Title: Pudding is Truth; Truth is Pudding
Rating: PG-13
Status: Complete.
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters used in this story nor the show from which they originate. Unfortunately.
Summary: Following 1.15, Hodgins can't stop thinking about the way Booth and Brennan embraced after the FBI agent's rescue of the anthropologist. Wanting answers, he devises an experiment to get to the bottom of the partners' feelings for one another, roping Zack in as his somewhat unwitting accomplice.
A/N: I wrote this story quite a while ago, but I stockpile updates, and then the show aired an episode entitled "The Proof in the Pudding," prompting both a delay in posting and a change in the one shot's title. With that said, though, there really isn't anything else similar between this story and 5.12. Meant to be a light, fun piece, Pudding is Truth; Truth is Pudding is a standalone. There won't be a follow up to this one shot. Thanks and enjoy!

~Charlynn~

Pudding is Truth; Truth is Pudding
A One Shot

Hodgins was acting… weird.

Typically, Zack embraced oddities. He believed firmly in the beauty of the individual and felt that one could be as extroverted or as introverted as one wanted without fear of recrimination or censorship. After all, he was self-aware enough to realize that he was… not like other people, so he made it a goal in life to leave others alone and to not judge. He also tried not to ask too many personal questions. Oftentimes, this attitude made him look the other way at work.

So, when Angela was quietly considering leaving the Jeffersonian, he ignored the problem. When Doctor Brennan was hyper manic due to the methamphetamine she ingested months before, he simply adjusted his own pace and tried to adapt as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And when Agent Booth became high from their anti-fungal injections over Christmas, he pretended to forget afterwards the cop's inane and juvenile behavior.

But Hodgins quiet, Hodgins not ridiculing him, Hodgins not pulling rank and claiming the lab equipment for his own use first, Hodgins not being Hodgins because of no apparent, plausible explanation? That Zack could not explain or disregard. Though he would never admit it to the older man, he was concerned. While his landlord would never admit such a thing in return, Zack considered Jack to be his friend, his confidant, more than just his coworker. They were a team, along with Doctor Brennan, Angela, and even Agent Booth, and, though he had never played sports in school, he knew that teammates stuck together; they supported each other no matter what.

So, in an effort to rouse his inexplicably morose friend, he had been formulating a plan since he woke up that morning. All during the silent ride to work, while he had been endeavoring to identify some of the bodies from Limbo, and even during his lunch break, Zack had been plotting the perfect way to get Hodgins' attention. Once he accomplished that much, his hypothesis was that the older man would either yell at him or declare his supremacy, righting the balance between them once more. All it would take was a nudge.

"Bugs are… they're stupid. They're pointless when it comes to murder investigations. I don't see why Agent Booth doesn't…."

He had been using his conviction tone, the one that was deeper and stronger with forced confidence and assurance, but, still, Hodgins interrupted him. Only his landlord didn't defend his six legged friends, and he didn't make fun of Zack's hair. Rather, instead, he quietly, contemplatively whispered, "you should have seen them… together. It was, it was beautiful, and tragic, and… and powerful."

Scanning his eyes around the room, he searched for a clue, one that was, unfortunately, not in sight, as to what his friend was talking about. Finally, he could do nothing more than guess, and Zack hated guessing. "What, did Angela have another date drop by… or something?"

"No, Booth, Brennan," Hodgins corrected him, sounding perturbed, as if he was just supposed to know who the other man was talking about without any hints or prior knowledge. "When we rescued her," Jack further explained.

"But that was days ago."

"And I still can't sleep."

Rationally, Zack started to reassure his friend. "Human beings react in a broad, diverse manner when faced with a terrifying situation. Some of us deny the entire thing, while others relive the moment in varying degrees of detail. What you could be experiencing is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

Hodgins rolled his eyes. "I wasn't scared, you idiot, at least, not for myself. I had a bullet proof vest on, and the place was crawling with armed FBI agents. Statistically speaking, I was in more danger from the abandoned building we were in than I was from Kenton. No, what I can't stop thinking about was how Brennan reacted when Booth saved her."

"She was thankful."

Looking at him meaningfully, Jack stated, "she hugged him – tightly."

"But Doctor Brennan doesn't hug."

"Apparently, she does Booth," Hodgins remarked smugly. "And it wasn't just a quick 'hey, thanks for saving me, you're a real good ol' pal' kind of hug either; it lasted, and it was desperate, and I can't get it out of my mind, because I don't think anyone has ever hugged me like that."

