She was walking down the rain-slicked corner of 15th and Patriot when the lemon-yellow walls of the Suds-O-Rama Laundromat caught her eye. She passed this particular laundromat often, as it was on the way to Booth's apartment, but she had never given it much consideration. Now, however, the cheery walls proved a stark contrast to the black, chilled night, and a lone figure rested his hips against a gleaming white machine, arms folded across his chest.
Brennan paused at the window, ignoring the light rain that dusted her shoulders like cold stardust. With the bright lights coming from indoors, she was fairly certain Booth could not see her as she could see him, and she was content to observe her partner without his keen gaze observing her right back.
She remembered him complaining to her earlier in the week that the laundry machine in his building had been broken for weeks, but this was the first time that she had ever actually seen her partner do anything domestic.
That part of his life, she realized, he rarely mentioned, though his house was always clean, his shirts always pressed, and his son a model of what could parenting could accomplish. On the low table next to him, a stack of laundry had been neatly folded; she recognized some of Booth's favorite T-shirts, as well as a stack of smaller clothing she assumed was Parker's.
He was wearing the dress shirt he wore to work that day, but his tie was gone and the shirt was unbuttoned to reveal the strong planes of his neck. He looked almost sad, staring into space with an unfocused look she did not often associate with her alert, watchful partner. Before she quite made up her mind, she pushed open the glass door to the nearly empty shop, shaking rain from her streaming hair.
Booth's dark gaze caught hers as she entered, and the sad look immediately dropped as he rushed forward.
"Christ, Bones, it's got to be near freezing outside. What the hell are you doing here?" When his warm hands touched her raw, gloveless ones, the pain of cold versus hot skittered up the nerves in her arms. Keeping both of her hands in his, he chafed them gently, trying to warm her.
After a minute, he reached up to pull her wet jacket from her shoulders and pluck the hat off her head. Grabbing a towel still warm from the dryer, he wrapped it around her shoulders and surveyed his handiwork.
"I decided to walk to your place," she murmured. Recognizing that she was being uncharacteristically docile at his ministrations, yet unable to will the strength to push away his concern, she let him rub her arms through the warm towel.
"It's nearly eleven, Bones, and we aren't in the best part of town."
"You know I can take care of myself, Booth," she said, tilting her head to the side to let her hair fall out of her eyes.
Expecting Booth's easy grin and acquiescence, her heart thudded erratically in her chest when he gripped her arms and hoisted her to sit on the thrumming washing machine. "Temperance Brennan, do you know how much sleep I lose worrying about you?" His eyes were coal black, deathly serious, and he refused to release her, keeping his face inches from her own.
Unafraid, she leaned in closer, now entirely too warm. "I'm fine, Booth. Now let me go."
He growled, a frown deepening his features. "No. Promise me you'll be more careful."
The dark look on his face was incongruous with the bright lemon walls surrounding him, as well as with the machine whirring happily beneath her.
He looked like he might shatter if pushed any further, his muscles tense. His thighs bracketed her legs as he pushed against her, and she could feel the thrumming tension course through him. "What's happened," she whispered to him, suddenly confident in her assessment that something bad had indeed occurred. Her stomach dropped and twisted. "Parker?"
He let out a breath in a whoosh, pushing away from the machine and her. He raked a hand roughly through his hair, exhaling again in a noisy burst. "Is fine," he finished.
Inexplicably bereft by the loss of him against her, despite his evident anger and fear, she jumped off the machine and roughly grabbed his shoulder. Spinning Booth to face her, she reached up a hand to cup his gently-stubbled cheek. "What is it?"
Brennan felt him stiffen, as if he might fight her, but then the tension drained from his shoulders and he reached a hand around her waist to pull her closer to him. "It's Rebecca," he finally murmured, an exhausted look replacing the fury in his gaze. "She was carjacked earlier tonight. Her and Parker."
Her breath caught at his words, and she tightened her loose grasp of the short hair at his neck. "They're okay," he answered her unspoken request. "They're fine," he repeated again, as if to himself. "The guy took their car and her purse, but he didn't hurt them. God, I want to be with them!" He wrenched away from her tender hold and nearly shouted at the damned yellow walls.
