DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first attempt at this fandom. The idea burrowed itself into my brain and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. Feedback: Yes, please! It's like crack. Let me know what you think, even if you think I suck.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Brennan doesn't look up when I walk into the lab. Instead she stares at the charred remains that used to be someone's wife or daughter or sister. I come to a stop on the other side of the cold metal slab that holds the bodies seeking the kind of justice only my team can provide. On a good day, delivering that justice is enough to satisfy whatever parts are missing in my life, but lately, good days have been hard to come by.
"Dr. Brennan." I speak first.
"Dr. Saroyan." Brennan pries the burnt jaw open with her gloved fingers. It makes a sickening crack as the remaining skin and muscle stretch. She peers into Jane Doe's throat. Her eyebrows push together and I know she sees something that doesn't belong. She grabs the forceps and carefully slides it down the orifice in a grotesque version of Operation.
"So this is your plan of action?" I tilt my head to the side for a better view of her attempt to ignore me. Brennan raises her head and eyes me with annoyance at my seemingly stupid question.
"To take whatever is lodged in the victim's throat out so we are better able to discern its origin, composition and intendment to this case?" If she were anyone else, a raised eyebrow would punctuate that sentence. "Yes, that is my plan of action," she finishes. With nothing left to say, she refocuses her attention on retrieving the unidentified object.
I walk around the table and crowd her space like it belongs to me.
"That's not what I'm talking about," I say.
Brennan continues her pursuit, unhindered by my proximity. "I do not understand your continued desire to speak about a situation that is resolved."
"Situation?" I don't hide the smirk from my lips. I let it linger into my voice.
She hears it, stands and faces me completely. "Do you require a definition of that word?"
"Do you want to give me one?" I counter. I try not to smile as Brennan's gaze slips to my lips before racing back up to my eyes.
Silence descends around us, thick and steamy. Brennan stares at me like a newly discovered chemical compound she's trying to break down.
I let the smile I was trying to hide gain a hint of smugness. I step closer until a few inches are all that separate us. The dare is obvious. It has to be.
"Situation. Noun. 15th Century. The relative position or combination of circumstances at a certain moment," Brennan hesitates when I lick my lips. When she starts speaking again, her voice glides out with a slight rasp. "A particular or striking complex of affairs at a stage in the action of a narrative or drama, a critical or--"
I close the remaining distance and stop just short of a kiss. Brennan's breath hitches in her throat as mine hums against her lips. I slide my tongue out and slowly flick her upper lip like it's the dripping tip of a strawberry ice. She tastes sweet and I instantly want more.
"That's an ugly way to wake up in the morning." Hodgins' voice reaches my ears before he reaches the top of the platform. Brennan quickly turns away from me and refocuses on retrieving the object from the victim's throat. She mishandles the forceps and nearly lacerates what remains of the victim's cheek before she steadies her hand. My back blocks her retreat and her shaking hands from Hodgins' eyes.
"I would say so, Dr. Hodgins." I turn around and greet my resident conspiracy theorist with a tight smile. Patience is the companion of wisdom. I've been trying to be more Zen about life, but I don't think it's working since I tend to change my mantra every few hours. Last night it was shit happens. Original? No, but astoundingly true. I silently chant about the virtues of patience and wisdom while I put some distance between Brennan and myself.
"Hey, sweetie," Angela sings as she follows Hodgins up the stairs. "Are you OK?" She looks at her best friend quizzically before her eyes register the burnt remains. "And that's gross."
Angela averts her eyes and acclimates herself to being at work where death and more death is our daily sustenance. I still haven't figured out how someone like her ends up working in a place like this. A part of me never wants to know what bit of darkness ties us all together. "But seriously," she continues, "are you OK? You look a little... weird."
"It's a piece of paper." Brennan ignores Angela's question and displays the no longer unidentified object. Immediately distracted, we all gather closer to obtain a better view.
"Why is it not burnt?" Angela looks between the three doctors surrounding her for an answer. "I mean it should be burnt, right? Like to a crisp?"
"Yes, it should," Brennan, responds. "This body has sixth degree burns, which is enough to not only blacken the bones, but also severely damage the marrow. As you can see, the victim's internal organs have become somewhat liquefied."
I know it's wrong. Believe me, I do. And I know there is probably a special place in hell just for me, but there is something about the way Brennan says certain things that have no reason on God's green earth to sound so... hot.
"The victim's internal organs have what?" Booth walks up to the group and stares at the body. "Oh."
"Which means it was obviously dosed in some kind of flame retardant. I'll take a look at it." Hodgins reaches for the evidence, but Brennan pulls back.
"Wait." She grabs another pair of forceps and places the small piece of paper under a magnifying glass. Like cats to catnip, we all squeeze around her in a tight circle at the discovery of a new piece of the puzzle. When my hand accidentally brushes against her hip, she nearly rips the evidence in half.
"Whoa, careful there, Bones. Maybe you should lay off the red bull." Booth laughs at the scolding look he gets from his partner. Sometimes I think he has a daily quota to meet.
"Twenty-three." Brennan reads the small printed numbers.
"Twenty-three what?" Booth always asks the simple question with the difficult answers.
