The Rings in the Heart
Chapter 21 - Epilogue
Disclaimer: Readers should be really, really glad that I do not own BONES.
A/N: Hi everyone! Thank you so much for reading and following this story, and its predecessor, 'Tequila' - I recently took the time to read through both stories again and all the reviews before writing this epilogue. I laughed a lot at myself, and got lots of warm fuzzies from the excellent comments that you took the time to send to me. I'd love to respond personally to every single one of you - but the sad truth is that I barely get time to write updates these days.
As for the question of a continuation of this storyline...I'm not sure that I have a trilogy in me. There are a few projects that I have up my sleeve, so I'm not vanishing. Plus, 'Progeny' has some heavy chapters ahead and I really want to put the effort in there.
If you are reading this story in it's entirety, as a completed fic, I urge you to drop a belated review. I would love to have feedback from folks who read this story as a completed piece. I can see in the stats that hits still happen on all of my stories, as people read my back catalogue.
December 21st - 04:00
Temperance Brennan had inexplicably been suffering with insomnia for the past four weeks. It seemed that no amount of warm milk, warm baths, or warm Boothy attentions, could prevent the inevitable four a.m. wake-up call. Her attentive partner remained empathetically eager to share the experiences of impending motherhood with her, even though it was completely illogical, it was comforting. Ironically, the warm milk, baths and booty calls worked wonders on Seeley Booth, who slept so soundly of late that he barely stirred when she rose from their bed to head to the bathroom, before padding over to the window, to look out onto the dark, freezing streets of D.C.
She looked down at her toes, which could still be seen. That was going to change, along with many other things. Officially at eighteen weeks and three days into her pregnancy, it was with predictable equanimity, that she faced the first festive season without alcohol that she could recall in her adult life. Even when working on projects in strict Muslim countries, some gung-ho expatriate inevitably took the risk and smuggled, or distilled, booze for the occasion. Today was the Winter Solstice, a mercifully short day that Brennan wished to be over. It was also the day of the baby announcement by Caroline Julian, which was being officially touted as Christmas drinks at The Jeffersonian. The rapid growth of her baby bump and an increase in the size of her already ample bust-line in the last couple of weeks, had made the ongoing concealment of her pregnancy quite difficult. Ms Julian had been making pointed remarks indicating that she, and possibly 'even poor blind folks, sure as hell could tell' that she was pregnant now. The anatomical scan had been done yesterday, but she had elected to withhold the gender news from the Prosecutor until the last possible moment. Sure, Caroline got to make the announcement, a deal was a deal, but Temperance Brennan was determined to get the last laugh. She had kept the Prosecutor in the dark for four weeks and two days. Surely she could manage one more day?
Four weeks and three days previously, she had attended the wedding of Mr. Fisher to Asha Mubarak, with Booth and the Jeffersonian team. Within hours of meeting, the emotionally challenged couple had declared themselves 'soul mates'. A short and angst-filled courtship ensued; delectably dragged down by the deepest, darkest tones of lust, followed by an announcement of their intention to join in unholy matrimony soon thereafter. Justification for the union was evidenced by the well-known fact that, once married, most people inevitably ended up desperately unhappy. Angela asserted that this universal truth was the founding tenent behind the genesis of the Country and Western music genre, although this could not be substantiated. Nonetheless, it was just the kind of adventure that the Emo couple wanted to suffer together, one which could even hasten the eventual departure from their emotionally seized mortal coil. In retrospect, Brennan had been completely unprepared for the bizarre events of that day.
Hodgins had predicted that the nuptials would be a cross between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Twilight trilogy. Brennan had Googled the references in preparation, of course, and conceded that her colleague had accurately picked the tone of the day. Aside from the Jeffersonian crew, the heavily pierced and largely gender confused guests of the couple, arrived decked out androgynously in black and studs, black and chains, black and body art, and of course, classic black on black. It was also apparent that they had depleted local supplies of white shimmering cosmetic foundation, liquid eyeliner and black lipstick in honour of the occasion. As for the ceremony itself; it was more sombre than a wake, filled with long awkward silences and smouldering stares that promised passion and sex, as soon as the mood stabilising meds kicked in.
