A/N: Part 1 of 2. The final chapter will be posted next Thursday.
Ever had one of those days when absolutely everything that can go wrong does go wrong, to the point where it almost seems that the fates are conspiring against you? Brennan may not believe in fate, but she's about to have one of those days … (so is Booth.)
Thanks much to L., who always takes time to carefully beta my work no matter how busy she is. And thanks to everybody who read and reviewed GraveDigger Reimagined2. I hope this story is a satisfying departure from angst, prior to my next multi-chap fic, which will be decidedly less fluffy.
Cam frowned as the scientist's sleepy voice came over the line. "Dr. Brennan, it's Cam. Are you okay?"
There was a sound of rustling, followed by a loud thump and an irate curse.
"I'm fine." Brennan finally replied, sounding much more awake now that she had apparently stubbed her toe on something in lieu of a jolt of caffeine. "Why are you calling?"
Cam glanced up at the clock. The tardiness was so unusual, she felt compelled to offer some kind of excuse for her typically obsessively punctual employee. "Did I somehow forget that you were coming in late today? I don't have it written down, but it's 9:45 and—"
"9:45? That's not possible. My alarm would have gone off." The line went dead for a minute. When Brennan came back on a moment later, her voice was crisp and business-like, indicating that all signs of emotion had been curtailed in favor of efficiency. "I'll be in by 10:30 and will stay late to make up the hours."
"There's really no need," Cam began, feeling absurdly guilty. "Take your time getting here. I'm sure there's a reasonable explana—hello?" The dial tone replaced Brennan's voice and she held the phone to her ear for a long minute before finally snapping it shut and staring at it curiously.
Brennan glared at the dead alarm clock. She flipped the light switch and found that it too was unresponsive. One last test, this one of her bedside lamp, confirmed that all the electricity in her apartment had gone off at some point during the night. Usually she woke before 5:00 a.m. even without electronic assistance, but it seemed that the one day that modern technology failed her, so did her circadian rhythms.
It wasn't her nature to panic. She tossed the alarm clock onto her bed and limped over to the bathroom, favoring her bruised right metatarsal. Brennan stepped inside, blinking in the darkness, and felt her way over to the shower. She pulled off the sweats she had worn to bed and stepped into the cubicle. With one hand, she applied shampoo to her hair, while with the other she turned the faucet.
A blast of freezing water sprayed across her bare skin. She shivered under the powerful stream, waiting for it to warm up. Several minutes later, with her body turning metaphorically blue, Brennan reluctantly conceded that something was wrong with the pipes and that she wasn't going to get any hot water this morning.
She rinsed the remainder of the suds out of her hair as quickly as possible, shut off the water, and stepped back out, reaching for her towel. It should have been folded in its customary place, but her groping hands found nothing. After a brief, blind search, she concluded that she must have forgotten to place a fresh towel out after doing laundry yesterday.
Brennan bit back a sigh and stalked back out of the bathroom butt-naked. She toweled herself off with her pajamas briskly and pulled on her work clothes, ignoring the fact that her wet hair immediately began to soak down the back of her shirt. She tucked it up into a messy bun and chose one of her favorite necklaces from her dresser. It was a small thing, but nice pieces of jewelry always made her feel better. As she fastened the clasp, she felt her irritation at the bad start to the day begin to ease.
Her toe throbbed as she slid on a pair of sandals, and she absently noted that she had torn off part of the nail and would need to bandage the minor injury at work. Brennan smoothed her clothes, made sure the necklace was centered, and headed into the living room to collect her purse and keys.
Her purse was on the coffee table, but her keys were not on their hook by the door. Frowning, Brennan scanned the room, trying to remember what she had done with them when she arrived home the previous night. She had put them on the hook. She was sure of that. Placing her keys on the hook was as routine as locking the door behind her after stepping inside. The empty hook mocked her usually flawless memory.
She began a careful search of the living room, searching the countertops, the bookcases, even under the carpet. Nothing. Maybe under the couch pillows … no. On her writing desk? No. The breakfast table … no. The ticking of the kitchen clock warned her that it was now 10:15 and she was no closer to the lab than she had been when Cam initially woke her.