"I guess that is what we are going to find out." Brennan hands the evidence over to Hodgins who accepts it like a child on Christmas morning. He walks off into his world of chemicals and particulates without a backward glance.
"So how was the conference? Did you miss me?" Booth smiles that charming smile that would be eternally annoying on anyone else, but is only occasionally annoying on him.
"Fine." Brennan and I speak at the same time. Our voices are a little too high. The single word is somehow rushed. I put my hands into my pockets and then immediately take them out. Booth may not have a genius IQ like Zach, but he can read people frighteningly well. For that matter, so can Angela.
"Fine? You were basically on an all expense paid vacation to San Francisco for a week and all you came back with is fine?" Angela studies Brennan's reaction to her question.
"The city and its residents offer some interesting behaviors from an anthropological standpoint, but overall it was unexciting."
"San Francisco?" Booth puts his hands on his hips. His favorite bull belt buckle glints in the light. "Unexciting? Do you have any idea what's in San Francisco?"
Brennan turns to him with a blank, if slightly inquisitive stare. Angela smiles like she's ready to humor him. And I thank God that Booth can sometimes be so easily distracted.
"The Giants?" Booth shakes his head like he doesn't understand how his life ended up knowing the three of us. "Barry Bonds?" When we don't show any signs of recognition, he stares at us like we've committed a cardinal sin. "Unbelievable." Finished with the lot of us, Booth motions to the stairs, "Come on let's go."
"Where?" Brennan asks.
"We have to tie up some loose ends on the Jackson case." Booth says the name without the playful exasperation that colored his voice a moment before. Robert Jackson killed three children in thirty days by calcifying their bones. If I know anything about Seeley Booth, it will be a challenge for him not to commit bodily harm on the worthless excuse for a human being when they get into the interrogation room.
"Give me five minutes and I'll be ready to go." I say.
"What?" Brennan and Booth do a great imitation of Brennan and me.
"I'll be going out with you two today." I respond.
"You're doing what?" Angela asks.
"Why?" Brennan follows.
"Yeah, why?" Booth repeats, but with a whine any six year old would be proud of.
"Because it's time for your annual evaluation, Dr. Brennan." I smile at Brennan's look of insult. Brennan has never actually had an annual Jeffersonian evaluation because she's Dr. Brennan and well, I think that explains it all.
"Evaluation?" Brennan spits the word like it's a contagious virus she's trying to eradicate.
"Yes, evaluation." I walk closer to her. I stop just outside the line I easily crossed moments ago. "Do you require a definition of that word?"
I sit in my office signing off on paperwork that always seems to grow exponentially. I have not seen Brennan since we left the interrogation of Robert Jackson, which was just after the paramedics showed up and reset his nose. I looked, but there is no space to mark clean right hook on Brennan's evaluation checklist.
"What's my score?" Brennan walks into my office and waits for an answer. The door closes softly behind her.
My eyes track from the top of Brennan's head to the bottom of her feet and back again.
A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone. It's not a mantra I want, but it whispers itself over and over in my ear. My breath is stuck in my throat. I swallow, but it doesn't help.
"Have you ever failed at anything in your entire life." I ask.
This is a pivotal moment. I can feel it weighing down on me; pushing my heart down into my stomach.
"Temperance," I stand up and place my hands on the desk. "I--"
"Here." Brennan places a gold band on the desk between my hands.
I don't look down.
"My attorney can have everything finalized within one week." Brennan looks away from me after her words tumble into the room.
"No." The two letters pound painfully against my chest.
"Cam?" She turns back to me. "What are you doing?"
"I don't know." My answer confuses me in its honesty.
"We became inebriated and had sexual intercourse. It was great sex," she pauses and her cheeks flush. "It was really great sex, but that's it. There is no reason to drag this out."
"You're forgetting about the part where we woke up married." I pick up the gold band and walk around the desk. "That is a pretty big part to leave out, Dr. Brennan. Especially for someone so meticulously devoted to facts."
Brennan takes a step back as I get closer. "Marriage is a religious term devised by men to control women in the eyes of whichever God they pray to and the eyes of the state." Brennan's back hits the door when she runs out of space to retreat and words to fuel her argument.
"Well since we're both women, maybe we should just see what happens." I lean in, my lips inches away from hers.
"I do not see the validity of such an experiment. Even though it is highly inappropriate for someone in a supervisory role to have sex with a subordinate, I am willing to consider a sexual relationship."
"My subordinate?" I smile.
"That is not what I meant. I was merely--"
My lips crush into Brennan's hot and heavy. The kiss is hungry and deep and rough. I don't request permission. I push my tongue into Brennan's mouth with a voracious quest for ownership. Our tongues and teeth clash. Our bodies press into one another. My hands grasp the buttons of her pants and rip them open. Before she can catch her breath I plunge my fingers underneath her panties and they slick between her folds. I rub back and forth in slow, agonizing circles.
Brennan's breath comes hard and loud against my mouth. She can't stop the kiss. She can't force herself to stop rocking against me.
I pull my hand away and grab Brennan by the waist. "Three months," I whisper against her lips. I settle my thigh between her legs. It's an unfair tactic, but I don't care.
"What?" My thigh involuntarily flexes at Brennan's whimpered question.
