Most recent review of The When and the How: A Bone to Pick: Wow, I have to say you have an AMAZING story going here… The issues addressed are REAL and I can imagine would be problematic for our duo. I love the support they give one another when the other is down, it does seem strange that this has all happened withing a week, but I think it has festered for long enough that it is time to let it out as it is necessary for a healthy long relationship that B&B deserve. Keep up the wonderful work and Please, please, please update soon. ~ AFairy88
Chapter 189 That’s Bullshit!
(Please bear with me while I slowly populate shesgotmoxiedotnet with chapters from The When and the How: A Bone to Pick. This chapter, ‘A Soft Place to Fall’ follows S6, but predates anyone knowing Brennan and Booth have
decided to be together romantically).
Brennan and Booth drive separately to the Hoover building, planning to arrive five minutes apart. Though they frequently ride together, this afternoon they prefer it appear that this is the first time they’ll be seeing each other since Saturday afternoon when Booth delivered Brennan to her apartment straight from the airport.
Avoiding questions that require a direct lie is the name of the game as far as Brennan is concerned. If Sweets asks if they were together today, she knows her face will betray her memories of having awakened this morning in Parker’s bed, then being treated to an outrageous rendition of ‘Old Time Rock ‘N Roll’ by both Parker and Booth clad in nothing more than their tightie whities, Oxford cloths, and black sunglasses. Following that joyous memory, which she fortuitously had the brilliant idea of photographing, is a memory of having Booth wrapped around her as he rocked her from side to side while crooning Bob Segar’s ‘We’ve Got Tonight’. That thought alone is enough to inspire goose bumps to erupt up and down her extremities. And finally, there’s the enjoyable foray into the world of Cosmo Girl-inspired flirtation which segued into a breathtaking session of making out like desperate teenagers, then falling asleep in each others’ arms on Brennan’s bed. No, better not to take any chances. Driving separately it is.
“Why are we meeting with him again?” Booth had inquired of Brennan when they awoke from their nap, neither of them wanting to get up and go anywhere. “Let’s call and reschedule,” he’d said, tightening his arms around her and nuzzling her neck from his cozy position wrapped around her body like a full-length mink coat on a breezy winter day.
“Protocol requires all those present at the assassination of Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray undergo an assessment by a board certified grief counselor or degreed practicing psychiatrist. The Jeffersonian further prohibits employees who have experiencing such a direct trauma while on the job from returning to full duty without the written approval by said professional. Everyone else has gone through it, Booth. Apparently Dr. Hodgins didn’t pass the first time,” she’d said, shifting onto her back so she could look up into his eyes, touch his face, run her fingers through his hair, and kiss him one more time before they had to leave their cocoon. “And since we have a case to work and we need to leave again tomorrow, we can’t reschedule,” she’d explained.
“Well, hell,” he’d replied, leaning onto her and covering her clavicles, chest, and neck with raspberries, causing her to scream with laughter and to wiggle around trying to get away. Any other time, she would have ‘fought’ back. But today, they are on a schedule. Eventually, she managed to wriggle free and slide off the bed. “Just think,” he yelled toward her disappearing form as she ran into the bathroom to splash water on her face and drag a brush through her hair. “Next Sunday we can do this again, except we’ll be buck-freaking-naked!”
“Well, you better take your vitamins, Booth, because I plan to give it right back to you.”
“Bring it, baby!” He’d replied, chucking while popping his head in the bathroom door to buss her on the cheek and smack her on the ass before leaving for the Hoover.
When Booth gets to the Hoover ahead of Brennan, he casually calls Sweets on his cell from the lobby.
“Sweets! Whose stupid idea was it to meet on a Sunday afternoon?”
“Hello, Agent Booth. I’m fine. Thank you for asking,” he says sarcastically. “We didn’t have much of a choice considering the demands of this new case. Are you here yet?”
“Getting on the elevator. Is Bones there yet?”
“She didn’t come with you?”
“Nope. I’ve got plans afterward,” he says. This is actually true. He’s meeting Hanson and Square Chicken for drinks later. “Bones wants to get a head start on her notes for tomorrow morning’s meeting. She should be here any minute, though” he says, hanging up as he exits the elevator on Sweets’ floor and strolls into his office. He sets the phone on the coffee table and takes off his army green jacket before planting himself on the loveseat across from Sweets’ chair.
The two men stare at each other, expressionless, for a moment. Before either says anything, Booth’s phone rings.
“Bones! Where are you?” Booth does an effective job of sounding slightly annoyed.
“I’m on my way up. How’s it going? Does he suspect anything?” She whispers even though Sweets can’t hear her.
“I just got here, fine, and of course not,” he says cryptically, chuckling into his cell. “We can’t start without you. Pick up the pace, will ya? I’ve got places to see, people to do.” He smiles at Sweets. Sweets returns a perfunctory smile.
“Booth, relax. Why are you speaking so loudly? I’m not deaf. Forced casualness will occur as the opposite,” she warns him. “Getting in the elevator now. It will be nice to see you for the first time since you dropped me at my apartment yesterday afternoon.”
