A little Valentine's Day Fluff and Romance. B/B of course, with supporting cast members.
The Soap Opera in the Lab
Brennan was in another rare high mood, just like she'd been in the rest of the week-- at least it was slow from the case end of things. God knows what it would have been like if she was like this when Seeley was around-- they'd be at it like hammer and tongs if he didn't get her calmed down. Dr. Brennan was already here when I got in just before eight, and was up on the platform dictating away over another Stone Age warrior she'd been asked to clear for the Museum.
Brennan was totally pissed-- or whatever was eating at her-- in a big way. She was really working her ass off-- Transcription called me twice already, begging me to make her slow down. "We're drowning in dictation files from her, every two hours she sends us one that's an hour and a half long, and Allison and Sheila are ready to cry."
I said I'd do what I could, but no one stops Brennan when she's on a tear, much less an angry one. I sure as hell wasn't going to tell her to stop working-- she'd knock me dead with that stare of hers, and I damned well knew to stay out of her way when her nostrils flared and her forehead furrowed like what she'd been doing all week.
Of course, she wouldn't say she was angry if that's even what it was unless it was Booth she was fighting with. Around the rest of us, even Angela, she just kept on her stone face, didn't talk except in clipped half-phrases, and visibly bit back sharp comments when one of us was too slow with something she wanted. That part was a bit surprising, but I suppose Seeley'd finally rubbed off on her. Her anger? distress? something else? had gotten so bad that we all kept a wide berth around her-- the heated emotions roiling around her were as turbulent as a tornado, and I didn't want to know why she was so upset-- who knew if she'd go off.
Angela stuck her head into my office not long afterward.
"She still Hurricane Brennan?" she asked, jerking her head, her voice low.
I nodded. "She hasn't told you what's wrong?"
Angela shook her head. "No-- I called her last night to ask her again, and she practically hung up on me. She sounded almost ready to cry and yet kill all at once."
I shook my head in response. Who knew what went on in her mind-- well, except Seeley.
Jack and Wendell stuck their heads in. "It's worse today," said Wendell under his breath, his eyes wide. I didn't blame the poor kid, his grade did depend on her good graces-- not that she was snarling at him or anything, it was just ... incredibly tense. "You could cook an egg in the air up there."
Jack gave him a sympathetic look. "Well, just stay out of her way. Her bark is worse than her bite..."
Angela, Wendell and I gave him a look, and Jack flushed. "Okay. Maybe not. But I don't think she'd go off in the lab, okay?"
"I don't know ..." I said. "But we'd better get back to work before she decides we're talking about her." The other three nodded seriously, scattering.
When Brennan went into her office at mid-morning, her mood was even worse when she came out-- she was almost completely silent. I didn't know if she was on the verge of erupting or what, but three lab techs in a row burst into tears when she stared at them as they gave her their results. I didn't dare tell her to take a break-- she wouldn't accept it, and might even hurt me. Some tough lady cop I am. Instead, I made a call to the non-resident Anthropologist Wrangler.
"Camille-- don't call me Seeley. What's up?"
"Um ... have you spoken to Dr. Brennan this week?" I asked with some trepidation-- since when did I start feeling like I was cheating on her to ask him if he'd spoken with his partner? The woman had a bizarre way of earning your loyalty, but there it was all the same.
"Sure. Almost every day. Been busy with a bunch of newbies to train, but yeah, I've talked to her. Why?" His tone was curious.
"Well ... has she seemed at all off to you?"
He paused before answering. "Just quiet. She gets that way sometimes. But she sounded okay when I talked to her yesterday. What's going on?"
I sighed. "Well, maybe she's been fine talking to you, but she's been in a high state for over a week, and it just got worse a half hour ago. She's making the techs cry just looking at them, Wendell cringes every time she asks him for something because it's so tense on the platform, Transcription's ready to quit because she's working so hard, and I swear, it's like an emotional whirlpool around here."
Seeley paused again before answering. "When did this all start?"
There was an even longer pause as he thought. "And you said she's upset? Has she said why?"
Even though he couldn't see me, I shook my head no. "No. Won't tell Angela, barely speaks to anyone, just works. She doesn't even cry or yell or call people names, not that she would, she's just ... extremely distressed, almost like when you were dead again. Whatever it is, she's just getting worse."
I felt weird telling him that last bit-- I'd been torn all this time between telling him what an ass he'd been and protecting her privacy-- hah, I'd hated her when we began and now I felt like I needed to mother-hen her.
"I'll come over in a bit, okay?" He sounded thoughtful and a bit concerned. "I've got just a few things to finish, but then I'll drag her out for some lunch."
