"I'll just meet you there Bones, Cole and I have to finish the report on this guy or I won't be welcome at the ball." I said, imagining her in the floor length blue gown.
"Booth, you forbade me to go into the lab today, and now you're stuck at work..." She said angrily.
"I know, I wanted to make the grand entrance with you, but this can't wait. I'm sorry." I said.
"I could wait for you... and we could go in together." She said hopefully.
"If that's what you want to do Bones. I should be there by six forty five." I said, handing another paper to Cole.
"You better not be late." She said and clicked the phone off, not giving me a chance to promise that I'd be on time.
"Man, I really only needed a few signatures...why are you lying to her?" Cole asked.
"It's all about the element of surprise kid. If I'd gotten ready at home, she'd have seen that I can do this now. It wouldn't have been as exciting." I said, smiling at the thought of her face lighting up.
"If you say so." Cole answered as I stood to leave.
"Your bringing that girl right?" I asked him stopping in the doorway.
"Yeah, Ms. Julian threatened me, actually threatened me to get me to go to this. How do you stand it? I mean she's cold and bitter one minute and the next she's sweet and charming...kind of like you. Maybe that's why she'll do anything you ask her too?" He teased.
"Listen kid, if there's one thing I've learned after all this time working with her, it's good to be on her good side. She's one of those people who doesn't outwardly show that she cares, but when you need someone in your corner she's the one you want. Don't put anything past her, though. She'll get what she wants in the end." I said turning to leave.
I was on my way to Julia's to pick up my tuxedo, grinning ear to ear. I'd wanted to surprise Bones for almost the entire month leading up to tonight and all the times I'd kept this from her would be worth the happiness on her face when I came up behind her tonight. Anne had gotten me walking in no time with the new braces, first on the crutches and then with a cane. Last week we started working with nothing. She wasn't sure I was ready at first, but I pushed and pushed so that I could walk into the ball, just Bones at my side. My right leg was still braced, but only for support, the left, free and clear and according to Anne in less than a month I'd be back on my own two feet. Bones was clueless that I'd lost the crutches. I'd been trucking along with them even though I didn't need them for a month and I was excited to get rid of them for good tonight.
I pulled into the parking lot beside the shop and sat for a minute, thinking about how far I'd come to get to this moment. I walked into the shop, expecting to find her hidden in some back corner, but the moment she saw me come in she nearly ran me over.
"Seeley...how...the last time you were here you were barely walking!" She shouted in my ear.
"Easy Jules. We'll both go down if you don't loosen your grip." I said laughing.
"It's amazing. You always did get what you wanted." She said stepping back to look me up and down.
"Is it done?" I asked following her to the counter.
"When have I ever let you down Seel. You are going to look devastatingly handsome tonight, she is so lucky." Julia answered, pulling a garment bag out from behind the counter.
"Let's just hope she isn't too upset that I'm meeting her there to think that." I said unzipping the bag.
"Why aren't you two going together again?" She asked.
"I thought I told you...she doesn't know about this." I said, waving my hand to my legs.
"I remember now... always the romantic aren't you. She's gonna be so excited." Julia exclaimed.
"I hope she doesn't beat me up for keeping it from her though." I said laughing.
"I just hope I get to see the two of you in the society pages tomorrow, otherwise i'll never know what her dress looks like." Jules said wistfully.
"I'm sure if there's anyone with a camera at the place she'll make the paper..." I said again picturing her in the blue gown.
After picking up my tux I drove to Jack's place to get ready for the night. He and Angela were both attending the ball with us, and as a favor I'd asked them to drive me days ago, with sworn allegences that neither would divulge my secret. I wasn't worried so much about Jack spilling the beans as I was Ange, who lived for romantic escapades like this. Twice she'd almost blown it, and twice I'd had to pull her aside with the speech about why I was doing this.
"Sweetie, she's going to be so surprised." Angela said as she opened the door.
"She better be Ange, or I'll know who caved." I teased.
"Don't worry, as much as I wanted to break, I didn't." She assured me, her hair already finished for the night ahead.
"I'll be upstairs, it shouldn't take me long." I said striding past her towards the steps.
"How did you get her to let you meet her there?" She yelled up after me.
"Special Agent Seeley Booth, Ange, Special." I joked turning at the top of the steps.
I hung my tux on the door and headed straight for the shower, memories overtaking me as I entered the bathroom. I'd gone through a lot while I had stayed with Jack, none of it ever going to disappear from my mind. Now as I lifted the shirt over my head, and turned in the mirror I could see the scar, red and thin running down my back from just below my neck. I shuddered at all the pain it had caused, all the months of torture I'd been through to get to this exact moment. Turning back around I hung my shirt and pants over the towel rack, then proceeded to remove the brace from my right leg. I could get around without it if I had to, just a little slower than I was used too. I slowly stepped into the hot shower, letting the water rain down over me as I tried to imagine what the look on her face would be in just a short time as I came up behind her.
