabulous Dresses of Dr. Camille Saroyan”

 

Then go onto the editorial, “Bones, Why the Show is So Damn Good!”
Or relive the best things about the finale with “‘The Recluse in the Recliner’ Review: Greater Love Has No Man”

And then you can revisit (almost) the entire last season with these recaps and reviews:

Bones S9 Finale Cliffhanger Poll: What Fresh Hell is in Store for Us This time
Episode 21: “The Parenting Paradox in The Cold in the Case: Holding On Without Letting Go”

Episode 20: The High in the Low: Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them”
Episode 19: “The Turn in the Urn is a Holy Grail of Compassion & Sacrifice”
Episode 17: “The Repo Man in the Septic Tank is a Constant Surprise”
Episode 16: “The Source in the Sludge Review”
Episode 15: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother: Bones The Heiress in the Hill”

Episode 14: “Pulchritude and the Canuck: The Master in the Slop Review”
Teaser: “9 Scoops on Bones Big in the Philippines”
Episode 13: “Dance to the Music That’s Playing: Big in the Philippines Review”
Teaser: “7 Teases About Bones ‘The Ghost in the Killer’”
Episode 12: “Shadowboxing the Specter: The Ghost in the Killer

Review” Episode 11: “Angels in Motion: The Spark in the Park’ Review”
Episode 10: “Brennan Lets Loose in The Mystery in the Meat”
Op-ed: “Bones The Fury in The Jury Editorial by MoxieGirl44
Episode 9: “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The Fury in the Jury Review”
Interview with Stephen Nathan: “Bones EP On Brennan’s New Obsession, Cam’s Crucible & The Ghost Killer”

Episode 7: “Agent Andy Plays Hard Balls in The Nazi On The Honeymoon
Episode 6: “Two Ducks in a Row: Bones The Woman In White Review
Episode 5: “Daydream Believer: Bones The Lady on the List Review”
Episode 4: “A Righteous & Riveting Takedown in The Sense in the Sacrifice”

Episode 3: “Make Mine Well Done: Bones 
El Carnicero En El Coche”
Episode 2: “You’ll Never Fugetaboutit: Bones The Cheat in the Retreat’ Review” Episode 1: “Paradise Lost; Regained The Secrets in the Proposal Review”

 

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#Bones ‘The Woman In White’ Review

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Review as it appeared on ScreenSpy.com on October 22, 2013

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 6.58.55 PMDeschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) were eventually able to find and focus on the only things that really mattered: that their chase was over, their ducks were lined up, and their vows were delivered. In doing so without breaking out of character or skimping on substance and humor, Bones fulfilled on the ambitious pinkie swear made months ago by the executive producers; a promise that the fans would get the wedding they wanted, but in a way that only Bones could do it. When there’s this much hoopla surrounding a coupling—including an obnoxious number of previews, spoilers, interviews, and still shots—there are bound to be disappointments, right? Fine, but so much was done right in ‘The Woman in White’ that focusing on the picayune would be, well, petty.

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Christine Angela Booth at her parents’ wedding. The actress was uncooperative and her scene was cut, but she was there!

For example, we can digest the absences of Squinterns Fin, Zack, and Vincent Nigel-Murray (off making hot sauce, locked up in a mental institution, dead), but the absences of one Russ Brennan, Jared Booth, and Baby Christine were strange in retrospect. Not a complaint, just an observation. Next time you’re in an elevator with Hart Hanson, please ask him what the deal was with that, then come back and report to the rest of us. Here’s what happened, and what went well. ‘The Woman in White’ opens with a wedding rehearsal being interrupted by tag-team cell phone ringers. The practice is presided over by guest star straight man and Emily Deschanel’s real life husband, David Hornsby, playing Father Harrow. Yeah, that took chutzpa. Despite skepticism (by yours truly) that Hornsby’s presence could derail the ambiance of this long anticipated make-believe marriage, the actors used the absurdity of the situation as a point of humor, turning what could have been awkward for all into a delightfully amusing farce. The practice put on hold, Booth encourages the team to keep Brennan busy with the decades-old remains of an unidentified female while he picks up Parker (Ty Panitz) from the airport, discovers Max’s (Ryan O’Neil) muddy satchel full of suspicious greenbacks, meets with Aldo ‘If-Anyone-Has-Any-Objections-Keep-Them-To-Yourself’ Clemens at the church, and lights a candle in Christine Brennan’s name. Meanwhile, Hodgins (TJ Thyne) starts a pool on when the nuptials will be cancelled, Angela (Michaela Conlin) presents Brennan with a old, borrowed, and blue Parisian hairpin to wear at the wedding, and Brennan callously blows her off as she single-mindedly focuses on the case despite various stages of undress, wet nail polish, and a head full of saucer-sized curlers.

Brennan and Booth listen to loving speeches in their name from their parents.

Brennan and Booth listen to their parents’  loving toasts to their union.

Brennan’s floundering awkwardness during these scenes are highly uncomfortable to watch until you understand what’s going on. However, we have seen time and again that this is the behavior Brennan reverts to in times of intense duress. In season eight’s ‘Partners in the Divorce’, Brennan and Booth didn’t just banter as usual; Brennan froze while they fought like Rottweiler’s as they tried unsuccessfully to reconnect after her stint as a fugitive. Ouch. Most recently in ‘The Secret in the Proposal’, we saw Brennan and Booth at odds in the wake of Booth’s marriage jilt, with no clear way to put an end to the cycle of destruction. In then end, just when you think all is lost, the wonderful happens, and the two come together and recommit to their faith in each other. In ‘The Woman in White’ Brennan’s stilted behavior at the lab borders on being forced and ridiculous until Angela confronts her—God bless Angela. Brennan emotionally confesses to Angela that her feelings about the wedding are overwhelming and confusing, but the case is something she understands, and that’s why she keeps going back to it. And now we understand. The air cleared, Brennan mounts the laboratory platform, performs a cursory inspection of the remains, delivers several commands, and goes off with Angela to do girlie wedding stuff. Angela is touched, of course, and all is right with the world. That is, until the church burns to the ground, Parker spills Chicken Con Carne (?) all over his tux, the wedding is postponed, and Brennan goes back to working on the case.

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Booth looking dapper in his wedding tux.

It wouldn’t have been Bones without the crime quadrafecta: unrecognizable remains, a mysterious cause of death, a surprising motive, and an ill-fated killer. It would have been easy to skimp on the science with so much else at stake, but the details and delivery of the case’s progress was impressively substantial enough to make it believable. This would not have been possible without a whole team of squints at the ready to attack the mystery. Enter Dr. Clark Edison (Eugene Byrd), Arastoo Vaziri (Pej Vahdat), Wendell Bray (Michael Grant Terry), Daisy Wick (Carla Gallo), Colin Fisher (Joel David Moore), and Dr. Oliver Wells (Brian Klugman). The sqinterns—called upon by Edison, Hodgins, and Cam to make it appear Brennan was not needed in the lab—provided a fair amount of humor as they competed for top dog distinction and bickered like a set of five-year-old brainiac sextuplets. This was also a good ploy to bring these recurring characters to the wedding location. Next comes a cosmically ironic twist reminiscent of the modest young couple in O. Henry’s ‘Gift of the Magi’. In ‘Gift of the Magi’, a wife sells her tresses to buy a chain for her husband’s cherished heirloom pocket watch which it turns out he’d sold to buy a set of hair combs for her. The message of that story is about the lengths to which people will go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love truly is. In this Bones wedding episode, after the wedding postponement Booth despairs over being unable to give Brennan the white dress, the guests, the cake, the pomp and circumstance; all the fuss Brennan dreamed of as a young girl. Though he loves their everyday life, he knows how important it is to her that their wedding be an extraordinarily special day, not just a stop at the justice of the peace on the way to The Founding Fathers for free wings. Brennan, on the other hand, believes Booth’s happiness requires a Catholic Church wedding. Devastated over the unavailability of a church at such short notice, Brennan allows herself to fall apart in her office, giving us an unprecedented view of her emotional commitment to Booth’s happiness. Brennan and Booth finally come together in a tender scene where they each reveal they’ve been trying to make the other happy. Booth admits he’d be willing to wear elephant tusks and have a squirrel monkey do the wedding ceremony, (God bless that man) and Brennan says the only thing she cares about is that Booth is there with her (and she says she’s not romantic?). Angela, the quintessential bridesmaid and the biggest B&B shipper, moves heaven and earth to arrange to have the wedding conducted at the Jeffersonian Rose Garden. How believable is this, really? Well, Hornsby, er, Father Harrow is most likely off fighting figurative fires, but they have Aldo ‘By-The-Power-Vested-In-Me-By-The-District- of-Columbia-And-The-Internet’ Clemens. The food and flowers had already been prepared for that day, and Hodgins pretty much owns the building. So … yeah, why not? I’ll buy that for a dollar.

Max walks his daughter down the aisle.

Max walks his daughter down the aisle.

The wedding back on and the case solved, the squints are invited to join in but must dress in period wear from a Jeffersonian History of Fashion exhibit. This was a strange and silly twist, however, it answered the challenge of getting those people to the wedding within thirty minutes wearing more than street clothes or lab coats. So … okay … let’s overlook the oddity of this development. The vows were sandwiched between two slow-motion shots which added a creamy dreaminess to the proceedings: the walk down the aisle as Avalon ‘He-Sees-And Is-Dazzled-By-You’ Harmonia (Cyndi Lauper) sings a sultry version on ‘At Last’, and the wonderfully prolonged delivery of the first kiss as man and wife. The slow-mo was conducted at a speed which neither halted the progression, nor gave it a campy aura. I’m telling you, people, it’s a challenge to find much wrong with this episode. Perhaps a first time viewer of Bones would find the vows quirky or silly. However, the Bones franchise made it clear in their promotional materials that these vows were written as a love letter to the faithful who have followed the show from time slot to time slot, year after year, and who will revel in the words encompassing the journey that brought them (and us) to this time and this place.

Booth slips the ring on his bride's finger.

Booth slips the ring on his bride’s finger.

Not much more can be said to do justice to Booth and Brennan’s vows other than that they were perfect for who they are and what they’ve endured. There, I said it. Perfect. Booth tearfully spoke from the heart recalling when they first worked together and talked on the very spot where they stood to say their vows. He spoke of ducks and wars and serial killers and ghosts and snakes. His life’s smartest decision and greatest joy. And how the chase was over because they’d caught each other.Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 1.22.47 PM Brennan read from the note she wrote to Booth in ‘Aliens in a Spaceship’ when she thought she may never have the chance to tell him how he made her life messy and confusing and unfocused and 
irrational and wonderful. Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 1.23.32 PM So, there you have it, folks. Another very well-rounded Bones execution. For a show about the unlikely pairing of a sentimental cowboy sniper who believes in fate and angels and probably Santa Claus, and a brilliant exacting empiricist who vociferously eschewed the concept of marriage, calling it an antiquated ritualistic blending of familial obligations and property consolidation sealed by the delivery of one man turning over a woman to another like property, this was a coup well played. So far this season we’ve had five truly outstanding episodes. There is no doubt that fans will continue, as they have for eight years already, to follow Bones all over the broadcasting schedule, even to Fridays when that occurs on the delayed new move date, November 15th, 2013. Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 8.13.23 PM Those who are up to date on all the promotional materials know that from the walk back down the aisle, Brennan and Booth live happily ever after … until Monday, November 4th* when Brennan and Booth go to Buenos Aires on their honeymoon and end up working a case with the local authorities in “The Nazi on the Honeymoon” (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. White1White2White3 White4 White5White6 White7 White8

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#BONES Fiction TWATH:AB2P 214 ‘You Can Run’

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Chapter 214 You Can Run

You can run. You can hide. You cannot escape.”
~FSB, 2013

Lying across the king size bed of the Grand Suite at Hotel 1000 in Seattle, Booth hung up the phone. Moments earlier he’d fled Brennan’s third floor hotel room after being abruptly and painfully awakened from a nightmare by the forceful introduction of his cranium to the coffee table in her ante room, the small private entryway room outside her bed and bathroom combination. He’d assured Brennan he would be fine. It was lie, of course, and they both knew it.

“Everything really is fine—” Booth had insisted into the phone.

“Booth, you’re about as fine as I was in Dr. Sweets’ office when I saw what was inside that nasty, sooty, black box! I’m coming up!” She’d jumped off her bed and headed toward the door, only to be abruptly yanked backward by the hotel phone cord attaching it to the bedside table.

“Right, okay, I remember you in Sweets’ office,” Booth said. “I remember you getting up and leaving me with the baby duck. Remember?”

“I hadn’t intended to run away—Booth,” she had answered defensively. “I just needed—”

“Yeah, and see? Before you knew it, you were calling me from your car on the way to your place!”

“At least I called! I knew you’d worry—”

“And I did worry. I was frantic! Then you threatened to lock me out of your apartment if I came over, remember that part?”

“Oh. I’d forgotten about that,” Brennan had mumbled. “I cannot deny that is accurate,” she’d reluctantly admitted, sighing sulkily at the realization that she was losing ground in this argument. “But—”

“Look, I know it’s not easy—Bones. I know that,” he’d assured her gently. “I just need a little time to process, okay?”

“Booth—you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I won’t ask any questions. I can be silent when necessary—”

“Bones, I need space, too, and just—just a little time—”

She hadn’t wanted to beg, but her pride had flown out the window the moment she’d seen his pained expression pressed up against the glass wall of her bathroom only moments earlier. She still didn’t know how he’d gotten back into her room. She was certain he’d left—that’s why she had given up and gotten into the bubble bath. She had know one thing, however: that she would do anything so that he wouldn’t have to face his demons alone.

“I am experiencing a very uncomfortable sensation in my chest and I am struggling to maintain an even pulse rate, Booth—” she’d gasped, just barely holding back a bead of panic. She cleared her throat. “I’ll sit in the next room—do you have a little room outside your bedroom like I have here in my room? I’ll even sleep on the couch—!” She felt the same way she’d felt that day she’d watched him through the glass of his hospital room as he was being prepared for brain surgery: frightened, powerless, silent and desperate that everything would turn out okay. She’d held her breath and waited for his response.

Booth had taken the phone from his ear, closed his eyes and tapped the earpiece against his forehead as he struggled with what to do. He couldn’t have had her up to his room—it would have ruined the surprise for tomorrow. He had been too tired to go down there, though it ripped at the frayed edges of his heart to hear her distress and know exactly what she was going through. However, he’d had nights like this before. He could feel the nightmare coming on like an inevitable bout of nausea. He hadn’t wanted her to see that—to have to see him go through that.

“Bones—”

Brennan had interrupted. “I apologize for not giving you the same consideration you gave me when I needed time to process.” Then neither had said anything for a moment. Finally, Brennan swallowed hard and gave in. “Call me in the morning—or—if you need me for any reason—.” She’d taken a deep breath and exhaled silently, then she’d closed her eyes, held her breath, and pressed her lips between her teeth as she’d awaited his response again.

Booth had been flooded with such a mixture of emotions that he had grabbed one of bed pillows and squeezed it to his chest as if it had been her. He had felt grateful. He had been anxious to work through his own pile of emotional garbage so he could come to her tomorrow ready to talk. He had been sympathetic to her frustration over not being able to be there for him.

“If I need you, I swear I’ll call,” Booth had sighed in a supplicant voice.

“Or, if you want me—”

“You know I want you, Bones,” he’d chided with a sorrowful smile as he felt a warmth flood his heart.

“I know, but you know what I mean. If there’s anything—”

“You’ve already done it—” he’d answered, his voice warm and heavy with affection and appreciation, “—just by calling. Okay?” He had imagined caressing her cheek with his thumb and hoped she could hear it in his voice. “You have no idea how much it means to hear your—your wonderful voice and know that you’re there—” he’d said, his voice rough and just above a whisper, “thinking about me; loving me—”

“I’m always thinking about you, Booth. Always. And you know that—that I love you—of course,” she’d said. Then she’d been struck with an overwhelming sense of sadness. “It’s just that I don’t like you being up there all by yourself—” Her voice had taken on a gentle quality; any lingering bravado had been discarded leaving only the vulnerable truth. “I don’t know why I’m being so emotional—it can’t be my menstrual cycle because I’m in the, I just had my—.”

“I know you love me,” he’d said quietly, noting the catch in her throat. “And it’s not your menstrual cycle,” His sheepish appreciative smile had crawled through the phone line and nuzzled her on the cheek. “It’s because you care about me.” A warm tickle had crawled up his chest and he’d actually blushed a little. “I’ll call you in the morning.” He stood, awkwardly unbuckled his belt with one hand, and stepped out of his pants, tossing them over a chair next to the dresser. Unbuttoning the top three buttons of his shirt he was able to pull it over his head, extract the phone cord from the tunnel of fabric, and drop the shirt onto the chair with his pants.

“First thing,” she’d insisted, gently brushing the back of her hand against her cheek as if she’d actually felt his fingertips there. She hadn’t wanted to disconnect the call, but there had been nothing more she could do for him. She’d felt the warning signs that she was about to cry—the tickle between her eyes, the lump in her throat, the tightening of her jaw.

“First thing,” he’d said with finality. He sat down on the bed and tucked the phone receiver between his shoulder and his ear, freeing his hands, and began tracing letters on his palm. “Hey, hold out your hand. Palm side up.”

“Why Booth?” She half whined, her exhaustion taking it’s toll on her patience.

“I’m drawing letters, alright? Just like earlier in the car, okay? ‘Bee-dash’-then ‘Oh’ and ‘EX’. From Booth—”

“I know. From Booth with a hug and a kiss. And this one is for you—” She’d tucked the phone between shoulder and ear and traced the letters on her palm. “Bee-dash-Oh-Oh-Oh’and ‘Ex-Ex-Ex.‘” She’d felt a tingle like a plump red teardrop in the vicinity of her chest.

“‘Oh-Oh-Oh-Ex-Ex-Ex back atcha’, Bones. Now, get some sleep, okay?” He fell back on the mattress and ran a hand vigorously over his face. He was so stinkin’ tired.

“Okay. See you in the morning.” She’d smiled wanly. She’d understood the need for solitary introspection. It’s far too easy to get distracted when the thing you are supposed to be focusing on is something you’d rather run from. She’d felt the tickle between her eyes again though she hadn’t shed a tear. She’d shuddered to shake it off.

“Deal,” he’d said. That was when he’d finally hung up the phone, dropped an arm over his face, sighed, and then fallen into a deep but fitful sleep.

Five floors below, Brennan sat on the bed staring at the phone in her hand. She’d wondered if her earlier conversation with him in the car had pushed something to the front of his mind that should have been left in the dark. In her mind’s eye she could see the reflection of the street lights sliding across the windows of the Town Car as it slid through the traffic carrying them to the Washington County Medical Examiner’s office. After some playful banter and message-checking by Brennan, Booth had spent ten minutes staring out his window and brooding. He wasn’t even fidgeting. Then he’d confessed about having purloined and rifled through the gift bag Angela had given Brennan as they were leaving for the airport earlier that afternoon.

Booth stared at Brennan astonished. She’d admitted that she was already aware of what he’d just confessed.

“No, really, Bones. How did you know I looked in the bag thingy Angela gave you?”

“How do I usually figure these things out Booth? Deductive reasoning! I couldn’t get comfortable in that anti-ergonomically designed airplane seat so I thought I’d take a look in the bag, but it was gone and so were you.” Brennan shrugged. “Basic deductive reasoning.”

Booth clenched his jaw, bared his teeth guiltily and wrinkled his nose. “Busted,” he murmured, dragging a hand across his eyelids and forehead.

“I don’t care about that, Booth. Like you said, you’d find out eventually,” she said, shrugging nonchalantly. “But I find I’m curious about your lack of interaction just now. You usually talk while we travel. There’s an ominous aura about you—” She had been acutely aware of the drop in barometric pressure surrounding the man she loved.

Booth slid his long fingers between hers, which were still wrapped around his bicep. He pulled their hands down onto his lap and sandwiched her hand between his two, rubbing vigorously as if chasing away a chill. He then pressed the pads of his fingers into the tips of her fingernails as if testing for sharpness.

Brennan sat patiently, enjoying the sensation of her mate’s fingertips as they wandered gently over her nails and fingerprint ridges. Hers were fingers unused to being held, caressed, and explored in the way Booth was doing it now—except by him, and then only recently.

“Hm,” she closed her eyes and sighed so quietly Booth hadn’t even heard it. She acknowledged to herself that she found this kind of affection more pleasurable than she had anticipated. Whenever she’d seen couples holding hands she’d always thought she herself would find it oppressive, maybe even repugnant. How frustrating it would be to have someone wanting to touch you all the time, she’d thought, making demands on you all the time, having expectations all the time! In past relationships those assumptions had proven accurate for the most part. Most men didn’t understand her commitment to her profession—her drive to illuminate the past in search of the truth—regardless the hour or the demands on her time and energy. Most men she’d encountered lacked the self-confidence that allowed them to appreciate a woman who was consumed with something other thanher ovaries, his suitability as a mate, or their compatibility between the sheets.

Make no mistake, she enjoyed male company. Men were fascinating animals. Fascinating and exciting, but simple when it came to the mating process. She very much enjoyed sex. However, she found that people with penises were usually desirous of more than she was willing to give at any one time in her life thus far. Sexual entanglements served their purpose, but rarely inspired in her a desire for much more.

However, Booth she enjoyed. He didn’t demand much—or maybe he did, but there wasn’t much she wouldn’t gladly do for him anyway, so he occurred for her as fairly low maintenance. Besides, she wanted him to be happy. She wanted to please him. And she enjoyed touching him and being touched by him. His touch didn’t feel like a demand, an infringement on her freedom. It felt like companionship. It felt like validation, and satisfaction and love. It felt like an addition rather than a subtraction as it had been with others. As a result, and rather than feeling an irresistible urge to pull away, she wanted to crawl into his breast pocket and stay there forever.

Of course, to verbalize all of this even to herself, this awakening within herself over the last several years and much more intensely this past week, is not something Dr. Temperance Brennan, World-Renowned Forensic Anthropologist and New York Times Best Selling Author, was accustomed to doing. She’d surprised herself earlier that afternoon by experiencing an absurd impulse to spout romantic poetry. This was entirely new, though surprisingly not as anxiety-ridden as one might expect of a scientific empiricist such as herself. No. While she submitted to this experience wholeheartedly, she liked to think her observations of herself and of him were as objective and clinical as they could possibly be in view of the fact that she was being constantly bombarded with hormones and the urge, quite frankly, to rip his clothes off.

They waltzed lately, Booth and Brennan, down a tenuous path of interdependence that brought with it a keen sense of the other’s emotional state. When he was happy, she was happy that he was happy. When she was excited, he was excited with her and for her. Tonight, he was troubled. As a result, she was troubled that he was troubled.

That he was fidgeting finally, playing with her hand and fingers, as delightful and soothing as it was, was a welcome sign that his frontal lobe was engaged.

Booth disentangled their fingers and cradled her right hand in his left and began to examine her palm. With his right index finger he tickled the skin of her palm as if following the swirls of her handprint.

“Do you know what that is?” He asked as he continued to titillate the nerves of her palm. After he stopped, he repeated the gesture, hesitated, then smiled sheepishly up into her eyes.

“The palmar surface, or anterior aspect, of my right metacarpals, of course,” she replied. “Below are my flexor retinaculum, deep palmar arch and the superficial arch …”

“No, Smarty Pants. Well—yes. But pay close attention,” he insisted. He rubbed her palm as if erasing his previous touch, then repeated what he’d done earlier.

“Whatever it is, you’re giving me a pile of gargoyle erections, Booth,” she chuckled delightedly. “I’m actually finding this quite arousing … which actually makes sense because, did you know that the hands contain more nerves than any other portion of the human system, and that the palm contains more than any other portion of the hand?”

“Focus, Bones!” He admonished, grinning, and started all over again. “But don’t look—just concentrate on the sensations.”

“If you are looking for my pleasure center … it’s a little further down,” she snickered cheekily. That earned her the stink eye from her partner. “Though, I have to admit, what you’re doing right now—I’m finding it actually quite—uh—”

Booth interrupted her by bending her fingers backward just before it got painful.

“I’m being serious here,” he complained, his brow knitting together.

“Okay,” she meekly responded. He made shapes across the palm of her hand once more. Brennan’s eyebrows made a fleshy awning over her eyelids as she grimaced quizzically and shook her head. She peered up into his warm brown eyes, darker yet in the evening shadows of the Town Car back seat.

“Are you tracing the median, ulnar, and radial nerves—?”

“Heh, nooooo—” He grinned.

“Do you want me to point out the metacarpals one by one—why the fascination with my palm, Booth? Have you become fascinated with chirology? You may be surprised to learn that palmistry has a much richer and more scientific history than pseudosciences such as psychology.” She stared, amusement in his eyes. “Its history goes as far back as religion or God. Yes, if one believes in God and the way His existence has been documented, one must also consider the proofs set forth by the likes of Sir Richard Owen, Professor Tyndall, and the studies and writings of Bharadwaja, Anaxagoras, Maharshi Valmiki, Cherio and others up to 3,000 years prior to Christ’s birth.” She chuckled lightly.

Booth gave her a playful stinkeye. “This is nothing like that. Didn’t you and Russ ever do this? Me and Jared used to take turns writing on each other’s backs. The other person had to guess what you’d written.”

“Oh,” she said, her voice rising and falling in delighted surprise. “Okay. Do it again.”

Booth rubbed his palm over hers once again then slowly drew out a simple four character message: ‘B – OX’

“Booth,” she said in a quiet voice filled with awe. “That’s ‘B-OX’.” She smiled brightly. “It means, ‘From Booth, with a hug and a kiss!” She leaned her forehead on his. “You are such a vat of gelatinous romanticism. How am I going to work with you from now on? How will we get anything done?” She asked in a wistful tone. It could have been a complaint, but the tone of her voice suggested anything but.

“I think you’ll manage,” he said, leaning back to kiss the back of her jaw just below her ear. “You’re smart. You’ll figure it out,” he sighed into her ear before taking his kisses up to her smiling lips. “I have faith in you,” he whispered against her lips before sneaking his fingers into her hair and pulling her closer. She melted under his touch, grabbed fistfulls of his shirt and pulled him closer, kissing him back hungrily, delighting in the sensation of his lips and tongue and stubble scraping across her mouth and chin, her teeth. Her head was swimming. She was imagining bringing him down on top of herself as she lay back on the seat. The only thing stopping her was the sound of the brakes as the Town car came to a halt along the curb of the Harborview Medical Center where the King County Medical Examiner’s office was housed.

“I can’t wait to get back to our hotel room,” she whispered salaciously between nibbles.

“Let’s skip the ME’s office and go there right now—” he breathed into her ear, sending sparkly tingles straight to below the her bikini line.

“Booth, we can’t,” whimpered Brennan regretfully, leaning back to look in his eyes and touch her nose to his.

“I know. But a man can dream—,” he chuckled and kissed her delicious lips once again.

“As can a woman, actually. And I have an idea,” she said, tapping on his shoulder, her eyes jumping wide open in excitement. “How about, once we are finished here, we go back to our room, take showers, and then—”

“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute—” Booth interrupted her before settling back in his seat. He still hadn’t told her about their separate rooms and now he was feeling a little nervous about that. He wasn’t sure how she would feel about it. He wasn’t so sure about how HE felt about it either, come to think of it. Being with her kept the Filthy Stinking Bastard at bay.

As Booth leaned away and the car came to a full stop, Brennan’s dreamy thoughts slithered back into her brain like billowing smoke being gathered back into a chimney.

“What?” Her raised eyebrows quizzed him about what he was going to say.

“Uh,” he grunted, peeking out the back window. “I think we’re here—” Saved by Sebastian, he thought. He was about to spill the beans about their separate hotel rooms.

Any hope she’d had for receiving an explanation for his earlier brood would not be forthcoming. However, it was just as well. They had a case to dig into which would require his focus.

As if he could read her thoughts, Booth began speaking quickly as Sebastian put the car in park and prepared to open their doors for them.

“It was pajamas, I think. Black,” said Booth, chuffing as he wagged a finger at Sebastian, signaling that they weren’t ready to disembark just yet. “In the gift bag. And I am sorry.” He shrugged, sighed in exasperation, and shook his head slowly, biting his lower lip. I’m an idiot, his gesture meant.

Sebastian stood sentry, his hands clasped in front of him as he faced away from the Town Car.

“It was an invasion of your privacy.” Booth waited for forgiveness, staring into her eyes without blinking, marveling at how dark they appeared in the sparse light provided by the din of the early evening lampposts. You are so beautiful—in every light, he thought, sighing again but gently this time. Though he hadn’t said that out loud, Brennan saw it in his eyes and it made her heart do a flip-flop. She couldn’t help smiling back at him once again as warm patches of pink blossoming on her cheeks.

She shook her head. “You are beating yourself up unnecessarily. Lets move on,” she cajoled him gently in a barely audible voice. “Just be aware that—” She stopped, she was going to say something about his previous somber mood, but reminded herself that he would tell her when he was ready. After a lingering moment, she broke eye contact. She wanted to reassure him. She knew those dark thoughts of his would return. “Listen,” she said instead, “I worry about you, Booth. You’re my partner.”

“Yeah” he said shrugging. He put an arm around her and squeezed her sideways for a moment.

Brennan’s eyes dropped to her hands resting in her lap.

“I’ve been wanting to tell you that though I may not have said much about it today, I remain somewhat anxious about that fiberglass-wrapped heart. Dr. Sweets says that defense mechanisms that have taken decades to form do not fall away in one day.”

“He’s right,” Booth said, fully listening to his partner, leaving behind any of his own concerns for the moment.

“It troubles me that I do not get to decide what influences me and what does not. Dr. Sweets says this is the human condition—to be in flux, constantly being pushed and pulled, trying to find our way while being simultaneously guided and misguided while we struggle to discern one thing from the other. I understand the forces of nature—for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is the same with things of an intangible nature—feelings, thoughts, dreams. If we are to be inspired by ethereal ideals such as love and happiness, we must acknowledge that there are also negative and disheartening influences that weigh on us.”

“That makes sense,” said Booth, the sound of her voice, confident and open, relaxed him. She was as soothing as a salve against the sting of his previous pained thoughts, which never seemed more than a heartbeat away. She is the antidote to what ails me, he mused to himself.

“I fear that those uncontrollable influences might make it challenging to move forward—”

Booth stared at her, speechless.

“With the case, Booth,” she hastened to add when she saw his reaction. “With the case—not with our relationship! I am fatigued from travel and—other things—.” At this she couldn’t help grinning. He was the reason she hadn’t had much sleep in the last couple of days. “I’m not complaining,” she hastened to add. “I’m just aware that fatigue and unwelcome concerns might impose themselves upon my attempt to focus on the details of this case.” She looked expectantly at her mate. “This case which deserves our full attention, Booth.”

“Oh,” replied Booth, nodding slowly as he read between the lines. “Yeah, I see what you mean.” He could see that she was talking about his focus as well as her own. Message received, he nodded back and smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.

“And I know that that which affects me affects you as well.” She searched his eyes and saw that this made sense to him. “Now, there is a time and a place for the investigation of the concerns attached to that fiberglass-wrapped heart—This is not that time, so I am focusing on compartmentalizing.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do, too!” Booth blurted in exasperation. “But have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you have a quiet moment, things have a way of creeping up on you and all of a sudden—bam!—you’re in the middle of this—shit storm—and there seems to be no way around it! And you know what?”

“What, you have explosive diarrhea, is that what you’re saying?” She looked puzzled and talked right over his words.

“”No! What’s that go to do with—? Oh!” He replied and spoke rapidly. “The shitstorm. It’s a—a—term that means— like, being bombarded with a lot of crap—emotional, you know, psychological stuff.”

“Oh!” She replied. “Oh. That is quite colorful. It does make sense though. Hm—a shit storm.” She pursed her lips and nodded.

“Well, that fiberglass-wrapped heart thing is messing with you, and I wanna hear about it—but there’s a shit storm going on in my own head,” he whispered in an agitated tone. Brennan felt his frustration and knew it wasn’t directed at her. She nodded sympathetically and squeezed his fingers in several pulses. “I have to tell you about it, Bones, but I can’t do it in just a couple of minutes—it’s—complicated.”

“Okay, then let’s both do this,” she said conspiratorially as she scooted back just a bit so she could talk to him straight on, face to face. “This is how I prepare myself to focus on one thing when I have many thoughts competing for my attention—”

“You have such interesting ways of saying things,” he smiled.

“I know. Shh!”

“‘Competing for your attention’, ” he said in a haughty manner. “I like that. I’m gonna steal that—”

“Booth, focus!” She grabbed him by the chin and made him stare straight into her eyes. “Okay. First, you must choose something equally interesting or inspiring to replace the—shit storm,” she commanded.

“Our relationship is the only other thing on my mind right now, Bones—but I think that’s part of what’s bringing this storm on—you know, finally having the soft place to fall and all—” he said in a burst of revelation. “I think that’s why I’m thinking about this stuff so much—not that I blame you—” he assured her.

“I know—and this is good, but we will talk about those things. Right now we must both divest ourselves of any thoughts or emotions attached to anything other than this case.”

“Agreed.”

“Put that pile of excrement—”

“Shit storm—”

“Shit storm, whatever, put it into a box, catalog it, and relegate it to the back of your mind. Okay?”

“Alright.”

“Now think of something good—something that has the power to captivate your mind, removing the barbs of any nasty distractions.” As she spoke she closed her eyes and took a very deep breath. “Now, breathe in, then out. In, then out. Do you have something wonderful and positive in mind?”

“I’m thinking about you,” he said, eyes closed, mouth grinning as he took several deep breaths and exhaled them slowly. “You and those black pajamas!”

“What pajamas?”

“The black pajamas Angela gave you.”

“It’s not pajamas, Booth,” she snorted, opening her eyes.

“How do you know? Did you look?” He opened his eyes, challenging her.

“No, but pajamas would take up more space than what appears to be in that bag.”

“That depends on the pajamas. Maybe they’re not jammie-jamas, but more like hot-babe-in-a-thong jamas. This is Angela we’re talking about—”

“Hm. That is a possibility,” she said, opening her eyes. “I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t usually wear hot-babe-in-a-thong pajamas.”

“That’s a pity,” mumbled Booth. “Well, why not take a look?”

Brennan stared at him with a half smirk as she retrieved the gift bag from her belongings. She held his gaze until she had the bag opened, then dropped her eyes into it. Rooting through the crunchy paper without success she pulled each piece of crumpled paper out of the bag, one by one, and handed them to him.

“Hm,” she grunted jostling the bag around as if shaking pop corn to distribute the butter and salt evenly. “Well—”

“It’s pajamas, isn’t it? I knew it.”

“Uh –” They were certainly black. And very small. It was the final pair of inscribed panties, the last of the gift set Angela had gotten her. The first pair had said, ‘If this whole anthropologist thing doesn’t work out, I can always fall back on my modeling career’. Another had ‘Give an anthropologist a bone and she’ll know exactly what to do with it’.Another promised, ‘If you can read this you’re on the top of my ToDo list today.’

“I’m right, aren’t I?” He sounded like a kid guessing over a Christmas present.

This pair was black with red embroidery on the backside. She couldn’t quite make out what was written on this pair due to the confined space inside the little bag. She could see, however, that it was in blood red block letters the likes of which you might find on the side of a shipping crate warning: ‘Fragile: Handle With Care,’ or, ‘This Side Up’. She hoped it wasn’t something too solicitous: ‘Enter At Your Own Risk’, or worse yet, ‘Slippery When Wet’. It wasn’t, of course. It was something much worse, but she wouldn’t know that until she got to the hotel and took it out of the bag.

“Technically, you are incorrect,” she drawled slowly.

“Ha! So—that means ‘non’ technically it’s a yes! See, I’ve figured out what your fancy little terms mean. “‘Not technically’ means that, actually something is what you’re saying it isn’t, except that—wait, what does this mean about Angela?”

“What do you mean ‘what does it mean about Angela’?”

“Do you think she knows—about us, about Operation Pringles?”

“I don’t think so. It is more likely that she has lost hope in a conjugal union between us. That’s what I think. At least, if what she said to me when she gave it to me is to be believed. She was fairly disgusted with me. And she called you an AssHat, if you recall.”

“Right,” said Booth, unconvinced. He flicked a glance at her through suspicious eyes and was surprised to find that she was actually serious. He shrugged. She smirked and shrugged back, rolling up the white bag and stuffing it back in her bag.

“Well, this definitely gives me something to take my mind off what I was thinking about before,” Booth said gleefully as he crunched the crepe paper still in his hands into little balls and tossed them on the floor.

“Booth. That will take only about twenty seconds, then you’ll be back to where you started.”

“Oh, I could stretch it out to a full hour, believe me.” He got out of the car. “But wait, aren’t we supposed to be focusing on the case? Now I’m just going to be thinking about your underwear.”

“Typical,” Brennan mumbled as she took his hand and scooted toward the open car door he’d just gotten out of.

“It is panties right?” He said hopefully under his breath, poking his head back into the car.

“Yes, you are correct,” she admitted, blushing and smirking.

“Whoa,” he said in a low voice. “Fantastic.” He grinned stupidly, standing stock still while visions of anthropologists in black panties danced in his head. Brennan had to push him out of the way so she could get out of the car.

That was earlier this evening, before the interesting revelations they found waiting for them inside the medical examiner’s office. Brennan couldn’t think about that now—this time she would compartmentalize the case and focus on her partner who, she was convinced, was about to face the only secret he’d kept from her all these years, the secret he’d been brooding over all evening long.

Five floors up from Brennan, on the 8th floor of Hotel 1000 in Seattle, Booth became aware he was back in his worst recurring nightmare the moment he fell into it from a great height, though he wasn’t sure how long it had been in progress. Sometimes it was like that—like walking into a theater halfway through a movie. This was a nightmare he’d had repeatedly over the last decade or so, but there was something different this time. This time he wasn’t alone on the bed he was shackled to in the middle of a dark, damp, parking structure. This time there was a woman sitting on his hips. A woman who knew him better than any other.

She wore a sleeveless gauze nightdress with a plunging rolled neckline. The fabric hung from the fullest part of her breasts down past her knees where it pooled around her on the bed. She wore nothing at all under the nearly sheer nightdress. He knew this because he could see straight through the fabric to what lay, warm and inviting, beneath it.

You—can touch me, she purred, suggestively sliding both of her hands over the nightdress from her belly up her rib cage then over her chest. When she squeezed her breasts and rocked back and forth on his hips, two hills of cleavage rolled over the curb of her plunging neckline then dropped out of sight when she fell forward to hover over him. “You want to touch me—”she whispered into his ear, salaciously grinding wide slow circles over his hips and everything in between. “—I can tell.”

Hell, yes, he wanted to. He wanted to slip his fingers under the hem of that nightdress. He wanted to slide his palms up her legs to knead the roundness of her thighs, then let his hands wander over the rest of her curves. He clenched his jaw and stared forward with sightless eyes, trying not to think of lifting that dress over her head, pushing her over and crawling on top of her. He reminded himself that this was a nightmare; his worst nightmare. He’d never known nightmare sex to end well.

The devil has many faces and many of them are beautiful. Booth knew this from experience. What was disorienting about this particular succubus was that she looked like Brennan and sounded like Brennan, but, but—she smelled different, moved differently, and her breath tasted of ash and death. That—made his blood run cold.

Where she had been sitting on him a searing coldness had permeated his body. At first he’d confused it for heat the same way a hot poker, upon contact with skin, appears cool before the body registers it as intense heat. Booth tried unsuccessfully to rear up and fling her off his hips where she’d been stationed for the last—however long?—he didn’t know. He had a vague recollection of being fed warm apple pie from a thin white saucer at some point. What had been in that pie? Ether? Belladonna? Either of these toxic substances in low enough doses could do this to him without killing him. Ever since she had beguiled him with that pie, he hadn’t been able to think clearly. Besides, there was nothing he could do as long as his wrists were handcuffed to the frame of the bed.

When the scene began to twist and warp around him like water spinning around a drain, the she-devil pulled a seed the size of a large marble off of a chain that had been dangling between her breasts. Hot, black, viscous fluid began to seep through and pucker the surface of the object as if oozing evil perspiration. The fluid cleaved to her fingertips and slowly traveled over her wrists until it reached her elbows and hung there in a bulbous glob. The succubus threw her head back and laughed, then extended her tongue and licked a swath of blackish purple from the tip of each elbow up to her fingertips. By the time her tongue made contact with the black pit, her mouth, lips, teeth and chin were stained a macabre shade of molten death.

All of this was new: the scantily clad succubus straddling him, the pie, the searing cold across his hips, the attempted seduction, the nasty oozing object. For one blessed moment Booth felt something pull him outside of his body leaving the fear and disgust behind. That was when he realized what the she-devil was holding in her hand. It was the shriveled pit, that blackened, angry piece of his heart that appeared like a cancer when he took Jared by the hand and walked away from his father’s home forever—or did it start before that? Regardless, it was the hardened pit that had kept him from allowing people to get truly close to him; close enough to see who he really was. This was the pit of shame, inadequacy, guilt, failure to protect his mother, and the twisted love he still felt for his father.

As Booth was sucked back into his body, the succubus thrust the object into his mouth, and pinched his lips together. He strained ineffectually against the handcuffs and screamed screams that tore at the inside lining of his throat but went no further. When she lifted his chin and held his jaw closed she pinched his nose threatening to asphyxiate him.

Swallow it!”The succubus hissed against Booth’s ear. “You made it. It belongs to you. It’s your filthy stinking pit!” She pulled her sweaty fingers off his nose, scratching him in the process.

Booth gasped and took two gulps of air before she pinched his nose closed again. Finally, he was forced to swallow that pit which seemed to have doubled in size since she’d first thrust it into his mouth.

When she leaned forward to lick some black oily goo from his chin, Booth got a glimpse of what, or who, was behind her.

Marching toward the bed in slow motion was a macabre collection of men, their faces tension-filled and pale, their eyes black and furious. They were foreign military. Booth, in his dreamlike certainty, knew that these men had walked from a very long distance without tiring or slowing until they reached his bedside. They brought with them a chill, a frozen sheet of air that hit him like a wave of ice water and pierced him with a million sharp needles of remorseful agony.

Images rushed at Booth in foreboding flashes of light and clay until his cognition was hampered by the shockwave of screams issuing forth from the men’s angry lips. Each man had a single small dark hole rimmed in rippled angry flesh in the center of his forehead or his temple, or a discrete round tear in the sturdy fabric covering the upper left side of his chest. Bullet holes. He recognized these faces from the dossiers he’d received from his Major General: Orders to eliminate these ‘threats to the United States and our allies’.Trailing behind each man was a gaggle of women and children whose dirty faces cried cold translucent blue tears and cursed his name in Arabic, Somali, Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, and some Mogadishu dialect he recognized for the memories it invoked, but knew nothing more about.

The widows came to scream at him. Though he couldn’t understand their words, he could imagine what they were saying: How could you? I loved him! We needed him! He was protecting his country, just like you are! How could you?! The children said nothing, but stared at him while the tears slid down their dirty cheeks. Blue tears against caramel or night black skin stained with dust and dirt.

Booth toughed it out when confronted with the zombied faces of his victims. He bit his lips when the widows howled at him or threw sandals, dirt, bowls, spit. But when the children came—when the children stared at him with the big emotionless eyes of the fatherless, he broke out in such a rank sweat that it was as if they’d all urinated on him at once. Many times he’d awakened with a metallic taste in his mouth and found he’d bitten a hole in his lip.

