A/N: Yes, yes, I've begun another story. This one is a round robin with Tozzyoby. I hope you enjoy, and if you haven't read her wonderfuls tory called Lilly, then please do so.
The snow fell lightly over Washington DC, blanketing the city in a comforting layer of white. Temperance Brennan, however wasn't enjoying the winter wonderland. She sighed as she waited for the doctor to finish setting her wrist. The very white stuff making the city beautiful was the very cause of her being in the hospital. The ground was just too icy.
She sat with her good arm folded across her lap protectively. She was cold, fed up and willing the doctor to increase his frustratingly slow pace so that she could finally get to the Lab. The doctor's speed, coupled with his Christmas cheer that rivaled Angela's, was enough to make Brennan certain that next year she would ensure she was out of the country.
"We'll just let this set, and you'll be ready to go," the doctor chirped. He left the room, and Brennan gave a small sigh of relief. Finally, she could think on her own. The moment was short lived as a young nurse, probably no older than Tempe herself, came in the room. The nurse looked tense, with her spine held straight, and her eyebrows knit together. She looked over the chart left by the doctor before meeting Tempe's gaze.
"Once that sets, I'll just need you to sign this paperwork and you can go."
"Sure." Tempe replied, tucking a loose strand of hair, peppered with congealed blood, behind her ear. The nurse smiled weakly and began to walk back out of the room. Tempe noted that her body language indicated extreme exhaustion and her whole demeanor suggested she was emotionally overwrought. Out of genuine concern and before she had realized that words had escaped her own mouth, Tempe asked "Is everything ok?" The nurse stopped walking and turned slowly to face her. As silence filled the room Tempe sought to fill it and she did so with her usual blunt appraisal of the situation
"It's just that I noticed you have all of the indicators of having a problem, the tenseness in your spine, the tightening around your eyebrows." The nurse looked at Temperance and before she could stop herself, she found herself beginning to cry.
"I'm just so exhausted, ' the nurse said. "I've been working so hard to provide for my kids, but..." She threw herself into Tempe's good arm, and the anthropologist could do nothing except provide a half hug to the distraught young woman. Somewhat unnerved by the strange situation in which she found herself, Tempe simply rubbed circles on the nurse's back soothingly. She purposely mimicked behaviors she had observed Booth adopting when comforting someone in distress. Running through a mental checklist of his behavior she realized that it was relatively essential to determine exactly what was upsetting the woman in front of her.
"You, um, have children?" The nurse looked up from the now dampened shoulder of Temperance, and gave a small laughing sob.
"I have two beautiful kids, twins. Haley and Alex." She started to cry again. Tempe sighed softly. This was going to be harder than she thought.
"You said you've been trying to provide for them." Tempe stated, merely thinking things out loud. "The fact that you use the word trying suggests that you don't consider yourself successful," Tempe ventured, her hand instinctively moving to smooth the nurse's hair.
"No, no I haven't succeeded" the nurse sobbed her heartbreak evident. "Despite all my hard work they don't have a home, they have a mother who is always working and never there for them, and now, well now they won't have a Christmas. What kind of mother am I?"
"No home? What do you mean?" Tempe felt the sobs of the nurse beginning to subside. Apparently, caressing her hair was calming her down.
"My husband left me a few months ago, and without his income, I couldn't pay rent, so we had to move into a motel. Only, it's more expensive than I thought, and I can't get my bills caught up, so I don't have any money to spend on my kids for Christmas."
"Hey, I'm sure your kids know you love them. They can see how hard you're working. Don't underestimate their capacity to understand the world around them."
"It's just Christmas is such a big deal at their age, you know?" the nurse asked as if the answer was evident in her question. Tempe's brow furrowed as she thought through the importance of Christmas.
"You know." Tempe sighed, "Christmas isn't accurate in terms of its relation to Christianity. In reality it is only celebrated now so as early Christians could celebrate at a time of pagan festivities."
"You don't have kids do you?" the nurse asked, a smile on her lips for the first time in Tempe's memory.
"No, I don't."
"Christmas, as I see it is a time for giving, without expecting anything in return. I give to my children, but would never expect anything from them. The whole deal with the decorations, and Santa Claus, it's meant to provide joy to kids, and now, I can't even do that." The nurse fought off the next round of tears as they threatened to fall. Tempe paid attention to the nurse's rationalization and gave genuine thought to it.
"I'm sure that your children are glad simply to have a mother that cares this deeply about them. Plenty of children don't have a parent there for them. Your children are very lucky." Tempe asserted, her mind clouded with images of every Christmas since her parent's disappeared.
"Thank you. It's just so hard, you know? I don't want them to be disappointed."
"I'm sure they won't be. They know it's hard right now. They'll help you through as best they can." Tempe offered the woman a smile, then looked up as her partner, Seeley Booth rushed into the room. He stopped at the scene before him, unsure how to react to Temperance comforting the distraught woman.