“Relax, I’m a pro. You, however, should take your own advice. See you soon -”
“I’m completely naked under my clothes,” she says, giggling.
Booth coughs. “Heh. Now, how is that supposed to help me here?” he mumbles into the phone, standing and facing the door.
“You said you work best under pressure, Agent Sexy Booth.”
“Not that kind of pressure,” he says, quickly walking out of Sweets’ office and into the hall. He faces toward the elevator as if he expects her to appear any moment. This way Sweets can’t hear him. “Cut that out, or I’ll show you some real pressure, and I mean, literal pressure,” he says under his breath.
“How is that supposed to discourage me? That sounds like something I’m fairly certain I would enjoy. You’re not at all very good at this sex talk black mail thing,” she chuffs.
Walking back into Sweets’ office, Booth raises his voice back to its regular volume. “Well, put the pedal to the metal and get your butt in here,” he says, rolling his eyes at Sweets as he hangs up the phone.
“She’s on her way up. Say, how long do you think this is going to take?” He looks at his watch. He’s acutely aware that subterfuge is not one of Brennan’s strong suits – so the shorter this meeting is, the better. “I’m meeting some people at Founding Fathers around seven.”
Before Sweets can reply, Booth continues.
“Hey, I’m gonna run up to my office for a minute,” he says. Booth leaves without waiting for a response. He might as well grab anything he might need for the next couple of days. Booth sprints toward the stairwell and takes the steps three at a time.
“Go right ahead,” mumbles Sweets to his empty office. “Take all the time you need, Special Agent Seeley Booth. I’ll just sit here. By myself.” Sweets plops into his shrink seat across from the loveseat and focuses on straightening his tie. “Why the hell did I put a tie on today?” He says to the room, annoyed.
Two minutes after Booth exits Sweets’ office, the phone Booth left on Sweet’s coffee table begins to ring. Recognizing the distinctive Cyndi Lauper ring tone, Sweets knows its gotta be Brennan, so Sweets answers it.
“Dr. Brennan, this is Dr. Sweets. Are you having difficulty getting into the building? The doors should be unlocked.”
“No difficulties, I assure you. However, I’ve returned to my car to retrieve a copy of the Aleesha Grimes/Banty Solicious file. I would appreciate it if you’d review it prior to tomorrow morning’s meeting at the Jeffersonian. I will be up presently.”
“Not a problem, Dr. Brennan.”
She pauses. “Where’s Booth?”
“He ran upstairs to his office. He’ll most likely beat you back here. Is there a problem?”
“Why would you think there’s a problem?”
“No reason. I didn’t expect you to call, that’s all.”
“Well, I wanted to assure you that I’m not delayed because I’ve fallen … in a hole,” she says, dragging out the last four words dramatically. She gets no response. “Dr. Sweets? Are you still there? I said, I haven’t fallen . . . in a hole. It’s a joke. Humorous, isn’t it? Because if I had actually fallen in a hole, I would most definitely be late … I just want to assure you that that’s not the case. Get it?” He can tell by the sound of her inflection that she’s smiling expectantly.
“Dr. Brennan, I- I don’t know what to say,” he says, hesitantly. He silently shakes his head as he holds the phone away from his ear and looks at it as if he doesn’t recognize the technology. “I guess I’m not used to your newly developed frivolity.”
“That wasn’t exactly an acknowledgment of my successful use of jocularity,” she says, disappointed. “Regardless, I will be there momentarily.” They hang up.
“That was interesting,” he says to the now silent phone cradled in his palm.
As he’s staring at the display, a candid photo appears. It’s Booth with Parker nestled between his legs as they sit atop a picnic table on a sunny afternoon. As he admires the obvious affection between Agent Booth and his son, he watches as the image fades out and is replaced by another photo. This one is of Dr. Brennan sleeping, her hair splayed out luxuriously across a pillow. He recognizes the oversized FBI tee shirt she’s wearing. It’s one of Booth’s. He also notes the masculine color scheme of the blankets and sheets covering the bed in which she lies.
Sweets’ eyes snap up to meet Booth’s when he senses the agent’s presence back in the room. Sweets’ mouth is hanging open, his eyes as big as silver dollars, his eyebrows reaching half way up his pale forehead toward the fringe of his curly dark locks.
“What are you doing with my phone, Sweets?” Booth queries accusingly. He interprets Sweets’ reaction as one of embarrassment at being caught. Booth shoots Sweets a reproachful smirk.
“I think the more interesting question, Agent Booth, is what you are doing with a photo of Dr. Brennan, asleep, no less, on your cell phone? One might even assume this photo was taken without her permission,” he parries, thrusting the cell, screen forward, toward Booth. Booth grabs it from Sweets, his smirk replaced by a defensive scowl in an attempt to mask his own embarrassment. Brennan hasn’t even made it into the office and already Booth has screwed things up for her. Shit. Shit. Shit, he thinks, trying to appear calm, but becoming aware of a wisp of sweat over his upper lip.
