Unplanned Lunches and Awkward Silences
by Amy L. Hull
Written for Razztaztic in the 2011 Bones Secret Santa Challenge. Her prompt was: Caroline, Brennan, Angela, Fourth of July, birthday cake, fedora, but no death, Hoover Building, or pregnancy. Many thanks to BlueMorpho for brainstorming, suggestions, and some great lines, and to Mayhavefaked it for a quick beta and just the right suggestion at just the right time.
"We are not getting take-out. You're working on limbo-fine, bone storage-cases. They've been waiting this long. They'll wait another forty-five minutes." Angela held the door open. "Mmmm. Smell that. The food is just begging you to sit and enjoy it."
Brennan cast a scornful look her way. "Personifying the food is not-"
"Just go in." Angela pointed, using the tone that got Hodgins to obey without question no matter what she asked. Angela smiled, remembering the activities that followed last night when she used it.
The restaurant was warm and bustling. Brennan was still frowning. "It looks busy, Angela. Perhaps we should-"
"I said no takeout. We're sitting down and eating and relaxing and not talking about work or bones." She pointed firmly toward a booth.
Brennan looked for all the world like she was actually sulking. "I was merely going to suggest we might try another locale."
"We're already here and, since you're concerned about keeping this short, we should just...oh, hey! There's Caroline Julian! We can go join her!"
A host approached and Angela smiled broadly and waved him away. "We're with her."
Angela pulled out a chair. "Hello! We saw you and thought we'd join you for lunch."
Caroline leaned protectively over her plate, raising a hand. "No! No! Go away! I am enjoying my food. You are not going to ruin it with any of your squint talk."
"That won't be a problem," Brennan said. "Angela has forbidden any talk of cases, bones, or disarticulated remains."
"See? That's just the kind of talk I mean." She blinked. "Dr. Brennan, what in the name of all things holy are you wearing on your head?"
Angela sat. Brennan did the same. "It's a fedora," Angela said, grinning. "She wears a fedora now. Fedoras are cool."
Caroline's lip curled. "Has no one told you that it's considered a courtesy to remove a hat when entering a building."
"I am well aware of that cultural expectation, yes."
"And you're keeping it on at the table...because?" Caroline asked, eyebrows raised.
Brennan grimaced. "I made an ill-considered wager, and Angela is requiring me to wear this for two days." She accepted a menu from a waiter and began to look over it. "I don't, however, wear it on the forensic platform, as that would be unprofessional and potentially contaminate evidence."
Angela grinned, glanced at her menu, then gestured to Caroline. "It's been a while since we've seen you."
Caroline grimaced. "Did you consider that might have been on purpose?"
"I assumed that you were not the federal prosecutor assigned to cases on which we were the lead forensics team," Brennan said, shrugging. She looked back at the menu. "It appears that the food here is not generically Caribbean islander, but rather specifically Trinidadian and Tobagoan. I'm impressed, Angela."
Angela pointed to Caroline's plate. "That looks good. What is it?"
Caroline let her fork and knife clatter to her plate. She looked from Angela to Brennan and back. "You're not going to leave are you?"
"Yes," Brennan said.
"Nope," Angela said, grinning.
Brennan frowned again. "But, we will leave once have eaten our meal."
"See? She agrees with me. We're joining you for lunch." Angela breathed in the spices. "Like I said, that looks great. What is it?"
Caroline rolled her eyes. "If you must know, it's curry salmon with rice and peas and roti. Oh, and plantain." Caroline smiled. "They have excellent plantain. You've got to have plantain."
"Mmmm. Baby wants the chicken version of that." Angela nodded and grinned. "With plantain."
The waiter reappeared and Angela shared Baby's order.
"I'll have the Veggie Roti Wrap." Brennan handed her menu to the waiter. "I admit, the ambiance here is pleasant for the lunch hour, and the food is giving off an appealing scent."
"Well, that's probably because it's the Fourth of July and most sane people are not working." Caroline took a drink of her water as she shook her head.
"You realize," Angela said, "that you've just placed yourself into that 'not sane' category, right?"
Caroline shrugged. "I do work with you people."
Brennan said, "Did you know that Trinidadian food is a fusion of over seven different cuisines?"
Angela forced a smile. "No, sweetie, I didn't know that."
"Also, the 'roti' is a form of flatbread, serving a function similar to that of naan, tortilla, injera, rice pancake, and other grain-based round breads around the world. Interestingly, the Trinidadian form, despite the word 'roti' coming from Sanskrit in the Indian and Pakistan areas, is made most commonly from ground yellow split peas rather than any traditional flour."
