I've had a lot of negative names for this fic (the 'Bday Fic From Hell' being my favourite) mainly because it started off as a oneshot for RositaLG's birthday, and just freakin' spun out of control from there. There was a little bit of resentment on my end (for the fic... not for Jenn. Just so that's clear). But somewhere along the way I must have started to become rather attached to it, because I'm almost sad to see it go. Almost. So, to any of you who may have become rather attached as well, I hope you find this ending satisfactory. Thank you for reading, and feel free to tell me what you think.
Also, thanks to RositaLG, some1tookmyname, jadedrepartee, NatesMama and andreuuchis for the constellation help. I am useless at anything and everything science. Clearly. And to biba79, for being a slave driver and making me get things done and banning me from Twitter until I polished this puppy off.
And I'm getting weary waiting for the harbour lights to change,
I've forgotten what I do it for, but I tread water just the same.
And I'll never let this pair of hands forget to pull their weight;
this burden may be more than I would like to bear, but less than I can take.
And I'll tread water.
I tread water.
Tread Water, Sara Bareilles
The kitchen smells like cinnamon and he associates this scent with warmth and safety. He's too young to quantify this reaction but he's sitting at the table working through his math homework, and his mother is mixing apple slices and sugar and lemon juice, and he is happy. Mostly.
"Jared, honey stop putting your hands in the bowl. They're dirty."
"I washed them, mommy." Jared holds his hands palms outward in front of him and he spreads his fingers as far apart as he can manage.
"Yes, darling. And then you licked them."
Seeley snorts, then quickly ducks his head as the noise draws his mother's attention. He scribbles something on his sheet of paper and he's pretty sure it's wrong, but at this point he just wants to be able to say with honesty that he's finished.
"You know, you could help too if you would just finish your work, Seeley."
"I'm trying," he grumbles.
He knows that this isn't exactly true, and his mother has faith in the intelligence of her sons so she doesn't yield.
(She has the inkling that her boys are smarter than what makes sense when one considers their parents, and if Seeley is struggling in subjects that have never been difficult for him before, she can think of only one glaring explanation. And it hurts her heart.
So she tries extra hard. She tries to make up for her choices. She tries to love her boys fiercely enough for two parents. She tries to love them patiently and consistently and she has to believe that it will make a difference. She believes what all good parents would like to believe; her boys will be smart and loved and they will grow to do great things.)
"I can help," Jared adds cheerfully. He jumps down from the counter before she can stop him and wanders over to the table, and when his grubby hands begin to paw at the worksheet, Seeley's protest is instant.
"Jared, leave your brother alone."
"But I'm helping."
"Help over here, sweetheart."
Seeley glares and can't help pushing his brother. Just a little bit. Because the truth is, he wants to be helping; sitting at this stupid table reading stupid problems just because his stupid teacher had phoned his mom, seems far beyond unfair. Especially when his stupid brother gets to run around touching everything.
And then Jared pushes him back. He's too small to really hurt him, but the fact that he dares to try sends a little jolt of anger running through Seeley and he shoves him again. Just a little harder this time. Jared falls backward and Seeley glances anxiously in the direction of their mother, but her back is turned. Before he can be relieved, Jared picks himself up off the floor and chooses to head butt him. And the brawl that follows does not escape their mother's attention.
"Boys, come on. Knock it off."
She wipes her hands on her skirt and moves toward the table, but Seeley manages to slip in one last kick to his younger brother's knee before she effectively separates them.
"Seeley," she warns.
He absorbs the reprimand and turns on his dashing smile as his mother lifts Jared and sets him back on the counter. However, the disarming grin disappears when Jared sticks his hand back in the bowl and places another chunk of apple in his mouth. His brother may be only four years old, but he has already perfected the art of gloating.
"He pushed me," Seeley complains.
"But he pushed me."
She waits until she is certain that Jared is distracted by the pie filling – and therefore unlikely to attempt leaping from the high counter again – before she approaches her son and runs her hands gently through his hair.
"Concentrate, Seeley," she says before dropping a kiss on the top of his head.
"It's too hard."
