Bones' first nightmare since moving in with Booth prompts him to institute a new house rule.
Seeley Booth woke in the middle of the night, unsure what had disturbed him. He lay quietly for a moment, not wanting to disturb Bones. His eyes roamed the room but found nothing amiss. The bathroom door was slightly ajar as it had been when he fell asleep, the baby monitor was silent, Bones was sleeping on her side facing away from him. He was about to drift off when he felt it again, a quiet sob that shook the bed. Instantly he was wide awake again, he put a gentle hand on her arm.
“Bones?” he asked, voice low and rough with sleep.
She gave a sharp little jerk and swiped at her eyes but did not turn. He watched the side of her throat work as she swallowed hard and then spoke.
“I’m fine, Booth,” she said, sounding anything but.
Her muscles were tense under his fingers and he wondered how he could have thought she was asleep a minute ago. Concern mounting he tugged on her arm, until she rolled onto her back. Even in the dim light from the bathroom he could still see the silver tracks of tears on her face.
"Bones," he cupped her cheek. “What is it?” he asked, his heart going out to her, she looked so sad.
She shook her head and wiped at her eyes once more, taking a deep shuddery breath.
“It was just a nightmare, Booth. I'm simply overreacting to the false stimulus my brain provided," she said in her best 'rational' tone, though her voice shook with the words and Booth's heart broke a little. That was his Bones, not impervious but still almost too strong for her own good sometimes.
“Temperance,” he said softly, reassuringly, “come here.”
She didn’t hesitate, as if all she'd been waiting for were his words, she flung herself at him in the dark, burrowing into his embrace, fitting her body to his, tucking her head beneath his chin. Booth wrapped his arms tightly around her, feeling the fine tremors that wracked her body.
“Hey! You’re really upset, Bones!” He tugged the blankets up higher around her shoulders, and squeezed her tighter, pressing his cheek against her hair, grateful that he'd woken up, grateful that she would let him be there for her like this.
“I’m being foolish,” she answered, her breath puffing against his neck. “It was just a nightmare. It wasn’t,” her voice hitched, and she swallowed hard, “wasn’t real. I'm sorry I woke you.”
"Listen," he tipped her chin up and made sure she was looking at him before continuing, she had to know that she didn't have to deal with things like this on her own anymore. "Always wake me. Any time you need me. Always," he repeated adamantly.
She nodded and buried her face back in his shoulder.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.
She shook her head against him.
"It might make you feel better."
"I... I don't even really remember it," she confessed looking embarassed.
"Sometimes that's worse," Booth said, knowing how hard it could be to wake in the dark with only fear in your throat and no logic to fight it off with. For a person like Bones, whose first defense was reason, it must be even harder. Brennan nodded, putting her head back down and tangling her fingers in the collar of his t shirt, keeping him close. Booth did the same, wrapping the blankets and his arms tightly around her, stroking his hand over her hair, tangling in the long strands and then smoothing them over her back, combing through the cinnamon brown locks soothingly. He felt Bones relax, her muscles growing looser under his ministrations and just when he had decided she had drifted off she startled, jerking hard against him.
"Easy, Bones. It's okay," he murmured.
She lifted her head to look at him, biting her lip.
"So did I tell you about Parker's trip to the British Museum?" he asked.
Bones' brow furrowed in confusion.
"Shh," he interrupted before she could say a word. "I'm distracting you," he explained. Bones gave a shaky laugh and laid her head back on his chest. Booth told her all about the latest email he'd gotten from Parker. He stroked his hand over her hair and down her back, fingers moving in a slow glide up and down. He felt her trembling taper off and then her breathing become deeper and slower until they'd both drifted back off to sleep.
Chapter 2: After the summer Booth spends in prison
Booth wakes gasping, a barely bit-back cry on his lips. The bedroom is dark around him, the drapes shut for the night but for a moment the room is lit by harsh fluorescent bulbs and all around him are bars and the men he put behind them crowding around him. His eyes dart, looking for an escape and the baby monitor’s red glow catches his attention, brings him into the present. Christine is almost too old for it but he insisted they keep it for a while yet. He’s glad they did. Concentrating on that steady red glow helps him calm his erratic breathing. His heart is beating wild and frantic in his chest, a caged animal. He can’t pass pet stores without getting this feeling. He knows what it’s like to be trapped. Coming home after war, and that is what he was over the summer, a POW, coming home after war is always like this. Waking in the dead of night convinced you were back there. He could practically smell the stench of the prison laundry soap on his clothes.
