Fic: Subtle, Part Two
Summary: Sometimes you need a friend. Sometimes you need a psychologist. Sometimes, it pays to have someone who's both. On growing up, consequences, transition and commercial breaks; Cam and Sweets have a discussion in the aftermath of Con Man.
Word Count: 2,444
Pairing/Characters: Cam, Sweets, mentions of Booth/Brennan and the rest of the squint squad
Spoilers: Up to Season 4, episode ten The Passenger In the Oven.
Rating: T for occasional cursing.
A/N: I originally meant to write a smallish rantessay about the problem with Bones after watching Con Man, but it morphed into a discussion between Sweets and other characters in my head. Un'beta'd. For lovenugget, who loves Sweets as much as I do and read through part of this to make sure I wasn't going insane.
Ten minutes is not a very long time. It's the blink of an eye in a day, a breath in a week, and the life cycle of one heartbeat in a lifetime.
Ten minutes can have different consequences. It's the ten minutes between the time Brennan exits stage left and Camille enters, stage right, that determines the course of Sweets's discussion with the latter.
She enters without her usual bit of sass and swagger, the cheerful, yet firm attitude that had carried Dr Saroyan through ten years of cop work and now keeps the rather unruly group of scientists, federal agents, and graduate students in check. Today, however, Camille Saroyan is not a doctor, or a boss, but a woman left in the wake of Hurricane Booth. In the ten minutes of discussion that she had shared with Sweets earlier, she is left, if not foundering, then standing with her ankles in the ocean.
She's not tense when she comes in, just tired. Without an invitation, Cam plops down in a seat, staring past the bland wall in front of her as Sweets pours them both a cup of cocoa, a well-deserved treat after the disaster of the last few days.
There is silence as they sit amicably, but eventually, Cam breaks it. 'This sucks,' she says. 'This sucks big time.'
'Yep,' is all Sweets says, sipping his drink.
'I mean,' Cam, 'I can't believe... I can't believe she did that to Booth.'
'Which one?' Sweets asks, smiling a little. She makes a face before a small grin stretches her lips.
'To Seeley,' she says softly. 'Jared...' She groans. 'Insofar as I'm concerned, right now, Jared Booth can take a long walk off a short pier. Or off the Chrysler building.' She shakes her head and laughs. 'That's out of my jurisdiction now, so I won't be the one shoveling him off of the ground.' She looks at him. 'I don't know who to be angrier at,' she admits. 'Brennan for being such a dupe or Jared for duping her.' A sip of her drink revives her a bit. 'What do you think?'
'Honestly?' Sweets shrugs. 'My personal feelings are mixed. I'm not particularly angry, more confused on Agent Booth's behalf. But if it came down to the two,' he says, leaning forward, 'Dr Brennan made an error in judgment, but Jared purposefully manipulated her. If it were me? I'd forgive them both, but Dr Brennan is the only one of the two who's hurting after all this. Jared's not a sociopath by any stretch of the imagination, but he's...'
'Immature?' Cam supplies helpfully, smiling.
'Yes, definitely immature.' Sweets shakes his head. 'He's obviously intelligent enough to gain a job such as his, but he's only interested in himself at this point in time. He's got a lot of growing up to do-'
'But he's inflicting his growing pains on everyone else,' Cam sighs. A quiet growl of frustration grows in her throat while she twists her hands together, jiggling her leg and grinding her teeth. 'I'd like to inflict some pain on him right now. Why the hell would he do that? To Seeley? To Brennan?'
'To you all,' Sweets clarifies. 'Perhaps Booth-lite hasn't realised it yet, but he's just entangled himself with a very protective family.' He laughs. 'I'd feel bad for him if he wasn't such a... a...'
'Jerk?' Cam asks.
'I was going to say douche, but that's just unprofessional,' Sweets quips. He's rewarded with a shining smile, Cam's lips blossoming into the lovely grin that crinkles her eyes and makes her glow.
'That sounds about right,' she muses.
'But yes,' Sweets says, 'Jared Booth is going to be walking into a fairly hostile environment next time he decides to pop in and give big brother a hello.'
'Should I try to smooth things over with everyone?' Cam asks. 'As much as I'd like to sock the little bugger in the face right now...'
