My Postscript A/N will tell more about where this tale came from.
I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it touches you in an emotional way.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with Bones or its characters.
Booth carefully stepped onto the bathmat and waited just a few moments to let some of the water run down his body before wrapping a towel around his waist and knotting it low on his hips. He shoved his war-torn feet into his comfortably worn-out slippers and shuffled slowly across the damp black-and-white tiled floor towards the vanity.
He reached out and swiped his hand across the foggy mirror, clearing enough space to be able to see his aged image staring back at him. He grinned, knowing his partner would have something to say about that.
He was not disappointed.
"You know, Booth, I gave you a squeegee to use on the mirror for when you want to shave after your shower…"
He chuckled as he looked into the mirror, catching her bright gray-blue eyes staring back at him from somewhere over his shoulder. He had always loved her eyes, thought they were extraordinary, just like her. And although the striking brilliance of the blue faded over time, they were still bright, and sharp, and so captivatingly intelligent…
"Yeah," he shrugged exaggeratedly, trying to play the nonchalant game. "But if I did that, I would take away all that pleasure you have in lecturing me…" He broke into a playful snicker as he lathered up his face, preparing to give himself a nice, close shave, just like he knew she preferred whenever he finished showering.
No longer seeing the love of his life peering into the mirror from behind him, Booth called out into the adjoining bedroom as he tilted his head backwards ever so slightly, beginning his shaving routine at his throat. "You know, Bones, I was thinking about your question… Remember, when you asked me what's my favorite memory of the past 47 years…?" He drew the safety razor along his jawline, cutting a clean edge, enjoying the opposing sensations of the smooth slide of the metal playing against the slight burn left behind by the motion itself. "And I think it's near impossible for me to choose just one memory…"
He could hear noises in the next room and he imagined she was selecting what blouse she'd be wearing for the day…for this anniversary that seemed to have crept up in the metaphoric blink of an eye.
Opening the medicine cabinet, he reached in and pulled out his bottle of Lacoste Pour Homme. He inhaled the clean earthy scent, which Brennan had always described as reminiscent of almonds and juniper, vanilla and sandalwood, and he smiled, thinking about how much she loved nuzzling his neck whenever he wore it. He smiled at his own reflection and then sighed. "When did I get so old, baby?" He huffed a small laugh then called out louder, "Don't answer that! Not everyone can age as gracefully as you did, Baby."
The quiet, ghostly giggle that reached his ears in response made his heart swell and his lips break into a goofy, crooked grin. I've always loved that laugh, he mused to himself. He closed his eyes and said a little prayer of thanks to the Man upstairs for blessing him with such a wonderful life… Through all their hardships and struggles, he and his partner made a beautiful life together and had raised an equally beautiful daughter in the process, while also supporting his own son's endeavors when the boy grew into a well-rounded and successful man. He thanked God for His Bones, and for granting him two amazing children, Parker and Christine, and for keeping them all close even through the difficult times they'd faced as their lives took unexpected turns and detours along the way.
Booth opened his eyes and turned from the elderly image of himself, which he had reluctantly admitted long ago, looked more and more like his father the older he grew. The former Special Agent walked slowly into the spacious bedroom he'd shared with the love of his life for more than 40 remarkable years. As he passed her bureau, he caught a whiff of her lavender and vanilla body spray and powder, and he hummed in approval. "Love that scent, baby…" he mumbled, still wearing a crooked grin as he reached into the closet and pulled out his blue button-down rayon and polyester shirt. Slipping the buttons through their corresponding holes with shaky fingers, he stood straight and proud before the full length mirror, cocking his head a bit and smiling smugly before he caught her knowing grin from behind him.
"You still like this one, Bones?" He watched as her eyes traveled the length of his reflection before traveling back up to meet his gaze.
"I've always liked you in blue, Booth." She turned slowly towards the door leading to the hallway, "and green."
He spun around as quickly as his upper-80-something year old body would let him. "Would you rather I wear the green shirt today, Baby?" He called after her retreating form, but saw her head shake gently, the long cascades of silver hair shimmering in the reflection of the winter sunlight shining through the bedroom window.
"Blue!" It was her simple response, and he grinned, glad he chose correctly the first time.
"I'll cook breakfast, Bones! Even after all these years, your pancakes still suck…" He shuffled forward, grabbing his cane from his perch beside the doorway, so he would be able to navigate the staircase without too much difficulty. "I was thinking about some cheesy scrambled eggs, whatcha think?"
