Disclaimers: Fox owns 'em, Hart Hanson created 'em, Emily and David portray 'em and we all wept for 'em at the end of Season Seven. I don't do it for money, only for the therapeutic value. Season Seven spoilers, natch, plus some speculation.
A/N: An early Christmas gift, if I may. Let others write of the Summer on the Run, I will write of the following Christmas as the future beckons before them.
Fluff warning; but hey, after that cliffhanger, some fluff is called for, eh?
Summary: The Summer of Pelant is over, Bones and Christine are home with Booth, and the Jeffersonian's extended family gathers for a Christmas they will not soon forget.
On This Winter's Night with You
The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
—Gordon Lightfoot (covered by Sarah McLachlan)
"Song for a Winter's Night"
December 3, 2012:
Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan sat in the back row of the courtroom, stoically listening to the court's ruling. Booth held Brennan's hand in his, and every so often he would give her hand a squeeze, silently conveying his unconditional support. Christine Angela Booth slept on her mother's lap blissfully aware of her surroundings. Not twenty yards away, the man whose actions nearly ripped the eleven-month old baby forever from her parents' arms over six months ago was facing his final judgment. The prisoner for his part remained silent, only regarding the courtroom with a bland scowl, his eyes staring ahead like a dead flounder, his arms and legs bound in shackles joined by heavy steel chains.
"Christopher Pelant," Judge Caroline Julian made her pronouncement; "It is the decision of this court that you be taken to the Wallens Ridge State Prison in Virginia where you will serve three consecutive life sentences, with no possibility of parole. It is also my recommendation that you be forbidden any access to computers, phones or any electronic devices under any circumstances whatsoever during your incarceration. And Pelant," she scowled at the prisoner one last time, "You just be grateful that's the maximum sentence I can pass under D. C. law!" With a sharp rap of her gavel, she declared, "Court adjourned!"
Even Booth was surprised at the sentence; Wallens Ridge, the Virginia-based Supermax, one of the country's most notorious prisons. For a brief instant, he almost found himself feeling something akin to pity for Pelant. He stifled that emotion immediately, remembering the shattered lives he left in his wake. This man made Gormogon,Taffet and Broadsky look like saints, he reminded himself darkly. He killed people as easily as I would eat a hamburger. He framed Bones for murder. He nearly tore my family and the Jeffersonian apart. For once, Booth was glad that Washington D. C. did not have the death penalty; a quick merciful death was too good for Christopher Pelant.
Pelant remained silent as the bailiffs dragged him away, but whatever defiance he exhibited when he terrorized Washington D. C. with his gruesome murders was gone, replaced by impotent rage. Everyone else rose to their feet as Judge Julian departed the bench, and Booth released a huge lungful of air he didn't even know he was holding. Brennan, cradling her sleeping daughter with one arm, felt Booth's arms encircling her shoulders, gathering her in a comforting embrace, which she accepted and returned gladly. Booth breathed in the scent of Brennan's favorite shampoo, which combined with the cornstarch she had applied to Christine's bottom the last time she changed her diaper to create a smell that Booth found both odd and comforting. A smell of something he nearly lost but was able to claim again; the smell of home.
"It's over, Bones," he breathed, relief suffusing his words. "He can't hurt us again."
"No he can't" Brennan agreed wholeheartedly. "Thanks to you. You saved us."
"We saved us," he gently corrected her. "You kept Christine safe while the Squint Squad and I took down Pelant. I love you so much, Bones."
"I love you too, Booth," Brennan whispered contentedly, surrounded by the warmth of her family. After a few seconds she reluctantly disengaged the embrace and lowered Christine to her stroller. "Come on, Booth, let's go talk to Caroline."
The couple met Caroline as she descended the courthouse steps, and the judge's face, stone-like in the courtroom, became animated and joyful, sporting an ear-to-ear smile. "Why hello, you gorgeous thing you!" she cooed as she approached the stroller Booth was pushing along. Casting a sidelong glance at Booth, she added, "Just so there's no confusion, Cherie, I'm talking to the baby."
"She has that effect on people," Booth grinned proudly.
"We were attending the sentencing," Brennan explained as Christine squirmed in her arms, giggling as Caroline waved her finger in front of her face.
"I saw you two in the back row," Caroline commented. "Guess you two needed some closure, huh?"
"After all he put us through," Booth replied solemnly, "I'm just grateful that he's out of our lives for good."
"I concur," Brennan added. "Considering the magnitude of his crimes, I find his sentence to be almost lenient."
"This probably won't be the last word on the case," Caroline groused. "His lawyer's already drafting an appeal motion. But some other judge will hear that, so I'm washing my hands of this whole mess. And considering the evidence your team dug up, not even Johnny Cochran could pull his ass out of the fire."
"I don't know what that means," Brennan admitted. "Why would Pelant be sitting in a fire?"
Caroline regarded her with a knowing smirk. "It means, Cheri, where he's going, he ain't coming back!" After a moment's silence, the New Orleans-born judge addressed the two; "Now then, you two didn't just come down here to see Pelant get put away, did you?"
"Nothing gets by you, huh, Caroline?" Booth commented.
"It is true," Brennan admitted. "Booth and I wanted to ask you a favor."
When Booth and Brennan explained what they wanted, the calm, composed judge declared in a voice that could have carried across the National Mall; "IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME!"
December 7, 2012:
Strains of a wailing blues guitar hit Booth's ears as he turned the corner. Sure enough, just across the street from the Founding Fathers, and there he was, his favorite guitar, 'Pearly Gates', plugged into a small battery-powered amplifier, jamming for his own pleasure and the entertainment of passers-by. As he finished the song, he turned in surprise to the sight of Booth applauding vigorously. "Booth, m'man!" Angela's father greeted the federal agent, a warm smile visible behind his shaggy beard. "How you doin'?"
"A lot better," Booth answered. "I guess Angela told you about Pelant."
