|The Truth and the Life
Author: Fourth Rose PM
Where do Booth and Brennan go after the roller coaster ride that was season 6? In this story, they're going abroad.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - S. Booth & T. Brennan - Chapters: 8 - Words: 37,872 - Reviews: 105 - Favs: 51 - Follows: 81 - Updated: 11-02-11 - Published: 06-20-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7100692
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Here we go… this is my first attempt to work with everything season 6 threw at us. I have major issues with the way the season went, but this is not an attempt to "fix" that for myself – rather, I'll try to build my story on what we were handed by the creators in a way remains true to my perception of the characters, and of everything that went down between them in the course of the season. I know that baby!fluff is all the rage at the moment, but if you're willing to give a slightly grittier approach a try, I'd be very happy to hear what you think of it :-)
Warning: This fic deals with some pretty dark topics, so please proceed with caution. There's no B/B-related tragedy – I promise that they'll make it through the story safe and sound, just don't expect them to float through it on a cloud of fluffy pink cotton candy ;-)
Chapter 1: The Blessed Child
"I still don't like this, Bones."
She gives him a quick glance before turning back to the book she's been reading. "Then you shouldn't have come along."
Booth sighs and leans back in his seat. Three more hours until Frankfurt, eight in total until Vienna, probably another two until he'll finally get to lie down properly. He's finding out the hard way that even first class seats have their limits as far as comfortable sleep is concerned. It still irks him that she paid for his ticket, but the last few weeks have taught him to pick his battles.
"As if I'd ever let you go alone."
She doesn't even look up from her book this time. "I've gone abroad on my own plenty of times before."
"Yes, but you weren't pregnant then."
He realizes that he made a mistake the moment the words are out. She closes the book and puts it aside, her irritation obvious. "Are you planning to keep treating me like a helpless child for the next seven months?"
He shouldn't let it get to him, but she has been curt and snappish with him ever since she first mentioned this trip, and even his patience has limits. "Jeez, someone's testy today."
"I'm testy because you're condescending and patronizing." Her expression dares him to bring up the matter of hormones – the one time he suggested that, she almost bit his head off, and as much as he would love to blame hormones for her current behavior, he figures this whole situation is not how she wanted things to go either. Still, he can't help feeling a little stung; he's well aware that he didn't make for the most pleasant company during the past months, yet she took it in stride – but now that he's trying, really trying to make things work between them, she acts like she can barely stand to be around him.
Okay, so maybe that's not entirely true (and he's got a fresh hickey low on his hip to prove it), but things definitely don't seem to be heading where he hoped they would when he'd finally wrapped his mind around the news that they were going to have a baby together.
A baby. Temperance Brennan is expecting his child. He has had a few weeks to get used to the idea, but he suspects he won't really believe it until he's holding his newborn child and sees it looking back at him with Bones' blue eyes. Booth tries to hold on to the image of that moment, because it never fails to silence the nagging feeling of uncertainty, the chorus of Too soon and Not like that that's been playing in his mind like a broken record ever since the initial, stunned giddiness has begun to fade.
Time for another olive branch, then. "Bones, I'm just worried about you – you know that, right?"
"That doesn't make it any less irritating." Looks like he's not getting off the hook anytime soon. "I'm fine, Booth, which you should have noticed since you barely leave my side these days – there's no need to treat me as if I had suddenly become unable to take care of myself."
He has to admit that she has a point. He still remembers how Rebecca spent most of her first trimester puking her guts out (that's as far as his personal experience with pregnant women goes, because their relationship ended before her morning sickness did), but Bones really seems okay – no dashes for the bathroom with her hand clapped over her mouth, no significant changes in her eating habits, nothing that would suggest to an outsider that she's eight weeks along already. He can no longer use his favorite aftershave because she claims that the smell makes her nauseous, but that's pretty much the only kind of "pregnant" behavior he has seen from her. The physical changes are there, but they're still subtle – nobody who doesn't get to see her naked, doesn't get to feel the new, heavy fullness of her breasts under his hands could possibly notice them yet.
