Their relationship was a story of progression from begrudging partners, to partners who could tolerate one another, to a tight, cohesive team, to clandestine friends, to trusted confidants. From the roots of a begrudging partnership grew a gradual emergence of something more. Something bigger.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Rating: T for language.

Timeframe: Future fic post 3.09 The Santa in the Slush with references to other episodes.

Pairings: Booth/Brennan

Hey, Roxy here again. I appreciate the feedback for Trinkets, and many readers hinted that they would like another foray into the Bones arena, and I am glad to oblige. Once again, I watched the latest episode of Bones and the plot bunny grew from there. So, my friends, here is another little one-shot similar in style to Trinkets, but this time, it's Booth's turn for a point of view. Enjoy!

The early morning sun filtered into the depths of the room, bathing all four walls with its radiance. As the brilliance illuminated the bed situated in the center of the room, the two figures burrowed within the sea of sheets stirred, languidly seeking out an alternate source of warmth and unconsciously snuggling closer as the dawn of a new day made its presence known. One masculine arm, tanned, well muscled, and dusted with a fine sprinkling of hair, peeked out from the sheets, searching absently before seeking purchase from an expanse of creamy skin. With a stifled grunt, the arm retracted, bringing its prize with it to fit against a broader form. A nose followed, wriggling out of its silk prison and meandering across the pillow to bury itself in the auburn-chestnut locks. The full mouth, sandwiched between a stubbled chin and upper lip, quirked up in an indulgent smile as he inhaled deeply.

With a subtle, languorous stretch, Special Agent Seeley Booth allowed his eyes to flutter open to treat him to an eyeful of his delightfully slumbering companion. A snuffling snore drifted up from her luscious lips, soft and decidedly feminine, and Booth dipped his head, skating his lips across one creamy, smooth shoulder. In response, the hand entwined with his tightened around his fingertips, aligning the matching platinum bands gracing each ring finger. Propping his head up on his free hand, Booth gazed down at his wife, reveling in the moments where he could drink in her beauty without fear of judgment or interruption.

They started their partnership in a constant combative dance. After all, two alpha personalities could hardly co-exist without asserting said personalities. He could barely breathe two words without her correcting him, and she could barely utter a possible theory without prompting a derisive snort. Seeing where they were no, it seemed like such a long time ago.

"That's the best you can do?"

From the driver's side, Booth shot a sidelong glance at his less than pleased companion. "What?"

"Getting Homeland Security to snatch me so you can stage a fake rescue," Brennan clarified, the accusation heavy in her voice.

Booth quirked what he hoped was a winning smile. "Well at least I picked you up at the airport…huh?" Seeing that she was nonplussed, Booth diverted the conversation. "Alright c'mon. I mean I went through the appropriate channels but your assistant there, he stonewalled me."

Brennan tossed a sharp look to her companion, her tone tinged with irritation. "Yeah, well after the last case I told Zach never ever to put you through. He's a good assistant," Brennan remarked softly as her gaze drifted to the scenery passing by. With an idle wave of her finger, she directed her next comment to Booth. "You can let me out anywhere along here."

"Alright listen," Booth sighed. " A decomposed corpse was found this morning at Arlington National Cemetery."

"Arlington National Cemetery is full of decomposed corpses," Brennan interjected. "It's…a cemetery."

Her obvious sarcasm failed to waylay Booth as he waved away her blithe remark. "Yeah but this one is your type of corpse," he pressed. "It wasn't in a casket."

"If you drive one more block, I'm screaming kidnap out the window," Brennan threatened.

Booth huffed out another exasperated sigh. "You know what, I'm trying to mend bridges here."

"Alright, pull over," Brennan commanded.

Complying, Booth guided the SUV to the curb, only to have Brennan practically leap from the passenger seat, her bags in hand. "I'm going home."

Fighting the urge to gnash his teeth, Booth bolted out the driver's side, slamming the door with an irate flick of his wrist. "Great..." he grumbled beneath his breath." His long strides working to keep pace with the briskly passing doctor, Booth called out "Could we…Look, could we just skip this part?"

"I find you very condescending," Brennan snapped as though it answered his question.

"MeI'm condescending?" Booth's tone was bordering on incredulous. "I'm not the one who's gotta mention that she's got a doctorate every five – "

"I am the one with the doctorate," came the smug retort from the rapidly departing back.

"Yeah, well you know what? I'm the one with the badge and the gun. Huh?" Booth dared her to respond. "You know, you're not the only forensic anthropologist in town."

In the supremely confident manner he had grown almost accustomed to but never failed to infuriate him, she corrected him with a short laugh. "Yes, I am. The next university is in Montreal." He could almost see the smug smirk playing on her lips as she tossed back over her shoulder, "Parlez-vous français?"

Frustrated at his desperation as he realized that no, he didn't parlez français, Booth called out to her rapidly retreating figure. "What's it going to take?"

Rotating on her heel, Brennan stared at him for a moment, gauging his sincerity. Finally, she spoke. "Full participation in the case."

"Fine," Booth consented without hesitation.

If Brennan was surprised at his easy acquiescence, she veiled it well. Surveying closely, she pointed a finger in defiant emphasis. "Not just lab work…everything."