"Yes, well, you've never been kidnapped by a corrupt FBI agent either, one who was planning on killing you and then feeding you to a…."

"That's not the point, Zack."

Screwing his face up in confusion, he asked, "then what is?"

But Hodgins ignored him. Instead of answering, his landlord jumped out of his chair, sending it rolling backwards, but Zack wasn't watching the piece of office equipment. Rather, his eyes were intently focused upon his friend who was distractedly rummaging through the lab's extensive collection of chemicals. After several moments, Jack pulled back, looking triumphant and slightly superior. Things were starting to feel normal again.

"Sodium thiopental," Hodgins announced.

"But that's a drug!"

Already back to mocking him, the older man retorted, "glad to see those two half doctorates are working out so well for you, Zack." Reigning in his sarcasm, Jack asked, "so, are you going to help me or not?"

"Help you do what?" He honestly did not know or understand anything that Hodgins was talking about.

"I want answers. No," his friend corrected himself, "I need them. There's something fishy going on between Doctor Brennan and Booth, and I want to find out what it is. This," he lightly shook the various bottles that were in his hands, bottles that contained the chemicals they would need to make sodium thiopental, "is going to help me."

"So, then, this is an experiment?"

Apparently, Hodgins could sense him relenting, for the older man smiled crookedly. "The most important experiment we've tried yet," he responded.

"Alright, I'll help you," Zack agreed, "but you first need to tell me what it is you're planning."

"Oh, it's nothing really," Jack dismissed a little too quickly. "Booth likes pudding. I ate some of his the last time I went to see him in the hospital. My cook makes an excellent dish of coconut pudding. So, I thought I'd have her make him some to replace what I ate. The only problem is that she's missing the key ingredient."

"Milk," Zack questioned, astonished. "You're out of milk."

When his friend looked up, his blue eyes were sparking with mischief. "Nope," Hodgins refused. "She's missing sodium thiopental." Clapping him on the back, Jack whispered, "we're going to make ourselves a truth serum, my friend."

!

They had been fighting since they left the Jeffersonian hours before. They fought on the way to Jack's house, they fought while his cook was making the pudding, and they fought during the entire drive to the hospital. Hodgins had been adamant that he alone take the pudding to Booth, claiming that, if the two of them showed up there together, they would only arouse the agent's suspicions, but Zack didn't want to wait back at the lab only to later hear a summation of the results from their experiment. He was a scientist… or, at least, he was halfway through two doctorates that would make him a scientist, and a scientist did not allow others to collect and analyze their data. So, to get what he wanted, he simply told his landlord that he would tell Agent Booth everything if he wasn't included in every aspect of the trial.

His insistence upon his presence in the hospital room as Agent Booth ate his pudding had nothing to do with the questions Hodgins was prepared to ask the cop. It had nothing to do with his own curiosity towards Doctor Brennan's relationship with her partner. And it had nothing to do with annoying Hodgins in return for making him wear the pink apron. Rather, his interest was purely scientific, rational, logical.

As they entered the antiseptic room, Hodgins yelled out in greeting, "we come bearing pudding," and he theatrically placed the serving dish in front of the agent.

Booth glanced up, frowning. "Did you make this?"

"Me, cook," his friend asked rhetorically, scrunching up his face in protest. "Nah. I play with maggots all day. Do you really think I'm going to touch food? Zack helped, though," he revealed, reaching for his phone. "I have pictures."

"Maybe later," Booth responded.

Afterwards, the three of them stood there in silence for several tense, awkward moments.

"So," Hodgins started once again. "Are you going to try it?"

"I just ate, and, since all I do is lay in bed all day while I'm in here, I probably shouldn't have any right now. You know, gotta keep this girlish figure of mine in shape."

Zack watched as his landlord visibly deflated before his very eyes. "Oh."

"But thanks anyway, Hodgins, for the gesture," Doctor Brennan's partner said sincerely. When neither he nor Jack reacted, Booth added, "I'll tell you what, I'll have some after dinner, okay?"

"You do that, and, when you do," Hodgins informed him, "you give us a call, and we'll join you."

"You're going to help me eat the pudding you gave me as a present?"

"No, no," his friend waved off the cop's bewilderment. "We'll just come back to… to keep you company."

"We?"

"Zack and I, of course."

"What," Booth asked, chuckling. "Are you two a tag team now or something? Should we send out a bulletin to all the reasonably attractive geeks in the surrounding D.C. area, warning them?"

Speaking for the first time, Zack questioned, "I didn't know there were teams when you played tag?"