"Booth?" I heard Jack call from outside the door.
"Come in Jack." I answered, buttoning up my white shirt.
"She's been on the phone with Ange for the last twenty minutes. I guess you could say that she's more than a little upset." He chuckled.
"It will be worth it Jack. I've waited a long time for this, and tonight is the perfect time." I said happily.
"I know man. We're leaving in about fifteen minutes. You ready for this?" He asked cautiously.
"More than you know." I said grinning from ear to ear.
"Good." He said turning to leave.
"You know Jack, I've thanked you before, but really I wouldn't be here without all you did for me. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate everything you did for me." I said sincerely.
"Booth it's what friends do." He said before he disappeared fully into the hallway.
I finished getting dressed, fumbling with my tie before I headed downstairs just as Ange and Jack got to the front door. She looked amazing, her hair swept off of her shoulders and pinned just so.
"Booth, stop. Can I fix that?" She said pointing to my tie.
"Yeah. You'd think I would be able to tie a tie, but it eludes me every time." I laughed.
"That's what women are there for, to make sure you don't leave the house looking sloppy." She chuckled patting the tie as she finished.
"Did the car pick her up already Ange?" I asked.
"Yeah, we told her to meet us in the front, our car will drop you a block back so you can surprise her. Don't worry. This is going to be great just like you planned." Angela answered smiling at me as we walked to the car.
As much as I'd wished this night would get here, my stomach was still a bundle of knots. I was nervous. I was petrified of tripping or falling, there would be cameras everywhere, and at the same time all I wanted was to dance with her, walk into the room with her by my side like I'd dreamed for years. The car stopped, a little less than a block away from the entrance, and I could see the blue dress from where I got out. My breath caught, even from a distance you could tell she was gorgeous. I pulled out my cell phone, and called her.
"Bones." I said trying to sound out of breath.
"Booth where are you? Did you even leave yet?" She questioned as I watched her playing with the strap on her purse.
"I'm headed there now. We just finished up. I'll see you soon, I love you." I said, now only a few feet away.
I stopped watching her close her phone and put it back into her bag, just as Angela and Jack pulled up, keeping her attention on them. I moved in closer, as she commented on how great they looked and when she turned around there I was. I smiled at her, one of my charming smiles, as her face changed from surprise to happiness.
"Dr. Brennan." I said coyly, letting her drink me in, "Will you do me the honor of entering with me this evening."
"Booth, when, how...I... you look so handsome, of course I would." She finally said, holding her hand out to me as I stepped forward to take it.
Instead of just taking my hand, she pulled me in nestling into my chest with her face. "I knew you'd get there."
"Easy Bones, don't mess up your makeup." I said wrapping my arms around her.
"Did you know?" She said turning to Angela and Jack.
"Who do you think I rode with Bones?" I said smirking.
"How long?" She asked turning back to me.
"Almost a month. But I wanted to surprise you tonight. Do you know how hard it was to keep it a surprise? Especially with Ange, she almost blew it a few times." I said still holding her close.
"So you've been faking for a month with the crutches? That must have been tough, Booth." She said, wrapping her arms around my neck, and leaning in for a kiss.
"It was worth it though." I said softly, my lips brushing against hers.
"Okay, enough with the smoochies. Can we go in now." Jack said laughing.
"Yes, let's go in, this way we can show everyone that you really are a special agent." Bones whispered close to my ear.
With her elbow linked in mine, I took the steps up into the museum easily, not once tripping or teetering. Nothing could have taken the smile off of my face as we entered, together at last. Whispers flitted throughout the room as we mingled, and while most were about me there was the occasional mention of how gorgeous she was. Finally getting to our seats we noticed that not only were we sitting with Angela and Jack, but Cole and his date as well as Miss Julian. Normally it was hard to miss the red hair coming toward you, but tonight I was so focused on Bones that I didn't even see her coming.
"Agent Booth, Dr. Brennan, you look stunning cherie." She said, looking glamourous herself.
"Thank you for the invitation Miss Julian, we really appreciate it." Bones said
"You two should know by now that this isn't just about you supporting us, it's always about fulfilling something I need as well." Caroline smirked.
"I can only imagine what it is that you are fishing for this time." I joked with her.
"Why Agent Booth, does it always mean that it is about the two of you? I think not Cherie." She said feigning hurt.
"I don't think he was implying that at all Miss Julian." Bones said smiling at the older woman.
"Miss Julian?" A small man said as he approached us.
