Normally, I like to explain my premise upfront, but I feel to do so would spoil the prologue. Please stay tuned for the end notes, where this new experiment becomes clearer.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bones, nor has HH called me for a job yet. Pity. I do this out of love. Title of the fic derived from the song "The Mixed Tape" by Jack's Mannequin. Dialogue borrowed from episodes for context; no infringement intended.
Another case, another murderer locked up and awaiting a bail hearing with Caroline chomping at the bit. Some things never changed in his life, and for that, Booth was grateful. Glancing quickly at his beautiful partner, his heart ached. And some things never change that you would give anything for them to do so.
Catherine was wonderful: beautiful, intelligent, considerate and a great kisser, among other skills. But a nagging thought in the back of his head kept him awake at night, long after he'd politely booted Catherine from his bed. You're just dating her because she's like Bones, he'd think, only to counter with lists of evidence that he was not that sort of callous bastard.
Besides, she wasn't entirely like his partner. She knew pop culture, which should have been a welcome difference, except he missed explaining his jokes to someone, which was ridiculous. She also had... questionable taste in ties. His ties were about more than novelty or quirks; each was a personal statement about the man behind the badge and tailored suit uniform of the job.
His distraction had lent a sort of autopilot nature to their conversation tonight, which had worked out well between mouthfuls of beer. But then, she dropped a bomb on him.
"Last night, Andrew gave me a CD with music he likes."
That smug, slimy, dorky son of a bitch! He's going to go all John Hughes on my woman? Immediately, he rebuked himself: she wasn't his woman, not for lack of trying. He'd tried. Tried at the behest of a teenager with a Psychology degree who stared at them like a couple in some dorky TV show he worshipped. Yeah, Sweets probably watched re-runs of Moonlighting or some other bullshit show with an improbable couple, masturbating while crying tears of joy.
And why did he care? He'd moved on, right?
"Mix tape? Hmmph. Talk about a social contract." He took another swig of his beer, willing himself to sound like less of a jealous asshole.
"That's what I surmised."
So she wasn't unaware of the implications. Of course, this would be an aspect of pop culture she'd comprehend, wouldn't it? Just his goddamn luck. Why was he so angry? He had Catherine. He'd moved on, just as he'd said he would. I need scotch, he decided suddenly. Beer wasn't going to cut it.
Because he was fast realizing he had certainly not begun moving on. Not at all.
"Our partnership is still important to me."
Again, he took a figurative shot to the gut, but in a good way. He nodded slightly, indicating he'd heard what was a sincere and kind statement. Nope, cancel that 'moving on' status. He was deep in the murky blue waters of "the hell known as being in love with Temperance Brennan" and he was happy to drown.
"You know that, right?" she continued, worry lines beginning to form around her eyes, those mesmerizing blues he loved getting lost in.
Fuck Andrew Hacker, he thought. Screw this moving on crap. With the courage born of hops, he reassured her.
"Sure. Yeah. You die for your partner. That's the way I look at it."
A half-smile, barely there and gone again. The woman tucked neatly behind the scientist once more. For a moment, Booth felt guilty. Had that been a pressuring statement? Was it too much? No, it's just the truth, he told himself. He'd taken a bullet for her, willing to die in her place. She'd moved heaven and earth, so to speak, saving his life on more than one occasion. If she couldn't hear the truth, that was her problem.
Breaking the silence, she threw out a fact that almost made him fall off his stool. "I liked Andrew's taste in music, except for a band called Led Zeppelin."
He watched her take a drink, as casually as if she'd pointed out that the sky was blue. "Except for a band called Led Zeppelin?" He was incredulous.
Yes? No explanation, no description of a head trauma to blame her statement away with. Booth was not having this. She had to be confused!
"What do you mean? Led Zeppelin is like, the best rock and roll band ever! They had a reunion tour in '07 in London. I would have killed for those tickets."
Bones then proceeded to stick the knife in his rocker heart and give it a twist. "Really? My publisher offered me tickets but when I heard 'zeppelin' I thought it was for some sort of air show."
"Air show – you turned down what probably was the last concert Led Zeppelin would ever play?"
"Are you going to kill me?"
No, he wasn't, although he did feel compelled to strap her into a chair and play their entire discography to educate her. "You're unbelievable!"
"It's just a band, Booth."
Just a band... Did no band ever captivate her? Had she really never connected with the power of music? Had she never heard a song and felt utterly understood by a stranger? The more he thought about it as the night went on, the sadder it made him. One of his few saving graces during his teens was his extensive collection of vinyl. When the memories overwhelmed him and the rage swelled within, he'd blast Social Distortion or The Clash, whatever captured the anger best. During his first stint with the Army, he'd kept himself sane with Springsteen and whatever good shit he could dig up in his squadron's stash. Music was life, boiled down to chords and words that could say so much in so little time.
Admittedly, he was drunk by the time he got home, but he was strangely awake, ruminating on his conversation with his partner. I mean, hell, they had a song! "Hot Blooded" was their song. He grinned as he recalled her rocking the guitar (pretty poorly) and singing along (not the best vocals she'd ever done). For a few minutes, it was as if nothing had changed between them. It was amazing. Music gave him those treasured minutes.