"Thank you," I said. "See you soon-- please, like, now?"
"Okay, Cam. Soon." He hung up, and I looked back up to the platform. Dr. Brennan was re-boxing the warrior as a Museum intern stood by to sign for it, he and Wendell both doing their best not to cringe at the grim set of her mouth. I decided I'd better make an appearance, see what I could do to defuse the tension up there.
"Morning," I said, neutral and quiet, as I made my way to "my" station to check something.
"Morning," she said, flat, clipped and even. Oh dear. I knew that voice. When I turned around she was still putting things into that box, but the expression in her eye-- well, I'd guessed aright. Her eyes were as ... something ... as they'd been when Seeley was dead. Whatever it was, she was as close to the breaking point as she was on the day of his funeral.
The air was still crackling with tension as she signed off on some forms, finished her Stone Age warrior transcription, then directed Wendell on some skeleton he was working himself. Even the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end, and I'm pretty unflappable. The whole half hour I was up there she gave off more serious vibes than I'd ever seen from anyone else-- and to think I'd thought her a robot when I first started working here. Dr. Brennan pointed out some final anomaly to Wendell, then strode off the platform into her office just as I saw Seeley saunter in through the door. Suddenly, her door slammed so hard it reverberated throughout the lab-- there was a thunking noise from within even as Seeley was hardly halfway to her office.
"Oh, God, please, Booth-- just make it stop," Wendell begged, his shoulders and face tight with tension.
Seeley's eyebrows went up and his expression went from amused to concerned as he sped up the pace to her office, then pushed open her door, closing it most of the way behind him. Though I should have stopped myself, I found myself drawing close to the blind side of her office window, with a sliver of view from next to a column. I needed to know-- we all did, since Jack, Angela, and Wendell crept up behind me. We were all going to hell-- but at least we'd find out what was bugging her.
"Bones?" I heard Seeley asking. "You alright? What's going on?" From where I was peeking, I could just see that he was squatting on the floor in front of her couch. That thump must have been her, sitting hard on the floor.
I didn't expect what happened then-- she let out an angry sound that almost resembled a sob. But it couldn't be. Brennan didn't cry in the lab-- or anywhere else she could be overheard if I had her to rights. But there she was, her voice tight, her words rushing out irregularly.
"There-- look at those. Someone just left me four dozen red roses! I don't even know how they got in here! I had my eye on my office all morning, but ... but not only ... the roses but ... someone left me chocolates, expensive ones, when I came in mid-morning to check on my email!"
Seeley's voice sounded cautious. "Isn't that good? Because Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and most people like chocolate and roses, Bones. Hell, I've seen you scarf half a box of truffles at one go, and you've got your apartment full of flowers and roses most of the time. You like those things, what's the problem?"
I half wondered if maybe he'd sent them, but it wasn't like him. If Seeley was feeling romantic, he did it bold-faced, so you had no choice but to melt at that charm smile of his.
Dr. Brennan's voice rose in tone, her voice cracking. "I don't like them when someone leaves them with no note, no sign who they're from-- someone's just putting them there to taunt me."
"Oh, God," breathed Angela, looking stricken. "She hates surprises. And she hates Valentine's Day." Now Jack and Wendell looked worried, and I felt my heart twist.
Seeley's voice became even more cautious, though he spoke lightly. "Now, Bones, maybe you've got a secret admirer."
Brennan's voice was bitter and choked. "I don't have romantic secret admirers. I either have stalkers or losers for boyfriends or men who dislike me because I'm richer and smarter than they are. I don't attract men who go in for big gestures-- well, except naming a boat for me before I've even agreed to sail off with him. It's just someone I've pissed off ... " She trailed off, lost in thought.
Seeley spoke again, sounding even more concerned. "Come on, Bones, that's not true."
There was a long pause as Brennan mumbled something, then he spoke again, almost brusquely. "Bones, can't you believe someone just wants to do something nice for you?"
I didn't hear her murmured response, just a long ragged sniffle and then his soft "Bones, that's not true."
Now I really felt like I was going to hell by staying to listen if she was crying, but I was glued to the spot.
"No," she responded, somewhat louder, her voice clearly thick with tears. "No, it is true. It's just some ... Andy Fluger ... someone who hates me and knows I'm still alone, just like every other year, and wants to make me feel miserable. It's horrible, Booth. Every time I leave my office, every time I come home this last week there's just more nice ... stuff ... in front of my door at my house, on my desk every time I'm gone for more than an hour-- it's not stalking, it's just ... mean. It's got to be someone here, one of the department heads I've annoyed-- I'm afraid what I'll find waiting when I go home-- the end to this whole cruel series of jokes."