"We'll stay married for three months and if after that you still want a divorce... it's all yours."
"Why are you doing this?" I can feel the tension ripple through Brennan's body as she uses every muscle to keep from rubbing against my thigh.
"Because I think everything happens for a reason."
"Since we got drunk, you fucked me until I passed out and we somehow woke up married." I punctuate the statement with a soft kiss. "People like us do not do things like that, Temperance."
"I believe your logic is flawed." Brennan's voice shakes as quivers run through her body.
"Maybe." I kiss her again. This time I make sure the kiss lingers with more than lust. She pulls away, but only enough so that the smallest of words can travel between our lips.
Her eyes roam over my face. She traces the faint freckles around my eyes. The strong cut of my jaw. The curve of my lips.
Stupid risks make life worth living. My new mantra is not exactly Zen, so much as Homer... and not the one who wrote the Iliad.
"OK," she says. She leans her head back against the door and looks at me with new eyes.
"OK," I smile. Relief and fear create a pleasurable pain that tingles on my skin.
In the silence we stare at each other with no idea what to do next, but she is a borderline genius, so I'm pretty sure we can figure it out.
It's not fair. I know this before the words leave my mouth, but I can't stop them.
"I think we should wear our rings," I say.
Brennan opens her eyes and tries to focus. I'm sure the three fingers I have buried between her legs are making the process increasingly difficult.
"What are you...?" A moan swallows the end of the question as I switch positions and slow my rhythm. She likes to be teased. It was a sexy surprise; so antithetical to the woman she is outside of this bedroom.
Dr. Temperance Brennan, world-renowned forensic anthropologist loves it when I take my time and make her scream the name of a deity she doesn't even believe in.
If these past two months have taught me anything it's that I love giving Brennan what she wants. In the bedroom. In the shower. On her desk at work.
"I think we should wear our rings," I repeat, but this time I kiss her before she can say anything. I use my thigh to give my hand more leverage as I slide my fingers in and out.
"God," she groans, pulling her lips away from mine. Her nails dig into my back.
"Say yes," I whisper. Again, I know it's not fair, but it's the best option I have. I'm smart, smarter than most actually, but not smarter than her. On any given day she can outthink me. She can come up with logical reasons why we shouldn't work. She can explain the intense attraction that makes me want to throw her up against a wall every time I see her with a dissertation on the mating habits of the Australian bowerbird. When she's riding my hand like some kind of devil is chasing her, that's when I know her brain isn't getting in our way.
"I... I'm not... why?" She finishes breathless. She's close.
"Because we can't be really married if no one knows about it." I bite the pulse at her throat and then smooth the spot with my tongue.
"I think... I think it..." her words come in fits and starts and gasps until they stop altogether.
Her tongue licks her bottom lip before her teeth bite down on it. Her skin flushes red from her cheeks all the way down to the sweet spot between her neck and shoulders. She pulls me down into a kiss and screams her orgasm down my throat and into my chest until it follows a path to the part of me where her name is written in heat.
We stay like that, with my hand inside her and her lips grazing my neck, for longer than we probably should considering we have jobs to go to. Eventually she opens her eyes and I can feel her smile against my skin.
"Don't say it." I pout. "My logic is not flawed."
"I think it's cute," she says with a laugh hiding in her voice.
"So my logic is cute?" My pout turns into a smile.
"Among other things," she adds.
"Like what?" I ask.
Brennan grins before flipping our positions. Suddenly I am on my back and her thigh is between my legs.
"Let me show you," she says right before her lips close around my nipple.
I realize she just avoided the question with a skill that should probably receive some type of award, but I can't find the brainpower to care.
"This is the third time you've been late this week," Angela says as I walk into my office.
I stop in my tracks because I'm pretty sure I'm the one who should be saying things like that, but more so because it seems Angela is apparently keeping tabs on me. I take a quick glance at my watch.
"It's 8 o'clock. I'm right on time," I say skeptically.
"Exactly." Angela gets out of my seat as I come closer. "You are always here before everyone else," she continues.
I sit at my desk, still unsure as to what dimension I've walked into. Granted, I have been coming in on time instead of an hour early for the past few weeks, but it is completely not my fault that Brennan prefers to use sex instead of coffee to prepare her for the day. Granted, it might be my fault that I apparently have no will power, but I contend that even that is debatable.
"I'm sorry, why are we having this conversation?" I ask.
"You know who else has been coming in late?"
My stomach does a little flip at the question. Actually, it does a big flip. This moment is like a backwards answer to everything I want and yet it's causing fear to spark off of me like a fireworks display.
Among mortals second thoughts are wisest. The phrase jumps into my head and for what seems like the one-hundredth time, I reconsider the supposed wisdom of Zen. Evidently the best I can do in times of stress is quoting cartoons or sounding like a fortune cookie.
I don't have second thoughts about being married to Brennan.
I don't think I have second thoughts about being married to Brennan.
"This is too easy," Angela says as I try to figure out the meaning of life, the meaning of my life, anyway.
"What?" I ask.
"You just told me everything I needed to know." Angela smiles in disbelief.
"I didn't say anything."
"Oh, honey, you said plenty." She looks at me indulgently. "I've got one more stop to make. I'll see you in a few." Angela disappears from my office before I have a chance to defend or redeem myself.
