It was the third wild goose chase in a week, and he was so withdrawn between his focus on finding the kidnapper and holding back the rage that had consumed him ever since Parker went missing that he was monosyllabic. It was so bad that he'd let me drive the last two times, and now even the Bureau was refusing to meet us with backup. I was sure this was it, as I hadn't been with the others, even as I admitted there wasn't much evidence. But I knew. And I'd told him so.

"How?" he'd asked.

"Gut instinct-- beginner's luck."

He stared at me, then stood. "Worked the last time, let's go."

So now we were in the truck and I was driving, lights blazing and siren wailing as I blew through stoplights and traffic like a bad 1970s film car chase. He was too busy loading clips into weapons to complain about the way I was driving. "We'll be there in five," he said, shutting down the lights and the siren as I slowed, approaching the suspect location. I turned off the headlights when I turned into the drive, stopping halfway as we each got out silently. I took the other weapon he handed me, and tucked it into my waistband as I drew my own. We checked our radios, and headed in, he through the front, and me in the back.

It was quiet and dark as I crept down the main hallway, below windowlines, and came to a fork. Right, said my gut, third one down. I stuck my head in, and there was only one small ball in the corner. "Found him," I whispered into the radio, then gave the location. He was there in an instant, gathering and shushing the small voice that said "Daddy?" in the dark. I heard feet creaking upstairs, and motioned to the window. "Get him out of here," I hissed. "Now." Booth made to hesitate, but in the end, did as I said, silently opening the window and slipping out, taking Parker as I handed him to him. "Shh, buddy," I said, then turned back to wait inside the door. A foot slid past the doorway, and I grabbed it, flipping him onto his back, and preparing myself for the rest of it.

- - - - -

When I came out to the truck, Parker was calmed down and Booth was waiting.

"You can call it in now," I said.

"What happened?"

"He struggled, and tried to disarm me. I had to shoot him," I said, evenly.

Booth opened his mouth as if to question me, but I headed him off. "How you doing there, Parker," I said, engaging his interest as Booth radioed in the location.

The FBI team arrived quickly, embarrassed that they hadn't believed me, and that a kidnapper had been taken down by a squint. While an agent watched Parker, we walked them through the scene, and I gave my statement regarding the killing. It took little time, each necessary step concluded in the minimum time, out of respect for needing to get Parker away from the scene. I drove them both to Rebecca's, calling her myself and accepting her tearful thanks as Booth kept up some murmured conversation as he held his boy in his lap. When I saw them all settled in together on her couch, I repaired to the kitchen to update the team, and wash the blood and grime from my hands. The cab I'd called for honked as I finished drying my hands, and the three of them looked up, confused, as I passed back into the room, grabbed my things, and waved "Welcome home, Parker," before heading outside.

"Bones!" I heard, and turned as he opened the door back behind me. "Wait, where are you going?"

"You three have catching up to do. I'll talk to you later." I ducked my head away from his look of confusion and concern, and headed down the walkway.

- - - -

Two hours later, there was a knocking, then a shouted out "Bones!" as the door opened, then closed.

"In the bathtub!" I called. He always uses the key on the second knock if I don't answer, though it barely gives me time to hear him, much less answer, given the speed with which he does everything.

"I've got beer and takeout," he called through the door.

"Just give me a minute," I said, pulling the plug from the tub and standing to dry myself. I'd brought my pyjamas in with me, and shrugged them on as well as my robe. I was usually more dressed when he was here, but he usually didn't catch me in the bathtub, either.

He stood and handed me a beer when I entered the room, and sat again on the sofa as I settled down next to him. On the second one, he turned to me, his eyes dark. "What happened?"

I looked back at him evenly. "He struggled, and tried to disarm me. I had to shoot him."

"Don't give me that."

I just looked at him. I was resolved. "I already gave you my gut today Booth. Don't ask questions you don't want the answers to."

He shook his head. "There won't be any real questions." He turned further toward me, tilting my cheek to the light as he pulled forward my dominant firing hand, examining the bruises. "I can tell defensive bruising when I see it. So what happened?"

