Batons and Boutonnières
A Booth and Brennan Valentine's Day One Shot
For Doctor Temperance Brennan, nothing said Valentine's Day like the prospect of digging through a mass grave.
She was such a romantic at heart.
Two days prior, she had received a call from the India government, requesting her services in the aid of sorting through and then identifying upwards of, at least, twenty-five bodies, they estimated. Her work at the Jeffersonian had been slow, there were no pressing cases forcing her to remain in D.C., and, because of Booth and her ridiculous Benjamin Franklin quoting cousin, she had foregone her usual overseas vacation during the Christmas holiday and decided to make the most of the long weekend.
Because all government offices were closed for Presidents' Day, she and the others who worked at the lab had Monday off, and, in her mind, what better way was there to celebrate the lives of men who, at least in principle, had wanted to grant freedom and opportunity to all, then to go to India and give closure to more than two dozen innocent men, women, and children? In that same vein of thought, she had immediately booked a flight to Mumbai that Friday afternoon with the intentions of bringing honor and justice to the dead. The fact that, while in doing so, she would be able to escape what would inevitably be a weekend of prying questions concerning her lack of a social life by her father and Angela had just barely flickered across Brennan's mind.
So, there she was, less than 48 hours later, deep in the heart of India. Her supplies were packed and ready to go, she had gone over the numerous photos of the uncovered grave, and she had already called ahead and booked freight package back to the states for an as yet to be determined amount of badly decomposed dead bodies. The airline company had been less than pleased when learning of their impending cargo, but, after tossing about both her Jeffersonian credentials and her known association with the FBI, not to mention her rather illustrious career as a best selling author, they had caved quickly, eager to service such an influential, wealthy woman.
As she exited her hotel, the finest Mumbai had to offer, Brennan crossed to the small park on the opposite side of the road, weaving and dodging her way through the heavy early morning traffic already lining the busy, main road. All around her, the city pulsed with vitality and unrest, a desperation to survive she only encountered while traveling outside of the United States. Though she herself didn't share the sentiment, she felt it vicariously invigorate her for the long, grueling day to come. Between the work itself and the scorching sun shining above, by the time she returned to her room that evening, Temperance had no doubt she'd be exhausted both physically and mentally.
With that in mind, she relaxed against the wooden bench on which she sat as she waited for her government escort to the mass grave's site to arrive, and, as she waited, she ate a light breakfast, her stomach never even once coming close to revolting against the food, despite the decaying smells and no doubt unpleasant tactile experiences awaiting her. Unlike others, even in her early days, Brennan had never been hampered by her body's betrayal to such unsightly scenes, so it never once crossed her mind to be thankful for such a reprieve.
Instead, she contemplated the snapshots she had seen of the bodies which were practically nothing more than mere skeletons, their flesh, muscle, and internal organs long gone due to the ravages of both the climate in which they were buried and the local environment. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the grave, she knew her task that day would not be to endeavor towards identification. Rather, she would simply be attempting to sort through the scattered, intermixed bones, determining which ones went with which bodies, for, whether it had been in an attempt to evade authorities or simply another insult to the dead, the skeletons had been displaced, torn apart, and dispersed randomly in a hodgepodge manner which reminded Brennan of a mother bird randomly building her nest. Just as the various pieces of sticks, straw, and leaves were weaved together to form one solid, indistinguishable mass, so had the bones.
The arrival of an official looking vehicle interrupted her thoughts, and Temperance watched as the driver parked the dust coated, white SUV across the street from where she sat, closer to the hotel than to her park bench. Because of the sheer amount of traffic, it would simply be easier for her to cross the road, once more, on foot rather than wait for the vehicle to take the precious time to turn around and pick her up. Such maneuvering – to attempt to move against the flow of traffic - in a congested Mumbai thoroughfare could sometimes be practically impossible.
With that in mind, she stood, tossed the remains of her breakfast in the nearest trash can, and then went back to the bench she had just moments before been occupying solely to retrieve her numerous bags of supplies. Though compared to the equipment she and her fellow scientists used at the Jeffersonian, Brennan's kit that day was rudimentary and slim, but, at the same time, it would also get the necessary jobs accomplished.
