"You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back." Barbara De Angelis
It was her moans that woke him ... low and hoarse and repetitious in a way that suggested she'd been going for some time.
"Honey?" He shifted, or at least tried to. Panic loomed when he realised he couldn't move. Couldn't see either – at first his fears screamed 'blindness' but as his eyes adjusted he realised it was because they were somewhere very dark. As he listened to her keen without pause other elements of those sounds impinged on his own reality.
No, beyond fear. Blind terror ... the kind you had to hide from inside your own mind.
"Honey," he tried again to reach her but she was consumed in her own world.
As the panic threatened to overwhelm him, to send him to that same haven from reality, the man focussed on the particulars of his situation. He was a man of reason, a man who believed in logic. If he could figure out where they were, what had happened to them, then perhaps he would have what was needed to bring her back to him.
He was lying on a hard floor, probably concrete.
They were bound together. She was on top of him, her arms around his neck while his rested low across her back. There was rope around his wrists, tying them tightly into the embrace. It chaffed and burned inside wounds he didn't remember creating. Had she struggled to shift away, created the friction that had burned him?
More ropes secured him to the floor tightly enough that he could barely move. It was cold and quiet – that along with the dark absence of windows suggested a basement or a deserted building of some kind.
How had they gotten there? The last thing he recalled with any clarity was the reception dinner at the hotel in Vegas. They'd been so ... excited, so happy. Who would have thought that someone like him would meet and then elope with the love of his life after only six months? His colleagues wouldn't have believed that he even knew what a soul mate was, let alone that he'd recognise her and give in to the need to be with her forever. But he did know, he had recognised her, and he couldn't have been happier than to be in Vegas with her doing what they'd planned to do.
The clank of metal on metal, the way she tensed and then began to struggle cut through the memories.
"Babe," he tightened his arms instinctively. "Come back to me."
Footsteps ... at first they sounded multi-directional until their focus emerged. Someone was heading towards them.
"Listen to me!" He squeezed hard, hard enough for her to cry out ... hard enough to return her to the here and now.
"Oh God," her voice was thick with tears. "You wouldn't wake up. I called and called but you wouldn't wake up. I thought he'd killed you."
"I'm here," he shifted to speak close to her ear. "I'm here baby."
They were hyper aware of the footsteps now ... her heart was pounding inside her chest ... inside him, his own heart leaping forward to keep in time. He wished he could see her clearly, not just the slightly darker outline of her form against the darkness.
"Listen to me," he said again, speaking low and urgent. "If you get the chance, you run."
"No," she moaned.
"Yes," he insisted. "You run, you get help. Promise me."
"I... ca-an't," she wailed.
Tears splashed down on his cheeks. He wanted to take the time to comfort her but the approaching footsteps robbed him of the opportunity. "I love you," he said with conviction. "Whatever happens, it was worth it. Now promise me ... you'll leave me if there's any chance."
"Oh God," she sniffed, deep breaths pressing her chest into his as she tried to gain back control. "I ... I promise. I l-ove yo-ou toooo," she cried, tightening her arms around his neck. "Oh God, I'm so scared."
"I know babe, I know," he wanted to stroke her hair, run a hand down her back but the ropes made that impossible and the frustration was like a physical pain. "I am too."
"There's nothing to be scared of," a new voice intruded, the footsteps halting abruptly in front of them. "I have something for you both ... the ultimate gift."
"We don't want your gift," he shot back. "Look, if you cut us loose we'll forget all of this. We won't tell anyone, we swear."
"The ultimate gift," the assailant said again, ignoring their pleas, his voice almost sing song like in its pitch and modulation.
"Then let her go," the man suddenly proposed. "Whatever you were going to ... give both of us, give it to me, alone."
"Ah," they could hear the smile in their assailant's voice. "Yes. I have chosen well. I cannot release her - the gift cannot exist unless you both share in it. But you don't need to fear for her or for yourself. The gift is for both of you ... together."
He heard new sounds ... metal scrapping over something ... it sounded vaguely familiar but he couldn't work out why.
"Please," he begged now, tears filling his own eyes and overflowing to pool on the floor beneath his head. "Don't do this."
"When you experience the gift you will thank me," the assailant promised.
"What gift?" she demanded abruptly, her anger giving her the courage to speak. "What are you giving us?"
"Forever," the assailant returned reverently. His steps shifted away, the unknown of his actions driving the fear and despair up a notch.
Tightening his arms around her, the man held them both together. "Listen to my voice," he spoke into her ear urgently, "you hear me? My voice! Not him. You're everything baby ... everything that ever meant anything."
He felt her lips trembling against his neck before she pressed a desperate kiss to his lips.
He felt the movement of air, heard the sound of something approaching fast, and then there was nothing.
It was wrong ... that lovers should ever be parted. Wrong. And it was his job to make it right.
She wasn't comfortable. As Doctor Temperance Brennan frowned down at the research paper she was trying to edit her mind was overtaken again by the simple truth. She'd been back six months – back at the Jeffersonian, back to her partnership with Booth – it should be long enough but still things felt ... wrong.
