Title: Couch Time

Chapter: Mummies and Meatloaf

Summary: Set in season 5 of Bones, just as they return to working cases together. Sweets calls the pair in for a reassessment.

AN: Back with another installment, after some vacation time and finishing another story. Thanks for all the feedback you guys are offering, letting me know that I'm on track with the character voices and all. It's a fun fic to write so far. Enjoy!

Dr. Brennan sat next to her partner in the otherwise empty waiting room, in what might have appeared to be an easy, amicable silence, but in reality all she could do was run through topics in her head that were unlikely to cause tension between her and Booth during their therapy session. The list was admittedly lacking. Unfortunately all she could do was wonder why Booth had gotten so upset with her over the fact that she'd gone out with Andrew Hacker. Angela had seemed to think it was reasonable, the way Booth had acted in regards to the situation, though it had certainly taken her by surprise. The only thing that had really driven home just how upset he was to her was the way he'd looked at her in her office when he came in to hand her the egg. His eyes had been mournful in a way that she couldn't imagine her having drinks and a bit of flirtatious conversation with any person would cause. To her it had been harmless, a bit of fun—something Angela and even Booth often instructed her to interject into her life. Ironically they were the two that had seemed most averse to the whole outing.

They'd not even had a chance to be intimate on the abbreviated date. Even still, Booth had appeared so unhappy, claiming she'd shared too much on the brief date. It made her reevaluate the initial decision to reschedule their interrupted dinner date, which she'd promised to do and thus far had not yet done. She was more certain than before any further interactions with Andrew would lead to sex. She had tried not to dwell on the loss of guaranteed physical contact should she decide not to pursue the relationship outside of work. The strain between her and Booth was more important than her sex life at the moment. She just wished she could come to a solution that would allow both issues to be resolved to her benefit.

"I heard you were going to be on the cover of a journal," Booth said, breaking her out of her thoughts.

She started at the sound of his voice. "What? Oh, yes."

Booth leaned in and narrowed his brown eyes at her. "You okay, Bones?"

She flicked her blue eyes to him and tried to separate her mental escape created out of sexual longing and her reality of sitting in their therapist's waiting room. "I'm just concerned that Sweets is going to want to discuss Miss Wick, and I'd prefer not to hear more about his relationship with her. He tends to delve into unnecessary detail that has nothing to do with our professional association."

Booth seemed to find this an acceptable answer. "It's bad enough you have to share the limelight with her on the whole mummy cause of death thing, huh?"

Brennan bristled. "She's owed her due. She did assist me in the finding. It would be wrong to omit her from the literature." Not that she wished things could be different. There were plenty of rules in life that she followed, despite her desires. Rules gave her structure, and she had always been glad of structure.

"That's very mature of you, Bones."

She gave a shrug. "It's just how adults behave. When there are established rules to follow, it's best for everyone to work within the system. Right?"

She met his gaze as he stared at her, almost in disbelief. She was well aware of the subtext in her own question, but once again she was hit with a flood of unspoken emotion radiating from her partner. His intensity was such that it was physically uncomfortable to sit next to him and not react in some kind of primal manner. But that was not how their system worked. And if she wanted their system to keep working, she could not give in to baser urges when it came to Booth. But she still wasn't clear as to why she had to avoid doing so with his boss' boss. A woman had to have some kind of release now and then, after all.

"Right," he said tightly. The tension between them was broken as Sweets' door opened and he stood in the frame, smiling in a blissful ignorance at them.

"Come on in, you two," he said eagerly.

Brennan stood, being followed in kind, as if it were a well-rehearsed movement, only a second later by Booth. He ushered her in ahead of him by way of drafting her steps, and he took the time to shut the door behind them as she sat down on the couch.

"Dr. Brennan, I would like to congratulate you again on your very impressive achievement," Sweets said, still with an exuberant grin in place.

"Thank you. It was an honor, as well as a statistical improbability, to have been a part of something so rare. The chance of an Egyptian mummy being part of an FBI crime scene is incalculable."

"Daisy has spoken of little else since the findings were discovered," Sweets shared. "She's been absolutely glowing since the night that the Egyptian government honored you."

Dr. Brennan frowned in distaste and cut her eyes to Booth. He cleared his throat and leaned forward toward Sweets. "You know what you need in here? A nice hard candy."

Dr. Sweets frowned at Booth. "Excuse me?"

Booth shook his head and expanded his hands. "I'm not saying you should have a candy-store selection or anything, but would it kill you to put out a dish with some butterscotch or peppermints?"

"Are you trying to quit smoking, Agent Booth?" Sweets asked quizzically.

"What? No, why would you ask me that?" Booth bristled.

Sweets upturned a palm. "You seem to have an oral fixation. It's common in people who are trying to quit smoking. It can manifest because of other issues as well, of course."

Booth put up his own hand to signal the shrink to stop. "I just thought it was a helpful suggestion."

Sweets nodded and jotted something down in his book.

"I do not have an oral fixation."

