It was a Wednesday night at Syd’s. A group of business men retiring from a day filled of accountants, percentages and growth profits ate their meal quietly. A laugh every so often was let loose when a humorous comment was made concerning the latest baseball game. A television in the background displayed the latest celebrities’ trials and tribulations. The bar was filled with the sound of an ever popular hit from some not so famous band of the nineties. The place was almost empty, almost.
“C’mon Bones, talk to me,” Agent Booth asked. His bar stool was turned and his eyes were locked with hers.
“It’s Temperance, Booth. Temperance Brennan,” she corrected.
She brushed her hair out of her face gently; her mind was rushing with images of their last case. It was stupid to get upset over things like this. It was her job, she was meant to be able to deal with things like this. She glanced towards her nails, ignoring what was haunting her. She was an anthropologist. She could handle this. Death had never affected her like this before. Why would it now? It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t logical. Playing slowly with the stem of her wine glass she avoided his eyes.
“Please…” Booth began, ignoring her manner and trying to face her again.
“I’m fine Booth. It was a busy day. I didn’t get much paper work done. Do you know that there’s still cataloguing to be done?” She lied, never looking at him.
“I know you’re thinking about what went on Bones. You can’t hide that from me,” he pursued trying desperately to make eye contact with her. He was worried, he hadn’t seen her this way before, and it bothered him. “Let me help.”
“I don’t need help Booth, I’m just tired. I’ve had a long day and I want to forget about all of this,” she spoke, avoiding his eyes.
This was stupid, complete and utter stupidity. Things like this weren’t supposed to get to her. She was supposed to be able to handle this. She was tired yes, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. She wasn’t prepared. She always liked to be prepared, to know how to deal with things. Reason told her it was childish to be troubled. She had been doing her job and he had been doing his. She tried to justify it working out pieces of puzzles was her job. Her work wasn’t as predictable as a normal office job, but in its own way it was, to her anyway. After all you could always depend on the dead, she mused.
“It’s never that easy, believe me.” Booth stated with a sigh, facing towards the bar once more.
She doubted it was, though she’d never admit that to him. In fact she knew. It never was easy. Pain was something you got used to, it hurt but it eventually lessoned. In time, this would lesson. She inclined her head slowly towards the other end of the dimly lit bar. The shoddily erected red lantern lights hung low, they looked to be uncertain of holding their position like a man about to jump. Syd stood mere yards away from them. He had been cleaning glasses with a wash cloth and taking in the daily gossip reported by a young blonde on the TV set. She knew that wasn’t all he was paying attention to. She caught him looking at Booth and she knew why. She was certain he was analysing the grazing of his forehead and the profound gash above his right eyebrow. Of course he was looking; Syd was Booth’s friend it was only human nature to stare. She squared her jaw in determination; she couldn’t let this get to her. She wasn’t going to allow this mistake to knock her sense for six.
“Is this one of your gut feelings then, Booth?” she asked trying to not only distract the man beside her but her herself too, anything for a distraction. She could argue with him and he would forget and she could try to.
“It’s a known fact Temperance; you of all people should know that. I thought facts, logic, reason, were your thing, your speciality.” he continued seeking eye contact.
So did she or at least, it had been, until now that is. There was some strange feeling rising within her, seeing that look upon Syd’s face, the look of pity towards Booth. It made her feel uncomfortable, uneasy. Feelings weren’t what she relied on, ever, yet this situation was stirring numerous sensitivities that she was growing more and more uncertain of.
She refused to acknowledge him, she couldn’t bare it. He was doing this to her. What ever it was it was caused by him and it was to do with her actions today; they were the two things she was convinced about.
“What’s your Bones lady gone and done to ya? She messed you up good, Seeley,” Syd called teasing, a smirk on his face.
She raised her head startled. She opened her mouth to protest; she was not his lady and decided better against it. How had he known? How had he known it was all her fault?
Booth interrupted her thoughts chuckling lightly.
“Just a little incident with a psychopath and an over active forensic anthropologist,” he coughed slightly, obviously in pain from the sudden movement of his laughter, “All in a days work,” Booth shrugged casually, recovering from his lapse of coughing.
It wasn’t though; this wasn’t a typical day at work with Booth. Today, she had made a mistake. A mistake that shouldn’t have been made and no matter how many theories she analysed, it could have cost him his life and she and her judgment would have been the one to blame.
