A/N: Part 2 of 2.
Many thanks to L., who helped me smooth the rough edges of this piece, and to my readers and reviewers for the last chapter. Not sure if the next Thursday post will be a one-shot or the start of the multi-chapter. Depends on how much I get done over Spring Break. Either way, there will definitely be something for your reading pleasure. I've only missed one Thursday since August so far. =)
Brennan stared at her partner as he stalked across the deserted platform toward her for the second time that day. "I just purchased that suit!"
Booth scowled, well aware of the picture he presented. His crisp new shirt now squelched, rather than rustled. It clung to his skin via a generous amount of black ink, which had bled downwards over his thighs so that they now resembled Rorschach designs.
"I'll still pay you back," he informed her, arriving at her side. "But you'll have to buy me another set of clothes so I have something to sleep in that doesn't smell like the inside of a copy machine."
Brennan stepped away from the tank of sludge she'd been sifting. "A copy machine?"
"Don't ask," he warned, taking in her own lab coat, which now boasted a palette of purple-blue not unlike the art deco splatters that covered Booth from neck to knee. "Looks like you had your own encounter with a jumbi."
"There was no black magic involved." She smoothed her hair back and inadvertently smeared purple goop across her face. "I was using ninhydrin in order to detect ammoniac traces in the bone remnants, and the chemical reaction proved unusually volatile when placed in proximity to the copper reagent I slipped in previously."
"Yeah. That's squint for we are definitely cursed." He handed a tissue box over, motioning toward her cheek.
She swiped blindly at the smear and only succeeded in making it worse.
"You look like you're wearing war paint. Here." Awkwardly, he cupped her cheek in one hand and dabbed at the smudge with a clean tissue. It didn't make much difference, other than to his pulse rate, which responded in typical fashion to having Brennan close at hand.
"Soap and water will have to do the rest," he concluded, releasing her after a few more moments than were strictly necessary. "You ready to leave?"
"I also have no clean clothes. Do we have time to stop by my apartment?"
"No. This spell has to be up and running by midnight in order for us to break free." He waited impatiently as she peeled off her coat and neatly folded it, placing it on the gurney as a reminder for it to be laundered. "Plus, your place is probably pitch black."
She led him toward her office. "Given our respective disheveled appearances, the hotel may have second thoughts about checking us in."
He glanced at her nicely fitted black slacks, which drew his eyes directly to her long legs. They seemed to have escaped damage. "You look fine, Bones." Opportunistically, he enjoyed a brief look at her matching, scoop-necked blouse. His break-up with Hannah had been for any number of reasons, but one of the most glaringly obvious problems had been the lack of chemistry. She was classically beautiful, and he'd done a fair job at acting satisfied until Hannah finally called him on the pretense, but placing her next to Brennan was like putting a Flyers player next to a Little Leaguer. Not just a completely different ballpark—a completely different sport and level of competition.
Brennan started to pull on her jacket and he moved to help her, holding it out for her to slide into. She winced when the collar of the coat made contact with the thin red line encircling her throat. He frowned and lightly touched the side of her neck.
"Did you put something on that?"
She pulled back, her eyes narrowing, and finished shrugging on the jacket by herself. "You know I don't do subtext well, Booth. We need to discuss the mastodon in the room prior to performing Avalon's 'ritual.'"
Typical Brennan, to grab an idiom by the trunk and twist it into a wooly mammoth.
"Elephant in the room," Booth corrected, sliding his hands into his pockets before he remembered that there was a significant amount of ink in them. "We need to discuss the elephant in the room, Bones." He muttered a curse and yanked his hands back out, smearing them over his already-ruined pants.
She hovered in the doorway, hands in her own pockets, and regarded him silently. Challenging.
He sighed. "Hannah and I split for any number of reasons, but you were a big part of them. Okay?"
"It's not okay," she retorted. "While I did erroneously make you aware of how my feelings for you had changed, I did not intend for it to irreparably damage your romantic relationship."
She turned and walked out of the office, and he followed a step behind, giving her some breathing room but not letting her outpace him completely.
"It wasn't an error to tell me."
