This every day thing is just not working out for me. I swear I'm making an effort; I really, really am. I'm even trying to make them longer-ish to make up for it. It's possible though that this will be the last one I manage before the deadline. F-a-i-l-u-r-e.
Day 13: Brennan admits to missing her mom.
Brennan's birthday falls on a Saturday, and she wakes up to the weight of her two year old pressing down on her chest.
Christine looks over her shoulder to her father for confirmation she's relayed the message properly; when Booth gives an encouraging smile from the corner of the room, she begins to bounce enthusiastically on her mother's ribcage.
"Oh, thank you," Brennan murmurs. She places a stabilising hand on Christine's tiny hip as her daughter slips and comes dangerously close to tumbling off the bed. "Careful."
"We made breakfast." Booth approaches the bed and dives onto it. Brennan groans as his actions draw laughter and further discomfort causing bouncing from their daughter. "Everything you like."
"Why?" she asks sleepily.
"Why? Because it's your birthday and we don't have to go to work. This is the first year I've had time to do more than throw a piece of toast at you as we run out the door. Come on; get up."
"Get up," Christine echoes.
Brennan chuckles lowly and clears her throat. "You're both very bossy."
"There's presents, too," Booth informs her. "Good ones."
"Thank you," she repeats. She rubs the sleep out of her eyes and once again just-barely stops Christine from falling to the floor. "Thank you."
Booth makes a big deal out of birthdays. And Christmas. And Easter and Memorial Day and everything in between. She's learned to embrace his enthusiasm and oftentimes it proves infectious, especially since having Christine, but today the freedom of Saturday has given him the means to truly outdo himself.
The attention is overwhelming. While she can enjoy celebration in the form of dinner or drinks or the cake Angela insists be purchased to commemorate every employee in their department's 'special day,' Booth hands Christine another gift to hand to her and as she accepts the carefully – if clumsily – wrapped package, there is something about the intimacy of this scene that leaves her feeling unexpectedly unsettled.
The most frustrating part lies in her inability to pinpoint exactly why.
When Booth is making lunch a few hours later, he absently notes that he hadn't remembered to buy french bread while doing the grocery shopping the day before. Brennan jumps at the chance to get out of the house for five minutes and sort her thoughts.
She leaves their home fully intending to go to the store down the street, buy bread, and return immediately. Though there's a memory pulling at her just beyond where she can reach it, though she's frustrated, she wants to be with her family. But while she's perusing the bread options, she overhears a woman explaining to her small child her reasoning for buying multigrain bread.
The child is clearly not impressed by the logic and a great deal of whining begins. Brennan quickly makes her selection and retraces her steps back to the front of the store, but as the calm, even tone of the child's mother catches faintly in her ears, something slips into place for her.
Max talks about her mother all the time, and while Brennan generally clings to these fragments and does her best to fit them in with her own fractured memories, there are occasions when his stories – which she never asks him to share – only serve to make her angry. Sometimes, it still simply hurts too much to think about her childhood, and she resents that she's expected to listen to him reminisce just because it makes him feel better. But standing here, she remembers birthdays. She remembers her mother's indulgence of her and her brother's every whim. Booth has been going out of his way to make every second memorable for her and it takes her back to a time when she's young and special and for 24 hours, her words are law.
There's a small selection of potted plants at the checkout, and when she adds them to her purchase she again doesn't know exactly why, but once she's back in her car, she turns right toward the highway instead of left toward the house.
It feels silly, sitting on the cold ground in front of a marker which represents a person who has ceased to exist. Once, she had promised Booth she would visit his grave and talk to him. Even back then, she had known pretending he could hear her would provide a modicum of comfort. She knows his expressions and inflections and how he would react to almost any given thing she says or does. Her mother is a stranger. She has a handful of memories, all containing the bias of a child, and no reliable knowledge of the person her mother had really been.
