Chapter Title: Cuts like a knife.
Characters: Brennan, Booth
Summary: "Yup, the mighty Temperance Brennan was sick."
Notes: Takes place after Season 3, Episode 4. Minor reference to something mentioned in Intern in the Incinerator.
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to FOX, not me. This story is purely meant to entertain. No copyright infringement is intended.
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A/N: All right, ladies and gents (not sure how many gents are reading this), this is me politely asking for your feedback, whether you thought this was good, bad, or something in between. Dear Santa, I think I've been a pretty good girl this year... :D I know I'm not getting Seeley Booth or David Boreanaz wrapped in a shiny red bow, but feedback's the next best thing. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.Thanks for reading!
Chapter 4: Cuts like a knife.
Booth set it down on the bathroom counter and hoped that Brennan would see it. Because it was autumn, he hadn't been able to find the real thing. But it was, he hoped, the thought that counted.
Ignoring the way his stomach twisted every time he recalled what he'd stumbled upon that afternoon, Booth turned on the faucet and fiddled with the taps until the water ran hot, but not hot enough to scald. After putting in the drain stopper, he turned away to let the tub fill, and crouched before the cabinet under the sink. He rummaged through the contents in search of something suitable to pour into the bath.
It felt strange to be touching her things. He knew he wasn't doing anything he shouldn't be doing, but there was something undeniably intimate about looking through her bathroom. Extra bars of soap, stacked neatly on top of each other. Several bottles of shampoo. A number of unopened toothbrushes. Huh. Extra toothbrushes. He frowned and wondered who the brushes were for. Just who did she have staying over at her place, anyway? The question made him narrow his eyes and clench his fists.
Shoving aside the unwanted and confusing feelings beginning to bubble up inside him, Booth closed his hand around yet another bottle. He pulled it out and read the label. Orange Sandalwood Three-In-One: Body Wash, Bubble Bath, and Shampoo. Of course she'd use something just a little different. He unscrewed the cap and raised the bottle to his nose. It smelled girly enough to make him smile at the thought of Brennan using it and yet just unusual enough to remind him of the woman herself. He poured a dollop of it into the tub and then stared at the bottle.
It was half full, which meant she'd used it before. He silently congratulated himself on his investigative skill. As the water in the tub started to froth and foam, and the spicy fragrance of the body wash rose in the air, he couldn't help but picture Brennan soaking in the tub. Maybe after a long day out in the field, mucking around in God only knew what in an effort to retrieve a set of bones. She'd take off her clothes and step into the tub, sighing in pleasure as the warm water closed over her. As she slowly relaxed, her head would tilt back and her eyes would drift shut. Her hair would be pinned up, a few silky strands slipping free to cling to the moist skin of her neck and...
With a muffled curse, Booth dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and then pinched his arm. "Ouch." Get a grip. What was he doing, sitting around and fantasizing about Brennan taking a bath? There must be something in that damn body wash. That had to be it. Jaw clenched tight, Booth turned off the faucet and sped out of the bathroom as if the hounds of hell followed behind him.
Brennan still sat on the couch, her legs tucked to one side. Booth clapped his hands and then rubbed them together briskly. "Ok, your bath's ready."
"Does that mean I have your permission to move now?" she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Yeah. But only to the bathroom. And don't lock the door."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Why, do you want to scrub my back for me?" Her expression didn't change, but he had the distinct impression that she was laughing at him. She had a knack for turning things around on him whenever he thought he finally had the upper hand. He hadn't yet figured out how she did it. Maybe someday.
He cleared his throat and looked away, swallowing hard, as his earlier thoughts flooded back with stunning clarity. He was suddenly very thankful she couldn't read his mind. "Uh, no. I just thought, you know, in case you needed something." He scratched the back of his neck and shuffled his feet. "You're kinda weak at the moment."
"Weak?" she said, her voice rising with indignation. She stood and crossed the room to stand in front of him. "I'll have you know I'm trained in three martial arts, Booth." Her chin tipped up in defiance. Here it comes. She jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. "I could incapacitate you in—"
"Yeah, yeah, Bones," he replied, capturing her hand and cutting her off with a bored sigh. Her hand was small and deceptively fragile, and her skin hot and damp against his. He marveled at the life he felt pulsing in her. She was alive—and that could so easily have not been the case. Booth broke that chain of thought, wary of where it would lead him.
But in spite of the chaste kiss, in spite of the note, in spite of the not-so-chaste thoughts he'd been having, Booth couldn't resist yanking Brennan's chain. Wind her up and watch her go. "I'm an Agent and a former Ranger. Trained in close combat and grappling." Where she stops, nobody knows. He winked and purposefully tossed her a lazy smile, tugging her forward several steps. "Bring it on, Bones. Bring. It. On."
