A/N: This takes place a few days after this week's episode -- Boy in the Time Capsule.
Thank you to everyone who comments, and also to those who read without commenting. You rock my world. Happy Friday! And I'm still in the middle of responding to you all; in the meantime, just know that your feedback makes me smile.
I wrote this because I had to. It's as simple as that. Hate it? Like it? I can live with either. Let me know. :)
Temperance finished straightening her desk; whenever possible, she liked having her office neat and ready for the next day's work. With a nod of satisfaction, she pulled her bag from her bottom desk drawer and set it on her desk. Then she reached back into the same drawer and pulled out Jasper and Brainy Smurf. She dropped back into her chair and contemplated the small blue figurine, rolling it in her hand. "You're better than Smurfette," he'd said. "You have your looks, and a whole lot more." Booth had taken a moment of humiliation and turned it into something else entirely, like her father had fashioned balloons into dogs and dinosaurs when she'd been a child.
"You can hold onto this," he'd said, referring to the Smurf, "and it will remind you how far I've come."
She warmed at the memory and felt her lips tip in a smile she was thankful Booth wasn't around to see.
But Booth had been wrong. For when she looked at his latest gift, she thought not of how far he'd come, but of how far they'd come. His arrogance and bravado had put her off at first. But over time, she had to admit he'd demonstrated his intelligence, his competence, and above all, his limitless compassion. Those were things she valued. Now, she secretly longed for the moments when she'd look up from an exam table to find him flying up the steps of her lab.
He'd given her many gifts. Her life, Jasper, the truth about her parents, Brainy Smurf... And those were only the ones that immediately came to mind. As much as she loved her pig, and now her Smurf, she valued her life and the truth even more. The truth. Bringing it to light; that was, ultimately, what her work was about.
There were many truths. She recognized that. Big truths, small truths, political truths, and personal truths. She'd shared a personal truth with Booth in Dr. Sweets' office. A personal truth about what had the power to humiliate her. Certainly, he'd snorted, seemingly making light of her humiliation. And he'd irritated her with tale after tale of sexual prowess and male mastery disguised as a true story of personal humiliation. But in the end...In the end, he'd told her a true story about a personal moment when he'd been humiliated. She'd pretended not to understand at first, but she did. Much better than he thought. He might have been "that guy" at one time, but he wasn't any longer. He had grown into a man. A kind and decent man. Not the kind of man who would stand by and let someone weaker than him be tormented.
That was a truth she realized.
She wondered then if he realized it as well. Was that a gift she could give him?
Temperance shook her head a second after the thought crossed her mind. It was too intangible, and she wouldn't know how to give it to him, even if she wanted to. But, she realized with a start, she did want to give him a gift. Something he could look at, as she looked at Jasper and Brainy Smurf.
What could she give him that he would want? Sighing, she mentally ran through what she knew about Booth. He loved Parker, but she couldn't think of any related gift there. He liked to bowl. A bowling ball? A bowling ball bag? She frowned and shook her head. No, that didn't seem right either. He liked to restore old cars. She quickly tossed that out.
He was religious.
Oh. That "felt" right, much to her chagrin. If Booth knew she was trying to listen to her gut, she'd never hear the end of it. But there it was, and she couldn't deny it.
She sighed and let her chin rest in her hand for a full minute. Then, with a decisive nod, she stood, squared her shoulders, grabbed her belongings, and left her office.
Ave Maria. She had passed the store many times, on her way to the bakery where she often stopped to buy a loaf of freshly baked French bread.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door and stepped inside the store. A bell tinkled overhead, announcing her presence. The gray-haired woman dusting one of the numerous glass display cases paused in her work and turned around, peering at Temperance from behind large, gold-rimmed glasses that gave her a rather owlish appearance. "May I help you?"
"I'm looking for a gift, for a..." She paused, fumbling for the accurate word to define what Booth was to her. "For a friend," she finished. Even that word didn't seem quite right, but her brain couldn't supply the word that would have been a more precise fit.
"We just received a shipment of beautiful, twenty inch wall crucifixes," she said, pointing at a case that stood to her left. "Perhaps your friend would like one of them," she said with a kind smile.
