AN: Many thanks to my readers for their patience and encouraging words, and to CalleighAryn for her always awesome suggestions. This chapter is the last—hope you enjoy!

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This sucks.

This really, really sucks.

Is it time to go yet? It's gotta be at least 4:30, maybe 5:00. Where's my watch? Oh right, I took it off because I kept staring at it every five seconds. I think I saw it under some papers a couple hours ago. It's not under this pile…not that one…or that one…it has to be this one…no, wrong again…where the hell did I…okay, there it is.

3:18?! Impossible. It has to be later than that. My watch must be broken. My phone…I'll check the time on my phone. It will tell me the REAL time. So the real time is…

3:18.

So maybe my watch AND my phone are broken? Or maybe they're conspiring against me? Or—

Just suck it up, Seeley. This will be your life for the next two weeks. Two weeks doing endless paperwork because Cullen wants to punish you for lying about your relationship with Bones. Two weeks stuck at your desk while Sanders gets to work beside her.

Why Sanders? Did Cullen think to himself: "Who should I pick to be Dr. Brennan's new partner? I know! I'll pick Sanders because he's one of the most obnoxious agents in the Bureau. That will really piss Booth off." If Sanders does anything to my Bones, I'll kick his ass…that is, if she doesn't beat me to it. No way that jerk deserves to work with her. He's the most arrogant, annoying, unbearable—

But maybe I'm getting carried away. Just because he was a bastard to me doesn't mean he'll be one to Bones. He might even be nice to her.

Of course he'll be nice. I've seen the way he ogles her when she's in the building. He'll be nice to her because he wants her for himself. He could be trying to make a move on her right—

"Booth?"

Booth looked up from his desk to find Agent Charlie Hughes standing just outside the doorway. "Can I help you, Charlie?"

"I just saw Agent Sanders and Dr. Brennan on the fifth floor. Did you know about their…situation?"

Booth frowned. "I know that they're partners now."

"Is that all you know?"

A knot of anxiety grew in his stomach. "There's something else?"

"Yeah. You're not going to like it."

Booth jumped to his feet. "Why? Is Brennan hurt?"

"No, no," Charlie said quickly. "She didn't look hurt. She looked good. Very good. She always looks…" He trailed off when he realized Booth was scowling at him. "Anyway, when I saw her just now she was…well, she was…"

"Just say it, Charlie."

"She was handcuffed."

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Everyone's staring at me.

I've often noticed FBI agents staring at me when I've walked down these halls with Booth. I used to think that it was because I wasn't one of them, but when I voiced that thought to Booth he laughed. He said: "They're not staring at you because you're an outsider, Bones. They're staring at you because you're…you know…structured very well." Yet I doubt that these stares are people admiring my appearance. I think they're most likely wondering why my new partner has me in handcuffs.

I had almost forgotten how uncomfortable handcuffs are. I remember the first time I was handcuffed, after I shot Ken Thompson. I explained to Booth that Thompson was about to light me on fire, but he arrested me anyway. He apologized repeatedly as he handcuffed me, saying that he had to do it because it was standard procedure.

I barely knew him then, but now I know him better than anyone I've ever met. Now that we're together, I could be the one handcuffing him. I could have my strong, alpha male partner handcuffed to my bed, begging for me. But would he actually agree to be handcuffed? He expressed disgust for sex games when we were investigating the pony play murder, but he might play with me if I asked him. I've never had a lover who cared about me as much as Booth does. I think he would do almost anything for me. Even before we were lovers he risked his career and his life to protect—

Oh no.

What if Booth finds out that I've been arrested? When that detective in New Orleans came to arrest me for murder, Booth pulled his gun on her. If he pulls his gun on Sanders, he could get suspended or even fired. He would be devastated if he lost his career.

I won't tell him. I need to take care of this situation without—

"BONES!"

Brennan whirled around to see Booth running towards her. So much for keeping Booth in the dark. "It's okay, Booth. I'm fine. Really. There's nothing to worry about."

"Nothing to worry about?! So you're not really under arrest?"

I wish I could lie to him, but I don't know how I would explain the handcuffs. A new partner bonding activity perhaps? No, I'll have to tell him the truth. "I am, but it's not a big deal. I'll get it sorted out."

"What happened?" Booth asked.

