A/N - I'm sorry to see this one end. If this story isn't my personal favorite, it's definitely at the top of the list of the things I've written so far.
To jsq - You're definitely at the top of Santa's "Nice" list for putting up with me throughout this project. I couldn't have done this - Part I or II - without you. You're an amazing writer, beta and friend. I look forward to the unveiling of your newest project.
To all my Twitter buddies - Wow. Have I mentioned that meeting you ladies has been one of the highlights of my year? Thanks for the smiles, laughs and advice.
Disclaimer - I own the first five seasons of Bones on DVD. I don't, however, own anything you recognize.
The Magic of Mistletoe
"Going away for the holidays?" the doorman asks as I wheel my suitcase out of the elevator.
I make a vain attempt to return his smile. "Yes," I reply. "Peru."
"Pardon me for saying, Dr. Brennan, but shouldn't a nice lady like you be spending Christmas with her family?"
Sighing, I brush the tear that escapes my eye away with the back of my hand. Max is in North Carolina with Russ and his family. I didn't go with him because of the case. Booth has Hannah. Cam has Michelle. Hodgins and Angela are preparing for the arrival of their baby. Me? I'm alone. And for some reason, though it hasn't before, that bothers me. I smile weakly. "I guess they forgot," I say, suddenly feeling like I'm in foster care all over again.
His face becomes pink and he looks away. From what Booth and Sweets have taught me, I deduce that he's embarrassed that he's asked the question. Rather than continuing with that topic, I change the subject. "I'll be gone for two weeks. I'll ask my father to come by for the mail. He has a key."
He nods at me, but is otherwise quiet.
"Have a nice holiday," I tell him as I walk away.
Outside, there is a feathery coating of snow covering the grass and bushes. The precipitation is not yet sticking to the street or the sidewalk, which bodes well for my flight plans. There is a childlike part of me that's sad to be missing a rare white Christmas, but the adult part of me knows that leaving is what's best of everyone.
I glance at the watch on my wrist. The cab is late. I'm shuffling through my purse for my cell phone to call the dispatch when it pulls into the parking lot. He parks at the curb and gets out to help me with my suitcase. Annoyed at his tardiness, I curtly give him my terminal information.
I climb into the back seat and crack a window as the stench of his body odor makes my eyes water. I lean back and wait for him to get in the car. He's taking his time. I'm getting more annoyed and making note to write the cab company a letter.
He slams the door on his entry and yanks the shifter on the steering column into drive. The cab lurches forward. A sigh of relief escapes me. Then I hear it.
But it can't be. He's with Hannah. Still, I turn around. I turn, and I see him standing in the glow of the SUV's headlights as he runs toward the cab. Snow swirls around him.
"Stop the car," I demand.
"Lady, you've already complained about me running late and now you want me to stop?" he says, looking at me in the rearview mirror.
"Yes!" I yell, only to be jerked back against the seat when he slams on the brakes with a scowl. I open the door and step out of the car. "Booth?"
I pull into the lot just in time to see the cab begin to slide away from the curb. I throw the SUV into park and run after the cab calling out her name.
It's like that night outside the bar all over again. She got in the cab and rode away. We weren't ready that night. Hell, we aren't ready now. But I have to try for a different outcome. I have to make the attempt, even if it means that I remain broken for the rest of my life.
This time, I see brake lights. The cab stops. She steps out. My heart stops. Squeezing my eyes shut, I give a quick prayer of thanks.
"Booth?" she says as she approaches. Her movements are cautious. Her head tilts to one side and confusion blankets her face. "What are you doing here? Hannah..."
I shake my head and reach out to touch her scarf. I recognize it from the airport. The worn flannel is nowhere near as soft as her skin. "Hannah's gone. We aren't together anymore."
"But," she begins.
I want to touch her face, to rub away the worry lines. I settle for taking her hand. Looking at her now, it feels like I am seeing her - really seeing her - for the first time in months. "She saw us tonight," I confess. She stiffens and tries to pull back.
"I'm sorry, Booth," she says quietly. Her blue eyes shift down to look at the pavement.
