It's become this Twitter tradition to bombard the birthday girl with birthday fics and today's lucky winner is the wonderful eitoph, who asked me to write a fic that had something to do with an ex of either Booth or Brennan.
This fic took a little deviation from what you may have expected, but I did keep an ex in there. I hope you like it :) Happy birthday, E! If it wasn't for you I'd still be writing fics on my own, squee parties would be a lonely affair and I wouldn't have embraced Twitter. You deserve the best day! #FandomBesties. Love.
Thank you to some1tookmyname for the great help she provided in mother's advice and in making this fic better, hope you like the changes :)
Disclaimer: Hart Hanson just will not let me have them...I've begged, but he's stubborn.
Brennan overhears them from the kitchen.
It's not like she's eavesdropping, it is her own house and the builders left hours ago allowing a certain peace and quiet to fall over the mighty hut.
And it's not like they are saying anything scandalous.
But she overhears them. And she can't help but feel excluded in a way that makes her experience all kinds of irrational jealousy.
Rebecca speaks first, "Did you hear that Garry Spodinski got married?"
"Spuds? How? He was the biggest player in the game."
She hears a laugh, "I know! He found a girl though. I've heard only good things."
"Wow!" Booth sounds genuinely shocked, "I'm happy for him." A pause, "You keep in touch with him at all?"
"No, not anymore. Not since..." Another pause, and Brennan can almost see the interaction in her mind. Rebecca would be gesturing between herself and Booth, "I mean, he was always your friend."
"Yeah, I suppose he was."
It's quiet for a moment, then Brennan hears a sigh from Rebecca and though she doesn't think it logical to personify a sound, she feels like the sigh could be nostalgic, "I suppose the last time I saw him was when we all drove for miles to the middle of nowhere and let off those fireworks."
Booth laughs, "You were so against it."
"I was pregnant with Parker! I felt like everything was too dangerous."
"But you came anyway."
"Couldn't leave you to be the third wheel with Spuds and whoever he'd hooked up with that night."
Another laugh, "I think her name was Amanda."
"God, how do you even remember that?"
"They were good times, Rebecca, I remember a lot about them."
"They were good times." One last pause, "Thank you for taking Parker this weekend."
"Are you kidding? Thank you for letting me have some extra time with him."
"See you Monday morning?"
And the door closes gently after that.
She reminds herself again and again, in the seconds after the door closes, that it's nothing. It's less than nothing. It's just two old friends catching up at the door. Nothing at all.
Except that it is something. Because when Booth comes back to the kitchen to help unpack the dishwasher he doesn't say a word about the conversation he's just had.
She pokes a little, "What were you and Rebecca talking about?" She wonders if that was the right thing to ask, she knows that she can come off as a little blunt sometimes.
He reaches up to place a mug away, "Just an old buddy of ours got married."
And it's the way that he says ours that sticks with her. Because as much as she can say that she and Booth belong together, there was a time when he belonged to someone else.
He notices the way her eyes are downcast most of the way through dinner. She speaks animatedly to Parker and has her hand firmly against her very pregnant belly, like every other normal night, but he sees the way her fork moves the food from one side of the plate to the other, never really making its way to her mouth, he sees the way her lips move without producing sound, as though she has words to say, but doesn't know how to say them.
Once dinner is finished and Parker has disappeared to his bedroom, Booth breaches the subject, "Is everything okay, Bones?"
She looks up from the TV and when he glances at it to see what is on, he notices that she's been watching (or not really watching) infomercials for the last half hour, "Of course, Booth. I just feel more and more lethargic as the due date approaches."
"Mighty hut construction can't be helping that. Sorry," he offers.
She smiles a tired smile, "You have nothing to apologise for; the house is looking wonderful." Her eyes flick back towards the television for a second and he sees the way her forehead crinkles in confusion, as though she can't believe she's been watching such bad television for 30 minutes, "I should go to bed."
Knowing that she has been having trouble pulling herself up and out of his old couch, he moves to the front of her and helps her up, but keeps a firm hold on her hands as she tries to walk towards their bedroom, "What's going on, Bones?"
She finally looks him in the eye and he can see the emotions swimming there (she would say it's just her pregnancy hormones, but he can see the shadow lurking behind that excuse. He can see the truth). "It's nothing, really Booth."
He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, letting her cheek fall against his palm, "Bones, please. Is there something I can do?"
"That's the thing, Booth. It's nothing that can be fixed, it's in the past and you can't change that." Her words come out on a matter-of-fact whisper and he knows that she's fighting them.
"Is this about Rebecca and me?"
She closes her eyes against the hurt that comes with hearing their names together like that, like they were woven together by fate and destiny and all those things that she just can't believe in, "A little."
"Bones, you know there is nothing between Rebecca and I now. She will always be a part of my life because of Parker, but she and I are done and over. I love you. You know that."