"I'm taking her to booking," Sanders interrupted, grabbing her arm. "You can talk to her later."

Booth blocked their path. "No, I'm going to talk to her NOW."

Sanders tried to walk around him, but Booth moved with him. "Move aside, Booth."

Booth ignored him. "What happened, Bones?"

"I was only trying to defend myself, and he completely overreacted."

"She assaulted me," Sanders spat. "I had every right to arrest her."

"It was hardly an assault," Brennan interjected. "I wouldn't have expected a FBI agent to be so sensitive."

Sanders' eyes narrowed into angry slits. "And I wouldn't have expected a forensic anthropologist to be such a crazy bitch."

Brennan saw a dangerous glint in Booth's eyes. "Don't get upset, Booth. He only said that because he's threatened by my superior intelligence."

Sanders laughed. "No, I said it because it's the truth. Your girlfriend's a psycho, Booth."

Booth clenched his fists. "DON'T talk about my partner that way."

"She's not your partner anymore," Sanders taunted. "And what are you going to do to stop me?"

"If you ever insult her again, I'll—"

"BOOTH! SANDERS!" Cullen's voice rang out through the hallway. "In my office now. And bring Dr. Brennan."

XXXXXXXXXX

"Take her handcuffs off," Cullen ordered Sanders when the two FBI agents and the anthropologist were seated in his office. When Sanders complied, Booth's hands instinctively went to the red marks on her wrists, wanting to soothe her pain away.

"Booth!" Brennan whispered in warning. Remembering where they were, Booth guiltily withdrew his hands.

After rolling his eyes at the lovers, Cullen turned his attention back to Sanders. "You want to tell me why you've arrested the Jeffersonian's top forensic anthropologist?"

"Actually, I'm one of the top forensic anthropologists in the country," Brennan corrected. "Not just at the Jeffersonian."

Booth swallowed back a laugh at Cullen's annoyed expression.

"Alright. Sanders, tell me why you arrested one of the top forensic anthropologists in the country."

"First of all, sir, she was hostile to me from the start," Sanders said defensively. "I introduced myself politely and said that I was really looking forward to working with her. She gave me this cold stare and said: 'I already have a partner.'"

Brennan looked at him in disbelief. "What did you expect me to do? Give you a hug?"

"A handshake would have been fine," Sanders grumbled.

"Do you want me to apologize for hurting your feelings?" Brennan asked.

Booth stifled another laugh.

"You'll get a chance to tell your side, Dr. Brennan," Cullen said. "Right now I want Agent Sanders to continue."

"Thank you, sir. So I brought Dr. Brennan the soaker they found last night and--"

"Claudia," Brennan interrupted. "Claudia Peterson. The 'soaker' has a name."

"Fine," Sanders said angrily. "After I brought Claudia's body to the Jeffersonian and Dr. Brennan and the other squints analyzed it, I asked her what her findings were, and she was belligerent."

Brennan shook her head. "I was not belligerent!"

"Yes you were!"

"Do you even know what that word means?"

"Yeah, it means that you were a pain in the ass."

"It means 'warlike'," Brennan said, as if she were a teacher talking to a very slow student. "From the Latin 'bellum', meaning 'war', and 'gerere', meaning 'to wage'. I was not belligerent. I told you my findings accurately and without malice."

Sanders laughed. "You used a bunch of fancy squint terms and refused to tell me what any of them meant."

"I gave you my report the same way I would have given it to Booth. He wouldn't have needed any explanations," Brennan said. Beside her Booth beamed with pride.

Sanders scowled. "Booth isn't that smart."

"He's much smarter than you," Brennan shot back.

"You only said that because you're sleeping with him."

"No, I said it because it's the truth."

"Enough!" Cullen shouted. "Sanders, skip ahead to the part where she does something worthy of an arrest."

"Yes, sir. So after the squints gave me the positive ID on Ms. Peterson, I accessed her missing persons report and saw that her boyfriend, Chris Meyer, was the one who reported her missing. I told Dr. Brennan that I was going to talk with Mr. Meyer, and she announced that she was coming with me. I told her that it would be safer for her to stay in the lab, and—"

"His exact words were: 'I don't babysit squints in the field. Keep your cute little ass in the lab where it belongs'," Brennan interrupted.

"Very professional, Sanders."

