A/N – In response to another great LJ prompt from the bitesize_bones/ bones_ga 'Give a Little Love' Comment Fic meme: Booth and Brennan recall their favorite presents that their mothers ever gave them
With thanks to FauxMaven for her beta help (and friendship).
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is my soul, and I even lend that out on occasion, but only if you ask nice. Anything that even looks familiar in this story probably belongs to someone else (except the actual story - that's all mine, Mine, MINE [*maniacal laughter*]!)
Re-frac-tion: noun, Physics. The change of direction of a ray of light, sound, heat, or the like, in passing obliquely from one medium into another in which its wave velocity is different.
"What is that?" Brennan didn't bother with 'hello'. She dropped the file she'd brought on his desk and came around to have a better look at what he was doing. Booth was hunched over an odd assortment of items; he had a piece of PVC tubing and an end cap pierced with a small hole, a petri dish, several pieces of acrylic mirror tile and a handful of brightly colored stones spread out in front of him. Brennan spared them a cursory analytical glance before a smile spread over her face. "Oh, you're making a kaleidoscope!"
Booth pulled a face. "Well, I'm trying to, but all my fingers have turned into thumbs."
"That's not physically possible." Her reply was automatic and distracted; Brennan had already picked up the cylinder that was to form the body of the 'scope and was peering into it. She held it up to her eye and observed him from the other end of the tube.
Booth grinned at the picture she made, one disembodied blue gray eye peering at him from a distance. "No, Bones, I meant my fingers are too big to get everything in place properly."
"Can I help? I am very dexterous and my fingers are significantly smaller than yours."
Booth pushed back from the desk with an exaggerated sigh. "Thought you'd never ask."
"Is this for Parker?" Brennan sat down on the chair he vacated and he perched himself on the edge of the desk next to her, idly letting the colored stones cascade from one hand to the other.
"Yeah. I used to have one when I was his age. Best present my Mom ever gave me." Something in his voice made Brennan look at him more closely but he shrugged her concern away. "I thought Parker might like one – something different from all the high tech stuff I usually get for him."
"Why did you like it so much? Were you interested in the study of light refraction in three-dimensional periodic optical nanostructures such as photonic crystals?"
Booth frowned and spared his partner a narrow look, shaking his head at the barrage of geek-speak. "I have absolutely no idea what you just said." He picked up the PVC tube and rolled it over in his hands, testing its strength. "No, Mom used to send me to my room when things got a little … rough around the house. She'd tell me to get the 'scope and sketch the patterns I saw, and I'd color them in for her."
"Oh." Brennan was slightly shocked at Booth's casual reference to his troubled childhood. "I'm sorry, Booth -"
He held up his hand to stem her sympathy, and she leaned towards him to give him wordless support. Her forearm brushed against his thigh and the contact froze his breath in his chest, but before he could react she'd pulled back, self conscious. Booth cleared his throat and shifted infinitesimally further along the edge of the desk.
"I s'pose she thought it'd distract me from what was going on, and I guess it did. Man, I loved that damn thing." He bit down on the memory of his father smashing it into a thousand pieces with an eight pound sledge hammer. Brennan's head was bent to her task and she missed the subtle tightening of the muscles along his jaw. The last of the afternoon light from the window limned her hair, shooting gold along each strand, and Booth sighed again.
Brennan deftly connected the three strips of mirror so that the short sides were formed into an equilateral triangle. "Put your finger here while I tape it together."
Booth did as he was told, mentally shaking off the images of his past. "What the heck, it was all a long time ago. What about you? Best present ever?"
Brennan's hands stilled while she thought about it. "A paperweight. My mother gave me a paperweight for my seventh birthday." Brennan sounded almost surprised, as if she only just recalled the gift now. "It was a clear glass dome with a cartoon of a smiling dolphin on the bottom. I thought it was beautiful, even if it wasn't a true representation of a dolphin, and I carried it with me everywhere." She sat back in the oversized office chair and a rueful smile crept over her lips. "I soaked the picture off when I was about ten so that I could use it as a magnifying lens. It was quite effective." A slight blush colored her cheeks as she remembered. "I thought my mother would be angry with me and I tried to hide it from her, but when she saw what I'd done she just smiled and said that now when I looked through it I'd be able to see the world as it really was." Brennan looked up at Booth, the past still clinging to her like a friend and evidenced by the smile that curved her lips. "It was an excellent present." They were both quiet, each lost in their own thoughts.
Brennan roused first, briskly sorting through the supplies on the desk for something to hold the mirror in place. Booth held out a length of foam rope and she carefully cut it into lengths to fit the tube before gently manipulating the pieces into the gaps and examining it from several angles, adjusting as she went.