I walk into the lab to a waiting audience. I approach with some trepidation as Angela beams a smile at me.
Hodgins eyes Sweets warily as the psychologist follows him around refusing to break eye contact. Booth juggles an early 15th Century Mayan artifact like a circus ball. And Brennan bends over Jane Doe number four, inspecting the throat for the requisite clue.
I carefully catch the artifact mid toss and place it back down on the table. Booth looks at me like I'm the grinch who stole Christmas. I stop next to Brennan, but take a small step back when Angela's smile becomes a lopsided grin.
"What do we have?" I ask.
"We're looking for a sick bastard that I can't wait to introduce myself to," Booth offers.
"Right." I squint at the FBI Agent. "What do we have that is actually pertinent to the case?" I clarify.
"If the precedent holds, I will find a small piece of paper lodged within the victim's esophagus. On it, will be a printed number ranging between 115 and 144." Brennan speaks without looking up.
"The paper will have been doused with a catalyzed intumescent flame retardant," Hodgins continues. "And once I take a closer look at the body, I bet I'll find she was burned with an increasingly difficult to decode explosive compound."
"Which brings us right back to sick bastard and introduction." Booth seethes as he looks at the charred body.
Brennan finally pulls the paper out of its hiding place. This time, none of us gather around to find out what it says. I never thought we would be four bodies into this case and unless we figure out the killer's angle, four bodies won't be all. Bearing the responsibility for this kind of justice has given me six migraines in the past two months.
"135," Brennan pronounces as she hands the paper over to Hodgins.
"This is probably a terrible thing to say," Angela starts, "actually, this is definitely a terrible thing to say, but if he continues on this trend, it will really narrow our list of possible future victims."
That truth sinks into the room.
"She's right," Sweets offers.
"We know," Booth and I say at the same time, our voices louder than necessary. We gaze at each other uncomfortably. A tense silence stretches between us and I see a cloudy question in his eyes.
"Victim number one," Hodgins begins. He walks to the board and looks at a picture of the victim from before she was nothing but blackened skin and bone.
"Marcie Davidson," Angela adds.
"Marcie Davidson," he says the name softly, acknowledging Angela's need to grasp at humanity amid the horrific display before us. "19 years old, burned with silver nitrate, a simple chemical that turns into a powerful explosive when exposed to heat."
"The note found in her esophagus correlated to her IQ. She suffered from severe mental retardation," Brennan finishes. She walks back over to Jane Doe number four and studies what's left of the body. "Subsequent victims have been denoted by an increase in their particular IQ."
"So since the number you just found is 135 that means the next victim will be a woman with an IQ between 145 and 175," Sweets says like he's uncovered a great mystery. "She should be pretty easy to find. I mean how many women in DC are that smart."
His words thud out of his mouth and punch me in the gut. It's been the elephant in the room for quite some time and if the situation were different I'd commend our dexterity at avoiding it.
"Five," I say. "Five within what seems to be the killer's geographical range."
I can feel Brennan's gaze burning its way over to me, but I can't look. If I did, everyone would see the fear that is blazing an acidic trail through my veins.
"What am I missing?" Sweets ask.
"I have an IQ of 167," Brennan fills the silence.
"Oh," the psychologist offers. "Well, there's an 80 % chance that you won't be the next victim."
My fear is immediately replaced by rage. I want to strangle him. I want to commit actual physical violence against Sweets. I don't realize I've taken a step in his direction until Brennan easily steps in front of me, effectively blocking my path.
"Mathematically, the odds are certainly in my favor," Brennan says the words like the situation we've found ourselves in is no more complex than fifth grade math.
"Mathematically?" Booth barks the word at Brennan. "Mathematically?" He shakes his head in disbelief. "We are dealing with a serial killer here, Bones. You know, the kind that kills people for fun. Math has nothing to do with it."
"This killer chooses victims based on where they fall on a scale that measures one's intelligent quotient. Concluding that math is irrelevant to this case is unwise," Brennan says like Booth should know better by now.
"So there's a 20% chance you could get murdered within the next two weeks." Hodgins refers the statement to Brennan.
"Yes," she answers. Brennan turns to me; her lips curve into a frown.
"So what are we going to do about that?" Angela asks.
I knock on Brennan's door and wonder why I haven't talked or kissed my way into garnering a key. It is suddenly obvious where I went wrong. I should have asked for the key first and worked my way up to the rings.
"I think I should have a key," the last word falls limply from my mouth as Booth stands on the others side of the door.
"That's a little extreme, Cam." Booth smiles. He opens the door wider. "Come on in."
Booth invites me into my wife's apartment and I nearly choke on all the words that bang against my clenched teeth.
"It's really nice of you to stop by, but I've got it covered." Booth adds. He follows me into the living room and makes himself at home on Brennan's couch. "Bones is in the shower," he chuckles.
"The shower?" My voice is flat and humorless. I clutch the strap of the bag slung over my shoulder.
"For some reason, she decided to bake an apple pie." Booth's laughter spills into the room and after fifteen years of knowing him, I suddenly don't like the sound. "You should have seen her. The kitchen looks like a science experiment gone really, really wrong. Science fiction wrong."