Booth didn't wait for her response; he simply went straight to work, knowing how much she loved his specialty breakfast. The soft sounds of jazz music drifted out into the kitchen from the living room and he smiled. "Remember the first time we danced in your apartment, Bones?" He called into the living room with a chuckle. "I mean, the whole exploding-fridge-thing kinda put a damper on the evening, but everything leading up to that point was fun, huh? I mean, up until then, I had no idea you even knew who Foreigner was, let alone liked them enough to own their Classic Hits CD! It didn't really seem your type of music… But then again, you were always surprising me…" He let his words drift off, as if whispering them into the wind. "Always full of surprises…" That's My Bones….
The CD changer clicked, as if on cue, and the familiar opening chords of "Hot Blooded" filled the common rooms. He chuckled out loud, "Heh… And remember the night we found out that Gordon -Gordon was actually Noddy Comet?! Man-oh-man, that was just crazy… But what a fantastic dinner that was, right!? Even if we did have to invite the baby duck over to eat with us…" He grinned and glanced over his shoulder, catching just a glimpse of his still-gorgeous partner as she passed through kitchen towards the small dining nook, readily agreeing with his recollection.
"Gordon became a very accomplished chef…"
"Damn straight he did, baby… But his mac-n-cheese still couldn't hold a candle to yours," he winked at her reflection in the kitchen window near the sink and turned his attention back to the frying pan, folding the remaining cheese into the egg and milk mixture. "I still remember the day he told me that he knew I was in love with you… I tried to deny it for so long," he shook his head. "But he'd been counseling me for less than a couple of months and saw right through my ruse… He recognized what I was afraid of admitting to myself… And what I was even more terrified of admitting to you…"
"While I do not subscribe to the supposed benefits of such a soft science as psychology, I must admit that Gordon-Gordon definitely had an insight into the two of us." It was a common disclaimer-speech that Brennan recited time and again…
'Psychology is a soft science…'
'It shouldn't even be considered a medical profession….'
But even so, she always subscribed to the belief that Gordon Wyatt actually knew what he was talking about…
Booth chuckled at the indirect compliment that his partner had repeatedly paid to the shrink-turned-chef over the course of their years together.
"Heh…" Booth chuckled out loud. "Remember the time I made you an omelet during the battle-of-the-photos when you were pregnant? You actually had the nerve to take a picture of me naked in front of the stove?!"
"It was foolish to cook while nude, Booth… what if something had…"
He cut off the age-old argument. "Nothing was going to happen to Little Booth, Bones… I know my way around a stovetop, you know…" He rolled his eyes as he grabbed two plates from the cabinet. "But Angela was relentless, wasn't she…!?" He paused and stared at the closed cabinet, clutching the plates in his hand. "You never showed her that picture, right Bones?" The worry crept into his voice as if the digital photo was still around someplace, posing a threat to his manhood. "Bones?" He started to turn, but heard her chuckle, and blushed at his own insecurity. "I mean, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of, but…"
"No, I never showed her Booth…" Her sing-song voice made Booth close his eyes and just listen. "I never divulged our secrets, or our privacy, Booth. What's ours is ours..."
The way she repeated his own words back to him brought about a new memory. "Ahhh… that night at the unveiling of your mummy-exhibit…" He sighed in memory as he removed the frying pan from the stove and started to divide the scrambled eggs between the two small plates, piling a little extra onto his own. "You were amazing that night... And oh, my God, so freaking unbelievably beautiful…"
He could almost 'hear' her cheeks blushing at the praise– she always grew exceptionally quiet when he randomly complimented her. For being as immodest as Temperance Brennan was, she was continually left speechless at Booth's awe of her – something she never outgrew during their years together.
Booth turned slowly and made his way over to his regular seat at the table, setting down the two plates next to the already-set silverware and steaming coffee cups. "And the Fund-Raising Gala, the one when you and I went as a couple for the first time… That blue dress you wore," Booth smiled at his memory as he bowed his head to give thanks for breakfast, and while he was giving thanks for the food, he gave one more nod of appreciation to the Big Guy for all the memorable breakfasts they'd shared at this table.
As he opened his eyes, the bright morning light casting through the large bay-windows caused a shadow across their child's indented handwriting in the wood grain of the time-worn table. He traced his fingertips lightly over Christine's early attempts at printing her name...
He could remember sitting with her at this very spot, helping her grip the pencil 'just right' so she could start to learn how to write her letters. Later, after she'd mastered the art of holding the fat green pencil, he tried to help by telling her, 'Don't press down so hard, BabyGirl; let the pencil do the work…you just show it where to go…' He could remember cringing at the engravings he found etched into the tabletop after removing her homework when she was done, hoping that his partner would understand. But when Brennan came home from work that night, she didn't care about the table; she only cared that Booth was the wonderful father who sat with their little girl and helped teach her how to write her name.
