Early on, I received a message from a reader who wondered what this story was about. For the rest of the readers, here was my answer:
"This story is coming from my wish to see Booth and Brennan have a deeper connection. Right now, certain episodes of the series end with the message that Brennan needs to change in order for their relationship to progress. I'm offering the possibility that maybe it's not her who has to change but how others perceive her. This story ultimately is about perception and how a simple change in perspective can make us love someone more."
Thank you for all your support and feedback, and I hope you enjoy the last chapter of The Change in the Heart.
Chapter 12: Somebody Loved
Side by side, Booth and Bones entered the Founding Fathers. With his hand on the small of her back, Booth felt things returning to normal. It had been a crazy week, but in the proceeding calm, their rhythm was back and maybe even strong than before.
Spotting their friends, the couple made their way to a large booth. Cal scooted over to make room. "You been leaving me alone with these fools too longs."
Bones looked around the table in shock. "And there are a lot of them."
Playing off their presence as completely natural, Angela smiled, "We got to squeeze in as much hang time as we can cause once we're both on the mamma track, the bar scene is going to be pretty off limits."
Booth gave the table a subdued smile. "Good to see you Caleb."
"Good to see you too man."
Cam pointed to the now empty booth seats. "Sit down why don't you. We have absolutely no room but plenty of food."
"How's the house hunting going?" Hodgins returned to the table with everyone's drinks.
The couple replied, "It's not."
"We're still looking. Nothing we've seen has been right for us."
Wiping the water off the side of his beer, Cal flicked the drops on Bones. "Given up on the you-made dream?"
She mock scowled at his antics. "It's not a viable option anymore."
Booth took her hand in his. "You know where you want to live?"
Cal grinned. "Miss modern woman here said if she were ever to choose a permanent residence, she'd build it herself."
Her partner scoffed. "You build something?"
Before she could deny such ponderings, Cal looked her in eye and recalled, "You wanted to understand the structure of a home like you understood the structure of everyone else."
She began fiddling with her napkin self-consciously. "I wanted to know the place that sheltered me."
Booth quickly picked up on her sincerity and adjusted his tone for compassion. "You can't really learn about that stuff on the job. Contractors and workers spend years studying how to build safely."
"Which is why she went to school in Chicago."
To Booth's raised brow, Sweets supplied, "Frank Lloyd Wright."
Hodgins added, "Rem Koolhas."
Bones murmured, "George Maher."
Angel tone flickered with awe. "You were interested in Architecture."
"She spent years reading up on it and volunteering with habitat for humanity to gain experience. That was actually how she kept getting scholarships and such."
She admitted, "The activity was both informative and practical."
Clark nodded. "It's true intelligence is no longer enough to earn on admission to top schools. One must have a resume of activities and volunteer participation to demonstrate how 'well-rounded' one is."
Booth frowned, "Yet you still can't fix a sink."
"Electricity, plumbing, interior decor - they are superficial matter which are of no interest to me, not like structure."
"Structure as in?"
"Walls, roofs, Gales, foundations, quoins."
Cam smiled, "The difference between tissue and bones."
While the rest of the table carried on in conversation, Booth mulled over the revelation. After a few moments, he murmured to Bones, "We don't really have the time to build something from scratch, but we can always tear apart whatever we end up with. Make it our own."
She looked over with surprise, "I still don't know anything about wires and pipes."
"I know enough to keep you from burning the place down or flooding it, and the rest ,we'll find someone to help us with."
"We still have to choose a place." Her eyes sparkled with interest but were laced with reluctance.
"Sure, but this makes it easier." He smiled at her confused expression. "As long as we can agree on the area the actual house doesn't have to be a perfect fit. In fact the more stuff we don't like about it the more chances we to work and change it."
By now the rest of the table was tuned into their discussion.
Cal nudged her. "The more you hate the more you fix."
Appreciating the backup - no matter the source, Booth grinned. "Exactly."
Never one to forget practicalities, Cam chirped, "You two remember you have jobs right? Important ones."
Bones nodded. "Cam's right, what you're suggesting would require a great deal of time and energy."
Angela reluctantly added a nod. "Which new parents don't really have a lot of."
Cal just rolled his eyes. "No one says you have to do it all at once."
Not liking the audience, Booth batted their attention away. Once it looked like they were focusing on their menus, he suggested, "Let's look at the no pile again and figure what's doable and what's not, but I gotta say, I like the idea of incorporating a little home improvement into our lives."
Sweet peaked over his menu. "I've been saying for years that you two need hobbies." He lifted it up just in time to protect himself from the nuts Booth launched at his head.
Her face remained reserved, but Bones' eyes were smiling. "You're serious."
"What do you say Bones?" Brushing a strand of hair from her forehead, Booth tapped it gently, "You still harboring architect fantasies in there?"
She squeezed the hand holding hers. "Let's take another look at the no pile."
Seeing the pair in the midst of a sentimental, "couple" moment, the rest of the table resumed conversation and gave them a bit of privacy.
Not wishing to exclude Cal from the friendly banter - after all, he was kind of the reason for the current get together , Hodgins turned to him, "So Cal what weird hobbies you got going?
"Music is my thing and there's no secret in that. I don't hide stuff like Temper here."
Having reached her canoodling-in-public tolerance level, Bones turned with a smirk. "I remember the days when you wanted to be a dog whisperer."
Sweets popped back into their conversation, "You have the gift?"
"I have appreciation for the gift."
His mild embarrassment amused her. "And a high tolerance for dog chatter."
"They ain't makin noise for no reason. They're trying to communicate."
