Title: Beyond the Fear
Rating: This is a nice little T rating, with romance and fluff aplenty.
Disclaimer: If Fox want this story, they can have it for free. Providing they don't sue me for stealing their characters.
A/N: I hope everyone likes. This turned out to be a bit longer than I expected. It started as a 'quickie' and then it just developed. I didn't want to rush it and I'm glad I didn't. Please review.
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"What you doing for your birthday then, Bones?" Booth asked, stirring sugar into his coffee with the bottom of his fork. "Hey, Sid," he called, before she could answer, "running low on cutlery?" Sid moved along the bar, his eyes narrowed with menace.
"All you had to do was ask, G-Man," he said, dropping a tea spoon next to the cup. "Sarcasm is not the same as dry wit, by the way…" Booth chuckled, replacing his fork with the spoon, turning back to Brennan. She was smiling, observing the banter with her usual silence.
"I'm going to read Asia – An Anthropological Study. I've been trying to find time for weeks…" she said, cradling her coffee in her hands. "Every time I open the book, I have work or the telephone rings or even just the mediocre things in life crop up." Booth winced, pulling on his collar, easing his tie away from his throat.
"Ouch, Bones…" he said. "It's your birthday and you're reading books?" She nodded, as though she didn't understand his grimace. "Hasn't Angela even tried to trick you into a night of clubbing?" Brennan chuckled, touching her coffee with the tip of her finger, tasting the caffeine on her skin.
"Of course she did," Booth turned on his stool. "But I resisted." Angela, ever the party-girl, wanted to invite all their colleagues, including Camille, to a nightclub, so they could drink, dance and generally feel ill in the morning. Brennan's head hurt at the prospect. Especially after her last disastrous night out with Angela.
"Birthday girl?" Sid called from the other end of the bar. "If you want, you and your crazy friends can have some food here? On the house?" Brennan eyed the restaurant owner fondly.
"Thanks Sid, but I'm really not in the mood to celebrate tonight." Booth rested his chin in his hand, still stirring his coffee, even though Brennan was sure the sugar was entirely dissolved.
"What did you usually do for your birthday, Bones? Before your parents died." She always felt a little melancholy at the mention of her mother and father. Recently though, with regular conversations with Booth, she was slowly learning to accept the good memories, instead of dwelling on her loss. Fondly, she cast her eyes on him, surprised to find that he was genuinely interested.
"My dad and I both loved the sea," she said at last. "We would take a drive to the sea and spend the afternoon on the coast. Sometimes my mother could come too, but usually she was busy. I shouldn't say this… but I quite liked being alone with my dad. Just him and I." Booth nodded, spearing his apple pie. "I love the smell of the sea. The feeling of freedom…" She sighed, emptying her cup. "What about you? Do you have any birthday rituals?" Booth offered her a half smile, filled almost with pride.
"Not for me, but for Parker, sure. I spend all day with him, just, you know, being his daddy." Brennan brushed her fingertips over her forehead, sweeping away a strand of hair.
"That's probably the best birthday gift you can give him," she said. "I'd bet a million dollars on it." Booth grinned, nodding. "He's a lucky kid." Sid took her empty cup, and she had nothing to focus her hands on, so she crushed her napkin into a ball, dropping it to the counter. "I'm going to go," she said. "But thanks for lunch." Booth glanced sideways.
"It was just coffee, Bones," he said.
"Thanks for coffee, then," Brennan replied, her hand dropping to his shoulder for the most fleeting of moments. Such fleeting moments had become more and more frequent, lately. She had no time to analyse the action, however. "Bye," she said, her fingers moving away from his shirt. Booth turned his head.
"Happy Birthday, Temperance," he said to her and she liked how Booth used her first name to accentuate special moments. It made her feel nice when he did. "Enjoy your book." Leaving the restaurant, she was chuckling to herself, amused at how everyone thought her choice of birthday celebration was sad. Angela had been appalled to think she was sitting alone with nothing but a journal and a glass of wine for comfort. Frankly, Brennan liked being alone, sometimes. Perhaps her ideal choice wouldn't have been the anthropology book, but she wasn't entirely opposed to the idea.
Uncorking her bottle, Brennan inhaled the musky, woody scent and sighed. South African, she noticed, looking at the bottle. As she tilted the bottle to pour herself a glass, she heard her door bell and froze. Damn Angela, with all her persistence. It never failed her how her best friend could so easily manipulate people to achieve exactly what she wanted.
The bottle of wine thumped heavily against her table and Brennan moved towards the front door. "I don't care how hot the men are at Satin, I'm not going." She pressed her hand to the door frame, smirking to herself.
