Peripheral

Summary: As the months of their partnership become years, Booth and Brennan discover that the little moments are the most crucial to their evolution.

A/N: These snippets are meant to be either extensions of or additions to the canon universe, until "The Parts in the Sum of the Whole" (April 2010). Booth chooses not to reveal his feelings for Brennan during That One Scene, and their lives – and their relationship – take a different course.

/

Part I: 2004 – 2006

"It's so many miles and so long since I've met you"

/

September 2004

In the one year in which they did not speak, he began reading her novels.

Although it was not the first in the series, he starts with the book she publishes only a few months after their night of tequila and disagreements.

Immediately he finds himself drawing comparisons between the characters in the book and the seemingly ragtag team of scientists he had witnessed finding the answers in less than a third of the time it had taken his team. He starts to understand a little better the faith – although she would never use that word – Brennan held in them.

Most important to him are the insights he thinks he gains about her by reading her fiction. His instincts had told him from the moment they met that there would be more to her than met the eye, but he had never expected the unadulterated passion in which she treated the world in her books, from forensic anthropology and blood tests to justice and trust, and shorelines and sunsets.

He finishes the book within two days. He tries to forget the 'symmetrically-pleasing' FBI agent that Kathy Reichs has reluctantly taken a liking to. Instead, he pictures the author relaxed on her couch, sitting in sweats with coffee and her laptop. He remembers the exhilaration he had felt while working with Temperance Brennan.

He wonders why he had been so quick to slice through her, accusing her of being all these things he wasn't even sure she was. It was true that he certainly had never met anyone like her before, but somehow, Booth suspects her ten-dollar words, her stand-offish presence, and her aptitude for her job were not what had irked him. In fact, although she is beautiful, her looks are not even what he remembers first.

The haunted look that he had seen in her eyes, just a flicker at a time, was what kept him pondering when the night was dark and the ground was cold.

/

Late July, 2005

Halfway through his lunch meeting, it occurs to Booth that he is within minutes of the Jeffersonian Institute.

He cannot help but smile and chuckle lightly. His fork slips out of his hand, and Cullen pointedly asks him what strikes him as so funny. With a brief apology, he makes the excuse that his hands slipped after noticing the sarcastic sign above the cashier. Cullen doesn't really buy it, but he pretends to, so he shakes his head before continuing with his discussion of details on a trial they would both be testifying at in the coming months. Although Booth knows very well how crucial it is to give this case his full attention, he cannot help but be distracted.

Never mind their latest case from hell. While absently munching on the last of his fries, his mind flashes him back to a cool summer evening, barely more than a year ago. Standing next to Dr. Temperance Brennan, he had found his mind, his body, part of his heart set on fire, triggered by her arrogance and her proximity, her intricacies and her physical attractiveness, and, of course, her unbridled passion that she masked so easily. He'd found himself eager to experience more of this woman; experience if she placed as much care and detail into her sexual encounters as she did her work. He knew very well she had felt the same desire, and yet she had declined, citing their drink of choice as a reason not to fall into bed together.

Booth snickers. Some excuse that was.

Again noticing his distraction, Cullen asks him if he is interested in any dessert. He must have replied that he wouldn't mind a slice of apple pie. He's not really hungry anymore, but he needs something, some indulgence to sublimate his true desires, something to quickly bring his mind back from those particular memories.

Booth prides himself on accurately unraveling just who a person is. It never takes him very long to figure anyone out, but even after working on a case together, he isn't quite sure about Brennan. For the life of him, he can't come up with a reason as to why their single case had stuck with him so fiercely. At least, he can't come up with a reason beyond their obvious attraction, but he knows there's more to it than that.

It hadn't taken much for Booth to convince himself that their paths would cross again someday. He was more sure of this now than he had been a year ago. Two people didn't share that level of chemistry the first time they worked together unless they were meant for something greater.

At any rate, the woman is brilliant, though he's certainly not going to tell her this to her face. It's not like she needs an ego boost. He prefers to remain solo in the bureau these days, but he may not mind so much if she was his partner. Convincing her to agree to that would be another story altogether – but he's not going to try to fool himself, or her. They both know exactly why they fought. It really had very little to do with their work.