"Um, do you want me to come back later?" Booth asked his eyes flitting from his partners watery eyes to the nurses tear stained cheeks. Tempe opened her mouth to answer but the nurse interjected
"No, we're all done here. Dr. Brennan just has to sign these charts and she's good to go." The nurse stood up and began to walk towards the door. "I'll leave you in peace and come back in five minutes ok?" she asked, her embarrassment evident.
"Yeah no problem" Tempe smiled, her mind reeling from the mornings events. As the nurse passed Booth in the doorway Tempe called out "I didn't catch your name."
"Sarah Jenkins." The nurse forced a bit of a smile before leaving the room. Booth looked at Temperance and shook his head.
"Why is it every time I leave you alone, you make some woman cry?"
"I didn't make her cry Booth I just..." Brennan began before Booth crossed the room and interrupted her.
"You just said something characteristically blunt and made the poor nurse cry, and during the holidays." Booth tutted and shook his head jokingly.
"It's not that. She's having a really hard time. I only asked if she was okay, honestly. And I didn't make her cry. She did that on her own." Tempe said, a bit hurt as she signed the appropriate paperwork.
"And what exactly is she having a difficult time with?"
"I'd rather not get into that, thanks."
"Okay." Booth sighed, pushing both hands in to his pockets and rocking on his heels.
"You didn't have to come down here you know. I would have been fine on my own."
"Yeah you seem to be doing a great job on your own."
"That's not fair Booth. It's not my fault the roads were so icy. I'm lucky I only have a broken wrist."
"Yeah, and a ton of crusted blood in your hair. What happened?"
"The other driver lost control of their car."
"You sorted out all the insurance stuff right?" Booth nagged.
"No Booth I left the scene of the accident without getting any contact details."
"No need to be snarky Bones, sometimes when people are in shock they don't react in their normal way."
"Booth, you have known me long enough to know that it will take a little more than a minor car accident to send me in to shock." Booth smiled at Brennan knowingly and she rewarded his charm smile with one of her own.
"Okay, I'll grant you that one. So, are you ready to go?"
"Yeah, just as soon as Sarah comes back. I want to make sure she's okay."
"You're really concerned about her, aren't you?"
"Booth, if you could have heard her earlier. She's really upset." Brennan paused and sucked in a long hard breath. Out of concern, Booth rested his hand on her shoulder and began to rub small circles. A small smile graced Brennan's lips as she realized he was employing the same moves she utilized earlier. Whether he put it in words or not his actions let her know his concern.
"Booth, how do you know what to do to help someone?"
Booth frowned for a moment and looked at his partner. "I don't know, Bones. It's just instinct I guess." Brennan opened her mouth to ask another question, but closed it when Sarah returned. The young nurse seemed to be in better control of her faculties as she checked over the paperwork.
"Okay Ms. Brennan, you're all set to go, and thank you, you know, for earlier."
"It was nothing, really."
"Well thank you anyway." Sarah smiled, her eyes conveying the sentiment of her words. "Now you look after her." Sarah commanded, her voice directed at Booth.
"I will do." Booth reassured her his hand innocently rising to stroke the back of Brennan's head. Brennan fought the urge to point out that she didn't need looking after but bit her tongue, much to Booth's surprise, for Sarah's benefit. Sarah smiled at the two of them before leaving again. Temperance hopped from the examination table and walked out with Booth, his hand firmly in place on the small of her back. As they walked silently through the hospital hallway, she turned to look at her partner.
"Booth, why is Christmas so important to you, I mean besides the religious reasons."
Booth was rather taken aback by the amount of advice Tempe had sought from him in the last few minutes. He decided that it would be foolish to question her in what seemed to be a moment of vulnerability an instead contemplated his answer thoroughly.
"Well, to me Christmas is about family. It is about being with the people you love and finding ways to show them how much you love them."
"What, by buying them presents?" Brennan questioned innocently
"Uh, yes and no. No one should ever be alone during the holidays. I get Parker gifts at Christmas, not as you always say to be the dominant one in the group, but because I know he'll like them. My reward is the look of joy that comes over his face when he opens whatever it is that I got for him."
"So you buy him presents to make yourself happy too?" Booth's face broke into a lopsided grin at the way in which the concept of giving and receiving was so lost on his partner.
"Giving does make me happy Bones, but mainly this is because I can make the people I love happy. Making someone's Christmas isn't always about gifts it can be about just making the time to be with someone." Brennan nodded taking in Booth's words.
"But if you for some reason couldn't provide a present for Parker you would be upset?" As they stepped out into the cold of the day, Bones shivered. Booth took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders as he contemplated her question. Tempe, for her part was completely surprised by his action, but decided not to comment on the gesture. Finally, as they reached his SUV, he answered her.
"Yeah, I would be upset. Being able to provide nice things for Parker is really important to me, and to not be able to would upset me. I'd feel like I'd let him down somehow."
"I suppose it is natural for parents to seek to fulfill their children's wishes. Even if they are driven by the media and popular culture's commercialization of a religious holiday." Booth opened the door for Brennan and she stepped in surely, enjoying the relative warmth of the car. Booth jogged round to his side of the car, rubbing his hands together to keep warm. As he jumped in to the vehicle smiling, Brennan realized just how lucky she was to have a friend like Booth.
