A/N: My pal gocubsgo17 was looking for a new story idea when she wrapped up her Seven Sins, Seven Virtues. I gave her this one...and then decided that I wanted to do it myself. There's nothing like sheepishly asking a good friend if they plan to use the story idea you were only too willing to part. Fortunately for me, not only was Madie a good sport about it, she also came through in the clutch when I needed someone to beta my final draft. Thank you, you rock...
Special thanks to lalaurala-bones for being an extra set of eyes when I was worried that things were too slow - I really hope you like where it ended up. And to my Twitter pals and fellow authors ProfeJMarie and jenlovesbones who kept me writing when I wasn't sure I'd ever get done.
For Gemlily5 - You've been wanting one that was 5000 words or more from me for how long? Guess you were right when you said I could do it. Hope you enjoy...
Disclaimer: I don't own Bones.
The Truth in the Tequila
Brennan sits and watches as her friend lovingly cradles her son against her shoulder. Angela pats his back softly and turns her attention to her best friend. "How are things with Agent Studly?" she asks.
"You know that Booth and I don't have that kind of relationship, Ange," the anthropologist retorts.
The artist draws in a breath and lifts an eyebrow. "How long has Journalist Barbie been gone?"
"Don't do that, Angela," she says with a sigh. "Hannah is a lovely person. Booth really cared about her..."
"Sweetie," Angela replies as she casts a serious look at the other woman. "He never once looked at Hannah the way he looks at you."
"I'm his partner, of course he looks at me differently..." Brennan protests.
"Enough! Can the bull shit, Bren," she says. "Why can't the two of you just admit that you're in love with each other and have mind-blowing sex already?"
Brennan opens her mouth and immediately shuts it. Booth's words echo in her ears. What's between us is ours... She stares at her hands.
The silence causes Angela's mind to wander. Her eyes narrow. "Unless you're holding out on me..." she begins. "Oh my God! Please tell me he's as good in bed as he looks. I swear, Seeley Booth is sex on a stick..."
Brennan shakes her head. "Angela, you're wrong," she says, sighing in exasperation. "Booth and I have not had intercourse."
Angela tucks the baby into his carrier and crosses her arms over her chest. She studies Brennan's face. "But you..." she pauses as the realization dawns. "He told you that he loves you, didn't he? Oh, Bren," her hand floats up to cover her mouth.
"Actually, no," she says as she sits on the sofa. Suddenly she feels the desire to tell someone, the need to get it all out, overwhelming her. She starts with Sweets' book. Then the kiss in the rain outside the dive bar the night he "fired" her during their first case. The story flows seamlessly into the night outside the Hoover and the desire for 30 or 40 or 50 years. "He asked me to give us a shot..."
"And you said no," Angela finishes as she reaches for the box of kleenex.
Brennan wipes her eyes before continuing. "I don't have his open heart. I'm no good at relationships. I..."
Angela puts a hand over the one that rests in her friend's lap. "Stop," she says. "Stop talking about my best friend that way."
Brennan just blinks at her in owl-like fashion and the artist continues. "Shouldn't Booth get to decide what's good enough?" she questions. "You give people back to their families, Sweetie. You gave me a place when I had nowhere else to go. If it wasn't for you, I'd never have met Jack and," she touches the baby's chubby fingers, "I wouldn't have this little guy." Turning back to her friend, she asks, "What about getting your dad off on those murder charges? What about Wendell's scholarship? The pig? Getting Parker into..."
"These are all things that I thought about in Maluku," Brennan interrupts. "I came back ready to be with him. Ready to try..."
"But he was with Hannah," tumbles from her lips.
"Yes," she says simply. "He was with Hannah and he was happy. I thought that maybe I was right. That maybe I wasn't good enough for him after all. That I couldn't be what he deserved." She closes her eyes and takes several deep, cleansing breaths. "After the Eames case, I told him how I felt. I told him that I felt like I had missed our moment. That I regretted it."
Angela wipes away her own tears. "Sweetie..."
