Chapter 4: The Fisherman's Tale
Sunday didn't turn out like Booth thought at all.
Max brought Christine back early so they could all have breakfast together, and Booth got up to get the coffee going and fry up the bacon and vegetarian sausage. Everything after that, though, failed to meet expectations. On the other hand, with jobs like theirs, and a small child in their life, Booth had learned to expect curve balls.
After last night's confrontation, if that is what it was, Booth wasn't sure how today was going to go with Bones. He was just mixing the waffle batter in the kitchen when she shuffled out from her office. He never ever failed to get a kick out of how messy she looked in the morning—bedhead, squinty eyes, puffy lips. He slept with her—usually—and he had no idea what she did in the night to make her hair look like that. He gave her a little smile as she looked blearily at him.
And then his phone rang. And hers. And Max walked in with a flushed Christine, sneezing and whining and hot. Booth threw his FBI jacket on over his Sunday jeans and Flyers t-shirt. Bones, surprisingly, hardly objected at all to being the one left behind. Her focus was on Christine, who had a fever of 101.6. Not terribly high but enough to explain the bright eyes and pink cheeks, the hoarse cries of "mum-mah", and the tiny arms clutching Bones around the neck. Christine buried her face in her mother's shoulder and didn't even raise her head when Booth pressed his lips to her hot sweaty cheek and rubbed her back a little.
As he raised his head, hand still on Christine's back, he shared the first truly open communication with Brennan since he broke their engagement. God, it made him sick to even think the words. But for now, the tenderness he felt for his daughter as well as the unspoken and almost embarrassing contentment that a parent feels when their child needs them, plucked the chord of connection between them.
"Cam's meeting me there, but is there anything you want me to tell her or the techs?"
"No, Booth. It's been dry, and there may not even be even partial skeletonization. Cam's expertise should be sufficient." She hoisted Christine up a little higher, the little girl already half asleep. Max was just shutting the door from bringing in Christine's things. She couldn't resist turning back from where she started up the stairs to Christine's room.
"But you know what to look for. I trust you more than anyone else at a crime scene. Call me if you think something is not as it should be."
He didn't argue or tease her, more pleased than he probably should be at her words. "Okay, Bones. Will do. I'll call you in a little while. Will you call me if she gets worse?" He didn't think it was more than a cold, but he worried...
"Yes, Booth, I will." She too, restrained herself from anything like teasing. They had not achieved anything like normalcy but they had gotten through almost an entire weekend and they were talking, sort of. Booth figured he'd have to make do with that for now.
The weather might have been dry lately, but that all changed about an hour later, when the heavens opened on them all. He was cold and soaking wet by the time the scene was secured and the witnesses interviewed. He changed into dry clothes at the bureau but the victim's boyfriend ran when Booth and Sweets showed up at the house looking for him. In the end, Booth wished he had left his wet clothes on since the run through suburban gardens and patches of wood probably ruined his suit. He was cold and hungry and feeling shitty himself by the time he finally got home at eight-ish.
Brennan was in the kitchen making tea when he came in. She raised a finger to her lips in warning but whether it was the door opening or because of some other trigger, Christine started wailing from upstairs. Brennan's shoulders slumped in defeat; Booth could tell from her posture that it had been a long day. Christine's wails turned to coughing—a hard, barking cough, like a seal.
"Croupy, huh?" Booth commented as he hurriedly stripped off his clothes by the door. "I'll get her, Bones. Just give me...one second...Christine...I think I...left..." he rummaged in a gym back under the bench. "A ha!" Triumphantly, he drew out sweatpants and a t-shirt and pulled them on quickly, hopping and almost falling in his rush to get them on. Either Bones was really tired and ready for a break, or the fact that he had stripped all the way down and was now going commando, had stunned her into silence, and he took the stairs two at a time without any protest from her.
"Hey, hey, baby girl. Hey, shhhh." Christine was standing in her crib in the dim twilight of her room, arms outstretched and he scooped her up, rubbing her back soothingly while she coughed into his shoulder. "Cmon, baby, let's get you outside." It was no longer raining but cool and moist outside from the day's weather. Perfect for soothing a croupy baby. Brennan was sitting curled up on the couch when he came down, hot tea in her lap, her head resting against the back of the cushions. She watched him wrap Christine in her little fleece jacket, put a little knit hat on her head.
"Why don't you go up to bed, Bones? I'll stay with her." He only realized what he said after he said it but dammit he wasn't sorry. He didn't have to pretend he wanted her to sleep in her office. She didn't respond to his comment either way though, other than to say, "Thanks, Booth."
Booth stood and walked in their backyard with Christine who, after ten minutes or so of breathing the cool air, didn't sound nearly as wheezy. Everything was wet so he couldn't really sit down, but he was glad enough to walk around, enjoy the night. For a while, Christine was wide awake and so he talked to her, telling her some of the stories that he had been trying to recall for Bones.
