A/N: Just a quick one before my upcoming June ex-travel-ganza.
Thanks to everyone who voted in my Scenes from a Hat poll. I think we have some winners!
The escalator delivered a steady stream of arriving passengers, a straight line of moving bodies that dispersed like dandelion fluff when they hit the landing. Every now and again he perked up when he saw a tall brunette amidst the crowd, even though he recognized almost instantly that it wasn't his tall brunette; the almost-familiarity made him take notice, and made his heart do a little flip. She'd be here any minute.
It had only been three weeks that she had been in China, on one of her godforsaken anthropological expeditions: her "one true passion." He supported her in that, but…it just wasn't right here without her. Everything seemed just a little duller. His work lacked spark, the squints weren't as entertaining to him…even the pie at the diner didn't taste quite as good when she wasn't across from him, refusing to try it (I don't like my fruit cooked, Booth).
They talked each day she was gone, whether it be by phone or an email; she'd update him on her "exciting" findings, and he'd keep her in the loop about their cases. Each time he'd ask her when she was coming home. Each time she'd humor him. (The sixteenth, Booth. You know I'm coming home the sixteenth). He just wanted hear her say it, see it in print. It made it more real.
And the sixteenth was here, and he had arrived at the airport far earlier than he had to, because every now and then flights got in early. It had been their longest time apart since beginning their partnership, and he didn't like it one bit…not the dullness, not the tiny missing bits in his everyday life (I don't know what that means, Booth). He just needed things back to normal. Back to the status quo.
Twenty-six minutes he had been waiting here, staring at the escalator, a faint smile touching his face when he witnessed the reunions of friends and family around him. He wanted his friend back. He wanted to order take-out and catch bad guys and he wanted her there being infuriating while he did it (Why can't I have a gun, Booth?). It made no sense, but every minute that went by without her stepping off that escalator he wanted it more, was practically vibrating on the inside from wanting it so much.
And then she appeared; he spotted her about halfway down, holding her navy luggage close looking very, very tired. Her face was drawn and makeup-free, her hair was pulled back haphazardly. It had been a long flight, and a long wait. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings, and he resisted the urge to jump up and down to catch her attention, knowing that she'd just make fun of him for it (My arrival is no excuse to make a scene, Booth).
But as luck would have it, she noticed him, right before she hit the landing, her eyes meeting his and widening in recognition. And then that big, beautiful smile that he didn't get to see nearly often enough crossed her face, eyes lighting up, and he was almost delirious at the sight of it, beautiful memories swirling at the simple expression (Thank you, Booth. I love my gift). He had been hanging back, letting those reveling in their own airport moments have their chance to greet the people they loved. Now he began walking, trying to keep his pace even, wanting to run.
When she stepped off, she struggled for a moment in the midst of all the others, trying to push through the crowd with her huge suitcase, ignoring the annoyed looks of her fellow travelers. Her eyes locked on his as she freed herself from the group and gained her stride, getting so much momentum that she nearly careened into him when they met in the middle. They laughed and she wrapped one arm around him, the other still holding the handle of her luggage. He held her tightly with both arms, then releasing her and taking her beaming face into his hands. She had no idea just how beautiful she was (What do you mean, Booth? What way do I look?).
"Did you miss me?"
Her expression was impish. "No more than you missed me."
His jaw dropped in mock horror. "You poor thing!"
She chuckled, appreciating the compliment. "You missed my expert consultation on forensic matters, didn't you?"
"More than that."
"You missed my help interrogating suspects?"
He found that one amusing. "Even more than that."
"What then?" Her eyes were teasing, but inquisitive. She needed to know.
"Everything, Bones." He pushed a strand of hair back that had escaped her ponytail. "I missed everything."
She seemed to consider it for a moment, before impulsively closing the distance between them and kissing his cheek. Her lips felt like the stroke of a paintbrush against his face. "I'm glad to be back," she whispered as she hovered there, for scant seconds.
Before she could move back, he tilted her head gently with one hand, returning the gesture with his lips on hers…light, brief. Breathtaking. The perfect airport moment.
They separated and traded shy smiles.
"Welcome back, Bones."
She nodded her agreement, and he slung his arm around her shoulder as they made their way to the revolving door and the outside world. It dawned on him then that maybe it wasn't status quo that he had been missing, even though she had told him that awhile back (Everything changes, Booth).
For the first time, the thought of things changing felt perfectly natural.