Disclaimers: Hart Hanson created the show, Kathy Reichs inspired it. No money is involved, just a little creativity on my part.
This one-shot is set around Christmas 2011, so spoiler warnings for Season 7 apply. I'm working under the theory that the Brennan/Booth baby will be due around January (although the kid will probably be born before the winter hiatus). This is just a one-shot bit of holiday cheer for our favorite crime-busting couple. Also a brief reference to a Christmas past ("The Santa in the Slush") and a fairly obvious in-joke.
THE PICKLE IN THE PLUM PUDDING
"Hey, Bones," Seeley Booth called from the front door of his and Temperance Brennan's new home, hefting a stack of parcels with one arm while negotiating with the doorknob. He paused briefly as he noticed the lilting jazz vocals pouring out of the sound system.
"It's that time of year, when the world falls in love,
Every song you hear seems to say…
Merry Christmas, may your New Year's dreams come true…
And this song of mine, in three-quarter time,
Wishes you and yours the same thing too."
Brennan was sprawled on the sofa, her hands resting on her swollen abdomen, and she turned her head toward the door at the sound of Booth's voice. "Hey, Booth," she answered, her smile warm and welcoming. "You're a little late home from work. Were you running some errands?"
"Yeah, something like that," Booth answered, gently placing his packages on the coffee table and joined Brennan on the couch. Her body instinctively leaned against his, her head cuddling gently onto his shoulder. "The gal at Target called me to let me know that the netbook we ordered for Parker had been delivered, so I swung by there to pick it up."
"That's good," Brennan nodded approvingly. "I'm confident that Parker will enjoy his new netbook very much."
"Yeah," Booth agreed. "Oh, and Gordon Gordon wanted me to stop by his restaurant."
Brennan raised an eyebrow. "How is Gordon doing?"
"Oh, he's fine. He's flying to England this weekend to spend the holidays with family, but he gave us a gift." Gesturing toward the packages he dropped on the coffee table, he added, "The top package contains a genuine British plum pudding, made by Gordon Gordon himself."
Brennan frowned slightly as she regarded the package. "Traditional plum pudding lists beef suet as a key ingredient," she observed, "and as you are aware, I am a vegetarian."
"I checked with Gordon, and he assured me that he made some changes in the recipe," Booth assured her. "He used vegetable shortening instead of suet, so you shouldn't have any problems with it."
"Other than my aversion to cooked fruit," she groused playfully.
"Hey, it's something we can serve when everyone's over for Christmas dinner. Gordon had me taste a sample of the stuff. It's a bit rich but actually pretty tasty."
Brennan nodded lightly in acquiescence. "Gordon is an exceptional chef," she conceded. "I may sample a piece during Christmas dinner."
"That's great," Booth kissed the top of Brennan's head. "Hey, who's that singing?"
"Oh, the music?" Brennan turned toward the stereo system. "That's from a vocal group called 'She and Him'. I normally don't listen to Christmas music, but I find the lead singer's vocals to be quite relaxing."
Booth chuckled at her reserved, clinical observation. When he and Brennan finally overcame the final barriers that had kept them apart for so long, he knew going in that she was an unapologetic atheist and he wouldn't be able to change that, any more than she would change his devotion to the tenets of Catholicism. While they might occasionally challenge each others' beliefs as they had done from the beginning of their partnership, he found that he had no desire to change her views. They were part of what made Temperance Brennan who she was; the opinionated, brilliant, self-assured, logical, argumentative, challenging, sometimes infuriating woman to whom he had gladly given his heart.
He glanced around the room of their home. Just last month he and Brennan signed the papers for their new place, a spacious two-floor, four bedroom brownstone on Washington Street, in the Kingman Park area. Booth had insisted on paying half of the total price, and despite Brennan's initial misgivings, they were able to pool their resources to purchase a handsome and spacious home for their family. Booth had suggested four bedrooms, so that they could have a guest room as well as a space that Brennan could use as an office. Brennan was pleasantly surprised at how much thought Booth had put into their move, as well as how he was considering her needs as well as his. The fact that their new home sported a sizable backyard with an enormous oak large enough to support a good sized treehouse helped to seal the deal.
Two nights previous, they had brought home a seven-foot tall spruce, set it up in the living room and decorated it with strings of L.E.D lights, glass balls, candy canes and yards of fabric ribbon. Booth was initially hesitant to broach the subject, but Brennan not only agreed to the tree without argument, but she even pitched in with the tree-trimming. This sense of Brennan wanting to share Booth's life warmed his heart the core.
Turning his attention from the tree, he lifted Brennan's chin with his forefinger, bringing her face in line with his. "I probably mentioned this before," he said gently, "but I'm glad you invited the squints over for Christmas dinner. I know that Christmas isn't really your thing, so I wanted you to know that I do appreciate it."