Caroline stared at Brennan, a fork of salmon and rice halfway to her mouth. She turned to Angela. "She really can't help it, can she?"
Angela shook her head. "I don't think she can." At her friend's frown, she patted Brennan's hand. "But it's part of your charm, sweetie."
"If you say so," Caroline said wryly.
Brennan opened her mouth, but at that moment the waiter appeared with their food. A quick adjustment got Angela's chicken-for-baby and Brennan's food sorted out.
There was a long silence as they ate. Angela made appreciative sounds, occasionally commenting, "Oh, my God, this is good. Mmmm." After another couple of bites, she said, "I may have to order another of these."
"I'd save space for their peach cobbler, if I were you," Caroline said, leaning back and wiping her mouth and signaling the waiter. "I'll have a peach cobbler for dessert."
"And for you ladies?" he asked, pencil poised over notepad.
"I'll have an order of plantains," Brennan said.
"Peach cobbler for me." Angela paused, placing a hand on her abdomen. "Two, actually. One for me, one for baby."
"Would you like that a la mode?"
"Absolutely." Angela grinned. "What about you, Caroline?"
"Oh, Ms. Julian's will come a la mode on the house," said the waiter.
Caroline's eyes grew wide and she raised a hand, but the waiter continued.
"Birthdays are always an occasion for free ice cream."
Caroline's face darkened. "You really had to go and tell them that? Now they're going to ask me all sorts of damned fool questions."
The waiter paled. "I'll just go put that order in," he said and rushed off.
"And before you ask," Caroline said, "yes, I am old."
"In many cultures, you would be considered a revered elder," Brennan said. "Much as you are here." She continued to eat her wrap.
"Well, thank you so much for that, Dr. Brennan," Caroline said through pursed lips.
"You're welcome. I know many of us respect you for your wisdom and experience, as well as your wit and keen tactical acumen."
Caroline sighed and peered toward the kitchen. "I wonder when that cobbler will arrive."
"It usually takes a few minutes for them to warm up, although the traditional birthday confection is cake with frosting-"
"Which they don't have here," Angela said.
"Ms. Julian, should we have found out it was your birthday and greeted you with a decorated cake?" Brennan asked.
Angela coughed into her napkin then gulped her water.
"I have to get back to my office." Caroline looked pointedly at her watch, at Brennan, then around the restaurant. "You know...before too many people see me and start calling me on my catching-up day."
"I find this is useful for that as well," Brennan said. "Too often, when others are in the lab, my work is disrupted by socialization, irrelevant questions, and various requests for my time."
Angela bit her lips to suppress a smile.
"It must have been exciting, when you were a child, to have such elaborate celebrations conducted on your birthday. In fact, it's said that Nellie Grant, the daughter of President Grant, believed for much of her childhood that the fireworks were to celebrate her birthday." Brennan frowned. "Were you similarly misled, Ms Julian?"
Caroline's mouth dropped open.
"It would be no shame to have believed that; children are easily taken in by parental tales, such as with the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus."
Caroline pursed her lips, then she sighed. "My Mamie Idalene used to tell me that I was lucky to get to watch fireworks on my birthday since I had the same birthday as our country. She told me always to remember it gave me a special reason to make sure I stay as strong as it is. She made the best cobbler of anyone in the county, and that's why I come here for what's as close as anyone this far north can make." Caroline narrowed her eyes at them. "Happy?"
Angela just smiled. Caroline's bark was part of her charm. "I am. And happy birthday, Caroline." She offered her water glass in a toast.
Brennan toasted too. "Happy birthday, Ms. Julian."
Caroline clinked glasses with them, then shook her head. "Dr. Brennan. I absolutely cannot take someone seriously who sits here, wearing a fedora, talking about the Easter Bunny, and toasting with water. Now just take that silly thing off."
"No," Angela said, holding out a hand over the hat. "She's wearing it until tomorrow night."
"And may I ask, again, why, for the love of God, are you wearing that?"
This time Brennan's exasperation was clear from her sigh and rolled eyes.
Angela grinned. "She hadn't seen Indiana Jones, and I insisted that we watch them. Brennan insisted that there was little point in watching movies that were filled with inaccurate science and views of archaeology and history that she was sure to find frustrating as she corrected them."
"Well, I certainly wouldn't watch those movies with this one," Caroline pointed to Brennan.