"Ooh yeah," the old rocker answered. "I was helping her and Jack with Michael while they were digging up the dirt on that scumbag. I swear, I never heard Ange cuss so much in all my life. If what he did to Bren was half as bad as Ange made it sound, I hope he rots in Hell."
"He will, trust me," Booth answered. "If he had given me half an excuse, I'd have sent him there myself." Realizing how his tone of voice had turned almost threatening, Booth inhaled briefly and added, "But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about. I have a favor to ask you."
"Name it and claim it, Booth," the bearded guitarist nodded. Booth made his request, which caused the musician's eyes to light up like Christmas lights.
"If money's an issue," Booth continued, "Bones and I will be happy to pay whatever you think is fair—"
"Don't say another word, Booth," Angela's father interrupted. "The band ain't touring until February, so I don't have any concerts planned. Besides, this is one gig I'd be honored to play for free!"
"Just don't tell Ange, huh? We're trying to keep this a surprise."
"Keep it on the down-low?" the blues guitarist nodded sagely. "Say no more." His fingers plucked out a few notes on 'Pearly Gates' which Booth recognized as 'La Grange'.
December 10, 2012:
"Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening!" Gordon Wyatt greeted Brennan with a plummy cordiality as she pushed Christine's stroller into his restaurant. "Delightful to see you again, Doctor Brennan. And I see you brought the beautiful Christine Angela with you," he added as he bowed toward Christine. "What a lovely child. You and Booth do nice work."
"We always have, Gordon Gordon," Brennan smiled. "We've always been stronger together than we are apart."
"I've been saying that to Sweets for years," Gordon Gordon quipped.
"It's funny, Gordon Gordon," Brennan continued, "when I first met Booth, I formed the opinion that our combined genetics would produce an exceptional child. And Christine is the living proof."
"Indeed she is," Gordon agreed enthusiastically. "Please, do sit down. Stephanie," he gestured to a passing waitress, "Two Pellegrinos please." The waitress rushed off to fulfill her boss' order.
"Thanks, but that won't be necessary..." Brennan started.
"Please, my treat," Gordon insisted. "Will Booth be joining you? We have a lovely confit bialdi this evening."
"No thanks," Brennan said as she took a seat at the nearest table. "Booth called me earlier and said he'd be making fettuccini alfredo with portabella mushrooms tonight."
"Sounds delicious," Gordon nodded. His normally beaming smile faded as he sat next to her, replaced by an expression of warm concern. "How is Booth these days?" He inquired.
"He's well," Brennan answered. "He was reinstated with the FBI and given a promotion after Pelant's conviction. He's now Assistant Deputy Director, in charge of the D. C. field office. Essentially he has Andrew Hacker's old job."
"Oh, yes, I saw that in the news. Wasn't he Pelant's last victim?"
"He was," Brennan nodded, somewhat remorsefully. Whatever Booth thought of Hacker, she still had a few fond memories of him. "Evidently Pelant planned to frame Booth for Andrew's murder, the same way he framed me for Ethan's. Fortunately, Pelant was getting increasingly desperate by the time he killed Andrew. He grew careless, made mistakes. Hodgins and Angela finally found the evidence they needed to prove Pelant's guilt, and Booth arrested him. From his computers, they found enough evidence to convict him of the other murders he committed, as well as proof that he planted the false evidence that implicated me in Ethan's murder, thus clearing my name."
"I am grateful for that," Gordon replied solemnly. "I am glad that this nightmare is behind you, and that you and Booth can move forward with your lives."
"Thanks, Gordon Gordon," Brennan said as she lifted a fussy Christine out of her stroller and retrieved a bottle of formula from her tote bag. As she fed her daughter, she added, "I think part of the reason Booth accepted the promotion was to keep Christine and myself safe. He isn't in the field as much as he used to be, and after Pelant, he told me he doesn't miss it. And I don't believe he was saying it for my benefit."
"And yourself?" the former psychiatrist turned professional chef asked. "Do you miss it?"
Brennan shrugged her shoulders in thought. "Not as much as I thought I would," she admitted. "As much as I enjoyed field operations with Booth, I find that my priorities have shifted." Regarding the baby in her arms, she continued, "I didn't realize how much I had to lose until Pelant took it from me. When I was forced on the run, what kept me going was the knowledge that Christine needed her mother. And that Booth would never rest until Pelant was arrested and I was cleared. I guess my ordeal helped me to put a few things in perspective. Besides, I've had more free time for pure anthropology at the Jeffersonian, as opposed to criminal investigations. Of course, sometimes he does get a field assignment, and the Jeffersonian is more than ready and willing to assist him."
"Ah, the best of both worlds," Gordon mused.
"Something like that," Brennan admitted. Stephanie had by this time placed two glasses of Pellegrino on the table and departed quietly. Brennan took a sip of mineral water and shook her head slightly, as though to clear the morbid thoughts of her months as a fugitive from her mind. "But that's not the real reason I came here, Gordon Gordon. I wanted to ask you a personal favor."
Gordon pursed his lips in thought. "You are of course aware," he spoke gently, "that I am retired as a psychiatrist. Sweets would be easily capable of..."
"Oh, no," Brennan interrupted hurriedly. "The favor isn't psychiatric in nature. It's culinary."
Gordon raised his eyebrows. "You interest me strangely, Brennan. Go on..."
December 17, 2012:
"Hey buddy!" Booth greeted his son as Rebecca opened her apartment door for him, ready for his weekend visit with his son.
"DAD!" Parker Booth shouted as he launched himself into his father's arms. Booth happily wrapped his arms around his son in a generous bear-hug. "Good news, Dad, I was named goalie for the school soccer team!"
"That's great, Park!" Booth enthused. "When's your next game?"
"Sometime in March, I think. We don't play again until after the snow thaws."
"Check the date and let me know," Booth smiled. "Bones, Christine and I will be there."