Shifting at his apparent uncomfort she stared at the bar mat in front of her and thought about the paper work she should fill out tonight. She had yet to go over the previous case from last Thursday and it had to be recorded. She loathed neglecting her work and this she thought, would prove to be a fundamental distraction. She heard the distant conversation between the two friends as if she was trapped, hiding out in a secret den of denial. Only phrases and singular words seemed to make their way to her distant lair. With each word she reallocated her spot on the bar stool, moving uneasily. She swallowed hard at each description of his injuries. Each word stung and no matter how hard she strived she was powerless to quell the growth of this vacant sensation of anguish. She knew exactly what she was experiencing now, guilt, pure, raw, uncontrollable, guilt.
Booth, what had she done? How could she have? It had seemed rational; it had appeared to be commonsense at the time. Now, now all that was clear was that it was one of the biggest errors she could ever have made. After today though, things seem to be poles apart. She was starting to doubt herself. Maybe being out on the field wasn’t such a great idea. Maybe, just maybe she should stay where she belonged, with the rest of the squints, as Booth liked to call them. God, Booth she thought regretfully. She had to make sure; she had to look, to make sure he was still there.
Fiddling with the rim of the glass once more she barely noticed him get up to leave. He left a couple of bills on the table and turned to her. He was so close she could feel his body heat and his shirt sleeve against her bare arm. A pang of remorse shot through her as she noted the hospital band still clasped around his wrist and the shadowed bruises surrounding his knuckles. She closed her eyes, she should ignore it. This feeling would pass. He leaned down low as if to whisper the most intimate secret. She could feel his warm breath on her ear as he edged closer.
“If you need me, just call,” he spoke inaudibly. It was so quiet, so soft that she wondered if she had imagined it. No, she shook her head, it had happened obviously but the mind was known to play tricks, what if she had?
As she turned towards him, she could already see his retreating form limping towards the exit of the bar. She released a breath she hadn’t realised she had been holding. This was ridiculous; he wasn’t bringing this up, why should she? Her heart was beating faster than ever and somehow her composure was totally disrupted. Looking at the wine again she sighed. Time to go home, time to pull herself together, time to be realistic she told herself.
The ride home in the cab was an additional battle with her thoughts. She sat in the back seat staring out the window but not taking in her surroundings as they passed. It was a frenzied flight of lights and sounds and it seemed to reflect the muddle her mind was in. The cab driver tried to make eye contact numerous of times through his mirror, she pretended not to notice. What was it with people wanting to look her in the eye tonight? The radio played out a happy pop melody that in no way described anything to do with real life and with each chorus she slunk deeper in the leather covered seat.
Exhaling slowly she shut her eyes tightly. She needed to work this out; she needed to file this away, to not let these things get to her. They never had prior to this. She felt cut off from the world, closed and unwilling to open up. Work had always been her sanctuary. It wasn’t a job to her, it was her life. Many people in today’s world wouldn’t care to admit that about themselves but she had been happy to. It was the truth and she hated lies so why lie to herself or anyone else. Now work had come and mercilessly bit her right in the face.
“You okay back there missy?” the aging driver asked eyeing her in the mirror once more and rubbing the tips of his greying moustache with one hand, steering with the other.
This was the last thing she needed, an inquisitive cab driver who didn’t know what he was taking about.
She puffed trying to grant herself patience.
“I’m coping, thank you,” she answered still pretending to be looking out the window.
“I guess you could be, but if you don’t mind me saying, whatever it is you’re pretending to not be thinking about will have to be thought about some day,” he said making a turn to the right.
She hated psychology and feelings and this drivel about not being able to disregard things. What did he know? She put this into practise everyday. It wasn’t necessary to fret over problems like these when there was work to be done. A couple of case files and a chapter of her new novel and things would return to normal.
She sat in silence for a few more moments and played this conversation like a see-saw. There were two sides to this. She could sit here and endure this tactful interview or she could simply confess these doubts. She admitted it, there were doubts. Her finger traced idle patterns on the interior of the seat below her. She couldn’t run from them, doubts about today, about how she had dealt with the situation, about what had happened to Booth.
It could have ended. He could have… A single tear escaped, sliding slowly down her cheek. She wiped it away frustrated, she never cried, never. Now the most important thing in her life was causing her this unbearable pain. This had reduced her to what she was now and all in a matter of hours.
