Chapter 20: The Ring in the Summer
This time, he didn't let her pull the scalpel out. This time, the murderous doctor had thrust it in the meaty part of her upper arm in a last ditch effort to escape. This time, he didn't have to kill the guy, just knocked him out with a blow just short of deadly, the familiar rage just barely contained. Brennan always aroused his competitive instincts, his instinct to protect, but the reservoir of rage running cold and deep and rough just below the surface always ran a little more quietly when she with with him. Once again he sank to the floor with her, holding her, talking to her. He prevented her from pulling out the scalpel. When he was sure she heard him, he thumbed open the phone and called for an ambulance, for back up. He would have taken her to the hospital himself but he knew she would just insist on answering questions and ordering people around at the scene. This way, when the EMTs showed up, they could bully her into the ambulance.
But for now, he just held her, shaking with a fucking all too familiar feeling of terror at the sight of her blood. He felt, as always, like it was his blood draining away. But he tried not to let his fear and worry show. He just kissed her head and stroked her hair with the hand that wasn't gripping her so tightly to him that his fingers would leave bruises. For her part, Bones had her face wedged against his chest and was curling into him so hard that her face was pressing low against his shoulder, almost under his arm. Was she trying to hide?
"Bones. Bones, baby." She didn't respond except to press a little harder, deeper against him. He knew she wasn't squeamish at even the sight of her own blood, but her face was turned as far as way as she could get it from the wound. "You okay, baby? Bones, honey?" All the endearments she so rarely allowed but goddammit, they were married and she had been stuck but a fucking scalpel for the second goddamned time for chrissakes. He felt her speak against his shoulder. He couldn't believe that she could breathe down there. He probably reeked of sweat. She had taken another five years off his life. "Bones, I can't smell too good there, babe, and I can't hear you. C'mon, just turn your head a little okay? I've got you. It's going to be okay. Help is on the way. Can you just look at me, Bones? Baby?"
She turned her head and he shifted so that her body rested as comfortably as possible against him. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she whispered something again.
"What, Bones? What do you need?"
"Tell me about the ring, Booth. My ring. Tell me about the ring." He kissed her forehead, along her hairline. She was sweaty too but she didn't seem to be bleeding much from the wound. He knew she was alright but couldn't bear the sight of her blood. He closed his eyes too, dropped his cheek against her hair. His throat was raspy with tension.
"I bought it while you were gone. When you were away last summer."
She made a small sound like a whimper. He knew she still felt guilty, didn't know how to erase it. It was worse now, or maybe it was better, since he carried a similar guilt. Her face, when he told her he thought they shouldn't get married. Her voice when she said they were alright. He squeezed her tighter, stroked the side of her face he could reach.
"Tell me." Her voice was strong enough, but he could hear the pain. "Tell me, Booth."
"Well, I did it to fuck with Flynn, really. He was all over me. All day at work, then people watching me at night. Him dropping by to go over the details one more time. He confiscated my phone records and went over them daily; all my email was monitored. For a week, I stayed at home and then I figured, fuck it, let them fire me if they wanted, but I was going to work. So I worked but for my own protection, they temporarily assigned me to Intelligence. Cullen, even Hacker, didn't like it, but it did protect me, in a way, that assignment, and it was the best chance I had for stumbling across information that might help. So then, for a while, I just—"
Booth heard sirens coming closer. "Bones, they're almost here. Just hang on." She nuzzled her nose demandingly into his side, lips pressed white against the pain. "Okay, okay. Knock it off, Bones. That hurts. Your nose is pointy." He was rewarded with a small smile. "Sweetheart... baby, are you okay?" She poked him with her nose again, but a little more gently.
He resumed his story, alert to the sound of help arriving. "Hmm, where was I? Oh, yeah, so for a while I just went to work and then home. I didn't want to be anywhere else. Hodgins and Angela, Cam, Wendell, Caroline, Pops, even Cullen asked me home for dinner. I was too angry, too hurt, to be around other people. But then, Flynn just started pissing me off. He just was always around, you know? And the same two guys I had never seen before sitting in front of my house. And they weren't lazy bastards either. They'd split up, walk around, poke around oustide the garage. They had two cars and split up sometimes. So I figured it would be better to make them work for it." Her lips twitched and he knew she was glad. She was as bloodthirsty and vindictive as he was when someone messed with his people, his family. Two of a kind.