She is brilliant, and she is willful. She would be a challenge. Booth had always enjoyed a challenge.

Their brief but rather intense kiss flashes through his mind.

He remembers the satisfaction of Brennan punching that judge flat in the nose.

He feels the temptation of bringing her in, both to end the sleepless nights he's already had on this case, and for the entertainment.

He resumes the tapping of his fork against the table.

Perhaps it's time to cook up a way to convince the good doctor to help him on another case.

/

Early September, 2005

The newly established partners are silent as they walk together through the cemetery, unknowingly establishing a basis for equilibrium.

Brennan isn't entirely sure she's made the wisest decision in agreeing to this partnership with Booth. She has no hypothesis regarding the outcome, no real reason to believe it – they – will work, but she is curious about the field. She isn't about to quit, not after he's agreed to allow her to be fully involved.

She won't realize for a while just how new this world will be for her, but there are certain kinds of change that she's never been resistant to. She finally breaks the silence while hiding a smile.

"You didn't have to corner me in an airport to ask for my assistance, Booth."

Booth turns to her with a small grin on his face.

"Would you have preferred it if I had called you up for coffee and a light chat?"

Brennan huffs and replies, "I wouldn't have answered."

"Well, then, there you go," he temporarily turns his attention from her to scope out their surroundings, "It turns out that I probably did have to corner you."

"I guess I can't really blame you," she points out as they approach his vehicle, "You never would have solved this case without me."

"Don't flatter yourself, Bones," he mutters.

"Don't call me 'Bones'."

/

Late September, 2005

Booth remembers the first time Brennan does not object, at least openly, to his given moniker for her. They finish up their fourth case together, minus the paperwork, just past 8pm on a Thursday, and Booth begrudgingly agrees to return to Brennan's office that night to finish the paperwork, his only stipulation being that he needed sustenance first.

He has a difficult time determining whether Brennan is annoyed with his reluctance or simply impatient when she practically bolts out of the SUV, even before he's shifted the vehicle into park. He spends little time contemplating her at the moment, however, because he's just as impatient as she and definitely hungry, so he swiftly exits the car and walks straight to the counter, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Brennan has secured their usual table.

He orders a cheeseburger, fries, and, of course, a slice of apple pie for himself, and then turns his head and practically shouts, "Whaddya want, Bones? Just a salad?"

Without turning her attention away from her phone, she replies, "Yes, that's fine."

He orders extra fries for himself, just in case, and smiles.

/

December 2005

The morning after Christmas, she sends Booth a text message.

Sometimes, what you are looking for is right in front of you, even if you try to keep it hidden. I'll see you when I return, Booth.

She is referring to the Christmas gifts from her parents that she had kept with her but refused to open for so many years. Booth doesn't know this, though he suspects, and hopes, that after solving Lionel's case and giving a grandmother the most valuable gift of her life, that she's thinking of her parents with fondness and seeing how life moves on.

Deciding to get up and make Parker breakfast, he pulls on his robe and types a message of his own.

Parker says Merry Christmas again. Have a good trip. Take lots of pictures, and bring me back a souvenir! Try to make BOTH of those requests include items other than old bones and skulls, okay?

He laughs when he receives her final message in return.

Refrain yourself from tricking me and ambushing me at the airport and you've got yourself a deal.

/

January 2006

As her flight is landing back in D.C., she finds herself thinking about Booth. She wonders if he enjoyed New Years, as he has, in great detail, explained to her his lavish New Years plans and why the night is such a big deal. She wonders if he spent time over his holiday with Angela and Hodgins, and if the FBI has had any pressing cases requiring her attention, although she knows Zach is more than capable.

She always enjoys her December vacations, but for the first time, she spent at least a part of it wondering about her job at home.

Brushing the screen on her phone with her thumb, she thinks of Booth's request for photos and a souvenir. She smirks when she predicts the look on her partner's face after seeing her pictures. She is no amateur photographer, even when her focus is on landscapes rather than bones and sediment.

After making her way through baggage claim and hailing a cab, she dials his number without a second thought.

