At some ungodly hour in the middle of the night, someone was knocking on Booth's door.
Thinking it had to be his favorite squint, Booth threw the covers off of his bed and rushed to the door. When he opened it, however, he saw that he had been mistaken. It wasn't Bones; it was her father. He could think of only one reason for Max Keenan's late night visit: something bad had happened to her. Had there been an accident? Had she gotten sick? Had she been the victim of a crime? Whatever it was, he prayed to God that he hadn't lost her. His stomach churned at the thought of life without his partner and best friend. "Is she okay?"
Max smiled at the concern in Booth's eyes and voice. He had suspected that Booth loved his daughter the first time he saw him look at her, and every subsequent look he'd observed had confirmed it. "She's fine. I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for her over the years. I know you've been a great friend and partner. I know you've saved her life a couple times, and that you've killed to protect her, just as I have."
Booth's mind flashed back to the day he had barged into the free clinic to shoot the murdering doctor who had dared to attack his Bones. Taking another human life was never easy, but he had no regrets about that one. "There isn't anything I wouldn't do for her."
Max smiled again. "I know that too. You're a good man, Booth."
"Thanks." Booth was tempted to ask Max why he couldn't have complimented him at a decent hour, but he didn't want to be rude. Then again, he was already being rude by making Max continue to stand outside in the cold. "Do you want to come in?" He stepped aside to allow Max room to enter.
"Sure," Max said, walking into the apartment. "But I can't stay long." He settled himself in a large leather recliner. Booth sat on the couch facing him. "You're probably wondering why I felt the need to tell you all this in the middle of the night."
Booth laughed. "The thought had crossed my mind."
"I need to ask you a favor. I realize it's a Saturday, and that you probably like to sleep in on the weekends, but would you go over to Temperance's apartment when the sun comes up? Maybe you could bring her breakfast or something."
Booth's brow wrinkled in confusion. "That's the favor? You want me to bring Bones breakfast?"
"That's not too much to ask, is it?"
"No, of course not. I bring her food all the time…although not usually on weekends."
"I figured as much. I want you to be there for her when she wakes up. She'll need someone today."
Booth's brain tried to recall why today's date would have any special significance for his partner. His mental search came up empty. "Why today?"
Max sighed heavily, and Booth detected a tear running down the older man's face. "Because I've abandoned her again."
Booth got to his feet instantly. "You sonofabitch! She gave you a second chance, and now you're just going to throw it away? How the hell can you do that to her?"
"Believe me, I didn't want to cause Tempe any more suffering. But I didn't have a choice this time. I was running around with Russ's step-daughters yesterday and I felt a pain in my chest. I ignored it, but in retrospect I probably should have gone to see a doctor. It might have been too late anyway."
Booth's anger abated as he considered the meaning of Max's words. "So you're walking out on Bones because you're dying?"
"You've almost got it right."
Max leaned forward in his chair as if preparing to impart some great secret. "I'm not dying, son. I'm already dead."
Unforgiving sunlight pierced Booth's eyelids. Any other Saturday morning he would have ignored it and gone back to sleep, back to delicious dreams of him and Bones breaking the laws of physics. Yet he hadn't had those dreams last night. Instead he'd dreamed about him and her father. Her father who had claimed to be a ghost. That had been weird. Really weird. But at least it was a dream, and not a hallucination caused by a brain tumor.
But why was he dreaming about Max dying? Maybe he could ask Sweets on Mon--
Wait. He didn't need to ask Sweets. He already knew the answer.
The last case he and Bones had worked on had involved a murder victim in his sixties. When he had seen Angela's sketch, he had thought to himself that the guy looked a little bit like Max. Thankfully, it hadn't been Max, but clearly the idea that Max was dead was still floating around in his subconscious. That had to be it.
He remembered ghost Max telling him he should bring breakfast for Bones. Maybe that was his brain worrying about her eating habits on weekends, when he wasn't around to make sure she stopped working long enough to eat something. Maybe he would bring her breakfast. Why not? Having coffee and bagels with his partner would be the perfect way to start the day.
Still dressed in her bathrobe, Brennan was searching mostly empty kitchen cabinets, illogically hoping she had some breakfast foods (even though she couldn't remember the last time she had gone grocery shopping) when Booth knocked on her door bearing bagels and coffee. How had he known that that was exactly what she needed? He really was her…what was the term Angela had used years ago? Her knight in shining FBI standard issue body armor.
"You don't normally bring me food on weekends," Brennan said after she opened the door. "Is something wrong?"
Booth shook his head. "I just thought having breakfast with you would be a good way to start the weekend." As Booth admired her bathrobe, his mind recalled that the last time he had seen her in that robe, an almost naked welder had emerged from her bedroom moments later. "You…uh…don't have company, do you?"
"No, I haven't had a sexual partner in quite some time." Which was entirely Booth's fault. Next to him, other men appeared increasingly less desirable.
"Really?" Booth couldn't help but smile at her admission. It was nice to know that he wasn't the only one living a life of celibacy.
His smile irked her. "Is that why you're here? You wanted to see if I was sleeping with someone so that you could run a background check on them?"
"No, no." He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I'm here because I want to eat with you. That's it. Can you forgive my…inpertinence?" He deliberately mispronounced the word, hoping that the act of correcting him would distract her from her anger. It worked.
"Impertinence," she said with a laugh. "I suppose I can forgive you." She invited him into her apartment, where the two of them drank their coffee and ate their bagels side by side on her couch. "Thank you for breakfast," she said when they'd finished.