The door to the offices where he held her burst open and a lot of people rushed in to help. Her grip on his hand really did hurt, but he didn't mind. She squeezed his fingers demandingly.
"Bones…" Again, the demanding squeeze. "Fine." He didn't even glance at the paramedics as they prepped and then lifted her onto the stretcher, raising it up to roll it through the deserted offices. He walked alongside.
"So I started going places, just so those assholes had to follow me. Farmer's market, dinner at people's houses, the Mall, the mall." He hated shopping, especially at the big local mall. She knew that and again, he thought he saw her lips twitch. "One Saturday, I took Angela and Michael Vincent to an outdoor art show. Turns out this show runs all summer and Angela went a lot on the weekends just for something to do. This time, Hodgins couldn't come and Angela wanted company and help. I think she was trying to distract me, plus in the end it was good because she got to walk around the art show and I took Michael. I missed you both so much, Bones. You and Christine. Holding Michael should have made it worse but it didn't. Knowing Christine was out there, only a little younger than him, learning to sit up and eat cheerios, was comforting somehow." They were in the ambulance now and Bones wasn't the only one listening. He got the distinct impression that the EMT in the back with them was listening to every word.
"But walking around with Michael wasn't annoying Flynn enough so I started going into tents and talking to the proprietors. Asked to see things. Many of them were art dealers, but there were people selling jewelry and books and everything really. I would ask to see something that was behind the counter, or in a case. That way, the agents following me would have to come in and question the owner to see if I had asked to use a phone or had asked them to mail a letter for me or something. I felt a little bad for the owners but not bad enough to stop. The next weekend, I went back. And now I really did feel bad for the owners, because they were going through the interrogation for a second time. So," Booth glanced out of the window, from the cityscape rushing by, he knew they were still a few minutes away, "so I started buying things. A scarf, a painted sign, a piece of art that Angela liked, a pocket watch for Pops. I bought Parker a a...a...machine thingamabob...uh" Booth looked up at the paramedic helplessly, trying to remember the name. She, for her part, had long since stopped trying to pretend she wasn't listening. "You know, there is a marble and then you drop it and there are springs and cogs and all kinds of stuff happens…"
The words rushed out of her. "A Rube Goldberg Machine."
"Yeah, yeah, that's it, Bones. Thanks, babe, I knew you'd know." He leaned over and kissed her forehead. And then he kissed her nose, which had crinkled when he had called her 'baby' in public, as if the back of a friggin ambulance counted as public.
"So I was kind of driving the agents wild — I was also driving all around at night too — and eventually some of the shop owners complained and Cullen caught wind and it was just what he needed to push back against Flynn a little and the surveillance dropped back to just electronic. I never saw those two assholes again. I should ask Flynn who the hell they were." Another demanding squeeze from his wife — that fucker stabbed his wife — and he rushed to finish his story. He wasn't sure what the scalpel had hit or cut or what they might need to do at the hospital and he wanted to be done by the time they got there.
"I went back one more time with Angela although I had lost interest. She stayed with me the whole time, made me buy her drinks and held onto my arm. Made me go into almost every tent. In the very last tent, they had set up for an auction. I saw the ring and wanted it. For you." Her eyes, shut tight this entire time, opened now. The bright blue gaze grounded him, like it always did. He confessed. "I didn't want Angela to know I was buying it, so I went back later. I didn't know if you would ever marry me, or honestly, if you would ever come back. Once I bought it though, I felt more certain that you would."
He leaned over and pressed his lips to hers gently. "Aw, baby, you have to stop getting hurt." A voice intruded.
"Sir? Agent? We're ready to move her into the hospital now."
"C'mon, Bones." One last time before she started objecting again. "Let's get you fixed up. Okay?"
She smiled weakly up at him, squeezed his hand, and nodded.