Title: Frozen In Just the Wrong Time
Characters: Booth, Brennan
Prompt: #4 (Secrets)
Rating: T or PG-13
Word Count: 404
Spoilers: Through The End in the Beginning.
Timeline: Set sometime after The End in the Beginning.
Summary: "Nobody said it was easy; no one ever said it would be this hard."
A/N: This might morph into something longer. For now, it is just this.
"I know who you are. "
Booth doesn't know her.
When he turns to her these days, his glance lingers seconds too long, flickering over each feature as if seeing it for the first time -- instead of for the ten-thousandth. His long fingers worry at his temporal arch, stroking, stroking, stroking while the lines between his eyebrows deepen. A new habit for the new Booth, and she hates it.
But not him.
Several times, her hands nearly shoot out to still his restless fingers; she controls the impulse only by tucking her hands under her legs. She wonders, briefly, if this is how Booth felt when he shot the clown on the ice cream truck. The plastic chair on which she sits feels warm because of the heat it has stolen from her body. It does not yield when she applies pressure to it.
She is not amused. Laughter grows inside her, building momentum and gathering heat, threatening to erupt in a geyser. Of what? Fear? Grief? Anger? She is not prepared to name the emotion; that is something Booth would have helped her with, whether she asked him to or not.
The spark of laughter that used to light Booth's brown eyes has vanished. Gone, too, is the comfort once found in their shared smiles and glances; glances that made an unbroken circuit between them. In their place, the cruel hand of biology has left a stranger. A stranger who wears her partner's smile and looks at her with her partner's eyes...but does not see her. Not the way her Booth saw her.
Now, when it may be too late, she finally admits to herself that yes, he had been her Booth.
"Would you ask the nurse if I could get some more pudding?" he asks, with a hopeful lilt in his voice.
A memory trickles over her: a different container of pudding, a different hospital, a different reason for being in it. A different Booth.
Her lower lip twitches. She bites down, teeth catching on the soft skin. A moment passes. One, and then another. The room vibrates with her silence. Booth watches her with confusion on his face. It is another moment, still, before she trusts herself to speak. "Of course," she replies with a nod, standing. "I'll be right back," she says, trying not stumble as she forces her legs to carry her across the tile floor.