She nods, sighing reluctantly at her inability to move past this uneasy feeling she's got, "But you did love her. Years ago, but it was still there." She wipes at a tear, frustrated with her body betraying her and how she feels, "I've never felt love before you, I wasn't even sure it existed and so it feels special and unique to you. But you've had other experiences of love and it's something I can never change, but I wish I could."
His thumb wipes away another stray tear from her cheek as he pulls her into his chest, "Bones, you're the only one I have felt this way about. Sure, love has been a part of my life longer than it has yours, but I have never been this in love with a person in my life."
She clings to him, afraid that her love will never be enough, but hoping that it can be. He whispers to her, sweet promises and gentle words of love, reassuring her for that night and for the rest of that week.
But there is a nagging thought that captures her every now and then.
How can she be sure this isn't like the others?
Once Charlotte enters their life, everything becomes chaotic in the greatest way possible. Most of the house is complete, but there are still a few small jobs here and there that the builders need to finish which means that for the first month of Charlotte's life she witnesses a lot of carpentry and curtain fittings. Brennan is ushered in and out of the house while the final coat of paint is being applied, even staying with Angela for a few nights so that Charlotte won't inhale any fumes that would do her damage.
It is a crazy time.
But somewhere, in amongst all of it, Booth organises a date night and while he cooks the best veggie lasagne the recipe base on Google can offer, Brennan calls her best friend to ask for some assistance.
"Hey Sweetie, how's the date night going with Agent Studly over there?"
Brennan smiles, "That's actually what I'm calling about."
Angela can't help herself, "Ooo, goss from the happy couple, what's going on?"
She sighs as she looks down at the wide awake baby in her arms, "Booth is really excited about tonight, he keeps saying that the way to my heart is through organisation and he has organised it wonderfully."
"But..." the artist prods.
"But we have a six week old who doesn't want to sleep at night."
"Ah, I see."
"And I know that yourself and Hodgins have regular date nights, so how do you get Michael to sleep?"
Angela smiles, touched that her best friend has come to her for this kind of advice, but there's no time to get sentimental. She knows how important date nights are in a new relationship, especially when a child is involved, "There are a few ways, but the one guaranteed thing is to settle her down and then just wrap the shirt you're wearing around her like a blanket so she has the comfort of your scent."
Brennan holds the phone between her ear and her shoulder while she places Charlotte in her cradle for the night, holding a hand against her small form until she settles into a relaxed state, her eyes drifting shut, "It's so simple, really." She starts undoing the buttons on her shirt, getting ready to give it to Charlotte, "And so obvious."
Angela can hear the way she's muttering, almost to herself, almost chiding herself for not thinking of it earlier, "Sweetie, you won't always know exactly what to do. It's knowing where to turn for help that makes the difference."
Brennan pulls off her blouse, leaving her standing over her daughter in a camisole, "Booth has gone to all this effort, Ang. I just thought if there was one thing I could do to help..."
"He loves you, Bren. And he loves that little girl too, so even if she doesn't sleep through, you two will have a great night."
"You always know the right thing to say."
Angela smiles, "That's what friends are for. And besides, he's totally going to propose, so it'll be a magical night no matter what."
It's hard to catch the hitch in Brennan's voice if you don't know to look for it, but Angela hears the hesitation, "He wouldn't propose, Angela. He knows my stance on marriage."
She shakes her head, sure that when the time comes her best friend will know what to do, "Say what you will, organising a special date just six weeks after Charlotte is born, it just seems like he has something that he's itching to give you."
Ignoring her last statement, Brennan thanks Angela for her help and hangs up.
She watches her tiny daughter curl up in her shirt, finding the scent comforting, and wishes life could be that simple for her. She wishes someone could speak for her and make all the right decisions for her. Most of all she wishes that the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach will just disappear.
But as she walks towards the dining room and sees everything that Booth has laid out for them and sees his grinning face looking towards her, love etched into each one of his features, she can't help but let the nagging take over.
What if this is just like the others?
To say it's an awkward dinner wouldn't be right, because it's not. It's a perfectly pleasing dinner. They talk and they eat and they talk some more and Brennan's mind is at ease, her thoughts far from the conversation she had with Angela only hours before.
It's when Booth begins to clear the table and takes a little longer in the kitchen than necessary that she starts to get suspicious. She slides her chair out slowly, carefully and makes her way to the kitchen behind her partner.
Later, she suspects that if she had just stayed in the dining room the shock would have been manageable, but standing there, right there, when he turns around, a small blue box in his hand, a delicate ring shining in the light, makes her head spin.
It must show on her face because he's there to ease her back onto one of the stools they have lined up against the breakfast bar, "Whoa, Bones, easy there." She can only stare at him and he can only describe her expression as afraid, "You should be in the dining room, I wanted to do this a little different."
"Do what, Booth?" She finds herself feeling angry at him, spitting the words before she's had a thought about the tone she's using.
"Well, you saw the ring, so I'm guessing you know."
He's still smiling and that infuriates her. How can he be so calm when she is so mad at him? How can he put her in this position? What if it is just like the others? What if she says no and he leaves her?
