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.
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.
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.
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.