"How is Brennan these days, Seeley?" Rebecca Stinson approached her former boyfriend, giving him a light peck on the cheek.
"She's fine, Becca," Booth answered. "She's taking Christine to her regular check-up right now."
"Will we meet them at the Mall?" Parker asked hopefully?
"They should be wrapping up by now, so yeah. Ready to go, Parker?"
"Lemme grab my coat," Parker rushed to his room to fetch his winter jacket.
Booth turned toward the mother of his son. "Hey Becca, you doing anything for Christmas?"
"Hadn't really made plans," Rebecca admitted. "Marcus and I, well, turns out he had another girl on the side, so..."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Booth sympathized. It seemed that Marcus was another in a long line of losers that made up Rebecca's love life in recent years. "You deserve better, you really do. Anyway, Bones and I are having our families and the Squint Squad over at our home for Christmas, and we'd love to have you and Parker join us."
Rebecca smiled at Booth's invitation. "I think I'd like that."
"Like what,Mom?" Parker asked as he emerged from his bedroom, wearing his Redskins jacket, carrying a package under his arm.
"Your father has invited us to spend Christmas with him and Dr. Brennan."
"Cool!" Parker pumped his fist in the air.
"Then it's settled," Rebecca announced. "When should we be there, Seeley?"
"Noon'll be fine."
"Hey, Dad, check out what I got Christine for Christmas." Parker pulled something out of the package and held it up for his father's approval. Booth examined the object; a brightly plastic cube, roughly eight inches square at each side, with cut-out geometric shapes on each surface, containing various plastic blocks of different shapes. "It's a shape sorter," Parker announced.
"I recognize the concept," Booth murmured as he returned the toy to Parker. "I'm sure she'll enjoy it."
"I helped him pick it out," Rebecca admitted, "but I wasn't sure about it. The box said 'two and up', and Christine's first birthday isn't until February, right?"
"Don't worry, Mom," Parker assured her, grinning. "She's Bones' daughter, she'll figure this thing out in ten minutes tops."
Booth laughed at Parker's observation. "He has a point."
"Here," Rebecca took the shape-sorter out of her son's hands and placed it on a nearby coffee table. "You can wrap it up when you get back tomorrow."
"'Bye, Mom," Parker hugged his mother and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
"I'll have him home by five pm tomorrow," Booth promised.
"No hurry, Seeley," she answered as she gave him a friendly embrace. "You two take care."
"You too, Becca," Booth and Parker finished their farewells as they left the apartment. Booth made a point of making sure Parker's jacket was zipped up; the forecast called for highs in the 20s with light snow later in the afternoon.
As Parker clambered into the passenger's seat of Booth's Toyota Sequoia, Booth said, "Hey, bud, before we meet with Bones and Christine, I got a favor to ask you."
"Sure, Dad," Parker shrugged. "What's up?"
"Well, first, you have to promise not to tell your Mom. Don't worry, it's not bad, it's just a surprise." As they drove to the National Mall, he explained his favor.
A half-an-hour later, as they approached the carousel in the Mall, they saw Brennan, bundled in her blue fleece coat, holding a heavily-swaddled Christine as they waited for Booth and Parker. The carousel was closed for the season, until the spring thaw, but the painted horses still caught Christine's eyes. Booth quietly slipped behind Brennan as she and their daughter admired the vintage carnival ride. "See that, Christine?" Brennan cooed to her daughter as she pointed to the carousel. "See the pretty horses? They're called 'equus caballus'. Equus caballus," she repeated in a slight sing-song tone as she bounced Christine gently on her knee.
"They're called 'horses', Christine," Booth placed his hands gently on Brennan's shoulders. "You can save the squinty talk for sixth grade science reports." Beneath his fingers, he could feel Brennan's shoulders tense up for just a second before relaxing again. Kissing her on the crook of her neck, he added, "Sorry if I startled you, Bones."
"It's okay, Booth," Brennan answered reassuringly. "And you didn't startle me. I smelled your cologne before sneaked up behind me."
"I wasn't sneaking," Booth defended himself, as Parker clambered onto the park bench next to Brennan. "We happened to be approaching from that angle."
"I understand," Brennan chuckled. "After all we've been through this last year, I guess I still get a little nervous from time to time. But never around you. Now let's change the subject," she glanced at Parker, "did your dad tell you about our plans for Christmas?"
"Yep, and Mom and I will be there," Parker announced. Leaning in closer to Brennan, he added in conspiratorially, "He told me about your other plans too."
"Are you comfortable with our plans?" Brennan asked.
"Are you kidding? I think it's great! Isn't that right, Christine?" He leaned forward to kiss his baby sister on the cheek, as Christine cooed happily.
"I'm glad you think so," Brennan smiled. "Booth, I also informed Dad, he'll be there as well."
"Great," Booth replied. "And Pops called me up, he said Jared and Padme will be there as well, so it's a full house all the way." Rubbing his hands together, he chuckled, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
December 25, 2012:
Cam Saroyan, bringing her daughter Michelle and intern Finn Abernathy, were the last guests to arrive. Already present were Jared and Padme, Parker and Rebecca, Max Keenan, Hank "Pops" Booth, Angela and Jack Hodgins(with son Michael and Angela's father), Wendell Bray, Lance Sweets and Daisy Wick, Caroline Julian and Gordon Wyatt. After a summer marred by Pelant's attempts to destroy both the Jeffersonian and Booth and Brennan's family, everyone present regarded this gathering as not only a celebration of the season, but a victory over one of the darkest chapters of their lives.
Brennan and Booth's home was suitably decorated for the holidays; a seven-foot tall fresh-cut fir tree laden with ornaments, lights and tinsel; stockings bearing the names "Parker", "Christine" and "Michael" hanging over the fireplace and a small porcelain nativity display on the mantle. The fact that Brennan allowed the nativity without any argument surprised Booth, but given that she herself brought up Christine's baptism without his even asking about it, this simply reflected her willingness to accept his Catholic upbringing as a part of his life. Most of the Jeffersonian opted for a Secret Santa drawing the previous week, but most of the guests made a point to bring a gift for Christine, as it was her first Christmas.