Brennan presses on. "He said that he was with Hannah and that she wasn't a consolation prize," she sobs.
Angela wraps her arms around Brennan and for a moment they cry together. "But Hannah's gone," she says. "She's been gone for six months. It finally seemed like you guys were getting back on track."
Brennan lets out a breath. "We are," she says. "We've gotten back to being good friends. He hasn't mentioned it and, because I'm happy to have him back, neither have I."
Angela looks Brennan in the eyes attempting to gage her friend's response as she broaches the question, "Do you want him?"
Brennan doesn't answer. Her cheeks flush and she takes effort to look away.
"Get up," she says. "Get up and get out of here. If you won't fight for him, if you won't tell him, I've got zero sympathy for you." She stands up and drags Brennan off of the couch. "It's your turn, Sweetie. The next move has to come from you."
"But I don't know what to do," she croaks.
Angela's laugh is deep and throaty. "Fortunately, you've got the right fairy godmother."
Brennan rolls her eyes. "Really, Ange. There's no such..."
"...thing as fairies," Angela finishes. "I know, okay? Just trust me."
Booth is sitting at his desk working on reports when Angela enters his office. The look on the artist's face tells him that she's up to something. He watches as she rests his godson's carrier on the chair opposite him before addressing her. "Hey, Ange," he says lightly. "Aren't you still on maternity leave? What's with the social call?"
Angela shakes her head. "Can the small talk, big guy," she tells him. "The jig is up. I know everything."
Booth's eyes narrow and his brow furrows. "What do you mean you..." When it hits him, he gulps. "Oh," he says after a long pause. "She told you, huh?"
"I know your stance on the whole between you being yours," she says with a wave of her hand. "Seriously? The two of you need help."
"Sweets," Booth begins.
"Sweets is a moron," she says. "You're always saying 'What does he know? He's twelve.' and yet you listened to him about something like this?"
"I know, okay?" he growls. "You think I haven't beaten myself up over not going with my gut that she wasn't ready?"
Angela rests a hand on his arm. "She came back ready," she tells him. "Only you were..."
"With Hannah," he says. "I told her I needed to move on."
"Yeah, and she asked for that," she agrees. "But we all saw you rub her nose in it, Booth. We just didn't have all the facts."
"I don't owe you or Bones an explanation," he says harshly. "I did what I said I would do - I moved on. I tried to be happy with someone else. For a while I was happy with someone else."
"And how'd that work out for you?" she asks, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Look, it doesn't matter," he says. "I've come to terms with the fact that I'll never really move on and we're getting our partnership back." His fingers brush over the frame of a photo of them at the Anuk exhibit. He remembers how close he came to kissing her that night. How he would have kissed her if the squints hadn't shown up. "I'm giving her what she wants and taking what she's capable of giving me."
Having gotten the answer she came for, Angela grins. "What if I told you there was a chance for you to finally get your shot?" she asks him.
Booth looks up at her with a sad smile. "I finally have her back, Ange. I'm not sure I can gamble on us again. I'd rather be her partner and friend than not have her in my life at all."
Angela laughs. "Men!" she exclaims. "I just need to know that if given the opportunity, you aren't going to waste it."
"I don't know what that means," he says with a puzzled expression.
"It means, Studly," she says with a smirk and raised eyebrows, "that I've got an idea."
It's late and they're both tired as they walk through Brennan's door. The case had been draining. Booth puts the bag of carry-out on the kitchen counter and pulls off his leather jacket. He watches as Brennan sheds her own coat to reveal an elegant red wrap dress. "I'm sorry you missed the meeting with your publisher," he says.
Brennan shrugs as she picks up the manilla envelope she carried home. "I'm not," she says, "They're trying to get me to sign a new contract. It's terribly boring."
He removes one of the paper containers and opens it. As he uses chopsticks to lift a bite into his mouth, he gestures to her package. "What's that?" he asks.
"I'm not sure," she says. "It's from Angela." She pulls out a note and skims over it. She withdraws two smaller envelopes.
