First Jasper, then Brainy Smurf. Throughout the years, Booth had given her various trinkets that she had displayed with pride. Each had a poignant memory behind it that signified changes in their relationship but one trinket, a small thing, really, signified the biggest change possible.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Rating: T for language.
Timeframe: Future fic post 3.07 Boy in the Time Capsule.
Hey, it's Roxy. For those who are familiar with me and my work, I'm back, and I'm sorry that this isn't a chapter of Who I Am. I promise that will be coming soon. For those new to me and my work, I am a first-time writer in this arena of fanfiction. Prior to this ficlet, I have dabbled mostly in the Gilmore Girls but have been an avid viewer of the Bones show. For some reason 3.07 intrigued me beyond measure as I realized this was the second time Booth has given Brennan a little trinket as a weird means of comfort or an apology. Plot bunny grew from there. Enjoy!
Temperance Brennan sat at her desk at the Jeffersonian, thoroughly engrossed in finishing the last remnants of paperwork from her latest identification. She sighed, her eyes fluttering shut from fatigue as she ran one hand down the slope of her nose in weariness. As much as she enjoyed the satisfaction of an identification, the inexplicable – and unexplainable to an outsider – pleasure of finally fitting the last piece of the puzzle together to construct a complete picture, Brennan thrived on the thrill of being out in the field and working with Booth to apprehend the bad guy. But, much to her immense disappointment, Booth hadn't appeared in her doorway, the occasional folder in hand, smirking in his signature way as he uttered her four favorite words, informing her they had a case in almost a week. So, she was stuck within the confines of her office in the greater boundaries of the Jeffersonian.
With another labored sigh, Brennan lay down her pen for the moment, propping her cheek atop her palm. Her eyes flickered around her office, taking in the décor before scanning along the surface of her desk. Her gaze settled on a small plastic pig sitting at the head of a long procession of similar figurines. It was an odd collection at sight with a seemingly random assortment of various cartoon characters, animals, and the anomalous ornament, but the common thread lay in the person who had gifted each figurine to her. As she looked at the odd parade, her eyes drifted back to the pig at the beginning, the first trinket Booth had given her.
She remembered the case well, one of their many altercations with the notorious serial killer, Howard Epps, the one man who always managed to elude them. It was the day that she had a tiny taste of the Seeley Booth pre-federal agent, the Seeley Booth who blatantly took lives with a twitch of his finger on the trigger. In one split second, with one pull of her finger, Temperance Brennan had taken a life. Sure, one life paled in comparison to the fifty-odd accumulated by her partner, but her sensibilities sure were not accustomed to such an action. Those intense emotions combined with the rigorous pressures of the case had brought Brennan on the brink of her breaking point. With all her intelligence and scientific knowledge, Brennan failed to rationalize her actions. She could reason that she had done the right thing. Her head agreed, but her heart stubbornly refused to follow suit. It had taken Booth's insight and a plastic pig named Jasper to finally bring closure.
"You're upset because you think he beat us," Booth stated flatly. "And you know what?" He paused, a solemn, somber look gracing his countenance. "He did."
A furrow appeared in Brennan's brow as she reiterated his statement. "Beat us?"
The furrow deepened. "You just said that he didn't."
Booth's eyes danced back and forth from one ambiguous point to another as he fiddled with his hands in his lap. "Well, I changed my mind," he admitted.
"What, in the last three seconds?"
Booth paused not answering. Instead, he gazed at her with full and complete understanding. "You know, you're afraid that Epps turned you into him – into a killer," he deduced. "You have to come to grips with the fact that you killed another human being. Because when you kill someone, you know, there's a cost. A steep cost." Booth half-shrugged in a gesture of reluctant acquiescence. "I know. I've done it."
Brennan glanced up at him through lowered eyelashes. "I did the right thing," she declared in a voice that lacked her customary decisiveness, betraying a poignant vulnerability not prevalent in her emotional repertoire.
"I know," Booth reassured her as the deep blue spheres that normally veiled sentiment behind a tough veneer glistened with the shine of unshed tears. "I was there." Breaking the sobriety, Booth cracked a small smile. "I got something for you."
