Epilogue: The Definition of Insanity
The Danube Island doesn't look at all how Booth imagined it. When Bones first mentioned an artificial island between the two arms of the river Danube that had been built as part of a huge flood control plan, he thought of a smallish, bleak mix of rock and concrete, but they've walked at least half a mile from the subway stop and are now sitting on a cozy little bench right next to the river, half-hidden behind the bushes that grow on both sides of the narrow road.
Across the water, the city comes right up to the riverbank, but here on the island it's all trees and unmown meadows. The island must be pretty long because the road they followed seems to go on forever in the distance, but it's surprisingly narrow – the second arm of the river can't be more than a hundred yards away. On the other side of the water, the city begins again, and the huge concrete blocks lining both banks of the Danube make the patch of green in between look almost unreal.
Booth can hear children laughing somewhere close by and the distant buzz of the city, but apart from that, there's only the gurgling of the water and the sounds of birds and insects. On their way here they passed a few people feeding ducks and swans, a couple of cyclists and a tiny ice cream stand where they stopped for Bones' next sugar fix, but now there's nobody else in sight. The sky is covered with thick white clouds, but every once in a while the afternoon sun is peeking through, and it has finally gotten warmer again.
He casts a furtive look to the side where Bones is still occupied with her ice pop and quickly looks away again. He should probably be grateful that this pregnancy-induced sweet tooth of hers is not a permanent feature, because he'd never be able to concentrate on anything else if she kept eating like that all the time back home. Compared to what she's currently doing to her popsicle, the cotton candy show from two days ago was positively chaste.
Of course, she's also very good at multi-tasking with her mouth. "We still need to decide what we want to do with our last evening in Vienna."
Booth has a pretty good idea how he'd like to spend the evening right now, but he's not going to admit how much her little display is getting to him because damn, she has to do it on purpose. "We can check your precious guide book once you're done sucking off your ice cream."
She gives him a look that's a mix of surprise and disapproval. "Considering how much of a prude you've always been about the subject, I'm constantly amazed how crass you can be when you are willing to talk about sex."
"Hey, I'm not the one fellating a popsicle!"
Bones bites a chunk off the top and smirks when she sees him wince. "No, you're the one who was shocked by the concept of a woman sunbathing naked on her own balcony."
Booth fervently hopes he isn't blushing. "I wasn't shocked, okay? I was just – surprised."
She snickers at that. "It's your own fault for being curious why that group of schoolboys seemed so excited."
Booth wisely refrains from telling her just why he was so eager to check out what was going on with the gaggle of pre-teen boys clustered around a pair of those coin-operated binoculars on top of the spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral. She had suggested visiting the cathedral as a compromise when they hadn't been able to decide what to do with her free Saturday; he would get to see one of the most magnificent Catholic churches in Central Europe, while she would get to check out the historical catacombs underneath. The cathedral itself was pretty cool, but he began to regret agreeing to her idea once it turned out that the catacombs were even gloomier and creepier – not to mention ten times bigger – than the crypt at St. Michael's had been. After spending what felt like an eternity in the damp, claustrophobia-inducing darkness filled with thousands of skeletons, Booth had insisted that she climb the spire with him because he wanted to get as far away from the ground as possible for a while. Bones readily agreed, but she kept nattering about medieval burial practices the whole way up (which was no small feat given that they had to climb several hundred steps up a flight of narrow winding stairs) until Booth was desperately searching for something, anything, that would manage to distract her.
He certainly found it once he dragged her over to the binoculars (the boys had already been shooed away by their teachers) and gallantly let her take a look first.
"You could have warned me instead of just standing there and giggling!"
His accusatory tone doesn't seem to faze her. "I wasn't aware that the view of an unclothed woman would trouble you so much."
Booth tries very hard to keep up his affronted expression, but he can't quite manage it in the face of her grin. "Okay, okay, so maybe I overreacted a bit. But who the hell takes a nap buck naked in a place where the people visiting a church can see them?"
She merely shrugs. "European views on nudity are a lot more relaxed than they are in the US. I suppose the woman in question either didn't know or didn't care that she was visible from the viewing platform, and the teachers accompanying those boys seemed more amused than scandalized."
Booth shakes his head. "I really don't think I'd want Parker to come face-to-face with a naked woman on a school field trip."
