On Whom the Burden Rests
"So, are you gonna make a move or what?"
Booth, who was returning to his desk coffee in one hand, donut in the other, stared back at them blankly. They were all gathered around. Cam, Angela, Sweets.
What is this?
"Who gave you permission to come in here?" he asked, rudely.
"I work for the FBI, too, agent Booth. I can come and go as I please."
"No," Booth said, a little threatening. "You can come and go and I please. And right now, I don't please. So... out. All of you."
He blinked, surprised. Has the boy finally grown a spine?
"Look, Booth, we just wanted to see if..." Cam started.
"If you were ever gonna move your ass and tell her," Angela brilliantly finished.
"Tell her what?"
They didn't buy it.
What you should've asked is 'Tell whom what'.
They kept staring at him like they were all expecting something.
"Can I drink my coffee first?" he asked.
Sure, make a joke, big man.
"I think it's time, Booth..." Cam told him in a calm voice.
He burst out in laughter. Un-freaking-believable! He shook his head and put down his coffee, because he didn't want to waste it by throwing it on them. And he laughed again. No. Way.
"You can't be serious," he dropped.
He took a step towards them. And magically, they all took a step back.
"You've got to be kidding me!" he continued, a little more aggressively. "Let me get this straight."
He pointed two fingers at Cam.
"YOU told me to wait. YOU," he barked, pointing to Sweets, "told me it was all in my head! Then you publish your crap and tell her for me, and NOW, you think it's time? And YOU..."
Now pointing to Angela, he stopped.
"You actually never told me anything. But it's still none of your business. So my question is," he asked them all, "what the hell's wrong with you, people?!"
"We wanted to make sure you wouldn't hurt her unnecessarily," Sweets explained.
"Sure! 'Cause, you know, my main goal in life is to break her heart."
"We just didn't want you to make a rash decision," Camille argued.
"A rash decision?! I've been in love with her forever!"
Their faces lit up like he were Santa Claus and they all smiled at each other.
"Well, there you go!"
"He's got it."
"That wasn't so hard, was it?"
And they left him with a half squeezed donut in his hand.
Paperwork was done. Thai food was eaten. Now, Booth.
He opened his mouth...
"All done?" he asked. He cursed himself for being such a retarded coward and took the chopsticks and the container she was holding before she even had a chance to respond.
"I guess so..." she laughed, watching him throw it out.
"So... uhm... my brother's wedding is this weekend," he finally started. He was still staring at the garbage, but it was better than nothing. Oh, just spit it out already! "And I was wondering if you'd like to go."
He turned to her, desperately waiting for her to say yes.
"Jared and Padme already invited me," she informed him, sucking the tip of her fingers, making his throat hurt. "I even got my own invitation in the mail." She smiled broadly.
He cleared his throat. Took a step forward.
"No, I mean... I'd like us to go. Together."
She took the only container he hadn't thrown out and dropped it in the garbage. Now standing in front of him, she replied,
"Of course. I don't see the point of taking two cars when we're attending the same reception."
His eyes dove into hers.
"Bones... you're not listening. I'd like you to be my date."
Her heart somersaulted. Relax. That terminology is common. It doesn't mean he wants to date. She couldn't look away.
"What would that entail?" she asked to make sure.
Caught off guard, he staggered.
"Well..." He let out a chuckle. "Uhm..."
He felt pretty calm, considering. He thought he'd be more nervous than he actually was. He had imagined himself turn into a puddle of goo on the floor.
"Normal date stuff," he described. "Like... you'd be dancing mostly with me..."
"I would more than likely do that anyway," she let him know.
"Right. Uhm..." He wracked his brain. How could he put this? "Oh! You wouldn't be allowed to go off with some man or... hook up with some guest." Hook up? Seriously?
Well, that sounds simple enough.
"Alright," she agreed.
"Good!" Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? You can breathe now. Remember how?
He watched her assemble all their paperwork, like if nothing majorly earth shattering had just happened.
Are you sure she knows what just happened? Are you even sure it happened?
Brennan grabbed her purse, trying to make her smile grow smaller. Stop it, she told herself. It's just a stupid wedding .It's just like for Angela's non-wedding. He had asked you then, too.
She was pleased anyway.
