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Arabian Nights

By threesquares

Thriller / Romance

Chapter 1

"Knowledge of [One Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian Nights], direct or indirect, apparently spread beyond Spain. Themes and motifs with parallels in the Nights are found in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (in The Squire's Tale the hero travels on a flying brass horse) and Boccaccio's Decameron. Irwin, Robert. 2004. The Arabian nights: a companion. P.1-9

"I purpose at one and the same time to shew you how great is the folly of all such [behavior], and how much greater is the folly of those deeming themselves mightier than nature." Day 2, The Decameron, Boccaccio, about faithlessness or infidelity, something that I (and I suspect Booth) am not entirely certain are the same thing.

"Are we okay?" Shame at needing her reassurance deepened the agony of hurting her.

"Yes, of course." She had almost forgotten how it felt to lie to him, lie about how she felt.

"Bones?" Later much later in bed in their bed in the dark knowing she is awake feeling that she is awake finally finally saying her name just saying it. And not getting an answer.

"Booth!" She gasped and sat up, breathing hard from the dream, not sure if she said his name or not. She looked at the clock. She had only been asleep 50 minutes. Her heart was racing. Booth's breath, so dear, deep and strong from where he slept by her side. She can't help but lean over him, hovering, her face so close to the join of his shoulder and neck where she likes to press into him. Pain in her chest drives her up up and out. Out of their bed, their room. Past Christine's room with its sleepy baby sounds, down down the stairs, to books and light, rhyme and reason.

Bones hadn't slept in their bed for three nights. During the day, they fell back on old habits of working together, routines that had kept them together through kidnap and torture, through unreciprocated longing on both their parts.

During the day, it wasn't so bad, Booth thought. The last three nights were terrible, though. Just awful. She had thrown herself into, not work, precisely, but into the stimulating life of the mind. She was too honest to pretend that she wanted to go back to a time when work would have been her only refuge. Since her partnership with him, since becoming friends with people who didn't have strong leanings toward academic study, she had enjoyed more recreational, but still intellectual pursuits...writing, reading other than for work, puzzles, even some inexpert drawing. This last she cherished less for the results but for the way it gave her a new view of the world around her. Her home office contained all these pursuits and more. Now she was spending every evening there, and every evening she rebuffed Booth's suggestions to talk or listen to music together in an even, unemotional voice that made him shudder. She was writing, or reading. She would come up later.

For three nights she had not come up. Had not come to bed. Had fallen asleep "accidentally" on the couch in her office. Every night he fell asleep without her, reluctantly, trying to stay awake until she came up; hoping that if he stayed awake she would come up; feeling as though he had failed her by falling asleep. He woke up, later, in the dark, without her, guilt choking him, and rose to find her. He let the anger swell and swallow the guilt. It felt good and he let it turn into indignation. It wasn't his fault. Each time, when he found her asleep on the couch in her office, his indignation drained away. He couldn't sustain his ire in the face of her vulnerability. Each night he pulled a chair up to the side of the couch, not too close, and sat for a while, leaning forward, elbows on knees, to think and watch her.

He remembered sitting just like this in the hospital, after she was shot.

He remembered that for a week, after digging her out of that quarry the Gravedigger had put her in, he watched over her while she slept,. That first night. Her apartment, with all the lights on. Him sitting up next to her in bed, out on top of the covers and leaning against the headboard, her lying on her back under the covers next to him. He had a magazine and was trying to be very matter-of-fact about it all; something partners did, maybe. Help you sleep after being buried alive. He gave her some time to work it out for herself but when she continued to stare, wide-eyed and stiff as a board, at the ceiling of her bedroom, he slid under the covers, shifted down and leaned across her to turn out the light next to her bed. It was still bright in her room, but at least the lamp wasn't shining on her face. She started to protest but he shushed her and she let him. He pushed and lifted her until she curled on her side and he wrapped his top arm around her, and slipped his other arm under her so that her cheek rested against his bicep. Her token protest was not repeated and she snuggled her back up against his front, nuzzled her face gently against the skin of his inner arm.

What he wouldn't give to feel her against him now. But he stayed where he was, just sitting. To feel as though he was doing something, watching over her somehow.

When he felt sleep dragging his eyelids down again, he carefully put the chair back and covered her with a blanket. Turned off the light. Cracked the window a little for fresh air. She never said anything the next day, if she even noticed these changes in her surroundings. She must have, though. She was Bones. She noticed everything. Each morning, he tried to talk to her about it, tried to find out if she was staying away on purpose. Or rather, tried to get her to admit she was staying away on purpose. But she wouldn't, and was relentlessly pleasant and upbeat during their morning rituals. The last three mornings were each so similar to all of their previous mornings that he could almost make himself believe that something had changed today, on this day, and changed back. But by night he knew it hadn't.

