Let's Not Jump to Conclusions
An unexpected knock on her front door caught Bones' attention as she tried to zip up her skirt. It was court day, yet another one, and she was expected to testify. Usually this would not represent any type of exception; as a forensic anthropologist collaborating with the authorities on murder cases, she was required to expose a synthesis of her findings in order to aid the prosecution to get a proper conviction. But this time she was the object of her findings. This was the trial of Heather Taffet, who had nicknamed herself the Gravedigger.
She desperately attempted to ignore the lingering sensation of nervousness that would invade her each time she remembered what she would have to endure during that day. It felt like this ordeal rested upon her shoulders like the heaviest of burdens, yet she knew this was hardly the most traumatic experience she ever had to face. It was one of them, undoubtedly, but she had been through worse. She wondered if this had anything to do with another lingering sensation she was desperate to obliterate, that of loneliness. This once familiar feeling had become foreign throughout the years, making its return most unsettling.
She took a deep breath before opening. She would not let it show.
"Dad?" she asked as her father appeared on the threshold.
"Why do you look so surprised? You didn't check your peephole?"
She usually did. Mostly due to the incessant scolding from Booth about her safety, or simply good sense, she had taken this habit. But today there was no paternalistic protectionism to keep her from being distracted. She wondered if Booth would care.
"I'm not surprised," she frowned, trying to look annoyed, "I'm just late for court."
He followed her inside as she grabbed a pair of earrings from her kitchen counter and started to put them on. She did not have time for whatever it was he considered to be important.
"Did you read this rag, baby?" he exclaimed, waving a folded newspaper.
She rapidly eyed the familiar paper, then searching for her purse.
"Is this why you came?"
"Of course!" he looked obfuscated she could think otherwise. "Did you read it?"
"Yes," she answered evenly. "I don't understand why you are reacting so strongly though. This is meaningless gossip."
"Meaningless gossip? Are you certain you read it?"
"Quite certain yes."
"And that's it?" he frowns. "Tempe, they are attacking you!"
"Saying I am the daughter of a con man is a fact. Although I doubt it alters my ability as an expert testifying for the Federal prosecution."
She kept busying herself while talking, pacing around her apartment in search for this or that element to store in her purse. She tried not to let her father see that the words she had read had had more effect than she would admit. She rationalized, repeating to herself that those were mere words, fabrics of the human psyche destined to give an approximate meaning to much too complex situations. But the truth was that it had hurt her.
And Max knew it.
"Baby, it's me. It's dad. You can tell me."
She rolled her eyes, "Dad, there is nothing to say. This is a very basic manipulative technique put forth by the defense attorney. They try to debunk my work, to influence the opinion." By tainting my name and all my career. By tainting who I am, what I fought for my whole life. Alone."I don't accept it," he stated, throwing the paper in the garbage can. "I'll sue them for defamation."
She let out a disbelieving chuckle, "Defamation is supposed to represent calumny, not the truth."
"They're not saying the truth about you!"
"Well then it's my problem, dad, not yours," she concluded, trying to pacify him.
He sighed, defeated.
"I'm worried. You don't look as happy as you used to lately..."
She froze, the knot in her stomach tightening.
"I'm alright. I'm just..." she paused. "It's complicated to be both expert and witness. I'm not used to this process. I'm uncomfortable."
"Do you want to talk about it?" he inquired, perfectly aware of the answer he'll receive.
"No, thank you."
As expected.He was prepared to reiterate when there was a knock on the front door. Bones instantly jumped at the occasion and raced to open. Without checking the peephole.
"Booth?" she frowned.
He made a face, "You didn't check who that was before opening?"
He still cared. She smiled and let him in as he handed her a cup of coffee.
"What are you doing here? Weren't you supposed to have breakfast with Catherine?" she let out, trying not to sound reproachful. Or jealous. Or concerned. Yeah.
"Oh, I canceled. Court day, and everything."
The reality of it was that he had read the article too, and had managed to cancel his date, threaten a journalist, buy coffee and get to her place in less than 30 minutes. Only because he could not stand the idea of someone deliberately hurting her, especially not then.
"Okay," she answered, trying to match his apparent casualness.
They observed each other for a second, expecting something to be said. But nothing came.
"Hey, Booth!" Max interrupted.
Booth jumped up. "Oh, hey, Max!"
The two men shook hands politely, while Booth cursed himself to have been once again too absorbed by his partner to notice anything surrounding him. Maybe he should freshen up his sniper training... Not that he would be enthusiastic to return to Fort Benning.
"So, you're scheduled to appear in court too, Booth?"
"Uh, no," he answered, uncomfortable. He did not want to confess he was there for Bones only.
"This is why I don't understand why you would cancel your date," Bones exclaimed before disappearing in the hallway leading to her bedroom. She did not want to confess she was glad.
When Max saw his daughter exit the room, he found himself unable to repress his need to comment upon what he had just witnessed. He knew something was off, overtime he had developed what he called a 6th sense, and it told him the atmosphere was thicker than normal.
"What's going on between you and my daughter?" he asked, straightforward.
Booth almost chocked on his coffee. "What? Nothing!"
"Did you hurt her?" he pursued.
"You cheated on her?"
Booth frowned, "To cheat on her I would have to be in a relationship with her. Which is not the case."
He knew there was no intimidating Max. So he glanced towards the hallway, hopeful that Bones would return soon. What was she doing anyway? Taking a bath?
"Who is this Catherine then?" Max continued, inquisitive.
"It's..." Booth frowned at his submissive behavior before deciding he should consider rebellion. "Is that any of your business?"
"Anything related to the well-being of my daughter is my business. You are related to her well-being, so you are my business."
"Look, Max, it's between Bones and me. I..." he said quietly, interrupted by her return. "Hey, Bones!" he clapped his hands together. "Chop, chop! We're late!"
She frowned, "Why are you so enthusiastic?"
"I'm high on caffeine," he explained, helping her to put on her coat. "Come on, let's go."
Once they were alone, on their way to court, silence settled between them as it often did lately. She stared out of the window, pensively. He did not dare to interrupt her, but he knew her too well to doubt it had nothing to do with the infamous article. He glanced at her often, almost hoping she would notice him and feel cornered, or oppressed and, respond. Anything to make her talk.
