A/N – Once upon a time, craftyjhawk had a list of Bones prompts in case any of her writer friends needed a little nudge. That was in the days before she was brave enough to write herself. One day, craftyj was looking for some inspiration from her prompt list when a "what if" prompt caught her attention. This story was born from the prompt, but barely resembles the original idea.

This story takes place after the events of "The Wannabee in the Weeds" and then spins very definitely into AU territory. Enjoy!

If you have been reading either "The Results in the Change" or "Captive," don't worry, there will be updates to both of them soon.

Disclaimer – I don't own Bones or its characters. I just occasionally sneak them out HH's back door when I feel like playing.

Six days ago, she stood in an overly bright hospital waiting room with the rest of the team as they were told that Booth was dead. The doctor explained that they had done everything possible, but his wound was too severe and he had lost too much blood. Brennan looked at her still blood-covered hands and stopped listening to the doctor. He had nothing more to say that was of interest to her. He had already said too much, way too much.

Angela clung to Brennan, as she sobbed uncontrollably and saying "no" over and over again. Cam stood with her arms hugging herself, off to the side, still not feeling like part of the family, but feeling the loss of her oldest friend deeply. Hodgins moved to comfort his fiancée and found he didn't know how. He stood next to her, with his arms hanging by his sides, feeling impotent. Outwardly, Zack showed no emotion. Inwardly, he was surprised that a mere bullet could take down the larger than life, intimidating agent. Sweets was torn between grieving for the man he admired and observing Brennan's reaction to the loss.

As for Temperance Brennan, she only felt numb disbelief. Booth couldn't be dead. She would feel it if he were. She knew it was irrational, but she felt she would just know if he were gone.

But… the doctor said that Booth was dead.

The team stood huddled together as they absorbed the truth. Their tears eventually slowed, then stopped. As if by unspoken agreement, they left by ones and twos, hugging each other as they said good-bye, until Brennan was left there alone. Angela wanted to stay with Brennan, but she had sent her home with Hodgins. Brennan was unable to comfort her and not wanting her comfort or attention in return. She wanted only to be alone.

She needed to learn how to accept that Booth was dead.

Five days ago, she buried herself in her apartment, shutting out her friends. She let her calls go to voice mail, ignored the pounding at her door when her friends came to check on her. She sat on her couch, with a bottle of Booth's favorite Scotch, drinking to every happy memory that she had of them together. She wasn't convinced that Booth was dead, it just didn't feel as if he were gone. She knew it was irrational to keep believing that he might be alive. Opting to go with what was rational, she'd given herself one night to mourn, accept his death and tomorrow she would put her life back together. So, she drank, straight from the bottle, to the first case they solved. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and moved on to another memory – spending time with Booth and Parker at the diner or at the Jeffersonian and watching Parker soak up each little piece of knowledge she offered him.

Oh god! Parker. He would grow up without his father. She knew she was no substitute for Booth, but maybe Rebecca would let her spend time with him. She could continue to provide him with enrichment. She didn't acknowledge her selfish motive, that by seeing Parker she would remain in contact with a part of Booth. She told herself it would be a beneficial for Parker. His well-being was of the utmost importance.

She would do anything that she could for Parker, because Booth was dead.

Her decision made regarding Parker, she went back to remembering and drinking, until all that remained was an empty bottle in her hand. Too tired, too drunk to relocate to her bed, she curled up and covered herself with the hand-knit afghan she kept draped across the back of her couch. As she drifted off to sleep, she released her grip on the bottle, which dropped to the floor and silently rolled away.

Four days ago, she pulled herself together and returned to the lab. Cam had given everyone a few days off. They had no case to be working on, because they had no FBI agent to be working with. That's why, when she arrived at the lab, the only people with her were the security guards. They didn't care if she buried herself in Limbo, the one place where she could just be. If Angela were there, she would try to get Brennan to talk, to leave the sanctuary of Limbo, where she felt most at peace, most like herself.

She chose a box at random and began to reverently place the bones on the stainless steel table before her. She settled into her routine of examining the bones, looking for any marks that would help her to identify this victim. The word 'victim' sent her thoughts reeling back to Booth, who had been the unintended victim of Pam Nunan. Nunan had aimed her gun at Brennan, and Booth, ever the alpha male, stood between Brennan and that gun, taking the bullet meant for her. Something she never wanted him to do. Now, she was left trying to accept his death.

