Author's note: I absolutely do not have the slightest idea where this came from. I guess Musie was high on cough medicine...
Jemb, I can't thank you enough for taking more than one gander at this and helping me smooth the roughest edges.
"Remember the following well, ladies and gentlemen, and you'll find this experience to pass quickly. You are not getting out before you have shared your crimes."
Gordon Gordon's words rang relentlessly in everyone's ears long after he had left. They wouldn't be released until each and every member of their modest group had confessed what he or she had done wrong. For the past month the entire team had been quarreling non-stop, even more so than before. The friendship that bonded them had begun to show a few cracks as well as tears. Hodgins and Angela mostly kept to themselves. Zach rather preferred to work alone than bear Hodgins' speculating. Cam was playing out her role of superior more than ever by purposely invading her coworkers' workspaces and hanging around until she had extracted every single detail there was to know from them. As for Brennan and Booth---the tension that had always hung between them had become insufferable. When they weren't nose to nose challenging each other, they were busy going out of each other's way while stealing secret brooding glances from a distance. The group that had once clung so tightly together was slowly inching apart.
To glue the team back together, Gordon Gordon had persuaded them to cooperate with his plan. For as much as they had distanced themselves from each other, not one of them wanted their friendship to dissipate. Four scientists, an artist, and an FBI-agent---they were each other's best friends...for some, as close to a real family as they could get. With the resolve to mend their friendship and strengthen their bond, they had willingly followed Gordon Gordon down the stairs to the basement of the therapist's house. Silently they had all stepped through the door that led to the large and spacey storage room and had witnessed Gordon Gordon close and lock the door. They all warily eyed the small window placed in the upper part of the heavy door wondering if they were doing the right thing or if this would only tear them apart further.
Gordon Gordon had spoken of confessing crimes. It was a play of words no-one could laugh with for the therapist had thrown them in a confined room and had safely tucked the key in his pocket, much like a warden of a prison. Booth groaned in frustration and considered giving the door a good kick in the hope it was less solid than it looked. No such luck. They'd have to stay here and wait for Gordon Gordon's return. Though Booth had agreed to participate in this peculiar team bonding exercise, he wasn't fond of securely closed off spaces. It reminded him too much of shadowy cages he had been condemned to spend months in thanks to a raging war. Maybe if he could figure out how to get everyone to confess some sort of stupid little sin, they'd be out and about before he'd feel the urge to bang his head against a wall. Unfortunately for Booth's peace of mind, nearly an hour passed with nothing but heavy sighs as the team wondered just what Dr. Wyatt expected them to accomplish in this little room.
"Right," Booth said suddenly and surprisingly cheerful, turning around and clapping his hands loudly. "Let's get this over with. Small crimes are what I want to hear. Come on squints, confess!" If Booth had directed his words at the walls, they would've responded better than the five people standing at less than a yard away. They all stared at him, somewhat dumb struck but mostly irritated and skeptical. Booth gestured impatiently. "What's the matter, people? Cat got your tongue? Come on, hit me with your darkest sin." He sighed deeply when Hodgins went to lean against a wall. Zach crossed his arms and kept a wary look on his face. Brennan crossed her arms too, but arched an eyebrow defiantly. Angela sat down and leaned back against a wall while Cam peered through the small window in the door, wondering if Gordon Gordon was watching and analyzing them as they stood silent.
"Fine," Booth grumbled. "Since you people are so cooperative," sarcasm was more than evident in his voice, "I'll quickly name a crime for each of you to confess when Gordon Gordon returns." They all looked at him with somewhat dangerous scowls. He ignored the sharp as daggers glares everyone threw him. If he wanted to get out of that storage space within the next five minutes, he'd have to push them a little. To everyone's surprise he first turned to Hodgins. "Hodgins, you are a liar. Zach, you're a robot when it comes to emotions. Angela, you're too nosy." Angela's eyebrows shot up. She was obviously a bit disgruntled because of his accusations and hadn't thought he'd so easily find a crime for her too. "Cam is a control freak and Bones..." Booth trailed off as he smiled amused. "Well, we all know what your crime is, Miss Bossy Pants."