Flipping the channels, he stumbled on John Cusack's face and froze. Hacker. What was the idiot gonna do next, show up at her apartment with a boom box? Would she even get the reference? Wait... Oh, he knew this movie. High Fidelity. God, this guy could be him, what with their equally horrible track records in relationships. I've never cheated, though, he reminded himself. It was just... No. You didn't cheat. Ever. This was the end, though, which was a shame since Booth suddenly felt like wallowing straight through 'til morning. As Cusack cued up his stereo, Booth glanced over at his.
How had he not thought of it sooner?
"You understand the conventions of mix tapes, Bones? I'll show you a mix tape."
And thus began a project spanning nearly three years...
He tapped his foot impatiently as the device synced, humming to himself. Downstairs, he could hear his daughter giggling about something and for a moment, he was struck with sadness over their most recent case. He couldn't begin to fathom how he'd cope with the loss of his family. A summer apart had nearly destroyed him; death and its permanence... He shook himself, drawing a deep breath. This wasn't the time. This was about not taking a single moment for granted in life.
Sync is complete. OK to disconnect.
Unplugging the device and snatching up the tangle of cords beside it, he headed downstairs with just a little bounce in his step. How many times had he considered giving her this? How many times had the mood and tracks shifted over the years? So many reasons to hesitate, so many delays. Flimsy excuses now, given his renewed appreciation of all he had to live for. Like the beautiful woman in the kitchen they shared for example, who was currently wiggling her fingers in her silly and loving way.
"Phalanges! Dancing phalanges!" she cooed to Christine, who seemed torn between soiling her diaper and laughing with mom. He couldn't help but chuckle, which alerted her to his return. "Do you think it's too soon to learn the periodic table of elements?"
Wiggling his fingers at Christine as he passed, Booth replied, "What, for you or Christine?"
He was nervous. It crashed over him like a wave and suddenly, this seemed like a terrible idea. Poor timing. Not the right mood. Should he have burned a CD instead? Calling the playlist up on the screen, he listened as the woman he loved rattled off what he was surprised to recognize as the first few elements. Just do it!
He whistled for her attention, and got it.
"What is that?"
"This is your mix tape," he explained.
The surprised smile on her face dispelled all remaining anxiety. "You made me a mix tape?"
"Mmhmm. You know what? You're right: I am the romantic one."
He handed her a set of ear buds, now eager for her to hear his handiwork. That only took years to complete. Better late than never, right?
"I find I think that is very sweet!" And she did: she was truly touched by the gesture.
"Well, it starts with our song," he added, nestling buds into his own ears.
"What, we have a song?"
And this was why he'd begun this mix in the first place: to connect that big, generous heart of hers to music as a new language. One that he spoke fluently.
"Every couple has a song," he playfully admonished her, hitting play. "Wait for it..."
The familiar melody began and Temperance Brennan was grinning, just like the first night they'd shared it in her living room. With a laugh, she began to sing, dancing Christine right along with her. He added an air guitar flourish as he joined her, although it was soon abandoned to rescue their daughter from impending whiplash. But that was okay, because the pure joy on the face of the woman he loved so wholeheartedly was worth any price he could possibly pay.
He would still die for her, kill for her, do anything for her.
"What else is on here?" she asked him impatiently.
"Nuh uh, you're just going to have to listen and find out!" His nose wrinkled in understanding. "And Christine has decided to be a literal party pooper. Be back, Mom!"
Glancing back over his shoulder, he watched as she twirled and danced in the kitchen, completely uninhibited. Free. The way the light reflected off of her hair, the mischievous gleam in her eye... it was magic. He was still grinning like an idiot, even while changing what had to be one of the most disgusting diapers any child had ever produced in the history of mankind.
He couldn't wait for her to hear the rest of his messages for her...
It is a dangerous thing, Hart Hanson, to bring up the words "mix tape" in connection with a couple I ship to the bitter end. You see, I am a music addict/blogger beyond the walls of fandom. I think in tune. Lyrics are my language.
Needless to say, when I saw the kitchen clip a few days ago from "The Ghost In The Machine", I died of squee and immediately wondered: what else is on that mix tape? Later on, in re-watching "The Rocker In The Rinse Cycle", my memory was jogged by the whole Hacker mix tape discussion. It occurred to me then: given repeated allusions to Booth's connection to music, how had he not made her a mix tape before? Further, given that his boss – someone Booth considered as a lesser in the FBI – had made her a mix tape first, how had heartbroken Booth NOT made one in season five to one-up him?
And then, it hit me: who says he didn't?
Granted, I had to wait until the episode aired to ensure he hadn't made her some previous mix or spoken of it, but I immediately decided that the man who associated a song with the two of them in spite of being blown up while it played had probably connected other tunes to one Temperance Brennan.
What's to come? Vignettes and one-shots, all connected to songs on Booth's evolving mix tape for Brennan. Some songs will not remain on the final mix delivered in 2012 (you'll see why). They will not be in chronological order, let alone playlist order. They will be in keeping with Booth's "style" (so no sweet love ballads, no matter how perfect, that I wouldn't expect Booth to know). Each chapter will be slanted to Booth's POV (challenging for me). Some may offer new insights into the past, while others shed light on moments we never saw. I may just get all smutty up in here.
Subscribe to alerts, sit back, and get ready for a musical journey through the history of our couple, with a hint of interaction from you, the readers. It will be an epic ride.