Booth swiped his Jeffersonian id badge and bounded up the steps of the platform, stopping next to Brennan. "Good. Looks like you're not doing anything."
Brennan frowned. "I'm working."
"No, you're not. I don't see any bones." He waved his hand at her blue lab coat. "And you've already got your lab coat half-unbuttoned."
"Very observant, Booth," she said with an approving smile and a little nod. "But I was just about to go finish up some paperwork that's been sitting on my desk all week."
"Aw, come on, Bones. It's Friday. Live a little." He heaved an enormous sigh and let his gaze fall to the floor.
"What do you want?"
He clapped his hands together and waggled his eyebrows. "Thought you'd never ask. I want you to come with me to East Potomac Park. We'll get some cones from Tom's Greatest Ice Cream and walk over to the park. I know it's a furnace out there, but think about how good that ice cream's gonna taste after you've been outside for a couple minutes."
"Why would I want to leave the cool comfort of my lab to sit outside in this heat? It's 92 degrees right now," she said with a quizzical lift of one eyebrow.
He shot Brennan the smile she didn't know he reserved just for her. "All the better to enjoy your ice cream."
"Why don't we just bring the ice cream back here and enjoy it inside, where it's air conditioned?"
"Bones," he said, dipping his chin to give her a patient look, "anticipation is half the fun."
"I don't understand. That's not rational. Why can't I just have what I want now instead of waiting for it?"
"Because, Bones," he said, drawing out the nickname, "delayed gratification's the name of the game."
When all he got from Brennan was a blank stare, he sighed and shook his head. "Haven't you ever wanted something, really wanted it, but had to wait for it, and when you finally got it, it was way better than you ever expected?"
"Why am I not surprised to hear you say that?" Angela called out, smirking, as she walked toward them with a sketchpad in her hands and a pencil tucked behind her ear. For someone who was generally so loud, Angela could be awfully quiet; Booth hadn't noticed her presence until she spoke.
Booth felt his cheeks heat and cursed himself inwardly. Real men did not blush. Seeley Booth did not blush.
He was definitely blushing.
Brennan's glance flitted between him and Angela, and she frowned. "I don't understand."
"I know, Bren. Ask Booth to explain it to you." Angela's eyes danced with laughter. "Me? I prefer to have my ice cream now and later."
Blue eyes met his and he gulped. "Booth, what is Angela saying? And why are you blushing?"
"I'm not blushing," he replied with a scowl.
"Either you're blushing or you applied a little rouge to your cheeks this morning."
He huffed and clutched his belt buckle, happy that he'd chosen to wear his "cocky" belt that day. "I am not wearing—"
"If it's the latter, it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, both women and men in ancient Egypt wore cosmetics." Brennan's lips tipped upward and her eyes took on a distinct sparkle, indicating she was rapidly warming to her subject. He knew from previous experience that this could quickly get out of hand; he wasn't interested in an anthropology lecture on Egypt at the moment. "King Tutankhamen outlined his eyes with kohl. So, you see, you're in excellent company."
"I already told you I'm not wearing make-up. I never wear make-up. I'm not into that girly stuff," he said, puffing out his chest and smoothing a hand down his silk tie.
Brennan nodded thoughtfully and tapped her chin, once. "Which leads me to conclude that you're embarrassed. You started blushing after Angela responded to your comment about delayed gratification. Hmm..."
"No hmm, Bones. No make-up, no blushing, and no hmm."
"But I genuinely don't understand. Why won't you explain it to me? When you don't understand the scientific terminology we use, I explain it to you in layman's terms. I must say, your reluctance to do the same for me isn't enhancing our communication."
"I can give you two some ideas for enhancing your communication, sweetie," Angela said with a wink that made Booth shudder in fear.
"Please do," Brennan said, sounding earnest and all too eager. "Booth is being decidedly unhelpful." She narrowed her eyes at him in a look that he'd received so many times that it no longer held the power to intimidate him.
"Please don't," he said hastily. He pointed vaguely at the opposite end of the platform. "Hey, I think Hodgins is looking for you." He bared his teeth in a grin and gave Angela a brisk shove.
"Ok. I can take a hint." Angela rolled her eyes at him and pointed her index finger at Brennan. "But for god's sake, please put the poor man out of his misery and lick his ice cream cone already. He's practically begging you." Having won that round, Angela strolled away, her shoulders shaking with laughter. Booth silently vowed to find a way to make her pay. Later.
