Let's Move On We've Got Work to Do
"So! Illinois, huh?" Sweets tried to sound as normal as possible, but the truth was that the air had left the room as soon as the partners had come into his office. Only four days had passed since they had insisted on rectifying some about-to-be-published misconceptions. He hadn't seen them since... and he had the feeling they hadn't seen each other either. There was a buttload of unsaid between them, it seemed. The psychologist couldn't quiet his gut. He was curious. Something had to have happened, because they looked fine when they had left that evening. "That's gonna be interesting. Easy access to the suspects... Since you know these people, it'll make it easier for you to get information. But I would advise that agent Booth didn't go as a full-blown FBI agent."
"What else do you suggest he goes as? He is a FBI agent." Then she thought she understood. "You mean, you think he shouldn't go to the reunion. That I can do it on my own? Because if it's the case, I agree."
"What? You can't go alone!" Booth yelped.
"Because! The investigation part of the job is mine. I'm the agent."
Brennan quickly went on the defensive, gesturing towards Sweets.
"I don't want to steal your job, Booth. Sweets is the one who said..."
The shrink raised both hands for her to stop.
"Hey! I was just saying that he shouldn't go in badge first."
"I can be discreet Sweets."
"Of course. I was just thinking that it would be easier for you both to crack the case if no one suspected you were there to crack the case. You know? Like... Like what you did at the circus! That was good."
Brennan looked from Booth to Sweets, slightly feeling out of the conversation. They were talking about her high school reunion, after all. Not that she really wanted to go, but still.
"I can't go to my alma mater as part of a Russian knives thrower married couple!" she exclaimed. "They know who I am already. They know I'm an internationally renowned forensic anthropologist, and I'm pretty hard to miss on the New York Times bestseller's list."
Booth chuckled; Brennan wasn't sure which part of her explanation had made him laugh. But she didn't like it.
"No, I didn't mean the Russian knives thrower part. Just the..."
"... Married couple part?" she finished for him.
It was Brennan's turn to chuckle. But they didn't seem to think it was funny. And she sat up straighter.
"Wait, what? You can't be serious!" she added.
Sweets swallowed hard. After pushing them with his book, maybe pushing them to pretend to be married wasn't the best way to go. Don't react, Lance. If they smell fear, they attack, you know that.
Her eyes reached Booth's. He seemed perfectly calm. It threw her more than she could even know. What the...
Sweets started explaining things rationally. Her brain understood. She did not. But it didn't matter, because ten minutes later, they were on their way to become fake man-and-wife.
Normally, she wouldn't have cared. She loved doing undercover operations with Booth. But this... Going there as herself and parading him around as her husband? No, the timing really wasn't optimum. After everything that had been said, unsaid, confirmed and deformed...
She pushed the door out of the Hoover Building and breathed in the fresh spring air. She still felt trapped. She wasn't really waiting for him, but she knew he was right behind her, and out of habit, she slowed her pace.
She had been forced to agree because, before all this, she would have said yes without hesitation. Had she refused, Booth would have wondered why and all, and they would have missed the reunion. Not that it would have been a bad thing, considering her stomach had been upset from the day she had gotten the reminder letter of convocation. Or invitation. Yeah, right.
Her car was parked on the other side of the street. She stopped on the corner and waited for the red light to go away.
Booth stopped right beside her, hands shoved into his pockets, fingers fumbling with his poker chip. When he realized what he was doing, he let it go and turned his hands into fists. That loss he had taken four days ago should have killed his gambling addiction. Putting it out of his mind, he cleared his throat and watched the cars pass in front of them. Anything not to gaze at her beautiful face. He could still picture the surprise –No, the shock– on it. That flash of pain in her eyes, the... Right. The cars. Focus on the cars.
"You want to grab a bite to eat before you go back to the lab?" he let out, casually. He had asked her that same question at least a hundred times before. Never had it felt like today.
"Uhm... No. I really have a lot to do before this weekend."
He nodded, still not looking at her. But he could feel her stare on the side of his jaw. Which clenched unintentionally.
"What?" he asked, finally turning to her. "Do I have something on my face?"
"Hairs," she bluntly stated.
He couldn't help but laugh this time.
"Well, yes. I am a man."
"You usually shave every couple of days."
"Very observant of you."
Ok. Enough already!
"Booth..." She grabbed his elbow and forced him to look at her again. She held his gaze until she was sure he wasn't going to look away. And she continued. "Why did you agree with Sweets' idea? Don't you think it's unnecessary?"
He shrugged. And away turned his eyes again, to the light that wasn't red anymore but was about to change to yellow.
"What? You want me to go back up there and tell him that we want a divorce?" he joked.
That snarky sarcastic condescending tone... He hadn't used it with her over in 5 years. And she realized just how much she did not miss it. But she took on herself, without even sighing. She just looked down. Fine. The more he wanted to josh around, the more she needed to be serious.
