Update: I've been a bad, bad, bad writer. I'm sorry. I was completely logjammed on a story idea for this chapter, and then my life went completely to hell. But this incomplete story nagged at me, and about a month ago a plot finally struck me. I still want to finish the series, but I have no idea when or how i'll continue it.
Chapter 5: Leo
"That does it! This time, I am shooting him, and no one is going to stop me!"
Dr. Temperance Brennan couldn't recall the time she saw her partner so enraged. "Booth, what's wrong? What happened? And who are you threatening to shoot!"
Booth stopped his ranting to glare at her. "Hodgins! That maniac blew up his lab again, but this time I was in it!"
Bones was stunned. She hadn't heard any blasts. "What? When did this just happen?"
"Just now! And that maniac finally crossed the line. He blew up my hair!"
Bones studied Booth's head carefully. Now that he mentioned it, she noticed that Booth's hair seemed a bit scorched in places. "Booth, you will not shoot Dr. Hodgins. At least not until after I have spoken with him and determine just what happened, and what we should do about it."
Booth fixed her with a glare. "Fine. Go and talk to the dead man. I'll be here cleaning my gun."
Bones carefully shut the door to her office and scurried off to Hodgins' lab. There didn't seem to be any signs of an explosion. But as she reached the door, she picked up a faint whiff of smoke. She carefully opened the door and found a rattled Jack Hodgins cleaning up a small mess.
"Dr. Hodgins, I have an extremely distraught Agent Booth in my office threatening you with grave bodily harm. Would you care to enlighten me just what has him on the verge of committing homicide?"
Hodgins looked up, a genuine expression of fear on his face. "I swear, it wasn't my fault!"
"Just tell me what happened, Jack."
He took a deep breath and sat down. "I was working with some volatile chemicals when Booth came barging in. He didn't even knock or anything, just knocked open the door. I dropped a flask and there was a quick burst of flame that shot right at him. He yelled and ran out the door. I just finished cleaning up the mess."
Bones nodded. "Booth does have some boundary issues when it comes to our spaces around here, and in one sense it could be argued that he got what he deserved - and might just learn something from this."
Hodgins smiled in relief. "Exactly!"
Bones shook her head. "One could make that argument, but it would be futile to do so with Booth. He would never admit it, but he takes a tremendous amount of pride in his hair - and your explosion burned off some of it. He sees it as an affont on his masculinity, and his ego demands some level of satisfaction for the perceived insult."
"But I didn't do anything wrong!"
Bones fixed him with a withering glare. "Really, Dr. Hodgins? Was your door locked? Was there a 'DO NOT DISTURB' or 'DO NOT ENTER' sign on the door?" Hodgins glanced down, chagrined. "In fact, I would wager that your door was ajar, as it often is."
Hodgins sighed. "OK, maybe it is partially my fault, too."
"And so it is incumbent upon us to find some way to resolve this situation to everyone's satisfaction. I think the two of us can come up with something to make all parties concerned happy."
BB BB BB BB BB
Bones carefully re-entered her office. Booth was sitting at her desk, doodling. A glance showed her he was drawing stick figures, with bullseyes around various areas. "Hodgins'" groin was featured in a disturbingly significant number of them.
"Booth, I spoke with Hodgins, and we reached a tentative agreement. However, we need to work out a few more details."
"Fine with me. Just let me know when I can shoot him. And where."
"There will be no shooting, Booth."
"No promises, Bones."
Bones sighed. "Just give me three days to put together a deal with Hodgins. I think we can settle this all peacefully."
"Ain't gonna happen, Bones... but for you, yeah. Three days." He got up and headed for the door.
She stopped him. "That's not just three days where you don't shoot him, Booth. You'll stay away from him entirely."
He shrugged. "Fine."
BB BB BB BB BB
"OK, Bones, it's been three days. Tell me this proposed deal, so I can say no and then shoot Hodgins."
Bones glared at Booth, but let that pass. "I don't see why you're so upset about your hair situation. You managed to adapt to the damage quite nicely. In fact, that style looks remarkably like that worn by military recruits - and you have always been proud of your military experience."
Booth snarled. "You really don't get it, do you? Yes, I'm wearing a recruit cut - but I'm not a recruit. I haven't been a recruit in almost 20 years. I earned the right to not wear this cut, and Hodgins stripped me of that."
Bones nodded. This was going to be even tougher than she thought. Fortunately, she was confident in her presentation. "First up, you will not enter his lab without knocking ever again. You have a bad habit of barging into all our spaces without knocking, and this time it finally caught up with you. I'd add my office to the places where you should knock first, but I know better than to expect you to respect that. However, Dr. Hodgins' lab is not always a safe place - as you learned - and you will not barge into it again."