"I assume Parker would beg to differ, as would you have at his age."
At that, he finally has to laugh too. "Okay, you got me there, but I'd still prefer to show him the giant bells and the gargoyles instead of the naked lady on the rooftop terrace."
"You think Parker would have enjoyed seeing the gargoyles?" She seems genuinely interested in the answer.
"Are you kidding me? Half of them looked like something straight out of a comic book – did you see that one with the pig's snout that was sticking its tongue out? Parker would love that."
She nods eagerly. "They're a fascinating example of syncretism, you know – of the Christian church appropriating pagan beliefs they weren't able to root out completely. Those gargoyles have their origin in the pagan custom of decorating the outside of a dwelling with grotesque, fear-inducing faces to scare evil spirits away, and even though Christian doctrine declared the belief in such apotropaic images superstition or even idolatry, the concept was still incorporated into the design of medieval cathedrals."
Booth runs a hand through his hair with a lopsided grin. "Okay, I'm not sure I got all of that, but I really hope you didn't say it to the archbishop yesterday."
Bones raises her eyebrows. "I'm certain there was no need to, since he seems to be a highly educated man and will undoubtedly know about it. I had a very enjoyable conversation with him."
"I noticed." Booth chuckles at the memory. "It was definitely an experience to watch you make small talk with an archbishop."
"A cardinal, actually," she corrects him. "Dr. Lechner pointed out the difference to me; I wasn't aware before that the Catholic hierarchy was color-coded."
Booth shrugs nonchalantly. "I could have told you that."
"Then I'll ask for your advice the next time I have to socialize with Catholic officials."
He doesn't really know why, but he's strangely pleased by that – not that he expects it will be an issue in the near future. He's about to say so when her next words blindside him completely.
"Do you think we should start thinking about baby names?"
"I… what?" Booth has trouble believing that he heard her correctly. "Where did that come from all of a sudden?"
Bones licks the ice pop stick clean and flings it into the bushes; then she turns towards him and notices his baffled expression. "I don't see a trash can nearby, and the stick is made of wood, it's going to decompose without any detrimental effects on the environment!"
"Huh?" Booth shakes his head to clear it. "Bones, forget about the stick, okay – you want to talk about baby names?"
"That's what I said." She sounds as if she had just announced that they need to decide on the color of a new shower curtain. "One of the priests from the archbishop's entourage remarked on my unusual first name yesterday, which lead us to a discussion of Catholic naming traditions, which in turn reminded me that we need to find a name for our child. Since we'll probably have to overcome some initial disagreement, I assume it would be wise to start early."
That's what I get for not understanding German. Booth remembers the guy now, and that he disliked him immediately because he seemed way more interested in Bones than a man of the cloth had any business being. "Don't you – I mean, we could wait until we know the baby's gender, couldn't we? That way, we only need to come up with one name, not two."
"The baby's sex, you mean," she corrects. "Gender is a sociological construct, while sex is defined via biological criteria."
"Whatever." Booth isn't in the mood for another anthropology lecture. "So we are discussing this now?" Deep down, he can't help feeling excited; they haven't made any concrete plans for the baby so far, and the fact that Bones is suddenly willing to start makes it all feel a little more real.
"I don't see why not." She deliberates for a moment, and then states in a tone as if she were commenting on the weather, "I'm okay with the baby having your last name if that's what you prefer, by the way. There's no family history behind mine since it isn't even my parents' real name, so it doesn't have any sentimental connotations for me, and even though the tradition of the man demonstrating his position as the pater familias by passing on his last name to his offspring is outdated and inherently misogynistic, it will provide you with an opportunity to publicly assert the baby's paternity even though it will be born out of wedlock."
It takes Booth a moment to mentally translate that into English, but once he has figured out what she's trying to say, that this is her way of balancing his promise from two days ago with a concession of her own, he knows there's really just one thing he can say to it.
She gives him a brief nod, and Booth is torn between the impulse to hug her and the realization that she doesn't want this to be a big deal, so he just places his hand on her arm and gives it a brief squeeze.
"You're welcome." Her voice sounds a little strained, and he decides that he needs to put her in a lighter mood for the rest of this discussion.
"Hey, what do you think of 'Brennan' as a first name? It is a first name, after all."