This was his penance. He prayed that if he endured this punishment long enough, the dreams would disappear. Until then, he pummelled himself with the question whose answer alluded and tortured him.

What kind of man, he asked himself for the 775th time, signs up for a job whose main responsibility is killing people he doesn’t know in a foreign city he’s never heard of, and for reasons he would never be told. Who does that? More importantly, why, in God’s name, did ‘I’ do it?

Some things in life are inexplicable, others are incomprehensible; and war,” Ed Williams’ compassionate voice echoed in Booth’s head,“is one of humanities greatest tragedies. That’s why we have sacraments of healing; sacraments of atonement and redemption, sacraments that restore us through infinite grace.”

Man’s pride and greed have organized the destruction of hundreds of thousands of the nameless and faceless for centuries in selfish battles in the name of righteousness, freedom, and religion. Rarely has a man carried a gun for his country and not been horrified at the hell he witnessed falling and rotting all around him in battle. The knowledge of having taken a life himself – though honorable and in defense of his country and other innocents – could derail the insides of the toughest most stalwart of soldiers. But they didn’t talk about it; they swallowed their feelings, and it changed them. Booth had seen this among his comrades—and in himself.

Tonight, like all the other sweat-drenched nights, Booth wasn’t concerned with the hundreds and thousands of other men. When he went to the place inside himself where lies have no meaning, he was concerned only for the man living inside his own skin. Over and over he asked the same questions: Why had he done it? Why had he joined the Rangers and become a sniper, and why so eagerly? If he wanted to defend his country and all it stood for, why hadn’t he opted to be an infantryman? Why not be part of a battalion of men attacking and defending in the midst of opposition in the arena of kill or be killed? He could argue that it would have been a more level playing field. There would still be nightmares and daymares, failed relationships, neurosis, post-traumatic stress, addictions to drown out the terror, and hell on every side for the rest of his veteran’s life. But would it have been easier to forgive himself for taking the lives in defense of his own? Though he knew he probably wasn’t right about this, Booth chose to think it might have been.

When he tried to answer those questions, he always came up with the same arguments.

Number one. Was it because he was just a kid at the time—a kid looking for his place in the world, looking for a way to make a difference, a way to make his mark as the man he wanted to be, not the one he suspected his dad thought he would never be?

Number two. Was it because he believed the propaganda and fell victim to his own pride? ‘Only the bravest and the best, the strongest and the most disciplined, the talented and the highly respected—only the elite have what it takes to survive the crawl, walk, and run phases of the training at Fort Benning and join the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is not a sacrifice; it is an honor, a privilege, a destiny’. A destiny those well above the rank and file assured him he was worthy of.

Number three. Was it because the army needed him? Steady, patient, meticulous, and tireless—at 1.5 miles Booth could hit a dime on a moving target. One shot, and the target plummeted unceremoniously toward the dirt. He, they told him, was his nation’s secret weapon against the untouchables: men who unscrupulously thought nothing of using friends, family members, even children – as firewalls. Without the perfect shot, any of these lives could become collateral damage.

Number four was an attempt to shift the blame. Could he convince himself that he was merely an instrument of the United States’ government? Someone else was responsible for making the decision to eliminate the target, right? Booth was the arm, the barrel, the bullet. Are the bullet and the gun responsible for the kill? They are not! Predictably, right on this argument’s thin tail end came the stark memory of Pops’ gravely admonition: “You’re gonna stand all by your lonesome in front of God on Judgment Day, Seeley. No one there to point a finger at besides your own stupid self.”Besides, Booth knew this rationalization was just as much bovine manure as the egos of those who played with men’s lives like they were toys on a plastic battlefield.

Some of these things were true. He was undeniably good at it what he did. Military threats were real and needed to be eliminated when all other options had been exhausted and someone—someone had to do it. But why, he asked himself, what makes a person sign up for the job of executioner?

In law enforcement stateside, the goal was not to kill – it was to capture. Taking the life of a criminal in the line of duty as an FBI agent was only as a last resort, and then only in pursuit of a fleeing criminal or in protection of himself and others in imminent danger. Being a personally unprovoked, concealed gunman shooting at an unsuspecting target who is stupid enough to put his guard down—a target who foolishly stood too close to a window, or sat in the latrine reading the paper, or hugged his son out in the open after celebrating that son’s birthday—this was a whole different ball of wax.

The devil you imagine is more frightening than the one you know, right? Thought Booth. In that same vein, what scared Booth more than the familiar apparition of these men or the silent screams of the widows and children he’d left fatherless, was the unidentified root of this recurring nightmare. Ed Williams suggested what Booth had suspected: that it was not as simple as guilt over having taken these lives. This was his sin: the taking of human life. Easily identifiable. That there was something even deeper than that frustrated and scared the hell out of Seeley Booth. And it had to do with that filthy black pit growing in his heart.

For the 775th time Booth’s brain whizzed through these thoughts in images rather than words. The specters of his victims’ children stood before him. The adults had disappeared. The pit in Booth’s heart began to burn like acid through plastic. As the children raised their bare black arms, the pit in Booth’s heart burned with greater and greater intensity, devouring the chambers of Booth’s heart. While in past nightmares, the children had reached out, empty-handed, toward Booth, this time he looked down the barrels of AK47s and several RPG-7s. Simultaneous with this awareness came another more terrifying one: the fire in Booth’s heart bubbled through the surface of his skin to reveal a cavernous bleeding hole where his heart had once been. In a slow motion second that felt like it stretched over an hour, Booth sensed movement and dragged his attention away from his broken body in time to watch as the children began pulling their triggers.

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” He cried out. The she-devil laughed. The children howled and moaned. Everything in slow motion. The bullets and grenades shimmied toward Booth in rotating arcs. Before the first one hit he screamed again till he felt for certain that his throat was bloody. “I want out! I want out! I want out!”

It wasn’t a heroic cry, but it was genuine and blood-curdling.

In response, the succubus shimmered as if her channel were being changed. One moment she was the evil seductress, Brennan’s hideous doppelgänger. Then she morphed into the vile shape of the FSB, the Filthy Stinking Bastard. The FSB shimmered back into the cackling succubus briefly then returned, spitting and hissing, “You can run! You can hide! You cannot escape!” He cackled maniacally.

Transforming one last time, the icy dark succubus splintered into a thousand shards of black glass and flew away like a pack of silvery butterflies.

Booth’s wrists were finally freed from their shackles as he was pulled backward by the scruff of his neck toward consciousness.

He rose up panting and gulping for air frantically, covered in sweat and spittle. He clutched wildly at his chest. In place of the charred hole there now was a heart thundering against his palm. He yanked off his drenched undershirt and threw it. He kicked at the comforter twisted around his legs and clinging to his damp skin. Exhausted and panting, gagging, he rolled off the bed and sat leaning against the bed frame coughing and heaving until he thought his gut might split open. He grabbed his abdomen. He wasn’t bleeding—thank God—he was shivering violently, his shoulder muscles bunched and cramping with the strain.

But at least he was awake. And he had escaped—for now.

“Bones,” he croaked into the dark. “BONES!” He screamed on the ebb of a sob.

Nausea hit him so hard he thought his stomach would crawl up his throat and turn itself inside out onto his lap. He rocked back and forth. This was the worst it had ever been.

“Bones!” He scrambled around in the dark, looking for the bedside table and the phone. His fingers got caught in the dangling coil of the phone cord and he yanked hard. The phone flew at him in two pieces: console and receiver. He heard the faint dial tone and hung up the phone, then grabbed the mouthpiece from the cradle and punched the tiny concave “0″ button for the front desk.

“Bones!” he shouted desperately into the phone when he heard the line pick up.

“This is the front desk, sir,” answered the calm male voice on the end of the line.

“I need Bones—Dr. Temperance Brennan’s room!” He dragged the back of a wrist across his nose and sniffed hard. “Room 308, please!”

“Certainly, sir. I will connect you,” came a circumspect voice at the other end.

Silence, except Booth’s own heartbeat pounding, like bongos, at his temples and in his earlobes. Then the pickup.

“Booth!”

“Bones!” He gasped, then coughed to try to cover it up.

“I’m coming up!” This was it. She knew it. She might even admit that she could feel it. Whatever had been gnawing at him after his discussion with Ed Williams—whatever had chased him from her room in a fit of anxiety after cracking his head on the glass coffee table—it must have finally come to the surface. Finally.

He’d never told Brennan the extent of these nightmares. He hadn’t told anyone. He mentioned it to Ed Williams in passing as they discussed the sin that was strangling his heart. That portion of their conversation pinged against his brain like falling crabapples in the Spring …

“I’ve killed people,” Booth had admitted, cowed after a rather lengthy stretch of evasive responses to Ed’s direct questions. Unforgivably, he’d thought. And with great remorse.
“Why?” Ed asked after an expressionless silence that stretched between the two men, making Booth regret he’d said anything at all.

Words failed Booth. He stared back at Ed and his mouth dropped open. No sound came out, Thou shalt not kill, he said to himself.

“For entertainment?” Ed suggested. He had a point to make.

“No.” Rangers, lead the way, Booth heard the voice of his battalion declare in unison.

“For Spite?”

“No.” Sua Sponte, Booth heard the voice of his RTB Commander. It means, ‘Of their own accord’. Rangers were expected to make their own combat decisions based upon their training.

“For revenge?”

“No, that wasn’t it. It was to keep aggressors off balance. It was to execute special operations deep inside politically sensitive enemy territory using lethal force when necessary to ensure the precise application of combat power,” Booth droned his memorized job description. “To achieve surprise over hostile forces,” he added after a moment.

Ed nodded knowingly, never taking his eyes off the veteran.

“And to do it proudly and loyally,” Booth continued though he had not been asked to. He’d dropped his face into his hands and rubbed the lines in his forehead briefly, then looked back up at Ed. “Prestigiously, unfailingly, gallantly, energetically, and with ready fortitude I will complete my mission even if I am the last man standing.”

“Got it,” Ed had said after a moment, then nodded. “Got it,” he had repeated more quietly.

Booth had stared at Ed like a deer in headlights. I actually said it, declared my unforgivable sin, out loud, to another human being. And lived.

“It has changed you.”

“It keeps me up at night. It wakes me up at night in a cold sweat.” That is all Booth had said about the nightmares.

“Because…you do not think God will forgive you for this sin.” Rather than posing questions, Ed had simply been demonstrating that he understood.

Booth swallowed audibly, plastered a remorseful smirk on his face and shrugged as if the game was over and he had lost.

“There is only one unforgivable sin, Seeley.”

Booth had met Ed’s gaze, unable to imagine what Ed could say that wouldn’t suffocate him. He had waited, barely breathing.

“The only unforgivable sin is the unconfessed, the unrepented one.” Ed let that sink in … that comment, Ed’s comment, is what allowed for the work to begin, the work that he needed Brennan to help him with … THis Booth would later realize.

“No,” Booth pleaded with Brennan across the phone line as he sat on the floor, after that Apocalyptic nightmare. “You aren’t coming up here, Bones! Just—listen,” “Please?” His back against the mattress, he dropped his head backwards and dragged a hand up his forehead and into his hair, realizing how soaked he was.

Silence on the other end.

“Please, Bones?”

“Okay,” she said reluctantly. She swung her feet to the floor, flipped on the lamp next to her hotel phone, and glanced at the red numbers on the clock display. It had only been an hour since they hung up the phone after he ran from her room. “Tell me—everything,” she said, “everything, Booth.”

She stood, glancing around the room for her pants. Finding them, she jammed the phone between her shoulder and her ear and slid them on then began searching for her shoes. On the floor at the foot of the bed. She crawled over the bed and slipped into her shoes.

On his end, Booth sighed heavily and held his breath for a moment before he began in a hushed voice. “Remember when I’ve told you that I sometimes have these—nightmares?”

“Not the one with no pants? Or the one where you’re stuck in a bottle with your father?” She laid the phone on the bed while she pulled a sweatshirt over her tee shirt and grabbed her key card from the bedside table.

“Huh, no,” Booth chuffed, sighing wearily again, then sniffing. “I forgot I’d told you about the one in the bottle—”

“Of course you did.”

Booth’s eyes dropped closed, his head falling forward to rest in his hands. He ground the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. The weight of his head in his hands pressing his elbow into his belly. Could he really tell her about these frightening nightmares? Especially this last one—Christ, she was a central figure in this one! Well, it was really the Filthy Stinking Bastard—but still, it had her face and her—curves. He had to tell Brennan about it. There was a piece missing, and just like they discovered for her, there were things he wasn’t meant to figure out all on his own. She could help him with this. She was meant to help him with this.

“Booth?”

“Bones—I, I don’t know if I can—” His voice was shaky and anxious. He sighed loudly into the phone.

“That’s it,” Brennan said in a determined tone. “I’m coming up.”

“No—Bones! Wait—!” He pleaded. “Just—”

“Booth, you can barely string together a proper sentence!”

“I don’t want you up here—! I have this room all—” ready to surprise you, he was going to say before she interrupted him.

“That’s too damn bad, as they say in the vernacular, because it is not your decision anymore. We are—whatever this is that we are—and we’re in it together. Not you up there in hell and me down here sleeping contentedly and fully unaware that you are struggling for your life. That is not acceptable!”

“Okay, Bones,” he finally said, then realized she was already gone. He hung up, stood up on wobbly legs and sat on the bed for a split second before lumbering to the bathroom to splash water on his head.

Brennan hung up before he could tell her what room he was in, but she already knew that from her earlier sleuthing. Sixty-six seconds later she was knocking on his door, panting from having run up five flights of stairs.

Booth answered the door in boxers and a fresh tee shirt. He had a hand towel scrunched in one hand and a key card in the other. Since they’d hung up he’d had a mild panic attack.Here it is, he thought. This is it. He took several deep breaths, then heard the urgent rapping on the door. He hurriedly swiped at the light switches, plunging himself into darkness, and opened the door. He took a step halfway into the hall, forcing Brennan to take a step backward. When the door closed automatically, it bumped him forward a half step. He squinted at her as if he’d just awoken from a deep sleep. He was still trying to process that she was here—to take him to her room—where he would spill his guts. No going back.

His hands were still sweaty again. As he was thrust forward by the closing door, he dropped the key card to the floor between them and found himself unable to figure out what to do about it. Disorienting. Get a grip, Buddy, he told himself. You can do this. Focus on the prize—All things are possible with God who—who what—who tortures me—who allows the Filthy Stinking Bastard to kick the—Un dia, vamos a duchar juntos, y en ese dia quando esetmo por fin—quando estemos por fin—what comes next? Rangers, lead the way! The leg bone’s connected to the hip bone—what the hell?—I’m loosing it—

“Boones, I think I’m loosing it—” he mumbled, dizzily swaying toward her.

“You haven’t lost it. It’s right here,” she said sweetly as if comforting a frightened child. She grabbed his arm to right him. “See? It’s right here, Sweetheart. I’ve got it. No problem.”

He focused on the key card in her hand. Everything was happening so fast.

“Booth!” She called to him as if he were at the far end of a tunnel. “Booth!” She shook him gently, just now processing his appearance. He was damp with sweat, his hair was—well, all over the place, and he was as white as a sheet.

“What?”

“You need clothes!” She almost said, And you are as white as a sheet, but she saw how disoriented he was and decided not to.

“What?” He squinted even further as if she had said it in Portuguese.

“You need some clothes. And you look like hell!”

“How apropos,” he mumbled, unmoving.

She grabbed the key card from his hand, swiped the locking mechanism, and marched into the suite headed straight for the bedroom. Booth was left gawking in the hallway.

She yanked open several drawers and pulled out some fresh clothes, grabbed a pair of shoes, and then swiped his dopp kit from the bathroom counter. Rushing back out the door she grabbed Booth by the hand and headed toward the stairwell.

“I am so, so sorry,” she said, shaking her head in disgusted disappointment.

“What? Why?” He tripped along behind her down the steps and around the corners till she pushed through the heavy metal door and propelled him onto the third floor.

“I never should have let you talk me into leaving you alone. I saw the state you were in before! That was negligent of me. That will not happen again!” She was upset with herself.

“I’m sorry,” he said, sheepishly.

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry?! Booth! You have nothing to be sorry for. I’m the insensitive dolt in this scenario. I should have used better judgment.”

Booth was relieved she wasn’t angry at him. He didn’t think he could handle that right now. He knew he couldn’t.

Brennan unlocked her door and pulled him inside. She laid his clothing carefully over the back of the couch and put his shoes on the floor by the door, then stood facing him with her hands on her hips for a silent moment. “You’re shaking,” she observed, looking him up and down. She reached out and put the back of her hand on his cheek with such compassion in her eyes he thought he might die.

“You have the most beautiful eyes, have I ever told you that?” Booth asked almost tearing up. Then he fell forward into her arms, almost knocking her over, and let her hold him up as he took several angst-filled sob-like deep breaths.

Brennan widened her stance and braced her head against his shoulder to hold him up and knew she would stand there all night if he needed her to. She thanked the universe that she had had the presence of mind to uncover his room location earlier so doing so a moment ago hadn’t delayed her getting to him.

When Booth finally stopped shaking he realized she’d been rocking him side to side as she gently rubbed his back and made indecipherable soothing noises against his shoulder. He had no idea how she was holding him up, being four inches and at least fifty pounds lighter than he was, but he wasn’t asking any questions. He didn’t need a lecture on physics or mechanics right now.. He was simply too overwhelmed with relief to finally be home in her arms.

Just as the small of her back had begun to ache, Booth stood up straight and emitted a shaky sigh. When he looked directly at Brennan, he found her studying him.

“You need a shower and a fresh set of clothes,” she said in a commanding yet nonabrasive tone. “Then we’ll talk. Or not talk. No, we’ll talk. Now go.” She turned him toward the bathroom and pushed him gently from behind, pausing only to grab fresh boxers and tee shirt from the pile of clothes she’d collected from his room.

In the glass-walled bathroom, Brennan reached into the double shower and turned the nozzle and tested the water, then turned to look at him. He sat slumped on the toilet seat. He looked smaller somehow. His color was coming back, but his eyes were glassy like pools of ink. This reminded her of a night not too long ago when he had come into her hotel room in the middle of the night to be by her side. They’d sat on the floor and talked for over an hour. She’d felt safe and grateful, as always. Tonight, she would return that favor-though who was keeping track at this point? There should be no score-keeping in the game of love, she remembered having read once. Every player should be a winner-or else it just isn’t really love at all.

Booth sat up when she knelt in front of him. She took the hem of his tee shirt and solemnly lifted it up. When he raised his arms, she pulled it over his head and off his arms. Then she took his hands in hers and touched her forehead to his.

“This is not at all how I imagined you undressing me,” he chuckled weakly, winning a hint of a smile from his partner.

“Now,” she said quietly. “You take a shower-take as long as you want-”

I suppose you’re not going to join me, he might have teased if he’d had the energy, but he didn’t.

“-and I’ll be waiting for you out there,” she glanced behind her toward the door separating the anteroom from the bed and bath. “You know I don’t believe in making promises for the purpose of placating a recipient, but,” she said and paused, then nodded and continued, “I believe that everything will be-that you will feel better-when you tell me what is causing you this anxiety.” She looked for confirmation from him and received it in the form of a blink and a slight nod.

Sliding the tips of her fingers into the hair at the nape of Booth’s neck, she pulled him forward gently and kissed his forehead. She then stood and nodded toward the bath towels hanging next to the shower. He nodded back. “I’ll be right out here,” she said. He loosely held onto her hands until they could no longer reach each other as she walked backward to the solid door that separated the bed and bath from the small ante room near the front door of her room … and disappeared behind it.

Take me to the next chapter, ‘The Meaning in the Name’ >>>

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#BONES Fiction TWATH:AB2P 213 ‘The Book of Love’

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Chapter 213 The Book of Love

Flashback to the Airplane ride from Philly to Seattle …

After several hours of enlightening discussion with Ed Williams, Booth returned to his airplane seat next to Brennan. She sat half slumped in her seat, her face tilted toward the window at what had to be an uncomfortable angle. He quietly sat down, leaned his head back, sighed, and closed his eyes.

“Booth,” Brennan whispered in a low, somnambulatory voice. “Booth,” she said, rolling her head toward his shoulder, her eyes still closed.

“Hmmm?” Booth lolled his head toward hers and arched open one tired eye.

She reached over blindly, searching for his hand. He opened both eyes, grabbed her hand and slid his fingers between hers, delivering an affectionate squeeze before resting their joined hands on his thigh. He glanced over at her and smiled at the peaceful calm that washed over her features as a result of his touch. He ran his thumb up and down the side of hers several times before lifting their hands to his mouth for a quiet kiss across the back of her hand. After delivering a final squeeze, he patted their joined hands, yawned, closed his eyes and dropped his head back on the headrest.

“I’m miserable,” Brennan whispered. She sounded tired, but not miserable.

An amused grin flickered across his lips though he said nothing.

“Booth,” she whispered a little more loudly, this time jostling their intertwined hands to rouse him.

“Umh?”

“I’ve been unable to transition from beta and alpha waves to a sufficient level of theta waves necessary to induce unconsciousness. Every time I experience a myoclonic jerk, I awaken and have to start all over again—”

“You can’t sleep? What do you want me to do about it?” Booth nodded, his eyebrows floating toward his hairline in commiseration. “You never sleep well on planes, Bones.”

“That’s correct. I know it’s foolish of me to expect a different result from the same set of circumstances,” she mumbled, lolling her head back and forth before finally opening her eyes to gaze at her partner. His eyes were still closed.

“You want me to sing ‘Soft kitty’?” Booth chuckled weakly to himself. He knew it was highly unlikely that she was familiar with this piece of pop culture – a reference to one of his favorite shows: The Big Bang Theory.

“Soft Kitty? Is this another AC/DC selection like ‘You Shook Me all Night Long’?”

“Never mind,” he whispered loudly, a smarmy half grin curling up one side of his face. He opened his left eye a crack and stole a glance at her. She didn’t notice. He chuckled lightly again.

Brennan shrugged and returned her attention to her mate’s face. “Your mandibular profile is quite pleasing to look at,” she said. I love looking at you, she thought.

Booth smiled, his eyes still closed. He scooted sideways toward her and leaned his head in the direction of her voice until it connected with her forehead. After a moment, he grimaced, sighed loudly and soulfully, and shook his head slightly.

“What?” Brennan had heard his sighs and felt his head move.

“Umh?”

“What are you thinking? You just sighed rather disconsolately.”

“Ohhh, nothing,” he lied in a sing-song voice. A comment Ed Williams had made just moments before had skittered through his brain, leaving a streak of burnt orange in it’s wake.

“What, you think your sin is too big to be forgiven? You’re wrong. There’s only one unforgivable sin,” Ed had said ominously. “And it sounds to me like you’re holding onto something God forgave and forgot a long time ago. You need to let it go—”

Booth tried to let it go, but here it was again, popping up to poke him in the heart just as he was relaxing in his seat next to Brennan. He sighed again and pressed his lips together tightly as if trying to restrain his thoughts from jumping out of his mouth. He was determined to put that conversation out of his mind until later when he could unpack it and examine it alone. Compartmentalize, right? He thought, attempting to channel his inner Brennan. Think about the other stuff Ed said—about faith, hope, and love—and how the greatest of these is love!

Brennan bit her lip. She knew something was bothering her partner, her mate. He was preternaturally still, still and quiet. Booth was rarely quiet.

“You say you are thinking about nothing, yet your body language indicates that it is definitely something troubling you. Now, is this the kind of something that I am supposed to enquire about several more times before letting sleeping kittens lie?” She asked innocently as a V-shaped wrinkle creased the skin above the bridge of her nose. “Or is it the kind of something that I should cease pursuit of and be content in the knowledge that you will confide in me when you are ready?”

Booth’s heart melted. “You are a good person, Bones,” he said, opening his eyes to find her beautiful china blue eyes focusing quizzically on his face. His eyes dropped to their intertwined fingers. He squeezed her hand and let his shoulders fall, only then realizing that he’d been tense again. “And I love it that you try so hard to understand me.” He brought her hand to his lips and dropped a warm kiss on her skin, then looked up to find her scrutinizing his features even more intently.

“Well, then perhaps this is a nothing that you want me to continue to pursue. If that is the case, Booth, I am willing to listen, but I cannot read your mind. If you want to tell me, then tell me. But if you have no intention of discussing it at present, I will simply sit here and be with you.”

“This is the kind of something that-right now—I don’t think I can talk about,” he said grimacing apologetically. “This is kind of like a fiberglass-wrapped heart kinda thing.”

Brennan pursed her lips and squinted at him, nodded. “When you are ready to divest yourself of this burden you currently carry alone, I will be here to listen,” she said. She then attempted to smile convincingly. “Just like you have done for me-many times.”

Booth searched her eyes. “I’m sorry, Bones.”

“Why are you sorry?” She squinted at him.

“You look a little-hurt.”

“I am not hurt,” she said, shrugging. “I am simply trying to assure you that it is acceptable that you not tell me. If and when you are desirous of telling me, I know that you will.”

Booth searched her eyes, finding nothing but forthright honesty in them. She searched his eyes and could see that he was still troubled, but guarded. He would work it out until he couldn’t any more. Then he would tell her about it. She was fairly certain of this, but nothing is 100% except the fact that nothing is 100% anything. So, there was still room for doubt. And that is what troubled her.

“I believe you, Bones,” Booth said. “And it’s really fine. I mean, it’s not fine-” He paused looking for the right words, then found them. “Remember how you said you wanted to process a while before talking about our session from hell with Sweets?”

Brennan nodded. “I do.” She nodded once for emphasis.

“I guess I need to process, too.”

“I understand that need. Perhaps we will both have completed our processing at the same time. We can discuss them both then,” she said with a satisfied nod.

“Deal,” he said, smiling humbly and appreciatively into her eyes, then kissing her gently on the lips before resting his head back and locking eyes with her until she smiled and blinked, then crinkled her nose at him.

Brennan disengaged her fingers from Booth’s and pushed up the armrest that separated them. She turned toward him in her seat and wrapped both of her arms around his left bicep, giving it a squeeze. She then slipped her left leg over his left knee and rested her temple on his shoulder. After she was settled, Booth lifted his arm and pulled her in closer, then dropped his nose into her hair. He inhaled that Bonesy scent and imagined it permeating every single one of his unsettled cells, soothing him completely. As he exhaled he felt the remnants of his disconcerting thoughts drift away like the vestiges of burnt paper caught up in a breeze.

Her ear and temple up against Booth’s chest now, Brennan listened to his heartbeat and breathed in his warmth allowing both to sedate her. After two minutes she was so relaxed that the ensuing thoughts of her metaphorical fiberglass-wrapped heart didn’t bother her. She knew he was part of the answer to that heart’s lack of a pulse, she just wasn’t sure how to go about reviving it. It is irrelevant that I do not have the answer right now, she told herself, Booth will figure it out—we will figure it out together.

Booth chuckled.

“Umh?” She grunted.

“I love the little noises you make when you are-”

“—Contented.”

“Yeeees! Contented. That’s what it is! I love those noises.” He emitted a sigh that started in a high tone and deepened as it traveled down his chest.

It was Brennan’s turn to chuckle.

“What now? Are you gonna make fun of my contented noises?” Booth feigned indignation.

“No, I was going to say, ‘That tickled’.”

“What?” He asked. “What tickled?”

“The loosening of your vocal chords and the deepening in the tone of the reverberation made by your larynx when you emit an audible sigh,” she explained.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. If it’s my vocal chords, how do you know it tickled? What, are you telepathic or something now?”

“Just-let me finish, Booth!” Brennan smirked, only slightly irritated. “Your clavicles act as conductors sending those vibrations through my temporal and frontal bones and directly to my cochlea. That vibration induced gargalesis in my outer and inner ear which then caused piloerection across my epidermis.”

“Uh, what?” Booth blurted the question in such a high pitch that a dog, if there had been one on the flight, would have flung itself onto its back and whimper-barked while jerking about in agony. “You can cause a- I can cause- I mean- did you just say-a pile of erections?” He stage whispered incredulously toward her ear. “From a loud sigh?! And what do gargoyles have to do with-?” He shrugged so forcefully that Brennan sat up. Booth didn’t know if he should laugh or be worried about his partner who he was just finding out had skin that was virtually made of nothing but one big hyper-sensitive swath of erogeny!

Brennan snorted, feigning disgust at what was clearly a deliberate mangling of her terminology. “Your sigh tickled my ear and gave me goosebumps.” The ‘Duh’, was understood.

“Which part of that—psychobabble—means a pile of erections?” Booth chortled and grinned.

“It’s called piloerection. Piloerection, Booth. Think about it. An epidermal piloerection. What does that sound like it might be? Really?”

“Sounds like an overdose of Viagra to me,” he scoffed, laughing at his own comment. “Ohhh—!” He kept chuckling.

“And by the way, I don’t speak psychobabble. That is Dr. Sweets’ area of expertise. I speak science mumbo-jumbo, remember?” She snarked indulgently and rolled her eyes.

“Okay, okay! I know that epidermis is skin,” he said once the chuckling died down. “Skin erections? Oh! Goosebumps. Got it,” he said, impressed with himself. “You always gotta say stuff the hard way, don’t ya’, Smarty Pants? Sometimes I think you intentionally use those big confusable words because they sound like something completely different, not to mention suggestive.”

He leaned away from her so he could look in her eyes and send her a playful stink eye. She stared back, admitting nothing at first, though inside she was considering that he may have a good point. Just as she opened her mouth to point out that he deliberately mangled her jargon, he cut her off.

“So—the gargoyle? What’s that all about?” He was proving her not-yet-made point about mangling.

“Gargalesis! It means tickling.”

“Wow—see? You could have just said that Instead of going all pile of gargoyle erections!”

“You keep saying that just because you enjoy saying the word erections!” Brennan shook her head as if admonishing a child. She sat up straight, smoothed out her clothes, crossed her arms, and leaned back in her seat.

Booth tossed her a big toothy grin. “Come back here,” he chided, pulling her back into his arms and squishing her to his chest in a playful hug. “Ahhhhh. This is how it should be,” he sighed, closing his eyes after she’d snuggled back into place. “You and me, talking, laughing, just being ourselves.” He stuck his nose in her hair again and planted a grinning kiss just above her temple.

“Gargoyle erections,” mumbled Brennan. “A pile of them.”

“Hmmm?” Booth couldn’t help smiling at the academic tone of her voice as she delivered that ridiculous phrase.

“Tickley goosebumps. Heretoforth known by present company as Gargoyle Erections.” Brennan snorted and chuckled, burying her face in Booth’s tee shirt.

“Parker would love that,” Booth said. “But he isn’t going to hear it,” he added quickly, “until he’s old enough to own a mortgage!”

Brennan released a high pitched sigh, followed by a lower one.

“Those are the sounds,” whispered Booth against Brennan’s hair. “The little contented sounds you make when—” He couldn’t come up with the right words: When we’re touching? When you’re in my arms? When I kiss you? When you look at me because I’ve said something you think is sweet? It was all of these. “The little ohhhhhs and ahhhhhs and high-pitched sighs and—you know—all the little happy noises you make— when we’re—close. I love it.” He squeezed her in a prolonged hug. “I love you,” he mumbled against the skin at her temple.

“I know,” she whispered, pressing her lips against his neck for a kiss then rubbing her nose against his clavicle before settling her cheek against his shoulder again. They both took a big breath and exhaled in unison.

As each was left to entertain their own thoughts, Brennan’s turned to her concern for what was troubling Booth. Her eyes fluttered opened, her eyelashes scritching against the fabric of his shirt. She really had hoped he would have been willing to discuss what was bothering him. Usually, she’d have no problem setting this concern aside, but something had changed between them. The density of his dark emotion had seeped into her, weighing heavily on her chest—at least, that was how it felt to her: a palpable, dark heaviness.

Ever since they’d shared so much and come so far in such a short period of time, it was more important to her that he felt he could lean on her emotionally. My happiness, she thought, really is, in part, dependent upon his happiness now. As a result, I cannot completely disengage from my concern about what he is experiencing. She couldn’t determine if she was disconcerted or comforted by this newfound interdependency. She was, however, impressed with herself for identifying the source of her angst, for lack of a better word.

She had heard Booth and Ed talking for quite some time. She missed most of the second half of their conversation as it had been conducted in hushed, sometimes emotional or conciliatory tones. The two sounded like father and son discussing a mistake born of poor judgment and paid for with an unbearable price. The first half of the conversation, however, she’d caught enough of to understand that Booth had been concerned about the disparity between his Catholicism and her Atheism.

Brennan gasped when she realized that source of her discomfort was due, in part, to a tinge of envy that Booth had talked so long with Ed. Envy, she thought to herself, that’s absurd, isn’t it? This intimacy piddle is messing with me! She searched for a more rational explanation for her reaction. Finding none, she decided to believe that the envy could be a very rational response to witnessing one’s mate confiding in another person what they have yet to confide in their mate. Then she searched for an attitude that might diffuse her envy. It is good that he has found – even if only temporarily – someone to confide in, she told herself. I shall accept that and I will not ask again. Without even thinking about it, she nodded into Booth’s shoulder.

“Booth,” she said, gently tapping on his chest with an index finger. “I am your safe place to fall just as you are mine.” It could have been a question; it actually was a question, but she presented it as a statement.

“Without a doubt,” he replied, nuzzling her ear before kissing her on the top of her head. “Don’t doubt that for a second.”

She nodded in response, and closed her fingers around a fistful of his right shirt sleeve. This confirmation would be what sustained her many hours later when, in the middle of the night, Booth awoke from a frightening dream that had him calling for her help.

While the wonderful-smelling woman snuggled up against his chest scrutinized the physical sensations of envy as objectively as she was capable, Booth continued to skirt around the guilt that had been tormenting him for longer than he could recall.

God seemed absent whenever Booth tormented himself in this way. He assumed this meant he was supposed to figure it out on his own. But God wasn’t supposed to leave me alone … ever … I thought …

Booth interpreted God’s silence as further proof that He was disappointed. Finally, Booth would throw his arms up – literally or figuratively, or both—and take himself off to Saturday confession once again. However, no matter how he tried, those sins managed to attach themselves, like Peter Pan’s shadow, to the souls of Booth’s feet and follow him, silently, invisibly, right straight out of the confessional.

Despite all those trips to the confessional, Booth still came face to face with his demons in his moments of weakness. They pounced on him, sending him spiraling down a rabbit hole of shame and self-doubt. However, it was time that rabbit hole get filled with something good, something fruitful. In order for that to happen, Booth had to do what Ed recommended: He had to lay that cross down, be rid of it, and walk away for good.

For the first time in his life, Booth felt that he might actually be ready for that. First he had some things to figure out on his own. Brennan was right in that she was his soft place to fall. He reminded himself of this. She was his partner. In everything. Maybe if he could tell her what he was going through, it would help him let go.


Upon landing at Seattle International Airport, Brennan and Booth deplaned and stood, wearily leaning against each other on the outskirts of the crowd awaiting the baggage carousel’s mechanical delivery of the remainder of their belongings. Booth put in a call to the front desk at Seattle’s Hotel 1000 where he’d made their reservations. Brennan was still in the dark about the rooms he’d gotten them – and even about the hotel – so he had to be cryptic in his comments.

“This is Seeley booth. Calling to confirm a pick-up at the airport?” He glanced at Brennan who was yawning and staring through a gap in the crowd, zombie-like, at the empty carousel as it began circulating.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Booth!” A fifty-something baritone oozed from cell tower to cell tower and into Booth’s ear. It was a rich voice that carried well, but still managed to be in hushed tones as if it belonged to a black suit and black sunglasses-wearing agent from the Secret Service. “My name is ‘Benz’, sir. Like the Mercedes. You may call me Benz. I will be personally overseeing your stay with us to ensure that all of your needs are met.”

“Oh—kay?” Booth’s words were drawn out and peppered with suspicion and a dash of regret. He didn’t sign up for someone to be insinuating themselves into their privacy during their stay.

Benz recognized the uncertainty in Booth’s voice and set about reassuring his first-time guest at the luxurious Hotel 1000.

“Not to worry, sir. You will not even know I am there. I will appear when you beckon and fade away when you turn around.”

“Um, great—” said Booth relieved. If discretion had a voice, thought Booth, it would sound exactly like this guy!

“I have your account on my screen,” continued Benz calmly. “You have arranged for the Hotel 1000 Special Delivery Airport Towncar to meet you at the airport for pick-up—”

“Yep. We’ve just landed. It will probably take us—” he looked at his watch.

“We are aware of that, Mr. Booth,” Benz interrupted. “That was flight 1547 out of Philadelphia International.” The disembodied baritone ribboned into Booth’s ear. “We know that you landed at 6:47PM and will be fully disembarked by 7:02. Your driver, Sebastian, awaits you at baggage claim with a luggage cart.”

“Oh, wow!” Booth was clearly impressed. For the price he was paying, he could have expected this, but he didn’t know that. He turned his back to Brennan and switched ears as he searched the area for someone who might look like a limo driver named Sebastian. He mumbled into the phone. “Is that extra—the Town Car and the—uh, this Sebastian?”

“That is included in your package, Mr. Booth. I see we will be delivering you to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office at 908 Jefferson Street! Very good.”

“Yes—” Booth hadn’t recalled giving them these details, but every call he made to the hotel had been hurried and covertly made.

“Once you have completed your business at 908 Jefferson Street, you will find Sebastian waiting for you if you call fifteen minutes in advance of your need to be brought to the hotel.”

Brennan had been scrolling through her missed calls when she spotted their luggage and headed closer to the luggage carousel.

“Your luggage will be delivered to your suites where lifestyling and turn-down services will be provided prior to your arrival. We have a ‘Luxe Room’ with a beautiful vista of downtown Seattle on the third floor for Ms. Temperance—Oh, dear!— Can you hold?”

“What? What does that mean?” Asked Booth in alarm, bracing for a wrinkle in his perfectly planned arrangements, but Benz’s voice had already been replaced with a whisper soft muzak rendition of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’.

In fewer than thirty seconds, Benz returned and began speaking immediately. This time the tenor of his voice included a hint of conspiracy. “We would like to upgrade you, or Ms. Brennan, to a quieter location, if that meets with your approval,” he whispered as if the two of them were co-conspirators negotiating a deal that was so exquisite and unorthodox that it could cost both of them their jobs.

“What’s going on?” Brennan glanced at Booth as she held her own phone up to her ear.

Booth shook his head dismissively in her direction and turned his back to her. Brennan had lost interest as she began to listen to a message from Wendell on her phone.

“Well, that would meet with my approval as long as the room Dr. Brennan is being upgraded to is not on the eighth floor,” Booth said discreetly as he turned away from Brennan and switched ears. That was the floor Booth would be on alone until Tuesday. “Uh, can you keep her on the third floor?” Booth bit his bottom lip, squeezed his eyes closed, and mentally crossed his fingers.

“Just one moment, Mr. Booth,” said the concierge. “The second room you have reserved is on the eighth floor. It is one of our finest suites.”

“Yes, I am aware of that, Mr. Benz,” Booth said in a low voice. That’s why I ordered it—! He thought to himself.

“It’s just Benz, Mr. Booth,” he said absently as he consulted the reservation system.

“Listen our luggage just arrived—” He watched as Brennan began pulling her instrument cases and various bags and finally a suitcase from the carousel. He hurried forward to help her just as a smartly dressed man in a dark suit and black cap advanced toward them carrying a placard reading, ‘Mr. Booth and Ms. Brennan’. “You must be “Sebastian?”

Sebastian nodded discretely as Booth pointed to each piece of luggage and case belonging to them. “Could you—?” He spoke toward Sebastian, pointing toward a luggage cart.

“Certainly, sir,” Sebastian replied and set to work as Brennan searched her bag for a tip.

“Bones, I got it!” Booth shook his head and glanced around, then stepped in front of her when she extended several folded bills toward Sebastian who had just loaded the last item onto the cart.

“Wha—Booth!”

“It’s included. Trust me,” he said, steering her toward Sebastian’s retreating form which was heading for the door leading to the parking pavilion.

Benz’ voice buzzed in Booth’s ear once again.

“Ahhh ha! We do have a Grand Luxe Studio Suite available on the third floor—” Benz’ voice actually raised an octave this time.

“You sound surprised, Benz,” said Booth into the phone.

“Well, sir, it is just that when we upgrade, we don’t usually upgrade to such a—” He paused, unsure how to say that this studio was several levels above what Booth had originally reserved. “Let me give you a brief description of what is included in a Grand Luxe Studio Suite at Hotel 1000—”

“Alright, but could you make it fast? I’m not getting any younger, buddy.”

“I will simply hit the highlights—” Benz then launched into a lengthy description of the room that included an anteroom with a couch and coffee table which then lead to the bed and bath.

“We don’t care about the chairs—” Booth insisted at one point, trying to speed up the process. “And we won’t be watching any TV.”

“Watching tv? Booth, what’s going on?” Brennan interjected during a lull in her own messages. Booth shrugged and rolled his eyes like he had no idea what was going on either.

“It’s the hotel,” he whispered, covering the mouthpiece of his phone. “You know how these people have to get every little detail right!” He rolled his eyes again in an exaggerated fashion. “Don’t worry, Bones, I got it covered,” he said when her eyebrows rose in concern. “No sweat.”

“French press with Starbucks coffee and premium Tazo teas—” Benz was saying.

“So, what do we have to do to get this done, Benz?” Booth was getting impatient, but then he remembered the fabulous bathroom from the original suite he’d reserved. Bathrooms are important. “Wait. What’s the bathroom like,” he discretely mumbled into the phone as Brennan ducked into the back seat of the Hotel 1000 Town Car.

“Ceiling-fed Italian pedestal tub and walk-in glass surround shower with rainfall showerhead. A large glass window adjoining tub faces the bedroom—”

“So, you can see into the bathroom from the bedroom—through a glass wall?” Booth stood in the open car door resting an arm on the hood of the car and speaking as quietly and deliberately as a Secret Serviceman himself.

“That is precisely what it means. However, there remains a soupçon of privacy in that the bed and bath are separated from the sitting room by a solid wall and cherry wood door.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” snarked Booth, unable to keep his impatience hidden any longer. “What’d I gotta do—sign something?”

“No, sir. I have already handled it. You need but show up and go directly to your rooms. Sebastian will have your key cards. Call this number when you have completed your visit at 908 Jefferson Street.”

Sebastian finished loading their belongings into the trunk as Booth climbed into the car behind Brennan and pulled the door closed with a satisfying ‘thwack!’

“Will do, Brenz, we done here?” Booth needed to get off this call.

“Done as done, sir. We will look forward to your pick-up call!”

“Thank you, so will I.” Booth hung up without saying goodbye.

“What was that all about?” Brennan looked at Booth quizzically.

“Absolutely no idea,” said Booth, settling back into his seat. “Bones, were you serious about meeting with Monsignor Mike to learn more about the Catholic Church?” Quick change of subject, but he’d been thinking of asking her about this since talking to Ed Williams on the plane.

“Of course. Don’t you want me to?” She stared at him, her brow wrinkled.

“It’s up to you,” he said, shrugging with his eyebrows and attempting to sound nonchalant.

“It is clear from your tone that you want me to think it’s inconsequential, Booth. But I know that it matters to you,” she said flatly. “If it is important to you, it is important to me,” she said with finality then returned to scrolling through her messages list.

