Title: Beyond the Fear
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
A/N: Please review. Thank you!
"Delighted to meet you," he said, with a soft spoken, yet slightly intimidating tone, tilting his head as though he were appraising her. Brennan shifted, lifting her chin with unspoken defiance. "Tom," he thrust his hand towards her, and she glanced down, studying his structure as she had done with every person she'd met in the past five years.
"Tom?" she asked, sliding her hand into his. His handshake was firm, his palm cold.
"Pyper," he replied. "Tom Pyper." Brennan nodded, once. He already knew her name, she wasn't going to waste time with false pleasantries. Slipping past him, she strode between the barren rose bushes, towards the arched entrance to the lab. Behind her, he followed, nowhere near as tall as Booth. He almost jogged to maintain her pace. "We have a case," he said, reaching for her elbow, willing her to be still. Brennan shook herself free, spinning on her toe. Their bodies almost collided, and he sensed her annoyance. "Sorry," Pyper said at once, offering her his upward palms. Her eyes narrowed.
Between them, an electricity sparked, totally different to that which was immediately forged between Brennan and Booth. She disliked him, without offering him an opportunity to prove himself. She saw him as a foe, an enemy which had torn apart an effective and respecting partnership. Inwardly, she knew it wasn't Tom Pyper's fault. Yet she saw him as the final nail in the coffin. "Do not touch me," she snapped, turning again. He mumbled another apology.
"I understand I'm not exactly welcome in your company, Dr Brennan, and if it means anything, I don't want to be here either. I'm twenty five. Booth is at least ten years older than me, with ten years for experience. I'm here because no one else wanted the job." She kept her back to him, striding on, relentless.
"Then quit," she said, as though there were nothing more to say. Tom chuckled.
"I have a wife. A daughter. I can't just quit." His arm swung by her, and she saw the glint on gold on his hand. A wife. He looked so fresh faced, so naïve. He was the pawn in the bureaucratic game. A wave of sympathy surged through her. "If I'm honest, I think it's unfair what they've done."
What she's done, Brennan thought, stepping into the Jeffersonian. What Camille Saroyan has done. "What's the case?" she asked, swiping her card. She allowed Tom to brush past her, his eyes rising to the roof, dropping to the ground, drawing everything in. He was as awed as Booth once was.
"Grave robbers unearthed a grave in Maryland last night. When the family arrived this morning, they saw the coffin and they body in there isn't their loved one." Brennan blinked, masking her surprise with her usual deadpan expression.
"How did they know?" she asked.
"The dead man had four gold teeth, apparently. This body did not."
"Weren't they just stolen?" she asked, sounding perhaps a little less sympathetic as she should have. Pyper chuckled.
"Nope. But the body which should have been in there, was Harold Toren. He was murdered last year, and we suspect if we can identify this body, we might finally be able to solve the murder." Brennan slid her hands into her pockets, mulling over the facts. "Your team are already examining the remains. That assistant of yours, he wastes no time."
"Zach is a keen worker. When the clock is ticking, you'll find him to be an asset," she said testily. "Anything buried with the body?" she asked. Pyper shook his head. "Clothes?"
"Dr Brennan?" Zach strode towards her, his lab coat a blur of blue behind him as he rushed along the corridor. His eyes were bright, illuminated by his thrill of a new case. He cast a weary glance towards Pyper, and Brennan understood his reluctance. The scientists on her team disliked change. Their comfort zone was being tested, and everyone felt disturbed. "Might I have a word with you?" he lifted his eyes. "In private?" Tom shifted, slinking back as Brennan directed Zach into her office, easing the door shut. "I know I appear rude," he apologised, gesturing to the glass window. "I feel..."
"It's alright, Zach. He's alright."
"He's not Booth."
Brennan sank into her chair, dropping her head into her hands. He hoped she wouldn't have to nurse them all, coax them to accept their new colleague. "I know," she said, turning her head towards him. "But he's here, regardless."