However, before she could step a single foot forward, a powerful hand clasped itself around her left, upper arm, holding her back. Immediately, she stiffened. Though she was in a well populated street in the broad light of day, Mumbai was still a dangerous city, and she, being a foreigner, American no less, was not always a welcome sight for some residents. Yes, Brennan was there at the request of the Indian government, but the person currently assaulting her, in all likelihood, did not know that, and, even if they did, would such knowledge actually make a difference?
They could hate her for the nation she represented to them, for the fact that she was a woman and dressed in, though what was a conservative fashion in America, was still quite Western and forward by some standards, for her obvious wealth and prominence. Perhaps the person behind her simply wanted to steal from her, take her wallet and her possessions and flee a much richer man or perhaps even woman than they had been when they woke up that morning. Another option could be that they did know that she was working with the government, and they were against their nation's rulers, using her to set an example towards India's leaders. Yet again, perhaps they knew something or had something to do with the mass grave she was going....
"Bones, it's me," a familiar, in that moment unbelievably frustrating voice cautioned, warned, obviously aware of her state of anxiety and the fact that, when threatened, she always refused to back down, choosing instead to fight. "Man, do you always get up this early when on vacation? I almost missed...."
This time it was her turn to interrupt as she whirled around to face the man still standing behind her. "Booth, what in the hell are you doing here?" Needing to clarify, despite the fact that it wasn't the most prevalent issue facing them at the moment, she added, "and I'm not here on vacation; I'm working."
"Of course you are," he patronizingly responded. "It's a holiday weekend which means that you'd never just kick back and relax."
"We've been over this a million times, Booth. I like my job. I like taking my time off from work to fly to other countries and help identify badly decomposed bodies. It's what I do to relax. And you still haven't told me why you're here."
At her insistence, he dropped his gaze, took a step back, and started to fidget. As he twirled his sunglasses, eventually slipping them on, Booth replied, "well, it's Valentine's Day, Bones."
Quirking an impatient eyebrow, she exclaimed, "so what?" Before he could reply, though, the magnitude of his statement pierced through her annoyance.
As Booth rambled through his evidently prepared list of arguments – Rebecca had gotten engaged, Parker was with her for the weekend, Jared was spending the holiday with his fiancée, Sweets had Daisy, Cam had Michelle, and even Hodgins and Angela were back to circling around each other like two star-crossed lovers, she ran through her vast knowledge of Indian culture and traditions, fearfully recalling just how unpopular the Western holiday of Valentine's Day was with certain factions of the non-Christian country. There were three Hindu fundamentalists groups – the Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad – who heatedly discouraged Indian citizens from celebrating Valentine's Day. If shopkeepers insisted upon selling goods that marked the romantic day, Shiv Sena diehards would violently oppose them. People who partook in the holiday were dealt with by baton carrying Shiv Sena members who lurked in parks and other public places, looking for foolish couples who defid their orders by holding hands or engaging in others displays of public affection and dealing with them as they saw appropriately. Sometimes, the activists took their actions so far as to force apparent couples found in public places on Valentine's Day into immediate marriage.
It was Valentine's Day, she and Booth were standing next to a park, and, to a casual, outside observer, they could possibly be seen as being a couple, a couple having an argument but a couple no less. The last thing she wanted - needed - that day was to be beaten within an inch of her life by baton toting Hindu fundamentalists, let alone forced to marry... even if such a ceremony wouldn't be legal once she returned back to the states.
"So, I traced your credit card, found out where you were staying, and followed you here." How Booth had gotten her credit card number, Brennan didn't know. Though she would soon find out, she had more pressing matters at hand to deal with first. "I figured, since neither of us are currently in a relationship, we should spend Valentine's Day together."
"Go back to the hotel, Booth."
He smiled then, a wide, warm expression of pleasure, the harshness of her tone obviously not registering. "Sure, do you want to get some breakfast or something? My treat."