Brennan cocked her head, an ironic half-smile gracing her lips.
"A bottle of hard liquor?"
Booth huffed out a slight chuckle as he fished into his pocket. "Next best thing." He placed a small pig figurine on the palm of his hand, leaning in close. His eyes flicked down at the pig before they settled back on hers. "Meet Jasper." Booth studied his partner as she let out a soft throaty chuckle of her own, plucking Jasper from his hand.
"You're gonna be okay," he assured her in a soft but firm declaration.
Brennan's face softened as her thumbs gently stroked the smooth plastic of his gift, and she tilted her head, unwillingly seeking his reassurance again. "Yeah?"
Booth only smiled, conveying his confidence in the simplest of gesticulations. "Definitely."
Brennan reached out a finger, affectionately stroking the tip of Jasper's nose. It was an odd gift from her traditionally stodgy partner, but a welcome one that came during a time where she sought comfort, even from the subtlest of gestures. She had gotten a glimpse of the pain hidden behind his perpetual jollity, the pain that drove him so vigorously to absolve the sins of his past. Yes, she held a potent fear that Epps had indeed turned her into himself, but through their conversation, Brennan had come to the decision that rather than becoming Epps, she had embraced more of Booth. Not Booth the sniper, but the Booth who pursued justice and who took life only to preserve that justice. He had helped her that day, possibly more than he probably comprehended, communicating his conviction in her propriety without doubt or hesitance.
Brennan allowed her gaze to the next figure in the succession. Slightly smaller than it's predecessor, Brainy Smurf waved amiably from his inanimate position. Brennan shook her head as the story that brought the little blue toy into her possession reemerged from the depths of her psyche. Similarly to Jasper, Brainy Smurf had come during a time of vulnerability when she disclosed a story of her past, only to have him snort at her misfortune. Yes, Seeley Booth didn't experience quite the childhood she had. Rather than the social awkwardness of a lost young teenager who stood just a bit away from the crowd, Booth led a charmed life of adolescent confidence and swagger evident in his present alpha male status and personality. Just when Brennan felt that Booth's testosterone-induced personality had alleviated to a manageable level, his macho side reared again as their present case induced slightly painful memories of her formative high school years. It wasn't until after they had solved the case that Booth had understood exactly what her personal humiliation meant and was able to finally able to recollect a personal humiliation. Brennan remembered the shame radiating in his eyes. She remembered the shiftiness of his posture and the tenseness in his body language. But most of all, she remembered the absolute anguish of his voice as it tumbled from his chest.
Booth took a deep breath, his voice lowered to just above a whisper, his tone melancholy and resigned. "My buddy picked Kenney up and dangled him over the stairway. He begged and cried, and everyone laughed."
Brennan leaned forward on her elbows, eyeing him hesitantly. "How is this about you?"
Booth sent her a pointed look as though the crux lay painfully evident. "I laughed."
Brennan pursed her lips in confusion, shaking her head slightly. "I don't understand."
"I could have stopped it," Booth explained. "I could have stepped in and helped the kid out. Instead, I…I didn't." His voice lowered with shame. "I chose my side, and it was the wrong side."
"So you were humiliated because you didn't act like a hero?"
Booth caught the lighthearted condescension in her voice, and he threw up his hands in exasperation. "Fine. Fine! You know what? I'm perfect. My life was perfect."
Hiding her surprise at the hurt in his tone, Brennan mirrored his gesture in an attempt to placate her partner. "It's a good story, okay?" Thinking of how he wished the tale to appeal to her, Brennan amended her statement. "It's a bad one." Fumbling slightly, she crossed her arms before her. "I mean, it's both I guess…" She scooted forward, meeting Booth's expectant eyes. "I get it."
Brennan began to nod before a flash of blue caught her eye, and she directed her nod towards Booth's right hand. "What is that?"
Booth's gaze darted to his hand before he settled back against his chair, crossing his arms to hide the object. "Nothing."
Brennan cocked her head in a manner teeming with skepticism as she studied him closely. "Well, you've evolved, and evolution is very impressive, and that is definitely not nothing."
Relenting, Booth uncrossed one arm, holding up a small figurine. "This?"
Brennan huffed a small sigh. "Did you bring that for me?"