"Booth, just stop asking," I said. "I'm not going to talk about it any more. It's over."

"But Bones. There'll be an inquiry no matter what, I should know."

I looked at him quietly as he began to shift, uncomfortable with my continuing silence. "Drink your beer, Booth, you deserve it," I said, getting up to bring us some more.

We finished the food and the beer and made small talk of work left undone until now, until I yawned. "You can sleep on the couch," I said, bringing him pillows and blankets from the hall closet.

He looked searchingly at me once more, before saying only, "Thanks, Bones."

"Partners," I responded, then went to my bed.

- - - -

It took a week for them to finish the review, and at their request I let Cam examine the bruises to confirm my account of the struggle. She was insulted on my behalf, but at my insistence, did a thorough exam and wrote her report. During that time, we were both on leave, and I worked on my book while he spent time with his boy. We had lunch a few times at the diner, talking of inconsequentials, and then had our final meeting, at which point they apologized for mistrusting my gut, and for the formality of the review, and their regret that I'd had to defend myself and my partner.

"Parker's fine, that's what matters," I demurred.

He drove me back to the lab, and I worked on my backlog for another few hours, calling it quits around eight, early, for me. When I opened the door, he was sitting on the sofa, a bottle of whiskey and two glasses waiting for me.

"You're earlier than I thought you would be," he said, cracking the bottle and pouring two glasses.

"Long day," I replied, stretching and sighing as I discarded my shoes and my things. I took the glass he offered and sat next to him, downing the glass at one go.

Halfway through the bottle we'd been drinking in silence, I decided to answer his question as much as I ever could. "Be right back," I said, getting up and heading back to my bedroom. When I returned, I stood in front of him. "Hold out your hand," I ordered.

He complied, and then blinked in shock when I dropped my mothers' earrings in his hand. The pair he'd reunited for me, in New Orleans. Understanding, his fingers closed over them, and he slipped them into his pocket. "Goodnight, Booth," I said, patting his shoulder and turning away.

He grasped my wrist and stood behind me. "Bones."

I turned and regarded him. His expression was some combination of things I didn't quite fathom, but I often didn't with him. I trusted him to know me even if I didn't always know him. At least I knew him as much as anyone did. "I said once that if I got scared, you could give me a guy hug."

"Sure," I said, remembering, wrapping my arms around him and pulling his head to my shoulder. I breathed his warm scent in as he breathed raggedly against my neck and my hair.

"Why'd you do it, Bones?"

"I'm just your partner, Booth, and Parker's your family. Fewer questions. And you wouldn't have stopped." His breath shuddered against me, so I smoothed the hair on the back of his neck as I squeezed him tightly, until his start stopped pounding so hard. Poor Booth. I knew this was hard for him. He didn't willingly give up control to anyone, even me, but this was unavoidable. The alternative was unacceptable-- he'd be suspended, or worse, I'd be back in the lab. I was nothing to him but his partner, and I'd managed it. It was over. Now we could do what we did again-- catching the bad guys.

He pulled away to look at me, eyes dark. "I wouldn't have stopped," he admitted.

"I know. But we're partners-- we complement each other's strengths. You do emotion. I calculate."

"I should be scared by that statement, Bones, but I'm only relieved."

"Goodnight, Booth. Take the couch if you want."

- - - -

The clock said it was two hours later when I woke from the look on the kidnapper's face as I shot him, my heel on his throat, and cold blood running through me, right before I'd wrapped his dead hand around mine and punched myself, and slammed my own wrist into the wall, his dead fingers clammy against me already. Of course, the dream had been a nightly occurrence. Of course, I couldn't tell anyone why I wasn't sleeping. I thanked goodness I'd shut the door as I shoved my pillow over my head and sobbed. I'd almost grown accustomed to the dream, even as I knew I'd get over it, eventually. It was worth it. I'd do it again, I thought through my stifled sobs.

