Title: Unwell (8/9)
Chapter Title: I'm standing here until you make me move.
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.
Timeline: This takes place after Season 3, Episode 4 (The Secret in the Soil). Some spoilers for that ep.
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Anxiety turned his stomach to lead as he pictured her sitting across the table from him wearing that calm, slightly bemused expression while he risked everything. He silently cursed himself for caring so much. Damn it, he didn't want to lose the closest thing he had to a best friend.
Sighing deeply, he dropped his head back and scrubbed a hand over his dry, tired eyes. Getting at the truth--that was his job. Hers, too. The truth mattered to Brennan; even when it was ugly or painful, she reached for it with both hands.
Sometimes not knowing hurt worse than finally, finally knowing. He'd seen it so many times--relief mixed in with the shock and the grief--when he told one more person his mother, father, wife, son, daughter would never come home again. Some days that felt like the worst part of his job. Some days it felt like the best. But every day he was aware it was part of his job.
All those years she'd spent wondering why her parents had left, wondering if they were dead or alive, wondering if they cared about her and her brother. Then she'd handed him the file that carried the shards of the girl she'd once been--and asked for his help. He understood what it had cost her to do that.
They weren't so different, under the surface. He never liked asking for help either--for the same reason he preferred not to sit with his back to a door.
So slowly he hadn't even realized it was happening at first, she handed him piece after jagged piece of herself, implicitly trusting him not to cut her with them. And despite his fear, he handed her the blade of Kosovo and left his back exposed. When he turned, she returned it to him sheathed, her gaze clear and unshadowed by judgment or disgust.
Then came the day he found Christine Brennan staring out at him from the Angelator, and her daughter staring at an old belt buckle, resignation carved into the hollows beneath her misty eyes.
My name is Brennan. I'm Doctor... I'm Dr. Temperance Brennan.
He watched her mouth tremble with the weight of the lies and the half-truths and all the answers she so desperately wanted but might never have. Turning her face into his neck, she soaked his t-shirt with her tears, her breath hot and shuddering against his skin.
That was as close as she ever came to saying please.
The truth could have broken her, but it hadn't. She'd broken down, but she hadn't broken. Not when it came to her mother. Not when it came to her brother. Not when it came to her father.
Tonight he had told her the truth as he saw it; the rest lay in her hands. He didn't doubt her courage when it came to facing down physical threats. He just hoped, for both their sakes, that she could be as brave when the risks weren't bruises and broken bones.
Still, maybe it wasn't fair to expect her to reach for a truth even he had had difficulty accepting. Denial was a warm, comfortable place. He realized now that whether he accepted his feelings or not, they existed. What he felt for her, the things he wanted from her and for her, what he saw in her eyes when he looked at her--they all existed before he stumbled across her note, even though he hadn't been aware of them--and they would continue to exist regardless of her answer.
Exhausted by his thoughts, Booth switched off the TV, turned off the single light that still burned in the living room, and dragged himself down the hall. Unable to stop himself, he closed his eyes and carefully flattened his palm against Brennan's bedroom door. Shaking his head at his own idiotic behavior, he finally stepped back from the door and quietly retreated to the guest room.
The next morning, as Booth was nursing his second cup of coffee in an effort to feel more like a human being and less like roadkill, Brennan joined him on the couch. "Morning, Bones."
"Good morning, Booth." Her gaze swept over his face and paused at his hair, which he knew was a little worse for the wear after he'd battled his pillow for supremacy most of the night. Unfortunately, the pillow had come out on top. Not that he'd tell Brennan that.
"Would you quit staring at me like that?" he said, frowning and peering at her over the top of The Washington Post's sports section.
"Did you sleep well?" she asked, her gaze flickering back to his hair.
"Actually," he said, narrowing his eyes, "I slept like shit." Scowling, he set down his coffee mug and brushed a hand through his hair.
Instantly, he sat up straighter. "Is your fever back? Are you feeling worse? I can--"
"Shh," she said, clapping a hand over his mouth. "That's not it." She removed her hand from his mouth. "I had trouble sleeping because, well, you were in the next room, and I couldn't stop thinking about our conversation."
He nodded and relaxed against the back of the couch. "Oh. I'm glad," he said, gratified by her honesty and relieved that he wasn't the only one who'd been too preoccupied to sleep. "Not that you couldn't sleep," he quickly added, "but that you were thinking about what I said." And hopefully about me.
"Yes," she said, tucking her legs beneath her and shooting him a sidelong glance.
"Yes, what?" he asked, wondering if he'd lost the thread of their conversation.
"Yes, I have thought about kissing you." Her lips curved in a small smile, and despite the abrupt change in topic, he nearly grinned back.
How often? When? Where? Are we talking naked kissing? "Yeah?" Only sheer force of will helped him keep his tone casual. She didn't need to know that inside he was pumping his fist in celebration and doing his patented Seeley Booth victory dance. Some things were private.
"Mmhm," she murmured.
He didn't see any point in even pretending to read the paper now, so he tossed it on the empty spot next to him. "So now what?" he asked, hoping he didn't sound too eager.
"I've told you before that I'm an empiricist. That means I believe in what I can measure, see--"
"Bones, I'm not a complete moron," he said, interrupting her mid-sentence, "I know what an empiricist--" The words were cut off as Brennan leaned in. With one warm hand on his cheek and the other braced on his shoulder, she kissed him. Her lips were even softer than he'd imagined, (and God, had he imagined), and though she kept the kiss chaste and close-mouthed, when he inhaled he smelled minty toothpaste and rumpled, just-out-of-bed Bones. It didn't take more than a second for the message to flash from his brain downward. He wrapped an arm around her to pull her closer, but by then it was already over.