He started humming to himself. Maybe this would be sufficient to make her react.
Soon she frowned, annoyed. "Did you and Dr. Bryar make love?"
"What?" he exclaimed, stunned. He had not expected that reaction. Much less those words.
"You're overly enthusiastic, you hum to yourself. The logical conclusion to draw is that you had a release of noradrenaline," she stated, matter-of-fact.
He frowned, "I didn't! Okay? I didn't!"
It hit him that he did not want her to think he had cheated on her. Whatever Max had said was true: it was not necessary for them to be in a relationship to make him feel guilty to see someone else. Moreover, to share the intimacy of someone else, while they did not even share each other's intimacy. This made no sense, and he could not fight it.
"You had sex then?"
He made a face, "No! Neither! Okay?"
"Then stop humming," she concluded assertively.
His vehement denial made her feel relieved, despite her desire to be supportive of his initiative. She knew she had no right to react this way, but today she considered she was entitled to show signs of irrationality. Just... to relieve the pressure. Bad choice of words, she thought.
A few more minutes of silence passed before he could not take it any longer.
"You read the article?"
"Yes," she answered with a sigh.
"You know it's a load of bullcrap, right?"
He would not take another monosyllabic answer.
"They did this to disturb you. You can't let them get to you," he added in a warm, soothing tone.
She was still staring out the window absently. He knew words were meaningless to her, so he favored another approach. Something which, luckily, would have an impact.
"I called the journalist who wrote it," he said with a mischievous smile. "I told him that Federal authorities would follow his every moves from now on, and that he better watch himself."
She finally looked at him. "You did?"
"Did my dad ask you to do this?" she asked suspiciously.
He frowned, "No, why?"
"Nothing," she smiled. "Thank you, Booth."
Suddenly her lingering sensations of nervousness and isolation waned. She would not let them get to her, because he was there. He was still there. As a friend. Which is what she had asked for.
When she heard the judge utter her name, she took a deep breath, feeling her friends' gaze on her. They had come, all of them. Hodgins was there, obviously, he was also scheduled to testify that day. Angela had come, Sweets and Cam. They were all sitting on the same bench, shoulders to shoulders, like a family. She had thought their overall unity threatened by her recent actions, but they were here. They had not deserted her anymore than Booth had.
She looked at him, he smiled. A reassuring, encouraging smile. She got up to take the stand.
"State your name and occupation," the judge declared.
"Doctor Temperance Brennan, I'm a forensic anthropologist working at the Jeffersonian institute."
"Raise your right hand. You do affirm that all the testimony you are about to give in the case now before the court will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; this you do affirm under the pains and penalties of perjury?"
She raised her hand, gaze locking with Booth.
As she took the oath, she reflected upon the arbitrary nature of it, and its quintessential instability. She could swear to be truthful and lie, who would ever find out? This was what words were. Fallible. But he was there, to show her that she could never lie under his gaze. She was taking this oath not under the law, or in front of God; she was taking this oath in front of him. That frightened her.
The judge then called Caroline to begin the examination. Bones took another of those breaths that made her feel out of air. She recognized the signs of panic, but she knew herself to be stronger than it all. She felt stronger when he smiled. She was not out of air, she was safe. Out of that car. He had saved her, they all had. And they were here.
"Dr. Brennan, could you please describe to our jury the reason of your presence?"
She made sure to make eye contact with the jury, as Caroline had literally ordered her to, during their preparation. She had to provoke sympathy, empathy. She had no idea whether she was capable of it or not. Caroline seemed to think it nearly impossible. That thought made her throat tighten.
"Three years ago," she began, remembering each stage of the speech she had prepared, "Two bodies were discovered in a container in an advanced state of decomposition. The authorities requested the collaboration of the Jeffersonian institute to determine their identity and the cause of their death. It turned out they were twin brothers who had been abducted several years prior in exchange for a ransom. They were among the victims of a kidnapper that the authorities had named the Gravedigger, due to the recurrent pattern of the kidnappings."
"Please, describe the pattern, Dr. Brennan"
"The victims were generally abducted in an underground setting, often a parking lot, shot with an industrial stun gun behind the ear and buried underground in any type of containers that might ensure their survival for a given period of time. Period of time during which the relatives of the abducted victims were enjoined to pay a ransom."
The more she tried to detach herself from the experience by being factual, the more she felt she would suffocate. She glanced towards Booth, he nodded reassuringly, silently asking her to go on. He had gone through it too. He knew. As always, he knew. He knew she could bear it all.
"When you investigated the death of these twin boys, where did it lead you?" pursued Caroline to put her back in focus.
"Shortly after the beginning of our investigation, Dr. Hodgins and I were in turn abducted, and buried underground. A ransom demand was issued on the phone of my partner, special agent Seeley Booth," she specified by giving him another look. "Asking for a wire transfer of 8 million dollars in exchange for GPS coordinates leading to our position."
"How long were you buried underground, and in what conditions?"
"We were buried for approximately 15 hours." she swallowed, glancing towards Hodgins who was taking a breath. Attempting, like her, to remember that he was out. "In our case, the container was my car, immersed four feet underground, in a coal mine."
"Did you ever consider you would not survive?" shot suddenly Caroline.
Brennan gasped, this question had not been prepared.
"I... We..." She looked at Booth, desperate. Once more he gave her an encouraging nod. "Dr. Hodgins and I associated both our expertise to extend our survival and ensure it."
"This does not answer my question, Dr. Brennan. Despite you and Dr. Hodgins' determination, did you ever consider you would suffocate to death?" she emphasized the last words, looking at the jury intensely.
Bones looked down.
"Yes," she let out, her throat tightening. "But..." she continued, looking up to reveal teary eyes. "I knew we had people looking for us. This is why I refused to wait passively."
"Could you describe us precisely what you did during these 15 hours of captivity?"
"Despite disorientation, we attempted to apply a methodical analysis of our surroundings. Dr. Hodgins suffered from a severe leg trauma, I had to perform rudimentary surgery in order to ensure his survival. Then, we studied the different possibilities to extend our oxygen supply, that in order to find a possibility to escape."
"From a car buried four feet beneath the ground?" asked Caroline, incredulous.
"I admit the odds were against us. But Dr. Hodgins and I had sufficient knowledge to expect a result, whatever it might be."