"It was not my fault." Brennan walks into the room freshly showered wearing simple jeans, a simple sweater and looking simply beautiful. "The recipe was fundamentally flawed," she adds.
Booth erupts into another round of laughter. "OK, Bones. If that makes you feel better."
"You can leave now." Brennan says, slightly annoyed.
Booth's laughter dies down when he realizes Brennan is serious.
"I'm not leaving," he says, immediately standing up. "No more pie jokes, I get it. I'm not leaving you here alone."
"I won't be alone," Brennan responds like her words have no ramifications beyond there empirical meaning.
The crash of silence is deafening in its abrupt arrival. Booth's gaze travels between Brennan and myself, desperately trying to figure this situation out. He looks off into the distance, probably replaying the last two months in his head. When he turns back and his eyes land on me, they are glazed over with something hard and unreadable.
"Cam, what's going on?"
A part of me wants to be confused. He could be asking me that question as a cop who likes to know all the facts, maybe even as a former lover who didn't see this coming.
"You know what's going on, Seeley." I answer with the honesty of a friend who knows how insufficient 'I'm sorry' can be.
He swallows and clears his throat. He does everything instead of look at Brennan.
"Well, I'm the one with the gun, so..." He touches his sidearm.
I tap my bag, "I'm always prepared. You know me," I say with a small smile.
"No, Cam, I obviously don't." His point made with unerring accuracy, Booth walks out of the apartment without a backwards glance. I breathe a sigh of guilty relief at being the one still here.
"He is upset," Brennan observes in his absence.
"Yes, he is." I turn to Brennan, smiling because I know what comes next.
"But he shouldn't be upset."
"Of course he should be, just like I would be if you had asked me to leave." I say.
"But that's different," she says. I grasp Brennan's hands and pull her closer to me. I wrap my arms around her waist.
"Why is it different?" I ask, softly.
"Because he doesn't..." Brennan pauses; a flash of indecision tints her eyes. She leans in until her lips graze mine. The kiss tingles with intent, but she pulls away before I can ask for more. She looks at me, her gaze steady and soft. "Because he doesn't love me," she whispers.
Goose bumps break out over my entire body and I start to shiver. My body runs hot and cold then hot again.
"So you're saying I love you?" I ask.
"To be accurate, I'm saying you love me." Brennan smiles.
I stare at her until I can get my brain and my heart to run at the same speed again.
"Don't you?" She asks with a small fraction of uncertainty.
"Why did you try to bake an apple pie?" I ask.
"What?" Brennan gives me a confused stare.
I let the question sink in.
"I didn't bake one, exactly. There were apples and there was pie crust but the recipe contained defective--"
My kiss cuts off her clarification. "Why did you bake it?" I ask quietly as I pull away.
"Because it's your favorite," she starts, "and you were extremely upset about the possibility of me becoming a murder victim. I wanted to make you feel better," she finishes with a small, beautiful smile.
I like her because she smiles at me and means it. I don't know who that quote belongs to, but I'm grateful to them.
"I'm moving in." I say as I slowly bring our lips closer together.
"OK," Brennan whispers. Her breath tickles my mouth.
"I'm going to keep you safe." I study her face and wait for the requisite explanation of the implicit absurdity of my statement. I wait to hear about how I've reverted to the traditional male archetypes with my promise of protection. I expect to be informed about the human psyche and its inability to understand what it cannot control.
"OK," Brennan whispers again without placation or condescension.
This is a new reality for us. It catches me unawares, still mired in the all the things in which I am not and she is. Her trust is unexpected and terrifying. Failure has never scared me before, but now its bitter fragments burn through my lungs.
"OK." On my lips the word sounds like a prayer.
Brennan leans in and kisses me before I can doubt myself. She kisses me until the prayer becomes a promise and the promise becomes sacred. Not sacred like the God I believe in, but sacred like I'm a newly discovered fact that only she has the privilege to know.
She kisses me all the way to her bedroom and onto the bed that we now share. I look up at her as she straddles my legs. She settles her heat onto mine and slowly removes her sweater. It slides over her head and when it tumbles to the floor the only thing left is a beautifully crooked grin.
"I'm still not wearing the ring."
I laugh for the first time today. I grab her by the shoulders and shift our body weight. The air rushes out of her mouth as her back hits the mattress.
"It's an antiquated method in which human beings can show ownership and--" I trap the rest of her words between our mouths and curl the letters around my tongue. The moan I get in response tells me that convincing her to wear my ring might be difficult, but certainly not impossible.
"We'll see," I challenge while I unclasp her bra and squeeze her nipples between my fingers. Luckily for us, I'm willing to spend the rest of the night pleading my case.
I've never run faster in my life. Lactate builds in my muscles. It burns through my legs as my boots pound into the pavement. It churns in my chest. My breath barrels in and out in short grunts. The Anacostia River snakes a freezing path on my left. The smell of raw sewage lifts from its banks and conspires to make me nauseous. Bile rises from deep within the center of my gut and coats the back of my throat.
The doctor in me knows I can only maintain this pace for another few minutes before my body rebels against the acidic environment I've pushed it into. The rest of me knows I'll run until my hands are clutched around Travis Nielson's throat or I collapse dead on the ground trying.
