Seeley Booth is unexpectedly apprehensive about returning home to Brennan for the first time in four months. Who will he be? How will he be? Where will he find what he needs to be a husband and partner again?
Nothing Left to Lose
He lay on the hard, lumpy mattress that smelled like urine and felt like bed of cobblestones and draped an elbow over his eyes, trying to take calm breaths. Tomorrow is the day he’d been waiting for for 127 days. Without opening his eyes he could see the hashmarks he’d scratched into the bed frame gathered like bundles of wheat in the fall. Twenty five bundles of five hash marks plus two loose hash marks lined up like fence posts, the final mark to be added in the morning before his release. It will have been 128 days, 127 nights, by then.
He’d never experienced such fear in his life as he had these last four months. Never. This realization came to him at around eight bundles and two hashes marks after he arrived in the prison infirmary. For the first time now he was facing an unexpected fear, the unexpected fear of going home. Home? He didn’t have a home. They didn’t have a home. He couldn’t even think about the Cracker Jack box that used to be their home without breaking out in a cold sweat.
The knowledge that he’s no longer the same man he was four months ago pooled like bile in the back of his throat. He considered getting up to spit into the sink, but he didn’t have the energy and he wasn’t interested in getting dizzy again. At least there was nothing left in his guy to puke out.
He’d been on pins and needles since he was notified three days earlier that he’d actually be released tomorrow. He hadn’t had much hope it would really happen as this was the third time he’d received such a notification … and none before had come through. This Tuesday, though, he hadn’t gotten to see Brennan. She’d spent visiting hours filling out paperwork in the warden’s office. The warden. What a dick. Everyone knew paperwork only took five minutes. Linkletter had a way of stretching everything – latrine duty, surprise inspections, a visit to the infirmary to get a bandaid – until visiting time ran out. Just to mess with you.
Whenever the devastation made the ground beneath him fall away, spiraling him back down into that hole of black mud that tasted of sewage and despair he focused on his anger. Focusing on his anger helped, but also made things worse and delivered tension headaches. Headaches were at first a distraction, but not for long. Eventually they just pissed him off more. He used every ounce of his soul reigning in his outrage so he wouldn’t give the Warden Linkletter or the FBI who had defiled his nation any reason to prolong his stay … or to make it permanent.
This place, this hole, had stolen his joy. Without joy could he give her what she would surely need from him when he came out? Could he give her hope, comfort … affection? Could he sleep with his eyes closed? Would he jump whenever someone moved too quickly behind him? Would Christine’s tortured cries when she skinned a knee send him running from the room to glue back together the shell of composure it will have taken him days to grow over his broken soul?
Could he hold his wife without breaking either one of them? Could he make love to Brennan without weeping? How could he make love if the feeling of safety eluded him? He never let a tear fall during Brennan’s visits. Never even once. He would opened his eyes wide. He would pull on his cheeks and stare at the ceiling until his tears were reabsorbed. He would blew his nose energetically, covering his whole face with the toilet paper he kept in his pocket. She did enough crying for the both of them. He knew she tried not to, but she couldn’t help herself. After her eleventh visit she stopped trying to hold it or hide it. It was almost too much to bear for both of them.
The only thing that frightened him more than going home … was staying in here.
He could barely hold himself together for the hour she visited every other day, but could he handle – every day – seeing the pain in her eyes, feeling the misery that seeped from her pores, tasting the rage on her breath? How long before he flew apart? How long would it take for him feel he could be strong for her, be a comfort to her, be a husband to her … when for the first time in his life he had nothing left to give?
However long it took is how long it was going to have to take. And besides, he no longer had anything left to lose.