Her face got that look that meant she was starting to throw up the emotional shields.
"I messed up, Bones," he acknowledged, as they descended the stairs. "By being dishonest, I hurt you. And Hannah."
She was silent until they had exited the building and were heading across the portico. Finally, she stopped and turned on him, her blue eyes glistening in the dim security lights.
"I wasn't hurt because you chose to move on after I rejected you, Booth. I was hurt because you—" Her voice broke slightly. "You were my best friend. Perhaps I was naïve in not realizing that role would inevitably be taken over by your new girlfriend."
There was so much he wanted to say to her, but now was not the time. He had a lot of bridges to rebuild before he earned the right to tell her she was still the one for him, and that this time he would not betray her trust.
"I'm sorry," he said again. "I know that doesn't mean much, but—"
"It does," she interrupted. "You didn't intentionally hurt me. I know that."
A little voice deep inside said he wasn't so sure of that himself but, again, this was not the time.
"I have a lot to make up for," Booth admitted, reaching for his poker chip to fiddle with only to find it not there.
Brennan watched him, seeming to measure his worth with her steady gaze. Booth coughed awkwardly, reaching for something to smooth things over at least for this evening.
"You, uh, figure breaking a curse might be one way for us to turn to a new page?"
For a long moment, she said nothing. Then a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "While I do not believe in magic, I suppose there would be no harm in testing your hypothesis."
He let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding and reached yet again for something he could nervously fidget with. Finding nothing, he grimaced.
Brennan reached into her own pocket and produced a small, paper-wrapped object. "I had intended to give this to you later in the evening, but you seem to require it immediately."
"Aw, Bones. You didn't have to—" Booth trailed off as he unwrapped the tiny, coin-sized gift. He turned the Flyers-embossed poker chip over and over in his hands. "Wow."
"Your original talisman was associated directly with luck it had purportedly earned you from gambling. However, gambling is the opposite of lucky for you," she explained, typically eager to make her intentions clear by muddling them up with lots of less-than-clear wording. "I thought that a sports-related theme, bearing no automatic associations to past financial gains or losses, might be appropriate as a 'lucky' replacement."
Booth had missed her squinting more than he cared to admit.
He tested the weight with a quick flip and grinned as the chip spun neatly into the air and settled back into his hand comfortably. "Thanks, Bones."
She nodded and started for the parking lot, elbowing Booth teasingly as he tested various maneuvers with his new fidget. "Sweets would say you have some sort of physical fixation."
"Sweets can bite me."
"In that case," Brennan said thoughtfully, waiting as he unlocked the SUV door, "Perhaps he would call it an oral fixation."
She was still laughing, delighted with herself, as he rounded the car to get in on his side. He was glad for the few moments alone. Oh, he had a physical fixation, all right. One bad enough that it had caused him to call out her name instead of Hannah's at an especially bad time …
He censored his thoughts hastily. She didn't need the details on exactly what had precipitated the break-up. Not yet, anyway.
"Sorry about that," Booth apologized sheepishly as they rode the elevator up to their penthouse suite. "I wasn't thinking about credit cards when I suggested a visit to Italy."
Brennan shrugged. Her partner had been visibly embarrassed when he realized his lack of a wallet meant he had no funds to pay for their room anymore than he had money to buy another set of fresh clothing. She, on the other hand, was not disturbed by the reversal in traditional gender roles regarding payment.
"Now you owe me more money," she pointed out, stepping towards the door as the elevator stopped.
He spun his poker chip and followed her down the hallway. If the high-quality carpeting, glass-encased sculptures, and extremely well-reproduced Italian art prints covering the walls were anything to go by, their room was going to be bordering on opulent.
"No problem. With this baby, I'm gonna go all the way at the next craps game …"
"Booth!" she reprimanded. "I gave you the chip as a metaphorical token of good fortune."
"I know, Bones." He rolled his eyes. "Besides. It's kind of hard to take Vegas without, you know, a wallet."
She pointed to a door labeled Roma. "Presumably, this is our room?"
