Author's Caveat: Often it is more difficult to end a story than it is to begin one. Here is my humble offering of an end that satisfies romantic souls.
For my readers who don't know, I do a lot of behind-the-scenes research for my stories. Everything I write is correctly rendered to the best of my ability. That includes certain facts presented in what you are about to read and it includes locations where the events of this story take place. For example, St. Patrick's Church on 10th & F Streets in Washington DC is a real Catholic Church. I have attended Mass there. And while subjective, the descriptions of its interior are authentic.
"God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day."
The Evening Came...
"Why would he frame me and then give me the evidence to clear myself?"
Angela had frowned, still studying the computer intently as she applied the provided decryption key to restore the altered security images, which in turn proved this evidence packet would have exonerated her best friend. Booth wondered where her 'book' had gone, but answered Brennan's puzzled question with a meaningful glance towards her friend. Did Angela know everything about the unpublished book she'd helped recover...? When Brennan's eyes widened a little and she shook her head, Booth shrugged. "That's a question for Sweets."
Angela turned away from her work to add, "maybe he framed you on an impulse and then felt bad about it."
Like the Jared character?
"Maybe it doesn't matter," Brennan grumbled. She still hated psychology.
"Wow." Late in the afternoon, Dr. Sweets looked over the proof of Pelant's intentions with surprise. "Someone other than Pelant may have arranged Ethan Sawyer's death. And Pelant ultimately intended to help clear you of the murder."
"All right, so what does this mean?" Booth paced up and down the small working space, growing tired and frustrated again because he just didn't know what to do. Nothing made sense anymore. Was Pelant a friend or a foe? Was he good or evil? "I mean, he sent that girl Anna to kill FBI agents and she tried to kill you, right? He killed those other people, right?"
"Maybe he didn't," Sweets said thoughtfully.
"What?" Booth halted in shock.
Brennan looked up from the files she'd been pouring over with interest as well.
"If there's an accomplice, maybe that person is the actual killer. Or, they are placed in such a way as to help him evade detection. It would explain how he was able to do all the stuff we suspect him of while still seeming to be at home under 24 hour monitoring. This accomplice may have brought the technology to him while Pelant was under house arrest. He or she may have also provided him with the aliases he's used, including the abrupt and total identity change to an Egyptian citizen while he was in FBI custody."
"Before you said Pelant wanted me to prove my book was true, but now you think Pelant was trying to protect me?" Brennan narrowed her eyes onto Sweets, waiting for him to explain which motive was the real one. If he even knew, which she highly doubted. All he had was a long list of 'maybes,' a fact that Brennan found to be all too frequent where psychological profiling was concerned.
"Look, I don't know!" Frustrated as well, Sweets threw his hands out as if in defeat. "All I can say is, I do not believe it is a coincidence that the events of Ethan Sawyer's murder investigation so closely match what you wrote in an unpublished novel. I also don't think it's a coincidence that Pelant hid evidence that would clear your name inside a clock set to the symbolic time from that same book. None of this is a coincidence, Doctor Brennan. But beyond that ... I don't know."
Another moment passed while all three simply sat and considered everything. Drawing a cautious breath, Booth ventured to ask Sweets one more question. "Why do you think he did ... what he did?"
He knew Brennan had guessed Pelant was behind the broken engagement for the most part, but he still didn't want to actually say it out loud. Obeying orders was long ingrained in him, at least where work was concerned and absolutely where saving lives was involved. Especially where her life was concerned.
Softly, as if just realizing, Brennan supplied the answer. "He's looking for acclaim..."
A very impressed psychologist raised his brows and gestured towards her, as if to say she'd hit the proverbial nail perfectly into the hole. Brennan didn't notice, however, because she hadn't intended to answer Booth's question. Rather, she'd realized what Pelant might have expected, and saw that at least part of the lashing out against her friends after the fact may have been spite at her apparent ingratitude. In the book, Bren had thanked Jared. "I never thanked him."
"So if you send a nice thank you note, he'll just go away and leave us all alone?"
"Normally with stalkers the victim should avoid contact at all costs. However, in this case crediting him might actually cause him to step back," Sweets suggested.
"No way. It's too big a risk."