Booth's curiosity gets the better of him and he walks over to stand behind her. "Geez, Bones, can't you leave work at the office? We'll wrap the case up tomorrow. Let's watch a movie."
Brennan shakes her head. "This doesn't have anything to do with work," she says. "You should look at this, Booth. I don't know it..."
He takes the note from her. "She wants us to play a game," he says.
Brennan blushes uncharacteristically, suddenly very aware of the close proximity of her handsome partner. She turns to face him and discovers her nose is practically against his chest.
Booth steps awkwardly away, but not before catching the mingled lemongrass and mint scent of her shampoo. "We don't have to do this," he tells her, resting his hands on her shoulders.
She looks up at him. "It might be fun," she says softly. She looks at the note again. "Except we both know what happened the last time we drank tequila."
His hand drifts down her arm. The touch is feather-light and raises gooseflesh. He withdraws his fingers as his lips tingle with the urge to kiss her. To kiss her and keep kissing her until the world stopped or she gave in. But he knows better. "I'll get the glasses and the food," he says.
She nods, taking effort to conceal the effect his touch has had on her. "I'll get the tequila and meet you at the couch."
Standing in the kitchen, he places both hands on the counter and takes a deep breath. He's not sure how he feels about Angela Montenegro-Hodgins at this point. And only the wearing on of the evening will tell if he'd like to throttle her or send her flowers.
Brennan sits on the sofa and stares at the tequila bottle and envelopes on the table in front of her. Touching the golden paper, she reads the titles written in Angela's bold script. Truth. Dare.
Booth joins her with an almost shy smile. The last time he felt like this was 7th grade at Chris Newman's birthday party. They'd decided to play seven-minutes-in-heaven and he'd been locked in the closet with Sarah Fitzpatrick. He eyes the envelopes. "So, what's the deal?" he asks.
Brennan grabs the tequila bottle and pours some into each glass. "It's Truth or Dare, but Angela has written everything out," she tells him as she takes a shot. The alcohol burns her throat, but soothes away some of her nerves.
"Whoa, easy there, Bones," he says. "You think we should eat first? Too much tequila on an empty stomach..."
She smirks at him. "Worried you won't be able to keep up?"
Booth picks up his glass and lets the golden liquor slide down to his stomach. "Eat something," he instructs.
She picks up her Thai and grabs a pair of chopsticks. "Who should go first?" she asks.
He eats from his own box. "Up to you," he mutters over a mouthful of noodles.
Reaching out, she wipes the sauce from his chin and he watches as she licks it from her fingers in what should have been an innocent gesture. "I really don't have a preference and Angela didn't specify."
Booth picks up the packet marked 'Truth' and removes one of the slips. He immediately wishes he'd picked a dare when he reads the prompt. He clears his throat. "Name something you find attractive about the other person," he reads. There are so many things that he has to think about making the right choice.
She looks at him over the box she holds in her hand. There's a look in her eyes that he hasn't seen before. It fascinates him because, up to this point, he'd have said he knew all her looks. That he'd seen just about every emotion radiating from the clear blue depths of... "Your eyes," he says with a smile. He fiddles with the chopsticks in his box before turning back to her. "Lots of emotions hiding in those peepers of yours, Bones," he adds lightly. Seeing myself in them, I see the man I want to be.
She smiles back at him and, taking his lead, reaches for the same envelope. She looks down at the paper and feels tiny pin-pricks of tears against her eye lids. "Tell the other person something about your past that makes you who you are."
Booth snatches the paper away and crumples it up. Tossing it over his shoulder, he takes her hand. His fingers trace over her delicate skin and brush against her mother's ring. "You should have taken a 'Dare', Bones," he teases, trying to coax her back from the dark corner that swallows her.
With timid fingers, she reaches for the unopened packet and slips one of the notes out. "I'm afraid this one isn't much better, Booth," she says as she hands the paper to him.
Booth's eyes widen. "Remove one article of clothing," he chuckles with a shake of his head. "Remind me not to trust Angela the next time she suggests something like this." He looks at her, surveying options, before dragging her feet into his lap. He pulls first one and then the other of her red pumps off, dropping them to the floor beside the couch.
