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.
Story Note: Ok, so if you've read Things That Never Happened... the first chapter of this will look familiar. I warned you in the notes for that that I was tempted to continue this story. Well, I lost the battle.
Author's Note: Comments are always appreciated, and though it usually takes me a while, I try to respond to them all. :)
This is for everyone who's listened to me vent. You know who you are. Thank you.
"How many times do I have to tell you this? Jesus is not a zombie." Booth tossed a peanut into his mouth and waited for Brennan's sharp retort, but it never came. "Bones?" When she didn't respond, he swiveled to look at her.
She'd fallen asleep, head cradled in her folded arms. Always a surprise—his partner.
"Ok. No more Black and Coke for you," Booth whispered next to her ear, fighting the urge to smooth her hair off her forehead.
"Yes. I'll have one more," she replied, slowly lifting her head and sliding her arms off the scratched surface of the bar.
"I think it's time to get you home." He finished off his drink and felt it settle warmly in his stomach; he preferred his Johnnie neat. Seeing her reach for her glass, he shoved it away from her. "Nope, I'm cutting you off. 'Cause you, Dr. Brennan"—he leaned in so they were at eye-level—"are drunk."
"I am not inberiated." Her eyebrows came together in a frown. "Inrebiated." She blinked owlishly and shook her head, and Booth coughed to cover the laugh that bubbled up in his throat.
"Inebriated?" he added helpfully, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, that," she replied, thumping her fist on the bar.
"Wait right here," he said, patting her shoulder.
"Don't order me around, Booth." She shrugged his hand away, scowling, and he waited a moment just to make sure she didn't slide off her barstool.
"Wouldn't dream of it, Bones," he said, tossing a grin over his shoulder as he stepped away to settle their tab.
He returned to find her trying to put on her coat—backwards. She bit her lip, deep in concentration, and Booth stood back, arms folded, and watched. It wasn't often that he had the chance to witness his partner demonstrating anything less than total competence. He had every intention of enjoying it while he could. "There's something wrong with these buttons, Booth," she finally muttered, looking up at him with confusion in her blue eyes.
Stifling a smirk at her predicament, he snagged the coat from her and helped her put it on the right way. After he'd made sure all the buttons were done up, he slipped on his own coat. Grasping Brennan's upper arm, he led her out into the cold January night in order to hail a cab. He wasn't drunk—just pleasantly buzzed—but there was no way he'd take that kind of chance.
After paying the driver, Booth slid out of the cab and came around the other side to help Brennan. They made their way up the sidewalk to her building without incident. When they stopped at the front door, she fumbled for the keys in her coat pocket and then promptly dropped them. "I have them, don't worry. I can find them." She bent to search the snow for the keys.
Given Brennan's current state, Booth had a feeling his balls would turn into ice cubes before she found her keys, so he leaned down to help.
Unfortunately, she chose that exact moment to straighten, smashing her head into his jaw and sending him sprawling in the snow at her feet. "Ow. Jesus, Bones. Be careful."
"I told you I had them." With a triumphant smile, she jangled the keys in front of him. When it finally seemed to penetrate her freakishly-large brain that he was on the ground, the smile faded. "I am extremely sorry, Booth," she said, enunciating very carefully. "I didn't intend to injure you." She rubbed her head.
"Don't worry about it." Slowly, he stood, brushing off his coat and feeling the wetness the snow had left behind on his pants. "I'll live." Since he couldn't decide if his jaw or his ass hurt worse, he settled for rubbing the latter. Then he sighed and wiggled his jaw to make sure everything was still intact.
"Yes, of that I'm certain. At most you have a contusion." She stretched her arm toward him, and her hand grazed his hip. "I could massage it for you," she said, her expression earnest.
"Whoa." He grabbed her hand before it could wander anywhere dangerous. "Hands to yourself, Bones."
"Ah, yes. I forgot—the line." She nodded sagely, eyes wide.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The line that separates partnership from sexual intercourse, of course."
"Ok, let's get you inside." He'd temporarily forgotten there was something even more dangerous than her hands—her mouth.
"I suppose partners don't massage one another's buttocks."
Booth closed his eyes and tipped his head back, taking a deep breath of the wintry air. God definitely wasn't on his side tonight. That, or He was having a good laugh at Booth's expense. "No, that they don't." Unfortunately.
