Title: Echoes In The Decades Of My Heart
Author: Anna (bite_or_avoid)
Pairing: Booth/Brennan
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,883
Disclaimer: Not mine, but one can dream
Spoilers: Post- ep for 5x10 The Goop On The Girl, finally extracted from my ruined hard-drive with the jaws of life


She washes, he dries.

As the last echoes of their friends' (family's) departing laughter fade away into the unseasonably warm air, Booth and Brennan talk quietly over a sink full of soap suds.

It's easy— effortless — the rhythm much the same as every other team effort they have undertaken. Her body is pleasantly warm from the wine and from where his arm occasionally brushes hers as they work, and she resists the urge to lean into him.

Booth is humming softly under his breath, and that is when she realizes.

Her parents would do this. Exactly this.

They would stand side by side in the cheerfully decorated kitchen, as she and Russ watched It's A Wonderful Life and fought over the last of the cookies. She would sneak glances at them sometimes; at the way her father would chuckle quietly at some private joke between them; at the way her mother's foam-covered hands skimmed over the pieces of dinnerware as if they were something sacred.

Those hands are what she remembers most about Christine.

(Her mother will always be Christine. Her father was Matthew, he is Max, and she has come to reconcile the two. Has come to accept that the man who helped foster her love of science and carried snickerdoodles in his pockets is the same man who murdered a deputy director of the FBI in her name. But Ruth Keenan is someone she never met, so her mother will always be Christine Brennan. She knows that this how the woman who raised her would want to be remembered.

What she can't know is that sometimes, Max watches her leaning over a set of remains on the forensics platform, her hands skimming over the pieces of bone as if they were something sacred, and his chest squeezes painfully.

Those hands are what he remembers most about Christine, too.)

Afterwards, when the dishes were done and she and Russ were tucked into bed despite being restless with excitement, the soft tones of the radio would reach her ears. If she were to tip-toe downstairs, she would see her father spinning her mother across the linoleum, their bodies moving in perfect harmony with one another. When she still believed in true love and forever with a young girl's idealistic faith, it was the most romantic thing she had ever seen.

Sometimes, she wonders if her parents still danced like that after Christmas was no longer a happy memory.

But she does not think about what her life would be if that reality had existed beyond her fifteenth year. Temperance Brennan is not a woman who lives in the what if.

Instead, as the sounds he is making become horribly incongruent with the music emanating from the stereo, she thinks that it might actually be very nice to dance across the kitchen with Booth.

But she doesn't ask. She merely laughs at his endearingly off-key efforts, and bumps his shoulder with hers.

***

Despite Angela's pleading, her father's guilt trip, and Booth's charm smile, Brennan reschedules her trip to El Salvador for just before the New Year. Not being alone for the holidays is one thing; completely forsaking one's work is something else entirely. She is looking forward to the return to her passion for prehistoric remains; to the warmth of the sun's rays on her bare arms; to the complete focus with which she can sink into a scholarly assignment after so long. (And it has been so very long. Years, actually. Because, lets face it— Guatemala? Then there had been no focus on anything other than the man she had left behind.)

She is looking forward to these and many more things, truly. And yet, for the first time, she feels like she will be away from a home, not merely a place she inhabits.

Which is the same thing, technically.

Except it's not.

But that is not rational, and also completely irrelevant.

Because she's going. Definitely.

And in order to leave in the morning as scheduled (or rescheduled, as the case may be), tying up all loose ends at the lab is top priority. Which is exactly what she's doing, when she is distracted from said task by a heavy sigh.

She looks up to find a dejected looking partner in her doorway. The collar of his overcoat is upright, his shoulders hunched, and for all appearances his every intent is to shrink into himself.

If he didn't look so very genuinely pained, she would laugh at his flair for the dramatic.

"Booth? What's wrong?"

"You know how Rebecca and I are supposed to switch off New Year's with Parker?"

She nods.

"Well, apparently, this just isn't my year."

"I don't understand. You had an agreement—"

"Yeah, well, you say agreement, she says 'tentative arrangement'." He begins to pace as he talks, gesturing wildly in agitation. "It's not enough that she took him away for Christmas. Now, apparently, Brent surprised them with a New Year's cruise. And of course, she waited until they were practically on the damn boat to tell me."

She wants to offer some sort of reassurance. To express her understanding. Even though she cannot understand, having no first-hand knowledge of such a situation. Despite this, there is the possibility that she understands just a little, for the simple reason that when Booth experiences emotional discomfort, she experiences it as well. But she does not know how to tell him this. The only words she can pick out of her vast vocabulary— I'm sorry— seem woefully inadequate.

Tomorrow she will be on a plane headed for Central America. But today, right now, she is here, and Booth needs her to listen.