Tears pricked the back of his eyes. "That first night, Bones…the night we made Christy… And, Oh God, the day she was born…Her first word…her first steps…" He continued to stare at his daughters four-year-old-writing. "The day she was married…" He sighed and swallowed the lump in this throat. "Those are all amazing memories, too, Bones…" He closed his eyes in silent memory, and to regain his composure. When he opened his eyes, the glare from the window made him squint in his partner's direction, which brought about yet another memory.
"The day my son told me he wanted to be a 'Squint', just like you… Not like me, his father… but like you…His all-time-favorite idol." He smiled warmly and tilted his head. "And you took him under your wing, you mentored him, you got him into the best schools and helped him make all the right connections. You never treated him like he wasn't your own son, and for that, I will always love you just a little bit more than before…"
"You're remembering a lot of things today, Booth," she grinned happily at her husband, who had already turned his attention back to his breakfast plate.
"Well, you asked me what my favorite memory was, Bones," he mumbled through scrambled eggs, "and my mind is flooded with magnificent thoughts."
He ceased talking until he finished eating, and then patted his stomach dramatically. "Ahh, I'm full." He cracked another smile. "I can remember a time when a little plate of eggs like that would barely even wet my whistle, and look at me now… I'm so full I could nap…" He pushed back from the table. "Leave the dishes, Babe; I'll finish 'em later. Let's go listen to the music in the living room… Today's an important anniversary. We should just sit for a bit…"
He walked slowly to the CD changer and checked the other slots, ensuring that all five spaces were occupied with her favorite tunes. Booth then turned back to the leather couch and sat on 'his' end of the sofa, lifting the leg rest as he got himself comfortable. Once he was settled, he grabbed the well-worn throw pillow and placed it on his lap. It was a time-practiced routine that they'd done for years, once they were both too old to spoon on the couch comfortably enough to cuddle… He sat with his feet extended and his pretty scientist would lay her head on his lap while they watched TV, or listened to music, or simply watched the fireplace burn.
He grinned at the familiar weight on his thighs as soon as the pillow came to rest in its spot. "Have I told you lately how much I love the feel of your hair, Bones? I know that sometimes I forget to tell you things, but I hope you always remember how much I love running my fingers through your hair." He let his eyes drift over to the end table at his side. "And I have always adored this picture, too."
He reached out and watched as his own arthritic fingers wrapped around the 8X10 frame that held a close-up of his bride. It was taken on their honeymoon, and initially he was also in the shot, thanks to a polite woman who offered to take a photo of the two of them together in front of a bright-blooming bush. Once they got back home, however, Booth zoomed in on his girl and cropped the picture so it was just her smiling semi-profile, looking up at where his image used to be. The fuchsia flowers on the large bougainvillea bush in the background were a striking contrast to the brilliant blue of his partner's eyes. Her slightly sunburned cheeks showed evidence of soft freckles, brought out by days spent on the beach and sightseeing; her shiny, sun-kissed chestnut hair was pulled back into a high, carefree ponytail and her bangs were ruffled, as if a gentle breeze was displacing them. "That was a trip of a lifetime, Baby… Even though we missed Christy something terrible, we had a helluva honeymoon…"
Booth's eyes grew heavy as he felt the results of his restless night creeping up on him. He took a deep breath, smelling his wife's refreshing lavender and vanilla aroma, and he hummed. "Did you notice I put on the cologne you like, Bones?"
"I can always tell when you put it on, Booth. I love that scent; it's very pleasing."
"Yeah, I knew you liked it the first time I wore it. I used to wear it on purpose, you know, before we were together… just so you would lean close to me."
"You were never fooling me, Seeley Booth." Her playfully knowing-tone of voice rang in his ears.
"Well, I never really figured I could fool you at much, Bones… but I had fun trying…" He wrinkled his forehead as he felt the back of the picture frame, and suddenly, he remembered that he'd taped an envelope there long ago.
"Hhmm…" He let his head tilt to the side as he opened the envelope and pulled out a folded piece of age-yellowed notebook paper. He didn't have his reading glasses with him, but he didn't need them, he knew exactly what was on that paper. Booth rubbed his fingers against the smoothness of the page and could feel the almost-braille-like lines caused by the force he'd used while writing the words upon the page, then scribbling them out and writing more, only to scribble those out as well. He knew, without unfolding the brittle paper that there was only one written line that had remained untouched on the front-side of the note.
