Arabian Nights

Chapter 3: Gambling

Booth had a good day, even though he missed Bones. Missed knowing she was in the house while he was in the garage. Missed knowing that when he went back in for a snack or to go to the bathroom, or in the late afternoon to clean up for the day, that he could go find her and kiss her. It was fun to kiss her before he washed up, see if he could make her forget that his hands were all greasy.

Today he worked on his current project late. It was only after he turned off the classic rock station—right in the middle of Jackson Browne's The Load Out/Stay—that he realized how dark it was. As if the sun were tuned to the music. He remembered feeling that way as a teenager, like the day wasn't over as long as the music was still playing. In the sudden silence, the shadowy corners of the garage were prominent although unthreatening. He felt safe, standing in the middle of his work space, the sounds of crickets creeping in past the ticking of the cooling engine.

He stopped himself from rubbing his face or neck; his hands were really dirty. He tossed the long ¼ inch lag bolt that he had found on the floor where the hell had it come from? that he had been fiddling with for the last ten minutes onto the workbench as he went through the connecting door to the mudroom.

As sometimes happened when he worked on cars, he hadn't thought about anything in particular during the long hours, but he knew from experience that it was during those timeless intervals of handwork that his brain made the connections it most needed to make. He didn't have any ideas for stories yet, but he'd figure it out. First, dinner.

He couldn't be bothered to order pizza for one, plus it was kind of depressing when the guy usually delivered a pizza for two. He turned on the tv and was eating cereal standing up, checking scores, when the door opened. Booth swallowed too quickly in surprise and choked, almost spitting out the milk and cheerios. "Bones!"

"Hello, Booth." She shut the door behind her and walked slowly into the room, putting her bags on the floor by the closet. She looked a little tired, a little dejected.

"You okay?" He put the cereal down and moved across the room to her, standing close but not touching her yet.

"Yes. Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" There was wariness there, in her eyes, but she was still Bones. Didn't back away. He took a chance and leaned down to press a light kiss to her mouth. Her response wasn't...enthusiastic, but still, his whole body thrilled to her taste. He let his mouth rest lightly against hers for a long second and pulled back. Her eyes were watchful, searching, on his.

"Are you hungry? I could order a pizza—"

"No, Booth. Don't do that. I'll make myself a salad." She smiled a little, falsely cheerful when had she learned to do that? and occupied herself busily in the kitchen. He grabbed a beer and the open bottle of white from the fridge, took her spot from last night, poured her a glass of wine.

Her sharp eyes missed nothing, including, apparently, the grease smudges he had missed. "You worked in the garage today?"

"Yeah. I got the engine running, finally."

"That's good." Her long shiny hair, thicker than ever since her pregnancy, hung in front of her face as she bent over the cutting board. "I saw Angela today."

"Really?" He was surprised. Since Michael Vincent, Angela rarely worked on weekends. "Yes. She is hoping make progress on some of our ongoing cases." Her eyes glittered as they met his. Pelant. He nodded and drank his beer.

"Will you..." Her eyes slipped up to meet his again. "...will you tell me the end of the story?"

The feeling of the connection between them, so thready and weak these last days, was suddenly pulsing, pressing hard and high inside his chest. Before he could help it, he was rubbing the skin over his breast bone, along his clavicles, trying to lessen the pressure. He swallowed, ventured a teasing smile. "You really want me to? Honestly, it's not much of a story."

She turned away, washed her hands, and after she wiped them on the towel, she sat down kitty corner from him at the counter. "Yes." Her husky voice and careful enunciation all Bones. "Yes, I would like that."

"Well," he said, "I don't know exactly when you fell asleep—"

"Your tour was up and you were coming home."

"Oh, well, yeah. So I decided to surprise her, and at the same time, maybe avoid any sort of welcoming committee. I really didn't want to see a lot of people. So I lied, told her I'd be coming home on a specific day and then flew in a week early. I drove to her apartment, let myself in with my key, and realized that she wasn't living alone."

Brennan was surprised. "She was in a relationship with another man?"

"I guess so. I never really found out how serious it was, but his clothes were in the bedroom, more than a few, so yeah, it looked like he had been living with her at least a little while. Like I said, I never really got to know him. She came home, alone thank god. No Parker, no other guy. I attacked her the minute she got in the door, demanding to know how long she had been seeing him and when she was going to tell me, and my temper set off her temper and before I knew it we were screaming at each other. She yelled at me to get out, that she hadn't wanted to break it off while I was away, didn't want to do that to me but now she was sorry she had bothered, and I...I...I called her names. Accused her of betraying me. Which I suppose, technically, she had, but...well, I dunno. Seems complicated now, less clear cut than it was."

She nodded and agreed, softly. "Yes. I can see that."