Booth smiled to himself. I love my life, he thought, for the most part.

“Is the Jeffersonian communicator in the trunk of the car? I could use it up here right now. And why are we in a Town Car, Booth?” Brennan took a moment to survey her surroundings for the first time since stepping into the vehicle.

“Everything’s in the trunk, Bones. This is only about a fifteen minute drive.” Booth glanced out the window, then looked back at Brennan. “We could make out—you know, play a little kissy-face?” He wiggled his eyebrows and sent her a smarmy grin.

Brennan rolled her eyes and pushed a button on her phone that connected her to the Jeffersonian voice mail system.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” mumbled Booth, settling back in his seat and chuckling to himself. He reached over and squeezed two inches of muscle tissue just above Brennan’s knee.

“Agh! BOOTH!” Brennan yelped and dropped her phone while trying to hit Booth’s hand away. Her eyes as big as saucers, she scooped up her phone from where it had fallen. “Dr. Saroyan, I will call you back momentarily. It appears Booth needs me!” She hung up and turned on Booth.

“That was Dr. Saroyan I was leaving a message for!” She cried, exasperated.

“I figured that out,” he said between delighted chuckles.

“What am I going to tell her was going on here?!”

“Not my problem,” he continued to laugh as he reached over to do it again.

“Booth!” She gasped and began hitting him playfully on his outstretched arm. “Just remember,” she said while attempting to suppress the giggles erupting from her throat, “Payback is a bitch!” She tried to sound threatening, but it came out more like a strangled yodle.

“God, I hope so,” he replied with a laugh.


After leaving several messages for her teammates at the Jeffersonian, Brennan’s mind sifted through a mental catalog of what she would and wouldn’t need to accomplish at the King County Medical Examiner’s office. She planned to have the Banty Solicious remains shipped to Hodgins on the first plane out of Seattle after she was finished examining them.

Booth’s thoughts wandered back to the first topic of significance discussed between Ed Williams and himself: the Bible’s proviso against Catholics being unequally yoked with unbelievers. At least, that had been his understanding of the proviso before the enlightening discussion with Ed. As he replayed the conversation in his mind, reflections of streetlights, wet pavement, and dark ominous building facings leaped like gazelles across the glass of his side window. Booth crossed his arms and stuck a thumbnail into the groove between his two front teeth, both upper and lower, losing himself in the memory of Ed’s counsel …

“The anthropologist, she’s not Catholic?” Ed intoned, nodding once up the aisle to where he knew Booth’s partner sat.

“She’s—not just non-Catholic, she’s non-God,” Booth said, smirking apologetically as he sat across the aisle from Ed. “She’s an atheist, an ‘Empiricist’, she calls it.” He chewed on his bottom lip and crossed his legs. His knee began bouncing up and down nervously.

“I see,” sighed Ed, nodding sagely. His chest rose and fell like the motion of the ocean before crashing upon the shore. He allowed his lips to loosely vibrate, mimicking the sound of an idling Harley Davidson. Potato-potato-potato. “Yes,” he said and nodded slowly. “I get this question a lot.” Ed paused a moment to stare at Booth as if he were measuring him—weighing him, perhaps weighing his soul. Satisfied with whatever he read in the silence of the scales, Ed continued. “Did you know that over the last twenty to thirty years the percentage of interdenominational couples has grown to anywhere between forty and seventy-five per cent depending on what part of the states you live in?”

“Yeah, interdenominational, but—not among Catholics,” parried Booth staring toward the front of the cabin but glancing sideways toward Ed without moving his head.

“That includes Catholics, Seeley,” Ed said, dropping his head to the side sympathetically and somewhat apologetically. After sixty years in the God business, it still pained Ed that several generations of Catholics had fallen through the cracks where religious instruction was concerned.

In the years following Vatican II, wonderful changes were made in the Church. Pope John XXIII believed in making the Bible accessible to everyone. He eliminated practices that were no longer relevant and brought back rites that were rich and timeless in their ability to strengthen individuals’ personal relationship with God. Mass went from Latin to the language of the people in the pews. However, as often happens with abrupt change, good or bad, important steps get overlooked in the haste of rapid improvement.

In the case of the Catholic church, what was sorely missing from the 1960s to the 1980s was optimal instructional materials for both the faithful and those tasked with the job of educating them. Their difficulty in understanding everything there was to understand about their Church, their Faith, and Christianity as a whole, was not their fault—though they didn’t know it. Because they thought it was their fault, their shame both silenced them and kept them ignorant. As a result, many relied on their limited understanding of the Bible – which, at times, included taking it literally without consideration of the culture and colloquialisms of the times in which they were written.

The evolution of Catholicism was one of Ed’s most beloved topics. The faithful he served were members and descendants of those lost generations. He enjoyed helping them understand how it came to be that there was so much they had missed simply because they were young during a time of great transition. It just so happened that Booth and his parents fell into that category as did Pops who fell right on the cusp of the transition and was ultimately responsible for Booth’s religious instruction during those years.

Booth turned to face Ed squarely, his expression a controlled blank, but the rest of his body belied his discomfort. Ed’s comment, ‘That includes the Catholics, Seeley,’ still ringing in his ears in reference to the high number of contemporary interfaith marriages. He uncrossed and re-crossed one knee over the other hoping to quiet the involuntary muscle spasms that threatened to bounce him right out of his seat. A vivid image of Pops sprang onto the screen of Booth’s consciousness. Once Booth’s Mom was gone, Pops had taken the responsibility of making sure the Booth boys developed strong moral compasses. Pops had always made it crystal clear that other people doing something didn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Pops’ gravely voice played accompaniment to the video feed in Booth’s brain …

“If some ding-a-ling got some cockamamie idea about getting blitzed and jumping off a bridge,” Pops would pointedly drill Booth in a low gravelly voice, his brow rippled in waves of stern concentration, “would you jump right in after him, Seeley? I don’t think so,” Pops answered his own question and waited for a response from Seeley.

Booth always tucked his lips between his teeth and donned his poker face, and tried not to say something like, I would if there were skinny-dipping cheerleaders under that bridge! Unless he wanted to get cuffed on the back of the head, that is. After several moments of Booth staring blankly forward into the stale dusty air of the 1970′s living room, Pops boring a hole into the side of Booth’s stoic face, Pops’ would lob a simpler question at him. “What’s worse, Seeley, being a fool or being the fool that’s following a fool?”

“I don’t want to be either, Pops,” Booth would say in a voice devoid of emotion. “Just wait till you get involved with some skirt who makes you wanna do all kinds of stupid stuff. You’ll see who the fool is then.” When Grams was still around, Pops would toss a wink in her direction earning himself a demure eye roll. After she died, he’d simply glance at her picture on the wall and get a faraway look in his eyes. Sobering-up after a moment, he’d continue with lecture #352. “You’re gonna stand all by your lonesome in front of God on Judgment Day, Seeley. No one there to point a finger at besides your own stupid self. So, do what you think is right, don’t hitch your wagon to some Johnny-come-lately who’s trying to get a little tail. Got it?” The stern look in Pops’ eyes would be steely enough to choke a Road Runner mid-beep.

Booth’s response was to blankly stare ahead, clenching his jaw and feigning indulgent disinterest. Pops would then smirk and make a sucking sound with one side of his mouth.

“Do the right thing, son,” Pops would fling at Booth after a beat as he bent at the knees and lowered himself carefully into his TV chair. “If you aren’t sure what that thing is, ask your gut,” he’d say. “Your gut works for God and it never lies.”

Pops’ counsel never failed Booth. When his heart and head were in sync, listening to his gut his worked pretty well. When they weren’t in sync things rarely went well. He never traded someone else’s opinion for his own, and rarely did he regret it. As a result, Ed Williams’ forty to seventy-five per cent of other Catholics being unequally yoked didn’t give Booth one iota of comfort.

Absently chewing on his lower lip, Booth once again considered the concerns that had been bouncing around inside his head like moths bouncing off a porch light just after dusk.

If God said not to be unequally yoked, he thought to himself, He must have had a good reason. Nothing good comes of deliberately disregarding God’s commands, right? So, what are the potential spiritual implications of being unequally yoked? Booth puckered, then stretched his mouth to the right and bit the inside of his lip, then to the left and did the same thing, then back to the right. He scoured his brain for an answer he could live with.

Maybe I’m being tested? He thought about Abraham in the Book of Genesis. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his own son, to prove his obedience to God. That story always made Booth very uncomfortable. Does God do that anymore? He asked himself. The ‘God made me do it’ defense doesn’t hold up in court these days. Booth had arrested several of those loonies himself. But would God ask me to choose between Him and the most important person in my life? I just can’t see how Bones and me being together could be a bad thing. Bones would never try to pull me away from God. She knows how important my faith is to me. She just doesn’t understand it. There’s no crime in that, is there?

Then he had another thought. What about the dream of sitting in church with my family; me on one end of the pew and my spouse on the other with two or three little brown-haired, blue or brown-eyed Booths sandwiched between us like all the other good Catholic families? Will it be enough to have my kids with me, but not my spouse? I can’t make her join me; I won’t. If we don’t work out, I’ll still end up sitting in a pew alone for the rest of my life. Is this how my story is supposed to end?

Booth felt stuck between a rock and a hard-headed scientist. He sat quietly until the silence was broken by a sharp intake of breath which he was surprised to learn was his own. He noticed his hands and the tip of his nose felt cooler than usual, his knuckles and fingernail beds were pale. He clenched and unclenched his fists several times to get the blood flowing to the tips of his fingers. He listened hard to his gut. Nothing. Talk to me! What am I missing here, God?

“Relax, Seeley,” Ed chuckled sympathetically. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost! It is not a sin to marry a non-Catholic. It’s not,” he repeated.

“What?” Booth blurted, shaken from what he thought were private thoughts.

“Relax,” Ed answered carefully in a soothing tone, not taking his eyes off Booth. “These are some of the biggest questions we grapple with as Christians, my friend.” Ed crossed his arms, then stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. He bounced his knees toward each other several times in a relaxed manner much different from Booth’s anxious knee gymnastics.

“Well, I’m not one of those people who believes it’s okay to bend the rules to suit the degrading mores of a self-indulgent society.” Booth insisted this more fervently than he intended, then flinched at his own hypocrisy. He had bent the rules for his own benefit, but deep down in the place he doesn’t talk about, he didn’t see it that way. He had actively chosen to disobey some of the rules, not change them, deciding his infractions were ones he was willing to live with. There is a difference.

“Really?” Ed stared, unblinking, and smirked. “Even just a little bit?”

“Huh. Okay, Ed. You have a point. I have been lax with some of my choices,” he admitted. “But we’re talking about more serious stuff now. Permanent stuff!”

“For the sake of argument I’ll agree with you here, Seeley,” Ed interjected with a steady nod. “However—a sin is a sin is a sin.”

“Right. God’s rules are still God’s rules,” Booth said. “And—the Church can’t just go changing the rules so people won’t feel judged. That’s not how it works. That’s not how it should work.” Booth stared, glossy-eyed, at Ed’s face.

“I would not do that, Seeley,” Ed said carefully. “I would not twist the truth to assuage the fears of a struggling soul. That is not in anyone’s best interest.” He watched Booth’s expression transition from pinched and lost to exposed and self-conscious. The silence between them was at first heavy and strained, then it relaxed and thinned, loosening into comfortable contemplation for each of them. After several moments, Booth was ready to move on. He then focused on Ed’s startlingly blue eyes which seemed to exude peace and acceptance. Ed’s lips were bunched together as if he were holding something back.

In his many years counseling good people, Ed had come to understand that inner turmoil was an invaluable part of the healing process. The struggle of man against himself could bring anyone to his or her knees. Advice sought was ten times more likely to be abided by than advice offered unbidden. What wasn’t yet clear to either Booth or Ed was whether the debate Booth was all tied up in was a noose or the knot at the end of a lifeline. So, Ed waited. And watched. And looked for his opening, his invitation.

Booth scanned his companion’s presence for any hint of disingenuousness. It simply wasn’t there. Booth just wanted someone to be straight with him—someone who understood the weight of what he expected of himself spiritually and respected his struggle. Booth’s final assessment was that Ed was a good person. He didn’t seem like a guy that would have taken the easy way out just because it was easier. Might as well listen to what Ed has to say, he told himself. The worst-case scenario, Booth figured, was that he’d still feel unsettled about being unequally yoked. The best-case scenario was that Ed might tell him something that could give him a deeper understanding of what God expected of him.

Booth sighed heavily, unclenched his teeth, and dropped his shoulders. He shook out his hands and reached across his chest to dig his fingers into his trapezius. He massaged the hard lump of muscle bunched up between his neck and his clavicle. I need a drink, he thought. Where is that flight attendant, anyway? He wondered, shooting a glance up and down the aisle. “I could use a drink,” Booth mumbled.

“I know what you mean,” Ed mumbled back, “a really short one followed by a really tall one!” The two chuckled and shrugged at each other. Focusing on one of Booth’s eyes at a time, and finally confident the younger man wasn’t going to pass out, Ed began. “Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘if thou art Catholic thou shalt be yoked to another Catholic or suffer damnation for all of eternity!”

Booth chuckled nervously as he switched arms to massage the other trapezius. He cleared his throat and found his voice. “I just don’t want to do the wrong thing,” he admitted, in a tone that conveyed his own vulnerability.

“I know you don’t,” Ed replied, then closed his eyes for a moment.

“Or have a crappy life and then spend eternity in heaven alone because the only woman I can see myself with for the rest of my natural life doesn’t believe in God,” he said, making a horizontal slice in the air. “At all!”

“I can assure you, you won’t have a crappy life.” Ed gazed compassionately at Booth. “Look, when I was a kid everyone I knew was Catholic.” Ed paused and grimaced. “Our lives rotated around religious instruction and daily mass. We had a hoard of kids receiving First Communions every fall, Confirmations in the spring, weddings, funerals …” Ed smiled reflectively and looked at Booth who had been nodding with rapt attention through Ed’s entire list. “I think I spent more time on my knees or genuflecting than walking upright!”

“Me, too!” Booth said in burst of laughter. “Our family—we weren’t that big ourselves, but we were part of a group in our neighborhood. Me and Jared, my brother, we went to CCD classes, sang in the choir, got confirmed, became altar boys, and served at mass with the same bunch of kids—” Booth smiled wanly and sighed. “I thought everyone grew up like that.”

“So, the thing is, we grow up used to one thing—seeing only one thing—and we think the whole world is like that.”

“Exactly,” Booth said, nodding in wonder.

“Easy peasy, right?” Ed nodded along with Booth, his voice getting softer. “But then we find out—wow—there’s a whole world of people out there who had a different experience than we did.” Ed opened his eyes wide and held his arms up in the air as if to embrace all humanity at once. “And they come in different colors, speak different languages, practice other religions.”

“Exactly.”

“But,” Ed said, poking an index finger into the air. “But, we still think our way is the best, the most righteous, God’s favorite.”

“We do,” Booth agreed. “We do?”

“Why do we think that?”

“Because we are smart people—right?”

Booth nodded, waiting for the catch.

“—And if something wasn’t the best, we would change it, make it better, right?”

“Absolutely,” Booth nodded agreement.

“So we must be the best,” said Ed shrugging and tossing a hand up in the air dismissively. “But don’t beat yourself up about it. Everyone thinks the exact same thing—Methodists, Lutherans, Protestants, Buddhists, Agnostics—everyone thinks that they’re the best. Christ came to show us that we are all just people. Young and old, big and small. Smart and not so smart. Men and women. Equal people. Boy, that was a revolutionary idea to the people of Biblical times, I’ll tell you what!”

“Heh,” Booth grunted and nodded, thinking how true this was.

“So, we go out into the world and we find out the others, they really are just like us. Lost souls, just like us. Lonely, just like us. Idealistic, good like us. Faithful in the best way they know how—just like us.” Ed paused and let his last remark hang in the air between them until it evaporated. “They aren’t evil; they’re beautiful and kind and good,” he whispered, then smiled.

“And lovable,” added Booth with an air of deep appreciation.

“Right. But—there’s still something inside you that clings to your origins. You remember what you were told as a kid. Give your whole life to God, but if you can’t, do the next best thing: marry another Catholic and have lots of babies—because Catholics are the best of what’s out there and that is what God would want, as we’ve already established.”

Booth bit the inside of his lip and sat perfectly still, his eyes riveted to Ed’s. Yes, he grew up believing exactly what Ed had described—but all of a sudden it sounded terribly, terribly wrong. Booth stopped breathing.

Ed said. “Any crossover could cause Romeo and Juliet-style consequences in your family, maybe your faith community. People could turn their backs on each other during a time when they needed each other the most,” Ed chagrined. “Now tell me, is that a Christian way to live?”

Ed saw Booth’s unease with this line of thinking, so he backed up a bit.

“Look, somewhere along the line you read Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: ‘Do not be yoked with those who are different’, and you interpret it, or someone else interprets it and you go along with it, that Catholics are not to marry people who don’t believe in the Catholic faith. Then, that’s reinforced because your parents—or grandparents, as the case may be—were raised on the Baltimore Catechism in the pre-Vatican II era when everything was still buttoned down and black and white; faith by rote memorization. Fire and brimstone and all that. I’m way over-simplifying this for brevity’s sake, of course.”

“Right. Okay.” Really? thought Booth, but noticed he wasn’t as bored as he might have been if this were a class or a discussion about something scientific.

“Then along comes Pope John XXIII … and everything changed.”

“Right! Mass used to be said in Latin, right? And the altar was against the back wall; the priest said mass with his back to the people. It was like that when Pops was growing up,” Booth recalled. “What were the other changes by John XXIII?”

To quote, ‘God For Grownups’ by Virginia Smith, my favorite author on the topic, the mind of the Church following Vatican II held, among other things, that translations of the Bible should be invitingly readable, and …

‘Understanding of biblical writings must take into consideration the times and circumstances in which
they were composed, plus such relevant
 factors as their literary style the sources utilized, the culture,
and the audience originally intended.’

“We’re allowed to read the Bible in the ’60s and the ’70s, but we don’t have the skills, the training, or adequate materials to help us interpret and digest it. Which isn’t our fault—we were suffering whiplash from radical reformation. It took decades for teaching materials to catch up with the new order of the Catholic faith. So, what did we do in the meantime?”

“What? What did we do?”

“A lot of people, people who were responsible for teaching the faith, leaned back on the only thing they knew—that rote memorization of the Catechism and taking the bible literally. So when Paul writes, ‘don’t be unequally yoked’, they took it to mean ‘to anyone other than people exactly like yourselves—and for Catholics that meant other than other Catholics.”

“That’s harsh.”

“It is. It is a literal interpretation. But here’s the rub; it’s incomplete.”

“Incomplete. Hm.” Booth rolled that around on his tongue.

“Yes, it is incomplete. And out of context. It’s also not the final word on who you should or should not love according to Christ.”

“It’s not?”

“No. Listen carefully to St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony or agreement has Christ with a demon? What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Come forth from unbelievers and be separate—touch nothing unclean and I will receive you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-17

“First of all—it doesn’t say, ‘non believers in the Catholic faith’ as you thought it meant. It simply says, ‘non believers’. Second of all, it equates non believers with lawlessness and darkness and uncleanliness and demons.”

“Hm. But just because someone doesn’t believe in God doesn’t mean they are all about darkness and evil—”

“Exactly, Grasshopper!”

“So, what does it mean then?”

“Well, Peter was writing to his followers in Corinth whom he’d heard were mixing with some really bad people who were involved in worshipping false gods, sodomizing children, prostituting their daughters and wives, being unethical in their business dealings. Paul was warning them not to fall in with those people or even be associated with them in any way.”

“Because they were bad people, right?”

“Yep.”

“Hm.”

“Really, really bad people.”

“So, what about atheists and agnostics? What about a Christian marrying one of them—or maybe not marrying them, exactly, but—” he corrected himself. He didn’t know if that would ever happen between himself and Brennan, but he certainly intended to be yoked to her come hell or high water.

“What do you think, Seeley?”

Booth fidgeted for a moment without blinking. “I don’t know what I think!”

“Yes, you do. What does your heart tell you?”

“My gut,” he said. “I go by my gut. Like I said, on this issue, my gut has gone AWOL.” Booth stared at Ed, then continued. “When something is wrong – like I’m thinking about making a bad decision – I can feel it right here.” Booth pressed a semi circle into his gut with his fingertips. “I get this sick feeling. But on this issue – my gut is no help!”

“Because it’s your head,” chuffed Ed, sitting back in his seat.

“My head.” Booth’s eyebrows reached for each other across the bridge of his nose.

“Your head is fixating on the literal translation because that’s all it knows, but your gut knows that’s not the full story. And your gut knows your relationship with her isn’t wrong. Your gut knows, perhaps, that this woman was made for you and that God has good things planned for you. You just gotta have faith.” Ed nodded confidently, but knew that Booth wasn’t sure yet. “So, Temperance—what’s she like?”

“Oh, she’s a good person – but she’s an atheist.”

“And –?”

“Well, doesn’t that negate that she’s the most loyal, loving, intelligent,” Booth exclaimed incredulously, “courageous and generous person I’ve ever known and when I’m with her – or thinking about her, I just feel – at home, you know? At peace. Solid. Really good-about everything. And it’s not a physical thing.” Booth said. “Well,” he added out of the side of his mouth, “I mean, there is that—

“I know,” Ed responded in falsetto. He grinned at Booth.

“How can that be wrong?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“Ed, she’s the only person that really gets me – and I think she really loves me, warts and all.”

“Warts and all, huh?” Ed said with an amused glow in his eyes. Booth’s pleasure in thinking about her was contagious.

“Well, you know, like, faults and all.”

“I know what you mean, Seeley. She loves you in spite of yourself.”

“Exactly. And, I mean, she’s seen those warts, let me tell ya’.” Booth rolled his eyes and grimaced, then chuckled at himself. “This probably sounds strange, but sometimes I think she’s more committed to me than I am.”

“Interesting,” Ed said, squinting at his new friend as if peering through a microscope at the meaning of life in a petri dish.

“Yeah, like, she likes me more than I like myself,” Booth said in an incredulous tone.

“And loves you more than you love yourself?”

“Yeah! No! What? Wait, that can’t be good, can it?”

“Why not? We are our own worst critics. We know all our deepest darkest secrets and sometimes we disgust ourselves. Sometimes it’s not that people love us in spite of ourselves – we assume they detest the flaws as much as we chagrin them – but isn’t it our flaws, our humanity, that brings us closer, gives us the opportunity for growth and grace and even intimacy; love?”

Booth smiled to himself. How many times had he and Brennan discussed grace between themselves yesterday and the day before? More times than he could count. Yes, they do have a great deal of grace between them.

“Well, she’s certainly more forgiving—of me, at least,” Booth said as an afterthought.

“Hm. That’s interesting,” said Ed, tucking that little snippet of information away in case it becomes pertinent later in the conversation. “Does she lie, cheat, steal in ways you are uncomfortable with?”

Booth gave him a strange look.

“I mean, anything more serious than white lies or maybe occasionally taking liberties with office supplies.”

“Huh, huh, no,” he chortled. “She even pays her parking tickets. Heh, she once let the cops in New Orleans lock her up because a bunch of evidence at the time provided a good argument for her guilt.”

“Was she guilty?”

“Nope. Well, actually, she didn’t know if she was. She’d been drugged. It’s a long story. She was innocent.”

“Does she take the Lord’s name in vain?”

“Not that I’ve ever heard – and I’ve known her seven years.”

“Does she obsess over other people’s spouses or belongings?

“No –.” Booth furrowed his brow and thought how odd it was that she didn’t seem to envy anything much at all.

“Does she keep holy the Sabbath?”

“Uh, no!”

“Okay, does she discourage you from going or make fun of you when you do?”

“Well—she doesn’t discourage me,” he said hesitantly. “She does make comments about Catholicism and the Pope that irritate me … but I don’t think she does it out of malice, per say.” Booth thought about this for a moment. “I–I think she just doesn’t understand. I mean, I’d never tell her this … but sometimes her comments make sense, heh. I mean, people coming back from the dead? She thinks God’s a psychopath because of the Old Testament—”

“Okay—well—but she doesn’t do this to embarrass you or persuade you to leave the church or quit going to mass—?”

“I feel like we’re judging her with this line of discussion,” Booth said, shifting uneasily in his seat.

“Not judging—trying to figure out if you would be unequally yoked if you were together.”

“We are together,” Booth said, unintentionally defensively. “You have to understand—she grew up being able to trust only two things: herself and science. That’s all. She doesn’t trust what she doesn’t understand—”

“Believe me, I know very well of which you speak!” Ed smirked, cocked an eyebrow, and nodded slowly. “Catarina? She’s a—was—a Chemist! An empiricist! If something doesn’t pass a double blind study—forget it.”

“She wasn’t Catholic?”

“Oh, she was Catholic, but she struggled with it. Struggled a lot. She said—how’d she put it? She said she just had a hard time believing 100% in ‘an invisible deity who created humans only to turn around and destroy them out of anger at their disobedience, then later fathered a child in absentia, a child who spread flowers and unicorn farts and never hurt a fly but could bring people back to life and turn water into wine and who later, in the prime of his life when he could have done the most good by anyone else’s standards, voluntarily got himself hung on a cross then reappeared and told his gang of cohorts to start a campaign against the hypocrisy of the day’.”

Booth whistled incredulously and reared back.

“Hehhhhhh, yeah. Tell me about it!” Ed sighed loudly and drug a palm across his forehead. This had obviously been a big issue between him and Catarina. “She had a hard time making it make sense in her logical head. But she had faith, even if it seemed to be as small as a mustard seed sometimes. I’d like to think I had a lot to do with that.”

“How in the hell did she still have faith with all that running around in her head?”

Ed shrugged. “I think she saw and experienced some very real things that just couldn’t be explained any other way. Miracles,” Ed shrugged sheepishly. “Life is full of miracles. I think she started to see that.

“And that worked.”

“As her arguments got shorter and quieter, weaker, my convictions got stronger and I’d tell her more of my point of view, my belief in the miraculous.”

“And it worked.”

“It took decades, yeah. It worked, I guess. Though, she was curious why some people experience a fervor, an emotional—’attachment or need’—she called it—a need for, and a sense of, satisfaction from their faith. She never felt that—that passion that has always come so naturally to me.”

“Hm,” grunted Booth pensively.

“Consider the possibility that your ability to believe in something greater than yourself is part of what attracts her to you.”

“What?” Booth displayed his best quizzical pinchy face.

“Well, if she found that unattractive, your faith, do you think she’d invest this much time in you?”

Booth puckered his lips and scratched his furrowed brow, deep in thought. This was a whole new way of thinking about their relationship.

“I guess I don’t know,” he finally said with a half shrug.

“That part of you that has the ability to believe, to hope, to trust—to love with your whole heart. That’s an integral part of everything else about you,” continued Ed, leaning over his armrest into the aisle. “And she’s in love with all those parts, I’ll bet.”

“Hm. I never thought of it that way,” Booth said after a moment of staring back and forth between Ed and the window past and behind Ed’s head.

“I think Catarina felt a little cheated. Like, why did it come so easily to me and not to her? Was it an issue of willingness to submit to something other than herself? I don’t know, maybe it’s a personality thing. You know, why are some people more emotional than others? Who knows?”

“Hm. I think I get that,” Booth pressed his tongue between his lips and dropped his eyes to the floor. “Brennan says there’s a God Gene.”

“There very well may be, but then that presupposes there is a God to put that God gene there, doesn’t it?” Ed grinned mischievously.

“Ha!” Booth chuckled. “Heh, heh, heh. Well played!”

“He also gave us choice, right? So how does that fit into that scenario? Can an animal go against what they are hard-wired to do? The thing is, we can never know absolutely everything there is to know out there, not even in our own areas of expertise. So why would we even think we could know and understand everything there is to know and understand in respect to our very existence?”

The two sat in silence and contemplated the incomprehensible for a moment.

“But, we could talk for hours about this. Let’s get back to the topic at hand—”

“Is my partner evil, right?” Booth brought them back.

“Right,” Ed chortled. “Your partner. Heh, heh, heh. Does she respect her parents?”

“She doesn’t not treat them with respect. It’s complicated,” Booth added dismissively.

“Okay, does she worship false gods?”

“She’s an anthropologist.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“She’s fascinated by people’s rituals and cultures.”

“But does she melt down her jewelry to make a golden calf? Does she worship Zeus or Baal? Sacrifice animals.”

“She’s a vegetarian. She doesn’t even EAT animals.”

“Is her life centered around money and notoriety?”

“No, though she has plenty of both—”

“Beauty?”

“She is very beautiful, but she doesn’t obsess about it. Barely talks about it, as a matter of fact,” Booth said distractedly, as he drummed his fingers where they rested.

“Okay. What is the center of her life?”

“Justice. No, truth. Finding the truth through empirical evidence. Giving people back their identities.”

“And what about you?”

“The center of my life is God, Parker, Brennan, bringing bad people to justice.”

“No, I meant you—are you the center of her life?”

Booth stared at the question before him and thought, ‘We are the center’. He thought about how apropos that was for them even now. He smiled.

Ed interpreted that as a yes.

“Is there anything you see in her person that you find morally reprehensible?”

“Uh, no,” Booth admitted squinting as he searched his brain. He didn’t have to search long. There was nothing there to find.

“Does she incite you to do things you consider morally reprehensible?”

“Uh, no. If anything, she keeps me honest.”

“Is she married to someone else?”

“No, heh. She refers to marriage as, ‘the blending of familial obligations and the consolidation of money and property’,” Booth said in a serious tone.

Ed chuckled for a moment. Then Booth joined him. Then they both stopped because they both knew, without either of them having to say it, that this was a big deal.

“She, uh, she doesn’t believe in the piece of paper,” Booth tossed off, then yawned and rubbed his face as if rinsing it with water from the sink.

“There is no paper in heaven, Seeley.”

“I know,” Booth said quietly as a pregnant silence ballooned between them. The sacrament of marriage, the spiritual binding together of two souls in the eyes of the Lord, as Booth believed it to be, has nothing to do with a piece of paper. It is the conferring of extraordinary grace from one unto the other; the helping of partner to get the other into heaven; the placing of the Lord in the center of the relationship, and of entrusting it to His care. This is what Christian marriage meant to Booth and why he was most deeply concerned about this yoke business. He wanted that kind of marriage. He wanted that miracle for himself and for Brennan.

“Are either of you dating anyone else?” Ed moved forward. The topic of marriage would have to be grappled with another day. But not today.

“Nope.”

“Are you chaste in your relationship?”

“What?” This had to do with sex. Booth shifted in his seat. He seriously didn’t think Ed would go there … but … there it was, right there on the table.

“What I mean to say is,” continued Ed awkwardly, “do you, uh, respect each other—avoid taking advantage of each other—emotionally as well as physically?” Ed dropped his chin to his chest and peered at Booth over his trifocals. He didn’t want to go there any more than Booth did.

“Of course!” Booth answered loudly, then lowered his voice, cleared his throat and said it again just above a whisper. “Of course.”

“Well, Seeley, it doesn’t sound to me like she’s evil at all,” Ed said. He removed his glasses, pulled out a thin white handkerchief and breathed condensation onto each lense then rubbed them between his fingers with the cloth. He held the glasses up to the light, then put them back on. After carefully folding the handkerchief and sliding it back into his pocket, he continued. “As a matter of fact, from what you have told me, and from what I can discern from your own character, I think this Temperance is a very good match for you.”

“But—just being good is not enough to get a person into heaven, Ed. What about that?”

Ed took a deep breath and locked eyes with Booth for an intense moment. He then gazed up at the ceiling, crossed his arms and his ankles, sucked some air through his teeth making squeaking sounds, then cleared his throat.

Booth was on the edge of his seat. Surely Ed couldn’t deny the major tenet of Christian doctrine—the belief in Christ and His death on the cross for the redemption of humanity.

“This is where things get complicated,” Ed finally said, looking at the floor for several quiet moments. “This is the toughest issue of all of them, in my opinion,” Ed said with a heavy sigh.

Booth grimaced and nodded dolefully. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. His eyes dropped to the floor and his heart sank.

“Well, this I can tell you, son: Love is the most important thing to have. Love.”

Booth nodded solemnly.

“And you must never give up hope. You must keep the faith. But most of all, you must always, always love the heck out of that woman. Do you hear me?”

Booth nodded again, his eyes getting glossy. He had to look away so Ed couldn’t see the pink creeping up his neck or hear the pounding of his heart in his chest.

“It will not be easy. You will have to take full responsibility for the spiritual education of your children.”

“I know. I’m more than willing to do that.”

“And you need to study the beliefs of the faith and the Church so you know them backwards and forwards. Not to throw them in her face; you have to be patient. And ready. But when she asks you about your faith, your religion, you have to be ready with answers, not guesses. And you have to be confident.”

“I will,” Booth insisted, taking mental notes.

“Don’t be upset with her if she pushes back or gets frustrated because those are signs that she’s working on it in her head. Stand your ground—but gently. Firmly, but gently. Call in reinforcements—confer with your priest. It’s gonna be a lot of hard work, my friend.”

“Are you talking about converting her?” Whoops, thought Booth, I wasn’t planning to convert her—was I? “She’ll never become Catholic, Ed.” Booth smirked with a panicked glint in his eye.

“That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be committed to her being exposed to your faith so she can see the good in it. You can’t know what will happen from there. And remember, it is not your job to convert her—it’s God’s. You are his helper. So, don’t get discouraged.” Ed said this all like he’d said it a thousand times before—which he had! THis was standard fair in his counseling of couples who didn’t share the same faith.

When Ed began again, his voice was low and tender. Booth had to lean an ear toward Ed to catch all of his words. It wasn’t until Booth finally looked up at the man’s face that he realized his voice was as it was because it was filled with emotion.

“The power of love is that it silences untruths, it elevates the quality of life, it cures us and develops us in ways nothing else can. It frees us,” Ed said, his eyes closed and unmoving under his lids. Then he recited a quote Booth had heard many times, though never before did it affect him the way it did this time.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift
of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if
I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing.”

~1 Corinthians 13:1- 3

Here Ed stopped and opened his eyes. He stared off into his future where he imagined Catarina waiting for him. He dropped his eyes and met Booth’s gaze across the aisle.

“Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge—” (1 Cor 13:8)

Here Ed stopped and time stood still. Booth was spellbound, listening to his own heart beating in his own chest. Was it his own heart alone, or was it Brennan’s he could imagine so clearly joining his own? Or was it Ed’s? He swallowed audibly, but said nothing as he waited.

“—Where there is knowledge, it will pass away—”

Ed gently waved a hand in the air as if conducting the very last note of a symphony in front of a grand audience. he smiled gently at his companion.

“—For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears—” (1 Cor 13:9-10)

“The imperfect disappears, Seeley. Knowledge is imperfect and it will pass away. It will become nothing in the overwhelming light of the love of the Father.”

Booth nodded and he understood. Have faith. Have hope. Give her love. The rest is up to God. And it is never over until it’s over. In the end, love always prevails.

“These three remain: faith, hope and love—” said Ed, his voice was strained with emotion.

Then Booth spoke in a barely audible voice through clenched teeth as he tried to keep his emotions from spilling all over his face.

“—And the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)

Ed nodded slowly, almost imperceptibly. “Exactly,” he whispered.

They both heaved heavy sighs and examined their fingernails or the seams of their pants or the threads in the headrest of the seat in front of each of them. Both lost in thought.

Ed brought his hands together and intertwined his fingers as if in prayer. He used his joined fingers to point across the aisle toward Booth, whose attention had been caught by Ed’s sudden movements.

“Two things I want you to remember, Seeley Booth, if you remember nothing else,” he said with the gravity of one making a final wish on a deathbed.

Booth swallowed and grimaced, ready to hear whatever this sage had to impart to him.

“Christ said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. Got it?”

“Yes, sir,” Booth nodded once.

“Now, your anthropologist—”

“Temperance.”

“Temperance. Right. Do not be concerned that she does not know God’s name, for Christ promises us: ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me. Now enter into the home of my Father*’, right?”

Booth’s eyes had filled up with tears once again. He dare not even nod for fear of losing it.

“Now, this is my interpretation, okay? I’m not speaking for the Catholic Church here. I’m Speaking for Edwin Owen Williams and no one else.” Ed looked hard at Booth who didn’t dare move. “But, I believe that when knowledge is melted away by God and all that is left is love—”

“Yeah,” Booth choked out when Ed paused.

“He will tell her His name.”

Booth heard the words and felt his face catch on fire. He turned his head toward the opposite side of the cabin, closed his eyes and held his breath so no sounds escaped his throat. Then, he allowed two juicy tears to jump the curb of his lower lids.


In the back of the Town Car being driven by Sebastian the chauffeur from Hotel 1000, sat Brennan and Booth on the way from the airport to the Medical Examiner’s office.

Booth had been staring out the passenger side window, lost in the memory of that conversation with Ed Williams. Ed had indeed surprised him. Booth had surprised himself. He began to feel the familiar tart sensation at bridge of his nose between his eyes. He clenched his jaw and sniffed, praying it would pass quickly. They would be pulling up to the ME’s office any minute.

“Booth, what’s wrong?” Brennan reached out for her partner who sat staring out the Hotel 1000 Town Car window. “Did you just sniff? Are you getting ill? Let me feel your forehead!”

“No, I’m fine, Bones,” Booth responded without turning around to look at her. “Just tired and my eyes are bugging me. They’ll probably be all bloodshot in about an hour.”

“When did this start happening? I’ve never known your sclera to vasodilate in response to fatigue. Are you sure you aren’t allergic to something here in the car? Maybe it’s this leather—” She pulled on his arm, until he turned around. “Booth?”

“I have something to tell you,” he said, sniffing loudly then vigorously rubbing his nose before retrieving his handkerchief from his breast pocket. It had been close call, but he’d caught himself before he gotten emotional again.

“Okay,” she said in an inviting and agreeable tone.

“First of all, I love you,” he said covering her hand which had remained wrapped around his bicep even after he’d turned to face her.

“I know,” she said expectantly, her brow furrowing in concern.

“Second of all,” he said, then cleared his throat. “Second of all—second of all—” He couldn’t believe it; he was choking, flinching, going for a bunt instead of a home run.

“Second of all—?” She nodded encouragingly.

“Uh, I looked inside that gift bad Angela gave you,” he said, sighing loudly. Total strikeout.

“I know,” she said, expecting more.

Booth gasped, his mouth hanging agape. “How did you know?!”

“I’m a genius, what did you expect?” She rolled her eyes and chuckled.

It wasn’t until many hours later—after a visit to the ME’s office—after a steamy interlude in her hotel room when they got there—after he’d fallen asleep on her couch and been jarred awake by the crunch of his temple on the hard, cold, beveled glass of the coffee table—after he ran from her room in a panic—after her frantic call to his room and his insistence that he was okay when they both knew he wasn’t—and after his emotional call to her room an hour later—that he was able to tell her what he and Ed discussed during the second half of their conversation—the part about what had been tormenting him—the part he needed her to know before Tuesday.


* The full content of the verses Ed alluded to are from The Book of Matthew: 25:34-40.

Take me to the next chapter, ‘You Can Run’ >>>

 

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#Bones Fiction: TWATH:AB2P 216 ‘Gimme the Beat, Boy’

#11 Intelliegence


Give Me The Beat, Boy

‘Give me the beat, Boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your Rock and Roll
and drift away …’

~Mentor Williams, 1972

Brennan sighed, a shallow smile resting on her lips after that titillating barrage of affection from her mate. She admired the breadth of Booth’s shoulders as he sauntered away from her. After Jim Croce’s smoky baritone wove a final tale of unconventional love between a barfly and a roller derby queen, the dusty plastic button on the cassette player disengaged with a sproing!

As Brennan snapped on a new set of gloves and got back to work, Booth perused the enormous music selection once again and chose a compilation of mixed-genre duets featuring Frank Sinatra and a myriad of other big names.

As Sinatra and Luther Vandross struck up a rendition of ‘The Lady Is A Tramp’, Brennan began a visual examination of the victim’s cranium and mandible. Moving distally, she inspected each of the seven cervical vertebra, and made a note to herself to return for a more thorough inspection later. Moving distally again, she reviewed the remaining seventeen vertebrae, took only a passing glance over the ribs, and continued down to the clavicles, scapulae, humeri, radii, ulnae, carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges. Venturing proximally, and then distally once again, she examined the innominates and sacrum, skipped the femora, tibias, and patellae, and finish with as many bones of the feet as were present. She then returned to the ribs.

“Bones, you said cadaver dogs won’t be able to sniff out bare bones like Banty’s and Aleesha’s?”

“Correct,” she said, distractedly. “Minute particles on the distal aspect of right posterior ribs five and six,” she enumerated in a dry professional tone for her examination recording device. Reaching for the large magnifying glass, she scrutinized the ribs in question, then cervical vertebrae two through five. A disjointed story was only beginning to knit itself together in her brain. What could have possibly happened, she wondered. How are the anomalies connected to each other? At the very beginning, it is difficult to predict what observations would later prove meaningless, and which would prove significant. Speculating was pointless; she focused on simply gathering information. “Booth, hand me the medical examiner’s original notes. If I recall correctly, the documentation of Banty’s autopsy lacks specificity in regard to trauma on the occipital condyles of the cranial base and the transverse processes of the C2 through C5 vertebrae.”

Booth flipped through the short stack of files from Deputy LeSerf, and located the report by Dr. Ian Shcherbakov. “Let’s have a look here.”

“Look for mention of the distal aspect of the right posterior fifth and sixth ribs as well.”

Booth lay the file open and scanned the first page looking for the words ribs, and then condyles.

“Here we are,” he said, folding the first page of the report over. “Uh, okay— we got old injuries—remodeled, looks like a wrist—uh, radius. Left.”

“Hm. Okay, yeah, I see that,” she said, leaning over the radii with her magnifying glass. “How about the cervical vertebrae? Anything about those?”

“Uh—yes. ‘Cause of death,” Booth read. “Fractured facets of the transverse processes of C2 through C4 vertebra. Broken neck. Severed spinal column.” He paused thoughtfully. “Huh—and that’s it. Case closed.” He looked up at Brennan for a beat. “I’ll bet since the teeth in this cranium were an identical match with the dental records—and the broken neck was the obvious cause of death, the ME found no need to look further, you know, at the leg bones.”

“Hm,” Brennan grunted. “Are you sure that’s all the report says?”

He flipped to the back of the file expecting to find X-ray images, but there were none.

“I suppose, if you can already see the bones, there’s no reason to take an x-ray, right?”

“Unless there appears to be a puncture of some sort or something imbedded in the tissue requiring examination without damaging the bone. What about the ribs?”

“Nothing about the ribs,” he confirmed, slapping the file closed and holding it out to her.

“And no mention of the Atlas, the C1 vertebra?” She didn’t look up, didn’t take the file, but gently returned the fifth right posterior rib to the table and glanced at the cervical vertebra for what would be the first of several times.

“I know what an Atlas is, Bones,” he chuffed, flipping the manilla cover open again. “Surprisingly, no. Nothing about the Atlas. Is that out of the ordinary?”

Brennan nodded, then picked up the fifth right posterior vertebra for comparison. This rib appeared pristine, as did the sixth right posterior rib. “Hm,” she grunted, making a mental note to have Wendell examine them under the electron microscope.