The short warehouses lining the docks blur. They whiz by in grays and blues until the only color I see is white. Travis turns onto a bridge that crumbles pieces of itself into the water with every step he takes. He stumbles on a loose plank, twists his ankle. The pain makes him smile. He always smiles. Its imprint is a bloody failure on my fists.
He hobbles to the railing of the bridge, throws one foot over. I push myself harder. My body convulses against the abuse. He throws the other foot over and grins back at me when I shout his name. I lunge. My bones jar against his body with a bruising crush as he jumps off the bridge.
A screamed 'where is she' retches from the pit of my soul as we fall. He answers me right before we hit the deathly icy water and I finally understand that this is how he wins.
My eyes open with a strangled scream trapped at the back of my throat. The bedroom is pitch black, but I feel Brennan beside me and my breath transitions from short gasps to heavy gulps.
I haven't slept in over two weeks. Not since Booth pulled me out of that river and I barely whispered Travis Nielson's dying words through my chattering teeth and blue lips. Not since I surrendered to the collapse of my battered body, believing I was too late.
The darkness behind my eyes paint a canvas of failure in bright and gruesome colors every night until I wake up soaked with fear. Every night I stare at Brennan until the sun comes up and temporarily pushes the fear back down. It's a destructive cycle I'm not smart enough to break.
I slide out of bed and glance at the clock on my way to the closet. Almost midnight. I get dressed in the living room. The only sound in the apartment is the front door as it closes behind me.
I finish my fourth scotch. I don't bother listening to the voice in the back of my head that tells me I should have stopped at two.
"Cam, what are you doing?" Booth asks as he sits next to me at the bar. He doesn't look at me when he speaks. We've been broken since the day Brennan baked me an apple pie and told him to leave.
"You're talking to me now?" I ask. I signal the bartender for another drink but the traitor listens to the negative shake of Booth's head instead.
"Listen-" he continues.
"I'd rather not," I cut him off. My words are not as crisp as they should be, but I don't really care. "I'm not interested, Seeley."
"Cam, what are you doing?" Booth asks again. It's the simple question with the difficult answer I don't think he wants to hear. "You should be at home with--," he cuts the sentence short. "You should be at home," he finishes.
"She won't wear my ring," I say. My unexpected admission plummets onto the bar and breathes between us like a living organism.
"What?" Booth asks, confused.
"Brennan. She won't wear my ring." I pull our wedding rings out of my pocket and place them on the bar. I've been carrying them with me for the past two weeks; waiting for the moment when Brennan finally says yes to the question I suddenly can't ask. Every time I try, it gets lost somewhere between the sickening moment I realized Brennan was missing and the image of Travis Nielson's grotesque smile promising me I'd never find her.
"You asked Brennan to marry you?" Booth finally turns to look at me.
"We're already married. In San Francisco."
It's as if I just punched him in the gut. He pales with the blow. "You've been married since you came back from San Francisco?"
"It doesn't make sense," I say.
"You and Bones being married?" His exasperation is loud and angry in the quiet bar.
I should just say yes and leave it there, but the scotch, the fear and the doubt make me tell the truth. "It doesn't make sense that I love her this much. It's not..." I pause, searching for the right word. "It's not ...logical."
"It's not logical," Booth repeats slowly and I see the cost of hearing Brennan's words leave my mouth slice through what's left of our friendship.
Booth stands and closes the distance between us. His face, a mask of everything he just lost. He reaches into my jacket pocket, grabs my car keys and walks away.
I sit at my desk weighing painkillers in my hand like they are the last strands of DNA on planet Earth. It's been a long time since I've had a hangover and the pounding in the back of my skull is reason enough to ensure that it'll be never before it happens again.
The quick opening and loud slamming of my office door makes me wince and drop salvation onto my desk. I watch helplessly as the pills roll to the floor.
"Sorry." Brennan doesn't really look all that sorry as she walks up to me, glass of unidentified liquid in her hand. "Drink this." She shoves the glass in front of me. It looks like it wanted to be green at one point in its molecular configuration. I recoil at the smell.
"What is it?" I ask.
"If I told you, I'd have to kidnap you," she says with a self-satisfied smile. Brennan walks around the desk, pushes some paperwork out of the way and takes a seat. "Drink. You'll feel better."
Somehow over these past few months I've become this person who does everything my wife tells me. It happened in a lost moment somewhere between the first time I made her breakfast in bed and the first time she let me be smarter than her.
"Don't look so terrified. Trust me."
I shut my eyes, close my nose, and chug.
Surprisingly, Brennan's hangover remedy doesn't taste bad. "That was pretty good--" I stop talking as Brennan leaves her perch on my desk and straddles my legs. She settles on top of me slowly; the precise weight of her body, a sense memory for every nerve ending beneath my skin.
"That was just part one."
"Part one?" I ask.
"Of my personal hangover cure. This is part two," she says, a breath away from my lips. Her tongue slides into my mouth without the prelude of foreplay. Her kiss is like a flood, drowning my dry and damaged landscape.
It's been this way since I came home from the hospital; like she believes her touch can fix what the medical staff didn't even realize was broken. Today, it's too much. Her lips are too many places and my heart beats against my ribcage, desperate for a way out. Heat throbs to the beat of her hips rocking against mine. Each thrust is searing and beautiful and wrong.