"That's us." Booth pulled out the card key and inserted it into the slot. The light turned green and there was a slight click. He pushed open the door and stepped aside to allow her in first. Brennan frowned, letting him know she didn't approve of the gesture, but decided to let the argument go this time. She moved into the room several feet and stopped short, causing Booth to bump into her from behind.
"Wow," he whistled.
"That is an appropriate superlative," she agreed.
High above them, the domed, stone-tiled ceiling was painted in an exquisite replica of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. Two walls were a pale, textured marble. They had large windows, draped in floor-to-ceiling blue fabric overlaid with golden suns. The north wall was a vibrant fresco of various mythological figures, whose colors had been carefully chosen so as not to clash with the rest of the room's decoration. A half-columned marble fireplace took over the entire south wall.
The mosaic-tiled floor that they stood upon was a light gold and rose basket-weave pattern. Deliberately designed to lead the eye, it culminated in a central square inlaid with contrasting white and grey stones. Furniture was extremely minimalistic and all wooden, except for a large couch covered in damask fabric that matched the bed.
The bed … Brennan's eyes came to rest on it. Definitely not twin sized, it held court over the center of the room, covered in velvet blue pillows and a heavily brocaded damask cover.
"Parker's class is studying Rome. He would have loved this."
She looked over at Booth, who had a sad, tired look on his face that she immediately wanted erased. They'd had a terrible day—a day from hell, he'd termed it—and she had had enough of sadness.
"You can bring him another time."
"Can't afford it." He shrugged casually, once again trying to downplay his embarrassment at his lesser financial status.
"You can. I'm paying for this weekend."
"No way," he said flatly, his face going hard with aggravation. "The whole hotel thing was my idea, Bones."
Brennan unbuttoned her jacket and started to pull it off. "You have to let me pay."
He snorted and reached for her sleeve. "Not happening."
She slid her other arm free and turned to him. "Consider this your apology for the last six months."
Booth sputtered, as she knew he would. "Whoa—wait a minute. Run that by me again, this time in English?"
"I was speaking very clear English," she replied, wandering into the bathroom and discovering that it was every bit as lavish as the bedroom.
He followed her in, still holding her jacket and protesting, even as his eyes went wide at the huge hot tub, which looked like it could hold six people plus a keg. "How is you paying for a hotel punishment for my basically sidelining our friendship just because I got a girlfriend?"
"I want to pay. You owe me. Therefore, you will allow me to cover the cost of this weekend without further argument."
"That doesn't make any sense!"
"Where is the spell recipe?"
"I don't want to discuss this any further," she said sharply.
He opened his mouth and closed it again, apparently realizing the futility of trying to dissuade her. Still mumbling under his breath, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.
"The ink didn't get it too badly." He unfolded the slightly stained slip and handed it over.
Brennan read it out loud.
Collect the following ingredients:
-Two teaspoons of almond oil
-Sheet of white paper
-Black ink pen
"Fireproof bowl?" she repeated. "While I have no objections to paying for our room, I have no desire to pay for damage occasioned by an ill-advised attempt at black magic."
"It'll be fine," he reassured her.
"Where are we going to get all these things? It's 11:45."
Booth lifted the plastic bag he'd been carrying with him since they left the SUV. "Angela's hippie tendencies really came in handy today."
She watched as he extracted several small vials of oil, a metal bowl, two candles and an empty squirt bottle and placed them on the bathroom counter.
"I fail to see how any of these items in any combination with one another are going to create magic," Brennan said, feeling more than slightly foolish.
"It can't hurt is all I'm thinkin.'" Booth added a blank piece of paper and a box of matches to his pile. "Okay. Read me the directions, step by step."
Brennan rolled her eyes and smoothed the creases in the paper. "Place three drops of rosemary and almond oil in the mixing bottle."
"She should've mentioned an eye dropper in the instructions," he complained, twisting the caps off each vial and trying to decant a measured amount into the equally small squirt bottle.
"That's far more than two drops," Brennan commented, as he spilled rosemary all over the counter and himself. The pungent, fresh fragrance was pleasant, at least. "What happens if we cast the spell and you haven't measured the ingredients properly?"