Brennan smirked knowingly at Booth. "Yes, you have mentioned it before, Booth. Numerous times." She moved her head towards his for a quick, affectionate kiss, and then added, "However, I find the repetition quite pleasant. Besides, I find that I am looking forward to spending the holiday with our friends and family." Regarding the fetus gestating within her, she smiled serenely and added, "I enjoy being part of a larger family, of regarding the word 'family' as more than an abstract concept."
"Same here, Bones," Booth answered whole-heartedly. "Okay, I'll be doing a grocery run for the big day, so just to plan how much food we need, who all is coming? Will Max be here?"
"Yes, he will," Brennan confirmed. "Russ will be out of town, however. We also invited Angela, Hodgins, Sweets, Dr. Saroyan, Mr. Bray and Mr. Abernathy. Angela and Hodgins will bring Michael with them, but as he's still on formula, that shouldn't affect meal preparations. They also volunteered to bring a pumpkin cheesecake. And I told Sweets that he could bring Daisy. I trust that you invited Hank?"
"Yeah, Pops'll be there. And Jared's in India with his fiancé. Oh, and Rebecca has Parker for Christmas, but he'll be over in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, and will stay for dinner. I hope that's not imposing..."
"Not at all, I'm glad that Parker will be able to join us," Brennan smiled. "And don't worry, I will not disabuse him of any beliefs he has regarding the myth of Santa Claus."
"That won't be a problem," Booth admitted. "He's at that age where he knows the mall Santas are just guys in red suits."
"Some of whom have a fondness for bird's nest soup," Brennan quipped, while Booth winced.
"You had to remind me of that case?" he growled slightly. "I'll never be able to think about 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' the same way again. Okay, so it's the Squint Squad, that's seven in all, plus Pops, Max and us."
"So that makes a total of eleven for dinner, not counting Michael," Brennan tallied the figures mentally, "and I of course won't be having any turkey, but I'm sure that you and the others would like some, so keep that in mind when making purchases. A twenty-pound turkey should be enough to feed everyone without worrying about leftovers."
Booth regarded Bones with a glare of mock-incredulity. "Are you kidding, Bones? What's Christmas dinner without leftover turkey? I'll be planning on at least a week's worth of turkey sandwiches. It's tradition. Tell ya what, I'll pick up a Tofurkey as well as the regular bird. That way you can do leftover sandwiches too."
Brennan couldn't restrain the light chuckle as she observed Booth, seeing him get worked up about every holiday tradition. Which reminded her...
"Booth," her tone became more serious, prompting Booth to give her his undivided attention. "I would like to suggest a new tradition that we can establish this year, for when Parker's over on Christmas Eve."
"What did you have in mind?" Booth's curiosity was piqued by Brennan's statement.
Brennan turned to the end table next to the couch and picked up two objects. "I took the liberty of purchasing a second gift for Parker. I hope you don't mind."
"Hey, no problem," Booth answered. "I'm sure he'll be thrilled. What's the gift?"
Brennan handed him one of the two objects, a large paperback book. Booth read the title of the book aloud; "The Cartoon Guide to Physics, by Larry Gonick and Art Huffman."
"It's a very highly recommended book," she commented. "It explains concepts of physics, specifically motion and electro-magnetism, in an accessible and entertaining comic-book format." At Booth's slight scowl, she added, "I know, you prefer the term 'graphic novel', but in this case that would be misleading, as the word 'novel' implies fiction, and this is not a work of fiction, but an educational guide..."
"In other words, exactly what it says on the cover," Booth summed up Brennan's statement. He thumbed through the book, glancing at a few of the pages, noticing the black-and-white cartoony illustration style throughout each page of the book. "I think you're right, Parker would love this book." Brennan beamed at Booth's words of praise. "So what's this tradition you want to try out?"
"Well," Brennan answered, "it involves this." She withdrew the other item she had taken from the end table and handed it to Booth. Booth examined the object he held; a blown glass tree ornament, painted green and decked with a small red ribbon tied in a bow at the top. But the shape of the ornament surprised him.
"Bones, is this a pickle?"
"Yes," she answered plainly. "According to some traditions, the pickle ornament originated in Eastern Europe over two hundred years ago, although the veracity of these claims has been disputed." Noticing how Booth's eyes began to glaze over as they normally did when she discussed anthropology, she added, "More immediate to the matter at hand, the pickle ornament was something that I used to do as a child, before..." She didn't finish the sentence, and Booth didn't press her. He knew that her adolescence inside the foster parent system was still a sore subject for her, as were the circumstances behind her parents being forced to abandon her and her brother. He smiled sympathetically at her, letting her know without words that he understood.