Sweets glanced up at him. "If you insist."

"I do insist," Booth pressed.

"Okay. Is there any other topic you'd like to bring up or refute before I can offer my assistance?" he asked in a sarcastic tone.

"Nope," Booth said succinctly.

"What about you, Dr. Brennan?" Sweets asked, turning his full concentration to her.

She felt the pressure of a question forming in the back of her throat, which was ridiculous to her as she knew very well that her Broca's area was responsible for her language production, and electrical impulses were sent to her muscles in her tongue and jaw to form the actual words, but still. At that moment, it felt like there was a ball in her throat comprised of words that she was hesitant to utter. At last, she turned to Booth and whispered. "Am I still not allowed to talk about the meatloaf?"

Booth's gaze cut through her. "Are you kidding me?"

Sweets frowned. "Meatloaf?"

"Stay out of this, Sweets," Booth said with warning in his voice.

"Please, Booth. It might help me to understand exactly what I did that was so wrong. I hate that I upset you."

Booth let out a heavy sigh. "You didn't upset me. I'm fine."

She reached out and put her hand on his elbow. "You were upset, Booth. I saw the way you looked at me. I don't care to ever have you look at me like that again. It was awful."

His whole face softened. "I didn't mean to upset you, I just didn't like the situation. It's not exactly easy for me."

"What situation?" Sweets interrupted yet again, seeing as it was his office they were choosing to discuss the topic in.

Brennan waited, her eyes still trained on her partner's face. They sat like that, deadlocked, for what seemed a long while, until Booth finally gave a curt nod. She continued warily. "Booth's boss asked me out to dinner."

Sweets froze for a moment before glancing between them. "Seriously?"

Booth shifted uncomfortably. "Technically he's my boss's boss."

"Assistant Director Hacker asked you out on a date," Sweets reiterated, referring to Dr. Brennan.

"And she accepted," Booth continued the line along.

"Oh. Oh, so this is very weird for you," Sweets said, swiveling his pen around to point at Booth.

"It puts me in an uncomfortable position. I do not care to hear about the sex lives of my co-workers," Booth said with distaste.

"Is Assistant Director Hacker in the habit of filling you in on his sex life?" Sweets asked sensibly.

"What? No!" Booth said, still horrified at the inclination. "But when your partner is involved, there is a certain amount of assumed knowledge and from there certain conversations are inevitable."

"What conversations?" Brennan asked, taking the words from Sweets' mouth.

Booth let out a hassled sigh. "Nothing… specific. Just you know, questions about you, what you like, that kind of thing."

Brennan frowned. "Why would he ask you questions about what I like? I mean, obviously he was attracted enough to want to spend more quality time with me in order to find out if we're sexually compatible. Unless you and I had a sexual relationship, it's unlikely that you could fill him in in a satisfactory manner on whether he and I would be a good fit in that regard. Which truly makes no sense because if you and I had a sexual relationship either it wouldn't have ended if it were good or you would have a biased view on the matter, if we had in fact ended it for some reason."

"I get it, Bones," Booth managed.

"So you've been sexually intimate with this man?" Sweets inferred.

Brennan shook her head. "No. In fact, we never even had dinner. We met briefly for drinks, but before we could order dinner Angela called me in to work on the mummy. Andrew was very understanding, since it was a murder investigation. It's hard to find men that are that forgiving about the nature of my work."

Sweets shot Booth and expectant look. "I would imagine you have the same issues."

Booth shrugged. "You know. It's hard to cut out on an attractive woman for a dead body. But it's my job."

Brennan nodded sympathetically. "I would imagine that's why you and Cam were so compatible," she offered.

"I guess. Look, we talked about it beforehand, and if they'd kept me out of the conversation like she promised, it would have been fine."

Sweets turned a discerning eye back to Dr. Brennan. "You discussed Booth on your date?"

Brennan sighed. "It was just a drink, and it was completely inadvertent. We were looking at the menu and Andrew asked me what was good to eat. I just told what I thought was a harmless anecdote about the meatloaf," she explained.

"It wasn't your anecdote!" Booth exclaimed.

She frowned. "I realized that when you brought me the egg," she said with meaning.

"What egg?" Sweets asked, lost in their constant personal references.

Brennan sealed her lips shut and gave Booth a pleading glance. He rolled his eyes and gave a groan. "Does it really not occur to you that I tell you things, personal things about my life, that I don't tell anyone else?" he asked, turning to her and shutting out their surroundings.

"I did hurt you," she said with a great level of disappointment.

"Yeah, I guess you did," Booth admitted.

"You guys, this is huge," Sweets announced, more than pleased at their progress.

"Don't get all shrinky on us," Booth warned.

"Even you have to admit that this is a facet of your interpersonal relationship that directly relates to your job performance. She's dating your boss—that has to have an effect on both of you, separately and jointly," Sweets explained. "I'm not fully certain where the egg fits into the meatloaf, but," he trailed off.

"I promise not to mention you at all on our next date," Brennan said with utmost sincerity.

