AN: This was inspired by a really pretty song I heard on the radio today, Rascal Flatt's 'What Hurts the Most'. The chorus in the song touched me and I just had to write something. If you've never heard the song, then I recommend listening to it. This is kind of bittersweet, so it's possible you might need some tissues. I know it made me choke up just reading it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy and as always I look forward to your comments.

Temperance sat amongst the boxes in her apartment as she finished up her packing. She looked around and couldn't believe that this would be her last day here. There were so many memories of late nights and take out, memories of her father and brother, and now she'd be making memories somewhere else.

She glanced at the ring on her finger and smiled. She never considered marriage in the past, but her mind was changed by the persistence of her fiancé, the love of her life. Temperance couldn't believe how happy she was. The emotion was so intense that it hurt sometimes.

Slowly, Brennan stood and cracked her back before heading to her desk to check it one more time for any forgotten papers or books. As she opened some of the drawers, she came across her voice recorder. Frowning, she pressed play and wondered when it was she'd brought it home with her.

Listening to the dictation on the recording, she realized it was from a case she'd closed a month earlier. As she was about to turn the recording off, a quiet conversation on the device caught her attention.

"Booth, how're you doing man?"

"Garreth, I didn't think you'd be here. Don't you have some pots or bowls to look over?"

"Come on man, give it a rest. Actually I just stopped by to see if Tempe was available for lunch. Have you seen her?"

"Bones is with Zack looking at a bone bump or something. Oh, and no can do on the lunch. She's coming with me to talk to our suspect."

"Why does she need to go? Isn't that your part of the job?" Booth chuckled at the words from the other man.

"One thing you need to learn is that you never tell Bones what she can or can't do. If she doesn't want to go with me, then fine, enjoy your lunch. I'd just leave it up to her though."

"Leave it up to her? How is it that you're telling me to give her a choice when you never do yourself? You always just barrel in and dictate what she can or can't do."

"That's not true. I don't barrel in."

"But you decide whether or not she does something."

"The thing about us is that I know her, and I know her well. Even if I'm persistent, if she wants something done a certain way, that's how it'll be done. She comes with me because she wants to." There was silence on the recorder, and Temperance was about to turn it off when the conversation started up again.

"Hey Booth, can I ask you something?"

"What could you possibly ask me that Bones can't tell you herself?"

"Why is it if you're so in love with her that you never made a move on her?" Brennan felt her heart pounding at the words. He couldn't love her, could he? She shook her head at the irrational thoughts there. She was with Garreth, and they were happy, and she was going to get married. Booth was just a friend, and always had been.

"Why do you think I'm in love with her?" Yes Garreth, why do you think he's in love with me? Temperance turned up the volume on the recorder to hear the conversation better.

"I'm not blind Booth. Anyone can see how you feel about her. You'd have to be blind not to notice the way you look at her. So I ask you again, why did you never get involved?"

"What does it matter? You're the one she's with, not me."

"I don't know. I guess I just don't want any competition."

"Competition for what?"

"Tempe and I have been seeing each other for a year now, and I just want to know where you stand. I think it's time for her and I to take the next step in our relationship, and I don't want anyone trying to stonewall us."

"Let's get one thing straight here buddy. My greatest wish is for Temperance's happiness. She's happy with you. As a matter of fact I've never seen her so happy in the years that I've known her. I don't think that I could ever have made her feel the way you do, so believe me when I say that so long as you keep her happy, you'll have my support."

"Thanks Booth."

"But if you stop making her happy, you'd better watch your back." Garreth laughed at the words.

"Point taken."

"So, what is this next step you're thinking of? You gonna ask her to move in or something?"

"Nah, it's something a little more permanent than that. I'm gonna ask her to marry me." There was another pause on the tape. This time however, Brennan held her breath and wondered what Booth was going to say.

"If she says no, don't make the same mistake I did with my ex. Don't withdraw from her. Bones isn't interested in marriage, and if she says no, it doesn't mean she doesn't love you." Brennan's eyes pricked with tears as she glanced down at her ring one more time. It meant so much more now that Booth had approved. Since the engagement, neither of them spoke about it. It seemed to be a taboo subject between the two of them, and until now, she didn't know why.

"I love her too much to do that."

"So do I." That one sentence stole her breath away. Suddenly there was a thousand things that she wanted to say, a thousand thoughts she should have had years before, but it was too late.

A sound in the hallway startled her, and she turned off the voice recorder and wiped at the moisture accumulating in her eyes. When she looked up at the doorway, Booth stood there studying her with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Hey Bones, the living room's all taken care of. Do you want me to help get these boxes in the truck?"

"No, it's okay, I think I can manage."

"Then I'm gonna head out. Rebecca called earlier and needs someone to watch Parker."

"Okay. Tell Parker I said hello."

"I will." Booth turned to leave and Brennan hurried after him. As he reached the front door, she touched his arm and watched him stiffen slightly at the touch. It was only momentary, and when he turned around, that unreadable expression was back on his face.

"Booth?"

"Yeah Bones?" She surprised him by pulling him into a hug and kissing him gently on the cheek.

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For letting me trust you." Their eyes met and in that moment she knew everything. She could see the love in his eyes, mixed a little with regret. A thousand missed moments replayed in her mind as he pulled away from her and opened the front door of her apartment.

"You're welcome Temperance." He offered her a brief smile and squeezed her shoulder before he left the apartment for the last time. He glanced back once and moved to the side as Garreth rounded the corner and came to her. She watched him until he stepped on the elevator and the doors closed, taking him from her.

"Sweetheart, are you okay?" Brennan glanced at her fiancé, who was looking at her with concern.

"I'm fine." She smiled at him as he wrapped his arms around her and looked into her eyes.

"And you're happy?"

"I am." Temperance looked once more at the elevator doors before stepping out of Garreth's embrace and taking his hand in hers.

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was tryin' to do