She seems taken aback. "I don't – I'm not sure it would be a good first name for a child. Brennan Booth…" She falls silent for a few seconds, but then she smiles. "I admit that I like the sound of that. It's originally a male first name, but I think it is considered unisex now, which would make it a practical choice. However, it is my understanding that due to our society's rigid concept of masculinity, a name becomes a less popular choice for boys as soon as it is has been used for both sexes for a while."
Booth is pretty relieved to hear that – he wasn't actually serious about the suggestion, and they would have been off to a bad start with the whole naming thing if he had to talk her out of a name he suggested. "Yeah, it does sound a little girly."
Her eyes narrow. "Is that so, Seeley?"
It feels downright weird to hear her address him with his given name, even if she just did it to prove a point. Booth holds up his hand in mock defeat. "Okay, okay, no need to rub it in."
His mother used to remind him that his name means Blessed One whenever he complained that he'd gotten teased at school again, but it has never kept him from wishing that his parents had blessed him with something a little more manly instead. He fleetingly wonders if Bones felt the same way about her own unusual name, but then he remembers how her classmates dubbed her 'Morticia' and figures she had bigger problems than that.
"In fifth grade, my classmates kept calling me 'Shirley', you know." He isn't entirely comfortable with sharing this particular childhood memory, because she's probably going to laugh – but he wants her to understand that he, too, knows what it means to be on the receiving end of schoolyard bullying, and that neither of them is going to risk exposing their child to that if they can help it.
To his surprise, Bones doesn't just laugh, she dissolves into a fit of giggles that leaves her red-faced and gasping for air. Booth watches her with growing astonishment and a tad of hurt – this is the woman who chewed him out for laughing about her Smurf story, after all, so he feels entitled to a bit more sympathy from her now.
"I'm… I'm sorry, Booth," she finally gets out between peals of laughter, "I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but…" She wipes her eyes and struggles for composure. "It's just that… did you tell them 'Don't call me Shirley'?"
"Are you serious?" Now Booth has to laugh too out of sheer bafflement. "You keep acting like you missed the invention of sound film, but you know that movie?"
"Russ loved it." Bones wipes her eyes and finally manages to catch her breath. "I never watched it myself, but he used to quote lines from it all the time."
Booth shakes his head. "The one time I'm hoping you won't get a pop culture reference…"
"I mean it, Booth, I'm sorry." She suddenly sounds serious. "I know how difficult it can be to be ridiculed by your peers for something that's out of your control."
"I dealt with it, Bones; it's okay." He doesn't tell her into how much trouble he got at home during that time because of the constant reprimands for fighting; it's over and done with. "And for the naming thing – maybe we should both start thinking about it now and discuss it again in a while?"
She nods. "That seems reasonable; we still have plenty of time to reach a decision, after all."
It's just one item on a long list of big decisions they keep putting off, and some of them will become very hard to avoid pretty soon, but Booth doesn't want to ruin their one day of real vacation time by bringing it up. "Yep, tomorrow is another day, Scarlett."
Bones smirks. "I know that one too."
"You've seen 'Gone With the Wind'? Even though it has sound and color?" Booth does his best to appear shocked, which earns him a good-natured eye roll from her.
"No, but I've read the novel."
She just smiles and doesn't reply. The silence that settles between them isn't exactly uncomfortable, but Booth is still feeling a little antsy while they both sit there and stare into the brown-greenish water of the river.
When there's nothing else you can think of, get her to talk shop.
"So the big mystery of the child martyr is all solved?" He's sure those speeches yesterday evening were all about that, but of course they were in German and left him half asleep and none the wiser.
If she's surprised by the sudden change of topic, she doesn't show it. "The evidence is conclusive, yes. Would you like to know the details?"
Booth raises his eyebrows; as far as he remembers, that question is a first for her. "That's why I'm asking, Bones."
She nods. "The only aspect of my findings that is congruent with the legend is the fact that the child was male, but he was at least five years old at the time of death, which carbon dating puts into the late sixteenth century – over a hundred years after the alleged ritual murder."
"That should be proof enough, I guess."
