Author's note: All right, here it is, the last chapter. Thank you all of you that read and commented and added to the favorites and all that jazz. Really! Thank you for making the writing of this particular piece such fun.
Happy holidays- Remember that we can still look forward to the New Year.
5- All I want for Christmas is you.
December 24th, 7am
Temperance Brennan sat in shock. She was dizzy, her head was spinning madly. Her body still remembered what it felt like to have life inside. The ache of that loss was intense, though she had never actively wanted to have children of her own. She had decided very early in her life that she would not be defined by what her feminine body could do. And now, here she was, grieving the loss of a child she'd been pregnant with for 30 minutes. Here she was, missing what she had with Booth for those same 30 minutes, when she had, for 4 years, denied herself all that could be, kept him at arms length. She felt stupid. She felt unbelievably stupid to have needed an arrogant Missy Piggy, a smug Smurf, an alcoholic Rabbit and a black and white Jimmy Stewart to tell her how much she'd messed up her own life. How much she'd miss out if she insisted on the safe way. On keeping her heart safe. We make our own choices. Well, then, the choice had been made. The moment she sat in that armchair and was told to leave. She had filled her days with work, she had lived a surrogate relationship just because it did not present the dangers the real one would face her with. She had pretended to herself none of what was in that room was what she really wanted. That she had all she needed. And she'd been able to fool herself for most of the time too, which just showed that she was not that brilliant after all. All that she wanted was right there, right in that room she didn't even know how to find.
She stood up and walked to her bathroom, to wash the tears and the dregs of the night away. She was truly exhausted, but it was 7am on Christmas Eve and there was a lot to do. She would have to find Booth and sort that fine mess she was in. And fill the fridge. And cook them a nice supper. And call Egypt and tell them the ID of the mummy would have to be postponed for indefinite time. She resisted the urge to call Booth and ask him to come though she was sure he would. But she owed him that much that she'd do the groveling.
But first things first. She jumped into the shower, ran it at scalding and scrubbed vigorously, returning heat to her body, making her blood run faster through her veins. She shampooed and conditioned her hair, and took only slightly longer than the strictly necessary to perform all the actions. She was a busy woman. She toweled off and selected casual, warm clothes from the closet that the Smurff had frowned upon. She made coffee she so desperately needed if she was to stay awake to fix her life, drank it in a hot greedy go and grabbed her keys jogging towards her car. The air was icy and crisp, a morning so clear the sun reflected off the smallest particles suspended in the air and gave everything a new light. She drove to the farmers' market and stocked up almost indiscriminately. She wanted to see the fridge full, colorful, odorous. No more stark, depressing white. No more lonely rice crackers in there.
Then she stopped by the Jeffersonian and, having located all of the grad students and assistants scheduled to assist with the analysis of Ramses II's first daughter's mummy, told them they were excused for the holidays, to not show up at least, until after the weekend. And, on an afterthought, wished them a merry Christmas. It felt strange to say it. Those were not words that rolled out of her tongue with ease. She usually concentrated on ignoring all sorts of signs that it was Christmas.... the cheery music playing in every shop, the decorations hanging in the streets, the weird Santas collecting funds for this and that, the smiley faces anticipating the holidays and the presents, the general whiff of Christmas. Today, she wasn't exactly sure of how not sound like a recent convert, but wanted to be a part of it, nonetheless.
Her next step was calling Rebecca. It was a tense conversation she did her best to disarm. But after 10 minutes she had the result she wanted and, after scribbling on a small piece of paper, made her way to Angela's office. She passed Hodgins and, without giving it much thought, pulled him into a hug. It surprised Hodgins to the point of having him paralyzed. Temperance pulled away and looking at him in the eye told him:
"We are a family here, Jack. We really are..." Hodgins' blue eyes were open wide in amazement.
"Yeah... I guess..." He stuttered.
"Merry Christmas, Jack"
"Merry Christmas, Temperance" Wow, that was weird. Wonder what Angela will make of that! Jack was stunned into silence when Brennan walked back and kissed his cheek.
"Thank you for being a friend" And she walked away, leaving behind her a Jack trying to understand what had come over her.
When Brennan walked into Angela's office, her artist friend was sitting in her sofa, staring into space, a sad look in her face. Brennan's heart jolted. Had it happened already? Had she put her foot in it already? Oh God! How was she going to fix this one? She was not the sensitive type, the type that always knows the right thing to say, how to make people feel better. In fact, her trade mark was bluntness, not exactly what sad people needed.