"No," Booth was quick to deny.
"Good, because it's the wrong smurf," Brennan replied. "I liked Smurfette and that's Brainy Smurf."
Booth glanced down to the smurf, winding it around in his grasp. "Smurfette was a stupid, shallow smurf who only had her looks," Booth remarked candidly. Redirecting his gaze to his partner, he directed a finger towards her in emphasis. "Look you're better than Smurfette, you have your looks and a whole lot more."
"You did bring that for me," Brennan uttered softly, her accusation holding no severity, just the barest of grateful affection as Booth twirled Brainy Smurf beneath her nose. "To charm me in case I didn't find your humiliation so impressive. But I did."
Booth smiled, an air of triumph in his voice as he waggled the index finger of his free hand. "Aha, so, I did impress you."
"That's what impressive means, dummy," Brennan chided him, a teasing lilt to her tone. "Such a Philistine…"
Booth chuckled, offering out the small figurine. "Tell you what, you can hold onto this and it will remind you of how far I've come."
Brennan plucked Brainy Smurf from his fingers, looking down at the plastic toy before returning her eyes to his. "I forgive you for snorting, Booth."
Booth shrugged, wordlessly admitting to his prior error. "Evolution is a long, long, process. It takes hundreds of years."
Brennan cocked her head, quick to point out the error. "Thousands," she corrected tenderly.
Booth grinned at the familiarity. "Why do you have to always correct me?"
Brennan's lips split into a warm smile, their faces inching closer together. "To help you evolve."
If Brennan held one certainty in her time with Seeley Booth, it was that he truly did evolve from the beginning of their partnership to the present time. He certainly wasn't the same condescending, dismissive alpha male persona he had displayed during the start of their partnership. He had taken an appreciation for the complex scientific methods the Jeffersonian team employed as she had, in turn, acknowledged the legitimacy of his "gut." Brennan had noticed the gradual change in the little things. His use of the term "squints" had taken on more of a playful endearment as had the nickname bestowed on her. She slowly had found that Booth had slowly begun to integrate himself within them, participating in the various Jeffersonian parties and galas – although he had resolutely maintained a façade of reluctant liaison.
She remembered his story well. He had, after all, had taken the duration of the case to finally disclose a tale that sufficiently conveyed an instance of his humiliation. Despite serving as a less than conventional instance, Brennan had seen the legitimacy of his story. Ever since he had resigned from the Army, Seeley Booth had desperately labored to absolve himself from his sins. For a man who placed such a value on ethics and morality, to stand idly by must have been the ultimate humiliation, not perhaps as blatantly as her own anecdote, but certainly within Booth's internal moral conscience.
Looking away from Brainy Smurf, Brennan allowed her gaze to drift down to the latest trinket Booth had gifted to her. Unlike its counterparts, this trinket was not part of the procession situated on her desk, rather in a place much more boldly displayed and held no ambiguity to its significance. All of his preceding gifts had been a spontaneous moment of thoughtfulness, hardly ever planned, just executed. In contrast, this gift had been the product of months – he would argue years – of meticulous preparation that ultimately culminated in possibly the most awkward, and bumbling Booth she had ever witnessed in her life, far from the suave, poised, and confident persona she normally associated with her partner.
Booth studied his partner closely, the tip of his pen tapping idly against the wood of the table. Giving up his task, Booth threw down the implement, propping his elbows atop the surface. "Hey, Bones?"
Preoccupied in her work, Brennan barely spared him a glance before returning her eyes to the report currently captivating her attention. "Hmm…?"
"We've been dating for a while, right?"
"In the general spectrum of relationships, eight months is considered to be a lengthy amount of time, yes," Brennan intoned absently, her pen skating across the paper, eyes completely fixated on her task at hand.
Booth fidgeted anxiously, unbeknownst to his companion. "And we've known each other for longer, right?"
"Yes. I would say that being partners for three years prior to our relationship would constitute a lengthy amount of time as well," Brennan affirmed, still oblivious to the apprehensive, restless man beside her as she turned her page over.
"We're happy, too, right?"