So she does. She listens.

"I thought we were past this, you know? Ever since we… well, for a couple of years now, it was like she finally got it. How important this is to me. And usually, it's great. She's great. But we agreed on holidays, and every year it's still a goddamn struggle. It just isn't fair. I work hard. We put bad guys behind bars. I coach hockey and soccer. I accept her terms; whenever she calls and needs a favor, I'm there. I try so hard to be there, to be a good dad, and sometimes it's like she doesn't want to let me be."

As she's been listening, his voice has been rising. He runs a hand through his hair, tugging on it almost painfully, and huffs out a breath in anger.

"I'm sorry, Bones. I shouldn't be unloading like this on you."

"Booth, it's perfectly alright—"

"No, it's not alright! It's not—"

He's practically shouting now, and just as she makes the move to reach for him, he turns away, storming angrily past an approaching Angela.

"Woah!" the artist exclaims. "What's got Booth's undies in a bunch?"

"I'm not sure that his underwear has anything to do with it, but he is very upset."

"Yeah, that came across loud and clear when he practically bulldozed me over."

Brennan watches his retreating form. The way he carries the anger in his trapezius muscles makes her fingers itch to smooth the tension away. Her hands would skim over the broad planes of his back, and he would relax under the touch. She wants to do this, if only to assuage the guilt he must be feeling over his outburst

He doesn't like losing control, she knows. Booth, like herself, gives off the appearance of a completely self-sufficient person. And he is. They both are— strong and independent and entirely non-reliant on anyone else.

Except when being strong and independent and entirely non-reliant just isn't enough.

Booth has shown her that sometimes, accepting support can make you stronger.

She can admit this. That there are times when they need each other.

When considered against that fact, all those things she's been so looking forward to (thousands of miles away) seem far less important.

Angela waves the file she's holding in front of her face.

"Earth to Brennan! What's going on?"

"I'll explain later, Ange, I promise. But right now, can you ask Dr. Edison to come in here please?"

It's the most impulsive decision she's ever made. But also, she thinks, the most honest one.

***

Ten minutes later, an uncharacteristically jubilant junior anthropologist flees the Jeffersonian, to hurriedly pack for a morning flight.

***

She is expecting the knock, but it startles her regardless. It had seemed like the appropriate thing to do at the time, but now Brennan finds herself uncertain. How Booth will react, what he will think her motives are— these are factors she failed to consider.

In point of fact, her actual motives are no longer as clear as they were a few hours ago.

But then she remembers Christmas, and friends and family and lovers, and just how much Booth is a part of that.

Excluding the lovers part. For now, she thinks suddenly, and nearly stumbles into the door.

When she does manage to get it open, Booth flashes a sheepish grin.

"I was starting to think you were gonna leave me out here 'til next year."

"That is highly improbable, considering the door was the only thing standing between you and dinner."

His startled expression makes her bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing.

"Bones! Did you just make a joke?"

"Yes. I am becoming—"

"—quite amusing. I've noticed." He shoots her a wounded look before stepping over the threshold. "Except that one was at my expense."

"Well, you do seem to have developed a certain fondness for breaking down doors."

He snorts while pulling off his overcoat.

"That's only because you're usually in trouble behind one of them."

The retort dies on her lips as she watches the wool slide off his shoulders. She sees him again in the bright sanctity of the bone room, his well-proportioned frame the perfect canvas for her roaming hands. Even through the latex of her gloves, it was impossible not to feel the firm warmth of his skin, the solid strength that he fairly radiated. It was too much and not nearly enough; the light skimming touches Brennan allowed herself doing nothing to quell her desire or confusion.

It was all for the sake of collecting evidence, of course. His body's reaction to her proximity was merely a normal physiological response.

The intensity with which his eyes burned through her, bringing a flush to her chest and unsteadiness to her hands, appeared to be evidence of something else entirely.

"Bones?"

She wonders how long he's been trying to get her attention.

"Hmmm?"

"I'm really sorry about earlier. Kinda lost it for a minute there."

"It's all right." She bites her bottom lip, thinking again about how unpleasant it is when he hurts. "I— I realize that I am a poor substitute for Parker, but would you like to spend New Year's Eve with me, instead?"

Surprise registers plainly on his face, but there is something else too. An almost angry protectiveness flickers briefly across his features like a passing storm, leaving her to ponder why the invitation inspired such a look.

"First of all, you're not a poor substitute for anything. Second, that's really sweet, Bones. But I can't exactly afford to run off to Timbuktu."

"El Salvador, Booth. Timbuktu is in Western Africa, not Central America. And, either way… I am no longer going."

"You're not?"