With her bags of supplies still weighing her arms down, Temperance took several steps backwards, stepping off the sidewalk's edge and down into the street, hoping that such blind movements wouldn't get her into trouble with a passing vehicle. "No, I have work to do," she informed him, using her most professional voice. "And we can not be seen together, not today."
Not seeming to grasp the importance of her warning, Booth chased after her, matching her step for step. "Why," he questioned. "Damn it, Bones! I know I'm not good with, well, bones, but I an a federal agent, and this isn't the safest part of the world for you to be gallivanting around in on your own."
"You have less jurisdiction and authority here than I do, because I, at least – unlike you, was invited by the Indian government."
"Yeah, well, who's carrying a gun?"
Impatiently, she yelled, "Booth, you don't understand! There are some locals who wouldn't appreciated seeing the two of us together... like this... on Valentine's Day. Just, please, go back to the hotel room, stay there, and, when I'm finished today, I'll come and find you to explain."
Stubbornly, he darted forward, slipped a few of her bags off her shoulder, and threw them up on his own. "No can do, Bones. Where you go, I go. Consider me your shadow while in India. Hell, I'll even be your tour guide. You know, I've seen Slumdog Millionaire."
Despite the direness of their situation, she couldn't help but protest, allowing, for the first time since she saw her partner, for her eyes to stop scanning their immediate surroundings while she complained, "that is such an oxymoronic term. By definition, a slumdog could not possibly be a millionaire."
"It's a movie, won best picture last year, caused Slumdog fever to sweep across the world." When she didn't respond, he further explained, "it's about this kid who plays the Indian version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?', you know, the game show."
"That is an equally inept name, for who wouldn't want to be a millionaire... except given today's society and the ever increasing inflation rate, it might be more realistic to say that everyone should want to be a billionaire instead."
"Forget it, Bones," he told her, shaking his head and chuckling in amusement. "I should have known not use a pop culture reference. My point is, though, that I know a few things about India."
"Yes, well so do I, Booth, and that's why you have to return to the hotel right now." Glancing over her partner's shoulder, Brennan spotted several young men carrying batons advancing towards them, the small coalition of Shiv Sena members flowing out of various parts of the small park she stood facing. Whispering under her breath, she exclaimed, "oh, this is not good." Rolling back her shoulders, she glared at Booth, lifted her hands in an attempt to pull her bags from his grasp, and tried to infuse as much steel into her voice as she possibly could. "Give me back my things, now. If you don't, if you continue to stand here, fighting with me on this, we could both end up hurt." When he went to protest, she cut him off. "Hindu fundamentalist hate Valentine's Day, Booth. They view it as just another example of cultural pollution from the west. They've already spotted us together, they're heading this way, but, if we make it seem as though we're just two American strangers making small talk and then go out separate ways in time..."
Dropping her things, he grabbed her arms in emphasis and asked, "what will they do to us, Bones?"
"Sometimes they use their batons to beat up couples they see together in public places, and sometimes... sometimes they force couples to marry."
She had expected Booth to finally grasp the direness of their situation, to finally listen to her beseeching words and flee back to the hotel, but, instead, he simply smirked, leaned forward, and dropped a sloppy yet emphatic kiss upon her open mouth. By the time he pulled away, moving so that his right arm was looped through her left despite the bags of equipment she still held, Brennan was too stunned to be angry, too stunned to be afraid.
As the Shiv Sena approached, Booth started talking. "We surrender. We realize we were in the wrong, that we shouldn't have been practically having sex on the streets of Mumbai, but what can I say? We're just too crazy kids so in love that we couldn't stop ourselves."
Elbowing him in the ribs, Temperance whispered under her breath, "what in the hell are you doing?"
He responded with his voice equally as muted. "Saving our hides, Bones. Can't you just for once try to be a little more grateful?"
"No, Booth, this is insane! You're practically begging them to force us into getting married."
"Well, it's better than getting hit with a baton. Those suckers hurt, trust me."
