"Your people are my people," Booth had said to her that night at Wong Foo's when she had handed him the file on her parents' disappearance.
"What? I have people?" It had been a revelation -- and he had helped her see it. "Hey, I have people," she had said more confidently.
She didn't want to have people.
On the nights when she wasn't analyzing bones at the Jeffersonian until her eyes were itchy and heavy with exhaustion, the dream would come. It was something she'd never shared with anyone -- not even Angela.
It was Christmas morning. The sweet scent of chocolate chip pancakes wafted to her from the kitchen. Her parents' laughter drifted upstairs to her room as well.
"Should we wake her?" her father whispered. Now it sounded as if he was standing right outside her room, where the door was half open.
"No," her mother replied. "Let her sleep a little while longer. Come back downstairs," she said. "I want you to open your present now." There was an undercurrent of something in her mother's voice, something her fifteen-year-old brain identified as flirting. Yuck, she thought with a small smile before deciding to close her eyes for a few more minutes.
"Yeah? Well, I have a present for you, too," her father replied. His voice faded as Temperance heard him and her mother walk back downstairs.
When Temperance woke again, the first thing she noticed was the silence. The next was her rumbling stomach. She ran downstairs. She was too old to believe in Santa Claus anymore, but she still liked presents. Maybe her parents had bought her the thick but rather expensive anatomy text she'd been eyeing at the bookstore.
Plus those chocolate chip pancakes she'd smelled earlier were calling her name.
Laughter and whispers filled the air as she neared the family room. Her eyes grew wide at the mountain of gifts laid out around the tree. She hadn't seen so many Christmas presents since, well, since ever.
"Mom? Dad?" she called, peeking into the kitchen. No answer. Puzzled, she did a methodical check of every room in the house before peeking in the garage. Her brother and her parents were nowhere to be found.
She went back to the pile of presents. Curious, she picked up the largest box and slipped off the sparkling gold ribbon. Carefully she slipped her fingers under the tape, trying not to rip the wrapping paper. She placed the lid next to her and peered into the now open box.
And saw another, smaller, box. When she opened the smaller box, she found yet another, smaller box nested inside. The air around her buzzed with the laughter and whispers she'd heard just a few minutes ago. They seemed to be coming from the pile of presents.
Her breath came in quick, harsh gasps as she tore into the remaining boxes, no longer trying to preserve the wrapping paper. Still, no sign of her parents. "Mom? Dad? Where are you," she shouted, clawing at the boxes and wrapping paper. Brightly colored paper and ribbon littered the floor around her until the cream-colored carpet was no longer visible. Still, every time she thought she had opened the last present, a new one appeared at her feet.
If she could just open them all...
She broke through the surface of the nightmare, shuddering, gasping, and alone. The maddening laughter echoed in her ears. Chills wracked her body; the dream had leached every last bit of warmth from her.
The floor felt unbearably cold beneath her feet as stumbled into the bathroom. She turned the shower on, letting the water get as hot as she could stand it in a desperate attempt to warm herself from the outside in.
It never worked.
But as the shower pummeled her body, she could tell herself that the hot moisture slipping down her cheeks was just water, nothing more.
No, she didn't want to have people. People could leave.
Nonetheless, when Angela had called from Santa Fe to say that Kirk was missing and a skull had turned up on the local sheriff's doorstep, Temperance had let go just a little. Following her instincts didn't come naturally to her. But she had done it for Angela's sake. Instinctively, there was that word again, she'd known that Angela needed her. Going to her friend was the right thing to do. If nothing else, she owed Angela for looking out for her.
Booth looked after her too. When he wasn't making her so mad she wanted to smack that know-it-all grin off his handsome face, he was even nice to her.
When her last day in New Orleans found her battered, bloody, and with a jagged tear in her memory, he came for her. When she told him about her mother's earring, which her rational mind insisted was just a couple beads strung together on wire, he risked his career to get it back for her. When Kenton was ready to shoot her and feed her to his slavering dogs, he came for her. When she asked him to look into her parents' disappearance, he agreed without hesitation.
Why that should fill her chest with a peculiar warmth, she didn't know. They were partners. It was a symbiotic relationship. Out in the field, they faced all manner of danger. A split second of distraction was all it would take for one or both of them to get hurt. So, she concluded, it was in both their best interest to look out for each other. To ensure their mutual survival.
That, she told herself, was why she was worried about Booth. The Devon Marshall case clearly had him on edge. It was readily obvious, even to her. His ill temper could make him careless. The price for that could be higher than either one of them cared to pay.
"I'm your partner. Let me be your partner," she'd said to him just days ago. And she had meant it.
Now, at Devon Marshall's funeral, it was time to prove it.
"I've done some things," Booth said, his eyes not meeting hers.
"I know," she replied. Her hands twisted in her jacket pockets, where she knew he couldn't see them.
"No, you don't."
"But it's ok." She forced herself to keep her words low and calm.
"Not...Not as a secret. It's not." Booth licked his lips. "I have to be honest about myself. I have to be able to tell someone."
Even she could hear the edge of desperation lining his words. It made her wonder who he would share the secret with and when. "You will in time, Booth." Temperance paused and swallowed. "You will," she repeated, injecting her words with more conviction. Inside, panic seized her. She wasn't any good at this. Bones she could read. But this, this reading people and knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it -- she just didn't know what she was doing.
Then it was too late to turn back, for he was telling her. About Kosovo, about the general, about the general's little boy, covered in his daddy's blood. Blood that Booth had put there. She scanned her memory for what she'd read about improving communication. One of the books she'd read stated that in too many conversations, each person simply waited for their chance to talk again instead of really listening to the other person. So she held her tongue and focused in on Booth's words as if they were bones laid out in her lab.
Another book had stressed the importance of non-verbal communication. She kept her eyes on his face. For the first time, she really saw her partner. She took in the small, vertical creases that appeared between Booth's eyebrows as he stumbled over his words. Watched his prominentia laryngea jump in his throat as he picked through what were clearly difficult memories.
The tip of his nose reddened, and he sniffed. It struck her then that he was fighting tears. At that moment, she remembered Angela's words about being there and knowing when a simple touch was enough. Finally, she stopped thinking. Following her instincts, she laid her hand on Booth's forearm. She felt the muscles jump in his arm jump for a moment. Then he laid his hand over hers.
"With each shot, we all die a little bit," he said. His gaze finally lifted to meet hers; something inside her shifted at the sight of the naked pain in his dark eyes. The gentle brush of his fingers against her hand made her breath catch. It surprised her to realize that she was fighting tears, too.
Booth had just shared one of his secrets with her. One she realized he'd hinted at before, his voice a near growl that was meant to keep her from probing. She didn't know why he had told her, of all people, and why now. But it mattered that he had told someone, that he had told her. It scared her to think just how much it mattered. In that moment, she had a choice. A choice not so unlike the one she'd had back at her apartment when Booth had found her Foreigner cd and blasted "Hot Blooded." She could worry about looking foolish in front of the man who was her partner and had slowly grown to be her friend, or...
"I...There's something I've never told anyone," she said, swallowing hard and looking down at their joined hands. Slowly, she looked up, scared, but wanting to let him see her the way he'd just let her see him. I am not a coward, she reminded herself silently. "I have this dream sometimes..."
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