Author's Note REVISED --- Important! Please Read:

I wanted to write a fic that showed us Booth as an expert in his own domain. Sometimes in the show the complementary balance, the yin-yang of Booth and Brennan gets out of kilter, and Bones does everything, coming up with all the key insights even out in the field. Booth is almost reduced to her chauffeur.

FWIW I actually started this before S1's The Soldier on the Grave ep, but that gave me the perfect jumping off point. Since this fic is a continuation of S1 with Goodman, S2 on the show has made this more AU with Cam's arrival. She simply doesn't exist in this fic. I gues that should make some of you happy :)

Let me retroactively acknowledge my two beta readers. I actually did not have a beta for the first half or two thirds of the story. However, in the course of reading feedback I met a2zmom. I began bouncing certain ideas off her and she actually turned into a beta reader as such. I consider her my toughest customer on characterization and the fine line between "moving" and mere mush. Through her I met astridv who came to do yeoman work on the fine details as well as characterization. Both are LiveJournal users – check out their journals! Any goofs, missteps or failure to take their advice are purely my fault :)

This story was written and released as a WIP, in effect a long running serial, from May to the end of November 2006. As a result, the chapters vary in length and there are many cliffhangers. So, if you are reading this for the first time in the completed state, I really suggest trying to take a short break (even just a few minutes) between chapters to let some of the cliffhangers "soak in" for the maximum impact. And then you can imagine what it was like for my original readers who had to wait days or sometimes weeks to find out what happened next :)

Anonymous reviews are enabled.

If you are re-reading and would like to post another review of a chapter for whatever reason, and FFN says you can't, just do an anonymous review without logging in – but still sign the review.

I have gone back and tweaked the first eight chapters, as well as 11 and 13, as of December 6.


Three weeks after The Soldier on the Grave…

Seeley Booth swiped his badge to enter the secure lab area, and a smile lit up his face upon seeing Bones talking to Zack behind one of the widescreen monitors. She was in full blown lecture mode, pointing at something on the screen hidden from his vantage point while manipulating the mouse. She only paused briefly to flash a quick smile in greeting before continuing.

"If we zoom in closer you can easily see small nicks and abrasions on the edges of the foramen magnum, with further scarring opposite on the interior surface of the parietal bones..."

"What? Some sick bastard was scraping out brains with a teaspoon?" Booth interjected.

Brennan and Zack both looked up from behind the display in shock at that, which for some reason he found more annoying than when they simply thought he was clueless.

"What?" he groused. "You know I'm not just a knuckle-dragger with a badge and a gun. I'm actually a pretty sharp guy, sharp enough to pick up some of the lingo from you guys after all this time, and even have the initiative to crack an anatomy book on my own."

"I'm just surprised, that's all," Brennan replied. She hurriedly added as his brow started to furrow, "Not by your ability, but by your interest. So often you complain when we use technically correct anatomical terminology instead of the vernacular…"

"Well, Bones, I perfectly understand your need to be precise with each other in the lab, it's just that when you need to communicate the basic idea quickly, there's nothing wrong with plain old English. But I'm not here to bicker. Remember we are meeting over lunch?" His eyebrows rose in question.

"Oh…" She'd forgotten, absorbed by the subject matter as always. She gave Zack a few parting instructions, grabbed her jacket and left with him.

- -

At Sid's they enjoyed the chef's surprise for lunch. They were both down to the last few delicious bites when Booth decided to broach the subject of their meeting.

"Bones, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about." She dabbed at her mouth with her napkin as she finished chewing and swallowing, and quietly waited for him to proceed.

He reached across the table with his right hand to lightly touch her left, and caught her eyes with his earnest expression.

"I really wanted to thank you again for listening to me at Arlington when I had to get Kosovo off my chest." She started to dismiss it, but he continued, "No, it was very important to me. Thanks for being there for me. An old Army buddy recently told me I needed to get it off my chest with someone close to me, and he was right."

'You've always been there for me," she replied warmly. He was pleased to see she did not pull away her hand immediately. It felt so warm and comforting he had had to tell himself to let go, but he left his hand right beside hers.

"The way I put Radjic down always ate at me, but once I became a father myself it really resonated. But you helped me regain some perspective – and your willingness to accept me no matter what, well that really meant a lot."

She rewarded him with her best smile, the one few got to see.

"Anyway, you've made it a lot easier for me to come to terms with a decision I've been putting off." At her intent expression he took a deep breath and forged on. "Several times in the last year the FBI has tried to recruit me for a special detail. I've been blowing them off, but… they really need me and I'm seriously considering signing up now. But only if it's OK with you..."

Suddenly wary, Bones pulled her hand from along side his and placed it in her lap.

"What about us?"