The fundamentalists avidly watched their interaction. Although Brennan wasn't sure just how much they understood, she did know that there would be no possible way of running away and escaping. The street was too crowded, her ride to the mass grave parked too far away, and, even if she could have managed to outrun the small group of Shiv Sena members surrounding her, Booth refused to let go of her arm. It was almost as if... but that was impossible. Wasn't it? Her partner could not actually want them to get married. Could he?
As the men led them away, Booth picking up the bags he had previously dropped, and, practically dragging her towards the park where the Shiv Sena were taking them, she watched his face, read his body language, and studied his expression. He seemed relaxed and unguarded, completely free of concern or nerves. In fact, the damn, infuriating man was actually smiling, whistling as though he hadn't a care in the world.
"You planned this, didn't you," she accused, her sudden and intense anger tinting everything she saw in fiery shades of red.
"I didn't know a thing about any of this, Bones, until you told me moments ago."
After years of working together, she knew when Booth was lying and when he wasn't, so she could tell that what he was saying was the truth, but, at the same time, she also knew that their current predicament wasn't all entirely due to circumstance. If Booth had been unaware of the Shiv Sena and their attitude towards Valentine's Day, he had certainly taken advantage of it once he learned of the fundamentalists' beliefs, and, for that, she needed some answers.
"Why," Temperance demanded. "Why did you kiss me? Why did you practically beg for them to force into marriage when I asked you so many times to just go back to the hotel?"
"When in Rome, Bones," was his cheery response.
Barely restraining her ire, she clenched her jaw to prevent her screams of protest from escaping. When her temper was as under control as it was going to get, she bit out, "we're not in Rome, Booth; we're in Mumbai."
"It's an expression."
"It's nonsense and definitely not an answer." When her partner... soon to be husband according to the Indian government... shrugged his shoulders dismissively, she protested, "what about my assignment? What about all those dead bodies who deserve answers?"
"We'll turn your long weekend trip into a honeymoon and stay until each and every skeleton is identified."
"You know this marriage won't be legal once we return home, don't you?"
If possible, his grin became even wider. "Close enough," was his response.
At that point, Brennan decided to quit arguing with him. Obviously, there was no talking any sense into the man walking, sauntering, practically strutting beside her. However, she did find herself contemplating where Booth's sudden irrational behavior stemmed from. Could it simply be a reaction towards the fact that practically everyone important in his life was pairing themselves off and settling down while he wasn't even in a causal relationship? Was it simply yet another of his attempts to drive her insane or teach her some absurd lesson about society and relating to others that only he understood? Perhaps it was an unpredicted side effect from his brain tumor, some repressed personality change that was finally presenting itself? Or maybe it was something else, something deeper, something she knew she wasn't ready to even consider.
Maybe Booth really did want to marry her; maybe he was in love with her.
At the thought, Temperance's heart surged almost painfully, whether from fear or something so terrifying she refused to put a name to it, she didn't know, but, just as quickly, she tampered down the reaction, refusing to even contemplate such outrageous, preposterous, downright ridiculous ideas.
There was no way Booth loved her... at least, not in that way, and she certainly was not in love with him.
She was 100% positive.
Not a single doubt in her mind.
The whole concept was laughable, one big, giant joke.
Stumbling with her steps, Brennan nearly fell to her knees, realization crashing through her.
She was getting married.... to Booth.
Her father would cheer and probably insist upon throwing them a party. Angela would knowingly smirk and roll her eyes. Hodgins would somehow twist it around so that he could claim he knew the whole time, making her impromptu, forced marriage just another example of why he was King of the Lab. Cam would laugh... for a long, long time. Booth's grandfather would no doubt have a thing or two to say, and Parker she highly doubted would be too surprised. Brennan didn't even want to think about how the various interns would react, because she had a sneaking feeling that the only person unaware of the feelings between she and Booth had been her.
She was getting married... to Booth... in India... at the hands of the Shiv Sena, and, worst of all, she was pretty sure, almost positive, damn near suffocating with the knowledge that she was in love with her soon-to-be groom.
As the minutes dragged on, getting beaten by batons was looking better and better. Unfortunately, her life never was that simple or that neat, and fate certainly never was that kind to Temperance.
Happy Presidents' Day to her, indeed.