"My pleasure, Bones." They spent several moments in companionable silence until the sound of her ringing cell phone pierced the air.
"Brennan," she said into the phone.
"Hey, Tempe, it's me. Are you…uh…sitting down?"
Brennan frowned at the unusual question. "Yes. Why does that matter?"
"Who is it?" Booth whispered, wondering who was making her unhappy.
Brennan turned to her partner as she answered. "It's Russ."
"Were you talking to Booth?" Russ asked.
"Yes," Brennan told her brother. "We were having breakfast together."
Russ let out a shaky breath. "Good. I'm glad Booth's with you."
"Why? What's going on?"
"I have some bad news." He inhaled and exhaled deeply. "Dad passed away. They think he had a heart attack in his sleep."
Brennan dropped her phone. It hit the floor with a soft thud.
Heart pounding, Booth wrapped an arm around Brennan's shoulders. "Bones, what's wrong?"
The always articulate Dr. Brennan couldn't form an answer.
"Tempe?" Came Russ's voice from the floor. "You still there?"
Booth picked up her fallen phone. "Russ, it's Booth. What did you just tell your sister?"
"That our dad died."
Oh God! Booth's jaw dropped. So his dream last night…it had been more than a dream? Max's spirit had actually wanted Booth to be there for his daughter when she found out about his death? He would have to marvel at that later; right now he had a partner to console. "I'm sorry, Russ. I'll take care of her."
"You always do," Russ said gratefully. "Thanks, Booth."
Booth hung up the phone and embraced his partner, who started sobbing into his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and whispered words of comfort. He doubted she could hear them over her crying, but he couldn't stop himself from saying them. "I'm sorry, Bones. I'm so sorry. I'm here for you. Right here. I'm not going anywhere, I promise. It'll be okay, baby. I love you. I love you so much." Whoa! Did I just tell Bones that I loved her? Twice? Idiot! This is NOT the time to have THAT conversation.
Brennan knew Booth was talking, but her grief stricken brain couldn't process the words or their meaning. So she stopped trying to understand them, choosing instead to focus on the feel of his strong arms around her. That was all the comfort she needed. "Would it be inappropriate of me to ask if we could stay like this for a while?" She said after she had calmed down enough to speak.
"I don't think so." He was relieved that she apparently hadn't heard his ill-timed confession. "We can stay like this for as long as you want."
They spent the rest of the day in each other's arms.
When day gave way to night and exhaustion began to overwhelm them, Brennan asked Booth if he would be willing to spend the night. She told herself that she made the request out of concern for Booth's safety; she wouldn't want him falling asleep on the drive home. Yet she suspected the real reason was that she just didn't want him to leave. Whatever the reason, he agreed, grabbing a blanket draped over a nearby chair and laying down on the couch.
"You shouldn't sleep on the couch," Brennan argued. "It'll aggravate your back. You can use the guest room."
"Oh. Okay." He stood up. "That's fine with--"
"Wait," Brennan interrupted. "The sheets for that bed are in the laundry. You can sleep in my bed; there's plenty of room for both of us."
Booth's eyes widened. For years he'd imagined that one day--one magical, glorious day-- he'd be invited into Temperance Brennan's bedroom. He had never expected it to happen like this. "Are you sure?"
Brennan's answer was immediate. "Yes."
Once they were in her bed, Booth's arms wrapped around Brennan once again. It was strange, Brennan thought, to have a man in her bed who wasn't there for sex. A man who only wanted to hold and comfort her.
The following night, Brennan dreamed that she was in a lush green field. She was reliving a childhood memory, watching younger versions of her parents, Russ, and herself enjoy a picnic on the grass. She hadn't known then that her parents were bank robbers who had changed their names and hers; she hadn't known that they'd be leaving her in less than a year. During that time of her life, she had felt secure in the knowledge that she was appreciated and loved…feelings she wouldn't know again until Booth entered her life.
"These were some of the best days of my life," said a voice from behind her. Brennan turned to see her father, looking exactly as he had the last time she had seen him. He held out his arms and she stepped into his embrace. "I wish I could have had more time to make things up to you…but I'm grateful for the time we had."
"So am I."
He kissed her forehead. "And I'm glad that I'm leaving you in good hands."
"You mean Booth?" She said with a smile.
Max's face was serious. "He loves you, Tempe. More than you know."
"I do know, Dad."
"You do?" Max was surprised his daughter hadn't given him the 'just partners' line.
"I'd suspected it for some time. It was the only logical way to explain all the things he did for me."
"Then you'll let him take care of you?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not a child anymore, and I'm quite 'loaded', as Booth would say. I don't need anyone to take care of me."
Max chuckled. "Sometimes I forget that you've become such a strong, independent woman, because when I look at you I still see my little girl…my little girl playing with her first chemistry set, determined to solve the mysteries of the universe." He smiled at the memory. "I realize you don't need Booth to take care of you. But will you let him into your heart anyway?"
"I already have," she admitted. "Metaphorically speaking, of course. I told him that today. Then he told me that he loved me without adding 'in a professional atta girl kind of way.'" Suddenly Booth was beside her, holding her hand and looking at her with pure adoration. Brennan gazed at him with equal affection.
Max couldn't have been more thrilled for them. "You're going to be very happy together."
"So you're psychic now?" Brennan teased.
"You don't need to be psychic to see that you two have something special. Don't ever take it for granted."
"We won't," they said in unison.
And they never did.
The idea for this story came to me in a dream. Seriously. Creepy, eh?
Thanks for reading! All comments are greatly appreciated.