"--touch and taste," she said, completing her sentence, clearly winded because she couldn't breathe through her nose.
Booth opened his eyes to see her sitting back on her heels, one hand still resting on his shoulder.
"What the hell was that?" he asked, covering her hand with his and staring at her mouth.
"Data collection." Brennan licked her bottom lip and Booth squeezed her hand, wanting nothing more than to tug her onto his lap for a second kiss. "I needed more data before I made my decision. And now you have to go."
"What?" he asked, blinking rapidly as he struggled to focus on what she was saying instead of the way her mouth moved.
"You've given me a lot to think about, Booth," she said, slipping her hand out from underneath his, "and now I need some space to think."
"But you're still sick," he protested. "I don't want to leave you here by yourself. You know, it's not like I'm pressuring you for an answer right this minute."
"I know that," she said, smiling slightly. "And I appreciate your help. But Angela called to confirm our brunch date, and when she heard I was sick, she insisted on coming over."
He didn't want to go; an irrational part of him worried that once he left her, the things they'd both revealed and the fragile understanding he believed they shared, would pop like a soap bubble. But he knew she was right: she needed time and space to think and come to a decision they could hopefully both live with. "I'd be happy to give you a little more data before I go," he said, giving her a good-natured leer as he took in her flushed cheeks.
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary at this time," she said dryly, arching one eyebrow. It was only a small consolation, but at least she still looked as stunned as he felt.
"Do you promise to call me if you need anything?" he asked, dipping his head to look directly into her eyes. Giving in to the urge to touch her, Booth brushed a strand of hair off her shoulder and felt her shiver. No matter what she said, he knew there was something beyond friendship between them.
"I promise," she said with a nod. "But I'm sure I'll be fine."
"Ok. Do you want some breakfast before I go?" he said, feeling strangely reluctant to leave.
"Geez, Bones, you're a terrible host," he complained, rising from the couch.
Smiling, she folded her arms over her chest. "I don't recall inviting you over."
"True enough, Bones. But admit it--it wasn't so bad having me around, was it?"
She didn't fire back an immediate response like he expected she would. Instead, she glanced up at him, a thoughtful expression crossing her face. "Surprisingly, no." Then her eyes lit suspiciously, and he almost bent to kiss her again. "I especially enjoyed storytime."
He snorted. "Pervert."
"Come here, and I'll show you how wrong you are," he said, smiling slowly.
"Go," she commanded, waving him away and ignoring his comment.
"Fine," he said with a shrug, walking away. "Your loss," he called out over his shoulder.
The question in her voice stopped him, turned him back around.
"Did you mean it?" she asked, her eyes serious.
"Did I mean what, Bones?"
"Everything you said last night."
It was a simple question, but there was an underlying note of vulnerability in her voice that squeezed his heart and made him wish he could give her back every hug, every kind word, every normal family moment she'd missed out on during her years in the system.
But he couldn't.
So instead he settled for making sure all traces of laughter were gone from his face before he answered. "Every word, Bones," he said finally. "I meant every single word."
With his clothes, toothbrush, razor, and shaving cream stowed in his duffel bag, he could no longer delay leaving. He found Brennan still sitting in the living room, reading the newspaper. "I guess I'll head out now," he said, stuffing his free hand into his pocket. Change your mind; ask me to stay.
She rose and came toward him, stopping a few inches away. "I hate saying thank you."
"This I know," he said, unable to resist smirking.
"But I also know that I am thankful--for our friendship, that is." Brennan cleared her throat and ducked her head, looking so shy and so sweet that it was all he could to keep from pulling her into his arms.
"Me too," he said, and as much as he meant it, he really, really hoped he wouldn't have to hear one of those "Let's just be friends" speeches from her whenever she made her decision.
"It's important to me that you know that," she said, looking up from the floor. "No matter if we remain partners and friends or become something...else."
"There's just one more thing, Booth." She edged toward the door, her stiff posture making him frown. "Unless we have a case, don't call me." She tucked her hair back behind her ear. "I need a few days. I'll call you."
Upon hearing those words, he tried to keep the worry out of his face, but he must have failed miserably because she quickly added, "Soon."
"All right, Bones. Take care of yourself. Drink lots of fluids, sleep--"
With a groan, she yanked open the front door and shoved him through it. "I have managed to survive thirty years without your medical advice, Booth."
"That's just dumb luck," he shot back, plastering a fake smile on his face to cover his discomfort.
Of course, given his terrible luck, Angela showed up just then. "Booth"--her gaze shot to the duffel bag slung over his shoulder and her eyes widened--"what are you doing here?" She turned to look at Brennan. "Bren, what's going on?"
"Hey, Angela," he said with a nod. He definitely wasn't in the mood for an Angela inquisition.
"Bones, be good," he said, backing away so he could see her face for just one more second. Her gaze lifted to his, and she smiled before stepping back into her apartment.
Finally he turned away, forcing his feet to move. "But I just got here," he heard Angela complain from behind him. He walked faster.
To be continued...
A/N: I want to say something funny, intelligent, or witty here, but my brain is empty, so I'll just settle for sincerity. I am completely in love with Booth and Brennan. (Well, as much as you can be in love with fictional characters.) ;) Their banter is a thing of beauty, and yes, I think they have strong physical chemistry. But it's the understanding, trust, and empathy they have for each other that gets me every time. Life is so fragile; they understand that.
And I am totally rambling, so I'm going to be quiet now. I hope you found something you enjoyed in this chapter.