A/N: This one's for Rose, who gave me a prompt to write for her as a pre-surgery present. I haven't felt well this week, so the first chapter is very short. The piece was intended as a one-shot, but will probably end up being 2 short installments. Next update to be posted on Thursday, as usual. Thanks to everybody who left me kind words about the conclusion of One of Those Days. I've made a mental note to write more fluffy one-shots, as it seems there's a definite craving for them. =)
She felt oddly peaceful, in spite of everything.
Her old sweats were waiting in the tumble dryer and felt good against her bare skin. She fluffed her towel-dried hair around her shoulders and headed for the kitchen where the kettle was boiling, perfectly timed to her 10 minute shower. Brennan chose her favorite over-sized mug, decorated by Angela with an abstract rendition of a lilac hibiscus and a red sunflower. It made the scientist smile for reasons known only to her best friend.
Brennan dropped a lavender tea bag into the steaming water. She wrapped her fingers around the cup and brought it to her cheek, enjoying the warmth before actually tasting the beverage. It had a light, sweet taste that didn't require additional sugar, but she added honey anyway. Tonight was about indulging herself.
She paused in the doorway to her living room, feeling content as she surveyed the array of furniture and personal belongings, all set against a spotless brick and concrete backdrop that suited her surgically precise mind. Angela had once referred to it as loft chic. Brennan preferred to think of it as an extension of her office at the Jeffersonian, where she would have been content to reside. Sweets would undoubtedly have commented that this was a dangerous blurring of boundaries, which reflected an unbalanced sense of self, or some such psychological gibberish.
Such questions didn't perturb Brennan. Why she should erect a wall between herself and the place where she was happiest? Granted, the lab's décor was somewhat too sterile even for her taste, so Brennan had chosen a warm pumpkin color for her walls, complemented by soft-edged lighting fixtures, burgundy throw rugs and dark hardwood shelves. It all came together to create her personal vision of home on the rare occasions that she actually got to sit around and enjoy it. Like tonight.
Generally, her weekends were as productive as her work days. She enjoyed the comfort of daily routine and digressing from her typical schedule was frequently more stressful than it was relaxing for her. However, given the events of the last few days, she had elected to spend this weekend doing things solely meaningful to Temperance Brennan.
Stepping over to the 9 foot concrete table that Booth liked to refer to as her 'sacrificial altar,' Brennan set her mug down on a coaster, pushed play on her iPod and contemplated her project for the evening. Selecting a piece, she turned it in her hands, considering the edges and their ramifications for potential placement. She hummed along to the tune she'd preselected before stepping into the shower and made a mental note to tell Angela that her musical recommendation for a girl's night in had been well-appointed.
She was leaning forward to test her theory when an unexpected knock on the door made her glance at the clock in surprise. It was only 7:30. Most people she knew would be out on a Friday night, at a bar, a sporting event, or a concert, maybe.
Brennan glanced in a mirror at her damp hair, then down at her comfortable attire, and shrugged. Her sweats were worn to the point that they were halfway see-through. She had no sweater at hand to cover herself with, so whoever was at the door would simply have to deal with the prominent outline of her breasts against the thin fabric.
"Coming," she called curtly. She would send her uninvited guest away quickly, so that she could continue her evening as planned. Alone.
"Daaaaaad," Parker moaned, scuffing his toe against the carpet. "Is she even here?"
"This'll only take a sec," Booth promised. Somewhere along the line, his sweet little boy had been replaced by an irritable pre-teen. "Bones'll want these files. If she's not here, we'll leave them at the desk."
"But it's Friday. Why does she want work stuff over the weekend?"
"Bones doesn't treat weekends like we do." Booth raised his hand to knock again.
The door swung open without warning. He opened his mouth to scold her for not asking who was knocking, then closed it again at the sight before him.
She didn't sound super happy to see him. Then again, his partner wasn't dressed as he'd anticipated. He'd figured yoga sweats or jeans and a Tee, like she'd just gotten home from the lab and was ready to put in a few hours on her latest novel. But, judging from the way her hair was curling in tiny ringlets around her flushed, make-up free face, she'd just gotten out of the shower. Wide, damp patches on her shirtfront corroborated this theory, even as they led his eyes exactly where they didn't need to go.
Apparently unfazed by his father's dripping wet dream, Parker elbowed him in the ribs. "Hey, Bones. Dad has something for you."
Brennan crossed her arms in front of her chest, at least somewhat derailing Booth's dangerous imaginings. She glanced at the bundle of papers in his hand. "Yes?"
He hastily redirected his gaze and held out his offering. "I didn't get a chance to stop by the lab before, but I figured you'd want these."
She took them from him and opened the first folder, as Parker started inside.
"Hey!" Booth called. "Parker, that's rude."
"She doesn't mind. Do you, Bones?"
Brennan continued to flip through the paperwork. "It's fine."
"Don't touch anything," Booth warned.
Parker wandered around, examining various sculptures. "Bones, your place is so beast. Why can't yours look like this, Dad?"