“What are you thinking?” It had been a while since he’d endured an entire examination and his curiosity was piqued.

 

“I don’t know yet,” she answered very slowly and in a hollow tone as she brought the rib bone to her nose and took a whiff. This was her domain, and she was in the zone. She began circling the remains, picking up several bones, smelling them, then returning them to their spots, her face pinched in rapt concentration.

Accepting her semi-response, Booth embarked upon a mental search for alternative methods for locating that third victim, now that the cadaver dogs were a bust.

“So, maybe we can use ground penetrating radar,” Booth murmured aloud. “That’s a lot of land, though.” He drummed his fingers on the table, then flipped open the laptop and began a Google query.

“It is a lot of land,” Brennan commented, momentarily poking her head out of her intellectual fog as she walked between the autopsy tables. She held out a bone in front of Booth’s face. “Smell this,” she commanded.

“What?” Booth took a step back. “God, do I have to?”

“Booth, just—” she waved it under his nose. Booth reared back, then slowly returned and sniffed quickly.

“Hmm. What is that?” Booth’s eyes flew open wide, then retracted into a curious squint.

“The bone is a femur, the scent is unclear. What does it remind you of?”

“Makeup or something. Face cream? One of those magical youth-enizing things you women put on at night—maybe?”

“Interesting. I thought it smelled dendrological—nutty—from something with bark, but edible. And euthanizing means killing something.”

“I meant, something that makes the skin look and feel more youthful. Youth-enizing.”

“Oh,” she grimaced and nodded.

Booth smelled it again. “It’s not cedar but it’s sweetish, spicy.”

“Yes. It’s very faint. Here,” she said, holding the bone out to him again. “Feel it—the surface.”

“What? I thought we weren’t supposed to touch remains without gloves on!”

“I’m making an exception,” she said, “there’s a lot of surface area on a femur, and I don’t think the bone is caustic. Just be judicious in your examination.”

“You don’t think the bone is caustic? Okay,” he sighed, swallowed deeply, then tapped the bone quickly as if it were a hot burner. Brennan glared at him reproachfully. “Okay, fine!” He relented, placing the tip of his index finger on the shaft. “What am I looking for?”

“Rub the surface. What do you feel?”

Booth’s face pinched quizzically, then went blank. “What am I supposed to feel?”

“Here, compare the texture to this,” she said, choosing a clavicle from the table behind her and holding it out to him as well. Booth ran his index and middle fingers over the surface of each bone. After a moment, she switched out the clavicle for the left innominate. “Feel the difference?”

“Yeah. The femur is softer. I mean,” his mouth pinched in thought, “like—flower petal soft. Almost velvety. The clavicle—it’s dry?”

“Exactly. Very good description, Booth” She smiled and returned the femur to the autopsy table, and then chose a tibia to present to him.

“Tibia is soft as well—like the femur.” Booth frowned in wonderment, curiosity creasing his brow. He smelled the tibia. “And has the same scent—like the femur! Could the killer have used some kind of ceremonial precious oils? What does frankincense smell like?” He sniffed the cold dry morgue air. “And why can we smell the spiciness on the bones, but we can’t smell the putrefaction anymore?” He turned around slowly and sniffed the morgue air again.

“The scent on the bones is different. New. That’s why. Thank God,” she said, under her breath. “The femora and the tibias—I wish there was better lighting in here—they appear to possess a slightly different tint as well.”

“Yeah, like chicken bones—”

“Exactly,” she said, returning both bones to their rightful places, then standing at the foot of her table to take in the skeleton as a whole. “As if he’d greased them up and cooked them, allowing the medulla ossium to seep into the bone.”

Booth rubbed his thumbs in circular patterns over his other finger tips then took another whiff of his fingertips. The scent was as faint as a whisper, but it was definitely there. “Did you notice the smelly ones seem heavier than the other bones.”

“Of course, they do, Booth. The femur is the largest and heaviest bone in the body. Fifty-seven percent of the femoral neck is cortical bone tissue, compact tissue; the shaft is ninety-five percent cortical bone tissue. The tibia is the second largest, and the strongest bone, each tibia carrying forty percent of the body’s weight.” Brennan chewed on the side of her lower lip for a moment. “The contributor of these femora and tibias was athletic, like Aleesha. And, just like Aleesha’s, these bones hypertrophied as a result of the piezoelectric properties of bone under repetitive weight-bearing exercise. Comparative to the rest of the remains, these bones are outside the expected weight range—comparatively speaking. I can tell that just by feel.” She picked up a femur in one hand, a tibia in the other and tested their weights by gently raising and lifting each.

“Hm,” Booth grunted pensively. “So they are heavier than they should be. Do you think that’s why he chose them, the femurs and tibias, because of their size and strength?”

“Motivation is your domain, Booth. What do you think?”

Booth stared blankly at the remains. “Maybe there’s some psychological reason behind them—or, maybe he just picked two random bones.”

“Perhaps. However, it doesn’t seem random—”

“Maybe he figured the femurs and tibias would be the least likely to break or lose during transport?” He shrugged, meeting her eyes.

“Possibly,” she conceded. “As long as there are no conspicuous kerf marks, fractures, or hemorrhagic staining on the femora, they would be of little interest to an ME. An investigative examination of the skeleton would focus on the the ribs—which protect the heart,” she said, gesturing toward the drooping ladder of ribs lying on Banty’s table, “and the cranium—which protects the brain—”

“Ahh,” he said in a sing-song tone. “And the spine, which protects the spinal cord—the killer smacked her head around and broke the thingies off her vertebra. Those are important as well.”

“Exactly. The spinal column—” she smiled. “These three areas are most closely examined for cause of death—in the absence of revealing visceral evidence. So, searching these three, Dr. Shcherbakov was satisfied with cause of death,” she chagrined. “And he was right about that.” She glared at Booth intensely, her lips in a stern line.

“What?”

“It’s just that there’s so much more to this story, Booth, and these young women deserve to have their stories told.”

Booth grimaced and nodded. “That’s your job; you’re the brilliant one,” he said, winking a twinkle across to her. “And their killer needs to be stopped. What else are you thinking?”

“The femur-tibia combination was a brilliant choice.”

“What do you mean?”

"If I had to pick a bone, I would chose the femur. Ipso facto colombo oreo, it was a brilliant choice."

“If I had to pick a bone, I would chose the femur. Ipso facto colombo oreo, it was a brilliant choice.”

“If I had to pick a bone, I would chose the femur. Ipso facto colombo oreo, it was a brilliant choice! Then I would include the tibia because the greater variance in comparative size between a tibia from one skeleton and the corresponding femur of another one would be more conspicuous than a comparative variance between femur and patella or calcaneus. No, it was prudent to include the tibias or risk suspicion.”

“So—basically, it would be more noticeable if he didn’t take the tibias?”

“Correct.”

“I think this guy is all about subterfuge, Bones,” he said, nodding toward the lower half of the skeleton, “By choosing to exchange the femur-tibia combination, the switched bones were hidden in plain sight!”

“Precisely. And—the subterfuge was furthered by the very obvious cause of death!”

“Hm,” Booth grunted, pulling on his lower lip. “That’s why I think this has to do with some kind of ritual,” he said, closing the files and stacking them on the pile with the others. “Hey, I really can’t smell death anymore. That air conditioner thing really works.”

“Thanks to you, and the miracle of neural adaptation!”

They exchanged a furtive glance, then Booth returned to his computer screen.

“So,” chuckled Booth playfully a moment later, “if you had a bone to pick—”

“Yes,” she nodded, meeting his amused gaze. “I would choose the femur and the tibia combination— as I said, it’s brilliant.”

“Do you have any other bones to pick?”

“What? I’m not a homicidal maniac, if that’s what you’re insinuating—”

“I’m not insinuating anything,” he defended, holding his hands up in surrender. “It’s just an idiomatic phrase—it means that you have a complaint to lodge. Like, I have a bone to pick with you about the crappy service at this restaurant. Like that. And you said, that if you were to pick a bone—”

“—I think I get it, Booth, and I recognize that you are simply toying with me with your suggestive punning, but I do not have any complaint to lodge other than that it is getting rather hypothermic in here.” She sent him a playfully reproachful smirk. “And that if we had unloaded our luggage from that town car we could be donning sweaters and jackets by now.”

Booth stared back expressionlessly, then dropped his head and began to whistle as he tapped aimlessly on the keyboard. “If I had a bone to pick—or bones,” he mumbled, though loud enough for her to clearly understand what he said.

Brennan snorted snarkily.

“What?”

“I know what bone you’d pick!”

“No, you don’t,” he mumbled back playfully, not looking up.

“I bet I do—”

“—I bet you don’t.”

“Fine. Go ahead. What bone—or bones—would you pick?” She asked in a sarcastic tone.

“I’d pick you,” he mumbled, still not looking up. “Every time.”

Brennan smiled silently, pulled her measuring tape out of her pocket, and returned to continue her documentation. Booth stole a look up at her and noted the crooked grin across her lips as she began measuring each bone. Several beats later, she looked up and cocked her head to the side.

“Whenever I’m asked where I would prefer to sit—in a restaurant—” she said, self-consciously, focusing back on her work with feigning casualness.

“—Yeah?” Booth chuffed, only slightly surprised at this non sequitur.

“Table or a booth?” she grinned at a patella. “I always choose Booth,” she said, looking up. “Every time.”

Booth groaned and slapped his forehead. “Corny,” he chuckled. “Corny as a corn crib, but I’ll give you two points for effort.”

“Just two?” She mewled disappointingly before they both giggled and snorted.

Tearing his eyes away from his partner, Booth focused on the laptop screen.

Ten minutes later, the tapping of Booth’s fingertips on the keyboard broke through Brennan’s determined fugue, alerting her to a memory of something she’d heard him say earlier.

“As I previously stated, you are correct, Booth,” Brennan said calmly as if they had been in the middle of a conversation.

“I know I am,” he chuckled. “Uh—what about?”

“There is far too much land to efficiently cover with ground penetrating radar,” she said, continuing to document her findings, then measuring a metacarpal. “It would be pointless under the circumstances—” She made another note on her pad without looking up.

“Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. You always say to get all the facts first, right?” Booth sighed heavily as he shifted from foot to foot and leaned into the table to take some weight off his feet. “That’s what I was just looking up. Thought I’d do one of your Fermi calculations and get a guestimate here. Listen to this,” he said, punching a key to bring an Excel spreadsheet to the foreground. “I figured I’d start by narrowing down the field, right?” He continued without looking up for confirmation. “Killers are creatures of habit just like the rest of us. They have favorite spots, routines, patterns. That’s how they get caught, right? Green River Killer buried his kills up and down the Green River, Hillside Stranglers—they left them on hillsides in the Glendale and Highland Park areas of California, then here in Washington. Howard Epps—”

“—The marshlands,” Brennan contributed in a somber tone.

“Right, and Jeffery Dahmer—well, he was the mother of all sick bastards like nothing I’ve ever seen—he strangled people in his own home and apartments, even in hisgrandmother’s house—God!. Sick duck! Did you know he kept body parts in files and the fridge, and eventually—”

“Booth—!” Brennan clenched her teeth and grimaced.

“Yeah? Come on, how can that bother you? You see gross stuff all the time!”

Brennan swiveled from side to side as if looking for something. “I look at remains after the crime has been committed. I am able to compartmentalize that and view it scientifically, but thinking about him having a grandmother—and that he brought victims to his parents’ home and killed them there, right where they eat their meals and play Scrabble—somehow that makes it all the more tragic,” she scowled as if her skin were crawling with mites. “Continue,” she croaked.

“Okay, so far we’ve got two sets of remains from three individuals, right? We have two similar locations—sporadically trafficked grassy/woody stretches of undeveloped land, right? A man walking purposefully wouldn’t be out of place, but he could find lots of places to hide things, do things—to be there long enough to dig a hole, systematically assemble a skeleton in that hole, then refill the hole—without getting caught.”

“Continue.”

“Uh, The chances that we’ll find that third victim here, in a similar setting, or in Haverford are about 70%—”

“We’re talking about miles and miles of vegetation and park here, plus campus grounds back in Pennsylvania,” she said blandly. “I could give you an estimate of the square mileage and how long it would take to cover it if I knew how many GPRs we could requisition. Where’d you get that statistic anyway?”

“The seventy percent? Made it up. Gotta start somewhere. Maybe it’s not really that many miles once you do the math, I do the math, I mean. I say we get local law enforcement looking for that third set of remains while you and I are interrogating everyone linked to the Banty case here tomorrow.”

“Two victims, two locations, sixty-six percent likelihood we’ll find that third victim in Haverford or here. Thirty-three percent likelihood we’ll find her in a different location entirely, though it does make sense that the third location would be woody and sporadically populated—”

“Well, let’s work with what we got right now. This is what I’ve come up with: Philly college campuses with woodland areas. Excluding universities and colleges with more than 2,000 students or fewer than 100 acres; excluding all-girl colleges, and urban locations—”

“Urban campuses are devoid of forestation, but why no all-female universities? I would think the atmosphere of an all-girl campus would be rife with potential victims.”

“Yeah, but it’s a lot easier to blend in when you’re not the only guy hanging around, or one of very few, right? So—that leaves Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Delaware Valley college, and I’m including Cabrini College despite their larger student population because they only have 112 acres of grassland.”

“Sounds methodical—”

“—and I come up with 1,420 acres, which may sound like a lot, but that’s not even two and a half square miles. Then—”

“Booth—” Brennan attempted to interrupt him, but he was unstoppable at this point.

“—Here in Washington State, I’ve calculated 1,657 acres of forest and riverside trails including Island Center Park where Banty was found. That’s only—uh, that’s less than a total of five miles total between here and Philly. Think that’s do-able?”

“The number five may seem small, but an acre is the amount of land that takes a day to plough with a yoke of oxen. Imagine mowing an acre of land. How long would that take?”

Booth squinted in her direction.

“Okay, twenty-five hockey fields—one acre is equivalent to twenty-five hockey fields.”

“Hm. They’re rinks. Hockey rinks. Does that include everything— players, penalty, and scorekeepers benches?”

“I assume so. How long would it take to clean them?”

“You don’t clean them, Bones, you resurface the ice—”

“How long?”

“Fifteen, twenty minutes per—let’s say eight hours. Crapola—so, three thousand acres is gonna take—four months. I’m screwed,” he huffed dejectedly. “That can’t be right—that’s just ridiculous.”

“It’s too much land.”

“Bones, I don’t know how else to narrow this down. We need more information.”

“Well,” Brennan answered, “we will have more information once Dr. Hodgins does an isotope analysis on the bone apatite. That will give us some geographical information—”

“Hm,” Booth grunted, deep in thought, then whistled aimlessly through his front teeth as his mental wheels turned. “Cadaver dogs smell bones—but—” He paused, a figurative light bulb dancing over his head.

“—What?”

“You said cadaver dogs are trained to specifically sniff out putrefaction, right?”

“Correct. Humans have ten square inches of olfactory mucosa and roughly five million sensitive cells within the nose. Canines have 150 square inches of olfactory mucosa, and 200 million sensitive cells. As repugnant as the odor in this autopsy is for you and me, can you imagine what it would be like for a dog?”

“Suicidal.”

“Hm,” Brennan considered. “I believe suicide is an emotional choice, unless one is risking their life to save another. I wouldn’t expect a canine to commit emotional suicide, Booth.”

“Because they couldn’t leave a note, right?” Booth chuckled. “Let’s stay on point, here! Didn’t you tell me there were dogs being trained to locate ancient artifacts and old burial grounds in the Malapupu Islands. Do you remember that? Those wouldn’t have meat on them anymore, would they?”

“Wow. You are—correct, Booth! You—are absolutely correct! Where did I read that?” Brennan pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. “Oh yes! Canines were trained to locate 2.6 million year old Aboriginal tombs found buried under slag heaps at the Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park in South Australia!”

Booth’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “Yes!” He yelped, doing a jaunty fist pump. “How many dogs you think they have? Wait—Australia—that’s probably out of the question—and out of our jurisdiction.”

“That was several years ago, they have most likely been training canines ever since then. And—neither out of the question nor your jurisdiction—I believe there’s a training facility in Arizona.”

“Yes! Now you’re talking! Do you have their number? I suppose it’s too late to call—” Booth bit his lip, momentarily dejected.

“I have the number of a Dr. Harold Winchester, and now I recall it’s Birmingham, not Arizona. He may be on a dig, however. He was headed to Cairo at the time of the article.”

“Let’s call him! Wait—excrement! We can’t call him now. It’s well after one a.m., almost two! What time is it in Alabama?”

“Almost four in the morning,” Brennan said dryly, staring through a hand-held magnifying glass at the head of the left femur. “Booth, you must be tired. When have you ever let a little inconvenience get between you and capturing a killer?” She quirked an eyebrow at her mate.

“Damn straight. The Big Dog’s in town and he doesn’t give a damn what time it is—anywhere!”

“There you go,” she replied, directing Booth to where he could find the phone number for Dr. Harold Winchester in Birmingham, Alabama—where it was precisely two minutes after one o’clock in the morning.

After five rings, Booth almost hung up, but didn’t. At twelve rings, Brennan glanced quizzically at Booth. He shrugged in response, but continued to listen for a pick-up, or at least an answering machine.

Dr. Harold Winchester, having put his migraine to bed with four extra strength Ibuprofen and a fifth of Bourbon, hoped the ringing would go away without him having to do anything but roll over and cover his head with a pillow. When he finally gave up and swatted blindly for the phone on his bedside table, his growl made it clear he was not pleased to be answering the phone at what he considered an uncivilized time of the morning.

“Frank, yeh stinkin’ bastard, what are you callin’ me fer?” He barked into the receiver without ever opening his eyes.

“Dr. Harold Winchester, this is FBI Agent Seeley Booth. My partner and I are working on a case that requires the use of your cadaver, er, bone dogs.”

“Wha?” Harold rubbed his eyes several times and felt around for his glasses. “What the sam hell time is it, anyway, Frank?”

“Sir, I apologize for the hour. This is not Frank—it’s the FBI, sir, and we need to commandeer your bone dogs. Me and my partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan—”

“Temperance?! Riiiiiight! How stupid do you think I am? I knew I’d live to regret mentioning her name to you! And you sure as shite don’t sound like no—anthropologist!”

“Dr. Winchester, I am not an anthropologist. I am a special agent with the FBI, and again, I apologize for the hour. Dr. Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institution in Washington, D.C. is my partner—”

“I don’t care who you’re sleeping with, son—”

“—The case we’re working involves the bones of three young women,” continued Booth, ignoring Winchester’s snide protests, “maybe more. I request that you take this seriously, sir. Now, you are that Harold Winchester, the anthropologist who’s been working with bone dogs to unearth completely clean bones, correct?” Booth’s voice had an edge by this time.

“For Pete’s sake, Frank. You got me, okay? You got me. Hah, hah, hah. See you in the morning,” he grumbled, adding several colorful words. Gerry loved using colorful language. It made him feel powerful, intimidating. “Temperance Brennan, my ass—next thing you’ll be tellin’ me you’re Marilyn Monroe!”

“What do I have to do to convince you that I mean business,” Booth growled through the phone. He took a deep breath and yelled into the phone. “Does the name Dr. Temperance Brennan mean anything to you?!”

“You know exactly what it means to me, Franklin. She’s that leggy filly who’s sharper than a brass tack and well too aware of it, and I told you I wouldn’t work with her if you promised me a Nobel Prize!” Actually, decades previously, Harold had admired Brennan from afar for the duration of a four-day conference and finally mustered the courage to invite her to collaborate with him on a project. She’d shot him down on the basis that what he proposed would not be a valuable use of her time. She’d read one of his earlier articles and found the work shoddy and the findings uninteresting. And she told him so.

Harold still smarted from the rebuff, but had followed her progress over the years and always secretly hoped he’d run into her now that he’d pioneered several ground-breaking excavation methodologies that were being used all over the world.

Now—what did I read about her in Forensic Anthropology Quarterly? Winchester scratched his stubbly chin and searched his memory banks. Wait! I think she does work with the FBI—! A flash of adrenaline shot through Harold’s chest. He hopped out of bed and stood at attention. Could it be—? Does she need my help? Or, is this a joke, another one of Frank’s obnoxious pranks?

“FBI, you say?” Winchester choked into the receiver, then cleared his throat. “Tell me something that will prove you’re with Dr. Temperance Brennan,” he challenged.

“Bones—” Booth relayed the request.

“Tell him he spelled the word ‘Australopithecus Sebida’ incorrectly in his article about their vegetarian lifestyle,” Brennan offered absently while scrutinizing the distal end of the right tibia. “It’s not ‘aust-rolah-pithecus—it’s Aust-R-A-L-O-pithecus!’”

Halfway through the spelling lesson, Booth held the phone in Brennan’s direction to capture the words he had no interest in repeating. “Got that, Sparky?”

“Hey!” Winchester barked. “My graduate assistant made that mistake, not me! And it was corrected for the individual copies—”

“What did I tell you, Booth? It’s the weak who blame others—” she smirked, shaking her head slowly side to side. Booth’s eyes flew open at the chill in her tone and stifled a laugh. She shoots; she scores, he thought, grinning.

“I heard that,” Winchester shouted nastily into the phone. “Just who do you think you—”

“Hey, Sparky, watch your tone!” Booth snarled back.

“Are you impugning my authority, Dr. Winchester?” Brennan shouted across the morgue toward the phone.

Winchester choked on his tongue. He recognized her voice and broke out in a cold sweat. If her biting comments hadn’t confirmed that this was indeed the woman in question, that voice was unmistakable.

Booth allowed Brennan’s terse threat to ring in the air for a moment before continuing.

“Here’s what you’re gonna do, Sparky, you’re going to tell me how many of these wonder pups you have, and then you are going to get them on a plane or bus or a magic carpet—I don’t really care what—and you’re gonna get half of them up here, the other half to Philadelphia, before I send someone over there to arrest you for impeding the progress of a federal investigation! ! Understand? Now,” he said, taking a breath. “How many you got and when can we expect to receive them?”

A subdued Dr. Winchester requested fifteen minutes to make a few calls before settling the details. In the end, Booth and Brennan were victorious, being promised fifteen canines per coast.

Their triumph having given Booth renewed energy, he plucked a stilled cassette out of the tape player and inserted a mixtape called, ‘The Top Twenty Best Guitar Riffs. Of. All. Time.’ He proceeded to spend the next half hour bobbing his head to the beat and jamming on his invisible Fender Stratocaster as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s iconic ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ filled the room, and Brennan weighed and finished measuring all 201 bones. By the time she was finished, Booth had worked up a little sweat jamming on his Gibson SG steel string electric air guitar along with Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Metallica’s Kirk Hammet, and several more. When he got to Tom Scholz playing ‘More Than a Feeling, Booth broke out the falsetto and sang along, smiling when Brennan laughed, and delighted when she started bopping along to the beat.

As Brennan revisited her notes on the four bones this case was centered around, Booth gasped when ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ rolled off the tape. Rocking and nodding across the room in a musician’s crouch, he accompanied Angus Young in an energetic live performance of the display Brennan and the entire team had watched on tape this morning. Brennan just shook her head and laughed.

“Agh!” She yelped when he hip-checked her rhythmically to the beat toward the end of the song. “I’m glad you’ve found a way to warm up, Booth. I, on the other hand, can not afford such a luxury, my work requiring uninterrupted focus.”

“This is your domain, Bones. You can mess around all you want when we’re in my domain,” he said, kissing her on the back of the head before returning to choose another tape.

“I don’t need to make a mess when I’m in your domain, Booth,” she protested, looking up from her notes. “I’m never bored. I find your work fascinating. Disorienting and counterintuitive, at least to me sometimes, but fascinating nonetheless.”

Booth shrugged dismissively, snapping a new audio tape into the cassette player. “Yeah, but I’m always talking to you while I work. You always know what’s going on. See, my domain is all about action.” He shook his fists in the air for emphasis. “The Big Dog’s all about kicking ass and taking names, baby,” he said, “That’s what I’m all about!”

“I’m about action,” she protested. “I’m about getting things done.”

“Sure you are, but your things are quiet. I have no idea what’s going on half the time! But, I know I just gotta wait,” he grinned, “and you’ll come up with something brilliant.”

“Patience is a virtue, right—?”

“That’s right, baby,” he chided. “And I am nothing if not patient.” He gave her a meaningful stare knowing full well she’d understand his intent.

“Hm,” she grunted, grinning ear to ear without looking up.

On the tail of her noncommittal response, the four cellos and two violas of the Boston Pops’ fifteen minute delivery of Tchaikovsky’s ’1812 Overture’ spindled elegantly into the air. Delighted to find a solitary drum stick in the middle of a bouquet of pencils on Dr. Shcherbakov’s desk, Booth raised his arms and began to conduct the orchestra, the drumstick as his baton.

“Know what this is, Bones?”

“It’s a wooden drumstick for a percussion instrument,” she said, glancing up quickly.

“No,” he grimaced, “the music! You know what piece this is?”

“Of course, it’s commonly played in accompaniment to fireworks on the 4th of July and you love it because of the fifteen cannons firing at the end.”

“Yes! How’d you know that?” He stared at her in wonderment. “About me and the canons?”

She rewarded him with a toothy grin. “I know you, that is how.” She winked, and returned her attention to her work.

Ten minutes later, unable to stand her intent silence any longer, he walked around and stood by her side with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Are you seeing anything more—there,” he said, nodding at the skeleton splayed out before them, “that links Banty’s and Aleesha’s cases?”

“There is a preponderance of evidence that does not contradict the supposition of a connection, yes,” she said with a small shrug and a sigh. “Something else has come to my attention, Booth—the femora and tibias appear to not have aged as swiftly as the rest of the skeleton. This usually indicates a difference in time exposed to the elements—”

“Are you saying that Banty’s skeleton may have sat drying for a while until the killer took his next victim—which he promptly buried with the freshly cleaned bones?”

Brennan nodded disconsolately. “I’d say up to two weeks.”

“Wow. Or, this third victim wasn’t killed until two weeks after Banty and Aleesha.”

“Or—or, as we have suspected, it was simply the application of the amalgamate he treated the bones of this third victim with—as evidenced by the the aroma and texture we discussed earlier.

“Why didn’t the medical examiner notice this before?”

“That is what I have been wondering myself, Booth,” she admitted forlornly. “If we learn that the third victim went missing within days of Aleesha and Banty, that would mean that she was held captive, possibly tortured, for several weeks before being killed.”

“Is there any evidence of that?”

“Not on the four bones we have of the third victim. However, the minute particles I noted on the posterior ribs may be semi-microscopic fractures—which would indicate there was more to these deaths than simple internal decapitation.”

Booth flinched. “I still can’t stand that terminology—internal decapitation. Can we just call it a broken neck? Why the pinchy face?”

“I don’t mean to belabor the point, Booth, but I am frustrated by the lack of commitment exhibited by the slipshod autopsy.” Brennan exhaled sharply, her shoulders dropping. She clenched her jaw, and stared, unseeing, at the table. “A heinous crime had been committed, and no one had looked further than absolutely necessary. As a result, even more victims could be out there.”

“Are you thinking maybe there was collusion of some kind? Maybe someone with an agenda paid someone else not to look too closely at the remains?”

A cold wave scampered up Brennan’s spine. “Copulating donkey turds,” she gasped quietly, covering her mouth with the back of her gloved wrist, “that hadn’t even occurred to me.” After a moment of silent staring into Booth’s eyes across the room, Brennan continued. “The naked eye can see that these femora and tibias are of different size and texture. There is a one inch disparity between these femora and those that truly belong to Banty Solicious, if her medical records are accurate,” Brennan chagrined, dropping her head to the side.

“Uh, that may be obvious to you, Bones, but—”

“Look at this patella,” she mewled disgustedly. “It would barely cover the synovial joint, between femur and tibia. Even if it did, her palellofemoral arthritis would have made bending her knee nearly impossible!” Brennan placed the patella atop the conjunction of femoral head and tibia. It teetered awkwardly and fell off immediately. The color difference was obvious, though: the patella being white, the others slightly gray.

“Well, like I said, maybe the killer paid off the medical examiner—told him to close the case quickly.”

“Hm,” Brennan grunted, deep in thought. “Didn’t Deputy LeSerf mention there were financial constraints in King County? Perhaps it wasn’t a board certified medical examiner at all, but an untrained, inexperienced coroner that performed the autopsy. Anyone can be a coroner, you know. Even you, Booth.”

Booth’s eyebrows shot up at that suggestion. “No, thank you. You won’t catch me poking around in all that slimy dead stuff. No, sir. I don’t even gargle with listerine because it’s supposed to kill germs fast, and I can’t stand the thought of something dying in my mouth!” Booth gagged as an involuntary shiver started at his shoulders and traveled down his torso. With a final little shiver and a cough, Booth flipped open the folder once again. “Nope. This Dr. William Astor who signed the report has a whole alphabet typed under his signature.”

“What do you mean?”

“Uh, there’s M.D.—”

“—Medical Doctor.”

“Right, O.D.—”

“That would be osteopathic medicine; bones/joints/muscles.”

“Of course,” Booth chuffed. “And then, he’s also got PhD and MBA.”

“Doctor of philosophy, but that could be in any area of study. MBA is a masters in business administration.”

“Basically, he’s a major league smarty pants,” concluded Booth, drumming his fingers on the top of the file.

“Bingo, baby. So, why the slipshod work?”

“Maybe the budget cuts were too much for Dr. ABCDEFG. Maybe he felt he deserved a little bonus on the side, courtesy of our killer.”

Booth gazed at Brennan as she wrapped her fingers around the ledge of the tabletop and stood preternaturally still for a minute, then drummed her fingers on the stainless steel surface.

“That means I can’t trust a damn thing written in that report!” Brennan spat. Grabbing the magnifying glass once more, she prepared to examine every inch of bone surface again. Booth concentrated on not rolling his eyes and crying out at the prospect of spending another hour in the morgue while Brennan repeated her examination.

Sensing Booth’s frustration, Brennan glanced up quickly, then back down at her work. “If you need something to do, you may borrow my measuring tape. I seem to recall you mentioning something about getting your bones measured!” She said coquettishly.

“Ha!” Booth snorted and chuckled. “No man wants their, uh, junk measured in a blizzard like the one we’re standing in.” He dipped his chin and gazed back up at her through his lashes. “You do know I’m not talking about real bones—”

“—I know exactly what you’re talking about!” Brennan chortled as her cheeks were infused with a generous dose of hemoglobin. She pursed her lips and avoided his gaze, choosing instead to focus on her inventory notes.

“Not gonna bite, huh?” Booth stifled a huge grin, his own neck getting very warm.

“Stop. I’m trying to focus,” she said in a low voice, fiercely trying not to laugh, and still refusing to meet his eye. “You could measure me,” she suggested in a lilting tone.

Booth considered that for a moment, but before he could say or do anything, Brennan was talking again.

“Do the notes say anything about missing the lateral cuniform of the left foot and the second through fourth distal phalanges of the right foot?”

Booth checked the notes. “Nope. Maybe they got lost somewhere between the coroner’s office and the funeral home.”

“That’s possible. There was most likely a span of time, perhaps as much as a month, between the finding of the remains and the interment of them at the cemetery.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Look at the coffin,” she said, nodding backward toward the twenty-five by twenty inch mahogany box. She braced her hands on the autopsy table to ponder the full skeleton before her. “There’s no way that likeness of Banty Solicious carved into the lid could have been carved before she was found. They wouldn’t have known they could use such a small container,” she said, matter of factly.

“Whoa,” Booth gasped, stunned and motionless. Until now he hadn’t so much as glanced at the coffin. His mouth went dry.

“Booth?”

He shivered involuntarily, then his eyes snapped back to Brennan’s.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said, trying to shake off the cloud of malaise creeping through him. He swallowed and licked his lips, then grabbed his stomach. It felt like a hive of silent bees were bouncing around in there, trying to claw their way up through his esophagus.

“Booth, are you okay?” She said, staring into his eyes, assessing the dilation of his pupils. She lay a hand on his forearm and found it cool, clammy. He didn’t move. “Booth?” She asked, jostling his arm. When he was despondent, she followed his line of sight to the casket behind her.

“That’s, uh—,” he mouthed soundlessly, then cleared his throat. “That – that’s the casket? It looks more like—like a—a footlocker, or a cedar chest—or something.” He walked over to the ornately carved box atop the accordion cart and shoved his hands into his armpits. “And what’s that?” He asked, nodding at the chiseled relief rising out of the wood. It was an intricate carving of a young girl in a spring dress, wind in her hair as she walked through a field of daisies. A cross, rosary beads, and a bible lay loosely in her slender fingers.

“Whoa. That’s a small casket,” Booth said, in a forced blank tone, his mortification barely contained. Breathe, he thought, trying to calm himself. “That would barely fit Parker,” he mumbled, trying to dismiss what was really bothering him—the fact that the image appeared to be breathing. He shivered involuntarily.

“It was an odd choice, a juvenile casket, but an economical one. Her remains fit perfectly. An adult sized mahogany casket on top of what they must have paid for the artwork, would have cost them twice as much,” Brennan said distractedly, her focus on the pulse bouncing at his throat. Booth’s eyebrows raised quickly then lowered and pinched together as if he were trying to justify something that defied justification. He exhaled forcefully, his shoulders falling, his arms dropping to his sides. He huffed two or three more times. “I’ve never seen, uh, anything like it—”

“What specifically are you referring to?”

“I’m surprised there’s not more dirt on this thing. It was down there for, what? Four years?”He cleared his throat again. The comment sounded lame, even to his own ears, but he wasn’t about to say what he was really thinking.

“The amount of time it was interred makes no difference, Booth. Caskets are buried inside vaults. If they weren’t, the weight of 5-6 feet of soil on top of a wooden box would collapse it in time. Cemeteries would become uninhabitable—sinkholes of terror. Just imagine—”

“I don’t have to imagine, I’ve been there,” he cut her off, zombie-faced. This is what he’d been thinking about. And he had been there. In Bagrami, two and a half hours outside Kabul. And near Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Twice. And a hundred times more in his nightmares. There, and everywhere, mass graves weren’t fortified by vaults, or acknowledged in any way, for that matter. The Afghan terrain was devastated by fossil fuel pollution, spent land mines; the scars of war. Though drought, desertification and deforestation were plights worthy of activists’ attention, scattershot sinkholes chockablock with osseous remnants of disarticulated lives remained unmarked and unredressed, their inhabitants erased as if they’d never been born.

In his dreams, the cold, grey, statue-like bodies did breathe. They visited him when unconsciousness dissolved his defenses and ushered the nightmares in for coffee and biscotti. In one of Booth’s recurring nightmares, he ran through rolling sheets of mist across a cemetery, the ground giving way beneath him as he ran. He’d find himself in hole after hole filled with the rotting corpses of his sniper targets. Sometimes they were alive; sometimes dead. But they were always angry, murderous. Sometimes they roared deafeningly until his head split open and he couldn’t find all the pieces. Sometimes wives were in the graves as well, dead and rotting or raging hysterically as they clawed at his feet. Booth shook himself, as if doing so would dislodge the images in his head. He realized Brennan had been speaking to him, though he hadn’t heard a single word she’d said.

“—death rituals aren’t publicized in the way the more joyous milestones in life are, Booth. Birth, coming of age, marriage, anniversaries. But death and burial rituals established by societies serve a utilitarian and necessary purpose. Dr. Sweets contends that they anchor the bereaved in reality, assist in the grieving process, give legitimacy to a very real loss. Their intent is to provide the grieving person or persons with very specific directions at a time when they may be paralyzed emotionally, socially, and economically. They also specify a code of acceptable behavior during interactions with the bereaved. In cultures inculcated with strong spiritual beliefs, these practices are intended to provide hope and reinforce the myth of a deity. The rights and rituals can be quite ornate and consuming—”

Booth faded out for a moment, pondering the lack of communal support for the grieving that accompanies the spiritual death, sliver by sliver, experienced by those who have taken life in combat. Can I share these thoughts, he wondered. I am not exactly the man she thinks I am. She sees me as a hero, a strong person. She needs me to be a strong person. I have to be one to do this job. Why does this come down on me so hard sometimes, and others I’m fine. Or, at least I think I’m just fine. I’ve really only been able to feel fine, like I can handle this, since we started working together. He shook his head at his thoughts. Brennan assumed he was responding to her comments, so she continued.

“—though the death industry is the most lucrative here in the United States,” Brennan continued, though she’d begun to reluctantly focus once more on her work. “In other countries, family members care for the deceased’s remains. What do you think happens to the bodies of those men you killed in Afghanistan and elsewhere? They aren’t left to rot on the side of the road, or in tents—or wherever they fall.”

Booth shivered and swallowed, his mouth gone dry. As chilly as it was in that morgue, there were welts of sweat clinging to his hairline. Brennan’s voice droned on unintelligibly through a haze of cotton.

“—corpses were most likely carried inside by their devastated wives or mothers, or, in the most unfortunate cases, by their children. Though it is customary for a family member of the same sex to bathe the corpse, in a war zone such as most of your kills were likely executed, it could have been the wives or mothers tasked with the responsibility of bathing the corpse an odd number of times, usually three for males, five for—”

Closing his eyes, Booth recalled the unwelcome image of his father who sometimes appeared in those nightmares. Occasionally, the elder Booth would stand above one of the sinkholes, arms crossed, a derisive and condescending smirk plastered across his alcohol-flushed face as Booth struggled and thrashed about among the dead. Edwin Booth’s entire posture exuded disgust, disappointment. You’re a mess, it said. A poor excuse for a man—a coward. A wave of anger and resentment rose on a tide of bile in the back of Booth’s throat as he stood lost in thought, staring at the tiny casket. He’d heard his old man’s spiteful words in his head as many times as he’d heard the screams of his own sniper targets. Once again, Booth was overcome with a desire he knew would never be fulfilled; he wished to God that he’d beat the crap out of his old man when he had the chance. The fact that he harbored that desire disgusted him. He was angry at his dad for making him have that desire. And he was angry with himself.

“—I’d rather be sent off in some kind of ritual that disposes of my remains. Though, my brain would most likely have to be removed first, I am sure scientists will want to examine it—”

Booth’s fists and jaw clenched and unclenched behind her as Brennan’s voice droned on.

“—despite a semester of gross anatomy class, and despite my ability to compartmentalize, I don’t think I could clean or prepare my own parents’ cadavers for burial, much less my child’s. Though, it’s purported to be a great deal of help with acceptance of the loved one’s—”

Booth felt dizzy. He’d worked diligently not to think about what happened with the bodies of his targets. He was trained to view the targets as grave threats against humanity, ones whose life would be taken in exchange for the hundreds of lives saved by the single elimination. That’s what he tried to remember, but the harder he tried, the more he saw their faces, hear the screams of their loved ones. Booth shivered.

“—wrapped in no more than three white cotton sheets for a shroud, then laid to rest on their right side perpendicular to Qibla, meaning Mecca—”

Booth knew what all this meant. He had attended several funerals for friends he’d made while at war. One thing he never expected to learn, but did, was that the color of a person’s skin and the clothing they wore weren’t guarantees of political or spiritual allegiances. He’d found peace-keepers of all peoples to be of one mind: united we stand; divided we fall. As a result, he and his team found assistance—and allegiance—in some of the least likely places, and with some of the least likely figures. He came to understand that God has many faces and many names, but the one they all had in common was peace.

“—with very specific prayers for the forgiveness of the dead. And the prayers are different depending on the age and sex of the deceased—”

“Enough!” Booth blurted, turning abruptly and walking briskly toward the door. He stood with his back to Brennan and dropped his head.

Brennan jumped in surprise. “Booth, what’s wrong?” She started to walk toward him, but he turned, his steady gaze stopping her in his tracks. “You’re actually—you don’t look so good, Booth!” She took another step forward, then stopped. Booth’s body language was unequivocal. It said, Don’t touch me. Don’t even come near me.

“Bones,” he said, inhaling sharply, holding his breath, then exhaling deliberately. “Look. I’m sorry. I’m—really hungry—huh, really hungry—”

“Are you sure? Because you look nauseous. To be precise, your pallor is—pale feldgrau.”

“Wha?” He burped. Then puckered uncomfortably at the taste in his mouth.

“It’s a kind of light grey-green. Your body language appears to indicate you are either angry or about to be violently ill. Are you sure you aren’t suffering from gastrointestinal—?”

“Bones!” He stared hard, swallowing. He softened at the site of the panicked concern in her eyes. “Listen, I’ll be fine. I didn’t mean to freak out. It’s just, I mean, I just need some food,” he said grabbing his stomach and twisting his mouth into a disgruntled frown. “I think the stink, and the fatigue, and the hunger, too. It just all hit me. Like, boom! I’m gonna go find the can. Alright? If I find a vending machine, you want anything?”

Brennan’s face was pinched in concern. “Are you sure?”

“I am,” he said, managing a wan smile. “I really am. I think whatever I ate on the plane is trying to make a run for it,” he said, holding his breath and covering his mouth.

“Well, then go!” she blurted. “Do you want me to come with you?”

He shook his head. No.

“If you’re not back here in five,” she insisted, “I’ll come find you.”

“Deal,” he gulped as he turned on his heel and pushed through the door. Fortunately, the men’s restroom was two doors down on the left. He hadn’t felt this much abdominal turmoil since he’d washed down an entire package of Oreo cookies with two cans of Mountain Dew. That was two years ago. Once the moaning and sweating subsided, Booth felt almost as good as new. The physical effect of his memories had momentarily overridden the memories themselves. As he washed his hands and splashed water on his face, those thoughts began to reemerge. Oh, no you don’t, he warned the insistent demon in his head. Then he remembered the bible verse Ed Williams, his priest friend from the plane, suggested Booth remember when he felt overwhelmed by his past:

“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou
savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

~ Matthew 16:23

Booth thought the words, then waited. He always felt a little self-conscious when he thought those words—as if addressing Satan brought him closer and made him more real. No matter how old he got, it still had the power to creep booth out. But if it worked, it was worth it. And it usually worked. Surprisingly, he suddenly felt like the barrage of images that wanted to devour him were held at bay behind a plexiglass wall. Pulling out his wallet, he searched for the battered prayer card his mom had pulled out of her purse and pressed into his palm the month before she left, making him promise never to forget the words inscribed there in gold lettering. He held the card to his nose and inhaled deeply. It still smelled like lipstick, Kleenex, Chanel No. 5, and spearmint gum … just like Mom. He read it to himself for the millionth time:

The Light of God surrounds me.
The Love of God enfolds me.
The Power of God protects me.
The Presence of God watches over me.
The Mind of God guides me.
The Life of God flows through me.
The Laws of God direct me.
The Power of God abides within me.
The Joy of God uplifts me.
The Strength of God renews me.
The Beauty of God inspires me.
Wherever I am, God is!
~ JDF, 1941

“Well, Mom,” he said. “I hope this brings me protection like you said it always did for you.”

At that exact moment, he felt the familiar buzz of a text notification in his pocket. “Thank you, Jesus,” Booth exclaimed, shoving the prayer card back into his wallet, his wallet back into his pocket.

The text was from Angela. Motorcycle helmet. She’d sent it three hours earlier, but the sketchy signal in the basement morgue must have delayed it.

“I’ll be damned,” he said, his voice echoing in the tiny bathroom. Then he remembered Brennan’s texts from that afternoon during their meeting. He scrolled through smiling at his favorites.