"True, but there's more – I was able to prove that cause of death wasn't exsanguination like the seventeenth-century source claims. The victim was suffering from a moderate case of rickets, which weakened his bones; cause of death was acute osteomyelitis following an open fracture to the left radius and ulna." She gives Booth a sidelong glance and elaborates, "Rickets was a common ailment among children from that time period because of the lack of vitamin D in their diet, which is necessary for the proper absorption of calcium. Symptoms are skeletal deformity and muscle weakness, which means that the victim probably had difficulty walking, and it is likely that the fracture occurred when he fell down and tried to brace his fall with his hands. The open fracture led to infection, and that in turn caused osteomyelitis, which is an inflammation of the bone marrow. Since this was long before antibiotics were available, the infection eventually killed the victim."
Booth swallows. "Sounds like a horrible way to die."
"It was probably a prolonged and very painful process, yes." Her tone is detached and clinical, and Booth can't decide if he should be relieved or worried about that.
"Was it difficult? You know, with…" He makes a vague gesture in the direction of her midsection, but then decides to go for honesty. "It just freaks me out to have you dealing with dead kids while you're pregnant, Bones."
To his utter surprise, she takes his hand and places it on her belly. "There were moments when I found myself emotionally affected, yes, but it has nothing to with my pregnancy. We all share a connection with other members of our species – I can see myself in every human being on my table, but I've told you before, Booth, my feelings are of no use to the dead. The only thing I can still give them is to reveal the truth about their deaths, and I can't do that if I allow myself to be ruled by my emotions." She looks him straight in the eye, but there's something in her expression that he can't read. "This is what I do, Booth, and it's not going to change."
"I know." Booth realizes belatedly that he's rubbing small circles into her belly and hastily withdraws his hand; he doesn't want to push her too far. "I think the dead are lucky to have you, Bones."
Her gaze softens. "Thank you." She seems hesitant to continue, but she still asks, "Do you think we'll be able to keep working together? I mean, I'm aware that I will have to stay out of the field during the later stages of my pregnancy, and the FBI might assign you another partner now that –"
"No way," Booth cuts her off before she can spin this idea any further. "You are my partner, Bones, and we'll make sure it stays that way. I'll make do with your squinterns for a while if I have to, but you'd better be back in the field with me after the baby is born, do you hear me?"
It's going to be one hell of a fight to make sure that the FBI doesn't split them up, and they definitely won't let her go into the field any more as soon as they learn of her pregnancy. Booth is more than okay with the latter, but he'll hand in his badge before he lets them assign him another squint, or Bones another FBI partner. He knows she'll never agree to staying in the lab for the sake of their baby, just like Parker's birth didn't make him switch to a desk job – what they do is dangerous, but nobody does it better than the two of them, and the only solution to that dilemma will be to keep watching each other's backs to make sure their child won't have to grow up without Mom or Dad.
Bones' expression is a mixture of surprise and relief. "You won't try to keep me from returning to fieldwork once I'm back from my maternity leave?"
Booth isn't nearly as comfortable with the idea as he's trying to make her believe, but he knows he'll have to deal with that on his own. "It's what we do, Bones, and it's not going to change."
She doesn't say anything, but the smile she gives him makes him sure he's doing the right thing, no matter how many sleepless nights it's going to cause him. Once again, they both turn to watch the gentle waves of the river, and Booth does his best to put every thought of upcoming troubles out of his mind and to enjoy the peaceful moment while it lasts.
As it turns out, it doesn't last long at all.
"We won't have to inform the FBI of my pregnancy for another while, will we?" She doesn't sound overly worried, but he can still hear the slight edge in her tone.
"I guess – but Bones, we'd better not put it off until you start showing, you know." The last thing they need is his superiors hearing the baby news through the office grapevine.
"I know." It's obvious that something else is bothering her. "Do you think we should tell our friends before that? It feels disingenuous to keep hiding it from everyone, but –"
Booth snorts. "Bones, the moment you tell Angela that you're having my baby, you might as well put it on the front page of the New York Times. We can't do this in bits and pieces – if my bosses hear about it from anyone but me, there's going to be hell to pay, and I really don't want to risk that."
"You're right." Is it his imagination, or does she really seem a little relieved? "We'll just wait a while longer, then."
"Right." If Booth is honest with himself, he has to admit that he isn't entirely certain how he feels about it himself, so it seems best to just let it go for the moment. Still, the silence that descends now is heavy with sudden tension, and the way Bones gnaws at her lower lip while she keeps her eyes fixed on the surface of the water tells him he isn't the only one who's struggling with the question where they're supposed to go from here.