"I don't know, we turn into eyes of newt or something." Booth waved his hand. "Next step."
"Charge the mixture by rolling the bottle between the palms of your hands, maintaining only positive thoughts as you do this." She frowned. "Almond oil and rosemary are not ionic compounds."
"Shhh," he ordered, rubbing the bottle between his hands as though he was trying to light a fire. "Only positive thoughts!"
"It's completely irrational," she persisted. "How will rolling the bottle in your hands affect anything?"
"Next step," he snapped, glaring at the oily bottle in his hands.
"Set the bottle aside. Light the white candle, focusing on the flame. As you do this, focus all your positive energy on eliminating the source of the conflict. How can we focus on eliminating the source of the conflict if we don't know what it is?"
Booth ignored her and lit the candle, his face looking decidedly less than focused or positive. "Next."
The absurdity of the situation began to get to Brennan and she giggled, earning a warning glare from him. "Baptize the purple candle—" she snickered, "with the positive oils, moving it away from you as you do. This will direct the negativity away from your person."
"Baptize the candle." Booth grabbed the squirt bottle and liberally doused the candle with almond and rosemary.
"I'm not certain it will light now that you have saturated the wick," she said helpfully. "And you didn't move it away as you baptized it."
Booth swore and shoved the candle at her. "You back away while I squirt."
She swallowed a laugh, which then decided to escape as a snort. He glared at the candle in her hands and dripped the remaining oil on it. Brennan giggled and clutched the slippery candle tighter.
"Bones! You were supposed to move backwards while I squirted."
Obediently, she backed away, biting her lower lip in a vain attempt to cooperate.
"Not now," he groaned. "I don't have anything left to baptize with."
She continued backing towards the door, knowing she was about to lose what remained of her composure.
"Come back here!" Booth complained, reaching for her. "What's the next step?"
Desperately, she held the paper up to her eyes and choked out, "On the paper write the words Woe and gloom and ill betide, leave this room at once or die."
"That can't be what it says," he said in disbelief. "Give me that!" Booth snatched the paper away and read it out loud, ignoring her increasingly hysterical giggles. "Woe and gloom and ill betide, leave this room at once or die." He glared daggers at the paper, as though it was to blame for the ridiculous words written upon it. "What the hell?"
"You sh-sh—" Brennan tried valiantly to get a grip on herself. "Sh-should f-finish the ritual …" Booth stomped around—folding the paper in half three times, trying to light the purple candle and discovering that it was not about to cooperate, giving up and lighting the white candle instead, almost setting fire to himself as he tried to ignite the paper— and Brennan gave up. She leaned back and laughed until her lungs hurt, releasing all the tension of the day and the pain of the last months.
The white candle kept going out in a sad little puff of scented black smoke. The purple candle had a mind of its own, it seemed, and kept sliding out of Booth's hands and shooting across the counter. Half the matches were duds. The paper would not light.
Finally, Booth turned and glared at his partner. "You think this is funny, huh?"
A hint of a smirk appeared on his lips. "Okay. Not one of my finer moments, I'll admit."
"Read the final incantation," she suggested, barely getting the words out coherently.
His voice choked like hers had earlier, wobbling dangerously as he continued. "As this paper burns away, Universe keep ill at bay."
"The Universe has ears!"
"Universe, please hear me pray."
"The Universe is listening …"
Booth gave her a mock stern look as he waved his hands over the barely-singed paper. "Turn back the evil sent me and send it on its way."
Brennan hadn't laughed so hard in a very, very long time.
Seeing her laugh made up for the hollow feeling he'd been carrying around ever since returning to the States.
When she finally got herself under control enough to stand up, it was only to convulse again in helpless giggles at the sight of his failed magic experiment cluttering up the counter. Booth shook his head and helped her out into the suite, making sure she didn't wind up giving herself a rug burn by rolling around on the floor.
Her body went comfortably limp against his as he escorted her toward the bed, with every intention of backing away to safety as soon as he removed his arm from around her waist. Brennan turned out to have another idea altogether. So fast he never saw it coming, she pulled a karate move on him that landed him flat on his back.
