A/N: I honestly don't know where this came from. I was thinking about the fact that in Stargazer in a Puddle, Angela and Hodgins asked all their wedding guests to go ahead and enjoy the reception in their absence, and this is what spilled out. I don't know if I like it or really, really hate it. I don't know if it's angsty, fluffy, out of character, or just plain awful. Hell, I can't even decide if it's a one-shot, or if it needs at least an additional chapter. But it's what I wrote, and I'm sharing it. If you feel up to it, I'd love to know how it read to you.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
By the way, if you haven't heard Michael Buble's Save the Last Dance for Me, you're missing out. It has Bones and Booth written all over it. :)
I've waited all my life, to cross this line, to the only thing that's true...
-- Ryan Cabrera, True
Right before Angela and Hodgins had run away from their wedding, they'd asked their guests to attend the reception in their absence and have a good time. It would be a shame to let the space they'd rented for the reception go to waste, which was why Booth stood watching his partner from the other side of the ballroom at the swank Four Seasons Hotel. He scowled as he watched her glide across the floor in the arms of a tall, blonde man he'd never seen before. Who was that guy, anyway? Booth's eyes narrowed as Temperance tipped her head back and laughed at something her dance partner had said. His fists clenched when he saw the man's hand skim down the back of Temperance's dress toward her--
Suddenly feeling hot, he yanked off his tux jacket and left it on an empty chair. One tug at his bow tie and that was gone, too. Quickly rolling up his sleeves, he stalked toward the object of his attention.
"Hey, buddy. Mind if I cut in?" Without waiting for an answer, he muscled in between the two, grabbed his partner's hand, and pulled her along behind him as he strode away.
"Booth, that was extremely rude. You're always telling me do something fun. Well, I was having fun."
"That's not the kind of fun I meant. Didn't your dad teach you not to talk to strange men?"
She huffed and rolled her eyes. "We were merely dancing. What could be wrong with that?"
"You want to dance, dance with me. Save the Last Dance for Me started up and Booth smiled. "Come here." Wrapping one arm around her waist and clasping her other hand in his, he pulled her closer. They swayed to the music. He inhaled and nearly groaned as her scent washed over him. How could a woman who spent most of her day around bones and bodies in various states of decomposition smell that damned good?
"For all you know. he could be some kind of axe murderer." He twirled her around as the music swelled, and then smoothly reeled her back in, humming the tune under his breath.
"He's not an axe murderer; he's Angela's neighbor. She's told me about him. He's a model."
Booth sniffed. "Oh, well, then he's probably gay. A gay axe murderer."
She pulled her hand from his grasp and smacked him in the shoulder. "Stop it." She wore her most severe expression. He wasn't intimidated.
"I'm just saying it's a possibility. You haven't done a background check."
"Why is it any of your business who I dance with, anyway?"
He dipped her and risked a peek at the cleavage revealed by her purple bridesmaid's dress. "If my partner's dancing with an axe murderer, it's my business."
"For the last time, James is not an axe murderer."
"Oh, so now it's James, huh?"
"That's his name, Booth," she said, in what he privately thought of as her prissy schoolmarm voice. "Would you prefer I referred to him as the extremely handsome blue-eyed man I was dancing with? Quite happily, I might add."
"Yeah, you seemed happy all right," he muttered.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Her narrowed eyes shot daggers.
"You were doing that thing."
"You know, that thing where you tilt to your head to the side and smile, just a little. Like you have a really juicy secret. I've seen you use it on Sully."
She blushed, and he had to admit the color looked good on her. "It's called making conversation. You of all people should know that."
"No, it's called flirting." Her tone was so indignant he had to keep himself from laughing at her.
"Come on, Bones, the guy had his hands all over you. He was trying to cop a feel."
"He was not."
"Yeah, he was. His hand was on your back, moving south. Fast."
"South toward what exactly?" Her expression was arch, as if she knew she was making him squirm.
It was his turn to blush. Mercifully, the song ended, and they broke apart. "I'm parched. You want a drink?"
Fortunately, she let the subject drop. "Champagne, please."
"One glass of champagne, coming up." He flashed her his best charm smile and hurried off.