"I'm not." I force her chin up, searching her eyes as I make my next statement. "She saw what I've been hiding from."
"Lady, are you coming or not?" her cab driver bellows, interrupting our moment.
"Hey, pal, can you just give us a minute?" I ask, trying to keep a smile on my face not for him, but for the woman in front of me.
I hear him mumble something about the meter running as my eyes fall back on my partner's face. "I really should go," she whispers, her voice raw with emotion.
"Stay," I say, unable to keep the emotion from my own voice.
Her eyes shine with the moisture of unshed tears. "I have a plane to..."
I pull her closer and look at the snowflakes that rest in her hair. She shivers. "Stay," I whisper as my lips ghost over her temple. My eyes meet hers and hold. "Spend Christmas here. With me."
"Booth," she sighs. Her eyes remain sad, unsure.
"Do it because you're my best friend and I've missed you," I say quickly. What if this is it? What if this is our moment? Could I really let her walk away? "There was something you wanted to tell me when we got back, only I never gave you the chance," I say to her. "I think that's why you're running away."
She shakes her head. "It doesn't matter. It really isn't important, Booth."
I cup her cheek. "Everything you say is important to me." I know as soon as the words leave my mouth that they're a mistake. My doubts are confirmed when she rolls her eyes. "I'm been a real ass hole, okay? I know that. I haven't done right by you. I want a chance, Bones. I want to make it up to you."
"What if it's too late?" she asks. Her voice drips with uncertainty. She's scared and she has every right to be.
Not knowing what else to do, I lean in. My lips touch hers softly. It's not too far off from the kiss we shared a few hours ago, only it's different. It's different because this kiss holds a promise. A promise of everything I want to give her. Of everything we could be. I lean my forehead against hers. "Baby, it could never be too late. Not for us."
The cabbie clears his throat.
"Whatdoya say, Bones?" I ask, the hope and love floating back to the surface.
I stand there, looking at Booth, unable to find the words. "This probably isn't a good idea," I say as my eyes flick to the cab.
I watch as his eyes close and he looks down at his shoes. I pull my hand out of his grip and turn to head for the cab. He grabs my arm. Part of me wants to put him on his back on the pavement. He knows better.
"No," he says.
Stupidly, I furrow my brow and offer a childish response. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"Dammit, I'm doing what I should have done 10 months ago," he tells me. With a fire born of something other than his usual tenderness, he pulls me into his arms. "Stop fighting it," he says, "Stop running away."
I push against his chest. My resolve weakens at the lingering scent of his soap and aftershave. "Booth," I say, my tone coming in a plea rather than the warning I intended.
"Tell me, Temperance," he says. His eyes bore into mine. It's almost as if he's looking into my very core. "Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't love me. That you don't want me."
I blink back tears and gulp for air. I struggle in his arms, but he doesn't release me. "I can't," I finally sob, even as I continue to push against him.
His lips brush over my cheeks and eyelids as I finally still. "I love you. I should have said it the first time," he says as softly as the snow falling around us. "If it takes the next 30 years, I swear I'll prove it to you." His lips touch mine in the barest of kisses.
He leaves me standing in place as he walks over and pulls out his wallet. He pays the cab driver and collects my suitcase. Coming back to me, he takes my hand. "We both need time to make adjustments," he says as we head to the door. Looking at me sideways, he adds, "We'll take it slow. Baby steps, you know?"
I nod. Even I know what that means.
"I want to get our friendship back first," he says, his hand resting on my back as he guides me to the SUV. "One of these days, I'm going to take you on your last first date."
This is the Booth I know and love. Cocky and confident. "And for now?" I ask him as he puts my bag in the back seat before climbing into the driver's seat.
"For now, we'll stop off and get Thai," he says, taking my hand. "We'll go back to my place and watch It's a Wonderful Life."
His touch is warm and I revel in the sensation caused by the calluses on his hands as he strokes his fingers over my palm. He chuckles and looks over at me, the corner of his mouth curling upwards. "What?" I ask, returning his smile.
"Mistletoe," he says with a shake of his head.
"Mistletoe," I repeat.
"Be prepared, Bones," he chuckles. "Next year, I'm hanging it everywhere."