A/N: Next in the series of Thursday one-shots, this vignette was written over the summer in response to the prompt 'cozy.' Thanks much to those who read and reviewed last Thursday's In Disguise. Your feedback, as always, means a great deal to me and keeps me writing (or editing/revising) even when I'm overwhelmed at work and feel like a metaphorical circus act, juggling fire, knives and assorted nightmarish science fair essays …
Brennan stifled a groan at the jangling of her phone. She snatched it up before the loud ring could make her headache worse and held it gingerly to her ear.
"Hel—aachoo!—lo?" She grabbed a wad of tissues from the rapidly emptying box beside the bed.
"That answers my question. No better, huh."
Booth's concerned voice made Brennan feel simultaneously touched and irritated, a combination of feelings she didn't like at the best of times, and definitely not now when it felt like her head was largely comprised of helium and lead.
"I'm fine, Booth," she snuffled, turning her face away to sneeze several times in rapid succession.
"—sound fine," he was saying when she put her ear back to the phone. "It's been three days. Are you going to the doctor?"
"There's no need," Brennan muttered, flopping back down on the pillow and almost groaning with relief as the world stopped seeming to spin. "It's merely an upper respiratory infection. I no longer have a fever and the post-nasal drai—"
"I don't need the details," he interrupted. "You sound like death, Bones."
"By virtue of the fact that death is death—the end of life—death cannot sound like anything." She was in the mood for arguing. After three days in bed, she'd slept so much she couldn't stay still anymore, but if she tried to move then half the muscles in her body screamed. She was going what would be idiomatically referred to as 'stir-crazy.'
Booth didn't take the bait. "I'll be over in 30 minutes."
Brennan sat up and immediately regretted the sudden movement. "I don't want company. I would much prefer to sleep."
"So sleep. Who's stopping you?"
She could almost see his broad shoulders shrug through the phone line.
"What would be the purpose of you coming over to watch me sleep?" She asked, curious in spite of her overall feeling of malaise.
"From the couple of times we've bunked together, Bones, you're kind of a wild woman in bed. I can cover you back up so you don't catch another cold."
"The notion that a disease can be caught from a cold is inaccurate. A cold can only be contracted when-"
"Plus, it doesn't hurt to have someone close by to bring you fresh boxes of Kleenex if you wake up in the middle of the night."
"There's no need, Booth," she insisted. "I really don't want you to—Hello? Hello?" The dial tone sounded in her ear as her partner cut the connection.
Brennan lay back down, more carefully this time. She wanted to be angry at his invasion of her privacy, just like she wanted to be able to get up and get properly dressed—maybe even shower—to lend credence to her theory that she was, in fact, getting better.
She was more appearance-conscious than she cared to admit, and hated the idea that her partner would see her dressed in her rattiest pajamas, surrounded by crumpled tissues. But she couldn't find the energy to get out of bed and do something about the situation. She closed her eyes and found herself falling back asleep in spite of her earlier difficulties. Sleep was the perfect escape to having to analyze that nagging little feeling of irrational contentment that had begun the moment he'd announced he was on his way.
"Don't get out of bed," Booth called, turning the spare key in the lock.
He let himself into the apartment and set his purchases on a nearby table before closing the door and locking it carefully again. The fact that Brennan hadn't come at him guns blazing for daring to disobey her wishes was sign enough that she was plenty sick. That, plus the house was messy. Mail was unopened, laundry was draped across the back of the couch, unfolded, and he could see unwashed dishes in the sink. Oh, yeah. She was sick.
He walked softly down the hallway and tapped on the doorway to her bedroom—the one room in the house that he'd spent next to no-time in. He'd carried her into it twice, after various work related injuries, but other than that he and Brennan acted as thought it didn't exist, much like they acted like their feelings for each other didn't exist. But today he was going to damn the torpedoes and take care of his partner like she was more than his partner. Like she was his wife, if he dared admit it to himself.
Not getting an answer after several careful knocks, he eased open the door and peered inside, catching an unpleasant whiff of menthol vapors, cough syrup and sweat. A trail of tissues all the way from the bathroom door to the bed led his eyes straight to Brennan, who was propped up on a huge stack of pillows and wheezing.
He frowned, taking in her matted hair and tangled clothes, then stepped back out of the room with a definite plan forming in his mind.
Twenty minutes later, as Brennan finally emerged from the bedroom, Booth was just finishing up in the living room.
"What are you doing?" she croaked, grabbing the edge of a table to steady herself.
Booth shoved aside the kick of attraction that just wouldn't die within him, no matter what her appearance, and patted the pull-out couch.
"Clean sheets," he informed her, going to her side and smiling down at her. "And a change of space. It'll make you feel better, Bones."
She sneezed miserably. "You'll get sick," she warned, nevertheless allowing him to guide her toward the bed.
"Then you'll take care of me," he replied calmly, settling her gently onto the sheets and drawing a comforter around her.
"I'm not good at taking care of people," she mumbled drowsily, her blue eyes glazed with fatigue.
"Shh. Just lie there and rest. I've got soup and tea ready to go." He made a move toward the kitchen.
"No." Brennan's hand crept out from under the blanket and settled on Booth's wrist.
"You need to get some fluids in you, Bones. "
"Stay," Brennan insisted hoarsely. "With me."
He was definitely going to get good and sick after this, and it would be so worth it, Booth thought as he crawled under the covers beside her.
"You'll get sick," she warned again, even as she curled up into him.
He wasn't used to cuddly Brennan. The tired, trusting way in which she folded into his chest sparked a chain reaction of emotions in Booth that he knew he would have to deal with at a later date. For now, he contented himself with pulling her close, brushing the hair away from her pale cheeks and smoothing his hands across the worn fabric of her sleep-shirt.
"Tired." Brennan's head drooped onto his shoulder.
Booth tried to remember that this was not his fantasy come true. Bones being sick was not a fantasy. It was just unfortunate that this was the closest he'd been to her since that night on the Hoover Building steps. Unfortunate that, even though she smelled awful and was showering him with germs everytime she coughed or sneezed without turning her head, all he wanted to do was pull her closer still and kiss her discomfort away. She never needed him. He was always the one who needed her. The reversal of roles was so satisfying that it made him feel guilty. "I got you, Bones. Go to sleep."
"Cozy," she whispered, her labored breath rasping across his neck. "This is cozy, Booth."
He rested his chin on her unwashed hair and breathed in her sick-sweet smell and had to agree. He was going to get the cold from hell, but getting to be 'cozy' with Temperance Brennan made the prospect of pneumonia seem completely worth it. And, if he did wind up sick, he could always guilt-trip her into curling up with him in similar fashion … oh, yeah, he liked that idea. Bring on the germs.
Post-narrative A/N: Yes, I know 'cozy' isn't a word Brennan is apt to use. However, the story was written in response to the prompt and this was plausible as any scenario I could come up with. I figure she'd get good and huffy afterwards, just to make up for being momentarily vulnerable.
Not sure which one-shot I'll post next. Tune in next Thursday and find out … I do have another longer story in the works, but I'm too tired and loaded down with work to do much with it at present. But it is simmering away on the backburner of my mind, for those who are interested in another multi-chapter fic, albeit much, much, MUCH shorter than Problem Solving. =)