“Even more interesting than that,” Sweets sputters, sounding betrayed, “is why she’s wearing your clothes and sleeping in what I can only assume is your bed?” Booth paces, buying time, his pulse rising with his stress level. He ends up standing beside Sweets’ desk. Sweets turns as Booth moves, watching him closely.
“What is this, some sick version of ‘Goldilocks And The Three Bears? Maybe she’s scandalously eaten my oatmeal too. Oh my!” Booth finally counters snarkily, giving Sweets the mother of a stink eye.
Sweets ignores Booth’s sarcasm without flinching. He’s used to it by now.
“What?” Booth continues, evasively. “Do I have to have your permission to have a photo on my phone?” Booth chuckles nervously, shooting Sweets a glare that says, ‘what the hell business is it of yours?’
Sweets’ returned glare conveys, ‘it’s totally the hell my business, I’m your shrink, Agent double-oh-ass-hat!
“I’m not falling for that, Agent Booth. Don’t shift the focus onto me,” he parries. “This isn’t about having a photo on your phone. And that’s just not any photo. It’s Dr. Brennan. Without her clothes on!”
At this, Booth feels his blood rushing to his neck and ears. The way Sweets put it makes it sound really creepy. It’s beginning to really piss Booth off. This is why you keep things private, because explaining everything to an outsider just screws it all up and invites comments and opinions, neither of which I’m interested in, he thinks. This is exactly why Brennan requested we keep this to ourselves!
As fate would have it, this is how Brennan finds them. Staring at each other from across the office in a posture that suggests a testosterone-influenced pissing contest.
“Dr. Sweets. Booth. Sorry that took me so long,” she says casually. She rounds the loveseat and sits down. “What’s going on?” She looks from one to the other, quizzically. The men don’t move except to turn toward her. Feeling awkward being the only one sitting, she stands. “Are you arguing? I just talked to you two minutes ago, Sweets. What the hell can happened in two minutes?”
Booth rolls his eyes and mouths a regretful, ‘I’m sorry,’ behind Sweets’ back.
Sweets sits down on the edge of his chair. Booth forces himself to adopt a relaxed posture and hesitantly joins the other two around the coffee table. She’s going to kill me, he’s thinking,please don’t kill me.
“Sweets was just, ah, admiring your photo on my cell,” Booth explains, chuckling awkwardly. “I didn’t offer it, I was upstairs -”
“I know,” she says, sitting down. “He answered when I called you just now,” she says to Booth nonchalantly.
“Dr. Brennan. There is a photo of you on Booth’s phone,” Sweets states as if tattling on the neighbor boy who spray painted ‘Brittany is a whore’ on Brittany’s parents’ mailbox.
“I’m well aware of that, Dr. Sweets. It’s quite flattering, the photo, don’t you think?” Brennan reaches out toward Booth. “Let me see it again,” she says.
Booth, dumbstruck, scrolls to the photo and hands her the phone. “Sit,” she commands, shooting him a ‘what’s gotten into you’ expression.
“Yes,” she says, smiling down at the image of herself, remembering their discussion about this very image last night. Keep the conversation non-emotional, focused on facts, any facts That will help me maintain the appearance that there is nothing to hide, she thinks. “I photograph well. It’s widely acknowledge I am quite attractive, even by mathematical standards.” She gives Booth a disarming, yet nervous, and exaggeratingly happy smile as she hands the phone back to Booth. Her intent was meant to calm him, but does the opposite. It makes his heart skip a beat. He flushes and looks down, returning his cell to his pocket.
“Uh, some cultures still believe a photo can imprison a person’s soul within its amalgam of polyester, celluloid, salts and gelatin,” she states, regaining her composure quickly. “Some small Mayan communities in Chiapas hold the belief that an infant’s soul is not fully corporeally attached. As such, it is susceptible to having some of its thirteen parts captured by photography making it difficult for the soul to return to the body.” She scoots back in her seat attempting to appear as if nothing unusual had just transpired. Her demeanor begs, ‘lets move on to the next topic!’
Booth is impressed at her composure. And relieved, but his heart is still pounding. This is the first time they’ve been together and unable to touch or even look at each other without being observed. He’s itching to put his arm around her.
“Dr. Brennan?” Sweets regards her expectantly.
“Yes, Dr. Sweets?” She raises her eyebrows innocently. I have nothing to hide, she thinks Nothing to hide. I am exuding confidence. I am in love with the man sitting next to me and I am going to successfully hide it from Sweets. I will not touch Booth, no matter how badly I want to. I am the definition of control.
“Isn’t that Booth’s tee shirt you’re wearing?” Brennan winces at this question and looks down at her shirt. She opens her mouth to object to what she thinks is an obvious error, but is cut off by Sweets’ next question. “In the photo, Dr. Brennan. And … is that possibly Booth’s bed you’re lying in? Am I the only one here who finds this curious?” He looks expectantly from Brennan to Booth and back.
“Yes, you are, because you are the only one present who is unaware of the circumstances surrounding the taking of that photo. I was at Booth’s house without any pajamas, so I borrowed one of his tee shirts,” she explains as if that should clear everything up. Her explanation is met with a blank stare from Sweets.
