After the Frost
A/N - After 3 months of fanfiction drought (thanks to my summer term at University), I finally managed to churn this out, because I am super excited for the premiere this week! Booth/Brennan in London? Doesn't get much better than that.
In the meanwhile, I decided to make a story about Russ' wedding - the guy has been talking about tying the knot for a while. Takes place after the Season 3 finale. Reviews are greatly appreciated!
Through the crosshatching of the trellis above them and the mess of creeping vines, she sees the sky starts to stain rose on the horizon as the colour slowly creeps outward, warning them of the impending dusk. Unconsciously, she begins to dwell on how late it has already become, and how the past week of helping Amy with all the last minute preparations will need to be made up at the lab overtime, but all those thoughts are whisked away as a strong hand grasps hers and hoists her out of her seat.
"Come on, honey," her father insists, pulling her out towards the floor.
Angela and Hodgins have already started their own odd set of jumbled dance moves as the band belts out its rendition of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". She shakes her head with feigned exasperation as she passes her friends.
She almost isn't ready when her father raises her hand and spins her around, but she manages to recover from the surprise and laughs as he starts showcasing his own repertoire of terrible moves.
"Are you telling me that my daughter doesn't know how to moonwalk?" he asks, sounding absolutely shell-shocked. He shuffles backwards clumsily, nearly bumping into another guest as he stands expectantly for her reply.
She decides not point out that if his demonstration is any indication, neither does he, but instead gestures towards her feet. "Not in these shoes, dad."
"We'll get a bit more champagne in you and I'm sure that won't matter," he says, finally spinning on his heel as the song comes to an end.
She smiles lightly at the prospect of her father trying to get here drunk. As they make their way back to the table, she catches Russ standing with his arms wrapped around Amy in the middle of the dance floor, where they sway slowly to some unheard beat. A moment later, Amy gathers up her pristinely white skirt and tiptoes to press her lips to her new husband's cheek, and they both laugh.
She feels a surge of happiness pulse through her, before she realizes she has come to a standstill while her father has wandered off to chat with Amy's uncle. Suddenly flustered since mere sentiments have managed to stop her in her tracks, she starts for the bar and slides slowly onto one of the cushioned stools.
"Better make it two," comes a familiar voice from behind her. "Having fun?"
"Yes, Russ," she says sincerely, turning slightly to face him. She was. For the first time in a long time, she's enjoying herself, ever since Zack…
She pushes the thought to the back of her mind, thinking silently that her partner will not approve of her compartmentalizing. Coincidentally, her eye strays towards Booth's tall form navigating the crowd, hand-in-hand with his son. She accepts a flute of champagne from the bartender and takes a demure sip, watching him over the drink covertly.
Then their eyes meet, and the briefest hint of a smile plays on her partner's lips, causing her own mouth to quirk up in a lopsided grin.
Russ follows her gaze, setting his glass down on the bar definitively. "Ironic that the man who put me in prison is at my wedding, don't you think?"
"Russ…" she warns.
"But you really wouldn't let me have it any other way," he chuckles warmly.
As her gaze spans over the dance floor, she catches sight of Amy and Emma beaming as Max sweeps up Haley into his arms to spin her around in a strange waltz.
The girl had just gotten out of the hospital in the past week. Amy had wept for days when her daughter had a relapse and needed to go under medical supervision again, but when she was released before the wedding, she and Russ had been elated. Before that streak of good fortune, they had even considered pushing back the date.
She is incredibly proud of her niece, and decides that she is the most resilient and optimistic little girl she has every met.
Her niece. Her throat tightens at the use of the word, the intimacy slowly starting to overwhelm her. But why? This was her family, she realized, for better or worse. Or so she needed to believe.
"Tempe? Are you alright?" It is Russ' steady hand on her shoulder, not his voice, that startles her out of her reverie.
"Yes," she murmurs quickly, setting down the empty glass. She stands suddenly and starts for the curtains that hang from the trellis. "I'm just going to head out for some air."
Before her brother can protest, she rounds the opening and disappears into the darkness that is quickly enveloping the celebration.
The evening air hits her instantly. It is welcomingly cool in contrast to the reception, where the heat of bodies and the effect of the alcohol had begun to stifle her. That's not why you left, a little voice in her head nags. She hates herself in that moment. And before she knows it, she feels tears beginning to form in her eyes.
As she leans against the wooden railings that circumvent the reception, she traces the worn pine with her finger tips. And then, almost instantly, she knows he is behind her, but doesn't turn. Instead, she sweeps the back of her wrist against her eyes, hoping to catch the first of the tears.
"It's hot in there," she whispers hoarsely, glancing at her partner.
At the sound of her voice, he turns, his eyes filled with seemingly rekindled warmth as he lets his gaze travel down the length of her dress, as if he is seeing her for the first time that night. She allows herself a fleeting moment of contemplation and wonders if he ever looks at anyone else that way.
"Funny you should ask," he says, leaning towards her conspiratorially. "I convinced him to find a girl to dance with. So I gave him some space to see if he could work up the courage."
"Oh?" she asks, amusement lacing her voice as she props her head against her fist and bends over the railing.
She keeps her eyes gazing loosely across the fields that lead to the brightly lit central banquet hall, certain that if she looks at him again, he will see right through her. That is, if he hasn't already. Booth runs a hand through his hair before mimicking her position, shifting his weight so that he is leaning against the railing as well. He is so close that when he speaks, she can feel the puff of air escaping his lips against the back of her neck, and she shivers.