All remained silent. Booth was just beginning to think they humbly accepted his plan when Hodgins mumbled, "Dude, call me a conspiracy freak, or even a slimy bug obsessed nutcase, but I am not a liar."
"Is that so?" Booth retorted ironically. "Why don't we ask the board of the Cantilever Group?"
Hodgins straightened up to his full height. "Yeah, why don't we? I'm sure they wouldn't have anything interesting to say."
"Of course they wouldn't. You'd bribe them!"
Narrowing his eyes because of Booth's harsh words, Hodgins took a step forward hoping to come across menacing. "Yeah, they'd really accept a bribe from a simple entomologist such as myself."
"Simple entomologist, my ass! You're-" Booth abruptly shut his mouth. He had once given Hodgins his word about not telling who the scientist really was. Just because they had been locked up under the cloak of a team bonding exercise and he desperately wanted to get away, he couldn't disregard the promise he had made.
"I'm what, huh?" Hodgins taunted him. "Come on man, you started this. Say whatever you were going to say." Booth kept his mouth firmly shut. Hodgins took a second step forward. "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" he slightly sarcastically imitated Booth. "If you go around accusing people of being liars, you have to have a good enough reason, my friend."
Angela let out an exasperated sigh. "Jack, give it a rest, will you? The man doesn't want to break his promise to you." Hodgins relaxed and let his arms fall down his sides. "Besides," Angela continued. "The majority here already knows you practically are the Cantilever Group." Now Hodgins visibly cringed. He cautiously glanced at his companions expecting them to be wearing masks of disapproval, but to his surprise they all stayed stoic. Their reaction, or rather lack thereof, amazed Booth too.
"You knew about this, Bones?" he queried as he studied his partner.
Brennan curtly nodded. "Of course I knew. Hodgins told me when we were buried..." she trailed off, not wanting to relive the memories of one of the most terrifying experiences of her life.
Booth turned to address Cam. "You knew too?"
Smiling a little, Cam casually leaned her shoulder against one of the bars and crossed her arms. "Who do you think hired me, Seeley?"
He turned to Hodgins again wearing a somewhat sheepish expression. As uncomfortable as it made him feel, he knew when to admit he was wrong. "My apologies, Hodgins," Booth said. "Since everyone knew, I can't label you as a liar. We'll have to find a new crime for you."
"Au contraire, G-man." Everyone raised their eyebrows at Hodgins' use of French. The entomologist, however, ignored them and put on a thoughtful face. Rubbing the stubble on his chin and cheeks, he frowned before he slowly spoke. "I was convinced that Dr. Brennan and Dr. Saroyan didn't have a clue about my status so I actually was lying." He firmly nodded. "You accused me of being a liar. I am guilty as charged."
As an idea dawned on Booth, a bright smile appeared. Gordon Gordon had ordered them to reveal one of their flaws. Maybe the psychologist's plan was for everyone to admit a weakness or annoying part of their personality so that the others would understand him better.
In an excited voice, Booth said, "You've confessed a sin, Hodgins. I guess we have no choice now but to forgive you. You can consider yourself free of all charges, for all I care!" Hodgins gracefully accepted the forgiveness Booth offered with a nod of his head, but the rest gave Booth another skeptical look. Tired of them doubting his every word, Booth tried to explain his plan with wide hand gestures. "Can't you see? This is what Gordon Gordon wants us to do. He wants us to each confess some sort of secret and have the rest forgive that person afterwards. With forgiveness comes understanding and understanding is what makes a team great," Booth explained.
"I think you've been spending too much time with Dr. Wyatt," Brennan muttered.
Realising he wasn't getting anywhere, Booth tried a different tact. "If we co-operate, we can get out of here in no time."
Angela scrambled to her feet. "You're right, Booth. Consider me in." She nudged Brennan and Zach who were still pointedly staring at Booth. "Come on guys. We're stuck here for as long as we don't play along." Zach caved first. Hauling his shoulders up, he gave his consent with a nod. Seeing as how Brennan stayed stubborn and refused to back down, Angela softly moaned in frustration. "Fine, I'll go first. Booth, you called me nosy. I confess to that crime." She stretched her arms wide and in a clear and loud voice repeated her statement. "I am nosy. Guilty as charged. But in my defense, I only am nosy for some people's sakes." As she pronounced 'some people', she sent first Brennan and then Booth a pointed look.