The dress code for the event was black, so Booth had worn a charcoal three piece suit that had attracted many a smouldering stare from those gathered, including that of an acutely aroused Anthropologist. Brennan had worn a simple black A-line dress, with pewter toned panels forming deep pleats in the skirt, drawing eyes away from her thicker waistline. A gauzy cotton wrap completed the concealment for the outfit. Angela had helped her pick out the dress, but had been called over on the morning of the wedding to release some of the darts in the garment, allowing for the sudden increase in girth that had occurred in the ten days since it was purchased. A phone call from her primary physician as they completed the dress re-fitting asked her to drop by the office immediately. Seeing as Angela was handy, and Booth was currently with Hodgins, keeping the Groom away from sharp objects to ensure that he made it to the ceremony, Brennan and her BFF arrived at the doctor's office dressed in their sombre splendour.
Four weeks and three days previously (or November 23rd if you want to be precise about it...)
Brennan was called through to see her Physician immediately and returned ten minutes later looking like she'd had a Goth extreme makeover. The physician's assistant hovered nervously next to the tall pale lady in black, ushering her over to sit next to her exotic looking friend in the black full-length silk Chinese dress, accessorised with a black tulle fascinator and four-inch strappy stilettos.
"Bren? Are you okay, Sweetie?" asked Angela, sliding off her seat to kneel at the feet of her ashen-faced friend, giving half the waiting room an eyeful of toned leg as the thigh high split in her dress gaped open. Well, the male half of the waiting room at the very least.
Her friend stated in a shocked monotone. "My AFP test was abnormal, Ange."
"The test for birth defects that you had this week? Oh my God! Do you want me to call Booth?" Angela was tearing up.
"That won't be necessary," said Brennan. "My Physician took one look at me and with the aid of an ultrasound, deduced the reason for the spurious result. For some reason, he had even offered to place a wager on the outcome."
"Okay, now I'm totally confused," protested the artist. "Do you wanna come straight out with it, Sweetie? Or do I have to go all Texan Street Fighter on your doctor to beat it out of him?" Angela arched a sculpted brow at the wide-eyed physician's assistant. "Don't let this pretty dress fool you, Honey, I'll do it."
Taking a deep breath and clinging to her lifeboat of science, Brennan explained. "The abnormal result is due to multiparity, Angela."
"English, Brennan!...I know it's usually your line, but, I don't know what that means!" Angela implored, grabbing the hands of her friend and squeezing them between her own.
"Oh! Thank God!" yelled Angela, making every remaining head in the waiting room turn toward her.
Brennan frowned as much as her shell-shock state would allow. "This is not an Act of God. It is now apparent that I produced two ova, which were both fertilised by..."
Angela held up a hand to halt what would undoubtedly ruin an as yet unspoiled rendition of Booth and Brennan sexy fun times. "Yeah, I know how that bit happens, Sweetie. I may be an Artist, but I did graduate high school."
"They gave me a photo," said Brennan, holding up a four by four glossy.
"Ooh! Let me see! Aww, it's Tweedle-Bren and Tweedle-Booth!"
Brennan looked at Angela earnestly. "We haven't decided upon any names yet, Angela. But I can say with certainty, that I would reject those names outright."
"Bren. Just stop talking and give me a hug already!" said Angela.
December 21st - 04:15
It had started to snow outside during her reverie. Brennan turned away from the dark vista of D.C. at her window. Dawn was still almost three hours away. Booth was still sprawled out asleep, his face unlined and unworried in repose. She recalled his face when she had slipped him the grainy monochrome ultrasound image at the wedding, just after the terminally tormented couple had vowed to a life of moody misery together. As the newly-weds exchanged vials of blood and signed their marriage license, predictably, Booth asked what he was supposed to be looking at in the photo. So she drew his attention to the white type faced labels with small arrows. He'd mouthed the words 'Twin A' and 'Twin B' as his eyebrows attempted to defect to his hairline. The resulting grins on their faces attracting pointed stares from those gathered at the event. Assuming more appropriately somber expressions, Booth had grabbed her and very seriously French kissed her; providing the congregation with a smorgasbord offering vicarious thrills, an educational experience, or a trigger for self-harm, dependent upon the the mental state behind the eye of the beholder.