"What's wrong, Bones?" With that, his tone has shifted perceptibly from feigned nonchalance to open concern, and she feels her throat constricting again.
"Nothing," she lies, her quivering voice belying her feelings.
She spins around to leave, but he catches her hand between both of his, tucking her fingers between his palms snugly as he leans back against the railing. A warm wind picks up, ruffling through his short hair, while his mouth becomes set in a firm line. He won't let her walk away.
"You're afraid," he breathes gently. He sounds so confident and certain that it momentarily annoys her. Her eyes flick downward to their joined hands, until he finally lets go.
She settles again with her back against the wooden barrier as she raises her chin defiantly. "I am not afraid. And I don't know what you're talking about."
"This wedding, Bones," he says, pushing himself up so that he's standing at his full height. "It's concrete evidence that your family, as dysfunctional as it may have been in the past, is here to stay. You're not alone anymore, and I think it scares you, just a little bit."
"Taking a couple extra sessions with Sweets on the side, I see" she snaps, but as she expects, he doesn't flinch under her unyielding gaze.
"Don't insult me," he replies with a ghost of a smile playing on his lips. But then in an instant, it's gone, and his eyes are completely serious when he says, "They're not going to leave you this time, Bones."
And she hears the unspoken words echo in her mind. I'll never leave you,
"I know that, Booth," she says softly, the familiar lump beginning to reform in her throat.
"You do?" He sounds surprised, and that only further exasperates her.
And to her horror, the tears come back, and she works her bottom lip between her teeth in attempt to quell them.
"Oh, Bones…" he begins, tentatively reaching out to cup her chin and sweep his thumb across her cheek. He tilts his head to the siding, studying her, as if he is searching for something.
"It's silly," she manages to whisper, her voice sounding incredibly hollow and unconvincing.
"I sincerely doubt that," he whispers. His words are so filled with honesty that she feels her stomach twist uncomfortably.
And he takes another step forward so that they are standing toe-to-toe, effectively boxing her in. It is not until he wipes his thumb against her face again that she realizes she is still crying.
"I'm a mess," she sniffs, losing all resolve and finally burying her head against his shoulder.
She can hear a muffled rendition of Frank Sinatra's "Unforgettable" escaping the confines of the party, and then the slow and rhythmic tapping of Booth's foot on the wooden patio as the song fades out.
"And you know why?" she continues carefully. "It's because I'm happy. How convoluted and wrong is that?"
He pulls back slightly, tipping his head down as he contemplates. "It's not."
"Then what is it?" she challenges, gripping the material of his jacket a little tighter in frustration.
"It's confusing," he says simply, exhaling lightly so that his breath hits her lips. "There's a whole tangle of emotions and feelings and you don't know what to do with them."
"I hate psychology," she mumbles weakly, glancing up at him.
"I know," he tells her.
She looks up to lock gazes with him, seeing the concern behind the dark amber of his eyes. In that moment, she is acutely aware of his movements, and the bob of his Adam's apple working against his throat as he swallows.
"And I also know you know how to love, Bones, and that's all your family needs from you. Nothing more."
"I-" she begins to protest, though she does not exactly know why.
"Don't try to tell me otherwise," he asserts. "I know you better than anyone."
She tips her head to the side quizzically as she mulls over the words that hang between them. He does know her, and understands her, she concedes silently. He knows about daffodils and daisies and Jupiter, and so much more. He looks anxious, listening only to the rhythmic sounds of her breaths.
Then she suddenly tiptoes to press her lips to his cheek fleetingly and pulls back. "Thank you," she replies softly, rocking back on her heels.
He pulls her in again without a moment's hesitation and she does not know if it's intentional, but she feels the warmth of his lips against the corner of her own mouth. She holds her breath when he pulls back, suddenly uncertain. His eyes roam her features, trying to gauge her reaction.
And all she hears as she leans in to kiss him again is the sharp surprised intake of breath. But he recovers quickly as his hand comes to rest at the small of her back, supporting her and encouraging her closer. She sighs contentedly, parting her lips, and he takes the opportunity to swipe his tongue across hers. But then, as if it's too much, he pulls back, his breathing coming out heavier than usual.
A small pucker appears between her eyebrows as she waits for his response. "Booth?"
He dips his head downward again to press his lips to her forehead, and for some strange reason, she feels heat rising in her cheeks at the intimacy of this gesture in particular. And when he looks down again, her eyes have finally dried, but he wipes the pads of his thumbs across her cheeks anyway, if only to touch her.
"Yeah, Bones?" he asks, sounding remarkably casual.
The normalcy of it all startles her slightly – they are still Booth and Brennan, even though they have made this leap, this time without the forceful hand of Caroline Julian. She asks herself why she was so afraid.
Her hands slide down his arms slowly, finding his fingers and locking them between hers. Oddly enough, she finds herself wanting to be back inside the tent, with the music and the warmth of the people and champagne. Temperance Brennan from three years ago would have been completely content with her bones and her lab and her research. She's changed, for the better, in no small part because of the man in front of her.
"I think we're missing Parker's foxtrot."
"Wouldn't that be a shame," he laughs, his flippancy returning easily.
But as if she is struck with a sudden epiphany, she stops him this time, wrapping her arms around his body and squeezing.
"It's just…I almost lost you," she breathes into his ear. "Almost."
"Never again," he offers gently with a reassuring smile.
She smiles brightly as he leads them back towards the tent, and she believes him.