"You're a very smart boy. I don't want any more calls from your teachers."
The front door opens. Closes. Seeley sits straighter in his chair, his mother pulls Jared off the counter, and Jared begins to protest before he is silenced by her look.
It had been difficult for Seeley to concentrate from the beginning, but it's near impossible now. The air lacks violence but the memory of the night before is still fresh, and he unconsciously rubs at his shoulder in the place it continues to throb. His mother resumes her baking and he takes his cue from her and tightens his grip on his pencil. He erases his last answer, concentrates, and fills in the correct one. There's a dull ache forming in his head – it happens sometimes when he tries to focus on too many things at once – but he endures and the charade doesn't slip.
Problem 6) three hundred and forty four, divided by four.
His father is in the hall and Seeley listens closely as he places his keys on the hook beside the door. Four goes into thirty-four eight times. Eight times four is thirty-two. The footsteps in the hall are heavy, but they're balanced. Thirty four subtract thirty two is two. His father enters the kitchen, slides an arm around his mother's waist, and pats his brother on the head. Bring down the four. Four goes into twenty-four six times. The answer is eighty six.
He moves on to problem seven. He greets his father. The numbers begin to swim on the page as his head pounds a little harder. Eventually he stops trying to split his focus and he concentrates fully on what's important. On the tone of his father's voice. On the number of times his father refills his glass. Today is good, but yesterday had been good as well. Until it wasn't.
He stacks his sheets neatly and slips them into his backpack. For a moment he feels the throbbing in his shoulder ever so much stronger, but the important thing is that he can see clearly once again and the pressure behind his eyes is fading away to nothing.
Jared is young, but he's young too. His surroundings change and he changes with them. Another five minutes pass and while there's a fraction of him that maintains his guard, that studies the scene, it's more of a reflex than anything else. Most of Seeley tries to believe that this can be permanent. That he can be normal. That the pain in his shoulder will fade away and with it, the memory of all fears and pains before it.
He flinches when his father touches his back, but the movement is slight and he corrects it quickly. He takes his first piece of apple from the bowl still resting atop the counter and his mouth is flooded with that perfect mix of tart and sweet. It's uncooked. Cold.
But the kitchen smells like cinnamon.
Seeley Booth clings to this.
He slept, but not for long. The joints in his legs were aching steadily, which meant that it would probably rain before the day was over. His mind was restless. Once a minimal sleep quota had been filled, Booth woke and not even Brennan's steady breathing or the fluttering of her eyelids as she dreamed could calm him. So he left.
He didn't leave a note, and for his own sake, he couldn't bring himself to wake her. Because talking would mean talking and he still felt empty and exhausted. They were still unbalanced and it was because he was unbalanced, and he couldn't fix that now any more than he could have last night. It was impossible to hold a grudge when Brennan opened herself to him so completely. But last night, after his anger had cooled, there had been nothing left in him to replace it. And while he had felt the distance between them, his distance, there was a disconnection between his mind and his actions and he hadn't been able to overcome it. Not even for her.
A man and a woman brought you into the world, and you owed your existence to them whether you fell under the category of gift, accident, or total mistake. Maybe they didn't deserve you. Maybe you didn't deserve them. But you were tied together for eternity just the same. There would always be those who tried to teach you that you could be better. That your mind and your actions were yours to control. But that man and that woman's bones were your bones, their features were your features, and deep inside where it counted, you knew that their shortcomings were only a hair-trigger away from becoming your shortcomings. Biology couldn't be undone, it couldn't be rewritten, and the horrible, cold truth was, it was your burden to bear for a lifetime.
Booth had learned more about genetics and hardwiring and biological pulls from Brennan than he ever had in any science class. He drove across town to a rundown hotel and he knew that there were things stronger than biology. Greater than science. He was part of a family that was less conventional and yet immeasurably more functional than the one he had known as a child. His son was not afraid of him. His partner was neither afraid of him nor anyone else, even when he thought she ought to be. But DNA was DNA, and his father was his father. These were what his partner called facts.