"What was the result to expect?" Caroline pressed.
"Using the explosives from the airbags, we endeavored to blow our way out of the windshield. This enterprise could also have created an internal explosion which would have killed us in one tenth of a second."
Facts, were easy. She could name them, categorize them. Actions too. They had done this to expect that result. So far, she evolved in a comfort zone. But she knew this would not last. Caroline had warned her, 'No comfort zone with me, chérie'. So she expected the worse. She expected reminders of suffocation, of fears and tears. She expected to be instrumented to give sufficient reasons to the jury to feel empathy. An empathy she could not communicate alone, not with facts or actions.
"You knew there was a high risk for you to precipitate your death, but you pursued?"
"It was either this, or... suffocate to death, as you said." she swallowed, "This left us with very few options."
She was not going where Caroline wanted to take her, and she saw it bothered the prosecutor. So she waited, trying to persuade herself that she would be able to convey emotions, even though it meant seeking a pain she had buried deep.
"So let me summarize it for you. For 15 hours, imprisoned underground, you entertained the idea of violent death. This must have been a particularly traumatic experience." she paused to let the words sink in. "What gave you the courage to face it the way you did?"
She knew that was it. She had to say it. Her eyes instantly fell on Booth and stayed there.
"I knew I was not alone." she said quietly. "I knew there were people outside trying as hard as I was. I owed it to them to survive. It did not matter that I was afraid, or that I considered death seriously enough to write a... goodbye letter. I had to try."
Caroline jumped on what she was offered, "You wrote a goodbye letter?"
"Yes," she said as she blushed, still watching Booth. "Dr. Hodgins suggested that since we were not entirely positive that our attempt at blowing our way out would be successful, I should imitate him and write a note to someone I would want to say goodbye to. He had written one to Angela."
She added the latest part, unaware that Hodgins had never told anyone about it. Not any more than she had. She saw Angela take his hand, smiling reassuringly to him. All the while, Booth kept observing her. His gaze was intense with curiosity and concern. She had always told him this experience had been traumatic, but merely among the worst situations she had faced. She had never told him she had gone as far as thinking about saying goodbye. To whom? At first he thought this had to be to her father, or her brother. But the way she had looked at him made him consider things otherwise. And hope. Then she blushed, and he knew. This letter was for him.
When she came back to her place, she felt exhausted. The day had been as trying as she had suspected it would be, although she had benefited from the unfailing support of her peculiar family. She kicked off her shoes, absently reading her mail before setting it down on her kitchen counter. Next to her phone, she found a note left by her father.
I took the liberty to use my spare key. I went grocery shopping, the fridge is full and don't be surprised to hear knocks on your door. Everyone should be here by 8pm.
DadShe frowned. Who was 'everyone'? What had he done now? Curious, she surveyed the content of her fridge and cupboards. He had indeed made sure that whoever would soon knock on her door would not find themselves malnourished. She sighed, and checked her watch, it was 7:30. She wondered if she would have time to shower before the anonymous 'everyone' arrived, or if she should call her father, complain and cancel on 'everyone'.
Re-opening her fridge, she found that she was too hungry to lose time over complaints or shower and she started considering cooking instead. She instinctively selected ingredients that she knew Booth liked. All the while wondering if he would be among 'everyone', or if he had rescheduled his date with Catherine. The thought made her uncomfortable, she preferred to dismiss it.
He had been strange around her after her testimony. Cautious, protective. Nothing out of character, really but, it seemed different, as though he knew something she ignored. She chuckled to herself. He always knows things I ignore, she thought. But this time she wished she would know. He had not let her time to ask when he had taken her back home.
When she realized it was already 8pm, she was engrossed in her introspection slash cooking session, still half mad at her father to have imposed domesticity on her on such a day. Then she heard a first knock. This time she checked the peephole. It was Hodgins, with Angela. She did not question their synchronized arrival, nor its subsequent meaning.
She opened, smiling. Maybe her father had not made such an unforgivable mistake.
"Come in," she enjoined them.
"Sweetie!" Angela exclaimed, enthusiastically. "We got that message from your dad saying that we should stick together during the trial, and he is totally right. We will organize dinners every night until it's all over. What do you think?"
Bones frowned, "I'll have to cook every night?"
"We were thinking about some kind of a rotation," intervened Hodgins, smiling. "Like, tomorrow at my place, then at Angela's, then at Booth's etc..."
So Booth was coming too? Maybe he would not. Maybe he had better things to do than to 'stick together' with them. The question burned her lips. "Booth is coming too?"
Angela gave her a knowing smile, "Your dad said so. You didn't know we'd come?"
"Not until I got home," Bones answered while taking glasses out of a cupboard, noticing the bottles Hodgins had brought were tequila. Tequila. "Who is coming exactly?"
"Cam, Sweets, Daisy and Booth," enumerated Angela. She could feel her best friend tense up each time she uttered her partner's name. She knew that what had occurred during the afternoon had affected them both, in a strangely positive way. She did not know how exactly, but she would have all evening to observe them and attempt to figure it out.
Bones nodded, handed them both glasses that she filled with tequila.
"We don't wait for the others?" asked Hodgins.
"We need a drink. Plus you supplied enough tequila to have us all suffer from an alcoholic coma," she smiled, filling her own glass.
After a while, everyone had arrived, safe for Booth. It was 8:30, and although she was having a great time, Bones could not help staring at the door. She responded to the laughs, came and went from the kitchen to complete the preparation of the dinner, helped Angela and Cam to set the table, all this with, each time, a poorly concealed glance towards the door.
Cam noticed it, and whispered with a smile, "He'll be here soon."
"Maybe he had other plans," Bones answered, trying to appear casual.
Then she heard a familiar knock, and headed for the door all too rapidly to look casual. Everyone noticed, but she did not care. Her heart pounded too fast, probably because she already had two shots of tequila, she thought to justify herself.
"Booth!" she exclaimed, aware of how terrible her faked surprise sounded.
He made a face, "You never check before opening, right?"
"I... I recognized your knock!" she said defensively.
He rolled his eyes, trying not to interpret what she had just said, and made his way inside the apartment. She burned to ask him why he was so late. That was not like him. She noticed he had changed from his suit, and was wearing a pair of jeans with one of his Flyers t-shirts.
"Thanks for coming," she said tentatively.