He sighed, "My eyes are tired, Baby…" The soft sounds of lounge-jazz tunes were lulling him into an ultra-relaxed state. "I didn't sleep well last night, Bones… I'm so tired…I guess I had too much on my mind…." He let his head fall back against the headrest of the sofa just as he heard the distinguishable sound of Parker's car pull up outside, followed almost immediately by the softer sound of Christy's mini-van pulling up the drive way. "I guess the kids remembered what day it is, Bones…" He swallowed thickly and fought an uninvited tear. "You were always the one, Bones…You were always the one I loved most."
Parker got out of his car and stood beside it, watching his sister's van pulling up towards him. He shoved his hands in his pockets and shivered against the cold as he glanced up at the sky and the softly falling snowflakes. He gave his 'little sis' a big hug when she met him on the sidewalk. "Perfect timing, kiddo," he grinned, "did you call first?"
She shrugged and shook her head, "Nah, I figured there was no real sense in calling first, especially today. I thought that if I was too early, I'd make breakfast; but I'll bet you anything, Dad made cheesy eggs already." She smiled nervously, feeling a twinge of seriousness. "You?"
"Nope. I don't call anymore, I just show up… Adds spice to life," his deep brown eyes danced as he winked, and the action reminded Christine of their father's eyes when he was younger and he was trying to lighten a sad mood. "C'mon, it's friggin' cold out here." He nodded towards the front porch and threw his arm around her shoulders.
"I know… winter seems to have come awful soon this year… I'm not ready for winter yet, Parks…" She opened the front door with her key and immediately, smelled the familiar scent of her Dad's favorite breakfast. Glancing over her shoulder at her brother, she smirked. "Told ya."
"Yeah, whatever, smarty…" Their banter was easy and they both had an unspoken appreciation that they'd always gotten along so well, given their age difference and the fact that Parker was away for most of Christine's early life. But once he'd come back to the States to study under Brennan's tutelage, the half-siblings formed a quick and impenetrable bond that had carried them through some very difficult times.
"We smell CHEESY EGGS!" They called out in unison, grinning as they walked towards the kitchen, bypassing the entryway to the living room without seeing the back of their father's head resting against the sofa.
The pair stopped dead in their tracks when they looked at the breakfast table, seeing it set for a breakfast that was consumed not more than 20 or 30 minutes ago. Parker grew solemn and turned his head towards the staircase leading upstairs. "Hellooo! Christy and I are here!"
"Parks," he heard his sister whisper and turned in her direction. The young woman who looked so much like her mother stood in the space between the kitchen and living room, where she could hear the soft music clearly and see her father sitting on his end of the couch.
Moving together, Parker put his arm around his little sister when she stifled a cry. "Daddy?"
There was no movement from the couch.
Parker looked at the coffee table and saw five empty CD jewel cases and recognized them immediately as being his step-mother's favorites. He moved his eyes back across to his father's still form. "Dad, hey Dad, wake up…" He placed an open palm on this dad's once-broad shoulder, which had withered with age and painful arthritis.
There would be no movement from his father.
Christine didn't bother to fight the silent tears the trickled from beneath her eyelids as she looked down at her father's lap. His feet were stretched out on the extended foot-rest and the pillow she had always referred to as 'Mom's pillow' was resting on his thighs, where she'd seen it resting so often over the years, usually with her mother's long hair spilling over the edges. Atop the pillow was their father's favorite framed picture of her mother, his fingers wrapped loosely around the edge of the metal frame as it almost fell from his grip and landed on the soft surface. In his other hand, which also rested on the burgundy pillow, was a crumpled piece of paper.
Parker fought the tears as he glanced back at the table again. One plate sat bare, having been scraped clean by his father's fork. The "World's Best Dad" cup of coffee was empty as was the small glass of what-was orange juice. Across the table from his father's seat was a plate still over-flowing with now-cold cheesy eggs and the "This Anthropologist Needs Caffeine" cup was still filled to the brim with no-longer-steaming-coffee. The small serving of orange juice was just starting to separate into pulp and no-pulp layers from sitting for too long. He turned back to face his teary-eyed sister.
"The doctor said he's been drifting a little more each week… He was slipping in and out of delusions… carrying on conversations with her…" Parker's voice was shaking with emotion.
