AN: Thank you ever so for your kind reviews. I really appreciate you taking time out to tell me what you thought, and to help convince me that this story is still worth writing, albeit at a snail's pace.
I dedicate this next chapter to the lovely, JSQ - 'cause I like to prove her wrong. :)
The Officer in the Oubliette
Chapter Twelve: Flight Risk
Booth took a sip of his red wine and surveyed the view from the dining room window which looked out onto the street below. The rain hadn't let up and the street was still busy with traffic and people. Different coloured umbrellas vied for position on the sidewalk, and out of nowhere, he suddenly felt homesick. Things with Bones had turned upside down, inside out and forever over the past couple of days, and right now all he wanted was to be home again so that they could work through what the hell they were going to do about it. Being in London didn't feel like work, it felt like a vacation, and maybe this thing with Bones had the potential to be nothing but a fleeting step over that carefully observed line of theirs, and that once they got back home, they would get back on the right side and chalk the whole thing up to a holiday fling, or something else which would obscure the truth. Right now, he didn't want distance. He wanted to be home, with her, sorting this thing out.
"I feel I should apologise for the poor weather."
Booth turned away from the window. "It's funny, whenever I picture London, I think of it raining. But actually, the two times I've visited, it hasn't rained all that much. And unlike some places back home when it rains it doesn't seem to last all that long."
"That's true. Also, we seem to get a lot of rain over the summer months. Come over in April or May next time, it's often very mild and sunny."
Just then, Booth heard someone coming up the stairs, and his grip on his glass tightened. But it wasn't Brennan.
"Sorry. Sorry. I'm unforgivably late, I know."
"Trouble at the shop?" David said, as he kissed the dark haired man on the cheek, all the while trying not to show how cross he truly was.
"Yup. Bloody parts didn't turn up until closing. By then I'd sent Becca and Andy home, and so I had to sort through the order to check it was all there. I'm sorry."
The athletic, well-built man then looked over at their guest and smiled warmly. "It's Seeley, right? It's nice to meet you." Booth shook the other man's outstretched hand.
"He prefers "Booth", that's right, isn't it?" David interjected with a smile, and then took over the introductions.
"Booth, this is my partner, Aiden."
"Aiden, this is Special Agent Booth of the FBI...and the lovely Doctor Brennan should be with us momentarily. The poor thing got drenched coming over here, and so she's just drying out her jeans."
Aiden nodded knowingly and then turned again to Booth. "So, we've been so looking forward to your visit, and now you're finally here. Welcome."
"Thank you. It's nice to be here, and thank you both for inviting me."
"It's our pleasure. So you work for the FBI - wow. For some reason, I can't get that TV programme out of my mind...the one that all takes place over twenty four hours...the one with that bloke with the equally famous dad...you know the one...the clock ticks down an hour an episode, and right at the end, he works it all out...argh, what's it called again?"
"24." Booth said with a smile.
"That's the one. I guess the title was staring me right there in the face, huh? Anyway, that's what I'm picturing...please don't disappoint me and tell me working for the FBI is nothing like that."
"Um, it's mostly nothing like that, and not just because it was a made-up government agency in that show. Sorry."
"But you and Doctor Brennan are real life crime solvers. That has to be exciting work."
"We've had our fair share of excitement, yes."
"Excellent. Perhaps we can quiz you two about it later. It ought to make for some interesting dinner conversation."
"Hmm, just don't get Brennan started on the subject of our last case. Or at least wait until you've finished eating first. So, what line of work are you in, Aiden?"
"I restore vintage cars. I have a workshop over in Chelsea. That's why I'm late, actually. We were waiting on some parts from overseas and they finally arrived today."
"What are you working on at the moment?"
"A 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe – she's in a sorry state at the moment, but the parts we got today should see her back on the road again."
"That car helped American Racing to win the '65 manufacturer's title, right?"
"Yes. You know your cars, my friend."
"So what does one of those fetch in today's market?"
"Hard to say, but the first model, the CXS2287, went for just shy of four and a half million dollars back in 2001. The one I have in the shop is a later model, but ballpark, you're probably not going to get much change out of two million quid...so closer, I guess, to three and a half million US dollars."
Booth let forth a long whistle.
