A/N: Glad to get a good response from you guys on the previous chapter! I wasn't sure if it came across the way I wanted it to, but judging by your reviews I think it did. This chapter has a lot less of a focus... in fact I'm not sure there is any point to this chapter whatsoever. Oops. Oh well, it amused me greatly to write, so that's good enough for me. I guess you guys will be the judges!
Oh, and by the way... WHEN did it become the 18th of December?? I'm never going to get this done in time! Luckily my last final is today after work, so from now on I will have no academic distractions to get in the way of my fanfic writing. Hahaha... you know you're obsessed when you refer to your exams as "academic distractions" from writing fanfiction. :) Enjoy!
On the fourth day of Christmas, my dear squints gave to me...
Four stranded squints
Three good hearts
Two long-lost siblings
and a skull topping off a tall tree
Hodgins leaned against the cold window, pressing his cheek against the icy glass and forcing himself awake. They were cruising steadily northbound on I-95, heading home from a convention in Norfolk, Virginia. The main focus of the convention had been forensics—not as good as his favorite topic, which was of course bugs and slime, but it had been interesting from a scientific standpoint. More so for him than Angela, anyway, who had spent the past two days expressing perpetual repulsion.
They had left shortly after Dr. Brennan's last lecture, stopping for dinner and finally merging onto the 64 shortly after eleven. Within half an hour Angela, Brennan, and the decidedly obnoxious Daisy Wick had all fallen asleep, leaving Hodgins to keep himself awake for the remaining three hours of their journey home. Hodgins had been mortified to discover that Daisy's mouth never rested—even in sleep she mumbled and hummed to herself.
He had thought he was going to get some road company when they stopped in Richmond for gas and coffee, but Brennan was only awake for a minute, asking for their location before settling back into her seat and nodding off again. He thought briefly about forcing her awake with conversation, but the idea of accidentally waking Daisy and having to contend with her inane babble for two and a half hours was enough to seal his lips. Instead he counted mile markers as they sailed down the interstate, listening to the road noise and occasionally drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.
Every once in a while he would look into the rear-view mirror and look at Angela as she slept, face smushed up against the glass, unbothered by the winter winds that chilled the car's exterior. She did not mumble or hum like Daisy did in sleep, nor was her expression plagued with the subconscious worry and intensity of Dr. Brennan's somnolent face. Rather, her expression was one of contentment, peace even, broken occasionally by a dream smile. He would smile back, unaware of his own response, and wonder where her mind had gone.
They weren't "over." They had not been together for months, but there was nothing "over" about their relationship. They had eaten Thanksgiving dinner together with her dad, and she had come over to help him decorate the mansion in Zack's painful absence. She still called him late in the night, when a fit of artistic fancy had taken hold of her mind and she could not stop painting. As if something had taken hold of her she would ramble on, about colors and images and questions no man could answer, and he would listen and smile into the receiver, feeling blessed to only hear these thoughts. They weren't together, but they weren't apart either. It was as if something was lost, and they were on hiatus until it was found again.
But what? What had they lost? What had sought flight when Grayson arrived in D.C., slithered beneath the autumn leaves that coated the earth, covered its tracks in the winter's first snow? Where had it gone, and why? Jack tormented himself with these questions on a nightly basis, alone in a house far too large for one man, that had just seemed livable with two. It was emptier now than it had been before Zack had moved in, with nobody but his echo to answer him.
Suddenly Hodgins was jerked into the present by a very loud bang. Not a bang really, but more of an explosive pop, like an experiment gone wrong. He felt the car buck and heave beneath him, turning on its own accord towards the road median. Instinctively Hodgins yanked the wheel in the opposite direction, sending the car fishtailing across multiple interstate lanes and into a soft shoulder. The wheels whined and dug into the dirt as Hodgins slammed the brakes, and the car shuddered violently as if it might turn on its side. Finally the vehicle came to a stop, engine ticking loudly in the silence that followed.
