A/N: I started writing this last week, when I thought I had food poisoning. It ended up being a stomach virus, but it was inspiration either way. Accidentally mixing albuterol and caffeine this afternoon made me equally sick, and prompted me to finish this piece. Hopefully you enjoy it more than I enjoyed the circumstances that birthed it. Let me know what you think!
Brennan held onto either side of the bowl, waiting patiently. She knew it was coming, she could feel it. The inside of her mouth watered and she felt the familiar tightening clench in her upper abdomen, then…
Better, she thought to herself, leaning back against the bathroom wall opposite the toilet and wiping the sweat off of her forehead with the back of her hand. It had been this way all night, since about an hour after the dinner she'd had with her father, Russ, and Amy. They had gone to a seafood restaurant and while she normally had an iron-clad stomach for any kind of food thrown at her—she had, after all, eaten every cultural delicacy offered to her anywhere she had worked, including a mixture of milk and cow's blood in Africa, dried whole lizards in Japan, and several barbequed guinea pigs during various stints in South America—apparently the clams she had eaten were noxious enough to turn even the strongest of gastrointestinal tracts into a day at the races.
She lurched towards the toilet as another wave of nausea rippled over her, skin clammy as she leaned her weight against the porcelain structure. This was worse than when she had accidentally drank the water offered to her by a child in Oaxaca, Mexico. At least then she had been able to chug half a bottle of Pepto Bismol and carry on with her day. Early that morning when she had crawled out of bed and tried to sip on a little of the viscous pink fluid, it had no sooner gone down her throat then came right back up.
This was comparable to the parasites she had picked up in India by taking a drink from a river she walked along, led by a group of women who were bringing her to a mass grave they had inadvertently unearthed. She did not speak Bengali, obviously, because if she had then she would have known they were saying, Don't drink that water, it makes you sick. And oh how sick she had been. But after a bag of IV fluids from a local hospital and a round of metronidazole, she was back on her feet within days of infection.
As for this, there was no treatment for food poisoning. There were no antiprotozoal drugs or stomach coating compounds she could take to ease her symptoms. The only way to get rid of it was to keep letting her body do what it naturally did when faced with food it did not approve of. And it strongly, strongly disapproved.
She had lost track of time and slipped into a disturbed half-sleep, curled up on the bathroom rug, when a pounding on her door woke her. She grimaced.
"Bones?" she heard through the door, followed by another round of incessant knocking. He really was like a five year old—if you didn't answer the door within three seconds, he banged on it non-stop until you did. "Bones, are you up?"
She groaned and picked herself up shakily off the bathroom floor, feeling her head rush as she stood. He hammered on the door until it opened under his fist. He greeted her with a broad, cheeky good-morning grin, which quickly turned into a concerned frown.
"What happened to you?" he asked, letting himself into her apartment and taking in her appearance—pale skin, dark circles ringing her eyes, sweat-matted hair pulled into a low bun on the back of her neck. She opened her mouth to answer, but quickly covered it with her hand and darted into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Booth felt his own stomach turn as he listened to her heave on the other side of the door, and assumed they were probably not going out for breakfast that morning.
"Shellfish," she finally answered after the vomiting had ceased, opening the bathroom door partially and leaning into the doorframe, eyes shut.
"I guess there's a reason Jews don't eat those," he said, taking her gently by the upper arm and leading her to her couch. "Here, lay down." She didn't take much prodding and curled up with one of the throw pillows under her head.
"I don't need… I'm fine, Booth," she half-argued as he brought the blanket and pillow out from her bedroom and covered her up, prompting her to lift up her head as he traded pillows.
"Stop talking," he said, looking around briefly for a remote before realizing that she still didn't have a TV. What exactly did she do when she was home sick? Oh, right—she was never home sick.
"Why are you here anyway?" she asked as he exited into her kitchen. She could hear him banging around in her cupboards, apparently looking for something.
"Well, you didn't call me, so I thought maybe your alarm hadn't gone off or… here we go, this will work," he said, re-emerging into the living room with a large salad bowl. He set it on the coffee table next to her.
