Spoilers: for 05x10 Goop on the Girl (but assumes canon knowledge of all aired eps)
A/N: This story has been written expressly for Labsquint as part of the Bones Holiday Fic Exchange (hosted on LJ by zerodetorres). Many thanks to Loosi for the concept and the hosting, supreme thanks to my BFF tempertemper77 for the amazing beta and cheerleading (you're the absolute BEST!!).
To Labsquint – Jen, I hope you enjoy this! Happy Holidays to you and yours!!
Title from 'Star of Wonder' by Sufjan Stevens (one of many songs that helped me churn this out!)
The last dish dried and put away, Temperance Brennan turns out the light in her kitchen and dining area and follows her partner to the small sitting area near the brightly shining Christmas tree.
Seeley Booth sits their twin goblets of wine on the table in front of them and takes a seat, his arm resting on one of the green sofa pillows. "Not seen these before, Bones," he teases, lifting the square up for her to see.
"Call it 'me getting into the season' if you want. My dad decorated the rest of the place. Those pillows are my contribution." She smiles as she sits beside him and reaches for her wine glass.
As soon as she settles in, Booth jumps up like a shot and moves toward the tree. "Speaking of getting into the season…" He reaches under the tree and brings forth a tastefully wrapped present, silver paper and a bright blue bow.
His smile causes his eyes to crinkle at the corners as he steps back to her, proffering the gift. "I got ya a little something, Bones."
When he's like this: boyish, uninhibited, happy – it tends to rub off on her. "Oh, I thought I got to unwrap my present the other day."
Arching an eyebrow, Booth indicates his lack of understanding. But at her blush and quick "Never mind" it suddenly hits him and he has to restrain a groan of understanding.
Pointing at her, he laughs it off. "You just tried to make a joke out of stripping me."
"I can be quite amusing." She smiles up at him over the glass of vintage red.
"Yes, you can." He chuckles and passes her the gift as he moves to sit back next to her.
"I got you something too, Booth." She sets down her glass and moves to get up but his hand on her arm stops her.
"Just… open this first, and then I'll open mine, okay. I wanna see what you think."
His shining eyes and soft smile are just enough to make her agree and she begins to slowly and meticulously unwrap the present, feeling him watching her every move.
Beneath the outer paper, she finds a uniquely carved wooden box, hinged on the long side and with a simple silver clasp in front. The dark wood is polished and a beauty to behold in its own right.
"Booth…" She looks at him, eyes filled with equal parts curiosity and the sentiment that comes from being on the receiving end of a gift from someone special.
"Go ahead… open it." He gestures, then clasps his hands together, his own brand of nervous excitement filling the space between them.
She gently unlatches the silver clasp and lifts the lid of the box.
Nestled inside on a bed of royal blue velvet is a necklace – which is only the most basic of descriptions and doesn't nearly do it justice. It is better classified as a work of art. Obviously handcrafted, it is strikingly similar to her mother's ring in detail, right down to the scroll work.
And it hits her that this was his intention. His plan. His thoughtful, caring, perfect plan.
The inset stones have the same dark, vintage look and yet seem to sparkle and dance like the most brilliant of gems in the multi-colored light from the tree.
She can't seem to form words, her mouth open as she traces lightly over the beautiful links of the chain to the pendant in the center. Her eyes lift to his and she doesn't know what to say.
"I had help… um, Angela helped me get the design right and… I… do you like it?"
"Booth, it's… it's beautiful and perfect. I love it."
His smile at her words outshines the star at the top of the tree. He can tell she's surprised and pleased and it truly makes his Christmas complete – feels like one of the first things to go absolutely right in the past few days.
He reaches over and gently lifts the necklace from the box, holding it mid-air. "If you'll let me do the honors?"
A soft smile surrounds her reply. "Of course." She reaches up to remove her current neckwear and turns for him to don the precious gift.