"Look," Sweets redirected, "Whether he's working with someone, for someone, or working alone, his actions were designed to accomplish a goal: to keep you two separated, to keep you off balance" - he directed the first to Brennan, then switched to Booth - "and to provoke you into a self-destructive course. He used my unpublished papers to show us what information he's capable of retrieving and I think she's right. He's pissed that she didn't acknowledge his actions."
He had answered Booth indirectly by seeming to talk about the framing, but this made sense of Pelant's desire to stay the center of attention. Sweets had warned him that Pelant might react badly to the engagement. Turning to Brennan, he advised, "if you continue to ignore him, he will escalate. If you acknowledge his efforts to get your attention, it may help. It might draw him out into the open."
Suddenly getting what Sweets was driving at, Booth sighed and realized reaching out to contact Pelant would be just about the last thing anyone expected. "Well, we said we need to do the unexpected..." This was it. He almost laughed because it was just too insane to think of thanking a murderer for being framed. "Right, how is she going to do this? I mean, we can't send him a 'thanks-for-thinking-of-me' card."
"I'll ask him to call me," Brennan shrugged.
Sometimes she gave him a look that reminded Booth of a very patient teacher working with a particularly slow student, and she was giving him that look now. "I'll walk up into the lab and say out loud, 'Pelant, I want to talk; call me.'"
It was so literal, he had to laugh.
She did exactly that. Temperance Brennan placed herself directly in front of one of the security cameras in the lab and spoke. "I know what you did for me. I am ... impressed by your ingenuity. From one neurological fruit to another, you are a formidable adversary. However, as I am concerned for the safety of others, perhaps there is a way to continue our game of wits in a way that does not endanger additional lives."
The phone did not ring that night, proving nothing. Maybe he wasn't watching as closely as they'd feared, or maybe what she'd said on camera was enough. "Now I'm beginning to think like Sweets," Brennan growled with obvious displeasure.
Too many maybes.
Booth seemed oddly solicitous towards her that night, bringing her wine and a book, smiling at her, and often watching her when he thought she wouldn't notice. (She always noticed.) When they went to bed, he pulled her against him, wrapping himself around her and clasping her hand against her sternum so that her heart beat against his wrist. "I'm yours, too, Bones. Always."
...and Morning followed—the Fourth Day.
Hand written notes slipped into palms brought them together the next afternoon.
He got there first. The next three people entered separately, two of them looking around curiously and one turning her eyes this way and that to take in the artistry. The interior glowed alabaster white with warm amber light spilling through the windows and pure white sculptures standing sentry. The fourth and fifth people to to enter did so briskly, the eyes of one narrowed in speculation as she strode forward boldly and met him at the holy water fonts (lovely angels offering cool purity to tortured souls, like she did for him).
She looked suspicious at the moment. It might have come out sounding belligerent but for the fact that she spoke softly. "Why am I here?"
"Do you trust me?"
Brennan glanced past him into the golden glowing interior of the church, then returned her silver gaze to his hopeful eyes. "Yes." Because she did, even without any good reason, but being summoned to a church on such short notice had aroused an extraordinary level of curiosity. Even Cam didn't seem to know why Booth had wanted them there. The only answer was the succinctly worded note asking Cam to bring Brennan to St. Patrick's at the designated hour. Four p.m, on the fourth day of May.
Behind her, the door opened again and she whirled in surprise to see her father coming towards her.
Booth smiled at Max, shaking his hand. "I see you got my note."
Sharing a coy little smile, Max waved an envelope and nodded. Then he winked at Brennan, causing her to frown slightly and turn to take in the others. She saw Angela and Hodgins standing nearby, as well as Sweets. And of course, she'd come here at Cam's mysterious urging. It reminded her rather too much of that ill-fated night at The Checkerbox. "Booth? What's going on?"
He might have managed to surprise her after all (a rare occurrence indeed). "Something unexpected. Something sacred. And a compromise."
Booth grinned at his partner's thoroughly bewildered reception of that cryptic comment. She glanced at her surroundings again as the first inkling of understanding emerged. "You gave me the idea yesterday, Bones. This is one step above hand-fasting. Come on." Tenderly, he wrapped his hand around hers and tugged her towards the altar.