Booth fought the urge to roll his eyes. "What do you want me to do? Spit in my hand? We're Scully and Mulder."

From his position, Booth could still catch the blank expression adorning the anthropologist's face. "I don't know what that means."

This time, Booth gave into his urge, rolling his eyes with barely concealed irritation. "It's an olive branch," he explained. "Just…" Booth hitched a thumb back at the SUV idling on the curb, one eyebrow cocked expectantly, "get back in the car."

Begrudging reluctance. That's how Booth could describe the early stages of their partnership because, let's face it, neither one wanted to be even remotely associated with the other. Booth thought squints belonged in the lab, going as far as vocalizing such a sentiment. Brennan thought he was nothing more than a macho barbaric who loved to flash his badge and wave his gun – and Booth admitted that a part of him did relish in the authority a badge and a gun imparted, but he refused to give her the satisfaction of knowing the truth of that assumption. To be honest, that was the basis of everything. Their relationship was purely professional. They were partners: the FBI agent and the anthropologist, compacted into tidy little compartments just like their notions of one another.

But there lay the rub. What had begun as a partnership – albeit a begrudging one – compacted into tidy compartments soon became something a bit less compact and tidy. It started when the squints invaded his territory at Sid's, the hole he had searched countless hours to find, and it culminated when Booth found himself truly caring about her safety. That realization hit him squarely between the eyes during a pivotal case. It was a case forever imbedded his memory when, for once, he had placed her squarely straddling the fine line that divided their respective occupations and at the mercy of one rogue agent, a man Booth believed held the same principles he did. Sure, he had gotten blown up thanks to one suicidal refrigerator, but Booth hadn't experienced fear the way he had when he realized the man they were looking for had taken his partner hostage. Booth could argue, that moment was possibly the most terrifying moment in his life.

Brennan knelt in the middle of an abandoned warehouse, her arms suspended over her head, tied at the wrist, and attached to a hanging hook. Her eyes, normally stoic, bordering on blank, and carefully veiling her every emotion, were wild and terrified, blatantly displaying her fear. Kenton paced before her, his stern features set with harsh, resolute determination as he spoke to her, almost rationalizing his actions.

"I'm not like him at all. The things I have to do to you, you'll be gone first," he assured her like that would provide some kind of comfort in her given situation. "You'll never know a thing. I never expected anyone to find out." Kenton drew his gun from the small of his back, grasping the weapon by the barrel with the intention of striking her with the butt. Brennan could only watch, waiting for the inevitable as Kenton reared back. Neither saw Booth as he appeared from just around the corner. With the precision that had once been the source of his guilt, Booth lifted his gun, aimed, and pulled the trigger, all within the matter of a millisecond. The accuracy that had yet to fail him hit true as the bullet cut through the air pierced Kenton at the shoulder. An agonize growl tore from Kenton's lips as he jerked back, the force of the discharge sweeping him off his feet. Brennan's head whipped to the source to find her partner lowering his gun, a grim satisfaction wafting from his features. Amidst the chaos of his colleagues swarming around him to get to the fallen Kenton, Booth limped over to his partner, her brilliant blue eyes wide with a potent fear he had never witnessed before. Grasping her hands, Booth tugged upward, his addled state unable to lift her from the hook keeping her arms suspended. Booth hurried to console Brennan as he sized up his situation.

"Alright. Okay, Alright. Hold on." Booth ducked his head between her suspended arms and used his leverage to release Brennan from the hook. Supporting her trembling body the best he could with one arm, Booth collapsed onto the cold stone floor of the ware house, landing squarely on his ass. A small grunt escaped from his lips as Brennan's arms tightened around his neck, clinging desperately as though he was her last lifeline.

"Oh, it's okay," Booth grunted through the steadfast ache in his broken ribs. Ignoring the pain, he turned his attention to the shaking woman in his arms. "I'm right here. It's all over," he assured her, the words comforting him as much as they did her as he clutched her tightly, the dark spheres of his eyes radiating with a cross between absolute fear at the situation he had unwittingly put her in and potent relief in her safety. "Okay. Shh. I'm right here, alright. It's all over. Shh…alright."

Finally releasing his neck from her stranglehold, Brennan sat back, scrutinizing her partner with the inquisitiveness that never left her bright eyes. "How did you get out of the hospital?"

With a pained smile, Booth hissed out a reply. "Hodgins gave me a ride. Maybe…maybe you could give me a ride back though, huh?"

With a smile and a yielding nod, Brennan complied as Booth let out an aggrieved groan, and with a small laugh, Brennan leaned in to hug him again.

Booth involuntarily shivered as he remembered that day. He had come so close to losing her. Sure, it was one moment among countless to come where Brennan's involvement in a case put her life in perilous situations, but that was the first one as well as the one that struck him the most.

He could argue that was the beginning of their foray into something more. Booth could confidently say that he trusted Brennan unconditionally. He was proud to call her his partner. Sure, they disagreed about countless subjects: namely religion and psychology but he also found one area of common ground: their jobs. What had happened in their. For Brennan, it was the trauma of having her parents vanish from her life without reason or explanation. Because of that experience, she dedicated her life to finding answers with the hope she might stumble across a few of her own. For Booth, it was his former occupation as an Army sniper. Booth pursued justice with the hope that life he saved would absolve every life he had taken. It was a reason he had long kept to himself. Until Brennan.

