A/N: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! This is my favorite holiday, no joke. I am generally disgusted by the obscene commercialism of Christmas, so I take Thanksgiving as the next best thing. Family dysfunction at its height, fueled by too much food and alcohol, and God's gift to the easily-amused masses: football. (By the way, don't get me wrong... I love football.) My family enjoys loud, overcrowded get-togethers, so every year is a riot. I took a little bit of that insanity and channeled it into this fic, which I do hope you enjoy. :) If you're an American like me, have a kick-ass Thanksgiving! And if you're not, just have a kick-ass Thursday in general.
Also, please be sure to write a little review on this one-shot and let me know what you think about it! :D Reviews give me one more reason to be thankful. :)
"Whoa, fire!" Max Keenan shouted as the front window of Temperance Brennan's oven flared a bright orange. She turned and looked over the back of the couch, mouth agape.
"Dad, what did you do?!" she shouted, jumping up from her seat and disrupting the two girls curled up on either side of her, watching large, colorful floats bob and weave down the streets of New York. Snow gathered on the sidewalks and in the gutters of the city's streets, but at home in the D.C. metro area, there was no snow—only dead leaves and a bit of frost on the windows.
"Nothing, it just… bam," Max said, using wild gesticulations to describe the flame's rapid acceleration. Brennan grabbed a fire extinguisher from the side of the refrigerator, pulling the pin and holding it out in front of her. Max yanked the oven door open quickly and stepped back, flames shooting out of the ovens open face. Brennan let loose a blast of white foam, coating the flaming bird, the entire interior of the oven, and much of her countertop. She continued to spray as thick black smoke filled the room, and the girls both hung over the back of the couch, watching the scene with wide eyes. Brennan gave the trigger one more good squeeze for safety's sake, then set the extinguisher aside, brushing her hair behind her ears and panting slightly.
"Well," she said, eyeing the damage. Smoke stung their eyes and nostrils, and the charred bird was hidden beneath a fluffy layer of white nitrogen foam. Max flapped the apron that hung around his waist in a feeble attempt to clear the air around them. She stood with her arms akimbo, glance shifting from the bird to her father, back to the bird, back to her father. He gave her a sheepish grin.
"At least no one was hurt, right?" he offered. Brennan opened her mouth, but before she could speak the front door opened.
"We're back," Russ announced, he and Amy entering the front door with their arms laden with brown paper bags. They had gone down to the car to get the remainder of the food Amy had brought to the feast—Amy and Russ were on green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Brennan was on pies and macaroni and cheese, and Max was on turkey duty. The bird, he had insisted, was the sole priority of the family's patriarch.
"Mo-om, grandpa set the turkey on fire," Hayley announced over her shoulder, unable to tear her eyes away from the scene. Brennan heard the sound of paper bags hitting the floor, and Russ and Amy rushed into the kitchen, suddenly hit by the thick smoke that was oozing its way into the rest of the house. Brennan flicked on the exhaust fan, and it began whirring loudly.
"Oh my God," was all Amy could manage, eyes wide as she surveyed the scene before them.
"What the hell? Dad, what happened?" Russ asked, waving smoke away from his face and coughing.
"Well, ya see…" he began, but Russ shook his head.
"No, you know, it's probably better you don't explain," Russ said, relieving Max of having to narrate the culinary disaster. Brennan took a spatula from the utensil drawer and smeared away some of the fluff, revealing a charred black turkey skin.
"Dad, what temperature did you have this set to?" she asked hesitantly, as if she did not want to know the answer but felt compelled to ask.
"Well, honey, the instructions you printed out for me said to heat the oven to three twenty-five," Max said, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. "But I, you know, I thought maybe if I set it a little higher, the bird would cook faster and we could eat earlier."
"Dad," Russ said, his voice edgy. "What temperature did you set the oven to?"
"Eh, well…" Max stammered. "About four-fifty, more or less."
"Four hundred and fifty degrees?" Russ shouted, and Amy moaned. Brennan rubbed her eyes with her thumb and index finger, feeling dangerously close to laughter.
"I was just tryin' to get the bird on the table!" Max defended. "I didn't know the damn thing was gonna go up like a Roman candle!"