As the cab pulled up she took a deep breath. She needed to pull herself together. She was being weak, a quality she found insufferable and couldn’t afford to let herself be. She must pull herself together she ordered herself. She had to depend on herself she always had, why couldn’t she now? Nothing had happened. It was over. No need to have doubts, no need to agonize, no need to feel accountable. Exiting the car she paid the driver in silence.
Excepting the cash he sized her up slowly. “Want my advice, talk about it. Whatever it is, talk about it.”
“Thanks,” she muttered and climbed the familiar steps to her apartment with her head held high. She wouldn’t let herself be reduced to this. She was strong. Dr. Temperance was a grown, mature woman and she could deal. Carrying her beloved manila case files in her left arm she opened her front door and entered her home, throwing her keys on the side table.
Sitting at her desk she tried to concentrate. The desk lamp illuminated her face and the steaming mug of coffee lay untouched. She stared down at the paperwork but she hardly noticed any of it. She felt withdrawn, a separate being in a separate life. This wasn’t like her. This wasn’t how she reacted to things. She kept reliving today’s events. She strived, she forced herself to stop but she was giving in. She kept doubting herself, doubting her actions. What if it had all been worse? What if he had… she couldn’t bare to think about it. Images flashed like lightening in her mind but she couldn’t fix herself on any of them. All she felt was the roll of thunder, the pain, regret, the guilt.
With a shaky hand she tried to fill out the details of the neglected case. She fought to keep going, to ignore this, to pay no heed, disregard it. No matter how hard she attempted though, she was unsuccessful. No matter how high or sturdy she built those walls inside her she knew they were on unstable foundations. They were about to collapse and cave in. She was broken and even though she despised to acknowledge it she felt the need to be fixed, to depend on someone.
Closing the file with and letting her pen fall to the desk she reached for the phone. Tears began to stream down her face and the days proceedings flickered unforgiving within her. She bit her lip, shaking. She paused in hesitation. It should have been Angela. Angela was her friend. If she had ever needed to talk to someone before it would have been her. She didn’t open up much but when ever she did, Angela was there.
Tonight, things were altered. Tonight she wanted him, only him. She closed her eyes in an attempt to gather herself, to restrain herself. This was the wrong thing to do, this wasn’t right, this wasn’t like her. She knew it but for once she didn’t care about the facts. Swallowing, she began to dial. She held her breath gripping the desk with one hand and waited. The phone began to ring out and with each ring she clutched the desk tighter and bit her lip more forcefully, trying to summon every bit of restraint. She could make this casual, she could keep this reserved.
“Hello,” a female voice answered.
Her heart stopped, Tessa. He hadn’t meant it. She wasn’t supposed to call. He was taken, she knew this. Booth wasn’t hers for the taking. He didn’t want her, he had Tessa.
“Hello?” Tessa repeated a little agitated.
Blinking back the tears that threatened to fall, she summoned all the discipline she had.
“Hi,” Temperance spoke, “is Booth,” her voice cracked, “there?” she finished, taking in a gulp of fresh air.
“Oh,” Tessa stated a little disappointed. “Dr. Brennan, right?” she questioned.
“I’ll just get him, wait,” she spoke in a clipped tone of voice.
Temperance heard the sound of the phone being put down. She heard a faint, “It’s her,” from the other end of the line. Minutes turned to hours. The anticipation of his voice was unbearable. She shut her eyes and held her breath. She knew she was being selfish, what she was doing was wrong, but at this very minute she didn’t give a damn; she wanted to hear his voice.
“Bones?” Seeley answered concerned.
“I…,” she began her voice faltering. This was stupid, so very, very stupid. “Booth, I just needed…” she paused.
The other end of the line was silent. He wasn’t rushing her. He just waited.
What to say, the truth?
She breathed heavily. “To say that I’m,” a sob escaped, “sorry,” she finished quietly and somewhat strangled. “I’m so sorry,” she breathed, “so very sorry,” and she was.
She was crying now, holding back didn’t become a factor. Tears were pouring down her face. She could barely see. The tears clouded her sight and her breathing was heavy. She knew he could hear her but she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t discount it anymore.
“Bones,” he began. His voice was soft and gentle and somewhat reassuring. “I’m coming over, okay?” he stated rather than questioned. “Wait and I’ll be there,” he confirmed steadily.
“But,” she sniffed, “Tessa.”
She had made her confession. He didn’t need to say anything. She just needed to tell him and to make sure he was there and that he was okay.
“I,” he began, “she,” he tried again. He bit his tongue cautiously. “It doesn’t matter,” he dismissed quickly. “Wait,” he ordered.