"I would never have expected to see that," Brennan revealed as she and Booth strolled from the funeral across the grass of Arlington National Cemetery away from Devon Marshall's funeral.

"Well, people will always surprise you," Booth remarked.

Brennan let out a disbelieving huff. "That hasn't always been my experience."

"I've done some things," Booth refuted.

Brennan halted, gazing closely at the man whose past she really knew only by his file. "I know."

As though he sensed that he knowledge stemmed from what was record, Booth shook his head. "No, no, you don't."

Understanding how difficult it would be to disclose the intricacies of his time before the FBI, Brennan gave him an escape. "But it's okay," she assured him.

Instead of taking her out, Booth surged forward. "Well, not – not as a secret..." Booth lowered himself onto the ground before a grave. "It's not," he admitted. "I have to be uh, honest about myself," he rambled on like some higher power was squeezing the words out of his body. "I – I have to be able to tell someone," he confessed feebly.

"You will in time, Booth," Brennan assured him. "You will."

"I was sent to Kosovo," the words flew from his mouth almost unconsciously as though they knew Brennan would be the perfect person to divulge them to.

"There was this Serb, General Raddick, who led a unit who would go into villages and, you know, destroy 'em. Women, children, all-- all killed because he wanted to ethnically purify his country. He'd done this twice before." Booth waved a hand in emphasis. "I mean, we had facts, proof. 232 people just erased." He paused, the memory sobering in effect.

"I was the sniper sent in to stop him," Booth explained. Dropping his head to his chest as thought the weight of his admission was bearing down, Booth continued. "He was set to leave in a couple hours. It was his son's-- son's birthday. A little boy maybe about six or seven. I can still hear the music from the party, you know? That song just playing in my head." Booth let out a mirthless chuckle. "Nobody knew where the shot came from, but, you know, they knew why it came."

Booth allowed his gaze to travel out to the distance. He stared hard, the contemplation heavy in his dark chocolate spheres. "They said I saved over a hundred people," he murmured. "But, you know, that little boy who didn't know who his father was, who-- who just loved him... he saw him die, fall to the ground right in front of him. That little boy all covered in his daddy's blood was changed forever. Booth sighed, a heavy as the tears fought their way up his throat. " It's never just…" His voice cracked, the long stifled emotion finally bursting forth like a dam giving way. "It's never just the one person who dies, Bones. Never." Booth shook his head, repeating the word. "Never."

Not knowing what to say, Brennan did the only thing she could. Reaching out, she placed a hand on his forearm. This was the first time she had initiated contact with her partner, but Brennan felt this was a time Booth needed her, consciously or unconsciously. Booth glanced down at the hand beneath his, his tanned muscle contrasting with her marble smoothness. He drew strength from that hand in a way that hadn't been available all those years in the Army. "You know, we all die a little bit, Bones. With each shot, we all die a little bit."

Brennan stayed silent, letting Booth pour what was left of his noble soul onto her. With her own tears blurring the vision of his strong, dignified visage threatening to crumple, Brennan simply sat with him. As he finally allowed his tears to run their course down his tanned, weathered cheeks, Booth gently ran his thumb as though the movement would erase his past and the sins he had committed.

It was a sobering moment, that much was true, and one of their more poignant ones shared as a partnership. He had surprised himself then, divulging sentiments no one had ever know before. But, strangely and inexplicably, he knew that Brennan would. She had seen the extent to which he labored to absolve himself from those sins. He had prayed every night after he had done his "duty," pleaded to a priest for forgiveness, but no amount of prayers, no amount of penitence could alleviate the ache in his heart and the guilt in his soul. All in the pursuit of justice, he supposed. Didn't make it any easier to do, though.

She had become his confidant that day, now that she knew. But their progression remained one-sided. She was his confidant, but what was he? Stuck as just the partner. It stayed that way until that weird, wacky case that seemed to be a rip off of The Blair Witch Project. Booth could barely contain his amusement. It only figured she would fall for the murderer. He never did condone her taste in men…

"I sure know how to pick 'em," Brennan allowed her head to loll in his direction, "don't I?"

From his place at her doorway, Booth shrugged, trying his best to comfort her. "Well, you know, our perceptions are always colored by what we hope, what we fear, what we love. We do the best we can."

"I'm afraid my best isn't good enough," Brennan admitted. "I can read bones, not people."

"Oh, you know, you had no trouble seeing through me," Booth chided her with a grin.

Despite herself, Brennan couldn't impede her own small smile from appearing. Just as quickly as it appeared, it materialized, and Brennan lifted up from her chair, busying herself with her paperwork. "It's a good thing I like being alone," she murmured.

Booth shook his head, approaching her turned back. "You know what Bones? You're not alone, ok?" With a gentle hand on her shoulder, he prompted her to rotate. Brennan's eyes scanned over his outstretched arms, then up to his expectant face.


Whatever protest dangled at her lips, Booth dashed with a cocked eyebrow. "You're my partner, ok? It's a guy hug." Motioning with his hands, Booth dipped his head slightly to gaze into her eyes. "Take it," he implored.

