"What, didn't you ever want to be an astronaut when you were a kid?"
She stares at him with an expression he's come to understand means that they're not quite on the same page.
"No, not really. I was always more interested in living things. I guess I was a little too grounded to want to go wandering in space."
She grins at him and Booth laughs, partly at the joke, but mostly because she looks so proud of herself. Brennan feels she has a right to be proud; she's gotten better at conversing, better enough that she can now sense that she is supposed to say something at this point in order to keep the conversation going.
And so she asks, "But you wanted to go wandering in space. What stopped you?"
"I didn't realize there was so much science involved," he replies with a grimace, and Brennan can't help laughing at his look of dismay. Privately, she thinks that although Booth might not be a genius, he might have made a good astronaut. Booth does tend to sell himself short at times.
"Hey, I mean, at any rate, FBI agent is almost as good as astronaut right? They're both pretty dashing."
He grins at her boyishly, and she is once again impressed by just how charming Booth can be, even unintentionally. Well, she hopes this is unintentional, anyway, since when he's doing it deliberately, it usually means he wants something from her.
Regardless of his intentions, she can't help smiling back at him. "It would have liked to see you in a space suit," she says, for the thought does produce a rather amusing mental image.
"Yeah, well, nothing's impossible, Bones. Maybe one day you'll get your wish." He looks away from her for a few moments and when he turns back, he's stopped smiling. "Come on, Bones, I want to show you something."
She thinks of protesting: it is cold and late and she would really like to just go home and get some rest because tomorrow might well bring with it another case. She's not even wearing proper shoes as she had chosen the day's footwear, a pair of aesthetically pleasing but unfortunately impractical heels, without regard for the icy sidewalks.
Five years ago, she would have begged off without a second thought or an ounce of regret, but Booth rarely asks for favors and she decides another hour or so awake won't be so bad after all. And her coat will keep her warm enough.
The Constitution Gardens are empty, not a surprise considering the hour. She finds the neatly manicured landscape a little unsettling in the dark when unoccupied by crowds of tourists, and is glad for the distant cry of a police siren. A reminder that they're still in a city full of people is comforting, as is the tall man walking slightly in front of her, even if Booth has been uncharacteristically uncommunicative on the short walk over.
He stops a few steps short of the lake's edge. The sky is very clear and the surface of the water is perfectly still, providing a tenuous mirror to the stars above. Booth watches the water first but as Brennan comes even, he raises his gaze to the sky.
"That is one thing I miss, living in the city. You can't see the stars as well." He sounds almost wistful and without thinking Brennan gives in to the somewhat irrational impulse to cheer him up.
"You can still see some...see, look, there's Polaris." And upon catching his puzzled look, "The North Star."
"Oh, right. You couldn't have said that in the first place? Nobody calls it Polaris."
"It's the official name," she tells him somewhat defensively. "It's what you're supposed to call it. Long ago, the Greeks called it Cynosura, the dog's tail, because they believed that Ursa Minor represented a dog rather than a bear."
"Doesn't look like a dog or a bear to me," Booth mutters, but she chooses to ignore him.
"Polaris got its name because it is the current polar star; its position in the sky aligns with the earth's poles, in this case, the North Pole. While other stars' positions in the sky change relative to the hour of the night, the polar stars remain virtually fixed in place, which made them invaluable to early navigators."
Booth looks thoughtful and deciding that she has his attention now, Brennan takes a step forward and points to another star further up.
"That is Gamma Draconis, the brightest star in the constellation Draco. Actually, scientists predict that in one point five million years, Gamma Draconis will pass within 28 light years of Earth, making it the brightest star in the sky, maybe even as bright as Sirius is now."
He nods and she takes this as a sign that to continue the astronomy lesson. Too caught up in sharing the vast amounts of knowledge meticulously filed away in her mind, Brennan doesn't realize that the nod is only perfunctory.
"Gamma Draconis is also known as Eltanin or Etamin. It's true that the naming process for stars is somewhat haphazard. Newly discovered stars are given a numeric designation but their traditional names are generally Greek, Latin, or Arabic with a phonetic translation into English. Eltanin's name is Arabic in origin, and is derived from a word for serpent or dragon, along with another one of its older names, Rastaban. In fact-"
"Bones," Booth's voice is gentle but his face is serious. "Just look."
