Chapter 213 The Book of Love
Flashback to the Airplane ride from Philly to Seattle …
After several hours of enlightening discussion with Ed Williams, Booth returned to his airplane seat next to Brennan. She sat half slumped in her seat, her face tilted toward the window at what had to be an uncomfortable angle. He quietly sat down, leaned his head back, sighed, and closed his eyes.
“Booth,” Brennan whispered in a low, somnambulatory voice. “Booth,” she said, rolling her head toward his shoulder, her eyes still closed.
“Hmmm?” Booth lolled his head toward hers and arched open one tired eye.
She reached over blindly, searching for his hand. He opened both eyes, grabbed her hand and slid his fingers between hers, delivering an affectionate squeeze before resting their joined hands on his thigh. He glanced over at her and smiled at the peaceful calm that washed over her features as a result of his touch. He ran his thumb up and down the side of hers several times before lifting their hands to his mouth for a quiet kiss across the back of her hand. After delivering a final squeeze, he patted their joined hands, yawned, closed his eyes and dropped his head back on the headrest.
“I’m miserable,” Brennan whispered. She sounded tired, but not miserable.
An amused grin flickered across his lips though he said nothing.
“Booth,” she whispered a little more loudly, this time jostling their intertwined hands to rouse him.
“I’ve been unable to transition from beta and alpha waves to a sufficient level of theta waves necessary to induce unconsciousness. Every time I experience a myoclonic jerk, I awaken and have to start all over again—”
“You can’t sleep? What do you want me to do about it?” Booth nodded, his eyebrows floating toward his hairline in commiseration. “You never sleep well on planes, Bones.”
“That’s correct. I know it’s foolish of me to expect a different result from the same set of circumstances,” she mumbled, lolling her head back and forth before finally opening her eyes to gaze at her partner. His eyes were still closed.
“You want me to sing ‘Soft kitty’?” Booth chuckled weakly to himself. He knew it was highly unlikely that she was familiar with this piece of pop culture – a reference to one of his favorite shows: The Big Bang Theory.
“Soft Kitty? Is this another AC/DC selection like ‘You Shook Me all Night Long’?”
“Never mind,” he whispered loudly, a smarmy half grin curling up one side of his face. He opened his left eye a crack and stole a glance at her. She didn’t notice. He chuckled lightly again.
Brennan shrugged and returned her attention to her mate’s face. “Your mandibular profile is quite pleasing to look at,” she said. I love looking at you, she thought.
Booth smiled, his eyes still closed. He scooted sideways toward her and leaned his head in the direction of her voice until it connected with her forehead. After a moment, he grimaced, sighed loudly and soulfully, and shook his head slightly.
“What?” Brennan had heard his sighs and felt his head move.
“What are you thinking? You just sighed rather disconsolately.”
“Ohhh, nothing,” he lied in a sing-song voice. A comment Ed Williams had made just moments before had skittered through his brain, leaving a streak of burnt orange in it’s wake.
“What, you think your sin is too big to be forgiven? You’re wrong. There’s only one unforgivable sin,” Ed had said ominously. “And it sounds to me like you’re holding onto something God forgave and forgot a long time ago. You need to let it go—”
Booth tried to let it go, but here it was again, popping up to poke him in the heart just as he was relaxing in his seat next to Brennan. He sighed again and pressed his lips together tightly as if trying to restrain his thoughts from jumping out of his mouth. He was determined to put that conversation out of his mind until later when he could unpack it and examine it alone. Compartmentalize, right? He thought, attempting to channel his inner Brennan. Think about the other stuff Ed said—about faith, hope, and love—and how the greatest of these is love!
Brennan bit her lip. She knew something was bothering her partner, her mate. He was preternaturally still, still and quiet. Booth was rarely quiet.
“You say you are thinking about nothing, yet your body language indicates that it is definitely something troubling you. Now, is this the kind of something that I am supposed to enquire about several more times before letting sleeping kittens lie?” She asked innocently as a V-shaped wrinkle creased the skin above the bridge of her nose. “Or is it the kind of something that I should cease pursuit of and be content in the knowledge that you will confide in me when you are ready?”
Booth’s heart melted. “You are a good person, Bones,” he said, opening his eyes to find her beautiful china blue eyes focusing quizzically on his face. His eyes dropped to their intertwined fingers. He squeezed her hand and let his shoulders fall, only then realizing that he’d been tense again. “And I love it that you try so hard to understand me.” He brought her hand to his lips and dropped a warm kiss on her skin, then looked up to find her scrutinizing his features even more intently.
“Well, then perhaps this is a nothing that you want me to continue to pursue. If that is the case, Booth, I am willing to listen, but I cannot read your mind. If you want to tell me, then tell me. But if you have no intention of discussing it at present, I will simply sit here and be with you.”
“This is the kind of something that-right now—I don’t think I can talk about,” he said grimacing apologetically. “This is kind of like a fiberglass-wrapped heart kinda thing.”
Brennan pursed her lips and squinted at him, nodded. “When you are ready to divest yourself of this burden you currently carry alone, I will be here to listen,” she said. She then attempted to smile convincingly. “Just like you have done for me-many times.”
Booth searched her eyes. “I’m sorry, Bones.”
“Why are you sorry?” She squinted at him.
“You look a little-hurt.”
“I am not hurt,” she said, shrugging. “I am simply trying to assure you that it is acceptable that you not tell me. If and when you are desirous of telling me, I know that you will.”
Booth searched her eyes, finding nothing but forthright honesty in them. She searched his eyes and could see that he was still troubled, but guarded. He would work it out until he couldn’t any more. Then he would tell her about it. She was fairly certain of this, but nothing is 100% except the fact that nothing is 100% anything. So, there was still room for doubt. And that is what troubled her.
“I believe you, Bones,” Booth said. “And it’s really fine. I mean, it’s not fine-” He paused looking for the right words, then found them. “Remember how you said you wanted to process a while before talking about our session from hell with Sweets?”
Brennan nodded. “I do.” She nodded once for emphasis.
“I guess I need to process, too.”
“I understand that need. Perhaps we will both have completed our processing at the same time. We can discuss them both then,” she said with a satisfied nod.
“Deal,” he said, smiling humbly and appreciatively into her eyes, then kissing her gently on the lips before resting his head back and locking eyes with her until she smiled and blinked, then crinkled her nose at him.
Brennan disengaged her fingers from Booth’s and pushed up the armrest that separated them. She turned toward him in her seat and wrapped both of her arms around his left bicep, giving it a squeeze. She then slipped her left leg over his left knee and rested her temple on his shoulder. After she was settled, Booth lifted his arm and pulled her in closer, then dropped his nose into her hair. He inhaled that Bonesy scent and imagined it permeating every single one of his unsettled cells, soothing him completely. As he exhaled he felt the remnants of his disconcerting thoughts drift away like the vestiges of burnt paper caught up in a breeze.
Her ear and temple up against Booth’s chest now, Brennan listened to his heartbeat and breathed in his warmth allowing both to sedate her. After two minutes she was so relaxed that the ensuing thoughts of her metaphorical fiberglass-wrapped heart didn’t bother her. She knew he was part of the answer to that heart’s lack of a pulse, she just wasn’t sure how to go about reviving it. It is irrelevant that I do not have the answer right now, she told herself, Booth will figure it out—we will figure it out together.
“Umh?” She grunted.
“I love the little noises you make when you are-”
“Yeeees! Contented. That’s what it is! I love those noises.” He emitted a sigh that started in a high tone and deepened as it traveled down his chest.
It was Brennan’s turn to chuckle.
“What now? Are you gonna make fun of my contented noises?” Booth feigned indignation.
“No, I was going to say, ‘That tickled’.”
“What?” He asked. “What tickled?”
“The loosening of your vocal chords and the deepening in the tone of the reverberation made by your larynx when you emit an audible sigh,” she explained.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. If it’s my vocal chords, how do you know it tickled? What, are you telepathic or something now?”