Brennan's glare, however, didn't waver. Booth on the other hand shuffled around anxiously as if he was being found guilty of withholding important information. Angela stared at them for half a minute, but neither of them made an attempt at meeting her eyes. There was something fishy about their behavior, Angela's sixth sense for subtle hints concluded. She'd have to probe later to find out the exact nature of what was playing between the partners.
Hodgins broke the tension that had suddenly settled in the room after Angela's confession. "I think I speak for everyone when I say we declare you free of all charges." Angela smiled to thank him. The room went silent again. For a moment it looked as if everyone was backing out of their little bonding exercise, but then, since none of the remaining 'criminals' made any attempts at clearing their conscious, Cam pushed away from the door she had been leaning against.
"Seeley, you called me a control freak. I guess you could say I like holding the reins. I like control, guilty as charged. But what I'd like to know is," she came to a stop in front of him, "Why you threw that accusation at me in the first place. Do I try to control how you work?"
Booth shook his head. "It's not that, Cam..."
"Or did you feel trapped when we were together?" Cam interrupted him.
"Camille..." Booth tried.
"Come on Seeley, let's be honest here. Didn't you like how I took charge in the bedroom, hmm?" Cam defiantly set her hands on her hips and stared him straight in the eye. Booth gulped. Help came unexpectedly out of an even more unexpected corner. Unfortunately it wasn't in Booth's favor.
"Don't you like your women to be dominant, Booth?" Brennan innocently asked as she came to stand beside Cam.
Booth gulped again painfully. He had somehow maneuvered himself in this tight spot and now he had to find a way to escape. Although it was Cam who was asking for her crime to be forgotten, it felt as if he was on trial instead. "Control freak and dominant aren't the same," he helplessly tried. Both women looked like they were about to dismiss his feeble argument. He slowly counted to ten as he straightened up and adapted a poised stance. "Camille, I didn't have our past," he subtly stressed the last word, "relationship in mind when I called you a control freak. I was referring to the way you tried to gain control over Bones' team here."
Now Cam was on the defensive. "They had no problem accepting Dr. Goodman's authority. Since I have replaced him, they have to follow my orders now. I have every right to 'control' them, as you stated so nicely, Seeley." Albeit it reluctantly, Angela, Hodgins, and Zach nodded their agreement. Booth shrugged in response. Cam arched an eyebrow. "Aren't you going to say I am free of all charges?"
Booth shrugged a second time. "It's not up to me to clear you. Bones here has got a beef with you. You claimed leadership over her."
Cam glanced sideways. "Dr. Brennan?"
"You're free of all charges, Dr. Saroyan", Brennan said without hesitation. She caught Booth's incredulous look as she brushed her hair out of her face. "What, Booth? I have made my peace with Dr. Saroyan's authority a long time ago. Just because I defy her every once in a while, doesn't mean I don't respect her."
He sighed and hooked his thumbs behind the hem of his pants. "Who's next? Bones or Zach?"
"I'll go first," Zach offered. "If Dr. Brennan's alright with that of course?" Brennan waved for him to continue. "Booth," Zach started after he had taken a deep breath. "You state I am a robot. I am well aware that I have always distanced myself a bit from other people, mainly for highly logical reasons. This has worsened since my early return from Iraq." The whole room tensed. No one had expected Zach to bring up a painful topic such as his time in a war zone when the rest of them had confessed to rather obvious crimes. Booth saw Zach approach. "I confess, I am a robot as you put it. Guilty as charged." Since nobody but Booth had a specific idea about what Zach had faced overseas, they left it up to Booth to discharge the young doctor from all accusations.
He did so with a comforting hand on Zach's shoulder and a murmured, "Free of all charges." All eyes turned on Brennan now. She calmly stood her ground when Booth came up to her. "So Bones, you ready to confess to being a tad too bossy?"
Quirking an eyebrow, Brennan calmly replied, "I have no problem what so ever with agreeing on me being dominant. It's who I am and I'm certainly not ashamed of it. I am guilty as charged." All save Booth smiled and murmured that she was free of all charges. "That being said," Brennan continued, "what is your crime exactly, Booth? If my memory serves me correct, you were rather quick to judge us all, but you didn't name a crime for yourself. Any idea what you want to confess to?" Booth's silence made Brennan turn around to face the others. "What do you think Booth's crime is?" she asked.