Regarding him for a moment, Brennan assented, stepping into the circle of his arms. Booth wrapped her in his embrace, allowing his strong, gentle arms to cradle her in a manner that she hadn't experienced in a while. With a barely discernable sigh of content, Brennan locked her own arms around his waist, burying her face in his shoulder. Stifling the impulse to bury his nose in the auburn-chestnut waves of her hair, a sweet honeysuckle scent drifting up from the smooth strands, Booth only tightened his embrace, noticing that she did the same, a thoughtful lilt to his pleased smile.

In retrospect, Booth could understand that simple embrace that hadn't lasted more than a minute was actually a turning point in their relationship. Brennan had come to him for many things: assistance, social advice, the occasional sarcastic tone, but she had never come to him for comfort. That day Booth and Brennan had realized on both ends that they had progressed beyond just a partnership. They were friends. Veritable friends. And it was nice. Really nice.

But even with the newly realized friendship, they were far from perfect. One would have to be a tried and true moron to believe that, but the biggest test of their partnership – both professional and platonic – had come when one Max Keenan shoved his way into the picture again. Perhaps the hardest thing Booth had ever had to do had been to arrest the man Brennan long held at such a high standard, accepted to have disappeared. The bastard had given him a hard time, too. Booth's balls still ached from the cheap shot Max delivered that night. The most potent fear Booth ever sheltered was that Brennan would begrudge him of arresting her father. But, just like with her own vocation, Brennan was nothing if not professional. She understood, maybe even agreed, but still, Booth harbored that fear. He really needn't have bothered as they both transcended a potentially damaging obstacle to become even stronger and more cohesive than before. And through Booth's gentle, if not insistent coaxing, Brennan had found a connection with the man she believed was dead to her.

The Lincoln Memorial sat prominently amidst the spacious expanse of sky dashed with purples and oranges as the sun settled into the horizon. Washington DC was unnaturally still as its inhabitants settled down for the evening. Two figures sat silhouetted against the lights of the monument, enjoying the view of the Capital without the pressure of criminals to chase or bodies to identify. One sat slightly unsteadily, idly flipping the lid of a coffee cup, his bottom lip mimicking a fish. The other sat properly, rigidly but the severity of her posture looked oddly comfortable on her tall, willowy frame, her brilliant stare observing the actions of the man beside her.

Brennan regarded her partner with amused eyes, a small smile lilting her features. "How much scotch did you drink?"

Booth gazed at her with the glazed eyes of a thoroughly intoxicated individual as he pondered her question. "Oh, just enough," he answered flippantly with a grin. "You know, I would have invited you, but Reilly, he just…wow…" Booth recoiled slightly as the realization registered at the typical speed of an inebriated daze, "he doesn't like you."

"I understand," Brennan promised, the hilarity prevalent in her eyes.

Booth squinted as he became cognizant of the words that unwittingly tumbled from his mouth in his drunken stupor. "I'm sorry. Was that rude?"

"Not from someone who's been drinking," Brennan assured him.

Booth seemed to accept her answer, abruptly switching topics. "God, you know, I love this place. I love it. I love this country. You know, I tell ya something. If I was working law enforcement back in the day when they threw all that tea, alright, in the harbor – I'm good, alright, I'm – I'm good. I would have rounded everybody up and we'd still be English."

"You think?"

"Yup," Booth answered definitively. "Yup. Definitely." With a resolute nod, Booth sighed with contentment, taking a sip of his coffee.

"I saw my father," Brennan blurted.

Booth started in surprise. "Wow. I didn't think that you were gonna – do that."

"As an anthropologist, I accept change as the natural order of things - but with him I didn't allow for transformation," Brennan reasoned. "You know, I predicated his behavior based on a set of outmoded preconceptions. It wasn't rational," she finished.

"Wow," Booth repeated. A furrow appeared in his brow as he cocked his head at his partner. "I - I didn't get any of that."

"If I was conducting an objective experiment on my father, observing his behavior, I'd have to conclude that he loves me," Brennan explained.

"Hmm," Booth pondered her reasoning for a moment before casting another glance in her direction. "Why? What happened?"

"We played cards."

Whatever response Booth expected, her response didn't quite qualify as what could possibly be anticipated. Still he shrugged, grinning appreciatively. "Cool."

Brennan quirked an indulgent smile. "I killed him."

Even through his alcohol-induced stupor, Booth caught the irony behind her statement. His eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned, inclining his head slightly. "Good for you."

Still grinning, Booth toppled over, resting his head against Brennan's shoulder. With a laugh, Brennan gazed down at his head as he bumped her again, the partners simply delighting in each other's presence. Contented smiles lighting both faces, the partners settled back to take in the vision of the Washington Monument.

Booth could kind of remember that moment…well, c'mon, he was drunk, there were bound to be holes in his memory. What he didn't know, Bones had filled him in, and he could only chuckle. Of course they would hang out at the Lincoln Monument… But even in their moment of frivolity lay a deeper, more poignant truth. They had, once again, gradually evolved. This time from friends to close friends. Booth supposed it was kinda like that joke about how a good friend would bail you out of jail, but a best friend would be sitting in a cell right next you. Well, a good friend wouldn't begrudge him for arresting her murderer father, but a best friend would sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, chatting about her time visiting aforementioned father in jail while cracking murder jokes. Well, it made sense to him…

Booth reasoned that it was only so long before they would reach the next stage of progression. They had gone from begrudging partners, to partners who could tolerate one another, to a tight, cohesive team, to clandestine friends, to trusted confidants. And how right he was…

Brennan sidled up to her partner from his spot where he leaned against the doorway of the hospital room. "Thank you, Booth."