"Duty calls." Caroline said as she disappeared into the crowd.
"Would you like a glass of wine Bones?" I asked, seeing the waiter coming closer.
"I'd like that, yes." She answered, still thinking about what it was that Caroline was after.
"Special Agent Seeley Booth." I heard from behind me as I walked back to the table with two wine glasses in my hand.
"Mr. Clair. I didn't expect to see you here." I said turning to see the reporter, camera in hand.
"It is a high profile event Booth, you shouldn't be shocked." He said grinning.
"What do you want Nate?" I asked through gritted teeth.
"Just a nice picture of you and the doctor." He said still grinning.
"Well you'll have to get it later, right now we are trying to enjoy ourselves, and being a story for you isn't on the agenda." I said angrily, knowing that this was about my recovery and return to duty rather than about the evening.
"It isn't everyday that someone like you comes back Seeley. Not too mention the fact that you've been working cases even though you were technically listed as injured on the FBI roster. It's a human intrest piece. The public loves stories like this." He tried.
"I realize that the public loves stories about guys like me, but tonight, it's not about that okay." I said turning towards our table.
"Agent Booth, you can't avoid me forever. I'm going to write this story whether you help me or not." He called after me.
"Who is that guy Booth?" Bones asked taking her glass from my hand.
"Just some reporter, he's been hounding me for weeks about the injury and recovery. My return to work, yada yada yada... I don't want to be news, I just want to enjoy the evening with you." I said my hand brushing the side of her face.
It seemed that everywhere I turned someone was congratulating me, or commenting on how good it was to see me up on my feet. The night I imagined Bones and I having was quickly turning into nightmare. Even as we danced later in the night, people would come up to us, giving us little time to enjoy ourselves. Finally after the auction I found Caroline, cornering her near the bar.
"Listen, I know that you wanted to show me off tonight Cherie, but I've been waiting for a night like this with her for a long time. Caroline, please call them off. I just wanted to relax with her, not have to be constantly reminded of how far I've come." I spewed angrily.
"Seeley, I didn't invite you here to show you off, I wanted to know for myself that with all the things going on that you and her were still together, because as much as I heard through the grapevine, I never got an answer from either of you as to whether or not you were involved. I've seen a lot of agents come and go, but you, and her are special, you do the dirty work everyday, solve the unsolveable. I can't risk losing that combo Cherie. So think what you want, but I did not send any of those people to bother you. If anything, it's them knowing the kind of guy you are, and them being happy that it worked out for you. All of it." She said, her face softening some.
"I just didn't think that so many people cared whether I was okay or not." I said realizing how much of an impact I really had on people.
"You never did like taking credit for things Seeley. Even during your time in the military, except to carry all the blame. Those days are over Cherie. You have to give yourself some credit now." She said turning to walk away.
I didn't know what to say to her statement, and as I made my way through the crowd to find Bones I couldn't help but think about what she'd said. I didn't worry when she wasn't at the table, I figured she was working the crowd, or in the ladies room. I sat down, waiting for her as I gave myself a rest. The other attendees were making their way to their seats when I finally caught sight of her, speaking to Caroline. The awards ceremony was about to take place, where they would name the most outstanding prosecutor of the year and a few others. I watched the other couples, some happy, some just together for this night, and I realized that finally I had everything I'd ever wanted. Someone who depended on me, someone who loved me, someone who took care of me, and someone who even though she didn't always know the right thing to say, understood me. She understood that there were things in my past that haunted me, things that I'd never get over and she was okay with that. She loved Parker, and that was more than I could have hoped for, considering she had never wanted children before.
"Booth, are you okay?" She asked, shaking me from my thoughts.
"Huh, oh, yeah Bones, I was just thinking about something." I answered, staring up into her green eyes.
"You seemed deep in thought. Caroline was wondering if you'd like to present one of the awards?" She asked, sitting beside me.
"I don't know Bones..." I started to say when I heard my name being said over the PA system.
"We'd like to present a special award this year, one that was talked about before we even had the nominations out. Some will wonder if this is the appropriate place to give such an award, but for us, the prosecutors that are out there looking for justice everyday, no other person could come close to doing all that this man has. For years he's been working for our justice system, and in all that time, no one has solved more cases, shown up for nearly every trial, or stood up for beliefs that others are quick to turn on. Special Agent Seeley Booth has not only served his country overseas, but here in our own backyard. He's never once turned from a hard case, or handed off a case to another agent. He's been a friend to the prosecutors of D.C. As well as the defenders. His willingness to find the truth no matter the outcome is remarkable at best, his ethics never faltering. And for that we would like to award him with this years first ever Above and Beyond award. This award going forward will be given out to the most deserving, most influential, most determined agent. Whether it be FBI, or another agency we will continue to present this award. Agent Booth, would you please join us up here to accept your award." Caroline said excitedly.