“Just-let me finish, Booth!” Brennan smirked, only slightly irritated. “Your clavicles act as conductors sending those vibrations through my temporal and frontal bones and directly to my cochlea. That vibration induced gargalesis in my outer and inner ear which then caused piloerection across my epidermis.”
“Uh, what?” Booth blurted the question in such a high pitch that a dog, if there had been one on the flight, would have flung itself onto its back and whimper-barked while jerking about in agony. “You can cause a- I can cause- I mean- did you just say-a pile of erections?” He stage whispered incredulously toward her ear. “From a loud sigh?! And what do gargoyles have to do with-?” He shrugged so forcefully that Brennan sat up. Booth didn’t know if he should laugh or be worried about his partner who he was just finding out had skin that was virtually made of nothing but one big hyper-sensitive swath of erogeny!
Brennan snorted, feigning disgust at what was clearly a deliberate mangling of her terminology. “Your sigh tickled my ear and gave me goosebumps.” The ‘Duh’, was understood.
“Which part of that—psychobabble—means a pile of erections?” Booth chortled and grinned.
“It’s called piloerection. Piloerection, Booth. Think about it. An epidermal piloerection. What does that sound like it might be? Really?”
“Sounds like an overdose of Viagra to me,” he scoffed, laughing at his own comment. “Ohhh—!” He kept chuckling.
“And by the way, I don’t speak psychobabble. That is Dr. Sweets’ area of expertise. I speak science mumbo-jumbo, remember?” She snarked indulgently and rolled her eyes.
“Okay, okay! I know that epidermis is skin,” he said once the chuckling died down. “Skin erections? Oh! Goosebumps. Got it,” he said, impressed with himself. “You always gotta say stuff the hard way, don’t ya’, Smarty Pants? Sometimes I think you intentionally use those big confusable words because they sound like something completely different, not to mention suggestive.”
He leaned away from her so he could look in her eyes and send her a playful stink eye. She stared back, admitting nothing at first, though inside she was considering that he may have a good point. Just as she opened her mouth to point out that he deliberately mangled her jargon, he cut her off.
“So—the gargoyle? What’s that all about?” He was proving her not-yet-made point about mangling.
“Gargalesis! It means tickling.”
“Wow—see? You could have just said that Instead of going all pile of gargoyle erections!”
“You keep saying that just because you enjoy saying the word erections!” Brennan shook her head as if admonishing a child. She sat up straight, smoothed out her clothes, crossed her arms, and leaned back in her seat.
Booth tossed her a big toothy grin. “Come back here,” he chided, pulling her back into his arms and squishing her to his chest in a playful hug. “Ahhhhh. This is how it should be,” he sighed, closing his eyes after she’d snuggled back into place. “You and me, talking, laughing, just being ourselves.” He stuck his nose in her hair again and planted a grinning kiss just above her temple.
“Gargoyle erections,” mumbled Brennan. “A pile of them.”
“Hmmm?” Booth couldn’t help smiling at the academic tone of her voice as she delivered that ridiculous phrase.
“Tickley goosebumps. Heretoforth known by present company as Gargoyle Erections.” Brennan snorted and chuckled, burying her face in Booth’s tee shirt.
“Parker would love that,” Booth said. “But he isn’t going to hear it,” he added quickly, “until he’s old enough to own a mortgage!”
Brennan released a high pitched sigh, followed by a lower one.
“Those are the sounds,” whispered Booth against Brennan’s hair. “The little contented sounds you make when—” He couldn’t come up with the right words: When we’re touching? When you’re in my arms? When I kiss you? When you look at me because I’ve said something you think is sweet? It was all of these. “The little ohhhhhs and ahhhhhs and high-pitched sighs and—you know—all the little happy noises you make— when we’re—close. I love it.” He squeezed her in a prolonged hug. “I love you,” he mumbled against the skin at her temple.
“I know,” she whispered, pressing her lips against his neck for a kiss then rubbing her nose against his clavicle before settling her cheek against his shoulder again. They both took a big breath and exhaled in unison.
As each was left to entertain their own thoughts, Brennan’s turned to her concern for what was troubling Booth. Her eyes fluttered opened, her eyelashes scritching against the fabric of his shirt. She really had hoped he would have been willing to discuss what was bothering him. Usually, she’d have no problem setting this concern aside, but something had changed between them. The density of his dark emotion had seeped into her, weighing heavily on her chest—at least, that was how it felt to her: a palpable, dark heaviness.
Ever since they’d shared so much and come so far in such a short period of time, it was more important to her that he felt he could lean on her emotionally. My happiness, she thought, really is, in part, dependent upon his happiness now. As a result, I cannot completely disengage from my concern about what he is experiencing. She couldn’t determine if she was disconcerted or comforted by this newfound interdependency. She was, however, impressed with herself for identifying the source of her angst, for lack of a better word.
She had heard Booth and Ed talking for quite some time. She missed most of the second half of their conversation as it had been conducted in hushed, sometimes emotional or conciliatory tones. The two sounded like father and son discussing a mistake born of poor judgment and paid for with an unbearable price. The first half of the conversation, however, she’d caught enough of to understand that Booth had been concerned about the disparity between his Catholicism and her Atheism.
Brennan gasped when she realized that source of her discomfort was due, in part, to a tinge of envy that Booth had talked so long with Ed. Envy, she thought to herself, that’s absurd, isn’t it? This intimacy piddle is messing with me! She searched for a more rational explanation for her reaction. Finding none, she decided to believe that the envy could be a very rational response to witnessing one’s mate confiding in another person what they have yet to confide in their mate. Then she searched for an attitude that might diffuse her envy. It is good that he has found – even if only temporarily – someone to confide in, she told herself. I shall accept that and I will not ask again. Without even thinking about it, she nodded into Booth’s shoulder.
“Booth,” she said, gently tapping on his chest with an index finger. “I am your safe place to fall just as you are mine.” It could have been a question; it actually was a question, but she presented it as a statement.
“Without a doubt,” he replied, nuzzling her ear before kissing her on the top of her head. “Don’t doubt that for a second.”
She nodded in response, and closed her fingers around a fistful of his right shirt sleeve. This confirmation would be what sustained her many hours later when, in the middle of the night, Booth awoke from a frightening dream that had him calling for her help.
While the wonderful-smelling woman snuggled up against his chest scrutinized the physical sensations of envy as objectively as she was capable, Booth continued to skirt around the guilt that had been tormenting him for longer than he could recall.
God seemed absent whenever Booth tormented himself in this way. He assumed this meant he was supposed to figure it out on his own. But God wasn’t supposed to leave me alone … ever … I thought …
Booth interpreted God’s silence as further proof that He was disappointed. Finally, Booth would throw his arms up – literally or figuratively, or both—and take himself off to Saturday confession once again. However, no matter how he tried, those sins managed to attach themselves, like Peter Pan’s shadow, to the souls of Booth’s feet and follow him, silently, invisibly, right straight out of the confessional.
Despite all those trips to the confessional, Booth still came face to face with his demons in his moments of weakness. They pounced on him, sending him spiraling down a rabbit hole of shame and self-doubt. However, it was time that rabbit hole get filled with something good, something fruitful. In order for that to happen, Booth had to do what Ed recommended: He had to lay that cross down, be rid of it, and walk away for good.
For the first time in his life, Booth felt that he might actually be ready for that. First he had some things to figure out on his own. Brennan was right in that she was his soft place to fall. He reminded himself of this. She was his partner. In everything. Maybe if he could tell her what he was going through, it would help him let go.
Upon landing at Seattle International Airport, Brennan and Booth deplaned and stood, wearily leaning against each other on the outskirts of the crowd awaiting the baggage carousel’s mechanical delivery of the remainder of their belongings. Booth put in a call to the front desk at Seattle’s Hotel 1000 where he’d made their reservations. Brennan was still in the dark about the rooms he’d gotten them – and even about the hotel – so he had to be cryptic in his comments.
