Brennan and Booth were sitting opposite each other, connected to the oxygen therapy. Over the course of the evening the routine had become familiar, essential as part of the recompression process. They wore lightweight clear vinyl helmets that resembled nothing more than an overturned bucket, designed to be worn like the helmet of a spacesuit, and Booth felt like an idiot wearing it. His exasperation showed in the distinctly pissed look on his face and the way he continually drummed his fingers against the side of the bench.
Brennan reached over and stilled his hand, which worked for a few moments until it started up again seemingly without him being aware of what he was doing.
"Booth. Can you please stop that?" she pleaded, irritation eating into her voice.
"I can't help it. This is so boring." He dragged out the last word dramatically. The chamber supervisor finally gave them the thumbs up to let them know this therapy session was over. Booth threw his helmet onto the bench with more force than was really necessary and it bounced back up, the dual pipes acting like flexible brakes.
"Try the lab again." He urged, anxious for something, anything, to break his boredom.
Brennan obliged, begrudgingly, and gave Booth a dry look when yet again the signal failed. She shut the laptop and put it to one side.
"Still no signal."
"That storm must still be going strong." He eyed the camera for the live feed and addressed Petty Officer Billete. "What's it look like outside?"
Billette answered briskly. "We've got thirty knot winds registering on the Point at the moment, sir. Our aerographer's mate reports the storm hasn't peaked yet, probably an hour or more in it yet." The storm that had been threatening all those hours ago at Cape Charles had finally broken about twenty minutes ago, effectively cutting off their contact with the Jeffersonian.
Booth nodded his thanks and leaned forward towards Brennan, his elbow resting on his knees, and regarded her expectantly, "So, what are we going to do?"
"Do? What do you mean?"
He threw his hands up, "I can't just sit here doing nothing. I'll go insane in about ten seconds."
"That would be unusual to say the least. Although the descent from sanity to insanity can be rapid, it generally takes longer than ten seconds. It has to do with electrical impulses and response to stimuli. There is actually research being currently conducted in Romania that posits an algorithm for the process. If you're interested I can describe their experiments in more detail. It's really quite fascinating."
The look Booth gave her was priceless, "How do you even know that? Do you just Google your brain for these things?"
"I read." One eyebrow arched, as it always did when she felt superior. To Booth. "Actual books, mostly without colorful illustrations. And journals of course."
"Of course." He regarded her narrowly, "Has anyone ever told you that you need to loosen up more, have a little fun?"
"Apart from you, Angela says that at least once a week. But I can be loose."
He chuckled. "Ah, not sure you need to go that far."
That went over her head, but Brennan's face brightened as a thought occurred to her. "We could play a game?"
"Oh ho—now you're talking. What have you got in mind?" Booth grinned. "Did you find some cards? Texas hold 'em?" Brennan leveled a humorless look at him. "Gin rummy?" No change. "Go Fish?" Brennan narrowed her eyes.
"Booth, you know I don't have any cards. But we could play a word game?" she suggested hopefully.
Booth sighed and sank back against the wall. "Well you'd better keep it simple because you know a lot more words than I do."
"Oh, okay. There's one I used to play with my mother, 'Watch My Lips'."
"I could get on board with that." He kept lips pressed together to cover the smile that threatened to emerge at his own twist on that particular game. "Tell me how you play it."
"You've got to try and say something without moving your lips and see if the other person can tell what you're saying. Like this," she demonstrated, with barely a change in her expression, "Dum Spiro Spero."
"Something in English would help, and besides I can see your lips moving." It was fascinating watching her lips. 'For the game', he reminded himself.
"What? No. Let me do it again." She took a deep breath and tried, equally unsuccessfully, to speak without moving her lips, "While I breathe, I hope". She relaxed her mouth. "That's the English translation."
"Nice quote, but I can still see your lips moving, Bones." Moving, just about everywhere.
"Forget about that. What about Truth or Dare?"
"Oh no, absolutely not." She looked alarmed. "Angela made me play that one time and I ended up in a very compromising position."
Booth was eager to know more. "Were there shots involved?"
"Yes, there was a large amount of alcohol involved, if I remember correctly."
"So—ah—what was this compromising situation?" he prodded, getting more animated.
"Angela swore me to secrecy." Her mouth primed to a thin line and she looked at her hands folded demurely in her lap and would say no more.
"Huh. You can tell Angela from me she's no fun." He yawned extravagantly and swung his legs up on the bench. "I'm going to get some shuteye. Wake me up if anything happens."