On his way back, he paused and scanned the room until he spotted her. She sat with her profile to him, cell phone pressed to her ear, one hand worrying a strand of hair that had slipped free of her braid. Whatever it was, it wasn't good. That much was clear from the stiff line of her back.
He set the glass down in front of her and waited for her to end the call.
"I...I do too. Bye." She flipped her phone shut and fumbled with it, nearly dropping it before managing to put it in her purse.
"There's your drink." He nodded at her champagne. "Everything ok?"
For a long moment, she remained silent. He leaned back in his chair and took a long pull of his beer, enjoying its coolness. He waited for her to speak, knowing better than to push her when her lip trembled like that. Besides, he was good at waiting.
"That was my father. He used his prison phone privileges to call. He said...He said he was sorry and he hoped this would all be cleared up soon. Said I should enjoy Angela's wedding."
"Then maybe you should."
"That's what I was trying to do earlier, but you found a way to stop that. Why? Oh yes, because you thought James, the gay would-be axe murderer was trying touch my a--"
"Don't say it." He stuck his fingers in his ears, just in case.
"Whatever. You know what I learned about my family this weekend?"
"No, what?" The abrupt change of subject might have jarred anyone who was observing their conversation, but he didn't miss a beat.
"I learned I had a maternal grandmother I never knew about. A grandmother, Booth. My parents told me and Russ we didn't have any family. Now suddenly I have a dead grandmother and two living aunts on my mother's side." She held her hand out for his perusal. The braided silver band shone in the light. "He said the ring was passed down from oldest daughter to oldest daughter. Apparently if I show my aunts this ring, they'll know me and accept me into the family." Her laughter rang out, bitter and hollow.
"I'm sorry you're hurting. Really, I am. But isn't it better to know now than to never have known at all?"
"Of course it is! But that's not the point." She sipped from her champagne and shot him a pointed glare. "My parents have been gone for fifteen years. I didn't know if they were dead or alive. Now I know my mother is dead. Murdered. My father is a bank robber, a murderer. He doesn't even have the same face I remember from childhood. He keeps popping in and out of my life sharing bits and pieces of information every time he comes back. And I keep trying to assemble those pieces into something that makes sense. He's gone. No, he's back. I'm Temperance. No, I'm Joy. Max Keenan is a good man, a bad man, a good man." Her voice cracked and she looked away. His fingers itched to touch her, to comfort her, but he knew she wouldn't welcome it then.
When she spoke again, her voice was quieter but no less pained. "That's not all. He gave me something else -- a video my mother made for me. She meant to give it to me when I was sixteen. She said... No, she begged me, to forgive her, to forgive my father. She said my father wanted to keep us together, but she disagreed. Apparently she thought Russ and I would be safer away from them. What she did may have been wrong, she said, but she did it out of love. Just like Cynthia Cole. She murdered her daughter out of love." Her eyes flashed. "If this is what people do out of love, I don't know that I want any part of it."
"Give it time, Bones. You need time to heal. You still have some choices. Maybe, in time, you'll want to see those aunts." He tapped the table for emphasis. "Look, you're here because your parents loved each other. They loved you. And Russ. Whether you agree with their choices or not, please try to accept that ultimately, they did what they thought was best for you. Look, your father didn't have to come back. He didn't have to stay and let himself be arrested. We both know he could have left, just disappeared, so fast and so well that we'd never find him again if he didn't want to be found. Don't be so quick to dismiss love just because you're hurting."
"You love Parker, right?"
"Well, would you ever abandon him?"
"Not intentionally. But if I had to leave him to keep him safe and alive, I would do it. If I had no other choice. If I had to do something that might make him hate me, I would do it. If that was the best thing for him. That's what parents do."
Her shoulders slumped in defeat and she leaned her head in her hands. "I don't think I want to be here right now. I know Angela and Hodgins wanted us all to enjoy the reception even though they're gone, but I suspect I've had all the fun I'm going to have tonight."
"Ok. No problem. Come on. I'll drive you home."
"I can drive myself home, Booth."
"I know you can, Bones. But you don't have to. I'm here, and you're upset. Just relax and let me take you home."
