Arabian Nights

Chapter 8: A Tale Told by the Fire

The way Booth figured it, he wasn't smart enough to beat Pelant at his own game. It was change the rules or nothing. Now, if he—Booth—could get Pelant out of his secret villain lair or wherever he was, onto either neutral territory, or please God, home turf, he'd be home free. He was ready to do what needed to be done. That said, he didn't know how—yet—to smoke Pelant out.

Brennan had Christine this morning. Some of the museums in D.C., including the National Museum of Art, had worked out a rotation so that every Saturday there was free entry for kids and a variety of child-centered activities available. Bones didn't approve of all of them but was happy to take Christine around through exhibits herself when that was the case. Booth's workouts this week had been erratic and he was taking the time this morning to run, lift weights, and take stock.

It went against the grain, to put it mildly, but Booth's master strategy right now was to do nothing. And wasn't he just fucking awesome at it, if he did say so himself, he thought grimly, feet pounding the pavement, still blocks from the park where he would run around the reservoir. As he ran, he listed the things he knew.

First, Pelant knew things that he shouldn't be able to know, making all of Booth's best strategies suspect. Maybe he had a way to listen in on burner cells. Maybe he could read lips. Maybe he had injected surveillance devices into their asses. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Second, he was watching all of them probably, but Booth and Brennan in particular. This fact set off alarms far off in the back of Booth's brain. He'd have to wait to see what bubbled to the surface ultimately but this fact was important. He was sure of it.

Third, echoing his earlier thoughts, he couldn't beat Pelant in mind games. Whatever method he thought of to tell Bones the truth, Pelant would know. Codes, graffiti, handwritten notes, steam writing on the shower stall, whispers in the night. Booth couldn't risk it. Not only because he didn't think it would work, but because it didn't really solve the problem. Sure, Bones would know that he really did want to marry her, but she'd still be in danger. Ultimately, he had to take out Pelant. Telling Brennan outright was potentially too much to lose for too little gain.

Fourth, and this made up the main part of Booth's strategy: the only person who had a chance in hell of beating Pelant was Bones. And what she needed was information and insight. Information that Angela and Hodgins and Cam, even Caroline, Sweets and Max, continued to provide to her. That had been true all along. This wasn't new and shouldn't alarm Pelant. Booth was banking on that moment when Bones saw the pattern within the pattern.

She was a genius. He had seen her make intuitive leaps—she'd probably call them logical leaps but they were talking about the same thing—that no one else could have made. If he gave her enough information, she'd figure it out. Both that Booth had been forced to break their engagement, and how to take down Pelant.

The hardest thing he'd done in a long long time was to really believe this. His job was to trust Bones. Bones would figure it out. She'd do her scientist thing and then he'd do his cop thing. A thousand times he had seen her figure out the truth on little or nothing to go on...just the information provided by the evidence of her senses.

All he needed to do was make sure that they continued to talk and to live normally. He couldn't let her shut herself away from him. The stories seem to have made that possible. He was having to reveal more of himself than he felt comfortable with, and Friday's flashback was the icing on the goddamned cake, but being vulnerable to her, telling her things he had never thought he would tell her, was a small price to pay to help create the conditions where she could succeed.

The temptation to tell her a story of his past where he had been made to tell a lie to protect his brother, his mother, was great. He had many of those stories. He had some from his time in the army as well. Every day he thought at great length of how to send her a message. Every day he forced himself to discard those ideas, those stories. Bones didn't need him to screw around with the message. Anything he could come up with would be child's play for Pelant and for Bones.

He was the message. He, Booth. His love, his protectiveness, his dedication. The way he trusted her to watch his back...how many times, even from the beginning, had he handed her the gun? The things they argued about, the way he made love, the jokes he made, probably how he made the fucking pancakes. The message was that nothing had changed in him, in her, in them. The one code that Pelant couldn't know as well as they did: their relationship. Bones would know, would read the evidence. Nothing had changed. Booth hadn't changed. Nothing had changed. So something else must have happened.

She was already figuring it out. He just needed to do what came naturally, love her the way he always had, have her back the way he always had. Trust her.

The air was burning harsh and clean in his lungs by the time Booth got home and headed to the garage to lift and punch the heavy bag. On second thought, he turned back to the house to make a call to Angela. Hodgins answered so maybe Angela was still pissed, but he said they were happy to have Christine this evening and overnight.

Booth felt good, resolved, and focused on luring his partner to his bed tonight.