He looked down at his own white knuckles grasping the steering wheel, and let out a shaky breath. He turned to his right and saw Brennan grabbing onto the oh-shit bar for dear life, mouth open and eyes wide. Her expression was mirrored in that of Daisy and Angela both, who were now wide awake and clinging to their surroundings.
"Is everyone okay?" Hodgins asked. Brennan swallowed before nodding.
"I'm fine," she said.
"Me too," Angela said. Daisy just nodded, for once in her short life at a loss for words. Her silence was not long lived, however.
"What happened?" she asked within ten seconds. Hodgins undid his seatbelt and stepped down out of the vehicle, walking around to the passenger's side.
"Blew a tire," he said, pointing to the back right wheel. Brennan opened her door and leaned out to look—where the tire should have been, there were only strips of torn rubber. They had come to a stop on a grassy incline on the edge of the interstate road, and she had to be careful not to fall out of the car altogether.
"Do you have a spare?" Angela asked, stepping out of the car and pulling her coat close to her body. Jack nodded.
"Yeah, it's hanging on the back," he said, motioning around to the rear of the vehicle.
"Great," Brennan said. "We should be back on the road within half an hour."
"I'm assuming you know how to change a tire, then?" Hodgins asked the doctor, who scrunched her brows at him.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "Don't you?"
"Uh-uh," he said.
"Jack, you own like, fifteen cars," Angela said. "How can you not know how to change a tire?"
"I own them. I drive them around. I have people who do the maintenance work," Hodgins said sheepishly. "I've never had to change a tire before."
"I was in girl scouts for eleven years!" Daisy piped through the back window.
"So you know how to change a tire?" Angela asked. Daisy's face fell.
"Well, no," she said. "But I do know how to build a fire, set up a tent, filter water through a—"
"I don't see how those skills are pertinent to our current situation," Brennan said, cutting Daisy off. "There is no structural similarity between a tent and a tire."
"They both start with the letter T," Hodgins said cheekily.
"I meant physical structure, not phonetic," Brennan retorted. "Ange, do you know how to change a tire?"
"Bren, do I look like I change tires?" Angela asked. "I know how to get a guy to change a tire for me. That's about as close as it gets." Hodgins shook his head and chuckled, and Angela's eyes sparkled. Brennan sighed.
"I hold a Ph.D. in forensic anthropology," she said, peeling her gloves off. "I have spent months trekking through the mountains of Tibet. I have defended myself against terrorist militiamen. I work with the FBI tracking down murderers. I can change a flat tire. Hodgins, get that spare off the back," she said, squatting carefully in her dress and inspecting the shredded Bridgestone remains on the back wheel.
"Yes ma'am," Hodgins said. He struggled with the spare before it popped off of the rack on the back of the vehicle, and Angela stood back several feet with Daisy, arms crossed, surveying the scene.
"You know, this might not have happened if you hadn't insisted on taking us in the Bronco," Angela observed. Hodgins scoffed.
"Angie, the Bronco is the best car I own," he defended, patting the car's metal exterior affectionately.
"Jack, you own two Escalades, a Hummer, a Porsche, a Miata…"
"And none of them have squat on the 1988 Ford Bronco," Hodgins said with a grin. Angela rolled her eyes, but before she could say anything more she was interrupted by Brennan growling frustratedly.
"I understand the basic mechanics of a wheel, but I do not know how to access the necessary parts in order to remove the tire," she said, thoroughly puzzled.
"Honey, I think you have to pop the rim off," Angela said. Brennan quirked a brow.
"The what?" she asked.
"You know, the rim," she repeated. "The hubcap. The shiny silver thing on the front?"
"Oh," Brennan said, nodding. "Okay. How do I do that?"
"Beats the hell out of me," Angela said, her shoulders jumping up and down. "Like I said, I don't change tires. I supervise."
"I bet you're quite the supervisor," Hodgins flirted. Angela grinned back.
"You have no idea," she purred.
"Angela, I get the notion that your supervisory talents are merely a euphemism for your sexual prowess, which isn't helping me to change this flat tire," Brennan huffed from the ground.