Booth spared her a glance before returning his eyes to the happy family reunion. "Oh, this never happened don't thank me." Booth gestured to where Russ was showering Haley with kisses, prompting delighted squeals from the young girl. "As far as the Bureau is concerned, I caught him here, 15 minutes from now."

Brennan hesitated before darting in, pressing her lips to his cheek in an unmistakable kiss. "Thank you, Booth," she repeated, the gratitude even more evident then her first admission.

Booth drew in a quick breath taking the briefest of moments to compose himself before locking eyes with his partner again. "Just don't tell anyone," he warned.

It was a fleeting moment, barely registering as a blip on their radar screen amidst profound and poignant ones, but, like the ones before, it represented a turning point. Booth could argue he should have been more prudent that day. Okay, yeah, he really enjoyed that kiss, brief as it was. But he was a man who listened to his gut, and his gut told him they had begun the inevitable dance towards crossing the rather fine line between partners and friends into, well, something more. He just didn't think the shove that propelled them into the latter category would come so soon or from such surprising source.

Booth breezed into Brennan's office, confirming Moussa's paycheck had been cashed in fifty-dollar bills. Slightly preoccupied with her task of hanging the mistletoe needed for her end of the bargain with Caroline Julian, Brennan nodded, stating that Kringle had fifties in his dresser.

Booth added his own nod. "And the serial numbers match," he verified. "So we're getting a warrant to analyze Moussa's clothing, if there's any bird soup goop on them, we'll know he's our killer…" Booth frowned up at the slightly uncharacteristic antics of his partner, focusing in on the conspicuously familiar plant hanging from her hook. "What is with the mistletoe?"

From her place atop a chair, Brennan gazed down at her partner. "I was going to talk to you about this," she said, clambering down from her elevated position. "Caroline wants us to kiss under the mistletoe."

Backing away from and gaping with barely concealed surprise, Booth cocked an eyebrow. "What?"

"It's the only way she'll make Christmas for my family," Brennan explained.

"What, by having us kiss?"


Booth digested that, glancing from her to the seemingly innocent sprig. "Why?"

"Because she's feeling puckish," Brennan replied as though her answer held legitimacy.

"Puckish?" Booth repeated. "What's that mean?"

"Listen, booth, she's going to be here any second," Brennan interjected as she offered out a package. "Do you want some gum?"

"No. My breath is just fine." Alright, Look, I'll have a talk with Caroline."


The adamant exclamation came at such a surprise that Booth barely had time to catch himself as he recoiled back in astonishment. "No?" he asked in case he misheard her.

"I'm only telling you out of professional courtesy," Brennan declared, leaving no room for argument.

A furrow appeared in Booth's forehead. "What?"

"So that you won't be surprised."

Still faltering in shock, Booth waved his hands in an attempt to better comprehend their situation. "Yeah, but when you say kiss you mean like," Booth mimed the motion, "kiss kiss, like on both cheeks?"

"No, the lips," Brennan clarified. At her words, Booth visibly swallowed, using every single ounce of his composure to keep his face straight.

Sensing his discomfort, Brennan tried to ease his worry. "Like brother and sister, colleagues, French people meeting on the street."

Conceding to their situation, Booth allowed his eyes to flick up to the mistletoe with a sigh. "Caroline's feeling puckish, eh?"

"It means playful and impish," Brennan simplified for his benefit.

As though she possessed a built-in timer that alerted her to the most prime entrance, Caroline Julian swept in, her boisterous voice arriving long before she did. "Congratulations. I hear you have a suspect on the Santa slaying."

Booth affirmed her assumption with a nod. "Yeah, well, it looks like the Easter Bunny has nothing to worry about," he joked.

"Did you talk to the judge about the trailer?" Brennan asked.

"Yes, I did. What about," Caroline's gaze flicked to Booth, "your end?" As Brennan pointed skyward, Caroline feigned surprise. "Well, look at that. Mistletoe." Caroline's smile radiated innocence as she reached out, shoving the unawares federal agent beneath the fabled plant. "You take a step to your right, you'll be right under the cute little sprig."

Booth's eyes darted from the mistletoe brushing the tips of his hair, to the puckish US attorney, to the woman occupying the same space, a stuttered string of syllables spluttering from his mouth. Finally, his eyes settled on Brennan as she stared at him expectantly, closing the distance between them and pressing her lips to his.

Booth turned his final stammered protestation into a barely stifled groan of surprise, resisting the urge to engulf her in his embrace and deepen the kiss. He could feel her hands on the lapels of his jacket, gripping tightly and pulling him infinitesimally closer, not much to notice with the naked eye and barely enough for him to acknowledge in his passion-induced stupor, but still closer. The rush of heat commenced at their joined lips, spreading along every crevice of his body, suddenly aware of her sweet honeysuckle shampoo and cinnamon flavored lipgloss, and permeating with a warm ache. Just as suddenly as the kiss began, it ended, Brennan pulling away to leave Booth floundering for air and his bearings.

