Chapter 5: She Whose Dominion is Free
Monday and Tuesday nights were much like Sunday. Sick Christine, although improving, was whiny and snuggly in turn. Booth and Brennan both took turns getting up with her in the night and Brennan stayed home Monday, but by Tuesday, Christine was back in daycare for the bulk of the day. Monday and Tuesday nights Brennan stayed in their room, to be close to Christine, although she insisted that Booth tell her a story, or stories. He did so gladly but was a little worried: both that he would run out soon and that the storytelling might unfortunately be routinizing the new distance between them. Ultimately, though, he wasn't used to worrying about something so fuzzy so he just let it go and wracked his brains for things to tell her.
"Did I tell you that I used to skip school when I was about 10, with Mickey Jellison? We would watch movies all day."
"What? You were only 10? What's that...3rd grade?"
"No, Bones, more like 5th, but yeah, we both walked and sometimes we just...wouldn't go. There were two movie theaters on that side of the city, within walking distance, one nice one and one crappy one. We went to the crappy one. It was down by the river, and we'd just mess around until the first showing at 11, sneaking in through the exit door that someone was bound to come through. Very rarely, we had to pay to get in but we didn't usually have any money. Once we were in, we'd hide under the seats when the show was over until the next show started and then we'd watch the movie over or go sneak into another movie. We'd do that all day until 3 or 4 and then walk home." He smiled in reminiscence.
"What happened to Mickey Jellison?"
"I don't know, really. He moved out of the neighborhood before Junior High and I never saw him again."
"Didn't the theater attendants find you?"
"Nah, they didn't look very hard in that theater. Sometimes there were rats. I don't think they wanted to deal with them."
"Yep. Big ones. Didn't bother us any though. Liked popcorn." Brennan swatted him gently for the silly comment. He rocked sideways as if she had pushed him really hard and she laughed. "What did you do to get in trouble?"
"Booth! I didn't get in trouble."
"C'mon, Bones, you must've done something."
"One time Russ ran away." From the surprise in her voice, he knew she had just remembered. Hard on the heels of that thought, came another. Both of them knew all too well what life was like for runaways. He put his arm around her and pulled him into his side, wondering if she would allow it. Tired, and knowing they were talking on borrowed time—Christine would likely wake up at least once tonight and she'd been asleep for an hour now—Brennan let herself rest against him. She slid under the top blanket on the bed, as if just visiting, and lay down against his chest where he rested against the headboard. "He was ten."
He smiled and let his hand rest on her head, stroking and playing with her hair.
"He wasn't allowed to ride his bike farther than the railroad tracks in the town where we lived. One day, he and my mother had a fight and he yelled at her that he was going to run away. She said that she forbid it. Later, when she was doing something else, he packed a bag with clothes and rode off. We could see him riding away from the upstairs window, and when I asked if she was going to stop him, she just smiled down at me and said, 'He'll be back.'
He did come back, because he left his bag with the clothes. Later, I looked to see what he had packed-because he certainly hadn't unpacked but instead had immediately left to play baseball with the neighbor-and found that he had packed 6 pairs of underwear and 4 pair of socks. Completely impractical." He felt her smile against his chest. His fingers, stroking the long strands of her hair had slipped down to rub her back over her nightgown. She fell silent after her story and before long, her breathing evened out and she was asleep.
The next night, Christine went to bed a little earlier, a little closer to her usual time, and Booth picked up where they left off, reminding Brennan that she hadn't told him something bad that she had done. She flitted around the room, picking up, folding clothes, rearranging things on her dresser, unable to settle, uncertain whether she wanted to stay. She'd been able to go back to work today and away from their home, the home they had made together, she was reminded of all she was, and felt rare anxiety for the things she wasn't. Doubts crept in as to why he broke their engagement. Was he really all right with loving her out of the bounds of a convention he cherished and desired, or was there something else, something that made him wonder if he might feel differently someday?
She wanted to ask him about the time he saved her life but knew that this would be a long story, and maybe a hard story to hear. She wasn't sure that she was ready for that level of commitment tonight. Absentmindedly, she answered him.
"Booth, I told you, I didn't get into trouble. I was extremely rational, even then, and I didn't see any purpose in doing things that were destructive or would keep me from learning."
"Bones, you told me your mom told you—"
"Booth, the trauma of the shot—"
"I know, Bones. It wasn't really your mother but whatever she was, she told you that you were smoking cigarettes with some boy."
"Yeah, that one. So you were getting into a little trouble."
"Perhaps I was starting to. I don't know. I don't really remember much of that year."
"Oh, c'mon Bones, you must've done something."
"Sometimes..." She faltered and didn't finish her sentence.
He waited, then snagged her hand as she walked by, pulling her down to sit next to him on their bed. "Sometimes what?"
"Well, I didn't so much get into trouble as have to be rescued. Periodically. Because I was focused on more important matters." Her leg snugged against his as she settled comfortably next to him.
Booth was baffled. "What do you mean? You were a kid. What kind of important matters?"
Her confession came out in a rush and Booth understood that she was embarrassed. "I would find a place to read, often outside where people couldn't find me or talk to me, and then by the time I realized it was getting late, it would be dark."
He was beginning to get the idea. "And you were scared to walk home in the dark?"
