Title: Unwell (7/9)
Chapter Title: Hear me out.
Characters: Brennan, Booth
Summary: "Yup, the mighty Temperance Brennan was sick."
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to FOX, not me. This story is purely meant to entertain. No copyright infringement is intended.
Timeframe: This takes place after Season 3, Episode 4 (The Secret in the Soil). Some spoilers for that ep.
Author's Note: Ok, we have an update. I hope this doesn't disappoint. It's been a while; I'd love to hear what you think. Feedback of any kind, as long as it's constructive, is always welcome.
Click here for other chapters of Unwell.
Booth pulled the two bowls of reheated vegetable soup out of the microwave and turned to look at Brennan.
Brennan tilted her head toward the paper grocery bag lying on her kitchen counter and quirked one eyebrow in question.
Shrugging, he said, "I don't. But you do."
"So what you're saying is that you shopped at Natural Sun because of me?"
"Yup." He paused to let the message sink in. "But I still say a carrot's a carrot."
She rewarded him with a twitch of her lips and an eye roll—just like he'd known she would. "Perhaps now would be a good time to remind you of that University of Florida study of alligators that swim in pesticide contaminated—"
"No thanks," he said, shuddering at the memory of that particular conversation. "Once was enough. Now," he said, walking out of the kitchen, "make yourself useful and grab a couple spoons."
Releasing a sigh that settled warmly in Booth's stomach, Brennan set down her spoon with a clink.
"You didn't finish your soup, Bones."
"I know," she said, resting her chin in her hand, "but I don't think I can eat anymore."
"You didn't like it?" The thought made him frown.
"Well, I can't really taste anything right now, but it felt very soothing."
"Good. You want anything else?"
"No, I'm quite satisfied at the moment." She eyed him silently for a moment. "I didn't realize you could cook."
"Of course I can cook. My mom taught me years ago." He wiped his mouth with his napkin. "She was always big on self-sufficiency."
"She sounds like a wise woman."
He nodded, and a slow smile spread across his face as he pondered what his mother would think of his partner. "Yeah, she is."
"Booth?" Her voice pulled him from his musings.
"What were you about to say earlier?"
Gazing at her across the table, Booth turned her question over in his mind and considered the many meals they'd shared over the course of their partnership. He knew if they ordered Thai, she would always be the one to finish the mee krob. He knew if he had a burger, she would always try to steal a couple of his fries—and he'd let her. He knew if he ordered apple pie, he could always coax her into having a bite—and he'd watch as she licked the crumbs from her lips.
He knew her.
It was his knowledge and her honesty that finally did him in.
Except when it came to matters of the heart, Brennan faced life head-on. If anything in the world scared her, it was feelings. But Booth had pushed her tonight, for her own good, he believed. A gift—that's what she'd given him by trusting him with her feelings. He knew her well enough to understand that. Maybe the time had come to trust her with his.
"It's been almost a year since you were kidnapped." He sat back in his chair. "A lot's happened since then."
"Yes, it certainly has."
"And reading your note, it made me realize something." He stared at the table and willed himself to continue—even though the words caught in his throat.
"As terrified as I was about not finding you and Hodgins, if something happened to you now, it would be a hundred times worse."
"Because back then you were just my partner. Or at least that's what I thought," he amended. "But now..." He lifted his gaze to meet hers. "Listen, Bones, I want you to hear me out about something."
Booth took a deep breath and forced himself to hold her gaze. "I've had other partners. I have other colleagues. The way I feel about them—that's not how I feel about you."
Her eyes widened and he swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that I care about you. As more than a partner." Feeling his stomach clench, he twisted the napkin in his hands. "As more than a friend, even. And if you're open to it, I'd like to see where this could go."
For nearly a minute, she watched him in silence, her expression as calm and impassive as if she were examining a set of remains. Just when he was contemplating crawling underneath the table, she spoke. "You mean in a romantic sense."
"Yeah." He blew out a long breath and then nodded. "That's exactly what I mean."
"Booth..." She wiped her nose with a tissue.
"I'm sorry." He tossed the napkin on the table and scrubbed his hand over his mouth. "You're sick, and I know this isn't the best time to lay all this on you. But you were honest with me, and I want to be honest with you. I can't ignore this. I want to. Believe me, I want to, but I can't."