Brennan sounded really upset, and it was clearly something she'd discussed with Seeley before, as his next words would prove, even as Jack whispered "Who's Andy Fluger?" and Angela shook her head, "No idea."
I saw Seeley shift then a bit and haul Brennan up onto the sofa to sit next to him. "Bones," he said quietly. "I'm sure it's not some Andy Fluger, okay?"
Brennan clearly snorfled, a long ragged sound like a toddler that made Wendell cringe, hell, made all of us cringe, then said "You don't know that."
He said something else more quietly then, and Brennan shook her head before responding, her voice rising and constricted. "You say that, but it's not true. There just isn't someone out there for everyone, and I'm one of those people. Which my quote-unquote secret admirer clearly knows."
"You're being paranoid," he chided, his voice becoming increasingly tense.
"I'm being pragmatic," she huffed bitterly. "I'm not like you, Booth. Attractive straightforward people who have no hidden insecurities and agendas do not want to date me, which hardly matters since I haven't been out on a date in six months."
The four of us exchanged guilty looks at this confession, and Angela's eyes were actually welling. I wonder how much of this, if any, she already knew-- it didn't look like she did.
Brennan sniffled again, then said "I don't even know why I'm whining about this to you. I'm sorry. I think I'm just going to go for a drive." Her voice was actually quavering even as she tried to regain control.
She stood, and Seeley caught her by the wrist. "Well, I'm with you on getting out of the lab thing, but let's go grab some lunch or something, hunh? If you're nice to me, I'll let you make me Mac and Cheese for dinner."
I could see he was charm smiling her, but she just shook her head-- not angry, just sad as she looked back at him.
"No, Booth, don't worry about it-- you're busy with work and I'm sure you've got plans for the weekend. I think I'm just going to go home the day, maybe I'll beat my new Andy Fluger before I get home and can leave again without some other taunting reminder."
Seeley had some expression I couldn't read on his face as she spoke that got only stronger. "So you're just going to spend the weekend alone, Bones?"
"Why should it be any different from any other weekend these days?" she asked, voice clipped. Wendell's jaw dropped even as Angela's tightened.
Seeley, meanwhile, tipped his head as he spoke, his voice rough. "And you have no idea whatsoever who might be sending this stuff to you?"
"No!" Brennan wailed, breaking free of his grip and wrapping her arms around herself. "And if I knew who it was I'd … it's ... they're ... they seem like ... they're lovely sweet things ... but anyone who ... meant it ... would already know I'm a complete romantic disaster-- or they'd know I ... can't ... I just need things to be straightforward ... is that too much to ask? It's just ... someone who enjoys knowing I'm going to be lonely forever." She angrily wiped tears from her face and backed off, heading toward her desk.
Seeley got up and followed her, putting his hand on her arm and tugging at her until she turned around. He stepped right into her space, closer than I'd ever seen him do-- even though the two of them already had nonexistent personal space-- and tipped her chin up to look at him as he said some other inaudible thing.
Angela growled as we watched them. "If he sent her all that stuff and walks out of here without telling her that he loves her I'm going to rip his head off. Bren doesn't do subtlety."
Wendell nodded in agreement. "Yeah, if she caught me looking at her like that she'd fail me. He needs to just man up already." I was suddenly endeared by his protective assertion-- I thought he and Seeley were friendly from their hockey league, but apparently he harbored more than professional admiration for our anthropologist, too.
Meanwhile, Brennan was starting to leak large perfect tears while Booth held on to her chin and kept talking, still too low to hear. Something he said made her jerk, stiffen and back away from him, looking like she'd been slapped.
"I suppose you thought it was funny," she said, her voice rising and her face practically crumpled.
A hiss escaped from me at how upset she was-- Jack too.
"Bones, I wouldn't make fun of you like that," Seeley said, reaching for her arm carefully. Brennan backed off again, sidestepping her desk and keeping a distance between them.
"Well, you did, Booth-- you have. You've made it abundantly clear I've got no discretion in choosing the men I date, and yet you still think it's funny to send me these ... things ... while you go off and do whatever it is you do with your date for tomorrow, since I'm sure that you have one even though I wouldn't know because you've made it clear your personal life his none of my business. That's not funny, Booth, it's just cruel." Brennan sniffled again, wiping tears from her face with the back of her hand as she stared at her partner woefully.