Brennan spoke through the industrious silence. "You know, if we'd used my paperweight as a lens in the end of your kaleidoscope we'd have had a teleidoscope."
"A whadda whadda?" Booth looked on, fascinated, as she carefully tried the plastic cap over one end of the PVC tube to make sure it fit properly and then did the same with the petri dish lid at the other end.
"It's a kind of kaleidoscope, with a lens and an open view, so it can be used to form kaleidoscopic patterns from objects outside the instrument," A tiny inverted 'v' formed between her brows and he watched it deepen then almost disappear and then return even more furiously as she shifted her attention through the process. "- rather than from items installed as part of it. It was invented by John Lyon Burnside III."
"Yeah, right, know him well …" Booth laughed at the dubious expression on her face.
"The lens at the end of the tube is not an optical requirement, but protects the internals of the teleidoscope. A spherical ball lens is often used, but my paperweight would have worked just as well. An advantage of using a convex shape is that it will not press flat against the object being viewed, which would block all light and result in no image being seen."
Booth frowned as he processed what she was saying. "Sort of like an altered reality?"
"That could be one interpretation; certainly everything you looked at through it would be optically dissected and refracted to alter the image transmitted to your visual cortex."
"So you're saying everything would look screwy." Now he was openly teasing her, his crooked smile in place.
Her mouth primmed to a straight line, but her eyes were dancing. "Your perception could be affected, certainly." Brennan glued the end cap on and held out her hand for the colored stones. They were warm from the time Booth had spent holding them, and she wrapped her fingers around them for a few seconds, letting the heat transfer to her palm, before she placed them gently into the petri dish and wedged it in position. With a soft click, the lid was on and the kaleidoscope was finished. She looked up at Booth triumphantly but the look on his face gave her pause. He was watching her closely, his expression pensive.
Brennan fidgeted under his scrutiny. "What?"
"Its just - I would have liked to have known you at that age. I think we would have still been friends."
"You can't know that. None of us can know the direction our lives will take; there are too many variables to consider that may contribute to any given outcome. It would be irrational to make that assumption." Brennan's answer was emphatic, ignoring the voice at the back of her mind that argued on behalf of her heart.
Booth just smiled and repeated his assertion. "We would have still been friends."
"Perhaps I would not have turned out as emotionally repressed -" her eyes skittered sideways at her clumsily constructed self assessment "- had I known you then." Regret clouded her voice and she flicked another uncertain glance at his face that was quickly turned away when their eyes met.
Booth pushed himself away from the desk and stood looking out of the window, hands in his pockets. "Don't say things like that, Bones. You turned out pretty okay. I bet you never dreamed you'd be at the top of your field, working for the Jeffersonian, when you were that age either."
"Leonardo da Vinci said that the eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake."
Booth stilled, waiting for his pulse to catch up with his heartbeat. All of a sudden they weren't talking about childhood dreams any more. He turned slowly to face her. "What do you mean?"
"Look at us. Things … have changed. We've changed. When I said – when I left ..." Her voice trailed away, leaving her looking sad and miserable. She struggled to articulate her emotions. "I never imagined …" Brennan drew a deep breath and a shutter came over her face as she rearranged her features into their usual calm mask. "Just forget it. I'm being foolish."
Booth leant in close to her and chucked his finger under her chin, raising her face to his. Brennan realized with a shiver of awareness that it was the first time he'd touched her in too long to remember. She let her eyelids slide closed, afraid he might see more in her expression than she was willing to share.
"You taught me that change isn't always a bad thing, Bones." Her eyes shot open at the tenderness in his voice, confusion and doubt warring for dominance in their blue gray depths.
He watched the varying emotions flit cross her face and something shifted subtly in his universe. He missed being with her.
"Wanna go get something to eat?" The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, but suddenly it didn't matter. The distance he'd so carefully cultivated between them crumbled in a moment; some things would never change. The fractured perception of his life he'd been seeing for the last few months suddenly came into sharp focus.
"Don't you have to get home?" Brennan clipped the words with a faint challenge.
Booth just shrugged, eyebrows still raised on his question, gut still frozen on her answer.
"Okay, sure." She stood uncertainly and picked up her handbag. He put his hand at the small of her back, flicking off the light as he ushered her out of the door.
They were headed down towards the lift when Booth spoke again. "You know, I really liked that Leonardo guy in that Titantic movie."
"Booth -" Their laughter filtered through the doors as the lift sighed closed.
Fragments realign, perceptions are reassessed and the world recommences its slow rotation towards the right side up once more.
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