A/N This fic was written for a holiday fic exchange on LiveJournal. It is warmly dedicated to the amazing Spacekid77, of whom I'm sure many of you know. Enjoy!
Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the feeling of contentment after a truly good meal. It might have been attributable to the soothing ebb and flow of friendly conversation, or it could even have had something to do with the soft glow of twinkling lights and candle flames. Truly, the feeling of well being that coursed through her that night was more than likely a combination of each of these external stimuli.
Anyone else would have called it "Christmas Magic."
Temperance Brennan simply thought of it as…nice.
There had been a time in her life, many years before, where this feeling was not so unfamiliar to her. But the years between had left an emotional void where experience had taken a backseat to self preservation. For those that knew her casually, they might have called her cold or empty. A stark and often barren setting that was home to her seemingly superior sense of self.
Those who were gathered that night knew better.
It was no wasteland that she lived in. Far from it. The more accurate description would be that of an emotional wilderness, left untended for so many years and carefully shuttered behind high stony walls. Much like the Secret Garden of children's lore, it waited patiently for a key bearer. Someone that would not be put off by the immense task of weeding, pruning, and planting. Someone that could pry open the door despite its carefully hidden location.
And yet, whatever a person might call this nice (pleasant content happy) feeling that permeated the atmosphere around her, she never would have imagined that that night would reveal that that someone had always been him.
Angela was a bit tipsy.
Truthfully, most of them were by now. Brennan stood leaning against the counter, her friend standing across from her with a giggle and a wine glass. While she wasn't really tracking what was being said, she found that the company and good cheer of the other woman was quite contagious. Despite her best efforts not to, her eyes continued to slant away from her infectious friend and instead sought out Booth's form in the small crowd.
Quite frequently throughout the evening, she had caught him looking at her, a soft smile painted across his admittedly handsome face. It had happened at least four times over the course of dinner, an additional two as they had all helped to clean up, and a long and heated look had been shared in front of the tree as presents were given and received. And now, as festivities were dying down and a few were even preparing to leave, she found him in conversation with Max, his back turned to her.
As if he was also experiencing the same irrational pull that she was, his head turned to where she stood. And there was the same gentle smile curving along his jaw, making him look both devastating and goofy at the same moment. Before he turned back to her dad, she couldn't help but feel the sharp beat of her heart as it knocked quickly in her chest. Some might have called it "the butterflies", but she scoffed at such romantic nonsense.
It simply was and that was enough.
Apparently tipsy did not mean unobservant, because as she returned her gaze to her friend, there was a knowing smirk on her face.
"You should get him under the mistletoe."
Angela rolled her eyes, leaning in closer as if to impart some deep form of wisdom.
"You two have been making moon eyes at one another all night long. Mistletoe provides a perfect 'get out of jail free' card, and I would soooo use it if I were you."
"I'm not sure of the particular meaning of what you just said, but I can surmise a general idea." Angela had turned and was watching the room, eyeing the subject of their current conversation, so Brennan took another sip from the glass on the countertop before continuing. "Besides, a mistletoe kiss doesn't really count."
Without turning from her perusal, Angela began her cavalier reply. They had had so many similar conversations in the past that it was almost automatic at this point.
"Exactly! So you can drag him over there and…wait a second." She whirled around, all effects of the alcohol vanishing from her face as a serious look snapped into place. "You want it to matter."
She didn't know what compelled her to say what she did next. Everything about this night was surreal. The events of the evening mixed together with the atmosphere to create a heady cocktail of emotions that seemed to somehow melt away her reservations. Almost as though this evening, all of them together, was a single moment in time that would somehow never overlap their everyday lives.
"Angela…everything about Booth matters."
"Oh Bren…" Angela sat her wine glass down and reached out to grab her friend's hand. "Listen to me, ok? Life is short. You and Booth know this better than most do. Don't keep letting these opportunities pass you by."
Brennan had no ready reply, and chose instead to look away from the earnest look in the other woman's eyes. Her face must have given her away, because Angela's eyes followed hers to the man they were resting on. Her next words were spoken softly, if no less emphatically.
"He'll wait for you as long as it takes, but you're both missing out on something precious in the meantime."
"Wait for me? What are you…?"
"Listen, here comes tall dark and handsome. Just…think about it Sweetie, ok?"
Angela gave her hand one last squeeze before moving away from the kitchen and out into the living room. There wasn't much time to contemplate the things that her friend had said, because Booth was approaching, his head turning to watch the artist's hasty retreat.
"Did I scare her away?"
It took just a moment for her to shake her thoughts of the previous conversation and turn her focus to the man now standing in the space her friend had vacated.