Both Hodgins and Booth stared at him in mild horror and shock. "See, this is why we're coming back later," Jack finally commented.

"Yeah, it might be a good idea to get him out of the lab more often."

"But we'll start small," his friend continued, starting to smirk. "Hospitals, bus stations, newspaper vendors… Eventually, we'll work him up to the big guns – grocery stores, parks, you know, where there are actual people doing actual living."

"You see, I know you're making fun of me, but I really don't understand how," Zack informed them.

Pushing him out of the room and then following, Hodgins yelled back over his shoulder. "Remember, call us when you're ready for your snack. It's coconut, my cook's specialty."

"You have a cook," Agent Booth questioned.

"Oh, look," Jack remarked snidely. "I think it's time for your sponge bath. Gotta jet."

They could still bear Doctor Brennan's partner laughing as they boarded the elevator.

!

It was four and half hours later when Hodgins' phone finally rang. The lab was empty; they were the only ones remaining. Even Doctor Brennan and Angela had left a half an hour earlier, walking out together. He was ready to just give up, go home, and call their experiment an utter failure, but Hodgins was certain that Booth wouldn't be able to resist the allure of coconut pudding. He said it tasted just like coconut cream pie but without the crust, and everyone knew just how much Agent Booth loved his pie.

"Talk to me," his friend said as he picked up his cell, placing it immediately on speaker.

In a toneless voice, Booth responded, "you know why I'm calling. So, are you still coming to the hospital?"

"Are you going to eat your pudding?" The silence from the other end of the phone was their only answer. "We'll see you in twenty-five minutes."

"Do you have the little toy car?"

Zack smiled at the agent's joke, but Hodgins just frowned. "Yes, why?"

"Then I'll see you in forty. Oh, and, if you can," the cop requested, "stop and pick up some whipped cream, too, for the pudding."

"Is that what all the agents are calling it these days," came another voice, an unexpected voice, a voice they both knew very well. "And whipped cream, Booth? That's kinky."

Whispering harshly, Zack asked his friend, "what is Angela doing there?"

"Hodgins is picking some up for the coconut pudding he brought me earlier," Booth answered the artist.

"Hodgins can cook?"

As he recognized Doctor Brennan's voice over the phone, Zack's eyes went wide with fear and trepidation. "Oh, this is not good," he started to mumble under his breath. "Not good at all." Poking Hodgins, he complained, "these are unforeseen and very dangerous conditions we did not factor into our hypothesis."

But the older scientist was too distracted by the conversation occurring at the hospital, the one they were still listening to via speakerphone. "No, his cook made it," Booth told Doctor Brennan.

In response, she remarked, "he has a cook?"

"Hey, man," Hodgins complained into the phone. "Not cool."

"I'm under the influence of morphine. I can't be held responsible for my actions."

"Do you have any clean spoons around here?" This time, it was Angela talking again. "I want some of that pudding, but I'm not using a spoon that touched hospital food."

"Nightstand drawer," the agent responded.

"Brennan, do you want one, too," the artist asked.

"Sure, why not," Zack's mentor responded. He could practically hear her shrugging her shoulders through the phone.

"Oh my god, oh my god" he mumbled repetitively, obsessively. He was unable to breathe, unable to blink, unable to think past the fact that both Doctor Brennan and Angela were about to eat the pudding that was laced with sodium thiopental. "We need to get to that hospital. Now."

Hodgins didn't reply. Glancing up from the floor, Zack found him already racing towards the door, his cell phone still lying open on the table before where they had, just seconds before, both been sitting. Picking up the electronic device, he shoved it into his pocket and chased frantically after his friend.

!

"You know, I think this pudding might be better than an orgasm."

"Maybe," Angela allowed, decadently licking her own spoon clean before eyeing Booth lasciviously, "but I think that would depend upon who was giving you the orgasm. Take your partner, for example," the artist suggested, winking towards her best friend, "I bet he's phenomenal in the sack."

He could hear the two women as he ran down the hall, Hodgins by his side. They were both out of breath from their harried rush to the hospital, but Doctor Brennan always spoke forcefully, and Angel was obviously excited about their current subject of discussion. He really didn't want to go into the room, but he knew he had to… even if only to make sure that his friends were alright. Sodium thiopental could have severe side effects if not monitored closely.

As he stumbled across the threshold of the room, Zack noticed that the agent in question was too shocked to respond. However, the two women who were still eating the coconut pudding didn't seem to mind his silence. They were perfectly content to do all the talking themselves.