"Great, just great," Amy said, shaking her head. "Now we have no turkey. You can't have Thanksgiving without a turkey!"
"Why not?" Max asked. "We got plenty of other food."
"It's Thanksgiving, dad," Russ said. "Turkey is kind of the main dish. Without a turkey, Thanksgiving is just…"
"Ruined!" Amy wailed. "Thanksgiving without a turkey is just wrong, it's backwards, it's…"
"Unconventional?" Brennan offered.
"Listen, toots, you didn't exactly marry into the most conventional family," Max started on Amy, but Russ stopped him.
"Dad, stop. Amy, go cool off. We'll figure something out," he assured, giving her a gentle push towards the living room where the girls had tuned out of the family's dysfunction, eyes once again glued to the TV screen. Russ looked to Brennan, who raised her eyebrows.
"Amy's just… stressed," Russ said. "She wanted to eat with her family, but I told her this was our first Thanksgiving together, it was important that I be here."
"I guess I can go apologize," Max said grudgingly. Russ shook his head.
"No, I'll tell her you're sorry, she needs some space," Russ said. From you hung in the air between them, but was never verbalized. Brennan looked in mild dismay at the state of her kitchen.
"Don't worry honey, I'll clean it up," Max said, patting Brennan on the shoulder. "You go hang out in the living room with the kids, I'll get this figured out. Amy will get her turkey, nobody's going to fight, everyone's going to be happy."
"Dad, there's no way to get a turkey here now," Brennan argued. "All the stores are closed."
"I said don't worry about it," Max reiterated, bracing her shoulders with his hands and maneuvering her into the living room. "Go on, sit down. Watch the parade. Be merry. I'll sort out the bird trouble." Brennan shrugged and did as she was told, resuming her seat between the girls in front of the television while Amy sulked in an armchair in the corner, Russ trying to console her.
Max paced back and forth in the kitchen, rubbing his hands together. It was as if his old brain needed the friction to start working. He knew his daughter was right; there were no more turkeys to be had, not on the day of Thanksgiving. There was, in fact, no more edible meat in the entire house. He knew Tempe wouldn't care about the turkey, and Russ really didn't either—Russ just wanted Amy to be happy, and Amy just wanted a nice, normal family gathering with all the trimmings, a big fat bird the greatest of these. Didn't she know what she was getting into, marrying into this family? He didn't suppose she did. Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms, Max was stumped.
Suddenly, a light came on. He tiptoed into Brennan's bedroom, picking her phone up off the bedside table and entering her "Recent Calls" list. Of the top ten most recent calls, six of them were to the same number—speed dial one, Booth.
"Happy Thanksgiving!" Booth said sweetly when he picked up the phone.
"Happy Thanksgiving to you too, sweetheart," Max responded sarcastically.
"Max? Is that you?" Booth asked.
"Yeah, it's me. Look, I need to ask you something. It's kind of big."
"Max, it's Thanksgiving, can't it wait?"
"No, it can't, that's the thing. It has to happen today, now." Booth could sense the urgency in the old man's voice, and wondered what on earth he had gotten himself into on today of all days.
"Okay, shoot, what's up?"
"I… I need a turkey."
"What do I look like, the Giant Food deli?" Booth quipped. He heard Max sigh impatiently on the other end.
"Look, Booth, it's important," he said, his voice strained. "I messed up and kind of set the turkey on fire, and now Amy's freaking out and Russ is upset and Tempe is… well, I don't know about her, but everything's just falling apart. I really want to give my kids Thanksgiving, Booth. I want my family to be together, to be happy. You can understand that, can't you?" Booth knew Max was appealing to his better nature, and he rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
"You set the turkey on fire?" he asked.
"Yes," Max answered tensely. "I set the turkey on fire. Does that make you happy? Will you help me out now?" Max heard Booth let out a drawn-out sigh on the other end of the receiver, and he smiled to himself; he knew it was a sigh of resignation.
"Give me twenty minutes," Booth said, and the receiver clicked out. Max pumped his fist in the air, setting his daughter's phone delicately on the tabletop and heading back into the kitchen. He would try to clear out the mess in there before Booth came.