He smiled, "Your father is right. We gotta stick together."
The truth was that he had received a very different message from the others. When he had come home, still torturing himself with the possible contents of a letter possibly written for him, he had found that Max had called him twice. A first time with the 'stick together' message, and a second time with something more... personal. He had told him that he had noticed a change in his daughter, that he did not like and that he knew Booth was responsible for it. He had told him that if he cared about her, he could not leave her like that. And Booth had wondered how much Bones' old man could know exactly about them. He had decided that he could indeed, not leave her like that, especially after what she had gone through during the day, and had canceled on Catherine, again. But he would not tell her that. No more than he would tell her he had also come to find an answer to that haunting question of the letter...
He settled on the couch, greeting the others, despite the fact that they had spent the day together, and Hodgins handed him a glass.
"Tequila?" he frowned, instantly looking at Bones.
She smiled, sitting on the armchair facing him and taking her own glass, that had been refilled by Angela. She raised it, preparing for a toast.
"To bhang!" she said, without breaking eye contact with him.
"To what?" Cam interjected, frowning.
"To bhang," he echoed with a low voice, clinging his glass with that of Bones.
Everyone imitated them, quite certain that they were observing something that had a meaning escaping their grasp. Angela felt it was like being at the zoo to observe wild animals in their natural environment. Better not interrupt or contradict them if you hoped to see any kind of show.
Two hours and two bottles of tequila later to accompany the dinner, the gang was relaxed and enjoying their evening. Bones felt the warmth of gratefulness invade her when Hodgins made a toast for her father, stating with some difficulty that her 'con dad was a cool dad'. She had herself enjoyed her share of alcohol and acknowledged the possibility that all sensation of warmth might be the product of some chemical reaction she could not remember.
Booth shared her enthusiasm, raising his glass every now and then to propose toasts of his own. But most of the time, she would catch him watching her with that intense gaze, a gaze telling her that he was expecting something. She feared alcohol would obstruct his sense of inhibition and encourage another declaration. She feared it because this time she knew she would not have the will to contradict him.
"Bones!" Booth called out. "Hey! Where the hell is your soap!"
He was in the bathroom. Probably washing his hands, from what she understood as she joined him there with a disbelieving frown, rapidly replaced by a smile. He was trying to open a shampoo bottle, his intense focus making him stick out his tongue like a child.
"It's on the sink," she giggled, quite joyful herself. "Do you have a visual handicap I would be unaware of?"
He made a face, falsely obfuscated. "Hey, I'm a sniper, my visual acuity is top notch."
"You were a sniper, as in past tense and time too... Maybe you're just getting old," she answered, squinting at him in a vain attempt to inspect his visual acuity herself.
He licked his lower lip, instinctively aroused by her proximity. This instantly made him unaware of his surroundings, the situation, or everything unrelated to her and to what had obsessed him throughout the evening.
"So you wrote me a letter, uh?" he asked, after he had turned on the charm.
His seductive smile made her giggle again as she answered, "I didn't."
"You did," he repeated, unsteadily drawing closer with a goofy chuckle.
"I did not!" she matched stubbornly, despite her amusement.
He swallowed, still laughing. She was gonna play it that way? He would play it that way too. Mostly because he had no idea of where this was going or why he needed to know. It was simply fun to be there with her, so close, so intimately linked without all the painful weight of sobriety.
"You lied to a Federal judge, then?" he could have said the naughtiest thing, his tone would not have been different. He was after a prey. Dangerously efficient predator.
She tried to appear earnest, but she realized she did not remember how. Crap, I'm drunk.
"I said I wrote a letter, AH!" she pointed her index while answering, using her other hand to steady herself with the sink. He grabbed her finger and trapped it between his own.
He smiled cockily, "It was for me."
She wondered how he could be so close. His chest was grazing her breasts as he kept his insistent, seductive gaze on her. She felt dizzy.
"Are you gonna lick my finger again?"
He raised an eyebrow, playful. "If you don't tell me about the letter..."
"Is that how they taught you to torture in the army?" she answered, slightly disbelieving.
"They don't teach us torture!" he exclaimed, still holding onto her hand firmly.
"Interrogation techniques incorporating physical abuse were authorized by many administrations throughout the History of our country, including the Bush adm..."
He cut her off, still holding her finger, emphasizing each word. "I have not been taught how to torture!"
"You learned on your own then..." she winked.
She winked? Wow.This drunken, involuntary invitation was received by Booth as another display of seductiveness. He drew closer -if that was possible- to her face, and used his best sensual tone.
"You think I'm torturing you? How about you then?"
"I'm torturing you?" she whispered. Blurred memories of his tears weeks earlier, or of his disappointment years earlier; made her fear she was indeed his torturer. But he smiled. So that was not it, or he was just too drunk to remember.
That's certainly better that way.
He brought his lips close to her ear, mimicking the intimacy of secret sharing. "The letter. You keep it a secret. What did you confess to me that you would want to hide that much?"
"Private things," she confessed, involuntarily again. If only he would stop being so warm and smell so wonderfully nice. If only his grip on her hand was not so masculine, alpha, sensual and all that shit.
This victory made him bold, "What did you write?"
Mad at herself to have been trapped that easily and more importantly to have responded that readily to his damned charismatic aura or something, she pouted.
"I'm not saying..."
"Say..." he whispered, still seductively.
She took her finger back and crossed her arms.
Booth was so close…
She went to leave. She meant to leave. But he made a face and shut the door, trapping her.
"I'll have you say it anyway..." he whispered, teasingly.
But before he could understand what was happening, she imprisoned his lips with her own, locking her arms around his neck. Most likely to palliate to her loss of balance. She did not care this kiss was mostly tequila induced -should all their kisses be motivated by dried mistletoe or fermented... shit, what was tequila made of already? Fermented pineapples, right. Whatever the origin of these catalysts, they always needed one it seemed. It made her wonder if her practical vision of sexuality as a mere product of physical stimulation was so unrealistic in the eye of the unscientific world.
He drew back after a few seconds, trying to breathe, but his body still clearly leaning onto her own.
"It's not nice," he whispered.
She frowned, "I found it really nice..."
"I meant, you..."