Of course the problem with Booth is his hearing's too good, because the next thing I knew, he'd opened the door.

"Temperance?" He sat on the side of the bed where I was curled, rubbing his hand on my back, but said nothing as I continued to wheeze into the pillow. "Bad dream?" he asked, when I finished.

"It's over." I said, not looking at him.

"With no help from me," he said, still rubbing my back.

"Stop it, Booth. You can't fix everything. Sometimes you have to let people help you." I muttered this into the bed, still facing away from him, and wishing he'd stop touching me. His presence was far too soothing.

"Bones," he said, "I wished you'd stayed longer when we brought Parker home."

"You need to spend time with your family," I said, wishing again that he'd leave. I couldn't finish crying until he'd left me alone.

He chuffed a laugh. "Bones, if you hadn't already noticed, you're part of my family. If it hadn't been for you and your gut, we might not have found him. You should have stayed, Bones. Parker and Becs both asked why you left." It was nice of him to say something like that, but it wasn't true. He had family. I had a partner-- better than nothing, though I sometimes ridiculously wished he was more. My own family, that he'd gotten back for me? Well, they tried, but he was reliable, more, than all of them put together. Even my mother.

"Booth," I mumbled. "Just leave it, okay? Parker's home, he's safe, and he seems to be getting over things just fine. It all worked out in the end."

"Because you killed him. For me."

I couldn't help it, I snarled. I was tired, and wanted to try to get back to sleep. "Yes, we've already established that Booth. Twice."

"You deflect questions you don't want to answer, and then whip out the sarcasm when they doesn't work." His voice was too tender as he said it. Damnable man.

"Well, some people get the hint when I want to be left alone." I hoped he'd get annoyed and go. I was increasingly bad at pushing him away-- I had been, for a while now.

His hand continued its motions on my back, as the other started stroking my hair. "See, Bones, I think people have left you alone too long, so I'm not going anywhere."

"Booth..."

He kept talking like I hadn't said anything. "I do wonder what you meant. I know when I gave you that earring back, I was only giving back what was already yours. But those were your Mom's favorites, Bones, and yours too. I gave it back, risked my career, for one earring, because I knew in my heart that you didn't do it, and truth would prevail. But why'd you give them both back to me? Especially when it had nothing to do with the truth? Bones, the only thing you hate more than killing is lying, so the fact that you'd do what you did, kill someone, fix the crime scene, and walk around for a week like nothing was wrong beyond pure self defense means something."

Bastard. He was too close. I'd given him the earrings because at some point, they stopped meaning that I loved my mother, and that instead, I loved Booth, and all the thinks that he risked for me, not just that one time. I couldn't ever tell him that, of course, but by giving them back to him, I'd felt a bit relieved of the realization of how much I loved for him. The rest was impossible, but the return of what had come to me in some ways, my heart, felt right. Damned gut. So, I deflected.

"It means, Booth, that you and your little boy are together again. A pair for a pair. A reminder to cherish your time together-- a tangible one, so he knows you're thinking of him when you're apart, that you'll always come for him in the end."

"They're your earrings, Temperance. I should give him something of my own."

"No, they're only a pair because you're my partner-- you can do what you want with them. Now quit arguing, and go back to sleep. Now that all this is settled, something else is sure to pop up."

He inhaled, and was about to say something, when his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. I looked at the time-- it could only mean murder.

"Goddamnit," he cursed, as I rolled out of bed, grabbing clothes from my dresser and heading to the bathroom. He was back in the living room, lacing his boots and still talking into the phone when I came out, fully dressed. He slapped the phone shut and looked at me. I deflected again.

"What have we got?"

- - - - -

It was past dawn when I was done with the bodies. I rode back in the van to the lab. He pissed and moaned, but what did he expect when his last words before we entered the scene were "This conversation's not over yet, Temperance?" At least I could answer the questions these new bodies asked me.