By Friday night, he was strung out from late nights and interrupted sleep and he didn't think she was getting any more sleep than he was, probably less. When she got home tonight, she seemed surprised and then a little hostile to find Max in her kitchen, having a beer with Booth.

"Dad...what are you doing here?" She leaned forward to kiss him as he approached to embrace her.

"Hi, honey. I wanted to say hello, I haven't seen you all week. Plus I didn't think you'd be too hot for me to just take Christine away without you getting to say good night." He smiled.

"What do you mean? Take Christine away?...ohhhh." Her voice rose in sudden recollection. "Oh, I forgot you were going to take her this weekend." Even to her, the flatness in her voice was noticeable. She regrouped quickly and briskly moved toward the stairs, scooping Christine up from where she played on the rug, surrounded by toys. "Well, I'll just get her things ready. Maybe I'll go back to work." This last comment prompted Booth to move.

"Bones, let's go out—"

"Booth, I've got to get her things. I'll be right back."

He heard the desperation in her voice, knew she was close to breaking and, to save her pride, he let her go. He turned back toward the kitchen from where he found himself, hand on the newell post, staring up the stairs after her. He was almost surprised to see Max, close by. The older man put his hand on Booth's shoulder awkwardly, patting it briefly.

"Hang in there, kid. She'll come around." Booth didn't think Max would be so calm if he knew what the tension was about, knew that for a brief time, he and Bones had actually been engaged. As it was, Booth figured Max would find out sometime and tear him a new one. Maybe he'd deserve it.

Booth and Max went back to the kitchen, making small talk and listening for Bones. Every once in a while, they would hear her talking to Christine or hear Christine squeal. Booth knew she was stalling and taking a little time with their daughter. He didn't begrudge her the time and maybe he wanted to put off being alone with her, the possibility of confronting her, a little longer too. Eventually though, Max finished his beer and went to the bottom of the stairs to call up. Eventually, both parents had kissed their daughter goodnight. Eventually, the door closed behind Max and Christine. Eventually.

Bones stood in front of him, facing away from him, staring at the front door. He reached out and stroked her hair, put his hand on her shoulder, hoping she might let him hug her. But it wasn't going to be that easy.

"You know, Booth, I think that I might go back to work. I am still quite behind—" She turned and tried to move past him. He couldn't stand it, suddenly, and grabbed for her other shoulder, forcing her to stop and look at him. Her jaw set and her eyes were suddenly fierce; she looked like she might fight him.

"Bones—" His voice was low and hoarse with strain and emotion. Fuck. If Pelant was listening to this, watching all this, he certainly wouldn't doubt that Booth had made her unhappy. "Truce, all right? For tonight. I'm not going to push, to ask you questions. Just—" He waited until she looked up from where her eyes had dropped to fix on his adam's apple. "Just don't go. Just...stay...home." He didn't say please. It would be too much. He couldn't take much more. He'd have to, more and then some, before this was over, but right now, he just couldn't.

She didn't answer, but she was still meeting his eyes, looking for something. He didn't say please but he let his eyes soften and show his unhappiness. "I'll make us grilled cheese and tomato soup. We'll open a bottle of wine. Maybe watch—" Again, he sensed the shift, knew she was going to refuse. He didn't know what set her off, maybe the implications of a movie, snuggling on the couch with him... "No, I know. We'll play a game. Game night! Great idea, don't you think, Bones?" He let her go. Let go of her. Something like that. Hoped that she would stay. He grabbed supplies from the refrigerator, a pan from the hanging rack, hoped. Back to the island, he started buttering bread. And heard the scrape of a stool, the drawer with the wine opener sliding out then back in, the pop of a cork.

They talked, lightly, of their days. Of the changes in Christine, their favorite ways to make her laugh. How serious she was about things, the intent look she got when she tried to pick up very small things, or when she tried to arrange things in rows. Booth told Brennan a story she had never heard of the time his grandfather had served the entire football team tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Her eyes lit up a little then, to hear about Hank, about the outrageous number of loaves of bread, pounds of cheese, cans of soup he needed. That story helped. The wine helped too.

He knew a lot of card games, but he let her teach him a card game that she used to play with Max. She was ruthless and won more than she lost and every time she slapped his hand, he relished the contact. He taught her a game that he and Jared used to play. It had complicated and ridiculous rules that he wasn't sure he was going to remember but surprisingly, he did. Even more surprising, the game was fun and by the time he caught her yawning, it was 10:30. Not late for them, usually, but they were both really tired. He pulled the cards into a pile one last time but instead of dealing, placed them in the center of the coffee table between them and rose, holding out his hand for hers. She took it automatically but then pulled it away when they were both standing, once she realized what she had done.

"Booth, I think I'll read in my office before bed."