Now he'd have to face his partner. Her expression didn't bode well. Was it too late to turn around and run away? He'd been tortured and shot at more times than he cared to count, but sometimes that all seemed to pale in comparison to moments like this, when she stared at him, blue eyes wide and piercing, seeking answers to embarrassing questions.
He cleared his throat and forced a smile. Time for a little evasive maneuvering. "I promise you, a cone from Tom's Greatest Ice Cream is worth it. Look, if you really want to do paperwork tonight, come back here after we have ice cream. I'm sure it'll wait for you."
He knew he had her when she began toying with one of the buttons on her lab coat.
"Oh, all right," she muttered, looking harassed. "You'll just hang around here pouting and generally be annoying if I refuse to join you."
"Pouting? I don't pout," he said with a huff.
"You're doing it right now," she said, lips twitching.
Booth realized with a start that his lower lip actually was sticking out a smidge. He coughed, covering, and patted Brennan on the shoulder. "Chop chop, Bones. Ice cream awaits."
It was difficult finding parking, and Booth was cursing under his breath when they finally slid into an empty space. As Brennan stepped out of the Yukon, she was hit by a wall of heat. She asked herself, not for the first time, why she had agreed to Booth's ridiculous proposition.
She glanced at him as he held the door to the small corner ice cream shop open for her, and she realized she knew the answer to her question -- because his eyes had lit up as he mentioned Tom's Greatest Ice Cream. She hadn't wanted to be the one to extinguish that light. It was a small thing, but not inconsequential.
A mix of checkered round and square café tables filled the majority of the space in the shop. Most of the tables were empty at the moment, but a few were occupied by what looked to be the afterwork crowd. Hundreds of color photographs of smiling children, many of them holding ice cream cones, lined the walls. The combination of the photos and the eclectic assortment of tables and chairs gave the place a warm, cheerful atmosphere that was reinforced by the short, rotund man standing behind the counter.
"Hey, Booth. How ya doin'? Didn't expect to see you on a Friday."
"Tom," Booth replied, an easy smile spreading across his face. "Nice shirt." He gestured at the man's red t-shirt, which was emblazoned with the words "Give me ice cream or give me death."
"Thanks, man. Who's your friend?"
"Tom, meet my partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan."
"Nice to meet you, Dr. Brennan."
"Likewise, Mr. ..." Temperance trailed off as she realized she didn't know the man's last name.
"Oh, just call me Tom."
"Tom it is."
"Booth here is one of my best customers. He's in here with his son just about every other Saturday." Tom tapped a spot on the wall behind him, and Temperance leaned forward to get a closer glimpse. As the picture came into focus, she couldn't help but smile. Parker straddled a chair and held aloft a sugar cone filled with what looked to be chocolate ice cream. He appeared to be offering it to whoever was behind the camera. Thin ribbons of melted ice cream slid down his fingers, and a brown smudge dotted his nose. But most striking was his wide, joyful smile -- a pure copy of the one she saw so often.
A small, secret part of her warmed at the revelation that Booth had brought her somewhere he shared with his son. It was the same part that made her keep Jasper the pig tucked in her desk at work and made her take him home with her every night.
She turned her head to look at Booth. "His smile looks just like yours."
Booth rocked back on his heels and scratched his neck. "Yeah? You think so? Everyone usually says he looks just like Rebecca."
Temperance cocked her head to the side and let her eyes linger on her partner's mouth. "Well, he definitely inherited your smile."
Booth smiled then, looking pleased and almost...bashful. Not a word she usually associated with him. "Thanks, Bones." He looked away, breaking the moment. "So, what flavor do you want? My treat."
"Why is it always your treat? I don't appreciate your antiquated, sexist notions about—"
"Can we please not start with that again? I'll let you pay...one of these days." He placed a hand on her back and nudged her toward the display case. "Now hurry up and pick something before the evening rush arrives."
Slapping Booth's hand away, she perused the flavors in the case. Her gaze skipped across the dozen variations of chocolate, the fruity flavors, and the numerous cookie infused flavors. Disappointment washed over her until at last, she saw it; the perfect pale green promised pure satisfaction. "I'll have one scoop of Pistachio Dream on a waffle cone." Hearing snickers behind her, she whipped around to blast Booth with the nastiest look she could manage. "What?"