The next week was an exhaustion-filled blur of examined remains, witness questioning, and all-night reexaminations of incongruous data. On the sixth day, I had a hunch. Damnit. I rechecked two seemingly anomalous findings, and found I was right. I called Booth, he brought the suspect in, we confronted him, he confessed-- we were done in two hours from hunch to finish.

"Want some supper, Bones?" he asked, as we closed up the interrogation room.

"I don't think so. I'm tired. I'm going to go home and get some sleep, I think."

"I'll drive you." I shot him a grimace. He was just trying to get me alone again, and I wasn't having it. He'd give up, eventually.

"My car's out front, Booth, but thanks for the offer." I shot him a smile, and left quickly.

- - - - -

I was exhausted, I thought, sinking into the tub. I'd been at the lab or out in the field almost nonstop, napping only as long as it took data to render. I hoped I could relax enough to sleep.

It worked, too well. I awoke with a jolt to pounding on the bathroom door. "Bones! Hey! Are you in there!"

"Jesus Christ, Booth!" My heart was pounding from the startlement. "Go away! I'm trying to take a bath!"

"You're trying to drown, you mean," he retorted. "You didn't answer either of your phones. I brought takeout, get dressed and come split it with me."

I briefly contemplated drowning myself to avoid continuing the conversation, but he'd probably burst in and save me from that, too. Bastard. "Booth. It's late. I'm exhausted. Please. I really just want to go to bed. Just... eat and go home, okay?" It was a measure of the depths of my lunacy that I was actually inviting him to stay long enough to dirty my dishes and silverware.

He sounded sheepish as he spoke next. "Are you really that tired?"

"Yes! I haven't slept for more than two hours at a time all week!"

He spoke again, more sheepish still. "I'm sorry. Really. But... um, my neighbors are having a party and I can't hear myself think. I was hoping I could crash on your couch."

I definitely should have drowned myself. "You know where the blankets are," I replied, then ducked my head under water, staring up at the ceiling while I blew frustrated bubbles.

"Thanks, Bones," I heard, through the water. I blew more bubbles.

- - - - -

I slipped straight into my bedroom, closing the door firmly and quietly behind me. I drifted off to the faint homey noises of his clattering my silverware on my plates.

It was only natural that I'd have the dream of the kidnapper again. This case had involved a mother and child kidnapping, followed to the tragic end. Except in my dream, it was Booth and Parker, dead when I found them. I woke up with a yelled "No!" on my lips, then sat there, staring, trying to get my bearings. Booth burst in barechested and barefooted in his jeans, brandishing his weapon. I just stared at him for a moment, before rolling over to the bedside table and turning on the light.

"That's a hell of a nightmare, Bones," he said, watching me warily as I kicked back the covers and he lowered his weapon.

I was too tired for this. Sarcasm it was. "Like you haven't had your own? Don't bullshit me. I'll get over it, Booth," I said, standing as I still panted, shivering from the cold sweat I'd worked up. I walked past him, intending to head toward the shower.

"You're sweating," he said, grabbing my wrist as I passed.

"Yes. It's a normal physiological response. Let go. I want a shower." He tried to pull me into a hug, but I stopped him, bracing my hands out against his chest. "Stop it, Booth. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."

His expression was both tender and stubborn. "I don't like knowing you're having nightmares about this."

My frayed temper snapped. "Well, how do you suggest I deal with it? Go see Dr. Sweets? Say oh, gee, Lance, I falsified evidence at a crime scene and shot a man in cold blood even though there would have been enough evidence to convict him, and now I can't sleep? Maybe I should take some sleeping pills. Or start drinking every night. Yeah, those are all viable alternatives." He flinched, and my anger passed as quickly as Ii came. "It's inevitable, Booth. It will pass. But not if you don't let me take that shower so I can try to get back to sleep." He loosened his hold on my wrist, so I patted him once on the chest, in an attempt to reassure him a little, then went to wash off the vestiges of the dream. I didn't want him to hug me. Other people thought he was dangerous because of his physical strength. I knew better. It was his physical tenderness that was really deadly. I just wished he'd stop being so close all the time. He was my partner. Thoughts of being closer than that had to stop.

