AN: I loved writing this story and reading your comments, but, alas, all good things must come to an end. Thanks again to everyone who has been reading and reviewing, and of course my brilliant beta CalleighAryn for her invaluable assistance and support.
AN2: This chapter does contain some smut (naturally) but nothing graphic because I wanted to keep the rating at "T".
Booth had often wondered what Brennan's reaction to those three little words would be. As they sat on the steps, his mind considered the possible outcomes and how he would respond to each of them.
Scenario 1: She argues with me, saying that the idea of "love" is irrational. Solution: Argue back. Convince her that, rational or not, my feelings for her are real.
Scenario 2: She runs away. Solution: Follow her. Let her know that no matter how fast or how far she runs, I'll always be there to chase after her.
Scenario 3: She attacks me. Solution: Restrain her firmly enough to protect myself, but not so firmly as to hurt her. If that fails, run and gather reinforcements.
Scenario 4: She says that she loves me too and kisses me passionately. Solution: Kiss her back until I run out of air. Stop to breathe. Then repeat.
Booth didn't gamble anymore, but if he had to place a bet on which scenario was the most likely, his money would be on the first one. Or maybe the third. Possibly the second. It would be safer to bet on the least likely scenario, which was obviously the fourth one. The fourth scenario occurred most often in his fantasies, but he doubted it would happen in real life. Why did I tell her? I just screwed up our partnership permanently.
As the seconds continued to slide away without a response from her, he added a new scenario to the list:
Scenario 5: She never speaks to me again. Solution: Drink. A Lot.
He tried to be patient, but he couldn't stand the silence any longer. "Bones...please say something."
"What should I say?"
"You could say that you love me back...if you do." He looked at her hopefully, trying to judge her reaction.
"I don't know if I do. Maybe I should go hide in the women's bathroom and think about it."
Uh oh. She's pissed. "I wasn't hiding! I was dealing with my 'little problem', a problem I had because you asked me to touch you. Twice."
"You weren't 'dealing with your little problem' when I walked into the bathroom. You were just standing there. You ran away from me, and I had to come find you. What's to say that you won't run away again? Sully said that he loved me, but that didn't stop him from leaving me."
Okay, now I'm pissed. "You're comparing me to Sully?! You've known me for much longer than you knew him. Haven't I proved myself to you yet? Besides, you were the one who decided not to go with him!"
"Because I didn't want to leave you!" Realizing she had said too much, Brennan tried to cover up her mistake. "I mean that I didn't want to leave the work I do with you."
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, which they sang in his church every year at Christmas, suddenly popped into his head. "You do love me."
"No, you misunderstood my comment." He heard a note of panic in her voice.
"It's okay, Bones. You can say it."
"Does the sentiment have any value if you force me to say it?"
"Why do you have to be so stubborn all the time? You can spout out all sorts of complicated scientific terms and Latin names for things, but you can't say three single-syllable words?"
"I'm physically able to say the words, but I won't say them because their meaning is illogical."
"Forget logic! I'm not asking you to solve a math problem. I'm asking you to admit that you have feelings for me."
"You know that I don't believe in love. 'Love' is merely a socially acceptable excuse for engaging in sexual--"
"Stop boiling everything down to science. There's more to life than---" He stopped himself when he saw the doors to the reception hall swing out towards them. Brennan was seated too close to the door, so he grabbed her before she got hit.
"I can't believe you hit a FBI agent," Hodgins said to Angela as they walked down the steps. They were too focused on each other to notice Booth and Brennan. "That was so hot."
Angela smiled. "Well, he deserved it."
"I agree." He pulled her towards him and kissed her.
If Booth had been in a better mood, he might have let them enjoy this moment uninterrupted, but, unfortunately for them, he wasn't. "YOU hit a FBI agent?" First Brennan, now Angela. What is this, 'Squints Gone Wild'?
Angela unwillingly pulled away from her lover to face Booth. "I only smacked him with my purse."
"Who did you smack?" Brennan asked.
"That sleazy guy who asked you to dance. I can see now why you enjoy attacking people so much. It's such a rush."
"I don't enjoy attacking people," Brennan said, eliciting amused expressions from her friends. "Did he tell you that you might as well sleep with him because he would tell everyone you did anyway?"
"WHAT?" Booth was outraged. "Is that what he said to you? I'll kick his ass myself!"
Brennan put her hand on Booth's arm. "Calm down, Booth. I took care of the situation."
"No, he didn't hit on me," Angela answered. "Hodgins and I heard him telling people that you and Booth hooked up in the men's room. What a jerk! What you and Booth did in there is nobody else's business." She leaned close to Brennan and whispered, "Give me the details later, okay?"
"Ange! I didn't have sex with Booth in the bathroom!"
"It's true," Booth said, relieved that her anger was now directed at her best friend instead of him. "Bones went in there to find me and we left together. That's it."