"Bones, open the door." Fumbling with the lock, a small blush staining her cheeks, she cursed her own presumptuousness. Hadn't she said goodbye to Booth just four hours ago? When she pulled back the door, he was standing, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. He was smiling – but there was an odd awkwardness his expression – not at all like the usual cockiness he displayed.
"Is everything alright?" she asked by way of greeting, and he nodded.
"Sure," he said. "You look nice. Lets go." Brennan felt her forehead crease. "Dinner, Temperance. I'm taking you to dinner." She looked down at her shirt and her jeans and she shook her head.
"You most certainly are not!" She was indignant, and somewhat inconvenienced by his matter of fact tone. "I'm not dressed for dinner." Booth slipped his arm around her shoulder, ushering her out of the apartment. Behind her, the door closed, and she dropped her head back against the door, her skull thudding against the wood. "My keys are in there," she sighed, casting a weary, yet irritated glare his way.
"You don't need your keys for now. Come on, it's your birthday." She reluctantly followed him along her corridor, their arms linked as he led her.
"Couldn't you have told me earlier about this plan of yours?" she asked, sounding rather ungrateful. Booth smiled.
"It wouldn't have been a surprise then, would it?"
He drove for what felt like forever, far out of DC city and into Virginia. She watched the passing scenery silently, hating that he was so vague and secretive. Their conversation followed, but when she asked a question about their eventual destination, Booth just smirked. His incessant answering being 'You'll see'. Frustrated at his plan was one secret she wasn't going to get a handle on, Brennan took to sulking, if only momentarily.
It was dark and the narrow roads seemed to be travelling to nowhere. Beyond the darkened lanes, equally darkened fields sped by, and she felt disorientated, catching, occasionally, the tell-tale smirk on his lips, and she felt instantly weary and distrusting by default. "I hate surprises," she murmured, pressing her cheek to the glass, wondering if perhaps going out with Angela would have been preferable to the unknowing gnawing in the pit of her stomach, now. He seemed to be enjoying the suspense.
When even the occasional twinkling lights in the distance disappeared, she attributed the darkness to being close to the ocean, and when she rolled the window down, only an inch, her suspicions were confirmed. In an instant, the pieces clicked together, and she remembered sitting with him in Wong Foo's, coffee in hand. 'we would take a drive to the sea and spend an afternoon on the coast' she couldn't believe that he had speared that little piece of information and used it to manipulate her out of her apartment. Turning her head, her eyes narrowed in an intense glare, she saw the smirk again and her heart swelled, her fake irritation melting away like ice over a grill. Booth was perhaps too good at manipulation – better even, than Angela.
Outside, she heard the ocean now and she sighed. "How did you know I wouldn't be horrified at what you're doing?" she asked, relaxing into her seat, sure that she had the riddle entirely worked out. Booth glanced at her through the darkness, only the headlights reflecting against the road illuminating his strong features and the dark granite of his eyes.
"Because I know you, Bones," he said, pulling his SUV into an empty parking lot on the cliff edge. The sound of the ocean filled the vehicle, and she had nothing she could say in response. Did he really know her so well? How had she missed this development? In her life, there had been very few people to understand her – and all at once, someone did – all without her knowledge? It wasn't the fact that he knew she wouldn't freak out. It was the way in which his voice changed when he spoke. Almost as if he really did know exactly what pieces of information made her Temperance Brennan.
When he killed the engine, tilting his body towards her, she pulled a tight smile across her lips. "Well…" she began, not quite sure what she ought to say. Next to her, Booth moved his keys from one hand to the other, watching the varying emotions flit across her features.
"Don't be freaked out, Bones," he said, reaching out to knock her chin gently. "I know you don't like people getting in. But I'm not going to hurt you." She wasn't sure where their conversation was going – or what it was leaning towards. She suspected they weren't discussing their professional relationship, yet until now, there had been no mention that their relationship meant anything more.
"So, why are we here, Booth?" she asked, unclipping her seatbelt and, as if by magic, the mood broke and he grinned.
"It's your birthday, Bones," he replied as though he had explained everything. "Come on, I'll show you." He pushed his door open, coaxing slightly chilly costal air into the car, and she trembled, either with anticipation or with cold. She preferred to convince herself that it was the breeze.
Taking her elbow, he directed her across the parking lot, to where a whitewashed, recently resorted lighthouse towered above their heads. From the doorway, she saw how the spiralling staircase was illuminated by the long lights attached to the dark rock walls. The glow was warm, coaxing. She stood, just inside, lifting her eyes and following the curve of the cast iron stairs as high as she could. "Come," Booth said, ascending the first few steps before reaching out to encourage her. Brennan held her breath for the first fifteen steps, listening to the sound of her feet against the metal, heaving and echoing, and the oceanic breeze as it blew against the glass windows. When her throat burned, she exhaled, holding tight to the railing.