A satisfied air to her smile, Brennan turned to Caroline. "Was that enough steamboats?"

Slightly bug eyed, Caroline managed a nod. "Plenty. A whole flotilla."

"I don't know what that means but um ..." Booth grinned weakly, "Merry Christmas."

"It was like, kissing my brother," Brennan felt the need to mention.

Caroline quirked an eyebrow. "You sure must like your brother."

"She does," Booth stated.

Brennan nodded her agreement. "I do."

He had beat a hasty retreat after an initial awkward, uncomfortable moment, but neither could deny the feelings that lingered hours, even days after that kiss. They had danced around each other for a good six months more before taking the final plunge, weathering Max's trial that ended in a life sentence that just skated over the death penalty, the FBI once again threatening to terminate their partnership, which they had beaten when too many cases were left unsolved, and the biggest threat: Sully's imminent return.

Once again, the capricious federal agent had presented her with a chance to sail the world with him. The proposition had caused a two week-long strain that culminated in Booth sprinting the length of the docks, practically leaping off the edge just as she had boarded Sully's boat in an effort to persuade her that everything she was looking for was right where she was: with him.

Seeley Booth was positive he was breaking over a dozen different traffic laws as he gunned the engine of his government-issued SUV down the streets of DC in a mad dash to the docks. Practically popping his front tires as he screeched into a parking spot, Booth tumbled out of the vehicle, not bothering to even close the door. His dark eyes scanning the legions of wooden docks before him, Booth zeroed in on the one that mattered before breaking into a sprint, mustering every ounce of speed in his long, muscled legs.

"Bones!" Booth urged himself to go faster. There was no possible way he was going to miss them. "Bones!" Booth skidded to a stop at the base of the dock, looking disparagingly at the boat already about to set sail. Both Sully and Brennan were already aboard, and Sully was in the process of taking the tether in. Eyeing the distance between the edge of the wooden planks and the boat, Booth vaguely pondered if he could make the distance with a running start. Shaking the thought from his mind, Booth settled with the age-old classic of jumping up and down like a moron, waving frantically, and yelling her given name at the top of his lungs.

At the sound of her name, Brennan straightened from where she had just placed her bags down, her eyes whipping back towards the docks. Seeley Booth stood at the edge, hopping comically up and down, his long arms cutting frenetic patterns through the air, hollering in a steady, breathless cacophony.

"Booth, what are you doing here?" Allowing Sully time to reel the boat back in Brennan stepped back onto the dock, gazing at her partner with confused eyes. "I thought we already said our goodbyes."

Finally given time to catch his breath, Booth bent at the waist, gasping for air, trying desperately to fill his lungs with enough oxygen to facilitate a completely coherent sentence. "I couldn't…I had to…"

"Don't hunch over," Brennan scolded, "you'll get more oxygen if you stand straight."

Despite his original intentions for being there, Booth shot her a glare as he obliged. Smirking with satisfaction, Brennan looked up into the sepia spheres of his eyes. "Now, what are you doing here?"

"Bones…" Whatever explanation Booth had ready died on his lips, and he could only gather a feeble, "Don't go."

Brennan's eyes narrowed with annoyance. "I've been back and forth about this decision for a week, and just now you're voicing your opinion? Where were you when I was actually indecisive?"

Booth let out a long breath. "Look, Bones, you just…" Booth gestured ineffectually, trying to vocalize his sentiments, "you can't go."

Brennan cocked an eyebrow. "And why not?"

"Because…I know you don't want to," Booth uttered, the words leaving his mouth in a rush.

"That's a rather bold assumption, Seeley, what makes you so sure?"

With a confidence he wasn't so sure he felt, Booth threw out a cocky grin. "Aw, c'mon, Bones. Do you really think you can last this long without actually working? You've already been around the world, maybe not with the purpose of spontaneity, but I know you better than that. You won't last a week without your overly curious mind wondering about the intricacies of something or other."

Brennan brushed off his dithering with a blithe hand, her eyes hardening. "Booth, you better give me a damn good reason for not leaving you right here…"

Before she could finish, Booth spread his palms in compliance. "Alright fine!" Stalling by idly scratching the fine hairs at the back of his neck, Booth glanced away, looking anywhere but a pair of penetrating sapphire eyes. "You're going on this trip not because you actually want to. You're doing this to escape."

Nonplussed, Brennan rolled her eyes, deciding to humor her partner rather than beat him upside the head for delaying her trip. "Really, Booth? And what, pray tell, exactly am I escaping?"


"Us?" Brennan repeated, not anticipating such a response from Booth.

"Yeah," Booth affirmed. He pointed between them. "You and me."

Brennan looked thoroughly confused as she once again reiterated his assertion. "I'm escaping us."

Booth's eyebrows drew together as he attempted to sort out his theory, and he gestured vaguely. "Well, not just…us. But…" Booth shrugged helplessly, not possessing the accurate terminology to form a coherent argument, "us."

Apparently, Brennan agreed as she sighed in exasperation. "You're not making any sense, Seeley."

