They were arguing over the last discount egg roll at Hop Lee's, smiles on both of their faces as they squabbled. The detritus of a well-enjoyed meal was evident-- empty plates, a few drained beer bottles and wine glasses, and bits of fried rice on the table. It was late, and the restaurant was emptying out. Their "strictly conversational" meal had lasted nearly three hours.
"You know, Bones," he said, softly, as he split the last eggroll in the middle and picked up his half, pushing the other half to her, "I really am sorry about Gay Jason and Mark."
"You should be, you know," she said, wearing a slightly pained look. "I don't think either of them would have responded the way they did if you hadn't scared both of them off."
He paused, a look of worry and contrition passing over his face, and then said, "Really, I'm sorry." He paused again, and looked at her searchingly, as she stared back. Her chest was heaving again, the way it had in Sweets' office earlier, before she sighed and looked away.
As she looked out the window, she said, "I should have just punched you at the diner, you know."
He rubbed the back of his neck. Something had changed, there, back in the therapist's office, and now he was at a loss for words. He'd spent all his eloquence expressing almost what he wanted to say. Almost, but not quite. Because "there's someone you're meant to be with the rest of your life," is not the same as "it's me, only me!"
"Bones, it's just... those guys aren't good enough for you." She flicked him an unreadable glance, then looked back out the window, her chin in her hand.
Looking away from him, and with a tired note in her voice, she spoke again. "So who is, then, Booth? If there's someone I'm meant to be with for the rest of my life, then where the hell is he? You said I just have to be ready to see it, but you know what, Booth? I'm not blind." She turned back to him, a wistful and lonely look on her face as she repeated herself. "I'm not blind. Do you know what I see?"
His breath caught in his throat at the naked expression on her face. It was time. She'd made up her mind about something, and for the life of him, he both knew what it was and was terrified about what she might mean. "What, Bones?"
She leaned in, and like the magnetic, irresistible force that she was, he leaned in, too, until their faces were inches away from each other. Slowly, sadly, and determinedly, she said, "I see a line, Booth. I see a whole lot of promises with words and phrases like 'eventually' and 'more than one kind of family' and 'making love' and 'no betrayal' and 'you're special,' scattered across both sides of the line, and now, I see today's little speech. I also see guy hugs and dead bodies and broken rules that would never have happened if we'd been working by ourselves. What I don't see, though, is the maker of the line and those promises doing anything about it, even as I've seen footsteps on both sides right up to the line. I know you're not a coward, but it's your line, so I assume you have some good reason for leaving it there. So make up your mind, Booth. I get lonely at night, and I'd rather spend them with you than keep looking for a ... surrogate. I'm tired of promises. So tell me, Seeley, are you that someone you were talking about earlier?"
He drew in a breath at the use of his first name-- she'd never used it before, and just by its use, he could tell she was deadly serious. That her eyes were as blue as a midnight sky only echoed the seriousness of the moment, and with an internal sigh, he voiced that one, critical, line-minding doubt. "Temperance, I hope so, but I don't want to stop working with you."
She nodded, her eyes locked on his, and reached across to take his hand in hers. "I don't want to stop working with you. You're my partner and my best friend, Seeley, but I think they'd honestly be insane to try to break up our partnership if we were to get involved. As Angela's so fond of telling me, we act like an old married couple already. I thought a lot about your stupid line when you were dead, Booth, and I know I sure as hell want it gone. But it's yours to remove." A flicker of uncertainty flashed across her face, but she kept her eyes locked with his as she waited for his response.
He smiled, slowly but fully, his eyes warming from dark chocolate to nearly molten amber. "Then it's gone. No more line. Done." Pausing, his gaze still on hers, he thought and then added, "It's not out of the realm of possibility for involved couples to continue to work together, but it has to be approved by a therapist."
She snorted. "Sweets? Can't you just threaten to shoot him?" She snorted again, and then said, "No, I know what you mean. He takes his job seriously, and he's really only trying to help."
He frowned and shook his head. "Yeah, I know, but he's got a warped conception of who we are. He thinks I'm a stone cold killer, and that you're emotionally distant and incapable of having an honest conversation about your feelings."
She nodded, then added, "He thinks you see the world through the scope of a rifle, and that I see the world only through an anthropological lens."
He grimaced. "Maybe we tried to scare him off a little too much in those sessions, then. We didn't really let him get to know anything but those parts of us."
She nodded, then thought, smiling as he turned their hands over and stroked the palm of her hand with his thumb. "It's not that I don't trust him with my secrets, it's just, you're the only one I trust with my secrets."
He smiled, saying softly, "Me too, Bones. But we've got to find some way to make him sign off on us."
She smiled as the waiter came to clear the plates and dropped the check, then started to reach for it as his hand clamped down on her wrist. "Bones, come on now. You're not going to let me be an alpha-male enough to get the check before I drive you home and show you what you've been missing?" He flashed her his irresistible Charm Smile, his eyes glinting with desire.
She smirked, and said, "You mean before I let you drive me home and show you what you've been missing with all those beta females, don't you?"
He burst out laughing, and pulled her hand up for a kiss, before letting go long enough to pull out his wallet, some cash, and the coupon they'd kidded about earlier. "Whatever, Bones. I'll meet you halfway."
She smiled and stood, and patiently waited for him to help her on with her coat, as they walked out and returned to his truck. "Don't pretend like half your alpha-male behaviors weren't just excuses to get your hands on me, Booth." He guffawed, then backed her into the still-closed door, grasping her face in his hands as he pulled her up for a kiss. Long moments passed as her hands pulled his head to her in return. When they came up for air, each was smiling, wickedly, lustfully, at the other. "Let's go, alpha-female," he growled, nipping at the exposed skin of her throat left bare by her coat, "before I let my instincts run away with me." She burst out laughing, then, and pulled him in for another kiss.
"Booth," she whispered seductively, bringing her mouth alongside his ear, "I have an idea about how to convince Dr. Sweets to sign off on a non-surrogate relationship, without our having to talk too much about ourselves, but without really lying to him, either. It would just involve... reinforcing... his conceptions of us toward a mutually agreeable end."
He opened the door for her, and earned a light slap when he didn't resist the urge (so long suppressed) to cup his hand on her bottom as he helped her into the truck. Laughing, he closed the door and came back around, settling into his seat only to find her hand already there, pinching him back in retaliation. He yelped in surprise, then snaked his hand behind her head to pull her halfway for another deep kiss.
"Do tell, Doctor Alpha Female."
The mischievous glint in her eye drew him in. "Funny you should say that, Army Ranger Agent Booth. What do you know about wolf packs?"
"Bones, you know full well I minored in Wildlife Biology."
An observer standing nearby would have heard them laughing together, occasionally trading wolf calls, until they high-fived and then kissed, steaming up the windows for several minutes before the engine started and the truck pulled out of the lot. Except for the full, sanguine Hunter's Moon shining above, though, the lot was empty. The silent, all-knowing moon laughed to himself as it watched his two favorite and new-mated children plan their next chase. It would be a hunt without casualties, a sort of training game, but a serious one. His favorite hunters were playing for keeps. He could tell the pairing would last.