Gordon, of course, was the first to attend, as he had agreed to cater the party, thus relieving Booth and Brennan of the stress of cooking. Considering their plans for the evening, they were grateful for Gordon's help. After the exchange of gifts, Gordon began final preparations for dinner. The sheer size of the gathering necessitated that dinner be served buffet style, and Gordon was more than prepared to accommodate; he brought a folding table, white linen tablecloths and a couple of chafing dishes with Sterno cans. He also provided a simple yet elegant display, with sprigs of holly scattered around the platters of sliced turkey and honey-baked ham, grilled portabella mushroom caps(for Brennan), mashed potatoes with garlic and parmesan, steamed broccoli florets, succotash, sourdough dinner rolls, fresh vegetables and dips.
Two dinner tables were set up end to end to accommodate all guests, and conversation and laughter flowed across the tables. Brennan placed Christine's high chair to her left side while Booth sat at her right, and Hodgins set up a booster seat for Michael so he could sit between him and Angela. They began bragging about how Michael had just started talking, although details differed between the two parents; Jack insisted that Michael had clearly said, "Fight the power!" while Angela suggested that what their son was really saying was "Dat da baba", or "Can I have my bottle?" Jared and Padme admitted that they were having difficulty conceiving a child of their own, and were considering adoption as a viable option. Booth wished his brother and sister-in-law luck in their efforts, while Padme expressed her hope that any child that she and her husband bring into the world would be as beautiful and healthy as Christine.
Booth couldn't help but notice that Bray and Rebecca were chatting amiably among themselves, and she seemed to genuinely enjoy his company. Before the guests arrived, Brennan had made a point of setting up place cards on the table so that Bray would be seated next to Rebecca. If Booth didn't know her any better, he'd swear she was playing matchmaker...
At one point during the meal Booth had produced an old vinyl album cover from his 'glam-rock' collection and passed it down to Angela's father. The Texas-born bluesman glanced at the heavily made-up figure on the cover with his starship-shaped guitar, and then back at the soft-spoken British chef sitting toward the far end of the table, dumbstruck by what Booth had told him. "You're Noddy Comet?" he gasped in disbelief.
Gordon shrugged his shoulders casually. "Guilty as charged," he confessed. "My misspent youth, before I pursued my degree."
"Yeah, I remember," Angela commented. "We found out about 'Noddy Comet' during that case with the Death Metal band that used a real skeleton during their stage show."
"You people have strange dinner conversations," Rebecca commented, eliciting chuckles from the tables. Bray gently patted her hand, prompting Booth to glance knowingly at Brennan. Brennan simply smiled and ate a bite of portabella.
"I must say," Angela's father remarked with a clear reverence in his voice, "I am honored to meet a fellow musician. Glam rock might not have been my thing back in the day, but as far as I'm concerned Noddy Comet is right up there with David Bowie and Freddie Mercury."
"High praise indeed, sir," Gordon replied. "Thank you."
Roughly an hour later, guests started pushing their plates away. "I gotta say, Mr. Wyatt," Finn Abernathy declared, "that was the best damn honey-baked ham I ever ate. Just one whiff made me think of my Ma's home cooking."
"Well, Mr. Abernathy," Sweets chimed in, "the sense of smell is a strong memory enhancer—"
"—Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system," Finn finished Sweet's thought, "with access to the amygdala and hippocampus. I'm aware."
"Yes, uh, absolutely right," Sweets stammered, realizing that he had inadvertently offended the brilliant young intern. "I'll, uh, just shut up now." His girlfriend, Daisy Wick glared at him as he sunk slightly in his chair.
"Good call, Sweets," Booth grimaced as several others started laughing. Glancing at Brennan, he caught the sober nod she directed toward him. "Shall we?" he whispered.
"Why don't you do the honors?" she quietly suggested, her hands fumbling slightly under the table.
"My pleasure." Booth stood up and tapped his wine glass with his knife. "Friends, Squints, Countrymen, lend me your ears," he called out. Conversation died down as everyone turned their attention to Booth. He stood before them smiling, patiently waiting for all eyes to rest on him. "First off," he announced, pointing to Gordon as he sat at the opposite end of the table, "a round of applause please for Gordon Gordon, who did most of the work for tonight's feast."
Gordon greeted the round of enthusiastic cheers with thanks, stating, "Please, Booth, hide not your light under a bushel, you were a great help to me in preparing this repast." Glancing at Brennan, he added, "He's rather a dab hand in the kitchen."
"If by that you mean that he is a good cook," Brennan stated, "then I concur."
"Thank you, thank you," Booth continued. "And secondly," Booth gestured to Brennan, who stood up from her chair, taking his hand in hers, "I've been wanting to say this for a few years now, had some big fancy speech prepared, but now that the time has come, I guess there's no better way to say it, but just to go out and say it." Taking a quick breath, he announced, "Bones and I are getting married!" Brennan smiled demurely, displaying her left hand, on which she had just placed the engagement ring she and Booth selected last week, a gold Claddagh band with a full-carat heart-shaped diamond.
"Oh my God!" Angela shrieked joyfully, embracing her best friend and admiring her ring as the tables erupted in a thunder of applause and congratulations. After several seconds, Cam shouted, "Okay everyone, quiet, quiet!" After the noise subsided, Cam turned to Hodges expectantly. "Hodge, I believe you have the pool results."
"Way ahead of ya," Hodgins fished out his smart-phone from his jacket pocket and turned it on. Locating the proper files on the phone's touch-screen, he read the information and announced, "Okay, no one had 'Christmas 2012', so the winning date is 'December 31, 2012', selected by Miss Daisy Wick, who wins the 75 dollar pool."