Brennan wrenched her hand out of his grasp. He could have held on, but he released her instead. She frowned and cocked her head to the side, forehead crinkled in confusion. "Bring what?"
He gave a short bark of laughter before loosely clasping her by the shoulders and steering her toward the bathroom. "Never mind, Bones." He shook his head and smiled indulgently. "You're in no condition to spar right now. Besides, the water's getting cold."
"Remember this day," she grumbled. She brought her hands to her face and sneezed several times in rapid succession, her whole body quivering with the force of it.
"Bless you," he said, and patted her back.
Brennan groaned and wiped her nose with the crumpled tissue clutched in her right hand. "I will take you down, Booth."
"With what?" he asked, raising his brows incredulously. "Your breath?"
She elbowed him in the side and he grunted, rubbing the sore spot. He really was lucky she hadn't caught him kissing her. Thank God for small mercies.
She marched into the bathroom, head held high, and he couldn't resist a parting shot. "Say, Bones," he called out, hands on his hips, "as your partner, I feel it's my duty to suggest that you brush your teeth while you're in there. Whew! Talk about dragon breath." The door slammed shut, and Booth grinned.
Her kitchen looked nicer than his, but he'd bet she didn't use it at as often as he used his. Booth liked to cook. So much of his job seemed to be about picking up the pieces of things that had broken, gone wrong. But cooking consisted of chopping, cutting, and mixing—taking separate things and putting them together to form something bigger (and tastier) than their individual parts. Breaking things down for the purpose of putting them back together again in a new form. He appreciated that.
As Booth walked around the small room, his eyes flitted from the cool shimmer of stainless steel appliances to the placid gleam of granite countertops the color of cream. Sweet. She'd cooked for him once, he remembered. His mouth watered as he recalled the way the macaroni and cheese she'd made had melted in his mouth. Who knew she could cook like that? Come to think of it, he doubted there were many things she couldn't do well if she put that crazy mind of hers to it.
That was his Bones, he thought with a fond smile. Wait, whoa, no. Not his Bones. He shook his head. Not his anything. Not really. Well, his partner. But that was it. Right? Right.
That settled, Booth started opening and shutting cabinets, searching for a cutting board, a pot, and a pan. He'd been in Brennan's apartment countless times, but he'd never cooked anything in her kitchen, so he didn't know where anything besides the utensils were located. But today seemed to be a day for discovery. Once he found what he was looking for, he opened the fridge and pulled out the supplies he'd bought for the veggie soup he planned on making. He set about washing the potatoes, carrots, celery, green pepper, and green beans. The warm water sluiced over his hands as he rinsed each item, and his traitorous mind jumped to an image of hot, bubbly water sluicing over the curves and planes of his partner's body as she settled into the bath he'd drawn for her. Frustrated by his inability to block out those images, Booth scrubbed at the skin of a potato with much more force than was necessary.
No. He took a deep breath and slowly released it, willing away the Technicolor visuals. Better, he thought approvingly, turning off the faucet and directing his attention back to the potatoes. He peeled them quickly and with practiced ease, turning them in his left hand as he wielded the peeler in his right hand, removing the brown skin in smooth, even strips.
Much better, he thought, by the time he started dicing the potatoes. The knife clicked rhythmically against the plastic cutting board on each downward stroke, setting Booth's mind free to wander again.
And wander it did.
Chop. Don't blame yourself. Chop. Goodbye. Chop. Don't blame yourself. Chop. Goodbye.
He cut faster, hoping to outrun his thoughts. But it was like playing Whack-a-mole; as soon as he squashed thoughts of Brennan in the bath, out exploded thoughts of that fucking goodbye note.
Chop. Don't blame yourself. Chop. Goodbye. Chop. Don't blame yourself. Chop. Goodbye.
Booth sped up again, bringing the knife down faster and faster, watching the silver blade slice through the white flesh of another potato and then the orange body of a carrot. He looked up for a second, seeing not the knife, the cutting board, or even Brennan's kitchen, but the clear, nearly translucent blue of her eyes as he pulled her from the earth that had swallowed her whole.
Who the fuck else would he have blamed if they hadn't gotten there in time?
Christ, he thought, and then felt remorseful for having taken His name in vain, even if it had only been in his thoughts. She'd been kidnapped and buried alive. She'd probably been terrified, facing the possibility of her own premature death. But her note had mentioned none of that. Her note had been about him and Angela and Zack. When facing almost certain death, Brennan's thoughts had been for him, knowing what her and Hodgins' deaths would do to him.