She let her mind run through everything that had happened over the last two days, looking for the evidence. She needed evidence to move on, evidence of his death. She hadn't been allowed to see his body. No funeral plans had been announced. She was still waiting for the evidence.

Once she saw the proof, she would believe that Booth was dead.

Three days ago, she decided to put her money and Max's contacts to good use. She had spent the day looking for the proof. She made phone calls to the hospital, the morgue, even the FBI, trying to locate the information that she needed. Every call was the same – a verbal confirmation of Booth's death, but a refusal to show her the proof. She begged for access to his medical file. She was, after all, his medical proxy and had been for some time. She was told that it no longer applied since Booth was deceased. She asked to be allowed to see his body. She was told that he had been returned to his family in Philadelphia. She requested a contact number for his family and was told that they wished to be left alone to grieve. Stonewalled at every turn, she felt frustration raging through her body and doubt running rampant in her brilliant mind.

With no other option open to her, she called her father. During Max's years on the run, he had amassed a network of less than upstanding contacts. Brennan wanted Max to use those contacts to find the proof she needed to move on. She would pay any amount to be able to move on from the limbo that she had been living in. Max assured her that he would do as she asked and contact her when her had information.

She was counting on him to find someone who could confirm or deny that Booth was dead.

Two days ago, she called Rebecca, hoping it would be possible for her to see Parker. After getting no answer on Rebecca's landline, she called her cell. Brennan thought Rebecca sounded odd when she answered, as if she didn't want to talk to Brennan. When Brennan asked to see Parker, she was told that they were visiting Rebecca's parents. When she asked to speak to Parker, Brennan was told that he was out with his grandparents. Brennan recognized the statement for the lie that it was. She could clearly hear Parker laughing and playing in the background. Brennan asked Rebecca to call when she returned to DC, so that she could spend some time with Parker.

After Brennan ended the call, she reviewed the conversation. She wasn't very adept at reading people, but she had learned a few things from Booth during their partnership. She had the distinct feeling that Rebecca was lying to her about more that Parker's whereabouts during the call. She examined the evidence from the call. Rebecca was acting oddly enough that Brennan picked up on it. Parker was laughing in the background. He did not sound like a child who had just lost his father. Rebecca seemed to rush the conversation to get Brennan off the phone. Rebecca had avoided committing to any shared time between Brennan and Parker. She would have never admitted it to Booth, but something didn't feel right. Her gut told her that the facts, as she knew them, didn't add up.

Instead of trying to prove it, she decided it was time to question it. Was Booth dead?

One day ago, Max had shown up at her door with coffee in one hand and a manila envelope in the other. He arrived just as she was preparing to leave for work. Brennan fired off a quick text to Cam to say she would be later than usual on the team's first day back.

She and Max sat at her kitchen table, drinking coffee and discussing what his contacts had discovered. Once again, Brennan was numb with disbelief. The disbelief quickly changed to outrage as she looked through the documents and photos that Max had delivered to her. There were copies of Booth's hospital file. Official FBI documents outlined a secret operation. There were photos of Booth that appeared to be taken from a great distance. His right arm appeared to be in a sling. Another page was a list of calls from a number she did not recognize to numbers that she did – specifically to Rebecca and the Hoover. The last page in the packet appeared to be a very short contact list – Rebecca, Parker, Jared and Hank Booth and Temperance Brennan. The last name, her name, had been crossed out. Spread out before her was the evidence that she sought, but the evidence led to a somewhat unexpected conclusion. Booth was not dead, he was very much alive.

Brennan gathered her outrage along with the pages from Max's "proof of life" pack and took them straight to the Hoover Building and the office of one Deputy Director Cullen. Instead of waiting for his assistant to see if the deputy director was available to speak to her, she charged into his office, slamming the door closed behind her. She dropped document upon document, photo upon photo on Cullen's desk. Faced with the overwhelming evidence that Booth was, in fact, alive, Cullen had no choice but to admit defeat and confess all to the anthropologist.

Cullen thought that when he had finished explaining to Brennan, she would go back to her lab, play with her bones and patiently await Booth's return. Little did he know that she had other plans. She insisted that she be allowed to see Booth. He waived the banner of national security in her face and refused. Brennan defaulted to a strategy that had served her well in the past. She gathered up the pages from Cullen's desk and replaced them in the envelope. She turned to leave his office and, as if it were an afterthought, told him she would be taking her treasure trove of information straight to the closest media outlet and blow his operation right out of the water.