- - - - -

This time, I was aware I was dreaming, and couldn't wake up. Both Rebecca and Booth were dead, Parker in foster care, and there were two scary parts. First, that I couldn't be of legal help to Parker. I was just his dad's partner. And second, I was just his dad's partner. Always would be. It was entirely irrational, to be scared of something you couldn't possibly lose, because you'd never had it, but there it was. Killing that kidnapper should have been just the act of a dedicated partner, like the things he's done for me in the past. But I didn't do it for that. I did it because I loved him, and wanted to save him the guilt of exacting the revenge he deserved. I couldn't ever tell him that.

I was sobbing so hard into my pillow and under the covers that I didn't hear him come in, didn't notice his presence until he'd crawled in behind me and clasped me to him.

"Come on Bones, stop it," he whispered, holding me closely, his hand once again stroking my hair. I couldn't, and his warm proximity was only making it worse. He'd hold me, I'd cry, we'd pretend like it didn't happen tomorrow, and tomorrow night I'd be alone again. I was too tired of it, and the sobs from my nightmare turned into tears of exhausted loneliness. I wept on, shuddering with the strength of it, as he murmured something I didn't get, and tried to make me stop crying, but I was hiccuping between hyperventilations, my sobs choking out between them. I didn't even register that we'd moved until the first blast of cold water hi me, and the shock of it made me gasp, my knees buckling. He already had me clasped to his waist, and pushed my head into his chest. "Shh, just deep breaths, okay?" I tried to focus, staring at his now soaking-wet chest and jeans-clad body in front of me as I gasped and tried to make my knees work under me. Gradually, I straightened, and still holding on to me, he reached past and turned the heat up, saying, "Attagirl, Bones." The hot water stopped my shivering eventually, and he tipped my face up to look at him.

"You're not allowed to kill anyone for me any more, Bones. It's hell on my nerves, and you know how delicate I am to begin with."

It was so preposterous that a guffaw burst from me. Soon I was whooping with laugher, holding on to the wall as tears of laughter ran down my face. He was quiet, and as I continued to laugh, he spoke again.

"See, now, you're hurting my feelings. I'm very sensitive. I can't believe you're laughing at me."

I stopped, looking at him, disbelieving, until the edge of his mouth quirked.

"You're terrible," I complained, poking him in the chest.

"No poking, that's rude, Bones," he rejoined, his eyes merry as he poked me back.

It escalated as I returned the poke, and he began to tickle me. We were both soon whooping with laughter, the sound bouncing off the glass and tile as the water started to run cold again. He was relentlessly tickling me, but I learned that his lateral obliques were sensitive, and stepped in close enough to dig my fingers into him while trying to keep him from working his fingers into my ticklish armpits. At some unknown point, the dynamic shifted, and I looked up at him, his eyes dark with something. My fingers on him stilled as his did, and I stared unabashedly back at him. I forget sometimes that he's that much taller than me-- I usually wear heels and he doesn't flaunt his physicality in that way around women-- but right now, I was very aware of him.

I raised myself onto my tiptoes just as he lowered his head, our lips meeting hungrily in the middle. In an instant, he had me turned and backed up against the wall, lifting me until I'd wrapped my legs and arms around him, our bodies pressed insistently together.

The man could kiss, said the one last brain cell capable of analysis. His hands were cupping my legs as his weight bore me into the wall, and my hand strayed to the back of his head, my fingers pulling him to me as I kissed him back with all of my hunger. There was so much promise and heat in that kiss that I stopped wondering if he was having a mere biological response. How ironic that I, of all people, should worry about that.

I couldn't breathe, and regretfully, I tore my mouth from his, my head resting against the wall as I panted, my eyes closed.

"As much as this shower will now always be sacred Bones, I'm too old and romantic for our first time to be against your shower wall," he growled, then started sucking at the hollow of my throat.

"Bedroom," I gasped, then gasped again as he turned and stepped over the tub ledge while still carrying me.