"How did you…?" she asked, stopping on the winding curve. Booth stopped too.
"You have that book… the one with all the pictures… when you mentioned going to the coast, I connected the pieces. You're not the only one who is good a puzzles, Bones…" she turned her head, gazing out the small rectangular window, watching as a small fishing boat moved along the ocean, it's little light twinkling majestically as it went. "What was the book called…? Booth wondered aloud, lifting his head to where the staircase spiralled like a loosely coiled spring above their heads.
"Lighthouses of the World," she almost whispered. "I've had it for years…" and he was the only person in the world who understood it's relevance. When he shifted, his foot clanged against the metal and her thoughts were interrupted. "Keep going," she said, encouraging him onward.
Together they ascended the stairs all the way to the top. Brennan stood, overlooking the cliffs below, and she felt warmer than she had in years, despite the draft what blew into the lighthouse from the entrance to the deck. Her friends understood the rational part of her brain – the part that voted science over sentiment. But standing next to her was the one person who understand what went on inside her mind – beyond the exterior of science. She admitted, even if only to herself, that she was not entirely comfortable with knowing he had worked her out. "Follow me, Bones," Booth said, dropping his hand to her spine, urging her out into the fresh, salty air. "Dinner?" he asked, gesturing to the small round table, set for two. She inhaled sharply, turning her head to him.
"How did you do this?" she asked, her heart thudding an unsteady beat inside her chest. Booth shrugged.
"Sid knows some people," he said. Behind the table, two waiters dressed in long white aprons and bow-ties stood with their hands behind their backs. Next to the table, deck heaters kept the area warm and the chill was suddenly gone.
"Good evening, Miss Brennan," one said, pulling a chair back for her. She took a tentative step forward, quite sure that she had never been involved in such a grand romantic gesture before. Booth slid into the seat opposite, his lips offering her only a telltale smile. He wasn't entirely confident that she was impressed or even okay with his plans.
"Being that we're on top of a lighthouse," he said, "we can't have a very extensive menu, so I took the liberty of ordering for us both…" Brennan noticed that he gave the waiters a small nod, and when they disappeared she sighed.
"I haven't been called Miss Brennan for a long time," she said. "At least not in a condescending sense. I quite like it…" Booth nodded, pouring a glass of aromatic red wine. She watched as the ruby liquid sloshed against the edge. When she caught the fruity oak scent, she closed her eyes. Better than her South African wine, waiting uncorked at home.
"Cheers," Booth said, lifting his glass. "Happy Birthday." She touched her glass to his. After the first taste, she felt her tensions fade and she permitted herself to enjoy the grandness of his gesture. The waiters, the table, the deck heaters, even the wine. All orchestrated in which a short amount of time. She didn't want to imagine how he pulled it together, or how much it cost. "Temperance…" when he spoke, he realised her eyes were closed, and the whispering sound of his voice startled her. "I know I am pushing the boundaries here… and maybe even crossing the line…" she lifted her hand, pulling it through the air, effectively silencing him.
"I like what you have done," she said, soothing his concerns. "I think it's…" romantic? Lovely? Sweet? "nice…" she deciding, hating how she had understated the value of his gesture. "And lovely of you to care so much." He nodded mutely, interrupted by the two waiters as they returned, placing two plates before them. "Where did you guys come from?" Brennan asked, craning her neck.
"There," Booth pointed over her shoulder, to where a small white washed building sat, right on the cliff edge. "Sid's cousin owns this place. It's a small restaurant and guest house, but the finest." Brennan nodded, looking down at her plate. "This," Booth said, "looks great."
"What is it?" Brennan asked, and the waiters smiled.
"Smoked salmon with caper berries and poached quail's egg," one said. "Enjoy." Brennan waited until the men had retreated before she allowed herself to be impressed by the menu. Recently she'd been spending too much time eating greasy food and take away. Fine dining was often the farthest thing from her mind. Even on her birthday.
After her first forkful of salmon, she moaned in appreciation. "Sid's cousin should open a restaurant in the city," she said. "We need more places like this…" Booth lifted his eyes from his plate, the candlelight fluttering inside its glass jar. The flame reflected a myriad of imagery inside his eyes.
"I think a lighthouse might look somewhat out of place in the middle of DC," he quipped and she chuckled.
"I think you know what I mean," and he nodded.
"I do," he conceded. "And I agree." Brennan caught his eye and for a moment, she thought perhaps he wanted to say something else. But in an instant, it was gone, and he was entirely focused on his plate.
Smoked salmon was followed by fricassee of corn fed chicken with black trompettes, asparagus and tarragon and their meal was finished with peach parfait and caramelised passion fruit. Brennan was quite certain it was the most delicious meal she had ever eaten, and each mouthful seemed to intoxicate her more than the wine she drank.