He couldn't change the facts, but he could continue to choose his family in all the ways that mattered. His brother would always be his brother, and they would never have the relationship they had shared as children again. His father would always be his father, and they would never have any relationship at all. He could continue to build a life with Bones. He could embrace her team of crack scientist coworkers (because they had long since come to mean as much to him as they did to her). He would begin to let his past go, let his anger go, and maybe then he could (figuratively) conquer biology.
Despite his initial rejection of the idea, Booth found himself at the front desk, requesting a call be put through to his father's room. And then he went outside and turned the poker chip in his pocket restlessly. Now that he was here, he wished he had taken the time to interrupt Brennan's sleep. She would be awake by now; he could imagine her sitting up and looking to the nightstand for a note that wasn't there. He could imagine the puzzled furrow of her brow, and the quick change to a work-mode in which she would tuck all things concerning him firmly in the back of her mind. The vague guilt that had been hanging over his head intensified, and he swallowed against it and looked up at the sky.
The air smelled of ozone, further cementing his notion of the rain to come. The moon was still clearly visible in the darkness of early morning and there were a few stars peeking through as well, which was a rarity in the city. Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion's Belt. He found them easily, and then he picked out the constellations that proved a little more difficult. Monocerus. Puppis. Delphinus. He had carried out this exact ritual in deserts and grassy fields abroad. It had been a practice for so long he rarely remembered that it was an unexpected talent he had learned early in life from the very man he awaited now.
"I don't see it."
"Don't get frustrated, Seel, you'll get it. Follow my hand."
He squints at the sky, but he still can't find anything that looks remotely like a lion. And yet, he wants to please his dad. So he squints at the still, inky canvas miles upon miles above him and he waits for it to come into focus. He's a lifetime away from becoming the man who can sit still indefinitely while waiting for a perfect shot, but every man has a beginning. His is here, spread out on his back in the damp grass that carpets his backyard, next to his father.
"There," he points.
Joseph chuckles. "Now you're just guessing."
His father had flown planes. Memorised skies. It had been knowledge hidden deep within a man who had obtained little education. Even the worst parents could sometimes be teachers.
Booth's coat had been left casually undone, but against the cool air he zipped it all the way and then returned his hands to his pockets. Behind him a door opened, and he turned expectantly toward the entrance.
His father's shoulders were hunched and he squinted even against the dim light. His every movement was calculated to cause minimal discomfort, though it was evident that even the bare minimum was proving painful. Booth had to refrain from sighing. Having a conversation with someone who was grossly hungover was perhaps every bit as difficult as having a conversation with someone who was bordering on blackout drunk.
"This," Booth removed a hand from his pocket and gestured vaguely between them, "this has to stop."
"Look, Seeley I'm sorry about what happened last night. Just... coffee. Let's get coffee. My head's a little foggy."
"You think?" Booth replied bitterly.
"Just give me a minute, Seel."
"A minute? You've got to be kidding. You've had more than twenty years."
"Okay. I get it. You're angry. I would be too."
The half assed empathetic effort was almost enough to trigger that slow burning deep in the pit of his stomach, but being angry had become all but mechanical, and it wasn't worth the energy.
He was older now, so was his father, but this wasn't the first time he had been dragged into this scene. Years ago there had been perfunctory apologies while he had tiptoed about a small house in the early morning hours. Making coffee. Fetching Aspirin. Eating cold cereal and watching cartoons with the volume hovering just shy of muted. His version of normal.
"Do you even remember what happened last night?" Booth asked. The ensuing silence was telling, and he nodded his head. "Yeah. I kind of thought as much. Why- why are you here?"
Joseph angled his head to the side. "She didn't tell you?" he asked curiously.
Booth worked his jaw back and forth. He hadn't given Brennan an opportunity to say much, and what she had said remained mostly in defense against the things he had said. There was that same haze surrounding last night that covered so much of the past week, and he almost felt that if he tried especially hard, he could perhaps convince himself that it was all a vivid dream.
"I'm asking you."
"I didn't come here looking for you, Seel. That part just happened."
"We're not going to do this again," Booth stated evenly. "So if there's anything you want to say, I'd say it now if I were you."