"I wonder who that is," Russ said when he heard the doorbell rang. Brennan's eyebrows furrowed together quizzically, and she got up to answer it. She was mildly shocked when she saw Booth standing in the hallway, a paper grocery bag in tow, Parker jumping in place at his heels.
"Happy Thanksgiving!" he said cheerily, pulling Brennan into a friendly hug before letting himself into the apartment. Parker followed his father's suit, hugging Brennan around the middle before making a beeline to the couch where the girls sat. She closed the door behind them, dumbfounded.
"Agent Booth?" Russ said, and Booth shook his hand as he made his way into the living room.
"Russ, Amy, girls, happy Thanksgiving," he greeted, nodding at each one in turn. "This is my son, Parker." Parker waved shyly to the room, taking a seat on the corner of the couch and kicking off his shoes. He made quick friends with Hayley and Emma, and while he charmed the pants off of Brennan's relatives, she followed Booth into her kitchen.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Well gee, it's nice to see you too," Booth said sarcastically.
"Sorry," she said. "I just wasn't expecting you. Why aren't you eating with your family?" She attempted to peek into the brown paper bag, but Booth crumpled the top closed with his hands, grinning.
"Because," he said. "My family decided to spend Thanksgiving in Aruba, without me." He said this almost tartly, as if it was sour rolling off of his tongue. Brennan winced inwardly; she knew his family had disapproved of him having a child out of wedlock, and generally preferred Jared to him for his vast achievements, but that was harsh.
"Oh," she said stupidly. "I'm… sorry to hear that."
"Yeah, well, that's life," Booth said loudly, opening the oven door and surveying the inside. "Looks like your dad did a good job cleaning out the oven, I'll wipe it down one more time before we pop the bird in."
"The what?" Brennan said. Booth undid the bag, allowing her to peer down into it. Inside was a large Butterball turkey, still wrapped in plastic but apparently thawed. She looked up, smiling broadly.
"A turkey?" she said. He nodded.
"A turkey," he responded. "Parker and I were going to make it and just eat by ourselves since I have him this year, but after your dad called and told me all about how the Brennan criminal unit ruined Thanksgiving…"
"My dad called you?" Brennan said, surprised. Booth made a face as if he had just spoiled a surprise.
"Oh, you didn't know? Nevermind, he didn't call me. Nobody called me. Nope. No one. No phone calls."
"Is that so?" Brennan said, smiling.
"Yep," Booth said, soaking a hand towel in hot water and wiping down the insides of the oven one last time. Max had done a good job of cleaning the area—aside from the smell of charred turkey flesh that still tainted the air, you wouldn't have known that anyone had unleashed the fury of a fire extinguisher.
"Then how did you know we were turkey-less?" Brennan asked. Booth looked up at her.
"I'm a psychic, okay? Now go tell your family they can have their turkey and eat it, too." Brennan smiled and allowed her gaze to linger on Booth for a moment as he scrubbed the remaining bird particles off of the pan, prepping it for the new turkey.
"Hey guys," she called out over the noise as she entered the room. "Guess what Booth brought us?"
"What?" the girls asked. Russ and Amy eyed her warily; Max grinned despite himself.
"A turkey!" The room erupted in cheers, the kids hopping up and down in their seats and yelling while Amy burst into prompt tears. Russ patted her back, slightly alarmed by her outburst, and Max winked at his daughter. He crossed the room and leaned in to her ear.
"I told you I'd take care of it," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"That you did," she said, bestowing a peck on his prickly cheek. "Thanks, dad."
"Anything for the family," he said, and she silently thanked whoever might be listening that her father did not have to shank anyone for their entrée.
An hour later, the family plus two Booths sat around in the living room, sharing stories and watching the parade as it continued on.
"Hey dad," Parker said. "Dad, dad, dad…"
"Yes, Parker?" Booth asked.
"Didjya know that Dora the Explorer was the first hisp… hispa… the first Mexican girl to ever be in the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade?" The room laughed, and Parker flushed.
"No, I didn't know that," Booth answered. "Where'd you learn that?"
"The TV," he responded. Booth leaned over and nudged Brennan with his elbow.