A noise something like a growl invaded Booth's subconscious and he woke abruptly, his heart thudding in his chest. Brennan was striding from one end of the small compartment to the other, kicking the toy they'd been using for their dexterity tests in front of her as she went. After two or three lengths in the same vein, all of the brightly colored pegs had scattered across the floor.
Booth rubbed the fatigue out of his eyes and automatically started collecting the scattered pieces. "What's the matter?"
"It's so frustrating not being able to get through to the lab. Why haven't we heard anything?"
Booth swung his feet to the ground and collected the last couple of pieces of brightly colored plastic and handed them to her. "Can't do anything about the forces of nature, Bones. I'm sure when things calm down out there, Fisher will be on the line straight away."
She slumped down onto her bench, idly trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole. When that didn't work she tossed it to one side. "I hate feeling so useless."
"So you took it out on a kid's toy?"
"Oh Booth, I'm sorry to dragged you into this."
"Hey." He scooted over next to her, hearing the real distress in her voice. "Don't worry about that. We're partners, right?" As if that explained everything. And in a way it did.
"But you missed out on Parker coming over. And the investigation is on hold. And all this time we've spent here could have been used more constructively—"
"Parker knows how much I love him; he's not going to worry about a few hours missed out on here or there. And besides, you heard what he said." Booth's lip curled, "I'm paying to fly them out to Chicago so we'll catch up that time, and more."
"I'll pay the fares. It's all down to me that they had to do that anyway."
"Now you're just being foolish. Do you want to be alone in your pity party or can anyone join in?"
That brought a small smile to Brennan's face even if she didn't quite understand what he meant, and Booth relaxed a little.
"And you're about as far away from being useless as anyone can possibly be. You've told Fisher what to do, Angela's identified the vic, even Hodgins has a solid line on the evidence. It will all come together fine."
Brennan rested her head against his shoulder, and relaxed into him.
The incoming call notification on the laptop made them both jump.
"Finally." Brennan hit the receive button and Fisher's face filled the screen.
"I have completed my examination of the remains, Dr Brennan." Fisher swung the monitor so that they could view the video of the microscopic examination of the bones. He spoke rapidly, anxious to tell his story.
"Dr Saroyan and I have conferred and agree that the victim was attacked from behind. A sharp instrument entered the skull just behind the ear, nicked the mastoid, continued through the oral pharynx and terminated on the opposite side of the mandible. Dr Saroyan was able to confirm damage to the sternocleidomastoid muscle and we believe that the carotid artery was damaged, and was in fact the cause of death."
Brennan didn't attempt to contain the skepticism in her voice. "Dr Saroyan and you conferred?"
"Yes." A dreamy look came over his long, intelligent face. "You know she really is a very sweet lady. Quite a peach."
Brennan lowered her voice so that only Booth could hear her comment. "I suspect Mr. Fisher has taken leave of his senses, Booth."
Booth replied in a whisper, "Either that or he's on drugs."
"I can read lips, you know." Fisher replied dryly.
"Explicate your process please." Brennan requested briskly, and while Fisher launched into a long and involved technical discourse filled with cutting edge graphics and incomprehensible test results, punctuated every few moments by Brennan firing thorny questions at him, Booth found his mind wandering. By the time he had recalled the scores, including penalties, of all the Flyers games from the last three seasons, he could tell from the tone of her voice that Brennan had pretty much exhausted the supply of wrenches she could throw in Fisher's explicatory path. She fell silent while Fisher wound up.
"Dr Hodgins and I identified the murder weapon via minute traces of a particular type of rolled steel that had been left in the mylo-hyoid line of the mandible, and he was also able to match the particles of soil that Dr Saroyan found in the remains of the trachea to the samples that the FBI techs obtained from his home." By now Fisher was looking unsure of himself, and his voice faltered. In his euphoria at having solved this particular riddle, he hadn't considered the effect his successful autonomy might have on his relationship with his mentor. "Are you in agreement, Dr Brennan?"
It took a few moments for Brennan to reply, but when she did Booth was impressed by the generosity of her praise despite the fact that it seemed to stick just a little bit in her throat.
"Very well done, Mr Fisher. Your logic and your method are both faultless."
Fisher looked relieved, "You have nothing to worry about, Dr Brennan. I assure you that our conclusions are sound. Dr Saroyan has passed our conclusions on to the FBI and they have arrested the victim's wife for his murder."
Booth sat up at that, astonishment plain on his face. "We've arrested someone already?"
Fisher nodded. "She's being interrogated as we speak."
