"You're not helping, you know."

I jumped, practically out of my chair, at the sound of his voice right behind me. "Jesus, Booth, you scared the shit out of me!" He just looked at me as I turned to face him, a serious expression on his face, and no apologies for practically giving me a heart attack.

"Where the hell did you come from, anyway?" I mean, he came out of nowhere, practically, I've got the corner of the doorway at the edge of my sight and I didn't even see him. He didn't answer, he just looked at me, his head cocked to the side, his hands in his front pants pockets as he watched me. It was kind of unnerving, his gaze pinned so intently on me. Is this what he does to suspects?

"You know, Angela" he said, voice low and soft, so that no one would hear him unless they were standing right on top of him, "every time you nag her about me, she's agitated, and cranky, and suspicious, and jumpy-- sometimes for hours. And lots of times, when you nag her about me right before we go out to a scene, she's so silent over there and on the way back, trying to keep her head in the game, that I might as well be by myself in the truck."

"Nag her about you? Why would I do that?" Okay, it was clear to me how he thought about her, but it wasn't clear to her, and I didn't think a little broad hinting on my part would hurt. I mean, they've been working together for four years, now, and she's still denying that she thinks about him as more of a partner. But it wouldn't do to tell him that I had him all figured out, too, he got as gun-shy about the "just partners" thing when people called them on it, together, too.

He snorted. "You're not dumb, Angela. But I'll tell you what. You're not working with all the information, as good of a friend to her as you are, and I'm telling you, now, that you need to lay off. I've got it under control."

Oh, for Christ's sake. He thinks he's got it under control? What, precisely, does he think he's got under control? "Excuse me a moment." I got up and closed the door, then the blinds. She was off teaching class anyway, so she wouldn't know that this conversation had taken place, but I didn't need everyone else in the lab watching, either, while I gave him a piece of my mind.

When I turned around, though, he was standing right behind me, so close I practically ran into him, except that he grabbed my wrists so fast I didn't see him move, and held me back from him right before I crashed. His mouth quirked in a half grin, his eyes amused, as he held onto my wrists and said, softly, "Like I said, I've got it all under control." He pushed me a few inches back from him, then let go, with another quirk of his mouth, and jammed his hands back in his pockets.

Okay, that was scary, and I consider him a friend, I know he wouldn't hurt me. But… does he always move that fast? My heart was pounding.

He took a step back and to the side, then walked over to the couch, and stood, cocking his head at me. "Sit." I needed to. The ground had just shifted here, in the space of what, eight sentences? So I went over and sat, and looked at him. Waiting.

When he saw I was settled, he spoke, his dark eyes boring into me. "You're a good friend to her, Angela, and I'm so thankful you are. I wonder what she'd be like if you hadn't been in her life. But… I'm going to tell you something you may not like to hear. I'm going to say it anyway, though, because I think you're a big girl, and can handle the truth. You're a good friend to her, Angela, but I'm a better friend to her than you."

He stopped, and looked at me, waiting to see how I'd respond, and of course, I took the bait.

"Booth! I'm her best friend! What the hell are you talking about?"

His eyes narrowed. "Her best friend, hmm? So, tell me Angela, why is it, then, that whenever I call her on the weekend, she's not out doing something with you? Explain to me, then, why after a hard case, she's home alone, working on her book and having nothing but hot tea for dinner? Why do you just roll your eyes at her when she hasn't had lunch? You could drag her out just as well as I can."

"Booth, I try, but she says she's fine, or she's busy…"

He narrowed his eyes again. "And you believe her? Or is it just convenient, because it gives you an out so you can concentrate on you and Jack? How about this… when was the last time you two asked her to go on a double date with whomever the jerk of the week was, so at least you could check him out and make sure that your best friend is happy? Because I know the answer on that last one is never."

"Oh." Well, that hurt. He's been taking blunt honesty pointers from her, I guess.

He leaned back a bit. He'd made his point—but he wasn't finished, yet. "Right. Oh. I'll tell you something else, Angela. You want the best for her, and I see it, and I love you for it, I honestly do, but… you're impatient. And distractible. And that's a bad combination with her. You push it too far, sometimes, get her completely on edge, and then you get distracted and go off on some other project, without steadying her and pushing her back in the right direction, and she wobbles there, without enough information for her to decide what to do next. You get her so freaked out, sometimes, that she'll sit at the opposite end of Sweets' couch like I'm going to pounce on her, or it'll take me ten extra minutes to get her to let me in with takeout, and it's just not helping. It's bad enough that I thought I was finally getting somewhere right before I got shot, and then I messed up and didn't call her myself, but… you can't be pushing at her, too. It just… it makes things worse."

"Well, I could have been more helpful if you'd just have said something to me before now," I tried.

He shook his head. "What, so you could just blurt out, 'Oh, sweetie, Booth totally loves you?' Because talking about me to her like I'm a mere sexual conquest already goes down so well with her. Come on, Angela. If she didn't have some inkling, it wouldn't bother her so much. But you keep pushing, and it's going to backfire on both of us."

Oh, shit. He'd heard me talk to her about him? "But… no… Booth, I don't really say…whatever someone might have told you…" Of course, that came out before my brain even finished the part where he'd admitted he loved her.

He looked amused as he responded. "Hmm, let's see. 'Take a ride on that train, sweetie, hop the Booth Express,' and then, what, 'he's your own FBI knight in standard issue body armor,' or, 'Bren, you should tap that piece of hot FBI candy,' or my personal favorite, the one that made her twitch every time I touched her for a week, what was it? That's right—'denial's not just a river in Egypt?' I hear a lot more than you think, and I'm here a lot more than you know." Oh, God. I was bright red with embarrassment, even as I reflected that this would be more than a bit creepy-stalkery if I wasn't already sure that he loved her in only the best way. His eyes narrowed then, and he looked at me intently. "I work alone on this, Angela, got it?"

I couldn't help it, I had to ask. "But, Booth… what if she never comes to her senses?"

I didn't expect him to burst out laughing, but he did, and then smiled at me like I was a small child who'd said something unwittingly funny. "Angela, she knows, deep down, how I feel, and she knows, too, how she feels. But it scares her that she's killed two people for me without hesitation, and beat the crap out of a third, and it scares her how enraged she was when she found out I was alive. I can wait. I'm good at waiting, very good, and I know, I think I can control, whether it's safe to talk, or whether it will end… everything." His eyes glinted with some set of memories, something so incredibly dark and painful that it seemed like the lights in the room dimmed for a moment before his expression shifted again, and he quirked half a smile at me.

"You're a good friend, Angela, but I'll only accept one partner in anything I do, and it's her, not you. She waited fifteen years for someone she could totally trust. I can wait for her to realize the rest of it."

I was still processing what he'd said, and didn't even register that he'd moved until there was a press of lips on my forehead and the door to my office was open again. Damn, he moves fast. Or as fast as he needs to, I guess—that's the better way to put it.

"Ange, baby?" I jumped again, as Hodgins came into the room. "Whatcha thinking about?"

I collected my thoughts for a moment, as I pondered what Booth had just told me. "The speed of love, how it's both faster and slower than the speed of light."

He looked puzzled, and breathed out, "Okay… want to clarify that for me a little?"

I smiled at him, and then answered. "You know, I really shouldn't. It's … not my job."