She opened the door and held on to it to steady herself. Booth in a tux. Breath taking.
He nearly gasped out loud. Dark blue dress, low... low cut... with some beautiful necklace type thingy holding it in place. Her hair loosely up, gently emphasising the sexiness of her neck... He whistled over-loudly so she wouldn't notice he had almost died.
"You look amazing, Bones."
The low register sincerity in his voice made the back of her neck tickle. Well aware that she was uncharacteristically blushing, she murmured a thank you and ... Yeah. She curtseyed. Just a bit.
"And you look..." Her eyes got lost in their exploration. "... quite dashing." Or deadly sexy.
She unwillingly tore her eyes from him.
"Let me just grab my bolero," she said, trying to regain some composure.
He gazed as she turned around. He had no idea what a bolero was, and he didn't care. That dress had no back. The fabric ended just above her... He shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to discreetly loosen the tightness that was starting to form in his rented pants.
She turned around again, facing him. He held out his hand to help her put it on. Though, in the back of his mind, something told him putting anything over that dress was probably a sin.
She thanked him and handed him her purse instead. He silently chuckled.
"Shall we go?" she asked, already out the door.
He followed her. His eyes dropped to the purse he was carrying. He should have made it clear right away that he had no intention of being her personal purse-holder all night.
"Angela was really happy to get an invitation. She loves wedding receptions."
"That's why she tried to land and overlap two husbands..." Booth said.
She couldn't help but laugh.
"Jared thought it would seem rude to just invite Cam, so he invited the whole lab," Booth went on.
Brennan did her best not to feel disappointed. Booth must have sensed it, because he added,
"I still would have asked you to go with me." He tightened his grip on the wheel. "Since we don't have many family members worthy of being seen in public, his side of the church is mostly made of friends and very distant cousins."
She itched to ask about his father, but she knew him deeply well enough to keep her mouth shut.
"Pops will be there, though. He says he can't wait to dance with you," he spoke up again, glimpsing at her.
Booth was being very talkative. She looked at him, examined him. He seemed... uptight. She looked at his hands.
"You're interphalangeal joints are turning white," she noted.
"Your..." She touched her own hands, as if to remember the correct term. "... knuckles. They're white because you hold on to the steering wheel so tightly. Why are you so tense? You're not the one getting married."
Booth let out a chuckle.
"Oh, it's worse, believe me! You can't even imagine all the stuff I had to do: Rent the tuxedoes, organize the bachelor party, attend the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, make sure I had the ring, write a decent speech, get my brother to church on time, go back home and change, pick you up..."
"I could have met you there, you know," she said.
"Don't be ridiculous. You're the best part of this awful day."
She titled her head, as if it would help her understand.
"But you love weddings!"
"Just because I believe in marriage doesn't mean I love weddings," he mumbled.
She looked outside the window. She could see the church.
"Well, you can relax," she told him. "The book says the best man needs military precision to do a great job and, well, you've got that for sure. So, you have nothing to worry about."
He frowned and took a quick glance at her.
"... Being the Best Man for Dummies," she admitted.
His eyes got a little bigger.
"You read that?"
"I saw it at the library," she said, in her defence. "I was just curious."
He drove into the Church parking lot, chuckling and shaking his head.
"What!" she let out, sounding annoyed, feeling embarrassed.
"I didn't say anything!"
He parked the car and they both got out.
Brennan froze a little bit. All these people gathered in front of the church... She didn't know any of them. She tried in vain to spot Angela or Cam. She calmed down as soon as Booth linked his arm with hers. She didn't feel out of place anymore.
As they approached the guests, they both heard the familiar voice of an old man.
"Well, at least I get to see one of my grandsons tie the knot before I die!" He was talking to three women.
"Pops!" Booth let out, as a warning.
His grandfather turned around and shouted,
"Shrimp!" And he saw Brennan. "And Dr. Beautiful! Come here."
He hugged her so close, Booth had to pull her back a little. His hands were still on her hips when Hank spoke again.
"Well, well. The kid was faster than me on this one. I never thought he would ask you to accompany him before I had a chance to."
"Had I known the original Booth was available, I never would have said yes."
Hank looked around them. Searching.
"Where's Parker?" he asked.
