A/N: In 2008, I wrote a Halloween Bones fic. In 2009, I wrote a Halloween Bones fic. In 2010, I wrote a Halloween Bones fic. I don't remember why I missed last year; I think it had something to do with the 2 jobs, full-time college course load, internship, and student organization I was busy with. But right now I'm supposed to be completing the writing sample for my MFA applications, and have been having terrible writer's block. I thought, what better way to get my creative juices flowing than to indulge in one of my favorite time-honored traditions? So here we are.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of my subscribers, as well as random readers, who gave their condolences after my huge loss in August. Your kindness meant more to me than you can imagine. I am still struggling immensely with my grief, but the bleeding is beginning to slow down, so to speak. The metaphorical wound is clotting, which means I am one step closer to beginning to heal. I carry all of your kindness with me like a bandage, a way to apply pressure to the bleeding pain that comes in waves. You are truly wonderful, and your support left me in awe and incredibly grateful.
I'm done blabbering now. I just wanted to find a way to express my gratitude. With that said, I hope you enjoy this little piece of tradition!
Brennan walked slowly behind Christine as she toddled, taking three steps forward in the crunchy grass before tumbling forward. She let the child catch herself on the heels of her palms, laughing unaffectedly and pushing herself back upright again. Brennan knew her daughter didn't need to be followed, but she found it impossible not to wander behind her, arms out and ready as if the child might be swooped up by a vulture at any given moment. Mothering instincts; she couldn't fight them if she tried. She had given up many, many irrational battles since the birth of her daughter, learning to understand that this, as senseless as it was, was sometimes what it meant to be a mother.
"Bones!" She looked up at Booth, who stood about ten feet away, holding up a large orange gourd, so bold it nearly matched his Flyers sweater. "How about this one?"
"Sure?" she said, unable to tell the difference between that particular pumpkin and the last seven he had held up for her inspection. He gave a long-suffering sigh and set it down.
"Parker's much better at this," he sulked, brushing the dirt off his hands onto his pants legs and continuing his search for the perfect pumpkin. He had explained the specs to her in the car on the way to the patch—at least ten pounds, more round than tall, straight ridges that ran all the way down the sides, and a big stem. Christine had giggled as he made exaggerated hand gestures to describe the pumpkin's dimensions, his face bright and expressive. It never ceased to amaze Brennan, the way their daughter looked like him when she smiled. It was the cheeks, she had finally decided. The high structure of her zygomatic processes, or what Booth referred to as her "million dollar cheekbones."
"Hey," he said again, but this time he was right behind her, holding a pumpkin nearly as big as their daughter. "How's this one?"
"Large," Brennan replied. "It appears to fit your criteria." Booth smiled in a self-satisfied way as he bent down and showed Christine the pumpkin. She reached out to put her hands on it, and he described it to her in a sing-song voice.
"See the big pumpkin? Yeah, it's a big pumpkin, isn't it? See how it's round, not tall? That's how you make happy faces. The tall ones look scary—" he embellished 'scary' with a ghoulish intonation that triggered an outpouring of her sweet giggles, "—but the round ones look happy."
"Booth, she doesn't know what you're saying," Brennan said, not unkindly, but with a smile and her hand tracing the top of his shoulder. "Explain it to her when she's older."
"You gotta start 'em young, Bones," he said, rising to his feet and holding the pumpkin comfortably in his broad arms. "It's tradition!"
She watched him continue to educate their daughter on the finer points of pumpkin picking while she mulled over that word, tradition. In anthropological terms, it means the transmission of customs and beliefs from one generation to the next. Really, it meant just about anything you could teach from one generation to the next. A tradition of religious beliefs. A tradition of cultural food practices. A tradition of kindness, even. Brennan had studied traditions across the globe, particularly as they pertained to burial practices. Somehow she always found her mind drawn back to the first burial photograph she had ever seen—Shanidar Cave, a Neanderthal grave site in Iraq. The Shanidar Cave site is renowned in anthropological circles as the first proof that Neanderthals performed ritual burials, and probably held some belief in an afterlife.
In her mind's eye she could see the crushed and remottled skull of Shanidar 1, the first skeleton recovered from the dig site. Shanidar 1, who her professor at Northwestern had always affably referred to as 'Nandy', was not the most interesting find in the cave—arguably that title belonged to Shanidar 4, the Neanderthal buried with pollen remnants that were long believed to be indicative of flowers placed at his grave. But to Brennan, Shanidar 1—Nandy—had always held the most significance.
Nandy had a severely injured, withered right arm, and deformities in his leg and foot of the same side. His skull had been crushed by a blow, and healed, years before his death. Nandy would have been partially paralyzed, had a pronounced, painful limp, been blind in one eye, and his life as a whole would have been incredibly painful. He would not have been able to live on his own or take care of himself. The fact that he lived as long as he did—almost fifty years, incredibly old for a Neanderthal—was indicative of a tradition of caring for the infirm among Neanderthals over 60,000 years ago.
To Brennan, that meant far more than the fact that Neanderthals believed in an afterlife, or that they practiced specific burial rituals. Those were fine, but it was skeletons like Shanidar 1 that kept her up at night, eyes closed, pouring over the details of the skeleton in her mind, each remodeled crack and crevice, the deformities in the arms and legs, the crushing of the orbital bar. The fact was that for absolutely no discernible reason, his community had cared for him, even when he could not contribute to their survival. He couldn't see danger approaching from a distance. He couldn't care for small children in the absence of able-bodied adults. With that skeleton, he could have done little other than sit and watch. But they fed him, sheltered him, and protected him from harm, for almost fifty years. Despite his brokenness, he was loved. That meant something. For a long time she didn't understand why it struck her so profoundly, only that it did.
"Temperance." His voice finally cut through to her conscious thought like the biting autumn wind as he yelled her name from a few yards away, in two long, drawn-out syllables. She looked up to see him carrying the pumpkin under one arm, Christine in the other. His brows were knit together with the kind of warm, bemused confusion he so often directed towards her. Sometimes it was from something she said, but often it was because of this—losing herself, wherever she happened to be, in the bones of some far-away past.
"Oh," was all she said, smiling as she caught up to them. "Are we ready?"
"Yeah," he laughed, leaning in and kissing her temple. "You know, sometimes Christine is easier to keep track of than you are. What would you do without me?"
He said it in jest, but the truth was, she had no idea. Because somewhere along the way, he had mended a part of her she didn't even know was broken. Somehow, despite her brokenness, even though she believed she had nothing to give, she had been loved. That meant something. That meant everything.
A/N: The Shanidar Cave site is a real archaeological dig site in Iraq, and 'Nandy' really is the nickname for Shanidar 1, the first skeleton recovered from the site. I found it incredibly interesting when I first learned about it, so if your interest was piqued, I highly encourage you to read up on it. I'm kind of an anthropology nerd, though, so of course I would. Anyway, please review and let me know what you thought of the fic, and Happy Halloween!