"Wow." Booth stared at him for a few seconds, speechless, before his face split in a grin. "That's the sort of Christmas present I can really get behind."
Brennan spoke up. "You have done an exemplary job, Mr. Fisher. I do not believe that I would have done anything differently had I been there."
Fisher's grin almost split his face in two at Brennan's praise. Booth barely recognized him.
Fisher ducked his head, suddenly embarrassed at the show of emotion. "Well I guess that wraps it up. Have a cool Yule, Dr Brennan. Agent Booth."
"Back atcha, Fisher." Booth called out.
Brennan closed the laptop with a snap, effectively putting a full stop to the conversation and the investigation.
Booth bundled up his tie and stuck it in his suit pocket, his hands tapping at his trouser pockets to make sure everything was in place before heading off find Bones. It felt good to be leaving. As he reached the examination cubicle where Brennan was having her final assessment, he could hear Orbitz winding up, and he hung back while he finished giving her instructions.
"Don't do any diving for four weeks, but apart from that you're good to go." The captain flung back the curtain as he spoke, giving Booth a friendly nod before striding off towards the other end of the ward and disappearing through a doorway.
"You decent Bones?" Booth didn't wait for an answer before he barged in. Surprisingly, Brennan was sat on the edge of the gurney, fully dressed. Booth felt simultaneously relieved and disappointed.
"So, we can leave now? I heard the doc give you a clean bill of health—that's great." He had expected his partner to be a bit more animated at the prospect of their imminent freedom, so he tried another tack. "And the investigation's pretty much wrapped up and we barely had to lift a finger. Win-win."
"You sound pleased." Brennan's voice was dull and flat, another surprise for him.
Booth's brows came together, puzzled. "Of course I'm pleased, why wouldn't I be? You're over this bends thing, I didn't die, we've put a name to the victim and caught the baddie. I feel great." He plopped down next to her, and whispered conspiratorially "And the fat man in the red suit is due to visit," he made a display of checking his watch, "tomorrow. What more could you ask for?"
"It really doesn't bother you that it was all done without our actual involvement?" She was talking about the case, of course.
Booth finally understood what had put the morose expression on his partner's face. "Is that what's getting to you? That it wasn't you who worked it all out?"
"No, of course not." Her response was automatic, but she hesitated. "Well, maybe a little."
"Why? I don't get it."
She still looked upset, and Booth struggled to make it better.
"Look, Bones. You may not have been in the lab, but it's because of you that your squints were able to put everything together so quickly. Whether you were there or not, you solved it, by being the best and expecting the best from your people. It's as simple as that."
She still didn't look happy and didn't resist when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gathered her close, "Hey. You're more than just a lab rat, Bones. You've made your mark as a whole human being; those squints of yours, they're as good as they are because of you. Sure, you weren't there and didn't not do any hands on stuff, but I'm damn sure they wouldn't be able to do what they do if you hadn't taught them the way to do it." He paused and screwed his mouth to one side. "Did that make sense?"
"I'm pretty sure there was a double negative in there, but I understand the sentiment you were trying to convey."
"Good. You're the best, ergo—"
"Ergo?" Her smile grew at his antics.
"I can do Italian, too. Ergo, they're the best. Now, let's blow this pop stand and get outta here."
She chuckled, as he had intended, and the smile completed her face. "You are no longer making any sense to me."
"Even better." He laughed. He turned to head out but she hadn't finished yet.
"Thank you Booth." He gave her a questioning look. "I admit I was as unreasonably anxious about undergoing this particular form of treatment, but you stayed with me when I asked. And the crime got solved anyway."
Booth shrugged off her thanks, changing the subject to save himself embarrassment. "So, Fisher managed to get the vic ID'd and nail down the cause of death, and they got the perp. All without you being there? Whaddayaknow? He leaned into her face, his smile smug. "You've got to admit Bones, no-one's indispensable."
Brennan returned his look steadily, a vulnerability she rarely let show forming her features. "Except you."
"What?" His laugh was self-conscious. "No way. I'm good, but I'm not that good."
"No, I mean it Booth. You are indispensable." She snuck her hand into the crook of his arm. "To me."
"Ah, Bones." Despite the prosaic delivery, Booth found a lump forming in his throat. "It goes both ways, you know."
"No. I don't know. What do you mean?"
"It means . . . that you're pretty indispensable to me too." He smiled down at her. "C'mon, let's go home."
The turned and walked out together into the night, now lit by a cloudless sky magically full of stars.
"Happy Christmas, Bones."
"Happy Christmas, Booth."