"Goddamnit, Bones," Seeley finally said, looking exasperated, afraid and confused all at once. He grabbed Brennan then before she could dodge him, holding onto her arms with both hands as he said "I was trying to do something nice for you, for Christ's sake, and you go and twist it all around instead of just thinking maybe it's a simple as it is and that they're just ... gifts ... from someone who ... cares about you."
Wendell huffed disgustedly. "Jesus Christ, Booth, just say it already."
Back in her office, Brennan looked stricken, trembling as she stuttered out her response.
"F-ffriends do n-nnot leave someone chocolates and roses and jewelry and art-- t-tthat's something someone who's a ll-lover does, and you're not. You've made t-tthat cc-clear, Booth. Y-yyou said w-wwe're just partners, it's n-not fffair to keep doing things l-like w-wwe're mm-more when you're going to go off on some date with somebody normal and I'm just ... just not. It's h-hhard enough as it is. Y-you shouldn't have done it if y-you didn't mm-mean it..."
All the while, crystalline tears rolled down Brennan's face as she spoke so despairingly. Most of me was heartbroken watching her-- a small, mean part of me was annoyed that the woman didn't even get blotchy and red when she cried. We all held our breath as Seeley looked at her a long moment, still hesitating.
"I'm ripping his nuts off," Jack said decidedly. "I'll hold him down," I replied.
In the meantime, Brennan watched Seeley, still leaking tears-- but instead of pulling away, she put her hands on his chest, looked at him again as she said "That's what I thought, Booth," then shoved him hard enough for him to let go, surprised. She quickly shucked her lab coat and started to gather her things, stepping around him to head for the door of her office.
I couldn't believe it-- I wanted to throw myself in front of her and lock them both in her office until Seeley said how he felt. He'd clearly meant to make some kind of move if he'd been the one to keep leaving her things-- but maybe he was just surprised at how she'd interpreted everything to get the words out of his mouth. Just as Brennan was reaching her doorway, Seeley took two long strides, grabbed her from behind, and pulled her flush to his body, saying huskily "Temperance, no," in her ear. She just closed her eyes and let out a sob.
Wendell let out a sniffle behind me, his eyes suspiciously moist. Angela's eyes widened as she looked at our favorite intern, then quickly looked back at the partners. Before Brennan could let out another sob, Seeley pulled her away from the door and turned her in his arms, pulling her into a passionate kiss as he crushed her body to his.
Brennan didn't resist so much as turn stiff with disbelief, but Seeley kept her grasped tightly and continued to kiss her. Parting for air, he then clasped her face in his hands and said devoutly "I should have said something years ago, Temperance, I was wrong not to, and I'm sorry. But ... please, can't you just believe for a moment that somebody loves you and that someone is me?" He let go of her face then and wrapped her in his arms until she could only look up at him, a look of stern love and guilt on his face.
Wendell sniffled even more loudly. Jack and Angela too. Brennan, meanwhile, just looked hurt and confused.
"Why would you ... you told me we couldn't ... you don't really ... I'm not...."
Poor Brennan was so distressed that she couldn't form a full sentence, not something I'd seen before-- and those tears of hers continued to slide down her still-pale, still-lovely cheeks. Seeley'd gone chasing after her once when she was upset about her father after his trial, muttering "It frickin' kills me when she cries," but I'd never seen it before now, and now I could see why. The woman's face held nothing but ineffable loneliness when she cried, and it just got worse the wetter her cheeks got, the more her lips trembled. Hell, I was her boss and I wanted to give her a hug and buy her some ice cream.
"I was wrong, Bones," he said, rubbing his hands over her back. "Just listen to me, okay?" She barely nodded, but he pulled her head to his chest so that he was speaking softly right in her ear. It was the most tender, romantic thing I'd ever seen.
"Oh, God, I love this soap opera stuff," Wendell choked, now openly crying and blotchy. Jack's nose also looked suspiciously red. I hushed them both as Angela nodded agreement. They were talking too loudly for me to hear what else was happening.
"I was wrong, Bones," Seeley repeated. "I was afraid that you didn't feel the same, wouldn't ever once you knew all the things that I've done-- but you've been nothing but true and I was just being a coward. I was just hiding behind that stupid line of mine when really I should have told you I'd do anything for you, that I love and I adore you."
God, now I was leaking and sniffling. I suppose I should have been jealous, but working with these two for two years made it abundantly clear they were meant for each other. I was just glad I had front row seats now that he was finally telling her how he felt. I sniffled again and wiped my nose with the back of my hand.
"You do?" she said softly, still disbelieving.
"Oh, my poor Bren," Angela choked.