My brain wants me to stop this, but its signals barely make it to the surface before being slashed down by the wet swipe of Brennan's tongue on my neck and the twinge of her fingers twisting my nipples.
It takes me a moment to realize I only said that in my head. "Wait." I try again. My voice scratches against her lips.
"Wait." I say it louder this time. My hands press against her shoulders. Slowly, she pulls away, but her hips keep rocking against me.
"What?" Her breath is hot, moist, centimeters away from kissing me again.
"Don't you want to know?"
"Know what?" She pulls further away.
"Why I left and didn't come back last night."
Her hips slow to a stop, the respite a blessing I need, but don't want. She tilts her head to the side. Her eyes settle on the small birthmark near my collarbone, just peaking out of my shirt. The first time we spent the entire day in bed she confessed it was her favorite part of my body because nobody else new what it did to me every time she kissed it.
"You were drinking scotch. On the rocks," Brennan says, her voice softer than I've ever heard it before.
"How do you know that?" I ask. Booth telling her where I was isn't out of the question. No matter how he feels about me, he's a good man. A better man than he usually gives himself credit for being.
Brennan looks at me in silence, the analysis of the pros and cons of her next words read clearly in the slight crinkle around her eyes.
"You drink cabernet sauvignon when you're stressed like when the boss we forgot you had came to visit." She kisses the corner of my mouth.
"Ice cold Stella when you've spent the entire day ruminating on the many orgasms you plan on giving me when we get home." Her kiss becomes bold again. Deep, wet, and gone before I'm ready to let go.
"Martinis when I've hurt you," she whispers, "like when you rub your fingers against the rings in your pocket waiting for me to say yes ...and I don't." Her voice trails off in a whisper, but the silence is brief. "And scotch when you wake up afraid in the middle of the night, expecting an empty space where I should be."
I shiver at this sudden exposure. It's raw and beautifully painful. "This is not you," I say. Tears I've never let her see stir against my words. "Seeing me. This is not you."
Brennan rubs her thumbs underneath my chin, finding the spot where my tears are caught. "No, it's not," she says.
Something shifts then like refracted light on a rainy day; each raindrop an individual sketch of Brennan loving me that falls silently against my skin.
"I love you," she says. It's the first time without the camouflage of seven syllable words and scientific explanations of pheromones or the mating habits of exotic species. "It makes me..." she trails off, searching her vast vocabulary for the perfect word. "Better," she finishes simply. "Loving you makes me better."
Her words are like a rush of blood to the head. It's not a Buddhist proverb, so much as melancholy British rock. Zen never really worked for me anyway. I threw all the books out the day I was released from the hospital.
"Loving me makes you better?" I ask.
"Yes," Brennan says with a smile and a kiss that breaks the oxygen atoms in my blood before binding them back together. "Now we have to go."
"The FBI delivered the remains we found at Rock Creek Park," she says. Brennan makes her way to the door before my body has a chance to fully cool down. "The bones are completely translucent."
"Yes, translucent," she says as she opens the door. "Do you require a definition of that word?"
I find almost everyone in the lab bent over the translucent bones of eighty-nine year old Samuel Felix. Booth paces just outside the group waiting for a lead that will give him someone to arrest.
"This is incredibly cool," says Hodgins.
"Dr. Hodgins, I'm certain you mean that in the most respectful way possible," I say, stopping next to the victim.
"Absolutely," he smirks.
"Come on, Cam," Angela looks up from the remains, "you have to admit this is kind of cool. Disgusting, but cool."
"I have to agree, Dr. Saroyan," Sweets says while he looks through Mr. Felix's translucent skull.
"I disagree," Brennan starts, "This is one of the least disgusting remains I've examined. The blood has been exsanguinated and the tissue has been removed with no immediately apparent traces of scarring on any of the bones. What is really fascinating is how the bones were able to maintain their integral structure, while concurrently succumbing to the coring process normally found with most pome fruit."
"Yes," Booth says, taking a break from pacing. "That is what's interesting about see through guy. You know what's even more interesting? Finding out who did it, so can we get to that part?"
We all pause at Booth's agitated questions. Things had gotten a little better after Brennan was found, but I see last night's confession has changed that.
There has been an uneasy truce among the team since the entire Jeffersonian realized that Booth was out and I was in. No one had to say anything. In fact, everything that remained unsaid hung from the three of us like broken chemical bonds. It only took one day for a building full of scientist to piece the story together.
Angela and Hodgins look between the three of us. They're waiting for Booth to finally call Brennan out on what they could have had. They're waiting on me to tell Brennan we need to find another FBI Agent to work with. They're waiting on--
"No, we can't get to that," Brennan says.
At Brennan's words, Booth looks even more like this lab is the last place he wants to be. "What?" His question sounds like there's gravel lining his throat.
"You're mad at me," Brennan states the obvious.
"No, I'm not."
"Actually, Agent Booth, you display the common--"
"Shut up, Sweets." Booth doesn't bother to look at him when he speaks. Instead he keeps his focus on Brennan. "I'm not mad at you."