Although they stuck to their plan for an eighteen week reveal, her field-work had ceased, effective immediately. After four long weeks, valid reasons for Brennan not leaving the lab were wearing thin. On the forensics platform, she had also taken to wearing an oversized apron over her lab coat in the past couple of weeks, the puzzled looks that her colleagues directed at her were, as usual, completely wasted on her.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling the fluttering fetal movements which had never failed to make her smile since the day they had begun.
"Are they playing tag team in there again?" asked the husky sleep-laden voice next to her. "Come back to bed, Bones. It's early. It's cold. I'll warm you up..." he offered. She could almost hear the cocky smile in the darkness, as she felt the warmth radiating from under the bedding that he had drawn back. The invitation was duly accepted.
"Hey, it's coming out day. You can start wearing clothes that show off your amazing new figure..." he said, more awake now annd running his hands over the evidence.
She gave a derisive snort and slugged him lightly in the shoulder. "Charmer. My new Winter wardrobe is largely comprised of shapeless maternity items. Angela tells me it is the fashion penalty for choosing to be with a man as virile as you are."
"Ha! My virility is the inspiration for your Winter fashion collection? What about your virility? The responsibility for that whole 'two for the price of one' deal is all yours," he said, moving his hand up to shift some errant locks of hair that were falling across her face.
"You make me sound like a coupon. Are you going to redeem me?" she asked.
"Nuh uh. I wouldn't trade anything for what I've got with you, Bones. You're a keeper," he stated in complete honesty.
She paused to take the impact of his statement onboard, and worried her bottom lip between her teeth until she composed herself. "Your fierce loyalty to me is one of the things that I love about you, and something that I've always known that I could reciprocate," she admitted candidly in kind. "You should know, that in many ways, you are my redeemer."
She felt his smile as it interrupted his nibbling progress along her jawline. "Like religious redemption?" he asked. "Because you can't be saved from sins you don't subscribe to..."
She gave a low chuckle and wriggled in a little closer to him, using him as a Boothy body pillow. "No. Not that kind of redemption. I have come to realise that your presence in my life, even before we transgressed into the sins that you subscribe to, has saved me...from myself; from a life of solitude, where I shunned deeper connections; from an existence where I would never discover that something can remain after the epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine dissipates. You saved me, Booth."
He gave a faux-growl of arousal and gently teased her, as was his habit when she got overly serious; which was frequently. "You get me so hot when you talk body chemistry, baby. So tell me, when all the feel good chemicals wear off, what's left?"
Brennan tilted her head up until their noses touched and answered, low, slow and measured. "You. Me. Love. The Laws of Physics."
"You saved me too, Bones. Not just in the line of duty either. So that would make you my redeemer," he said.
"Do you have something to confess?" she teased.
"Not unless you're planning on posing as a priest," he joked.
"So you're suggesting that we're co-redeemers?" she asked seriously.
"Yeah. We saved each other, Bones." He paused thoughtfully as her tip of her nose attempted to seduce his own. "Co-redeemers. I like the sound of that. But let's not tell Sweets, he'll write a book about it or something."
December 21st – 8:00 p.m.
Christmas drinks were well underway, with the volume of merriment from the revellers on the Mezzanine floor of the lab echoing through the cavernous complex. Wendell and Hodgins had manufactured an alcoholic beverage that would likely land them in jail if they attempted to transport it across state lines. Of course, it was incredibly strong, and of course, everyone consumed it; with the exception of Brennan, who was still closeted away in her office, legitimately completing paperwork. The snow had continued to fall all that day, so she had arrived in multiple concealing layers of clothing, bringing along a change of clothes for the evening reveal.