Joseph shivered against the chilly air as it penetrated his shirt, but the cold seemed to jar him into a temporary sort of focus and he straightened the cowed curve of his spine. "I chose D.C. at random. And then I was curious. You're my son, Seeley. I couldn't be here knowing you were here and not try."
"You realise how ridiculous that sounds, right? I mean, you have to." Booth's hand found the poker chip again. "If you've got regrets, they're yours to live with. You don't get to drag me into that mess just because a couple decades passed and you decided to develop a conscience."
"It's not like that."
"It's exactly like that. You left. We grew up. You don't get to strike up a conversation with me. Or Jared. Or Dr. Brennan, or Dr. Saroyan, or anyone else I work with. If there ever comes a point in my life when I feel like finding you, I'll do it. But the choice doesn't get to be yours. That's not how it works."
Joseph took a step forward and Booth caught the grimace that crossed his face at the rapid movement. Then Booth's emotions fell to something more akin to morbid fascination; he could analyse this face, the same face he had analysed so intently in his early years, and find himself disconnected from the terror of his past. He remembered the fear and yet what he felt was... impatience. A desire to speed them along and put as much distance between himself and this poison as possible.
"You can pretend, Seeley, but we're blood. I'm always gonna be a part of you."
"That's true enough," Booth nodded. "But I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you need me a hell of a lot more than I need you."
Joseph gave a half smile. "You've done your research."
"I'm good at what I do. You've got some interesting people looking for you," Booth mentioned in the conversational tone he used so often in the interrogation room.
"I do. But that's no secret. I told your girlfriend as much last night. That I remember."
"Yeah, purely out of the goodness of your heart, I'm sure."
"I wouldn't have asked you to do anything illegal."
"The fact that you thought to ask me anything at all pisses me off."
Joseph sighed. "I really did want to see you."
"Right. And how long did it take you to go from that to something just a little more self-serving?" Booth continued on in that same, calm tone, and briefly he allowed himself to believe that nothing could touch him.
"So where does that leave us, Seel?" Joseph asked impatiently. "I'm here another day and a half. You came to me."
Booth shrugged. "I figured us meeting should be on my terms at least once."
"And now we, what, go our separate ways? You keep tabs on me from a distance?"
Joseph's tone was mocking and Booth immediately stiffened against it. "You're not worth the time."
But he would. He knew he would. And he hated himself for it.
Booth tried to use his personal days sparingly so that they were readily available in the summertime, when Parker was out of school. Even outside of summer, Rebecca had a habit of asking him to take Parker on short notice and the flexibility of a personal day or two often came in handy. But today it would have nothing to do with Parker and everything to do with the fact that he didn't think he could bring himself to care the smallest bit about any of the work waiting for him at the office.
Just this once, he chose to take a day for entirely selfish reasons.
So the first call he made was to the bureau, and the second call he made was to Bones. Only she didn't pick up. Somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered her mentioning a conference call of some sort scheduled for that morning; she had been excited, that was the part he could recall clearly. However, as was often the case when she animatedly explained something pertaining to her field of study, he had been so amused by the rampant joy in her face the actual words had more or less faded out.
He considered leaving a message but ultimately opted not to do so, given that he lacked the concentration to leave much of anything that made sense. Booth slipped the phone back into his pocket. And then he drove.
Brennan hit the familiar speed dial key and then hung up when it went to voicemail. Again. She refused to leave more than one message on principle, and she adamantly ignored the logical voice in her head telling her that the excessive phone calls read every bit as desperate as multiple messages.
She had kept fairly busy early in the day; she hadn't even had time to check her messages until close to eleven. But while she often forwent leaving voice messages if the call was anything less than urgent, Booth usually didn't.
One call, no message. It was odd coming from him.
She had returned the call to no avail. Then she had phoned his office to the same end. When he hadn't contacted her by lunch, she had braved the overcast weather and visited the bureau, only to discover that he had yet to show up. Then she had phoned his cell again. And again. And now it was nearly three o'clock in the afternoon.
She made a few adjustments to the report on her screen and then settled into a somewhat productive routine of typing, checking her phone. Reading, checking her phone. Typing, checking her phone. And in the middle of one of her 'typing' phases, Cam rapped gently on the door before pushing it open and entering the room.