She rests the flowers against the headstone. It's a tradition she still doesn't quite understand but she finds them pretty and she supposes that in itself is probably at least part of the reasoning. It's a comfort measure for the person doing the visiting, like talking aloud and pretending there's someone to hear. Bringing flowers is bringing life to a place where there is none.
She doesn't notice the changing position of the sun in the sky. She doesn't notice the rise and fall in the temperature. She's lost in her own world until she spots a pair of sneakers in her peripheral vision just before another person drops to the ground beside her.
"Booth! What- how did you know where to find me?"
"Angela's program," he answers sheepishly.
Her face scrunches in disapproval. "We are becoming entirely too quick to use that. It's unethical."
"Well, you went to the store to buy one thing five hours ago, Bones. I got worried."
Brennan instinctively reaches into her coat pocket for her phone, but she finds nothing but a pen and a pair of latex gloves. Before she can finish mentally recalculating when she had seen the device last, Booth waves it in front of her.
"Oh." It's her turn to sound sheepish.
"Oh is right. What were you thinking? Leaving it out on the front seat where anyone could take it..."
"Are many cars burglarised in cemeteries?"
"Cute. You shouldn't encourage that kind of thing, Bones. I mean the least you could have done was put it in the glove compartment."
"I thought it was in my pocket."
Booth leans back on his palms and turns his head toward the gravestone. "I mean no disrespect, Mrs. Keenan, but your daughter can be a real pain in my ass."
"I am not!" she responds indignantly, then reflexively turns to face the stone as well. "I'm not."
Booth chuckles, and Brennan finds her glare melting.
"That's the first thing I've said to her in all the time I've been sitting here," she confesses. "I'm not good at this, Booth."
"There's no right or wrong way, Bones. Something brought you here today... if you've found what it was you were looking for, that's all that matters."
Brennan turns this over in her mind and absently bites her lip. "I don't know what I'm looking for." Booth looks as if he intends to say something, and she rushes to get her words out first. Because she's not quite ready to talk about this. "Where's Christine?"
"In the car."
She snaps to attention, absolutely horrified until she sees the ghost of a smirk resting on his face. "Booth."
"I took her over to Angela's once I figured out where you were. She's fine."
Brennan exhales deeply. "That wasn't funny."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"My mom loved birthdays," she tells him out of the blue. "I forgot."
She turns to face him again and she waits expectantly for him to contribute something to this, but he remains quiet and eventually she continues.
"She always bought two cakes; one to eat for breakfast, in bed," – she giggles as if she's confessing to something especially naughty – "and then another one for after dinner."
"She loved you, Bones. Not birthdays."
"She made me feel like I was the most important person in the entire world," Brennan reminisces. "Like you do. Except, I know you, Booth. I didn't know her. I never did. And now she's gone."
"You have memories of her. Great ones."
"I had memories of my father, too. And the perception of him I had founded on those memories shifted drastically after he came back," she points out.
Booth can't help rolling his eyes. "Max is... well, Max. But the important things, Bones, the important things are the same. You mean the world to him."
"He doesn't think, Booth. Sometimes he just, he just does things and I find it bothers me more than I would like. Sometimes I still miss the version of him that I remembered before I knew him as Max. And it's foolish to dwell on it, but I'm wondering whether I would feel the same way about my mother if she had lived long enough to come back as well."
"You still love Max."
"And you would still love her."
"That's not the point."
"What is, then?"
"The truth. I want the truth. And I'm not going to get it from my dad, or Russ. I miss her. I miss her the way I remember her, and I find it unsettling that I'll never know anything else."
"The truth is, maybe she would have disappointed you," Booth shrugs. "But that wouldn't have made breakfast birthday cake any less real."
Brennan allows this to sink in and then drops her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I left my phone in the car."
"Don't worry about it, Bones. Everything turned out okay."
"And while I can acknowledge that this looks... bad, in actual fact, today has been a good day."
"That's good," he laughs softly and kisses the top of her head.
She feels a weight lift and shifts closer into her partner's side. "I'm glad you're here, Booth. I find you easier to talk to than the universe."