"Again, yes," Brennan agreed. "I could argue this is among the happiest times of my life." Finally, she lifted her head, eyes narrowing at her partner as he shifted yet again. "Booth, what's with all the questions?"
"Hang on, Bones, I'm trying to get a…" Booth snapped his fingers, trying to decipher the word eluding his conception. "What d'you call it when you're gathering a bunch of little information for the bigger picture?
"A composite profile," Brennan offered helpfully.
Booth nodded, pointing a finger for emphasis. "Yeah, one of those."
Brennan's brow creased with confusion. "Oookay…" Placing her pen neatly atop her papers, she folded her arms and rotated, giving Booth her full attention. "So you wish to assemble a composite profile about our relationship because…?"
Booth shrugged. "Well…you know…I just…"
Brennan waited as he uncharacteristically stuttered and fumbled for words. "Booth, what?"
"Thought…" Brennan prompted.
Booth's face flushed scarlet. "Well, I wanted–"
"You wanted what?" Brennan could feel herself losing her patience as she directly addressed her partner. "Seeley, this is ridiculous. As astonished as I am to admit this, this is not a moment characteristic of your alpha male personality – or your conventional personality in general. Please just get to the point. What is it?"
Booth cleared his throat. "Well…"
"You know you're not making this very easy," Booth grunted, throwing his hands out in exasperation.
"Says the man who's been painfully ambiguous for the last five minutes," Brennan retorted, poking an insistent finger into the solid mass of Booth's chest. "Just say it."
"Marry me," Booth blurted in acquiescence.
Whatever she expected, a proposal of marriage certainly wasn't within any anticipated spectrum in the slightest. Brennan's eyes grew wide, a sight Booth would admit was extremely comical in hindsight but absolutely frightening in the moment, and she recoiled back in surprise. "What?"
"You have got to stop saying 'what!'" Booth fumed in anxiety.
"Seeley," Brennan drew out his first name with forced patience, "what did you just say?"
"Dammit, this was supposed to be more romantic," Booth mumbled beneath his breath as he ran one aggravated hand over his face. "I asked you to marry me."
Despite the situation, Brennan cocked one eyebrow. "I believe I was pretty lucid during our previous exchange but I don't seem to recall any question in the words you communicated."
"Well, there wasn't," Brennan defended staunchly.
"That's not the point…" Booth's tone wavered one decibel short of a petulant whine.
"Out of courtesy's sake it is."
"Considering this isn't quite the way I planned all of this, I think we can ignore a lot of things, courtesy included."
Brennan shook her head, leaning back in her chair, arms crossed defiantly. "Well that seems counter-productive since both parties need to be in consent when it comes to a thing like marriage, an institution that you know I've been opposed to."
Booth bolted from his chair, frustrated to his breaking point. "Geeze, Bones! Can't you at least try and see my rationale behind this? Is it so bad that I want to spend the rest of my life with you? I mean, marriage is about commitment. A commitment of loyalty and faith and, most of all, love. How can that be bad?"
Brennan watched as her partner paced, the picture of casual observance. "Why do you need something as trivial as a marriage license to prove our commitment?"
"Because it gives tangible evidence towards something that is completely intangible," Booth stated strongly as he whirled to face her. "It is solid proof that the two parties involved love and cherish one another. You like things to be verified with concrete data, there you go."
Booth rubbed his temples before throwing his hands out in a gesture of utmost irritation. "Don't you get it, Bones? I want to marry you because I love you." Booth drew in a deep breath, admitting softly, "I've always loved you. I want to be able to place a ring on your finger and yell to every single guy in existence as well as the whole universe that you belong to me and only me, and I want you to be able to do the same." Booth ducked his head almost sheepishly. "I can't think of anyone else I'd like to marry but you."