When she finally breaks the silence, the unease in her voice is unmistakable. "Booth?"
"Yeah?" His throat closes up when he recognizes the look she's giving him – it's a look that takes him right back to that rainy night in Woodland.
"Do you love me?"
Booth inhales sharply. He knows that she isn't being coy or demanding; she's merely being a scientist again, a scientist who still doesn't have all the facts, and who is aware that all her evidence is circumstantial. When push comes to shove, she will always fall back on her strengths, and her greatest strength lies in research, in finding every clue and asking every question until she has gathered enough facts to come to a valid conclusion.
Do you love me? He can't help remembering all those times he told her he loved Hannah, and he has to wonder if she has gotten so used to the word being a barrier between them that she now has trouble believing it could ever become a bridge. He understands only too well that his answer won't be the end of her quest for the truth, only another step in a long, difficult process – and yet the fact that she's willing to ask him that question means that they might be farther down that road already than he would have dared to believe.
Do you love me? He has given her an answer to that question once before, but that was a dream, a fairy-tale world that they shared for a while; this is reality, and it doesn't do slow fade-outs and happily ever afters.
"I do," he finally says quietly, "but I know that I'll have to prove it to you."
She holds his gaze for a long while, and he wishes he could know what she's seeing in his eyes. Then she takes his hand and threads her fingers through his, and her voice is shaky with nerves when she replies, "Maybe… we can try to prove it to each other."
Booth stares at her, utterly dumbfounded, and her hopeful expression becomes confused and then more and more anxious the longer his stunned silence lasts.
"Booth?" He can't remember ever hearing her sound so insecure. "Will you tell me what you're thinking about?"
"The definition of insanity."
The answer is out before he has time to reconsider, and Bones' face turns ashen. She slowly lets go of his hand, and she seems to choke on her words when she finally whispers, "I understand."
"What? No!" Booth belatedly realizes his blunder, and he hastily reaches for her hand again. "I just thought – maybe we've been going with the wrong saying all along."
Bones frowns, but at least she doesn't pull her hand from his grasp. "I don't know what that means."
"I mean" – Booth gestures towards the rippling water of the Danube, even though his eyes never leave hers – "isn't there this old proverb that says you can't step into the same river twice?"
"It's a quote by a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus." Bones' face is lighting up with dawning comprehension. "No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man."
"Sounds pretty logical, when you think about it."
"The Greek word logos, on which our word 'logic' is based, was one of the central terms of Heraclitus' philosophy." She hesitates briefly, but then adds, "He was also the first to suggest the philosophical principle of the unity of opposites."
Booth feels a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Sounds like he's our guy, don't you think?"
"I think," Bones replies, and he can see his own smile reflected in her eyes, "that the evidence supports your conclusion."
A/N: I'd like to thank you all for sticking with this story until the end, and for encouraging me with your comments and feedback. I know that many Bones fans feel that they overdosed on angst during season 6 and would rather concentrate on baby-induced B/B happiness now, so I really appreciate it that you were willing to put up with more angst throughout this story.
(Warning: the following contains a few general remarks about the promos, so if you're 100% spoiler-free, stop reading now.)
This fic was mostly written for my own fannish peace of mind, because I was immensely unhappy with the way all the season 6 issues were left unresolved. I thought (and still think) that the makers used the baby!bombshell as a cheap way to sweep the whole mess that was season 6 under the rug, and I found myself completely unable to buy into the bright new future we're seeing in the promos because it came out of absolutely nowhere for me.
Since we'll likely be left to deal with that gaping hole between seasons 6 and 7 by ourselves, I needed to come up with my own answer to the question how B/B got from where we last saw them to where they seem to be in the premiere, and with a possible way how they could have resolved the issues they were bound to be struggling with after the events of season 6. That's how the idea for this fic was born, and even though I always knew the concept would likely not be too popular with most readers, I had to write it if I wanted to go into season 7 with any chance of enjoying the "new" Bones world we're about to see. I'm happy and grateful that there were readers who were willing to follow me on this path, and whose encouragement and thoughtful comments helped the writing process along.
Thank you again, my darlings – here's to an enjoyable season 7!