But she hadn't known. Not really. He hadn't either. Not until today.
The knife came down hard, slicing into Booth's thumb. He hissed, the knife clattering to the cutting board as the pain penetrated the dense fog of his thoughts. Blood welled up from the clean cut. The pain came as nearly a relief. He rinsed his thumb in the sink and then covered it with a paper towel, applying pressure for more than a minute. When he was satisfied that the bleeding had slowed, Booth wrapped a fresh paper towel around his thumb and resumed his work, dicing the remaining vegetables and concentrating on the dull throb that beat in time with his pulse.
If his pulse beat a little faster than it usually did, he did his best to ignore it.
Booth felt Brennan's eyes on him for almost a minute before he turned to face her. It occurred to him then that he always knew when she stood in the room with him. The back of his neck prickled with an awareness of her presence, even if he couldn't see her. He felt her absence just as keenly.
Some things the body knew, even if the mind didn't. A lesson he'd tried to teach her. He didn't think she'd learned it yet. Then again, maybe he just wasn't a very good teacher, seeing as he hadn't fully accepted the lesson himself.
He heard her labored breathing behind him. One last stir of the soup and he was ready to face her. Booth took a deep breath, switched off the stove, turned around.
And promptly forgot how to breathe. Damp, dark hair parted straight down the middle, framing a face that had grown to be as familiar to him as his own. A pink nose that did nothing to detract from her beauty in his eyes. Eyes so clear he wondered if they might see down into the deepest, darkest parts of him. He sure hoped not.
Yeah, she cleaned up well, even when she was wearing an oversized navy blue Jeffersonian sweatshirt and sweatpants. She looked young and defenseless; Booth silently asked how her parents had turned and walked away from her, knowing she could look like that.
She blinked back at him with those eyes and held up her right hand. "How did you know?" she asked, her voice laced with an accusation.
He shrugged and looked away, the sunny daffodils on the card drawing his eyes the same way she drew them...no matter where she was. "I just knew."
"Did Russ tell you?" She tapped the card with her other hand.
"What? No." He shook his head and frowned. "Why would two guys talk about flowers?"
"I just don't understand how you could know daffodils are my favorite flower."
"Look, if you don't like it, just toss it in the trash. I would have brought you real daffodils, but they're out of season. Just throw it away. It was stupid," he said and turned away, already reaching for a bowl.
"No. It's not." Booth stopped as he felt her hand graze his. "It's not stupid. I...like it." Brennan tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and Booth marveled again at how young she looked. So young it made his stomach tighten.
"You do?" he asked, and wondered why it even mattered.
"Oh." He nodded and fought the urge to smile. "Good. I'm glad. I thought it might cheer you up."
"It did." She paused, her eyes searching his. "Thank you, Booth."
Twice in one day. Wow. What had he done to deserve that? "No problem, Bones," he replied, giving her hand a gentle squeeze and swallowing back a rush of emotion. As he released her hand, the paper towel covering his cut fluttered to the floor.
Brennan bent to pick it up, opening it and examining it with narrowed eyes. "This is blood." She waved the paper towel and glared at him.
"Let me see," she said, reaching for his hands.
"It's nothing," he replied, evading her grasp.
"Booth," she warned, "let me see it."
"It's nothing, Bones. Just a little cut." He held his hand out and wiggled his thumb. "See? Hardly a scratch."
"I had to show the potato who's boss."
He was gratified to see her roll her eyes at his lame attempt at a joke. "Wait here while I get a Band-Aid," she said and left the kitchen.
"Hello," he called. "Real men don't need Band-Aids." He thumped his chest with a closed fist. "I am a real man. Therefore I don't need a Band-Aid. Bones, are you listening to me?"
"I'm trying very hard not to," she muttered as she returned with a Band-Aid and a small tube of ointment.
"Is this really necessary?" he groused, secretly pleased by her fussing over him.
"Yes, it is. Now be quiet." She stepped closer, squeezing a drop of ointment onto his thumb and smearing it over the cut before peeling the tabs off the bandage and wrapping it around his thumb. She bent her head to peer at his hand and examine her handiwork. The spicy scent of her body wash lingered on her skin and hair and drifted to him as he inhaled. Finally, she looked up and caught him staring at her. "What?"
"Aren't you going to kiss it and make it better?"
Brennan's eyes rounded in shock and she dropped his hand, sneezing twice.
Oh hell. He blamed the body wash.