From Brennan: Did U notice ther R no continuous protrusions/indentations below my gluteus maximus or small of my back? ;)

Booth’s response: U 4got yr undrwr again! What R U Tring 2 do 2 me? Nice necklace, BTW. I know what yr hidng underneath. Thinking bout those bites now …

Brennan’s response: I bite back.&UR very pleasing2look at this A.M. Glad U like my ncklce. B-OX

Then he remembered Cam catching him not paying attention, and telling her the text was from his boss.

“Cullen? Is it from Cullen?” She’d asked.

Booth had said the first thing that came to his mind. “No, higher up than that …”

He’d been surprised at words that tumbled out of his mouth, but there was nothing he could do about it. Booth chuckled, thinking back over that whole meeting. This relationship is going to work, he assured the empty bathroom. Then he made a promise to himself. No matter what it took, or what it might cost him, he was going to tell Brennan about his nightmares.

Knocking on the morgue door, he was met by a smiley-faced Brennan who was singing along to the audio tape. The last cassette he’d loaded into the player was a mixed tape Dr. Shcherbakov had titled, Favorites: Volume Two.

“I’ve found it, Booth!” She proclaimed as she peeled off her gloves, replacing them with clean ones after having sullied them by touching the door knob.

“Cause of death?” He couldn’t help chuckling at her exuberance. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for this whole collection of distractions, he said in silent prayer. Ed Williams’ quote, Mom’s prayer card, Angela’s text, Bones’ wonderful texts, and her faith in me, and now whatever it is she’s so excited about. For a brief moment, it felt warm in the room, and Booth knew that was God’s response to his thanks.

“No. We already know cause of death, Booth!”

“Angela just texted me that she’s figured out it was a motorcycle helmet that caused the blood stains on Aleesha’s cheek bones.”

“Wha—unequivocally?”

“Either that or she’s taking up a new hobby. Didn’t give any details other than ‘Motorcycle helmet’. So, what did you find?” He glanced behind Brennan toward the diminutive casket and chuckled nervously. Get thee behind me, Satan, he thought, clenching his jaw, then closing his eyes for the briefest of moments. That command still felt awkward, he thought, but who cares. If it works, it works. Opening his eyes a half second later, he focused on Brennan, flicked an unemotional glance behind her, and then leaned back against Shcherbakov’s desk and crossed his arms.

“Rewind the cassette about five minutes worth,” she said delightedly, her face lit with barely contained glee.

Booth’s eyebrows reached toward his hairline with curiosity. He stared at her for a moment, shrugged as if to say, Okay, I’ll play along, then turned and did as she asked. Croce’s, ‘I Have To Say I Love You In A Song’ sprang at him when he pushed the play button. “What am I looking for?”

“I found the song!”

“What song? This? We heard this one before, Bones.”

“I know, and I do enjoy that song, but I found the song, Booth—”

“The song, huh?” His brow furrowed. “And … am I supposed to know what that means?” He shook his head and shrugged.

“Yes. You were captured on tape performing a fertility ritual to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ earlier today—”

“—yeah—” His brow creased even deeper in curiocity.

“Sooooo,” she mewled conspiratorially, “I’ve been asking myself what song I would perform—if I were to perform—you know, a fertility ritual in your honor. MyEtruscan fertility entreaty,” she beamed.

“You’re kidding me,” Booth gasped, his mouth falling open.

“No,” she replied, in a very serious tone. “What? You don’t think I would do the same for you? I wouldn’t allow myself to get caught on tape.”

“Of course—” he chuffed at the austerity in her tone.

“Booth,” she cocked her head to the side and gave him a mildly reproachful look. “I am serious. Do you want to hear it or not?” She smirked, but waited patiently for his response as Croce completed the last repetition of his final verse.

“Of course, I do want to hear it. This is great, and a little funny, that’s all. Let’s hear it!”

“It comes up next,” she said, glancing behind him at the tape player. “After ‘I Love You In A Song.”

As if on queue, the first twenty-four drowsy notes of a solitary electric guitar sauntered into the chill morgue air. A warm baseline ushered in the first verse of Brennan’s sultry entreaty to the gods on behalf of her mate’s fertility. Booth recognized the intro and allowed his eyelids to drift closed as a slow shallow smile lifted the corners of his mouth. When the vocals began, his eyebrows lifted, and his whole face opened in surprise. A satisfied grin slid slowly across his lips, then deepened. Not only was this an excellent song, it was the 1973 bluesy classic rock recording of ‘Drift Away’ by Dobie Gray, not the 2003 remake by Uncle Kracker. Booth opened his eyes a slit and watched Brennan as she stumbled over the words of the the first verse, wondering how it related to their relationship.

“Okay, that first verse doesn’t relate to our relationship at all,” Brennan explained in a raised voice, “because it’s a little depressing. But here comes the first part that made me think about you.”

Then it came. And she sang along. And he understood.

‘Oh, give me the beat, boy, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.’

The first two lines of the chorus repeated as Brennan nodded her head to the mellow medium-tempo beat.

“I thought you didn’t believe in a soul,” Booth said over the music, his cheeks tickling with amusement.

“It’s a metaphorical soul, Booth. Just keep listening.” She swayed side to side as she surveyed the remains, occasionally picking up a bone and looking at it through the magnifying glass.

“Oh, dah dah dah dah …” She didn’t know all the words, but she mumbled along happily. “Dah, dah, dah, ah tiiiiiiime! Uh, I, I don’t understand the things I do-whew. Mmm mum … world outside seems-looks!- so unki-ii-ind. I’m, I’m countin’ on You-who-who-who, dadum, to carry me throu-ough! Whhooahhh, give me the beat BOY!”

“See how I changed it to mean not all boys, just you, Booth? Though technically you are not a boy. Anyway,” she shrugged, continuing to the end of the chorus. “…. My soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll.”

Booth nodded to the beat and rubbed circles into his cheek muscles where they’d become sore from excessive grinning. By the time the third verse came along he’d forgotten about the casket, his earlier disturbing thoughts, his escape to the bathroom. Brennan continued verbally stumbling along until the final verse, which she knew word for word. As Brennan closed her eyes and sang every word through happy lips, Booth thought his heart would explode.

‘Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me-ee-ee
want you to kno-ow I believe in your song
And rhythm and rhyme and harmony-y-y
You’ve helped me along
Makin’ me stro-ong.

Then came the a cappella chorus. Brennan raised her arms and clapped along, twice per measure, to the beat.

‘Oh, give me the beat, boy, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.’

Booth joined the slow claps when the lines repeated, but stopped himself when he could hardly contain the burning urge to walk up behind her and wrap his arms around her. His desire to watch her was a sliver stronger and won. So, he stayed right where he was, barely blinking, committing this moment to memory, tucking it away for the next time the Filthy Stinking Bastard came knocking.

Booth sighed contentedly and walked between the autopsy tables to lean against the one holding their laptop, her bags, and the communication equipment. There was still a stainless steel table between them, but it felt good to be a little closer. He crossed his arms, relaxed back against his table, and watched his mate intently as she continued to absently sing the final words of the song.

‘Na na na, won’t you, won’t you take me
Oh, take me—’

Of course, those final words gave Booth a couple ideas about doing just that—taking her in the carnal sense—but he thought he’d keep those to himself as he had been doing for the last six years.

The song ended while Brennan was in the middle of making some notes in her notebook. Laying her pen down, she smiled up at him sheepishly, and moved down the table toward the lower appendicular skeleton to finish up with what was left of the legs and feet.

“So?” She asked self-consciously.

“So, what?” he said in a low voice.

She shrugged with one shoulder without looking up.

“What did you think,” she said, flicking a quick coy glance up to meet his eyes. “About the song I chose … for you?” She felt her cheeks getting warm, wishing the rest of her body would follow suit in the chilled morgue.

Booth nodded, his chin dropping to his chest. “You wanna get lost in my Rock ‘n’ Roll, huh?”

“As absolutely soon as possible, Operation Pringles Partner!” She was still enjoying a high from singing along, and being able to share that with him.

“I approve,” he said, in a quiet lilting tone. He continued to watch her unabashedly, amazed at her tranquility, mesmerized by her careful exacting movements as she gently returned one tibia to the table and picked up the other without making a sound. She glanced up at him several times, then continued making notes.

Booth continued to watch her; delighted, thankful, happy. Then humbled. Then his thoughts, as thoughts often do when one fixates unchecked upon the beddable body of their heart’s desire, began to run away with themselves once again. He had no idea what his face was doing, but when Brennan finally looked up to address him, she stopped mid sentence.

“Booth, the cartilaginous union between—,” she began, squinting at the cranium which she held upside-down midair. “Holy invertebrates! Why are you looking at me—” She glanced down at her chest to see if something was amiss. “Uh,” she lowered the cranium and cocked her head to the side accusingly; “you do know it is not literally possible to burn a hole through a cotton-polyester blend by staring intently at it for an extended period of time? You do know that, right?”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he chuckled. “But if you could, you would have gone up in flames about ten minutes ago.”

She smirked back at him, then smiled. “What are you thinking over there? You have a mischievous expression on your face.”

Booth shrugged with one shoulder and his eyebrows. “Thinking about doing what I’m told.” He said. Then, “did I say that outloud?” He chuckled at himself and dragged a palm over his forehead. “Ohhhh,” he moaned.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means I said exactly what I was thinking, Bones, without meaning to.”

“I understood that part, but the rest you’re going to have to explain,” she said calmly, a hint of flirtatiousness in her voice to match the mischievousness in his expression. “What did you mean by ‘doing what you were told’?”

“Well,” he began, straightening up and adjusting his shoulders as if his shirt were crooked. “The last line of the song.”

Brennan looked up at the ceiling, her mouth moving as she recalled the words of the song. “Get lost in the rock and roll?” She prompted coquettishly. This felt like a game. It was a game. “Thank goodness I’m nearly finished with Banty’s remains,” she said, stretching her head side to side almost touching her shoulders. “Oh, I can barely think. I’m freezing and exhausted. Hungry too.”

“I’ll help you out. If I recall correctly, which believe me, I do, the last line was ‘Take me.”

“Hm. Yes. Though it doesn’t indicate where the songwriter wants to be taken to. Though,” she said, then paused thoughtfully. “‘Take me’, in the vernacular, could refer to capturing someone for the purpose of sexual intercourse. And since it is an intimate and poetic tribute to one person’s appreciation for the other’s—” Brennan couldn’t think of the right words. She’d gotten caught up in singing the song, but now all she remembered was the feeling … which she couldn’t put into words. “It’s about one person who is grateful to the other person for …”

“—having brought Pringles into their life?”

Brennan smiled, astonished. “Precisely, Booth. That was exactly the intent of the song. Therefore, one could make the intuitive leap that the ‘take me’ command was in reference to the sex act.” A congratulatory smile lifted one side of her mouth.

“That’s what I took it to mean,” Booth snorted, looking up at her through his lashes.

“You,” she said playfully, “are flirting with me, Agent Booth.”

“You,” he answered, mimicking her tone, “are correct, Dr. Brennan.”

They stared at each other over the table for a moment, neither saying anything.

“So, mathematically speaking, that would mean that you were considering taking me sexually …”

“Hm,” he grunted, glancing at the floor, then rubbing his eyes, and standing up straight. He unrolled his shirt cuffs, which he’d rolled up to splash water on his face.

“Oh.” Brennan’s eyes dropped to the table as a spear of adrenaline shot through her chest. “I see.” She chuckled to herself.

Booth chuckled quietly. “So, how much time we got left here?”

“Give me another ten or fifteen, then another fifteen to pack the remains, seal them for Hodgins.

Ten minutes later she was staring at the cranium through the magnifying glass. She carefully dropped her wrists onto the table and growled in frustration. “I am so cold, Booth. Geez!” She stomped her feet to increase her circulation. “My nose is cold. I’ve lost feeling in my toes and the the tips of my fingers are numb.”

“Okay. Tell me about the panties.”

“Wha—I’m working!”

“Yeah, but, if you wanna warm up, think warm thoughts. I have an idea.” Booth retrieved a clear tarp from the supplies closet and tried to wrap it around her, but it kept falling off. He gave up, and wrapped it around himself, then hopped up and sat on the table next to the laptop, communication equipment, and Brennan’s bags. He watched her as she stood at her table, huddled over Banty’s remains.

“Maybe those are warm thoughts for you,” Brennan said, frustrated that his attempts to warm her had been fruitless. “They are just undergarments to me.” Brennan objected, then sighed loudly and rolled her eyes when Booth continued to stare at her, saying nothing, waiting. “They’re black,” she admitted, pretending to be bored by the topic.

“I already knew that. What else?”

“What, like you mean … like that they are really small?”

“Yeah,” he said, intrigued. “How small?” He sniffed, then rubbed his own numb nose. He peered at her with great interest.

“Microscopic.”

“You lie like a rug.”

She shrugged and puckered coquettishly, saying nothing. “I do not lie. I may … embellish … if I think it will bring you pleasure …” She winked at him.

“Well, I appreciate that,” he chuffed, his stomach doing summersaults in response to the twinkle in her eye.

“Good. Your turn.”

“For what?”

“Tell me something that will raise my temperature.”

“Okay. I just took you. Right here,” he said, nodding at the tabletop where Banty lay.

“What?” She said, her eyes distractedly glancing over the cranium still in her hand, but now resting on the table.

“I just took you—”

“Took me where?”

“Right here—,” he announced, tapping firmly on the tabletop with his index finger. “—on this table.”

She stared hard at him as if he had a third eye.

“You’re not making sense, Booth.” Then she saw the corners of his mouth salaciously curling, the delight in his eyes. “Wha—you mean—sexually, like in the song?”

“Wa-hoh yeah,” he chuckled devilishly, “Right here.” He pressed his lips together and grinned, his eyebrows jumping, then quickly dropping. He glanced at Banty’s remains and paused. Then his eyes fell to the floor. “How clean do you think this floor is?”

Brennan snorted. “Booth, surely you don’t mean that literally. How could you find this place inspiring sexually?!” She stared at him, stunned and perplexed. “Please tell me you don’t actually mean here,” She asked hopefully.

“Of course not.” He answered, backpedaling as he shrugged uncomfortably. The conversation had taken a weird turn that he hadn’t intended. In actuality, he would be happy to take her anywhere regardless of the conditions. I’m a man, he thought to himself. It’s just my nature. However, it was obvious Brennan was not at all entertained by the idea. Tapping on his temple, he added, “I can take you anywhere I want because it’s my imagination, my fantasy. And this is the number one sex organ, right? The good old noggin,” he said tapping his temple.

Brennan picked up the femur and grunted. “As long as it’s somewhere clean and in no way related to the work we do, Booth. I’m willing to be adventurous, but even I have limits.”

Booth pursed his lips for a moment, drawing a blank over where to go from there.

Brennan’s relieved sigh was a reset button. “Okay, Big Dog, say more,” she encouraged cautiously.

“Uh, okay. Let’s say I took you on the carpeted floor of a very clean living room in front of a crackling fire. Oh, and I fed you strawberries and champagne first.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Huh? How’s that for an, uh, inspiring location?”

“Mmm. It’s a little cliché, but I’ll take it,” she said, with a smile. “I’d prefer raspberries,” she added with an open smile.

“Then you shall have raspberries. And it’s cliché because it’s a great idea, Bones. Have you ever done that? You know, on the floor with a fire and maybe a little wine?”

“No, but this attempt to inspire warm thoughts is beginning to work. However, you’ve a long way to go to thaw my toes.”

That’s not the body part I was aiming for, he almost said.

“Come on,” she urged him playfully. “Everything’s foreplay,” she added, as if she’d read his mind. “What was I wearing?”

“Very tiny underwear. Black,” he grinned.

“Is that all?” She laughed.

“And one of my shirts, maybe.” He closed his eyes and smiled at the image he saw in his mind’s eye. “Yeah,” he said in a low voice. “One of the shirts I wear for work. Long, down past the butt, you know, with buttons up the front, a collar, rolled up cuffs. Your hair down around your shoulders. The shirt unbuttoned to about right here,” he said tapping on the bottom tip of his own sternum. His smile deepened, his eyes still closed.

Brennan watched as he did this little exercise. She saw his eyes moving underneath the lids, his mouth moving a bit as he smiled; chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, sighed. She wanted to see what he was seeing. She wanted to be in there with him; inside his fantasy, seeing the fire in his eyes and the desire in the increasing tempo of his heartbeat. She suddenly noticed she’d become flushed with warmth. Hands, feet, nose, and elbows were still freezing, but her shoulders, chest, and thighs were beginning to get quite warm and tingly.

Booth opened his eyes to find hers trained intently upon his. Her work was all but forgotten for the moment. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t upset. She was drawn in. Her mouth fell open. Booth shifted his weight, and stared back at her, caught in the intensity of her gaze.

Brennan closed her mouth and leaned forward against her table. For a long moment they stool like that, everything else falling away. Brennan exhaled and relaxed, an tender aura overtaking her.

“And you are wearing everything you have on now,” she said quietly. “Except the belt, your socks and shoes, and perhaps your watch. And you’ve just come home. No, wait. First you come home, then you take off your belt, your shoes and socks, and your watch.” Her smile warmed Booth throughout, sending a shiver through him. “And you join me in front of the fire.”

Booth smiled back, the outside corners of his eyes crinkling. They both sighed, then chuckled.

“So,” said Brennan, breaking the shared trance. “Did I enjoy myself … on this carpeted floor in front of a crackling fire, plied as I was with alcohol and raspberries … maybe a little chocolate as well?”

“Well, of course,” he announced, confidently, following her lead. “Of course!” The ‘duh!’ was implied.

“Wha—how can you be so sure?” She queried, raising a graceful eyebrow, sending the challenge; an arrow to the ego.

“It was my fantasy, that’s how I know,” he said teasingly. “Uh,” he looked around, scratching his head as he did so. “There aren’t any security cameras in here are there?” He glanced around the ceiling, the walls.

“There aren’t. I already checked. So tell me, in your fantasy, how did you know I enjoyed myself?”

“Okay,” he said, shrugging, “what the hell, why not? Okay. You purred like a kitten. Then you howled like a wolf at a full moon. Then—then you panted like a puppy,” he said quickly, almost chewing his words. “Then you purred like a kitten again, snuggled up against my chest—”

“Yeah—?”

“And took a nap.”

Brennan gasp-laughed. “Ha!”

“What?”

She stared blankly for a moment. The silence stretched to a yawn. “I’m usually much more participatory, energetic,” she said pensively, then turned back to her work.

Booth snorted. “You were tired. You let me do all the work.”

“Yes. That makes sense.” She quirked a perfect eyebrow and smiled, then gave an approving frown and nodded.

“You are quite poetic, Booth,” Brennan said a moment later.

“What?”

“Your description of your fantasy. You do use a great deal of animal imagery, however.”

“Hm. It goes along with my animal magnetism.”

“Throughout antiquity, people with sentimental temperaments such as yours have made their living by recording history through poetry, telling stories about a victorious hunt, politics, love. All you need is a commission and a sponsor.”

“What, like a king paying me to write something like ‘The Iliad’ or ‘The Odyssey’? Shakespeare?”

“The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ are Homer. Shakespeare wrote ‘Hamlet’—.”

“—I knew that,” Booth said, defensively. “I took some poetry, remember? Shakespeare also wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’—”

“—And ‘Othello’.”

“—And ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Kiss me, Kate!”

“Precisely. There are fights in some of those, great battles between the forces of good and evil. Maybe you’d enjoy writing about that?”

“Hm. I don’t know. Like I said, you’re the real writer, Bones.” But he thought about it for several moments. “Okay, check this out.” He cleared his throat and held a hand up in the air as if about to make a proclamation. “Here goes.”

‘Gave my heart to a woman named Bones.
Who paid me in kisses and moans …’

“What rhymes with moans?” He said, scratching his chin, his brow pinched in thought. “Stones, phones, condones, microphones, jones—”

Brennan shook her head and giggled. “It doesn’t have to rhyme exactly, Booth.”

“—Loans moans, pones, clones, roans, sloans, tones, thrones, bemoans, known—what a minute. Thrones. That could work.” He cleared his throat and began at the beginning.

‘Gave my heart to a woman named Bones.
Who paid me in kisses and moans,
With a smile on her face,
She offered me grace …
… And I felt like a king on a throne.’

Brennan grimaced and nodded several times. “It’s a very fine start.”

“Your turn,” he said.

Brennan looked up in surprise and shook her head. “I don’t know. You’re the romantic.”

“But you write all that great stuff between Agent Andy and Kathy Reichs. That’s gotta come from somewhere … other than Angela, I mean. She may give you the ideas, but you put them into words.”

Brennan smirked, but could see he meant it. “I’ll think about it. Later. Right now I want to get this done and get out of here.” Ten minutes into her concentrated efforts, Booth’s fantasy all but forgotten, Brennan was freezing again. “Aghhhhh! I can barely function!” She groaned, spreading her fingers wide then slowly curling her fingers, knuckle by knuckle, into fists. She clenched them several more times, trying to force circulation, before acceding that her nervous system’s numbness was delaying the commands from her brain to her extremities.

“You are such a wimp, Bones.” Booth propelled himself off the examination table he was sitting on, his tarp crackling like heavy boots through a layer of day old ice.

“Oh, said he wrapped up in a sheet of plastic like a package of Ritz crackers!” She snorted derisively.

“Hey, at least I’m warm!” He walked to the corner of the room and turned the faucet of the utility sink. He shoved his paws into the stream of warm water and cranked the knob further to the left. Plunging liquid soap into his palm, he vigorously scrubbed both hands up to his elbows, allowing the tarp to fall away behind him.

“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I have some official FBI business to tend to that I might as well take care of right now.”

“Official FBI business. That’s ominous sounding,” Brennan replied unemotionally.

“Yeah,” he said, drying his hands on a paper from the rotary towel dispenser. Tossing the towel in the trash can, he walked up behind Brennan and slid his hands over her hips. “Seems there was a report submitted straight to the top.”

Brennan gasped, and stopped what she was doing. “Wha—Cullen? Does it have to do with this case?”

“It has to do with someone working on the case.”

“Hm,” she grunted. “Someone at the Jeffersonian?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.”

“Who?”

“It appears there was a report submitted, to someone higher than God, that a certain item of clothing had gone missing.”

After a moment of silence, Brennan laughed out loud and leaned her head backward to rest on Booth’s chin. “Panty raid,” she nodded and sighed in amused resignation. “Well, I know how seriously you take your job, Agent Booth.” She snorted.

“I figured you might,” he whispered into her ear and kissed her cheek, causing a shiver to scamper down her spine.


Brennan sat on the couch in the darkened ante room of her hotel room. As she waited for Booth to emerge from the bathroom to tell her what had been upsetting him all evening, she smiled wanly, recalling what happened after Booth reminded her about the texts they’d exchanged during the morning’s meeting with the Jeffersonian team. Then she thought about the poem she had finally constructed and recited for him in this very room before he left. It was when she’d gone into the bedroom to write down the poem that he’d escaped despite his promises that he wouldn’t leave. She’d entitled her poem ‘Sir Seeley’, and he’d seemed pleased with it.

Her mind wandered to the surprising discovery Booth had made as they had prepared to leave the King County medical examiner’s office, and was once again impressed by his acute attention to detail. This might actually crack the case wide open, she thought to herself, then turned toward the bedroom when she heard movement behind the door …


Bring me to the next chapter, ‘Sir Seeley’ >>>

<<< Bring me to the previous chapter, ‘The Meaning in the Name’

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#BONES Fiction TWATH:AB2P 215 ‘The Meaning in the Name’

AAATogether

The Meaning in the Name

What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose

By any other name
Would smell as sweet

~ Shakespeare

Brennan pulled the door closed behind her as she passed into the anteroom—leaving Booth alone and stunned, in her bathroom. It wasn’t until she’d slumped onto the couch facing the glass doors leading onto the balcony that she realized she had been shaking. Then she spied her roses, six white and one red, sprawled on the floor between the glass doors and the coffee table which had been knocked askew. What happened in here and why didn’t I notice this before—she wondered. And what happened to the vase the roses were in?

She knelt over the coffee table to gather the roses Booth had arranged for her to receive at the front desk when they first arrived at the hotel. She drew them across her cheek and under her nose inhaling their spicy sweetness, remembering Booth’s words:

“They represent our journey together, Bones. Six years of friendship followed by a year of passion to come”, he’d said sheepishly. “Six white, one red.”

“When I think of us, where we are now, I think of orange. Do you know why, Booth?” She’d countered playfully, pulling the red flower from the vase and dragging it’s petals across his upper lip.

“Orange? What, it’s your favorite popsicle flavor?” He’d chortled, taking it from her hand and dragging it along her jaw until she released a low chuckle and grabbed it back from him.

“Because though red is traditionally recognized as the color of love and romance, orange is the color of desire and exuberant enthusiasm.”

A grin had crept across his face, his lips forming a silent, “Ohhhh,” before she covered them with an exuberantly enthusiastic and seductively adventurous kiss.

“Orange,” he said in a hoarse whisper several moments later. “Good to know.”

Brennan smiled at the memory of that snippet of conversation and drank in the scent once again as if it could magically purify her. Like shucking off a sweater on a cool day turned unexpectedly warm, she released herself from concerns of vases and catawampus coffee tables—leaving only room for thoughts of Booth.

She rubbed her tired eyes, and dropped onto the couch with a limp bounce. Knowing that he was only feet away was reassuring. She allowed her shoulders to drop and her chest to rise, then fall, with the first truly deep breaths since she’d answered his call a mere ten minutes earlier. Barely hanging up the phone, she’d fled to his room to find him shaken and disoriented. She had assumed he’d had another nightmare. Soon he would walk out of the bathroom and tell her all about it. I hope I say the right thing—I hope I can, on some level, she thought, understand what he’s going through and be able to provide him some comfort. And, together, I hope we can confront his demons so he can have peace!

As was her nature, Brennan shuffled through the events of the day looking for clues as to what might have brought on the nightmare. It wasn’t the fear of being unequally yoked,she reminded herself. Ed Williams had calmed Booth’s fears in regard to spiritual equality. Then what, in the name of all invertebrates, did they discuss afterwards? She demanded from the universe, knowing she’d get no response. The second half of their discussion is clearly the source of his angst. The timing supports this theory, she told herself. He was fine, almost sanguine, before we got onto the flight to Washington and before his conversation with Ed—but he was clearly agitated after their talk.

Something more had happened later to further agitate him, though he’d tried to deny it. Booth had brooded in the car from the airport into downtown Seattle, then something at the medical examiner’s office had panicked him. Was it something I did; something I said? What was it? Brennan bit the inside of her lip and sucked air through her teeth making a chirping sound, then squeezed her eyes closed to sharpen her focus. She quizzed herself, reviewing the details of the evening.

Sheriff Restovich and Deputy LeSerf had been standing inside the glass doors anxiously awaiting the arrival of Brennan and Booth at 908 Jefferson Street when the town car pulled up to the curb.

“What do you mean we’re leaving our suitcases in the town car?” Asked Brennan insistently as she stood on the damp sidewalk in front of Harborview Medical Center where the King County Medical Examiner was housed. Booth, standing behind the car and talking with Sebastian, was unresponsive. “Doesn’t Sebastian have other fares to take care of?”

Booth finally shot Brennan a big-eyed don’t-get-your-panties-in-a-twist look.

“Booth!” She took a step toward him and reached out to tug on his sleeve.

Booth signed. He grabbed her hand and tucked it into the crook of his elbow, patting it with finality as he tore his eyes from Sebastian and glanced in her direction. “They are taking our stuff straight up to our rooms at the hotel, Bones.” He said, reaching down to scoop up an instrument bag with his other arm.

“Are you sure? That can’t be right, Booth. What kind of taxi service provides that kind of—uh, service?”

“Trust me, this kind does. The car belongs to the hotel. It’s a service that the hotel provides to some of its guests. Hey,” he said excitedly, cocking a brow at her, “maybe they heard that the famous Dr. Temperance Brennan, the most prestigious forensic anthropologist in the world, was coming to stay at their hotel, huh?” Booth grinned smugly, impressed with his own ingenuity.

“Hm,” she grunted, considering the possibility. “That does make sense. Perhaps that’s why we have been prohibited from offering gratuities to the driver. You are sure tips are included in our room rate?”

“Positive,” Booth said, leading her in the direction of the entrance to the building. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Wait, Booth! The communication equipment!” Brennan glanced over her shoulder toward the town car.

“Oh, yes! Right, right,” he said, realizing the laptop bag containing the communication equipment was still sitting on the sidewalk beside the car. “Tell ya what, you head in there and I’ll be right behind you, alright?”

“But—I’ll carry it if you’ll just hand it to me, Booth.”

“You just—get in there,” he directed sharply as he put his lips to her cheek for a quick but warm kiss before propelling her toward the glass door. “Look! That must be Sherriff Restovich right there. She looks quite excited to see you.”

“Well—” Brennan mumbled, surveying the two women standing just inside the glass doors. In appearance, they couldn’t have been more opposite. “I suppose—”

The first uniformed woman, though five-foot-nothing and barely 110 lbs, was shapely and meticulously dressed. Her mess of curly white-blond hair was kept at bay by a thin black headband. Two errant pin curls sprang, one from each temple, giving the impression she’d just sprouted nascent horns. She had crystal blue eyes; her solid round cheeks tacked in place by extraordinarily deep dimples. Her incongruously generous chest defined the term ‘bust line’ straining against her uniform giving the impression that at any moment she may topple over. Her trousers clung to the contours of her thighs belying a hard won sturdiness born of hundreds of hours on the uneven bars followed by both high school and college varsity volleyball. Simply put, Restovich was a pack of dynamite in a tan wrapper. Brennan later mentioned to Booth that Restovich looked like a Kewpie Doll in a Marilyn Monroe wig.

When Restovich spotted Brennan, beads of sweat popped out of her forehead, her face was flush with excitement. Like a child at the arrival gate awaiting her mother, Restovich fluttered a hummingbird wave and broke into an overly eager smile.

Beside Restovich stood a handsomely large-boned, golden-skinned woman who towered over her partner by a solid ten inches. She wore a waist-length mane barely restrained in an ebony French braid, which lay upon her spine like a dozing reptile. Deputy Annette LeSerf exuded an air of restrained curiosity. Her stance was strong and solid, but her uniform hung loose enough to mask her figure. Her clean face was accented with a broad mouth filled with strong, square teeth.

LeSerf possessed a quiet confidence that men often misconstrued as timidity until they experienced her wry sense of humor. Her fellow male officers considered her one of the guys—with breasts, of course. LeSerf was stoic by nature and at complete ease with other people’s husbands and boyfriends. No female with two good eyes in her head considered LeSerf a threat once they got to know her. LeSerf wore her tender though protected heart on her sleeve and only had eyes for Sheriff Sharon Restovich. Everyone understood this—except the Sheriff herself.

Brennan stopped in her tracks at the spectacle of the two women standing just inside the glass doors, and turned back toward Booth.

“Booth—!”

“Listen, will you just—get in there? Just—go!” Booth urged, slightly annoyed. He wanted a private word with Sebastian before the chauffeur drove off.

Brennan smirked, then relented and faced her audience. As soon as she was inside the glass door, Restovich grabbed her hand in two of her own and began pumping energetically as if trying to fill a pail with water from a spigot.

“I’m so excited that you are here, Ma’am!” She gasped in a breathy voice, nearly pulling Brennan’s arm out of its socket. Restovich gulped several times to catch her breath. Brennan startled and tried ineffectually to reclaim her hand.

“You are so very—extraordinarily—beautiful,” Restovich panted and squealed in a worshipful voice.

“While it is accurate that under usual conditions I am considered—beautiful—though not extraordinarily so, mathematically speaking—that’s hardly an appropriate greeting between professionals. Can you direct me to the Medical Examiner’s office, please?” Brennan stared pointedly at her phalanges and metacarpals, her appendicular epidermis white from dwindling circulation. “And would you kindly release me?!”

“Uh—well,” Restovich began while struggling to determine whether or not this was a good time to ask her idol for an autograph. “Well—um, cert-certainly—” Restovich said haltingly; giving no indication she intended to stop pumping. Her pallor deepened from red to eggplant as she tried to make a quick decision. She was as flummoxed as a contestant on Let’s Make A Deal faced with choosing between the Brand New Car and Door Number 2! The purple flush continued its climb up her scalp under her mane of goldilocks.

Deputy Annette LeSerf took a step forward, gently but firmly took hold of Restovich and Brennan’s wrists, and pulled their hands apart with a forced grunt. Clearing her throat, she extended her own hand in greeting.

“I apologize. May I assume you are Dr. Temperance Brennan from the Jeffersonian Institution in D.C.?”

“I am,” responded Brennan, wiping her hand on her pants and hesitating before accepting LeSerf’s extended hand.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Deputy Annette LeSerf, and—allow me introduce you to Sheriff Sharon Restovich.”

“Oh!” Brennan blurted, straightening her clothing and bending to retrieve her bag which had ended up underfoot during the frantic greeting. She glanced between LeSerf and Restovich several times, scrutinizing the later, unconvinced of her authority. “This can’t be the Sheriff! She’s barely coherent!”

LeSerf pursed her lips, cocked an eyebrow and grimaced reproachfully. “Yes, she most certainly is the sheriff! Sharon, er, Sheriff Restovich is also your biggest fan, Dr. Brennan. She has all of your books —she’s read all of your articles—”

“But—but, she’s not even coherent! Are you sure she can read?” Brennan impugned, her brow wrinkling in incredulity.

“Of course she can read!” Snapped LeSerf, barely controlling her irritation. “She is the Sheriff—and one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She runs this whole place! Well, not this place—” she huffed, twisting to gesture toward the edifice of the Harborview Medical Center. “Sheriff Restovich is the head of all law enforcement here in King County.”

Restovich stood beside LeSerf nodding eagerly, unrankled by Brennan’s unflattering comments.

IMG_1907

“Listen,” said LeSerf in a low forceful voice, “Sharon is simply suffering from hyper excitement over meeting her celebrity crush—uh, I mean, someone of your distinction.” LeSerf’s ears pinked as Restovich’s head continued to bob in confirmation as she fanned herself.

“Well—you may want to sit down, Sheriff Restovich,” offered Brennan, concerned. “Does she suffer from cerebral hyperperfusion syndrome?” Brennan glanced between the two uniformed women and grabbed Restovich’s wrist to ascertain her heart rate. “Without proper medical attention she’s at risk of intracerebral or subarachnoid hemorrhage. She’s so—flushed. Unless she’s perhaps—”

“I assure you this is merely situational, Dr. Brennan. She is usually not like this and, in general, she’s as healthy as a horse. She’s just a little—over stimulated—or perhaps—.” A thought struck LeSerf, causing her head to snap toward Restovich. “Sharon! Did you even eat today?!”

“Uh—um,” Restovich chirped guiltily, her enormous eyes still glued to Brennan. “Maybe an apple—for lunch?”

LeSerf shot Restovich a reproving glare and received a sheepish shrugging half-grin in return. LeSerf rolled her eyes and shook her head, and then dropped her forehead into her hand before turning back to Brennan.

“It appears she’s got low blood sugar. Sometimes she just gets too busy and forgets to eat altogether.”

At that moment Booth sailed through the door to stand behind his partner.

“You must be Agent Seeley Booth?” The taller woman said smartly as she stepped toward him.

“That I am. You must be Sheriff Restovich?” Booth set down the instrument case and received her greeting.

“I’m Deputy LeSerf. This is Sheriff Restovich,” LeSerf stepped back and nudged Restovich forward when Booth extended his hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Agent—Agent Booth,” choked Restovich tearing her wide eyes from Brennan to look dismissively at him. Her focus snapped back to Brennan like an overstretched rubber band.

“We have everything set up for you in the Medical Examiner’s Office. I have read all of Dr. Brennan’s books,” gushed Restovich, “and cannot tell you how this is a dream come true—I mean, what an utter privilege it is—for me, I mean, uh, all of Seattle to have a renowned person such as Dr. Brennan here in our fine city!”

“Well, we wish it could be under better circumstances,” Booth said wryly, then shared a glance to meet his partner’s eyes before facing LeSerf again.

Restovich glanced at Booth as if she’d only just now realized he was actually there. Turning toward Brennan once again, she began listing to the left as all color drained from her cheeks. Her mouth had suddenly gone as dry as an Arizona sidewalk. “Uh—” she panted, swaying slightly against LeSerf as more beads of sweat popped out along her hairline. Still concentrating on Brennan’s face, Restovich’s eyes glimmered with panic. She glanced pleadingly at LeSerf, her mouth opening and closing like a trout out of water.

“Whoops! Where’s your blood testing kit?!” LeSerf demanded, holding her partner up.

“What—?!” Restovich said, agitated, her speech slightly slurred. “I’m fine, Netty, I’m fine,” she wheezed unconvincingly.

LeSerf began to speak quickly toward Brennan and Booth as she took Restovich by the elbow. “The Sheriff is an enthusiastic servant of the people of this city and an even more dedicated fan of yours, Dr. Brennan. Please forgive her this awkward first impression. I promise by tomorrow she will have regained her wits and will be able to help you in any way you see fit.”

“But, what about—?” Brennan objected.

“Yesh!” Sharon blurted, her slur become more pronounced. She rallied as she vainly attempted to combat the effects of her failing nervous system and remain vertical. “Yesh—musht-stt unner-undersand-stand,” she said slowly, clearing her throat in disappointment of her inability to articulate what she wanted to say. She wrung her sweaty, shaky hands and felt her nose itch, but didn’t dare rub it for fear she wouldn’t be able to stop.

She looked hopefully at Brennan; hope that this would be forgotten by tomorrow.

Booth slid a sideways glance at Brennan telepathically begging her to respond mercifully toward this poor star-struck woman.

Brennan met Booth’s gaze and attempted to read his thoughts. He nodded ever so slightly with the side of his head in the direction of Sheriff Restovich. A smile of comprehension slowly overcame Brennan’s features.

“I appreciate the enthusiastic welcome,” she began, flicking a glance back to Booth for approval. Booth rewarded her with a shallow nod and a sideways grin. “… And—and,” she glanced back at Booth, then back to LeSerf and Restovich, “—and I Look forward to—to—” She sighed wearily and dropped the façade. “Would you mind just bringing us to the medical examiner’s office,” she said, feeling this whole episode was going on way too long.

“Cert—certainly!” Exclaimed Restovich, though it was evident she was in no condition to do anything of the sort.

“Certainly, Dr. Brennan. Give me one moment—” LeSerf held them off with a flat palm as she discretely whispered something into Sharon’s ear receiving a lazy nod in response. LeSerf accompanied Restovich back down the hall and returned alone a moment later.

“Sheriff Restovich has some rather urgent police business to attend to at present. Can I take that case, Agent Booth?”

“She was a lot more professional on the phone—” LeSerf overheard Booth mumbling to Brennan.

“Honestly—Agent Booth, Dr. Brennan, please don’t hold this against Sharon. She is more than just a fan of your work. You inspired her to go back to school for her masters in forensics.”

Brennan stared at the deputy, unsure what to say.

“She’s also a diabetic who didn’t eat all afternoon. I’ve, uh, actually never seen her this unhinged. She was just so anxious to meet you.”

“I have never seen such a severe reaction from a connoisseur of my publications,” answered Brennan quietly, realizing she hadn’t eaten since mid afternoon. “Will she be okay?”

“I promise you, once she’s had some real food and some sleep, maybe a little biofeedback … she will be right as rain and most likely thoroughly embarrassed!” LeSerf pursed her lips in regret. “Please, Dr. Brennan, she is the most wonderful person I know, and smart as a whip—”

“Whips are sentient and therefore they have no IQ—” Brennan objected.

“She’s just a little over enthusiastic, overwhelmed,” her voice trailed off distractedly.

A silence ensued during which Brennan shifted her weight from foot to foot then picked up the communication equipment Booth had deposited at her feet.

“The morgue?” Booth quirked an eyebrow quizzically toward LeSerf.

“Yes. Absolutely,” LeSerf said. “Right this way.” She turned abruptly as if awakened from a daydream and led them through the vestibule and into a wide blunt hallway flanked on either side by five conventional-sized elevator cars and, finally, a much wider elevator with fire engine red doors. The paint on the doors was glossy and thick having been repainted at least twenty times to cover the scrapes and gouges suffered from collisions with large heavy object on wheels propelled by impatient people. They stood in front of the doors waiting.

LeSerf selected a gold key from a substantial collection hanging from a chain on her belt. She inserted it into the control panel, rotated it twice, and pressed the button with the red number three. After a moment of silence, the car wailed and screeched its irritation at being called to duty.

“Uh, I requested some information from Sheriff Restovich?” Booth glanced back over his shoulder in the direction from which they’d just come.

“Yes. I have everything for you right here,” she said nodding down at four thick manila file folders in the crook of her left arm. “In these files are the original police and coroner reports. You’ll also find contact information for forty-two other individuals including those who discovered the remains at Island Center Forest and all persons associated with the Banty Solicious case—family, friends, co-workers, bosses, teachers—boyfriends.” She handed him the short stack of battered folders.

“Can you send this to me digitally?”

“Already e-mailed to the address you gave Sharon, er, Sheriff Restovich. She thought you’d want the hard copies tonight so you could look at them while you’re here. Unfortunately, the Internet is sketchy in the dungeon, er, the morgue. We weren’t sure you’d be able to access all of this digitally tonight while you’re down here.”

“Gotcha—does this include everyone involved in putting that bike trail in the park over the spot where she was found?”

“Yes, sir. And the boyfriend.”

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned her boyfriend, Deputy. What’s that all about?”

“He was the main suspect. Last to see her alive, though he never admitted it and we couldn’t prove it. Name’s Tanner Speary. Handsome guy, if you like that sorta thing. Still lives in town. Says he’s still looking for her killer. Some say he’s a little crazy. Got discharged from the Air Force because of all this.”

“Hm,” Brennan and Booth grunted in unison, then shared an interested glance.

A ding announced the elevator’s arrival and the doors chugged open. The three stepped into the large cubicle and were quickly enveloped in the aromas associated with government buildings: floor wax, tired metal, copier toner, and ammonia. LeSerf pressed the button for the third sub level.

As the elevator doors closed and the car began its painfully slow descent, Booth set down the instrument case and began flipping through the pages of the first file.

“I don’t understand your comment about the boyfriend, Tanner—?” Brennan raised an inquisitive brow in LeSerf’s direction. Booth looked up from the files.

“Speary. Tanner Speary. Yeah. Strange situation. What did you want to know?”

“What exactly do you mean by, ‘he’s handsome, if you like that kind of thing’?”

“Oh, uh, very serious young man. Very serious. Very clean cut, still totally military—even though he was discharged for being a mental case. Lotsa folks think he killed her then snapped-kind of a O.J. Simpson thing.”

“But—what bearing does his physical attractiveness have on the case?”

“Well, some say he was cut some slack because he was a media darling. The reporters at the Chronicle—that’s the King County Chronicle—all had crushes on him. One reporter, Banjo Jones—I know, strange name—she wrote an exposé on his efforts to find her killer. The others accused her of just trying to get into his—uh—life,” she said, coughing to cover her euphemism.

“We’ll have to talk with both of them tomorrow first thing,” Booth said. “Bring them in—but not together—and don’t let them talk beforehand. Can you do that?”

“Absolutely, sir. Anyone else you’d like me to arrange for? Perhaps the Soliciouses, Banty’s parents? They are the only ones who know you’re here since they had to approve the exhumation, of course.”