"Have you seen Booth?"
"We don't monitor one another every moment of the day, Cam," Brennan snapped.
Cam froze. "O-kay. That reaction wasn't at all disproportionate."
Brennan remained fixated on her screen and obstinately set out to be as dismissive as possible. "I'm very busy."
"I'm sure you are."
Her voice was irritatingly calm, and Brennan ground her teeth. "Then why are you still here?"
"Because Booth left a note on my desk and I haven't been able to read his writing since before we stopped sleeping together. The first time." The words tumbled out and Cam closed her eyes against the awkward silence. Awkward for her, anyway. Brennan's gaze didn't leave her computer. "I have no idea why I said that."
"Booth says you sometimes talk too much when you're extremely uncomfortable."
"I suppose that's something for me to work on."
Brennan continued to stare at her monitor, but held out her hand expectantly. "Let me see the note."
Cam stepped forward and gave her the scrap of paper, and then she sat in the chair on the opposite side of the desk.
Brennan glanced at the post-it briefly and then handed it back. "This is concerning the remains of Charles Warner. As we closed this case early last week, I'm finding it difficult to believe that it went unnoticed by you until today."
Cam looked at the ceiling. "Really? Wow. That's... so odd."
"What do you want, Cam?"
"I heard about what happened last night," Cam sighed. "I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but I just want a little confirmation that he's not off earning himself more mandated therapy. Booth is my friend and I'm worried about him."
"I'm sure he's fine. He's fine."
"Are you fine?" Cam questioned.
"Why are you asking me?" The clinical tone finally gave way to exasperation.
On the plus side, she was finally making eye contact. Cam went ahead and considered that a victory.
"Well, your phone hasn't rang or vibrated and yet I've watched you unlock the display six times since I've been in here."
Cam's words were that odd combination of factual and gentle, and for a moment it looked as if Brennan planned to protest strenuously. But in the end a worried crease appeared between her brows and she swallowed hard.
"He left before I woke up this morning," Brennan confessed. Her eyes were painfully bright, and Cam almost wished she would go back to staring at her screen. The Bambi look was breaking her heart. "He's either rejecting my calls on the first ring, or his phone is turned off. Neither prospect is particularly comforting."
Cam winced. "I love that man to death, but he can be a real idiot."
Brennan's right hand left the mouse and her fingers curled in defense against an unseen adversary. "I hate worrying."
"It's a burden," Cam agreed. "Unfortunately, there's no getting around it."
"I find this frustrating." The glower returned to her face.
"He just needs a little processing time. If anyone can understand that, it's you." Brennan's mouth tightened, but she neither agreed nor disagreed and Cam pressed on. "It's only been a few hours."
Brennan nodded, but she'd clearly decided that she was done with both eye contact and this conversation. She stood up suddenly and began cramming file folders into her bag. "I'm going to work from home for the rest of the day."
"You're what?" Cam raised her eyebrows incredulously and then coughed to cover up her surprise. "I mean, alright. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Perhaps," Brennan answered as she turned off her monitor.
That one, Cam couldn't let go. "You do remember that I'm technically your boss, right? You could at least pretend to ask permission."
"Why would I do that?" she asked distractedly. Where the hell had she put her agenda?
"Go," Cam shook her head. "Let me know when you find Booth."
Brennan looked up then and hesitated with her hand half in her bag. "I- thanks, Cam."
Cam stood up and walked with her to the door. "Just... at least give me a few days warning if the two of you decide to take off somewhere after this."
"Booth enjoys spontaneity."
"Oh no. Don't you put that all on Booth; I've been left scrambling for a fill-in anthropologist more times than I care to think about."
She was halfway to Booth's apartment when her phone rang; upon seeing his name, she fumbled to insert the device into its port and connect the call before he hung up.
"Booth," she called hurriedly. "Booth?"
She frowned at the cheerful tone, far different from what she had been expecting, and then she shook her head. "Why weren't you answering your phone?"
"Your phone! I called you. More than once."
"I am on my phone."