Their eyes meet and hold. Words seem unnecessary as the silent communication of a solid friendship passes between them. Her feet remain in his lap and his hands begin to glide over her feet. Kneading. Gently massaging. Enjoying the contact. The weight of even part of her body in his lap.
Brennan reaches for the tequila and pours two more shots. "To us," she says.
Booth clinks his glass against hers. "To partnership," he replies.
Both hearts sink just a little. The weight of things not said bears down heavily upon them both. They slosh back the liquor, Brennan's face puckering this time at the burn.
He reaches for the discarded 'Truth' envelope and pulls one for himself. "Tell the other person about a time you were scared of losing them." He takes a deep breath. Did almost every day since the day you met count? He stares at her feet. He begins ticking things off in his head.
There was the time he checked himself out of the hospital to save her from the rogue agent. But they'd been through worse.
Confronting the gang leader in the alley? Not even close.
When she was trapped by the gravedigger? Sure, that was scary, but he'd had her - their - squints to help get her back.
When he was captured by the gravedigger? Eh. That was more about her losing him.
He knows the moment. He just doesn't know if now is the time to bring it up. He looks at her face, sees that flicker in her eyes. The one he still hasn't figured out. The one he can't describe. "The airport," he says. "I was afraid that it might be the last time I ever saw you. That you might find something better than being my partner over in Maluku and not come back. That you'd get hurt."
Her head tilts to the side. He watches as she worries her lower lip the way she does when she's nervous. Voice unsteady, she says softly, "Booth, I..."
He shakes it off. "It's not important. You're here now," he says a warm hand coming to rest over her ankle. "We're getting it back."
It. The magic quality that used to be more important than anything else. She nods. "We are, aren't we?"
He hands her the 'Dare' envelope. "Pick a card, any card," he says in his best carney imitation.
She laughs as she plucks it from his hand. "Why do I have to take a 'Dare', Booth? I'm sure there are plenty in the 'Truth' envelope," she says. "And I'm good at truth."
He nods, a cocky grin spreading over his face. "You are, Bones," he answers. "Which is why I figured we'd spice things up a bit."
She shakes her head. "I'm not sure I want to know what else is in the 'Dare' envelope. It appears Angela is being quite brazen."
Reaching over her legs, he pours two more shots. "Have another drink, Bones," he laughs. "Maybe a little liquid courage will get us through."
"I don't know about you, Booth," she says, her tone confident. "But I don't need any liquid courage." She plucks a slip and is about to read it out loud, when he snatches it away from her.
"I'll show you a thing or two about who needs liquid courage," he says arrogantly. He looks at the slip and curses his luck. Rather than reading it, he takes her wrist firmly in hand. He watches her eyes as he moves the tender flesh to his lips. He hears her intake of breath as he presses a kiss to her pulse point. Emboldened by a tiny whimper, he draws his tongue along her pale skin in a soft swipe before moving his lips over it once more.
When their eyes meet again, he's taken aback by the fire he sees in her. It's another new feature. Something he hasn't seen outside the context of anger. It's a slow burn. He quickly downs his shot before he finds himself scorched, consumed by her heat. "You're falling behind, Bones," he tells her without looking at her face.
"Booth?" she questions softly. "That wasn't what the slip said..."
He feels light headed. He's no light-weight, so he knows that it's the effect of the woman sitting beside him. "What?" he says, snapping back to the conversation. "I did exactly what the instruction said. It was a kiss. I kissed you. I..."
Brennan pulls her feet from his lap and tucks them underneath her on the couch. From a kneeling position, she leans forward and places her hand on his chest. The rapid beating of his heart is startling. "Booth?" her unsurety makes a question of his name.
"Bones," he says, his tone holding a hint of warning. He takes a ragged breath, his self control barely kept in restraint as she nears.
"Kiss me?" she breathes when they come face to face, her eyes searching for answers in his.