“And I didn’t take the photo, Parker did,” says Booth, leaning back himself, slipping the cell into his back pocket.
“Of you? In Booth’s bed?” Sweets stares blankly at Brennan, then turns his attention to Booth. “Of her? In your bed?”
“I know. I’m against Parker seeing anyone in my bed –”
“He’s a little too protective—” Brennan interjects, leaning her head to the side toward Booth, but keeping her eyes on Sweets. She shrugs to emphasize her point.
“She’s a little too liberal –” Booth leans his head in her direction, speaking toward Sweets.
Sweets is watching the volley and wondering if he’s fallen through a wormhole and entered an alternate universe. He shakes his head as if to clear it.
“It’s the way the world is, kids are smarter than we give them credit for being, Booth,” Brennan continues self-assuredly, glancing quickly at Booth, then back to Sweets.
“Well, when you have a kid,” explains Booth sagely, leaning his head sideways toward her again, “you can decide how you want them to be raised.” He says this still not looking directly at her.
Sweets is sitting on the edge of his seat, mute, but he’s now slouched toward the back of it, staring at the ceiling, his mouth hanging open, a dazed expression permanently secured to his face.
Unable to resist the opportunity, Booth and Brennan steal a glance at each other for a moment, both of them recalling their discussion earlier about the possibility of having a child. They exchange a hint of a smile with only their eyes, before returning their attention to Sweets.
Confident they are going to pull this thing off without suffering repercussions, Booth relaxes and drapes his arm across the top of the loveseat behind Brennan. He doesn’t touch her, but there’s the suggestion of connection, or ownership, and intimacy. For a moment, Brennan stops breathing, but she doesn’t dare look over at Booth, or call attention to what he’s just done. All of a sudden, it hits Booth that he’s never done this before in front of Sweets and shouldn’t be doing it now, not if he intends to maintain their current front. He leans forward and performs a reverse ‘movie-date-stretch-that-turns-into-a-grope’ move. As he leans back, he casually intertwines his fingers in his own lap and begins rotating his thumbs around each other as if bored.
Surprisingly, Sweets doesn’t catch any of this. Not consciously, at least.
Brennan crosses her arms and thrusts her hands into her armpits to keep herself from touching Booth or reaching over and sliding her fingers between his. Not being able to creates that familiar tightening sensation in her chest akin to panic. Recognizing the signs immediately, Brennan quietly practices her calming techniques and breathes through it.
Sweets remains oblivious to the mounting tension between Brennan and Booth.
“Anyway, her being in my bed was okay,” Booth explains, affecting a nonchalant attitude, continuing with the narrative about the sleeping Brennan photo.
“How was that okay, Agent booth?” Sweets blurts, finally looking over at him. “I mean, what is going on here? And why is it okay that this happened in front of … Parker took the photo?” Sweets’ voice is merely a squeak at this point and his face has gone pale.
“Are you feeling alright, Dr. Sweets? You look a bit jaundiced, almost fluorescent green,” says Brennan. “You might want to see someone about this. It could be your liver.”
Sweets looks at her incredulous. Am I the only one here who can see that the emperor has no clothes? He wonders.
“People! This is completely inappropriate.” He tosses his hands into the air in frustration, letting them fall back down, limp onto the arm rests of his chair.
“Sweets, I wasn’t there!” Booth insists, crossing his arms so he doesn’t reach toward Brennan again.
“So,” he sighs, exasperatedly, “how did Parker take this photo and is Rebecca aware of this?”
“With my cell phone, obviously, Dr. Sweets, and yes, Rebecca is the one we did it for,” cries Brennan.
“What? Parker took a photo of you in Booth’s bed wearing Booth’s tee shirt,” Sweets squeaks, then clears his throat. “For Rebecca?” Shaking his head as if doing so will snap him back to reality, he looks around the office for something that he knows is not there. “I knew I should have installed a liquor cabinet in this office when I had the chance!” He mumbles.
“No, don’t be absurd, Dr. Sweets! Rebecca is the reason Parker was at Booth’s apartment with me,” she says, as if this should be obvious and not at all out of the ordinary.
“I actually had nothing to do with this,” Booth shrugs. “I was an afterthought. I didn’t enter the picture until after the photo had been taken,” explains Booth, raising his palms, denying any culpability.
“You’re not in the picture, Booth,” says Brennan, looking at him askance. “Let me see that again.”
“No – I mean I didn’t even know any of this was going on until you called me – ” Booth turns toward Sweets. “She called me in Philadelphia. I was in Philadelphia –”
“Got it,” says Sweets, trying to follow the bizarre order of events. He crosses his arms and begins to pull on his red lower lip.
“I found out they were together after she’d already picked him up and the two of them were at my house. I didn’t have anything to do with the photo either,” he says shrugging and glancing out the window as if this isn’t even his conversation.
“It’s on your phone, Agent Booth!” Sweets is exasperated. In his state of utter confusion, he’s only processing half of what he’s being told.
“Listen carefully,” says Booth, leaning forward, focusing a penetrating look at Sweets. “Rebecca and I had nothing to do with this, Sweets. The photo at least.”