“This is Seeley booth. Calling to confirm a pick-up at the airport?” He glanced at Brennan who was yawning and staring through a gap in the crowd, zombie-like, at the empty carousel as it began circulating.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Booth!” A fifty-something baritone oozed from cell tower to cell tower and into Booth’s ear. It was a rich voice that carried well, but still managed to be in hushed tones as if it belonged to a black suit and black sunglasses-wearing agent from the Secret Service. “My name is ‘Benz’, sir. Like the Mercedes. You may call me Benz. I will be personally overseeing your stay with us to ensure that all of your needs are met.”
“Oh—kay?” Booth’s words were drawn out and peppered with suspicion and a dash of regret. He didn’t sign up for someone to be insinuating themselves into their privacy during their stay.
Benz recognized the uncertainty in Booth’s voice and set about reassuring his first-time guest at the luxurious Hotel 1000.
“Not to worry, sir. You will not even know I am there. I will appear when you beckon and fade away when you turn around.”
“Um, great—” said Booth relieved. If discretion had a voice, thought Booth, it would sound exactly like this guy!
“I have your account on my screen,” continued Benz calmly. “You have arranged for the Hotel 1000 Special Delivery Airport Towncar to meet you at the airport for pick-up—”
“Yep. We’ve just landed. It will probably take us—” he looked at his watch.
“We are aware of that, Mr. Booth,” Benz interrupted. “That was flight 1547 out of Philadelphia International.” The disembodied baritone ribboned into Booth’s ear. “We know that you landed at 6:47PM and will be fully disembarked by 7:02. Your driver, Sebastian, awaits you at baggage claim with a luggage cart.”
“Oh, wow!” Booth was clearly impressed. For the price he was paying, he could have expected this, but he didn’t know that. He turned his back to Brennan and switched ears as he searched the area for someone who might look like a limo driver named Sebastian. He mumbled into the phone. “Is that extra—the Town Car and the—uh, this Sebastian?”
“That is included in your package, Mr. Booth. I see we will be delivering you to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office at 908 Jefferson Street! Very good.”
“Yes—” Booth hadn’t recalled giving them these details, but every call he made to the hotel had been hurried and covertly made.
“Once you have completed your business at 908 Jefferson Street, you will find Sebastian waiting for you if you call fifteen minutes in advance of your need to be brought to the hotel.”
Brennan had been scrolling through her missed calls when she spotted their luggage and headed closer to the luggage carousel.
“Your luggage will be delivered to your suites where lifestyling and turn-down services will be provided prior to your arrival. We have a ‘Luxe Room’ with a beautiful vista of downtown Seattle on the third floor for Ms. Temperance—Oh, dear!— Can you hold?”
“What? What does that mean?” Asked Booth in alarm, bracing for a wrinkle in his perfectly planned arrangements, but Benz’s voice had already been replaced with a whisper soft muzak rendition of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’.
In fewer than thirty seconds, Benz returned and began speaking immediately. This time the tenor of his voice included a hint of conspiracy. “We would like to upgrade you, or Ms. Brennan, to a quieter location, if that meets with your approval,” he whispered as if the two of them were co-conspirators negotiating a deal that was so exquisite and unorthodox that it could cost both of them their jobs.
“What’s going on?” Brennan glanced at Booth as she held her own phone up to her ear.
Booth shook his head dismissively in her direction and turned his back to her. Brennan had lost interest as she began to listen to a message from Wendell on her phone.
“Well, that would meet with my approval as long as the room Dr. Brennan is being upgraded to is not on the eighth floor,” Booth said discreetly as he turned away from Brennan and switched ears. That was the floor Booth would be on alone until Tuesday. “Uh, can you keep her on the third floor?” Booth bit his bottom lip, squeezed his eyes closed, and mentally crossed his fingers.
“Just one moment, Mr. Booth,” said the concierge. “The second room you have reserved is on the eighth floor. It is one of our finest suites.”
“Yes, I am aware of that, Mr. Benz,” Booth said in a low voice. That’s why I ordered it—! He thought to himself.
“It’s just Benz, Mr. Booth,” he said absently as he consulted the reservation system.
“Listen our luggage just arrived—” He watched as Brennan began pulling her instrument cases and various bags and finally a suitcase from the carousel. He hurried forward to help her just as a smartly dressed man in a dark suit and black cap advanced toward them carrying a placard reading, ‘Mr. Booth and Ms. Brennan’. “You must be “Sebastian?”
Sebastian nodded discretely as Booth pointed to each piece of luggage and case belonging to them. “Could you—?” He spoke toward Sebastian, pointing toward a luggage cart.
“Certainly, sir,” Sebastian replied and set to work as Brennan searched her bag for a tip.
“Bones, I got it!” Booth shook his head and glanced around, then stepped in front of her when she extended several folded bills toward Sebastian who had just loaded the last item onto the cart.
“It’s included. Trust me,” he said, steering her toward Sebastian’s retreating form which was heading for the door leading to the parking pavilion.
Benz’ voice buzzed in Booth’s ear once again.
“Ahhh ha! We do have a Grand Luxe Studio Suite available on the third floor—” Benz’ voice actually raised an octave this time.
“You sound surprised, Benz,” said Booth into the phone.
“Well, sir, it is just that when we upgrade, we don’t usually upgrade to such a—” He paused, unsure how to say that this studio was several levels above what Booth had originally reserved. “Let me give you a brief description of what is included in a Grand Luxe Studio Suite at Hotel 1000—”
“Alright, but could you make it fast? I’m not getting any younger, buddy.”
“I will simply hit the highlights—” Benz then launched into a lengthy description of the room that included an anteroom with a couch and coffee table which then lead to the bed and bath.
“We don’t care about the chairs—” Booth insisted at one point, trying to speed up the process. “And we won’t be watching any TV.”
“Watching tv? Booth, what’s going on?” Brennan interjected during a lull in her own messages. Booth shrugged and rolled his eyes like he had no idea what was going on either.
“It’s the hotel,” he whispered, covering the mouthpiece of his phone. “You know how these people have to get every little detail right!” He rolled his eyes again in an exaggerated fashion. “Don’t worry, Bones, I got it covered,” he said when her eyebrows rose in concern. “No sweat.”
“French press with Starbucks coffee and premium Tazo teas—” Benz was saying.
“So, what do we have to do to get this done, Benz?” Booth was getting impatient, but then he remembered the fabulous bathroom from the original suite he’d reserved. Bathrooms are important. “Wait. What’s the bathroom like,” he discretely mumbled into the phone as Brennan ducked into the back seat of the Hotel 1000 Town Car.
“Ceiling-fed Italian pedestal tub and walk-in glass surround shower with rainfall showerhead. A large glass window adjoining tub faces the bedroom—”
“So, you can see into the bathroom from the bedroom—through a glass wall?” Booth stood in the open car door resting an arm on the hood of the car and speaking as quietly and deliberately as a Secret Serviceman himself.
“That is precisely what it means. However, there remains a soupçon of privacy in that the bed and bath are separated from the sitting room by a solid wall and cherry wood door.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” snarked Booth, unable to keep his impatience hidden any longer. “What’d I gotta do—sign something?”
“No, sir. I have already handled it. You need but show up and go directly to your rooms. Sebastian will have your key cards. Call this number when you have completed your visit at 908 Jefferson Street.”
Sebastian finished loading their belongings into the trunk as Booth climbed into the car behind Brennan and pulled the door closed with a satisfying ‘thwack!’
“Will do, Brenz, we done here?” Booth needed to get off this call.
“Done as done, sir. We will look forward to your pick-up call!”
“Thank you, so will I.” Booth hung up without saying goodbye.
“What was that all about?” Brennan looked at Booth quizzically.
“Absolutely no idea,” said Booth, settling back into his seat. “Bones, were you serious about meeting with Monsignor Mike to learn more about the Catholic Church?” Quick change of subject, but he’d been thinking of asking her about this since talking to Ed Williams on the plane.
“Of course. Don’t you want me to?” She stared at him, her brow wrinkled.
“It’s up to you,” he said, shrugging with his eyebrows and attempting to sound nonchalant.
