Comparisons are easily done
Once you've had a taste of perfection
Like an apple hanging from a tree
I picked the ripest one, I still got the seed
You said move on, where do I go?
I guess second-best is all I will know
'Cause when I'm with him I am
Thinking of you, thinking of you
What you would do if
You were the one who was
Spending the night
Oh I wish that I was
Looking into your eyes...
- Thinking of You, Katy Perry
The fan whirred overhead as she stared up at the ceiling, hands resting behind her head, hair fanned out on the cool pillowcase. One leg hung off the edge of the bed with no intentions of pulling itself back up, swinging lazily back and forth at the knee, toes grazing the carpet underfoot. To her left he breathed in a deep, metered way.
It had meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. She couldn't even be bothered to fake a moan when he hit his peak, but she did let out a deep, shuddering breath as he pulled out, which gave him enough satisfaction so as not to ask how it was for her. He did not know the breath was a sigh of relief—it was finally done. Never had she laid on her back and felt so completely out of touch with what was happening around her, to her, within her.
When Andrew invited her to dinner, two weeks after Booth pulled her into his arms outside of Sweets' office building and kissed her, she only had to hear his words in her memory once—I gotta find someone who's gonna love me—and the 'yes' was instant. She'd always found his boss charming, with an easy smile and a great sense of humor. Why wouldn't she let him take her out for dinner and drinks? They'd been out before, and they'd had a great time. If anything, she needed a great time. She needed something.
She picked onions off of her salad while he babbled about work, then asked about the progress she and Booth were making in their latest case. She held the fork rigidly in her hand for a moment, then shook the piece of onion off, perhaps with more force than entirely necessary.
"It's going well," she said lightly, not really wanting to discuss Booth or her work with him. It tore at something in the middle of her.
"You guys any closer to figuring it out?" Hacker asked, cutting off and popping a piece of steak into his mouth, leaning in and listening to her with intent. He always listened that way, like everything she said was of the utmost importance. Like she had an audience at every moment.
"Hodgins is working on some slivers of metal found embedded in the victim's head wound, we're hoping it will narrow down the potential murder weapons," she explained, pushing croutons onto her pile of disliked toppings on the edge of her plate, adding to her mountain. She and Booth almost never ate anywhere where salads were served—he didn't eat rabbit food, as he called it—but when they did, he made a point of telling the waiter, "Nothing but dressing on the salad." He always said it for her before she could, and she always chided him, but now that he wasn't there to say it she had completely forgotten to do it herself. Increasingly she was finding these little pieces of herself that she had discarded, completely unaware of having done so.
"Well hopefully that'll turn up something. You two are so great together," Hacker said, taking a sip of his drink before continuing, "you'll probably have this case closed by the end of the week." She nodded, stabbing into a baby tomato and using her knife to push it off onto the napkin next to her plate. She was running out of room on her mountain, it was spilling over off to the side now.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked. She looked up.
"With your salad," he said, gesturing to the mangled tomato she was forcing off of her fork. "Is there something wrong with it?"
"No, no, it's fine," she said. "I just, I forgot to ask them to bring it without the toppings."
"Do you want me to ask them for another one? Hey, excuse me…" he began flagging down the nearest waitress, but Brennan shook her head.
"No, it's fine Andrew, really," she said, pulling her cheeks painfully into a grateful smile. "This is great, really. I'll just pick around it, it's not a problem." He shrugged and waved off the waitress, and they continued talking. She veered the conversation away from her work and focused on him for a while, his guitar and his years climbing the ladder in the FBI and though his eyes lit up when he talked about playing for her, she found them too light, too placid, like rain water collecting in a dip in the road after a hard summer rain. She looked down in them and saw a warped version of herself staring back.
Then they went to her place, and their clothes came off, and she tried. She really tried, because he was a good man, and the way his fingers gently trailed over her, she could tell he cared. He was gentle and he marveled at her, how she was even better looking naked, and it would have been a nice compliment if she had been at all present. She thanked him—thanked him, as if it were a business transaction—and tried to let herself fall into the moment, but it felt more like being buried by it.
She was relieved when he stopped kissing her mouth and moved his attention to other areas, because being kissed only brought her to one thought and one place, and it was the wrong thought, the wrong place to be when she was supposed to be here, with Andrew, in her bed.
But when he kissed her, she wasn't here. She was there, in the chill spring night, engulfed in something that was far too much. It was too deep, it was too far from shore, it was too risky. It was too much of a gamble, the fire and the ache and the taste of him. It was too much to lose. It was more than she could let herself have.
She went through the mechanics of sex (and vaguely remembered the notion of making love, of two people occupying one space, of that elusive miracle she had never witnessed and at this rate never would) and he clearly enjoyed himself. She could not tell if he was seeing her or just feeling her, but she was doing neither. She closed her eyes, chest heaving as she repressed the wave of emotion that suddenly overcame her, that had nothing to do with this moment. She bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut, pressing back tears, and when she felt him finish she let out a pained, shuddering sigh. It was done.
And now, an hour later, he was fast asleep. Streetlights peered in through her blinds, dimly lighting the room in slats of hazy orange. Traffic hummed, and somewhere in the distance an ambulance wailed unimpressively. She finally let herself go, silent tears sliding down the sides of her cheeks and soaking the pillowcase, because everything she had left in her hurt. Because she was torn in half, and the half she wanted to be breathing those soft, measured breaths beside her, wasn't.