A/N - I really was not satisfied with the season finale (like many other fans) - but strangely enough, rather than doing a re-write of that, I decided to make a response to what I thought was one of the best episodes of Bones, "The Verdict in the Story". I love the family-Brennan, and I was looking forward to the conclusion of Max's trial for a while, so it was definitely one of my favourite parts of S3. Reviews are very much appreciated :D

He had not seen her for more than a week, and under any other circumstance, he would not have been able to stand it. Their contact had been reduced to a few sparse phone calls, most ending in her hurriedly hanging up, explaining that she and her father were going for dinner, or shopping, or some other uncharacteristically familial pastime. It was surreal, hearing those words coming from her.

He had been reduced to solitude in his apartment. He passed his time at the Hoover building by sifting through mundane paper work, while Rebecca had taken Parker to Seattle to visit her parents. He knew it was selfish, but he could not help but feel a pang of longing every time his partner dismissed him.

So when he drove by her apartment twice that night, he was caught in a whirlwind of vacillation. He understood, on one hand, that showing up at her doorstep the first night she was alone seemed incredibly desperate. On the other hand, he did not care.

All doubt was cast aside as he walked up her apartment stairs, his footfalls becoming more confident and purposeful as he ascended. When he knocked on her familiar door, the lazy grin on his face promptly crumbled when he saw the person on the other side.

"Max." His eyes widened momentarily. "I thought you were leaving with Russ tonight."

"To visit Amy and the kids, yeah," the older man said, giving him entry to the apartment. "We're running a little late. Tempe insisted on giving me a tour of the Jeffersonian's natural history museum."

His gaze shifted over Max's shoulder when he heard the soft padding of footsteps.

"Booth." Brennan smiled, pleasantly surprised as he walked in.

It felt strange, being in the apartment with Brennan and her father when no one needed to be arrested, and when no one was in mortal peril. Max's perceptive eyes swept between them knowingly as he waited for an answer. Luckily, Booth had come prepared.

"Sorry," he said, slipping a folder on her coffee table. "I just thought if you were free tonight, we could finish some residual paperwork from some of the older cases. But, you know, it can wait until-"

"No need." Max put up his hands and stepped back towards the door. "Russ is already in the truck downstairs, I was just leaving."

Brennan quickly pressed a kiss to Max's cheek. He locked her into a tight embrace and said, "Bye, honey. See you soon."

"Call me when you get there."


Max nodded towards Booth, who reciprocated the gesture, as something akin to mutual respect passed between them silently.

When Brennan closed the apartment door, she turned around to face him.

"Cam gave me some time off, so we're going to Chicago next week. He said he wanted to take us back to the city. I mean, after all this time," she said, unable to keep the excitement from her voice, "we're going back home."

Booth felt his lips tugging into a smile as he witnessed the simple contentment that she seemed to exude now. All those times that worry and anxiety had marred her features these past few years, he had longed to wipe it all away, as if his fingers could work such miracles. But now, she didn't need that, and the thought alone warmed him to the core.

"What?" she asked, the corner of her lips quirking into a shy grin as he studied her.

"Nothing," he replied. "It's just…you look so happy."

Her eyes were clear and blue as she met his gaze. "I am happy."

His chest felt tight. It had nearly destroyed him, those final minutes on the stand. But when he had seen her face set in steely resolve, her eyes searching his from across the room, open and vulnerable, asking him, he knew what he needed to do. His respect for this woman outweighed his obligation to the justice system, and that was a very scary thought indeed.

And then she knew what he was thinking about as the smile on her face faded. "Brain and heart, Booth," she reminded him.

"I think I might have been wrong," he told her, his voice sounding hollow and foreign as it rung in his ears. It had been his advice that had prompted her to implicate herself, and knowing that made him feel a little sick.

"My father is free, Booth."

"It sounds like that heart of yours is still in overdrive," he pointed out. He loosened the tie around his neck, slightly surprised that he was settling into the comfortable familiarity of Brennan's apartment so soon after Max's departure.

As he buried his hands in his pockets, waiting for her to respond, he glanced out the window, eying the spectacular view of the Monument as it stood high proudly above the sparkling city. His gaze followed the path of a steadily blinking plane as it slowly moved across the inky sky.

She paused for a moment, before decidedly rounding the island in her kitchen and opened the fridge. Quickly, she pulled out two beers and slid one towards him across the marble countertop.

"So what if it is?" She watched him over the bottle as she took a sip, her eyes cryptic.