"It's only been six months, Parker…He only made it six months to-the-day without Mom…" Christine shattered and fell to her knees beside the still-form of her father. "Daddy? Please wake up…" She placed her hands on his arm, knowing it was useless, but unable to stop herself from pleading for just one more day... just one more smile… just one more warming hug…
Parker pulled his sister up from the floor and into an all-encompassing embrace, holding her close. "It's OK, Chris…" He sniffed, trying to remain strong. "Look, he went with a smile; he's listening to Bones' music, he was probably talking to her… He made them both breakfast…" He pulled back and looked down at the woman who had lost both her parents in the stretch of six months. Parker had lost his mom years before, so he was somewhat ready for the sting that he'd known would be coming any day, and which was now upon them. But his younger sister, no matter how independent she was, would always have a fragile sense of emotions – a trait she inherited from both parents. Parker wanted, more than anything, to take away her pain, but he knew it was going to be a rough road for Christine Angela Brennan-Booth to learn how to cope with both parents being gone. Trying to offer some relief, he nodded to the peaceful appearance of their father. "He even shaved for her, Chris. He went home to be with Bones…"
"Mom didn't believe in heaven, Parker, you know that!" Christine was angry that her father would leave without saying goodbye, although she knew the immediate feelings were irrational.
"Doesn't matter, sis… He believed enough for both of them. He made a promise to your mom a long time before you were even born, that he would never leave her…And he kept his word. But he was tired… It's hard for us to accept… but it was his time…" Parker tried to gently tug his sister away from the couch. "C'mon…we have some phone calls to make…"
Before letting him pull her completely away, Christine reached down and pulled the paper from her 'sleeping' Dad's final grip. Opening it, she followed her brother blindly into the kitchen. "Whatdya this this is?" She extended her hand, offering him the paper.
Opening it, Parker grinned. "You would have been too young to remember, and I never really understood the meaning behind it, but hell, I never understood half of what they said to each other…Those two had all kinds of secret messages they shared," he looked up, realizing his sister was anxiously waiting for an explanation of the tattered paper he now held. He nodded and looked back down. "It's Dad's wedding vows… it's what he told Bones on day they got married…" he flipped the paper around, amused at all the attempts and crossed-out errors written in his dad's familiar scrawled handwriting.
She grabbed the paper back from her brother, a crease in her brow that was 'all-Brennan', as he once told her. "That's it? This is all he said to her on their wedding day?" She looked at the paper in disbelief. She had seen her mom's wedding vows when she was trying to write her own; her mother came to her with a speech-length explanation that she'd recited on the day the partners finally tied the knot. It spoke of why she loved Booth, what their lives together would mean, how they would always stand together while raising a child, how they would never go to bed mad and they'd never leave the house without saying "I Love You." Christine looked back at her brother. "Are you sure!?"
"Positive. I was there, right beside Dad when he said it… and it rendered your Mom speechless and brought her to tears… So yeah, that's it." He raised his hands with a shrug and took one more glimpse out to the living room at his Dad before picking up the house phone can placing a call to the authorities. "Yes, hello, my name is Parker Booth…"
Her brother's voice faded into background noise occupying her head as she looked at the page in her trembling hands. She finally placed it on the table, flopped down unceremoniously into her traditional seat and reached across to her mom's former spot, sliding the breakfast dish towards her. She planned to eat her Dad's cheesy eggs for one last time – Cold-Cheesy -Eggs were better than Never-Again-Cheesy-Eggs. Fighting back tears as the cleaned the plateful that was made with love for her deceased mother, Christine kept looking over the words until she heard the door chime and saw her brother move across the room to allow the men entrance. She folded the paper and tucked it into her jeans pocket, repeating the words to herself.
"Bones, you were always the one I loved the most. Like I told you, I knew right from the start, I knew… and I promise I will never leave you. I'm looking forward to the next 30 or 40 or 50 years with My Bones."
OK, so I don't know how well I told the story.
While I was writing it, picturing and old, widowed Booth shuffling around an otherwise silent house on the 6-month anniversary of losing Brennan, I was in tears. But I don't know if that translated into my writing.
Please tell me by leaving a review.
I know I promised, after submitting the Fill In The Blank challenge response, "The Truth In The Words," that I would be getting back to "Death Plus One" and "Letters from Maluku," but I couldn't write anything until I told this story. It became all-encompassing and needed to be told.
I was inspired to write this by a song written by a friend of mine. The song's name is 'Margaret' and it was written by Mike Jurgensen, a brilliant Florida Folk Singer/Songwriter. If you'd like to learn more about him, please visit the website for the trio with which he plays, called 2PM. You can find their website at wwwdot2PMbanddotcom. You can also find him by searching YouTube and searching "Margaret Mike Jurgensen." He is a wonderful lyrical storyteller and I thank him for the inspiration, though he has no idea that I've written the story thanks to his lyrics.
Please take a moment to let me know what you thought. This was, for me, the most difficult thing I've ever written, because it's the one story that truly made me cry as I pictured it playing out in my mind's eye. And being the most emotionally-straining piece I've written, it was also the hardest for me to post, because criticism can be so difficult to hear on a raw piece like this. Nonetheless, I welcome **constructive comments**.