“That’s your tee shirt, Booth! And your bed, right?”
“And I can explain that,” says Brennan calmly. She’s handling this like a pro, thinks Booth. Impressive. Scary!
They begin to explain, talking over each other, until Sweets calls a halt to their unintelligible voices.
“Stop! Okay? Now, back up,” says Sweets, raising his hands in resignation, holding the two of them at bay. “Lets go from the beginning. Please, and only one person at a time. I’m getting a migrane.” Sweets rises and goes to his desk to root through a drawer looking for his bottle of Tylenol®. All he finds is a bottle of Tums®. Shrugging, he pops the cap and tosses a handful of the pastel tablets into his mouth, chewing without the assistance of a glass of water to wash it down.
Brennan begins. “I took him, Booth, to the airport,” she says, gesturing toward her partner.
“I’d ordered a television set, but there was a mix-up.”
“At the airport? Why would you order a television at the airport?” Sweets is already perplexed by the nonlinear turn this is taking so early in the retelling.
“Simmer down and just listen, Sweets!” It’s Booth speaking again. “This will go a lot more smoothly if you just listen. Believe me, it will all make sense if you just … listen.” Booth whispers that last word, and pauses to gather his thoughts. “Almost two months ago, I ordered a 65 inch Panasonic TC-PVT30 with 3D glasses. After three delivery screw-ups and lots of negotiating, the Plasma World people agreed to deliver it that very night.”
“Is that the one with the connective dongle?” Sweets asks as if reading their minds, a twinkle in his eye for the first time all night. Booth nods and flashes a big toothy grin.
“That’s hella wicked,” he says in awe. “Did I mention I got my hands on a 1941 copy of ‘Green Lantern’. It’s the All-American Comics original,” brags sweets, in a hushed voice.
“Get the hell out! How much it put you back?” Booth’s eyes bug out.
Sweets tells him.
“You lucky bastard. Where is it?” Booth grins conspiratorially and looks around the office.
“Anyway …” says Brennan, clearing her throat. “After they hung up, Booth and the Plasma World people, Booth realized he was going to be gone when they would be delivering the television … with the dongle …” she barely stifles a snort. Booth looks at Brennan and they both chuckle, remembering their dongle jokes.
“I didn’t realize this colossal flaw in my plan at first,” says Booth, continuing from there.
“But I did,” Brennan says, nodding.
“So I asked her if she wouldn’t mind being there when it was delivered – or did you offer?” Booth turns to Brennan for confirmation.
“I don’t actually remember. But while I was there, waiting, all by myself, because remember, Booth was in Philadelphia, I heard Rebecca leaving a message on the answering machine. She was frantic.”
“Her boyfriend was in the hospital. He’d fallen out of a tree or off a roof or something equally stupid,” says Booth.
“Right. They needed to keep him at the hospital over night for observation. Rebecca wanted to stay with him, the boyfriend, but Parker had school in the morning …”
“Right. And since I was in Philadelphia … ”
“And I was there to hear Rebecca’s message . . . ”
“… She offered,” says Booth, completing Brennan’s sentence. “Which, by the way,” he says, leaning toward Brennan and looking her straight in the eyes, “I can’t thank you enough for that.”
“You are most welcome, Booth,” she replies warmly, giving him a twinkly smile that makes his heart do a flip, then a flop. “You know I find his company quite enjoyable.”
Booth smiles back at her, sheepishly, forgetting they are under the observation of a human microscope right now. Brennan reluctantly drags her eyes away from Booth’s, clears her throat, and continues in a serious tone.
“Anyway, I have a foster care license,” she adds, nodding, “and no known history of inappropriate behavior in the presence of or involving minors. So, Parker and I spent the evening at Booth’s house. By ourselves.”
“Can we just get back to, uh …” says Sweets, closing his eyes and blowing out a long breath. He’d leaned forward during their story volley, but now he slouches back once again. “Just tell me about being in Booth’s bed. Please!”
“What?” She says, caught off guard by how his comment sounds being said out loud in this office.
“In Booth’s bed. And in his tee shirt. With Parker. You seem surprised that I’m asking –
“Well, for a moment it sounded like you were suggesting that … ” she pauses and waves her hand between herself and Booth. “That maybe –”
“By the reaction you just had, Dr. Brennan, can I assume it would have been uncomfortable if I had been referring to that?” Sweets sits up, his psych radar sensing a hint of tension in the air. Is that … fear … anxiety … I smell? He wonders.
“Of course not,” she says, a small crack forming in the veneer of her confidence.
That’s a ‘yes’, Sweets says to himself.
“One might deduce that the suggestion of you and Booth sleeping together would only be uncomfortable for you if you had slept together and you didn’t want me to know about it,” he says.
“Didn’t want you to know about it?” She repeats the question without inflection. Sweets recognizes this as a delay tactic.
“If we had sex,” says Booth. “It would be private, not a secret, as you are suggesting,” says Booth, exuding more annoyance than defensiveness. He’s remembering Brennan’s comment about keeping their sex life just between them. He feels a smiles forming in his heart, but stops it before his heart notifies his face.
