A/N: My apologies, I was supposed to post this on Sunday but just like Catherine, I was away from home. Here it is, the absolute last chapter of Never Say Never. We hope this will leave you all satisfied. The good thing about this chapter, is that you can read into some things our favourite characters say if you're in for even more fluff. So this is sort of interactive reading! Well then, interpret this any way you'd like... Good reading!
Chapter 28 – Epilogue
One year later
"There have been many changes in my life since I started on my first book, both professionally and in private, and I believe that they have been for the best. For that, I'd like to thank my father, my brother and his family, my friends and co-workers at the Jeffersonian Institute, and finally my partner, Special Agent Seeley Booth, for allowing me to fully experience the world outside my lab and showing me that there's more than one kind of family. Thank you all for coming tonight."
With a nod and a smile, Brennan ended her speech and loud applause erupted from the public. Her smile grew wider as she spotted her partner, friends and her family, who had all risen from their seats and were enthusiastically clapping their hands, beaming with pride. A warm feeling spread through her body as she realised that they were here for her, and that they were proud of her achievements, and even though she'd always claimed she didn't need anyone to be proud of her, it made her blush.
Her publicist mounted the stairs to the stage and squeezed her shoulder, telling her she was brilliant and thank-you, and turned to the public. Brennan felt as though she was floating as she descended the stairs and walked up to the people she longed to take in her arms and tell them how grateful she was that they were here for her. Her nieces, both wearing cute dresses, their hair dancing on their shoulders, jumped up and ran towards her, taking her hands and pulling her to their level for a hug and a kiss.
"Auntie Tempe, you were so cool up there! You're famous!" they sang.
Next was Russ, who'd taken the trouble to suit up for the occasion, and Amy, looking wonderful in a modest red dress. Zack, Cam, Angela and Hodgins, all looking marvellous in their suits and dresses, kissed her on the cheek and shook her hand. Her father pressed her against his chest, always an action that caused her to have the still foreign sensation of being careless and loved unconditionally.
"I'm so proud of you honey," he whispered in her ear, "Your mother would have been, too. She always said she knew you'd do amazing things one day. You've proved her right."
The mention of her mother struck a chord deep within her, and she had to blink back tears. Every day still, she missed her mom. The fact that she was not here caused her to feel a stab of infinite grief at the happiest moments of her life, like now, on the night they celebrated the success of the publishing company as well as her achieving the status of most successful young author, with her latest novel also becoming New York Times' number one bestseller.
But the momentary distraction from the happy events was forgotten as soon as she stepped into the arms of her partner. Her partner, in more than one sense of the word. He'd been awaiting her with the widest of smiles and a twinkle in his eyes. He watched her coming towards him, adoration written all over his features, his hands held out to her. She felt beautiful under his gaze. Her dress was low-cut, though decent enough, and left part of her back and shoulders bare. Her fair skin seemed to glow against the black fabric, tightly hugging the lines of her slender body, her long legs stepping gracefully in high heels. Her eyes were crystalline like a sharp blue winter sky and auburn curls cascaded down her shoulders, catching the light almost ethereally.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him until their foreheads were touching as well as the tips of their noses. They looked into each other's eyes, smiling for a reason nobody else would ever understand.
"That's my girl," he said simply and kissed her sweetly on the lips.
She rested her head on his shoulder for a second, pressing herself into him, relishing in the feeling of his fingers fanned out over her back, holding her lovingly and, as always, a little protectively.
They all sat down to listen to Brennan's publicist announcing the program for the rest of the night, but none of her words really got through to Booth and Brennan, who were sitting in adjacent chairs, their fingers intertwined, their eyes upon the other's and a much-conveying smile playing on their lips.
Wanna get out of here?
As soon as possible.
"Are you tired?" he asked her, turning his head to glance at her over his shoulder. They were at Brennan's apartment, changing into more comfortable clothes in her bedroom.
"A little," she admitted as she stood in her underwear and looked for something to wear.
She was beautiful to him. Her hair had grown longer than before that fateful undercover mission, making her look more girly and classier at the same time. He recalled the feel of it as he slipped the locks through his fingers. He liked her hair, loved to play with it as her head lay in his lap. When he'd stayed over during the weekend, he found her in the morning, sitting on the carpet, legs crossed, typing away on her laptop as her back rested against the couch. At those times he knew better than to disturb her, but despite this couldn't refrain from touching her. Being able to touch her pretty much whenever he wanted was a strange, euphoric kind of freedom, and he was sure he'd never grow tired of it. As she was lost in another world that existed solely in her mind when she wrote, this state of hers provided him with the opportunity to sit behind her and braid her hair so it was out of her face. He relished in the homeliness of it all. He hoped he would be able to do the same when they were sixty. He hoped that when he died, it would be in her arms.
