Title: If My Heart Was A Compass, You'd Be North
Characters: Booth, Brennan
Through 4x21 (Mayhem On A Cross)
Bones and its characters belong to FOX, not me. This story is purely meant to entertain. No copyright infringement is intended.
Story Notes:
This was written in response to a prompt at LJ. Prompt: Mayhem on a Cross, Booth/Brennan, what happened after dinner with Gordon and Sweets?
Thanks for reading, and if you leave feedback, thanks for that as well.


If My Heart Was A Compass, You'd Be North

Gordon Gordon and Sweets left together half an hour ago, the former singing a medley of Noddy Comet tunes while the latter accompanied him on air guitar, head bobbing and fingers enthusiastically plucking imaginary chords. Sweets had paused at the front door and tried to thank him, but Booth had waved it off, biting back a grin as he took in his flushed cheeks, courtesy of a little too much wine and, surprisingly, even more laughter.

"What are we, the land of misfit toys?"

Grudgingly, Booth admits that maybe that is what they are -- himself included. And if he's honest about it, the kid, duckling, or whatever the hell he is, fits in just fine.

Now, Booth stands next to Brennan in his kitchen. Hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, they wash dishes against a muted backdrop of running water and tangled thoughts.

Alone again. Just the two of them. Somehow everything seems to end that way lately. Or maybe it's always been that way, and he's just getting around to noticing it.

With the buffer of the two shrinks gone, it's impossible to avoid thinking about the things he's spent the entire night trying not to think about. He sneaks a glance at Brennan. Strange shadows paint her face, and suddenly he wants to pull her closer to the light so he can see her. Really see her.

Stifling the urge the way he stifles so many urges when it comes to the woman standing next to him, Booth continues to stare at her instead. Long strands of hair slide to brush her jaw and lower, as she looks down at the bowl she is drying with a striped dishcloth. She dries dishes the same way she does everything else: with absolute focus and attention to detail. He likes that about his partner, more so than he ever thought he would.

He likes a lot of things about her.

Night sounds filter in through the open windows. The bleat of a car horn; gusts of laughter that fade as a group of guys cruise down his block and turn a corner; a siren on a bus. His stomach clenches at that last sound. It never means anything good.

Glimpsing Brennan's hand, Booth tries not to flinch when their fingers brush as he passes her one last spoon. "You should have told me," he says, the words rushing to fill the heavy space between them. That isn't what he meant to say; his voice comes out rougher than he'd like, the statement bordering on accusation. He slips too often with her, his control, his intentions, the things he never planned on saying spilling like water over the lip of a too-full cup.

"Told you what?" Her forehead creases as she turns to face him.

"About what your foster parents did to you." After switching off the faucet, he shakes his wet hands above the sink, setting off a spray of water droplets. "About how they locked you in the trunk of their car."

The casual shrug of her shoulders makes his hands clench into fists. "It never seemed relevant before."

"It never seemed relevant... What the hell, Bones?" He angles his body toward her, crowding her. "What about when you and Hodgins nearly suffocated to death in a car? You didn't think about mentioning it then?" He runs a hand over his jaw, palm catching on stubble. "Damn it," he says, index finger jabbing the air, "you should have told me."

Chin raised in that way he's always admired, even -- or especially -- when she's pissed him off, she returns his gaze without blinking or retreating. "The way you told me about your father?"

He jerks back. "It's not the same." Swallowing the angry words that spring to his lips, he takes a deep breath. Letting his shoulders slump, he looks away and clears his throat. "I deserve that," he says, voice low. "You're right."

He watches her neatly fold the dishcloth into thirds lengthwise and hang it on the oven door. "I don't want to be right, Booth." When she turns to face him again, her arms are folded over her chest. "But for years you've insisted that partners should share personal details of their lives. You've pushed me over and over again to share those metaphorical scars on my back with you, yet it doesn't seem that you've reciprocated to the same degree."

"You're right," he says, and the last bit of anger leaves him. He gets now that his anger was misdirected to begin with. He wasn't angry at her -- he was angry for her. He has a moment of double vision: the nightmare image of Bones trapped in that car underground melds with a picture of the scared teenager she must have been, locked in the trunk of her foster parents' car. For what? All because she'd broken a dish while trying to help clean up. She wasn't clumsy, just human. Nothing more, nothing less.

"Seeley Booth, get your butt down here right now."

Booth nearly tripped as he made his way down the stairs to the living room, where his father waited.

"Son, did you steal a pack of cigarettes from my desk?"

He cut a glance at the corner sofa, where his brother's head just peeked out. Their gazes met; Jared looked away first, tucking himself further into the shadows behind the couch.

Swallowing, Booth stared at the brown carpet at his feet. "Yes." He'd never even smoked a cigarette.

"Speak up, boy, I can't hear you."

His father jerked his chin up with one big hand. A sharp pain sliced through Booth's neck as his head was forced back. Trembling a little, he met his father's eyes directly. "Yes, sir. I did."

Trying to ignore the muffled sobs coming from the other side of the room, he looked back at the carpet as he heard the click and slide of his father's belt being pulled from its loops.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I was being a hypocrite. Some things are hard to talk about, I guess. That's why what you did today... What you did for Sweets when you told him what happened to you... You did a good thing, Bones. You did something I wasn't willing to do."

"But you told him about your grandfather."

"Yeah, but only because you wanted me to."

"Perhaps the motive isn't important."

"And maybe it is."

A cool breeze rattles the blinds, and for a long, silent moment Booth looks at Brennan -- and really sees her. He swallows, hard, against the sudden fullness in his chest and throat. "I'm sorry, Bones."

"For what?" she asks, eyebrows raised.

"For every time I've told you you're weird or creepy or bad with people." Heat zigzags a path of shame up the back of his neck. "You're not any of those things." Just human.

"There's no need to apologize," she says, shaking her head, letting him off the hook. But he isn't ready to do that himself. Not yet, anyway. "I know quite well where my strengths lie, and it isn't in human interaction."

As gently as he can, Booth cups her shoulders. "That's not true, Bones. Sure, sometimes you say things I might put in a slightly different way." His grin softens any sting his words might carry, and it widens as she narrows her eyes at him in mock indignation. "But you've got heart, Bones. You care about what happens to people. You proved that tonight, and it wasn't the first time." He lets his hands travel down her arms until his fingers fit easily into the spaces between hers.

Her hands are a lot of things -- elegant, strong, and methodical as they work to return dignity and identity to people who have been robbed of both. But clumsy? Never.

"And screw what your foster parents told you," he says, raising their joined hands and placing them over her heart, mirroring the way she returned his handkerchief earlier that night. "You're not clumsy."

A warm smile lights his partner's face, and Booth thinks he just caught a glimpse of what a young Temperance Brennan might have looked like. The thought brings an answering smile to his face as he tugs her forward, curving his arms around her until he can feel her breathing against him.