"Angela!" She called out trying to announce her presence, just in case Angela did not want to talk to her. "Angela!" But there was no reply. She walked in, knelt by the sofa and touched Angela carefully in the arm. "Something wrong? Why are you sad? Is it something that I said?" Angela scooted over giving Brennan space to sit by her side.
"No, Sweetie... I just... Roxie and I... we're not really OK... And I don't really know to fix this. I just want to do what I usually do... you know, pick up my gear and walk away... I don't like complicated stuff. It's just... you know, been there, done that with Roxie..."
"And you don't like repeating your exits..." Angela hugged her smiling.
"Yeah, you know me... I like creativity."
"I don't think you should give up this easy, Angela... there's a lot to be said for perseverance..."
"I thought I was your favorite flake"
"You're my favorite everything, Angela. But leaving is not what you want to do, otherwise you'd have done by now..."
"Perseverance, you said..."
"Well, this is unexpected... from you, I mean, the romantic advice"
"Angela... I'm sorry... I didn't mean to..."
"Relax, Brenn. I love you too. In a completely non lesbian way!" They both smiled. A smile, Angela knew, was a good way to scare away sadness. "I don't like feeling like this on Christmas... It's just the worst time of the year for a break up, don't you think?" Brennan shrugged. No, she didn't know that. She knew it was a bad time for many other things, but she did not indulge in that particular thought. Instead, she took Angela's hand.
"I went shopping. I've got my car full of groceries. Don't spend Christmas alone. Come to my place if you want to... if things with Roxie do not get fixed..."
"Promise, Angela! Promise you'll come to me if things don't work out."
"Are you going to be alone?"
"I hope not..." There was a hint of a smile in Brennan's eyes. For once, Angela did not press. But she knew it was serious, that Brennan had made up her mind about something.
"Well, Sweetie, thank you for asking. And I promise, if things don't work out, I'll pop by, OK?"
"OK" She kissed Angela on the forehead and stood up to walk to the door.
"Thank you for being a friend... And good luck!"
"You know, that decision of yours..." Brennan debated on whether to tell Angela or not. She decided against. Mostly because she trusted Angela to know what the decision had been... mainly because she wanted it to be something of hers for the time being.
So when she walked out of the Jeffersonian, there was only one more thing to do to make it Christmas: Apologize to Booth. Naturally, she called him first. Only there was no answer. It did ring and it did go to voice mail. What it did not do was was connect her to him. So she tried his direct line at the bureau. And again it ran, then transferred her to his cell and then to his voice mail. And, again, no answer. She checked her watch. 10H30 am. Maybe he was on his way to the Jeffersonian. She called the security desk and asked if he'd come in. No. She asked if they'd let her know if and when. They promised. They wished her Merry Christmas. She wished them Merry Christmas back. She called his cell again. And again, it rang, then transferred her to the voice mail. And still no answer. She thought back to what she'd seen the night before, him drinking like salvation resided at the end of the bottle of vodka. She called his home phone. And it rang and transfered her again to voice mail.
Where are you Booth?
She hung up. He could have drunk himself to oblivion. It was a remote possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. So she drove to his house and let herself in. He still had not changed that stupid spare key from under the stupid rock by the door. Which was stupid. Anyone could come in. Anyone could hurt him. She walked through the empty apartment, walked into every room, checked in the bathroom, in the kitchen, even in the garage. Her heart started to ache in impossible increments with each passing minute, with each thwarted attempt at ringing him.
She sat in her car trying to get her breathing under control. She was dangerously close to hyperventilating. She tried the Hoover building and the Jeffersonian again and then his house. When she got no answer, she drove to Wong Foo's. She walked in bringing the cold in with her. Sid did not seem surprised to see her. When she approached the counter but did not seat, Sid spoke while walking to her:
"He's not here." There was panic in her eyes, now, Sid could see it. "But he was here last night." It did not surprise her as much as she'd expected it to. "He drank quite a lot, so I took his car keys. Put him on a taxi to take him home"
"He's not there..." Sid handed her a cup of steaming tea. She looked at it, unable to remember what to do it.