She's a little offended at being interrupted since she is sure that the etymology of stars' names is fascinating, but something in his expression makes her settle for shooting him a dirty look.
"This is what I wanted to show you," he says firmly. "Just let go of yourself for a while. Feel...feel the universe or whatever it is you believe in."
That earns him another dirty look. Booth is always trying to get her to do irrational things like this, to talk to her mother at her grave, to feel the sanctity inside churches he's so painfully aware of. To date, he has not been very successful, although perhaps now she is a little bit more willing to humor him.
She humors him now, following his gaze upwards to look again at the stars. As before, her impressive brain begins to sort the initially random clusters into constellations and their names and histories but then Booth shifts slightly behind her and all of a sudden he is standing a little too close. They spend a good deal of their time working together in close quarters but somehow out here at night all alone, proximity is different and she finds her thoughts scattering like stars across the sky.
The sensation is distinctly unsettling and Brennan swiftly tamps it down into the back corner of her mind reserved for emotions too irrational for her to acknowledge. While she'd never admit to it, an increasing amount of that area has come to center around Booth.
Right now, she sternly tells herself that her initial discomfort is just from having her personal space disrupted without warning and once she's certain she believes that, she turns her attention back to the sky. She doesn't quite think she can feel the universe since she's not even sure what that means, and really the only things she's feeling right now are cold and the slight, persistent, niggling nearness of Booth.
Brennan takes a deep breath, feeling the winter air burn her lungs, then watches her breath condense into a fine mist as she exhales. The process is reassuring to her, another one of the scientific certainties that she cannot personally explain but which occurs nonetheless. Cold night air is more difficult for humans to breathe and balls of burning gas millions of miles away emit heat in the form of light. These things occur regardless of her existence and right now that is an immense relief. While she loves her job, it is wearying. It's comforting to remember that there is a universe out there unconcerned and unaffected by human foibles.
In order to regard the imperturbable universe just a little bit better, Brennan tips her head back. This is a mistake; her stupid, treacherous shoes betray her on the damp grass. She loses her balance and for a brief, terrifying moment, she thinks she might fall into the lake.
Booth grabs at her, manages to keep her from toppling over, although the save is rather ungraceful. When Brennan manages to regain her footing and can thus take stock of the situation, she realizes that Booth is still gripping her coat stiffly.
"You all right there, Bones?"
She turns around, slowly, carefully, to face him and nods. As she moves, Booth lets go of her coat but keeps his hands by her sides as if afraid she might suddenly topple over again. Something in the back of his mind registers that her eyes are nearly the same color as the moon.
Booth had been attracted to her from the moment they'd met but after that first disastrous attempt, he'd decided that such an attraction was best stuffed into the mental equivalent of a dark closet, regardless of what Sweets would have to say about suppression and sublimation and a bunch of similar psychobabble. Although Booth is sure that he had valid reasons at the time to make such a decision, right now it is very hard for him to remember any of them as he gazes into a pair of moon-colored eyes under a starlit sky.
Those moon-colored eyes are watching him intently and he can sense she's picked up on his change in mood. Judging by the tenseness of her body, which he can just barely feel, she wasn't yet sure what that change meant, but he would bet anything that her brain was firing on all cylinders trying to figure it out.
Hearing his name like that, in her voice all soft and troubled makes him lose the last of his caution. The gambler in him kicks in and he steps closer, presses his hands against her sides and after the briefest hesitation, kisses her.
This time, it is Booth's turn to be scared witless for a second until he feels her hands come up against his chest and this time, she is grabbing his coat, pulling him closer to her.
They both know that after this, there will have to be words, discussions, attempts to divine exactly how this thing between them is going to play out. But those are concerns for the morning, under the harsher, revealing light of the sun.
And it's not too much to hope that they might weather the coming day. It's not too much to hope that they might align themselves together, be the other's fixed point and safe, sure thing, that they might always continue to shine brightest in each other's eyes.
Booth and Brennan as a couple could have happened a million different ways at a million different times; this is just one version that I like.
Vaguely inspired by Stellar by Incubus.
Love and endless thanks to my dear, patient, supportive, and amazing beta, wolfraven80.