"Father Mackey, this is my partner, Doctor Temperance Brennan. Bones, Father Mackey." After polite nods, Booth turned to her and explained why he'd asked Cam to bring her to the church. It didn't have to happen here, but evading watching eyes was easier on short notice in an unexpected place such as this one. Still, he wanted to move fast and explain his idea before Pelant had a chance to realize what they might be doing. "Bones, Father Mackey needs to hear why you proposed marriage to me."
"Please, just trust that I'm asking for a good reason. Why did you propose?"
It was not often that Booth got ahead of her, but once in a while... Brennan turned to regard the priest curiously. He was smiling, a benevolent presence and Booth squeezed her hand as if to urge her to get started. "Marriage is important to you," she began, still unsure what he wanted her to say.
"Yeah, but not to you, Bones. I was perfectly happy just living with you. It was a compromise and I was happy with what we have. I was never going to ask you to marry me in a Catholic ceremony because I know it would require you to violate your beliefs about God and marriage. But that's what you proposed, Bones: a Catholic ceremony. That's what I need you to explain for Father Mackey."
"God doesn't exist," she began but stopped when she saw his 'don't be rude to God in His house' glare that she'd received numerous times. Hesitating a moment to frame her thoughts in a less offensive manner, she found herself looking towards the front of the church. There was a Crucifix there, just as in every Catholic church, but this one was like none she'd ever seen before. It divided her attention, splitting her into feelings evoked by the image her eyes took in and feelings for Booth that had moved her to stop being selfish and give him what he had sacrificed for her.
"You believe God exists," she finally said, knowing this was the better way to start. "You were compromising your religious beliefs just to be with me. I kept thinking you wouldn't propose because you were hurt by Rebecca and Hannah, and I was hurt that you compared me to them. I thought that's why you wouldn't propose so I was stubborn and refused to do it. But you kept dropping all those hints and I began to understand that you do want to get married to me. And yet you still wouldn't propose. I couldn't understand why."
Softly he prompted, "But now you do?"
"Yes. A few weeks ago I started researching and I saw what it involved. A civil ceremony isn't enough. I would have to be baptized and go for premarital counseling with you and make promises regarding procreation and our children's religious indoctrination. I didn't want to do any of that."
"I know," he assured her. "That's why I wasn't going to propose."
"But then I kept reading and I learned about why you go to confession. I learned that us living together is a sin in your religion that would keep you out of your heaven. When I realized you could die and you would be ... not right with your God, that you feel you are risking your soul to be with me, Booth..."
She was emotional again, just like that day under the Wisteria when she'd tried to explain how fear of his death had finally touched her. "You love me that much..." She paused again, looked again to the Crucifix as if it was telling her something. God did not exist, it was just art, but it seemed to reach towards her in the same way she wanted to reach towards Booth. Turning back to the man she loved, Brennan asked "...How could I not do the same for you?"
"Bones..." Tenderly he brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles.
"I love you, Booth. I'm sorry for selfishly disregarding what is so important to you. I want to be your wife so you will have the peace that you deserve."
As so often seemed to happen, the partners had forgotten everything but each other, standing together in their own bubble with hands and eyes linked while communing on levels their audience could only guess at. It almost seemed as if they were already one when moments such as these occurred.
This was what he'd realized yesterday in Cam's office. When Brennan had blamed herself for the broken engagement, he'd realized she had read the catechism and had proposed for him, out of respect for his religious faith. "You knew what you were doing. You proposed a Catholic wedding knowing you would have to be baptized, and go with me to an Engaged Encounter weekend with other religious people."
His softly uttered question restored her composure partly, enough so that Brennan gave him a puzzled glance. "Of course. I always know what I'm doing."
However, she didn't know what she and Booth together were doing to everyone else. Angela laughed and wiped tears away, leaning her head on Hodgins's shoulder, above which his lightly bearded face was beaming. Cam was smiling too, showing her rare dimples. Sweets had broken into a wide grin at this typical performance because he'd known this about them all along. Even Max was misty-eyed. And the enchanted priest stepped forward to clasp his hands over theirs.