“It’s okay, Booth,” Brennan says, sounding preternaturally calm again.
Sweets makes eye contact with Brennan, his expression one of juicy expectation. He’s thinking, I will know if you have had sex. I can read the two of you like a book.
“No, Dr. Sweets, we have not had sexual intercourse. However, having sexual intercourse -or making love, as Booth prefers to call it,” she says nodding at her partner, “is a very private affair. Though the three of us have set a precedence of speaking freely about our individual sexual entanglements, I would like to take the sexual aspect of my personal life off the table as a subject for discussion. With either one of you,” she adds with finality, glancing at Booth then back at Sweets.
“So, you haven’t had sex yet?” Sweets constructs the question to imply the inevitability of it happening in the future. “How are we to talk about the development of a romantic relationship between the two of you if the topic of sex is off the table?”
“Did you not hear what she just said, Sweets?” Booth, impressed with Brennan’s chutzpah, is now getting irritated with Sweets’ needling.
“We didn’t have sex,” Brennan repeats.
“This is the last time I’m going to say it, Sweets,” says Booth somewhat sternly, “If you respect your relationship with Dr. Brennan, I recommend that you respect her request. She’s creating a healthy boundary here, isn’t that what you call it? One that we need to respect. Her sex life is no longer open for review or anything else. End of discussion.”
Sweets stares at Booth, narrowing his eyes. He’s not lying and she’s not lying. They haven’t had sex. But something funky is going on here, something I haven’t been able to put my finger on yet. But I will.
“So, what is this all about? The setting of boundaries all of a sudden?” Sweets asks, cocking his head to the side, suspiciously.
She locks eyes with him for a moment before talking. The recent developments between her and Booth have given her confidence, and a fierce determination to have things go her way, meaning remaining privately.
“The work you and I have completed has helped me more than you know,” she begins, filling her lungs to capacity, then exhaling calmly. It sounds like she’s going to continue, but she doesn’t. When Sweets finally realizes this, he looks over at Booth.
“Agent Booth, you don’t seem disturbed at all about this,” he says, trying to get a read on Booth’s opinion, reaction, anything, to this turn of events – Brennan setting a previously nonexistent boundary.
“Sweets, we’ve just been alone in Philadelphia for five days. We discussed it – at length – and I’m okay with it. She needs to do what she needs to do for her own happiness, and I won’t stand in the way of that – no matter what our relationship means to me – or what we’ve been through in the past,” he says. “There comes a time when it’s best for people to move forward, to grow up, and to move on.” He grimaces and meets Sweets’ gaze, giving nothing away.
“Thank you, Booth,” Brennan says, nodding toward him, but not making eye contact lest her resolve crack and slip away. The sound of Booth’s voice has been wreaking havoc with her circulation despite her convincingly calm demeanor
Booth acknowledges her appreciation with a single nod without taking his eyes off Sweets. Now would not be a good time to look at Brennan. Sweets is scrutinizing and calculating … cooking up some hair-brained psychobabble in that cocksure little head of his. Booth knows from experience that if he so much as flinches, Sweets will interpret it as a tell of some sort, just like in the game of poker. He will read that flinch as proof that Booth is lying, or about to make a move of some sort.
Booth is an expert manipulator, Sweets reminds himself, one of the best I’ve ever seen. That’s why he’s so good at his job. The question is, is he directing his expertise at me right now?Sweets sits up in his chair, resting his elbows on the arm rests, his hands steepled in front of his chest. He narrows his eyes at Booth, then looks at Bones. This is a scrummy conundrum, as Gordon Gordon would say, he thinks.
This is my poker face, Booth tells himself. My expression is a non-expression. I am in stealth mode. My thoughts are of nothing. I am not thinking of Bones naked under her clothes. Booth sighs. Shit! Okay . . . I have the ten, the Jack, the King, and the ace of spades. I know the next card will be the Queen of spades, because I’ve had this dream a million times. This time, I will give nothing away. I am impervious. My face is a mask. I have a royal flush.
“This is bullshit,” blurts Sweets unable to handle Booth’s cold, penetrating stare any longer. Booth’s got a Fort Knox thing going on there, and Sweets knows he’s no match for his much more experienced adversary. “But it is bullshit we will return to later, after we conclude our schizophrenic conversation about the flipping photo on the phone,” spits Sweets, defeated. He looks at both of them once more before continuing. “So, tell me the end of the flipping story!”
“I had failed to bring appropriate sleep attire to Booth’s house,” says Brennan, clearing her throat unemotionally. After remaining silent through the second round of this afternoon’s pissing contest, she appreciates being able to use her voice again. “So I borrowed one of Booth’s tee shirts,” continues Brennan slowly. She forces herself not to think about how intoxicatingly Boothy that tee shirt smelled, or how wonderful it felt against her skin, seemingly still warm from being up against Booth’s. Oh! Don’t think about Booth’s skin! Shit! Stuff it. Lock it up. Compartmentalize. She swallows, slowly and silently. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Whew!