“It is clear from your tone that you want me to think it’s inconsequential, Booth. But I know that it matters to you,” she said flatly. “If it is important to you, it is important to me,” she said with finality then returned to scrolling through her messages list.
Booth smiled to himself. I love my life, he thought, for the most part.
“Is the Jeffersonian communicator in the trunk of the car? I could use it up here right now. And why are we in a Town Car, Booth?” Brennan took a moment to survey her surroundings for the first time since stepping into the vehicle.
“Everything’s in the trunk, Bones. This is only about a fifteen minute drive.” Booth glanced out the window, then looked back at Brennan. “We could make out—you know, play a little kissy-face?” He wiggled his eyebrows and sent her a smarmy grin.
Brennan rolled her eyes and pushed a button on her phone that connected her to the Jeffersonian voice mail system.
“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” mumbled Booth, settling back in his seat and chuckling to himself. He reached over and squeezed two inches of muscle tissue just above Brennan’s knee.
“Agh! BOOTH!” Brennan yelped and dropped her phone while trying to hit Booth’s hand away. Her eyes as big as saucers, she scooped up her phone from where it had fallen. “Dr. Saroyan, I will call you back momentarily. It appears Booth needs me!” She hung up and turned on Booth.
“That was Dr. Saroyan I was leaving a message for!” She cried, exasperated.
“I figured that out,” he said between delighted chuckles.
“What am I going to tell her was going on here?!”
“Not my problem,” he continued to laugh as he reached over to do it again.
“Booth!” She gasped and began hitting him playfully on his outstretched arm. “Just remember,” she said while attempting to suppress the giggles erupting from her throat, “Payback is a bitch!” She tried to sound threatening, but it came out more like a strangled yodle.
“God, I hope so,” he replied with a laugh.
After leaving several messages for her teammates at the Jeffersonian, Brennan’s mind sifted through a mental catalog of what she would and wouldn’t need to accomplish at the King County Medical Examiner’s office. She planned to have the Banty Solicious remains shipped to Hodgins on the first plane out of Seattle after she was finished examining them.
Booth’s thoughts wandered back to the first topic of significance discussed between Ed Williams and himself: the Bible’s proviso against Catholics being unequally yoked with unbelievers. At least, that had been his understanding of the proviso before the enlightening discussion with Ed. As he replayed the conversation in his mind, reflections of streetlights, wet pavement, and dark ominous building facings leaped like gazelles across the glass of his side window. Booth crossed his arms and stuck a thumbnail into the groove between his two front teeth, both upper and lower, losing himself in the memory of Ed’s counsel …
“The anthropologist, she’s not Catholic?” Ed intoned, nodding once up the aisle to where he knew Booth’s partner sat.
“She’s—not just non-Catholic, she’s non-God,” Booth said, smirking apologetically as he sat across the aisle from Ed. “She’s an atheist, an ‘Empiricist’, she calls it.” He chewed on his bottom lip and crossed his legs. His knee began bouncing up and down nervously.
“I see,” sighed Ed, nodding sagely. His chest rose and fell like the motion of the ocean before crashing upon the shore. He allowed his lips to loosely vibrate, mimicking the sound of an idling Harley Davidson. Potato-potato-potato. “Yes,” he said and nodded slowly. “I get this question a lot.” Ed paused a moment to stare at Booth as if he were measuring him—weighing him, perhaps weighing his soul. Satisfied with whatever he read in the silence of the scales, Ed continued. “Did you know that over the last twenty to thirty years the percentage of interdenominational couples has grown to anywhere between forty and seventy-five per cent depending on what part of the states you live in?”
“Yeah, interdenominational, but—not among Catholics,” parried Booth staring toward the front of the cabin but glancing sideways toward Ed without moving his head.
“That includes Catholics, Seeley,” Ed said, dropping his head to the side sympathetically and somewhat apologetically. After sixty years in the God business, it still pained Ed that several generations of Catholics had fallen through the cracks where religious instruction was concerned.
In the years following Vatican II, wonderful changes were made in the Church. Pope John XXIII believed in making the Bible accessible to everyone. He eliminated practices that were no longer relevant and brought back rites that were rich and timeless in their ability to strengthen individuals’ personal relationship with God. Mass went from Latin to the language of the people in the pews. However, as often happens with abrupt change, good or bad, important steps get overlooked in the haste of rapid improvement.
In the case of the Catholic church, what was sorely missing from the 1960s to the 1980s was optimal instructional materials for both the faithful and those tasked with the job of educating them. Their difficulty in understanding everything there was to understand about their Church, their Faith, and Christianity as a whole, was not their fault—though they didn’t know it. Because they thought it was their fault, their shame both silenced them and kept them ignorant. As a result, many relied on their limited understanding of the Bible – which, at times, included taking it literally without consideration of the culture and colloquialisms of the times in which they were written.
The evolution of Catholicism was one of Ed’s most beloved topics. The faithful he served were members and descendants of those lost generations. He enjoyed helping them understand how it came to be that there was so much they had missed simply because they were young during a time of great transition. It just so happened that Booth and his parents fell into that category as did Pops who fell right on the cusp of the transition and was ultimately responsible for Booth’s religious instruction during those years.
Booth turned to face Ed squarely, his expression a controlled blank, but the rest of his body belied his discomfort. Ed’s comment, ‘That includes the Catholics, Seeley,’ still ringing in his ears in reference to the high number of contemporary interfaith marriages. He uncrossed and re-crossed one knee over the other hoping to quiet the involuntary muscle spasms that threatened to bounce him right out of his seat. A vivid image of Pops sprang onto the screen of Booth’s consciousness. Once Booth’s Mom was gone, Pops had taken the responsibility of making sure the Booth boys developed strong moral compasses. Pops had always made it crystal clear that other people doing something didn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Pops’ gravely voice played accompaniment to the video feed in Booth’s brain …
“If some ding-a-ling got some cockamamie idea about getting blitzed and jumping off a bridge,” Pops would pointedly drill Booth in a low gravelly voice, his brow rippled in waves of stern concentration, “would you jump right in after him, Seeley? I don’t think so,” Pops answered his own question and waited for a response from Seeley.
Booth always tucked his lips between his teeth and donned his poker face, and tried not to say something like, I would if there were skinny-dipping cheerleaders under that bridge! Unless he wanted to get cuffed on the back of the head, that is. After several moments of Booth staring blankly forward into the stale dusty air of the 1970’s living room, Pops boring a hole into the side of Booth’s stoic face, Pops’ would lob a simpler question at him. “What’s worse, Seeley, being a fool or being the fool that’s following a fool?”
“I don’t want to be either, Pops,” Booth would say in a voice devoid of emotion. “Just wait till you get involved with some skirt who makes you wanna do all kinds of stupid stuff. You’ll see who the fool is then.” When Grams was still around, Pops would toss a wink in her direction earning himself a demure eye roll. After she died, he’d simply glance at her picture on the wall and get a faraway look in his eyes. Sobering-up after a moment, he’d continue with lecture #352. “You’re gonna stand all by your lonesome in front of God on Judgment Day, Seeley. No one there to point a finger at besides your own stupid self. So, do what you think is right, don’t hitch your wagon to some Johnny-come-lately who’s trying to get a little tail. Got it?” The stern look in Pops’ eyes would be steely enough to choke a Road Runner mid-beep.
Booth’s response was to blankly stare ahead, clenching his jaw and feigning indulgent disinterest. Pops would then smirk and make a sucking sound with one side of his mouth.
“Do the right thing, son,” Pops would fling at Booth after a beat as he bent at the knees and lowered himself carefully into his TV chair. “If you aren’t sure what that thing is, ask your gut,” he’d say. “Your gut works for God and it never lies.”
Pops’ counsel never failed Booth. When his heart and head were in sync, listening to his gut his worked pretty well. When they weren’t in sync things rarely went well. He never traded someone else’s opinion for his own, and rarely did he regret it. As a result, Ed Williams’ forty to seventy-five per cent of other Catholics being unequally yoked didn’t give Booth one iota of comfort.