"Come on." He shook his head and raised his gaze toward the ceiling. "I bring her to Tom's, and what does she get? Pistachio Dream. What is that?"
"Booth, you know I stand behind every single flavor I serve here. It's all the best."
"I know, I know. But she hasn't even triedChocoholic Dream or All Fudged Up."
"Don't listen to him, Dr. Brennan. Pistachio Dream's a perfectly respectable choice." Tom winked at her. "Besides, that'll give you an excuse to come back and try something else another day."
"Thank you, Tom. I stand by my decision." Knowing it would irritate him, she deliberately ignored Booth. She accepted the cone from Tom. When she reached for her wallet, Booth's hand shot out and caught her wrist.
"Hey, I already told you: this is my treat." Releasing her wrist, he leaned in close to her ear, his warm breath making her shiver. "Even if you do pick one of the sissy flavors."
Rolling her eyes, she raised the cone to her mouth, only to be brought up short when Booth grabbed her arm. "No, Bones. You're not doing it right. Remember, you have to wait till we're at the park."
"You're insufferable. You don't let me drive. You don't let me pay. And now, you won't let me eat my ice cream. Please, tell me again why I work with you."
He shrugged casually. "Oh, well, that's easy." Drawing himself up, Booth flashed her a smile that was all teeth. "You can't resist the patented Seeley Booth charm smile. Or the flashy belts," he said, tapping his belt buckle.
"That must be it," she replied, unable to repress the answering smile that found its way to her lips. "If you're going to make me wait, at least hurry up and choose your ice cream."
"What'll it be, Booth? The usual?"
"You know it, Tom."
The usual turned out to be a three scoop sundae comprised of Rocky Road My World, Chocoholic Dream, Oreo Chunk, a whip cream flourish, a sprinkling of nuts, and one shiny, red cherry.
"That's your usual?" Her gaze shifted from his ice cream to his midsection. "How much do you weigh?"
"None of your business." He patted his stomach and preened. "This is 100 percent American steel."
She snorted in a decidedly unladylike manner. "Not for long," she replied, giving his top-heavy sundae a pointed look.
He glared at her and handed Tom several bills. After he got back the change, they said their goodbyes and left the shop.
They stopped at the Yukon. Booth handed Temperance his sundae before removing his suit jacket and carefully hanging it over the back of the driver's seat. He also removed his service revolver and holster and tucked them away inside the glove compartment. That done, he grabbed a large, blue, weathered blanket from the backseat and locked the car.
Taking his sundae back from her, he turned and walked away. "Come on, slow poke," he called over his shoulder.
"We have to walk to the park? The ice cream will be soup by the time we get there."
"Aww, quit your complaining. It's only two blocks away."
Temperance cast a longing look at the cool, air conditioned store before hurrying to catch up to her partner.
He hadn't lied; the park really was two blocks away. Still, the July sun beat down, and Temperance felt a drop of sweat slide down her spine. She was suddenly intensely grateful she'd opted for a gauzy sleeveless shirt that morning.
Booth trudged toward a shady spot under a sprawling tree and spread the blanket on the ground. With a sigh of relief, he lowered himself to the blanket and patted a spot at his side. "Sit."
She complied, easing down next to him. "Now?" she asked, eyebrow raised.
"Dig in," he replied, raising his plastic spoon.
The ice cream had started to melt, so she began by licking the bits that trickled down the outside of the cone. She felt Booth's eyes on her, so she turned her head to look at him. Lowering the cone, she licked her lips. "What?"
Booth cleared his throat and shifted, looking away. "Man, it's hot." He undid his tie and placed it on the blanket, then opened the top three buttons of his dress shirt, revealing the collar of his white undershirt and a smooth, tanned patch of skin.
Temperance realized she was staring and deliberately turned her attention back to her ice cream, concentrating on the cool, sweet, soothing sensation as she swallowed. They ate quietly for a while, watching the few brave souls tossing frisbees or walking. They didn't speak, the silence punctuated by the occasional lusty sigh from Booth.
"See, now, isn't this fun? Admit it, Bones, a spontaneous ice cream break every now and then is a good thing."