A long pause. And then, "Yes. Sometimes. But several times, I was in places I couldn't get out of without light...once I was in a tree, once I was in a neighbor's tree house, once I was in the attic of the library. A librarian had let me look in there at some of the books that had been left up there by the prior owner, and then since hours had passed, she didn't think I would still be there and I...well, I was reading. And then it was night. And the library closed up. My father had to call her at home and ask her if she had seen me. She remembered then that I had been in the attic and then they both came and got me. It was always my father. He came and...rescued me. He never seemed to mind, thought it was funny. Which I hated of course. Given how much trouble Russ got into sometimes, I would think he would be mad at me. But he wasn't."
Booth pushed back so that he was stretched out on the bed, leaning against the headboard, pulling her with him. She was slow, but she came, leaning against the headboard next to him. When he kept his hand folded around hers, thumb moving rhythmically over her knuckles, she didn't protest, didn't take her hand away. "I think that parents...good parents...know that kids learn by doing. They expect a little bit of bother. He was probably relieved that you weren't doing anything dangerous."
She turned to look at him. "Booth, I don't think I am supposed to tell you stories."
He smiled, pleased with himself for being prepared. Gotcha, Bones. "Bones, I did a little research."
She raised her eyebrows in question.
"It turns out, first of all, that the Arabian Nights is not just one thing. What they read in school, mostly, is a version published in Europe, but originally it was a collection of stuff dating back to the Caliphate era." He paused to see if she was impressed.
"Booth, I know you are smart. You don't have to do research to prove it to me."
"Well, it was good that I looked it up because some of the original stories were short ones, like mine, and sometimes were just lines of poetry or riddles. And many of the stories were spoken and shared, not always told by one person."
"So you are extending your original proposition." This seemed to interest her, because she shifted to face him, folding one leg under her body so she was still close. He took in her bright eyes, soft lips, messy nighttime hair, shiny and wavy and so her, and felt a wave of longing inconsistent with the fact that she was right here with him. Damn Pelant. Truly, in the most uncharitable sense of the word. Damn him to hell.
"Well, your original proposal as I understand it, was to lure me to your bed with stories, in a play on the way that Scheherazade engaged the Persian king Shahryar so that he would not kill her, the way he had other concubines."
"Okay...I'm not sure that I was really thinking it through that much, but yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking."
"But now, you are proposing something even...older." She thought a minute, looking down, and when she looked up he could tell that she was considering whether or not to say something. Deciding whether she wanted to put it out there, if it was something she wanted him to be aware of. Come on, Bones, whatever it is, if it gives us a way to be here, I'll take it. Whatever it is, I'll do it. Plus, he still had tonight's ace in the hole, something he read about Scheherazade.
"Well, the Arabian Nights represents the culmination of a middle eastern oral tradition, a way of building and maintaining culture, connections between people. Telling stories is a way to traverse distance between people...gaps that are there because of age or gender or geography or culture. Storytelling as a way of bringing deeper understanding." She looked at him expectantly, and a little anxiously, as if she had asked him for something important.
"Understanding." He reached out and cupped her face in his hand. Her eyelids closed briefly, involuntarily, but almost immediately were back on his. "I can get behind that." He leaned forward and kissed her softly. Time. She was giving him more time. He'd do the same for her.
"So, Bones. I read something interesting about Scheherazade when I was reading about the Arabian Nights. Something that reminded me of you."
"What was it?" She loved when he told her when he thought of her.
He shook his head. "Get up first." And he climbed off the bed. She looked confused and a little irritated, but stood up. He climbed back into bed, this time under all the covers. He flipped the sheet and blanket back on her side, in invitation. Patted the sheet and gave her his charm smile, fluttering his eyelashes at her. She smiled and shook her head.
"You are incorrigible."
"I bet you say that to all the guys." She laughed out loud now. He felt good to have made her relax this way. After a brief pause while she weighed her options, she slid into bed next to him. He reached across her and turned off her light but left his on, reaching onto his side table for a piece of paper. "I couldn't remember it all so I wrote it down."
She turned on her side facing him, expectant.
He quoted from the book he had bought from the Jeffersonian bookshop about the Arabian Nights. Thank God for the Persian art exhibit. "[Scheherazade] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred."*
He twisted to put the paper on the nightstand behind him and turned off his light. The nightlight in the bathroom was on so he could still make out her outline in the dark next to him. He reached out and stroked her face again. "She sounds like you, Bones. Curious. Smart."
"What about poetry?"
"What about it?"
"You said poems were part of the Arabian Nights. Are you going to read me poetry?"
Now he had to smile. Trust Bones to give him homework. "Bones, I don't know any poems, but sure, I'll read you poetry if you want."
"You don't know any poetry by heart Booth? I know a number of poems."
He didn't have to think long. "I only know one. It's not very romantic."
She snorted. "You don't know me very well if you think I want you to read me a romantic poem." Shit. Note to self: no romantic poetry. Some kind of scientific poetry?
"Well what?" Stalling.
"Are you going to recite it for me or not?"
In the dark, it didn't seem so hard, and he spoke the lines he had memorized so long ago.
"Tho' much is taken, much abides; and thoughWe are not now that strength which in old daysMoved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;One equal temper of heroic hearts,Made weak by time and fate, but strong in willTo strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
"Ulysses." Bones voice in the darkness was soft and he couldn't read her face or intonation. She sounded...awed? "Why do you know that, Booth?"
"Tenth grade. A friend of mine needed to memorize it for a class. I helped. I always remembered that part."
When she didn't say anything else, he let the silence fill the room and sleep pull them down.
* Sir Richard Francis Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night
Scheherezhade means "She whose realm or dominion is free".