Angela cooed, "I want to talk with a puppy."
When he saw her turning towards him, Hodgins scowled. "No. No. We are not getting a dog so you can try and girl talk with it."
The conversation continued with laughter, food, and friendly vibes all around.
Mid-meal, Bones looked around the table and saw that amidst old friends and new ones there was a perfect Brennan sized spot. Her particular set of skills, her humor, the things she brought to the situation which were all her own - they fit here; she fit here.
Cal was the first friend to make her feel like she belonged, but he wasn't the last. The table was full of people she loved who loved her back just as dearly.
Years ago, he'd told her this would happen. Caleb told her everything was going to turn out alright. She nodded for his sake, but now, she believed it. She finally believed their lives were turning out alright . . . better even.
Booth would call it faith, but she'd say it was experience. Enough years had passed with people staying in her life for her to believe they always would. The people she loved: Booth, Angela, Cal, they would never abandon her. The trust their love couldn't earn, their actions had. Time proved them loyal and permanent, and she now believed them to be constant.
The week of change finally passed and so did the weekend. All too soon, Monday appeared, and Cal was on his way again.
He'd come by her office to say goodbye. Of course, he couldn't leave without having one last meal with his ole' Temper, so Booth, Bones, and Cal shared a friendly lunch at a nearby deli. Booth made an effort to get to know his partner's pal, and Cal effortlessly made fun of everyone and everything.
Following the amiable lunch break, they in the parking lot just outside Booth's car. Bones looked down a ways to see Cal's car all packed and ready to go.
Giving them privacy for a goodbye, Booth told them to go on ahead while he checked in with work.
The pair prolonged the short walk with slow steps. Bones breached the silence first. "We should make a plan now when we'll see each other next . . . . but we won't will we?"
"That's not us. The world can makes its plans. We'll do what we want when we want."
"So if I decide I want to see you every month forever, you're fine with it?"
Laughing, he swung is arm across her shoulders. "If tomorrow you decide you want to live in my apartment indefinitely, I'm cool with it. I'd probably rearrange your CDs and trash your girly products when you weren't lookin but . . ."
She smiled but her tone turned serious again. "Do you really think I can be a mom?"
"You were meant for a family. Now, you're finally getting one. I can't think of anyone who could be a mom more."
She shook her head good naturedly, "That sentence doesn't make sense."
"You know what I mean."
" Yeah, I do. Thanks."
"If I ever think of settling down, I expect the same kind of no-mocking generosity."
"Temper," he warned.
She brought her hand up to her shoulder to cover his. "I'll be so sincere you won't know what to do with me."
"No one ever does."
Their smiles started off bright, but then steadily dimmed.
Their walk had to end eventually. They knew it when they started, but the reality of parting still left them a bit stunned.
They both grew quiet as they stopped in front of his car. They started to pull a part but at the last moment, Bones turned to take him into a full hug.
"The longer we go without seeing each other the easier it is not to. Thanks for not doing the easy thing."
He hugged her back as reassurance that when it came to them, obstacles just didn't matter. Neither time nor distance could break what they got.
Then, before all his manliness could be impeached, he stepped back and held out his fist. "Squirt it."
She raised hers to his and they splayed their hands upon parting.
With intuitive timing, Booth appeared at her side. "Bye Cal. Drive safe."
"Take care man." Cal entered the driver side and spoke through the open window. "When baby B gets to be playing age, you call me alright? I'll come with trumpets a bursting."
He smirked. "Sorry, our kid is going the jock route. Can't fight destiny."
Bones turned in confusion. "I don't remember agreeing to that."
"You're carrying part of me in there. It was implied."
"FBI guy has got a point."
"Off with you" She waved her hand in a flutter adding under breath, "troublemaker."
And off he went - out of the garage and out of their lives, at least for the time being.
She watched the car until it turned out of sight at which point Booth thought it time to share his update. "We got a case. You think you're ready?"
She looked at the empty space before them and gave a watery smile. "Yeah, I think I am."
He knew the tears were part sadness and part hormones, so he didn't comment. He just placed his hand on the small of her back and lead her back to their world: the one full of stress and murderers, family and friends, and the one overflowing with love.
"So what was that thing you guys did - squish it?"
She laughed through the tears and held up her fist. "Squirt it."
Their world wasn't perfect, but it was undeniably theirs, and for the first time, he realized he wouldn't change a thing - not about him or her or them. He loved their lives just the way they were.
Lifting his fist, he met his with hers in the air between them and smiled at the rightness of it. Trust, compromise, and a little bit of silliness were at the heart of their partnership. It was that combination which made two imperfect people into the perfect team. As long as they remembered that, they'd be just fine. She had confidence based on experience that was the case, and he had faith, but if one of them forgot, they each had the other to remind them, love them, and assure them that everything was going to be alright.
Neither partner ever hoped of more.
As is my way, I hereby end this fic with a song, and for those of you who still can't help but suspect a romantic element in the Cal Bones dynamic (they really were just friends), I'm saying right now when I included this song, I was thinking only of Bones and Booth.
So long loyal readers and take care!
Rain turns the sand into mud
Wind turns the trees into bone
Stars turning high up above
You turn me into somebody loved
Nights when the heat had gone out
We danced together alone
Cold turned our breath into clouds
We never said what we were dreaming of
But you turned me into somebody loved
Someday when we're old and worn
Like two softened shoes
I will wonder on how I was born
The night I first ran away from you
Now my feet turn the corner back home
Sun turns the evening to rose
Stars turning high up above
You turn me into somebody loved