'No, no,' Sweets says, shaking his head. 'Agent Booth, I think, has made a deliberate decision to let Jared take his own knocks from now on. Trying to ease the pain will only feed into Jared's destructive habits. No, he needs to feel the hostility, for two reasons. The first is simply that he needs to really know, realistically instead of just intellectually, that Booth isn't going to play shining knight to his damsel in distress anymore.'
He hesitates, not sure if his reasoning is sound for the other reason. He honestly cannot tell if what he's about to say is a cool, sound, professional opinion on what might help Jared, or if he simply wants to let the wormy little brother suffer a bit more for his transgressions against Booth and by extension, the Jeffersonians.
He goes ahead anyways.
'The other reason,' he says, 'is that Jared needs to feel that pain from outsiders. If it's just Agent Booth acting that way, he might just assume his big brother is being a dunderhead ass and think nothing of it. But by the actions and attitudes of those in his peer groups- other intelligent, successful adults- he may actually learn his lesson.'
'So basically,' Cam says, 'let the whelp feel a little hellfire so he learns not to do it again.' She smiles again, chuckling. 'I like it. Bravo, Sweets, you really are one of us.'
The simple, off-hand compliment brings a burst of joy in the young psychiatrist, but he manages to keep himself from grinning too broadly.
'And now,' Cam says, 'to the other thing.' She sets down her cup of chocolatey goodness with evident regret, folding her hands together.
'How do we,' she asks, 'make sure that Brennan and Booth survive this?' The earnestness in her voice rings clear Cam's desire to heal the rift that now threatens Booth and Brennan, not only for the sake of the team, but for two dear friends as well.
'Dr Brennan and I have already spoken,' Sweets says, sitting back in his chair. 'She knows part of what she has to do, but what you need to do, more than Angela and Hodgins, is help her to understand the nature of being a friend to Agent Booth. She's his partner and- as I told her- a loved one, but Dr Brennan's understanding on the nature of friendship can be a bit, well, flimsy at times. This works out well with Angela, with whom she shares a deep bond, but the connexion between Agent Booth and Dr Brennan differs from the one she shares with Angela.' Sweets sighs, massages his temples with his fingers.
'Dr Brennan lives in a world of serious denial when it comes to Agent Booth,' he continues, 'simply because the feelings he evokes, the person he is, pulls at something that doesn't deal with the giant, broad picture she's used to dealing with.'
'I don't understand,' Cam says, pausing to take a gulp of her drink. 'What kind of feelings? Love?'
'I'm not talking about in the simple emotional sense- love, hate, passion, lust, respect, amusement, and so on,' Sweets says. 'What.... what I think it is is, well, complex.' He looks at Cam seriously.
'Agent Booth,' she says, 'is in many ways what her father, what her family should have been. He shares characteristics with all the members in her family- the ability to love deeply, intensely, and over long periods of time. He's protective of her. He's proud of her. Even down to almost random details- he's killed for her, he's been injured for her, he doesn't hesitate to correct her when she's wrong and praise her when she's right. But he leans in the direction that her family never could- all are loyal, but come hell of high water, Agent Booth will not leave her. He stands on the lawful side of the line. He's dedicated and passionate, but most importantly, he stays. In her entire life, that's something very new, very different. Even Angela, her best friend, is very hazy in her travels; she comes and goes. Booth is grounded and a core, and I think that confuses her. Dr Brennan tends to see life as being very transient, simply one change after another. She doesn't understand that side of Booth, even though she herself is capable of amazing loyalty. To be honest, Dr Saroyan-'
'Just call me Cam, Sweets. We're not at work.'
'Cam. To be honest, Cam, I think what confuses Dr Brennan evokes two emotions; annoyance, and fright. Normally she simply feels annoyance. But with Booth, the emotional hold he has over her scares her. I think in one sense, she was looking to find a real flaw with him. In another, maybe she thought that by gravitating towards Jared, she was asserting some sort of metaphorical independence. Perhaps she thought she was being spontaneous and impetuous. Maybe she thinks that she can't have all of Booth and so Junior is a safer bet because he's a Booth who cannot work magic on her. But I do think part of it boils down to the fact that Dr Brennan, though she may not admit, has a similar issue with interpersonal relationships that Angela does.'
'And that would be?'
