Disclaimer: If 'Bones' belonged to me, this would really have happened on the show and I wouldn't need to write fic for it.
Author's Note: One final down, 3 to go! And to reward myself for finishing one final (and to put off studying for my next one), I decided to write fic instead. Written because I was thinking about how illogical Booth's infamous 'line' was, given that I'm very sure he was already in love with Bones at the time—and because I felt like writing something fluffy. Not sure how in-character Brennan is towards the end of this but that's just the problem with writing fluff. Enjoy!
Crossing the Line
"Yeah, you know, it's important to make things right. I just don't know how. I don't know how," Booth said quietly.
He felt Bones' gaze on him for a moment, although she didn't say anything. And then she said, softly, "For someone who doesn't know how, you seem to do a pretty good job at making things right."
He glanced at her, seeing the soft smile on her face, and for the first time, felt an answering smile curve his lips. "Thanks."
She put a hand on his arm. "You do a good job, Booth."
His gaze lowered to focus on her hand and he swore he could feel the warmth from her touch radiate throughout his entire body, every nerve in his body aware of her touch and her presence beside him.
As always. And that was the problem. He was too aware of her, had always been too aware of her, on a visceral, physical level, entirely aside from how much he cared about her as a friend.
The line, Booth. Remember the line.
If he were smart, he knew, he would remove her hand, break the contact between them.
But he was apparently not that smart because he couldn't make himself do it. He couldn't reject her touch like that; he, of all people, knew how much it took for Bones to initiate physical contact and he could not repudiate her when she did.
"Daddy, look at me!"
He looked up at the sound of Parker's voice to see Parker waving at him as he passed by on the merry-go-round and smiled automatically at the sight of his son smiling, lifting one arm to wave at Parker.
Beside him, Bones waved as well, leaving him suddenly very conscious of the colder spot on his arm where her hand had rested and wishing, irrationally, that she had just kept her hand there.
"He's doing okay, Booth. We're all doing okay."
Howard Epps isn't.
Booth stiffened at the unwanted thought, trying to banish it, but it remained, the dark ghost of Epps seeming to hover in the back of his mind, taunting him, tainting the peace around him.
He stared at his hand, the one that had been gripping Epps, trying to remember, trying to figure out—for the millionth time—what had happened. Had he let go?
"It wasn't your fault, you know," Bones broke the silence.
He blinked and turned to look at her. "What?"
She met his eyes directly. "Howard Epps," she said simply. "It wasn't your fault."
He sucked in his breath, feeling as if she'd just punched him in the gut with her words. How had she known… "When did you learn to read minds?"
She frowned a little. "Telepathy doesn't exist. It's not a rational belief to think that people can read minds." She paused and then added, "That wasn't telepathy, but I do know you."
Her words settled over him. She did know him. Somehow. Even better, perhaps, than he'd realized.
She went on. "It wasn't your fault that Epps fell."
He faced forward again, not seeing the merry-go-round or anything of the park around them, but only seeing Epps as he fell. "You don't know that for sure. I don't even know that for sure," he admitted, his voice low, bitter.
"Yes, I do."
Her words were clipped, forceful, and he stared at her, surprised at the intensity of her declaration. It wasn't like her to make such a forceful declaration, certainly not about something she couldn't empirically prove.
"How do you know that?"
"I know you and you wouldn't have just let go."
"He almost killed Cam and he threatened Parker. Do you really think I wouldn't kill to protect my friend and my son?"
"You would but not like that. He was already helpless, Booth; he wasn't a threat anymore. So you wouldn't have let go of him. You wouldn't kill him like that."
He stared at her. "That's… not scientific, Bones," he finally said but his tone was lighter, just a thread of humor in it.
She blinked. "Yes, it is. It's a rational, logical conclusion based on my observation of what happened and my observations of you over the past year and half."
Amazingly, he felt a smile tug at the corners of his lips, even though just a moment ago, he'd felt like he might never smile again. She really was… adorable… when she was in her scientist mode, he thought, and then stopped. Adorable? Since when did that word ever apply to Dr. Temperance Brennan?
And yet… she really was…
He made a mental note to never, ever, mention that to her on pain of death.
But he found he did feel better. This was Bones, after all, and she didn't lie; even the concept of a polite or comforting fiction was utterly foreign to her. And if Bones believed it, then how could he not? It would be… irrational… to distrust Bones simply because he wished she was right, he thought with a slight flicker of humor.
"Thanks, Bones. I--" he began, wanting to tell her just what it meant to him that she believed in him so much, but then stopped. There were no words, really, to express what it meant to him. "Thanks," he said again.
49. The number stuck in his head and for the first time in a long while, it didn't seem like a condemnation but rather a reprieve. 49. It was still 49.