When Booth entered her office, she was putting on earrings and selecting a necklace, having changed into the outfit that she had purchased for the occasion; a flowing dark emerald velvet dress cut to both accommodate and draw attention to her latest creative effort.
"Here. Let me get that," he said coming up behind her as she battled around the sleeves of the dress to manipulate the catch of the necklace.
"Thanks," she said, smiling as his warm fingers fumbled with the catch as she held her hair out of the way. Then laughing as he took the opportunity to kiss her exposed shoulder.
He stepped back as she turned around. "Wow. You look amazing...and very pregnant."
"Yes. I know. I feel unaccountably nervous...and enormous," she said, grabbing a wrap that she held strategically over her forearm.
He held out his arm. "C'mon, let's get upstairs. They're waiting for you, Bones." They headed up toward the sounds of tipsy squints and Sinatra crooning Christmas classics.
The party was in full swing, but silence fell as a sharp whistle rang out. Heads turned toward Caroline who held up a wine glass and called for silence.
"Finally! Dr. Brennan is gracing us with her presence. I have a few words that I want to say while you're all still compos mentis!" She pointed at Clark. "You there! Fine lookin' Brother in the snazzy suit. Put the gag on Bing Crosby. I can't be expected to talk while he's dreamin' of a white Christmas!"
"Amen to that, Sister!" muttered Clark as he muted the CD player.
All eyes were on the Prosecutor now. "Well. Isn't this...pleasant. The whole Jeffersonian Team with some of their FBI colleagues and loved ones, celebrating Christmas together."
Glasses were raised and a few loose cheers emerged.
"I'm not finished people! My main reason for joining you this evening is to announce a few changes coming in the New Year. Dr. Brennan has a special project she's been workin' on, which will take her on sabbatical soon." Caroline waved Brennan to come forward. "Come over here, Cherie. Let's tell the nice folks about it. Now don't be shy..."
Booth placed a protective arm around her waist and they went to stand next to the Prosecutor. Brennan, holding her wrap in front of her, handed Caroline an envelope that had a copy of the anatomical ultrasound report inside. As she opened the envelope she began her main announcement.
"Y'all don't need to worry about Dr. Brennan here, of course. You see, she and her partner are going to be blessed with a baby," said Caroline with a wide smile as she extracted the report from the envelope in the stunned silence which descended over those present.
"Babies, Ms. Julian," corrected Brennan, as Cam's jaw dropped in recognition of the distinction.
"Mmm hmm! I hear you Cherie. If I were in your shoes, with that man, I'd be heading back for more too..."
Brennan handed her wrap to Booth. "No. There will be two babies. As in twins. It's in the report, but if you consider my size against gestation, it is an obvious conclusion."
The silence was now deafening, as Caroline looked at the summary paragraph on the report in her hands. "A boy and a girl? Twins?" She glanced at Brennan, finally taking in the evidence that had been referred to. "My. You most definitely have more than one child on the way." She eyed Booth. "Why didn't you tell me she was hiding this from me?"
"Hey. Don't look at me for this Caroline," Booth retorted. "I warned you it was a bad idea to make a deal with a genius."
"Well...congratulations to the two of you anyway. Merry Christmas." Caroline condeded defeat with a wry smile and hoisted her wine glass.
The party had stalled, with people aghast and staring suspiciously at their drinks, wondering if they contained something more exotic and hallucinogenic than alcohol.
"Were you aware that twenty-two percent of twins are left-handed, compared to only ten percent of the general populace?" asked Vincent Nigel Murray into the silence.
Brennan replied. "No. Mr. Nigel Murray, I was not aware of that fact. But thank you for bringing this to my attention," she replied.
The spell was broken as a dozen people suddenly made a beeline toward the couple, still reeling at the news.
