Author: shipperatheart

Characters: Booth/Brennan

Rating: K

Summary: Oneshot. Booth POV of the final scene of "Boneless Bride in the River", at the marina.

Author's notes: Started out as a modest writing exercise in subtext, and posted after a discussion about the merits of a fanfic author's description of the events of an episode with ForAReason, to whom I am once again indebted for splenderific beta work.

Marina, early morning

Booth walked down the dock without the usual bounce in his step. He'd had a bowling ball in his stomach since the moment his partner had told him she considered sailing off to the Caribbean with Sully for a year. Fighting every selfish fibre in his body, he had told her that she should go. But try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to truly be happy for her, and he hated himself for it.

This morning was the planned moment of departure, and so he dragged his bones to the marina to say goodbye with all the enthusiasm of cattle on its way into the slaughterhouse. Perhaps it was even goodbye for good; who was to say she would actually come back after that year?

But instead of seeing off two people and a boat setting sail towards tropical breezes, he only saw the lonely profile of his partner at the end of the plank.

Thank you, God.

Looking beyond her at the bay he saw the stern of a yacht growing smaller, a lone figure at the helm.

He cringed when he took note of the name of the boat.

'Temperance, Washington DC,' it read.

Way to go to rub salt in the wound, Sully.

He stalked to the end of the jetty until he stood just a few feet behind her. He shoved his hands in his pockets while he took in her tired posture and slumped shoulders.

He couldn't be sure whether it was because her eyes had grown tired of watching Sully disappear on the horizon or because she sensed his presence, but it was then that she heaved a huge sigh and turned around.

Her eyes and the rest of her face gave different signals that didn't synchronize completely in his brain. It took his mind forever to piece together her moist eyes and glowing skin into a coherent interpretationuntil suddenly the paradoxical amalgam of after-sex and sadness sucker-punched him in the gut and knocked the wind out of him.

He tried to smile but feared that it looked more like a wince. Suave, Booth.

Besides that, he had his own little confusing amalgam of sympathy and relief to deal with.

She heaved a melodramatic sigh and tilted her head in a gesture that was meant to convey annoyance, but her heart wasn't in it.

"What are you doing here?" she asked forlornly, and looked at him with soulful eyes.

The hurt was unmasked and tugged at his heart. But if he didn't keep the tone light she would just retreat and close herself off from him. He also found it hard not to when he was so ridiculously relieved that she wasn't leaving after all.

So he lifted his hand, two fingers together in a caricature of a goodbye wave, and flicked it up and down with a cheeky grin.

"I'm waving good-bye. See?"

She sighed again, irritably. He could tell she was steeling her resolve, but he would make sure she couldn't withstand him. The reassuring familiarity of his cockiness would do the trick.

He saw her resistance melt away as he grinned at her. She'd probably dubbed it Patented Booth Grin #12 or something in her elemental system of all things Booth, methodical to a fault. It pleased him to no end that no matter how infuriating he was being, that grin always disarmed her. And he was not above using that knowledge to his advantage, especially since it was for a good cause this time.

"What do you want?" She sounded weary, but unable to hide that she was glad to see him.

He found that encouragement enough to step a little closer. He had never had any compunction about invading her personal space but was fairly confident she secretly liked it. A woman who breaks people's wrists when they touch her without permission doesn't let herself be bullied into allowing someone in that space if they're not welcome.

But he had been too presumptuous. He had miscalculated and had stepped in a breath too soon. She wasn't ready to accept the comfort he silently offered, and now she started to turn around, ready to walk away. But he was surprised by the subtlety of her next action and thanked whatever deity had made Temperance Brennan into the complicated woman she was.

She could have given him a wider berth, but instead she brushed her shoulder against his in passing.

Strong, independent Temperance Brennan wouldn't admit that she would appreciate the comforting embrace of a friend, but she was purposely giving him plenty of opportunity to do what he did next. He happily let it slide and obligingly tossed an arm around her shoulder.

"Breakfast…" he cajoled in basso profondo.

"I'm not hungry," she protested petulantly.

He was amused by the utter lack of enthusiasm in her voice.

Tucking her into his side, he started guiding her back up the pier. They fell in step effortlessly, walking in sync like clockwork. He marveled at their perfect fit.

Ignoring her protest, he tossed back in an upbeat tone, "Oh, come on, huh? What are you gonna vomit when you come across one of those horrific cases?"

To her credit, she was valiantly struggling to suppress her amusement, but she couldn't help but smile. However determined she had been to wallow, she didn't stand a chance.

"I don't vomit," she replied, feigning exasperation but convincing neither of them. She couldn't hide the small smile playing around the corners of her mouth and leaned into him ever so slightly.

She didn't seem to mind terribly that he was crushing her against his side.

He gave her shoulder another squeeze and offered with an air of confidence, "Give it time, Bones, okay? Give it time. Everything happens eventually."

"Everything?" she challenged, laced with a hint of playfulness. That was the moment he knew she'd fully surrendered to his efforts to lift her spirits.

He reveled in his success and upped the ante. "All the good stuff. And when you think it never happens, it happens. Just got to be ready for it."

He gave her a smug face along with his best charm smile and was rewarded with a mild eye roll that gave way to a full-blown smile.

Then he was quiet, letting her ponder some of the possibilities for everything that would happen eventually. He didn't think the double meaning was entirely lost on her.

Well, Sully's departure was one less obstacle out of the way in any case.

Not that there weren't any other ones.

There might very well be too many obstacles, in the end.

But for now he was selfish enough to be glad to have his partner all to himself again; he would deal with the implications of his possessive urges later. And he was friend enough to offer her a shoulder while she grieved and make her laugh in spite of herself, and it would be enough.

At least for now.