"You should come by the shop if you have time before you guys head home."
"Sure. Come by, I'll show you the Cobra...we also have a really nice Benz and a couple of Alfa's. Actually, I have an Alfa in the garage. It's a work in progress, but if you're interested..."
"Well dinner won't be for a while yet..." David said, smiling. He easily recognised the excited gleam in his guest's eyes; because it mirrored exactly the look he'd seen light up his boyfriend's face. It was a mixture of childlike excitement and restrained envy.
Not needing any more prompting than that, Booth followed Aiden through the dining room, into the large, aroma-filled kitchen, and then back down the stairs until they reached the front door.
"We don't have access to the garage from the house, I'm afraid. It's around back. Do you wanna grab your coat, or shall we make a run for it?"
"Nah, after you." Booth motioned to the door. The two men then hurried out the door and raced around to the back of the three storey terraced house.
Brennan slid the warm denim up her long legs and fastened the button with slightly shaking hands. She still wanted to run. It would be so easy to do so. Just reach for the door handle, tip-toe out of the room, grab her shoes, open the front door and run. She could be packed in no time and at Heathrow within the hour, probably. And from there she could just disappear. No more Jeffersonian, no more murders, no more distracting relationships and no more Booth. It was simply a matter of walking out of that room.
And then she wouldn't have to say goodbye. She didn't want to say goodbye. Maybe because she knew she couldn't.
David stirred the rich tomato sauce and then turned the gas down as far as it would go under the heavy-bottomed saucepan. Aiden and Booth had been gone for the best part of thirty minutes and there was still no sign of Temperance. His hope for an evening of good conversation and merriment wasn't exactly going the way he'd planned. And, come to think of it, why was she taking so long?
He quickly checked on the roasted potatoes crisping in the oven before untying his apron and placing it over a nearby chair. He then made his way downstairs. He knocked on the door of the laundry room and waited. Hearing nothing, he knocked again. Still hearing nothing from inside, he opened the door and peered into the empty room. The tumble dryer was switched off, but he still walked in and checked inside the machine – that, too, was empty.
David closed the door of the laundry room and then jumped as he heard movement behind him.
"Temperance!" God, you gave me a fright."
"Sorry. I needed to use the bathroom." She was still holding her wine glass, now empty.
"No need to apologise - you took me by surprise is all. So, are you ready for dinner? My signature sauce is simmering its way to perfection and I'm keen to talk more about the Saudi trip."
"I'm ready, yes. Um, did I hear Booth's voice earlier?" She asked, trying not to appear overly interested in the answer. But all the while her heart was pounding in her chest.
"Yes. He and Aiden have bonded over old cars – they're around back looking at that bloody wreck of a car that Aid swears will be worth a small fortune one of these days."
"And you don't share his view?" She queried as she followed him back upstairs.
"He's the expert, of course - but all I know is we've sunk a small fortune into it already, and at this point, I can't see us getting a decent return on our money. But then, it really isn't about the money. It's about doing something that you love. And Aiden loves cars."
When they walked back into the warm kitchen, he fixed her another glass of wine and poured one for himself. He then led her through to the cosy dining room, and she took a seat at the rectangular glass table and tried to pull herself together. So she slept with Booth. So what? It was a perfectly normal thing to have happened. They were both single, attractive people. It would be odd if it didn't happen eventually.
"Please excuse me for a second, Temperance. I need to throw some more herbs into the sauce and then we're about done. In fact...ah, excellent timing...that'll be them coming back now."
Brennan was left alone as her friend hurried off to see to dinner. She took a sip of her wine and then set the glass back down. Then she picked up her napkin and slipped the pressed ivory fabric out of the shiny metal napkin ring. She smoothed it over her lap, and then took another drink. Then another. She was just raising the glass to her lips for the fourth time in fairly quick succession when she heard him say her name.
She looked up and met his warm brown eyes, and just like that she remembered what it felt like to be in his arms. She couldn't help herself – her eyes drifted down to his mouth, and it was as though he was kissing her again. Forcing her eyes back to his, she tried to get a read on the myriad emotions that she saw there.
"So, this should be an interesting night." Booth said as he took a seat opposite her.
She smiled weakly. She should have run when she had the chance.