Temperance turned to look where the woman had pointed. "Oh." She blinked. "No." As devout as Booth was, she couldn't picture him enjoying having a large crucifix on his wall. "Thank you for your suggestion, but I'm confident that if I browse for some time, I'll find what I'm looking for."
"All right, young lady. Just let me know if I can be of any assistance."
"Thank you. I will," Temperance said and turned away, effectively dismissing the woman. The only problem was, she didn't know what she was looking for. With a sigh, she allowed herself to revel in the warmth of the shop, which felt particularly comforting after the bite of the chill November air. The anthropology of religion wasn't her area of expertise, but every anthropologist had a relatively thorough understanding of the world's major religions. Shrugging her shoulders, she traveled through the store, stopping to smooth her hands over bibles and run her eyes over rosaries of myriad colors and stones. She felt vaguely uncomfortable and out of her element.
But she hadn't gone there for herself, Temperance reminded herself. She was there for Booth. She had set herself a task, and she would see it through to completion.
When she'd roamed nearly the entire store and not found anything remotely appropriate, Temperance sighed with frustration and allowed for the possibility that maybe she'd been wrong. So much for listening to her gut. She turned, shoulders slumped, and prepared to leave. Then she looked up and saw it.
"Yes," said her gut, and her mind, and something else she didn't linger on.
Smiling, she motioned over the salesperson. She conferred with her for a moment, wanting to be sure she was right about the meaning. When the woman confirmed it, Temperance pulled out her credit card. The saleswoman rang her up, handed her her purchase, and invited her to come back again soon.
Temperance cleared the remains of her dinner and then sat down at her desk. She turned on the lamp and stared at the plastic bag as if it held something dangerous. Suddenly assailed by doubt, she fingered her purchase and debated returning it. Maybe she should call Angela. No. She was a grown woman. Surely she could manage this without advice from her best friend. Finally, feeling silly and irritated by her own indecision, she removed the price tag, wrapped the object in a piece of tissue paper, and set it inside the small black box the salesperson had given her. Should she buy a card? No, that would be too formal. Besides, there was no real occasion for the gift.
Her eyes flashed to the upper left corner of her desk. It lay there, waiting for her. A box of handmade paper she'd brought back from Thailand. She typed her books, finding that to be much more efficient than writing by hand. Nor did she write many letters, as email was always quicker. But the paper had caught her eye, and though she'd left the store without buying anything, she'd returned on her last day in Thailand. The wrinkled, rough texture had delighted her, so Temperance had allowed herself that small indulgence and purchased it, knowing all the while that it would sit — unused but not unloved.
Temperance smiled. The paper still felt alive under her fingers. She sat for long minutes, contemplating what to write. Dear Booth. No. Dear Seeley. Ugh. Agent Booth. Definitely not. She nibbled on her pen cap and blew a piece of hair out of her eye. She took a gulp of wine and then set it down on the desk with a thunk. Before she could think better of it, she scribbled something on the paper.
Booth stretched his arms in front of him and cracked his knuckles. With a gusty sigh of pleasure, he shoved his plate away from him. "Here. I know you want some of these," he said, motioning at what remained of his fries. "You can't survive on grass alone." He eyed her salad. Her healthy lunches were driving him crazy.
"It's not grass, Booth, it's—"
"I know, I know. They're greens. I eat them too."
"Greens and chickpeas, Booth, which have plenty of protein. Along with fiber and—"
"Ah." He held up a finger. "But do they have grease? You've gotta have a little grease every once in a while."
"No, they do not have oil."
"Then here," he said holding out a fry, "eat."
She stared at the fry for a moment, before taking it from his fingers and popping one end into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully and looked away. He raised his eyebrows at her pensive expression. "What?" he asked.
Brennan wiped her fingers on her napkin before turning her eyes back to him. "What what?" she said, frowning.
"You tell me," he said, narrowing his eyes.
"What are you talking about, Booth?"
"You've got that thinky look on your face." Oh yeah, she was definitely distracted.
Her expression cleared and then she glanced away. "Oh. Sorry." She reached for her bag, which sat beside her.
"You're not paying, Bones."
Her eyes shot to his. "That's not...I wasn't trying to..." She trailed off and resumed digging inside her bag. Booth eyed her closely, admiring the pink in her cheeks. Wait, was she blushing?