Booth shrugged. "Fine, let the squint have his little castle. Whatever. I'll knock before I shoot him."
Bones sighed. "That's what he wants, and I think it's eminently reasonable. Now, as for your compensation, we considered him giving you season tickets to the Capitols."
Booth gave a genuine smile. "Now we're talking! That just might be enough to keep me from shooting him!"
Bones continued as if uninterrupted. "We considered that, but we had to reject it. For you to accept such a valuable gift would be in contravention of both FBI regulations and federal law, and both of you could - at the least - lose your jobs."
Booth let out a sigh of exasperation. "If he can't do it, then why did you even bring it up? Did you think teasing me like that would make me less likely to shoot him?"
Bones pursed her lips. "I'm not done, Booth. I'm just giving you the full story so you can properly appreciate the offer. Anyway, since you can't accept the tickets, we then discussed Hodgins giving the tickets to me - which, as your domestic partner, I would then share with you."
Booth nodded. "OK, that could work."
"However, as I am nominally his superior, federal laws would also prohibit such a gift. Which is ridiculous, as both of us are so wealthy that such a gift would not even come close to influencing either of our judgments, but the law is based on objective value, not relative value. So he can't give me the tickets, either."
"So I can still shoot him?"
"Then the two of us consulted with some experts on the laws, and we discovered that we could exchange gifts freely. Hodgins could give me the tickets - as long as I gave him something of comparable value in return."
Booth frowned. "No, that's not acceptable to me. In that case, Hodgins isn't out any money, because you're essentially paying him to buy the tickets from me. I want something from him, not you."
Bones smiled. "I suspected you'd feel that way, so we looked for another loophole. I don't have to give Hodgins something that costs roughly the same - just that it has a comparable value. The actual dollar cost is irrelevant, as long as we can argue that the value is higher."
"You're losing me here, Bones."
"Fine. I'm giving Hodgins a complete set of my books in exchange for the tickets, which I will then share with you."
Booth shook his head. "That won't work. In case you forgot, your books have their price stamped right on them. And you haven't come close to writing that many books."
"Yes, but this is a very special set of books. Each will be a first edition hardcover, and they will be customized."
Booth, in spite of himself, was intrigued. "Customized? How?"
Bones smiled. She knew she had him now. "Each copy will be autographed. Further, each will also have a special mark - an impression of my lips on the title page of each book. And each time I publish another book, I will give him a copy of that book similarly customized."
Booth was still lost. "OK, that's pretty different, but I'm still not following you."
Bones' smile grew broader. "My contract with Jack also specifies that I will not imprint my lips on any other books - only his. That makes his books unique - and, as such, worth whatever we agree upon. And we agreed that they would be worth a pair of season tickets to the Washington Capitols."
Booth sat back, impressed. "And all this is legal?"
"We ran it past three different lawyers, and they all agreed that it was a little shaky, but it should hold up."
Booth frowned. "Damn, you went to all this work, and I'm really tempted. But I really, really want to shoot him."
Bones, surprisingly, smiled. "I thought you might feel that way, so I insisted on one last thing." She pulled a box from behind her desk and handed it to him.
Booth took it. It was long and wide, but almost flat - kind of like two pizza boxes next to each other. "What is it?"
"Open it and find out."
Booth carefully opened the box, and pulled out a large sheet of paper. Printed on it was an almost life-sized picture of a very unhappy Hodgins - in a clown suit. "What the hell is this?"
Bones grinned. "Range targets! One dozen pictures of Hodgins, dressed as a clown. Considering your fear of clowns..."
Booth protested. "Hey, I'm not afraid of clowns! I just... don't like them. I don't like them a lot."
Bones continued. "Fine, then. Considering your 'feelings' towards clowns, I assumed that putting Hodgins in such an outfit and letting you shoot at that image would let you resolve your anger over the other day's lab accident." She paused, but Booth didn't respond. He was studying the target carefully. "Booth? Do you accept the deal?"
After another moment, Booth answered. "I have one final question. Was Angela involved in these targets?"
Bones nodded. "It was my idea, but I told it to her and she provided them."
Booth continued to study the target. "I wonder... did Angela Photoshop up these pictures, or did she bully Hodgins into posing for them?"
Bones paused. "I also considered that question, and came to the conclusion that Angela was fully capable of either option. And I decided that I didn't wan to know the answer."
Booth slowly nodded. "I know what you mean. And I can see her doing either one, depending on her mood at the time." He carefully put the target back in the box. "OK, I accept. I won't shoot Hodgins." He then glanced at the targets. "I mean, I won't shoot the real Hodgins."