Increasingly baffled, Brennan systematically turned her apartment upside down, searching everything from the microwave to the fridge, even though she knew those were irrational places to even consider. Just as she finished crawling around on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor, she spotted her coat hanging on the back of a chair. Standing up and dusting her knees off, she grabbed the garment and rifled through the pockets. Sure enough, there were her keys.
There was no point in overreacting. Brennan exhaled wearily, feeling as though she'd been up for 12 hours, rather than 30 minutes. She shrugged her coat on and headed out the door, deciding that the worst of the day had to be behind her. Once she got to work, things would return to their normal, predictable routine.
It turned out that getting to work wasn't quite as easy as she'd hoped. Her car had been giving her trouble the last few days, so it wasn't a complete surprise when it refused to start. Whatever the cause, she had no time to formulate and test a hypothesis. Hurrying for the street corner, Brennan flagged a passing cab and collapsed into the back.
"Come on, Rebecca!" Booth exploded, glancing up at his office door to make sure it was closed. "You can't do this. Last weekend was supposed to be mine, and you stole Parker away to visit with Jason's family. The weekend before that, you had him at your mom's house. And the one before that, you took the poor kid antiquing, whatever the hell that is—"
"Parker enjoyed the day. It gave him a chance to connect with Jason in a different way."
"Yeah," Booth snorted. "Right. Shopping is such a great way for Parker to bond with his new stepfather."
Rebecca's tone was curt. "Not all men are as obsessed with sports as you, Seeley."
"I don't give a damn what Jason likes to do in his spare time," Booth retorted, every bit as irate as his ex. "But when his hobbies start cutting into my time with my kid, I'm gonna have problems. I had tickets to see the Flyers with Parker this weekend. We have a custody arrangement, Becca, and you've broken it 3 times in a row."
"I don't have time for this right now. I'm taking Parker to Pennsylvania this weekend, whether you like it or not. If you keep making a fuss, I'm going to bring the lawyers in."
"Go right ahead!" Booth shot upright in his chair. "I'm a damn good father and that'll stand up in any court."
"Fine. My lawyer will contact you on Monday."
"Fine!" He snapped his phone shut and threw it across the room, ignoring the ominous crunch as it hit the wall at high speed. "DAMMIT!"
Booth slammed his fist down onto his desk, neglecting to notice that he had a full, steaming mug of coffee in front of him. The mug overturned, sending a flood of scalding black fluid across paperwork he had just finished. He cursed a blue streak and scrambled backwards, but not fast enough to avoid the overflow which cascaded down the front of his shirt and over a good portion of his lap. He rocketed out of the chair, howling as his nether regions were baptized with freshly brewed Folger's.
The door to his office opened and Cullen stuck his balding head in. His boss scowled at him, oblivious to Booth's hot potato dance. "Put a sock in it, Agent. Some of us are actually working." The door slammed shut before Booth could get himself in trouble by snapping some sort of sarcastic retort.
It was hard to know what was worse—cooked testicles or the realization that he would have to spend hours redoing everything he had come into work early to finish, with the intention of having his weekend free with Parker. Booth dragged a hand through his hair and groaned, before gingerly making his way over to his phone, trying to avoid moving too fast because of his pants' current penchant for sloshing. He stooped awkwardly and retrieved the cellphone, confirming that he had, in fact, killed it.
Booth muttered several choice military epithets under his breath, all the while cursing the thin walls that prevented him from venting his frustration at a volume that might actually provide some stress relief. He lobbed the phone onto the couch and braced a hand on one sodden hip as he glared at his disaster-area of a desk.
No Parker. No cellphone. Scalded nads. All that, plus his already fantastic morning, which had involved a huge argument with Hannah before 6:00 am, overcooked eggs, and his favorite suit not being ready at the drycleaner's. And it was now … what ….he glanced at his clock … all of 11:00 a.m. Oh, yeah. This was shaping up to be a fan-fuckin'-tastic Friday.
Deciding that one way to improve his mood instantly was a piece of diner pie, Booth turned toward his desk to see if his takeout box had somehow survived the flood. Almost at the same time, he realized that he'd left the slice sitting on his kitchen counter when he stormed out of his apartment. The same apartment he'd promised to avoid this entire weekend.
