The Officer in the Oubliette
Chapter One: Victims of Success
Disclaimer: Not mine.
AN: Thanks a million to MiseryMaker for the read-through. :)
Seeley Booth swiped his ID card through the digital reader and upon hearing the familiar high-pitch beep, he jogged up the steps to the forensic platform that took pride of place in the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal Lab. He paid scant attention to the part fleshy collection of bones on the shiny, highly-polished stainless steel table and instead focused in on the one person he was hoping would be working late on a Friday night. She was standing next to Angela and leafing through a thick wad of paper, as he drew closer, he could make out rows of closely-typed numbers and letters spread across the pages. She looked busy, a little harassed, and he knew he should do the decent thing and catch up with her on Monday morning, but he was never very good at being patient.
"Camille, you're looking particularly beautiful this evening." He opened, giving her his trademark charm smile.
"First, don't call me "Camille". And second, I'm not in a particularly giving mood right now, Seeley, and so if it's a favour you're after, you're bang out of luck." She didn't look up from the printed pages of numbers and letters.
"Did I miss something?" Booth asked, looking to Angela for advice.
"The Jeffersonian Board requested an emergency audit and so Cam had to postpone her vacation to Hawaii."
"I didn't postpone it, Angela, I cancelled it. Why for the love of god aren't these figures adding up? You know, I'm a doctor, not a freaking bean counter."
"Don't you have people who can do that kind of stuff for you?" He asked, trying to be helpful.
"Yes. I do, Seeley." She replied testily. "But I need to check their findings before submitting my report to the Board. And right now their findings are not adding up. Or maybe mine aren't adding up. At this point, I'm not sure which set of figures is wrong...maybe both are. Ugh, I should be knocking back Cosmo's right about now." Cam bemoaned, as she consulted her elegant silver wristwatch, quickly calculating the time difference between D.C. and Hawaii.
Angela caught his eye and grimaced. "So, what can we help you with, G-Man?" Given her overly bright tone, he sensed the artist had given up trying to placate her boss long ago and now was simply trying to ignore the issue.
"I need to borrow Bones."
"Doctor Brennan is in her office. Don't you think you should ask her if she'll consent to being 'borrowed' before you ask me?" Cam said pointedly as she continued flipping briskly through the pages in her hands.
"I need to run something past you first."
"Oh, god." She exclaimed as she looked up from the rows of numbers and letters and fixed him with a look of nervous anticipation.
"What? You don't even know what I'm gonna say."
"It doesn't matter – the point is you've come to me because you know Doctor Brennan is not going to like whatever it is you have planned, and you want me to play the 'boss card'."
"Well, you are the boss, Camille." He tried, still banking on his ability to charm his former lover.
"Don't call me...ugh; you know I don't have the energy for this. Just tell me what you need Doctor Brennan for."
"I've been asked to give a presentation on FBI liaison with external organisations and agencies - particularly to explain the arrangement we have in place with the Jeffersonian."
"Sounds riveting and I suppose you need Doctor Brennan to explain our side of the arrangement?"
"And when is this presentation due to take place?"
"Three weeks on Monday."
"Fine." Cam sighed, her attention still mostly directed at the paperwork in her hands. "I appreciate the prior notice, and while I'm sure Doctor Brennan will resent spending time away from the lab, I don't imagine this will cause a problem."
"There's a catch...or rather a further consideration."
"Of course there is."
"I'm gonna need Bones for a week."
"What kind of presentation lasts a week? I'm sorry, Booth, but I can't sanction that. Doctor Brennan's time is precious; and as I'm sure she'll be only too happy to tell you, her expertise is in great demand, and so you have a day...that's the best I can do."
"A day isn't gonna cut it. We need to, um, factor in travel time."
"Okay, okay, so you can 'borrow' Doctor Brennan for two days, but that's my final offer." Cam turned her full attention back to the report, whose details were starting to swim and blur in front of her eyes, and tried to focus.