But she was kissing him again, and he did not fight anymore than he had a few seconds before. Her snake-like arms now releasing him partially as she slowly let her hands make their way through his hair. Tasting him was as intoxicating as ever. The heat radiating from his body made her feel feverish, trembling with desire. If only he would not simply let himself be... Wow. As she reviewed his lack for personal involvement in their activity, he seized her skull violently, pushing his body against her with such force that he slammed them both against the vanity sink.
He could not pretend he had no idea of what he was doing, he was perfectly aware of the precise and conquering attitude that was his at that moment. It simply felt like... He wanted to feel. Feel every inch of her, inside out and finally understand what she was made of. He could not read her mind, not even that letter. He could not know. So he wanted to taste, to touch, to smell, to revive each of the senses that she had managed to silence throughout all those years and that she alone could save from obliteration. She would probably soon retaliate with reproachful remarks on his alpha-male assertion over her, but until then, he would attempt to redistribute roles like he had hoped they would be distributed in the first place. He was a man, she was a woman, and they had had a tad too much of tequila.
I invented the damned time machine, he thought as he grabbed a fistful of her hair to bring her closer. She responded by planting her nails into the soft skin of his neck, clinging to him in a surrender she could not fathom. She felt weak, blaming the alcohol vapors but clearly aware it was only the result of her being manhandled by him in a way she had never hoped he would.
When she felt his fingers were grasping the hem of her skirt, she was grateful not to have been given time to change into a pair of jeans after they had left court. Feelings his touch on the bare flesh of her thighs, slowly but firmly making his way up, and up... A familiar wave of warmth invaded her body, rocking it in slight spasms. When he felt her, he stopped an instant, squeezing her upper thighs while deepening their endless kiss. Suddenly he grabbed her butt and made her sit on the vanity, settling between her parted legs.
She drew closer, her breasts heavily pressed against his chest as she started to rub herself against his groin. He moaned instantly, his fingers digging into the flesh of her buttocks as he helped her in her enterprise. He could feel the soft warmth of her panties against his jeans, his body already reacting with much vigor to her invitation. A man, a woman, tequila and sex.
Reasoning, reasons, reason, all was lost to the animalistic, primal need to reach the origin of things. To free their skin and instinct in a mutual quest for peace. This peace that had escaped their grasp for so long that this unexpected encounter was welcomed unquestioningly. All fermented pineapples aside. Almost.
He reached for the buttons of her blouse. Her chest heaved with expectation. He broke the kiss an instant, watching her, his eyes as dark as desire. She felt he was hesitating. Would he stop? He could not stop. Not now. Suddenly, he grabbed the light fabric and cracked it open. Gasping, she saw in him the quintessential male asserting his territory and accepted his claim, offering him her lips. Wanting more of it, of him. Ready to give in, to give up on everything that was her, that was hers.
Yet, the injustice of the instant seized her when he unhooked her bra, tasting, testing her bare skin with his hands and tongue. Selfishly taking the pleasure of exploring her body without offering her the same opportunity in return. She pushed him back slightly, grabbing his t-shirt to remove it unceremoniously. The balance of power between them, far from being evened out by her gesture, emboldened him further. He grabbed her hair again, bringing her mouth to his, while resuming his exploration with his free hand. Her breasts, her stomach, hips, thighs all thoroughly surveyed by his expert touch. It made her ache for him, ask for more. Her hands wandering over his perfect body in response, retaliation even.
She tried to remember the name of each muscle contracting under her touch, but her memory failed her. She could only be aware of the growing wetness between her legs, as she pressed herself against his hardness, daring. Her defiance made him react instantly, and he seized her butt urgently to press her harder, encouraging her not to stop her slow, agonizingly sensual movements against him. The contact of her boiling skin with the cold metal of his belt buckle making her shiver, as she wrapped herself around him.
Unashamed, she provoked him in hope he would respond violently. Her new discovery about the man trapped between her thighs showing her how much she enjoyed feeling helpless. She, who had spent her life in control of every detail, was readily accepting to relinquish that control to that man, that unsuspected male man to whom she wanted to belong, body and...
Soon, the torment of this dance became unbearable and he reached for the warm, humid fabric of her panties. This contact and the reality of her arousal made him swallow. His blood pulsating in his veins, through every inch of his body, although he was quite certain the one region of which he was the most aware would probably burst soon if he did not end this torture. Steadily, he endeavored to remove, breach this last barrier between her innermost self and him. Their ragged breathing rhythmically accompanying his movements. The small cotton piece finally ending its journey on the floor of the bathroom.
She held back a moan, as her naked, wet self was pressed against his jeans again. The undeniable power emanating from him in need to be released. She could feel it, each of his pulsations increasing her arousal. She let him kiss, devour, please, hurt her all the same. He seemed omnipresent, omnipotent. His scent and touch overwhelming, his lips and tongue overpowering. Only one element missing to complete her.
She rapidly undid his belt buckle and reached for the zipper of his jeans, determined to free him of this unbearable prison of denim. When she slid her delicate palms inside, maintaining pressure between their aching skins, he grabbed her hands and removed them. Panic seized her an instant. Did he want to stop? He could not... He was removing his jeans, impatiently kicking them off without breaking eye contact with her. His gaze was so intense, primal. She shivered. He immediately closed this unwanted gap between them and claimed her lips again. His kisses voracious, passionate.
Feeling the tip of his penis pushing in through his underwear made her repress another moan, which could have easily mutated into a scream. This scream begging him to take her, to end this torture. God... he really knew his torture perfectly.
Suddenly, he lifted her in his arms and slammed them against the opposite wall. She panted. She knew it was going to happen. He lowered his hand to guide himself to her opening and she instinctively slid her hands in his boxers, pushing him toward her.
"What going on in th... Oh my God, I'm sorry!"
The door slammed back shut. Angela had come and gone in one half of a second.
The confusion of the instant forced reality on them both like a leaden weight. Their eyes wide open on the consequences of their strongest instincts opposed to their weakest convictions, they froze in this improbable position. Before she knew it, he had let go of her with a loud sight, gathering his clothes in an incomprehensible rapidity. She stood there, disconcerted, almost appalled to see him prepare an escape she did not understand.
"What are you doing?" she whispered, alarmed.