He sighed and reached for his poker chip. If ever he needed luck, it was right now. Spending two days in a hotel room with Parker had sounded fun—different from their usual routine. Spending two days alone in that same hotel sounded less fun than it did completely loser-ish.
His hands connected with the lining of his pockets, but found no chip. There was never any deviation to that routine—pocket, chip, flip, pocket again. He patted himself down, trying to figure out what he could have done with it. A second search of his pockets revealed a small hole.
Booth closed his eyes, counted to ten, then opened them again and bellowed, "CRAP!" Before Cullen could get on his case again, he grabbed his car keys and stormed out of the building, but not before barreling straight into Hacker, who was visiting from the California branch he'd transferred to the previous year. The guy stalled him for 5 endless minutes while babbling on about Brennan and casework and dinner and Brennan again, before finally noticing that Booth was dripping brown rivulets on the grey industrial carpet.
"What happened to you?"
"Somebody put a voodoo curse on me," Booth snarled. He sloshed away, drawing attention from several of his amused buddies who had no idea that their friendly ragging was about to get their heads bashed in.
That had to be it, he decided as he exited the building. Benoit, the voodoo murderer, had somehow reached out from the grave and cursed him. The fact that he didn't believe in voodoo didn't make this theory any less accurate, in his opinion.
Angela stepped into Brennan's office and eyed her best friend with a mixture of sympathy and smugness. Wearing no make-up, with her hair damp and frizzy and her clothes rumpled from the combo subway and taxi ride, the anthropologist looked as disheveled as Angela had ever seen her. Brennan did not deal well with any chaos other than the typical amount inherent in her job chasing down murderers.
"I told you, you should've gone straight back to bed."
Brennan scowled at the email she had just finished reading, then shut the computer monitor off and continued to glare at the blank screen. "Returning to bed would have served no purpose, other than to avoid further coincidental mishaps which are just as likely to occur tomorrow as they are today."
"Coincidences," Angela repeated dryly. "Yeah. So your electricity goes off, along with your hot water-"
"The building's water heater is connected to a booster pump, which requires electricity to function," Brennan interrupted, finally looking over at her. "The fact that both incidences occurred simultaneously is strictly a matter of cause and effect."
"You lose your keys, your car won't start," Angela continued, undeterred.
"My car had been having problems—"
"Your taxi gets stuck in the mother of all traffic jams, you have to ride the subway part of the way in—"
"There was a water main break en route from my apartment, which was directly responsible for the traffic. It could have been connected to the power going out in my building. Again, cause and effect."
"The skeleton you were working on yesterday turns out to be nothing but bone soup when you walk in this morning."
"I had anticipated the chance of the bones disintegrating, given the strong chemicals they were treated with and the fragile state in which they arrived at the lab. I had hoped that the counter-measures Hodgins and I took would prove effective in temporarily mitigating the effects, but—"
"But they didn't work," Angela cut in. "Then Daisy flubs whatever project you had her working on; Russ calls to cancel his visit, which I know you'd been looking forward to for weeks," she held up her hand to stave off Brennan's immediate explanation, "And now that email, which had to be bad news."
"Why would you automatically assume that?"
"Uh … the look on your face?" Angela suggested, rolling her eyes. "Or the fact that this is just not your lucky day, sweetie."
"There is no such thing as luck," Brennan insisted, rounding the corner of her desk and starting for the door. "All of the incidents you described have logical reasons for occurring."
"Bren, wait—" Angela began, too late.
The scientist skidded in the puddle of oily copper reagent that an intern had spilled minutes earlier—the same spill Angela had been coming to warn Brennan about—wobbled, reached out for something to balance herself with and encountered the hapless intern who had been holding a mop a few feet away. Trying to make amends, Jenessa Longwright stepped forward to help, and found herself slipping just as badly. The pair clawed at each other for a long moment, before Jenessa latched onto Brennan's necklace in a desperate attempt to stay standing. Brennan went flat on her backside, pieces of the necklace flew in seven different directions, and the intern stumbled backwards, mouth gaping in horror.