She shakes her head, secretly pleased at the unmistakably stupefied look on his face. It is not often that she catches him at a disadvantage, much less at a loss for words, and there is some gratification in witnessing the effect she has on him. Her assured, confident partner, seemingly unbalanced by her gesture.

She wonders if this is an isolated reaction, or if he was simply better at composing himself before.

"But you made it pretty clear that you were going, Bones. I mean, you didn't even really want to stay for Christmas."

"That is true, yet the evening turned out to be quite pleasant. There is a recently discovered specimen at the lab that demands my attention right away, not to mention a project to re-catalogue the bones in storage. It would not be advisable for me to leave the country at this juncture."

Booth chuckles a little, no doubt at the unnecessarily prolonged explanation.

"So, you're not going to work there because you have too much work to do here?"

"That's what I just said."

She punctuates this with a mildly annoyed glance. The reasoning is not a lie per say; there really is plenty to keep her occupied at the Jeffersonian.

That is not, however, why she send Clark Edison in her stead.

She is not ready to tell Booth the true motivation.

"I was thinking that, since I am staying anyway and Parker is unavailable, we could spend the evening together. But if you already made other arrangements—"

"Actually, I was just going to stay home and feel sorry for myself."

"Now you won't have to be alone."

He lets out a mirthless laugh.

"Right. So then both of us can feel sorry for me."

"I would never feel sorry for you."

Booth affixes her with the intensity of his gaze. There is no trace of his ever-present humor; only that rather disconcerting ability he has to read people.

To read her.

"Why are you doing this?"

"My father said that being alone on Christmas means that no one loves you. I thought that may apply to New Year's Eve as well. I did not want you to feel as if…"

It is the widening of his eyes that makes her understand the implication of her words, and she rushes to correct it.

"Not that I'm suggesting… It's not…. I was merely trying to…"

"It's okay, Bones. I get it."

"Oh. Good."

But she isn't certain he does.

How can he have already deciphered what she is just beginning to understand?

***

It is too late to make dinner reservations at any decent establishment, even when you are a best- selling author. The annual Jeffersonian New Year's Eve fundraiser is not something Brennan would ever inflict on her partner, despite how appealing he looks in a tux. And taking Angela up on her invitation to a private party hosted at a particularly notorious nightclub is destined to end in some regrettable decision- making and a severe hangover.

So, they decide on her place.

Not immediately, of course, but that is the eventual consensus.

Mostly.

("My apartment is more spacious and accommodating, Booth. We would be much more comfortable there."

"Bones, you don't even have a TV! How are we supposed to watch the ball drop?"

"Why anyone needs to observe a six kilogram crystal sphere descend for sixty seconds to signify the last minute of the Gregorian year is beyond me."

"Because it's tradition! Shouldn't an anthropologist know a little something about that? They've been doing it for like a hundred years!"

"So why can't you miss one?"

"That's not the point."

"I'll make my mac'n'cheese."

"Do you honestly think you can just bribe me with food? I'm not that easy."

"Booooth."

"Fine. But I'm bringing a TV.")

He shows up on her doorstep with strawberry cheesecake, a bottle of champagne, and distinctly lacking a television. When she casts a pointed glance at the offerings, he shrugs nonchalantly.

"It's not like you have cable, anyway."

***

She is struck again by how easy this is; how natural it feels to share a meal and let his silly jokes goad her into laughter. There is a certain calmness that surrounds her, different from the clarity of purpose of a bone in her hand, or from the relief of fingers flowing over a keyboard. It instills in her a sense of belonging unlike any she has ever experienced before— that elusive notion of home once again flaring unexpectedly within.

It is not something sought or expected; and no longer something she wishes to deny.

Not for the first time, she wonders what it is he's waiting for.

***

They follow the countdown on the radio, the warm familiarity of his gaze and voice causing a fresh thrill with each second approaching zero. Her decision is instantaneous, impulsive, and Brennan fleetingly wonders if this is going to become a habit.

In general, going with her gut has not yielded positive results. In this instance, she is quite certain it will prove to be highly satisfying.

"Five… four… three… two… one… Happy New Year, Bones!"

He smiles winningly and clinks his flute with hers.

"Happy New Year, Booth."

For a moment, they sip their champagne in comfortable silence. Then, as most things Brennian, it comes as quickly and boldly as a speeding locomotive.

She has always found it best to dispense with any pretense at subtlety.

"I was under the impression that it is a culturally accepted norm to engage in a kiss at the stroke of midnight."

Booth gasps in mid-swallow. Which is not a physiologically sound action, and one that causes him to sputter and cough profusely.

"Guh… Geez, Bones! Warn a guy, will ya?"

She casts him an incredulous glance.

"It didn't occur to me that the statement required any previous warning, nor that it would cause you to nearly aspirate."

"Yeah, that's… yeah."