"Pity. I've been told by several people that I have good hands."
"Are you certain you wouldn't like a demonstration?" If he didn't know better, he'd say she sounded almost hopeful.
"Yeah. Thanks, but"—he sighed regretfully—"no thanks."
Once he helped her into her bedroom and out of her coat, she sat down on her bed and immediately started yanking at her clothes. A sweater flew at his head and he stepped back, covering his eyes. He wouldn't peek. That wouldn't be gentlemanly, and he prided himself on being a gentleman. Well, most of the time. "What are you doing?"
"Getting undressed. I'm hot."
Yes she was, he thought, picturing her flushed cheeks and bright eyes. "I'm uh, assuming you can manage that on your own, so I'm going to leave now." He turned away.
"But what if I need assistance?"
"Do you?" he asked, feeling a bead of sweat trickle down his neck.
"I think I do. I'm having difficulty with this button."
That which does not kill us makes us stronger, he reminded himself. "All right." He sighed and squared his shoulders, preparing to meet his fate.
Keeping his gaze glued to her face, he undid the button on her pants, careful to keep his hands away from everything else. Then he turned around again.
Fabric rustled as Brennan presumably pulled the pants down over her hips and... More rustling. "You can turn around now. I'm under the blanket."
When he turned around, he found her sitting up in her bed with the blanket pulled up over her shoulders.
"Did that make you uncomfortable?"
"No." He swallowed.
"Because you behaved as if you'd never seen a woman's body before."
"I've seen plenty of women, Bones. That's not the point—"
"Yes, I suppose you have," she said with a thoughtful nod. "Rebecca, Dr. Saroyan—"
"Ok. I'm going to leave now so you can go to sleep. Good night, Bones." Eager to escape, he didn't wait for an answer; he just turned and walked away.
But her voice stopped him in mid-step. "Angela says I have you wrapped around my toe."
Even though he should have been used to the whiplash changes in topic that often occurred during their conversations, this one threw him off. Just his luck that booze had removed the paper-thin filter she had between her brain and her mouth. He cleared his throat. "I think she probably meant finger, Bones," he said, turning and bracing his hand against the doorframe. "But please—do me a favor and don't listen to anything Angela says about you and me."
"So you're saying she's wrong?" He glanced up from studying the carpet to see something that looked suspiciously like disappointment cross her face; he'd always hated being the cause of that particular look.
"I'm saying"—he sighed and wiped his mouth—"that you're my partner and a good friend."
"Don't think I'm not aware that you didn't answer my question, Booth." Of course she'd noticed that. Even drunk, she saw things he'd rather she didn't.
"Bones, you're drunk, tired, and there's no point in having this conversation when you're not even going to remember it tomorrow." There. Maybe that would satisfy her.
"How do you know I won't remember it?"
"Well, I don't know for sure. But you did drink a lot. I'll tell you what"—he scratched the back of his neck and wondered if he'd live to regret what he was about to say—"if you wake up tomorrow and still have...questions, ask me then."
"Are you sure you mean that?" she asked, watching him with a frown.
With her looking at him like that, Booth knew he had no choice but to tell the truth. So he paused and repeated her question silently. When he was confident he knew the answer, he spoke. "Yeah, I'm sure."
The frown smoothed out, and Booth released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "All right. Good night, Booth. You can go now."
Her dismissal pulled a smile from him. "Night, Bones."
"About what?" he said, frowning.
"Kissing you, well, it wasn't like kissing Russ."
Funny how she almost always got the last word. "Oh."
Booth couldn't help the smile that stretched his mouth as he slid a worn pair of jeans up over his legs and zipped and buttoned them. Thinking of his partner's antics the night before had that effect. Never a dull moment with Brennan, that was for sure. He'd regretfully turned down a massage from the good doctor after finding himself ass-deep in the snow outside her building courtesy of her headbutt. (He'd always known she had a hard head.) God had better give him extra points for showing that level of restraint; he deserved that much, damn it.
He'd bet she really did have good hands. All those hours she spent piecing together bone fragments had to be good for something other than identifying people. He shrugged and sighed. Too bad he'd never have firsthand knowledge.