"Thanks for picking me up Booth."
"Anytime, Temperance." He smiled at her, then started up the car, praising God for the heat coming on almost immediately.
Cam paced along the examination platform of the Jeffersonian's medico-legal lab in a bit of a mood. Her lunch with Booth had been cut short when he'd received a call. He hadn't said what the call was about, just up and left.
Sadly, for the unsuspecting Zack, he was about to catch the brunt of Cam's foul mood. He crossed Cam's path, offering her a smile as he made his way to exit the Lab. In a voice that made her sound like a teacher interrogating a naughty child, Cam called after him
"Where do you think you are going Zack? Lunch is over" Zach turned to face her like a deer caught in headlights, and began to fumble his way through an explanation.
"Well Dr. Saroyan, I skipped lunch today so I could get to the mall this afternoon to pick up gifts for my family. It's so crowded during the lunch hour I thought it prudent."
"Well, that'll have to wait. The workday isn't over yet. I'm sure you have things to be working on."
"Of course, Dr. Saroyan." Zack mumbled as he returned to his workstation. Cam looked around irritably, noting that Hodgins and Angela were working, but Dr. Brennan was nowhere in sight. She frowned, wondering if that was the reason for Booth's hasty departure earlier.
Deciding to take the opportunity to ensure that the team was in line, Cam marched over to Zach and instructed him to get Angela and Hodgins and bring them to the platform. He sped away fearing any further wrath and was quickly back followed by Angela and Jack. They stood, looking at her expectantly as she watched in the distance Booth guide Brennan into her office, his arm lightly around her shoulders, before closing the door behind them. Those two are entirely too close for my liking, she thought before holding up a hand to the group.
"Wait here. As soon as Dr. Brennan can grace us with her presence, we'll have a little chat." With that, she left the platform and marched over to the office door. Angela looked from Zack to Hodgins with raised eyebrows. None of the three could resist, and moved to have a better look at the confrontation.
"Somebody's in trouble," Angela muttered as Cam entered the office, closing the door behind her.
"Would you like to explain to me where you've been Dr. Brennan?" Cam questioned in haste, too focused on the close proximity with which Booth and Brennan were sitting to each other to notice Brennan's injuries.
"Come on Cam, settle down. Bones was in a car accident, and I just went to the hospital to pick her up."
"Well that's all well and good Seeley, but I was talking to Dr. Brennan. Did you not think it polite to call us and let us know you wouldn't be in? You were able to call Booth. You couldn't offer the Jeffersonian the same courtesy?"
"Excuse me, but if you'd bothered to check your messages, you'd see that I did in fact call here." Brennan placed her hands on her hips, then winced as the movement bothered her set wrist. Cam took a second to look over Brennan, noticing the dried blood in her hair.
"Fine. Just get up to the platform. I have something to discuss with your team, just as soon as I talk with Seeley."
"You're ordering me out of my own office?" Brennan questioned in disbelief. Cam was about to respond but Booth thought it wise to stop the argument from escalating.
"Bones, please give me a moment with Cam. I'm sure that the squint squad need your assistance with something." Brennan didn't appreciate Booth and Cam using her office as a venue with which to have a private chat, however she trusted Booth and appreciated that he was trying to diffuse the situation. There was no winning with Cam, and logically speaking it would be a far better use of her time to help Zach with the newest set of remains for Booth than stay and argue with Cam. With one last look at Booth, she left her office, and headed for the examination platform. As cries of 'Oh, Sweetie!' drifted down from the platform, Cam and Booth just looked at each other.
"You left me alone at your place to pick her up from the hospital? You could have at least told me where you were going."
"Look, I'm sorry about that, okay? I was worried about her."
"She's a big girl, Seeley. She can take care of herself." Cam sighed and shifted her weight onto one foot. "Are you going to come with me for Christmas?"
"I hadn't thought about it. I'm supposed to have Parker Christmas Day."
"Well, can you reschedule?"
"What? No, I'm not going to reschedule. It's the only time around the holidays I get him."
"Well then obviously you've made up your mind."
"Why can't you stay in the area, maybe spend the day with us. He needs to get to know you, Camille."
"I've had these plans set for a month. I'm not changing them."
"I'm not giving up time with my son."
"Well then I guess we see where our priorities lay."
"I guess we do." Booth turned from the office and left, slamming the door behind him. The group on the platform turned at the sound, watching as Booth strode out of the lab. He paused for one brief moment to look at Brennan, a small smile on his lips. He raised a hand to offer her a parting wave, then left the building. All heads turned toward Tempe's office, and the squint squad watched as she looked from Booth to Brennan. The angry glare in her eyes said everything.
"No one gets off early this week. All work will be finished by the twenty third, and I don't care how long it takes you to finish it, now one leaves until it's done." With that, she stormed to her office. Leaving the group to wonder just what had happened in Tempe's office to make her so angry.