Absently chewing on his lower lip, Booth once again considered the concerns that had been bouncing around inside his head like moths bouncing off a porch light just after dusk.
If God said not to be unequally yoked, he thought to himself, He must have had a good reason. Nothing good comes of deliberately disregarding God’s commands, right? So, what are the potential spiritual implications of being unequally yoked? Booth puckered, then stretched his mouth to the right and bit the inside of his lip, then to the left and did the same thing, then back to the right. He scoured his brain for an answer he could live with.
Maybe I’m being tested? He thought about Abraham in the Book of Genesis. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his own son, to prove his obedience to God. That story always made Booth very uncomfortable. Does God do that anymore? He asked himself. The ‘God made me do it’ defense doesn’t hold up in court these days. Booth had arrested several of those loonies himself. But would God ask me to choose between Him and the most important person in my life? I just can’t see how Bones and me being together could be a bad thing. Bones would never try to pull me away from God. She knows how important my faith is to me. She just doesn’t understand it. There’s no crime in that, is there?
Then he had another thought. What about the dream of sitting in church with my family; me on one end of the pew and my spouse on the other with two or three little brown-haired, blue or brown-eyed Booths sandwiched between us like all the other good Catholic families? Will it be enough to have my kids with me, but not my spouse? I can’t make her join me; I won’t. If we don’t work out, I’ll still end up sitting in a pew alone for the rest of my life. Is this how my story is supposed to end?
Booth felt stuck between a rock and a hard-headed scientist. He sat quietly until the silence was broken by a sharp intake of breath which he was surprised to learn was his own. He noticed his hands and the tip of his nose felt cooler than usual, his knuckles and fingernail beds were pale. He clenched and unclenched his fists several times to get the blood flowing to the tips of his fingers. He listened hard to his gut. Nothing. Talk to me! What am I missing here, God?
“Relax, Seeley,” Ed chuckled sympathetically. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost! It is not a sin to marry a non-Catholic. It’s not,” he repeated.
“What?” Booth blurted, shaken from what he thought were private thoughts.
“Relax,” Ed answered carefully in a soothing tone, not taking his eyes off Booth. “These are some of the biggest questions we grapple with as Christians, my friend.” Ed crossed his arms, then stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. He bounced his knees toward each other several times in a relaxed manner much different from Booth’s anxious knee gymnastics.
“Well, I’m not one of those people who believes it’s okay to bend the rules to suit the degrading mores of a self-indulgent society.” Booth insisted this more fervently than he intended, then flinched at his own hypocrisy. He had bent the rules for his own benefit, but deep down in the place he doesn’t talk about, he didn’t see it that way. He had actively chosen to disobey some of the rules, not change them, deciding his infractions were ones he was willing to live with. There is a difference.
“Really?” Ed stared, unblinking, and smirked. “Even just a little bit?”
“Huh. Okay, Ed. You have a point. I have been lax with some of my choices,” he admitted. “But we’re talking about more serious stuff now. Permanent stuff!”
“For the sake of argument I’ll agree with you here, Seeley,” Ed interjected with a steady nod. “However—a sin is a sin is a sin.”
“Right. God’s rules are still God’s rules,” Booth said. “And—the Church can’t just go changing the rules so people won’t feel judged. That’s not how it works. That’s not how it should work.” Booth stared, glossy-eyed, at Ed’s face.
“I would not do that, Seeley,” Ed said carefully. “I would not twist the truth to assuage the fears of a struggling soul. That is not in anyone’s best interest.” He watched Booth’s expression transition from pinched and lost to exposed and self-conscious. The silence between them was at first heavy and strained, then it relaxed and thinned, loosening into comfortable contemplation for each of them. After several moments, Booth was ready to move on. He then focused on Ed’s startlingly blue eyes which seemed to exude peace and acceptance. Ed’s lips were bunched together as if he were holding something back.
In his many years counseling good people, Ed had come to understand that inner turmoil was an invaluable part of the healing process. The struggle of man against himself could bring anyone to his or her knees. Advice sought was ten times more likely to be abided by than advice offered unbidden. What wasn’t yet clear to either Booth or Ed was whether the debate Booth was all tied up in was a noose or the knot at the end of a lifeline. So, Ed waited. And watched. And looked for his opening, his invitation.
Booth scanned his companion’s presence for any hint of disingenuousness. It simply wasn’t there. Booth just wanted someone to be straight with him—someone who understood the weight of what he expected of himself spiritually and respected his struggle. Booth’s final assessment was that Ed was a good person. He didn’t seem like a guy that would have taken the easy way out just because it was easier. Might as well listen to what Ed has to say, he told himself. The worst-case scenario, Booth figured, was that he’d still feel unsettled about being unequally yoked. The best-case scenario was that Ed might tell him something that could give him a deeper understanding of what God expected of him.
Booth sighed heavily, unclenched his teeth, and dropped his shoulders. He shook out his hands and reached across his chest to dig his fingers into his trapezius. He massaged the hard lump of muscle bunched up between his neck and his clavicle. I need a drink, he thought. Where is that flight attendant, anyway? He wondered, shooting a glance up and down the aisle. “I could use a drink,” Booth mumbled.
“I know what you mean,” Ed mumbled back, “a really short one followed by a really tall one!” The two chuckled and shrugged at each other. Focusing on one of Booth’s eyes at a time, and finally confident the younger man wasn’t going to pass out, Ed began. “Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘if thou art Catholic thou shalt be yoked to another Catholic or suffer damnation for all of eternity!”
Booth chuckled nervously as he switched arms to massage the other trapezius. He cleared his throat and found his voice. “I just don’t want to do the wrong thing,” he admitted, in a tone that conveyed his own vulnerability.
“I know you don’t,” Ed replied, then closed his eyes for a moment.
“Or have a crappy life and then spend eternity in heaven alone because the only woman I can see myself with for the rest of my natural life doesn’t believe in God,” he said, making a horizontal slice in the air. “At all!”
“I can assure you, you won’t have a crappy life.” Ed gazed compassionately at Booth. “Look, when I was a kid everyone I knew was Catholic.” Ed paused and grimaced. “Our lives rotated around religious instruction and daily mass. We had a hoard of kids receiving First Communions every fall, Confirmations in the spring, weddings, funerals …” Ed smiled reflectively and looked at Booth who had been nodding with rapt attention through Ed’s entire list. “I think I spent more time on my knees or genuflecting than walking upright!”
“Me, too!” Booth said in burst of laughter. “Our family—we weren’t that big ourselves, but we were part of a group in our neighborhood. Me and Jared, my brother, we went to CCD classes, sang in the choir, got confirmed, became altar boys, and served at mass with the same bunch of kids—” Booth smiled wanly and sighed. “I thought everyone grew up like that.”
“So, the thing is, we grow up used to one thing—seeing only one thing—and we think the whole world is like that.”
“Exactly,” Booth said, nodding in wonder.
“Easy peasy, right?” Ed nodded along with Booth, his voice getting softer. “But then we find out—wow—there’s a whole world of people out there who had a different experience than we did.” Ed opened his eyes wide and held his arms up in the air as if to embrace all humanity at once. “And they come in different colors, speak different languages, practice other religions.”
“But,” Ed said, poking an index finger into the air. “But, we still think our way is the best, the most righteous, God’s favorite.”
“We do,” Booth agreed. “We do?”
“Why do we think that?”
“Because we are smart people—right?”
Booth nodded, waiting for the catch.
“—And if something wasn’t the best, we would change it, make it better, right?”
“Absolutely,” Booth nodded agreement.
“So we must be the best,” said Ed shrugging and tossing a hand up in the air dismissively. “But don’t beat yourself up about it. Everyone thinks the exact same thing—Methodists, Lutherans, Protestants, Buddhists, Agnostics—everyone thinks that they’re the best. Christ came to show us that we are all just people. Young and old, big and small. Smart and not so smart. Men and women. Equal people. Boy, that was a revolutionary idea to the people of Biblical times, I’ll tell you what!”