When their coffee arrived, Booth told the waiters that they could leave and suddenly, they were alone, and Brennan felt a prickle of anticipation and adolescent nervous inside her stomach. Just earlier this afternoon, she had seen Booth as her partner, one hundred percent, and in just a few hours, she was on what she classed as a date, and surprisingly, she wasn't ready to strangle him.
The first taste of her coffee made her chest warm and she sighed. "Have you had a nice evening, Bones?" Booth asked, reclining back in his chair. She watched how his hand moved when she stirred his coffee. He always stirred for a long time, and she had noticed he spent more time stirring than he did actually drinking the coffee. Knowing that she had noticed these little quirks sent her emotions into a wild spin. Did they know each other better than she had allowed herself to imagine?
"I have, yes," she said, sighing contentedly, turning her eyes to the ocean below. The moonlight reflected half-heartedly on the rippling waves, the round sphere of it half covered by wispy costal clouds. The reflection was bright, the sea acting almost as a mirror, bouncing the light across the shiny black rocks. The ocean was a stage, illuminated by the spotlight above. Brennan missed such sights, living in the city. Pushing her chair back, she stood, shifting close to the deck heater, pressing her body to the railing. "Thank you, Booth," she said, turning her head to look at him. He smiled, lifting his cup to her.
"You're welcome, Brennan," he said and she wished he had called her Temperance. It was a silly thought, and not even slightly appropriate for their relationship – a relationship that she worked hard to ensure never fell apart. She wasn't sure it was a good idea to complicate it with overly romantic thoughts, and knowing that Booth had already crossed a line by even organising the dinner for two, she supposed they'd made too much progress for one night.
"Temperance," she started, surprised to find that he was right at her side, and it was almost as though he had read her mind. She was shocked again by the tender whisper of his voice and how her body responded to it. "I want you to live your life," he said, reaching out to touch her hair. She trembled, inwardly and out. "Your parents disappearing made your life fall apart, and it hurt. But you can't hide behind fear forever." She felt the sting of tears behind her irises and she swallowed hard, willing the emotion and sentiment away. "Every day that you let special moments like this pass by, is another day you have wasted. I don't want you to wake up at seventy five, realising when it's too late, that you missed so, so much." His fingers danced over her jaw, along the milky column of her neck. "No matter what you think, spending your birthday reading Asia – An Anthropological Study is not fun. Or exciting." It touched her that he remembered the name of the book and more that he cared so much. "You are an extraordinary women… let yourself live once in awhile, hmm?"
Where he touched her, she felt warm and where he did, she wanted him to. "I'll try," she replied, her voice nowhere near as steady as she would have liked. "I was effected by my mother and father disappearing… and sometimes… when I want to feel something… I'm too afraid…" it was strange to think that just moments ago, she had been fretting over their relationship. "I will try," she repeated. "And thank you for all the effort you went to, tonight. No one has ever organised something so special, just for me." His fingers were in her hair, and the tentative, brushing touches to her scalp made every nerve in her body tingle.
"You are special, Bones. And so worth it." If she allowed herself to look beyond the fear, if only for a moment, she knew he was hinting at love. She had known for awhile. But her rational, ever firm grip on anxiety kept her from indulging in her feelings for more than a second. "Temperance?" His voice reigned her wayward thoughts in, and she focused on him. "Let it go." She knew what he meant, and by with the coaxing tone of his voice, she did. She mentally relinquished all her worries and concerns, and smiled. "That's so much better," he said. "Without frown lines here," he drew his fingertips over her forehead, "and creases here," he touched the corners of her eyes, "you look very beautiful." She shifted, encouraged by his kindness. "I know that's not a very original thing to say…" and she shook her head.
"No. But it means a lot when it's genuinely meant." Booth leaned forward, touching his lips to her nose. "I love it here. It's so nice, looking over the world, almost. Do we have to leave, now?" she asked. He watched her face for a long time.
"Well… Sid's cousin owns the guest house and it's just a little walk that way," he gestured to the whitewashed building again. "If you wanted…" she heard the implication and there was a lot of weigh on his suggestion. She was filled with fear again, and it made her nerves tremble. Remembering his words, she inhaled, closed her eyes and gently eased all the fear out of her body.
"Okay," she said at last. "That's a nice idea."
One more chapter? If you want it, there'll only be one. It's not planned to be a very long story, but let me know.
The menu was taken from James Street South Restaurant in Belfast. It's completely stolen and it's plagiarism of sorts on my part. But the menu sounds love and the restaurant is the finest. I hope you enjoyed this story. Please click the button below and send me your thoughts. I've spent many hours click, click, clicking on this keyboard.