"Sorry, Cam, but it'll take the best part of a day to get to London and I need her at her best for the four-day conference – and so factoring in the journey back, a week is the minimum we'll need."
"I said two days, Seeley. Besides, we have the new Aztec exhibition opening on the 4th and Doctor Brennan is due to...hold up...did you say London?" Cam clenched the pages in her right hand and then deposited both hands at her waist. Her already hectic day had just gotten a lot more complicated.
"Yeah. We've been asked to go to London – how cool is that!"
"It's not 'cool'. It's inconvenient, is what it is. Dammit, Seeley, I need Doctor Brennan here."
"And we need her there." He tried to keep his voice even, not to push, but the truth was that he hadn't driven over there to ask Cam for permission, he had come to tell her that the decision had already been made.
"Who's pushing for this, Seeley?"
"Cullen, but I get the sense that he's being pressured into it. He doesn't want to take me off cases for a week, any more than you want Brennan away from the lab, but I guess the powers that be think it's a good idea."
"Perfect. So I'm going to be down a world-renowned and seriously-in-demand-forensic-anthropologist for a week and there's nothing I can do about it."
"I bet that Cosmo is sounding more tempting by the second, huh."
"Don't joke around, Seeley, I'm pissed."
Angela, in an effort to ease the tension, spoke up. "I'm sure one of the interns could help cover Brennan's duties at the lab."
"Possibly, but what about the other work we have lined up: the new exhibit and the visit from the Egyptian Ambassador. I know for a fact that he won't be happy to meet with anyone other than Doctor Brennan. Christ, Booth, you're really leaving me high and dry here."
"It's not me. I didn't ask for this, I'm as pissed off as you are."
"Somehow I doubt that." Cam huffed as she again tried to focus on the now slightly crumpled report.
"So, you'll mention this to Bones?"
"Uh uh, no way – it's your party, you can tell her."
"I was kinda hoping that you might handle this, you know, as her boss."
"Forget it. This is on the FBI, and as their representative, you can have that particular pleasure."
"Great." Booth said weakly as his stomach dropped a little. He wondered if he should catch up with Brennan after the weekend – to give him a chance to prepare for the onslaught of indignant rage that was sure to follow his telling her. But if she found out that her co-workers knew what was in store for days before she did, he knew his life wouldn't be worth living. And so he fixed a mostly unconvincing smile on his face before he turned his back on the two women and left the platform.
"Betcha you could use a Cosmo right about now, huh, Seeley." Cam shouted after him.
"Nah, I'm good. Bones is a pussycat, you know that, Camille." He fired back without turning around.
"Don't call me Camille". She demanded, unable to resist teasing him further.
"Then don't call me Seeley."
Three Weeks Later: Sunday - somewhere over the Atlantic
Booth had been right to be concerned about telling Brennan. The scientist had for the best part of two weeks remained adamant that she wasn't going anywhere. In the final week before they were due to leave for England she lobbied the Jeffersonian board and even Director Cullen himself. But as Booth suspected, it didn't do her any good. The decision had been made for them. Truth be told, though, he wasn't all that upset at the prospect of spending a week away from D.C. So the last time he went to London with Bones he'd made an idiot of himself by trying to convince her not to sleep with her British counterpart...who then ended up being murdered...but aside from that, and the shitty weather, and the pathetic excuse for a hire car he'd been given, the trip had been sorta fun. And it wasn't like he got the chance to travel overseas all the time. No, he reasoned, as he tried to get comfortable in his economy class seat, he didn't often get the chance to take a time-out and so he was going to enjoy this week, no matter what it, or Bones, threw at him.
Temperance Brennan was still enraged. She would not be 'loaned out' by the Jeffersonian just because the FBI wanted to play nice with the Metropolitan Police in the UK. She had responsibilities, of which the bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic had no appreciation. But, she acknowledged as she finished off another glass of iced sparking water, the truth was she had been 'loaned out', and nothing she had to say on the subject had made the slightest difference. And why was she in this position? The answer sat about twenty rows back in economy class.
