Okay, so I've grabbed this story back up, dusted it off and resurrected it. It's always niggled at me that it's unfinished and I really wanted to finish it! So – there will be a few more installments, and hopefully soon! I am so sorry that I took so long to get back to this. So… enjoy!
Gloria Mason walked into the Royal Diner at precisely noon on the dot. She always was prompt. She'd been told her potential match would be in there, sitting at the bar, waiting for his work partner. She had his photograph and looked at it once more.
Strange name, she thought. But hot guy, she admitted, admiring his clean, handsome features and charming boyish grin.
She zeroed in on him. At least she was nearly positive it was him. His phone rang as she took the available seat beside him.
"Booth," he said into his phone.
Definitely the guy, Gloria realized with a smile. He was even handsomer in person.
"Is everything okay?" he asked, his features creasing into a very concerned expression. "Bones, you'd tell me if—"
He stopped talking, closing his eyes almost as if in pain.
"Okay," he finally uttered quietly. "Sure. I'll come by the lab later."
He clicked his phone off and placed it in his pocket, his shoulders slumping.
He seemed so down. If she were going to make an impression, she really had to turn on the energy. Cheer the guy up.
"Um, hey!" she said as cheerily as she could manage.
At first he didn't look at her. He just kept eating his omelet.
"Sir?" she followed up, leaning forward to catch his eye.
He looked surprised to see her addressing him, but swallowed and smiled. "Sorry. I didn't know you were talking to me."
She smiled her most disarming grin. She'd won a beauty pageant with that grin and she was well aware that it was one of her most compelling features.
"I'm Gloria," she said, holding out a hand. She was being forward. But she didn't exactly care.
He seemed confused but took her hand and shook it, introducing himself as "Seeley."
"That's a unique name," she said with interest, while trying to seem natural. "I don't think I've ever met another Seeley."
He half-laughed and looked down at his hands briefly. "You don't say." His words were blunt but his tone was gentle and friendly. Though… not at all encouraging.
"Do you come here often?"
His eyebrows shot up at her forwardness but he nodded. "Almost everyday. Usually with colleagues."
"Maybe…" she trailed off nervously. But he wasn't being encouraging so she knew that she had to make a move before he finished his meal and left. "Maybe we could meet up here… or somewhere… and grab a bite. I hate to see you alone. I mean today you're alone. Obviously normally you are here with… with colleagues."
She always did have a babbling problem when she was nervous.
He blinked a couple times before asking, "are you hitting on me?"
She smiled and put a strand of hair behind on ear and looked at him, her hazel eyes meeting his. "When at the Royal Diner, right?"
He smiled and right at that moment, she knew he was a good guy. And… he was not about to lead her on. He was about to nip this in the bud. But the smile was friendly and sweet. He was one of the good guys. And he was clearly not available. Or interested at least.
"That's really sweet," he said softly. "And unexpected," he added. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and gestured to it. "But that person that I was talking to on the phone just before you sat down – that's… well, that's the woman that I love."
Gloria stared down at her hands, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. "You have a girlfriend," she stated, squeezing her eyes shut. How could the matchmaking company have tried to set her up with an unavailable man?
"Not yet," he said. At her quizzical look he added, "It's complicated."
"I understand," she said, getting up – not wanting to prolong the awkward moment for even one more second.
"I appreciate your asking me out though," he said genuinely.
She smiled. "Well, whoever she is, I really hope that it works out for the two of you."
"Me too," he said, looking distant.
And before he could say one more word of contrition for her sake, she bolted out of there, reeling from embarrassment and disappointment.
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"Sweets, we need to talk," Angela said, busting through the door to Sweets office. He was growing fairly accustomed to at least one unannounced invasion from a member of his team per day.
"Words I'm becoming very familiar with lately," Sweets said straight-faced, though his voice hinted at some humor behind the words.
"It's Bren," Angela said, taking a seat and making herself very comfortable.
Sweets took a seat as well and looked at Angela, his silence her invitation to continue.
"She's setting Booth up."
Sweets' eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Setting him up—"
"On dates," Angela clarified. "With women."
"Dr. Brennan is setting Booth up on dates with women," Sweets repeated, sitting back and taking this in.