"But I'm up for it if you are," Brennan said, bringing her partner out of his thoughts and referring to one of their habits; taking a walk when the streets were dark and quiet, to talk or just to think in each other's presence.
The relationship they had was formed from their bond, from the deep connection they shared. Booth was no stranger to romantic relationships with women, yet this one with his partner was as new to him as it was to her. They were both dominant, but in their own areas, and mostly they just switched, depending on the situation. His Bones never expected him to read into anything, she was always honest and forward with him, allowing him to do the same. It was liberating. They knew that as long as they could be perfectly honest with each other, they would hold.
In the beginning, Brennan had really had to force herself into having faith in their relationship. Secretly, she'd been training herself for commitment and above all, trust. Trust in love, trust in life. Trust that he wouldn't be taken away from her, trust that she wouldn't run. So just to practise being open, vulnerable, and getting used to the new sensation of love she felt for this man, her man, she used to whisper words to him when he was asleep. Words she hadn't been ready to say when he was awake yet.
"I feel safe with you, Booth."
"It's the truth that I love you."
"Booth, thank you for showing me."
As for him, she didn't have anything to complain about; he left her the space she needed, was caring and protective, though not in a suffocating way. Enough to make her feel safe. He accepted her independence, respected it even, and those things were enough for her. On the contrary of what people seemed to assume; she did not have an extended demands-package when it came to men. What she needed was not at all abnormal; she just wanted the other to love and respect her the way she was. Both her parents had been strong characters, with many a conflicting point of view, but their relationship worked because they had fallen in love with the other person's qualities, not the views.
Not an awful lot between them had changed though, despite their new level of intimacy. They had shared more about their pasts with each other. Brennan's revelations about her life in foster care and Booth's about his experiences in the army had brought tears to both their eyes, and he hadn't been ashamed, for he could lean on her like she could on him. On the other hand, when she would ask him to do something, and he didn't do it fast enough, she could get really pissed, but she didn't scare him anymore. Certainly not after the few times their fights had ended up being resolved between tangled sheets. Whatever their mood, it all felt perfectly natural to the both of them.
They stepped out of the apartment building, onto the deserted streets, a cool breeze caressing their faces. She was wearing a long, brown coat, a matching belt tied around her waist, while he wore his long black coat, making them look like quite the stylish couple. Booth had his arm around her shoulders and hers had snaked around his waist, keeping each other warm. Whatever the nature of it, their relationship would remain symbiotic.
Booth sighed in contentment and rested his head on hers for a moment, then pressed a kiss into her hair. He marvelled in her scent; he would recognise it always.
A year ago, it had taken him two weeks to run out of excuses to keep her with him. Eventually, her wounds had healed, her bruises faded, his legs had regained their normal strength and Parker had asked them, confusedly, whether Bones was living with his daddy or not. His innocent words had caused their bubble of feigned oblivion towards the temporary nature of their situation to burst, and that night Brennan had begun to talk about moving back into her apartment. They had both secretly been reluctant, but they knew that living together was not included in the definition of 'taking it slowly'.
Especially during the first week after she had left, he felt alone and missed her terribly. His house suddenly felt so empty without her smell lingering in the rooms, the sounds of her moving around, her toothbrush in the bathroom, her magazines on the coffee table... But he'd settled back into his old mode again and the promise of seeing her again at work, together with the frequent phone calls from his place to hers, and at one point the other way around, was satisfactory enough.
The first night at her own apartment had been wonderful. She'd almost forgotten how used she was to leading a very private life, and now she could see clearly the benefits of it again. The peace, the ease with which she did everything in her own pace, how she could surrender herself to work and writing and forget about everything else. However, eating dinner by herself and slipping into an empty bed at night had made her feel a bit lonely. That's something she had never experienced before. She missed Booth's company, his goodnight-kisses, and the things they did together. Fortunately, she hadn't felt ill-at-ease for being alone, as she'd suspected she might. Apparently the fact that Cummings was dead really was enough of a consolation to put her mind at ease. She had looked forward to work for more than one reason.