Okay, so when she applied a degree of rationality, she had to concede that it wasn't entirely Booth's fault – she did enjoy murder-solving, he certainly didn't force her to do the work they did. And as the years had passed, she believed that she was as committed to their partnership as he was. But still, she refused to accept that Booth had done all he could to reject the assignment. In fact, on the ride to Dulles that morning he'd bounced around in his seat as he told her about all the things he was hoping to do in London this second time around. Looking back, he didn't strike her as a person who was unhappy with his lot.
Brennan gratefully accepted a refill from one of the cabin crew attendants, and immediately took a sip. She knew from experience that she would feel decidedly groggy once they landed at Heathrow if she didn't keep herself fully hydrated. She then set the glass down on the tray table positioned next to her cot and closed her eyes. She ignored the low whine of the aircraft's engines and concentrated on blocking out the noise made by her fellow passengers, grateful that the seat next to her was unoccupied. Just as she started to relax and even begin to believe that sleeping might be a possibility, thoughts of her partner again filled her mind. Maybe she was being too hard on Booth. After all, she knew that he didn't earn so much money that he could easily afford to jet off to Europe whenever he felt like it. Booth spent his vacation time with Parker, and the two of them usually went camping somewhere in the woods, or occasionally to the beach at Ocean City in Maryland. For as long as she'd known Booth, the only time he'd gone on vacation without Parker was when he had been dating Tessa. And that was years ago. So maybe she ought to be more sensitive. Maybe he was excited about the trip because it was a chance to visit another country, another continent, without it denting his bank balance. Perhaps this was one of those times Booth had talked about - when you 'took for one the team', or was she confusing the reference with some other sporting cliché of the type that always seem to sail right over her head.
Feeling the anger within begin to dissipate, although it was still there and liable to rear its head if the trip lasted even an hour longer than promised, she pulled the soft flight blanket up to her neck and breathed a few deep breaths. She was tired, being constantly furious for three weeks tended to do that to a person. And so she took another steady breath and tried willing herself off to sleep.
Booth was bored - mind-numbingly so. The in-flight magazine was a bust and he couldn't watch a movie on his personal TV because the stupid thing was broken. The cabin crew were very apologetic, but as the flight was fully booked they were unable to move him elsewhere to a seat with a working TV. He'd tried sleeping but couldn't manage it. The fact the two kids in the row behind him kept bumping the back of his seat might have had something to do with it, but also, he couldn't fully relax knowing that his partner was still mad at him. He knew that she understood that he hadn't asked for the assignment, but still, she somehow managed to make him feel like he was ultimately responsible. Maybe he should have toned down his good mood on the way to the airport that morning. But the truth was that he was excited about the trip, not the actual work part of it, that was sure to be boring as hell, but he was thrilled about being gifted the opportunity to take in some of the sights and bum around London for a week with Bones. The best part, it wouldn't cost him a dime. In fact, he was being financially compensated for the extra hours he would have to put in. It was a 'win win' situation. You know...if he discounted the fact that his partner had pretty much stopped talking to him unless their conversation related to their work.
Brennan had given up on the idea of sleeping. With a defeated huff, she manoeuvred the cot into a sitting position and retrieved her book from her carry-on luggage. She had been trying to read the book over the course of the last few weeks, but never managed to get into it. This time, however, without white hot anger raging through her veins, she managed to lose herself in the words and the story. That was until a hyperactive FBI agent flung himself in the empty seat next to her and asked if she wanted to play "Eye Spy".
"No. I most certainly do not. I am trying to read my book, and besides, isn't that a game for young children?"
"Not necessarily. There's no rule to say we can't play."
"Fine, but like I said, I'm reading." Brennan held her book in front of her face, not enough distance from her nose to make reading the words a little painful and nausea-inducing. But she had at least blocked him from her view.
"Let me guess: "The Da Vinci Code""?
She knew full well he could read the title of the book she was holding. The man was a menace. "The 'what' Code?" She obviously couldn't help herself.