There is a moment of hesitation as he raises a weathered hand to cup the softness of her cheek. He looks at her - really looks at her. Seconds tick away and he thinks that this could be their moment.
He watches the pink tip of her tongue as it darts out, in a nervous effort to provide moisture. Notices the contrast of it against the ruby red of her painted lips. The hand on her cheek slides into her hair, cradling her head as its mate slips around her waist until it rests firmly against her lower back. He takes a deep breath just before sinking into the depths of her eyes.
She's tired of waiting. Of anticipation. Of wondering. She leans forward, leans into him, and carefully presses her mouth to his. And her efforts are rewarded. She's rewarded when he applies the slightest pressure and causes her to shiver.
He marvels at the way she melts into him, how she collapses into his arms. He savors the way she makes him feel. Masculine. Trusted. Desired. His breath catches at the enormity of this moment. At the difference between this kiss and others they've shared.
It's delicious. Simple and uncomplicated. It's not witnessed. It's neither rushed, nor hurried. It doesn't come in a moment of weakness or desperation. It's unique. Blooming with passion as more time passes.
His lips part slightly and she suckles his lower lip between her own. This is different. It feels different than anything she's ever experienced before. She feels cherished. Respected. Dare she admit it to herself? Loved.
When they pull away, she gets up and walks into the kitchen. She needs to breathe. To find herself again. To regain her composure.
Feeling broken and concerned about rejection, he steels himself for the worst before following her. Tears begin to well as he approaches her, pinning her against the countertop. "No more running, Temperance," he tells her. "I can't handle it. You need to talk to me. Tell me what's going on. Tell me how you feel."
"I'm scared," she tells him softly.
"Of what?" he asks sadly. "Of me?"
She stares at his vintage t-shirt, tracing over the letters with her fingers. "Of hurting you. Of getting hurt." She looks up at him, her own eyes filling with tears. "Of finding out you're the only man I'll ever truly love."
He's stunned into silence. He stands before her, his arms trembling as they support his weight and trap her. Could it be? That emotion in her eyes. Was it love?
Her hands move up to his shoulders. "Say something," she pleads. "Please, Booth, just..."
He sweeps her into his arms, kissing her soundly. Tears mingle on their cheeks. They have a lot to work out, but this is - finally - a step in the right direction. When he releases her mouth, he looks into her eyes. "Don't cry," he tells her. "I hate it when you cry." He brushes her tears away and leans in to kiss her again.
She brushes his tears away and smiles softly up at him. "By that logic, you shouldn't cry either, Booth," she answers. "It hurts me to see you in pain as well..."
He grins at her and gives her a quick kiss. A gentle pluck of lips. "But I'm not in pain this time," he says, putting an arm around her as he leads her back to the living room. "Right now I think I could conquer the world."
"How about conquering Truth or Dare?" she asks. Competitive spirit kicking in, she adds, "Who would you say is winning?"
He chuckles loudly. "It's not really that kind of a game, Bones."
They sit back on the couch. "Who's turn is it?" she asks. "I pulled the last slip, but you completed the dare."
He shrugs. "You came through bigger on that dare than I did," he says to her. "I'll let you make the call."
She picks up an envelope and plucks a slip. She crinkles up her nose. "What's a body shot?" she asks.
Booth scrubs his hand over his jaw. Was Angela trying to kill him? "Um, Bones," he manages to choke out. "I'm thinking we might want to toss that one, at least for tonight."
She pouts. "Why, Booth? It sounds kind of exciting..."
He curses under his breath and tries to snatch the paper from her hand. She manages to hold it just out of his grasp, even as he leans over her. This is not good, he thinks to himself. "It sounds exciting, because it is exciting," he admits. "It's exciting and arousing and not something we should do right now."
She leans forward until her breasts rub against his chest. She takes pleasure in the expression that crosses his face at the innocent caress. "We're already aroused, Booth," she husks. "What could it hurt?"
He backs away for a moment. "Bones, you don't understand what you're asking me to do..."
"True, I don't know the exact action a 'body shot' requires, though I can deduce that it requires you to..."
