five things Booth thinks about when he's driving home at night
For almost the entire day, he's been thinking about the contents of his fridge. More specifically, the second shelf of his fridge. Even more specifically -- and he can tell it's been a day full of too many dead bodies and not enough answers, because he's been hovering around Squintsville for a long enough stretch that he's starting to think in terms of specifics -- he's been thinking about steak. And it's a really fantastic steak, too, and he's going to sear it just enough that he can pretend it isn't basically raw, and then he's going to eat it.
Even the crappiest days come to an end. So now he's on his way home listening to the engine sing steak steak steak with occasional interjections from the indicator which sound like beer beer beer because there's a bottle waiting for him at home, too, a bottle of ice-cold beer that's going to hit the back of his throat before it has time to warm up even the tiniest bit.
On the seat beside him is a paper bag which crackles with promise whenever he turns a corner; it contains a tub of coleslaw, because apparently his doctor thinks he should be eating more vegetables. A steak as good as this one deserves something better than some half-heartedly chopped carrot, though, so he actually made the effort to stop off at that one deli that does the thing with the cheese, man, that is some fantastic cheese -- anyway, they also do coleslaw that's so good it almost fools you into thinking it's a meal in itself, all tangy and fresh and bursting with creamy perfection. He can just imagine it perched atop a piece of steak on his fork, the bloody juices mixing with the cabbage in his mouth --
(He swallows and tries really damn hard not to drool onto his favourite tie.)
The other thing in the bag is a frog made out of chocolate (not a chocolate frog, an actual frog made of chocolate, all three-dimensional and with little froggy toes and everything) which he's going to give Bones tomorrow, because there really were too many dead bodies and not enough answers today. And he thinks she'll get a kick out of the frog and maybe tell him something useless about frog skeletons, and then she'll smile, and he'll be able to stop feeling like his entire body is one big itch. And then they'll go find some of those answers.
But that's tomorrow, and tonight -- tonight there will be steak.
There are flashing lights on the side of the road, an alien strobing of blue and red intruding on his vision as he drives past. An accident; it doesn't look bad, but Booth still finds himself thinking about bones poking through skin and blood-matted hair, merciless forces acting on small bodies. He tries to cut the train of thought off before it reaches its destination, but that's the worst possible kind of don't-think-about-pink-elephants because apparently the human brain was designed for the ideal visualisation of catastrophe. Especially when your line of work gives you plenty of material to work with.
He clenches his hands around the steering wheel and rides the images out: Parker, of course. Parker strapped into a seat as a car turns over, or skids off a bridge, or slams itself into something horrifically solid. In every moment that he isn't right there to be watched and held and loved, terrible things could be happening to Booth's kid. Despite the battles that Booth fights every day to make it just that little bit better, the world is an unfriendly place.
He turns a prayer over in his head, automatically.
This isn't new. He's been having these thoughts since the day his son was born, and though they never get any easier to bear, he meant every word of what he said to Bones: it's worth it. It's always worth it.
He gives himself exactly the length of the drive back home (and no more) to think about Brennan in her dress. Brennan shaking hands with donors and managing not to look bored out of her mind by the proceedings; Brennan leaning close to laugh with Angela, her arms rising gracefully from black satin, green stones strung above her collarbone. Harder to think of her as Bones when she looked like that, when she was an elegant creature belonging to her obligations and the name on her books, the papers she published, the glossy ticket announcing her as the evening's guest speaker.
He wishes he hadn't been standing next to Sweets when she walked in, because the kid had made this little noise like he was trying not to laugh, and when Booth had turned to glare he'd been grinning. No matter what Bones said about Sweets being family now and maybe-you-shouldn't-tease-him-so-much-Bo
It's raining outside the car, a steady drizzle that hasn't really let up since the morning. The city is glittering jewel-like through the water: semiprecious neon, the pearly sheen of monuments, the traffic lights blinking like friendly emeralds.
The thing that indicates just how utterly and completely screwed he is, Booth thinks then, isn't the fact that Brennan in an evening dress has the ability to strip his powers of speech; hell, that's normal, any breathing man would have that reaction. Any man would want to run his fingers along the bare skin of her upper back, draw her close, watch for the smile to deepen on her face and then kiss her lips open --
Uh. That's -- not the thing. The thing that he lets himself think about in these small quiet pockets of time, the real heart of the matter, is the fact that earlier today she was wearing her blue coverall and had her hair up messily, catching rain, mud smudged across her face -- and he wanted her just as badly.
The question is how to untangle the alibis, really, because if Hodgins' bugs are giving the right time then you change your passion for glory
(he turns the radio up, one notch)
-- okay, where was he? Time of death. Because there's a chance, a slim chance, that if they peel the stories down then the boyfriend will turn out to be telling the truth, but if Booth has learned anything in all his years of work then it's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
(then two more notches)
-- alibis? The boyfriend! Right. Something off about him, something in his story that'll make it fall apart if it's jiggled just right, and somewhere in there is a motive, but he's risin' up, straight to the top, have the guts, got the glory
(he's singing aloud by now)
-- went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop, just a man and his will to survive...
"Watch the road, Booth."
He ignores her; looks in the rearview for the twentieth time at her pale face framed by wet hair. Just -- checking. If he takes his eyes off her for too long his heartbeat sours in his chest, ugly with memory.
"You all right back there, Bones?"
"Yes. How's your leg?"
"What? Oh. It's fine." There's a bandage around it, but he'd entirely forgotten. With awareness it starts to throb again.
"You don't have to --"
"Nuh-uh. I promised Angela you were coming home with me, and I don't want her mad at me. She threatened -- parts. Delicate parts, Bones. Of my anatomy. If I didn't get you back."
"But you did." She rubs gingerly at her legs, which are stretched along the back seat, and smiles. A small smile. But his.
"'Course I did." He smiles back, warmed by the faith sketched out by her voice. "You know, anyone else, I'd be telling them not to get my car interior wet."
"I'm trying not to drip," she says, somewhere between dignified and anxious.
"I said anyone else, Bones." His mouth is dry, his tongue solid with emotion. "You drip away."
"I'm not anyone else?"
He takes longer to answer that than he should. She's solid and real and alive and in his safekeeping, for the moment; he's struggling. Some things have been wrenched up today and he hasn't had time to push them back down again. "You -- no. Definitely not."
Her mouth opens slightly, then closes again. She tugs up the towel where it's slipping down one shoulder and says, quietly, "Hmm." As though she's found an anomaly on a skull and it warrants closer study.
"What is it?"
"I've decided something." She looks -- okay, she doesn't look coy, because for Temperance Brennan to look coy some kind of parallel reality thing would have to be taking place, but she looks like she does when she's got a piece of exciting evidence to show him and doesn't want to ruin what is (in her head) going to be a totally brilliant surprise.
"Decided what?" He's nervous now. He couldn't put his finger on why. But he knows this woman better than he knows anyone else alive, and from the tone of her voice he doesn't think this surprise will involve miracles pulled out of human remains.
She leans back with a tucked-away smile that keeps Booth's gaze on her for far longer than is safe. "I'll tell you when we get there," she says.
He swallows hard, flicks his eyes back to the road, and tries to accelerate as subtly as possible.