'Again, transition. Impermanence. In the whole of Dr Brennan's life, academia has been the only solid thing to grasp. Family was fleeting, boys probably broke her heart, she was shifted between foster families, but books would never fail her- probably why she has such a strong grasp on writing. But then, here comes this really handsome man who saunters into her life, who dominates without being domineering, who is everything she used to know, but is a foreigner to now. And for whatever reason, he never seems to go away.' Sweets thinks for a moment, lips twisting as he tries to think of the right way to say things. 'It's like the high school science nerd gets paired up with the quarterback in chemistry class, and finds out that he's actually kind and caring and wants to be her friend. It'd be overwhelming for anyone.'
'And then the popular boy turns out to have a dark family secret,' Cam sighs, flopping back into her seat. 'It's like some soap opera or something.'
'Only life can't be resolved during the commercial break,' Sweets adds. 'Dr Brennan isn't good at coping. She avoids. She doesn't try to forget what's happened, she tries to obliterate everything connected with it. Her feelings, probably stronger memories... she's not at ease with intensity. She glosses everything over and doesn't realise on everything she's missing out.'
'And Booth?' Cam asks. 'What about Seeley?'
'Agent Booth has a boatload of issues to work out himself,' Sweets says. 'The first, and foremost, being trust. Particularly with Dr Brennan.'
'Really?' Cam thinks for a moment. 'They seem to trust each other quite a bit, Booth especially.'
'Yes, and no.' Lance shakes his head, pursing his lips in frustration. 'He trusts her with things like his life, and to think for herself, but in a way, he hides the same way she does. He's known pretty much everything about Dr Brennan's family, even before her mother's remains came to light, yet she knew just about nothing. I think perhaps Dr Brennan was a little hurt by the fact that you knew more about Booth's past then she did, considering the copious amounts of time they spent together. And if she is, she'd be right in her feelings. Booth created a situation where one might think he was ashamed of something, and Dr Brennan doesn't have the emotional brainpower and social experience to put his actions into the proper context. So she took the first piece of information that came along, and viola, we have lift-off.'
There is more silence, still comfortable, still thoughtful, and now lingering as the two doctors try to figure out their next step, both knowing that it could push their friends into a stronger relationship or ultimately oblivion.
'They need time,' Cam says, more to the air than to anyone in the room.
'I think we all do,' Sweets clarifies. 'All for different reasons, but the truth of the matter is, Cam, that right now, you and I, we're the level-headed ones in the bunch. Our personal lives aren't particularly shifting; we're not dealing with old loves or ex ones or severe emotional upheaval. '
'So what do you suggest?' She asks quietly, unsure, un-Camlike.
'That we let things flow,' Sweets says. 'Both Agent Booth and Dr Brennan are probably going to act like things never happen, it's how they cope. But they need that tension, Booth needs time to scab his wounds, and then...'
'Kaboom. A needed one. Pressure must vent, and Dr Brennan needs to learn that there are consequences to her actions. What she does affects the lives of those who choose to cleave to her, whether she wants that responsibility or not. I think that she's forgotten that part of being a person; that others in our lives don't exist simply as plot devices to further our own story. Life's an ensemble cast, not a monologue.'
The slow, bright smile stretches across her face again. 'Very insightful, Sweets. I didn't know you had it in you.'
He merely smirks and says, 'Because, y'know, I'm not a psychologist or anything.'
'No, not all.' And she laughs, a real burst from her belly, the first she's had in days. She gets up to go, straightening her skirt, smoothing her hair.
'And it's back to the lab,' she sighs. 'Dr Brennan's going to China to look at ancient dead things, and I've got a group to run.' She lifts her mug. 'Great cocoa by the way- is there peppermint?'
'Just a touch, and I heard,' Sweets says. 'What about Booth?'
'He's been commandeered to watch over all her things,' she says. 'No rest for the wicked.'
'Only for the dead,' he muses, and smiles. 'See you at the lab.'
'See you tomorrow,'
She leaves, and he sits up, stretching and sighing happily as he feels his joints crack in a rapid fire pop pop pop. He decides that another cup is in order, and reaches down to grab both his and Cam's. A quick glance shows that she's flown the coop with his favourite mug, bright green and garish pink that Daisy had given him. Well, crap.
The slight tinny noise of his phone going off catches him off guard. He picks it up and reads the message. Hope you're free. Coming over. Hodgins.
No rest for the wicked, indeed.