"See? I told you buying that TV was a good idea," he said smugly. She rolled her eyes.
"I would hardly call the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade educational programming," she quipped. Max chuckled.
"I remember when you kids were little, you and Russ used to love the Thanksgiving parade. You used to wake up at the crack of dawn and…" Before his story could progress any further, however, there was an unexpected knock at the door. The room turned, and Brennan gave her dad a peculiar look.
"More invitations?" she asked. Max shrugged.
"I dunno about these," he said. "Don't answer. They might be Jehovah's Witnesses."
"Oh come on Max, it's Thanksgiving, it's a holiday," Booth said.
"Actually, Booth, Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in celebrating holidays of any kind, not even birthdays," Brennan said, getting up out of her seat and pressing her eye to the peep hole. She saw a tall, dark-haired woman standing outside of her door, with a slightly shorter, curly-haired man. She grinned, opening the door.
"Bren!" Angela yelped, sweeping her up into a hug.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Dr. B," Hodgins said, standing awkwardly in the doorway with a handful of flowers. He stepped into the apartment and thrust them towards her.
"Symphyotricum ericoides," he said, handing her the bouquet of small, sunny-centered white petal flowers. "White asters, informally. Fall perennials. We just figured if we were going to barge in on your family gathering, we aught to bring… hey, Booth, what's up man?" he said, suddenly seeing Booth in the living room among the Brennan crowd. Brennan took the flowers as Jack shed his jacket, joining the crew. Brennan eyed Angela curiously, who pointedly avoided her gaze.
"We?" she said. Angela sighed.
"Hey, don't judge me," Angela said, smiling at her friend. "Jack doesn't have any family left, so I told him he could eat with me and my dad. Dad's flight got cancelled, though, so he couldn't make it. Then we had a little fiasco with the turkey…"
"You're not the only ones," Brennan said, thinking about the morning's incident.
"Really? Good, that makes me feel better. I thought I was the only woman in the world who couldn't cook a Thanksgiving turkey."
"Oh, I didn't cook it," Brennan said. "Dad did. Well, if by cook you mean incinerate." Angela laughed, unwinding her scarf and hanging it on a peg by the door.
"So what's with Booth?" Angela asked, motioning to the living room where Booth was discussing the finer points of the NFL with Russ and Hodgins.
"Oh, his family went to Caribbean without him," Brennan said quietly. "After dad destroyed the turkey, he called Booth for help, so he and Parker came over with their turkey and now we're all having dinner together. You guys are welcome to stay and eat, too."
"Really? Thanks so much, sweetie," Angela said, giving Brennan another tight hug. "I really appreciate it. We felt bad just dropping in on you guys but when we tried to brainstorm on what family we had left… well, you were what we came up with." Brennan smiled warmly at Angela, and walked with her back to the living room. Amy looked around uncomfortably at the new additions, and excused herself to the kitchen. Brennan and Russ's gazes met, and when Russ began to rise from his seat, Brennan shook her head. If there was ever a time for her to attempt to get to know her newfound sister in law, this was probably it.
"Amy?" she said as she entered the kitchen, where the woman was peering at the turkey through the oven door. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she said unconvincingly, standing up and smoothing the front of her blouse. "Who are those people?"
"They're two of my co-workers, Dr. Jack Hodgins and Angela Montenegro," Brennan said. "Their Thanksgiving plans fell through, so they came over to eat with us."
"So, what… we're taking in strays?" Amy said, almost caustically. Brennan frowned.
"They're not strays," she said slowly, not sure she was understanding where Amy was coming from, or why. "They're my friends."
"Right, friends." Amy crossed her arms in front of her chest, subconsciously closing herself off.
"Yes," Brennan reaffirmed, slightly confused. "Friends."
"I don't mean to be rude," Amy said, in a tone that suggested she knew she was about to be quite rude and wanted to preface that with a warning statement. "But Thanksgiving is about family, isn't it? You know, parents, children, aunts and uncles, grandparents… all getting together for a family gathering, with turkey and pies. It's a day for family togetherness. It's tradition."