She lifts her hair and he leans forward to drape the chain around her neck and clasp it; she notices how it sits perfectly centered just below her clavicles. Fingering the central pendant, feeling how it hangs, a feather-light touch and slightly cool against her skin, she turns back to face him.
He smiles. "Beautiful."
And when she looks at him he's staring in her eyes, looking at her, not the necklace itself.
She can't help the disconcerted look that flits across her face as she realizes it's her turn to reciprocate. Her gift would in no way match up to the thoughtfulness that he had obviously placed and care he had taken in choosing her gift.
"You okay, Bones?"
"Yes." She let her hand drop from the necklace to her lap briefly before standing and moving to the tree. Finding the gift easily, as it is the only one left under the evergreen, she lifts it and turns to face her partner.
"Booth… I… this is just a little something I picked up for you… I'm sorry… it doesn't seem nearly enough now…"
"Bones… hey," his easy smile is stretching his face as he stands and walks to her. "Why don't you let me decide that, huh?"
She hands him the package, red and green paper, trimmed with a matching ribbon and looking to her to be much smaller and just less than when she had originally wrapped it.
They both move back to the sofa and he rips into the paper, tossing the bow onto the table and letting the scraps fall around him. She can't help but smile at the juvenile image he portrays.
He looks up at her, giving her a reassuring smile before lifting the lid to find a functional, albeit beautiful, hand-knit woolen scarf in masculine colors of black, gray and dark red.
"Bones, this is awesome. Will keep me toasty warm, see?!" He pulls it around his neck, tossing one end over his back.
His smile seems sincere, but she still hates the way she feels that their gifts to one another this year aren't in any way equivocal. "It's not enough, Booth. I'll get you something else… I should have thought…"
"Bones, no way. You knew just what I needed okay. My other scarf… well, I just noticed a hole in it the other day. This is exactly what I need. Okay?" His hand rests on her knee for a moment, trying to convey his earnestness.
Their eyes lock as she searches him for any signs of dishonesty. Finally relenting, she takes a deep breath and once again reaches up to touch the gorgeous gift now adorning her neck. "Thank you, Booth. It's the best gift anyone's given me."
"Even better than a Christmas tree in a prison parking lot?"
They share a smile of remembrance at that, then she responds, "Yes, even better than that."
They settle back into the couch, both finishing off the last of their wine.
Suddenly feeling nervous, Brennan takes the opportunity to go into the kitchen and get the rest of the bottle from the counter. Standing in the dimly lit room, she takes a few deep breaths to try to prepare for what she knows is coming next.
Returning to the couch, she refills both glasses without asking and sits the nearly empty bottle on the table.
"You okay, Bones? You're being awfully quiet," Booth asks, feeling the tension in the air between them.
She looks at him for a long moment, which only unsettles him more. Then she moves to sit and picks up her glass.
After a moment, she takes a deep breath and simply states what's on her mind. "I leave tomorrow for El Salvador."
The silence is deafening and for the first time since dinner, Brennan wishes she had left on the ambient music. Something to fill up the space.
"I thought you weren't going. You told Maggie you weren't going."
"Oh, so you and Margaret…"
"What? No… we just chatted a bit. Friendly, familial chatting. About family. Um… you. And… that."
Brennan swipes her thumb along the side of her wine glass until he continues.
"She told me you said you weren't going."
"I said I wasn't going for Christmas. I'm still going."
He takes a deep breath and holds it, until he can't anymore. "So how long will you be gone?" quietly drifts out with his exhale.
He looks away and swallows thickly, rubbing his hand across his mouth before bringing his glass back to his lips. He needs something to keep his mouth occupied, before he says something he'll regret.
"I didn't get to volunteer last year because of the case, and my father and… mistletoe."
Their eyes meet for the briefest of moments.
"You were just in Guatemala…"
"Booth, I -"
"No, you know what, Bones. It's okay… you don't have to explain, least of all to me. You're fully capable of making your own decisions."