"Yes!" Daisy cheered, pumping her fist in the air. "You can pay up next week at the lab."
"I am gratified that you find the evolution of our relationship so entertaining, Miss Wick," Brennan glowered slightly.
"So how'd it go down, Studly?" Angela asked. "Did you get down on bended knee at the Reflecting Pool?"
"Actually," Booth admitted, "she proposed to me."
Cam raised an eyebrow at Booth's statement. "She asked you?"
"Actually," Finn commented wryly, "that I believe." A fresh volley of laughter emerged from the others.
"Seriously," Hodgins asked, "when did Miss 'marriage-is-an-archaic-institution' become the Pro-Marriage poster girl?"
"When Booth and I first began cohabitating," Brennan explained, "shortly after we conceived Christine, I wondered aloud why he had not proposed to me, especially given his Catholic faith. He simply said that someday I would propose to him. Later, I realized that he was respecting my previously stated opinions on marriage. Ever since the whole Pelant ordeal, after being forced to live as a fugitive with Christine, without even being able to tell Booth where I was or even if I could ever return..." She swallowed a lump in her throat, forcing down the emotional tide that threatened to overtake her when she recalled those black days. "When Booth forgave me unconditionally, even after all that, I realized how much I had truly come to depend on him, and that I could depend on him, that I wanted him to be able to depend on me. From there, there was only one logical recourse, to propose to him." Returning her gaze to Booth, she added, "The amazing part is that, after all that happened to us this last year, he said 'yes'."
Booth laughed lightly at her statement. "Actually, the amazing part is that, after all that happened to us, she thought there was a chance I'd say 'no'!" He kissed the top of her head, prompting a smattering of applause from the others, as a flush of warmth flooded Brennan's very being. To be the recipient of such grace was, she had realized, an awe-inspiring experience.
"Angela," Brennan asked her longtime best female friend, "will you be my maid of honor?"
"Oh hell yeah!" Angela declared joyously.
"And Jared," Booth announced, "I want you to be my best man."
"I'd be honored, big brother," Jared assured him, "Just name the date."
Brennan regarded her future brother-in-law with a sly smile. "Tonight, as a matter of fact."
The commotion of their engagement announcement gave way to a strange silence. Angela blinked twice before asking Brennan, "Tonight? As in, right now?"
"I saw no reason to postpone," Brennan said simply. "Booth and I agreed that we didn't want a big fancy blow-up."
"Blow-out," Booth corrected her absently.
"Blow-out," Brennan continued, smirking slightly at Booth, "just a simple intimate ceremony, friends and family only. When it occurred to us that our guest list for tonight's dinner mirrored our theoretical wedding guest list, the solution seemed obvious, to combine the two celebrations."
"Once we decided that," Booth added, "we started making arrangements. And with that, you're up, guys."
"I think we should adjourn to the living room, Cheries," Caroline Julian announced as she, Max, Gordon and Angela's father rose from their chairs. "I brought the text with me. You said you were writing your own vows?"
"Finished mine yesterday," Booth answered. Brennan nodded in affirmation.
"I'll go get Pearly Gates warmed up," the old bluesman announced once everyone was assembled in the living room. "Where should I set up the amp?"
"Over by the tree will be fine," Brennan offered. "Angela, would you come with me? I need to put my dress on."
"Et tu, Daddy?" Angela half-glowered, half-laughed at her father. The bluesman just shrugged his shoulders and headed out for his truck to fetch his guitar and amplifier. Angela laughed again and joined Brennan in the main bedroom.
"Hey, Buddy," Booth turned toward Parker. "You got the rings?"
"Right here," Parker displayed the ring box that Booth had trusted him with the previous week. Rebecca turned with a start toward her son. "Sorry, Mom," Parker explained, "but Dad told me it was a secret."
"Under the circumstances," Rebecca nodded at her son, "I'll let it slide. This time."
"Sounds like all that's missing is the cake," Bray commented.
"Oh ye of little faith," Gordon chided him. "Why do you think I forbade anyone from entering the kitchen? I brought a three-tier lemon cake with raspberry filling and a white chocolate ganache icing."
"If you'll excuse me," Booth announced hurriedly, "I need to change into my suit. Jared, you're with me." Jared kissed Padme on the cheek and left to join his brother in the guest room. The rest of the guests helped move furniture around in the living room to form a semi-circle around the fireplace, where Caroline would officiate the impromptu ceremony.
"How do I look?" Booth asked his brother as he showed off his dress suit.
"Like a used car salesman," Jared answered. From the living room, they could hear Angela's father playing a blues-tinged rendition of Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey".
"You can be replaced by Hodgins, y'know," Booth groused as he straightened his tie.
"Seriously, Big Brother," Jared chuckled, "you look fine. Just run a comb through your hair and you're ready."
"Thanks, Jared," Booth grabbed a quick comb and checked his face in a nearby mirror as he fixed his hair. "Not that I'm too worried," he added as he straightened his tie. "After all, everyone'll be looking at Bones, right?"
"Not everybody. She'll be looking at you."
Booth let Jared's words roll around his head for a second. "I should be nervous," Booth admitted to himself. "I should be sweating bullets here. But I'm not. I'm calm, I'm centered —I have never been more certain about anything in my entire life. This is the most right thing I've ever done. "
"She's a great woman, Seeley," Jared assured him. "I'm glad you're taking this step with her."
A light rap was heard at the door, prompting Jared to turn away from his brother. "C'mon in," he called.
Padme entered the room, cradling Christine in her arms, while Hank stood in the doorway, watching his grandsons as they prepared for the wedding. "Judge Julian asked me to inform you that we'll be starting soon. And Seeley, don't worry about Christine. Jared and I will be glad to look after her this evening."
"What she said," Jared agreed. "We'll be happy to take her off your hands for tonight."