"Well sweetie, I don't know what to tell you," Angela said. "I don't know the first thing about changing a tire."
"I do have triple-A," Hodgins said. "We could just call and wait."
"I have a better idea," Brennan said, reaching into the vehicle for her phone and hitting the first speed dial. The phone rang several times before a groggy voice answered.
"Booth, it's me," Brennan said.
"Bones, it's two in the morning," Booth groaned. "What is it?"
"Do you know how to change a flat tire?" she asked. There was a pause on the line before he answered.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"On the side of I-95, about thirty minutes outside of D.C.," Brennan said.
"On the side… are you okay?" Booth asked, suddenly wide awake.
"I'm fine, Booth, we're all fine," Brennan said. "We blew a tire, though, and none of us know how to change it." At first he said nothing; in fact, the line was so silent that Brennan almost thought he had hung up. The silence was broken, however, when Booth began to laugh hysterically.
"It's not funny," Brennan scowled.
"Oh, but it is," Booth said, struggling to compose himself. "The Squint Squad can track down a murderer with a dead maggot, but can't change a flat tire. You people never cease to amaze me."
"Can you explain to me how to do this or not?" Brennan asked, somewhat annoyed. She heard the sound of bedsprings over the line as he sat up on his mattress.
"Yeah, sure," he said. "Because I, unlike you, have practical skills that are applicable in the real world."
"Booth," Brennan said edgily.
"Fine, fine," he said. "Sorry. I'm ready, are you?"
"Yes," she said. "What do I do first?"
"Well, do you have the jack?" he asked.
"Dr. Hodgins is standing next to me, why?" she asked. Booth snorted.
"Not Jack, a jack," he explained. "A car jack, to lift up the car while you change the tire."
"Oh," Brennan said. "Hodgins, do we have a jack?"
"Like a car jack?" he asked. Brennan nodded. He shook his head. "Nope."
"No," Brennan said into the receiver. "No jack."
"Great," Booth groaned, and Brennan heard the sound of drawers opening and closing over the line. "You can't change a flat without a jack. Give me half an hour and I'll be there."
"Booth, we can just call triple-A…"
"No, they'll take at least an hour," he said. "I'm already up, I'll be there in a little bit. You guys just sit in the car and wait. And keep the doors locked, don't open them up for any strangers."
"Booth, I'm not five," Brennan said. "I understand basic highway safety precautions."
"And yet you can't change a flat tire," he said. "I'll be there soon." He hung up, and she rolled her eyes.
"He's coming," she said to the group. They loaded into the Bronco and ran the heat while they waited, blasting the defrost in order to see the incoming and ongoing traffic pass by. Within the promised thirty minutes they saw a large black Toyota roll to a stop on the median and put its flashers on. Booth stepped out with a car jack slung over his shoulder, looking smug as he casually crossed the highway to where they were parked in the grass.
"Good morning," he said pleasantly as they stepped out of the car to greet him.
"Booth, it's still dark out," Angela said.
"And it's three AM, that makes it morning," he replied. "So, how'd you blow a tire?"
"Because it's twenty years old, like the Bronco," Angela groused.
"It is not!" Hodgins replied crossly. "I don't know, it just blew out back there," he said, pointing vaguely behind them.
"A Bronco, huh?" Booth said, looking over the car. "What year?"
"Eighty-eight," Hodgins said.
"Great model," Booth replied. Angela rolled her eyes and sighed loudly.
"Boys," she said to no one in particular. Booth waved her off with a hand.
"Alright, you ladies go sit over there, me and Hodgins will get the tire changed," Booth said, but Brennan shook her head.
"No, I want you to show me how to fix it," Brennan insisted. Booth looked to Hodgins, who shrugged.
"Okay then," he said, pulling off his gloves and stuffing them into his coat pocket. "Hodgins, you wanna go get my tool box out of the back of the car?" he asked. Hodgins nodded and caught the keys Booth tossed to him, looking both ways before crossing the essentially empty highway road. Booth squatted down next to the tire, and Brennan followed suit.
