Spoilers: Through Season 4
Disclaimer: More important people than me own Bones.
Summary: Booth's frustrated upon returning to work.
Author's Notes: Reviews are appreciated. I hope you enjoy.
X X X
"I can't take this anymore," FBI agent Seeley Booth stated as he slumped into the couch in Dr. Temperance Brennan's office. With resignation and weariness seeping deep into his muscles, he tiled his head back and muttered, "I'm not incompetent."
But at the moment, he felt that way. All the evidence pointed toward Caroline Julian, a federal prosecutor he trusted implicitly. Every time he tried to dig deeper into the case, he hit walls; but they weren't built by someone higher up in any organization.
No, they were built by the Squint Squad, and especially by Bones.
When was the last time they really talked? God, he couldn't even remember.
Lifting his head, he stared into the blank expression on Bones' face as she sat primly at her desk, with her hands perched over her keyboard. He should've expected her response, "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't," he muttered, feeling his energy levels and mood begin to tank. She wouldn't understand that the little games they were playing took a toll.
Boy did she look a little warrior-like when she rose from her desk and that frown spread across her face – a mixture of indignant annoyance making her look a little pissed off. Good. He was pretty pissed off, too.
"I ask for information and I get pat on the head and told to sit over in the corner like a naughty school boy," he said, staring at her hard. "You don't share anything unless I pull it from you."
He knew why. It wasn't the why that bothered him as much as the fact that even months later, they were still treating him like this. Didn't they get it?
"Booth, we're just doing our jobs," Bones said, looking away, unable to meet his gaze.
That was the same lie she'd been spewing whenever he tried to dig into understanding the evidence. Booth thought he was part of a team; a team he missed. But apparently not anymore.
What hurt the most was the feeling of mistrust. They'd made it pretty clear they no longer valued his judgment. The times he tried to step in, he found his path effectively blocked while one of the squints – usually Bones – did an end-run around him. They shut him out.
"I'm tired," he muttered, tilting his head back again.
He felt the couch dip next to him and the warm scent Bones always wore drifted to his nostrils, making him sigh. Why was he even here? They'd proven time and again they didn't need him.
Then her hands were on his neck, and he didn't need to open his eyes to know she was bent over him, massaging away the tension and the ache. It should have felt good, and instead made him feel inept. Humiliated.
"We'll clear Caroline," Bones said, gently rubbing the knots and sending his nerves into pleasured malleability. "She's going to be fine. We just need to keep looking at the evidence."
Which meant he was once again useless – not even good enough to help out a friend in need.
"All right," he whispered, opening his eyes to stare into hers. Since there was no way for him to help – halfway through his day – Booth rose, longingly looked around one last time, and left. He didn't see the point in returning.
X X X
Tom and Jerry always cheered him up.
Sitting on the floor with a carton of ice cream, Booth watched the cat chase the mouse around on screen and laughed when an anvil landed on the cat's head. They just didn't make cartoons like that anymore.
When the doorbell rang, he rose without taking his eyes off the screen and headed for the door. Rebecca had just picked Parker up. Now that he was on a leave of absence, he could have his son visit more often. That was the only nice thing about being on medical leave and on bed rest for over a month – getting to see Parker a lot.
"What'd you forget, Bub?" he asked, swinging the door open and expecting to find an energetic boy grinning on the other side.
His grin dropped when he saw Bones standing there instead.
"Booth," she hesitantly said, her voice hushed. "Why didn't you tell us you weren't feeling well?"
Crap. Cullen must've said something to Bones when she called. If nothing else, she could be tenacious, and Booth had asked Cullen to treat their conversation as confidential. Since Bones probably wouldn't have backed off, Cullen had probably just told her something to get the anthropologist off his back.
Booth had actually called his boss to resign. By the end of the conversation, Cullen had convinced Booth to give it some time – take a moment to really think about his options. He had two weeks to decide whether or not to continue working for the FBI; and if he did, he needed to resolve whether he should be working with the Jeffersonian.
The fact that Cullen had told him about Bones and her crew had cleared his favorite prosecutor from any wrong-doing hadn't helped. It'd just made him feel more inept.
"Did you need something?" he wearily asked.
"Yes," she succinctly answered, her lips set in a grim line. "I want to know what's going on. You didn't say anything about not feeling well the other day; that's precisely why…"
"Why what?" Even he had to admit he sounded a little snarly.
"Nothing," she muttered, edging her way past the FBI agent, although Booth noticed the way her face twisted. She'd never make a good liar.
And that was the breaking point. Being blown off again was too much.
Stalking after her, he spun her as she walked past the couch and lightly pushing her shoulders, making her drop onto the couch. While she sat there, staring up in surprise, he paced. The energy coursing through his veins shifted again and again, making his jaw twitch.
"Now why don't you finish your statement?" he asked. "Better yet, let me finish it for you. You think I'm 'unwell'. Or better yet, you think I can't do that job! Right?"
"Booth… no," she faintly said, staring up as he shifted from foot to foot.
"NO?" he yelled. "Then I'm just incompetent in general?"
"That would be a highly inaccurate statement," she responded, impatience in her voice.
The short burst of energy flagged as quickly as it rose and Booth sank down next to her on the couch. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands; instead of looking at Bones, he just stared at the coffee table in front of him as the zippy sounds of Tom and Jerry emanated from the television.
"I can't work with you like this," he said, his voice as dull as the throbbing behind his eyes. When Bones didn't respond, he finally glanced over and said, "I can understand everything being off when I first got back. But not now. Especially not when it's Caroline we're talking about. You know how much we owe her – me as much as you."
She seemed hesitant as her hand reached out and settled on his shoulder. When she finally spoke, he could hear the tears in her voice.
"I can't…" she started.
"Can't what?" he wearily asked, a hint of whine to his voice.
"I can't watch you go through that again. I can't go through that again, seeing you so weak. You're the strong one," she said, slumping back a little and sniffling.
"Is that what this is about?" he asked, his voice a bare whisper.
"It hurt all of us to see you – someone so strong – hurting," she said, gazing steadily when he turned to face her. Her hand dropped from his shoulder when she murmured, "You're supposed to be the strong one."
"That's not true," Bones replied, snuggling into his side. "You're the alpha male."
"And you're the alpha female," he retorted. "And it hurts when my alpha partner decides that I can't do a job well enough to help. It hurts when you don't trust me."
"Is that what you think?" she asked, sounding appalled. Reeling from the tone of her voice, he wasn't really prepared when she added, "Are you stupid?"
"What should I think, considering you keep leaving me out of everything? You keep pushing me out of the way!" he said. He might've shifted and gotten more upset, except her hand had suddenly settled on his chest, rubbing languid circles. It just felt too good to get all that upset.
"I think you should think that we all care for you enough to want you safe," she replied. "That we can't stand seeing you in pain."
"You keep saying we, Bones. What about you?"
"Of course I care about you," she scooting until he was forced to wrap an arm around her and she could settle her head on his shoulder. "You're my partner."
"Then treat me like one," he murmured, resting his cheek on top of her head, enjoying the smooth current that ran from her fingers and through his shirt, spreading across his chest where she continued to rub. "Treat me like you did before – talk to me. Argue with me. Because I miss you."
"I miss you, too," she murmured, her voice thick and tired. "I've missed you so much."
As she drifted off to sleep, Booth closed his eyes and imagined what it would feel like to have that hand lay underneath his shirt, against his skin. Because the other part of the equation that had been frustrating him for so long was the fact that he couldn't deny what he felt anymore. It terrified him what it would mean to tell her that his dreams while under the knife had clarified so much in his mind.
What would she do when he finally got up the nerve to say, "I love you?"