He did not answer, simply giving her the look of an injured animal decided to hide his way towards death. She suddenly felt the cold of her partial nakedness fall upon her, instinctively wrapping her arms around her chest. She saw her reflection in the mirror, her completely abandoned self, hair set loose, lips swollen from those feverish kisses, her skin pink from the irritation of his five o'clock shadow, her skirt clumsily falling on her upper thighs. She was a mess, alone, deserted after she had given the whole of her being. She bit her upper lip, hard.
"Booth?" her voice cracked.
He swallowed, now fully clothed, his hand already on the doorknob. He knew he was a damned coward, he knew he made no sense but he could not do this. It did not matter how the painful throbbing in his lower abdomen almost made him nauseous, it did not matter how much the faintest reminder of her being entirely in his control made him want to take what he knew belonged to him. It was not what he had asked for. It was not what he had come for. He had resisted during six long years to this unbearable need for her; leaving or not, he was a failure.
"I have to go," he uttered almost unintelligibly, before opening the door.
Her mouth dropped. He could not do this. He could not. When the door closed on her, she let herself slide against the wall, ending on the cold tiled floor. She hugged herself tightly, her throat aching from the flow of tears she tried to contain, in vain. He could not desert her.
It was three in the morning. She had taken a shower, then tossed and turned in her bed, then taken a bath, picked a book to read, put it back and picked another. But most of all she had watched her phone with intent focus. It would not ring. Against all odds, and she considered this was a purely biological process brought forth by her heavy secretion of hormones, she was still waiting for him to come back. She could not accept that he had deserted her in the worst of moments. She could not bring herself to read into his action and understand that this was irrevocable. She still hoped and she hated herself for it.
Maybe because she knew she had, once more, a large responsibility in the events that had taken place a mere four hours before. Maybe because she was some typically helpless female specimen submitted to the law of testosterone. He had, after all, secreted such an amount of it that she was more than likely still suffering from its effects. She could tell, for his presence, smell and unquestionable domination still made her respond with much force. Yes, four hours, a shower and a bath afterwards. He had that power on her, and she could not deny it anymore.
She had hesitated to call him, but had thought it would be incongruous, a tad of pride still preventing her from giving in and beg. She had never begged in her life, she would not start with him, no matter how natural it felt. She hated being a woman. She hated being herself.
It was three in the morning... A shower, some tossing and turning, another shower. Unbearable pressure in each of his limbs, he was still not over the incredible stupidity of his actions -all of them. He had gotten up and picked his remote control, turning on the television to watch some rerun of the latest hockey game. But most of all he had watched his phone with intent focus. It would not ring. Oddly, he could not bring himself to accept the fact that she would not call, although he was clearly responsible for the fiasco that had taken place a mere four hours before. He knew there was not a single reason for her to make that first step. He had been the one to take a step backwards. So that was how it felt, to do the rejecting, uh? That was not any better than being the victim. That was even worse.
He was conscious of what his actions had meant to her. She had surrendered herself, not in the way he had hoped she would, but she had. And he had run away. He had renewed the pattern. Why? Because it was not enough? Because he could not accept what she was able to give at that point? He knew he was screwed anyway. Had he taken what she had to offer he would have hated himself and her at the same time to have perpetuated that six year long dance. Fleeing or staying meant the same thing, it was destined to be a mess.
He hesitated before picking up his phone. There was no being proud after what he had done to her. He had to apologize and try to contain the possible damages his stupidity had provoked. He had never begged in his life, before her. He did not mind begging her again. It felt natural, in a way he could not fathom. His damned certainty that they belonged to each other, probably. That with her, there was nothing he could not do.
He speed dialed her number and realized he had never memorized it. It had been years, she had become "speed dial 2" on his phone. There was Parker, of course, then her. Before her, he tried to remember who had been second on his speed dial... It was his grandfather. He had become speed dial 3, but certainly would not mind if he knew who had stolen his position. She had become that important in his life. That important, that soon. He wondered an instant if he was a speed dial number too for her. Then it rang and his heart started pounding too hard for him to think properly.
"Bones? Don't hang up please!" he said urgently.
She had barely picked up the phone. Picked up was a euphemism for jumping on it and nearly breaking her back in the process. Why would he think she would hang up? So she was supposed to be mad at him? Maybe she should try to force herself.
"Why would I hang up? I just picked up."
He frowned to himself, "I just thought... Never mind. I called to apologize. For... everything that happened tonight I just... All the... you know. All the drinking, and... kissing. And leaving, too."
She swallowed. Of course he would do this. Maybe he would take it back too. It would certainly be a whole lot more difficult to obliterate actions than words. This was why she had always favored actions to words, they had substance. If he took it back, now she would have no trouble being mad.
"Why are you apologizing?" she asked defensively.
He found himself taken aback. Why was he apologizing, really? Because he was a cowardly shit? Most likely. Because he was a chauvinistic bastard? Certainly. That seemed enough to him.
"Well, because! I... I didn't treat you right!"
You mean leaving like a thief?
"If by that you imply you should not have left, I concur," she stated, firmly.
He closed his eyes, of course she was going to ask for the obvious.
"I meant that and the rest too."
"I don't understand."
She seemed serious. He could even see the face she was probably making just then. Usually he loved her focused, smart ass face playing dumb, but just now, he was not patient. Maybe that was his problem. He was not patient. Sort of ironic for a damned sniper. He sighed.
"I meant the way I manhandled you, Bones. I'm sorry."
"I'm not!" she exclaimed a little too fast.
Try to sound more domestically enthusiastic, Temperance, please. Really.He stuttered, "Wh... I... Well... Still. I'm... I don't... I don't do that usually."
"Really? I had always pictured you to be sexually assertive," she paused, realizing once more she had confessed more than she had intended. Words are not as consistent as actions, uh? She cleared her throat, gathering her courage. "I mean, I felt comfortable with it because it felt very you."
He could not suppress a chuckle at that somehow angelic confession. Angelic? Talking about me doing all that? Wow sure. Plus he had never been under the impression that he was giving the image of a "sexually assertive" male or something. Was he? If she knew he felt proud, she would probably wipe his smile off his face with an incisive comment. But that was him, after all, the cockiness and everything. No? He suddenly remembered a comment she had made, long ago about his being him.
"You mean it's Boothy?"