Part of her had genuinely expected to return from a year on the Maluku Islands and simply slot back into the life she'd left behind. Despite her struggles to put what they did into perspective prior to leaving, to remind herself of why she'd gotten involved in solving murders in the first place.
Despite the situation with Booth.
She's had plenty of time to think while on the island studying what had turned out to be another new hominid species, slotting into the evolutionary timeline between Homo Floresiensis and Homo Sapiens. Their findings had challenged the 'out of Africa' view of human evolution and given new power to the multiregional hypothesis, something that would have anthropogenesists debating for many years to come.
She's had time to think, time to reconnect with her own view of how the world needed to work for her to be able to operate effectively within it. She'd truly thought she'd gained the necessary perspective to be able to retake her role at the Jeffersonian working closely with the FBI. It had only taken moments after meeting Booth at the coffee cart for her to realise that reasoned thinking when Seeley was half a world away was completely different than the thinking she was capable of when he was standing only inches away from her.
He'd hugged her so tightly in those first moments, conveying without a single word how difficult his own year away had been. Since then he'd told her bits and pieces, about Afghanistan, the people, the struggles, the lives that had still been lost despite his bests efforts to train them to avoid that. Just as she'd told him about the dig, each using the details of their work to reconnect, neither willing to admit to any hardship on a personal level because of their time apart.
Her own struggles in dealing with their relationship hadn't changed but Temperance could see that for him things had changed. He was calmer in her presence ... less troubled than he'd seemed before their parting. And she'd known ... whatever he'd felt for her, whatever it was that had driven him to speak of being 'that guy' thirty, forty, or fifty years down the road, had changed too. It was for the best ... she'd expected it ... but she couldn't pretend that being proven right again didn't hurt, just a little, from a purely intellectual point of view.
Booth's jovial voice at the door had her straightening abruptly, her hands smoothing her skirt down over her knees nervously. How did he do that? Turn up just as she was thinking about him? She watched him stride into her office, dressed more casually than usual, still more inside her thoughts than with him.
"Daydreaming again?" he quipped with an amused smile, stopping in front of her desk.
"You say that like it's a bad thing but studies have shown that active daydreaming can actually increase productivity. In fact, individuals with an internal locus of control are more achievement oriented than those with an external one. Those who don't daydream are more likely to suffer from low persistence and –"
"Bones," Booth's exasperated voice interrupted her lecture. "Interesting as that sounds we don't have time. Grab your gear ... we've got a case."
"A case?" Brennan's mind shifted immediately into forensic anthropologist mode. "Where?"
"Arizona," Booth smiled as she looked surprised. "We've got a plane to catch so get moving," he urged, striding forward purposefully. "I'll take you to your place first to pack a bag."
"I'm not going to Arizona, Booth," Temperance insisted. "I have work to do here ... there are still research papers I need to complete, not to mention the fact that the number of unidentified remains in bone storage has increased five percent while I've been away."
"They've been waiting years, a few more days won't matter," Booth insisted impatiently. "Come on Bones, let's go, chop, chop."
"Why is the FBI even involved in what should be a state matter?" Brennan wasn't willing to give in that easily.
"Because the bodies were found on Federal land which gives us jurisdiction," Booth explained with exaggerated patience. "At the Joshua Tree National Park. And from the way the Park Police described it, you're gonna want to see this one personally."
"Fine, as long as you know I'm doing this under protest," Brennan grudgingly let him convince her, quickly moving to shut down her computer before joining him on the other side of the desk. She didn't mind the request, didn't mind that he wanted her to work with him ... it was just, well, Arizona was a long way to travel just to see some remains.
"Noted," Booth put a hand to her back, the commonplace gesture getting her feet moving even while it illustrated what had been both lost and regained. For a time he'd stopped doing that – touching her so casually. After his 'confession' he'd kept a distance emotionally and physically, a distance he clearly no longer felt the need for.
Determinedly she turned her thoughts away from personal concerns that had no place in their work together. "Wait - don't we need to let Doctor Saroyan know where we're going?" Brennan asked as he hurried her towards the doors.
"Already done," Booth grinned. "I left Cam a note that I was stealing you away for a couple of days."
It was still early and the rest of her team – Cam, Angela, Hodgins and Wendell had yet to arrive for the day's work. She liked that time of day, when the lab was hers alone. If she were honest she liked it even more when Booth arrived to lure her away with one excuse or another. "Did they tell you what's so interesting about these remains?" she asked, walking beside him towards his vehicle.
"Not exactly," Booth replied, opening her door before moving to the driver's side. Settling inside he snapped his seat belt into place, glancing at her to make sure she'd done the same before he started the engine, smoothly integrating them into the traffic. "Just that they had skeletal remains – unidentified – that look to have been there a while. They've kept their distance since the body was found, waiting for us to get out there."
"A skeleton in the desert? That doesn't sound all that remarkable to me," Temperance insisted.
"You'll change your mind when you see them," Booth smiled over at her. "The Park Police said there was something hinky about the remains – one skeleton, two skulls and a whole stack of extra bones – that's why they want you to take a look."
"You're right, that does sound interesting," Brennan agreed seriously. When Booth smiled winningly that 'respond to Booth' trigger she had inside had her smiling back.