"I just thought it would be difficult for you considering..."
His face quickly turned to her. Was she really bringing this up? Here? If he saw even one fraction of a hint of pity, he was going to lose it.
"Considering what?" he verified.
Her eyebrows rose up. Now she had to sigh. Something told her he was doing this on purpose, but since she wasn't sure...
"You don't remember?" she asked. "We were standing right over there."
Booth gathered all his energy and willed himself not to blink and wince as he died to do.
"If I remember? Are you serious?"
She kept quiet. And her silence made his voice grow louder.
"Of course I remember. Yes!"
Her upper body slightly leaned back as she took it in. She had lost it completely. The ability to know right away how to handle him: gone. She had no idea who that man was anymore. Or didn't she?
"Then... this won't be..."
PLUS, she had apparently lost the capacity to talk in complete sentences.
"Work," he interrupted her. "It'll be work. As usual. Because we're still partners, Bones. Right? I thought it was the whole point."
Guilt washed over him as the same shadow of hurt he had seen a few days before appeared in the blue her eyes. He tried to go back. He tried to get her back.
"Plus, it'll be good for you," he said.
But she clearly did not understand. Because you're making so much sense, Seeley.
"You know... You can show all those retards at that school how great your life has been since they're out of your life."
She tilted her head.
"I don't need a husband for that," she refuted with a smile. A genuine smile.
The light turned to green and they started walking to the other side.
When she caught herself about to link her arm with his, Brennan realized acting normal would be more difficult than she had anticipated. Wracking her brain to find something remotely funny to say to make him laugh or smile or do anything other than nothing, she tripped over her own feet and almost lost her balance.
Booth instinctively went to grab her by the waist so she wouldn't end up on her face in the middle of the street. But as soon as his hand touched her, she literally jumped a few inches away.
"Bones, would you relax?" he laughed.
Heart racing –because of the almost fall, what else?- she stopped walking and turned to him.
"What?" she asked, unaware he had noticed how... weird she felt.
He looked at his feet before telling her what he wanted her to hear.
"It was clear, you know."
"What was clear?" she retorted tit for tat, still breathing heavily from her clumsiness.
"Our talk," he said. And for once, she didn't wonder what he was referring to. "It was clear. We both agreed, so... don't worry."
"I'm not worried," she admitted. Not about that.
But Booth wanted her to really get what he was saying. So he added,
"I'm not going to... you know... grab you and kiss you or anything."
He saw her chest heave heavily, and she blinked slowly. But her voice was surprisingly steady when she replied.
"Why would I think that?"
"I don't know! You jumped when I touched you. I just didn't want you to fall flat on your face, that's all."
She shook her head.
"I told you countless times that I can take care of myself, Booth."
"Right." He put his hands back into his pockets. "Next time, I'll just stand there and watch you take a plunge."
Suddenly, she couldn't wait to be home. Alone. Without all this crap.
"You do that," she said, quickly reaching her car door. "If I have to fall, I'll fall."
"Fine!" he said, giving up. Again.
"Thank you!" she snapped, before slamming the door and starting the engine.
It was very early morning; the sun was barely up. But they already were in Sweets' office for some last minute preparation before they had to drive to the airport to catch their flight to O'Hare.
"So!" the psychologist yelped, cutting right in.
That voice should be illegal before 7 am.
"Are you ready to act like a married couple or should we try some exercises?" he went on.
"We're gonna be fine, Sweets. We argue all the time anyway, so that's not gonna be a problem."
Brennan's head spun towards him.
"That's your vision of marriage? Two people arguing?" she asked. After a pause, she added, "Then why do you want to get married so badly?"
"What?!" Booth shrieked. "Who said I wanted to get married badly?"
"You did!" she assured him.
"Oh, I did not. Maybe I said something like I would like to..."
"No. I clearly recall you saying with the utmost certainty that you..."
Sweets jumped in.
"Yeah ! Ok ! Who am I kidding? You're gonna do just fine."
The partners turned away from each other, just enough for a trained psychologist to see. But, for the moment, this particular one seemed to be fretfully looking for something. He was going through his drawers, his pockets, looking under his books... When he crawled down on the floor to look under the sofa they were sitting on, Brennan really wanted to know.
"Did you lose something, Dr. Sweets?"
"Beside your mind..." Booth mumbled.
"I..." He didn't finish his sentence when his face lit up. "I left your wedding rings in my car. I'll be right back." And he fled.
"Wedding rings?" Brennan repeated, although the young doctor was already gone.
"You know... Small circular jewelry that people wear as a promise of eternal love?"
"I know what they are. I just don't understand why we'd have to wear them."
Booth didn't know why, but part of him really wanted to wear a wedding ring. Even if just for two days. Just to see what it felt like.
"If we want to convince your friends at the reunion..." he said before she interrupted him.
"They're not my friends."
So he tried again.
"If we wanna be convincing, we have to wear wedding rings. That's all. Simple."