“I’d – well, we’d like to see them first. Find out what they think of this Tristan guy.”

“Tanner. Tanner Speary, sir. I’ll set it all up. Anything else?”

“I’ll let you know.”

“The medical examiner, I’d like to talk with him tomorrow,” added Brennan.

“Well, I’d arrange that if I could, but Dr. Shcherbakov, he’s in the same cemetery Ms. Solicious was dug up from. He passed away about six months ago. His second in command, Dr. Astor, took over for him but hasn’t had the heart to remove any of the old guy’s personal effects from the morgue. You do have Dr. Sherb’s—that’s what we call, uh, called Dr. Shcherbakov —Sherb—you have his complete notes there,” she said, nodding to the files in Booth’s hands. “Billy Astor—the new guy—he worked with Sherb when Banty was discovered. May have even been the one who actually performed the autopsy—if you can call it that, an autopsy, I mean.” LeSerf nodded hopefully toward the files in Booth’s hands. “I may also be able to find one or two of his protégés that were here when the remains were found. Would that be helpful?”

“Yes, it would. Thank you, Deputy LeSerf.”

Inside the first of the four files, Booth perused the specifics he was already familiar with:

Victim: Banty Louise Solicious, born April 29, 1985
Last seen: June 17, 2006
Date found: May 30, 2007, eleven months and two weeks after reported missing.
Location: Island Center Forest
Found by: Jonnifer Strider, surveyor, and Bjorn Anderson, geologist, contractors hired by Elson’s Excavation to provide survey information to be included in King County RFP #28957 requesting bids for installation of a bike path

“Banty was twenty-one years old,” remarked Booth doing a quick calculation, his brows reaching for each other across his forehead. “Aleesha Grimes—wasn’t she twenty-one?”

“Yes, she was,” Brennan confirmed. “Why?”

“Just noticing. That’s all.” Booth glanced up at the elevator control panel. “Man, how far down are we going? This is either the longest or the slowest elevator ride in history.” He allowed the file cover to drift closed.

“Well,” replied LeSerf, “it sure seems sometimes that this elevator goes all the way to H-E-Double-Toothpicks, based on what you might see when the doors open!”

“Does this open directly into the morgue proper?” Asked Brennan.

“No. The morgue is down the hall to the left and just around the corner, but it can still get dicey in the halls. For example, we just had a thirty-car pile up with eighteen fatalities. We had toes tagged up and down the hall on both sides. The morgue is slated for expansion in 2018, but right now all we have is a walk-in refrigeration unit with a capacity of, uh, nine—you know, nine cadavers—but we can squeeze fifteen in there in a pinch. Standing room only, of course, if you’ll pardon the pun,” she said, chuffing at her own joke.

Brennan and Booth’s eyes slid toward each other and glanced away quickly, both trying not to groan or roll their eyes.

“I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word pun, Deputy LeSerf,” objected Brennan. “Cadavers can’t stand—”

“Bones—” Booth quickly whispered under his breath. He shook his head when her eyes met his and received a return ‘What? I’m not wrong’ expression back from his partner.

“So, eighteen cadavers all at once this week plus our usual traffic was—whew!—well, it wasn’t pretty. Like a scene straight out of that Vincent Price movie, ‘House of Wax’. Remember that? All the statues on display at the museum were actually real dead people dipped in wax?!” LeSerf shivered involuntarily. “To this day I still can’t take a step inside a museum without a little pharmaceutical assistance, if ya’ know what I mean, heh.”

“I love museums,” sad Brennan in a bland tone. “I work in one of the finest in the country—”

“No offense intended,” LeSerf interjected quickly, trying not to make eye contact with Brennan or Booth. “The Jeffersonian is highly regarded. Sharon, er, Sheriff Restovich—well, its her dream to visit there one day—” LeSerf wiped away the nervous perspiration gathering on her forehead and above her lip. If she offended these two and Restovich found out, LeSerf would never hear the end of it.

As if in response to a silent plea for a diversion, the car came to a whining stop then paused before the doors arthritically chugged open. Brennan leaned forward and stopped, frozen in place by the cloying stench of decomposing flesh.

“Mother of God!” Booth gagged and quickly curled the Banty Solicious files around his face. LeSerf squinted and cupped a hand over her nose and mouth.

Within moments, the noxious fumes seeped into the car and expanded to envelop the three seemingly paralyzed passengers.

Brennan shut off the air intake into her nasal cavity and took slow shallow breaths through tight lips. “Putrefaction,” she mumbled and walked, undaunted, out of the elevator. LeSerf and Booth cautiously followed.

“We had commercial grade fans and three dehumidifiers down here all weekend. It was a freaking wind tunnel, believe me. And the noise—!” LeSerf shoved a finger into one ear and jiggled it around. “Little good that did!”

LeSerf shook her head in disgust as her tongue flicked in and out of her mouth in a display of disgust. “But like I said, we were slammed with bodies. But this isn’t the worst of it, Dr. Brennan— this is actually an improvement over the state of things this weekend!”

“It was worse than this?” Booth squeaked from behind the folders.

“Hard to imagine, idn’t it?” LeSerf pointed to the left in response to Brennan’s inquisitive glance.

“We’ve had more bodies than that here before—but this was just bad news all around—”

LeSerf stopped talking to cover her mouth with her shirt cuff. Brennan, however, was undeterred.

“After a while your main and accessory olfactory systems—and most especially the bipolar neurons of your olfactory epithelium—will cease to transduce into perception the chemical signals from even the most repugnant odor molecules, thereby disengaging your prepiriform cortex—more precisely, your entire rhinencephalon.”

“What?” LeSerf stopped and stared at her, her eyes shadowed by a shelf of quizzical brow.

“I don’t know what that means either, heh,” snorted Booth, chuckling good-naturedly behind his mask of manila files. Brennan shot him a playful stink eye.

“It means that this miasma or decomposition—the repugnant odor—eventually you will no longer smell or taste the putrefaction.”

“Taste?!” Blurted Booth.

“No way!” Choked LeSerf, gagging dramatically.

“Way. It’s called sensory adaptation,” Brennan tossed off as she continued down the hall, “or neural adaptation.”

“I will never get used to this—Holy God!” Exclaimed Booth in disgust wrapped around a hefty dose of incredulity.

“Did she say—taste it?” LeSerf frowned, her mouth flopping open, then slamming shut abruptly.

“Just wait,” Brennan answered unemotionally as she looked around. “You should be grateful that your olfactory mucosa is only about 10 square centimeters. There are 110,000 kinds of smells in nature. Humans only perceive 100-200 of them. And, yes, we do experience the chemical composition of odorants gustatorially,” she confirmed, then added, “Wetaste them, in the vernacular.”

LeSerf stared quizzically at the anthropologist. “Well, I don’t eat vernacular, whatever that is—I don’t think we have it here in Seattle—”

“Oh, I assure you, you do!” Brennan interrupted, wincing at a poke in the ribs from her partner.

“—uh, well— I think I’m gonna be sick just thinking about it,” mumbled LeSerf in a garbled voice behind fingers clamped across her mouth. She dove for a nearby trashcan and began spitting into it.

“Oh, it’s too late now, Deputy. Once you’ve perceived the odorant, it—it’s already on your taste buds and in your sinus cavity. Is the morgue in this direction?” She asked, pointing to the left.

“Well, she’s just a barrel of fun,” LeSerf snarked, looking past Brennan to Booth.

“Yeah, a real comedian,” he agreed. “So—how the Sam-hell was it worse than this yesterday and why does it still smell like Satan’s toilet down here?” Booth finally lowered the Banty files to expose his bloodless puckered lips. He glanced at the trashcan just in case his digestive system decided to eject its contents.

“Weeeeel. Sometime about the middle of the night on Saturday—the refrigeration unit was full to overflowing by then, you see—the compressor went wonky and the thermometer decided to crap out on us too. We usually keep the fridge at 4° Celsius—that’s thirty-nine degrees Fahrenheit—and it was up to ’bout 18 Celsius—that’s 65 Fahrenheit—what with the last bodies warming up the place and the gasses and all the bacteria and the decomposition—all that factored in.” LeSerf whistled to indicate the enormity of the whole situation.

“What?” Booth asked.

“That is unfortunate,” agreed Brennan.

“Tell me about it,” agreed LeSerf, rolling her eyes. “No one knew this had happened until the 5 a.m. security guard went on rounds this morning. Poor guy puked up all but his toenails then passed out cold in the hallway. Wasn’t discovered by his partner ’til thirty minutes later.” LeSerf blanched recalling the sight of him sprawled on the floor in his own vomit.

Booth and Brennan exchanged a furtive glance, knowing exactly what the other was thinking. Maybe we should call it a night and come back tomorrow—or the day after? Or, how about NEVER?

“We might as well get this over with, Booth,” Brennan said quietly, with an apologetic smirk. “You won’t even be aware of the stench in a little while.”

“But I’m aware of it now!” He gagged pleadingly; pulling out a handkerchief and covering his mouth and nose once again.

Brennan pressed her lips together in a doleful smirk. She shrugged apologetically, and moved on.

Booth rolled his eyes, hung his head, and begrudgingly trudged forward to the end of the hall behind his partner.

“We got a guy out here to look at it,” LeSerf had been saying, unaware of the exchange taking place behind her, “you know, the refrigeration service guy? But he says we need a thing-a-ma-what’s-it from Michigan that won’t be here until tomorrow morning. God only knows how long it will take to install the dang thing!”

The three slowly walked a number of steps, occasionally chancing a sniff to see if the odor was as bad as it was the previous time they’d smelled it.

“Why is it that when something smells this god-awful, you know, like a stinky diaper, or a skunk—you can’t help smelling it a bunch ‘a times—?” Booth asked incredulously.

“—Or your own flatulence?” Brennan mumbled, somewhat amused.

“Yeah,” Booth admitted, unabashedly, “and why do people sniff it again and again? What is that all about? I tell ya’, people are just weird.”

“The word ‘weird’ suggests the strangeness, the oddity, uncommonness of something. However, fascination with man’s own bodily functions and the products of those functions is universal and therefore not at all odd or uncommon—”

“Whatever, Bones. I’m just saying—why do we torture ourselves—?”

“Dr. Sweets would say that it’s not torture at all. Humans repeat behaviors they find pleasurable or beneficial. Perhaps we enjoy experiencing foul sensations? Throughout antiquity there have been factions, pockets of humanity, which induce foul sensations for the purpose of intensifying pleasure. I could give you several colorful examples that would surprise even you, Booth—” she paused, seeing the trepidation in Booth’s eyes and chuckling.

“Maybe later—” he rasped, blanching.

“For example—”

“I said, maybe later—which is generally understood to mean an emphatic, but polite no.”

“—Adolf Hitler was both a coprophiliac and an urolagniac, or a ‘pisswhore’ in the vernacular—” Brennan continued undeterred.

“Now I know we don’t have ‘vernacular’ here,” LeSerf mumbled under her breath.

“—He enjoyed being urinated and defecated upon during the sex act –if you believe psychoanalyst Walter Langer’s analysis. However, Hitler is an extreme case. I think what you are referring to is a mere fascination with repugnant odorants: the scent of gasoline –or, burning rubber, cow dung, –or, human bromidrosis–”

Booth and LeSerf shot a quizzical glance in Brennan’s direction.

“Body odor, of course,” she clarified. “Bromidrosis is foul-smelling perspiration. Some people have an affinity for it.”

“Dang!” LeSerf spit into the garbage can a couple of more times.

“Bones, I’m not talking about things people like to smell! I’m talking about things people don’t like to smell but they smell them repeatedly anyway, like they gotta see if it’s still as bad as they thought it was.”

“It’s actually a perverse thrill,” Brennan nodded matter-of-factly.

“A thrill? Are you kidding me?” Coughed LeSerf who’d been only slightly paying attention by this time. She rolled her eyes and walked to the end of the hall without waiting for an answer.

“Please tell me you’re joking,” Booth said.

“I never joke about these things, Booth, you know that. Dr. Sweets says some humans experience a perverse thrill from doing or seeing something they know they shouldn’t. Pornography, for example—”

Booth’s responding snort and guffaw were cut short by Deputy LeSerf’s matter-of-fact voice.

“You don’t have to open the doors to the refrigerator unit where the cadavers are, right?” Reaching her destination, LeSerf turned to address her followers. “She—Banty Solicious, I mean— hasn’t been refrigerated for ’bout four years so she won’t need it now, am I right?”

“We do not have to open the refrigeration unit. No,” replied Brennan.

“Then you should be just fine. Or, at least, it shouldn’t get any worse, I should think.”

“Were you on the force when Miss Solicious was discovered?” Booth asked between pinched lips. He caught Brennan’s eye, then refocused on the deputy.

“Uh, where was I? She went missing five years ago, right? I was on homicide at the time, but it wasn’t my case. Sharon had just been promoted to major crimes and it wasn’t her case either,” LeSerf confirmed.

“Did you know the girl?” Booth lifted the cover of the first file again to peek at the contents.

“No, not personally, Agent Booth, but everyone knew about her after the fact – well, I mean, after she went missing. She was the sweetest girl, from what they say, poor kid. Her parents spent a ton of money making sure the word got out and a reward was posted for finding her. The dad had some connections at city hall. There was hell to pay because resources were shifted from the Green River Killer case toward Ms. Solicious—and some felt it was coercion from the Mayors office. It was an election year and Mr. Solicious is a part time lobbyist for a bunch of liberal causes.” LeSerf looked from Brennan to Booth and back as if this information should hold some special meaning.

“Anyway. There were cadaver dogs all over the place. Because of them, we uncovered three of the Green River Killer victims, but no Miss Banty Solicious,” she said, turning toward the door.

“You wouldn’t have found Banty with cadaver dogs anyway,” Brennan said, matter-of-factly.

“Why’s ‘at?”

“Banty’s remains were cleared of all viscera and any decomposable materials prior to interment at Island Forest,” Brennan explained.

“Note to self,” mumbled Booth in disgust, “cancel cadaver dogs. Excrement!”

“Oh, I see,” LeSerf said, though clearly she didn’t. Turning back to her task, LeSerf flipped through her heavy mess of keys. “Here we are,” she said, a lilt of delight in her tone. She was anxious to check on Sharon Restovich, but even more anxious to escape the confining and stinky basement hall of Harborview Medical Center.

“Now, here’s the thing,” LeSerf said, holding up a single key. “This is one of only three keys to this place. This is the only door into the morgue, okay?” She nodded at the door, inserted the key, and turned it. “And I can’t give it to you. So, you make sure you have all your stuff with you when you leave, because you won’t be getting back in until tomorrow morning at oh-eight-hundred. Got it?” She stared hard at each partner in turn, awaiting any sign of comprehension.

“Got it,” they replied in unison, exchanging circumspect looks that said, One key, one door. What the hell?

Once across the threshold into the morgue, Booth bent to set the instrument case on the floor.

“Don’t put that on the floor!” Brennan shrieked.

“Why?!” Booth yanked the case back up and wrapped both arms around it.

“You think a hospital floor is filthy? A morgue like this would make an ER look like—well—just—take my word for it; this floor is teeming with all manner of bio hazardous waste!”

“This thing is heavy, Bones! How long do I have to hold it?”

“Just give me a minute. Here, hold this!” Brennan shoved the communication equipment case at Booth and looked around for something, anything, to use as a barrier between their belongings and the bacteria-infested surfaces of the empty medical examiner’s office. Spying an antiquated rotary towel dispenser to the right of the scrub sink and immediately below the wall-mounted x-ray light box, Brennan clutched her bag between her knees and cranked the lever half expecting a jack-in-the-box to pop out of the top of the thing.

“Put the cases up here,” she said, covering one end of an autopsy table with the towels as she blew wisps of errant hair out of her eyes.

Booth’s tongue made a lap around his lips as he hefted each case up onto the paper towels with a grunt.

“It wasn’t really that heavy, heh,” he explained, grabbing his shoulder and rotating his arm. “It’s just—I’d been carrying it for so long—.”

“Naturally, Agent Booth,” LeSerf stifled a grin. “How long do you think you’ll be here tonight, if you don’t mind my askin’?”

“About two hours,” said Booth, looking to Brennan for confirmation. “Yep. About two hours.”

“Okay. There are vending machines down the hall. We can’t get anyone to deliver real food down here, bein’ it’s the morgue and all—but there’s a coffee machine round the corner,” LeSerf spoke directly to Booth as Brennan had already lost interest. “Remember—if you need to go out and come back in, one of you should stay in here. Now, there’ll be a security guard coming by in about an hour, but after lock down, the only guards are the exterior patrol. There’s no phone in the hall out there—the on-call ME has the cell with him. So, you might want to make sure you take your own cell with you wherever you go. I know it sounds like a lot of rules, but we’re used to it here and our system works just fine. We only have problems when new people come.”

“Got it. Not a problem,” assured Booth, tapping the original Banty files across his nose and mouth and stifling a yawn.

After a cursory facilities tour which Booth was thankful didn’t include the inside of the overflowing refrigeration unit, Booth slipped a piece of cardboard between the lock assembly and the door jamb and escorted LeSerf back to the first floor elevator bank, then reluctantly rode the car back down into the hellish putrescence that was the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Slipping quietly back through the door as if late for Sunday services, Booth spied Brennan clad in a mustard yellow bib apron across which was splashed the warning: ‘Danger, Men Cooking’. He knew better than to disturb her while she prepared to review remains.

Brennan had ignored the tour of the dismal 23 x 22 foot space, familiar as she already was with the trappings of a medical examiner’s office and anxious as she was to wrap her brain around the puzzle awaiting her inside the exhumed casket. She now stood between the two autopsy tables, which she’d draped with clear vinyl tarps that hung, limp and desolate as funeral palls, over the stainless steel tables. As Booth watched from just inside the door, Brennan retreated to a narrow closet in the far corner of the room and retrieved a box of clear medical grade gloves and two face shields.

On her way back to the center of the room, Brennan surveyed the macabre collection of tools hanging from dusty hooks protruding from a dingy and pealing pegboard to the left of the scrub sink. She clenched her teeth, sighed and glanced at the contents of the countertop below the pegboard: stacks of files, a cacophony of antiquated or broken tools, a pile of disposable kidney-shaped emesis dishes, and two dusty spray bottles which had been relabeled in permanent marker: ‘WARNING! NOT WATER: CHEMILUMINESCENT’, and ‘WARNING! NOT WATER: POTASSIUM FERRICYANIDE’.

The room’s interior walls were cinder block, the floor gray concrete, sloping almost imperceptibly toward the center of the room where the two steel autopsy tables stood. Under each table was a grated drain in the floor running the length of each table. Below each table was a six gallon bucket of kitty litter for catching liquid refuse. The opposite wall contained two metal file cabinets painted blood red.

“Somebody had a sense of humor,” mumbled Booth, staring at the file cabinets.

“This place is certainly not the Jeffersonian,” Brennan mumbled distractedly. “Still, I’ve seen worse.” She continued to the autopsy tables and deposited her cache next to the bags and cases she’d already rearranged there.

Booth nodded distractedly and stepped toward the pegboard to marvel at the mishmash of culinary instruments and carpenter’s tools. Chisels, saws, ladles, knives and blunt-nosed scissors in a myriad of shapes and sizes, hammers, calipers, square and slide rules, hooks, bolt cutters from Home Depot, forceps with pointy teeth, scalpels, clamps, measuring cups, needles, spatulas and slotted spoons. On a shelf to the left sat boxes of quart- and gallon-size ziploc baggies, strainers, kitchen scales, mixing bowls in graduating sizes, and petri and custard dishes. Across the room on the other side of the autopsy tables and cheek to jowl with the blood red file cabinets was a makeshift desk. Flanking the desk on the right was a two-door cooler filled with small plastic jars, tissue samples, and several unidentifiable liquids.

Any unoccupied space around the periphery was lined with steel countertops upon which lay files, a blotter calendar, empty Campbell soup cans stuffed with pencils and pens, and several collections of manuals, texts, and spiral bound notebooks occasionally held upright by plain black metal book ends.

The only things missing from this scene, Booth decided, was a grisly circuitry set hooked to a glass jar containing a formaldehyde-immersed disembodied head. That and a pale-skinned hunchback named Igor dragging a clubbed foot through a web-strewn trap door.

‘”I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel—’ quoth he,” Booth enunciated in a dramatically ominous Boris Karloffian tone. He felt a cold shock wash over him when he turned to find Brennan staring at him, amused and smiling.

Booth Thoughtful

“Ah,” she whispered in quiet delight. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!”

“Of course. ‘Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery,’” he added, “‘and be overwhelmed by disappointments’. Heh, sometimes I feel like that,” he said quietly, stuffing his hands in his pockets, then pulling them back out awkwardly and staring, unseeing, around the room. “A fallen angel leading a double existence—” he said before he could stop himself. —A cold-blooded killer for hire, hiding under the auspices of government directives, he thought. He hadn’t meant anything serious by the quote—until it was out there in the air, stinging him with its poignancy. His eyes dropped self-consciously to his hands then his feet. He shifted his weight from foot to foot before seeking refuge in the coolness of Brennan’s eyes. “Meh, ignore me, Bones,” he shrugged, “I’m just talking gibberish—here in a morgue in the middle of the night, heh—” His voice was hollow, his chuckle empty. He shrugged one shoulder and grimaced weakly.

“Booth,” Brennan said, searching his eyes. She reached out to lace her fingers through his. “You are not a fallen angel,” she whispered forcefully, pulsing his fingers with several deliberate squeezes then stroking his knuckles with the pad of her thumb. She cocked her head to the side and stared quizzically into his eyes, then nodded and smiled sweetly. “You are the opposite.” She released his hand and draped her arm over his shoulder and around his neck. She stood up on her tippy toes, and leaned into his chest to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. “The. Absolute. Most. Opposite. Possible,” she said, looking soulfully from eye to eye. “I speak the truth. Understand?” She said, frowning encouragingly up into her lover’s face.

Can God’s grace truly be big enough to erase my crimes as if they never happened? Do I deserve to forgive myself? How could I after everything I’ve done to ruin all those innocent families! He pleaded with himself. Booth’s eyes watered and a sharp tartness invaded his sinuses. He closed his eyes and dropped his forehead on hers, exhaling slowly several times. He opened his mouth to say something, but opted for silence and forced an empty smile to stretch across his broad lips. He swallowed dryly, his Adam’s apple struggling to dip and rise against the ball of dough caught in his throat.

Brennan, still pressed up against him, rocked him soothingly side to side. She dropped her forehead to his chin and closed her eyes in deference to his acute discomfort. Booth pressed his lips gratefully against the smooth skin between her perfectly shaped eyebrows and emitted a quiet ragged hum.

“I know something is troubling you, Booth. It’s okay,” she said, pressing firm hypnotic circles over his shoulder muscles then letting her fingers crawl into the short hairs at the nape of his neck. Booth shivered involuntarily and hummed in response. “When you are ready, we can talk, okay?” She felt him nod and begin to relax, his breath tickling her eyelashes and the baby fine hairs across her cheek. “For now, lets get our work done and get out of Frankenstein’s laboratory, alright?” She felt him nod again and heard an agreeable rumble vibrate from deep in his chest. She smiled, but still worried. “If you need a powerful distraction, you can think about what was in the gift bag from Angela and—”

“—And imagine you in them. Ahhhh,” he sighed, a grateful calm beginning to slowly envelop him. “The illustrious hot-babe-in-a-thong panties!” Booth was slowly reviving and refocusing. His palms found their way to the small of her back; his fingertips wandered further south to her waist then dropped down to take full measure of her backside. “That’s good thinking, Bones,” he sighed, nearly lifting her off her feet as he enjoyed the bountiful springiness that filled his hands. “Oh, heaven help us all,” he groaned, “you know exactly what to say to get me distracted. Have I told you lately how amazing you are?”

“Hmmmm? Yes, you have.”

“Um, well,” he grunted, “At least I’m consistent,” he chuckled in a relaxed tone as he kneaded her buttocks until she chuckled and gently pulled herself out of the circle of his embrace.

“Wait a minute,” he objected, pulling her back and sinking his nose into her hair. “Mmmmmm. Your hair smells so much better than the rest of this place! Maybe I’ll just stand right here and breathe you in for the next two hours.”

“Booth, while that may be most enjoyable, it is thoroughly impractical. You do have things to do as well. Why don’t you find the thermostat and decrease the temperature in the room,” she said, tapping on his shoulder before stepping out of his embrace. “That should help until our olfactory receptors equalize.”

“Oh, great idea! Slow down the molecules in the air, right? See, I know stuff.”

“Very good, yes! Decrease the stench—or at least our perception of it. Maybe we’ll be able to breathe more comfortably.”

“—until our neural napkins take over, right?”

“Our natural adaptation,” she corrected, belatedly realizing it was a joke. “Though, calling them neural napkins makes sense metaphorically in reference to what they accomplish. Ugh. I can still taste the putrefaction,” Brennan gagged, pressing the back of her wrist up to her mouth.

Booth crossed his arms, and leaned back against an autopsy table. Spying a box of Kleenex on the medical examiner’s desktop, he yanked out a tissue and blew into it energetically two or three times, then wiped his upper lip before tossing the wad into the garbage can.

“Clearing your sinuses won’t get rid of it all, Booth. How long do you think that tissue has been sitting in air containing a high concentration of fecal matter, putrefaction vapors, perhaps even bodily fluids?” She said all this without glancing in his direction. As a result, she didn’t notice his rush toward the utility sink until the sound of him spitting and almost dry heaving assaulted her ears.

“I’m gonna need a decontamination shower after this,” he whispered, hoarse with revulsion.

“Why don’t you go find that thermostat and set it to—maybe—”

“Below zero? That ought to do it, don’t ya’ think? Freeze the suckers dead in their tracks.”

“I should think 40 would be sufficient,” she chuckled, “perhaps even overkill. We can start there.”

Booth spied the thermostat and disappeared behind the closet door for a moment, then returned rubbing his hands together vigorously. “I feel better already—just knowing I’ve done something. Take that—disgusting molecules!”

Brennan shook her head and chuckled again, then retrieved a pen and a packet of blank forms from her bag. She snapped two pairs of clear medical grade vinyl gloves over her hands and turned in the direction of the metal accordion casket cart. Atop the cart rested the casket containing the remains of victim two, Miss Banty Solicious.

“Why don’t you see if we’ve anything from Dr. Hodgins yet. Or, Mr. Bray,” she tossed over her shoulder as she approached the casket.

“Gimme a minute,” said Booth, rubbing his hands together again. “Hear that?” He pointed at the air conditioner vent in the ceiling out of which poured a chilling rush of clean air. “Resistance is futile, Suckahs!” He whipped around in a crouch pointing an invisible handgun and making shooting noises. “You’re welcome, by the way, Bones,” he said blowing on the end of the invisible barrel, then flipping and holstering his imaginary gun.

Twenty minutes later, Booth was still wandering aimlessly around the tiny morgue.

“You’re already bored.” It was a statement not requiring a response. “This is Doctor Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institution,” she began, recording her examination for later transcription. “Attending is my partner—”

“—and mate,” interjected Booth, sidling up beside her and leaning toward the microphone. “A dashing and irresistible cowboy of a guy, I might add.”

“It is not necessary to state that you are my mate, nor is it technically accurate—,” she said.

“—Of which I am painfully aware—” he said smirking at her as he shoved his hands into his pockets and jingled about $3 in coins against his Zippo.

“—Should I also mention that you are a father? And a Flyers fan?”

Booth shrugged and grinned playfully.

“—attending is Special Agent Seeley Booth of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Before me is the exhumed casket of Miss Banty Louise Solicious—The casket shows no signs of being opened or tampered with since—” She glanced at the paperwork she’d found laid atop the casket. “—since it’s extraction from Calvary Cemetery, 5041-35th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA from where it was extracted earlier today.” She gave the date.

“How do you know I’m bored?” Booth picked-up a clear blue plastic Terminator Tiger Shark yo-yo with holographic geometric designs on the hubs and slipped the string loop over his middle finger. As he waited for Brennan’s response he began to effortlessly throw, spool and catch the toy several times in fluid movements.

“You’re playing with imaginary toys, Booth,” she said distractedly, “which I have to admit is better than when you play with real toys which can be noisy and distracting.” She looked up curiously at the sound of the heavy plastic slapping against his palm. Shaking her head several times and chuckling, she returned to the casket she’d just opened. “You are so predictable, Booth.” She chuckled again and continued in her sterile professional tone, “On cursory examination, there appear to be fewer than the requisite 206 bones. There are instead 202. All appendicular bones, cranium, mandible, innominate, and clavicles lay loose in the casket. Labeled plastic bags in varying sizes contain complete collections of ribs and vertebrae. The left foot is missing one, no, two bones. The right foot appears to be missing three bones— making the total number of bones present to be 201 instead of 202.”

“A gun is not a toy,” Booth said with a straight face, drawing quickly and aiming the invisible barrel at the refrigeration unit.

“Yours was,” she scoffed without looking up.

“Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t real,” he countered belatedly, hands on hips. He braced for the challenge.

Brennan glanced up at him and caught his eye, a message passing between them—We’re not having a religious debate right here, right now. Brennan nodded slightly, smirked and bowed her head to continue with her notes.

Booth’s arms dropped to his sides as he shrugged and looked away. Bored.

“Booth, focus. Check the email.”

“Right,” he replied in a resigned tone. Booth retrieved the laptop and flipped open the cover. “I’m just the glorified messenger boy. You know what I really need is some action—”

“Well, I can assure you, there will be no action around here,” she snickered, “except examination of these remains.”

“There’s a joke in there somewhere, a good one—”

“It’s called a double entendre—”

“Yeah, I got it,” Booth replied sardonically.

“Good. Email?” Beginning with the cranium, Brennan began arranging the bones on the autopsy table.

“Okay. Here we go!” Booth unloaded the laptop and flipped it open. He tapped on the keyboard until the email program spun to life. He covered his lower lip with the tip of his tongue thoughtfully and scrolled through the spam to find the first message of interest.

“Okay. Sweets sent us a psychological profile—skip that—we’ll read that later.”

“Anything from Hodgins?”

“Angela’s murder weapon search of industrial equipment is a bust. Nothing fits. However … however … she says Wendell found something – but she doesn’t say what. Thanks, Ange!”

“Is there an email from Mr. Bray? It’s beginning to get quite cold in here, Booth.”

“Yip, here it is,” he said, “Okay—dah—dah—dah—electron microscope—here we go: bilateral hemorrhagic staining on the mental foramen along the oblique line of the mandible where the triangularis intertwines with the risorius and the orbicularis oris—blah—blah—” He said frowning, then making a disgruntled raspberry. “PLBTH!”

“Keep reading, Booth, I need to hear exactly what he says. May not mean anything to you, but it means something to me!”

“Okay, okay! A little translation would be nice, though.” When she didn’t respond, he continued. “He says, Same happened to the buccinator muscle causing staining on the alveolar process—”

“Hm,” she grunted frowning pensively and nodding.

“Ah—murder weapon pressed against these muscles—blah—blah—blood was forced out of the blood vessels—traces of bodily fluid on the mental foramen—

“Excellent! Look at me, Booth,” she commanded. “There are traces of fluid on the cheek bones and chin in a pattern like this.” She made two sideways ‘V’s with her index and middle fingers. She placed each index finger on a cheek bone and each middle finger just below her bottom lip.

“OhooOOOOohhh. A little Pulp Fiction action. Got it.”

“I don’t know what you are referring to, but—”

“Better keep reading your pop culture manual, Bones. It’s a Quentin Tarantino classic. John Travolta and Uma Thurman—”

“Continue,” she said, grimacing. “Those are strange patterns. Anything else from Dr. Bray?”

“Nothing else written, but he attached an image.” Booth clicked on the image and turned the screen toward Brennan. “Looks like it could have been a hockey helmet—like a goalie—or maybe a catchers helmet. Maybe a really old football helmet.”

“More like one of those—what do you call it—fighting helmets? The kind that covers the cheeks?”

“Boxing headgear?”

“Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”

“Wow. We were right.”

“Nothing I said suggested this is more than conjecture, Booth.”

“Fine. We have another from Angela. Says she’s looking at sports, combat, safety, and law enforcement helmets … says whatever it is it has to be lined with expanded poly styrene or thermocol—” He said, his brow furrowing as he glanced through some images she attached. “Thermocol must be foam cushioning—”

“Exactly. Yes. That fits for the fighting—”

—boxing, Bones. There’s all kinds of competitive fighting. You’ve got your wrestling, your boxing, your tae kwan do, your kay-rah-tay.” He had to accompany each genre with some arm and hand motions to demonstrate.

“As long as we’re talking about the one with the face guard extensions that extend here,” she said, showing him her Uma Thurman once again. “This is progress. Anything from Hodgins?”

“Next up … Dr. Jack Hodgins! He says that according to his massive spectaculars—”

“Mass spectrometer—”

“Yeah, that thing. According to that, all bones buried with Aleesha’s cranium, except for the femora and tibias, belong to Aleesha. Then he says a bunch of mumbo jumbo about drilling and bone powder and dormant cells or something – and he throws Cam in there too – uh, blah—blah—blah—okay—Man, this is making my head hurt!” He wiped a hand across his brow. “Here we’ve got some English. The femora and tibias are from the same person - duh, we knew that already, dude – and he says as soon as he gets the Washington bones from here, he can confirm that they belong to either Aleesha or someone else.”

“Hm. Okay. Just as I thought. Anything else?”

“Nope.” Booth scrolled through another dozen or two emails. “Nope.” He snapped the cover shut and stared at Brennan for a moment as she carefully arranged Banty’s bones, one by one, into the shape of a human skeleton. He sighed. Bored again.

After a cursory glance around the room, he strolled to the makeshift desk and began snooping around the belongings of the late Dr. Shcherbakov, King County’s recently deceased medical examiner.

Shcherbakov’s desk was cluttered with a myriad of family photos including several of himself and his wife, over the years, sitting on a couch sandwiched between several grown children and surrounded by a gaggle of grandchildren on the floor and filling laps. Stuffed in every nook and cranny between magazines, photos, and mugs were the requisite collection of gifts and cards lovingly crafted by juvenile hands, and a career’s worth of promotional tchotchkes collected from conventions and medical equipment sales people.

What most interested Booth was an ancient Sanyo radio-cassette player with recessed silver dollar pancake speakers, and a swivel periscope antenna whose tip had long since been snapped off and replaced with a piece of mangled coat hanger. The single cassette player was speckled with five different shades of paint and the rewind button had been replaced with a larger pencil eraser. Arranged in a columnar fashion inside a custom made cassette storage unit above the desk was an impressive collection of professionally recorded audio tapes followed by a dozen or so mixed tapes labeled in the same hand.

While Brennan completed the cataloging and arranging of Banty’s remains, Booth counted 240 tapes in all, or 238 if you took into consideration that two of the cassettes were head cleaners. Booth’s eyes danced from cassette to cassette up and down the first several columns. Arranged alphabetically by artist or band; every tape was wrapped in its original J-card. Shcherbakov’s eclectic taste spanned many generations and all genres. He had selections from Buddy Holly to Streisand, Elvis to Simon and Garfunkel, the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

“Man-oh-man! This guy was serious about his music! You know, Bones, you can tell a lot about a person by their music collection.” His comment received a noncommittal grunt in response, as Brennan was absorbed in her work assembling a life size Banty puzzle. Her process was punctuated by the occasional grunt, sigh, or curious hum.

“What do they tell you about the late Dr. Ian Dr. Shcherbakov?”

“That he was old, heh, heh,” Booth tossed over his shoulder off-handedly, “And secure in his masculinity.”

“How can you determine his level of security in his manhood?” She challenged in a tone suggesting this was an absurd assumption.

“Because, he’s got Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and, heh, Michael Bublé, for crying out loud. It takes stones to openly display stuff like that!” Booth ran a finger down the titles, tapping once or twice on the cases he recognized. Releasing a long, slow two-note whistle, he plucked a tape from the second column.

“He’s got everything—everything—Jim Croce ever recorded! Man, I loved that guy’s music. Well, Dr. Shcherby,” he mused wistfully, “you’ve just redeemed yourself in my eyes. Did you know he was killed in a plane crash?”

“Dr. Shcherbakov?”

“No, Croce! Thirty years young. Croce, yep, he was the real deal. He wrote about real life. Hard life—bar fights, shootin’ pool, breakin’ up, prison, unemployment and loneliness—and about finding out who you are and where you came from—Like this song—” He quietly intoned the first verse of ‘I Got A Name’:

“Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I got a name, I got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I got a name, I got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid.

“Love that song,” Booth’s voice trailed off as he read the titles of Croce’s songs and got lost in a whirlwind of sepia-toned memories of road trips to the coast taken with Pops and Jared. He and Jared always groaned when Pops punched his own home-brewed collection of ‘real’ music into the player. Though neither ever admitted it to anyone, not even to each other, both boys secretly wanted to live a real life like Jim Croce.

Shucking off the pastel thoughts of his childhood, Booth shrugged his shoulders unevenly as if to settle an ill-fitting shirt. Then he grinned to himself, recalling some of Croce’s more colorful lyrics about pulling on Superman’s cape and a man badder than Old King Kong.

“Yeah, he was certainly a man’s man: tough and dusty on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside.”

“We’re all soft and viscous on the inside, Booth. If a person is concerned about being tough on the outside, there are creams and vitamin supplements for that—”

“Man, if he’d lived longer there’s no telling what he could have done. He was on fire when he died.” Booth perused the track listing of ‘Photographs and memories: His Greatest Hits by Jim Croce.’

“In the plane crash?”

“No. His work! His songs were on all the charts. You know, like, ‘Time in a Bottle’?. Everyone knows that song.’”

“Even me,” Brennan said, smiling up at her soon-to-be-mate. In fact, she knew it very well. Max and Christine Brennan had loved Jim Croce. In the early ’60′s they’d seen Croce and his wife Ingrid perform live at a little bar in Lima, PA, called The Riddle Paddock. From then on they followed Croce’s career, buying all his records and singles. Max frequently said Croce’s music, ‘reminds me of the gold old days of free love and other unmentionable things!’ Then he’d wiggle his eyebrows at his wife. So, yes, Brennan was very familiar with ‘Time In A Bottle’ as well as all his other titles, but she smiled without admitting anything to Booth.

“Size and robusticity of the scull, brow ridges,” Brennan spoke for the recorder and copied into her notes, “and the arch of the maxilla indicate female approximately 18-21 years old. Wear on the mandibular teeth and lower incisors support that age range. Shape of pallet indicates Caucasian. Judging by the pelvic inlet and pubic symphysis, victim is pre gravid, never having given birth. So far all signs consistent with the identity of Ms. Banty Solicious as recorded in her medical records.”

Then Booth spied his all time favorite Jim Croce title. “Ha Aaaaaaaaaaaah—know this one, Bones?” He asked with an amorous gleam in his eye. He began to quietly sing in a nostalgic tone:

“Well, I know it’s kinda late,
I hope I didn’t wake ya’,
But what I gotta say can’t wait.
I know you’d understand—”

Brennan picked up the tune and together she and Booth carried it through the end of the verse.

“Cuz everytime time I tried to tell you—
the words just came out wrong.
So, I have to say I love you in a song—”

Brennan sighed and smiled, her cheeks and chest infused with the same glow as the clear, clean dual acoustics of Croce’s steel-string accompaniment of her memory of the song.

“I think we’re having a moment,” he whispered, grinning from dimple to dimple. Brennan smiled and continued.

“I know it’s kinda strange,
but every time I’m near you—”

Booth joined her, each of them returning to what they had been doing before their saunter down memory lane: he to perusing album titles, she to making notes.

“I just run out of things to say I hope you understand—
Every time the time was right the words just came out wrong.
So I have to saaaay I love you—in a song!”

Booth snapped open the ‘Croce’s Greatest Hits’ tape and clicked it into the cassette player; pushed play. Thirty interval notes jumped off the keys of a popcorn and peanuts barroom piano to be followed by a joyous, ‘Whoop!’ announcing the opening of ‘Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown’.

“That is a lovely sentiment,” Brennan mumbled, squinting quizzically at the distal end of a right hamate bone, “—I’ve always thought—writing a song to tell someone you love them. Though some might consider that cowardly.”

“It’s not cowardly, Bones. It’s sweet—and romantic!” Booth stared pensively at the top of her head for a moment.

“I suppose it’s better than writing a note and leaving it in underneath their windshield wiper!”

“Anything can be romantic if the intent and the context are right, Bones. I tried to tell you once, you know,” he mumbled thoughtfully after a moment. He leaned back against the desk and glanced sideways at her as she bent over the table.

“Hmm?” She didn’t look up from her notes. “Tell me what? There are minute particles on the distal aspect of right posterior ribs 5th and 6th,” she said distractedly.

“Nothing,” he said, waving a dismissive hand as a silvery web of self-consciousness wrapped itself around his neck and tightened his vocal chords. “Oh! Look at this,” he cried after a moment. “Neil Diamond—and Engelbert Humperdinck. Now, that name always cracked me up. I never understood what would possess a parent to name a kid Engelbert? I mean, he’s already gotta deal with Humperdinck, for Christ’s sake!” Booth shook his head in empathetic dismay. “Bet that kid got the snot beat out of him on the playground on a regular basis,” he chuffed.

“The Germans, Booth. That’s who would give their child a name that sounds ludicrous to the American ear. However, Humperdinck was a very distinguished early nineteenth century German composer who composed the opera Hänsel und Gretel and Szenen Aus Dem Deutschen Studentenleben. Very innovative and under appreciated, as many great minds are in their own time. What’s more, he was the inventor of Sprechgesang!”

“Really? How fascinating!” Booth feigned wonderment. “I always wondered who invented the Screech Gang!” He rolled his eyes and snorted, then gave a howling yawn followed by snoring noises.

“Very mature, Booth. Dr. Sweets says that sarcasm many times stems from a deep sense of insecurity—”

“Sometimes a joke is just a joke, Bones,” he smirked. “Besides, I was just being funny.”

“Sprechgesang is a king of vocal technique that’s halfway between singing and speaking. It’s operatic, Booth. I wouldn’t expect you to be familiar with it.”

“Whatever. I was talking about the more recent Humperdinck—”

“Perhaps you mean the one who sprung from the colorful imagination of William Goldman,” she said haltingly as if reciting a blurb from a dust cover. “—in a tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—”

“What the—?”

“The Princess Bride,” she replied triumphantly. “One of my favorite childhood novels. It was adapted and made into a movie—Russ says Emma and Hayley have watched it one hundred times. I think he was exaggerating though.”

“Uh, wow,” he nodded impressed. “But, sorry, no. Hey, I thought all you read was textbooks? Anyway, I was talking about the one that sprung from the colorful throat of, I mean, who was famous for his romantic ballads, like ‘I Sing You Asleep After The Lovin’, and, ‘Please Release Me, Let Me Go ‘Cuz I Don’t Love You Anymore.”

“That’s not very romantic!” She scoffed as Jim Croce began the first verse of ‘Operator’.

“Oh, it gets worse. He calls the woman cold—in a song! Can you believe that?”

“Does she sue for alienation of affection and diminish his net worth by half?”

“It’s just a song, Bones. Nothing really happened. It’s a song.”