Booth and Sweets both turned to her then, shock on both their faces. "You're going to see him again?" Sweets asked, though it was clear it what both men wanted to know.

A sinking sensation overtook her lower abdomen. "I had promised to simply postpone our interrupted evening. Though I suppose if there were a reason I shouldn't reschedule," she led, once again looking to Booth as a guide rather than Sweets.

Sweets, sensing the height of tension in the room, decided to offer his two cents. They never actually asked for his advice, but this time they both seemed glad for the intervention. "If I may, I'd like to share a very important lesson I learned recently. I tried too hard to make things easy for Daisy—not only calling in a personal favor with Dr. Brennan to regain Daisy good standing back on the Jeffersonian team, but then trying to make sure that every last minute of her time spent working on the case went as smoothly as possible. In my altruistic efforts to aid her, I actually did her a disservice."

Brennan frowned. "It wasn't entirely your fault. Miss Wick tries too hard. It's something the two of you share in common, actually."

Sweets winced, realizing he should have braced himself for more abrasive comments. "I realize that, thank you, Dr. Brennan. But my point is that no matter how much you care for someone, you can't live their lives for them. You can only help someone so much before you have to let them make their own decisions and their own mistakes."

Brennan seemed to take in his words before turning to Booth. "Is he talking about you or me?"

"I'm not trying to keep Bones from making a mistake," he said wearily.

"So you don't care if she gets hurt by a romantic downturn with Hacker?" Sweets offered.

"Of course I care, I never said I didn't care," Booth snapped.

"Then what exactly bothers you about her dating him?" Sweets nailed down the most specific question that they'd been skirting.

"I told you! I don't want to become part of their personal business!" Booth said, growing angry yet again.

"This is my fault," Brennan stated matter-of-factly.

"No," Booth said, softening a bit.

"Then what is bothering you, Agent Booth?" Sweets asked, not letting Booth off the hook.

Booth gave Brennan a pained expression, and she ached for him to be free of whatever was bothering him, whether it was under her control or not. He'd never expressed a desire to explore more than a professional relationship with her while they were working together—he was the epitome of the job in her presence. They'd discussed on a number of occasions how what they had was unique and too important to have anything disrupt the apple cart as it were. An inkling of understanding washed over her.

"I won't see him again, if you're afraid it'll mess things up between us, Booth. I'll tell him today, if you like."

Booth's whole body relaxed instantly. "You'd do that?"

She nodded. "Of course. You said, 'what goes on between us is ours.' And if my dating your superior might mess up our working relationship, it's not worth an evening of stimulating conversation and most likely agreeable sex."

Sweets watched the two of them with a modicum of suspicion. "I just want to be clear here," he began. "The two of you are claiming all your issues surrounding this are work related?"

"You never know how people will react in the aftermath of a personal relationship," Booth said to Sweets. "Surely you of all people know that."

Brennan nodded. "Look at you and Miss Wick. In the interest of continuing your sexual relationship, you intruded into her work life in order to keep her happy professionally so that she'd continue making you happy sexually."

Sweets faltered. "I wouldn't say it went quite that way," he stalled.

"How would you say it went?" Booth asked, smirking.

"Well, I mean, obviously Daisy was pleased with the outcome of my intervention. Especially with it ending up with her being published in a major journal as being a part of such a historic find. But if you're asking if we had sex in the Egyptian storage area, then I would like to be clear that we most certainly did nothing to risk damage to any of the very important artifacts in the Jeffersonian's collection," he managed.

Booth smiled. "Nice."

"I would never be as boisterous as Sweets' is about my sexual exploits, if that's your concern," Brennan addressed Booth. "I think only men discuss sex without discretion like that."

"I don't think he's worried that you would have gone into detail about your sexual relationship with his boss," Sweets said assuredly.

"My boss' boss," Booth corrected again.

"I think what bothered Agent Booth is exactly what you just said—men discuss sex without much discretion, especially with other men. He's afraid that Hacker would reveal intimate details about you afterward."

"I thought we had this settled. She's not going to see him again, so what's to discuss?" Booth asked, hoping to drop the last line of conversation.

"You think he would do that?" she asked Booth.

He shrugged. "Men talk. It's all locker room stuff. It's not a big deal most of the time, but usually you don't know the women guys are talking about. I wouldn't want to hear him say things about you."

"That sounds chivalrous somehow," she said, giving Booth a pleased smile.

"Can I make an observation here?" Sweets asked, giving them too much say so yet again.

"Actually, I think we're good," Booth said, clearing his throat.

"I know I feel better," Brennan nodded in agreement.

"I think we could push a little further," Sweets tried.

"I think I need a beer," Booth announced.

"And meatloaf. I've been craving it all week," Brennan added, as she stood up.

"You read my mind, Bones. Let's go."

"You guys, come on. We're so close," Sweets said to their retreated backs. It was too late, however, as they were already focused on the stress-free meal they'd share, just between the two of them.