"As far as tradition goes, the original Thanksgiving feast among the English immigrants of the Mayflower included not only the few dozen pilgrims who managed to survive their first year in the new world, but almost a hundred Native American participants as well," Brennan explained. "Most of them were not related in any biological way. You and I aren't even related, biologically speaking." Amy looked affronted.
"Are you saying I don't belong in this family?" Amy asked, her voice rising.
"No?" Brennan said, now thoroughly confused.
"Amy, what's going on?" Russ asked as he entered the kitchen and saw Amy's flustered appearance and Brennan's somewhat confused expression.
"Your sister doesn't think I belong in this family," Amy said accusatorily, pointing a finger at Brennan.
"What? Tempe, what's she talking about?" Russ asked. Max entered the kitchen now, wondering where most of his family had run off to.
"Hey kids, what's up?" he asked.
"I didn't say she didn't belong in our family," Brennan said, feeling exasperated.
"Well that's stupid, why would she say something like that in the first place?" Max asked, jumping to his daughter's defense.
"Thanksgiving is about family, Russ," Amy said tensely, turning to him. "Family. All I wanted was to have a nice family meal, but now I'm in a house filled with strangers and being told by your sister that I don't belong here any more than they do! What's wrong with this family? Why can't we have just one nice, quiet get-together that isn't in a conjugal trailer or a court house?" With that sentiment, Amy stormed out of the kitchen, through the living room, and slammed the front door behind her. Russ, Brennan, and Max stood in her wake, nobody sure of what to say or do.
"Well," Max finally said, breaking the silence in the kitchen. "That wasn't good."
"I'll go talk to her," Russ said, shaking his head and shoving his hands into his pockets. "She's just under a lot of stress, is all." He left after that, shutting the front door much more quietly behind himself. Max told Brennan he was going to go walk around on the balcony—he used to find a quiet place to smoke a cigarette when he was stressed out, but ever since he quit, he had been reduced to finding a nice place to pace. They left Brennan in the kitchen, leaning against her palms on the counter, head hanging. What had she done to her family?
"Hey." She heard his low voice as he entered the kitchen, and didn't bother looking up. "What happened?"
"Maybe I don't deserve a family," Brennan said quietly, still staring fixedly at the counter. "I end up messing things up when people get too close to me. I'm not cut out for a family, I'm not good at it."
"Temperance," Booth said, taking her chin in his hand and forcing her to look up at him. "We all get a family. Doesn't matter if we deserve them or not—which you do, by the way, so don't ever say you don't."
"Amy said I take in strays," Brennan said, looking up into Booth's troubled gaze. "What does that mean?" Booth sighed, then surprised Brennan by smiling.
"It means she doesn't understand what a family really is," Booth said.
"How's that?" she asked. Booth leaned up against the counter next to Brennan, shoulder to shoulder with her.
"Lemme try to explain it," he said. "For every person, what it means to be a family is different. I mean scientifically, your relatives are people you share DNA with, right?"
"Right," Brennan said. "Biological families share at least a small percentage of their DNA."
"But that's not the only type of family. When Amy married Russ, she became part of his family, and by proxy, yours too, right?"
"Right," Brennan agreed again. "In Western society it's custom for families to accept new members bilinially through marriage. Not only does the bride become a member of the groom's family, but the groom is also generally accepted as a member of the bride's family."
"Exactly. So family isn't just who you're related to, it's also who you decide to let into that little circle, whether it's by marriage or otherwise. Before your dad and brother came back into your life, you made your own family a different way. It doesn't matter that you're not related—family is family, no matter how you make it."
"I understand that," Brennan said. "But Amy doesn't seem to. She's all hung out on this concept of a traditional American family."
"Hung up, Bones," Booth corrected. "She's hung up on it."
"Well, whatever," Brennan said. "She obviously doesn't understand that the concept of kinship varies vastly cross-culturally. There are traditional Native American tribes where there is no concept of a single mother and father—every male adult in the family is called father, and every woman is called mother. The idea of the nuclear and extended family as determined by Western society is only one way of defining kinship."
"I think," Booth said, "that maybe Amy hasn't been lucky enough in her life to have experienced the other kind of family, the kind that isn't related by blood. Maybe you can show her what it's all about." Booth looked down at Brennan, who smiled up at him.