"Thanks, Jared," Booth answered. "Hey, Pops, how are things topside?"
"They just set up the chairs from the dining room so everyone has a seat," Hank announced. "So, you ready?"
"As I'll ever be," Booth answered as he approached his grandfather. Hank gave Booth a hug and said, "I'm proud of you, Seeley. You've done good."
"Thanks, Pops," Booth stammered, maintaining control of the emotional tide that threatened to overtake him for a second. "Let's light this candle!" With those words, the groom left for the living room, his family alongside him.
"I hope you're not upset, Ange," Brennan said as she adjusted her dress. "I mean, our getting married tonight must seem rather sudden."
"It's been nearly a decade in the making, Bren," Angela replied happily, "I'd hardly call this 'sudden'. Besides, you're talking to the gal who married Jack in a county lock-up, less than thirty minutes after reconciling with him. Believe me, tonight is perfect." As Angela assured her friend, "Tupelo Honey" segued into Jimi Hendrix' "Little Wing".
"Thanks," Brennan answered. She reached for a vase she had placed on her vanity, and took out a bouquet of white daisies. "I picked these up two days ago," she admitted. "At first I wanted daffodils, but the florist told me that their stems would be too weak to stand being in a bouquet, so I went with daisies instead. So," she made a quick turn to show off her dress; a simple white pleated floor-length chiffon with a V-neckline. She turned to show the back, revealing an elegant cowl draping that cleared just below her shoulder-blades. Her hair was braided in the back, with a few strands loose and hovering over her face. White pump shoes and a single string of pearls completed the ensemble. "What do you think?"
Angela whistled appreciatively. "Bren, honey, if Booth wasn't in love with you before tonight, that dress would seal the deal!"
"I don't understand," stated Brennan. "Our decision to marry is based on mutual love and respect, not some financial arrangement..."
"I'm saying," Angela interrupted her gently, "that you look amazing. That dress is elegant without being overbearing, it's perfect on you." She examined her friend's face for a second. "But it's more than just the dress, Bren. It's you in it. In all the years I've known you, I've never seen you look so — so happy." Angela gently lifted a daisy from Brennan's bouquet, snapped the stem off just three inches below the flower's base and slipped the stem in Brennan's hair beside her right temple. "There you are. Perfect. Just a moment," Angela withdrew her cell-phone, turned it on, held the phone in front of Brennan for a moment, quipped, "Say 'gorgonzola'!" and pressed the side button. After taking a couple more shots with her phone camera, she added, "I'll have these downloaded on my computer and printed out tomorrow."
"Thanks," Brennan nodded. "Dad brought his camera as well, so the ceremony will at least be well-documented."
Angela suddenly wrapped her arms around Brennan's shoulders, laughing and crying simultaneiously. "Oh, Bren, I am so happy for you!" she cried out joyously.
Brennan returned the hug gratefully. "I'm happy too, Angela," she affirmed. "More than I would have thought possible just a few years ago."
Their embrace was interrupted by a gentle knock at the door. "Yoo hoo," Daisy called out. "They sent me to see if you two were ready. Angela, your dad told me to tell you that if you're not out in five minutes he's going to start taking requests. And Lancelot said something about 'The Lime and the Coconut'."
Angela cringed at the thought. "We'd better get down there," she stated.
"I'm ready, Miss Wick," Brennan called out. "Tell Caroline they can start the ceremony."
"You got it." Daisy chirped and rushed off. Angela regarded her friend one last time, and flashed a luminous grin. "Let's get you married," she announced as she opened the door.
Max and Parker met them in the hallway, and Parker's eyes widened as he looked at Brennan. "Wow, Bones," he breathed. "You look gorgeous!"
"Thanks," Brennan smiled at Parker. A stray thought hit her at that moment; In a few minutes this wonderful child will be part of my family."Do you know what you're supposed to do, Parker?"
"Your dad explained it," Parker answered. "I go stand by Dad and Uncle Jared, then Mrs. Hodgins goes over to Judge Julian, then you make your entrance. And when the judge asks me, I give you and Dad the rings."
"Very good," Brennan tousled Parker's hair slightly.
"C'mon, Bones," the child protested, "I just got it combed!"
"Here, Baby Booth," Angela pulled Booth's son toward her and smoothed out his hair. "There we are, ready to go." Just as she finished fixing Parker's hair, her father began strumming his guitar, playing the first notes of Pachabel's "Canon in D". "And just in time too. You're on, kiddo!" Parker smiled and headed for the living room.
After giving Parker roughly thirty seconds to join his father, Angela gave Brennan one last quick hug, and then strode slowly toward Caroline. "Temperance," Max gazed at his daughter, his eyes glassy with both joy and a slight melancholy, "you make a truly beautiful bride. Your mother would have been proud to see the woman you have become." Dabbing at the corner of his left eye with his shirtsleeve, he added, "Just as I am."
Brennan placed her hands on her father's shoulders and leaned toward him, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "I love you, Dad," she assured him. "And thank you, for everything."
Max gave his daughter a watery smile as she stood up again. "C'mon, Tempe, let's get you married." Brennan linked her arm with his and allowed him to escort her to the fireplace.
The elder guitarist continued to play, his hands dancing across the frets and strings of his instrument with skill and grace. Angela took her place at Caroline's right side, her face framed by a beaming smile. Booth and Jared stood at the judge's left side, Parker standing proudly beside his father, a small ring-box clutched in his hand.
A moment later Temperance Brennan entered the living room; walking in slow, measured strides; her father escorting her on his arm. Booth gaped in sheer awe at the sight of her in her wedding apparel. Modest, understated, elegant in its simple design, the chiffon pleats complimented her graceful, athletic form perfectly. But what truly made it impossible for Booth to look away was the radiant smile on her face. Booth knew that for most of her adult life, Temperance Brennan maintained a disciplined, iron-handed control over her emotional state, rarely letting anyone but those closest to her witness her true feelings. This evening, as she walked toward him, as she prepared to join her life to his, her smile was radiant, her joy palpable, radiating in waves from her body, her eyes locked onto his silently communicating her love and adoration. Dear God, he thought to himself as Brennan stood next to him, I have seen Your masterpiece and I thank You.