Struggling for a moment, Booth attempted a more lucid argument. "Us in the sense of the word that means something more than just partnership," he resolved.

"And why would I be attempting to escape…us?"

Finally reaching a point he could vocalize coherently, Booth surged ahead with confidence. "Because you felt something that day Caroline made us kiss beneath the mistletoe. And it scared you because you never felt anything close to it with anyone else, and you felt it with me. You didn't understand it, and I know you still don't, and it's irritating the hell out of you because you can't compartmentalize it, nor can you even identify something remotely close to it."

At the truth in his statement, Brennan halted. "How do you know this?"

Booth chuckled, noticing she didn't refute his declaration. "Hell, Bones…" With eyes that seemed to draw out the very last crevices of her soul, he gazed down at her, unflinching. "Because I felt it too. Only I know what it is."


"I love you," Booth interrupted.

Brennan staggered back as though his words struck her. Gazing into her eyes, the eyes he felt knew all of his secrets, he saw the myriad of emotions flash through them in rapid sucession: surprise, fear, and the one he dared to hope but refused to name. Fear shone most prevalent as those eyes grew wide. "What?"

Taking a deep breath, Booth repeated himself. "I love you, Bones. And I can't do this anymore."

"Do what?" Brennan's whisper also held a touch of fear.

"Deny it," Booth answered. "Look, I know I said people who work together can't hold a relationship. That it's too…risky. But that's just an excuse. I've tried to hide my feelings for a reason I think is just stupid in retrospect, but I'm telling you right now that I love you."

"Why now, Booth?" Brennan pressed, a hint of a plea hiding behind the question. "Why are you telling me all this now?"

The question seemed to trip Booth up as he hesitated. "I…I don't know," he admitted. "But I've just got this feeling…in my gut…that if I let you go on trip, sail the world with Sully, live life that is the exact opposite of what you're used that I'll lose you. And maybe that's just irrational paranoia, but I'm not willing to take that chance."

Booth moved closer, closing the distance between them, taking comfort in that Brennan refused to step back. "Last time, I sat back, hoping and wishing that you would make the right choice…well, the right choice that involved me. But not this time." Booth shook his head. "Not this time," he repeated. "This time, I'm not leaving it up to some autonomous factor." Gathering up every iota of courage and sending a quick prayer up to God, Booth stretched out a hand, imploring her softly.

"Stay. Please. Stay here." Booth paused before adding one final part. "With me."

Brennan's eyes shifted from his face to his outstretched hand. The moment seemed to last an eternity before Brennan made her decision.

With an outstretched hand, Booth wordlessly begged her to stay with him, his chocolate eyes conveying what his words couldn't. This time, it was different. Instead of having to make her own decision, Booth stood before her, offering his hand and everything that, quite literally, came attached to it, and before she knew it, Brennan whirled back to the boat to collect her baggage and blurt a rushed apology to Sully before grasping his hand. For all intents and purposes, she had never relinquished her hold since, walking away from Tim Sullivan and all he had to offer without a backwards glance. Booth's heart had stopped in those thirty seconds, fearing she had returned to the boat to leave him. But she had come back. To him. Forever. Everything they had been through, all of those events, had gradually, eventually brought them here.

Booth broke from his ruminations as a stirring at his side caught his attention, and he scooted out as his wife turned in his embrace. Her eyelids fluttered open to reveal stunningly sapphire orbs that blinked owlishly, taking a moment to familiarize with the early morning light. Craning her head upward, she met her husband's smiling chocolate gaze, and she grazed her lips across his in an affectionate caress.

"Good morning."

Booth grinned as her hand began at the crown of his head, brushing away a wayward strand that meandered onto his forehead, skating down the side of his face to rest against the muscled curve of his pectoral. Booth covered her hand with his, lifting it to his lips to kiss the knuckle above the wedding band and its diamond mate. "Good morning."

Temperance Brennan snuggled in closer to her husband, their legs tangled and bodies pressed intimately together. "You're looking a bit too contemplative for the early morning. What are you thinking about?"

Booth chuckled, brushing a kiss on her forehead. "You."


"Bones, there's rarely a moment where I don't."

Brennan wrinkled her nose, pushing against his broad chest. "That was cheesy."

"That's the truth," Booth refuted. "You like the truth, remember?"

With a contemplative nod, Brennan agreed. "I like your truths."

Booth snorted. "No, you don't. At least not all of them…" He cocked his head with a smirk. "As I recall, you're not a huge fan of religion, and that's one of my major truths."

"True," Brennan admitted, "but that doesn't mean I don't accept it as one of the main staples in your life." Idly, she walked her fingertips across the muscled expanse of his torso along his collarbone. "So what about me were you thinking about?"

Booth shrugged. "Nothing major. Just how we've progressed."

Brennan quirked an eyebrow, a blatant signal that whatever was about to come from her mouth would make little to no sense to her husband. "Well of course, Seeley. General evolution shows that the longer two individuals co-exist with one another, they become accustomed and adapt to characteristics and quirks within the latter's personality, consequently becoming more familiar to each other's presence. It's natural that displays of affection and appreciation appear as a gradual emergence in relation to the evolving comfort level. It's a well-known trend," she finished.