She doesn't answer him, can't. Her mind is overloading on everything that could happen from this second onwards and the onslaught has her mouth glued shut.
He steadies her on the seat and turns around to pick up the ring, "Bones, I've been thinking about how to prove to you that this is different. That our love is different."
She can't help herself, the words pour from her mouth in a confused nonsense, "No, Booth. It's okay, we're okay. You don't have to..."
He rests his palm against her cheek, hushing her softly, "It's okay, Bones. Trust me."
She looks into his eyes, sees the love there, sees the understanding and knows that he knows what he is doing. He knows the decision that he's forcing her to make.
And it hurts.
"Bones, I know you don't believe in fate, but we are the living proof of it. We were brought together when we each needed the other. We have been torn apart too many times to count, but we always gravitate back."
She tries to stop him again. If he doesn't ask, nothing has to change. But he continues through her protests, pulling out the ring and setting it on her lap, "Bones, marry me?"
She wonders briefly if this is how all his past girlfriends felt. She wonders if they saw this strong, handsome, kind man staring back at them and felt the exact way she feels now. She glances at the ring; it would be so easy to say yes, to live the life he wants. But she can't give up her beliefs for his. Their relationship is about compromise and she loves him, she knows that, but love isn't a piece of paper, love isn't a band of expensive metal on your finger. He taught her all that.
Love is warm Sunday mornings with pancakes in their new kitchen, love is movies turned down to mute while they sleep together on the couch, love is watching their baby girl grow a little more each day, love is Booth and Brennan, nothing more, nothing less.
She looks back at him and takes it all in, everything she could be about to lose in one word and utters, "No."
As though she knows something is happening, Charlotte chooses that moment to start crying. Brennan stands, letting the ring fall to the ground, a dull thud as the box closing resounds in the room. Booth gently takes her by the wrist, "We have to let her cry."
She can barely contain the tears anymore as she faces Booth one more time, "I just really need her right now."
Knowing that she has very likely ruined everything with Booth, she walks away from him feeling immeasurably angry with him. It's just like the others.
She thinks of Rebecca, standing at their front door all those weeks ago, laughing easily with Booth while she dropped off their son.
She hopes that at the very least she can have that with Booth one day too.
She can hear Booth clearing the rest of the table and washing the dishes. She rests her hand along Charlotte's chest and just feels her breathe. The tiny movement filling her with a sense of calm. She knows she should face Booth, but she's not quite ready to say goodbye yet. She's been there when this has happened before, when the woman he loved couldn't give him everything he wanted. She's seen the hurt, she's seen the anger.
What she hasn't seen though, is Booth opening the door to the nursery behind her. She hears him though, feels him, "Hey."
She turns around to face him, not knowing what to expect, but bracing herself for it anyway, "Want to come out here? You didn't let me finish before."
Brennan nods, turning back to Charlotte once more, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead, drawing comfort from her.
They sit on the couch this time, inches between them feeling like worlds.
"I can't change my mind, Booth." Her voice is steadier than she feels and for that she is proud.
"I'm not asking you to, Bones."
She looks him directly in the eye, "Then why would you ask of me the one thing that you know I can't do?"
He pulls the ring box from his pocket again, "Because I'm trying to prove a point here."
Her line of vision flirts with the ring, wondering why the hell he is doing this to her.
"I asked you, knowing you'd say no. I know that marriage has never been a part of the plan for you."
"Then why, Booth? Why would you make me face that decision?" She can't keep the edge out of her voice, the anger dissipating, but lingering.
"I needed you to say no. Because once you said it, I could prove to you how our love is different." He pauses, rolls the ring around in his fingers, "With the others, the goal has been marriage. I rushed things, I moved too fast trying to get it right, but with you, marriage doesn't even matter. If you said yes tonight I would have been happy, but that happiness is just the same as what I feel right now. I haven't lost something, I've still got you." He looks up at her, begging her silently to understand him, "This doesn't have to be an engagement ring; it can sit on any other of your fingers and still hold the same meaning. This ring is just a pretty decoration. It's taken me years to see that. Years to see what you see, Bones."
She tilts her head, "What are you saying?"
He takes her right hand in his, slipping the ring over her middle finger, "I'm saying that you saying 'no' doesn't make me angry, it doesn't make me want to run away." He inches closer, "If anything, it makes me want you more."
She feels her heart beating wildly in her chest, "You still love me?"
"And you don't want to get married?"
"And the ring..."
"Looks better on the other hand anyway."
She smiles and he kisses her; that kind of searing kiss that leaves her breathless in all of two seconds. She's not sure whether it's his sudden understanding of her views or whether the prospect of losing him forever has got her feeling so giddy, but she can't help but reach for him, grasping his t-shirt, pulling him to her. The moment before she loses herself in him, she catches the glittering diamonds out of the corner of her eye and can't help but let a chuckle escape her.
It could never have been like the others.