She gave him a small, serious smile.
The music from the merry-go-round ended and the ride stopped and he stood up, going over to get Parker, lifting him down.
"Hi, Dr. Bones!" Parker greeted Bones with a smile.
Booth didn't even bother to stifle his grin at Parker's name for Bones, even as she shot him a look that seemed to blame him for Parker's using his father's nickname for her.
"Hi, Parker," she smiled.
Parker slipped his hand into hers and tugged. "Come on, Dr. Bones, play with me. I wanna go on the swings!"
"Oh, but--" she hesitated and Parker looked up at her with the same pleading expression he used on Booth when he wanted something.
Which had, apparently, a similar effect on Bones as it had on him, Booth reflected with an inward smile as Bones relented.
"Yay! Come on, Dr. Bones."
With that, Parker took off, half-tugging Bones behind him as Booth watched with amusement and some wonder at how Bones was smiling and going along with Parker.
They reached the swing set and Parker promptly led Bones to one and then scrambled into the one beside her before looking to Booth.
"Push us, Daddy!"
Booth laughed, moving to stand behind his son. "Okay, bud, are you ready?" he asked, gripping the chains of the swing and pulling them back until Parker was hanging at an angle.
Booth released the swing with a gentle push and Parker giggled as the swing went down and then up and then back again. Booth gave another gentle push and then glanced over at Bones who was watching from her swing with a small smile playing on her face.
"Do you want a push too, Bones?" he teased.
She gave him a mock glare. "Don't you dare, Booth. I'm perfectly capable of swinging by myself."
And then Booth could only stare as Temperance Brennan did just that.
"Wow, Dr. Bones, you swing good!" Parker exclaimed as, soon enough, Bones was swinging higher than Parker was, aided by her greater body weight.
"Swing well, Parker," Booth corrected automatically, absently, his gaze still on the amazing sight of his partner on the swings.
"You swing well," Parker corrected himself.
Bones smiled at Parker. "Thank you, Parker. So do you."
Booth grinned, his heart warming at the sight of his partner smiling at his son, wondering if she had any idea what it did to him to see these two most precious people in his life enjoying themselves, having fun together.
Bones gradually ceased swinging, slowing down until she was more gently swaying back and forth, her smile fading to be replaced by a wistful expression as she stared off into the distance. She was, he realized, remembering her childhood; probably the last time she had been on the swings had been with Russ, with her parents there. He suddenly wanted to take her into his arms and hold her but then, as he watched, her lips curved into a slight smile, still a little wistful and tinged with sadness, but it was a smile nevertheless and he knew she'd be okay.
Parker, too, slowed and Booth reached out to lift Parker off the swing, unnecessary as it was.
Parker looked at Bones. "Come on the slides with me, Dr. Bones?"
She laughed a little. "Oh, no, Parker, I can't. You go."
He looked disappointed and she relented, explaining, "It's because I'm wearing a skirt and skirts aren't good for slides."
"Oh. Next time, you should wear jeans then, Dr. Bones," Parker informed her simply before turning to Booth. "Will you play with me, Daddy?"
"I think I'm going to stay here and keep Dr. Bones company, okay, buddy?"
Parker ran off to the slides and Bones got off the swing, walking over towards Booth.
His heart stuttered in his chest at the sight of her, his brain capturing this image of her like a snapshot to treasure forever. Her hair was tousled from the wind, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes bright as she smiled. She was, in that moment, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen or ever dreamed of seeing. And he loved her.
This, what she looked like right now, was what he wanted, every day, for the rest of his life, he thought. He wanted to see her smiling and happy like this. He just wanted her… He wanted her smiles and her laughter, wanted her kindness and her humor, wanted her understanding and her intelligence—and he wanted her passion, all of her…
His own words from earlier came back to him, almost taunting him now. People who work in high risk situations, they can't be involved romantically because it leads to things like what happened… There's this line and we can't cross it.
It sounded reasonable enough—except, he realized now, he'd been lying. To her and to himself, or if not exactly lying, saying it more to convince himself it was true than any other reason.
There was a line—but the truth was that he'd already crossed it. He'd crossed it months ago when he fell in love with his partner. And putting the line into words didn't change anything, just as the fact that he and Bones weren't romantically involved didn't change the fact that he loved her.
He remembered, with a slight shiver, when she'd been taken by the Gravedigger, remembered the stark terror and dread clogging his throat for those endless hours, that feeling as if an iron hand had closed around his heart and lungs making it impossible for him to breathe without pain. A feeling that hadn't gone away until the moment he'd pulled her out of the sand and heard her gasps for breath that told him she was still alive. He'd been dying over those hours when she'd been buried and he hadn't cared any less or suffered any less during those hours because he and Bones weren't actually involved. No. If anything, he'd only suffered more because he'd also been tormented by regret. Regret that he would never be able to tell her he loved her. Regret that he would never know her kiss or her touch. Regret…
He'd already crossed the line. It was too late to go back and it was much too late to pretend the line would keep him from caring for Bones more than as just a partner and a friend.