Lance Sweets had arrived on the Mezzanine with Daisy Wick wondering why the noise had suddenly ceased as he ascended the stairs; just as Brennan corrected the Prosecutor, by saying 'Babies, Ms. Julian' and handed her wrap to Booth. Due to the immutable fact that light travels faster than sound; the visual cortex of the Psychologist saw Dr. Brennan, did a double-take, triggering his ego to perform a mental head-slap on himself, before his auditory centre even registered the word 'babies'.
When the revellers snapped out of their collective shock, Daisy grabbed his arm. "Oh. My. God! Dr. Brennan is so pregnant," she exclaimed. Then as an intelligent aside to Sweets, she confided loudly. "Her antalgic gait is a total giveaway."
"Thank you, Captain Obvious!" said Hodgins to Daisy as he handed her and Sweets a Martini glass. "Drink up, before it evaporates. This stuff is guaranteed to fix whatever ails you."
"I'll drink to that, Dr. Hodgins," said Cam as she arrived for a refill.
"Hey, Cam. You're a medical doctor. Did Dr. B manage to fool you too?" asked the bug man.
"I'd noticed that she had gained a little weight, but I put it down to her being happy with Booth," said Cam, taking a sip of her refill, coughing a little as the alcohol resurfaced her oesophagus on the way down. The Pathologist held up a finger. "Actually, come to think of it, I should have realised. Dr. Brennan habitually frequents my office to raid my chocolate stash, which she stopped doing after that case when she dislocated her shoulder."
"Chocolate? Why would that clue you in?" asked Hodgins.
Angela rolled her eyes at the man who professed to 'know' women. "Bren is a chocolate fiend when she gets PMS. Pregnant equals no PMS, so no raiding Cam's candy stash."
Hodgins nodded sagely. "Well at least I know where to score free candy now," he said to Cam.
"You'll be needing to grow yourself a set of lady parts before you try it, bucko. Good luck with that!" said Cam saluting him with her drink.
Vincent Nigel-Murray sidled up to the group. "Did you know, that identical twins have discernibly different fingerprints?" he asked.
Cam tipsily raised her Martini glass. "I knew that!"
"Well, I didn't..." said Angela.
Hodgins refilled the glass of the Englishman. "Here. This should help..."
"Who? Me?" asked Vincent.
"No. Us," retorted Hodgins.
Booth handed a cup of fruit punch to his more relaxed partner. "You okay, Bones?" he asked.
"I'm a little fatigued, and perplexed as to why people persist in attempting to touch my abdomen. Otherwise, I'm fine," she replied.
"It's something that people do around pregnant women. Do you want me to shoot them?" he asked her.
Brennan laughed. "No. That won't be necessary. I do find it fascinating, observing my inebriated colleagues whilst sober."
December 21st – 10:00 p.m.
Draped drunkenly on one corner of a long couch next to Caroline Julian, Mr. Nigel Murray sprung to life as another factoid bubbled through his haze of alcohol. "In the 1700's, a woman in Russia gave birth to sixteen sets of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quads."
Clark Edison, who was currently pacing himself by drinking a virgin banana daiquiri, gave Vincent a withering glance. "I'll keep that in mind, should I ever consider having unprotected sex with a Russian woman."
Wendell shook his head. "Man. Can you imagine the alimony?"
Caroline eyed Mr. Nigel Murray suspiciously. "Someone care to tell me who let in the know-it-all Canadian?" she demanded.
Vincent stood and stared down to meet the gaze of the Prosecutor with bravery that only 170 proof alcohol could provide. "Madam. I am no more Canadian than you are. I am British, and at your service." He gave a courtly bow.
"Damned straight I'm not Canadian!" said Caroline indignantly.
Vincent was unperturbed by the dangerous tone in her voice, he held up his index finger and proclaimed. "If you moved to Hawaii, you would have a thirty percent lower chance of conceiving twins...assuming that you were still of childbearing potential, of course."
Brennan, watching the exchange from the opposite couch, smothered a snort of laughter. "Now that was amusing, Booth. There is no possibility that Ms. Julian would still be able to conceive a child."
He didn't get a chance to answer, due to the screech of protest from the now irate Prosecutor. "Booth! Is he for real? Because I can call a judge and get him deported. Send him back to wherever he came from. They're welcome to him!"