She was still making a face.
"It's just an old tradition that people like to honor, ok, Bones?"
She tilted her head, facts pouring in.
"That tradition is probably older than you might think. The oldest recorded exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt, about 4,800 years ago."
Booth smiled widely, but his smile turned to a frown as she continued to babble.
"But I don't see how rings are still relevant in this day and age. Especially since, when you think about it, the ring was exclusively worn only by women, and it was a sign that somebody already owned them."
"Wow. You're such a romantic. Why am I even surprised anymore?"
She shook her head.
"No, I'm not saying..."
But he cut her off.
"Look, I'll wear one too, ok? We'll be equally owned by each other."
His words crept inside of her, sneakily, and rattled her throat.
"Well... We're not really getting married, Booth."
"Oh! Thanks for reminding me!" he laughed out loud. Then grew so serious that even she knew he was still joking. "I totally thought this was real."
So she played along.
And they smiled. Their first genuine smile to each other in almost a week. It felt so good that it tore her up when it ended as soon as Sweets came back. They broke eye contact to focus on the two small velvet boxes the shrink set on the table in front of them. He pulled each lid open and let them see for themselves.
"How did you manage getting the FBI to pay for this? It takes them forever to sign off on reimbursing my lunch expenses," Booth said.
"They're probably fake," Brennan explained. But Sweets denied it.
"They're as real as they get. Just... They're a loan, ok? So... be careful."
Since neither of them looked like they would take them anytime soon, Sweets nudged the boxes.
"Go on, put them on."
Brennan looked at Booth out of the corner of her eye until she saw him reach for his ring. And then, she did the same. But at the last second, he took the one in front of her. She turned to him, eyes still on the ring he was now holding.
"I think that's mine, Booth. The woman usually wears the diamonds. Plus, your fingers are way too big to..."
Booth just smirked. And he held out his hand, palm up, so she'd give him hers.
Brennan's heart started racing. Of course, it was ridiculous. This meant nothing. Why was she feeling so nervous? And excited?
"Which hand do we put it on?" she asked, looking at Sweets.
"Aw, come one, Bones. You're doing this on purpose. Even you know a wedding ring is worn on the left hand." Booth was starting to get annoyed with her. Couldn't she be normal, for once?
"Here? Yes. But that is the not the case everywhere. For example, a Greek Orthodox bride wears the ring on the left hand prior to the ceremony, then moves it to the right hand after the wedding. But in Norway, Russia, Poland, Denmark, to name only a few, the wedding ring is worn on the right hand. And in the Indian wedding tradition as well, since the left hand is considered inauspicious."
Her long tirade over, Booth asked,
"Well... are you Indian, Russian or Polish?"
"Ok. So put down Wikipedia and give me your left hand."
And so she did. With reluctant anticipation. He hadn't touched her since... Should she be worried that the first time they had touched each other after was so he could slide a beautiful, delicate, diamond ring on her digitus medicinalis?
Once he was holding her hand, Booth wondered why he hadn't left her do it herself. But he didn't linger. He might have slowed down a little but as their eyes had met, but... nothing too damaging.
As soon as the ring was in place, she took her hand back. And hid it between her knees, turning to Sweets again.
"Well!" the doctor said. "I now pronounce you fake-husband and fake-wife. You may kiss the fake-bride."
As soon as the words were thrown out there, Sweets bit his tongue. Booth was barely breathing. As for Dr. Brennan, she was biting her lips, and scratching what was probably an imaginary itch under her nose.
So Lance laughed. "Or not!" He snorted a fake, more-than-nervous laugh. "Just kidding." And it seemed to go on for hours. Until he let his fake joke die a proper death.
"You're all set, guys. And Dr. Brennan, even though this is now a work-related event, I would advise you take the time to reconnect and..."
But she was already out the door. Maybe the hand gesturing had put her off.
On their way to the airport, Brennan was reading the files on her former classmates. Some of them really had peaked in High School. But she couldn't really concentrate. Every five seconds, she felt the ring on her left hand again. A constant reminder that it was there. Of what they were supposed to be. Or pretend to be. And she kept staring at it, as if staring it down would make it less weird on her skin.
"This is so distracting. I can't believe women wear these every day," she said, smiling when she turned to him.
He seemed pretty focused on the highway. He didn't respond.
"Isn't yours bothering you?" she tried to spark a conversation again. "I never thought you'd like wearing jewellery. You can't even wear your watch on your wrist more than a few hours. You prefer keeping it in your pocket."
Well, at least he's not not talking to you.
She sighed and turned to look outside.
She knew that... this whole situation was a big deal to her. Part of her was really glad she was about to show all those morons that she, Temperance Brennan, had found the perfect man. They didn't have to know she had turned him down.
If this was not a big deal to Booth, if he was fine with the whole thing… it probably meant that she had done the right thing turning him down. It probably meant his feelings weren't that deep.