"Seriously?" Angela's face dropped.
"Yes, seriously," Brennan shot back. "Why would we have sex in the bathroom when Booth went there to avoid me?"
"I was going to come find you!" Booth argued.
Brennan started walking away from him. "I'm not talking about this any more. I'm going home."
Booth followed her. "How? I drove you here!"
She spun around to face Angela and Hodgins. "Will you give me a ride home?"
Hodgins said "yes" at the exact second that Angela said "no."
"Why not?" Brennan asked Angela.
"Because I'm not going to help you run away from your issues with Booth. We need to talk."
Angela dragged Brennan to a gazebo a few hundred feet from the front steps. "Tell me what happened."
"I don't want to discuss it." Maybe if I'm lucky Angela won't push the issue.
"I won't give you a ride home until we talk."
I should have known better than to hope for 'luck'. "I'm tired. Can't this wait until tomorrow?"
Angela didn't believe it for a second. "You're not tired, you're only trying to postpone this conversation. It won't work. I'll keep asking you what happened until you tell me, so, logically speaking, you'd save yourself a great deal of aggravation by telling me now."
She's right. I should say it now and be done with it. "Booth told me that he loved me."
Angela squealed. "That's so wonderful!" She gave Brennan a hug. "Now I see why you're so mad at him."
Angela laughed at Brennan's confused expression. "Sweetie, anger is a much safer emotion than love. You're scared to love him back, so you fight with him instead. You push him away so he won't get close and hurt you."
Brennan rolled her eyes. "I hate psychology."
"But this time it's true. I know that your previous boyfriends hurt you, but Booth isn't like them. None of them ever looked at you the way Booth does. He's the man for you, Bren."
"No buts. You're an intelligent woman. Pushing Booth away would be the stupidest thing you've ever done. Give him a chance. Give the car a test drive before you decide you don't want to buy it."
Brennan couldn't repress a smile. "Booth isn't a car."
"But you'd like to ride him."
"Fine, I'll stop using metaphors. The sexual tension between you and Booth has become unbearable–not only for you guys, but for everyone around you. If you want to save your partnership, you need to have sex with him as soon as possible. You do want to, don't you?"
"Yes... although I'm not sure that counts as 'love.'"
Angela grinned. "It's a start, sweetie."
Booth and Hodgins sat on the steps, watching Brennan and Angela in the gazebo. Booth wished he could hear what they were saying. At least I know Angela is on my side. If she ruled the universe, Bones and I would be married by now.
After a few minutes of silence, Hodgins got up the courage to address the obviously pissed off agent. "So...Dr. Brennan seemed pretty upset."
That's the understatement of the year. "Yeah. You know, most women want a guy to say 'I love you.'"
Hodgins smiled. "We both know Dr. Brennan isn't most women. Congratulations for finally saying it." He couldn't help adding: "It took you long enough."
Booth fought the urge to reach for his gun. "I got enough crap from your boss. I don't need any more from you."
"Sorry, man. I'm guessing that she didn't say it back."
"Good guess, genius."
Hodgins knew that Angela was currently making Dr. Brennan feel better. Perhaps he could do the same for Booth. "When Dr. Brennan and I were buried alive, she said that you would find us. She didn't say it as a wish or a possibility, but as a fact. She had absolute faith in you. I hoped that she was right, but just in case I wrote a note to Angela saying goodbye. I asked Dr. Brennan if she wanted to write a note to anyone. Who you do think she wrote to?"
This better not be a trick question. "Me?"
"What did the note say?"
"She didn't let me read it, but I peeked once or twice when she was writing. I saw something about her valuing your friendship and partnership. It was as sentimental as I've ever seen her. She may not recognize her feelings as 'love', but I know she loves you."
Bones was thinking of me during what could have been her last hours. "Thanks, Hodgins." Now I'm glad that I didn't shoot you. He saw Brennan and Angela coming towards them. "Bones looks happier, right?"
"Angela is a wonderful woman. I'm sure she worked things out."
Brennan and Angela met them on the stairs. "Will you take me home, Booth?" Brennan asked.
Now I definitely need to buy Angela candy and flowers. "We should say goodbye to Jim and Lynn first, then I'll be happy to take you home."
"Alright." Together they went back into the reception hall.
Hodgins pulled Angela to him for another kiss. "You're incredible, babe. Are you ready to go?"
"Soon. When Booth and Brennan come out, I want to go in and talk to Lynn for a minute. I realized that I forgot to thank her."
"For inviting you to the wedding?"
Angela flashed him a wicked smile. "For throwing the bouquet at Brennan."
"You asked her to do that," Hodgins realized. "Did you also ask Jimmy to throw the garter towards Booth?"
"His aim wasn't as good as Lynn's. Luckily the guy who caught it was very understanding."
"You arranged another conspiracy and didn't tell me?" Hodgins pouted.