"With Rebecca. He says weddings are stupid and boring."
"Well..." Brennan started. "He's not completely wro..."
Booth put his hands on her bare shoulders to make her stop talking. She did. She felt one of his thumb brush back and forth the skin of her neck. She couldn't have talked even if she'd wanted to.
"Don't you have a brother to calm down or something?" Hank asked.
"Right." Booth looked down at Brennan, letting go of her shoulders. "I have to find Jared. Uhm... You'll be alright?"
"She's in good company. Stop worrying about her and go do your thing," Hank dismissed him. He linked his arm with hers, as Booth would do, and walked her inside the church. She turned to Booth one last time. Their eyes locked. She smiled and mouthed a 'good luck'.
After the ceremony, they arrived at the hotel for the reception. That's when Brennan saw Angela and Cam for the first time.
"Hey," she greeted them. "I didn't see you at the church."
"Oh, we were in the back," Cam said.
"We saw you with Booth's grandfather."
"Yes. He fell asleep during the ceremony," Brennan told them on the tone of confidence.
"Awwww," Angela squealed as if it were the cutest thing ever.
"But he doesn't know that I know, so..."
"No, of course!" both of them promised, pretending to zip their lips together.
Hank arrived right then. Brennan told him they all worked with Booth.
"So! Which ones of you stunning ladies slept with my grandson?" he asked loudly, feeling no shame.
Angela was taken aback, about to laugh. Cam died a little bit on the inside when Brennan and she indiscreetly pointed to her.
"That's it?!" Hank barked. "What's wrong with that boy?" he mumbled, walking away to take his seat at a dinner table.
"Wow," Angela mouthed.
"I feel special," Cam laughed.
"You should," Brennan let out. Special meant singular and unique, and she was. Why were they both staring at her like she had just revealed something extraordinary?
"Bones! There you are!"
Booth made his way through the guests. He looked... somewhat determined.
"What did you do?" Angela asked her.
"I don't know."
Before she could ask him what was wrong, he grabbed hand and pulled her away. And away. They were now out of the wedding reception area.
"Where are we going?" she asked while he still led the way.
He pushed the bathroom door. She frowned.
"I don't have to pee..." she said. He nudged her inside, came in too, and shut the door. Turned the lock.
"Why are you locking the door?"
She watched him as he made sure there was no one else in there with them. And finally, he looked at her.
"I forgot my speech."
"Well... didn't you write it down?" she tried.
"Yes, but I forgot it."
"Ok. Calm down. Uhm... Give me your keys, I'll go get it for you."
He shook his head. He was freaking out, clearly.
"There's no time. Dinner's about to start and I have to make a toast and..."
"What do you want me to do?" she asked, really wanting to help, but at a loss as to how.
He put his hands on her bare shoulders again and let them slide to the side of her upper arms.
"You like speeches. They're like your thing now. You can help me."
She shook her head.
"Booth, you... You're good at this. You can do it. Just... stop thinking and... say what you feel. He's your little brother."
"I don't want to let him down," he murmured.
She laid her palms flat over his chest and looked him in the eye. Though his heart started racing, he felt calmer. He covered her hands with his and breathed out.
"You can do this," she said again, pushing on his chest once.
He nodded slowly.
"Growing up, Jared and I..." Booth started, glass raised. All eyes were on him. But he could only feel hers. Reassuring. Confident. "... we never had a very... solid example of how great marriage can be. And so I'm really happy and deeply touched that he never turned into a cynic. He still believed in love. And today, he's making everyone around him believe. He managed to step up. Be a man, and make that beautiful woman fall in love with him. I mean... she's clearly not after his money," he joked, and everyone laughed. He turned to Jared. "I'm proud of you, little brother. To Jarhead and Padme. God bless you. And may your kids look like her."
Brennan raised her glass like everyone else through the laughs. She couldn't tear her eyes away from him, caught in his stare.
"You may now join the bride and groom on the dance floor," the DJ's voice resonated, amplified by the speakers.
Brennan felt the urge to down her drink. All the loving couples around her made her feel dizzy.
"I officially hate weddings," Angela said, taking a seat next to Brennan, who turned to her, surprised.
"I can't find one single man in here."
