Summary: Tessa and Seeley make an agreement to quit while they're ahead.
Disclaimer: I don't own 'Bones' or the characters that I have used herein. I just borrow them and do what I want. Like puppets. Only good looking ones.
A/N: Booth is a noble man. We've already seen evidence of that. I don't think he'd lie to Tessa, Brennan or himself. Please review:)
Tessa pulled her blonde hair into an elegant chignon, smiling at her reflection in the antique French mirror. She liked black. Especially chiffon. The material brushed against her legs, pinched her waist and ruffled so prettily at her torso.
She'd painted her toe nails. The bottle called it 'black cherry' and she thought it was sexy. When Seeley finally arrived, she hoped he'd think so too. Maybe it would be like the first time they made dinner plans.
She smiled to herself, spinning. The gossamer material fanned out. She felt like a wickedly naughty Marilyn Monroe.
The first time, she recalled, they'd made it as far as the front door. Then they changed their minds and spent the night in bed. All night.
Coating her lips in 'minx red', Tessa wondered if he'd even make it tonight. If he called, it would be the third time in a month he had cancelled.
Of course she understood. She was a lawyer. She knew what it was like to juggle an enormous workload. She understood. Damn, she tried to understand. But the idea of him, wandering about the Jeffersonian Institute with the doctors and the forensic people, it made her skin crawl. It made her paranoid and insecure.
When was the last time he'd stood before her, gazing into her eyes with adoration? When had he told her there was no one in the world as beautiful? Christ, she couldn't remember anymore.
Squirting a fine mist of Chanel across her throat, on her wrists, Tessa pouted into the glass, pressing her hands to her torso. She still looked good. Other men noticed her. Plenty of good looking eligible men found her attractive.
The key turned in the lock and her front door slid open. He'd arrived! If she could get him to the dinner table, everything could be salvaged! Seeley would pretend not to look at her cleavage and she'd pretend not to notice that he was. They'd drink wine, eat delicious food and then come back to her apartment and make love until dawn.
Her shoes clicked on the floor as she almost danced into the living room, feeling elated and beautiful again.
"Hi!" She called, pulling her silk wrap from the coat stand. Her smile faded. "What are you wearing, Seeley?" He stood in her doorway, looking down at himself, his shirt suit creased, his tie pulled away from his neck. His hair was uncombed and his eyes were distinctly weary.
"Tessa? Are you… going out?" He rattled his car keys in one hand, pressing his fingers to his temple with the other.
She felt her fingers tighten around her shawl. "I was supposed to be going out with you, Seeley!" She snapped. "To Reno's!" There was a flicker of acknowledgement in his eyes, and his shoulders slumped. "You forgot? Seeley…" Tossing her shawl aside, Tessa crossed her arms over her chest, feeling somehow cheap and foolish, despite the expense of everything she wore. No matter how beautiful she'd hoped she looked, it went unnoticed.
"Tess…," he shoved his keys into his pocket, rubbing his hand across his jaw. She noticed how stubble darkened his face. He looked tired – but so frustratingly handsome. "We…" She closed her eyes and swallowed hard.
"I know," she said, nodding slowly. Her heart fluttered, her mind already making the logical leap. "Sit down." He shifted awkwardly in the doorway, obeying after a long silent debate with himself. If she wasn't feeling so sorry for herself, she'd have felt sorry for him.
He perched uncomfortably on the edge of her sofa, his fingers clenched around his knee caps. His knuckles had turned white.
"Tessa…," he glanced up, his eyes apologising before he'd even spoke. "I've been having a tough time at work. The cases get more gruesome as the days go by. It's difficult…" Tessa picked at her nail, vaguely aware of how much it hurt. "You and I…we're together… but…"
"We're not?" Tessa offered. He nodded mutely. "Seeley, it's alright." He sighed, returning his gaze to the floor. "I think I understand." His shoulders stiffened, and she noticed it. She noticed how his shoulder blades bunched together beneath his jacket and how his jaw clenched so tight.
He turned his head a fraction. "Do you?"
She wanted to hate him. Wanted to hate how he was feeling sorry for himself when he was shattering her dreams. He felt pity for himself, and she found herself thinking how he was the only man who had ever had the balls to break up with her directly. Instead of hate, she felt something close to admiration.
"You feel closer to the forensic team. They understand," she said, resisting the urge to touch him, just to remind herself of how he felt; hard and defined. "Better than me." Seeley swallowed, inhaling an unsteady breath into his lungs. "And so does she."
Tessa felt her cheeks redden and she allowed herself to admit the reason for their dire situation. Seeley had been so distant for so many weeks, now. He'd befriended 'the squints', and befriended her. They saw the atrocities of society together.
"I know you have feelings for her, Seeley," Tessa said, wringing her hands on her lap, tears stinging her eyes. He didn't hurry to deny it. He didn't jump to defend himself. Somehow it hurt more that he didn't. She wished he'd lie, now.
"I've never, ever cheated on you, Tessa," he said, watching how her lips trembled. She brushed her eyes.
"I know," she nodded. "But you have feelings for her." She couldn't help but repeat the words that spun over and over inside her head. All this time she'd been grasping at straws, hoping so desperately that they'd redeem their relationship. But it would never be as it was before. It couldn't be.
"I feel… something, yes."
She would have coped easier if he'd admitted love or something extravagant and melodramatic. But it made her heart ache to think he was unable to define what he felt for her. It hurt that 'something' was another way of saying he'd never felt for anyone the way he felt for Temperance Brennan.
"Not love, Seeley?" She asked, a hint of melancholy in her tone. He sighed.
"No. Maybe. I don't know, Tessa," he said. "Just something." Tessa looked at the floor now, too, her fingers trembling.
"I guess we should quit now, while we've some relatively good memories left?" Seeley nodded. "I'm going to get changed. I'll…" she paused. "Best of luck, Seeley," she offered.
Thirty seconds after she closed her bedroom door, she heard the front latch engage and felt her resolve melt. She was in her thirties, with only her job in her life. She had no lover, now. No companion. No prospect of marriage or, not that she ever thought about it, children.
Despite knowing that she was punishing herself, Tessa pulled the drapes aside, glancing out her bedroom window. She eased the frame open, breathing the cool air into her lungs, willing herself not to cry.
Outside her building, on the sidewalk, Seeley stood, watching as the sun crept below the horizon. His shoulders seemed to relax. When his cell phone rang, Tessa held her breath.
"Booth," he said.
There was a long moment of silence, in which his brow was furrowed with concern. Then, pulling his keys from his pocket, Seeley spoke the words that drove the realization home; "I'll be right there, Bones."
And then he was gone.