He told her about the summer when he was sixteen and Pops and Nan had sent him and Jared to visit cousins in the country for a month. The two city boys had felt out of place for a few days but all the boy cousins had shared a love of cars and it hadn't taken long before they were scheming together to sneak out to drag race in a nearby town. None of them had their own cars but relied on an uncle's 1972 Buick Century with a 350 hp engine. Damned if they didn't win one too.
He told her about going fishing in the morning with his cousins' grandmother—he never did really figure out what her relationship to him must be. The two of them caught mostly white perch and eels. He didn't remember much beyond the way that she killed the eels with a nail in the head which also served to pin them in place so she could strip the skin off of them. Except the quiet. He remembered that. The way that the lake was completely flat, and so so quiet in the early morning. The country had turned out to be noisy most of the time with bugs and birds and animals and motor boats and flapping tents and screen doors...except for dawn and late late at night.
Christine was asleep now, heavy and totally limp against his shoulder. He was pretty sure she'd sleep now. He locked the door behind him and padded down the hall to peek into Bones' office. He knew before he got there, however, that she wasn't. The relief he felt fluttered weakly in his stomach.
He turned out all the lights. He thought about leaving a light on—there was a good chance they'd be up in the night at least once more with Christine—but he didn't want to give Bones any ideas about coming back down to sleep. He held Christine in one hand and kept his other on the bannister, playing it safe with his tiny cargo. As he expected, Christine went down without rousing. He covered her with her blanket and tiptoed into his own room. Bones was asleep on top of the covers, afghan thrown over her, bedside light on. Booth flicked the light off, and left her for the moment to change and brush his teeth.
Tonight he risked disturbing her, half lifting her until she opened sleepy eyes. "C'mon Bones, under the covers. No arguing. We'll probably be up with Christine in the night and you'll want to be nearby." He didn't feel bad at all for shamelessly playing on her worry for Christine. She shot him a look—sleepy but still definitely a look—but did climb into bed under the covers. He propped some pillows up behind him and pulled her over to lay half on top of him.
"Booth, you owe me a story."
"Bones, go to sleep."
"No, Booth. I'm here. You have lured me here, like Scheherazade, and now to keep me here you have to tell me a story. Tell me the story of how you saved my life and did not see fit to inform me of it."
He ignored her prompt. He wasn't going there tonight, that was for damn sure. "I already told Christine my stories."
"You told Christine stories? She doesn't even understand them yet." Her voice was husky and low in the dark. He closed his eyes briefly and while he didn't risk pressing a kiss into her hair, he did let his fingers stroke up and down her back on the outside of her nightgown.
"She seemed quieter when I was talking, and I had thought of some stories for you—"
"Tell me." Again, he felt his body respond to the rasp of her voice, its demand. Only Bones could tell him what to do and make him like it. Fuck. What a sucker. But he felt his lips curl up in a reluctant smile and did risk a quick kiss to her head and before she could react, he told her about drag racing.
"So you had fun? With your cousins? You liked it there?" He could hear the vulnerability in her voice. She had so little family. His wasn't a big one and the parts of it there were weren't close, but he had more than her, more experience with family than her.
"Yeah. Yeah, I liked it." He told her about the eels and fishing with an old woman in the early morning.
"I like that story, Booth." He didn't know what to say to that, just tightened his grip on her a little, like a hug. "Tell me more."
"Bones, don't you want to sleep? That's all I've got."
"Booth, I don't think you understand how this is supposed to work. You lure me to your bed with an intricately plotted tale of deception and trickery but stop before the end so that I have to return the next night to hear the ending. Your stories do not conform to the accepted literary form." She lectured.
He ignored this. "All the kids slept in a long room in the camp. The entire wall was made up of bunk beds and the mattresses smelled musty but not bad musty—not moldy, the smell of summer heat. There were two hammocks that we fought over, and a firepit where we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs." He fell silent, tired and also caught up a little, in memory. Booth didn't usually spend much time contemplating the past.
"Oh, so you like my stories now, do you, Bones?" She didn't answer. "How about this? I know they aren't long, but if you like them, maybe you'll want to hear more of them tomorrow night."
A little more silence while she thought about that. "That is acceptable, Booth. But don't think I have forgotten what you said last night."
"I never thought you would, Bones." He smiled against her hair and she moved against him to get more comfortable, finally turning over to face away from him, one leg crooked and one leg stretched out.
She didn't reach back for his arm though, as she sometimes did, and stretch it across her, linking their fingers. He tried to relax and be grateful for what he had but before he could start to worry again, he felt her foot against his. At first he thought it was just an accident, but he felt the brush of the sole of her foot on the top of his. Once, twice, and then again.
He exhaled a breath he didn't realize he was holding and rolled onto his side to spoon against her, his arm taking its place around her, pulling her more tightly against him. In the dark, her hand came to rest lightly on his.