"Hey!" he protested half-heartedly.
She flopped down beside him and they lay sprawled next to one another comfortably, Brennan's breath coming in short gasps as the remainder of her laughter died away. Booth stared up at the painting on the ceiling, avoiding the obvious discussion that had to happen about their sleeping arrangements.
The silence between them was just starting to get awkward when he felt her hand slide into his. His fingers wrapped around hers automatically, as if it was completely ordinary for his partner to initiate hand-holding.
"You're uncomfortable with the idea of us spending the night in the same bed," she observed.
He kept his eyes on the ceiling, and wondered if she was looking at him. "Bones … I just broke up with Hannah." It probably wasn't the right thing to say, but it was honest, and that was a start after so many months of lying.
Instead of pulling away, her hand turned slightly in his, seeking a more comfortable grip.
"I will admit to wanting sexual intercourse with you."
He blushed. "Geez, Bones—"
"However, I am willing to wait until you believe a sufficient time has passed so that you do not feel disloyal."
"It's not that … not totally. I … just …" he fumbled for the right words. "Ah … Hannah and me … it was never you and me, you know?"
"That would be a physical impossibility."
In spite of the tension, Booth couldn't help but smiling at her predictable response. "I still feel the same way about you, Bones."
She could've called him 17 different kinds of names. Instead, her hand remained in his, indicating that she was prepared to wait until he was ready to continue.
He reached into his pocket with his free hand and was grateful to find the poker chip. The ridged edges were calming as he rolled them against his fingers. "But this … on the same day Hannah and I split … it cheapens things. Y'know?"
Her voice betrayed no signs of anger. "If you choose to view things in such a manner, it seems I have no choice but to continue waiting until you feel the timing is no longer inappropriate."
Again, they lay quietly, while Booth's thoughts went through a series of contortions, vying with his admittedly dented morals and his desire to grab this chance with Brennan and run with it way, way past the goal line.
"You're saying you still feel the same way about me?" he finally asked carefully. "The same way you felt in the SUV?"
He turned his head and found her looking straight at him, her blue eyes looking straight through all his crap, seeing the truth underneath and not flinching away. The way it had always been between them.
Booth looked away, hiding the emotion that was no doubt scrawled all over his face. He was struggling to get those emotions back under lock and key when he felt Brennan scoot closer. Her body turned into his, and her head came to rest on his chest.
"Bones." Her name came out more of a guttural whisper than anything articulate.
"Do you want me to spend the night in another room?" Her tone was completely devoid of innuendo, or else Booth would have suspected she was taunting him.
"Hell, no." Again, his body acted automatically. His arm wrapped around her, pulling her tight against his waist.
She draped her arm across his chest and adjusted her position so that her chin came to rest under his head. He kicked off his shoes and felt her do the same, her feet moving to tangle with his.
An exhausted peace filled Booth. She was making no demands and he finally had no need to pretend. Even fully clothed, with the lights on and the covers not over them, it would be so easy to close his eyes, let down his guard, and finally rest. Right before he gave in to the pull of sleep, he reached over and grabbed his coat.
Brennan opened her eyes sleepily and watched as he rummaged through the pockets without looking until his fingers found what they were looking for. He extracted her present and held it up for her inspection.
"Might be more effective than candles and essential oils if your lights go out again."
She took the battery-operated small alarm clock from him and smiled. "Do you mind if I don't set it for tomorrow morning?"
"If you do, it'll wind up in the fire bowl," he threatened, grinning.
Brennan reached over and placed his gift on the nightstand, turning it so the blue LCD display didn't bother them. He snagged the corner of the comforter and dragged it over them, ignoring the need to get under the sheets.
She settled back against him, her fingers tracing idle circles on the T-shirt she'd purchased for him to replace the second ruined suit. "Today was a good day, Booth."
He smiled and pressed his cheek to her soft hair. "It kinda was, wasn't it."
Her quiet laughter followed him into his dreams.
Post-narrative A/N: I took some liberties with the Hotel Monaco. It does exist, however, not as described.