"What about the line?" Dark eyebrows drew together in confusion. "You're the one who said—"
Brain like a steel trap—that's what his partner had. Lucky for him. "I know what I said, but I think we crossed it about ten states back." With a shrug and a sigh, he shifted in his chair. "Look, there's theory"--he leaned forward and tapped his finger on the table--"and then there's the real world. In theory, you and I would just be partners. Nothing more, nothing less. But look at us." He gestured between them. "I hate to admit it, but Sweets is right—there is an emotional attachment between us. This thing—whatever it is—I think it's already there. When you said that we wouldn't even have coffee if we weren't partners, I...I didn't like that. And I don't think you liked the idea that our relationship could be boiled down to just coffee."
"Booth, I was simply objecting to what I believed was a gross oversimplification of our partnership."
"Deny it all you want, but I know there was more to it than that. I read people the way you read bones; that's a big part of my job, and I'm good at it."
"Without a doubt, you are very skilled at your job. I'm not questioning your competence. I'm questioning whether this is a good idea."
"Honestly, I don't know if it's a good idea. I just know I want to try. But you have to think about what you want." He sighed and stretched his legs out in front of him, searching for a way to make her understand. "Bones, listen—don't you ever want more than this?"
"More than what?"
"More than your job and your writing and..." He trailed off, waving his hands.
"I have everything I could possibly need, Booth. I'm fulfilled by my work and my writing. I have hobbies, and good friends, good colleagues..."
"But don't you ever get lonely? Don't you just need a little companionship sometimes?"
"So is it that crazy to think you could have that with me?"
"I...I don't know."
"Never mind," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "Forget I asked you that. I don't want an answer right now. Just think about it. Take your time, and when you're ready to talk some more, let me know."
He folded his arms over his chest and waited to see if she would say anything else. She hadn't hit him or run out of the room; by those standards, he considered this a huge success. Maybe on some level she recognized that something had shifted between them. He sighed. Or maybe she was just too tired to do either of those things.
They sat quietly for several minutes, their breathing the only sound in the room.
"We're very different people," she finally said.
"We are different," he said, nodding. "But not so different. It's like Sweets said; we complement each other."
"So now you believe Sweets is worthy of your respect?" She arched an eyebrow in pure challenge; he couldn't resist grinning back.
"I wouldn't go that far."
"By your own admission, there are risks inherent in such a choice."
"Of course there are. Life is risky, Bones. Life isn't like your lab, where Zack and Hodgins can control the air pressure and humidity when they do their crazy experiments. It's imperfect and messy"--he pointed at her--"especially if you live it right."
"Can you guarantee that this wouldn't be a complete disaster?"
"No, I can't guarantee that. I can't guarantee that we'll be alive tomorrow, either. I can't guarantee anything. You and I both know that."
"Then you acknowledge how risky this would be?"
"Yeah, definitely. But you do risky things all the time. Didn't you tell me you once trekked through Tibet avoiding the Chinese army? I mean, you've taken on a gang leader. Those are tremendously risky things. Why not take a risk in your personal life?"
"I know it is. But only because you're more comfortable risking your life than your feelings. Doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it. Will you just think about it?" The please went unspoken; he had his pride.
"You're asking a lot, Booth."
He dipped his head in acknowledgment. "Yeah, I am. But I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it was important. And on that note, I want to ask you something else, but I don't want you to answer me. Just think about it."
"You're full of questions today, Booth." The wry smile she flicked him brought an answering one to his lips.
"I guess I am. So here's my last one: Have you ever thought about, you know, kissing me?"
He watched her carefully, noting the flush that rose on her cheeks. Having made his point, he took pity on her and looked away for a second. "I want you to know something, regardless of what you decide: There are a lot of people I'd die for, Bones, but only a couple I live for. You're one of them." He leaned forward, willing her to look at him. "Remember that when you put together your list of pros and cons." Her gaze flew up to meet his, and he noted her startled expression. He smiled gently. "Come on," he chided. "Don't you think I know you at all, Bones?"
"If you know me, you know there's a strong possibility you won't like my answer."
"Yeah, I know that," he replied, feeling the bottom drop out of his stomach.
When she stifled a yawn and blew her nose, he knew there was nothing left to say—at least for the moment.
"Not surprising; you're sick. Go to bed. I'll handle the dishes."
"Are you sure?"
That she didn't really argue told him how tired she really was. "Yes, I'm sure." He stood and gathered their bowls. "Now go," he said, making a shooing motion.
"You can sleep in the guest room," she said, pausing a few feet from him. "Good night, Booth,"
"Good night," he replied, meeting her gaze, and though his fingertips itched to brush her cheek, he let her move past him untouched.