Title: Proximity (1/2)
Word Count: 1588
Timeline:Takes place after The Santa in the Slush
Spoilers: Through The Santa in the Slush.
Summary: An unexpected sight raises some unsettling issues in Brennan's mind.
Characters: Booth, Brennan
Feedback: is always appreciated. If criticizing, please be constructive.
Notes: This grew out of a ficlet of the same name in All That Lies Between Us. I've been debating posting this for a few weeks.
When Brennan peered into Angela's office, it took her eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light. A rustle and a soft laugh attracted her gaze. Her friend was seated, and Hodgins stood in front of her, his head bent. They didn't touch, but there was something undeniably intimate about the scene.
Heat flooded Brennan’s cheeks; she had no desire to intrude upon a quiet moment that had nothing to do with her. Her question could wait. As quietly as she could, she backed out of the doorway before they noticed and commented upon her presence.
Unsettled, she rushed down the hall toward her office. A hand on her shoulder startled her, and she whipped around, muscles tensed.
"Whoa, hey, Bones. Relax, it's just me." Booth stood behind her, hands raised in a gesture of surrender. But he was close--close enough that she could smell his aftershave, cologne, or whatever good-smelling concoction he had sprayed on himself. His physical proximity drew her mind back to Angela and Hodgins, and she stepped away. Had Booth always stood this close to her? If so, why hadn't she noticed it before?
His gaze danced over her face, sharpening as it lingered on her cheeks, and she knew he saw the flush. An almost effervescent sensation rose in her stomach, and her brain rushed with questions, with flashes of Angela and Hodgins, and of Booth standing outside with a brightly lit Christmas tree she hadn't asked for, and that kiss that really, truly didn't mean anything. Something was happening to her, and she didn't like it, and Booth was looking at her with a frown of concern, and she really couldn’t deal with this--whatever this was--right now.
So she did the only thing she could: she strode away from Booth, ignoring his surprised exclamation, and headed toward the ladies' bathroom--where he most assuredly wouldn't follow her.
Booth stood frozen as he watched Brennan fly past him like the fate of the Jeffersonian depended on her being elsewhere. "Bones!" he called out.
She didn't give any indication that she'd heard him. Well, except for the rapidly increasing speed of her footsteps. First she jumped when he put his hand on her shoulder, and now she was ignoring him. It had to be something big. Sighing, he took off after her.
Of course. Had to be the bathroom. Just his luck. He put his ear against the door and then knocked. No answer. Not that he really expected one. He knocked again and then pushed the door open just a crack. "Bones?" he said in a semi-whisper. "If you don't come out here and tell me what's going on, I'm coming in after you."
"You wouldn't dare," she replied.
"Watch me." Straightening, he looked down at his watch. "You've got one minute."
With ten seconds left, he smoothed a hand over his tie and took a deep breath. Clearly it was too much to expect that she’d make it easy for him just this one time and come out herself.
Time was up; he was going in.
God, he really hoped no one else was in there. When did following women into the bathroom become part of his job description? Life used to be so much simpler before this crazy (gorgeous, infuriating) woman became his partner. Maybe he was in this situation because he hadn’t made it to church in a couple weeks. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed silently with a quick upward glance.
He poked the door with just the tips of his fingers, like it might bite him. It swung open with a cheerful creak. Great. Now the bathroom door was laughing at him.
Booth stepped inside, angling his head down to check for shoes under the stall doors. Only one pair. Good. His shoulders relaxed a fraction. "Bones, are you ok?"
"Go away, Booth. I'm fine." If he weren’t so worried about her, he would have laughed at the petulance in her voice.
"If you're fine, why are you hiding in the bathroom?"
"I am not hiding."
"No? What exactly would you call this?"
Silence. "I needed room."
"Room to do what, Bones? Can we please cut to the chase here? I can’t spend all day in the women’s bathroom, even if it is way nicer than the men’s." It really was much nicer than the men’s bathroom. The sinks and the mirrors gleamed, and what looked like a little air freshener thingy clung to the wall.
“That’s not my problem. I didn’t ask you to follow me in here.”
“Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Like I was just going to stand there while you ignored me and ran into the bathroom like you’d just discovered a mass grave in here.” A muffled sniff echoed through the bathroom, setting Booth's teeth on edge. "Are you crying?"
"No." Another sniff.
Sighing, he scrubbed both his hands over his face. "This is ridiculous. Will you please come out here so I don't have to talk to the door? Whatever it is, we'll handle it."
The lock clicked and the hinges creaked as the stall door slowly opened. Brennan stepped out, gaze turned downward.
Taking in her puffy, pink nose and red-rimmed eyes, Booth automatically moved in and grasped Brennan's shoulders, feeling the worry tumble over into panic. "Why are you crying? Is something wrong with Russ? Did something happen with your dad?"
"What? No.” She yanked herself free of his grasp, eyes narrowed and mouth pinched. "These are tears of anger, not sadness."
"Ok," he said, scratching his jaw. His other hand drifted to his hip. At least now he knew that she was pissed. They were making progress—kind of. "So who are you mad at?"
"You. And Caroline--"
"Me? What did I do?" He quickly scanned his memory for anything he might recently have done to offend her but came up empty. He hadn’t tried to sneak a peek at her latest manuscript. He hadn’t touched any of her lab equipment. He hadn’t let Zack run off to another war zone. He’d even let her drive recently. Once. Maybe?"This is your fault,” she said, jabbing her index finger at him and making him very glad it was nowhere near his eye.
"My fault? I just got here. I haven't even had time to get on your nerves yet." This could get out of control pretty fast. What would he do if she started refusing to go out in the field again?
"You're... You're such a man! Why do you always stand so close to me? People need space. I need space." Brennan gestured wildly, and the instinct for self-preservation forced Booth back a couple inches. "Why was Caroline feeling puckish? I was perfectly happy without her puckishness and voyeuristic tendencies and... Can't you smell like decaying flesh? That way I wouldn't notice you and... You push and you push and you make me so angry!"
She was talking way too fast for him to really digest anything she was saying, but she was clearly pissed off, and man was he glad she didn't have a gun right now. "Bones," he said, shifting nervously, "are you... I mean, do you have...PMS?" The last word came out as a squeak. Booth cleared his throat, already regretting asking the question as Brennan’s eyes narrowed and her cheeks flushed a violent shade of red that could only mean he was in deep shit.
"PMS? I'll show you PMS." Before he had time to react, Brennan snatched a roll of toilet paper off the sink and lobbed it at his head. "Pompous"--she threw another roll, but it missed him and landed on the tiled floor, where it started to unwind--"arrogant--"
"Handsome?" he added helpfully, holding his arms up as a shield.
"--man!" She tossed one last roll at him before crossing her arms over her chest.
He was laughing, she was furious, and what did he have to lose anyway? "Bones, I've already had to arrest you once; do you really want me to arrest you now for assaulting a federal officer?"
"You'd like that, wouldn't you--putting me in handcuffs?" A knowing smile kicked up the corners of Brennan's mouth and Booth swallowed; he’d walked right into that one.
Ok, so he'd thought about it. Only once or twice, though. And only after that weird case with the people pretending to be horses. What the hell was that about, anyway? He still didn't get it. But the cuffs, well, maybe... “Whoa. No. Definitely not. ‘Cause that would just be”—the words stilled as Brennan stepped closer—“wrong.”
Brennan’s smile disappeared and her expression turned serious. He braced himself as he sensed the beginning of another mood swing. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong, Booth. What’s wrong is you confusing things. What’s wrong is you bringing me—us—that tree.”
“Is that what this is about? I thought you liked that tree.”
“Whether I liked it or not is beside the point, Booth. What I want to know is why you gave it to me.”
“Don’t ‘Bones’ me. You followed me in here; you deserve whatever you get.” She arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. “So tell me, Booth, why did you bring me that tree?”
Wonderful; they were going to have this conversation in the ladies’ bathroom. Blinking, Booth made a mental note to go to church next Sunday.
Maybe her having a gun wouldn’t have been so bad after all.Click here for Ch. 2