Whatever protestations she once had about the archaic institution of marriage dissolved the moment Seeley Booth stood before her blurting out a rushed, stumbling proposal. With a swift movement, Brennan stood from her seat, strode the length of the room to stand before her partner, boyfriend, and lover. Grabbing the lapels of his suit jacket, she yanked him down to her, catching his lips in hers. Taken aback, Booth took about a second to register the fact Temperance Brennan was kissing him with the passion she often stifled beneath the façade of professionalism, then about half a millisecond to respond. Winding his arms around her waist, Booth deepened the kiss, feeling her lips part beneath his probing tongue. He breathed in, drawing her distinct scent through his nostrils and reveling in the soft whimper that escaped from her throat as he gripped her tightly, tugging her even closer in his embrace, pouring every ounce of passion and the sentiments he failed to vocalize into the kiss. In response, Brennan only clutched his lapels tighter, meeting his searching tongue with her own, reciprocating the ardor that threatened to weaken her knees. As they parted, Booth could only grin giddily, his eyes clamped shut as though opening them would negate the moment to a different reality, a reality that was mercilessly absent of his Bones. With a sigh of contentment, Brennan snuggled down into his chest, listening to the rapid staccato of his heart through the layers of jacket and dress shirt. Booth dipped his head down, running his nose against the auburn-chestnut of her hair, the spicy, fruity aroma of her shampoo filling his sense of smell.
"Does mean you'll marry me?" Booth asked breathlessly as they parted slightly. "I mean, I know I kinda messed up my planned delivery on the whole proposal thing…I was kinda flying by the seat of my pants, and I'm not sure how effective it was," he babbled uncharacteristically.
Brennan laughed, leaning in to caress his lips once again. Leaning back against his embrace, she looped her arms around his neck. "Disregarding that your statement was completely implausible, not to mention I don't know what that means, my answer is yes."
Booth's gaze warmed to a rich milk chocolate as he stared lovingly down at the woman in his arms. "Can you repeat that?" he asked, one hand unlatching itself from encircling her waist to gently caress the contours of her face. "You know, just to reassure my beating heart."
Brennan smiled the radiant smile that, at times, graced her countenance so sparingly. Rising up slightly on her tiptoes, she brushed another kiss across his lips. "Yes, Seeley. I will marry you."
With a whoop of unadulterated happiness, Booth snatched her up in an even tighter embrace, lifting her clean off the ground as he craned his neck upward, engaging her in another torrid lip lock. With a delighted laugh, Booth twirled them around, prompting a girlish squeal from the woman he could now proudly call his fiancée. Booth gently set her down, relishing in the gentle slide of her body against his as her feet planted on the ground. Digging into his pocket, he fished around a bit before producing a small, velvet box. Popping the lid, he presented the contents to her.
Against her innate instincts, Brennan let out a gasp as her eyes took in the brilliance of the ring before her. It was the epitome of a young girl's fantasy: feminine, elegant, and beautiful. Gazing closely at the ring residing snugly against the cushioning of the box, she lifted her head to Booth. "Uhm, I don't pretend to know anything about engagement rings, but I seem to recognize this style as one from Tiffany…"
Booth ducked his head sheepishly. "Yeah…it kind of is…" Plucking the ring from its bedding, Booth held it up, twirling it slightly before her eyes. "'Lucida with Trilliant Sides Stones,'" he recited. At his words, Brennan only cocked an eyebrow, her question lingering in the air. Booth shrugged unapologetically. "Angela helped me pick it out and she made me memorize the name of the ring just in case you asked."
"It's perfect," Brennan breathed as he slid the ring on her finger and gently kissed the skin just above where the band settled. "It looks expensive…" Her brow furrowed with concern. "Booth, you didn't pay too much for it, did you?"
Again, Booth shrugged dismissively. "You're worth it." He grinned roguishly. "Small price to pay for eternal love…"
Brennan leaned in, pressing her lips to his in a tender kiss. With an impish smirk, she propped her chin on his chest, gazing up at him with mischievous eyes. "I may not be the most sentimental individual in existence, but can I just say that when you're saying your vows – which we will be writing ourselves – I expect something a bit more romantic…"
Booth chuckled, nuzzling her neck. "You got it, Bones. Just marry me. I just want you to marry me."
Brennan placed down her pen, leaning back in her chair as she brought her left hand up where the ring sat prominently against her creamy skin. It really was a beautiful piece of jewelry: a rectangular two-carat diamond flanked on either side by half-carat triangular diamonds set on a platinum band. Brennan hated to admit that the presence of an engagement ring was impractical considering her line of work, but seeing the glimmer of the precious stone on her finger served as a reminder to them man who had given it to her, and she supposed she could forgo practicality for romantic tradition…just this once.