This isn’t the first night he’s woken up like this, with fear and helplessness clawing up his throat and it won’t be the last he knows. So far he’s managed to avoid waking Bones and for that he’s grateful. She’d looked so tired that first day back, pinched from worry and stress. He inhales to the count of four, holds it for a count of four and then exhales for a count of four, consciously slowing his breathing. He’d never admit it to Sweets but the grounding exercises he’d suggested help. The kid had even simply sent him an email with the info instead of nattering on to him for an hour about it. Booth stares at the red glow of the monitor and breathes, clenching and un-clenching each of his muscle groups one by one one. He’s home. He’s safe.
He almost jumps out of bed at the hand that comes to rest on his shoulder blade. But it’s not a criminal he put away looking for revenge, not someone threatening his family, it’s Bones, with her blue eyes cloudy and her hair mussed, blinking sleepily at him.
”Sorry, Booth,” Bones apologizes, voice raspy. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” she says, her hand rubbing comforting circles on his shoulder.
Booth has to give himself a moment before he answers her, swallows down panic and bile and hopelessness. He is so glad to see her but the nagging voice in his head asks if this is even real or if this is the dream and his reality is back in that prison cell still. He lays a hand on her face and he knows she can feel the tremors even as he lies “I’m fine, Bones. It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”
It was the wrong thing to say.
He can feel her waking up beside him now, becoming more alert.
He waits for her to switch on the light and expose the panic on his face but she doesn’t. Instead she sits up straighter and wraps both her arms around him, pulling him into her. “What are you doing?” he asks, as her fingers come up to push his head to her shoulder.
“You had a nightmare, didn’t you?” she asks, sounding perfectly rational. “This is how we deal with nightmares in this house, you said so yourself,” she reminds him.
Booth laughs and lets his head drop to her shoulder, burying his nose in the sweet smelling skin of her neck. He remembers that night, what feels like half a lifetime ago. Bones shifts to accommodate his bulk and resumes rubbing circles on his back. Booth closes his eyes and concentrates on what he can feel right now, grounding himself in the reality of this – Bones, the house, safety.
Bones’ neck smells of the lotion she uses before bed, her skin is so soft where his nose is pressed into her collarbone. The blankets and his pajama pants are twisted around his legs and he knows that restricted feeling is what woke him. It’s no longer frightening now that he’s awake though. Bones’ hands are so gentle as they move up and down his bare back. Those million dollar fingers stroke over his skin, bringing warmth and comfort with what he knows is deliberate thought. She isn’t holding him down, or too tightly, just enough to let him know she’s there, this is real. He wonders if Sweets sent her an email too.
Booth slides his arms under her body, around her waist, holding her to him and breathes, deep and slow. The panic is finally subsiding, the adrenaline leaving his system making him tired.
“There were times, over the summer, that I thought I’d never have this again,” Booth confesses into her shoulder and the dark of the night.
Bones stiffens at his words and he wants to grab them back after he says them. But then she resumes the same pattern of strokes over his back, probably some weird tribal symbol or something. Booth doesn’t try to figure the shape out, just enjoys the gesture and thinks how touch can be its own form of magic.
“I did too,” she says eventually, her fingers coming up to toy with the hair at the base of his skull. “Though I had every confidence in your ability to take care of yourself and the investigative capabilities of my team and Caroline,” she clarifies, because she’s Bones and he smiles at her tone. “I still…” her voice falters, and his arms tighten, “I still feared for your life more often than not.”
“I’m here, Bones,” he rumbles into her shoulder. “Thanks to you, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere” he says and the words are to assure her but they also help assure him.
He’s here. He’s home.
“You’re here,” she agrees. “You’re free to go anywhere you choose, Booth.” He loves her for saying that, for thinking to remind him of his freedom.
“And here is where I choose to be,” he says, settling himself so he’s not crushing her but Bones isn’t willing to let him go, she pulls him back. They fall asleep like that eventually and the nightmares don’t disturb Booth again that night, not with Bones there to guard his back.