My apologies for not giving a little bit more backstory - it's been a while since I posted something new! This takes place probably late Season 2 or early Season 3 - and not canon, obviously. Thanks so much for reading, guys!
Rain lashed the stately brick façade of the Jeffersonian, flung by an angry wind. The weather forecasters had called for periods of sun and clouds, so unprepared employees and interns unlucky enough to park outside dashed madly for the entrances, resembling drowning rats in reverse flight to the dignified building. Within the dry confines of the lab, Angela spared one brief glance at the maelstrom on the other side of the expansive windows as she made her way to Zach's room. Once there, she waited as he scurried from one workstation to another. Such was his utter concentration, she repeated his name three times without receiving a response. Her head tilted mischievously. Clearly more drastic measures were required. When his trotting circuit brought him nearer to her she simply stepped into his path. "Zach."
Although he skidded to a halt, he wasn't quite quick enough to avoid bumping into her. Flustered and clearly distracted, he nonetheless switched his attention to her with the single-minded focus for which he was famous. "Angela. I apologize, I didn't see you." He slid his notepad under his arm and tucked his hands in his pockets. "How can I help you?"
"Cam said you have the Tang Dynasty skull, and I need it for reconstruction. Is it ready?" At his blank stare, she looked at him in astonishment. "Did you forget to do the the skull?"
"No – I haven't gotten to it yet, but I'm going to skip lunch and finish it. You'll have it by two." He broke away from her and raced to the other side of the room, picking up and discarding various documents along the way.
"What's going on, Zach? Did you oversleep this morning or something?" She stopped him again as he began to whiz by her. "I've never seen you this busy." She realized that he was reluctant to speak, and her curiosity grew. "C'mon, Zach, fess up."
"Well – it's Dr. Brennan."
"Brennan? Is she here? I haven't seen her yet today." She could have sworn Zach actually looked nervous – and that made her nervous. "Out with it, Zach. What's up?"
"She came in early this morning and gave me work to do."
"So? That's what she always does."
"Yes, but this was the work she brought home with her last night. She has never failed to complete her bring-home work. Never in the entire time I've been here." He swiped absently at a stray lock of hair. "I wasn't expecting it, and didn't plan accordingly – and now I'm a great deal behind with my regular daytime work."
"Well, don't worry about it too much, Z-Man. She doesn't expect you to be Superman. I think she's just really swamped lately. Take your lunch – I can do the face this afternoon. If you want, I'll talk to Brennan; drop a little word in her ear."
"Why would Dr. Brennan want me to wear tights and a cape? Please don't say anything, Angela. I'll have the skull for you as soon as possible. Excuse me, I should keep working."
She watched his rapidly retreating figure, an affectionate smile twisting her lips. Poor Zach. I wonder if he'll ever truly relax around Bren? At a tap on her shoulder, she turned her head. "Hey, Booth. What's up?"
"Got a case. Seems like we always get cases when it's pouring. Have you seen Bones?" He jerked his thumb toward Zach, momentarily distracted and mildly amused by the sight of the panicked scientist. "What's wrong with him? Well, more wrong than normal, I mean."
A chuckle snuck from her lips as she leaned closer, bumping shoulders with him. "Oh, he's okay. Brennan gave him some extra work that she couldn't finish last night and he's just a little…freaked out. I told him to calm down, but, well…" She shrugged casually. "…as you see."
Always one for details, in particular any details concerning his partner, Booth frowned, focusing on one key portion of her reply. "Bones couldn't finish her work? Since when?"
"Well she's been pretty busy lately, and I guess the stuff she took home with her was just a little too much. So she gave it to Zach." She glanced at him. "Is something wrong?"
"Probably not. It just surprised me, I guess. Bones always finishes her work." Unwilling to cause concern when he had no solid reason to do so, he dropped the subject. His gut, however, refused to stand down. Something was definitely off with Bones – he'd have to keep a closer eye on her. He refocused his attention on Angela. "So where is she?"
"Well, I haven't seen her at all, but Zach said she's here, so she's most likely in Limbo right now. And she's probably been down there most of the morning. Do me a favor and get her out of here? She needs some -" At a loud peal of thunder, she rolled her eyes in resignation. "Well, I was going to say she needs some sunshine, but I think today I'll have to settle for her getting some fresh air."
"No problem, Angela. That's my plan exactly." He turned, paused. "Hey, we're gonna hit the diner later. You want anything brought back for lunch?"
"No thanks. Jack and I are going to lunch in a little while. As a matter of fact, we're going to drag Zach to lunch, make him take a break too," she decided on the spot. "Thanks anyway – hey, don't get her all wet, it's really raining out there!" she called to his swiftly retreating form.
His attention already diverted from their conversation, he made a beeline for the stairs. He needed to find out what was going on with Bones. Time to have a little chat with my main squint.
Brennan was prostrate on the small worktable, forehead resting on a pile of reports, when the rapid clatter on the metal stairs warned her of an impending visitor. She hastily straightened and swiped her hand across her eyes, rubbing hard. Hopefully it was Zach. Whatever he might think of her appearance, he would keep it to himself and ask no questions. Her hopes were rudely dashed when Booth swung around the corner. Shit. Damn it. She quickly bent over and reached into the closest bone box, hoping the impromptu trip upside-down would add some color to her face.
"Bones – what're you doing down here?" Booth skidded to a halt in front of the lab table and peered probingly over the piles of research. "I've been trying to call you. We have a case."
She straightened, carefully lifting a small, damaged skull to the tabletop. "You know the celphones don't work down here, Booth. I told you that the last time you accused me of ignoring your calls."
He quickly took his usual stance regarding the topic. "Why a multi-million dollar joint like this can't get your cel to work down here, I'll never know." Plucking a folder from the top of her pile, he scanned it, knowing she'd instantly take it back from him.
"If they need me they send an intern for me." She snatched the papers out of his hands. "If you need me you call me seven times and then come down yourself. I don't see any problem." She immediately regretted her irritable tone. If she wanted to avoid arousing his suspicion, snapping at him was not the way to achieve that goal. Forcing a pleasant expression onto her face, she tried again. "You said we have a case?"
Nice try, Bones. She was definitely out-of-sorts. That's the special tone she reserves just for me when she's cranky. "Yeah. Outside the District, in Fairfax. Construction worker securing the site against the storm found a skeleton floating in one of the excavated areas. Gave him a hell of a shock." She was much too pale, he mused, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. Her eyes were almost bleary-looking. Adept at reading his partner, he was now positive that something was wrong.
"Bones don't float. They can't be real bones." Perhaps it would be all right – with a sense of relief, she realized that he wasn't going to confront her. Ignoring his attempts to hurry her, she carefully organized her files and switched off the lab light. "Can't the local police even tell authentic bones from false anymore?" As she lifted her crate, he moved to take it from her – a maneuver she always successfully resisted. This time, as they both tugged on the plastic her sore arm flashed a shot of pain at her and she quickly relinquished her hold.
"According to the M.E., they're definitely real. And they're definitely floating." His attempt to carry her crate successful, he smothered his surprise and stepped behind her as they neared the stairs. "So pack up your duds, and grab a slicker, 'cause it's pouring out there." Her halfhearted grumble drifted back to him and he smiled, satisfied. She'd tell him what was wrong over lunch. He'd get it out of her. He always did.