"Yes, as in women that aren't her. Women that are not currently carrying Booth's child." It was clear Angela was very agitated by this news.
"Are you sure?" he asked – though he knew the answer. Dr. Brennan had admitted to him that she felt Booth deserved to be with someone – anyone – else. Her ex-foster brother, Rob Blitz, had done a real number on her. He'd truly made her believe that Booth deserved better. That she was… used. He'd dredged up her past and flung it in her face, racing every insecurity she ever had to the surface.
In many ways, she was sixteen again. Unable to process her emotions or feelings. Too hurt to let anyone in. And her way of coping was to push those closest to her – to push Booth – away.
"She's using a matchmaking service. I made her tell me. I even swore I wouldn't tell Booth." Angela smiled playfully at him. "See, that's why I'm here."
"I see," Sweets said smoothly. "You think I can magically make this better."
"They belong together!" Angela burst out.
Sweets stopped and just stared at her.
"I'm sorry, Sweets," Angela said in a rush. "But they were so close. I felt it. They were finally getting where they were always meant to go. And they have this baby on the way." Angela sighed and locked eyes with the young psychologist. "They belong together," she said so quietly it was almost a whisper. "I don't know how to make this right. I'm not even sure what went wrong that she's pushing him further away now than ever before but…"
"I can't sit by and do nothing. She's my best friend. And he…"
"—doesn't need a matchmaking service to tell him who his perfect woman is. We all know."
"Dr. Brennan doesn't know," Sweets pointed out.
"I know that. In fact, I believe I just said that," Angela joked.
"No, Angela, that's it. What does Dr. Brennan value above all else? Especially when she rules out emotions?"
"Okay," Angela said slowly, beginning to understand where Sweets was going.
"If she's decided that a matchmaking service will provide evidential proof of who Agent Booth belongs with, then maybe we need to find a way to tap into the data… present the evidence back to her in a way that she can't ignore."
Angela smiled, her mind fast at work. Once again she began to have hope.
"I like the sound of that, Sweets."
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Brennan typed furiously on her keyboard. Her deadline was coming up and the last case had left little time for writing; as a result, she was way behind. And yet, she was not being as productive as she normally would as a looming deadline approaches. She was… distracted.
She'd been put on rest from field work. She didn't even have a case to blame it on. If she was honest, she knew she was distracted by thoughts of Booth. Every time she tried to ignore those thoughts, the baby would kick and he'd pop back into her mind.
She looked at her watch. Booth would have already met the first woman from MatchMake. She was a college professor, this Gloria Mason. She was very attractive. She wasn't blonde so much as strawberry-blonde and her eyes were in fact hazel – not dark. But she seemed to watch a lot of television and movies, and showed an interest in magazines as well. Her ability to talk about anything in pop culture would impress him, she was sure. And her great work with the students was surely a sign of social aptitude. Her literature background made her intelligent – but not in science…
Which was good! Booth always made fun of "squints". And he'd never actually dated one. She was feeling more and more sure about her decision to set him up with someone more his type. Booth was too good for his own good. If the baby hadn't been in the picture, he'd be happily setting up shop with Hannah right now. He may have cared for her – his "Bones" – once before. But he didn't know all the facts about her. And to move on so quickly to Hannah… his feelings couldn't have been all that deep.
He had merely been confused. Attracted possibly. And that mixed with his platonic love and professional respect… and personal friendship… had made him think at one time that she was someone he should be with. Now, there was a baby, and she knew Booth. He'd try to do the noble thing at the cost of his own happiness.
Well – she wouldn't let him.
A knock on the door startled her and she looked up to see a messenger holding a bouquet of flowers. "Dr. Brennan, these came for you," he said, ushering the flowers in and setting them down on her desk.
When he left, she looked at the bouquet. It was really beautiful. Part roses, part irises and part daisies. It was unique and colorful –and it smelled wonderfully. She pulled the note from its center and opened it up and instantly recognized the handwriting.
I've discovered something this week. Working on cases without you is actually… boring. I don't like it at all. It's crazy, when we started, I wanted to keep you tied to the lab. What did I tell you then? I didn't want a partner. And your insistence on coming into the field annoyed me. I don't deny that. And here I am, all these years later, and I can't work one case without you.