Booth quickly reins in his thoughts before they can stray further in that particular direction and decides to try a different approach.
"What are you reading?"
She shoots him a look that tells him he isn't fooling her. "A book on the case I've been asked to consult on."
"Doing a bit of last-minute cramming, huh?"
It was an attempt to lighten the mood with a little teasing, but her affronted expression tells him it backfired. "It takes a while to get a copy of a German book printed in the Fifties."
She seems to have noticed his surprise, even though he has the good sense not to say anything that might incense her further. "It's a bit outdated, I know," she relents, "but I'm told it's still the most comprehensive work on the history of the subject I'm going to work on."
Now, at last, he can see firmer ground ahead; he doesn't want to spend the rest of their journey in the same kind of uncomfortable silence that has settled between them since the plane took off, and getting her to talk about her work seems like the safest way to keep a conversation going. Most of the stuff she'll tell him will be incomprehensible, but at least she'll be willing to speak to him again.
"You know, you never told me what exactly you're supposed to do in Vienna."
She shrugs and makes a show of re-opening her book. "You never asked."
"Okay, but I'm asking now."
Booth sighs again. "Because I'm bored out of my skull here, Bones."
"So now I'm your in-flight entertainment?"
At last, his temper flares; he's doing his best to be patient and supportive, but that doesn't mean he'll let her turn him into her personal punching bag. "You know what? Forget it, I'm sure I wouldn't understand a word you say anyway."
After a moment of tense silence, Bones' pinched expression relaxes a little. "I was asked to examine the remains of an alleged child martyr from the fifteenth century."
"Oh." He has no idea what to say to that, but now that she's the one extending the olive branch, he figures he'd better play along. "Child martyr as in…"
"A three year-old boy who was believed to have been the victim of a Jewish ritual murder, and who was consequently worshipped as a saint."
Uh-oh. Booth suddenly wishes he'd never asked about the case. "That's – bad."
She shrugs. "Blood libel was a very common accusation against Jews during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, and I'm sure you know that it hasn't completely disappeared in certain Christian circles even today."
There's something in her tone that rubs him the wrong way, and even though he knows he's jeopardizing the current ceasefire, this isn't an insinuation he can let stand. "Hey, don't lump me together with those nutjobs just because I'm religious, okay?"
He fully expects a scathing reply, but Bones seems mostly puzzled. "I was doing no such thing, Booth – I can't remember ever hearing any kind of antisemitic remark from you, so I doubt you'd fall for such an irrational fabrication."
Funny how little it takes her to make him feel like a complete idiot. "Okay, sorry – I mean, uh, thanks."
Bones shrugs again. "You're welcome. Anyway, the consensus among historians is that this particular legend isn't based on an actual, fifteenth-century case of blood libel against the Jewish population, but that it was invented in the mid-seventeenth century by a local author who deliberately tried to start a cult around the alleged child martyr. He was successful, and although the alleged victim was purged from the catalogue of Catholic saints in the mid-twentieth century, folk veneration of the remains of the 'Blessed Child' continued until about twenty years ago, when the local bishop decided to put an end to the whole thing and had the remains removed from the church where they had been on display and buried in an undisclosed location."
"Then what do they need you for now?" He still isn't over the fact that she categorically refused to listen when he tried to keep her from going – he knows that she's only two months along, and that she's not going into a war zone or to some third-world country with no adequate medical care, but seriously, don't they have anthropologists in Europe to do their own damned research?
