It was early morning, and the air was sticky with dew and the impending summer sun. Booth actually had to flick the windshield wipers on when he first entered the SUV, sun barely peeking over the horizon, to remove the overnight dew that clung to the glass in heavy droplets. All the cars parked alongside Brennan's apartment building shared the same wet coating, glistening in the shafts of light that fell between the tall brick structures. She looked like she had just rolled out of bed when she came out the front door, yawning widely half-way to the car.
"You're early," she complained as she got in. Booth was prepared for the remark, or one like it—he was early, just by a few minutes, but those precious minutes meant an awful lot to someone who loathed the early morning as much as she did.
"Good morning to you too," Booth chirped, putting the vehicle in gear and pulling out onto the main road. At the light they turned left, away from the metropolitan area and towards the suburbs that surrounded the city. She leaned back into her seat and shut her eyes, and Booth thought she might have gone back to sleep until she spoke again a few minutes later.
"I don't understand why we have to do this so early."
"Because, Bones, everyone gets up at the crack of dawn for garage sales," Booth explained, almost joyfully. "If you don't, all the good stuff'll be gone by the time you get there."
"I see," she said, still rather unamused by the early hour.
"I still can't believe you've never been garage saling," Booth said as he spotted a sign at the edge of a neighborhood entrance, drawn on bright neon poster board. He followed the arrow, turning right.
"Booth, garage saling isn't a verb," Brennan corrected snappishly. She was even more peculiar about grammar before eight AM. "And I don't understand why they're called 'garage sales' in the first place. You're not selling your garage."
"But you're selling all the junk in your garage," he said, turning again and seeing the promised sale at the end of the street, a few cars already parked at the curb. "Hence, garage sale."
"Then why don't they call it a 'junk inside your garage' sale?" she asked, and he couldn't tell by her tone if she was trying to be funny or just really tired. He went with 'really tired.'
"Just doesn't have the same ring to it, I guess," he said, putting the car in park. "Besides, it's not really junk. You know, one man's trash is another man's treasure." She gave him a seething look as she swung her door open, stepping out into the street.
"Booth, I'm an anthropologist, I spend most of my summers digging in middens around the world. Do you know what a midden is?" Booth gave her a blank look. "Essentially, it's an ancient garbage heap."
"You dig through cave-trash?" Booth asked, nose wrinkled slightly as they trekked down the street towards the sale. She rolled her eyes.
"Not cave trash, Booth, humans never actually dwelt in caves for extended periods of time," she corrected, yawning again before she continued. "Middens are generally located on the edges of ancient societies, whether they be large-scale civilizations or nomadic settlements, much like modern-day dumps. People would deposit food remains, broken pieces of pottery, tools, toys, jewelry, anything they no longer had use for. Today we spend millions of dollars digging these things up, so I am extremely familiar with the concept of, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure.'" Booth's mouth fell into a small 'o' as they walked up the stranger's driveway, lined on either side with fold-out tables stacked with boxes and covered in random goods.
"Well then, dig in," he said with a smile, making a bee-line towards a stack of old magazines that were marked at a nickel a piece.
She sighed and wandered to a table on the other side of the driveway, wondering how she ever got roped into doing this in the first place. She had never seen the appeal of driving across town to shop through people's unwanted belongings, especially not when she could find much better quality items on eBay without ever having to leave the couch. Nothing here was in her taste at all—porcelain cats in pastel shades, a cluster of old ceramic mugs with coffee stains on the insides, stack upon stack of old craft magazines and outdated sewing patterns. She found herself trying to view the experience in an anthropological context; analyzing the goods before her, using the clues to piece together the owner's lifestyle. It was considerably less entertaining than excavating an actual midden, but it kept her occupied while Booth rattled through a box of old fishing lures nearby.
Out of the corner of her eye, Brennan saw a child a few feet away from her pick something up off one of the tables, which was at his eye level. It made a vaguely familiar sound, somewhere between a shhh and a ching. She watched the little tow-head grasp onto an old metal Slinky, his face splitting into a bedazzled smile as he watched it glide between his two palms, seeming to twist and coil under its own control. Back and forth—shing, shing, shing—barely contained in his tiny hands. Across the yard his mother called him to the car, and he let the toy hit the concrete as he ran off towards her. Brennan looked over her shoulder, then stooped down and picked it up off the ground.
She hadn't seen or touched one of these in years, but it felt just like she remembered. She held it in on her outstretched palm, the elongated spring compacted into a metal tube, and eyed it in a curious way. Then she grasped onto either end of it and held it still between her hands for a moment, eyes shut, soft smile touching her lips. She remembered making stairs out of piles of books, since their own house hadn't had any, and watching the Slinky's shape guide the momentum, flipping it over again and again, step by step all the way to the floor. Eventually it had tangled beyond repair, but not before she and Russ were able to make stacks of 'steps' nearly as tall as them and watch the toy flip down them like a metal worm.
Opening her eyes, she began to shift her hands back and forth, transferring her energy into the long metal coil. It wobbled and shifted, finally finding its rhythm—shing, shing, shing, shing. She continued to move it back and forth, separating her hands in varying heights and lengths, changing the shape and speed of the toy's movement. Her grin widened as she continued to entertain herself, so lost in her own world that when she felt his hand on her shoulder she nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Booth, gosh," she said, bobbling the toy in her hands and nearly dropping it. "You scared me."