"Okay, well maybe not...ah, I got it: "Men are from Venus, Women are from Mars"".
"What a ludicrous notion."
"No? Okay, okay, I know I'm right this time: "Margaret Mead - the tale of the Timbuktu Tribe and how they invented plates.""
She started to argue with him but realised that he was only goading her for humour's sake. "I see. You're attempting to be amusing."
"Something like that, yeah."
"Well why don't you try to be amusing back in your own seat."
"Aw, Bones, come on...you can't stay mad at me forever. I said I'm sorry that you're going to miss out on introducing the Aztec exhibition."
"Don't forget that I'm also missing out on meeting with the Egyptian Ambassador."
"That too...I'm sorry, okay? Look, how about we just try and enjoy the week, you never know it might be as stimulating as the Aztec thing."
Brennan placed her book on her lap and considered telling him that he was most certainly incorrect about that, but then she remembered the promise she had made to herself (to try and relax and allow Booth to enjoy this trip as a gesture of partnership). She might not want to travel to England; she could do that any time, but that didn't mean that Booth wasn't looking forward to the trip and viewing it as a vacation of sorts.
"I doubt it, but you might be right. I do enjoy London, the history and the architecture...do you think we'll have enough time to visit some of the sights while we're there?"
"Absolutely we will. I've gone though the timetable Cullen gave me and we should have time to fit in some touristy things around our presentations to the Met Police."
"I would like to catch up with my friend at the Natural History Museum, Professor Woods. Some members of his team are out in Saudi Arabia working on the 'Saadanius' primate find and we've been in contact recently about the Jeffersonian playing a role."
"Does that mean that you'll need to go to Saudi Arabia?"
"Maybe, but I might send Ms Wick on this occasion and perhaps journey there once we know more about the find or if more fossilised remains are found."
"Great. Because you know that we need you in D.C."
Brennan nodded her understanding and just then noticed one of the cabin crew approaching; they, it would appear, had spotted Booth sitting in the seat next to her.
"I think you had better go back to your seat. Someone's coming over."
"Huh... oh, great. I've been thinking, how come you scored a first class seat? The FBI is picking up the cheque this time, right? You're not flying on the Jeffersonian's dime."
"So Doctor Saroyan informs me."
"Then how come you're not back there in 'cattle class' with me?" He queried before fixing his best charm smile on his face for the benefit of the attractive female crew member who had just reached their seats.
"I don't know." Brennan said as she watched with amusement as her partner employed one of his patented smiles.
"Doctor Brennan, is this gentleman a friend or acquaintance of yours?" The auburn haired woman enquired.
"He's both, but he doesn't have a first class ticket."
"Gee...thanks, Bones." He shifted forward in his seat, giving the impression that he wasn't going to put up a fight about staying there.
"You know, the FBI doesn't fly its agent's first class, not if they can help it." He persisted in questioning her.
"But I'm not an agent, Booth; I'm a private contractor, of sorts."
"It all comes out of the taxpayers' pocket. I oughta lodge a letter of complaint about the Government playing fast and loose with our money."
"Well, you have another three hours before we land, why you don't go back to your seat and work on it."
Booth knew he couldn't stall any longer, but as he stepped into the aisle, he shot his partner a look of mock disdain and snatched up the unopened bag of cashew nuts which were next to her glass of water and stuffed them into his pocket. It was a small victory, but a victory all the same.
"Fine. I'll go." He huffed and started back down the aircraft.
"See you in three hours." Brennan said, picking up her book again. She mostly managed to keep a small smile at bay.
"Sure, but only if I don't die of boredom before then."
"You can't literally die from ennui, Booth. However, studies have shown that boredom can lead people to experience feelings of despondency and emptiness, which can in turn encourage the development of health detriments such as smoking, drinking or taking narcotics to fill the void."
"Good to know, Bones. Good to know." He offered as he made his way back to cattle class.
AN: Thanks for reading. :)