He doesn't seem to be capable of anything more coherent at the moment, so Brennan tries again.

"Well?"

He swallows thickly, Adam's apple bobbing in a nervous fashion. His pupils dilate, making his eyes dark as coal, and they fixate on her lips for an agonizing moment. She can sense his body vibrating, and it makes her own warm in response.

She arches an eyebrow, challenging.

Booth leans towards her on the couch, and, impossibly, time slows to an imperceptible trickle. She is hyper-aware of all the senses; sight glued to the curve of his jaw and the light stubble that resides there; olfactory bulbs overwhelmed by his cologne and something distinctively Boothy, which in turn rouses her salivary glands into an overdrive of anticipation; the fabric of her clothing suddenly chafes and confines. Somewhere in the distance, she can hear a dull thudding that she recognizes as the frantic beat of her own heart.

When his lips, as warm and firm as the rest of him, press to her cheek and linger for a moment before withdrawing, she seriously considers screaming in frustration. But when she turns, Brennan realizes that he remains startlingly close. One corner of his mouth is lifted in a half-smile, something dark smoldering beneath the affable exterior. She is sure that there is a flush creeping up her neck, and her body involuntarily shivers.

When Booth leans in again, the last vestiges of rationality spiral out beyond her reach.

***

He's slow at first, pressing his lips lightly to hers, before her unwitting gasp spurs him into action. His hands— hands that have pulled triggers, and broken men, and held her upright in her darkest moments to never let her fall— skim reverently across her back as he crushes her to him. His mouth slants across hers without mercy, asking and offering and taking and giving as he always has in every other aspect of what they've built.

She answers in kind, and drags him blindly to her room. They're hurtling over that invisible line with alarming speed, and the realization that it hasn't been any kind of barrier at all, really, makes her press herself fully against him.

Which, apparently, was the wrong thing to do, because he releases her with a groan of almost physical pain, and stares darkly across the threshold of the bedroom.

"Bones…"

The uncertainty in his eyes is in distinct contrast with his husky tone and prominent arousal.

Despite the fact that he's never looked at her this way, never spoken to her this way, never so obviously fought his own gripping desire in her presence, she knows what he's silently asking.

She knows what he silently fears.

"Booth…You promised."

"I… huh?"

His confusion is both endearing and irritating, and it really is totally consistent with the entirety of their relationship. So she presses on, content in the knowledge that this is still them, and that they are still the center.

That they will still hold.

"You promised me that someday I would believe in… in the ridiculous notion that some emotions are transcendent and eternal. I would like for you to validate this promise."

He takes a step into her personal space, realization stretching his features into a cocky grin. Just like every other time she's baited him, and he's baited her right back.

"You want me to prove to you that love can last?"

Her chin tilts up in the haughty gesture that she's secretly glad has never intimidated him.

"Yes. Are you up to the challenge?"

***

In the end, it isn't about inviting him into her bedroom, into her body, or even into her heart.

It is about showing him that he belongs there.

***

She extricates herself from his embrace and tip-toes through the darkness, pulling her arms through his shirt along the way. Her skin feels exceedingly warm and tight, almost like it cannot contain the entirety of her emotions. Yet she has no desire to run.

The remnants of cheesecake sit on her counter invitingly, and she grabs a spoon. In their haste earlier, the stereo had been forgotten, and the loose vibrato of Nina Simone now emanates softly from the speakers. She closes her eyes, swaying gently to the music.

Brennan stands in her kitchen in the early morning hours of a new decade, clad only in the shirt of a man who she cannot imagine her life without. His essence seems to inexplicably linger in the fabric, offering her the same sense of warmth and safety as do his arms. Never before has she felt this level of contentment. She does not dare think the word happiness, but must admit that it is exactly what she is experiencing.

She again remembers her parents, and their seeming synchronicity, and allows herself a small smile of dawning understanding.

"There you are. I thought you'd made a run for it."

She opens her eyes to find Booth leaning against the entryway— jeans slung low, arms crossed in front of his bare chest. He appears tussled and far too pleased with himself.

"This is my apartment. Where else would I go?"

"Good point."

He grins, and she takes a moment to once again admire his fine features; the strong breadth of his shoulders, the remarkable definition of pectorals and abdominals, the fine delineation of his inguinal ligament.

He really is quite pleasing to look at. And also—the thought makes her subconsciously lick the spoon she is holding—quite pleasing to touch.

That familiar smirk touches his mouth again, and she now has intimate knowledge of what it can mean. But then it morphs into something softer, something like… adoration?... and he reaches out a hand.

"Dance with me, Bones."

She steps into him without hesitation, and smiles.

***

Temperance Brennan is not a woman who lives in the what if.

She doesn't have to.

Fin.