Booth lit a fire. It was cool enough in the evenings still to allow this and he felt that they would need the comfort of warmth and light. Also, he realized in the afternoon as he worked outside with the baby monitor nearby on the deck as Christine napped that this wasn't a story he wanted to tell in their bedroom. Bones was home earlier than he thought she would be, actually, and when Angela and Hodgins came by to get Christine, Bones had just gone up to change.

While Christine and Michael played together in the play area...well, honestly, they played near each other in the play area, Booth got Angela and Hodgins drinks and put out some snacks. Angela carried in a pile of folders and binders and walked back toward Brennan's office.

"What was all that?" Booth asked as she rejoined them in the kitchen. She didn't answer except to give him a sour sidelong look, turning to Brennan as she came in.

"Sweetie, I brought you everything I had on Pelant's electronic manipulation of computer systems...the mental hospital, the Jeffersonian, the F.B.I., the corrections and prison bureau in anticipation of your arrest."

"Bones, we've been over that—"

"Booth, I am going to keep at it, whatever it takes. Aren't you?"

"Of course I am, I just don't want Pelant to intrude in our lives any more than he already does."

"What do you mean?"

Booth realized he had gotten close to dangerous territory. "Just that he is out there, we know he is planning, plotting, and I don't want him to touch our home." Gone was his earlier conviction that Bones needed all the information she could get, wiped away by terror for her safety.

Bones, however, just gave him a quizzical look and poured herself a glass of wine.

Angela and Hodgins stayed a while, but were gone within the hour, a little after six. Booth shut the door behind them and turned to find Bones settling her feet under her in her chair by the fire.

"You hungry?"

Bones shook her head wearily. "Not really." He could see that she was tired, maybe even a little disheartened.

Booth smiled at her. "Can I give you something?"

She perked up. "You mean like a present?"

"Well, kind of. More like a...story. From the past. A little one." He reached up onto the mantel and picked up the small cardboard box he had placed their earlier, retrieved from the recesses of their closet.

She took it when he handed it to her and studied the plain brown box. She shook it and it rattled with a sound almost like dice. "What is it?" She looked up at him.

"Open it."

She lifted off the lid. Inside the box were a number of small wooden, plastic, ceramic, and metal figurines. All pigs. "Pigs?" Again, her face showed surprise and question.

"Yeah. When I was looking for something to cheer you up, after the whole thing with Lapin and Epps, I thought maybe you could use something to hold, a talisman or something, like my poker chip. I was searching for just the right one before I settled on the one I gave you. I thought maybe now, you'd like the others."

She looked down at the box and gingerly picked up the figures between her slender fingers. He loved how she touched things, reverent and curious at once. One by one she took them out and leaned over, lining them up on the coffee table. He tore himself away while she did her thing. He had bought some dinner for them earlier, a loaf of french bread, hummus, vegetables, fruit, and a chocolate chip cookie for her; a ham sandwich, chips, and an ice cream bar for him. He carried it all back to her on a tray that he settled on the hassock between them.

"Wasn't there some sort of game you wanted to watch?"

Booth shrugged, "Nah, it's not important."

"Go ahead, Booth. I don't mind. I'm going to sit here and read." Then, almost formally, she offered, "Thank you for dinner."

"Sure, Bones." He leaned forward from his place on the couch to snag the clicker and turn on the game. Brennan rose and disappeared into her office and Booth tensed. If the game was the excuse she used to retreat to her office...but she was back, carrying some of the files. She resettled herself and read, eating her dinner and all of her cookie, while he watched the Capitols lose. Several times he watched her posture get tense and hunched over. Once she jerked her head up sharply to stare off in the distance, unseeing, deep in thought.

"Bones?"

Her eyes turned toward him. "Yes, Booth?"

"What is it?"

"Nothing, really, just...I don't think that Pelant was going to have me killed in prison. I think that he was going to have me released."

"What...what do you mean?"

"Nothing specific, just that the work-arounds he set up in the law enforcement computers would have made it easy to have me transferred and we assumed that meant to a part of the prison where he could bribe or pay someone to kill me, but instead it looks like the kind of transfer he set up would move me out of the prison system. Perhaps he was going to kidnap me, with the credentials of a guard? I don't know."

The whole discussion was making him very nervous, not knowing what Pelant could hear or how.

"Do you want me to do something?"

"No, of course not. I was just thinking out loud. I...I'm getting tired." The game was over and he shut it off with a click.

"Do you remember when we first were partners, there was a body found in the trunk of a car, in Little Salvador?"

"Maria Duarte?"

"Yeah. How did you remember her name?"

Brennan shrugged it off. "I remember the names of things, people. What about her?"

"Do you remember the Mara Muerte gang leader that you fought with at the elevator after we questioned him?"