Standing, he sets down his glass and picks up his gift nestled back in its box. "It's getting late. Thanks for the scarf. It's great. And I hope you have a good trip." But his eyes don't meet hers and the words seem to fall a bit flat between them.
He walks to the nearby chair and picks up his jacket. She still hasn't moved; is just sitting there, eyes tracking him.
"Do you… um… do you need a ride to the airport tomorrow?"
"I can just take a cab."
As much as he wants to protest, he doesn't think he can take going-through-the-motions with her tomorrow. "Okay, Bones."
He moves to the door, pulling on his jacket. As he grips the knob and pulls it open, he hears her moving behind him.
He turns to see her rounding the chair. She stops when she reaches about half the distance to him. "Merry Christmas, Booth."
His smile is genuine as he returns her sentiment and leaves.
She turns from the closed door, to a now-giftless tree, a nearly depleted bottle of wine and an empty apartment that irrationally feels twice its usual size.
Dr. Temperance Brennan wipes the sweat from her forehead on the back of her gloved hand and sits back on her heels. It has always been easy to lose herself out here. Not necessarily here, as she's not always volunteering in El Salvador, but in another culture, a different land. It's as if she can transport outside of herself and just leave everything behind… as silly as that sounds.
Sometimes it feels good to be the one doing the leaving.
But this time, this trip… hasn't been easy. The work, while time-consuming and valuable, has not proven enjoyable or engaging – not enough to keep everything else at bay.
It used to be enough, a welcome distraction during the holidays, when nothing seems rational and everything feels stirred up and displaced. She envisions a magnetic stir-rod in a beaker and how, when the switch is flipped, the rod can't help but be spun every which way, disrupting the flow of the liquid surrounding it.
Sometimes that rod immediately jumps into a smooth stir, creating just the right effect; a tall funnel, at once graceful and absolutely effective at its job, creating a homogeneous solution. Other times, the rod takes a while to adjust, flipping and moving erratically along the bottom of the vessel, searching for that moment when the magnetic poles align just right.
She can't decide if she's the rod or the vessel, but either way, the second scenario is apropos.
She can't stop thinking of how things were left with Booth. She knows he was upset, even disappointed. And she knows that she feels guilty about that.
She thinks she may even know why. She may even be ready to tell him.
But her trip is planned for a month; it would be impractical to go back home early. Dismayed, she realizes she's seriously considering it. And it's only been a week.
Shaking her head, she removes her gloves and tosses them aside. She wipes her hands on her cargo pants as she stands and moves toward the nearby tent with their water and supplies.
As she opens a bottle of cool water and drinks, she places her hand on her chest, just below her clavicles, where she can feel her own heartbeat, as well as the raised edges of Booth's Christmas gift to her. She knows she shouldn't have brought it here and most certainly shouldn't be wearing it now, but she hasn't taken it off since he put it on her Christmas night. And she keeps it under her tee-shirt where no one else can see it.
She misses him. A laugh escapes her as she looks down at her dusty boots, not seeing worn, cracked leather, but the inside of a sterile lab, three shards of bone on a table and her partner smiling, in her space as usual, and telling her that she missed him. "Next time you miss me? Pick up the phone, call… we'll do lunch or something."
If only it were that easy.
She caps her water and moves back to the scene in front of her… picking back up her doctor persona just as she picks up her gloves and tools. And noting that nothing seems as easy anymore.
It hits her hard later that day. It's been a week. It's New Year's Eve and she hasn't spoken to Booth in a week.
He left her a voice-mail once, but it was short and she didn't think she could talk to him and deal with… possible silence. But she realizes she needs to hear his voice, see him…
So she calls the one person she knows can help make it happen. And sets the first of several plans in motion.
"Angela, you told him 11:45, right? His time, not mine."
"Yes, sweetie. I told him. And showed him how to connect everything, and sent him off with the laptop."
Brennan releases a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Well, I guess that's it then."
She looks at her watch. 8:47 pm her time. 9:47 Booth's. Two hours.