"This is Booth." He sounds bored, and somehow she's more confident.

"Hi Booth," she greets simply.

"Bones!" He sounds excited, and she smiles, just a little. "Are you back? Thank god – I promise I'll put up with your anthropology mumbo-jumbo for a whole week without a sarcastic comment if you come back to work tomorrow. Zach's a bright kid, but he's driving me up the wall."

"I find Zach to be an intellectually stimulating companion," she defends, "I can perhaps see how that would bore you."

"Aww, Bones," he whines, "Is that any way to greet a friend after you've been gone for so long?"

"I was barely gone a week!" She argues. "But don't concern yourself – I was planning on returning to work tomorrow morning at my usual time. Are you busy? I thought we could meet at the diner. I would like to hear about the cases that I have missed, and I have photos already loaded onto my laptop. Also, I brought you a souvenir, as requested."

"You DID listen to me!" He exclaims. He sounds as excited as a little kid. "Of course! Meet you there in 20?"

/

March 2006

Two days after Booth is discharged from the hospital, Brennan picks him up from his apartment after she leaves the lab for the night and takes him back to her place. Although he is surprised at the gesture, he's been stuck in his apartment, as both his doctor and Cullen have forbidden him from returning to work until he has properly recovered, so he's glad to get out for the night.

He's disappointed that his pain killers are preventing him from enjoying Brennan's beer stash, but after she fusses over him and is sure he is comfortable on her couch, she brings him a soda, the sports section from the newspaper, and puts Audioslave in her CD player, and Booth decides that his night is going alright, after all.

She cooks a homemade pizza for dinner, and even though it's vegetarian, he thinks it's fantastic. She smiles when he tells her so. After eating she excuses herself to the bathroom for a minute, ordering him to stay where he is and remain comfortable. He feels bad about her waiting on him all night, and it's not like he can't walk, so he heads toward her fridge to fetch himself another drink.

She exits the bathroom just in time to see him reaching to open the door. He doesn't see her freeze, or her eyes widen, but he does hear her rushing towards him and feels her yank his hand back just before he would have gripped the door handle. He turns to look at her, confused, and notices the look in her eyes. The hand that is holding his is shaking.

"Booth." She whispers. It's all she says, but it is enough.

"It's alright," he tries to reassure, moving her hand to his chest where she can feel his heartbeat.

After moments of silence, holding each other's gaze and Brennan feeling his heartbeat, she takes a breath and says, "Sit back down. You should be resting. I'll bring you anything you need."

"I'm fine, Bones, really."

She knows he isn't really referring to his physical injuries, but she falls back on them as an excuse anyway. She has no argument, no appropriate way to explain her unease.

"You should still be resting."

After a moment of stillness, he nods his head and hopes she will take the hint to follow his lead. Still holding her hand, he moves it from his chest towards the handle of the fridge, and then he tilts his head in her direction.

Finally catching on, she straightens her stance, eyeing the handle as if it were a set of bones. Then she nods at home, and he moves their joined fingers toward the handle.

They are a team, and they will overcome this particular fear together.

/

April 2006

Booth makes a habit out of bringing her take-out in the middle of the night after the first few times he had done so and he had interpreted her lack of protest as her approval. Sometimes Booth came when he knew she was upset, and sometimes he came when he merely suspected that she was. Sometimes he came when he was upset, and sometimes he came just because. Sometimes she was more receptive to his company than others, but she never turned him away. He wouldn't necessarily show up at her door at the same time in the night, and eventually she grew tired of racing to the door from the bathroom or her bedroom or forcing herself, half-asleep, off the couch to let him inside.

After a particularly difficult case one week, she leaves the door open late on a Tuesday night, expecting his company. Her reasons are, of course, entirely logical. His arrival will be easier if he doesn't have to wait for her to open the door when he is carrying heavy bags of take-out, and she won't have to interrupt her sudden literary inspiration to open the door for him.

When he knocks and she distractedly calls, "It's open!", he enters her apartment without a word, places the food on the counter, and immediately turns to her, furious with what he believes is carelessness. He spends the rest of the night saying things like, How could you even be sure that was me? and Do you realize that just anyone, someone upset from our cases, a serial killer, some drunk, could have walked through this door just now?