"You're talking Klingon to me, Bones."

Brennan opened her mouth to respond, but his words made her pause, and she popped her head up from the pillow, a sly smile curling the corners of her lips. "Did you just reference Star Trek?"

Booth's eyes bugged as he recoiled back, jumping quickly onto the defensive. "What? No! Of course not!" Booth looked scandalized at the very thought of being compared even remotely close to a squint. "Wait, you actually recognized a pop culture reference?"

"Of course," Brennan answered. "Star Trek is a wonderful illustration of anthropologic propensity. The conflicts and political dimensions parallel basic human struggles in the form of allegories that show existing cultural truths."

"And what does that have to do with affection, again?"

"Nothing," Brennan divulged, "but simply put, the longer people are around each other, the more affection they tend to show."

"Isn't that psychology?"

"Actually, it's very deeply rooted in anthropology," Brennan corrected.

"Couldn't you have just said that?" Booth asked petulantly.

"What? That I'm an anthropologist?" Brennan's brow furrowed in confusion. "You've known that for a very long time, Seeley. I seem to recall you finding me very condescending for referencing my doctorate multiple times early in our partnership."

"No," Booth waved away her prior statement. "That thing about how the longer people are around each other, the more affectionate they are," he clarified. "Couldn't you have just said that? You know I don't speak squint."

"But you do speak Klingon?" Brennan teased. Catching Booth's eye roll, she answered his question. "Well…yes, of course, but it would be trivializing a rather fascinating area of study."

"And Temperance Brennan wouldn't dare trivialize science," Booth chided.

"Booth," she interjected.


Temperance shook her head in the negative. "Not you. I meant me."

A crease appeared in Booth's forehead as he wrinkled his nose in perplexity. "Huh?"

"You called me Temperance Brennan," she explained. "I haven't been Temperance Brennan for three days now. Surely you remember the ceremony stating so considering how staunchly you lobbied for its existence."

"I thought you were hyphenating legally and keeping your name for professional purposes."

Brennan smiled indulgently, her fingers tracing delicate patterns against the chiseled abdominals of her husband. "Legally, I am Temperance Brennan-Booth. Professionally, I am Temperance Brennan. But to you, I'm simply your Bones." Craning her head upwards, she brushed a kiss across his lips in a delicate, loving caress. "Just like you're my Booth."

"But you're a Booth, too," Seeley pointed out jokingly. "Wouldn't that be a bit confusing?"

"No," Brennan refuted with a smile. "You're my Booth. Just like I'm your Bones."

"My Bones, huh?" Booth visibly puffed up with masculine pride. "This isn't going against some neo-feminist manifesto is it?"

"Well, arguably so, I've claimed you as my own," Brennan reasoned. "It's safe to say that with reciprocal possession, we're even."

Booth ruminated over her reasoning for a moment before nodding. "I like it."

Brennan laughed, a husky, yet melodic sound that prompted an even wider grin from her companion. "Strangely enough…so do I." Brennan snuggled even closer, her eyes threatening to flutter close as the sweet sensation of his arms tightened around her naked form. "And I like this."


Brennan's answer was simple. "Us."

"Us together or us…?"

"Being married," Brennan clarified.

"Yeah, I distinctly recall you referring to marriage as 'an archaic institution,'" Booth remarked.

"Maybe I just needed the right man to ask me," Brennan argued, a blatant challenge shining in her eyes.

"And did you find the right man?"

"Considering there are more than sufficient documents stating such a fact, namely our marriage license plus the dozens of petitions for a change in marital status, I would deduce yes, I have found the right man…" Brennan deadpanned.

"Damn straight, you did." Booth smirked, the pride evident in his voice. "You found the only man."

Brennan's eyebrows drew together in slight offense. "What, you're the only man who finds me attractive?"

"No," Booth corrected. When she quirked a defiant eyebrow, Booth rolled his eyes. "You have no idea how many idiot colleagues with whom I've had to set the record straight," Booth grumbled hotly. "Trust me when I say the Bureau is more than cognizant about how beautiful you are." Booth shifted his weight, pinning his wife beneath his frame. "Just face it, Bones, I'm the only man who can handle you."

Rather than being scandalized as he had expected, Brennan only smirked in return, a sight Booth couldn't deny stirred sensations in more intimate areas.

"Don't get too cocky, Seeley," she warned, her throaty voice lowered to a honeyed purr. "It's only been two days into our honeymoon…I think it's safe to say…" With a swift push, Brennan sent her husband toppling onto his back, swinging a leg over his hip to straddle his midsection. With a feral grin, she dipped her head down, shifting suggestively. "I believe the saying goes, 'You ain't seen nothing yet…'"

His warm chocolate gaze twinkling up as they hovered just above her eyesight, Booth sat upright, his strong arms holding her in place, palms splayed along her back. Leaning in, their noses brushing against one another, Booth grinned. "Bring it on, Bones," he challenged. "Bring. It. On."

And cut…whew! This was a long one akin to one of my chapters of Who I Am (coming soon…yes, I have promised that for a long time and am just getting around to finishing it…). I hope you enjoyed this next foray into the Bones world! I know I always have a wonderful time making sense of this crazy, but oh-so intriguing relationship of Booth and Brennan. Until next time!