Cullen blustered as he rushed from his desk to his office door to halt Brennan's departure. He reminded her that she was threatening to blackmail a federal official. Her response that it wasn't the first time let him know just how serious she was. Cullen caved. He gave her the address of the safe house that Booth was being housed in and assured her that he would tell the agents protecting Booth to expect her arrival.

With a terse "thank you," Brennan left Cullen's office and the Hoover Building and drove to the Jeffersonian to set into motion the next phase of her plan. She had much to accomplish before the day was done and not much time to do it.

Bypassing her office, she headed straight to Cam's. She intended to tell Cam that she was taking a week off, starting the following day. If Cam refused her "request," she would use another form of blackmail – emotional blackmail – to appeal to Cam's sympathies. Cam surprised Brennan by seeming relieved that the anthropologist wanted to take time off to adjust to her new reality.

Cam's acceptance left only one obstacle in Brennan's path – Angela. At first, Angela refused to believe that Brennan wasn't running away, trying to escape her grief. With Hodgins's help, Brennan was able to convince her that she just needed some time to herself. Brennan promised she was not leaving the country and she would return in a week. After a brief moment where she considered having Brennan sign in blood, Angela decided to take her words at face value and accept her decision. She hugged Brennan and walked away, trusting her friend to keep her word.

Brennan left the Jeffersonian without stepping a foot in her office. Anything needing her attention could wait for her return. She had more important things to do.

Booth was alive and she was going to see him. Booth was the evidence that she needed.

Her world seemed to have righted itself in the past twenty-four hours. Booth was alive. Max's contacts had found the proof and Cullen had confirmed it.

She took a last look at her apartment, noticed that she hadn't packed her laptop, anthropology journals or anything else that was work related. She was slightly surprised to find that she didn't care. All that mattered was getting to Booth, to see him with her own eyes, touch him with her own hands.

She had the address that Cullen had provided programmed into her GPS, a bag packed with a week's worth of clothes and a full tank of gas in her car. Her destination was Britt's Corner, West Virginia, a small town that was situated near a mountain lake. The pictures she had found of the area showed it to be rustic but very beautiful. It appeared to be an area that Booth would enjoying visiting, under different circumstances. Recovering from a gunshot wound didn't exactly allow for relaxation and recreation. Neither did faking one's own death.

Brennan drove on autopilot, blindly obeying the commands issued by her car's GPS. Fear was her companion as the miles ticked by, her greatest fear being that Booth would turn her away. Maybe he had removed her name from his contact list, didn't want to see her. She sadly acknowledged the possibility. If that was his decision, to tell her to go, she would accept it, as long as she was able to see him first, to verify the evidence for herself. Her happiness, which she was now willing to admit was irrationally tied to Booth, didn't matter as long as he was alive.

Lost in thought, she was startled when the GPS announced that she had reached her destination. Looking through her windshield, she saw a group of four cabins, set back from the gravel road and backed by a perfectly-still lake. There were no vehicles visible, so she assumed they were parked out of view. Verifying the cabin number that Cullen had given her, she lightly push the gas pedal, creeping her car up the road until she was in front of the third cabin. Taking a deep breath and gathering her courage, she slowly turned into the driveway and hoped that Cullen had followed through on his promise to alert the agents to her arrival. She did not relish the thought of being met by drawn weapons.

The adrenaline high that she had been riding since discovering the truth gave out as she put her car in park and turned off the ignition. She was a matter of feet away from seeing Booth, yet she found it difficult to bridge the distance. With her heart racing and the rush of blood pounding in her ears, she forced herself out of the car and onto the path that led to the porch. No one jumped out to challenge her presence as she slowly made her way to the door. Two steps led up to the wrap-around porch and another four paces put her at the door.

Before she could knock, the door was thrown open to reveal the evidence she had been seeking. Booth stood before her, eyes widened in shock, right arm immobilized in a sling, fatigued etched on his face. With the half-smile that made him, Seeley Booth, former Ranger sniper, weak in the knees, she reached out and cupped his cheek with her delicate hand.

Her presence had crippled his rational thought to the point that he could only choke out "Hiya, Bones."

"Booth, you're alive."

A/N2 - I know, I know. I'm an evil, evil fic writer. There will be one more chapter in this story. Just have a little patience. And – if you show up at my door with pitchfork and torches, I will turn the hose on you. Let me know if you loved it or hated it in that little review box below.

A/N3 - One final note - Britt's Corner is entirely fictional. Britt is a family name and I have been wanting to slide it in somewhere. ~ craftyjhawk