“Parker woke in the middle of the night, per usual,” explains Booth, taking over. “He needed to use the bathroom. He went through my bedroom and into my bathroom with the lights out, just like he always does. Being a little boy with crappy aim when he’s half asleep, well, even when the light is on he has crappy aim,” says Booth chuckling, “so he had to clean up. He flipped on the bathroom light, and before he turned it back off on the way into my bedroom, he saw Bones lying in my bed. Having the imagination of a nine year old, he assumed she was dead.” Booth grimaces and shrugs. “In a panic, he grabbed her phone to call me and accidentally took her picture. Once he got me on the phone, I calmed him down, assured him she wasn’t dead, and walked him through the process of erasing the photo.”
“How’d the photo get onto your phone?” Sweets is not going to allow Booth to step over a single detail.
“I had to make sure Dr. Brennan wasn’t dead, so I had Parker send me the photo before erasing it,” explains Booth as if it were the obvious thing to do.
“And how do you feel about that Dr. Brennan?”
“It’s just a picture. I’m not naked,” she says, shrugging.
“But he kept the photo – don’t you find that a little … inappropriate, considering that you are asleep, in his tee shirt, in his bed?”
“No, I don’t. Booth and I have been friends for the better part of a decade, I’m sure he has many photos of me. After his brain surgery, I provided him with a scrapbook containing over fifty photos, mostly of the two of us together or me by myself.”
“I see,” comments Sweets, watching her closely. He senses no hint of deception in her demeanor. This disappoints him. He’s getting nothing from these two. Nothing obvious, at least.
“As I said, Dr. Sweets, it’s not like I’m naked. If you are concerned that I might find it inappropriate should he consider using this as a masturbatory aid, I assure you, I—”
“Jesus Christ, Bones!” Blurts Booth, whipping around toward her and staring at her, wild-eyed and stunned. “What the hell? Do you have absolutely no filter on that brain of yours?” There goes the poker face, right out the window. “What the hell? I thought you said your sex life was off the table! Jesus!” He runs his hand, clumsily, through his hair, a flash of cold perspiration making itself known across his scalp.
“This isn’t about my sex life, Booth,” she explains calmly. “This is about your sex life.” He can’t very well point out that her sex life and his are soon to be one in the same. Shit! He’s caught.
“But … but … Sweets!” he pleads, “Help me out here!” Sweets simply shrugs, one eyebrow raised, an amused grin on his face. What he had been unable to achieve during the last half hour working his Jedi Mind Trick Mojo on both of them, Brennan has been able to accomplish in less than a second. Booth’s impenetrable calm now sports a sizeable crack right down the center. Once Booth’s exterior has been breached, Brennan’s can’t be far behind.
Booth’s panicked expression morphs into a resigned one as he slumps back against the couch, beaten. “There’s twenty minutes of my life I’ll never get back!” Booth mumbles with a great deal of chagrin. With a slightly disgusted glance at Bones, then at Sweets, he shakes his head. With both hands, he vigorously rubs his entire face as if rinsing off soap at a bathroom sink. Planting an elbow on the couch armrest, he leans his temple against his fist and shakes his head. For a moment it appears he has nothing to say. “Can we move on?Please?” He says finally, looking at his watch, making no attempt to be subtle. “Aren’t we supposed to be talking about Mr. Nigel-Murray or something?”
Sweets looks from one of them to the other and back. He’s beaming and feels rejuvenated. He knows there’s something going on between them. He can feel it. They barely look at each other, but it’s as if they are intentionally avoiding making physical or emotional contact. But there’s something more. The awkward uneasiness that plagued them for months after Hannah’s abrupt retreat seems to have evaporated. They appear to be interacting like the old Brennan and Booth – but a softer version of themselves, if that makes sense. There’s an ease between them, an energy, or synergy, a togetherness. They aren’t arguing. They volley comfortably to each other in the telling of the story, their story, a story they own …together. He wonders what else they might own together. And if he can get it out of them before their time is up today.
If he wants an opportunity at the truth behind this change in their dynamic, he knows he’ll have to pay very close attention to what they say, and don’t say. He’ll have to catalog their body language, integrate it with their verbal communication, and test some implications with carefully worded inquiry.
Sweets had planned to introduce the Risk Exercise before delving into the grief assessment, but now he decides to switch it up. The risk exercise is long overdue … and never fails to provide a wealth of information for all involved. He’s confident they are ready for it, but first, a discussion about Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray’s death.
“Okay,” blurts Sweets, abruptly, “lets talk about Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray’s death and how you each are handling it.” He first looks to Booth who is more than happy to move on to a new topic.
“Well, I … I believe I am fine, Sweets,” he says, assuredly and candidly, as he scoots to sit at the edge of his seat on the couch. He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, joining his hands together as if in prayer. I have … experience processing the deaths of people I’ve worked with. That’s been part of my job both in combat as well as in the field as an agent.” Booth is nodding slowly, almost bobbing up and down slightly, staring at his hands and the floor.
