Disclaimer: As always, this story was written for entertainment purposes only and no copyright infringement was intended.
A/N: This bugger has been collecting dust on my hard drive ever since "The Bone that Blew." It's a tad open-ended but I hope it's still enjoyable. I'm not planning on continuing it any time soon unless my Muse gets a sudden kick of inspiration on it, which is highly unlikely. Thanks a million to Liz (lizook) for her encouragement and for helping me get unstuck.
Spoiler: The Bone that Blew
Tell Me Something
"This is exactly why I didn't want you to work here!" Brennan angrily spat the words out, leaving everyone in the room slightly startled.
"Bones, don't you think you're overreacting a little?" Booth asked gently.
Brennan leveled her gaze at her partner. "I told you it was a bad idea for him to work here, Booth. He's a criminal. He can't be trusted around my evidence!"
"Honey, I didn't touch your evidence. I was just looking at it. I don't understand why you're getting so upset!" Max looked at his daughter helplessly.
"Because I told you not to interfere in my life! I trusted you to honor that and you didn't. Allowing you to work here was a huge mistake." With that, the anthropologist fled her office, leaving her father and several colleagues in bewildered silence.
Concerned, Angela started to follow but Booth stopped her, holding up his hand. "I'll talk to her, Ange."
Max, in a flash of misdirected frustration, snapped. "Oh, you want to talk to her? I'm sure you're the one filling her head with a bunch of garbage about how I can't be trusted."
"Hey, wait a minute! If it wasn't for me, she wouldn't even be talking to you!" Booth protested. He genuinely liked his partner's father, but his loyalty was to Bones.
Max laughed mirthlessly. "So says the man who arrested and testified against me..."
"I was doing my job," shouted Booth, getting increasingly agitated.
Cam, who had been watching the exchange wearily, stepped between the two. "Maybe we should all take a step back and think about what we're saying." Both men ignored her.
"Is it your 'job' to poison my daughter against me?" Booth's mouth dropped open incredulously. Max continued, "Every time I think she's opening up to me, the door slams in my face. I try getting her to spend time with me and she tells me she's with you. No matter what I do, she doesn't trust me. She does, however, trust you." His unspoken implication was clear: it's your fault.
Booth's eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. Trying to control his temper, he growled, "I had to earn Bones' trust. It's not something I take lightly. You abandoned her, Max. I don't know how long it'll take to win her over, but she's worth the effort." Turning on his heel, the agent stormed off in search of Brennan.
Cam and Angela shot each other uncertain looks. "A word of advice…," Angela began wryly, "That man is your best chance of getting through to your daughter. I wouldn't tick him off, if I were you."
Max sighed, deflated. "Do you know how hard it is for me to see her being so… herself with him? Every time I see them together, I get a little glimpse of the Tempe I used to know. And every time I try to reach out to her, she runs away from me."
Angela smiled sympathetically. "Bren runs away from everybody, even Booth. She's done everything she can to push him away. It was his stubborn, unrelenting persistence that's finally gotten through to her."
"That doesn't it make it okay for him to keep her from me."
"You have it all wrong," insisted Angela. "Brennan didn't want anything to do with you, but Booth talked her into giving you another chance. He encouraged her to visit you in prison, spend Christmas with you, and let you work at the Jeffersonian."
Cam nodded. "Booth has a knack for reading people," she explained. "If he thought there was any possibility that you might hurt Brennan again, you wouldn't be standing here talking to us."
Angela agreed, "He wouldn't let you anywhere near her. If anyone can relate to what you're going through with her, it's Booth."
Max bowed his head, thinking this over. Sighing again, he looked up at the two women and smiled sheepishly. "I guess I owe him an apology, don't I?" At their solemn nods, he left in search of Booth.
Max walked down the halls of the J. Edgar Hoover Building nervously. He may have been acquitted of murdering Deputy Director Kirby, but he was sure there were plenty of other crooked agents who would love to take a shot at him. If this hadn't been so important, he'd have never risked going there. Determined, he knocked on the door to Booth's office.
"Max?" Booth was genuinely surprised to see him. "Come in."