"The sacrament of Christian marriage is conferred from one spouse to the other by the giving of yourselves to one another, freely, knowingly, and in the presence of witnesses. Because you are not a baptized Christian, Temperance, the Church teaches that you are not able to confer the sacrament upon Seeley. However, from what I have had the privilege to witness, your mutual willingness to lovingly sacrifice your own desires for one another is the essence of the sacrament. God will acknowledge a natural marriage exists between you and Seeley if you are willing to meet the conditions of free and knowing consent in the presence of witnesses. By what you've just professed, you have demonstrated that consent."
Grasping her other hand so they were standing face to face, Booth made his proposal. "You don't have to be baptized, Bones. The Catholic Church accepts both natural marriages and Sacramental marriages as valid before God. All we need to perform a natural marriage is permission from the bishop (which I got yesterday afternoon), a priest and two reliable witnesses, and one more thing."
Eyes wide now, she watched Booth waiting for her to ask. "What's the last thing?"
"Consent of both parties, of course." His smile spread into the charm smile that always won her over. "Bones, do you consent to a natural marriage with me?"
"Are you proposing?"
"Are you accepting?"
Glancing around her, seeing the trouble he'd gone to, she felt happiness tug a smile and worry held it down just a little. "What about Pelant?"
"Here's what I'm thinking." Booth glanced at the priest, who nodded as if he knew what was coming. "This is a private moment that will stay inside these walls. It's between you and me, with our closest friends to witness it. It's not a legal marriage so he won't know it happened."
"So, we're not really going to be married?"
"Not as far as any civil authority is concerned."
"But, I thought you want to be legally married with all the attending rights and obligations."
Sweetly, he palmed her cheek and lifted her face to his. "If we do this, we'll be married before God. To a Catholic, that's the only thing that matters."
This option was not something she'd expected at all and, it occurred to her, neither would Pelant. It was a compromise that somehow gave them both what they wanted and the fact that he would offer it made her feel an emotional surge that rivaled what she'd felt at the moment of Christine's birth: a love-charged happiness that made her burst into tears and throw herself against him.
After several minutes passed he pulled her back to smile through his own tears and ask again. "So, Bones, will you consent to a natural, hand-fasted marriage with me?"
They held each other's gazes for another long moment (getting lost in each other as they always would), until someone cleared a throat impatiently and Brennan responded with a joyful sob. "Yes."
After the brief ceremonial exchange of vows, their friends and Max departed singly so as to avoid drawing attention.
Waiting for her turn to leave, Brennan wandered away to study the Crucifix that reached for her from behind the altar. This one was different from the few others she'd seen in various churches. Whereas most featured an agonized man suffering the wounds of the world, this one seemed an embodiment of victory and triumph. The pristine marble Celtic cross was three meters tall, releasing a nearly life-sized sculpture of Jesus. She found herself compelled to look at it, to marvel at the emotion carved in stone, because this Christian Savior was rising away from the cross, leaving death behind Him in the form of an impression in the stone. His face and arms were raised up towards heaven, His face infused with joy as His unblemished body was lifted upwards. It was ... hopeful. It reached her in ways most religious art could not.
Sensing Booth come up beside her, Brennan turned to see him looking at the same sculpture, and he was smiling softly to see her affected by it. Booth also reached her in ways most other people could not. "It's not like other Crucifixes," she remarked quietly.
"No, it's not," he agreed. "The artist says his hands were guided by the Holy Spirit. That Crucifix is the reason I come in here for daily Mass."
"Why?" She wondered if he felt the same way she did when looking at it.
Turning to his newly hand-fasted wife, he took her hand and squeezed, vowing he would hold onto her for life. "Because my religion teaches that love will always triumph over evil. It reminds me of what I believe in."
"Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love."
~Catechism of the Catholic Church~
Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 7
Author's Note: Assuming they did it this way, as far as Booth's religious faith is concerned, he's now a married man who is no longer fornicating. His soul is safe. As far as civil law is concerned, Temperance Brennan is not married at all and there's no 'piece of paper.' Her atheism is not compromised either. As far as Pelant and his potential puppet-master are concerned, nothing happened. ;)
For readers, for reviews, for notes and for everything, thank you so much.
I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed spinning it.
~11 September 2013~