He slid into the barstool across from her and popped the cap off the beer. Temperance Brennan, ever the empiricist and no-nonsense scientist, had let go of a part of herself, only to allow something else in.

Still, he could feel that razor-sharp mind of hers creeping back to the frontlines. She pursed her lips as a slight pucker appeared between her eyebrows. "It seems that my love for my father outweighed my apparent respect for the judicial process, something that you and I strive to protect everyday. Does that make me a bad person? Hypocritical, most certainly. If he was anyone else, I would never even consider doing what I did."

She continued, unfazed by his silence. "How many murderers have you and I locked up who had a story just like Max Keenan, where taking a human life was, even if it was from their own skewed perspective, justified? I made a moral distinction, one that was influenced by my emotions. Morals should be absolute in order to hold some sort of societal weight or consequence, don't you think?"

The beer bottle in his hand hit the marble counter with a soft tap as he ran a hand through his hair roughly. He was painfully aware that she was right, and knew that by asking these questions, she was looking to him for answers, as she so often did. But this time, he had nothing to offer.

She sighed heavily as she shook her head, talking to herself more than him. "But I couldn't have done anything else."

He ran his thumb across the bottle, wiping away the condensation and revealing the clear glass beneath, lost in his own thoughts as he nursed the drink.

In front of the courthouse, as she embraced her father and her eyes locked with his, the breath had caught in his throat. He thought his reaction during the trial had been far too candid, and that she knew, at last, about what they could be. Already partners and friends, but always with the possibility of so much more.

"Today, when I was driving with my dad, he told me his years as a career criminal taught him how to read people pretty well."

Her voice startled him out of his reverie and he raised his gaze to meet hers.

"He said that on the stand that day, it was hard for you. An extreme emotional upheaval," she said uncertainly. "He could see it on your face."

What did that mean? Could she not see?

"I told him I knew, because all the time I've spent with you has taught me how to read you pretty well, which is strange since I can't seem do that with anyone else."

Booth swallowed hard, his throat suddenly feeling tight. Her eyes searched his, and apparently, she could not find whatever she was looking for, and averted her gaze agitatedly. His eyes roamed her features as her expression eased back into relaxation, but her face became shadowed by a wisp of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes.

He reached his hand up to close the distance between them and tucked the hair behind her ear. Her gaze rose to meet his as his fingers traced the curve of her cheek, and finally came to rest curled around her chin. She stiffened, simultaneously endeared and uncertain of how to react to his gentleness. Then, unexpectedly, she closed her eyes and let herself relax into his touch.

"Strangely enough, I think for the first time in my life, everything seems to be falling into place, like pieces of a puzzle," she murmured. Then her eyes were open again, unrelenting and piercing as she locked gazes with him. "I'm just not sure how we fit together yet."

He briefly hesitated, then slipped off the barstool and stood over her. She tilted her head, curious. "We're partners, Bones. Always will be," he whispered quietly.

As if that was reason enough, he leaned in and brushed his lips against the soft skin of her cheek. The contact was brief, but he could still feel heat rising to his face when he pulled back. He let out a trembling breath, unsure if he had overstepped his boundaries. She was unsmiling as she studied him, so he let his hand drop to his side listlessly, certain that he had misread her. He prepared to leave.

But in the next moment, she was in his arms, her arms thrown about his neck. Her breath was warm, dancing across his skin as she whispered into his ear, "Thank you for what you did."

"I never want to do that to you again," he breathed back, his voice hitching in his throat as he sifted his fingers in her hair and swayed with her.

"Please don't feel guilty, Booth," she insisted.

He would lie for this woman, and he would die for her, he knew that for certain. The perfume was drifting off her skin, light and dizzying as it assaulted his senses. His heart was hammering in his chest, threatening to burst with all the emotion that was coursing through him, and he was certain she could feel it as the beat reverberated through their bodies.

"I'll try," he managed to murmur weakly.

She breathed in sharply before pulling back, and under his gaze, her skin began to tinge an attractive pink. Her eyes were shining as she dropped his hands from her grasp. Her lips quirked into a slight smile.

"Pie?" Her voice quavered slightly, her anxiety mirroring his.

His face broke into an easy grin as he draped his arm across her shoulders and guided her out. "Do you even have to ask?"

She locked the door behind her while they started for the elevator. She punched the button, turning slightly on her heel to face him. "And Booth?"

"Yeah, Bones?"

Her face broke into a full grin as she let out a light chuckle. "I'm pretty good at puzzles."