He grabbed the jacket and bow tie he'd abandoned earlier in the evening and swung them over his shoulder. Cam was dancing with a man he didn't recognize, and Zack was nowhere in sight, so he decided to leave quietly. He placed his hand on Temperance's waist to guide her out of the hotel and toward his car.
Her silence during the ride back worried him. Ever since the Gravedigger had kidnapped her and Hodgins, he always walked her to her door and made sure she made it into her apartment without incident. As he'd told her before, he was her partner, her gun.
She unlocked the door and stepped inside her apartment, leaving him to follow. One dim light shone in the corner of the living room, and she didn't bother turning any others on.
"I have a headache. I think it's my hair. Stefan, Angela's hairdresser, said I'd look 'divine' with an 'up-do.' I don't feel divine. He put so many pins in it I feel like a porcupine. My head feels so heavy." She began to yank at her hair with clumsy fingers, fumbling for the offending pins.
"Stop that. Here, I'll do it." She deserved to have someone look after her sometimes. He hated to see her look so sad. It just wasn't right for her to look so...defeated. It would probably kill her to admit she needed him, hell, needed anyone period. Luckily he knew her. Better than she thought.
He took her hand, guided her to the sofa. He pushed gently on her shoulder until she sat down with a heavy sigh. "Scoot over a little so I can sit too." When she complied, he sat down behind her, his back against the armrest and legs up on the sofa on either side of her.
From that angle, the pure, white column of her neck was visible and looked curiously vulnerable. It was a different vantage point. Was her skin as soft as it looked? Leaning forward, he feathered the backs of his fingers over her neck before sliding both hands into her hair and feeling for the first pin. Gotcha. He removed it carefully and placed it on the coffee table. Had she trembled as he brushed his fingers over her skin or had he only imagined it, wished it? Obviously he couldn't ask her. One by one his nimble fingers found the pins and extracted them without scratching her. Reluctant to break the quiet that had wrapped itself around them both, he listened to the music of their breath. In... Out... In... Out...
Their breathing had synchronized at some point.
If he did something, he tried to do it right. He should make sure he'd gotten all the pins. His pulse slowed, echoing the rhythm of their breath. The blood moved thick and heavy in his veins. Something moved through him. Tenderness? Wistfulness? He fumbled to identify the feeling and failed. His hands skimmed over the burnished surface of her hair, smoothed it back from her face. She sighed; he felt it more than heard it. It was wrong. He shouldn't be doing this. But her sigh was an invitation he couldn't resist. Regret he could live with. Just one more thing to add to his cosmic balance sheet. But missed opportunity, well, at that moment it felt like the lesser evil.
He flexed his fingers, let them slip deep into the heavy silk of her hair. Her hair had wound into waves as a result of being braided and pinned, and he shook it out gently. Just to be sure he hadn't missed a pin.
He was treading water. Barely.
When he stroked the pads of his fingers against her scalp, she shuddered. He was sure of it this time. He did it again, for the sheer pleasure of feeling her move under him. The heat of her body surrounded him as she slowly leaned back against him, her back to his chest.
His partner might not believe in the black magic that could burn between two people, but Booth believed. Oh, he believed.
They sat that way for moments or minutes, he wasn't sure which. Over and over he drew his hands through her hair, soothing and gentling. He felt her relax by slow degrees, and the deeper she sank into him, the tighter his body grew. The pressure of her warm, silk-clad form against his was pure torture.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"Turn around." He pitched his voice low, not wanting to startle her.
She complied, turning to face him. "I'm so tired," she whispered, her blue, blue eyes filled with so much sadness he literally ached for her.
Her hair flowed in thick waves over her bare shoulders, and he knew it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. He couldn't give her back all the years she'd missed with her biological family. He probably couldn't even convince her that love was worth all the messiness and pain.
But he could give her this.
She needed this, needed him, whether she realized it or not. And now there was no Sully standing between them, or serving as a buffer or distraction.
She called, and he answered. She was under his skin, and he knew he was under hers. That's how it was between them. In the end it was that simple and that complicated.
"Shh," he said, pressing a finger against her lips. "I know you are. I know. Come here."
To be continued...