"How is my place a beast?" Brennan squinted at a faxed list of names.
"It means cool," Booth explained wryly, trying to keep an eye on his son while simultaneously tracking the beads of water slowly trickling down her throat, toward the over-stretched collar of her shirt.
"Did you need something from me?" she asked, finally looking up at him. Light glinted off the droplets in her lashes.
With Hannah out of the picture, there was no harm in looking, but, wow. Brennan didn't even have to try to turn up the heat. All she had to do was stand there shuffling through a stack of potential suspect profiles, dripping and—
Booth shook himself mentally. "No. No, I didn't need anything. Just figured you'd, you know, find those helpful when you were doing whatever this weekend."
She regarded him with an odd look. "I'm not working this weekend, Booth."
"Oh." Booth frowned, suddenly realizing what an ass he had to seem like. Then again … since when did Brennan make real weekend plans, which didn't involve desiccated bodies? "Sorry, Bones. I didn't mean—"
"It's fine," she interrupted. "If I have time, I'll read through your findings."
"Don't," he retorted, grabbing the file back. "It can wait till Monday." He wouldn't ask about what she was doing instead of working. That would seem too intrusive, right? Damn. When had things gotten so hard between them? And here he thought they'd been making progress since Hannah exited stage left. "I'm glad, Bones. It's good that you're doing something besides—"
A small crash sounded and both adults swung in the direction of Parker's frantic shout. Booth would have scolded him for the language, but he was too busy staring at the pieces of something lying all over Brennan's super-polished floor.
"Parker. What did you do?"
"I'm sorry!" his son cried. "I'm sorry, Bones. I'm so so sorry."
Brennan moved forward, eyes trained on the floor.
"I'm really really really sorry," Parker babbled, eyes darting from Booth to Brennan and back again.
Following Brennan, Booth took in the wide plywood board lying on the floor, amidst an assortment of colorful cardboard fragments. He'd expected a shattered pre-Columbian artifact, maybe, or a broken Tibetan mask. Not … puzzle pieces?
"I didn't mean to, Bones," his son pleaded. "Honest."
"It's fine." Brennan knelt slowly on the cold floor and began picking up pieces.
"We'll help." Booth glared meaningfully at his son before joining her on the floor. "I'm really sorry, Bones. He didn't mean to."
"It's fine," she repeated.
Parker scrambled to pick up farflung outliers. "I was just looking."
"Would you stop saying that?" Booth snapped. "It's not fine. He shouldn't have touched anything. Had you gotten very far?"
"It was almost finished," Parker chimed in unhelpfully, as he dove under a couch to search. "I didn't mean to touch anything. I guess I musta leaned my elbow on the board to get a closer look and it flipped. I'm sorry!"
Booth picked up a pottery shard submerged in a puddle of what had presumably been tea before Parker launched his stealth attack. He handed it to Brennan, who examined it silently.
"He'll pay for the mug, Bones."
"It wasn't worth anything." She set the piece aside and continued to methodically scoop handfuls of soggy black cardboard pieces into a nearby box that had somehow escaped baptism by tannin.
"It had to be worth something."
"It was a gift," she replied calmly. "No financial sum can be ascribed to it. There's no need to attempt to make reparations for an accident."
Parker added several more pieces of shattered mug to the small pile and looked regretfully at the scientist. All traces of his earlier attitude had vanished. "I really didn't mean it, Bones."
"Bones," Booth began, uncertain of what he could say. She'd been having what, for Brennan, must have qualified as a rare peaceful evening when he'd barged in with a reminder of all the work they had waiting for them on Monday, plus a clutzy tween.
"It's okay, Booth. It was only a puzzle and a coffee cup."
"We'll stay here until this mess is cleaned up. Then we're going home."
She shoved the hair back out of her face and finally looked at him. "I don't require your assistance. Nothing of great worth has been lost. You and Parker should continue with your evening plans."
Booth scowled at Parker's increasingly hopeful face. The Flyers' box seats were nonrefundable, so it was as much a punishment for him as it was for his son. "No way. He needs to learn a lesson."
Brennan sighed. "Whatever your disciplinary decision, I would like to finish cleaning up alone."
"You sure, Bones?" he asked. "We're not going to the game, no matter what."
Parker's face fell, but he wisely said nothing.
"Yes." She collected another 20 pieces and carefully shook the water off before placing them in the box. "This weekend, I require some personal space."
In addition to the unusual request, it was hard to read her tone and expression, which unsettled Booth. Even before the accident, something had felt … off.
He got to his feet awkwardly and herded Parker toward the door, glancing back to find his partner exactly where he'd left her, gazing with a strange look on her face at a shard of pottery in her hand.
"Sorry again," Parker added contritely.
"Good night." Brennan never took her eyes off the broken piece.
A/N: Next week, Booth makes reparations for his son's mistake, leading to a very personal revelation from Brennan and a sharing of scars … not all of them metaphorical.