“Heh,” Booth grunted and nodded, thinking how true this was.
“So, we go out into the world and we find out the others, they really are just like us. Lost souls, just like us. Lonely, just like us. Idealistic, good like us. Faithful in the best way they know how—just like us.” Ed paused and let his last remark hang in the air between them until it evaporated. “They aren’t evil; they’re beautiful and kind and good,” he whispered, then smiled.
“And lovable,” added Booth with an air of deep appreciation.
“Right. But—there’s still something inside you that clings to your origins. You remember what you were told as a kid. Give your whole life to God, but if you can’t, do the next best thing: marry another Catholic and have lots of babies—because Catholics are the best of what’s out there and that is what God would want, as we’ve already established.”
Booth bit the inside of his lip and sat perfectly still, his eyes riveted to Ed’s. Yes, he grew up believing exactly what Ed had described—but all of a sudden it sounded terribly, terribly wrong. Booth stopped breathing.
Ed said. “Any crossover could cause Romeo and Juliet-style consequences in your family, maybe your faith community. People could turn their backs on each other during a time when they needed each other the most,” Ed chagrined. “Now tell me, is that a Christian way to live?”
Ed saw Booth’s unease with this line of thinking, so he backed up a bit.
“Look, somewhere along the line you read Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: ‘Do not be yoked with those who are different’, and you interpret it, or someone else interprets it and you go along with it, that Catholics are not to marry people who don’t believe in the Catholic faith. Then, that’s reinforced because your parents—or grandparents, as the case may be—were raised on the Baltimore Catechism in the pre-Vatican II era when everything was still buttoned down and black and white; faith by rote memorization. Fire and brimstone and all that. I’m way over-simplifying this for brevity’s sake, of course.”
“Right. Okay.” Really? thought Booth, but noticed he wasn’t as bored as he might have been if this were a class or a discussion about something scientific.
“Then along comes Pope John XXIII … and everything changed.”
“Right! Mass used to be said in Latin, right? And the altar was against the back wall; the priest said mass with his back to the people. It was like that when Pops was growing up,” Booth recalled. “What were the other changes by John XXIII?”
To quote, ‘God For Grownups’ by Virginia Smith, my favorite author on the topic, the mind of the Church following Vatican II held, among other things, that translations of the Bible should be invitingly readable, and …
‘Understanding of biblical writings must take into consideration the times and circumstances in which
they were composed, plus such relevant factors as their literary style the sources utilized, the culture,
and the audience originally intended.’
“We’re allowed to read the Bible in the ’60s and the ’70s, but we don’t have the skills, the training, or adequate materials to help us interpret and digest it. Which isn’t our fault—we were suffering whiplash from radical reformation. It took decades for teaching materials to catch up with the new order of the Catholic faith. So, what did we do in the meantime?”
“What? What did we do?”
“A lot of people, people who were responsible for teaching the faith, leaned back on the only thing they knew—that rote memorization of the Catechism and taking the bible literally. So when Paul writes, ‘don’t be unequally yoked’, they took it to mean ‘to anyone other than people exactly like yourselves—and for Catholics that meant other than other Catholics.”
“It is. It is a literal interpretation. But here’s the rub; it’s incomplete.”
“Incomplete. Hm.” Booth rolled that around on his tongue.
“Yes, it is incomplete. And out of context. It’s also not the final word on who you should or should not love according to Christ.”
“No. Listen carefully to St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony or agreement has Christ with a demon? What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Come forth from unbelievers and be separate—touch nothing unclean and I will receive you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
“First of all—it doesn’t say, ‘non believers in the Catholic faith’ as you thought it meant. It simply says, ‘non believers’. Second of all, it equates non believers with lawlessness and darkness and uncleanliness and demons.”
“Hm. But just because someone doesn’t believe in God doesn’t mean they are all about darkness and evil—”
“So, what does it mean then?”
“Well, Peter was writing to his followers in Corinth whom he’d heard were mixing with some really bad people who were involved in worshipping false gods, sodomizing children, prostituting their daughters and wives, being unethical in their business dealings. Paul was warning them not to fall in with those people or even be associated with them in any way.”
“Because they were bad people, right?”
“Really, really bad people.”
“So, what about atheists and agnostics? What about a Christian marrying one of them—or maybe not marrying them, exactly, but—” he corrected himself. He didn’t know if that would ever happen between himself and Brennan, but he certainly intended to be yoked to her come hell or high water.
“What do you think, Seeley?”
Booth fidgeted for a moment without blinking. “I don’t know what I think!”
“Yes, you do. What does your heart tell you?”
“My gut,” he said. “I go by my gut. Like I said, on this issue, my gut has gone AWOL.” Booth stared at Ed, then continued. “When something is wrong – like I’m thinking about making a bad decision – I can feel it right here.” Booth pressed a semi circle into his gut with his fingertips. “I get this sick feeling. But on this issue – my gut is no help!”
“Because it’s your head,” chuffed Ed, sitting back in his seat.
“My head.” Booth’s eyebrows reached for each other across the bridge of his nose.
“Your head is fixating on the literal translation because that’s all it knows, but your gut knows that’s not the full story. And your gut knows your relationship with her isn’t wrong. Your gut knows, perhaps, that this woman was made for you and that God has good things planned for you. You just gotta have faith.” Ed nodded confidently, but knew that Booth wasn’t sure yet. “So, Temperance—what’s she like?”
“Oh, she’s a good person – but she’s an atheist.”
“Well, doesn’t that negate that she’s the most loyal, loving, intelligent,” Booth exclaimed incredulously, “courageous and generous person I’ve ever known and when I’m with her – or thinking about her, I just feel – at home, you know? At peace. Solid. Really good-about everything. And it’s not a physical thing.” Booth said. “Well,” he added out of the side of his mouth, “I mean, there is that—
“I know,” Ed responded in falsetto. He grinned at Booth.
“How can that be wrong?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
“Ed, she’s the only person that really gets me – and I think she really loves me, warts and all.”
“Warts and all, huh?” Ed said with an amused glow in his eyes. Booth’s pleasure in thinking about her was contagious.
“Well, you know, like, faults and all.”
“I know what you mean, Seeley. She loves you in spite of yourself.”
“Exactly. And, I mean, she’s seen those warts, let me tell ya’.” Booth rolled his eyes and grimaced, then chuckled at himself. “This probably sounds strange, but sometimes I think she’s more committed to me than I am.”
“Interesting,” Ed said, squinting at his new friend as if peering through a microscope at the meaning of life in a petri dish.
“Yeah, like, she likes me more than I like myself,” Booth said in an incredulous tone.
“And loves you more than you love yourself?”
“Yeah! No! What? Wait, that can’t be good, can it?”
“Why not? We are our own worst critics. We know all our deepest darkest secrets and sometimes we disgust ourselves. Sometimes it’s not that people love us in spite of ourselves – we assume they detest the flaws as much as we chagrin them – but isn’t it our flaws, our humanity, that brings us closer, gives us the opportunity for growth and grace and even intimacy; love?”
Booth smiled to himself. How many times had he and Brennan discussed grace between themselves yesterday and the day before? More times than he could count. Yes, they do have a great deal of grace between them.
“Well, she’s certainly more forgiving—of me, at least,” Booth said as an afterthought.
“Hm. That’s interesting,” said Ed, tucking that little snippet of information away in case it becomes pertinent later in the conversation. “Does she lie, cheat, steal in ways you are uncomfortable with?”
Booth gave him a strange look.
“I mean, anything more serious than white lies or maybe occasionally taking liberties with office supplies.”
“Huh, huh, no,” he chortled. “She even pays her parking tickets. Heh, she once let the cops in New Orleans lock her up because a bunch of evidence at the time provided a good argument for her guilt.”
“Was she guilty?”
“Nope. Well, actually, she didn’t know if she was. She’d been drugged. It’s a long story. She was innocent.”
“Does she take the Lord’s name in vain?”
“Not that I’ve ever heard – and I’ve known her seven years.”
“Does she obsess over other people’s spouses or belongings?