Temperance nodded and rearranged herself on the blanket so she was facing Booth. "I can admit it." She paused to take a bite out of her waffle cone, appreciating its crisp sweetness. "There is sometimes something to be gained by being spontaneous."
"Thanks, Bones. Nice of you to finally admit it." He nodded and smirked, pleased at her concession.
"We've been partners for a long time now—"
"More than three years," he said, interrupting her.
"As I was saying, we've been partners for a long time. I've had many opportunities to observe you." She chewed the last bit of her cone and plucked at the blanket. "You...You have this ability to extract so much pleasure from such small things. Where does that come from?" It was an impulsive question, one she'd asked purely on instinct, and yet, she realized she truly wanted to know the answer.
Booth blinked, and his eyebrows drew together. He was clearly taken aback by her question. He set his unfinished sundae cup down and shifted to face her, pulling his knees up to his chest and clasping his arms around his legs. Then his brow smoothed. "Careful, Bones, you might be venturing into psychological territory here."
Temperance tucked her knees under her and sat up straighter. "No, I assure you this is a purely scientific inquiry."
"Uh huh," he said with a knowing grin. The grin disappeared and he looked out across the park, eyes narrowed. She wondered what it was that he saw. "During Desert Storm, we'd be out there, sometimes tracking a target for days. The heat was like nothing I've ever felt before, and the sand was everywhere. Sand in your food, sand in your shoes, sand in your weapons."
He shook his and sighed, lost in remembrance. "Anyway, we'd be out there for days sometimes, just waiting, watching the kill zone and waiting for the right shot. You're not supposed to daydream, but I couldn't help it; sometimes my mind would just wander. I'd think about ice cream, the really good stuff. And hot, gooey, extra-cheesy pizza from Pizza Hut. A real bed with a fluffy pillow. That kind of thing."
Booth's gaze shifted from the horizon to her. "I didn't know if I'd make it home or not. But I promised myself if I did, I wouldn't take those little things for granted or ignore opportunities to be spontaneous and enjoy myself."
Temperance nodded. "You did make it home. But Booth, the job you do now, it's no less dangerous."
She held his gaze, unable to look away, as the moment stretched out. She searched for the right words, wanting Booth to understand what his honesty meant to her. When the search proved fruitless, she settled for the simplest words, though they felt inadequate. "Thank you."
"For sharing that with me."
"That's what partners do." He looked away and reached for his cup.
Temperance smiled at his single-mindedness, pleased by the obvious pleasure with which he attacked the remains of his sundae. When he had spooned the last soupy bits of ice cream into his mouth, he set the cup down and removed his shoes and socks. Booth lay back on the blanket with his hands folded under his head. His long legs extended over the edge of the blanket so that his bare feet dipped into the green grass. Heaving a contented sigh, he turned his head to look at her.
She watched as a small bead of sweat trickled from his temple into his dark hair. Her fingers curled in on themselves as she became aware of her desire to catch the droplet and lift it to her lips, to taste the heat and salt of his skin. As her eyes moved over his familiar features, she noted with amusement the brown streak by his mouth. "You have some ice cream on your face."
"Right here," she said, pointing at the equivalent spot on her own face.
Booth swiped at his cheek, completely missing the smudge.
"No, here," she said, again tapping her face.
Booth rubbed at his face but only succeeded in further smearing the ice cream.
"Did I get it?"
"No," she said, and started to laugh. But her laughter trailed off as she was struck by a sense of having been there before -- not in that park, nor on that blanket, but with her partner. Fragments of conversations with Booth about spontaneity and fun glimmered in her mind. Booth bickering with her about her desire to always play it safe. Booth urging her to lighten up and be impulsive sometimes. Booth listening patiently when she fumbled for words that articulated her jumbled emotions. Booth, Booth, Booth.
She examined the evidence. For the past 3 years, everywhere, always, in her lab, on her couch, at the diner, in her life, there was Booth. Thousands of discrete moments with him crowded together in her mind's eye, strung together like the beads of the tiger-eye necklace she wore.
Overwhelmed, she closed her eyes and took a single deep breath. When she opened them, he was still there, lying next to her on the blanket, watching her with a half-smile on his face. Thinking about his admission, she inched forward and pressed her lips next to his mouth, against the stubborn smear of ice cream. When he didn't push her away, she let the tip of her tongue slip out to taste his skin. She shivered as she processed the sweet, the salt, and the warmth...and felt an answering warmth wash over her.