"One of Booth's distant cousins was gravitating around you half an hour ago..." Brennan pointed out.
"And I still don't believe he's related in any way to Booth. Did you see that guy? Tiny hands, tiny feet, huge nose..."
"Don't blame the lack of male prospects," Brennan said. "Blame your pernickety side."
"My what now?"
"You're too picky," she explained.
Angela laughed out loud.
"Right. Coming from the woman who's got the perfect best man attending to all her needs."
All my needs? I don't think so.
"Do you wanna dance?" Booth asked her.
She turned to her right. He was there, offering her his hand.
"What did I tell you?" Angela laughed before leaving.
Brennan turned to Booth again.
"Angela's feeling down. Maybe you should dance with her," she suggested.
But Booth took her hand anyway.
"Cam's got it covered," he said, motioning his chin so she'd look behind her.
Angela and Cam, seemingly more than tipsy, were slow dancing together.
She followed her partner to the dance floor, trying to slow down her brain and her heartbeats. She actually stopped thinking for a second when he took her wrists and wrapped her hands around his neck. He let his own hands travel down her naked back. She took in the wonderful sensation and focused her eyes on his necktie. And they swayed to the music, trying to ignore the magnetic pull between them, trying to maintain a safe distance between their bodies.
Maybe the alcohol helped him slightly. Because as soon as he breathed in to try and relax, as soon as her delicate and bewitching scent tickled his nose, he pulled on her lower back and pressed her against him.
She caught his gaze as he pulled her close and her eyes flew shut. Without a thought, she buried her face in him, her forehead against his neck. And breathed him in on purpose. Her fingers moved ever so lightly that she wasn't even sure they were moving. And she touched his hair. She felt him pull away a little and when she looked up to him, he was staring down at her, lips parted. She felt him take a deep breath, his chest against hers. His fingers gently, sensually, stroke up and down her spine, leaving behind a trail of goose bumps. They weren't dancing anymore. They weren't even moving. Under a spell she recognized from having experienced many, many times with him before, her eyes dropped to his lips.
"What's this new dance move called, Shrimp? The 'Chicken Stare'?"
The tension broke as easily as it had formed. Their bodies jerked away from each other. Brennan looked at the floor, and bit her lips before looking at Hank.
"Let me show you how it's done," he said, pulling her hand and twirling her around.
She laughed out loud as Hank turned into Fred Astaire.
"The bouquet toss grew out of a 14th century European idea that brides and everything they touched were lucky. Guests would literally chase after brides in an attempt to tear off parts of their clothing just for the possibility of getting good luck," Brennan explained to Angela.
"We're not gonna shred her dress to pieces, Bren. It's just a fun tradition. Come on!"
But Brennan wasn't moving.
"Booth, please tell her she has to. I don't want to go alone!"
Brennan turned to Booth, frowning. How was Booth asking her the same thing Angela just did get a different response from her?
"Come on, Bones. Do what people do. Stand behind the bride, scream like a maniac and pull the hair of anyone who tries to steal the bouquet from you."
"You're not helping, Booth," Angela said.
"See? Even Booth thinks it's stupid."
Booth put down his glass, shoved his hands in his pockets and turned to face the dance floor, where single ladies were gathering.
"Oh, I didn't day it was stupid. I'd really like to see you fight over some flowers."
Angela was going to hit Booth. But before, she got Brennan to look at her.
"Look, I'm just asking you to stand beside me. What are the chances of you catching the bouquet anyway, huh?"
"Judging by the fact that they all seem really drunk? I'd say pretty good," Brennan said, sighing. "Fine, I'll do it." And before Angela could make a high pitched noise, she added, "But I won't try to catch it."
Booth watched them join the horde of drunken females and chuckled to himself.
The bouquet toss music started. A wave of frenzy shook the small crowd, skipping over Brennan, who was just standing there, hoping it would all be over soon.
"You ready?" Padme asked them, getting excited giggles and screams thrown at her. She turned her back to them and started the countdown. "One..." She swung the bouquet back once. "Two..." Twice. "Three!" And let it fly back.
She didn't even gasp. She just stood there, while everyone around her whined their disappointments. Some guests clapped their congratulations. She just stared blankly at it. Of course she had to be the one to catch it.