"What?" She frowned again and took her eyes off the road to fiddle briefly with her cell. "I think your phone is malfunctioning."
"I like my phone."
"That has nothing to do with- Booth, where are you?" she snapped, laying a hand on the horn as someone swerved into her lane. The urge to floor the gas and run into the back of the car ahead was strong. It wasn't as if she couldn't afford an increase to her insurance premium.
He sounded confused, as if he hadn't just up and disappeared and caused her hours of worry. When she found him, she was going to injure him severely.
"Why does your voice sound like that?" She posed the question and then almost immediately answered it herself. "Are you drunk?"
"No!" he answered quickly. Then he gave a little giggle that completely undermined the validity of that statement. "Maybe a little," he amended.
"Where are you?" she repeated. Her voice was terse now as worry gave way to anger. How dare he.
"On the stairs."
"The stairs, Bones. The ones outside, with the water and the statues..."
She sighed and turned right at the next set of lights. "Don't move, I'm coming."
"Okay," he agreed easily.
"Booth, do not move, do you hear me? Stay where you are. Stay right there."
"I said okay, Bones. Jeez."
He hung up first, which pissed her right off because ending the call was a very small satisfaction that she was pretty sure she'd earned.
Brennan slammed her car door and stalked across the grounds; fortunately, it didn't take her long to spot him. Booth was sitting to the far right of the top step, staring unseeingly into the small crowds milling around the pool. But even intoxicated, he had a sense for her presence. She watched his head snap up and scour the area eagerly, and he looked so happy when he found her, Brennan would have been tempted to laugh if she wasn't furious.
He sprang to his feet and jumped down the stairs to greet her, graceful as always, and the smallest part of her admired his coordination. But she was still mostly pissed.
"You're being very irresponsible."
"Hi." He moved into her space and she took a step back, holding a hand authoritatively between them.
"You didn't go to work today. You hate taking time off work."
"That's you, too. The last time you injured your back-
"I was fine!"
"You spent ten minutes explaining the functionality of your toaster oven to me. Not at all correctly, by the way. And you still wanted to go."
He laughed again and Brennan rolled her eyes. Because trying to reason with Booth could be difficult enough during the best of times, and it would be damn near impossible now.
"You've been gone for hours," she accused softly.
Booth sobered and shifted his weight. "Yeah. I'm sorry about that, Bones."
He stared and it was then that she remembered the way they had been when she had seen him last, just before she had fallen asleep. No longer yelling but not quite whole. Odd distances just beyond her comprehension. The anger began to fade and in its place came apprehension.
Booth tried to smile, but it faltered quickly.
"I talked to my dad," he admitted.
The words sounded ordinary, and she wanted them to be such. With a fervour surpassed only by the one that had taken hold on a certain Christmas Day long ago, she wished she could change the facts. Booth had many little-boy modes – Angela's term, not hers – but the vulnerability that shone through when he mixed alcohol and sadness just about unravelled her.
He collapsed onto the bottom step and she seated herself carefully beside him.
"I'm sorry, Booth."
"It didn't make me feel any better. It's never going to feel better. And then I went home. Except I didn't really want to be home."
"So you came here."
"I just wanted to be sure I still could, you know? Make a bad decision like getting drunk in the middle of a work day without losing my mind and starting fights in bars. Fights with you."
"You would never hurt me," Brennan slid closer.
"This is self-destructive, isn't it?" Booth sighed. "Sweets would call it self-destructive."
"Sweets isn't here. And you know how I feel about psychology."
"In that case..." Booth reached behind him and picked up a lidded cup, "... you should drink too."
"What?" she frowned. "No."
"Why not? Come on; spit in the face of psychology with me."
She shook her head, but her lips twitched as she hid a smile. "Booth, I drove here. I need to be able to get us home."
"That's what cabs are for, Bones. We can come back for your car if we have to. I've got a car again, remember?"
He sounded so excited about this fact that Brennan couldn't disguise her smile any longer. "Yes, I remember."
"Don't make me drink by myself."
"You have been drinking by yourself," she reminded him.