"Thank you, Angela."
"Bren, are you okay? I've been holding myself back this whole time, you know? Because you asked me to. When what I really want to do is pester you until you tell me everything."
"And I appreciate that, Ange. I'm fine. I just… need to talk to him."
"And a phone call like this one wouldn't do. I get it, sweetie, I do. And I'm virtual hugging you right now."
"You can't hug through a phone line."
"Hence the word "virtual" – just go with it. I love you, sweetie."
"Love you too. Thank you… and Happy New Year, Ange."
"You too, Bren. Be careful."
And they disconnected.
Nothing to do now but wait.
Well, maybe a shower wouldn't hurt.
At 10:30 pm (her time) she is sitting on her bed, freshly washed, wearing a tee-shirt and shorts with her laptop open, waiting.
And not just waiting. Thinking. Booth tells her she's always thinking.
She's realized many things being alone on this trip. Not the least of which is what her Dad meant about being alone on Christmas. Yes, Ms. Chevaleer was alone on Christmas Day, burying her son, and she got that. She truly did. And took steps to do something about it.
But what she has come to understand out here, separated from everyone and everything she really knows, is that it – being alone - makes her "mania for logic" go into overdrive. And that used to work for her… she used to be able to focus on the work – she knew it and it was enough.
But now… now, it's just not. Her focus is on something else. Somewhere else.
The chiming sound of an incoming video-call breaks her thoughts and sends waves of nervous self-doubt crashing upon her. One click of a button and he will be there.
She feels it well up and takes a deep breath, blowing it out before putting on a pleasant expression and pressing "Connect".
And he's there. Not really there there, but on her screen and she can see him… and behind him, into his home and she recognizes that he's sitting on his couch; in the same spot he always sits when she's there. And she wishes she was there.
"Hey, Bones!" His smile is beaming and it's as if nothing had happened between them and God, she's missed him.
"Hi, Booth." And her smile widens in mirror of his. If, at this moment, she had been thinking of anything but seeing him, she'd realize that that whole wave of nervous self-doubt had receded. Like low-tide.
She feels something in her "snap-to" at the sight of him and her mental image is of that stir-rod, magnetic poles now aligned and creating the beautiful funnel.
(and if she had to pinpoint –
he's the rod, she's the vessel –
together they create something beautiful.
How Freudian is that?
She reminds herself she hates psychology.)
She clears her throat. "Thanks for doing this, Booth. Um… how have you been?"
"Ah, you know, Bones… doing okay. Lots of paperwork to keep me busy. No new cases yet, though." He doesn't tell her how he's been sitting in front of this screen for the past hour, waiting until near enough time to call her.
"Oh, that's good." No new dead body is always good… plus she'd hate to miss out on anything.
"Yeah, and Parker is back from his ski trip in Canada. Had a blast, but missed his old man, of course."
He's smiling so big now. "Of course," she smiles back. She knows all about that.
"So, um… how about you? Miss me yet?" He can't express even to himself how much he wants her to say she's missed him. So much.
And suddenly, in front of her, it's that same smile, same face, same expression as she remembered earlier today. She ducks her head. This is it… same response as four years ago, Temperance? Or follow through with what you know now.
"Yes." And she looks up to catch the fleeting surprise in his eyes. "Yes, I've missed you, Booth."
She sees him swallow, sees the emotion register on his face and decides she can't let him interrupt just yet… she needs to say this now. So she raises her hand to a level she knows the camera will pick up, a "wait" gesture. And he nods.
"I've realized there's something that I know… that I feel when I'm home. And I can't reason it unless I'm with you. I don't know it anywhere else – I doubt it and question it when I'm alone. I don't do that when I'm with you. I just know."
"Know what, Bones?" He holds his breath awaiting her answer, full of emotion, trepidation. And fishing. He needs her to say it.
She looks down to her hands and though he can't see them, he knows she's clenching her fingers and playing with her mother's ring.