"Bones, come upstairs with me while I get ready. You can come back down later, in a little while, okay?" If he could just get her upstairs— "I'll...I'll tell you another story." She seemed torn between continuing to lick her wounds, in private, and hearing a story. Finally she nodded and moved to put their glasses in the sink. What was it? Why did that work? Was it any story that would catch her attention this way? Or was it the possibility of a story about his childhood, with her own difficult one as her only reference, that drew her in?

He moved to the door and locked it, forgoing his usual triple-check circuit of the downstairs for fear of her changing her mind. As she headed up the stairs, he was right behind her, hand at her back. He had left a light on downstairs, as if he didn't hope that she wouldn't be returning.

"Why don't you sit down, Bones, I'll be right back." And when he returned, she was leaning up on her side of the bed, outside of the covers. Her face gave nothing away; she looked serious and a little pale. He undressed down to his boxers, and, finally, pulled off his t-hirt and put on a clean one. He deliberately ignored the way she watched him but a savage knot of satisfaction swelled at the base of his throat when he knew that she was.

He turned toward the bed to join her. She was so pretty, had no idea that she was. Oh, she knew she was beautiful, but pretty? Delicate and womanly, sweet and tender in her own way. These were things Bones really didn't know about herself.

He knew he could push her physically, knew she would welcome his touch and respond, sexually, but he didn't want to start there, didn't want sex to become all they had. So he settled on his side, propping his head up with his hand, and looked at her. The light from her bedside lamp cast a small amber glow and the room was warm and cozy. "I like being in bed with you like this," he said. She didn't say anything but let a small smile creep onto her face, turned toward him a little. They had been intimate too long, in this very room, for her to not feel their history, their intimacy buoying them up now. They made love here, they fought here, watched sports (much to her chagrin) here, worked (much to his) here, made each other laugh here. If there was crying, it was here.

So she smiled a little and said, "Booth, are you trying to get out of telling me a story?"

He just smiled back and said, "Nah." Now that the time had come, however, he didn't know what to say. "What kind of story do you want to hear?"

"I thought you had a story in mind."

"Well, not exactly. Was there something you wanted to know about?"

"How did you and Rebecca break up?"

Booth was surprised. "Uh, you want to hear about Rebecca?"

"Yes. If you don't mind telling me about it."

"No, no, not at all. I, uh, I told you I asked her to marry me, right." Goddamn it! Now they were talking about marriage again. No wonder she wanted to talk about this. But this was Bones; she was too smart to compare herself to Rebecca, to that earlier relationship, wasn't she? He plowed on, quickly, to get past the marriage business.

"Well, you know, she said no. I think now she was just afraid of losing her independence, her sense of self." Damn damn damn keep going, get past this "and so she told me no. But we didn't break up then."

"No?" Bones sounded surprised.

"No." I mean, I still had another year of active duty, but we were still together. I wasn't home all that often, to see her and Parker—well, you know what happened the day he was born—but when I was home we fought a lot and fucked a lot." She didn't flinch at his crude language. He didn't share how glad he was that Rebecca had said no, that he knew the end was coming and was glad they weren't trapped in marriage when it came. He wanted to cry at the difference between that moment and this one, where he wanted more than he had wanted almost anything in his entire life to marry Bones. He looked at her and tried to let her know with his eyes how much he loved her.

"And..." she prompted. For an instance, he thought he saw an answer in her eyes, but it was gone too quick for him to be sure.

So he told her about being away, writing notes for Rebecca to read to Parker, short letters about his military life to her, descriptions of friends and his work, at least the unclassified parts. Her letters back to him, telling him about going back to school and work, her mother watching Parker during the days, too short descriptions of Parker's growth and accomplishments. He looked down, as he got to this next part, tracing patterns in the quilt on their bed with his fingers as he told her about coming home for good that last time a few days early, wanting to surprise her and give a relationship with her more of a chance. About coming home, the burden of his lethal service a red hot coal in his gut as he travelled through his city, past places he knew. He remembered feeling that the slant of the light, the quality of the light, seemed righter here. Their letters—his and Rebecca's—seemed kind of impersonal to him, sure, but they weren't fighting so much, maybe they were figuring this out. He let himself into their apartment and realized that she wasn't living there alone.

Booth looked up now, to see Bones' reaction.

She was asleep. In their bed. Something loosened inside of him for the first time in days. He let his eyes drift shut and said a brief, heartfelt prayer of thanks. He rose carefully and turned out the light in the room. He took off his shirt, knowing he'd be hot tonight. Rather than risk disturbing her by moving her under the covers, he got an extra quilt from the closet and slid under it with her. He moved carefully until they were as close as possible and he could see her outline in the darkness of the room, could hear and feel her breath get slow and deep. When she shifted and murmured, pushing back against the pile of pillows behind her, he slid all but one out and pulled her into him. She settled comfortably into her pillow, nuzzled into his shoulder and throat, wrapped an arm around him and rested her hand in the hollow of his back. He put all the love and care he felt into his own careful embrace, kissed the parts of her face that he could reach easily, and slept.

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