He passed her the coffee cup that suspiciously smelled nothing like coffee and very much like scotch. "You need to catch up. Otherwise, you're being rude."
"According to whom?" she frowned.
"According to everyone, Bones. Drink."
She shook her head, but took a slow pull from the cup regardless. A slight crinkle in her nose was her only outward protest to the burn of the hard alcohol travelling down her throat, and Booth decided that she really was goddamn close to perfect.
She mixed up her idioms and pop culture went straight over her head, and she did have a bit of a knack for causing public scenes, but she could hold her liquor. She was as loyal as they came. She loved him.
"I do love you, you know. I'm sorry about last night. I'm sorry for leaving."
Brennan passed the cup back to him and absently swirled her tongue around her mouth, tasting the remnants of Booth's favourite liquor. "I don't require an apology. I think... I think I understand."
At this, Booth's eyebrows rose high on his forehead and he smirked self depreciatingly. "I wish you'd explain it to me then. Because I damn well don't."
She shifted and cleared her throat. "Well, I assume that you are familiar with the German Mastiff? They are a fairly common breed of domesticated animal."
His laugh, coloured by the alcohol, came out as a cross between the deep chuckle she loved and something just a little higher. "Great Danes, Bones. We're in America. Why can't you just say Great Dane?"
"If you know what I'm saying, then why does it matter?" she huffed, snatching the cup out of his hands and taking another swallow before placing it roughly on the ground between them. "What is it that you're always asking me to do? Focus on the bigger diagram."
"Picture. The bigger picture."
"That one was on purpose," Booth said with certainty.
"You're intoxicated. Your judgement is unreliable."
"I know you," his eyes focused on her intently. "Intoxicated or not."
Brennan shivered. She didn't think she could ever become complacent in the feeling of knowing another person and being known so deeply in return. She experienced the increasingly common rush of affection flooding through her being, and she cleared her throat once again in an attempt to compose herself.
"Great Danes," she continued, emphasising the title for Booth's benefit, "are perhaps most commonly known by their size. They are quite large. Unfortunately, their considerable mass means that they are also predisposed to a number of health problems, alongside certain genetic defects. Blindness, deafness, gastric dilatation-volvulus... dilated cardiomyopathy."
"I don't know what those are, Bones, come on." Booth's eyes clouded with frustration and he picked up the cup, though he didn't drink out of it.
"Their hearts become weak and enlarged and they die young," Brennan explained quickly. "The lifespan of a Great Dane rarely extends beyond seven years."
"You are the Great Dane."
At this, Booth did take a drink. And roll his eyes. "Thanks."
"You give and you give, and your heart is too big for any one body. It gave out for a little while. But you'll get it back."
She held her breath as she awaited his reaction. Either the slight spike in hopefulness that would indicate he understood the analogy, or the furrowing of his brow that would tell her she had managed to get it wrong. Again.
"Yeah?" he asked uncertainly.
And she breathed.
"Yes. Because you are only a metaphoric Great Dane and you are very much alive. Even though considering the number of near fatal situations you have been involved in, this defies probability."
"You could sound a little happier about that, Bones."
"Also, because your heart has given out before – metaphorically, that is – and you have recovered. You survive, Booth. Always."
"Two plus two equals four, you put sugar in your coffee and it tastes sweet, the sun comes up because the world turns, and I survive, always, huh?"
It was a joke, but she looked at him with absolute solemnity.
He kissed her then. Because he couldn't not kiss her. Her mouth tingled with the taste of scotch on his tongue, and she sighed contently against his lips.
Hard alcohol and pliant mouths, gentle hands and taut skin, relief and gratitude. He had broken parts, and she had broken parts, and together, they formed a slightly jagged whole. They would never make a perfect, plenary piece – oftentimes, they couldn't even be construed as a pretty piece – but what they created was infinitely better than being alone and fragmented and at the mercy of the wind.
The kiss came to an end and Brennan scooted across the last of the space between them until their legs pressed comfortably together. Her arm looped through his and she rested her head against his shoulder, and she put forth no protest when he held the cup out for her free hand. She drank, and he drank, and they watched the hazy light of the sun through the clouds disappear into the early darkness of autumn.