Intrigued, he leaned over the table, trying to see what she was looking at. "Stop that." She pushed him back with one hand, hiding her bag.
"Ow." Booth raised his hands in defeat. "Ok, ok. I get the message." He sat back and leaned his elbows on the table. He'd find out soon enough, one way or the other. Biding his time, he glanced around the diner, taking in the lunchtime crowd.
"Here." He turned his attention back to her and saw that she'd placed a small box in front of him.
"What is it?"
She shook her head. "Open it."
He did, removing the cover from the small black box and discovering a small sheet of paper tucked inside. He unfolded the champagne colored paper and let his eyes follow the elegant curves of each letter of the five words she'd penned, as his fingers savored the crinkled, slightly rough texture. He could feel the smile creeping across his face and he didn't bother to hide it. "I'm not?"
"No, you're not."
Nodding slightly, he gently set the note on the table and turned his attention back to the box. He held his breath as he unwrapped the white tissue paper and uncovered what was concealed within its folds. He exhaled with a whoosh and lifted the object, cradling the silver in his palm. "St. Michael. Protect us," he said, reading the inscription. With his index finger, he traced the tiny wings, the sword, and the feet of St. Michael, trampling Satan. A warm feeling settled in his stomach, and he knew it wasn't from the burger and fries he'd just eaten.
St. Michael — patron saint of warriors, soldiers, and police officers, he thought silently. Finally, he looked up, staring at his partner. He wasn't sure what he was going to say until the words came out. "But you don't believe in God," he said, and then mentally kicked himself for the clumsy comment.
She inclined her head in acknowledgment. "But you do." She arched an eyebrow and regarded him steadily, the blue of her eyes so clear and deep that in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to lose himself in them. "Even an empiricist can have a heart, Booth."
"I never doubted it, Bones." Feeling his own heart beat just a little faster, he stared at her and willed her not to look away.
"A good gift suits the recipient. I know you wear a St. Christopher medal, so I didn't want to give you another medal," she said, wringing her hands. "So I thought a keychain would be appropriate. Since, obviously, you have keys. I have the receipt; I can return it if—"
"Stop it," he said, cutting her off and reaching across the table and covering her hand with the hand in which he held the silver keychain. "It's perfect."
"So, you like it?" Booth could hear the doubt in her voice, so he smiled at her gently.
He squeezed her hand, feeling the cool silver start to warm from the contact with his skin and hers. "It's perfect," he repeated, and silently asked her to believe that he meant it. "I love it. Thank you, Bones."
"You're welcome," she said with a shy but genuine smile.
Not letting her go, he raised his glass with his free hand. "To evolution," he toasted. Technically, toasting with water was bad luck, but things were looking pretty lucky just then.
"To evolution," she repeated, and clinked her glass against his.
Feeling strangely light, and knowing he was grinning like a clown... No, scratch that, grinning like an idiot, he finally released her hand and motioned for the check. Once he'd paid, they eased out of the booth.
The air was cold as they stepped out of the diner, but Booth barely felt it. Still smiling, he opened the passenger side door and waited for Brennan to climb in before he trotted around to the other side and got in himself. He didn't buckle in immediately. Instead, he pulled out the folded paper and read it aloud: "You are not a philistine." Feeling impulsive, he turned and leaned toward Brennan. "Thank you." He cupped her jaw and moved closer, letting her move away if she wanted to, but hoping that she wouldn't. He aimed for her cheek, already anticipating the soft feel of it against his lips.
But she turned her head at the last second, and his mouth brushed hers. He inhaled sharply at the contact, and his eyes shot open. He retreated. "Whoa. Sorry. Didn't mean—"
She wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and pulled him in toward her again. This time, he kept his eyes closed and just let himself enjoy the gentle pressure of her mouth against his. She tasted sweet, and she was soft and willing and God, he wanted her even more than he'd thought he did. But the gearshift was digging into him, and they were sitting outside the Royal Diner.
He pulled back, stroking her cheek, and slowly opened his eyes to find her watching him. "You're welcome," she said. Then she smiled.
Yes, I am a big old sap, and the angst in my other stories made me want to bang Brennan and Booth's heads together. :)
"Even an empiricist can have a heart." This quote is taken from the episode titled Mother and Child in the Bay.