I looked at Bones, wondering if she'd known about this from the start, but the look of surprise on her face told me that she hadn't. As I made my way up to the stage, through the clapping crowd, I noticed slowly that they were beginning to stand.
"Miss Julian, I don't know what to say..." I said, feeling my cheeks redden some as I joined her on the stage, looking out over the sea of gorgeous people all standing for me.
"Agent Booth, it is my great honor to give you this award, on behalf of the prosecutors of Washington D.C." She said handing me a small sculpture, nothing like the rest of the awards.
"Thank you, I'm stunned, really. I do want to thank a few people who help to keep me ethical, keep me grounded, and without whom I couldn't do what I do everyday. First off, Doctor Temperance Brennan, who even though I prefer she doesn't have a firearm, still puts up with me daily. To Jack Hodgins, it's all about the slime and the bugs, and the amazing things he can find from them, Angela Montenegro, you give history to what we bring you, you create faces when there are none, and that is more than anyone could ever ask for under the circumstances." I stopped briefly to look at Bones, whose eyes met mine. "Lastly, to my fellow agents, and the other squints at the Jeffersonian, and Miss Julian. We are all fighting to place the blame, but we sometimes forget about the little things that make up all the details, and without all those people none of the cases I've solved would mean anything. Thanks." I said,shifting the statue from hand to hand as I nervously finished to another standing ovation.
"Thanks Agent Booth." Caroline said as she hugged me before I moved to go down the steps.
I made my way back through the crowd, wanting only to be in Bones' arms. And as I got to her I never saw Nate behind us as I pulled her to me and kissed her passionately. "Did you know about this Bones?" I asked, seeing Nate snapping away.
"I only found out a few minutes ago Booth. I'm so proud of you." She said, turning us towards Nate, a big smile across her face as the camera snapped again.
"Congratulations Booth." Nate said before he disappeared into the crowd of people still clapping.
"I promised him we'd sit down with him next week, if he left us alone for the rest of the night." She said winking at me.
I never expected out evening to turn out the way it did, nor did I expect to receive an award. I only wanted to be out with Bones, the two of us finally and 'us'. Little did I know years before that I would meet the one person who could bring out the best in me, the part of me who could be happy. She did that for me.
Once in a while when I look back at that year, when everything changed, I wonder what it would have been like if I did turn around that day. If I'd seen the psycho who stabbed me, before he'd had the chance. I think a lot about that moment, when it was too late to turn around. Four years later, I watch Bones and Parker, now about to enter jr. high, and wonder how things would have turned out. I'm sure that by now at least, if it hadn't happened, there is a possibility that we'd be together, but not a certainty. Yet in the same thought, I know that I wouldn't have risked my friendship with her for anything, as much as I loved her, I couldn't risk losing her then. Now though as our two year old little girls sits clapping in my lap, I can say it would have been worth the risk. Worth every second that I've had with her since. I don't know what changed about her feelings for me that day, or why she decided that it was okay to let me in, but I realize now that if it wasn't for her, I'd probably be working a case, instead of spending my saturday afternoon with the most important people in my life. I've come to terms with the fact that I'll never be her husband, and that's okay. No matter how many times I've asked her, how many different ways, she always says things are just the way they're supposed to be. Even when she was pregnant with Joy and Ella, she refused, although the girls share my last name. It always seems that despite my eagerness to make her my wife, I couldn't imagine her as anything other than Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist.
"Ella, come on Ella!" Parker yells from across the yard, trying his best to get her to come to him.
"Parpar...go." Joy's tiny voice calls out, as she squirms to get away from me.
"Booth, you aren't going to be able to carry them around much longer you know." Bones yells to me.
"It doesn't mean I can't try. They're only two Bones." I say, smiling widely at her.
"Dad, you know that Ella is going to eventually get tired of your lameness." Parker teases me, referring to her attachment to me, above everyone else.
"Daddy." Ella says, snuggling back into me, refusing to leave me.
"Take Joy, I think Ella's ready for a nap." I say, setting Joy down.
"Don't you find it odd that they don't nap together?" Bones asks for the millionth time.
"No Bones, just because they are twins doesn't mean that they share a schedule. It's always been like this, yet you still question it." I say laughing as I turn towards the hammock, while Parker is making his other little sister squeal with delight across the yard.
"I know. They are just so different at times, and at others so similar." She says as I pass by, her fingers entwining with Ella's little curls.
As I lie down on the hammock, Ella's little body on top of mine, her face against my chest, I wonder how I got to be so lucky. Rocking back and forth as her eyes grow heavy, I can't help but wonder what the future has in store for us.