"Yes. Of course I do. Ortez."

"Well, he put a hit out on you."

"What? Really?"

"Yes. Really." He was surprised to find himself feeling some of the residual irritation he had felt then, and not for the last time, that she so casually put herself in danger.

"Well, what happened? I'm not dead."

"I—" Now that it came down to it, he didn't know how to say the rest. She waited, leaning forward in her chair, her entire being focused on him. "I found him...in an alley...later. Told him what would happen if anything happen to you. He was...persuaded."

"That isn't logical. You have clearly not told me the whole story, Booth. What did you say to persuade him?"

"I put a gun in his mouth, down his throat." He stayed still, his mouth tight, eyes focused on her.

"You put...a gun. Down his throat." She swallowed. "He was a very difficult individual, if I remember right. Why did he listen to you, even with the gun, the throat."

"I guess I was very convincing. I even think that he was responsible one time the next year for saving your life. I guess he was afraid that if anything happened to you, I would come after him."

"Would you?"

"Yes. I would have."

"Where is he now?"

"Dead. His body was found in the river a few years ago."

She rose and he did too, automatically.

"Why did you do that, Booth? You barely knew me. I knew how you felt, feel, about the lives you have taken. Why did you threaten his?"

He shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to send her away, but he couldn't help but give her the truth. She needed the truth, always. "Because you are mine."

She shot back. "I'm not yours, Booth. You don't own me."

His own temper flared. "I don't mean I own you, Bones. You can do what you want. You always do anyway. Always have. But that doesn't change the fact that you are mine—."

"What do you mean, 'mine'? Why can't you make sense?"

"I mean that I know you, my body knows you. You are mine. You are right for me. You can be insensitive and stubborn for no good reason but pride and frankly, have always had an irritating tendency to poke hornet's nests, to needle people. But you know what?" He didn't give her time to answer, but took a step closer. "So do I. And from the first damn day, I felt the pull."

"You mean how we are attracted to each other." She took a small step closer to him too.

Now he was frustrated. "It's more than that. You feel it too. Don't tell me you don't. It's the feeling of wanting to crawl inside of you. When you are next to me, the world is right. Even when I'm fucking pissed at you."

"Booth, that doesn't make any sense—"

"Bones, just stop."

"But—"

"Stop. For me. Stop trying to explain it away. Tell me. Do. You. Feel. It."

She looked confused still. "The feeling that I want to crawl inside of you?"

"That's what I call it. It's sure as shit not what you would call it. Oh, you'd never say something as unrealistic. I know, Bones. I know you can't crawl into someone else alright? But do you know what I mean?"

He waited her out, now quite close to her, close enough to see the gold flecks in her irises.

"Something I have felt for you all the way back to the beginning?"

"Well, yeah. I guess so. What I was describing, I felt it from the beginning."

"There is one thing."

"What?"

"I don't understand what you do to me when you touch me. I have never understood it."

"What?"

"When you touch me, what is it that you do?"

"I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't do anything."

"Booth, you must. From the beginning, when you touch me, it's deeper than it should be. Goes deeper. It's like you are...I don't know... electric or something—" Her lips press together hard, angry at her inability to understand this, at the imprecision that is required to describe it. "You touch just one spot and my whole body relaxes. I have to fight to stay upright. It has always been like that." She is disgruntled at her reaction and doesn't bother to hide it.

"Oh, baby, that's what I'm talking about. I'm afraid you are stuck with me, Bones." He reaches out and pulls her to him. Having just confessed how much she likes his touch, she gives in and the warm rush of her weight against him causes him to stagger back slightly until he braces himself against the wall.

"God I love you."

Her voice is small but audible. "I love you too, Booth."

Her arms were wrapped around his waist, and his hands rubbed her back. "Booth?"

"Yeah, Bones."

"What did you say to him?"

"I said that if anything happened to you, I would find him and kill him."

"Is that why you were late to the funeral?"

"Yeah, Bones. Yeah." He pressed his face into her neck, his mouth sneaking a small taste of her skin. So sweet.

"Oh." Her grasp of him was just as tight as his was of her. "Booth?"

"Right here, Bones."

"I'm going to go to my office to work for a while. But I'll come up later."

"I can wait up for you." She leaned away from him, and he let his arms loosen reluctantly.

"If you want. But I will be a while. I'll come. Just not right now." Her eyes were dark and serious as they met his, and he did what he had to. He let her go.

Booth woke with his mouth on her, and her warm body moving sinuously against his. It had been too long. "Mine, Bones. Mine." She didn't answer but met his urgency with her own. And in the end whispered against his mouth also. "Mine."

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