She tells him that she knew it was him because he is very predictable, and that it is ridiculous to live with such paranoia, but she is learning to appreciate how real his fears are to him, and although she hates giving in to his alpha-male tendencies, Temperance Brennan knows how to pick her battles, and she concedes that submitting, this time, might be easier.

She always keeps her door locked after that night, but has a spare key made for him the next day; Russ is the only other person she has made a spare key for. She hands it to him casually in the SUV when he picks her up in the morning. She tells him to keep it.

/

August 2006

Booth remembers the first time he discovered Brennan's soft spot for chocolate milkshakes.

The air conditioning in his SUV chooses the midst of summer and a streak of four days in upper 80-degree weather to take a vacation. As if that's not bad enough, he forgets to mention this little fact to his partner until after he picks her up at the lab one morning, and then spends the entire ride to the crime scene listening to her criticize him for not telling her so that they could take her car for once.

By the time they have a break for lunch, he feels so overheated that he isn't hungry at all, but is wishing they had time to stop at his apartment so he could take a cold shower. Unfortunately, about all they can manage is a quick stop, and he's tempted to skip it so that he can get home sooner but Brennan insists they at least stop somewhere to purchase more water. Besides feeling overheated, he has a splitting headache, and wants to argue with her when she lectures him about heat exhaustion and heat stroke and his apparently flushed face, but he's too hot and she looks a bit flushed herself, so he pulls over at a small local café.

"You're always whining about my alpha-male tendencies," he mumbles while resting his head back, "Why don't you go order us some drinks and I'll hold down the fort?"

"You're sitting in a car, not in a fort," she replies, "and I think you would benefit from standing inside for a moment, where there is air conditioning."

"If I stand up, I might pass out."

Her brow furrows and he can tell she wants to push him, but apparently decides against it because she pats his thigh and says, "I'll be right back."

He closes his eyes until she returns, willing his headache to subside. When he hears footsteps approaching the vehicle, he opens his eyes and turns his head towards her. She dumps six bottles of water into the seats between them, and hands him a small strawberry smoothie.

"See if you can stomach that," she suggests, "It might help."

After chugging an entire bottle of water, he takes a few sips of his smoothie through the straw.

"You're feeling ill," she points out unnecessarily, "Let me drive."

"No."

"Booth!"

"I'm not supposed to let anyone else drive this car."

"I'm sure that will still matter when you crash it because you can't think clearly."

"I'm fine."

"You are most certainly not."

Before she can continue to argue, he shifts the car into gear and pulls back into the street, all the while sipping from his smoothie. After his headache begins to lessen, he finally gets a clear look at his partner and notices what she purchased for herself at the café.

"I didn't know you liked chocolate milkshakes, Bones."

"You told me once that 'everyone likes chocolate milkshakes'."

"Well, yeah, I did… I just assumed you wouldn't."

"You assumed incorrectly."

"Obviously."

"I usually dislike milkshakes," she continues, "But I like chocolate milkshakes."

"I'll remember that."

She finishes her milkshake within ten minutes, and he swears she looks a little forlorn when it's gone. After that day, he starts ordering her milkshakes at the diner sometimes, and she never refuses them.

/

September 2006

He promises her once that she will never be alone again as long as he is breathing. She doesn't believe in promises anymore, and so she brushes him off, chastising him for making such a promise when there is an inherent inability to ever know such a thing for sure. There are too many things in the world out of their control.

He isn't discouraged, however, because upholding his promise isn't contingent on whether or not she believes him. Over time, she comes to the realization that promises are important to Booth. They make him feel as though he has some control over the safety and happiness of those he cares about, they are a way of him showing that he does care, even if he knows he has little control. She learns that when she brushes off this gesture so easily, it hurts his feelings.

Although she may not believe in promises, she does believe in him. One night, after a particularly trying case for them both, as he is absently crushing his pie with his fork and she is chewing the straw that came with her milkshake, he keeps his gaze focused on his food but promises her, his voice laden with despair, that he'll always protect her from harm.