The sounds of the lab around them went silent as everybody on the platform stared. Angela caught Jenessa before she could make the situation any worse, spun her around and pointed at the farthest corner of the lab. "Run. Hide," she ordered, then turned her attention back to Brennan. "Are you hurt?"
Without answering, Brennan began to gingerly pick herself up off the floor. She ignored Angela's proffered arm and somehow managed to pull herself to her feet without winding back up in the goop.
"What happened to you?"
Both women turned to find Booth walking up the platform steps, eyebrows raised. He approached them, carefully sidestepped the puddle, and frowned.
"Bones, you're bleeding."
Angela belatedly noticed the thin gash the wire of the necklace had made.
Brennan reached up and touched her throat, noting the blood on her fingertips with detachment. "It's a minor injury."
"Like your toe?" Angela caught Brennan's elbow at the same time that she glared daggers at everybody watching, warning them back to work. "Sweetie. Go home."
"What's going on?" Booth looked Brennan up and down, gaze lingering on her greasy, sodden labcoat.
"Brennan is having the day from hell," Angela informed him succinctly. She took in the FBI Agent's coffee-stained pants and shirt. "Doesn't look like yours is going much better."
"Benoit got to both of us," Booth said cryptically, still staring at Brennan in a way that gave Angela hope for the first time in months. "Is that your necklace all over the floor?"
"The voodoo murderer?" Brennan frowned. "He's incarcerated." She began collecting wooden pieces, sliding them into each pocket without commentary.
Booth crouched and joined his partner in collecting necklace pieces. "Doesn't mean he can't cast a jumbi, or whatever that thing that gave you amnesia was, from prison."
"I don't believe in curses or bad luck," Brennan said in exasperation, snatching a wooden rectangle away before Booth could get to it. "Why are you here? I left you a message explaining that I would require more time to analyze the now compromised skeletal remains."
"Didn't get that message," Booth said mildly. "You had lunch yet?"
Angela stage-whispered Get her out of here before sidling away and leaving the partners to figure things out in their own weird but frequently effective manner.
"Thanks, Bones. When I walked into that store and realized my wallet was still at the apartment …" Booth tugged on the lapels of his jacket. "I owe you."
"You owe me 1300 dollars," Brennan agreed, discreetly appreciating the way his broad shoulders were defined by the fabric . "I don't understand why you required an entire new suit, instead of merely laundering or replacing the stained shirt and pants."
He glanced at himself in a nearby storefront window. "Bones, you can't just buy a suit piecemeal. Part of the job is looking good."
He did that part of his job very well, Brennan mused, unable to fully compartmentalize her newly acknowledged feelings, even when Booth was now in a committed romantic relationship.
"I still don't understand why you can't go back to your apartment," she commented as they walked towards the park. "Or why Cam insisted that I leave the lab for the remainder of the day."
"We've got a curse on us," Booth shrugged. "Nobody wants to be around cursed people, Bones."
"I thought you didn't believe in curses."
"I don't. But how else do you explain the way our day has gone?"
"Unfortunate coincidence. Even if I did believe in voodoo magic, a curse would require Benoit to have something of ours in order to cast the spell. He has no such personal item in his possession."
"You can't be sure about that." Booth stopped at the corner to wait for the light to turn green.
"There are no cars coming." Brennan stepped off into the street, only to have Booth yank her backwards. She narrowly avoided sprawling to the floor for the second time that day, keeping her balance only by clinging to him in a distinctly undignified fashion.
"Not today, Bones," he chastised, obviously unaware of the effect his physical proximity was having on her. "The way things are going for us, jaywalking is a great way to get flattened."
Brennan yanked away, irritated at his alpha male behavior. "I don't require your protection. I am perfectly capable of crossing a street."
"Benoit could have taken a piece of your hair or something when he put the original voodoo curse on you," Booth said, aggravatingly unflustered as he took her elbow, ignoring her attempts to pull away again, and led her across the street. "I called Avalon."
"Avalon Harmonia?" Brennan stopped as they reached the other side and stared at Booth. "Angela's friend?"
"The psychic, yeah. I figured she might be able to help us get rid of the curse."