"He's not inside that cup either. Drink it!" She took a sip of the steaming liquid. "He couldn't have gone far without the car. See? It's still outside." Grateful, she walked out. She opened the door and sat in the driver's seat. She made a mad dash to the Hoover building. It was semi empty, none of the usual comings and goings. It appeared Christmas had come even for dedicated public servants. She sped through the corridors and took the elevator to his office, but when she got there, Charlie told her from his desk that he had not come in that morning and hadn't even called. She left a post it note stuck to his desk. Call me when you see this. She called Caroline, who was more than surprised to hear from her as she was in New Orleans for a family Christmas and then Cam, who was on holiday and thought Brennan knew about it as she'd left almost a week ago. Once more she walked to her car, despair growing. She had no idea where to find him. And she was absolutely sure that if the situation was reversed, he would find her in no time. And then it occurred to her, that maybe he had found more congenial company than herself. That it was too late. She thought back to the dream. Who the hell was Peyton and where had she come from? Jimmy had said that when she did not accept the invitation for Christmas, Peyton had showed up, been a friend. She opened the car and walked in. And was hit by a waft of flowery perfume.
"You know, this is a bad time to start thinking with your heart instead of your head!"
"You know, I really don't have the time to entertain visitors right now..." Miss Piggy did not take offense. Which was odd, but nice.
"This is, in fact, an excellent time to use your head... You know where he was last night. And you know he is not fickle. He wouldn't go running after the first woman that gave him the time of day... would he?" Brennan sighed.
"No..." Miss Piggy gave her a there you go look.
"So, where do you think he could have gone?"
"I don't know. I've looked everywhere. He's not at the Hoover or the Jeffersonian, at home or at Sid's, He's not driving... and he's not picking up the phone. Oh God, he's not picking up the phone!"
"Well, aren't you the drama queen! Maybe there's a good reason why he's not picking up the phone..."
"Like he left it in his car?" Brennan wanted to rebate the logic. But found nothing wrong with it. Miss Piggy gave her a smug look when she did not reply. "Now, where is the only place you haven't looked in?"
"The whole city..."
"Ah, irony! That is sooooooo not nice. I'm this close" and she showed her chubby fingers nearly touching each other "to stop helping you. And believe you me, you need all the help you can get."
"Sorry... it's just that..."
"I know... If my Kirmy went missing, I'd go nuuuuuuuuts! But think, he didn't evaporate. He is somewhere! Where is the only place that you haven't looked yet?" And then it hit her.
"I know where he is. I know where... Miss Piggy, thank you for your help."
"Say no more, I know when my job is done." Brennan started the car. "Just promise me when your first daughter is born you'll name her after me!" Brennan looked at the pig in shock, but she had just snapped her fingers with a smile and disappeared with a whoosh.
Brennan drove possessed by impatience, drumming her fingers in the steering wheel with every red light she came across but faced the crowds of last minute shoppers with stoicism and the heavy traffic of people leaving the city with caution. She just needed to get there in one piece.
She parked in her residents' bay and turned the key in the ignition. She sighed in relief. There he was, sitting on the front steps of her building, curled up in his heavy winter coat. She could have cried in relief. And, in fact, she wasn't even sure she didn't.
She opened the door and walked to him, sat by his side.
"I'm sorry, Booth." He put his arm around her, pulling her to him. It was cold. In fact, it was beyond cold. It was freezing. But right there and then, that was where she wanted to be. That was the best place in the whole wide world. It would have been easy to just curl up into his embrace and enjoy it, but she owed him. "Booth!"
"It's OK, Bones."
"Booth... it's not OK. Look at me... I'm sorry for not being a friend to you. You were right about that."
"Bones, really, it's OK"
"No, it's not. I really need to tell you something... You're best person I've ever met... and my best friend. You are amazing... in everything that you do. In what we do. You don't flinch. And you've been there for me for more than three years now. And when you needed me, the only time you asked me for something for yourself, I... I refused it..."
"Bones, really, you don't have to..."
"Yes, I do... Booth, I had a really... really difficult night. But I realized that... oh God... well, I realized that I like myself better when you're with me. I'm a better person. I never told you that, did I? No... Booth, please do me a favor... stay with me for Christmas... I've got the car full of stuff I don't even need and... I need help taking it all up to my apartment... and we could cook and... "
"Yes, why? Why did you tell me no before?" He held her chin with his index finger forcing her to look him straight in the eye. If ever there was a moment to be brave, Brennan thought, that was now. This was what she owed him more than an apology: the truth. "Because I was terrified. I've..." She took a deep breath. Her lungs were hurting and it was not from the bitter cold. "I'm... that is... I think I'm in love with you... and I... it's not something that I had planned and I just couldn't deal with it..."
"I thought I'd just get hurt if I did... that I'd be in your hands... exposed..."
