There are things you knew you’d be rattled by, your first time going into a war zone. Dead bodies, often in pieces; rubble where there had been homes and schools; the signs of harm on those people and buildings that have survived. And then there were the things you didn’t know to brace yourself for.
You didn’t always ran into those things right away: not on your first tour, and sometime not even on your third. For Hannah it didn’t happen until she went somewhere that had, not too long before, been peaceful. That was when she’d seen the pets.
Hannah didn’t see that about Dr. Brennan – Bones – Temperance – the first or even the third time they’d met. There was plenty suspiciousness there, more than enough caution. Hannah had expected nothing less of Seeley’s deeply trusted work-partner. Would, she knew, have been shocked and angry if Temperance had been anything but protective and somewhat territorial.
Hannah had been hanging around military types in general and Seeley Booth in particular long enough to know that he wouldn’t have trusted someone who wouldn’t have his back. Hannah had also been hanging around military men long enough to know to how to be reassuringly casual to said work-partner.
So Hannah didn’t blink at Temperance eying her with a mixture of welcome and distrust being as she knew in advance she would need to field that reaction; what did shake her balance was Temperance flinching away from her once the two of them were settled on the matter of Hannah’s understanding of, and commitment to, Seeley.
It made Hannah think of those pets, warzone pets that had been loved, once, that had had a family and a shelter, once, and then when the terror began were left behind in the chaos; who couldn’t and didn’t understand; who slank around and eyed new humans with that look, that Hannah Burley, War Correspondent, hadn’t known to prepare for and which had damn near stopped her in place the first time.
Seeley had hinted at this, sort of, but Hannah had fitted what he’d said into the frame of his preparing her for a typically protective work-partner. That look and that flinch from Temperance were entirely not about Hannah, Seeley Booth’s live-in girlfriend, and very much about Hannah, whom Temperance was coming to just like for her own sake.
Hannah wasn’t Seeley, to wonder if the people who had put that look on Temperance’s face were still alive and entertain the thought of paying them a visit. She didn’t admire that attitude, though she appreciated that it could be used and that her Seeley had indeed put that into doing much good with his life.
Instead Hannah’s low-burning anger made her more determined than ever to be a friend to this woman, this courageous, disturbingly intelligent, driven, full-grown lioness of a woman. This one was no house pet, but Hannah had not learned nothing in the months in which her and Temperance’s lives touched upon each other.
There were very, very few people who could outright tell Temperance Thank you or do anything overtly friendly, and Hannah had just learned that she wasn’t yet one of those people. Temperance was awkward, standing at the foot of Hannah’s hospital bed, asking how Hannah was, with no Seeley in the room to explain her presence and – Hannah was certain – not much idea of what to do with the rest of the situation, either. So Hannah played the hand she had, asking, “Where’s my gift?”
There was something almost like an “Uh,” like a hitch at the beginning of the first word, when Temperance asked, “Excuse me?”
Hannah pretended confusion and very little, very mild, disappointment. “Listen,” she said, “I get it. You saved my life, and I’m very grateful, but traditionally, when you come to visit someone in the hospital,” and something of the playfulness she felt leaked into her voice, “you bear gifts.”
“Well,” said Temperance, and though her shoulders remained relaxed the single syllable was drawn a little more than it had to be and she dropped her gaze for a second, “that custom began as a replacement for religious sacrifice.”
“As a way to get the gods to take mercy on the sick person,” affirmed Hannah. It wasn’t the kind of knowledge one picked up being a War Correspondent; it was the kind of knowledge one went seeking when one had a cagey, defensive anthropologist who defined herself through her trade to put at ease.
“Yes,” said Temperance, and that was a relieved smile, lasting for just a second before Temperance relaxed back into her default, assured and emotionally absent, mode. “But – I don’t believe in that, so – ”
Hannah would have none of that. “Wait,” she said, cutting the other woman off, eyes as wide as she could make them and her eyebrows raised,“you do believe in cultural traditions.”
Temperance averted her gaze again. “Of course, but..”
“So?” Hannah drew the word out, made it an invitation. “Since I’m not above a little supplication every once in a while,” she said, and pointed up, feeling very much like a five-years-old: “Maybe you should give me your sunglasses.”
It was for Temperance, playing coy and hammering it this hard, but it was fun. Being a skinny blond woman was nice when it made her editor itch to put her on the front of everything, but, otherwise, she had to work to never, ever be perceived as fragile. This wasn’t something she needed to worry about with Temperance, who Hannah got and who, Hannah knew, would without question do anything that was within her power and which she found morally permissible to keep Hannah happy.
Who, like Seeley, wouldn’t quite know what to do with someone without caring for them, but who, unlike Seeley, didn’t know how to do that safely.
Tempe laughed a little and asked, “ Uh - seriously?” and there was that expression that Hannah had been angling for, that combination of embarrassment and pride at being complemented for her taste in something – something personal, not a matter of her professional capacity – and at realizing the invitation for intimacy for what it was.
“Sure,” said Hannah.
And Temperance untangled her sunglasses from her hair and held them out to her. “Okay.”