“No –.” Booth furrowed his brow and thought how odd it was that she didn’t seem to envy anything much at all.
“Does she keep holy the Sabbath?”
“Okay, does she discourage you from going or make fun of you when you do?”
“Well—she doesn’t discourage me,” he said hesitantly. “She does make comments about Catholicism and the Pope that irritate me … but I don’t think she does it out of malice, per say.” Booth thought about this for a moment. “I–I think she just doesn’t understand. I mean, I’d never tell her this … but sometimes her comments make sense, heh. I mean, people coming back from the dead? She thinks God’s a psychopath because of the Old Testament—”
“Okay—well—but she doesn’t do this to embarrass you or persuade you to leave the church or quit going to mass—?”
“I feel like we’re judging her with this line of discussion,” Booth said, shifting uneasily in his seat.
“Not judging—trying to figure out if you would be unequally yoked if you were together.”
“We are together,” Booth said, unintentionally defensively. “You have to understand—she grew up being able to trust only two things: herself and science. That’s all. She doesn’t trust what she doesn’t understand—”
“Believe me, I know very well of which you speak!” Ed smirked, cocked an eyebrow, and nodded slowly. “Catarina? She’s a—was—a Chemist! An empiricist! If something doesn’t pass a double blind study—forget it.”
“She wasn’t Catholic?”
“Oh, she was Catholic, but she struggled with it. Struggled a lot. She said—how’d she put it? She said she just had a hard time believing 100% in ‘an invisible deity who created humans only to turn around and destroy them out of anger at their disobedience, then later fathered a child in absentia, a child who spread flowers and unicorn farts and never hurt a fly but could bring people back to life and turn water into wine and who later, in the prime of his life when he could have done the most good by anyone else’s standards, voluntarily got himself hung on a cross then reappeared and told his gang of cohorts to start a campaign against the hypocrisy of the day’.”
Booth whistled incredulously and reared back.
“Hehhhhhh, yeah. Tell me about it!” Ed sighed loudly and drug a palm across his forehead. This had obviously been a big issue between him and Catarina. “She had a hard time making it make sense in her logical head. But she had faith, even if it seemed to be as small as a mustard seed sometimes. I’d like to think I had a lot to do with that.”
“How in the hell did she still have faith with all that running around in her head?”
Ed shrugged. “I think she saw and experienced some very real things that just couldn’t be explained any other way. Miracles,” Ed shrugged sheepishly. “Life is full of miracles. I think she started to see that.
“And that worked.”
“As her arguments got shorter and quieter, weaker, my convictions got stronger and I’d tell her more of my point of view, my belief in the miraculous.”
“And it worked.”
“It took decades, yeah. It worked, I guess. Though, she was curious why some people experience a fervor, an emotional—’attachment or need’—she called it—a need for, and a sense of, satisfaction from their faith. She never felt that—that passion that has always come so naturally to me.”
“Hm,” grunted Booth pensively.
“Consider the possibility that your ability to believe in something greater than yourself is part of what attracts her to you.”
“What?” Booth displayed his best quizzical pinchy face.
“Well, if she found that unattractive, your faith, do you think she’d invest this much time in you?”
Booth puckered his lips and scratched his furrowed brow, deep in thought. This was a whole new way of thinking about their relationship.
“I guess I don’t know,” he finally said with a half shrug.
“That part of you that has the ability to believe, to hope, to trust—to love with your whole heart. That’s an integral part of everything else about you,” continued Ed, leaning over his armrest into the aisle. “And she’s in love with all those parts, I’ll bet.”
“Hm. I never thought of it that way,” Booth said after a moment of staring back and forth between Ed and the window past and behind Ed’s head.
“I think Catarina felt a little cheated. Like, why did it come so easily to me and not to her? Was it an issue of willingness to submit to something other than herself? I don’t know, maybe it’s a personality thing. You know, why are some people more emotional than others? Who knows?”
“Hm. I think I get that,” Booth pressed his tongue between his lips and dropped his eyes to the floor. “Brennan says there’s a God Gene.”
“There very well may be, but then that presupposes there is a God to put that God gene there, doesn’t it?” Ed grinned mischievously.
“Ha!” Booth chuckled. “Heh, heh, heh. Well played!”
“He also gave us choice, right? So how does that fit into that scenario? Can an animal go against what they are hard-wired to do? The thing is, we can never know absolutely everything there is to know out there, not even in our own areas of expertise. So why would we even think we could know and understand everything there is to know and understand in respect to our very existence?”
The two sat in silence and contemplated the incomprehensible for a moment.
“But, we could talk for hours about this. Let’s get back to the topic at hand—”
“Is my partner evil, right?” Booth brought them back.
“Right,” Ed chortled. “Your partner. Heh, heh, heh. Does she respect her parents?”
“She doesn’t not treat them with respect. It’s complicated,” Booth added dismissively.
“Okay, does she worship false gods?”
“She’s an anthropologist.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“She’s fascinated by people’s rituals and cultures.”
“But does she melt down her jewelry to make a golden calf? Does she worship Zeus or Baal? Sacrifice animals.”
“She’s a vegetarian. She doesn’t even EAT animals.”
“Is her life centered around money and notoriety?”
“No, though she has plenty of both—”
“She is very beautiful, but she doesn’t obsess about it. Barely talks about it, as a matter of fact,” Booth said distractedly, as he drummed his fingers where they rested.
“Okay. What is the center of her life?”
“Justice. No, truth. Finding the truth through empirical evidence. Giving people back their identities.”
“And what about you?”
“The center of my life is God, Parker, Brennan, bringing bad people to justice.”
“No, I meant you—are you the center of her life?”
Booth stared at the question before him and thought, ‘We are the center’. He thought about how apropos that was for them even now. He smiled.
Ed interpreted that as a yes.
“Is there anything you see in her person that you find morally reprehensible?”
“Uh, no,” Booth admitted squinting as he searched his brain. He didn’t have to search long. There was nothing there to find.
“Does she incite you to do things you consider morally reprehensible?”
“Uh, no. If anything, she keeps me honest.”
“Is she married to someone else?”
“No, heh. She refers to marriage as, ‘the blending of familial obligations and the consolidation of money and property’,” Booth said in a serious tone.
Ed chuckled for a moment. Then Booth joined him. Then they both stopped because they both knew, without either of them having to say it, that this was a big deal.
“She, uh, she doesn’t believe in the piece of paper,” Booth tossed off, then yawned and rubbed his face as if rinsing it with water from the sink.
“There is no paper in heaven, Seeley.”
“I know,” Booth said quietly as a pregnant silence ballooned between them. The sacrament of marriage, the spiritual binding together of two souls in the eyes of the Lord, as Booth believed it to be, has nothing to do with a piece of paper. It is the conferring of extraordinary grace from one unto the other; the helping of partner to get the other into heaven; the placing of the Lord in the center of the relationship, and of entrusting it to His care. This is what Christian marriage meant to Booth and why he was most deeply concerned about this yoke business. He wanted that kind of marriage. He wanted that miracle for himself and for Brennan.
“Are either of you dating anyone else?” Ed moved forward. The topic of marriage would have to be grappled with another day. But not today.
“Are you chaste in your relationship?”
“What?” This had to do with sex. Booth shifted in his seat. He seriously didn’t think Ed would go there … but … there it was, right there on the table.
“What I mean to say is,” continued Ed awkwardly, “do you, uh, respect each other—avoid taking advantage of each other—emotionally as well as physically?” Ed dropped his chin to his chest and peered at Booth over his trifocals. He didn’t want to go there any more than Booth did.
“Of course!” Booth answered loudly, then lowered his voice, cleared his throat and said it again just above a whisper. “Of course.”
“Well, Seeley, it doesn’t sound to me like she’s evil at all,” Ed said. He removed his glasses, pulled out a thin white handkerchief and breathed condensation onto each lense then rubbed them between his fingers with the cloth. He held the glasses up to the light, then put them back on. After carefully folding the handkerchief and sliding it back into his pocket, he continued. “As a matter of fact, from what you have told me, and from what I can discern from your own character, I think this Temperance is a very good match for you.”