“Where do you think songs come from, Booth? From Personal experience! Songs and poetry based upon personal experience or history, conspicuous or not, have long been an accepted way of inculcating the young with the values and traditions of their elders. They are equally effective devices for expressing sentiments surreptitiously—sentiments the writer doesn’t have the ability or courage to say openly. He, or she, if confronted about the song, can hide behind a façade of artistic creativity thereby avoiding the pain of retribution.”

“Yes,” he said with a delightful grin. “Just like in, ‘I Have To Say I Love You In A Song!’ It comes from a guy’s real life! Anyway, my guess is that Engelbert Humperdinck, the singer, not the German one or the writer, was a stage name.”

“Is Seeley your stage name? Who names their kid Seeley? Or Temperance, for that matter?”

“Touché,” Booth smirked and continued his perusal of the tapes. He turned back around abruptly and said, “For your information, Seeley is French, but it comes from the German word, ‘Selig’, which means ‘blessed’. Obviously mom chose it, Dad didn’t have a religious or romantic bone in his body. So, apparently that’s who names their kid Seeley.”

Brennan looked up and nodded silently, then her eyes dropped to the table. Booth considered letting the topic drop. ‘Temperance’ wasn’t Brennan’s given name, not from birth at least. She was originally named ‘Joy’. Temperance, meaning ‘moderation’, Booth suddenly realized, is kind of a downgrade from ‘Joy’. Who names a kid ‘moderation’? He thought to himself. That’s as unexciting as ‘adequate’. You wouldn’t name a kid ‘Adequate’. Then he had an idea.

“Do you know the full meaning of the name ‘Temperance’?”

“Of course I do, Booth. It means self-restraint, moderation,” she said despondently. “Can you please hand me the original medical examiner’s file?”

“See, you don’t know the rest of it!” He grinned, leaning toward her over her autopsy table, his arms spread wide, his hands resting on the table top.

“Wha—uh? There is nothing more, Booth.” She quirked a mildly irritated eyebrow. “The ME’s report?”

“Well—” he began in a soft affectionate tone as he strolled over to her side of the table, completely ignoring her request.

Brennan followed his leisurely self-assured approach with quizzical eyes. He’s mocking me, she thought. Is he mocking me?

“—I bet you didn’t know that ‘Temperance’ also means ‘wildly beautiful woman whose smile puts the stars to shame—” he said, leading her by the elbow away from the table as she searched his face for traces of sarcasm.

To her surprise and relief, she did see amusement in his darkening chocolate eyes, but there was also love and warmth and joy. Authentic joy.

Pregnant Dream

 

“—A woman whose eyes sparkle like sun reflecting off the Emerald Sea—” he whispered earnestly, gently pulling her into his arms despite her gloved hands and slight mewl of protest. He pressed a warm soft lingering kiss into her forehead causing her pulse to butterfly across her chest. If there remained any question in her mind as to his intent, the way he playfully nipped at the tip of her nose and peppered each cheek and earlobe with wet kisses would have removed all doubt. She shuddered involuntarily, and knew it had nothing to do with the decreasing temperature of the morgue.

“—A woman whose heart is big enough that she could save the whole world if she had time—” he breathed against her neck sending a shock of adrenaline straight into her chest, down her already liquified spine, and then below the Mason Dixon.

“Haahhhhh,” she sighed in a feathery falsetto as the velvet tones of Jim Croce’s tenor swirled the lyrics of Photographs and Memories around them.

“—and,” he continued, “and—a woman who makes me feel like the happiest and luckiest man alive.”

With that, he trailed several oxytocin-releasing, goose bump-inducing kisses from behind her ear down her neck and almost as far as the lowest love bite he’d imprinted on her breast that morning. By the time he made it back up to devour her lips, she was more than ready to surrender everything to him. At that point, drunk as she was on his seductive affection, she would have believed anything he said to her. That is, if she could hear anything over the violent pounding of her heart against her ribs. Behind his back, she yanked and tore at her gloves until they fell to the floor and wrapped her arms around his waist, running her fingers up and down the ridges of muscles on either side of his spine and across his shoulders.

On the verge of losing the battle to keep herself from wrapping a leg around his thigh and climbing him like a tree, she felt him pull out of the kiss to gaze intently into her eyes.

“Now that,” he purred, squeezing her tightly enough to crack her ribs, “is the true meaning of the name Temperance.”

“I’m going to need new gloves,” she muttered fatuously, once she found her voice.

“That’s what you have to say after—?”

She cut him off with two fingers across his lips and an unbridled, intoxicated sigh. “There is an error in your logic, Booth!”

“You think you’re so smart,” he said, mildly disappointed.

“I am smart! But let me finish, Booth! I think,” she insisted, her lips parting in a thoroughly satisfied smile as she allowed her eyes to take a leisurely tour around his features. “I have no argument with the real meaning of my name, however—,” she offered, tracing the graceful contours of his broad mouth, then kissing him tenderly and nibbling on his bottom lip before stopping to look up through a fringe of chestnut lashes. “I think, Booth,” she beamed at him, “you have confused the meaning of the name Temperance with the meaning of the name Bones.”

“Ahhhh,” he agreed with great satisfaction as he tilted his head back and squinted at her. “Okay. Yes. In this case, I’m going to have to agree with you, Bones.”

Her cheeks ached from smiling. “I have been truly blessed, Booth,” she nodded sheepishly.

“Blessed? As in—by God?!Heh!”

“That’s not what I meant.” She demurred in a low voice. “I meant—” a crease appeared between her brows. “What I meant is that I—that you are a gift—in my life, Booth. That’s all,” she said with an inconsequential shrug. “That’s all,” she said, a gently challenging tone in her voice. She looked hard over his shoulder then around the room, feeling the flush in her cheeks pounding and spreading.

His mouth fell open, then he snapped it shut. “Hm,” he grunted, a contemplative rumble vibrating in his chest, his brows drawn together in thoughtful consideration. “Hm.” He pursed his lips, dropped his head to the side she was staring past and waited for her to look back at him. When their eyes finally met, she frowned and gave him widened eyes that said, It’s no big deal—

What she found in the eyes looking back at her was, Yes it is a big deal, and you know it, and I love it that you said it.

“Ohhh-kay,” he said quietly and crushed her to his chest again, lifting her an inch off the floor. When he set her down he smacked her playfully on the buttocks before they disentangled their limbs.

For a moment Brennan feared she might fall apart or ooze to the floor like an overcooked piece of spaghetti. Though I know it is not possible, she assured herself, it feels as if the heads of my proximal femora, the lateral and medial condyles of my distal femora and proximal tibias, and both my patellae have dissolved into the synovial fluid of my knee joints!

In short, she feared her bones had turned to jelly. For a rational anthropologist, that’s pretty serious stuff.

Go to the next chapter, ‘Give Me The Beat, Boy’ >>>

<<< Go to the previous Chapter, ‘You Can Run’

Take me to the very beginning of ‘The When and the How: A Bone to Pick >>>

 

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#BONES Fiction: TWATH: AB2P 219 ‘I’m Not Dead’

What If ... BoothBW

Excerpt from the next chapter: “Love Don’t Die Easy”

“What does killing make me? It doesn’t make me a good man,” he said, staring hard at Brennan. “Sometimes the weight of what a person’s done, it’s just too heavy, and all you want is for it to stop. You just want out, Bones, and in that moment, nothing else matters. Nothing, and no one. You just want it to end and the consequences … they don’t even matter.”

Brennan nodded in the dark. She did know. When she thought she’d lost him, when she had to face that he had chosen to share his life with someone else even after he knew she wanted to be with him … when she could no longer fill her mind with work, or music, or research. When she was forced to drop onto the couch at her office in the middle of the night or into her bed at home early in the morning only because her body refused to function without rest. That was when she wanted out. It was irrational. And she hated it. But she didn’t have the energy to be angry, which is what the fight inside her wanted her to be … angry.

The sadness simply slipped from her eyes in flat tears that landed in her ears and the hairline at her temple as she lay motionless, exhausted, yet still unable to rest. Of all she’d been through in her life, that was one of the very few times she had honestly been afraid for herself. Afraid and exhausted … which is a good combination when you’re considering ending it all. The relentless exhaustion saved her from herself. It saved her and renewed her energy afterwards, plucking her from the claws of greedy self-centeredness.

“Yes, Booth,” she said across the dark. “I do know what it is like to just want it to end.”

He stared across at her though all he could see were the dark hollows of her eye sockets, her cheek bones, the dip in her neck. He knew she did know, and tried not to think of why she knew it. His eyes dropped to his hands before she broke the heavy silence.

“And what you are experiencing right now, Booth … the inability to get warm or to stop shivering,” she said, her voice like silk unfurling in slow motion to soften the space between them, “is called sympathetic autonomic dysregulation.”

After a moment, she continued, “It results when the physiological response cycle following a significant stressful event is unable to complete, unable to finish its cycle, even after the initial stressor is removed. In other words, the body fails to return to its pre-threat state.”

Booth squinted at the reflection of a mottled Seattle sky splayed across the surface of the coffee table and shivered once more. He shook his head as if shrugging away a mosquito, showing no sign that he’d heard her.

“Take all the time you need. I’m right here,” she said, leaning back against the couch cushions as if to prove it. “For as long as it takes.” She whispered.

<<< Take me back to the previous chapter, “Panic Room.”
Take me to the very beginning of the The When and the How: A Bone to Pick >>>


Author’s Notes: Folks, I last posted on March 2nd. Shortly thereafter some major changes occurred here at Casa de Cabanela which have kept me from updating. Primarily, after writing 61 articles and reviews for ScreenSpy, I left to write three times as much on a monthly basis for BuddyTV which has a following that’s tens of thousands times greater than ScreenSpy’s ( and BuddyTV actually pays for my work!). As you can imagine, this has hijacked my creative time and energy.
That being said, Bones remains my number one favorite thing to write about. While covering several other primetime programs for BuddyTV, I’ve been able to produce a number ofBones articles and editorials, including “Bones: Why This Show Is So Damn Good!” If you are interested in reading any of those, DM me and I will let you know where you can find them.
What is the future of The When and the How: A Bone to Pick? It goes on and will continue to go on until the last piece of the puzzle is slipped into place, Operation Pringles is completed with celebratory pie (and then some …), and the case is solved. I have spent the last month rereading the last 120 chapters to get my mind in the right place for producing the next chapter, which I had all but finished, but am no longer satisfied with. If you are reading this, it means you do have some lingering interest in what happens in my Bones universe, and for that I thank you. Below is an excerpt from the chapter I am working on … or, will continue working on, once I finish reading “Sir Seeley” and “Panic Room.” I hope you enjoy it!
MoxieGirl
Aka: Catherine Cabanela
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#Bones Fiction TWATH:AB2P 217 ‘Sir Seeley’

Author’s Note: This is the chapter that precedes “Chapter 218: ‘Panic Room‘, from The When and the How: A Bone to Pick.  For chapter 217: ‘Give Me the Beat, Boy’, go here.

#34 Everything I want

Sir Seeley

‘It is you, Sir Seeley, whose limbs twixt mine long for—
It is your laugh, your smile, your love I belong for’

“How many times did you tie this damn thing?” Booth cried in exasperation as he fumbled with the back of Brennan’s apron in the freezing cold of the King County medical examiner’s office. There’d been an official report of stolen undergarments submitted by Dr. Temperance Brennan during the early morning meeting at the Jeffersonian. Booth was determined to investigate the claim, as any FBI agent worth his salt would, no matter what the cost. His strategy was to remove as many layers of clothing as necessary in order to confirm or refute the claim of the missing item. If, in the process, he managed to warm the shivering body of his partner using his own body heat, well then, that would just be a bonus.

While Booth worked diligently at achieving his goal, Brennan examined Banty Solicious’ bones with the single-minded focus of a mother painting her nails while a toddler banged on pots and pans at her feet. “Screw this,” Booth blurted in exasperation. “There’s gotta be a pair of scissors here somewhere!” He tossed his hands in the air and scanned the morgue countertops with steely eyes.

“I thought the Boy Scouts were renowned for their mastery with knots,” she queried calmly despite having been pinned against the autopsy table while Booth yanked and fiddled with the double knot at the small of her back.

“Tying. Boy scouts are proficient at tying knots! This is harder than unhooking a bra with one hand.”

“How long have you been wearing a bra, Booth?” Brennan asked dryly, holding her gloved hands up and shifting her weight patiently from foot to foot. As his attempts to untie the narrow apron strings became more aggressive, she’d found it impossible to carefully examine anything on her table.

“I don’t wear a bra, Bones—” he snorted.

Brennan giggled under her breath, covering her mouth with the back of her wrist.

“Oh, was that a joke? Ha, ha, good one. I still can’t—” he grunted, getting down on one knee behind her.

“Are you … using your teeth.” Brennan asked. She was preternaturally calm despite having to pressed her lips firmly together to hold back an explosion of laughter.

“Oh, that would be lovely on surveillance tape, wouldn’t it?” Booth said gritting his teeth. He blew on his sore fingers, licked them again, and tried again. “Well, if you’d just stop wiggling around—”

Brennan snapped off her gloves and shooed his hands away. “It takes manual dexterity, Booth. The expertise of one whose profession requires the use of small instruments and detailed physical subject matter,” she explained haughtily, just to tease him. “I do hope you’re considerably better at unhooking a bra,” she teased through barely-moving lips.

“Oh, I got skills you ain’t never seen, baby—” blurted Booth smugly.

“That’s what I’m counting on,” she quipped, with a deep chuckle. Despite her frozen fingers, the strings now hung limp by her sides.

“Thank God,” Booth murmured quietly as he stood, dusted off the knees of his pants, and laid wide solid palms flat on either side of Brennan’s neck. He kissed her temple, and whispered into her ear. “Now, let’s see what we can do about warming you up a bit.” With the tips of his fingers resting on her clavicles, he applied pressure to her trapezi in a circular motion, then squeezed several times.

“Wha—I thought this was about a panty raid … ahhhhh,” Brennan said, and stopped dead. Allowing her eyes to drift closed, she swayed back and forth as his long fingers kneaded and warmed her from the neck down. “Ohhhhhhwwwwahhhh. Yes.”

“How’s ‘at?” He asked, sticking his tongue out as he focused on his work. “Warming up?”

“Nice,” she sighed after a long moment. Reluctantly opening her eyes, she held her hands out and watched as her fingers curled closed in slow motion, then straightened. Her blue nail beds were visible through the new pair of clear medical gloves.

Booth gently but firmly kneaded the muscles bunched and aching between Brennan’s shoulder blades, then continued traveling down her arms and toward her hands with a series of firm squeezes.

“These aren’t fingers,” he chuckled in falsetto, milking warmth back into each finger. “They’re fish sticks, ha!”

“The gloves restrict the blood flow,” she whispered drowsily, leaning her head back against his shoulder for a moment.

“Maybe you should take them off.”

“I don’t want to compromise the remains, Booth, or I would,” she groused.

“Well then, don’t let me distract you. Chop, chop! Get back to work and lets get this show on the road,” he said, though by this time, he’d completely enveloped her in his arms, warming her as thoroughly as a down-filled winter coat.

“I’m not distracted,” she mewled defensively. “I’m an expert, um, compartmentalizer, that’s me,” she insisted, straightening. Swallowing hard, she fought the urge to turn and melt into his delicious warmth, or at least sink her nose into his neck. The warm rugged outdoorsy scent of him had already enveloped her and begun to soften her joints into pools of jelly. Focus, Brennan. Fo-cus! She commanded herself sternly. “Don’t be offended if it appears I’ve forgotten, uhhhhh ahhhh, forgotten that you are there. I have an extraordinary ability to, ohhhhhhhhhmmmm, block out the environment when I have remains in front of me. ” She grimaced, unaware that her voice sounded like it was crawling up from the depths of very deep sleep.

Booth made an indulgent noise, then snorted in mild amusement. “Forget I’m here, huh?” He chuckled low and shook his head. “Don’t mind the guy behind the curtain,” he sighed, but her brain was chewing on her next thought.

Brennan reached for the cranium for the fifth or sixth time tonight. Or was it the seventh? Carefully clearing a space on the table before her, she gingerly deposited the cranium, eye sockets to the ceiling.

Booth’s arms settled snugly around her midsection, the length of his body warming her from her neck down to her calves. Her increased circulation successfully warmed everything else. He dropped his ear against her head and closed his eyes, humming softly as Van Morrison’s grizzly vocals doled out several verses of ‘Into The Mystic’.

“How can you emit so much heat?” Brennan murmured absently as she squinted at each zygomatic bone, then the maxilla.

“It’s not just me, Bones. You are quite warm yourself,” he whispered into her hair as he squeezed her around the midsection. “Even though you’ve forgotten that I’m here,” he teased quietly.

Brennan leaned forward to rummage through the bag she’d positioned on the other side of the table. She searched for a moment, then gave up in frustration and grabbed the seven inch magnifying glass she’d already been using. She was tired and her fingers and nose were cold. She was anxious to finish what they’d come to do and get over to the hotel where they could burn their putrid clothing and sink innocently into bed together.

Booth tightened his arms around her waist, his thumbs caressing her rib cage just below the springy curves of her breasts. She fit nicely into the space inside his arms, but he’d been aware of that for quite some time. It was nice to be welcome to stay wrapped around her for more than just a moment. “Hmmm,” he hummed, swaying her sideways, then back slightly.

“That’s about the twenty-fifth time you’ve picked up that head since we got here, Bones. I’m getting to you, aren’t I?”

“Not at all,” she replied, her voice deep and slow. She cleared her throat and continued. “I have a process which requires several inspections of each bone. I begin along the perimeter of the table with cursory observations. I then circle inward increasing focus as I examine the individual bones that interest me. Accurate identification of evidence demands adherence to protocol and meticulous examination if we are to establish or dismiss the supposition that the bones from Haverford belong to this set of remains. That is, until Dr. Hodgins is able to perform an osteological profile on the bone apatite. While it would be—”

“And all I hear is bla, bla, Hodgins, bla, bla, on the bones, bla,” Booth sighed churlishly, sinking his frozen nose into a hank of hair behind Brennan’s right ear. He inhaled. “Mmmm.”

“The most relevant piece of evidence, if I can identify it,” she continued, undeterred, “will be the hemorrhagic staining on the mental foramen. While I cannot confirm that which Dr. Hodgins or Mr. Bray will be able to,” she explained as Booth released her midsection in favor of sliding his hands into her front pants pockets, “I can search for variants of color on the fibrous layer of periosteum covering the alveolar process and the mental foramen—what are you doing?”

Booth had temporarily finished with his examination of her periphery and was heading toward the individual bones that interested him. His hands filled her pockets down to the seam at the bottom. He curled his fingers several times, then dragged them left and right across her thighs, grazing the skin beneath. This shot sparks of heat through the entire lower half of her body. She felt like a flower unable to resist unfurling its petals at the first light of day. Before long, this flower would be in full bloom, straining toward Mecca with her organic solar panels, poised for pollenation.

“Booth?” Brennan moved slightly to the side and attempted to look over her shoulder as her pounding temples screamed at her.

“Mmmm?” He said after a full minute had passed, but she’d already begun to force herself to CONCENTRATE … and move on. He had been pleasantly floating on a cloud of serenity, wrapped as he was around the warm pillowy form of his mate. His explorations had released a flood of pheremones into his own system, rendering him intoxicated and submissive. In this state he stood, as if by magnetic force, for several long moments while Brennan staved off the domination of her own endocrine system.

After a while, Booth stepped back to cough, causing a plume of frigid air to swirled down Brennan’s neck and back, then down her arms and legs. This broke Brennan’s concentration. She gasped and shivered violently, as much from the loss of their connection as from the chill in the air.

“Booth,” she croaked, glancing backward accusatorially. “Uh, I can’t function if I’m freezing. Could you—?” She motioned, Get back here! with a sideways tip of her head.

“So, you do know I’m here,” Booth chuckled, snuggling up to press the length of his body along the length of hers, then squeezing her hips. The warmth from his hands seeped into her muscles as they made their way down the outside of her thighs.

“Squeezing the tissue promotes circulation, every good boy scout who’s been to winter camp knows that,” he said, focusing on the flesh beneath his hands.

“Right,” she nodded, enjoying the return of stimulation to the outermost portions of her body.

“The outermost portions of tissue get cold first,” he said, firmly sliding his palms over her thighs, up over her hips and across her abdomen. He wondered if he dare make a pass over her chest, then chuckled to himself over his own mental pun.

“Know what I like about you, Bones?”

“Many things, but to what are you referring specifically?” She stopped.

He kneaded the tissues across her belly, then slid back over her hips where he made several pisiform rotations with the heals of his hands over her hip bones, rolling her muscles and adipose tissue forward over the bones several times, and then finishing with a therapeutic squeeze and release, squeeze and release.

“You,” he began, moving south to squeeze sections of her thighs, “are soft, but solid, not just skin and bones. You’ve got cuuuuurves. Fantastic curves,” he continued, digging the tips of his fingers into her skin and raking them up from her thighs to the sides of her rib cage, and then up over she shoulders and down her arms. “Curves that just beg—umgh!—oh, these curves just beg to be squeezed,” he said, emitting a guttural sound through clenched teeth. And bitten and nuzzled, he thought to himself.

“I need my other magnifying glass, Booth,” Brennan said in a highly-controlled voice, willing herself not to sound affected. Oxytocins and adrenaline were coursing through her system, titillating all of her erogenous zones, whipping them into a frenzy, and fueling her system’s race toward the human imperative. She was losing ground fast, and she knew it. But she wasn’t going to admit it. “My 20x Hastings Triplet,” she said, concentrating hard, licking her lips and swallowing.

“Is that the teeny tiny baby one—?”

“—Yes. That’s the one. Though I cannot recall if I returned it to my bag after this morning’s review in the lab with Mr. Bray,” she said, puckering her lips in thought. “Hm.”

“—The one that makes the hair on my arm look like the Everglades?”

“Yes, Booth, the one you like—”

“—with the tiny glass that’s just a half inch wide and you have to put it right up to the thing you’re looking at?”

Brennan didn’t reply. She stood stock still.

Booth jutted his chin forward in query, then grazed her cheek with the stubble covering his jaw.

“Yes!” She gasped, then cleared her throat. “Sorry, yes. 20x Hastings Triplet”

“Why’s it called a triplet? Explain that to me again,” he sighed, then blew in her ear.

“Stop trying to distract me, Booth!”

“Is it working?”

“I refuse to testify for the reason that it may incriminate me,” she rasped impatiently.

Booth was well aware of the effect he was having on his mate. He could feel her heart pounding against her rib cage in competition with the thrum and rush of his own. He also noted the change in pace and tone of her voice, which had returned to the deep smoothness of just a moment before. He was also aware that she was trying to hide it.

“Where is it?” He finally asked.

“If I brought it, it’s over there in my bag,” Brennan said, pointing across the room to the other autopsy table.

“Want me to get it?”

“I think I better get it,” she whispered, not making any effort to move. It had been a long time since she’d been pinned against anything by the wonderful solidness of a strong, virile male body. Not in this way, at least. She did not want to go anywhere. “Booth,” she whimpered, “We will never get out of this god forsaken hell hole if I don’t complete my work!”

“Right,” Booth chuckled, grazing the top of one hot ear with his teeth.

“Excrement, Booth.” Brennan blurted. “How am I supposed to—” She gulped and pushed back against him. “—we, I gotta get this science stuff completed!”

“Did you just say—’science stuff’? Whoa, I really am getting to you.”

“No. And you’re not. “

“Yes, you did,” he nodded, then blew across that same ear, “and yes, I am,” he chided her.

“If you’re going to warm me up like this, the least you could do is leave your gun behind.” She said, pausing to lean back against his chest.

“What?” Booth squinted askance. “Nice change of subject, lady. I don’t have my gun.”

“Yeah? Then what’s this,” she asked, reaching backward through his arms to grab hold of his glutes, and firmly pull him right up against her backside again.

“Agh!” Booth gasped in surprise. “Whoa-hoh-hoh!” She wasn’t the only one aroused by the electrical current crackling between them. “Jesus, Bones,” he yelped, pulling back abruptly.

Brennan chuckled at his reaction. Adopting a Mae West tone, she delivered her next line. “Is that your Smith & Wesson 1911 in your pocket,” she purred, “or are you just happy to see me?”

“Eh, 1911 … 1912. Depends on who’s measuring,” Booth exhaled uncomfortably as he attempted to disentangle himself from her.

“What are you doing?” She asked in a high-pitched squeal.

“You said you were gonna get it!” he gasped defensively, sounding somewhat frustrated. “And could you please let go of my ass?”

“You’re going with me. Get back here,” she insisted authoritatively, scooting backward to recouple them, then pulling his arms back around her midsection. “And your ass is quite pleasing to grasp, Booth. You have very nicely formed gluteal muscles. Not that I’m surprised,” she added under her breath.

“Agghhh!” Booth gasped, a flash of heat spiraling through him unexpectedly. He wasn’t in charge anymore; she was bewitching him, he was certain, catapulting things up a notch. A sharp intake of air silenced him as he prayed to control his own body’s intense reaction to the warm, soft, squishy, solidness of hers.

“We’ll just shuffle over there together,” she assured, ensuring his arms were secured around her midsection. “It is perfectly natural for an adult male to become physically aroused in close proximity to his mate. You and I, we have extraordinarily powerful sexual chemistry—the most intense I have ever experienced, Booth. So, despite your puritanical modesty, nature will have its way with you—”

“—I’m nature’s bitch, is that what you’re saying?” Booth chuffed.

“All of humanity is nature’s bitch. Our combined chemical attraction is heightened by our flirtatious repartee this evening. The physical contact we are currently sharing is an accelerant on an already long-burning flame. All of this, as much as some would prefer to call it love, is part of nature’s plan to ensure the perpet—”

“Aw, geez, again with the perpetration of the human race? Can we just get over to the other table and get your stuff? How we gonna do this, anyway?”

“As a matter of fact,” she continued undeterred, “if you weren’t aroused when our bodies connect as they currently are, I would be concerned that there may be some medical—”

“There is nothing wrong with my equipment, or my hormones, Bones. Believe me!”

“There’s no reason to be self-conscious, Booth. You’re going to have to get over your reluctance to discuss things of a sexual nature if we are to have a healthy sex life.”

“Seriously? Are we seriously going to do this now?” Booth groaned.

Brennan sighed, then looked over her shoulder and into his eyes. “It may comfort you to know that I am experiencing a rather powerful reaction to your proximity,” she whispered, smiling sweetly.

“Well, it certainly doesn’t show!” He responded coyly.

“Of course not. Sexual arousal in the adult female isn’t as conspicuous as it is in the adult male. The female body is ingeniously designed to ensure a safe and sterile environment for a fetus to develop,” she explained confidently, as she pulled his arms across her body like a safety harness on a roller coaster ride. “In order to achieve that, the female reproductive system is predominantly internal.” She pulled forward and he followed. They shuffled around the table toward the other table where one of Brennan’s bag and the larger tool kit sat.

Brennan rummaged through the first bag and pulled out the small black drawstring bag containing her miniscule yet very highly powered magnifying glass. “Yes! I do have it!” She cried jubilantly. “What else will I need,” she mumbled, surveying the contents of her bag. “Because, as entertaining as this crab-walk exercise is, we’re not doing it again. Ah! Tweezers!” She slipped the tweezers into her pocket unseen and stretched out diagonally across the table, reaching for the very furthest corner even though she already had the tweezers in her hand. Booth couldn’t see what she was reaching for, and suspected she was doing it just to torment him. If he had looked closer, he’d have found that he was correct.

“Whoaaaaaaaaa!” Booth groan-yelped, as he instinctively pinned her to the table and grasped the pleasing softness of her midsection as if she were dangling over a bridge in danger of plunging to her death. His mind went blank, probably due to lack of blood in the frontal lobe, he would think to himself later. When she bounced up on her tip toes to reach further, he grabbed her hips and pulled her back. He didn’t know why. “Oh, God,” he hummed to himself when she bounced back into him. He jammed his eyes closed, mentally making the sign of the cross. Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Joan of Arc, Saint Catherine of Aragon, Saint Penis, I mean, Peter! Jesus! He gulped desperately. and as quietly as he could.

“What?” Brennan asked, straightening up and twisting slightly toward him. “What did you say?”

Booth gulped again, then licked his parched lips. “Nothing,” he said in falsetto before clearing his throat. “I didn’t say anything. We just about done here?”

“Yes. I have everything I need. Do you?” She said slowly, taunting him, or did he imagine that? Turning, she lead him into a u-turn and then back to the table of bones, picking up where she left off in her lecture about the biology of sex. “The female reproductive system is also designed to temper the libido when rampant sexual behavior would not be in the female’s best interest.”

Booth didn’t respond, hoping the conversation would end naturally.

“It may interest you to know that mice, laboratory rodents, some domestic horses, and the Theropithecus gelada of the Ethiopian Highlands—which are relatives of the baboon, but much more ferocious—they all spontaneously abort a pregnancy when a foreign male is introduced.”

“What, like a French guy?” Booth snarked.

“What?” Brennan paused, turning her head to stare at him askance.

“Joke.”

“Oh. You thought I meant ‘foreign’, as in, a male from a foreign country, right.”

“Oui, oui.” Booth smiled, chuckling. “You gotta watch out for those smarmy French guys.”

“Hm,” she frowned in amused agreement. For the next two minutes Brennan alternately picked up the mandible and then the cranium, scrutinizing portions of each through her tiny eight millimeter magnifying glass with such abject concentration that Booth didn’t doubt she very well could have forgotten his existence. Then she chose two cervical vertebra and performed the same exercise. “Look at this,” she said, holding up what looked to Booth like a three dimensional puzzle piece.

“Do I have to smell it or touch it?” He made a disagreeable face.

“No, just look!” She leaned back and held the bone and glass up to his eye.

“I don’t see anything,” he said, steadying her hand, “except, maybe, the night sky on a starless night.”

“Right there,” she said, nodding toward the bone under the magnifying glass. “You don’t have to put the glass in your eye, Booth. Try it again.”

“I still don’t see anything,” he answered.

“Well, it’s there, Booth. And this is a good sign.”

“What’s there? Same cracks as Aleesha’s.”

“While I have confirmed the erosion of the occipital condyles of the cranial base and the articular facets of the C1 vertebra, as well as the fractured facets of the transverse processes of the C2 through C5 vertebra—”

“In English, please!”

“The pointy parts broken off of Aleesha’s and Banty’s vertebra appear to have been eroded and broken in the identical fashion.”

“That’s good, right?” Booth peered through the tiny glass as he listened to her answer.

“While I cannot confirm irrefutably without the electron microscope, I can postulate that what appears to the naked eye as shading, is, in fact, a constellation of microfractures.”

“Oh, yeah,” Booth gasped, quietly amazed as he could finally see what she was referring to. “Yeah. Right there,” he said.

“Mr. Bray will have to confirm the directionality and compare the fracture pattern.”

“That’s good enough for me. Now, for the peace and resistance, let’s examine the face bones for traces of blood and guts.”

La pièce de résistance, Booth. It’s French,” she corrected, emphasizing each word.

“Again with the French!”

“Yes. It means, the main event. They also gave us, tour de force, which means in this case, a feat of ingenuity, which is what it has taken to reconstruct the cause of death for these two young women.” She took a deep breath and turned to the mandible and cranium, silently inspecting each multiple times.

“Can I look?”

“This won’t look like anything to the untrained eye. However, an organic substance has altered the color of the periosteum in a pattern congruent with the image presented in Mr. Bray’s email. With the electron microscope and the mass spectrometer, he and Dr. Hodgins will be able to identify the nature of the organic substance. Now,” she said, “As for what I had postulated were minute particles on the distal aspect of right posterior ribs five and six are actually microfractures, though not nearly as miniscule as the ones on the occipital condyles of the vertebra.”

“Hm,” Booth grunted.

“Something was slowly and deliberately applied, with enough pressure, to the ribs in the center of her back, to cause this particular constellation.”

“I’ll be damned. And if he killed from behind, like Wendell said, and the victim was seated, maybe the killer was seated as well, right behind her with his knee in her back.” Booth nodded, in thought.

“Mmm. Her proportions would suggest as much.”

“Sweets should have a field day with that. Do you think Angela could figure out the size of the guys paella, and then extrapolate how tall the guy is?”

“That is an intelligent question, assuming you mean ‘patella’ rather than ‘paella’, which is a Valencian rice dish, Booth, and remind me to email Angela about it later.”

Booth grinned gleefully. “Tell her I was the genius who had the idea. A little role-reversal never hurt anyone.”

“If you were Hodgins, you’d be asserting your superiority as King of the Lab,” she chuckled.

“So, we done here?” Booth asked, nodding in agreement.

“We are finished, yes.. I just need to repackage the remains, make copies of my notes on the photocopier in the hall, and package it to ship to the Jeffersonian.”

“We shipping the casket and everything?”

“Well, let’s take a look,” she said, finally releasing him from captivity.

To his surprise, Booth had no problem stepping up to the diminutive container this time. It helped that the open lid faced the opposite direction. The partners stood elbow to elbow for several moments, scanning every inch of the shiny fabric.

“What’s that? Hand me that micro magnifying glass, Bones.”

“What?” She asked curiously, handing him the tiny tool.

“That little dark thing. It may be nothing.” He reached toward it.

“Use the tweezers!” She yelped, holding them out to him and grabbing a petri dish. .

“Well, what have we here?” Booth spoke in a voice usually reserved for puppies and toddlers. “Would you look at that?” He picked up the speck in question and stared at it through the magnifying glass. “It’s too small to be a tick and it’s not even a whole animal! If I breathe on it, it might disintegrate or float away.”

“Hm—” Brennan leaned in to take a look.

“Maybe it’s a leg, or an antenna?” Booth suggested. “Or … my own eyelash?” He postulated, feeling foolish.

“That’s not an eyelash, Booth. Eyelashes are curved with a root on the thicker end. It could be a leg, or setae, from beetle larva.”

“Uh, I think this thing is actually orange. Is that possible?”

“Anything’s possible. Dr. Hodgins could provide you with an accurate answer to that question.”

“The bug man is going to be happy. Hey, there’s more in there,” Booth leaned back over the coffin while Brennan held the petri dish. “It was all stuck in this little fold of the fabric. Some seems to have settled on the bottom. Should I get it?” He glanced at her quizzically.

“Yes. Get it all. Always gather all the evidence, Booth,” Brennan smiled.

“Maybe there’s enough here to tell us where that third body is,” he said in hushed tones.

“Maybe. We don’t need much to determine that, but we do need everything.”

“And I know what you’re going to say next.”

“What?” She fastened the top onto the petri dish and taped it shut.

“The whole kit and caboodle is going to the Jeffersonian!” Booth clapped his hands together once, exuberantly.

“Well, I understand your intent, but that is not at all how I would have said it,” Brennan objected.

“That’s why you need me, Bones. I add color to your life.” He kissed her loudly on the cheek as she began collecting the bones to be packaged for delivery.

“That is undeniable. Let’s get out of here,” she mumbled, then smiled at him. She kissed him back sweetly on the lips; a brief kiss charged with the live current of promise.

On the way toward the door once everything was packaged to go, Booth spied a box sticking out from under Sr. Shcherbakov’s desk.

“Oh, man. Son of a beach bunny. Look at this, Bones,” he said, then read the words on the box. “Ozone Generating Air Purifier. Dr. Demento must have bought this thing before he died and no one had the sense to look in the box! Listen to this:

‘Your new air purifier electronically oxidizes molecules in the air destroying noxious odors and fumes at their source. Used by hundreds of crime labs, police, and sheriff departments, correction facilities, and medical examiners, your Arrow™ Ozone Generating Air Purifier covers up to 40,000 square feet, leaving behind the fresh scent of a spring day.’

The two stared at each other, dumbfounded.

“I believe that’s called irony, Bones.” Booth smirked.

“And you would be correct. On another topic … if we are going for a little role reversal,” she said as they turned off the lights and closed the morgue door behind them. “I’m going to have to create a poem for you. A really romantic one.”

“What do you mean?” He asked, his brow furrowed inquisitively as he held the elevator door open for her.

“You discovered the organic material in the coffin, and suggested extrapolating height of the killer by measuring the patella—both which could be key pieces of our puzzle. I better do something you would usually do, and start thinking about something really romantic.”

“Really romantic, huh?” He said, flashing his eyes and wiggling his eyebrows playfully.

“Yes,” she asserted, jutting out her chin. “Something to rival, ‘Gave my heart to a woman named Bones, who paid me with kisses and groans …’”

“It was moans, Bones. Groans are for pain. Or exasperation. Or lifting heavy things. Moans are for pleasure. Satisfaction. You have so much to learn, Grasshopper,” he teased, putting his arm around her and hugging her sideways. “With a smile on her face, she offered me grace and I felt like a king on a throne’.”

“You never cease to surprise me, Booth,” she grinned, making Booth’s heart melted.

“You think that was romantic? Wait till you see what I have prepared for you in your hotel room,” he beamed as they exited the building to find Sebastian waiting for them.

“Wha, my room?” She stopped and stared at him. “I assumed we were staying together.”

“Yeah. About that,” he stammered. Play this right and you’re home free, Booth Buddy, he thought to himself. According to ‘The Psychology of Sales, 101′, the correct answer is always ‘yes.’ “Of course, we will be staying together, Bones, tomorrow. Tonight, we have separate rooms. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.”

“Hmmmm. What difference could it possibly make?” She argued, crestfallen. Booth remained resolutely mute. Finally, Brennan, relented, for now. “I better start thinking about ‘Sir Seeley’, then,” she said dejectedly.

“Who’s Sir Seeley’?”

“He’s the protagonist in the poem I am writing for you.”

“I like that,” smiled Booth, nodding slowly. “It has a certain … Je ne sais quoi … to it.”

Brennan snorted. “Gotta keep up with the French.”

“Oui, oui, Mademoiselle!” He said, grabbing her hand, and pressing his lips to it for a lingering kiss.

Brennan spent the entire town car ride to the hotel shushing Booth so she could concentrate on her poem. He was just tired enough not to argue after the first three times and almost fell asleep leaning his head on her shoulder. Brennan constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed her poem several times; she switched the lines around, and rearranged the verses until she was completely satisfied. Then she repeated it to herself many times to commit it to memory in its final iteration . . .

Much later, as Brennan sat on the couch in her anteroom waiting for Booth to emerge from the bathroom after what she hoped would be a therapeutic shower, she repeated ‘Sir Seeley’ from memory, and smiled, remembering his reaction to it hours earlier when she finally recited it for him.

In the combined bed and bathroom on the other side of Brennan’s hotel suite, however, Booth sat in a pensive stupor on the lid of the porcelain throne where Brennan had left him only moments earlier.

The disturbing images from all of his nightmares—the one that visited him at the morgue and the one that awoke him after he fell asleep on Brennan’s couch—they continued to gnaw at him like a starving fox bent over a discarded carcass in bitterest winter. The screaming widows, the tormented fatherless children, the collapsing mass graves, his taunting father, the beguiling and duplicitous Brennan-like succubus who nearly asphyxiated him with his own pit of anguish. Then, the shimmering Filthy Stinking Bastard and the burning hole in Booth’s chest where his heart should have been. These specters descended upon his broad shoulders and weighed him down. An ache weaved itself into the sinews that kept his body from flying apart.

This should not be that big of a deal, he feebly tried to convince himself. His attempt at denial only aggravated his demons, sending several stabs of adrenaline down through his chest with every shallow breath. He ran his tongue over his lips and recalled the bitter taste of despair and stomach acid.

‘Stop,” he rasped hoarsely into the empty bathroom. “Just—stop!” He jammed his palm into his eyes and stood abruptly. He glanced sideways at the running water in the shower Brennan had started for him, and then released the waistband of his boxers from its perch upon his hips, scanning the room for the toiletries Brennan grabbed from his bathroom five flights up. Spying his toiletry kit on the countertop, he reached for it and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His flesh was a waxy shade of pale blue, his face covered in a patina of sweat. Locating his toothbrush and paste, he attacked his teeth, gums and tongue as if they were coated with something caustic.

“You look like crap, Booth buddy,” he said roughly to his reflection as he hunched over the sink to scoop water from the faucet up to his mouth. Rinse and spit. Rinse and spit. He looked up and peered into his own tired eyes, realizing suddenly that he was hunched and trembling either from a chill or from the onslaught of his demons. It was amazing he could stand at all. He hoped the hot shower would force a profusion of color back into his skin, banishing both chill and fear. Stepping into the tepid stream of water, he cranked the nozzle to the left as far as it would go. The temperature rose immediately, scorching his forearms.

“Excrement—!” He yelped, jumping back against the slippery glass wall of the shower stall. Reaching cautiously around the searing spray, he dialed the knob a centimeter to the right, darting brave fingers in and out of the spray until the water was just this side of scorching hot. Slowly and cautiously, he eased back into the stream, gritting his teeth and willing his skin to cease screaming its objections to the abuse raining down upon it. If boiling water made a good sanitizer, he reasoned, certainly a shower this hot would burn off the torment of his subconsciousness, right?

His head fully immersed in the stream, Booth dropped his marble-muscled shoulders and exhaled in a rush as if inflating a balloon, then slowly drew the soothing heavy steam deep into his lungs through both nose and mouth. He continued at a slow steady pace and added to it a mantra to occupy his brain: Don’t—think. Just be. Don’t prepare, plan, or practice a speech. Let God handle that.

Still somewhat unsteady, Booth flattened his palms against the wall on either side of the showerhead. He leaned forward, his head hanging in the stream. The coolness of the marble, a refreshing contrast to the sear of the stream enveloping him. He continued taking deep breaths, allowing the steam to cleanse him from the inside out.

While tranquility massaged its way into his body, his muscles and tendons trembled slightly as they relented in their fight to remain taut and tense. “Hoooooh, this was a very good idea, Bones,” he sighed as he swayed side-to-side still holding onto the wall.

Finally, Booth invoked the aid of his good old friend, the Holy Spirit. He knew there was no way, without help from above, that he’d have the courage and grace to do what needed to be done; say what needed to be said to Brennan. In the past he’d been surprised at the eloquence of his words in times like this—an eloquence that Booth knew he himself didn’t possess, but flowed easily from him when he allowed the Holy Spirit to take over.

Suddenly he was visited by a childhood memory. Tucked inside the front cover of a small black leather-bound bible Pops had given him on the day of his first communion was a laminated piece of paper the size of a playing card. On it was a photograph of dark angry clouds; heavy, swollen, and foreboding. Arising out of the clouds was an image of a simple man in a white floor length shift with his arms held out invitingly.

It’s the Holy Spirit, Hank had said. You can’t outrun Him, Seeley Joseph. I promise you this. He’s stuck on you like white on rice. His grandfather tousled his hair and gave him that big strong hug that smelled like Gran’s cooking and motor oil, autumn leaves and old Sears catalogs.

Inscribed in gold on the back of the card were these words:

‘Be not afraid; I go before you always.’

It was an adaptation from Isaiah. Like Pops, it was brief and straight to the point, but powerful. Booth repeated this mantra five or six times now until his subconscious took over the repetitions and elevated him to a meditative state transcending the ugliness of his unwelcome dreams. Finally, he was able to peacefully and objectively review the evening’s events—both welcome and unwelcome. He recalled the conversation with Ed Williams and his confession of having killed many people. He thought about the tiny casket and the lifelike carving on it’s lid. He closed his eyes and cautiously reflected on the images of mass graves and ditches, children crying. After a moment he realized that these thoughts felt like a slide show he was watching. They didn’t feel as if they resided within him, but outside him. But they still clung to him; hovered over him.