"When I'm home… I know that… that I'm useful, needed even. You and I… we have purpose, you know? We're really good at what we do."
"Yeah, we are." Her smile cuts through him, the best thing he's seen in a week. And yet her backtracking with that statement, covering what he thought was going to be her true emotions, nearly breaks him.
She sees him release a breath, his shoulders sagging a bit as he looks down, off-screen, away from her. Even she can tell that he was hoping for something more. So she presses on. "And Booth… I know that you're my friend. We share things. You teach me things. About family…"
He's definitely looking at her now. "You teach me things too, Bones… every day."
She reaches up to pull the necklace from her shirt, holding the skin-warmed metal in her fingers, drawing strength. "And I know that you desire my company."
He doesn't answer, just presses his lips together and nods his head.
"And I desire yours…" she continues, her eyes never leaving his.
For a long moment, they simply share a connection that even thousands of miles and multiple time zones can't sever.
She's said so much, and he… "I wish you were here now, baby." His eyes widen as he realizes what he just whispered loose there.
She ducks her head and smiles. "My flight is set to arrive at 6:30 pm. Meet me at Dulles?"
"You're lucky, Bones. I don't have anywhere else to be at 6:30."
She smiles. She feels like she's never smiled so much. "Happy New Year, Booth."
"The best, Bones. See ya tomorrow."
"Today for you. Technically, tonight."
"Tonight then." With promise in his eyes.
At 5:30 pm, Special Agent Seeley Booth enters the terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport – you know, in case her flight is early.
"Fat chance in this snow," he mutters as he stomps a few white clumps from his feet and moves over to the Arrivals/Departures board.
Finding the one flight due to arrive from San Salvador that evening, he lets his eyes track to the right and sees what he expected. DELAYED.
Moving toward the security checkpoint, he stands in the line like everyone else.
No, he doesn't have plans to fly out this evening.
Yes, he knows only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond this point.
And it's at this stage that he lets his badge do the talking and soon after is making his way to the proper gate.
Let the waiting begin.
After a two hour delay on the runway in San Salvador, and then an hour delay for de-icing of the runways in D.C., Brennan is finally on solid ground again, on home soil.
And she's never been more terrified.
Since hanging up with Booth the night before, feeling better than she had in a week, she's had nothing but time to think… and has done nothing but.
She packed her things and had them ready by the door before she ever went to bed. And that had left nearly fourteen hours left to… think. Incessantly. She hadn't slept much.
Had she said enough? Too much?
She'd meant every word. And she's sure she will feel better once she's back home. Back to what she knows.
Back to Booth.
And yet the more she thinks, the more it terrifies her.
Can she not function independently anymore? Does she now define herself by what she is when with her partner?
It leaves her feeling pathetic. She isn't sure she can do this.
And suddenly, not making it a week away from home - away from him - takes on a whole new meaning.
Two hours turns into three.
Three into four.
The length of the terminal is 354 paces to the middle corridor. (He didn't walk the other wing, afraid he would miss a call from her gate or an update on her status.)
He'd paced the boarding area so many times that people were looking irritated at him and he'd moved his coat back so they could see his badge tucked into his waistband. That had stopped the looks pretty quickly.
He didn't sleep well last night. He wanted to. He wanted to be confident in what she'd told him. To take her words as assurance that things would be fine – better than fine – when she returned. But he couldn't - and can't - stop thinking about it.
And he knows she will have been thinking about it. She's always thinking.
He wants to be optimistic and hope that she's not freaking out. But he has a strong feeling she's gonna be.
He's kinda freaking out, to be honest. But he's missed the hell out of her and he knows that once she's here, where he can see her, touch her, it will all fall into place.
Into whatever place it's all gonna fall.
A four-and-a-half hour flight had turned into seven-and-a-half.
Brennan's lack of sleep last night has her feeling now like she's buzzing apart, running on pure nerves. The wave of insecurity that had receded the night before is back with hurricane force this time.