"They need me because I'm the best in my field." Booth rolls his eyes, but she either doesn't notice or chooses to ignore him. "Even though the cult is now officially forbidden, certain extremist Catholic splinter groups with strong leanings towards fascist and neo-nazi ideas keep claiming that the alleged ritual murder is based on historical fact, and that the remains are genuine. Therefore, the Department of Catholic Theology from the University of Vienna organized an interdisciplinary research project with the Departments of History, of Jewish Studies, and of Forensic Medicine from the same university to resolve the matter. The remains were exhumed and brought to Vienna for a pathological and anthropological examination that is mostly finished by now; the results are going to be presented at a conference in Vienna later this year. I've been asked by the project leader to act as an independent expert to confirm their findings."
"Okay, but why do you have to go to Europe for that? They could just have sent the remains to the Jeffersonian."
Now it's her who's rolling her eyes. "Booth, this case is highly sensitive. It's my understanding that it was already difficult to have the remains transferred from their province of origin to the capital; there's no way they could have let them leave the country without compromising the credibility of the entire endeavor. Besides, I'm going to meet with several of the researchers who are involved in the project while I'm in Vienna."
"Because email and video conferences haven't made it to Europe yet?"
"You're being very unreasonable, you know." Her voice is thick with condescension, and Booth digs his fingernails into the armrests of his seat to keep himself from telling her just that. "Scientific exchange is an important aspect of every researcher's work. I was supposed to present a paper at the conference too, but I won't be able to do that now because I'll be giving birth around that time."
Booth bites back the remark that he's surprised she isn't planning to go to a conference on the other side of the Atlantic nine months pregnant. "Seems like a lot of effort to debunk a stupid myth."
She gives him a stern look. "Considering that Austria was a part of Nazi Germany, I don't blame them for taking antisemitic agitation seriously, and I find it quite laudable that the Department of Theology is willing to help investigate one of the darkest chapters of their religion's history."
There's nothing he can say to that, even though he still feels a little uncomfortable with her readiness to throw herself into that kind of debate.
"When did they ask you to come?"
"Last year, shortly after I returned from Maluku."
Booth's jaw drops. "Last year? Then why didn't you say anything until three weeks ago?"
Her face goes blank; he has come to know and hate that look, because it usually means she doesn't want to admit that she's troubled or upset by something. "At the time, I didn't think the information would be of any interest to you."
That shuts him up; he knows only too well why she would have thought that he wouldn't care about her going to Europe back then. She's half-right about it too – Booth knows that even though he would have cared, he would have done his best not to let her notice, but that's not a line of thought he's willing to pursue right now.
Change of topic, then. "Did you – I mean, you told them that you're bringing me along, right?"
He can't quite decipher the quick, sidelong glance she gives him. "I informed the project leader, yes – but since I organized the details of my stay myself, I doubt it mattered to him."
Great, so she's paying for their hotel room too. Booth bites his lip and briefly considers bringing it up, but he already knows it's useless – the only thing he'll achieve is being reminded again that she makes more money in a day than he does in a month. She must have noticed his sour expression, but it seems that she misunderstood it.
"It's not as if anyone knows you there, Booth; you needn't worry that anyone back home will hear about it."
Booth sighs. It was his suggestion to keep their… whatever it is they're having at the moment to themselves for a while, and even though he knows it was the rational thing to do considering how much trouble they'll be in once the FBI finds out that his partner is pregnant with his child, he can't help thinking that there's more to her willingness to agree to his suggestion than mere rationality. No matter how he looks at it, they're just not ready for all this, and they have preciously little time left to sort themselves out before her pregnancy becomes impossible to hide.
"I find it hard to believe that Angela doesn't know anyway."
Bones shakes her head. "Angela has other things on her mind right now. I only told her about the night I spent at your apartment after –" she hesitates for a moment, but then presses on "– after Vincent was killed, and… even though she was quite excited about it, it's not as if anything actually happened during that night."
Booth takes a deep breath. As far as he's concerned, a lot happened during those few hours, but she's right that it was probably not the kind of stuff that Angela is most interested in.
"You don't think anyone will put two and two together if we're both gone for a week?"