"Well," she continued, "when I was about Parker's age or younger, every year Mom and Dad would decorate a tree about a week before Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve, after Russ and I were in bed, they would hang a glass pickle ornament on the tree. The next morning, when we came downstairs to open our gifts, they would have us search the tree for the pickle ornament, and whichever one of us found the ornament would get an additional gift. Usually a smaller item, like a book or a Revell model or something along those lines."
"Wait," Booth interrupted, "you were into Revell models?"
Brennan's face dimpled. "I had a Cutty Sark model I was very proud of. I did everything myself, including rigging and sails. Russ' favorite was a GTO with detailed engine. How about you?"
"You kidding, Bones? I loved those models. I had the Enterprise," Booth bragged.
Booth looked at him quizzically for a second. "Would that be the aircraft carrier, the space shuttle or the starship from that 'Star Trek' show?"
"Star Trek," Booth clarified. "Yeah, I remember making models as a kid." He turned his attention to the ornament in his hand. "Excuse me for a second," he gently and reluctantly disengaged the cuddling session with Brennan and approached the tree, ornament in hand. "We don't want it to be too hard for Parker to find," he examined the tree briefly, before selecting a bare branch, where he was able to hang the pickle by its braided silver loop. "There we are," he turned back to Brennan. "Not to obvious, but not hidden way in the back, and safely within the strike-zone." Brennan's brow began to crease in a way that Booth, over the six years of their partnership, could identify instantly. "Before you say 'I do not know what that means', that's a baseball reference. The strike zone means where a pitched ball can cross the plate, between the batter's shoulders and knees, in order to be a legal strike if the batter doesn't hit it. Over or under, it's called a ball."
"And in using the term 'strike-zone' in this instance," Brennan surmised, "you're referring to Parker's height, and you're keeping the ornament where he can reasonably see it, and reach it without assistance."
"You got it," Booth smiled broadly. Returning to the sofa, he added, "And if he can't find the ornament in ten minutes or less, I reserve the right to say 'colder, warmer', okay?"
Brennan looked back at the tree, a little wistfully. "Dad used to do that with Russ and me." She suddenly returned her gaze to her distended abdomen, her hand taking Booth's and placing it on her belly. "She kicked."
"Really?" Booth displayed his trademark goofy grin as his hand rested patiently on Brennan's belly. Within a few seconds, he too felt the sudden movement of his unborn daughter against the walls of her mother's womb. "Whoa," he whispered in awe. "Kid's kicking soccer goals in there. Way to go, Mia Hamm!"
Brennan half-scowled, half-smiled at Booth; "As strong a role model as Mia Hamm may be, I have no plans to name our daughter after her."
"We still have a month to worry about it, Bones," Booth answered. "But seriously, I wanna thank you."
"You're welcome," Brennan nodded. "May I ask why, just so I know what I'm taking credit for?"
"For including Parker," Booth answered. "For letting him know you care about him."
"I do, Booth. He's a wonderful child. It is important for me to include him, as he is your son and a vital component in your life." Turning around slightly, she leaned easily into his embrace, allowing his strong arms to encompass her, his hands to gently caress her belly. "I think I finally understand what it means now."
"What what means?"
Brennan tilted her head to look at Booth's, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "The first year that Angela and I were friends, she insisted that I read this book that she had enjoyed. It was 'Stranger in a Strange Land' by Robert Heinlein."
"Not too familiar with Heinlein," Booth admitted. "I was more into Tolkien as a kid."
"The book was about a human," Brennan continued, "who was born of two members of a Mars expedition. The expedition members died on Mars, and the infant survivor, who was named Valentine Michael Smith, was raised by indigenous Martians, and later came to Earth as an adult. It got bogged down in metaphysical, overly spiritual nonsense in the second half, but there was one passage that always intrigued me. Smith had asked a doctor who had befriended him, 'What is love?' The doctor, after some thought, answered, 'love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.'" She placed her hand on Booth's cheek, feeling the faint trace of stubble over his jaw line. "I never fully understood what that meant, until this year. I love you, Seeley Joseph Booth."
Booth regarded Brennan's proclamation with a naked awe, like observing a sunrise over the clouds. "You just summed the two of us up in one phrase," he whispered. "And I love you, Temperance Brennan."
The kiss they exchanged was not a prelude to passion, although they both sensed that the next few might be, but an affirmation of the love they had shared for so long and could only vocalize during this past year. Booth had finally learned to accept this challenging, exasperating woman on her terms, and found in her his ideal partner in business, friendship and love. And Brennan had finally realized that giving all of herself to another did not lessen herself, but instead created a whole many magnitudes larger than the sum of its parts.
Soon they would release their embrace, if for no better reason than to eat. Later they would retire to their bedroom and allow their passions to overwhelm them as they made love ('Not just sex', Brennan admitted to herself, 'Booth was so right about that.'). But for now, her body reclining against his, bathed by the flickering glow of the lights on the tree, there was nowhere else on this Earth that they desired to be at that moment.