Booth made his way around to the trouble-zone, grabbing the Englishman under one arm to frog-march him out of range, towards the more sober Wendell near the coffee pot. "C'mon pal. Before she makes me shoot you. I'd have to do it, you know and she'd get me off the charges. Yo' Wendell, give the Limey a quart of coffee and call him a cab, okay?"
"Sure thing, Booth," replied Wendell with a nod. "Is Dr. B. okay man? She's looking kind of tired."
"Yeah. Trouble sleeping. I should get her home," replied Booth as her turned to the task of convincing his partner to leave.
December 21st – 10:10 p.m.
Surprisingly, it hadn't taken any convincing at all. Ten minutes later, they were bundled up against the freezing cold, waiting for a cab. They were taking shelter in the front entrance to the building. Two inches of snow had fallen on the steps already, swirling eddies of snowflakes signalling a serious overnight deposit for the streets of D.C.
Brennan took off her knitted hat and descended half-way down the steps before stopping and tilting her head back to feel the snowflakes landing on her face, hands extending palms upward and outward from her sides.
"Bones? What are you doing? You're gonna catch pneumonia!" protested Booth.
She laughed. "Pneumonia is caused by a bacterial or viral vector, not exposure to snow!"
Still looking up to the snowflakes that now appeared to be aiming directly at her, she smiled. "I used to do this as a child. Let myself out into the back yard before bedtime, when it was dark and quiet and snowing. Feeling the snowflakes tickle as they landed on my face, before the heat from my skin became the catalyst that transformed them from solid to liquid state. Simple science lessons from interactions with nature."
Booth had joined her from his sheltered position. He stood on the step above her. With her head tilted back, she could see him clearly to her right.
"I just built snowmen, stockpiled snowball ammo to use on my Bro, and made the occasional snow angel," said Booth.
She returned to a normal pose. "I did all those things too, Booth. I was a normal child in many respects. I hope that our own children will experience the simple joys of childhood."
He began brushing the snowflakes from her hair, as she wiped some of the melted flakes from her face with her scarf.
"Here, put your hat back on," he said, placing it on her head as her own gloved hands met with his to pull it down over her ears.
"We may end up being snowed in tonight. Cam suggested that we work from home until the streets are cleared," she said.
"I'm on call," he mused. "Hopefully the snow will keep the bad guys off the streets, so I can stay home with you."
"Hopefully," she agreed. "Unless someone murders another Santa Claus this season..." she suggested with a smile.
He placed his arms around her shoulders for a 'guy plus little guys hug'. It was getting more awkward to achieve as the weeks progressed, but was still fun trying. "After this Christmas, when we've got the whole Santa myth to maintain every year, you'll have a whole different perspective on the old jolly guy getting bumped off. Kids make Christmas a completely different experience."
"I suppose that's true. Will it also mean that sex under the Christmas tree becomes a problem?" she asked. "If it does, then Christmas will indeed never be the same again."
"Eh. We just have to change our M.O. a little," he replied, warming her face between his hands.
"How so?" she asked.
He gave that sexy chuckle which never failed to warm her from the inside. "We just wait until the kids are in bed asleep, before I get to unwrap you under the Christmas tree."
"I can adapt to those conditions," she surmised.
The arrival of the cab broke their moment, so they headed carefully down the remaining snow covered stairs to reach the kerb. Brennan got into the cab and gave the driver their address, as Booth made his way around to the other side of the vehicle so she didn't have to scoot over the backseat.
"Instead of warm milk to help me sleep tonight, I think I would prefer Hot Chocolate," she said decisively as the cab exited the Jeffersonian complex.
"Fine by me. I love Hot Chocolate...with marshmallows," he said with a grin.
"If you get marshmallows, then I get to unwrap you under the Christmas tree tonight," she retorted with a seductive smile.
"I can live with that arrangement," he capitulated, as he placed an arm over her shoulder.
"That makes two of us," she agreed.