"I don't need to be well versed in Sweet's inadequate psychological theories to know that you are upset. You have shown obvious signs of anger toward Dr. Saroyan and myself. The earliest male hominids often displayed--"
"Bones, I'm not mad at you, okay?" Booth walks closer to Mr. Felix's translucent body. He and Brennan now stand on opposite sides of the table. "I'm mad at myself."
"Why?" Brennan asks.
Booth stares at her for so long that I begin to think he's not going to answer.
"Because I never took the chance," he says quietly. "I never took the chance and I know that I'll never get another one."
"Oh." It's the most inarticulate thing Brennan has ever said, yet somehow the most profound.
"Yeah, 'oh'" Booth says, "just let me know when you've got something." He walks out of the lab before any of us can respond.
Samuel Felix gets all of our attention once Booth leaves. He's the only safe place to look in the entire room.
"Wow," Angela finally breaks the silence.
"Yes, the bones are quite magnificent," Brennan, says awkwardly.
She knows Angela wasn't talking about the bones, but for the moment we're all happy to pretend otherwise.
I sit in my office trying to make a small dent in the paperwork that piled up during my convalescence. If it were up to Brennan, I'd still be in bed eating chicken soup. She made a point to tell me that she absolutely does not believe in its healing powers, but Angela insisted she feed it to me.
"Are you ready to go?" Brennan asks as she walks in.
"Fifteen minutes," I say without looking up.
"Sure," Brennan says, right before taking her favorite seat in my entire office. She pushes my hands away from the paperwork and settles herself onto my lap. "You've done enough work today."
I lean back in my chair and smile, "That's your professional assessment?"
"No, that's my wife assessment."
It's the first time she's referred to herself as my wife. After wanting to hear them for so long, I'm not sure what to do with the words now that they've fallen into my lap.
"Give me the rings."
"What?" I ask as my heart slams into my chest.
"The rings in your pocket. Give them to me."
I am afraid to ask why because the answer might be what kills me after Travis Nielson failed. I grab the rings from my pocket; the smooth metal is warm against my fingertips as I place them in Brennan's palm.
Brennan stares at the wedding bands like their shape and color tell a significant story. She studies them with the intensity of a groundbreaking archeological find. Then she throws them into the trash can next to my desk.
My mind fast-forwards to a terrible place where I become Booth and he becomes me. I instantly weigh the options of watching them have the happiness that should be mine or leaving and never seeing Brennan again.
"Cam," Brennan starts, but I don't want to listen. I move to push her away from me, but she turns my face toward her and gently holds it in place. "These last few months have been different from anything I've ever experienced before. They've changed me on a structural level." She pauses, "you've changed me."
Brennan lets go of my face, confident that she has my complete attention. My heart still hammers against my chest.
"I don't believe in love. I don't believe in the patriarchy of marriage. I don't believe in the merits of chicken soup as a remedy for illness." She traces my lips with her thumb, contemplating her next words. "But I love you. I'm married to you. And you ate every drop of chicken soup I put in front of you."
Brennan reaches into her pocket. What she pulls out erases all thought from my brain, all breath from my body. She holds a ring between us. All excessive adornment eliminated; a platinum band, a deceptively simple diamond.
"Will you marry me?"
All that spirits desire, spirits attain. It was my grandmother's favorite quote and she repeated it to me every Sunday after church. I realize now that I never truly believed her until this moment.
"Will I marry you?"
"Yes, will you marry me? I'd like for us to remember it this time." Brennan smiles, kisses me softly.
"So, you want an actual ceremony," I ask, disbelievingly.
"You, me, Angela, Hodgins, a justice of the peace."
"Of course you want to get married in the courthouse," I say.
"I still believe that marriage is a patriarchal system that--"
I lean forward and kiss Brennan with the love I've been trying to control for the past three months. It washes over us. Cleanses everything we were until all that's left is something new. The heat is instant like always, but different. The fear that it's all going to go away is missing. In its place sits the only thing Brennan worships. I am a fact of her life now. I can tell by the way her lips slant against mine. By the way her hands slide into my hair. By the way her body fits perfectly against me.
She pulls away slowly, "Is that a yes?"
"Yes." My answer floats between us like it's the first and last thing I'll ever have to say.
Brennan grabs my hand in hers, slips the ring on my finger, and has the decency to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
"I think you should change your name," she says.
"What?" If Brennan had asked me to graffiti the Lincoln Memorial, I'm sure I'd be less shocked.
"If I'm going to bend to society's norms, it seems appropriate that I bend all the way."
"Oh, is that why? Because of society?" I'm starting to think that secretly, underneath the analytical outlook, the genius IQ, the disbelief in anything that can't be proven by science, Dr. Temperance Brennan wants the same things we all want, but life made her too afraid to take the chance of never finding it. "Maybe you should take my name. Dr. Temperance Saroyan. It has a ring to it."
"I think Dr. Camille Brennan sounds better," she wraps her arms around my shoulders, "but I could be convinced otherwise."
"Is that so?" I lean forward, my lips a touch away from hers.
"Then I guess I should get to work," I say, right before my lips touch hers. Kissing Brennan is the only thing I've ever been a genius at and I plan to spend the rest of my life in a scholarly pursuit of perfection.
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