"What's that for?" she asked. He gave her a kind, patronizing look.
"It's a barf bowl, Bones," he said, smiling at his own alliteration despite her lack of amusement. "In case you can't make it to the bathroom in time."
"I see," she said, thinking that she would sooner throw up on the floor than in her hand-carved bamboo salad bowl. "Well, thank you. Could you please tell Cam that I won't be making it into the lab today?"
Booth nodded, pulling his phone out of his back pocket and dialing a phone number as he sat down in an armchair next to the couch, kicking his shoes off. She gave him a puzzled look.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Hey, Cam?" Booth said into the phone, ignoring Brennan's inquiry. "Yeah, look, we aren't gonna be able to make it work today, Bones got food poisoning. Yeah. Uh-huh. I will. Okay, see you." He flipped the phone shut and she gave him a borderline scandalized look.
"We won't be at work?" she asked.
"Well, yeah," Booth said, stretching his arms up over his head. "You're sick; who else is gonna take care of you?"
"I don't need anybody to take care of me," she insisted. "I'm not a child, Booth. I can take care of…" she trailed off and went white as another wave of nausea took over. He grabbed the bowl off of the coffee table and held it out in offering, but she held up her hand against it. After a minute her face relaxed.
"False alarm," she said. He gave her a knowing look and she shook her head. "I don't need to be babied."
"I'm not here to baby you," he said unconvincingly, leaning back into the chair and lacing his fingers over his abdomen. "I'm just here in case you need anything."
"That sounds like babying to me," she groused quietly, feeling her eyelids droop. She pressed her cheek against the cool pillowcase and sighed.
"That's right, just go to sleep," Booth said, leaning his own head back against his chair. "I'll be here." Brennan wondered vaguely how he would keep himself occupied without a television or other source of overstimulation for his easily distracted brain, but the thoughts wouldn't stick, and she quickly felt herself slipping into a somewhat more comfortable sleep than before. Maybe the worst was over.
She woke up a little later, feeling much better than before. Her stomach still clenched uncomfortably, but it appeared that her body had purged itself of what ailed it and now she would just have to wait out the residual irritation. Her eyes slowly opened, squinting through the afternoon sun that shone through the blinds, and she couldn't help but to smile at what she saw.
Booth sat in the chair he had occupied when she fell asleep, sock feet kicked up on the coffee table, arms hanging loosely over the sides of the chair. His head was leaned back against it, mouth open, a gentle snore rumbling out of him. She saw one of her journals of Physical Anthropology lying open on his lap. She smirked—apparently it was not to his taste, because he had barely made it past the table of contents before he passed out.
"Booth," she said quietly as she sat up on the couch. He did not stir. So much for being there to baby her, she thought as she shook her head, smiling. "Booth," she repeated at a louder volume, causing him to jump up out of sleep as if an alarm had sounded.
"Wha—ow," he said, wincing and placing a hand instinctively on his lower back. "Oh, you're awake. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Brennan said, mildly concerned for his back pain. "Are you?" He waved her off, leaning slowly back into the chair.
"I'm great," he said with an ache in his voice. "The back just gets a little stiff when I fall asleep like that, is all."
"Do you need some Tylenol?" she asked, standing up from the couch and heading towards the kitchen. He tried to stand up but was halted by the tense pain in his lumbar area.
"No, I'm fine, I—look, I'm here to take care of you, remember?" he said irritably as she returned with a glass of water and two small pills. He grudgingly took the pills she dropped into his palm and gulped them down, allowing her to take the glass and set it on the table so he didn't have to reach forward and stretch his already sore back.
"Well, if you can take care of me when I'm sick, then there's no reason I can't return the favor," she pointed out, sinking down into the couch comfortably. Booth grumbled something half-agreeable.
"I still wish you had a TV," he finally said after a minute or so of silence. She laughed, and he joined her, his laughter turning into a groan of pain as he torqued his sore muscles.
"Well next time we get sick, we'll do it at your place," she said. "Then you can watch all of the mindless programming you want."
"Deal?" he asked. She smirked.