Booth paces the floor in front of the coffee table. His hands rest on his hips. Not a good idea, Seeley. No reason to take one step forward to take three giant steps back. He stops chastising himself long enough to look at her. To see the innocence playing over her features. She may not know what she's asking. How far she would be pushing the thin grasp he has on his self control. "It requires me to do do a shot off of your body."
Her eyes shine and the left side of her mouth twists up in a crooked smile. "I trust you," she says. And she does. Completely. And that's part of the problem. Almost too casually, she asks, "What do I do?"
"Have you got a lime?" he asks. What? Wait... Did he really just ask her that?
She starts to get up. "I think so," she says.
He shakes his head. "Stay," he tells her. "I'll go look."
He stands at the refrigerator, saying a silent prayer to Saint Jude. Half hoping that it's a lost cause and that there is no lime. Half hoping that this is the there is one and knowing that if there is he will become lost in her forever.
He opens the door. Organic groceries line the shelves. He sees milk, eggs, cheese. Vegetables, leftover mac and cheese. Finally. The fruit bin. He rummages around. His fingers closing over the green rind.
His eyes slam shut. Decision time. Does he go through with it, risking everything for what could be one night? Or does he wait her out, chancing that she folds like a house of cards?
"Did you find it?" she calls out to him. "We've been drinking it without the lime all evening. I don't see why..."
He puts the lime on her cutting board and opens the drawer where the knives are kept. The rattling stops her talking. He makes quick work of slicing the fruit and tosses it into a small dish before grabbing the sea salt from the cupboard. Carrying the goods with him, he moves back into the living room where he sits on the coffee table in front of her. "Are you sure about this?" he asks as he takes her hands into his own. "Because this really changes things and I..."
She puts a finger over his lips. "Things have already changed. They've been changing, evolving, for quite some time. I want this, Booth. I'm ready."
He inhales deeply. "Lay down," he tells her.
She settles back onto the couch, smiling up at him as he moves slightly over her. His fingers trace down the column of her throat and into the valley between her breasts. His eyes don't leave hers as his fingers slip beneath the line of her dress and run to her hip. He wraps the tie around his hand. Toying with it, he teases her until it comes undone with a sharp tug.
She holds her breath as he pushes the fabric to the side. She inhales sharply as his knuckles touch the bare skin of her hip as he flicks the button holding the dress together loose. His hand glides over the taut, warm skin of her abdomen as he pushes the other side away, baring her to his sight.
His fingers ghost in a barely-there caress from her hip down her thigh. He grabs the salt and sprinkles some along the top of the thigh closest to him. Next, he takes her discarded glass of tequila and carefully drizzles it just above her navel, delighting in the way her body arcs slightly upward at the sensation. When the drink pools on her belly, he reaches for a slice of lime.
He leans down and gives her a brief kiss. "I need you to hold this for me," he says, sliding his thumb over her lower lip.
She takes the wedge between her teeth and waits. Watching. Admiring the view as he stretches to put a knee between her calf and the back of the couch.
Leaning down, he takes a breath. He prays for the strength to get him through this. Through the torture and glory of what lays before him. To touch her in ways he has ached to touch her.
His tongue sweeps away the salt and she inhales. He kisses and sucks the tequila from her skin; she arches and moans beneath his touch. And the lime. When he takes the lime from her, he's met with a greedy kiss. A hunger that he feels matches his own.
Her hands slip beneath his shirt, sliding it up his back as he pulls away to remove the fruit. She sits up, her dress falling away completely, as she tugs the vintage material to his shoulders.
He won't let it go any further. Leaning down, he presses his forehead to hers. "Bones," his voice is husky and filled with desire.
"Do you love me?" she asks breathlessly.
It somehow feels like they've been here before. At another time, in another life. Reaching back, he removes the offending garment and it finds a home over her shoes. Licking his lips, he asks, "You want me to prove it to you?"
He looks into her eyes as she smiles up at him. He sees 30 or 40 or 50 years. He's pretty sure she sees it, too. She just doesn't know it yet.