Timeframe: A few weeks after Santa in the Slush.
Characters: Booth, Zack (I kid, I kid. It's Booth and Brennan)
Summary: Alcohol frees the tongue to say what is in the heart.
Word Count: 1408
A/N: Ideally, I'd like to update this story every Wednesday until it's finished. Since I'm doing NaNoWriMo, weekly may become biweekly instead. We'll see! In any case, here's a not-so-spooktacular (but also hopefully not craptacular) update. As always, if you've got a sec, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks to all who comment; friends (and lurkers) you make this fanfic thing even more enjoyable than it already is. :)
Brennan took her time in the shower, letting the hot water drip drip drip through the remaining fog blanketing her head. Her partner could wait. She frowned and shoved her wet hair away from her face. No one had asked Booth to show up at her apartment this morning, eyes clear and lucid, lips crooked in an irritatingly cheerful smile that made her fingers itch, bearing gifts of food she certainly didn't want.
Turning away from the spray, she let it pound her back and shoulders as she stretched out a hand, reaching for a bottle of one of her few cosmetic indulgences. The citrus basil body wash she squeezed into her palm had been an impromptu gift from Angela several months ago during one of the Sunday shopping expeditions Brennan occasionally let herself be coaxed into.
Though she might never admit it, she had come to look forward to those afternoon adventures in what Angela blithely referred to as "retail therapy." They filled the hollow, echoing places in her; the ones that had lingered long past the years when the girls around her giggled and passed intricately folded notes about attractive boys whose glances slid over and past a much younger Temperance Brennan. Years when her less awkward, more socially mobile female peers had leafed through glossy magazines before heading to the mall in packs to search for dresses to wear to the school dances she never attended.
No one ever asked her.
It didn't matter, she told herself. Silly conversations, silly concerns. Who needed them? She spent hours at the public library, letting the rows of towering shelves pull her deeper into the world of words, of facts and figures, collagen matrices and connective tissue, faraway continents and cultures. Of fictional disappointments and hungers that temporarily distracted her from the real ones.
“Brennan,” Angela had said, lips curving in a wry smile as she handed her the brightly colored paper bag, “listen up: I'm about to share a very important life lesson with you."
Brennan quirked an eyebrow. "Oh? Please continue. I'm waiting with avid interest."
"Now, we both know you’re not a girly girl, but every woman needs to treat herself to the occasional small luxury. It's practically an unwritten law.”
“While I appreciate the thought, I find a bar of soap is perfectly adequate for daily hygiene.”
Angela rolled her eyes, her wide smile taking on an ironic twist that Brennan knew meant she was laughing at her. “You would.”
Brennan attempted to return the bag to her friend; Angela resolutely gave it back, shaking her head. “Just try it. Who knows? You might love it,” she said with a wink. “Besides, why settle for adequate when you could have spectacular?”
This seemed to be Angela’s motto in life, Brennan had learned through years of friendship. Whether it served her well or not, Brennan couldn't quite decide, but it was as intrinsically Angela as the bright hues she favored in clothing and decor. “I highly doubt that any bath gel is going to have that significant an impact on my life -- or my showering experience.”
“Humor me, honey,” Angela murmured, slinging an arm across Brennan’s shoulders and giving her a light squeeze as they stepped out of the crisp, air conditioned atmosphere of Bath and Body Works and back into a heavy, humid summer day that would soon set loose strands of their hair curling haphazardly around their faces. “You’d be surprised what a difference one tiny change can make.”
Angela had been right, as she often was, her artistic sensibilities equally valuable in and outside of the lab: the citrus and herb scent formed an unusual combination that tantalized Brennan's nose in a way more traditionally feminine floral or musk scents did not. While the body wash truthfully didn't make her feel cleaner than her usual bar of soap did, it did make her time in the shower markedly more pleasant. This was something she could appreciate; technology existed to better peoples' lives, and if this tiny advance in personal care products bettered hers, so be it.
Both the pragmatic and sensualistic sides of her were thus satisfied. After she used up the first bottle, she washed and recycled it, then made it a point to stop into Bath and Body Works after work one Friday and buy two more, so she never ran out unexpectedly.
The now-familiar scent hung in the moist air like a curtain. Gradually, the hot water pouring over her skin chased the winter chill that had settled in her muscles and bones and made her think longingly of her warm bed when she'd stumbled out of it to answer the door and determine who dared intrude upon her peace.
As the cackling and whirling gnomes who'd greeted her upon her first painful moments of consciousness quieted and then eventually vanished, in their wake they left a vacuum that rapidly filled with disconcerting impressions and flashes of memory of the previous evening.
Brennan inhaled to a count of ten slow breaths, chest and diaphragm expanding while she tried to will away the pressure throbbing in her head. "Hell of a hangover, huh?" Booth had asked her, a suspicious light dancing in his dark eyes as he watched her with an all-too-knowing expression plastered on his smug face.
Indeed...and she had no one to blame for it but herself, she silently conceded with disgust, distracted from her deliberately slow respiration. As a rule, she didn't like to drink to excess. The lowered inhibitions and slowed reflexes set her on edge. Temperance Brennan preferred to be in control of all her faculties.
Good things did not arise from her taking leave of her senses, she mused with a frown. For instance, last night her inebriated state had led her to offer to massage her partner's posterior. Oh no, she thought with growing horror, nearly slipping in the slick tub as the memory assaulted her again; she'd offered to massage her partner's posterior. With a groan of mortification, Brennan switched off the shower and toweled herself off with more roughness than was necessary.
She knotted the thick towel above her breasts and stepped out of the tub, her skin prickling from the sudden cold. The long, leisurely shower she'd deemed a necessity had covered the mirror in condensation. She swiped her hand over it to clear some of the moisture, her stomach contracting as her pallid reflection came into regrettably sharp focus.
"Idiot," she muttered to herself with a toss of her head. Not only had she repeatedly offered to put her hands on Booth's admittedly well-formed gluteus maximus, she'd practically begged him to help her undress. This, she knew with absolute certainty, went far beyond the lines of their partnership.
But despite her embarrassment, her practical side was ever-present. If Booth was here and behaving normally, that had to mean she hadn't done any irreversible damage, didn't it? And if she had already nudged the limits, what could it hurt to push them a bit more, especially if that meant getting honest answers? She allowed that she didn't enjoy making a fool of herself, but what was done was done.
For all her clumsiness with social cues, Brennan was no fool. Oh, she knew what other people thought of her seeming obliviousness; someone as thoroughly trained in observation as scientists were did not miss the sidelong glances often cast in her direction. Attraction was not some unknown entity with which she had no previous experience. She and Booth had been skittering away from this thing for months. Years, even. She would face last night and its consequences like she did most other things -- head-on. When given a goal, she would seek it with a single-minded intensity that had brought her every hard-won accomplishment she claimed as her own.
If Pandora's box had sprung open, perhaps it should remain that way.
The sour taste in Brennan's mouth that was a remnant of the previous night's adventures caused her to grimace, and she quickly smeared toothpaste onto her brush. With narrowed eyes, she faced her reflection again, and before raising the brush to her mouth, she gave in to an uncharacteristic impulse and stuck her tongue out at herself. That done, she squared her shoulders and steeled herself to meet the day -- and Booth.
She had asked him a question; now he owed her an answer.