Disclaimer: Nothing whatsoever belongs to me. Characters are property of Fox.
A/N: This is somewhere around the end of series three when both Zack and Sweets are present.
"Have you ever been in love, Bones?"
The nearest FBI agent, a tall blonde woman digging in the dirt just behind the crime scene banner, throws them an unamused, strictly professional reprimanding glance. Booth glares. She returns her carefully raised eyebrows to her work.
She doesn't even glance up from the skull she's dusting off with what looks, to Booth at least, like a make-up brush. "The radiating fractures around the frontal lobe indicate some kind of fall." Frowning, she looks up and finally processes the fact that he's been talking. "What did you say?"
Booth waves a hand, brushes it off. "You know what, nevermind. Maybe this isn't the best place to discuss it anyway. All these dead people hanging around."
It's half past eight at night and they should all have been at home hours ago. Instead, they're here – downtown Washington, outside a disused warehouse investigating the bone fragments that demolition work had pulled up earlier that day. The rain is coming down in buckets and the rising mud is starting to seep into Booth's shoes and ruin his socks.
Dr Brennan is more worried that the remains are being compromised.
She tilts the skull, searching for a better light. Booth shines his torch over. "Small marks on the back of the cranium seem to indicate that a projectile has been inserted through the orbital bone, but I can't tell if it's post- or antemortem without the use of a microscope..."
Sometimes, he feels like he needs subtitles around this woman.
"Was it another one of those emotionally probing questions?" she asks absently, poking around the eye sockets. "Because I prefer it when those come at the end of the case. After the bones."
The walkie-talkie strapped to her belt crackles into life. "He asked if you'd ever been in love, sweetie," says the voice of Angela Montenegro, clearly full of amusement even over this distance. Angela and the rest of the team are, as per usual, stuck behind at the Jeffersonian, continuing with their everyday work – which, right now, is identifying the partial skeletal remains of World War I victims. There are more than 10,000 skeletons stuck in limbo beneath the Jeffersonian. By the time Hodgins had found himself bored enough to hack into Brennan's walkie-talkie frequency, they were still only on Unidentified Soldier # 336.
Startled, Booth directs his frown at the little black speaker attached to Brennan's hip. "What, were you listening? Don't you squints have anything better to do, like reconstructing teeth or washing the ancient remains of whoever it is you've got locked down there?"
"Those remains are more than 3000 years old, if they were washed – " Brennan begins, ducking her head to address the black device, but Angela cuts over her.
"Hey, you guys are out catching murderers. That is way more interesting than John Doe 101."
Attempting to maintain her professionalism over her personal preference (Angela is right; despite her passion for real anthropological study, working with Booth is more interesting than taking repetitive samples from countless unknown bones back in the Jeffersonian), Brennan twitches back a smile and returns her attention to the bones. For a second, Booth looks like he's about to concede, too. Then, he stops half-way to a nod and points accusingly at Bones and her walkie-talkie. "You guys are the scientists, OK? The squints. The bone people. Bone people who have not been assigned to this case. You're not supposed to know anything about ongoing investigations in the field! How did you even – oh, that's just great."
His rant stops abruptly when he realises he's sunk four inches into the mud and can't free his left foot.
"I don't like to conjecture," comes Zack's voice over the squelching noises, "But I hypothesise that Agent Booth is more annoyed with the removal of privacy from his and Dr Brennan's conversation than your intrusion on the case, Angela."
"Oh great," exclaims Booth, standing on one leg and waving his mud-encased foot around as the rain continues to pound down, "What have you got going on over there, a party?"
Yet another voice crackles over the comms device. "Hey, if this is a party, why didn't anyone think to bring popcorn?"
Brennan stares down at her walkie-talkie in horror, almost dropping the skull into a giant brown puddle. "Dr Hodgins, the consumption of popcorn in the lab is – "
"Here, you know what, how about this? Why don't we just – " Booth reaches down and snatches the walkie-talkie from Brennan's belt, switching it off with a flick of his thumb. "You hear that, Bones? Peace and quiet. Peace – and – quiet."
Apparently, the nasal cavity of a dead guy is more interesting.
Later, in the diner, she brings it up in the middle of their conversation about the best place to order fish. Dr Sweets has given up on today's couples therapy session and is resignedly eating his chips, watching their conversation with a mild interest. Brennan is still uncomfortable with his constant need to experiment on them.
"Anthropologically speaking, love is designed to – " she begins, but Booth steals some of Sweets' chips and interrupts. She wrinkles her nose and leans further back into her chair. He can't believe that guts ripped out and burnt to ash leave her unfazed but a bit of half-chewed food turns her stomach.
"I'm not interested in the world, Bones." Booth chews and swallows, some small semblance of sincerity returning to the conversation now his partner doesn't look like she's about to projectile vomit. "I asked about you."
Sweets sits up a little straighter, not even pretending to be interested in his food anymore. Brennan thinks about this for a moment. "I've experienced the release of certain chemicals, dopamine, endorphins, typically associated with – "
"Woah, Bones." He throws a half amused glance, half exasperated shrug in Sweets' direction. "What are you doing? You can't rationalise love."
Sweets jumps in. "I think what's interesting here is that – "
He doesn't get very far. "Chemically speaking," Brennan begins emphatically, ignoring Sweets, but she comes to a halt at the look on Booth's face and backs off a little, giving a resigned smile. "There are more things in heaven and earth?"
"Than are dreamt of in your science, Bones," he finishes, grinning. Opening and closing his mouth like he desperately wants to say something but keeps thinking better of it, Sweets resembles the know-it-all child of kindergarten, bouncing up and down on his crossed legs with his arm waving in the air.
"I'm talking about feelings, Bones," Booth continues, leaning in closer across the table. Brennan, too, leans forward as though she's being let in on a secret only he knows. "Emotions. That instinctive, uncontrollable, irrational feeling. That's love. Not some chemical cocktail you could have Zack cook up for you in your lab."
"Why would I want Zack to make me a love cocktail?" she frowns, and it takes her a good thirty seconds to realise why he's laughing.
Don't you know by now that you can't rush her?
Once she's recovered, she's silent for a long while, clearly thinking this over. Sweets can't stop fidgeting, his fries left abandoned as Booth picks at them, watching his partner carefully. Finally, she looks up. "I – "
Booth picks up his pie fork and points at her with it, raising his eyebrows. With great difficulty, she puts away her degrees and her doctorates and answers, not as Bones, not as Dr Brennan, but as Temperance.
Have you ever been in love, Bones?
She sits back a little, allowing the slightest of smiles to stretch across her lips, never once breaking eye contact with her partner.
"Then yes. Yes, I think I have."
Sweets lights up like he's about to explode.