"Physically, he's attractive, and, judging by the size of his feet, I would estimate that he is well endowed sexually as well," Doctor Brennan responded to her best friend.

Angela licked her lips suggestively. "I would commit several major felonies to get inside his pants."

He couldn't help it. He knew that he should have remained still, quiet, and unnoticed, but, instead, Zack found himself saying, "but he's not wearing any pants. He has a hospital gown on. It's protocol."

Twisting around in her chair, Angela remarked, "and that's why Naomi from Paleontology never called you back, sweetheart." The artist didn't seem surprised in the least to see him… or Hodgins standing astounded beside him either. Turning back towards Agent Booth, she asked, "so, how many women have you slept with exactly? I've had twenty-two sexual partners. No, make that twenty-three." Wickedly, Angela added, "but they weren't all men."

"You never told me that," Doctor Brennan exclaimed.

"You never asked," her best friend retorted smartly, grinning. Leaning forward, she, once again, addressed the agent across from her. "Forget my last question. It doesn't matter. What I really want to know is how good you are at going down on a girl."

Hodgins coughed, Doctor Brennan frowned, Agent Booth turned bright red, and he, Zack, searched his mind for what the artist was asking. Needing to know, he started to ask, "what's going…," only to be interrupted by his landlord.

"What was going through your mind when Booth rescued you?"

Surprised at being addressed directly, Doctor Brennan turned around and observed Hodgins. "What?"

Jack persisted. "When you dropped your arms around his neck, pulled him close, and hugged him, what were you thinking?"

"That I was safe," the forensic anthropologist answered, "that he wouldn't let anything happen to me, that I was going to live."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you think that," his friend questioned. "How did you know?"

"Because… because he's Booth," Doctor Brennan responded. "That's what he does. He keeps people safe; he keeps me safe. He would sacrifice his own life for mine." Looking away from Hodgins, she met her suddenly less embarrassed and much more curious partner's gaze. "And I would do the same for him."

"Again," his landlord queried, "why?"

"Because… because we're partners."

"And," Jack pushed.

"And, in a way, we're family."

"What else?"

"And families love each other." Sadly, Doctor Brennan added, "even I know that."

"So, you're saying that you love Booth like what, a brother?"

Still, his mentor refused to look back towards Hodgins who was questioning her. "No," she revealed, speaking slowly as if, despite the truth serum coursing through her system, it was difficult for her to say what she was admitting. "It's not like that. It's different than what I felt for Russ."

"Wait," Zack spoke up. He couldn't bite his tongue any longer. "Who's Russ?"

"My brother," Doctor Brennan responded almost automatically. The shifts in her attitude, in her tone of voice came so quickly, they were distracting. Once she started talking about Agent Booth again, though, she reverted back to her previous emotional trepidation. "But Booth's not my brother, and I don't think of him like that."

"When you close your eyes and you think of Booth, what do you see," Hodgins asked. "How do you love him?"

"Like a friend," she whispered. Zack watched as his own friend's shoulder slumped in discouragement. However, before Jack could comment, Doctor Brennan continued to talk. "But I also feel lust – hot, burning, distracting lust."

Suddenly, a loud, indecorous snore ripped through the room. Every single pair of eyes shifted towards the source of the sound, and they found Angela sound asleep. "Saved by the fog horn," Hodgins remarked. Apparently, the side effects of the drug were starting to set in. "Listen," his friend continued, "I'll help the human tug boat, if you make sure Doctor Brennan gets out to my car in one piece, alright, Zack?"

Wordlessly, he followed his landlord's directions, helping the forensic anthropologist to her feet. Hodgins had Angela draped unceremoniously over his shoulder, and the four of them were about to leave the hospital room when Booth's voice bellowed towards them from the bed. "If the two of you ever put truth serum in anyone's food again, especially mine, you'll no longer be Squints, because I'll personally remove your eyes from your skulls. Do we understand each other?"

"Explicitly," Zack was quick to reply.

"Crystal clear, my friend," Jack responded as well.

"Get out of here," Booth ordered them. Zack had only taken two steps away from the room when he heard the agent call out, "and thanks… for, you know." Glancing back over his shoulder, he found the cop grinning arrogantly.

"Well, it looks like we just completed yet another successful experiment," Hodgins commented cheerfully moments later as they strode down the hallway towards the elevators. There was a visible spring in his step, despite the fact that he was carrying a passed out, snoring Angela in his arms. "I am so the king of the lab."

For once, Zack couldn't argue the fact.