Max sat down in a chair across the desk from the young agent. He felt like a kid in the principal's office, a surreal feeling since he was used to calling the shots.
Unaware of Max's discomfort, Booth began, "I tried talking to Bones, but she's not being very receptive right now." He looked sympathetically at the older man. "She's just using evidence as an excuse to push you away. Give her time. She'll come around."
Max smiled. "Thanks, but I'm not here to talk about what happened with Tempe earlier." At Booth's questioning expression, he went on. "I came here to apologize."
Booth's mouth quirked in a half-smile. "There's no need to apologize. I understand how frustrating she can be."
"I know you do. And I never should have accused you of pushing Tempe away from me. From what I hear, I should actually be thanking you."
"Your friends explained to me that you encouraged Tempe to forgive me. They said you talked her into visiting me in prison and spending the holidays with me…"
"Max," Booth interrupted. "I did those things for Bones, not you. Don't get me wrong, I like you, but I only encouraged her to talk to you because she needed to."
Max nodded. "I understand." He hesitated and then continued, "I know what I did to her, Booth, her and Russ. Not a day goes by that I don't regret it. I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to them."
Booth studied the older man and, deciding he was sincere, nodded his approval. Having said what he wanted to, Max stood up to leave. A thought occurred to him and he turned back.
"Tell me something about her."
"What?" Booth was confused.
"I knew Tempe as a child. You know the woman she is today." He sighed and went on quietly, "I just want to know her."
Booth met Max's pleading look and took pity on him. His lips curved in an ironic smile. "She's stubborn."
Max laughed, a hearty sound. "Tell me something I don't know."
Booth blew out a sigh. Where should he begin? Temperance Brennan was a complex woman. "Well, most people think she's distant and cold, but that couldn't be further from the truth. She's one of the most sensitive and caring people I've ever known." He paused, thinking. He wanted to help Max understand her. "Yet she hates to show emotion… Sees it as weakness."
Max listened intently. Any insight into his elusive daughter was precious, but especially when it was coming from this particular man, who knew her better than anyone.
"She tries to keep people at arm's-length because she's afraid of needing anyone. She'll do everything she can to drive you away, but you can't let her." Max nodded again and Booth continued. "Once you get past her defenses though…" He smiled to himself. "She's the most loyal person you'll ever have the privilege of calling your friend."
Not for the first time, Max wondered about the nature of this man's relationship with his daughter. They both adamantly denied being anything more than friends; in fact, they usually downplayed their relationship to that of simple colleagues. It was obvious to everyone around them though, that there was more to it than that. Booth, oblivious to Max's train of thought, continued to reflect on his partner.
"She's tough. I've seen her take down guys twice her size. And the shit she has to stomach in her work… I don't know how she does it."
Max grinned proudly. "She's always been like that. Never let anything get in her way."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Both men chuckled. "She has one hell of a right hook, your daughter."
Max's laugh rang in the small office. "Why doesn't that surprise me?" he echoed, raising an eyebrow. "I take it you have first hand experience?"
Booth snorted. "Laid me flat on my ass." He shrugged and smiled sheepishly. "I deserved it though."
"I don't doubt it," Max replied amicably. He sobered. "You're a good man, Booth. I'm glad Tempe has you."
It was the second time in two weeks that Max had given his "blessing" to Booth and it made the agent uncomfortable. "Max…"
"Yeah, I know. You're 'just partners.' I get that… But I also see the way you look at her. There's nothing 'just' about it."
Obviously directness ran in the Brennan family. Booth's face flushed slightly in embarrassment. The conversation had taken a decidedly awkward turn and he really wanted to change the subject. Hell, he couldn't even untangle his feelings for her himself, much less discuss them with her father. Max, realizing Booth was dangerously close to clamming up, smiled reassuringly.
"I just want the best for my little girl."
"Why me?" Booth asked sincerely.
"I'm her dad. No man is ever going to be good enough for her… But I know you'll try your damnedest to be."
Booth was taken aback. He wanted to disagree, to insist vehemently that Bones was just his partner, but he couldn't. As Max's words resonated in his mind, he slowly nodded. Max was right.
"Yes. I will."