He returned to the present to realize that Bones was giving him a questioning look.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I was wrong," he found himself blurting out, without even realizing what he was going to say.
She frowned a little, giving him the blank look which she always got when someone made a pop culture reference or said anything else which she didn't understand. "Wrong about what?"
"When I said there's a line."
"Booth, I understood…"
He met her eyes, aware that his heart was suddenly clattering in his chest. He was, he realized, going to take the chance and tell her. He had to tell her. He needed her to know.
Slowly, he lifted one hand to cup her cheek.
"The truth is, Bones," he admitted softly, "there might be a line but I already crossed it."
"I don't- I don't understand."
"I crossed the line months ago when I fell in love with you."
Her eyes widened, an expression he couldn't quite identify—didn't want to identify?—crossing her face. "Booth, I…"
"It's okay, Bones. I- I know you don't feel that way about me," he said bravely, ignoring the spasm of hurt in his heart. "I just… I need you to know that I love you and I'm here for you, for whatever you need."
"I- I wrote you a note," she blurted out.
He blinked, completely confused by this seeming non sequitur. "What?"
"When Hodgins and I were in the car, Hodgins wrote a note for Angela, just in case, and I- I wrote a note for you."
He was suddenly having trouble breathing. He wasn't sure what she was getting at but this didn't sound like a rejection… "Where is this note?"
"I- it's still in the car but I remember what I wrote. I- I told you it wasn't your fault, that I knew you'd done all you could to get us…"
He winced a little at the reminder of how close he'd come to not finding them in time.
"And I wrote… I said that I wasn't sure if I really believed in love but that I thought—I thought that I might… love you."
"Bones, I…" he breathed and then gave up on trying to express what he felt. His eyes held hers as his head lowered until their breaths mingled and he saw her eyes widen and then darken with what he recognized as desire just before his lips touched hers, lightly at first. It was a tender kiss, a gentle kiss, but then her lips parted as she shifted closer to him and the kiss deepened, his hand sliding back to tangle in her hair as his other arm curved around her waist…
And he was lost, lost in the softness of her lips and the sweetness of her and the feeling of her arms around him…
He jerked, almost leaping back, reality returning to him with all the force of a bucketful of ice-cold water at the sound of Parker's voice.
"Oh- uh- you all done playing on the slide, Parker?" he asked, trying to sound normal.
Parker looked between Booth and Bones and then nodded. "I'm hungry now, Daddy. Can we have ice cream?"
"You know the rules about ice cream before lunch-time, buddy," he said, trying desperately to regain his dignity. "We can have ice cream for dessert after lunch."
"Okay…" Parker brightened up. "Dr. Bones, will you come with us for lunch?" He paused and added ingenuously, "Daddy wants you to come too."
Booth finally dared to glance at Bones. Her normally pale skin was still flushed with a lingering blush and she looked more flustered than he could ever remember seeing his cool, rational partner look before. She looked—oh, who was he kidding—she always looked beautiful to him.
"Well, I-" she began and then hesitated.
He waited, not daring to pressure her—she was still Bones and he didn't want to scare her away now—hardly daring to breathe.
She looked at him and then back down at Parker and he could almost see the moment she made her decision in the slight firming of her chin before she managed a smile for Parker. "Okay, I'll join you and your dad for lunch."
"Yay!" Parker slipped his hand into hers and smiled up at her engagingly before looking up at Booth. "Come on, Daddy, I want to go to that burger place."
He grinned at his son. "Burgers it is," he agreed and put his arm over Bones' shoulders as they walked toward his car.
She laughed at something Parker said and he smiled at her before giving into impulse and brushing a kiss against her temple.
"Booth, not while Parker's around," she hissed softly.
"Okay, okay, but there's going to be more of it later," he added teasingly.
She smiled at him. "Promise?"
He felt heat shoot through him at her look and her tone. "Definitely," he said, his voice husky.
She smiled before turning her gaze back to Parker.
Booth listened to Parker's recitation of something they'd done in school that week, glancing at Bones out of the corner of his eye, and wished, irrationally, that this moment, this day, would never end. This was, he thought, all he'd ever wanted in his life.
There was a line—but life was so much better on the other side of it…
A/N 2: So… was Brennan OOC? Could Parker possibly be any cuter? Could Booth possibly be any hotter? (I'm guessing the answer is no on the last one, at least…) Thoughts? Reviews make me happy!