"Not now, Booth," Cullen demanded. "Continue, Agent Sanders."

"Well, Dr. Brennan said that she was coming whether I liked it or not and she followed me out to my car. I kept telling her that I wasn't taking her with me, but she wouldn't listen. Eventually I put my hand out to stop her from walking any further and she fell."

"He pushed me. Hard."

Booth glared at Sanders. "You sonofa—"

"It was an accident. I offered her my hand to help her up—"

"It looked like he was going to push me again."

"And she grabbed my hand and tried to break my wrist."

"But I didn't actually break his wrist."

"Only because I was able to snatch my hand back just in time. Sir, we can't have a squint thinking that she can go around attacking FBI agents. That's why I arrested her. I know that Dr. Brennan is a brilliant scientist and all, but she's totally unstable. I'm sorry, but I can't work with her."

"You're not intellectually capable of working with me anyway," Brennan said.

"Bitch," Sanders muttered under his breath.

"Do you have something else to say, Agent Sanders?" Cullen snapped.

"No, sir."

"Very well. Be here tomorrow morning at eight and we'll discuss how you could have handled this situation better. You're dismissed." Glaring at Booth and Brennan, Sanders left the office.

"Agent Sanders may have been out of line, but you two also behaved unprofessionally. Booth, if I ever hear you threatening one of your colleagues again, you'll be subject to disciplinary action. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"As for you, Dr. Brennan, I expect you to treat your next partner with more respect."

"No."

"No?" Cullen repeated incredulously.

"I won't accept another new partner. I'll only work with Booth."

"Letting you and Booth continue to work together would be a violation of FBI policy. Furthermore, the Jeffersonian is a federally funded institution; you're in no position to make demands."

"I don't have to work at the Jeffersonian."

"Bones! You can't leave the—"

"I can. There are universities and museums all over the country that would gladly hire me. If I left the Jeffersonian, my team would go with me. Do you really want to lose our expertise? Do you want to have to explain to your superiors why the FBI's success rates have dropped, or tell Claudia Peterson's family and the families of future victims why the FBI can't solve the murders of their loved ones? Allow Booth to be my partner again, and I'll continue offering my services to the FBI."

Cullen frowned. "I don't appreciate being blackmailed, Dr. Brennan."

"It's not blackmail. It's a reasonable arrangement that will benefit both sides."

Cullen sat in silence for several moments before speaking. "I'll allow you and Booth to resume your partnership after Booth has completed his two weeks of desk duty…but I'll be watching you both closely, and if I find you putting your relationship before your work the deal is off. Understood?"

Brennan nodded.

Booth grinned. "Yes, sir."

"You're dismissed."

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"The way you stood up to Cullen was so hot," Booth said as he and Brennan sat in the diner after work. "I wanted to kiss you right there in his office, but I didn't think that would help our cause."

Brennan smiled. "I told Sanders you were smart. What's going to happen to him?"

"Most likely he'll get suspended for a while and have to go to counseling or attend sensitivity training. Poor Sanders." Booth laughed. "In your next book you could create a character that's a real jerk and name it after him."

"I could do that. Speaking of my books, my publicist called this morning. She said that all the publicity from the gossip websites dramatically increased my book sales, and that the Bred in the Bone movie is a hit with critics."

"So now you'll be even more loaded. Congratulations, Bones."

"Thank you."

"You know, I checked those gossip websites today to see if there was anything new about us."

"What did you find?"

"Nothing. They were all talking about Brad and Angelina being pregnant. They admitted it to the press. We're no longer the hottest couple in Hollywood."

"That's a relief."

"Definitely. It'd be impossible to do our jobs if we had paparazzi chasing us all the time."

"We could beat them down if we had to."

Booth smiled. "It's 'beat them up', and we should probably try to stay out of trouble for a while."

"We can try, but trouble seems to find us anyway." She held up her reddened wrists as proof.

"Yeah, but, one way or another, we always get through it together…and we always will." He took her hands in his and kissed the marks left by Sanders' handcuffs. "Partners forever, Bones."

Brennan opened her mouth to argue that 'forever' was an irrational concept, but closed it when she saw Booth's loving expression. Gazing at him with the same look of love, she leaned across the table and kissed him. "Let's go home and celebrate our partnership."

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