"Maybe," she said, pushing herself away from the counter and rubbing her hands together, not unlike the way her father did when something came to his mind. "I think I'm going to go talk to her."
"You do that," Booth said, motioning her out of the kitchen. "I'll check on the turkey, make sure we don't have another Brennan bird burning." Brennan smiled and shook her head, pausing in the doorway and turning around.
"Hey, Booth?" she said. He looked up.
"Thanks," she said. He smiled.
"Family, Bones," he said, eyes crinkling as his grin widened. She crossed the living room, stepping carefully over the Monopoly board that Parker, Hayley, and Emma had laid out in the middle of the floor. As she approached the door it opened, and Russ re-entered the apartment, looking disheartened.
"Amy says she won't come back in," he said. "She says she doesn't feel welcome here, because she's not a part of your family." Brennan frowned, taking her jacket off of a peg and putting it on.
"I'll go talk to her," she said.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Russ asked skeptically. Brennan gave him a sisterly look.
"We'll be back," she said, leaving the warmth of the apartment for the drafty hall. She found Amy sitting in the stairwell, sniffling loudly. As she descended the first few steps the woman looked up, then scoffed and turned around.
"Let me guess," she said. "Russ sent you."
"No," Brennan said, taking a seat gingerly next to Amy on a step. "He didn't think it would be a good idea for me to come talk to you, actually."
"Oh?" Amy said.
"It's not about you," Brennan added quickly. "I just have a habit of… I don't know… not getting my point across sometimes." Amy looked down at her feet, rubbing her arms for warmth.
"I never said you don't belong in our family," Brennan said, also looking down at her feet. It was easier to talk when neither of them looked at each other. "And if you took it that way, it's only because I wasn't clear enough. What I meant earlier was that… when Russ married you, you became a part of our family, and Emma and Hayley. Just because you're not related to us biologically, doesn't make you any less a part of our family. All of you, you're with us now… which admittedly isn't always a good thing, but you did make that choice yourself." Amy laughed, wiping at her cheeks and sniffling loudly.
"I did," she agreed.
"And we're glad you did," Brennan said, feeling uncharacteristically warm towards the woman. "I mean that. You make Russ happy, he loves you and the girls, and if he's your family, he's our family. And those people inside, Hodgins and Angela and Booth and Parker… they're my family, Amy. Before dad and Russ came back into my life, when I didn't have any blood family that I knew, I had them. Granted, they had to force me to celebrate with them at first… but they made me feel like I belonged. Like somebody wanted me.
"It doesn't matter that we're not biologically related, it never has… they're still my family. They were there for me before dad and Russ came back, and they're still there for me. I'm not going to abandon my family. So please, don't call them strays. They're not strays. They're family too." Amy rubbed her eyes with her palms, wiping the moisture away, and sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry, Temperance," Amy said. "I'm sorry that I insulted your friends… your family. I just wanted everything to be so perfect for my girls. I know you don't have children, but when you're a mother, you just want to protect them. With Russ in and out of prison and Hayley being so sick, and my job hasn't been so steady lately… I just wanted to give them a real family, somewhere they could touch base with and feel safe. Something perfect they could hold onto."
"That's laudable," Brennan said, thinking back on her own lack of family throughout her childhood. "And I do understand, a little bit. I spent a few holidays in the foster care system. It's awkward, eating dinner with a huge family who doesn't know you, doesn't need you there. I wouldn't wish that on any child; I want your girls to feel like they have a family here, like they belong."
"I appreciate that Temperance, so much," Amy said. "You've shown us time and time again how much you care about us. I feel like an ass now, after the way I behaved, the things I said. When Russ made us his family, you accepted us right away as being your family too. I should have done the same for you. There's no excuse for my behavior, and I wouldn't blame you if you never invited me back."
"Seriously?" Brennan said, almost grinning. "Have you met my father? We keep him around; do you think you could do worse?" Amy laughed, really laughed this time, and Brennan joined her. Brennan got up and gave Amy a hand.
"Let's go back inside," she said. Amy took her hand and rose to her feet.
"Back to the family," Amy said. Then with a smile, she added: "The whole family."