"You didn't trust me to take care of your heart." It wasn't really a question. It was more of a statement. She gestured no with her head, the tears stinging her eyes. "Bones... Temperance..." He took a deep breath and exhaled a cloud into the frosty air. "I've been less then forthcoming with you... I understand because I didn't trust you with my heart either. There are things about me that you don't know, things that I'm too embarrassed to tell anyone, like what my dad used to make of Christmas, or that there were Christmases when I didn't even know it was Christmas because I was too drunk or because I'd let myself get caught by insurgents or war criminals. Or that I killed on Christmas Day. I didn't tell you these things because I thought I knew you'd think less of me..."
"But I don't..."
"Or the fact that I've been in love with you for the last three years. And known about it for at least two of those... but I'll make you a deal. If I take care of your heart, will you do the same for me?"
Her nose was red and wet, she did not have any make up on and her un gloved hands were turning purple. There were tears streaming down her cheeks and there were dark circles under her eyes, but she was still the prettiest thing he'd ever seen in his whole damned life. She nodded yes. And that was what it took to make it all better, to make sense of all his life so far. So, carefully, slowly, his face got closer to hers, until she could feel his warm breath on her cheeks. She usually kissed with her eyes closed. Just like he faced explosions with his eyes closed. But this time, they both approached the kiss with their eyes open, staring into each other in a mix of anticipation and pleasure delaying. And when their lips connected, it was not the jolt of electricity they both expected. It was like fitting in the last piece of the puzzle, an ahhh of absolute pleasure, of recognizance and pleasure. It was like feeling whole for the first time ever. Her hands held on to his coat and his hands held on to her hair. Her mouth was silk and heat and promise. It moved over his, a slow glide that invited him in, to sample or to taste fully. The flavors of her wound through him, just like they had last Christmas, under Caroline's mistletoe, strong and sweet, still unexpected, beckoning him like a guiding light. Come on, have a little more. And the only thing he could hear were the slight suction noises their mouths pressed together were creating, in that attempt to obliterate all the time and space they'd spent apart, denying that kiss. It was cold outside their skin, but inside it was a furnace, a fire so intense it melted two hearts into one. When she started to ease away, he gripped her hips and had some more.
It shouldn't have surprised her, but it still did, that she did not regret a single second of that kiss. How could she regret being kissed on a frosty morning by a man who knew exactly how she wanted to be kissed, a slow burn of a kiss, sweet and spicy, deep and hard all in the same touch?
They wouldn't know how long the kiss lasted. They only knew that, somewhere during that time it had started to snow, big fat flakes dancing slowly to the floor, like happy confetti, lining the streets and covering their hair and clothes. Kisses aren't eternal because there is a life to live after them. So Booth got up and pulled her to him in a hug.
"Come on, I'm starving"
"I bought cornflakes"
"With maple syrup. I had a craving for them tonight..."
A few yards away, a group observed them. It was a strange group- both as individuals and as a group. There was a man tall as a lamp post- or as near to a lamp post as metaphors can go, a Muppett, an almost man sized white rabbit standing upright looking straight out of a children's book illustration, a blue dwarf like cartoon girl and a man in black and white from a 40s film.
"You know, boss, this one was actually not that complicated. From your briefing, I had expected her to resist more."
"You did a good job, Jimmy. Except for the entry. You're still messing that one up a tad."
"Ah, come on boss, Jimmy is still relatively new at this, you know?" Miss Piggy pipped in.
"Ah, come on, and what was that about them naming their first baby after you?" Smurffette was thumping her foot on the snow covered floor. "Next time I'm gonna be last. It's not fair, this is the second couple she asks to name a child after her. What if she succeeds, I ask you? What then?"
"Relax, Smurffette, no one is that silly, are they Boss?" Sid made a non committal gesture that was good enough for the group. "Speaking of which, I'm running late again" The Rabbit complained. "Are we dismissed, Boss?"
"Yeah, go one home, now. It's Christmas Eve."
"I like that brain trust thing. Can we be your brain trust, Boss?" Miss Piggy snorted in a very unladylike manner.
"Ah, you have to grow one first!"
"Come on you lot, just go on home" One by one, the group disbanded, each in their own direction, unseen by the occasional passer by. Sid remained where he was for a few more minutes watching the couple loading on the bags with what would be their first Christmas dinner together and kissing as if they could not stand to be apart for longer than a quick breath. He was a sucker for beginnings. And this was the best time of the year. Now, Sid told his buttons, he needed a new project.