Temperance pulled back slowly, eyes open and fastened on Booth's face.
"Why did you do that?" he asked.
"I wanted to see if your ice cream tasted better than mine," she replied, striving to project a casualness she certainly didn't feel.
His lips curved in a lazy smile that made her mouth go dry. "And did it?"
"You know, you could have just asked for a bite."
"If I had asked, would you have given it to me?"
Booth appeared to ponder the question seriously for a moment. "Maybe, maybe not," he finally replied.
Turning her head, Temperance peered into Booth's ice cream cup and spied the uneaten cherry. "May I have your cherry?"
Booth smirked. "Sorry, Bones, gave that away a while ago."
Rolling her eyes at the innuendo, she grasped the cherry with two fingers and popped it into her mouth. Feeling curiously light, she bit into the flesh and watched Booth watch her. She removed the pit and put it into a napkin. After carefully wiping her fingers on another napkin, she placed the empty stem in her mouth and chewed gently in order to soften it. When it felt sufficiently soft, she used her tongue to fold it in half and then manipulate it into a knot. Satisfied that her diligence had paid off, she stuck her tongue out at Booth and raised an eyebrow in triumph.
"Wow. You can tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue." His tone was full of wonder, his eyes glinting with warmth.
With a nonchalant shrug, she dropped the stem in Booth's cup. "It's really not that hard," she said.
"Oh, trust me, it is," Booth muttered before he rose and gently urged her down on her back on the blanket. "Is this ok?" he asked, brushing his nose against hers.
Feeling the unyielding hardness of the ground against her back and the hot press of Booth against her front, she silently asked herself what she wanted in that moment. The answer came to her with unexpected clarity, and she chose to communicate it without words, arching up to kiss the man who was more than her partner, more than her friend. Just more...
Pleasure arced through her as their lips met, and she shuddered, aware of every point of contact between their bodies. His mouth was sticky sweet against hers, and the evening stubble on his cheeks rasped against the sensitive pads of her fingers. She barely stifled a moan when she felt the hot, wet slide of his tongue against hers.
She knew then that she was lost. Completely and totally lost.
Amazed that she was in danger of losing control from just a kiss, Temperance pulled back and willed her heartbeat to slow, feeling a tiny pang of fear. But then Booth rubbed the pad of his thumb against her lower lip, his eyes never leaving hers as he did so.
"So where should we go for dinner?" he asked, as if he sensed her fear. He pulled away just enough so he could lie on his side, with his head propped on his hand.
Grateful that he knew her so well, she reached for his free hand and felt the fear fade away. Widening her eyes at him in mock surprise, she said, "You just had an enormous ice cream sundae, and now you want to have dinner?"
"Of course," he replied, raising her hand and kissing it. "I'm starving." With a knowing twinkle in his eye, Booth helped her to her feet. "Will you show me how to do the thing with the cherry stem sometime?"
"Only if you tell me what Angela was going on about."
"All in good time, Bones. All in good time."
Author's note: I know I have stories to update, and I promise I'll get to them soon. However, the past two weeks have been pretty stressful. We moved into our first house, and we also found out that I'd had what's called a "missed miscarriage." My doctor strongly recommended I have a D&C before I miscarried naturally; two days after the move I had the surgery and have been recovering since then. I was 10 weeks pregnant, and both my husband and I were very excited about having what would have been our first child. Not every moment of the last two weeks has been bad, and I accept that there are certain things I just can't change. But it's felt like I've been on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Trying to manage everything has been draining, and I really WANTED to write something but worried I couldn't. I also found that I didn't want to write anything particularly angsty. Once I started typing, I discovered that I wanted to tell a light story about Booth and Brennan coming together in a relatively quiet, un-dramatic fashion. I know some readers may disagree with me, but I don't think they're out of character here. I think it's just one of many believable ways their partnership could take a romantic turn. The story's set somewhere late in the third season, so I assumed that they'd grow closer and come to understand each other even better during that time, and that understanding could fairly naturally lead them down a new road. If you disagree, please feel free to let me know that. I welcome your comments.
Anyway, I didn't mean to bore you with personal information or writerly explanations. I just wanted you to know where I was coming from. As always, thank you for reading. If you feel like leaving feedback, I'd love to read it. If not, I am still thrilled that you read this story.