"I don't feel cold," Brennan murmured eventually.
"Me neither," Booth responded.
"The temperature has dropped significantly while we've been sitting here; we should feel cold. The alcohol is dulling our senses."
"That's kind of the point, Bones."
"We should go," she said, although she didn't move.
Booth fiddled absently with the coffee cup that had long since gone empty. "Ten minutes?"
"Seven minutes," he compromised. "I just wanna watch the lights a little longer."
Brennan hesitated briefly, but in the end she gave in. "Okay."
Exactly four minutes later, there was a blinding streak of lightning, a loud clap of thunder, and a sudden, steady stream of rain as the clouds broke open.
For a moment they continued to sit in shock, until the biting droplets settling into their clothing spurred them into action.
"Not a word, Bones!" Booth shouted over the loud sounds of water hitting the surfaces of their surroundings.
"I said, Booth. I said we should go," Brennan raised her voice in a like fashion. "If you had listened- hey!"
He took her hand and broke into an unceremonious dead sprint, leaving her with the options of either keeping up or bringing them both down onto the increasingly muddy ground beneath their feet.
"We should hurry, or we'll never catch a cab."
"We wouldn't need to hurry if we had left when I-
"It's called letting things go, Bones. You should try it sometime."
They were soaked to the skin by the time they reached the street, but they were laughing. Giddy, even. And it felt wonderful. Their timing was good and a cab was flagged down quickly, but Booth, high on the air of frivolity pulsing between them, grabbed Brennan's arm and pulled her against him before she could open the door.
"Booth!" she laughed, "We're getting wet. And I'm beginning to feel the cold."
"You know, this girl I once knew broke my heart in the rain once. Well, it was after the rain, technically. But it counts."
"Wha- when? Who?" Brennan questioned indignantly. Then she caught his smile, and her own lips stretched upward as she figured out the game. "Really?"
"My heart was similarly crushed by a boy. I believe it was raining then as well."
"It hurt like a bitch."
"But it was worth it," he kissed her softly.
"Yes," she echoed against his mouth. "Worth it."
"I couldn't have got through the last week without you, Bones," Booth said, suddenly serious. "I just... I wanted to tell you that."
Brennan's expression became similarly earnest. "Yes you could have. You would have."
He tucked the quickly knotting strands of her wet hair behind her ear. "Well then I'm glad I didn't have to."
The moment was interrupted by the honking of the cab horn, and they quickly piled in before the driver could change his mind and drive away.
Booth rattled off the address for his apartment and then sank back into the old seat. "We're going to be hungover," he stated.
"Possibly. You will be for sure."
"Too bad I took today off. Probably would have made more sense to get drunk after work and call in tomorrow."
"We can play nooky." Brennan's eyes lit up at the prospect of this deviant behaviour.
"No," she grinned while shaking her head, "I'm fairly certain I like my version better."
Booth caught the smirk of the cab driver in the rear view mirror and felt his face grow heated as she chuckled proudly at her own joke. He didn't bother trying to silence her; that only ever made things worse. Besides, her laugh was just about his favourite sound in the world.
"-quite amusing. Yeah. I know."
It was a perfect moment smack in the middle of an imperfect situation, like so many of their moments before, and as his indulgent chuckle joined her carefree laughter, Booth began to remember what it was like to feel better.
- End -
Closing Notes: I realise it's not exactly a neatly tied ending, but I figure that with twenty some odd years of pent up drama, there was no way I could wrap things up conclusively in a reasonable number of words. I also wanted to leave it open ended so that maybe, somewhere down the line, I could have fun writing something involving Booth's dad when we, I don't know, maybe know something about him besides the fact that he was an asshat.
Final Note at RositaLG: Jenn, you were my first fanfic friend and you've made me feel so at home in this fandom. You were nice, and encouraging, and oh so funny, and you inspired me to get twitter, which ended up being like the best decision of my life (when it works :P). There are a lot of great people I wouldn't have met without you roping me into conversations with strangers, and if this story has made you half as happy as you make me, then my job is done :) Happy birthday for the last time this year. #DenverFTW