Jared met Temperance for the first time over Thanksgiving dinner. Annie Booth had been cooking for days. Jared had arrived on Wednesday, just in time for pies. He sat in the kitchen while his mom made pumpkin, apple and her award-winning cherry and wondered which would be Temperance's favorite. It had been years since Seeley had brought home a girl and Annie saw this as a sign that his life was turning around.
Their car pulled in just as the turkey was done. The doorbell rang a minute later. Jared knew that it wasn't his brother because Seeley would just knock, but he was still surprised when he opened the door.
Surprise #1: Temperance Brennan was not a blond. Since junior high, Jared couldn't remember Seeley having a girlfriend who wasn't a blond.
Surprise #2: She might have been the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"Jared, hello." Her voice was slightly husky and she spoke as if she already knew him.
"Hey!" Seeley was behind her, grinning more broadly than he had in years. He held a suitcase in one hand (just one suitcase for the two of them, Jared noted). He clapped his other hand onto his brother's shoulder, the same heavy, comfortable gesture that Jared remembered from his first day of school, his first encounter with a bully, his first date.
"Mom's in the kitchen. Your room's set up and the guest room's ready for um..."
"Temperance," she supplied. "Call me Temperance."
"You never let me call you Temperance!" Seeley's voice was teasing. His arm slipped around her waist, pulling her close. She looked at him over her shoulder, smiling. Jared stared at his brother's arm, an obvious sign of their intimacy.
"Jared, you okay?" Seeley's voice was concerned.
Jared looked up, startled. "What? Yeah, fine." Not fine because I kind of want to rip your hand off there, big brother.
"Not fine," their mother's voice came from behind Jared, "Because our guest has not been allowed to come in to the house." She turned to the guest in question. "Hi, I'm Annie Booth."
"Temperance Brennan. Seeley and I brought a bottle of wine." She held out the offering. Jared managed not to snort. The Booths were types for a harder kind of liquor, not whatever fancy French beverage his mother was currently cooing over. He looked up at his brother, expecting to see a condescending tolerance instead of the happiness and pride that was present in his eyes. Jared began to feel slightly ill.
"Ed," Annie called into the den. "Dinner's ready. Come on in."
The first problem arose as they sat around the table. "Temperance," Annie asked politely. "Would you like to say grace?"
"I'm not religious," Temperance said unapologetically.
"Oh," said Annie, her smile dimming by degrees. Strike one. Jared's thought was interrupted by his mother's voice asking him to say grace instead. He mumbled out a couple of thank-yous and blessings and turned towards his father, waiting for the turkey to be cut.
Once they had all loaded up their plates, Annie got down to business. "So how did you two meet?"
Since Seeley had come out of the army haunted by ghosts, Jared had had little reason to be jealous of his older brother: Jared was the well-respected cop, while Seeley had drifted purposelessly from job to job after his discharge; Jared passed his psych screening every year while Seeley had been institutionalized a couple of times (just for simple stuff- depression, anxiety- but still). It was a given that Annie Booth would mostly be sharing proud stories of her son the decorated policeman rather than her son the aimless mechanic/shooting range attendant/salesman.
So for all these reasons, Jared was surprised that he was spending Thanksgiving dinner jealously watching his brother and his girlfriend as she told the story of how they met. Temperance Brennan was a good storyteller, he noted. It was an amusing tale, but Jared couldn't stay focused on it. He just kept watching her mouth while she talked about coming to help manage the gym Seeley was currently working at (she did something boring with money).
"It was hate at first sight," his brother put in, his familiarly charming smile (not seen for a few years now, at least around the Booth home) coming to the fore.
"Sh! I'm telling the story." She poked him gently in the shoulder.
By his third helping of mashed potatoes, Jared Booth was in love with Temperance Brennan. He watched her mouth move around words, learned the different levels of her flashing smile, noted that she was either a vegetarian or didn't like turkey because somehow during the course of the meal, her portion had been transferred quietly to Seeley's plate.