It shouldn't have surprised him that she made such a cute drunk, but it did. With a couple drinks in her, Brennan was bright eyes, alcohol-flushed cheeks, and dangerous words falling from pretty lips. Words that burrowed into his brain and patiently laid in wait for his weaker moments—not that he had so many of those. She'd been drunk, unaware of what she was saying and doing. But he was sober—at least now. So why had her parting words bounced around in his head all night long, and why were they still there now, mocking him? Kissing you, well, it wasn't like kissing Russ.
If she'd meant to drive him insane, which, let's face it, she often did, she'd succeeded. What did her comment mean, anyway? If it wasn't like kissing her brother, what was it like? Like kissing a friend? Like kissing a stranger? Like kissing who exactly?
This, among other reasons, was exactly why he'd tried to forget: The road to hell was paved with thoughts of making out with his partner.
He'd tried to forget those seconds when her hands had wrapped around the lapels of his coat and held him in place. Did she really think he was going to run away from his one chance to live out a tiny piece of his fantasies? Actually, she clearly had no idea about his fantasies 'cause she hadn't broken any of his bones yet. And, well, not that his fantasies included Caroline watching them. Kinky, and not in a good way. Gross. No. But that's why fantasy was fantasy and reality was reality.
And reality dictated that Brennan saw him as a partner and a friend—nothing more—and that was a really good thing. Of course right now he couldn't think of a single reason why that was the case. But still.
Those memories of mistletoe—and her mouth pressed against his—had been shoved into that locked box labeled "Someday," along with a dozen other things that needed to wait, and he'd promised himself he would try not to think about them. So far he'd been successful—(ok, only kind of). Until she'd opened that crazy, ridiculous, perfect mouth of hers and dragged back into the light thoughts of the other things he now knew she could do with her mouth.
As he frowned into his closet and pushed aside yet another hanger, he realized it really shouldn't matter what he wore. Not like he was trying to impress her. Hell no. He just wanted to check in on her and maybe snicker a little at the monster hangover she mostly liked had. It was the partnerly thing to do. Not like she'd actually remember what she'd said last night. Not like she'd actually want to talk about...things—like whatever craziness Angela had filled her head with about him being wrapped her finger or toe or any other of her assorted lovely body parts. Not like he'd want to talk about those things either. Nope. 'Cause that would mean he was insane. Scared by his own thoughts, Booth hastily grabbed the next item he saw—a black sweater—and yanked it over his head.
What would it take to impress her anyway? Gritting his teeth, he shoved that thought into another locked box.
See, thinking could only lead to bad things. Very bad things. That's why Booth preferred to act.
Without bothering to gel his hair like he usually did because hello, how he looked didn't matter if he was just going to see his partner, Booth strode out of his bedroom and into his kitchen. He grabbed a couple supplies from his fridge and cabinets and dumped them in a paper bag. There was no telling what she actually had in her kitchen, one successful attempt at making orgasmic macaroni and cheese notwithstanding.
Why was the building shaking? It must be an earthquake. At least 5.0 on the Richter scale. Yes, that must be it.
No, that was statistically improbable, her brain helpfully supplied. Washington D.C. certainly wasn't a hotbed of seismic activity.
All right, so if tectonic plates grinding against each other weren't the source of the shaking, what was?
Brennan pried open an eyelid that only begrudgingly cooperated and then promptly shut it again as the sunlight blazing through her window scored her sensitive eyes. With a pained groan, she rolled onto her side, putting her back to the offending window. That's when the building really started shaking. Wincing, Brennan clutched her head. Oh, it wasn't the apartment that was shaking; it was her brain, rattling around in her cranium. A colony of gnomes with pointed hats frolicked in her head, giggling insidiously and giving her brain case the occasional jab with a miniature pickaxe.
But that couldn't be correct either because gnomes didn't exist—she hadn't seen a single paper or journal article proving their existence—and even if they did—why would they have taken up residence in her head? That hardly seemed like an appropriate habitat for them. It simply wasn't logical.
As she lay on her side with her face squashed in her pillow and wearily pondered the existence (or lack thereof) of gnomes, her doorbell rang. The shrill sound pierced her eardrums; she swore they were bleeding. If opening an eye had seemed painful, this was the equivalent of having her eyelashes plucked out one by one.
Determined to ignore the noise, she pulled the blanket over her head and waited for the destroyer of her rest to go away. She counted silently. One steamboat, two steamboats, three steamboats, four steamboats, five steamboats. No sooner had she reached the fifth steamboat, which had the unfortunate effect of conjuring distracting yet oddly enticing images of Booth and mistletoe and kissing, than the doorbell shrieked again and again and again. The musical accompaniment delighted the gnomes, who cackled and began to spin like dervishes.