Angela was still laughing when they got back to the bar where Booth was waiting for them. Brennan saw him open his mouth and just shot him a threatening look.
"Don't say anything," she warned him.
"I wasn't going to." He was dying to laugh out loud. He pursed his lips and ordered a glass of bourbon. As soon as the bartender gave it to him, he slid it towards her.
She downed it in one gulp.
He leaned in and chanted softly in her ear,
"You're getting married next."
She slammed her glass on the bar, shuddering the alcohol taste away.
She was about to go with the usual, 'I'm never getting married.' Or the 'It's just a stupid, meaningless tradition kept to entertain a restless crowd of lonely women...' But she looked down at the bouquet she was now holding. And his gaze came and locked with her eyes.
She discreetly watched him. He was staring at his brother and his new bride who were whispering into each other's ears, giggling. It didn't make any sense, but she could almost feel his longing.
"You're gonna have this too, one day."
He felt her hand on his arm. He instantly covered it with his.
"How do you know?" he asked as she typically would have if the conversation had been reversed.
"Because I know you," she simply said. She looked at the newlyweds. And then, as she imagined Booth in Jared's shoes... it dawned on her. As much as she wanted him to be happy, she didn't want him to have all this. She really didn't want to stand there, one day, looking at him that happy. Which meant she was a horrible person.
"Are you ok?" Booth asked, seeing how lost in her thoughts she appeared to be.
"Yeah," she tried to smile.
He leaned in closer.
"What is it?" he whispered.
Her eyes were shimmering.
Her throat was closing up.
"You'll make a very good husband," she huffed.
How did she manage to shake his insides every five seconds? He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to make her understand. He wanted her to see.
But he chose the easy way and simply made a joke. Teasing was so much easier.
"Well, I'm not the one who caught the bouquet..."
"You ready to go?" Angela asked her.
Brennan had spent all day on this cranial reconstruction. She'd do the rest in the morning.
"Yes. Are the others coming, too?"
She never used to care what her coworkers did after work. But she had grown to like having them gathered together in that bar at least once a week. She felt like she was part of something.
"They're already there," she answered. "And judging by Hodgins' text message," she continued, looking through her cell phone, "already half tipsy. Booth is teaching Sweets how to play darts."
Brennan laughed, shaking her head. That could easily take a turn for the worse.
"Hey, so, what time did you get home after the wedding?" Angela inquired. "I lost track of you sometime after 2 a.m."
Brennan fastened her bag on her shoulder and turned off the lights of her office, following Angela out of the lab.
"Around... 3, maybe? I don't really remember."
"And... did you two make any further plans?"
Fine, I'll spell it out!
"Did Booth ask you out again?"
"Well, were supposed to go to dinner, but I had to work on the skull, so I told him we'd grab drinks with you all afterwards. Why?"
Angela stopped walking, so Brennan turned to her.
"Is there a problem?" she asked.
I can't believe I'm the one who has to break it to her.
"Honey... you're dating Booth."
Brennan laughed out loud, but her laugh dies out quickly.
Angela kept silent.
"I'm not dating Booth."
"Yes, you are."
Brennan sighed. So the artist gathered some undisputable evidence.
"You two are not allowed to date other people," she said, keeping count with he fingers.
"I am! He never asked me not to." Which means, we are not dating. Booth would never date a woman who dates other people.
"But are you? Dating other people, I mean."
"No..." she lingered. "But it's by choice!"
"It's always a choice, Brennan." And she continued to present the evidence. "You attended the wedding together..."
Brennan stopped her again.
"We're always together, Ange. How's this even remotely relevant?"
"And after you caught the bouquet, which, by the way, you said you wouldn't try to catch, I saw the way you looked at each other. You were thinking of marrying special agent Seeley Booth, and how easy it would be."
Brennan had to laugh. She just had to.
"I was not!"
Angela stuck to her theory, letting Brennan out to fend for herself.
"Ok, so according to you..." she started, "if Booth and I are dating because we grab drinks, have dinner and look at each other..." She locked her eyes with Angela's. "Then I guess, you and me, we're are dating, too?"
Angela wasn't fazed at all.
"You can argue all you want, sweetie. Doesn't change a thing. You and Booth are dating."