"He's cocky," Angela immediately piped up.
"Annoyingly impatient," Hodgins supplied.
"Intimidating," Zach said.
"Vain," came Cam's accusation.
Brennan turned again, crossed her arms, and tilted her head to the side as she scrutinized Booth. "He's all that," she quietly said. "But I think there's a bigger crime to be revealed." She went up to him until there was less than a foot of space between them. "Booth here is scared."
"Scared?" he repeated after her.
Nodding curtly, she said in a decisive tone, "Scared, yes." Slowly she began walking around him in small circles. "You are scared of being with squints."
Somehow the final S didn't come through clearly. Booth noted this frowning slightly. Had she deliberately made 'squints' sound like 'squint'? He blanched a little upon realizing the meaning behind her subtle slip of the tongue. Surely she wasn't referring to...When he locked eyes with her, he understood that she wasn't talking about him not wanting to be spotted hanging out with Brennan's eccentric team. Brennan was subtly reminding him of how long they had been playing cat-and-mouse now. As she scrutinized him with piercing eyes, all secret glances he had stolen, all feverish thoughts that had haunted him during their partnership, and all burning hot wishes to lock her in a more than friendly embrace he nursed, hit him like a ton of bricks. In his mind he relived the dozens of opportunities where she had angled her head perfectly for a kiss. He vividly pictured the sensuality of her determined pace as she strode around confidently. A wave of longing and inexplicable tenderness for the stubborn, strong-willed, and sharp-edged woman standing in front of him flooded his being and took him completely by surprise. It wasn't the desire that shook him, nor the urge to shield her from harm---he had gotten used to those urges a long time ago. It was his pending need to just watch her that astounded him. For as long as he could remember he had always done something with women. He had never been satisfied with studying them. Booth internally sighed. He should've seen this coming. From day one Brennan had evoked unorthodox feelings in him. It was no surprise that when she was around, devouring her with his eyes or simply holding her as a friend was stimulating enough.
Crossing his arms, he straightened up. She was still staring at him, without a doubt wondering if he'd come out of hiding and meet her halfway. "I am guilty of all the things they said," he offered as he jerked his head to the side to indicate the four people behind Brennan. "Guilty as charged on all accounts, but not on yours, Bones. I am not afraid of being seen with a squint." He made sure to stare straight into her eyes as he softly added, "And I will prove that to you."
A furtive smile slid over her face. Not breaking her eye contact with Booth, Brennan asked over her shoulder, "What do you say guys?" All four of them simultaneously declared Booth free of all charges. Brennan nodded and finally gave Booth a broad smile. "You heard them. You're free."
"Excellent," a familiar voice rang from outside the room. The entire team spun around to find Gordon Gordon gazing satisfied at them through the window in the door. "I'm impressed with how you interpreted and handled the task I handed you. Congratulations, you are all free to leave." After he had said that, he fished the key out of his pocket and opened the door. Everyone walked out hastily. Booth stayed behind together with Gordon Gordon. The psychologist noted how Booth absent-mindedly stared after Brennan as she disappeared from view. "Did you get what you wanted?" he asked.
Booth snapped out of his staring. "We're a stronger team now, I suppose."
"That's not what I meant." Booth raised his eyebrows. Gordon Gordon motioned at where Brennan had just rounded a corner. "Did you find an answer to solve whatever is brewing between you two?"
"Yeah, I-" Booth stopped and studied the therapist warily. "Are you saying you didn't shove us together in that room to make us a stronger team?"
Gordon Gordon smiled. "Well, that was partly my intention, but the main goal was to get you and Dr. Brennan talking."
Booth's eyes widened. "You forced us all together so Bones and I would have no choice, but to be near each other and deal with our tension?"
"Guilty as charged," Gordon Gordon admitted. "But it worked, didn't it?"
A slow smile crept over Booth's face. Then he laughed. "Doc, you're more than free of all charges in my books!"
Like I said, I blame my cough medicine...