"Sorry, Hodgie. I didn't want to risk Booth overhearing again." She wrapped her arms around him. "I promise to make it up to you tonight."
"Can I get you a drink?" Brennan asked as she and Booth entered her apartment.
They sat on the couches in her living room, an uncomfortable silence hanging over them until they attempted to break it at the same time.
"So--" Booth began.
"Thank--" Brennan started.
"You go ahead," Booth insisted.
"That's okay. You go," Brennan countered.
"Ladies first, Bones."
"That's an antiquated gender stereotype!"
"Fine. You go first because alphabetically 'Bones' comes before 'Booth'."
"You're comparing a nickname to a last name. For a fair comparison, we should use the same standard. If we use last names, 'Booth' comes before 'Brennan.'"
Booth smiled. "There's only one way to settle this: rock, paper, scissors." He reminded her of the rules. They counted to three and held out their hands. After a few ties, Brennan's scissors defeated Booth's paper. "Congratulations, Bones. You get to go first."
"Maybe we should come up with a less childish way to solve future disputes."
"We will. In the meantime, just accept your victory."
"Okay." After a brief pause, she continued her interrupted sentiment. "Thank you for inviting me to the wedding. I...had a nice time."
"Yeah. Me too." The awkward silence returned for a few minutes. "So...now that you know how I feel about you...can we talk about what happens now?"
Brennan knew what she wanted to happen, but she wasn't sure that Booth would agree. Then again, she could be very persuasive when she wanted to be. "I can't have a serious talk about our relationship with this silly garter still on my leg. Since you did such a good job putting it on, maybe you would be willing to take it off for me."
Booth felt his pants getting tighter. "Temperance Brennan, are you trying to seduce me?"
"Is it working?"
"Oh yeah." He followed her to her bedroom and watched as she sat on the edge of her bed, lifting her legs to give him easy access to the garter. Reaching under her dress for the second time that night, his fingers found the garter and pulled it towards him. He was tempted to remove her clothes just as quickly, but he held himself back. It would be easy–too easy–to let himself settle for a hard and fast encounter. He was sure that her previous lovers had done that with her plenty of times, but he was going to be different. He would take things slow; he would give her a night of romance. Dropping the garter on the floor, he sat beside her on the bed. "I want to show you what real love is."
Slowly he brought his lips to hers. He had never been so nervous about a first kiss, but, then again, he had never loved a woman as much as he loved Bones. He wanted everything to be perfect for her. As their lips met in a passionate explosion, all of his worries evaporated. He knew they would remember this moment for the rest of their lives. Now that he had started kissing her, he found that he couldn't stop. Soon he was unzipping her dress, sliding off her underwear, and unhooking her beautiful silk bra and silver necklace so that he could kiss her everywhere. Feeling her hands fumbling with his shirt buttons, he reluctantly pulled away from her to help her undress him. When they were both free of their clothes, he continued his thorough exploration of her body.
Brennan had never had a lover touch her with such tender affection. Initially she had found it strange, but now she had to admit that it was a very pleasant sensation. Following his lead, she did her own examination of his hard, muscular body. In her dreams, she had often admired his well-toned physique, but in the waking world she would never allow herself to stare. Now she could look and touch as much as she wanted. She let her hands and lips trace every muscle, every curve, every scar, mapping his body and committing it to memory.
As they touched each other, all the obstacles they had put in their way, all the excuses they had used to stay apart faded away. Their passion grew until it could no longer be denied. After two years of longing, they finally let their bodies unite. They moved together and came together again and again until sheer exhaustion left them breathless.
"We became one," Brennan marveled as they held each other, her head happily resting on Booth's chest. "We broke the laws of physics."
Booth thought that this was the most romantic thing any woman had ever said to him. "I always wanted our first time together to be 'making love', not just 'sex'."
She nodded vehemently. "I understand the distinction now. 'Sex' is just a physical connection, but with 'making love' there's an emotional connection too. I've experienced the physical connection many times, but never the emotional one...until now. Thank you for showing me the difference."
"You showed me too. I really do love you, Temperance." He kissed the top of her head. Soon he was asleep in her arms.
As Brennan watched him sleep, she thought about how her life had changed since the day their partnership began. He had been just a partner in the beginning, but over time he had become so much more. Now she couldn't picture her life without him. "I think I love you too," she whispered.
Booth opened his eyes and gave her the biggest charm smile she had ever seen. "I'm glad to hear it."
Brennan blushed. "You...you were supposed to be sleeping!"
"I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't. I don't want this night to end."
She laughed softly. "You don't have to be so dramatic. We can make love tomorrow night too."
Booth's eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Really," Brennan echoed. "But on second thought, why wait until tomorrow?" As their minds and bodies connected once more, they realized that their search for a soulmate was over. Now that they knew what it felt like to be together, they could never go back to being apart.
Hope you enjoyed the conclusion. As always, it gives me great pleasure to hear your thoughts. :)