So it came as the worst kind of surprise- the cold-water-down-your-back, your-suspect-got-away-and-the-boss-was-there-to-see, your-pancakes-burned-while-you-were-getting-the-phone kind- when Seeley announced that they were getting married.
"Took me the longest time to get her to say yes," he grinned, "But we're actually engaged, not just-"
"Engaged to be engaged," she finished, sharing an inside-joke sort of smile with him.
Annie Booth seemed about as pleased as Jared with the news. She might have softened to her son's girlfriend over the course of the meal, but the woman was still a stranger. Not only was she unlike most of the happy, unguarded people Annie normally interacted with, but her son was now telling her that this woman who she was meeting for the first time would become part of her family. Still, Annie tried to smile.
"That's wonderful! Do you have any idea when the wedding will be?"
"We were thinking about March," Seeley answered.
"Any reason in particular for that?" Jared put in, not really caring, not wanting to know why the woman of his dreams was marrying his brother.
"No." Temperance answered shortly.
"Well, that's all so nice." Annie's smile was becoming more forced. "Seeley, will you help me bring the pie in from the kitchen?"
Temperance turned to Jared. "So, are you working on anything interesting?"
"Murders." Jared surreptitiously strained his ears, trying to hear the conversation his mother had dragged her elder son away from the table to have. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he could see Seeley who started out calm and then began getting clearly angrier. His face turned stormier as he gestured. Finally he grabbed a pie from the counter- pumpkin- and returned to the table where Jared and Temperance sat, awkwardly facing each other.
"Who wants pie?" His voice was falsely cheerful.
Hours later, Jared came down the stairs for another piece of pie. (There was a reason they had named the blue ribbon at the church pie baking contest after his mother.) He was a grown man, a homicide detective with an apartment and adult responsibilities, but being inside his childhood home, having a slice of cherry pie and a glass of milk while it rained outside brought back the best memories of his boyhood.
He finished his pie and put the plate and fork in the dishwasher. As it slipped closed, he heard the creak of the swing on the front porch. He headed towards the door. The swing had a tendency to break in high winds. He had his hand on the knob, ready to push it open, before he heard the voices.
"-And then my dad looks at Becca and goes 'Have you ever even watched football?'"
Temperance laughed gently, not a laugh for the sake of politeness, just a little humming giggle. Jared quietly poked his face around the door. Temperance and Seeley were curled together on the swing. His foot occasionally came off to push them along.
They were quiet in the aftermath of Seeley's story, but Jared could see it was a comfortable silence, the kind that could last forever while they just watched the thunderstorm around them.
"Do you think they liked me?" Temperance's question was sudden. Seeley apparently thought so too.
"Since when do you care what people think of you?"
"Like when I first came to Metro Fitness and everyone called me a bitch behind my back?" Her voice was significantly less upset than Jared thought it should be. "I would like my husband's parents to like me. My family certainly isn't in any shape to be hosting holidays any time soon, and because you have made it clear to me that holidays are family time-"
"Which they are."
"-we're going to have to see your family a lot. So it would be prudent if we all got along."
"It was good, Bren. You were good."
"You mean I told amusing anecdotes about how we met, like you told me to?"
"See, maybe you should listen to me more often." Seeley's comment was simple, his voice was quietly teasing, and Jared still felt like he was intruding. He waited for the next thunderclap and used it to cover the noise of the door clicking shut.
He made his way up the stairs and into his room (noticing that Seeley's bed was mussed but Temperance's still had his mother's crisp hospital corners on the bedspread). He climbed into the bed he had slept in since his teenage years and turned towards the window where lightening colored the sky outside a deep purple. He counted seconds between lightening and thunder. Somewhere between twelve and thirteen, he felt himself drifting off. Before he dropped off completely, he had one last thought.
"Damn, am I gonna have to be best man?"