Clearly whoever stood outside her door was persistent. No matter; she would dispense with them and then crawl back into her bed. Slowly, so as not to make her head spin any more than was strictly necessary, Brennan sat up and inched her legs over the edge of the mattress. Unfortunately, her foot caught in her blanket and she tumbled off the bed and onto the carpet. As carefully as she could, she stood. Goosebumps broke out over her body and she looked down to see that she was only wearing underwear. Her gaze stumbled over her room and paused when it found her maroon sweater. She frowned. Why was her sweater lying on the floor by her bedroom door? A clean, orderly environment was the sign of a clean, orderly mind; she didn't leave her clothes strewn on the floor. Without bothering to check if it it was inside out or not, she pulled the sweater over her head and flipped her hair out of the collar.
Just as Brennan reached for the doorknob, the bell screamed for what felt like the thousandth time. She yanked the door open with what little energy she currently possessed and glared at the all-too-bright-eyed man standing on the other side. "What do you want?" she whispered, tasting sandpaper as she spoke for the first time that morning. She held up a hand to shade her eyes.
"Hey, Bones. Just wanted to check on you." His cheerful tone made her clench her jaw. Booth's gaze skipped downward for a moment and then shot back up to her face as he swallowed, his laryngeal prominence jumping in his throat.
Glancing down to see what had captured his attention, she realized a significant portion of her legs was bare. Nothing indecent, of course, as the sweater provided more than adequate coverage of all the unmentionables. Good, she thought with a twinge of malice, enjoying his discomfiture. If he was going to destroy her peace, he could stand to have his Catholic sensibilities singed a hair.
But her partner, who was never caught off-balance for long, grinned and angled his head toward her legs. "Aren't you cold?"
"No," she muttered, "I'm not. Because I'm going back to bed. Goodbye." She moved to shut the door, but he caught it with his hand and stepped inside.
He closed the door behind him. "Still putting stuff on backwards, I see," he said, lips twitching. He flicked the tag on her sweater and she slapped his hand away, scowling.
"What are you implying?" she whispered back.
"Never mind," he replied, shifting the paper bag he carried to his other arm. "You look like shit, Bones." His grin widened a fraction. "I can tell you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, Little Miss Sunshine."
"Go to hell, Booth," she whispered back.
"Why do you keep whispering?"
"Because of the gnomes. They like the noise. If we're quiet"—she shot him a pointed glance—"maybe they'll stop frolicking."
His eyebrows knit in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"The gnomes in my head," she said, trying to hold onto her admittedly limited patience. "Well, they may or not may be in my head, but it certainly feels like they are. Although—"
"Did you smoke up after I left last night?"
"Smoke up what?"
Booth's expression smoothed out. "Hell of a hangover, huh?" The knowing twinkle in his eyes spoke of amusement, not sympathy.
She sniffed. "I don't know what you're talking about." Unfortunately, it was all starting to come together now that total consciousness was finally assaulting her.
"I have just the cure," he said with a nod.
"What?" she asked, dreading his answer.
She made a face and clapped her hands over her stomach. "Ugh. No. I can't eat." The mere thought of food made her stomach roil.
"Yeah, you can. And you really should. It's the best thing for a hangover. I promise."
"Don't Booth me, Bones." With another grin that filled her with the childish impulse to kick him in the shin, he leaned toward her and gave an exaggerated sniff. "You stink like booze. It's oozing out of your pores," he said, wagging his eyebrows. "Please have mercy on my nose and go shower. I'll make us some brunch."
"Why don't you ever take no for an answer?" she asked plaintively.
"Because you never really mean it."
How did Booth always manage to have a comeback ready for her? She narrowed her eyes at him and willed him to die. Science be damned. When nothing happened and he stood there as tall, handsome, and annoying as ever, she turned on her heel and tried to march down the hallway, though truthfully the march turned out to be a limp.
"Say hi to the gnomes," Booth called out, his voice warm with good-natured laughter.
Good-natured or not, he was laughing at her. Without looking back, she raised her arm and stuck out her middle finger.
His bark of laughter followed her down the hall. "In your dreams, Bones. In your dreams."