He sighed, getting ready to finish his story. "So the neighbors came up and complained at the racket we were making, and I slammed out of there."

"Is that when you started gambling?"

"No, I didn't start gambling until later." He remembered something suddenly. "You know, my mother liked to gamble."

"What?"

"Yeah. I just remembered. My parents used to drive us to county fairs, outside of Philly, on the weekends during the summer. Some of them had horse tracks, demolition derbies. My mother and I would stay and bet on the races the whole time while my father and Jared would walk around. Jared wanted to ride the rides and play the games. My Dad wanted to get a beer. But Mom and I, together we would look over the race booklet and pick our favorite names, pretend we knew what to look for in a horse." He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. "I had forgotten that."

"Do you think that your gambling addiction began when you were that young?"

He felt defensive, but wasn't sure why. He had had a problem. Still went to meetings sometimes. "I guess so. So, anyway, Bones, that is the story of how Rebecca and I broke up. I stayed with a buddy for a few weeks, called her sometime around then and learned to eat crow."

"I know what that phrase means, Booth, but I don't really understand what it means, if you know what I mean."

"Well, you know how it was when you and I were first partners, me begging Rebecca for scraps of time with Parker?"

"I think so. I remember her being very capricious—changing plans at the last minute, arguing over the way you took care of Parker." She smiled at him. "I wasn't an expert with children at that time, Booth, but I always thought you were a good father."

He smiled back at her and took her hand. He squeezed it, in thanks, and she squeezed it back before rising to put her dishes in the sink. "Well, I'm tired, Booth. I think I might read for a while in my office."

That fucking office. He should have wrecked her office while she was gone. Instead, he just said, mildly, "You gonna let my victory last night go unchallenged, Bones? Plus, I have another story for you."

She seemed torn, but then, to his relief, gave in. "Okay, but you have to make popcorn. I'm still hungry."

Two hours later, they had played more cards and broken into one of the games that Booth had bought for Christine even though "she won't be developmentally prepared to play most of these until she is at least eight or nine years old, Booth." They had played Payday, laughing at the silly postcards they got in the mail and speculating wildly. Brennan won this one and did a little dance on the way to the kitchen with her wine glass.

"Did you just shimmy, Bones?"

"What? No, not at all. I just...did a little victory dance that Russ and I made up." She dared him to make something of it. He let it go and moved in once her hands were free, pulling her close against his body and dancing her around the island, flicking off the lights as he went. She laughed and went boneless, letting her dead weight slow him to a stop near the wall by the stairs. Leading up. To their bedroom. Her head pressed into his chest, hard. Her face was hidden beneath her hair, against his shirt.

"Bones." He growled.

Her hands slipped up, reluctantly, to tighten around his neck as she straightened and tipped her head back. He watched the smile fade from her face and her beautiful blue eyes were watchful again. What was she looking for? As he wondered if he should kiss her, she arched up smoothly and kissed him, hard. He didn't need words or any more of an invitation than that. He forced her mouth open and held her face in his. Let her try to take this away from him, just fucking try. Like that, he was angry again. Angry at Pelant for making him work for what was his, what was theirs. There shouldn't be any doubt. He shouldn't wonder if he could kiss her, if she wanted him to.

She kissed him back, her mouth hot and needy under his. He stroked her mouth with his tongue, her tongue with his. She tasted so good. Bitter and sweet and all Bones. And then she ripped her mouth from his, panting and arching away from him now and it was all he could do to hold on to her, using his strength to reel her back into his body. This time, he curled into her, clutched her struggling body against him, pressed his face against her neck. She stilled, stiff in his arms, but not fighting him.

"Booth. Let me go."

"I can't. I don't want to. Why do you want me to?" He spoke, low and harsh, against her throat.

"I need space. I need...I need...space."

"Give me a minute, okay? Just a minute." He breathed her in, memorized the shape of her under his arms for later. Before he let her go, he whispered in her ear. Played his trump card, gave up his best story, early in the game. But it wouldn't do him any good later, if he lost the game now.

"How many times do you figure I saved your life?" He spoke low, in her ear, against her jaw, his lips moving as he spoke, almost like a kiss.

She wasn't sure what he meant. "I...I don't know."

"Well, whatever number you come up with, add one to it. One time I saved your life that you don't know about. Until now." Before she could stop him, he pressed one last hard kiss to her lips. "I love you, Bones. See you in the morning."

He turned and walked up the stairs to their room. He was awake a long time, listening to her move around the kitchen and living room, straightening up. He heard her go into her office, but after that he had to pretend. He would have to have bionic hearing to hear what he thought he heard. The sound of her settling herself on the couch, blanket over her lap. The snick of the lamp turning on. The whisper of pages being turned. The catch of her breath as she tried not to cry.

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