"No…I don't think that Angela finds you frightening."
Of course she understood what he was trying to say, but this is what they did. She pretended more often than necessary that she didn't get it, and he sighed in exasperation at her lack of knowledge in the area of cultural catch phrases.
"What? No, it…nevermind."
With the light banter out of the way, she felt the air between them begin to vibrate with that something that had been there all evening. His eyes had settled heavily on her face, and with embarrassment, she felt her cheeks start to flush under his perusal. She took a long sip from her wine glass, needing the brief moment the movement afforded her. Booth seemed content to simply watch her, and as her glass settled back onto the counter with a soft tap, she was once again at a loss for what to say next.
She had never before been so aware of a man's attention, and she suddenly wondered if their visual exchanges had been affecting him to the same extent. The direct approach seemed the best way to satisfy her curiosity.
"Why do you keep looking at me like that?"
He didn't seem at all taken aback by her question. Knowing her as well as he did, he probably already had anticipated that she would feel the need to ask. His eyes seemed to sparkle with the reflection of the Christmas tree lights and what to her looked like amusement.
"And how am I looking at you?"
The same could not be said for her, however. His quick turn about of her question left her grasping for an answer.
"Like…I don't know. You're smiling an awful lot."
He chuckled - a deep, satisfying sound that resonated from his chest and skipped across the space between them.
"I smile when I'm happy Bones." And here his expression took on a much more serious tone. "And you make me very happy."
If it was possible for her breath to be stolen away, she would have sworn that that is exactly what his words had just done to her. As it was, she now had a whole new grasp on the emotion that the expression was meant to convey. She didn't know what to say, and she couldn't look away. She felt compelled to meet his gaze head on until the weight of it grew too heavy and she let her eyes slip to where her hands rested on the counter top. She spoke quietly, an intimate tone meant for just the two of them.
"I'm really glad that you decided to come tonight, Booth."
His reply referenced an earlier conversation that they had shared.
"Well, I couldn't just sit at home thinking that nobody loves me, right?"
"No. Everyone here cares about you a great deal." Her voice choked momentarily on the weight of the emotion that she felt. "In particular, I…"
"Hey you two!"
The moment was interrupted as Cam came into view, working the buttons on the front of her jacket as she prepared to leave. They each jolted back slightly, twin looks of guilt on their faces.
"Am I interrupting something?"
The fervently uttered "no's" didn't exactly convince her, but she shrugged anyway. These two were Shakespearean in their denial.
"We're gonna head on out. I just wanted to thank you Dr. Brennan for hosting such a lovely evening. Michelle and I had a great time."
"I'm glad that you were able to come."
The two women stared awkwardly at one another for a moment, both feeling that there should be more to a parting on an evening like this. Cam broke the tension by turning to Booth instead.
"Merry Christmas Booth." She enveloped him in a friendly hug as he returned the sentiment.
"Merry Christmas Cam."
Pre-established behavior won out, and the departing woman simply raised a hand and gave a small wave to Brennan.
While she once again stood alone with Booth, the previous moment had been lost to the interruption. They continued to chat about everyday things, their conversation flowing normally with it's usual rhythm. Sweets and Daisy approached not long after that and offered their goodbyes as well. The evening truly was coming to a close, and so it came as no real surprise when Booth also began preparations to leave. Her father and her cousin were going to be staying the night, and Max was going to drive Margaret back home the next day. She suspected that Booth might have hung around a little longer if she hadn't had houseguests.
Jack and Angela were talking with her relatives, finishing their last glass of wine for the evening, and so the entry was blessedly quiet as she walked Booth to her front door.
"I had a great time tonight Bones."
He turned to face her, his black leather gloves gripped in his right hand. She watched with some amusement as he seemed to fidget before her, transferring them from one hand to the other as he shifted his weight back and forth. Something about seeing this overly confident man standing there, appearing uncertain and maybe even a little bit shy, left her feeling a warm rush of affection for him. Maybe he really was as affected by tonight as she had been.
"I'm glad…Merry Christmas Booth."
She smoothed her palms along her thighs, fighting the urge to reach out for him. It proved a useless effort though, as he stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. It presented her with a purely indulgent moment, and she chose to enjoy it. Closing her eyes, she leaned in further and pressed her head into his shoulder, smelling the warm scent of the leather jacket he wore. This was most definitely not a guy hug, but she didn't care. She whispered her next words softly against his cheek.
"You make me happy too, Booth."
She could feel his shoulders tense in surprise before he once again relaxed around her. He didn't say anything, but he didn't need to.