Brennan looked almost wounded, and this time Angela laughed out loud. "Well, I told her that she was going to watch with me, that I would bring wine for her, and that if she enjoyed it-which I would judge by whether it made her laugh and forget to criticize-she'd have to wear the hat for two days."
"I admit, I did enjoy the film," Brennan said. "It had witty dialogue, was well-cast, and made excellent use of location shoots. The 'archaeology'-though that's a generous term-was, of course, ridiculous, but I admit the film was enjoyable. And I am fond of the hat and how I look in it."
Caroline's mouth hadn't closed for a full minute as she stared at them. "Wait," she said. "You think you look like Indiana Jones in that hat?"
Brennan frowned, the bridge of her nose wrinkling as it did when she was confused or wondering if the person she was with understood basic English. "Why would I think I look like Indiana Jones? Harrison Ford, while also Caucasian and dark-haired, is taller than me, broader-shouldered, and is, as I would have thought you'd notice, clearly male. Indiana Jones, as a character, is a professor of archaeology, not anthropology, and although I've taught anthropology courses and serve as an advisor to doctoral students, I also do not live in the 1930s, or even in the 1940s, though a certain resemblance to Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday might be seen from a distance, especially if I were wearing a trenchcoat although-"
"-I am not a reporter like her character nor do I-"
"Bren. Bren, sweetie? Stop. It's okay. Caroline didn't think you thought you looked like Indiana Jones."
Brennan frowned and looked from one woman to the other.
Caroline was staring, her mouth hanging as far down as her eyebrows were raised up.
"Of course," Angela said, "if you were to wear your eco-warrior getup like when you go on a dig, and we got you a whip, you could look like Indiana Jones, or, at least, a female version, maybe like Elsa from the last movie." Angela chuckled. "I'll bet that would get Booth's motor going in your direction...or at least let him know you mean business, if you wore a whip."
Caroline muttered, "I'll loan you one of mine."
Brennan tipped her head. "You have more than one whip?"
"Were these souvenirs from cases or did you participate in some form of performance?"
Angela spluttered with laughter.
Caroline's glare deepened. "This is why I don't have lunch with squints."
"Oh, I see!" Brennan said. "You're implying sexual role play with the whip and, potentially, other instruments that could inflict pain or induce compliance in sexual suggestions. There are significant anthropological reasons many people enjoy experimenting with trading dominant and submissive sexual roles."
Angela nudged her elbow. "Honey."
There was a long silence. Angela smiled uncomfortably and pointed, "Our waiter is here with our dessert."
"Bless the Lord," Caroline muttered.
The young man set their bowls down and fled.
The scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and peach combined perfectly with the sweetened cream smell of the ice cream. After a couple of bites of the buttery substance that squished and melted perfectly, Angela said, "I don't know if this is the baby talking, but I think this is the best peach cobbler I've ever had, even compared to what my dad and I got when I went on a tour with him through the South."
Caroline nodded as she removed her spoon slowly from between her lips. "You just can't beat good peach cobbler, that's for sure. I'd have this over birthday cake any day."
Angela pushed her second bowl toward Brennan. "Here, sweetie, try a bite. It's really amazing."
Brennan nodded appreciatively at her spoonful. "You're right. That is very good. I'm enjoying my plantains, though, too. This restaurant was a good suggestion for lunch, Angela. Thank you."
Caroline set her spoon down and pushed her chair back. "As much fun as this has been, let's plan not to do it again." She paid their waiter and headed out.
"Happy birthday, Caroline."
"Happy birthday, Ms. Julian." They spoke simultaneously, but Brennan more loudly. Caroline tossed a withering glare over her shoulder as other patrons similarly offered their good wishes.
"Did I do something wrong?" Brennan asked.
"No. But I think that next time we'll just order take-out. It's more comfortable to eat in your office."
"That's exactly what I was trying to say earlier."
"Well, you were right, sweetie," Angela said.
"Oh." Brennan froze. "I think I know exactly what clues I wasn't combining that will tell me where the set of remains I've been working on came from." She smiled broadly.
"Let's get you back to your bone storage cases, then." Angel dropped an extra twenty dollars on the table as tip.
"Thank you, Angela." Brennan smiled broadly. "I had a nice lunch, and it helped, against all logic. Of course, the mind does process information even at times when we are consciously focusing on other things. So that's perhaps how a break like this could be exactly what I needed to solve this problem. Maybe we should plan lunch once a week."
The details would be the entire conversation back to the lab, Angela knew. She smiled and held the door.