She smiled, not only in response to his comment but also because she could feel him turn on the charm. Since when had she developed the ability to identify his reactions from his tone? A long time, it seemed. Yet it was the first time she realized it. It made her feel strangely happy. A foreign, pleasant sensation. It disturbed her.
"It's Boothy," she repeated contemplatively.
A second of silence later, Booth started to panic.
"Yes, sorry I was... thinking."
"Shocking," he chuckled.
"It disturbs me that you could regret what happened. It is not coherent with what you expected from us before. I just, I have troubles making the connection."
Great, how can I make that connection clear to her when it's not clear to me?"I don't regret what happened. It's just that... Look, if I listened to myself I would most likely come over right now and finish what we started."
"But it's not... It's not that, you and me. You know it." He paused. "I want you. I don't think there was a damned day I didn't since we met. But I just can't. I can't just..." He searched for the most powerful term he could find, "I can't just take you. You understand?"
"Why?" she whispered, feeling heat rise to her cheeks. "I want you to." Her heart was pounding. "I want to give you this. I can give you this."
He swallowed at this new confession. If this was one of the Herculean tasks, he would most likely end up in hell. "I want more," he stated with honesty. "I want more than your body, Bones. I want..." What do I want? "I want who you are, what you do."
She pondered an instant, listening to his erratic, nervous breathing. She wished he knew what that meant to her to give him her tangible self. What step it was. She found herself denying all she had learned and believed. Giving herself literally was taking a figurative meaning she had never suspected. But it seemed it was not enough anymore, because she had spent years putting all her might into the desacralization of an act he had always considered holy. This seemed like an ironically deserved punishment for her. She felt she needed to make amend, one way or another. One way...
"I'll give you the letter," she suddenly blurted out.
This was who she was, what she did. What she concealed too. What she could not offer as easily as her tangible self.
He cleared his throat, what could he possibly answer to that? She was not opposing any resistance and it was the first time. Well, the second time in one evening.
Thank you? Seriously, Seeley? Shut the hell up.Another silence. But this time it was not his turn to speak, right? Or maybe the basic conversational rules did not apply, but he felt like the first damned guy who ever talked on the phone and certainly did not have much to say. He wondered what that conversation might have been and chuckled.
"What?" she asked, alarmed.
Crap. I said shut the hell up, Seeley, but on the phone it might not be... yeah, shut up.
"I was just wondering what the first two guys who talked on the phone could have said to each other. That must have been awkward..."
"The first sentence ever uttered on the phone was Alexander Graham Bell talking to his assistant Thomas Watson, who was in the adjoining room. They did not have a real conversation though, they were testing the efficacy of their liquid transmitter." she stated.
He smiled, of course she would know.
"What did they tell each other?" he pursued, desperate to have her relax.
"Bell said 'Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you'. This was in a spirit of scientific inquiry since, they could actually hear each other perfectly from where they were standing."
He chuckled again.
"What?" she asked a once more. This time intrigued.
"You don't think it's funny that two guys standing next to each other would call each other to... see each other?"
She smiled at his deliberate goofiness.
She loved his goofiness.
"I'm sorry," he snorted, now sincerely amused. He was probably more nervous than anything else, but this unexpected outlet made him feel suddenly much more inspired. He took a breath to calm himself. "Can you read it to me?" he then let out, hopeful. Mostly hopeful she would not ask him what he was talking about, or simply refuse.
"Read you what?"
Of course. That's one out of two. What are the odds, uh?"The letter."
I don't even know why I stopped gambling if I'm that good."Please?" he insisted, taking a boyish tone.
He had no idea of where his playfulness could come from after all that had happened during the past hours, but he blamed the two dorks playing with their homemade phones in adjoining rooms. Mostly what he and Bones were doing, except that the rooms were metaphorical and that he was done playing. Or not. Or maybe he was still drunk. Well, not really. He could not even use that excuse.
She sighed, "Why?"
She always had so many questions. Sometimes it felt like being with Parker. Why, how, when, what... And he had so little answers. He just wanted her to read it. He wanted to hear the words. He wanted it to come from her. Would that be enough to convince her?
"Because I don't want to wait..."
Good enough?"I can come over now and give it to you, if you prefer."
Not good enough."At 3 am?" he asked, saving time to try and find a better excuse.
"Nearly 4 am now. But I don't mind, really," she stated matter-of-factly.
He made a face. Really?"I'd rather you read it to me, really," he mimicked.
She was at loss. Why was it so important to him? Was he mocking her? If the latter seemed highly unlikely, she wondered once more why there were so many things to complicate their relationship, if that was the proper definition for what they had.
She sighed again.
"Why is it so important that I read it?"
I don't want to. I have never been able to read it to myself.
"Because," he began, trapped. "I... I need to hear you say it. It's... It's ours, you know? It's not mine."
She instantly remembered the first time he had used this pronoun. A simple pronoun with so many implications. There was nothing tangible in it, nothing reliable and yet a little 'ours' was capable of unsettling her. How could he say it that easily? Because it was Booth, probably. Another Boothy thing... She felt challenged; if he could say that, she could read that letter. This was who she was, if that was what he wanted to see. She was not one to turn down a challenge -most of the time. Not this time anyway.
"Alright," she gave in.
He took a breath, in anticipation.
I'm getting more and more original by the second...But he knew he could not express fully what it meant to him. He could not if he wanted to actually obtain what he had sickened for all day. The idea of disappointment did not graze him once, for he know she would not attach such importance to meaningless words. That was not who she was. He knew who she was, that was why he wanted it, wanted her.
When he heard her clear her throat, he instinctively gripped the arm of his couch. Just as though this ride in the unknown would be eventually more... more everything than what he had already experienced with her.
"I can't find it," she said nervously.
He could hear her move things around, she was not lying.
"Where was it the last time you saw it?"
"In my nightstand drawer," she said, annoyed to be forced to confess yet another of these dirty little secrets she had no idea were dirty until tonight.
"Maybe you threw it out..." he suggested, trying to appear casual.
"Are you trying to make me say something, Booth?" she frowned.
What do you think, Bones, uh?
"I don't know, maybe."
"I would never have done that," she was earnest, basically turning her drawers upside down. "Is this what you wanted to hear?" she added sarcastically.
Not with that tone, but yeah..."Found it yet?"
He wished he had not sounded sarcastic either, but she had started it, right? And he was a damned overgrown dorky preadolescent. Sort of common knowledge though.