“Do you feel responsible for this particular death, Agent Booth?” Sweets asks the question gently, but not in a whisper, as he crosses his legs and relaxes.
Booth emits a long sigh, focusing on his thumbs. “I don’t think I do. I mean, if the world were a perfect place, I would have caught Broadsky a year ago and many people would still be alive today who unfortunately are not. However, experience has taught me that blaming myself for a murderer’s heinous crimes doesn’t do anybody any good,” says Booth, chewing on his lower lip, then looking up at Sweets. “Those deaths, and Vincent’s death, are devastating. And tragic. But, no, I do not feel responsible,” he sighs. He takes a couple of deep breaths, then looks up again into the empathetic eyes of Dr. Sweets. Looking down again, he continues. “Am I remorseful? Hell, yes. Saddened? Deeply,” he grimaces, straightening out his fingers and resting them on the coffee table. “I think this has been the toughest on Bones, though,” he says, turning to look back at her. “She, uh, I think she -”
“We’ll let Dr. Brennan speak for herself,” interjects Sweets quietly. “Okay? Thanks for sharing your … experience.” Sweets pauses for a moment, as Booth slides backward and relaxes against the couch cushions, letting out s sigh. “Have you noticed any change in your quality of sleep or eating habits, Agent Booth?”
Booth grimaces, looking up at the ceiling, trying not to think about the quality of his most recent nap. “Hmmmm,” he begins, looking above Sweets’ head at the wall above his desk. “Noooo. Not that I’ve noticed. We’ve been working fairly steadily,” he says, glancing over at Brennan. She looks at him, grimacing, and nods. “We were up very late working on the case almost every night in Philly, then I had Parker Saturday night – that sleep’s never peaceful. This is no different than usual, though,” he says, directing his final comment straight at Sweets, looking him in the eyes.
“Any … appetite … differences?” Sweets has started making notes on a yellow-lined pad of paper he’d had lying on the floor next to his chair.
“Boy, that’s a loaded question,” says Booth chuckling and grinning at Sweets. This is the kind of comment Sweets would expect him to make. They both laugh. Brennan rolls her eyes.
“I believe he is referring to your appetite for sustenance, Booth,” explains Brennan in a serious tone.
Booth and Sweets exchange a pregnant glance, each of them smirking. “I’m well aware of what he’s most likely referring to, Bones. Just trying to lighten the mood here a bit.”
“This is a discussion about the death of one of my interns. I don’t see how it is possible, or appropriate, to lighten the mood, literally or metaphorically …” says Brennan, her voice trailing off.
“Dr. Brennan, that was a perfect segue. Do you feel ready to talk about how experiencing Vincent Nigel-Murray’s death has effected you?”
“I didn’t experience his death, Dr. Sweets. Mr. Nigel Murray is the only one who experienced his death – and even he was only present for a very short while before … he wasn’t any more …” she says, exhaling and looking very small all of a sudden.
“Dr. Brennan, focusing on the semantics of language is one of the coping mechanisms that serves to provide distance between yourself and your feelings. I want you to disregard my literal words, and see if you can focus on the meaning … behind them,” he says, reaching out toward her as if offering her a piece of fruit. He raises his eyebrows as he looks in her eyes. It’s a question. A request. “I know it’s not easy,” he says, nodding and smiling genuinely.
Brennan emits a long sigh. “I need to tell you about what happened earlier today when I was at the Jeffersonian …” she begins.
For the next thirty minutes the three of them talk easily about Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray’s death. Brennan shares her guilt over not thinking about Vincent when she was first back at the Jeffersonian on Saturday. She details her experience from earlier today when she couldn’t focus on the case without feeling a pull toward the platform. As she remembers back to her thoughts and feelings that first night of the day Vincent was killed, Booth sits next to her, not touching her physically, but she can feel his empathy and see it in his eyes whenever she glances at him.
She describes Vincent’s bone structure in detail, leaving nothing out. She talks about what she loved about his brain and how he processed information. She talks about what she will miss about him, and what he will miss out on in life. She sheds a few tears, which she wipes away with Booth’s proffered handkerchief. She explains with a half-hearted chuckle, that she’s surprised she has any tears left after the outpouring she experienced at the Jeffersonian only hours ago this afternoon.
As he listens and watches, Sweets is impressed with her acknowledgment of her feelings. She has come a long way since they first started working together secretly, preparing her for the day when Booth would be ready to face a relationship change between them. Today, however, she appears to be without fear of her feelings. Or perhaps the fear remains, but a sense of security has been wrapped around it.
“Did you two discuss Vincent while in Philadelphia?” Sweets asks. Maybe that is what has created this facility in her sharing about her feelings.
Booth and Brennan exchange a lingering look.
“We did,” she says, finally. “It was a very emotional time. It was good to be removed from our usual environment, and to have time to process unobserved.” After a moment she adds, “It was good …”
Sweets nods, his hands steepled in front of his lips. “Okay,” he says, wondering if her last statement was about Vincent Nigel-Murray, or something else. Now, it’s time to use the Risk Exercise to get to the bottom of that scrummy conundrum. “Good work, you two. Shall we move on?”