She never took his orders, ever. That had been how she had gotten them both into all of this. Now, tonight, if he wanted her to wait, she would. She trusted his judgement. She nodded silently and wiped her eyes with determination.
“Yes,” she answered with one word and hung up.
Gazing out the window, she sat there. Not once did she move. Her mind replayed actions, events, conversations but none seemed to stick. All she could think of, the one thought that consumed her was Booth. She hated herself, she never relied on people and she never expected people to rely on her, emotionally anyway. She never let herself and now somehow it had happened. She had lost her parents and now she nearly lost him. It was her fault, all her fault; she was the one to blame. The facts were there. If she hadn’t been so naïve, if she had done what she had been told. If she had stayed in the lab, none of this… he wouldn’t have, she paused, fresh salty tears ran down her flushed cheeks, he wouldn’t have nearly died. It had been all because of her mistake, her notions and he had died, almost.
A knock on the door snapped her out of her reverie of thoughts. Gazing at the door through blurred vision she stepped attentively towards the entrance, grabbing her discarded keys. What if it wasn’t him? What if that conversation was fictitious? What if he was dead? She could hardly tell the difference in the state she was in.
“Bones? Temperance? It’s me, open up,” he instructed calmly.
Twisting the lock and pulling the door open slowly, she was afraid. She was terrified, that it wouldn’t be him. That he was dead. That he was gone. That he had left her.
His brown eyes overcame her the moment he laid eyes on her. A sigh of relief escaped unbeknownst to her. Sobs racked her body. She could feel the space between them. She could feel it and with a shaky hand she reached to him. She couldn’t help herself. She needed to make sure that he was really and truly there.
“Oh Bones,” he sighed, closing the gap between them.
He hugged her to him with force. She rested her head on his shoulder and shut her eyes, pulling him close, as close as possible.
“I’m sorry Booth, so sorry, I was wrong. I shouldn’t have gone in there.” She cried against him.
“Sssh,” he soothed rocking her slowly. He caressed her hair gently, holding her tightly.
“I killed you,” she stated blankly. “It’s my fault, it’s all mine. I should have trusted you, I, I’m so sorry.”
“C’mon, don’t say that,” he responded sighing. “You were brave Bones. You’re smart and clever and sure you made a mistake but everyone does. It’s part of life. Part of my life anyhow,” he continued softly but with conviction.
“I thought you were gone.” She sobbed, clutching at him.
“I’m still here. I’m still with you. I’m right here,” he reassured her kissing the crown of her head.
They stood there for how long she did not know. Just the very feel of him next to her comforted her. A long bout of stillness passed.
“I think it’s time you get to bed, Bones,” Booth declared, extracting himself from her embrace reluctantly.
Distance was once more between them. Their eyes remained locked. Leaning against the door frame he watched her. It still surprised him how she was the only thought that crossed his path that very moment he thought was the end. Standing in the faintly lit room she looked so unlike the strong, defiant woman she was, so out of character, so alone, so lost. At that moment he promised himself he would find her.
He rubbed the back of his neck regarding her.
He knew he had to go. He didn’t want to think about what would happen if he didn’t. The temptation was too great. She was vulnerable and at the same time so was he. He wanted to prove to her it didn’t matter, nothing mattered. She didn’t need to be forgiven.
He stood up straight and brushed a stray hair from her face. He swallowed hard meeting her stare.
“Well, I better…” he began, searching for the words.
“Don’t,” she stated quietly, “Please don’t leave,” she implored, “just…stay.”
The conflict that arose within him was agonizing. How could he refuse her? It was wrong though and he knew it. He’d never forgive himself and no matter how much she wanted it now he knew she didn’t really want it like this either. This woman in front was independent, tough, fiery and right now she was out of order but she could repair herself, he was positive.
She saw the mixed emotions cross his features and shook her head slightly.
“No, I mean. Just stay here with me.” She repeated. “We don’t have to,” she uttered unsure. “I’m not proposing you and me, that we should,” she tried to elaborate awkwardly.
“I don’t want to be alone,” she admitted hesitantly.
He looked at her intensely. His answer was clear in his eyes. With that he took her hand and shut the front door.
That night he stayed. He lay on her bed and he held her close. He stroked her hair lightly and watched as she slept. That night she had opened up in a way she never had before. He had mended her and as much as she wouldn’t care to admit she had felt fixed.