Stepping out of the stream, Booth toweled himself dry and brushed his teeth one more time. His skin was flush from the heat, his eyes were clear and sharp. He felt peaceful.

Glancing at the countertop, he spied something in the corner that lifted his heart and sent a warm feeling of appreciation all through him. It was a simple piece of paper folded into sixths. He recognized Brennan’s handwriting through the paper. It was the poem, ‘Sir Seeley’, that she’d thought up, memorized, and then written down for him. It was when she’d gone to find paper and pen to write it down that he had sat upon her hotel room couch and slumped over. He’d been asleep before his body was fully horizontal. He recalled their heated exchange once arriving at Hotel 1000 …

Arriving at the hotel from the medical examiner’s office, they had checked in quickly and headed for the elevator to the third floor.

“I feel like something’s missing,” Brennan murmured, closing her eyes and sinking her nose into the mass of velvety roses petals. She tightened her arms around the crystal vase cradled in her arms. Sighing contentedly, she beamed up at her partner.

“Our luggage,” Booth said, smiling at the pleasure in Brennan’s eyes despite the fatigue he knew she had to be feeling after such a long day. “We’re used to carrying our suitcases along with this tool kit here and the communication equipment. This is a classy joint.” He stepped closer and draped his arm across her shoulders, kissing her temple.

“I didn’t mean to be ungrateful, Booth,” Brennan apologized, searching his eyes. “When I saw these flowers were for me, I mean. I was so focused on memorizing the lines to my poem, that I failed to appreciate the significance of your gesture.”

Upon seeing the lovely flowers, Brennan had launched into a reproachful soliloquy on the gratuitous loss of fragrance resulting from the overbreeding flowers for the commercial purpose of more brilliantly colored blooms. It’s an abuse of nature, she’d said. All because it’s easier to mass market the visually pleasing rather than the olfactorily pleasing.

Booth had managed the paperwork for their rooms, listening indulgently with a shallow half smile plastered on his lips, until they stood in front of the elevator doors.

“Apology accepted,” he whispered against her hair, squeezing her sideways up against the length of his body. When the doors smoothly slid open with a ding, they got in and turned around. Booth pushed the number three button and backed toward the back of the elevator where he leaned against the wall, exhausted.

Brennan joined him, snuggling under his arm and resting her head on his shoulder.

“They are quite lovely.” She inhaled deeply, breathing in the tangy-sweet scent. After leaving the frigid morgue, Brennan and Booth eventually lost their sensory resistance to the remnants of stink lingering on their clothes. The bouquet of fresh blooms was a pleasing alternative to the reminder of where they’d spent their evening. “Why won’t you tell me how you managed to find organically grown roses this time of year, Booth?” Brennan mewled.

Booth simply shrugged and smiled, then rested his temple against her hair. He had no intention of divulging the expense involved in getting two different strains of the most fragrant roses in existence on such short notice. He knew she was a purist and would feel compelled to comment about a rose being a rose and not smelling so sweet. Maybe she’d even say they weren’t roses at all if they completely lacked scent, and that it was an affront to the natural order of things as well as to Shakespeare. Booth wasn’t going to give her any room to be anything but pleased with the surprised he’d arranged for her.

Brennan preceded Booth into the anteroom of her suite. She took a deep, cleansing breath and exhaled, allowing the tension to drain from her neck and shoulders. The vertical creases above her nose fell away, and the smoothness of her forehead left no trace of the lines that had been there mere moments before.

“Now, before you start talking about the microscopic fecal monsters crawling all over this place, you need to know I specifically chose this hotel because they use all organic cleaning materials and use an ultraviolet light and an ozone thingy to check for bugs—”

“Booth, smell that,” she chirped, interrupting him with the surprising lightness in her tone.

“What?” He furrowed his brow, hoping he hadn’t missed something.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” she said, her shoulders relaxing as she made a 365 degree turn around the room. She inhaled deeply several times. “It’s wonderful. Fresh. Odorless.” She centered the vase on the coffee table in front of a full length couch set facing the floor to ceiling windows. “And beautiful.” She dropped the keycard next to the vase with a shallow slap, and emptied the contents of her pockets into an orderly pile beside it. Gingerly pulling the single red rose out of the center of the bouquet, she inhaled its perfume.

“And the sheets, I think, are made of a thousand Egyptian threads, whatever that means, are they’re boiled, even the bedspreads, after every use.” Booth pulled her tool case in from the hall and stood it on end just inside the door. Sliding her other bag down his arm, he set it next to the case. “Did I do good?”

“Did you do well, is the grammatically correct way to say it. And, yes, you did well, Booth,” she sighed appreciatively, cocked her head to the side and allowed a smile to brighten her face. “So, are you coming in, or are you just going to stand there?” She asked, tapping the rose against her lips. She walked toward him and reached for his hand.

“No, I better go,” he said with a lopsided smile, bringing her hand to his lips and dropping a kiss on her knuckles. The door behind him remained ajar, one Boothy foot holding it open. “You should get some sleep,” he said, running his fingers up her arm to pull her closer and press his lips against her forehead.

Brennan dropped her head on his shoulder and paused. “What is that?” She said, suddenly stepping back. “It’s the faint scent of white tea and ginger!” Abandoning Booth at the door, she advanced toward the bedroom and peeked into the bathroom where a mountain of fluffy bubbles floated atop a tub filled with steaming hot water.

“Booth! Someone’s already drawn a bath. We must have the wrong room.” She looked around for signs of another occupant, but saw only her own suitcase tucked away by the closet door and her extra shoes lined up at the foot of the bed. “Or, is this part of the package?”

“It’s part of your package,” he called from the anteroom.

“You did this?” Her disembodied voice called out from the bedroom. “You couldn’t have done this, Booth. You were with me the whole time.”

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “there’s this new invention, it’s called the telephone …”

“Wha—Booth, you didn’t have to do that!” She reappeared in the bedroom door to stare in wonder across the anteroom at her mate.

“Well, I knew it would be late when we finished, and,” he shrugged sheepishly, “you would need to wind down … wash the stink off ya’. A nice hot bath should do the trick, though I think I may burn my clothes,” he chagrined, smelling his sleeve.

“Booth,” she gasped, then sighed with a humbly grateful lilt in her tone. She held his gaze for a moment, then broke into a grin, her eyes flashing with mischief. “Step into my office, said the spider to the fly…” she teased, walking back to where he waited by the door.

Standing in front of him, she slipped her fingers between his shirt and the waistband of his trousers, and gently tugged, pulling him forward until the door clicked closed behind him.

Booth hesitated, then allowed her to drag him a little further inside, but then stopped. She could feel his abdominal muscles tighten against the back of her fingers as she continued to playfully tug at his waistband. Booth gently pulled on her wrist until she release her grasp on his buckle and held her hand.

“Enough of that,” he reproached her gently. “I’d like to tell you something about your roses. Think you can concentrate?” He chided. “I know it will be, uh, difficult.” He chuckled low and tucked several errant strands of hair behind her ear.

Brennan shrugged with one shoulder and relented, raising their joined hands to her mouth, kissing the back of his hand, then resting them against her sternum.

“Okay. They represent our journey together, Bones,” Booth said quietly, leaning back against the closed door. “Six years of friendship and partnership, followed by a year of romance and passion to come,” he said smartly. “Six white, one red.”

Brennan dropped her chin to her chest and smiled humbly at the sweetness of his sentiment. Her eyes drifted closed as she lifted the bud to her nose and inhaled it’s scent. “Booth,” she whispered, stepping close enough to feel his breath on her cheek. “When I think of us—where we are now—in this,” she shrugged one shoulder innocently, “Operation—”

“—Operation Pringles.” It was an affirmation. He smiled and blinked with lazy eyelids as he watched her chest and their joined hands rise and fall in a barely audible sigh. He felt dizzy, like he was going to cry, he was so content and grateful. He didn’t remember ever being this … exhilarated … in a relationship. “I love you,” he blurted, flashing his eyes at her.

“I know.” Brennan smiled to herself, her eyes dropping to the rose, her eyelashes a fringe of chestnut against her creamy skin. “Yes, Operation—,” she sighed in a high tone, “—Pringles. I, Booth, I think of orange,” she finally said in a breathy voice, her eyes traveling from the rose to his chest, then resting on his lips, and then following the line of his jaw up to meet his eyes. “Shall I tell you why?” She teased sweetly, resting the fullest part of the bud in the center of his forehead, then dragging it little by little down the line of his nose and across his upper lip.

“Orange?” He repeated in surprise, wiggling his ticklish nose. “What, it’s your favorite popsicle flavor?” He hummed in a sing-song tone. Spellbound by her playfulness, he gently took the stem from her fingers and trailed the fragrant feather-soft petals across her temple. Continuing along her jawline, he traced a path down her throat where a strong pulse jumped in rhythm with his own heartbeat. She bit her lips to stop from making noise when he continued across her chest and down along the plunging neckline of her blouse. He painted delicate, ticklish lines over the inside curve of her breasts, connecting all three love bites from this morning. Goosebumps exploded all over her skin; chest, neck and arms. She tried, unsuccessfully, to control a shudder.

Brennan released a low mewling sigh and dropped her fingers on his wrist. It was as much to steady herself as to stop him lest she fly completely apart. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to bask in the tension of the desperate impulse to rip off her clothing and slide back and forth over his chest like a cat affectionately claiming its territory .

“No,” she whispered, “I don’t care for popsicles. However, here is my logic: red is traditionally recognized as the color of love and romance,” she said, her drowsy eyes squinting open, “but orange, orange is the color of desire, exuberance, and cheerful enthusiasm.”

A slow comprehending smile crept across his face, his lips forming a silent, “Ohhhh!”

His exclamation was quieted when she leaned in and grazed his lips before breathing across his mouth: “And that’s what I feel right now. Desire, exuberance, cheerful enthusiasm.” She tossed the rose aside and grasped his biceps, stepping up on her tiptoes, and leaning her soft chest into his solid one, covering his mouth with languorous, exploratory kisses that stopped his heart and dropped his stomach into his shoes. If he hadn’t already been leaning against the doorjamb, he would have fallen over. “But,” she gasped between kisses and nibbles, “I won’t be jumping around like a cheerleader, because I can barely hold myself up as it is.”

Booth’s nervous chuckle vibrated against her neck where he’d begun painting a trail of salty kisses and licks. “Orange,” he croaked, his voice thick with emotion. He cleared his throat and wrapped his arms around her, crushing her to his chest. “Good to know,” he whispered hotly into her ear before nipping at her earlobe and behind her ear, then taking those kisses and caresses down her neck and back up to her mouth, kissing her passionately until they were both out of breath. Booth tightened his arms around his mate and delighted in those little noises she made that only he would ever hear.

For several delicious minutes, they pushed into each other’s bodies and used their clothing as tethers to pull each other closer. Brennan grasped his biceps again, feeling the muscles below tighten in response. She released one arm and followed the curve of his shoulder up over his perfect acromion to his neck, then captured a handful of short brown hair and pulled a little too hard. Booth’s fingers tore at the back of her blouse until they found the hem and his palms met the smooth skin at the small of her back underneath. Exploring the dip of her spine, he scratched a little too hard, forcing a guttural response to erupt from Brennan’s throat into the side of his neck.

“I was wrong,” he cooed drunkenly. “You just groaned, but it had nothing to do with pain or exasperation.”

“What?” She signed, dragging her forehead languidly over his chin.

“The difference between groan and moan … from earlier. Remember?”

“I don’t remember anything from before right now,” she said, then chuckled at her own silliness.

“Well, earlier I said that groaning was about pain and exasperation.”

“Oh. Yes. But I am in pain, Booth. And I am exasperated.” She groaned again, to prove her point.

“You just need some sleep,” he chuckled against .

“No, I just need your clothes off,” she whimpered, grazing his hip with a raised knee which, finding no purchase, slid back down the length of his thigh. “The fact that my own clothing remains on is equally exasperating … and painful.” She pulled up the back of his shirt and found the bare skin beneath. Fourth lumbar vertebra, fifth lumbar vertebra, left posterior iliac crest, right iliac crest, she found herself thinking as she brailed his lower back, moving upward. Twelfth left and right posterior ribs, eleventh left and right posterior ribs, thoracic vertebrae twelve and eleven.

Booth chuckled and squeezed her to his chest again. As they melted into each other they emitted intoxicated sighs, and nonsensical words between kisses, and caresses. Things like, Mmmmm … You feel so gooooood … I could hold you like this forever … That would be impractical … I’m pretty sure I don’t care … You feel so good, too … I know … I love kissing you … I’m experiencing a heady downpour of adrenaline … God bless chemistry … Especially Fenylethylamine …. Is that the one responsible for…? —Yes, the hormone that … what? Increases heart rate and sweating? —Yes, and makes your skin hot … Your cheeks are burning up … So are yours.

Then followed a jumble of affectionate mumbles like, I love you … Hoh, I love you more … Fenylethylamine is also the chemical responsible for sending extra blood flowing to the sexual … I know, to the tingling naughty bits … Hmmm? —It’s a SNL skit, surely you’ve seen the Church Lady? —I don’t know what that means, is that a Catholic thing?—Hah, no. It’s from Saturday Night Live! Dana Carvey? —Oh … You still don’t know what that means, do you? —Did you just bite me? —I did. I totally did … oh … did I hurt you? —No … Then, I’ll do it again … Whoa … Rawr! Just remember … you bit me again. I find that your biting to be quite titillating … That’s what I was hoping … So, the church lady? —Yes, she calls it lust when the tingling naughty bits are engorged with blood … Whoa, hoh, like right now, right? —Oh, God. God, yes!—You do realize it’s been Tuesday for a couple of hours already … yes, painfully aware … God, I love you … and you are turned on by me … Knock, knock. Pot, this is Kettle. You’re black … wha … oh, you are saying … I should hope so, that I am, I mean … otherwise … I know, but believe me, I’m fully functioning … so am I … you are also goofy … but you adore me … I do, I can’t help it … feeling’s mutual … I know …

And a moment later, despite being a tangled mess of arms and hair and hot skin and lips and rumpled clothing, they both became aware of something disturbing.

Bones, not that I’m complaining, but … Are you, uh, thinking what I’m thinking?—As our bodies have warmed the fabric of our clothing … it’s the stink from the morgue … stinking morgue with the broken down cadaver freezer! —Hooo. What crappy timing! —Unfortunately, we are in danger of creating sensory associations that could have disastrous consequences … What, that could what … Be detrimental to our work … What do you mean … and our love life … what?! —We don’t want to become aroused whenever we smell … morgue smells? God, seriously … it’s called sensory association, if we continue making out while perceiving the aromas of decaying flesh and viscera, our prefrontal cortexes will create an association and every time we smell putrefaction … uh, god, we should stop anyway … it’s just that you’re so … I know … but, do you want to be overcome with the impulse to make love in the middle of investigating … you think I don’t already have that problem … oh, that’s right. You just bit me again … I’m a man, Bones, that’s how I’m made …

Brennan broke away with difficulty, her heart racing. She tried to catch her breath, but now that she was standing on her own, felt quite dizzy.

“What if we just get these off?” She began unbuttoning her shirt, exposing a bra a lot of silky looking skin that jiggled as her shaky fingers wrestled with the buttons. “Then we can change into something clean and make out.”

“Uh, my clothes are upstairs!” Booth eyes popped out, his ears started ringing.

“You can wear something of mine,” Brennan panted, walking back toward him.

“Whoa, no! That is not fair. I call dirty pool. Besides, won’t our—doesn’t our—I mean, isn’t our skin and hair still gonna smell like—”

“Dammit, you are correct.” She stopped two feet from him and frowned in frustrated disappointment. Her eyes became glossy and her shoulders fell.

“It’s a sign from God,” he panted, running a hand through his hair. “Listen,” he said, licking his lips once he’d caught his breath. He held his hand out to her. She took it, and let him pull her close, then gather her into his arms. “It’s just as well, Bones,” he said in a soothing voice as he tucked her head under his chin and kissed the top of her head. “You and I both know if these clothes come off they aren’t going back on and that’s in direct violation of our O.P. agreement.”

“O.P.?”

“Operation—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she mumbled against his skin, burrowing her face into his neck. “It’s just that you were—really getting to me at the medical examiner’s office—and, you’re right, I am—so—very tired. I just want to snuggle up next to you and feel your arms around me while I drift off to sleep,” she mewed, on the verge of exhausted tears.

Booth sighed heavily and stroked her back. “I know,” he whispered above her ear. “But, listen, huh? You go take a nice hot bath in that tub full of Honeysuckle and white ginger or whatever it is. And then get some sleep. I’ll come getcha for breakfast, okay?”

“I find I am feeling quite emotionally—overwhelmed as a result of, well, everything.”

Booth leaned back and lifted her chin so he could look in her eyes. He frowned compassionately, and arched an eyebrow. “I know. Me too. And,” he said, rubbing his nose against hers, “we both need sleep. And I,” he sighed deeply and paused, then found he didn’t know how to say what he wanted to say.

When he didn’t continue, Brennan looked from one of his eyes to the other and back, waiting. Booth closed his mouth and stared blankly back. He pursed his lips, looked away, and shifted his weight. “Umm.”

“Booth, it feels like you are pulling away from me and it—I find it very disconcerting,” She swallowed hard, her forehead dimpling in concern. “Is this about what’s been bothering you all day?” When he still didn’t respond, she felt a stab of anxiety pierce her breast. “Booth?” She said gently. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

He opened his mouth, then closed it. He swallowed and dropped his eyes to her chin, unable to look up again.

“You body language seems to suggest that either you cannot tell me, or you do not want to tell me what’s going on.” She waited again. “Either way, I am experiencing a rising sensation of discomfort in—”

“—There is nothing for you to be worried about, Bones. Nothing. I swear.” He looked over her head and around the room. He sighed and smiled wanly, his eyes finding hers again, finally.

“Then—?” She shook her head and shrugged encouragingly.

“Bones,” he started, closing his eyes, his brow creased in concentration. He didn’t want to upset her, but he wasn’t ready for full disclosure yet either. “It scares me sometimes how much I want you. And—sometimes I think I’ll fall apart when you kiss me, or touch me. And when that finally happens, Bones—when I finally fall apart—with you—I want it to be clean. I want there to be nothing standing between us. Nothing that I can’t give up; nothing that I hold onto. Nothing but you.” He swallowed hard, his mouth and chin wrinkling as he fought against the wave of emotions welling up in his chest. The fear, the doubt, the images of the demons that wanted to keep them apart. The love that held him together that he couldn’t bear to lose.

Brennan reached up and cradled his face in her hands. Her anxiety was building, but not for herself; it was for him. He opened his eyes. She willed herself not to look away from his naked fear. She forced a smile, but he didn’t return it. He was serious. She looked down, unsure what to say. She shrugged one shoulder.

“Is there—is there anything I can do?” She asked plaintively, her hands drifting down to his rest on his chest.

Booth closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers. “Bones, you don’t know how long I’ve wanted this,” he said, then stopped himself.

“Booth, what is going on? We are partners. Wouldn’t it be better for you to tell me what is troubling you, then for you to battle through it on your own? I am your soft place and I am right here,” she insisted, setting her jaw firmly.

Booth sighed heavily, and nodded, his eyes still closed.

“Remember when we were looking at that painfully tiny casket?” He began.

“In the morgue. Banty Solicious’ coffin.” She nodded.

“Yeah, well, something’s been on my mind all day—for a couple of days actually—and it got me thinking again—”

“You grew quite pale. That was when you rushed off to use the lavatory.”

“Yeah,” he chuffed uncomfortably, feeling stupid.

“That’s why I tried to distract you with all that talk about customs and anthropology and burial practices. But it didn’t seem to help. It seemed to make it worse!”

Booth smiled weakly.

“What—what is it that is troubling you, Booth? Please let me help you,” she said, then closed her mouth, cocked her head to the side and waited. “Is there something I can do?”

“No. Yes, well, I think so, yes. But first I just need a little … just a little time to myself.” He grimaced in supplication, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he willed her to understand.

Brennan pressed her lips together and tried to read his expression. Finally, she nodded slowly, then confidently. “Okay, Booth. I trust you.” She exhaled roughly when his relaxing shoulders told her she’d said the right thing.

Booth blew out a lungful of air and kissed her on the forehead. He nodded gratefully, pressing his lips together, and took her face in his hands. He slid his fingers behind her neck and pulled her closer, the two of them touching, forehead to forehead, belly to belly, thigh to thigh. He swallowed loudly, holding her there in silence for a moment.

“There is something you could do for me. Right now,” he said.

“Anything,” she answered, snaking her arms around his waist.

“Tell me the poem you made up for me.”

A slow smile crept across her face.

“With pleasure, Sir Seeley,” she said after a moment. “But you must keep in mind that you are the romantic in this relationship. I am the more rational of the—”

“—You let me be the judge,” he assured her.

“Okay. It is a little—full of corn—as they say. You know, supercilious—”

“Uh, I will be the judge. Now— go ahead!” He urged quietly.

She grimaced, dropped her eyes to his chin, and cleared her throat. She swayed side to side for a moment, then cleared her throat again, and began without looking up.

‘It is you, Sir Seeley, who’s got me beset sir.
It is your lips that cause me to tremble and sweat, sir.’

Booth’s mouth fell open. Brennan flicked a glance up at him and flushed crimson, then rolled her eyes, and exhaled unsteadily. She pinched her lips into a tight bow and closed her eyes, waited.

Booth stifled a grin and chomped down on his tongue. This was not at all what he had expected. “Um,” he cleared his throat. “Is there, uh, more—?” His eyebrows ran for his hairline in hope that there was.

20 they don't live with you

Booth stifled a grin and chomped down on his tongue. This was not at all what he had expected. “Um,” he cleared his throat. “Is there, uh, more—?” His eyebrows ran for his hairline in hope that there was.

She wouldn’t look up.

“It’sQuiteInferioToYours-IShouldn’tHaveTriedToEven ,” she began in one long rush of words. ” IMadeTheWholeThingUpInTheCar- OnTheWayHereFromTheMedicalExaminer’s -IToldYouIAmMoreRationalThanRomantic. Don’tLaughAtMe, Booth.” She chanced a glance up into his eyes and found him staring, speechless at her, his mouth still hanging open. She jammed her eyes closed again. “Excrement,” she cursed under her breath.

“Out with it,” Booth commanded, stifling an enormous grin which she couldn’t see anyway, hiding as she was behind her vulnerability. “Come on,” he goaded, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs, but she refused to look up for more than a second. “Are there more than two lines?”

“There are four—”

“Four lines?”

“Four, uh, stanzas.” She said with a sheepish half smile.

“Hah. Okay, then. Give it up, Chaucer. Let’s see what you’re made of.”

Brennan sniffed, shifted her weight yet again, and cleared her throat.

‘It is you, Sir Seeley, whose limbs twixt mine long for—’

“Uh, excuse me. From the beginning,” Booth interrupted, “please.” His lips wiggled as he attempted to control his delighted smile.

Brennan exhaled and rolled her eyes.

‘It is you, Sir Seeley, who’s got me beset sir.
It is your lips that cause me to tremble and sweat, sir.
It is you, Sir Seeley, whose limbs twixt mine long for—
It is your laugh, your smile, your love I belong for.

It is you, Sir Seeley, I can’t live without sir.
It’s your scent; your taste, your touch without doubt sir
It is you, Sir Seeley, my blood race and heart swell, sir,
So hasten, Sir Seeley, my hunger to quell, sir.

It is you, Sir Seeley, who stirs my desire.
It is your voice whose prose sets my skin all a-fire.
Come to me swiftly into my embrace sir
Lay me down gently; remove all my lace, sir.

Make me your own, put your seal on my breast, sir.
Give me your breath and this final behest, sir.
It is your love, your life that I long to abide sir.
With you on your horse and my bridle beside, sir.

(CLC, 2013)

"Whoa. That's some pretty powerful poetry," he said in a low voice. "I guess I was inspired," she replied glancing up into his eyes nervously, praying he wouldn't laugh.

“Whoa. That’s some pretty powerful poetry,” he said in a low voice. “I guess I was inspired,” she replied glancing up into his eyes nervously, praying he wouldn’t laugh.


Booth stood in the bathroom and read the poem Brennan had written for him. By the time he’d finished convincing Brennan that he really, really, really liked her poem, she was a mess. Blouse hanging half out of her pants, her hair everywhere, her lips puffy, her cheeks and chest flushed, once again. One boot on, the other lying lifeless a foot behind her; one sock pulled half off and twisted at an odd angle under her toes. Booth looked like he’d been rode hard and put away wet as well.

“I want you …” He breathed across her ear when he knew he had to put an end to this love fest or he’d never make it up to his room.

“Oh, I want you too. So very desperately,” she sighed back, covering his mouth with hers once again.

Booth chuckled. “You didn’t let me finish! I was going to say, I want you to go find paper and pen and write that whole poem down for me before you forget it,” he said. “Then I really gotta go.”

Brennan slumped in his arms. “Are you saying this so you can sneak out of here while my back is turned?” She glared at him the slit eyes.

“No, absolutely not!” He insisted, feigning offense.

“Pinky swear?”

“Pinky swear,” he said, offering her his right hand.

“Okay. I’ll be right back,” she said, walking backward toward the bedroom as she pointed at her own eyes, then at his, then back at her own. “I’ve got my eyes on you, Sir Seeley,” she cajoled.

Booth imagined how she must have felt when she returned to the anteroom moments later, poem in hand, and thought he’d left. In actuality, he’d slunk down on the couch and leaned back. Before he could kick his shoes off and stretch his legs out across the cushions, he’d fallen sound asleep and was on his way to a nightmare that sent him careening into the glass bathroom wall on the other side of a bathing Brennan … and then out her hotel room door, and up five flights to his own room.

Booth refolded the poem, and slid it into the pocket of the shorts Brennan had grabbed for him from his room. Now, he was ready to tell her everything.

Take me to the next chapter,  ‘Panic Room’.
___________________________________________________

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This has been a chapter of the Bones Fan Fiction, The When and the How: A Bone to Pick. I hope you enjoyed it. For more of my Bones Fiction, check this out!

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#BONES Fiction: TWATH: AB2P 218 ‘Panic Room’

Author’s Note: This is the chapter that precedes “Chapter 219: ‘Love Don’t Die Easy’, the chapter I am currently working on for The When and the How: A Bone to Pick.  To read the previous chapter, ‘Sir Seeley’, go here.

PANIC ROOM

Booth Thoughtful

Booth stood in the doorway separating the bedroom from the ante room of Brennan’s hotel suite. He stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the absence of light. As he stood there, his eyes straining, he heard Brennan stand, and then realized she was humming a tune, something he recognized but couldn’t remember where from. As she turned slowly toward him, he caught a momentary glimpse of her silhouette and his heart skipped a beat. Just seeing her lifted a thin layer of the heaviness from his heart.

There she was, and she was perfect and she was his … for the moment. He wanted to have and hold her forever. He wanted to give her a beautiful life, with children some day, and all the love she deserved. She deserved it all. He wanted her to see him as reliable and constant, characteristics that he knew were important to her. He wanted her to be confident that he was capable of protecting her from anything that might threaten her happiness. He wanted her to feel that he was vital … and normal. And strong.

He didn’t want to shatter the image he was sure she already had of him. A single fear loomed and followed him wherever he went lately: that once she witnessed him paralyzed by the spectors of the families he ruined and the children he killed, she’d see him as weak, cowardly, irresponsible. Like his dad did.

His consciousness stepped into the ring for sixty seconds of mental gymnastics that felt like an hour …

That’s a stupid thought, he said to himself in an irritated tone. She swears that she loves me. No matter what. And she always keeps her word. But his heart wasn’t as confident as his brain.

For the one hundredth time he tried to negotiate with himself. Maybe he could hide this insecurity … the anxiety attacks, the waking mid-scream in the middle of the night, the sweating and puking, the shivering, shrinking from the touch of another human being. He hated all of this with a rage that frightened him, a rage akin to what he saw in his father’s eyes when he was on a rampage.

But, maybe I can swallow it, just bite it back … all those feelings. Keep pretending as I’ve always done. If I’m happy enough with Bones and myself and Parker, maybe all the anxiety will just go away? But, holding it in, hiding it, was slowly killing him. The hole in his chest where his heart belonged was turning his dreams of joy to ash.This has to stop! I have to make it stop! To do that, he had to expose it. He closed his eyes and sighed resignedly.

What if she pities me? He thought further, feeling a tightening in his chest. It was the same old argument he had with himself everytime he considered telling her about his torment. Christ! I don’t want her to feel sorry for me. I want her to respect and love me. But what if she’s disappointed in me? What if I can’t make this shit go away? What if there’s a way to make it go away that I just don’t want to do … like sitting in a group of people and baring my soul … blubbering and getting it all out with an audience of strangers. No freaking way am I doing that. But what if she wants me to? She will be so disappointed if I don’t. Shit, I hate this.

Booth dove a hand into his pants pocket and pulled out the paper on which was written her poem, ‘Sir Seeley’, and rubbed it between his fingers like a worry stone.

Now, simmer down, Seeley Joseph, said a booming disembodied voice from somewhere behind him. You’re setting yourself up for failure here, son. He imagined two big hands heavy on his shoulders. He dropped his head and stared at the floor, focusing inward at tension in his own body. He took several deep breaths to calm himself and nodded mentally in the dark.

Life is not about being flawless and neither of you are perfect. I know this because I made you both. The Holy Spirit fell silent, allowing his message to sink in before he continued. Pain, weakness, shame, desperation, loss; it’s your vulnerability that makes you more human, Seeley.

But I feel so guilty. I feel so … Booth shrugged … broken … when I think of the things I’ve done. How could anyone do what I did and … He couldn’t formulate the penetrating desperation into words any longer.

Silence from the presence right behind him. Booth shuddered and rotated his shoulders one at a time as if trying to free himself from some immobilizing force.

Your life has had many trials and you have persevered. The voice continued, stilling Booth whose breaths came out in shallow bursts. What you see as weakness, I see as strength. What you see as failure, I see as preparation for greater things.

More silence.

But I, I did some horrible, horrible things. I’m going to go to hell, aren’t I? I’m in hell already. This crap is going to ruin my relationship with the only person who’s ever fully known and truly loved me. It’s going to destroy me!

That is why I sent Temperance to you, Seeley. She will broaden your perspective and remind you of who you are when you falter. Lean on her. She’s strong and she can take it.

The gentle voice whispered something, its warmth flowing across Booth’s ear: Be not afraid. I go before you always.

Booth nodded again, but still wasn’t feeling very trusting. Right. It’s that easy. Just don’t be afraid. Click you heels three times. Why didn’t I think of that? He chuffed, mentally rolling his eyes.

Your lack of faith in a solution, simple or not, does not invalidate it, son.

Booth smirked guiltily. The sweat of his fingers seeped into the paper clutched in his hand. He balled his fists, crumpling the paper into a golf ball sized wad, and swallowed audibly. The chat with HS wasn’t having the usual calming affect. A swarm of hornets had taken up residence in his gut, piercing his organs with their frantic pointy anger. He recognized this sensation and cursed himself for the panic attack. The task before him was simply too overwhelming, his paralysis too pervasive to be dissolved by mere words, even if they were from his Maker.

Trust. Her. Seeley Joseph. The Holy Spirit remained undaunted. He knew these words would stick in Booth’s brain and come to his rescue later when he was able to relinquish control a little more. Have. Faith. In. Her. Have faith in yourself. And if you get stuck, just stop talking, take a breath, then speak the truth from your heart. And remember that you are not alone. Ironically, at that moment Booth felt the presence leave. HS had gone into what Booth called ‘stealth mode’.

The soothing tone of Brennan’s humming began to insinuate itself into Booth’s consciousness, pulling him out of his thoughts. Sensing a pounding at his throat and temple, he realized he hadn’t exhaled in far too long. His autonomic nervous system was on the verge of inducing unconsciousness if Booth didn’t exchange the carbon dioxide buildup in his lungs with some fresh oxygen, and soon. Booth blinked at the floor as things started to go black and blotchy.

“Bones,” he gasped inaudibly. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Bones?” He reached out into the emptiness while trying, with difficulty, to swallow with so little saliva in his mouth. For a moment he saw himself turning and fleeing back to the bathroom to dip his head under the faucet to gulp down some water.

Then he took a step forward, swaying slightly. He felt dizzy. Needing to sit, but afraid to take another step.

“I’m right here, Booth,” she said, not sure if she should approach or let him come to her. Sweets had warned that people experiencing a traumatic episode need to be given lots of space.

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 8.43.11 PM

Booth’s lips twitched. A flickering of recognition having to do with the tune she was humming sparked, and he clung to it. Here it is. This is the moment. This is the moment it could all fall apart. Booth sucked on his bottom lip, hoping this would loosen his tongue from it’s sticking place at the roof of his mouth. What am I doing? I can’t do this! I want out. I want out.

The hornets from his stomach vaporized into slugs and began their slippery slide up his neck, leaving a silvery trail of sweat in their wake. Booth’s body was awash with adrenaline, rendering him nauseous and poised to take flight. His stomach was a vat of hot, spitting lava. If he opened his mouth, he was certain smoke would slink forward into the room and she’d smell his fear.

I said I want out! The silent scream ricocheted around inside his head like shrapnel agressively tossed into a surgical dish. He bit back the urge to release his anguish into the room, jammed his lips together, and sweat it out in disturbed silence. Don’t scare Bones! His entire body tensed, ready to pounce on the enemy. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Who-ahh! Rangers lead the way! Even if I am the last man standing.

Brennan sensed the panic in the space between them. She tentatively rounded the couch and walked toward Booth, the air heavy with steam from the hot shower. Surrounding Booth was an aura of uncertainty tinged with the subtle scents of clean male perspiration, musky shampoo, and mint. To Brennan these were comforting proof that he was physically there in the room with her and she was no longer alone to wallow in her own insecurities. Brennan stopped and squinted, looking for his eyes in the back-lit featureless face before her. Her pupils were confounded by the glow spilling from the bathroom and transforming her mate into a life size colorless paper doll.

As color and dimension began to emerge from the dim, a high octave sigh slid down the scale and culminated in a soothing rumble in her chest as she took a step closer and calmly reached for his arm. He flinched at first, his arm heavy, unresponsive, and moist in the crook of his elbow. She paused watching his reaction, then ran her palm very slowly up his arm and across his shoulder to the galloping pulse at his throat. As her pupils adjusted, the beads of perspiration on his forehead confirmed her suspicion that he was fighting an intense battle with his internal demons. He wouldn’t meet her gaze, and for a moment she thought he was going to pull away from her. She wanted to fling her arms around him, smash him to her chest, rock him, and kiss away the torment that had Booth in its grip. She felt a flash of anger and realized her jaw was clenched and beginning to ache. She took a deep, quiet breath, quashing her fury at who or whatever did this to her mate. Then she focused, forcing herself to remain truly present with him for now.

Booth closed his eyes. This is the ultimate nightmare, he thought. Right when everything I want, the only thing I want, is standing right in front of me. So close I can smell the sweetness, hear love’s entreaty, while already feeling its impending loss. He was afraid to reach out for it lest it disintegrate and float away like ash adrift on a silent breeze.

Very slowly, like a stop action film, Brennan reached up and took his face in both of her hands. Without opening his eyes, he allowed her to pull him down until their foreheads met. Her touch was incredibly gentle, her skin soft and cool with a soothing hint of white tea and ginger. Her long slender fingers felt amazing on cheeks still burning from the abuse of the scorching shower and for one moment, Booth thought he might collapse and cry.

He shivered and shook involuntarily, then forced his body to still. Slowly reaching up to cover her hands with his own, Booth pressed against them until he could feel his own hot skin surrounding her cool fingers. He stepped closer until their bellies touched. The partners leaned into each other, one soft chest pressed up against a solid one. Their kneecaps glanced off each other until they rearranged their feet. He couldn’t see it, but he thought he heard her brow furrowing, a pained grimace puckering her lips. Or was that just his imagination? Booth himself had the sensation that he’d run down a steep incline one step ahead of a crushing avalanche: flushed, agitated, unbelievably lucky, exhausted and scared shitless. His mind went blank. The lack of torment in his soul for the moment almost tickled.

Into his white consciousness crept the soothing sound of Brennan’s humming of that familiar melody. He wondered if she’d been humming this whole time. When Brennan began to gently whisper the words to the song, they appeared in Booth’s head – white smoke against a pale blue sky – then dissipated as new words appeared. Then he realized that at some point she’d begun to lead him in a gentle hypnotic sway that made the child in him want to cry out then to be gathered up into her arms and carried away.

Images from the morgue floated by. Good memories. The two of them singing together. Him keeping her warm … holding her … kissing her. Playing all those old songs …

The music of Jim Croce. That’s the song she was humming! ‘I Have to Say I Love You In A Song’. And it had been in one of his nightmares!

He straightened abruptly and clasped her hands, pulling them from his cheeks to press them to his chest. He recalled hearing her singing in the dream that landed him on the floor after the glancing blow to his temple by the glass table top.

“I hadn’t meant to leave,” he blurted, “earlier, I mean.” He searched her eyes for understanding, finding only surprise and confusion.

“When?” She asked, realizing he probably meant after she’d written down the poem. “Oh! But how’d you get back into my room?”

“I never left! I fell asleep!” he gasped in surprise, nodding toward the couch. He grasped her fingers firmly and pressed them against his chest and sighed at the realization.

“You never left? That makes sense,” she said, with a pensive squint. “Then you were awoken by your dream, ran into the bathroom, smacked into the glass wall between the bedroom and bathroom screaming my name, then ran out the door without explanation. I thought you were inebriated, Booth. I was startled. You looked like you’d seen a ghost.”

“Right. And in my dream I was in this cold, wet parking garage and I heard you singing that Croce song, but when I swung around to find you …”

“I was in the bubble bath,” she interrupted, “and, yes, I was singing.”

“Well, I heard you singing in my dream. I heard you, so I reached for you, and that’s when I flew off the couch and clocked myself on the coffee table. I was probably in shock when you saw me.” He fingered the tender skin that would be a lovely shade of yellow in the morning.

Brennan probed the slightly mushy patch of tissue covering Booth’s temporal bone.

“You were quite disoriented,” she agreed, taking his hand and leading him over to the couch. She sat. He didn’t. He looked around until his eyes fell on the adjacent matching chair. He dropped her hand, but still didn’t sit.

Veering to the left instead, Booth sat down tentatively on the arm of the overstuffed chair, then stood back up quickly as if he’d sat on a cactus. He awkwardly stepped aside and quietly sat on the very edge of the chair, hung his elbow over one of the upholstered arms, then immediately pulled it back, squishing both arms close to his sides. Then he sat, perfectly still except for the breath that hovered around his mouth; his eyes remianed glued to the floor.

“Right. Then you called me, but I said I was fine,” he chagrined, recalling how much he’d probably scared her.

“You needed some time and space to work something out … something akin to my fiberglass wrapped heart.” She spoke in low tones, which she hoped were unobtrusive.

“Exactly,” he said, gingerly scratching his forehead with the very tips of his fingernails. Booth dropped his elbows to his knees, clasped his hands together and rocked forward. His eyes rose to the reflective surface of the glass table before them and hovered there, unseeing.

Brennan leaned back and patiently waited for Booth to continue. She flicked a sideways glance at his features several times, then dropped her eyes in the direction of the glass table as well.

“Have you ever had a chill that wouldn’t go away unless you took a really hot bath?” He asked, aware that the soothing effect of the hot shower was long gone, wishing he could get back in that shower … maybe take her with him. He didn’t even care if they got in with their clothes on. He just wanted the warmth back, the creeping chill gone.

“You mean cold? Have I ever been that cold?”

“It’s different from being cold. I don’t know how to explain it, but sometimes I’m not really … cold …” He glanced up to meet her quizzical gaze. After a moment he added, “But it feels like I just can’t get warm.”

The confusion pinching her features fell away as Brennan nodded slightly after a moment.

“Do you, are you shivering when that happens? And you can’t stop?”

“Yeah, but not full out … not like you’re shaking violently.” Though that does happen sometimes, he thought to himself. “But just, you know, shivering,” he said, his shoulders rising and falling. “And no matter what you do to try and stop it … nothing works, except a hot bath.”

“So, it’ a restlessness.”

“Well. I guess. Maybe a pretty intense restlessness.”

“All over your body?”

“Mostly arms. Legs. Wait … along my back maybe, or the sides,” he said, jamming his hands into his armpits. “I don’t know, Bones, I’m not usually taking an inventory.”

“It sounds like an hysterical tremor.”

“Wait, what?” Hysterical, yes, that’s a good word for it, Booth chagrined secretly. “I’m not hysterical. I don’t get hysterical!”

“When does it happen?”

“I don’t know,” he lied. Always upon waking from nightmares was when. Then it followed him for hours, sometimes days, until he could squeeze in a good soak or maybe a drink or three … or both simultaneously. Some weeks he soaked in the tub every night. Sometimes twice, on a long night. He refused to think of this as strange whenever he did it. It was a solution that allowed him to function. That was all that mattered.

Brennan dropped her head to the side pensively and considered her mate in silence.

“So, you feel that way now?”

“Yes. No. Maybe a little-” he said. Definitely. He looked up, willing her not to label him hysterical.

She grabbed the hem of her sweatshirt and pulled it up over her head, sparks of static electricity crackling in the air. She nearly flashed her bare breasts when the fabric of her tee clung to the rising sweatshirt. Before Booth knew what was happening she was in front of him slipping the neck of the sweatshirt over his head and pulling it over his shoulders. Booth instinctively slid his arms through the warm Bonesy scented sleeves, and groaned unintentionally. Her sweatshirt brought with it an indefinable sense of security or protection. It was good, whatever it was called.

“Bones. You didn’t have to do that,” he protested weakly as she pulled the shirt over his chest. It was two sizes too small and barely reached Booth’s waist. Booth instinctively pulled at the hem trying to stretch it further. Then he impulsively grabbed the neckline of the sweatshirt, pulled it up to cover his nose and mouth, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, emitting a resonant groan. Embarrassed at making the noise, Booth pulled the fabric further up to cover his eyes as well and heard the tinkle of Brennan’s relaxed chuckle off in the distance. If I could just bottle this smell and stick my nose in it every time I was stressed … he thought.

“Yes, I have felt that way, Booth. After my parents disappeared. I couldn’t get warm. Then when the state made us sell the house, it got worse.”

Booth allowed the shirt to inch down, revealing his eyes. Brennan gently pulled the sweatshirt back down to his waist. She shrugged and squeezed his hands, then vigorously rubbed his arms for a moment. “But then, after Russ left me,” she paused, “when Russ left me and I was all alone. That was the worst. Tremors. I had tremors.”

Brennan kissed Booth on the forehead, smiled wanly into his eyes and quietly returned to the couch tucking her feet underneath her.

They sat for a moment in silence, Booth attempting to hold on to the warmth from Brennan’s sweat shirt by rubbing his arms and hugging himself. He looked truly uncomfortable. Brennan held her own arms tightly across the chest to keep from overwhelming him by jumping into his lap and wrapping her whole body around him until he was able to relax …

————–

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This is chapter of The When and the How: A Bone to Pick previous to the one I’m currently writing. I hope you enjoyed it.


 

Posted in Bones Imaginings: Fiction Archive | Tagged | Leave a comment