"You know, sweetie, you don't have to keep glancing down at that ring every five seconds. It's never going to leave your finger again."
Brennan glanced up at Angela as the artist strolled into the office, perching herself on the corner of Brennan's desk right next to the row of figurines beginning with Jasper, followed by Brainy Smurf, all the way down the random characters that ended with a rubber figurine of Shrek. With a smile, Brennan set her hands atop her desk, playing idly with the center diamond. "No," she agreed, smiling at her best friend. "It's not."
"Look at you," Angela mused. "Who would've thought you of all people would be so consenting to marriage?"
Brennan smiled, once again looking down at the ring gracing her finger. "No one," she admitted. "But then again, before Booth, I couldn't really picture myself in a relationship where there lay the prospect of a proposal, let alone the prospect of accepting one."
Angela shared another smile with her best friend, looking down at her own engagement ring and its accompanying band. "It's nice, isn't it?"
"What is?" Brennan asked teasingly. "The fact that I'm engaged or the fact that I fulfilled your wildest fantasies about me and 'most definitely not standard-issued McStudly that goes leaps and bounds beyond McDreamy.' Which, by the way, I don't know what that means."
Angela shook her head. "Sweetie, to not recognize an allusion to Grey's Anatomy is like a mortal sin for anyone with acceptable estrogen levels. And here I thought Booth was working on recognizing general pop culture references."
"Considering high estrogen levels are required to know of this Grey's Anatomy, do you honestly think Booth would possess any form of knowledge in this area?" Brennan asked rhetorically.
Angela laughed, inclining her head in acknowledgement. "Good point. And I meant being in love. You know, feeling passion beyond sexual attraction."
At her words, Brennan couldn't help but visibly soften, her features taking on a faraway lilt. She had to admit she never believed she would ever feel such an intangible, irrational emotion went defied every principle in her rational, sensible mind. But with Booth, the irrational and intangible didn't seem quite so.
Brennan locked eyes with her closest friend, nodding her head slowly. "Yes, Angela. It is nice."
A knock drifted through the room, drawing both women's attention, and Brennan rotated to find the man in question situated in a familiar position at the entrance to her office. His long, broad frame lounged against her doorway, hands stuck casually in his pants pockets, his tie loosened from its state around his neck dangling just above the ornate belt buckle always around his waist, and a small grin tilted the side of his mouth.
"Hey, Bones." Straightening, Booth gave a nod of greeting to the artist beside his fiancée. "Angela." Approaching Brennan's desk, he pressed a quick kiss to her lips. "Your favorite four words are coming…"
Brennan visibly brightened, slapping the folder before her shut. "We have a case?"
"You betcha…" Booth held out a hand, helping her out of her chair and ushering her to the door with a hand settled on its habitual position at the small of her back. With a quick goodbye to Angela, she reached up to push open her entryway and paused, once again admiring the considerable sparkle emanating from her finger.
Booth chuckled appreciatively. "That ring isn't going anywhere, Bones. You don't have to keep looking at it…"
"Angela said the same thing," Brennan mused. Gently nudging him with her shoulder, as far of an affectionate display as she would muster when not behind the privacy of her office door, Brennan smirked. "You know, I was thinking about all the little trinkets you've given me."
Booth cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah?"
Brennan nodded. "Yes, and I've come to quite a conclusion."
"Mmmm-hmmm," Brennan affirmed coyly.
"And?" Booth prompted.
Brennan halted as they strode through the main entrance of the Jeffersonian. Swiveling to face her fiancé, she slipped her arms around his neck. "This is the best trinket you've ever given me."
"It should be," Booth remarked with a teasing grin as he wound his arms around her waist, fitting her against his body. "Sure as hell cost me more than all your others did combined."
And done. I hope this first effort was honorable for this very challenging genre. It's definitely been awhile since I've forayed into fanfiction writing in general, so cross my fingers I'm not too rusty. Hopefully, I've done Bones and Booth justice. Who knows, if the fancy strikes me, I just might try again in Bones. Until then, I hope to get the latest chapter of Who I Am out as soon as possible.