That first Monday at work, he greeted her in her office with a kiss that expressed how much he'd missed her. And she him. The Line, however, was pressing more on them than ever, warning them not to mix the work-related with the private. They found that after a little while, they could put their private lives aside pretty easily and continue to do their jobs the way they'd always done. If either of them wanted to discuss dinner arrangements, they would wait until lunch to do so.
Though of course, at some point, their co-workers would start to suspect something, and so Booth and Brennan had decided to act a bit more obvious, just to prepare them. One Friday night, when Booth was supposed to pick up Brennan from work to go to the theatre, she'd casually mentioned she and Booth were going on a date so she was going to leave early. For a moment, her co-workers had been silent, then Hodgins mumbled, "I knew it," and Angela wrapped her friend in a tight hug as everyone got back to their tasks as if nothing had happened, though with a hint of a smirk playing on their features. "I'm so happy for you, sweetie. But should you ever freak out, come to me first, okay?"
And that was that. Like Angela and Hodgins' relationship, Booth and Brennan's was quickly and effortlessly accepted. Somehow most people had seen it coming for ages.
They turned left and crossed the small park, their hands finding one another.
"I thought your speech was really wonderful, by the way."
"So... about what you said then; do I really feel like family to you?"
"Of course you do, Booth. I started considering you my family a long time ago."
"Yes. I do, Booth."
She squeezed his hand and he smiled with satisfaction.
"So uh, what do you think about us, like this?"
She cast a sideways glance at his face, smiling slightly.
"At the moment, I find I am really content with my life."
"No, Booth. I think... I'm happy."
She screwed up her luminescent eyes and he lifted her chin with his finger before lovingly pressing a kiss to her soft lips.
The words had slipped her lips in all honesty, and she stopped to review them. The past year had moved so fast. So much had happened and yet, so little. She had started a relationship with Booth, something she thought would never happen. Those months of living with him had taken her feelings for him on a roller-coaster ride. Everything had happened so fast, yet so subtle. She found herself in love before she had had the chance to block that kind of attachment. On the one hand, this was the only man whom she'd insisted she didn't want complicated relationships with, simply because their friendship meant too much to her to let go to waste. On the other hand, if ever a commitment like this would work for her, it was probably with him. The choice had been made for her when it became apparent, well, rather obvious, that he returned her affections.
She recalled the moment when she was starting to lose all hope, back at the apartment with Cummings. Though now it seemed like an eternity ago, his name still caused her to shiver inwardly. She had wondered, angrily, sad, why bad things continued to happen to her. Life had made her suffer, yet every time she had dealt with her trauma, every time she'd recovered. She'd been abducted, made believe she would die, harmed more times than she could count on the fingers of one hand, and there'd always come a next time, regardless. But now a year had passed, and nothing of the sort had happened. Actually, ever since she had consciously let Booth take care of her, since she had allowed herself to depend on him little by little, the bad things had stopped happening. She just felt so much calmer now. Had she been Booth, she might have assumed that she had learned her lesson and would now be left alone.
But that would be irrational, of course.
They stopped and she turned to him, looking up into his gentle, brown eyes.
Suddenly, he took another turn, pulling her with him. She was surprised when he stopped in front of a house. It was two stories high, built of white bricks, with a small garden in front that went around the house, to end in a spacious backyard. The windows were large, framed with wood, and the ceilings high. It had an old, however classy look. The house would be big enough to contain a family, though too large for just one person. All in all, it looked friendly and inviting. As the wind abated, a couple branches revealed a 'For Sale' sign.
"This seems like a wonderful house to me, Bones. What do you think?"
She waved her fingers through his again and cocked her head to the side, taking in the house in front of her.
"Yeah. It looks nice," she agreed simply. They stood there for a while, watching imaginary figures move about behind the windows, a smaller one playing on the porch.
"Let's continue our walk, Booth."
What had brought them together had been gruesome, but now, they were ready for the good times.
A/N: Well, that was it! We'd like to thank all of you who read our story and were so kind to leave their thoughts. We mean it when we say that without your suggestions, this story wouldn't have been the same! You helped us by pointing out things that were unclear or even gave us in-depth psychoanalysis of the characters. So major thanks to all of you.
As for us, we'll begin planning our next story soon. Actually, we already have some ideas. It's going to be completely different from Never Say Never, but we assure you it will be as gripping, so if you don't want to miss it, Author Alert us!
Lots of love,
Magali & Catherine