I guess what I'm trying to say is… I miss you.
You are an amazing partner. A perfect friend. The strongest person I've ever met. And nothing is the same without you.
I can't wait for you to come back.
She smiled, realizing her eyes had glazed over with tears while she read the letter. She found herself re-reading it, her heart constricting as her eyes scanned certain words. Miss you. Perfect friend. Nothing is the same…
I can't wait for you to come back.
She missed him too. Knowing he was out in the field, working on a case, made her miss him something fierce. And she'd never felt that way before! It scared her. She hoped she hadn't created any kind of co-dependency where he was concerned. That was unhealthy. And if he was going to be forming a new relationship fairly soon, it was something that needed to be kept in check. She'd probably see a lot less of him when it happened.
She squeezed her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose.
She didn't want to see him with another woman again! She loved him.
Her mother used to say that if you love something you should set it free. But… it was a lot easier said than done. That much she knew now.
Booth sat across from his son at a small Italian restaurant for a long overdue father/son date. He smiled at his boy; after everything he'd been through in the past few weeks, he needed this. And Parker, finally, got to know what was going on. Booth was relieved that he was taking it so well. After all, going from an only child to a brother could have gone over badly. But this was Parker. He should have known he'd be a champ about it.
"I'm honestly going to be the best big brother," Parker said excitedly. "She's going to want to be around me all the time!"
"She's going to look up to you," Booth agreed. "Because you are the best. This baby girl is so lucky to have you for a brother."
Parker smiled. "I don't understand how the baby was made when you were overseas. Roger's parents just had a baby, and he told me how it was made," Parker said, playing with his napkin – almost uncomfortable at the topic, but too young to truly be uncomfortable about it. "It sounds like you guys would've had to be in the same room," he says, his forehead wrinkly with his confusion. "And… and fall asleep next to each other."
Booth laughed. "Someday I'll tell you all about it," he said easily.
"Are you and Bones together now?" Parker asked, looking straight into his father's eyes with unshielded hope.
Booth took a deep breath. "Not yet," he said. "But speaking of Bones, she wants you to help her think of a name for the baby."
Parker's mouth fell open. "Me?"
"Well, you have a lot of classmates and friends. You watch some movies that are popular now that we probably haven't seen. Basically… we think that you hold the answer," he said, making sure that Parker knew he had been granted an incredibly important job.
Parker smiled, truly giddy. "I'll start thinking. How much time do I have?"
"About four months until she's born," Booth said. "So there's no rush."
"When are you two going to be together?" he asked impatiently.
"That's between us, buddy."
"She's probably overanalyzing her feelings," Parker said, and Booth's eyebrows shot sky high.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because she's a squint, dad. You've always said they squint at evidence, talk about life in terms of science and forget to have fun sometimes."
"Apparently you're a pretty good listener," Booth said, laughing to himself. Seeing how much his son cared about Bones, understood her – it just intensified his already overwhelming feelings.
"Here you are," the waitress said, bringing over their lunches. She locked eyes with Booth and smiled, "Is your wife joining you both?" she asked coyly.
Booth shook his head at her. "No wife… and it's just us," he explained. He smiled at his son. "Huh, buddy."
"Yeah," Parker said, happily digging into his food.
"Oh," the waitress said, taking a seat next to Booth. He sat up straighter and scooted over, his eyebrows sky high. Surely she hadn't taken that as a sign to come and join them?
"My shift just ended," she explained happily. "Maybe we could chat… and get to know each other!"
Booth sighed and looked at his son, some puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place.
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"Are you setting me up?" Booth said, walking in on Brennan's latest session with Sweets.
"Agent Booth," Sweets said, annoyed. "You cannot just barge in here when I am with a client. Even if the client is your friend."
Booth just ignored him.
"Bones, tell me the truth," he demanded, taking the seat beside her. His old seat.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean that randomly today, three women hit on me. Now I'm not saying that I never get hit on," he added. "But three times in a day – not exactly normal."
Brennan nodded, realizing that her big mistake was scheduling all three of them today. She should have scattered them over the course of a week.
"Dr. Brennan?" Sweets said. "Is this true?"