Angela's father cut off his performance, and Booth and Brennan took their places standing before Caroline. "Before we begin," Caroline smirked slightly, "do either of you two have any spouses I don't know about, because I'm not going through that again." She cast a knowing glance at Angela, prompting a few people to giggle nervously and Angela and Hodgins to roll their eyes. Booth and Brennan simply shook their heads. Satisfied that the ceremony would not be interrupted, Caroline continued; "Who gives this woman away to be married?"
"I do," Max answered solemnly as he released Brennan's arm. Caroline smiled at the father of the bride.
"Dear friends," she announced, "we are gathered here at this hour, in the home that they have built for themselves, to celebrate this long-overdue union between Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth. Anyone who didn't know these two better would say this was a classic case of 'opposites attract', but the truth is that these two are not opposites. The share the same passion for justice, the same desire to uncover the truth. And they both have stubborn streaks longer than Interstate 81! Their methods may be different, but their goals and desires have always been complimentary, not opposed. Over the years those of us who know them have been privileged to watch their relationship mature into one of mutual respect, friendship and love. They have faced obstacles over the years, this past year more so than ever, and have emerged stronger and finer, their commitment to each other more unshakable than ever. So if anyone here should have reason why these two should not be joined in matrimony..." she raised an eyebrow at the words, "keep it to yourself, Cherie, 'cuz you ain't gonna stop this train." Some light laughter greeted her comments, and Caroline stepped back to allow Booth and Brennan to make their public affirmations.
"I've always lead by the heart," Booth started, his eyes fixed on Brennan's face, "while you always lead with the brain. It took me a couple of years to figure out that our approaches were compatible. As a federal agent I had grown to rely on your cool-headedness, your insight and your intellect. As a person, as a father, I have come to depend on your dedication, your integrity and your willingness to do the right thing, no matter the circumstances. Pops used to tell me, 'Adversity introduces us to ourselves'. Individually and as a couple, you and I have gone through hell and back to get to where we are, to become the people we are now. Knowing the path your life has taken and seeing the result, the intelligent, tough, brave, beautiful woman standing before me, how can I not be in awe of you? How can I not be in love with you? And I will love, honor and cherish you all the days of my life."
Brennan felt her face flush, her pulse rate increase and her breath catch in her throat at Booth's words. She looked into his eyes and saw the sincerity of his words reflected in their depths. She then recited her vows; "As a scientist, I observe a phenomenon, make a reasoned hypothesis based on the evidence at hand, and through experimentation refine those observations into a theory. If at some later point new data presents itself that contradicts my theory, I will test that data, and if it proves sound, revise my theory. Ten years ago, my theory regarding my life was that I was a solitary woman and satisfied to be so. Monogamous relationships, parenthood, these did not interest me. Then, I encountered new data, in the form of Seeley Booth. You gave me proof that love was more than chemical reactions in the brain. Through your relationship with Parker you proved to me that a parent is more than just a progenitor. You helped me to become strong, not just impervious. You are my equal, my partner, my lover and my friend. And I will love, honor and cherish you all the days of my life."
Caroline nodded and read from the appropriate text; "Do you, Seeley Booth, take this woman, Temperance Brennan, to be your wife; do you promise to be to her a loving and loyal husband, to cherish and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful only to her as long as you both shall live?"
"I do," Booth declared, his eyes never leaving Brennan's face.
Turning to Brennan, she then asked, "Do you, Temperance Brennan, take this man, Seeley Booth, to be your husband; do you promise to be to him a loving and loyal wife, to cherish and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful only to him as long as you both shall live?"
With an incandescent smile she vowed, "I do."
Caroline glanced at Parker, murmuring, "You're up, Kiddo." Parker immediately opened the ringbox and held it up, displaying two simple gold bands. "The wedding ring is a circle," Caroline continued, "with no beginning or end. The rings you now exchange are the perfect symbol of the continuation of your love."
Booth took the smaller of the two rings and placed it gently on Brennan's hand, next to the Claddagh ring. "With this ring I thee wed," he whispered, his voice laden with emotion, "and all my worldly goods I thee endow."
Brennan took the remaining ring and placed it on Booth's left hand. Looking up at Booth, her eyes shining with joyful tears, she repeated; "With this ring I thee wed, and all my worldly goods I thee endow."
Caroline smiled serenely as they exchanged their rings, and completed the ceremony; "Seeley and Temperance, forasmuch as you have consented together in marriage, and have pledged your love and your commitment each to the other in the presence of these witnesses, I do now pronounce you husband and wife." Turning to Booth, she concluded, "You may now give the bride some sugar." Booth flashed his famous cocky smile as he and Brennan embraced each other, meeting in a passionate kiss.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Caroline announced joyfully, "it is my honor to introduce, for the first time, Seeley and Temperance Booth!" As the congregation erupted in applause, she quietly added to the still-kissing newlyweds, "You two can argue about the whole maiden-name thing later." If they heard her, they gave no notice.
Angela's father immediately started playing the first few bars of 'La Marseillaise', before shifting into four descending notes in an odd seven/four time signature. "Hey, Noddy," he called out to Gordon, "you know this song?"
"Indeed I do, sir," Gordon answered as he joined the guitarist in time for the first verse:
"Nothing you can do that can't be done,
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung,
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game,
The rest of the congregation joined in for the chorus:
"All you need is love...
All you need is love...
All you need is love, love,
Love is all you need!"