"We are not cursed. And she is not a psychic! There is no such thing."
"She told me you were in danger," Booth reminded her, nudging her forward again with a light touch to her lower back.
Brennan shied away. "We still don't know that she wasn't directly involved in those murders."
"She gave me a ritual that she promised would end our run of bad luck."
"You're Catholic." Brennan narrowly avoided an unexpected pothole. "If you truly believe you're cursed, shouldn't you have a priest perform an exorcism instead?"
"We're cursed, Bones." Booth gave her an annoyed look. "Not possessed."
"And the remedies are different," Brennan muttered sarcastically.
They entered the small park, skirting a fresh pile of dog poop.
"Look at that." Booth grimaced as they neared the bench where they used to frequently have coffee. The bench was covered in signs: WET PAINT. "Still think we're not cursed?"
"Because the benches have been repainted?" Brennan asked in disbelief. "They've needed repainting for years."
"Nothing is going right for us today, Bones." Booth collapsed under a tree and waved her to join him, but not before checking the ground for safety hazards. "The way I see it, what harm can the ritual do?"
Brennan settled on the ground beside him, keeping a few inches in between them. "What would the ritual involve?" she sighed, humoring him for a change.
"I've got the recipe in my car." He leaned his head back against the trunk and closed his eyes. "Are you free tonight?"
She thought of her dark apartment, which she had learned would not have electricity or hot water restored until tomorrow.
"Harmonia said we have to do it at midnight."
"Why midnight?" Brennan asked, knowing the predictably ludicrous response would negate the question.
"Witching hour or something like that," he shrugged. "The hotel room I had booked for Parker and me has two twin beds. You good with that?"
She sat up in surprise. "Why do we need a hotel room?"
"It's not like either of us has a place to stay tonight. C'mon, Bones. It could be fun, not counting any voodoo demons we might stir up."
"Why can't you go back to your apartment?" Brennan pressed.
He spoke quietly, his eyes still closed. "Hannah and I broke up."
Shocked, Brennan blurted, "I thought things were going well. She didn't tell me you were having any problems."
"It wasn't anything big." Booth finally opened his eyes and stared at his hands. "Just … stuff wasn't working out between us. It wasn't right."
She didn't know what to say. To say she was sorry would be a lie. To say she was elated would be insensitive. She scooted a little closer and nudged his shoulder with hers. "Maybe you are cursed." On second thought, that probably wasn't particularly sensitive either.
He grimaced and reached for his pocket. "Maybe."
"Where's your chip?" she asked, when his hand failed to re-emerge with the usual gambling talisman.
"Fell out of my pocket somewhere," Booth muttered, fiddling with a blade of grass instead.
This news bothered her far more than learning of his dissolution of his relationship with Hannah. Booth needed that poker chip the same way she needed her necklaces. She searched for something consoling to share with him.
"I submitted a new manuscript for publication several months back."
Booth glanced over at her curiously. "Yeah?"
"It was a different kind of novel, not related to forensic science." Brennan watched two squirrels squabbling over a candy bar remnant a few yards away. "My editor emailed me today. The submission was rejected."
"Aw, Bones." As she had done, he nudged her shoulder with his. "I'm sorry."
The sting of the rejection lessened slightly.
"I was disappointed," she admitted, very tentatively resting her head on his shoulder.
He leaned his head lightly next to hers and they sat in companionable silence for a while before she spoke again.
"What hotel are we staying at?"
Implausibly, she felt him smile, rather than saw it.
"By the Mall?"
"That's the one."
"That's an extremely nice hotel, Booth. It was built by the same architect who designed the Washington Monument."
"I didn't know that. It just has all these different rooms named for different cities-the Paris Ballroom, the Athens Room, the Tokyo Boardroom. I can't afford to take Parker traveling, so I figured, you know, maybe, this could kind of count …" he trailed off, obviously embarrassed.
"I'm sorry your surprise was ruined," she said softly, angry at Rebecca for failing to see how much effort Booth put into his weekends with Parker.
"Me too." He picked up a twig and twirled it absently. "So. You wanna go to Rome with me this weekend?"
She smiled. "Yes."