"The victim is a male. Approximately fifty five to sixty. Too old to be Harold Toren, who was only thirty nine. Angela has done a preliminary sketch..." Zach hurried on, somewhat embarrassed by his show of displeasure. "Hodgins found some fibres, not consistent with the lining of the casket, so he's making some comparisons." Brennan nodded. "I just wanted to see if... you're okay...?" He shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, and she smiled.
"I'm fine," she said. "This is only temporary."
"How can we be sure, Dr Brennan? How can we know we'll ever have Booth back?"
She wished it were possible to answer, yet no words of comfort formed, and she merely shrugged.
Booth folded his newspaper when she stepped into her apartment. His eyes followed her across the living room, taking in her weariness, the heaviness of her shoulders and he opened his arms to her on instinct. She slid easily to her knees, enveloped by his embrace. "Bad day?" he whispered into her hair. She nodded against his shoulder, drawing the scent of him into her lungs.
"You know..." she said, not asking a question, but rather expressing a statement. He nodded. "It's wrong."
"It'll be okay soon," he replied, tracing a whispering kiss across her forehead. "Pyper is a kid."
"He's a kid with a kid. He isn't going to run away, Booth." He shushed her, stroking the tousled strands of her hair. She sighed, allowing herself to revel in the comfort he offered her.
"He doesn't need to quit. He'll be reassigned and I," he kissed her temple now, "will be back in your lab, pissing you off, before you know it." She chuckled, a lowly, comfortable laugh that vibrated through his own chest. "Would you like some food?" She knelt back, taking his hand. Their fingers entwined, a tight, firm knot. She shifted, folding her legs under herself.
"Booth," she whispered, dropping her eyes. "I lied to you today. I don't want you to be upset with me." He straightened, focusing his full attention on her. He watched the colour of her eyes change, similar to how the ocean might look under the sun, bright aquamarine. Then they darkened, as if a heavy cloud had passed over the light. She looked troubled. "It's stupid, really…" she said with a weighted breath, waving her hand. "You asked me to meet you for lunch, and I lied when I said I had already eaten. I don't…" she swallowed, the sound audible, laced with tears. Her eyes remained dry, however. "I can't reasonably explain why I have… done this… except perhaps fear…" Booth broke into a cheeky grin, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, pulling her against the hard wall of his chest. He smelt wonderful, familiar and spicy.
"Bones, it's alright. Being afraid is who you are. I understand that sometimes, you're going to feel trapped. But soon, you'll learn to adapt." She drew circles on her jeans, the denim rough against her fingertips.
"I hope so," she admitted.
"You will," he nodded, confident. "For now, this is fine." Her smile was infectious, and he was elated to know that he could bring her back from the brink of fear. "So, shall we test my culinary skills?" She unfolded herself, straightening her legs. He stood, slipping his arms around her waist.
"Okay," she replied, padding across the floor. He began rummaging through her cupboards as though he'd been doing it for years, collecting ingredients and humming beneath his breath. She stood against the counter, watching his movements, wondering at how he looked as though he were performing a dance. He slid his knife through peppers and onions, seasoning raw slices of chicken, nodding his head to a tune only he could hear. Temperance slid her hands into her pockets.
"Do you know Agent Pyper?" she asked.
"Not really," he replied. "Do you dislike him?" Brennan shrugged.
"No," she admitted. "He seems okay… I just feel uncomfortable. I have so much resentment for Camille, and I have never felt this way before. I'm not sure how I ought to handle it." Booth glanced over his shoulder, chuckling.
"You're the only person who tries to rationalise irrational anger," he said.
"She tore away a perfectly functional partnership," she sighed. "And it's not irrational of me to hate her…" Booth lifted an eyebrow.
"Hate? It's so unlike you, Brennan." She nodded.
"I know. I just can't understand such jealousy. You didn't want her, and she feels humiliated. But what she did…"
"Brennan," he turned to her. "I understand your annoyance, but shall we forget about Camille and just pretend that it's just you and I together with no consequence for love?" She stilled. "I know you're afraid to hear it, and I know this is going to bring your flight instinct into over drive, but you know it." She nodded, smiling softly.
"Yeah," she agreed. "I know."