The rest of the evening was a joyful celebration, not only of the season, but of the Brennan-Booth love story. Guests immediately lined up to kiss the bride and shake the groom's hand. Gordon wheeled out a steel desert trolley that bore an elegant three-layer wedding cake frosted in smooth white ganache, a pair of ceramic doves perched on the top and a cascade of red icing roses spilling down the side in a gentle spiral. The cake was flanked by three ice buckets, carrying bottles of champagne for the adults and sparkling apple cider for Parker and any designated drivers. Angela and Max kept their cameras clicking as Booth and Brennan held the knife together and made the ceremonial first cut. The cake and beverages were served and toasts were made for the happy couple's continued good fortune.
When it came time to toss the bouquet, Brennan groused slightly at what she considered a silly tradition, but Cam, Daisy, Michelle and Rebecca convinced to play along. With her back turned to the others, Brennan threw her daisy bouquet over her shoulder, where it landed squarely in Michelle's hands. She smiled knowingly as she eyed Finn Abernathy, who began to fumble nervously with his shirt collar as Cam's expression began to remind him of a mama-grizzly.
Eventually, the party began to wind down, and the guests began to file out, each taking the time to say good evening to the newlyweds and wish them every happiness. Those who witnessed this union of two lives would carry the memories of this day for many years after. As he kissed his father and new stepmother good night, Parker Booth summed up the feelings of all in attendance in three simple words;
"BEST! CHRISTMAS! EVER!"
Booth rinsed the last of the dinner plates and loaded the dishwasher. Most of the cooking dishes Gordon had used were disposable aluminum foil pans and easily disposed, leaving them little in the way of actual clean-up, only plates, glasses and cutlery, all of which could fit in the dishwasher in two loads.
At an adjacent counter, Brennan was placing a loose sheet of plastic wrap over the remains of the cake. Angela had explained that she and Booth should save the top tier of the cake in their freezer and thaw it out on their first anniversary. While she had no use for superstitions, Brennan liked the idea of saving something of this wonderful day for next year. She wrapped the top tier and transferred it to the freezer.
As she closed the freezer door, she felt strong, familiar arms wrap themselves around her waist and leaned instinctively into their embrace. Booth kissed her lightly on the nape of her neck, muttering, "Merry Christmas, Dr. Booth." He paused expectantly before he asked teasingly, "Or is that Brennan? Booth-Brennan maybe? We never did nail that down..."
Brennan smiled warmly at her husband. My husband, she repeated mentally, feeling a warm pleasant flush at the thought. "To our closest friends, I will likely remain 'Brennan' or 'Bren' or a variation thereof. To you and Parker, of course, I will remain 'Bones'." Turning in his arms, she added, "To the rest of the world, I am now Doctor Temperance Booth, and proud to carry that name." Pursing her lips in thought, she added, "I'll be meeting with my publisher next month, I'd better make sure that my next Kathy Reichs novel reflects my new pen-name."
"As long as you're comfortable with taking my name," Booth agreed. "You sure it doesn't bother you?"
"Not in the slightest," Brennan admitted, a faint melancholy cast washing over her face. "When I was a fugitive this past summer," she admitted in a slow, calm voice, "I often used 'Booth' as an alias."
"Really?" Booth mused. Although she had told him a great deal of her ordeal after Pelant forced her to go on the run, he had chosen not to press her for too many details, not wanting to force her to relive the terror of those months.
"It's true," Brennan answered. "I wanted to maintain a connection to you, and that was the only way I could think of doing so."
Sensing the sadness in his wife's voice Booth kissed her left temple, whispering to her, "Don't dwell on that, Bones. That's in the past, and we have a future ahead of us."
"That we do, Booth," Brennan replied, a faint smile playing at her lips. "Speaking of which," she reluctantly withdrew from Booth's arms and made her way to a nearby cupboard. She located the envelop she had hidden there the night before and handed it to Booth. "I almost forgot. Merry Christmas."
"Oh? What's this?" Booth asked. "I thought we agreed that with the wedding and all we didn't need to buy each other Christmas gifts this year."
"That we did," Brennan affirmed. "This isn't just for you, Booth. It's more a gift for the both of us."
Booth took the envelop in his hands and opened it as Brennan watched in growing anticipation. He pulled out a paper ticket folder and read the contents; "First Class passage to Nassau?" he asked.
"I believe the term is 'honeymoon'," Brennan smiled demurely. "I made arrangements for seven days and nights at the Sandals Royal Bahaman."
"Wow," Booth grinned that endearingly goofy grin of his, the one he gave Brennan when she first announced, "I'm pregnant. You're the father." "But these tickets are for tomorrow at 2:30. What about Christine, what about—"
"I spoke with Jared and Padme," Brennan informed him. "They're looking after Christine for us tonight, they said they'd be happy to take care of her until we get back. I already have my suitcase packed, and having traveled with you before I know you don't take long to prepare."
"Wow," he repeated; clearly she was preparing for this for some time. "You sure about this? Sounds like this trip set you back some."
"After the advance on my next novel," Brennan assured her husband, taking him into a welcoming embrace, "I can easily afford this indulgence. Besides, what was it we said earlier today? 'All my worldly goods, I thee endow.' So this time tomorrow, we'll be on our honeymoon." She leaned toward Booth, her lips meeting his in a slow languid kiss.
Booth muttered a low growl, placed his right arm at Brennan's back and his left arm under her knees, lifting her off of her feet. With a shriek of surprise, Brennan wrapped her arms around Booth's neck to steady herself. "Who said anything about waiting for tomorrow?" Booth asked, his voice growing husky with desire as he carried his wife to their bedroom. "The honeymoon starts now."
"Alpha male," Brennan observed, her eyes darkening with arousal.
"Don't complain, Bones," Booth quipped. "You knew what you were getting when you said 'I do'."
"Trust me," she replied, kissing him with a renewed passion. "I am not complaining!"
Further words were discarded, along with his suit and her wedding dress, as Seeley and Temperance Booth began the next chapter in their lives.