"Shit," she said to herself, as he heard a loud thud. She had broken one of her bedside lamps.
"You okay, Bones?"
"Yeah, I just... Look, can I call you back when I find it? This would be much more practical if I had both hands to do that..."
The equivocal nature of her comment made him swallow again. He had a pretty clear cut memory of what she could do with both her hands.
"Uh, I... yeah, sure," he stuttered.
"Okay, I'll call you right back," she concluded before hanging up.
He remained motionless for an instant, phone still literally plugged to his ear, waiting like an idiot. Stunned. Listening to the incessant beeping that meant he had maybe lost all opportunity to have her open up. He wondered an instant if she had willfully used that comment to make him lose focus and take the upper hand. This was a possibility, despite her characteristic bluntness. Nah, she was not blunt. Hell she was not. She had never been. She was a smart ass playing dumb. And she would not call back.
Maybe he should be the one calling back? Yeah, right. She had hung up. And she had reminded him that five painful hours prior, they had been doing things naked together in a totally naked way. If that meant anything. How could the memory be that powerful all this time later? He glanced at his crotch.
Crap... Seriously?And started reciting the names of each team-members of the Flyers to have won the Stanley Cup since 1973, cursing himself to be unable to focus on what was supposed to matter. He was supposed to have... evacuated the tension. Yeah, right, you don't evacuate six years of repressed desire like that, especially not when you tasted the product before leaving the store without buying it. Yeah, lousy metaphor. Difficult to focus. Why wasn't she calling back? It was a letter, not a needle in a hay stack.
He got up to get himself a glass of water, not once thinking of putting the phone down. But determined not to pick up at the first ring. He was that girlish tonight. A girlish guy with a mannish mind in the dirtiest gutter you could find.
After five minutes, he started to lose patience, pacing around his apartment like a caged lion. He glanced at his phone every ten seconds with furrowed brows, as though trying to magically make it ring. She would not call back. He had to accept it and do what he had said he would do from the beginning, move on.
Well, go to bed, to begin with.
But that little voice kept telling him to wait. Again. Still. He would have preferred it be a hallucination of sorts, he could have dismissed it. But that was him talking. His goddamned, noisy, nosy heart. That heart of his, that 'open-heart', like she said; battle sore, bruised, scarred but which would not give up even when he had.
Another ten minutes passed. He had turned off the television, pathetically afraid that he might not have heard the ringing while he was in the kitchen, then remembering that damned phone had not left his side a second. He gave it a millionth glance. Maybe he should call. Maybe she had hurt herself. He pressed speed dial.
It rang. And rang. And rang again.
Now he was seriously panicking. Something had happened. He raced to his bedroom, searching for his jeans, when he heard a knock on his front door.
No way. She did not.
He sighed. Of course she had. It was Bones.
When he opened, he saw her tiny, fragile frame, nervously shifting on her feet. Always avoiding his gaze. And in her pajamas too, he noticed. He could not suppress a smile. She extended her right hand, in which she was holding a folded piece of paper.
"Here," she let out, almost inaudibly.
He reached for it, but as he saw she was already turning around to escape, he caught her wrist.
For the first time she looked at him. She should have called back, she thought. Coming here was a bad idea. The phone had the advantage of preventing direct contact, and she had forgotten that element when she had read this letter a few minutes before, unsure she would be able to say it all out loud. What was worse? Those words, or his touch?
"Booth, please," she almost whined.
He desperately searched for something that would convince her to stay, if not to read that letter out-loud. He wondered if he even had a right after what he had done the preceding evening. But he could not prevent himself, he did not want her to go.
"Stay," he begged. "We could... We could have breakfast."
She frowned, "It's barely 5 am."
"Yeah, well, we're both awake and I think we had our share of alcohol already." He winced at his own silly words.
She pressed her lips together, rapidly reviewing the situation, then nodded. As long as he did not ask her to read that thing... She did not want to go. He invited her in, now noticing she had not even put on shoes, but had come in slippers. He chuckled.
"What?" she asked.
He pointed at her tiny feet, still smiling.
"Oh," she had not even paid attention to what she was wearing. "That explains why I had a lesser control over my brake pedal..." she reflected.
He gave her a patronizing look. Then realized that he was the cause of this confusion and felt a familiar sense of guilt invade him. He had no right to lecture her. But he could not help it, no matter what was happening between them, she was his responsibility. She was... his. Even if she was not.
"Don't do that again, Bones. Seriously. I don't want to receive a call telling me you're at the hospital because you forgot to put on a pair of shoes."
His tone startled her. What did it have to do with anything?
"I'd appreciate it if you quit lecturing me as if I were a child," she snapped at him defensively.
"Well then quit acting like one!" he retaliated instantly.
He had not wanted this. Why was everything between them systematically going the wrong way? Why was he unable to control himself? Literally. It seemed that was the 'heart' of the matter. The dam had broken, and now he could not control himself anymore. Every emotion was raw and painful. His passion, his hatred, his fears and doubts. And he would take it out on her because it seemed it was all her fault. No matter how much he knew it was his fault as well.
"I'm acting like a child?" she said harshly, "If I am, then I would be curious to know how you qualify your own attitude! You're the one who left without a word!"
"I left because I wanted to do the right thing for us!" he shouted.
"No!" she matched his tone. "You left because you're a coward!"
He swallowed. The truth of her comment made him uncomfortable, but his rage took over.
"Who's the coward here, Bones? Who is? You are! You're the one who's afraid of everything!" he said, instantly regretting it.
They were both right, and they had been both wrong to play the other's game. They knew it but it was too late. They had retaliated, as usual, in a war of words that had too much weight to be simply set aside. They could not step back anymore. Words had become more tangible than actions. This certainty made Bones dizzy. She had to do something to prove him wrong. To show him that his words did not matter. That words did not matter. That actions were predominant in her world.
"I'm afraid?" She seized the letter from him. "I came here. I came. I came to give this to you," she blurted out. She tore it in two. He didn't move. "There! You have it!" she shouted, throwing the pieces on the floor.
He stood there, like she had hours before in her bathroom. Completely lost and confused. Staring at the two pieces of torn paper discarded on the floor. Swallowing, he reached for them and went to his kitchen to throw them in his garbage can.