“But—just being good is not enough to get a person into heaven, Ed. What about that?”
Ed took a deep breath and locked eyes with Booth for an intense moment. He then gazed up at the ceiling, crossed his arms and his ankles, sucked some air through his teeth making squeaking sounds, then cleared his throat.
Booth was on the edge of his seat. Surely Ed couldn’t deny the major tenet of Christian doctrine—the belief in Christ and His death on the cross for the redemption of humanity.
“This is where things get complicated,” Ed finally said, looking at the floor for several quiet moments. “This is the toughest issue of all of them, in my opinion,” Ed said with a heavy sigh.
Booth grimaced and nodded dolefully. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. His eyes dropped to the floor and his heart sank.
“Well, this I can tell you, son: Love is the most important thing to have. Love.”
Booth nodded solemnly.
“And you must never give up hope. You must keep the faith. But most of all, you must always, always love the heck out of that woman. Do you hear me?”
Booth nodded again, his eyes getting glossy. He had to look away so Ed couldn’t see the pink creeping up his neck or hear the pounding of his heart in his chest.
“It will not be easy. You will have to take full responsibility for the spiritual education of your children.”
“I know. I’m more than willing to do that.”
“And you need to study the beliefs of the faith and the Church so you know them backwards and forwards. Not to throw them in her face; you have to be patient. And ready. But when she asks you about your faith, your religion, you have to be ready with answers, not guesses. And you have to be confident.”
“I will,” Booth insisted, taking mental notes.
“Don’t be upset with her if she pushes back or gets frustrated because those are signs that she’s working on it in her head. Stand your ground—but gently. Firmly, but gently. Call in reinforcements—confer with your priest. It’s gonna be a lot of hard work, my friend.”
“Are you talking about converting her?” Whoops, thought Booth, I wasn’t planning to convert her—was I? “She’ll never become Catholic, Ed.” Booth smirked with a panicked glint in his eye.
“That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be committed to her being exposed to your faith so she can see the good in it. You can’t know what will happen from there. And remember, it is not your job to convert her—it’s God’s. You are his helper. So, don’t get discouraged.” Ed said this all like he’d said it a thousand times before—which he had! THis was standard fair in his counseling of couples who didn’t share the same faith.
When Ed began again, his voice was low and tender. Booth had to lean an ear toward Ed to catch all of his words. It wasn’t until Booth finally looked up at the man’s face that he realized his voice was as it was because it was filled with emotion.
“The power of love is that it silences untruths, it elevates the quality of life, it cures us and develops us in ways nothing else can. It frees us,” Ed said, his eyes closed and unmoving under his lids. Then he recited a quote Booth had heard many times, though never before did it affect him the way it did this time.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift
of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if
I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing.”
~1 Corinthians 13:1- 3
Here Ed stopped and opened his eyes. He stared off into his future where he imagined Catarina waiting for him. He dropped his eyes and met Booth’s gaze across the aisle.
“Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge—” (1 Cor 13:8)
Here Ed stopped and time stood still. Booth was spellbound, listening to his own heart beating in his own chest. Was it his own heart alone, or was it Brennan’s he could imagine so clearly joining his own? Or was it Ed’s? He swallowed audibly, but said nothing as he waited.
“—Where there is knowledge, it will pass away—”
Ed gently waved a hand in the air as if conducting the very last note of a symphony in front of a grand audience. he smiled gently at his companion.
“—For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears—” (1 Cor 13:9-10)
“The imperfect disappears, Seeley. Knowledge is imperfect and it will pass away. It will become nothing in the overwhelming light of the love of the Father.”
Booth nodded and he understood. Have faith. Have hope. Give her love. The rest is up to God. And it is never over until it’s over. In the end, love always prevails.
“These three remain: faith, hope and love—” said Ed, his voice was strained with emotion.
Then Booth spoke in a barely audible voice through clenched teeth as he tried to keep his emotions from spilling all over his face.
“—And the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)
Ed nodded slowly, almost imperceptibly. “Exactly,” he whispered.
They both heaved heavy sighs and examined their fingernails or the seams of their pants or the threads in the headrest of the seat in front of each of them. Both lost in thought.
Ed brought his hands together and intertwined his fingers as if in prayer. He used his joined fingers to point across the aisle toward Booth, whose attention had been caught by Ed’s sudden movements.
“Two things I want you to remember, Seeley Booth, if you remember nothing else,” he said with the gravity of one making a final wish on a deathbed.
Booth swallowed and grimaced, ready to hear whatever this sage had to impart to him.
“Christ said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. Got it?”
“Yes, sir,” Booth nodded once.
“Now, your anthropologist—”
“Temperance. Right. Do not be concerned that she does not know God’s name, for Christ promises us: ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me. Now enter into the home of my Father*’, right?”
Booth’s eyes had filled up with tears once again. He dare not even nod for fear of losing it.
“Now, this is my interpretation, okay? I’m not speaking for the Catholic Church here. I’m Speaking for Edwin Owen Williams and no one else.” Ed looked hard at Booth who didn’t dare move. “But, I believe that when knowledge is melted away by God and all that is left is love—”
“Yeah,” Booth choked out when Ed paused.
“He will tell her His name.”
Booth heard the words and felt his face catch on fire. He turned his head toward the opposite side of the cabin, closed his eyes and held his breath so no sounds escaped his throat. Then, he allowed two juicy tears to jump the curb of his lower lids.
In the back of the Town Car being driven by Sebastian the chauffeur from Hotel 1000, sat Brennan and Booth on the way from the airport to the Medical Examiner’s office.
Booth had been staring out the passenger side window, lost in the memory of that conversation with Ed Williams. Ed had indeed surprised him. Booth had surprised himself. He began to feel the familiar tart sensation at bridge of his nose between his eyes. He clenched his jaw and sniffed, praying it would pass quickly. They would be pulling up to the ME’s office any minute.
“Booth, what’s wrong?” Brennan reached out for her partner who sat staring out the Hotel 1000 Town Car window. “Did you just sniff? Are you getting ill? Let me feel your forehead!”
“No, I’m fine, Bones,” Booth responded without turning around to look at her. “Just tired and my eyes are bugging me. They’ll probably be all bloodshot in about an hour.”
“When did this start happening? I’ve never known your sclera to vasodilate in response to fatigue. Are you sure you aren’t allergic to something here in the car? Maybe it’s this leather—” She pulled on his arm, until he turned around. “Booth?”
“I have something to tell you,” he said, sniffing loudly then vigorously rubbing his nose before retrieving his handkerchief from his breast pocket. It had been close call, but he’d caught himself before he gotten emotional again.
“Okay,” she said in an inviting and agreeable tone.
“First of all, I love you,” he said covering her hand which had remained wrapped around his bicep even after he’d turned to face her.
“I know,” she said expectantly, her brow furrowing in concern.
“Second of all,” he said, then cleared his throat. “Second of all—second of all—” He couldn’t believe it; he was choking, flinching, going for a bunt instead of a home run.
“Second of all—?” She nodded encouragingly.
“Uh, I looked inside that gift bad Angela gave you,” he said, sighing loudly. Total strikeout.
“I know,” she said, expecting more.
Booth gasped, his mouth hanging agape. “How did you know?!”
“I’m a genius, what did you expect?” She rolled her eyes and chuckled.
It wasn’t until many hours later—after a visit to the ME’s office—after a steamy interlude in her hotel room when they got there—after he’d fallen asleep on her couch and been jarred awake by the crunch of his temple on the hard, cold, beveled glass of the coffee table—after he ran from her room in a panic—after her frantic call to his room and his insistence that he was okay when they both knew he wasn’t—and after his emotional call to her room an hour later—that he was able to tell her what he and Ed discussed during the second half of their conversation—the part about what had been tormenting him—the part he needed her to know before Tuesday.
* The full content of the verses Ed alluded to are from The Book of Matthew: 25:34-40.
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