But she is still practical, still rational, and delaying the inevitable isn't going to make anything easier. Her first class seats get her off the god-forsaken plane in record time.
Shouldering her small carry-on, she trudges up the walkway. She figures she won't be meeting Booth until the baggage area anyway and that will give her some extra time, if nothing else, allowing the feeling to return to her legs.
As she emerges from the gate doorway, she looks up to see a tall man in a long dark coat (complete with a black, gray, and dark red scarf) turning to face her way. She slows and eventually stops as she takes in his features, his posture, his smile… all so familiar.
Just having completed another round of pacing, Booth looks at the gateway door again. They called her flight arrival fifteen minutes ago. Five minutes ago, the attendant opened the door to the walkway.
It was taking every ounce of his self-control not to fling himself through that door to find her and… what? Scare the daylights out of her? Freak her out even more?
No, he had to wait.
Patience and hope.
And evidently more restless movement.
He begins another circuit of the small area (with a commanding view of the door) he has been mapping with his feet for the past half hour.
This time when he turns back, he sees her; sees her see him.
How can she not look any different than always? She's wearing drab green cargo pants, a white t-shirt and a light jacket; all wrinkled to the max. And as always, heart-squeezingly beautiful. He can't help the smile that graces his lips.
She pauses and then stops all together and it's the most exquisite torture to be able to see her there and yet, after all these restless hours, no longer have command of his legs.
He sees her lips moving and then she is moving towards him… with purpose.
He's so familiar. So reassuring. So much her friend and partner; her…
"It's not that I can't, it's that I don't want to," she manages to mutter just before her feet start working again and propel her forward and into his arms.
Her bag slides from her shoulders to the ground right before she reaches up to pull his face to hers. She kisses the corner of his mouth and then rests her forehead against his.
"I missed you, Booth."
"God, I missed you, too," he replies, wrapping her in his arms and pulling their bodies flush.
No one in the crowded, nearly snowed-in airport will even entertain the thought that this isn't an established, normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill couple, finally being reunited after too long apart.
They'll be half right.
And then he kisses her. Or then she kisses him. They're not sure which, but it happens and keeps on happening – lips mapping lips, tongue tracing tongue, fingers stroking hair, face, neck – until a laugh, a cleared throat, a "Get a room!" permeates through their thick, shared haze and they reluctantly part, breathing heavily.
She looks away and around first. "People are staring." Her laughter makes the small lines around her eyes crinkle.
He decides he loves that. "Heh, yeah, they all think I'm here to arrest someone."
She bends down to retrieve her bag, then pulls him by the arm to get him moving. "You can cuff me later," she winks.
"Bones! You can't… you can't just say stuff like that!"
He pulls his coat together to cover his front side a bit and throws his arm around her shoulder as they make their way out of the concourse area to the baggage claim.
She wraps her arm around his waist. This is one thing that he immediately files under "Different in a Good Way", right alongside kissing her.
He asks about her trip, she tells him things regarding El Salvadoreans that he could care less about. But he listens all the same, enjoying the simple rhythm, cadence, lilt of her voice.
They get her luggage and make their way to the doors. "Don't you have a heavier coat, Bones?"
"It was quite warm in Central America, Booth. I'll be fine."
"Yeah, well it's not warm here." He pulls the scarf from around his neck and wraps it snugly around hers.
She smiles her thanks, then inhales deeply and smells him; already embedded in the woolen fibers after only a week. More reassurance. But she also feels the need to express her regret. "I'm sorry about only giving you a scarf for Christmas."
"You gave me exactly what I needed, Bones." He adjusts the wrap slightly and cups her cheeks to pull her lips to his once more. "Exactly what we needed."
Your comments are welcomed and much appreciated. I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday season full of the things/people/moments that truly make you feel happy and blessed.
Your comments are welcomed and much appreciated. I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday season full of the things/people/moments that truly make you feel happy and blessed.