"I do," said Seeley seriously, dipping his head to kiss her again. This time, her arms slowly found purchase until she was clasping him as tightly as he held her-- their bodies so close they practically melted together. This time she didn't resist, and her body molded under his hands as he lowered his lips to hers. When they parted for air, her whole body trembled-- in response, Seeley rained tiny kisses all over her face, enfolded her still in his arms.
Brennan drew in a long, ragged breath as she clung to Seeley while he continued to kiss her, her eyes closed as he made his way down the side of her neck and across to the skin exposed by her collar. He then kissed his way up her throat as she arched in his hands-- the four of us all held our breath as we watched.
"Jack, don't get me wrong, you were great but..." Angela said, "I suck," Jack finished. "We all do, compared." Wendell just smacked him, miming at him to shut up as he glanced back wide-eyed to resume watching the partners.
After Seeley again pressed his lips against Brennan's, he clasped her cheek in one hand. "Look at me, Temperance," he demanded, his brown eyes beseeching her blue ones. "I love you. I won't ever let another day go by without saying it."
Her trembling and delicate hand made its way to his cheek. "Oh, Seeley, I love you too, I have for so long ... too long."
There were stifled sounds behind me-- as I turned to look, both Wendell and Angela had clapped their hands over their mouths to keep the partners from hearing them sob out loud. Saps. I was merely crying my eyes out silently, while Jack gritted his teeth hard as his nose ran.
Tracing the line of his brow with her long slender fingers, Brennan stood up on her toes to kiss Seeley this time, clasping her hand at his nape. Their kiss this time was so prolonged and sweet that I decided I'd better just spend the night in with some Cherry Garcia. There was no way was I going to top this.
When they parted for air again, they stood a long moment, Brennan resting her head at the join of his shoulder and neck as Seeley gently stroked her hair.
"Come on, Bones," he said softly. "Get your stuff and let's get out of here, okay?"
She nodded quietly and looked up at him-- then tenderly, so intimately that I clapped my own hand over my mouth, Seeley swiped the last few tears from her cheeks with his thumb. He let go of her then to move to the back of her door, clearly intending to help her on with her coat as he so often did before they got ready to leave. Turning, I looked at my fellow voyeurs and we all scrambled back-- Seeley probably knew and didn't care that we were there, but no way was I going to embarass Brennan by admitting we'd seen the whole thing.
We all hid behind the column as I heard him murmur something, and she gave a half-laugh, half-choked response, but their footsteps slowly and firmly receded until we heard the doors whisk open and closed.
Angela's lower lip trembled. Wendell scrubbed his eyes. Jack gritted his teeth so hard I could hear his teeth crack. And I sniffled so deeply and loudly that it practically echoed. The four of us looked at each other, feeling both dirty and privileged.
All of a sudden, the silence was broken by the sound of someone loudly blowing their nose. I crept out from behind the column to see Dr. Sweets hidden behind the column opposite ours, his face as blotchy and nose as red as any of us.
Wendell snorfled again. "Give me a Kleenex, Sweets," he said, advancing on the young therapist. Sweets reached into his pockets and held out a packet of tissues. We each rushed him and took one, loudly blowing our noses and dabbing our eyes.
"Oh my God," breathed Angela.
Sweets, in an uncanny mirror of my thoughts, said "There's no way I'm going to top that tonight or tomorrow. I think I'm going to have to stay in and get drunk."
Angela, her voice raspy, said "Did Bren leave those chocolates? Because I could seriously use an endorphin lift right about now. Or more crying. Or both."
Wendell looked at us, face red, before offering tentatively, "I have DVDs of Beaches and Say Anything in my car."
Sweets sniffled aloud at Wendell's announcement. "I love Say Anything."
Jack huffed before saying "I've got the Princess Bride in my backpack."
I looked at them all. "I'll go get some cookies and ice cream. Angela's place in two hours?"
Angela nodded. "I'll go get Bren's chocolates and some Kleenex. Sweets, you go get some red wine and champagne. Bring Daisy, too, if you want."
We all nodded agreement, then went to shut down our workstations. As I walked back to my office, I heard Wendell repeat "God, I love this soap opera stuff."
Sweets' response was tentative. "All My Children or General Hospital?"
Wendell retorted incredulously. "Days of our Lives, man. All My Children's a joke."
Like sands through an hourglass, I thought to myself-- these are the days in our lab. I'd better buy some triple fudge ripple as well as Cherry Garcia. That was some serious soap opera stuff-- but the very best kind. I wondered if I still had my old DVD of Moonstruck around.