Chapter 214 You Can Run
“You can run. You can hide. You cannot escape.”
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.
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.”
“Put that pile of excrement—”
“Shit storm, whatever, put it into a box, catalog it, and relegate it to the back of your mind. Okay?”
“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!”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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