When she had first met Seeley Booth, it had taken her some time to get used to having someone around that was constantly invading her physical space. Each hug had felt awkward to her, even if they did provide the measure of comfort that was needed at the time. As the years had progressed, she had gotten more and more comfortable with her partner's "touchy" ways with her. But somewhere along the line, it had gone from awkward, to acceptance, to enjoyment, and now to this. And standing here with him right now, she had to accept it for what it was…need.
Needing another human being was a situation that she had spent years avoiding at all costs. People would only let you down in the end, and if there were no real expectations going into a relationship, than she couldn't be upset when things didn't turn out. While she had always considered herself a pragmatic woman that was well-grounded in reality, a new realization was dawning on her here in this moment with Booth.
She thought of a compass, and how the needle would spin around frantically in search of magnetic north. If anything was confusing the elemental process, it would be unable to settle…unable to find direction. Looking back on the past, she felt like maybe she had something in common with the image. She was always searching…always confused about what she was really looking for.
But not anymore.
Standing here in Booth's arms, she felt something snap into place. She stopped spinning, and there it was...true north. It had been here all this time.
She could feel his breath against her forehead as he eased back. What had felt like an eternity of contemplation to her had really all happened in a matter of moments. He pressed a soft kiss to her cheek, his mouth pausing for a fraction of a second as it hovered just over hers. It would be so easy…such a small gap to bridge. The slightest movement on either of their parts would bring them together. She waited, thinking that he was going to close the distance between them, her heart beating frantically in her chest. At last at last at last…
But neither one of them moved and the moment was lost. Booth stood back and looked at her one last time, his right hand lingering along her jaw. His voice caught when he spoke again.
"Merry Christmas Bones."
And somehow, he was leaving now. He was putting on his gloves and zipping his jacket against the cold weather outside. He was giving her one last look and then opening her door. A feeling of panic was settling in her stomach, a desperate drive to just do something. Her heart was raging a battle with her head, the mood of the evening clashing with titanic force against their long ingrained status quo. The moment of indecision was long enough though, and Booth slipped into her hallway, closing the door with a soft snick behind him.
Every nerve in her body was thrumming with a barely contained desire to run after him. Had they let tonight slip away without either one of them willing to cross the line that fear maintained? What would happen once they were back to business as usual, without the catalyst of lights, good food, and drink?
What if there would never be another chance?
Brennan turned around, her eyes searching frantically for something that might give her the answer. And there, standing at the edge of the room, was Angela.
"What are you waiting for? Go!"
It was all she needed before she found herself pulling the door open, running into the hall and calling his name as she saw his back disappear around the corner. When had this hallway gotten so long? Would he hear her? But yes, he must have because he had stopped and turned, a look of confusion on his face as he watched her rush toward him.
But any lack of understanding was erased as she came closer and he was able to read the intent in her eyes. Neither of them needed to think anymore. He simply opened his arms and then she was in them and (finally finally finally) his lips were on hers and there was no more thought. He crushed her to him and she felt as though there was no way to get enough. How could she have ever thought that this would be anything but right? Her hands roamed desperately across his shoulders, his jaw, around his back and chest. The feeling of panic was quickly fading to one of dire relief, and she couldn't seem to settle on one location to rest. Booth must have felt the same way because he was everywhere at the same time – her mouth, neck, collarbone. Somehow he had managed to move them until they stumbled into the wall, her back hitting the hard surface with her barely registering it.
Stopping was a monumental task that neither one of them seemed to be able to accomplish. She had no idea how much time passed as they came together again and again, but she did slowly become more aware of their surroundings. This was the hallway outside her apartment. There was the distant chime of the elevator signaling that someone could very well be on their way up. The softly muted sound of her neighbor's television set drifted out from behind her closed door. These things slowly permeated the sound of their heavy breathing as they each gasped for the air the air that they continued to deny themselves.
If her father and cousin weren't staying the night, she knows exactly where this would have ended up. As it was, they were barely alone. Booth must have realized it at the same moment, because they both slowly pulled apart, foreheads coming to rest against one another. Surprisingly, she didn't feel the need to explain or even really comment on what had just happened. When did she get so good at simply accepting things for what they were? Instead, she smiled softly at him, running her hand once more along his jaw.
He smiled at her in return and she felt a surge of pleasure at knowing that she had been the one to make him look so happy.
"And a happy new year?"
She was well aware of the promise that she was making, and so was Booth. With one last gentle kiss, she turned and headed back toward her door. Her excitement was threaded with an exquisite sense of peace as she looked back once to see him still standing there. She gave him a wave before stepping back into her apartment.
Next year would indeed be a happy one…
…now that she had found her direction.
I hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas!! Reviews are like presents!!! =)