"I should have been there. I want to make sure my son is all right. I want to make sure Beck is all right!" he ranted, slamming a fist into a machine. He obviously didn't notice when his knuckles immediately bruised, but Brennan did. She went to him and took his hand in hers, wrapping her still-cold hat around the heat of his fingers to ease the swelling.
"Did Rebecca say you couldn't come over?" she asked gently, keeping him firmly attached to her. He let her, hardly noticing as she soothed his hand.
"No, no," he sighed. "That bastard Drew told me he would take care of it. And the thing that kills me, is that he is."
Trying to follow his logic and failing somewhat, she waited for the explanation she knew would be forthcoming. "He dried Rebecca's tears and he told Parker how proud he was of him for being so brave. He took them out for ice cream before I even managed to get there," Booth broke off, wincing. "I was speeding and breaking just about every damn traffic law to get to them," he said, "and when I got there, I just froze, looking in that window. Parker's sitting on his lap, eating an ice cream cone without a care in the world. Becca's leaning against him, and she's laughing. They were a family, Bones."
"But he was just keeping their minds off it, Booth," Brennan told him gently. "You went in, right?"
Booth nodded, staring unseeingly past her. "They didn't need me," he whispered hoarsely. "My son didn't need me. Becca didn't need me."
"They need you, Booth," she told him firmly, forcing his troubled gaze to meet hers, willing her to believe what she so thoroughly knew. "Parker needs his Dad."
She led him to sit on the washer she had vacated earlier. When he refused to sit, she frowned at him and pushed his chest until he obliged her. She stood in front of him, only come up to his chest. "Drew should know that the only way Parker's going to rest easy is if the father he idolizes tells him how proud he is. But it can wait, Booth," she murmured soothingly to him. "You saw for yourself that they're fine. Your family is safe."
"Not if they keep putting themselves in dangerous situations," he mumbled.
"Carjacking is entirely random, Booth--"
"I meant you."
"And I meant it when I say I lose years off my life worrying about you."
For once at a loss for words, she let out a gasp as Booth reached under her arms and hoisted her up next to him on the machine. The jumpy, jerky action of the washing machine sent her bumping close to him, and the distance closed even further when he reached around her head to gently tug her to him.
Face to face, their lips just a hairsbreadth apart, she finally saw that some of the sadness had gone, lending his eyes their usual coffee color.
"It's just who I am, Booth," she whispered to him. A great shudder of the machine beneath them pushed them together, bumping their lips together. He let out a shaky breath at that first, brief contact and pushed closer, closing the gap definitively.
Her lips were still cold, and his brushed them with warmth. Their long kiss gave way to a series of short, breathless, back and forth kisses. He gently tugged on her bottom lip, groaning as she pulled away.
Without another word, he tucked her under his arm, resting his cheek against her hair. It had been a very long time since he had sat with someone like this, and he suddenly felt years younger. Brennan began swinging her legs, her sneakers bumping gently against the washing machine with the rhythm of the cycle. The wide glass panes of the front of the shop acted like a mirror, and Brennan idly wondered if anyway was watching their impromptu show.
But she was, at last, warm, and Booth was finally at ease next to her. The machine still ticked beneath them, and the lemon-yellow walls put a smile on her face.
"I wouldn't change you, Bones," he said so softly, she could barely hear him over the whir of machinery. The scent of laundry detergent tickled her nose as she burrowed closer.
"I know," she said thoughtfully. "And that's why I'm going to try."
Booth nodded, appreciating the feel of her next to him, softly breathing in and out. "Just be safe, Bones. I might go kind of crazy without you."
They smiled at each other, and she admitted to herself that she might go a little insane without him, too.
Hmmm... This weekend I was at a bridal show. There were a ton of photographers, all quite good, but I saw this one photograph I just could not get out of my mind. It's the most bizarre thing ever, yet it was the most striking picture... There was a couple kissing on a laundry machine at a laundromat and the walls were, you guessed it, lemon-yellow. It sounds weird. I know. If only I could find the photo, I could post a link and then you could see the sheer genius of it! I've been looking, but I just don't remember the name of the photographer and there had to be at least 40 photographers there. If I find it, I'll definitely post it. If not, I hope you enjoyed this anyway. It started with some scribblings in class, and evolved into this. Anyway, have a good day. Bones will be back on in a week! :)