Releasing the straw from her mouth, she brushes her hand over his and simply responds, "I know."

/

December 2006

The day before Christmas Eve, Booth could barely contain his excitement. Rebecca was planning to travel out of town to visit her cousins, and Booth had managed to convince her to leave Parker with him until the 27th. She had reluctantly agreed, knowing that she would get to spend quality time with him on New Year's.

Parker had been over two weekends before helping him set up their tree and decorations around his apartment. This afternoon, he was touching up the lights he'd hung on his windows while the glare of the TV and the football announcers were left unheeded.

He'd told Parker that, for these four days staying with him, it was alright to bring his Xbox and his Wii, if he wanted to. Rebecca had seen right through him, accusing him of wanting to stay in and play video games for four days. Booth, of course, had argued that it was only right to make sure Parker could play his new games from "Santa" right away.

The plan was for Rebecca to drop him off at the Jeffersonian after the Christmas Eve staff party the following afternoon. Angela had roped him in to participating in the Secret Santa. He was fairly certain that Brennan had refused to participate, but he'd gotten her a little something anyway. The way he saw it, it wouldn't be right for him not to get his partner and closest friend a gift on Christmas. He still wanted to show her the magic of the season, especially this year.

The knock on his door caused him to jump in surprise. The grip of his leg on his windowsill slipped, causing him to knock over some of the lights as he tripped over himself. With a curse, he dropped the lights and hurried toward his door when there was another knock. "I'm coming," Booth hissed impatiently, until he heard the response through the walls.

"It's just me, Booth."

"Bones?" He questioned unnecessarily as he moved to open the door. He was a little surprised, pleasantly, of course, to see his partner standing before him with multiple bags, one of which appeared to be full of beer. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked, even as he moved to take her bags from her and usher her inside.

Before Brennan had the chance to answer him, he prattled, "Sorry about the mess, Bones – Parker always insists that he help me decorate for Christmas, but he gets bored after he puts up the ornaments, so I was finishing the lights and the tinsel – as you can see, it tends to take over my living room."

"It's quite alright, Booth," she assures and she takes off her coat and places it neatly on a chair. "To be honest, I would have expected you to be finished with this already."

"Yes, well," he mumbles, "I usually am. It's been busy this year."

"I hope you don't mind me coming," she says, a little softly, "It's just-"

"What's up, Bones?" He's putting the six packs of beer she brought in the fridge to chill, although he notices one is still slightly cool. She must have been planning to be there a while.

"Did you mean what you said? About there being more than one kind of family?"

He stops in his path, forgetting about finding them glasses, and moves to where she is standing, her gaze towards the floor. She is shifting her weight uncomfortably, almost timidly.

"Temperance," he breathes, placing a hand on her shoulder and lifting her chin with the other, "Of course I meant that. There's a saying that goes something like 'Friends are the family we choose'. You will always be part of my family. I won't let you be alone, Temperance, and I'm going to prove it to you over and over again until you believe it."

She does not respond to him immediately, but she shuts her eyes and he can hear her breath hitch as a few tears slip down her cheeks. "I wonder if they're going to be together today," she chokes out, barely audible, "Families are supposed to be together on Christmas, right?"

Booth finds the anger he feels towards Max and Russ is building all over again. "Yeah, families are supposed to be together on Christmas," his voice is dark, initially, but then he shakes it off. "Listen, when are you leaving for your trip to Australia?"

"Christmas night."

"Perfect. Stay with me for a while tonight, alright? We can make fun of bad crime dramas on TV and drink that fantastic beer you brought. And come over for breakfast on Christmas morning. Parker and I make so much food you'd think we were feeding a herd of elephants instead of the two of us."

"I don't want to intrude on your time with Parker, Booth."

"Aw, the kid loves you, Bones. He says you're cooler than Scully. Besides, I want you there."

"I still don't know who Scully is."

"You know what, forget it, we're not going to make fun of bad crime dramas tonight. We're going to watch the X-Files."

"Isn't the X-Files a crime drama?"

"Yes, the difference is that it's a good show. Are you coming Christmas morning or not?"

"Okay," she tentatively agrees, "Because Christmas is for family."