Brennan nodded. "According to the computer, they match your personality by 98% or greater. They would be perfect mates. Interestingly, you and I scored a 26% in compatibility." She smiled at him, trying her hardest to shield the pain she felt at that realization. "These women should all be the perfect mates for you, Booth."
Booth groaned and put his hands through his hair in frustration. Brennan straightened, confused. He seemed… angry. Really angry.
"This is my life," Booth finally said. "You don't get to control it."
"I was trying to help you, Booth," she said. "If left to your own accord, you'll undoubtedly end up doing the noble thing. I'm not even sure you know you do it, but you put everyone else's happiness above your own – and that's not good. Someone has to look out for you."
"So, what, that's your job now?" he asked, glaring into her eyes. "Suddenly you feel the need to look out for me?"
"I don't see why you're so upset," Brennan said quietly, looking to Sweets for support. He just shrugged though.
But before he could finish his phone beeped. He yanked it from his pocket, still incredibly frustrated. His quick treatment of the phone caused it to fall on the floor by Brennan's foot.
She quickly grabbed it and held it out to him, but something on his screen caught her eye before he retrieved. He'd received a text message and it had an address of a Tyler Wilcox.
"Tyler Wilcox…" she said quietly.
Booth grabbed the phone and stared intently at Brennan.
And then realization dawned.
"You researched my old foster brother?" she said, barely audibly. "The one who—"
She put a hand to her mouth, unable to say it just now. Unable to process any of it.
"You looked into my past?"
Now it was her turn to glare at him.
Booth shook his head nervously. "Bones, I—"
"No," she said, standing up. "You had no right, Booth!"
"Bones," he said, shocked at her outburst.
"Booth, this didn't happen to you. It's my experience. It's mine to deal with. It's mine to handle. It's mine!"
"I know. I was trying to—"
"Trying to save the day. To solve my problems. Trying to be an alpha male."
Booth said nothing. He just leaned back in his chair and gazed down at the ground now, listening.
"You think that I need you to find this guy – like that will magically make it all better."
"I don't think that."
"That… man," Booth said, spitting that last word out with disgust, "doesn't deserve to be free. Not after what he did. He should be locked up, so he can never lay a hand on anyone ever again."
Brennan's mouth fell open. "So, what, it's my fault he's free? Because I never reported it?"
Booth stared up at her in shock. "I didn't say that."
Brennan's eyes filled with tears and she clenched her fists by her sides. "I never reported him so… maybe he did it again. Maybe some other woman was forced to live through a nightmare because I left that house and never bothered to look back. Maybe he did it again. Maybe he did it to a lot of women—"
She stopped. She was really crying now, her shoulders physically shaking.
Booth and Sweets said nothing. They looked at one another. But neither dared to say a word.
"It happened before I knew self defense. Before I knew how to protect myself at all," she said with a shaky voice. "But when it was over, that's when I was weak. A coward. I just shut my mouth and said nothing. I was so relieved to be free. I never thought about what could happen to others. So I stayed silent. It's my fault—"
"It is not your fault," Booth finally said, his gaze never more fierce in his life as it was in that moment.
"He's right," Sweets said gently. "You were young and scared. He was a monster," he said, his voice almost betraying the emotions swirling inside of him. "It was absolutely not your fault."
Brennan wiped her tears and looked at the two men sadly. "Well, maybe that is what you think. But if anything happened to anyone else, it would definitely be my fault. And you cannot take that away from me. You can't take any of it away from me."
"No, Booth," she said, her hand on the knob now. "Don't. This experience doesn't get to be yours. You don't get to be a white knight."
Booth stood up. "I can't believe you," he said. "You don't want me involved in your life, and yet you are setting me up in the most blatant way with caricatures of people!"
"They were very nice women," Brennan defended.
"Well, I don't want you involved in fixing me up."
"And I don't want you involved in fixing me! Or fixing my past."
"It seems you both think the other stepped out of line," Sweets said, trying to be helpful. "But this dialogue is great," he added. "Really."
Brennan's eyes flashed as they looked at Sweets. "I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sweets. I am breaking our deal. I'm not coming in tomorrow or the next day or the next day. I want you both to leave me alone. And if that means I get long-term suspension, so be it. I have nothing to say to either of you."
And with that, she stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind her.