A/N: Yes, I really can write fluff. Enjoy. :)
Life inside the music box ain't easy
The mallets hit, the gears are always turning
And everyone inside the mechanism
Is yearning to get out
And sing another melody completely
So different from the one they're always singing
I close my eyes and think that I have found me
But then I feel mortality surround me
I want to sing another melody
So different from the one I always sing
But when I do the dishes...
- Musicbox, Regina Spektor
Brennan sank her hands into the hot dish water, feeling a wave of warmth overtake her as her hands tingled in the near-simmering heat.
"You know, you don't have to do dishes," he said.
"But I made them dirty," she argued, picking up the sponge off the edge of the sink and soaking it.
"Yeah, by cooking me dinner. You cooked, I should clean," he pointed out, holding a drying rag in hand as he stood next to her. She shook her head.
"You fixed the broken pipe in my apartment, I owe you."
"Yeah but it only took me…"
"Are you going to keep arguing with me or are you going to dry dishes?" she cut off impatiently, though with a hint of sass that was not frustrated at all. He sighed through his nose, shaking his head with amusement.
"Might as well give up, it's a losing battle anyway," he conceded. She turned back to the sink with an air of hauteur and he cleared his throat.
"Just because I gave in doesn't make you right," he continued to dispute, taking the clean, wet dish she handed him and rubbing the rag over it. "It just makes me tired." She muttered something indistinct under her breath and he bit his lower lip, trying not to smile.
She had lamented his lack of dish gloves when she rummaged under the cabinet a few minutes earlier, and he'd scoffed. Men don't wear dish gloves, he insisted, because men don't get dishpan hands. He narrowly avoided a lecture on chauvinism by pointing out that besides, his hands were too large for gloves anyway. She gave him an unresolved look but let it go, and he had grinned inwardly. Sometimes it was worth it just to see that look cross her face, like the one she had now—a mix of annoyance, amusement, and something he couldn't pin that was a bit like fondness, but more intimate.
Their conversation died down to a comfortable lull as they worked in tandem, washing and drying and setting each dish gently on the small clear space on the counter. They fit together like two parts of a well-tuned machine, cleaning without the need for aimless chatter and working around each other's elbows easily.
"They're kind of like boats," he said out of the blue a few minutes later, as Brennan held a plastic Tupperware container in hand.
"What?" she asked. He motioned towards the plastic container.
"Those plastic leftover things, they're like boats," he repeated. "Look, see?" He took it out of her hand gently and placed it on top of the water, where it floated on its base between clumps of dying suds. She raised her eyebrows slightly and looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
"That's a boat to you?" she asked. Booth chuckled.
"Well, yeah," he said. "Me and Parker were doing dishes one night and he just set it on top of the dish water and said, 'Look Dad, it's a boat' and now whenever I wash them I think of boats."
"Children do have quite active imaginations," she commented, resting her hands on the edge of the sink and watching the little plastic boat rest calmly on the undisturbed ocean. Slowly the piles of bubbles began to turn into icebergs, floating along the chilly arctic ocean next to the heavy liner.
"It's a bit like the Titanic, really," she said, lowering her fingers into the water and making ripples, sending the boat drifting across the water. He made a musing sound.
"How so?" he asked, pushing the boat in the opposite direction that she sent it in with his index finger.
"Well," she explained, "the suds are like icebergs, and the boat is very tall and broad, but if it tips then it's going to submerge almost instantly." He snorted.
"You sound like Parker now," he said. "Endless imagination." She shrugged, probing the boat towards him.
"I'm just making an observation," she said. "Nothing extraordinary." He shook his head, continuing the back and forth game between them as the bubbles continued to fizzle quietly and die off, revealing more of their reflections in the lightly rippling water.
"All of your observations are extraordinary," he said, and the way it came out of his mouth caught them both a little off guard. Her cheeks flushed and she kept her eyes trained on the boat, as did he.
"How is that?" she hesitated to ask, watching his reflection soften as he looked up at the checkered backsplash behind the sink, seeming to see something entirely different there.
"You see things other people don't see," he said. "Like most people would look at a skeleton and just see a bunch of bones. You see a person."
"Everyone sees a person when they see a human skeleton," she argued. He shook his head and caught her gaze in the reflection on the water.
"Most people see a human," he said. "But you see a person. You see a life. You don't just see male or female, or age, or where the bones once broke. You see how they broke. You see someone who was six years old and fell off the monkey bars, probably trying to hang upside down to show off. You see a woman who gave birth to several children, who devoted her life to bringing new life into the world. You see a man who worked hard in a factory every day, wearing the tips of his fingers down to make a living for the family he loved. You see a life, a whole life. That's extraordinary."
"I…" she started, not knowing what to say. She turned down to look back at the water, as did he. He smiled into the water's reflection, and his easy features made her lips pick up at the corners too.
"And because you're so observant," he said lightly, dipping his fingers down into one of the few remaining icebergs of soap, "you get to be my first mate." He took a dab of bubbles and daubed it on the tip of her nose. She made an expression that was torn between shock and amusement, wiping the end of her nose with the back of her hand and scoffing loudly.
"Who made you captain of this ship?" she asked, dipping the tips of her fingers into the sink and withdrawing them, flicking them towards him and sending a shower of droplets at his face. He looked momentarily stunned before something mischievous flashed across his face.
"I did, Gilligan," he said, setting his hand into the water and cupping it ever so slightly. She saw the beginning of his motion and mimicked it, standing slightly on the defensive.
"You and what army?" she asked, a retort from her childhood finding its way to her lips, and he began laughing.
"Me and this army!" he said, sending a spray of water up in her direction. She splashed him back and in the span of ten seconds they had both transformed from rational, mature adults into irreverent children, covering the counter and floor and each other with water as they sent sheets of it sailing towards each other, their plastic boat completely forgotten.
When there was little water left in the sink to splash they both stopped, winded from laughing, soaked down the front with water. Booth sputtered and wiped the water from his face, shaking his head like a dog, and Brennan pushed wet pieces of limp hair away from her forehead, a breathless joy radiating from her features.
"Truce?" he asked, regaining his voice. They stared at each other, dripping and cold, and a shiver ran up her back that had nothing to do with the water. They were still and wordless, only the sound of their hitched breathing and the dripping of water off the counter onto the floor breaking the ringing silent moment between them. She panted slightly and licked her lips, which tasted vaguely soapy. She shook her head, hand darting for the spraying sink head and reaching it a split second before he did.
"Not on your life."