She frowns. "Considering that it's just the two of us, that would be putting one and one together – or maybe one and two if you count the embryo, but since nobody knows about that yet…"
Booth winces a little at the term 'embryo', but decides to let it go. "Figure of speech, Bones. I just meant – you think they'll buy the story of me going on a fishing trip with Pops the week you're in Europe?"
"I don't see why not – it would make sense for you to take your vacation during your partner's absence since you can't work at your full capacity while I'm not available. Andrew believed you, didn't he?"
He makes a face at her casual use of his boss' first name. "Yes, but Andrew is a doofus."
She giggles at that, and to his own surprise, Booth finds it easy to grin back; it's only now that he realizes he hasn't heard her laugh in far too long.
"So you don't mind that all the snooty Old-World eggheads will know we're together?" He's going out on a limb because they haven't agreed on a label for their current relationship yet, but to his relief, it doesn't seem to bother her.
"No, of course not."
It occurs to Booth that it means their first appearance as an "official" couple will happen on a trip to inspect a bunch of ancient remains, but that's probably just fitting when you're together with Temperance Brennan. Old bones or not, the idea that she's willing to admit to their relationship, even when it's just to a bunch of strangers, is oddly comforting.
On an impulse, Booth reaches for her hand and gives her fingers a quick squeeze. "I like that."
The corners of her mouth quirk up in shy little smile that makes her look incredibly young for a second. "So do I."
Booth is dead on his feet by the time they finally make it to Vienna, but Bones seems oddly energized, probably because she slept like a baby during the last leg of their journey. She's a few steps ahead of him at baggage claim and grabs her trolley case before he can insist on taking it for her, and Booth grumpily gets his own bag and then follows her through the jam-packed arrival area. She's scanning the crowd for the guy who's supposed to pick them up; Booth would prefer to just take a cab to their hotel, but he knows he's not the one to call the shots while they're here, and Bones probably takes it as her due that the project leader himself is awaiting her at the airport.
"Do you see Dr. Lechner anywhere?"
Booth drops his bag and presses his palms into his aching back. "It's not as if I know the guy, Bones."
She gives him an indulgent smile. "A Franciscan monk shouldn't be that hard to spot, should he?"
"A what?" Booth has trouble believing that he's hearing her correctly. "You're here at the request of a monk?"
"I told you that he's a member of the Department of Catholic Theology, did I not?"
"Yes, but you never mentioned –" Booth doesn't get to finish the sentence because that's when a middle-aged, wiry guy in a dark brown monk's habit walks up to her. Booth watches with a slight feeling of surrealism as Bones shakes the man's hand with a polite smile while he's nattering away at her in German; Bones answers in the same language, and Booth can't help feeling pretty superfluous while he's standing next to her without understanding a single word. At long last, Bones remembers to introduce him, but since she does it in German (seriously, the guy has a doctorate and doesn't speak English?), the only word beside his name that Booth can discern is 'partner'.
So much for making it official. Booth follows the two to the parking lot in a pretty foul mood; he isn't sure which term he would have wanted her to use, but he would definitely have thought that they're past the 'just partners' act at this point. He squeezes himself into the backseat of the monk's car, closes his eyes and does his best to tune out the sound of Bones' excited chatter, which isn't all that hard considering that he doesn't understand what she's saying.
His mood brightens a little once the monk drops them off at their hotel. True to her word, Bones has booked a double room for them, and the sight of the luxurious king-sized bed makes Booth momentarily forget his misgivings about staying here on her dime. Bones is still acting like the Energizer Bunny, checking emails on her phone and simultaneously unpacking her bag while talking a mile a minute about the meetings that are scheduled for tomorrow, but Booth has had enough for now. It's almost ten p.m. local time, so there's no need to stay awake any longer for the sake of avoiding jetlag, and all he wants right now is a good night's sleep. He drags himself to the bathroom for a quick shower and then crawls under the huge duvet that settles over him like a fluffy cloud.
He's out like a light the moment his head hits the pillow.