"Okay Bones, first thing you gotta do when you change a tire is pop off the rim," he explained.
"This thing, the cover, right?" Brennan asked. He nodded.
"There ya go," he said, grabbing it around the edge and fussing with it until it came loose. He laid it beside them on the grass, eyeing it as it slid gracefully down the slope for about a yard.
"I lied," he said. "The first thing we need to do is put a brick or something underneath the front opposite tire so the car doesn't roll on us while we're changing out."
"Where are we going to get one of those?" Brennan asked. Booth grinned smugly.
"I keep one in my tool box," he said, as Hodgins approached them carrying the large, heavy black box and panting slightly.
"Geez, Booth, what do you keep in here?" he asked, setting the box down on the ground with a loud clang.
"Bricks, apparently," Brennan answered. Booth retrieved the brick from the bottom of the box and handed it to Hodgins.
"Behind the front left tire, please," he said. "Now we have to loosen the lug nuts. This is a lug nut wrench." He pulled out a wrench and slipped it over one of the lug nuts, before pulling out a long, hollow pipe.
"What's that for?" Brennan asked as he slipped the pipe over the end of the wrench.
"Leverage," he said. "Lug nuts are tight, they keep the tire from just rolling off when you're driving. You use the pipe to help you loosen the nuts."
"Ah," Brennan said, watching as Booth leaned his weight into the extended wrench arm, slowly loosening each lug nut fastened to the inner wheel. When he got to the last lug nut it stuck, and his face reddened as he leaned all of his weight into the wrench arm, attempting to turn it. When it wouldn't budge he leaned back, wiping his forehead.
"And when a lug nut won't come undone, you just squeeze some penetrating oil around the base and let it sit," he explained, rooting through his toolbox until he unearthed a small squirt bottle. Brennan looked over his shoulder into the large black box, which was thoroughly organized by tool type and size.
"You have a lot of tools," Brennan observed, and Booth's chest puffed.
"You can tell a lot about a man by his toolbox," Booth said proudly.
"Is that so?" Angela interjected, having wandered over to see how things were progressing. "So what does your toolbox say about you?"
"It says that I'm the Tool Man!" Booth said, hitting his chest with a fist.
"Oh-oh-oh!" Hodgins grunted. Booth mimicked the gruff sound, the two men sounding like excited junkyard dogs.
"Does everybody know what time it is?" Daisy asked excitedly.
"Tool Time!" Booth and Hodgins shouted back.
"Actually, it's twenty past three," Brennan said confusedly.
"No, Bones," Booth said patiently. "It's Tool Time. You know, Tim the Tool Man Taylor? Binford Tools? Oh-oh-oh?"
"I don't know what that means," she said flatly. Hodgins groaned. Angela shook her head.
"Don't worry, sweetie," she said, patting her friend on the shoulder. "Really… don't." Brennan shrugged.
"Don't worry, Bones," Booth said, loosening the last of the lug nuts and removing the shredded remains of the old tire. "I've got Netflix. You'll understand soon enough."
"Will that also explain why you erected a set of ten-foot wise men and a revolving glowing manger on your rooftop for Christmas?" Brennan asked. Angela snorted, and Booth grinned.
"I don't think so, Tim," Booth cracked, sending Hodgins and Daisy into peals of laughter while Angela groaned and Brennan stared blankly. "I don't think so."
A/N: Okay, I have a confession to make. There is a show that I love even more than Bones... and it is Home Improvement. :) I have no idea why I have such a peculiar obsession with this show, but I watch four episodes a night, every night, on Nick at Nite. If you've never seen it, then none of the Home Improvement jokes in this fic will make any sense to you... which is okay because that just means you're on the same page as Brennan. Oh-oh-oh!
Anyway, my love of Home Improvement aside... this chapter had absolutely no purpose. It started off as if it might have some meaning in the realm of Hodgela, but it never happened. I was having problems with this chapter from the start, so by the end even though nothing made sense I didn't even care, and still don't. The next chapter will have purpose, I promise. x)
With that said, leave a review and let me know what you think!