"Sorry. Hey, is that a Slinky?" he asked, interest suddenly piqued by the metal spring in her hand.
"Uhm, yes," she said, suddenly feeling foolish. "A little boy dropped it, and I was just… you know, picking it up." She set it down quickly on the table next to her, but Booth gave her a knowing look, grin bubbling up on his lips.
"You were having fun with that thing, weren't you?" he asked, almost accusatorily. She shook her head.
"I was just putting it back," she said. "That's all. He was playing with it." She gestured out into the distance, where the little boy had long gone. Booth smirked.
"Sure, right," he said, snatching the Slinky up off the table and setting it into motion between his two large hands. "What was I thinking? Temperance Brennan wouldn't play with a child's toy… she doesn't do fun."
"I do fun!" she defended. He shook his head and grinned wickedly.
"You do not," he said. "You do not do fun."
"I do so do fun," she argued. Booth held the toy out to her.
"So you're gonna buy the Slinky, then?" he asked. She frowned.
"Why would I do that?" she asked. He made his trademark a-ha! face and pointed.
"See! You don't do fun."
"How on earth can you bring yourself to that conclusion simply from my not wanting to buy a Slinky at a garage sale?" she asked, arms akimbo.
"Because if you did fun, you'd buy the Slinky, because they're fun," he said. "You deny the Slinky because you deny fun."
"I do not deny fun!" A few people at the sale had nonchalantly stopped what they were doing and tuned into the loud repartee between the two. "I'm not a child, Booth. Name one good reason for me to have a Slinky in my home."
"Because they're fun," he said, emphasizing the last word. "They're toys, they're not supposed to be good for anything except having fun. You know, fun. That thing you don't do." She steamed and he tried to conceal the measure of his amusement, but simply couldn't. She chewed on the inside of her mouth, one hand on her hip, the other dangling by her side. She looked down at the Slinky, then back up to Booth, then down again. She sighed loudly.
"Fine," she said, snatching the toy up off the table and marching towards two women parked by the garage door in lawn chairs, one balancing a money box on her lap. The ladies eyed her with amusement, having listened to the louder half of their argument. "How much is this?" Brennan asked, nostrils flaring.
"Honey, you can have it," the woman with the money box said.
"I want to pay you for it," Brennan said stubbornly. The woman pressed her lips together, as if trying very hard not to laugh.
"Trust me, you did," she said, and the other woman began giggling without restraint. "All that over there was well worth the quarter. Take it, it's yours." Brennan gave them a puzzled look and shook her head, turning on her heel and walking back towards Booth, who had his arms crossed in a very self-satisfied sort of way.
"There," she said, holding the Slinky out. "See? Fun. I bought fun. I do fun. Are you satisfied now?" Booth snorted, covering his mouth with one hand as if trying to physically restrain his amusement.
"Yes," he managed, nodding. "Let's go."
She huffily followed him to the SUV, and sat with her jaw set as they pulled out of the neighborhood. The Slinky sat in her lap as they rode, held still with one hand resting on top of it. Booth scouted out another sale and parked in front of it, but Brennan did not take off her seatbelt.
"You coming?" he asked. She shook her head.
"I'll just wait here," she said airily, and he sighed.
"Fine, I'll only be a minute," he said. She watched him leave, then looked down at the toy in her lap. Her hands itched with the urge to pick it up, to hear the shing-shing sound it made as it glided back and forth between her palms, moving fluidly through the air. She looked up out the window—Booth was engrossed in a table of old tools, and probably would be for a while. A wry smile touched her lips as she picked up the Slinky and held it in an arched position, shifting it back and forth. She was captivated, almost enchanted by the sound, and the sight of the metal coil slinking back and forth.
"Aha!" He slammed his hand on the window and made her jump for the second time that morning. She looked up and saw Booth standing outside of the car, face split into a winner's grin, shaking his head and pointing through the glass. She smiled back guiltily as he got into the car.
"See? Aren't you glad I made you buy it?" he asked.
"I suppose you were… correct," she sighed, forcing the last word out with effort. "Slinkies have their own merit as objects of entertainment, and entertainment for the sake of diffusing tension within a group cannot be dismissed as invaluable to society."
"That's right," Booth said, completely satisfied with himself. "Whatever it was you just said. Look what else I found." He held up what looked like a wire clothes hanger that had been warped into a handle with two parallel parts that went up, curved, then came back down in a long U-shape. Magnetically drawn to the two parallel pieces was a colorful plastic wheel with two metal pieces sticking out of either end. It was a magnetic gyro wheel, another relic of her childhood that she hadn't laid eyes on in years.
"Oh, wow," she said, watching as Booth set it into motion, the colorful wheel spinning up and down the length of the metal rod, then curving around the end and coming back up. He flicked his wrist lazily, and they sat together watching the colors whirl.
"I used to have one of these when I was a kid," he said. She nodded, captivated by the spiraling object. It was so simple, and yet so oddly fascinating—for no logical reason that she could explain, she felt that she could sit and watch it for hours.
"We're never going to get anything done ever again, are we?" Booth asked after a minute or so of the two of them watching the spinning toy intently. Brennan tore her eyes away from it and looked up at him. Smiles crept across both of their faces and, unable to control themselves, they burst into laughter.
A/N: I love Slinkies, and garage sales, and reviews. :) Let me know what you think!